Benji&Me - 3-4 Months
Adaptability and the Work/Baby Balance
Where has time gone?! I just realized that the last time this Blog word document was opened was the 29th December.
Benji is no longer a newborn, he's nearly five months old, and with the arrival of a few of my friends' babies recently, suddenly he is the 'big' boy and I'm the one giving advice.
Life is going by in a flash, but at the same time, it seems like Benji has been around forever. I can’t seem to remember a life without him in it now... it must have been very quiet for so many years!
So I’ve started ‘work’ again. I put this is inverted commas because I haven’t returned to my ‘real job’, which is being contracted to a private physiotherapy company and seeing Women’s Health and pilates clients out of the rooms at two of their practices. And it’s also a bit of a tongue-in-cheek comment, because as any small business owner knows, work never really stops, even when you have a newborn baby. When Benji was three weeks old, I still had the unenviable task of doing all the end-of-course finances and book keeping, to make sure that all of the FitRight instructors got paid! I still can’t believe I managed to do that on such limited sleep (if I made mistakes, the instructors were nice enough to not inform me about it…).
So although the FitRight admin never actually stopped, just after Benji turned three months old I started instructing Baby&Me classes again, but now I’m doing them out of my house. It came to me as a light-bulb moment when I was pacing around the living area during one of Benji’s ‘sleep is for wimps’ moments. I have a large open plan living space that was big enough to host a thirtieth birthday party, two baby showers and my family’s Christmas Day celebrations – why couldn’t I run a FitRight class there too? So, with the volunteers and babies down one end on the couches, and six of the lovely girls from my Bump&Me classes and Mothers’ Group on mats and balls down the other end of the living space, once a week for the past two months I have managed to run an exercise class without having to take Benji out of the house! And it helps that the volunteers include my Nan, Grandma, Mum and Mother-in-law, and one of them each week has just gone and put Benji to bed in his cot when he was due for a sleep!
I’m wondering whether this will get harder as Benji gets older and perhaps separation anxiety creeps in a little… two weeks ago Benji was crying inconsolably and I ended up having to run the whole hour exercise class while wearing him in the Ergo carrier. He then went from screaming to asleep in about 3 minutes flat and stayed asleep for the whole class. Ah, how I love baby-wearing – the ultimate last resort, it seems to settle him without fail every time. Not ideal for a pilates instructor to have a 7.5kg attachment on her chest every week though, so last week Benji ended up going out for a latte with his Nana instead of attending the class with his little friends.
I’m now also running two Baby&Me classes in Fremantle on a Wednesday morning, and a few weeks ago I ran the first of two weekend-long FitRight Instructor Training Courses – the next one is early April. So… how to keep a breastfed baby happy and satisfied without his Mum for up to 9 hours at a time? The answer is to turn into a dairy cow for the couple of weeks beforehand and spend every spare moment after a feed pumping, pumping, pumping. I have been so lucky that I can do this, even if it was hard work and time consuming. I know others who haven’t been able to use an electric pump – and spare a thought for previous generations of mothers who would have had to do this by hand. I honestly don’t think it would have been physically possible to collect enough milk by hand-pumping to leave a three and a half month old baby for two 9-hour work days in a row. Also spare a thought for the women who don’t have a job with flexible, variable hours like mine – I have a friend who went back to work in a corporate job and had to sit in the toilet cubicle a few times a day, pumping away. Perhaps a few raised eyebrows when others came into the public restroom to hear an electrical whirring noise coming from the other cubicle? Although it’s such a normal, healthy, necessary thing to do, there is obviously still a lot of embarrassment, and perhaps even stigma, around breastfeeding and expressing in public.
And of course, the admin for FitRight never stops. I’m lucky enough that once or twice a week my husband or mother can care for Benji while I go to the local coffee shop to bust out as much admin as I can manage in a few hours of caffeine-fuelled hectic-ness. Otherwise it just needs to be kept on top of while Benji sleeps. Which was great for those two blissful weeks recently when Benji decided to regularly do a 2-2.5 hour sleep in the afternoon (he sneakily managed to keep timing this with his Nana looking after him though, over the time that Mummy was at the coffee shop anyway. Sigh.). But in this past week, it looks like he’s back to his usual trick of not making it past the 45 minute mark for any of his daytime naps. Which doesn’t leave a huge amount of time to get stuck into things…
I know I’m taking on too much – my Mum and Nan tell me constantly. But I thrive on busy-ness and a low level of stress, that’s just my personality. I love deadlines and the sense of achievement when they’re met. So at the moment, as well as the classes, admin and the instructor training courses, I am also writing scripts and planning to film a series of postnatal education videos, organizing the year’s worth of continuing education for the FitRight Instructors, regularly meeting with local personal trainers and other professionals who work with new mothers, and expanding FitRight classes to new locations.
