Post-baby Body

I’ve avoided writing much about this because the post-partum journey is just that… a journey. I’m still in the middle of mine, but here’s the progress I’ve made so far.

The good – 

I’ve lost most of the pregnancy weight by now. It came off slower than I had hoped (I was still about 15 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight a couple of months after I gave birth), but I’m getting there. I’m now to the point where I’m reluctant to lose more weight for fear that it will effect my (tenuous) milk supply.

I can rest my fears – I my feet did not change sizes. Yay! My rib cage seems the same, as do my hips. My breasts are about the same size too, oddly enough.

My appetite seems to have returned to normal. I was worried that all the eating I was doing while pregnant would continue, but that hasn’t been the case. In fact, for a while after I gave birth I had absolutely no appetite. To the point that I was honestly a little concerned about it (especially as I watched breastfeeders comment about how HUNGRY they were), but that passed as well.

I do not have diastasis recti – whew! My abdominal muscles actually seem to have held up incredibly well to the strain of pregnancy. I think it’s because I continued to work out while pregnant. Speaking of work outs, I’ve been teaching my classes since mid-January. I was looking forward to returning and it went more smoothly than I had hoped (you’d be amazed how quickly the stamina to teach a one hour class disappears!). Right now, I’m just teaching twice a week. I miss teaching my three classes (I feel like it’s a much better pace for the week), but I don’t want to take the time. I miss the dumpling on days when I teach and it means a lot of work for Luffy. Perhaps when the dumpling is a little older, I’ll get back to my three-a-week schedule.

On the TMI front, my sex drive has returned. It took a nose dive there for a long time. I was so tired and sore and unsexy that I couldn’t imagine getting naked in front of Luffy, let alone getting in between the sheets. Over the past few weeks though, it’s slowly coming back. Now my main problem is that I usually get the urge at the most inopportune times. The dumpling’s bedtime. Check. At the playground. Check. On my commute into work. Check. My timing’s not so great.

All in all, I’m really starting to feel like myself again.

The bad – 

I was warned about the post-partum hair loss but, MY LANDS, I am losing a lot of hair. About two weeks ago, I finally went and chopped it off. I hadn’t cut it since probably May of last year. I couldn’t stand it anymore and cut off a good six or seven inches. (Does anyone else do this? I’m fine with my hair until, quite suddenly, I’m not and then I need it cut like TODAY. Or perhaps YESTERDAY. Just cut it NOW.) The style suits my lifestyle much better now as I no longer need to pull it up to nurse or pump. Plus it actually almost looks great when I let it air dry. I call that a win.

Also on the TMI front…. and I can’t believe I’m telling you this…. I legitimately have BO now. Like. Serious BO. Teenage-boy BO. Teenage-boy-after-football-workouts BO. Research tells me that it’s hormone related (see, just like the teenage boys) and that it should subside when my hormones are back to normal. I am still waiting on that. To be fair, it has gotten a bit better. At a month post-partum, my pits were rank even after a serious scrubbing in the shower – that’s how bad it was. At 4.5 months post-partum, I just need a shower every day. Ahhhh hormones.

Last piece of not so great things, the skin around my scar is oddly numb and overly-sensitive at the same time. Does that even make sense? If I bump it or Luffy touches it, I’ll say it hurts because that’s the best description I have, but it’s not really pain. It’s more just uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. I’m also told that this is normal. So yay?

