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I Keep On Runnin’, Keep On Runnin’

Ah starting a new fitness routine from zero; is there anything quite as frustrating as thinking you’re in better shape than you are, and then discovering those first few steps on the treadmill, peddles on the cycle, reps with a free-weight, or push-ups on the mat prove you otherwise?

I can tell you from my own experience I was ecstatic when my doctor gave me the OK to start exercising again and I was sure that I would have only regressed in my training a little bit since my pregnancy and delivery…. Nope. So wrong.

You see, when my husband and I found out we were expecting I stopped running altogether at about week 10 and traded my runners in for a swim suit and yoga pants, preferring prenatal swimming, aquacize and yoga for my workouts. Now that it’s just me/myself/I in my body I was REALLY looking forward to getting my stride back- well I’m sorry to say that between not running at all for months and months, and carrying an extra 30 pounds post-delivery, my stride seemed to be a myth.

So what’s a gal to do when you’re not only starting from zero, but it feels like you’re starting at negative 10 because your body has definitely changed? Start slow. In fact, toss your ego out the window and start way slow.

(And for the record, the picture of the hippo running is a reference to how I feel when I exercise; no one else is a hippo in this reference but me! ūüôā )

So here’s what I did to get back into the groove of exercise, and eventually, I will be running again (which is my favourite activity by the way- if you don’t love running, you don’t have to do it!)

Step 1: See your medical professional for the green light to proceed

I know the last thing I wanted after all the exams I had throughout pregnancy and delivery was to subject myself to another pelvic check, but man am I glad I did. My doctor confirmed that indeed I was healed enough to start exercising gently and that it didn’t look as though prolapsing would be a problem for me. But not everyone will walk away from their delivery like I did- some of you might be in danger of prolapse so check with your doctor to make sure whatever your desired exercise is, that you’re in the clear to start doing it!

Step 2: Start with something gentle

As much as I wanted to lace up and hit the treadmill 3 weeks after my delivery, I didn’t. In fact I didn’t dare to try to jog at a slow and barely non-walking pace. I started with some gentle yoga exercises with a heavy focus on my core and pelvic floor. Man am I glad because my core was basically something I dreamed I had; it definitely needed some attention. I’m also very glad I listened to my doctor and did some pelvic floor exercises! (So many times I wanted to fixate on how my body looked and compare it to how it used to look that I almost forgot it’s what’s going on the inside that counts!)

Step 3: For now don’t run; just walk

Yup- I’m feeling ready to run (in my mind) but my body definitely isn’t. My doctor said things look good enough to start GENTLE exercise but suggested holding off on anything high-impact until she checks things over again in a few weeks. Having a baby is a crazy and amazing experience but it is a traumatic experience (especially for your body); no need to rush into anything high-impact! So for now I’m just walking. And not walking marathons either!

Yes my A-type mind has been trying to negotiate new terms so I can hit the pavement faster, but despite what my mind wants, my body continues to put on the brakes (and for the record, I totally tried to jog a bit this week and was immediately taken aback at how hard it was and that I was clearly overdoing it for me. Remember that thing I said about taking care of your core and pelvic floor? When I tried to lightly jog on the treadmill, I was unpleasantly surprised to feel how loose my core had really become, and how much more strengthening of my pelvic floor I needed to do. Nothing scares you back to reality like the feeling of your tummy jiggling and flopping like a fish, or like you might pee yourself if you take another step at that pace.) Which brings me to my next point…

Step 4: Listen to your body

If your mind is like mine, it’s competitive as f*ck and has a series of deadlines and goals it wants to meet sooner rather than later. Sorry mind, body is in charge now and we need to listen to it. Pay attention to your body; be mindful of what you feel and what’s going on as you start to get into the groove.

Is something hurting? Is something aching? Is something throbbing? Does something just not feel right? Listen to what your body is telling you and know it’s OK to put on the brakes, slow things down and if you need to, stop and get it checked out.

We only get one body (at least until science makes some serious science-fictionesque advances…) so take care of it. And in case you haven’t noticed a trending theme, BE GENTLE to yourself! Go easy- you don’t have to get your pre-baby body back right away, or at all if you don’t want to.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post detailing progress on my 21-day Ayurvedic eating challenge and recipe review; take care out there!

