It’s so crazy to me that this was just over a year ago. I’ve had a lot of people asking me recently how I magically lost my baby weight. It hasn’t been any one thing and it certainly wasn’t magic. Like most healthy lifestyles a combination of several factors together. When I got pregnant I was nervous my body would never be the same. And well, it’s not, but I never would have guessed it would help lead me to the lowest weight I’ve been since junior high and the strongest I’ve felt in my life. I certainly didn’t think I’d be modeling sports bras 13 months later! I was in shape before, but becoming a mother has pushed me even harder now that I know what I’m capable of. Motherhood is a transformation and all of it has been a lot of hard work, but I am amazed at how it’s helped me become a healthier version of myself. It’s something I truly never expected. Here’s how I did it and 10 tips I followed for other soon-to-be moms.
1. Have a healthy pregnancy. This may sound obvious, but many moms think pregnancy and “eating for two” means they literally get to eat whatever they want with no consequences. While you should follow your body’s natural hunger cues and cravings, you really only need about 300 more calories per day in the second and third trimester for a normal pregnancy. Eat healthy and stay as active as your body is willing. I always kept it in the back of my mind that my baby only ate what I ate and exercised when I did. If not for yourself, do it because your baby can’t if you don’t.
2. Take it easy and enjoy your baby. Once your babe arrives so many people get obsessed with getting their body back. Just chill! Enjoy these precious new moments without guilt. For most women that eat healthy while caring for a new little one (especially if you’re breastfeeding) a lot of the weight will begin to come off naturally.
3. NURSING! This is different for every woman, but nursing helped me lose fast. It helped shrink my uterus back down and start to tone my stomach muscles back up at the beginning. Then as he had growth spurts, I had shrinking spurts. This happened around 8 weeks, again around 5-7 months, and yet again around 11-13 months. I jokingly called my baby my human lipo because I could almost feel the fat being sucked out and almost every nursing session I still get so hungry!
4. Walking. All through my maternity leave I walked almost every day with my dog and baby. It was a great way for us to get out of the house and enjoy a little fresh air and exercise. I started around 2 weeks and timed it around his nap time so he would sleep and my dog and I got a walk in the sunshine. Bliss!
5. Pilates and core strength. Around 5-6 weeks I ordered this Pilates DVD from Amazon. LOVE IT! I am pretty picky when it comes to my workout DVDs, but this one is awesome. It’s broken up into two sections so you can do one or both from your living room, which is totally practical for a new mom. It was hard to start up and feel that my core strength was so much less than it used to be, but this really helped me get my core back.
6. Healthy eating. Okay this is obvious too, but really important. I say healthy — not dieting. Since I am nursing, I couldn’t really diet even if I wanted to. I just remember that same thing that my baby would eat what I eat. So that meant even if I let myself give into Arby’s curly fries (my weakness!) I had some veggies too. And I didn’t go overboard with fast or fatty food. I mostly attempt to follow the food pyramid with a good, well-rounded diet and eat plenty of calories
7. Squeeze exercise into your routine. Okay this one really is hard, especially at the beginning. Don’t force yourself to do anything drastic or super time consuming or you will never do it. I think this is true even if you’re NOT a mom. Ease in. Maybe that’s 2-3 days a week for 20-30 minutes or maybe it’s 4-5. You can get someone to watch the baby, bring him along in a jogging stroller, or workout in your living room. Just set a schedule and do it!
8. Challenge yourself! Last fall my friends peer pressured me into running a half marathon 8 months postpartum. I have always detested running…like I’d rather do any other exercise! More on that later. I had already lost my baby weight, just not all the inches so I was only half motivated and nervous about committing to something I wouldn’t enjoy. Half way through my 8 weeks of training I sort of fell in love with running and after that the inches really started coming off. I leaned out more than I ever have been able to at this point.
9. Green smoothies. I know I mentioned eating healthy, but green smoothies need their own section because I can totally tell a difference on days I have them versus when I don’t. For new moms (or anyone) they are such an easy way to make sure you’re getting healthy greens, veggies, fruits and protein. When I started having one everyday I noticed a significant difference in my energy and metabolism. I fit them in for breakfast, part of lunch, post-workout snack, or sometimes even my late night sweet craving fix.
10. Yoga. I really got into yoga a lot toward the end of my pregnancy because it was the only thing that helped the pain in my pelvis and back. It took me a while to get back into doing it regularly after I had my baby, but it helps my metabolism and stress level so much! As much as I’d love to have time to go to a real studio for class, it’s just not practical for me, so I fit in a 22 minute session of “Yoga with a View” available on Hulu. I’ve really noticed a difference in my metabolism when I do it regularly, but I instantly feel more refreshed and more patient with my now 14-month-old (very busy) toddler.
