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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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.”

James born
Moments after James was born.
James before 1
Moments after James was born.

From the Mouths of Babes

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working on something–convincing myself that, just because I’m carrying more weight that I would like, doesn’t mean I have less worth, doesn’t mean my husband loves me less, doesn’t mean everyone is constantly judging me. And you know what? It’s been working! I even wore a fitted–that’s right, a FITTED–shirt to teach my Sunday Restorative Yoga class last week (starts at 6! I’d love to see you there! #ShamelessPlug), and I felt OK. I was still aware of the way my stomach bulged, still aware of the fact that my back isn’t toned and smooth, and the fact that that was visible in that shirt, but I didn’t let it totally color the evening. I was able to focus on my teaching and on my students.

This may not seem like a very big deal, but for me it is. Even when I was thin, I was pretty much constantly obsessing over my weight. I would look at photos, and if I could see a roll, something that didn’t look tiny and flat, I was mortified. If I wore clothes that didn’t fit just right, I was so embarrassed to go out. When I got married, I felt so bad for my husband, because I wasn’t toned, wasn’t thin enough, wasn’t “good” enough for him (disclaimer: he has, from day one, told me that I was beautiful. I’ve just chosen, for whatever reason, not to listen.), so I started doing yoga and eating right, and I was in really good shape! But I still thought those things, still thought I wasn’t thin enough, wasn’t fit enough. And then I had a baby, and gained weight, and everything changed.

But, as my friend Hannah would say, I’m chasing rabbits. Time to get back to the point, which is the fact that, over the last few weeks, I’ve been working on changing my mindset. It’s taken years and years, but I’ve been trying to convince myself that my worth isn’t determined by my weight/size. And it was working. I was feeling good, feeling confident.

And then a few days ago, a child looked at me and said, “Miss Lindsey, your belly is really fat. Big like when your baby was in it.”

BOOM. All the work I’d done, all the pep talks I’d given myself, the teensy bit of confidence I had built up exploded, turned to dust, and blew away with the smallest, most innocent gust of wind.

I got so upset. I wasn’t upset with the kid. Children just say what they see. And this was the first day that I was with these kids that I’d worn a fairly fitted shirt since James as born, so it makes sense that a child would notice and comment. It would be like if I wore my reading glasses, and a kid said, “You’re wearing glasses!” But even though I wasn’t upset with the kid, I was upset.

Suddenly, I thought, “Do all the adults that have seen me today think this? Are they all judging me? Do they think I’m awful and disgusting and oh, I’m so embarrassed, I should have stayed home, I should have worn something else, I shouldn’t have been foolish enough to think it was OK that I wear this fitted shirt. I only wore it because it’s new, and a friend made it for me, and it’s beautiful, but I shouldn’t have put it on my body in public. How stupid. How stupid…” etc. I spiraled. Quickly. All my work, all my positive self talk was destroyed from one small, innocent, small comment. Suddenly, I was back to being overly aware of every inch of my flawed body.

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I took this earlier that day–I stood up straight, tucked my belly in as far as I could, to show off the shirt and try to hide my body shape.

All this makes me think, what is it about being thin that has such a hold on so many of us? A few days before this, another child was talking about how James was still a tiny baby, because I call him a giant baby (he’s in the 99th percentile! Such a big boy!). He said, “He’s not a giant baby, he’s a tiny baby, but you all are giants (Vince and me). Someday James will grow up and be a giant, too.” Then he looked at us, and said to Vince, “But you’re skinny. Like me, I’m skinny, too.” He looked at me, and didn’t say anything, but the point was clear. I was not skinny, and that was not good.

Even a child knows that “skinny” is “good,” “not skinny” is “bad.” And that is messed up. 

When I was five years old, I remember worrying if I was thin enough. My mommy and daddy told me I was beautiful all the time, but still I thought, “Am I small enough? Will anyone ever love me?” That’s not OK.

