So, can we take a moment and talk about post-baby bodies? Are there any other Mamas out there struggling with the "Old Me Vs. New Me" syndrome as badly as I am? I mean, really, we all know we should be eating organically grown 5-star meals and exercising with a personal trainer 3 hours each day, but who says, "Wow, I just grew a human being for 10 months AND went through hours of labor a few weeks ago.... I'm totally in the mood for kale and a RUN!"? If you're anything like me, the only thing you want to run from is the person (doctor, husband, mother, inner-self) telling you to exercise in the first place. But what a hot topic this has become! Take a look at Hollywood, for instance... you can't watch an awards show or flip through a magazine without seeing a famous mother who had a baby "just 4 weeks ago!" looking like she's never touched a carb a day in her life. These well-known Mamas seem to be competing for who can lose baby weight the fastest, each one beating out another by a few days or pounds while graciously and humbly smiling and telling the world that it only took a little dedication and a few salads to get the job done.
Don't get me wrong... there are some women out there (better known as "Freaks of Nature") that seem to bounce right back from child-birth. Their bodies miraculously take on their former shapes the second they leave the hospital and they're back in their pre-pregnancy pants by week's end (while the rest of us just hope to be able to get back into our "fat pants" before our babies start Kindergarten.) And frankly, these women kinda suck. Now, no offense if you're one of the Blessed, but really, for the sake of the rest of us chubby-flubby Mamas out there, couldn't you just pretend that it was super tough to get back into those skinny jeans? Anyway, these women are not the norm, despite what E! News depicts. And exactly how do I know this? Because I had a baby. I KNOW the particular kind of hell that a woman's body endures in order to grow a life AND (more importantly) to expel that life from her uterus. You can't tell me that it only takes "a little dedication" to unswell feet, erase stretch marks, and rectify a kangaroo pouch. (Don't even get me STARTED on incisions!) So, I'm calling these "dedicated" women and their crazy exercising-salad-eating notions out, and here are a few reasons why:
1) Your baby needs you to spend time with him/her, NOT working out 10 hours a day in order to achieve a certain look. It's not a lack of dedication to your health, it's an increased dedication to bonding with your baby (who happens to love you just the way your are!). And honestly, who has the time to both bond and exercise? It's always feed the baby, change the baby, watch the baby to make sure he's still breathing, remember the other children, feed the baby again, change the baby, switch the laundry, break up a sibling fight, feed the baby again, change the baby again, make dinner but don't get to eat it, clean up the dinner mess, feed the baby, get everyone bathed, tuck the kids in, feed the baby, change the baby, and finally collapse with exhaustion for three hours until it's time to (you guessed it) feed the baby.... we don't all have nannies to step in so that we can hit the gym for a few hours. And even if I did, I know for a fact that I wouldn't look cute enough to take a Kim Kardashian gym-selfie to later be posted on Instagram, showing off my freshly flattened tummy, nor would I have the energy to hold my phone up to take the selfie in the first place, let alone lifting any ridiculous gym equipment.
So, I decided to try a simpler approach to shedding those pesky baby pounds by attempting a work-out that I read about in an article showing all the wonderful ways that you can "exercise with your baby". The article said that this is supposed to increase bonding while burning calories all within the comfort of your own home.
But what it should have said was to have 9-1-1 programmed into your speed dial before beginning the work-out....
Exercise #1: Place your baby on the floor beneath you while you do push-ups. Be sure to make silly faces at him or kiss his nose when you are in the lowered position. You'll be sure to get a smile AND a great work-out!
BULL. Um, did the writer of this article even try to do a push-up herself?? Because let me tell you how MY "great work-out" went....
I placed little Wyatt on his back on the carpet. His eyes were wide and little arms and legs were waving all over the place like they usually do when he's happy. Next, I confidently assumed the position.
I got this, I thought. Piece of cake.
