Sometimes being a mom is tough. Sometimes it feels like claustrophobia, like the desperate urge to be left alone. Sometimes it feels like anxiousness, like going into the night already exhausted and not knowing when, or if, there will be any relief. Sometimes it feels like frustration, at piles of laundry and knotted hair and always being late and the stupid autocorrect only correcting the things you meant to say and not the things you didn’t.
But then there’s this tiny little person who smiles at you like you’re the best thing in the whole world and it’s too damn much and everyone says not to spoil her but you can’t help but pick her up and love on her because she’ll be grown before you know it and all you’ll have are pictures like this and a vague memory of how you were too tired and too short on time to edit your giant run on sentences but ultimately it was so, so worth it. 💜
This is a continuation from Pt. 1. It’s also quite lengthy.
If I was afraid of any awkwardness stemming from having a doula, I soon realized that Nicki’s presence was a total enhancement to the process, as Daniel and I had yet to attend this kind of rodeo.*
*Or any kind of rodeo. We have never been to a rodeo together.
The hooplah started at 39 weeks, when my Braxton-Hicks contractions became a little less flirty and a little more serious. I’d had them since about 20 weeks, but these bad boys felt less like tummy cramps a little more like full abdominal cramps, rippling from below my ribcage and moving down toward my pelvis. I was pumped. I hit up Nicki like “Girl, I think it’s almost showtime,” and she hit me back like “Girl, you cute, but no.”*
*(That’s not at all true, she was actually really kind and compassionate to this over-eager first time mom, but in retrospect, she probably thought I was adorably naive. She kept saying supportive, optimistically generic things like “Your body is definitely working hard to get ready for baby!”).
For what they lacked in actual contractiveness, the Braxton-Hicks made up for in inconvenience. The first day I felt them, I went into work feeling certain that I would be in the hospital by mid-afternoon (#presh). Instead, I found myself feeling awkward and uncomfortable at my desk, so I asked my (incredible, supportive) boss if I could work from home for the afternoon. The afternoon turned into an entire week, as each morning started with contractions and ended with feelings of mild frustration and disappointment. I did, however, get to spend the last week of my pregnancy in the sunshine, working from a hammock and tanning my tummy, so all-in-all it was a wonderful way to spend my last days before becoming someone’s mom.
On Thursday, June 22nd, things took an exciting new turn. About 3PM, my contractions went from occasional, morning contractions to consistent, albeit low-dose contractions. There was no pain, just consistency, and I was thrilled. Bag was packed, car was gassed, we were DEFINITELY HAVING A BABY THAT DAY.
Except that we did not.
Those contractions continued steadily until 9PM on Friday, June 23rd. During that time, we had our regularly weekly visit with Kim Kmita (our amazing midwife), who I felt fairly certain was going to tell us that I had somehow managed to labor pain free and was already at a 7 and going to have a baby RIGHT THEN.
Instead, she told me I was dilated to a 2 and 50% effaced.
Side note: For those of you who are unfamiliar with the birth process, the basic rundown goes about like this:
1 – 4 cm:Early Labor. This is the time when you’re doing laundry, eating a nice lunch, taking a nap. During this time, they will not admit you to the hospital.
5 – 7 cm:Active labor. This part is work. Mama is no longer chatty during her contractions, but rather has to focus to get through them, but generally bounces back in between.
8 – 10 cm:Transition. This part is a bitch. Often, mom will experience flu-like symptoms, like chills, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. She likely dislikes Dad very much at this point. It’s also the shortest part, usually ranging from about 20 minutes to 2 hours.
10 cm: Pushing. THIS is the part you see in the movies. Mom bears down, everyone is coaching, baby is born.
Effacement is how thin the cervix is, and runs from 0% (thick) to 100% (paper thin).
***Spoiler Alert: this next part might get a bit graphic***
So on Friday, we’d gone to a Hot Street Party in downtown, joking with everyone about how we would likely have a baby over the weekend (OR THAT NIGHT MAYBE?!). About 9 o’clock, as I sat on a curb eating a Philly Cheesesteak, I felt a much, much more intense contraction.
As we waddled back to the car (see the picture of me being super pregnant above), I told Daniel I thought we might be gearing up for the actual show soon. We went home and tried to relax, started watched The Great Wall* until about midnight, and decided to try to get some sleep.
*obviously the most normal, natural choice for a pre-labor film. This is not a film review, but I’m going to assume my body kicked it into high gear just to get out of finishing it. Thanks, Matt Damon!
