My Thoughts on the Postpartum Body and my Fave Workout App.

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So I’m not one of those girls who has a baby, sneezes twice, and immediately loses all the baby weight. My body lovvvves the extra lbs it earned in my pregnancies, and always wants to hold on for dear life to those cherished extras (called love handles for a reason, ladies.)

I’ve truly accepted that I'm never going to look the same as I did before having babies. And I don’t want to or need to. I’m proud that I was able to carry these rather giant babies inside of me, and even though I wince a bit when I see the stretch marks on my belly, the extra skin, the cellulite, ALL THE THINGS, I am trying to re-train how I think about it, because those marks are all part of the precious map my body has journeyed in this season of parenthood. I'm not supposed to look like I'm 18 anymore. And I'm good with that.

All that being said, I am doing my best to keep up with my boys (because they are freakishly strong for being so young), and I do care about how I look (sue me, but I do), so I’ve been working working working on losing the baby weight. I still have a few stubborn lbs that are hanging on for dear life and sure, I could probably starve them off but gosh, that's just not interesting to me. Question for the universe- is it called baby weight if it’s been more than a year? DON’T ANSWER THAT.

This summer I have been disciplined without being particularly militant in my consistency (because there were mojitos to drink and pools to be purveyed), but I have prioritized getting myself to the gym at least 2-3x per week and taking care of this body of mine. It’s up to me to take care of this temple - not my husband, not my kids, not my friends. It’s my job to take care of me so I can live long and prosper and hang out with my great great grandkids when I’ve got good, deep wrinkles and quarters to fill their pockets with. I'm going to be such a weirdo fun granny, can't wait.

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But I'll be honest. I can't always get to the gym. And exercising with my kids is hard. I still do it, because that just life when you're a mom - you have to figure out ways to make it work. So maybe it's not the best work out of my life when I take them on a jog with me (we have to stop A LOT - because they want to run, pick up pebbles, play with bugs, etc.) but it's better than not trying at all. And that's where I'm at. I try my best. However, I've also been using and loving the Sweat app because it’s reminded me of all the exercises that I should *know* to do, but never seem to remember when I’m at the gym on my own. I've done the BBG program and I am currently re-doing it because I want to get stronger and more consistent with it before I move on to the next program (which is BBG Power and it looks hard!) And by the way, this isn’t sponsored or anything, I’m just letting you know that this program has been one of the main things that has really helped me develop a discipline and see ever so small, but present, results. And no one can take that victory away!

If you’re in a similar life stage as me, with little people gathered round your ankles at any given time of the day, I’m just letting you know that you’re not alone! And what works for me, may not work for you at all, but keep trying things that make you happy, that propels you forward, that makes you proud of what you’re working toward! You are so beautiful, and all your intention and effort matters. Because someone has to dole out the quarters 75 years from now. And with a little luck and a lot of hard work and positivity, that’s gonna be ME.

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Outfit Details:
Look 1: Yandy Sports Bra c/o (similar), Yandy Leggings c/o, Nike Flex Sneakers

Look 2: Yandy Tank c/o, Yandy Leggings c/o, Nike Flex Sneakers


I'd love to hear from you mamas - what workouts have worked for you in your postpartum journey?

My Journey with Postpartum Anxiety.

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Warning - super long post. Today I'm sharing my heart with you all about a subject that is very personal and dear to me. The postpartum experience is a sensitive one and I share this because I want others to know that if you've experienced this - you are so not alone. And I also share this because I want others to understand what some mothers go through during postpartum. Be kind, you never know what people are battling with.

This is a space for real talk, so let's have it :)


I've waited a long time to write this post. I wanted to write it when I was all better. When I finally had a fresh perspective and wasn't in the middle of a messy open heart of spewing feelings and emotions. But here I am, typing these words, on a day when I experienced more anxiety than I have in months. Today I cried, I snapped at my children, and spoke unkindly to my husband.

I don't like to admit these things and I certainly don't think this kind of behavior is okay, but you know what? It happened. I'm not perfect, though I am trying my best to improve my character, my tone of voice, my heart stance. My patience.

