I Don’t Want My Pre-Baby Body Back

After giving birth for the second (and final) time in October, I really started to feel the effects of how much my body has changed since becoming a mother. Particularly in my core.

Using a co-sleeper bassinet made nighttime nursing easier because I didn’t have to get out of bed; however, maneuvering my growing boy from a supine position all night long wreaked havoc on my lumbar. The little sleep I was getting was interrupted by the shooting pain I experienced every time I changed positions in bed. Picking things up off the floor, lifting children, and even just sitting down became strained and painful tasks.

I started researching ways to soothe my aching back.

My husband suggested a massage, and while tempted by such a nice, relaxing treat, I knew it would only be a short-term solution. If I wanted to find relief, I desperately needed to rehab my core.

One night, scrolling through my Facebook news feed, a sponsored post for a local fitness class specifically designed for postpartum mothers appeared. Curious, I clicked on the link for more information. Reading through the program outline and seeing its focus on core rehabilitation following childbirth, I made the impulse decision to join the class starting the following Monday. Two classes per week for four weeks – it sounded like just the thing to get me in the right direction toward some relief!

Falling in love with my postpartum body.

What I didn’t expect, however, was finding a deep connection to and appreciation of my postpartum body.

Even though this was my second round of growing and birthing a child, it was my first time attending any sort of birth/motherhood-related fitness class. I had seen numerous programs for new and expecting moms, but I always found reasons not to join. Too expensive, inconvenient time or location, lack of childcare – the list goes on. As such, I came into the program with apprehension: Will I be the oldest/heaviest/least fit mom there? Is it actually worth the time and money? What if I embarrass myself?

I arrived at the first session and learned, with surprise, that I was the only person who had signed up. While having a private class resolved my fear of embarrassment and anxious comparisons, at the same time, it made me sad; I realized my worries surrounding the course, especially comparing myself to ‘other moms,’ likely deter so many other women who are unsure of whether they should practice self-care in the weeks and months after giving birth.

The 90-minute sessions progressed from the extremely low-impact and ‘easy’ movements, such as relearning intuitive movement – how to roll from your back to your side, breathing effectively, and even how to stand up – to the more challenging work of reattuning yourself to your core with lifting, balance, and functional motion.

In addition to the actual fitness part of the program, the instructor guided me through breathing exercises and meditations to honor my body and help me set intentions for myself – both as a mother and as an individual. We shared our birth stories and struggles with adapting to motherhood, which resulted in lots of laughter and almost as many tears.

Rehab for my spiritual core.

One of the things that struck me most about the month I spent in these core rehab sessions is how much I had been holding inside about the changes I’ve undergone – physical, mental, and emotional – for nearly the last four years of my life. It’s easy to laugh about how little sleep I’ve gotten since becoming a parent; to joke about how my 6 month old’s food sensitivities have kept my diet so restricted I lose weight without trying; to shrug and bemoan my bad luck when I tell people about my unexpected postpartum ER visits due to bacterial blood infections and hemorrhaging.

But, as my instructor reminded me throughout the sessions, these aren’t just stories – they’re my lived experiences. And many of them are, in fact, traumatic. It’s important not to downplay the huge life changes that occur simply because it’s easier for others to hear.

My greatest takeaways from the course, to my surprise, are unrelated to back pain relief. It’s acknowledging my body is powerful and amazing; it has gestated and birthed two beautiful children. It’s accepting there’s no such thing as a pre-baby body, and honoring this is a beautiful gift, not an unsightly curse of which I should feel ashamed. It’s recognizing acts of self-love are gifts to my family, as well. It’s allowing myself to feel angry, scared, worried, or just overwhelmed without immediately following up those emotions with guilt for having felt them in the first place. It’s remembering to be in tune with myself – the person, not just the mother – when external chaos feels heavy. It’s relearning to love my spiritual core.

No, I’m not inhabiting the same body I did only a few years ago – and I’m okay with that.