Fitness After Baby

I follow a lot of different fitness and nutrition related blogs, magazines, and publications, and many are just noise. “Eat real food” and “move your body” aren’t generally exciting enough to garner lots of online attention, so even supposedly health-oriented sites are going to engage in “click baiting” their followers. It is what it is.

Fitness Magazine is one of those Facebook pages that shows up in my feed, and I generally roll my eyes at whatever “get fit quick” scheme they’re posting about today, but this one kind of stuck in my craw:

You Won’t Believe What This Fit Mom Looks Like Two Days After Giving Birth

Now, my complaint isn’t with Diary of a Fit Mommy. She makes sure to keep it real with her posts, reminding us that she does ” plan on trying bodyweight exercises possibly in a few days as my body allows. Right now, it is all about listening to my body and not overdoing it” and ” I am not too stressed about how I am eating right now as its all about eating enough to breastfeed my toddler and newborn, but clean eating has been what’s getting those extra pounds off in the meantime.”

Mamas (and mamas-to-be). Sit down. Look at me in my eyeballs. Are you listening? This is not a race.

Do you hear me?

You are not in a race to “get your body back” or “get back into racing shape” or “lose the pregnancy weight.”

It’s true that I managed to get into the best shape of my life after my third baby, but that was after three other pregnancies and a lot of trial and error. And it did not come without cost. So grab a cup of coffee (you know you need it) and let me tell you about my health and fitness journey.

If you’ve read my bio or known me for any length of time, you know that I was always a skinny girl – small-boned, no boobs, big butt. It’s how God made me. Like so many other teenage girls, I struggled with body image, dieted because I thought I was supposed to, wasn’t physically active, and didn’t give my actual health a second thought. When I got pregnant with my first, I ate everything in sight. Everything I saw in the media told me that I could eat whatever I wanted because I was pregnant, I was sick as a dog and food made me feel better, and I was SO anxious for people to be able to tell I was pregnant! Lo and behold, 42 weeks and 60 pounds later…I was just fat. Thankfully, a light bulb came on and I knew that breastfeeding and nourishing my baby was more important than weight loss. Although I was desperate to fit back into my pre-pregnancy jeans, I was more concerned with my growing baby. With the help of a health-and-fitness-minded friend, I began learning about nutrition and exercise. I ate lean protein, whole grains, fruits and veggies, and low fat dairy. I walked and did VERY light strength training and/or yoga most days of the week and within a year I had lost 70 pounds.

I got pregnant again when my first baby was 11 months old, and this time around my healthy habits stuck with me throughout the pregnancy. He was a smaller baby with some kidney issues and was born 4 weeks early. I gained a mere 28 pounds. I was less anxious to lose weight this time around – likely because there was less to lose! – but I was also struggling with severe post-partum depression and the general chaos of two-kids-under-two at home. It was then, however, that I discovered running. Partly because I was getting more fit and the walking was getting easier, but also because running gave me endorphins and a chance to get out of the house without the kids; running was a saving grace. I continued eating healthy, breastfed for 20 months, and was much more concerned about fueling my running habit than fitting into my old jeans. I built relationships during this time. I learned what my body could do. I began to see my body as a tool to living a great life rather than an enemy to be forced into submission.

Then came the dark days.

When baby #2 was just over 2 years old, we found out we were expecting baby #3! When we went in for our first ultrasound, the doctor found fluid on the baby’s lungs. He said that it could resolve, or it could be a fatal heart defect that would lead to miscarriage around the end of the first trimester. At exactly 12 weeks, I had gone for a run with a friend and came home to find bleeding. When we went in for an ultrasound the next morning, there was no heartbeat. I was devastated.

My body again became the enemy.

I ate very little, drank a lot of wine, and ran. I ran miles and miles. I ran fast because if my body wasn’t going to give me a baby it was certainly going to give me SOMETHING. I decided I wanted to compete. I didn’t want to just run races, I wanted to win. So I did.

I consulted with coaches, followed their training plans, and met my goals. I brought home trophy after trophy, medal after medal. I ate well, I took my vitamins, and my body did what I told it to do. Physically healthy, sure. Mentally healthy? Not by a long-shot.

