My new Parkside Shorts and thoughts about the postpartum body

As you all know from Andy’s Birth Story (and other musings), I’m still trying to “get to know” my postpartum body. I can’t sew as fast as I’d like, but I’m working to build a wardrobe that makes me feel good…and I’m excited to say I finally finished making my first piece of clothing post-baby!

My first postpartum handmade wardrobe staple: A pair of Parkside Shorts in Essex Linen

Due to the fact that I live in a climate that is ridiculously humid and HOT in the summer (our city is nicknamed “Famously Hot”) + my sweet, squishy baby has caused all of the shorts I enjoyed last summer (and the summers prior) to no longer fit (at least not comfortably), shorts were at the top of my sewing priority list.

Pattern

Before discovering Sew Caroline’s Parkside Shorts {read about my 1st pair here}, I thought I wasn’t a “shorts person.” Turns out – I just hadn’t found shorts that fit right. Knowing this now, I knew it would be worth the effort to construct a pair of Parkside Shorts based on my new measurements so I could comfortably get through summer.

PLUS POCKETS! I love the pockets in these shorts – they are in a comfortable position so you can rest your hands there and they’re large enough to actually hold stuff.

As you know, I had a cesarean birth which means not only do I have a pretty wicked scar, but my stomach is also still numb and tender in certain areas. That said, regular waistbands and fitted pants are not comfortable (I’m okay with that considering I don’t really wear pants all that often and loose-fitting clothes are what I gravitate to). The thick elastic waistband & the slightly higher rise of these shorts make them super postpartum friendly (I read somewhere that elastic shorts with a drawstring are a good postpartum investment so that they can continue to be worn as you “shrink” so adding the optional drawstring may have been a good idea, but I really didn’t want any negative body-talk/desires-of-bodies-past going into these shorts 😉 ).

Fabric

I’ve been very slowly working on a pair of Harrington Shorts for the Hubs using some of the Essex Linen I got from Trailer Stash Fabrics many moons ago. I had enough of the green left over to cut out a pair of Parkside Shorts for myself! {SO.. one day the Hubs & I will have matching shorts #Nerds. Maybe I’ll even make Andy a pair of matching bloomers #FamilyOfNerds}.

The material is really breathable and felt great when I wore them last weekend. Being that they are my only currently-fitting shorts, I’m pretty sure I’ll be shamelessly wearing them every weekend (thank goodness I chose a neutral fabric!).

Process

Over the past few weeks I’ve been stealing a few minutes here and there to work on the shorts. I could’ve rushed through the shorts, but I took my time to over-stitch all of the interior edges to prevent fraying and so that it would look a lot neater 😉 With sewing time being a little more sparse, I tried to relish every step when I got a window of time to sit down to sew.

More than ever sewing has truly become my outlet for self-care. The quiet time with my machine is such a gift. Utilizing my skills to construct clothing that makes me feel good in my body is such a blessing. When I have the time and the energy, those moments of sewing serve me in such an enormous way.

Andy watching me work on my Parkside Shorts.

On the weekends, we spend a lot of time in our lower-level (kind of a “basement”) where my sewing space is. While I sew, Andy plays on her baby gym or takes a nap in her seat. I love having her near me while I’m sewing. As time goes on, I hope she continues to enjoy our quiet, recuperation time – maybe one day she’ll have her own creative project to work on alongside me 😉

Andy enjoying a slumber while I finished my Parkside Shorts.

As soon as I finished the shorts, I tried them on and I could have melted. They fit perfect which felt incredible. It’s been a very long time since I have put on clothes that were made for me and fit in the way I wanted them to. It’s tough when your body changes (especially if it’s in the larger direction 😉 ). When you don’t feel comfortable in your clothes, it’s hard to feel comfortable in your skin.

My thoughts on the postpartum body

As we’ve passed the magical “4th trimester” and are approaching 5 months with Andy being earth-side, I’m being bombarded with “How to lose the baby weight” emails and diet marketing.

As someone with a degree in Public Health (including a graduate level nutrition course) and a strong attachment to my local YMCA, I understand the importance of physical fitness and nutrition. HOWEVER, I have zero tolerance for society’s pressure to “get my body back.”

