It took me a full year to get back to some resemblance of my pre-pregnancy size with exercising about three times a week and not following a diet post partum.
I gained 43 pounds during my pregnancy. I exercised the whole time, but I certainly was not the marathon running, high speed type of pregnant person.
I was huge, and I loved when people commented on it because I too found it impressive. And I kind of stayed huge after the baby came.
After seeing so many women talking about snapping back, celebrities and real girls alike, I felt my story was important to add to the conversation. As a person who began my journey to motherhood in excellent shape and continued to take care of my body, I want women to know that not even the best of us have a guarantee to being back in the game in a short amount of time.
As I mentioned before, I was in really good shape prior to pregnancy. I both looked good and was athletic. My self-image was high in regards to my physique.
As a result, letting go of my body was a difficult phase of pregnancy. Because an old college teammate, Shemeika, still had a six-pack at 12 weeks, I thought I should. I was working hard on my abs…while pregnant. I saw those pictures of Massy Arias looking extremely fit at six months and wanted to believe I could to.
In retrospect, it was so stupid for me to try to model my pregnancy after someone else’s. Especially since women don’t know what kind of babies they are carrying. Few people have larger babies than I did. These women definitely did not.
I couldn’t maintain my usual workload and intensity at the gym in the first trimester. I was exhausted all the time because I couldn’t recover from my workouts. I had to back off, way off. Like automatically decrease the intensity by 40%.
Sometime around 12 weeks I let go of who I was before and accepted that I had to give up that particular idea of myself as a trade off to becoming a mother.
I continued to exercise throughout my pregnancy and did not focus on my appearance or my performance. I just wanted to stay healthy for an efficient delivery.
Sometimes I made it to the gym four times a week, sometimes it was one, and sometimes I just walked on the treadmill for twenty minutes and my feet hurt.
I went to Crossfit when I could (since I would have to get up at 5:00 am to go), but I was no one’s hero when it came to working out. Despite that, I still found myself in better shape than several others when I did make it.
In the end, I had an incredibly efficient labor, five hours start to finish. How much did my fitness have to do with it?
I had thought mentally labor would be like a long Crossfit WOD, a chipper. It definitely wasn’t.
By my son’s first birthday in February, I had just begun to feel and look like my old self. My waist was existent. My face was no longer full. And I found myself killing it in the gym and not skipping exercises because of my diastasis recti.
It was pretty clear after delivery that my belly wasn’t just going to go back. It was stretched out like a the neck of a t-shirt. Time would have to rebuild the fibers.
I accepted this and only once did I get ahead of myself and start to cry about it because my husband was looking good and I was just a bunch of tissue in skin.
Most of my life I considered myself intuitive about my diet. By that I mean I usually ate what I wanted and my appetite fluctuated based on need, with the addition of a bunch of candy.
I trace the loss of freedom in my diet back to when I trained for a Figure competition in 2012. This was the first time I had dieted…and the first time I felt like my body wasn’t good enough. Since then, I have had to put more effort into watching my diet, no doubt thanks to damaging my metabolism in that process.
Despite that, I knew that I was going to have to give myself a break on my diet postpartum. I initially tried to diet one way or another, but ultimately realized giving myself grace with my diet and exercise was a part of my recovery.
Before I was a mom, my priorities were work, gym, husband, home. Didn’t really have hobbies or side projects like I do now. It was easy to put in the work to nearly get the body I wanted.
As a mom, my priorities were baby, work, house, husband, blog, exercise. Four months post partum I had decided I would try the blog thing and had to prioritize getting my blog where it needed to be. At this point, something had to go, and it was exercise.
Once I decided to quit my job (six months post), my priorities became baby, blog/struggle, home, exercise, husband, except I didn’t really care about losing weight or becoming more fit.
I was cluelessly trying to start a business and enrolled in a nonsense Administrative Assistant program through MyCAA. (It was nonsense because it was so basic, and I have worked in an office before.) Most of the time I was riddled with anxiety. I didn’t care about the gym, but thinking about doing it and trying to do it took a lot of my energy because I felt like it was supposed to be a priority.
Sometimes the best I could do for myself was let myself off the hook about going to the gym. And possibly stop by Cold Stone Creamery instead.
When I would start to think about my body and still not being in great shape six, seven, eight months post partum, I would remember that if being in shape had been a priority, I would be in shape. But it wasn’t so I’m not.
The problem with my diet was that I was eating huge portions and wanted to eat sweets all the time. I love sweets, by the way. It kind of helped when I stopped buying them with the groceries or bought low fat options like Yasso “ice cream.”
I was eventually able to cut my portions since I was out-eating my husband. Yeah, I was breastfeeding and exercising, but I didn’t need to completely replace those calories lost
About eight months post, I got connected with a health coach offered through Military OneSource. I wanted help with my diet.
Within the first call I realized that I couldn’t address my diet until I addressed my business stress. I couldn’t address my business stress until I could control my time. I couldn’t control my time until I got my child’s sleep schedule down. I couldn’t get my child’s sleeping down until I figured out what it was supposed to be…
Once again, I had more important, more stressing stressors than diet and exercise. It wasn’t until that conversation that I really saw what priorities ranked higher than diet.
I had been trying to give my diet more importance than it actually had in my life. Until I got the other priorities straight, I would continue to fail at fixing my diet.
Wouldn’t you know that once I got my son sleeping in his own bed, developed a morning routine, and defined a direction for my business, my diet magically improved itself?
