Tuesday, June 3, 2014

1 Year Postpartum Weight Loss + Recovery Reflections

2 days postpartum (not sure why my lips look blue??) vs. 1 year postpartum
One whole year of being a mom...wow. What an amazing year it has been. Books and advice really can't prepare you for the changes that happen once you take on the role of parent, least of all the changes that happen to your body after pregnancy. During my pregnancy I was all about researching my symptoms and learning how Ezzy was developing from a little tadpole creature, to an alien-looking creature, and finally to a sweet baby in my womb. I did a little bit of research on childbirth and delivery, but my mindset about that was more along the lines of ignorance is bliss. I didn't want to psych myself out by reading labor horror stories. One thing that I neglected to research at all was what happens to your (my) body postpartum. So quite a few things took me by surprise. I should probably warn you now that there's a lot of yucky stuff that you may not want to be reminded of from your own postpartum recovery, or, if you're a guy, you may just want to skip this post altogether. Here's a list of things I wish I was a little more prepared for:

1. Even with a natural (i.e. - vaginal) delivery, the recovery still takes awhile. I knew that if I had to have a c-section, I'd be pretty sore and useless for at least a month. The ectopic surgery I had was very similar to a c-section, and walking, sitting, laughing...pretty much anything that involved my abs (which is everything) was painful for at least a month. But I'd read that many women who have vaginal deliveries are "up and walking around" on the same day, so I thought, great, I'll avoid a c-section and be back to my normal self within a few hours of delivery. (Seriously, I actually thought that?!?) What they didn't mention is that you'll be walking at about .2 miles per hour, and even at that pace it's painful

2. Going to the bathroom for the first time after delivery sucks. Apparently all the pressure put on those muscles during delivery makes it very difficult to have your first bowel movement. Plus, with the tear and stitches and pain down there, I was really dreading my first bowel movement. I took a few doses of milk of magnesia, and after a day or two that worked for me, and it wasn't as painful as I had built it up in my head to be. 

3. After 9 months without a period, your body will make it up to you right after childbirth by bleeding for months. That's what it feels like anyway. I think I bled for at least 6 weeks afterwards. And the first few days after childbirth is so bad they pretty much give you adult diapers to wear at the hospital. 

4. Your body still looks 6 months pregnant when you leave the hospital. I had actually read that beforehand, so I was expecting to have a swollen uterus. Except in my case, after 2 straight days on IV fluids, I still looked 8 or 9 months pregnant. My cankles hadn't shrunk at all. I had Fred Flintstone feet. My face was puffier than before I went to the hospital. That "dress" I'm wearing in the picture on the left is actually a nightgown (and one of the few things that fit), and the sandals I'm wearing are the only pair that fit me. I took water pills for about a week and the puffiness went away to the point that I could wear some of my shoes again. My uterus was still huge for another month or two though. 

5. My eyes were bloodshot for a week because I burst all the blood vessels while pushing. I don't know how they expect you to push for 10 seconds straight without breathing, take a deep breath, and do it again three times in a row without bursting your blood vessels. I should also point out that this method is the exact thing they told us not to do in our child birth classes. They said it's an outdated method and it doesn't get the baby out any faster than if you were to breathe while pushing. But the doctors and nurses yelled at me when I stopped to take a breath, so I did it their way. That was probably my biggest complaint about my doctor during this whole process. 

6. There's an old wives tale that says you lose a tooth for every child you have, and that totally happened to me (well, I need a root canal). I'm sure I can't blame it all on the pregnancy, though the timing was suspicious.

7. Also, without warning your hair starts falling out by the handful around 3 months postpartum. I still remember being in Target with Joe and he started picking hair after hair off the back of my shirt. It's like the hairs were just leaping off my head with no provocation whatsoever. For a few months after that, every time I brushed or ran my hand through my hair I'd have a gerbil-sized clump of hair in my hand/brush. I had to start collecting my hairs in the shower otherwise we would have had some major plumbing issues. This is all hormonal, so I can't be sure any of the measures I took had any effect, or if it's just the result of my hormones going back to normal on their own, but I made an effort to remember my vitamin every day, and I started using this Lush Roots hair mask, which has a ton of mint in it and feels nice and tingly on my scalp. Now I have 2 inch hairs all over my head that like to curl or stick straight up, which means that hats are my new best friend.