To sum it up, I just want to say to nervous moms out there, you CAN do it! I used to look at others and wonder how pregnancy would affect my body. As much as I’ve always been into fitness, my genes have a tendency to gain weight if I don’t always stay on top of it so I was scared I would blow up and never be able to get back. When I was first pregnant I was so incredibly happy, and I don’t want to sound egotistical, but I cried on multiple occasions to my husband because I was worried I wouldn’t be sexy after having a baby. He was sweet and said he would think I was gorgeous no matter what, but what it really came down to was I wanted to feel secure that I’d feel good about my body.
I was never obsessive, I just stayed on top of it like usual and focused on my health and enjoying pregnancy and being a new mom. I gained 25 pounds, which was healthy for me, and lost that within 8 weeks from walking, breastfeeding and starting Pilates. The rest all came gradually, but I just tried to work hard and let it happen naturally at my body’s pace. I still am amazed that I could be smaller and in better shape now than I think I ever have been, no matter how hard I worked before. Hopefully this can help give other moms hope and motivation that you absolutely can do it too!Read More
I’m constantly taking photos of my life normally, so when I got pregnant I knew I wanted to find a fun way to document my growing baby bump. Plus, let’s face it, I do social media for a living. Anyways the pressure was on (from myself) to come up with a cute pregnancy photo idea. So at 8 weeks I whipped out a striped shirt I had bought a few weeks before I knew I was expecting figuring it would show my shape well as it changed. At the time it seemed stretchy enough to fit a growing belly. Uhhh, 30 weeks later and even one shirt size up I was kind of kicking myself as it barely covered my bump. Haha! Anyway, here’s my pregnancy up almost 40 weeks since I delivered one day early (it’s a good story — read my birth story here). The whole experience was certainly was an adventure!Read More
It wasn’t quite what I expected.
I always thought I’d know when I was pregnant before taking a test. I expected I’d be one of those women that can guess boy or girl before an ultrasound and that I’d perhaps even be able to sense my baby’s personality from within my womb. I’m in tune with my body and my intuition, but through my whole pregnancy experience, it was surprising how little I could sense. As my due date approached I was nervous how I’d know I was in labor.
Now for those of you that think of labor like in the movies, this sounds crazy. Doesn’t your water break and then you rush to the hospital? Not quite, for most women. Going into labor is something that happens over days and weeks while your body inches closer and closer to preparing for birth. Everyone from my midwife, to my friends and coworkers, to the internet said “you’ll just know.” So I tried to be patient and wait until I knew.
I was particularly nervous since I had been experiencing prodromal labor, which is basically a more intense version of pre-labor. While women have practice labor or “Braxton Hicks contractions” all through their third trimester, generally Braxton Hicks are only mildly painful or painless and don’t rhythmically come one after another. Prodromal labor contractions can be super intense and be at regular intervals apart, just like labor. Since I’d been experiencing just that for hours at a time each night, gaining with intensity and consistency as I neared my due date, you can imagine my lack of confidence that I’d “just know” when I was in labor. Since I’d been planning a natural hypnobirth, I figured it was good practice breathing and visualizing through the “surges,” as we call contractions in hypnobirthing.
I didn’t know it, but labor started.
I woke a little after 2am February 13, one day before my Valentine’s due date, with surges. I figured I’d start timing them, just in case, but I had no overwhelming feeling this was the real deal. For a lot of women this would indicate labor, but to me who had been experiencing this for weeks, it wasn’t that out of the norm. I decided it was best not to wake my husband until I was sure since he’d need his rest to support me if it was. Most of my surges were 5-6 minutes apart, but some were longer or shorter so I wasn’t convinced of their consistency. I had remembered my boss telling me when she gave birth to her daughter she would get in a bath with lavender and if it wasn’t real, contractions would stop or slow, but when it was real it kept going strong. Mine did not stop, but the timing changed anywhere from 2 to 15 minutes apart, so I thought certainly it probably wasn’t it and I’d just “enjoy” the practice. I sat in the bath and googled a couple things about going into labor. Posted in a Baby Center forum thinking maybe someone would respond at 3am. Then I sunk into relaxation and envisioned an opening flower while reciting my well-practiced birth affirmations in my head. I went through the rainbow relaxation in my mind, not even thinking of words, but of swirling inky mists of color, one flowing into the next while the scent of the lavender oil soothed me. I was a quiet, relaxed “polar bear” just like I had learned in class.
