I have started this declaration a dozen times in recent weeks. I have sat at this computer, riddled with guilt over my current appearance, and other times asked God to please calm my heart and allow me to offer myself grace. After all, I did give birth just 6 months ago. Grace is sufficient for surviving these long and hectic days of raising a baby, an almost 8-year-old, and staying afloat as we muddle through calving season and into planting season. But, at the end of the day when the aches and pains weigh heavily on me, I face my reality as I look at the tired woman in the mirror. I am a fat farm mom.

I have struggled for so long. To be quite honest, over 30 years. I was always the plump girl. I could keep up when chasing livestock on foot, carry heavy buckets of feed, and shoulder the load that comes with being the daughter or a farming and ranching family. Even so, it was hard to look in the mirror or enjoy shopping. My exercise habits were always good, but my eating was not.

Fast forward to being an adult. My weight has gone up and down like a bobber in the fishing hole. I would get on top of my habits and exercise, and then spiral downward. And back and forth from year to year. And then, the ugliness of infertility and loss had me in its grips, and the ups and downs were higher and lower than any time before.

And finally in 2014 I was in a happy place and had managed to diagnose the root of my over-eating and was prayerfully working through it, while becoming ever diligent in my exercise. I successfully lost 50 pounds while I made peace with the idea that I would never be able to get pregnant again. Then it happened – a miraculous pregnancy and birth of our sweet Lucy Mae.

Sweet, sweet baby girl, with a difficult birth and then tummy troubles. I couldn’t tell you a single memory from Christmas 2015 or the beginning of this New Year. Her sleep habits and fussiness began to take a serious toll on me, and like a slow and silent creeping fog, the Post-Partum blues soon covered me.

In February, I began to mark the calendar and count toward spring. I coped by chatting through sleepless nights with a dear cousin who was also a new mama. I quietly and tearfully admitted to my husband that I was depressed, and shared it with my mom. You see, in my family, we don’t talk about such things. To admit an inability to get on top of “feelings” when in the farming and ranching community is seen as weakness by a great majority. I didn’t want to admit it to myself, much less anyone else.

When March arrived with warm spring like days, and the birds began to sing again, I felt my spirits lift. My sweet baby suddenly slept some better and her cries were less frequent as we got our stroller and ventured into the outdoors. While others approached calving season with cautious optimism, I was joyful with the knowledge that spring meant breaking the chains that kept us trapped inside. In the past month, the fog of depression has begun to break away, and left me with the reality of the physical toll on my body. The old habits of eating to cope, took hold of me in the dark of winter, and I again must face the fact that I need to lose 75 pounds to be the farm mom I want to be. The mom who can fully embrace the life that farming and ranching offers to those who are fit and able.

April has always been my favorite month of the year, and so with a healthy eating and exercise plan in hand, the convictions of my aching knees, and the accountability of all who have listened to me bare my soul…I am charging headlong into this battle again. This time I am older, wiser, and smarter, because I have sought help to do this. Just like the farming and ranching business, seeking HIS wise counsel, along with the assistance of friends, family and a good doctor, is the surest way to make good decisions.

So, please pray for me. Hold me accountable, and wish me well. I hope to bring you monthly check-ins, and what is or is not working, along with an occasional triumph or frustration. My prayer is that next year at this time, I hope to bring you a new column. It will be called: “I am a fit farm mom.”

Leah Peterson

Leah Peterson is a native Nebraskan, living on the ranch her ancestors homesteaded in 1878. She and her husband Matt, met at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and returned to the ranch in 2012 after working and living in Central Nebraska the past 12 years. They are parents to two daughters, Maggie and Lucy. Leah has an undergrad degree from UNL in Communication Studies, and a MA in Leadership from Bellevue University. Aside from her work at the ranch and opportunity to be a stay at home mom, she enjoys writing, photography, community involvement, spending time with friends and family and trying new recipes in her kitchen. Leah published her first children's book in 2011 titled "An Apple for Dapple" and enjoys traveling throughout the state to share her book with children and raise awareness about the importance Agriculture in Nebraska.