Celebrate Your Differences

This past Monday (April 10th), I took James in for a speech evaluation. Now, those of you who know me know that I’ve been worried about his speech and language for a while. So this was a big step (and one I was so glad to be taking)!

At his appointment I learned a few things. There are two kinds of kids who need/receive speech therapy: “language kids” who have trouble understanding or communicating and “speech kids” who understand and communicate well, but have trouble making sounds/words. After our speech therapist (we went to Rockcastle Regional Hospital’s speech department and our therapist was AMAZING) played and interacted with James for about an hour, talked to me, and just observed him (she gave him cars to play with, so there was a lot to observe) she told me that while his language was great (advanced, even! Cue this mama’s big head), his speech was, in fact, delayed.

What was my reaction to this? I wasn’t upset. I wasn’t mad. I wasn’t despondent. I just thought, “FINALLY! Finally we’re doing something to help my bright, energetic, intelligent boy form sounds!”

Initially, I didn’t feel compelled to write a blog about this. But then I happened upon a video of the new Sesame Street character, Julia, who has autism. It was amazing to see. And then I read the comments on the video, and I was absolutely horrified. (A lot of the comments were positive and wonderful, but it was the bad ones that really got me going.) People were saying horrible things about the character, about people with autism, and just horrible things in general, and it got me thinking. Why are people reacting so strongly and so negatively to this? It’s a lovely video showcasing a character with autism, showing that she does things a little differently than some of her friends–“She does things just a little differently, in a Julia sort of way”–and showing that that’s just fine.

It’s not secret that people are uncomfortable with other people who are different than them. Whether it’s the other person’s way of interacting with and understanding the world, their gender identity, their skin color, their sexuality, their race, their religion, their abilities, their language, their physicality, their weight, or any other number of things, many people are uncomfortable with people who are different. When I gained weight after James was born, I noticed some people were uncomfortable talking with me and made an extended effort to give me compliments (that it was obvious they didn’t mean) because they were so uncomfortable that I was (relatively) comfortable not being as thin as I was. It didn’t have any relevance to their lives, but my difference made them uncomfortable.

So, is that why people reacted so strongly to that video? And this got me thinking, how are people going to react to my son (who is two and has a much smaller and less clear vocabulary than most other two year olds) when they hear him talk? He’s big, like a three year old. He’s smart, he follows directions (as well as a two-year-old can be expected to), he’s funny, he’s wonderful, but when people hear him talk, they say, “Oh, how old IS he?”

So that’s why I wanted to write this. My son is two, and doesn’t know that sometimes people look at him with pity or curiosity when he doesn’t talk like a a two-year-old “should.” But there are other children, adults, human beings, who also are different, who do realize when these things happen–who realize when people treat them differently, or as if they are somehow less. And it’s this that I feel like we need to be aware of and to fight against these reactions.

In reality, we’re all different. We all have something (or things) that make us stand out, make us unique, make us special, make us who we are. My son is smart. My son is funny. My son is who he is, 100%, and I’m grateful for all of it. I’m grateful for his rate of development, for his individuality, for his energy, his empathy, his fiery temperament. And my hope is that this blog will speak to just one person, and make them think about this if they haven’t before. Julia the muppet does things in a Julia sort of way, while Lindsey the mom and and wife and writer and blogger and human does things in a Lindsey sort of way.

Differences are just that–differences. They don’t make us less. They aren’t bad. And I think the sooner we start to see that, start to engage with that idea and with each other in a more open minded, open hearted way, the happier we will all be.

*If you want to see some really beautiful, wonderful videos, check out this YouTube channel: Special Books by Special Kids. This teacher knows how to celebrate children’s differences!

And, because my blog wouldn’t be my blog with some pictures, here are some pictures of my fiery, sweet, smart, wild little man.

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Soon I’ll Be a Mother of Two…

As I’m sitting in my office on campus today, I suddenly and overwhelmingly became sad. Like, tears in the corners of my eyes, fast, jittery heart rate sad. Why? Because out of the blue it occurred to me that these are going to be the last few weeks I’ll have in which James is my only baby. Before I can even blink, I’ll be a mother of two.

It was like being hit with a baseball bat. In that random moment it became real. James wouldn’t be my baby anymore. He would be my big boy (who I love more than anything in this world) and I would have to learn to love this new sweet baby with equal fervor without sacrificing anything from him.

It broke my heart.

Guys, James is my baby. My baby.

And yet, at the same time, I’m getting really excited (and nervous and scared) to meet our daughter. It’s this weird paradox where I’m equally heartbroken and joyful about this transition. We are going to have a daughter! Which is incredible! And at the same time, we aren’t going to only have a son anymore, which is making me really weepy.