Getting my head around the fact that all of the above stuff is secondary to my job as a Mum is a challenge. But I am forcing myself to turn off the computer and ignore my phone whenever Benji is awake. Although I want him to grow up seeing that it is possible to be a business woman AND be a Mum, that they’re not mutually exclusive, I also never want him to think that I don’t put him first.
I thank my lucky stars that I live in a city where new mothers have so many options to interact with other new mothers. And the weather is conducive to outdoor activities. If I want to (and if I have time!) my week can go like this – Monday FitRight Baby&Me pilates and baby massage, Tuesday mothers group, Wednesday river walk with a new Mum I met through FitRight Bump&Me, Thursday Mother and Baby pool class with aqua aerobics while the babies are looked after, and Friday Rhyme Time at the library. It’s terrific to feel so well-connected in the community and to have so many other women to talk things through with.
Benji is at a golden age where everything is exciting for him. He squeals with delight at the leaves on trees moving in the wind, having a raspberry blown on his tummy, or seeing his hot air balloon mobile move around and around. He has recently changed from a fairly enclosed capsule on the pram, to a stroller-type pram where he can face away and look out at the world – and it fascinates him. He is awake for about 2 hours now between sleeps, which is bloody exhausting at times to provide that amount of entertainment, but also means that it’s easier to get out and go places between his snoozes.
With all this rapid growth and change comes a real necessity for adaptation and understanding from parents. A few weeks ago, in the space of 5 days Benji got too big for his capsule and needed to change to a car seat and stroller pram, he started rolling and suddenly needed a lot more supervision on the bed, couch, change table etc, and he started eating solid foods. Imagine going through all those new experiences and all of that cognitive development and change in the space of five days? No wonder babies go through grizzly stages, and phases of less sleep – when they go through these ‘leaps’ there is so much to process in their little heads!
And the necessity to be adaptable is constant – just when we get our heads around a new skill or buy something new for Benji, his needs change again. I’ve just gotten used to getting Benji to and from the baby hydro classes, and then I realized that now is the time to start booking him in for real swimming lessons. I feel like I only just did a big overhaul of his wardrobe and updated it all to 00 clothes, and now he’s already outgrowing some of them and I will have to do it all over again with size 0. A friend of mine (the same cubicle-pumping friend actually) had me in tears laughing about how she realized that at close to a year old, she was still using the 0-3 month teats for her daughter’s bottles, and wondering why she had to suck so hard and get so frustrated to finish her milk! I can absolutely see how that can happen – who is there to remind you that bottle teats, like everything else it seems, also need to adapt and grow with your baby?
The next step, no doubt, will be teething. I needed to go and buy some ‘bandana’ bibs the other day because of all the drooling (which is feeding my love of accessorizing in a really satisfying way!), so I am guessing that joyous time is not far off. And then there will be crawling just around the corner, and all of the baby-proofing that needs to occur when that happens.
Benji certainly keep us on our toes – and I’m embracing it and loving seeing what life will throw at us next!
Return to Exercise
I am lucky that my return to work involves return to exercise too.
Although instructing an hour of FitRight definitely doesn't equal an hour of exercise in the same it would if I was a participant. I wish it did, but the reality is that my role is to give verbal and tactile feedback for what others are doing, and to have my eye on their technique the whole time. So my arms and legs get a bloody good workout, but when I instruct the core exercises, I very rarely do them myself - I'm too busy making sure that everyone else is doing them safely.
So I make sure that I find 5-10 minutes on most days to incorporate these into my daily life. I told a friend a few weeks ago that I was trying to do pilates exercises while Benji slept once a day. She looked incredulous and said 'No no no! His sleep time is your down time - don't waste it on pilates. Make a cup of tea and watch Netflix. Do your pilates exercises when he is on his play mat.' And so I took her advice, and it's great. Benji thinks it's hilarious when I do push ups over him and come down for a kiss each time. He squeals with delight when I rest him against my knees and do chest lifts. I do my flute exercises on my side propped up on my elbow and I chat to him about what he's doing - it takes my mind off the burn! And squats can be done when pushing a pram away from you and back in, or while holding a baby in a carrier.
There are a million different ways that exercise can be incorporated into your daily life, and some of my favourite Instagram Mums show this brilliantly. My only advice would be not to use your baby's weight for exercises, especially abdominal exercises, until you've got the all clear from your physiotherapist that your pelvic floor can handle that extra pressure.
Not only do I think that this multi-tasking is a smart use of time, and a lovely way to bond with your baby, I also think that it must be setting a good example to Benji that keeping active is important. I hope I'm ingraining in him a love of fitness and movement!