One thing I did learn from this time was what it felt like to really push my body to the max physically. So when I became pregnant again I knew how to back off my intensity to stay active during pregnancy but not push too hard. I ran throughout this entire pregnancy, even running a half-marathon at 14 weeks, and 3 miles the day before I went into labor. Check out this doozy:

I'm the enormous one on the right...
I’m the enormous one on the right…

Four days later I had that baby! Then I waited a WHOLE two weeks before I went running again! <insert eye roll>

What I had failed to learn while breastfeeding my other babies was that nursing needs to be ESTABLISHED before beginning any sort of diet or exercise routine. Rather than resting, eating, and recovering from childbirth, I was in a big old rush to return to racing shape. Baby was born on April 12. I was running again by April 26. I was doing a 6am boot camp class by May 28. By mid-June my little bundle of joy was a scrawny, screaming nightmare. With the help of our pediatrician and a fabulous lactation consultant, we discovered that my milk supply was down to practically nothing and baby #3 was diagnosed as “failure to thrive.”


We began supplementing with formula and I went to bed to eat, nurse, and try with all my might to get my milk supply back. Although we continued nursing until he was 20 months old, I was never able to get back enough supply to exclusively breastfeed. And for what? I sacrificed my baby’s nutrition (by unknowingly not giving him enough to eat…this isn’t a statement against formula feeding!) so I could get my body back? So I could get back into racing shape? Yes, I ended up getting in to the best shape of my life after baby #3, but even with my hurry it took almost two years. I ran two marathons, pr’d all my race times, completed Insanity and Boot Camp, tried Crossfit, and gained a passion for health and fitness that has led to me becoming a certified group fitness instructor and personal trainer. I will always look back with guilt and regret, though, at what I put my little nugget through. My child was hungry and it was my fault. That hurts.

Why was I in such a hurry?

I was in a hurry because of headlines like the one in Fitness Magazine. I was in a hurry because I let the appearance of my body determine my value. I was in a hurry because being “mommy” wasn’t enough.

By the time baby #4 came along I, and my mom squad, had learned a valuable lesson. My friends watched out for me, took care of me, and reminded me what a magnificent thing my body had just done. I was reminded to rest, eat, and soak in all those tiny, baby moments. Those newborn and infant days are so short. I have the rest of my life to be thin or fit or strong (or all three!). I am now 14 months out from the delivery of what will likely be my last baby. I am almost back to my pre-pregnancy weight, not quite back to my pre-pregnancy fitness level, but far past my pre-pregnancy wisdom.

I took things slow this time around, remembering all along the way that this is a season. It is a very short season. It seems like just yesterday my 9-year-old was a chubby thing with a pacifier in his mouth. Last night he ran in his first cross-country meet. My soon-to-be-8-year-old, the tiny one with kidney issues, is now a video game loving, tender hearted boy who adores his kitty and is begging for a pug. My “failure to thrive” baby? Well, his last check-up showed us that he is a BIG boy, destined for offensive lineman (if I’ll let him). Baby #4 isn’t a baby anymore, but a toddler.

Mama, take care of yourself. Most of all, soak up these moments. Linger in bed with that newborn and just breathe in his smell. It’ll be gone before you know it (and replaced with some of the foulest odors you will ever encounter, but I digress). Look at your body and know that by giving life, it has done something amazing and monumental. Any outfit, number on the scale, or fitness accomplishment will pale in comparison to growing a human from scratch.

When an athlete crosses the finish line at the IronMan event here in Chattanooga, you don’t ask “so, what’s next? Because there’s this Crossfit competition in two months that I think you’d be great in. You should hurry and get ready!” You let them enjoy the accomplishment. You let them rest. You let them eat and stare at their medal and relish hearing “YOU are an IronMan!” Then we let them sit the heck down because they are tired.

Let’s do this for mamas, shall we? Let’s stop assuming that there is some urgency in returning to “normal.” Let’s look at new mamas and say “you’ve done an amazing thing. Enjoy it, rest, and let me bring you something to eat.” Because friends, making these guys is the greatest thing my body will ever do…

Made from scratch
Made from scratch


Why I Exercise (other than because I like it)

There are so many many reasons to stay fit.

May I quote the great Elle Woods? “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.”

It’s true. After years of battling anxiety and depression, nothing gets me off on the right foot in the morning like a big ol’ dose of endorphins. I am much less likely to yell at my children if I’ve worked out.

I’m competitive, I like to eat, I don’t like being fat, I’m kind of hyper active and if I ever want to talk to people I have to keep moving while we converse or I lose interest and…what were we talking about?

