Failure & Mommyhood

*Sorry, my grammar is all over the place in this one.

I think the one thing that has shocked me the most about becoming a Mom is that the past, my history, still counts for so much of my thoughts some days. Perhaps, that’s odd. Perhaps, it’s social media that keeps posting “memories” of years ago on my facebook feed. Perhaps, it was naïve to think that the things the hurt in the past would suddenly disappear, or at least seem small in comparison to the huge blessings of parenthood. Most days the latter is true, but more often than I’d like to admit I’m hit with the sting of my past failures (mostly in the career realm) hitting me square in the jaw and knocking the wind out of me. This morning I was reminded of a failure and within minutes my eyes begin to fill with the tears that come with the deep shame, embarrassment, and the humiliation that can come with failure. In my “former life” I was a struggling artist. And as an artist your art and craft feel so deeply embedded into who you are it’s hard to separate the failure of a project with your identity. So when your project fails, the project isn’t the failure…you are the failure. I enjoy my life so much more now that I’m not striving after my career in the entertainment industry. (Not that there is anything wrong with striving after a career. In my opinion, “GOT FOR IT!”) However, for myself I feel so much more life myself spending must of my time at home being a mom. I like writing when I want to. Writing was not originally my chosen art form so failing at writing…well, it hurts a lot less. It doesn’t feel as embedded into my identity.

The worst part of this is that my eight month old daughter saw me crying this morning, she saw me frustrated, she saw me ashamed, and that makes my feel so guilty. I’m sure she couldn’t understand it exactly but I’m sure she could feel that I was sad. I could be totally wrong. I could be completely over thinking this, but I remember so clearly when my mother was sad. I was, of course, a few years older than my “Lula,” but I knew how much of a disappointment my mother’s life at times was to her. I knew how painful it was. I knew how much it didn’t turn out like she had wanted it to, and she was and is so successful. I don’t want to communicate to my daughter that I don’t like how my life turned out. In reality, my life is so much better. I wouldn’t trade it at all for success in the field I spent my youth and twenties striving for and yet it still hurts. These failures still weigh on me heavily. I carry a lot of guilt from my past and now I fear I’ve brought it with me into motherhood. I know I’m not the only mother that feels this. I can’t be. Besides, there’s already enough unreasonable and unfounded guilt that comes with motherhood. For example, sometimes I have to eat (or pee) and sometimes this leaves my daughter crying hysterically because I’ve had to put her down…which leaves me feeling guilty. I realize that’s crazy, she’s fine. Not to mention that I’m late to everything and the work I do now to help bring a very small amount of income in is somewhat halfhearted. I not trying to be halfhearted, I just haven’t slept a full night in eight months and I haven’t yet mastered nursing while typing something “clever, honest, and encouraging.”

 

All that to say…I really don’t want to screw up my kid because I’m not over my past. My life is much more beautiful now. If I can just focus on right now, not my past, but my present it’s much easier to see the reality of the endless good stuff of motherhood.

Nearness

img_3419My “Lula” does this thing, it’s sweet, but always comes at times when I should be working, writing, cleaning, folding laundry, or any one of the endless other things a stay-at-home-Mom needs to do, while also trying to hold on to the last tiny crumbs of her former career. “Lula” will persistently cry and moan until I climb over her baby gate and sit with her. Once I get past the baby gate, she reaches for a quick hug and then she’s off and continues to play with whatever toy she was amusing herself with in the first place.  She doesn’t want me to play with her (I’ve tried that, trust me) she just wants me to sit there, near her, while she plays. Every once in a while she’ll turn and crawl up on my lap for a hug or to nurse for a moment, and then she goes right back to playing. She just wants me near. Of course, this is not unusual, babies want their Mama’s near.  It’s sweet, and so inconvenient, and so life giving, and so restoring. It’s like a reset of my day. A moment that shifts me and centers me. It reminds me of a Psalm that says, “He makes me lay down in green pastures.” Well, there are no green pastures by our place, but she makes me sit down on a pink and gray blanket. She, who doesn’t let me get much sleep at night, forces me to stop, to sit, to be, to be still, and to be present. As I sit and watch her play I stop all the rushing and frantic running around that comes with living in the middle of city, and all the running around I do to try to do and be everything…all at the same time. Which is…well, impossible. At least it is for me. The truth is that I use to think I was at my best in those frantic, hectic, busy moments of life. I use to pride myself on my ability to multitask and to get things done at an impossible pace. (I mean, I wrote an hour long TV pilot, that took six drafts, and started filming six weeks after I wrote the first word.) But today, I’m not that person anymore. I’m sure that part of me is still alive somewhere, but she’s harder to find to now. Now, I’m at my best in those moments when I stop. When I’m present with my baby girl, whether I’m sitting with her, or changing her clothes, or her diaper, or nursing her, or feeding her and I’m going slowly I find that there is a kind of grounding joy in it. A grounding and centering joy in the mundane beauty of being present as I care for her. This season will pass, quickly. If we’re lucky, we’ll have more children, if I’m lucky a play I’m working on will begin to be work-shopped in the New Year. And if I’m really lucky, my needy, strong-willed, persistent, wonderful “Lula” will continue to cry, moan, and need me to just be near her, in the midst of all of my “doings,” until I crawl over her baby gate to lay down in the green pastures of the present.

