My First Mother’s Day, Part 1

I’ve only been vaguely aware of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day for the past 10 years or so (since I had neither parent to celebrate) and Mother’s Day only because an alumna from my college was responsible for its creation.

Last year on Father’s Day was the day I found out I was expecting but this is my first Mother’s Day and I am honestly so excited about it. Not to make it about me, but because it marks another transition, a big one, in my life. I’m a parent forever now.

For the day, I asked P if he could take care of her in the morning while I did a local sprint triathlon. I did it last year and when the email rolled around again, I found myself yearning for it even though I knew it was potentially a bad idea since I’m still only 3 months postpartum. I haven’t swam, I haven’t ridden my bike in several months, and I’ve only begun running again. But I really wanted to do it and figured worst case is it’d take me about two hours or so. My time from last year was 1:31 so I figured an extra 30 minutes would be a generous buffer plus time to travel there and back and beforehand to set up my transition area and get body marked.

Plus, I’ve come a long way in the past three months in learning how to plan my time with a baby.

The logistics basics:

-Pack everything the day before, not the night before

-Pump up tires

-Find bike rack in garage and put on car (tricky because my stroller is in my trunk and my bike rack makes it hard to move things in and out of the trunk)

-Pick up packet (P is volunteering all day so Mini-Me is in tow and right now is taking a long, luxurious, unexpected nap)

-Prep bottles for Mini-Me’s meals while I’m gone. I’ve been gifted with a bit of an oversupply so I’m able (aka need) to feed and pump. Most of the excess gets frozen but this past week I donated some to a local mom who was struggling.

Day of:

-Top Mini-Me off before I leave

-Bring pump with me, pump before start and after finish

-Return home victorious

 

Rebuilding

I knew on the surface that getting back into shape postpartum was likely to feel more like starting from the very beginning, but it’s been so long since I truly knew what that was like that when I began my workout plan, it was a very rude awakening.

I’ve been a big fan of Ashley Horner’s workouts but they can take a long time and I knew I needed something that I could do at home, with minimal equipment and time. I chose to go with Glow Body PT’s 12 Week Postpartum Plan because it was highly recommended by other military women, I liked that the workouts were short and intense (and as a new mom, my time is crunched so short as it is), and I also got it on discount way back in November for Veteran’s Day. That’s just how long I’ve been looking forward to this program.

Still, I didn’t even look at it until a couple of weeks ago when I decided to print it off and put it in a binder for easy reference. I’m motivated by crossing things off of lists so I put the workout plan on the front cover of my binder so I can cross workouts off as I complete them. It’s also great because I can see what’s next and flip to the tab to see what the workout is like. One of my absolute favorite parts is that Ashley Keller (not Ashley Horner) also made real-time workout videos for every workout so I can just queue it up and as soon as Mini-Me is asleep I can hit play. I can see what the exercises look like and just follow along. SO. NICE.

I still have a ways to go before I’m anywhere near my previous fitness level, but it took my nine months to get to this low so I expect it’ll take me a while to get back plus deal with finding an entire new routine.

I want to be Real

“He didn’t mind how he looked to other people, because the nursery magic had made him Real, and when you are Real shabbiness doesn’t matter.”
Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit

I’ve been a consumer of social media for years and even more so in recent years with my deployment and pregnancy and now as a new mom up at all hours of the day and night and I’ve really noticed the lack of authenticity in so many posts. Or often people post about things being real but the picture is heavily edited and filtered, kind of the opposite of being “real.”

I’ve done it too. I’ll take a bunch of pictures and only post the best one and tweak it so that things look brighter and better than they are. Why are we so afraid of ourselves?

I’m never going to be able to achieve or sustain that. Let me tell you the kind of mother-athlete I am: I sleep in the clothes I wore that day, plus my favorite Oiselle Lux sweatpants because I get up and down all night and it’s easier than changing. In the mornings, if I workout, I throw something, anything on. Clothes don’t match anymore.

I workout, maybe I shower. I eat granola bars all day. My house is usually pretty well vacuumed because Mini-Me likes the sound of the vacuum, but it’s untidy as hell everywhere. My kitchen table has a breast pump on it, books, a hat, this computer, flowers in a vase, multivitamins and my incomplete cross-stitch. My coffee table is no less crowded.

