What happened to your hair?

I keep meaning to sit down and write but then something else always seems to demand my attention.  I realize I’ve barely written anything since I went back to work and I’ve been particularly bad in the past couple of months.  I certainly haven’t stopped reading everyone else’s stuff, but I just can’t get my act together to spend any time in my own space.  I don’t know what that means for this blog…

But, I do have something new to talk about right now.  My hair!

I’ve always known that pregnancies can cause crazy things to happen to women’s bodies.  I’ve heard about a lot of people whose feet grew (ugh, imagine having to replace all your shoes!)  And, of course, after months of breastfeeding, many of us will never have full, perky breasts again (at least without some serious help).  But what I never expected was the most recent change that just happened to me.

Ever since I was a pre-teen, I’ve always envied girls with curly hair.  In the ’80s, my mom would spend hours painstakingly crimping my waist-length, pin-straight hair.  Much to my dismay, my hair generally refused to hold a curl, so the crimped look didn’t last long.  I tried braiding damp hair.  I tried hot rollers.  I even remember sleeping with my hair wrapped around some awful, foam-covered, bendy things in an attempt to have something other than perfectly straight hair.

By high school, I had given up and accepted that my hair was straight.  One benefit of the absolute straightness, was that I didn’t even need a blowdryer to get it straight.  I could wash my hair and let it dry naturally.  It was still straight.

As I got older, things slowly began to change.  My hair got a little frizzier and needed to be blow-dried in order to look smooth.  After my first son was born, I noticed a bit of a kink (or one giant wave?) had appeared at the very back of my head.  Kind of annoying, but relatively easy to deal with when blowdrying my hair.  After my second son, I noticed the kink was more pronounced.  When I’d finish drying my hair, it would never lie flat.  There was always a bit of a zig-zag there.  Kind of like this… 

 I wasn’t super excited about adding more time to my morning hair routine, but off I went to purchase a straightening iron.  After washing and blow drying, a quick straighten was all I needed and my hair was good for a couple of days.  Excellent.  Everything was under control. 

 But wait!  September arrived and it was the first week of school.  I had to drop both kids off at their respective daycares one morning and it was a very hot and humid day.  I had washed, blow dried and straightened that morning, right before we set off down the street.  I was pushing the stroller and Littleman was scurrying along beside me in an attempt to beat the imminent rain.  No such luck.   A misty rain began to fall.  I did my best to push the stroller with one hand while I held an umbrella with the other, but my hair got a bit exposed to the elements.  When I arrived at work that morning and popped into the ladies room, I was greeted with a surprise.  The whole top layer of my hair was wavy.  The underside was still pretty straight because it had remained relatively dry, so I looked pretty weird.  But, ignoring the weirdness, this was a bit of a breakthrough.  Wavy hair?!  Could it be possible?

I got some advice from my curly-haired friends and decided to play around with my hair to see what was really going on.  I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty shocked with the results.  It turns out my hair has COMPLETELY CHANGED since having kids.  I’m now the proud owner of full-blown wavy hair. 

 That’s right folks.  I’m the girl whose hairdresser couldn’t even get her hair to hold a curl.  Now, I actually have some texture to my hair without using any type of curling device.

I know I have a lot of experimenting and learning to do when it comes to styling my wavy hair.  I still haven’t actually figured out how to make this newly-discovered hair look nice.  I’ve purchased a couple of products (I’ve never used any products before so this feels so crazy) and I’m still trying to figure out what is the best combination of products and/or techniques to use.  I want something that will hold the wave without making my hair super-crunchy and wet looking.  I’ve tried to scrunch it to get rid of the crunchiness, but the more I touch it, the frizzier it gets.  This will take some practice.

I definitely don’t see myself as someone who will wear her hair wavy all the time, but it’s kind of fun to finally have some hairstyle options (beyond down or ponytail).

Anyone else discover any weird changes after having kids?  And, most importantly, any advice for styling wavy hair??

Postpartum body update: one year in

As I scarf a rather large, white bagel with cream cheese, I thought it might be appropriate to take a look at my body and where I stand almost a year after giving birth.  As I mentioned a few months ago, I seemed to be struggling to get rid of the final 10 lbs after this pregnancy.  I had expected it to melt off while breastfeeding like it did with my first son, but, sadly, that wasn’t meant to be.  I decided not to let it get me down and, instead, continued to work out while still eating what I needed/wanted to sustain my milk production.

Here’s an update on what’s going on with my body these days:

Exercise

On top of my weekly mommy and baby fitness class, I took up running in the summer and ran my first 5K in the fall.  I (unexpectedly!) really enjoyed it and I know it’s something that I’d like to continue.  Unfortunately, the frigid winter weather has kept me from running outside for the past few months and I don’t have access to a treadmill, so I’ll have to start over again this spring.

