A Vision of Ourselves

Dear Husband,

By the time you come home

we have spent the day

refuting all the compliments

you now rain on us

 

We have spent half the morning trying to keep the baby out of the dog’s water bowl and the other half trying to find clothes that halfway fit because not everyone can make it through a pregnancy in fifteen pounds and our bodies are not ready for size four. We spend our energy fighting our fear and regret that we’ve done everything wrong and our horrific jealousy of our friends who seem to have gotten everything right.

Our tired eyes are glazed with the miracle that overfills our hearts and the bags beneath them are testament to our sleepless hours comforting our cold or hungry or frightened children until they fall happily back to sleep and we lay awake wondering if it will stick or if we should rouse ourselves to walk down the hall to the bathroom.

Unfinished artistry lays on the shelf where it goes untouched for days or weeks. Five minutes to sit and write is taken up with dead batteries and slow servers and a scramble to find a pen.

The living dream is everything we ever asked for. But it is everything else, too. And just because it’s perfect doesn’t mean it isn’t hard.

Mornings

After I pour the half and half into my reheated cup of coffee, I pass by the pack n play to make sure he’s breathing before I sit back down at the computer.

The dog, my beloved fluffy companion, is curled on the couch by the window, awaiting some attention which has been seriously lacking the past few months.

It is still very cold outside and snowed a bit yesterday. I’m wearing a heavy open fronted sweater over one of the two borrowed maternity shirts I wear almost every day. They gained favour by opening down the front enough to make feeding easy.

The baby wakes and reaches for the stars hanging over him in the play crib. He’s grown quite adept at aiming for them.

I think about the first time I saw him. I’d been looking at my husband as he held my hand. With a sense of confusion at the voices telling me to turn my head the other way, I did so, and there was this messy muddy baby covered in goo. I’d forgotten what the purpose of this stage of the crucible was. We’d been at the hospital so long that I’d forgotten why we’d gone there. I didn’t expect anything out of the experience except another step in the journey that had taken up nearly all of the three days following Christmas. After forty-three and half hours of contractions, the later of which were at an intensity that was literally off the chart, three hours of unsuccessful pushing, and the final decision that if he wasn’t able to come out on his own we’d have to go in and get him, it was hard for me to remember there was a bright side to it all. When the surgery was done, I’d go to the recovery room, then Nic and I would go home, just the two of us. Business as usual. I had completely forgotten that we had a very good chance of going home with somebody else. I’d forgotten we were there to get our baby. But there he was. Messy but alive.

A minute later they brought him, cleaned up and wrapped in a blanket, to my husband while they stitched me up. At one point they laid him down next to my head. I couldn’t hold him yet. But I remember his eyes. The deepest, darkest blue I’d ever seen. With lashes thick and dark. And so, so beautiful.

Then they took him to the nursery and, after they were done closing the rift in my abdomen, wheeled me back upstairs to my room in the maternity ward.

At around 8:00pm they brought him to me. I’ll never forget that vision: Tiny angel in a Christmas Tree hat, swaddled tightly over a little kimono shirt and a Huggies diaper bearing Winnie the Pooh. His face glowed when he heard me speak to him. And then he was in my arms.

I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t even stand. I was full of medications and anesthetics and completely worn out. My dream of keeping him in the room with me every night was dashed. He could have stayed, but I knew that as exhausted and delirious as I was it wouldn’t have been safe. So after he nursed for the first time and I held him for a while, he went away and I tried to sleep. I kept waking up. It was horrid being alone, in the darkness. Falling asleep after all those hours of pointless labor should have been easy. I kept waking. Occasionally a nurse would come in to check my vitals. Finally at around 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning he came back. It was like in His Dark Materials when Pan had been too far away – that pang in my heart, almost painful, finally eased.

At some point, during one of his midnight visits to me, he was placed in my arms, the nurse left, and instead of feeding, he laid his head on top of my bosom and went so happily to sleep. One time I heard him crying all the way up the hall. Once he was in the room I called to him, and his face split into radiance and he stopped crying immediately. He knew me. He knew me!

