When my first baby was four months old, my husband and I relocated to a cute little town and settled into parenthood. I was overjoyed to be starting this new phase of my life. I had always wanted to be a mother, and my husband and I made the decision to live on one income so that I could be home full-time with our baby. We were both happy with our choice, but it was a harder adjustment than I imagined it would be.
I knew that giving up my income was a sacrifice financially for us, and I didn’t want my time “staying home” to seem like a vacation. I treated my days like a job keeping the house clean, cooking good meals, and lavishing attention on my baby. But, after a month or so of “staying home,” I was beside myself with boredom and loneliness. I woke up every morning with no place to be and no one to talk to. I had a beautiful baby and a tiny clean house, but no life. I definitely didn’t want to complain, but my husband could tell that I wasn’t my normal perky self. On the weekends, we would go places and do things which would perk me up, but then Monday morning would dawn and the week of cooking, cleaning, diapers, and loneliness loomed ahead.
I tried to snap out of my loneliness, but my energy began to fade and lethargy began to seep into my life. Worst of all, my confidence was evaporating. I couldn’t manage to get the baby weight off - actually the scale was going in the opposite direction. We didn’t have much expendable income, and my clothes were getting less and less flattering. I couldn’t bear to try and meet other moms because I was so self-conscious about my appearance. Every single day became a struggle against lethargy and loneliness.
During these months, Oprah Winfrey was my only friend. I watched her talk show religiously. She came on at 4pm, and for an hour a day, I would have something interesting to watch. That year for the month of May, Oprah issued a challenge. It was called Walking with Oprah and she challenged her audience to get outside and walk every day for the month of May. In my tiny living room, I agreed to the challenge. I pledged to myself that I could only watch Oprah if I had taken the baby and gone for a walk that day. I stuck to my pledge.
Walking with Oprah
It’s amazing, but that daily walk did improve my life. It was a goal to work toward with a daily reward, and I began to feel a sense of accomplishment. Then, one day as I was pushing the stroller through my neighborhood, I heard someone calling to me from behind. I turned around saw another mom pushing a stroller. She waved, and I waved back, and that, as the say, was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. I had met my first mom friend in my new town, and it was awesome to have someone to talk to.
A few years later, when we were recounting to another friend how we had first met, my friend denied yelling to me on that first meeting. Her memory was that she saw me up ahead, and then I turned around for no reason and started waving to her. I love her version even more, because her friendship truly was answered prayer, and if she didn’t yell for me to turn around, then it must have been God who told me to turn around and wave to my new friend.
At the end of May, I had accomplished my goal of Walking with Oprah, I had made a friend, but my baby weight hadn’t budged. I couldn’t understand why I was having such a hard time. As a person who had always struggled with my weight, I knew diets. I had successfully lost weight a few times before, but I felt like this struggle with weight loss was different.
A Good Doctor
As an overweight person, I can tell you that a trip to the doctor can be an exercise in humiliation. Telling a doctor that you just can’t seem to lose weight no matter what you try is to invite judgment and eye-rolling. I once had a nurse wonder out loud which was bigger my belly or my butt as she wrote in my chart. After that nurse, I swore I would never willingly bring up weight in a doctor’s office again.
But, then, Walking with Oprah happened, and I felt like maybe it would be safe to bring it up if I went armed with my month of walking and a food diary. I scheduled an appointment with a doctor I had met in our new church, and prayed that she wouldn’t humiliate me. I went to my appointment, screwed up my courage, and told her about my lethargy, my failed attempts at weight loss after my baby was born, and Walking with Oprah. That wonderful doctor listened to me and then said she wanted to test my thyroid. At that time, I had no idea what a thyroid was, but now I know how important it is to our metabolism and our well being. Within a week, I discovered that I had hypothyroidism, and began taking a prescription hormone replacement therapy. A few weeks later, I was feeling much more like my old self. I still struggled with weight loss, but it wasn’t impossible, and best of all, my outlook improved.
After I started my thyroid medication, the worst was over. I had more energy to keep going out and meeting people, and I lost some weight which helped with my confidence. Oprah got me through those early days of loneliness and boredom, and her walking challenge led me to my first mom friend plus gave me the courage I needed to ask a doctor for help.
I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Oprah Winfrey.
Maureen Paschal is a freelance writer, a teacher-librarian, and a mom of four almost grown kids. She blogs at Raising The Capable Student where her goal is helping parents to keep family life a priority and school success in perspective. Her work has been featured in On Parenting from the Washington Post, Grown and Flown, Perfection Pending, and Today Parents.
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