Kicking Ass

I’ve decided to be more kick-ass.

That’s right. I want to get stronger, faster, bolder. More authentic. Obviously, fitness is going to play a big role, but it’s more than that. Becoming a mom has encouraged me to be my best self, and that means doing more of the things I love: cooking, decorating, putting outfits together, writing, working through things psychologically.

So let’s do this!

Yesterday’s workout was for legs and back. At the time, I came up with an acronym: O.K.A.Y. Do I remember what it stands for now? No. I know the K.A. stood for Kick-Ass. Anyway… here’s the routine. Strengthening your ass is a good way to become Kick-Ass, right?

You Will Need:
A barbell
A step
A resistance band
A kettlebell (or dumbbell)
A yoga ball
A sled
30-40 minutes of your time

The Exercises:
Switch lunges – just like regular lunges but jump as you switch legs
Barbell squats
Step-ups with kickbacks
Shackle shuffles – this is what I call putting a resistance band around your ankles, squatting and shuffling down the length of the room and back
Kettlebell rows
Russian kettlebell swings
Back extensions on ball
Jump squats
Supermans
Deadlifts

Complete each exercise ten times (for ones that require both sides, you’re only doing ten total – five on each side) and finish five sets. After each set, push the sled down one length of the room and back.

Just for fun, once I was done I kicked the heavy bag too. It’s a great way to get out aggression! I encourage you to name the bag after someone you dislike.

Upheaval 2.0

Remember my last post? The one about life moving in unexpected ways?

Well, this morning I drove to work and drove home again shortly thereafter, having endured what can only be described as a mutual resignation.

Sometimes things don’t work out the way you think they will, or hope they will. In this case, although it’s scary as hell to have left a job without a backup (and without a plan, since this was somewhat of a surprise to me), it feels like a relief. I wasn’t free to be me at this organization, and was wondering how I was ever going to get all the work done without a ton of guidance, and with baby in tow. It’s for the best.

Still, this is the first time this has happened to me, and it doesn’t feel good. It feels humiliating and shameful. It doesn’t matter that Erik says it’s OK and that it’s for the best. It doesn’t matter that my mom says, “Well, that’s life. It happens to everybody!” It just feels off; it feels weak.

Oddly, as frightening and embarrassing as it is, I must go back to that feeling of relief. I know I have a lot to offer. I know this job wasn’t a great fit, and only a month in, it was already stressing me out. I know that my daughter needs a happy mom, and Erik needs a happy wife.

This will all work out just fine.

I’m going to enjoy my Thanksgiving! I was stressed about fitting in work this week; now I don’t have to worry about it. Always a silver lining.

Upheaval

People talk about major life changes (births, moves, changing jobs) and encourage you to be kind to yourself when these things happen. They urge you to only tackle one thing at a time: i.e., if you’ve just had a baby, maybe you shouldn’t move or change jobs.

But if you’re insane, you do all three. That’s how I roll.

Anyone who has followed my blog knows that I’ve spent almost three years as a cellar dweller in a depressing, scummy-slummy apartment. Erik and I figured the trashy folks upstairs would never move out because they were just too poor to save up to rent anywhere else. Imagine our surprise when we learned they were leaving! We immediately called our landlords and asked if we could move upstairs. They conceded.

That week, I decided to give my notice at the Y. It was gut-wrenching for me. I’m still bitter about it. For many reasons I won’t go into here, it was the right decision. Sometimes the right decision is hard. I still call it my Y. I still say “we.” And then I realize I don’t work there anymore, and it hurts all over again. Ah, well. This too shall pass.

Anyway, the move was made without much help from me. Moving with a baby really stinks. Luckily, we’re blessed to have many friends who made the move with us. For the low price of pizza and soda, we all got it done.

The improvement in my mood was almost immediate. Seeing the sunshine everyday does wonders for the soul! I didn’t know how much I missed it until I had it back in my life. I still look around and take time to appreciate it, even a month later. I’ll strive to continue remembering what life was like in the downstairs apartment, just so I can be sure to practice gratitude.

Anyway, our landlords decided to raise the rent. After I decided to work part-time. Ah nuts.

Then, my resignation was sort of rejected, and I was bullied into working longer. My life became a string of one job after another, everyday. Learning two new jobs, and struggling with the anxiety of working one that I wanted to be done with but still felt guilty about leaving.