 

***

A shower and a few diaper changes later, I sit eating two left over slices of pepperoni pizza and thinking about my postpartum body. The baby cries and I give him his lunch as well.

I gained about 55 lbs during our pregnancy, 20 more than the outer limit of what I was *supposed to* gain. I think of my friends who had at this point already lost more than they’d gained. I still have 19 lbs to go. I try to remember that some of those women were horribly sick their entire pregnancies and I was fortunate enough to have a relatively easy one. I try to remember that every body is different just as every pregnancy is different. I think of my cousins and friends who had easy, short labors, those who have two or three kids, and I wonder why I didn’t get to experience that. Two pregnancies, only one baby to show for it. A three week bleed with a ten hour laborious miscarriage at 11 weeks. A 43.5 hour labor, three hours of pushing, and still I needed a c-section to get my baby out. I think about this and remember: afterwards we were both safe; we were both healthy and, most importantly, Alive.

I look at this little milk-sotted face, sleeping against my breast, (he smiles in his sleep, his eyes slightly open), and I know that while I could never do it again, it was in some way All Worth It. I get jealous of friends who got healthy pregnancies on the first try. I think of those ten months of trying before we had a successful healthy low-risk pregnancy. The tests and exams and poking and prodding and fruitless perfect lab results leading to more questions and fewer answers. I remember the tears, the frustration, the agony, the guilt, the wondering – why couldn’t I succeed in this? And then I look again at this little face. He wrinkles it in his sleep and I wonder if in his dreams he remembers his harrowing journey to reach us. I kiss the wrinkles away and tell him it’s okay and that I’m right here.

Will I ever forget our trials? Probably not. I know with all my heart I could not be looking at This face if it had worked out any other way. I start to lower him into the pack n play to nap and he grasps at me. We sit back down together, his little head resting on Mommy’s Magical Dinner Pillows ™, these ridiculous breasts that finally have a purpose.

He turned two months on Sunday. My little sugar pea. Our sweet and perfect son. My whole magnificent world.

IMG_1861 (2)

Our little miracle. photo by Jenny Rader, brilliant and devoted nurse

 

 

*SLAM*

While I’m working on a much longer post (regarding the magic and myth of childhood happiness) I want to share with you something I have recently discovered a surprising liking for.

Slam Poetry.

I don’t know how it happened. It was somewhat recent.

Someone I know shared a link to a piece about a subject I care about.

Then someone else did.

Then I saw one linked on a Buzzfeed quiz sidebar.

Then I found one on Pinterest.

 

However I found them, I have found them mesmerizing.

Everything from Body Image to Rape Culture.

Mainly those two, actually.

Two of the things that women have to deal with every day that bug the crap out of me. And these women, these speakers, these poets, these performers, these prophets of women’s truth wield their subjects with expertise.

I thank each of them for their honest, open confrontation of our fears and needs. Thank you.

 

This is the one that spoke to me today.

I beg you all, watch, listen, and try to understand.

 

“Asking For It”:

Finding Me

Don’t give me excuses. I’ve given myself plenty, and I know their danger.

 

Over the past two and a half years I have gained a lot of weight. Some people refer to this gain as Contentment. Which is partially true. And partially a crock of shit.

We as a culture can be a little too forgiving when it comes to the supportive indulgence and the enabling of unhealthy habits. For me, it started out with second helpings. It continued into third helpings, late night snacks, poor food choices, unbalanced meals, and a sedentary lifestyle.

For two months, earlier this winter, I was pregnant. During that time, I lamented my inability to feel comfortable in my changing body. I lamented at how I now couldn’t make the major physical changes I wanted to until after the baby was born. And I thought of the tales of other women, crying out, “Ugh, pregnancy Ruined my body!” and I ruminated and whined or perhaps cried and apologized to myself that I didn’t need the pregnancy to ruin my body, because I had already done so. My body was unrecognizable to me. The pudge, the folds, the enormity, the lack of definition – any vestiges of trimness disappearing regularly from across my body.

I am in the process of finding My Body. It is not exactly about weight loss, seeing as I can’t break 140 lbs more than one day in a row. But it is a part of the goal. The quest, as a whole, is more so Finding Myself underneath the padding.

