When I was pregnant with my twins, I would stand at the grocery store checkout, with my tub of ice cream and box of Pizza Pockets, fixated on the magazine headlines that screamed I GOT MY BODY BACK! The Kardashian or Real Housewife or Bachelorette who appeared on the cover always looked toned and taut and above all, HAPPY. I figured I would have to hit the treadmill immediately after giving birth because, well, my happiness depended on it. The message was clear; I was about to become a mom, but in order to remain a woman, I would need to get a six-pack, a string bikini and MY BODY BACK.
I had a trainer on deck, a meal plan pre-ordered and I treated every Pizza Pocket like it was my last… I was ready to go full Beyoncé-after-Blue-mode. After all, I was going back to work, on television, eight weeks postpartum. No Spanx on earth was ready for that.
Before my body harboured my children, it harboured my insecurities. In high school I worried that it was too scrawny, in college I thought it was too heavy, even in adulthood I judged it, took it for granted and often placed a lot of pressure on it to look a certain way. Then I had my babies, and something deep within the very fibre of my post-baby body changed. Sure my pre-baby body was healthy and fit and looked cute in clothes, but my post-baby body was MIRACULOUS. It carried two babies through complications, fetal surgery and pre-term labor. It stretched and swelled, and then, with a little pushing and a lot of screaming, it produced two little people that I love more than anything on earth. “John Mayer was right,” I slurred to a nurse, still high off the epidural as she wheeled me out of the delivery room, “my body IS A WONDERLAND.”
And so I embarked on three new relationships—two with my new babies and one with my new body. This isn’t the same body I used to criticize and deprive and hide under a T-shirt at the beach. For the first time in my life, this was a body I respected, appreciated and above all, forgave. I forgave my weird jiggly belly and my thicker waist and thighs. I forgave my double chin in photos and my rounder hips in jeans. I felt so empowered by what my body had done, I rarely thought about how it looked.
But while I was busy working and mom-ing and not worrying about ‘getting my body back,’ turns out everybody else was. No matter what I accomplished, from working full-time to keeping two human beings alive… the number one question I got asked was:
“HOW DID YOU LOSE THE BABY WEIGHT?”
As a feminist (who wishes more focus would be placed on my achievements than my body) I. WAS. OFFENDED. As a woman (who still can’t zip up all her pants one year after having her babies) I. WAS. FLATTERED. That’s just what I’ve been conditioned to be. As moms, we’re not praised for raising our children, that’s what we’re ‘biologically expected’ to do. What we are praised for, is maintaining our looks while raising said children. Now THAT, we’re told, is an achievement, however wrong it may be. It is from this place of internal conflict that I have finally decided to answer this question once and for all… how did I lose the baby weight?
I DON’T KNOW.
Which I DO know is the worst possible answer.
I didn’t end up working out with a trainer or ordering that meal plan. I didn’t do SoulCycle and wear a waist-trainer while drinking Fit Tea until I got back into my skinny jeans. I haven’t dieted end up exercised since I was put on bedrest 16 months ago. I now break a sweat walking up a flight of stairs and I routinely spoon-feed my infants organic quinoa and spinach with one hand while I wolf down an entire frozen pizza with the other.
Maybe it’s the non-stop pumping and breastfeeding? Or the constant lifting and schlepping of babies? Maybe it’s the exercise I get when I wake up to pee six times a night? Maybe it’s good genes or maybe it’s good luck?
What I do know, is that the minute I stopped obsessing over what I wanted my body to be, and simply let it do what it needed to do, slowly, but surely… I lost a lot of the baby weight. Of course I realize it’s not always that easy, and that every new mom’s experience is different. But that is my very long and very honest answer to your very simple question. An answer I’ve been almost ashamed to give, to a question I wish we never cared to ask in the first place.
And so there you have it, in more detail than I could fit in an Instagram post, and with more candor than I could muster in a tweet. I hope you will accept my answer—and accept me, and every mom, in every unique phase of her pre- and post-baby body.
Now, when I stand at the grocery-store checkout, with my diapers and wipes, I look at the magazine headlines that scream I GOT MY BODY BACK! and think, Huh…. I don’t want my old body back. I want the body that had my children, then made food to nourish them and soft places to comfort them. I want the body that did the most impressive thing I’ll ever accomplish for as long as I live. That’s the body I want. Whether it’s in a string bikini or not.
Stay tuned for another “Holy Crap. I’m a Mom.” dispatch in October. Until then, catch up on some of Jessi’s previous FLARE columns.
Jessi Cruickshank on Going Back to Work While Her Husband Took Paternity Leave
Jessi Cruickshank on Finding Out She Was Pregnant Over FaceTime
Jessi Cruickshank’s Comprehensive Guide to Hiding Your Pregnancy
Jessi Cruickshank on Body Shaming Her Bump
Jessi Cruickshank on Maternity Photo Shoots: The Good, The Bad & the Naked
Jessi Cruickshank on her Scary, Miraculous, #NotPerfect Pregnancy
Jessi Cruickshank Is Ready To Pop—and Really Freaking Terrified About It