The Big Day
I woke up at 3am with a real doozy, this time absolutely certain that things were happening. They say that you will know when it’s time… and you do. But only because this time finally things feel even MORE real than the last 10 times that you were sure they were real. Following all the rules, I laid there quietly to let Daniel sleep as much as he could, since dad’s got to be on his a-game for labor, too. I dozed in and out for awhile, then got up and went downstairs to watch the sunrise from the baby’s room and wonder if we’d be welcoming a little boy or a little girl in a few short hours.
About seven, I crawled back in bed to wake up Daniel. I told him I’d been contracting much more seriously and even had him snuggle me through a couple of them while we laid there, talking through our game plan. He told me I should text Nicki and make sure she had the heads up.
To say we had a lovely day of contractions would be an understatement. Those early labor hours are really very pleasant. We danced in the kitchen, ate sushi (because, at this point, what damage could a girl really do?), and live-streamed our youth lifter’s national competition.
When the contractions would hit, either Daniel or Nicki would magically appear to apply counter pressure to my hips. We were moving and grooving and I thought “Man, labor really isn’t so bad at all.”
We partied like this until around 7PM. I went upstairs with my first very difficult contraction. Our goal had been to stay at home as long as possible before moving to the hospital, and when our doula saw this contraction bring tears to my eyes, she thought perhaps it was time to take our show on the actual road–the full hour to Hillcrest South in Tulsa.
With a scarf wrapped around my waist so that I could apply my own counter pressure, we made our way down highway 75. The contractions were tough, lasting about a minute and a half each, and I was having to really turn inward to breathe through them, feeling an incredible ease once each one passed. Daniel and I jammed to my favorite music, laughed, and teared up a little. I tried desperately to put it out of my mind that I was going to show up at the hospital at a 6 or 7, just in time for transition, even though I knew that’s where things were headed. This was active labor, and I was getting so excited to meet our baby!
We arrived at Hillcrest South around 8PM, a little over an hour into my active labor contractions. My body was doing its work as we unloaded our bags, waddled into the elevator, and checked in on the third floor of labor and delivery. Once we checked in, it was time for the big reveal–a lovely nurse named Kerri was ready to check me! We all waited eagerly, trying not to jinx ourselves into thinking we were already at a 7, maybe even almost an 8, even though we’d been at this for awhile now! And sure enough, Kerri came back with the verdict! I was 100% effaced and dilated… to a 3.
This was the initial low point in my labor and delivery story. I hadn’t wanted to get too excited, but I knew for a fact I was, at the very least, a good ways into active labor. I had practiced my labor techniques, trained physically for months to have a successful natural birth, and really focused my meditation game in order to push through a happy, hopefully quick labor. But here we were, barely at a 3.
Now, the hospital rules say they can’t check you in until you’re dilated to at least a 4. Kerri, a merciful and kind labor nurse on a particularly slow night, suggested we stay for observation for another hour to see if we could get things moving, and Nicki set Daniel and I up in the bathroom so that I could try laboring on the toilet (sounds weird, right? But sitting backwards on a toilet does two cool things: 1) allows mom somewhere to rest (the back of the toilet) while her partner can both sit and apply counter pressure behind her and 2) takes advantage of our conditioned “relaxation” response that we, as humans, get when we sit on toilet). Nicki killed the lights and busted out her tealight candles, turning that bathroom into our “labor cave.”
Daniel had been wonderfully supportive all day, but the labor cave was when he really turned it on. I was feeling discouraged and defeated, ultimately worrying that I was a drama queen (I swear, I wasn’t faking! The contractions really were intense!) but also that, despite my preparation, I might not be able to hack it at a natural delivery. But through his love, support, and encouragement (probably assisted by his profession as a coach), he was able to talk me out of my hole, instead cuing me to relax, to focus on opening, and to work with my contractions.
When the time came for our 1-hour check, I had progressed! To a 3.5.
Since we had seen movement (and it was a slow night), Kerri maintained that we try another hour of observation. By now, it was 9PM, and she insisted that this time around we should be up and moving. Laps around L&D!
An hour later, after noticing an increase in the intensity and a decrease in the recovery time between contractions, we moved back into our room for another check. Excited to be at a 4 (labor is linear, right?), Kerri was able to deliver the news–no change. Still at a 3.5.