Then came the guilt of not being able to keep up with the housework like I thought I’d be able to. Taking care of the baby can take a lot out of you sometimes!

Then came the crib transition: something I was putting off until life “settled down.” Ha. Anyway, she was fine with it. We’re at almost three weeks now! I however was not fine with it. It stressed me out further and made me more emotional than I thought possible.

Now, one of my part-time jobs has asked me to put in more hours every week. “Sure!” I immediately agreed, only to later realize I’m almost at 40 hours a week again between my two part-time jobs… after wanting to only work 25.

Ah nuts.

But you know what? Some of these days have been hard, sure; sometimes I worry about money, and sometimes I’m exhausted. But once again, God is moving and shaking things up. Driving to Denver one day a week has made living in Estes Park a lot easier. I don’t have cabin fever as much. Getting into civilization is nice. Not to mention I get to write for a living again! It feels good.

And working at the gym is amazing. I get to really be myself! I can show my tattoos, I can swear, I can laugh and make friends with all types of people. It’s exactly the stress-free job I was looking for – my fun job. And it helps me stay on top of my health and fitness goals – not always easy when you have a four-month-old at home.

I’m hoping that all this change is an impetus to write in my poor, neglected blog once more.

The First Month

In the last stages of pregnancy, I read a book called Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke that I simply can’t say enough about. Not only did it help get me through my quick, intense labor in one piece, it’s helping me navigate parenting with more calm patience than I thought possible. It introduces your infant as your mindfulness teacher, and boy does that nail it on the head!

Adalynn is one-month-old today, and already she has instructed me in dozens of ways. I’ve learned many new skills, including:

  • How to change a diaper. Yep, before I gave birth, I had never done this. I didn’t babysit, and I was the youngest.
  • How to bathe a squirming tiny person. Well, technically I’ve only ever given her a sponge bath, but on today’s docket is the real thing! I’ve been making Erik do it because I’m terrified.
  • How to dress a wee sack of potatoes. Little sacks of potatoes are hard to clothe, but with humorous coaching and a firm hand, it can be done.
  • How to dodge geysers of spit-up. This is by far the grossest part of parenting, in my opinion. I’d much rather deal with poop than warm, runny, regurgitated milk.
  • How to feed myself in ten minutes flat. Inarguably, this is an essential skill.
  • How to breastfeed in public. Not only does it feel awkward exposing a body part you’ve been shamed into covering up all these years, you have to do it without your Boppy, recliner and legions of pillows.
  • How to communicate with an alien. She can’t speak, can’t understand you, and demands whatever she wants whenever she wants. Thankfully, it’s true when they say that you start to understand your infant’s different cries eventually. The tomato-red gas cry is much different than the overstimulated and tired cry.

Of course, there are many other skills to note, including how to take an infant out of the house, how to wear one in a Boba, what to pack in a diaper bag, how to deal with the endless stream of visitors, etc., etc. Most importantly, she continues to teach me the art of mindfulness.

How do you stay calm when she won’t stop crying no matter what? When you’re tired and on edge? When you’re hungry and can’t eat? When you’re thirsty and can’t drink? When you have to pee but can’t get up? When you’ve just fed her and she seems hungry again? When you just want to shower and feel like a human but you can’t leave her alone? When you sit in bed, waiting for her to fall asleep and she stares at you with wide-awake eyes and you have to listen to your husband snore next to you?

These are the moments when you shut your eyes for a second and begin to breathe deeply. Usually, you can breathe so deeply and calm yourself so much that she begins to pick up on your vibe and do the same. Not always, but usually.

Babies are skilled in teaching mindfulness because they just are. They can only communicate their needs by crying, and they do. They cry when they’re hungry, in pain, have a dirty diaper, are bored, are tired, are lonely. They exist to have their needs met: right, wrong or indifferent. They don’t fit into our schedule. They teach you to go with the flow and be in the moment.

So, happy one-month to my mindfulness teacher extraordinaire! I look forward to seeing what you will teach me in month two.

Bringing Sexy Back

“I’m bringing sexy back.”

This is what I said to my husband last night as we sat at the kitchen table. I was pumping one of my breasts and told him to come over and laugh at how funny it looks. That morning, I had finally steeled myself to try pumping. I had been afraid – who knows why. I chalk it up to new motherhood and the random bouts of anxiety it brings. It was important to me to pump alone for the first time just in case something went wrong or I couldn’t figure it out.

