marriage, Postpartum

Sex After Baby

IS SEX AFTER BABY WEIRD FOR EVERYONE?

There’s a reason SEX is one of the main topics discussed in the group coaching program I run, Postpartum Together, Sex is affected by every transition we face in postpartum AND it flows into all the areas.

This site may contain affiliate links to products. This means, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

how long do people wait to have sex after baby

SEXY TIME JUST GOT AWKWARD

Oh hey momma- There aren’t many things that are more awkward than sex after having a baby.

You are a few weeks (or months) out from having the baby. FINALLY the house is quiet with no cries of hunger or a dirty diaper. “This is our chance” you tell your significant other. You get to the bedroom and you start to undress the mombod you’ve acquired. Maybe this feels invigorating, but for many women, this comes with a lot of overwhelming feelings. In general, marriage with young kids can be hard!

Whether you had a vaginal delivery, a cesarean, or your baby came out your ears, your baby-making area is not the same as it was just days, weeks or months prior. To be fair- your mind and emotions are not the same as they were either. You have undergone what is arguably the biggest transition possible for a woman. So here you are trying to re-engage in intimacy with your partner- you know, the kind of intimacy that created this little human being- and yet it often doesn’t feel like a smooth transition. A lot of women feel alone in this which brings shame and guilt. Women feel like they have something “wrong” with them. The reality, more women feel like this than we often believe and momma friend- you aren’t alone. In my virtual postpartum coaching group, Postpartum Together, a number of women have shared this being one of the most difficult transitions not just physically, but emotionally and mentally too.

It’s weird. It’s messy. Oftentimes it’s painful.

BIRTH, SEX AND HORMONES

Pregnancy and childbirth is extremely hormonal. These hormones can have an effect on both your mental/emotional sex drive. They can alter your physical libido, natural lubrication and body preparation for sex. Perinatal mood disorders (postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum psychosis, PTSD) can also play a huge role in reluctancy, disinterest, and even fear of engaging in sex. Physically, the body has changed and sex can be painful. However, sex should not always be painful. If you are continuing to experience pain, get yourself to a physical therapist! While it’s not regularly talked about, pelvic floor PT is often necessary for moms post-birth and from experience, I can tell you it’s worth it!

When surveyed, a large number of women shared that on the first attempt at post-baby sex, they cried.
A large number shared that, on the first attempt, it just didn’t happen.

To bring some light and normalization, I recently took to the trusty Instagram to survey this hot topic. You’ll read what other moms say prohibit them from engaging in sex, how they described sex after baby, and some tips and ideas for making it happen and enjoying it again.

RELATED: Back in the Sack, Free Postpartum Sex Guide

postpartum sex pinterest-min.png

WHAT’S KEEPING WOMEN FROM ENGAGING IN SEX AFTER A BABY?

When polled, women of different ages, backgrounds, number of children, etc. responded with a number of related factors that play into sex:

-Not feeling it
-Postpartum anxiety which seeped into my sex life
-Sex came last to everything we had to do in caring for a newborn
-I was tired and didn’t feel like it
-Trauma from birth
-Stitches- even after I mentally knew they were healed, it was a weird thing
-Exhausted
-Having a baby always close by
-Not feeling sexy
-Feeling touched out
-Fear of pain
-Time
-Feeling like an exhausted dairy cow (breastfeeding!)
-Not confident in my appearance
-Being over stimulated
-Turning off mom brain and focusing
-Stretch marks
-Leaky boobs
-I’ve already given all of myself
Time, pain and anxiety were the three most common responses. Are these relatable to you? Let me know in the comments which reason resonates (or if it’s something else!)

THERE’S NO TIME FOR SEX:

Time: It’s no secret that babies take a lot of time. They are fully dependent, they lack sleep consistency, and any wrench in the schedule can take days to repair. This leaves parents feeling tired and with little “free” time for all the things they hope to accomplish.

PAINFUL POSTPARTUM SEX

Pain: Both vaginal and cesarean births come with changes to our bodies that take time to heal. After going through something as big (and sometimes traumatic) as birthing a child, the fear of returning or lingering pain is a reality for many women. Keep reading below for some insight from a professional on sexual pain.

RELATED: Fourth Trimester Restore (eCourse for pelvic floor and core rehab) Mention Chelsea at checkout

ANXIOUS ABOUT HAVING SEX AGAIN

Anxiety: Whether it’s a diagnosed case of postpartum anxiety or the specific areas of anxiety related to this new stage, anxiety can but a halt in our desires and effort for sex. In our survey anxiety was most frequently linked to body image and care for the baby. A woman who feels insecure in her body feels anxious about reengaging intimacy with a new look and feel. A woman who is continually worried about the well-being of her baby has a hard time getting her mind in the mode to be intimate.

SO WHEN WOMEN GET TO THE SPACE OF ENGAGING IN SEX AFTER HAVING A BABY, HOW DO THEY DESCRIBE IT?

-Painful
-Very rare
-The same
-Slow
-A process requiring patience and realistic expectations
-Limited
-Non-existent
-Tender
-Uncomfortable
-Interesting
-A nice thought, but not a reality
-The last thing on my mind
-Unexpectedly painful
-Not happening
-Well needed bonding time
-Horrible
-The best
-An afterthought
-Weird
-Exhausting and leaky
-Took 10 months
-Cringey
-Better
-Extra stitch
-Daunting
-Last thing on my mind (which causes some marriage rifts)
-Slow-going
-Painful
-Not on the radar
-Nerve wracking
-Boring
-Amazing

As you read, a large majority of these descriptors link back to the fears and reluctances we read above. If postpartum sex isn’t as glorious as you would like it to be, there seem to be a number of women who are in the same boat. For some women, though, sex is better than ever after a baby.

