My baby girl started walking in the past few weeks. Most parents are excited about milestones and though I am excited for her to be able to explore her world differently, I am having hard time with this milestone. I thought that ending nursing would be hard for me but she was losing interest at 11 months so she started to wean herself so I was not as sad I thought I would be. Then I did have a little bit of trouble getting her off bottles (as I just loved to hold her and give her a bottle) but then again, it seemed to happen naturally so it was not as hard as I thought. But the walking, that has been a bit harder. She is walking almost 3 months later than my son so I think she seems younger to me than she really is. She is also about to move out of the infant room at her school and into the toddler room. I am terribly sad about this.
We know she is our last baby. We always only wanted 2 children and though I honestly would not mind being pregnant again, (which is funny as I would NEVER have said that 15 months ago) we do not want 3 children and we know we are done. We have been blessed with 2 very beautiful and healthy children and our family is complete. What I get sad about the most is never being able to experience the first few magical minutes after your baby is born and placed on your chest. This was one of the most incredible and surreal moments of my life and I honestly get sad thinking about never having that moment again. I feel that walking is one of the last ‘baby’ stages and now I have a toddler. 🙁
Because of all these changes, I have been thinking a lot about this past year and my final postpartum experience. I am also currently training a client whose son is a few months younger than Madelynn and have another client who is newly pregnant. Not to mention I have a few friends who are pregnant, I have been teaching quite a few workshops on pre-and post-natal fitness, I have had a new mom return to one of my group fitness classes and have been working out along side some other new moms. So needless to say postpartum has been a topic in my personal and professional life lately.
I have learned so much about pre-and post-natal exercise over the last 3 years. Though I was very interested in pre-and post-natal fitness and had trained pregnant clients prior to my own pregnancies, I had never actually gone through the experience, so though I might have had the knowledge before, I did not feel that I could completely understand until I had been through pregnancy and postpartum period myself.
Though I had fairly easy pregnancies and uncomplicated births, if I could go back and change some of my postpartum experience there are a few things I would have done differently.
My first pregnancy with Caleb:
- I would have not put nearly as much pressure on myself to lose the baby weight. I set goals and took measurements and weighed myself every couple weeks. I thought I was doing this to make me more credible as a pre- and post-natal fitness specialist to show my potential clients that I could lose the weight so I could show them how to lose weight. Though I do think it is important to take care of yourself and eventually lose the weight you gained during pregnancy, I should have not put a time limit on it. There were plenty of times that I should have been sleeping vs. working out in my basement. The fact that I thought my measurements would make me more credible literally makes me cringe. I lost the weight in 4 months with Caleb. Though I did not diet as I was breastfeeding and did not want to compromise my supply, I definitely worked hard to get the weight off. But again, there should of not been a time limit. If it took me 4 months, great. 6 months, that’s okay too. It took 10 months to grow a baby, I wish I would have given myself at least that time to lose the baby weight.
- I wish I would have thought of ‘postpartum’ as a full year after having a baby or at least until I was done breastfeeding. When you become pregnant, you go through a major hormone change. When you actually birth the baby, you go through another major change. The final hormone shift is when breastfeeding stops. However, I think society often only thinks of ‘postpartum’ as the few months after having a baby and then everything should return to normal, but there are still so many changes still to come in your body and brain. Regardless if you are breastfeeding or not, major changes are happening in your life constantly that do not suddenly stop after a few months after having a baby. I wish I would have recognized this and accepted these constant changes more openly.
Spending some precious moments with Caleb while on maternity leave.
My second pregnancy with Madelynn:
- You would think this time around I would do things differently but honestly since my recovery was so easy with Caleb, I figured it would be this time around. However, I never considered that I was pregnant again only 18 months later and the effects this would have on my body. I am so embarrassed to admit this but I ran a 5k at 5 weeks postpartum with Madelynn!! I literally cannot even believe I did that and how stupid it was. OMG my pelvic floor. But once again, I was trying to prove something to myself and others. I cannot even IMAGINE telling one of my clients to do this so why the hell was I doing it? I remember how uncomfortable I was doing it but I pushed through. I wanted to be a bad ass. I wanted to say “Hey, look at me, I just had a baby and I am running already.” Though I do believe most women (with no medical complications) can begin some form of exercise before the usual prescribed 6 weeks, I wish I would have never completed this 5k.
- I wish I would have waited longer to start any high impact activities. Though I started working out slowly and gradually, I do not think I waited long enough before starting high impact activities such as plyometrics and running (see above.) Nothing was hurting but I think it all came back to haunt me as starting about 9 months postpartum, I had some of the most severe back pain I have ever had and it lasted for months. Now, I cannot say 100% that this was contributed to me starting high impact too early but I definitely think there was a correlation.
- I learned that postpartum recovery is SO much more than weight loss and wish I would have spent more time on regaining my core and functional strength. All I really cared about with my first recovery was losing the weight and did not give much thought to my pelvic floor and functional strength. Though I did try to focus on regaining core strength more with my second pregnancy, I did not focus on core and low back strength nearly as much as I should have because again, I was focused on losing the extra pounds I gained. Once I started experiencing the back pain, I realized that I had to back off the high impact activities that I thought would give me the weight loss and really focus on regaining functional strength. It took me 11 months to lose the baby weight with Madelynn, almost 3 times the amount of time it took me with Caleb. At first this was frustrating but I did in fact learn to accept and embrace it as part of the process.
Overall, I am very blessed that I had fairly easy pregnancies, non-complicated labors and fairly good postpartum experiences. However, I just wish I would have been kinder to myself and my body. Though I will not get to redo these experiences, I hope I can encourage other new mamas the right way to approach their recoveries and focus on what is really the most important, bonding with that new bundle of joy, sleeping whenever possible, being in awe of this new life you created and showing kindness towards our bodies for accomplishing one of the most amazing things in the world.