Courtesy Megan Zander

I Tried Zumba To Feel Better About My Postpartum Body, & I'm Never Going Back

Ad failed to load

As much as I loved my twin boys when they were born, I didn't feel the same way about my postpartum body. Months on bedrest made my muscles and joints loose, and on top of that, I was recovering from a c-section. My new body felt totally strange and unfamiliar.

Before I became a mom, I used to live for exercise. Seeing how far I could go on the elliptical or being able to lift a heavier weight than the week before used to make me feel powerful and sexy. Instead, I had a slowly healing c-section incision and sore knees that left me shuffling from the cribs to the couch and back. My body was a suit of skin I didn't recognize or feel comfortable in — that is, until I started going to Zumba.

12 weeks after my delivery, I was cleared to go back to working out again. I thought I'd be excited to get back to my old fitness routine, but instead it felt like torture. I would stare at the clock throughout an entire 20-minute video, counting the seconds until I was done. Often, I'd tell myself my movements were causing the babies to stir, so I'd have an excuse to stop and go back to my spot on the couch. I was frustrated with how weak my body had become during pregnancy and I didn't recognize the silhouette I saw in the mirror as my own.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy Megan Zander

I confided all this to a long-distance friend whose own child was a year older than my babies. She suggested I try a Zumba class. Zumba is a Latin-inspired dance fitness class. Each class can have anywhere from 10-15 songs, usually hits you're currently nodding along to on the radio or throwbacks that you know every word to. Each song has its own routine and the instructor demonstrates the moves at the front of the class using mostly non-verbal cues. Some of the dances are hip-hop inspired, while some are cumbia, salsa or merengue.

At first, the idea of going to Zumba seemed like the exact opposite of what I needed. I love to dance, but the only formal dance training I've had was one year of ballet when I was 7 years old. I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep up. Plus, I was already unhappy with what I saw when I plucked up the courage to look in the mirror. I was already insecure about my body. Going into an exercise studio lined with mirrored walls and starting at myself for an hour straight seemed like the exact opposite of what I needed. But I agreed that something had to change, so I promised her I'd give it a try.

Ad failed to load
I was already insecure about my body. Going into an exercise studio lined with mirrored walls and starting at myself for an hour straight seemed like the exact opposite of what I needed.

My local gym has classes, so I dusted off my membership card and went. I spent the entire first class clinging to the back wall, trying not to draw attention to myself. I was positive everyone was staring at me and judging how my legs looked in my yoga pants. Everyone seemed to know the moves to the dances without looking at the instructor. They were like extras in a Katy Perry video (Teenage Dream-era, none of this culturally appropriative Witness nonsense).

As the hourlong class flew by, I was dripping sweat without even realizing I was working that hard. I loved the soundtrack and the moves that I was able to get. Plus, I was so busy watching my feet and trying to copy the instructor's moves that I really wasn't all that worried with how my body looked. Buoyed by endorphins, I decided to go back in a couple weeks.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy Megan Zander

Little by little, my body regained the mobility it had lost while I was pregnant. And while my stomach and boobs are forever changed by having twins, Zumba really helped me learn to love my body for what it is, instead of wishing it was something that it's not. When I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror during class, I notice how awesome I look (well, for the most part) dancing in rhythm to the music, not the size of my arms or stomach.

Now I try to make it to Zumba twice a week, with the occasional weekend class if I really need to shake my stress away. I'm never going to be the best in the class, because my feet just can't move that fast, but when a routine isn't my favorite I know it's just three minutes until the next song and dance anyway. And if I really dislike a routine, well, I'm not above taking a well-timed water break.

Ad failed to load
Zumba really helped me learn to love my body for what it is, instead of making me wish it was something that it's not.

But I don't take Zumba classes because I want to be dancing on a stage some day. I do it because it makes me love my body and what it can do. At the end of a class, my heart is pounding and my clothes are soaked. Burning calories is great, but what's better is capturing that same feeling I used to get dancing in the club with my friends (only better because the cover is cheaper and there's no rando trying to push his erection up on my leg).

I also love how body-positive my Zumba class is. You're encouraged to show off your individuality and creativity in class. Women of all ages and with different body types wear brightly colored leggings or tops with cut-outs. We've even seen light-up shoes. I'm not one to rock a crop top on the streets, but in Zumba? Try and stop me. The class gives me a confidence I don't have anywhere else.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy Megan Zander

After years of taking the same class with the same women, I'm part of a community. We don't judge each other by our appearances or compete for the front row in class. We share details about our lives before class starts, and between songs we cheer each other on when the footwork feels impossible. We encourage each other to climb on stage with the instructor and laugh at ourselves when we forget a move. When I'm at a Zumba class I couldn't care less about the number on the back of my pants, or how my stomach looks as I pump and jump. I only know how amazing I feel.

Trying Zumba after becoming a mom definitely helped me bring my sexy back — which is apropos, because that's one of my all-time favorite Zumba throwback songs.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills