CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Cindy,
As a young mother, I thought it would be easy. I delivered our daughter five months ago without a hitch, but now I have no more excuses for waddling when I walk. I can't lose the weight -- well, I lost 20 pounds but had gained close to 45 and can't lose the 25. I am desperate to get back in shape and depressed because I am not able to wear any of my pre-pregnancy clothes. I don't have time to exercise and no energy after getting up with the baby. My husband is supportive but I don't feel comfortable in my body right now. Please help. -- Amy
While pregnancy and delivery is very natural, the way your body looks and feels after the birth is just the opposite. Where is my waist, my ribs, my muscles -- and where's my energy? I had all that a few months ago! It's like a cruel joke when your beautiful baby arrives and all the best parts of us leave. Add to that all the unfamiliar work that comes with being a new mother -- yes, now that's where the real labor comes in. The trick is to embrace the joy and responsibility of your new maternal role without abandoning the vibrant woman that got you here.
When baby comes home
Once you leave the hospital, all focus shifts to caring for the baby. Families are there when you need them in the beginning. Friends may prepare a casserole or two, but soon after that, the umbilical cord literally and figuratively falls off both baby and you. And, because this is all the usual progression, it becomes even more necessary to attend to some of your needs.
Why is it so difficult?
Initially, your body requires energy to heal. Tack on nightly feedings, walking, bathing and diapering the baby, and it's pretty clear why having help with the baby, especially in the first month, is essential.
Enter supportive husband, who may not be getting any more sleep than you are but whose body is not compromised from delivery. Enlisting his help with baby at night, at least part time, will provide much-needed rest to face the next day with sufficient energy.
Your energy level dictates the way you perceive and, therefore, approach motherhood, both physically and emotionally. Taking care of yourself allows the restorative process to begin and physical activity, the kind that helps you recondition the body, can then be gradually factored into your life. Your husband's patience is admirable, but along with it you need some free time to get your strong body back.