IDEAS TO HELP GET BACK TO INTIMACY (WHEN YOU’RE FEELING GROSS/ANXIOUS/TIRED/PAIN):

The majority of women surveyed feel like their sex life has taken a hit post- baby for a number of reasons. These are important things to talk with your partner about (Click for a free Date Night Planner download!)

When we normalize the struggle, and share some possible ideas for improvement, we all win! Here’s what the community has to say:

-Watch comedy/stand up- laugh together to connect and loosen up
-Don’t force it- go for it on a day you feel more human
-Take a shower
-Wear your baby out all day or get a sitter
-Look in each other’s eyes and touch face
-Massages, hanging out in bed, cuddling
-Remove the expectation of sex happening and just be intimate
-Give yourself 5 minutes to self to mentally prepare/pray
-Have honest conversations with your partner about what you feel comfortable with
-Buy yourself something that feels sexy
-Wash your face, (or other 5 min hacks)
-Shower together
-Get a spray tan
-Text throughout the day to start the conversation
-Put it on the calendar to think about it and plan
-Ask each other about what to say/do during day to prepare for it and then practice what it is they share will get them in the mood
-Steamy text messages
-Back rub
-Pinches on the butt/playful during the day
-Long hug
-Essential oils

Download your Back in the Sack Guide to help you work through sex after baby and getting back into the sack with your partner.

postpartum sex tips

One momma who indicated that sex has gotten better post-baby shared: “Wait until you’re ready. It took me probably 5 tries to be okay with having sex again. I was so scared and it hurt like hell. The first time, I stopped him and cried and he just held me. But by having a partner to communicate openly with (and lots of lube!) practice can make perfect again. Plus- foreplay throughout the days in between. We are always playfully grabbing at each other, dragging out that goodbye/goodnight kiss a little longer and sending flirty texts. I find myself wanting him SO much more and when it comes to the nights it’s more raw, passionate and wild now. Plus, I feel closer to him than ever before. There’s something about my husband witnessing and helping with labor and delivery, all the postpartum healing both emotionally and physically that brought us closer together.”

Jessica, of The REALentless Mother writes about this in her book. “I always enjoyed sex with my husband but before kids, I was extremely self-conscious about how I looked, the sounds I made, even what my face looked like. I worried about it all! As a result, I spent more time in my own head than I did enjoying the intimate moments with my husband. After having 2 kids under two, I went on a challenging yet incredible journey to find balance and enjoy my life again. I share this transformation in my latest book The REALentless Mother. On this journey one of the things I discovered was the less I cared about what others thought of me, the happier I was. This shift has had a massive impact on all areas of my life, but our sex life is one unexpected bonus. I feel free to ask for what I want, try new things, and put myself out there like never before. Since this personal transformation, I have surprised my husband with a risqué photo shoot, bought naughty board games (my absolute favorite new date night activity), and had the confidence to wear sexy new things to bed. After having two kids in two years, my body is not what it used to be, but I have never felt sexier in my own skin. Embrace and love who you are, Mama. Confidence is irresistible.”

POSTPARTUM SEX AND BODY IMAGE

Stop following “fitspiration” moms. Some of these people are paid to lose the baby weight. Some have genetics that are prone to quick loss. Some of them are dealing with medical/body issues you can’t see from the outside. There tends to be a big societal emphasis on postpartum women to “bounce” back or lose the “baby weight” but you still have a baby- you still have a body that is working through the baby process and this is not a time to give yourself a timeline and strict rules. The stress of it isn’t worth it. If someone is pressuring you, bye Felicia.

PAINFUL POSTPARTUM SEX

You might wonder if it was something you did or didn’t do during pregnancy and birth. In addition, painful sex can feel isolating and put unwanted strain on marriage. Yet, you are not alone. In fact, there are a number of women that report painful sex or pain in their pelvis after birth. In many European countries, physical therapy after baby is standard. Physical Therapy can do a number of things for your pelvic floor and body after having a baby, if you are able- check into it for yourself!

One reason for pain after birth can actually happen when the pelvic floor muscles become too tight. This can happen for a number of reasons, including birth trauma, past history of sexual abuse, and over use or improper use of pelvic floor strengthening exercises.

So, what is a girl to do? The ability to relax the pelvic floor is the goal when it comes to painful sex and pelvic pain. Michele of Mindful Mama Method gives these tips for releasing the pelvic floor.

GETTING BACK TO ROMANCE AFTER BABY

sex after baby not excited

1. Remember that you’re not the only one feeling the way you do, even if it feels like it.
2.Communicate with your partner. Maybe try one of these at-home date night ideas!
3. Love yourself fiercely!
4. Let your S.O read this too, so they can get an understanding of other mommas. Share with a momma friend (or future momma) to reminder her that we’re all in this together!
5. Let me know in the comments what I missed!

Are you a postpartum mom (or soon to be one?) If you would benefit from more support and community in your postpartum period (and who wouldn’t?), maybe Postpartum Together is for you. This is my virtual group coaching program committed to educating, normalizing and empowering your postpartum in the safety of a small group coaching experience.

marriage

Marriage Feels Harder with Kids

This is not always a Fairytale

fairytale+marriage-min.jpeg

Providing free content is a priority at Postpartum Together. This page may contain affiliate links which means, at no additional cost to you, we may receive a commission for your purchase. Don’t worry, we only promote things we believe in because we love you!

ONCE UPON A TIME….

You fall madly in love.
You get married.
You plan your futures.
You have kids.
Your family is now complete and lives happily ever after.

That’s how the storyline is supposed to go, right? That’s what we are fed in books and movies. This is the fairytale that we learn as young children and hold on to, at least to some extent, as we grow older.

There are 4 distinct times that I know I considering leaving my marriage. Once when I was nearing the end of my first pregnancy. Once when Emerson was just a couple of months old.. Once when I was 39 weeks pregnant with Sage. Once when she was 2 months old.

See a pattern here?

Let me cut to the chase- kids can make marriage really tough.

