When I was younger, I used to pick apart my body. Too scrawny, too pale, too hairy, too imperfect in a variety of ways. Over time I was able to stop the barrage of attacks from my judgmental inner voice by catching myself in the act and swapping the thought for something I was grateful for. When looking in the mirror and noticing my “pooch” instead of six-pack abs I would thank my core for being strong. Putting on shorts and criticizing my pale or veiny legs, I would think of an activity that I love to do like hiking in nature and appreciate my legs instead of hating them. This practice was surprisingly difficult at first, but over time it became second nature. I began to love and respect my body and accept the less than perfect traits as part of the package.
That was before I had a baby.
As a pre- and postnatal personal trainer, I am aware of what a woman’s body looks like after pregnancy and the challenges she faces getting back in shape. In fact, I’ve written a book that includes a chapter on postpartum recovery and have offered many disheartened clients moral support — “do rehab exercises that include your baby,” “it took you nine months to gain the weight, don’t try to lose it overnight,” and “focus on self-care, not weight loss.”
But, knowing what a new mom looks like after having a baby or understanding the obstacles she’s facing, is not the same as feeling and experiencing it firsthand.
I want to apologize to my past clients for thinking that I grasped the depth of your experience. You were exhausted beyond what I knew was humanly possible. You were living in a body that did not feel like your own. Even if you were motivated to workout, you didn’t know where to start or if your body could even handle it. You wanted to eat better but knew you needed extra calories to maintain your milk supply, and most days barely remember to eat or drink at all because your only concern was if the baby has eaten enough.
I’m currently three months postpartum and have done little more than short walks around the neighborhood. My trainer-self would say that “something is better than nothing” and I should start small to develop the habit of exercise. My trainer-self would also have premade healthy snacks on hand instead of eating cereal and trail mix.
My trainer-self did not know what it was like to be a new mom.
I assumed that women who didn’t have enough time to eat, shower, exercise, cook, etc. must not be managing their time well. Don’t infants just sleep all day?!
Moms, I am truly sorry for my ignorance. I didn’t know. I get it now.
Although motherhood is an amazing journey, the sleep deprivation and preoccupation with caring for this new little human that has taken over my life has left little time or interest in taking care of my needs.
It is incredible how quickly after giving birth (maybe even a little before) I fell back into my old ways of looking in the mirror and immediately criticizing instead of appreciating. I’m once again having to practice changing my thoughts until they slowly, but surely become loving instead of critical.
The last ten pounds of pregnancy weight will not seem to budge, and on a small frame, it is enough to make none of my clothes fit. Breastfeeding and neighborhood walks are not enough. With winter weather just around the corner, I am dreading dusting off my pre-pregnancy jeans and confirming that they do not fit past my thighs. So, I’m delaying this as long as possible to avoid tormenting my psyche.
The idea of buying clothes in a bigger size hasn’t sounded very appealing, but putting on the pre-pregnancy spandex that accentuates my muffin top does not make me want to hit the gym. It makes me want to stay inside, hiding from the world and eating chocolate.
Recently some friends got me a gift card to Fabletics for my birthday. That was enough motivation to browse outfits online. Surprisingly, reading reviews about how great the women felt in their new clothes got me a little more excited about the idea of an interim wardrobe. Getting a package of new clothes for my bigger, softer, and albeit very accomplished body, made me want to get out of the house and get my groove back.
It is amazing how doing something so small for myself helped boost my confidence and self-esteem. Putting on my new clothes instead of the oversized, unflattering t-shirts that I’ve been wearing the past several months makes me stand a little taller and want to move my body.
The time for hibernating in pajama pants is over. I may not look how I did a year ago, but I can feel better in my skin and take steps each day to get stronger. This week I went for a long walk (even added in a short jog!), made a couple of quick trips to the gym for some light weights, and felt more confident going out to the store and grabbing lunch with a friend. I still have a long way to go before I reach my fitness goals, but at least I now feel like I’m headed in the right direction.
As I tell my clients, it took nine months to get here, be patient when trying to get back. As it turns out, that it is easier said than done.