I FaceTime with my sister most mornings. She can usually expect a call (“from the baby”) around 8:30, about 45 minutes after my husband has left for work and 45 minutes before I can put my son down for a nap and cram muffins in my mouth while lying in the fetal position.
My sister, who works from home, is usually still in her robe, unkempt, unbathed and sporting some impressive bedhead. Since I’ve been up since 6:30, I’m almost always showered, dressed, wearing makeup and bubbling with manic energy from spending the last 45 minutes chasing my son around the living room shouting “No, no, Sammy! We don’t eat baby wipes!”
I always angle the phone so that Sammy and his auntie can see each other, but as he inevitably barrel rolls out of my lap it’s my face that fills the screen, and let me tell you: one of us looks real haggard, and it’s not my sister.
I knew my appearance would change after the birth of my son and, honestly, the thought didn’t bother me much. I figured I’d be a little bit fatter, a little more disheveled, a little saggier in the ta-tas and maybe a little stripier across the abdomen, but that was the price of admission to the mom club and I wanted in.
What I didn’t expect was to look like a dried-up dock harpy willing to sell her molars for one pull on a crack pipe.
Motherhood isn’t a good look for me.
I can only assume that my giant, vibrant, healthy baby has sucked out all my own nutrients, leaving me a literal shell of my former self. How else to explain the sudden crow’s feet around my eyes, toenails so dry that one of them snapped off over Easter, and hands that – as my sister pointed out to me – look like the bony claws of a gnarled corpse.
My phone’s face-recognition software no longer recognizes pictures of me, and thinks “before baby” and “after baby” photos are of two different people. In fact, my phone created an entire folder for images of the hollowed-out lady holding the cute baby. I call her “Anguish.”
I’m not a twat, so I’m not going to complain that I’m too skinny. In fact, my pre-pregnancy clothes are still too tight because my hips and, oddly, my ribs are wider than they were before. But the combination of breastfeeding the genetic offspring of a 6’3 man, spending my days running after a greased pig with a death wish, and eating whatever scraps I can scrounge up when he finally sleeps has left me looking less like the curvy, soft, essence of motherhood I’d pictured and more like Steve Buscemi in leggings.
On the bright side, I finally understand the origin of mom haircuts. All this time I’d assumed women chopped off their hair because they had no time to wash or style it. I didn’t understand why they didn’t just top-knot that shit.
Now, as I spend each morning trying to shellack the broken shards of sadness that frame my face like an unruly lion’s mane, I get it. Mom haircuts exist because as your pregnancy hormones crash, so too does your hair, in clumps down the shower drain. You’re left with the hair of someone recovering from multiple brain surgeries: jagged, uneven, patchy in places, with nothing to be done about it except wait for it to grow back or hack it off and start fresh.
I’ve also unlocked the mystery of mom jeans. No, once you birth an heir you don’t feel an overwhelming urge to buy pants that shout “gunt is the new ass!” As it turns out, it’s not the jeans that are to blame, but the ass itself. Being pregnant can leave your pelvis tilted forward, according to my physiotherapist. Where a butt curve may once have thrived now live only two pancakes zipped into high-waisted denim.
My mom diet of caffeine and sugar has also done a number on my once-white smile. Can teeth age? If so, mine are menopausal at best. I’m not sure if you can bleach your teeth while breast feeding, and I’m not sure that I want to after nine months of pregnancy gingivitis. So I’ve just adopted a new tight-lipped smile that really emphasizes my desperate exhaustion.
Now, I knew my grooming standards might suffer as my priorities shifted, but I didn’t realize how far they’d plummet. My dad comes to visit once a week, and each time he says “Oh, do you still need to get ready?” as I meet him at the door dressed like a bag lady.
No, Dad. This is just how I look now.
Even my own husband, who tells me I’m beautiful every day, secretly thinks things have gotten a little rough. I know this because I just read a draft of this post out loud and asked him if I’d over-exaggerated.
“No,” he chuckled.
“Really?” I asked. “The bit about the dried-up dock harpy isn’t too much?”
“Nope. It’s great.”
Luckily, my baby always seems pretty happy to see me no matter how I might look. Given the choice, I think he’d style me in a nursing top with my bare cans hanging out the openings, pants with half-eaten baby crackers stuck to the legs (treats for later!), glasses that he could easily slap off my face, and hair so wild and free that he could grab it by the fistful and break off pieces in his mouth.
So, basically I’m perfect just the way I am.