It’s taken me a while to write a postpartum post, unlike my last postpartum experience I’ve been blessedly busy and at a loss for words (partially due to being in awe of my little boy, partially due to lack of sleep). For those of you who follow this blog because of your own connection to a stillborn child I apologize for the absence; I remember what it was like just a few short months ago, scouring the internet for accounts of pregnancy after loss and praying for happy endings. The conclusion of this last pregnancy was indeed happy, my son Trey arrived safe and sound via a planned c-section at 38 weeks. It’s strange and wonderful to be sitting here on the other side of things, at 13 weeks postpartum T seems accepting of our new parenting skills and my c-sectioned body has resumed normal activity. Few things make you appreciate the importance of core strength like having your middle sliced open for the very best reason. For those of you reading this who are pregnant, postpartum, or just curious I thought I might share my second postpartum experience, thus far, through the lens of a fitness professional and baby loss mom.
After having Eve I literally hit the ground running within the first few weeks for a number of reasons. Exercise brought me out of my head and into my body which was helpful because after losing her my head was not a place I wanted to be. Like most women I wished to return to my normal shape as quickly as possible. This goal was made all the more urgent since there were no visible signs of baby outside of the changes in my body . With the added task of rebuilding my core and pelvic floor I was able to resume activity quickly and with a vengeance, working through stages of grief with every mile, pushup, and downward facing dog. Conveniently, my coping mechanism served the dual roles of a healthy hobby and my livelihood. Going for a run whenever the mood struck or practicing yoga for hours on end assisted in moving through the initial loss and subsequent pregnancy. It got me to where I am now which begs the question: where am I now?
Figuring out how fitness fits into the puzzle of motherhood has been a day to day process, especially since taking a year off from a full time fitness career to take care of T. These days it’s about using exercise and nutrition to be the best mom I can be. Getting back to exercise during the first few weeks postpartum was much trickier physically than last time. The pregnancy had me so focused on getting T out alive that I couldn’t think past the delivery. Logically I knew major abdominal surgery might put a dent in my fitness routine but, as with most aspects of the pregnancy, I was in denial. Recovery went like this:
- Shuffle up and down the hospital hallways hanging on to husband for dear life
- Shuffle around the house and lament to husband that I will never be able to move properly again
- Slowly walk around the local high school parking lot holding stroller for dear life and cry as a runner gracefully passes by
- Slowly walk around neighborhood and tentatively do some light core work and yoga
- Moderately walk around the neighborhood and happily do some moderate core work and yoga
- Quickly walk around the neighborhood and ecstatically do some more advanced core work and yoga
- Run around neighborhood and set up a makeshift gym in the basement after weeks of strength training withdrawal
- Make a visit to the local gym and leave Trey in the “kid zone”; being apart makes us both a little fussy (we are still working on that one…..)
It’s been a trip, one has to wonder why physical therapy isn’t a given after a c-section but healthcare is a funny thing. Life with an infant is also a funny thing. I am comfortable with flexibility when it pertains to hamstrings but not so much when it pertains to schedule. T is helping me work on this. There are nap time Tabata sessions, (this protocol works great if your infant isn’t big on long naps). Runs happen when my husband takes baby duty (Dee was hoping I’d given up on them but the joke is on her). Walks happen daily or several times a day depending on how stir crazy we all get (coaxing Dee up a hill while simultaneously wielding a stroller is a surprisingly challenging push/pull workout). Yoga and meditation help balance out hormonal and fatigue induced mood swings (though my husband might argue otherwise). On the whole things are coming together even when the individual days get a little wonky. When postpartum body frustration sets in I do my best to muster up the will to look at things from a more grown-up perspective. T doesn’t need a mom with six pack abs. He does need a mom that is strong, healthy, and present. Some days that means doing squats with a baby strapped to my front instead of a barbell across my back. With each new stage my view of fitness keeps shifting. I’m adjusting my routine instead of relinquishing it.
The other day I met a friend for a walk at a local park. Every part of the outing, from struggling to adjust T’s stroller to discussing sleep schedules, made me feel like such a new mom. On the ride home I came upon the cemetery where we buried Eve. Pausing at the stop sign to look up the hill towards her grave made me feel like such an old mom. I considered visiting her until T began to cry. He needed to be fed. With a silent apology to Eve I continued home. It’s a strange feeling to be a new/old mom, to know what it is like to bury a child before seeing one take their first breath. Kinetically my pregnancies were very similar despite the worlds of difference between them. Through movement I remembered the past, rooted myself in the present, and looked forward toward the future. Frustrating as it may be to have the body of a mother of two when the world sees a mother of one there is no denying the evolution that has occurred thanks to the baby in my heart and, now, the baby in my arms.