By Amelia Mayer
Despite my best intentions and attempts, I am not one of those women who looks “cute” while pregnant. Really, I’m not. I tend to gain gobs of weight all over, struggle with remaining as active as I’d like (unlike others who can run throughout their full pregnancy), and I have to work extra hard to lose all the weight post-pregnancy. All of these factors, coupled with the fact that hormones and emotions are in full swing, can mean some pretty “hard on myself” thoughts in these early “baby-rearing years” (and not JUST when I am pregnant).
Yes, I know it is all worth it. I love my kids to death. And yes, I know this is temporary–though nine months (plus all that postpartum brain fogginess) feels like an awfully long time to have those negative thoughts. Yes, I know to eat as healthfully as possible and to continue exercise and rest as much as I can. It’s (shockingly!) easier said than done sometimes, but I manage.
I work hard to push my thoughts beyond myself and my own discomforts to the well-being of my children and husband. I work hard at this but don’t always succeed, since I also have difficulty hiding those emotions. Sometimes life’s frustrations (or all those sleepless nights) just get the best of us!
I’ve spent most of the last five years either pregnant or breastfeeding, so the struggle is real and very much right there. My body proudly shows the “scars” (some more obviously than others) and love of having two children. It is also evidence of sleepless nights (and, might I add, that sleeplessness doesn’t help my self-esteem?) and the fact that I don’t have three hours a day to spend working out anymore.
Since I know I am not alone in this, I wanted to share a few tips I keep coming back to:
1. I am a better mom, wife, and woman when I am active. Sometimes that means running 10 miles. Sometimes it’s biking or light skiing. Sometimes a walk/waddle around the block takes immense effort. Either way, if I get my heart pumping every day, everyone is a lot happier.
2. I aim to incorporate strength training (again, at different levels depending on where I am at in life at the time) a couple of times a week. It boosts my self-esteem because I feel stronger and more empowered.
3. I switch things up. I run when I feel good running and bike when I feel good biking, etc. Trying new sports and activities also helps challenge my body and mind, and releases those happy endorphins!
4. I spend a little (even if it is Christmas money or a little extra bonus I wasn’t expecting to get) to buy clothes that make me feel good wherever I am. I don’t buy things that I am hoping will fit in “three months.” If I am not comfortable in them and I don’t feel like I can move in them NOW, the vicious cycle continues.
5. I rest when I need to, get up at 5:00 am when I need to, and just let it go when I need to (translation: sometimes life just gets busy and it’s okay to step back a little, too).
6. I eat as many fruits and veggies as I can handle to avoid the ups and downs of sugar-induced emotions. Yes, I also have chocolate, ice cream, and cookies sometimes, too.
7. I have learned that comparing myself to other women, moms, and media representations is never healthy. Instead, my focus is to become the best version of myself. Easier said than done, but life-changing nonetheless!
Ultimately, it is all worth it. I have a beautiful, expanding family. Life will get easier as the kids get older and there will be a time to focus on some of those bigger active dreams that I have rattling around in the back of my brain. Someday I will run a half-marathon (or a full one if I get really crazy), backpack for weeks on end, and summit those mountains I see through my window each day.
For now, I will continue my efforts to be as healthy as I can, encourage and inspire my children, and smile–lots! Join me!