Resolution Checkin: Book Twelve

I did an easy read for number twelve: Body Confidence by Mark Macdonald. It’s a lifestyle plan designed to regulate your blood sugar while focusing on macronutrients and smart exercise. I definitely think there’s something to eating more often. I notice when I wait too long between meals I go crazy and binge. I’m still not quite in a place where I want to eat chicken and salad though. Maybe once we move and things calm down a bit. Not to mention it’s expensive to eat meat and produce!

I had to take the week off from strength training because foolish me did too much, too quickly in the pull-up realm and pulled my upper trapezius really badly. When it’s so bad you can’t sleep, you know you did a good job mucking it up! Lesson learned. I won’t be pushing myself quite so hard next time, and I really need to focus on form over volume.

Trying to get out the door this morning to do a sprint with the stroller, but running up against opposition in my brain, which wants to pack and prepare for the move we’re making in a month. You’d think a short sprint wouldn’t take too long, but once the baby and stroller are involved, a 15-minute run turns into an hour one.

Resolution Checkin: Book Eleven

I’m having good luck with first-time authors this year! I just finished Lotus by Lijia Zhang. It was a great novel with interesting character development, and it provided a glimpse into China’s prostitution industry. I liked how it grabbed me right away and kept up the momentum all throughout the book, which ended differently than I thought it might.

Remember my resolution to climb a rope? It has changed into a new goal: I want to be able to complete strict pull-ups. I’m on my way there! It’s hard work, but I love the challenge. I think it goes hand-in-hand with my original rope climbing idea but is a little more manageable; i.e., I don’t have to learn how to climb something that has taunted me since elementary school gym class.

I recently made the decision to abandon my half-marathon training plan. Training plans pre-baby were relatively easy to follow. Now? Not so much. I found myself getting more and more discouraged with how long it was taking to complete just a week of training. I was trying to be kind and tell myself to just do the plan in order, but my anxiety began to rise. Then the nasty voice in my head came up to tell me how much I suck. So I made my own little training plan to follow: three runs per week (one of them long, and the other two can be whatever I feel like doing), two strength-training sessions, and two core sessions. It’s easier for me to stick with something like this right now. Anxiety gone – well, gone from the exercise realm, at least.

Resolution Checkin: Book Ten

I finished No One is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts a few days ago. I have mixed feelings about it. I liked the depth of certain characters, but there were others I thought could have been fleshed out more. It was an interesting story nonetheless. I was surprised to learn that the author is a professor of English because I found editing errors throughout the book. It’s small, I know, but those things stick out to me. I need to toddle down to the library today and get another book – I’ve been bookless for a few days and it’s getting to me!

I completed my half-Murph Challenge on May 28 in a little over 46 minutes. After watching a trainer at the gym struggle through his, I listened to his advice: “Save all the running for the end.” And what a run it was… more like a walk with intermittent jogging thrown in! The route they chose at the gym was all downhill followed by all uphill, and it was not fun running with 20lbs on my back. But I did it.

And you know what? I was the only female at our gym who did all the exercises with the full 20lbs. Bragging.

A day or two after completing the challenge, I set my sights on training for a half-marathon again. Well, it’s been about three weeks and I’m only about 1.5 weeks into the training plan. I think I need to step up my game a little bit. At this point, I’m only concentrating on doing the planned runs and cross-training in order, rather than making sure I complete everything in a week. I think I’m giving myself a little too much padding… life with a baby, right?

The Misery Mystery

I solved the mystery.

I was wondering why, when I search for postpartum bellies, none of them look like mine. All I see are “success stories”* of women who show a round, taut nine-month-pregnant belly, followed by a flat, taut, four-month-postpartum belly.

* I put success stories in quotes not to minimize the hard work that some women do to look like they’ve never given birth, but to underscore the sad fact that it’s only considered success if you look like you’ve never given birth. Anything else is deemed unacceptable by our society.

There are no overhanging flaps of skin covering up belly buttons. There are no puckered, wrinkled areas. There are no saggy, doughy upside-down hearts hanging near the bikini line.

There are no bellies that look like mine.

People look at me and cry, “You look great!” Sure, I sort of even agree with them, sometimes. I look great with clothes on. If you saw me in a bikini, it would be another story. And that’s what makes me angry – both with myself, and with our society’s beauty standards.

