I’ve always been a healthy person. I’m the kid that would get up early on a school day and rollerblade the neighborhood before it was time to get ready. I did Buns of Steel (it was the nineties) and lifted canned goods (we didn’t own weights) and loved watching Jazzercise videos on TV. Physical fitness and health have always been important to me. And, during pregnancy my health became that much more important.
I worked out at my normal pace, 4-5 days a week, until about 30 weeks pregnant. Then, I slowed down and started walking most days and did zumba when I could muster up the energy until about 35 weeks. I ate mostly organic, except the first trimester where I lived on bean & cheese tacos and I ate butter like it was my job, and I snacked on fruits, protein, and veggies. I drank a gallon of water a day and even gorged on healthy fats towards the end to aid my babies’ brain development. I gained the minimum weight for twins (around 40lbs) and felt like I’d bounce back to my former glory; strong, flexible, and healthy in a few short months.
When I woke up from an emergency c-section, after a brutal labor that nearly took my life, and I saw my disfigurement, I was distraught. My legs were swollen from the surgery, and my failing filtration systems, so they were unrecognizeable to me. My skin was stretched across them and looked pale and marbled. My stomach was hugely swollen still, resembling someone 6 months pregnant and my abdominal muscles split down the middle verically and horizontally so the skin that once stretched across both eight pound babies was now able to fall into the hole between my stomach muscles. The area above my incision was fat, raw, and red and the steristrips lined vertically across it resembled those on Frankenstein’s neck. I was humiliated by my appearance. So humiliated that I wouldn’t even let my husband see me walk to the bathroom without a robe on. It was depressing.
Within the next few weeks the swelling went down and I lost all my pregnancy weight, but not the pregnancy shape. The steristrips came off and the incision was less noticeable by about 4 weeks although there was still a red reminder that my body had been cut open against my will. My arms, legs, and face finally look like the originals, but my stomach muscles are still in terrible shape and my skin is still struggling to find where it goes. My belly button is nonexistent and the linea negra and chloasma (dark skin spots) are still visible.
I want so desperately to be able to get to a gym, but my gym doesn’t offer childcare until babies are six months old. I tried to workout at home, but I caused a hematoma (blood collection) on my incision site and I already have a blood clot I’m dissolving with blood thinners. It’s very frustrating to not feel in control of your own body.
The worst part? Nobody seems to understand. I keep hearing, “focus on your babies”, or “but look what you have as a result”, or “aren’t you grateful for your sweet boys?” And, someone I love dearly even asked me shamelessly one time if I hated my boys because of what they did to my body. Are you kidding me?
One has NOTHING to do with the other. I love feeling strong, flexible, capable. I love the rush I get from cardio and the adrenaline from dancing through a high impact exercise class. I love pounding the pavement in the sun on a Saturday morning and sweating buckets during a hot yoga session. Why the assumption that being unhappy with my postpartum body means I don’t love my babies or that I’m ungrateful? Because I have babies now I can stop caring about my health or my appearance? Now that I’m a mom I can stop wanting to feel attractive and sexy for my husband? Am I a bad mom because I want to go to the gym? Or, am I less loving because I have the need to do something for myself?
I love my boys more than I’ve ever loved anything else in the world. I feed them from my body every few hours twenty-four hours a day. I change their diapers 8-10 times a day (each) and their clothes 2-3 times a day. We sing songs, read stories, take walks, dance, and enjoy baths together. The only time I have to myself is…well, does their laundry count during naps as alone time? What about when I’m shoveling food in my face so I can keep up my milk supply? No? Okay, then how about when I’m watching a netflix show or blogging? I’m usually pumping breastmilk while I do that so I guess that doesn’t count. My life and focus is on caring for them 24/7, but that is hardly a healthy way to live. Working out is the one thing I plan to do for me and I’m sure many other mothers feel the same. We shouldn’t be shamed for wanting to work out or wanting to relocate our former selves.
I want to feel like me again. A strong, energetic, and independent being. This does not make me a bad person and certainly not a bad mom.