The number one, all time reason I exercise, though, was expressed perfectly in my group fitness instructor certification class: life is easier when you’re fit.

I have four boys. FOUR. BOYS. To say they are energetic would be an understatement of epic proportions. My four-year-old gets out of bed by 7am every day and immediately starts talking, usually asking for food with his first breath. He then goes nonstop all day until he passes out mid-sentence. I am not exaggerating. Y’all. If I wasn’t fit, I would be dead or in a mental hospital.

So, in addition to the daily life of being a mama to four boys and homeschooling and writing for various blogs and businesses and keeping house and cooking and OH MY GOSH THE LAUNDRY, I want to do fun things with my guys. I want to make memories. I want to explore and enjoy creation and this new, cool city where we live.

My gym time, people, gives me sanity and strength and the ability to live a good life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m tired today (mostly because the two littles still haven’t figured out how to sleep an entire night), but look at the fun we had!

A day at the pool with these guys keeps me motivated at the gym!
A day at the pool with these guys keeps me motivated at the gym!


Our best attempt at an "usie"
Our best attempt at an “usie”


They're planning how they're going to keep mom up tonight
They’re planning how they’re going to keep mom up tonight


Too cool for school. And apparently his mom.
Too cool for school. And apparently his mom.


The biggest boy who swims and is somehow a 9-year-old teenager
The biggest boy who swims and is somehow a 9-year-old teenager


Now this one sleeps. He also plays hard and snuggles.
Now this one sleeps. He also plays hard and snuggles.


The other one who doesn't sleep when he's supposed to and takes a nap on the concrete AT THE POOL
The other one who doesn’t sleep when he’s supposed to and takes a nap on the concrete AT THE POOL


Mama and the chubby one. And I've worked hard on those shoulders.
Mama and the chubby one.


Oh yes. That's my chubby baby ready to swim.
Oh yes. That’s my chubby baby ready to swim.

We checked out the Warner Park Pool with friends a couple of weeks ago and had a great time. I’d told the boys we probably wouldn’t get to go swimming much this summer because I couldn’t imagine wrangling the four of them by myself at a crowded pool. Or even a not-crowded pool. Going with friends, though, broke the ice, so to speak, and I realized a few things: 1. my big boy can swim! When did that happen? 2. My second biggest boy can strap on a life jacket and be self-sufficient. 3. The two big boys can watch out for each other and yell for help if they need it. 4. I can totally rock out the pool with these four on my own.

So, after a morning at the Y where the boys played and I got a solid workout in, we ate some lunch and headed downtown for an amazing afternoon. I was a little miffed that I wasn’t allowed to use Eli’s float (meaning I had to hold him the whole time), but with the big boys playing on their own and Owen in his puddle jumper, we did just fine. I even managed to nurse Eli without any stares or comments. Bam.

I still get tired. I have to rest. I’m not as young as I used to be.

But I refuse to go down without a fight. There is so much I want to do with this life and these people I’ve been given and exercise gives me the stamina to do it. Need some motivation to work out? Look at the people around you.

A Long Road to A New City

Oh friends.

This year.

I feel like I need to go back and just rehash what all has happened and get everyone up to speed. To be honest, I haven’t really taken the time (uh..HAD the time) to process how drastically things have changed. So let’s go back to August of last year.

In August of 2015 we were living in our dream home. This was the home that we would live in forever. We imagined welcoming our grandchildren into this home. This is the house that, for the first several months after we bought it, I would pull into the driveway and think “I can’t believe I get to live here.” Y’all. This house.

This. House. I still get sad and a little sick to my stomach when I see it.
This. House. I still get sad and a little sick to my stomach when I see it.

It would grow with us and was on a cul-de-sac in this wonderful little neighborhood with the sweetest neighbors. My big boys had this friend who lived just a few doors down and they would play together, trick-or-treat together, ride bikes together. It has a garden and a big back yard and beautiful trees. The view when I would drive home from working out in the mornings was breathtaking.

Every morning I would have to slow down and just take in those mountains.
Every morning I would have to slow down and just take in those mountains.

