End of October Update and Advise for Soon to be Mama’s

Its been a long time!  Life has been very busy lately, mostly in very good ways. 

 The last few posts I wrote we were struggling with sleep and then illness.  There was so much to write about that and I didn’t talk much about running.  So here’s an update.

 Back in August I finally had my iron tested.  I had been blaming everything I was feeling on the lack of sleep and stress of being a new parent and didn’t stop to consider that maybe I was anemic.  When I got the results back and learned that I was it was sort of like “duh”.  I had had low iron before, many years ago and should have recognized the feelings much earlier.  If you’ve ever had it, you know.  If not, its sort of a flat feeling, like there’s just no gas in the tank.  I noticed it mostly when I was running.  I would be putting forth a lot of effort and just felt exhausted.  I kept just thinking I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough, that it was all mental.  I would get 1 mile into an easy run and just feel exhausted like I wanted to stop.  I started supplementing right away.  65 mg of iron at night before bed (in addition to the iron in my daily prenatal) with vitamin C on an empty stomach.  It can take months to rebuild your stores after its low so while I was waiting I decided to tone down my running.  I still ran 5 days a week but only ran 3 or 4 miles depending on what I felt like.  It was still a struggle getting through even those easy miles.  I didn’t want to stop altogether though and lose my fitness.  My iron was probably depleted from nursing.  I kept it up during pregnancy and it was at the low end of normal at my 6 week post-partum checkup so I really should have started supplementing then.

 It was a good 2 months of supplementing before I really started to feel better and once I did it seemed like it happened very quickly.  I was starting to increase my mileage again and it wasn’t going so great.  I went on an 8 mile run one Saturday and well…it was not pretty.  2 miles in, I was already ready to be done.  I told myself to at least make it to 4 miles and then I could call my husband to come pick me up.  I made it to 4 and figured that Alex was probably sleeping so it wasn’t the best time to have him come pick me up.  I told myself to at least make it to 6, and then I could stop.  Well, once I made it to 6 I figured I better just suck it up and run the whole 8, but I was not enjoying it and I did not feel very good.  I did another 8 mile run the next Saturday and felt so much better!  Then during that same week on my regular runs I just noticed I had more “oomph” and bounce in my step.  I’d find myself in the middle of the run, not thinking about how much longer till it was over but totally getting lost in my thoughts again.  Finally…I had my run back!  Some people need their groove back…I need my “run”! 

 I am still very glad that we did the sleep training with Alex.  While it was so hard at first, I truly feel it was the right thing to do in our case.  For the last month or 6 weeks she sleeps about 12 hours at night, usually wakes up once in the middle of the night and kind of fusses/lightly cries for 5-20 minutes and then goes back to sleep.  Lately she’s been skipping that step more and more and I actually wake up and have to go check on her!  Now that she’s getting a consolidated 12 hours of sleep at night she just seems a lot happier during her waking hours too.  Another benefit is that if something is wrong, we’re more likely to notice.  The times she’s had a fever she woke up in the night and cried hard.  When she’s acting really grouchy during the day and she’s not hungry and not tired are usually the times we take her temperature and she has a fever.  I’m not saying that cry it out or sleep training is the best thing in every situation.  I would have preferred that she just started sleeping longer stretches on her own so we wouldn’t have had to do it.  I realize though now that she was not waking up out of necessity, she just didn’t know how to get to sleep herself.  I’ve struggled with insomnia before and it would be great if someone who loved me would come in and rock me to sleep!  When she wakes up and fusses/cries I liken it to when you wake up in the middle of the night and toss and turn and can’t get back to sleep.  Its hard to listen to your baby cry, but when I feel like she’s just learning to get herself back to sleep it all makes sense. 

 She’s 8 months old!  I can’t believe it.  It’s a lot harder to leave her at daycare now than it was when I first went back to work.  I miss her terribly during the day and cannot wait to get home and see her again.  We have a good routine established after work during the week.  Its pretty much go-go-go for Tim and I from the minute we walk in the door until we put her to bed at 8, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Sometimes I really wish I didn’t have to put her to bed so early, but she lets us know when she’s getting tired.  I live for the weekends.  Some days if she doesn’t nap well she can become a fuss bucket and get really ornery and during those times I start to feel like I need a break.  Its amazing though, if you strictly adhere to a schedule they really seem to do so well on it.  When she’s fussy its almost always because she’s sick or she’s tired because she didn’t get her nap on time.  One late or missed nap can throw off the entire day, which is why its so hard to make plans with people.  We can’t take her out to restaurants anymore either.  She sits in the high chair and we bring her toys but she just gets bored because she doesn’t like to just sit somewhere that she’s contained.  She’s not crawling yet, but she’s moving around.  She rolls, and can kind of scoot herself around on the floor.  She really loves being active and her favorite thing lately is standing up holding onto things. 

