A Mother's Body

Disclaimer - this is a very blunt post.  May be gross for some men to read.  You have been warned.

As women we deal with more than our fair share of body issues.  Societal expectations, family expectations and personal expectations weigh heavily on us.  Constantly.  I've blogged about this before.  I was anticipating sitting down and expressing how it feels to feel inadequate about the way you look, or self conscious about the way you look on a regular basis.  Then I read that old blog and realized I have already done this.

Then I got to thinking about how things change when you become a mother. From the moment you find out you are pregnant your body begins to change.  Your boobs become bigger (much to the excitement of your partner).  You gain weight, your hips spread, your feet even change (mine grew a 1/2 a size) and of course - you grow a giant belly.  

And then the baby arrives - and with it all of the pain and tearing and stretching required to birth a child.  Soon after your milk comes in - and with that all of the engorgement, discomfort, stress of nursing and hormones that you can possibly handle.  Your stomach begins to shrink but you are left with this flabby stomach that is unrecognizable.  Your entire body looks different.  Our bodies have to heal.  They have to recover.  Trust me, it isn't pleasant.  Men have it so easy.

About 6 weeks after having a baby you hope to have the ok to exercise from your doctor.  Let me back up a bit.  Before I was pregnant working out was a huge part of my life.  In fact, I completed a triathlon while pregnant (although I didn't know it yet).  

I was running at least 5 miles, biking, swimming and doing yoga.  I loved it.  It was my stress reliever.  Exercise was my me time.  It was a very large part of who I was.  While pregnant I craved running without a belly.  I craved feeling like myself again.  I couldn't wait to be able to work out normally.  

I remember the first time I was given the ok to run I was excited.  I put on my shoes and ran about 2 blocks before stopping.  Interestingly enough it felt almost like my insides weren't where they should be.  Everything felt off. I felt like I was going to pee my pants. I had giant boobs that started leaking milk.  I felt miserable.  Forget being out of shape for not being able to have any really great cardio workouts for at least 4 months - I just felt off. I felt like I was in someone else's body.  It was depressing.

Soon after I realized that exercise wasn't in the cards for awhile. I was exhausted.  No one can prepare you for those first few months after a baby.  It's mind numbing.  You feel as if you are in some alternate reality.  Becoming a parent is hard. It's the largest adjustment imaginable (again I have blogged extensively about this).  You don't feel anything like yourself.  You yearn for some feeling of normalcy.  And it takes quite awhile to get a piece of "you" back. 

I returned to work within 6 weeks of having Millie.  My only form of exercise was taking her on walks.  I would often walk for miles after work, sometimes crying the whole way because I was so exhausted. 

However even that small amount of exercise seemed to help my spirits so I continued until it became too hot.  Working out in the morning before she woke up just wasn't an option.  She didn't start sleeping through the night until about 8 months - and even then it was rare.  I was still so tired.  Just so so tired.  Perhaps being a stay-at-home mom would have made working out easier.  Even now I find that once I get home from work, make dinner, play with Mills, bathe and feed her, do the dishes, etc. I am exhausted.  Working out is the LAST thing I want to do.  

You know what... I didn't care. I was just trying to survive.  I was just trying to adjust to my new life. Plus as a nursing momma I had to eat 2500 calories a day (holy crap - I know!)  And for ONCE in my life it was nice to pretty much eat what I wanted without guilt. Seth used to pressure me to start dieting while nursing.  He thought that "well if you get 2500 calories a day you may as well cut back. It's easier than doing it after you stop nursing."  I finally freaked out at him and told him that he can't talk about things he didn't understand.  (note: never tell a new mom how she should diet). 

I knew that I would eventually get back to it.  I knew I would get back into shape.  It just took much longer than I ever thought.  

I was within just 3 pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight within 2 weeks of having Millie. I remember I felt awesome. That certainly didn't mean that my clothes fit.  Everything was tight and my body felt - well- squishy.  That weight went up a bit after I stopped nursing but I have really stuck at about that weight.  But I have felt awful. I look at myself in the mirror and think "Wow, who is this woman?"  I'd tried dieting but it would only last a few days.  Food became a comfort on those exhausting nights. 

There is a lot of pressure to lose the baby weight.  It's infuriating.  Facebook can be your worst enemy when comparing yourself to other moms.  A recent picture I saw nearly made me cry (this is the actual picture - she reads my blog sometimes so I'll keep it anonymous - but she had her baby one week before me and man is she bad ass!)

Your spouse pressures you - maybe not consciously but it's there. I just showed my husband that picture and the reaction I got was "wow, that's pretty awesome!" (insert even worse feelings of guilt) But it does get to a point when "you just had a baby - it's ok" no longer qualifies. 

On Easter I decided enough is enough. I was going to do this. I was tired of feeling crappy. I knew my energy would increase if I found time to exercise. I knew I would feel all around better.

And here I am, 3 weeks into my diet and over 6 pounds down.  I'm sticking to a measly 1200 calories a day. Before Millie when I would diet, I would exercise every day.  Because then I could get some more calories added to my day.  Sometimes that just doesn't happen. I'm lucky if I get in 3-4 days of exercising a week.  It is working though.  I do feel better. I feel hopeful. I hope that in a month or so I will be at a weight where I am comfortable. I know I'll never look great in a bikini again. I just want to feel fit and toned again.  Kinda like I was in this random picture I use for inspiration.

  And I am going to try to force myself NOT to eat some of that amazing frozen cookie dough in my freezer, because I know stepping on that scale in the morning and seeing a loss will be far sweeter!

However I'll never look the same.  Trust me, this belly is not the same.  These boobs are not the same.  My hips are not the same.  My arms and back are not the same.  But I'll live with it.  I sacrificed a lot for my baby girl.  And she's worth it.  Man I love her.