Is It Even Normal to Get Back to Pre-Baby Weight?

On buying new jeans and embracing my postpartum body

Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash

I finally caved and bought two new pairs of jeans the other day. I’m five months postpartum and I’ve been living in one pair of jeans that fit plus my maternity jeans where the elastic at the back has a massive hole.

I’d pull on the holey jeans and feel uncomfortable and embarrassed that someone might see the huge gaping mouth at my back where material should be. Despite my discomfort, I thought it would be even more ridiculous to buy new jeans when I’ve got a few perfectly good pairs tucked away in my wardrobe.

I kept trying on my old jeans (one of which is ranked up there with some of my favourite pairs of jeans ever) hoping I’d miraculously shed some weight overnight — when I knew very well I hadn’t.

Yet still, I’d try to squeeze them on and squish my belly down, up, to the sides and anywhere but where it currently sits, in an attempt to do up the damn zipper.

Of course it’s an impossible task since I’m weighing at least seven kilograms heavier than I was when I last wore them. But I keep trying.

Pressure to get back to pre-baby weight

I did a Google search for that very statement. And of the ten first-page results, four of them were about how to get back to pre-baby weight.

Hang on, Google, that’s not where I was going with it.

Four of the articles that did seek to address the statement, like this one, still highlighted the importance of losing that extra pregnancy weight.

Losing this extra store of body fat in the first year following childbirth will help improve a woman’s future health trajectory.

Talk about pressure!

Shouldn’t the statement I typed in generate results that actually help postpartum mothers not feel guilty about retaining weight after pregnancy?

The last two did discuss the reality of postpartum weight and not feeling pressure to lose it. Hallelujah!

This one highlights tweets by Dr Sindi van Zyl where she states that some go back to pre-pregnancy weight, and some simply don’t. Ever.

That’s the reality. There’s this immense pressure to get rid of pregnancy weight, and yet, in real life that doesn’t always happen.

Babycenter surveyed nearly 7000 mums and found that 61% expected to be back to pre-baby weight by their baby’s first birthday. But of mums with 1- to 2-year-olds, 60% were still carrying some of that extra weight.

That’s more than half who haven’t shed all the extra weight they’re “supposed” to lose within a year of baby’s birth. That’s a huge number of mums who haven’t been able to live up to a recommendation that’s being sold as the healthy norm.

Perhaps getting back to pre-pregnancy weight is simply not the norm at all.

“Look at your big chin, Mummy!”

After the birth of my firstborn, I lost weight quickly. Not because I was meaning to, but because my baby fed like a monster and was sucking the life out of me.

My second baby only feeds every four hours and dropped to just four feeds a day early on. Plus, we’re mixed feeding now so all that life is staying very much in me — in my belly, my thighs, my butt … even my chin.

A couple months ago my daughter said, “Look at your big chin, Mummy!”

Ha! I laughed so hard I might’ve cried a little.

My daughter didn’t comment on my chin because she thought it was a negative thing and there was nothing malicious in her comment. She commented on something that stood out to her and something that isn’t the same as it used to be, but the negativity about it came from me.

My daughter’s comment made me want to find a way to acknowledge the changes in my body but not feel bad about them.

It was in that moment with my daughter I realised I needed to do something to improve my body confidence.

I’d been wearing baggy clothing and doing my best to hide my new body shape — which was really my only option given I couldn’t squeeze into my old clothing — but the oversized clothes made me feel just as bad as the too-small ones.

I’d also been using the excuse that I really don’t want to waste my precious time on straightening or curling my hair, applying layers of make-up, and picking out an on-point outfit every single day. Especially when I’m barely leaving the house.

However, not putting effort into my looks shouldn’t mean putting up with clothing that makes me feel uncomfortable.

The problem is I was so busy telling myself I’m done caring what other people think and that what I look like doesn’t matter, that I was forcing myself to put up with discomfort.

I didn’t want it to seem like I was giving in to the pressure to impress. So I’d pull on my holey jeans then spend all day long pulling them up while avoiding ripping them further. It was driving me batty.

A new normal

I kept telling myself that I didn’t care about the extra weight I’m carrying around. I gave birth to my second baby, I’ve got ongoing thyroid issues, added stress, and life is busier than ever. It feels impossible to fit in the level of health and fitness required to get into shape right now.

Plus, I’ve never worried too much about the numbers on the scales. My focus has always been on how I feel in my clothing and doing my best to be healthy without being extremely strict — I’d remind myself of that too.

And yet, I was still holding onto this idea that I’d be able to quickly go back to the size I used to be and back to wearing my old clothing.

The truth is, my body won’t go back to “normal”. After two babies, hormonal changes, and health issues, my body has a new normal. And that’s perfectly okay.

I still believe in working towards being fit and healthy. Kids are a lot of work and I want to be able to keep up with my two as much as possible. I can’t do that if I’m puffed out just going for a walk. But being fit and healthy and fixating on size and numbers on a scale are two very different things.

Can’t we focus on the fit and healthy part instead of the numbers?

I might lose some weight and get closer to the size I used to be, but I need to be comfortable in the body shape I’ve got right now. I can’t keep waiting for my body to get back to normal when my whole life is never going to be what it was before.

Instead of waiting, I took the plunge and I bought two new pairs of jeans. They fit comfortably and don’t have holes where they shouldn’t. I feel good in them despite still being heavier than I used to be.

I’ve still got a ways to go before I feel completely comfortable in the skin I’m in, but feeling better in the clothing I wear and accepting that my body isn’t ever going to be exactly as it was, is a start.

Working towards a healthy body, no matter the size and shape, is the end goal. If only society could mimic that focus too and mums wouldn’t have to do Google searches about the pressure to lose weight. Instead, we’d know that focusing on our babies and doing our best to stay healthy given our circumstances is more important than numbers on a scale.

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Melissa-Jane Nguyen

Written by

Writer and editor. Writing about parenting, writing and life. Working on YA novel. Tea drinker. Book lover. Wife. Mother. https://melissajane.substack.com/

Family Matters

A publication for parents and families of all types to share their experiences.

Melissa-Jane Nguyen

Written by

Writer and editor. Writing about parenting, writing and life. Working on YA novel. Tea drinker. Book lover. Wife. Mother. https://melissajane.substack.com/

Family Matters

A publication for parents and families of all types to share their experiences.

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