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Permanently Postpartum: The Stuff That’s Here To Stay

Apr27

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postpartum_mom_by_secret_agent_josephine.jpgToday’s topic might seem a little off for a column called “Bounce Back,” but I want to talk about the stuff that did not necessarily…uh…bounce back, for me.

First and foremost: my stomach. I am finally coming to terms with the fact that it will never, ever be the same. That I am not One Of Those Lucky Women And You Know Who You Are Okay Yeah I’m Just Jealous. Around week 38 of my first pregnancy, I erupted in stretch marks. Not the deep purple lesions that some women get, but white-ish textured zebra stripes spreading outward from my belly button in a hurricane-like weather doppler formation. My skin remains fairly even in color but weirdly dimpled in texture. My belly button sort of droops and the stretch-marked-up skin around it sort of hangs loosely, having never fully recovered its once-glorious elasticity. No matter how much I exercise (and I do — I can do more crunches than my husband and somewhere under all that skin are some decently hard abs), the pooch remains. It sticks out a little bit and droops over my pants when I sit down in all its muffin-top glory. It doesn’t seem like it got particularly worse after my second pregnancy — no new stretch marks, at least — but I’m slowly resigning myself that this is as good as it may get. Unless I get a tummy tuck. Which…I’m not getting a tummy tuck. Tankinis and shapewear for everybody!

Second: mah HAIR. It started growing faster when I was pregnant, and now after two pregnancies, the growth is CRAZY. Whole inches in mere months, highlights and bangs be damned. I’d be okay with the head-hair growth, I guess, since I do like long hair, but oy. The rapid growth extends to…ahem…other parts of my body. The hair on my legs, pre-pregnancy, was so peach-fuzz like I could barely justify owning a razor. After Noah was born, the hair from my knees down got darker and more noticeable, and now grows so freaking fast I have to strategize the timing of a shaving session before putting on a skirt. Same goes for eyebrows and underarms and bikini line. God.

Third: Freckles and moles and spots. I got a lot more during my pregnancies. And no, shocker of all non-shockers, they did not magically go away afterward.

Fourth: I also feel like I sweat a lot more, although I sort of suspect that’s a breastfeeding thing (milk comes in, chest gets warm, gaaaah sweaty mess), but I suppose time will tell.

And lastly, migraines. Okay, this is a good one! See, it’s not all negative scary terror around here. I used to get terrible, debilitating migraines on a fairly regular basis, since high school, at least. My head would throb, light hurt my brain, my back stung and I would often eventually throw up. Despite a brief (yet horrific) re-occurrence during the first trimester of my last pregnancy, I have not had a single migraine since having children. And you know what? I will gladly take a doughy midsection over migraines.

Your turn, since your stories are always my favorite. What changed for you, forever, after giving birth? What are you still holding out hope for a return to “normal”?

If you landed here but are still pregnant, visit Amalah’s Pregnancy Calendar. You won’t regret it.

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About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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38 Responses to “Permanently Postpartum: The Stuff That’s Here To Stay”

  1. Beth Apr 28 at 10:57 am Reply Reply

    I’m almost 4 months postpartum with my 1st baby so I can’t say for sure if my changes are here to stay, but…
    My skin is jacked UP! My co-workers thought I had a rash last week due to the cluster of pimples that had sprouted up on my NECK! MY NECK! There were little eruptions on my face as well but on my body,(neck, arms, back,) they had huddled together to, like, keep warm I guess?
    I had similar problems with body breakouts during my awkward years but I think this is worse.

  2. Hey You Apr 28 at 11:16 am Reply Reply

    My feet. They got wider during pregnancy and have not gone back to my old size, Also, I got those brown spots on the sides of my face (melasma?) they are hardly noticeable, but still there. And my breasts WILL NOT RECOVER. They will never be so cute and perky again after breastfeeding for so long.

  3. Jen Apr 28 at 11:17 am Reply Reply

    I’m only four months out, but I am still holding out that the stomach will un-stretch again. My fingers went back down (FINALLY) so that my rings fit again, but that took three months. I think my feet have gone back down too, but not quite all the way, so that my old shoes fit again but not as well as they used to.
    I’m definitely hotter, since pregnancy and birth. I cannot allow the dog to sleep on me at night anymore or I die from heat.

