Sometimes, I Just Want My Body Back

I’ve been sitting on this one for weeks and weeks.  At first I didn’t really know how to make sense of this recurring feeling.  Once I did, I wasn’t really sure how to write about it without sounding ungrateful or all, “woe is me” about it. I’m still not sure I know how, so I’m just going to cross my fingers and hope you know me well enough by now to know that while it is a discouraging feeling to have at times, I am very in tune with the fact that the root and circumstance of the problem (I really don’t think I can even call it that?) is actually quite a blessing.

Sometimes, I just want my body back.  No, not my high school or college body (although that would be nice too). I just want my body back to me. Just to me.  Not to share with anyone else, for just a little bit of time. Just to me.

It’s been the most bizarre feeling to navigate because it completely contradicts some of my very favorite things in life.

I absolutely yearn for and love physical affection and cuddle time with my daughter.  The way her little arms wrap around my neck.  The nine different positions she lays on me in and is blissfully content. The way her tiny fingers find twirling my hair to be the most comforting thing she knows.  I can’t get enough of her chest against mine.

I absolutely love being pregnant.  There is nothing like the privilege of carrying and growing a precious life inside you that was made from nothing but unconditional love.  I love the honor it is to be responsible for making the right choices for this beautiful little human that will make our family complete.  Despite the aches, pains, and less than flattering changes your body can go through, I feel nothing but joy knowing I am capable of creating such a miraculous thing to add to our world.

I absolutely love breastfeeding.  It’s not for all women, but I loved being able to feed and nourish my daughter. Knowing that for that bit of time, my body was able to give her everything she needed to grow big and strong.  I savored that bonding time and the way it strengthened our relationship.  Its one of the many things I look forward to being able to do again with our son.

I absolutely love physical affection and intimacy with my husband.  The way I am the perfect size little spoon curled up in his masculine arms.  The way he plays with my hair and scratches my back knowing it is my biggest soother.  I love the quick little touches he gives throughout the day that so clearly say, “Hang in there. I love you, and I’m here”. And I’ll spare you the steamy details, but oh, do I love the intimacy.

I long for and thrive off physical contact with those I love dearly, yet its those very things that can often overwhelm me to a point of emotional distress.  I vividly remember one morning in the kitchen sobbing, wondering what was wrong with me. For awhile I thought I was being a little overly dramatic, like I was subconsciously trying to make something out of nothing.  But when I stopped to really think about all that is involved in a day in terms of physical demands, I began to realize that being a mom and wife takes much, much more than just the intellectual and emotional.

Most days it feels like everyone else in my family (including baby boy in belly) is needing something from my body, and at the end of the day, there’s nothing left for me.

Sometimes, I just want my body back.  

Sometimes I just want a moment where Tayler isn’t climbing all over my stomach, squishing my already rearranged organs and roughhousing with her baby brother.  Honestly, it kind of hurts.

Sometimes I just want to go through a day without her continuously playing with my hair.  Not that its anything fancy, but when I’m able to steal five minutes to put it up in a kinda cute way, I’d like it to stay that way for more than one hour.

Sometimes I just want to drink coffee when I need a pick me up without having to worry about how much caffeine I’m consuming.

Sometimes I just want to drink an extra dirty martini when I need a pick me up without having to worry about how much alcohol I’m consuming.

Sometimes I just want to be able to cook a decent meal that takes more than ten minutes without having a little one pulling on me to hold her the whole time.

Sometimes I just want to be able to go to bed without the guilt of thinking, “Shit.  How has it already been a few days since we’ve had sex?  I should really make the time for it right now.  But I am so. dog. tired”.

Sometimes I just want to be able to wake up in the morning without the guilt of thinking, “I have a half an hour before Tayler wakes up. It’d be a perfect time to catch up on some intimacy time, but god the thought of enjoying my decaf and catching up on the DVR in peace sounds so heavenly”.

Sometimes I just want to be able to go for a run without worrying about my heart rate or how quickly I’ll need to stop for a restroom break.

