When I became a mom last year, I had no idea what kind of impact it was going to make on my life or, my career. Not only did I soften as a coach, but I was finally able understand what my mom, sister, and so many of my friends had been telling me about motherhood and realized what a bunch of rock star, badass women I was surrounded by. However, at the same time, I noticed that not one of them allows themselves an ounce of credit for all they do, who they are, or even really thinks about their role as mama.
Therefore, this week I introduce a new series to my blog: Mama-Crush Mondays. While this serves as way for me to highlight mamas that are spectacular, I'm also hoping to help them see how amazing they are through a series of questions about pregnancy, motherhood, and advice for women who will soon join the ranks.
Although I'm primarily focused on fitness, I want to make it known that my blog is supportive and nurturing to all moms in all aspects of health. And, I strongly believe you must have your head right with the inner so that you can be accepting of the outer.
This week, I would like you to meet Kara. I met Kara through her husband, Matt whom I've known since the ripe old age of 11. Her son Hudson will be three in July and she and Matt are expecting a baby girl in June. I've been a fan of Kara since the moment we met, which is why she ended up as one of my bridesmaids. True to her education and career in psychology and counseling, Kara is as patient as they come and as genuine as anyone I've ever met. When you talk to her, you know she's listening, contemplating, and really choosing the words with which she responds. Watching Kara with Hudson is the epitome of kindness. If you're a mama, her words are bound to resonate with you. Newly pregnant or postpartum- her advice comes from a place of compassion and tenderness, I'm sure you'll enjoy.
1. When you were a younger did you dream about being a mother? What did you see for yourself?
I actually don’t ever remember fantasizing about being a mom. I knew that I always wanted a family, but I think I just envisioned emulating what I grew up with. I don’t remember dreaming about anything beyond what I knew, I just assumed my life as a mom would look the same. But I do know that as I got to the stage of my life where I was really ready to settle down and have a family (late 20’s), I felt very stuck and frustrated that I needed someone else to make that happen. I had definitely imagined being “settled” and having children before I actually did. At the time, I felt like I had no control over who came into my life and when. I learned a lot about manifesting your own reality, and the power of visualization. I asked the Universe for my people. And I got them. I realize now that I needed to go through all of those steps in my life to be the partner and parent that I am today. 2. How did your own upbringing reflect on that dream?
I was very blessed to have been raised by parents that are still married to this day. We grew up with a lot of family trips, family meetings, family traditions…so having an intentional relationship with each member of the family was important. I was never made to feel like I was a burden, or I was unwanted. Thinking back, the only times I recall conflict with my parents were for good reasons. I was a pretty challenging teenager at times. Lord, I hope karma is gentle with me! 3. What discussions did you have about starting a family? Do you remember telling your husband the first time you were pregnant? Was it a surprise or a long-planned event?
Oh, this is good advice: Mamas-to-be, make sure you actually share your baby timeline with your partner! For some reason I expected my husband to read my mind and be on the same page as me regarding marriage and babies and all the big things. Turns out, we actually needed to have a discussion around it. Who knew?! (and this is coming from a counselor…yikes!). We got pregnant the first month of trying. Then I miscarried. We got pregnant again immediately with our son, Hudson. So when trying for baby #2 came around, and it took us 4 months, it felt like eternity. I tried to remind myself pretty consistently that women all around me struggle for way longer than we did to conceive. It helped to knock myself off my high-horse and chill out. 4. What did you love about pregnancy? Hate?
I really loved being pregnant with Hudson. It was a really special transition from a couple to a family. And there is an intimacy that you have with your baby that nobody in the whole world has. They were in your belly, listening to your heartbeat from the inside. Not to say that doesn’t come with challenges. I don’t think “hate” is the right word, but the hardest part about my first pregnancy was being in a totally different life space than Matt. Of course he knew I was pregnant, and was excited to start a family, but that was about the extent of it. He wasn’t living what I was living. Feeling out of sorts, watching your body that you’ve known and had control over for 34 years contort and expand, being kicked from the inside out…these are all things that you can try to explain to someone, but it’s very hard for them to empathize. Pregnancy can be very isolating. I even feel like that in my 2nd pregnancy now. That’s why I think what you are doing with mamas and mamas-to-be is so amazingly important. I sought out a prenatal yoga community that not only prepared us physically for labor, but also gave time to honor the changes and feelings going on for us. A community of women can be so sustaining when you are pregnant. Nothing against men, because bless their hearts they can try to understand, they just don’t. 5. Did you enjoy giving birth?
