Wednesday, June 26, 2013

post baby swimsuits. blah.

I was visiting with a pregnant friend today and we were talking about the unfortunate task we both recently faced (given the season): maternity/post-partum bathing suit shopping.

While it is true that bathing suit shopping is usually a task that most of us don't look forward to with glee, I think it might be extra taxing emotionally when pregnant and/or recently post partum. Facing your body during this time of life is challenging. I know there are a lot of blog posts and memes going around encouraging women to embrace their new bodies - to celebrate every stretch mark as a tiger stripe - something that you earned but I want to put voice to the flip side of that coin: to the side that acknowledges that this time of life is a struggle.

Don't get me wrong, I want women to fully love themselves very much and to see their new bodies as these amazing temples (afterall, your body was the first home your children ever had! how incredible is that??) but I also want to give you (and myself) permission to feel your feelings. This change is HARD. It's hard to accept your "new" body (i put that in quotes because nothing is permanent and your new body is NOT how you have to look forever). It is hard to look in the mirror after having a baby and see that nothing is quite how you remember it to be. Things look different, you don't feel like you anymore. At least, I didn't feel like me either time (and at three months post partum after the second baby, I still don't).

Before having kids, I had gotten to a place where I was pretty happy with how I looked. I remember that feeling vividly. In fact, I still have the tiny little skirt I wore when I met Ryan hanging in my closet. And now? Well, right now at this moment I'm two or three sizes bigger than that and not really thrilled to step onto the beach.

I want to be clear here: being a certain size does not make someone valuable or beautiful. My being two or three sizes bigger than what I once was is NOT why I am unhappy - I am unhappy because of the feeling I have about the way I look at the moment. There are millions of women who are my current size and larger and who are breathtaking. This isn't about being "fat" this is about how I feel right now in this stage of life. Women are lovely at any size they feel lovely at and we should embrace ALL sizes of people (men AND women) as gorgeous.

Anyway, today my friend and I lamented this phase and realized that in part it was because we were set up for some disappointment. It seems that while you are pregnant everyone tells you that when you breastfeed the weight will just fall right off of you. I want to say on the official record that this is not accurate information for most women. For some, if not most of us, weight clings to your body for the first six months that you are exclusively nursing. Your body wants the fat to make milk for your baby. It's beautiful in the abstract, it really is. But when you are sleep deprived, hormonal and stressed out you might find yourself wishing you could just look how you want to. And that's okay.

I think it's okay to want something different for yourself. It's not okay to think self destructive or negative thoughts and it's not okay to pressure yourself to some unrealistic standard, but it is okay to say, "I want this to change" and to use that thought to motivate yourself. But don't allow motivation to bring disappointment. This is a gradual thing, I've learned. Give yourself a break.

In the meantime, this summer I am going to try to focus on playing with my lovely son in the waves. On building sand castles and giving him salty-lipped kisses. I'm going to focus on finding a few blissful moments to take a walk with my husband and to hold onto my daughter as she breathes in her first breaths of ocean air. Those are the things I am going to pay attention to, not whether my belly is still swollen from pregnancy or not. And while I might have a moment or two of insecurity about some svelte woman sauntering down the sand, I will remind myself that I can be that woman too one day if I want to - only I can be even better than her because I will have my lovely family with me too...and that really and truly does make it all worth it.

summertime and the livin's easy

I was looking at Cassandra yesterday and wondering if the time of year in which you're born somehow influences your perspective of the world at all as an adult.

Here she is emerging out of the newborn phase at three months old into the blooming and lovely world of Summer. To her the world smells like the gorgeous scent of coconut as she nurses and smells my sunscreen. Days are filled with outside activities: sitting under a tree, splashing in a shallow pool, watching her brother laugh with glee as he climbs through a jungle gym. It's hot. It's sunny. We are all on the go, always doing, doing, doing. Life is boisterous.

And then I think back to when Henry was born in November. Once he was three months old and emerging from his own newborn phase it was the end of winter and early spring. It was cold, rainy, chilly. I was neurotically afraid of germs and those dwindling winter viruses on all surfaces. We spent a lot of time indoors seeking refuge from the weather but also bundling up and snuggling close to one another. We were less active, happier indoors instead. But when the sun did come out, we would emerge with a sense of refreshment and gratitude, soaking it all in as much as we could before the clouds came again.

I have no theory about any of this, no conclusions have been drawn. It was just something interesting I was contemplating yesterday while I nursed my littlest one and thought about what this world must seem like to her. I'm glad it's bright and sunny and full of joy. I hope that her world always feels that way. For Henry, too.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

reflections on my babies

I have recently been very aware of the passing of time. I've been struggling with it, or maybe against it, like the proverbial salmon and all of that boastful upriver swimming. I guess sometimes I try to fight time like that in a way - because I see it blipping by around me and I know that in a few short breaths I will find myself on the other side of fifty, looking around my house wondering what on Earth happened. 

