The first year with a new baby – whether it’s your first, second, or sixth – is unequivocally all-consuming. The feeding, the lack of sleep, the crying, the feeding, the bouncing/rocking/soothing, and oh yeah, did I mention the feeding? It’s endless. Couple that with the inevitable self-doubt and second-guessing that comes with parenting, especially parenting a newborn, and it’s easy to see how the first year flies by. It’s a daze of sleepless nights and milk and laundry.
I remembered all that as I prepared for the birth of my second baby in 2017. I remembered that it would be hard, but I remembered that I would get through it. And I remembered the sweet moments: the peace of breastfeeding in the middle of the night when it feels like only you and baby are awake in the world. The first smiles and giggles and “Mama” and “Dada.”
But what I forgot about was the second year, when your sweet baby starts to become a toddler, full of personality and opinions and independence. I forgot about the gradual un-needing of the second year.
I had heard the phrase un-needing used in reference to older kids growing up and going off to school, leaving empty-nester moms at loose ends. But I felt this period acutely after my first baby Easton’s 1st birthday, back in 2013. He was barely breastfeeding, no longer relying on me as his primary source of nutrition. He put himself to sleep at night and naptime, no rocking, shushing, or singing required. He still loved cuddles – but only on his own terms. And he spent a lot of his days thrashing to be put down or escaping from the stroller.
Suddenly, I was the mom at loose ends. I had spent the last 12 months being totally consumed by raising this tiny person, meeting his every need every second of the day. Now, I had (a few) minutes to myself. But instead of feeling free, I felt empty.
Eventually, I pulled myself out of the weeds during Easton’s second year, finding new routines and patterns that lifted my mood and helped me feel more like myself again. But I remember the crushing insecurity of those days just as vividly as I remember the insecurity of brand-new motherhood.
Fast forward to spring 2017. As second baby Sawyer’s 1st birthday came and went, I knew what to expect. And I knew something had to change this time around.
I decided to take a leap. I had been doing once-weekly Stroller Strides classes on Saturdays with FIT4MOM DuPage County and loved it. I knew they had an 8-week Body Back program – a “transformation” program, they call it: 8 weeks of clean eating, food journals, twice-weekly HIIT workouts, and a private Facebook group for support.
The word “Transformation” was intimidating. And so were the workouts. I was sore for 2 days after my Stroller Strides classes … Could I survive a Body Back workout? Was I still too out of shape after having two kids?
Then there was the scheduling. Signing up for Body Back meant committing to being gone from my family two nights a week for EIGHT WEEKS. I had put Sawyer to sleep every single night, by myself, since his birth. Could I really leave him twice a week at bedtime? Could my husband do bedtime for both kids without me?
There will always be a million reasons NOT to do something, so it would have been easy to talk myself out of it. But the idea was firmly planted in my head, and deep down, I knew I was ready. Maybe not for a full transformation, but at least for a few hours a week to focus on myself.
I signed up.
I went into my first 8-week Body Back program with minimal expectations. I didn’t think I’d follow the recipe book. I didn’t have time for meal prep and planning. I figured I would work out, and give it my all, twice a week and that was it.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. I did work out twice a week and give those workouts my all, but each week, I also did a little bit more: followed the recipe book, planned and prepped my meals, cut out sugar and alcohol, cheered on my fellow mamas – and watched as my body changed and my mental space cleared.
I went into Body Back expecting to lose a few pounds and tone up a bit. I came out with SO much more. Yes, the weight came off and I’m stronger and more toned. But it took Body Back to show me that focusing on myself for a change could actually benefit my whole family. I felt recharged and centered, more patient with my kids, less nagging at my husband. It was hard for me to let go of the guilt of skipping bedtime twice a week, but I'm so glad I did. My family can survive without me. And we are all healthier and happier because of it.
Yes, there will always be a million reason why you can’t do Body Back. But there’s one reason why you absolutely should: You are worth it, mama. Take the time, two hours a week, eight weeks in a row, to focus on yourself and see where you end up. Just like me, I bet you’ll surprise yourself.
Join me and a village full of amazing women in the upcoming Spring Body Back sessions in Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Lombard and Elmhurst. Find out more about the program and how to try a free class!