In preparation for my first child’s arrival almost a year and a half ago, I did extensive research on essential products like car seats, high chairs and bottles. But one of the most important products that required the most research was finding a “belly wrap” for my postpartum weight loss. I wanted one that would help me snap back, and quickly.
About one month before my child’s due date, I even asked my midwife if I should bring my wrap to the hospital so that I could pop it on immediately after giving birth. She gave me a startled look and said, “Your body will do what it’s supposed to do.” Which meant, “nope.”
Despite hearing her encouragement, the words of someone who is an expert in pregnancy and the aftermath of it, I still proceeded to do everything in my power to ensure that my belly contraption would be shipped long before my daughter’s due date.
I started wearing the wrap 48 hours after my daughter was born. Needless to say, it was very uncomfortable. Mind you, I was still enduring the normal postpartum bodily changes and emotions that surround being a new mother, only to add more discomfort and stress with my attempt to get fine fast. Now, the only way it works is if you put the wrap on very tight around your belly (how else would it work?), but the velcro that kept the annoying thing on would creep up my back while I sat, which I did a lot of since I had just pushed a human being out days before.
What would make anyone go through such lengths to lose weight after going through one of life’s most precious miracles? Could it be the messages we get in society? The media? The expectation for a woman to lose weight promptly after giving birth is outrageous. And according to some of my friends and my family members, “promptly” is usually up to six to eight months after the baby arrives.
But I didn’t care about what people “usually” do. I admit that I was slightly obsessed with not wanting to gain a lot of weight during pregnancy for fear of having to lose many pounds later on. Therefore, I made sure that I worked out and ate healthy foods (no sweets until I was further along in my pregnancy). I, like other expecting mothers, was attentive to my weight during pregnancy, but some take it a bit too far.
In fact, a study conducted by University College London reported that one in 14 women have an eating disorder in the first three months of their pregnancy. According to The Huffington Post, the research concluded that a quarter of the 700 women surveyed were highly concerned about their weight and shape. Two percent of participants were avoiding pregnancy weight gain by fasting, exercising excessively, inducing vomiting and misusing laxatives or diuretics.
When I attended my seven-week postpartum checkup, my midwife reminded me that breastfeeding does help shave off the pounds, but working out too much could decrease my milk supply.
And just like that, I found myself in a bind. I was initially excited about my checkup because I was hoping I would be cleared to work out, but if I worked out too much, I would damn near starve my kid.
This put me down the Internet rabbit hole of trying to find a way to keep my supply up while working to get my body back. I did come across one blogger who had an extensive daily food plan adorned with the precise caloric intake. That was too stressful, so I didn’t even attempt it. Other options I came across just felt like too much. And then I realized I was actually doing too much.
Worrying excessively about my post-baby weight and body changes made me really think about how I would feel if my daughter were to grow up and obsess over her body. Thus, I eventually stopped wearing the wrap after four weeks (up until then, I wore it daily and all day).
Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Claire Nicogossian gave advice to a mother who was struggling with weight and mentioned on the blog Mothering.com that social media, marketing and simply our culture create unrealistic perceptions of how women should look after having a baby. Nicogossian suggested that women focus on health instead of on their weight. Staying focused on healthy food, staying physically active and even getting enough sleep is enough.
I am now pregnant with my second child, and although I will not be wearing the same wrap as last time, I do have my eye on one particular mechanism that has acquired favorable reviews. I do plan to wear it (if it’s comfortable), but will not give myself a deadline on getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight. While I do hope to get back down to the size I’m used to, I’m in no rush to make it happen. In the meantime, I plan on enjoying the opportunity of carrying and bringing the life into this world that is growing inside of me, rather than obsessing over what the outside of me will look like a few months from now.