This is my first blog post as a Mom! There are lots of firsts to celebrate this week- week 2 of life of our new baby, Bradley George Ewonus. He was born March 15 at 2:06 AM, 7lbs 8oz, 20.5 inches long. He was 8 days past his estimated due date and labor was a swift and incredibly intense 8 hours. I’ll do another post on what my labor and delivery were like. Let’s just say it wasn’t a serene water birth with hypnobirthing calm. 😉
I remember in the first few days of having my brand new infant at home, my friend Laura King published a blog post on ProKit (it’s pretty awesome- it’s her list of things she recommends for moms). She and I had our babies exactly one week apart and she is a fellow cyclist who shared a similar journey, riding to her delivery date. I remember thinking to myself, “How could she possibly have had time to write a blog post?!” Granted this one has been days in the making, Week 2 has felt easier in terms of understanding the rhythm of my day. Week 1 is all about the hurdle of the first learning curve- how to latch, how to breastfeed, how to read your baby’s cues (still working on that), how to manage a baby at home, how to ask for help from your partner, the shock and recovery process of your body immediately post-partum, adapting to the fact that you won’t “get to go to bed and wake up in the morning and have it all be recharged or better” and more (like dealing with COVID-19 stuff- how to get things that you didn’t realize you needed for your baby when everything is closed or online orders will take weeks to get?).
I’m 11 days post-partum today and things feel lighter. (and as I’m editing this post getting ready to publish, it’s now 14 days post-partum. It took that long to get it done and I’m okay with that!). I will say that the first week was not nearly as hard or frustrating as I expected. Everyone has different babies with different personalities, and I think we got lucky with an easier one so far. I actually really enjoyed week 1. I didn’t mind waking up all night- I was used to it anyway because I slept horribly my entire pregnancy. In fact, I have more energy now getting my 5 hours of sleep per night in naps than I did while I was pregnant.
As I observed what my new life was starting to look like, I realized I was more prepared than I expected.
It looked like racing- specifically like stage racing or 24-hour racing. I’m already accustomed to be at full-pin on the go trying to jam as many things into the day as possible. I’m used to being busy and hustling, to making quick decisions, to being out of my comfort zone. I’m used to trying and failing, and then trying again. I’m used to operating in a fatigued state. The first week home felt like I just did one of the mega-endurance stage races (the ones that are 30-35 hours of racing in a week), traveled home from across with the world with extreme stage race fatigue and jet-lag, and also body pains.
Realization: I know how to do this.
We are primarily using the methods from Tracy Hogg’s book, The Baby Whisperer. It’s been helpful to see a flexible framework for an order or routine of things and let the baby fit in for what works best for him. Once I got used to how things flow, I noticed several commonalities from racing.
The baby’s feeding time is like the race.
24-Hour DUO racing, racing as a team of 2 where you alternate every lap is the closest analogy, but race morning would be a similar example. The block structure consists of racing the lap and then the time in between laps. 24-hour racing is round the clock racing including the middle of the night. In between laps, you are trying to cram eating, taking a nap, getting your bike ready, and taking care of yourself. Actually, 24-hour racing is much much harder than the block structure of a baby. You don’t have to suffer for your lap/feeding (well, maybe if your nipples hurt which they DO at the beginning), you don’t FREEZE in between laps, and you’re in the comfort of your own home instead of in the back of your car if you race it dirtbag/cheap style like I stupidly do! You know how race morning you’re trying to get everything ready? You need to feed yourself (this has been more of a challenge than I thought with the baby), get your race nutrition, tools, and bike ready. Newborns sleep a lot, so I think they are actually easier than when the baby gets older. You feed the baby, get him to sleep and then the clock starts ticking.
I’m used to trial and error.
With training, pacing, and even race nutrition, there is an element of trial and error. I’ve discovered that it’s the same with a baby! While there are countless books on how to take care of a baby, there is no manual that tells you exactly what to do, just a lot of suggestions to try. Feeling confident with trial and error, and being okay being wrong has been helpful. The confidence to make a decision and see what happens is invaluable!
