I remember last year thinking and saying out loud often, "Well, I JUST had a baby." It's this feeling you carry with you for a while, well into the first year, well past the first three months of newborn freshness.
After having my third baby I said this a lot. I said it when I was tired and couldn't think straight. I said it when I realized I had not worn my hair down in weeks, always in a pony tail because who knows the last time I'd been to the hairdressers. I said it when I couldn't find any pants to fit around my stretched out waist. I said it when I wasn't ready to head back to work after 12 blissful weeks of maternity leave.
I said, "I just had a baby" when we fed him solids for the first time, when we weren't sure at what age we moved from infant car seat to big boy convertible facing backward car seat. I said it when I couldn't find a bathing suit to fit the nursing half of me. I said it when my legs jiggled from lack of strength because I'd been too focused on eating more calories to feed my baby while nursing. I said it while I went to birthday parties and was so tired that I was yawning while the baby was crawling and I was chasing him and just wanted to take a nap.
"I just had a baby." It's something we've all said, felt, clung to. It's a lifeline for some of us. It's an excuse, a reason, an explanation for why we are the way we are for those months after a little human pops out of our bodies. We say it when our eyes are so dark, still, months later, for lack of real solid sleep, because we're up late watching them breath or listening to make sure they are OK.
This can go on for a year. This idea that we "just" had a baby goes on for a while, through many phases of a baby's life. Because it's a monumental thing I went through, that my body did- growing a human.
Because of that monumental thing, we get to say that we "just" did something for a while. It feels like we did. It feels like that moment of the newborn being put on our chest JUST happened... and so we live there, we stay there in that place of wonder and amusement, exhaustion and awe.
We stay there when we say, "Yeah, I know, I'm still rocking maternity clothes four months later, too, I just had a baby." We stay there in that safety net when we say, "Oh I know, the long sleepless nights are so unbearable sometimes, I'm so tired, too, don't worry, I get it, I just had a baby, too," even when it's about eight months later.
Whether it was nursing in a Target store while still in my pajamas, no makeup, or snuggled up at home with a newborn on my shoulder and a burp cloth just in case, we "just" had babies, we "just" went through something big. However we handle that, however we face it or stare at it eyes wide open, it's OK.
If you are still wearing maternity pants a year later, it's OK.
If you haven't had a warm breakfast in six months, it's normal.
If you are afraid to try on your work clothes the week before you head back to work, that's totally fine. Let it be.
If you haven't washed your hair in days, don't know if you have spit up or poop on your T-shirt, that's acceptable.
If it's month nine of your baby's first year and you still haven't taken a real picture of your child on a real camera, just on your iPhone, hey, at least you have some photos.
My body was not what it used to be when pregnant, in the hospital after delivery with a newborn on my chest, nor 12 months later when I celebrated my little's first birthday party, so proud of surviving that first year. My waist is wider. My legs are not as toned.
But I "just" had a baby.
I don't use that as an excuse. I don't plan to stay here forever. I intend to get in shape, in fact I already did this past summer before he turned a year old. I lost the "baby weight." Yet I don't look the same as I used to before I had that baby or the two before him. And that's NORMAL. It's OK.
You know what is the same? My smile. My face and eyes light up because I can safely carry a baby to term, in my body, and then raise that child with loving arms, and legs that are strong enough to chase him now that he's taking his first steps. I'm present and focused, I'm ready to be there for them when they fall or when they do something great I'm the first one standing up clapping and screeching with an iPhone camera because I can't remember to get out my fancy big camera these days. I'm there. I'm present.
This mom who "just" had a baby, is always there.
The other details don't matter.
I know there are more posts in January about losing weight, fitting into your pre-baby jeans, hitting the gym eight times a week, and cutting back on sugar. I'm a fan of getting healthy and stronger, and I in fact have a few pounds I don't like being there. But if you are a new mom or someone who "just" had a baby (within the last year and a half perhaps) let it go. It's OK. However you are is OK.
This picture above was taken this summer, a month after I had major surgery. I've never seen it until now, I found it on my computer, my husband must have taken it. I'm wearing a tank top and shorts, probably didn't feel comfortable in a bathing suit and I wasn't allowed to swim yet anyway after surgery. My baby is about nine months old and I can't lift him yet due to surgery restraints. So I'm sitting in the water, legs that are not toned but are strong. Arms that are jiggly but are able to hold him up. Abs that are not tight, but that survived yet another surgery and are living to tell the story of that challenge. Hair that is messy, eyes that are dark and tired, but a huge, wide grin across my face that says to the world, "I am here. I just had this baby, but I'm happy and I love being a mother. I'm good the way I am in this moment." I love this.
I hope you embrace yourself this year. I hope you realize that if you had a baby last month, last year or five years ago, it's OK to feel sometimes like you "just" had that baby and like you aren't totally put together because of that monumental experience. It's OK to not have it all figured out, to not be the size you were before this pregnancy or how you looked on your wedding day. You are in a new life now, your world has shifted. Embrace that.
Get healthy, get yourself strong, work out even, but do it because you want to, because you want to be able to chase your kids and show up when they need you. Don't do it because the number on the scale is higher or the number on your calendar changed to a new year.
You've got time, Momma. Enjoy your littles, let go of the rest that doesn't matter, and realize wherever you are on this journey after "just" having a baby, you're ENOUGH.