My husband worked FROM HOME as a software developer. I had a real, live actual grown-up in my house with me all day. When the kids made me bonkers and I needed to leave to run or get coffee or sit on the porch and just be quiet, I had my backup. Every morning I got up and went to this most wonderful gym where my instructors were Godly women and my friends were members and we would sweat and laugh and share our lives. My in-laws lived 5 minutes away and would watch the boys almost anytime I needed them. My mom was in an assisted living facility 20 minutes away and every Thursday the boys and I would take her lunch and spend the afternoon with her. We had found the most amazing church where we all had friends and longed for Sunday to come so we could go fellowship with this imperfectly perfect group of people.

Y’all. Life was good. So good. I had my friends and my family and this great church and my hubby right with me…we were so good.

Ok, so my husband hated his job. He was looking, though, and our prayer was that he would find something local or remote because we could never ever leave.

In August, when Lego Boy #4 was barely 8 weeks old, the hubs sat me down. He was being laid off. The developer jobs had been sent to Manilla and the position they created to keep him with the company was being eliminated. They were giving him severance, but in two weeks, our family of 6 would have no employment. I’d been out of college for nearly a decade and had never used my degree. Even if childcare wasn’t an issue, there aren’t a lot of jobs sitting around for philosophers who have been in the thick of child-rearing for the last 10 years.

Hubby was confident that this was an answer to prayer. He’d been so unhappy at work for so long, but couldn’t bring himself to give up that income with a family counting on him; it was like God said “here. I’ll do this for you.” He was calm. Cool. Collected. I was sobbing, wondering how we were going to buy Christmas presents.

Job after job fell through. Resume after resume went unanswered. A positive interview led to a family trip to Atlanta and a near-certain job offer, only to be turned down. Friends, this time nearly broke me. Its easy to praise God when you’ve got a nice house, great health insurance, and a fancy gym membership. Take that stuff away and I’m sorry to say that I became desperate and sour. Oh, I smiled and said “I’m just trusting the Lord has a plan!” but behind closed doors, I despaired.

Less than a week before the severance package ended, the hubs was introduced to a recruiter. Three days before his last paycheck, he was offered a job.

Three hours away.

We would put our house on the market (our beautiful, perfect, dream house). Hubs would stay in a hotel during the week and come home on weekends. I would be a single mom Monday-Friday, trying to sell a house in the dead of Winter. He took a pay cut, and would have to pay for the hotel and travel expenses out of pocket. We couldn’t afford a Christmas tree or presents.

On November 30, the hubs left at 5am and drove straight to a new job. My sweet, strong boys came to expect mama to break down and cry on the regular. The older two would take the littles and give me quiet time to just sob and pray. My fitness dreams were put on a back burner and I subsisted on poptarts and wine. My workouts involved cleaning, lifting heavy boxes, and holding on for dear life to my last bit of sanity. This was a dark time. From November 30, 2015 until March 4, 2016 I was in survival mode. “Don’t die, don’t damage the children, don’t be crazy.” That was just about all I could muster.

But that amazing church? They brought meals during the week. One sweet family, with two kids and one on the way, would let my boys come hang out so I could clean and pack. Our church community group came over and filled holes in the wall, showed up with coffee and wine, and we were given a Christmas tree. Someone bought my kids the exact things they wanted for Christmas and had them shipped to our house. People prayed and then showed up to help. Through those tough, tough months, I saw Jesus in the people around me. As I look back, those friends were light when all I could see was darkness.

When our house didn’t sell and our savings was gone, we decided to put our house up for rent. It was rented fairly quickly and with the help of some dear friends, I loaded a truck (ok, like three trucks and a couple of SUV’s) and moved to Chattanooga, TN. With my husband. Thank you Jesus.

We’ve now been here for 5 months and, although this life doesn’t look like the one I had (and lets be honest, that life was easy and awesome and I miss it), Chattanooga is an amazing city. I have met some great people and have so many new opportunities. I have the pleasure of babysitting for a little boy just a few months younger than my #4. I’m a member of a YMCA less than a mile from our house and I’m working on getting my group fitness certification so I can start teaching and sharing my love of health and fitness in a new and exciting way. I was just invited to write for the Chattanooga Moms Blog . The homeschooling opportunities here are off the charts, and James and Jonathan just started running Cross Country for the local homeschool team. There are museums and incredible restaurants, a vibrant downtown and an outdoors community like nothing I’ve ever seen. We hike and bike and run and explore and it is oh-so-very family friendly. It was a tough road, but I have no doubt God has great things in store for us in Chattanooga.

Stay tuned…