This is where body dysmorphia starts, when we’re too young to know what’s normal and what’s not, and as parents, we need to be aware of this in our children, we need to teach them how to perceive ourselves and others, how to talk about bodies–their own and others–and how to love themselves, regardless of photos they see on Instagram or on television. I mean, even though my parents built me up and loved me and gave me all the encouragement a child could want, I still suffer from body dysmorphia and have my whole life. We have to be aware that our children may be suffering with this, too.

I’ve carried my body dysmorphia for as long as I can remember. Never have I not been aware of my “flaws,” of my body shape and size and weight, of my hair cut and color, of my makeup or lack thereof. I’ve never not worried about these things. And I am SICK of it. I’m tired of CONSTANTLY trying to hide my body, because I’m ashamed of it, because I’m OBSESSED and DISAPPOINTED with how I look.

Do I want to be thinner? Yes. I want to be able to fit in my old clothes and comfortably do the yoga poses I could before. And I’m not even sure if that’s because I think it’s healthier, or because to my body-dysmorphic-eyeballs think the photos of me then are more attractive and want that back.

I don’t have a point here, except, talk to your kids. Talk to your spouses. Talk to your friends. We have to help each other not fall into this pit of self hatred and comparison and all around ickiness.

YOU are beautiful.

YOU are wonderful.

YOU are ENOUGH.

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I took this earlier that day–I stood up straight, tucked my belly in as far as I could, to show off the shirt and try to hide my body shape.
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I took this earlier that day–I stood up straight, tucked my belly in as far as I could, to show off the shirt and try to hide my body shape.

The Postpartum Weight Gain Blues

Three months ago I wrote about how my new, post-baby body was affecting me–how it was hard to have a new body that was hormonally and physically different. Now, three months later, it’s affecting me in different ways, but it’s still a very real, very palpable struggle.

Now, before you tell me that my stretch marks are badges of honor and that I should think of my baby first and myself last, let me say this: I don’t mind my stretch marks. I was lucky enough not to have very many, anyway, but they don’t bother me in the least. And of COURSE James comes first. I would do it all again, 1,000 times over, to have him. However, just because I put my sweet, perfect baby first, and just because I would do it all again to have him, doesn’t mean I don’t have some issues with myself, and my body

Growing up, I had a poor self image. I thought of myself as ugly, fat, undesirable. For years I was convinced no one would ever have me, ever marry me. So, I dated whoever would date me and made more than a few terrible choices. Then I met Vince, and my life (and my opinion of myself) changed. He made me feel loved for the person I was inside. Don’t get me wrong, it was a struggle. There were fights, tears, a lot of denial, but I stopped focusing (as much) on the way I looked and the fact that I didn’t like it.

Then, we decided to have a baby. And let me tell you, being pregnant (thought difficult) made me feel good. I gained weight. A lot of weight. But still, I felt good. I was growing my boy, and that felt awesome. Again, I had bad days. The first day my feet swelled, I bawled because my feet were the only part of my body I ever really liked. When I noticed I had noticeable rolls of fat on my back, I started trying to actively hide them, because I was ashamed, but it still wasn’t anything compared to the way I used to feel. And I thought, “Weight gain doesn’t matter as long as my son is healthy.” And he was.

But then, I gave birth. I went home. I still looked six months pregnant. But I was expecting that. After a month or so, my belly started to go down. None of my clothes fit, but I knew that would happen, too. I was going to give myself a few months, anyway. I was on track and doing fine both physically and emotionally.

Well, it’s been six months now. Six beautiful, long, tiring, love-filled, perfect months. Six months was sort of the timeline I’d given myself for being back in my old clothes, closer to my old body. And guess what? That hasn’t happened. I’ve seen other women who gave birth two or three months ago, and they look like they’re back to normal. But not me. And while I’d do it all again, without hesitation, I’m starting to feel the weight of that, the pressure.