Sometimes I just want my weight to stay in one place, my boobs to stay the same size and shape (preferably pregnant boob size), and be able to wear the same wardrobe for awhile.

And I remember so clearly being in the middle of breastfeeding, wondering if I’d ever get my body back for more than two hours at a time without having to lift my shirt up.

My dad always used to say that the way you can tell the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is in the way they recharge their batteries, not by the way they interact with others.  Maybe this is the introvert in me desperately crying out for more time to recharge my batteries – alone.  Or maybe its a common feeling shared by many moms and wives.  I’m not sure whether its the former or latter, or maybe its a mix of both, but what I am sure of is that I’m more in tune with recognizing that slowly rising need to be alone to reboot.  It picks up momentum quickly, and I’m more aware of my own physical requirements that must be met sometimes before I can continue to meet the physical needs of others.

And sometimes, that means taking my body back.

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Starting Early to Create Lifelong Readers

Reading to my children.  It was honestly one of the things I couldn’t wait most for.  I’ve always envisioned us snuggled up in the corner of the couch, soft fleece blanket pulled up to our chins, talking about the choices our favorite characters were making, coming up with our silliest voices to read in, and admiring the intricate artwork that splashed across the pages.  I envisioned us rocking slowly in her room, reading, “just one more!” book before eyes got heavy and it was time for sweet dreams.  I envisioned myself panicking at the realization it had been all too quiet in the house for a tad too long (because we know that’s never a good thing), only to find her curled up with a book in her little chair.

Maybe a little grandiose, but my dream nonetheless.  We’ll get there one day.

For now, however, we’re still in the early stages.  She’s young, we’re in no rush, and we’re just beginning to lay the groundwork for what I hope to be a beautiful relationship with getting lost in books of all kinds.  After teaching elementary school and specializing in working with young at-risk readers, I know how vital the early years are for her success later.  Start small, start early, and have fun!

There’s no such thing as “too early”.  Nope, start right from when you bring them home from the hospital if you want! Reason enough could be the simple fact that your voice is the most soothing sound to a baby’s ears and being close to you is all they want to do.  After all, your sweet voice is what they listened to for those 40 weeks, right? Bust out those nursery rhymes and lullabies – they don’t judge our vocal abilities (yet).  Whether it be a playful children’s book, an article out of the sports section, or the latest gossip out of your US Weekly, read aloud sometimes – your baby will thank you for it.  Even if its reading a bed time book as they sleep snugly on your chest –  read.  🙂

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Don’t sweat it if they aren’t interested.  At 15 months old sometimes Tayler still doesn’t have interest.  And that’s OK.  Chewing, holding, and using books for just about anything but reading is sometimes part of the deal.  I don’t know if we’ve ever actually finished a full book! Sometimes just getting them to grab at and hold books is the first step. Don’t sweat it, their interests will continue to change.  Just keep exposing them and making it fun! If you want to get some reading in without the constant grabbing, some of my moms suggest sitting with baby and have dad do the reading to the both of you!

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The many language benefits.  Listening skills.  Memory.  Vocabulary.  Speech patterns.  Intonation and inflection.  And the rhythm and rhyme of our language.  Just to name a few! The more we read aloud and expose our kids to words, the richer the network we build in their brain.  While they may not be able to use everything they’re learning yet, there’s certainly a lot going on! As they grow older, there is no shortage of research that demonstrates the profound effect reading and books will have on their later academic success.

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The earliest of skills.  A lot of times we don’t recognize or we forget that some of the earliest skills don’t actually involve what we consider to be reading. Myself included! Things as simple as recognizing books, being able to hold them correctly, learning how to properly turn pages, knowing that we read the words on the page left to right, pointing to the covers, and knowing that a book tells a story or gives us information are all necessary and important skills! So when you see your little one sitting on the floor, holding a book open, and babbling and pointing – pat yourself on the back! You’re doing great!

