Well, here we are at the beginning of 2013. Quite a bit has happened since my last update! We got SO INCREDIBLY lucky with the world’s easiest baby! Niamh has slept like a log since she was born and I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity for me to get plenty of sleep as well. For the first couple months, she would go to bed by 7pm and wake up around 5ish when Jeff would head to the gym. After a belly full of milk and a quick diaper change, she’d be ready for another 3-4 hours of sleep. Now, she’s consistently sleeping in 12-13 hour blocks every night. While I give her complete credit for being an awesome baby and inheriting a profound love of sleep from yours truly, there are a few things that I would definitely recommend to any parents-to-be out there:

Swaddle – Definitely go with the swaddle wraps with velcro, don’t even frustrate yourself with trying to swaddle with a blanket for nighttime sleep!
Sound Machine – I bought one a Bed, Bath & Beyond for about $15 that makes about five different noises. This goes on every night when she gets in her crib and it’s about as loud as a shower would be. I also never bothered to keep things quiet when she was sleeping; the dogs would bark, I would vacuum, do dishes, etc.
Earlier bedtime – I had always heard that babies who go to bed earlier sleep longer and, once I tried it, I discovered it was true. I start getting her ready for bed around 6 and she’s in her crib, lights out, by 7.
Naps – On days that Niamh naps well, she sleeps better at night. Early on, I thought that if she napped late in the afternoon then she wouldn’t sleep well at night…I was definitely just mistaking adult sleep tendencies for baby sleep tendencies.
Going to bed awake – Early on, I would let Niamh fall asleep with her last nursing session in the evening and put her in bed when she was deep into a milk coma. I quickly started letting her nurse and putting her into her crib while she was awake, but drowsy. There were a couple times that she cried (no more than three) and I set a goal time before going into her room. Each time, she settled herself down and fell asleep within 15 minutes. Now, when I put her in bed, she grins at me, rolls on her side, curls up with a thumb in her mouth and sucks her way into dreamland!

Hopefully, those things will help someone out there! There is nothing better than a sleeping baby! 🙂

Ok, so working out. I got cleared to workout at my 6 week appointment and hit my first CrossFit WOD at the 6 week mark, exactly! I couldn’t wait to get back into the gym and feel like my old self again after all the trauma that my body had been through. My first workout KILLED me! Just moving my body felt like such a challenge and I was instantly aware of the amount of muscle atrophy that had taken place over the last few months. I worked out three times a week for the first few weeks and then bumped things up to four times a week (which was what I had been doing pre-pregnancy and throughout most of my pregnancy). Thanksgiving and the Christmas/New Year break threw me off a little bit, but I had Jeff bring me home a rower so that I could get in a little sweat session on the days that I couldn’t make it to the gym.

The noon class worked best for Niamh’s schedule, so I started going to the gym early and nursing her right before class so she’d fall asleep in her carseat for an hour while I worked out. I also kept her in the big gym with us during the workouts, so she quickly became accustomed to the sound of barbells banging around and the occasional Metallica or Snoop Dogg. There were some days that I’d get there and she’d start fussing and ruin my plans for the day, but I’d just head home and row later if she wouldn’t cooperate.

The only movements that I really needed to modify when I came back were abdominal exercises. Instead of toes 2 bar/knees 2 elbows/etc., I did crunches while grabbing my obliques and pulling them toward the center of my belly with each effort. This was an attempt to close the space between my abs (which was still a couple finger widths at that point and now I can’t feel any substantial separation). Most other movements were no problem, aside from the frustration of not being able to do things that I could easily do before like handstand pushups or burpees at any reasonable speed. Everything has been much slower and I find that my muscles fatigue very quickly in WODs. Overall, my endurance has completely disappeared and I’m winded as soon as I start the warm-up! What I’ve had to do is drop weight pretty significantly; instead of using a 53# kb in WODs, I’ve had to drop back to a 35# kb and work on increasing my intensity.

After seeing friends have babies and watching their recovery process from afar, I expected to be back in pre-pregnancy jeans and pretty close to my pre-baby weight by Thanksgiving (two months after Niamh was born). Wow. That was unrealistic. I know that some people are back to their pre-pregnancy weight by this time, but I was still about 23 pounds over at that point. I was beyond frustrated because I wasn’t eating complete crap (although I certainly wasn’t eating as well as I could have been) and I was working out pretty regularly. It seemed like I was working harder and harder and seeing absolutely no results. Jeff did a great job of reminding me that I needed to keep things in perspective; after all, I had put my body through quite an ordeal prior to having major surgery. He made the point that my body would focus all its resources on healing my wounds from surgery and childbirth after being really run down, and the aesthetic changes would have to come much later. I knew that made sense, but I was ready to have my body back. Having a little belly was pretty cute when there was a baby in it, but take that baby out and it quickly loses its luster.

To add to my frustration, there was an ebb and flow to my physical changes. One week, I would feel like I was really making gains and seeing some substantial changes in my body. However, the next week I would feel like all those changes disappeared and I was right back at square one all over again.

The recovery process has really been an eye-opening experience for me. Other moms continuously tell me that I can’t compare my experiences with what I’ve seen/heard from other people. While this makes complete sense in my head, emotionally, it’s difficult to keep wondering why my recovery is taking so long and why I’m working so hard and not achieving the results that I expect. There have been many tears and many days where I’ve tried on everything in my closet with no luck. Jeff and I finally sat down and developed a game plan to try and fast-track my recovery over the course of the next month.

The highlights:
Early morning rowing on an empty stomach
Small breakfast (I tend to get busy and not eat until later in the day) and protein shake
Afternoon WOD and protein shake
Whole30 (this is simply 30 days of a VERY strict paleo diet: no grains, sugars, dairy, preservatives, alcohol, etc. I’m basically eating meat, veggies, fruit, and small amounts of nuts and seeds.)

I will post again by early March and let you know how the next 30 days impacts my body, energy level, and self-confidence!!

For those of you who are in (or will soon be in) a similar situation, I know that there’s nothing that anyone else can say that will make you feel better. I’ve always been fairly thin (albeit, skinny fat!), so it’s odd for me to have such bad body image right now. Just remember: this too shall pass! Also remind yourself that other people don’t see the same version of you that you see when you look into the mirror. Take some time to cry when you need to and mourn the days when a few weeks of hard work in the gym yielded fantastic results. But once that times passes, vow to get back on the horse. Be motivated by the thought of other new moms seeing your hard work as an inspiration for them to work a little harder and feel better about themselves. After all, nothing good ever came easy right?