More Than Mommy Exhaustion: How I recovered my energy and health

by Carrie Saum

Mommy exhaustion.

I know you’ve felt it. Too many nights waking up with your tiny baby, fussy toddler, or insomniac older children. Feeding on demand, pumping around the clock, midnight and 2am boob snacks that stretch to 4am. School projects, sleep regressions, a few minutes of Me Time between 11:31-11:57 pm after all the dishes are done, lunches are made, and housework is sort of caught up.

You pour another cup of coffee at noon, after reheating your first cup approximately six times in the microwave. You try an energy drink mix that your friend is selling. And still. You are so worn out, you can barely string five words together to create a coherent thought.

You resolve to take walks, get outside, or try that pilates DVD you’ve had for ages. You feel good about your choice, but you are wiped out for the rest of the afternoon, trying to recover your shaking muscles and push through the exhaustion until you can climb into bed.

You resolve to eat better, cut out the junk and convenience foods, and maybe that will help you feel more energetic, too. After a few weeks, you see a marginal improvement, but it’s not enough of a pay-off for the sacrifice you are making.

And let’s not even talk about the weight gain.

You wonder if maybe you’re missing something but chalk it up to this season in life where sleep is scarce, demands are abundant, and time for self-care is at a high premium. Of course you’re depleted. Who wouldn’t be?

A few months ago, I brought up my debilitating exhaustion to my doctor. Being a mom herself, she’s familiar with all that goes along with it. She encouraged me to see if there might be an underlying problem in addition to this season of life. She told me about a blood panel called The Boston Heart. The Boston Heart tests multiple vitamins, nutrients, and hormones using a fast blood test. Many insurance plans cover it 100%, even if you have high deductibles. I checked into my insurance coverage, and sure enough, it was covered. No money out of my pocket to get some information about unidentified issues I might have which would paint a bigger picture of my health, instead of just chalking it up to parenthood.

When my results came back, I was shocked. Even though my thyroid was in surprisingly good shape, (which I thought was the culprit), my niacin levels were incredibly low. And you know what happens when your body doesn’t have enough niacin? Your muscles shake when you exert them. Daily tasks wear you out. Do you know what makes it worse? Not getting enough sleep, too much stress, and eating processed foods.

Magnesium, Omega 3, Vitamin D3, and my progesterone were also very low, all of which are easily depleted during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Hello, depression! So, no matter how much sleep, good food, or exercise I was getting, I still felt like crap because I was drawing from a dry well.

I began supplementing with food-grade vitamins immediately, on the recommendation from my doctor. My trusty pre-natal vitamins weren’t enough for my specific needs, and I sealed them up tight and put them in my refrigerator for future use. I strategized to get veggies in every meal, and keep seasonal fruit on hand for when the sugar cravings were too much. I added as many healthy, unadulterated fats as I could. I whipped up a salad dressing using hemp seed oil, which is full of Omega 3, and a little apple cider vinegar. Buttered coffee was always on hand. We stocked our refrigerator with grass-fed meats and veggies to lightly sauté or roast as the main course for all three meals.

OvereasyFriedEggSalad

My go-to meal for quick, easy nutrition: Two sunnyside up fried eggs over greens with hemp seed oil, ACV, and dried herbs. Perfection.

Oh, and I put a total moratorium on strenuous exercise, eating out, and plans with friends before noon and after 5pm on the days I wasn’t working. I also went to bed at 9:30. It meant less Me Time. It meant I often went to bed with dirty dishes in the sink, my floors unswept, and wore the same pair of jeans six times before washing. But it was only for a few weeks and it was vital for my recovery.

I found that watering and weeding my garden while my toddler played close by was enough exertion for me. I also found that I relaxed on a deeper level than I have in years because I gave myself permission to stop trying to do it all. I just did some, accepted what I was capable of in that time frame, and waited until I felt replenished to rejoin the world.

GardenPlay

We happily kept it low key in the community garden.

After the three week moratorium was over, (and believe me, it was hard saying no to things), I started slow. I worked hard to begin refilling my very limited well. Being gentle with my body and my psyche was my number one priority. This is how I came back to the world:

  • A walk in the park.
  • Running up and down the stairs to the basement doing laundry.
  • Vigorous weeding and replanting in my garden.
  • A pilates DVD, increasing by 5 minutes at time.
  • Doing something fun before doing work. On purpose.
  • Saying yes only if it felt 100% doable and okay.

These little things added up quickly. But I want to be clear: I stopped when I was tired. Not exhausted. Not beyond my limit. Not when I was shaking and close to dry heaving. Maybe that works for some people, but it doesn’t work in recovery mode.

Last week, I took a very long walk, pushing my two year old in a stroller the whole way up and down hills that would have had me shaking with exertion after 10 minutes a few months ago. I walked at a pace I felt comfortable with. I stopped and pushed my son on a swing and then stopped again a little later to get an iced decaf coffee at one of my favorite neighborhood places. As I pushed my son up the final, excruciatingly steep hill, I huffed and puffed but I did NOT slow down. My brain wanted to quit but my body was up for the challenge. I spent the rest of the afternoon working, cooking, and playing with my son. I’m not joking when I say that has never happened before on the days I worked out.

And later that week when we braved a trip to the beach, I chased my toddler all over the beach, splashed with him in the water, and played soccer on the hard packed sand without getting winded.

MommyandEHugPoint

Playing hard at the beach with my little boy, feeling super energetic, happy, and proudly rockin’ my bikini.

These bodies of ours are amazing. We are resilient. We are tough. But being exhausted all the time is not normal. Even for you, mama. Be gentle with that body. Be kind to your skin and your bones and your blood and your squishy places and your soul. And find what works for you to feel like yourself again.