Body, I’m sorry.

I owe my body a big apology. If I’m honest, I have been cruel to it for the last twenty years. My cruelty started slowly, in the form of comparisons to my older, prettier, skinnier teenage cousins, then moved to obsessively sucking in my stomach and looking at myself in the mirror picking out all the things I would change ( a longer neck, longer hair, different eyes, lighter hair, flatter stomach, skinnier legs, etc.). Then on to restricting types food, diet pills, HCG, bulimia, laxatives, more diet pills, working out foolishly through injuries, until my body and metabolism were wrecked. Somehow I got healthy. Some through therapy and I think I also “got over it.” Got over it…I’m not sure what that means exactly. I think it might mean that I just got older or I begin to value myself a little more. I began to see myself as more than just a body whose value was based on whether or not I could fit into my skinny jeans. It seems shallow, doesn’t it? To care so much about how you look. But it’s not. At least, in my case it wasn’t because it wasn’t really at all about how I looked. I’m not so sure it ever is. In my case, the reason was pretty classic…control. I couldn’t control my biology. I couldn’t control that all the other little girls in ballet class were skinnier or that my cousins were teenagers who had lost all their baby fat. I couldn’t control that it was difficult to learn to read. I couldn’t control how the energy of my home would change with the arrival of a  stepfather. I couldn’t control the disaster of meeting my biological father. I couldn’t control the depression that had begun long before adolescence. I could, however, control food. I could control how much and what I took in. And on days when I felt terrible about myself I could feel proud if I didn’t eat bread, or sugar, or meat. The bulimia wasn’t my idea. Body, I blame you a little bit for that one. Gluten allergies weren’t as popular in the earlier two thousands as they are now. I couldn’t figure out why I got so sick after eating almost anything; a turkey sandwich, a diet frozen pizza, it seemed that any and every meal would cause my stomach to balloon, so much so,that people would  ask if I were pregnant. I continued to get more and more ill. Most days I’d wake up with terrible nausea and unintentionally puke at one point or another. One morning I ended up in the ER with terrible stomach pains and the inability to stop vomiting. The ER doctors kept thinking I was pregnant and didn’t believe when I explained I was a virgin, it was impossible.  They made me take a pregnancy test. I of course, wasn’t pregnant. I vomited bile for over 9 hours that day. After endless tests they set me home and then to more doctors. The doctors never figured out what was wrong with me, but I learned that vomiting relieved the stomach pain. A few years later I learned that vomiting could relieve emotional pain as well. And so bulimia set root. Bulimia is a great companion, constant, always there, always ready to help you free yourself from failures and disappointments. Bulimia was freeing for a girl who was born a natural rule follower. The first time I purged I was living with a boy and feeling terrible about it. He wasn’t a good boyfriend, I didn’t want to be living with him, but I was in the midst of a nasty depression, he needed a place to stay, and I didn’t have any fight left to express what I did or what I didn’t want. One afternoon I got Carl’s Jr. for lunch, a grilled chicken sandwich and a side salad. I had told myself that I would only have half of the sandwich, but I ate the whole thing. I sat there wishing I could erase my “mistake,” of