If I had a nickel for every time someone told me how lucky I was to miss the weight gain and discomfort of the third trimester, I would have enough money to buy a billboard telling them otherwise.
While late-term moms lamented about not being able to sleep on one side or gaining 1-2 pounds a week, I lost sleep over being separated from my newborn and pumping breastmilk in the middle of the night. With a baby in the NICU, getting back to pre-pregnancy weight is about the last thing on my mind; watching my baby’s every gram was all I could handle.
When my 32-weeker was in the NICU, I bombarded the nurses with the same questions every morning: “Did he gain any weight? How much? How were his last few feeds? Did he take it all by bottle or some other method?” He spent seven weeks in the NICU working out a few issues, but mostly learning how to suck and swallow enough to thrive. As he struggled to put on weight and I ignored my own, I watched as pregnant friends posted pictures of their growing bellies on social media. Some postpartum friends proclaimed when they reached their pre-pregnancy weight, proud to have lost it in a month or two.
It seems popular to take week-by-week pregnancy photos of your growing belly, but no one wants to take week-by-week photos of the shrinking (or not-so-shrinking) belly afterward. It looks like a deflated balloon and since there isn’t a baby in there anymore, you can’t blame the big belly on being pregnant. Saying “I just had a baby” only works for so long before people start giving you weird looks.
Confession: it took me more than a year to fit into my favorite jeans after my third child was born. It is embarrassing to admit that, especially since pregnancy was shorter than it should have been. Counting carbs and grams of fat seemed like a silly chore when I had diapers to change, mouths to feed, laundry to do.
My youngest is almost two years old now and my body is still not the same. It never will be, and that’s fine. My body grew and rearranged itself to birth three babies and I am quite proud of that. I am healthy and happy, even with a big scar along my less-than-perfect belly.