9 months in; 9 months out

By April Wallace, nwaMotherlode contributor

Big news—my baby has crossed the 9 month mark, which means he has been out in the world longer than I carried him in my body.

I have been tempted to share another “9 months in, 9 months out” photo on Instagram, like I did the first time around, but something is holding me back.

Last time as I approached this milestone, I spent countless nights in the glow of my iPhone screen flipping through images under the 9 months in/9 months out hashtag. It spurred hours of needless worrying.

Was I losing the baby weight quick enough?

Could other people (who didn’t know me) tell that I had been pregnant recently?

Did I look as good as that girl? No? But I looked better than this one, right?

Surely others noticed the now soft edges of my body, and what work I felt like I had left to do.

It was an unhealthy obsession. So I posted my photo comparison and let the validation machine that was my social media community soothe me from comparing myself to other women’s photos any longer.

I want to celebrate how far I’ve come this year, but I don’t want to contribute to the chorus of negative voices some other sister might have on repeat, whether or not she realizes it.

Posting a progress photo, for me, doesn’t say that my body is perfect or better than yours. It’s a way of saying to myself: look how far you’ve come. Take heart, keep going. Give yourself grace the way you would give it to others.

Through (mostly) smart eating choices, staying active and breastfeeding, I have actually managed to lose my pregnancy weight by this point. But still, my body is so imperfect. Though I weigh the same as I did before baby, everything is proportioned a little differently and I wonder if it will ever return to the way it was. Maybe not.

Thanks to a little condition called diastisis recti, my belly is still a bit rounded, long after having given birth. Not to mention I have cellulite on my thighs, little stretch marks on my hips and loose skin on my abdomen.

But what can I tell you that would put even my mind (the first time around) at rest while seeing a 9 month in/out photo?

First of all, nine months is a good minimum amount of time you can expect for your body to get somewhere close to “normal,” whatever that means now. Most reliable sources will tell you that putting on the pregnancy weight took time, so it’s no wonder that taking it off will take time, too. At least nine months, but maybe years.

Second, you have had so many more important things to worry about in the first year of your baby’s life. You became someone’s mother. You had to figure this little person out—how you’re going to feed him, what each of his cries mean, how to comfort him and keep him safe from all manner of threats, or how to deal with issues like food allergies. You may have spent the first months worrying about SIDS or the first several weeks in the NICU. And don’t forget, there’s the not-so-little prospect of your own healing while managing all this.

In the face of your growing family and maintaining health and safety for all of you, weight loss is really not priority one any longer.

Then, there are the other practical things about postpartum life that make losing weight more difficult. Some people don’t shed the pounds while breastfeeding, while others do, or maybe you’re formula feeding and weight loss is different altogether. Some have longer lasting medical issues for which medications do crazy things to their bodies. Thyroid problems are common during this phase among all sorts of other challenges.

We’re walking around on minimal sleep, trying to take care of an extra person and often neglecting ourselves. It’s no mystery our exhausted bodies and stressed minds aren’t always working together to do one more thing like shed the weight.

If, like me the first go around, you are watching the scale, taking your measurements, avoiding being in photos and wondering why your old clothes still don’t fit, take a minute to remember all the many things you have learned and dealt with this first nine months. Recognize that your body has handled some genuinely incredible challenges and come out on the other side. Tell yourself that this is just a phase, because it is. And that your body will change with time, because in all likelihood, it will. Know that the beauty you have gained from motherhood outweighs anything you feel your body may have lost in the process.

And then have your partner or friends take photos of you with your baby, because you’re going to want to look back on them one day, no matter how you feel about the way you looked at the time.

April Wallace is a stepmom to one smart, funny teenager, mama to two beautiful and curious baby boys and wife to a very kind and generous man. She spent the past decade as a news reporter, sometimes lifestyle writer, and recently left her job at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to be with her babies while they’re still babies. When she gets a few minutes to herself, April loves to run local trails and read fiction. For more of April’s posts on pregnancy, babies and toddlers, click here.