In this season, I've learned to tell myself:

1. I am not an anxious person. Even when I feel anxiety, it's not who I am.

2. My anxiety doesn't define me.

Okay, let me back up a bit.

I never realized that I dealt with postpartum anxiety the first time I had a baby. I didn't even know that was a thing. I didn't realize until after Everett's 1st birthday that I was starting to feel better. "Have I been feeling worse and not realizing it??", I remember thinking to myself. I reflected on the previous year, the first year of my baby's life. Becoming a mom was the most incredible experience that had ever happened to me. Everett was a riot and a joy and so full of personality and passion. But. He was also exhausting, colick-y, and such a mama's boy. I couldn't leave him with a sitter because he would have full-out meltdowns. I had more than 1 sitter think that he was legitimately dying when I left him (to this day he still can still enact this special talent of blood-curdling screaming and body slamming himself to the ground, which he does every so often to keep us on our A-game.) He spit and hissed if we dared to offer him a bottle. He never slept. He didn't want to be held by anyone but me. And Stevie. And my mom. But if anyone else held him he barely tolerated it. His mission was to be with mommy always.

I was anxious about all this. But what is there to do? He was my baby, and I wasn't going to traumatize him by continuously putting him in situations that caused him to turn into a werewolf. I'm certain I've given in too much and probably made so mistakes with him, but gosh, I have done everything to my best ability. That boy is my prize, my treasure. Unfortunately, I didn't identify that I probably needed some extra support during that first year of his life until the year had already passed me by. The thing about becoming a parent is that you think what you're experiencing is normal - everyone is tired. Everyone is running on coffee and adrenaline. But now I know that not everyone experiences panic attacks when they go into church with their baby. Not everyone sweats through their clothes at just the thought of a stranger asking to hold the baby. Not everyone is brought to stressed tears when people look at their baby, talk about their baby, even if it's a compliment that is being spoken. Not everyone feels dwarfed by the smallest tasks of the day when they include taking the baby with them. Having your chest pound and feeling like your throat is going to close and your airways are constricted is not normal. I thought this was normal. I didn't know this was a sign of a deeper problem.

Not until after the year was over.

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These symptoms drastically improved after Everett's 1st birthday. I was stunned at how lively I was beginning to feel again. I chalked it up to my changing hormones, but still, I wondered why I had experienced such a swell of emotions for an entire year.

The more I talked to other women, especially other moms, I realized a common theme. So many women dealt with postpartum depression but didn't realize it until after they were on the other side of it. I remember at my 6-week postpartum visit with Everett, I filled out the mental health checklist, the one where they identify feelings of postpartum depression. I wasn't battling feelings of deep sadness, or having urges to hurt myself or my baby. Those weren't my symptoms. I still laughed, still had fun, still had motivation for life and work. But these feelings were compounded by intense situational anxiety. I had a hard time wanting to leave the house because I couldn't predict what might happen. This sense of paranoia wasn't really like myself - I've never been a fearful person. I knew I didn't feel like the old Kristen, but I just thought this anxious feeling is how all new moms feel. So I left that appointment knowing that I wasn't depressed. But still, I didn't feel quite right.

I didn't know that postpartum anxiety was a thing. I thought it was depression or happiness, black or white only. I didn't know there were mannnnny shades of clinically defined emotions in between.

Fast forward to my second pregnancy, labor and delivery with my second son, Daxton. My emotions were sky high during that last month of pregnancy, and when I look back, I can't help but laugh at how super hormonal I was. After having an unexpectedly long labor and c-section with him, during my recovery I experienced a resurgence of the anxious feelings. This time around, I knew that those feelings weren't my personality, and at my 6-week appointment with my Doctor, I told her so.

