Pregnancy Weight-Loss Myth 1: "Oh, don't worry — it just falls right off."
This is a well-meaning phrase I heard throughout my pregnancy, and directly after the birth of my daughter. And although it can be hopeful, it hasn't been my experience. The weight I gained during pregnancy is not just "falling off".
I know there are some wonderful women that I personally know with magical fairy bodies that have the experience of going home from the hospital post-baby with their pre-pregnancy jeans on. Who came out of the intense process of growing and birthing a child without extra weight, stretch marks or tears. For those women — I'm genuinely happy for you (and also jealous!). You should keep telling women your story. Because for some this is exactly what they need to hear, encourages them, and reflects their experience.
But for all the other women out there — women like me — I understand.
The truth is, often the pregnancy weight doesn't just fall off. It can cling, it can increase, it can stay and not budge. It can hug your frame and leave you feeling disoriented.
I workout twice a day, and eat organic whole-foods, and the pounds are slowwwwvwlllllyyy eeeking their way off. I'm still rotating between two pairs of prized maternity black stretch pants, because even my maternity jeans are still too small.
Pregnancy Weight-Loss Myth 2: Breastfeeding Helps You Lose Weight
Another myth I heard during pregnancy was that if you breastfeed it will "melt away the pounds". For some women, yes. For me that was not the case. I continued gaining weight after I had my daughter — I weighed more a few weeks after her birth than I did the day I went into labor with her. (Check out Katie Schweitzer's story about that here.)
In order to breastfeed you need to eat a few hundred extra high-quality, healthy calories a day for milk production. Your hormones, sleep, activity level, adrenals and metabolism all determine how quickly you lose weight. Some women continue to gain or hold onto weight until they stop breastfeeding. For more on that, see "Why You are Not Losing Weight While Breastfeeding" by GrassfedMama.
Pregnancy Weight-Loss Myth 3: Your Body Won't Be the Same, But You're a Mom Now So It Doesn't Matter
I heard a lot about how women love their tiger stripes and don't mind that their stomach is saggy because they're a mom now. They wear those scars and rearranging body parts as badges of pride. I honor that, and if they feel healthy and sexy, I'm beyond happy for them. There is something to embracing your body at every stage, but I'm not there yet. I admittedly need more work in the arena of loving myself in all its forms.
But I don't think being a mom equates your body not mattering anymore. You're still a human. A woman. You. And your health matters. I think it matters to feel good in your own skin. To feel sexy, and vibrant. We are after all, the people that are modeling health to our daughters.
I got semi-used to my body changing and expanding when I was pregnant because I was housing a human. Now I'm left with just me. A very changed version of me. With an expanded bone frame, the relaxin taking it's time to leave my body, untoned muscles, and saggy heavy belly skin that has been stretched for producing this little love of a life.
My body no longer makes sense to me, especially when I'm not with my baby. I don't understand where this form came from, or why everything is squishy. Or why my clothes hang on me and pull in odd, lumpy places. Or why my stomach still looks like it did when I was 4 months pregnant — but droopier and like it went through a meat grinder.
All that to say, you may not love your body after baby.
Pregnancy Weight-Loss Myth 4: You Can Start Doing Regular Activity After 6 Weeks
Six weeks postpartum was like a beacon pulling me through the first few weeks of sleepless, healing nights and days. I told myself over and over after I hit that 6 week mark I'd be out jogging in my beautiful neighborhood again, doing burpees like no one's business and whipping my body back into shape before heading back to work at week 13.
Boy was I wrong.
Walking. I could walk a few miles (slowly) at this point, but experienced intense joint and muscle pain. Exhaustion. I tried my first run at 8 weeks postpartum and it was the most painful workout I've ever had. I also discovered I had Diastasis Recti, so doing movements I used to do to see my body tone up quickly were out of the question. Planks, burpees, sit-ups all make this condition worse. Running can too if you're not focusing on engaging the transverse muscles to let the split heal.
The truth is at week 6 I needed to start slow. To walk. To stop when it hurt. To concentrate on rebuilding my core with an amazing personal trainer. To heal the gap in my abdominals.
A Few Things That Helped
Nordic Natural DHA + Vitamin D Supplements: These helped with my mental health, and eased joint pain. Find them here.
MUTU Mammas: This program is amazing. It helps heal Diastasis Recti and provide safe, but challenging workouts for postpartum
Personal Training Sessions: With Mark from The Movement Minneapolis. He explains better than anyone I've met how to engage muscles correctly, alignment and works with your daily life patterns. He also knows how to adjust body movements to ease and prevent pain.
So for all the women out there that are working hard with this post-baby body — be gentle with yourself. I mean really, really gentle. Throw out the baby weight-loss myths. Start where you are. I know it feels like our bodies should be back to "normal" after 12 weeks because in our American world we are back at work, plugging away, squeezing our new bodies and selves into old wineskins. And frankly, for this woman, that just doesn't work. Things are different now. I am different now. My soul is different. My mind is different. My thoughts are different. My relationship with my husband is different. My time demands are different. My relationship with myself is different. And my body — it's different.