International Yoga Day

Today is International Yoga Day (according to Facebook), and I wanted to write a little about yoga and what it means and is for me.

I started my yoga journey just over four years ago. When I started doing yoga I was scared I wouldn’t be good enough. I was scared I was too fat, not flexible enough, too clumsy, too-everything and not-enough-everything all at once.

Well, instead, yoga opened up a whole new world for me. *cue Jasmine and Aladdin vocals* Yoga taught me that I was enough. That I had worth. That I had a wholly unique and wonderful place in the world. So of course, to expand my personal yoga journey, I went to yoga teacher training (two years ago) at the OM place. If yoga changed my life, YTT flipped my world upside down, shook it around, and remolded my life in the best, most unimaginable ways. I left that six months of training feeling strong, beautiful, empowered. (I also left with some amazing friendships, but that’s a different story for a different day.)

My whole YTT class knew I wanted to have a baby (I’m not good at keeping those kinds of things to myself.) And at the end of my training I found out I was pregnant (HOORAY!). I spent my pregnancy not doing yoga (I’d planned to practice at least an hour each day to help with labor and weight gain), but instead spent my pregnancy eating and sitting and sleeping. 38 weeks later, I had a baby boy, a perfect, beautiful, wonderful baby boy. My sweet Jamesy. I said that I would start yoga again then, that I would get my body back by eating healthy foods, portion control, exercise. I didn’t. I said I was too tired, too busy, too ______. Seven months later, we found out James needed a major surgery–a cranial vault remodeling–and so I forgot about myself entirely. I focused on preparing for his surgery, and then with caring for him. Even months and months after his surgery, this was my MO.

Now my baby is sixteen months old. And I am 40-50 pounds overweight. But I can still do yoga. And I should still do yoga. But I don’t do it. Why? Because the glow of discovering yoga, of discovering myself in teacher training, has faded. Because I’ve never been so heavy, and even all my positive self talk isn’t helping. Because I don’t like the way I look and I feel sad.

What does that have to do with yoga or with International Yoga Day? I’m so glad you asked.

Yoga is more than just asana (poses). SO much more. Yoga is about the breath. Yoga is about compassion–for your self and others. Yoga is about truth. Yoga is about being in the moment, experiencing the moment–that means the good and the bad. Yoga is about BEING and LIVING. Yoga isn’t about getting the perfect handstand (though that’s super cool, and I hope to be able to do it someday), it’s about your personal, inward journey.

I often feel guilty about not liking the way I look right now. I feel guilty about looking in the mirror, looking at photos, and feeling sad. Feeling scared that I’ll never fit back in my favorite clothes or feel comfortable in my own skin again. But yoga is about allowing those emotions. Experiencing them. Honoring what you’re dealing with, what you’re going through, what you’re feeling. And then, once you’ve experienced it, once you’ve allowed yourself the luxury of just being yourself–good, bad, all of it–in those moments, then you can start to change. And just like in yoga, that change should be slow and steady, like ocean waves or the turning of the world.

I’m rambling. I’m all over the place. But I’m also struggling with allowing myself to feel what I feel about my weight. It’s easy to proclaim from your blog soapbox, “THIS IS WHAT I SHOULD DO!” It’s a lot harder to actually do it.

But I love yoga. I fell instantly in love with the asana practice, and then cultivated a deeper, richer love with the rest. With the breath. With the self awareness. With the quiet. With the realization that I can be who I am, what I am, and that’s OK. So I want to take this love, using International Yoga Day as the platform from which I start, and start applying that love to myself. I want to start taking care of my body, of my mind, of my heart. I want to start loving who I am, where I am, what I am. And I want to learn to appreciate that those changes will all take time, and that that wait, that journey, can be just as sweet, if not sweeter, than the final destination.

Happy International Yoga Day, everyone, ❤

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Change is: Tough, Weird, Good

For the first 14 months of my son’s life, I was a stay at home mom. I had a job (working in digital communications for Signature HealthCARE), but I did it from my computer at home. The older James got, the harder working became, but I found the time and made it work. I was determined to be a stay at home mom until James, and any other kids I might have, went to kindergarten.

And then this amazing opportunity came along–the MFA Specialist position in the Bluegrass Writers Studio opened up. A job that I only had to be away from home 12 hours a week, could work the other 8-10 from home. A job that would let me work on a website, a literary journal, and in an office with professionals in a college setting. It was perfect. So, I applied, not thinking I would get it.