Even though my recovery was extremely challenging, this baby boy was a completely different person from my first. Daxton was calm, he was quiet, he slept peacefully, he took a bottle, he rested in anyone's arms. He was the definition of peace. And yet, I was still experiencing the feelings I had when Everett was a baby. I began to realize that perhaps it wasn't the situation (or the baby), that had brought on those feelings of anxiety. It was just me. Or I guess I should say, it was just my hormones. I shared everything I was feeling with my doctor - especially about how I felt and the situations that triggered the anxiety. She asked me lots of hard questions and offered me a medication. Ultimately, I told her I didn't want to take any drugs and instead wanted to find alternative solutions. She was completely on board and helped me formulate a plan - I would begin exercising again (a natural way of detoxing anxiety), I would resume journaling my feelings (surprise surprise - I like to write), and I would meet with a counselor. I felt settled in this plan.

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For the next few months I did just that. I met with a counselor (wow, did I learn a lot about myself!), started exercising again (I heart you, Pure Barre!), and got lots of prayer from my friends and family. I also visited a naturopathic doctor and got on some supplements to help balance my hormones. All of these things helped.

But friends, they just didn't help enough.

My anxiety was still present. I felt a heaviness in my chest almost all day every day. It lifted when I was being counseled, and most of the time it was gone while I was exercising. But other than that, I couldn't get my tightened chest to relax, I couldn't take enough deep breaths to calm the vibration inside.

So at about 4 months postpartum, back to the doctor I went. This time, I went back to my OBGYN, the one who had sliced me open on the operating table. The one who asked me all the right questions and had once offered the anxiety medication. I went back to her, explained where I was at, and accepted her offer of a prescription.

"It's a very mild dose", she told me.

It took me a few weeks to actually fill the prescription. All the naturally-minded instincts within me wanted to resist taking a medication. Wanted to resist the need for it. But something else within me begged to get back in the game again, to shake this anxiety loose, to be in the moment with my family, to enjoy this season, to finally relax. And if a little white pill was going to be the answer to all those prayers, then so be it.

I finally filled it.

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Within 2 weeks on that anxiety prescription, I began to feel like myself again. Not drugged, like myself again. I felt like the medication was a bridge, bringing me back to the best version of myself. Laughter came so much more easily, social situations were enjoyable again, going to church was suddenly just not a big deal, and everything that had previously caused such a heightened mess of twisted stressors inside my heart didn't trigger that response anymore.

Thank goodness for my husband, my steady rock, who has been holding my hand throughout this entire journey. My slow recovery process, my mess of emotions and my ugliest moments haven't scared him away in the slightest (at least not that he's let on!), and I am the luckiest woman in the world to have him as my partner. My mom has been like a fairy godmother angel, coming to help with my boys on days that were just bad. I couldn't have survived this past year without her encouragement, prayer and parenting input and support. It didn't hurt that she would also come by and clean my bathrooms, fold my laundry and take my boys on stroller walks so I could have a few minutes to myself, which I mostly spent updating this little blog here.

Basically, friends, it's been a messy journey. I'm not out of the woods yet. I have days where the chest pain returns for a few moments, but that is truly so rare now. Most of the time I am able to overcome pangs of anxiety when certain situations trigger it. I am so happy and free, and thanks to my incredible support system, I am blessed blessed blessed beyond what I deserve. Thanks for being part of my journey and taking the time to read this heart of mine. If you struggle with postpartum anxiety or depression, please talk to someone who can get you some real help! It is such a game changer, there is no reason to delay your healing. Today is your day for success and victory and whole-body healing!

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This post is a lengthy one so I will share my coping tactics in another post. I hope this snapshot of PPA was helpful to some of you who have dealt with this, and hopefully, this helps shed some light on what some mothers go through during the postpartum journey. We are all in this motherhood gig together and we have every good opportunity to lift each other up in prayer and encouragement!
 

Six Weeks in Newbornland.

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It's been quite a journey, these past 6 weeks.

I've laughed, cried, felt complete peace, felt complete chaos.

Stevie had 6 weeks of paternity leave (!!!), so my family was pretty spoiled by having daddy around constantly. And I didn't realize how much I would NEED him around, to do everything. Thank goodness for him! And for his awesome company for providing this policy for dads! I can't tell you enough how thankful I am that we had so much time together to integrate into a new family normal.

