Exercise After Pregancy- It Ain’t Easy

I’m free! As of Monday I was released for full activity after having had a c-section 6 weeks ago. This blog is titled, The Tomboy Mommy, so the fact that I get to be a tomboy again is so exciting. I wasted no time and headed back to the dojo Monday night where I train mixed martial arts. It was wonderful and splendid and horrible. Here’s why:

1. I have no core control due to the 9 months of pregnancy and at the end of that time, my abs were cut in half. Doing crunches during the group warm-up and conditioning portion of class made me look like a rolly polly that can neither rolly nor polly.

2. My boobs hurt because I’m breast feeding, so if you even look at them aggressively they cry. This makes using your chest to smash and be smashed feel like your breasts are being tenderized like hamburger meat. I can’t tap out when I’m making the offensive move, but damn it hurts more than the person I’m submitting. They make sports bras with cups in them, like a cup for my chesticles. I considered how awkward it might be to be smashing some guys face with my plastic molded boobs, but then I remembered how many times their cups smash my face. Seriously, I’ve almost gotten a black eye from a dude’s cup.

3. I farted while rolling (because my body does what it wants these days). Passing gas while performing jiu jitsu maneuvers is common among the sport’s practitioners. I have never expelled gas audibly from my body while rolling, though many of my male training partners have. There are three ways to react to this bodily function. The first is, if you know your partner well, make a joke and continue on. Second, you can say sorry and continue on. Or third (and the most practiced reaction), is to just continue on- which was the option I chose especially since the person with whom I was rolling was brand new.

4. My milk let down several times but thankfully I had prepared for such an occurrence. It also helps that when you’re soaked in your own and others sweat, you can’t tell if you have leaky nipples. I debated whether to wear the nursing pads in my sports bras because having one fall out while training would be mortifying.

5. To make it all worth while though, there are a couple of strapping young men who had to walk away reconciling that not only were they beaten by a girl, that girl just had a baby. Boom!

Getting back into an exercise routine post-partum is hard enough as it is. If you’re diving back into a fitness regimen, things bounce and jiggle that neither bounced nor jiggled before. Things chafe and rub that didn’t do so before. You’re knees hurt from the extra weight you’re carrying and from your gate changing from the adaption to accommodate your pregnancy waddle. Oh, and no matter how fit you were before and no matter how active you stayed, your body hates you right now. Ok, let’s not make it personal. You’re body doesn’t actually hate you. Let’s say your body is having an identity crisis and does not know who it is. So, it’s not you, it’s them. You will have a dysfunctional relationship with your body for a little bit. This can make it difficult to really gain momentum in sticking with a fitness routine, but believe me, your body will thank you eventually. You can sincerely look your body in the eye and say, this hurts me more than it hurts you, and it might actually be true (unlike when we say it to our kids).

Things I’ve Googled Since Having a Baby

Even though this is my second child, I found the same fears creeping into my paranoid mommy brain. Here are a few of the things I have googled in the 5 weeks since my son was born.

Can you take Excedrin while breast feeding?
Because after a pregnancy of headaches treated only with Tylenol, I was anxious for something that could really kick a headache’s ass.

Recovery time after C-section
Because I was ready to start training again, like, 9 months ago.

Ruptured c-secion incision
Because I might have done too much

Symptoms of Colic
Because I have to believe he’s not screaming because of something I did.

How to treat colic
Because I have to believe he’ll stop screaming

Sids
Because I’m a mom and I’m constantly afraid he’s going to quit breathing.

How to wrap a Moby
Because ?&@!

Post partum depression
Because I’m losing my mind

Baby blues
Because hopeufully it’s a brief phase

Newborn exposed to sick toddler
Becase, Oh my God, my 3 year old is going to give my baby the plague, how am I supposed to protect him from gross germy people when I have to take care of a gross germy person too!

Normal sleep patterns for a newborn
Because there is no way this is normal.

Developmental milestones
Because, shouldn’t he be rolling over by now?  He’s 5 weeks old, aren’t other 5 week olds rolling over already?

Bloating after C-section
Because I feel like a Macy’s Parade balloon.

Constipation remedies
Because, well, you get the idea.  Those pain meds really back you up.

Colors of newborn poop
Because, it’s supposed to be sunshine yellow?

Retractions in new born respiration
Because, If he’s asleep and breathing deeply, there must be something wrong.

How to sleep with your eyes open
Because I just typed this in my sleep.  You really can learn how to do anything on the internet.

