As I peer into the full-length mirror in my hospital room, I’m faced with a twist on the proverbial conundrum: Is my belly half-full or half-empty? Just shy of 6 pounds, my little bundle of joy managed to delete 12 of the pounds I’d gained during pregnancy. Yet my midsection is still some five-months-pregnant-looking, puffy and soft to boot. Flesh surrounds me with a hang-dog look that says, “Plan on me being around for a while.”
As a marathon runner, I thought I would return to fitness quickly beginning with sensible walking, then jogging and biking as soon as I could. I had, after all, heard of women who had gone running the day after giving birth. OK, so it was nobody I knew, but the fable persisted. How hard could it be?
Two Weeks: It’s been two weeks since I gave birth, and I’ve yet to go for a walk. My exercise consists of nocturnal stumbles back and forth from my bedroom to the nursery every two hours to a very sweet but hungry baby.
I finally decide to go for a “hike.” This feels like a monumental task, largely because it entails getting dressed. I spend the better part of the morning preparing: I try on three pairs of shorts before finding one I can fit in comfortably. I dress myself, I dress the baby. The baby poops. I re-dress the baby. I gingerly slide the baby into her carrier and head out the door triumphantly. I get to the end of the block and look down at my daughter. Her tiny body is swallowed up in her carrier, her little mango-shaped head collapsed to the side, her nose mushed against my chest in a position that seems to preclude breathing. It is a most pitiful and uncomfortable sight. I don’t have the heart to continue. Total mileage: two blocks.
Three Weeks and Counting: Taking advantage of a burst of adrenaline, I leave the baby at home with my husband and attempt to jog. My first steps amaze me. Is this my body, or did somebody switch with me in the hospital? I struggle to lift my feet from the ground. The “lifting” mechanisms in my groin and thighs have been rendered useless, and I barely avoid tripping over the pavement. I’m reduced to a shuffle. Total mileage: one mile.
Four Weeks: Hallelujah! I’ve managed to jog. Just two miles a day, and oh-so-slowly. My feet still shuffle, and I have trouble lifting my legs. And the dull pain in my pelvic area is taking an awfully long time to subside. Still, I’m moving.
In this state of exhaustion, fitness just hasn’t been a priority. Baby is No. 1. Sleep is a close second. My marriage is up there somewhere, but don’t make me choose between a romantic moment with my husband and a nap!