Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Postpartum PT Anxiety

How appropriate that this article should hit the Air Force Times and my Facebook feed, a mere seventeen days before my own postpartum PT test!

In a nutshell, SSgt Alison Mona had failed two PT tests postpartum and worried that she would potentially be discharged from the Air Force, chose to have her roommate stab her in the stomach so she could go to the hospital for "attack wounds" instead of take her test.  Whoa.

Folks, I'm as nervous as the next new mom, but having DH stab me so I can get on a new profile and avoid testing is far from my fitness plan!  This article has opened up some good discussions about postpartum PT, both critical and supportive.  There are some that assert that there should be no modifications to the PT standards for postpartum women, and that they should still be expected to test six months after birthing, as they knew the expectations of being fit in the military.  Fair enough.  I'm pretty sure I felt this way too, as a judgmental non-mom.  But that's not my frame of reference anymore.

As a new mom, it makes sense to me now.  As a mother who chooses to breastfeed (for at least a year), it is abundantly clear to me.  Prior to getting pregnant, I was in excellent physical shape.  I had been eating clean, working out, and running six days a week.  I poured my efforts into preparing for that first PT test and came out with a score of 96.5.  Even during my pregnancy, I was going to the gym at least once a week and running into my 28th week of gestation.  Motherhood throws a monkey wrench into those plans though.  My lifestyle is dramatically different, now that it's about more than just me.  To maintain a sufficient supply of milk, you have to increase your caloric intake, yet in order to lose weight you need to decrease those calories.  Breastfeeding does burn calories in the process, but nothing dramatic in my case.  My child comes first, period.  I want her to be healthy and receive the best nutrition possible, and I have decided to do that through breastfeeding for an extended period of time.

I didn't feel like I even had time to work out until DD was maybe four months old, and even then, my options are limited when I need to be in close proximity to feed her.  Could I have someone give her a bottle while I work out?  Sure, but I'd also have to pump, so it doesn't make a lot of sense to be away from her for too long.  I haven't been back to the gym since I've given birth.  Instead, I try to sneak in a couple pushups and sit-ups when I get the chance, or go for a mile and a half jaunt around the neighborhood while my FIL watches her.  It's not a lot, but it's the best I can do right now.  Anyone with a young child can tell you that you're not always able to plunk them down and keep them occupied long enough to do a workout video, nor can you ignore all of those other chores that need to get done during nap time.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and make some assumptions based on limited knowledge and experience, so go easy on me.  As a Reservist, I'm held to the same PT standards and timeframe as an Active Duty mom.  The catch is that the responsibility of fitness falls solely on me.  My civilian job doesn't value fitness and build it into my day.  If I were AD, there might be opportunities for me to participate in daily PT as part of my job, but I'm not.  I have to put in my full day of work to come home, make dinner, bathe and put my child to bed, and then hope to have some time to myself (when I'm not doing chores).

Fortunately, I'm in fairly decent shape, and while I'm a far cry from the fit, pre-baby Airman I once was, I might be able to pull this off.  I want to, I have to, I need to.  I need to remain eligible for my OTS package.  That's my big motivator these days.  At this point, I wouldn't be disappointed to get less than a 90 and have to PT again in six months.  That's doable.  But I just need to pass.  I'm not willing to go to drastic lengths to avoid this test, but I'm nervous.  As a postpartum mom, I can feel the desperation in the story of SSgt Mona.  I assume she's a single mother, willing to do anything to protect her living and provide for her children.  I can respect that and I can relate to that.  Hopefully this story, as sensational as it is, opens up a discussion as to whether women should be expected to uphold the same physical standards after having a baby.  Is "Nine Months On, Six Months Off" realistic?  Food for thought!

4 comments:

Mrs. F said...

Great post! I definitely struggled getting back into shape (and I worked out during my whole pregnancy too!) after having Jack. I had no husband to help, no childcare and no real time to do much of anything! And I was exclusively breastfeeding and dealing with incontinence (good times). I kept hearing stories about soldiers bouncing right back but they were Active Duty and/or had family and friends to help (and were probably 10 years younger than me). 6 months is definitely extra hard in the Reserves/Guard. I don't think the rules should change though and that's why I chose to get out, I just can't keep up and be the soldier I want to be anymore. I'm happy to be the best mom to my boys though!
Good luck, I know you can do it!!!

Erin said...

@Mrs. F - Thanks hon! You were in amazing shape and always looked great. I totally know the no time, no help, etc., routine. I am thankful I had my FIL here to help out. EBFing complicates things, but I know you and I do it because it's the best. It would be a lot easier to take off if we were FFing. If nothing else, at least you got to do it for a short while, and you've definitely proved that you're capable! Thanks for the well wishes!

ostranderblog said...

Hi there AF :) Its me, Army

Oh wow I feel you on this, the struggle with maintaining the "military" side of your life along with the requirements the AF puts on you. I think you have the right mind state though, and while it blows to have to do the test in 6 months, well ;) It gives you something to Aim High for again in 6 months when life starts to get a little more routine.

You can get a running stroller, join a mommy and me exercise group. I did it alone too, granted I didn't BF. And that seems to add a wrench in the plans.

You'll do it, you'll figure it out, my hopes are high for you ;)

Hugs!

Erin said...

@ostranderblog - Hello Army friend! ;) I own a great jogging stroller, fortunately, but I'm holding off in the meantime until she reaches 8 months, like the manufacturer suggested. It'll be great resistance training! I'd love to join a mommy and me group, they're just pricey around here and meet during my work schedule. :/ Once she gets older, game on for the hills in my local neighborhood though!