Since the moment your child took her first breath, your life changed in a way for which you could never have prepared yourself. And yet, in that moment there was a shift at the core of your being—a shift that connected you to every mothering creature that has ever walked this earth—a shift that gave you the power and the strength to be a part of giving and sustaining life. This tiny being who you have been growing inside your womb has transformed you into the most powerful YOU that has ever existed. This is, beyond any doubt, the most incredible thing you have ever and, will ever, do. This has been your opportunity to be an instrument of creation.
You have undoubtedly come to know yourself as more powerful, more vulnerable, more amazing, and with a much more expansive heart than you ever imagined. And as most new moms probably agree, your priorities have shifted. Having washboard abs and a tight ass are no longer your driving motivation, if they ever were! They’re illustrious goals, of course, yet, especially now, they don’t define a life well lived nor do they connect us to anything greater than our egos, unless we consciously connect them.
For most new moms, one of the most common goals is simply getting back into shape while creating time to get to know these new little humans that are so completely and utterly dependent on us and with whom we could indulge every moment of our lives—at least for a time.
Meeting this challenge with emotional strength provides momentum and energy that spirals from within, out to each person around us, to our children, our families, to our communities and ultimately to the world. Meeting it with fear and a desire to simply “arrive” at the other side does something altogether different—possibly even damaging to ourselves and to our babies.
You have the opportunity right now to put a stop to what has happened in this world to our children—the tragic foundations that they’ve been given that have contributed to millions becoming addicted to food, to drugs, to self-destructive behaviors; the multiplying epidemics of obesity and addictions that are occurring simply because our children are trying to find something that makes them feel grounded—something that might calm their anxiety when they’ve lost the connection with healthy relationships to their caregivers—something that is supposed to be Mama!
Wired for Bonding with Mama
It has always been true that children are naturally calmed by their mothers. They are literally “linked” to our nervous systems. Yet when Mommy is too busy, babies will find other ways to self-soothe, which may not set them up for emotionally strong foundations. Many children reach out, only to find that mama is off on a shopping spree or at the spa because she needs her alone time. And I want you to know, I’m not at all downplaying the necessity of mothers’ very real needs for self-care. Those things are essential! Sadly, however, those things are taking precedence far too often these days, leaving our little ones in the care of other people—or other “things”—that don’t honor their innate needs to feel completely attached to their primary caregivers
A Paradigm Shift
In our current society, it has become difficult for women to feel empowered by owning the responsibility of mothering as a serious and long-term commitment. For many, this path can seem “less than” in our current collective mindset. Yet to deny the challenge of this incredible journey is to miss the opportunity that taking on the challenge will provide. We often try to take away all discomfort and pain, to make life a little more palatable, and we deny the risks in doing so—both in carrying and birthing our children, and also in parenting them.
Many mothers reject the challenge and opportunity that parenting can provide in exchange for a few nips here, tucks there, and the all-important “me” time while the nanny watches baby and mom spends a few days recovering in a spa. I absolutely espouse taking time to oneself and doing things that enhance our sense of self—but let’s consider the implications of denying a natural journey to your best body beyond motherhood, both to Mom and baby.
I’m not recommending that you sit on the floor with your baby 24/7 playing Pat-A-Cake! I’m saying that maybe it’s not all about getting that body back. Maybe life with baby is about building your body anew—with strength and passion that you’ve never before embodied.
My Challenge to You
Clearly I’m an advocate for getting our bodies to pre-pregnancy form but at what expense? Because if my best body comes at the expense of my child’s emotional or psychological development, which for many is exactly the case, then I’ve done an enormous disservice to my child and to the rest of the world who could benefit from the gifts that a well-developed, securely attached being could bring. And from a purely self-centered perspective, I’m not making my own life any easier for the next 20-60 years either!
I know women who’ve stopped breastfeeding early—or not done it at all—simply because they couldn’t wait to go under the knife, attempting to eliminate any sign of the incredible process their bodies have just gone through. And yet if we deny the journey back to strength, we also deny our own power in making that journey—as true strength is found …you got it—in the journey!
I often think that new moms attempt to regain the pre-baby body out of fear that they’ve lost some stature or attractiveness in the world. And yet mothers have unequaled power (and attractiveness and sexuality) that, if we were willing to own, would far outweigh anything that lipo or collagen injections could ever provide!
Not Just Another Fitness Guide
“Fitness books” all seem to espouse the new trick or trend yet rarely do they reach deep into the reality of what is the benefit of consistently building your body strong? What is it that separates those who live passively, avoiding anything out of the comfort zone from those who transform lives? It is strength in body, character, spirit, and being-ness that propels this thing we call life and it is among the greatest of gifts that we can pass down to our children.
A Mother’s Strength
Strength is something that is earned, fought for, worked for, trained, disciplined, gathered, sometimes lost and regained… it is self-created and self-maintained. And there are proven methods that can inspire, teach, and guide those seeking to find their most abundant resources of strength in life. While this book is far from being a “follow up” to my husband, Shawn’s book, Strength For Life, certainly his work and writing have inspired and taught me and I will share pieces of his guiding expertise here that have become a founding aspect of both Shawn and my developing relationship with our son and daughter, as well as our ongoing pursuit of living into every moment of our lives with strength and integrity.
Women possess a special, and in many ways more definable strength than men in regard to entering into parenthood. The mere physical force of growing and birthing a child is unmatched by our male counterparts and can initiate a shift in the power differential between male and female partners after a birth; due to the fact that women can move into an instinctual place of power, often for the first time in their lives.
