I recently made a post on Instagram that received a lot of traction. The topic was about mom bods. I asked the question: What are your thoughts around the pressures momma’s feel with losing weight after baby? And the answers I got made me both hopeful and sad. Sad because it was evident to me that many women feel they are failing in this area of life. There were many other women who felt hopeful and content, but I could sense the pressures they once must have felt after having their child/children to lose the weight and “bounce back”. It was evident to me that this was a conversation that needed to continue…that positive body image post-partum wasn’t something only I was occasionally battling as a mom…but that many other women were having a hard time with finding that level of comfort within their new skin.
My hope is that this blog post sheds light on the way that mothers view their amazing bodies and souls during and after pregnancy. I want to highlight that our bodies are a gift from God and made to do this miraculous thing called “pro-create.” Did you read that? The creation of humans!! We, women…we are blessed with this profound gift of bringing life into this world. We were given wombs to create little living, breathing, beings! God first breathed life into us…so that we could create more life. The thought behind it is one that makes me feel so honored to be a part of this club. This tribe of women in the world who are able to give this great gift.
I don’t want this blog post to come across as whiny or as if I’m only complaining. Even though… I am. My goal is to share the realities of what pregnancy was like for me and how much our bodies (mine especially) changes during pregnancy. I want to highlight the sacrificial love that women physically, mentally and emotionally, give when it comes to carrying and birthing a baby. I also understand the amazing and wondrous blessing that comes with pregnancy and motherhood – and for those who long for that feeling, who beg God for that positive pregnancy test, who struggle through IVF or other means of becoming pregnant – you are not forgotten. And I don’t write this without thought of you.
There once was a point after the miscarriage of our first baby where I knew deep in my soul that I’d give ANYTHING to be a mother…to feel the flutters of a baby in my belly, to share in the joys of growing a human. I remember praying so hard for Him to bless us again with another baby. And he did, soon after the loss of our first. Once we found out we were pregnant again, I didn’t take a single moment for granted, but I definitely felt like shit during most of my pregnancy. And that was my reality. Pregnancy was a blessing – but it felt like hell.
It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve had Rowan. You can read more about his birth story by clicking here. I definitely didn’t have the “oh I love pregnancy” feel… EVER. I gained weight rapidly and could have eaten salads every day and still would have topped out close to my husband’s Dusty’s professional hockey-playing weight. I gained close to 65 lbs by the end of my pregnancy. It seemed as though my body simply wanted to eat comfort foods – which came in the form of carbohydrates. Anything else made me gag and would give me indigestion – I fought constant nausea and heartburn throughout most of my pregnancy. Many times I ate just to keep myself from feeling weak, eating was no longer for enjoyment, eating felt like a chore that was just adding to my weight gain. The only thing I wanted was bread, crackers, and pasta – and more of it.
I’ll never forget the time when I reached out to a local mom Facebook group about ways to “feel better” during pregnancy. I don’t know that I really wanted advice – which is one thing I’ve learned the hard way when it comes to public Facebook groups, so here’s some unsolicited advice – don’t ask for public advice if you don’t like being offended or if your feelings get hurt easily – which is hard when you’re pregnant, everything feels personal when you’re pregnant and hormones are flying. And yet, I asked the Facebook group, “How do you all fight all day nausea?” I got a slew of advice most of it was positive and good but some of it was terrible and hurtful. Someone told me my gut health was probably off – wtf. Gut health? I know it’s a thing – but when you’re pregnant and constantly nauseated…you want to send a big F-you back to anyone that tells you that you need to work on “gut health.” You’re growing a human and feel sick all of the time. Eating sauerkraut and bone broth for every meal didn’t exactly make my taste buds water and jump with excitement. I ate what sounded and looked good and due to my 24/7 nausea, working out didn’t happen. I’d take walks with Dusty and the dogs, but that was the extent of my working out. My body just didn’t accept physical strain the same way it once did.
Prior to pregnancy, I worked out 3-4 days per week doing a circuit training class that consisted of a treadmill, stationary bike, and strength work using your body weight. The summer prior to having Rowan was probably one of the most “in-shape” periods of my adult life. I felt great and my jeans definitely fit the best they ever had. By February of the following year, after finding out I was pregnant in January, most of it had gone out the window. That’s the hard part about working out and being “in-shape” it only takes a week of ignoring your routine for months dedicated hard work to become undone. My number one goal was to focus on keeping myself from getting sick, dizzy, and I napped A LOT – this was what I needed to make it through. Initially, I envisioned myself being that mom you see on those Instagram videos with a big beautiful belly doing squats with a kettle ball, still rocking defined arms and thighs. Or walking on the beach in a super cute bikini and a baby bump hanging out for the world to see. Nope. Not me. Not even close. A handful of women I know mention that working out made their nausea go away, my response was an eye roll. I was envious of these women. For me…working out was a one-way ticket to nausea-ville and I’d be swallowing bile back down. It just wasn’t for me during this season of my life, and it was hard to accept as the pounds kept adding up and the number on the scale at the OB office kept increasing.
