Fitness after Quads

I was in the BEST shape of my life directly before we got pregnant.

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trip to the happiest place on earth while we were struggling with infertility

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the week before we got pregnant

*sigh*

I mean, the BEST shape.  As I’ve noted before, I’ve struggled with body image, weight, and self esteem issues. Before we got pregnant, I had gotten to the point where I was “ok” wearing a two-piece bathing suit. I didn’t feel I needed to constantly keep on a long pants and a jacket. I had reached a point where, I didn’t LOVE my body, but I accepted it. I accepted how it was and I could be comfortable.

It would only make sense that it was then and only then that I got pregnant with not 1 but 4 babies.  My very first concern, besides the fact that I feared I couldn’t carry 4 babies long enough, was that I had NO clue how to eat for 4 babies. Then reality set and my doctors informed me I also wasn’t going to be allowed to exercise anymore- it simply burned too many calories and could put stress on my body.

But- I gained the weight I needed. I ate massive amounts of food and I grew those babies.  I grew 14 lbs of baby in 31 weeks.  They were all at or above average size for their gestational age.

And I easily lost 50 pounds the first week. Ok- so that was baby, fluids, and all that stuff that goes into making a baby…

Then nothing.

Granted- I was eating like a beast. Because I was breastfeeding and pumping for 4, I was so incredibly hungry. So hungry- all the time. Just pumping alone would exhaust me and make me nauseous. I continued to eat a sizable amount of food and didn’t gain weight- but also didn’t lose weight.

No worries. Those first few months were survival.  Minimal to no sleep. Constant feeding. Hyper vigilance to ensure the babies were ok and doing well.  After they were about 4 or 5 months old, I went to the gym a couple times. It wasn’t the same as when I worked out pre-pregnancy. I couldn’t get back in the groove. It didn’t help that I had 4 babies at home that I was concerned about. Summer approached. I felt out of shape. I was exhausted. I needed to get back to a workout routine.

Finally, in August, when the babies were well big enough to sit upright in a stroller (had good head control & were crawling) I ventured out to a local stroller work out group.

I was terrified. First- the stroller alone weighed 85 pounds. Second- I was out of shape. Third- I had 4 babies.  I was so afraid of not being accepted by this moms…or being judged.  I went with very low expectations. And I was embarrassed. As much as I wanted to be all “my body is wonderful because I gave birth to 4 babies at once!” I was more “I gave birth to 4 babies and I am exhausted and I don’t like how it left my body and I feel like a slob.”  It was hard work just getting there. Making sure I pumped before I left, getting a diaper bag with enough for 4 babies (snacks, sippys, diapers, clothes), loading the 85 pound stroller. But I told myself I’d try it at least once.

And I loved it.  The ladies were so incredibly welcoming and interested in my babies and in me. They encouraged me- and continue to be a big support in my life. We try to make workout at least 3 times a week- though sometimes doctor appointments or illnesses get in our way.

Since starting, I have ran at least 5 5ks- including our infamous 5k that goes over the biggest bridge in Savannah (4 of those was pushing babies). I’ve improved on my time and learned how to manage pushing over 180 pounds of stroller and baby.

Ive been able to lose almost all the baby weight- and i’ve gained so much more in strength, stamina, and fitness.  Every time I go to my workout group, I’m amazed at what I can push my body to do with the help of all these other amazing moms.

Fitness after quads is difficult. Most all higher order multiple pregnancies include some type of bedrest or modified bedrest- and lots of lounging. Because I couldn’t work out while pregnant, both because it would burn calories I needed for the babies and because it would put too much stress on my ever growing uterus and pressure on my cervix, most of my muscles had lots of atrophy. My multiple pregnancy made me exhausted much of the time…and having the babies didn’t relieve that. Instead, I went full mode into trying to care for 4 infants.  Caring for 1 infant often leads people to exhaustion- and I had 4 to worry about.  Then factors in the inability to do things that you might normally do with 1. I couldn’t easily get out and about- everything takes planning and logistics. Half the battle is just getting the energy to want to go out alone with 4 babies. There are just moments where, logistically, having 4 babies at once is a bummer.  But fitness has been important to me. For sanity, to feel comfortable in my body, and to be my healthiest self for the babies.