I also haven’t been able to get nearly as much walking in as I was doing before.  In the summer and fall, I could get close to 20,000 steps per day on a good day and 12-15,000 on a bad day.  Now, a good day is 5,000.  It felt amazing to be in Florida and get out walking again.  This is something I’m going to have to make a point of doing when I go back to work.  Sitting at a desk all day is not good for me so I’ll need to be creative in order to get more daily steps.

Weight

I’m 5’6″ tall and my typical weight is around 135 lbs.  I seemed to get stuck at 140 for a while after Bo was born but I’m pleased to report that I hit 130.2 lbs this morning!  It will be interesting to see what happens once Bo is weaned.  He’s still nursing a fair bit, although it’s already slowing down this week with his longer days at daycare.  I don’t expect to lose any more and I know I’ll have to be careful to adjust my diet once he’s done breastfeeding.  I still crave sweets and carbs a lot but I won’t have Bo as an excuse to eat them as frequently much longer!

Birth control

In January, I finally bit the bullet and got an IUD inserted.  I regretted it almost immediately as it caused me to bleed for about six weeks.  I finally stopped bleeding about a week ago and hope that’s the end of that.  My OB said that it’s pretty normal for non-breastfeeding women to bleed for a couple of months after having it inserted but that it’s uncommon for nursing women.  I appear to be an exception to the rule.  Lucky me. Other than that, I haven’t noticed any other side effects to date.

I was totally certain because of all the bleeding, but I don’t think I’ve had an actual period yet.  I’m curious to see if/when I’ll get one and hope that it will be light and easy.

Breasts

I’m in that tricky phase where my breasts are either full and massive or empty and deflated.  Bo is going much longer between feeds right now so my body is still trying to adjust.  While my weight is down and I am fitting into my smaller clothes right now, my breasts still make me feel a bit awkward in my clothes.  I know this will likely get worse before it gets better because I refuse to buy any new bras until I’m totally finished breastfeeding.  This means that there will be some gaping or overflowage, depending on what bra I choose to wear.

So, there we go.  I’ll check in again after I’m back at work and no longer breastfeeding.

Running check-in

I’m five weeks into my 5k training, so I figured it was time for a quick status update.

Aside from the fact that it’s very hard to find the time to run, it is going very well.  Today was my longest continuous run (with no walking).  20 straight minutes!  I’m pleased to say that it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be and, although I was very happy when the voice in my earphones told me to start my cool down, I probably could have run a bit further.

I’m pretty amazed that in just a few weeks, I’ve gone from feeling breathless and in pain after just a minute of jogging to being able to run for 20 minutes straight.  I guess that shows that these “learn-to-run” programs actually work!

That’s not to say that I don’t feel any pain.  I’m definitely starting to notice how hard it can be on your body.  I’ve tried really hard to be better at stretching after my runs and I think that has helped a bit.  But, on days that I’ve run (and usually also gone for a least one long walk with the stroller) I find that my legs and lower back are pretty sore.  A nice hot bath and some ibuprofen help a bit but it still sucks to feel pain.

I also did my first ever treadmill run last weekend.  I know, I know, I’m probably the only person on the planet who had never run on a treadmill before.  But why would I?  I hated running and the idea of running indoors in one spot just seemed ridiculous to me.  Anyway, we were visiting my sister this past weekend for my niece’s baptism and they have a treadmill in their basement.  Since the weather was crappy and cold, I decided to give it a try.  And guess what?  I didn’t hate it!  It took a bit of getting used to at first (I had a tendency to step too far forward in the beginning and was hitting the part where the belt comes out).  I also felt a little bit dizzy at the end when I first stepped off.   Other than that, it felt pretty good.  And the best part was the my body didn’t hurt nearly as much as running on the sidewalk.

My weight has finally dropped below 140lbs and I even saw 135.7 one day, which was a huge win.  135 is pretty normal for me, although I was probably closer to 130 in the time between pregnancies.  I think I would feel pretty good about myself if I could remain consistently at 135, but I also know that I’m probably going to struggle with that until I’m done breastfeeding.

So, all in all, the running is going well.  It’s been a bit of a struggle but I’ve managed to fit in three runs per week.  On top of that, I do an indoor exercise class twice a week (mostly weight training and core work with a little bit of cardio) and I go on a lot of walks.  I hope that I can continue to keep it all up as the weather gets colder but I know it will definitely be harder to motivate myself to go outside.

Run #3: a minor complication

I took a break from exercising on Saturday, so it was time for run number three yesterday.  It was a beautiful Sunday morning.  I got Bo down for his morning nap and left Littleman and D at home, cleaning up toys.

The weather was perfect.  After a couple of days of extreme heat (in fact, I think it was the hottest temperatures we’ve had all summer!), things had cooled down.  The sky was blue, without a cloud in sight.  Lovely.

