1 way being pregnant makes you stupid

Ever heard of mommy brain or pregnancy brain? Ever tried being a writer with pregnancy brain? It’s like trying to sprint through mud. Are there other pregnant ladies out there struggling with staying creative while in the throws of gestation? Lists are all the rage right now for blogs (see my post, 15 things they don’t tell you about having a toddler), so I’m going to keep this one simple. Ok, there’s only one because, well, see #1. Here’s one way being pregnant makes you stupid.

1. Your baby is a zombie that eats your brains for sustenance, but only the creative parts, leaving your brain like so much swiss cheese left to mildew in the back of the fridge.

Third Trimester Blahs

Feeling motivated after my workout, I decided to try to adhere to my pre-pregnancy nutrition routine: whole grains, lean meats, little sugar. So I made whole grain pasta instead of white pasta. You know what happened? I still got fat because I’m 30 weeks pregnant and the little human in my belly says, I don’t care what you eat; I’m gonna squeeze every calorie out of that food and store it in your ass in case I need it for later. I exercise so at least my muscles will stay conditioned underneath the fuel storage, but getting on board the nutrition train right now just seems futile. At this point, I’m just trying to keep the fat from migrating to my face so I don’t have to take those poufy faced post-partum pics.

I’m not one of those cute pregnant women. How is it that some women glow? There’s no glowing here. I have circles under my eyes, oily hair and blemishes all over my face. I don’t carry the weight well so I’m very round and kind of all over the place. I’m a shortish person at 5’4 and though I have a healthy physique when I’m not sharing it with a growing fetus, you can’t tell by looking at me now. All you can tell by looking at me now is that I must be in my third trimester because I am clearly not having fun anymore. That’s not to say that I have enjoyed the pregnancy on the whole. No, I’m not a happy pregnant person. Let me qualify that by saying I am happy to be pregnant, but that doesn’t mean I have to be happy to be pregnant. Some women really enjoy it. To me, the ends justify the means.

I have been staying active since I would like to get back in the dojo and train for a fight as soon as possible. Regardless of my physical goals post-partum, staying fit during pregnancy seems like a contradiction in terms. As a fitness person I should believe and preach that the body wants to be healthy, especially during pregnancy. Uh, no it doesn’t. Your baby does not care what it has to suck out of your body to make sure he or she has everything it needs to grow and be strong. Your body is merely a vessel to give everything to your child. It makes it that much harder to stay healthy because your health and nutrition are not your own. If you don’t give it to your body for your baby to use, your baby will take it from wherever it is available. That means your teeth, bones, fat storage (though here your baby is considerate and makes sure those fat stores stay packed), and any other resource that you somehow thought was your own. Nothing is your own when you’re pregnant, not even your dignity.

I am nearing the end of this, my second pregnancy, which means any modesty that had returned in the 3 years since my last delivery is to retreat with cold hands and even colder jells. I didn’t care who or what went under my hospital gown by the time we determined my induction was a failed one and a C-section was necessary during my first delivery. I never got used to getting my cervix checked though; it’s like getting your tonsils checked through your vagina.

Look, let’s keep things in perspective here. I’ve got the third trimester blahs and in a couple months I’ll be posting annoying observations about how glorious and magical the whole process has been. Yes, it will be written in the post-partum bliss of having my body back. Ok, not entirely since I’ll be breast feeding, which reminds me to rant about the lies they tell you about that! Let me start by saying this: I believe in breast feeding as the primary source of a baby’s nutrition- I don’t need to be convinced by anybody or any institution about that. But don’t lie to me and tell me breast feeding helps me regain my pre-baby body because you burn sooo many more calories. Yeah, right. Hard work, watching your diet and a lot of support from those around you gets your pre-baby body back. Breasting feeding requires calories and I’m pretty sure the ginormous boobs that I heft around after my baby is born resemble nothing of my A cup boobies pre-baby.

Here’s the deal- if you’re reading this and you have been through a pregnancy, birth process and recovery, you kind of get what I’m saying- even if you’re one of those jerks who glowed. If you’re reading this in your first pregnancy, you might be kind of taken aback, terrified or defiant against what I’m saying. No matter how you feel about being pregnant, pregnancy is best experienced in retrospect. All the things I’m complaining about today somehow disappear and all that remains are the highlights of the awesomeness of having the super power to produce another human being from scratch. And then, one day, you may end up in another third trimester cursing the sous chef.

