Before getting pregnant, I was in the best shape of my life. I had worked with a phenomenal personal trainer combining weight training, circuit workouts, and basic stunt choreography (ah, LA life, how I miss thee). I felt strong, confident, and actually liked looking at myself in the mirror and photographs. I had even worn a two-piece bathing suit for the first time in my adult life in public and went to a convention baring my midriff as a gender-bent Star-Lord. I never had the courage or self-confidence to ever do that previously. Body dysmorphia is a real C-word, but I had managed to muffle her out enough to enjoy and embrace the body I had worked so hard for. Then I got knocked up.
My first trimester is a blur for me, mostly because I spent 90% of it miserably bogged down with fatigue on the couch, usually attempting to nap through intense nausea that felt like I was experiencing the worst case of seasickness ever – and I’ve been deep sea fishing on choppy water before. I slept through most of the day because if I didn’t, I would likely murder the closest person in my vicinity if I didn’t fall over from the dizzy spells or dry heaving first. Then I noticed I was getting soft – startlingly so. My muscle definition started to evaporate before my very eyes and it was currently impossible for me to stop it from happening. I was feeling wholly inadequate compared to my other pregnant friends who were doing insane workouts. I kept telling myself, “just wait until the second trimester, then you can start working out again – you’ll feel so much better.”
That was a lie. My middle was so enormous that I couldn’t even tie my own shoes without feeling like I had run a marathon. Yoga was even frustrating. Child’s pose? HA! No amount of widening my legs would accommodate that belly. The only exercise I could muster the energy to do was brisk, waddling walks which winded me to exhaustion about a half mile in. I gave up attempting to work myself too hard because I wanted to do what was best and healthiest for me and the baby. Pushing myself to exhaustion or frustration just seemed ridiculous. I kept reminding myself that it was all temporary and I would eventually be able to do “normal” activities again, I just needed to be patient and kind to myself.
All that logic and reason went out the window about 5 weeks postpartum. I was impatient in my recovery. I was watching other moms I knew workout seemingly immediately after they had their babies and I felt like a lump whose only purpose was to be a walking food truck. I was frustrated that surgery for a postpartum hemorrhage had set me back an extra week or two in recovery. I felt like a giant, soft blob who had lost every ounce of myself in those first few weeks and just wanted a semblance of my old physical self. So I stupidly decided to disobey my doctor’s advice and my own inner warnings and pushed myself harder than I should have. Who the hell did I think I was trying to cram aggressive workouts into a day filled with taking care of a tiny infant who ate every 1.5 hours and woke up a minimum of every 2 hours? Heck, my stitches weren’t even healed yet. And here I was, trying to prove to the world I could be a hot mom. This stupidity cost me not only an emotional breakdown but also a physical one: I developed a stage 2 pelvic organ prolapse.
Great. My foolishness cost me another recovery setback and I really had no one to blame but myself. Why couldn’t I have been patient and accepting of my reality as I was when I was pregnant? Sure, I could blame societal pressures on women to look fantastic after having a baby, but ultimately it was me allowing my insecurities to win yet again. My body was and is still healing and will be for quite a while. It housed and grew a human life for 9 months, delivered her into this world through a hole the size of a DVD, and feeds her every few hours until she eats solid food exclusively; why would anyone expect my body to just “bounce back” in anything less than the time it took to grow her?
I told my pride to shove it and decided to focus on being healthy. That meant listening to my body and accepting I am not the same person I was almost a year ago. I began taking it easier and focusing on the things I COULD do: short walks with the stroller and gentle yoga practice specifically geared for postpartum women. I began tracking my calorie and nutrient intake again except this time it is to ensure I’m eating enough rather than limiting my diet. As tempting as it is to eat super lean and low carb so I maybe see faster results, it is not wise unless suggested by a professional to do so. Not only is my body recovering, but it’s also producing food on demand for my baby which consumes a minimum of 300 calories to 800 calories a day. If I workout on top of that, that’s more of a deficit and one I cannot afford if I want to remain healthy. Basically, I’m eating more right now than I ever have in my life (a bare-bones minimum of 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day) and I’m not going to guilt trip myself for doing so. I’ve also tried really hard to not weigh myself all the time. Do I still do it? Yes. Because I’m human and cannot help myself, but I remind myself that it’s an arbitrary number – how I feel, both emotionally and physically, is what actually matters.
My aim is to be an extremely good example for my daughter for her future habits and worldview. How can I be that if I don’t follow my own advice? So here I am, 19 weeks postpartum and beginning to increase my activity level as my energy and basic bandwidth allows. My goal is 3 circuit workouts and 2 – 3 yoga sessions a week, about 20 minutes each. If I miss a workout, that’s okay. If I can only get through a few minutes of one before I have to stop because the baby needs me, that’s okay too. Healthy body image for my daughter starts with me, so I have to accept the things I cannot change and focus on those things that I can: be as physically active as I’m able, eat well-balanced meals that are nutritionally packed, and be kind to myself verbally and with my actions. I hope she sees this and avoids the toxicity of body image in ways I and so many other women could not do growing up. As the saying goes, “be the change you want to see in the world.” I’m going to do my best.
What’s been working well for me:
- MyFitnessPal – I use this to track my nutrition and activity. This app even has a scanner option for quick food entries. I’ve used it for years and I absolutely love it.
- Jillian Micheal’s Hot Body, Healthy Mommy – LOVE this workout! It’s really tough, but also created specifically for postpartum so you can get in a good workout safely. Always consult your health care professional first before beginning any regimen, especially if you had any complications.
- Tara Lee’s Postnatal Yoga – this video is currently free streaming on Amazon Prime. It’s fantastic, gentle, and applies to all levels of yoga experience. It really helps my posture (which took a huge ding after having the baby) and helps strengthen my body and alleviates muscle tension I have from carrying, feeding, and stress.
Remember: every pregnancy and postpartum are different for each individual and each occurrence. BE KIND TO YOURSELF!