30-day challenge and simplifying my life

Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of new parenthood is carving out moments to just be me. I am Arthur’s mom but I am also Shannon, Brian’s wife and an individual with my own needs and identity. I have an extremely supportive family that gives me the space to be my own person; the challenge has been making the most of that time and space.

It was perfect timing, then, that my friend Alicia posted pictures of a 30-day physical challenge she is doing to stay on track with her health and fitness goals. I had just been considering a membership to Planet Fitness, but decided that I wanted to start smaller – something I could carve out the time to do without needing to find a sitter or wait for Brian to get home. My first idea was mall walking (which I am totally going to do, and treat myself to coffee while I’m at it!), but these challenges also seemed like something I could work in to my daily routine.

If you haven’t seen them, there are three challenges: an ab challenge, combining sit-ups, crunches, leg raises, and planks; a squat challenge; and a push up challenge. They were designed together so all of the rest days are the same, and each challenge is progressive so you continue to build on the work you’ve done in the days before. By the end of the challenge I should be able to do 125 sit-ups, 200 crunches, 65 leg raises, a 2-minute plank, 250 squats, and 20 push ups.

Help.

Day 1 – Monday – was a breeze, as the first day of any fitness program usually is. Whether you visit the gym with a brand-new workout ensemble and a sparkling water bottle to attack the elliptical or do crunches in your living room, the adrenaline rush of doing something is usually enough to help you power through the workout.

Day 2…yeah, that’s when the realization sets in that it’s called “working out” because it really is work – and if your body is like mine, it doesn’t like being forcibly reminded that those muscles are there to serve a greater purpose than they have been. I did learn, though, that squatting in front of a baby is the most hilarious thing in the world – to the baby. Arthur was more than amused by Mommy’s feeble exercise attempts, though I’m sure he was also confused about why I kept bending down toward him without picking him up.

I wanted to quit, so badly. I did the whole routine yesterday, up to the sit-ups – 8 crunches, 8 leg raises, a 12-second plank, 55 squats, and 4 push ups – and sat there for a minute wondering if it would be so bad to just skip the sit-ups and start again today. But I guess parenthood has changed that part of me too; I looked at Arthur, sitting on Brian’s lap looking down at me from the couch, and realized that I can’t expect or encourage him to keep going through challenges or adversity if I’m not willing to do the same. And I don’t get to put a check mark on the calendar if I only make half an effort.

So I did it. Five at a time, slowly at first and then powering through as I got closer to the finish, and my abs were screaming when I was done. But I did it.

The next challenge will be overhauling the way we handle food in our house – replacing snacks, establishing and sticking to a consistent dinner schedule, and just developing a better relationship with what we put into our bodies. In a little more than a month we will be introducing solid foods to Arthur, and once again we can’t expect him to have a healthy perspective about food if we don’t model that for him from the beginning.

In other news, I’m on a mission to simplify my life. Physical clutter leads to psychological and spiritual clutter, and all of that stands in the way of enjoying all of the wonderful parts of our life. On Monday my friend Amanda posted on The Color Coded Life about a planner that she loves (I am addicted to planners myself) that is designed to – you guessed it – help you simplify your life. It carries a hefty price tag, but the temptation was too great to resist so I treated myself with the proceeds from my paid book reviews. It should arrive next week, and I can’t wait to get started.

This is a daily planner, of course, but it is far more than that. There are lists for planning meals, and making memories, and even for making the time to just be grateful for the people and things we have. As much as I like having a digital calendar, I always need a hard copy within arm’s reach so I can keep everything straight. After all, when I’m juggling two individual schedules, a family schedule, birthdays and anniversaries and my own business, it’s very easy to drown in details. (Besides, let’s face it – I can’t use colored pens and paper clips on my phone!)

Once this lovely planner arrives I’ll do a more in-depth review of it. Who knows, I may even break out the Flip and do a video.

No promises.

Onward with the day, but I’ll leave you with this: “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” – Hans Hoffman

 

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Three Months

Arthur is three months old today.

Three months. A whole season – he was born just as spring blossomed into summer, and now we’re on the threshold of the new beginnings of fall.

I just wrote a post about how quickly the time goes by, but I couldn’t let this day go by without comment.

Fitting that when I walked into the office this morning there was a large box waiting for me. I’m fortunate to work with friends, or to be friends with my coworkers – however you like. Anyway, inside the box was an adorable jungle cross-stitch. You know the kind, with Arthur’s name and birth weight/date in the center and sweet animals surrounding it. It’s a perfect match for his nursery, and more importantly it’s such an expression of love and support. I have a special idea to repay the kindness, but she might read this so I’ll keep that close to the vest for now…

We’re taking Arthur for his three-month portraits on Saturday. I promise that I’ll try not to become one of those moms (though I won’t admit how many pictures I had to clear off my phone to update it today), but for the first year we will catalog these seasonal milestones with the help of a professional. Then it’ll be every year. Or every six months. Don’t pressure me.

