On July 26, 2013, Kate Middleton emerged with her new son, George. As I looked in awe, I also learned something I had never considered before. In the days following childbirth, your body doesn’t simply return to what it was before you gave birth. I owe the Duchess of Cambridge a thank you card for that insight which served me well several years later.
These days social media provides countless examples of famous women and social influencers who encourage the “snapback” philosophy – the idea that a woman should work tirelessly to get back into the shape she was in prior to pregnancy, or even better within weeks!
This might have been my goal if I hadn’t met a woman early on in my pregnancy that changed my perspective.
At nine weeks pregnant, I was out at a business dinner with colleagues and our worldly French client who had recently given birth.
The client, who we’ll call Belle (aren’t all French women named Belle?), sipped her wine and said “Honestly, I have fallen so in love with my body. Think of the coolest thing your body did before you gave birth. What was that – cliff diving? Well, this badass body made a person. I’m keeping it, and you couldn’t pay me to speak against it.”
I put my head down to obscure the tears that threatened to mix with the hollandaise in my plate and committed anew to taking care of my body postpartum, but to never give myself a hard time about how it presented.
While pregnant, I gained a whopping sixty pounds and an infamous waddle to boot.
Whenever the midwife mentioned how much I’d gained, I reminded her that “Fortunately, my ankles have also swelled so they can properly support all this weight. Cool, right?” (I was not good at pregnancy small talk.)
And then… my son was here. A 7-pound miracle with raisin-like wrinkly skin, a natural mohawk and eyes wide as saucers.
Once I got out of the fog of the first six weeks or so, I realized that it’s probably best for everyone involved that I get healthy.
By the time he was six months old, I was wearing my old jeans, and my wedding band once again slid on and off my fingers with ease. I certainly was not my old self; after all, old self hadn’t been through as much. But I was healthy, fit and proud of what I’d achieved. I tried several workouts and meal plans, and the following practices provided the best results by far.
I found my tribe.
Things like Class Pass and free 30-day trials make it easy to switch between hot yoga, CrossFit and any other cool exercising trend. But I’ve learned it’s easiest to stick to something once you’ve found your community of folks who you can look forward to seeing every week and who will hold you accountable when you feel like quitting.
For classes that aren’t baby-friendly, a few studios like Bar Method and The Y also offer childcare.
For parents with rigorous work schedules, there is the Peloton bike which allows you to work out with others, while at home. (Snag a free test ride in SouthPark!)
No matter what your preference or lifestyle is, meeting other moms who are also figuring out life postpartum or have already gone through it before is key to keeping you on track.
An added benefit is they may have great, non-judgey advice on how to get your kid to sleep through the night.
I aimed for healthy – not an unreasonable target or dress size.
I’ll be the first to admit I have a tendency for drama. One of my fondest childhood memories is when I tried the cabbage soup diet so my mom wouldn’t have to do it alone. (Heads up: Well-seasoned cabbage soup tastes amazing for about 36 hours. Then it’s horrible.)
The problem with extreme diets is that while you may get immediate results, they simply aren’t sustainable.
The best goal is to aim for healthier, smarter choices that can be maintained over a lifetime.
I love steak and barbecue and bacon and burgers and fried chicken and all things meat. But I realized those heavy foods were really impeding my progress. Rather than becoming a raw vegan, our household committed to a pescatarian diet Monday morning to Friday afternoon, and allowed ourselves red meat and chicken from Friday night through the weekend. This also had the unintended effect of creating more room in our grocery budget!
I learned that it’s OK to modify.
The first time I tried bikram yoga, I ignored the advice of the instructor and didn’t accept any of the modified poses, figuring those were for wimps. A few short minutes later, I threw up in the lobby.
While recognizing that your body is indeed amazing, take it easy. Always check with your primary physician or your gynecologist before attempting any workout regimen and give your body grace as you get used to the new you.
Giving yourself a reliable squad, reasonable goals and reassuring kindness along the way makes all the difference.
Before you know it, you’ll be strolling through Freedom Park with the swagger of a woman who created life and is proud of it.