Melissa Wood-Tepperberg is the founder of Melissa Wood Health and creator of the MWH method (workouts to give you long, lean lines). She helps women treat their bodies right, whether that’s through fitness, a plant-based diet, or simply love and acceptance. We asked her about how fitness and motherhood have come together in her life.
Let’s start where this whole journey begins. When you found out you were pregnant for the first time, how did you feel about your body?
Melissa: I had a completely different relationship with my body during my first pregnancy than I do now. When I was pregnant with my son Benjamin, I was definitely living in fear of what pregnancy might do to my body. This was all before I was sharing my workouts. I was killing myself in the gym trying to maintain my physique. When I found out I was pregnant with Elanor, I felt like I was in the best shape of my life. Thankfully, my mindset has completely shifted when it comes to body image. The second time around was a much more positive experience.
How did you adapt your approach to fitness to allow for the physical limitations of pregnancy?
Melissa: Pregnancy is the one time in your life to be extra gentle with yourself. I never looked at anything as a limitation, because there is no better time to honor what your body needs.
You opened up and shared your son’s birth story while you were pregnant with your daughter, sharing beautifully and candidly about the feelings that came up for you. What inspired you to share the story with your readers? What kind of responses did you hear?
Melissa: The truth is that my community inspired me to share my birth story. So many people asked me about my experience. It was amazing to connect with so many women who had such similar stories, who felt crazy guilt the same way I did about not having a vaginal birth. A lot of people were shocked to hear that I ended up with a C-section, but overall, everyone’s reaction was so kind and supportive.
It feels safe to say that for all of us, the postpartum period is packed with layers of feelings about our bodies. What were your experiences like? How was the second time around different?
Melissa: The second time around I suffered from a hematoma/seroma post surgery, so it brought on a whole different list of challenges (on top of what a C-section recovery normally entails). I essentially had a fluid pocket that sat above my scar. At one point it became so full of fluid/blood that I had to go to the emergency room to get it drained so that it didn’t reopen my scar. Let’s just say that, right when I thought the C-section recovery in and of itself was my biggest challenge, this happened. I already felt outside of my body post C-section, and to be completely honest, I thought I had already reached my limit. I don’t mean to sound negative, but it just goes to show that when you think things are bad, they can get much worse.
Please tell us your best advice for postpartum mamas feeling not-so-body-positive!
Melissa: Going back to the idea that this is the most vital time to be gentle with yourself is so important when mamas are feeling not-so-body-positive. Your body just ran a marathon, and it needs to recover. Honestly, what helped most was not staring at my body in the mirror and picking everything apart. Time changes everything, so take this time to focus on healing and connecting with your baby.
It might not feel like it during those sleepless nights early on, but eventually the newborn phase ends and we’re back in our pre-pregnancy jeans. But, our bodies will never be quite the same. Outside of the whole pregnancy and postpartum realm, how do you feel that motherhood has changed your relationship with your body?
Melissa: I feel like I stand taller. I have so much more confidence in my body even though I still can’t zip up my skinny jeans and am still wearing pants that I wore pregnant. It’s made me love and appreciate my body in a brand new light, knowing what we as women are physically capable of.
How do you shut down negative self-talk?
Melissa: First and foremost, by recognizing it. Whenever I’m in that state, it’s probably because I’ve meditated less, so I know it’s time to sit down and get to work in my meditation.
What daily practices help you feel comfortable in your body?
Melissa: My meditation helps me feel comfortable, although it looks so different right now with a 4 month old that keeps me up at night. It’s so important for me to still implement something, whether it’s reading my lesson of the day in A Course In Miracles while breastfeeding and my son is watching a show in the morning, or listening to a guided meditation while doing my makeup. Then, of course, always carving out time in my week for movement.
As mamas, most of us don’t have time for hours-long workouts or cryotherapy sessions every day. When you do get those lucky breaks, how do you spend them? What would you do with 3 hours in the gym/spa of your dreams?
Melissa: Thankfully, there was a shift in my mindset where I now recognize that only 20-30 minutes of movement a day can give you the body of your dreams, with the most beautiful, long, lean lines. Although, if I did have 3 free hours, I would totally be in the spa for a lymphatic drainage massage, facial, and sauna session!
No one knows your baby better than you.
Less opinion shopping.
Let your intuition lead you.