During the first trimester, my weight gain was mostly belly. It was cute at that time, I had to keep my pants unbuttoned and use a hair tie to keep them up. I’d laugh at this and have fun watching my belly grow. By the second trimester, it was time for maternity pants, jeans, and shirts. During the second trimester, I felt pregnant and looked pregnant and had longer periods of time where I felt “good”. It was maybe the most enjoyable time out of my entire pregnancy, but even then it wasn’t great. Then came the third trimester, that’s when it all continued to spiral downhill. That was when I got stretch marks and the weight wasn’t just in my belly it was now in every ounce of me – including my toes and fingers. I spent most of the summer swollen and puffy. The best part – I had to stand in a wedding at 37 weeks pregnant and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. While at the reception a drunken groomsman decided to open his big, slurred speech mouth and said something to the effect of… “What happened to you? I remember two summers ago seeing you at your camp and you looked hot, now…you’re huge.” Yep. That happened. And in front of a group of my guy friends. Long story short, I looked him in the eyes and said “I’m 37 weeks pregnant. What’s your excuse?” This guy was no chiseled specimen, let me tell you, and if I wasn’t pregnant and worried about my water breaking all over the reception hall floor I’d probably have jumped him and clubbed him in the teeth with my fist. I’m not a proponent of violence, but this situation would have called for an exception to the rule.
About a week or so after having Rowan, I was sitting on my computer, staring at the screen through blurry vision mostly from exhaustion and lack of sleep – feeling overwhelmed with my new role as a mother of a newborn. I was in need of all of the support I could muster up from friends and family…when out of nowhere Facebook messenger made a “ping” noise and I saw I had a new message waiting in my inbox. The first sentence said “Congrats momma! So excited for you and your new little one!”…it continued…”Your new baby is beautiful! How are you doing? I wanted to reach out to check in now that you’ve had your baby. I’m sure you’re looking to get your body back!? What are your goals? Let me know when you can meet to talk and chat about some of my challenge groups and nutrition programs! Look forward to hearing back from you soon momma!”
Mmmmm yep. If you are in shock as much as I was after reading that…then cheers, and let me pour us a strong shot of tequila because (I don’t even like tequila)…but damn…who says or asks a new mother that? I am in total support of women who find means to work from home or make extra money or income doing health and nutrition programs. I have many friends who do it – but most if not all of my friends who do this sort of work know…just don’t…just don’t reach out to a new mother…or any woman for that matter and use the words this “coach” used to try and make a sale. It’s just inconsiderate and plain ole awful. I never responded and to this day I’m not sure if she realizes how out of line it was.
Over the last year or so I’ve slowly gotten back into working out, very inconsistently… but never-the-less, it’s something! I’m a firm believer that physical health and mental health are interconnected in some ways. We need to get into the right mental space in order to accomplish our goals physically. Getting into that mental space is a lot harder when you’re a mother and it’s filled with to-dos and crying babies. Survival mode as a mother is a real thing. And there was a time when my mental space was overflowing with feedings, exhaustion, and the feeling of overwhelm. During that season I knew my mental health was way more important to maintain. Instead of working out I napped when Rowan napped, I fueled my body by putting my energy into good meals for myself and my family, and my exercise was talking walks with Rowan in the stroller. Once Rowan was born, more than half of the weight quickly dropped off. From nothing more than casual walks and breastfeeding. It took me almost 1.5 years to get down to within 10 lbs of my pre-baby weight. I noticed even then…that I still had the saggy belly around my belly button, stretch marks, and my abs and muscle mass was still non-existent. This is the part that would take time and a lot of dedication on my part to get back.
In just a couple of short months, I will be going on year three of Rowan being outside of my body (I can’t believe he’s going to be 2 years old)! I’m no longer 10 lbs away from my pre-baby weight, which is where I was at this past winter. I am actually more like 15 lbs away – yep, you read that right. I was 10 and now I’m at 15. I’ve definitely gained back more muscle which might be why the last 10-15 lbs haven’t fallen off as easily as I’d like, but despite eating healthily and working out as often as I can, my body still clings to that 10-15 lbs like a security blanket. There might come a time in the not so distant future where that 10-15 lbs disappear. But then there might not. And I’ve come to terms with and have an agreement with myself that – it’s OK if it doesn’t. Truly. It’s OK. And I want every mom reading this to know that it’s OK if you don’t either. It’s ok if you’re 5, 10, 20, 30 or more. Don’t put the added stress on yourself to lose the weight or “get your body back” so quickly or ever. If you’re feeling good and you want to bust out and lose the weight or tone up – then girl, you go! If you want to try the Keto diet (which I’m considering) or you want to just start eating healthier…then you do you! What’s important is your overall health and well being – eat well, and get into a good mental space, stay active and care for your body. You don’t have to be a supermodel and the number on the scale, what you see in the mirror, is not what’s important. Our physical bodies deteriorate over time. I have yet to see any 80-year old who doesn’t have wrinkles or saggy skin. We will all lose our physical appearance some day. It comes gradually, but even the most skilled plastic surgeons and the most expensive creams won’t be able to reverse aging. The point I’m trying to make is body change is inevitable and when we make the choice to have a baby, we’ve also chosen to sacrifice our bodies in the most selfless of ways.
I’ll be posting a few more blog posts about this in coming weeks and will also include some fun and easy workout tutorials that you can follow at home or on your own! <3