Category Archives: Pregnancy

On loss, prematurity & early labor

November is Prematurity Awareness Month &  according to the March of Dimes, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely in this country. That figure really surprised me but I’m not sure why it did. I went into labor at 35 weeks with my oldest, for no reason that anyone could figure out, and she was born hours into the first day of my 36th week. We were tremendously lucky that she was born healthy and was able to go home with us on time but we all know someone who has been touched quite seriously by prematurity. Personally, I have a few very good friends who each have lost a child before going full term and one who had a premature baby a few months ago. I would imagine we all have been touched by prematurity at some point.

The beautiful Bowen family.

The beautiful Bowen family.

Today I’m proud to share with you an interview with Tiffany Bowen. Tiffany is a local DC area mom who also happens to be married to Redskins Captain Stephen Bowen. Despite having all the resources available to her  during her pregnancy with twins Stephen and Skyler, Tiffany faced a tremendous loss. My interview with her today is a recap of our totally honest and really insightful conversation over a great lunch a few weeks ago.

Eight years into parenting, I can tell you one thing for certain and that is: I am quite certain that it’s Murphy’s Law for Moms that the shit hits the fan when your partner is traveling. In Tiffany’s case, she abruptly went into labor with her twins at 24 weeks, with a 2 year old at home, when her husband was out of town.

During our lunch, Tiffany explained that 24 weeks is the first week a baby is viable outside the womb and when she went into labor, she was given the option of doing anything to keep her babies alive or letting nature take its course.

Just consider even facing that decision for one minute.

Tiffany wanted to do what could be done to save the lives of her twin baby boys and so her path began.  In the end, she lost one son, Skyler, after 10 days and her other son, Stephen, is now a happy, thriving two-year old. While this was happening, she had a two-year old daughter at home. She spoke so candidly and openly about this experience.

As I drove to our lunch, I considered many of the hurdles and challenges facing parents who have a very premature child. Every story and experience is different but I had to imagine that many of the feelings that come with this horrible experience must be the same.  One thing that struck me must be this overwhelming feeling of guilt or responsibility facing a mother in early labor, even though others can look in and recognize it is beyond her control. I asked Tiffany about this. She said she of course felt guilty and was searching for answers, noting that she never drank in pregnancy, she took care of herself, and she had access to excellent medical care and despite all of it, her body still went into labor. When I asked her what advice she has for other mothers in this situation, she quickly recommended counseling for both parents and even sometimes for a sibling if they’re old enough. She also said that if you are spiritual, you have to pray. In the end, there is no explanation for why her body went into labor and there can be unexplained causes of prematurity. I would think not having answers can make a difficult situation even more stressful.

Then I asked her what it’s like for her when people ask her how many kids she has, something else I considered on my drive to our lunch. I wondered what I would say and how just being asked a simple question must surely be a painful reminder for many many families of a horrible loss. She noted that she still struggles but when asked, she responds that she has three kids and one is deceased. She said he lived for 10 days before he died, she wants to honor his time. Knowing that others can be awkward and unsure of what to say when faced with someone in grief, I pointedly asked her about that experience and she was very honest and said it was horrible for her when people acted like it didn’t happen or suggested that one kid replaces another with the “Thank God you had twins” comment or “God Knows Best.”  She said another comment that she doesn’t care for is “God needed an angel.” Her response? “I needed my child more than God needed an Angel.”

Bottom line, Tiffany’s advice is the best thing you can say is “I’m here for you, what do you need” or “I’m so sorry this happened.” And for family and friends to insist on helping, even if it means dropping off meals.

I asked her about her marriage and how stressful this must have been for her and her husband. Again, her honesty amazed me. She noted that everyone doesn’t grieve the same way and said her husband cried once and she wanted him to keep on crying. She said for a few months, she couldn’t listen to TV or music, she just wanted silence. One day, they were driving somewhere and her husband turned on the radio and she was furious, she couldn’t believe he could just turn on the radio but her way of grieving just was not his way. In addition to losing her son, she also lost her Grandmother and her mom to muscular dystrophy, in the span of just a few months.

