I look at Cullen and I see a one year old. For as fast as this year has felt, I watch him laugh and chase the dogs, and it’s easy to believe he is one. I cannot believe, however, that I am the mother of a one year old. I’m still wrapping my head around the whole mother idea in general.
Soon after Cullen was born, I wrote a lot about my postpartum experience and my journey into motherhood quite a bit. Having a baby is a total-life changer (as it should be). As I eased into it, I focused my writing more on Cullen and our family, and less about me specifically.
And here I sit just a few days weeks after Cullen’s first birthday (I started this post two weeks ago!) – a time of much reflection and emotion. I never really did official postpartum updates beyond the first few weeks – mostly because I knew that recovery would be a natural process that took a good bit of time.
So where does that leave me a year later…? These days, I feel pretty great. I’ve been pretty steady and consistent in my weight and health since about six months postpartum. As far as hard numbers go, I gained 34 pounds during my pregnancy, and as of today I’m actually 12 pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight. Now, I know that sounds like a big swing, but there are a number of things to consider as far as weight goes.
One week vs. one year postpartum – pictures taken exactly one year apart!
At the time that I got pregnant, I was about 4-6 pounds over my “typical” weight – the weight I’d held steady for several years prior. It was just a few months after my car accident, and since my activity level was down, me weight was up a bit.
In the months immediately following childbirth, my extra weight came off slow and steady as expected. I was actually back to my pre-pregnancy weight at seven weeks postpartum, although my body certainly looked and felt much different. I did pretty minimal exercise, mostly lots of walks with a baby strapped on my chest. Despite my best efforts to train for a few races, exercise definitely took a back seat this year. But I’ll get back to that in a minute.
Somewhere around six months postpartum, breastfeeding started to have an increased demand on my body. I mentioned this in a previous post too, but essentially – Cullen started crawling and moving at a very early age. Because of his increase in activity, his caloric needs increased, and at that point I was his only source of food. My weight started dropping quickly, and I significantly increased the calories and fat in my diet in order to keep up. But I lost a few extra pounds around that point that have remained off, despite my large appetite.
For the first few months after Cullen was born, I survived on sugar and granola bars. I had to really work to get any color into my meals, and I couldn’t believe I was struggling so much with something that used to be my strength. Now, at one year I feel like I’m eating better than ever. Part of that is probably due to our new neighborhood – way less takeout and quick stops into a bakery.
Now that Cullen is into solid foods – three meals a day plus snacks! – it has really forced me to take a second look at our family’s nutrition and wellness. I make sure we’re all getting a good variety of veggies, carbs, and vegetarian protein every day. (I’m planning to write another update on Cullen’s meals soon, so I can go into more detail on this then.)
Anyway, this is a really long winded way of saying that cooking and eating are going well, and in that respect, I feel really healthy.
Exercise…well, that is another story. If you had told me a few years ago that I would essentially take a year off from consistent exercise I would have been shocked. It was such a huge part of my life for a long time, both for health and happiness reasons. But for whatever reason, I just haven’t really made it happen this year.
Part of that, to be quite honest, is probably because I was lucky enough that breastfeeding helped me lose my extra weight, and so I didn’t have as much motivation to get back to the gym as quickly. I also really struggled to fit in exercise while taking care of Cullen. I won’t bother laying out all the excuses I came up with, but for me they have felt overwhelming. I know there is a solution to every excuse, and if you really want something you’ll make it happen. But I think that’s just it – I didn’t really want to.
Much of parenting is all about trying to find balance and identify priorities. I knew this year would go quickly. Pretty early on, I decided to stop stressing about fitting in trips to the gym, and start enjoying a little extra time with my family. I fit runs in when it worked, and when it didn’t, I’d try to squeeze in a walk later instead.
Getting to stay at home with Cullen is a huge privilege, so instead of dwelling on what I couldn’t do while with him, I started just embracing what we could do together. Don’t get me wrong – while I say I haven’t formally been exercising, I have still stayed very active. We walk a lot, do family hikes on the weekends, and I try to be up and moving with him as much as possible. We walk the dogs twice each day, and often meet a friend for a walk mid-day as well.
My one regret – if you can call it that – for this year is probably my lack of strength training. I’m a huge believer in building muscle and staying strong, and this is something I’d really like to change. Before Cullen was walking, I hauling him everywhere in my arms. He definitely helped me gain some nice upper body strength.
But now that he’s cruising around without my help, I’m rested and able to do more. My arms don’t ache at the end of the day like they used to. So I’m not going to make any grand proclamations about training or races right now, but I would like to increase my strength. I think my lack of muscle is also reflected in the lower number on the scale. It would be nice to feel (and looks!) buff again!
A few final thoughts – overall, at one year postpartum, I feel (and look, in my opinion) as healthy as ever. I wish I was doing a bit more strength training, and at some point I’d really like to jump back into consistently running. My wildest dreams involve a regular return to yoga too, but one thing at a time.But honestly? I just don’t feel as passionately about exercise at this current stage of life as I used to. I expect that passion will return eventually. In the meantime I’m active and athletic enough to chase a very high energy toddler around all day.
It will be interesting to see how my energy and appetite change as breastfeeding continues to decrease slowly. I haven’t had my body all to myself in almost two years – it will be interesting to see what that feels like again!
Read more from Emily on her personal blog Daily Garnish, where she creates healthy vegetarian recipes, recaps her latest running adventures, and chronicles life as a new mom to her son and two crazy dogs. You can follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest too!