By now, it was 10pm, and that feeling of discouragement began creeping back in from the corner of my mind. We had been at these rather intense contractions for 3 hours now and I still wasn’t even in active labor yet. Again, my labor team (Daniel + doula) talked me back up, helping me to laugh as we marched more laps around L&D. At this point, my contractions were increasing in intensity, lasting two or so minutes, and were (as I could measure them) only about 6 to 8 steps apart.
As we prepared to start our final lap of the hour, I felt the overwhelming need to vomit. Conveniently close to our room, I rushed in the door, puking seaweed and miso soup into my bedpan while Nicki doused my forehead with a wet cloth. I crawled myself back into bed, waiting for good news from Kerri, only to find that we were still at a 3.5.
Kerri, kind and merciful as she was, seemed boggled. My labor appeared to be progressing, and yet here we were, making no progress at all. At this point, she delivered some bad news.
“I can only hold you for another hour, then we have to send you home.”
By this point, my feelings of discouragement had moved toward outright defeat. With only about a minute between contractions, I was hobbling only a handful of steps at a time as we made our laps. I relaxed. I bore down. I imagined roses opening. I learned to loath the pale gray walls and love the white handrails as I leaned over them. I tried to stay calm and patient with my labor team, their words of encouragement only furthering my frustration.
I was hot, I was cold. I was yes and then no. Ultimately, I was tired. I tried to focus on the upside–if they sent me home, maybe I could get in a bath (our room only had a shower). Maybe things would slow down. Maybe I could sleep. None of us had eaten since 2PM, we could all use a break.
As Kerri delivered the news to us–no change–Daniel called around to find a nearby hotel. She lamented with us the visible progression of my labor but the lack of physical change. She was sure–just so sure–that we would be back, she even planned to hold the room for us.
“I hate that you have to pay for a hotel room, I know you’re just going to be right back!”
She spoke with kindness as she wheeled me out of the hospital (in a wheelchair, because my contractions were so close together that I could no longer walk). I returned in kind by not yelling at her or punching her beautiful face.
Hotel, Motel, Holiday Inn
As I literally labored in the car on the way to the hotel, Daniel did his best to try to cheer me up. We talked about food (there was a Whataburger in the parking lot of our hotel), we talked about rest, we talked about the possibility of meeting our baby the next day. It was a 6 minute drive and we arrived groggily at the hotel with all of our stuff in tow,
Nicki followed closely behind, helping to apply counter pressure as I made my way to the elevator while Daniel checked us in. Every two or three steps we stopped for a contraction, Nicki having to sit down all of her gear only to pick it up back a few feet later. I contracted in the elevator. I contracted in the hall. I contracted all the way to the end where our room was. Once the door opened, I made a b-line for the bathroom, flipped on the spout, and ditched my clothes.
Daniel offered to get us all food, unloading our bags and leaving Nicki and I to handle the bath. I didn’t wait–I climbed into the tub on my hands and knees, excited to finally get some relief from the hours, nay days, of early labor I was experiencing.
As I knelt in the tub, I was hit with the most intense contraction of my entire life. In a table top position, Nicki poured water over my back and held a trash can next to the tub so I could vomit, the waves and peaks of contraction after contraction piling on top of each other without stopping for what felt like 15 minutes.
This was the lowest point of my entire delivery, and I found myself wondering how on earth anyone could make it to a 10 if it was this bad and I was only at a 3.5. I kept asking aloud, “How does anyone get to a 10?” as I mentally decided to myself that once we got back to the hospital, I would have to throw in the towel and get an epidural. There was no way–if the contractions were only going to get exponentially worse from here and this wasn’t even the active labor part, then I just wasn’t cut out for a natural delivery.
When Daniel returned with Whataburger breakfast sandwiches in tow, he discovered my attempt at removing myself from the bathtub. The contraction had finally allowed me a momentary break and I took the opportunity to make a hobbly b-line for the bed, hoping that, should another forever long wave of contractions hit, I might at least be able to lay down for them.
No sooner did I climb atop the covers, though, was I hit with another round of contractions… and this time, I felt the need to push.
I had resigned myself to the fact that I would deliver my baby in the hotel room. I could see no other possible solution my body seemed fully set on expelling my child. Daniel and Nicki, however, thought otherwise.
