Joining a mother’s group can be just what you need to get some perspective. “You’ll see that not everybody is having a wonderful time and bonding well,” says Rosenthal. You’ll also find women full of great ideas for exercise classes, baby sitters and colic remedies — and a shoulder to cry on when it’s all too much.
Another self-image boost comes from exercising again (as soon as you get your doctor’s go-ahead). “Don’t push yourself,” says Octavio Galindo, co-owner of Le Studio Conditioning in Pasadena, Calif. “It will take months, or even a year, to get back to the shape you were in,” adds Galindo, who designed both of our Pilates-based workouts.
You will get your body back, along with the rest of your life. “It’s easy to think, ‘Oh my God, my life is falling apart,’” says Towle. “But there’s plenty of time. Enjoy your baby. This experience will make your future life so much richer.”
Getting Started: Day 1 through 6 Weeks
Depending on your delivery, you may be able to get up and out for a walk with your baby soon after getting home. Some gentle exercises can be done as early as the day after giving birth. The following three moves, designed by Pilates instructor Octavio Galindo, are based on exercises originally created by Joseph Pilates. If you’re up to it and have your doctor’s OK, try doing them every other day. They’re designed to re-balance torso muscles, help stimulate abdominal-muscle contraction, stretch the spine muscles — and relieve stress.
1.Deep Exhaling Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place one hand lightly on your belly, or let your baby relax face-down on your abdomen. Inhale in 1 count, expanding your belly (watch your hand or baby rise with the inhale); then exhale slowly, blowing out through your mouth. As you exhale, pull your bellybutton in toward your spine to “scoop” out your belly. Follow this sequence: Inhale in 1 count; then exhale in 4 counts twice; inhale in 1 count; then exhale in 5 counts twice; inhale in 1 count; then exhale in 6 counts twice; inhale in 1 count; then exhale in 7 counts twice. Strengthens abdominals.
2.Moving Bridge Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor, arms relaxed by your sides, palms down. Inhale; then exhale, lifting arms up overhead as you lift your torso up off the floor until your body is in one straight line from head to knees. (In the top position, just your head, neck, top of shoulders and feet will be in contact with the floor.) Inhale; then exhale, slowly letting your spine roll back onto the floor. Repeat 4–6 times. Strengthens abdominals and quadriceps.