  4. Michelle Pixie Apr 28 at 12:09 pm Reply Reply

    I have the lovely road map on my stomach thanks to my first two babes. My breast will never be perky again thanks to breastfeeding my three little ones. I am only four months out since baby #3 but my headaches have gotten worse…They are daily for me and if I can’t get rid of it in a timely manner they become full blown migraines which is always fun when trying to take care of three kids! My periods got better after baby #1, worse after baby #2, and I am praying that they don’t worsen when Aunt Flo visits after baby #3 so hopefully it’s a simple pattern and they get better again!

  5. Cobblestone Apr 28 at 12:23 pm Reply Reply

    I am afraid my wrists are really damaged. A good sized guy to start out with, he has grown FAST and my wrists were not ready. At first I thought once he got control of his head it would get better. Then I thought that someday it would get better. Now I’m 8.5 months into motherhood and hubby has to do the morning diaper change because my wrists don’t work until they get ‘warmed up’.

  6. Catherine S Apr 28 at 12:34 pm Reply Reply

    I am one of the lucky ones who did not get any stretchmarks and am 10 lbs below prepreg weight. Except for the CS scar, body looks pretty much the same.
    My changes have been more internal ones. I just do not feel the same at all about my sexuality. Its not the body image thing, I just feel kinda strange about sex in general. Not sure if it is the breastfeeding or what, but at 8 months out, I thought I would feel somewhat back to normal by now.

  7. Michal Apr 28 at 1:12 pm Reply Reply

    My hair and skin! I have curls now and its really thick. Its strange but I love it! My skin has always been good except for that one time a month and now I dont even have that. Just nice and smooth. Only a face wash and light moisturizer with an spf required!! Yay!
    On the other hand…my sex drive will never be the same…neither will my belly seeing as my stretch marks go all the way past my belly button from kid #1 and #2. Ugh.

  8. Angela Apr 28 at 2:31 pm Reply Reply

    My boobs – the only place I got stretchmarks was when my milk came in after my first pregnancy. Going from a barely C to a DD cup overnight pretty much destroys any perk. And at least before if it was cold and the “headlights” were on, they pointed in the same direction. No more, any symmetry went right out the window. At least they didn’t get any worse after #2 and #3 – though I am a little bit afraid to see what they look like when I am neither pregnant or breastfeeding.

  9. Olivia Apr 28 at 3:22 pm Reply Reply

    Here’s where I think being overweight before getting pregnant was a small blessing. I already had a flabby stomach and dimpled butt, so there is much to mourn regarding my body after baby. The only difference is the massive, purple stretch marks. And I was never going to wear anything that bared my tummy anyway, so it’s not a huge deal.
    The hair growth is intersting. My hair grew like crazy before getting pregnant and seems to have slowed down during. I’m only one month postpartum so I don’t know if that will last.

  10. Jo-Jo Ma Apr 28 at 4:24 pm Reply Reply

    I burst out laughing when I saw the cartoon on this post, as it looks so much like how I feel. 8 months into motherhood, my legs and butt have gone down to their pre-pregnancy size 6/8 (why didn’t I appreciate it back then? Why oh WHY???) but my belly and hips most definitely prove that I birthed a 10 pounder and they stay stubbornly in the size 12 zone, which makes jeans shopping a DELIGHT, let me tell you. Thanks for letting us know that the amount of crunches won’t ever help, because now I won’t bother. I got horrible, scary, purple stretch marks, but they have completely faded and aren’t too noticeable, surprisingly.
    Boobs are massive and floppy and I’m still breastfeeding, so that’s exciting.
    My face also looks different, I don’t know exactly why. I look… old. I’m only 27, but my chin seems a little saggier, my cheeks a little droopier, and my forehead a little wrinklier. I think motherhood attacked me with a vengeance. Serves me right. Hmmph.

  11. Carmen Apr 28 at 4:39 pm Reply Reply

    I got sciatica during my first pregnancy. It was so bad that I had to crawl to bed some days. Or I’d stand in one spot and cry at the thought of taking one step. Second pregnancy – nothing. But after my second delivery, the sciatica came back. It comes and goes but I’d really be happier if it would just permanently GO.