SkylersGift_logo187x136It’s what Tiffany has since done with her grief that I think deserves some real attention. While she was in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital with her sons, she began to learn that many people can’t afford to bury their babies and she was struck with the very real pain that mothers must feel if they leave the hospital without their baby and they can’t even leave with the baby’s remains. It was news to me that there are mass cremations for premature babies when the parents cannot afford a burial. Tiffany and her husband have since started Skyler’s Gift, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping support families during this time of loss by paying for the baby’s funeral.

Tiffany explained that though it’s been around for just over a year, they’ve already assisted with the burials of 30 babies and were March of Dimes ambassadors last year due to the amount of money they raised for the organization.  She can rattle off chilling facts and figures, like the average cost for a baby’s burial is $1500 and large companies in the United States want to give grants to organizations helping babies but for babies who survive, not for babies who have died, meanwhile the health and viability of Tiffany’s important work through Skyler’s Gift ultimately relies on grants from organizations, along with donations from individuals.

Tiffany is a passionate advocate for families facing loss in prematurity and for prematurity research. The way she has channeled her grief into action is really inspiring. You can read more details about her story here. November 17 is World Prematurity Day and while organizations around the country work to draw attention to this issue, I hope you’ll consider donating to Skyler’s Gift. Every single bit helps.

What spending time with Tiffany does is remind me of the power of a mother and how motivated we all are to do whatever we can to protect our babies. I’m inspired by her strength and passion. You can follow Tiffany on Twitter here or even better, support the organization by attending the second annual Skyler’s Gift Bowl-A-Thon in downtown DC at Lucky Strike in May. By purchasing a ticket, you’ll be supporting Skyler’s Gift and have the chance to bowl with NFL players. This is a great way for football fans to hang out with some of their favorite players while supporting such a great local cause, including individual ticket prices or corporate donations.

Thanks to Tiffany for her honest and tireless work for families across the country.

 

Alcohol Consumption & Pregnancy?

Last month, the Wall Street Journal ran a provocative piece written by Emily Oster, an economist, analyzing what is safe and not safe to consume during pregnancy. At the time it ran, what particularly piqued my interest was her analysis of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Ms. Oster herself was interested in analyzing the data on what is safe or unsafe for a pregnant woman and her baby during pregnancy, and while she carefully noted she’s most interested in caffeine intake for her own personal reasons, a good bit of the article delves into alcohol consumption.

Oster breaks down consumption into categories like occasional, light and moderate drinkers and digs into their risks of fetal alcohol syndrome NOFAS_main-logoand impacting their baby’s IQ. Even though I am not pregnant now, I found the article interesting because like most anyone who has ever been pregnant, I considered my own behaviors while pregnant as I read through her findings. In the interest of full disclosure, I did have a few glasses of wine during each of my pregnancies. Maybe 3 or 4 total, which I’m not even sure would qualify me as an occasional drinker by Oster’s standards, but I know many people who would absolutely have no alcohol and I know some who had a few more drinks than I did – but not many.

Today, September 9, is International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day – so there is no better day than today – to take a closer look at the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. According to the DC-based National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS), prenatal alcohol consumption is a leading cause of brain damage, developmental disabilities and learning and behavioral problems in children and adults, and it is completely, 100% preventable when expectant mothers abstain from alcohol. In fact, NOFAS expressed outrage at the Oster piece in the Wall Street Journal and wrote a rebuttal detailing how Oster cherry picked the studies she evaluated for her analysis and ignored other larger studies pointing to the dangers of any alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Most importantly, NOFAS notes the following: “Some media reports suggest there are mixed messages about the risk of light to moderate alcohol consumption during pregnancy. In fact, no medical or disability agency or organization in the U.S. advises the use of any amount of alcohol during pregnancy, and no published research concludes that light alcohol consumption is completely safe.”

Here are some startling facts provided to me from NOFAS:

  • Nearly 100,000 newborns in the United States every year are exposed to heavy or binge drinking—the highest risk for FASD—during their prenatal development.
  • It is conservatively estimated that 40,000 newborns each year in the U. S. alone are affected by FASD, more new cases annually than Downs syndrome, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida and sudden infant death syndrome, combined.
  • FASD prevention and education saves taxpayers money and eases the burden on the health care system. Prevention is at least ten-times more cost effective than the average $1.4 million lifetime cost to treat one person with FASD.
  • The recognition of mental and behavioral health issues associated with prenatal alcohol exposure in the recently published Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) demonstrates the growing recognition of FASD and will increase diagnosis and treatment options for individuals living with FASD. Over 80% of adults with FASD live with mental health issues, and over half experience one or more of the most common secondary disabilities, such as trouble with the law, disrupted school experience, and the inability to live independently.