Newsflash: My body never left. It may look a little different, but it’s here. And it has served me and my family pretty damn well.

In the beginning/shortly after Andy was born, I had some low points where I felt uncomfortable with the extra “fluff” my body had retained. Some of that weight has sloughed off, but some hasn’t…and I’m okay with that. When I talk about it with friends/family/coworkers, their reaction is usually: “Don’t worry, you’ll get your body back!” I know they are well-intentioned with this reaction, but the truth is: I do not desire my “old body.” Not to say I’d be sad if I woke up tomorrow and all of my old clothes suddenly fit perfectly again, but it’s not a priority of mine right now nor is it a concern.

For the better part of a year, I shared my body with another soul. My body nourished her until she was ready to thrive in her own body. That’s incredible! The extra padding in my midriff was the cushion that kept her safe. I can’t help but admire what what my body has been through. It has served me so very well. I continue to work my hardest to serve it well too (but Fridays are pizza night and I’m not willing to give that up 😉 ).

I refuse to cave into feeling sorry for myself and/or obsessing over what I’m eating or spending hours at the gym.

I am active every day. I try to eat real food as often as possible. I don’t judge myself when I want a treat, and I don’t judge myself when my old clothes don’t fit. I knew they wouldn’t. Maybe one day they will. Maybe they never will again. Maybe one day Andy can wear them. Maybe she won’t. Maybe they’ll be eaten by moths before then. Maybe not. Honestly, who cares. They’re replaceable possessions.

What I really need are clothes that fit and make me feel good when I wear them. I don’t need for clothing to be a reminder of the weight I’m still carrying.

Recently I read an article written by a personal shopper/stylist about how [before having her own baby] she was surprised at how many of her clients were new moms. One thing she said really stood our for me…

You can’t derive your self-worth from the contents of your closet.

What you might get though, is a little confidence in yourself. Confidence that you look like you which translates into feeling like you.

THIS. This is why I make my own clothes. THIS was the reminder I needed.

I think we need to stop pressuring new moms to get in shape. We need to stop complacently allowing big-box-shops to create clothing for one body type (aka: definitely not the new-mom-bod). We need more postpartum-friendly [affordable] clothing available. We need friends to share their closets with us. We need other moms to tell us that it’s okay to abandon your old body. We need our husbands to tell us they don’t give a $h!t whether our ass shrinks because that baby it made is pretty darn cute. And all those pregnancy/new-baby newsletters we signed up for in hopes of cracking the how-to-be-a-great-mom code have no right to repeatedly send emails titled “How to get your body back.” BECAUSE LADIES: Your body never left. You look amazing. Your baby is wonderful. And life is good.

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5 ways I balance creativity, self-care and motherhood

I feel like the title of this post may be a bit misleading – I don’t have the answer for balancing it all, BUT I have done a few things that have really helped carve out space in this “new life” so that I can maintain my creativity and the self-care that I need.

While my experience is tunneled through my own rose-colored, FEMALE glasses, self-care is incredibly important for Dads too. My husband has sacrificed a lot already for our little family. I make an extra effort to encourage him to maintain his hobbies – if he misses hockey one week, I encourage him to take his bike for a trail ride that weekend. He needs this. Without fail, he always returns re-energized and ready to entertain Andy while I sew 🙂 It’s a win-win.

 1. I’ve made caring for myself a priority

Shortly after Andy was born I realized those familiar feelings of depression and anxiety were sneaking back in. I was overwhelmed. I was having a tough time adjusting to having a tiny human fully dependent on me for survival.

There are many influential turns I took on my path to motherhood so it’s hard to credit just one thing, but I will say that by prioritizing my needs was what needed to shift so that I could be the best parent possible. When I made that shift, suddenly Andy was a happier baby, my husband was happier, and so was I!

How I do this

Just before Andy was born, I took the opportunity to change my work schedule so that I arrived half an hour earlier and left half an hour earlier. That said, now I start my workday shortly after Andy wakes up for the day.

If I were to go straight to work from home, I would likely have about 15 minutes with Andy before I would need to leave. Instead, I go to the gym in the morning before work like I did before Andy was born. This allows me to go to the yoga class I love, catch up with the friends I’ve made at the gym over the years, and/or jump on the treadmill and listen to a podcast without sacrificing a large chunk of “quality time” with Andy.

