I’m standing at my company’s holiday meetup, chatting with one of my bosses: a doe-eyed, dimple-cheeked woman with a contagious smile and a tiny, trim figure.
“I can’t believe how quickly you bounced back,” I eye her small waist with no attempt to disguise my envy. ”You look amazing. Even more lithe now than you were pre-baby?”
“I’m not sure about that,” she says, modestly. “And honestly, everything’s just a little different, you know?” She lowers her voice. “There’s leftover skin and everything’s kind of in a different place now.”
She makes a face and I swallow a sip of sparkling water, rubbing my hand over my half-basketball where my baby kicks and jabs, the same place where my abs used to lay tight and hard under my shirt. I hope they come back. I’ll make them come back. I can make them come back. Can’t I?
I’ve heard the same mournful proclamation dozens of times, from friends, coworkers, and women at the gym: “My body’s just not the same after having babies.” It’s followed with a knowing eye roll, a deflated exhale and, maybe, a guiltless hand dip back into the caramel popcorn bag.
Six years ago, after the birth of my son, I said the same thing. I regarded my flappy skin, my post-partum pancake bum and the puffy purple bags underneath my eyes and accepted my entry into frumpy Motherhood as an inevitable rite of passage. I ate rice pudding for lunch and coffee and bagel shrapnels for dinner and sighed at my cellulite as the fault of childbirth, of the stretching of my years on earth from the 20s to the 30s.
My jeans did fit me differently after I had my son. There was a muffin top that overflowed on top of my pants. And the chicken flab that dangled on my arms could be deftly blamed on Motherhood and forgotten with long-sleeved sweaters.
It wasn’t until years later, when I discovered Crossfit and the feasibility of clean eating, that I realized that I could have a better body in my 30s, as a Mom than I ever had in my pre-baby 20s. It wasn’t until I saw pictures of Crossfitting women in their 40s and 50s with sculpted arms, rippled abs and shapely legs of doom that I understood that body shape is almost always, ultimately, a choice. It wasn’t until I met Angie Pye, Victoria Crossfitter and Mama of two that I really understood: our limitations are all about what we expect, and what we accept.
Our potential is something different entirely: a soaring, limitless capacity whose end we won’t begin to understand until we start chasing it diligently, breathlessly, with complete disregard for life’s obstructions.
We’re not doomed to frumphood because we’ve carried a baby in our bellies. We’re not relegated to flabbiness and leftover goldfish crackers just because we’re Mamas. Our best years certainly have not passed us by. With a little work, we can be hotter and fitter and more confident than we could have ever dreamed back when we were 22.
I obtained the best body I’d ever had sometime around my 33rd year of life. Eliminating processed foods from my diet and employing a varied exercise routine every day brought about astonishing changes in my figure. The cellulite whooshed away and muscles appeared: suddenly I felt strong, empowered and completely bereft of the notion that the residue of childbirth had any control of my body. I understood for the first time that being healthy, fit and strong enabled me to be a better mom: a happier, more positive woman with confidence and excitement to reach new goals and heights.
- I will bounce back from the birth of my second baby boy and, by four months postpartum, I will have a four pack. (I realize that a goal of a four pack is entirely un-noble and frivolous but it doesn’t mean I don’t want it)
- I will adhere to my resolution to eat whole, unprocessed, locally raised and pure foods without additives – even postpartum when I am exhausted and really deserve and need, and can repeatedly justify, rapid inhalation of several sour cream Timbits.
- I’ll keep up this Crossfitting thing up until the day I give birth if I can, in order to keep up my strength and ensure a smooth transition back into power and physical improvement and mental strength.
- I will refrain from getting discouraged by my own sheer girth. The current magnitude of my rear end has something to do with needed fat reservoirs for the baby, and nothing to do with my entitlement to several ice cream sandwiches.
I’m excited to define my post-baby potential for the second time around. I have the feeling it’s going to be even greater than the first time around and more fulfilling than it ever was before I was a Mama.