If you are pregnant, I’d consider you to read up a little more on the issue of alcohol and pregnancy, especially if you fall into the “light drinker” category, NOFAS has some great resources on their site. Honestly, most of the above facts were news to me and I found the figures to be alarming. Very few mothers want to expose their children to risk or a lifetime of disease and challenges and I think it’s easy to chalk up fetal alcohol syndrome to something only women with substance abuse problems are facing. Now that I’ve connected with NOFAS, it seems clear to me that this is an organization that should be on our radar screens when we are looking to donate money and raise awareness around an important issue. In fact, NOFAS and its 40 affiliates collectively support 5,000 children and adults with FASD each year, respond to over 25,000 specific requests for information and referrals and conduct over 500 conferences, training sessions, and workshops for medical and allied health students and practitioners, educators, criminal justice personnel and other audiences. That’s a tall order.

SMHB_invite_cover_3In honor of International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day, NOFAS is participating in a series of events all week long, culminating in an international “Smart Moms, Healthy Babies” gala and fundraiser on Thursday night at the Italian Embassy. Yours truly will be in attendance, I’m hardly one to pass up a swanky affair at a great location – with a fashion show to boot! I would encourage you to consider joining me, ticket prices are definitely steep but the money is going towards such an important cause and if you are pregnant, your ticket is considerably cheaper.

We love to talk about the importance of carving out some moi-time here on WM – so why not throw on a fabulous dress, a pair of heels and join me at the Italian Embassy starting at 6:30PM on Thursday? Get your ticket here!

Disclosure: NOFAS invited me to be a guest at the gala on Thursday night. My opinions here are all my own.

 

 

 

Home Births on the Rise

In April 2011, the news of an infant’s death during a home birth in Virginia, followed by the state charging the midwife, Karen Carr, for involuntary manslaughter generated press coverage for weeks. A look at the popular DC Urban Moms forum shows a 150 page thread on this topic alone (it was the second hottest topic on the site for all of 2011) that interestingly enough, began before the news hit the mainstream media. I don’t know about you but I was taken with the story in such a way that I actually have continued to read more stories about home births with greater interest.

Last January, new data released by the Centers for Disease Control showed that  births taking place outside a hospital, while still a very small percentage of total deliveries in this country, have risen, specifically among white women age 35 and above with more than one child at home already. Births outside a hospital account for about 30,000 births and among white women, the rate has increased 36 percent, or one in every 90 births. This marks the highest increase in home birth rates since at least 1990. Between 2003 and 2006, home births increased over 35 percent in Maryland alone, one of the largest increases in a state.

From writing about this topic for Washingtonian back in 2011 when the story broke, I learned quickly from the overwhelming comments that it is a lightening rod issue. Among proponents of home birth, empowerment and intervention free are used to describe why they made their choice. Among women who choose hospital deliveries, they say it’s about risk or rather, avoiding risk with the unknown. So if it’s risk versus empowerment – where does this leave the baby – is what I sought to examine more closely. Additionally, if more women are turning to out-of-hospital births, is this pointing to a hole in women’s health care, I wondered. In this current environment of attacking women’s healthcare and women’s choices for their own bodies, I wanted to explore this topic from every angle. Along the way, I discovered quite a bit.

First, I wondered, we hear generically about midwives but who are midwives and what are their qualifications to deliver a baby? If you need a license to drive a car, to practice medicine and to be an accountant, do you need a license to deliver babies?

Unfortunately the answer is complicated, murky and inconsistent because it depends on where you live and what kind of midwife you choose for your delivery.

