Body After Baby: The Reality

Women are miraculous.

As a female in the outdoor industry, I’ve long been proud of what my body can accomplish. Pre-Liliana, I asked it to undertake some rather large physical tasks: running 34 miles, carting a 55-pound backpack up a damn near vertical 2000 foot climb, paddling 75 miles of Alaska’s Alatna River in icy rain and gusty winds, cycling 4,000 miles across the country, and walking 150 miles of Spain’s Camino de Santiago. True to form, my body took it all like a champ.

Pregnancy was no different. I experienced an easy first trimester with zero nausea or vomiting and only a bit of fatigue. Second trimester was a walk in the park; I hiked, ran, camped, and went to CrossFit daily. I’ve got this, I thought to myself. Pregnancy is just another endurance task; I can do this.

Body after baby

Third trimester threw me for a loop. It was almost as if my body realized it was pregnant and pumped the brakes. Whoa! What’s happening in that belly?, it asked me. My belly grew bigger, my ankles swelled like Play-Do, and my blood pressure rose {literally.} Our doc routinely checked me for preeclampsia, a serious condition that causes damage to the kidneys and liver and is frequently identified by high blood pressure.

Pre-pregnancy, I was like the walking dead with an insanely low pulse and an even lower blood pressure, so high numbers were cause for concern. Month after month, my urine tests came back with nothing to worry about yet my blood pressure continued to climb. In fact, the week I went into labor, my doc sent me to the hospital post-appointment to be monitored. My blood pressure was so high that she thought I’d need to be induced that day. As I sat in the hospital bed hooked up to monitors, I looked at Will and commented: Well, shit. I sure didn’t think it would happen like this.

Turns out, it didn’t. I was given the all clear and sent home. Now I realize that my body was just amping up for the real deal that took place a mere four days later. But, my body was toast; it was ready to be done with pregnancy.

Body after baby

And I can’t say that I blame it. Guys, I was huge. Women all experience different things in pregnancy and one of my glorious symptoms was that I grew into a giant. From the 10 week appointment on, my belly routinely  measured 2-3 weeks ahead of where it should be. Assuming you are at a healthy starting points, doctors recommend a 20-25 pound weight gain; I packed on almost 60 pounds. I clearly remember when I eclipsed Will’s weight. I stepped off the scale at the appointment, looked at him, and commented that I was closing in on 200 pounds. I laughed about it because it was somewhat absurd, especially considering I started around 135 pounds, and he gave me all the reassurances he could. But even for someone with as much self confidence as I have, the increase on the scale was uncomfortable.

When I went into labor, I understood why I was so big. My water broke in movie-like fashion: Will, his mother, and I were sitting in our kitchen on Saturday night, and Will just pulled chocolate molten lava cake out of the oven. It’s my fave dessert of his, one that I regularly consumed while pregnant. The second he set the hot cakes on the stove, I felt a pop inside my belly, almost like a balloon ruptured. I looked down, anticipating what I knew was coming, and saw a flood of water gushing all over my chair and the floor.

Um, you guys, I commented. I think my water just broke. I guess we should go to the hospital?

Fast forward to the next day and Liliana was in my arms and our new little family rested in our hospital room. During labor, I lost 34 pounds. Considering out baby girl only weighed 7 lb. 7 ounces, it was clear I had carried a metric ton of fluid in my preggo body. Due to the emergency C-section I experienced, my body took a beating. I was pumped full of so many drugs that I still have trouble recollecting moments of that entire day. Finally, on Sunday evening, I asked the doc to take me off the IV. I’m fine with pills, I said. I’d rather be slightly uncomfortable than out-of-my gourd groggy.

I’ve never told our birth story on my site, and I’m not sure I will. Maybe one day, but today isn’t that day. I share all this almost as a reminder to myself of what my body has been through over the past calendar year. Child birth is a miracle, but it’s also the most demanding endurance event I’ve ever completed. And, just like running an ultra, it grew tougher and more demanding as time passed, saving the most difficult moments for the very end.

Body after baby

Today, I’m struggling to lose the baby weight. I walked out of the hospital 20 pounds over my pre-baby size, and I’m still sitting here with those extra 20 pounds on my body, almost six months later. My composition is returning to what it once was, but I’m still carrying a solid chunk of fat on my belly. And while I understand that it’s part of the deal and I’m thankful for all that it has accomplished for my family, I will admit that it has been emotionally frustrating for me.

In this era of social media, it’s so difficult not to compare yourself to others. Pre-baby, I honestly can say that I never experienced that phenomenon, but it’s been harder for me to ignore how others look postpartum. Quite a few friends gave birth around the same time as me, so it’s far too easy to play that comparison game. For so many of us breastfeeding, it’s a gamble. Some women drop the weight rapidly while breastfeeding, struggling to maintain enough body fat. That isn’t me. I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum where it appears that no matter what I do, I’m carrying these 20 pounds as long as I’m breastfeeding.