the whole sandwich. Just like I wished I could erase my endless other mistakes. Suddenly, I realized I could! Sure, I couldn’t erase any of the other stupid decisions that had brought me to this place in my life, but I could erase that half of sandwich. Better yet, I could erase the whole meal. It was easier than I thought,because I was pretty much always mildly nauseous after a meal. Now, of course it all makes sense …gluten. But then I had no idea and so I keep eating, I keep feeling sick, I kept wanting to control something, I kept wanting to be skinnier, I kept vomiting, and I kept feeling proud of myself for doing it. Except, it didn’t make me skinny…in fact, during my bulimic years I was heavier…which seemed horribly unfair. In the end, bulimia costed thousands of dollars in dental work and therapy, strained my relationships, and was so utterly embarrassing. I’m sorry body, for doing that to you. I’m sorry heart for straining you so much. I’m sorry teeth for stripping you and filling you with cavities. After bulimia I became overly obsessed with being healthy. In reality, I remained overly obsessed with being skinny, but I figured out a new way to do it, through running. Running changed my body like crazy. After months of running I looked thin and athletic. Then, with the whole being healthy thing going so great, I added being a vegetarian to it. I already didn’t eat bread so I knew I could restrict something else. Without meat, and bread, and then without diary I felt amazing. Light, free, thin! And I loved running. I loved it so much that I ran through pain and swollen knees. Months and months of pain and swollen knees until I couldn’t walk upstairs without limping, and was forced to stop running altogether. I watched the weight come back. I went off and on diets; some worked, some didn’t. In the end, I resolved myself to the fact that I would always struggle with my weight, but health was more important, and life was more important than being skinny. I released control. I let go.  Today, years later, I find myself happily married to a wonderful man and I have a beautiful baby girl. I gained 60 pounds while I was pregnant. I hated gaining that much weight. I thought for sure I’d never lose it all, but I did. My precious, lovely, perfect baby girl is seven months old and I’ve lost 61 pounds. Through mundane diet and mild exercise. All those years of working so hard, controlling every bite, and punishing my body seem so cruel to me now.  So, Dear Body,  I’m sorry.  I’m sorry I’ve been so mean to you. I’m sorry I’ve hated you and called you names. I’m sorry I’ve compared you to every ballerina, and actress, and skinny person. I’m sorry I have treated you with such disdain. You have always been wonderful to me. So, thank you. Thank you for healing. Thank for being able to heal. Thank you for not punishing me back. Thank you for taking the abuse and not shutting down completely. Thank you for being healthy enough to carry a precious, baby girl, a gift I don’t deserve. Thank you for the strength to carry her, the ability to nourish her, and the desire to be healthy for her. May she love herself, her body, more and better than I have loved you. I watch her love you in a way I have never before. She loves your hands, she study’s them, and holds them, and taste them. She loves your arms wrapped around her. She loves to lay her head on your shoulder and on your chest. She loves to nestle into your soft midsection. My daughter loves you, my body, so very much. You are immeasurably valuable to her, for you are so much more than a just body. To her you are life, comfort, protection, food, and you are love.