Carefully, from the plank position, I slowly began to lower myself down to my 8-week old son. But you see, the problem is that I have absolutely no upper body strength since I went almost a full year without exercising. And there's also the dilemma of my monstrous, milk-filled boobs working with gravity and against me as they seemed to pull me towards my son's ever-widening eyes at great speed, giving new meaning to the term Fast Food. "
Abort! Abort!", my mind screamed, but my weak arms were no match for my two-ton-tits. I stealthily flung my right arm forward and came crashing down onto my elbows just in time, missing my newborn by a matter of centimeters. I think this proves my point that exercise is, in fact, lethal and should be reserved for the military and Olympians, NOT new mothers. PS, I was not "sure to get a smile" from my little man, either.
Exercise #2: Sit Indian -style on the floor with your back straight, baby in your hands. Then, slowly lift baby above your head for a shoulder press. Repeat 10 times.
Ok, this one doesn't sound nearly as dangerous as crushing your baby with push-ups. So, I assumed the described position and made sure I had a firm (but gentle... always gentle...) grasp on little Wyatt. With back straight, I began to lift my baby high above my head until my arms were completely straightened. But you see, the difference between pressing a bar or dumbbell versus pressing a baby is that a baby is floppy.... AND squishy. As I held my 2-month old above me, I watched his head bob back and forth like a bobble-head doll. I tried to adjust my hands to stabilize his floppiness, but my squishy baby wriggled and squirmed (probably trying to keep his head from falling off) and I nearly lost my entire grip on my son!
That's it.... CYS is going to take my baby... they're going to take my baby, all because I tried to work out!
Ultimately I decided that this was not the exercise for us.
Exercise #3: Securely strap your baby to your chest with your baby carrier and go for a run.
Oh, heck no.
2) If you're nursing, you're still eating for two. Remember those dedicated salad-only eaters? Yeah... that kind of diet doesn't flow if you want your milk to. In fact, there's this crazy diet called the Breast-Feeding Diet (clever name) and it tells you all the nutritious foods you need to consume daily in order to have a healthy milk supply for your little one. Not only are you not supposed to do any form of regular dieting, but you're actually supposed to INCREASE your calories to 2500 daily in order to support your baby! All you need is 5-9 servings of vegetables, 4-5 servings of fruit, 70-100 grams of lean protein per meal, 5 servings of dairy, 90 oz of water (at a minimum), 2 small servings of fat, 6-9 ounces of high-fiber whole grains, folic acid, B12, Vitamin D, Omega 3s, and Vitamin C....that's it.
To be honest, by the time I ingest half of my necessary water supply and scarf down a protein bar while running out the door with the kids, diaper bag, purse, and carseat in tow, I'm already feeling bloated and ready for a pee break! With 2400 calories to go by 11:00 am, I start feeling a little uneasy about not eating a bigger protein bar. Too bad I didn't get breakfast due to the fact that I was still upstairs getting the baby and me presentable after the first outfit got pooped on (his) and the second got spit up on (mine) and the third, fourth, and fifth ones just plain didn't fit (mine again). I had really high hopes of getting lunch this time around, but between library program and getting the older kids ready for swim lessons, I only had time to make them lunch (greedily licking the mayo from the knife) before my next duty called.
Hmmmm, I ponder. I didn't see coffee in the diet plan, but surely they don't expect a Mama to do this uncaffinated.... I wonder how many calories are in my mug? (I look it up.) Only 120?? It's 4:00 pm and I still have 2280 calories to go?!? Better knock off another 30 for that knife-mayo I licked earlier.... Good, I'm down to 2250! Well, I guess I could eat a tub of ice cream for dinner to get my dairy in.... and I better do something about that lean meat thing. Crap, do we even have any veggies other than that mushy red pepper in the fridge? I wonder how many servings are left after I cut off the fuzzy parts? Did I even go to the grocery store this week? Shoot, what's today's date, anyway? Is this still July?? Oooo, a banana! I can eat that while I feed the baby! There's little chance of spillage and even if I clobber him with the entire thing, it won't stain (preventing at least one more clothing change for the day).
