*Disclaimer: these are MY truths, and are not meant to be representative of anybody else’s experience.*
The truth about pregnancy fitness is that, in the grand scheme of things, pregnancy is the easy part. Mine was super active. In the first trimester, I felt sick most days, but a few times, I fought through nausea and completed some high intensity training sessions. As my belly grew and my body changed, I continued to hike, bike, run, stretch, and lift even more. To my surprise, fitness got easier as the months went on. I felt wobbly and out of balance sometimes, but never incapable of anything. I learned that in order to protect my stretching stomach muscles, I should not overexert my core, and so I approached my workouts with a whole new sense of awareness, learning new techniques and ways to train. Toward the end — the last few weeks — I walked a lot and pushed through discomforts so that I could remain healthy in body and mind as I prepared for delivery.
They say that active pregnancies make the labor process easier. If so, I can’t even imagine how difficult mine would have been had not been active. The truth about prenatal fitness is that it doesn’t necessarily make delivery quicker or easier. Every mom idealizes a short, easy labor, but in the end, it’s something that can’t be controlled. My labor and delivery process was far more challenging, long, and difficult than we could have ever imagined. I’m still not ready to share the full story on that, but let’s just say it was intense. I had an emergency c-section. The recovery was brutal. My body swelled to twice its size. I could barely walk. I could hardly lift my 9 pound baby girl. Everything hurt. This went on for weeks. The truth about delivery recovery is that "fitness" was absolutely the furthest thing from my mind for a while. All I cared about was feeling better and taking care of my baby -- in fact, that's still the prevailing mindset.
Now, three months postpartum, I don’t experience pain very frequently in my incision anymore, but every so often a pang of discomfort in my abdomen will remind me that I am still internally healing and recovering, and that I need to be careful. My muscles and fascia are still working to fuse back together, and I have to be patient or I could hurt myself. I am still in the recovery and healing phase. The truth about postpartum fitness is that it requires patience. I completed my first real weight training session two days ago. I woke up unbelievably sore the next morning (I had no idea 15-pound dumb bells could do that to me!), and it feels great to be getting back in the swing of things, even though it took a lot longer than I expected.
The truth about postpartum fitness is that it’s kind of a mind game. Even with my positive outlook, it hasn’t been completely pleasant. (Nothing positive ever is). It’s not easy to be instantly comfortable with a new body — I feel awkward sometimes. Not to mention, as somebody who used to be able to lift heavy and do lots of challenging movements like pistol squats and pull-ups, I get a little discouraged each time I attempt things that my body is temporarily unable to do. But it’s important to keep pushing and to know that my muscle memory will help me recover more quickly, and that my active lifestyle prior to pregnancy was not for naught: the strength I spent years building prior to having a baby have been very useful for carrying around my girl who is now already 26 pounds.
The truth about postpartum fitness is that you have to keep looking forward. I’ve always said that my fitness goals would never be about getting “back” to where I was pre-pregnancy. I don’t like the concept of “bouncing back”— I think it’s regressive and dismissive of all of the work, progress, and building of strength that goes into pregnancy, labor/delivery and early motherhood. So, while pregnant, I made an internal commitment to remain forward-thinking. And I’m happy to say that I’ve stuck to my guns on that. I might look back on pictures of my 6-pack with a little nostalgia; I might get a little irritated with the fact that I now look more pregnant than I did in the beginning of my second trimester, but I never fully idealize my old self. I have absolutely no shame. In fact, I am very proud of enduring all that my body went through over the past year, and I as I continue to heal from my c-section, I look forward to each day of renewed strength as a new mom -- as all new moms should!
The truth about postpartum fitness is that it’s totally worth it and fulfilling. My little one needs me, so, I always remind myself, I need to be stronger than ever for her sake. Not only that, but I need to start setting a good example right off the bat. At three months, she is already able to sit upright and observe everything around her with a level of alertness and attention beyond what I would have imagined at this age. Her eyes tell me that she knows what’s going on. Science tells me that everything I do and say now will impact the rest of her life. Babies know when you are being lazy or when you are being active. My girl much prefers to be carried around and played with than to sit on a bed with a toy. Each time I pick her up to move around, we are working out together, and she loves it. She is not only a welcome addition to my fitness and life journey, but actually, now, the purpose for it all.