Hi friends! Happy Thursday.
SO excited to bring you this post + message along with my friend Abby.
One of my passions is to spread the word on what a healthy postpartum journey looks like. A huge part of this is not doing too much too soon, hoping for an immediate “bounce back”. I believe that half the battle is truly having the right mindset + learning what is safe/recommended as you recover.
Abby is momma to Lucy (8.5 months) + by now you all know sweet Maxwell (6.5 months).
Special thanks to Abby for coming on the blog again! She is SO sweet + wanted to help spread the message. She posted her progress photos on Facebook + a ton of women reached out with questions for her! That is what spurred this post!
We had different experiences + wanted to share both the good + the stumbles in order to help other women.
Let’s get started, we both answered the same questions separately to bring you two postpartum experiences!
:: What was your post-pregnancy mindset?
Abby: It was not easy for us to become pregnant. Because of this, everyday of pregnancy (okay, maybe not week 39 🙂 was a blessing and I felt so fortunate to have a healthy baby growing inside. After Lucy was born, I continued to remind myself of this thankfulness and that my husband, Colin, and I have an opportunity that not everyone receives. Negative thoughts of comparing my parenting to other moms’ parenting, comparing my body to other women’s bodies. Overall trying to stay positive while being sleep deprived and sore was tough. I read a few posts and talked to a lot of moms and realized that no one is better or worse-we are all just different! That helped a ton with getting my confidence back. Wherever you are in life, comparing only leads to unhealthy competition. It’s okay to strive to move forward, but if the comparison game is leaving you feeling sad, focus on loving the present and how far you have already come.
Ames: Toward the end of pregnancy + in early postpartum, I knew that I wanted to stay confident along the journey. I always make sure I have a few mantras ready for whatever I’m about to go through, that way when a negative thought comes up…I can chase it with a positive one. For postpartum I have two: “Be confident, be patient, be kind to yourself.” AND “Embrace the journey.” I was also so in love with our new addition, that I always remembered to be thankful. What a beautiful baby my body gave me! I continuously remind myself not to compare my body to other women. Everyone has a different body + will respond differently during pregnancy + postpartum.
:: Did you really believe that you could get back into pre-pregnancy form? Any doubts along the way?
Abby: I would be lying if I said there were NO doubts along the way, but I did have an overall confidence that I could feel like my normal self again. The first few weeks, weight and inches just fell off (all that uncomfortable night sweating probably helped). Then all of a sudden I was at a standstill. That’s when I realized that the rest of the weight was my actual body and would take work and grace to help transform. I also set realistic expectations that I may not be able to run as fast or as far, may not be able to lift as much, and that my hips might not look quite the same in my favorite pair of skinny jeans again. I am wearing those jeans right now and they are a bit tighter; the snugness is a beautiful reminder that my body created and sustained the life of my wonderful daughter. I’ll take tight jeans over never meeting Lucy any day!
Ames: I did believe it was possible! I had incredible examples all around me + not just Instagram examples, momma friends that looked amazing! During pregnancy a lot of people make comments like “Your body is going to be like a tube of toothpaste.” or “Oh, just wait until you have kids.” or “Your body will never be the same again.” or “You won’t have any time to workout”. There is a lot of negativity all around us, ready to shake our confidence.
But, I knew that everyones’s habits are different pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy, + after. If I ate well + worked out, I knew that I could get back to where I felt comfortable + confident. And, here I am!
:: What were your biggest mental struggles postpartum?
Abby: How much time do we have… 😉 But in all seriousness there are a lot of thoughts that go through a new momma’s mind and many of them are not happy-go-lucky. During those midnight nursing sessions I would find myself scrolling social media to stay awake. “How do these moms have it all together”, “Gosh she sure bounced back after pregnancy”, “I wish my labor story went according to plan like hers did”. That last one still stings on a weekly basis. My labor story did not go as I envisioned and I struggle with it frequently. After 49 hours of natural home labor, I ended up with a hospital epidural and a medicated end to pregnancy. I so badly wanted to go drug-free and I mentally struggle with the fact that I was not able to have that experience. I replay those hours in my mind more often than I should. BUT, I do have a healthy baby girl and there were no avid complications in labor and for that, I am grateful.
