Beth’s Ultimate Guide to Postpartum Care

Friends, gestating a baby is hard. Getting the baby out is ridiculous no matter how you do it. But then you go home and think things will go back to normal. In the last few weeks of pregnancy, you look forward to giving birth so you can get your body back. What you don’t realize is that it will take a while for your body to recover from the epic sh*t storm that is labor. And I mean that literally. You simply won’t believe the amount of feces involved in pushing a baby out of your hoo-ha.

So I’m here to tell you about a few things you may need when you get home with your precious little one.

For your lady bits:

Adult Diapers

  • Wear to the hospital if your water breaks at home because after it breaks, it just keeps coming out because your body keeps making more of it.
  • Wear home from the hospital and for a few days afterward until the bleeding subsides a bit.
  • Wear for fun and fashion!

Giant Pads

  • You’ll need these for a week or two after you stop wearing the adult diapers.

Regular Pads

  • You may need these for several weeks after you stop wearing the giant pads. HOWEVER, they have other uses. Keep reading.
  • **THIS IS IMPORTANT**  A day or three after you get home, you will need to poop, and it will be terrifying. The poop will be hard, and you’ll feel like you are going to bust a stitch getting it out. You probably won’t bust a stitch, but seriously, it’s scary. Your pelvic floor is all stretched out and weak right now, so here’s what you do. Take one of these pads out of the wrapper, fold the wings back, and fold the whole thing in half so the sticky part is on the inside. Press it up against your lady bits to give your pelvic floor some support while you push the poop out. You may pee on your hand, but probably the pad will catch most of it, and after giving birth, you really won’t care about a little hand pee. And getting that poop out will be worth it.
  • Make some padsicles (you can also do this with the giant pads). Open the pad and apply a liberal layer of aloe vera gel all over it. Pour about a teaspoon of witch hazel (alcohol-free) over the aloe vera. Sprinkle on a few drops of lavender essential oil. Wrap the pad in aluminum foil and put it in the freezer. You can probably get all the ingredients at Whole Foods.

Tucks Pads

  • Whether you have hemorrhoids or not, witch hazel is magical.

Ice Packs

  • Steal as many of these from the hospital as you want. You have more than paid for them.

Dermaplast

  • Spray as needed.

Squirt Bottle

  • Steal this bad boy from the hospital. They will surely give you one. Use it EVERY TIME you go to the bathroom. Every time. With warm water. Every time.

Hot Bath

  • Sit in a hot bath (as hot as you can stand) for 10 minutes every day.

Boppy

  • Sit on it (you’ll need to sometimes).
  • Lay your baby on it (it’s ok that you were just sitting on it). You can do this with it around your waist during feedings, or you can lay baby’s head on the pillow and sit his/her butt in the hole so y’all can lounge on the couch together.
  • Prop your arm up with it while you hold your baby.

For pooping:

Colace (Stool Softener)

  • 100 mg at least twice a day. If you need to take 3 a day, that’s fine too.

Milk of Magnesia

  • I hope you don’t need this, but if you do, get the mint flavor, and try just 1 tbsp at first. This stuff is potent. PLEASE don’t wait until you haven’t pooped in 2 days to use this. The longer it stays in there, the worse it’s going to be coming out.

Fleet Glycerine Suppositories

  • If Colace and milk of magnesia aren’t cutting it, and if attempting to poop feels like you are giving birth all over again, Fleet glycerine suppositories may do the trick. Shove one up there, and wait at least 20 minutes. You will feel like you need to poop immediately after you put it in, but wait 20 minutes.

Fleet Enema

  • This is your last resort, but it will work. If you haven’t pooped in 4 days, and you know it’s all backed up in there, but nothing is getting it out, send your husband out for an enema, and while he’s gone, prepare yourself mentally for the test your marriage is about to go through. Then follow the instructions and enjoy the sweet relief.

For breastfeeding:

Something for Your Nipples

  • Nipple butter, lanolin, coconut oil, fancy cooling stickies…whatever floats your boat.

Lactation Cookies

  • There are a million recipes on the internet. Find one you like and chow down!

Pumping Bra

  • Or any other contraption that will let you pump hands-free. For a DIY option, just cut holes in an old sports bra, but make sure it’s one that you can get on over your ginormous nursing boobs.

For your heart/mind:

Hot Bath

  • Sit in a hot bath (as hot as you can stand) for 10 minutes every day, and just cry as much as you need to while someone else pays attention to your baby.