Why can’t I wear a bikini? There’s nothing stopping me, except me. I know if I wear a bikini to a public place, I will feel uncomfortable. I will feel the eyes of teenagers everywhere digging into my body and proclaiming, “She really shouldn’t be wearing that.” Besides the understandable discomfort, there’s no law preventing me from showing my belly (not yet, anyway…). And if I can just get to the place where I don’t care what an immature person thinks, then there’s really nothing stopping me.

It’s funny that as women, we’re expected to carry and birth the babies – literally carry on the human race – and then go back to looking like a lithe teenager. If you can’t get there, you’re labeled with a “mom bod” and cast to the side like a used condom.

After people started talking about mom bods, a new bod came to the forefront: the dad bod. Yet as much as the mom bod was talked about with disgust, the dad bod was celebrated as cute and cuddly.

That’s the sound of my stunned blinking.

Now that summer is here, it seems like every week there’s a photo on social media of yet another one of my friends who gave birth around the same time I did, standing confidently in a bikini, cradling her baby on her hip, with nary a stretch mark to tell the tale. There go my thoughts:

Well, you’re older than they are.

Of course you’re older than they are. You’re an old mom.

They probably didn’t gain as much weight as you.

They probably worked out during their pregnancy.

LOOK AT EVERYTHING YOU DID WRONG. You got pregnant when you were old, and you didn’t work out, and you ate everything in sight. You are a worthless human being.

As the thoughts spiral into the sky and explode like fireworks, a tiny thought comes creeping into the back of my mind – one that serves to calm me:

There are millions of women who look like you. They just don’t take pictures because they don’t feel good about the way they look – just like you. You are not a freak. You are not alone.

Here is the mystery that I solved: the women who have bellies like mine cover them up. They don’t wear bikinis. They go to the beach and the pool with their littles, but they wear tees and shorts, or one pieces, or even tankinis. They don’t proudly display their triumphant bellies – bellies that cradled and nourished and protected sweet babies – because they are ashamed of them.

Ashamed.

Ashamed, like they’ve done something wrong. Ashamed, because getting pregnant when you’re in your thirties instead of your twenties is too old. Ashamed, because feeling exhausted and unable to exercise when you’re pregnant is unacceptable. Ashamed, because eating ice cream and cookies instead of broccoli that makes you feel sick is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Wrong and shameful, like crinkly, saggy belly skin.

You know what, sisters? You’re not alone. I look like I’ve had a baby. I probably always will, unless I elect to get surgery. I had a baby. I didn’t commit a crime. I shouldn’t feel embarrassed. And yet, I do. And I know you do too. It’s OK.

I love you anyway.

You are amazing.

And you are beautiful, wrinkled belly and all.

Resolution Checkin: Books Eight and Nine

I’ve been reading a couple of books in tandem for a few weeks and finally finished them last night. I read The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss, which is not usually my style (I hardly ever read non-fiction, let alone books about work), but it wasn’t what it seemed. It’s an interesting guide to breaking free of the 40-hours-a-week-trapped-in-a-cubicle-for-40-years lifestyle that most of us have been suckered into. The book appeared in my life at the perfect time, when I’m still trying to figure out what my next step will be. And with an impending move by the end of this year, it’s a great time to think about my options and realize that I don’t need to follow a conventional path. The book seems a little gimmicky, but Ferriss has an engaging, easy to read style. Definitely worth a look if you’re curious!

I also read The Story of Spirit Dancer by Tracy Stalker, who happens to be a friend of mine. It was a fun read chronicling a few pieces of her spiritual journey. I enjoyed it, and I’ll definitely be picking her brain about getting a book published.

As for my other resolutions, running has been difficult lately. We got pounded with snow a week ago, and just now, as I was set to head out with the jogging stroller to story time, it started to rain. Womp womp. I’ll begin my half-marathon training plan in another week or so and see where that takes me. I’m looking forward to longer runs again, even if it means having to wake up before the crack of dawn once a week to accomplish it.

I’ll be completing the half-Murph this Sunday after my shift at work. Today my goal is to run through the whole thing, as a way to prove to myself that I can do it. That’s what the training plan suggests. The only thing I haven’t been able to do is run with the weights. It’s just not practical with a baby at home. But hey, it’s my first one, so it’s going to be a PR no matter what, right?

