I don't know if it was the energy from the nearly 20 Zumbettes (we were elbow to elbow) who were dancing with me or what, but I allowed myself to just dance. I found myself in Miss Patsy's dance studio in GA clogging away to "Achy Breaky Heart" as a 6 year old. I found myself dancing at my wedding with my husband at 25 years old. I found myself struggling to keep up with Ms. Jacque in my 1st Zumba class at 27 years old. I found myself nervously teaching my first Zumba class as a licensed Zumba instructor the day before my 29th birthday. I went on a journey this morning and I couldn't have asked for a better way to start my day. Dance has renewed me, reminded me that I am strong and that I have a beautiful purpose in the world."
Above is the Facebook status I posted and shared a little while ago. I have been wanting to write & share my fitness journey for some time now and I thought that today was a good day to do so.
My journey officially started after the birth of my son. But before I get into that, let me share some things with you first. Growing up I was always slim. When I was 10 years old, I started to loose my baby fat and I began to "develop." But I was such a daddy's girl and tomboy. I wanted to play basketball like my dad, so he taught me. My wardrobe was very mixed and I did everything I could to hide my developing chest. Back then, I hated being a girl. Puberty was difficult for me for several reasons and I just wanted to keep my head down and do my school work. At 15 or 16 years old, I finally broke out of my shell and embraced my femininity. I think it had a lot to do with marching band and having the confidence to just be me. I had some great friends in the band and marching band was an activity that I absolutely loved. Needless to say, it was also how I kept my shape. Fast forward to college. My weight fluctuated a lot due to late night studying, stress and not having my mom and dad's home cooking to eat. I was really thin, but I wasn't healthy at all.
When I got pregnant with my son in 2010, I was the thinnest I had ever been in my life. I was barely 5'5 and I weighed 119 pounds. When I look at old pictures all I can think is how big my head looks. And even though life was nowhere near perfect when I found out about my prince, I was excited. I was excited to see my belly grow. I was excited to feel his kicks. I was excited to EAT!! I had already decided when I turned 25 that I wanted to try to gain some weight and pregnancy gave me the perfect reason to do so.
I had no idea how much pregnancy would change my body. At just 14 weeks along, I went the emergency room because I was in excruciating pain. Ligament pain. It was worse than childbirth (to me anyway). Overall, I had an easy pregnancy and I enjoyed every moment up until I was 34 weeks. At that point I was miserable. I couldn't sleep more than a couple of hours at a time. Eating was no longer enjoyable because I felt like I had no more room to fit anything in my stomach. After three bites, I was "full" but not really. I cried every morning when I woke up because I was still pregnant. But when the morning of March 25th came (4 days before my due date) and my water broke, I knew those would be my last moments being pregnant.
Being a new mother was hard. Actually, it was more than hard. It was exhausting and brought out a level of anxiety I was unaware I had. I still couldn't sleep. And I wasn't really focused on eating because I was so focused on my son. I realize now that that affected my milk supply as well as my physical and emotional state in those first few months postpartum. Oh the things I know now.
When my son was 8 months old, I decided to return to work as a nanny. I also decided that I was ready to start getting back into shape. I had spent months avoiding mirrors and photos because I was not used to seeing myself so heavy without a reason (pregnancy). I was devastated to learn that breastfeeding was not the sole solution to dropping my baby weight. So I started walking. And then jogging. And eventually I was running and pushing two toddlers in a double jogging stroller at least 3 days a week. I felt amazing. Until I didn't.
Less than a year after giving birth to my baby boy, I was in pain. I had constant pain when I sat down and I also had cramps and pain when I ran. I had been in pain for some time, but I was ignoring it. I was "too busy" to go to the doctor. But after talking with my nanny mom one day, she encouraged me to go to the doctor. I made an appointment and went to see my OB/GYN. She took some blood and ran some tests. When she called a couple of days later, she was giving me the number to a specialist. When I went to see the specialist, I was not prepared for what she was going to tell me. I was diagnosed with coccydynia from childbirth for starters. That was why I was in so much pain whenever I sat down. She then informed me that my fibroids kept growing after having Preston and I needed surgery. I thought I was going to see her, get a prescription and possibly a PT referral. I was going to have to make two pre-op appointments with her and many follow-up appointments after my surgery as well. I was about to get to know Dr. Suzanne Kaminski very well.
My fibroids were nothing new. I first learned of them when I was a freshman in college. Back then they were small and non threatening. But because of surge of pregnancy and new mom hormones racing through my body, they were much bigger and starting to push against my other organs. I saw Dr. Kaminski for the first time in July 2011. My myomectomy wouldn't be until September 17 due to scheduling. For eight weeks I was frantic about going under the knife. My husband had been married for less than two years and my baby boy was just 15 months old. All I could think about is what would happen to them if something happened to me on the operating table.
Surgery was a success (the day itself was extremely long), but recovery was nothing short of awful. I couldn't do anything by myself. My husband was waiting on me hand and foot for nearly 2 weeks, but besides the pain, the worst part of my recovery was not being able to hold my son. Recovering from my myomectomy was three times worst than recovering from a vaginal birth. I kept thinking that the pain had to be comparable to having a cesarean section. And to be honest, that is what Dr. Kaminski told me at my first pre-op appointment with her. The irony is that because of how far they had to cut into my uterus, I will have to have future cesarean sections if I have any more children. I am still trying to wrap my mind around that.
After several post-op appointments, I was cleared to start exercising again in February 2012. I had a lot of work to do due to the nearly 8 month hiatus I had to take because of my fibroids and surgery recovery. I had gained some of the pregnancy weight that I had initially lost and I was so upset about having to start over. I really tried to get motivated, but I was stuck. A college classmate of mine kept asking me to come with her to a Zumba class and one day I did. That was the day my life changed for the better. Saying yes that day is why I am who I am today.
I have now been a licensed Zumba instructor for 1 1/2 years and I still love it like my first class. That one class was the jump start I needed to be the best me I knew I could be. I gained 62 pounds during my pregnancy. Every time I tell someone they never believe me. I have worked so hard to train and sculpt my body over the last 3 years. I have run hundreds of miles, drank gallons of water and danced countless hours of Zumba and I'm going. At 30 years old, not only am I in control of my health and fitness, but I am helping others do the same. For me, fitness is mentally and spiritually fulfilling. I push myself to do more and be greater with each workout. Last year I started taking hot yoga classes and I fell in love. I found a calming cross-training activity that challenges me just as much as my other activities. I feel like it was the missing piece to my rigorous workout regimen and it has balanced out workout schedule for sure.
A while back, I started calling myself The Fitness Doula. When trying to figure out what I wanted my doula business to offer mothers, I thought heavily about what I needed after becoming a mother myself. I wanted my brand to stand out, but I also wanted it to be something that moms could easily relate to. Combining my doula work with my fitness background was a no-brainier. My brand is something that I am very proud of and I am excited to share all of my knowledge with my clients.
I want all new mothers to know the importance of self-care and being healthy after having a baby. I want my clients to know that being a mom means putting yourself first sometimes for the good of the entire family. When a baby is born, so is a mother. And whether she is a brand new mom or a veteran, a woman changes after giving birth. She herself is reborn into something and someone extraordinary. She will become a new being that loves and gives more. She will overflow with knowledge, kindness, love and selflessness. She will need to channel her strength on the hard days. Best of Both Worlds Doula Services provides new moms with postpartum care as well as a plan to nurture and nourish the new woman they will become. I am here to help those moms become stronger and healthier one day at a time.