40 Weeks Later

Recently Amelia and I hit a pretty big milestone. 40 weeks. Exactly the same amount of time spent on earth as she did growing on the inside…or at least according to our best estimates. Somehow this 40 weeks seems to have gone by twice as fast as the former. During pregnancy, all I wanted was for time to speed up. Now I just need it to stop.

Amelia_9months

As I’m sure you can imagine, I’ve done a lot of reflecting over these past 9 months. On pregnancy. Motherhood. Life with an infant. Running. Working. You name it, I’ve mulled over it. And now that 9 months have gone by, it seems like a good time to share some of these reflections. To wrap up this phase of life and look forward to the next one. Not that things are really changing anytime soon, but you know.

So here are a few of those reflections. Most of these are things I would tell myself if I could go back. I realize that not all of this is true for every person, but they (obviously) reflect my experience.

On Pregnancy

No matter how slowly it seems to crawl by at times, pregnancy does eventually end. It certainly doesn’t seem like it when you’re 36 weeks, achey, struggling with insomnia and heartburn, not fitting into any of your clothes and so exhausted walking up a flight of stairs leaves you winded. But I promise, it will be over before you know it. One day you will look back and the whole ordeal will feel like a lifetime ago. Something that happened to someone else; an out-of-body experience. And you will find yourself thinking “I guess 40 weeks isn’t that long…” I suppose this is how women are tricked into having more than one child.

pregnancyMy thoughts on pregnancy – summed up in one photo

So don’t rush it. Don’t rush the time when it’s just you and your partner. When date nights or spontaneous getaways are easy. When you can sleep all day if you want to…or stay up all night and not have to worry about functioning the next day. When it’s easy to get out for a run or do a race or even clean your whole house from top to bottom. I know you know this already, but you’ll miss it. You won’t want it back. You won’t trade how things are now for anything in the whole world. But you’ll still miss it.

No amount of exercise will guarantee you a certain type of labor and delivery. You can do everything “right” for 40 weeks — regular exercise, yoga, strengthening, mental preparation, eating all the right things. In the end it doesn’t really matter. Sure, if your body cooperates, all that exercise and mental toughness certainly will help you get through the grueling task of delivering a baby. But sometimes things don’t go according to plan. And you may find yourself in surgery, scared out of your mind on what is supposed to be the most empowering day of your life.

I don’t say this to scare you, or be all gloom-and-doom about birth. I say it just to make sure you’re aware. Because maybe you’re working out and training your mind and expecting everything to happen seamlessly. After all, women have been giving birth for centuries. And I hope it does. I really, really do. But please just be prepared for the possibility that it might not. For better or for worse, the c-section rate in this country is on the rise. So even though it probably won’t happen to you, it might. If there’s one regret that I have about my own labor & delivery experience, it’s that I didn’t prepare. I knew little about c-sections and even less about the recovery. I think my experience would not have been so scary and negative if I had done even a tiny bit of preparation before going in…and I’m pretty sure the recovery would not have felt so terrible either.

​Despite all that – exercise during pregnancy (with your doctor’s permission, of course). Not because it will lead to the “labor of your dreams” (whatever that means). But because it keeps you healthy, makes you feel better, move better, ache less. It keeps you sane, eases your stress, and gives you endorphins. And because it’s good for your baby. Because you know that every step you walk or yoga pose you hold is helping your baby grow healthy and strong. I had a love/hate relationship with running while pregnant. It wasn’t always the blissful experience I expected it to be. But I did what I could for as long as I was able. Find the balance that makes you feel best.

On Postpartum Weight Loss

There’s a lot of pressure in the media and on blogs to be perfect. Have the perfect pregnancy. Exercise (but not too much), eat healthy, glow from the inside out. Have an “easy” labor and “bounce back” immediately. We as a culture are obsessed with shedding that baby weight ASAP. It’s all crap. Absolute crap.

Hospital_3-generations.jpgRocking my baby-less bump

You may bounce back. The weight might slip right off and you may get back to running/working out two weeks after baby without any problem. You may find yourself effortlessly balancing motherhood and training, and you may wonder why some women claim that it’s so difficult.

But more likely, you may not. And what’s more – you may not even care. You may look at your loose belly and wide hips and be grateful to them for the amazing work they did. You may find yourself at peace with a lower level of training than you did before baby. You may even find that training for races doesn’t have a place in your new life. That’s okay. Just because X blogger or X celebrity was below her pre-baby weight in 2 months doesn’t mean it’s normal. Just because you struggle to get back to some semblance of the person you were before, you are not alone.

Just don’t give up on exercise after that baby is born. It doesn’t have to be much. It doesn’t have to be intense. People will tell you “they’re only this small once” and it’s true. You don’t have to sacrifice time with your baby for training…don’t have to make it your top priority. But move every day. It’s good for your body and it’s good for your soul. It will help you feel like yourself again. And it sets a good example for that baby of yours. Walking, running, and hiking with Amelia are my favorite things to do now. She loves the fresh air and I love being active as a family.

hiking

That being said, don’t feel bad if you just don’t feel it. If you used to run before baby and now just don’t have the time or motivation. It’s so cliche but it’s true – the days are long but the years are short. Your priorities may or may not change. Don’t waste your time stressing about it. Someday things will fall into place.

Do not underestimate the importance of recovery. I know some women seem to be out running or working out a few weeks after giving birth, like nothing ever happened. Maybe you were one of those women who couldn’t wait to get back at it and felt amazing fairly quickly. But it’s okay if you’re not. It took a good 6 months for me to feel like “myself” again when running. It has been a slow, stunted process…an improvement that has included many plateaus. But I think my body just needed time. And I believe that the slow comeback is the reason why I find myself gradually getting faster and feeling strong every single month.

