I have a close friend whose son is a couple of years younger than mine. We were co-workers during both of our respective pregnancies so we got to experience all that comes with first time motherhood together. One significant factor differentiates our experience and that is, her son received a diagnosis on the Autism spectrum.
As many people are aware, rates of this diagnosis are on the rise. When I was a kid about 1 kid in every 2,000 had Autism. Today the CDC estimates that number at 1 in 68 children. This disorder has no definitive diagnosis, no one specific set of symptoms or treatment. What does seem to be clear from what I gather, is that early and intensive intervention is key. What does this mean for parents? It means not only grieving for the childhood you likely envisioned for your child, but also dealing with a healthcare system that isn’t set up to meet your child’s needs. Many insurance plans, even the best, don’t cover the intensive therapies that may be recommended for children with an autism diagnosis. My girlfriend pays for a very expensive health insurance plan through her employer (so basically best case scenario with regard to the American healthcare system) and still pays a significant amount of money out of pocket to provide for her son’s treatment. Once the treatment is paid for, there’s still the task of getting your child to multiple appointments every week- occupational therapy, speech therapy, etc. It means trying to work with teachers and schools that may not be equipped to support your child, or even understand their unique circumstances. It’s really staggering and adds up to an immense amount of physical/emotional/financial stress on a family.
April is Autism Awareness Month and this year I will have the privilege of participating in a competition called Battleground April 18-19, 2015. This is a volunteer run event with 100% of the proceeds going to the Train 4 Autism Foundation. This organization has established an incredible, innovative, and thoughtful way to enhance the lives of families impacted by Autism. I love this model because, as many of us have discovered, fitness can be such an amazing outlet. What a gift to have access to a program where your entire family can be served, alleviate some stress, enhance your physical health, and make the financial cost of participating in CrossFit attainable. Proceeds from Battleground will benefit Train 4 Autism’s “CrossFit for Parents and Children with Special Needs Project.”
“Train 4 Autism Foundation has created Strength & Conditioning program specifically for parents and their children touched by autism. These classes are coached by Level 1 Crossfit Certified Coaches as well as certified behavioral therapists and volunteers. This training is held at No Limits Sports & Fitness Academy.”
It’s easy to get involved with Battleground by competing in the beginner/intermediate/advanced or team categories, or by setting up your own fundraising page to support this event.
Lately it seems like an inordinate number of women around me are either pregnant or new moms. This is awesome for me, as I love babies and pregnant women. It’s possibly annoying for them, because I tend to gush, make a big deal, and I instantly become that irritating woman who wants to tell all her pregnancy and parenting stories. Sorry.
It hurts my heart when I hear pregnant women and new moms get down on themselves about their fitness level and their changed/changing body. Let me tell you something: your body is performing a miracle. I know it’s not a miracle in the sense that it can’t be explained by simple biology, but I don’t care about that, it’s a miracle! You are growing a beautiful life, bringing it forth into this world and nourishing it with your body. I don’t care what gym you walk into or which athlete is there, you are the baddest mother in the place.
I understand the struggle. When I was young I worked out at local gym and I remember watching a pregnant woman run throughout her pregnancy. When I say ran, I mean she was really moving and when I say pregnant I mean she looked ready to deliver any day, a bit like this lady. Honestly I didn’t give much thought to it at the time, but it did establish a subconscious expectation, and years later I assumed I would continue my regular workout routine throughout my pregnancy, too. Funny thing is, I’m not her. For me, the full workout regiment didn’t feel right. If there’s ever a time women can drop any rigid standards for their appearance, please let it be while they are having and nurturing babies! One of the greatest things I have gained from my experience with pregnancy and fitness and now as the mother of a school aged child who trains as a competitive athlete, is to let go of the rigidity. It seems contradictory because training requires such consistency and discipline. However, fluidity and flexibility lead to balance.
Parenting will show you time and again what you can do with all your plans and expectations. A newborn is a quick reality check. I will admit, I was uptight about a lot of things when my son was born (I think I recorded the details of every feeding and each bit of excrement for at least a week). One thing I was not uptight about was “getting my body back” and for that I am grateful. First of all, what is getting your body back? I mean really, there’s no going back, it’s a different body. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, carrying, delivering and nurturing a child changes you. That’s a good thing. Why experience life just to remain exactly the same? It took me a number of years after becoming a mom before fitness returned to a more prominent place in my life. When I returned to it, it felt like I was regaining a sense of my own identity partially separate from my identity as “mother.” I’m sure many women very happily don’t take a break from their training when they have kids, and that timing is a very personal thing. Either way, fitness/training/exercise should be an affirming and enjoyable part of your life, not a tool to beat yourself up- especially as a new mom.
Priorities will change and that’s ok because you know what? If you put your fitness on the back burner, it will come back! You have an entire lifetime to continue to pursue the fittest version of yourself, but your babies are only little for a short time. There’s never a day that I think to myself, “man, I wish I had gotten a six pack faster after my son was born.” There are plenty of days I think, “What a beautiful time in our lives, each stage has gone by so fast!” Fitness can be an incredibly rewarding part of your parenting life, enjoy where you are and give yourself the respect you deserve throughout the process.