By the time I get dinner made, clean up the kitchen mess, feed the baby, and sit down to finally eat my meal (which is now room temperature and soggy), I stuff my face as quickly as possible for 2 reasons: 1) it is impossible for me to answer any more questions from my 6- and 8-year-olds if my mouth is full, and 2) it is REALLY hard to chew and bounce a baby in his bouncy seat when he is bouncing at a different rhythm than I am chewing.... but bouncing means not crying and is therefore more necessary than my eating at a normal person's pace. After I eat, I estimate that I probably consumed close to 600 calories with dinner, bringing me down to 1650 left to consume in the next 4 hours. Yeah, that's not gonna happen. Maybe pre-baby I would've considered this a fun little challenge, but all I'm wondering now is when these silly children will go to sleep so I can finally close my eyes for a few precious hours before I have to start this all over again?
Even though I do my best to consume at least something from the Breast-Feeding diet each day, I never come anywhere close to my calories. And with the 500 calories I burn daily by nursing, you'd think I'd have those pregnancy pounds dropped like a stack of hot cakes.
Each morning I bounce to the scale and shake my head in amazement that I've lost only 1 ounce. Sometimes I've even gained a pound or two! Maybe there is something to this "just eat salads" thing.... but honestly, we've got newborn babies to tend to, ladies.... do we really need to be hungry on top of it all? Are a few measly pounds (or 20....30...40?) worth not making enough milk for our babies? Nope. I'll stick to my make-shift Breast-Feeding Diet, thank you very much.
3) Your body needs time to
. PERIOD. A few weeks ago I went to my OB for my dreaded 6-week follow-up appointment. Having had a c-section, my doctor needed to check my incision to make sure that I was healing properly. So, she dutifully asked if I was having any pain. I told her that there was no pain, per say, just some discomfort when I touch any area between my navel and my thighs (you can only imagine my husband's dismay). "Oh, well that will be there for months, maybe even a year... in fact, some discomfort may never go away," she said matter of factly.
I don't recall this being printed out on any of the memos I received... "But feel free to start exercising. You're healing nicely."
Ok, now just hold on! You're telling me that my stomach may never feel good again, but that I should go ahead and exercise?? Sure. That sounds super fun (I mean, "dedicated") and I can't wait to get started! In fact, I'll leave the van in the parking lot now and just jog home... considering the sponginess of my swollen feet and the fact that I am still 25 lbs past my normal weight, it's likely I'll even make it home before my 12-week check up... since I'm healing so nicely and all.
I. Don't. Think. So.
I have to admit, I was kind of hoping to have been told that my incision looked good, but that I should hold off exercising for a few more weeks, just to be safe. Crazy doctors and their progressive ways... promoting exercise and all that nonsense every chance they get. Not that I'm against working out, not at all actually! But on some level I think there is a little bit of fear in each new mom's heart... the fear that the pounds just won't go away, no matter how hard she tries. And no one wants to try and then fail, because the magazines will make it seem like she simply didn't give it a good enough effort. Afterall, if 99% of all movie stars can do it, surely the average Jane should be able to do it, too, right? (Although, I'd like to see Kate Hudson return to her size 0 frame while eating on a Save-A-Lot budget and arranging the summer schedules of 4 kids while getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night. Don't forget the laundry, cooking, and cleaning, Katie, dear!)
I decided to give myself two extra weeks to be kind to my body before forcing it back into work-out mode (because, honestly, breast-feeding counts as exercise, right? I mean, I'm certainly hungry enough afterwards to feel like I ran a marathon.) But finally, at the 8 week mark, I reminded myself that I love yoga. And it's true. The breathing, the stretching, the relaxation... it practically calls for a nap at the end of each session. How utterly fantastic is that? I remembered the comfy pants and the feel-good endorphins, not to mention the fact that I'm actually very good at yoga and feel downright proud of myself during classes. After some fond recollections of the wonderful art of yoga, I found myself actually getting excited for my my first official work out!