I couldn’t prioritize something that wasn’t a priority.
I got back into the gym very cautiously about three weeks after delivery. I quickly realized my injuries were real and recovering from birth was real.
I want to stop and mention that I was still having pain from the delivery five months post, and I still had pelvic pain after running until about eight months.
When I was fairly good to go, my problem was having the opportunity to go.
Before getting pregnant I was working out six or seven days a week yet I had given very little thought to how I would exercise with a baby. And there appeared to be no way.
My husband had to be at work at 6 a.m. When he got off work around 4 p.m, he would go to the gym. I’m not going to the gym at 6 p.m. And after waking up multiple times a night to nurse, which I still do 13 months post, I wasn’t going to the gym at 4:30 a.m.
So I wasn’t going to the gym. My other option was to take my son with me to Crossfit, but I didn’t want to go through all that while I was still on maternity leave (ten weeks).
One of the times I did make it to the gym on Post, one of my friends told me I needed to be working out at home if I couldn’t make the gym. And that peer influence is exactly why I prefer going to go to the gym,
I did try working out at home a few times though, but I still had a problem of not knowing if my child would ruin it. And the other problem was that I hate working out at home.
Trying to get out of the house I had an experience I’m sure other moms have: if I wasn’t able to fall back to sleep after nursing, I would decide I should get up to go to the gym. But, while I getting ready, I would realize I didn’t have enough time to do a decent workout before it would be time for the baby to eat again…and then scrap the idea of working out.
Or I would try to let my husband sleep in on the weekends and be too tired to get up after my 5:30 alarm. So once again I would run out of time before the baby would be waking up. Since my husband was up early everyday during the week, it didn’t seem fair to make him get up at 7:30 to take care of the baby.
Once I quit my job, I accepted I had to go to Crossfit because they had childcare. Since I had “work” to do figuring out my business, and my pixie haircut was a fail, I didn’t want to leave my house. So going was a source of stress.
I wasn’t consistent in going also because I didn’t want to go and let anything be a reason not to go. Although, I think many of us would stay home if an unpredictable baby fell asleep right before leaving the house.
It wasn’t until ten months post that I decided I should just plan to go the amount of days that wouldn’t stress me out– Monday, Wednesday, Friday– and alleviated the stress of having to go AND the guilt of not being consistent.
I finally realized I needed to have my husband support me by not sleeping as late as he wanted on the weekends. Yeah, I felt badly that he was at work at 6:00 everyday, and 4:30 during the last month of Army duty, but I couldn’t keep putting my needs behind his. We had to compromise.
When my son turned one, I finally felt like my old self. I finally felt like I could work on getting stronger and more fit as opposed to just getting back to where I was.
First of all, I was huge when I was pregnant. I gave birth to a ten pound baby with no epidural, (for the 45th time). So it seemed reasonable that my belly would look like a deflated basketball after birth.
And for the next ten months.
Having diastasis recti meant my abdominal muscles were separated vertically, which was going to make it hard to recover the flat stomach I have always had.
I was fortunate to be able to go to physical therapy from three to 11 months. Unfortunately, getting better wasn’t a priority so I didn’t do my part to recover faster. I don’t know if this has an impact on my condition today, but much like my diet and exercise, I couldn’t focus on improving until I had energy to focus on improving.
My abdomen is the most significant difference in old me and new me. In second place is my boobs.
I have always been flat-chested and now I have a little somethin-somethin. However, I am pretty confident that once I stop nursing, my breasts will look like empty grocery bags.
Since I’m vain, I’m not sure if I’ll be okay with that, but I have watched enough “Botched” not to trust breast implants. I guess I’ll have to be okay with it.
I was so obsessed with not having stretch marks only to find after delivery I had dozens. I couldn’t care less. Which is the truest surprise of them all.
The rest of my body is recoverable with building back muscle and losing some fat. Now that the roles have changed with my husband being out of the Army, I have no doubt I will be able to do the rest of the work to attaining the body in which I feel best.
New Mom, New Me
I am sharing the story of my body because I want women to know that I used to be in excellent shape and it still took me a full year to “snap” back, which isn’t much of a snap if you ask me.
I’m not ashamed of that. I don’t feel inferior to any other woman for not recovering my body quickly, and still allowing myself to eat king-sized bags of M&Ms when I was not at my target weight. This is my own journey. I am taking care of myself in the many aspects care is needed, being “skinny” has not been one of them.
I also want to point out that things, my well-being, didn’t begin to change until my period came back at eight months. This is also when I decided to go to marriage counseling.
I would say a full month after that I started to see the anxiety really subside and was then able to focus on my priorities. I felt “stable” about six weeks after my period came back, ten months post.
Only in retrospect did I consider what impact hormones was having on how I was feeling or coping. I thought all my stress was attributable to being an entrepreneur.
When things finally fell into place, I stopped craving junk food all the time and started trying to go to the gym more. I made time to put on makeup. I didn’t have to force myself to be that person.
There is no #goals beyond being proud of what I want to be proud of. And free of shame and guilt.
I want to disrupt the expectation or idolatry of making it look like we never had a baby. I had a baby. I’m a different person now. It’s okay to look like one.
Getting back to a sense of self is a process in several ways, and it will look different for each woman. Don’t be a victim of comparison. And don’t undervalue what it means to have created a life. We are awesome.