The ugly – 

In all my worries for my post-partum self, I never considered my scar. Even if I had, my worries probably would have looked something like this: How would my scar look? Would it be easily hidden? Would I be able to love my scar, to wear it bravely? One thing that I definitely didn’t consider, wouldn’t have even known to consider, was a dimple. You see, my incision has a dimple on the right side, like that side got pulled a bit tighter or something. It was extremely obvious right after birth and I hoped that it would diminish over time. It has not. The left side looks perfect, smooth and even. The right side looks horrendous as it accentuates the flabby stomach with an abrupt indention. I still hope that it smooths out over time. Maybe once I can lose more weight? Right now, I’d be happy with even a little smoothing out. I’m trying to come to terms with it because, despite my hope, I really don’t think it’s going away. At least high-waisted swim suits are in style right now, that should cover it for the summer anyway. Luffy reminds me that this scar, this incision, marks the spot our child was born. It’s visible proof of the incredible feat my body accomplished. My body doesn’t need to be perfect after the amazing thing it’s done. Still though. I can’t help but wish that it looked a bit better. More even. Smoother. Symmetrical.

Some day. One day. I’ll get there.

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Pregnancy weight gain and old insecurities

The combination of body insecurities, plus necessary and rapid weight gain, plus pregnancy hormones can be devastating.

So far, I’ve been doing pretty well, all things considered. I’d gained eight pounds at my last check-up (16w 2d) and fully expect for the scale to show another three pounds or so gained by Wednesday (19w 2d). Everyone keeps telling me that I’m supposed to gain weight – I’m pregnant (as if I don’t know). It very much feels like a pat on the head and a shoo down the hall when I’m trying to explain that yes, I know I’m supposed to gain weight, but the actuality of it is quite a different matter than the theoretical idea. It’s one thing to say: I need to gain weight and the average weight gain is 25 – 35 pounds at full term. It’s quite another thing to step on the scale at the doctor’s office just three short weeks since your last visit and to show appreciable weight gain.

Think about it. Have you ever in your life, barring some medical reason, shown up to a follow up visit three weeks – just 21 days – later and seen the scale creep up three whole pounds? I’ve weighed the same amount, give or take a pound here and there, for the past three years or so. I’m used to going to the doctor’s three months later and not seeing any difference that I couldn’t brush off to water weight or timing or a heavier pair of shoes.

Plus there’s the idea that pregnancy should be this glowing time of serenity. We’re supposed to only put on the bare minimum amount of weight (not to mention lose it mere days after the baby arrives). We’re applauded for not gaining weigh (even though it could imply health problems) and threatened with nutritionist appointments if our doctors think we’re putting on weight too quickly. Online communities are flooded with women who have managed to put on a single pound by 20 weeks, quickly drowned out by women who have gained 20 pounds in the same amount of time. There’s no such thing as typical, just like our pre-pregnancy weight tendencies. We’re supposed to adore our expanding bodies when we’ve been taught all of our lives to fight any expansion.

I say all of this as a preamble. I lost it a bit today. I broke down in Luffy’s arms. It all started innocently enough. We’re going to a wedding next weekend and the day after’s schedule includes swimming. I was trying on a bathing suit to make sure that it still fit and wasn’t too indecent (hello family! meet my new boobs). After admiring the belly (and the baby!), my gaze moved over the rest of my body. The newly acquired roll under my chest. The non-existent waist line. The extra padding around my hips and thighs. None of it truly baby related, even though it’s all essential for pregnancy.

I always feared that my old insecurities would pop up during pregnancy. I work hard to keep myself in shape and to remain a healthy weight. It’s challenging to say goodbye to something that you’ve worked so hard to achieve, even if it is for a good reason. I’m happy to say that I can at least separate out the pregnancy a bit. I actually really like the belly and the curves it brings. Just don’t ask me about that new roll under my bra band.

I’ll cut myself some slack today. My hormones seem especially primed and wired to my tear ducts (I teared up while watching a movie – about baseball – during the scene where they sang the national anthem….). So I’ll breathe, lean on Luffy for a bit and pull myself together. It will be worth it in the end.

Dreams of the Past II

As I mentioned yesterday, I am writing this to add to the discussion on abusive relationships. After I broke up with Michael, the abuse seemed so clear to me. But during the relationships, it never once occurred to me that our relationship was unhealthy.

