Several years ago a co-worker told me she didn't think she wanted to have kids because of what pregnancy would do to her body. Recently another friend said she was inspired by my ability to eat healthy and exercise, and essentially get back to being "pre baby Brenna" all with a newborn! Well....here's the thing, I'm not "pre baby Brenna" and I never will be. This friend said I gave her hope that she will be able to maintain her healthy lifestyle and body someday after she has kids. This didn't sit well with me. I've seen things on the web about this postpartum 'get your body back' BS, as well as women struggling with accepting their changing body during pregnancy. I just didn't know I would have to tackle it myself. I sent her the kindest e-mail response I could with a few of my thoughts regarding this topic; and I want to share some of what I have learned the past 10 months with all you.
1. Whenever you are ready to have a baby just know your body will never be the same.
I have a scar from my c-section, and up until about 7month postpartum it still felt weird and a little numb. No one will see it when I'm in a swimming suit, but if they could, I don't care. I worked my butt off for that scar.
2. Yes I lost the "baby weight" within the first month, but my tummy doesn't look like it used to. How could it? That picture is me at 40 weeks. The skin is still kinda loose, and my belly button is different. I didn't lose the line down the middle of my abdomen called a linea nigra until about 8mo pp. The only pants that currently fit are leggings and my workout shorts. Everything else is loose because I lost a lot of muscle mass in my booty and legs from not working out like I used to. It's super frustrating because it limits what outfits I can wear. This is not the problem most women complain of when it comes to their postpartum body. I haven't told many people this because I'm afraid they will judge me, and just give me a dirty look. About 3-4 months ago I finally get the courage to purchase a YMCA membership where I get 2hr of "free" child care so I can workout more consistently and hopefully rebuild some muscle.
Why haven't I bought new pants? I hated clothes shopping before baby, so now it's even less fun with the pressure of trying to fit it in between naps, feedings, snow storms, and now wanting to be outside in the sunshine. So I'm sticking with a couple of new stretchy skirts and gym shorts and a pair of yoga pants for the summer.
3. Sleepless nights = sugar cravings. I thought I was done with the midnight eating, but it still hit at times when I was breast feeding. My "will power" to say no to sugary treats is much less than it used to be. However, after munching on 5-7 chocolate covered pretzels at church several months ago and then testing my blood glucose and seeing it at 155; I'm slightly more inclined to pass these treats up. Unless I deem it 100% worth it (brownies are typically worth it). Ryan and I have made it a priority to continue eating as much real food as possible, but there are weeks when the Byerlys taco bar and Thai take-out make more appearances than hoped for. I use more pre-cut and frozen veggies in our meals, and 'recipes' need to be 3 steps or less. There's a lot of instant pot shredded chicken in our lives at the moment.
This is just to say, that no matter what your diet and exercise is before and after baby, your body will be different. Not better, not worse, just different. There's a good chance it may not look how you want it to. Get rid of the expectations to 'get your body back.' You don't have the body you did when you were 16, 20, or 30, why would you have the same one after a baby. The old you has died; you are reborn a mom.
A co-worker asked me recently, "What are you doing for yourself?" That's a big loaded question for a new mom. But here it is.
I finally grabbed my kettle bell and got back into the swing of things. I used to love going to my kettle bell class several years ago, until my instructor left for a different position. Since then, I've been lifting and swinging on my own at our local Snap Fitness. Now, as a mom, I wanted to get a membership to a gym with child care (LA Fitness), but they will not feed Fredrik if he gets hungry, they won't change a diaper, and if he fusses for more than 5 minutes, they will come get me. Not sure I'd ever get a workout in at that rate...
Instead, I've started following these workouts in the morning from Noelle Tar at Coconuts & Kettlebells. Either before Fredrik wakes up (after coffee of course), or after he is up and fed, I grab my bell and pray Samoa our cat doesn't walk in-front of me. I figure Fredrik will learn to count to 10 before any other babies with all the rep counting. My bell isn't very heavy; only 15#, but it's getting me moving in a way I haven't for at least 4 months. I tried to do a few things when I was 2 months postpartum, but found that many activities still aggravated my C-section, and just didn't feel good. I also didn't have the energy since November was a terrible month of sleep. So I stuck with walking.
My goal is 3 x/week, but I'm not holding myself to any strict schedule or standard. I know there is the possible 4mo sleep regression and teething in our future, but when I'm mostly rested and feeling good I plan to swing my bell and get a little sweaty. Wondering when I shower? I was too for a while... Since Fredrik is still so young he takes fairly predictable naps; and his first one lasts about 45-60 minutes, which is just enough time for me to shower and dry my hair. TADA! clean mom. I can honestly say that making these two activities (exercise & showering) back into my schedule has made me a better mom. I feel more patient and sane knowing I did something for me.
Even if you aren't a new mom, what are you doing for yourself that makes you feel good physically and mentally.
My belly is giant, my ribs hurt, my ankles are swollen...But I'm still exercising. Some days I feel great and do things like back squats. Even if they are much much lighter than I used to. Then there are days like yesterday when all I could muster was a medium paced walk on the treadmill. As I later told Ryan, 'it feels like all the energy and strength has been pulled from my legs and arms and shuttled to my belly. GUESS WHAT?! IT HAS!!!
As someone who truly enjoys being active and working out, it's very hard to accept that my body is changing and that I am not capable of doing all the things I want to. It's frustrating to barely be able to put on shoes, roll over in bed, bend down to feed our cat, reach the bathroom faucet to spit and rinse after brushing my teeth. However, I know that in the next 24 hours to 2 weeks, our lives will be forever changed, and I'll be frustrated and enchanted by a whole host of new things. Change is good, sometimes it's just uncomfortable.
When it comes to exercising in your 3rd trimester, just do what feels good.
I'm a dietitian with a passion for good nutrition, bold flavors, playing in the dirt, and being with my family.