But once I had figured it out (and it wasn’t very hard, for what it’s worth), I knew I could call Erik over for a chuckle.

After all, we mused together, it may be hard for him to ever view me in the same light after witnessing the birth of our daughter, the aftermath of birth in all its glory (namely, mesh underwear and giant diaper-esque pads), the painful art of learning to breastfeed, and now the hilarious world of pumping breastmilk. Not to mention the new body I’ve gained through a successful pregnancy: wider hips, more back rolls and a new little pouch covered with angry purple stretch marks.

All joking aside, I don’t mind my postpartum body. Sure, it’s a little lumpy and squishy, but it’s hard for me to hate it when I look at the gift it gave me just 18 days ago (currently snuggled against my chest in my Boba, for those who would like to know). And you know what? It’s a lot easier to appreciate this new squishy body when you remember the aches and pains of pregnancy! The last weeks of pregnancy are really hard. Everything hurts, the sleeplessness is awful, the anxiety and irritability are at an all-time high, and you just want the baby to be out of you. I still marvel at the fact that I can eat without heartburn; bump my belly into something without feeling like I was gut-punched; lay on my back; walk without getting winded; stoop down to pick something up off the floor!

I had an easy, healthy pregnancy, and I’m extremely grateful for that. Still, it was no picnic. I’m glad it’s over. And because of that, it’s easy to embrace the pouch on my belly that looks like the skin of an ugli fruit. It’s easy to embrace the wider hips when I look into my daughter’s face and marvel that my body helped to create a tiny person who is so perfect. It’s easy to be kind to myself and remember that it took nine months to create this new body, and it may very well take at least nine months to find a new normal. I may never wear the same size I did before, and the most upsetting part of that is having to purchase new clothes! That’s what thrift stores are for.

UniqFruit

Postpartum belly skin, perfectly captured by the majestic ugli fruit.

I never would have imagined I’d be so zen about “losing” my pre-pregnancy shape. While I was pregnant, I obsessed over each and every one of the 44 pounds I gained. But once baby was here, it felt natural to embrace the changes that occurred – the physical transition into motherhood. I now have a new facet to my identity and therefore, I look different than before. It doesn’t matter. Our daughter doesn’t know any different. And as I patiently wait for her to smile at me for real, I already know she’s starting to love my face, my scent, the feel of my body. She doesn’t care what size jeans I wear.

So for now, neither do I.

The Question I’ve Come to Hate

“How are you feeling?”

I think it was about month four or five of pregnancy that I began to dread this question. Back then, it just felt repetitive and annoying. Now it feels like, “How do you think I feel, genius?!” It’s like asking how someone is when they’re at a loved one’s funeral. Do you really expect them to tell you the truth?

“I feel like the world has stopped turning. I feel like the earth has gone from beneath my feet. I feel like I can’t breathe, and that nighttime lasts forever. I can’t think of the next day, let alone the next year without my loved one. I feel angry at God.”

Nope, no one is going to say that. Most of us are well-trained circus animals that have been tamed into submission and taught to say something sociably acceptable. These days, my response to the dreaded question is one of two options.

“I’m fine.” This reply is reserved solely for those who I don’t know well, which is most people. For some reason, people start really caring about you when you’re pregnant. This has been one of the most annoying parts of creating human life: You didn’t care about me before, why do you care now?!

“Do you want the real truth, or the nice truth?” This answer is more suitable for people I know a little better – or at the very least, people I don’t mind sharing my private life with. It breaks the ice a little bit. And once the ice is broken, I can tell them how I really feel.

I feel like a water buffalo.

WB

Why a water buffalo? Because one day I was huffing and puffing up the fit trail at work and this was the first thought that crossed my mind. I couldn’t have picked a water buffalo out of a line-up, but somehow it sounded like the most appropriate way to describe my new lazy, bloated body.

