Postpartum threw me for a loop. I guess it started at labor and birth: I decided to have an unmedicated birth, and in my head I pictured it like a beautiful spa moment in the birthing tub, with candles on, playing gentle music, just being so at peace while welcoming my baby into the world.
Not quite. Instead, I had over 24 hours of “how in the world am I supposed to survive this” pain. I was so bewildered during labor that it was so painful. And because I hadn’t been mentally prepared for the pain, I was so disappointed with myself for how mentally “weak” I thought I was, how I wanted to give up during my birth.
Postpartum recovery was somewhat like this—I was completely ignorant to the realities of what a baby going through my pelvic area would do to my body and how gentle I needed to be with my body as I was healing.
After I gave birth, my midwives at the birthing center were angels and were very strongly encouraging me to basically do nothing for weeks. They wanted me to essentially lay down so that my body could heal and the wound from the placenta would heal up. So I did my best to do that, even working in the reclined position. At 10 days post-birth, I walked no more than 50 meters to get a picture with my daughter Clark and I started gushing blood, became faint, and had a fever for the rest of the night. I was terrified I was going to bleed out. That event really solidified how easy and gentle I needed to be with my body. Birth and postpartum recovery was no joke.
I don’t think we talk enough about how intense the birth is on your body and how greatly we need to recover.
At six weeks out, I was still bleeding and sore from birth. As my postpartum hormones rebalance, I’ve soaked the bed in sweat multiple times a night. I’ve dealt with bleeding breasts from my daughter (and I!) learning how to feed. I’ve stressed about milk production at 1 a.m. as my daughter is crying. I had two months of postpartum hair loss.
It took months for my pelvic area to not feel sore and heavy from birth. I couldn’t sit down without a “donut” under me for several months. I’ve felt totally physically depleted after feeding all day long while working full-time.
Because we don’t talk about how hard birth is on the body, many of us moms think we are the only one really going through it postpartum, or maybe we’re not being tough enough, or we need to just suck it up and get back to running.
Let’s talk about birth. Let’s talk about recovery. Let’s normalize sharing this info so that other new moms are encouraged to really take the rest and recovery they need in order to come back stronger.
Our bodies go through a lot when we give birth, and if we try to “push it” after in a bid to get back to fitness, we risk pushing our bodies over the edge. This can results in dealing with years of health issues as a result of not letting our bodies fully recover. How’s that for incentive to take it easy postpartum?
As a new mom, I was so disappointed that the messaging you hear most is about “getting your body back” after birth or making a comeback. As if, after we just created a child with our bodies and birthed it, the most important thing is in fact how we look on the outside. Our insides went through so much trauma and need all of our TLC.
I chose NOT to rush back to fitness. Fitness will always be there. Take care of your body and your baby first by allowing yourself to heal and recover. I let my body heal. I took about seven months off from running (I ran two times after five months, but really hadn’t resumed a normal fitness routine). And you know, I don’t even feel bad about not coming back to it sooner. I honored and respected my body, so I know that means that it’ll be recovered for when I’m ready to come back to running at full steam.
Sure, my body isn’t the same as before baby—I lost basically all muscle tone in the seven months I haven’t been that active—but I know it’ll all come back when I get back to running regularly.
I’ve realized I have more to lose by rushing the healing process than to gain by trying to limp along for a quick “comeback.”
There’s no need for you to feel pressure or rushed to push your body too soon while you’re recovering. This is the message we need to hear: “Take your time. You have all the time in the world to accomplish your goals. Rest and heal and enjoy baby.”