If you think of the landscape of midwives as a hierarchy, which my guess is the midwives would object too, but if you structure the hierarchy in terms of education, at the top of the hierarchy I am placing the Certified Nurse Midwives or CNMs. These women have gone through nursing school, have Masters degrees, are nurses and also have gone to midwifery school. They have privileges to deliver babies in some hospitals, in birthing centers and can legally deliver babies at home. Stephanie Etienne, a licensed CNM in the state of New York, who delivers babies in a hospital, spoke with me at length about the various types of midwives and explained that midwifery is a calling for some people. “Birth is something so simple and so complicated but some of those risks are not decreased by being in a hospital.” She then went on to note that “Midwifery does not equal home births,” which I think is where many people easily get confused, I certainly did.

A CNM is not who delivered the much-discussed baby in April 2011. Karen Carr, the midwife who oversaw that delivery,  qualifies as the next level of midwife, the Certified Professional Midwife or CPM. This midwife undergoes training and course work to then receive her certification. To qualify as a CPM, you must have a high school diploma, finish a CPR course and attend a certain number of home births. Here is where it gets murky because though CPMs operate nationwide, only 26 states license CPMs. In our area, Virginia is the only one. In Maryland, CPMs can not legally deliver babies at home and same with the District of Columbia, where CPMs are not licensed.  The State House in Maryland took up a bill this past session, HB 1056, to license CPMs in Maryland but it did not move to the Senate.

The reality is, however, that CPMs are delivering babies at home, without the state recognized license, leaving no recourse in the event that something goes terribly wrong, and no insurance coverage for the families who choose this path.  By way of example, Karen Carr is a well-known Maryland midwife but she faced prosecution because she delivered the baby in Virginia without a Virginia license. Note that she is well-known despite the fact that she is operating without a state acknowledged license from Maryland.

I reached out to the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA), the association for home birth midwives, to inquire about the differences among the states, the process for insurance coverage and how CPMs are accessing medication, including oxygen, in the event it’s necessary, if they are not operating legally, for example, in the state of Maryland.  This organization is very skittish about speaking publicly to the media. Susan Moray, a press officer from MANA noted in an email response that it is an underground business and CPMs likely access medicine and oxygen to use, in the event it’s necessary, from “sympathetic colleagues.” When I questioned the patchwork of state regulations of CPMs, Susan responded: “Generally it isn’t states that fight it, but medical and nursing associations who do not understand (or feel competitive with) the profession, safety records, cost savings.  They often state that women can access a midwife in the hospital, not understanding, having never attended one, the vast difference between institutional  and out-of-hospital birth.” In the end, I can’t help but wonder if the state of Maryland is achieving its goal of protecting mothers and babies by not licensing CPMs because the midwives are still operating right out in the open, regardless of the law.

In my metaphorical hierarchy of midwives, there are still more layers beneath the CPMs and I have absolutely no qualms questioning their right to deliver babies without legal consequences. The Direct Entry Midwife, for example, merely has to observe births to then call herself a midwife. Again, I harken back to needing a license to drive a car or file a company’s taxes but not to deliver a baby? Only the first two layers of midwives, the CNMs and, in some states, CPMs, are legally recognized.

Moving on to exploring why there is an increase in out-of-hospital deliveries. Because this issue is so polarizing among women, the reality is this: Whether you agree with someone’s decision to deliver a baby outside a hospital or not, women have that choice. What I wanted to find out was this: If she is choosing a location beyond a hospital, what are her options in the DC area? Beyond options, what are the various outcomes that should be considered, as unpleasant as they might be, when choosing to deliver outside of a hospital.

Birthing centers give a woman an intervention-free delivery but keep her close to the technological advances made possible with a hospital. Typically  CNMs work in birthing centers and often they have a relationship with an obstetrician in the event a transfer to a hospital is necessary. Unfortunately, the number of birthing centers around the beltway have dwindled.   In 2007 Takoma Women’s Health Center in Takoma Park and Maternity Care in Bethesda both closed down. The Takoma Women’s Health Center had been serving the needs of women for 20 years and Maternity Care in Bethesda had been open for 25 years. Many of the women who would have previously gone to these birthing centers now use midwives who can deliver at Shady Grove Adventist hospital in Rockville.

