I like to push myself. I like to “better” myself. I like to strive toward…something. I don’t always know what that “something” is but I strive toward it anyway. One thing that’s been on my mind since Cami has begun sleeping through the night and I’m feeling less sleep deprived is my own physical health.
I am an active person. I value having a strong body. I’m not one of those marathon runners or hard-core two-hour daily work-out people. Not even close. In fact, I also stand for moderation. I value variety in my workouts (because I get bored easily). I also value eating well and eating a variety of foods (including chocolate daily). I love having goals (like the 10k I ran last year in honor of Charlie or going on long, rigorous hikes, which reward me with spectacular views).
Given that side of my identity, it’s a bit hard for me to feel like I’m back at ground zero.
This pregnancy with Cami, I only gained 22 pounds and my weight gain at the end was exactly what I weighed before I delivered Charlie. I also didn’t exercise during this pregnancy because of the blood clot. When I was exercise approved I was too paranoid and too pregnant to do more than simple walks each day. When I learned at my last appointment that I had only gained 22 pounds (I don’t own a scale) I was impressed because I didn’t try to stay within some weight range at all! This added to my testimony of Intuitive Eating and listening to your body. At my six week post-partum appointment I learned I was only 6 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight and only 8 pounds above my “set point.” Again, I was impressed with my body and feeling pretty good about myself.
But since then…my body hasn’t changed and I feel I might actually be gaining weight (although I don’t know because again, I don’t own a scale). I have the biggest “gut” in my life and my thighs rub against each other more than they ever have. Where I used to feel “toned,” I am soft and flabby.
I am consciously trying not to care about this. And overall I think I’m doing a decent job (despite moments of weakness where I accidentally drop the “F-A-T” word in my conversations with Chad who quickly reprimands me and reminds me I’m beautiful. Those moments of weakness attest to the presence of my old nemesis: my negative mind. That negative mind emerges when I step out of the shower and see myself naked. Or when I squeeze into my pre-pregnancy jeans and feel my “muffin top” spilling over. Or when I drive and feel my gut protruding above the seatbelt. Or when I think about buying new clothes but dismiss this because it would have to be a size bigger than I’m used to. This is the negative mind that took center stage when I was a teenager and in my young 20s. This is the negative mind that made me miserable, insecure and devalue myself and my body.
This negative mind looks at my new postpartum body with disgust and encourages me to cover it up and to get on the treadmill as soon as possible. But over the years I have become much stronger than that negative mind. While it’s presence isn’t eradicated, those moments I described above are quite fleeting unless I decide to give them more attention. Instead, I have learned to value my body for what it allows me to do and be, instead of what it looks like.
And right now, I am trying to remember and value that I just pushed a baby out 2 months ago! My body is amazing for letting me do that! For growing and gifting me the beautiful rainbow I get to snuggle every day.
I also remind myself that intuitively I am an active and healthy person and I trust myself to return to that girl again. I am beginning to exercise more. I am taking is slowly because each day is unpredictable with Cami and Hailee’s needs and my energy levels. I am also taking it slowly because I know if I jumped back into my old exercise habits too fast, that when I miss a day, I would feel guilty. I do not want guilt to be part of my relationship with my body. It’s not about that. It’s about trying to be healthy and living within the context of my life now. And it’s OK if there are days when my daughters’ needs take precedence over my desire to exercise. It’s OK if there are days I’m just too tired to get up off the couch! So I am consciously being compassionate with myself as I begin this part of my journey.
This compassion is important because I’ll admit it is frustrating to go from running a 5k quite regularly and easily to my legs throbbing and my lungs burning from running 1 MILE. But I know my body will get there again. I am going to trust the process and be ok that I won’t be running a 5k anytime soon (although I aim to run a 5k Turkey Trot by Thanksgiving). I am also making sure I keep variety in my life to help stave off that negative mind. So I bought some Zumba videos and I am taking advantage of beautiful weather to do short hikes and long walks at the park.
It’s so easy, I think, as women to buy into the pressures of “being it all.” The pressure to have a baby and within weeks have our stomachs, butt, and legs toned and skinny while simultaneously sporting our rockin, milk-producing, breasts! But seriously?! What misery that would require to accomplish! I am grateful that Charlie has taught me to value motherhood in ways I hadn’t before. And my “soft” body is a daily testament to that role and who I am.
And now I’m going to go eat a couple pumpkin chocolate chip cookies Chad just pulled out of the oven! Yum!