RELATED: Communication Tips for Postpartum Partners

NOT QUITE A FAIRYTALE.

Before kids I always heard about how “Seeing your husband as a dad will make you fall more in love with him!” Yeah, I mean, that’s true, but you know what’s also true? Adding kids to the family makes you doubt yourself, your partner, your relationship and more.

Sleep deprivation.
Hormone shifts.
Identify crisis.
Being entrusted to keep tiny humans alive without an owner’s manual…

new dad with onesie

These things take a toll on you. And when it takes a toll on both you and your partner, chances are your communication isn’t as graceful, your nights aren’t as snuggly (or intimate) and even your well-intentioned actions aren’t as happily received.

Before kids, I would have described our marriage as a collaborative dream and adventure partnership. Currently I would describe it as a business transaction with a little flirting in the back office on a good day.

There’s so much shit to get done. These tiny humans, they double the amount of work-mentally, physically and emotionally- exponentially. We have to be extra vigilant about the calendar, the food prep, the laundry… we are constantly working on feedings, bathings, or cleaning up from one of the two. Our brains- they’re trying to remember what time the baby woke up and what day the next doctor’s appointment is. Other than that, they feel fried.

When we both feel “off” you can hear us comparing who got LESS sleep, who spent more time cleaning, who the toddler ran all the energy out of, etc. While momma is feeling touched out and insecure in her new body, dad is feeling completely unnoticed and undervalued.

RELATED: Relationships After Baby (eCourse)

HARD? YES. NORMAL? PROBABLY.

Chances are in this stage, you don’t hate your partner, you just feel distant. You feel unseen while also feeling out of energy to see your partner. You’re pouring into the lives of little humans who NEED you to survive and it causes you to put less energy into your partner who can (most likely) survive on his/her own. The little extra things you used to do, they are probably not in the forefront of your mind right now. You probably aren’t spending as much time out of the house and with your friends, so you feel even more isolated and irritable.

Do I hate my husband? No. Will this last forever? Probably not. Are these days and nights hard? Hell yes. Are you going to make it through? You are. We are all engaging something totally new together and we need one another to make it work but we don’t even know how to take the next step sometimes. Parenting is hard. Marriage is hard. Marriage while parenting is really hard.

I’m not a therapist. I’m no marriage expert. I don’t have anything extravagant to offer. What I can offer you is this- when you feel like marriage gets hard with kids, you’re not alone. When it feels overwhelming and you can’t believe you thought the thoughts you said you’d never think… you’re not alone. When it’s the middle of the night and you’re crying wondering why you feel so alone in a room with your best friend, you’re heard. When you feel guilty because marriage and parenthood are supposed to be the two best things in your life and yet you don’t feel blissful… I got you, friend. There’s more of us than we know because these are feelings we often fly under the radar. I’m team “preserve marriage, invest in marriage and enjoy marriage,” but I’m also team “marriage is really hard and we need more safe spaces to talk about that.”

free date night planner

Looking to make date nights easier? Take out the awkward “What should we do? Conversation with this Free Date Night Planner.

Postpartum

Why We Need to Stop Postpartum Weight Loss Comments

MY POSTPARTUM JOURNEY IS MEASURED BY MORE THAN A SCALE

postpartum weight loss journey

“Wow- you’ve lost xx pounds. Way to go. You look great!”

Aside from giving me my stats and some small talk, this was what my nurse said to me at my postpartum checkup. I should be thrilled, right? Well actually, not. I have done nothing to focus on my postpartum weight loss weight loss and physical change in these 6 weeks (aside from pumping out milk every 3 hours so that my breasts don’t explode and sometimes skipping meals because I physically don’t have the hands to make something while juggling my toddler and newborn.) There are a lot of things, though, that I have worked really hard on… tears and intentionality… and really would feel great if you (she) could see those things.

There’s So much More than Postpartum Weight Loss

All of the struggles and tears and the joys and laughter are all too often quickly deduced to how our physical appearance is 6 weeks later:
-Surviving a NICU stay and learning more medical terms than I know possible
-Transitioning back to home and helping a 2-year-old adjust to a new sibling
-Waking all throughout the night and sometimes still finding a way to shower
Pumping milk and then feeding it to my baby to navigate through feeding issues
-Talking myself through hormonal surges and emotional breakdowns
-Making it to the store a couple of times with two kids in tow…

THESE are the things I am proud of. THESE are the things I’ve put mental and emotional and physical energy into. All of THESE are the victories of postpartum that I long to have recognized and celebrated. My weight? It’s another number created by mostly uncontrollable factors that doesn’t define much at all about my “success.”

Good Intentions: Bad Execution

The intentions of my nurse? They were most likely great- to compliment me. Make me feel good about myself. But at the moment and afterward, it just didn’t sit well with me.

This seems to be one of those societal norms that we follow because we don’t know what else to say, but by just following we continue to perpetuate. We continue to tell women, subliminally, that their postpartum “success” is measured by how quickly the scale changes.

We speak a message that through all the rough patches of being a mom, the way our body does or does not “bounce back” is a factor worth more focus than others. It seems people do it without even thinking- we make comments on how a new mom looks. You’ve most likely done it. I’ve done it. I will probably unintentionally do it again, but let’s recognize it. Let’s make a mental note to do better next time. Let’s think of ways together to shift the norm and give mothers more empowerment through things that are more important than stepping on a scale or getting back into “pre-pregnancy” jeans. Moms, we are SO MUCH MORE than that.

RELATED: Fourth Trimester Restore (eCourse for reconnecting with your postpartum body) mention Chelsea

postpartum weight loss journey

Making a Change to the Postpartum Narrative

Not sure where to start on complimenting and empowering a new mom and shifting the language we default to? Want to say something more meaningful than postpartum weight loss? I’m about to drop some ideas (crowdsourced from other new moms) below. After you read them, comment with your own additions on what has made you feel awesome as a postpartum woman. Let’s share even more ideas to give ourselves and others the tools to be apart of the shift in what it really means to be postpartum, to be a mom.

