(Re)Claiming My Body: My Pregnancy and Post-Partum Fitness Journey

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I’ve always been afraid of pregnancy. It wasn’t just childbirth that scared me (and boy did it scare me!), but also what pregnancy would do to my body long-term. Would I experience aches and pains indefinitely? Would I pee when I laughed or coughed? Could I permanently lose my abdominal strength if I had a C-section? Will I even recognize my post-partum body?

I’m someone who tries to name and then lean into my fears through education and action, so I decided to learn all I could about how to have an easier post-partum recovery. I searched for resources on how to lessen the chance of complications and worked with a physical therapist throughout my pregnancy, which alleviated my fear of hurting the baby or myself by doing the wrong type of exercise or having bad form. When I learned I was high risk for a C-section we focused on exercises to help with my abdominal recovery. By the third trimester, I mostly focused on swimming (which felt wonderful) with some planks thrown in.

Our baby is here!

My son was in our arms via emergency C-section less than three hours after my water broke. When the hospital staff came to change my dressing my back reflexively arched into a bridge to allow them to get right under me. I felt an awesome surge of pride after a very difficult ordeal.

Holding my sweet boy a few weeks after his birth. He felt so heavy to me then!

My son was a four and a half pound preemie when he came home, yet because of my incision, I could barely hold him to breastfeed. My husband took four months of leave and I truly don’t know how women without around the clock support do it. I physically could not take care of my child’s most basic daily needs for over a month. It took me months to feel totally fine bending over to put him in his crib or the bathtub!

Physical Therapy

As soon as I was cleared for exercise I took my regular Physical Therapist’s advice to visit a specialist, a Women’s Health Physical Therapist. I had to get a script and mine mentioned my “postpartum abnormality of organs and soft tissues of the pelvis.” An interesting phrasing for what was actually a very good C-section recovery. Oh to be a woman in this country at this time! My PT appointment was unlike any other I’ve experienced and something I wish was the standard course of care for women in this country. I was given a few exercises (think kegels and the like) and cleared to start exercising and working with my regular PT again.

Celebrating with my physical therapist on the last day of my physical therapy! I am so grateful to her and the many others who have helped me on this journey.

At this point, I was exhausted by the toll of the past few months. I remember this therapist’s wise words, “Children are for life.” This was a season to live through and the result would be the most beautiful little boy being part of my world and me feeling like myself again. 

Rebuilding Strength

It took me nearly six months to rebuild. I certainly got frustrated that it was such an uphill battle. I struggled with jealousy of friends who I saw easily increase their fitness goals. But, I had to work so hard just to get back to where I was years ago! It was worth the work, as I now fairly easily carry my sweet son around the house. I can also run, bike, swim, lift, and more! I feel physically able to do what I need to do to care for my son and myself. Plus, I can tell my strength is increasing. I honestly feel the best physically that I ever have!

I’m shocked by how little I knew about what I could do to work on my strength and recovery and how far we are behind countries like France. My recovery has required grit and determination. My recovery is also thanks to excellent health insurance as well as finances to cover childcare for my appointments. Sadly, the pregnancy and post-partum support I received isn’t the norm in our country. And often only something women of privilege are able to undertake. I’m still pondering what I can do to help that change, and I hope just writing this post is a start.

Education is power, and I hope that my story is empowering to moms who want to focus on their pregnancy fitness and post-partum physical recovery. For fellow mommas and moms-to-be, please comment with your questions and/or share your thoughts!

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Rebecca is passionate about market-based social change, values-based consumptive behavior, and ending homelessness. She founded the DC-based sustainable fashion company Maven Women (www.mavenwomen.com) to create a socially conscious option for elegant, flattering women's attire and "move the needle" in the global garment industry. Rebecca has two children, Nathan (2017) and Lily (2019). Her parenting passions include social justice and minimalist parenting, (re)claiming her authentic self in her journey, and hyper-local child-raising. Likes: vegetarian street food, sunning & swimming, long city walks, sleeping late, old Hollywood fashion. Dislikes: mushrooms, driving, the saying "everything happens for a reason", being told something is impossible.

2 COMMENTS

  1. This is a great article and resonates with me a lot. I also held my son in my arms just about three hours after my water broke via emergency C-section. He was born at 41 weeks, but was just 5 lbs. 10 oz. I’m still working on regaining my ab muscle strength, but this post gives me hope (was started to get frustrated at 3mpp). Thank you!

    • Alison, thanks for your note. I am now over a year out and I can tell you that it DOES get better. Three months was such a hard time because I was just able to be active again but still very overwhelmed by the birth and post-partum experience. Just don’t give up, do what you can, and give yourself all the time in the world. You’ll get there!

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