Temper Tantrums Require Home Field Advantage

Apparently today is a crying day. Not for me, for my son. I would like to be on my way to see my niece compete in her first level 7 gymnastics meet. Parenting thwarted these plans though. My son and I were packing to head out the door when he decided he needed a cookie. It’s amazing the simple things that can set a toddler off.

The simple act of telling him, not right now, resulted in an irrational meltdown. A time out and a promising redirect about not throwing fits when we don’t get what we want, and things were looking up. I still had hope we could recover and head out to the gymnastics meet. That was until he asked for a cookie again with the same reaction when the answer at that point had to be, no. Look, I don’t mind if the kid has a cookie, I just wasn’t in a position to give it to him at the moment he requested it the first time. His reaction to getting a cookie at that precise moment is what necessitated my refusal and subsequent refusals. It became a dreaded learning opportunity.

Learning opportunities are exhausting as a parent. It would be easier to give the kid the damn cookie so I could have what I wanted- going to watch my niece compete. Unfortunately, I had to seize this opportunity to teach my son how to be a decent human being and avoid future episodes. Thankfully he decided to start his crying day at home instead of in public where it’s too late to do much about it. As an adult, my dad told me:if I disciplined you at home, I didn’t have to discipline you in public. I guess when you have five children to manage in public you figure out how to teach them to listen. I just have the one, with a second fast approaching.

I’m beginning to see the virtues of disciplining at home where you have home field advantage, rather than having to institute rules and boundaries at the grocery store where you can’t control the environment. I mean, that’s just good gamesmanship, right? Have you ever tried to put a toddler in a time out in the diaper isle at Walmart? If we were at home I would let him scream himself hoarse in his time out while I ignored him. At the store you just know you’re being judged and you really don’t want to waste an hour of shopping by leaving a full cart and taking your child home for a time out (though a time out is not what I would have gotten if my mother or father had to leave a store because I threw a fit). Yes, home field advantage is preferable.

So, here I am writing while there’s a lull in the storm, rather than doing what I intended to be doing. Gray is playing outside, collecting rocks and wild flowers and bringing them to me here on the porch. Little apologies as only toddlers can make. I’ll offer him a cookie randomly if he continues to behave like a rational human being, or at least as rational as can be expected of a two year old. This is my first child, so who knows if I’m doing this parenting thing right. I’m combining my experiences of how I was raised (things I liked and didn’t like), experience working with children, and a lot from what I know from animal training as a keeper of great apes. I’m sure you will hear more about my experiences as a zoo keeper and how they prepared me for parenthood at some point in this blog.

I’ve found that parenting is extremely hard but equally rewarding. In the time it has taken me to write this, my son has returned to a sweet, adorable child. This is what keeps me going. A few rocks and wild flowers picked just for me in between melt downs sustains me and gets me through the next episode in five, four, three, two, one…

Swim Lessons

I discovered upon the onset of motherhood, from the moment I found out I was pregnant, that I was terrified of everything bad that could happen to my child. The primary thing my paranoid mommy brain focused on though was drowning. It didn’t matter the size of the body of water, it was a drowning threat. I didn’t want him to go to people’s houses with swimming pools or ponds or bath tubs or properties that formed puddles when it rained. So, we began swimming lessons when he was less than a year.

Most facilities begin parent and me swim lessons for infants at 6 months of age. My son loved the water immediately and it was a great way for the two of us to do something fun together. I let my husband do the first sessions in the water with Gray, but that’s mainly because I was not getting into a bathing suit yet. Babies and children may not adapt immediately and may cry or flat out throw fits to avoid participating. Know that your instructors are trained to deal with hesitant or fearful children. Even if your child screams through the entire lesson, stick with it. Don’t worry about what the other parents in the class think- Screw them, you’re providing your child a necessary skill and next week it will probably be their child screaming.

Most programs will have you submerge your baby on the first lesson. My husband completely dunked our son. The mommies in the class that did little more than splash their baby’s face seemed a little alarmed, but he did just fine, minus a little sputtering. My son’s biggest hesitancy was being on his back in the water. He was like a puppy that didn’t want to be rolled over, but back floating is the most important skill a child needs to learn. If they were to fall in a body of water, they can float until an adult finds them or until they make it to the side. Our swim club teaches them to climb out from an early age and to wall walk with their hands, down the side of the pool. Later, as they begin swimming, floating will allow them to save themselves if they become distressed due to fatigue or cramping. Different facilities have different curriculums so visit a few places.