I’m comfortable with a fast-paced life.
Adding in a tiny human that needs you is really cute and rewarding, but it ups the ante with the hustle! Trying to coordinate making time to work, cook, baby time, riding, Baxter time, and still make time every day to connect with Matt is hectic, but I am used to a fast-paced life with all the things I love to do! I’m used to trying to maximize every second, but I have also worked hard on learning how and when to slow down to recharge. I’ve found that with a baby, as you’ll read on any new parent app or blog- ask for help. With the COVID-19 isolation, we have had no additional help that we were hoping to have, but Matt and I are communicating well and working as a team to support each other’s goals and to support each other as parents. For me, it’s really important to maintain my sense of self and interests. I believe leading by example is hugely impactful and I want to show my son that work ethic, family time, and health can all be priorities (ahh, so weird to type “my son”). I am hyper-aware that each stage with your little one is precious and will not last forever, so I’m also making a conscious effort to enjoy the time that I have and to have intention with how I spend my time- something I’m also already used to!
Start Where You Are
Start where you are, not where you think you should be. It can be easy to compare yourself now to when you were at your fastest, but that may not be your reality right now as your priorities have shifted. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t ever get back there! As athletes, we have learned this the hard way when coming back from sickness or injury, or even just prolonged time off. The same goes for being a new parent- male or female. Of course, as the one who gave birth this might apply even more. However, when you have a newborn, there’s a lot of new inputs, maybe even “stress” depending on how you cope with change. There’s an altered and reduced amount of sleep and more juggling of tasks. All of these things can affect your recovery from workouts so if you don’t initially feel as good as you used to, don’t worry. Show up with what you have today and make the most of it. Try to practice self-compassion and don’t beat yourself up. As the new mom, “start where you are” has an even more important meaning because your body needs to heal. It will also take some time to get back elements of fitness that you couldn’t or didn’t work on while pregnant. Personally- my high-end power is G-O-N-E! I’m excited to work for it to get it back.
Start where you are today, and focus on making small gains. Compare yourself to where you’re at now, not where you were a year ago (but you can still have the goal to get back to where you used to be). The joy and meaning are in the hard work, so commit to the work and the rest will follow!
Rehab and Self-Care are already part of my weekly practice.
Recovery from birth is real! Pelvic floor, diastasis (I still need to assess mine!), perineum soreness, overall soreness of the body from going through labor, and then the body aches and pains that come from carrying a baby in your arms and breastfeeding. This goes for the men too- carrying around an 8 lb baby can be hard on your back! We know all the tips and tricks and maybe have special tools around the house for rehab! Our living room has the yoga mat, massage gun, foam roller, and massage gun handy for quick moments of self-care. If you’ve had an injury, you know about physical therapy and patience to get your body back to normal. Same goes for new motherhood!
My normal perspective is to view challenges as a good thing!
Being sleep-deprived and functioning in a more tired state is one of the main changes with being a new parent. As endurance athletes, we are always in a semi-tired state. There are a lot of potentially frustrating moments that pop up. For one, in the early weeks having a set schedule is hard. If your baby is starving and needs to eat, you have to shift your schedule. That could mean getting out for your ride later than planned, having to shift social plans (if we could make any with COVID!), or take 4 days to write a blog post! 😉 Sometimes the baby won’t stop crying and you don’t know why. Insert your own personal challenge here. As athletes, we’ve learned that being outside your comfort zone and the times we’ve had challenges have fostered growth that made us better. Most of the time, meaningful experiences are born out of challenges. So even if it’s intense in the moment and you may be “wishing it away” with all our might, try to sit with it and understand that even if it feels hard now, it’ll pass and it’ll be worth it!
Here’s to more good times and adventures with little Bradley George! And continuing to learn from him too!