Before I got pregnant, I spent hours searching online for all-things pregnancy. I read articles, blogs, forums, you name it, to try to absorb as much information as I could about the ins and outs of having a baby. During this search, I stumbled upon many bloggers (whose blogs I still follow) who outlined their personal journeys through pregnancy and beyond.
I wanted to share my own personal journey and thoughts to help answer the question that I know is running through the minds of many first-time pregnant mamas: “Will I get my body back after baby?”
I acknowledge that parts of this post might rub some people the wrong way, but that is not my intent. I want to honestly and accurately share my experience during pregnancy and post baby, in the hopes that it might be valuable for some other pregnant mama out there who is fervently trying to absorb as much information as possible.
Oh, be sure to grab yourself a cup of coffee and settle in, this is going to be a long one.
Before I ever got pregnant, I knew that I wanted to have an active, fit pregnancy. Of course I planned to put my baby first, but I didn’t want to stop working out just because some doctors try to scare you into drastically scaling your work outs. Instead, I decided to listen to my body. If there was a day when I was feeling too tired or nauseous to work out, then I took the day off (though I found that working out through the nausea actually helped). If a particular exercise in a WOD didn’t feel right, then I subbed another movement for it. I gave little regard to the 140 bpm heartrate that doctors and most online resources outlined as the absolute maximum (here’s a great article for knowledge seekers). As many CrossFitters know, we can achieve 140 bpm just from our warmup.
Also, I avoided gluten throughout my pregnancy, though I did indulge in processed gluten-free options more than I would have liked, but hey, first trimester nausea is tough. So on the whole, I ate fairly healthily and continued crossfitting 4 to 5 days a week, as I did pre-pregnancy.
This equation (plus other variables, I’m sure) led to me having what I consider a healthy, fit pregnancy. I gained less than the average 30 pounds of pregnancy weight, and had no issues with stretch marks, swelling or mobility. I could still move heavy weight (though I wasn’t focused on max weight) and perform many of the CrossFit elements that I’d always done.
I’m giving a snapshot of my pregnancy habits so that my experience getting my body back postpartum makes a little more sense.
In my personal (very subjective) opinion, the following factors contributed to my postpartum body:
- Gaining the Right Amount: I lost more than half of my pregnancy weight before I left the hospital after delivery, and the rest of it in the first three weeks postpartum. I’m not trying to brag, but this is just fact. I think my body gained just enough to support James Michael, and once he was out, it had no more need for the extra padding.
- Breastfeeding: I think that breastfeeding has really helped me get my shape back, and during the first week postpartum, it was amazing how much my uterus contracted back closer to its original size just from nursing. These afterpains weren’t especially painful, but similar to menstral cramps. Some mothers and experts say that nursing mothers may hang onto 5 or 10 extra pounds until they wean. This has not been the case for me. If anything, I’m a couple pounds under my pre-pregnancy weight at the moment–but, I know I’ve lost a good bit of muscle weight, so weighing less than before doesn’t mean I’m leaner.
- First-Time Mom: Being a first-time mom also contributed to the weight-loss process during the first three weeks. The last thing I could think about was food because I was super focused on tending to my baby. I wasn’t indulging in any fanciful cravings, just because that was one more thing to have to worry about. Even though they tell you to nap when the baby is napping, it’s much easier said than done. I could do it if someone else was around to watch the baby, but if it was just me and James Michael, my body wouldn’t relax because subconciously it assumed he’d be waking up any minute. Or, I used his nap times to tackle all the other stuff around the house that I’d been neglecting.
- Diet: My mom helped me a lot those first couple weeks, especially with meals. Luckily, the meals she made were healthy. I can’t imagine how much more exhausted I’d feel if I wasn’t eating well. The one craving I did have post-pregnancy was for salads. Thinking back to the night of James Michael’s birth, all I wanted was a salad for dinner. Even now, 5.5 months postpartum, I’m still on a salad kick and have one about 5 times a week. (This is ironic because during my first trimester, I had an aversion to salads, among other things.) I’m not sure if it’s the nursing or being busy all.the.time, but I could probably eat most anything nowadays and not gain weight.
- Exercise: I started going on 30-minute walks around 2 weeks postpartum when family was around to watch James Michael. And I was super fortunate that this past winter was very mild so I could actually enjoy being outside a bit. Working out didn’t lead to weight loss for me, but I’m hoping that since I started CrossFitting again at 4 weeks postpartum, it’s helping to reshape my body as I work to rebuild my strength and endurance.
Even after losing all the weight, my body isn’t the same. I’m bigger in some places and smaller in others. I’m up a cup size from nursing. My butt and thighs are smaller than before pregnancy because of muscle loss. My arms are leaner, thanks to toting a growing bundle of baby. My stomach isn’t as tight–though it’s in much better shape than I anticipated–and my linea nigra is close to gone.
My body has also changed when it comes to working out. Nowadays, it’s a good week if I make it to the gym three times, twice is more likely though. Pullups and many other bodyweight movements are easier, because I’m not carrying the added baby weight. But I’m still working to regain my strength on Olympic lifts and other heavy movements. If I can’t make the gym, I try to take James Michael on a walk so that we both get fresh air, and so that I can be slightly active. I’ve started posting my two-week snapshot of workouts, thinking it might be helpful for other new moms looking to get/stay active. I’m also going to do a post about different exercises you can do with your baby to mix things up.
Saying I’m proud of my body after baby isn’t quite the right description, as, admittedly, I haven’t had to work hard at it. Saying I’m happy with it is more accurate. For those of you pregnant mamas who are in good health, eat fairly well (especially paleo or limited carbs) and exercise with intensity (especially CrossFit), don’t worry, you will get your body back. It might take 3 weeks, 3 months or even a year. When I got pregnant, I had no idea what to expect, but if your lifestyle is similar to mine, I think your postpartum journey will also be similar.