much like the weird pregnancy math where 40 weeks = 9 months, there is another bizarre mathematical occurrence known by new mamas as the 4th trimester. in so many ways, it is the very best time. but this wonderful season can also be strange and awkward.
you are done with the business of growing of baby, all the glowing anticipation has worn off. the bump yields a baby but leaves you with a deflated, waist-less and squishy midsection. your belly button looks all wonky. your hips are all spread out. there can be tiger stripes left behind or a slowly fading linea nigra. and then there is the lovely recovery stuff. and the milk production. and hormones.
i think that more time should be spent talking about all this particular time of “pregnancy”. we read and talk so much about what your body does and what you need to do in order to be healthy and at your best for trimester 1, 2, 3…but what about taking care of yourself in the few months after baby arrives? what about what to expect after you are expecting? honestly, that’s when it can be the toughest. you have a new baby and your body is healing and recovering and you may have other little ones at home and a job to return to and a husband that you want to have time for and…and… it is a lot. and i think there needs to be an equal amount of support and care and attention paid to the 12 weeks postpartum as we do the rest of pregnancy. it really is a 52 week deal. so, i can do that math. that’s a year. growing the baby, birthing the baby, and then caring for baby and adjusting and “bouncing back”.
it is SO amazing what God created the body to do. to change and adapt to sustain a life and birth a life and care for a life. but man, it can be a messy thing. a major upheaval. an adjustment. i have been blessed with two healthy and easy pregnancies and two natural births, resulting in two healthy, beautiful babies. and i have also had it pretty good in the postpartum department. i felt invigorated and powerful and amazing after giving birth. and i healed well too. with ridley, i felt rested and healed almost immediately. and everything was pretty much back to normal after about three weeks. so, no complaints here. but in many ways, things were anything but “back to my normal self”.
for me, the 4th trimester is definitely the most eventful. it is such fun to see a growing baby bump but the shrinking baby jelly belly isn’t as glamorous. even though i felt really good after baby, i also didn’t feel all the way like me. and that is mostly because i have ridiculous expectations. i shouldn’t expect to be just like i was before baby but a part of me really really wanted to be that, like now. i was very impatient. and i have had to learn to extend some grace to myself in this particular area. and be patient. darn you, patience. i want it my way right now!
there is also a part of me that thinks, “hey God, if you can create the female body to assist you in creating a miracle…can’t you make all that pregnancy stuff vaporize once the baby arrives? i mean, i know that you made it so that the body stores fat to have some reserves for feeding the baby. BUUUUUT, we don’t exactly live in a hunter-gatherer-wanderer-famine society. i don’t really need those reserves. if baby needs fat, i have plenty of tasty sources for all that. cheese. ice cream. butter. peanut butter. et cetera. so, you could probably make it so my hips and thighs just drop those pounds, okay? thanks.”
come on, who’s with me? there’s gotta be some kind of postpartum heavenly petition we can sign…
so, here’s the deal. i have 10 pounds to go to get back to my prepregnancy self. and they are stubborn little buggers. i lost 20 pounds within the first couple of weeks after giving birth to ridley and then, those last pounds just seem to want to hang on for dear life. based on last time, i know that i lost a big chunk right after birth and then held onto about 15 pounds until i hit the 3 month mark. then, they started falling off. the 12 week mark is a magical one that triggers a metabolic shift (which is somewhat linked to breastfeeding) that tells the body, okay, you can let go now. those first weeks seem to be about survival and establishing a new normal. once your body feels okay with things, it starts to release some of those reserves. yay! and once i get within 3-5 pounds of my prepregnancy weight, i am essentially there. those last pounds are 100% breastfeeding and will drop off in due time. (more on breastfeeding below).
so, here’s what’s been happening around here in the self-care department:
i took the first four weeks off from any exercise with the exception of some walking and light stretching. this was to give my abs time to come back together and, well, because it was a nice break from the norm. but i got back into exercise as soon as my body felt up to it. and once ridley was sleeping through the night, he kind of took away my “but i need my sleep” excuses…
my initial workouts were home based exercises. my go-to insanity stuff. that made it easy to just pop in a DVD and work up a nice sweat for 30 minutes. i could go at my pace and it was flexible. it felt good to get some endorphins flowing. it helped me clear my head and gave me an energy boost. not to mention, it helped me feel like i was strengthening my body. the goal was to get moving and get back into a nice routine. i wanted to jump back in before i got too comfortable… this also helped jumpstart the dropping of those final pounds. i wanted to attack those guys early on so they didn’t get too comfortable either.
now that the seasons are shifting and we are shifting ridley’s schedule to 7:30pm-7:30am, it is the perfect time to get back into early morning runs. (plus, i got myself a new pair of shoes and some rocking earbuds that i don’t need to adjust at all. game changers.) i can wake up early and get in a pumping session (running after a full night of zero feedings is well, no bueno) before hitting the pavement. that gives me time to get in 4-6 miles, depending on the day, and get back home with enough time to stretch and hydrate and shower before i wake ridley for his morning feeding.
but enough about exercise. food. nutrition. that’s really like 75% of postpartum. i have been eating a lot to nourish myself and the little man. focusing on super foods and ample calories. breastfeeding burns anywhere from 300-700 calories a day so with that burn plus my workouts, i need to keep my caloric numbers up to keep myself satisfied and healthy and to support milk production. plenty of plants and nuts and seeds. all the fats. all the protein. lots of smoothies and eggs and avocado and green juices and kombucha. plus, i take my raw prenatal and krill oil to give me a boost. good nutrition gives me good energy and healthy milk for a growing man. so, no skimping in the calorie department. plus, i am ravenous when i am breastfeeding. the plan seems to be working well since ridley is packing on the pounds and i am feeling healthy and vigorous and balanced. speaking of balance: you gotta enjoy some pastries and chocolate on occasion. and some creamy coffee and a fun adult beverage here and there. #treatyoself
my other random postpartum musts?
get some sunshine. that vitamin D is essential. immediate mood-booster and immune-booster (and helps baby with the bilirubin levels, early on).
buy yourself a few fun wardrobe additions. things that you can wear during those initial awkward weeks that will smooth your transition from bump to baby. shoes or comfy-cute dresses or a fab statement accessory. whatever will make you feel a little more normal and polished.
speaking of polish…buy yourself a new nail color or lipstick. little things can go a long way. a fresh manicure or a pop of color on your lips can make you feel fab even if you are dealing with diapers and spit up.
oh, and dry shampoo. thank goodness for dry shampoo. and while you are at it, master the art of the topknot.
finally, find a way to make dates happen. even it is a coffee date or brunch or an afternoon outing or something after bedtime. carve out some time to be you and your spouse again. laugh, talk, cry, dream, plan. take time to be you, sans baby, with your man. it will do wonders for pretty much everything.