And…I don’t feel guilty that I am using my morning time to work out rather than to get Andy ready for daycare. WHY? Because this time is also important for my husband and Andy’s relationship. They need time together without me. My husband has a routine he has constructed for the two of them that kicks off their day on a positive note before they are off to work and daycare.

 2. I make time for myself

How I do this

Some days I take my lunch to work and eat at my desk. I continue to work while I eat so that I can use my lunch break to do something even more nourishing. Sometimes that is going home to sew a few stitches on whatever project I’m working on. Sometimes it’s running errands or folding laundry so that I can check those off my to-do list without sacrificing my time with Andy in the afternoon. One day it was going to Target, treating myself to a matcha latte and a new bathing suit because that was what I needed that day 😉

 3. My husband & I negotiate “free time”

As I said before, I try to encourage my husband’s time for self-care too (he might not call it self-care, but still 😉 ). We do this as a balancing act. We take turns being Andy’s primary care provider during the weekend so that each of us gets the time we need.

How I do this

As the weekend approaches, the Hubs and I touch base about our plans. If there’s something that he wants to do one morning, I agree to entertain Andy during that time so long as he agrees to entertain her that afternoon so I can do something.

My husband did a really great job of implementing this in the beginning. When I was on maternity leave in the early weeks of feeling like a new-mom-zombie, the Hubs made me pick somewhere to go (outside of the house) one afternoon every weekend. He wanted me to have time by myself and to get used to being away from the baby before I went back to work. Honestly, it was an incredibly thoughtful gesture and one that really helped with my transition back to work and now our balance of remembering to prioritize “me” time.

 4. We protect our “family time”

My husband and I are on this parenting journey together. That being said, we prioritize our relationship (as a family unit) as much as we can.

Sometimes that means saying “No” to something else.

 

How I do this

Both my husband and I work away from the home during the week. Weekends are the primary time we get for our hobbies and to spend time with Andy.

While we take time during the weekend for ourselves individually, we also set aside time for the three of us. We make sure that we have several hours of uninterrupted time together. So, if family or friends want to get together, we protect this as time we are not available.

With a newborn, family and friends often want to come visit. Sometimes this is a much-needed break so that someone else can hold or entertain the baby while I use my hands for something else (like laundry…it never ends!). And it’s nice to see family and friends forming a bond with Andy too. But sometimes it can be draining (I’m an introvert!)

We love spending time with friends and family and we do so almost every weekend. However, we understand the importance of our time together (especially with Andy) so we do not feel guilty if we don’t have time to spend with others that weekend (there’s always the next weekend 😉 ).

 5. I outsource what I can

I highly recommend that if you have the opportunity, outsource as many tasks and duties as you are comfortable with emotionally and/or financially. If you can shift your spending to afford a service you have been wanting, do it! The best way to save money is to cut a recurring expense (example: cancel your cable in lieu of an antenna for local channels & time outside).

OR find someone willing to “trade” their skill set. You could offer a service or task that you enjoy in exchange for them taking on something for you.

How I do this

I am someone who needs a clean house to keep my stress level down. I know this about myself. Trying to keep the level of “clean” I desired through pregnancy had gotten tough even with my husband taking on a lot of the cleaning. Andy arrived and I realized I couldn’t do it all…nor did I want to! Instead, I wanted the time to care for and bond with Andy. I didn’t want to spend what little bit of free time I could get cleaning or stressing about how badly I needed to clean.

So I hired a house-cleaner. I’d been debating this for years, but hadn’t because I felt like that was something only “rich people” did and I didn’t want anyone to pass judgement on me… UNTIL my therapist recommended doing this before I returned to work (apparently she saw how valuable this would be for me 😉 ).

I’m so happy that I did. And I think you’d be surprised at how much more affordable this service is than you think! (Take the time to search around until you find someone you trust in your house and can afford!)

*Disclaimer: I realize that the fact that I can construct this list and share the experiences I have with you is a luxury in-and-of-itself. Not all of my “tips” are going to be adoptable for everyone. I realize that. However, I hope that by sharing some of the things I’ve done, it sparks an idea of something you can do for yourself – or encourage for someone else who may need it.