My Postpartum Identity Crisis

I’ve learned a lot about myself and my body in the time immediately following the birth of my daughter.  Realizing that postpartum me will never really get back to pre-baby me.

Stock Cover - Postpartum Identity Crisis

When I found out I was pregnant, it was important to me to maintain the level of health and fitness I had been working towards in the months leading up to her conception.  I am a Jazzercise junkie and would take 4-5 classes a week. My husband and I follow a pretty healthy lifestyle.  We eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, I cook meals from scratch five nights a week and I may have two cans of soda total over the course of a month – otherwise it’s always water.

Working Out while Pregnant
can’t stop. won’t stop. jazzercise.

Keeping the Cravings in Check

I had heard the stories from my friends or the old wives’ tales of women throwing everything out the window when they’re pregnant – giving into every craving and justifying the excess calories with ‘eating for two’.  Now, I’m not saying I was perfect – Don and Millie’s may have seen me a handful of times through their drive-thru ordering a Cheese Frenchee and for some reason Root Beer Floats were at the top of my cravings list.  I felt I had to give in a time or two, but always kept it within what I felt was reason.  After all, I didn’t want to make my diet and the cravings something that made me feel bad or guilty.  I was always conscious that those calories are going to go somewhere and at some point, being pregnant would end (though some days it felt like it never would!).

I was very, very lucky in the beginning.  What little morning sickness I had would be taken care of with these ginger chews. I didn’t have any particular food aversion and I wasn’t hit with the typical energy drop that most moms to be feel in the early weeks.  It was business as usual for me and I was able to continue with my eating and exercise regimes!

Then, I hit 30 weeks and it seems like all the wheels flew off the bus.  I developed carpal tunnel and was retaining water so much so that I couldn’t fit into my tennis shoes to workout.  My hips and knees began to hurt, too.  This was around July/August which are two of the hottest months here in Nebraska – which only made the swelling worse.  So, I had to stop working out.  I still did strength training, lifting small weights and doing squats. Maybe a mile walk here or there but certainly nothing like I was doing before.  I couldn’t let myself feel bad about this, though.  I kept telling myself that my priority is staying healthy for my little one.  I needed to listen to my body and give it what it needed.

New Body, New Clothes

With my expanding belly and my ankles widening, I added a few new pieces of clothes to my wardrobe. I had about 6 different outfits that I kept on rotation and getting ready in the mornings for work went rather quickly with my limited selection of clothes.  This helped balance out the excess time it took for me to get it together in the mornings, as my typical rise and shine motivation was severely lacking!

Leggings became my best friend, maternity tank tops with cardigans were my staple. 

Photo at 39 weeks
Two days before I went into labor

As the weeks went on, my body continued to swell.  My ankles disappeared, my toes touched each other and it took a conscious and strong effort for me to switch from one side to the other when sleeping.  All this time, those maternity clothes were right there with me.

When I went to deliver my daughter, it was discovered that I had sever pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome.  While that’s an entirely separate story for another time, they did also find that all the fluids I had been consuming were not passing through my kidneys but being stored in other areas of my body.  To say I felt swollen is an understatement!  When I went to deliver Paetyn, I had gained roughly 40 lbs.  A little higher than what they’d like to see, but not a ridiculous amount.  However, once I had her, all my complications went away. My blood platelets, liver enzymes and blood pressure all came back within normal ranges.  With that, I was releasing all the fluids I had retained over the last few weeks.

Old(ish) Body, Old Me?

It’s pretty comical to look back and remember all those little hats I filled in the toilet, as they wanted to keep track of my fluid intake & output.  I was completely filling that sucker every couple hours! Then I did the unthinkable…at 10 days post-partum I got on the scale. I was curious about what I currently weighed compared to delivery and to my weight pre-pregnancy.  Friends, I lost 30 lbs.  Thirty freaking pounds! That’s a LOT of water! And all of a sudden, the clothes that I had been relying on day in and day out for the last few months, this body I had slowly become accustomed to and the effort it took to move this new body had completely changed.

It was jarring for me, to have this slow transition into a new body over the course of 10 months, and then what seemed like overnight this body had completely changed. While I was pregnant, I carried my belly like a badge of honor.  I was growing a little human, a new life was forming and I was solely responsible for it.  People could easily see this.  Now, all of sudden, that body was gone.  I no longer had a physical characteristic to show the world what I had endured.  That I had created a little life and that she is this perfect little person.

The small section of clothes that I had been limited to no longer fit.  But my pre-pregnancy clothes didn’t quite fit, either.

Not only did the shirts fall differently and the jeans hug in new places, I was not my pre-pregnant me.  I had gone through a life changing experience and my world and my priorities had completely shifted. 

These clothes represented a different me.  Does that sound silly?  Am I the only one that has stood in my closet, looking at the clothes from 10 months prior and feeling like they belonged to a stranger?

Making Peace with the New ‘Me’

I felt out of sorts and not really motivated to go back to any of my old clothes. I recognized that this could potentially be a sign of post-partum depression.  A conscious effort was made for me to recognize these feelings and work through them.  Where were they stemming from?  Was I sad or just out of sorts? Within a couple of weeks, the emotions (perhaps hormones?) started to settle.  I think it started with my favorites – a scarf here, a top there and I began to slowly feel like the ‘old me’.  While I know I will never be that person again, she’s still a part of me.

How can anyone feel the same after devoting nearly an entire year of their life to the creation of another person?  The feelings of pride, of sacrifice, of KNOWING what you went through stay with you. 

In the end, I realized that my goals in early February of 2017 when I first found out I was pregnant were coming from the right place.  Eat right and stay active because a healthy momma improves the health of her baby.  But I’ve learned there’s no going back to the old me.  No matter how many Jazzercise classes I attend.  No matter what size my waistline is or how many pounds I weigh.  And I’m perfectly happy with that because this new me, this ‘mom’ me?  She’s pretty great.