I`m honored to share this week’s Guest Post from: Stephanie of Fit Mom In Training (@fitmomtraining). Stephanie is a mom of an adorable son, an avid photographer, post partum depression survivor and fitness fanatic. Her post comes at a great time for me as I battled depression during my last two maternity leaves, and will be trying to keep the evil beast at bay with nutrition, sleep & exercise this year.
(If you would like to guest blog, then check out my guidelines here.)
I was just 3 weeks away from competing in my first half marathon. I’d be training for months and was feeling good. I was by no means a fast runner but I was going to finish this race. Upright, if possible. I’d been feeling very sluggish, not myself for a couple of weeks and quickly realized (with the help of a handy little stick and a jug of water) that I was pregnant with my first child. Elation!
The next 9 months were a combination of extreme nausea, fatigue and 50 extra pounds that seemed to pack itself onto my body overnight (slushies and chocolate bars may have played a small role). There was also the stress of my full time job as an Underwriter, the busyness of my part-time career as a photographer and personal tragedy when my nephew passed away suddenly on New Year’s eve, 39 days after his premature birth.
When I finally went into labour, 10 days past my due date, my plan was to have a natural delivery with a midwife and doula. But when my baby went into crisis, everything changed and changed quickly. I was rushed into the operating room and had a crash C-section. Thankfully, my son was born safe and healthy…and 10 pounds!
The days and weeks that followed were a blur. My husband went back to work, my parents flew back home and I was alone and completely clueless as to how to be a mom. My son was colicky and often cried anywhere from 6-10 hours a day for nearly 4 months. He rarely slept during the day and was inconsolable most of the time. It didn’t take long before the exhaustion of night feedings, constant crying, wacky hormones and the grief I hadn’t yet dealt with over the loss of my nephew took it’s toll. I lost motivation, I felt numb and was consumed with guilt because I had a baby that I couldn’t connect with, that I didn’t feel I loved or that loved me while my brother and his wife were mourning their son. I couldn’t function and the harder I tried the fix myself, the worse I felt.
It took a month before I was “officially” diagnosed with post-partum depression (PPD). I first had to endure several people and professionals tell me that I was the problem, that there was nothing wrong with my child. I needed to be a better parent and suck it up. If I didn’t have a degree in psychology and prior knowledge of PPD, I would have lost my mind completely.
At 5 weeks post-partum, I started exercising again. Very slowly. I walked on the treadmill at my gym and did a few minutes of jogging here and there and took my son out in the stroller as often as I could. As I got stronger physically, I experienced something I hadn’t felt in months…release. I had spent the weeks leading up to my sons birth and the weeks that followed keeping everything inside. I didn’t like to talk about my feelings because in my mind, I was being selfish and feared what other people would think if they knew what I was thinking. I also had a deep fear that my son would be taken away from me if anyone found out how depressed I was. It was a very lonely place to be. When I started being active again, I found an outlet to release stress, clear my mind and improve my health. All of which, I had neglected for a very long time. This also helped me acknowledge and deal with the many emotions that had been racing through me for the last months and deal with them.
The physical benefits of exercise are well known and often dictated in campaigns promoting healthy living and active lifestyles (all of which I endorse whole-heartedly). But there is more to it than just physical benefits. Being active kept me off medication for my PPD. It WAS my medication. I started to feel good, and just plain feel again. To this day, I rely on exercise to keep my mind clear, my mood up and my stress down. It is my number one go-to when I’m having a bad day and my number one go-to when I’m having a good day.