Heart to Heart: A Fit Pregnancy & The Road to Recovery

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My good friend Steph, also a blogger @ Budget Friendly Fashionista, just gave birth to the most adorable baby boy a week ago. Yes, you heard that right… a week ago. And that (on the right) is her post baby body. You go, girl!

Like me, Steph was blessed with an overall comfortable pregnancy and complication-free birth, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to ask her some questions about pregnancy, labor, and beyond. I’m always looking for ways to inspire future Mamas to have faith in their bodies and realize how incredible they truly are… and Steph is a perfect example of that.

In moments of doubt, just remember that we were made for this, and that regardless of the media hype and birth fears we may have going into labor, we need to trust our bodies first and foremost. An epidural is great if you physically need it, but not so great if you get it before even realizing your body’s power and strength. You can handle much more than you think you can… Confidence is key!

Thank you Steph for sharing your birth, labor, and postpartum journey with me, and I hope that many are inspired by your honesty and strength through it all. You did a fantastic job! As your husband would say, I’m thrilled to have been your “personal doula” through your highs and lows 😉


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I pretty much kept the same exercise routine with a few minor adjustments: 3 days at the gym including 25-30 mins of cardio & 15-20 mins of weights and leg exercises. I stopped doing ab exercises as soon as I found out I was pregnant. I also took a prenatal yoga class one day a week. As I got further along in my pregnancy, I had to decrease weights and slow down the speed on the treadmill.


The biggest challenge was listening to my body and knowing when it was time to slow down. Exercising is how I cope with stress and I love having my routine, so modifying it or missing a gym day was a big challenge for me. Sometimes, I would even feel guilty. Every day, though, my husband and I went on a walk, so that helped to take a little of that guilt away.


You always hear these stories about women being in labor for 20+ hours and ending with a c-section. I was so nervous that it would end up happening to me, but thankfully it didn’t. I must’ve told my doctor hundreds of times that I did not want a c-section, and wanted to do everything possible to avoid it.


Everyone tries to explain to you what labor will be like, but there are honestly no words to describe it until you experience it. It’s unlike any pain you have ever felt before, but it’s completely manageable. Was it painful, yes, but would I do it again? Absolutely!

I was so set on getting an early epidural. When I started having bad contractions, my nurse told me i was only 1.5 cm dilated and she wanted me to wait until at least 3-4cm to get the epidural. My room had a shower so I went in for about 2.5 hours, letting the water run on my back (did I mention I had back labor the entire time?) It was the only way I was getting any relief.
 I felt my contractions getting closer and closer, so my nurse checked me and I was 7cm dilated. I was so excited and proud that I had made it that far without an epidural. They ended up giving me one at that point but it never took full effect and an hour later, when it was time to push, they completely shut it off. I like to think I went through labor 3/4 naturally. Maybe next time I’ll go completely natural.


I thought since I was active during my entire pregnancy that I would feel great right away. Turns out that’s not the case. While recovery hasn’t been horrible, I definitely thought it would be easier. Your body literally feels like it went through battle. You’re sore and achy in places you didn’t even know were possible. You want your body to recover and heal, but with minimal sleep it’s difficult to do. While I’m feeling better, I still don’t feel like “myself” yet.


Exercise and eating a balanced diet has definitely helped my body bounce back. I knew it would play a role, but I never expected these results. The human body is truly amazing, the things it can do on its own, naturally. This past week, I’ve done nothing, no walks, no exercise, no diet (I’m actually more hungry now then when I was pregnant since I’m nursing), I’ve devoted all my time to snuggling my new baby.


Before starting any exercise while pregnant, check with your doctor! But once you’re cleared, walking on an incline for 25-30 mins is a great way to start exercising. You can also add light weights for some simple arm exercises (I like to choose 3 exercises for 15 sets x3). Squats and lunges are also great to incorporate. I highly recommend prenatal yoga to anyone who is pregnant. It will help strengthen your body and get you mentally ready for childbirth. 


I honestly have no regrets about my pregnancy and labor. I enjoyed every minute of my pregnancy, it’s only been a week and I already miss it (crazy, I know.) I think I did everything to stay as healthy as possible, not only for myself but for my baby as well. Next time, I hope I will go into labor naturally (I had to get induced with Cervadil, no Pitocin needed), and while I was upset about that in the beginning, I knew it was best for me and my baby. I let him cook as long as my doctor allowed and tried every old wives’ tale to get him here, but in the end he needed a little extra push.


My advice for a mom about to give birth is make sure to stay calm and focused. Keep your eye on the prize. While labor/delivery is by far the hardest thing you will ever do, it’s important to be mentally prepared. Before giving birth, I looked up positive birth affirmations and would repeat them to myself during a contraction. I also did a 10 minute meditation before pushing to relax my body and get myself prepared for delivery.


while I wish this newborn stage would last forever, there’s so much to look forward to. I’m so excited to watch my baby grow, talk, walk, etc. I’m so looking forward to our many firsts as a family, holidays, vacations, and just doing activities all together as a family. I can’t wait to teach my son how to live a healthy lifestyle and the importance of taking care of your body. Of course I can’t wait to add to our new family also (in a year or so). I loved being pregnant and I love my new role as a mom. It’s the best thing in the world and there aren’t enough words to describe it!


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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

2 thoughts on “Heart to Heart: A Fit Pregnancy & The Road to Recovery

  1. Steph looks amazing and her baby is beautiful! I personally am a happy mother of the c-section club – mine were all done out of necessity, but honestly I am not one bit sorry to have missed out on the vaginal delivery. But I have so much respect for women who know that a vaginal delivery is what they want and make a plan are able to stick with it. I am so impressed with that level of commitment and determination. Best of luck to baby and family!

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