Women in BJJ may also be mothers in BJJ. While parenthood has implications for both mothers and fathers in BJJ, the processes of pregnancy, birth and recovery in the first year have particular implications for mothers. You can see the different ways motherhood can impact a woman’s training by checking out the Facebook Group, BJJ Mums, where mothers in BJJ share stories, challenges and insights into training pre- and post-natal. It is clear from threads here and lived experience among other new moms that – unsurprisingly – recovery after birth varies from one individual to the next. Some women seem to drop the weight immediately, some hold on to it for dear life, some integrate core-boosting exercise into their routines, such as yoga and Pilates, while others hit the weights, power walk with their prams, some are straight back to training with the baby sleeping on the sidelines, some are slower to get back on the mats. So, my journey is just that, my own, and it may or may not reflect the experiences of others, but I do hope that chronicaling some aspects of my experience will be helpful to other athletic women contemplating their first pregnancy, or wondering how to get back to feeling good.
Hmm, well after 12 months I’m not there – back to feeling good that is – we’ve had a very exciting year and the little guy is a pleasure to have around, to adapt to, and to nurture. However, as any parent can tell you, he is the focus, and with primary responsibility for childcare there’s limited bandwidth left for running our business, much less for self care. That said, as little man grows there’s more and more opportunity to make space for what I need to do beyond mommy-duties.
There’s been a lot of changes in my life, including when and where I train. When possible, I hit my long-time instructor, Dave Birkett’s, Friday class which is a short commute to Ilford. My attendance is sporadic as it requires my hubby’s work from home day to land on a Friday, which isn’t always possible. Other than Fridays, there’s no chance, at the moment, for me to make the commute to Kent in time for classes with the club I grew up with, Dartford BJJ. This is a serious bummer, as I miss training with those guys and working with Dave. One must solutionise, however, and happily my training partner, Jon Hegan, is a Royce Gracie BJJ affiliate and runs a Wednesday class in easier reach, in Upminster, which starts at a time more practical for me in terms of handing off childcare to my hubs. I never imagined I would train with anyone but Dave and the guys, but I’m really grateful to Jon and his crew for taking me in on a part-time basis and it is brilliant training with them. From the time little dude was 9 months old, I’ve been reintegrating (sort of) regular weekly training back into my routine, hitting Wednesdays and or Fridays whenever practical.
Integrating activity into my lifestyle – beyond daily walks with the buggy – has gotten a lot easier more recently for three reasons: 1) little person sleeps pretty reliably; 2) little boy weaned himself at 11.5 months; 3) I’m investing in personal training. Though little mister had only been enjoying a light morning feed since about 10.5 months, having dropped all others of his own volition, it wasn’t until the complete end of breastfeeding that I realised how fatiguing the creation of breast milk is, even just a wee bit! Though my energy levels are still lower than I’d like, within the context of reasonable sleep, I felt immediately that there was more in the tank once we were done with that chapter.
Personal training was really important to my ante-natal fitness and it is proving to be a big help, post-partum. With my schedule and my poor energy levels and just feeling so heavy and weak – working out is so much more fun when you’re fit! – I’ve found that having an appointment with a trainer helps me get to the gym and get the most out of it. Twice weekly I get together with my trainer and we work the kettlebells and a selection of core exercises. She’s reasonably merciless, which is great, and I’m definitely getting stronger and our work together is helping to improve my movement when I’m able to get to BJJ.
Finally, it turns out I’m not one of those ladies that seems to magically shrink back down to size during breastfeeding. The baby weight hasn’t really gone anywhere, in spite of gym work, watching my diet, and daily activity. I’d hoped to be much closer to pre-baby fitness by this stage and am at the start of a 12 week sprint of exercise and mega clean eating, undertaken in concert with my husband. Hoping that as the hormones have worked their way out of my system and my cycle is back online, with a little more sleep, and a little more conviction that I can be more tolerably fit this calendar year, I’ll have made some good progress on the fat stores by the end of this 12 week phase and then a new set of goals will be appropriate.
So, what’s the point? What have I learned about BJJ and motherhood since the little lord’s arrival. Um, that it is tremendously difficult to make time for anything aside from mothering when operating outside of a substantial support system. That it is more than a little disheartening to have skills hard won since 2004 appear to evaporate in a relative instant. That there is only one way to regain those skills. That patience is a virtue. That 2 hours of BJJ a week is better than zero. And that I’d pay handsomely for a BJJ club with morning classes and a creche 😉