See Mom Run

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Image courtesy of Jonas Birmé.

Warning: I’m taking a break today to talk about postpartum issues.  If you have trouble with body talk, please don’t read this post!

Postpartum has been a real “thing”.  I have struggled with PPD.  I’ve been haunted by my ability to get back to “normal”.  I found that the things I needed to hear about a lack of “progress” which I should have expected I didn’t hear until 6 weeks out.  I wasn’t cleared to do anything exercise-wise until 8 weeks.  My doctor was so confused as to why I expected after a heinous pregnancy that my exercise abilities would just return, I would feel great, and I’d have all this energy.  She was also really upset that people had told me that my stomach would bounce back.  And, you know what, most of my friends say their tummies were forever changed and that’s okay.  I grew a human.  I worked really hard to do it.  I destroyed what was “normal” in the process.  There was no “bouncing back”.  “Mom bod” should be a thing if “Dad bod” is but it’s not.

So, thanks to societal expectations and a history of disordered eating in college, I was really, really struggling.  Add to this a stupid thing at work which is encouraging a biggest loser style competition that has public weigh ins and people asking me why I wasn’t joining and I was reeling.  Suddenly, people were comparing notes on how to starve themselves, drink only vinegar for 5 days to “win” a week, etc.  And they were actively pressuring me to do the same – all despite the fact that I had lost a ton of weight when pregnant with my daughter.  I finally started telling people, “Hey, you guys should lay off this weight talk and stop assuming that is my goal”.

I was not cleared to run until 12 weeks postpartum and 3 days after I was cleared, I ran.  I started Couch to 5k (C25K) at the recommendation of my OB.  Having been an ardent running and an endurance athlete, I was like, “This is too freaking easy and won’t do it for me” but I really didn’t have a choice if I didn’t want to harm my health, according to her.  I cut myself a break.  And, with the encouragement of my brother-in-law who runs Ultramarathons, I made plans to run a 5k in May.  It was totally doable.  And while I thought running would come really easily back, the first 2 weeks were brutal.  Once I got over that point, I notice that my stride was coming back, I was physically capable of so much more, and my runner’s high returned.

I would prefer to be on my bike (as usual) but running is what I am capable of doing quickly (you just can’t do a short ride where we live without putting your bike in the car and driving off and my daughter is far too young to be in a kid seat).  I will get back to that next year.  I plan to buy her a bike seat for Christmas.  But, until then, I run.

I’m now hedging on Week 7 of C25k.  And while one person has made me feel crappy and believes my OB is “placating” my “laziness” I’m mostly ignoring it.  My brother in law says she’s a nutjob and other runners have been encouraging.  I feel like I’m doing it well and doing it for the right reasons.

Moreover, I feel like I’m mentally more capable than ever before.  I’m more present and I’m less daunted by a challenge.  I used to abhor hills.  However, it’s not no big deal to climb them.  I work on my form and chug along hills because I live in a place where there are hills everywhere.  My route is almost always a climb or descent.  One hill, in particular, goes on for half a mile.  I just dig in.  My body and mind were tested mightily in my pregnancy.  I have sheer determination and can blow through the block most runners get half way or 2/3’s of the way through a challenging run.  I used to routinely fall in the trap of “I cannot do this” and would spend weeks to climb over that wall.  I have hit the wall and I have refused to back down.

In May, I’m running two 5k’s.  First, the HER 5k I will run for HG.  I’m completing it here remotely since I can’t get to Chicago yet,  I’m shooting to finish on Mother’s Day.  My time won’t matter to me.  Then, I will do the Zoo Run which I will run “with” my brother- and sister-in-law.  I will not keep up with their pace but my goal is to run a sub-35 time if I can.

I have more goals, though.  I bought a jogging stroller so my first goal is to run with my daughter regularly to build up my core.  My second goal is to run a 10k in July.  I plan to use my daughter as my resistance training on my short runs and then do my long training runs on the weekend.  I have run a 10k before and trained basically all the way up to a half.  My running partner bowed out and I didn’t want to have the expense, so I didn’t run it.  However, I think I may be able to do it again.  I don’t see myself ever running a marathon but I do see myself continuing on a healthy path and maybe doing a half.

The real goal that I have is to run the 5k in my husband’s hometown (complete with hellacious hills) while pushing my then 9th month old in her stroller.  Last year, I couldn’t even walk during that 5k.  I cheered on my BiL who won the whole thing while standing next to my husband and hurting.  I took pictures of finishers but god I was beat by the end.  This year, I will come back strong as ever.  I will run fearlessly.  I will do this thing.  I will do it in under 35 minutes, damn it.  I will finish strong.  Next year, maybe I will run a half marathon in Indy or Bloomington.  I’ve always wanted to do either.  And my absolute “must do” will be that 5k in Chicago where I can meet women in person who battled (and survived) HG.  I will do it for myself and my daughter.

