Dear New Mom-
I just wanted to write you a letter to let you know that I have been in your shoes.
I’m not here to sympathize over the 2 a.m. feedings, or the 3rd day in a row you have gone without a shower, or even having to do EVERYTHING one handed because baby refuses to be put down. These things are all a part of being a new mom and I get that, I was there. What I really wanted to talk about was that point when you realized you needed to do something for you again and the struggle to get that going.It comes at different times for different moms but my personal experience is what I am going to talk about here, in hopes that it can help other moms see that they aren’t alone.
I remember closing the door to my bedroom and just sobbing. Sobbing because I was overwhelmed with all things “mom”. I think I had only been a mom for a matter of weeks at this time and when I look back, I honestly did not have that hard of a time, but it just seemed like so much! All of the diapers, the crying and not knowing EXACTLY what it meant, the (unsolicited) advice from seasoned moms, and don’t forget the lack of sleep.
Those crying sessions lasted about 6 months or so. I didn’t know how else to deal with the emotions so I would just let it all out into a pillow for about 10 minutes and then I would be “good” for the next 1-2 days. Yeah, these crying sessions were an almost daily occurrence for the first 6 months that I was a mom.
I didn’t really know what else to do. I didn’t even realize that I needed to do something for me again. I spent 9 months doing everything for the little person growing inside me and now, the past 6 months, devoting every waking moment to this little human, the thought of “me” time was not foreign but it seemed so far out there, like it was something I could have in the distant future but not as a mom of a baby.
I think what snapped me out of my new mom fog was my husband coming to me with concerns that I wasn’t happy. I never tried to hide the way I felt but him coming to me with his concern really shocked me into realizing that my behavior was effecting more than just me. It was then that I knew I had to do something because it wasn’t just about me anymore, it was about my family too.
DREAM BIG, START SMALL, BEGIN NOW
It was at this point, as I am sure is true for a lot of new moms, that I created an Instagram account to document and share the mass amount of pictures I was taking of my brand new baby. While feeding my baby, I would scroll through Instagram accounts of other moms and like pictures. Then I thought, why not get inspired? Why not find some accounts that get me feeling like “yeah, I could do that”!
I can’t remember what hashtag I initially searched for but I ended up coming across this one woman’s fitness page and it was a total game changer for me. Everything about her message and her relationship with food and exercise appealed to me. She inspired me to start looking at food in a healthier way and she also inspired me to want to exercise in a completely different way too (with weights!).
There was only two big hurdles standing in my way; first, I had NEVER lifted weights before and had no idea how to start doing this, second, how was I going to make time for this new endeavor?
The overwhelming feelings started to creep up again and I knew that I needed to just make a move because, if I didn’t, I was going to end up right where I was before this inspiration hit.
I didn’t have a plan, I barely knew what I was doing, I didn’t have anytime, but I started. I Googled exercises, I created a Pinterest board for health related stuff, I joined a private Facebook page for new moms who also wanted to get fit.
What I am trying to get at is, I started small. I didn’t go all out because I knew I couldn’t. I mean, I probably could have gone all out for about a week but it wouldn’t have been sustainable and then I would have just given up completely.
So even though I had big dreams of what I wanted to accomplish for my health and fitness, I started with the smallest steps. I was using weights (I preach the importance of weight training here) maybe 3 times a week for 15 minutes to start. I gradually worked towards longer workouts with higher weights but I never pushed myself because I knew what kind of time I had to give but I also knew that if I stopped, I was going to go back to that dark spot that I was before I found exercise. I had to find my balance and I had to work hard to keep that balance.
My advice to you, new mom. If you want to start working out and have never really done it before: 1) start small, don’t overwhelm yourself with hour long workouts at the gym because even though it might seem like a good idea in your head, it won’t be sustainable long term and you are more likely to stop working out completely, 2) find another mom (or group of moms) who have similar goals, talking with them and sharing ideas and support is going to more likely keep you in that “fitness” mindset than if you try do this on your own, and 3) be patient with yourself and DON’T compare yourself to other moms! Especially with social media it is so easy to get into the comparison trap. There are moms who are 3 months postpartum who look like they never had a baby and there are moms who are 18 months postpartum who are just starting out. You need to find your place and be o.k. with it. And about patience, I think a lot of moms think that they are going to get cleared for exercise from their doc and that everything will miraculously fall into place. Your baby (if you haven’t realized already) is going to call the shots for awhile. If you have time carved out for a short workout and the baby starts to cry then guess what happens to the workout? Eventually though, the baby cries far less, starts to play by him/herself or with an older sibling, and your workouts become more consistent. It all just takes time.
New mom, I hope this letter has brought you a little comfort because as I read over it, I realize that this is EXACTLY what I needed to hear when I was in your shoes. I hope my story and advice can help you be o.k. with where you are right now and also help you move towards your future fitness goals without frustration.