I had a panic attack about two weeks ago when I realized that my attempts to blast that abdominal pooch were not working (at least, not very well). Here’s the thing that I feel the need to outline that I didn’t in my previous posts about this topic – and no, Janice Min didn’t outline this “thing,” either — post-pregnancy bellies look really weird. Like, it’s not the same as just having a spare tire or muffin top or sofa boob (yes, I made that last one up), because post-preg bellies are uniquely and alien-ly squishy and wrinkly and odd-shaped and just flat-out bizarre. (Some have called them “more wrinkly than an old lady’s neck” or “like an English bulldog’s folds, only not cute.” For those whom this is completely scaring, don’t worry — the wrinkly skin mostly shows up when you lean over. Just never do that and you’ll be fine).
But back to my story: it can get real easy real quick to start thinking that you are forever going to be stuck with this alien midsection that no amount of diet or exercise will ever fix (you know that thing they say about how you can’t really target one part of your body, you have to shape up all over? Well…. what happens once you have shaped up all over, and you’ve still got a sizable pooch? Jillian Michaels, feel free to weigh in here. Pun intended). After a year passes and you hear all those celebs talking about how-the-breastfeeding-helped-them-lose-the-baby-weight and then you see Pink on the AMA’s looking like a phenom and you realize you have really been committed to cutting back on cheese and dessert (insert your own personal vices here; those are mine) and yet you still aren’t ready for this jelly, you can get kinda depressed about it.*
I have asked two doctors in the past year for tips on getting my abs back into some semblance of shape. Both answered, “When you’re done having kids, you can have a tummy tuck.” Um… so I was actually thinking that you’d suggest something slightly less invasive and extreme, like a workout DVD or maybe an abdominal rehabilitation session like they have in France, but sure! I’ll go under the knife. No biggie.
Seriously?! No wonder I walked away thinking my case was hopeless. I mean they literally had no advice except this? AND they’re both women? I wasn’t shocked, but I was sad. Being a woman and being a mom is hard work, yo. And maybe busted abs are the price we pay for having beautiful and amazing children. But is there really no natural way to work with what we’ve got?, I wondered. Surely there are tools out there, exercise programs targeted for post-preg pouches? I doubt Pink had plastic surgery after having her first child, and her abs look positively rock-hard. Maybe she’s got killer genetics, who knows. But she probably also knows something or does something that I don’t.
Which is what led me to sign up for a private Pilates session a week ago. I made it a little gift to myself and felt really good about dedicating some time and money to talk to a professional who might be able to offer some advice besides the knife. Turns out, between my weak abs and my scoliosis, I could really benefit from some good old-fashioned core work, which I knew already but believed much more when a professional told me (and charged me a lot to listen).
She also explained a lot of stuff about what exactly went on down there during my pregnancy, and you know what? It was freaking enlightening. The muscles that are underneath my “six pack” muscles (not that I ever had a six pack, that’s just what they call them) have been egregiously ignored the past two years. And apparently, the skin and fat and whatever else is closest to the surface of my tummy has actually been numb for a good amount of time. That’s crazy, people! That means my brain and body aren’t even communicating like they used to. No wonder things are all f-ed up! I left that first session just feeling happy that someone finally took the time to talk to me about my body, explain some of the anatomy to me and boost my spirits by a) saying it was all normal and b) not looking like I was crazy when I said I hoped we could “shape things up.” She’s going to help me come up with a game plan and recommends Pilates reformer classes and some at-home exercises that I can do on my own (because, let’s face it, Pink may be able to afford a live-in trainer, but the rest of us can’t).
Who knows if any of this will change how I feel about my abs… and, here’s a thought: maybe what needs to change is my attitude, my perspective, my world (okay, body) view. I know my stomach will never be the same, and a part of me is glad — should be glad — because it’s my war wound and reminder of Leo, who is definitely the best thing to ever come out of there. We’ve had children; why should we pretend otherwise? Would you get plastic surgery to eliminate a lightning bolt scar on your forehead? I think not! I don’t want to remove all traces of what I’ve accomplished and who I am. I just want to minimize the squish. That is all.
As for the Pilates? I don’t know how much I love my abs right now, even if intellectually I know I should, but I will say this: I feel better about myself already. I feel more empowered. I feel less anxious about it. I wore a bikini on our little mini-vacation and realized that I didn’t give a sh*** what other people thought about my midsection; I just wanted to feel happy in my own skin.
But you know what else I feel? Kind of pissed that our options as women for feeling good in our skin seem to only come in the form of surgery, at least as far as a lot of doctors and experts are concerned. Abdominal rehab is actually a thing in Europe — which means it must work. Why don’t we have that here? Why are we steered towards the operating table? And why aren’t our tummies celebrated as slightly worn (but kickass) body parts that just need a little fine tuning post-baby? No judgements against tummy tucks or those who choose to have them, but if they become a general rule, well, that’s kind of a crappy, and maybe-even-a-little-bit-unfeminist rule, if you ask me. I could go on a long diatribe about our culture and the media and women’s bodies and aging and our on-going quest to turn back the clock, and how it’s totally unfair because men age gracefully and women start hiding behind big floppy hats, but instead, I’ll just say that we could, as a society, use a little more abdominal rehab, of the non-invasive variety. There are muscles under there, people. Let’s learn how to use them.
*This is all said with the complete understanding and acknowledgement that actually getting depressed about your abs is completely shameful when there are wars going on.
PHOTO CAPTION: I’m not brave enough to post a photo of my actual tummy, so it’s hidden under that sweater. Don’t you love sweaters?