While I spent many months imagining it, nothing really prepared me for the first day back to the gym after I had my baby. I am a personal trainer, and luckily I felt energetic throughout my pregnancy. I swam multiple times a week, practiced yoga, and trained my clients at the gym until only a week before I gave birth.
It was much to my surprise that my labor and delivery would not go smoothly, and that I would have to deliver my daughter via C-section. Beyond the fear and anxiety of that moment, worrying about the safety of my baby tangled in our shared umbilical cord, my experience would be my first big lesson in parenting. My C-section would teach me to be relentless.
All new mothers experience their own share of aches, fatigue and personal growth after childbirth. But for an active athlete, the recovery after C-section can be world altering. In the beginning, walking down the hallway was a huge effort and climbing stairs a serious undertaking. My biggest battle was simply with fear – I worried I might not be able to reach my goals, and return to the body and person I was before.
After eight weeks and cleared for exercise, I arrived at the gym, shaky but determined. I started with swimming, the activity that gave me the most comfort late in my pregnancy, and after several days moved on to Pilates, yoga, gentle cardio and strength training, incorporating squats, lunges, and lifting light weights.
The first few weeks were challenging – my core muscles were numb, weak, and tight and my arms quaked attempting push ups and planks – but my resolve was rock solid. With the help of my husband, I carved out forty five minutes five days a week to do some exercise. I did not weigh myself or even try on my old clothing for months, but I could tell, day by day I was getting lighter and stronger. And most importantly, pushing through the uncertainty, I developed a whole new level of confidence. I would never exactly be the person I was before I had a baby – no mother ever is – but I was tougher than I had ever been. Two years later, I have returned to all my pre-baby fitness, and in some activities I am even stronger than before.
My experience as a mother has influenced my profession like so many others in the Beyond Mom community. Feeling there was a lack of postnatal resources during my recovery, especially for women who delivered via C-section, I wanted to create more effective and time efficient fitness opportunities for new moms. In addition to my specialized one-on-one personal training, I developed two new group programs geared for postnatal women: Body After Baby, a four week small group training workshop and C-Section Solutions, a one-day fitness course.
I know the fear and frustration that new moms feel when they enter the gym, and I want to eradicate it. I empower new moms with my experience, strategize individualized programs for them, and reinforce the knowledge they all have gained in becoming mothers. I tell them to be consistent, hard working, and patient. Most of all, I tell them to nurture their bodies the way they do their newborns, respecting its healing rhythms and its amazing ability to create life.
My experience recovering from my C-section has been the most fortifying and humbling experience I have had to date. It has helped me become a more patient mother, a more effective trainer, and overall a stronger person.
Stacey Menchel is a personal trainer and fitness consultant who specializes in prenatal and postnatal fitness. Certified by the National Academy of Sport Medicine (NASM), she has recently designed two new programs for new moms, Body After Baby and C-Section Solutions. She trains at the JCC Manhattan and privately throughout Manhattan. For more information please contact her at