The Workout of Becoming a Parent

A New Mom Reflects on the Surprising Physical Challenges of Having a Baby

<b>FAMILY FITNESS: </b>Mom and baby both dig the view when <i>Indy</i> editor Amy Smith takes Marie along for a hike.
Mike Smith

Expecting? Buy a Bed Buddy. It’s one of those long, narrow sacks filled with rice that you heat up in the microwave and apply to sore muscles and minor injuries for pain relief. I already had one from my running days, but it sure comes in handy now that my life is one big weight-training session!

For some reason, in all the excitement of pregnancy, chatting with family and friends who love to share the touching, scary, gross, painful, and surprising realities of having a baby, no one ever mentions how very physically demanding it is — after the baby comes. Magazines and websites like Parents and love to perpetuate the, in my opinion, myth that it will be difficult to return to your prepregnancy weight, to feel in shape again and to achieve that (to me, icky) cultural obsession of fitting back into your skinny jeans. I say you’d have to really try to keep the weight on! From the minute your baby comes, you will find yourself constantly carrying, cuddling, rocking, dancing, feeding, and entertaining your little one in one never-ending, muscle-building workout routine.

First, it’s little things like maintaining a comfortable breast-feeding hold that challenge your arms and back. And it’s things like standing up and being awake so much that your core can’t wait for the sweet relief of just lying flat for one moment. Next, it’s dancing, rocking, swaying — while singing — to comfort your little bundle to the point of sleep. With very little muscle tone, the baby relies on you for stability and security at every second. Even when you skip forward to a more stable age, babies still love to be held as they surpass 20 pounds.

Try leaning down to pick up a toy (or phone or keys or …) while holding a squirming bowling ball, or holding an 18-pounder in one arm and grocery bag in the other, with a fully stocked diaper bag on your back — be sure to have a nice full, heavy water bottle, too. Try leaning over to change a diaper while a little person kicks her legs excitedly and attempts to roll away with a giggle, some 20 times a day.

As I sit here applying heat to my knee — I carried my 11-month-old for an hour-long hike yesterday in a front-pack — I’m grateful for the physical challenge that my babe has provided me, along with all the other great rewards, of course. And I’m also thankful for my Bed Buddy.


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