The Big Payback

3.19.07: I used to judge fat moms who blamed the baby. Now I'm one of them.


When I was a childless career girl, I just didn't understand. I used to listen to moms complain about their post-baby bodies, and though I'd sympathize with them for a little while, eventually I'd start to judge them for their whining. Inevitably, their stories always boiled down to some variation of the same old tedious themes: "My body is ruined, it's all the baby's fault, I'll never be the same."

I'd listen to this happily for a while, but then begin to grow bored, and eventually judgmental, nodding along on the outside, but thinking to myself: "Give it a rest, chubby. Get back to the gym! How long can you possibly drag out that excuse?"

Now I know that you can definitely drag it out for a good long while; possibly forever. Because now I know the truth: Having a baby does fundamentally change your body.

I was considering all this recently as I stood beholding myself in the mirror at the YMCA. I've been working out for a couple of months now (see my Fit Preg new mom's workout), and I look better, almost good. I can see muscles developing beneath the soft layer of fat that still needs to be lost; my upper abdominals are regaining their shape. I look a little like my old self again.

But then again, not really. My lower body, especially, is much different than its pre-baby form. I've always put on weight below the belt'—on the hips, thighs, and buttocks. Now, it's on the lower belly, too, which I find particularly insulting, mostly because I can see it. (I prefer that all excess weight be conveniently located behind me, quietly and invisibly providing extra padding for lounging around upon.)

I'd like to think this weight will go away on its own, that my body will snap back into shape. But we're rapidly coming up on a year post-partum, and it's looking like this is it. From here on out, I fear that it's 98 percent perspiration.

Having accepted this truth, I made an appointment with the trainer at the Y to go over use of the weight machines (they're called Cybex) so that I can add some new moves to my routine.

During our "intake" session, she listed to me explain my current routine, as well as my goals. When I expressed a desired to return my lower half to something approximating my pre-baby form, she sniggered'—just a little. "We'll try," she said. "Some moms can do it, but some moms just can't ever get there. You may never get back to where you were."

And there it was, what I was afraid of all along: The truth. This saggy belly might be with me forever. Not that it has to be the size and shape it is now; amping up the cardio is probably my best bet, the trainer explained, at shaving down the droopy bits. But still, I might at some future point very well find myself saying to some snarky childless 25-year-old woman, "My body is ruined, it's all my baby's fault, I'll never be the same."

And when she looks at me with her compassionate-on-the-outside, judgmental-on-the-inside eyes, I'll have to just think to myself: that's karma, baby. And get myself to the gym.

Check out Hillari's New Mom Weight Loss plan. Also, check out her column in Fit Pregnancy magazine, on newsstands everywhere.