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Your Love Shall Know My Boundaries

Welcome friends!

Allow me to set the stage for this week’s post: My husband and I are new parents, bringing our baby home from the hospital. We are tired, worried and find ourselves asking, “Well now what?” as we try to settle in and find a new routine at home. Our phones are lighting up like New Year’s with congratulatory texts from family and friends who are are all asking us the same things…

1- How are you settling in?

2- Do you need anything?

3- When can we come visit?

That last question is the one I should have addressed with some serious authority from day 1- but as the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.

Allow me to say right off the bat that I recognize how lucky we are to have such wonderful family and friends who all reached out to us. They offered to bring us food, help out however they could and were so very excited to visit him. Our baby doesn’t know it yet but he’s got a whole tribe of people who love him to the moon and back and that’s a truly magnificent thing for a child. I love how much everyone loves him.

But with all of this love floating around I didn’t stop to set appropriate boundaries for my own health and well-being. I was so excited for our family to come see what we had made and to “ooh” and “ahh” just the way I did non-stop; I didn’t see that I was about to hit a ditch emotionally, mentally and physically, and that would be exacerbated by the flood of people coming to our door.

First I must say there is nothing that can really prepare you for postpartum depression (PPD); you can be made aware of what it is and how it’s affected other moms but nothing I read in blogs, books or heard in prenatal classes adequately prepared me for how it would personally affect me. (or what I needed to get through it).

PPD hit me day 3 of being a mother, while still in the hospital. I was an emotional wreck; we were struggling with breastfeeding (my supply sucked, my baby had great difficult latching/sucking and I was feeling like a failure from the start despite all the support I had from medical staff and my family), I was exhausted and foolishly, I was setting myself up for more meltdowns to come by not trusting my “mama bear” gut and asking for some space for our new family of 3.

So-and-so is wondering when they can come visit? How about tomorrow? Oh, and so-and-so would like to come visit too. What about the so-and-so’s on your side of the family?” my husband asked; we began scheduling people for their visits to see the baby and our calendars quickly filled up with at least 1 visit per day in addition to the scheduled home-visits from the public health nurses.

Mistake 1: I already was not looking forward to this schedule but didn’t say anything to my husband about it. (I consider myself to be an ambivert, or “performing introvert” as I often joke. I’m really great in front of a crowd, public speaking, making conversation on the fly in groups but I prefer to meet with small groups of people and absolutely need uninterrupted down-time away from people to re-charge my batteries at least 3x per week.  What I was doing was scheduling these visits as though I was an energetic extrovert.)

Mistake 2: I also didn’t set time-limits up-front with visitors or communicate to my husband that I was only comfortable with people, regardless of who they were, staying for a maximum amount of time.

Mistake 3: I didn’t set up the expectation with my husband that if I gave a certain cue that it meant I was done having visitors and it wanted him to start to usher people out the door; I needed him to be my “bouncer” to this very private and precious club that was being a new mom.

Mistake 4: I didn’t take my postpartum depression seriously. I treated it like a minor physical wound that just needed time to scab over instead of serious ailment that needed all kinds of TLC. (New moms: if you burst into tears after visitors leave because you are so tired of people you need to say something to your partner and get those boundaries up now!)

To give you an idea of my circumstances here was a typical cycle, repeating non-stop, looked like those 1st couple of weeks:

  • Baby is hungry
    • Spend 30-40min total trying to get my baby to latch
    • spend 30min total nursing once latched
    • spend 30min total pumping (single pump machine)
  • Baby needs burping (10min minimum effort)
  • Baby needs changing (2-4min depending on the contents of the diaper)
  • Baby sleeps for 2 hours
    • meanwhile while baby sleeps….
      • I have a bath to soak my stitches (20min 2-3x a day)
      • Go to the bathroom, eat and drink something prepared (20min)
      • try to sleep for at least hour and half until this cycle starts all over again!