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But I did. Wonderful news! And then it hit me–I was going to have to find child care for my son, for the boy who, for his entire life, had spent every single day, with only a few hours here and there as exceptions, with me.

I spent well over a month talking to people, trying to find someone to come to my house, to find a day care, a baby sitter that I trusted. Well, I did, and James has been with her for the last three weeks, three days a week.

To say that it’s been a seamless, perfect transition would be a bold faced lie. But it has been less painful than I thought.

Leaving your baby with someone, even someone you trust, is terrifying the first time. You’re saying to the person watching your child, “Here is my heart. I’ve cut it from my chest, wrapped it in all the love I have, and am giving it to you for safe keeping.” That’s a big freaking deal. 

But then, faster than you’d think, you start to grow accustomed to the change. That panic at leaving your child with someone diminishes and new worries and fears emerge. // Is my child giving her trouble? Is he too much to handle? Will his tantrums and stubbornness make her dislike him? Will she dislike me if he’s bad? Does he have a good time there? Is he happy? Is he happy without me? Does that make me happy or sad? Am I damaging him by leaving him while he’s crying? Would I damage him by keeping him holed away with me at home 24/7? // So. Many. Questions.

So in the span of a few months, my plans drastically changed. I was no longer a stay at home mom (some people cheered this, others gave me disapproving looks). I was working part-time (more cheers, more squinted eyes). I had to trust that another woman (she’s absolutely AMAZING, by the way) would care for my son with the same mama-bear-ness that I do.

Basically, one small change turned my world upside down and shook it like a snow globe.

Being a mom when things change is hard, because no matter what choice you make–staying home, going to work, finding a sitter, finding a nanny, finding a daycare–A, people will have opinions, both good and bad, about it, and B, change is just never easy (at least not for me).

So, James is now a kid who, three days a week, gets to go and play with other kids, and hang out with the coolest babysitter ever. And I am now a human being who gets to go and do adult things on computers and with literary journals (go check out Jelly Bucket if you get the chance!) and with actual adult people three days a week for a few hours at a time, but then gets to go and pick up her sweet boy and still spend most of her time with him.

Change is hard. And now my life feels really, really weird. But this change, I think, is going to be really, really great.

Hyper-Emotional (or Why I Feel Like a Monster)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been emotional. Like, really emotional. Waaaay more emotional than most/normal people. That’s not to say I have really intense emotions all the time, but rather I am aware of and experience my emotions all the time. ALL THE TIME. There are times when I feel hyper-emotional, and while those times are few and far between, they’re overwhelming, sometimes overpowering. Most of the time I’m not like that, but I am always, always, feeling something and that’s where the trouble comes in. My emotion, my thoughts, show in my posture and face even if the emotion I’m feeling is mild.

This hyper-emotional aspect of my personality has been a blessing and a curse. The blessing comes in just how much, how deeply, I can love the people closest to me. If I say I love you, please know that that means I LOVE you, and would do pretty much anything I could to make you happy. And even if those other emotions creep into our relationship, know I still love you deeply.

The other emotions, the “curse” ones, are a little trickier.

It takes very little to make me sad. And when I feel deeply sad, it can be an ugly-crying, shaking, pulling my hair kind of sad. And I have a pretty short fuse, but it generally dissipates quickly. Unless it something that really makes me angry, in which case, I see RED.

Because I’m hyper-emotional, I wear my emotions on my sleeve. Unless I’m just really, really tired, you’re gonna know what I’m feeling when I’m feeling it. But that isn’t the worst part–the worst part is that, because I’m so hyper-emotional, if I feel a little bit irritated, a little bit mad, a little bit not-happy, it can come across as really irritated, really mad, really not-happy.

Over the last 31 years, I’ve been told I have twelve different personalities, that people are afraid of how their words are going to affect me, of how I’ll react. I’ve been told I was crazy, that there was something wrong with me, wrong with my brain. After hearing these things, or things like it, for so long, I’ve started to feel like there really was something wrong with me, like I was a monster, and for a hyper-emotional, heart-on-sleeve person, that feeling is paralyzing. And if you’re cripplingly insecure, like me, it’s hard to break out of that I’m-a-monster cave that you find yourself in.