I got back out of the bath and laid in bed at 3:45. Still didn’t slow. Then I got a big hunger surge. While this is common in labor, it also happens in the third trimester in general and I had justified my hunger since my body had been working for hours in the middle of the night. So I gave up on sleeping at 4:45 and went downstairs for a bowl of cereal.
I was a little more suspicious at this point, but still not ready to admit anything since I didn’t “just know.” But just in case, at 5:15am I decided to do a quick clean of the house. I also wrote some notes in my phone (that I’m using now, in fact) on what had happened so far so if it was real, I’d remember. Pregnant women do crazy things with nesting hormones.
All through this my surges were getting closer together, roughly 2-4 minutes apart with a few longer ones mixed in there. Just enough to make me unsure. It was uncomfortable, sure, but not so much I was convinced of anything.
I decided to lay on the couch at 5:30. And this is where my notes end and the rest comes from memory, which also coincides when I figured out I was in labor. I laid down and fell sound asleep for 8 minutes. Surely, SURELY that off of a time meant I wasn’t in labor since they had been so much shorter. Now I could sleep, I thought. Then a super intense one woke me up a minute and a half later. So intense I got up and ran to the bathroom and felt a tiny gush. It had surprised me so much though that I couldn’t definitively say whether my water broke or if the intensity caused me to lose bladder control. I had another intense one shortly after that and decided I might “just know.” At least enough to wake up my husband.
I ran into our bedroom and said “Nathan, I think I might be in labor!” Nevermind that it was an ungodly hour, Nate (and consequently our dog too) jumped out of bed to my aid as if he’d been awake the whole time. I ran straight to our bathroom and in one-worded cavewoman speak, instructed him to time my surges and explained what had been happening.
My contractions were one and a half minutes apart.
Now for those that don’t know, many docs say to come in when contractions are about 5 minutes apart, but my midwife was more liberal and said since it was my first and I was planning to go natural anyway, 2-4 minutes was perfectly fine. Well here I was even further along than that and just barely realizing I *might* be in labor. Crap! I felt rushed.
Yet even then, after hours of surges and all these signs, I still couldn’t tell you for sure I was in labor. My husband was pretty convinced though and at this point I was at least convinced enough that we should call the midwife on call. My husband talked to her, but of course since I hadn’t woken him this whole time and had only relayed everything in cavewoman speak, he couldn’t answer half her questions. I guess I didn’t set him up so well by letting him sleep… She wanted to talk to me, but at this point I couldn’t talk through my contractions and it was so hard to get out of my mammalian brain and into my thinking brain at this point. Logical thinking is not natural in labor! How I wasn’t convinced this was real yet, I really don’t know, but I had been so relaxed through everything up to then. I finally took a deep breath and told her as much as I could in the 30 seconds I had after one ended before the next started. She said to head in and my midwife, Lindsay, would meet me there. I was still unsure, but ready to go along with it.
Nate ran and grabbed all our stuff while I tried to prepare myself to move. All denial ended when I looked down and saw there was blood. There was no mistaking that. I was in labor.
For weeks I had approached childbirth with little to no anxiety or fear. In that moment staring down at the blood I suddenly panicked with the realization that this was real and only going to get harder and more painful. I’m assuming my water really had broken and that’s why it was suddenly so much more intense. In a moment of weakness and fear I started bawling my eyes out that this was finally the real thing and I hadn’t realized it until it was so late I was immersed in it. I was tired already and knew with surges this intense and close together, there would be no rest. I had gone all that time by myself with no problem, but now I was suddenly breaking down. Luckily Nate being the well-trained “gorilla,” or protector of my birth, calmed me down and was my rock while I tried to regain focus. I lost all my willpower and sunk into his arms, completely vulnerable and scared. Everything I had been training myself not to feel in my desired “empowered birth” came out when my fear took over. But this was it. It was time to go.
We were about to head out, but while I had been sitting for hours pondering if I was in labor or not, I couldn’t help but think of how bummed I’d be if I didn’t get to finish my baby bump series with a 40-week picture. Since I was 39 weeks and 6 days, I obviously hadn’t taken it yet. But what can I say? I like documenting my life and I do social media for a living…how much more “Pinnable” is my series if it’s completed, right? #seriousnerdalert Anyway, so as Nate tried to get his wife that was in VERY active labor out the door, I screamed, “No! I want my 40 week picture! We’re just going to have to do it now!” He tried to talk me out of it over and over, but there I was stubbornly putting on the striped shirt I’d worn for my baby bump pics every two weeks since the beginning, setting up my tripod and preparing the self-timer on my camera (as I’m thinking how it’s too bad it’s dark so the lighting was going to suck…priorities). I told him how we’d pose, I’m pretty sure by grunting not actually talking, and waited out the surge I was having so we could take it in the few short seconds in between. My uterus calmed, I pressed the shutter button, and posed just as the next one was getting ready to begin. The camera clicked and I half waddled, half limped through my surge, tearing off that shirt and putting on another as I said, “okay, now let’s GO!”
