Summer 2021 is upon us and, I am ready for what’s to come. Last year was a test of resilience and an opportunity of reflection. During that time, I was able to spend quality time with my family including two young boys and my husband. More importantly, I found myself again. Why am I writing about this you may ask? It’s because I didn’t realize how far away from myself I had gone. It wasn’t until I started feeling more like myself again, more like the woman my husband met 8 years ago, the woman that would work all week and teach “x” amount of boot camp classes like it was nothing. The one who “back in the day” stood with confidence in a tiny blue velvet bathing suit to place 2nd in a natural professional figure competition…. her. I missed her and didn’t even know it.
I gave birth to my first-born son in September of 2015. I was 37 years old and a new mom feeling so blessed to be chosen for this opportunity. To not only carry life but to bring him into this world. My joy for my son came because not too long before he was conceived, I experienced a miscarriage. At the time I was preparing for a half marathon. A goal I set out for myself before I knew I was pregnant. In 2014 I was in great shape. I worked out consistently including boxing, running and weight training. I just knew that my body could be the one to carry a baby and do all the things athletic! I was so sure of myself and what I could do while pregnant that I didn’t stop training for this race especially with my doctor’s approval. To me it was going to be the goal to achieve. Not only competing in my first 1/2 marathon but to do it pregnant! Five days before race day and at 11 weeks pregnant, I had a miscarriage. It was horrible. I didn’t want to believe it at first, then the onslaught of emotions came like wildfire. I was angry, sad and felt like an absolute failure. I got up that Sunday morning and ran the race anyways. I was still in denial and didn’t know what else to do. Once it was over, I couldn’t hide from the truth any longer.
I went through a period of sadness including when my pregnancy with my first born was confirmed via pelvic ultrasound. I was scheduled to have a myomectomy for fibroids, but my blood work indicated that I was pregnant. My OB specialist suggested, given the history, that it be confirmed with a pelvic ultrasound. When I heard and saw his 6-week-old heartbeat, I cried in the ultrasound room. The technician just looked at me kind of confused and then I said out loud, “I had a miscarriage at 11 weeks and there was no heartbeat”. She gave me a nod that only another female and possible mother could give then left the room.
Why did I start this blog with such a sad story, because I think this is when I started to forget who I was? I was afraid of losing my baby while I was pregnant that I didn’t really workout. I nonchalantly participated in pre-natal yoga and walked every now and then. I was eating whatever I wanted and eventually started gaining so much weight that my legs were swollen. I then started taking a pre-natal aquatic class to help manage the swelling and heaviness. As much as I loved to exercise and workout, fear overcame me, and I only participated in light exercises. This led to extremely feeling weak after giving birth to my son and trying to get back into exercises once given the green light. Although slow, I was able to get back into somewhat of a routine of exercise after giving birth but nothing like before. I gave up my gym membership, bought a treadmill and started working out at home but the motivation just wasn’t there.
Fast forward to baby number two. This is when I started noticing that my hair was thinning and falling out in sections. Initially, it was believed to be some post-partum shedding from my first that didn’t really stop but after giving birth to my second son, my hair fell out in clumps. I saw a Dermatologist and an Integrative medicine practitioner so that I could cover all basis of why this was happening. I changed my diet, tried different products, took oral and applied topical medication but nothing really stopped it. I was stressed out, exhausted, wasn’t sleeping and worrying about your hair falling out doesn’t help any.
Finally, I decided to see a clinical psychologist provided through work because I felt that I was burnt out from work. She quickly made me realize that I was putting way too much pressure on myself in all areas of life. She made me check myself which wasn’t something I was accustomed to doing. After all, it was everything else as to why I was overwhelmed and stressed out. Initially, I didn’t like what she had to say; so I never went back. However, I was listening and during our session she asked me a question that made me acknowledge that I had alopecia and to recognize that I had been hiding from it.
During my first dermatology visits, months before, my doctor requested that I stop all hair extensions and braiding to give my hair and scalp a break. Although I love natural hair, I wasn’t ready for it. I lost my natural 4c curl pattern from years of hair extensions. I didn’t wear any weaves or single braids, but I was still wearing a wig or doing a protective style to cover up the areas of hair loss. That day in the psychologist’s office I was wearing a wig and she pointed out that I was hiding. I wasn’t sharing what I was going through with any of my friends and was able to hide the severity from my husband. That day was the first time that I acknowledged that I had alopecia. I had to accept that it may or may not get better and either way ask myself, “what are you going to do about it?’ A few months later, I cut my hair very short and have kept it natural and short ever since. I had to decide to embrace these difficult emotional moments in my life and press forward or continue to lose myself.
I began including exercise, eating right and self-care into my daily routine towards the end of 2019. It really kicked into gear during the worse global pandemic of my lifetime Spring of 2020. We were all home. I already knew how much time and effort I gave to my kids and my husband. This pause gave me the opportunity to add me into the equation. I was finally ok with that! At first it was hard. My kids are used to me being around. When I would go to the basement alone or leave them for a run, they were not having it. They would find a way to come downstairs or start chasing me down the street. My momma bear instinct would be to stop and attend to them, (yes, hubby was home).
Finally, I decided that if they were in the basement, instead of stopping or getting frustrated with the interruptions, I just had them join me! If I was outside going for a run, I would race my son for a portion until he was tired. They would come with me on walks around the sub-division. Eventually, both understood that mommy sometimes exercises by herself but will always come back. Walks turned into family walks. There were a few parent vs kid short sprints on the sidewalks with the neighbors watching in confusion. I found a way to incorporate my former self with my new working mommy self. I am so glad I found that balance. And by the way, my hair is finally growing back! I just needed to give myself a little grace, a little patience and some carved out me time without any guilt!
As I finish writing this, I just completed a personal challenge of running & walking 50 miles over the course of 30 days (sponsored by Black Girls Run and Brooks Running – ERACE Racism) as well as a jump rope challenge with my childhood friends going from 100- 1150 jumps. I am about to start cycle 3 of the Mommination “Fit Mommi Challenge” stronger than ever! I strength train at least three times per week and allow myself time to rest when my body and mind says, “it’s enough.” I take random days off work during the month and have decided to take even more time off during the summer so that I can be with my family. I hope anyone reading this finds their former athletic self again especially if she was lost due to motherhood, marriage, or any change in lifestyle. No matter what the reason, you can always get back to the best version of you!
Give yourself grace!
BY: MOMMI NATASHA TAYLOR, PT MS OCS
(Natasha’s submission was prior to our Fit Mommi Challenge Cycle 3)