Being emotional sucks. It can also be pretty wonderful. I experience so much joy in each day! But I also experience a lot of sadness, a lot of anger. I lot of worry, doubt, excitement.

I don’t really have a point in writing this, except to be honest and open. I’ve always wanted that–to be honest and open about my self, my beliefs, my truths, and this is one of them. There’s a good chance that I’m more emotional than anyone you’ve ever met. I hate that about myself. HATE it. I also sometimes love it, but not as often. And that’s one of my truths. Somehow, I feel like sharing it will ease some of the burden I feel at having to carry it, but maybe it won’t. Maybe I just needed to write all this down. I don’t know, but it’s done now.

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re one of those people I mentioned before, the ones who I love with a scary intensity, and if that’s the case, I love you for reading my scrambled thoughts. ❤

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Being a Mom is Hard

Being a mom is hard.

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again. And it’s not just hard in the ways you’d think. Sure, it’s hard not getting enough sleep and constantly picking up after someone else and getting snot and vomit and urine and who-knows-what-else on you. But there are other things that are also hard. SO hard. And until you’re a parent, you can’t really understand how hard those other things can be.

Like how to feed your baby. This doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult. I mean, as long as you’re getting your baby the proper nutrition (ie: enough breast milk or formula and then later, enough baby food or soft foods and whole milk) it shouldn’t make being a mom hard, right? Wrong.

Feeding my baby has been a source of pain for me since I realize that breastfeeding just wasn’t going to happen for us. I wanted to breastfeed. I wanted it SO BADLY. But because of a long series of things–uncooperative nipples, an undiagnosed tongue and lip tie, no real breastfeeding support in the area, doctors and nurses who didn’t have time to help as much as a new mom needs, and a baby who was rapidly losing weight–I didn’t get to have that relationship with my son. Instead, I chose to use a breast pump and pump for as long as my body would produce milk, which ended up being just at six months, and feed my son with a bottle–first breast milk, then formula, and now whole milk.

This shouldn’t be a big deal. I should be able to look at this, at the fact that I have fed my son and given him the nutrition he needs for over thirteen months now. But do you know what I see in all of that? I failed my son because I couldn’t breastfeed him until he was ready to stop. That’s what I see. That’s what I feel.

There’s an ache deep in my belly that still yearns to have that relationship with him every time I see a mom breastfeeding her baby. Every time I see an article on Facebook about why breast is best, or see other moms (and dads) talking about how awful formula is for your baby, guilt eats me up. Even now, seven months after my supply dried up, a year after I finally realized that pumping was best for James and for me, I mourn–truly, deeply mourn–not being able to breastfeed James. I still battle my mommy guilt and have to talk myself down from just sitting and crying and wallowing in these feelings, even though I know I’ve done all I could to take care of my baby. I still remember the looks I used to get in public places every time I put a bottle in James’s mouth–looks that said you’re a screw up, you could do this better, you should be ashamed.

Being a mom is hard. And the only people who can understand just how hard it is are other moms, but we still judge each other. We think we know what’s best for other mothers, other families. We think that just because we really connect with a parenting style or choice that it has to be the right one for everyone. But we can’t know what other families, other moms, other kids go through. Maybe a mother is breastfeeding because it’s cheaper. Maybe she’s bottle feeding because her baby was adopted. Maybe she did every single thing she could to breastfeed, and for any number of reasons, just couldn’t. There are a million situations with a million maybes out there…

We can’t know other moms’ stories, other families’ plot lines. All we can do is band together, really truly be a tribe of mothers instead of a group of moms who sometimes get along and sometimes judge the hell out of each other. We need to support each other, try and understand where other moms are coming from and try not to cast judgement. We need to stop assuming that the way we’re parenting is the absolute, one hundred percent best way to parent, need to stop trying to “fix” other moms. We need to support each other, love each other, be shoulders for each other to cry on, and love each other.

Being a mom is hard, but having mom friends who get you, who listen to you, who are just there for you (even if you don’t parent the same way or feed your child the same way or whatever) makes it so much easier, so much better.

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On Being a Writer and a Mommy

Before I had James, I was working on the first draft of a novel. It wouldn’t be the first novel manuscript I’d completed, but it was going to be the first that wasn’t absolutely ridiculous. I started it before conception, and as soon as I announced my pregnancy, all my mom-writer friends said, “Finish your book before the baby is born!”

