I had the pleasure this week of being a guest speaker at a couple of Healthy Beginnings meetings, which are drop-in groups for young children, babies and their caregivers sponsored by the local health unit. I spoke to one group in Duncan earlier in September, and two groups on Thursday in Shawnigan Lake. I did a little demo of core work with the women (all moms except for one nanny), and checked a few for diastasis recti (everyone was good to go!). But aside from encouraging more people to strengthen their pelvic floors, I really wanted to get two points across: a) let them know that I’m here as a resource for them in the community; and b) emphasize the notion that fitness is holistic, and that postpartum fitness, especially, has little to do with fitting into pre-pregnancy jeans.
Let’s talk about the second point first. I’ve written about this before here so I won’t repeat those points now. But I was struck at the drop-ins by how much women focus on changing their size after pregnancy. Of course I already knew this was the case, but every time I see signs of it, the red light starts to flash in my head: teachable moment! teachable moment! There are practical reasons to want to get back to pre-pregnancy size–the most significant of which is probably financial, as buying an entirely new postpartum wardrobe right after buying a new maternity wardrobe is an onerous expense. But there is nothing wrong with taking time to get there, and moreover, a healthy lifestyle + time is the best formula for healthy and lasting post-pregnancy weight loss. Anything extreme–extreme exercising, or even not-so-extreme dieting–is dangerous, plain and simple (and most likely ineffective).
The thing is, we all know this, and beating people over the head with such information doesn’t work. So instead, I tried to focus on the positive: rather than telling people what not to do, I suggested what they can do to improve their health and wellbeing after baby, and to strengthen their bodies so that they can move with freedom, and with the knowledge that they are protecting their bodies from injury. Even more importantly, I tried to emphasize that they can do that without having to be away from their babies. (Although there is nothing wrong with working out solo either–the point is, women have lots of options and they can pick and choose what is right for them at any given time.) And I’ll tell you–it felt very good to look around the room at women’s faces and feel like they were soaking these messages in. I know the relief I often feel when someone in a position of some authority/expertise gives me permission to be kind to myself and to follow my instincts about what is right or wrong for me as a parent, and I hope I was able to do that for some of the women there.
On the second topic: although part of my reason for going to the drop-ins was to let women know about Fit 4 Two, I had a bigger purpose in mind, and that was to let them know that there is a place they can go if they have questions about things to do with health and fitness during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum recovery. I got involved with Fit 4 Two because I wanted to reach out to women as someone who is not a clinician of any sort, but has other kinds of information to share, and is happy to be a source of support. Sometimes people hesitate to call on professionals when they have questions they feel are minor, or they have questions that professionals may not be equipped to answer (even the best birthy clinicians may know little about exercise physiology, for instance). I wanted to introduce myself to the women as a fitness professional, but more importantly as their peer: I know a lot about pre and postnatal fitness, but I’m also someone who has struggled through the pre and postnatal phases and can lend an empathetic ear if they too are facing challenges. So I was so glad to have the chance to go into these groups and let the women there know that they can email or call me any time with questions; if they are within my scope of practice, I’ll answer, and if they are outside it, I can help connect them with appropriate resources. The point is that they aren’t alone, and they don’t have to pay a penny to be supported at this time in their lives, when so many women end up feeling isolated, inadequate, and often (sadly) at war with their own bodies. Of course I’d love for them to take my classes, but it’s not about that; it’s about creating genuine relationships, and meeting women where they are, whether they are ready for and interested in a group workout or just need some basic information about how to work with their pregnant or postpartum bodies.
Oh, and I got to cuddle a newborn. That was probably the highlight of the whole thing for me, personally. There is nothing better than holding someone else’s newborn baby… 😉