8. Everyone has seen the celebrity stories of moms who lose weight within weeks (or hours) of giving birth. I was realistic enough to know that my body doesn't work that way, so instead I listened to the advice that it takes 9 months to put on the weight, so you should give yourself 9 months to take it off. Well, 9 months later I was still about 7 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight, and 12 - 15 pounds away from my pre-surgery weight (which is my goal weight). I gained 50 pounds, so it took me one full year to lose all that weight (and I'm still working on the last 5 pounds to get to my pre-surgery weight/normal weight). If I had gained the recommended 35 pounds, I think I would have been back to my pre-pregnancy weight within a few months, but I would've been much squishier than before. Breastfeeding has not been a magical diet aid for me. The first 25 pounds melted off, so at first I thought the whole breastfeeding-melts-calories thing was true, but then I realized that was mostly Ezzy weight and water weight. After that I went about a month without losing any weight at all, and finally came to the realization that losing the weight was gonna take some work.

I started logging my calories (using MyFitnessPal) and making an effort to get off the couch and move every now and then. To start with I would strap Ezzy to my chest using the Bjorn carrier and then walk slowly around the neighborhood. Eventually (maybe 3 or 4 months postpartum), I hopped on the treadmill for short (5 minute jogs) mixed with walking during Ezzy's naps. Keep in mind that my initial jogging pace (4 mph) was more like a brisk walk. In fact, now I walk at that pace at an incline for my warmup. I didn't really restrict calories, my goal was just to keep them around 2,000. Every day I set these 4 small goals for myself:

  • drink 8 glasses of water
  • 2,000 calories
  • workout (or walk) 30 minutes
  • eat 8 servings fruits/veggies

I still ate dessert and we still ate out so my weight loss was slow but consistent, at a rate of 2-3 pounds per month. Also, my workouts have been short but consistent. I have to be able to fit them in during naptime, because I generally don't like to cut into family time once Joe is home in the evening. The treadmill has been my best workout tool, but I also like YouTube videos (blogilates & barre workouts), as well as some dance dvds or wii games, and some Jillian Michaels or strength training using dumbbells. On days when Ezzy doesn't nap, we'll take a walk, and a lot of times we'll go for a family walk after dinner too.

Before pregnancy, if I knew it would take a year to lose the weight, I think it would have really upset me, but now that Ezzy is here it really doesn't bother me too much. He's such a great source of joy that it would be silly to get upset over something small like my weight. And Joe always makes me feel beautiful, even when I didn't fit into most of my clothes and my hair was falling out by the handful. He's such a catch - I really got lucky with him.

So there you have it, all the things I kinda wish I'd known going into postpartum recovery. I know all women and all pregnancies are different though, so when/if we have another one, who knows if I'll go through these experiences again, or if a whole new crop of issues will come up?


  1. You didn't mention my biggest post pregnancy/delivery complaint. Leaky bladder. I can't sneeze, laugh, cough, or run without experiencing leakage. Lucky you if you do not suffer from this. And lucky me because I have such thick hair, it wasn't noticable when my head lost it. As for weight loss, I didn't even lose baby/placenta/fluid weight. How did I go in to the hospital, empty out so much from my womb, and come out weighing the same? That was a huge bummer. Still have 30 to go for goal weight (which is not pre-pregnancy that's closer to 50) so don't snuff the last 7. That's huge! I will always have a baby pooch from all the excess skin that I have from the pregnancies, plastic surgery is the only cure at this point. Tiger stripes from stretching. My lower belly looks like a brain. lol And where are the boobs I was supposed to get from breast feeding! 8yrs, and still waiting on those now... lol

    Ah yes, so many things that happen to your body, that nobody warns you about. lol


    1. Lol, see?? That's what I'm talking about, a whole new crop of issues to worry about for next time...yay... ;) And I didn't weigh myself when I left the hospital, but I'm pretty sure I weighed the same (if not more) than when I went in. That's what a few days of IV fluids will do to you, and you had a similar experience, so I'm sure that's why you didn't lose weight.

  2. It's amazing how you've shed a lot of those pregnancy weight, despite having tons of scary and some alarming roadblocks along the way. You powered through it all, adopted a plan, enforced self-discipline, and took the right amount of effort. It really paid off in the end. Anyway, those experiences you've had while pregnant are really insightful. I'm sure it'll be able to help a lot of first-time mothers out there to know what to expect... when they're expecting. Thanks for sharing!

    Jackie Wong @ Miami Institute

  3. Amen girl! Spot on with it all! I can not believe you lost a tooth, i actually never heard of that though. I am about to be going through the hair loss thing now. Yay for me! :P