Hello, friends! It is hard to believe that Beautiful Baby A (BBA) is now old enough to be referred to in months rather than weeks since she officially turned 4 months old on October 6th! It has been amazing to observe her growth and development over the past 16 weeks. Since I provided my last BBA update 6 1/2 weeks ago, she has reached a number of milestones, including: (1) sleeping through the night consistently, but then (2) experiencing the dreaded "4-Month Sleep Regression" (going from waking once at 4 or 5 a.m. to waking 3 times throughout the night); (3) going on her first beach vacation (and laughing at the waves while we dipped her feet in the water); (4) and on her first boat ride; (5) getting her first savings account (with a whopping .01% interest); (6) drooling nonstop; (7) grabbing at everything, especially my hair (she has a grip that suggests she sneaks out at night to get in a few sets of heavy kettlebell farmer's carries); (8) discovering her love for dance (when I start dancing, she kicks and bounces and flails her arms around with a big smile on her face, laughing and trying to imitate my moves); and (9) finding her "voice," which is a high-pitched squeal that will not necessarily win her a spot on The Voice.
As for mama, I have weathered the past two months quite well, since BBA has spent most of it sleeping consistently and napping regularly. I am continuing to train for my Russian Kettlebell Challenge (RKC) certification to become a kettlebell instructor, which means I get up super early 4 days a week (before baby rises) to train in my garage gym, and then I work with my amazing trainer Andre at Fitness on the Run one additional day each week to help perfect my form in the major kettlebell exercises, most particularly the clean, which is currently my nemesis. Perhaps it is the training, or the breastfeeding, or the fact that I often miss meals because I am so busy (like missing dinner last night and breakfast this morning), or maybe it is because I am not spending my days sitting at a "desk job," but I now weigh over 8 pounds less than I did before I became pregnant, and instead of having to invest in bigger clothing post-pregnancy, I actually have to buy a pair of smaller jeans for the fall since my old pairs literally fall down when I wear them.
The biggest struggle I have had over the past 4 months since having BBA is overcoming the tremendous sense of guilt that accompanies new motherhood. As someone of Irish descent who was raised Catholic, I am intimately familiar with guilt - it's basically in my DNA - but being a mom takes it to an entirely new and unprecedented level. I am constantly wondering whether what I am doing will screw up BBA forever. And when I try to comfort myself by thinking that there is probably not much I can do that can really screw her up forever, I remember stories about Adolf Hitler, whose atrocities later in life experts blame on his troubled childhood. If I let BBA "cry it out" at night, will she resent me, no longer trust anyone, not develop a sense of self-confidence, and ultimately eff up the entire world?
You see the rabbit hole new mamas are prone to go down.
(And by the way, right at this very moment, BBA is screaming uncontrollably in her crib, after I put her down to sleep about an hour ago. I have gone in twice to comfort her and am asking myself how long I should let her cries continue before I go in again?)
Every single day I wonder if what I am doing is enough to help BBA develop and achieve the milestones all of the baby books talk about and whether the activities I am doing with her are the right ones. I constantly question whether:
(1) Spending nearly every waking moment with BBA during my 6 1/2 months of maternity leave will negatively impact her ability to grow into a strong, independent woman? or
(2) Letting BBA play alone on her play mat in the kitchen while I am making dinner will negatively impact her social development? or
(3) Giving BBA only a few minutes of tummy time will negatively impact her physical development? or
(4) Forcing BBA to do tummy time every day, even though she despises it and it makes her cry, will negatively impact her emotional development? or
(5) Will allowing BBA to "watch" the Today Show in the morning with me negatively impact her brain development? or
(6) Etc., etc., etc.
And so it goes...
Ultimately, what I am realizing as a new mama is that guilt is toxic. Guilt masks the fact that most of us are doing the best we can with what we have at any given moment. It does not allow us to appreciate our "wins," and instead causes us to focus on the "what-we-could-have-done-better-had-we-knowns." Guilt does not allow you to bask in the beauty of the now or dream about the possibilities of the future, instead causing you to dwell on the past with uncertainty and regret.
Guilt kills the joy in life.
When you are about to have a baby and nervous about motherhood, you often get the advice from other moms just to "trust your motherly instincts" and "do what feels right to you." And I think this is the key to mothering and basically the key to living a life filled with joy and happiness and with limited guilt. One of the biggest lessons I have learned as a new mom is that you should throw away just about every single baby book anyone has given you, because I am convinced that they are written by people who have never spent any real time with a real baby. They make you stressed out and cause you to feel guilty about your inadequacies and failures. Instead, talk to real-life moms who have experienced real-life mom issues, and you'll get real-life tips and tricks that are far more valuable and practical. And then trust your motherly instincts and do what feels right to you.
Whether you are making parenting decisions or decisions about work or finances or relationships or what to eat for dinner, don't compare yourself to the Jones'. Don't spend hours, days or even weeks questioning decisions you've already made and can't change. Don't allow the information you have today to cause you to look back with regret on choices you made when you didn't know what you know now. Instead, do your research, arm yourself with the information you need to make decisions today and in the future, and then go with your gut.
And if you need a reminder of the awesome humility of your own humanity, repeat the following mantra to yourself:
"I am doing the best I can with what I have at this very moment."
And you are doing the best you can with what you have, mama.
Until next time, by happy and healthy,
Hello, friends! I’m Kathleen, the Kettlebell Mama. Welcome to bells & peppers – a blog dedicated to all things related to fitness, nutrition and healthy living. As an athlete, trainer, nutritionist, cooking instructor, attorney, senior executive and new mom, I have learned how to balance my personal health and fitness goals with paying the bills, spending quality time with family and friends and pursuing a demanding career – without losing my mind! My goal is to inspire, empower and provide you with simple strategies to help you become your healthiest self in a balanced, realistic and sustainable way. Feel free to read more about my story here. Thanks for visiting bells & peppers!