Honestly, I thought they were being overly cautious, but I did finish the rough draft pre-baby! I felt so accomplished. And because of the type of writer I am, I didn’t plan on revising for a few months (I can’t revise without some distance). So, I waited. I had James. I didn’t sleep. I pumped for the baby (for more info on that lovely period of my life, click here). I ate whenever I was hungry, which was often. I cuddled my newborn. I cried. But I didn’t write, or revise, or even think about my story.

Until one day, I did. Months and months after the rough draft was done and my son was born, I decided it was time to polish the very rough story I had churned out. So I did. In stolen moments while James slept or played, in moments when I could have been doing laundry or sweeping, I revised.

It was a small revision and I knocked it out relatively quickly, but man, did it take it out of me! Suddenly, I couldn’t just sit down for twenty minutes or two hours and write. I had to make sure the baby was OK, dry, fed, happy, and then I might get five or ten minutes in broken intervals. But, I did it! I revised (sort of), and I got through every page of my manuscript.

Well, as any writer knows, one revision is just the beginning of the beginning. So, I started a second revision–this one to be more in depth, more brutal, than the last. Only now my baby (who was immobile the last time around) is a toddler, and he is into E V E R Y T H I N G. If I thought it was hard to steal a minute before, now it’s nearly impossible. Nap time is mostly off limits, because I have an online job with Signature HealthCARE that I have to cram in there (oh, and showering every now and again is kind of nice). I could work on it after James is in bed, but that’s really the only time my husband and I have to talk without being interrupted every few seconds by sweet (and sometimes not-s0-sweet) toddler sounds. I could get up early, but…sleep!

So, how does one be a good mother, which I really hope I am, and still pursue her writing, her art? How does one maintain her identity in a sea of diapers and dried bits of food and tantrums and spoiled milk stains? By getting creative. While he eats, I sit with my computer open, and between giving him handfuls of cereal or torn up bits of veggies and chicken or spoonfuls of yogurt, I revise a few sentences. If I have to go to the bathroom, the laptop goes, too. If he’s playing happily for a few minutes in the floor, the laptop is out and the fingers fly until I have to get up to make sure he doesn’t pull the TV down on his head.

I may not have the time I once did–I used to stay up until three or four in the morning, writing until my fingers ached joyfully–but having to fight for the time to work on what I’m passionate about somehow makes it more real, more substantial.

So, mommas and mommas-to-be, don’t give up on what you love. Whether it’s writing, playing music, something super athletic and amazing, painting, other arts and crafts, whatever, you can find time for it, even if that time looks nothing like it did before. Be an amazing mommy and still maintain that beautiful, unique identity! If I can do it, even in bits and pieces, anyone can.

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When Moms Give Advice

When I was pregnant, I got all sorts of advice from other moms–some solicited, some not. A lot of that advice was wonderful! And some of it made me cry and cry. Then, after I had my son, I got MORE advice with the same stats–I asked for some, I got some I didn’t ask for, some was great, some made me feel like the worst mom in the world.

Because of this, I always said I would never give another mom advice unless she asked me, and then I would try to take into account her situation and not just force upon her the “truth” of my own situation, as if my experience in motherhood was the ultimate experience that everyone else needed to live by.

So, naturally, before I even realize what I’m doing, I start handing out advice left and right. “When James was a baby this REALLY worked. You should try it.” “When I was pregnant, the ONLY thing that worked was this. You should do this. Can I help you get started?”I was that mom all of a sudden. Yikes.

Once I realized what I was doing, I reigned myself in. I’m happy to say that now I limit my mommy/baby/wifey advice to the people who either ask me directly, or who happen to get stuck in a conversation with me where those topics are relevant.