The labor team kicked everything into high gear, Daniel calling the L&D floor to let them know we were on our way back while Nicki helped me back into my clothes for transport, coaching me to PANT. All of our bags once again loaded on their shoulders, Daniel made a break for the car (throwing up over his shoulder in the parking lot, mind you), while Nicki and I began the long and strenuous procession from our room, down the hall, to the elevator, out the lobby, and into our vehicle. My mind is fuzzy, but my contractions were so constant and consistent at this point that I would not be surprised if it took 10+ minutes to get me back in the Kia.
I remembered hazily that when attending our birth class, Nicki explained that sometimes a laboring mom might need to pant to slow the urge to push. “Why would anyone want to stall pushing?” I had asked, thinking that if my body were ready to deliver, then delivering is what I should do… timelines of others be damned. I reflected on this moment with a slight smile as I pressed up onto my hands in the passenger seat, panting wildly through each contraction as I attempted to NOT deliver my baby in the car. We flew back to the hospital, me coaching Daniel on the fact that this scenario was, in fact, the appropriate time for running red lights and any cop who had a mind to pull us over could file his grievance from the Hillcrest parking lot.
Hillcrest, Part Deux
After flying into the hospital parking lot, Daniel had abandoned me in the vehicle to burst through the emergency entrance and retrieve what must have been a rogue wheelchair in the lobby. He rushed out, a nurse following close behind, and loaded me into the chair, her assurances that she would deliver me to L&D lost in the darkness as he was already off parking the car (and vomiting).
From my perspective, we flew through the hospital lobby and to the elevator, me again pressed up out of my seat, panting wildly. As the doors to the third floor opened, Kerri greeted me with a smile, a small “I knew you’d be back” look in her eyes. Rushing me back to my room, she assured me that Kim, my midwife, had been called and was already on her way.
Bells and whistles, needles and forms, Daniel and Nicki, all kinds of people and things passed in and out of my room in the next moments, most of them a blur as I continued my now-nearly-perfected dog pant. Kerri went to check me, ready to deliver the news that baby was on their way… What she found, however, was that I was only dilated to a 6.
Chapter 5, also known as, THEN WHY DO I NEED TO PUSH?!?!?
“A SIX?!?!” I wasn’t able to talk much at this point, the whiplash of the last hour still stinging a bit. I had instead perfected a new mantra, one repeatable without much effort, which issued forth between each of my pants.
THEN WHY *PANT* DO I *PANT* NEED *PANT* TO *PANT* PUSH????
Pushing can only be described as an odd, reflexive sensation. It’s less of an action you take, but rather something that happens to you, like falling asleep. Or having diarrhea. Fighting it, then, is less like an effort one makes and more like a prayer that the sweet baby Jesus will spare you attempting to deliver your child with your cervix still 4 cm too closed.
“THEN WHY DO I NEED TO PUSH??”
It seemed that all of the nursing staff at Hillcrest had voluntarily fallen deaf, instead rushing around me in a frenzy as they adjusted my bed, dimmed some lights, put on some gloves, and did whatever (amazing, wonderful, selfless) things nurses do when their patients are selfishly focusing on only their own needs. Like, for example, THE NEED TO PUSH.
Our amazing midwife, Kim Kmita, arrived all smiles. “I knew I would see you guys this weekend,” she said as she put on her gloves, ready to check me again. If I hadn’t been panting, I would have held my breath, certain that she was going to deliver (again) bad news.
Instead, she hit me with a 9!
“I’m going to clear you and the next contraction, go ahead and push!”
FINALLY, THANK YOU SWEET BABY JESUS.
The next contraction came and this mama finally stopped panting, instead bearing down to work with the contraction. As it passed, Kim gave me the thumbs up, waiting another moment for the next round.
BOOM. The second contraction saw my water break! I had forgotten about it, but apparently the damn thing had decided to stick around for the whole show.
The third contraction brought baby’s head, to which Kim looked at Daniel and said,
“Look at all the hair! I think it’s your color! Now to find out if it’s a man bun or a regular bun…”
Another push and the torso was out! Kim insisted I reach down, grab under the arms, and deliver my baby. I looked at her quizzically, confused by the foreign language she seemed to be speaking (likely because I was in the middle of delivering a baby and also hadn’t eaten in almost 12 hours). Again, she coached me through delivering my own child.
This time, I followed instructions, pulling the little baby out in time to hear Daniel say,
Today, my daughter is 4 months old. As of yesterday, I had officially lost all of my “baby weight.”
