The postpartum experience, health choices during pregnancy and the authentic share
The other night, I had a scheduled call with my naturopath which left me in a very reflective state (our appointments have a habit of doing that). We talked about a few interesting topics and I thought I would share some of our chat here, including my own reflections on our conversation. And, for anyone interested, I’m going to provide a little preggo update in terms of my nutrition and activity during T3.
After having my daughter, I became very passionate about the postpartum experience. And maybe it was because mine wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies (read about my struggle with anxiety here). Maybe it’s because much of my own journey caught me off guard and inspired me to have as much open dialogue with other mothers or soon-to-be-mamas about the postpartum period as possible. And maybe it’s because I am about to jump head-first back into that whirlwind for a second time around. Regardless, this conversation really resonated with me. The most important thing that we discussed and that I think is most poignant for women to remember is that the postpartum experience is different for everyone. You don’t need to be diagnosed with the word “depression” to legitimize whatever it is you are going through. You don’t need to be sad or anxious all the time. Time-after-baby is real, regardless of what it looks or feels like for you and, likely, there are some huge adjustments that won’t be easily made. We are all different and our experiences can be difficult to label. I encourage every mother to make space and acknowledge this period in their lives in a big way, because it is so freaking important. Likely the biggest change of your entire life. Pay homage to that, as it is not to be taken lightly. My own experience has led me to give this piece of advice to anyone navigating this journey: community. Find other women who can relate. If they are currently in the same stage of life, even better. Lean on each other. Laugh and cry together. These are the people who will allow you to get out of your head and find the light in the midst of the dark days. I promise that community is key. That could mean joining a mommy-baby class once or twice a week. That could mean setting up a weekly play/coffee date with one or two… or seven people. Whatever reminds you that you are not in it alone. Because I promise you, you aren’t.
This brings me to the next interesting point in our conversation: the authentic share. In a time when social media innodates our lives, it can be an interesting exercise to reflect on who we’re showing up as online. Many of us feel as though we can’t post about a difficult experience or day until we’ve worked through and moved passed it. Sharing “in the moment” isn’t always easy. I am definitely guilty of this. I’m not sure if it’s because, subconsciously, I am worried about a personal weakness it could portray, or if it’s because I need to be on the other side of this difficult moment to have the perspective needed to talk about it. Maybe it’s just that I don’t feel drawn to put my difficulties out into the world when I’m working through them. But I will say this: when other people post in these very authentic moments, I find I respect and often connect with them in a real way. And this is pretty special--to feel like we all go through these trials on a daily basis. It creates connection and community. And, on the average, crappy day, sometimes it’s just nice to find the humour in these moments by laughing together. So I encourage you (if you have a social media presence and enjoy this type of thing), don’t just share the perfect moments. Because that’s one of the biggest issues we’re facing with social media, isn’t it? And a world I am not thrilled to have my children growing up in. If we’re sharing our lives, let’s put real moments out there, the good and the bad, so we can all connect in a more authentic way.
Next up: health decisions during pregnancy. My family was hit pretty hard with some gnarly sicknesses this fall and it knocked us on our asses pretty aggressively. During these times, as my naturopath and I discussed, it can be hard to know the right treatment route to take, particularly when pregnant. I tried a whole host of natural remedies before succumbing to the extent of my illness. Eventually, I ended up in the doctor’s office, likely later than I should have. I was told I had a significant case of bronchitis and decided, with my doctor, to use two different puffers to battle the breathing and coughing issues. Ultimately, we said the threat of not enough oxygen reaching my baby was far more dangerous than the potential risks of the steroid puffer I would need in the short term. This treatment also allowed me to sleep without waking up several times a night in raging coughing fits. All of this is to say that, during pregnancy, you need to make the right choice for you in the moment. Ask yourself what you are comfortable with and don’t worry if others are shaking their heads at you. You know your body and, with the guidance of your healthcare team, paired with your own intuition, you have the power to choose the right options for you and your baby in that moment. There is no one right answer. And also remember that, just because you did something once, doesn’t mean you have to do it again, should a similar situation arise. Every experience is unique. Whatever you are comfortable with in the moment, right now, is likely the right decision during pregnancy.
So, those were some of our big talking points on the call, obviously extending beyond just physical health, and crossing over into our common ground of family and parenting.
Next: is my nutrition during the final weeks of pregnancy. I am now 35 weeks along, and there have been peaks and valleys in terms of nutrition quality. I was feeling pretty decent in my second trimester and I also think there was something about the warmer months (and being on vacation for 8 weeks, of course) that made nutrition choices easier. In the third trimester, a lot of food aversions returned and just a general lack of interest in food. We survived the Halloween season. And by ‘we’ I mean ‘me’ because for some reason I used pregnancy to justify a lot of poor food choices. And by food choices… I mean I just ate all the sugar. Listen, my sweet tooth is real, which I own wholeheartedly, but I felt like there were a few days there where things got out of hand. There were just too many tasty treats at my disposal. And I don’t mean the dark, organic chocolate variety that I tend to use to satisfy any sweet cravings. I mean the crap that ends up in kids’ Halloween bags. The fake food. I got to a point where I had to say, out loud, “I’m done with sugar,” and I legit just threw any remaining sweets in the garbage. And that was that. I also got scared of my baby gaining an additional 2 lbs simply due to my poor food choices and delivering an unnecessarily large kid. That was motivation enough to kick the crap food to the side (within reason, of course). After I made that decision, I was able to get my nutrition back on track! I started making choices that were far more reflective of my core values and, no surprise here, started feeling a lot better because of it. Can we also just talk about how dumb it is to eat additional sugar when your immune system has already been compromised? Guys, I am no saint. I am here confessing that I was making some bad calls for my body. That said, I am feeling much more revitalized today and making choices that are serving my body, as well as my baby’s development. Amen.
Moving on to activity: as mentioned, sickness knocked our family out in a serious way this fall, so this de-railed the great workout routine I had going! Which brings me to my next point: grace. It’s very important, in these moments, to find grace for yourself. I wasn’t able to work out for a good 3 weeks, which can be challenging for me, but also just how it had to be. I wasn’t well enough. And that’s ok. It was better to let myself heal and recover. Another way I’ve needed to show myself some grace is around what my workouts look like. During my first pregnancy, I was still able to get to the gym 5-6 days a week! Life doesn’t lend itself to that kind of schedule these days (or, at least, I don’t prioritize that schedule). This time around, I invested in a decent online program and some basic home-gym equipment. 90% of my workouts take place in my basement. Slightly less glamorous, but I’m making it happen. If I can get myself to the gym 1-2 times a week, I’m happy. It’s not even the fact that I think my gym workouts are better. It’s more about the mental clarity and reset it provides me. So I do try to get there on the weekends when I can. It’s just as much for my mental health as it is my physical.
So there’s my update! Only a few weeks left before life gets a whole lot crazier. I am half scared, half excited, to be honest. But either way, I know our hearts are about to explode with love and that will be the craziest part of all.