Armed with my new favourite app telling me what to do and listening to some 90s classics on my iPhone (what better way to spend a Sunday morning than rocking out to G’N’R and Violent Femmes?), I headed out on the last run of my first week of training to run 5K.

It was going well.  I felt pretty good.  No longer do I look at my watch all the time.  A minute of running really does go by a lot quicker than I expect.  I was feeling pretty proud of myself and enjoying the knowledge that I could run longer than a minute if I really wanted to.  My app announced that I was halfway through my run.  Great!

Then, a familiar feeling started to creep in.  Itch…

As long as I can remember, I’ve had an issue where my legs will start itching when I’m out for a particularly long or vigorous walk.  It usually starts on the front of my thighs and then works its way towards my butt.  It’s terribly distracting and scratching it makes it worse.  Often, I’m dying to get home so I can drop my drawers and scratch away, resulting in me looking like I’ve been mauled by a werewolf.

It’s interesting because I’ve walked a ton this summer (with the stroller) and haven’t had this issue.  I exercise indoors and don’t have this issue. But, for some reason, running has caused the problem to resurface.

Since I was near the end of my run when it started yesterday, I did my best to ignore it and made it home without tearing my thighs to shreds.  Last night, I spent some time on the internet, trying to figure out what the hell is going on.  It seems that I am not alone in suffering from this “runner’s itch”.  There are a bunch of theories out there – allergies, dry skin, something about being unfit and capillaries expanding – but none of that made a lot of sense to me, knowing my own situation and fitness level.  Then I came across some info about histamine being released by the body during exercise to combat against exercise-induced fatigue.  Some people suggest taking an antihistamine prior to running.  I have no idea if that will actually work, but it can’t hurt to try.  I don’t think I can tolerate the itch on an ongoing basis and it will certainly make running a 5K race pretty miserable.  I don’t want something stupid like itchiness to make me give up on my goal of running, but it would make me crazy if I have to put up with it all the time.

Has anyone else dealt with this?  Any suggestions?

Run #1: did it!

I survived my first run!

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve decided to start training for a 5K race.  Since I’ve never been a runner, I’m starting from scratch and using run/walk type of program.  Shortly after I posted about my new fitness plans, I attempted my first ever run.

I’m a bit of a pessimist.  I know that isn’t anything to be proud of, but in this case (and, I find, in many other cases!) it actually helps me out.  When I go into something expecting the worst, often I am pleasantly surprised.  That’s what happened with my run.  OK, maybe “pleasant” is a bit of a strong word, but it really wasn’t all that bad.

I started out with a five-minute warm-up walk.  Then I ran for one minute and walked for 90 seconds.  The first minute of running was the toughest.  I looked at my watch when I started to feel winded and, good lord, it had only been 23 seconds!  Yikes!  After that, each minute got a bit easier.  Around the halfway mark, I wasn’t looking at my watch until about 45 seconds.  And then, shockingly, I ran 15 seconds longer than I needed to for the final stretch.  The total workout was 25 minutes and, although I was sweaty and out of breath by the end, I felt pretty pleased with myself for surviving.

For someone who’s always had a fear of running, I feel pretty good about my chances of conquering that fear.  Now that I’ve done it once, I know I can get out there and do it again.

 

Run fun?

Now that summer is nearing the end and holidays are over, it’s time for me to really buckle down when it comes to exercise.  By this point during my maternity leave with Littleman (six months postpartum) I was looking pretty good and feeling great.  I had lost more weight than I expected and was more fit than I’d been in a long time, possibly ever!

I discovered pretty quickly that it wasn’t going to be quite as easy this time around.  First of all, I gained more weight with this pregnancy.  Second, my life is just generally busier, with two kids to look after instead of one. Finding time to look after myself has proven to be more difficult.

I’m currently stuck at 5 lbs heavier than my typical weight and 10 lbs heavier than I’d really like to be.  I’ve been hovering here for a while now so I know I need to take some action and work a bit harder than I have been if I want to see a difference.

The first thing I did was sign up for my “mommy and baby” exercise class again.  This time, Bo and I will be going twice a week.  The class is intense and it’s a good way for me to do weights, which I am no good at doing on my own.

The second thing is a little more scary.

I’m going to start running.

Exercising is one of those things that I kind of love and kind of hate.  I’d rather sit on the couch and watch TV, but whenever I exercise, I feel so much better afterwards.  When I get into a good routine, I actually feel disappointed when I have to miss a workout.  But, running has never appealed to me.  In fact, I’m kind of terrified of running.

That is why, when my exercise instructor said she was putting together a group of moms to do a 5K run in October, I initially ignored her.  I mean, I’m not a runner, so why would I do a run?