About a month after I broke up with him, I went to thehotline.org (the National Domestic Violence Hotline). The site scared me, to be honest. The homepage triggers a pop-up that warns you that computer use can be monitored and if you think your history is being monitored, you should call their hotline directly. It has a Quick Escape button at the top that immediately redirects you to an unrelated website. I don’t belong here, I thought, this site is here to help real abuse victims. I don’t belong here.

But I kept clicking until I found a list of red flags. Further down the page, you could click on tabs like “Physical Abuse” and “Financial Abuse” that listed out indicators.  I really can’t describe to you how I felt when I clicked on emotional abuse and scrolled down the list of warning signs. It was overwhelming, the recognition of so many red flags, the heartbreak and the sadness I felt. Little things and big things, sprinkled all throughout our five year history. Things like “trying to isolate you from family or friends,” or “gaslighting” (a term used when your partner basically makes you think you’re going crazy). I moved to the “Sexual Abuse & Coercion” tab and saw even more familiar red flags. “Demanding sex when you’re sick or tired” and “Ignoring your feelings regarding sex” was something that occurred regularly. “Making you feel like you owe them” sex was part of the structure of our relationship; I didn’t know any other way. One of Michael’s favorite phrases (always said in jest, as was his way), was that you can’t rape the willing and he made it clear that, as his girlfriend, I should always be willing. I won’t go too far into details here; it’s not something I want to rehash.

I haven’t told many people about Michael and the five years I spent with him, but those that I have told have asked the same questions:

What did he do?

Why did you stay?

What made you see?

Even though everyone always asks what did he do, they really mean how, how did he abuse you? They want to know in concrete terms and definitions, which is hard to do with emotional abuse. Physical abuse has such a bright-line definition, a push or shove or strike. With emotional abuse, the terms are more fluid. Sometimes it’s not even what he said, but more the way he said it. Or not even the way he said it, but that he repeated it so often. For instance, Michael was very harsh on my body. He seldom complimented my body or looks (even the perfunctory “you look nice” on date night was a stretch for him). He would ruthlessly critique me and then tack on “I’m joking” at the end. He would comment on my weight, telling me I was getting “fluffy” and then remind me he was kidding. Over and over and over and over until I believed the critiques more than the jest.

Sometimes it’s not what he said, but his motivations behind the words. I only realized after our relationship that he degraded my family, my close friends, and my mentors because he wanted to isolate me. He wanted to drive a wedge between the people I loved (and who would support me no matter what) and me. Honestly, what brought the behavior to my attention was when he tried to do it with Jasmine. He could see how important she was to me and that she gave me a confidence boost (first-time kitty mom!) and he wanted to prevent that. He wanted me to be alone if I left.

And sometimes it is what he says. Michael used to tell me that I was so lucky to be with him. In the midst of our breakup, Michael promised me that I would never, ever find someone who treated me as well as he did or who loved me as much as he did – I would never find anyone better than him.

Which leads me to my answer of the next question. I stayed because I didn’t know any better. He was my first boyfriend and I didn’t know how true love and a healthy relationship felt. I couldn’t recognize that mine was broken. I stayed because he told me I’d never find anyone better and I believed him. Even when I left it was my biggest fear – that I’d leave and never find anyone and spend the rest of my life alone. I stayed because I thought it was acceptable to live in a one-sided relationship for the rest of my life. I stayed because breaking up with him meant hurting him, and his family, and even though he was hurting me, I didn’t want to hurt him back.

I didn’t see the abuse though until afterwards. As I said, looking back, I could see it so clearly, but it’s not the reason I broke it off. I think the enormity of for the rest of your life hit me after accepting his proposal and I realized that I couldn’t live like this for the rest of mine. I couldn’t be in a relationship with someone who took but never gave. I couldn’t have children with a man who would belittle my self-worth, and possibly theirs. I owed it to my future self to stand up to him, to face him and say the words that would hurt him and set me free.