“Wow, you look great! Got your figure back so fast!” 

I’m five weeks postpartum. My daughter’s well-meaning preschool teacher showers me with what should be compliments. She’s not the first to mention that I look like I “never even had a baby!”    

“You look like you never gained a pound!”

“How did you lose it so fast?”

“Wow! Already wearing jeans again?!” 

Related: Postpartum recovery is about more than weight loss

I grin and accept her compliments, of course half dismissing them in the awkward way we all do: “Aw thanks—I may have lost the weight, but still soft under here! These high-waisted jeans hide a lot!”

The harsh reality of my “bounce back” figure is one that is hard to see because I’m now an expert at masking it. 

I weigh less than pre-pregnancy because of all of this, yet I am the most unhappy I’ve been in years?

I mean, what do I tell her?  That my “magical” weight loss and looking so good is because I’m actually not doing well at all? Do I tell her it’s because I have an infant struggling with food allergies and reflux who can’t be put down, so I physically can’t even reach food to put in my mouth most of the time? Do I tell her it’s because my infant is so fussy that if I’m not constantly power walking him, he’s screaming? And so my unintentional weight loss plan is walking miles and miles and miles a day because I’m terrified to stop? 

Do I tell her it’s because even when I get five minutes to "myself” I still don’t have the energy to make a meal? Do I tell her it’s because I was pumping (and heart-wrenchingly dumping) every three hours for weeks on a restricted diet to keep up supply, only to discover that he still can’t tolerate my milk and all that work was for nothing? 

Related: I didn't fall in love with my baby right away

Do I tell her that, yes, I weigh less than pre-pregnancy because of all of this, yet I am the most unhappy I’ve been in years?

I am by all objective measures “qualified” to be a mom and thrive. I’m a pediatrician for goodness sake. I have a 3-year-old who had colic. I’ve done this before. I have a supportive husband. Supportive grandparents (from afar). Supportive friends. Other mom-friends with babies. I’m set up for success, yet even for me, it is mind-numbingly hard to be at home with my infant. 

So for all those other moms who “look great” from the outside but are anything but, I see you.    

Five weeks in and I’ve finally accepted that despite the supportive words and messages from my inner circle, I need actual help. I need moments away from my crying baby. While I wish this could be from family, we unfortunately don’t have anyone close by. Instead, we finally agreed to hire someone to come a few hours a week and let me tell you, the first 30 minutes she was here I truly didn’t know what to do with myself. The fog hasn’t lifted yet, but admitting even my “qualified” self needs help and time away from my new baby is a step in the right direction.  

When people give me compliments on my figure now, I have vowed to at least give a tiny glimpse into why.  Practicing “Thank you, but it’s been a struggle at home. Newborn life is tough."  Simple answers for now.  Maybe even that could open a conversation for me to connect with another struggling mom.   

So for all those other moms who “look great” from the outside but are anything but, I see you. I feel you in my achy bones.