And then I went on the longest car ride of my life.
Luckily at 6am there’s very little traffic, but when your surges are that close together every teeny, tiny bump of the road feels like unbearable shooting pain. I let my eyes go blurry with the lights and tried to zone out as much as I could. I had my birth affirmation CD going with the calming voice of Marie Mongan talking me through the car ride.
We pulled up and Nate supported me as I dazedly walked into the reception area. They asked if we had time to check in. No. They asked if I wanted a wheelchair. Yes. I couldn’t even answer with anything other than a slight head nod at this point. I half closed my eyes letting myself go into my zone as they wheeled me down the hall to a room. Oh, how different it all looked in this laboring state, flying by in a wheelchair, than it did on the friendly hospital tour we had been on weeks before. They wheeled me to room 7. No, that wouldn’t do, it wasn’t prepped. Room 5.
I had spent a couple hours several weeks before picking my perfect birth outfit so I wouldn’t have to wear a scratchy hospital gown. I’d done research online to pick something that would make me feel beautiful, comfortable, and empowered to move however I wanted. I had checked with my midwife to make sure what I bought was okay. And now here I was, walking into the room and stripping down faster than a Vegas showgirl in front of people I didn’t know without a care in the world. Yes, I was definitely in my mammalian brain.
They checked me and I was a 7. I heard the friendly sound of my midwife’s voice and felt relieved. I knew my midwife, Lindsay, had my back and was there to support the birth I wanted. My memory gets all blurry here, but I labored awhile bent over the bed, then on the toilet, and finally in the tub. Each one was a little better than the last, but I just didn’t want to move. In the tub, the jets bubbling against my tummy distracted me and helped me breathe through the pain. By this point I was getting the unbearable urge to PUSH, but with where I was, pushing was making me bleed so I had to hold back. I laid there and tried with every ounce of control I had to relax every muscle, every nerve, and every cell throughout my entire body, just as I had practiced. That was the only way I could keep from pushing. I’d lose my concentration ever so slightly through a surge and my whole body would convulse and push. Over and over Nate told me not to push and to relax. I whined, “I’m trying not to, but it’s so hard!” Lindsay told me she knew I could do it. She motivated and supported me as a midwife and doula all in one to keep me focused. My husband held my hand and stroked my hair, back, and forehead. I remember my arms dangling, my face squished on the side of the tub, whispering to him, “I love you.” I got out of the tub and was at a 9 for what felt like forever. When I got to 9.5 my midwife suggested I could push like I wanted and she could just move the last bit of cervix out of the way.
Thank goodness, I got to push.
Pushing felt INCREDIBLE! After hours of not pushing, letting myself use all those muscles was just what I needed. Nate set up the iPod with the hypnobirthing tracks as I let myself go into the strength of my body. Unfortunately because I still wasn’t quite to 10, I used a lot of energy without a ton of progress moving him down. I pushed, breathed him down, and pushed for hours through surges like my body was telling me to, but I was inching very slowly to the finish.
I was losing energy.
I had barely gotten a couple hours of sleep and all I had eaten since 6pm the night before was a bowl of cereal. I remember wanting to ask what time it was, but thought better of it. If it was too late I didn’t want to know and right then I could still think it was morning. As I lost energy, I started to come out of my strong self and back into the fear and weakness I had felt when I realized I was in labor. What if I couldn’t do this? I had shared why I was choosing a natural birth with my family and friends partly because I fully believed it and knew I could do it, and partly for “insurance” in case I doubted myself in a moment of weakness. I knew it would give me the strength to hold myself to it. I was beyond exhausted. But I had to keep going.