My motto: Just get out there and do it.  So I have 4 toddlers who are incredibly active and busy- so what. Just get out there and do it. Want to go to walmart- do it. Want to take them to an enclosed play center- do it. Want to get fit again- DO IT!  There are things that I definitely have to limit myself on having four toddlers (like pools, playgrounds that are crowded,  restaurants)- I’m not going to let it hold me back from doing something that I love.  I just incorporate them as needed.  One having a bad day and screaming in the stroller? Put on Tula or use the baby as weights instead of actual weights. As cheesy as Nike sounds- Just Do It!

Fitness after quads is definitely a challenge…and definitely a blessing. For me, it’s been life changing. I’m a much better mom, more patient, calmer, and a better wife when I’ve been able to work out.  And being fit makes me feel better about myself, which makes life go a lot smoother.  Fitness after quads was Important to me- and because it was important, I’ve made it a priority. Sometimes that means I have to run pushing over 180 pounds of stroller & baby, or utilizing tabatas and short workouts while the babies are playing, or going for a run as the sunsets when my husband puts the babies down. Sometimes it means incorporating the babies- running around the house, up and down stairs, toting 2 babies at a time, teaching babies exercises (they’ve got squat and downward dog down pat!) I’m determined to do what it takes because I want to be active—and because I don’t want to let having quads hold me back anymore than it already does. Fitness after quads is definitely a challenge…and definitely a blessing. For me, it’s been life changing. I look forward to continuing my fitness goals, meeting new obstacles, and having the babies even more engaged!

 

 

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My fitness after Quads transformation and some of the ladies that have made it possible

Every Lesson Learned Is Essential

I started writing this blog entry months ago.  I wrote most of it, then didn’t have the guts to post.  Fear arose in me- do I really want to put that out there? Do I want to share that?
Fear is funny like that.  Most people who KNOW me, know this about me; and I vowed years ago to use my story- use my experience.  If I can reach one person, if one person decides to get help, it’s totally worth sharing the parts of my past I’m not too proud of….
All that said- here goes:

February 28th will forever be an important day in my books…

February 28, 2006- 10 years ago- I voluntarily checked myself into a treatment center for an eating disorder.

I remember the car ride vaguely.  I remember choking back tears, trying to pretend I was strong- that I knew I was doing the right thing. In honesty, I was terrified.  Mental illness was something I knew about, had studied about, was passionate about helping others- but did not want to admit within myself.  I didn’t want to admit that I had been defeated- that I had lost control. That I was slowly slipping away.

Even today, it’s sometimes hard to admit that I was as sick as I was. There is such shame that coincides with mental illness. Shame that further perpetuates the illness, making it stronger.

Yet today, I know, that was the best decision I ever made in regards to my health. I know that everything I have today is a direct result of taking care of myself, of standing up to myself and admitting that I needed help- that I couldn’t do it alone.

The last week of February was National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. It always runs parallel to when I went to treatment. I make sure to try and promote awareness of eating disorders, and the many mental illnesses that often join along.

It seemed the month of March, we got about every respiratory virus, stomach virus, and ear infection that was running around.  It was a tough month.  There was little sleep on our part. Little exercise.  Mainly, just trying to get through the days. Last week, I was finally feeling up to running again. I’ve been wanting to complete a 5k, without pushing the babies, so I wanted to get in some prep runs.  For the first time since having the babies, (or since April 2014, I was able to run 3 miles under 30 minutes- about a 9.46 mile. Pre-baby, I would have scoffed at that and been upset that it wasn’t closer to 8 minute miles… That day, however, I celebrated. I celebrated because my body continues to amaze me- through all I’ve put it through, all it’s been through, it continues to show me just how strong I can be.

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Photo Credit: Anna Mesen

I believe that God does for me what I cannot do for myself. After years of struggling with infertility, He blessed me with quadruplets.  Recovery of an eating disorder is on-going, or at least it is for me. I still have my moments- moments I have self-defeating thoughts, frustrations, fears, insecurities..times when I get overwhelmed.  I remember, before getting pregnant, the thought crossed my mind- I’m going to have to gain weight, and my body will be changed forever.  The irony I felt when I was told I was expecting quadruplets is unreal.  Any ideas of exercising and eating healthy were thrown from my book. I was consuming upwards of 4000 calories a day, high protein shakes made with massive amounts of ice cream, french fries for days…Pretty much all food that I rarely ever ate- was my daily norm.

