Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Postpartum Body

I am now more than two months postpartum.  Honestly?  The recovery has been easier than I expected, but that could be because I had heard horror stories from other women and expected the worst.  I was fortunate in that I didn't tear, which is a miracle considering I pushed for just under three hours.

Adjusting to my new body has been a process.  I'm still a few pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight, but I am comfortable with where I am.  I was at the lowest weight I think is healthy for my body prior to conceiving, so adding on a few pounds?  No big deal.  That's not to say I wouldn't eventually like to get back to where I was, but I'm not in a rush--especially since I'm breastfeeding.  When I look in the mirror, I feel comfortable with what I see.

Well, comfortable until I look at my midsection.  It's the one part of my body that still doesn't feel like "me" after giving birth.  I look down and think, "Whose body is this?!"  I used to have a fairly deep innie belly-button that Henry referred to as the "bottomless pit". After giving birth it might more accurately be called the "deep, dark, pit of despair where nothing that enters can ever return"since the mounds of jiggly, stretch-marked flesh now well up around it instead of the taut-skin of my former life.  Sigh.

Please don't misinterpret what I am saying.  I fully recognize how amazing it is that I was able to grow, carry, and give birth to a child.  I am in awe every time I think of it.  I will happily accept a little more jiggle for the joys (and frustrations) that come with motherhood.  That said, I need to process what happened to my body and how I am handling those changes.  I generally consider myself to be someone with a positive body image.  (A big thank you to those who have reinforced what's important in life: my parents, husband, and friends who all value people for who they are and not what they look like.)

Pregnancy, childbirth, and life postpartum have required me to intentionally and continually check-in with myself to see how I am coping with all the changes occurring in my body.  How do I feel about gaining 40 pounds during pregnancy (yes, 40)?  How do I feel about having feet so swollen that the act of standing forms rolls of fluid-filled flesh around my ankles?  How do I feel about the absence of abominable muscles post-birth that made it feel like I could touch my organs?  How do I feel about my stretch-marked abdomen?  Accepting my body for what it is right now, not just what it could be, is a constant effort.

Here are the numbers.  (I hesitate to even write out this part, because I think it can be misinterpreted.  The reason  I decided to go ahead is because I have found it so helpful when other bloggers have shared their weight gain/loss journey during pregnancy and postpartum.  For me, it reinforced the fact that every body and pregnancy is completely different and that we need to embrace and accept how our individual bodies cope with growing, and recovering from growing, a human being.)  I gained 40 pounds while pregnant.  I erroneously assumed that I would only gain 25-30 pounds since I am active and eat well, but that clearly was not the case.  I was right on track to gain 30 pounds until the third trimester hit, then I started gaining two pounds a week.  I found it a little worrisome, but what can you do?  Since I wasn't eating junk, I wasn't overeating, and I was still active, so I tried not to stress about the weight gain too much (which is admittedly easier said than done).  

Turns out a lot of what I put on in the last trimester was water weight.  I lost 27 pounds in the first week, some of which was obviously HP and the placenta, but a lot of which was excess fluid.  I remember getting out of the shower one day after giving birth and telling Henry, "I have supermodel legs!"(which clearly, I don't).  I knew my feet were retaining a lot of water, but I didn't realize how much my legs were as well.  I was shocked to be able to see my calf muscles after they had disappeared for months.  Silly as it sounds, I also remember exclaiming, "Look at how skinny my feet are!  I don't think my feet have ever been this skinny!"

Since that initial drop in the first week, I have been losing a little bit more than pound every two weeks, which seems like a reasonable and healthy rate of loss.  At ten weeks postpartum, I have seven pounds to go to be at my pre-pregnancy weight.  I am not "dieting", but I am very conscious of eating whole, unprocessed foods instead of junk (although I do indulge on occasion since I believe that food truly is one of life's greatest pleasures).  I do well in the morning and evening, but struggle to sit down and eat a meal for lunch.  I feel pulled in so many directions, that by the time Henry comes home I realize I have only snacked throughout the day.  I need to be better about that, since eating a real meal at midday as a significant impact on my patience and mood by the time the evening arrives.

Finding time to exercise has been a bigger challenge for me than eating healthy.  I do not want to exercise to speed my weight loss, but to feel more like the old me.  HP and I have started taking walks (almost) every morning.  Sometimes they are only 15 minutes, and sometimes we go as long as an hour.  Most of the time we around out for 20-30 minutes.  I miss doing yoga.  I miss biking.  I miss the way I feel after lifting weights.  I know I could be doing all of those things, but I am struggling to fit it into my day.  HP does not have a regular nap schedule at this point and requires a lot of help to go to sleep.  When he does nap I feel like there are twenty things I need to accomplish around the house, or I just want to sit, read, and collect myself.  Using that time to exercise has not happened.  I am hopeful that once he gets into a regular routine I can set aside one of his naps to do a yoga video or lift weights.  Right now I am giving myself grace as I adjust to caring for a child.

So that's where I am, for now.

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