Motherhood for Erin Cox began on a California military base 40 miles from the nearest Mojave Desert town.
Cox felt more than isolation. She was so desperate for some insight into postpartum emotions and experiences that she drove 75 miles to a Barnes & Noble store. Her search for a guide to coping with and managing her new life, however, was fruitless.
"There's tons of books on parenting; there are books on nursing," says Cox. "But there's nothing that focuses on the mom."
So Cox, now 36, started writing her own book, first by examining herself, then by emulating fellow military wives and mothers who seemed to look and feel their best, even if just playing with their children at the park. Although they left rewarding careers and loved ones to support their spouses' military service, most of the women she encountered on the base, says Cox, appeared to thrive.
"These are women who embody what being a hot mama is."
Cox's book, "One Hot Mama," published late last year by Hay House, is a 300-page, three-month manual for moms' self-care, whether immediately following childbirth or years after the fact. In the conversational voice of a "best friend," Cox shares strategies for reclaiming physical, mental and spiritual health, including nutrition tips and exercise plans. Subtitled "The Guide to Getting Your Mind and Body Back After Baby," the book is full of Cox's personal anecdotes and the acknowledgement that motherhood isn't necessarily instinctual, but a struggle for many women.
"It just kind of makes you question everything," says Cox. "I didn't know what I wanted to do with myself anymore."
Now a resident of Klamath Falls, Cox worked for 10 years as an environmental engineer before the arrival of her first daughter, Ella. Cox initially continued to work in her field from her husband's military base, but her world came crashing down two weeks after giving birth.
On the same day, Cox's mom ended a two-week visit, taking invaluable support with her, and Cox's husband, Steve, went back to work. The first chapter of "One Hot Mama" recounts Cox's hormone-fueled resentment as her husband drove away to work like a "real adult" while she could hardly bear the pain of breastfeeding and the prospect of being alone all day with her baby.
"I had no idea how hard it was going to be," Cox told a group gathered for her January reading at Bloomsbury Books in Ashland. "All my friends made it look effortless."
But Cox writes that she took a few deep breaths and focused on the love in her life. Just as quickly as Cox diverted postpartum depression, the first chapter of "One Hot Mama" delves into weight-loss tips, techniques for getting adequate sleep and testaments to the power of positive thinking.
"It's hard to get your body back in shape," she says. "It takes effort to look nice when you're exhausted."
Like subsequent chapters, "Week One" ends in a workout schedule with illustrated instructions. Cox clarifies that women should have a doctor's release before attempting any of the exercises, which build in intensity and duration over the book's three-month format.
"I've lost all my baby weight three times now," says Cox, explaining that she gained upward of 40 pounds during each pregnancy. "The idea is to get back to your healthiest weight."
Degrees in biology and chemistry inform Cox's advice on exercise, nutrition and other aspects of physical health. She also consulted two friends, a nutritionist and a yoga professional, for some of the book's content. "One Hot Mama" is endorsed by Cox's Klamath Falls obstetrician, Linda Walker, who planned to give away 100 copies to patients in their third trimesters.
"It just lets you realize you're not the only person going through it," says Walker. "I wish I'd had this book when I was pregnant."
Readers soon recognize there's much more to "One Hot Mama" than the title implies. Numerous sections are dedicated to maintaining existing relationships and forming new ones. Cox tells of putting herself out there to make new friends every time she and her husband moved to the next new town. Finding a community's inroads always eases life's burdens, she says.
"We need to create support networks," she says. "(The book) covers how to revive your marriage, how to stay close to your friends."
Cox also incorporates elements of spirituality and self-discovery that she explored after her second pregnancy ended in miscarriage. The loss prompted her to meditate, pray, write and attend a Hay House self-help conference, where she picked up a pamphlet for a writers' workshop. Convinced she couldn't afford the class, Cox received an unexpected refund for overpayment of her second daughter's hospital delivery and took the windfall as a sign that she was meant to register.
"I just followed my gut, and the universe took me in amazing places."
Each workshop participant was invited to submit a book proposal, and Cox's was chosen from hundreds for a contract with Hay House. Still entrenched in the postpartum mindset of caring for 1-year-old Elena, Cox soon found out she was pregnant again. She wrote "One Hot Mama" in less than four months, just in time to deliver her son, Kellan.
"I had such a deadline to get it done," she says. "It's been the craziest year of a my life."
"One Hot Mama," however, is an ode to Cox's self-discipline, which she encourages all mothers to practice, and her methods for staying organized while minimizing stress, also covered in the text. Her book asks mothers to identify their innate strengths and commit to using them, she says.
"I just want them to get inspired to create an amazing life while raising young children."
"One Hot Mama" is available at Bloomsbury Books in Ashland, Barnes & Noble stores and Amazon.com. See www.erincox.com for information.