We tried out several swim schools before we found the Houston Swim Club. Their primary goal is water safety and once those skills are learned, then lessons on traditional swim strokes are focused upon. You have to find a facility that you are comfortable with. I live in the Houston area where there are many different places that are freestanding swim clubs rather than being a class offered through the YMCA or local rec center. You may be limited to one or two options, but take advantage of whatever resources you have for water safety.

Gray is now over two and a half and is able to float on his back and doggy paddle across the pool. We are actually getting into swim lessons instead of don’t drown lessons. I know if he fell in a pool he would be able to float on his back and make his way to the edge and climb out, and at this point, jump back in for the fun of it. Yes, I still worry about riptides, flash flooding and fountains, but I know within the realm of realistic aquatic threats, Gray is well prepared to save himself.

Good Mourning

New ImageToday I’m spending my day saying goodbye to a long time friend- my 15 year old dog, Atticus.

Atticus came to me from a friend who had a stray roaming their rural neighborhood. Residents had been shooting at him to get him to stay out of their trash and she came to his rescue. I had an “only child” pug/boxer mix that was my first dog as an adult. Atticus, a black lab mix, showed up skin and bones, full of buck shot and heart worms, and as scared and submissive as I’ve ever seen a dog… and thus began my pack. Where Baxter demanded every ounce of my attention and a raised tone in his direction was effectively ignored, Atticus didn’t have the audacity to request any attention and the slight inflection of my voice sent him hunkering beneath a table. Much to Baxter’s chagrin, I would sit with Atticus and he would gratefully lay his head in my lap and sigh.

I spent the first few weeks squeezing buck shot out of Atticus’ skin and offering him food. He ate voraciously and even 15 years later, never turned down a meal, always retaining the stray mentality of eating when food was available. That is until today. This wasn’t a surprise, cortisone shots and Bufferin have sustained him the last couple of months, bought me some more time with him. We’ve been walking in that grey area of, when is the right time to let him go.
I had made that decision 2 years before for a 13 year old Baxter. We had a third partner in crime in our pack, Jack, a yellow lab, that came a year after Atticus. Those three boys got me through my tumultuous twenties. Jackie passed tragically, in my arms, but Baxter and now Atticus will pass peacefuly in my arms.

Atticus is the last of my boys, my family before I was married, before I had my son, before this pregnancy. For the first time since I got Baxter, 16 years ago, I will have only one dog in my mixed family of humans and canines. We got Jane the Super Dog 5 years ago and though I adore her, the bond is different. I don’t rely on her to fulfill all of my emotional needs like I did my boys. I was married when I got her, I’ve had a son and another on the way. She has gotten to be a dog where Baxter, Atticus and Jack were my world, my partners and children. Jane is usually a very pushy dog and cannot stand if Atticus is being petted, shoving him away to usurp the attention. Today though she lays in the other room, leaving me to sit on the floor next to Atticus while I type this. Jane will be happy to be an only dog and will be disgruntled when we bring home another, because eventually, we will.

Atticus is the last vestige of my life before I allowed others into my emotional world. The last of my teachers who showed me how to trust another human. After all these years together, Atticus still does not have the audacity to demand attention, except on occasion, still winces at a raised voice and still retains a couple pieces of buck shot that never worked their way out. How metaphorical for me, how lucky I am to have an example of loving and letting in despite the scars.

So now we wait for his four o’clock appointment, alone together, while my husband and son are at swim lessons. I love my human family, but I was raised by dogs. They each, with their different personalities, taught me more about being human than most humans I have met. I’ve explained to my 2 year old son that Atticus will be leaving. His response is, “I can’t miss Atticus, mommy”. When he doesn’t want to do something he says he can’t. I just look back into his concerned little eyes and say, “I can’t miss him either, baby”. That would be too small of a word to describe not only saying good-bye to Atticus, but to Baxter and Jack all over again. I love you, Atticus. Tell Baxter and Jackie I say hello.

Fourth Toe Misdemeanor

I fear I’ve broken my toe. By doing something wild and exciting, you might presume? No, by walking through my perfectly normal and boring kitchen. A ninja chair claimed casualty to my fourth toe on my right foot. I have jiu jitsu tonight so said toe is going to have to Wo-man up. It’s protesting in deep shades of purple but I question its sincerity in keeping me off of it. My feet on the whole are privy to my refusal to acknowledge their turmoil, but this particular toe has yet to solely carry the burden of injury, thus making it ill-prepared to cope with the abuse and neglect that I will inflict upon it.

My second toe still recalls the Freibergs disease of my youth and how not even a cast could provide respite for the rare and painful affliction. I have overheard the mocking that 2nd Toe is lashing upon Fourth Toe for a measly bump on the head and it isn’t pleasant.

