When I found out I was pregnant, the first thing I did was go into shock. The second thing I did was start crying unlimited tears of happiness. Then I went out for a mug-making session, followed by Mexican food with two of my girlfriends. It was awesome.
What I did not do is think about my post-pregnancy body. I didn’t think about it because I knew that I’d be fine, and truthfully it did not really matter to me at the time. I was going to workout at least three times a week during my pregnancy, and then once my baby was born and I had the go-ahead from my obstetrician, I would go right back to working out a few times a week. Hell, I figured I could pump out six workouts a week seeing as I would be on maternity leave and have lots of spare time. Hahaha. Silly me.
I started out strong. For the first month of being pregnant, I went to the gym about three times a week. I would do an adequate amount of cardio followed by some weights to make sure I kept my lean muscle. I never overworked myself. I had done my fair share of research on safe exercising. I was also eating well. My diet was comprised of vegetables, fruits, healthy grains, lean meats, and nutritious snacks. I felt strong, excited, confident, and I really did have a “glow”. It may not have been a visible glow, but I felt like I was glowing.
Enter the explosive bomb that was months two and three. Everyone knows the term “morning sickness”. Well, mine was “all-day sickness”. I only vomited one time throughout my entire pregnancy, but I felt like I could have all day, every day during those two months. The thought of meat made me feel like puking. Oddly enough, the thought of salad or vegetables was worse! All I wanted was toast, pasta, and McMuffins. What kind of child was I growing? What’s worse is that my energy levels plummeted. I am not talking about coming home from work and going to sleep early after a long day. There were days where I wasn’t sure if I would be able to drive home, and I actually contemplated taking a taxi. I had never felt anything like it. For a person who was basically always active and busy, I felt like a 90-year-old sloth.
During my second trimester, things got better. My energy returned, as did my appetite. I was able to eat healthier foods again (although McMuffins never left my diet). I never missed work, and I never missed outings with my friends. It was a scorching hot summer so I spent as much time as I could in the shade. When the days were a bit more temperate, I went to some festivals in the city. Needless to say, I was walking quite a bit, but I wasn’t really working out.
Then the third trimester happened. I felt like a beached whale. My entire body was sore and all my extremities were swollen. I was scared to do a squat in case I peed my pants or busted my knees. There were many exercises I couldn’t do because I was too big. I did manage to do some upper arm workouts which were better than nothing, and I continued to walk as much as I could. That is really all a person can hope for when they are 30 pounds heavier than usual.
Fast-forward to when my baby was born. I was too sleep-deprived to be active for the first few weeks, and fitness was the last thing on my mind. My body was trying to recover from the war that it endured. As we started sleeping a bit more I slowly started reincorporating exercise into my life. Of course, I had also been given a thumbs up by my doctor. One morning I was feeling particularly good. My baby had slept a couple 4-hour stretches and I was awake before she was. This was the day I was going to get my pre-baby body back. I put on my sports bra, laced up my shoes, and went down into the basement. My goal was to complete one of my 28-minute workouts. I did them without any issues before I was pregnant, so I wouldn’t have any trouble now, right? Wrong. I tried to do one pushup and I thought my pelvis was going to bust through my skin. Okay, “I won’t do pushups for a bit”, I thought. I moved on to do squats. I got through about 5 squats (I used to do 50 at a time), and the sensation that I was going to pee on the floor was a little too strong for my liking. In conclusion, I couldn’t safely do 50% of the exercises and I was very weak. It wasn’t anything like I thought it would be. I took off my shoes and went upstairs completely discouraged.
Lucky for me, I met some pretty amazing moms in a postpartum support group that I joined (more on that here). Some of them discussed how they had a full pelvic exam by a physiotherapist to see what they needed to work on. I figured it wouldn’t hurt so I booked an appointment. The physiotherapist came to my house and did her assessment in my living room. It was awesome! She was able to tell me what changes had taken place in which muscles since pregnancy. My abdominal region was “not bad” but would still need modifications (bye bye crunches and sit-ups). My pelvic floor was definitely weaker, hence the urge to pee when squatting, but it would be reversible with the proper exercises. She reassured me that everything was completely normal, but I would have to modify many of my go-to moves. She even told me I could start a running program again, which I was excited about; I used to run lots. The best advice she gave me though is that my body will never be the same. I never thought of it that way. I assumed I would eventually return to normal. How could I return to normal though after what my body had just been through? My organs literally shifted all over the place. I was carrying a human being that was placing all of her weight in one area. Of course, my abs were going to stretch out and create a bit of a diastasis. Of course, my pelvic floor would be weaker. Of course, my knees would hurt. I really don’t know why I expected any different. I guess I was just naive and thought I was Super Woman.
Well, listen up mamas. We are Super Women! I want you to think about what you just did. You created life. It is a pretty amazing superpower if you ask me. We cannot expect to come out of it unscathed. There will be physical, emotional, and mental scarring. Rather than worrying about what we are unable to do post-pregnancy, we should focus on all the new strengths we have gained. I can balance a baby on my hip and vacuum at the same time. I can be up every few hours in the middle of the night and wake up the next morning bright, cheery, and in complete awe of my child (even if she was totally mean by stealing my sleep). I can keep my house clean, cook meals, feed my baby, go out for coffee, balance the books, pay the bills, and keep a smile on my face. I can even workout, which I have been doing regularly! It just looks a little different now. I do it because it’s healthy, it increases my energy, and it is my “me time”, not because I need a six-pack. Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to do a crunch. There is more to life than abs. Cheers!