Be Kind to Yourself

  • This looks different for everyone, but I think a pretty universal need we have as new moms is the message that we’re doing ok as moms. It’s ok that you don’t know everything. It’s ok that your baby is crying. It’s ok that you’re tired. It’s ok that you want someone to hold your baby while you take a nap/shower/bath/drive/trip to Target alone. It’s ok that you cry every day. It’s ok that breastfeeding isn’t working. It’s ok that you still look pregnant. It’s ok that you ____________________. Seriously, if you aren’t physically harming anyone, you’re doing fine. Cut yourself some slack because you’re new at this, and it’s going to take some time to adjust. Nobody just knows how to be a mom automatically.

Ask for Help

  • Tell someone you’re struggling.
  • Ask for food.
  • Ask someone to hold your baby so you can take care of yourself.
  • Join a support group.
  • Talk to a counselor or therapist.
  • Call the pediatrician’s emergency nurse line at 3:00 a.m. because your baby “looks weird.”
  • DON’T FEEL BAD ABOUT IT.

Nap Time = Me Time

  • When the baby is sleeping, do whatever you want. Read, take a bath, take a nap, pray, meditate, watch TV, clean. Whatever helps you relieve stress, or whatever you need to do at that moment, do it. Don’t always feel like you have to be doing something “productive.” You don’t. But if cleaning is therapeutic for you, bring your baby to my house during nap time. I’ll take care of him/her.

Innocence Lost

I know too much now.

Pregnancy used to be this mysterious, magical thing that happened to people, and in some ways, it still is. But I will never be able to think of it again in the same way. When people get pregnant on TV shows, all I can think is, “Nope. That’s wrong. That’s totally unrealistic.” And when people look at a positive pregnancy test and say, “We’re gonna have a baby,” I just cringe. I heard a story about a lady who had her nursery fully decorated and ready when she was only 7 weeks pregnant, and I said, “I REALLY hope she brings home a baby because she obviously does not know that losing it is a possibility.”

I know that reality all too well. I was talking to a friend yesterday about the experience of loss in general. A friend of hers was murdered two years ago, so she knows what it’s like to lose someone suddenly, unimaginably. I mentioned the Thestrals from Harry Potter – the horse-like creatures that could only be seen by those who had been touched by death – and I said I really appreciate J.K. Rowling for making those things up because they’re something I can totally understand. Once you’ve experienced a profound loss, you’re just different somehow. You may not see creatures that others can’t see, but you truly do have a different kind of sight.

I know what it’s like to hold a baby for the first and last time. I know the empty feeling that comes in the days and weeks afterward when you should still be carrying life, but you’re not. I know the fight you have when you need hope more than anything, but having it feels like a betrayal of your loss. I know the special combination of excitement and terror you feel from the moment the next pregnancy test is positive. I know how slowly the time seems to pass when every day counts.

I see pregnancy much differently now. I know what’s happening at every week and what the major milestones are. Someone (I can’t remember who, so if it was you, don’t be embarrassed) recently was surprised to learn that pregnant women think in terms of weeks. I said I was 24 weeks pregnant, and they were like, “How many months is that?” Maybe some women think in months. I don’t know. When you think in days, it’s hard to imagine thinking in months. I’m 25 weeks and 4 days today, and I have to think in days because my baby’s chances of survival literally improve with each passing day. If she were born today, she’d have a 2-3% advantage over yesterday. I don’t know if it’s healthy to think this way, but it seems to help me get through each day, so I do what I have to do. Like I said, I know too much.

I know how the cervix works. I’ll give you a demo if you bring me an empty toilet paper roll. If you give me an empty toilet paper roll and a pair of scissors, I’ll show you how cervical incompetence works. If you give me an empty toilet paper roll, a pair of scissors, and some yarn, I’ll show you what a cerclage is and what it does. But if you are pregnant now or hoping to get pregnant in the future, it might be better if you didn’t know because the fact of the matter is that it’s quite rare, and you probably won’t have to deal with it, so there’s no need for me to scare you.

I know WAY too much about remedies for constipation that are safe to use during pregnancy so that you don’t have to push at all to poop. For most pregnant women, this is great info to have in order to avoid hemorrhoids, but for those of us with cervical incompetence, it’s an absolute must. (This one is a little silly, maybe, unless you’ve dealt with it, in which case you know it’s no joke.)