Things You CAN Say to New Moms

 “You’re doing a great job with this transition!”
“I can tell you’re a great mom!”
“I saw you patiently work with your child- that takes a lot of work! Good job!”
“Wow- you’ve made a lot of sacrifices for your kids. That’s inspiring!” (Could be that mom has to go dairy-free for breastfeeding, pump often, forgo activities for children’s health, sacrifice work or other outside things, go to work when it feels tough, etc. etc. etc.)
“Your body is nurturing a human!
“Wow! You were made for this!”
”You’re really rolling with the punches with stride.”
“You really prepared yourself for all of these transitions!”
“Look at you juggling kids and still getting ____ done. You’re a rockstar!”
“I know you’re forfeiting a lot of sleep these days- thanks for taking care of that baby!”

RELATED: Things You Need to Stop Saying to New Moms

There are hundreds of other phrases out there that we can add, but hopefully, this start will help you to think about how we can collectively honor women in this season without deducing her down to her postpartum body.

Tell us Your Ideas

Don’t forget to leave your ideas in the comments and share this with anyone you know who comes in contact with a new mom (okay, that’s probably everyone.)

Photo of the first time I went shopping postpartum. I bought jeans in a larger size than ever and it didn’t change a thing about me or my ability to be a mother to these two sweet babes.

don’t fit into my pants after having a baby

Want to be purposeful and prepared in postpartum? Grab this FREE Postpartum Planning Checklist and get started!

motherhood

Being a Heart Mom

DEAR HEART MOM: I KNOW THIS IS A ROLLER COASTER

This site may contain affiliate links to products. This means, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

baby with tetralogy of fallot surgery

Sometimes you forget that anything big is looming in your future.

Sometimes you lay awake just trying to breath because it’s all you can think about.

Sometimes you see your child and know that she will overcome everything- beginning with the medical difficulties of her infancy.

Sometimes you see your child and just beg and plead that she’ll see next year and that you’ll see her grow up alongside her siblings.

Sometimes you read stories of victory over similar medical situations and you feel so invigorated for the life of conquering ahead.

Sometimes you see the face of a little one who didn’t make it and you crumble inside trying to feel those feelings in case they should ever become your reality.

It’s this ongoing mental and emotional roller coaster. It’s the torment of the mind. It’s trying to decide whether to cling close to every single moment or to try to shut off the deep rooted emotional ties in fear that it would cause any hurt to hurt more deeply.

You know when you got into a new relationship and it was a ton of fun and you soaked it all up… but then you realized you were getting very close and intimate and the fear of loss took over? Do you remember the tension of wanting to go all in and yet wanting to step back in case it didn’t work out? That’s the best metaphor I’ve come with to describe the period of waiting for big medical intervention for your ill child.

From the outside you wouldn’t have any idea that her body isn’t functioning like it should. From the outside she looks like the majority of babies you would see. But inside? Inside it’s a balancing act of time. Giving her enough time to grow to optimize a surgery but not giving it too much time- because if we did her body would suffer.

open heart surgery at 5 months old

Looking at our family from the outside you probably wouldn’t see that we are daily picturing our child on a medical table through a massive operation. From the outside you wouldn’t see the fear of a faulty move of the doctor’s hand or a sterilization procedure not being followed and welcoming infection. Yet these are the things I see every day. Sure, I see her smile and I hear her coo. I see the way she tracks us across a room. I see the signs of her hunger as she anticipates her next bottle. I see the way she warms her brother’s heart and calls out a new beauty in all of us. But in the stillness, usually, I also see the worst possibilities.

I’m not sure if this is “normal” anxiety or heightened anxiety. I really don’t care to label it and most of the time I have found it really powerful to experience it and talk about it with my husband and closest friends. But some days I wish it would go away. I know there is not one child or human who is exempt from something terrible happening… but when you have something so big in the future, something that seems so complex, something that will probably go just fine but if it doesn’t would be detrimental to your family, you think about it more often. You see it. It creeps up on you in the night when you’re snuggling. It causes you to lose sleep, to cry yourself into headaches and you have to fight for the ability to bring the energy you want to your day.

RELATED: Preventing PPD (eCourse)

heart warrior kids

To the families who are carrying heavy hearts over the wellness of a child- I see you. It may be evident from the outside or it may be hidden, but I see you. I see the way you pull your strength daily for your family. I see the way you balance going on as normal with being cautious. I see the way you tug back and forth between faith and fear. I see the way you celebrate other’s victories while also feeling the sting of others losses. I see you and I validate your feelings. They are raw and real and to many on the outside, they are scary and unsettling but they are yours and they are important.

RELATED: Easier Exclusive Pumping

Oh and momma- if you’re feeling anxious and fearful- here’s an anxious-filled hug from me to you. I’m not sure if we were “chosen” for this or if this just brought out a new side of us, but we are in it together.

UPDATE: Our little Sage had her open heart surgery March, 2019. She did well and we spent a week recovering in the hospital. If you’re a heart mom and need to chat about it, drop me an email or DM on instagram. I feel you momma.

HELP SPREAD CHD AWARENESS: PIN ME

story of a CHD baby with tetralogy of fallot doing well

Postpartum

Postpartum Fitness

POSTPARTUM FITNESS IS ABOUT MORE THAN LOSING WEIGHT

how to start postpartum weight loss and fitness journey

The following is a contribution from a friend and mentor. I asked her to write this because I wish I had known more about this topic after the birth of my first son. I was so consumed with how quickly I could lose the baby weight that I was peeing myself while working out and rushed some areas that needed more time and healing. Our society often glorifies quick weight loss (for some reason specifically for new moms) and fails to mention all of the important things that go into our recovery and well-rounded care of our incredible bodies. I know you will enjoy reading and learning from Julie.

