Friday, December 19, 2008

Body betrayal

Bearing three children has had a significant effect on my physique. I’m not one of those women who loses all their “baby weight” just by nursing, and is back into their size six pre-pregnancy jeans eight weeks after giving birth. Every pound I lose is a fight, and it is a war that I have to wage for a long time before winning. Sometimes I just don’t win.

I’m 35 lbs heavier than I was at my most fit (just before getting pregnant for the first time). 30 lbs heavier than a more typical “normal” at that time. 20 lbs heavier than the weight I’ve resigned myself to as the “new normal” after three pregnancies.

Two weeks ago I decided to get serious about losing those twenty. I broke out the triple stroller and set up a schedule for walks and jogs. For a week it felt great. And then everything started to hurt. First it was my ankle – the one that I’ve sprained a few too many times and always gets sore during pregnancy. Then it was my knee – not the one with the osteochondroma in it (I know how to deal with that problem) – but the other one, the one that doesn’t have a reason to hurt. Then my shoulder started acting up, aching, a remnant of over-use in karate. Now it is my wrists, one of which is well on its way to carpal tunnel again.

Some of this is just part of having an infant (for me, at least) – I had some similar aches and pains when Thomas was small – but I’m pretty certain that they all flared at the same time because of trying to push that monster stroller on long walks. And so I’m left with the futile frustration of a body that is breaking down and thwarting my efforts.

Six years ago, in the throes of anorexia, size sixteen jeans would have seemed cause for suicide. Now, thanks be to God, they’re mostly an annoyance (I’ve only got one pair!) and an occasional cause for tears on bad days – most of the time I can look at my body and see the glorious functionality of a body that has born and nursed three children. Still, I’d like to lose those twenty pounds. And I wish that the functionality of a body that can and has nourished children also extended to one that could push a triple stroller with all those children inside.


mhcowen said...

Pregnancy is the only time I actually have ever felt in my life, like my body is as a normal person's should be every day. I only gain 20 pounds and lose it within 1-2 weeks after delivery. stopps then:( I am in your boat...shall we paddle together! Merry Christmas to your precious family...Christmas cards will be done...hopefully this weekend!

Meg McElwee said...

You should look into some gentle yoga to deal with those aches. Jogging can be so jarring.

I love you're attitude about the wonderfully functional mother's body! I have no clue how my body will react post-pregnancy, but I do feel that it's so important to cultivate that positive love of the motherly physique. I try to do something active every day (we're at my parents' right now and have been going snowshoeing!) but it's more with the hope of being sturdy and healthy come birthing time. Will you be up here for Christmas?

Katie Jones said...

I would love to walk with you and maybe help with one of the boys sometime. I am always looking for a wlaking partner anyways. Or, I have the best workout tape that I will try to remember to bring to the play group. It works in six munte segments (good for having to take care of baby and workout) and is actually fun!

I am sorry that you are feeling like you are. Especially if you had trouble in the past with body image. I can't imagine having so much on your plate mothering three children and dealing with these issues. I will be praying for you. Maybe it would help to think of the many women before you who have "ruined" their bodies for the sake of their children. But, you HAVE lovingly endured 3 prenancies, and HAVE nursed 3 children. That is a beautiful body; a self sacrificing body.

Mother Teresa was not pretty, but she was beautiful.

Ma Torg said...

I know the feeling. I was an 18 after Lucy was born and it WOULDN't COME OFF. I wasn't even close when I got pregnant with Mary and then it took me a year and a half to lose my weight goal after her birth...which was still 15 lbs more than my Lucy pre-preg weight. And I had to JOG to get it off and I HATE RUNNING.

What I really want to tell you though is that the third pregnancy is a doozy on the body. Even though my body seemed to recover the quickest after delivery, I found it took 9 months before I had any semblence of real energy back. I couldn't even exercise until wore me out too much. I believe it is the combo of having 2 toddlers plus a baby to take care of. It is fatiguing.

All this to say, Give yourself grace and your body more time before you start attacking it. Right now, focus on eating healthy and exercise WHEN you have energy.

