Or the latest installment in the Fletcher Chronicles 🙂
Being a new parent is like the Matrix: you cannot be told, you have to experience it to get it. Just like getting through Hell Week as a Navy SEAL, or the RKC weekend workshop, you can never underestimate how mentally unprepared you may be, even if you are physically conditioned.
Of course, all concepts related to schedule become null and void. Interestingly, some folks perceive my wife and I as big schedulers, but they fail to realize that we are quite accommodating, both working in service oriented industries. Adjusting to a new, not very flexible customer is nothing new.
WORKING IN SHIFTS
Being tired doesn’t quite cover the feeling of what it takes to be feeding, pumping breast milk (so we can take turns feeding him), cleaning him and repeating the process every couple of hours. I have the easy part, because I don’t have life force producing boobies, therefore am not privy to the industrial strength vacuum action happening at the nipple, nor the enjoyment or “machine on human” breast action caused by the pump (or robot porn).
Ever see the Seinfeld episode where Newman says “the mail never stops”? It’s like that.
So, when you say you’re tired but are not a parent, suck it up and shut up, because rest is around the corner. For us, it’s not an option. I’ll take a 12-hour all day powerlifting workshop, though the thrill and satisfaction are a bit different…
So, catnaps, splitting feeding times so one parent can meander through the day only half-dazed is the way to go. My wife usually lets me sleep through the rest of the night so long as I try to do the last feeding or two.
It’s all about hormones, yes, just like training. Stress management, insulin release, HGH. Fletcher had to be bottle fed before he was breast fed because of being born premature. So, to all the La Leche women who live by the breast only and frown at the bottle, it’s not easy to retrain a little kid born with a handicap and no choice. Yes, we’re proponents of the Bradley drug-free baby delivery, want to breast feed because it’s the best, cheapest method available and yes we know it’s optimal for all aspects of the baby’s development. But life has a way of throwing sticks in your spokes. I want my baby fed, I want him growing and resting and I want the same for my wife and I, so sometimes, rather than fight a kid at 2 in the AM who is not getting what he needs from the breast because he is too tired, he gets the bottle with mother’s milk in it. (It’s easier for a baby to drink from the bottle than it is to feed from the breast, in case you didn’t know, and you lose certain benefits. But until I see proof that breast-fed only babies who have grown up are all rocket scientists, super athletes and can fix our health care and are immune to all diseases, I’ll follow the 80%-20% rule of “be good 80% of the time, and the remaining 20%, try to cope so you can go back to doing the best you can”.
If your sleep patterns are off, your stress levels are out of whack. Your fitness suffers, your ability to burn fat is hindered, you produce more cortisol and your mental capacity drops. For a trainer like myself, it’s a hard reality and a tough thing to squeeze in a workout, train clients and teach a very active class at the end of the day (I am wiped out usually when the time comes). Yet somehow, we manage. The rush of endorphins from being a new dad and watching my kid for whom I’d give my life releases the endorphins that make me push through my day. I am an army of one while my wife, the Mothership, the Queen Bee ensures the rascal is alive and provided for with the best food nature produced. And on the occasion we have to compensate with formula, we are not losing sleep over it. As a matter of fact, we gain some as Fletcher tends to sleep longer then. Yes, formula also helps alleviate the hormonal yo-yo that occurs as a result of breast feeding. Small victory for formula, one battle in the breast feeding war, but still one to account.
My workouts are not nearly as long as they used to be. I hardly ever push to failure because it’s pointless and sets me back a day or two. But I train hard, moving high volume and weight without restriction of time other than those imposed upon myself. Usually, that is. Now, the necessity to come home after a shift and help my wife, grocery shop, do laundry, take care of bills or try to run a business with many aspects still in development takes precedence over higher performance. Maintenance and intelligence become the guidelines, biofeedback the protocol by which I decide on any given day what I will do for training. Density is my goal (meaning moving the load in as little time as possible). I’d take the normal RKC snatch test and bump the weight from 24 to 28kg. Or, I’d push for a new Deadlift personal record in under 10 total reps, warm-up included. I’ll swing a 40kg bell 100 times, thus moving 8800lb in 3 minutes or less, doing my heart, my lungs and my muscles a favor. Bottom line: I lost a few pounds, but my body is still chiseled, lean and strong.
I don’t spend time worrying about my reps, the weight I push or how I compare to another. I still have all the skills I had before I was a dad, maybe even added a few more, and I still deliver amazing results to my clients (I just helped someone lose close to 5lb of fat and gain almost 20lb of muscle in 33 days. Wanna know how? TRAIN WITH ME!!). Maybe because I’ve removed the worries, I’ve removed the stress from my performance and how I measure up and therefore make up for the negative effects of the lack of sleep. Any setbacks can be regained and if you’re not strong in times of hardship, your strength is only a weakness.
It does take a village, and Noëlle and I are very grateful for the help we received from friends who brought us meals the past 2 weeks since we took Fletcher home. He is now 3 weeks old and all 3 of us managed to still be alive 🙂
Funny thing happened with food, by the way: I’ve indulged in foods that normally only grace the shelves or pantry inside my head and haven’t paid the price for it. I don’t intend to find out how far I can push my luck, so rest assured my hearty steak tartare, raw broccoli and almonds are back on my plate! And did you know that Guinness is a great product to help produce more breast milk?