And I saw and got to experience my body doing something pretty, freaking incredible. Carry 4 babies to 31 weeks.  That was over 14 pounds of baby, not counting the weight of fluids, 4 placentas, enough blood for 5 people, and 5 feet 9 inches of baby. I don’t always love my body. Let’s be honest- as if I weren’t already insecure about my body, I’ve now added to the mix that I carried all that amount of baby for 31 weeks- which meant intense stretching…With things that will never return to how it was. Some days, I’m sad about that- then I look at those miracles- and it was all worth it. I’d go through much more for those beautiful babies of mine. I can appreciate my body- and all it’s been through. All it’s accomplished. All I know it will accomplish.

It’s hard to believe: 10 years ago, I was getting oriented into a mental health facility. I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum, from being given a diagnosis to diagnosing others.  I’m so grateful for all that I’ve been through that’s gotten me where I am today, including that very difficult time. And I’m grateful for my body- for not giving up on me and for continuing to amaze me with all it can do.

A couple weeks back, a local mom from the stroller workout group I go to, asked for moms to “model” for her. She was working on a portfolio of “strong moms”.  My first thought- I’m not “strong”.  All these fears, insecurities, doubts went running through my head.  Many are in such better shape, prettier, smarter, more confident- all those old scripts that used to play and hold me back.  So I took the challenge.  I realized, I have to start having better scripts, as I know I have 4 little ones watching everything I do. I want them to know they are strong. I want them to know their momma is strong. I want them to be proud of themselves- and of me. I want their scripts to be positive and strong.

Though my body isn’t where I would like it be, it’s where it is. And it’s strong. It has been through hard times and overcome them. It’s carried 4 babies for 31 weeks. It fed 4 babies, and continued to supply most of their milk for 15 months. It rocks them to sleep, comforts them, carries them up and down stairs, picks them up, totes them, cares for them, pushes them in their 85b stroller. This body works out alongside women in much better physical shape, survives off minimal sleep and less than healthy meals at time.  And it keeps going. This body is strong; every pound, every inch. I am strong.

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Photo Credit: Anna Mesen

 

As ashamed as I sometimes am about my past, I’m also grateful for all the lessons I’ve learned along the way.  I’ve learned so much about myself, how strong I truly am, and how blessed I’ve been.  Spreading awareness about Eating Disorders is near and dear to me because of what I’ve been through, because of friends I’ve known who’ve struggled, and now, more importantly, because I have 4 beautiful children.  While there appears to be both environmental and biological factors that play a role in eating disorders (as with many mental disorders), I hope to do all I can to show my babies how to appreciate their bodies- How to live a healthy life and find balance. And always remind them- they are strong.

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Photo Credit: Anna Mesen

 

 

If you are struggling, or know or suspect someone who is struggling, please- ask for help and do not be afraid to talk about it. You are strong. Recovery is possible.

 

 

(And there’s the blog that’s taken over a month to write and publish. I promise myself, I will get better at blogging in the future.)

15 Months

I had a lot of dreams and aspirations of how I imagined pregnancy, childbirth, and the first year of life to go…much of which was thrown to the side once I found I was pregnant with quadruplets.  Pretty much everything you imagine or dream of is completely blown. I was thrown into a very high risk pregnancy and quickly learned that many things, including a drug-free birth experience, immediate bonding, short hospital stay, and exclusive breastfeeding were not things I would get to have.

I was incredibly disappointed after speaking with many moms of quadruplets to find that breastfeeding would be a next to impossible task.  There were very few that breastfed/pumped, even fewer who continued to past their NICU stay.  I remember the day my mom bought me a pump- thinking, well maybe I can get a month’s use of that.  I also resigned myself to the thought that once the babies were out the NICU, I’d never be able to pump or nurse…

Then my babies came at 31 weeks.  I felt helpless.  Here were my 3 pound babies, hooked to cords…and within 3 hours of giving birth, in came the Lactation Specialist.