Ames: Even though I stayed MOSTLY positive + upbeat, there were certainly times that I had a lapse in confidence. I gained 40 pounds during pregnancy, which was more than I expected. At the end I really started retaining fluid: my face, ankles, + feet were puffy! After Max was born, the first 30 pounds came off quickly, but the last 10 wanted to stay on board for a while. As much as I tell people not to worry about the number on the scale, it was a mental block for me. Thank goodness my sweet husband + good friend Carrie were there to continuously encourage me. They would say “AMY! You just had a baby! You look great! It is going to take a while.” Drew learned a lot during pregnancy + would surprise me by saying things like, “Amy, first you look amazing. Second, you know that some women hold onto weight while they are breastfeeding.” Sometimes you need someone else to point that out to you + thank goodness I have positive people surrounding me.
I’m still holding onto a little bit of extra squish around my middle even though I currently weigh less than I “normally”. do. This is a great example of the scale not showing the whole story. I always write on Instagram, make sure you are focusing on progress + not perfection! At 6.5 months postpartum, I’m still full of grace for my journey.
:: Biggest/best motivation to get into shape?
Abby: Amy, your blog was a huge motivator! Max is 7 weeks younger than Lucy so it has been so easy to relate to your posts with our kids being so close in age. You speak from your heart and don’t cover up the not-so-fun details of this process which is what ALL of us really need to hear. Also, my husband would love me in every form, but his encouragement helped me so much on this journey. He noticed before anyone when my walking turned into jogging then eventually running, when my bulky sweatpants were switched out for yoga pants then eventually jeans, and how my confident smile grew through it all.
Ames: I love feeling confident + strong! When I was younger, a huge motivator for me was to look good in a bikini. I would now call that an extra perk of working out + eating well. Today it is about feeling well everyday. I know I’m my absolute best when my habits are healthy. I know that confidence + self love are key to my happiness.
:: Did you workout during pregnancy?
Abby: Sure did, right up until the morning labor started! I would lift 3 times per week and hike 2-3 times per week with our active Husky furbaby. Working out felt so good and feeling strong when your body is expanding helps with the negative thoughts that can sometimes creep in. A few girlfriends and I also ran a 50 mile relay when I was 20 weeks pregnant. One of my best friends was three weeks ahead of me so being active with her throughout our pregnancy was amazing!
Ames: Yes! I would say the hardest was at the beginning (my first trimester all I wanted to do was nap) + the end (working as a nurse, it was a ton of time on my feet + thinking of also working out was tough). But, I tried to workout 5x a week. I was focused on having a healthy pregnancy + I knew that was beneficial for both me + the baby I was carrying. I did a blog post about working out during pregnancy here. At the end, walks were a great way to get out of the house + get a bit of exercise in!
:: When did you return to exercise, what did you start with?
Abby: This is the part I want you all to really listen to, and then do exactly the opposite. I started hiking while baby wearing when Lucy was one week old. It started slowly on flat terrain and then I eventually brought in hills, longer distance and a faster pace. If I were to do it all over again, I would just continue with this for many more months. But INSTEAD, I decided to get back to the gym right after my 6 week check up. I had “healed” from the small tear and got the clear from my midwife to resume as usual. That day I participated in a 60 minute spin class followed by 20 minutes of ab exercises. I continued this for several weeks alternating spin with weight lifting and 45 minute cardio sessions and didn’t listen to the pains in my body. I thought I was just sore from working out and that it was a good thing-boy was I wrong!