I take gym pics to keep myself accountable for my workouts, not because they look nice because they sure don’t. I gained over 60 pounds during my pregnancy and I still have a lot left to lose. I have a belly pooch and my hips and thighs are thick now. It’s a rare day that I put makeup on.

But I’m willing to bet that I’m closer to the norm than further from it, despite what social media would have you think. I scroll Instagram at night looking for others who want to be Real, like I do. Women who aren’t scared of their flaws and who don’t pretend they have it all together. You’d think that the ones who have it all would be rare, but it’s the Real ones who are rarest of all. Let’s be real and raw and ourselves.

 

Instant Love

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One of my absolute favorite stores to browse, Williams-Sonoma, recently announced they were closing their Augusta location. As heartbroken as I was, I recognized a good sale and quickly snapped up all the things we’d thought about buying but hadn’t. Mainly replacing all our old cooking utensils I’d had since I first stocked my kitchen, but also a new gadget that I’d been hemming and hawing over for months – an Instant Pot. I’d heard that they’re life-changing. I’d also heard they do everything equally well but nothing great, so I’d put it off because we already had a slow cooker and a pressure cooker and pots and pans.

Well, I LOVE my Instant Pot! Really, really LOVE. It’s not prep to eating in 15 minutes, and there’s still some significant prep work in some recipes, but overall I think it was a good buy and appreciate cleaning less dishes. Plus, I can cook food that’s frozen and an entire roast in 15 minutes instead of several hours.

My favorite place to dig up recipes is from the Instant Pot website, but these have been some of my favorites so far:

  1. Turkey and White Bean Chili – this was a little soupy to me, so I added some chopped corn tortillas left in the fridge and it was so good.
  2. Risotto with Pancetta, Peas, and Mushrooms – this was crazy good and you could easily leave out the pancetta.
  3. Korean Beef from Damn Delicious – so good!
  4. Korean Chile-Braised Brisket – I made the kimchi coleslaw but think it was better with just the plain kimchi. The brisket was great and I’d actually recommend not sizing this one down because it’s so good we cleaned up the whole recipe.

A Few Of My Favorite Things

As in, a few things that have saved my sanity (as much of it as could be saved, anyway).

best things

1. Lansinoh HPA Lanolin // This was a gift from a friend and I thought “cool” and put it away until I came home from the hospital with cracked and bleeding nipples and then I went and eagerly dug it back out. I like that it’s safe that Mini-Me can nurse without wiping it off and it really helped me heal quickly.

2. Himalayan Salt Lamp // I got this while searching for the perfect night light that would be bright enough to see by but wouldn’t be white light. I love that this one is dimmable.

3. Lansinoh Hot or Cold Breast Therapy // While I was in the hospital my nipples were cracking and bleeding from learning to latch and doing it poorly. I vaguely remembered from my breastfeeding class that if you didn’t want to breastfeed you wanted to wear a tight bra and use cold compresses on it. Since I wanted to breastfeed, I figured the opposite was true and spent time hugging my electric heating pad to my chest for relief. It definitely worked to the opposite effect and when my milk came in, I was suddenly and painfully very, very engorged. As it turns out, I needed a cold compress to help ease my pain. These are great because they can do hot OR cold.

4. My Brest Friend // I hate the name of this pillow and the fact that it’s called “Brest” makes me cringe every time. But I do love how it works. I was using a Boppy for several weeks but I hated how Mini-Me would slip down inside it and it didn’t give me much support front or back. I ordered the MBF (I refuse to write that name out more than once) and really liked it. The Boppy is useful for other things, and my husband loves it for bottle-feeding, but not for breastfeeding.

5. Dohm White Noise Machine // I like this so much I have two, one in my bedroom and one in kiddo’s room. The noise level is customizable and is perfect for drowning out other noises.

6. Lillebaby Airflow Carrier // I ordered this at the strong recommendation for others and it’s great for when I’m in crowded spaces (like out shopping) or when I’d like to have two hands available (like eating) and really helps keep Mini-Me calm and happy. They’re having a clearance sale right now so I picked up a second one so my husband can have one sized for him (they resize easily) and I can have another pattern one sized for me.

