Maybe The Problem Isn’t Failure To Love Myself

I’ll be twenty nine years old next month.  Five months postpartum with our second tiny miracle. Before my husband and I decided to try and bring our offspring into this world, I can say with confidence I genuinely loved myself.  Loved myself in the way Dove commercials, inspirational Instagram quotes, and your mom tell you to love yourself.  By the ripe age of twenty six, I was happy with the skin I was in.  Most days. 🙂

The thing is, it was a really long road getting there.  You could argue a twenty six year long road.  In middle school I finally accepted the fact that my round face was not the ideal canvas to put short hair on.  Longer hair suits me. I was forced to come to peace with the fact I will never be an American Idol, after singing, “Hello, Mrs. Marsh” one time in choir class warranted several looks of horror from my classmates. FINE, I’ll stick with sports. In high school I finally accepted the fact that my breasts were done growing, and this was it. There was no holding out for one last growth spurt.  I better love them in all their barely a B cup glory.  In college I finally came to terms with the fact that my butt was not going anywhere, and this round goodness was here to stay.  Pants are sometimes still difficult to buy, but lucky for me big ole booties are back in.  Thanks a lot, Nicki Minaj. Chalk one up in the win column for this girl. It wasn’t till recently that I finally accepted the fact that my nose will never, ever photograph well. From any angle. But it’s all good – it fits me.  And if I’m going to be bare boned honest, some days I’m still working on the fact that no matter how in shape and fit I am, my thighs will always be a little thicker. And by thicker, I surely mean strong.

I’m not complaining about any of the above. I am not in a place where I strive for the kinds of perfection magazines, television, and celebrities tell me I should aspire to.  It took twenty six years for me to evolve into a place I love, and I’m happy here.  Most days. 🙂

Then I had children.  In nineteen months I had carried and birthed two exceptionally wonderful children. Healthy pregnancies, and healthy babies.  Between pregnancy and postpartum recovery my body, like all women’s bodies, went through an awful lot.  Stretched hips, fired up sciatica, feet changing size, hair loss, dark spots on my face, swollen extremities, larger breasts that then deflated back down, a perky butt that had fallen right off, and abs that were hidden under a glorious little mom pooch.  Weight was redistributed into different areas, and at the end of those nineteen months, the old me that I worked twenty six years on and grew to really love was no longer who I saw in the mirror.

Cue the well intended postpartum advice.

“You have to embrace and love this body – it gave you your beautiful baby!”

“Be proud of those stretch marks and mom pooch – they are your battle scars!”

“You just need to love yourself. Your body is amazing!”

It makes sense. It makes great sense. I myself have given that advice a time or two. And it sounds so simple. You just love yourself – that’s it.  But it’s taken me two trips around the child merry-go-round to realize that it can be incredibly frustrating to feel like if I didn’t immediately love this new body I was looking at, it somehow equated to me not being grateful for what it gave me.  My body IS amazing.  I AM proud of what it went through and what it has given me. I WOULD do it a million times over to get my sweet little babes out of it. And I DO love myself.  The problem is, in less than two years the “myself” I’m used to seeing, the one I worked on for twenty six years to love, went through repeated monumental changes and she had all but vanished.

It wasn’t me caving into the pressures of getting my pre-pregnancy body back – I don’t care that I don’t look like Kristen Cavallari.  It wasn’t me feeling like I needed to bounce back immediately so my husband would think I was still beautiful – he did anyway.  It wasn’t me trying to shed any evidence that I had carried children – I’m proud of what I went through. At the end of the day, I just wanted to identify with the person I had finally grown to fully love.  Some of those qualities that shaped her. I wanted to wear my old jeans not because it meant I had lost the weight, but because those jeans have been my favorite for years.  I wanted to workout not just to shed weight, but because I loved how perky my butt once was and I missed it. I wanted to shed some weight not because I think I’m overweight or unworthy in my current form, but because I’ve been an athlete my entire life and I wanted that strength back.

The road to becoming a mom is without a doubt one of the most life-altering, world-changing, OH-MY-SHIT, experiences we will ever go through. Friendships change. Marriage dynamics change. Our personal time. How we are able to recharge. Our social life. How we sleep. And the college degree worthy amount of information we must learn on the job. All changes that happen simultaneously. Immediately. So let’s let new moms breathe for a minute or two.  Let’s let them get acquainted with what their days and bodies now look like instead of shaming them into thinking self-love should happen over night.

When it takes so many women quite a significant amount of time to fully and whole-heartedly love themselves, why do we expect new moms to love and embrace all these new changes immediately? Maybe the problem isn’t failure to love myself, maybe its just giving me a few minutes to breathe and get used to this new “myself”.