I know what a sunshine baby is, what a rainbow baby is, and what a pot of gold baby is. I know about all the ways to put extra progesterone in your body and the reasons for doing it in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. I could go on, but I think I’ve made the point. I wish I didn’t have all this knowledge. I wish I could be one of those moms on the mommy boards complaining about how I wanted a boy, but it’s a girl (because I have nothing else to worry or complain about). I wish I could be thinking right now, “I only have 3 more months to get the nursery ready,” instead of, “If she came right now, she’d be in the hospital for a few months, so we’d have time to throw something together.” I wish I could be blissfully unaware of the survival rates of preemies born at various gestational ages. But I can’t do any of those things. I know too much now.

This whole post feels a bit self-indulgent or whiny or maybe even arrogant to me somehow, but I don’t mean it to be any of those things. I might be complaining a little, but I don’t feel like I’m better than anyone else because I’ve been through something terrible. This is just what it’s like. And the truth is I have much to be thankful for, but that’s another post. This one doesn’t have a tidy bow on top and likely never will. I hope it makes no sense to you at all. I hope you gave up reading halfway through or read the whole thing and thought I should suck it up.

But if you can relate to everything I’ve said here, you aren’t alone. And now you know that I know too.

Happy Hanukkah

I know the holidays are over and this is very late, but it’s something I’ve been pondering for a few weeks now, and I feel like I just really got a handle on it myself, so I’ll go ahead and say it. Better late than never, right?

Just a tiny back-story to start: I made Christmas CDs for all of my coworkers for Christmas, except for my Jewish boss, who got a Hanukkah mix. I didn’t have a lot of Hanukkah music, but I found some really good tunes, and I ended up having more fun making that mix than the Christmas one. I’ve also enjoyed listening to it more. I thought, at first, that it was because those songs weren’t so familiar and played out, but the more I listen to them, I think it’s something different.

People keep asking me how my Christmas was, and I keep saying that it was good, but lacking. I did Christmas things because that’s what I do at the end of December, but I’m not really sure I celebrated Christmas this year.

I feel like some Christians might get upset or concerned when I say things like this, but just hang with me. I really preferred Hanukkah to Christmas this year. That doesn’t mean that I’m converting to Judaism or that Jesus’s birth is insignificant to me. Hanukkah and Christmas are not mutually exclusive holidays. Just because they happen at the same time of year does not mean that they are in competition. They simply celebrate different things. They tell different stories, and this year, my own story lines up better with the Hanukkah story than the Christmas story.

Christmas, for me, this year, was just too big. It was too overwhelming, too much to receive at one time, too much to change. Christmas is about a world-changing event. The way we count our years revolves around it. It was the beginning of a new era. It was THE BIG ONE for all mankind. But my heart is still too tender for that. Overwhelming is overwhelming whether it’s good or bad, and I couldn’t open up to the overwhelming joy of Christmas because I’m overwhelmed enough. Or maybe I’m just not in a position to see the big picture right now because pain causes you to focus in on it so that you can take care of it one step at a time.

Either way, I felt like while Christmas was happening all around me, I was oblivious to it. Christmas might have been like the sun rising, but I was sitting in a blacked-out room. What I had in the room with me, though, were candles, and they were just what I needed. If I had opened the curtains, I would have been blinded. The candles were just the right amount of light.

The story of Hanukkah goes like this (the extremely condensed version, but correct me if I’m wrong in any way): The Greeks had taken over the Holy Land and made it illegal to study the Torah. The Maccabees were the leaders of a Jewish rebel army that fought to get their land and their religious rights and traditions back. They won despite being horribly outnumbered and outarmed (is that a word?). The Greeks de-purified all the ceremonial oil in the temple, but the Jews found ONE jar that had been overlooked. It was only enough for one day, but it miraculously lasted for 8 days, which gave the Jews enough time to purify more oil according to their laws.

As I listen to music about this, I relate to it in two ways:

  1. I have felt very ill-equipped to deal with my life over the past five months. As I look back on each week, I continue to see that things are easier than they were the week before, but I often still feel overwhelmed. Some days, the sadness is still very oppressive. But the Maccabees were overwhelmed and oppressed, and they fought back and WON, not by their own strength, but by that of the God who stood with them. That gives me hope.
  2. There are days when I don’t know how much more I can take, but somehow, hope remains. There are days when I feel that my hope should have dried up a week ago, but somehow, it’s still going. I don’t know how, but it’s there. I’ve found one little jar of hope untouched by sorrow, and it’s keeping me going against all odds.

