When I was pregnant with my first child, I encountered woman after woman who shook their heads at my belly and said, “You know, it never goes back.”
I didn’t believe them. I had three sisters-in-law and one cousin who all emerged from their pregnancies looking fit and phenomenal – in time of course. I too lost my pregnancy weight, and thanks to breastfeeding, I lost more weight than I gained in my pregnancy. But what caught me off guard was the time it took, and that it didn’t come off gradually at a steady pace, but in chunks. I wouldn’t lose a pound for 8 weeks then seemingly overnight I’d lose ten.
I discovered that while plenty of people talked about the process of losing pregnancy weight, they didn’t talk about what to wear while the weight came off, or that it would be stupid to buy clothes, when I would only be able to wear them for a month or two before they too would be too big. But you have to wear something, so it’s a bit of a catch-22.
My second child is seven months old. I have bought five pairs of pants in different sizes off the clearance racks. I’ve gone through three of them. I found a gorgeous pair of trousers at an after-Christmas sale on pure faith that they will fit at some point. They don’t yet, but I have hope. My favorite health practitioner told me that women shouldn’t even consider dieting until 9 months after giving birth. She said most women actually lose their weight from all the extra calories it takes to breastfeed, recover from labor, and mother their children. It’s why they say that it takes 9 months to gain the weight, so it takes 9 months to lose it. For some of us, it’s up to a year.
So, in theory, with the 9 months of pregnancy and the year to lose the weight after, some of us go almost two years before we’re reunited with our wardrobe. For some, it’s a short reunion, if they opt for the second child being close to the first.
Every few weeks or so, I go through my clothes and see which ones I can get away with. It’s tricky because just because you can zip a zipper shut doesn’t mean you should walk out of your bedroom wearing said item. Or some clothing items are no longer relevant to your mothering life. But there are items I couldn't wait to get back to. I spent my pregnancies missing my pencil skirts. I finally found one that fit, only to discover that now pencil skirts are essentially stupid to wear while mothering a child. I felt like a mermaid on land. I couldn’t move. A friend of mine confessed that since she became a mother, she could no longer wear or walk in heels. I laughed. Then last night, as I got dressed for my sister’s engagement party, I realized I couldn’t either. I slipped on my favorite heels and suddenly felt like I was on stilts. I was scared to descend stairs and knew I wouldn’t be able to carry my baby while I teetered downward. I considered sending my sister a note that said, “Can’t come because I can’t wear heels.” I wore my slightly heeled oxfords and added, “Practice heel wearing for sister’s wedding” to my to-do list. I went to put on a favorite dress, before I remembered that dresses are not breast feeding friendly. It didn’t fit anyway.
So what do I wear as a mother? Cute boots and shoes I can walk in that don’t make me feel frumpy. I wear trousers and skirts I can move in. I take the advice of a friend who told me, “After giving birth, it’s easy for your self-image to land in the gutter, so you need to wear things that make you feel good, things that make you like yourself when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. And above all else, have compassion for your body. Parenting changes us; it’s stupid to pretend that it doesn’t.”