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Speaking to Pregnant Women 101: The Twins, The Huge, & The Ugly

Its here.  Open season.  No no, I’m not talking about bow hunting season. Open season for the rude, the ignorant, the annoying, and the unintentionally hurtful comments that get slung around all too freely – because I’m pregnant.  If you gasped in horror thinking, “what could she possibly mean?!”, don’t worry… I’ll explain.

I’ve wanted to write this piece for quite some time now, going over in my head all the things I wish I could say to the general public, but I tend pull back from topics that I see written about a lot.  I leave those topics for the real writers who can express themselves far better than I can. Trust me, there’s no shortage of “Things NOT to Say to Pregnant Women” articles on mom pages these days, but as I near the end of my second pregnancy I can’t sit back on this one anymore. I just can’t.  If it helps just one person censor or think twice about what they say to those beautiful women carrying children, and saves one pregnant woman from feeling crappy for a few hours (or a few days), I’ll rest easy knowing my time here was not wasted.

My initial intention for writing this blog was to base it off my personal experiences.  I have plenty, believe me.  But before I dove into it I threw out the idea to my Momtourage hoping they’d give me a more well-rounded view of the kinds of general comments pregnant women receive.  In my request I told them, “no direct quotes are needed – the gist of it will be great”.  Thinking that they probably wouldn’t remember the exact quote anyway, right?  Fast forward 24 hours from when I asked for their help, and I was holding FIVE single spaced pages of not only direct quotes, but those who spoke them as well.  FIVE PAGES. Clearly this was not just my problem. While pregnant women get pretty good at letting comments roll off their shoulder (because we do understand that a lot of times the comments are not coming from a malicious or hurtful place), the fact that these moms remember so vividly who said what speaks volumes.

So think of the rundown below as a quick “Speaking to Pregnant Women 101 Class”.  If you ace the class and think to yourself, “I would never say any of that!” – round of applause and high fives.  Seriously.  If you find some of the quotes hitting a little too close to home and you think to yourself, “Shit.” – pat on the back, and just do better next time.  We know you don’t mean harm (at least we don’t think you do?).  And we appreciate your interest in our pregnancy – it is a really exciting time for us.  But no matter the innocence or attempt at humor behind your comments, they still kinda suck, and still kinda leave us feeling shitty.  So here we go – direct quotes included! 🙂

TWINS. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, ITS NOT TWINS.  YES, I’M SURE. 

I’m starting with this one first just in case I lose you at some point.  Comments referencing twins were experienced by nearly every mom in my Momtourage, and several got twin comments on more than one occasion.

“Are you sure you’re not having twins?” Yes, kind stranger, I’m sure.  I appreciate your indirect comment on how large my belly is though. 

“Are you sure its just one in there? You’re sure though?” Ask me if I’m sure one more time, co-worker I rarely see or talk to. I dare you.  

Persistence doesn’t help things either.  [Actual conversation]

“You sure its just one baby in there?”

“Yep, pretty sure”

“Do twins run in your family though?”

“Nope, and I’m still sure its not twins”

“Well I think you’ll be the first in your family.  Its definitely twins”

I can’t believe I didn’t notice you in the room when I’ve had all my ultrasounds! Surely you must be an obstetrician, right? Or a GD psychic. Because if you’re just being this annoying, expect me to avoid all interactions with you in the future.  

Enough with the twins. Unless I tell you first that I am in fact carrying twins, in which case twin comments are OK – because its actually accurate.

I AM ACUTELY AWARE OF HOW LARGE I AM – NO, YOU DON’T HAVE TO TELL ME.  

Listen, we get it.  You still don’t mean harm.  And we understand that we’re pregnant and our bodies will grow to accommodate the precious life inside of us.  But only WE get to make comments about our enormity, not you.  Just, don’t.  Not even jokingly.  Seriously, don’t.

“I swear every time you walk down the hall you get bigger!” I would kinda want to fight you right now if I was still quick and agile.  If I’m at all bigger since last time I walked down the hall, maybe its the lunch I just ate.  In which case I kinda really want to fight you. 

“You’re getting pretty big there Missy.  Looks like you’ve been eating too many watermelons”.  Oh, I am? I couldn’t tell by the considerable back pain from it all. 

“Wow! You REALLY popped out! You grow bigger everyday!” I wish my house had mirrors.  I had no way of knowing until you told me!

“You are REALLY pregnant!” I AM?! 

And when you reference how HUGE my baby must be, I take it as a reflection of my size.  Since, ya know, I’m carrying this HUGE baby.  Don’t use words that reference baby’s “massive size”.  Not chunky, not linebacker, not Clydesdale, not enormous… none of it.  I’m already thinking about how I have to push this HUGE baby out, so how about “healthy”.  Just stick with “healthy” if you absolutely must comment. Which you don’t.