In the entire state of Maryland, for example, there is just one birthing center, Special Beginnings, in Ann Arundel county. For a woman living say in Frederick, or even western Montgomery County, to travel to Ann Arundel county is hardly convenient or close in the event of an emergency. In the District, Family Health and Birth Center opened in Northeast DC in 2000 and is well-regarded, particularly for servicing women in a low-income area. Two midwives in the District are known for delivering babies at Washington Hospital Center, Providence Hospital and Sibley Hospital. And BirthCare & Women’s Health in Alexandria is free-standing birth center option in Northern Virginia. This particular center turned down the family who later hired Karen Carr to deliver their baby at home because the baby was in a breech position. When BirthCare opened its doors twenty years ago,  it assisted about 10 deliveries monthly. Today those numbers have risen to nearly 30 births a month.

The question remains, however,  if there is a rise among those who are choosing out-of-hospital births, yet birthing centers have closed down and fewer are available in a major metropolitan region, is it time to focus more on safe delivery options beyond hospitals, when no one can argue whether or not life is about to emerge into this world?

One of the most common reasons for not wanting hospital births among home birth proponents is the increasing C-section rates. In fact, Jessica Groves, a home birth advocate directed to me by MANA and President of the Maryland Friends of Midwives organization, stated clearly that “birth is a business and C-sections make money.”

To respond to this commonly held belief, I turned to Dr. Michele Hakakha, co-author of Expecting 411. She said “a hospital can’t do anything to you, your doctor has to give an order first and you always have the last say.” She went on to explain that when searching for the right doctor, the better questions to ask are to find out their philosophy on labor and delivery, inquire if you can be mobile during labor, and if you can be in a birthing position comfortable to you.

As I waded deeper into the debate about home births,  I read that many believe that birth is not a medical event, therefore it doesn’t require intervention, especially among those who are low-risk. Because we all learn quickly that anything can happen in a delivery, I asked Dr. Hakakha if we can rightfully ever label ourselves low risk. She said “there is no way to predict in ‘low-risk women’ who will have a catastrophic complication and who won’t. Many don’t consider delivering a child a ‘medical procedure’ but it becomes one when things are out of the ordinary.”

Groves repeated several times, however, that midwives are trained to recognize when things are going wrong and are not afraid to tell a mother that a transfer has become  necessary. She noted the transfer rate in Maryland hovers around five percent.

In terms of the argument among home birthing proponents that C-sections are all too common, what is frequently left out of this argument are the reasons why C-sections have increased in this country: the increasing age of women getting pregnant leads to higher rates of multiples and higher risk for complications during labor. Dr. Hakakha pointed out that in 1970, one in 100 women having a baby was over the age of 35. Today, it is one in seven. She explained that asking a doctor what percentage of their deliveries are C-sections is not a good question because that practitioner may deliver a lot of high-risk patients.

So how about babies? No matter where you plan to deliver, certainly everyone agrees that a successful delivery is about a healthy mother and a healthy baby.  What does a pediatrician think about delivering babies at home, I wondered. Despite the skepticism out there towards obstetricians, it’s rare to hear of skepticism towards pediatricians. I turned to Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician who co-authored Expecting 411 with Dr. Hakakha. I asked for her perspective on home births, from the vantage point of delivering a healthy baby. “Most normal pregnancies lead to normal deliveries but there are just some unpredictable things that can happen and those situations have better outcomes in a place equipped to handle them – not just the practitioner on hand but medications, oxygen, ventilator equipment, access to an operating room for an emergency C-section,” she said. “Even in a low risk pregnancy, shoulder dystocia can happen, which means the baby’s shoulders get wedged in the birth canal and without immediate delivery, it can lead to stillbirth or brain damage. Placenta abruption happens in 1 in 150 births. In this case, the baby doesn’t get oxygen and it can lead to stillbirth or permanent brain damage. Two other risks are meconium aspiration where the fetus gets stressed in the womb and poops (meconium) before birth. That meconium is at risk for entering the lungs. Finally, cord compression or cord prolapse where the umbilical cord cannot send blood and oxygen to the fetus prior to birth as it gets stuck either from a baby’s abnormal presentation (ie. breech, transverse or shoulder dystocia), again leading to lack of oxygen and potential brain damage and death,” she explained.

