I have a set of drawers in my closet full of my mom clothes. You know, the yoga pants, nursing bras, and milk -stained size XL t-shirts. This drawer is set up to make getting dressed as easy as possible — all of the pants are black, and all of the shirts fit my new fluffy shape. Except in order to get to the drawers, I have to stand in front of my closet, and when I stand there, I have to avert my gaze away from the beautiful clothing hanging on either side. Clothing I used to curate and hoard and proudly pick through in a seemingly endless exercise of my options. Clothing in a lovely size 4. All of my pre-pregnancy clothes haunt me like a ghost of a body past.
At five months postpartum, I’m in a bit of a vicious cycle of self-abuse and self pity. I make plans to exercise, and then balk at them. I look at myself in the mirror, and I see wiggles and fluff. It makes me feel ugly, overwhelmed, unlike myself. None of my “real” clothes fit. My body is too big, too loose, too lazy. It’s a wobbly peg that I’m trying to fit in a shapely hole.
I have moments when I try to be kind to the mom in the mirror. I try to treat her like I would treat a friend — with gentle words of encouragement, and lots of love for the work her body has done. I try, but I’m not very good at it.
Also I try to be proactive. I call upon my inner drill sergeant, and tell myself that today’s the day. If you want to be active, be active! You know how to do this. There are moms with babies younger than you running around with their jogging strollers just a block away. No excuses!
I pull out my last clean pair of yoga pants, and rummage around for a sports bra that fits. Kinda. I vow not to go one more day feeling the self loathing that washes over me if I don’t even manage to get dressed or make it out of the house.
Today I will exercise. Today, I will shower! These are my ambitions being home with a five month old. I just have to move my body today. I sigh, looking in the mirror at my slack belly hanging over the waistband of my yoga pants. Breastfeeding supposedly burns 500 calories a day, but for some reason, my body doesn’t understand what that means. I’m tempted to give up, lay back on the couch and mope the rest of the day away.
But I am dressed for some form of exercise. My inner drill sergeant is pacing, shouting motivational cliches right and left. No excuses, Korbel! Hazel is in a good mood. The sun is shining. The dog needs to go out anyway. So maybe not a run, but at least I’m going to take the baby and the dog on a walk.
I grab the kid and her diaper bag and the dog and his leash and I make my way down to the garage. I get the dog tied up, and then set about tucking the baby into her stroller, safe and sound. Just as I’ve put the finishing touches on her stroller swaddle, she grunts. Like, a specific grunt. And her face goes beet.
It’s just a diaper change. It takes 5 minutes.
Yes, drill sergeant.
The easiest thing to do is to change the baby on the folding table in the lobby. It’s too much work to haul everyone back upstairs, and it’s the middle of the day on a Thursday. Everyone’s at work anyway. Who will even notice, or care?
I tie the dog to the stroller handle, wheel it into the entryway of my apartment building, and set the brake. This way I can keep an eye on him while I change this diaper like a ninja. (A wobbly, milk-dripping ninja.)
I lay out the changing pad and a clean diaper, and I open the wipes. By the time I’ve done that, my precious darling has flipped herself over. She’s screeching and kicking her legs.
As I flip her back over, I see that it’s worse than I thought. She’s blown out the top of her diaper, up the belly. It will be a full diaper and clothing change then. This takes 10 minutes, at least.
Ninja, says the drill sergeant, as I pull out the change of clothes, and start wiping. Midway through my wiping detail, I catch a glimpse of my dog out in the entryway. He’s sniffing around. Then, all of a sudden, he drops his behind in That Stance, and he lets loose. Right there in the entryway. I pick up the baby, in just her diaper, and run outside to check out the damage.
It’s not just a poop; Something is wrong. It’s loose and mucousy. He must have eaten something when I wasn’t looking. I dash back inside to throw away the poopy diaper and get the baby dressed so I can set her down in the stoller and pick up the dog poop.
Right as I’m pulling Hazel’s head through the onesie-hole, there’s movement again in the entryway. It’s my neighbor. In flip flops. And he’s headed straight for the doggie pile.
I run toward the doorway like a crazy lady yelling “stop,” with my baby tucked under my arm.
I point at the loose shit, and apologize profusely, but my 20-something neighbor dude doesn’t really care. He’s glad he avoided the dog shit, but that’s about all. I flip my half-dressed baby onto my other hip, and head back inside to finish dressing her. Just as I get her snapped up, a second neighbor comes trotting up. I do the mad dash a second time, shouting warnings about the dog shit. For my efforts, I get a grossed out look.
“That’s gonna have to be sprayed down,” the second neighbor observes. I smile at him and his techbro flops, tamping down my frustration. It’s not his fault that he’s right. This mess is definitely going to require a hose.
I re-buckle my newly-dressed baby into her stroller and set about cleaning the dog poop out of the entryway. It’s cooled off significantly now, and as I smush my blue-plastic-bag-covered hand into a cold pile of goo, I dry heave a little. But I scrape up what I can, toss the blue bag, and open the garage back up to get out the hose.
It’s fine. I’m fine. Everyone’s fine.
I take the baby out of the stroller, hang it back up, and march everyone upstairs. Even the drill sergeant agrees that was enough for one day. It was more than enough.
Before I had a kid, I was full of opinions about motherhood that I have been forced to reexamine in the wake of my experience. One such baseless opinion I had was about baby weight. I didn’t understand how very different it is to have extra weight from a pregnancy than to just have extra weight on you because, say, you like pizza more than salad.
Eat less, exercise more. Make better food choices, and move your body. I have lost a significant amount of weight in my life (on more than one occasion, actually) and I thought everyone knows how to lose weight. Stop making shitty excuses. Don’t complain about baby weight if you’re not dieting and exercising.
I didn’t know I would feel like I couldn’t eat enough for months after my daughter was born, even though I ate plenty of everything because, you know, breastfeeding burns 500 calories a day. I didn’t know how hard it could be to get off the couch and leave the house even just to walk around the block, let alone for something like a scheduled exercise class.
But knowing how hard it is doesn’t make it any easier to look at my closet in the morning. It doesn’t make it any easier when I have to get dressed, and I’m staring at the size 4 clothes that don’t fit, and may never fit again.
So a couple weeks after what I like to call the poopocalypse, I stopped making excuses and did something.
I got a couple of big boxes, and I cleaned out my closet.