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Let them lead.  Maybe they just feel like opening and closing.  Maybe they feel like simply listening to the first page over and over.  Or if your little one is like my daughter, maybe they just want books with pictures of animals to point to and see how long you’ll make all the animal noises for.  By letting them lead and using books how they want in the early stages will send the message that books can be and will continue to be a positive part of their day.

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Dont forget about pictures! Sometimes I get anxious to jump right into the words, but paying attention to the pictures is such an important part of developing early readers (probably more so than the words at first!).  You’ll notice many books geared for infants are filled with bright and vivid colors, varied shapes, and patterns.  These are all great for early brain and eye development.  Another infant favorite are books filled pictures of close family and friends.  Who wouldn’t want to see the faces of the people they love and trust most! As they get a little older pictures are critical in building vocabulary, sparking imagination, and learning that books can tell a story.  Pictures are also a great tool for teaching concepts such as colors, counting objects, and recognizing shapes! Once they begin to learn to read they’ll be taught to use pictures in relation to the text, so its never too early to start talking about them now!

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Vary your home library.  Touch and feel books with different textures.  Peek-a-boo books.  Nursery rhymes.  Counting, shapes, and ABC’s.  Picture books of first words.  Favorite characters.  Board books.  Vinyl books.  Cloth books.  Bathtub books.  Non-fiction books about weather, animals, potty training, gaining a new brother or sister, sports, etc.  Poetry.  Award winning illustrators.  Books with repeating patterns. Children’s classics.  The list goes on and on.  Having a varied library can better accommodate changing interests and developmental stages, as well as keeping things fun and interesting for mom and dad!

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Make books accessible.  If we want our children to take a genuine interest books, we need to have them out and available.  Some will get chewed, some will get ripped, and in our house some went swimming in the bath tub.  This part of it always make me cringe, but it’s a part of the process and needs to be accepted as so.  My suggestion is to have a little tub or two available in the common play areas with some books that match their current developmental stage or interest area.  Switch them out every so often to keep it exciting, but keep the beautiful copy of The Giving Tree up on the shelf for mom to get down when appropriate.  Making books accessible sends the message that books aren’t just designated for before bedtime, but can be explored whenever their heart desires.

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Commit to it.  Congratulations! You just received the job of Character Voice Extraordinaire! Rise to the occasion, my friend.  Committing to characters in books, getting silly reading rhymes or songs, and changing your pitch and tone are not only amusing for your blossoming little reader, but its just another way to teach them about how our language works and encourages their social and emotional development.  When your face, tone, and voice show sadness when a character’s dog gets lost, you’re teaching your child about their emotions and the effect certain events can have on humans.

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The Big Picture.  If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed at this point, shake it off.  While all of this information is beneficial to have in regards to reading to our children, there is only one, big important concept to take away and keep in mind.  Reading to our children, especially in these early stages, is all about the relationship we create with books. If anything, make reading books an enjoyable time bonding with mom and dad.  Create a time where you and your child can explore, learn, laugh, and get silly together.  Work hard to show them that books are a source of joy, calm, and a catalyst for quality time resting in mom’s lap. And better yet, be a role model by showing your children that you read too!

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A few ways to build your library:

  • Utilize the public library! Use that library card till its so worn they give you a new one.  Endless books are at your fingertips! Sometimes libraries also run free book programs!
  • Garage sales & Mom to Mom sales.  Gently used books for pennies? Yes please! No one should be above buying books that have already been loved.
  • Your local Goodwill or Salvation Army.  Same idea, different place.  I’ve found some real classics for my classroom library.  You never know what treasures you’ll find!
  • Set up book swaps with other moms.  Change up your library by borrowing someone else’s!
  • Check out Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.  It’s isn’t available yet everywhere, but its worth visiting and finding out.  If its available in your area, expect a free book sent to your home from birth to 5 years of age! (If your address doesn’t work, try grandma’s!).

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(And on a side note, don’t all these pictures demonstrate the fact that it’s mom that is always behind the camera!? 🙂 )