So happy Hanukkah, everyone. Whether you’re Jewish or not, may you experience the light of hope that miraculously continues to shine until your supply is replenished.

Discipline Is a Four-Letter Word

Actually, discipline has ten letters. Yes, I stopped writing to count them…twice. I’ll give you a moment to double check my math.

Good? Ok, so our topic today is maintaining self-discipline when it comes to food and exercise. I’m sure we’re all super-psyched to talk about that. How do you do it? How do you keep it up long-term? How do you resist the cravings and temptations? How do you drag yourself off the couch every day to exercise. I think the answer to all of these questions can be summed in in two words: Motivation and Grace.

Motivation

When you have a really good reason for doing what you’re doing, you want to do it. When you have several really good reasons, your motivation gets stronger. When you have a really good plan in place to be successful, when you feel like it’s really possible, and especially when you start seeing that it’s working, it’s like a motivation booster. And when you have at least one person cheering you on, recognizing the hard work you’re doing, and giving you “the look” when you say things like, “Just one brownie,” followed by, “I don’t feel like working out today,” that really helps to keep you on track.

So if you’ve been struggling to lose weight with yo-yo results or no results at all, I would suggest that you answer the following questions:

  1. Why do you want to do this?
  2. How are you going to do it? Is your plan one that you can stick with long-term? Are you willing to change your lifestyle?
  3. What are your goals for the next month? How much weight will you lose? How often will you be exercising regularly? What specific things will you change about your diet (cut out sugar, stop eating fast food, give up soda, eat X number of vegetable servings per day, etc.)?
  4. What roadblocks, disappointments, or problems can you realistically anticipate? How will you get past them?
  5. What are you scared of as you think about getting started with this life change?
  6. Who will kick your butt if you start slacking off? (*Hint: Tell this person [these people] your reasons for wanting to make changes, your fears about doing it, and your plan, and check in with him/her/them daily. Yes, daily.)

Grace

You’re going to have off days. You’re going to enjoy Thanksgiving with your family. You’re going to be in a situation where you have no control over the food or whether or not you get to work out. You’re going to get sick and have to be in bed for days. You’re going to eat a cookie because someone made it for you and you don’t want to be rude by refusing it. You’re not going to have time to exercise one day. You’re going to forget to take your lunch to work and have to either go out to eat or starve. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to drop the ball.

Mistakes here and there won’t ruin everything. Give yourself some grace and move forward.

When I was in college, I went through a cross-cultural training program in preparation for an overseas summer mission trip. In this program, we learned a silly song that has been extremely helpful to me in countless situations since. One part of the song said, “It’s not what you do first; it’s what you do next.” How do you respond to set-backs? How do you treat yourself when you make a mistake? What do you do after you fall off the wagon?

Each decision is a step in one direction or another, but taking one step in one direction does not mean that you have to take another. If you drink a soda in a moment of weakness, choose to stick with water tomorrow. If you decide to skip your workout one day, get back on your schedule tomorrow. Even if you’ve been making bad decisions for years, you don’t have to be stuck in that rut. You can choose to take one step at a time in another direction.

It’s hard at first, I’ll be honest. Really, really hard. But the more often you make healthy decisions, the easier they become to make. You can’t give up at one failure, though. You have to give yourself some grace and try again.

The lady on one of our exercise videos always says, “If you give up, the only person you’re giving up on is yourself.” And as much as we hate her for torturing us each day, she’s right, and I’m worth not giving up on. So are you.

And Vice Versa

I’m sure there is science out there somewhere to back up the things I am about to say, but all of this is just from my own personal experience. And movies.

Making good decisions – decisions you can be proud of – for your body makes you feel good about yourself. Even before you lose any weight or look any thinner or more muscular, you feel better because you are proud of the decisions you’re making and hopeful for the future. I had probably lost about 8 pounds when I asked Will if he thought I looked any thinner. He said he wasn’t sure if I actually looked thinner yet, but that I was carrying myself more confidently, which made me look healthier. And even though I had only been exercising and eating better for a couple of weeks, I definitely felt healthier, which made me want to continue making healthy choices. Thus, the cycle continued. Good decisions => positive feelings and positive self-talk => feeling confident and looking healthy => feeling healthy => more good decisions.

