I think of myself as pretty savvy. I travel, I have a lot of friends, and I talk and listen a lot, so I’m aware of multiple pespectives and experiences. I devour research on topics that matter to me, and I’m a journalist with a natural skepticism that helps to weed out bogus or irrelevant data. When I was expecting, I thought I had my mind fully open. So why then was I so, so naive about what would happen to my body after pregnancy?
Here’s what I thought I’d have to deal with after I delivered my twins in July: the extra weight I’d put on during pregnancy, the stretch marks that appeared around my navel—maddeningly, in just my last couple of weeks—and a cesarean section scar.
But this all seemed managable. I’d worked hard and lost weight before; it’s not easy, but I’m dedicated when I want to be. And I’m a pretty fit person, so I even looked forward to the challenge. And as for the stretch marks? Well, I figured I’d try buying a Groupon for a laser package, slather with endless balms and potions, and go from there. I hoped the surgery scar would just fade.
Beyond that, I was eager to get back to my “pre-baby body” just as soon as possible—that goal so widely discussed in media.
And then about six weeks postpartum, reality began to set in. My abdomen still looked many months pregnant, which started to alarm me only after my doctor told me at my last postpartum follow-up visit that my uterus had likely already returned to its usual size. He did a quick test on the examination table and confirmed I had diastasis recti, a gap between my abdominal muscles resulting from carrying 12 pounds 2 ounces of babies to full term. He mentioned exercise could help, but I might not expect the look of my abdomen to improve to my personal satisfaction without surgery.
The next realization came months later after I weaned by babies. It was only then that I noticed what pregnancy and nursing had done to my breasts. They had lost the little natural buoyancy they used to have—and those, too, wouldn’t be the same again. Why didn’t I know about this?
Of course, I do have those stretch marks, but they’re faint and hardly register on the list of body changes that I’ve had to process. And then there’s my C-section scar, which despite its mild keloid and persistent pinkness now at eight months postpartum, I wear proudly as a badge of honor. I can’t believe my two children, now close to 40 pounds combined, came out of a 4-inch incision almost no one will ever see.
These days, I’m fighting to recover every inch of fitness ground possible. I’ve lost all 50-plus pounds of pregnancy weight through relentless effort and exercise, which has felt like a herculean feat on some days with twin infants. I’ve researched and undertaken physical therapy-like exercise programs to target and heal my specific abdominal condition, and I remain dutiful and hopeful they will work. I’ve sought out groups of moms with similar postpartum issues who share tips and support. And I know that, with intense effort and motivation, I can get to a postpartum body that makes me feel proud and confident.
But it will not be my “pre-baby body.” It can never be that.
How could it be? Having children changes us forever. When we become parents, we shift our finances, schedules, priorities and worldview. Why should our physical bodies be expected to conceal such monumental changes to our very core? I now see clearly the extent to which our cultural obsession with “pre-baby body” is attempting to perpetuate mass fraud. And how the whole foolish dialogue dupes moms-to-be into believing an insane fiction.
Once we have carried children, our bodies wear that history. I intend to wear it proudly. That doesn’t mean kissing goodbye to femininity and sex appeal. For me, that means seizing the healthiest, fittest version of my very own body I can possibly have and owning it.
It doesn’t mean returning to my “pre-baby body.” My body is now—and is always going to be—the temple that supported the miraculous creation of life. And that’s worth some hard-won swagger.
Alesandra Dubin is a new twin mom. She’s also a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of home and travel blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and Twitter.