A NOT so obvious exercise motivator for new moms

Exercise is one of the most important predictors for good health and well-being yet so many women find exercise about as enticing as a trip to the gynecologist.  This is particularly true for new moms, because of the laundry list of responsibilities that taking care of a baby entails. Some big motivators for encouraging exercise are new music, a strong community, and updated goals but another less tangible motivator exists as well. 

Let me ask you a question.  How many things do you take care of that you don’t like?  I like my husband so despite a long day on the job I do a little healthy cooking for him now and then.  I like my dogs so despite the comfort of a warm bed on a rainy Portland Saturday I am up and walking them.  I like my child too!  That’s why I feed him, change him, dress him, bathe him, etc.  We take care of the things we like in innumerable ways.  I can think of only one thing women perpetually don’t like, berate incessantly, and spend countless hours trying to get the motivation to take care of — their bodies. 

There’s a lot of self-loathing out there.  We live in a culture that blasts us with image after image of youthful, svelte physiques and the message is loud and clear that happiness equals looking like an airbrushed toothpick with female parts.  However, most females over the age of twelve and most females with beautiful new babies at home have dimples, fat rolls, and stretch marks.  If we reframe how we think about our bodies and talk to them though, the taking care of part, flows more naturally.  How about trying to shift the self-loathing to self-love? 

Instead of “is that seriously another stretch mark on my hip” wouldn’t it be nice if it was “stretch mark? Cool! a reminder of the baby my body made and birthed”.   This isn’t an easy shift to make though.  It’s only me, myself, and I inside my head and I’ve been having many of the same thoughts since I was oh I don’t know, two?  It’s hard to shift them.  When I reach for the ice cream container more than once my husband witnesses the account and reminds me that I bitterly complain about a stomachache every time I eat two bowls of the stuff.   I often have accountability with the actions I take in the world, but with my thoughts it’s different.

What to do about it?  I like the exercise of wearing a rubber band for a week.  Each time you notice the rubber band find something about your body you can be grateful for.  Each time you catch yourself criticizing your body, pop the rubber band gently.  You’re not trying to hurt yourself with this exercise, but merely give yourself a gentle reminder that the body you’re in may not look like the cover of Sports Illustrated, but it created a life and birthed it.  You’re beautiful and capable and you want to take care of it because you like it!

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Hello world!

I don’t think of myself as much of a girly girl.  I mean I wear make-up on dates with my husband.  I like to put on a dress for special occasions and I do love sitting in one of those vibrating chairs at the nail salon and having someone paint my toes.  I do not however get excited about weddings, showers, or babies.  I desperately tried to avoid going to my own wedding, but was unsuccessful in finding a stand in my husband approved of.  I was able to avoid a wedding shower by agreeing to go wine tasting with a few friends instead, but the baby shower I couldn’t seem to shake.  It’s actually amazing I made it through that dreaded affair without puking.  All of this points to the fact that I never ever thought in a million years I’d be blogging about babies and mommyhood and yet here I am seven months in and not only needing an outlet for my thoughts, ideas, and experiences as a new working mom, but also hoping I might help at least one new mom out there by recounting some of what I am learning.  Before I launch into the practical I’d like to introduce you to some of my pregnancy highlights.

I should explain that I was one of those women that when thinking of pregnancy, had visions of sugar plum fairies dance in my head.  I mean when you think of a sugar plum fairy do you not envision her rosy cheeks and a far off peaceful look in her eye?  I may not daydream about babies, but I did my fair share of daydreaming about what I imagined to be the joys of pregnancy.  I am fascinated by the complexities of the human body and therefore very much anticipated this time when my body would grow another human being.  Also, I’ve always led a fairly healthy lifestyle so I thought pregnancy complaints like morning sickness and back pain were things I would be immune to.  Man was I wrong.  Lifestyle may impact much when it comes to the physical, but it seemed to do nothing for my experience of pregnancy.  Not only was I slammed with 9 months of almost constant nausea and frequent puking, I suffered from every joint pain imaginable and looking back some depression as well.  You hear about postpartum depression, but depression during pregnancy isn’t something I had been schooled on.  Aren’t most women ecstatic upon seeing the positive sign on the pregnancy stick?  Doesn’t that feeling of ecstasy only increase as the baby grows and motherhood becomes more imminent?

Hormones are powerful and although I knew that from previous mood altering experiences with the birth control pill I had no idea what I was in for here.  This was a baby I thought I desperately wanted yet as the progesterone levels rose I became more and more unsure that I could go the distance.  I tried everything imaginable to combat the nausea and vomiting in the first trimester: vitamins, no vitamins, acupuncture, more food, no food, apple cider vinegar, the list goes on.  Women told me the end of this phase was near as I came upon week 11, but when weeks 13 and 14 and 15 came and went with no relief I began to accept that I might very well be pregnant and puking for the rest of this pregnancy.  I was.  Luckily the puking came much less frequently after month 7, but let’s be honest puking for that many months in a row puts a damper on things!

When I stopped trying to change this and accepted it for what it was I did start to feel a little better.  All in all though, pregnancy for me sucked.  Throughout pregnancy I envied the women who had sugar plum fairy experiences.  Now that I’m on the other side though I can say that although challenging my struggles gave me a much easier transition into mommyhood than I think someone with a blissful pregnancy might have.  I had nine months of doing not much else than dragging myself to work to sit next to their trashcan and then going home for a bath and bed.  I pulled back from extra projects and hobbies.  My social calendar stayed empty as well.  When baby came along I wasn’t jolted as strongly into a different life.  I had already changed so many of my habits.  I told people in the early weeks after birth that postpartum was a breeze compared to pregnancy and I felt that way through and through.  As the memories of pregnancy have become blurry though, I find myself struggling more with mommy world.  Again, this blog is an outlet for some of what has already been and for some of the things that are yet to come.  My desire is to live well so that my son can live well too.  Welcome to our story.  Welcome to our world.