Following the Signs

I’m a big believer in signs. Anytime there’s a big coincidence in my life, I think it means something. Coincidences happen to me a lot, so I take note of them, become more aware of whatever I think they were telling me, meditate on them.

As anyone who reads this blog (or my Facebook updates, or my Instagram updates, or talks to me) knows, I struggle with insecurity, with self-love, with jealousy and everything that goes along with that. I’ve always written about it (for Y E A R S I’ve written about it) and I always end my blogs with all the reasons why those feelings don’t have to control my life, don’t have to be part of who I am. And while I’m writing those blogs, I feel that way. I believe my own words.

“I should love myself because I have worth.”
“My weight doesn’t define me.”
“I control what I give credence to in my life, no one else.”

I leave that blog feeling empowered and strong, but slowly that ebbs away until I’m back where I started.

“I’m too fat to be loved or to be pretty.”
“I don’t have any worth because _______.”
“I have to change myself/fix myself RIGHT NOW.”

In the last few weeks, the following things have happened.

  1. A woman that I look up to more than she can even begin to realize pulled me aside and told me to stop posting negative things about myself online, because not only are the untrue, but by saying them on social media, I’m putting them out into the universe where they don’t belong. She encouraged and built me up without going easy on me. She pushed me to really think about the things I’ve thought about my whole life, but to think past where I’d always stopped before.
  2. A good friend of mine asked me the question, “How much do you weigh?” I told her. She said, “Does that number define who Lindsey is?” No. It doesn’t. “Then it doesn’t matter.” She proceeded to be all sweet and wonderful afterward, too, which is her general state of being–sweet and wonderful.
  3. Another good friend of mine sent me a link to a blog that talked about loving yourself like your life depended on it. This friend also is currently struggling with loving herself. I see her, I see how beautiful she is, what a great mom she is, and it’s like looking in a mirror as I see her struggle through all these untruths about her worth and abilities. I want to make her see the truths that I see about her–she’s beautiful, strong, capable, and loved.
  4. I went out on the lake with my family and friends (who are all basically family, too). I got in a swimsuit in front of people and never once wondered if they were judging me or what they thought. I was surrounded by love and joy and it didn’t even occur to me that I didn’t have a negative self-thought until after it was over. Another person on the boat was feeling insecure, and one of my best friends said, “We’re all friends here, and no one cares what anyone else looks like. Let’s just swim and have fun!” It opened my eyes and filled my heart up that such a simple idea could hold so much power and truth.
  5. I text my best friend a lot. A LOT. I tell her how I’m feeling. I tell her my struggles and my insecurities. And she always answers me with kindness, but with truth. “We aren’t going to look like we did before our babies, and that’s fine.” She speaks the truth of our strength, our beauty, and our ferocity into my life (and she hunts for Pokemon with me).
  6. While literally hanging on my husband in the kitchen, crying because I was so upset over the way I looked, he said, “Look at James. See how he looks at you? Do you think he’s ever had any thought about you except how much he loves you? That’s how I love you. That’s how anyone who matters loves you.” He’s said these kinds of things to me for years, even before James, but I haven’t been able to hear them, and I’m hoping now, I can.

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I have lived in a self deprecating pit my entire life. I dug the pit, I moved all my furniture in, I climbed down, and I burned the ladder that would be the only way out. But thanks to the people in my life who love me, who I love so dearly, I’m building a new ladder and I’m climbing out. And it’s not because I started a new diet, or  because I’ve redefined who I am as a person, or because I’ve changed something huge and radical in my life. It’s because of the people in my life who have flooded me with truth and with love (sometimes tough love, sometimes not). It’s because of all these ‘coincidences’ happening at once and pointing in giant, flashing, neon arrows toward the truth that I want my life to be centered around.

So yeah, I believe in signs. And when there are this many signs pointing to the same thing, the same destination, I make it my business to follow them.

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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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