Yes. That I could do. I could do all I could to provide milk for them. Until about 4 months, I was able to provide all breastmilk (with formula only to add calories), then until about 6 months I provided at least 75%, after that, I’ve been able to give 50% breastmilk daily.

There were many days I wanted to stop. Many times I got frustrated. Many tears shed. Many sleepless nights. Many times I was annoyed and got incredibly disappointed in myself. And I continue to push through as I knew I wanted to give the babies as much help as I could.

And today marks 15 months and the beginning of my weaning process.

There are many people I have to thank for this:

My husband: he has put up with my endless hours I’ve had to spend hooked to a pump. Mostly, he’s always been supportive, as he’s known not only was I saving us money, but I was helping the babies. He had to step up at times and take care of poop diapers, crying babies, biting babies, babies that just want to cause a ruckus, so that I could have time to pump. Were not for him, I would not have been able to pump, and especially not for 15 months!

My mom & mother-in-law: for all the times they’ve been over to help and stepped up to take care of the babies while I pumped.

All the nurses & hospital staff:  every day, with every amount of milk I would provide, the nurses would make me feel like I was a rockstar. They would praise me and tell me what good I was doing for the babies.

The Lactation Dept: They never let me believe that I COULDN’T breastfeed. When the babies were just 33weeks gestation, they let them begin trying to nurse. They told me daily that I would be able to nurse, that I could provide a majority of their feeds, and that every little ounce helped. They visited me daily while the babies were in the hospital, checking in, giving me praise, encouraging me, answering questions, supplying endless bottles…They were AMAZING!

Paige: the amazing quad mom who convinced me that I COULD provide breastmilk & gave me much encouragement and advice.

All the other moms of higher order multiples who’ve been on the breastfeeding journey: Only you truly know the struggle of breastfeeding/pumping for many while also being a very active mom to multiples…You ladies gave me much hope.

All the other people who’ve encouraged me. I’m a member of Facebook group for breastfeeding mamas. Many of whom are able to exclusively nurse. They never frowned on the fact that I have to use bottles or formula. They encouraged me, gave me supportive feedback, and told me to be proud of what I was doing.

Ardo: for gifting me a pump after learning I was pumping for quadruplets.

Those mommas that donated some of their excess supply: this helped us make it through when I was sick and my supply tanked.

 

The babies are now 15 months old. We have been slowly adding cow’s milk to their diet and they are tolerating it well.  I still have some breastmilk frozen and am slowly weaning. I imagine in the next few weeks, they will be completely off breastmilk…it makes me a little sad.  As much as I’ve hated having to pump, I’ve loved the positive benefits it’s had.  I look at these 4 very healthy, strong babies, and I know that some part of that is because of what I’ve provided… For that, I am incredibly proud of myself.

To all you mamas out there who want to breastfeed- my support goes to you. My best advice- do not compare your breastfeeding journey to others. I know it’s a hard road. There will be days you cry. Days you might want to give up. Days you wonder just how long you can continue…That choice is yours- Be proud of whatever you provide, for however long you provide! You are a rockstar and your baby (babies) thank you!

Homecoming Day

I remember this day last year. We’d spent the previous night in the hospital- they call it “Rooming in”. We had to be certain we knew how to work Griffin’s apnea monitor. A few days prior, we’d heard 2 or 3 of you might come home- and we said you’d all come home together.

I couldn’t leave just one of you behind. I couldn’t stand the thought of having to drive back and forth- to have to pick who I’d spend time. Thankfully, the doctors and nurses listened to our pleas (maybe my tears)- and agreed to let you all come home together- granted everyone had a weight gain the night prior. I remember weighing you that night. I was terrified one might have a drop!  We cautiously put you on the scale and I prayed hard. I wanted us all to be in our home for New Year’s Eve…

And our wish was coming true. The last night in the hospital, we stayed up almost all night, making sure to get you all on the same feeding schedule.

Truth be told- we are both incredibly excited to get you home.

and a little scared.

4 babies at one time is overwhelming at best.

When the doctors came in that morning, I knew it was real- we’d finally be going home.  As we loaded you, I didn’t know whether to smile or cry- I was a bundle of nerves! I couldn’t wait to get you home- but I was also sad to be leaving behind the family we’d grown through nurses, doctors, and others at the Ronald McDonald House.

