If you read my previous post then you know that I LOVE to workout. Exercise is my hobby, stress reliever, bonding experience, personal achievement jam. Knowing my proclivity for activity I wanted to be hyper sensitive to my body and give it time to heal. With that in mind I didn’t attempt anything beyond walking in the first 6 weeks postpartum.
Even though I didn’t “workout” until 6 weeks after Gemma was born, I was surprised that normal day-to-day activity were harder than I expected. To be honest, I still a tinge of embarrassment or shame that I wasn’t super energetic and out and about sooner. I know that’s a totally invalid feeling, but maybe it will help some other mamas to know I felt that way. Sometimes I’d see InstaMoms living it up all smiley and normal 1,2,3,4 weeks postpartum and I just didn’t think I was measuring up.
When I hit 6 weeks postpartum I felt like I had followed the rules and I was ready to give running a try. I did a 4 mile walk-jog-walk at 6 weeks and 1 day. While I was out I watched the seconds tick away on my walk minute getting antsy to run again. 30 seconds into running I felt the urge to pee. “Dang it,” I thought, “I just went before leaving!” Then I felt like Sanka in the back of the bobsled when Derise tells him he can finally pee and Sanka says, “too late…” My efforts to make it stop were paltry. Sorry, not sorry for the overshare. Beware your pelvic floor when you get back out there.
For the next couple of weeks I went on walks, walk-jog-walks, and then a few runs. More than once I had to stop and nurse Gemma mid run. More than once I had to stop and do a few squats to realign my pelvic floor. More than once I had to stop at the nearest bathroom. More than once I felt guilty about pushing my baby in the stroller instead of holding her.
I asked some moms how to know when your body was ready run again. A general consensus was to “listen to your body!” but I also got some great advice about being aware of your pelvic floor and never pushing it too far. Until you have a baby you won’t know this feeling, but if you feel like your insides could follow the same path the baby did, then you’re not ready. Moms also told me I probably wouldn’t be able to get back to regular running until 16 weeks. 16 weeks!? That felt sooo far away.
At around 12 or 13 weeks I texted my pre-pregnancy run buddy. Gemma was sleeping through the night, and I felt like it was time to get back to being me. Our first run was like magic. The stars aligned. Gemma woke up just in time to eat and go back to bed. I was able to keep up. I got home and Gemma was still asleep. I stretched outside while the sun came up and felt like Ariel again.
It had been almost exactly a year since I got pregnant. For a whole year my body was dedicated to this new baby and I was desperate to feel like myself again. I thought that after giving birth I’d be a caregiver, but I’d get my body back. Surprise! Getting to that point takes a long time! My boobs were leaking all the time, my pelvic floor was weak (see above), trying on my old clothes was depressing, and the feeling of always being tired that I’d known too well in college came back into my life like a crazy ex-girlfriend/stalker (the sleeping get’s better).
Turning to exercise to feel like myself again was natural, but I discovered it wasn’t as straight forward as going on a few runs at my old pace. I am 22 weeks into the mom thing and here’s what I’ve learned. I might have a workout here and there that feels like it’s just about me again, but “me moments” aren’t the same as they use to be. I realized that I am never going to get back the autonomous, worry free version of my life.
After feeling desperate to get back to myself by running, I signed up for a half marathon 6 weeks out and made running a priority. I ran 3-5 times a week at decent paces often with the stroller. The race came and went and then I didn’t want to run anymore. I was using running to find myself again, but I couldn’t find the old me, because motherhood had changed me.
If I leave Gemma for a workout I am going to wonder how she’s doing. When I get home I am going to check on her before stretching, or I am going to skip stretching altogether because she’s hungry. And the thing is that I don’t just worry about her when I’m away because she’s dependent on me. I realized that as a mother I am dependent on my baby. I don’t know how to put into words what I’m dependent on her for, yet, but I know that feeling is strong. I need her as much as she needs me (or more). I think that’s what makes the change meaningful, and even though it seems obvious that a mother needs her child I didn’t anticipate how strong that feeling would become.
I’ve taken the step over the threshold into mother territory, and I don’t have any regrets. Even though I can’t do what I want when I want to, I love being a mama bird. I didn’t get to this place overnight, and I know there will still be times when I want to be my old self, but there is no turning back, and I am grateful to be on this journey.