I can wholeheartedly say that I have loved my body more after having children. This feeling doesn’t come from a place of body acceptance, but of true, genuine body love.
The topic of motherhood is brought up consistently as many of my clients are either pregnant, postpartum, or women dreaming of being a mom someday. The territory comes with a lot of questions and concerns which I’m always open to discussing — I’m incredibly lucky to have two children and to be able to share with others my experiences with health and fitness along the way!
When I reflect on my motherhood journey, with all its ups and downs, I always circle back to the same thing: complete gratitude for this body of mine, what it has accomplished, and what it continues to accomplish.
As with most women, my story is not without struggle. Everyone’s story is unique, but I’d like to share what keeps my perspective positive regarding body image and self-respect. To start…I grew two human beings inside of me! Still to this day that fact blows my mind. I can’t think of anything greater, and I did that! I overcame a lot of obstacles along the way, one of the biggest being my own perception of what being pregnant was going to be like. I really really wanted to love being pregnant. I spent my whole life dreaming of becoming a mom, so I figured that happiness and a pregnancy glow was a done deal. The reality? I found it more challenging than I could have possibly imagined.
I was 24 years old during my first pregnancy with my daughter. I was fit, excited, and thought I knew it all. I worked A LOT training 40 plus hours a week in a gym and teaching 8-10 aerobics classes separately. Because of my circumstances, I couldn’t let up on my hours just because I was pregnant, and although I worked out all the time I still packed on 40lbs! This made being on my feet all day long very challenging and I ate out often as a reward to myself (this was before I became a health food nut), which definitely didn’t help matters. One car accident mixed with personal circumstances later led me to become a mama-to-be with an unhealthy level of stress while developing bad habits.
I decided not to take any birthing classes because, well, I was 24 and thought reading some books was all I needed! That, as you can imagine, led to a very rough and naïve labor. After having back labor for two days straight with no sleep, I finally went into active labor and pushed for hours. I didn’t have any strength left – or so I thought – until the nurse said if I didn’t start pushing I was going to have a C-section. That sure got my attention!! And just as an athlete finds that last, desperately needed surge of energy to cross the finish line, I found my own and my baby girl was born. My life was forever changed the moment I saw her beautiful face, and I grew a newfound sense of pride for bringing her into this world; a pride which also gave birth to an unrelenting strength I never knew I had.
I was beyond excited to get back into full exercise after delivering my girl. I felt so strong and excited to have her with me on walks and jogs. Thanks to all my strength workouts during pregnancy my body tone came back really quick; that combined with breastfeeding led me to drop the 40lbs within about 6 weeks. Having her in my life completely changed my motivation around nutrition and that’s when my journey to nutrition began. I wanted her consuming the best nutrients, which meant that I had to eat better too. I respected my body in such a new way and wasn’t going to fill it with crap.
After pregnancy number one, I figured the second one, this time a boy, would be so much easier and that I’d finally get that pregnancy glow…right?! Wrong. Whole new ball game. A few months into being pregnant I thought I had a miscarriage when after teaching a spin class I went home and was suddenly bleeding profusely. This turned out to be the result of my uterine wall being torn away from my placenta, and a bad tear like that causes the baby to lose oxygen. Luckily, after many tests my baby boy was still perfectly healthy in his little amniotic sack, but I was put on rest orders. Rest orders for an independent-contractor-personal-trainer-mom that had a mortgage to pay…..How was that going to work?! I figured the doctors were being overly cautious, so I went back to work but tried to take it much easier. Shortly after I walked on the treadmill slowly and had issues again. Back to the doctor. Absolutely NO exercise. Ok. One day grabbing groceries out of my car, more issues. Back to the doctor. “What don’t you understand about the fact that you have to rest in order for this baby to survive?”.
It was the most humbling moment of my life. For the first time, my body was not in a place where my physical strength could help me – it was hurting me. I had to focus on my mental strength while continuing to train others from a seated, stress-free position. The result was a beautiful, healthy baby boy, and an extra 50lbs. My body was more out of shape than it had ever been, but I had never been happier! I truly loved the challenge of having the weight to lose and took it on fully. As you can imagine with two young children I didn’t have tons of free time, so I learned to be very efficient with exercise. I focused heavily on strength training to boost my metabolism and give support. I learned how to workout at home with short intervals of living room floor exercises. I continued to build up my home gym equipment so I wouldn’t have to rely on getting to the gym. Most importantly, my priorities had shifted and I no longer obsessed on the quest for the “perfect body”. My body was perfect enough for these kids…and that was good enough for me.
I was never overly confident in a swimsuit, even when I was 20 years old and looked great. But now, with two babies and a lot of mental strength, I learned how to embrace my new mom-bod in a bikini. It didn’t happen right away, of course. I went on a family vacation to Hawaii when my son was 3 months old and my daughter was 5 years old and had an anxiety attack thinking about putting on a bikini. Nothing looked the same. But I realized it was because I was not the same woman. I had overcome two incredible feats and decided to respect myself for that, and accept that my body was what it was and as long as I was healthy, I could take my time. By taking the stress off, I found more pleasure in my workouts and enjoyment in things like hanging out at the beach…in a bikini.
With all experiences, we get stronger and gain more knowledge. The realities of being a mother of two while working full time and chasing career dreams seemed like nothing compared to what I had already accomplished. I could be a great mom and still work. I could choose to make time to make baby food and still feed myself healthy meals. I could workout with my kids rather than use them as an excuse not to. My body could continue to get even stronger and I could throw myself back into doing athletic events. I can love myself for who I am, how far I’ve come, where I’m at now, all while still striving to improve.
As my kids are getting older I feel like they are turning into my teachers. They look at life purely with such pragmatic answers to things. For them to be happy and healthy is simple. They need: adequate sleep, healthy foods and soul foods, time outside to play, water, lots of love, fun experiences and education. Why should that be any different for us as adults? I’ve learned that the ways in which I care for my children are the ways I should care for myself. My health and happiness effects theirs. It’s not what you say but it’s what you do that sets the best example. My children are my inspiration for everything, most importantly how I treat myself physically and mentally.
I appreciate the reflection that Mother’s Day brings out, and I hope that everyone, whether a mom or not, can nurture themselves in the ways they deserve.