Permission to Be a Mom
My body is not my own.
My name’s Reina and I’m a recovering fitness addict, image addict – I’m not sure which one is more true. The last time I was regularly active, it wasn’t so much of an obsession as it was a really positive outlet. But once upon a time, I was a fitness addict. I was more concerned about the end product and it overshadowed the joy and blessing of being able to move and breathe. I pushed my body’s limits just a little passed comfortable in order to get stronger, and faster, and build endurance. And let’s face it, I wanted to look good in jeans.
I’m definitely a recovering image addict, and I think that’s something I’ll struggle with as long as I’m on this side of heaven. It changes, the degree to which I struggle with it. And also the specific focus of the obsession regarding image, that changes. There are better seasons, better days, and then there are those days and seasons when I really struggle to let go of the opinions of others. I truly do believe that it’s an illness, disease, whatever you want to call it, that women are prone to be effected by more than men. Or maybe we just reflect it or act out on it in differently than guys do. In ways that are more noticeable. I don’t know.
One of the unexpected benefits of being a new mom of twins is that my twin pregnancy really humbled me in the area of obsessing over my fitness and image. I was teaching fitness classes when I became pregnant with the twins. I really enjoyed it. I loved the endorphins, the comradery of teaching group fitness classes, the whole group dynamic – and it could be a class as small as two people. One person actually, when it came to my 5:30 in the morning classes. It was awesome to have other like minded people allow me to partner with them in the endeavor to get healthy and fit, to strive for progress over perfection. We formed real bonds, created real community.
When I got pregnant I thought, “This is awesome! I’m going to keep teaching classes and I’m going to teach until it’s time to give birth.” Then we found out I was carrying twins and I was told that wasn’t going to happen. The last class I taught was in early August and the next fitness class I participated in was in October. And in those two short months I could tell the difference in what I could handle, or rather couldn’t handle. The next time I worked out again was in December and whoa buddy, what I could do was limited even more.
During this time (August to December) I was gaining weight (to be expected) and battling pregnancy acne (as if I wasn’t self-conscious enough already with the rapid weight gain). It was becoming more and more evident that my body was not mine. My body was a home to the two lives growing inside me. It was a cafeteria to feed them. I was also processing their nutrients, their blood, their oxygen, their waste. There were so many things my body had to regulate, and my body’s needs took a backseat.
And although I was okay with it during the pregnancy, I really did think that once they were born and I reached the six weeks recovery period (really eight with a Cesarean) that I’d be able to jump right back into working out. More than trying to get back in shape, I was trying to get active again. It took me several months of chiropractic care to get my hips and pelvis to stay put and not jostle out of place. I started doing well for a few days at a time, which became a few weeks. I was doing at home workout programs and seeing some real improvements in my endurance and muscle tone. And then the boys went to daycare and I went to work. They got sick and lovingly gave their stomach bug to me and my husband. After that, it just seemed like every time I put two days together of working out that something else would pop up. It really feels like – not as an excuse, but as a reality check – that God’s telling me that now is not the season. Now is not the time to focus on my fitness, but to focus on being a mom.
Although they are not living in me anymore, and I’m not their house anymore, I’m still their number one source of nutrition. I’m still supplying the majority of their nutrients through nursing or expressing milk and sending it to daycare. So I really felt God focusing my attention on my nutrition and food intake. Unfortunately, when I lost a few pounds in September, my babies lost weight, too. I’m not sure if my weight loss was tied to their weight loss or if it was just the timing because they had another touch of the stomach bug. Honestly, I wasn’t heartbroken about not focusing on my nutrition. It’s not easy to eat 3,000 calories of healthy food every day. It’s time consuming and it’s costly.
But that didn’t change the fact that I felt torn between being okay with wearing my maternity jeans and wanting to hurry up and “bounce back” to my pre-pregnancy body. There’s a lot of pressure in our society for women to “bounce back” and look like their pre-pregnancy self with a quickness. Never mind the magazines that feature new celebrity moms who have lost their pregnancy weight and more in less than three months. Those magazine covers have been around for years. When comparison rears its ugly head I’m able to remind myself that those celebrities have nannies, personal chefs, personal trainers, and they do not have the schedule normal moms do. What gets to me is when I see normal moms on Instagram and Facebook talking about hitting that pre-pregnancy mark. It’s much easier to get caught up in the lie of “Well, if she can do it I should be doing it.” It seems like getting back to pre-pregnancy size or smaller isn’t just a goal anymore, it’s an expectation.
I know I’m not the only new mom (or new again mom) who is looking for, waiting for, aching for permission to be okay with walking in the truth that our bodies are not our own. To be okay with the current season of life. Not that there isn’t a time to lose fat and tone up. I just know now is not that season for me. I’m not willing to give up what little sleep I get to wake up super early in the morning to work out before my house wakes up. And after a full day – waking up around 4 to either nurse or pump, getting myself and everyone else ready for the day, working 9 hours, doing Mommy stuffy with our oldest, nursing and getting the twins ready for bed when they get home from daycare*, putting our oldest to bed, cleaning the kitchen and preparing all bottles and pumping supplies for the next day*, and spending time with my husband before going to bed by 11 – I’m spent and working out is the last thing I want to devote my time and energy to. If you’re a mom out there and you’re able to juggle working full time, a newborn, older kids, a husband, nutrition, and fitness – mad props to you. I’m just not there right now and that’s okay.
Since having the twins I’ve noticed that what and how we feed our kids is a huge deal. I see plenty of debates via social media about breast feeding versus exclusively pumping versus formula and mushy food versus baby led weaning and all sorts of craziness. I regularly see posts where women lovingly give one another permission to feed their children however they see fit, to do whatever is best for their family. People say things like “As long as the baby is happy, healthy, and thriving, let’s encourage one another and not tear each other down.” I see plenty of those posts.
We may not talk about it outright but I definitely sense that there’s this issue of “bouncing back” from a pregnancy and how long it takes. I’d love to see just as many, if not more posts, of new moms (and new again moms) giving each other permission to enjoy being moms and not having to feel the pressure of to do so within a certain time frame. Giving each other permission to be present for the very, very short period of time when our children rely so heavily upon us.
So if no one else out there on the interweb can relate, then so be it. But if you can, please hear me when I say you have permission to be a mom. Because that’s so much more than enough right now.
*when my husband’s schedule allows he helps out with these tasks