Notice that nowhere in this cycle is me cleaning, cooking, doing laundry or anything remotely non-baby? (MANY MANY MANY THANKS TO MY HUSBAND FOR TAKING CARE OF ALL OF THOSE DOMESTIC TO-DOS!!) Something else of note about this cycle is that the only place where I could make time for visitors was from my bath time, when I would eat/drink/use the washroom or the time I would be sleeping. And going through this cycle non-stop meant that the little time I had to take care of myself was VERY precious to me. When visitors arrived I felt obliged to be present to chat and show off baby which in turn meant while they were visiting I wasn’t taking care of myself.

We had so many people coming in succession that one day (after about two weeks of having visitors coming 10 out of 14 days) I sat on the couch holding the baby, I looked at my husband and started crying. I had enough visitors and now needed serious me-time. Between nursing being such an up-hill battle, feeling like a failure all of the time because of my PPD and supply issues and having almost no time to be alone and rest, I had finally hit that proverbial ditch I mentioned earlier. I broke down and told my husband I was sick of seeing people, I didn’t want any more visitors for a while and if people wanted to visit when I was ready we would have no more that 3 scheduled visits per week. No more. I explained how having all those people coming and going all the time affected me and the lack of rest I was experiencing alongside with the postpartum depression was giving me a run for my money. (I don’t know if he truly understood but he agreed- this was clearly hard on me and I wasn’t getting enough time to take care of myself so visits were off-limits until I said so.)

Following that ban (about 5 days) and the permanent visitor maximum set, not only was I getting more sleep (oh glorious and precious sleep!), but I had more energy and patience to work through my supply issues, helping my son develop a better latch, stronger suck and actually enjoyed being a mom MUCH more than I had before. You know what else happened? My PPD was much more manageable- not entirely gone like magic, but manageable. I didn’t burst into tears when someone left the house. I didn’t feel like such a flop of a mom. I was actually getting some rest fairly consistently!

So looking back on these 4 BIG mistakes what would I have done differently? I would have talked to my husband about what I needed and would start with something like:

1- Tell my husband that this is a HUGE change for me, my body healing, working through PPD which meant no over-crowding of visits and what seems like a reasonable amount of visitors one week may be too much the next. And ask him to communicate that with the people wanting to visit so they know up-front what I need.

2- Communicate that each visit comes with a maximum time limit (45minutes for me) and when the buzzer on my phone goes off I would be taking the baby to our room to nurse/burp/have baby/me time.

3- Decide on a “magic word” or visual cue with my husband so that he knows if I sneeze twice, or ask him to make me a cup of tea or mention the queen of England then regardless of how much time has passed in the visit, I’m about to hit a wall. He would need to steer them out the door in a nice way.

4- Pay attention to how PPD was kicking my butt and be more open/honest with my husband about how it was affecting me instead of having to explain myself through tears to him.

Notice a theme of my “if only’s”? COMMUNICATION!!! I just sat on my feelings, wants and needs until my hand was forced and I broke down. If I could go back I would have set some expectations with my husband around what I needed.

Now I know advice and opinions are like a$$holes- everyone’s got ’em, but hopefully you new mamas can save yourself the trouble I went through. Or if you have already gone through this or something similar, find comfort in knowing you aren’t alone in your experiences.

Take care of yourselves mamas; you are worth it!

Babies and Bikini Bods

Congratulations mama!

You’ve gone through the toils and turmoil of getting bigger, growing a human larva within you, and a delivery of some sort; time to get that pre-baby bikini body back, right? Well, only if you want to. And if you don’t, that’s cool too.

You see, like you, I too am going through the motions of getting a schedule with baby set (you know- sleeping, eating, diapers and what not) and the other day I found myself hopping on the scale to see how much weight I’d lost since delivering my son a little over a month ago. What did my wondrous eyes see? I ONLY LOST 6 F^*$ING POUNDS!!! WTF??? Despite delivering an almost 9lb baby plus after-birth I had managed to put on some weight from delivery to now. My ego took a shameful hit.

That’s it! I need to¬†get back into shape. I need to exercise, eat better, make better choices otherwise this will be harder and harder to lose these pounds.”¬†I scolded myself that ¬†day, and for the days to come. <- a very “hot blooded mama” moment indeed.