Why is being close to a hospital so critical in the event something starts to go terribly wrong was my next question and Dr. Brown summed it up concisely when she remarked “it’s about the first five minutes of life because of oxygen.” Here’s where my own aversion to risk plays in, as you think about what midwives are legally allowed to administer, depending on which level midwife you choose and what state you are delivering. In Maryland and the District, CPMs are not legally permitted to carry and administer oxygen. In Virginia, they are legally permitted because they are licensed. “If a newborn is deprived of oxygen in those first critical minutes, death or permanent brain damage can occur. If you are in a location during childbirth that is not equipped for those situations, you are gambling on you and your baby’s life,” said Dr. Brown.

For mothers looking to make a choice on where to deliver and weighing the risk of infant mortality, an American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology analysis shows that home births result in a neonatal death rate at least twice as high as that of planned hospital births. Neonatal death occurred less than once in 1,000 hospital births, compared with two in 1,000 home births.

If we have among the most advanced technology available in hospitals and highly trained medical professionals available to deliver babies, and the facts show us that the risk for infant mortality is higher in home births, then why are more women choosing to deliver outside a hospital, particularly educated white women? Women who have the means and the access to utilize technology and scientific advancements. Women who likely have iPhones in their pockets and utilize technological advancements every day in their daily routines?

The answer can be as simple as the level of care so many have received from traditional doctors. And I understand that. After I had my first baby, as soon as she was delivered, I didn’t see the doctor who delivered her again until my six-week check up. The first time I met this particular doctor was coincidentally, days before I went into labor, because I selected a large practice with a dozen obstetricians, which meant you roll the dice with which doctor would be on call when you go into labor and it certainly didn’t afford me the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with my doctor. Recently, I experienced my first root canal and heading into it, I sarcastically wondered if it would be worse than child-birth. In the end, it turned out I had a highly infected tooth and the pain and dental visits stretched out over ten days. During that period of time, my regular dentist and my endodentist called me at home, practically every night, with sympathy and out of concern. I knew where each would be over the course of a weekend, including specifically what time one would be unavailable because his son was graduating from college. I was stunned. I kept wondering – how did I deliver not just one but two babies in this town and never once experienced anything as personal, attentive and caring as my experience with two male dentists? Could they deliver my third, should I go on to have a third child, I even wondered in a flash.

No wonder women are turned off, I thought. Specifically,  no wonder educated women with the means and the resources are willing to spend time on the phone with insurance companies, learning what they will or will not cover with a midwife assisted birth and research different birthing options, because they are interested in a more personalized, intimate healthcare model based on women’s empowerment and respect for a woman’s body. Even Dr. Hakakha noted “I believe that part of the problem stems from our historically paternalistic approach to medicine. There has often been the feeling, by both doctors and patients, that the doctor decides and the patient listens, agrees and doesn’t question. I believe that women today are looking for much more. We want to be educated, active participants in our healthcare and simply sitting in a room and being told what to do isn’t good enough anymore, especially as it pertains to childbirth.”

So where does that leave the pregnant woman?

It leaves her with the privilege of options and hopefully an open mind to research where is the safest, smartest place not just for her but for her baby, when it’s time to deliver. Unfortunately if she lives in DC, it leaves her with very limited choices for birthing centers.

Like the Wired Momma Facebook page to keep up with this topic and the commentary. I look forward to hearing what others think!

Getting back your “Pre-Baby Body”

“Wow, you look great,” I gushed. “I can’t believe you just had a baby a few weeks ago!”

Why was I saying this, I wondered. Could I possibly have forgotten how much I loathed the public commentary on the growing size of my pregnant body and then the post-delivery comments, or worse, lack of comments, on how I was getting rid of the baby weight. The lack of comments was almost worse than the forced declarations of how great I looked because no comment, in my mind, only affirmed what I knew but hoped I was able to cleverly disguise, which was that I wasn’t looking quite like Heidi Klum yet.

This woman, to whom I was gushing like an idiot, cut me off and said “I should tell you, I used a surrogate.”

That shut me up. And note – I just met her that minute – so who was I to even comment on her post-baby body.

But we do it. We all do it. Even if we don’t all stick our foot in our mouth and sound like idiots. And we do it because,  like it or not, we are a culture that praises thinness. We view extra weight as a sign of laziness and “giving up” and we applaud women who shrink back to their pre-baby bodies in weeks. They get magazine covers and TV attention. They are talked about online. We hate them but we still watch them. How often does anyone talk about the fact that spending all those hours in the gym to lose the baby weight means all those hours aren’t being spent by the mother with the new baby?  Or about what the potential damage is on a postpartum body to exercise so vigorously or eat so restrictively? Can we hear more about that instead?