If you are interested in finding more info on the HER 5k, you can find it here.  The race will be run in Diversey Harbor on May 20th in Chicago.  The 5k starts at 9 AM and there is a family friendly option fun run that starts at 10 AM.  There are some fun events planned on race weekend, too, and some hotel rooms still available for cheap (especially by Chicago standards) but book soon!  The HER foundation supports research and education for women and families coping with hyperemesis gravidarum, something that plagued me my entire pregnancy.  The disease is fairly common but there are a lack of good providers out there with knowledge.  Women are often misunderstood by doctors and family members, so education and advocacy are key parts to making life with HG easier.  You can read more about my battle on the blog.  In the meantime, help HER by running either in Chicago or virtually with me and make a donation to a great cause in the process!

Another Body Altogether

Warning: I’m taking a break today to talk about postpartum issues.  If you have trouble with body talk or periods, please don’t read this post!  I will be putting out another gender and kids post later, so keep an eye out if that is more your style!

My baby turned 3 months this week.  When did that happen?  I also had a follow up for my birth control and endometriosis treatment (an IUD).  I’ve been bleeding for 4 weeks straight (going on 5!).  My doctor had warned me the bleeding my surprise me but I was unprepared for this.  It was sometimes worse than my immediate postpartum bleeding.  I was dumbfounded.

My doctor didn’t want to dismiss my fears but she did tell me, “You need to think of your pre-baby body as a completely different body altogether.  This new body is unknown.  For me, it was like going through puberty again.”  That was frustrating to hear but after reflecting on it for a week, I guess it is helpful.

I’ve felt so wrecked and all broken up postpartum.  I had a hard, arduous pregnancy.  Between losing 35 lbs (and only gaining 1 back) and having SPD, it was awful.  I was at my heaviest in recent history by the time I got pregnant.  I figured losing weight was pointless and time to conceive was pressure.  I was still an endurance athlete and ran about 3 days a week, lifted seriously. I was dedicated to the gym and would run with the dog in the morning at the crack of dawn before work.  I was hoping to run a 5k in the spring.  I assumed it would take MONTHS to get pregnant. And then, like a fool, once I got pregnant with my daughter, I figured I would still work out.  NOPE.  It didn’t work like that.  I was too sick and couldn’t spare the calories.  I was so atrophied when I delivered due to it.

I fit into pre-pregnancy clothing immediately after delivery and now fit into pretty much everything I did before I reached my heaviest weight. I planned to donate all of these clothes the month I got my positive test with Ruth but was then too tired to make it into town to go to Goodwill.  Instead, I kept them.  And then I lost so much weight, I mainly wore pre-pregnancy dresses and pants with a hairtie until I delivered.  Now none of those pants fit because they were just too big about 4 weeks postpartum.  I continued to lose weight (as most women do postpartum) although nothing like I did before.  But, I have so much loose skin and feel so fat.

Today, I started back to “running”.  In my time, I was never fast, but ran sub-30 5k’s in my early 20s and rode up to 65 miles in races and charity rides on my bike.  I also used to regularly run 5-7 miles several times a week before starting the time suck that is grad school.  But now, I’m hoping to do Couch to 5k at the behest of my OBGYN who thinks i’s the safest bet I have to slowly begin running. I wasn’t even cleared to do any running or light weightlifting until 12 weeks postpartum.  It sucks because I’ve never needed to start so slow.

My goal is to run a 5k by May.  I think that is doable.  I’d love to run a sub 35 time.  I will still get beat by my 70-something in-laws who do this for a serious hobby.  They run halfs and 10ks still.  My BiL who is a marathoner and ultramarathoner.  He’s run races around the world and now, in early retirement, is trying to run a marathon twice a month.  I feel like what I’m doing pales in comparison and is sad.

I know I will never get my body back.  I welcomed the stretch marks because they are a battle scar in a way.  But my abs are GONE.  I never had a six pack but I had such good abs before my daughter.  Abs that made me carry high and almost not show until 24 weeks.  I never appreciated my strong thighs, big calves, or tight stomach.  I felt so fat before I conceived.  And now I feel like a bowl full of jelly.

I need to get better at accepting my body has changed.  I know my husband still thinks I look good.  Others tell me I look amazing for having had a baby 3 months ago.  I can’t accept compliments from anyone (which I think is a common problem for most women).  I need to cut myself some slack – start slow, make it a goal to finish, don’t get bogged down in how out of shape I am.  If I could just feel more like myself again, I would be happy.  But this is the new body and it’s a whole ‘nother chapter to write from here on out.

Failure to mom?

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I’m a Type A woman with OCD.  I have probably always been a perfectionist and my own worst critic.  I have really never failed at much.  I don’t say this as a gloat.  But I’m also usually a fair judge of my own capabilities and not one to take huge risks, either.  A part of me assumed this would be the case with motherhood.  How could I fail?  I figured this task would pale in comparison to the ride I had just gotten off – finishing a dissertation while working full time and defending it with hyperemesis.

