My secret guilty pleasure is the celebrity babies section of People Magazine. Whenever I have a few minutes here and there I like to pop onto their website and read about the newest celebrity baby. Reading their adventures in parenthood is always fun for me as a parent, because it's one way I feel like I can relate. And I mean, come on - babies!
A topic that comes up over and over again is fitness for Moms. Fitness during and especially after pregnancy is always on everyone's minds, and particularly the pressure to bounce back after baby is born. Here too, I can relate. I think most of us can. We all want to set records and be back to our pre-baby selves as soon as we can but for me it always takes a full year to get completely back to my weight before baby (David is 14 months and I'm still not there). We set goals to eat clean and work out every day, and then if we don't meet those goals we can tend to feel like a failure. The struggle is real!
Things were complicated for me this time because David has been a really demanding baby. Prior to his birth I was a machine! I baked once a week, mopped the floors once a week, changed the beds once a week, homeschooled, shuttled kids to a million different activities, and worked out at least three times week (sometimes more). Then my little bundle of joy arrived, and I sensibly thought I'll have to go easy on myself. Knowing I couldn't do it all I chose to be happy with whatever I accomplished, and since being a newborn he slept a ton I found with a little effort I could still do most of what I had been doing before (I saved any workout routines for after six weeks, as the doctors recommend).
And then came the six week mark. I was ready to get cracking on this old body of mine, and eager to find a new workout routine that worked. Let me tell you, it has been so difficult! As David got older I discovered that he was a more demanding baby than most of his siblings, so all the personal goals I had took a back seat to taking care of him. All of my household efforts went to daily cleaning, and I had to give up on the idea that I could do the big jobs all once every week. I haven't baked in forever, and I had to be content with baby wearing and family outings counting as exercise. Complicating things for me has been persistent problems with plugged milk ducts and mastitis, which can be exacerbated by exercise. I had to pretty much abandon all my plans for consistent workout routines and resign myself to the fact that as long as I had a nursing baby, I would not be able to commit to a particular regimen of exercise.
It has been so difficult not to feel like a failure knowing how fit I was during my pregnancy, and also watching those numbers on the scale stall at a number that was still so far from my pre-pregnancy weight. But I'm writing this today for any other mother who has had a baby and is struggling with with her weight - it's okay. It's okay to be a year post-baby and still not be at your pre-pregnancy weight. It's okay to not meet your pre-pregnancy goals if life became much more intense than you realized it would. It's okay to see all those other Moms posting about their fitness routines and to appreciate the goals they are meeting, even if that's not your life right now. Babies will grow up, seasons will change. And even if you don't have have time now to do the things you want, take a deep breath - someday you will.
It's okay to enjoy your baby. It's okay to count baby wearing while you vacuum as a workout. Or lugging toddlers to a playground. Or to the beach. That last five pounds may never come off, it may just shift to a brand new place on your body. Or if you're like me it will eventually, just not in the specific time limit you set for yourself, and that's okay. Postpartum is not, contrary to what the world presents, the time to set records for weight loss. It is a time of healing for your body and your mind. Because even though you may not be getting those workouts in, setting cardio records or pumping iron, your body is working overtime to keep up with your life. Constant, round-the-clock care of a brand new little person. If you're nursing then there are the physical demands of actually feeding a person with your body as well. Being up through the night, always there, always on call - that's the most intense workout you will ever do. It is way more demanding than the 20 minute video I used to pop in before the baby was born.
Mamas, I know it's hard. I feel you. But I want to say, it's okay. You are working harder than you ever have in your life. Don't give up on your fitness goals, it is good and important to want to be healthy. But if despite all your best efforts you are not able in this season to make it work, don't feel like a failure. Breathe deep, celebrate the things you are doing that contribute to physical and emotional wellness, and keep those plans ready for a season when life gives you more time to do them. Enjoy your babies, and know that by caring for them, you are doing something. Live in this season with peace, and the knowledge that you are beautiful, even if you are not at your pre-baby weight.