But what a wonderful day it was. The best way to end 2014- together.

I didn’t make it to midnight, neither did any of you, and chances are, I won’t tonight either…

This will always be our day- our celebration.

Babies, we survived a full year of being home (and 13 months of life).  I look forward to all the years to come!…–and hopefully a little more sleep in 2016.

 

 

 

One Year

Exactly a year ago, my life was changed drastically. I remember most of the day well…The waking to my water breaking. The rushing to the hospital. The hope we wouldn’t deliver. The news that I would. And seeing each of my precious miracles as the doctor raised them above that blue cloth.

Babies, you changed my life.

 

The past few days have been incredibly long and tiring- so an official post about the past year will be coming soon…

Until then- Know that you are the most wonderful thing in our lives and that I love you more than you could ever know.

 

Happy 1 year birthday!

Beauty from ashes

November 5…always a very significant day.

10 years ago, I had a scare. My life had been rapidly spiraling out of control.  I was anxious and depressed- and I didn’t know how sick I’d become…
I’d gone to a youth retreat to be a youth leader- specifically with 12-13year old girls. It was lots of fun- being able to fellowship with others from my college ministry as well as pour into the lives of younger girls. What I remember is that I was genuine in wanting to be able serve. I’ve always loved being able to give, to serve, to love on others.
But what I was hiding, was how lost I felt. How empty I was. And how sick I was.
I knew I was losing weight. I knew that what I was doing was unhealthy. I knew I probably needed to stop. But I couldn’t. It wasn’t about the weight. It wasn’t about the food. It was about so many, much deeper emotions. I felt completely out of control of everything, yet was desperately trying to hold some type of control. And my body had finally had enough.
After a long day, during some team building activities, I felt like my back was caving in on my lungs. I had such severe pain and felt I couldn’t breathe. An ambulance was called and I was rushed to the ER.
It was such a dark time. I couldn’t understand what was going on. As doctors asked endless questions and I begged to just be allowed to leave. I was taking courses in Psychology and knew what they were hinting- then I received the news that I wouldn’t be allowed to leave. That I had to stay. I spent the night in ICU…By far, the scariest night of my life.  I was hours from home, clearly malnourished, and wondering what my life had come to.  There were times throughout the night that the heart monitors would beep incessantly and nurses would run in to ensure all was ok. There was a moment where the pain was so intense, I prayed to just make it all go away.
There were many prayers that night…and in the days, weeks, months that followed- I had more conversations with God…I vowed to do all I could- if God would just use me. Use what I was going through in some positive way.

I was diagnosed with an eating disorder and depression. Later, a therapist added in anxiety. Over the next several months, I tried to “get better” on my own- and after failing miserably, I mustered what courage or dignity I had left and checked myself into treatment. I spent the better part of the next 3 years in therapy. Therapy was the best decision I ever made for myself. I needed it….and through those years, I learned so much about myself. Learned how to love myself again. How to forgive myself. How to move forward in life.

In 2009, I met Paul. We dated. We married. And we looked to start a family. And after 3 years, we were finally pregnant.

With quadruplets.

November 5, I had an appointment and was 27weeks 6 days pregnant. I thought everything would go smoothly. We’d taken cookies to my Fertility Doctor. He celebrated how far I was in the pregnancy. I had a big, fat donut waiting in the car as we went into my appointment.  My cervix had shortened a bit and the nurse expressed some concern- telling me they needed to monitor contractions and possibly admit me to the hospital. My anxiety shot through the roof. All I could imagine was that I was going to deliver the babies or that something tragic was going to happen. I vaguely remember being hooked to monitors to check my contractions, which I wasn’t feeling, and nurses checking to ensure that I was ok. I was a mess of tears.

Then it hit me. November 5th. 9 years later. All the emotions of where I had been and where I currently was— so overwhelming.

I did end up getting admitted for contractions- and doctors were able slow my contractions and send me home after a couple days in the hospital. Those babies held on another 3 weeks before deciding it was time to make their debut…

But November 5 will always be a very significant day for me. A day marked with the darkness that was mental health– and a day I celebrate that my precious miracles continued to grow. Twice shown of God’s grace and peace…twice reminded that He is in control of my life and wants to use my story.

