Copyright 2006 Mary Desaulniers
One of the most challenging things mothers have to face is getting back into shape after giving birth. I remember when I became pregnant with my first child, I had very unusual cravings that seemed totally out of character for me. I craved ice cream and dairy productsnot soy milk or nonfat milkbut the thick, creamy stuff that I knew was loaded with calories and was not that healthy for me. However, my obstetrician reassured me that it was my body’s way of telling me I needed calcium.
I gained over 45 pounds during the nine-month long adventure. And I did not make an earnest attempt at losing the weight until my son was 6 months old and could sit up fairly well. It was then that I took off to the track at the local high school. I hired a student who could babysit him in the center grassy patch while I did my 2 laps, then 3, then 4 around the track. I worked consistently to lose the extra weight. And everything seemed to melt away until…the last 10 pounds.
This last little bit of weight was very stubborn and despite my stringent diet and regular running, the weight refused to come off. I remember searching high and low for a solution to this final bit of what I then perceived as a “problem.” Having only 10 pounds to lose might not have seemed “a big deal” to my friends and family, but what they did not realize was that my body shape had shifted yes shifted to the hips. The extra 10 pounds stayed on my hips and no matter how hard I tried, I could not fit comfortably back into the pants or trousers I wore before pregnancy. At that time, these final few pounds were more than aggravating.
Sheer vanity made it difficult for me to accept them because things were not easy on the fashion front. Even though I could squeeze into my regular clothes, they looked horrible on me. Moreover, I could not sit down comfortably in them as I was popping buttons and zippers all over the place. The maternity outfits that I lived in for 9 months were comfortable to wear, but more than ever, I felt like a cow in them. So I avoided them like the plague.
It wasn’t until I went to the dress shop to get some new outfits that I came across a different perspective. The lady at the dress shop helped me with my selection: loose, comfortable clothing that made me feel relaxed. “For the time being,” she said, “until you stop nursing.” She was a large, beautiful woman, comfortable with her largeness. She knew who she was and she knew where she stood. “I know what you’re going through,” she said to me.” You think that the baby has changed your life. It hasbut for the better. What you are experiencing is a learning curve for your body and for you. You are in new territory and your body feels different. It should. You are a mother now and your priorities are different. The child comes firstit’s instinct with us. Don’t fight that instinct. The day will come when you will return to yourself again. My kids are grown now, and I ‘ll be turning 50 next month. But let me tell you, I’ve never felt as sexy as I do now.”
I never forgot her words; they brought me back to reality whenever I thought of the 106 pound shadow that I was in my wedding dress. I am more than 10 pounds heavier now than I was before my first pregnancy, but this weight does not matter any more. After I left the dress shop, it dawned on me that weight should never have been the issue at all. We were all so hung up on the magic numbers that we forgot what the body was– a vital, fluid organism. Numbers should not mean anything to an organism that was going through the cycles of life. What should the 10 pounds mean to a mother who was nursing her child? Nutrition! They should mean nutrition for the child and nothing more. Fretting over how to lose 10 pounds seemed like such a trivial matter.
Over the years, I have come to realize that the body has its own form of wisdom; it adapts itself to experience; somehow birthing has resulted in my body adopting a new metabolic set point. For some reason, it chose a weight that it found comfortable and it fought to stay there no matter what. I guess that my body chose to settle on a set point that was 10 pounds above my pre-pregnant weight. And for whatever reason, it was a weight that was perfect for my child and for me. It was a weight that taught me to relinquish the control of the ego, to broaden my perspectives on who I was and what was important to me. It was a weight that showed me how life was never a stringent, narrow path, and that it was filled with quantum leaps and surprises. Most of all, it showed me that if we wanted to enjoy our stay here on earth, we would be wiser to go with the flow.