My opinions on my body changed so much during and after my pregnancy. I honestly think I was the most beautiful I have ever looked when I was sporting a big, round baby bump. I loved how full of life, and purposeful my body looked. I didn’t care about weight gain. I indulged in my cravings and really allowed myself to enjoy being pregnant.
I also didn’t worry too much about the future. I knew I would have some pounds to lose after giving birth, but I wasn’t in a rush. I planned on taking frequent walks with Aria once we left the hospital. I figured I would get back into the gym once Aria was stable, and we had a few months at home under our belts. I felt like I had plenty of time to get back in shape.
The morning after she was born, I was horrified by my reflection in the mirror. It was something I would have celebrated if Aria had survived, but it was a massive reminder at how empty my womb was. My belly was almost completely gone less than 24 hours after delivery. I remember my husband being shocked at how quickly everything had started to return to normal. I tried to remember that this was something I would have wanted, it meant less work to get back into my pre-pregnancy clothes. But it just wasn’t the same. Loss completely changed my perspective.
I had only managed to gain about fifteen pounds during my 26 week pregnancy. Almost three pounds of that weight gain was Aria’s body weight, and the rest was mostly amniotic fluid and swelling. I didn’t have time to gain much more than that. About two weeks after delivery, I was already two pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight.
But I learned very quickly that the numbers on the scale don’t matter, because while my weight was down, my body still looked very different. My abdominal muscles were very stretched out, and I had developed a mild case of diastasis recti (abdominal wall separation). My hips were also wider, and the muscles on my legs had started to disappear. Although my belly was flattening out, and my weight was fine, I still had some work to do.
After the first few weeks passed, I felt a sudden sense of urgency to get back in shape. I felt like I had lost the “I just had a baby!” excuse. In a lot of ways, I felt more like I had a loss than a baby. I didn’t want to walk around looking that way, without Aria on my hip as an explanation.
So, as soon as I was cleared for physical activity, I went straight to the gym. It was a really difficult process. Having a cesarean section slowed my progress because I was afraid of pushing it too hard. I had to make sure I was getting stronger without getting in the way of the healing process. I took a lot of days off because I was just too sore.
Relearning to trust my body was one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome. As a former athlete, I used to be very in tune with my body. I trusted my body to do the things I needed it to do. I felt comfortable pushing my limits. But when your baby is diagnosed with a very serious defect in utero, and becomes very sick, it feels like your body has failed you. I was supposed to be a safe place for her, and I wasn’t. I no longer trusted my own body. So when I got back into the gym, and my husband would encourage me to lift heavier, I often said “I can’t.” What if my body gives out? What if I hurt myself? But eventually, as I began to run further and lift heavier, my mind and body united. That broken relationship started to heal.
Over the last seven months, I have seen a lot of progress, and I’m very proud of myself for getting back in shape. Doing something that requires real effort is no easy feat while you are grieving. My body still looks a little different, but most of these things are welcome changes. I actually think I look more womanly now than before.
I saw this quote the other day, and it really spoke to me.
“How can you ever say something negative about your body after you have felt the dancing of life from inside your womb?” – Amethyst Joy
I have learned that it doesn’t really matter if I have a baby on my hip or not. It doesn’t matter if I am in perfect shape, or still have some work to do. This body created life. This body was the place my sweet baby girl called home. This body didn’t fail me, it gave me the greatest gift I’ve ever received. (With some help from Brian, of course! Ha!)