Thursday, March 22, 2018

One Year of Baby

This week Baby turns one year old. Looking back at the last year, the number one thing I wish I knew—or rather wish I believed when people told me—is that it gets easier. Eventually, Baby started to sleep, stopped needing to eat seemingly every five minutes, and stopped crying all the time (mostly) and the effect of a little sleep for Husband and me and a little more time between nursing/pumping/washing bottles (so many bottles!) made everything better. The hormones finally settled, the fog lifted, the totally overwhelmed feeling shifted to a lesser, just constant hum of overwhelming-ness that I can (mostly) ignore.

One helpful piece of advice came from a prenatal class about breastfeeding. The teacher warned that nursing would be really hard at first and not to think about how long you hoped to do it for; don’t think about six months or a year or even a few weeks. Just take it one day at a time. I hated breastfeeding so much at first that almost as soon as I was done one feeding I was already dreading the next. So I tried my best not to think about how long I wanted to keep it up. And soon enough it got easier.

I think that’s good advice for all overwhelming things baby/running related. Don’t think about how long it takes to get back or how far you are now from where you were. Just take it one (sleepless) day at a time. And one day you’ll look up and realize it’s been a whole year and it’s not nearly as difficult and exhausting as it used to be.

So yes, babies get easier. So does running. Below are a few more things (besides the art of diapering, the words to every Sandra Boynton book, and that children’s songs are malicious ear worms on long runs) I’ve learned in the last year. (Or am still learning…)


1. It may take longer than you’d like, but your core/strength/speed will come back.

One of my most tangible issues postpartum (besides exhaustion and feeling like the Tin Man running) was diastasis recti, separation of the abdominal muscles. I spent months going to the PT, often feeling like it might be a waste of time and money. In early fall, I was wearing an ab splint 24/7 and hating every uncomfortable moment and doing an hour and a half of exercises each day to fix it (in three sets of 30 minutes, all while Baby was sleeping, when I wished desperately to be doing a million other things). When my PT told me it was essentially hopeless for a few more months (because of hormones from nursing), I had a bit of a meltdown. My abs wouldn’t be back to normal as soon as I’d like, no matter what I did, so I just had to be patient. To save my sanity, I cut myself some slack and stopped wearing the splint and doing most of the exercises.

Instead, I spent my time and energy focused on other issues, like tightness in my hips and pelvis. Finally, in January, my abs had made some progress, I was able to resume doing my old core workouts, and a few weeks ago I had my last appointment with my PT.

When I was two months postpartum, a friend of mine told me she didn’t regain core strength until eight months after her c-section and I thought: Eight months? OMG, that’s an eternity! Well, it turned out ten months was about what it took for me. (It was around the same time that workouts also started to click and I began to get glimpses of my old self.) Know that even though it may seem like an impossibly long time to wait, your strength/speed/etc. will come back someday. Patience is key for all things postpartum. Do what you can, but don’t drive yourself crazy forcing anything.

2. Relax about the weight stuff.

My weight is now close to where it was when I was in peak shape. Running helps of course, as does nursing, but so does relaxing about it and just letting your body find it’s new groove. This season, knowing I’m still helping feed a growing baby AND training for an Olympic Trials qualifying attempt, I’m eating more than ever. I’m focusing on trying to eat plenty of really nutritious (and delicious) things (thank you, Run Fast, Eat Slow!) and keeping Baby and I healthy and strong. As a result (or maybe because of time passing; there’s that patience thing again...), my weight is now getting back to my old normal. But really, that number doesn’t matter. My weight may be back in a similar range, but I feel different; stronger here or there perhaps, or maybe just shaped a little different. My body will never look exactly like it did before because, DUH, it grew a human in it for nine months. And that’s totally fine. In fact, it’s pretty flipping amazing.

3. Your body is flipping amazing (and it just may surprise you).

There were (are) many days when the road back seemed (seems) impossibly long, but there are also days I surprise myself. There’s evidence of at least one postpartum advantage: a boost in oxygen-carrying red blood cells, the same sort of effect people try to get by doping. Supposedly this boost only lasts about four months, so by the time I was back to real training it was long gone. But there were days where I would surprise myself; I’d run a pace that seemed unimaginable only a few weeks earlier, a long run would feel effortless, I’d catch a glimpse of something like the old Teal. Even now, when a workout goes well I wonder if there’s some special new mom juice still coursing through me. Because as much as I dream big and expect a lot of myself, I also have moments of sitting back and thinking: Geez, it’s really incredible I’ve even gotten this far. I truly believe God gives us more potential than any of us know and over the last year I’ve been reminded of that. Our bodies are pretty flipping amazing. They make babies, they run marathons, they bounce back from injury, inactivity, illness. Sometimes in the middle of the struggle it can be hard to see, but every once in a while you may catch a glimpse and see how your amazing body is working for you and getting better/stronger/faster.

4. You’re still you.

I’m a mom now, and that is undeniably life changing. But I’m also still a runner, with big dreams. When you become a parent I think it’s easy to assume you have to give up some part of yourself (your body/your sleep/your mind to a whole new set of worries) but you are also still the same person when that sleepless fog lifts, with the same strengths and weaknesses, hopes and dreams. I can once again run far, I still struggle with speed, and I still get immense joy out of pushing myself. No matter how much my love for my daughter grows (and it does, every day, in an incomprehensible incredibly overwhelming way that is also impossible to fathom even though people try to tell you), I still have room to love running.

5. Quit comparing.

Don’t compare your postpartum journey to others. You may come back faster or slower; maybe your abs will cooperate, but maybe some other issue will come up. There are plenty of women who are doing things quicker than I did/am, and others more slowly, but there’s no sense comparing. It’s hard to resist—and social media doesn’t always help—but remember that everyone’s situation/pregnancy/body/babies are different. Focus on taking care of yourself, taking it one day at a time, and trusting that it will get easier.

I promise, it does.


Dream big,
Teal


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