Pixels & Posts: My Mom Tribe

I’ve never physically met my mom tribe.

Via social media, I watch the friends I moved away from physically interact with their tribes. Play dates, babysitting, asking for things like extra clothes or new toys – I can’t help but feel a twinge of envy at how easy it must be for them. As the old adage says, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and I don’t have much of one here.

But then I wonder: how many of them have received support in the middle of the night when their last nerve is being rubbed raw by a screaming baby who’s up every hour?

How many have confessed they feel like running away, and their tribe is there to say, “Me too,” without judgement?

How many have been able to admit they feel like a failure, to which the tribe responds by lifting them back up and assuring them that they are worthy?

How many have candidly spoken about sex, antidepressants, in-law issues, ending marriages and scores of other items of “dirty laundry?”

I’ve never met my mom tribe in real life, but they’ve been with me for a year and a half through pregnancy, the newborn stage, sleeplessness, body hate, job transitions, depression, anxiety, all of it. I don’t know what my days would look like if I didn’t have them there, a click away on my phone. I wouldn’t know how to raise my daughter without their knowledge – I swear, the simplest things like knowing what to feed her and how much? I really wouldn’t know without them.

My tribe makes me laugh, cry, squeal with excitement, feel anger for whatever injustice they’re going through. They cheer me on. They tell me I can do it when I feel like the world’s worst mom. They are a shoulder to cry on. They are my sounding board.

The depth of feeling I have for these moms is unrivaled. My husband knows many of them by name. We may be scattered across the world, but we know more about each other than most of us do our neighbors.

Who knew that joining a message board while pregnant would be so rewarding?

So to my virtual mom tribe, who I lean on everyday: thank you. Thank you for being exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. The best thing about you guys being virtual is that no matter where I move, you’ll always be there! Happy Mother’s Day to you all, and as we approach our babies’ first birthdays, let’s all be blubbering messes together.

Because if there’s one thing I know, it’s that emotion is not virtual.

The Next Challenge

Most of the time, I have some sort of goal I’m working toward, even if it’s just a race on my calendar. You may have noticed I like to hold myself to goals (New Year’s Resolutions, anyone?).

Naturally, I had chosen a new goal before the completion of my last race: to run another 10k. I even found one to put on the calendar (fingers crossed we’ll have moved by then and will be living in Westminster or at least a heck of a lot closer!). And why bother training for just another 10k? Let’s up the ante: let’s train for another half-marathon. That should make a measly 10k seem pretty easy.

Yep, I’m a little crazy sometimes. But I also really love to run, and running weather is here!

But you know what? That still wasn’t good enough. I have about a month before I need to begin training. How am I going to fill my days?

I’ll tell you how: the Murph Challenge.

As you can see, it’s pretty beastly. I’m pretty scared, to be perfectly honest. But let me clarify a few things first: I’m doing the challenge through my gym, and we are allowed to modify (scale) it. We also have a half-Murph option, affectionately known as the Smurf. I will be doing a scaled half-Murph:

  • 1/2 mile run
  • 50 pullups
  • 100 pushups
  • 150 squats
  • 1/2 mile run

I just don’t have the upper body strength to do a pullup without assistance at this point in my journey, so no matter what else I decide to do, I have to do a scaled challenge and do my pushups with a band (or on the pullup machine if I really can’t hack it).

I put 20lbs in a tiny backpack I have (I tried working out with the tactical vest at work and I couldn’t really put my arms down, so I needed to find an alternative) and have been practicing with that. Woof. As of right now, I was only able to complete half of today’s training with weight (today’s workout was two sets of 30 pullups, 50 pushups and 90 squats). It was rough. I had to do most of the pushups on my knees.

And let’s not forget that I’m supposed to run with this weight too.

But hell, you know what? Even if I have to chuck the backpack halfway through, and even if this challenge takes me four hours to complete, I’ll still be proud of this one feat alone:

50 pullups.

I could barely bang out 15 at the beginning of this year. And yes, my arms may have felt a little wobbly after, but I did 30 of them. And then I did 30 more. That’s 60, people!

So until half-marathon training for my 10k commences in June, you know what I’ll be working on: beast mode.