In that cycle, I mentioned positive self-talk, which I think is really important. When you do good things for your body, you are training yourself to love it. I think people have the idea that loving their bodies comes with weight loss and looking thinner, but I don’t think that’s the right conclusion to draw from that correlation. I think they happen at the same time and get mistaken for cause and effect, but what’s really happening is that you are treating your body well, and the more you treat something well, the more you realize how much you appreciate it. It’s the same with any relationship. You don’t always feel the warm-and-fuzzies for people, but when you choose to show them love and kindness anyway, the good feelings come back around. Showing love and kindness actually makes you feel loving and kind. It works for your body too. If you do kind things for your body, it makes you feel the love you have for your body. And the more you do it, the more natural and authentic it becomes. Also, you come to appreciate your body for what it can do, which I really need right now. Healthy choices => authentic appreciation of the body => love of the body => desire to treat the body well => more healthy choices.

And then there are endorphins, which make you feel better when you hate your aerobics instructor for being such a sadist (or when you hate yourself for being such a masochist because you’re working out with a DVD at home and no one is there to make you feel guilty about just turning it off). Oh, and endorphins make you not a murderer, which I’m sure my husband appreciates as a nice side-effect of all my exercising.

legallyblonde

So exercise => endorphins => happiness => not shooting my husband => happy husband => husband supporting my healthy choices => more exercise??

I don’t know about that last full circle, but I do know that feeling better physically makes you feel better emotionally, which makes you want to feel even better physically. And so on, and so forth, and vice versa.

Fuel

One of the vocabulary words we’re practicing in class this week is “purchase.” Today, my students were doing an exercise where they had to choose all the correct answers (out of 4 possibilities) to a question. One of the questions was, “Which of the following could you purchase?” And one of the possible answers was “energy.” We decided that might work because you purchase gas and electric services for your home, and then we also talked about how food provides energy for our bodies. We don’t purchase energy directly, but we purchase the food we consume (another vocab word this week), which our bodies then use for energy. It’s an interesting little exercise, and it creates a lot of opportunities for conversation about words and their usage, which is nice.

Anyhoe, this whole thing made me start thinking about the food I eat and how my body uses it, especially now that I’m trying to be more active. When I want my body to do more, I need to give it what it needs so that it can perform. The body doesn’t need much just to sit around watching Netflix all day, but it needs a little more if I’m going to be standing up teaching, and it needs even more than that if I’m going to exercise. My problem until recently has been that I thought all calories were the same.

I guess if I had taken the time to really think about it, I would have realized that that’s dumb, but I didn’t. I thought of food as the reward you get at the END of the workout, not the fuel you need to do the workout in the first place. And with that mindset, I was eating foods after my workouts that were totally undoing all the hard work I’d just done. And then I was still hungry because the foods I ate filled up my calorie quota without filling my stomach or meeting my body’s nutritional needs. Gah! No wonder the whole thing sucked! (Y’all just witnessed that epiphany. That JUST happened. Just now. Jazz hands.)

One thing I’ve noticed, though, with the program I’ve been doing recently is that I’m not all that hungry because I’m eating at least 5 times a day. And the workouts aren’t so bad because I’m eating foods that are helping me get through them instead of trying to jog with a body full of chocolate cereal and Starbursts. (Incidentally, Starbursts are not good for your body in any way. I have a poop story to prove it, but I won’t subject you to it. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.)

So there you have it. I don’t understand or particularly care to know the science behind it, but from my own personal experience, I can tell you that what you eat absolutely has a direct impact on how your body is able to perform. Feed it well.

It Takes a Village (Fitness Edition)

I don’t like working out around other people. Even when I’m at home and my husband decides to take a day off from exercising, he’s not allowed to stay in the room with me while I do it. I REALLY don’t like going to the gym where strangers can see my fat jiggle when I run. I feel very self-conscious exercising in public, and I would prefer to do it in the privacy of my own home.

However, it is VERY important for me not to make major life changes alone. I need the support and help of family and friends, and yes, even strangers who are in the same boat as I am. Family and friends are great because they love you and support you, and you can text them how much weight you’ve lost and get something like this in return:

Yes, I call my sister "Buck Buck Number Two." Is that weird?
Yes, I call my sister “Buck Buck Number Two.” Is that weird?