Fast forward a couple of days when the hot- blooded-yet-still-logical-mama took over this cycle: you see I stepped on the scale again and saw I lost a whopping quarter of a pound since the previous weigh-in and realized that prior to delivering my son my doctor expected me to gain weight. Not a ton of weight, but 30-40 pounds. And that’s exactly what ¬†I gained.

Now before we proceed much further let me be clear this isn’t a post about how I intend to get my pre-baby-body back, how I’m eating better (no more midnight, 2am and 4 am cookies for me though. Womp, womp.) or have finally gotten the OK from my doctor to start to exercise (gently) again. Nope- there’s already plenty of articles out there about how YOU CAN get that bikini bod you’ve always wanted after having baby. I should know; I googled the sh*t of of that topic, desperately ready to get rid of this sweet saggy pouch-tummy and flabby thighs. I spent a good part of an afternoon in bed after feeding baby, reading how I could get back into shape without ruining my milk supply when that “logical-mama” brain kicked in again and said to me:

Hold the phone- only weeks ago you were expected to gain weight. You were told you should gain and you did. Then after you gained the weight you went through a physically traumatic event called birth. A person came out of you. And now you feed this little person around the clock, barely getting any sleep yourself and here you are worried about how you look? Worried about when you’ll fit into a certain wardrobe again? FORGET THAT NOISE! Think about what you need to be healthy physically and mentally. If some desired weight-loss is a bi-product that’s great but it shouldn’t be the focus.”

Apparently “logical-mama” is also known as “fairly-frank-mama” because I sat in bed and cried a little bit about that. (oh the joys of hormones and what not, right?)

Isn’t it a funny thing that while we are pregnant people are always encouraging you to eat more because it’s for two, that milk shakes will cure heart burn, and then after the baby is out there’s this immense societal pressure to undo all of that and get back into shape so you can hide the fact that you grew a person? Now no one I know was saying out loud that I needed to get back into shape except me. But I saw it in magazines, in articles, in the mommy Facebook groups encouraging each for trying to get that pre-baby body back and it’s ridiculous that I was giving that sh*t a moment of my precious thought-time.

No matter if you are a 1st-time mom, or adding a new sibling to your bunch, whatever every mom is going through is different than what she was doing before. Think about what a huge adjustment that is- a new mouth to feed, sleep lost, schedules thrown out the window, diapers, wipes and visits, oh my! Then on top of all of this, somehow the next thing on a mom’s mind is getting back in shape? What the hell was wrong with my thought-process that I was worried about losing weight for the sake of¬†looking good. Not feeling good, not as a break from mom-things, but for the sake of vanity and my ego. Ouch.

Pre-baby I worked so hard to let that sh*t go, took up running and yoga as a cheap and effective method of decompressing mentally at the end of the day while doing some good for my body and here I was thinking about¬†looking good.¬†Admittedly I do have a pre-baby wardrobe set aside that I’m itching to get into again because there are some really choice pieces waiting to be worn and I don’t want to spend more money on new clothes when I have a perfectly good wardrobe waiting for me.

(As I sit here re-reading what’s written I must admit that I can’t believe how ridiculous I was for fussing over wanting to get back to the good ole days of my former body.)

Now so far I’m dong a decent job of talking myself out of these damaging thoughts of wanting to lose weight for the sake of looking good but what about all those moms who are facing even more pressure than I am? Those moms who have people telling them, out loud, to their faces, that they need to get back into shape, to lose that tummy/those saddlebags/whatever? Who was on their side to say “Girl- you only got to do something if you want to! If you love how you look now then celebrate the f*ck out of that! You don’t have to do a freaking thing about how you look if you’re happy and healthy right now!”

I don’t proclaim to be the gold standard for anything so ladies, let me be your silver medal! You don’t have to do a damn thing about getting your body the way it was. If you’re happy and healthy now then don’t let anyone tell you to do something about how you look. You are fierce as f%ck and the way your body looks does not determine your worth. Wear 2-piece bathing suits, let your stretch-mark be seen (if you have them and are cool with people seeing them). If you want to get into an exercise routine and your health care provider says you’re in the clear to partake, then go for it! If you just want to focus on being a mama then you be the best mama you can be!

