My first Mother's Day is just around the corner. Of course, it's not really my first—I've celebrated the holiday plenty of times with my own mom—but it feels like it since this is the first time the holiday is about, well, me! My daughter was born in late February, and I'm just now feeling settled enough to reflect on my experience and take some new perspective from it.
Here's what I've learned so far.
1. I'm OK
That may not sound like much of a realization, but any fit woman—really, any woman—who has ever gone through their first pregnancy knows that little question that can bounce around in your brain: "What if I'm not OK afterward?"
When I found out I was pregnant, I knew I would have to say goodbye to my abs. Call me shallow, but how my body looked when I was pregnant was perhaps the most difficult thing I had to deal with. No matter how mature or enlightened you are, it's not easy going from the best shape of your life—I competed in the CrossFit Games in 2015—to feeling like a giantess in a matter of months.
Because such a huge part of my identity and confidence came from how I looked and how I could perform, I struggled to figure out who I was when I was pregnant. If I wasn't an elite athlete, who was I?
Nine weeks after giving birth, I'm relieved to realize that I feel completely content about who I am. Maybe I won't be able to get back to being competitive in my sport, or maybe I will. I may never train hard enough to see my abs again, or make it back to the Games, but right now, I know that I'm succeeding in maintaining a healthy body and a happy life.
Healthy, happy—isn't that what fitness is supposed to be about? No matter where I go from here, I hope I can continue to say that.
2. The Body Is Amazing
I'd like to say I loved being pregnant like some women have told me they did, but that feeling never really happened. I read countless blogs and articles that told me to "enjoy the process" and "treasure this time," but I didn't. I watched my body get softer and softer as I tried to remember what it felt like to have an abdominal wall that actually functioned.
So, yes, I struggled. But, I also realized how incredible my body actually is.
Although it was hard for me to accept the physicality of pregnancy, I couldn't help but be continually overwhelmed by the fact that I was growing a baby. And I didn't even have to do anything other than start the process. My body took care of the rest.
Making my baby was an incredible physical performance in itself. Although I didn't have to train for it, it's still something I feel incredibly proud of. I made my daughter. And she came out perfect.
Now that I'm breastfeeding, my body is also completely responsible for my daughter's survival. Somehow, it knows how to make milk. Milk, people! I don't think we take enough time to recognize what an incredible phenomenon a woman's body is.
3. Labor Is Much Worse Than A Difficult Workout
The whole time I was pregnant, I was afraid of labor. I suppose that's a normal feeling, but it's not something I heard about very often before I was pregnant. Maybe I just wasn't listening. But once it was just over the horizon, it felt as daunting as anything I've ever done athletically.
Most of us experience labor via movies: screaming, sweating, swearing women squeezing their husband's hand. In real life, there are hard births and relatively easy ones, for any number of reasons. In my case, I found there was no real way to prepare for the pain I ended up feeling. There's nothing else in the world like it.
If you're serious about fitness and training, you know how it feels to willingly put yourself through pain. When I compete, I regularly hit a certain red line, and then I try to stay just below it. Turns out I only thought I knew that line. About 30 hours into my labor, I think I finally hit my real pain threshold. It sucked.
I think being in pain for that long gave me an entirely new perspective for my workouts. If I can go through that, I can do anything. It takes incredible strength and mental toughness to get through labor. I have no doubt it's made me a stronger person.
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4. Fitness Is Hard As A Mom
When I was pregnant, I figured I'd be able to get right back into my normal workout regimen and be eating for my athletic goals soon enough. Wait, what's that sound? Oh, it's every first-time mother reading this saying, "Ha!"
Turns out there's no predicting how much of my time will get sucked away—often literally—by my newborn on any given day, and I'm starting to see how that will change continually over the months and years to come. That surprised me initially, but I was even more surprised to find that I'm OK with it.
If I only have time to squeeze in a 15-minute bodyweight circuit in my living room while she sleeps, then I'm satisfied. And, quite frankly, if working out doesn't happen that day, then it doesn't.
The line "if it's important, do it every day" definitely applies to fitness. But I bet whoever said that wasn't caring for a freaking baby at the time. Because the truth is that caring for that baby is the most important thing you do, and you'd better believe you're going to do it every day.
You know what else is important? Making sure my baby has plenty to eat. So I eat a lot. It's also important that she's happy. So I hold her a lot. It's also important that my husband and I get to spend time together. Sometimes, the best we can do is go for a walk. And when I go back to work full-time, there will be fewer hours in each day to make sure all of these important things get done.
But they will, somehow. And I see now that it won't be by accident. On some level, that's kind of terrifying, but on another, it's inspiring. I see how I need to take ownership of what's important in my life and make it happen. Welcome to motherhood.
To all those moms out there who are struggling to "get their body back," I get it now. And I'm not sure what I would have said a year ago, but now I say do what you can when you can. And if you never fit back into those old size-whatever pants...go buy some new pants.