A year ago, I found out I was pregnant just as I was getting ready to ship off to the Philippines. When the midwife said she expected me to gain about 30 lbs., I panicked. The anxiety around my body that I thought I’d let go of came back in full force. How on earth would I be able to lose that much weight afterward? Not to mention all of the other horrors that come with pregnancy!
Now, it seems like such a trivial milestone.
Now, I disagree with the idea of regaining my “pre-baby” body, as if losing a few pounds could somehow erase my motherhood. As if the highway of stretchmarks or changes in my frame could be tallied up and taken away. As if it were an accomplishment to rid myself of the proof that I built (and thus far exclusively sustain) an entire other human being with my body. As if I would ever want to deny my role and slip unrecognized through a crowd of women without the title of Mom. As if that were somehow a source of shame rather than an accomplishment. As if I could negate all of the growth and change over the course of the past year. As if I would want to.
Not only that, but it minimizes her. It changes her from this amazing, beautiful little human to a number, a stressor, a catalyst for negative change in her mother. It ignores her accomplishments, the rolling from belly to back or back to belly. Her army crawls. Her skeptical side-eye. The fact that she smiles anytime you ask about her “boyfriend.*” It assumes that she destroyed me somehow rather than creating a new facet of me.
Instead, I simply want to show her what else this body is capable of–what her own body might someday be capable of. I want to teach her to love her body, to love movement, to love hard work for the sake of feeling accomplished. It has nothing to do with the number on the scale.
Daniel and I have changed our titles from person to parent. The weight of that is something that can’t be undone. More importantly, it can never be lost.
*We still don’t know who it is… but anytime you say “Hey, Iris, what’s your boyfriend’s name?” she GRINS.
I started writing this blog post when Iris was just 3 weeks old while she was momentarily sleeping in her pack-n-play and while I was trying to take 5 seconds to pee. I got all the way through “I’ve been hoping to document the arrival of Iris for the past 3 weeks…” before she woke up, decided that if I wasn’t where she could touch me then she would die, and started wailing.
Luckily, speed wiping is a thing (also, “TMI” is no longer a thing).
Originally, I wanted to write something profound about her birth. I wanted to discuss how, for a process that has been around since the dawn of time, crosses all species, and is required for every single person to arrive on the planet, it’s amazing how unique every single birth story turns out. But since then, I’ve learned that as uniquely beautiful and profound motherhood is, you’ve got to have a sense of humor if you’re going to survive.
Now, my sweet, perfect little pumpkin is 3, almost 4 months old ( … technically 15 weeks. Weeks are still a thing at this point) and happily in daycare, which means I now have two free hands with which to type (and eat my meals), so I thought I’d pick back up where I left off.
You know, BIRTH.
There’s a reason I want to share this story. You see, long before Daniel and I had a kid, we knew people who had kids (go figure). Nearly all (if not all) of them, had either scheduled their induction date, delivered via scheduled c-section, or used an epidural to vaginally deliver, and as a result, my thoughts on childbirth were, quite simply, why the eff wouldn’t you want an epidural? Delivering a baby is the single worst thing that could happen to a woman, the least you could do is take the edge off.
Then, my friend Tess delivered her son (12/1/2015), and my whole world changed.
When she posted his birth story, detailing the pain free, meditative and astonishingly quick hypnobirth their family experienced, I realized that there was an alternative birth option which I’d never considered. There was a story of a birth that was a positive experience, rather than one in which the wife is screaming, crushing her baby-daddy’s hand with mad fury, and yelling obscenities at him between contractions (see: every movie ever).
Talk about a game changer. At the time, I was in the middle of trying to naturally recover from my herniated discs. Children weren’t really on our radar, but I silently applied the idea to my training, mentally committed to “preparing” for a natural delivery through my lifestyle and exercise (as well as meditation game) for when that day finally came. So when we found out we were pregnant that following October, I was excited to start the natural delivery journey and had my coach, Zach Greenwald of StrengthRatio, adjust my programming so that I could maintain a decently high level of activity throughout my pregnancy. As a result, I was able to keep many of the traditional aches and pains of pregnancy at bay and enjoy a high quality of life until the very end!
When it came to preparing for delivery, however, reading the Hypnobirthing book and listening to hours upon hours of The Birth Hour podcasts had me feeling like I had a good idea of what to expect, but I was still hoping to find a natural childbirth class that Daniel and I could take together. My friend, Allie, recommended Village Birth and Motherhood‘s Lamaze class here in Bartlesville and since we didn’t feel like driving to Tulsa (and Nicki Ingram offered flexible class times/scheduling… which was AMAZING since we were working on opening the new gym location at the time), I signed us up!
