Why is there such pressure to snap back after baby? One new mom explains why she’s delaying her return to routine workouts.

image of phone on yoga matShare on Pinterest
Oleksii Syrotkin/Stocksy United

The last time I got on my yoga mat and worked out was early in October of 2020. Pre-vaccine, corona classic 2020. I was 4 weeks pregnant and didn’t know it. Well, I kind of knew it but had yet to confirm with a pregnancy test.

It was my intention to work out throughout my pregnancy, as I had 6 years prior when I was pregnant the first time, with my son. I wanted to. I planned to. But you know what they say about plans and God, right? Wanna make God laugh, make plans.

The almost immediate pain in my pelvis said, “Nah!” to my penchant for Baptiste power yoga. So, I went 40 weeks without a Down Dog, Tree, Eagle, or Half Pigeon.

I half-heartedly did Child’s Pose when my lower back pain became a bit unbearable, but the closest I got to my former three-times-a-week practice was Savasana at the end of the day when I got into bed and went to sleep.

At my 6-week checkup after delivering my daughter, I asked my doctor about working out with the intention to “get my body back.”

My doctor said, “You can, but it’s going to hurt.”

I started by trying my ab roller. One roll in, it was evident I had lost all my core strength. Since then I’ve worked my way up to 10. Not on a consistent basis and not without a stop at rep 5 and/or 7, but I’m getting there, right?

Want more information about returning to fitness post-baby?

The postpartum body is amazing and often needs special consideration when returning to exercise after having a baby. No matter whether you had a vaginal or cesarean birth, you may want to consider working with a pelvic floor physical therapist before beginning an exercise routine.

A pelvic floor PT will be able to assess your pelvic floor functioning, check for diastasis recti, address any pain or healing still taking place, and help you navigate a path forward for your postpartum exercise routine.

This pressure to get my body back is partly internal. I know what I used to look like. Therefore, my own outsized expectations jeer at me about how I’m supposed to look now that I’m no longer pregnant — how my clothes are supposed to fit and the size I’m supposed to be.

It is also external. Every now and again my mother will remark, “You need to do some situps.” The quick quip stings and adds to the pressure and overwhelm I already feel as a parent.

And then there is society, always pushing us to get beach-ready. I will never forget the image R&B star Teyana Taylor posted after having her first daughter, showing her 6-day postpartum snapback with her abs intact. I for damn sure don’t look like that — let alone like my old self.

But why the pressure to snap back? It is the impossibility of the standard set on women — and that women set on themselves — to look a certain way because men and society writ large find that aesthetic desirable.

Beauty companies, wellness brands, and specialty fields in medicine have made their fortunes by preying on the worst of women’s insecurities at some of the most vulnerable times in their lives.

The fourth trimester is more like a year than 3 months. At a time when mothers are just focused on keeping a new baby alive — be it baby number one, two, three, or more — shouldn’t our society be more focused on giving grace and space for women and their babies to not only survive but thrive?

I have not and do not always give myself this grace. Because I’m a work-from-home mother of two, the hours of the day I can dedicate to working out are limited.

One time, I actually set my alarm for 5 a.m. I had excitedly subscribed to a new yoga podcast and figured I would wake up 90 minutes before the kids to have time to work out, pray, journal, and, all around, get myself back in alignment.

The alarm went off. I got out of bed and put on my workout clothes only to hear the distinct sounds of a stirring baby in the bassinet beside my bed. It was as if she knew I was no longer next to her. As if she detected that I’d planned to do something for myself without her.

At the insistence of her cries, I got back in bed, clad in my workout clothes, to nurse and lie hostage at the behest of my tiny dictator. I wore those workout clothes for the full day, not even bothering to so much as touch my toes.

I felt guilty, frustrated, disgusted, and even a bit ashamed. Though I’ve never said it out loud nor allowed my internal thoughts to give voice to the feelings, they are there — and loud: I’ve let myself go.

This thought and these feelings are magnified when I see all of myself for too long. They inspire me to work out when I catch a sideways glance at my soft belly or even when I write about fitness. But I’m not inspired enough to want to incorporate my daughter into my workout.

It’s great that some moms have the gusto to do baby-ups, baby curls, and a full-body workout in their living room with their nursers, crawlers, or toddlers hanging from their limbs — but I want no part of that life. It’s bad enough that my daughter already treats me like her own personal jungle gym.

Working out, and doing yoga, is a sacred time for me. It’s time for me to both clear my head and move my body. To do something that is healthy, grounding, and healing. Call it selfish, call it lazy, but to include my baby in this practice makes it less self-care and more chore.

As it stands now, my yoga mat, towel, blocks, ball, and strap are all stored in a bag on a shelf in the corner of my closet. I have decided that once my baby girl is enrolled in day care, I will then, again, try to attend to my health and my body.

For now, it will be about accepting a soft, pudgy mom-bod and a bigger booty, and when I take my youngins to the beach, the beach will be satisfied with whatever body I give it.

DO NOT EDIT THIS BLOCK DIRECTLY! It is a very tricky block, and is VERY easy to break. If you have never seen the instructions, before editing you MUST WATCH THIS 90-second VIDEO.

Replace the placeholder image on the left with a 200×200 pixel photo of the author.