But, here and now, I have a piece of advice I need to share with ALL moms, but to give that advice, I need to tell a story first:

The other day, I walked out of the living room to go get something, and left James playing in his play pen. I come back, and he’s holding my coffee cup–which was on a table that should have been far enough away from him–and it’s empty (don’t worry, the coffee had been cold for a while). I take the cup from him and look to where it was sitting, and there’s a huge puddle of coffee in the floor. Very calmly, I go to get towels and cleaner to clean it up. As I’m cleaning, James tries to climb the wall of his pen. Afraid he’ll fall, I go to grab him, only to fall myself, causing the pen wall to fall and a huge piece to snap off. I yelped and James started to cry, so I pick him up to comfort him, only to discover that he’s had a blow out (for those of you who aren’t parents, that means poopy diaper explosion). I take him into his room, clean him up, and put him in his crib so I can fix the play pen and clean up the coffee. I got back into the living room, and as I’m crossing the room, I step on a hair clip of mine and it shatters, pieces going everywhere (not to mention my foot didn’t feel great). So here I am, smelling faintly of baby poop and stale coffee, with hundreds of plastic shards all around, mixed in with my toddler’s toys, with a play pen that needs to be fixed. And all I could do was laugh for a minute, push my hair out of my eyes, and get to it.

So, what’s the moral here? What’s the advice that I really need to share with all the mommies who read this?

Love your babies, hold on tight, do your best, and always expect the unexpected. 

No matter what you do, there will be someone out there who thinks you’re 100% right, and another person who thinks you’re 100% wrong. Breastfeed, bottle feed, rock to sleep, sleep train, purees, mashes, baby led weaning–someone is going to agree with you on your choices and someone else is going to tell you that you’re doing it all wrong. So what do you do? Ignore them. Do what’s best for you baby. Research things you aren’t sure about. Talk to your pediatrician. Talk to your mom, your grandmas, your aunts, your female cousins, your friends who’ve had kids. Talk to your husband or partner. But at the end of the day, when you’re standing there overseeing the huge mess that you’re baby has contributed to, smelling a little funky with food (or something else) on your shirt, and a smile on your baby’s face because he’s spending time with you, know that you’re doing a great job. We mommies are a tribe of warrior women who raise babies and learn to solve all problems. We should come together in person, online, in spirit, and support each other in our decisions. If you’re a mommy who loves her babies, then you, my friend, are a freaking super hero.

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As a bonus, here’s a totally irrelevant photo of my baby chowing down on a lemon!

My Joyfully Full, Utterly Broken Heart

Nearly every night before I go to bed, I sneak into my son’s bedroom and shine light on him to watch his sweet breaths for a moment. The panicky part of my mom brain does it to make sure he’s OK, that’s he’s alive and well, and the calm part of my mom brain does it just because I want to see him a moment more before I close my own eyes for the night. And while this little ritual is special to me every night, tonight it was very emotional for me, because when I wake in the morning, my baby will be a whole entire year old.

How can I describe what this feels like? Before James was born, I was terrified and excited. After he was born, I fell in love with this tiny human, and somehow managed to fall more and more and more in love with him every minute of every day. And now, I have this wellspring of love and memories inside me, and my heart is full and broken all at once.

Already I miss his sweet baby coos; I miss the feel of his swaddled newborn body as I struggled to stay awake and hold him; I miss his sweet little face and head shape before his surgery; I miss his first time rolling over, his first crawl, his first steps; I miss being in labor and the feeling–both physically and emotionally–the split second after he entered this world and they laid him on my chest.

And yet, I love my toddler (it’s even hard to type the word!). I love the way he walks to me, the way he flings his body toward me when I’m close enough with biggest smiles and sweetest laughs, the way he pulls at my legs and lifts his arms toward me, knowing I’ll scoop him up. I love how he buries his face into my shoulder and sighs. I love how he trusts that if I’m there, he can’t fall. I love the way he throws his arms up when I say, “How big are you? So big!” I love the sound of his voice as he says, “Dada.” I love this sweet toddler phase, even if he’s into everything and so sweetly wild.

So my heart is so joyfully full of how amazing my baby is and how amazing this life is with him, and it’s so utterly broken by the parts of motherhood that are gone forever with him.

I’m so grateful for my son. I’m so grateful that I get to be his mom. I’m so grateful for the last year, and I’m so looking forward to the next. But for the first time in my life, I understand the times my mommy and daddy have said that no matter how old I get, and no matter how far away I live, I will always be their baby, because James will ALWAYS be my baby. As he starts to talk, to walk, to go to school, to drive, to get married and have his own children, he will forever be my sweet baby who was born so very early on a Monday morning, who barely cried at all–until they took him away to weigh him–and who from the very start stared up at me with the biggest, most amazing blue eyes as if to say, “Hi mommy, we’re in this together now.”

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Moments after James was born.
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Moments after James was born.