Postpartum exercise…

I have received quite a few messages through my social media accounts around postpartum exercise. The messages have mostly asked questions around how long I waited until exercising again, what I am doing and how do I have the time or energy to do so?
I am internally highly competitive and so knew that I had to set myself healthy and safe boundaries in regard to exercising, particularly after having a c-section birth. My midwife also knew this about me and so she was very clear in what I could and shouldn’t be doing (the importance of a good midwife!!)
I started doing pelvic floor exercises that softly engage the core about a week after Layla was born. I was able to walk to the shop and back three weeks postpartum, around the block at six weeks, and 10 weeks after delivery I did my first barre class (knowing my limits – more on this later). At just on 12 weeks after my c-section I started back on our X-trainer, some light weights and core movements.
It is so important that exercise is about loving your body…it is not a punishment! With that in mind, find movement that you enjoy doing! Barre is the perfect exercise for me, as it is a cardio workout that uses Pilates principles. This means the focus is on wengaging the core for a strong and healthy spine, breath, using the correct muscles for movement e.g not letting my quads do work that my glutes should, and getting the spine mobile. It also develops flexibility and is fun! Unfortunately, with having an exclusively breastfed baby attending these classes is time dependent and so I need to be doing something else as well.
As fitness is a priority for me, we have exercise equipment at home so I am able to workout at home, whenever works for me. We have a room set up and I can go to ‘my gym’ whenever I want, and it removes the excuses of it’s too cold, wet etc! This also means that rather than trying to figure out fitting in an hour and a half plus, and doing it around feeding, and my husband being home from work I can do thirty minutes of cardio at one point, and thirty minutes of resistance work later in the day. Though I have been reminded I need to exercise earlier in the day rather than right before bed…it takes me too long to come down from the exercise high!
When you are time poor, or like me are working around feeding a baby it is important to use your time wisely. I plan what I am going to do before I go into my gym so I spend the time exercising and not mucking around figuring out what I am going to do.
What this really boils down to though is priority and support. This is a priority for me. My physical and mental health is priority – for both me, and Layla. I also have a husband who is an equal parent. When he is home from work it is US parenting, not me with a babysitter. He realises that exercise is important to me, and let’s be honest it makes life easier for him when I am healthier and happier. This has meant he will move things around to ensure I can attend classes, and be a parent while I exercise at home.
There were quite a few questions around how I have the energy to do this? For me, this is simple, exercise gives me energy. When I exercise I eat and sleep better. This gives me a clearer mind and a much more positive disposition. Although some days it is harder to start the exercise, it only takes a couple of minutes and I am happy I am doing it. It is hard to beat those endorphins! I understand this is not the case for some people, and this is where discipline and creating a habit come into place first (before you find and are able to do the exercise you love to do)!
Finally, know your limits! This includes letting your body heal before you even begin getting back into, or starting, exercise. Don’t rush into it too early, check in with your midwife or GP if you need to. When you do start your postpartum exercise make sure you do so understanding and responding to the changes in your body (umm where are you core?). In barre classes I make certain movements smaller, some I do at a slower pace, and some of the intensive core work I modify so it is a completely different movement. Ask the instructor taking a class, or a trainer at the gym if the movement is safe for you, or if there is a modified version you could do. Most importantly though, listen to your body! You may be told something is safe, and maybe it is, but if it doesn’t feel right, stop!
I will keep you updated on my journey on social media, particularly my IG account @melhwellness
Mel H x

With a new role comes self-doubt…

We’ve all heard the comments about the lack of a manual when you take home your baby, so we know this is reality. We logically know that nobody knows what the hell they’re doing when they get that little baby home, and it is the ultimate ‘learn on job’ experience.  However, what I wasn’t prepared for was all of the self-doubt that would come with this new chapter.

From the moment I get up in the morning, I am making decisions for another human’s life.  One that is solely dependent on me to survive.  Some of those decisions I can and do make confidently. What baby products to use is an example of this – I can research them, look at ingredients lists and decide.  It is very black and white – wipes, cleaning products, anything that touches her skin.  My criteria is constant and lets me easily make these decisions – free from chemicals, ease of use, and cost (not having to re-mortgage the house is always a plus), easy, decision made!

Other decisions are more difficult. Should I be introducing a bottle? A dummy or not? Rocking baby to sleep? Self-settling? What time to start the ‘night time’ routine? Baby led parenting or a routine? Should I introduce a dream feed? Am I overstimulating, or am I not doing enough? When should they go into care? What type of care? What about a chiropractor? The list could (and does) go on. This is where the self-doubt creeps in. We all want to do the best we possibly can to ensure that our child gets the best start to life, and it all falls completely on us. The decisions we make set them up. This leads me to question my decision making and can cast doubt on whether I am doing the right thing.

To make the best decisions we can, we rely on our support networks and their experiences, scientific research, blogs, health professionals, and of course, our own experiences and gut instincts.  Unfortunately, it is very rare for all of these to line up perfectly in to the ‘golden answer’.  Instead, we have to navigate through a range of possibilities and then make our own decision.  In today’s world this means wading through an endless amount of information in which you can always find an article or opinion that advocates for every possible outcome.  I like to research and to find reliable information.  They really should be recruiting mum’s in to the FBI – we all know that there is nothing like a mum’s worry or concern to dig up every nugget of information out there!  But when there is so much conflicting work out there, making any decision can be a stressful exercise. 

What I am learning in my new role is that some self-doubt is inevitable, it’s part of being the type of parent who wants the best for their child.  It tells me that I am doing my job well.  That I want nothing but the best for this little life.  But, I am also learning how to keep that self-doubt to a healthy level, a level that does not cause me to berate myself, to freeze in decision making or engaging in negative self-talk (being useless, I can’t do this etc).  So far, I have found that aligning myself with other parents who have similar values and parenting beliefs is key.  I think about what I want as my outcome then turn to my ‘go to’ parents.  If their advice/experience/thinking matches mine, then I’m normally pretty happy with making that decision.  If, however, it does not align, then I will spend more time doing research in the area.  Of course, if it’s a decision that requires a health professional, then I will seek their guidance as well.

It has also been helpful having an amazing support network who do remind me that I am doing a good job.  We all need reassurance at times, and when we’re doing such a crucial job and making decisions that we have never had to contemplate making before, it is so comforting to be told we are doing well.  

So let’s make sure we’re encouraging other mum’s, and telling them that they’re doing a good job!  Find other parents who’s styles and ideals align with yours, so you can reach out and talk about their experiences and ask for their opinions.  But, most importantly, we all need to realise that self-doubt comes with the territory and it really is part of parenthood.  Just ensure you keep those internal thoughts and conversations are kept to a level that is not harmful to yourself, or the enjoyment that comes with parenting.