Because I've been recovering from a c-section, I couldn't do anything for the first two weeks postpartum. Like, anything. I couldn't move, let alone change diapers or pick up my toddler or even go to the bathroom. Stevie did it all - cooking and cleaning, taking care of Everett, taking care of Daxton. He had to bring me the baby every time to feed him, he had to help me change my underwear, he had to help me bathe. It was kind of a nightmare, for me. I felt so helpless and disempowered. Of course, all of those things got easier, but the process felt so, so slow. Once I got over being exhausted from the labor and delivery, I went into full-force frustration because I just wanted to be able to do stuff. I have a whole new empathy for women who have gone through c-sections, especially in situation that are emergent. I never understood what that must feel like, how hard the recovery can be, how emotional the process is.

Not to sound dramatic, but there were a lot of things that made the past 6 weeks feel endless.

But then there's Daxton.

He is just incredible. So sweet, with a peaceful demeanor and almost an air of maturity, somehow. His eyes are clear and his body is long and he has the gentlest spirit. Did I mention he is big? So big. In the few short weeks I've known him, I've fallen hard. We all have. This family is smitten with our little boy and we didn't realize how much we were missing out on before he arrived. Everett and I like to call him our lovey dovey, only Everett says it like, 'uh-vy duhvy' and it's pretty hilarious. He also calls him his "best brother" and kisses him on the cheek about 50 times a day. We are all just so happy with our expanded family. It's so nourishing to this mama heart of mine, especially as I sort through the highs and lows in this new season of motherhood.

All the "firsts" have been so unique to Daxton's personality. Finding a special song to sing to him in the middle of the night when I'm rocking him back to sleep. Giving him his first bath and seeing his calm reaction to the water. Taking family walks outside and watching his eyes as he takes in the blue of the sky, the song of a bird, the chill of the weather. Even though we've had Everett for over two years, showing us the world through his eyes, it all feels new again. Because it's with a brand new soul, fresh from Heaven and brimming with his own breath of life.

Sometimes I have to stop myself, to remind myself that I am living in the good old days. And these are those days! Marked with exhaustion and teeming with every degree of emotion. What a six weeks it's been!

P.S. - My birth story with Daxton.

How to Identify Abdominal Separation After Pregnancy.

Hi friends! My fitness inspiration friend Kate from BeyondFit Mom is back with another awesome post-pregnancy post, this time focusing on the abs :) Since I am eager to get back to exercising again, I figure I'm not the only postpartum mom who is a little stumped about the "safe" way to return to a work out regimen. I'm grateful that Kate is here to share her tips about how to repair the abs after giving birth.


What is Diastasis Recti?
A diastasis recti is a separation of the abdominal muscles, what many refer to as the “six-pack” muscles. This separation occurs along the band of connective tissue that runs down the middle of the rectus abdominis. This band of tissue is called “the linea alba, but we’re going to refer to it as the “midline.”

Some degree of abdominal separation will always occur during pregnancy. This is because everyone’s core muscles have to expand to give room for the baby to grow! During pregnancy, separation occurs down the midline as a result of the force of the uterus pushing against the wall of the abdomen coupled with the influx of pregnancy hormones that soften connective tissue.

60% of pregnancies the abdominal separation will be wider than 2 – 2.5 finger widths apart and you will be considered to have diastasis recti. Diastasis recti can occur anytime in the last half of pregnancy, but most commonly occurs after pregnancy when the abdominal wall is lax and the thinner midline tissue no longer provides adequate support for the torso and internal organs.

A small amount of widening of the midline happens in all pregnancies and is normal. In many cases this abdominal separation, also known as diastasis recti, will heal naturally post birth with no medical intervention, however, for many, the tissue remains too wide. A midline separation of more than 2 to 2.5 finger-widths, or 2 centimeters, is considered problematic.

What’s the Problem with a Diastasis Recti?
A diastasis recti can lead to pelvic instability due to abdominal wall weakness. This instability can create a number of problems.