Providing free content is a priority at Postpartum Together. This page may contain affiliate links which means, at no additional cost to you, we may receive a commission for your purchase. Don’t worry, we only promote things we believe in because we love you!

DISCOVERING YOUR POSTPARTUM BODY

Birth can be so beautiful and empowering. You spent months preparing yourself for your bundle of joy’s arrival and read all the pregnancy books out there. You planned the nursery, chose the perfect name and exercised throughout your pregnancy. Then it hits you… you gave birth to your sweet baby but you are left feeling confused and frustrated about your postpartum body. Nobody told you what your body was going to look like or how you might feel about your body after giving birth. At your 6 week check-up, you are told that “everything looks fine” and that you can now have sex and return to your regular exercise. Say WHAT?!

Here you are, being given the green light and not really knowing where to start. Everywhere you look someone is trying to sell you some sort of magic potion or program to lose weight. You are tired, sleep-deprived, maybe even depressed and having a hard time juggling a new demanding baby and your body that desperately needs some care. So, you get your running shoes out and start running and participating in a high intensity fitness class so that you can hopefully lose the baby weight.

RELATED: Postpartum More Than the Weight

I WISH I COULD TELL MY FIRST TIME MOM SELF:

Does this sound familiar to you? After having 3 babies of my own, I wish I could tell my first time mom self that postpartum fitness is NOT all about losing weight. YES, I said it. Weight loss should not be the main focus especially in the early postpartum months.

While it is ok to want to lose the baby weight eventually; resting, healing and bonding with baby should be top priorities. Your body went through tremendous changes in pregnancy with fluctuating hormones and a growing belly. In pregnancy, both estrogen and progesterone are high and will drastically decrease after delivery. Also, breastfeeding will produce a hormone called prolactin which will make your estrogen levels even lower.  All of these changes in your hormones make it difficult to lose fat. Not to mention that cortisol can run at a high level due to stress and lack of sleep which makes gaining fat more likely than losing fat. Please remember that your body is AMAZING and grew a tiny HUMAN. Not letting your body heal properly in postpartum could lead to some major setbacks in the future.

how soon after baby can i start working out

WE NEED MORE SUPPORT IN POSTPARTUM

Here’s the reality. Women need more support and guidance in early postpartum. They need more than a short visit at 6 week postpartum giving them the green light to exercise and have sex. One out of two moms will have incontinence (leaking urine) after birth and will be cleared to exercise without much talk about the pelvic floor, core, diastasis recti or strategies to get back into fitness appropriately.

My advice as a Pre and Postnatal Coach is to rest, rehab and retrain in those early postpartum months. Healing your body from the inside out to establish a strong foundation and to avoid problems down the road is the best way to go. Spending time reconnecting and strengthening your deep core and pelvic floor will give you so many benefits. You want to focus on regaining function of your body (including your bladder) to avoid struggling with core and pelvic floor issues for years and years. You can’t simply jump back into high intensity workouts without addressing the foundation and expect your body to follow along without injuries. If you do too much too quickly, you could set yourself up for some setbacks that could lead to incontinence, worsening of diastasis recti, back or pelvic pain or pelvic organ prolapse to name a few. Although these issues are common, they are not normal. There are a lot of resources out there to help you feel better and avoid feeling embarrassed every time you cough or sneeze. If you have been struggling with incontinence or other pelvic floor dysfunctions for years, let me tell you that it is NEVER too late to seek help from a Pelvic Floor Therapist and a knowledgeable Health and Fitness Professional.

RELATED: Postpartum Resources for All Moms

SHIFT OUR THINKING ABOUT NEW MOM HEALTH

When thinking about losing the baby weight, we need to ask ourselves the question “why”. Why is it that we feel the need to look like we never had a baby? Why do we need to erase everything our bodies went through? Most likely, there is an underlying cause of why we feel pressure to lose the baby weight so quickly. We need to shift our thinking to embracing our amazing bodies and giving ourselves grace in the postpartum period. Let’s switch the focus to giving our bodies time to rest, rehab and retrain. There is more than looking like our pre-baby self, we can seek a body that feels strong and supported and a body that can function optimally without leaking and aches and pains.

Once you have rested, spent some time bonding with your baby and given your core and pelvic floor a little TLC, then you can start enjoying higher intensity activities if that makes your heart happy.

NEED SUPPORT?

Do you have questions about postpartum fitness, core and pelvic floor rehab? If you enjoyed this article and want some guidance in your postpartum journey, grab your FREE 15 minute consultation with Julie now. Email julie@strongbodystrongmama.com with the subject “Postpartum Together” to schedule a free call.

virtual postpartum work out coach

Julie Leonard is an exercise physiologist, a pre and postnatal corrective exercise specialist with a focus on core and pelvic health and a mom of 3. She specializes in preparing women mentally and physically for birth and postpartum to achieve better birth experiences, easier postpartum recoveries and more fulfilling lives. Learn more about Julie and connect with her on Facebook here and Instagram here.

Want to be purposeful and prepared for postpartum? Download this free Postpartum Plan Checklist to get you started.

Postpartum

New Baby, Lost Identity

DEAR POSTPARTUM MOM: IT’S OKAY TO NOT KNOW YOUR IDENTITY RIGHT NOW.

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Hey momma- let’s take a walk together down memory lane.

LIFE AS AN ADOLESCENCE

Let’s go back a bit and revisit one of those times in life where things felt out of whack.