Not only did Nicki’s course provide Daniel and me with incredibly thorough information, she also helped to set our expectations around natural childbirth and pain management techniques while also preparing us for the potential of a birth that did not meet our initial ‘birth plan.’ This was huge, ya’ll. Birth is a wild ride no matter how you get there, and her insistence that we could turn any birth experience into a positive one was critical once it was finally game time!
We enjoyed the course so much that we bugged Nicki incessantly until she agreed to serve as our doula for the hospital birth. To be honest, I was a little worried that having a doula might be awkward and somehow take away from Daniel’s and my experience, and I occasionally worried that inviting someone else into the process was a bad idea. Daniel, who this entire time was completely supportive of my desire to have a natural delivery, helped to remind me that we didn’t know what we didn’t know, and as first-time birthers, it might be nice to have a spare professional handy.
Now keep your eyes peeled for Pt. 2 … THE ACTUAL BIRTH.
Tonight I have the honor of holding the heavy body of a warm, fevered two month old as she sleeps. These past two months with her feel as most major things do–simultaneously brief (“I can’t believe she’s already two months!”) and infinite (“I can’t remember how it was without her in my life!”). I really can’t believe how much has changed. A great report at the doctor today reminds me how incredible it is that my body has not only grown a human being, it has continued to nourish her as she develops on the outside. It’s a very surreal, amazing, natural, tiring, beautiful thing, being her mama, and I’m honored to have this opportunity.
I will hold you as long as you’ll let me, little girl. You’re the best thing I’ve ever done. 💚
“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.” 💜
One month of motherhood. They tell me that it will all be a blur, and in some ways I suppose it is already, though at the moment it feels slow. The first week, we brought her home and spent two days just Daniel, Iris, and myself, getting to know our own little family. She had blue eyes and the most perfect little gremlin ears. The grandparents all came up to meet their beautiful new granddaughter, and on Day 4, she met her new gym family at Pure Health Performance for the first time.
Now our life has settled down a little. She and I spend our summer mornings together on the back porch, drinking coffee and eating breakfast (I also practice my single-handed dexterity) while the dogs play. We try to sleep in (more importantly, we try to sleep all day). I have the “sundowners” – night time anxiety, but overall, she’s really a joy.
This time last year I was putting a deposit down on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to my grandmother’s homeland of the Philippines for a week of intensive yoga training–my first experience traveling abroad alone. Then, a week before I was set to leave, we discovered that my solo adventure would feature a tag along–Baby West. I was still coming to terms with the idea of motherhood as my tiny companion and I flew across the world, trekked through the jungle, and developed a deeper yoga practice in our temporary home. A motorbike ride into a small island town and 4 dollars bought me these two sarongs, but a week of living in/by the ocean with some amazing new friends helped me come to terms with my new adventure. Since then, Daniel & I have welcomed so much change into our lives. I’ve made peace with and rejected and made peace again with my stretching, expanding body. Our roommate moved in and six months later moved out. We bought, built, and opened up a new gym. Little one, you’ve already brought us so much adventure, now we’re just waiting for you to make your appearance topside! 💚
If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that every challenge prepares us for the next. I’ve been so sick this week & anytime I start feeling bad, I remind myself that this is all in preparation. I got the opportunity to practice my labor relaxation and meditations while processing nausea, vomiting, dehydration, and severe stomach cramps and it was a joy (and a relief!) to find they worked.
I’m still not fully recovered yet, but I’m getting there. I’m trying to listen to my body and take its cues, which has meant more rest and a slower pace than I’m accustomed to, but hey, it’s a lesson in humility. And how can I tell my body no?
It’s been a constant adjustment for me, as someone who struggles still with body image, to embrace the changes that come with pregnancy. Each step has brought new stress, new anxiety, new fear over expanding into a space I’ve spent so many years trying to minimize. And as many of those “fears” have come true, I’m growing more and more in love with it.
