Today I’m sharing an amazing story from Melissa! As if working full-time after having a baby isn’t hard enough…as if pumping isn’t exhausting…as if dealing with your baby’s foods sensitivities and eliminating foods from your own diet so you can continue to nurse isn’t extremely frustrating… Can you imagine doing all this AND it’s your JOB to be on your feet all day cooking and tasting all different kinds of food? And oh yeah, you decide to nurse for two and a half years?
I’m so inspired by Melissa’s determination. Check out her story below and visit her Instagram account for more tales of food and family.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your family and your lifestyle.
My name is Melissa Gaman. I was born in the midwest of Canada, relocated to Dallas when I was nine and moved to New York City for college at 18. I come from a big family – no, seriously: seven siblings, one half-brother and two step sisters. I’m second oldest. I work in Manhattan in food media and currently work as a recipe developer for the Food Network. My small team creates around 100 original recipes for every issue of Food Network Magazine – that’s a lot of eating! I have an almost three-year-old little boy and every day I see more and more the person he will be. He’s been the best surprise of my life. I’ve been with his father for almost 16 years. We bought our house in Jersey City ten years ago and also, more recently, have over 100 acres of farm land in Western New Jersey. My partner spends about half his week at the farm and my son and I try to get out there on the weekend. We are active, love the outdoors and do our best to eat well. But it’s not always easy when my toddler decides he no longer likes chicken after it’s cooked and I have a sugar headache from tasting cakes all day and little else…
Tell us about your relationship with food and your body pre-baby.
Boy, how much time do you have? I’ve struggled with my weight and body image my whole life. I don’t come from a family of slender folks in the first place and when I moved to Dallas at nine (already early puberty) it became painfully obvious that my Midwestern chubby body, fair skin and red hair were not going to cut it. I’ve been through phases of healthy eating and working out and phases of…not so much. And Ugh…don’t remind me of my post-college happy hour and cigarette times! But by the time I found out I was pregnant I was okay with my body and eating habits. I felt strong, active and healthy. Balanced but not rigid.
And now? How would you describe the changes you’ve experienced in your body after having a baby?
It’s been such an emotional and physical roller coaster. After a rough start, I settled into breastfeeding pretty well and didn’t worry too much about losing weight. My son was not a chill baby so eating and cooking one-handed while holding or nursing him was my life. When I went back to work at 12 weeks I wasn’t the same as pre-baby but I did fit in my old pants. We discovered my son had a food allergy around four months old. It was difficult to figure out exactly what was going on with him so the doctors decided I needed to go on a strict elimination diet to get him sorted out. In a moment I had to cut out: dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy. Remember how I said my job was to eat and cook??? I started crying. But I pushed forward and luckily my boss was supportive. I still had to cook and taste but rather than tasting I would chew and spit. It was hard. I was hungry. I lost 15 pounds while trying to eat well and whatever I could. But between nursing and just life my metabolism was out of control and I couldn’t seem to eat enough. But that was then. In the last six months as I finally fully stopped nursing, all the weight has come back and settled in my midsection. I’ve also been accepting that I need to address some pelvic floor weakness and start physical therapy so I can feel more comfortable trying to get back into some regular workouts.
What about changes to your schedule and the stresses of being a parent? How do you think these changes have impacted your body?
When I went back to work I was pumping five times a day (three at work) and nursing when we were together to keep up with my little guy’s appetite. So I was exhausted. I couldn’t even think about working out but I missed it and I missed that outlet for stress. Between breastfeeding and my elimination diet, it seemed I could eat as much as I wanted and not gain any weight. I’ve always been a snacker and I started channeling my stress into unhealthy snack choices like potato chips and non-dairy ice creams. It did not make me feel any better about my body. I was thin but not at all toned. I felt tired, flabby and generally just not very put together. My son’s first year at daycare was also riddled with colds and viruses which he passed right on to me! I was sick more often than I was well for a good six month stretch over the winter. The stress and lack of sleep even impacted my eyes and they became intolerant to wearing contact lenses. It’s been a lot of changes that I never expected.
How did you/do you cope with the changes?
For a while I didn’t really cope very well. It was all I could do to just get through it. My son has never been a great, or long, sleeper and there was a solid chunk of time when I was up for the day with him at 4:30 everyday. I don’t want to say I gave up, but I had to give myself permission to just get by and not expect more. For a good year plus I was just in survival mode. I read an article in a magazine during these challenging months that basically reminded me that these early years with kids and working are hard. They are hard for everyone. You can’t do it all and these just may not be the most fit years of your life. This reminder has been so helpful to me and it’s stayed with me as I have finally gotten back into working out. I still only manage about twice a week on a good week but it’s baby steps to balance everything. Nothing is forever and there will be time again when I can put more focus back onto myself. But that’s not right now and that’s okay.
Would you share a few pictures of yourself post-baby and tell us how you feel about them?
This was just a few months ago after treating myself to some new (pricy but good quality) frames. Since I now rarely wear contacts I decided to invest in a new look with some new glasses. I used to hate how I looked in glasses but I’m getting use to it now.
This photo is from last summer when I was taking my guy to summer camp. We had to get on the subway 1 stop and then walk about 10 minutes. The summer camp didn’t have stroller parking and I had to get to work after drop off so I relied on the carrier. I feel proud in this photo because even though I can see wrinkles and tired eyes, I’m strong. Strong enough to have my baby strapped to me along with his backpack and lunch and my own purse in the summer heat.
What do you want to share with other postpartum women?
Your postpartum journey will likely not be what you expected and will have ups and downs. Be good to yourself through it. That extra 5-10 pounds is not worth driving yourself crazy. There will be plenty of time to work out when your little one doesn’t need all those extra middle of the night cuddles. And don’t forget to seek out support! Whether a local support group, a therapist, a standing date with a friend or a physical therapist: when people says it takes a village, they are right!