The following is a guest article by Patricia Murphy.
I gave birth to my rainbow twin girls on June 20 of this year. While pregnant, I trained as long as I could. I made it to about three months of light training — just drilling and only rolling with my professors. The fact that I was carrying twins made me stop a little sooner than I would have liked. I still worked out with my trainer and would watch the jiu-jitsu classes go on. The mats called to me, softly awaiting my return. My heart yearned for the day I could put my gi back on. After a c-section, I waited a long ten weeks till I felt well enough to go back.
I slipped into my rash guard and gi. It was tighter than I had remembered. It didn’t look as good as it had prior to pregnancy. There were rolls and bulges all over. I gently reminded myself of the miracles my body produced. Also, I knew if anything would get rid of this baby weight, it would be jiu-jitsu. My teammates and professors cheered as I walked in. The support that is always seen at my gym is a constant one. I smiled brightly as I bowed to my professor, and the mats met my feet with glee.
It has been a mere three weeks since I began training again. From surgery, my body has a long way to go. My mind will tell my hips to move and nothing happens. Certain positions strain the area where my girls were brought into this world. I roll with the women whose intro class I participated in, and they pummel me into the mats. My feet are filling with mat burn again, my knuckles in each finger ache as I grab onto my opponents’ gis, and that familiar soreness has crept back into my body as it did the days I first started. To say the least, the amount of frustration I feel is real. I’ll be rolling and remember there is a move I can do, but I don’t remember how or when to do it. People I have never even met are throwing me into submissions left and right. Certain moves won’t happen from the weakness in my abdominal muscles. But in all this frustration, jiu-jitsu, of course, brings out many lessons.
In my postpartum journey back to jiu-jitsu, I am learning patience, understanding, humility, and appreciation. The two black belt women of my gym, Professor Samantha Freitas (owner) and Vandi Cohen, both had c-sections for their children. They tell me the same thing over and over: “Patience, Patty.” They validate my frustration because they felt it, too, when they first returned.
We as women pressure ourselves to bounce back so fast. Like creating a human was not enough, let’s get right back into shape and scold ourselves when our body doesn’t meet the expectations we put on it. Patience is key to returning to jiu-jitsu. Understanding is another lesson I am learning post-babies. I must understand the healing my body is going through. The muscles that were stretched so far need time to recover. I have to understand that things aren’t going to click and flow right away. Guess what? That is okay! Humility reveals itself every day.
My pride wants to be hurt as I watch people surpass me. I watched my training partners receive stripes and get belt promotions while I was pregnant. Although my heart exploded with happiness for them, a part of me felt a slight sting that I wasn’t standing up there with them. But if there is one thing jiu-jitsu will do, baby or not, is smash your ego fast and hard. I swallowed a big piece of humble pie when I came back, and these women had grown so much in the art. So the pity party I threw myself grew into elation for my training partners.
Finally, appreciation is the top lesson I have been taught in returning. I appreciate my professors as they encourage me to keep moving and remind me it gets easier. They tell me I am not starting over, just starting a different layer, and I will be better for it. My husband, who will take all three children so I can go train, even if it means missing a class himself, encouraging me to go train all the time even when I am hesitant to leave. The teammates who don’t use one hundred percent of their strength because they know I am still in the recovery process. The girls who will be careful not to press down where my c-section was. The ones who tell me I can do it even when I think I can’t. The people who talk me off the ledge when I feel like I need to rush home to the babies.
I found a new appreciation for myself. For carrying my girls to a healthy date, for working hard to get back to the gym, for the lessons I am learning and the progress I am achieving. And yes, I appreciate myself for the humans I made, because it is enough. More than enough. It is a beautiful thing and jiu-jitsu aids me in mothering. If you’re just coming back after the miracle(s) you made, have patience, humility, and appreciation. On the days you can’t find it, jiu-jitsu will show you.