  12. paranoid Apr 28 at 8:42 pm Reply Reply

    I’m with Olivia. The one time it’s easier to be fat is after pregnancy. My stomach was flabby and floppy to begin with, so there’s not much of a noticeable difference now.
    I have, however, lost parts of my body to pregnancy. There’s a patch on my right thigh that went numb about 15 weeks into mt first pregnancy, and aside from the fact that it aches when I’m tired or walk too much, I have never regained feeling there. I’m also still numb in the area around my c-section scars.
    And speaking of scars, wtf! My scar this time around is huge! I know they thought my baby was going to be big (they were very, very wrong about that), but it looks like they cut me open wide enough to fit a volkswagon! 11 weeks out, it’s still red and itchy, too. I don’t remember my first scar taking this long to heal.

  13. rkentucky Apr 28 at 10:21 pm Reply Reply

    I’m at 4 months after my second child and I was asked today when I am due. Ugh!! I still haven’t given up, but it is very discouraging, especially since my stomach was as flat ‘as ever’ two weeks after the first one was born.
    I can’t were maternity clothes forever . . . can I? Regular pants fall off of me if they are big enough to fasten around my belly!

  14. dcfullest Apr 29 at 5:28 am Reply Reply

    I am only 14 weeks pregnant, but I developed horrible sciatica. I started seeing a physical therapist/chiropractor and after working for him it is so, so much better. Carmen, I hope you can find a good one in your area, b/c I seriously went from barely able to walk to being almost normal in a 3 week span thanks to his help.

  15. Brenda Apr 29 at 9:36 am Reply Reply

    With my first baby, I got these lines on my neck. I thought they’d go away when I lost the pregnancy weight, but no. They are here to stay.
    With my second baby, my hair changed color. I used to be blond. Now my hair is almost chestnut. It’s significant enough that people who haven’t seen me for a few months comment on it! Sadly that makes my new silver hairs all the easier to spot.

  16. Leah Apr 29 at 12:43 pm Reply Reply

    I’m still breastfeeding, but already I can tell that my boobs will be destroyed forever by the time we’re through. Tiny B cups just can’t handle this type of action and not suffer.
    I never got stretch marks on my stomach, but I did get the white ones on my butt, which will also never be the same. During pregnancy my butt and thighs spread and spread and spread, and although I’m almost back down to my pre-preg weight, there’s no way I could fit into any of my old pants. (The silver lining is that although my butt spread, it also seemed to flatten out a bit. For a lot of people this would be a bad thing, but having grown up with quite a shelf back there, I’m actually kind of thrilled with its new shape. I just wish it was that shape in a smaller size…)

  17. chiquita Apr 29 at 1:42 pm Reply Reply

    varicose veins! poochy stomach. even though I’m now (a year out) about 5 pounds lighter than I was pre-baby, the belly is here to stay. saggy breasts. oh well.
    and I can’t sleep like I used to. Even when the baby sleeps. it sucks.

  18. Sara Apr 29 at 3:12 pm Reply Reply

    Come on people! Let’s try to keep it positive. I have a 2 year old and am currently seven months pregnant with number two. There are some things I’m not thrilled about (stretch marks, bigger hips, some lingering lactation) but there are some good things too. Sex is better (although maybe not prettier), my nipples are darker (I’m super fair). I’ve struggled with depression my whole life and for several weeks postpartum, but since then…I’ve never been happier. There’s nothing like waking up to a happy little face everyday to keep you in the right frame of mind. I think it takes awhile to get it together and start feeling like yourself again, but once you get there, you’ll feel great in spite of the wear and tear that pregnancy causes.

  19. Jamie Apr 30 at 10:21 am Reply Reply

    I have been totally digging the Bounce Back articles but I have to agree with Sara, come on guys you’re freaking me out! I’m only 22 weeks along! I definitely don’t expect things to go back to the way they were but it’s too late to turn back now! AHHHHH!

