When I sit back and reflect upon my pre-baby body, a hint of nostalgia slowly creeps into mind. Before I became a mum I was a slim, healthy woman of 24, who took care of her body, which was something I had always believed would support me through pregnancy and with any luck, help me to ‘bounce back’ into shape post-pregnancy.
Being in my early 20’s, you could say I was still very young and a little naïve. You could also probably say I was a little under-informed at the time. You could definitely say I was very appearance conscious and wanted to stay looking like my friends and peers.
Until I was around 6 months pregnant I remained much the same as I had before pregnancy. I didn’t really show until I was 6/7 months pregnant during both pregnancies and due to sickness in my first trimester (something which I have spoken about at length in my previous posts), I was actually slimmer than before I was pregnant. I had remained active and ate healthily throughout and always saw this as being a crucial step in maintaining my health and wellbeing. At around 7 months my bump got a lot bigger at speed and so did everything else. I was fortunate enough in that I could survive in leggings and baggy tops, with minimal discomfort. Whilst I hadn’t grown as rapidly as some, my natural size had increased considerably and I started gaining stretch marks and struggling with a lot more tasks.
I don’t believe that anyone actively welcomes stretch marks. I am not in denial about the fact that I openly spent hours scouring the internet for the best lotions to repair the stretched skin. I wanted my pre-baby body back desperately and wanted to feel like myself again. As I spent more and more time pondering about how I looked and how I felt in my own skin, identifying what was genuinely important to me as a mother, not just superficially, really helped me create a plan to get to where I wanted.
There were three key areas that I worked to improve:
1, Diet & Nutrition
As I was breastfeeding, I made sure that I was eating healthy, wholesome and nutritional meals. Breastfeeding, in supporting your baby, deprives your body of a lot of calories so this is vital. I had breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and snacked lightly in between. For breakfast I had porridge with berries, which ensured my energy levels were where they needed to be & kept me full until lunch. For lunch, I had chicken or salmon salads, which I often prepared the night before when my little one was sleeping. When I didn’t have time, I would throw together an omelette and some fruit. For dinner I had meat, potatoes or rice and vegetables or a pasta dish. Of course I had the odd off-day where I enjoyed pizza or a Chinese, but as much as possible I tried to stick to my plan, to correctly nourish myself and my baby.
Whilst in the early days I didn’t have time or energy to carry out a full routine, I made time every day to go for a walk with my little one. From when Ethan was 3 days old, I walked a mile to and from school to pick my daughter up, twice daily. Just getting out of the house helped me to feel like I had a routine again. When I had built up a bit more strength I tried some light resistance workouts, which I will detail in forthcoming posts. I gradually increased the frequency of these as my little one slept more & as I felt more able. Exercise releases endorphins, so not only are you helping your body, you are creating those natural happy hormones at the same time.
3, Time For Myself
I love being a mum. It is the best experience, I believe, in life. Nothing is more rewarding and challenging. But I am open enough to say that there is more to me and my happiness than just being a mum. I need time to do the things I enjoy and to grow as a person. I make time to do a few things each week that I enjoy. Be it, going for dinner with my friends, or going shopping, or going to an exercise class, even having a long shower and pamper session at home with the door closed, undisturbed. After having a baby your life is consumed with all things baby, and it is vital to your mental health that you have an outlet. Yes you are a mum, but you are still you and you have needs and desires outside of parenting. And it is important that you acknowledge that. I really believe that acknowledging this helped me to start to feel like myself again.
Post-pregnancy health both physically and mentally, is something that needs a lot more encouragement and promotion. Yes, it is great that we are widely versed on how to prepare for the needs of our babies. Of course this is essential and fundamental to the task ahead, this would never be disputed. But what is widely promoted and facilitated to assist us with the impact of pregnancy on our minds and bodies?
Pregnancy is a process which deprives our bodies of essential vitamins and nutrients in order to nourish our growing babies. When we come to give birth, this applies even greater stress on our already depleted energy levels and then we are faced with a lack of sleep and for some, breast-feeding, which applies further duress.
Then there is the emotional rollercoaster which we teeter on from day one of our pregnancies. The high’s and the low’s take a toll on us without a doubt. As the big day creeps closer and closer our anxiety levels rocket, with worries of how and when our little ones will arrive. A growing number of us experience ‘the baby blues’, with no known remedy available. And then we are faced with a societal demand to return to our pre-baby bodies, in line with various celebrities, (whom are privy to the best trainers & nutritionists available – unlike ourselves). It is a miracle that we make it out alive!
I struggled for a long time, with feeling like I was being selfish for wanting to feel like myself again. I had a beautiful newborn baby, that I loved and cherished and a wonderful family with whom to share this experience with, but I also longed to have some time for myself and a sense of control over my changing body. I now realise that this is vital in moving forward post-pregnancy.
We need to help and support each other and promote health and wellbeing amongst new mums. There needs to be a better support system in place to help new mums, who are struggling. There needs to be better direction and facilitation for all mums, in balancing the demands of parenthood with their own personal demands.
In my coming posts I plan on putting together a series of posts looking at the following:
1, Fitness routines for new mums, with Qualified Personal Trainers recommendations, tailored to the post-pregnancy body.
2, Meal plans for new mums, that can be prepared in realistic timeframes and provide all of the nutrients needed, as recommended by a nutritionist.
3, Suggestions for new-mum activities and pampering, which encourage health and wellbeing.
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