Farther up, Metatarsals(who in a shocking and quite frankly passive aggressive protest, have changed their name to Meta World Peace) are airing their agreement that a rugby injury and subsequent cast were spaced out half a season. Metatarsals also recalled a crack to the them while kicking another human in the elbow and then again, to be sure they were actually broken and not just feigning injury.

They all laugh at Fourth Toe’s ninja chair assassin because, in reality, it was a household chair with delusions of grandeur that sought expression of its misuse as a clothes rack on poor little Fourth Toe. It could have happened to any one of them. I got a hideously cartoon yellow paint job on my toes during a pedicure a few days ago and I fear it made them easy pickings for the ninja chair. The purple bruising certainly made Fourth Toe more festive in a rambunctious Mardi Gras hue, but I think it may be a mere consolation prize at this point. So, please keep Fourth Toe in your prayers today.

Women in the Workout Place

We could discuss women in the work place, and that is a viable topic I would love to tackle, but today we’re looking at women in the workout place. You know, that place you rarely get to visit because you’re too busy working and taking care of other humans.

Ladies, are you lifting weights? Please, for the love, lift weights and lift heavy weights. Don’t let the men at the gym intimidate you. In just the last month at the gym I’ve seen a guy working out in a polo and gym shorts (showing off his pencil legs, because body proportion is wack) and a guy who looked like he came in right off the job site in steel toe boots and a work shirt with his name over the pocket. I’ve seen men using the machines improperly, lifting weights that were too heavy so they were not working the intended muscle group and I’ve worked in on machines with guys that I had to up the weight when it was my turn. You deserve to be there and I promise you, you know as much as they do… and besides, being women, we’ll ask if we don’t know rather than do squats on the leg press machine.

Here are a few survival tips for women in the workout place.

1. This is the best kept secret to surviving at the gym and one that men use. It’s a pretty complex concept: ACT LIKE YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE THERE!

2. Go in with a plan. Create an idea of what you want to accomplish at the gym that day. This helps to keep you from feeling lost or aimless. Google some exercises and write them in a note on your phone. You will look like you’re changing music instead of checking notes. Really though, anyone who knows what they are doing keeps notes of their exercises anyway. Record the exercise, how many sets you did and how much weight lifted or the duration of the exercise. This helps you see progress and keeps you motivated.

3. Every machine has a picture with how to use it. I have been lifting weights since I was 12 and am a personal trainer yet I still have to read these from time to time. When you stop to read it, you may feel like everyone in the gym is judging you for having to read it. It feels like when the teacher would call you up to the board in front of the class to do a math problem, but no one is watching you. If the room is full of men, they’re watching themselves in the mirror and other women are reading their own machine’s placards. If you still don’t understand how to use the machine, ask someone. Find a trainer (they usually have on a shirt with “trainer” on the back) or go up to the desk and tell them you have a question about a piece of equipment.

4. Schedule a free session with one of the gym’s personal trainers. Most, if not all, gyms give you a free first session with one of their trainers. They will assess your fitness needs and take you through a sample workout. They will offer you a training package but do not feel compelled to sign up for it. This assessment will give you a few ideas of how to use some of the equipment. You can even request a session specifically to show you how to use the equipment. You may even get this service free from your gym, just ask. If you can afford to continue working with a personal trainer, sign up for 5-10 sessions (the per session rate should decrease the more sessions you sign up for). You can get a jump start on being in a routine with some accountability and learn how to put together a workout. You will be well prepared to go it on your own after that.

5. There is etiquette in the gym that you should be aware of. Some people ignore it, but don’t be one of those people. Take turn on machines: If you are doing three sets then be aware of others who want to “work in”. This means they want to get a set in in between your sets. Don’t just sit on the machine texting between sets and if someone else is, just ask them to work in. Wipe your sweat off the machines: Carry a towel with you and simply wipe down the seat when you’re done. There will be antibacterial wipes around too so when you’re done with your sets you can grab one and wipe it down that way. Re-rack your weights: If you are using free weights, put them back where you got them.
These tips should get you started, and that’s what’s important: to get started. A couple weeks of getting used to the gym and you’ll be a regular. Don’t be intimidated, act like you’re supposed to be there, go in with a plan, ask for help and do work. The quickest way to change your body is to lift heavy weights. That means heavy weights by your standards, not Joe Muscle over there using his back to do curls that are entirely too heavy for him. You can do this! Need some extra motivation or suggestions? Drop me a question in the comments or for more regular posts, head over to facebook and check out AvengerFitness!