  20. Catherine S Apr 30 at 1:20 pm Reply Reply

    I don’t think that everyone is being negative… just realistic. These are the things that are often glossed over by other moms, pregnancy and birth books, and other sources. We need to be able to talk about these things in order to normalize them, not feel like we are hiding some big secret. We all love our children and being mums, but sometimes we just need to talk about things that have changed. Not bad, not good, just changed.
    I am happy for the mums who are all glowy and never have a bad day, or never feel a little sad over the loss of their flat tummies. That is great and good for you. But there are plenty of moms out there who might be a little ambivalent about motherhood and the changes that happen that we never even thought about before. There is no shame in that and I don’t think that telling women they are being negative is helpful in any way.

  21. spitupisthenewblack Apr 30 at 2:38 pm Reply Reply

    Since I delivered 12 weeks early I escaped some of the negatives of pregnancy like stretch marks. After having my son I was back in a size 2 just a few weeks later. BUT going to see him in the hospital at odd times for 7 weeks and basically being a little depressed about the whole situation I packed on the lbs by eating fast food in mass quantities. I’m still in a size 2 – thank you Gap long and leans for making this possible – but I am ungodly uncomfortable and have some weight to lose in the stomach and butt/thigh area. As for my boobs – breastfeeding stole all of their glory. I had a pretty decent rack and now it just looks tired and sad. And there is a difference between being negative and truthful. Everybody seems to be telling it like it is, but I haven’t heard one person say they wish they hadn’t gone through it. Less perky boobs and some unfortunately placed weight are nothing compared to the joy my son brings me. But I ain’t gunna lie, I’m not super happy about the changes and I’m holding on to the belief that diet and exercise will help me get back to where I started from. Just…let me believe that…please.

  22. Cheryl S. Apr 30 at 4:40 pm Reply Reply

    Let’s see. I recovered pretty well. Some stretch marks in the hip/butt area (my friend said she knew I was having a girl when my butt got big before my belly got big.) Right after I gave birth, my hair fell out like CRAZY. Even my hairdresser was like “Damn!” Luckily, it’s grown back!

  23. Camille May 01 at 1:23 pm Reply Reply

    My daughter is only 7 weeks old, so some of this may go away/get better, but one thing no one told me about (or ever seems to be discussed anywhere!) is incontinence. I had some urinary incontinence in the beginning (like full on uncontrolled peeing if my bladder got too full…that only happened twice within 3 days of giving birth, but still!) but is waaaay better than it was with just a little stress incontinence/leaking now. There’s no bladder prolapse so that should go away altogether, but I do have a prolapsed rectum (aka rectocele…thanks 9+ lbs baby!). This occurred even though I had no tearing. Mine is not severe so things don’t get, umm… messy (thankfully!), which can occur with a severe prolapse. However, it can be embarrassing because flatulence is virtually uncontrollable. Nice. Going back to work in a couple weeks should prove interesting! Apparently things should improve over the next 3-5 months, and if it doesn’t there’s physiotherapy (I’m not sure exactly what that entails!), but this will ultimately have to be repaired surgically. However, because we want to have a second (and I’d like a third) baby, there’s no point in doing so until after we’re done. I honestly felt like I was falling apart, but my OB says that 50%+ women have a prolapse of some kind, so its surprising to me that I rarely hear it mentioned as a postpartum issue.
    Oh, and my hair is falling out!

  24. gizella May 02 at 2:32 pm Reply Reply

    I know the pregnant moms want us to keep it positive,but I truly think you need to know what I never thought of. I’m regaining my body, although i may still be 10 or so lbs gone, and its all on my belly. Hemorrhoids. I still have them, and I had a C-section. i got them from not drinking enough water during breastfeeding, because my kiddo drank A LOT. Drink water. there, drink more water. Again.

