For years I lived in fifth gear, red-lined my RPMs, and never stopped for maintenance. I was good at multitasking, enjoyed activity, and flew like Super-Mom with my train of littles behind me. I kept my sense of humor and laughed about the stress and sleeplessness in my blog. I had it together.
I noticed a small slow-down with my pregnancy with Toby, and noticed that I couldn't recover even with a good night's rest after he was weened and sleeping through the night. But I managed.
My pregnancy with Elijah was much worse, and about six months after he was born my body felt like both engines were stalling at 30,000 feet. I fought pretty valiantly to keep everyone flying for another six months. I was always, always exhausted. Everything felt heavy. My brain felt foggy. I had to lean on the shopping cart just to push it through the store, and then I stood in the aisles unable to remember what I had come to buy. My reaction times felt slow. I felt unsafe driving. I could barely make it up a flight of stairs. And then one day I tried to spread peanut butter on bread and felt like I couldn't even lift the knife. I tried again and my arm said "no." And that was when I realized that we had crashed.
We went to doctors and doctors, but most test results looked great. The tests that were off were odd and inexplicable. Diet changes didn't help. Sleep didn't help. I hated feeling like I couldn't manage on my own, but finally caved and accepted other people's offers to help me on a regular basis. Things got worse that year until I couldn't hold my head up in the car and had to rest it on a neck pillow. I couldn't hold my arms up on the steering wheel for more than a few minutes and had to alternate resting one arm and keeping the other at 6:00 while I drove. It got to where I couldn't hold my foot steady on the gas pedal for long and had to use cruise control in ridiculous places it was never designed for. I gained over 20 pounds from both inactivity and from eating in an effort to find energy somewhere. I felt like the energy mortgage company had come to collect on 10 years of missed payments, and had decided to foreclose on my body.
Finally, a neuromuscular specialist in Indianapolis took me seriously and ran every test imaginable. They all came back normal, except one. My coenzyme Q10 levels were very low. CoQ10 is needed for energy production in every cell of the body. I have no idea why my levels were so low, my dietary intake of it was normal and the body is supposed to be able to manufacture it anyway, but this was something to go on. After 6 weeks on a high-quality CoQ10 supplement I noticed the brain fog lifting. After 3 months, my arms and legs felt lighter. I was functional again, but nowhere near healthy.
That was three years ago. Over the last three years my schedule has gradually eased as my children have grown. I have decided to prioritize rest. I have felt gradually better, but I haven't really felt healthy yet. I tried multiple times to lose the weight I'd gained with no success. In fact, I continued to slowly gain, topping out at over 30 pounds heavier than I'd been since I lost the baby weight after Elijah.
At the beginning of this summer I decided I was finally at a place in life where I could take care of myself again. I had no babies or toddlers anymore. We weren't moving houses or in the midst of any other major life upheaval. I decided this was my chance to help myself.
I used an online calorie counter to figure out how much I could eat and still lose weight, and then I held myself to that, which means I've felt hungry most of the summer. I said "no" to stress this summer because I've learned that I can't be stressed and energetic at the same time. I let myself sleep without guilt. I prioritized activities that made me feel mentally healthy, like writing again. I prioritized getting my kids out to the pool and made sure I actually swam. I got my kids out for walks and bike rides. Matt and I started walking a couple miles almost every evening. And one evening we started jogging.
Jogging. Ugh. Those first two blocks I jogged were painful. And that was all I made it: two blocks. We didn't jog every night, but we kept trying off and on. A little here, a little there. And we walked a little faster.
This summer, since June 1st, I've lost 16 pounds. Last week I decided I could actually start jogging with Matt more seriously. I didn't even own a decent pair of athletic shorts, so I borrowed some from Naomi. I laced up some almost brand-new running shoes I've had since college, (since college!), and we ran. OK we jogged, but it felt really fast to me. The first night I made it 0.6 miles. The next night 0.8. I was so sore the next day we decided to take two days off from jogging. But last night I actually ran (jogged) an entire mile.
It's been at least 12 years since I've done that. Matt timed it and my time was 10:10. I was a little discouraged when I heard that I nearly died in order to finish a mile in 10 minutes, but then I remembered that my body has birthed and nursed five babies, and gained and lost 30 pounds six times since the last time I ran a mile. And then I remembered how weak I had been three years ago, and I decided that last night's mile was a pretty amazing milestone.
I'd still like to lose another 14 pounds, and I'd like to be able to run that mile without wondering if I was having a heart attack afterwards. But what's amazing is that these things seem like real possibilities again. And that is energizing.
Young mamas out there, take note. Please take care of yourselves. Your body will only run on nothing for so long. Eventually it will give you a foreclosure notice, and it will take years to repay your debt. Even super mamas need their rest.