I could chalk the radio silence up to motherhood being busy as all get out, but that’s not the reason. I simply have so many feelings, and I’m so inadequate at being able to express them. I also, until six weeks ago, had been majorly slacking on exercise and therefore felt like I didn’t really deserve to be a “fitnessish” blogger. Blogger should probably also be in quotes? Anyway. My daughter will be 9 months old tomorrow. Which has me taking a bit of stock in the idea of nine months on, nine months off. And I think it’s impossible to address the issue of post-partum body issues without talking about breastfeeding.
In the beginning, breastfeeding was super-easy. My daughter latched right away and we had very few problems nursing besides she would fall asleep immediately and then wake up thirty minutes later and want to eat AGAIN. I drank the tea, I hydrated, I pumped starting the first week we were home so that I could build my supply and my freezer stash. I went back to work at 6 weeks and I pumped three times a day. And then slowly, gradually, my supply began to decrease. Where I used to get 15 ounces a day, I started to regularly only get 12. Then, I started to get 9. This has been extremely frustrating. My child still doesn’t sleep through the night. And I lost zero weight from when I got home from the hospital until June.
The only reason I started to lose weight was I signed up for a program called Body Back, through a company called Fit4Mom (they do stroller strides), which came with a nutrition guide. I started to really try to lose weight. And my supply dropped even more. And so, there I was, trying to figure out if the problem was calories, or lack of hydration, or just eating the wrong foods, or my pump, or what. I still don’t know the answer. Things have remained pretty low.
I heard, constantly, that the advantage of breastfeeding is that Mom gets to eat whatever she wants and can still lose weight. That’s true for some women. It wasn’t true for me. And I am struggling, big time, with whether wanting my body back enough of a reason to let my supply tank and consider supplementing. Supplementing isn’t the end of the world, but from where I sit, where breastfeeding is convenient and dammit, should be possible, and formula is expensive and requires measuring and mixing and throwing it out after an hour or something like that, I just would really really like to make it to the one-year mark. But I’m not sure that I want to make it badly enough to keep sacrificing my body.
My body hasn’t been mine for eighteen months now. It has grown an entire human being, and it has been the primary source of nutrition for that human being for the past 18 months. And the forums I sometimes make the mistake of reading make me feel like that isn’t enough. I’m supposed to be the freaking giving tree here, giving my baby everything until I am a stump. And I am not okay with that. And I think I’m okay with not being okay with that.
So where I am right now is still trying to make nursing work. Because, literally, at the end of the day, I love nursing. I love coming home to my baby and having her snuggle up in my lap and nurse for forty minutes. My ability to be a comfort and a food source and to provide her with what she needs, nutritionally, without stressing about it, is enough that I’m willing to keep trying to make this work. We supplement with the freezer stash I worked so hard to build up. I’m also trying to decide whether I’m going to be done when we hit the one-year mark. I am theoretically pro extended breastfeeding, but as my sister tells me, nursing is a two-way street and as soon as it doesn’t work for one of you, it doesn’t work for both of you.
I started working out again. I started this boot camp, but I’m also tri training and running and going to yoga. More than anything else, this makes me feel like my body is mine again. Yes, exercising while nursing is logistically challenging. But it is possible. Going to an evening workout is logistically challenging. But it is definitely possible. It is not for everyone. I’m not one of those women who will photograph herself in a bikini going “what’s your excuse?” because I do think there are a range of perfectly valid excuses for not having six pack abs at six weeks postpartum.
I will say, nine months in, I feel like I’m in a good emotional place, even if I’m not in a great physical place. I have a grasp on what I want, what I need, what I feel, what I think. I know my emotions and feelings are valid and that I have choices and options. I know that it is okay to be a little bit selfish, it is okay to put my mental health needs in front of the baby, because if no matter what I do, my daughter needs a healthy mother before she needs pretty much anything else.