Ah, adolescence. “The process of developing from a child to an adult.” I’m sure there are many stories you could tell me about this time. Stories about your body changing. Stories about your emotions changing. Stories about your friendships and interests changing. You probably have something really embarrassing that happened during this time (and most likely it was in front of that first real crush and you wrote about it in your secret diary.)

don’t feel like myself anymore after baby

Our society has accepted this adolescence as a normal part of growth. Something to not only acknowledge but also, in the midst of all of its’ awkwardness, to celebrate. It’s important for us to take a minute to experience laughter and tears as we look back and see that, even when we thought that time would never end, it did. Even when we thought we were going to crumble away in a corner somewhere after our 7th-period class, we didn’t. You’re here and you aren’t the same woman you were before the hormones and mental shifts and expectations changed around you.

So here we stand today, in the present moment. You have entered this realm of motherhood and I bet if you really think hard about it, a lot of things feel similar to those distant years of transitioning from a child to an adult.
Hormones.
Emotions.
Friends.
Expectations.
Interests.

(Did I already say emotions? It’s worth saying twice.) So many things are changing and it feels outright confusing sometimes. In contrast to your teenage years, though, now you feel the pressure to keep it together. You feel the pressure to innately know how to accomplish these new tasks and expectations. You feel pressure for all of the change to come ‘naturally’ and you’re feeling down on yourself when it doesn’t. Here’s the truth, momma, just like taking care of new breasts, starting to date, having more responsibilities and handling your roller coaster emotions didn’t come without difficulties the first time, this second major transition isn’t without its’ own set of new and unique struggles. Just because society doesn’t give you as much grace doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it.

MATRESCENCE

matrescence changing me as a new mom

In her anthropological studies of mothers across the world, postpartum advocate Dana Raphael coined the term “matrescence.” This term and study has been on the rise as others like reproductive psychiatrist Alexandra Sacks bring it into the light (watch her awesome Ted Talk). Sacks defines matrescence as “the developmental phase of new motherhood, (it) is like adolescence — a transition when hormones surge, bodies morph, and identity and relationships shift.”

Does that sound familiar? Hormones? Bodies? Identity? Relationships? Matrescence makes so much sense, even if t it is still not a widely adopted and acknowledge part of our society.

RELATED: Emotions of Postpartum

FINDING YOURSELF AS A NEW MOM

Momma, today you are in the midst of your matrescence. Whether you became a mother a day, a week, a month or a year ago, you are in your transition. You look different. You feel different. You think differently (both intentionally and unintentionally.) The things that once defined you may or may not be relevant right now.

  • Sometimes it feels like you swapped bodies with a stranger.

  • Sometimes your hormones cause you to think and feel and act differently than you intend to.

  • The top things that make you YOU may be shifting.

  • You have probably lost some friendships, gained some friendships, and seen dynamic changes across relationships.

  • Sometimes you wonder what happened to the doting and attention you were getting as a pregnant woman and how it so fleetingly disappeared as the baby took the whole stage. (Yes, we love the baby too, but momma is still here and still needs help!)

trying to find myself after baby

When you sit down at the end of a long day, you may feel like you just don’t know who you are. In the midst of taking on new roles and putting aside old roles, you might feel lost in a shuffle. A shuffle that is your life and yet sometimes it feels like it is operating outside of you and you are just an onlooker. You might have an argument with a loved one and afterward think “Who am I? Why did I say that?” You might try to keep work or social things in order only to find them jumbled. You might look day after day at your postpartum body and wonder if it’s ever going to be “back to normal.” Maybe you flip flop back and forth in thinking about who you want to be known as and what would make you feel “accomplished” day after day. Maybe you know you love your kids, but you also miss the things that gave you life before you were a mother.

You will probably think and feel variations of these things, and you should. It can be uncomfortable. The growing pains- they still suck sometimes. For some women, their experience includes postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, or postpartum psychosis (click here to see the warning signs of these very valid and treatable conditions). May you don’t qualify with something diagnosable, and so your feelings in this transition are often dismissed.

But you need not be dismissed, you still need space to grow and learn and process. You are still in the midst of something that needs to be recognized, validated and dare I say- celebrated even when it feels like a mess. You need spaces to grieve and celebrate because your life, it has changed in one of the biggest ways possible. It is not silly for you to struggle. It is not dramatic for you to feel so intensely. It is not wrong for you to not know your identity in this time. It is a normal part of the transition, but as we know, normal does not equal easy and just because we all go through it doesn’t mean any of us should go through it alone.

RELATED: Relationships After Baby (eCourse)

Postpartum mom- it’s okay to not know your identity right now.

finding myself again after having a baby
Birth

Hospital Unmedicated Birth Story: Part 2

BIRTHING BABY SAGE (PART 2)

Part 2 of our birth story. If you haven’t read Part 1, you can find it here:

The Blurry Moments
I know I held her because I remember the midwife passing her up through my legs after giving birth. Mike says it was probably about five minutes but no longer than 10 that we got to hold her. In contrast, when my son was born I held him from the very beginning and carried him from the living room to the bedroom still connected to the placenta and we all got into bed where we snuggled for quite a while before he had any of his newborn checks. So for me, these 5 to 10 minutes felt so brief and like I was cheated out of something with my daughter.

right after vaginal birth in hospital

I remember waiting a few minutes to cut her cord and laying her on my chest expecting her to root and start breast-feeding. She didn’t. I remember thinking her energy seemed low although she had let out a good wailing cry at birth. My son was like a ninja warrior climbing up my body to my chest to eat immediately. Sister showed no interest in eating. I didn’t have much time to think about it, though, because immediately the twenty-some pediatric doctors had rushed into the room and right away a number of them needed my attention.

I thought I would freak out over having so many people in the room when I was naked with my rear in the air pushing out a child, especially since our first birth was so intimate and in the comfort of our own home. Turns out, I didn’t care. They were only in there for the last couple of minutes, thankfully. Like I shared in my first post, our birth progressed pretty quickly and I didn’t spend much time laboring. I do remember hearing the nurse call for the pediatric team and indicating that I was a level 3 pediatric need. I didn’t know at the time what a level 3 meant, but now I know it means that she needed immediate attention and the pediatric team would be rushing into our room for evaluation.