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If you like this article, check out Peace In The Passing: Why My Early Miscarriage Was A Relief and her series on #TinyTriumphs over on Our Stable Table.


IMG_2895Carrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields.
With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and the voice behind OurStableTable.com. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.

 

 

 

 

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Fairhaven Health’s Supplemental Giveaway

What makes a business more than just a company trying to sell you something?  The people behind the brand.  Suzanne, Director of Product Development for Fairhaven Health, is a mother of two and she is passionate about raising healthy families.  She has taken the time to answer a few interview questions about her life in the Pacific Northwest, her role at Fairhaven Health, and her views on nutrition and breastfeeding.  Take a moment to get to know her and this great TLB sponsor.  Then, enter the giveaway below for your chance to win some supplements designed to help breastfeeding moms maintain a balanced nutritional diet.  

Munson Family Lake Padden

TLB:  Hello Suzanne!  To start off this interview, what kinds of activities do you particularly enjoy doing this time of year?

Suzanne:  Spring is a great time of year in the Pacific Northwest.  After many months of short days, the extended daylight is always so welcome and I love getting outside in the evenings.  One of our favorite things to do this time of year is to meet up with friends for a walk or bike ride around the lake near our house, and have a picnic afterwards.  (The above photo was taken at that lake.)

TLB:  Could you tell us a bit about what you do with Fairhaven Health?

Suzanne:  I came to Fairhaven Health a number of years ago, after earning a Master’s degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University and working in the natural products industry for more than a decade. As a nutritionist and a mom of two kids, I can’t help but be passionate about raising healthy families. As Director of Product Development at Fairhaven Health, I get to spend my work day talking to women about how they can improve their reproductive health naturally, and I get to work with a team of medical professionals to dream up new products that help couples optimize their fertility and that keep women healthy during pregnancy and nursing.  What an awesome job!

TLB:  As a nutritionist, what would you like to share with our Leakies about how their food intake impacts their health?

Suzanne:   As a whole foods nutritionist, I definitely believe in the health benefits of eating “real” food! By real food, I mean anything that is minimally processed . . .fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and fresh meats, fish and poultry. And, the more you can avoid highly processed junk foods, the more room you will have in your diet for the good stuff.

Of course, eating well is important during all stages of life, but is especially vital during pregnancy and while you are breastfeeding.  It goes without saying that taking care of a newborn is demanding and tiresome (and wonderful!). And, producing breast milk requires extra calories and nutrients. So, eating real food, and plenty of it, is important to ensure that you have the energy and stamina you need to meet the demands of new motherhood.

TLB: Do you have any tips to help nursing moms get the nourishment they need?

Suzanne: The reality is that most us don’t really eat all that well, even under the best of circumstances. So, with the time constraints that accompany new motherhood, cooking, meal planning, even eating, might be some of the first activities to go.  Here are some tips that might be helpful:

  • Have fresh fruit handy
  • Buy vegetables in a ready-to-eat package to cut down on chopping time
  • Snack often on nutrient dense foods, like nuts (and nut butters) and seeds
  • Cook in big batches and freeze extra portions
  • Ask family and friends to bring meals

TLB: Fairhaven Health is giving away Nursing Postnatal. Why do you think it is important for nursing mothers to take a multivitamin?

Suzanne: While women don’t bat an eye about being told to take a prenatal vitamin before and during pregnancy, some women are surprised to hear that taking a multivitamin while breastfeeding could be helpful. As we touched on above, eating enough of the right kinds of foods is a challenge for most of us under normal circumstances, and is certainly no easier when you are breastfeeding. So, taking a daily multivitamin simply allows a mom to bump up her nutrient intake. This is important for her health, and it helps ensure that her breast milk is nutrient dense.

Breast milk is an amazing food, and perfect for your baby. It contains approximately 4 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and 7 grams of carbohydrates per milliliter, and these proportions do not change even when the mother’s diet changes.  But, it is also true that a mother’s diet (and her overall nutritional status) can influence the vitamin, mineral, and the essential fatty acid (EPA and DHA) composition of her breast milk, all of which impacts the overall nutritional quality of the breast milk, and ultimately the overall health of the baby. Because of this, it is my humble opinion, that we need to encourage nursing moms to both eat as many real foods as possible and take a multivitamin.

TLB:  Did you personally take multivitamins after the birth of your children?

Suzanne:  Yes, I continued to take a multivitamin while breastfeeding with both my kids, and try to remember to still take one every day.  I actually have a bottle of Nursing Postnatal on my desk at work.  Even though I am definitely a “food first” person, my life is busy and hectic and I don’t always eat the way I know I should.  So, taking a multivitamin just helps to ensure I am getting enough nutrients.

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Fairhaven Health is giving 5 lucky Leakies one bottle each of Nursing Postnatal and Fenugreek.

Nursing Postnatal is a vitamin and mineral supplement designed specifically for breastfeeding moms, with extra amounts of Vitamin D and the B vitamins.

Nursing Postnatal

Fenugreek is often used to help support breast milk production. Fairhaven Health’s Fenugreek contains a unique blend of organic Fenugreek Seed Powder, along with a concentrated Fenugreek Seed Powder extract (8:1), delivering a dose equivalent to 2000 mg of standard fenugreek seed powder in just 2 vegetarian capsules each day.

Fenugreek

Currently Leakies can find these and other pregnancy and nursing products at www.FairhavenHealth.com.

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Good luck to everyone!  Please use the widget below to be entered.  The giveaway is open from April 1, 2013 through April 8, 2013.  A big thanks to Fairhaven Health for their ongoing support of TLB and all breastfeeding women; please be sure to visit BellytoBreast on Facebook or follow them on Twitter and/or Pinterest and thank them for their support of TLB and this giveaway opportunity.

This giveaway is restricted to U.S. (including Puerto Rico and APO) and Canadian residents only.

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