One of our goals with SHELLE is to celebrate amazing women and mothers who inspire us to embody love and strength in our motherhood.
We are SO excited that our first profile is the incredible, author, CEO, core transformation coach, speaker and podcaster, Jen Oliver.
Jen helps "busy moms" feel good about their bodies and lives both inside and out. She recently did a TEDx talk, How to Love Yourself to the Core, and her book, The Love FitMama Way, is packed with all the things I wish I knew before I had my first child and many things I STILL didn't know when I had my second. If you're pregnant I would pick up a copy, and if you're not, it's a great gift for an expecting friend.
We had a chance to sit down with Jen and ask her all about her motherhood journey and the things that she wishes she knew before becoming a mom to her beautiful girls:
What was the most surprising part of becoming a mother?
That my kids did not do what I want just because I wanted them to! Haha, and the silver lining that, even among the chaos of motherhood, I can find peace and feel good. Additionally, that my body, my schedule, my priorities and my core values all shifted after babies in ways that required me to adapt. I was very much of the mind, “my life won’t change much when I have kids” which was obviously very ignorant! Now, I know, nothing is as I thought it “should” be, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong or bad. It’s new and my new normal of being a mom and all the chaos that comes with it is worth adapting to and embracing this reality – not for what I want or wish it would be, but for what it IS. This mindset leads me to the moments as a mom that give me the greatest joy and those moments are the windows in which grace can enter. That feeling of flow and presence as a mom just witnessing the beauty of her children enters. When I am trying to control naps, peeing, activities, bedtime, food time plus the emotions and moods of my kids – I get very unnerved and nothing flows.
How were your pregnancies?
I had incredible pregnancies with both my girls. I was nauseated much of the first trimesters, and after that felt fabulous. I was able to exercise throughout and I remember the months leading up to and on the day I gave birth to my daughter, I was up at 5 am to go to the gym -- It was just what I felt best doing. If I didn’t move my body for a few days, I noticed stiffness settle in. I was having uncomfortable symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome and stiff joints as I retained tons of water, so the movement really helped in every way.
What do you wish you knew about pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum recovery when you were on your motherhood journey?
I wish I knew the postpartum core and pelvic floor anatomy and physiology the way I do now. I wish I knew the risks of doing crunches and planks after baby before rehabbing. I wish someone warned me that it wasn’t a luxury but a necessity to take time to rest and heal postpartum, and one that I would be guaranteed to regret skipping over. I am glad I had a doula for both my births who patiently sat with me and explained things and supported me along the way. It’s a very emotional time and with hormones, pressures and fears, things can be done that take years to be undone. Educate thyself and ask all the questions, especially to those who have had amazing experiences!!
Did you find that pregnancy made you more connected to your body?
Absolutely! I am an avid meditator and meditation (as well as everything I did pregnant) had a heightened sense of purpose and I felt more important in this universe than ever before. I felt the love and respect for what my body was capable of in a way I had never experienced before. And knowing the baby was inside encouraged me to tune inward and listen within as I had never done before.
What activities did you participate in during pregnancy? What do you do now to stay active?
I lifted weights, I ran early on, I walked a lot, I cycled, swam and did yoga. I love all forms of exercise; I even played in a basketball league for the first trimester with my second. I basically did everything I normally did, just with a belly! I do wish I had something like the SHELLE bands back then. I remember wanting something that felt like a supportive hug around my baby and hips. I am so glad this is available now to recommend to those who love exercising and anyone moving while pregnant!
How do you recommend expecting mothers care for their core during pregnancy?
I recommend taking time to breathe deeply every day and understand what it feels like to connect to the muscles of the deep inner core – this awareness and connection during pregnancy makes the postpartum rehab period even more effective. The Pearl Pull-Ups™ can be done starting any time and it allows the safe contraction and relaxation of the deep inner core. As the baby grows there is less and less space and more and more downward pressure of the baby and organs on the pelvic floor. Training a full range of motion allows the pelvic floor to relax and contract in a way that will train a mom for the relaxation needed for birthing. I recommend avoiding all exercises that create intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) and put pressure down on the pelvic floor. Downward pressure can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction and prolapse, diastasis recti and back/SI joint pain. Crunches, planks, sit-ups, twisting and so much more can increase this pressure, so be mindful of this!
What tips do you have for those first few weeks after baby arrives?
One of the most important things I emphasize in my book, The Love FitMama Way: Transforming the Core of Motherhood is the concept of “Stay Flat for 5” which means don’t take the stairs or stand up for long periods of time until at least 5 days postpartum. That means no walking, cooking, dancing, carrying your toddler, mall visits etc. I encourage you to stay flat and avoid stairs for 10 days if you can muster the courage. It’s incredible the difference in bleeding time and recovery that women experience postpartum when they take these rehabilitative measures to heal.
The first 8 weeks are the most important as they are when the natural healing of the body is at it’s peak. It’s the key time to NOT create more IAP through lifting and exercise. Starting to walk for short distances after 2-3 weeks is good and by 8 weeks a few blocks and starting consistent core rehab and rehab pilates are recommended. I recommend that people stay away from running or other intense exercise like jumping and bootcamps for 6-12 months minimum postpartum and more if you plan to have more kids. Your pelvic floor and deep inner core are the foundation physically for your entire body. As someone who went too hard too fast after babies and didn’t take these precautions until it was too late, I struggled for years with a back injury that took almost 4 years to become pain free and be able to bend again. Trust me, slowing, resting and core rehab are key to a long life of physical activity.
Where can people find you online?
You can find me chatting about The Love FitMama Way and the “Innercise” to your exercise on my FitMama Podcast.
Our FitMama Facebook group is a great place to hang out and get support as well as join challenges, make friends and share your wins!
Please connect online with me, I cannot wait to hear about your FitMama journey!