RELATED: Birth It Up: Natural Birth

can your placenta get stuck after delivering baby

Simultaneous Stressors

As I was holding my daughter for those few minutes, two things happened seemingly simultaneously. First – as I knew, the placenta still needed to be delivered. (Seriously, why isn’t this talked about more? For those of you who haven’t given birth, after you get the baby out, you then also have to deliver a large organ your body made during pregnancy. Crazy. Cool, but crazy.) As I was trying to push out the placenta, it seem like we were getting nowhere. Quickly the midwife told me that it was going to require some further intervention and she let me know that it would probably be more painful than giving birth and offered me some medication. I had no medication in either of my births. But for this part, I went with it because I trusted her advice. (In the moments before the medicine kicked in, it was already more painful than birth.) Pushing was not getting anything done and so a nurse came and suited up and they told me to let them know when the medicine kicked in. According to Mike, it didn’t take long before I gleefully told them I wasn’t sure if it had kicked in or not and that confirmed to them that it had. This nurse then went elbow deep inside of me to try to locate and remove my placenta. The problem was that my cervix was closing (as they do after you deliver) and we were working against the clock.

Now like I said, there were two things happening simultaneously. There was this – the placenta ordeal, and then there was the flooding of medical questions and directives. I had taken medication for the first time at this point and I had just given birth and someone was elbow deep trying to pull my placenta outside of my body. Over walks a doctor who is telling me that she needs to take a baby right away into the NICU. She cited a prenatal recommendation from a doctor that we have never heard of. In contrast, our last prenatal appointment with the cardiologist indicated that they did not believe we would need to spend time in the NICU for her heart. Everything looked strong enough for them to do all of her evaluations in the room with me and discharge at normal time. I actually remember walking into labor and delivery before giving birth and giving a sigh of relief that we weren’t going to be spending time in the NICU. So when this small but strong-willed woman was standing at my bedside (as someone else was ripping my placenta out of my body), she had a lot to say about what needed to happen with our baby. Her language was so strong that she made me believe my child might die right before my eyes in that room if we didn’t transfer her right away. Perhaps she wasn’t that dramatic, but at the time that is exactly how it felt. The thing is, Sage would have a eventually ended up in the NICU, but because of another high risk, not because of her heart. I’m still a little bitter at that doctor if we’re honest. Yes- She was doing her job and I respect that, but our interaction was anything but positive. I felt so defeated and like everything was stripped out of my hands.

In the long run, Sage would have gone to the NICU for her low blood sugar and then for the high bilirubin levels in her blood. That is what she was actually treated for in the NICU. Nothing about her heart was unsteady and requiring intervention or monitoring during our stay. From the very start her oxygen levels were strong, her heart rate was where it needed to be, and her echo sonogram came back just as we had expected it to from our meetings prior to her delivery. I may never know why that doctor believed that I had all of my information wrong, but I guess it doesn’t really matter in the long run.

what happens in newborn check during hospital birth

The Postpartum Dream

When I envisioned the days after my birth, I saw us snuggled on our couch or in our bed. I envisioned us going home in the wheelchair that has a place on the back for the carseat. I had prepared the house in a way that I wouldn’t need to go up or downstairs for a couple of weeks so I could give my body rest and recovery. I’m all about postpartum care for women. I think it’s so important for women to have space to slow down and let their bodies recover after birth. A lot of people say and it’s so true that when you’re pregnant you get doted on and cared for- people open doors and do things for you and then it seems like in an instant after you have your baby, the attention fully shifts. They dote on the baby. It’s like you’re supposed to just go straight back to normal after birthing a child out of your body.

Maybe people don’t stop to think about the tears and the pains and the mental, emotional, and physical processing and restoration that needs to happen. Our culture specifically has a long way to go when it comes to appropriate postpartum care. There’s a lot we could learn from other cultures. This time, I was so prepared to advocate for myself and make the postpartum recovery a priority. However, when your baby is on a different floor and down the hall in the hospital and you have to decide between being with her or staying alone in your room, you throw out the ideals.

Related: The Ultimate Breastfeeding Course or The Ultimate Exclusive Pumping Course

can dad go to the nicu right after baby is born

I remember going into my room and I definitely took some time to clean up and relax and pump for the first time to get the little bit of colostrum out. It wasn’t long at all, though, before I was wanting to rush into the NICU to be by her side. The first few times Mike and I went together and I went in the wheelchair but the NICU at OSU was very small and navigating a wheelchair through there was very difficult. I would end up getting up to walk at some point anyways and so by probably the second day I gave up on the wheelchair. Sometimes the walk felt so long because my body was still cramping and recovering and I felt exhausted, but I was determined to get to that room and spend as much possible time is I could by her bedside. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have tears or any other injuries to recover from aside from the general process of giving birth.

Remembering that walk down those halls takes me to a different chapter. One that I’m not ready to ride out and re-visit quite yet. One that will take revisiting notes jotted down from a sleepless and blurry mind and pictures that seem like distant memories. But that is for another post and another day. For now I share my gratitude that even though the second chapter of bringing our baby girl into the world did not feel as empowering as the first, I would do it all again to snuggle her in my arms on this lazy rainy Sunday and from that postpartum bed I committed to being a champion for her and her health and her growth and I am committed to that forever.

Are you currently pregnant and wondering what postpartum will be like for you? Let me help you get prepared. Snag this Postpartum Plan Checklist to get you prepared for this new season.

Birth

Hospital Unmedicated Birth Story: Part 1

BIRTHING BABY SAGE (PART 1)

Like a number of mornings before, I woke up remembering sporadic contractions throughout the night. Nothing strong enough to keep me awake and nothing to trigger me to stop and time them, but I knew they had happened. At this point, a little over 39 weeks into my pregnancy, I was feeling ready to meet our baby girl. I had intentionally had special days with my toddler, I had a date with my husband, I had laid out clothes and blankets and decor for our girl.

