Rest is NOT Optional

Today, after I put Vera down for her morning nap, I didn’t lace up my running shoes. I didn’t turn on a workout video. I didn’t run around working on the myriad, never-ending chores waiting for me. Instead, I took a long, hot shower, put on clean PJs, and crawled back into bed.

I don’t think I actually slept. I’m a terrible napper. But it was a much-needed respite for my brain and body. I’ve been feeling incredibly worn down lately, and it’s no surprise. I’ve been running 3-4 times a week, doing yoga and strength training. I’ve been rehearsing for my show, staying up past my bedtime a couple of times a week. I’m still only sleeping in 3-4 hour chunks. I’ve been cooking and cleaning and trying to have a social life. And quite frankly, it’s all been a bit too much. While I’m not actually sick, it feels like it. My singing is suffering and my workouts are feeling exhausting.

It’s easy to forget sometimes that I’m only seven months postpartum. Only seven months removed from growing my baby and pushing her out of my body. While I wish I were at 100% of my pre-pregnancy energy and endurance, that’s far from the case. Most days, I feel a bone-deep exhaustion that never quite goes away.

It’s frustrating not to feel like myself most days. I don’t think I’ll get back to normal until I finish with breastfeeding. And that’s ok. I’m fighting against the nasty voice in my head that tells me I’m not doing enough. I’m ignoring the ever-present social media messages of “No excuses!” and “Never miss a Monday!” and “I lost all my baby weight working out 20 minutes a day and you can too!” and all of the other crap that I see telling me I can and should do it all.

Instead, I’m remembering that I am Vera’s primary source of nutrition, and if I don’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of her. I’m remembering that I get to determine what fitness looks like for me. I’m remembering that the overall picture of health has to include mental health. I’m remembering that rest is necessary. My body was telling me in no uncertain terms today that I needed to take it easy, so I did. And I don’t feel a single iota of guilt or regret.

How I’m feeling today is also an indicator to me that I need to clean up my social media follows. I don’t need help feeling guilty. I don’t need to see images and messages that make me feel bad. I shouldn’t have to type this, but I’m going to anyway: it’s OK to rest. It’s OK not to work out if you are sick, if you are tired, if you just don’t fucking feel like it. Giving your body the rest it needs is just as important as doing the work.

Do you ever feel like you need to force yourself to rest?

Postpartum Fitness: Six Months In

Wow. I had a baby six months ago. This has been simultaneously the longest and shortest six month period of my life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I figured now would be a good time to check in on the whole postpartum fitness thing, since it’s been half a year (!!!). When last we left it, I was determined to do my best and not put too much pressure on myself to “bounce back” and lose the baby weight. I started pretty strongly back in the fall, running distances up to four miles and generally feeling pretty good. But then between illness, sleep deprivation, and an early-onset winter, I fell off the bandwagon.

The good news is, even though exercise hasn’t really been happening, I’m already within five pounds of my pre-baby weight. The bad news is, my body composition is still very far away from where I’d like it to be. My endurance is shot and I’m nowhere near as strong as I was before I got pregnant. Taking nine months off of exercise and growing a human will do that to you.

Now that sleep is back on the menu (thank you, Ferber method sleep training!) and I have a treadmill literally in my house, I’m hopeful that things will pick up again. I already started my New Year run streak, which I’m excited about, and I’m trying very hard to find consistency with yoga and strength training as well.

As of this writing, Vera is taking 2-3 naps per day that are anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half. My goal is to just put on my workout clothes and do whatever I can during her first nap of the day, which tends to be her longest nap. If all I can manage is a 1 mile run, that’s better than nothing. But I think, as her nap schedule evens out and I get my running legs under me again, I’ll be able to hopefully start covering longer distances and getting my speed back.

My main fitness goal at this point is to simply feel more like myself. I currently feel like a bit of a stranger in my own body, and I miss feeling strong and confident. Also, we are still planning to have at least one more baby, and I’d like to be as fit as possible before putting my body through another pregnancy. I fully attribute my healthy pregnancy and uncomplicated delivery to how fit I was before I got pregnant with Vera, and while I know it’s no guarantee that next time will be the same, I’d like to at least give myself and the next baby the same head start.

Mamas, what was your favorite form of exercise after your little ones arrived?

Postpartum Rant: How the Hell Do I Dress My Postpartum Body?!

When a woman gets pregnant, she has a reasonable understanding that her body will be different post-baby. Stretch marks, saggy skin, and weight gain are all part of the bargain. While I am endlessly grateful and amazed by what my body has done in growing a tiny human, and providing nourishing breast milk to help her continue to grow, I definitely wasn’t prepared for the specific challenge of trying to dress my postpartum body.

For the first few weeks, it wasn’t really a problem. Unless we were leaving the house or company was coming over, I rarely wore more than underwear and a bathrobe. And when I did bother to leave the house for a doctor appointment or the like, comfort was paramount. I usually wore a stretchy skirt and a nursing tank. I didn’t even bother with a bra most of the time. But now that I’m ready to be out and about more, I’m starting to actually get dressed every day, which is proving to be kind of hard.

First things first, I’d say at least 50% of my wardrobe simply doesn’t fit. I’m about eight pounds above pre-baby weight, which, honestly, isn’t that much. In the grand scheme of things I’m not worried about that weight. It will come off in time. But having so much of my wardrobe out of commission is tough.

Of the 50% that does still fit, about 20% of it is incredibly unflattering because my body is shaped totally differently now. I have a “mum tum,” a pouch of loose skin on my lower belly. I have extra inches all over. Eventually, I will likely be able to wear these clothes again, but they’re out for now.