Through cellular memory, muscle memory, and living, conscious memory, the body-mind retains the connection to this newfound strength as a resource from which to enter fully into not only this new role, but into all of life. If consciously nurtured through mindful strength training, the growing awareness of strength in the body ultimately provides greater mental and emotional confidence.
My Gift to You
My hope is that the following words may be helpful for those women who have gone through, or are looking at the possibility of going through the physical and emotional transformations of birthing a child; and who are looking for both support and guidance in integrating exercise and a strong, healthy body and mind into the most important transition into Life as Mommy. The following pages will provide you with inspiration, education, and support for your journey into living the next phase of your life from the strongest, most centered place you can now imagine.
A Deeper Look at Strengthening our Bodies
It is my intention as well to bring at least a small amount of interest to the amazing potential of helping moms and babies develop a healthy relationship from the very beginning, helping each to develop aspects of the nervous system responsible for bonding and attachment as well as emotional self-regulation, providing a healthy foundation for life.
Nathaniel and Lilly, eight and four years old, respectively, ask on most days since they were each able to talk, if it’s time to train yet each morning. They play on our gym equipment; do their version of squats, curls, pull-ups and other exercises; know very well how to count reps, bring out our yoga mats and join us for weekly Sunday yoga sessions, and know that the commitment to keeping our bodies and minds strong and healthy is a foundation for all of our lives. The time that I have spent with our children in our home gym as well as outside; running, hiking, biking and playing has been among the healthiest and most rewarding for both our minds and bodies. This time has provided the surest foundation for a life of continual physical and mental well being for my children as well as the greatest potential for a healthy relationship with their parents and with others.
Our Bodies as a Foundation for Emotional Health
I am well aware through the work that I do that learning, thought, creativity and intelligence are not mere processes of the brain but involve the body as a whole. It is through the movements of our bodies that our thinking brains achieve their greatest potential. From our earliest moments, our bodies play a fundamental role in helping us form a mental construct of the world and are an integral part of all of our intellectual processes. It is through our movements that our neural pathways are laid down and strengthened, which become, in essence, the foundation for learning and ultimately, it is through our bodies that our intelligence is expressed and realized.
When physical movement on all planes is integrated into an infant’s early environment, especially when coupled with the attunement that only a truly present parent can provide, the body becomes a primary instrument for learning. Through gathering information from sensory stimuli, contact, proprioception and thought discovery, the growing body informs the infant about the world, about their relationship to others, and about themselves.
If there is a possibility that through training with your child, you could potentially enhance not only your relationship to him or her, but could also enhance his or her capacity for connectedness, intelligence, and living fully in this world—if you could honestly connect to that possibility as an underlying goal of your practice, would you feel your motivation for commitment more inspired?
Certainly we all want the most advantageous beginnings for our children but it is rare that we consider the effects of so many of their environmental situations as having so profound an impact as what I’m suggesting here. We often keep our children away from various stimuli, such as the loads of pervasive media—a very intelligent choice—yet don’t often grasp the opposing beneficial situations that could enhance their social, emotional, and physiological development. The following chapters will give explicit detail regarding the benefits that all children can acquire from early introductions to physical movement, strengthening the body, pushing limits, rhythm, contact, and most importantly, from bonding time with mommy.
Building a Beautifully Regulated Brain!
One of the most significant benefits of strength training with your baby is that through the practice, each of you can gain a greater capacity for regulating your emotional states. Chapter two will cover the intricacies of how increasing your ability to tolerate physical intensity can aid in your ability to regulate emotional intensity as well. New moms are often overwhelmed with an abundance of emotional states, which seem to leap beyond our zone of what was “normal” before the new little bundle entered in. From the most joyous, love filled states; to experiences of wanting to scream with confusion and angst, to exhaustion and turmoil in balancing this new role, back to excitement and energy and, for some, feeling fully alive for the first time; emotions of a new mom run the gamut! Where life was most often between the 60-80 degree comfort zone (picture a thermometer) new emotions are now flying at random between the low 20s and up into the 100s, with little to no warning.
For new babies as well, the emotional roller coaster can be a new and wonderful experience, one that deserves a mother’s attuned response to be guided gently into the raw, delicate nervous system of her child. Through consciously and actively engaging with your child’s developing nervous system in a safe and fun environment, where you both benefit from strengthening yourselves on multiple levels, this practice can provide a solid foundation for a life of health, happiness, and strength. And through modeling the regulation of both physical and emotional energy as it intensifies throughout your body-mind, you will demonstrate to your child an inner strength and stability in remaining present to intensity, which will greatly serve both of you for life.
With everything you do and say, and even think—every aspect of your character and your presence in this world—you are providing a blueprint for your child for life. And your opportunity for a look into this ever present “mirror” will be the most honest, and often excruciatingly powerful one that you can ever experience.
Sometimes I go back to the 3:30 wake up call of waters rushing from my body and the proclamation of lives forever altered. I truly wonder at the girl I was—as if I could never again inhabit that mental or emotional stage of life. And I am eternally thankful for the gift that mothering has given to me. I consider (what seems now as) the mere 22 hours of pain that my body endured and how it transformed me into the Strong Mother. And close to nine years later, after the birth of my second child, I find myself craving the pain of transcendence yet again—not in some sadomasochistic way but in a way that I know all learning to take place.
Transformation takes conscious choice and it often takes pain. Real pain. It takes acceptance of what is and often, what is …is despair and fear and almost always ego. Yet on the other side of the ego, there is non-attachment and ultimately a greater hope. I’ve heard many a mother proclaim that through becoming Mama, they became whole. Our children give us wholeness just as they receive it back from us, if we have it to give. I have been blessed with children so that I might give back to them, and to others, the strength that mothering has helped me to find. I hope that this book can help you find your greatest Strength.
Thanks For Reading!