Little did he/we know, this would be our last time snuggling on the couch with only 1 child!

I decided it would be a good day to pull out some of the “go into labor tricks.” You know, I ate my dates a little more often. I had a little closed-door time with hubby. I cranked the music up with my toddler and we had a dance party. In retrospect, I love what a fun morning it was.

how to prepare your toddler for a new sibling

As many of you know, Emerson (our 2 year old) is not the biggest fan of going to sleep. Most days, we still drive him around after lunch to get him to fall asleep so that we can all have some quiet time and avoid the evil possession that seems to come after days with missed naps. As I got in the van to take our drive, I decided to drive the route to the hospital. We hadn’t made that drive recently and with construction constantly changing in Columbus, I wanted to make sure that we had the best route down for when we needed it. Granted, I was in labor for almost 21 hours with Emerson… I knew it could either be long again or it might be shockingly short. We drove the route and as we were returning home, I noticed my contractions increasing and becoming more frequent. At about 12:30, I started timing them. They were about 11 minutes apart and so in normal fashion we came home and I laid my sleeping toddler down for a nap and tried to get some rest myself.

It wasn’t long before the contractions increased in frequency- getting to about 7 minutes apart. I was so unsure of them, though, because the intensity didn’t seem to be increasing. I did, however, let my mom know to come our direction after work in case she needed to stay with Emerson. About an hour later, I told her to hurry here, because we were going to just get checked out at triage. I told Mike to double check the hospital bag and add any last-minute toiletries and items and have it ready by the door. Honestly, though, I still thought we had at least a day or so, but because of her heart condition I didn’t want to risk delivering on the road or in a place where she couldn’t have immediate care, so we were playing it on the safe side.

how long can you labor at home before going to the hospital

We got to the hospital and checked in at 4:30pm. The midwife checked me out and said I was dilated to 4 (I had been at 3 for about a week) and that my contractions were frequent, but she could tell they weren’t so intense that they were stopping me. I was still walking and talking and laughing. All of the midwives knew my wishes were to not be stuck laboring in the hospital for hours on end and knew I wanted things as natural as could be. She gave me the option of settling into a room or going back home to labor for a few more hours. Because I was still feeling pretty good, we decided to drive back home and planned to labor in the shower or bed at home. On the walk out, I noticed my contractions getting stronger, but continued on to the van. We got out of the parking garage and started driving home. By the time we got to High St (just a few blocks away) I was telling Mike he needed to turn around and I knew then that it was go time.

Things Got Real the Second Time
Walking through the hospital the second time was much different from the first. The first time I paused through some contractions, the second time I was doubling down in the hallway on what felt like one of the longest walks of my entire life. At 6pm we were back in triage on the monitors and since the last time (from 4:30-6) I had gone from 4cm to 8cm dilated. That transition happened in no time. We moved to a birthing room and I prepared for the hours ahead. I wanted to labor in the tub, but they didn’t feel there was time for that. Fine, then I wanted to labor in the hot shower, they said we would move there after getting things prepared. I found myself on a birthing ball with my head and hands buried into the bed. Contraction after contraction came and while they gained in intensity, I thought we were still pretty early. I utilized the breathing and visualization techniques I had acquired from spending weeks with a pre and postnatal trainer (Strong Body Strong Mama). We had focused heavily on deep belly breathing and each time I worked to expand my belly, I could feel the contractions loosen and lighten in pain. When I started to get tense, the team reminded me of two things: 1. breathe. 2. loosen my shoulders.

RELATED: Birth It Up- Natural Birth Prep

birth story at OSU with the OSU midwives

Give Me The Water
I remember my midwife asking if I wanted to change positions. I wanted to get in the hot shower and she told me I would first need to stand. (This took me back to my first birth when I remember my midwife asking me if I wanted to change positions and I said I physically couldn’t. That time, I didn’t.) This time, I did all I could to stand up against the bed and as I did, I experienced the gushing of my water breaking. (Kind of a cool thing. I didn’t feel it with my first as it broke while I was in the birthing tub.) She told me I was close and she didn’t think I would labor much longer… but… what is close and what is much longer? With my first labor being so long, I didn’t want to let myself believe I could truly be within minutes instead of hours. I wanted to be mentally prepared for hours more, but at this point I found myself up on the bed on all fours telling her I felt like I needed to push. I said this aloud, but said that I was certain it couldn’t be time yet and honestly, I probably just needed to poop. For those of you who haven’t been there yourself, the urge to push a baby out is strikingly similar to the urge to poop. There, I said it.

I was told to follow my urge to push. First push and much to my surprise, I was told they could see her head crowning. The midwife told me, if I could, to hold the second push a little longer. I focused on this and pushed a second time- and there she was. My 6 pound 12 oz little girl came out in two pushes. After pushing for around an hour with Emerson, this was a much appreciated surprise.

Still connected by her cord (delay that clamping until the blood is done flowing!) she was passed through my legs as I somehow moved to my back to sit and hold her. The birth was quick. It was (relatively— come on now, we are talking birth) easy. It was beautiful. It was empowering.

giving birth on hands and feet birthing position

12:30pm- Started measuring contractions
4:30pm- Checked into triage (for the first time)
6:00pm- Checked into triage (for the second time)
8:10pm- Ms. Sage was born into the world!

The moments and circumstances following her arrival weren’t as blissful. The emotions took a quick dive and what followed felt like a storm. However, that is for another day and another post. This day and this post is celebrating the incredible work a body can do, the way no two births are the same, and the sweet sweet moment our girl entered the world.

To see Birthing Baby Sage Part 2 you can continue here:

Are you currently pregnant and wondering what postpartum will be like for you? Let me help you get prepared. Snag this Postpartum Plan Checklist to get you prepared for this new season.