Thank You?

I was at the zoo last week pushing the kids in the double jogging stroller, and I was wearing jeans, a boxy pink sweater, and running shoes. Like most of my days with two small children, very little effort went into my appearance. Which is why the following conversation surprised me.

Two women were pushing their strollers toward me. As they passed me, I could feel one of them looking at me. Then, I heard her say, “And look at her. She has a baby, and she doesn’t even look like she’s had a baby!”

I actually glanced around to see if any other women with babies were walking by us at that very moment, but she must have been talking about me.

First of all, thanks. I’ll try to take that as a compliment.

Second, looks are deceiving. Yes, I do have a baby, but she’s not nearly as young as she looks. She’s 10 months old now, four months older than she looks.

Third, women shouldn’t judge themselves so harshly. I am wearing my regular jeans again, which I do consider to be an accomplishment because it’s been a rough year. And I do have two small kids. But, what that lady didn’t know is that I don’t have babies. I have two-pound kittens, which explains why I don’t look like I’ve had full-term babies. I haven’t.

Fourth, it always stings a little when people say things like “you don’t look like you just had a baby.” I know it’s meant as a compliment, and I understand the intention. But, I always think back to those tiny babies and those awful deliveries. And it actually feels like an indictment, like a reminder of some major failures in my life. I always want to ask if someone would really trade being a few pounds heavier with seeing her tiny baby struggle for life.

So, thank you, I guess?

Bellies After Birth

I just read a post on the Huffington Post about body image in the months after pregnancy. Here it is if you’re interested:

Kate Middleton and the Mom in the Mirror

I definitely agree with most of what the author says, especially about how unrealistic it is for any of us to believe we’ll ever look like we did at 15…particularly in the months after having a baby. One of my pet peeves is celebrities acting like they didn’t have trainers and cooks and housekeepers and nannies to help them have the time and energy to lose post-pregnancy weight in a matter of weeks. Besides, it’s their job to look good, as superficial as that sounds. Most of them need to get back into shape so they can act or perform or whatever it is that they do in the public eye. Most of us don’t have that kind of help and shouldn’t have that kind of pressure. But, in response to Kate Middleton’s small post-baby bump, the Weekend Today Show meteorologist said that she never knew women’s bellies didn’t just shrink after having the baby. That is what we’re dealing with here.

[Insert a major eye-roll.]

How in the world can a woman spend 40 weeks growing a baby and then 24 hours later look like it never happened?! It’s illogical, idiotic, and insulting. Especially for a woman to say such a thing about another woman!

In the weeks and months after I had my babies, I had people tell me that I looked like I had never been pregnant, and it didn’t feel like a compliment. I knew that’s how it was intended, but here’s the reality: if I had carried my babies full-term, I wouldn’t have looked that way. I only gained 15 pounds with my son, because I had him 14 weeks early. I hadn’t even gotten to the point in pregnancy yet when you actually start gaining a pound a week. When people commented on how slim I was, as I trudged in and out of the NICU, it actually made me feel guilty. When well-meaning moms said, “What’s your secret?” I wanted to respond with, “Skipping the whole third trimester.”

And so here’s my point. If the only way you can lose all your baby weight in a month or two is either to have an army of people helping you or have your baby three months early, then I think such a goal is totally unrealistic. We should be more focused on the cute baby and less focused on the remaining belly. And at least give a mom the same amount of time to lose the belly as it took growing the baby in it.