These include:
- Abdominal discomfort with certain movements, such as rolling over in bed, getting in/out of bed, and lifting heavy objects
- Umbilical hernia
- Pubic symphysis pain
- Sacroiliac joint pain
- Low back pain
- Pelvic floor dysfunctions, such as urinary, fecal and flatulence incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse

In addition, a diastasis recti can change the appearance of the abdomen. The skin may droop, and some patients may even develop an actual hernia through the midline.

Also, some moms may complain of continuing to look pregnant…. Even YEARS after having their baby.

How to know if you have Diastasis Recti...
1. Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
2. Exhale and lift your head and shoulders off the floor – put one hand behind your head to support your neck.
3. Make sure you contract your rectus abdomens muscle – bring your rib cage closer to your hips, rather than just bringing up your head.
4. Place your fingers in a horizontal position across your belly button and feel above, over and below the belly button. Assess the width and depth of the gap. It is also relevant if there is a gap how firm or loose the sheath under the belly button feels.

Diastasis Recti Warning
The urge to return to traditional ab exercises like crunches, may be strong when you feel like you’re ready to workout again after having a baby, but if you have diastasis recti, you must be cautious about what time of abdominal exercises you return to.

Always be sure you’re engaging your transverse abdominal and be very wary of any ab exercises that increase the intra-abdominal pressure.

Intra-abdominal pressure is the real problem behind diastasis recti and the “mommy tummy”.

Pushing your body too far, or rushing into hardcore ab exercises could be doing more harm than it does good if you have diastasis recti.

Avoid: Any exercise that will cause your abdominal wall to bulge out upon exertion.

NOTE: If at any point through your workout you notice signs of core weakness, please consider a modification until the entire workout can be completed without any of the following:

- If you are straining from within your abdomen or pelvic floor during the exercise
- If you leak urine when doing any of the exercises
- If you notice pelvic or lower back pain during or after the exercise
- If you feel unstable in the core during the exercise
- If there is bulging or “coning” in your abdomen during the exercise

There you have it! Any questions you have or advice you can lend about your own experience with diastasis recti and postpartum fitness? I'd love to hear from you!

Many thanks to Kate for this one! You can follow her on instagram for fitness tips, encouragement and accountability :)

P.S. - Kate's 5 Fitness Tips for Postpartum Moms and the 5 Ways I Make Time for Exercise.

5 Fitness Tips for Postpartum Moms.

Happy New Year, friends! As I mentioned before the holiday break, I am taking some time with my new baby love, and I am sharing some posts from esteemed and treasured blogging + entrepreneur friends. Today I'm excited to introduce you to Kate, mom of two boys and founder of BeyondFit Mom, a postpartum weight-loss/healthy living program that combines nutrition, exercise and community to achieve health goals. I "met" Kate through the opportunity we had to chat with Jillian Michaels and I am thrilled that Kate is here today to share some of her fitness tips for postpartum moms.


New moms have a lot to think about: when to feed the baby, what to do if they cry… and how to get rid of those extra pounds packed on during pregnancy.

There is a TON of conflicting information out there about how to lose baby weight.  If you’re not an expert, it’s really difficult to know where to start. Especially when you’re sleep-deprived, overwhelmed, and already have so much else on your plate!

If you don’t know where to start (or if sifting through fat loss programs makes your head spin), you’re not alone.  But getting back your pre-baby body doesn’t have to be complicated….

Here are 5 easy to follow postpartum health and fitness tips to help you bounce back after baby….

1. Set realistic goals! 
When it comes time to get serious about losing the baby weight, make sure you keep your expectations in check.  It’s tempting to set unrealistic goals and then be frustrated when we aren’t where we “should” be. Although every new mom is eager to look like our old selves again, one of the most important things to remember is to be patient with yourself. Give yourself some grace and remember, it CAN be done… but it’s going to take time to get your body back.  How much time?  The National Women’s Health Information Center advises that about one pound per week is a safe amount of weight to lose postpartum, and will not affect your milk supply or the baby’s growth.  With the average woman gaining about 30 pounds during pregnancy, and typically losing around 18 to 20 in the first month, that final 10 pounds will push your postpartum fat loss goal to several months after baby makes an arrival.

