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by Bree Najera
I'll never forget the moment when I looked down and saw my legs in the hospital after delivering my daughter. I had intentionally avoided full-length mirrors after showers for quite sometime during my third trimester, thinking it was better for everyone to not think about my body or its current state. Seeing my legs now, I felt disconnected from my very own body.
I've always been naturally thin, so while I was a little nervous about the baby weight, I assumed I wouldn’t gain all that much. Turns out this wasn't the case. I ended up gaining more than I thought (and more than my doctor thought) and it didn’t go away on its own, like I'd hoped it might.
I remembered my own grandma's story of delivering my dad and then slipping back into her pre-pregnancy jeans before leaving the hospital. (Not the most helpful story, Grandma). I was banking on these genes (the DNA, not my grandma's Levis) to get me past the majority of the postpartum weight issues.
As a mom with health issues (chronic Lyme disease), I'm unable to do so many of the things that can help most women lose baby weight. I am physically incapable of almost every type of exercise and also was unable to breastfeed to burn extra calories. I felt utterly out of control.
I watched and waited for nature to do its work. Some of the weight melted off on its own during the first few weeks. I started feeling more confident as I saw my waist coming back into a more waist-like shape. I remember feeling ready to step on the scale for the first time, confident of the approximate amount of pounds I'd estimated I’d need to lose. I had a number I thought I weighed, but when I saw the actual digits, I was way off. I had almost twice as much weight to lose as I had estimated. I literally started sobbing. To be fair, I had postpartum depression, so it wasn’t all about the weight.
I sank into a deep, dark hole.
I was convinced I'd never feel like me again or feel comfortable in my own skin. After some serious wallowing, I finally picked myself up (literally) from the bathroom floor and began formulating a plan. I made up my mind that I'd lose at least some of the weight. I honestly wasn’t sure if it was even possible for someone like me, with all my health issues, to get back to my pre-baby weight, but I decided to try, even with the possibility of failure. One thing was sure: it wasn’t going to be easy, or quick.
I started walking as much as my body would allow.
Because of my health issues, I had to walk a delicate line between pushing myself and not triggering my Lyme symptoms. I pushed myself further than I thought I could go, but then would pull back and let my body rest. Some days, a few minutes of walking was all I could do, but others I was able to push through and walk further while pushing my daughter in her stroller. Walking was also extremely helpful for the postpartum depression as well; two birds.
I simultaneously started tracking what I ate on a fitness app & cut all unnecessary calories, with the exception of the milk and sugar in my coffee. I quickly realized that food was the one thing I was able to control in this whole postpartum experience. I filled myself up with healthy, hearty alternatives and cut the sweets.
This wasn't easy, since during pregnancy all my normal, healthy habits had gone out the window. I was so nauseated that I'd allowed myself to eat whatever I could keep down. It took time, but eventually I was able to course-correct those habits and set a tough, but healthy, calorie goal.
I wrote my goal down on a note card and taped it inside my mirror, to remind me of my destination.
This kept me grounded when I wanted to give up or felt like I'd never make it. Still, being alone with my baby weight and my newborn turned out to be a bit depressing. I began to share my struggles with other moms and people who encouraged me. I brought my most trusted friends into the fold. They encouraged me, rooted for me and spurred me on towards the goal.
As the weight began to very slowly come off, my stomach still looked different, mushy almost. This felt like defeat. What point was there in losing the weight if my stomach looked so poochy? I began to introduce post-partum exercises, as part of my regimen, drawing my stomach muscles back into place. This was surprisingly effective.
In time, I was incredibly surprised to find I'd met my goal of getting back to my pre-baby weight.
If you are on this same journey, much love, joy and hope to you.
Photos from iStock
I’m a 33-year old mom with a passion for lattes, toys that don't make noise and bubble baths. Although I battle daily with chronic Lyme Disease, it is my passion to find joy in life through faith, fun, and a healthy dose of sarcasm. My super awesome husband and stinkin’ cute 2-year old help me through the ups and downs of life with a chronic illness. Although I'm unable to work for now, my background is in elementary education. I'm passionate about integrating my knowledge from the classroom into my daily life as a mom.
Also from Bree, 5 things I've had to accept as a mom with an invisible illness. To read more of Bree’s writing, check out her blog, Room for Joy
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.