Sometime I think that the so-called 'ruining' of women's bodies after birth is nature's way of providing much needed energy for the hard mothering months to follow.

Emily, you are a very beautiful woman. Be kind to yourself right now.

CP said...

I'm right there with you in the size 16s. My cousin is an elastic Mom, the kind that bounce back in just a few weeks and look like they never had a baby. Even after 4 she's still teeny. I on the other hand am apparently determined to keep at least 10 to 15 pounds per pregnancy and never let go of them.

Here's hoping that we can eventually hit a size least that's my goal.

Good luck, and hope the aches ease up some.

Anonymous said...

Hi Emily, Could Aquafit, water jogging or swimming be less jarring? Getting out alone may be hard until your new baby is older. I found that it took longer to get the weight off each time because you are busy all day with all the children. It's tiring but not always the kind of exercise that takes off the weight. Your new babe is cute and still pretty new. I'd give yourself some more grace. I enjoy reading your blog and seeing your cute baby! It may be worth buying some more pairs of bigger pants until you get to the weight you want. The stress of having no clothes that fit would bug me nore than anything. Yes, that was me snapping at my kids because my pants were too tight! Caroline

sarah marie said...

Hey Emily, while I've gotten to where I enjoy running (I use "enjoy" in a loose sense, because it's not like I often wake up thinking, "wow, I'd rather run than do anything else this morning"), I totally understand people who hate it because it's a pretty hate-able thing to do in a lot of ways. Is there a place where you can swim? Swimming truly feels awesome. I swam almost every day over the summer and it felt so good - an incredible all-over workout while being low-impact. It took me a day or two to get used to putting my face in the water again and get over bad memories of swimming lessons when I was a little afraid of water as a kid, but then I started loving it.

That said, you have three kids who need your attention and are already giving you a full-day workout, every day. Enjoy those babies and if you don't have time for specific exercise activities, just remind yourself that you're constantly on the move anyway - what a great way to get a workout.

Amber said...

Wow, a triple stroller! No wonder your body started to protest after a week. Mine would too if I was trying to push 50+ lbs of kids and stroller AND trying to jog. Yikes!! I'm not sure my body could have handled doing that with a single stroller, much less a triple.

For what it is worth, here's some thoughts of mine. I've tried both of these avenues and they've worked for me... but my metabolism might be more helpful than yours! But I thought I would mention it anyways.

The first is to make your fitness a goal for the family. I did this after Gregory, and what it meant for me was getting up early - before the kids were awake and Matt needed to work - so I could exercise. I did yoga then walked until I was within 10 lbs of my target weight, then I started to jog. Jogging sooner than that is too hard on my joints. I had to have Matt's commitment for this too, because he needed to deal with the kids if they woke up earlier than usual.

The second (which I did after Emma, because I was so incredibly tired, and am sort of doing now - I was walking before we moved, but haven't since Aug) is to eat as healthily as possible - lots of veggies, whole grains, and as little sugar, processed foods, & alcohol as possible. I also try to stay reasonably active, but I don't try to do anything that is specifically for exercise. This is how my body slowly loses weight best - only about a half a pound to a pound a week on average, but still, it adds up. It takes longer, but it saves my much needed time & energy for taking care of the kids and house.

If you and Gabe could figure out how to make number one work, it can work well... but trying to exercise while taking care of the kids I think is just going to do you in. :-) I think number two is a better option for where you are - after all, you are taking care of three little ones! I really like what Ma Torg said, "All this to say, Give yourself grace and your body more time before you start attacking it. Right now, focus on eating healthy and exercise WHEN you have energy. "

I apologize if this is a little incoherent, I've been trying to write this off and on all day in between doing stuff with the kids. Something else I wanted to mention is an interesting series of posts about weight loss on Bearing Blog - - she has a category about Weight Loss (scroll down and look on the right, each page in the category then has a tiny link at the very bottom to go to the next page). She has an fascinating approach to the whole thing - a bit too navel gazing at times, but still some good food for thought.

Err... no pun intended. :-)