Like many women, when I found out I was expecting my first baby my heart raced a mile a minute, my mind wandered over what the nursery would look like, and I went on an instant Instagram mom-binge to find all the hot and trending baby gear items. My first little dose of reality set in when my supervisor, a mom of two, quickly said “get ready to go from princess to peasant the second that baby comes out!” She laughed, my face perplexed, she said she was just joking…kinda.
The immediate experience after going through the whirlwind of childbirth is everything BUT normal. In fact, one might argue that it’s the most raw experience that a woman can go through. Physically, your body doesn’t feel the same. Mentally, you’re drained all the time. Emotionally, your hormones are haywire and you’re experiencing feelings that you didn’t even know existed! Often times I wondered why no one ever told me what the true life of a postpartum mom would be. Everyone focused on what are do’s and don’ts with the baby, but failed to inform this new mom how to manage the reality of her mind and body after having a baby. Hospitals, unfortunately, do not hand us a manual on how to manage our bodies the second we get discharged!
As an avid bootcamper for the past several years, I struggled with some of the raw realities of postpartum life. I’ve been fortunate enough to have my community of new and tenured mamas at [email protected] Fitness that have supported me through accepting my new normal.
The top 3 things I didn’t know about being postpartum:
Wait…I swear I thought I had a core?
I was convinced that my core had completely disappeared after having a baby. So I thought, “OK Herra, just don’t go to cardio/core classes–stick to lower body and upper body classes!” Except you still need your core even when you’re squatting, rowing, or pressing weights…oops. I was so pumped to get back into my gym routine after eagerly waiting for six weeks postpartum. I got to class early, secured my spot in the room (let’s be real, we’re all a little possessive of our “spot”), and then quickly realized I couldn’t do many of the exercises since I felt like my core was missing.
Lesson learned: Patience is virtue–find another postpartum mama or a local gym that’ll work with on small exercises to help strengthen your core over time. Some of these exercises included, but are not limited to: sumo squats, glute bridges, and even decline wall push-ups. It comes back, I promise!
Why didn’t anyone tell me about this thing called a pelvic floor?
During pregnancy I would often hear women discuss kegel exercises–”better work on those kegels!”, they’d say. Little did I know that those kegel exercises would ultimately impact my pelvic floor postpartum. Kegel exercises help strengthen the muscles that support the uterus, bladder, and bowels. They’re important to complete as they ultimately dictate that strength, or lack thereof, your pelvic floor. A weak pelvic floor postpartum leads to urinary and fecal incontinence as well as chronic pain.
I remember my first few times back at the gym, excited to get my box jumps and tuck jumps in. Little did I know that I’d end up basically peeing in my pants by the end of the workouts. But hey, when you’re surrounded by a group of supportive women at your local gym like [email protected] Fitness, you end up laughing about it at the end and are definitely not alone in your struggles.
Lesson learned: Pelvic Floor Therapists are real! Try to find one locally and work with him/her to strengthen your pelvic floor. Peeing in your pants gets old pretty quickly.
Since when did my breasts dictate when I could workout?
For those mamas that choose to breastfeed, feeding your baby basically dictates your schedule. The first few days and weeks postpartum are often full of stress and anxiety related to milk production. For the first few days after delivery, your breasts don’t feel all that different because they’ve produced colostrum during the latter half of your pregnancy. As soon as your milk comes in, typically within about a week or so, your breasts get holy moly ginormous! This can often lead to discomfort for you, and ultimately dictates when you should workout during the day.
I didn’t realize this at first, and figured I could mosey my way to the gym whenever I could slip away for an hour. Turns out, trying to get a solid workout in with full breasts is not fun.
Lesson learned: Try to schedule your workouts such that you can either nurse your baby or get a solid pumping session in just before you head out to the gym. Your sweat session will be that much more productive!
This list could go on and on because truth be told, everyone’s postpartum experience is incredibly different. Constipation, weird bodily fluids, and chronic pain are all likely part of your new normal.
One thing remains constant among all mamas–we are real life superheroes. Don’t ever let anyone get it twisted! Postpartum recovery is undeniably tough, and probably a lengthier process than we’d all like it to be. Believe in yourself, surround yourself with support, and don’t be afraid to ease back into your workout regiment.