Here’s how I feel:

  • My lungs are slowly being crushed. Do you know how embarrassing it is for a former cardio queen to gasp through everyday conversation? I feel pathetic and out of shape and gross.
  • My ribs are in some sort of vise at all times. I alternate between slumping, trying to sit and stand as tall as possible, and leaning at varying angles. It’s not because I’m being kicked there. It’s because she’s stuck her limbs inside and is slowly spreading my ribs apart like she’s a pair of pliers.
  • Queasiness has returned, except now it’s accompanied by uncontrollable hunger. As soon as my belly is empty, I don’t feel well. It’s enough to make me want to stuff my face at all times. And I do. And for all the pregnant women who say they feel oddly full after just a few bites? I wish I had that problem. My stomach fits the same amount of food as ever. It just regurgitates itself into my throat instead of digesting into my intestines like it used to.
  • I am a fire-breathing dragon. Luckily for me, my heartburn comes and goes. Once I get it, it stays like an unwelcome uncle. And then nothing will touch it. Water, bread, milk – everything makes it worse.
  • Nothing is coming out of me anymore. I eat and eat, and it doesn’t come out. I’m already at the maximum recommended weight gain for someone of my size, and I’ve still got a long ways to go. I’m not a particularly unhealthy eater – it’s really just not coming back out. At this rate, I won’t be surprised if I gain 50 pounds total. And because nothing is coming out, I constantly feel even more uncomfortably large and squished.
  • There are lightning bolts in my crotch. Yep, I had no idea I could conduct electricity, but I’m doing it. Sometimes it feels like things are ripping, other times it feels like Zeus is in my body. Sharp, stabbing pains. Ones that take your breath away, and it’s difficult to carry on like this in a workplace environment.
  • I feel like I finished a marathon but instead of being able to rest, someone is forcing me to continue walking for miles and days afterward. Sleep? What’s that? When every single thing on your body hurts and you can’t get comfortable, it’s pretty hard to come by.

I have been staunchly against inductions until this week, and now I think if my doctor offers to induce me for one reason or another I’m going to gleefully pounce and say, “DO IT.” I have so far to go, and I just want my own body back.

So how do I feel?

Fine. Just fine.

Baby-wearin’ Mama

Last night was our final childbirth class, aptly titled, “Follow Your Heart but Take Your Brain with You.” The five classes covered more than childbirth and included everything from breastfeeding to finding a pediatrician to envisioning our first date after baby’s arrival. It was fun meeting other moms around the community and opening important conversations with Erik; luckily for us, we have very similar ideas on many child-related topics. (Actually, it’s not luck: we thoroughly discussed many of these things while we were dating and engaged.)

I was surprised to find how passionate I became about part of last night’s class: baby-wearing. The subject had never really registered on my radar. Sure, I had thought about in passing: We should probably buy some sort of baby-wearing system for walking around downtown and hiking and whatnot.

I was shocked at how much baby-wearing systems cost! K’tans and Moby wraps are $50 and up – for a piece of fabric! “Fancier” carriers like the Tula and Ergo are $150 and $120, respectively. There’s no doubt in my mind that these carriers are bomb and you get what you pay for, but we ended up registering for a carrier that was $30-40 and called it good.

One of my Facebook friends had tagged me in a video of a woman “easily” tying a carrier, and it looked extremely difficult. I knew I’d never feel comfortable tying a strip of fabric around my body and trusting that it would keep my baby from certain death.

Back to last night: a community mom came in to teach us about baby-wearing. Oh great, I thought, another hippy-dippy eye-roller! Sure enough, she came armed with homemade baby wraps (along with some other, more technical carriers) and a tiny baby wrapped snugly to her front. I immediately thought this wouldn’t apply to me and Erik shared my sentiment, but we listened and participated politely.

I don’t know how or when or even why, but as we watched a live human demonstrate how to create a baby wrap and then tried it out on our partners (pregnant bellies make it a little harder to wrap comfortably), something clicked inside me. It suddenly seemed fabulously easy – and cost effective – to wrap your baby to your body and be hands-free as you went about your business!

20160511_184954

Proudly sporting the baby wrap my belly wouldn’t permit

I was sold once again as the mom demonstrated how easy it was to use your wrap to modestly breastfeed baby. That could come in handy… I mused.

The final winning pitch was mom’s admission that baby-wearing often keeps strangers away! As she and the nurses shared stories about random people coming up to touch your baby in its infant carrier, or asking to hold your baby, and all sorts of the other nightmares I’m already dreading, I realized baby-wearing could be one of the greatest choices I make in the coming months!

“Oh, no, sorry, she’s sleeping,” I can say to anyone asking to see or hold baby while she’s safely nestled against my torso. And I can say it without a trace of genuine remorse!

So off we go to the fabric store to buy linen gauze and make a “hippy-dippy” baby wrap. If it will save me from awkward and annoying interaction after interaction, I’m going to embrace it to the fullest!