Letting Go of My Former Self

***I wrote this post when Paavo was 5 months old and I was feeling very overwhelmed by motherhood, a feeling that has lessened now that Paavo is 9 months old. Every day is still hard, tiring, and full to the brim without much of a break, but that feeling of being overwhelmed is gradually diminishing, or at least it surfaces less frequently. I thought it would be good to share this post now that the feelings aren’t quite so raw, along with updates of how it’s changed.***

I have been down lately. Sad for no reason. The blues have crept in and I’ve done nothing to stop them besides wonder where they came from as I hold back tears from my sleep-deprived eyes. A few late night talks with Matt (late = after 8pm) have finally allowed me to pinpoint what’s been bothering me so much lately.

It’s time to let go of my former self. Or in Matt’s words, things will never be the same.

Not only has it been over 5 months since I’ve slept more than 4 hours straight, but it’s also been 5 months (and more in some cases) since I’ve felt or acted like any shred of my former, pre-baby self. I’m not sure I ever expected to get back to my pre-baby self, as if time would just take care of that, but I also don’t think I expected months to go by without feeling or acting like my old self. It’s as if there was always this thought in the back of my mind, saying, “Well, when things get back to normal…”

This is the new normal.

Paavo is forever a part of our lives, I’m forever a mother, and with that comes a new normal that replaces the old one. While I’m hoping my new self shares some resemblances to the old one, I’m finally realizing that I need to accept my new self, no matter what it looks like.

Since having a baby I’ve had to change how I think, what I think about, how I define myself, what I spend my time doing, and what I actually enjoy doing. That’s a lot of change! A lot of change that I was ready for those first few months, but now that they are hanging around with no intentions of leaving, it’s time I bring them out into the spotlight and embrace them. The biggest parts of my life that have changed are running and sleeping, how I think, and how I choose to fill my day.

Running – I used to be a runner and had the runner’s metabolism and body that came with running 50 miles a week. I had dedication, consistency, workouts, long runs, and time after a hard run to just stand in the shower for 30 minutes and then nap for 2 hours, if that’s what recovery called for.

Now? Now I’m a sporadic runner, taking pride whenever I can get in even just 3 miles, a distance that I used to consider as a short run. I gave up on my running about 4 months into pregnancy, when I stopped running because it just felt crappy and I was scared of falling or getting too dehydrated or overheated (maternal anxiety already!). I really gave up on my running routine when I learned I needed a C-section after my water broke and Paavo flipped breech. At this point, I’m just happy I fit into most of my pre-baby clothes (except the sports bras over these breastfeeding boobs) and that I’m not scared of my uterus literally bursting at the seams when I run.

Looking forward, I do hope that this is a part of my life that I can still dedicate time to. This first year of Paavo’s life will be hard because breastfeeding presents its own challenges with running, but I’m still trying to get back into it, no matter how short the run, knowing that going forward I’m going to have to learn how to have energy to be a mom once I cross that finish line of a race, rather than plop down on the couch for a nap afterwards.

Update: I’ve since run a 16k, a half marathon, and am signed up for the Columbus Marathon on October 16th and the Umstead 100 on April 1, 2017. In preparation for the 100, I’ll also complete some ultra distances like a 50k and 50 miler. My weight is close to my pre-prego weight (no scale, so I actually don’t know this, but I feel thinner!). Running is definitely on the mend, though long runs with breastfeeding is still tough, as it has to be timed just right and I don’t spend a minute longer in a sports bra than I have to.

Sleep – Oh, sweet sleep. We used to have such a good thing going. I could count on at least 8-9 hours of sleep a night, 10 on most weekends. I never had much of a problem sleeping while pregnant. Even the nighttime bathroom trips didn’t bother me, at least not now that I look back on such a minor inconvenience compared to what it’s like with an infant. I used to sleep deeply, dream deeply, and nap soundly.

You can probably guess where this is going, right? Yeah, sleep isn’t happening yet for me. I still get up about every 2-4 hours with Paavo, to either feed him or because I hear him soothing himself back to sleep (I’ll admit, the self-soothing is an improvement. I’m awake listening to it, but at least I don’t have to get up). The lack of sleep is definitely putting a damper on my mood. I took naps while he did for the first couple months, but as of late it’s just so tempting to use that time to get stuff done like laundry, cleaning, blog stories… I’m thinking of reinstating a daytime nap to help me get through these nights without losing my sanity.

I’m realizing that with each new stage in Paavo’s life, whether it be teething, starting solids, rolling over…that new stage also presents sleeping challenges because he’s perhaps in pain, has an upset stomach, or just decides to practice rolling at 3am. I admit, the thought of each new stage affecting his sleep and therefore mine is slightly depressing to me (cue my whimpering). But, each stage is also exciting because it means he’s learning, growing, developing, and really, less sleep normally means a skipped run or an extra cup of coffee the next day. I can deal with that.

