Disclaimer: This is just my story, not advice and certainly not intended to make anyone feel bad.
I gave birth to my first baby, Frankie, in July 2014. If you’ve read My Fit Pregnancy blog you’ll know that I exercised to a fairly high degree right up until the end of my pregnancy. I had a lovely pregnancy with no major problems at all and my total weight gain was 1.5 stones or 9.5kg. I had a very fast labour and other than having an episiotomy and stitches I had no complications afterwards.
From the day after my labour to 12 weeks
When I finally tore myself away from my little man the next day to go the loo I couldn’t get over the feeling and look of my stomach. It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever felt or seen and I wasn’t a bit sorry to see it getting smaller as the days went on. I found breastfeeding really good for shrinking my stomach. I could actually feel everything contracting as I fed. Thankfully I didn’t have a diastasis which is when your abs separate and don’t knit back together straight away and so my stomach recovered pretty quickly. I have no stretch marks (go on hate me; I know I’m very bloody lucky!). I give total credit of my return to good abs to practising Pilates during my pregnancy.
While breastfeeding I couldn’t go an hour without eating and regularly had to get up during the night for a munch. In the two weeks leading up to Frankie’s arrival I had made granola, flapjacks and other snacks that I could have to hand so that I wasn’t indulging in bad stuff all of the time. Himself was off for two weeks and was very good for making healthy lunches and dinners. I had asked my friends and family not to bring crap food when they were visiting and they were really good about it. It’s not everyone you’ll feel comfortable saying this to but those who you can say it to will totally understand. My crew already think I’m a bit mad (they can’t really fathom why anyone would want to exercise and eat like I do) and so a request like this wasn’t even questioned. It’s hard enough dealing with your post baby body without being surrounded with Forrero Roche and Butler’s chocolates believe me. When you’ve been up half the night with a newborn and are in that new baby zombie state your willpower is NIL and you will overindulge if it’s there. Another thing that I do and have always done is give away, or if needs be, dump anything that you don’t want lying around tempting you. Yep, mad as a March hare, that’s me!
Any pregnant or post pregnant woman reading this should ensure that they get their doctors permission before resuming exercise. I, of course, did not wait for this permission but I did start off very slowly. The reason I chose to exercise before the generally recommended 6 week period is because not exercising seems to have a mental, as well as physical, effect on me. I get even grouchier than I normally am without it and just generally don’t feel as good in myself.
So I started off slowly at about 1 week post labour with some short walks with the buggy. They were never going to be long walks while I was feeding on demand. There was an element of terror in every step I took away from the house as I waited for Frankie to start to scream to be fed but I built up the distance over the next couple of weeks. I also started back with some bodyweight exercises at this stage but I did not go near abdominal exercise until the 6 week mark as you really can do damage if everything has not gone back to its pre-baby state (and everything really hadn’t!).
As the months have progressed I’ve increased my workouts and have had great fun including Frankie. He really enjoys all the jumping around and running we do .
8 months pregnant and extremely proud of my back(left) & 4 weeks post labour in a lot of pain(right)
I’ll be honest, throughout my pregnancy I was concerned about how my body would be afterwards. I don’t just mean what it would look like. I was really happy to be pregnant and the more my pregnancy progressed the more grateful I was for how well it was all going. I’ve always been one of those lucky people who could exercise a lot and not get caught out with injuries. That’s mostly down to the fact that I work out with careful balance between cardio, resistance and flexibility but even people who also balance these things get plagued by pain and injuries. So with this in mind I wondered would the stress of carrying a baby and exercising regularly leave me off kilter afterwards.
Unfortunately I did suffer really badly with a shoulder injury from about 2 weeks post labour. It started with a sharp pain behind my right shoulder blade and by 4 weeks it had spread down my arm. Holding Frankie to feed him was almost impossible and when he was actually feeding the pain shot through to my shoulder as well. I started to notice that my shoulder blade was winging away from my rib cage too. I won’t go into too much detail in this post as I’d like to do another post soon about post pregnancy injuries but needless to say I was really upset. While the pain has eased over the past year I still have winging. I have been diagnosed with palsy of the long thoracic nerve caused by repetitive strain and the medical conclusion is that it was caused by me pulling on the bed handles during labour (the last 5 minutes of labour were not pleasant which I’m sure you had already figured out from the episiotomy part – sorry to my pregnant readers). Not being one to immediately concur with the educated doctors I have questioned my intense workouts during my pregnancy and some specific movements that I did too. I also question whether it was a good idea to paint the garden fence for the two weeks before giving birth too but sure we live and learn don’t we?
In total it took me about 12 weeks to get back to a shape that I was happy with. I lost a lot of muscle when I was pregnant but to be honest I’m ok with that. I’m happier with the post pregnancy version of me and am learning to be nicer to my body too. I’m also lucky to have a very placid baby who has made the whole process a lot easier.
Hope you enjoyed my story. I’ll do a general post-pregnancy advice blog soon too.