Strangers, on the other hand, are wonderful because you can tell them your exact measurements and not give a flying flip what they think of it because you’ll probably never meet them, and even if you do, you’ve been through something together by then that makes you happy to finally meet them, still not caring that they’ve seen your measurements because they were right there with you.

I have both of these groups, and hooboy is it necessary for me. I have my sweet husband telling me I’m beautiful regardless of my weight but that he’s also SO proud of me for all the hard work I’m doing. I have my sister cheering me on with every weight loss update. I have my coworkers commenting on how they’re starting to see the changes. And I have a group of mostly strangers on Facebook who are all working on healthier goals together. We can post links to recipes, we can complain about how hard our workout was, we can encourage each other to keep it up anyway or get back on the wagon, and we can give each other big cyber-fives on a job well done.

I work out alone or only with my husband (who doesn’t count as “people”), and I prefer it to the gym or to a group class, but it really does take a village to help me stay on track and make good choices. So to all of you who have read and posted or texted me encouraging comments, THANK YOU. I need you. I can’t do this without you. I’m thankful that I don’t have to.

3 Ways to Improve Your Workouts

I’ve been working out consistently for just over a month now. That’s a month of my whole life, so I don’t have much experience to draw from unless I also pull from way back in my childhood when working out was not a thing I did, but playing was. As an adult, I have been a terrible role model thus far and definitely no one you should trust for fitness advice. However, I’ve learned a couple things recently that I would like to share with you, and I am also going to pull from way back in my childhood.

1. Eat a healthy diet.

nawlinsDo you want to know why working out sucks SO bad and you hate it all the time always and hate everything that exists in the world while you’re exercising? It’s because the food you’re putting in your body is not fueling your body properly so that it can work out. At least that was true for me. I barely had the energy to change into workout clothes, but I forced myself to work out because I knew I should. And I kept waiting for the day when I would look forward to it, when I’d feel sluggish if I missed a run, not if I went on one. That day never, ever came, and eventually I gave up. Even when I didn’t give up (remember that time Amaris and I did a half marathon?), I didn’t lose a single pound because I didn’t change my eating habits. They may, in fact, have gotten worse. I lacked the energy I needed to train, but I trained anyway. Then to get the energy back that I needed to finish out the day, I would eat a ginormous plate of pasta because dangit I had EARNED it.

Some of you are shaking (or smacking) your heads at me right now, and you are correct to do so. Looking back, I know it didn’t make sense, but I didn’t know any better. Now I do, and y’all, I am not kidding when I tell you that I didn’t get to work out yesterday, and I was disappointed. If you give your body what it needs, it will return the favor. Get rid of the sugar and fried foods and as much of the refined and processed foods as possible. Eat your veggies. Limit your grains (not to the extreme, but probably half as much as you would like). Report back to me on your workouts.

2. Make a plan to change things up.

I get bored pretty easily, so doing a different workout every day helps me to keep it up. But I also need structure. I hated going to the gym because I would walk in, look around, wonder what I should do, not have any good ideas, and end up doing the same thing. Planning what you’re going to do, though, allows you to feel in control and ready for your workout while also preventing you from getting bored with it. It’s the same with diet. If you plan to eat different things every week, you’ll get to eat new things but also not find yourself in the kitchen staring into the fridge wondering if you’re actually hungry.

3. Play!

I have workouts that I do with a DVD throughout the week, and they are not the most fun, but I do them because I must, because they’re different every day (which keeps me from zoning out), because they’re planned for me (structure), and because doing them is FAR healthier than watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother on Netflix. But on Sundays, I’m going to a Zumba class up the street, and that is FUN. I look forward to it. It makes me excited about exercise (most weeks) because it doesn’t feel like exercise. When I was a kid, I was in great shape because I was on a competitive jump rope team. Have you tried jumping rope lately? Good luck going for more than a minute. It is no joke. But when I was a kid, I didn’t think about it as exercise. I just loved doing it. What do you love doing that gets your heart rate up, makes you sweat, and works your muscles (keep it clean, kids)? Dance (Zumba, swing, contra (!!), Just Dance), play a sport, jump rope, run as fast as you can down a hill, ride a bike, play in the ocean, walk/hike with friends, go to a playground and climb on the jungle gym, get some buddies together and play tag (or any other childhood game that won’t make you feel like the fat kid in gym class). HAVE FUN!

Oh, and if you are giant nerd and you know it (you know it), I just found this. Enjoy!

