Pregnancy is a beautiful miracle that I am very thankful I was able to experience. My body went through incredible changes over those 9 months. I have always been in shape; playing sports in high school, body building in college, and finally studying kinesiology and getting my fitness certification so I could pass on my knowledge to others. It was always so easy! I knew exactly how to get my body in the shape I wanted and I worked hard and ate well to make sure that I reached my goals.
However, after pregnancy, everything changed. I spent the first trimester of my pregnancy feeling nauseous 24-7. My sense of smell was so sensitive that I could smell someones deoderant from across the room and working in a coffee shop didn’t help. Everything made me sick, and standing on my feet all day in one spot was brutal. I was also pregnant during the hottest summer in over 40 years. So, my pregnancy wasn’t the perfect experience I had always dreamed it would be.
This picture was taken about two months before I gave birth to my son. My stomach was absolutely stretched to the breaking point and extremely uncomfortable. Even touching my belly button was painful and my stomach was so heavy that I usually held it up with my hands if I was standing still. Sleep was nearly impossible and my hips would go numb whenever I laid down. Then, finally, the day came to have my son.
After 48 hours of labor, Oliver arrived and my husband and I were overjoyed. I breastfed him, so I lost all my baby weight within weeks and was feeling pretty good about myself. My stomach still felt like a fluffy pillow, but I was determined to get back into shape. The family had scheduled a vacation in the beginning of June and I wanted a six pack by the time we left.
It took me a long time to heal from the birth. I wasn’t ready to exercise for 8 weeks after Oli was born, and even then it was a daily struggle to complete a circuit. My sister came over to make the work outs more fun and I designed a program that would benefit both of us.
This picture was taken about halfway through our program. I was determined to get my body back, no matter what. My skin took the biggest hit, and I still struggle with extra skin on my stomach. I also suffered a four finger diastus recti which was incredibly difficult to overcome and I was very discouraged. If you are not familiar with diastus recti, it is a separation of the abdominal muscles that leaves a gap between the middle layers of the abdominals. This can happen to individuals who have been under a tremendous amount of stress, like pregnancy or extreme weight gain.
Pulling those muscles back together is a lot of work, but it can be done. Your stomach often looks bloated, and normal abdominal exercises can actually increase the separation and cause more pain. You have to work on the inner abdominal wall to stengthen and tighten, pulling the sections together and creating a flat midsection. Exercises like the plank, crunches, mountain climbers, and sit-ups can work against you and make the gap worse.
This picture was taken right before we left for vacation, exactly 8 months after my son was born. I started exercising 6 months after Oliver was born, and I accomplished my goal of a six pack through a careful diet and exercise plan. You can do anything if you believe that you can. Motherhood is incredible, but even more incredible are the changes that our bodies can go through in such a short time. It is possible to get your body back, and even to look better than you did before babies.
I have been seeing these trends of the “dad-bod” and “mom-bod” and I find them upsetting. Is this the image we want our children to grow up with? Should we be telling young girls and boys that all they have to look forward to after babies is being out of shape and exhausted all the time? I would say no.
I am strong. I eat healthy and noursish my body from within. I exercise, even when I haven’t slept in days and my child is testing my patience. I have worked hard to create a life, and I have worked hard to achieve this body. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Do not accept mediocrity because we live in a culture that says it’s ok. Set goals, surround yourself with people that motivate you and push you to do better.
All mothers are different. We have all had struggles, but those struggles do not define us. Don’t get me wrong, not everyone is going to be a size 1 and have a six pack, but I firmly believe that every woman can be strong, fit, and healthy. Don’t accept anything less than your best. You worked hard to bring a baby into the world, now fight to get the body you want.
The first step is believing that you can.