(Maybe it’s selfish, but I’m especially excited that after Saturday I get to make photo books!)

Finally, a personal reflection on the last few months…

I am a woman with many faults. Some are simply too trivial to even acknowledge but a fair few are what I consider to be true character flaws. I tend to be unreasonable when I’m angry, whether or not my anger is justified or even properly directed. I try to do it all because I’m afraid of what people will think if I ask for help, then I reach a breaking point and rail against the people who love me the most for not stepping in sooner. (Basically, for not being mind readers.)

But Arthur has changed me already.

When I am tempted to raise my voice or give in to petty anger, I look down at his sweet face and remember that I want to do better for him. I want him to grow up in a household with love at its center from all sides. Anger is natural, but I want to show him that there is a right and a wrong way to be angry. When I am sad and tired and start to wonder why I try to do so much, I hear him laugh and know that I want us to have a fulfilling life – as individuals, and as a family.

I don’t get everything right. I still question and second-guess myself. Some nights I still cry, and some days I still let out angry words before I can stop myself.

But I am becoming a better version of myself, day by day.

It’s been a great three months, and the next three will be even better.

Next week, he’ll be 20.

Arthur will be 12 weeks old tomorrow. How is it that my small precious boy is already smiling, babbling, and trying like hell to sit himself up? How am I already starting to put away his 0-3 clothes (newborn rompers are way out) because his legs are so long that even the longest pants are shorts?

His teeth are also starting to come in. Now a bib is a constant part of his wardrobe, and his new-found fascination with his hands is as chew toys. He isn’t quite into teething rings yet – I think the cold confuses him – but he has an unending desire to chew.

Everything is in transition. Summer to fall, newborn to full-blown infant, preparing for movement and talking and Arthur’s first Christmas.

He's already so suave.

He’s already so suave.

 

Tomorrow he will be 12 weeks; next week, I swear he’ll be 20 and flying away. As excited as I am for each new development, I catch myself wishing that the seconds would pass by just a little slower, that I can eke out one more hour of every day to just be with my baby before he’s all grown. I count down the minutes at work and race home so I can see his face light up a few minutes sooner.

So tonight I’ll pack up his little clothes to make room for the next size, and pray that he just doesn’t grow up too fast.

We all need to stick together.

Last night, Brian was telling me about his “friend” whose girlfriend had their first baby last week. Throughout the pregnancy and since the birth all I’ve been able to do is shake my head and feel so profoundly sad for the girlfriend – yes, she knows what kind of person she’s with, but when she got pregnant I imagine she thought he would step up and be a worthwhile partner. She’s been disappointed (or, I guess, would be disappointed if Brian had turned out that way). Yesterday I finally couldn’t take it anymore, so I spoke out on Facebook.

Last night's conversation

Last night’s conversation

I tried to say what I needed to say as diplomatically as possible. I really am grateful for Brian, and I really do feel sad for women who don’t have a real partner by their side. While my intent was to call out partners who aren’t acting right, though, the comment above opened up a whole new train of thought in my head.

“Um, so you know you just insulted every single mother on your friends list?” 

Like I responded, I didn’t intend to do that. Feeling sad for the single mothers certainly doesn’t equal feeling sorry for them. I was raised by a single mother, and I am still in awe of how she managed to juggle everything essential and still had the energy to participate in school events, ask about our days, and genuinely enjoy us. My mother loves my brother and me fiercely, generously and completely, like every single mother (and father) I know. She loves our spouses, and her grandchild, just as much. I am insanely proud of the woman she is, and I am sad for her.

The fact is, the vast majority of single parents don’t set out to be single parents. There are some outliers who choose single parenthood for their own reasons, but far more parents bring a child into the world and their partners slip out of the picture somewhere along the way. I’m not trying to lord over my fellow parental warriors when I say I’m sad for them. I don’t know what it’s like to be a single parent, but I know that it would be the greatest slap in the face to offer any single parent as condescending a sentiment as pity. Instead, they have my admiration. And my support, as does every parent who is making a legitimate effort to do their best, whatever their best may look like. If I pity anyone, it’s the partners who choose not to take an active role in bringing up the beautiful life they had a part in creating.

Parenthood is a unique and dynamic journey. Those who choose to take that path – biologically or otherwise – need to stick together.

Back to the grind

After nine weeks at home and eight weeks of near-24/7 Arthur time, this Monday morning I started back at work.

I didn’t have to set an alarm to wake up – in fact, I doubt I’ll need to set an alarm any time soon. Having a baby is basically giving birth to a snuggly, dynamic alarm clock that will wait until you’ve just achieved the most perfect state of unconsciousness to announce that he’s hungry/wet/really tired of being asleep and Mommy why won’t you play with me? (Okay, A doesn’t really play on his own just yet. Just bear with me.)

I took more time to get ready to walk out the door than I had in weeks. I put on a new dress, and heels, and jewelry, and I even did my makeup. I packed my bag, and a lunch, and gave our awesome nanny everything she would need for her quality time with le bebe, and then I ever-so-reluctantly walked out the door and left him.