For some time, I felt much shame about the difficult years of my life- especially in regards to the mental illness that took control of my life. Society has a terrible stigma of mental illness and those that struggle with other debilitating disorders. Even when I went to college and began pursuing my degree in Psychology and later Counseling, I was always scared of being “found out”, of people having a negative perception of me based on what I’ve been through. I can recall numerous times of feeling like I had to go above and beyond to prove that I’m not “crazy”, that I can handle working in the counseling field, that I’m “competent” in my work- or in life in general.  I felt I had to prove myself…And I have often withheld that I, too, know what it’s like to be clinically “crazy.”

Mental illness is not always what movies portray– or what we read in the news. It has many different faces. I am a face of mental illness.  10 years since I was first admitted because of an eating disorder and depression, I am far from where I  once was- but you will never hear me say I “recovered.”

I’m in RECOVERY. It’s a process.  Sometimes, I still struggle with the underlying issues that fueled my eating disorder. Change, control, depression, insecurity, anxiety, fears, weight, body image, self-esteem. Sometimes I can feel those negative thoughts creeping back up and I have to nip it before it runs rampant.  That is how mental illness is- there isn’t a cure-all. It doesn’t just magically go away with a pill and a couple therapy sessions. Once it affects your life, you have to learn how to live life in a new way- how to cope.

For some time, I had much shame about the struggles I’ve faced. I admit, even now, there are times I am ashamed… Mental Illness carries such a terrible stigma- especially in current times… The truth is, I have faced mental illness. It consumed my life for more than I care to admit… And I’m a better person because of it.  I am who I am today because of ALL that I’ve experienced in my life.
And so I feel it important to share my story. To let people know that recovery is possible… And that with recovery, comes many promises and gifts.  I have 4 very special ones that remind me daily of the struggles and the beauty that has risen from the ashes.  I am so grateful for my life and what it has become over the past 10 years.

If you are struggling, please- ask for help.  It could lead to amazing miracles in your life.

Let’s not rush things

I admit.

Since the babies have been home from the hospital, they’ve slept in our room.

I was not going to be that co-sleeping, bed-sharing, room-sharing mom.

Then I had premature babies…and I had to spend the first 32 nights of their life sleeping away from them. As soon as we all got home, in our room they went.

In my defense, their bedroom is upstairs, ours downstairs, and between feeding and pumping those first few months, it was simply much more convenient to all sleep together, in one room….ok- and sometimes, several of us in one bed.

I’ve continued to say, “when they sleep through the night” or “soon” when asked when I plan to move them to their own room.

away from me.

I finally got the courage to try last night…Poor husband had a few rough nights of sleep and I wanted to give him a chance to sleep, in his bed, undisturbed.

I got them all settled into their cribs- in their rooms. Finished me few nightly routines. Climbed in my bed….and cried.

I cried myself to sleep thinking about them growing up…how fast it’s going. How I’m not ready for them to not be babies.

I wasn’t going to be “that” mom- the one that let her kids sleep in her room, or in her bed, yet here I am. This time with pass. They will eventually sleep in their own beds. I don’t think I’m scarring them for life by having them in our bedroom.

So they spent the first night in their own bedroom…and they didn’t do bad. They’ve been having some sleeping issues from all the teething- so of course at the first peep, I was up the stairs…and quickly made a pallet in their room to sleep on. They woke up about like they have been normally. I slept on the floor. Paul got a good night’s sleep in our bed…

and last night they were back in their places in our room.

Ya’ll- cut me some slack here. I’m doing the best I can.  Being up and down the stairs several times is not worth it. And quite honestly, i like knowing they are near- and they like having us near.

So- for all you moms that I once thought were crazy for letting their babies sleep in the room with them—I totally understand you.  I’m still hoping to get them used to their room soon– and before I know it, they’ll be running down the stairs to jump in our bed…

Let’s not rush things.

Of course, they began waking up not long after I fell asleep and upstairs, to their room, to sleep on the floor, I went. I realize, some people reading my think I’m crazy. Everyone has different thoughts, ideas- even emotions.  And mine are that I cannot stand to be away from my babies.