Healthy Start

I could go back as far as high school to start this story, but I won’t. I’ll just go back to when I was pregnant with a tee-tiny bit of back story. Like a lot of women, I have always struggled with my weight. Looking back at high school pictures, I can see now that I was reasonably thin, but I did not believe that at the time. After high school, things just got worse, and although I’ve tried now and then to lose weight, I just seem to keep putting it on. I didn’t even lose a pound when I was training for the half marathon I did in New Orleans.

When I was pregnant, the nurses at my OB/GYN practice liked to remind me that I was overweight. As if I hadn’t noticed that I was shopping at the plus-size store. And as if I wasn’t already self-conscious enough with my belly growing and people asking if I was sure I didn’t have two babies in there. Thanks, gals, for the ego boost.

But I wasn’t allowed to try to lose weight at that point.

Then we lost our sweet Ella, and through the kindness and generosity of SO many people, we ate a LOT of not-the-healthiest food in a very short period of time, and I put on another 8 pounds in just 6 weeks, which put me at the most I had ever weighed in my life, including the time I spent pregnant. This was getting serious. I knew that I needed to do something, and I knew I needed help and accountability to do it.

Well toward the end of August, I noticed that a friend from college was going to be leading a health and fitness challenge group for beginners on Facebook. I didn’t really consider myself a true beginner, but I knew I was REALLY out of shape, so I figured I would fit in just fine. We’ve been at it for almost three weeks now, and not only do I fit in just fine, it is HARD.

The exercise is hard, the eating plan is hard, and all of the feelings associated with it are hard. There’s the determination to succeed, the fear of failing, the desire to eat things I shouldn’t eat, the guilt of eating things I shouldn’t have eaten, the thought that I should just give up, and then back around to the determination to succeed. I’ve just come to think about food and exercise in a certain way, and changing my thought patterns is really difficult. But it IS time for me to make these changes, so I’m going to do it.

On a purely mental/emotional level, I need to do this now:

  1. because I need to succeed at something after losing my baby.
  2. because I need to feel like I’m in control of my body after the complete traumatic helplessness of PPROM.
  3. because I need to treat my body well after being so angry at it.
  4. because I still feel so sad so often, but endorphins make you feel so great.
  5. because I need to be proud of myself for something.
  6. because I need to keep myself busy until we are ready/allowed to try to get pregnant again.

So off I go on a frightening, exciting journey. If you can relate to any of this (with or without the pregnancy stuff), you are cordially invited to join me. I hope you will, and if you want, you can tell me that you’re with me, and we’ll keep each other going.

Self-Care

I have learned a lot of important things over the past few months. I’ve learned how badly people need each other, how we are meant to care for and be cared for by others. I’ve learned about grief, the process of grieving, the value of it, the necessity of it. I’ve learned that love is indeed as strong as death, and that both can fill your heart and break it at any moment. And I’ve learned that taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be selfish. We get the feeling that it is, but it isn’t. Taking care of yourself does not preclude you from taking care of others. In fact, if you don’t take care of yourself, how can you possibly take care of anyone else?

Will and I have always found that we take turns feeling good and bad, confident and scared, okay and not okay. We often feel good at the same time, but we seldom feel bad at the same time, and that works out nicely because when one of us feels bad, the other can be the caretaker. When one of us feels sick, the other can bring soup and juice. When one of us feels sad, the other can be there to offer comfort. And we’ve always given ourselves and each other permission to feel the bad things. It’s the only way to work through them. Even if I just feel cranky, I tell him, and he says, “I’m sorry you feel cranky. Is there anything I can do?” Sometimes there is. Sometimes I would feel a lot better if he took something off my plate or hugged me or talked it out with me. Sometimes there is nothing that he can do, but if I can rest and be alone for a while, that helps. Either way, he helps me take care of myself, and I try to do the same for him.

We’re doing a lot of self-care this week. We’ve taken a whole week off, and we’re in the mountains resting and celebrating our first/second anniversary. We’ve been married for a year, but we’ve been together for two. This week, here’s what self-care looks like for us:

  • sleeping in
  • sitting in our jacuzzi tub
  • reading
  • watching movies
  • enjoying nature
  • doing fun things
  • being active
  • cuddling
  • eating good food

Shoot, I may even get a pedicure. The resort where we’re staying gave us a coupon for $12 off any spa service, and with that, their pedicures are still overpriced, but we’ll see. That may be just the thing I need.