"Postpartum is Forever" - with fitness coach, Suzanne Ko

I recently tapped Suzanne Ko (@skofit) - certified pregnancy & postpartum fitness coach - to help me navigate through my postpartum journey (currently 6 months PP). I hope byway of sharing my findings, you too will be less hard on your postpartum self.

Suzanne is a former architect and interior designer turned fitness guru who has worked with clients (for over 15 years) both in-person and remote in the Chicagoland area. After the birth of her first daughter in '16 she found out she suffered a traumatic birth due to a pelvic organ prolapse. She sought out further education to help herself heal, while committing to help other mom's recover and get strong for motherhood. Suzanne has two beautiful daughters, GabyMac (4 y/o) and IzzyMae (15 months).

My postpartum demons.

Whether your a new mom or seasoned mom, each journey is different for everyone. Personally, my road to recovery with the second has been a lot more difficult and exasperated. Sick every week from my toddler's seasonal colds, exhausted from sleep training my colic infant, utilize my late evenings to operate my online business, cooking healthy meals, cleaning, cooking.... oh wait - did I get on the treadmill yet today? I'm constantly fighting myself for time to "work-out" yet, aren't I doing that already with the +12 hours on my feet and +20 flights of stairs each day (according to my iWatch)? 

I'm never doing a good enough job at returning myself back to "normal" in time for that spring break trip, wedding, or dinner party.... because I know it will be a thought in everyone's mind - "how does she look?"  I squeezed in 2 private tennis lessons in an effort to rejoin my team, only to then find myself run down, depleted, sick and at the hospital for a IV iron infusion - no joke!

Maybe it's easier for others. They could live locally with help, or have easy babies.  This too floods my mind with inflections and questions...  These are the little demon voices in my head.

Insert- Suzanne Ko.

Suzanne shared with me her top 5 tips but what also stuck was her passing along this quote -

"Pregnancy is temporary, but postpartum is forever"

 Boy ain't that the truth. It's so important that we listen to our body and rebuild in the right way to be able to be our best self in motherhood, our workplace, and our home life.  

1. Give Yourself Some Grace:  if you identified with my postpartum struggles/pressure, we should probably get this tattooed somewhere (lol!). This tip really resonates with me. Per Suzanne - it's going to take some time to get adjusted to your postpartum body. Give yourself some grace. I don't think of it as bouncing back, but rather moving forward with my new body - a body that did an amazing thing.  While your body took nine months to grow a baby, it will take at least a year to eighteen months for your hormones to start regulating again.  If you are breastfeeding, this timeline will be longer. Sleep while you can.  If you are tired, it is OK to choose sleep over exercise. Exercise will only create more stress on your body. Your timeline is going to be different from another mom's timeline. It is normal to look like you are still pregnant. Instead of trying to shrink our body, let us celebrate our body by getting stronger - both physically and mentally.

2. Rest and Recover: In those first few weeks postpartum, you are getting used to the changes your body went through after delivering a baby. Rest as much as possible and give yourself time. You may anxious to start moving. I get it mama! However, tissues are still healing and your uterus is shrinking back to normal size. If you had a c-section, that is a major surgery that requires a longer recovery and rehab than a vaginal delivery.

  • 3. Connect to Your Pelvic Floor: Your pelvic floor stretched and sustained stress from carrying a baby for nine months.The pelvic floor is a muscle that needs to rehab. You can start with connecting your breath with your pelvic floor. Pregnancy changed your core, pelvic floor, and your breathing patterns. Organs shifted while the baby was making room to grow. Baby also was all up in your ribcage and lungs. Many moms ask me what they can do for exercise before their postpartum checkup. The first thing I suggest is to start with breathing. It sounds simple and boring, but you will be surprised at how hard it is. Lie on your back with your knees bent and play around with your breath. See where your body is holding tension. As you inhale, do you feel your pelvic floor relax? As you exhale, do you feel your core engage and your pelvic floor lift up and in? Nourish and hydrate yourself, especially if you are breastfeeding. I recommend the book The First Forty Days for great postpartum healing foods.
  • 4. See a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist: While your OB or midwife my clear you for exercise at six weeks, your body only has begun the healing process. I have my moms see a pelvic floor physical therapist after their postpartum checkup, as their OB or midwife do not know what type of exercise they are clearing them for. I will work with the physical therapist (with my client's consent) to help create a postpartum exercise program tailored to my client. I recommend getting assessed by a pelvic floor physical therapist, even if you had an easy delivery or a c-section. Even if you are not experiencing any symptoms, it's a good check to help your recovery. I even recommend getting assessed once a year, just as you would see your doctor or dentist.
  • 5. Work with a Postnatal Fitness Specialist: Working with a fitness professional that is qualified to work with postpartum clients is so important. They should be asking you questions about your pregnancy, delivery, and birth. If you sustained any birth injuries (such as tearing or pelvic organ prolapse) or have diastasis recti (ab separation), this will affect your exercise programming. If you are experiencing any leaking, they should be able to help you with strategies or know who to refer out to. Know that leaking should not be your new normal!
    • A special thank you to this empowering mama of two for sharing her knowledge with our Tiff.Marie Maternity mama tribe! To connect with Suzanne Ko:
      • Email: Suzanne@skofit.com
      • Instagram: @skofit
      • Facebook/Twitter: @SKoFit
    • Cover photo credit: Good Morning America https://www.goodmorningamerica.com/family/story/moms-candid-post-painful-postpartum-real-65639800