 

Raising Babies

29153_404368597616_4161221_n

Some of you may know that I used to be a zoo keeper. The majority of my ten years as a keeper was as a primate keeper. I worked with various species of monkeys and apes during my time as a keeper and during that time I participated in hand raising several orphaned primate babies. These are thrilling experiences that my surrogacy as a non-human primate caregiver provided me with the experience I now refer to with my two human children.

It occurred to me the other day while caring for my baby, that I have more experience raising non-human primates than I do humans.

I have raised more monkeys and a chimp (chimps are apes, not monkeys), than I have kids. I have two kids, but have raised no fewer than ten primates. They are similar experiences, but just slightly different enough that I find I catch myself from innate behaviors I could use with the infant primates.   It makes sense then that my instincts tend toward my experiences hand rearing primate babies.

My most ingrained reaction is to give a crying and flailing human baby a stuffed animal upon which to cling. Yes, I am typically that reassuring thing to which to cling, but when I’ve set the baby down in his crib or bouncer, his little arms flail out and he screams.

When hand rearing infant primates (non-human primates) a surrogate upon which to cling must be provided. Yes, I as the caregiver, am a surrogate, but humans hold their babies and even put them down. Non-human primates are not removed from the clutches of their mother’s hair for many weeks.

The first non-human primate I ever raised was a capuchin monkey named Noah. I’ll never forget my first day of training as a tour guide at a small zoo in Oklahoma. We sat gathered around, meant to be listening and taking notes, but all attention was focused on a small monkey bouncing around a small cage. He was a few months old, but had the energy of a toddler overdosed on sugar. Occasionally, he would return to a stuffed animal and would attach himself to it for comfort.

Noah Pic by Nicole Sweetin

Noah
Pic by Nicole Sweetin

Seeing a lost cause, our trainer removed the monkey, attached to his “fuzzy” and introduced him as Noah. He had been rejected by his mother and was being hand raised by the zoo staff. I was entranced, as you would imagine, and though several people tried to touch him, I refrained. Don’t get me wrong, I was dying to. I had wanted to be a primate keeper since I was three years old and my aunt got me a stuffed monkey named Spunky the Monkey(I still have him). I don’t know what stopped me. As an animal person my entire life, instinct told me to wait, get to know him. We became fast friends and years after I left that little zoo, he would scream excitedly as soon as he saw me upon my return. He had grown to be aggressive to most of his keepers and they had trouble shifting him. If I was visiting I could get him to comply. Noah was my second primate love (Spunky was my first).

I assisted in hand raising several capuchin monkeys, but my dream was to work with chimpanzees and hopefully one day get to hand raise one. N0w, that was a conflicting wish, because I knew that to hand raise one would mean something had occurred to require the hand rearing, like the neglect of the baby, or death of the baby’s mother.

When I finally got on as a great ape keeper at the zoo I grew up visiting, I thought I had won the lottery, though I had worked very hard to get there. Wouldn’t you know it, the chimpanzee group’s alpha female was pregnant. I was of course hoping for a healthy pregnancy and delivery, there was no reason to believe that the female would not take care of her baby. Tragically, though, the mother died in child birth after extensive efforts to save her. So there I was at my dream job, part of the team hand raising a newborn chimpanzee.

When I was part of the team that hand raised the infant chimpanzee, we used a t-shirt covered in fleece strips, sewn all over the t-shirt. This provided the infant a way to learn to cling since the baby was to be introduced to a surrogate in the chimpanzee group as soon as was deemed it appropriate for the infant’s health, safety and well being.

We provided her round the clock care.  To watch her grow and progress through her developmental skills was my first experience with motherhood.  I remember her a scrawny newborn, so weak and vulnerable.  She was getting sick a lot, so we had to administer intramuscular shots in her tiny little leg muscles, take her temperature hourly and count her respirations.  To take her off of you to perform these necessary procedures was agonizing as she would scream to be reattached.  I would press her back to my chest as quickly as possible and she would snuggle into the felt strips in my chest.  I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait for her to be a little less vulnerable.

It’s striking the similarities in the emotions and reactions when my sons were newborns.  It’s such a stressful time and so overwhelming.  Unlike raising a chimpanzee baby, there were no shifts to hand the baby off to the next keeper with my kids (unless you count my husband, which I rarely do for some reason, though he’s raised four children to adulthood). I find I celebrate their milestones the same I did for the baby chimp.

