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!
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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.

On Being an Overweight Yogini

When I first started doing yoga, I was thin. I didn’t realize it, but I was. (Thanks a lot, distorted self image.) And as I continued to practice, and do Zumba, and eat well, I got in better and better shape. Looking back at photos, I was in fantastic shape. I didn’t even realize it at the time–I thought I was still a little chubby, but it was good enough to start posting photos of myself in yoga poses to track my progress. At least, that’s what I told myself. I thought, “I’ll post this picture of myself in camel pose, not because my waist looks so tiny, but because I want to see if, in a month, the pose looks different. Facebook and Instagram are great places to store photos.”

Well folks, I’m not thin anymore. Nine months ago I had a baby, and I just haven’t made the time to get back in a good exercise and healthy eating routine. Also, having a baby really changes your body! (Side note: your body isn’t “worse” after you have a baby, it’s just different. But that’s a different story for a different day.) Why do I bring this up? Because the other day I took some yoga photos, thinking I would post them to see how my poses had changed since I had the baby (I hadn’t had time to practice). I felt really good, actually. I felt flexible and strong. But then I saw the photos, I saw how my body wasn’t thin anymore, how my belly sagged, the new rolls around my bra strap, and the new muffin top from where my pants were a little too tight. I’m going to be honest, I didn’t post all of them. I almost didn’t post any, but part of my brain was still in denial about the full reason I used to post yoga photos, so I chose a couple.

I made the album private at first, because I worried that my yoga students wouldn’t want to learn from me, that people would judge me. I worried what people would think of my new, postpartum body. I knew women who had babies and weeks later had flat tummies and were thinner than before. I thought everyone would expect that to be me, and I was ashamed. Eventually I made the album public, but it filled me with anxiety.

This whole experience made me realize that I used to post photos, not just to track progress, but because I was being prideful. I wanted people to see my body and think, “Wow!” I wanted likes and affirmation and comments. And I got those things, but I wasn’t being true to the spirit of what yoga is, and what yoga did for me.

Yoga isn’t just asana (poses). It isn’t just being strong and flexible, with the ability to contort yourself into crazy, amazing shapes. Yoga is a state of mind, a way of living. Yoga is being in each moment and experiencing it to the fullest. It’s loving your body and yourself for what you can do and for what you experience. Yoga is finding yourself in your breath and appreciating the way the sun looks as it rises, or the way the air feels on a cool autumn night. And yet, I’d been living my yoga life as if my pose progress, as if my waistline, was what was most important.

So, why am I writing this blog? I have friends who’ve said, “I’d do yoga if I weren’t so heavy” or “It’s easier for you, you’re thin. It’s harder when you have a belly.” I used to tell those people, “Come on! Yoga is for everyone! Anyone can get on their mat and practice.” Which is true, yoga IS for everyone. But knowing that truth, and living that truth are two very different things. I’m seeing things from a different perspective thanks to this postpartum body, and it’s blowing my world wide open.

Guys, exercising is hard. It’s hard when your overweight and it’s hard when you’re thin. Putting on exercise clothes and joining a class makes you vulnerable. Whether you’re the heaviest person in the room or the thinnest, you’re still going and saying, “Here I am. Please don’t judge me.” And in a yoga class, whether you’re a teacher or a student, there shouldn’t be an ounce of judgement. There should be only love and acceptance.

As a yoga teacher, I’ve feared what my students thought, because of my weight gain, but starting today, I want to start living the truth that I talk about. I want to live joyfully in this body of mine, regardless of the size it happens to be right now. I want to work toward a healthier, happier me.

Starting today (thanks to Becca’s encouragement to set an intention to practice daily) I will practice my yoga, regardless of my weight. Starting today, I will practice my yoga and take deep breaths when things are tough. Starting today, I will practice my yoga and speak truths into my life–my body is beautiful because it allows me move and speak and dance and hold my son; my body is strong because it allows me to bounce James at night when he’s fussy and allows me to carry in my groceries; my body is always changing, always becoming something new, and that is so amazing.

Do I hope someday to get back to being thinner? Yes, and if I’m being honest, part of that is wanting to look a certain way, but more and more, it’s because I liked the energy I had then, I liked the way it felt to move and bend and use my muscles. (Plus, I’m too cheap to buy new clothes!)  But if my body stays as it is forever, I will still love my body. I will still practice my yoga, on and off the mat. I will teach my son that a woman’s beauty is more than what magazines say it is–a woman’s beauty is her spirit, her character, her kindness, her humor, her interests, and her body, and that beauty comes in all shapes, all sizes, all colors.

Below are some photos of me at my thinnest and of me postpartum. I haven’t taken any photos in a few months, but you get the idea. It’s a little harder to be an overweight yogi, because you may feel like your body is getting in the way, but that doesn’t make your practice any less beautiful. Yoga can be magical if you really let it into your life. I plan to reclaim the magic that I’ve lost.

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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?).