As a mother you probably understand how it feels to work really hard on something, dedicating lots of time and energy you don't really have to spare to accomplish that goal. You also probably have experienced finally getting done and having an end product you are really proud of for all of about 2 minutes before your hard work goes right out the window and leaves you feeling like you are back at square one.
This is true for my kitchen, or any other room in the house, or really any chore for that matter. I just get done polishing off the final touches and stand feeling joyful and accomplished at my gleaming kitchen counters and empty sink and immediately hear "Mom! I'm hungry! Is it time for lunch?"
The feeling of being back at square one often seems like a never-ending cycle of motherhood. This is especially how I feel after giving birth and wanting to get back in shape. I gave birth to my fourth child a few weeks ago and while she is such a darling and I am so in love with this new baby stage, I also feel like my postpartum body is, you guessed it, back at square one.
During my pregnancy I backed off my fitness routine quite a bit due to horrible morning sickness, moving to a new city at month four, and some pretty frustrating pelvic girdle pain. I stayed pretty active and maintained quite a bit of strength throughout the pregnancy.
However, I realized just how much of that strength is lost in those final weeks of pregnancy and birth, when I attempted to carry my 2 1/2-year-old up the stairs. I felt the pull in my mid-section screaming at me that this was "too much too soon" even though I was able to carry him just fine only weeks prior.
As a prenatal and postnatal fitness specialist, I have the knowledge and understanding that I shouldn't have been attempting such strenuous activity so early on, however, I was feeling stronger and more healed than I actually was. I am recovering really well with this baby and so I am eager to get back to doing the types of activities I was doing before birth. However, despite feeling like I can, I actually know that my body is not ready yet.
Why is it so much easier to know something than to actually do that thing we know we should? I also find it funny how our feelings don't always line up with the truth.
While I want to hit the ground running (literally) and jump back into my fitness routine, I also don't want to do anything to injure myself or to set back my current recovery process. I am only a month out from having my baby and have not even received doctor's approval to begin exercising yet. I also have a 2-finger width Diastasis that I need to heal before I can get back to intense activities. So, what can I do?
I can continue focusing on strengthening my TVA and pelvic floor and getting in some basic yoga and stretching. I remind myself to breathe properly, using diaphragmatic breathing and perform my foundational core exercises. I generally do these while sitting and nursing and occasionally find the time to get down on the floor and do them as well.
I also practice using good posture whenever I find myself slouching and work on activating my TVA and Pelvic Floor throughout the day to support my healing and stabilize my core, especially when climbing stairs or lifting the baby.
I can also choose to feed myself high-quality, nutrient-dense, healthy foods to help support my milk production, balance my energy and moods, and assist my body in healing. I can give myself permission to slow down a bit, permission to ask for help, and permission to let go of the chores a little more. I can hold the baby a little longer, laugh and enjoy my kids a little more, and rest and recover well during this seemingly long, but oh-so-short-in-reality season.
I know that I can either allow my body to properly recover and rehab now in these delicate weeks postpartum or be forced to recover and rehab later after injuring myself trying to do too much too soon. I can be loving and kind to myself, prioritizing good self-care and encouragement. I can be proud of what I do accomplish each day, grateful for any progress made rather than feeling like a failure for not sticking to the unrealistic expectations I often place on myself.
I can bask in the chaos and sweetness and beautiful mess that is what the newborn stage is all about, acknowledging the truth of just how much I will miss it the moment it's gone. Life will rush on, demanding more work to be done and more money to be made, impatiently begging me to run full speed because there is never enough time. But I don't want to look back and regret sprinting through these days. I don't want to waste these precious moments wishing I were doing something else, or "further along" or more successful.
I want to be right here, present and patient, soaking up every ounce of joy that I can squeeze out of this beautiful season of life. Because I know once it's gone, there is no getting it back no matter how much I might regret the things I didn't do.
When the time has passed and the memories haven't been made, what is lost remains lost. There is enough loss in life without adding to it by feeling guilty or not good enough for being here, loving, and fully experiencing these fleeting moments with my family.
There will be a time for working, running, building, making. But right now, right here during this small space of a few short weeks in the lifetime of motherhood, my purpose is to love, to soothe, to nurse, and to soak up and pour out all the magical, peaceful joy and goodness that newborns bring. And to rest in the glory of God, praising him for this great gift that I have been blessed with and the miracle of new life that marks the beginning - square one - of so many chapters still to be written and so many seasons still to be lived.