Update: Wow, thought I’d have a better update on this one. Paavo still wakes up every few hours for food and/or comforting. With his newfound skills of rolling over and crawling, he’s sometimes active in his sleep without even trying, which wakes him up and upsets him. He just had a night with a 6 hour stretch, which was the most in 4 months. Since birth he’s slept over 5 hours just 6 times. I don’t even know what well-rested is any more.

Speaking of Coffee – I’m sort of glad we’re not in Seattle right now so I don’t have to walk by so many coffee shops, enviously peering through the windows as I see people deep in conversation with a hot cup of coffee. That used to be me, Matt, and our friends, especially post-runs. I used to brew a pot on the weekend and sip hot coffee all morning long as I checked email, checked facebook, read magazines…basically not being productive whatsoever. I used to hang out in coffee shops, just shooting the shit for hours!

I still brew a big pot of coffee each day, but now I’m ok with every temperature of coffee. Yes, I could use a microwave to heat it up, but something in me either wants it hot out of the pot or not at all. I’ve also become accustomed in the afternoons to taking a half-finished glass and putting almond milk and ice in it, priding myself on a damn fine iced coffee, which then becomes watered down because I set it down to do something else baby-related.

And speaking of sipping coffee as I check facebook, read magazines…I now spend my coffee time doubling up on other chores like laundry, cleaning, entertaining Paavo, researching child development (thank goodness for Google for fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-parenting). Time is so much more precious now than it was before a baby, so I’m very picky what gets top priority in my day, the very top always being reserved for Paavo (yeah, yeah, I’m a priority too, but you know what I mean; he’s still an infant and can’t do anything for himself yet).

Update: I now get more hot coffee in the morning, if anything because I’m becoming better at drinking it fast. Also, since Paavo’s started solids, he joins us at the table for each meal, so I actually have some time to enjoy food and drink while he (sort of) eats a meal. I still spend pretty much all my time trying to be productive, but have since discovered the joy in watching Ellen clips on YouTube as my “treat.” She brings me joy.

How I think – This sort of drove me crazy the first few weeks of Paavo’s life. All I could think about was him. How often he ate, when he slept, how many times he peed, he pooped, has he done enough tummy time, why is his eye still goopy, is he breathing ok…All. Day. Long.

I’m happy to say that I’m past the phase of constant baby chatter on the brain, but I still have to think like a mom and pay attention to the cues for nap times, I have to think about his development physically and mentally, and about stuff like upcoming vaccines. I also think about us as a family unit, Matt included, and what we’re doing as a family each day to grow, learn and change.

Update: Still the same. But with Paavo’s new skills and budding personality, it’s all the more fun.

What does this all mean?

I’m happy to say that how I think and how I define myself, now as a mother and a wife, have been the easiest transition for me. I love Paavo so much that it really does bring tears to my eyes when I watch him, whether he’s sleeping, playing with a new toy, or laughing at Matt’s tickle sessions. Sometimes I even cry looking back at pictures of him from the day. It took a while for me to get to that place. The newborn lump phase was hard, but now that Paavo interacts with us and is showing his personality, it gets better day after day.

What I’m having trouble letting go of are my old routines of sleeping, running, and having so much time at my disposal to do whatever I want. I’m hoping that by writing about these things and openly admitting that I’m having a tough time letting them go will actually help me accept the new routines that I’m creating, no matter what they may include. I also recognize that with a baby, things are constantly changing, and that no phase lasts forever, for better or for worse. I’m savoring the fact that he can’t crawl yet, knowing that once he goes mobile, it’s a game-changer. Then again, once he’s old enough to be mobile, perhaps he sleeps longer. Give and take, give and take, over and over again. Perhaps accepting the concept of give and take will help me embrace myself going forward.

Update: I still think about life pre-Paavo, but not in a sentimental way, just more of a comparison way (mainly of how easy some things were without caring for a baby 24/7 on sleep deprivation). I’m getting my running back, which makes me really happy, and am gradually creating a new life in the parameters given, which in all honesty, are pretty freaking awesome. Life is good, Paavo is great, and Matt’s the best person I’d ever want to share this journey with. Thanks for reading and thank you for your support.

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4 Responses to Letting Go of My Former Self

  1. John McCabe says:

    Great read Julie iam now ready for the day, you guys are so inspiring love what your doing say hi to the boys for Kristine and I have a great day.

    • Thanks John! It makes me so happy that you read my post. We hope you’ve had a great summer that’s leading into a wonderful fall – my favorite time of the year. Hugs to you and Kris.

  2. Sister says:

    Thank you for your honesty Julie…I totally get it. Paavo is lucky to have you and Matt not only as parents but life guides 🙂 Love you

    • Awww, thanks sister. Can’t wait to share some Paavo hugs and slobbery kisses with you very soon. It still feels like forever away with all the stuff we have in between, but it’s so soon! Love you sis.

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