What is this? Why are these feelings only hitting me now? I’m not a typical pregnant woman. I don’t really nest all that much (unless writing counts as nesting, in which case, I nest a LOT). I don’t particularly enjoy most of being pregnant (except baby kicks and hearing baby heartbeats and things like that). But I am hyper emotional when I’m pregnant (just ask Vince), so why is this only now making my heart ache and wobble?

I think it was the realization that if Firefly (who has a tentative name, but we’re not publicly sharing yet, since James’s name wasn’t officially decided on until he was two days old) came on the same timeline as James, I would have less than a month left with just him. And that feels like no time at all. I also think it’s because she feels so big already, and I’m already finding reasons why having a second baby might impede what I can do with my first baby. I can’t get in the floor and play with him much right now, because of joint, ligament, and back pain. I can’t cuddle him the way I want, because of my gargantuan belly (though he does enjoy sitting in my baddha konasana leg nest). I can’t even let him sleep next to me (which he never really wanted to do until the last few weeks), because without 1,000,000 pillows all around me, my back and hips and shoulders and ribs feel like they’re being pulled apart for the entire next day.

I don’t want to let my baby down by not being only his mommy anymore. I don’t want to lose this special bond I have with him. He is my most favorite person in the whole world. Typing this now, I’m fighting tears, because I don’t even have the words for how special and wonderful and perfect he is, for how his smile makes my heart feel. I feel like I’m betraying him.

And yet, I loved having a brother. I keep reminding myself that I can’t imagine life without my brother, Joey. And that the age difference between James and Firefly won’t be that much bigger than the one between Joey and me. Sure, we fought a lot when we were little, but now he’s one of my best friends, one of my most favorite human beings. I hope that James and his sister will (hopefully) grow into friends who are always there for each other, no matter what.

Guys. So many emotions. Too many emotions. Here’s hoping I can calm myself down a little before Firefly arrives and I have to learn to mother two sweet, perfect babies instead of one.

Photos taken by Shutter and Bloom Photography / Jessica Conley.

On Being an Individual and Being a Mom

Something has been pressing on me for a while, and I’ve gone back and forth on whether I wanted to write about it. But today, I decided I had to for my own sake. It’s been weighing on me for a few days, so the words have to come out. It all stems from multiple things, the most recent being a photo I posted on a few social media sites of myself three years ago with a caption relating my desire to feel that strong again, and from a photo I posted when I was pregnant with James with a similar sentiment–the desire to take control of my body back and feel good in it again.

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Why is that once you’re pregnant or have had a child, any comment about wanting to get stronger, lose weight, or gain your confidence back, is met with something like, “You’ve had a baby! Be proud of who you are now!” or “Your new body was earned! Battle scars!” or even, “Yeah right. Once you have a baby, it’s all over.” I’m not saying those comments are wrong, (well, some of them are…) but why can’t we say, “Your body has done a lot–carrying a human inside it and then outside! You should be proud, but if you need to do work to gain back your old confidence, your old strength, and you’re willing to do that work, good for you!” 

When a mom loses her baby weight and gets strong again, we don’t say, “Shame on you. How dare you try and change the body your baby helped create!” No, we say, “Yes! Good for you. Way to go!” But when those of us who struggle (and boy, do I struggle–with weight gain and self confidence and feeling good) say  we want to achieve those same goals, it’s like we’re doing something terrible, something shameful. “How could you want that? Aren’t you happy you have your baby?” Why are those things even in the same thought?

I remember when I was pregnant with James, I posted a picture of myself (see the second picture at the top). I had been working  hard for months to drop so extra weight and gain some muscle. I felt strong and beautiful in that picture and I wanted to feel that way again, independent of my son and my pregnancy after he was born.  (I felt beautiful during that pregnancy, too, but pregnancy only lasts 10 months.) On that photo, I got some of the most hurtful, if well intentioned, comments ever. People told me my child should come first. That it was laughable that I ever thought I’d have time for myself or my own body again. That it was all over and to give up now. They told me looks weren’t everything and I needed to focus on the baby. They told me I should be proud of stretch marks and extra weight and saggy skin. They questioned why I wanted that, why I was thinking about it, and then explained what was wrong about my desires and mindset in a not-so-kind way. I felt such guilt after posting that. How could I want this? What is wrong with me to want this? 