What made it difficult was not the fact that I would be gone. He’s in the best possible hands that aren’t Mommy’s or Daddy’s, and I was actually looking forward to coming back to the office. I’ve left him for a few short spells in the last couple of weeks. No, what made it difficult was knowing that I would be giving a mid-morning feeding to a machine instead of to my little man. Instead of watching him drift off to sleep I will be staring at a lump of plastic and listening to its whirring instead of his breathing. I will be gone for more than 8 hours – not so much that I’m afraid he’ll forget me, but enough that he may wonder if I’m ever coming back.

Nine weeks…and it’s so surreal.

Now I’m near the end of my first week back in the office (three days in, two days out). It’s different in so many ways; not only am I still transitioning to being back in the work force, if only part-time, I am also getting used to a new job description. The office didn’t exist in a vacuum during my absence, and my return was orchestrated to make the best use of the staff on hand – which means, because of my time with the company, that I was best suited to take on different responsibilities entirely from what I was used to. It’ll take some time to really settle in to my new role, especially before I’m really used to being away from Arthur for these long stretches.

I will say, though, that walking in the door after a day at the office is, once again, my favorite part of the day.

Arthur will be two months old on Sunday – I can’t figure out where all the time has gone.

The first six weeks: Breastfeeding, Google, and Inferiority Complexes

Second-guessing oneself, I’ve learned in the last six weeks, is probably the most consistent side effect of new parenthood. It’s a good day for me if I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve questioned whether I’m doing things right or if a particular crying jag is going to irreparably damage Arthur’s young psyche. (Today’s upset over a gassy tummy, for the record, falls into that category.) I don’t know if an inferiority complex will show up on any exam, but I’m fairly certain I’m developing one.

My Google search history will reflect that. Google’s predictive text completion has already adapted to the 99.9% probability that if I’m using the search engine, it has to do with common baby concerns. “My baby hasn’t had a dirty diaper in a day and a half.” (Apparently normal for breastfed babies.) “My baby’s legs are bowed.” (Also normal. In other news, why hasn’t someone written a book of all the weird crap about newborns that nobody ever talks about?)

Breastfeeding has been my biggest source of anxiety from the beginning – in fact, since pregnancy. My mother was never able to breastfeed, and I don’t know that my grandma ever tried. The unfortunate psychological side effect of that is that my mom’s attempts to be supportive have all been laced with, “I hope you can breastfeed, since I had so much trouble with it.” Thanks, Mom. Super encouraging.

Arthur’s weight gain has been an uncertain development, which added to the concern on my end. He was 8 lb 9 oz at birth, and I don’t know what his weight was right before leaving the hospital a day and a half later. The next day was his first check; the doctor’s (old) baby scale was broken, so they took his weight by weighing me* and then having me hold him. He was “about” 8 pounds. According to the baby scale, fixed at his visit two weeks later, he still only weighed 8 pounds even. Our doctor** wasn’t concerned – he said we would discuss it at his one-month check if Arthur still hadn’t gained weight.

Our one-month appointment was last week. The baby scale weighed him at 8 lb 10 oz, still well below the 50th percentile according to the WHO’s baby growth chart, but a healthy gain of about 5 ounces a week.

But… The next day I had an appointment with a lactation consultant. I wanted reassurance from a professional that I wasn’t imagining all of the other signs that Arthur was getting enough to eat. There is no worse feeling in the world than the thought that I was unintentionally starving my son out of a misguided belief that I was doing everything right. The LC was quick to reassure me, especially after she weighed him on her digital scale. He came in at 9 lb 6 oz. She weighed him again, with the same result. She checked her scale against a hand weight; it was calibrated correctly. (She also told me we were doing everything right. Great appointment.)

Now we’re on to the next adventure: pumping.

*I gained 17-20 pounds during pregnancy – I lost 20 pounds between my last OB appointment (Monday) and Arthur’s first appointment (Friday).

**Our doctor is a family doctor (DO), not a pediatrician. Our family has gone to his practice since his father treated my great-grandparents, making Arthur the fifth generation to be a patient there. I like the continuity…and the ability to schedule tandem appointments for both of us. 🙂

 

He’s here!

This post is a little belated; as I’m sure anybody with a newborn can understand, adjusting to sleep and feeding schedules (as well as having this beautiful new person to love!) complicates the search for blogging time.

At any rate, Arthur has arrived! I’m working on his birth story and will hopefully have it finished before he wakes up from his nap (famous last words), but for right now I can tell you I am just in awe. This baby boy who nested in my belly for the last nine months is finally here.

The new parents are learning – nighttime sleeping is still an adventure, and there are times it seems like all he wants to do is lay at the tap and eat until there’s nothing left (a good thing, in all), but we are also learning how amazing an addition to our family little Arthur is, and how quickly it’s possible to fall in deep and everlasting love with someone you’ve only just met.

Enough cliches for the moment; keep an eye out for the birth story!