It occurred to me yesterday that my piece “One Month to Postpartum Bikini Body” is a little disingenuous in that it only tells part of the story. Longtime readers will remember that it took me an entire year to lose 62 pounds of baby weight following my daughter’s birth. You’re probably doing the math in your heads, figuring out that my son is nowhere near his first birthday (he’ll be six months this week) and wondering what the heck I did differently this time.
A lot. If there was anything about the experience of being pregnant again that I looked forward to (other than, you know, the baby), it was a second chance to do pregnancy properly. My first pregnancy, while medically unremarkable, was a catastrophic failure from a self-care perspective. Coming back from that was one of the greatest physical challenges of my life. I vowed that next time, I wouldn’t eat entire boxes of cereal in a sitting; I wouldn’t let my muscles atrophy into uselessness; I wouldn’t need maternity Spanx.
I am proud to say that, for the most part, I had the fit second pregnancy I’d wanted. I wore regular clothing until 20 weeks. I ran until 26 weeks. I was still wearing my wedding rings on the day of my son’s birth. I sported a non-maternity J.Crew bikini on vacation. When my sweet husband told me I looked beautiful, I didn’t roll my eyes at him.
How’d I do it?
Keeping Up with the Toddler. First pregnancies are hilariously indulgent compared to those with subsequent children. There’s no time for rubbing your belly while you read “The Birth Partner” and sip herbal tea; you’re too busy keeping your toddler from leaping to her death from atop a play structure. And you know what? That’s a good thing. I ate less, sat less, and fretted less because I didn’t have the option. Hey, it’s the least my daughter could do after making me orca-fat last go-round.
Exercise, even just a little bit, is EVERYTHING. There were times I felt like I might be sick (first trimester) and times when I cursed myself for not peeing before leaving the house (second trimester), but I committed to running on a regular basis. It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t far, but I maintained my muscle memory so the first time I ran postpartum, my body knew exactly what to do. I also discovered pilates (which my obstetrician recommended as the ideal prenatal exercise), taking twice-weekly classes up until my son’s birth. (I actually had to cancel upcoming classes online from my hospital bed.) Oh, and I walked everywhere.
Being pregnant isn’t an excuse to abandon good eating habits. Eat sensible portions of non-crap with occasional treats. DUH.
Old wives tales are true. I probably have my son to thank for the fact that my second pregnancy was so different. I carried in front and almost entirely in my belly instead of wide and everywhere as with my daughter. I looked so stereotypically boy-pregnant that a homeless man once screamed “It’s a boy!” as I strode past him.
You’re going to gain what you’re going to gain. My pregnancy weight gain was textbook-perfect until about 20 weeks, and then without any change in habits, the weight started piling on FAST. (I ultimately gained about 40 pounds.) I was crestfallen, but then I remembered that my mom also gained an above-average amount during both her pregnancies despite being the most supremely disciplined person I have ever met.
BUT, the weight comes off faster and easier if you kept your act together. I was pretty pissed that genetics were screwing me until I found myself, a mere nine days after having given birth, already down 21 pounds. I laughed every morning when I weighed myself, something that does not, uh, typically happen to women who have just given birth. The next fifteen pounds took some effort, but I haven’t been starving myself or pulling double days, either. The take-away? The hard work during pregnancy pays off big time after the baby is born. It was a lesson in patience, something that’s coming in awfully handy as I fight for the last few pounds.