Mother Leader: Bree Koegel, Fitness Trainer & Law Student

Bree Koegel (She/Her) is a new mom, full-time law student, and FitOn App fitness trainer residing with her family in North Carolina. After an exhilarating professional dance career, spanning Radio City Rockettes to Broadway, Bree began a journey in health and fitness, from coaching in NYC’s prized boutique fitness studios to the most popular free at-home streaming app, FitOn. Her pathway continues as she studies law at UNC-CH, with plans to affect and improve social justice for the next generation. Find her on IG @breekoegel

How postpartum are you? 

13 months

How have you transformed since becoming a parent?

Much more so mentally than physically.

Physically, my body eventually returned to a somewhat recognizable shape, and somewhat recognizable strength, but the physical demands I place on my postpartum body are far more intense and frequent than before. Before, I would workout “hard” (around an hour) about 4-5 times per week. I’d then spend the rest of the day exerting myself only when absolutely necessary, like carrying laundry upstairs or a package inside. Now, I am toting a 25 pound squirmy human around on my hip, bear crawling after him, dashing to abort a kitchen disaster, twisting to offer food or drink, lifting him off of the ground, about 10 hours per day. Then there’s a quickie 15-20 minute “workout” in there somewhere, sometimes.

Mentally, I am a completely different human. I have different responses, defenses, rationale, demeanor, judgments, etc. etc. etc. Things I used to find funny I take seriously and completely vice versa. Even within the last 13 months, things I used to lose sleep over regarding motherhood simply do not have the chance to occupy space in my brain. It’s a cleansing of sorts, but it is also an emotional purge. 

I’ve become much more vulnerable within my family unit, with a much tougher exterior to the outside world. Primitive, even! But it is comforting to know that my new mental instincts are to serve and protect my family first, no matter how “different” I seem as a postpartum mama.

With the little solo time you do get, what’s your favorite thing to do?

Read. I’ve always enjoyed reading but didn’t often prioritize it. If I was into a good book, the subway was the perfect, no-excuses scenario. Since leaving New York City for North Carolina, reading has to be intentional. When I finally get there, it’s amazing how quiet and transformative reading is! Whether it’s nonfiction or nitty-gritty social justice reading. 

If you could describe your postpartum experience in one word, what would it be and why?

Big. It took up every inch of my daily life, and continues to over a year later. It is simply undeniable.

What’s something that caught you off guard during the first 3 months of parenthood?

How differently my husband and I approached literally everything. And how controlling I was about it all. Learning to let him do some things his way was very tough for me and led to many conflicts. We had to do some deliberate therapeutic work to figure out how to communicate effectively through these conflicts, to be better examples and parents to our baby, and better partners to each other.

On a scale of 1-10, how supported did you feel as you navigated healing and learning how to take care of your baby? Why?

Within my family, high 9s. Within my mama friends, high 9s. Within the healthcare system, low 1s. 

Leaving the hospital with my baby seemed to be the end of my care. At just 3 days postpartum. I had to demand a 6-week post-op visit (I had a cesarean), during which I was barely examined or touched. 

I had to demand pelvic floor therapy, which I received virtually. 

I quit nursing because I didn’t have lactation support to find ways to increase supply. With every gimmick in the book targeted towards me on Instagram, I felt like a zombie with Apple Pay, buying anything that promised a calm baby that slept. 

In the end, it was my family and friends that taught me everything I needed to know, for free.

If you could dream up the perfect postpartum journey, what would it look like and feel like?

Honestly, I wish I had been comfortable co-sleeping. I just wanted my baby near my body at all times, and I think that would have calmed the stress and anxiety I had about “doing it right.”

What’s the #1 piece of advice you’d give a brand new parent?

Trust yourself. You cannot spoil these babies and they cannot manipulate you. Give them the love and comfort they are asking for, over and over and over again. It will fill you up just as much as it does them.

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