They brought me some juice and gave me some sugar in fluids. I had no desire to eat anything, but I knew I needed something to keep up my strength. Nate switched on Pandora to upbeat flamenco guitar to pep me up. I only vaguely remember the conversation but everyone in the room oooed and ahhhed at his music selection. I focused on opening and getting my baby down, but my strength wasn’t up enough to get him there. I finally got him crowning, but with each surge I’d get him two steps forward just to have him take two steps back. I thought to myself, wasn’t this supposed to be the fast part? But he’d crown and go back, crown and go back. Three separate times I got him a little further out and my midwife, bless her heart, had to push him back in because his heart rate dropped from the 120s to the 50s. All that work and I had to do it all over again. I was trying my hardest not to be defeated, but I felt almost to collapse. I just kept telling myself I had to do this and the only way was forward. But he couldn’t get passed my perenium. Later I found out that many athletic women, particularly figure skaters and ballet dancers, have really tight pereniums. Go figure being fit actually made getting him out harder. Having not only skated for the last 20 years, but also having trained (very cautiously) up to 13 weeks, I’m sure that didn’t help that situation. I watched in the mirror for motivation and felt the hair on his little head, but while I gave it everything I had, I was just losing too much energy. I had to do it as soon as possible. While it wasn’t in my plan, I decided to do an episiotomy. I could feel it was that or tearing and knew I wouldn’t be able to go much longer.
And then I did it.
With the next surge my midwife made an itty bitty cut and I gave it every ounce of strength I had left as I roared through the ring of fire. His head was out and Lindsay said to wait for the next surge for the shoulders and body, but I knew I could do it and was going for it. After about 11 hours of labor and 3 1/2 hours of pushing I was ready to get this thing over with already! And at 1:17pm out he came into the world and straight to my belly where I met my son for the first time.
And more surprises came.
I always thought I’d know my baby, but I didn’t. This beautiful, dark-haired little boy had grown in my womb for nine months and I had no idea who he was. I always thought I’d cry. I do whenever I watch birth videos. Even fake births in sitcoms and movies. Yet here I was, so in shock of this little person that all I could do is just stare at him, my whole body beyond exhaustion, shaking from the hormone rush and too tired to shed a tear. I don’t even know words to quite describe the emotions I was feeling. Overjoyed, dazed, overwhelmed, empowered, and after exerting all that strength, ready to rest. Nate held us both as I made my first attempt at breastfeeding — again, surprisingly something that didn’t come naturally.
When I was a little girl I imagined having a baby. When I was a teenager and young adult I feared childbirth. When I researched natural birth I readied myself for the experience and imagined what my birth story would be like. All throughout my pregnancy I prepared myself for labor and motherhood. I had literally thought about this from so many angles almost my entire life, and yet it was nothing like I imagined. Not better, not worse, just different. It was incredible in ways I hadn’t expected, and missing parts I thought would be there.
And then I became the whole world.
They took him away to check his vitals and my mother came in. As she looked at me, teary-eyed, I finally broke into tears. Here was the woman who had given this same gift of life to me. She sacrificed her body, time, and money. Devoted countless hours of listening and never-ending support. A woman that is my comfort zone, making me feel at home, protected, and loved anywhere in the world. Someone whose body literally built mine from tiny cells and whose constant care shaped me into the person I am today. She is my mommy and completely and utterly irreplaceable. And as I looked at her and realized everything she is to me, at that moment I knew I’d have to be all of that for my son.
And then he became my world.
As I laid in my hospital bed nearly 24 hours from when it all started, I looked across the room at the tiny person that had just come into my life. My husband was passed out on the pull out next to me and my sweet Zachary was cooing in his sleep. I had still only slept fewer than 2 hours in the last 48, but I couldn’t sleep — all I could do is stare in awe at him. Every single muscle in my body was sore from the greatest workout of my life and I ached in places I’ve never even seen. My nipples already hurt from my attempts breastfeeding and my left hand was completely numb from grasping so hard. I felt utterly spent and invigorated all in the same breath as the hormones of natural birth pulsed through me. I looked at my newborn son, this person I had just met a few hours earlier, and knew every sacrifice I had already made was worth it. I was completely entranced by him. I rolled him over to me and knew from that day forward he was my world. Life would never be the same — and that was the day I became a mother.Read More
Here’s me at *almost* 40 weeks. Went into labor at 39 weeks and 6 days. We were heading to the hospital with contractions only 1 1/2 minutes apart and I insisted to Nate that I needed my 40 week photo to finish the series. I may be crazy, but you don’t argue with a woman in labor. You can hear all about it at my birth story here.Read More
Looking for maternity photo ideas? The lovely Brittney Massey Photography (or as I lovingly call her, BMass), took some maternity photos for me both on site and in studio and here’s what we got! Have to document my pregnant belly. So crazy what the human body is capable of!Read More
38 weeks. Almost there! I hope we’re ready. In other news, I think I need a bigger shirt.Read More