I remember the first time I saw my postpartum body like it was yesterday because it was a pivotal moment in our relationship (yes, my body and I have a relationship). Now, this relationship was always on-again, off-again and never really that great. It was especially crappy in my late teens and sadly all throughout my twenties when I would subject my body to far too much exercise and far too little food.
When my husband and I decided to have a baby my first thoughts revolved around how my body was going to change, how hard it was going to be to recover, and the wreckage a baby was going to make of my fairly firm abdominals. I was worried the relationship would never recover.
And then I got pregnant... and then I got sick... and I stayed sick well into the fifth month. On days where the nausea was mild, I would work out because the pasta and bean and cheese burritos that seemed to ease the sickness were also helping me to gain weight at a faster rate than I cared for. Although I was kinder to my body than I had been in years I still pushed too hard out of utter fear.
Back to the moment I had dreaded for so long- it was the day after we brought Ethan home. I was exhausted, sore and really, really needed a shower. But, in order to get that shower I had to face the full length mirror that hung on the back of the bathroom door. I undressed facing away from the mirror and took a deep breath. I remember turning around- cocking my head to the side and saying, "hu." Surprisingly, I wasn't upset. Shit seemed out of place and I had never seen my body look like that before but I was actually really impressed. That body had allowed me to carry a 9lb baby and only push for a matter of minutes. It allowed me nurse him, carry him and still take care of myself. It was the first time I had really honored my body for its strengths instead of worrying about how big it was or how it looked in a mirror.
For the first time in 15-ish years, I actually allowed myself to relax and just be. And, just like the relationship with my new son, the admiration for my body grew stronger and I really started to fall in love. I also felt calm and somewhat at peace with where I was.
When I felt good enough to start exercising I charged full steam ahead but something had changed and like with any good relationship I actually listened. My body was telling me to slow my roll. Exercise didn't feel the same and I realized that I might be doing something wrong, possibly even damaging. I read all I could and reached out to a handful of postpartum specialists and I recognized that the advice I was seeing throughout social media for prenatal and postpartum mamas was somewhat wretched. The focus of 'losing the baby weight' and 'getting my pre-baby body back' was the WRONG message.
For me, it was enough of a struggle to figure out if showering, doing dishes, napping, or working out was the priority on any one day. I didn't need to think about getting everything back to where it once was. I realized then that I wanted to help other women, other mamas create the relationship with their bodies that I had with mine- the best relationship I've ever had.
I realized that as a fitness professional we should be encouraging women to be kind to their postpartum bodies; allowing them to take time to nurture their relationships, telling them to listen closer and trust in the recovery process. Our message should be about helping women rebuild their strength so they can continue to lift and carry their babies and, we should be focusing on movement not so that they can lose weight but, so they can have energy to enjoy the most fleeting moments of their lives.
It is my mission to help each of the mamas I come in contact with to become strong, full of life and to have an amazing relationship with their body. If you're reading this and you need help but don't know where to start, reach out! I'd love to help.