As a woman who’s struggled with a positive self image her entire life, this is the hardest part of having a baby for me (other than the lack of sleep and socialization, but that’s a different blog for a different day). I want to look like myself again. I want to feel like myself. I want to wear my clothes and feel confident, instead of walking into a room and thinking, “Everyone is thinking about how big I am.” (Disclaimer: I’m not self absorbed enough to actually think this happens, but it makes my point nicely.) I just want my body back–not the way it was, but at least the size it was. I’m tired of feeling self conscious. I’m tired of brushing my teeth at night next to my husband, and wanting to leave the room because I can see how big I am next to him in the mirror. I’m tired of thinking if he’s disgusted every time he hugs me or has to look at me. I’m tired of looking at fit girls and hating myself for not looking like them. I’m tired of feeling sad and defeated and just plain icky. This has been my biggest mom-struggle, (At least, that’s how I feel today. It could change tomorrow. Thanks, postpartum hormones!) and I don’t know how to fix it, except to diet (and try to keep my milk up) and exercise (because I have so much time to exercise).

Normally, I try to end my blogs with a positive spin, something to work toward, or something that says, “Don’t worry, everything is going to be ok.” And I do believe that even if I never lose a pound, everything will be ok. But I don’t want to end this blog this way.

Because if you’re a new mom, and you’re feeling this way, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom. I’ve been told thinking this way means I’m not thinking of my child first, but all it means is that I still realize I’m an individual< a human being, and even though I brought a precious, perfect life into this world, I still have a right to my feelings. I still have wants and needs, and it’s ok to acknowledge that. And if you’re in the same boat as me, it’s OK for you to acknowledge that, too.

Pre-baby, heavier even than when I was at my most fit, but feeling great.Post-baby weight gain (but man, isn't my baby the cutest?).

The Ups and Downs of Postpartum Life

My baby is 11 weeks and 1 day old.
My postpartum body is 11 weeks and 1 day old.

Never in my life did I think I could love someone as deeply as I love my son. Never did I think I would be willing do do absolutely anything for another human, but I know now that I would do absolutely anything for my son, James.

Yet, despite this, despite my unconditional, absolute love for my perfect son, my postpartum experience hasn’t been exactly what I thought. As far as postpartum life goes, I’ve had it relatively easy. I haven’t dealt with any noticeable depression. My son sleeps well, so I haven’t been as sleep deprived as a lot of mommies and daddies. I have a husband who’s willing to work two jobs so that I can stay home with our baby during these first, most important months. But my body…my body is foreign to me.

I thought, since I would be breastfeeding (or exclusively pumping, in my case) my baby weight would fall away. I knew it wouldn’t happen right away, but I thought surely by the two month mark, I wouldn’t still look pregnant. I would be able to wear some of my more normal clothes. I wouldn’t have to wear maternity and oversized clothes. But that hasn’t happened. I’m pushing three months postpartum and, though I haven’t weighed myself, I know I haven’t lost an ounce.

This new body is a miracle. It nourished and grew a healthy baby, and now it carries and nourishes that same baby as he grows. My arms and legs are strong enough to hold him and walk with him, to rock him to sleep. My back is strong enough to carry his weight as he grows and grows. I produce enough milk, even though we haven’t learned to latch, that he’s a big, healthy boy. This new body is a miracle. And yet…

And yet, I resent my body. I resent the stretch marks that are etched around my belly button and on my sides. I resent my belly, the way it sticks out, as if there were a baby in there still. I resent the fact that my old clothes, my pre-baby clothes, don’t fit anymore. I look back on pictures of myself, pictures where I thought I was fat, but now I see a healthy-looking body. I resent this weight that I’ve gained and now carry. Weight that I don’t need to nourish and care for my baby.

Everyone tells me that these marks are battle scars. And they’re right, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard for me to look at those scars. It doesn’t mean I want my body to look like this forever.

I may always have stretch marks, and that’s OK with me. But I won’t always carry this weight. I will get control of my body back. I knew my body would change forever, and I was ready for that, but now I’m ready to begin shaping my new body into something I can love.

I’m thankful that my postpartum journey has been as easy as it has. I’m thankful for my big, healthy boy. I’m thankful for the sleep I get (even if I’d like more) and for having such an easy baby. I’m thankful that my body did and is doing what it needs to do to care for this perfect child. But I’m ready to start a new journey, one that allows me to regain the part of my old life, the part where I’m in a body that allows me to move and bend and be me again. I want to be 100% James’s mommy, but I also want to still be me. 

James and Mommy