Motherhood & Fitness: Part 2 – Post Delivery
Written by Samantha Chapman, CrossFit Coach and new mom to baby Austin
“Keep doing those squats, it’ll set you up for the perfect PUSHING position!”
“The more you exercise, the faster your labor will be!”
“Focus on your breathing, you won’t even need the epidural!”
“Walk for 2 hours every day once you make it to 38 weeks…. You’ll have that baby by Christmas!”
“Don’t worry, you’re ALL belly… you’ll bounce right back!”
From nurses, to friends, to fellow athletes… these were the most interesting bits of advice regarding labor and delivery that received as the end of my pregnancy approached. My due date, originally set for 2 days before Christmas, was right around the corner and like most first time moms, I was terrified of the unknown. I’d gone over each and every possible labor scenario in my head and psyched myself out to the point of losing sleep (which I wasn’t getting much of in the first place) and thought I would be ready to bring my A-game to the delivery room when the time came. Until my routine checkup at week 39, when it was decided I’d be induced that very evening due to high blood pressure. What?! I got my first dose at around 10 pm that night and my water broke at 8 the following morning. I spent the next 8 hours feeling a contraction here and there and taking laps around the hospital in the hopes of expediting the process. Then came 3 hours of backbreaking contractions, an epidural (which was fantastic, by the way and I still don’t understand why the hipsters are so against it), almost 6 hours of pushing to no avail and then an emergency C section. Thank goodness for that, since our little man had managed to turn himself around, which would’ve made it damn near impossible to push him out without having to be cut. No thank you! Finally, at 6:33am, my slender yet very tall baby boy arrived and was ready to take on the world! So all in all about 22 hours and change? I don’t think the “quicker labor” theory is all that accurate, at least not for me. Could the extra walking have raised my blood pressure through the roof and brought me here? That is also uncertain. So for my unofficial study on fitness and its effect on labor and delivery – I would have to say that any and all theories are absolutely inconclusive. It’ll happen whenever it’s meant to happen, however it’s meant to happen. It’s different for everyone and it’s your baby (or the doctors) who will decide when he or she is ready to see the world. One thing is almost certain, your labor and delivery won’t go according to your “birth plan” or your dreams of how it is all going to happen. Oh yeah and… it’s going to hurt!
So, moving on to recovery. Doctors will tell you no exercise for 6 weeks if you deliver naturally, 8 weeks if you have a C-section. Having experienced the latter, this was not exactly music to my ears when I was discharged from the hospital with a brand new baby. Having always been active, I could not imagine being cooped up for 8 WEEKS and restricted from lifting anything heavier than my 7-pound baby. As a matter of fact, once the anesthesia wore off and I could feel my legs again, the first thing I wanted to do was walk! I wanted to take my baby for a stroll around the hospital grounds, showing him off AND getting some fresh air! The nurses only allowed me to get as far as the chair next to my bed before nipping that idea in the bud. Looking back, I can understand their reasoning. After all, I was cut open with my insides lying on top of my stomach just a few hours earlier. Needless to say, I’m not one who does very well with bed rest! If you’re reading this, chances are you feel the same way. Rest assured (pun intended!), it does get easier. In the beginning, it was very hard. Think of the last surgery you had, whether it be your appendix, your gall bladder, or treating a sports injury. Remember how you just wanted to sleep the pain off and just not be bothered in general? Now imagine recovering from said surgery with a tiny human that needs to eat every 2 hours on the hour, 24 hours a day… not to mention diaper changes, rocking and a little bit of play time. I also had my mom stay with me for the first 3 weeks and cooking/cleaning is not her style (nor is it my husband’s). So…. I cooked and cleaned for us on top of baby care and I was freaking exhausted! There went my time to actually recover from the major surgery I’d just endured. As I got closer to the 6-8 week mark of my mandatory rest period, I felt a lot less achey (and a LOT more human than zombie). So as you’ll come to find out, you just might need that 6-8 weeks with exercise being one less thing to worry about. It all depends on your delivery and how you feel when the time comes. I felt ready to “proceed with caution” at 6 weeks, but for some it might not feel right until well past 10 weeks. Different strokes for different folks, but I definitely don’t recommend rushing back.
About 8 weeks post delivery and I’m back, easing myself in to physical activity… which brings me to my next point – the intensity. That’s also gonna be different for everyone. I personally chose to breastfeed, which changed things a bit for me. Before I get into that, just a disclaimer – I am not going to use this space to support any argument on breast vs formula. If you want my opinion on the topic, feel free to private message me and we’ll talk. However, like pregnancy, breastfeeding has modified the way I go about my daily life and exercise is no exception. Wanting to protect my supply, I chose to not over exert myself while working out. Max efforts and hardcore Hero WODs are still out, for the time being. Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned and continue to learn to this day is that after your body endures the very worth while trauma of childbirth, whether natural or C-section, you have to treat it with care. Don’t expect to “bounce right back”, you’re going to be HELLA tired in the beginning, so give yourself time to adjust to your new schedule. Remember, if you hurt yourself you’re no good to your bundle of joy. I realized this quickly during a WOD involving box jumps. It felt awesome to bust out a few, but after about 20, I felt it – my knees felt shaky as I stood on top of the box and I nearly face planted! I can only imagine having to feed, burp, or even hold Austin with 2 broken wrists! So I dialed it back… and still got a great workout! You’ll want to stick with scales/progressions for nearly every movement you eliminated during your pregnancy and slowly introduce the movements back to your workout routine as you become more comfortable and regain your strength. Austin is 3 months old now and I’m constantly reminding myself that I will be in the best shape of my life again, but it’ll happen when the timing is right. I’m also not finished having children, so my goal is to stay strong and healthy and I can worry about having a “rockin’ bod” once I’m done. So my advice… if you’re feeling ready to exercise, pace yourself and enjoy the ride. Don’t be ashamed of the muffin top or those stretch marks – you just did something amazing with your body and it’ll feel more rewarding than any PR you’ve ever achieved. Trust me on this one!
Now for some “girl talk”…
Every “bounce” (for lack of better term) that you ladies feel while running, jumping, sprinting or during double unders – I feel times a thousand! Therefore, a GOOD sports bra is definitely a necessary investment. The cheapo bras, while stretchy enough to accommodate the girls as they change up to 2 cup sizes between feedings, just do not keep them in place! I’m still searching for my perfect sports bra, but the so far the Nike ones have worked best. Speaking of stretchiness – pants! If you’ve spent the money on the overly expensive brands (starts with L, if you catch my drift), beware! Once you find out that you fit back into your pre-pregnancy crops/aleggings because they’re so nice and stretchy, you just might realize that the entire pattern and color of your undies are also completely visible. Epic wardrobe fail! Had I known how much my body would change before, during and after pregnancy, I probably would have spent my $100 on something much more valuable and necessary, like diapers. Just to be safe, check that backside in the mirror before you leave the house… you’ll thank me later!
What’s next? I head back to work in mid April… stay tuned for Part 3!
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