7. Sun Basket Meal Delivery system // We used Blue Apron for a while but got tired of how every recipe seemed to use a fond which would invariably smoke up our kitchen and also how every meal seemed to have kale. I like kale, but not for every meal. We’re currently using Sun Basket and while it’s more expensive ($11.99/serving) but we like it a lot better in terms of options available and how easy it is to cook. Most of the recipes say they take 20-45 minutes but my experience has been that they take a lot less, typically around the 30 minute mark, from start to finish. They have paleo, vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian and family friendly menus and you can swap in between all of them. Since my bout of HELLP, we’ve been working on reducing our sodium intake and the amount of red meat we eat every week (hard when your husband thinks meat makes the meal). Sun Basket’s vegetarian and even vegan options haven’t raised a single eyebrow and he’s really enjoyed them without complaint.

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03.13 I remember

Yesterday was the anniversary of my parents’ deaths; they died on the same day four years apart. One was expected, the other was not, but both hurt just the same.

When my last parent died, we hadn’t been on good terms due to some choices I’d made and how he reacted to them and also the influence of my stepmother. We hadn’t seen each other in three years or spoken to each other except for maybe two emails. When he died, I was a junior in college and sort of just fell apart so much so that I took a leave of absence from my Corps of Cadets, didn’t go to my Army ROTC Spring FTX. This was kind of a big deal because your entire junior year is spent prepping for an evaluation camp held between your junior and senior year which evaluates your potential and is a huge portion of determining your branch and future assignment. It’s like the Army ROTC equivalent of a thesis defense, screw it up and you’ll pay for it for years.

Everything Army was particularly difficult for me to get through because every class, every PT session reminded me of him. I was painfully haunted that he’d never see me graduate or commission, get married, and that he’d never even get the chance for us to have a better relationship. Every mile I ran hurt. Every time I put on my uniform I ached inside. I also wasn’t a particularly nice person to be around, either. I remember one day another student was complaining that the salad bar was out of something and I ripped her a new one because how could anyone be so stupid to complain about that when there were so many worse things she could be missing? To all who knew me then, I’m still really sorry for how I lashed out at the people around me who only wanted to help. As painful as it was, running was my self-imposed treatment for my grief. My dad was a runner which made it worse, but also helped me feel like I was still connected.

It’s been ten years since he died and fourteen since my mother died. In a few years, I’ll have lived as long without a mother as I did with her. That loss was a lot more painful while pregnant as I tried to envision how on earth I was going to be a mother when I didn’t have one and was pretty sure I had no maternal instincts (I still maintain I don’t, but I took every class offered by the hospital and the post).

As I mentioned before, I was kind of an emotional wreck that whole spring. I was offered the opportunity to not go to the Army evaluation camp that summer. I probably should have taken it but my main motivation was that I didn’t want to repeat my MSIII year. Unsurprisingly, I did poorly because I just didn’t care about any of it still. It all seemed like a enormous waste of time and effort when there were so many other things, real things, that Actually Mattered instead of exercising Vietnam-era tactics and being evaluated on them.

I’m glad I did go, though. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have met my husband, I don’t know what I would have commissioned as, but I know my path would have been different. I don’t think I’d be here now, in this house with my dogs and cat and sleeping baby snuggled against me. I used to be so angry but now I’m just sad that my daughter won’t know them, and I’m sad for my dad that we never got the chance to have a better relationship before he died. I am thankful that he got me into running and that my mother, who had skills that Martha Stewart would envy, left me with an appreciation for crafts, cooking, and a deep love for dogs.

One Month Postpartum

A month ago I was super pregnant and mentally prepared to still be pregnant halfway into March. Instead, little girl is a whole month old and my life is completely different now.

Although she isn’t sleeping through the night I like to think that my years of Army training have prepared me to function on little or poor quality of sleep. I did lose 30 pounds in the week after delivery which was pretty cool and I’ve lost another five since then. I haven’t been cleared for strenuous physical activity but I have been doing walks around the neighborhood with the dogs and stroller. I also joined a postpartum yoga class on post which of been a lot of fun even though I seem to spend a lot of the time either breast-feeding or trying to call me fussy baby. In a few weeks she’ll be old enough that I can leave her in childcare at the YMCA and then it will be a little bit easier to get my workout in.

