I’ll admit, I was super nervous to review (meaning: attempt and then publicly share my experience) for Week 2 of Dr. Whitney Bowe’s 21-day Dirty Skin Challenge, where you concentrate on your mind. (Quick recap, in case you missed it last week: You focus on your diet the first week, your mind the second, and your skin the third.)
As a new mom with a ten-week-old baby, I already am dealing with a fair amount of guilt because I didn’t take a traditional maternity leave. I do take the baby to work with me to my office, where I had a nursery built out for us, and I do have a mother’s helper aiding me. But I still feel plagued by guilt and fear I’m not doing enough anytime I hear my mom friends talk about these first three “cuddly” months “at-home”, and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to incorporate the Dr. Bowe-recommended stress reduction, sleep, exercise, and meditation into my routine without feeling more guilt or feelings of comparison/inadequacy to other moms.
That said, here was my experience:
7 a.m. — The baby cries the minute my husband leaves for work. I groggily get up and feed him. His last feeding was 1:30 am – 2 am, and I think to myself, “Hm, instead of rushing to work on five hours of sleep, maybe I should take a nap.” My first meeting wasn’t until 10 am, so I got five hours of sleep + an extra two hours of sleep, and I felt really good after that. stayed on plan (sleep)
6:30 p.m. — My husband gets home from work. He’s had a long day, and I feel bad, but we talk over dinner. I ask him if he’s cool with watching the baby while I go run on our treadmill, and he says yes. I break out my old pre-partum Lululemon and am delighted it fits again. I do run/walk intervals for 32 minutes, and I must admit, it feels pretty damn good. stayed on plan (exercise)
1 a.m. — I’m exhausted, and the baby starts crying. My husband doesn’t take over until 2 a.m., so I get up, only to realize while feeding my baby I haven’t meditated, as recommended in The Beauty of Dirty Skin. I grumble (the opposite of zen, I know), and while I can’t clear my mind, I close my eyes, do some deep breathing in and out, and tell myself positive affirmations: I am strong. I am beautiful. I am enough. I am doing enough. After, it’s 1:30 a.m. and I’m zonked. stayed on plan, sort-of (meditation)
7:15 a.m. — I wake up to the sound of Anthony’s cries, as per usual. I feed him, change him, and notice that I feel a little more rested than usual. I remember my mid-morning nap from yesterday — can I do this again? I check and see I have a 9 a.m. meeting and realize I have to suck it up and get going.
3:30 p.m. — I have a doctor’s appointment at 4 and realize that I didn’t schedule things appropriately — my mother’s helper leaves at 4 pm, so I have to bring the baby to the doctor’s with me. Luckily, my doctor is all for it, and she even holds the baby for a few minutes. Crisis averted. She screens me for postpartum depression, and it looks like I’m borderline. She recommends stress-reduction techniques and time for self-care, and I talk a little about the book review and detox I’m doing for my website, and she’s all for it.
8 p.m. — Back at home, I tell my husband about the doctor’s office visit, and he’s all for me taking some time for myself and self-care. (Told you he’s a keeper). I realize that it’s more efficient to exercise and meditate in one go, so I go and run on the treadmill, then try to meditate for five minutes immediately after. stayed on plan
11 p.m. — Baby cries. I realize I’m not going to get in a nap before 2 a.m., so I figure today was a loss for sleeping, as I was running on only five hours. I am excited, however, when I check my schedule and realize that my first call the next day is at 10 am. I get creative and ask the mother’s helper if she can come to my house at 8 am, rather than to meet at the office. She agrees.
7:15 a.m. — I’m more excited than usual to be woken up by the sound of my baby crying. While it normally means I have to hurry up and feed/change/pack up/go in a hurried frazzle, today I remember the mother’s helper is coming over at 8. I have a newfound sense of calm as I feed and change Anthony, and then we cuddle in my room. He’s making faces and cooing now, and it’s just this incredible experience of love.
8:05 a.m. — The mother’s helper arrives, and I’m thinking to myself, “This self-care thing is awesome,” as I’m coming off my mother-son-bonding-time-glow. I head upstairs and go back to bed for a quick nap while she takes care of him until 9:30 a.m.
2:30 p.m. — I decide to go back to Pilates. My mother’s helper is at the office until 4; does she mind if I go take an exercise class? She doesn’t mind, and I head out. It’s an amazing workout and I schedule one for the following week. stayed on plan
7:30 p.m. — I’m a little stressed because I didn’t get all of my work done for the day, while I left for Pilates. I ask my husband if he can watch the baby himself for an hour or two while I get the rest of my work done. While I’ve always admired women who are able to keep work at work and concentrate on family at home, ever since I was in medical school, I’ve always worked best when I keep it fluid and flow between the two as necessary. I get the work done and feel good about it.