She’ll be sitting down playing with her toys on the floor and she’ll look at me and put her hands out and start opening and closing her fingers which means she wants me to put my fingers out so she can grab onto them and pull herself up to a stand.  Its really cute.  She’ll pull up and start bouncing and you can just tell she’s so proud.  She’s just started to go from me to furniture like the coffee table too.  She’ll let go of me with one hand and grab the coffee table and then take a couple steps over there.  She’s even been holding onto me and all of a sudden she’ll just let go with both hands and she stands for about 3-5 seconds before she loses her balance and falls.  It used to scare me when she did this but now when she starts to fall she sits down and lands on her butt.  She also recently learned how to clap and when she’s in a cuddly mood she’ll look up and me and say “Mama” and give me a big hug.  I can’t tell if she really “knows” that I’m mama or if she just somehow knows if she says it while looking at me I get really excited. 

 When I look back a year, I just can’t believe how much has changed.  I wouldn’t trade any of it.  Life is a lot harder now in so many ways, but it’s a lot better in every way!  I tentatively am planning on a spring marathon.  I say tentatively because I’ve learned in the last year all about being flexible.  It was a HUGE struggle for me.  I’m the type that likes to plan everything a year out.  Alex is the perfect baby for us.  Tim and I had both become quite selfish and were very independent.  I don’t mean that in a way to knock down either of us, but I just mean that it had just been the two of us for the 4 years we had been married and we were both used to doing what we wanted, when we wanted.  I had planned out my whole running calendar for after Alexandra was born while I was still pregnant.  I really thought that if I had this great plan and just forced myself to stick to it I would be running PR’s again in no time while being a great mom, a loving wife, an excellent employee, etc., etc.  I can look back now and laugh out loud about how naïve I was. 

 If I could give advice to any expecting mothers right now, it would be this.  I know, I know, you get advice everywhere and most of it is negative.  I was so sick of everyone telling me “it changes your life”.  So I’m not going to say that.  What I will say is just be flexible.  Especially with yourself.  You may think that signing up for a marathon 16 weeks after the baby (or even 6 months in my case) is a great motivator to get you back in shape.  My advice is to just take it one day at a time and enjoy motherhood.  You can always run another marathon and if you’re like me you’re thinking “but if I don’t start doing it again right away, I’m afraid I’ll NEVER want to do one again”.  That was what I thought.  I thought if I let myself “relax” and didn’t hold myself accountable to specific goals I’d eventually stop running altogether and gain 50 pounds.  The thing is that the first year of motherhood is (especially the first 6 months) is completely unknown.  There are a lot of women who do marathons or get right back to running/racing right away and have a ton of success.  I had been reading a couple of different blogs from women who did just that.  I admire them (even more so now) and think its fantastic they were able to do what they did, but my experience couldn’t have been more different.  Its hard to not compare, I still struggle with this sometimes.  A few months ago even, it went a step further and I got really jealous.  Not just of mom’s accomplishing things, but also of women who seemed to just handle motherhood like they were made for it. 

 Babies are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.  Yes, we all know that having a baby is hard and it changes your life but what people don’t talk about as much is that some babies will be so very, very, very much harder than others.  I have a friend that just had a little boy and she’s been calling me because he’s so difficult.  She’s now realized that her daughter was super easy compared with her son.  If this blog helps her, it was all worth it. 

 Even now, I have the flu.  Before Alex was born I hardly ever got sick.  I was able to follow marathon training plans without missing a beat.  So you just never know what you’re going to get.  Instead of setting huge expectations for youself, just have a goal to take care of yourself.  Make sure you exercise most days of the week, try to eat healthy and get plenty of water.  Find time to do things that you enjoy, and if running is one of those things, do it.  Just don’t set these huge expectations for yourself.  Maybe you will get an easy baby.  Maybe you will be running PR’s and doing marathons, etc.  But maybe you won’t.  Maybe getting away for a 4 mile run will be an accomplishment.  If so, that’s ok.  Parenthood is all about rolling with the punches and expecting the unexpected. 

I’ll tell you this much.  When my daughter looks in my eyes, says “mama” and gives me a big hug and pushes her forehead into my chest it’s a better feeling than any accomplishment I’ve ever had.  Any PR, any job offer, anything.  Everyone wants to tell you how hard it is, and it is.  But isn’t everything that’s worthwhile?  Its also better than anything you’ve ever experienced before and you can’t possibly even imagine how much you will love the little person growing inside of you.  Before I was pregnant I used to worry that I wouldn’t know how to be a good mom.  I worried that I was too selfish.  I wondered if I would experience that magical bond that everyone talked about.  All I will say is that it doesn’t matter who you were before kids, once they arrive you become exactly who you need to be.  The love is overwhelming and I really believe that having kids allows you to love more.  I thought I loved my husband a lot before we had a baby, but I love him so much more now.  Somehow that little person that’s a little bit of me and a little bit of him really does mold us together as a “family”. 

 So I hope that’s not too preachy and I hope it helps in the sea of advice that you’re surely receiving from everyone and their brother.  You’re going to be great!!

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