27953_404661202616_5461859_n

I remember when she got her first tooth and acclimating to seeing her with teeth.  I remember working with her when she was army crawling.  I used the same exact technique in encouraging her to crawl as I later did  with my oldest son (number 2 isn’t army crawling just yet).  I would lie her about four feet from me and she would drag herself across the blanket, unsure and chirping, as she kept her eyes on me.  She would work hard, making her way back to me and I would scoop her up and hug her, telling her good job and vocalizing as closely as a could as to an encouraging chimpanzee vocalization.  My son, the same exact procedure, without the chimpanzee vocalizations, though, believe me, I was tempted.

As she got older, she would hang onto my thumbs and flip backwards, laughing that toothy, wide mouthed chimpanzee laugh.  Now my oldest son holds my hands and flips backwards, and the laugh is similar. 

I would celebrate her little accomplishments, each new milestone the same as I do with my boys.

I would cuddle her and stroke the hair on top of her sweaty head as she slept against me, same as I do with my boys.  But there are differences, of course.  I don’t have to give my sons back to their kind, not yet anyway.  I am their kind, but I do have to let him get progressively more independent, until he leaves the nest.

We had to introduce our little chimpanzee back to the group, to the chimpanzee surrogate who would be her mother and protector.  It was fascinating to watch that transition into the chimpanzee life she was meant to have.  She was more than a little spoiled, despite our best efforts.  The original female we believed would be a suitable surrogate did not work out.  She was interested in the baby, but only as a novelty, something of an aunt, if you will.

25381_395124977616_6994286_n

The chimpanzee that took the baby as her own happened to be the baby’s deceased mother’s best friend.  Yes, that is the best way to describe them.  She was a bit cantankerous with her keepers and an alpha, after the baby’s mother died.  She was very stern with the baby, but never physically so.  The baby was used to getting away with biting and fussing at the people she didn’t want to hold her or touch her, or when she just plain didn’t want to do something.  This is a much more painful type of tantrum then with a human child.  At 6 months old she had the temperament of a human toddler and the strength of a teenage human.

Her surrogate wasn’t having it though.  She would walk behind the baby and just touch her, clip her back foot. The baby would turn around and scream at her, like to leave her alone, even bite at her, but the surrogate would continue and the baby would stop griping at her eventually.  Then her surrogate would walk away and give her space.  Then, she’d do it all over again.  Where we would have given her space, a little taken aback by the rejection, her surrogate, being an alpha, essentially told her, I’m the head chimp in charge, you don’t get to send me away.  She ended up being a fantastic surrogate mother, even biting off half the ear of a male who she thought got too close to the baby.  Poor guy was posing no threat or even aggression towards the baby, but the surrogate thought so, and she being as big as most of the males, let him have it.  She has since been surrogate to orphaned babies from all over the country.

I learned so much from raising primate babies and watching them be raised by their own species.  I apply the lessons I learned almost every day in my parenting and find myself playing with my babies as I did them.  I don’t know what kind of mom I would be if I hadn’t had these experiences.  How lucky I and my kids are.

 

 

 

How to lose baby weight when you’re not a celebrity

istockphotos.com

istockphotos.com

If I see another celebrity picture 6 weeks post-partum being celebrated for looking totally fabulous already, I’m going to squirt breast milk in their eye. Here’s the deal: celebrities are not normal post partum women! It is an impossibly unrealistic goal to look like a celebrity does 6 weeks after giving birth. Let’s make it an even playing field here. Give us normal folk a nutritionist, an assistant to do the grocery shopping, a personal chef, a personal trainer and a nanny to watch the kid or kids while we workout and we’ll be well on our way to being red carpet ready in 6 weeks. I actually heard one celebrity say in a sincere tone that she looks so fab already because of breast feeding…period.

Stop it! Stop the madness! Did she seriously just pretend like breast feeding alone restored her body to the amazingness that stood before us? Did she sit there and pretend like she doesn’t have a team of people enabling her to not only have the time to workout and cook, but place in front of her exactly what to do and eat to attain a stunning figure so quickly? That is the most irresponsible thing a woman in her position can do to another woman.

Look, I was 13% body fat when I got pregnant this time. I was fit, y’all. Now I’m 4 weeks post partum and guess what? My ass is ginormous! My belly is going down well and properly camouflaged to look halfway decent in the right shirt, but, again, my ass is huge. Even if I weren’t restricted from activity more strenuous than walking for 6 weeks due to my C-section, I would not be red carpet ready. It is not realistic to expect that we will be. But guess what? We do of course.