If you’re nursing, training may take a lot more out of you than it did before. It takes more calories to produce milk every day for your baby than it did to grow him/her. My OB warned me of this, but I didn’t truly appreciate that warning until I was in it. This past week I finally ran 40 miles. My first 40 mile week since early 2013. It took a long time to get there, and I will admit that I was pretty proud of myself when I did it…and subsequently exhausted. And that’s with a baby who is a good sleeper! But that working + running + nursing combination is a doozy. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you need to do less.

On Babies and Parenthood

It’s pretty easy to become that parent. You know, the annoying one who thinks her baby is a genius for finding her hands, or making eye contact, or waving…or playing peek-a-boo with you for the first time. It’s okay to think it. Your baby is way more fascinating than any other baby in the history of babies. But maybe it’s better if you just don’t share that fact with every stranger you meet. Every single milestone that we hit, I say – “this is my favorite age! I wish I could freeze her in time right here.” And then another one gets here and I love it even more.​

There is something about a teeny tiny, squishy, snuggly sleeping newborn. And somehow, despite the fact that your child was a newborn not so long ago, you may find yourself missing those days sooner than you thought possible. Maybe it’s because your tiny baby has suddenly become Miss Independent – always on the move, not wanting to be fed, able to play by herself – but you find yourself aching for a tiny newborn to snuggle. And then you remember what you have to go through to get one of those newborns, and you are suddenly thankful for pregnant family and friends who will let you snuggle their baby and then return them.

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The sense of pride that comes from successfully adjusting the baby without waking them up is unlike anything in this world. Despite the fact that this is more related to luck than to talent, you will find yourself rejoicing every single time you manage to do it. Last night I somehow managed to put Amelia’s socks back on her feet at 10:00PM while she snored blissfully away in her crib. By the way I danced into the room afterward, you’d think I’d just won a race…or been given a huge promotion at work.

On the flip side — there is nothing quite like the despair and dread that results from the unsuccessful attempts. When you sprint out of their room and into your own with wild fear in your eyes, trying to run from that cry you know is about to erupt. Only to face your husband accusatory: “WHAT did you do??”

Related: you also may find yourself staring at the baby monitor and obsessing over whether the baby is too hot or too cold in her crib…despite the fact that she is currently sleeping peacefully. Or maybe that’s just me. I look at the temperature, look at what she’s wearing and hem and haw over whether the window needs to be open/closed, the fan needs to be turned up/down/off, I didn’t put her in enough layers, I need to get that sock back on, etc etc etc. Evan is convinced I’m just making up an excuse to go in and check on her every night. I have no comment.

Just when you’re feeling good about yourself and how much you’ve learned over the past 9 months, how far you’ve come as a parent, you make a rookie mistake that knocks you down a peg or two. Like thoughtlessly throwing the wubannub in the wash one weekend morning and forgetting that wash cycles take awhile (and things do not air dry instantly). Amelia doesn’t have many sleep crutches, but her wubbanub is her buddy. Froggy Friend is the only pacifier we have at home (Kitty lives at daycare) and even though we only see him during naps and bedtime, I’m pretty sure she is as attached to the frog at this point as she is to the paci. So when it came time for a nap on that Saturday morning and Froggy Friend was still soaking wet in the middle of a wash cycle, we had a bit of a meltdown. I stood there rubbing her back, cursing my stupidity, and contemplating whether it would be worth it to let my child sleep with a soaking wet pacifier.

wubbanub frog

And then you might find yourself, right before it’s time for the afternoon nap, frantically blow drying Froggy Friend in order to avoid a repeat of the morning’s events (a very effective drying strategy — as long as you have the patience to sit there and do it!).

It is impossible to keep pet hair out of a crawling baby’s mouth. You could vacuum every single day and still it seems to spontaneously sprout up from the floor. Or the baby grabs the poor cat and comes away with fistfuls of hair (“gentle” is not yet in her vocabulary). I love my animals dearly, but there are days (many days) when I find myself puzzling over the absurdity of this cultural tradition of taming wild things to live in our house.

dog

Babies also have an uncanny ability to find the teeniest tiniest grossest crumb of junk. A morsel that looks delicious only to them. And even though you may think that you are more dextrous than a 9 month old who has really just mastered that dang pincer grasp, they are lightening fast when it comes to getting such morsels into their mouth. This morning Amelia may or may not have eaten dirt from the mudroom floor while I was gathering up my stuff for work. Or maybe it was a crumb of dog food. It’s really impossible to tell. So much for that organic, no-additives diet.

Pinterest might try to tell you otherwise, but those cute, perfectly staged photo opps you envision may not always turn out like you had planned. Especially when your schedule gets thrown off, the baby is exhausted and she falls asleep 5 minutes into your apple picking excursion. You know, the one where you had planned to take all sorts of “natural” cute fall photos of her picking her first apple, sitting on a pile of pumpkins, and looking adorable in her fall gear. You may only end up with pictures of her sleeping…which, in the scheme of things, is better than pictures of a full-fledged public meltdown.

apple pickingParenting is a wild, crazy ride. Unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. I may have learned a lot in the past 9 months, but I’m still just making stuff up as I go. Hoping that this baby of mine, who I love deeper than I ever thought possible, grows up to be a happy, well-adjusted kid. I’ve heard that it just keeps getting harder. And more amazing. I can’t wait.

 



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