But feeling this way is normal. It is. And you know what? Stretch marks don’t bother me. Saggy skin? Who cares. But when I feel weak, when I feel tired, when I feel like a stranger in my skin? That bothers me. Being too heavy to chase my kid without tiring? That bothers me. When I posted that picture, I was trying to say, “I want to someday feel strong like this again.” It’s been just under two years since I posted that and the comments still hurt my heart, even the well-intentioned ones. (PS. There were a few that said, “I know you how feel” or “You’ll get there” and those were more appreciated than the writers could ever know.)

So now I’m pregnant again. 14 weeks along. And this pregnancy has been HARD. Lots of nausea. Vomiting. Dizziness. Fatigue. Back pain. Leg pain. Hip pain. Bloating. GI issues. And I’m only 14 weeks in. So what do I do? I complain some. I let off some steam, and just like with my desire to someday have a strong, agile body again, I hear things like: “But it’s so worth it!” Of course it is, but that shouldn’t minimize or negate how I feel now.

It’s like once you get pregnant, once you become a mom, your feelings as an individual not only become less important, they become almost taboo. And I’ve been guilty of saying these things to new moms. “The first trimester stinks, but it’s worth it in the end.” “Your body will change drastically, but once you hold your baby, it doesn’t even matter anymore.”

Well, ladies, let me go on the record and say a few things.

  1. If you’re feeling bad about your body–maybe you’re pregnant and uncomfortable with your new shape, maybe you’ve had a baby and don’t know how to function in your new, reshaped skin–that’s OK. You’re allowed to have feelings about your body that are separate from the feelings about your baby. Like me, you love your baby more than your life. And like me, you also want to feel good in your own skin. Those two things are not dependent on each other, no matter what people (myself included) may have said to you in the past.
  2. Saying that you miss your body, or your confidence, or your strength, does not mean you don’t love your child, or that you aren’t proud of what your body did/is doing to create a child. I’m SO PROUD of my body right now, because it’s growing my little firefly babe, and that is AWESOME. I also feel like I’ve betrayed my body, because over the last three-ish years I’ve stopped taking care of it, stopped taking care of myself, and because of that I don’t feel strong or confident or good. I gained a lot more weight than I should have, I lost a lot more muscle mass than I should have, and I lost myself along the way.
  3. Becoming a mom does not mean you have to lose who you are. You are going to change. You have changed. And that NEEDS to happen. But you don’t cease to exist. You don’t become a nonentity whose sole purpose is to change diapers and wipe runny noses. You are still you, just a new you. Maybe that means your new body, postpartum, is perfect for you. Maybe you feel amazing (I hope you do!). But maybe that means you want to change your body some, work on it, work on yourself and your confidence. Do what makes you feel good and confident and strong, not what everyone else says you should do to feel a certain way.
  4. Be a mom. Love your baby (or babies). Dedicate yourself and your life to caring for them. But leave time and energy for you. For who you are. For what you love. For who you want to be.

Three years ago, I was strong and confident and agile, but I didn’t have my son. Two years ago I was pregnant with James and less strong, but still strong, and so happy to be pregnant. One year ago I held James as he recovered, days out of cranial surgery. I was thankful for his health and that I was healthy enough to care for him. And today, I’m pregnant with my firefly baby, but I am not strong. I am not confident. And that has nothing to do with the baby I’m carrying, but everything to do with me, as a human, not as a mom or as a pregnant woman. Just me. 

Sometimes, as moms, it’s hard to differentiate between our mom-selves and our actual selves. So here’s me. 

I am a mother and wife, a daughter and sister.
I am a writer and a lover of books and pens and paper.
I am a yogini whose practice is anything but steady.
I love animals, love trees, love the clouds and the stars.
I worry a lot. I am anxious.
I feel things so deeply, so intensely, it’s painful sometimes, even the good emotions.
I want to feel physically strong and confident.
I am proud of what my body has done to birth one child and carry a second.
I am not comfortable in my own skin (but that doesn’t mean I regret having my babies).
I am a unique entity, not just a caregiver for others.

If you do read this blog, and do decide to comment, instead of telling me all the reasons why I should  feel good in my own skin, instead just tell me about YOU. What do you love? What are your goals? What’s your passion? What do you feel? What do you want to work on or grow in? Because as long as your desires, your goals, your wants are things that will grow you as a person, will enrich your life, they’re not bad or wrong or taboo. They’re part of who you are.

Thanks for reading, if you did. And I hope no one took offense. I also want to say, as a disclaimer, I am not saying in this blog that to be happy one must be thinner or stronger or anything like that. I’m saying I need to feel stronger to feel good. But you, as an individual, need to do whatever it takes to make you feel good, feel healthy, feel like yourselves. ❤