After years of encouragement to do what boils down to overeating, by people who could perhaps take better care of themselves, I had grown bigger and less defined. And I compared myself to my younger, svelter friends, who managed a perpetual petiteness, even during their prenatal period. And I hated myself more. And I apologized to myself and our baby, that I had taken such lousy care of myself for so long.

I missed my body. The one I knew to be me. The one in which I felt safe and healthy.

I questioned myself out of health with the words of people who try to be inclusive by excluding the possibility that I was already happy in my body when I was smaller.

Being inclusive and respectful and supportive of bigger women should not mean any sort of negative judgment towards anyone who is not and has no wish to be plus size.

In people’s attempts to cull the warning signs I gave myself, the attempts to keep me happy “in my own body,” these others convinced me that my own idea of my own body didn’t matter.

So I ate more.

And I never exercised.

And I snacked.

And I sat about.

And I forgot myself. I forgot how to feel right. Knowing that I should always love my body. No matter the size.

But Loving requires Caring For. And I did not do that.

So I grew and grew and fell swiftly outside the acceptable zone of the BMI chart. But I was told those charts don’t measure the right things. Don’t worry! But I did. Because I still didn’t feel like myself.

So when we lost the pregnancy and nothing made any sense I clung to the only things that I could. And I threw myself into creating a better me, a healthy me, because there was nothing left to hold me back, and no one and no thing could get in my way.

We checked and cut our portion sizes. We started planning and balancing our meals again.

And I started exercising almost daily. Nothing major, but the one thing that had always worked before and that could be done in any weather (walks and runs are excluded from the options during an Upstate New York winter). My Pilates mat workout routine has not altered in twelve years, because it has always worked so well for my body.

[Ana Caban’s Beginner Mat Workout, for anyone who is interested in giving it a try.]

It is the only exercise I really get. And I am feeling a difference. Even just with 30m a day, 5-6 days a week.

I also searched Pinterest for inspirational posters, recipes, exercise programs, and the Pinboards answered my call. A favourite pseudo quote that I found states: “I really regret that workout! -said no one, ever.” I got a lot of arguments when I copied that simple statement onto Facebook. But I hold to it. I regret much more the discomfort of being in a body I stopped caring for. I regret much more the lethargy that became a daily part of my life. I regret that I lost my ability to feel confident enough to exist at my preferred weight and size.

The difference is slow, but it is coming. My newer, bigger clothing is getting looser. My older, smaller clothing is slowly, slowly making its way back into my drawers and to the front of my closet. The pounds may not be coming off that swiftly, but they are coming off. And some are even converting into tighter leaner muscles.

I feel it everyday – the changes, the improvements, the returning to the body I belong in.

For the longest time I tried to live as one who cherished her body no matter the size. But I now realize that you have to Cherish YOUR body. Take care of yourself. Don’t let yourself go just to disprove misconstrued societal norms. Be You. Find Yourself. Be comfortable in Your body whether you feel the best at size 22 or size 4. Just make sure you feel Your Best.

I love my body, so I am taking better care of it. I love the actual physical sensation and feeling of finding my body again. I love placing my hands on my hips and feeling the shape that belongs there.

Along with my ‘skinny jeans’ and my Skinny jeans, there are other items I am longing to more than just squeeze back into. Jeans. Tops. Dresses. Bras and panties, for goodness sakes! Other items, too. For instance, I made a gorgeous historic period dress three years ago and it stopped fitting properly about two years ago. I can’t wait to try it on and see if I am any closer to being able to wear it again. Comfortably. By which I mean not hurting myself when I try to get it on or off. You can read about my process of making the gown on my SCA blog, The C is for Creative.

I have a goal. TO BE HEALTHY. If you are healthy at 147 lbs and pushing steadily past size 8, go You! I was not. I was very much not healthy. And I did not recognize myself. I could not feel right in my body. So I am trying to fix that. By being true to Myself.

[Body shaming can go all ways: all bodies are real bodies. Take care of the one you have that belongs to you.]

 

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