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. ❤

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

Pregnancy is Wonderful. Pregnancy is Weird. Pregnancy is Hard.

Before I got pregnant, I thought, “I am going to love every SECOND of being pregnant. No matter what.” And in a certain way that’s true–I wouldn’t trade being pregnant, or choose not to be pregnant, for anything. It’s been my dream for so long, and now that it’s here, I’m ridiculously thankful. I’m thankful to be able to carry this child and deliver him. But have I truly loved every second?

For a while, I was ashamed that my answer to this question was no. I thought that I was a bad mother for feeling physically uncomfortable sometimes, or for feeling sad (not about the pregnancy, but because my hormones went wackadoodle). I thought that if I didn’t tell everyone, “Oh, every moment of this pregnancy is the best thing ever!” that they would judge me and think poorly of me.

And some people have done just that. When I’ve talked about wanting to get fit after the baby, I’ve been told I’m thinking about things completely wrong. When I’ve talked about how I have pain in my sacroiliac joints or my pubic symphysis, or how it can be a little hard to breathe sometimes, or when I’ve cried because it all seems overwhelming, I’ve been told it was wrong to complain and express these things. So now, my physical and emotional discomfort is coupled with feeling guilty for being a bad mother.

But the people with those opinions are few. Far more people have been supportive and have helped me realize that feeling this way doesn’t mean I don’t love my son. Feeling this way and having moments of negativity doesn’t mean I don’t cherish the fact that I’m pregnant with the most perfect baby ever, even when my pubic symphysis is aching and I can’t lift my legs, or getting up off the couch feels like a chore, because my sacroiliac joints are sore and loose. These beautiful, wonderful people in my life have told me things like, “Being pregnant is hard. [You] are growing a human being. It’s like being a super hero. You can be honest about how your body feels, and about how you feel, and still love your child more than anything on the planet.” These people have helped me battle the guilt that the few have introduced to me so that I can look at my pregnancy in a more realistic kind of way, instead of looking at it in a romanticized, fairy tale kind of way (which is my default setting in most things).

Is pregnancy hard? YES.
Is pregnancy wonderful? YES.
Is pregnancy weird? YES.

I went into pregnancy with a very black and white idea, imagining this lovely nine months (which is really ten, by the way, because 40 weeks does not equal nine months no matter who you slice it) full of laughter and smiles and a growing belly that would never feel uncomfortable, that would make me feel beautiful all the time, and instead discovered that reality was less black and white and more rainbow.

Since I’ve been pregnant (I’m 30 weeks), I’ve felt ecstatic, nauseated, joyful, sad, beautiful, ugly, lovely, angry, loved, scared, lucky, anxious, and blessed. I’ve gone through every emotion I can think of and then some. I’ve realized that I’ve lost control of what my body does–when relaxin comes into play, and your ligaments start loosening to prepare for baby, your body is no longer yours to dictate–and that has scared me, even though I expected it to happen. I’ve lost strength in places and gained it in others. I’ve watched my attitude about certain things start to shift (and I know that those attitudes will continue to shift after my baby is here) in ways I never imagined. My body is doing something really incredible, and I’ve witnessed it with wonder and bewilderment.

Primarily I’ve just learned that pregnancy isn’t just one thing. It’s this whole, wonderful, terrifying journey, and to pigeon hole myself into one place and think, “I can only be happy here,” will do nothing but cause more unhappiness on those days when I think, “Can I really do this?” On any journey, on any trek, there will be good days and bad, and to ignore part of that journey would be doing it a disservice. My husband often reminds me that we each have our own story to write. The good days and the bad make it up, and we should be aware of and thankful for all of them, so that’s what I’m trying to do with this first-baby-journey–be present for the good, the bad, and the weird moments of pregnancy.

If you’re thinking of trying to have a baby (whether it’s now or in ten years), this is my advice to you:
First, wait until you and your partner are both all in. If Vince hadn’t been as ready for a baby as I was, the hard days would have been so much harder. He’s been my foundation on days when my emotions have gotten away from me and I’ve felt hopeless, and he’s been there to share in all the wonderful moments where I feel like all is right and perfect with the world, because I feel my sweet boy somersaulting around.
Second, give yourself some grace when you’re trying to conceive. Whether it takes you a day or ten years to get pregnant, don’t beat yourself up. A huge number of people told me it took them a single month, and I read stories about people who tried for years. If you want a baby, every negative test will feel like the end of the world, but remind yourself that your story is yet to be written–there is no right or wrong answer. Just be present and experience each day as it comes.
And third, allow yourself to feel what you feel, to be honest about how you feel, but don’t let the days that those bad feelings come ruin your pregnancy. I have bad days. I also have great days. The emotional pain comes when you allow yourself to think that feeling bad means you’re bad. It doesn’t. It just means you’re human. Be present in all of these things–experience them, learn from them, and grow from them. Experience the full rainbow spectrum of emotion and sensation that pregnancy offers.

Being pregnant is wonderful, it’s weird, and it’s difficult, but even on the really tough days, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the whole wide world.

30 weeks

It’s a BOY!

For the last fourish months, I’ve said, “I have a strong feeling about my baby, about our little Beedoh. I just know it’s a girl. I’ve dreamed about giving birth and it’s always a girl. Everyone I’ve talked to has said it would be a girl. I just know.” I was almost positive about it. There was always a little doubt, but never enough to make me question that I knew.

Well, on Monday, October 6th, Vince and I went to the doctor for our gender ultrasound. I laid on the table. The ultrasound tech (who was incredibly kind, patient, and awesome at her job, by the way) squirted some warm gel on my belly, and sat down to get started. She placed the wand on my belly, moved it around a moment until we could see the baby, and then, bam, there it was. My little baby was a sweet, little boy! My first view of him in that ultrasound very, very clearly showed us that.

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I wasn’t sure how I was going to react if it was a boy and not a girl–I’d been so sure for so long. But when I saw that he was a boy, a heartbeat later I thought, “How in the world could I have ever thought this baby was a girl? Of course he’s a boy.” I was laughing then, because I watched my son, my baby boy, show us his business, and then promptly fold his legs up under himself as if to say, “There. Now you know. Quit calling me she.” He then made our ultrasound tech work for probably fifteen minutes to get a nice view of his profile. He wasn’t in the mood for photos, I guess, but after a while, he let us get a look at him, and never in my life have I been so thrilled, so excited, or so nervous to see a beautiful, blurry little face.

You guys, I’m going to have a son. I’m going to have a tiny little baby-Vince running around, doing all kinds of wonderful, gross, sweet, crazy, off the wall things. I’m going to have a sweet, sticky boy to hug and love. I’m going to have a boy. 

I know that both parents raise a child, whether it’s a boy or a girl, but I’m really thankful that I have a husband who I know will be the perfect role model for our little boy. I can see the type of man my son has to look up to, and that gives me a lot of peace for our son’s future.

I can’t wait to meet our son, to learn his quirks, his likes, and his dislikes. I can’t wait to comfort him when he’s upset and to laugh with him when he’s silly. I can’t wait to make him birthday cakes and give him surprises. I can’t wait for every single second of his life. But part of me is sad for every second that passes, because eventually, I’ll have to share him. But for now, I’m thankful he’s still all mine, that I get to feel him with me every second of every day.

I could go on for hours and pages about how I’m feeling, but let me just say this. I’ve never, in my entire life, been more excited for anything in my life than becoming a mom to this sweet little man.

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Our Sweet Baby Beedoh