The idea that women need to go through the immense changes of being pregnant then go through the traumatic event that is birth (regardless of how that baby comes out) and then after that we are supposed to adjust, lose sleep and yet function like a normal human, take care of the baby and then get back into shape like we have a swim-suit competition to prep for is bullsh!t.

Mama you are beautiful the way you are and any changes you make that result in muscle being built and/or weight loss is just gravy because what matters is you taking care of you! And as you read this, remind yourself to say this to a mama you know if she seems like she needs t be reminded about how awesome she is.

Ladies our worth is not measured in dress sizes. Please remember that!

Your Pregnancy Is Your Business

As I was writing this post, sitting in my living room, 39 weeks pregnant, wondering if anything and everything I feel could be the start of labor (what about that burp? Is this indigestion or labor? Why do I feel extra swollen- is it labor?!?!?) I was reflecting on what a great pregnancy this has been.

I’ve had almost no sickness or nausea to speak of, was able to somehow dodge colds and flu going around despite the fact that my husband has been mega-sick a few times in the last 9 months, weight gain has been on track, no gestational diabetes, blood work always came back normal… so what would I change, if anything?

After careful consideration of what I would have liked to have done differently, it  seemed to come back to one thing: I wish I would have been more assertive about my boundaries.

Pregnancy is a curious time in a lady’s life when she goes through some sort of bull-sh*t puberty all over again (hormonal mood swings, curious leakage, swollen/uncomfortable breasts, acne/skin changes) but it also signs a time of when the lady stops being a person and transforms into a public entity that people love to concern themselves with.

Now I do recognize that there are natural curiosities and generally people don’t mean any harm when it comes to asking a woman about her pregnancy. (questions about gender, how you’re feeling and what not are par for the course) However there are a few topics I regret not being a little more forceful about- I like to think I did an OK job at setting boundaries and making it clear that there were certain topics I wasn’t going to discuss, or physical limits I enforced regularly, but here are a few areas/topics that I would handle differently with the general public and co-workers. Hopefully if you are embarking or about to embark on the wonderful journey that is pregnancy this will give you some ideas about what you want and how you want things. If nothing else I hope reading this at least makes you smile.

(though before I go off I want to shout out that my family and friends were amazing about boundaries, being mindful of topics/questions and overall made things easy for me!)

1- Touching the Belly

This is a no-brainer; it is generally considered a terrible faux pas to touch a pregnant woman’s belly without her consent. As someone who has one wicked resting b*tch face, I never had a stranger touch my belly or even ask about. (probably because I walk around looking like I’m seeking revenge upon the man who has 6 fingers on his right hand). I can’t say I regret anything about this topic because apparently I don’t look very approachable unless I’m actively involved in a conversation. What I’ve heard from other pregnant ladies is that sticking your hand out in a “stop” signal really deters people about touching you without having to say, “keep your damn hands to yourself!”. It’s also off-putting when someone physically puts a barrier between you and them so don’t be shy about giving it a try (or in my case, continuing to march about your day like you will cut anyone who tries to touch you)

Since I don’t have any regrets or bad experiences about this, let’s move on.

2- “You’re Going To Breastfeed Aren’t You?”

Personally, yes I plan on breastfeeding, provided I am able to and my milk supply keeps up with the demand of the baby’s nutritional needs.

And when I was asked this question I gave that answer. Yet I wish I would have said something assertive yet polite like, “That’s too personal to discuss with anyone other than my husband and doctor.” and left it at that.

I found that giving any sort of response beyond a “that’s too personal” invited ALL SORTS of further unsolicited advice, opinions and criticism from people who were not qualified to provide such info. Looking back I really wish I wouldn’t have invited that topic to be more widely discussed because I wasn’t interested in discussing it with anyone other than my doctor and husband. (to be clear, it’s not because I don’t support breastfeeding- I do, but what I don’t support is breast-feeding bullying from others when they chimed in with, “if you don’t breastfeed then you’re just taking the easy way out. Some mothers can be so lazy!!” and yes, someone seriously said that to me. But fear not, I had some choice words for that person along the lines of, “you should come to a La Leche League meeting and show all those lazy moms who struggle how it’s done then and diagnose their milk supply issues since you’re clearly qualified to do so.” SHUT DOWN!!!)

