Sunday, August 19, 2012

That Sports Mama: Pressure to Get the Body Back After Baby

Any new mother has enough on her plate before even thinking about getting her body back into pre-baby shape.  From 11pm nursing sessions followed 2am feedings coupled with the diaper changes and endless loads of laundry, those first few months challenge the resolve of even the most maternal women.  The latter, something I would never call myself.   More on that in posts to come.
While I was overwhelmed with all those new-mom realities, I was focused on dropping the 15 pounds of baby weight I had left almost immediately.  I lost about 11 in the hospital during the birth.  It took eight months to drop the remaining weight.  With those final five pounds the hardest to lose, something I chronicled in Project Drop the Baby Weight.

The crazy thing is I felt no pressure to lose the weight except from myself.  No one said to me, "Girl, you better be a size 4 in 6 weeks!"  Apparently I am in the minority.  Sunday's New York Times examines the burden celebrity moms face to get back into pre-baby shape and the spillover effect it has had on the expectation of non-celeb moms post-baby bodies in a piece titled "Can a Mom Get a Break?"

Hollywood Reporter editorial directory and former Us Weekly editor Janice Min writes "in today’s celebrity narrative, just two kinds of desirable maternal female physiques exist: the adorable gestating one (with bellies called “bumps”) and its follow-up, the body that boomerangs back from birth possibly even better than before. Me? I’m currently stranded on an island like the one on “Lost,” only this one is inhabited exclusively by still-pudgy moms struggling to find their way back."

"But in the same way that gray hair went from natural to unacceptable in part because of Clairol’s relentless marketing in the 1960s, ubiquitous imaging of “sexy” moms has rewired society’s expectations. Tropical cultures have no native words for “snow”; ours used to be devoid of words to describe a sexual or sexy mother. Now, we have terms like “yummy mummy” and “cougar.”

1st day back at work, 10 pounds heavier
Perhaps it is because we live in the relatively female celebrity-free world of Dallas but I never felt that "you must lose the weight now" mentality from anyone even when I was back on television.  I did some freelance on-camera work when Jordan was four weeks old and went back on live TV about 10 weeks following my delivery.  I was terribly self-conscious.  I felt back fat spilling over my bra and the extra layer of belly flab rolling over my Spanx in full muffin-top fashion.

There was never a negative comment, though, at least to my face.  The reaction I received was overwhelmingly positive.  Some viewers emailed to tell me they liked the extra weight.  Again, I think that's the Dallas effect.  A size 6 or 8 is acceptable, even thin, in Texas whereas in Los Angeles, a size 4 can be considered heavy.

The only real sideways glances I received were from other new mothers.  They are the women who put pressure on other women, in my opinion.  At one of the Starbucks I frequent, better known as Strollerbucks in part because of all the moms who walk there with their kids and strollers in tow, I met a number of new moms.  We would discuss sleep patterns, the latest in baby gear and diaper residue.  The conversation would ultimately turn to dropping the baby weight and it would start with the glance towards the stomach, the one area of my body I have always hated.

"You had your baby when?" relatively thin Strollerbucks Mom A asked me.

"Eight weeks ago," I said sheepishly, rubbing that extra flab.

"You look good, girl,"  she replied.

"Thanks, still a ways to go" I would always respond.  "You look fabulous."

Then both of us looked at Strollerbucks Mom B with sympathetic smiles.  She had a son older than both of ours and still had a good 20 pounds left to lose.

"I'm still working on it!" she enthused.

The thing is, she looked good  She was tired, her son wasn't sleeping and she reveled in the hour long walks along the Katy Trail that lulled her son to sleep.  She admitted she let herself indulge a bit too much and ate all she wanted during her pregnancy.  I didn't judge but empathized.  She was heavier than she wanted to be but she was happy and her son was healthy.  That was what mattered.  In the ensuing months, her weight has come off, albeit slowly.  Would she be thinner or feel a sense of urgency to be if she lived in LA or was a celebrity?  Did she feel pressured to lose the weight because celeb moms drop it quickly? I think not.  Does it matter?  Hardly. 

That being said, I sense an unspoken competition among some new moms to get the skinniest the quickest.  There is no need to do that.  If a mother was healthy during her pregnancy and gained the appropriate amount of weight, the pounds will disappear in a timely fashion.  Why compare yourself with another?  At the sake of sounding too Oprah-equse, focus on being the best you.  This was hard for me to come to terms with and is, frankly, an easier approach to advocate now that those pounds are gone. 

Years ago I realized the goal was to be healthy, not uber-skinny.  Ironically, it was then that a slimmer self emerged, losing the full 55 pounds I had gained after college.

This form of body acceptance is all the more important now that I am raising a daughter.  Healthy versus skinny?   It doesn't matter if you're a celeb mom or single chick sans child,  healthy wins. Every time.
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