My strength comes from knowing I have the ability to do anything; my weakness comes from the desire to do it all at once.
I thought that I was a patient person – I’ve been working in some sort of customer service my entire adult life. I’ve been transforming my body naturally through clean eating and bodybuilding for 5 years. I earned my degree after waiting to earn residency with the state of Montana so I didn’t have to pay out of state tuition. I live with 4 dogs. But nothing has taught me patience like pregnancy, childbirth, and now working on my postpartum body.
When I decided to compete in the sport of bodybuilding, it took almost a year of preparation for me to feel comfortable enough to step on stage. I was changing my body from that of a distance runner, to a more muscular Figure competitor. I knew that I didn’t want to use any extra substances, and I knew that scientifically, women can only build 1/4 of a pound of muscle in a month naturally. I knew that it was going to be a long process. Up to the day I found out I was pregnant, I still hadn’t achieved my ideal body. It takes a long, long time, and I’m also a perfectionist. However, my struggle was never with extra weight or body fat – I struggled to put on weight and size. While that may sound like a ‘first world problem’, it’s still a frustrating scenario when you pour all of your time and energy into something and don’t progress as fast as you would like. Now I’m experiencing the other side of the coin; I have excess body fat and loose skin.
When I found out that we were expecting, my goal was to have a healthy pregnancy and maintain as much muscle as was feasible. In all reality, there is no “eating for two” while you’re pregnant. The first trimester doesn’t require any additional calories, the second trimester only requires an additional 300, and the third trimester needs 500. Building muscle also requires a calorie surplus, in conjunction with weight training. My OB/GYN told me that because I had been lifting for so long and that my body was conditioned to it, I was allowed to continue lifting, but not increase the weight in any of my lifts. I didn’t expect to build muscle during my pregnancy, but I wasn’t ready for how much muscle and strength that I lost. In total I gained roughly 22 pounds – Ember was born at 8 lbs 2 oz.
Ember’s birth was two days after my due date, and almost 30 hours of labor. The last few weeks of my pregnancy felt like an eternity. I continued to work out 5 days a week, and go for walks around the neighborhood to try to induce labor. I even had my membranes stripped twice. Pregnancy and labor are so much more difficult than anything I had ever done before – there is so much more at stake, and you can’t back out if it gets to be too stressful or difficult. I thought that the wait to go into labor was hard, until I started to have contractions.
I was doing a light workout in the garage around noon and I noticed that my contractions were consistently 3-5 minutes apart. We waited a few hours and called my doctor’s office and were told to go to the hospital. Unfortunately, my body wasn’t dilating very fast and we were sent home a few hours later. Around midnight, we headed back because the contractions were getting too painful. I thought I had to be getting close…Wrong. I hadn’t dilated any further in the almost 12 hours since my labor started. Thankfully, I was admitted to the hospital this time in order to monitor Ember’s heart rate and to give me some pain medication to help my body relax and hopefully help me rest and dilate. I still didn’t end up delivering her until 6:51 pm. From this experience forward, I will never complain about dieting or being tired during a competition prep ever again.
Fast forward to today, a little over one month postpartum. We have a healthy baby girl, and I am back to working out almost without restriction. I haven’t done any core work, and I still lift fairly light comparatively. Our bodies are meant to be in motion, and mine felt so much better getting in exercise than sitting on the couch during my recovery. I wasn’t trying to rush back in – I needed the exercise to decrease both my physical and mental stress. I have dropped to just a few pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight, but I haven’t conducted any sort of body composition analysis. I was fairly fresh off of the stage and very lean at the beginning of this pregnancy so I fully expected to gain some body fat. Despite knowing that my body would look and feel much different after giving birth, it is still a tremendous struggle every day to see it. I have never had loose skin or carried extra weight around my midsection. This week will be 6 weeks postpartum, and I plan to check my body composition and track my progress forward. I plan to compete again, but not until next Spring so I can have a healthy offseason. My goal is to gain muscle mass and correct my diastasis recti. If you’d like, I can post my workouts and my nutrition programming I’m going to follow – just let me know in the comments here or on my Instagram.