So let’s say 30% of my wardrobe both fits and looks decent enough that I don’t want to cry when I put it on; only a handful of tops are nursing friendly. Because I am exclusively breastfeeding Vera until she’s at least 5-6 months old, and will continue to nurse (hopefully) through her first year, I need clothes that I can comfortably breastfeed in. I have already spent a couple hundred dollars on nursing tops, dresses, and bras. I have enough that I can go an entire week without repeating, but there’s not a whole lot of variety.

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Pre-pregnancy shorts that are definitely too small, unflattering nursing tank

Also, my breasts are a lot bigger because of breastfeeding, so zero of my sports bras fit. Now that I’m trying to get back to running, this is a problem. I can just barely squeeze into one of them, but the others simply won’t do. I’m reluctant to buy larger bras that I won’t wear long term, but I’m gonna have to if I don’t want to have to do laundry every other day, or irreparably stretch out my existing bras and have to replace them eventually anyway.

I’m trying to just suck it up and buy clothes that fit me right now rather than feeling bad about what I have, but that’s expensive. Now that Ben and I are on a single income, I can’t exactly run out and buy a whole new wardrobe. I’m pretty much focused on items that are nursing-friendly, but it can be hard to find inexpensive, well-made, flattering nursing clothes. Much of what’s available is only available online, so it’s a gamble ordering things that may or may not work, and a lot of specialty breast feeding-friendly companies are kind of expensive.

Latched Mama Ruffle Sleeve Nursing Tee

$28 – Cute, but how will it look on me?

I know this is totally a first-world problem, but it feels really big and important to me. Dealing with postpartum body image is hard enough without having to buy a whole new wardrobe just to feel like I don’t look terrible.

Mamas, how did you deal with your wardrobe during the postpartum period? Did you buy a whole bunch of new clothes? What were your go-tos for breastfeeding tops?

 

Postpartum Update: Weeks 7 & 8

Hey there, friends! I decided not to do separate posts for weeks 7 and 8 because things aren’t really changing that rapidly anymore.

Physical Stuff
After my disappointing six week follow up appointment, I decided to just focus on what I CAN do, and have been hitting the yoga and walking hard. As you’ve likely seen on IG, I have sprinkled in some short spurts of running here and there, and so far, so good. I have also done a few planks and squats here and there as sort of a fitness test, and boy oh boy, am I weak. Even a thirty second plank on my elbows is HARD. I feel like I’ve lost all of the fitness I gained in the year of CrossFit prior to getting pregnant, which is a tough blow, but it is what it is. I got strong once before, and I can do it again.

On Monday the 27th, I had my follow up appointment to fix an area that healed incorrectly, and also had an IUD inserted at the same time. It was a super quick outpatient procedure. Thankfully, it was WAY less terrible than I thought, though it’s meant more bleeding and discomfort. The good news is, I wasn’t advised to discontinue physical activity, so I’ve been continuing with my return to running.

Now that I’m increasing my physical activity, it’s more important than ever to be adequately fueling my body, so we are back to meal planning once a week. I’m also doing some light meal prep for myself as well. I make a couple of batches of overnight oats every few days, and make sure that there’s some brown rice all cooked up in the fridge. That way I can add beans, corn, and veggies for an easy, healthy lunch if there aren’t any leftovers to heat up. I may do a post on my meal planning/prep in the future if anyone is interested.

Breastfeeding
I am still feeding Vera on demand, which is every two-ish hours during the day, and every three to four hours at night. I’m also pumping once or twice a day, getting four or five ounces at a time, so we’re getting a nice freezer stash together.

For the most part, nursing is pleasant. I sit in a comfy chair and hang out with my sweet baby, watching TV or reading blogs on my phone. But it can also feel really taxing. Nursing sessions take up to 40 minutes at a time, and when they happen every two hours, it can be hard to go anywhere or get anything done. Even managing to make myself food or use the bathroom between nursing, playing, and settling her for naps can be challenging. While I am intensely grateful that I am able to breastfeed my baby, it is far from easy.

Emotional Stuff
Ben went back to work this past Thursday, which was a huge transition for us. We both feel immensely lucky that the timing worked out so that he was able to be home with me and Vera for seven whole weeks, but having had him around for so long, I was worried about how I would handle everything on my own. There are lots of feelings to unpack, so I’m planning to do a separate post on the topic of being a stay at home mom. Stay tuned for that.

Wrapping it Up
The so-called “fourth trimester” extends until a woman is 12 weeks postpartum, but I don’t think I need to be doing weekly recaps anymore. I’m feeling mostly “normal” at this point. I may touch back on this subject again after my fourth trimester is over, but I’m not sure yet.

On the whole, I feel blessed that my postpartum journey has gone as well as it has. Most women don’t get to have their partners with them as long as I did, and some don’t even get a maternity leave all that long, while I get to stay home with Vera full time. Ben’s return to work has been a difficult transition, but I don’t really feel like I’ve suffered any “baby blues.” My body has been recovering well. I have a well-developed, close-knit support system. And I have a healthy, happy baby, and a loving, supportive partner who is an amazing co-parent.

Becoming a mother has been such a crazy trip. It’s simultaneously the hardest and easiest thing I’ve ever done. Even when I’m exhausted and really have to pee and Vera just won’t stop crying unless I bounce her vigorously, all I can think about is how much I love her and how happy I am to have her. Ben and I waited a long time to get pregnant because we knew the circumstances weren’t right. I’ve been aching to be a mother for years, and now Vera is finally here and we’re just so happy. I can’t wait to see where this journey takes us.

Anybody interested in a meal planning/prep post?