My baby girl will be three months old this weekend. And Henry...beautiful, amazing Henry will be going off to pre-school this September. 

It's Henry that really inspired me to write this morning. He is so the perfect embodiment of What Makes a Toddler right now and it has only just occurred to me that I am somewhat taking that and all it means for granted. I am so immersed in my life that it seems like I will always remember these moments, or that I will always be living them. But the Universe has been kind enough to remind me that that isn't so and that even on the days when I am watching the clock and waiting for Ryan to get home, that I will miss this time ever so much in the not so distant future. The time when my sweet little son is two. When the world revolves around trains and trash trucks. When he asks me to build blocks with him. When he hands me a little Elmo figurine and says "talk as him" so I will play with his little Burt or Ernie or Doc McStuffins figurine and they can discuss going to the potty and finding food in the Sesame Street fridge to eat. Soon he won't be carrying around his little doctor's bag and taking my blood pressure or listening to my "heart beep". Soon he will have friends and social activities and he will just be a big KID all of a sudden.

But right now? Right now he is the perfect bouquet of toddlerhood. With his stickers on his arms, his nails painted green, Thomas the Train socks on his feet, some kind of truck on every shirt he wears. Jelly smudges on his face for the entire day. Random bandaids on his arms because he's convinced he has a boo boo and he needs a bandage. Shoes that light up bright orange when he stomps his feet repeatedly. 

Right now he is this precious little creature and I only get to have him this way for the briefest breath of time. But it is a gift. A gift for me, I feel, because no one else gets to know him during this part of his
life as well as I do. No one else gets the warm smiles, the big "I love you, Mommy" proclamations. No one else gets to still be called his "bubby bear". He holds my hand while he watches Sesame Street, he eats into toast and sandwiches and leaves huge crusts that he hands to me and says, "here you go, mommy". He mixes chocolate almond milk as if it is the most exciting thing in the world, squeezing far too much chocolate sauce into his sippy cup and stirring like a mad man. He lays on the floor and his trucks and trains have these elaborate conversations with each other. He makes helicopter sound effects with his mouth and flies his toy helicopters through the house. His favorite thing to do is turn on a flashlight and shine the light on the floor so the cat chases it. Oh how he laughs when she does. 

And he whines! Oh, how he whines! And he screams in furious rage when he can't get something to be exactly how he wants it (lord, do I know that feeling!). He screams when he's reprimanded, he screams when he doesn't want to stop what he's doing, he screams when he can't get what he wants when he wants it. He frustrates me because it's too hard for him, when the emotions take over, to listen to a voice of reason. And I understand that, I do. I try to remember to give him the space to work it all out. This is a big world full of so many complexities. It's hard to sort it out. It's hard to take it in. Even for me.

He is just this little living ball of perfection. He's exactly who he's meant to be right now and I get to have him, all of him. I get to watch him be this little lovely person. And I know it's not forever. I know it will be gone in the blip of an eye. But oh how I love him so much. I am so, SO lucky to experience him. Every day with him. Even all the ones filled with chaos (which is most of them). 

And Cassandra...she's just starting out on her own path. She's already three months old! Already holding her head up, pushing up during tummy time. Already smiling, laughing, blowing raspberries at me. How does it go by so quickly? She's out of that blissful, sleepy, baby-scented newborn phase already. Already!

I want to try and live through all of these phases of my children with the awareness that even though this is a hard job and every day I literally collapse in exhaustion - this is such a temporary job too. My babies are only babies for a few days really. They grow and change so fast that it's astonishing. Baby Henry is a cherished memory and soon Toddler Henry will follow suit, no matter how hard that is for me to realize right now since I am living all drenched in finger paint and bubbles. Baby Cassandra has already grown and changed so quickly and I am trying to swaddle myself in it as much as I can. 

If I had a time machine I know I would probably use it just to sneak back into my first days of motherhood, to pick up my little newborn Henry and rock him. I would whisper into my own ears not to be so stressed out and scared and to truly try to cherish every single moment. 

I can't wait to see what's next. I know big changes are coming. School and friends and sports and instruments. Whatever phase he enters into next, Henry will be beautiful and amazing at it because he will always be himself and as his mother I am uniquely qualified to say that he is exactly who he is meant to be and there has never been anyone like him and there never will be anyone like him ever in this world. And he is wonderful at it. And the same is true of Cassandra, of course. I cannot wait to find out more about her. 

Life is changing and I am trying so hard to stop and stand still on a moving platform. 

Blessed. I am so blessed. And lucky for me, I know it.