Motherhood is the fork in the road of your health and life. If it’s taken as an opportunity to heal, it is possible to get into the best shape of your life. And by best shape of your life, I mean to become the most embodied version of yourself that authentically expresses your truest self in body, mind, and word.
Motherhood is physical
Motherhood is many things, but most of all, it is physical. And one of the little secrets that most women tumble into after giving birth is that your body doesn’t spontaneously heal, despite what social media and society might tell you.
Rebuilding your post baby body
You need to be taught how to move, walk, and carry your baby. Your abdominal muscles need to be rehabilitated as well as strengthened. And, unfortunately, chances are that your favorite fitness instructor knows very little about how to guide you in these nuances.
So, I’m here to give you the 411 on what you need to know to rehabilitate your post baby body.
Ask questions.Ask your OB or midwife to check you for diastasis recti and pelvic organ prolapse. Ask how to care for your scars and when you can begin walking and gently moving. Note that this is different than ‘returning to exercise’. There are a lot of gentle movements you can do in the earliest days post birth to support your initial healing, get blood and oxygen flowing, and discover your body and motherhood.
Get a PT.Ask your primary physician for a pelvic floor physical therapist prescription and referral. Here’s the secret – even with the most straightforward, vaginal birth, you need help and time to re-pattern your body’s reflexive movement. It’s called ‘neural pathway repatterning’, which is just a fancy word for your mind-body connection. While you were pregnant, your body figured out how to keep you living your life while growing a human and developed compensation patterns to shift the work from your diminishing ab strength to other muscles groups. But your pregnant body movement patterns don’t turn off just because you gave birth. You have to teach your body how to move and which muscles to fire now that you’re no longer pregnant. This is where your pelvic floor PT comes in. She will not only diagnose your pelvic floor strength, but also will help you activate those lost butt muscles, which will help you let go of chronic shoulder and back tension, plus give your abs a fighting chance to turn back on as well.
Find your tribe.I don’t care what kind of self discipline and work ethic you are capable of, you need other mothers around you. You need the human interaction, shared experience, and supportive understanding and accountability that comes from sharing a common purpose. It can be as simple as joining a few mom groups on social media, hitting a workout class where you can bring your baby, or going to a baby music class. What matters is that you get yourself dressed, put your baby in the carrier, and practice accomplishing outings together. It will build your self-confidence, get you up and moving, and cultivate positive, energetic movement in you and your little one.
Fear.Name it, address it, and move it through. I know your fear is everywhere. Here’s the thing – fear is a lower brain emotional response. This means it triggers the survival, fight-or-flight reactivity along with a lot of adrenaline. And once your nervous system has been triggered, you can’t reason your way out of it. You have to move your body in order to move adrenaline and show your nervous system that it’s ok to relax. Moving your body every day is not optional – it’s your daily training in the athletic and emotional pursuit of motherhood.
You can make a full recovery.It takes persistence and consistency. Because post natal recovery is based on strengthening neural pathways (your brain’s connection to your muscles), 10 minutes each day will most likely yield better results in your physical recovery than 1 hour once a week. So, create a ritual of you-time where you pay undivided attention to yourself and do your exercises. You’ll get stronger quicker, you’ll cultivate a daily emotional release, and most importantly, you’ll keep an anchor to your deep self as you learn this new role of motherhood and how it interrelates to all of your other roles and identities.
I realize that this is a newer way of relating to, thinking about, and navigating motherhood. The legacy has been silent suffering for too many generations. It takes time to re-write the postpartum narrative that you should just ‘bounce back’.
I’m naming the truth: you are injured after carrying and delivering a baby. There are resources available to support your healing and you will enjoy your journey of motherhood infinitely more because you are doing it from a place of self-love rather than depleted reactivity. You are magnificent. You are doing an incredible job and you are worth the time, resources, support and sweat needed to feel at home in your skin and life. Keep at it, Mama. The world needs you more than ever!
Rachel Welch is a postnatal fitness expert and Founder of Revolution Motherhood, a fitness method that teaches you how to fully recovery from pregnancy and childbirth. Rachel’s programs combine the best of private and group fitness, supporting your deep healing and teaching you the skills to recover your active lifestyle. You will walk out of our classes confident, strong and trusting your body. Learn more at RevolutionMotherhood.com or follow along on Instagram at @revolutionmotherhood.