Then I thought about it a bit more.  The instructor will provide us with a training program and organize weekly group runs leading up to the race.  It’s not like I have to walk out my front door today and run 5K.  And I’ve seen lots of people who are less fit than me train for and complete a 5K run.

What helped me make the decision to give it a try is the fact that I can run anywhere and anytime.  When I go back to work at the end of my maternity leave, I know that I’ll need to continue exercising.  But between work, daycare drop-offs/pick-ups and D’s work schedule, finding the time to attend regular exercise classes at a gym is going to be hard.  If I can learn how to run, I mean properly learn, then maybe I will have a good option for exercising, even when I can’t make it to the gym.

So there we go.  Maybe I’m crazy, but I’m going to run.  My new (and scary) fitness regime is about to begin.  Wish me luck!

Postpartum body update: love it or hate it?

It could be that it’s bathing suit season and we have a pool. Or perhaps it’s because my pre-pregnancy clothes are not of the loose or baggy variety. Likely it’s a combination of both that is making me realize that I’m not a big fan of my body these days.

I had a pretty decent body before I had kids. Sure it wasn’t perfect, but at 5’6″ and 130lbs, I looked ok.

I gained about 30 lbs with my first pregnancy and lost it all (and more) pretty quickly after giving birth. I was more fit than I’d ever been in my life during my maternity leave and felt pretty good about how I looked once I went back to work.

My body hasn’t been so forgiving this time around. I gained an extra 10 lbs with this pregnancy and it’s those 10 lbs that are being stubborn. Besides my breasts, which have to be storing some of the weight, I seem to have a rather unsightly bulge in my tummy area. I can fit into most of my clothes, but my muffin-top looks unattractive when I wear any of my more fitted tops.

I’m doing a weekly fitness class and going on tons of walks with the stroller, but my pre-baby body alludes me.

I am trying, I really am, but it seems that I’m losing the battle against my sweet tooth. In fact, as I type this, I’m waiting for some chocolate chip cookies to bake. You see, breastfeeding makes me crave sugar. I mean, I need it. Like ALL THE TIME.

Since I don’t think I’ll be able to stop myself from eating treats right now, I’m just going to try to do it in moderation. That’s the best I can hope for right now! (Does 6 chocolate chip cookies count as moderation?  They’re small.  Really small.)

In an attempt to motivate myself to move more, I bought myself a fitbit.  I’ve been using it for about a month now. It definitely helps, although it frustrates me because I don’t think it’s totally accurate. I bought the fitbit flex, which you wear on your wrist. I thought this was the best option for me because I can keep it on all the time. I’ve used pedometers in the past but wouldn’t always remember to clip them on before heading out. With the wrist version, it’s always on me.

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The problem I’ve discovered? My stroller. I don’t think the fitbit flex tracks my steps accurately when I’m pushing my stroller. My mom and I have gone on a few walks together and she always ends up with a lot more steps than me, even though we walk the same distance and would have similar strides. It’s annoying, although I suppose it’s better to underestimate rather than overestimate my step count.

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That being said, I generally really like it.  Some of the things I enjoy are:

  • It’s always on my wrist, so no fear of forgetting it or running it through the wash (although it is water resistant!)
  • It tracks sleep, so it’s interesting to see how shitty I’m sleeping these days (as if I don’t already know!).  I think I’ll like this feature better once Bo stops waking so much in the night.
  • The ability to have friends (who I secretly compete with).  I only have my mom and my brother-in-law right now, but I sure love it when my weekly step count is higher than theirs!  I’m terribly competitive so this helps motivate me, for sure.
  • The fitbit app, which lets me check my steps and distance on my iphone.  I’ve been known to do laps of my main floor when I’m close to 10,000 steps so that I can hit my goal before I go to bed.
  • The fact that it vibrates to let me know that I’ve reached my goal. There is nothing more satisfying than a little buzz on my wrist to remind me of how far I’ve walked (ok, maybe chocolate chip cookies are a little more satisfying!)

As I strolled through the neighborhood this afternoon, I ended up walking behind three teenage girls. They all had long, lean legs clad in tiny jean shorts. They had minuscule waists. There was barely an ounce of fat on any of them, and they certainly didn’t have belly flab or love handles.

I used to look like that. About 20 years ago. But still.

As my fitbit buzzed to tell me I’d walked my 10,000 steps, I thought to myself, would I like to trade with them? Would I give up my flabby belly, and all that goes along with it, for a body like that? I looked at my baby, asleep in his stroller, and I knew the answer. This belly gave me my two amazing boys. It might not look as good as it used to, but I refuse to hate it. This body, muffin top and all, has done amazing things.

I know there is a good chance that I’ll never look the way I did before. I may never love my body. And I know it certainly won’t happen while I keep eating sugary treats. So for now, I will try my best to eat better and work out more, while quietly thanking the fashion gods that loose flowy tops seem to be in style right now.