What I looked 24 hours after I had a baby!

Over the past 5 months I’ve been searching (at times frantically) for a blog with some confidence boasting images of new moms gradually working off the baby weight…and then I came across this image.fullsizerender-21 (This image is, in fact, the exact image that pushed me over the edge and into a blog.) That’s Hilaria Baldwin 24 hours after giving birth to her third child in three years.

Admittedly, she’s looks amazing. I hope to one day look that amazing just in general, without having to give birth 24 hours beforehand. In fact, she looks shockingly similar to what I looked like at my skinniest, when I was a vegan after eating a burrito. Furthermore, if that’s what I looked like 24 hours after giving birth I too would take a selfie in my underwear and post it for all the world to see. Shoot, I would print out an 8×10, laminate it, & frame it. I’m sure she was trying to be encouraging and inspiring. I’m sure that was somewhat of an exposing image to share. And for that, in all sincerity, I applaud her. However, I’m going to take a wild guess and say that most women do not look like that 24 hours after giving birth, or a week after, or month after, or for some of us a year after. I’m 5 months out and I don’t look anything close to that.  Now, of course we likely have different body types, her body likely metabolizes food differently than mine, she’s a yoga instructor, she’s fit for a living,  she’s probably taller than me (fingers crossed by at least 5 inches) but that doesn’t exactly help.  You see, what I felt when I looked at her picture was embarrassed and ashamed of myself. Embarrassed and ashamed of what I looked like 24 hours after giving birth because I looked nothing like her. It’s as if suddenly I forgot that my body, big and bulky as it got, grew a healthy, beautiful, little human. I should be proud of my body. I should be incredibly grateful for it. But I felt none of that, just shame and embarrassment. Honestly, that’s my problem not hers.  That’s my own unwarranted self-loathing. Feelings of embarrassment are not new pertaining to my pregnancy weight gain.  In fact, throughout the last months of my pregnancy I felt embarrassed a lot. I was huge and people commented endlessly. Strangers commonly said things like, “Whoa,” “Just about to pop, huh,” “You got twins in there?” or simply “Look at YOU!” For the most part it was fine, I was so excited to have this baby it didn’t really matter too much. But what really got to me was when people would ask when was due. I couldn’t lie…so I’d tell the truth…and then they would look at me like I was insane, because usually I still had a couple months to go. I doubt Mrs. Baldwin looked like this 9 months pregnant. But I did. fullsizerender-19That’s me five days before having little Lula. So, obviously I looked very different 24 hours after giving birth than she did.

In case anyone else out there needs some encouragement and possibly a more common image of a woman 24 hours after giving birth. Here I am!img_0333 That’s me 46 hours after having Lula. (Sorry, we didn’t take any pictures exactly 24 hours after.) That band I’m wearing was to help keep my still huge tummy from painfully falling over my cesarean incision. Today, I still don’t look like Hilaria Baldwin and I still have 8 to 13 pounds of baby weight to go. But I’m getting there slowly and that’s…honestly disappointing some days, but in reality it’s perfectly okay.

I’m going to stay focused, consistent, and I’ll get to my goal. When I do I too will post a selfie of my amazing post baby body in my underwear. (Just kidding.) However, I will post what I’ve been doing to take the baby weight off & if any other Mama’s out there have some tips, please let me know…asap!

 

 

60 pounds!!!

I gained 60 pounds while pregnant. Yup, 60 pounds! That’s literally double what you’re “supposed” to gain while growing a human. Nope, I did not eat whatever I wanted for nine months. In fact,  I worked out at least four times a week, I ate healthy, and only let myself have two cheat meals a week. Trust me, no one has ever eaten more kale that I did during my pregnancy.  I bloated so badly during my first trimester that I looked very pregnant from the start. Here’s me 2 months along. By 7 months pregnant I looked like I was going to pop. In fact, around the 7 month mark I was walking with one of my besties and a stranger sweetly asked if I was walking to induce labor! “Thanks, but fullsizerender-14No!”

It turned out I had Polyhydramnios, it’s basically too much amniotic fluid. My belly measured full term long before little Lula was fully cooked. In the end my 5’4 body kind of gave out, my blood pressure skyrocketed, and I was induced at 38 weeks, looking like this! 13147730_10207208199342402_988436519804852769_oTo be honest this picture really doesn’t do it justice.

I was huge! By the time I gave birth I weighed 190 pounds. I did gain some at the hospital because I was on fluids for almost twenty hours (that’s technically what pushed me to the 190 mark.) I came home weighing 2 pounds more than I did when I went into the hospital. I went in weighing 184 and came home weighing 186. Now, that was a shock. Lula was on the little side weighing only 6 pounds, 8 ounces at birth, but I thought I’d come home at least 10 pounds less than going in, not 2 pounds more!

Once I got home I felt like a swollen beast. I was swollen everywhere; my hands, my ankles, my feet, my face, my legs looked like tree trunks. I looked much worse coming home than I did going in. I was not prepared for that… at all.

Trying to get down to my pre-preg weight (between 125 -130 pounds) has been a challenge. It’s been five months since Lula’s birth and my weight is currently fluctuating between 140 & 145. There’s a pretty dramatic fluctuation depending on  what time I weigh myself and how much I’ve breastfed that day.

I’m just getting to the point where I’m starting to look a little bit more like myself. I can wear some of my old clothes. Most of my jeans are still a no-go and any of my pre-preg shirts that have to button over my boobs are out of the question. The girls were small once and now “small” is not the word I would use describe them.

So here I am today. 10 pounds to go…or 15 if I want all my jeans to fit.img_3152