Body After Baby: Postnatal Care
Where do I start?
In the first two days following birth, my body was exhausted. It hurt to roll over. Sleep deprivation was in full force. My body felt foreign. I had a constant feeling of vulnerability.
The first month of motherhood is overwhelming. It’s full of love, frustration, joy, fear, and awe. Fitness is not the focus, survival is, lol. But really, though — I wanted to enjoy the newness with my little one. I wanted to give time for my body to physically heal. I wanted to make enough milk. I wanted to sleep. I wanted to allow this major life change to take shape. And with all of that, my memory of the first month is still so much of a blur.
Six weeks after my baby arrived, I got the “all clear” to exercise from my doctor. Thankfully, the painful SI joint issue I battled in my third trimester was mostly resolved by this time. I was ready to begin to train again. My goals were losing weight, restrengthing weakened muscles, and regaining my cardiovascular endurance.
To begin, I did some assessments.
As weight loss was a goal, I weighed myself and took some measurements to have some starting numbers. Not the most fun thing… I did not love those numbers either...
Then I did a self check for, and found, a small diastasis (not quite two-fingers width.) This is a common abdominal separation that can happen because of pregnancy. Even while knowing how common it is, and how minor my diastasis was, I still had feelings of frustration and disappointment at the discovery.
I reminded myself that the important thing was that I made a person! The baby weight would come off in time, and my strength would return. I needed to allow space for this process. Slow and steady wins the race, right?
I spent the next six weeks with a corrective exercise focus, working out mostly at home with my baby.
It was about 20 minutes a day, three or four days a week. In order to close the diastasis, regain optimal pelvic floor function, and regain proper postural positioning, pelvic floor, deep abdominals, glutes, alignment, and balance were what I addressed first.
For cardio, I walked in the park with short jog bursts a few times a week. I got winded quickly, and I felt a constant need to pee! I recruited my husband to come along with the baby sometimes — we took turns jogging away from, and then back to the stroller. Making it a game helped with the feelings of frustration and vulnerability I was experiencing, and not losing precious family time for the sake of exercise made it easier to motivate.
At the end of six weeks, I did a check on weight and measurements. I DID NOT LOSE A POUND IN THOSE SIX WEEKS… That bothered me more than I wanted it to. I knew in my head that it shouldn’t matter. Some women drop weight from breastfeeding, some hold onto it. I held onto it. I felt guilty for caring about it, but I did. My measurements budged a little bit. I took that as a sign that something was going right, and pressed on.
Thankfully, as my body started to feel stronger, my feelings of frustration weakened. When I could push longer in a jog spurt, or lift a heavier weight, or feel muscle activation in my abs more completely, I felt more like me again. I felt more capable, more energized, more stable. All of these things helped me forget about the scale for a bit. I knew I was progressing, and that I had to be patient with the external desires.
I weighed myself and took measurements after six more weeks. More progress!
At 18 weeks postpartum, I was fitting into some of my old clothes, my diastasis was closed, and I was sleeping more at night. I was back at work, and feeling pretty good — I did a 10K with Elizabeth Pongo that month, too! I ran really slowly, but I finished, and it felt really good to accomplish.
Now almost 12 months postpartum, we are in a crazy new time. I didn’t think I would be celebrating my son’s 1st birthday in self quarantine, but that’s what it looks like we will be doing. Obviously, my daily schedule and routine have been flipped upside down. Anxiety is higher, sleep is trickier.
So — new goals! I want to maintain the strength and conditioning that I have worked for, I want to continue to eat nutritious foods, and I want to sleep better. So far, I am doing ok with these goals. I have a buddy workout scheduled for once a week with a friend. I have my husband workout with me when I can wrangle him. I do a yoga break in my bedroom when I can. Occasionally I will jog outside with a mask on (if you go on a rainy day, hardly anyone is outside!) I am drinking more wine and eating more cookies, but — moderation!
Final thoughts: This time is crazy. I’m doing my best. I’m a work in progress. I’m stressed out. I’m being gentle with myself (I hope you are, too.) I love being a Mom, and I am so thankful.