I finally just reconciled with that fact, although it took some work. Breastfeeding didn’t come easy for us, so it’s a total bummer to realize that something I fought so hard for was also the cause of my current status. But, I know it’s important and I’m not willing to give up my breastmilk for the sake of my vanity.

More than anything, I’ve realized that the reality of “body after baby” is so, so different than what you frequently seen on your favorite blogger’s Instagram account. It’s not all kettlebell swings and #fitmama hashtags and side-by-side comparison photos. It’s work; it’s stress; it’s effort; it’s a whole lot of tears.

The reality of body after baby is that your body has changed forever. Even when I get back to my goal weight, it will be different than it was previously. I can count calories all I want but maybe–just maybe–my hips will always be wider or my stomach a bit mushier. I’ll forever have a scar on my lower abdomen and while I escaped stretch marks on my belly, my boobs didn’t fare as well.

Body after baby

But it will also be better. So much better. Because this tiger-striped and aching body carried our baby girl for 10 whole months. It housed her; it kept her safe; it nourished her; and it brought her into this world safely. And for that–stretch marks or not–I’ll forever be thankful.

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18 Comments

  • Reply Neja April 4, 2018 at 6:09 am

    Oh, don’t bother so much about your body, your baby is just a few months old?!? In my experience, the old weight finally returns when about one year – year and a half from labor, so you’ve got still plenty of time! As long as you stay active and don’t stuff yourself with unhealthy food, you will definitely shed the extra pounds. Eventually 🙂

  • Reply Erin April 4, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    Thank you for sharing! Your pregnancy/birth journey sounds almost identical to mine and I was feeling very alone in not bouncing back very quickly. It makes me feel better to know that there are other women who were active pre/during pregnancy and still gained more weight than expected and struggled to loose it.

  • Reply Cathryn April 4, 2018 at 2:45 pm

    Oh I sympathise so much! It took me about 18 months to shift the final 10 pounds and I stopped BFing at 4 months so I didn’t even have that excuse! I just enjoyed cake a lot. But even now I’m back to my pre-baby weight, NOTHING is the same. My hips are wider and I can’t wear the dresses that I used to use as a barometer of my weight. My boobs have gone. I have a saggy little belly. My waist is gone, and it’s my waist that I miss the most. As I’ve got older, I definitely care less about those things but I can’t deny I look at photos of me pre-baby and think how much better I looked and feel a little wistful.

    But it really is a tiny price to pay for our little people. Totally worth it.

  • Reply Jessie @ Chasing Belle April 4, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    I am currently 4 days overdue from delivering my baby boy and this article was so reassuring to read. At this point, all I can do is keep gaining weight and I have gained more than I anticipated. I know I should just be focused on birthing a healthy baby and my body providing him nourishment afterward, however, I can not ignore the nagging anxiety of wanting to drop the weight as quickly as possible. I love being active and spending time outdoors and post-baby that passion is going to take a backseat as I recover. Reading about similar experiences and worries from other women makes me feel like I am not alone, so I really appreciate you sharing this 🙂

  • Reply Heidu April 4, 2018 at 7:38 pm

    Love you!

  • Reply Marie April 4, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    I, too, gained 60 pounds and it is tough to shed. I was so naive that I brought my pre-pregnancy jeans to the hospital to wear home. I was devastated that I went home in maternity clothes! Two babies and a decade later my body is not the same although I am at my 30 year old pre-pregnancy weight. I have found some peace with that. My four year old loves nothing more than warm her hands on my “squishy belly” and between work and the girls life is so full and fun. Sometimes I wish for the days when I could just soak up a baby on my chest. Enjoy it and cherish it. Your pants will wait for you!

  • Reply Bonnie April 4, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    Such a great post! The comparison game IS hard – and while it’s not weight for me, there are other issues! You can’t always see what pregnancy does – I don’t look too different now but I’m dealing with my prolapse and am aware of it every single day – what sets it off, the times of day it’s better, if I can control it in workouts… It affects my walks, my workouts, my movement – but it will heal! It’s just slow and I’m still trying to give myself and my body time. I just heard that it can take 3 years for your hormones to be balanced again post-baby! Super interesting. And breastfeeding means more relaxin in our bodies, so those muscles and ligaments still aren’t tightened back up. Now, whenever I walk past other moms with their coffees and strollers or at the park with their kids, I think, “Maybe she has prolapse. Or anal fissures [happened to my friend!]. Or her body feels mushy. Or she has pelvic pain.” and the list goes on.

    Great post; thank you for opening up and sharing! Would love to adventure with you guys one day…bring our families together to celebrate what our bodies still can do with these girls on the outside! <3

  • Reply Jen April 4, 2018 at 10:13 pm

    I’ve had two babies and two very different bodies with each pregnancy. With my son I went from 140lbs to 200 by the time I delivered. Breastfeeding never worked for us and the weight never seemed to leave, which I blamed on the lack of breastfeeding. It wasn’t until he was about 1.5 that I finally got down to my prepregnancy weight. Then I got pregnant with my daughter and didn’t gain anywhere near what I did the first time. She breastfed like a champ (and it was still the hardest thing ever, btw) and I was down to my prepregnancy weight before she was 6 months old. I attributed that to breastfeeding…well that and the fact that I lost 20lbs of amniotic fluid too, lol. The nurse was like (I’ve never seen so much water come out of someone before 😂). She’s 14months old and I’m still struggling with my new body. Hardest part are my boobs. I can’t find a bra to fit my once 36c chest that I’m pretty sure is now a B 😒. I guess every pregnancy and pregnancy body is different but at the end of the day it’s so worth it…I’m still trying to remind myself of that!