HA! No. I will leave it at that. 6. What was the transition like when you went from being someone’s child to someone’s parent?
How long did it take you to really get used to the idea?
My appreciation for my own mother quadrupled in my first year of mom-life. All the clichés are true- you don’t understand until you are a parent yourself. I can’t believe I went through 34 years of life without truly understanding how my mom would give her last breath for either of her kids. Once you’re on the other side, the unconditional love for your kid can get pretty overwhelming. 7. What has given you the most joy as a mother? Describe it.
I can’t even read this question without getting tearful. Seriously, it’s happened like 3 times, I keep coming back to it!
I adore being Hudson’s mama. I think to myself ALL THE TIME how grateful I am to be his mom. From the get-go, I have cherished our bed-time routine with Hudson. Even now, at 2.5 years old, putting him to bed brings me so much joy and love. Sometimes it’s joy because I made it through the day without losing my shit, but most of the time it’s joy because it is time we get to hug and kiss and connect with each other. I get to hold him & sing to him while he touches my face with his hands, gives the baby in my belly kisses then tickles my belly button, or puts coconut oil on my elbows to “take care of me”. I know these days are limited, and I just soak them up as much as I can. ALSO - I get joy watching Hudson and his dad together. It’s affirming to be able to sit back and say to yourself, “yea, I chose a good one” as they are dancing half naked around the living room before bath-time. 8. What advice do you have for
a) A woman in her 1st trimester:
Yay, you are pregnant! This is the #1 excuse that I needed to take care of myself. How messed up is that? That I needed an excuse to take care of me? But I did, and I used it. I didn’t over-work myself, I ate really well, I slept really well. I will also add that the first 12 weeks can be full of joy, or for some full of fear. I miscarried before I had Hudson, so when we got pregnant again, we were very cautious to get excited, to buy into it. All I can say is that if you lose a baby, even though it is SO devastating and personal, it is also very common. Reach out. Talk about it. It is healing, and you will find so many women have been in your shoes. b) 2nd trimester:
Enjoy it! This is the honeymoon phase of pregnancy! Your energy kicks back in, hopefully you aren’t feeling sick…and you aren’t big enough to feel super uncomfortable yet. Although I do remember feeling very “out of body” at this time. When that little paunch starts to develop, and your body doesn’t feel like your own anymore. It was very unnerving for me, and I definitely had a few mini-breakdowns. Bless my husband for talking me off a ledge in the middle of some resort in Hawaii after I tripped UP the stairs and started bawling because I felt SO not like myself. Luckily, the 2nd pregnancy has been easier in this respect, probably because I know now what to expect. I just expect to feel like a total lunatic. Semi-kidding. Only on days that end in ‘y’. c) 3rd trimester:
Hang in there. Physically things get harder, but this is also a really important time because the reality that you are about to become a mother sets in. I remember being a bit consumed with the actual labor and birth process, and didn’t spend much time thinking about what comes after. Do all the things you love and that recharge you now- take naps, see movies, paint, spend time by yourself. That time becomes few and far between. d) Just gave birth:
Get ready to cry out of pure bliss and overwhelming love. A lot. I think it took a full year to read “On the Night You Were Born” to Hudson without getting weepy. And let other people help. e) 3 months, 6 months and 1 year postpartum (if you remember):
Do what works for you, your baby, and your family. Mom guilt is a BITCH. Be gentle with yourself and remember that you are the perfect mom for your baby. Whether you need to reconcile because your birth didn’t go as planned (ahem), you use formula, you don’t have the newest $400 baby wrap, etc.- make it right within yourself, because carrying that around will stunt you. Let that shit go. 9. What is the most important thing you wish someone would have told you about being a new mom?
You won’t feel “normal” for a long time. It took me at least a year. I’m sure it varies from woman to woman, but I breastfed for 13 months, so my hormones were still all a hot mess. Plus, your body is just being used in ways that it wasn’t for the first 30-ish years of life. It’s all a big adjustment. In fact, I don’t even know if you go back to “normal”. I think you just assume a new “normal”. Also- this is huge- 2/3 of all couples that have just brought a first baby into their relationship report being unsatisfied in their partnership. The first year of a new baby is really tough on a relationship, yet it is the foundation of your family. It’s so important to nurture the love between you and your partner, so the baby brings you together instead of apart. One last thing that I think would be really helpful for a new mom. Remember that everything is a season, and nothing lasts forever. It will help to get you through those cluster feedings in the middle of the night, or the 4 month sleep regression, or whatever it is that you are consumed with at the time. It will all pass. Just when you think you have a routine, your baby will change, grow, or have a different need. I really believe in the 4th trimester- don’t expect any kind of routine for at least 3 months after birth. Just live in the moment, day to day, and soak in whatever your baby brings to you. 10. Have you changed since becoming a mom? How?