She’s grown a whole pound and some change in a month and is a little taller than the height/weight ratio but she’s gaining both pretty evenly so I wonder if she got the tall genes that I didn’t get. It’s also a little humbling to think that had she cooked longer this is how big she might have been full term.

I’m still holding off signing up for races until I’ve been cleared and have a base again, but I DID sign up for the 2018 Peachtree Road Race again. This year I was quick enough to get an Atlanta Track Club membership and a guaranteed entry.

2018 Goals

I love setting goals and also making lists just so I can check things off of them. It’s so satisfying. Resolution goals are really my jam. Over the years I’ve gotten better at goal-setting and making things intentional and realistic as opposed to just saying I’ll do more of something or less of something else.

For 2018, my goals are a little different than in years past.

ONE // I want to try to make it to breastfeeding for six months

A year would be better, but I’m not even remotely in control of my work schedule and there’s a chance I might be on a long work trip this time next year, so I’m trying to make flexible goals as well. I really would like to meet this one, if only because breastmilk is free and formula is so expensive.

TWO // Pass my postpartum APFT

I have six months after giving birth to take the Army Physical Fitness Test which I’ve never had an issue passing before, but I’ve also never given birth before and never weighed as much as I do now. I already feel slightly stressed and panicky at the thought of trying to drop all this baby weight and get back into shape in six short months.

THREE // Study for and pass the CompTIA CISSP exam

Every year I try to do something to professionally improve myself. I almost failed in 2017 because I got busy with a major training exercise at the beginning of the year and then moving and learning an entire new job, bur fortunately my job enrolled me in a two-week course so I got some professional training I otherwise would not have gotten. I’ve been respectful of the CISSP test for years and a little intimidated by the breadth of knowledge it tests which also makes it difficult to study for.

FOUR // Finish the Augusta Ironman 70.3

This is a rollover from 2017 because I wasn’t comfortable cycling while pregnant. Looking back, I feel like I was overly concerned and probably would have been just fine, but it’s my first rodeo so I’m trying to be forgiving of myself as well. I’m also hoping this will give me some motivation for passing the APFT as well.

FIVE // Get back down to my pre-pregnancy weight

I don’t actually know if I can do this in a year, but I want to put this down because it is still a goal. I was at a healthy weight before I got pregnant but my body really loves being pregnant and was more than happy to pack on the pounds, so much so that we thought I might actually have gestational diabetes (I didn’t, which was both a relief and a discouragement because then at least I’d have a reason for why I blew up so much). This is also probably my vainest goal of the bunch so I won’t be too hard on myself if I don’t achieve it by the end of 2018 as long as I’ve made some progress in dropping the weight.

Pregnancy Exercises

I completed a “Confidence in Childbirth” class through my hospital recently and while it was a definite commitment, 2.5 hours a class and five classes spread over six weeks, I learned so much. One of the things the instructor really emphasized was doing your exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor and make space by doing kegels and also squats. Lots and lots of squats.

She recommended two an hour. Well, I work full time and I already feel a bit like a balloon with two legs and feel even sillier trying to do squats at work, so I’ve really been neglecting those even though I know I’ll pay for it later with interest.

We had our first doula prenatal meeting last week and one of the things she went over was also exercises including, you guessed it, squats. Lots and lots of squats. But also pelvic hip thrusts, standing lunges, and exercise ball hip openers. I don’t know if it’s because I’m paying for a doula and the birth class was free, or if just hearing it again from another person, but I’ve been doing a lot better with my exercises.

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Awkward pelvic thrusts made more awkward by the near-constant dog presence

I’m supposed to do three sets a day so I do one set when I wake up and before I eat, one around lunchtime, and one before I leave for work. I broke my squats down into two big sets so I get those done before I leave for work as well. This also doesn’t excuse me from my normal exercise so I still need to get in some light weight lifting (light only because my strength seems to have taken a hiatus) and low-impact cardio. Running officially sucks too much to try anymore so I’ve switched to an elliptical-like running machine at my gym that hurts less but still makes me feel tired.

I’m also supposed to spend some time sitting on the floor in different positions. I’m not really sure how these help prepare me for labor, but it’s not too uncomfortable and my dogs think it’s fun when I’m down on their level.

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I’ve got about two months to go so I’m ready to put in the work and see how it benefits the labor process and also recovery.

