Having a baby is life-changing. You end up with a whole new person in your living space, and the addition is forever. Your relationships to everything change: to your partner or spouse, if you have one; to your parents; to your friends. And though we sometimes only talk about it in terms of post-pregnancy weight loss, our relationship with our body changes, often permanently, often in ways that have nothing to do with the number on the scale. Below, eight women explain how having a baby affected them physically,
The Woman Who Had a Tummy Tuck
Mother of twins, 39: I hate my body after birth. I lost 40 pounds and paid $12,000 cash for a tummy tuck and I still hate my body — only now I have an abdominal scar to hate, too. I still have 15 pounds to lose, but I’m too tired to exercise after getting up at least twice a night for the past 15 months. My bladder fell, so I have to pee constantly, and I get pelvic pressure that lasts for several days whenever I try to jog or walk long distances. And my joints ache, too. Look at pics of me before and after the birth of twins and it’s like I aged ten years. If I’d known all of this, I would have adopted.
The Woman Whose Skin Went Haywire
Mother of two, 32: I have a 2-year-old, so I thought I knew the drill with my second, but the labor was shorter and more intense, the baby was three pounds heavier, and he came out with his arm over his face. The whole pregnancy I couldn’t wait to get back to working out, but a month later I’m still limping a bit. I wonder if it’s because I’m older, albeit just two years. And then there’s the acne: My skin was smooth and gorgeous until the end of my pregnancy and then my hormones went crazy. It took about a year to go back to normal last time, so I’m expecting to look like a stressed-out teenager till next spring. My mother broke out with my brother, and her hormones never regulated. She still has breakouts in her mid-50s.
The Woman Who Loves Her Scars
Mother of three, 29: I had twins in November. I’m actually lucky because I’ve been a little heavier most of my life. I was 175 at my wedding and I’m 180 now, so the weight gain wasn’t hard for me. I was up to 220 at the end of both of my pregnancies. Having babies has actually made me happier about my body because it gave me my daughters. I had major abdominal surgery after my first C-section and have big scars on my lower belly, but I love them all. They feel like evidence of the battle I fought to birth three beautiful girls. It makes a big difference that my husband is so supportive and loving. He loves me, saggy boobs and all.
The Woman Whose Butt Disappeared
Mother of one, 35: My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 16 weeks. I found the emotional impact of miscarriage much more powerful than the physical impact, but I did gain an extra five pounds I couldn’t shake. Also, weirdly, my butt went flat and didn’t bounce back until all the pregnancy hormones had left my body. My second pregnancy was easy and healthy, nothing like the first one. I exercised up until the seventh month and gained 28 pounds, 25 of which I lost through breast-feeding. Once again, my butt went AWOL — although it came back better than ever. During labor, I got a second-degree tear, which developed painful scar tissue. My doctor burned it off with silver nitrate, which hurt like hell but fixed the problem. I’m now 13 weeks into my third pregnancy and hoping it’s as easy as my second. So far, at least, my butt’s still here.
The Athlete Looking for a New Identity
Mother of three, 33: I’m currently 23 weeks pregnant with baby girl No. 3 — my third pregnancy in four years. I was a college athlete, and I was always very proud of my flat stomach. For my first, I gained 40 pounds and delivered a giant-headed girl into the world in four hours. It felt like my vagina had been hit by a Mack Truck. I remember telling my husband, as I walked very slowly down our street, “I’ve been split in two.” But after I healed, I felt like a warrior, like my body had made this perfect, fat baby and I came out relatively unscathed (no stretch marks!). Which is probably why I immediately got pregnant again. My second pregnancy, I gained 50 pounds and had a rough time; I needed physical therapy because my hip joints were so loose. The recovery the second time was much easier — losing the 50 pounds, not so much. I struggled to find my new identity, not as “athlete” but “mama.” My stomach was soft and doughy, with white stretch marks. At 14 months, my second daughter weaned and my boobs deflated. I finally felt ready to join the gym and get the old me back — so naturally I ended up pregnant again. My lower abs no longer exist. This week I developed varicose veins on my lower legs. But I’m trying to embrace these things. They’re reminders of what my body did to get my beautiful babies here.
The Woman Who Gained 60 Pounds
Mother of one, 37: I got pregnant for the first time at 35, and had a scheduled C-section because my son was breech. I gained a lot more than I was supposed to during the pregnancy — about 60 pounds, so that I weighed almost 200 when he was born. For the first eight months I didn’t even think about getting on a scale. But by the time I started to think about it, I’d lost about 25 pounds, either because I was breast-feeding or more likely because I was too tired to eat. My son is 2 now and I’m within ten pounds of my old weight. I feel strong, but my body has changed significantly. My scar is invisible, but my hips and legs and stomach are different — not worse, just not the same. It took a while, but I feel comfortable with the new me, finally.
The Woman Who Never Thinks About It
Mother of one, 31: My daughter was born a few months ago. To be honest, I don’t think much about my post-baby body, though I do know I weigh less than I did when I got pregnant (and keep shrinking). It could be breast-feeding; it’s probably that I work full-time and have a child with health issues. I keep wanting to make a joke about this — “having a child with a serious illness has made me lose weight like never before!” — but nothing quite lands. Having a baby didn’t make me happier or sadder about my body; it just made it more of an afterthought.
The Woman Who Prefers Her Body Now
Mother of three, 40: The thing I really wasn’t prepared for was that after I stopped nursing my boobs were so deflated. “Like socks filled with pennies,” as my friend described them. I contemplated getting a boob lift. About seven years later they’ve inexplicably returned to normal. I definitely had a “better” body before having kids, but weirdly I appreciate my body way more now. Pregnancy gave me a sense of what my body was capable of and it taught me to like my body, because it’s strong and resilient and it’s never getting any better so I might as well enjoy it as much as I can. But also, my kids love my body. They rub their faces into my shoulders or pat my loose tummy or hold their arms up to be carried and I am able to pick them up. In those moments, my body is a gift. And scars, flab, stretch marks — none of it matters.