10 p.m. — I meditate as my husband heads off to bed and my son is napping as well. stayed on plan
10 a.m. — Insane day. I’m up for a $40,000 business grant from a local agency, and I made it to the semi-finals, but the finals are at 1 p.m. in the afternoon, and I haven’t rehearsed since I wrote the application. I take a few deep breaths and meditate for five minutes, and after, I realize I’m filling my head with way too many negative, self-doubting thoughts. I turn off my phone, and practice like crazy. Hopefully my speech-giving skills from public speaking club in high school pay off! stayed on plan
1 p.m. — Presentation is a 7/10. Not my best, but better than I had feared.
7 p.m. — I have plans with two good friends of mine from college. Normally, we would go out for food and drinks, but given that I’m on the plan, I ask last-minute if they’d be game for going for a walk on the riverfront trail near my house with the baby and me, and they’re totally game. Turned out to be super fun and it got me social time and exercise — win-win! stayed on plan
2 a.m. — I’m exhausted. No nap today. Because of the presentation, I don’t relax at all at night, and I’m up between feedings/changing, just banging out work. I’m in a foul mood and I finally fall asleep.
9 a.m. — I drop the baby off at my mother’s. It’s going to be an insane day, with seven meetings, three in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, two in East Liberty (yes, that is east), and two in a place called Fox Chapel. I’m in a bad mood when I think about all I have to do.
9:35 a.m. — I am pulling out on the highway, on the phone with an employee, talking about a client’s social media strategy, when I smash my car into the car in front of me. I pull over, but the other party darts off. My car is damaged — hood and grill bent in. I am grateful that at least I was alone and was not hurt. I call the insurance company, but by the time I get my agent on the line, my 10 a.m. meeting is set to start.
12:30 p.m. — During the only break in my schedule, I grab a sandwich and call the insurance company back. I realize I need to calm down, and all of that advice that says “You can’t take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself” rings through my head. I take a few deep breaths, and decide I’m going to take a nap in the evening. stayed on plan
7 p.m. — Done with work. My husband and I meet up for dinner at a fancy-ish Asian restaurant. No time for exercise. veered off plan (no exercise)
10 p.m. — After picking up the baby, I realize it’s pointless to stay up until 2 a.m. like I do. He tends to wake up at 7 p.m., 10 p.m., and 1 a.m., so I nap between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. and am delighted I get about two hours of extra sleep that way. stayed on plan
10 a.m. — I wake up, and I feel great. My husband has been watching the baby, and that, combined with my two hours of napping the night before, has totaled a glorious ten hours of sleep. The dark circles under my eyes I was forming postpartum? Not gone, but definitely fading. stayed on plan
12 p.m. — I still have to move some furniture from my old office to my new one (both in the same building). My husband, his cousin, and I all meet up and get it done. I use my Apple watch and track — I’ve walked 12,000 steps! More than enough. stayed on plan
10 p.m.— Remembering my lesson from the night before, it’s time to head to bed for a nap until Anthony wakes up again! (stayed on plan)
Overall Summary and Results
Overall, this part of the plan was actually a life-changer for me. Given that I’m ten weeks postpartum and adjusting to new life as a mom, I realize that I’m not any less of a mother because I make time to meditate, exercise, and nap everyday. In fact, I’m actually calmer, stronger, and happier when I do those things.
All in all, it only amounts to one extra hour each day away from my child for meditation and exercise, and I also found I could nap between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., without losing any time “with” him.
Our society isn’t particularly kind to new moms. It’s very easy to fall into feelings of self-doubt and defeatism, or, alternatively, sadness, anger, and martyrdom. It was refreshing to realize that returning to some “me” time everyday made me more confident and content.
From this experience, I am going to take an hour each day for myself for exercise and meditation, and I’m also going to nap when the baby naps in the evening and at night. On the occasional day my schedule will allow it, I will also nap in the mornings.
At the end of this week, the big difference was in my undereye circles. I never had them before, but they were getting bad after having the baby, to the point I was loading up on NARS concealer. This week, while they’re not gone, they definitely started to fade, and I’m back to just putting my IT Cosmetics CC Cream all over my face, including my undereyes — no additional concealer needed. Week 3 is all about adjusting my skin care routine, so I am excited to see what happens! Stay tuned!