On my mind

I’m in a class for the next couple of weeks which has been nice because I have a “normal” schedule instead of my rotating shifts and got to spend Halloween handing out candy to kids (and dog treats to Zane because we’re working on positive associations with strangers and kids especially) but has also been a pain because now I have to drive in traffic and parking has been much harder to find.

Staying awake.

You’d also think that a normal schedule would help me stay awake more easily. Nope. Instead, now I’m suckered into the post-lunch coma every afternoon and since I’m also pregnant, I can’t suck down coffee like I would otherwise. Instead, I’ve been using a blend of essential oils this week called En-R-Gee to keep me awake when the briefer starts to drone. I have it in a roller bottle so I can just dab it on my wrists and my neck for a quick pick-me-up. I don’t love the smell like I do some other oils, but I’m also a lot more sensitive to smells due to pregnancy.

Coffee.

I know I said I was limited on coffee, and that’s true, so it also means that the coffee I do get to have is extra valuable to me and I don’t want to waste it on a crappy cup that I won’t enjoy. Back in Alaska, some friends moved out and gifted us the remainder of the food in their pantry that they couldn’t eat or take with them. One of the things was a half-empty bag of ground coffee from the Alaska Coffee Roasting Co. You guys. This is seriously the most amazing coffee in the entire world. Embarrassingly, Alaska Coffee Roasting Co. is maybe half a mile from where I lived in Alaska and walkable in both seasons (deep winter and preparing for winter) and I didn’t visit it until my last year there and discovered that not only is their coffee amazing, but their food and pastries are also delicious.

When I left Alaska I took a bag of beans with me and with my manual grinder, French press, and JetBoil, I had hot, delicious coffee every day of my trip. They also ship (thank goodness) so everyone can try their wonderful blends. My favorite is the Milan San Remo blend and what I’ve been treating myself to every morning.

Training.

Next week I also get to go to the first of my five birthing classes offered by my hospital. I’m looking forward to it because it also has a tour of the labor and delivery section and it will be nice to meet other to-be-parents who are due around the same time. I’ve been having a lot of Braxton-Hicks contractions and it’s really neat that even though I don’t have a clue as to what I’m doing, my body is already working on preparing itself.

Podcasts.

I really, really like podcasts. I like them in the car and also while lifting. Apparently that second one is a little unusual. I got hooked on The Longest Shortest Time on my cross-continent move and it’s still one of my favorites because the episodes are always so varied but always interesting. Last week I listened to one about the importance, or whether it was important, of afro-centric schooling for kids and how identity with their ethnicity affects their future. The podcast is about parenthood, but really interesting no matter what stage of life you’re in. I definitely wasn’t planning on being pregnant when I first started listening and found the podcast captivating even then.

The Army’s most attractive uniform.

I know I wrote about my feeling on the Army’s maternity uniform a little while ago, but another thing that bothered me, among all the rest of the things that bother me about the uniform, is that while the front is button-up to allow for ease of pumping and/or breastfeeding (like, zippers aren’t faster?) the undershirt is just a regular t-shirt. So imagine this with me – I can unbeaten my shirt to pump BUT I still have to either lift my t-shirt to fit the pump in there or else try to wrangle it under my shirt like some sort of breastmilk snake. Yeah.

Fortunately, there’s a solution. Miss Military Mom created a regulation shirt that also has a flap that can be used for nursing or pumping. They even made a long-sleeve version. Thank goodness, because I was going to attempt to make something and I am not good at sewing or anything like that.

The first pregnancy.


I found this video a few weeks ago and showed it to P and while it was pretty funny,  I really identify more with the second-time mom than the first and I’ve also noticed that in our classes and at our appointments. I’ve barely taken any pictures, the baby room is mostly a bunch of boxes stacked in a way that doesn’t make me feel crazy when I walk by but the closet is holding all my Army gear, pictures, and overflow winter jackets – nothing like what I’ve seen other people have in their baby rooms. I don’t even remember to take my prenatal vitamin every day. I think a big part of it is that I’m working a pretty involved full time job and when I’m not I have a lot of other things on my to-do list so I haven’t really had much time to sit around like the first-time mom in the video and document the journey. Also, sushi, lunch meat, and coffee are all still part of my life. We’ll see how long this lasts.