Motherhood has definitely changed me for the better. At some point after we made it out of year 1 alive and still married, my husband and I reflected on one of the most special gifts Hudson gave us. In his first year of life, Hudson reminded me daily that whatever little thing I was hanging on to was not important in the grand scheme of things. I let go of so much anger and resentment, and held on to this beautiful life in front of me that really mattered. It was life-changing. And really good for my relationship with Matt 11. Emotionally, was there anything you were unprepared for going into motherhood?
I don’t think any litany of words can really prepare you emotionally for motherhood. People tell you that there is no other love like what you feel for your new baby, the instant love, etc. Matt and I talk about how the first few days and weeks are such a learning curve, and you are really getting to know this new little nugget in your lives. Of course we loved our baby, but it wasn’t an instant “I held him in my arms and the heavens opened up and rained marshmallows and rainbows” kind of feeling. But once we got home from the hospital and began our lives together, the bonding was fast and furious. It’s a pretty special thing, what happens between and mother and child. My husband loves the age of my son now (about 2.5), because it’s so physical and his personality has come out. But I just loved that first year of life and the attachment that takes place. 12. Physically, has your body changed? If yes, how so?
Oh I’m in way better shape now, I’ve toned up my arms from lifting Hudson so much…HA. Totally kidding. Watching your body shape shift into a vessel carrying a massive watermelon-sized parasite, back to pre-pregnancy weight, then down to my 18-year-old weight (thank you very much, breastfeeding!), and now back to the watermelon carrying with my 2nd pregnancy…you develop a respect for your physical body and what it is capable of. I have learned to be a little more gently with myself (sometimes a little too gentle) when it comes to my physical body. 13. If I was giving birth tomorrow, what would you say to me?
I would say to hope for the best, but to expect that your birth plan may not go exactly as you had planned. And that’s ok. Go into it with flexible expectations. 14. In what way do you think you are great as a mother? Great question.
Positive self-talk is something I am actively working on, especially as we welcome a little girl into our world with baby #2. I think that I am really good at listening to my son, and making him feel validated. Even when I don’t understand why the tears are flowing because he’d rather take a bath than a shower, I try to validate his experience and not push it aside because I think it’s silly. 15. What do you feel most proud of in life?
I’m proud that I made a human. Literally. Out of nothing. And I sustained that human for the first year of his life by feeding him directly from my body. How amazing is that? It still trips me out thinking about the magnitude of that. Beyond his physical presence, I’m proud that my husband and I have reared such a sweet person. He is good and loving and sweet down to the core. It feels good to know that he came from us, to think that maybe we had something to do with it. 16. If I asked you what the most amazing thing about you was, what would you say?
Really hard question. My first thought was to call Matt and ask him what he thought. But I will refrain, and force myself to come up with something amazing about me. I would say I think it’s amazing that I have the ability to find a way to connect with most people I meet, and can put most people at ease. I don’t know, maybe I’m stretching for something… This is a really hard question. (She hit the nail on the head, I think.) 17. What are your fears going forward, or as your child gets older? Relinquishing control. There, I said it. When I was pregnant, I loved being the sole provider for our baby. When he was born, it was a difficult transition for me in that I now had to work as a team with my husband and my family who were also providing for him. To think about sending him out into the world where other kids and adults may influence him terrifies me. Of course I have to remind myself, this is healthy and necessary, but my mom brain always goes to the worst case scenario. (I work in a high school, believe me, I see plenty of things that could go wrong!). Matt is a good reminder that if we do our job well at home, he will be prepared to go into the world and make good decisions. I just nod my head and smile. I guess that’s called blind faith. That’s why I love my husband, he’s my eternal optimist.
18. Any last advice?
I always say, it’s really easy to be a parent. But it’s really fucking hard to be a good parent.
Have a mama in your life that needs to give herself a little credit? Nominate her for an upcoming issue of Mama Crush Monday. Or, know a soon to be mama that you think would love to hear this advice? Share this post!