How I’m Feeling About My Postpartum Body

Gosh isn’t that the million dollar question. I surprised myself with pregnancy. For years leading up to making the decision to go for it, I worried about what carrying a baby would do to my body. I’ve never been of model proportions, but I have always been on the thinner side, and for the most part comfortable in my skin. When I started crossfit, part of my purpose in doing so was to do everything I could to get in the best shape possible before getting pregnant. Both so I could manage the pregnancy and birth better, but also in hopes that if I started in better shape, maybe the end result wouldn’t be too far from my normal. You know, shoot for the moon and even if you miss you’ll still be among the stars kind of mentality.

Funny enough when the time came that I actually got pregnant, I never thought about what my body would look like after. I thought a lot about maintaining some level of fitness. And I thought a lot about needing to workout to help support my back and growing belly better. And I thought a lot about doing everything I could to give the tiny person inside me the best chance at a healthy life possible. But my postpartum body never once crossed my mind, until Aubrey was born and the midwife was telling me to look down at my flat tummy.

At first I thought, what is she talking about?? Then it finally dawned on me that there was no longer a baby in there, and what I was seeing was the first look at my belly, post-baby.

Once we visited Aubrey in the NICU, got checked into our room, and I finally went to the bathroom for the first time I got a better look, and was oddly fascinated. I had read enough, and seen enough pictures to know that you still look a few months pregnant after the birth, so it wasn’t surprising to see a bump that resembled me at about 5 months into pregnancy. But this bump was different. It was super squishy (Will was totally freaked out by my belly at that point and wouldn’t hardly look at it, and definitely wouldn’t touch it haha!), and was hanging lower. Kind of like it was deflated. Which became the word that most accurately describes how my body looked and felt right after giving birth. Deflated.

I didn’t get to weigh myself until about three days later, but I kind of already knew what I thought the scale would read. I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight, and actually down about half a pound. And while I was happy to see that number on the scale, I knew it was ultimately very misleading. I could feel the weakness in my body. And I could see the sagging skin. I knew that so much of the muscle I had built up prior to pregnancy was gone, and although the number on the scale may have put me back at my starting point, there were at least 5-7 pounds of fat and extra skin that had replaced the muscle I had worked so hard for. My body’s composition had changed…and that was ok.

I’m not one of those women that can reconcile their changed body with the fact that it has completed a miraculous task. Sure, I’m beyond amazed at what my body did. I’m beyond grateful that it was able to. I’m enamored with the life that it created. I don’t hate my postpartum body, but I’ve got no plans to let it stick around either.

I didn’t work out the last five weeks of pregnancy, and because we don’t really have any help here in Turkey, and Will had to return to work, finding an hour to do anything other than shower and pick up the pig sty we call our house wasn’t happening. And to be honest I wanted to give myself that time to recover. Mentally and physically. And to learn how to be a mother to our tiny child, considering I didn’t have the first clue what I was doing.

It was about the 4 week mark after Aubrey was born that I had my first real inkling to get moving. I didn’t care if it was getting back to crossfit or simply going for a run, I was over this belly pooch, and tired of feeling rundown. Fitness is high on the priority list for Will, and for that I am grateful, because it means he has no issue, and is actually encouraging towards coming home for lunch and watching A so I can take a few minutes to get a workout in.

Today was day 1, and it only involved a 15 minute, mile and a half run. I realized that I still hate running, and still suck at it just as much as I always have, but man did it feel good to breathe, and sweat, and move, and take that first step towards my goal. And I’m happy to report I’m not really any slower 🙂 (<–I was always as slow and graceful as a heavy footed hippo)

So the simple answer to the question, now that I’ve written the long thesis-length one, is that I’m ok with my postpartum bod. I would even brave a bikini at the beach right now if given the chance. I know it isn’t permanent, and at the moment I have a surprising amount of patience for the time I know it will take to get back to where I want to be. I’m really glad I worked out the way I did during pregnancy, because I know that it has given me a major advantage now that I’m in the recovery period. It’s not perfect, but it’s mine, and it’s done some pretty amazing things in the past few months.

Left is 1 month postpartum, right is pre-pregnancy.

And because I know some people are wondering…

* I didn’t get any stretch marks, although now I think I have a couple popping up on my boobs thanks to my new job as milk cow. I used almond oil 2-3 times a day from day 1 of pregnancy, and I also had a very slow and minimal weight gain. I still believe stretch marks are mostly genetic, but that didn’t stop me from trying every trick in the book to avoid them.

* I used a Belly Bandit binder for the first two weeks after pregnancy. You are supposed to wear it 6-12 weeks, but it was uncomfortable, and even though I went down a size, after the swelling went down it was still too big to do much good after that. Would I recommend? Yes. Within 24 hours of giving birth I had pretty much gotten rid of all of the swelling, and I felt like the binder offered a lot of support to my inside bits that were all jumbling around. I also have mild diastasis recti, and although there are conflicting reports, I felt like it had to do at least some good in bringing that gap back together. If I had had a smaller size I think I would have kept wearing it for a few more weeks. Either way I think it was worth it.

* I can fit back into my pre-pregnancy clothes…although they are a little bit snug, and I have a nice muffin top to complement them now 🙂

* I plan to start back to crossfit (with modifications for the diastasis recti) as soon as possible. Like tomorrow if I can make Aubrey and Will’s schedules work.

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