Motherhood and Fitness: Not One Size Fits All


A mother exercising with her baby.Before I got pregnant with my first, I was weight training. I had a routine, a trainer I loved, and the ability to go whenever I wanted. I loved how it helped me deal with back pain, made my hobby sports more fun, and gave me more energy.

The doctor said it was fine to keep working out, and I should since it helps with delivery and recovery and makes you and the baby healthier. I kept it up for a few weeks. But then, the dreaded diagnosis came. I developed a condition called Placenta Previa, which is essentially a misplaced placenta.

The doctor said I could not lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk, and I needed to keep my feet up as much as possible, especially as the pregnancy advanced. I was at a very real risk of requiring full 24-hour bed rest until the baby was ready to be delivered.

This was shocking news. I didn’t expect my routine to change until after the baby was born. Certainly, the US has a heavy culture around fitness and pregnancy. When interviewing OB-GYN doctors, I heard repeatedly, “Please eat carbs.” Oh, Doc, you don’t have to tell me twice! Carbs are my life, but being skinny and pregnant have somehow crossed paths in our culture.

Most people won’t know your personal pregnancy journey, but it doesn’t stop them from making judgments and sharing unkind and unsolicited opinions.

It hurt my feelings to hear from family and friends that I should be working out. Guess what? I want to be, and I can’t. Before my baby was even born, I had to lean into the protective maternal instincts that come with motherhood and do what was best for my little girl: keeping her in my body as long as possible. That was my only goal. I ate well and drank herbal concoctions that I grew, read all the books, and generally kept a happy life.

I never fell back into my workout routine after she was born. I just wanted to spend all my time with her, and I tried a few services where I could leave her while I worked out, but it was not for her, and it was not for me. By the time my second pregnancy came along, I was eating even cleaner than before. I gained about double the weight, almost exclusively around my stomach! I guess my second baby needed lots of room! Again, the unkind opinions flooded in. It’s not good to get fat. It would be best if you were working out. You name it!

After my second child was born, the world was even more kid-centric and, frankly, a lot of fun. I didn’t want to spend any time or energy on my body. I ate a lot to create the milk my baby needed, and I enjoyed my children laughing and playing. I knew I didn’t look the same as my pre-baby self. I was post-baby! More unkind opinions came, including A LOT of congratulations on a pregnancy that simply did not exist. I was just heavier than people were used to seeing.

I didn’t want to spend my time in a gym. I wasn’t ready. I knew the time was on the horizon, as it should be for all parents. Look, fitness IS important. It does matter for your health and well-being, not just your physical appearance. But it’s also OK if you aren’t ready. If you need to prioritize something else for a minute. Do your best in other ways.

I made sure to minimize my stress by focusing on the things I could do that made me happy. I ate clean and organic as much as possible and kept alcohol to a minimum. I was double my previous size, but I was happy and I was fine. I wasn’t morbidly obese; I just wasn’t skinny.

About eight years after that first diagnosis, I am happy to report I have re-entered my fitness journey. I go to the gym and work out about four days a week. I feel stronger and healthier than I have since becoming a mom; it is so rewarding! I do not have back pain anymore, I can lift my kids even though they are big, and I can run and ski and not feel total dread over the task. Activities are fun again, and I can wear many of my old clothes, which feels amazing.

I have been working with a trainer who has an online platform. As a millennial, I was a little skeptical. But as a mom, I need to be able to work out even when the kids are home with a fever. I also wasn’t ready to take my fitness struggles public.

Remember, your fitness journey is about YOU and no one else. It is a deeply personal decision that you should consider for yourself. It is not one size fits all. 

If you are not ready right now, keep it in mind for another stage in your motherhood journey and do your best in other ways. Your health and well-being matter as much as that of your children, and your family will benefit from a happier, healthier, stronger you.


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