Let’s give ourselves a freakin’ break here. We just grew an entire human in our wombs, which our entire bodies worked in concert to develop. If we had the perfect circumstances and money was no object, like a celebrity, then we might be able to attain some semblance of the bodies we want…THE BODIES WE WANT. Ah, here it is. Let’s be honest, ladies. On top of the pressure we are putting on ourselves to lose the baby weight, we are also adding the pressure that we should lose the pre-baby weight also. I mean, if we’re going to start a fitness routine to shed the pregnancy pounds, may as well tackle those few left over from the previous baby, or whatever caused those extra pounds to accumulate in our trouble areas. Hey, me too and me also.

Guess what? Weight Watchers isn’t paying us to lose that baby weight. We have to pay them. Oh, wait, I have to buy nursing bras or formula, wet wipes and diapers, and start saving for another college fund. So, sorry, there’s no wiggle room in the budget for weight watchers. Besides, even if they paid me to eat well, are they going to watch my kids so I can do it? Are they going to do the laundry, clean the house, cook dinner so I can make losing weight a priority? Are they going to get up at night and feed the baby so I can sleep? Are they going to have the requisite hormonal argument with my husband for me? Nope! So the stress is still going to be there, which contributes to weight retention not only by the body’s chemical response to stress, but because it makes me eat two king size Snickers just for funsies.

I don’t mean to hate here. I am happy for Heidi Klum and her return to size zero clothes 6 weeks post partum. Congratulations, I sincerely hope you don’t turn your ankle in platform high heels while walking the red carpet. Ok, yes, I do, because people falling is funny. Really though, good for her. I’m glad she has the resources to do so. What I’m saying is that the majority of us cannot hold ourselves to this standard. These celebs are not doing this because they have better will power or are superhuman. The point I’m trying to make is that they are not working alone. They are working in concert with an entire support team to get them back into shape. The average mom is lucky to get her husband to wake up once in the night. My big sister would kick her husband then roll over and act like she was asleep to get him to wake up and check on the baby. He was so proud of himself too that he was waking on his own. Hey, we have to do what we have to do, ladies.

Look, this is a pep talk for myself here, I’m not preaching. As I squeeze into my jeans that were my “fat jeans” pre-pregnancy, I hate myself just a little. My belly went down, my ass did not. That’s a serious bummer and I hate it. I find myself berating myself for not already being, if not back to normal, at least well on my way. The train feels like it hasn’t even left the station! But I swear to you, I will not let another celebrity post-baby body influence how I perceive my weight loss. I can berate myself just fine, thank you very much. Besides, the only red carpet I’ll be walking is the one my 3 year old spilled red cool-aid on while I was nursing the baby. Where’s my personal assistant when I need him? Good help is so hard to find.

Maternity Leave

I didn’t mean to take a 3 week maternity leave from my blog.
Do stay at home moms even get maternity leave? How does that work? I don’t really feel like a stay at home mom. As I write more I consider myself a work from home mom. No one is paying me yet so I often feel like I’m lying to myself and certainly do not feel justified in stealing a few precious moments to write. But I’m a writer and writers, aspiring or otherwise, write.

I have thought about you, my readers, regularly.
Would you miss my posts? Would you come back when I could get around to posting again? Will the quality of my posts suffer as I steal time to type a line here and there between diaper changes, feedings and replacing the pacifier? Yes, these first few posts might be a little slap-dash as I steal what moments I can, just to write what I can…to keep writing.

Every time I think I will sit down to write while the baby is sleeping I think about how exhausted I am, or how little sleep I will probably get tonight so I should sleep whether I feel like it right then or not. I think I should do the dishes or pick up the toys my three year old has scattered across the house in an attempt to get a little attention. At this exact moment, my three year old is hanging on the back of my neck saying,

I miss you mommy.

I hug him back and assure him I love him too and try to type another sentence. This is Tuesday so he’s home. He goes to “school” three days a week, but even then, I find myself taking every available moment from tending the baby to do something else.

So this lament is my reintroduction to writing after a 3 week hiatus.
I think about writing as much as I think about working out. I’m on a mandatory 6 weeks post C-section recovery though so my outlets are dwindling while I attend a stressful stage that requires outlets I cannot access. But I’m writing right now, though briefly, because the baby is screaming from the swing that had been placating him for a few moments. I suspect the bright blue toy gecko perched atop his head is the reason he’s screaming- my three year old sitting innocently by, the most likely culprit.

I have some great content in my head, so stay tuned. If I can steal a few moments to get it from my mind to my blog, we’ll be up and chugging again. Time to go clean the throw up from my shoulder for the nineteenth time today.