  • Reply Rachel @ Better LIVIN April 5, 2018 at 7:34 am

    In today’s social media world there is SO much pressure to get back to your pre-baby body right away. Over the last 10 months I’ve followed a lot of women who were pregnant and I swear they were all back (or close to) their pre-pregnancy bodies 2-3 months after the baby. One was posting her 11 p.m. workouts she was doing every night after her baby was sleeping, it sounded exhausting!

    I am telling myself that won’t be me so I don’t have unrealistic expectations for myself. And I tell myself that there is nothing plastic surgery can’t fix if I really can’t stand it. Ha ha! That always makes me feel a little better.

  • Reply Janelle April 5, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    Post-pregnancy body changes are so hard. I went from a super fast metabolism to a very much slower one, and I honestly really struggled coping. I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted, sit on the couch for a week, and still get up and run 30+ miles and gain zero weight. Now, I eat dessert two times a week and skip the gym for three days and running 3 miles is a noticeable struggle. I was struggling so much coping that I did what you criticized: gave up breast milk for the sake of my “vanity”. But hey, it was making me miserable. And what good is a breastfed baby with a miserable, depressed mommy? So I’m a lot happier now and you know what? My baby’s still fed. It took me a long time to learn that my mental well being matters just as much as my baby, even if other people might think less of me for it.

  • Reply RelentlessDorwardCommotion April 5, 2018 at 5:52 pm

    I feel like I want to lift my shirt up to give a stretch mark and extra skin mama salute to you. Working in the fitness industry, I still struggle with my post baby body every day…and my babies are almost 10 & 12. I’ll never have abs worthy of an Instagram photo, but I’ve got my boys…so it’s a fair trade 😉

  • Reply High Five Friday -Happy Fit Mama April 5, 2018 at 11:01 pm

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  • Reply Leah April 7, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Hi!
    I’ve now had two c-sections and find that it also takes me awhile to lose the baby weight. I also get annoyed when people lose the weight bc of “breastfeeding.” I breastfed my babies 14 months each and found I was similar to you and must need to keep that extra fat on. 🤷🏻‍♀️ It took me 9 months to lose the weight with my first born and a year with my second. Be patient with your body, we are all different, and know that you will lose it eventually! I like the theory that it takes 9 months to put it on and at least 9 months to lose it. Just keep focusing on that sweet baby!

  • Reply Gillian April 7, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    I went into birth believing I’d be able to handle whatever my body dished out. At the 50 hour mark, I finally asked for the drugs I never dreamed I would need. Since then, I’ve wondered repeatedly whether I’m a wimp. I’ve always counted on my mental strength–it got me through the emotional marathon of earning a PhD–but I kept thinking I maybe I should have done more to gear up for the physical challenge. I’ve always been one to stay active without really pushing myself. But hearing you talk about all these awesome physical challenges you’ve accomplished and still referring to birth as a huge feat of endurance has been very powerful in terms of understanding that it’s not just me. I’m really glad you shared this.

  • Reply Alyssa April 11, 2018 at 10:29 am

    I definitely relate to this! You just have no clue what your body will do in pregnancy or labor/delivery. For some reason I never imagined having a c-section but of course, that’s what happened. I’m packing on the pounds like I did in my first pregnancy and “pregnancy all over”. In my second, I was all belly and it was so great! But I really didn’t do anything different in any of the three, aside from a pure carb diet in the first trimester this time when I was super sick. I’m already mentally gearing up to surpass my delivery weight from my first. People always try to guess what pregnancy women are having based on how they carry, but I’ve had two boys and carried totally differently for each so based on that theory I’m definitely having another Dalton. It’s also crazy to me how differently water breaking can go. I felt a balloon pop sensation like you described but then there was just a bit of water on my pants/the blanket I was sitting on and that was it, then it stopped for like an hour, no gush or anything.

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  • Reply Ashley April 13, 2018 at 10:29 am

    just found your blog and this post hits home! I’m 5 months postpartum and am finding myself with unrealistic expectations for myself. I was able to give myself grace for the first few months but now all the sudden, I feel as though my grace period is over and I should be bouncing back to my “old self” both in weight, physical fitness, and general productivity. Problem is – we are not our “old selves” and never will be. Thank you for this. I love your last couple lines – hits home for sure.

  • Reply chelsea April 13, 2018 at 5:57 pm

    Such a brave post, thank you for sharing! That beautiful, healthy baby girl is so worth the extra 20 lbs. Cheers to you mama.

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