I arrived at the studio 15 minutes early to pick out the perfect spot. I was the first one there so I introduced myself to the instructor with enthusiasm. Certain I was going to be her star student for the day, I casually asked what level she usually runs her class at.
I felt a stab of disappointment at this news. I mean, if I'm gonna go to all this effort to get dressed and drive to the studio, I at least want to get an intermediate work out in, if not an advanced one! But I decided to make the most of my time and I reverently unrolled my mat in the center of the room.
The studio was dimly lit with antique lamps that had vintage handkerchiefs draped over the shades. There was a low hum from the floor fan that created the perfect temperature. And from the cd player came ambiguous sounds of monk-like chants, flutes, and ocean waves. Ahhh, I could feel myself relaxing already. Excitedly, I perched myself on the center of my mat, closed my eyes, and began to take deep breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth....Yes, this was going to be fantastic.
The instructor led us through a series of mild stretches and I noticed that I had lost just a bit of flexibility during the course of my pregnancy.
No worries, though, by the end of this class I'll be back to normal, I assured myself. The instructor then brought us to our first Downward Dog pose. At once, I was aware of the familiar stretch in the backs of my legs.... and then some more in my lower back.... and again in my shoulders.
Huh, this is a little unusual, I suppose.
We were just starting a new series of deep breaths and...
Oh my gosh, is anyone else super dizzy right now?? Whew, I almost feel faint!
I noticed at once that my arms were trembling and my hands felt as if they were cramping up from the extra weight pressing them down into the floor. You can imagine my relief when the yogi called for Child's Pose, the best resting pose in all of yoga....
....That is unless you now have fat legs that hurt when they're tightly squished together as you sit on your knees. But I was determined to complete at least one pose by the end of the day, even if it meant that my butt was so high off the ground it could've been used for a bike rack. Trying to fight the discouragement mounting in me as we went through all the Warrior poses, my self-esteem boosted slightly when I was able to pull these off with a modicum of ease. Sure, I was sweatier than usual (way sweatier, actually), but that's probably just the hormones, right? A few more dizzying Down Dogs later and it was time for Cobra.
Finally! We get to lay flat and rest for a second!
Except laying on my engorged breasts and bikini-line incision was about as relaxing as swimming with piranhas that would attack at the faint smell of milk. Forget trying to arch any part of my back whatsoever, because I was pretty certain that my stitches were going to pop open, despite the go ahead from my OB just two weeks prior. What was even more concerning was the fact that I couldn't get my hips to even themselves on the floor. Yes, I know I still have a bit of a tummy, but that's not what I mean. It was as if my doctor had opened me up, removed the baby, and then put the rest of my organs back in any ole haphazard way! My body didn't feel like mine. Not at all. In fact, it just felt wrong. I've heard of incredibly advanced yogis being able to transcend from their bodies, but this was NOT the type of out of body experience I was going for when I wanted to center myself.
I left the class dripping, dizzy, sore, and defeated, and in need of feeding my little man. Why was I putting so much of my worth into this work-out? I felt happy with myself before entering, and for the first time after a yoga class, I felt deflated. So what if Olivia Wilde weighs less than a bag of feathers weeks after having her baby? My body is my body, not someone else's. And my baby needs me and my body to be happy, healthy, and FULLY HEALED. In that moment I determined that no amount of Cobra poses or Us Weekly articles were going to make me rush this process I'm going through. I'll take my beginner yoga classes, slathering myself with extra deodorant beforehand, and be happy to discover whatever my new normal body will be. Afterall, having this baby has forever changed my emotions, the way that I think, and the way that I look at life. Of course it's going to leave my external body forever changed as well, and I am learning to love the new me.