Trust your body at all times

Monday, 21 May 2018
Should I have lost all the "baby weight" by now?
Should I have a flat-ish stomach?
Is the goal to fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans?
Is this my new-normal? What is normal anyway?
Hello, postpartum body that continues to change, deflate, morph into something kind of familiar, yet unfamiliar at the same time.  I am 20 months postpartum with the twins and am still trying to embrace where I'm at on my journey. I've learned that it's ok to feel lost. I've realized that it's difficult to accept the current shape of Me. If pregnancy wasn't enough of a roller coaster physically, mentally and emotionally, my postpartum body continues to take me on a ride. While I don't always love this new shape, I'm learning to embrace the process, one day at a time.  
There is a nagging that comes with all of this uncertainty, it's that annoying notion of expectations. Even if we have no clue what our bodies will look and feel like during this season of motherhood, we all have some expectations of what we intend for this process. Bring social media into the mix and it can be a really hurtful glimpse at comparisons and unrealistic expectations.
As a fitness professional, I follow a lot of fitness-focused social media pages. While they can be inspiring and motivating, lately, it has felt defeating. I find myself comparing my journey to others.  I sleepily scroll past toned bodies and flat stomachs and wish I could be flaunting my own with confidence.  Mama’s who are celebrating their flat, 4-month-postpartum tummies, those who feel like they've "bounced back" and their little ones are 6 months, all of that is groovy and fabulous. I love seeing women confident in themselves no matter what stage they're in. 

What’s not so groovy is that we’re bombarded with these messages of “bounce back”. post-baby. We’re fed the expectation of losing any sign that you just grew a human (or two or more) for the past 9 or 10 months. From magazines, to talk shows, and the ads that pop up on social media, we're inundated with the message that if you don't have that coveted toned-tummy, then you're doing something wrong, and they've got the solution for you. Or at least, that's what I'm seeing, because right now, I feel slightly obsessed with this part of my body and my journey.  I'm not gonna lie.  I miss my toned tummy.  These twins did a number on my core.  Whew, baby.


During pregnancy, this sacred space wisely grew along with my growing babies. I celebrated this life-giving area of my body. Even if I don’t feel my best during pregnancy, the baby-bump is miraculous, and I rightfully document it each and every time.

And then, during postpartum, my unfamiliar shape seems forgotten about and cringe-worthy. This space that was just firm and full is all of a sudden soft and droopy like a deflated balloon. My insides felt like a vast ocean, with organs sloshing around.  Ok, that might be a little dramatic, but hey, I'm allowed to be, I just birthed two babies! I was healing from two different births, one vaginal (Baby A), one cesarean (transverse Baby B), my body was like "WTF just happened?!" While I felt like I had superhero capabilities at times, now, during postpartum, I was mostly feeling defeated. Broken.

Insert the expectation that we “need to bounce back” and I'm over here thinking, "Who came up with this ridiculous idea?! Why do we feel ashamed for not returning to our pre-baby body shape?" Here’s a reality check, did you know that it's not humanly possible to "bounce back", especially after you've grown and birthed a human?!


Gals, think about it for a sec. Your glorious mommy-tummy was stretched to a shape you thought was impossible.  But you did it anyways.  Because you're a woman.  You're a mom. Believe it or not, you've got warrior, superhero, goddess status all wrapped up together.  You are forever changed in the best way. You can not go back in time, there is only moving forward.


As my journey moves me forward, I've got stretched skin, extra inches, and the scar from where my 4th and final baby was born. My body has been pushed to what felt like my limits, even though it was all within my capabilities.  All 4 of my babies and I have been on our own unique journey together, and yet, I'm comparing my body to others. The first thing I notice when I glance in the mirror is this soft, stretched tummy that is not remotely flat like that super-cute mama I'm comparing myself to on my Instagram feed.  


Unfortunately I have had this self-critical eye growing up dancing and trying to perfect what I saw in the mirror. My college, then professional dance career lead me to always make sure I had practiced enough, warmed up properly, then add the right outfit-shoes-hairstyle for the audition, because we need to book that gig. Of course you had to have the skills to back it up, but as any professional dancer knows, a director and choreographer can quickly scan the hundreds of women at an audition and eliminate more than half of the dancers simply based on a particular look they have in mind. #TypeCastingSucks


Every dancer knows there is more beneath the surface of our physical appearance.  While we spend hours upon hours in the studio, working on the same technique, each dancer brings his/her own beautiful light to the movement.  There is grace and grit, a determination that keeps us striving for more. There is a heart and soul that lives and breathes movement and the freedom that comes from expressing ourselves in this art form.  That, my friends is immeasurable. It can’t be seen from a quick scan of the director’s eye who’s looking for that 5’8” brunette to fill the only spot in the line they’re casting that day.
Maintaining my dance technique always gave me a strong yet flexible body. I have spent 86% of my life (yes I calculated that because I’m slightly Type-A) looking in the mirror perfecting turns, turnout, balancing strength and fluidity.  I’ve compared my grand jete, syncopated time steps, eye-high kicks, you name it, to others making sure I’ve got them down just right.  It is ingrained in me to attempt to replicate a movement with as much precision as possible.  Attention to detail is kind of in my blood at this point.  
So here I am, at the messiest, most out-of-body feeling in my life. Motherhood.  
Where everything feels unorganized, urgent, endless, chaotic, lonely, and most of the time, covered in poop. My put-together pre-mom-life is an old chapter that I’ve written and turned the page on.  I miss it at times, but I know that this new chapter is also filled with a love and excitement I could have never, ever, ever, ever imagined.  It might be messy, but mom-love is the absolute best.  (Mom’s know.) 
As I move forward in this new chapter or season, there are times I have to check myself. Like, a smack to the face, check myself.
I am not defined by the inches of my waistline, or the size of my jeans, or when I’ve last washed my hair (because I can’t remember). 
I know that these trivial numbers I calculate can not even come close to measuring up to who I am as a mom and the heart and soul that this role requires. It's like the resume at the audition, your stats on paper do not hold a candle to what you can bring to the choreography on stage.