  25. Kaley May 03 at 4:14 pm Reply Reply

    I love this! I think it’s rare (though more common now with the internet?) for people to be so honest about this kind of thing. The kid’s 6 months old now, and my nipples are darker, got HUGE while I was pregnant and have regained their original size, but not their color. Hemorrhoids- yes! Didn’t have them while I was pregnant, but for 5 months after birth there was lots of blood and some pain every time I had a bowel movement, and the area still isn’t quite… right. My skin feels different- all over. I noticed it right after I gave birth. It’s softer, maybe thinner. No joke, it feels older. I haven’t had sex since August (I’m a single mom) and I had him in October, so I haven’t had post-partum sex, but I definitely feel some conflict about my sexuality and relationships. Oh, and the tendonitis! I got it in my right hand and my thumb would dislocate randomly. And he wasn’t a big baby. It’s ok during the day now, but flares up in the night. I just lost the last of my pregnancy weight, but one big difference was my confidence in my body- I feel much more comfortable in a bikini than I ever did before. I started wearing mini skirts and shorts more while I was pregnant, and still do- something I didn’t do before. I finally just felt like, if you don’t want to look at my cellulite, then avert your eyes. I guess I finally accepted that I am a woman!

  26. JJ May 03 at 8:09 pm Reply Reply

    I’m glad someone else mentioned the hemorrhoids! I’m 14 weeks out and I didn’t have any during the pregnancy, only from delivery. I just wish they would go away. And I agree about the breasts – from perky and happy to floppy and saggy. But that said, I wouldn’t change a thing. My daughter makes me the happiest person in the world.

  27. Jo May 04 at 11:26 am Reply Reply

    My nipples and belly button are now way too close in proximity to one another.

  28. Kathy May 04 at 2:28 pm Reply Reply

    -breastfeeding has also destroyed my boobs. they’re saggy and odd-shaped and just sad.
    -my belly button is all stretchy and enormous, and although I still have good abs underneath it all, all you see is a stomch like pudding.
    -my bladder. oy, my bladder. Five months later, it is better, but absolutely not normal. If you run, just expect that to be, um, anxiety-producing. I’m pretty sure that’s recovered as much as it’s going to at this point.
    Sorry, ladies. It’s the ugly truth. Pregnancy just does unpleasant things to our bodies.

  29. Joy May 05 at 4:58 pm Reply Reply

    How are you inside my body? Seriously, this is my litany of post-childbearing ills… point by point, down to the migraines going away except for a brief spurt in the first trimester of each of my three pregnancies!! Too crazy! (Try acupuncture to control migraines during pregnancy. Totally works.)
    I need to add that my food sensitivities went away with pregnancy and while I nursed my babies, which, all bundled together, was almost 8 years of no-migraine, no-food-restriction bliss!! BUT, within three months of not nursing any more, my migraines and food sensitivities were back with a vengeance. They have scaled back after six months, as my hormones have calmed down gradually, but the migraines are still not as bad as they were in my early twenties. (I’m now 34.)
    And I am happy to report that two years after the birth of my last child, the muffin top (with help from proper diet and mild exercise) is slowly shrinking back to the place from whence it came. The belly button is not quite as odd as it once was, but the silvery stretch marks are still there.

  30. Must Be Motherhood May 06 at 1:34 pm Reply Reply

    I stink now. These two boys chemically altered my pH balance or something b/c my sweat and other *ahem* fluids just STINK. The irony is that I am lucky if I can find the time to bathe every other day. So, yeah. I’m the stinky one you just walked past.
    The bewbs are also going to be pretty dern saggy, but I’ve read that’s more about the weight gain and loss of pregnancies than it is the breastfeeding.
    And, lastly: I swear that my nose has gotten more pointy. Grrrr. But that may just be the fault of my blurred, sleep-deprived vision.

  31. eva May 07 at 2:48 pm Reply Reply

    Acne in da house! I have never had nice clear skin and always had uneven skin tones on my face, but since my daughter was born, I have had atrocious acne. Not the odd zit but patches on my face where there are so many zits that I can’t count them.
    My stomach is great though – no stretch marks, not doughy! Too bad NO ONE sees it and EVERYONE sees and politely doesn’t mention the acne. I’d take a doughy tummy that could be covered with spanx any day.
    Oh and the sweating went away once I wasn’t exclusively breastfeeding anymore, by the time Megan was around 6 months old, so Amy there is still hope!