And yet, setting logic aside, if you’ve had a baby, you know just how rotten it feels to discover it actually takes a really long time and a lot of hard work and energy to lose that baby weight. And did anyone warn you that you were going to be short on time AND energy as soon as you  have a baby? I didn’t feel sufficiently warned that first time, as I shoved crackers and chocolate into my mouth throughout the pregnancy.

Even though my youngest is now almost 3 and I am anxious to give-away all my maternity clothes and baby gear, I am always interested in reading articles about women’s body images post-babies, so I was delighted to stumble upon an article in the Australian media called “Ignore the hype, real women don’t ‘bounce back’ to their pre-pregnant shape.”

I almost didn’t need to read any more. I just wanted to shout “OH HELL YES”

“SAY IT AGAIN”

“SHOUT IT LOUDER, SISTER”

Should I keep going? Do you feel me?

Miranda Kerr Pregnant and then with a 4-month-old...VOMIT

It’s because of jerks  celebrities like Miranda Kerr on the runway a few months after giving birth, that I felt horrible when I was still putting on maternity clothes 8 weeks after having a baby, and when I was shoving myself into my suits like a sausage, 12 weeks post-partum. It is so defeating and it is not a time in a woman’s life when she needs something else to make her feel defeated. I think we can all agree that the baby does a good job of that.

The findings from the land down under fascinated me. The author studied how the Australian media idealizes the pregnant woman by focusing on celebrities, sound familiar? I think we can all agree that phenomenon is hardly unique to Australia. Though Nicole Kidman’s miraculous shrinking body days after the delivery of her first child was even fast by celebrity standards.

The writers of the piece found the subtext was that women should prioritize regaining their pre-baby bodies “with the same effort they would employ when recovering from an illness.” And not shockingly, the incessant praise heaped upon celebrities for “bouncing back” so quickly perpetuates this idea that we all can do so, if we just tried a little harder and had some discipline.

Because, again, we aren’t trying hard enough to just keep a baby alive and catch a few Zzzs along the way.

The other insightful finding was this chatter on the benefits of breastfeeding for losing weight – and I find that’s very common here – Angelina Jolie loved to tout how nursing helped her regain her pre-baby body. The Australian piece links to a recent study finding that breastfeeding may not promote weight loss.

I can tell you that for me, breastfeeding promoted EATING. Never in my life was I ever as hungry as when I nursed. I never knew such hunger. Add that kind of hunger to a sleep-deprived and hormonal mind and body, and I wouldn’t dare say no to chocolate or chips or ice cream. I DESERVED IT.

Needless to say, nursing didn’t do a thing for me and my elusive enemy, weight loss.

Though dated now, the old Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy book series notes 9 months up, 9 months down…and while it took me a bit longer than 9 months to go down, that seems like a much healthier approach than idolizing celebrities who hide their personal chefs and trainers behind the scenes, and very publicly return to their pre-baby weight in a matter of weeks. Liv Tyler is one of the few celebs I can think of who took a while longer to return to her thin self and frankly, it was refreshing to see. It actually made me like her a lot more because I felt I could relate. She seemed normal and not super human.

Now about that pre-baby body, I’d like to add my own argument into this discussion (cause I haven’t done that enough already). Just the idea of getting our “pre-baby bodies” back is mis-leading.

BECAUSE THE BABY CHANGES THE BODY.

So why do we keep talking like they don’t?

Are you with me? Doesn’t the media praise heaped upon celebs for achieving what almost no one else can – hitting the runway weeks or a few short months later – erode our own perceptions of what is healthy? Furthermore it dilutes what is really praise-worthy, which is the miracle that is pregnancy and the gift of a healthy baby; it shouldn’t matter what we look like and worrying about getting our “pre-baby bodies back” should be the last thing entering a new mom’s mind. Unfortunately, all too often, it’s at the top of the list.

Not sure what we can do about it beyond committing to not buying the magazines that heap this praise when it’s happening? Thoughts?

“Like” the Wired Momma Facebook page…I totally give away the secrets on how to lose all that baby weight on there…