Can we finally put the “pre-baby body” where it belongs? In the land of urban legend along with Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster and fat-free potato chips. It doesn’t exist. I fit back into my pre-baby jeans a few weeks after giving birth, but three years later I am still wondering where the hell my own pre-baby body went.
Before pregnancy, my body was pretty much unchanged since puberty. One year I carried around an extra 30 pounds of beer and pizza weight during my senior year of college, but that is a small blip on the life of this body. If someone saved out my outdated 90s duds from high school I would surely be able to rock them. I’d look hideous in my high-waist intentionally-marbled acid-wash jeans (à la the original 90210), but they’d fit.
The past three years my body has seen more change than in my entire life. It swelled in pregnancy, I gave birth, I nursed. Then I did it all over again, right away. I’m not holding my physique to some impossible or industry-set standard. I’m holding it to the one I’m used to. My “pre-baby body.” And I am having a hard time coming to grips with what’s left.
I expected pregnancy and childbirth to do a number on my body, but I wasn’t prepared for the full range of physical changes. Let’s start with the top and work our way down. My breasts went from a small C to a full C before I even took a pregnancy test. My nursing bras, Double Ds, were probably too small. Now after breastfeeding two children for a total of two years, I have nothing. I wear a bra only to counter the concavity that is my chest. I am not talking about small breasts (which are great) or droopy breasts (which are expected). I am talking about what looks like a balloon animal a week after you brought it home from little Billy’s circus theme birthday party. Deflated and misshapen. I had no idea that could happen. When the estrogen surged and the milk production began in my second pregnancy I was so happy to see my old friends once again. Sadly, they went missing shortly after weaning my daughter.
Then there is my stomach. The shape of my abdomen is something I can’t even describe. The curves of my waist are gone and they are replaced by horizontal waves of extra skin. With dimples. Yes, my stomach may be relatively flat, but it’s got dimples. They aren’t as cute as the ones on my daughter’s face.
Moving down, I am going to skip the entire vaginal area. Not because it’s TMI but because I would need to bring in an anatomy expert to explain what is going on at the baby delivery site. What I will talk about? My periods. They are heavier than ever and the flow is so red it looks like something out of a low budget horror movie. Why does that happen exactly? Nothing like that ever happened in my “pre-baby body.” It’s all new and strange, yet I’ve been menstruating since I was 11. I constantly wonder, “is this normal?”
Even my non-physical body has changed. I can’t eat chicken, which is a food I ate daily before getting pregnant. Now, just the sight of the animal makes me think of raw chicken and I gag instantaneously. I also crave dairy and I don’t think I’ve had a straight-up glass of milk since I was eight years old. I’m not talking about pregnancy hormones which bring on far more intense, but temporary cravings or aversions.
My youngest is 20 months old. Those hormones are gone. These are permanent changes in my constitution. My skin is drier. My hair is thinner. My body temperature has been elevated on a permanent basis, which is the only change that works out well for me. Before having children I was always cold. Now I join the ranks of the normal body temperature creatures and I am free of that silly summer sweater I used to lug everywhere.