And on the opposite side of the coin, don’t make comments about how small I may be.  

Yes, I’m taking care of myself. Yep, I’m measuring right on track.  Not all women show the same.  Surprisingly, women all have different body shapes, genetics, health habits, bone structures, and the way their babies are carried inside.  WEIRD.

NO, MY DUE DATE IS NOT TOMORROW.  NOPE, NOT EVEN NEXT WEEK. 

A wise mom-friend once said, “I swear the second you start to pop at all everyone thinks you’re due within the week.  Does everyone forget how big baby bellies get?!”.  She couldn’t have hit the nail on the head better.  The magazines, articles, and commercials that only feature insanely fit, 20 weeks pregnant women doesn’t help our cause either.  If you ask when the due date it is, don’t make a dumb comment or make a face of horror when we tell you.  Most likely, it’s not tomorrow.

“Did they calculate your due date wrong?” Probably.  They have no way of telling.  If only they had information on my menstrual cycle, or the ability to track the baby’s size throughout my pregnancy.

“When are you due? [responds – still have 13 weeks to go] Oh, you definitely look like you’re done” Again, what would I do without all these expert strangers out there?! 

“Look at that belly, there is NO way you’re going to make it to your due date”.  Keep ’em coming jackasses.  Making it to my due date is kind of priority of mine.. for the sake of my healthy growing child and stuff”.  

“Oh wow, you’re really big for x amount of weeks!” Oh because you’ve studied like a gabillion pregnant women? You’re probably just comparing to your wife huh? She’s a tiny betch, so… 

“When were you due?! Like last week?!” Still three months to go, socially appropriate stranger.  I will cut you. 

When we tell you when we’re due, despite whatever you think about our size in relation to it, something like this would be great, “Oh that’s wonderful!  I bet you can’t wait to meet your sweet baby!” With a smile.

STOP COMPARING.  TO OTHER WOMEN, OR TO MY PAST PREGNANCIES.  NEWS FLASH – THEY’RE NOT THE SAME. 

“You’re looking wider this time around” Ah, an adjective every women loves to hear. Wide. 

“Wow you’re a lot bigger this time, huh?” I see your filter is up and running today.  

 “So and so is pregnant, and you are WAY bigger than she is” Oh, is that what we’re doing? Comparing our bodies to others’? If that’s the case, I could have a field day comparing you with others.. 

“You’re carrying different this time around.  Your face seems puffier”.  Because who wouldn’t receive that warmly?

Which leads into the next one..

IF YOU THINK YOU NOTICE THE PREGNANCY SOMEWHERE ELSE, JUST… SHHHH. 

We are already self conscious. Right before our own eyes we’ve surrendered to so many body changes that we don’t always expect or warmly embrace.  Its all for the health of this tiny miracle, so we really don’t mind, but there’s no need to point it out.  We’re aware.

“Man, he really got you in the face!” Can I get you in the face? 

“I can tell you’re having a boy because you look like you are gaining weight all over!” Weird, you too! 

“I can tell you’re getting bigger from the face and hips” COME ON, PEOPLE.. 

Or this little gem from a cashier..

“Don’t tell me what you’re having – I want guess!”

“Ok”

“I think its a girl!”

“Yep”

“I could tell because girls always make their mamas look like hell”

“Oh, well that’s an interesting theory”.

Being pregnant does NOT mean our entire body is up for unsolicited public critique.

YOU DO KNOW WHAT A BACKHANDED COMPLIMENT IS, RIGHT? 

“Oh my gosh your son is so cute! He must take after his dad!”  Thanks? 

“You look really good this pregnancy.  Last time you were really wide in your hips and thighs”. Thanks? 

“They do say girls suck the beauty out of their mom so they end up pretty” Thanks?

“You look so great pregnant! Better than you usually look!” Thanks? 

“It doesn’t even look like you’re pregnant.  It just looks like you ate too much pizza or something”.  Thanks? 

 

If you feel the need to comment about a woman’s pregnancy, follow this little tip: Give her a KISS.  Keep It Sweet & Simple. We really do appreciate all the genuinely kind and appropriate comments.  In a time when self image can temporarily suffer, kind words can go a long way. Even if you’re just lying to us. 🙂

“You look wonderful – you’re all baby!”

“Pregnancy really suits you!”

“You’re the cutest pregnant woman I’ve ever seen!”

“Mom and baby are looking fantastic.  I can’t wait to meet him or her!”

All acceptable.  If you’re prone to foot in mouth syndrome, just memorize one and use it on repeat.

 

NEXT CLASS: MISCELLANEOUS AND OTHER RANDOM, NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS, PREGNANCY AND CHILD REARING TOPICS. 