3- Oh you’re having a ¬†boy- are you going to circumcise¬†him?

I must confess I took the easy way out when this came up – I said “I don’t know what we’ll do.” and walked away. You’d think that it would signal conversation is over, but I actually had quite a few people follow me like I wanted to walk and talk baby gonads with them to which I would excuse myself to go to the bathroom and we would part ways.

What I wish I would have said was, “that’s not something I want to discuss with you.” or along those lines.

Your baby’s genitals are nobody’s business but yours and your doctors. You are absolutely entitled to shut down this topic (can I still call it cock-blocking??) because otherwise the debate on if you should or shouldn’t can get quite heated. (Even when I gave a non-committal answer and did not participate in the discussion, there were times the crowd around me continued to debate it because they felt I needed to be informed with their opinions!)

4 – What’s your birth plan?¬†

None of your f*@king business. <- I didn’t actually say that but my face tends to react with expression before my mouth expresses a response; I know Ia few times I made faces and then said, “the birth plan is to get the baby out however I am able to while keeping myself and baby safe.”

Now if you’re up for the discussion on births then this is an easy answer to give and promotes a communal chat which can be helpful and engaging. Bur If you aren’t up for having a chat with the person or people asking then you might want to shorten your answer to deliver a “not up for discussion” message- there were times I didn’t want to talk about labor with certain people and this answer definitely gave the impression it was fair-game to talk about. Looking back I think I would have liked to set a more definite “no fly zone” message with a few key people and said something like, “We’v had discussions with our doctor and will cross that bridge when we get there.”

5 – You’re not going to get an epidural are you? OR You’re going to get an epidural aren’t you??

Before I delve into this let me 1st pass on wise words a wonderful woman passed on to me: whether or not you get an epidural or feel every single contraction does not mean you will love your baby any less, or be any less of a mother.

Her point: pain tolerance or medication doesn’t determine anything about how you will love and nurture your baby. If you want one and can have one then it’s perfectly acceptable to get one. If you don’t get one or don’t want to get one, that’s perfectly acceptable too!

I must say this is a topic I’m pretty good at deterring, though I also admit I did it in kind of a b*tchy way. (regretfully in some instances)

Initially my answer was often, “I don’t know.” but as more and more people asked the question over and over again, my answer turned into, “Why? What’s your medical expertise and background on epidurals?” <- this made people VERY uncomfortable since it was obvious that unless you were a doctor giving me actual info, you need to keep your opinion on medications to yourself.

I wish I would have been more positive rather than so aggressive. Something more along the lines of, “I’m indifferent at this moment and won’t be making any decisions until labor arrives so I can discuss the option with qualified medical personnel.”

6 – birth horror stories

Women, namely older women, LOVE to tell you what went wrong with their labor. I’ve pondered this many a time and have decided it’s because it makes the mom feel like she really went the extra mile enduring whatever it was that she did, survived and raised a baby. (which does deserve kudos! But doesn’t need to be shared and scared into expecting mothers)

My grandma is no exception to this- she thought it would be a good idea to tell me how her 1st delivery almost resulted in death (that is until someone stepped in and said, “that’s not an appropriate story to tell a pregnant woman.”).

I like to think I did an OK job at stopping people from telling these stories but I definitely let a few slide that I wish I hadn’t because the stories loom in my mind and I find myself getting kind of panicky as my due date nears.

I really wish I would have hit the brakes on those stories upfront with a nugget like, “I appreciate you feeling comfortable enough to share that with me but please save your birth stories, good or bad until after I’ve experienced birth for myself.”

There are no doubt more instances where I wish I would have made boundaries more clear in an up-front sort of way but that’s for another time.

The point of this is: your pregnancy, delivery, after-care, info, etc. is not for public consumption. How you pregnant is between you, your birth partner (if you have one) and your doctor. (AKA your birth-circle of trust)

You do not have to share anything with anyone beyond that birth-circle of trust if you don’t want to. Even if people are adamant that you need to share, you don’t have to share with them!

Take care out there mamas!

(If you have any nuggets of wisdom about keeping your pregnancy your business I’d love to hear about them)