Sunday, September 1, 2013

2:09 PM
There is no doubt that pregnancy and babies take their toll on us - our bodies, our self-esteem, our relationships, our careers. For all the joy and love we share with our littles, we are often not as loving and gracious to ourselves. We pick and niggle at the newly-wrought imperfections that pregnancy has inflicted on our bodies. We question our worth as mothers, as partners, as employees. We stare through exhaustion and sleep deprivation at those around us that seem to be managing everything with a combination of awe and jealousy. We cling precariously to the self we were before we had children, and once we are done birthing them, we begin the long, arduous slog back to the new normal.

As an often-overwhelmed-mother-of-two I look with amazement at families with three or more children. The impossibility of it (for me) stops me in my tracks every time. So imagine the size of my eyes when my college friend and former teammate announced the birth of her fourth boy!!! That is not the least of it -- Here is the amazing photo she posted a few weeks ago of her going on a run with her entire brood in tow:

The Photo That Started it All
She is one of the strongest women I know, so in many ways I was not too surprised that she managed such a Herculean effort, in high-altitude Colorado, no less. However, because most of us have a hard enough time getting out the door to work out on our own, much less encumbered by four boys and a dog, I asked this stellar mama to share with us how it is that she does what she does:

MommyTasker asked me to write a little something about how I “get it done”. Ha! I wonder the same thing sometimes. Some days during particularly trying moments or when I think too much about future unknowns (and future scheduling complexities), I stop and think, “What the hell have I gotten myself into?”! I have chosen a different path from many in the MommyTasker readership. I am currently staying home with my young children. I have four (yes, 4!) young boys. Never got the girl. They are ages 7, 5, 3 and 9 months. I also manage several rental properties and teach MCAT prep night classes when there is a course running. The life balance that MommyTasker is often emphasizing has swung severely off center for me in the past years.

I call my 30’s “the breeding years”. I have been pregnant or nursing for more than eight years straight. OK, I lied, I had about five months off when my oldest stopped nursing early and before I was pregnant with #2. But, who’s counting? My first was born just after I turned 30, my last when I was 36. I am now 37, and still my body is not yet fully mine. My children were all in the 9-10 lb range and to sustain them my breasts make enough milk to feed an orphanage. With the first two I donated over 500 oz to the Mother’s Milk Bank, so I am not kidding about the orphanage! With the last two, I just could not handle that extra task... I will likely wean #4 when he is 12 months old, even though I let the middle boys go much longer. I am ready to be me again!

The pregnancies, postpartums and ridiculous chest of milk jugs have made it difficult to sustain the kind of fitness level and competitive athlete mentality I had through my 20’s. I have always been good about getting outside, leading stroller walks and Geocache hunts with other moms and I even managed to run a couple 5k’s between kids, but my fitness needs to come back into the balance.

So, this is a story of how I am beginning to reclaim myself! I started early this summer. I needed four intravenous surgeries done on my legs. The pregnancies destroyed my veins. My legs were making me tired, and if I’m honest, vain. I packed in the procedures, knowing I would need recovery time before I could do impact exercise and I wanted the recovery to correspond with the baby eating more solids. It worked! My legs were healed enough after three to four weeks for me to begin running again. At the same time my chest adjusted down to pints from quarts! I still have some tenderness in my legs, and I still have to time my runs right after a nursing session, but I am getting it done.

I typically get a run in three to four times per week, for about three to four miles. I like running for it’s efficiency and because I can take different children or the dog with me. They need to get out, too! My pace is all over the place, depending on terrain, stroller weight, or kids on bikes. That doesn’t bother me. I can see and feel my strength and fitness returning quickly! I typically fit in some abs or core work through the week or after a run. I have never been a yoga enthusiast, but am trying to see the light and work with my inflexibility!

Water Break
An Easy 90 lb Load

Before school started, I was often taking all four boys running with me on weekdays. That meant coordinating two or three on bikes and at least one in a jogging stroller. This is a crazy undertaking! Checking all tire inflation on bikes and chosen stroller, finding helmets, shoes, snacks, water bottles, dog leash, then getting everyone to the potty, nursing the baby, and getting the heck out the door! I envisioned loading up the bikes and stroller into the car more to do various local trails, but usually it ended up just being a run around the neighborhood and the neighborhood trail. The extra loading and unloading was just too much by myself. I run through crying fits, stop for more potty breaks (the advantage of all boys!), and go back to grab bikes and give pushes. I run with the 3 yr old perched on the single stroller with his baby brother and his bike slung across the top. I run with the dog cutting in front of the stroller wheels or nearly clotheslining a kid on a bike. Whenever older boys are in camp, or now back in school, I take whatever combo I have left. On weekends, evenings and occasional weekdays it’s just me! If I’m feeling generous, I’ll take our 10.5 year old dog with just me, but I hate to see him ache and limp after the longer, faster runs without kids :( It sure feels good to get the me time!
The Beauty of a Solo
I tell myself I should join a gym but I’ve tried that and I am not a gym rat. I prefer to run outside or workout at home. I am trying several different smart phone apps and online workouts that keep me more accountable than a gym membership. I tell myself I should get up before the kids and run, but I still need the nursing sessions ahead of a workout to make them comfortable and, not being a morning person (I may have used up my early morning workout quota as a rower in college and in my mountain climbing days), I prefer to take the kids and their insanity with me (it is my chosen job). Alternatively, I workout in the evenings, on the weekends and few hours a week when I can go kid free. It is not always graceful, but it is the current season of my life. I know I will soon enough miss the days when I had a baby babbling or napping peacefully in the jogging stroller.

I could easily rattle off one or two dozen or more moms (including our own Mommytasker!) I know who have done a superior job at staying fit running marathons, 24-hr relays, mountain ascents, or teaching fitness classes and doing Crossfit. I console myself in knowing that they did not have four, or babies so big, or so close together, or their youngest is older than my babe, or all of the above :) My time has come to get it done and become myself again, side by side with my beautiful children becoming themselves for the first time!

This lady is one tough cookie - huh? Cheers to her!

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