So, when I had the baby, life was good.  I will post a bit about my birth experience later on but all in all, I did really well.  17 hours after my induction began, she was here.  I only pushed for an hour.  Once I got my epidural, it was fairly smooth sailing (although not easy at all).  I couldn’t complain.  My episiotomy really didn’t hurt after I left the hospital.  I didn’t die with my first poop.  My baby slept in her own room in her own crib the first night home and only woke once.  That has continued now for 5 straight weeks.  I can’t complain that I have a hard baby. I can’t complain that breastfeeding is draining my soul because I am formula feeding with a Baby Brezza at my disposal.  I went back on my antipsychotic an hour after I delivered.  Basically, the things I did worry about were not a thing.  I sailed through them.

Still, the past 5 weeks have been so hard.  To begin with, my dog jumped onto our table and ATE my pain medication when my daughter was only a week old.  My husband had to rush home and rush her to the dog ER.  Then, when I had to take her in for follow up bloodwork, my in laws accidentally let her out of the house.  My father in law and I chased her for 30 minutes in an ice storm and then I drove her to the vet in that ice storm, almost flying off the road the entire time to and from.  I also had some insane family drama over Christmas that left my husband and me reeling. I wouldn’t wish what happened on my worst enemy.  I couldn’t think of a less kind thing to do to someone with a two week old.  I have been able to call on friends and my in laws for support at this time.  It has been helpful.  But I still have had some trouble with my bipolar disorder and what is likely postpartum depression and anxiety.  I hit a new low two days after Christmas.  Again, I wouldn’t wish the feeling of family abandonment on anyone in this situation.  My therapist has told me that I’m dealing with the worst possible scenario for getting well and that I was luckily not at risk of institutionalization when I met with him but he was on the fence when I first called him panicked.  I’ve never been institutionalized.  Hearing this scared me.

Women told me hormones and any type of baby will rob you of your sanity.  I ignored this because I was analytical.  I survived grad school.  I was very good at sticking to logic.  No matter how logical and dedicated you feel you can be, hormones are a real issue.  You can’t control them.  You will experience the greatest highs and greatest lows.  And when you have bipolar disorder, this will throw your train right off the track if you can’t control other things – namely food, exercise, and sleep.

Even with a good sleeper, your REM sleep is disturbed with your baby’s night wakeup.  And napping?  It’s a bad idea that will offset your sleep cycle.  Sleep when the baby sleeps is not particularly helpful to someone with bipolar disorder (even with a good sleeper).  When your baby goes to a growth spurt, you will never have time to eat.  When your baby gets fussy, you will never have time to eat with both hands.  My baby hit a growth spurt (and gained about a pound in a week!) around the time that my family drama was happening.  She suddenly became inconsolable and for three days, I ate nothing but a small dinner. After 9 months of not eating, this was not healthy at all.  Finally, good luck with exercise.  This is a big one for me.  But I am still not cleared for any type of exercise and probably won’t be for at least another month. My husband really stepped up and my in laws comforted me.  They came up to ensure I had support the day after my family left town.  My husband was worried I needed some observation and distraction.  I was still emotionally numb when they encouraged me just to leave, get coffee, and go to the store.  I wasn’t eating because I was also really upset.  And while I was absolutely keeping the baby alive (she was my only good thing at this time), I felt like I was failing as a wife.  Nothing else was going as planned.  I was killing myself to put food on the table every night.  I was trying to do all this damn laundry that was killing my back and pelvis from running up and down the stairs.  I was feeling guilty from asking my husband to take night wake ups as he worked. I felt like I was failing as a mom.  Because moms do it all.  Because I’d done all this great stuff and worked two jobs and never took a breath all of this time but motherhood was kicking my ass.  It seems the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and that is saying something.  I should be able to do it all, right?  And do it pleasantly! And that’s the curse of modern day motherhood.  I think especially for women who worked before they either went on maternity leave or who leave the workforce to be a stay-at-home-parent (SAHP).  A friend of mine wisely stated that she needed to hear “you’re doing a good job” more than ever after she decided to become a SAHP.  Because when you work, after all, you do get this affirmation a lot.  And to someone who is used to pleasing her boss and coworkers and getting the occasional “good job”, it is hard to imagine not having these things.  My friend’s husband was appreciating all she was doing but he wasn’t saying it.  The mantra of one of my favorite podcasts, One Bad Mother, is just that.  You’re doing a great job.  Because as long as your kid is alive the house won’t be clean, you won’t be making elaborate meals, you may have to ask for a lot of help, and you may feel like everything else is kind of just getting done and barely passing but that’s all you can expect right now.

More than ever, I need to remind myself that I’m only human. I can’t expect much more.  And I’m doing a good job for my baby and for my family. If you’re reading this and going “I’m really failing” for any reason other than DFS is at your door demanding your kids leave the house, realize you are doing a great job. And if this resonates with you because it’s BTDT, the next time you see a mom like me who is really struggling and crying just because she’s barely keeping her head above water, tell her she’s doing a great job.