  32. Vanessa May 07 at 8:30 pm Reply Reply

    To the woman who mentioned that her c-section scar still itches after a year: that’s a good thing! It means that it’s healing, and that you’ll regain some feeling in the area. I have an 18 inch scar that wraps around my torso (obvi not from childbirth, but scars are scars) and 9 years after surgery it still sometimes itches.

  33. Megan May 08 at 10:29 am Reply Reply

    The Hair–my hair always fell out, but now…jeez…I find it everywhere. In my baby’s fingers, in her diaper (bleck), even under her chin! Fortunately, it is still as thick as ever!
    Other than all the reddish purple stretch marks under my belly button, everything pretty much the same.

  34. Emily May 09 at 5:49 pm Reply Reply

    It’s good to see this discussion. I’m four weeks out from the delivery of my twins. They are beautiful little girls, but there is just so much that nobody talks about. I have lost a ton of weight already, but it looks like the crepe-y skin may be here to stay. Also, I can put on pre-pregger jeans, but I have a huge muffin top right now.
    I really appreciate this column. My life is so focussed on these two little girls that I sometimes feel like I’ve lost myself a bit. It’s good to see that others have gone through the same thing.

  35. Kate May 13 at 6:08 am Reply Reply

    Positive of pregnancy: suddenly my nails grow! They used to break repeatedly. I thought it was just the prenatal vitamins, but my baby is 4 mos. old and I’ve been off the prenatals for about a month, and the nails are still a’growin’.
    Negative of pregnancy: My feet swelled and never went back down. None of my old shoes fit. And I have A LOT of old shoes.
    Positive of pregnancy: I now have an excuse to buy new shoes!

  36. Rose Apr 10 at 10:53 pm Reply Reply

    It took me a year to get fully back to my pre-pregnancy shape. Even then my stomach although flat was floppy. I did balance & pilates to try & get the tone back without luck. My daughter loves it though- apparently it makes a great cushion. I also have tiger stripes all over my breasts now, I am incredibly self conscious about being in a bikini in public even after I lost the weight, I just can’t do it. The aging thing I think has more to do with being tired, if I get lots of rest I look normal, when I don’t I look old.

  37. Lauren May 20 at 10:54 pm Reply Reply

    I’m 8 1/2 pp, my breast two weeks after breasting feeding were destroyed (so I thought) I started wearing sports bras everywhere, even during sex. And my boobs are better than ever, even before I got pregnant my boobs were sad and saggy, but now geez they are beautiful. Now my butt is huge, my butt was big before but now it’s Kim k size, my hips are bigger too, even tho I gave birth to a small baby (5 pounds 11 ounces) but I feel like the cellulite is gone down consiterably. But my belly button, oh my poor belly button, is completely ruined, so is my stomach, I’ve worked out consistently, I live in a two story house so the stairs seem to help everything but my stomach. I’m still 165 (pre pregnancy I was 128) I can’t seem to drop any weight at all. I have stretch marks every. I had them on my hips since 3rd grade. So I could totally deal with them if my stomach was perfect again. My fingers still have not gone down. Either has my face. Ew so I almost have lost hope. I got a bellybandit and let’s see if it helps. My feet have gone down, it’s a blessing since i own 20 plus pairs of shoes. Lets see what else… Oh my hair is still growing extremely fast I can’t dye my hair without it showing my roots within a day. My nails also grow as fast and I’m constantly cutting or filing them. My sex drive is the same, and I have a extremely high sex drive. Sex is better than ever. Despite what other woman might try to scare you about. My doctor had it better than ever. And the inside, after a couple weeks of kegals is tighter than before. Even if I don’t feel sexy all the time, it helps that not everything gets/ or stays ruined. I have hope that in maybe a year I can be back in my jeans. I would hope for it to happen sooner. But constidering how hard I’ve worked already to have no results sucks. But that doesn’t happen to everyone. It does in fact happen to every woman in my family. Some of them have never gotten any of the weight off. (Scary!!!)

    If you have any advice for me, I would appreciate it very much!!

  38. Valarie Feb 26 at 2:29 pm Reply Reply

    Well ladies I’m almost 2 yrs pp and I still sweat like crazy I will be standing in line at the market and just breakout sweating (gross).i agree with Lauren sports bras do help a lot ..

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