Ames: I only walked for the first 4 weeks, that was my goal + I was committed to it. I focused on listening to my body + I remember in the beginning having to ask my husband to slow down during our walks around the neighborhood. I went from just walking around our little loop, to being able to walk further + further. I also did a few upper body exercises that my physical therapist friend Natalie showed me to help with pain I was having in my back + neck (many new mommas + daddies experience these from being in a hunched over position when caring for your newborn). At 4 weeks I headed back into the gym doing low impact activities: weight lifting (starting light), stair climbing, + biking. I waited until 8 weeks postpartum to run + do higher impact activities (+ have sex).
:: What issues did you run into working out postpartum?
Abby: Again, how long do we have!? For starters, I had the constant feeling that my insides were “falling out” every time I jumped or ran. I later found out that this was due to Organ Prolapse and that my bladder and anus had broke through my vaginal wall and were literally falling down with every vertical movement. I also felt like my core was getting weaker and weaker even though I was doing abdominal workouts multiple times a week. My plank time decreased and was far more difficult as the days went on and my lower abdomen was turning into a bulky mess. Yep, there’s a title for that too: Diastasis Recti. My abs had actually torn apart and a nice 3-4 cm gap was growing between my lower muscles.
Ames: I didn’t experience any huge issues postpartum when it came to working out. I did have a small tear + if I’m honest the thing that made me the most nervous was to return to sex. Max + I had other issues (like a very rough start to breastfeeding), but my postpartum knowledge + physical therapist really helped my returning to working out journey safe.
:: What was your experience with a women’s health physical therapist?
Abby: Hallelujah! I still remember this as such a pinnacle day in my postpartum recovery. Amy, you and I went for a hilly walk through your neighborhood when I was 11 weeks postpartum. I remember breezing through a few of these experiences not thinking they were really issues until you stopped me mid sentence and enlightened me on Jessica, my soon-to-be woman’s health physical therapist. Ames: I remember this SO clear. When Abby mentioned the falling out feeling, that was a huge red flag + I knew that a women’s health PT would be key for her. That walk with our babies in tow was the single most important discussion to start my recovery. A physical therapist can help with any number of things from tightening your pelvic floor (think peeing a little when you cough or jump), relaxing your pelvic floor (think ease for labor and reduce urgency to have a bowel movement), while strengthening core and working out knots in that very sensitive region. After just a few sessions and a lot of home exercise, my DR was well on its way to closing the gap and my internal wall was far stronger reducing the “falling out” feeling that Organ Prolapse can cause. Update to 8 months postpartum and my gap that was previously almost 4cm is now less than 1 cm wide! This makes a huge difference with looks but more importantly with the strength of my entire midsection.
Ames: I thank the Lord that I have a lot of great women’s health physical therapists around me + (Krystle, Natalie, Jessica, Lauren) + a certification in perinatal fitness. Toward the end of my pregnancy, I had several sessions with Jessica (in Madison!) + she was key in helping me deliver how I wanted to deliver (Max’s birth story). We worked on stretching my perineal tissue + relaxing my pelvic floor. So many of us focus on kegels, kegels, kegels…but for me my pelvic floor muscles were too tight. Jessica emphasized how important it was to connect with my body + learn how to breathe to relax my pelvic floor. I’m convinced that this really helped Maxwell come into this world! I’ve been trying to spread the good word ever since + would highly recommend connecting with a women’s health physical therapist BEFORE you deliver. Next, I waited to do ANY high impact activity until AFTER I was cleared by a women’s health PT. At my 6 week postpartum appointment, my OB said I would be fine to run…but should wait a bit longer for sex. When I mentioned this to Natalie, she essentially said, “Sorry, but no.” To her that assessment didn’t make sense because everything is SO connected. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but I listened + waited on both of those activities until AFTER my physical therapy appointment at 8 weeks postpartum. It kills me when I see people start running or doing high impact activities too soon because your abdominal muscle + pelvic floor are not ready for all of that impact + you can really set yourself back. Read this blog about Pelvic Floor Health if you are unfamiliar with this topic!
