On the songs of my baby…

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Photo Credit: QuoteFancy.com 

I’m roughly six weeks out from the impending delivery of my second baby. Technically speaking, I’m eight weeks out, but my midwife is fairly confident this one will come early since the last one did. I’m also hopeful she’ll come early…it will give me substantially more time to recover before moving across the country and the world. So there will be much red raspberry leaf consumed by moi in the coming weeks.

At any rate, I’ve been working on my labor and delivery playlist for several months. This is something that, even with my first, I just knew I wanted – music that calmed me or energized me or made me think of how much I already knew I loved this tiny human. With Godzilla, I pulled together my playlist kind of last minute, but it was also rather easy. She was born during the Christmas season and since I love love love Christmas music, I just grabbed 200+ songs from my very extensive collection, added in some Britney and Taylor and called it good. It was perfect.

And I never used it. Not even once during my nine hours of labor did I want to hear music. I thought about it once, in the middle of a particularly awful contraction (aren’t they all kind of awful?) and just the thought of music made me angry. So that was a hard pass on music.

With Mothra’s playlist, I’ve found myself carefully curating songs over the last seven months. There are currently only 36 songs on the playlist, running about two and a half hours. It’s a pretty schizophrenic list, but then, so is my general taste in music. It contains pop, hymns, bluegrass, the 80s, rock, miscellaneous covers…it’s one of my favorite playlists I’ve ever created.

But there are two songs in particular that hit me hard every time I listen to them…for vastly different reasons.

“Love Me Like You Do” by Ellie Goulding.
For a lot of people, this song is associated with one of the most poorly written and ill-conceived books ever released. I’ve never read the book (just selected passages. It’s terrible) or seen the movie. I just love this song. The first time this hit me as a birthing song was over the summer, while I was walking with Godzilla in her stroller. Almost every line of the song can very easily be translated into labor and delivery:

“You’re the light, you’re the night, you’re the color of my blood…” – Yep. She’s going to come at whatever time of day or night she chooses and no matter how she makes her way in the the world, she and I will be the same color, covered in the same blood, even if for just a few minutes.

“You’re the cure, you’re the pain, you’re the only thing I want to touch..” – Delivering a baby, especially in the, um, very traditional sense, is everything at once. It hurts like hell, but the moment she arrives, all the pain is gone. It’s like I’ve been waiting my whole life to touch this tiny creature.

“Fading in, fading out, on the edge of paradise. Every inch of your skin is the holy grail I’ve got to find.” – Every contraction can feel like you’re about to pass out. It’s 30-120 seconds of agony followed by maybe two minutes of sweet relief….until it all happens again. Over and over for hours on end. But every moment brings me closer to the absolute ecstasy of holding my baby for the first time, pressing her sweet, sticky skin against my chest and hearing her cry for the first time.

“Yeah, I’ll let you set the pace cuz I’m not thinking straight. My head’s spinning around. I can’t think clear no more. What are you waiting for?” – This is the first line that made me think of labor and delivery. It reduced me to tears on that walk. There is no way to tell a baby when it should or shouldn’t come into the world. It’s all up to her. She decides everything. And she will decide everything from the moment I go into labor until years later. I have to let her set the pace. I have to let go of the control I want to have and just wait…sometimes calmly (as in the first several months of pregnancy), sometimes impatiently and agrily (like during active, awful, bone-crushing labor).

“human” by Christina Perri
This one hit me harder and in a much more painful way. It made me immediately think of breastfeeding, which, frankly, was not a great experience with my first baby. I’m cautiously hopeful that it will go better this time around, but I have pretty intense memories of the first time. So when I hear lines like:

“I can hold my breath. I can bite my tongue.” – I remember how painful it was. The searing pain that shot through every fiber of my body as she latched for the first time…and for 13 months worth of times after that.

“I can stay awake for days if that’s what you want. Be your number one…Give you all I am” – I am not looking forward to another year or more of restless, sleepless nights. But I am what keeps her alive. My body nourishes her so I wake up with her and I suffer through it. Because it’s not all suffering. She will smile, she will laugh, and – mercifully – she will sleep.

“But I’m only  human. And I bleed when I fall down. I’m only human. And I crash and I break down. [The] words in my head, knives in my heart, [they] build me up and then I fall apart, cuz I’m only human.” – I was diagnosed with post-partum depression when Godzilla was around five or six months old. It was a simultaneously freeing and brutal thing to grapple with. Finally, I had answer to some of what I was feeling. Finally, I had a way to cope with all of it. Finally…I felt a little bit of fear and failure. Nothing was going right. I couldn’t feed my child enough. I couldn’t love my husband the way he deserved. I didn’t want to be a mother. Everything I had ever thought I wanted, I finally had and I couldn’t deal with it. The words in my head crushed me.

“I can do it. I can do it. I’ll get through it.” – And I did. I did it. I fed Godzilla on a near constant basis. I accepted the magic of formula. My friends and my husband encouraged me and brought me coffee and reminded me that I wasn’t just doing enough for my daughter. I was literally doing everything for her. I may not be the perfect mother (far from it), but I am the perfect mother for her. I was reminded to take time for myself and that asking for help isn’t admitting defeat or weakness, but rather significant strength. To know when I’m about to break and to ask for help is one of the strongest things I can do as a mother. We’re fed line after line that we can have it all, do it all, and be it all, but when we aren’t, it feels like we’ve failed in every  possible way. Whatever happened to “it takes a village”? My tribe has taught me, over the last two years, that asking for help means I’m willing to be vulnerable and that I trust those closest to me. It also means that when one of my tribe starts to falter, I will be there to prop her up with coffee, wine, wisdom, time, a listening ear, whatever she needs. I have learned that “mother’s intuition” extends so far beyond my own child…it weaves its way into the lives of my mama-friends. We start to know exactly when and how to best help each other (like when one of my newest tribe members brought me a chai latte and a surprise cherry danish the other day). We just sense each other. We respect each other. Sometimes, it feels like we are each other.
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So these are the songs that have made the biggest impact on me during my second (and probably final) pregnancy. There is so much left to accomplish in the few remaining weeks before Mothra arrives. At least, it seems that way. But what I know with absolute certainty is that I am ready. I am excited. I am prepared – emotionally and mentally – in ways I just couldn’t have been the first time.

I am patiently and uncomfortably awaiting her arrival.

I am ignoring the thoughts of doubt that seep into my subconcious.

I am ready.

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!