On owning it….

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Tomorrow at 6:40am will mark the close of what has been (and likely will be, for some time) the hardest year of my life.

Who knew that a 7-pound-5.6-ounce creature could do that to a grown up?

It doesn’t matter how much you read or learn or ask. It doesn’t matter how much advice you seek out (or are given, solicited or not). There is no way to prepare for parenthood. Nothing is as it seems.

From the very beginning, from the moment I found out I was pregnant, absolutely nothing was as I expected it to be.

I didn’t have any weird cravings. I never got morning sickness. I don’t have stretch marks (save the tiny, but fading ones where Godzilla stretched her feet out against me, a thing she still does rather routinely). I didn’t get enormous breasts. My feet swelled only a little and are now back down to their original size. My water broke before contractions started which should have meant a long, painful labor, but instead – from start to finish – it was only 8 hours and 40 minutes…and it didn’t hurt nearly as badly as I was told it would or as I was expecting it to (don’t get me wrong here. It hurt like hell and is an indescribable pain).

That’s where the good stuff ended.

Godzilla literally came screaming in to the world and didn’t stop…for days. I thought it was normal (we all think something is normal when we’ve never done it before). I couldn’t breastfeed for the life of me (or my daughter) and when I did, it was excruciating. We didn’t get the hang of it for nearly five months. She didn’t gain weight at a “normal” rate. In fact, she lost weight – a lot of it – and then didn’t gain more than an ounce or two for several months. My recovery was a pain I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Again, I thought it was normal. It wasn’t. Not exactly. Godzilla did far more damage to me than I initially knew. My doula wouldn’t even give me the complete stats on my labor and delivery until well after I was healed. Which took nearly 12 weeks. On top of that, I had some weird “other stuff” happen during recovery which needed to be chemically burnt off. Twice. I wasn’t cleared for physical activity for ten weeks and for someone who loves to be active, this was a pretty huge set-back. The sailor and I were fighting (or at least bickering) on a near-constant basis. That’s just not like us. Not really. Not that often. And then one final blow: I was diagnosed with post-partum depression.

That’s when the bad stuff ended.

I met with my midwife (at the behest of the sailor, who made the appointment for me and held my hand during all of it) and she said to me something I’ll never forget: “If it’s not normal for you, it’s not normal.” So we talked and she wrote me a prescription for some tiny blue pills. And things started to get better. My body started healing. I started going back to yoga (with Godzilla in tow). Breastfeeding got easier. Godzilla started sleeping and stopped the constant screaming. I was able to laugh and joke with my closest friends about the simultaneous hell and joy that is motherhood. The sailor and I stopped bickering as much (he still loads the dishwasher wrong).

Basically everything was the opposite of what I expected it to be.

But if someone were to ask me (and I’ve been asked a number of times) if I would do this again, the answer is an unflinching, “Absolutely!” I can’t wait to be pregnant again! I love being pregnant! Of all the expectations I had about pregnancy and motherhood, probably the most shocking is how in love with my body I have become. For someone that has struggled with body image issues for as long as I have, this still surprises me. It surprises me for a number of reasons. Because I’m not faking it. Because I’m not saying it because it’s the “cool” thing to do. Because I believe it to the very core of who I am. Because when I’m asked why I love being pregnant so much, I can answer with conviction, “Because I’m a badass.”

Of all the things that have played into my post-partum depression, my body image isn’t one of them. Yeah, I want to lose the last ten pounds of baby weight (or really, twenty pounds), but that’s so I can fit in my clothes again. I have some pretty fabulous threads. And buying all new ones? Not really in the financial cards. Nothing short of a miracle happened inside my body. As Kerry Washington said: “My body is the site of a miracle now.” And it’s true. Once a baby has been born of you, there’s no going back to a “pre-baby body”. It’s just not possible. And I am 100% okay with that.

Here lies and wakes and eats and sleeps and feeds and binge-watches and changes diapers and cries and laughs and makes caustic jokes and fights and loves and hopes for the next shrine to a miracle.

On unexpectedly falling in love….

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I was asked the other day how I’ve felt about my body since I got pregnant.

It was a hard question to think of an answer to, at least initially. I don’t know a lot of women that like talking about their body image, regardless of if it’s good or bad.

In a matter of seconds, I ran through all the things I hate about my body. All the things I’ve been self-conscious about my entire life. All the things that make me feel ashamed or not good enough. All those feelings of insecurity and failure came screaming back at me in a split second. I remembered the fact that I’ve struggled with an eating disorder and that some would say I have a slight case of body dysmorphic disorder.

And I opened my mouth to answer the question and the following came out:

“My body is f**king bitchin’!”

I have no idea how or why that came out instead of everything or anything else. I could have complained about how fat I feel some days, that I’ve gained nearly thirty pounds, that my pelvis has hurt since 22 weeks and sidelined me from running, that I can feel my butt rapidly expanding, that my thighs are HUGE (and weirdly pock-marked now), that I spend more time sleeping than awake.

There are probably a million things I could complain about.

Instead, I became absurdly proud of the fact that I’m growing a human. My body is doing this amazing thing that it was designed to do. And even though that means some weird and not terribly attractive side effects (let’s not even get into the gas and the acne and the constant need to pee), I know that it’s all perfectly normal and it’s supposed to be happening.

Running has prepared me for this is ways I didn’t think it could or would. I got pretty hurt during my first distance race a few years ago. I really messed up my knee and it required weeks and weeks and what felt like months and months of recovery before I could start training again. But what I learned (other than patience, which I lack a great deal of) is that if I respect and listen to what my body needs, my body will pay me back in spades. I ran a 10K two months after hurting myself and I paid for it. So I waited another two and half month before attempting another race (this time a 5K) and it was a little better, but not great. So I took even more time off and by the time I ran my next race, I felt like a million bucks…and ran my fastest time which resulted in me signing up for two more half marathons which I was able to run like a champ.

Pregnancy is similar, it would seem. If I just listen and allow my body the rest it requires, it will (hopefully) give me everything I need to get this baby out and in my arms. So yeah, I’m choosing to be in love with the marks and the aches and the expansions and every other weird or awful thing I’d normally freak out about. Because those are the things that have to happen.

And I’m okay with all of it.

Scratch that. I love every damn second of this!