2. Do it at home!
“Getting slim without the gym” has been favorite motto since becoming a mom.  As you know, there are some days when getting out of the house to exercise is simply not an option. The good news is that you can still get fit in the comfort of your home. Don’t despair if you feel like you don’t have time to get to the gym.  Remember, our goal is to do SOMETHING.  And you can get a fabulous fat burning workout in the comfort of your own home. Hold your baby and do squats and stationary lunges (no weights needed!) for your lower body, then lift your baby overhead (get ready for some giggles) to strengthen your arms and shoulders, or lay on your back and do “baby chest presses.” And during those precious 30-minute nap times, grab some dumbbells and get in a quick weight training workout while your little one sleeps! 

3. Lift Weights!
Speaking of weight training… if you’re ready to get your body back, cardio alone won’t cut it.  This is the most often missed secret in postpartum fat loss. If you’re wondering how to lose baby weight, you have to look past the cardio and on to the weights. The most successful postpartum training plan incorporates a balance of activities including leisurely walks, some HIIT, plenty of stretching, proper core rehabilitation (especially important for moms who have diastasis recti), and also weight training. Cardiovascular exercise may get you bigger or smaller, but you will stay the same shape - weight training is the #1 way to change the shape of your body.  I recommend that moms do strength training 3 times a week for 30 minutes to boost their metabolism and balance metabolic hormones that help burn fat long after your workout is over. This will go will a long way toward tightening and toning your body as well.  

4. Eat Right! 
Proper postpartum training must always be fueled by proper postpartum nutrition.  I see far too many moms trying low calorie, fat diets as they try to figure out how to lose baby weight.  Diets don’t work.  In fact, many times these types of diets make you fatter.  As a new mom, your body needs maximum nutrition to recover from pregnancy, refuel after your workouts, and if you’re breastfeeding, to provide fuel for your baby, so immediately dropping your caloric intake to an unreasonable level isn’t healthy, and may actually cause you to gain weight or do some long term damage to your metabolism. You certainly don’t have to count calories (in fact, I prefer to focus on quality over quantity). To give you an idea of what you need to sustain your baby while you are breastfeeding and safely lose fat, the National Women’s Health Information Center advises consuming at least 1,800 calories per day.  For a healthy baby AND momma, concentrate on well-balanced, healthy food choices that include foods rich in calcium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6 and folate. Remember to focus on foods that keep your hunger, energy and cravings balanced.  If you do that, the caloric intake will take care of itself.

5. Find some accountability!  
Having social support, whether through friends, or family (or awesome women in an online community) is key to reaching your long-term goals. We are social creatures by nature, and we feel good when we have someone who listens and can relate to what we’re going through.  Consider getting involved with mommy and baby fitness classes (You can workout and bond with your baby at the same time) or join a group workout if you belong to a gym.  Group training- both online or in person- allows us not just to get a great workout, but to develop and foster friendships- many of which reach beyond the walls of the gym.  If you don’t have a local group, connect with moms in a similar situation as you online…. If you need a friend, I’ll keep you accountable! The key is to establish a built-in support system and to make sure you have someone to help you on your journey.


About Kate (aka BeyondFit Mom)
As a new mom, I know what it’s like to be a busy woman who wants to regain her body (and energy). I created BeyondFit Mom to give women the tools needed to reach their fat-loss, health, energy, nutrition, and training goals. It’s not about a quick-fix program that leaves you floundering after a few weeks. BeyondFit Life is about results now and in the future. It’s about ongoing support, learning, education, and information sharing so you can take your results “BeyondFit” and into the rest of your life.

I’m the founder of BeyondFit Mom, with a Bachelor’s degree in Health and Exercise Science. I’m a professional fat-loss expert with years of experience in helping women shed body fat, boost fitness, and learn how to live a fat-loss lifestyle.

I’m also a mom to two little boys, and BeyondFit Mom is my other baby! You can read more about me here.

 


Thanks for sharing, Kate! Make sure to check out her instagram account, too - there are tons of quick fitness tips and yummy recipes that have me drooling :)