You know, like breastfeeding, family planning, and other entirely personal choices.

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Carrying With a Grateful Heart

When I was little girl I used to dream of being a mom.  I was the girl who played house and always had to play mom so I could fuss over the baby dolls.  I grew up taking great pride in babysitting others’ children, and eventually continued my passion for children by studying elementary education in college.  I’ve always loved children, and always envisioned myself as a mother. It’s just something in my heart and soul.  After 8 years of dating, a year of an engagement, and a year of marriage – I had finally gotten to the point in my life where we were able to make that dream become a reality and welcome children of our own into the world.  It was finally here.  I could finally become a mother.

I still remember that dark fear that used to lurk in the background of this dream of mine.  I somehow felt that because I wanted children so very badly, I wouldn’t be able to carry my own.  That I would never be able to experience a growing belly with a thriving and bumbling baby we created inside me.  I’ve never been one for fears that aren’t based in any sort of fact or evidence, but this was mine.

You can imagine my all-consuming joy and elation when after the first month of trying, we saw two little pink lines.  We were blessed with a healthy baby girl that carried to 40 weeks, and she’s been the light of our family since.  Around her first birthday we were ready start trying again, only to be blessed with two more pink lines one month later.  And here we are today at 19 weeks, plugging along with what has so far been another healthy pregnancy.  You can also imagine how thankful I feel.

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Recently I’ve received several messages from women who have either miscarried or have had considerable troubles trying to conceive a child of their own. One in particular really struck a chord in my heart, and I’ve thought of her frequently.  She shared that she was happy to see I was sharing my current pregnancy in a positive way because it can be hard seeing women complain about their pregnancy when others would kill to be in their shoes.  While I’ve always had a full and grateful heart for what my husband and I have been blessed with thus far, this message helped refocus my perspective and reshape my attitude as I approach the second half of this pregnancy.

While I may not share it publicly, I’ve had my moments of whining and complaining here at home.  At the end of my first pregnancy my friends were checking up on me to see how I was feeling, and I’m pretty sure my response legitimately scared them into waiting another 10 years before having kids.  It was hard to sleep with my arms constantly falling asleep all night and my hips aching.  It was a struggle to walk as my sciatic was fired up most of the day, and my swollen feet and hands were icing on the cake. While it seemed like an eternity then, I barely remember that stage now.  It goes by in a flash, and I was back to myself in no time.  With this pregnancy I find myself too busy with a 15 month old to really find time to complain.  Yes, I’m tired.  You can find me face down somewhere in the house about 20 minutes after Tayler goes to bed at night.  And all the activity is less than ideal for my sciatic that refuses to shut up during pregnancy. But overall, we’re doing just great.

What that message reminded me of and helped clarify, however, was that these inconveniences and aches are in fact a blessing too.  It may not always feel that way, but I’m grateful I’m tired.  It means I get to play hard with my daughter every day, and my body is busy at work growing another precious child.  My sciatic may be challenging and literally a pain in the butt sometimes, but it means my body is readjusting and reshaping to accommodate and make a perfect home for our little one.  I might gain a few extra pounds that I’ll have to work for later, but it means that I nourished and fed our baby so he or she could grow and thrive. I remember several nights Tayler was busy kicking and elbowing, while all I wanted to do was sleep. But I’d be sleepless every night if it meant I’d get to experience that indescribable feeling of a child moving in your belly (and chest cavity, and on your bladder).  It may be exhausting during that last stretch to 40 weeks (or for some, more than 40!), but it means I was blessed with carrying a baby to term and and that was healthy enough to take home from the hospital just a few days later.

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There are far too many women that would do just about anything to be in my shoes.  Far too many women who have tried too many times to count, only to be met with disappointment every month.  Far too many women who have been told that having kids of their own just isn’t in the cards for them. Too many women who have gotten so far and fostered such a deep love for their growing baby, only to be met with a life-crushing blow of loss.  Far too many women who have delivered prematurely, to see their tiny newborn struggle in the hospital for weeks and months.  I can’t imagine the pain. These women are brave. They are strong.  They are courageous. They have my utmost respect and love.

I don’t know what the future holds for our family.  I’m not sure how big it will grow, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to grow it.  I don’t know.  But for right now, at this moment, I am going to take the aches and pains of pregnancy and try and find the beauty in them.  I am going to remember that every single thing I am going through is a blessing not to be taken for granted. I am going to hold these women in my heart, and be inspired to find joy in every single day that I’m pregnant.  How can I complain when the alternative could be so much worse?

I’m not saying pregnancy is always a breezy walk in the park, as many women can have serious complications during pregnancy and childbirth that are not to be taken lightly.

But today, for me, I promise to carry with a full and grateful heart.  

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