In case you haven't noticed we're all uniquely and marvelously different, each of us, even my identical twins.  They are different sizes, with different personalities and different needs. We all know that comparing our body to someone else does no good. It's effort wasted that we should be using in other ways. Frankly, effort I don't have because I'd rather be napping!


I'm a mom of 4, with kids ages 7, 4 and those 20 month old twins.  Do you know what that means? I'm tired. I am eager to move my body again.  I want to run, bike, swim, hit my favorite yoga and barre classes.  I'm an active person and love how exercise makes me feel.  But now? It’s not happening just yet. 


I saw these images of fit-postpartum mamas doing WAY more than I was right now. My old dancer-mentality starts coming back, and I felt myself comparing and wishing so badly that I could commit to exercise to regain my previous shape.  Then it struck me...
The positive intention I carry through all of my pregnancies is the small-but-mighty word, "Trust".
I had lost my connection to that powerful intention.  I had to remember to Trust my body during my postpartum healing process as well. 
How could I have been so silly to forget this?! Oh right, I'm an exhausted mama of 4.  I'm breastfeeding twins and haven't slept through the night since I got pregnant with them. Each of my children demand my attention and affection from morning to night, through the night... Right, I give myself all the passes now. 
In case you've forgotten as well, here's your reminder, "Trust your body, at all times." Especially during postpartum, please continue to trust your body.  Just as your body knew exactly what to do to grow and birth your baby, believe it or not, it still knows what it needs to heal. And that is different for all of us.  It might take 6 months, it might take years...
Many of the messages my body sends me is to rest.  Seriously, all the naps... without the guilt! I refuse to apologize for giving my body and brain much needed rest when I'm "on call" 24/7. Maybe this is where you're at in your journey right now too? If so, drop the comparisons and expectations, let your body rest.

When the stars align and I begin to catch up on some sleep, mindful exercise (a walk or easy run) has felt good. This postpartum with the twins has been a big lesson in patience as I oh-so-slowly began moving my body again.  I enjoy challenging myself physically, but I've discovered that the opportunity for this is not as consistent as it was in past years. Back to that word Trust.  I'm going to trust that now is not the time to register for that race that I so want to train for. The time will come where I'm functioning with 75% of my mom-brain versus the 25% sleep-deprived version I've got lately. Until then, I'll take this ride one day at a time and celebrate what my body CAN do. Guess what I've learned from that lesson?  It's ok to slow down.  I used to think walking wasn't enough.  Psssshhh *eye-roll.  When I really listen to and trust my body, it reminds me that walking is fantastic for healing post-baby! I knew this as a fitness-pro, but I didn't personally accept it, because I'm a stubborn-ex-dancer who still feels the need to push too far sometimes. I don't want to say that the twin pregnancy wrecked my body, but man-o-man, it felt wrecked for months, if not most of that first year postpartum. I had no other choice than to slow down and I still found lovely benefits from moving my body mindfully with walking and postnatal yoga exercises


[*note for safety: If you experience spotting or pain in your low back or joints when returning to exercise postpartum, those are signs that you might need be overdoing it.  Trust that it's best (and necessary) to slow down.]

As my postpartum journey continues, another piece to the puzzle is more love for that reflection in the mirror. Those years of dancing and critiquing my reflection still result in little whispers of judgment. The voice is getting quieter lately because part of my practice is to look at my belly and simply say "Thank you" when I want to judge what I see. As I shift my perspective from critique and comparison, to gratiude and a little acceptance, I feel lighter, better, happier.


I can and will remain committed to practicing gratitude for my body.


I place my hands on my soft, round tummy and thank my body for the best gifts I could have every dreamed of.  While I know that a strong, functioning core is important, I know that I’m not defined by the flatness of my abs. I am motivated from a place of self-love, not self-shame, to heal my diastasis recti (separated abdominal muscles).  When I remain consistent with the specific abdominal exercises for healing DR, my low back feels better and my pelvic floor is stronger. That is my incentive to stay at it. But I fall off track more regularly than I can stay on track right now. So I’m gentle with myself and revisit these exercises for a better-functioning-body when I have the time and energy. 

If you're still in the process of finding more postpartum-body-love, give this a try. Trust your body at all times. Pause and simply say "Thank you" to your body. It's like planting seeds of love that grow each time you connect to this positive intention. Keep this practice of trust and gratitude growing and it will soon be stronger and more powerful than that self-critical voice.


Remember, you are not defined by your body shape. Your love shines beyond that, my friend. More than anything else, you are love. It's a fact.


As we work on this love for ourselves, it will help us to celebrate the other women in our lives. We're all just doing the best we can.  Less judgement opens up more space for good vibes to flow. Focusing on the positive always feels better than tearing ourselves, or others, down. 


I'll continue to work trusting that I'm right where I'm meant to be. Some days it feels good to move, and other days it feels best to rest.  I'm dropping those expectations and going to listen more to love more. My body is, and always has been, wise. I lovingly remind myself, I am enough. 
A quote I read somewhere says, "Want a beach body? Have a body, go to the beach." Done. 
You're beautiful.
xoxo, Amy
Postpartum at the pool11664 1

If you're looking to incorporate yoga exercises to maintain muscle tone, to stretch out tense muscles, and to actually pause and breathe deeply (because breathing is one of the most rejuvenating exercises you can do) check out my Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga DVD's here. These exercise dvd's carry the reminder to trust your body, move mindfully and find gratitude for all that your body CAN do. 

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