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BODY WATCH : 'How Is It . . . That I've Lost Less Than the Weight of the Child?'

August 15, 1995|Layne Steinhelper

So you think all that weight you gained during pregnancy is destined to be yours forever? Here, writer Layne Steinhelper -- who in June chronicled the months leading up to the birth of her first child--updates us on her weight-loss progress during the first six weeks after becoming Gregory's mom.

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WEEK 1, DAY 3, 216 1/2 pounds: What they say is true: The birth experience moves you to a profoundly different level of consciousness. At least that's my explanation for the fact that it's been 72 hours since thoughts of weight last crossed my mind.

Now that things are returning to normal, however, I find myself running a mental tally of lost pounds attributable to baby, placenta and amniotic fluid--optimistically compounded by the slimming effects of an all-liquid diet following Cesarean delivery.

According to my calculations, I could be closing in on my pre-pregnancy weight already! That's incentive enough to hobble out of bed and onto the scale to confirm a dramatic loss of . . . seven pounds.

How is it possible that I've lost less than the weight of the child?

Turns out I've overlooked the phenomenon of post-surgical edema. A glance downward suggests I could be retaining five, maybe 10 pounds of fluid in my ankles alone.

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WEEK 1, DAY 6, 213 pounds: The good news is that I have my doctor's OK to ease back into my routine of daily walks.

The bad news is that walking less than a block quickly turns my eagerness into exhaustion.

Even with the swelling down, I've dropped only 10 1/2 of my 27 pregnancy pounds. But I'm confident that breast-feeding, guaranteed to burn upward of 500 calories a day, will banish the rest.

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WEEK 2, 211 pounds ( 1/4 mile per day): The grandparents have departed, leaving a kitchen lovingly stocked with comfort food. I'm well aware that if there's any hope of losing my baby fat, I have to clear out those goodies. I do so ruthlessly, playing no favorites as I eat everything within the hour.

All this notwithstanding, I've lost another two pounds.

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WEEK 3: 208 pounds ( 3/4 mile): Fueling my maternal angst is the fact that breast-feeding is not proceeding as planned.

It's taken a frustrating week of round-the-clock pumping, syringe feeding and finally, the gentle hints of my lactation consultants to convince me that nursing is no longer a viable option.

Since my original decision to breast-feed hinged on the baby's well-being, this is a depressing turn of events well beyond any caloric implications. Still, the irony of the situation does not escape me: Yet another "sure-fire" weight-loss strategy has failed.

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WEEK 4, 208 pounds: I'm still walking every morning (up to one mile a day), but it's more to beat stress than fat. With each day--and night--passing in a blur of baby-feeding and diaper-changing, the idea of an organized fitness plan seems laughable.

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WEEK 5, 206 pounds (1 1/2 miles): On Monday, a fellow browser finishes cooing over the baby and turns her attention to me. "Only a month!" she exclaims. "You look great!"

I clutch these words to my bosom like a life preserver. Evidently I've underestimated the impact of those daily walks.

I hurry home to try on some of my pre-pregnancy clothes for the first time since the baby's birth. Big mistake. I still can't squeeze into even my "fattest" jeans. But the experience proves an unbeatable reality check. I stock up on celery sticks, mothball the cookie jar, and by week's end I'm down two more pounds.

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WEEK 6, 204 1/2 pounds (2 miles): So much for losing all my pregnancy weight--or regaining my equilibrium in any other significant way--by the month-and-a-half mark. Obviously the concept of a six-week recovery period applies to new fathers. My husband is back up to speed.

My condition, though, is pretty much what it was halfway through my pregnancy: same weight, same stamina, same emotional disarray.

I'd find the situation more distressing except that this week's checkups with both gynecologist and pediatrician underscore how naive it was to expect to reverse in 40 days a condition that took 40 weeks to evolve.

The doctors' consensus? Complete postpartum recovery can take a full year.

Finally. A time frame I can handle.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

LAYNE STEINHELPER: VITAL STATISTICS

Pre-pregnancy

Age: 40

Height: 5 feet 10 inches

Weight: 196 1/2 pounds

Bust: 36B

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Nine months pregnant

Age: 41

Height: 5 feet 10 inches

Weight: 223 1/2 pounds

Bust 42D

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Six weeks postpartum

Age: 41

Height: 5 feet, 10 inches

Weight: 204 1/2 pounds

Bust: 40C

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