Thursday, 31 January 2013

Getting my body back: 9 months post-partum

I've heard people say, "It took 9 months for your body to change, so it should take 9 months for your body to change back". With the recent passing of my son's 9 month anniversary of his birth, I can tell you that, at least in my case, that is an overly simplistic view of what happens to a woman's body after giving birth.

If you read my 3 month update you will recall that I had grand plans to incorporate regular strength training into my week, keep tabs on my waist circumference and continue to track my food using Weight Watchers online. Let me just skip to the punch line and tell you that I have dropped the ball on almost every front. I have done very little core work, I have no idea where our tape measure is (probably packed away when we started staging our condo), I gained back some of the weight I initially lost and some days I don't even make it out for a walk. So why blog about my failure to make healthy choices? Like most lessons, I've learned this the hard way: my approach to fitness and weight loss has to take into consideration the fact that I am now a mother.

To be fair, if you hadn't seen me since I had a baby and you saw me today, you probably wouldn't notice anything different about me. I weigh about the same that I did when I got pregnant, I still walk really fast and am generally in good spirits. In reality, my body has been through a lot in the last year and a half, and although it might not show on the outside, I have a lot of work to do before I feel physically strong enough to do it all over again.

My goals at 9 months are basically the same as they were at 3 months, but with more realistic expectations of myself given the demands of motherhood. This is what I have learned.

Breast feeding is a great way to lose weight, but then your baby starts to wean.
For the first 6 months of my son's life, I could eat anything with impunity. I was hungry all the time, and I had to eat a lot just to keep from passing out. And then he started eating solid foods. I didn't purposely withhold milk from him, but he was taking less and asking less often. Some days, he was so busy playing, I would forget to offer and hours would go by without breast feeding. The weight started creeping back on after that, so now I'm back to tracking what I eat, and adjusting my intake of food to account for my son's more varied diet.

Exercising with a 3 month old is not the same as a exercising with a 6 months old.
This should have been obvious to me, but you don't really know what a crawler is like until you have one. It might have been possible for me to do pilates with a 3 month old hanging out beside me, but now that I have a climbing, cruising little person, it's just not going to happen. I either have to exercise when he's sleeping, when my partner is home or find a way to make play time exercise for me. Now that he's almost 20 pounds, doing squats with him a carrier is great resistance training and chasing him around can get the heart pumping.

Prioritizing "me time" is not easy, but I need to do it
My partner works out of the home AND does more than his share of cooking and cleaning at home, so the last thing I want to do when he gets home is saddle him with all the child care responsibilities. I need to get over that. I am with the baby all day, and taking an hour and a half once or twice a week to go to a yoga class is not unreasonable. My partner is on board, my son is on board, I am the one that needs to get on board. After general laziness, so-called "mommy guilt" is now my number one barrier to working out.

At 9 months post-partum I have a completely different perspective of "getting my body back". The weight loss wasn't difficult, and my strength will return once I make it a priority. It's easy to make that precious little person my whole world, but I have to acknowledge that I'm more than just his mother. Getting my body back means reclaiming some time for myself, while acknowledging that part of my body is still devoted to nourishing my child. Let's face it, though. Even after he has completely weaned, I will never get a part my body back. My son will always have a piece of my heart.

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