Ames: A blog reader also named Amy reached out about how thankful she was that she had read the blog + learned about women’s health physical therapy. Here is what she said about her experience, “I’ve had challenges with my back since I was a teenager — scoliosis, kyphosis, etc. so I routinely see a chiropractor. During my postpartum recovery, I was having pretty significant SI joint pain along with pelvic “heaviness” (for lack of a better word). After several unsuccessful chiropractic adjustments, I talked to my chiropractor about whether or not she thought a PT referral would be beneficial and she thought it would be an excellent idea — for not only my postpartum recovery but also setting the stage for improved core strength that could help with my postural issues. Since starting physical therapy, I have learned a TON! My pelvic floor strength was pretty much non-existent when I started and has since improved drastically to the point where my pain has improved and my core strength is probably better than it was pre-pregnancy. I have a better understanding of how to do a correct kegel and how to rebuild strength without putting myself at risk of increased injury. I also have a better appreciation of how important it is to listen to your body and to trust your instincts. Although I got the “clear” from my OB group to resume exercising at my 6 week pp f/u visit, I knew that my body wasn’t ready for that. After meeting with my PT, it’s become very clear to me that if I had started working out when my MD said that I could, I probably would have issues with not only pain but also incontinence. I’m very thankful that I read your blog and learned more about the benefits of being evaluated by a physical therapist!” I love that + wanted to share it with you guys! I also asked my OB for a referral + she was more than happy to give me one!
:: How much weight did you gain with pregnancy and how long did it take you to lose it?
Abby: I gained 28 pounds during pregnancy. When Lucy was two weeks old, I was up 8 pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight. These 8 pounds stayed on for many months-an important lesson on showing grace to myself! At 5 months postpartum I joined Monkey Bar Gym https://www.monkeybargym.com/ which is focused on functional fitness. The trainers there really helped me on my DR and gaining my core strength back slowly and deliberately. I was nervous to join a gym after overdoing it in early postpartum but they have a great system with workouts for different levels of fitness and different goals. After 3 months at Monkey Bar Gym, I am below my pre-pregnancy weight and stronger than I have been in years!
Ames: As I mentioned, I gained 40 pounds with Maxwell! More than expected, but it is how much my body wanted to gain during pregnancy as my habits were mostly healthy during pregnancy. The weight was gone by the time that Maxwell was 4 months + then I focused on regaining my strength.
:: Why would you suggest before and after pictures vs. just focusing on weight loss?
Abby: I like how my gym says it: “A scale will only tell you the numerical value of your gravitational pull. It will NOT tell you how beautiful you are, how much your friends and family love you, or how amazing you are.” Guys, it’s a number! That’s it! Before and after photos do so much more justice with showing what that number is really made up of.
Ames: All day, everyday. For everyone! The trick is NOT to try to flex or get a good angle. If you are taking them for yourself, make sure they are an honest depiction. That’s the best way to track progress!
:: What have you learned for next time?
Abby: “Bouncing back” is not a sprint and a not trophy or a badge of honor. I personally would rather take it slow, enjoy those moments of just staring at your baby, sleep in longer and cuddle that little nugget like crazy. The gym can wait. Those skinny jeans can wait. But that baby in those early months can take up all of your time and momma, it will be worth it to wait!
Ames: Being slow + patient is the best way to go! I agree with Abby, the time with your little baby goes SO fast, so really focusing on soaking that in is the best! With Maxwell I made sure to take a bunch of naps, eat when hungry, DRINK so much water (I was SO thirsty for weeks postpartum). I’m going to reread this post if God blesses us with another baby as a reminder of all of these important things. “Bouncing back” mindset can really lead you to complications that you want to avoid! Looking back, the time goes way too fast anyways…so don’t you worry, you’ll be able to return to the gym soon!
We hope that this message helps with both your mindset + plan in postpartum! Take home messages: enjoy the journey, fill yourself with grace, + heading to see a women’s health physical therapist is an awesome idea before + after baby!
Love, Abby + Amy