Friday, February 15, 2008

Body after Baby?: Don’t Make Me Crazy

True, everyone warns you your life will never be the same after you’ve had a baby. But no one explains that you will never be the same after baby. The women’s magazines put a lot of energy into guilting you into working up the energy to get the old “you” back. You’re supposed to crunch your way back into your skinny jeans, light a candle for your old sex life, and demonstrate how mastering the mother’s ability to multi-task has made you more productive than ever at the office. To all this I say, in unison with my toddler, Bbbppth! We splurt raspberries in your direction as respectfully as possible.
Let’s start with the “get your body back” thing. I think I can hold myself up as a near-best-case scenario here—and the picture ain’t pretty. Small to begin with, I did not gain undue weight in my pregnancy. Then I delivered 5 weeks early. (Tip to Hollywood actresses: want to avoid stretch marks? Try for a preemie!) Twenty months after dear baby’s birth, I am not only pre-pregnancy weight, I am even pre-my-first-miscarriage weight. This means that in addition to losing the breast-feeding bonus insurance fat and the pregnancy pounds, I also shed the infertility anxiety inches and the miscarriage misery fat. However. Nothing is where it used to be. Nothing.
You show me a woman who sits ramrod correct in an office meeting when she should be slumping sideways from getting just three non-consecutive hours of sleep with a teething toddler, and I’ll show you the woman who’s trying not to let her post-pregnancy belly flesh flop down over her waistband. Go ahead, lose the fat. You can’t lose the skin. One long fluttery curtain of it now seems to cloak your torso from shoulder to groin. Your only hope is to square your shoulders, sit up straight, and hold still. Once the skin sheet stops swaying, it may look almost smooth. But don’t count on it.
Frankly, the skin has taken a new look at life and decided to relax. No more uptight attitude for it. Post-baby, the skin likes to hang loose. In fact, that skin has found such a comfortable lounge seat on your abdomen that it’s never gonna straighten up again, no matter how cute the cabana boy. You might as well pour yourself a drink.
This brings me to the breasts. You’re going to need GPS to locate these things once you finish nursing. Even if, like me, you start small, expand to clown-like proportions, then ultimately end smaller than you started, you won’t know where to find them. You’ve heard of phantom limb syndrome? It’s when amputees can still feel their missing arm or leg long after losing it. Try phantom boob syndrome. The sensations in your nipples are literally not in the right place relative to your chest cavity. And those are the fine points. The breasts themselves, well they, like the rest of your flesh, will retire to southern climes to spend their golden years. The day (a month or two after you stop nursing) that you realize that the old pre-pregnancy small-cup bra will fit just fine if you simply lengthen the straps out a few inches, well, that is the day that you really meet the new you.
Oh the breasts. It beats me, really, why saggy breasts can’t be sexy. After all, these things have proven that they can do their thing. They really can keep an infant alive and well and passed out in a sucking stupor. (Much more impressive, I think, than doing the same for a man). For some reason, however, the firm uppity breasts of the untried and untested seem generally preferred. I think it betrays a certain lack of sophistication in the public at large. In fact, I would like to argue that blown tulips are far more sensuous than tightly closed buds. Won’t somebody buy this bouquet?