This super full body was designed to know what I need when I don’t. In thinking about motherhood, I see that the last 15 years, this body has been practicing for precisely this. This body has heated up once a month in case some tiny soul should inhabit it, until now, when one has finally taken root. 🌱
I’m realizing that there’s a reason God made women the only gateway into this world. Our bodies grow & stretch to make space for the future. We build up fat stores to keep us and our children warm & nourished. We build up strength over the years, each small influx of hormones & each emotional wave a taste of what’s to come, each cramp toning our bodies to prepare for birth of that future, of each person. I realize we don’t all have the opportunity to become mothers, but if we do, if we choose to, our arms & our hips carry the next generation across this world. We mend their broken hearts with our own resilience, built up thicker after each broken heart we’ve faced. Each imperfection of ours teaches them adaptability, self love, self care. They learn our flexibility as we change alongside them, each of us growing in our own way, in our own directions over the years. We meet them, our children (biological or otherwise), & we raise them up the best way we can, & then we offer them out into the world. They aren’t ours to keep, but ours to shape, to present. We are simply gateways.
I’m trying to keep all these things in mind when I lose patience with my body–for being sick, for being tired, for being so full. This is all just preparation for the next big thing & I am so, so grateful to be on this journey in this body. 💚
Sometime over the course of this pregnancy, I grew a plank in my eye.
I know it happens to everyone–I mean, that ish is contagious–but I spent a little time this morning meditating and doing yoga and I realized that there it was, front and center, its splintery rough edges propping me up like a leg stand in my crow pose. And I think it’s time to go ahead and take that beam out.
So how did this massive chunk of wood grow in the center of my face without me noticing? We can start with the obvious: Daniel and I are [eccentric, hippie, granola, crunchy, whatever]. I want to breastfeed, we plan* to co-sleep and cloth diaper and, much to the confusion of many of those around us, Daniel plans to parent our child. Not just “babysit,” not just serve as triage for when I’m on the edge of a mental breakdown, but legitimately take on the role of main caregiver for our baby.
We are unconventional, yes, but I’ll be damned if we are not a team. We’re 12 years into this romantic friendship of ours and, over that time, we’ve become a well-oiled machine of quirks and idiosyncrasies and shared interests. And I’m proud of us. I’m proud of the individual strength and confidence that I’ve built throughout this relationship and I’m proud to watch him continue to grow to the size of the challenges he’s met with. It’s been slow and steady, but we’ve been able to add more to our ship without sinking and I’m pumped about adding this next big thing (which is, ironically, a tiny little baby). Our plan is to fold this baby into our lives, destabilize a little, and then figure out what our new normal looks like. That’s it. No other real plans.
Needless to say, I knew we were doing things differently. I knew that my personal desire to make things harder on us short-term for (what I believe will be) long-term results would be a slap in the face to modern convenience. What I didn’t realize is that this would be offensive.
So back to the plank.
I’m happy to say that I’m a feminist. I believe that the best thing we can do for our sisters is to support them and let them choose their own path. No decision made is wrong and there is nothing anti-feminist about wanting to be hyper feminine or a stay-at-home mom or anything of the sort, just as it’s perfectly fine to be a working mom, or a lesbian mom, or a stay-at-home dad. I’m proud of my fellow women (and men!) who do what works for them/their families and what makes them feel validated as the person they are… which is why I caught myself off-guard. You see, just as the offense that my “granola stubbornness” has caused surprised me, so too did my defense. In wanting to just have our wishes as a family respected, I began to criticize others’ for the same thing. I started comparing and contrasting “our way” with other ways, developing a small twinge of elitism in my own ideology. I started (mentally) pointing out specks in other people’s eyes.
Oh, hello, Plank.
There’s nothing more humbling than realizing that you’re part of the problem… and it’s time for a tonal shift. So this is me, opening my heart and my eye (the one currently healing from plank extraction). This is me, apologizing for any judgement I cast in defense of my own choices. We’re all just winging it, right? Doing the best we can to figure out how parenthood fits into our lives? Let’s give each other room to breathe, to experience the trial-and-error of raising kids, to step back and say “this isn’t working” without losing face. Let’s rejoice in each other’s successes and support one another in failure.
So you Mamas and Daddies out there to kids young and old and biological and adopted and step (and all the other mish-mash of ways we come into each other’s lives), I salute you.
I support you.
I’m not judging you (you’re doing the best job you can, and that’s a damned good job).
The last few months have been a wonderful testament to the love and support of our friends, our family, and our community as we prepare to welcome our little one this June. Each week the stats change (currently 26 weeks, baby is the size of a bowling pin, Mama is up +15 lbs, and the belly (and boobs!) cannot be contained) and each week we move a little bit closer to the very real prospect of adding one more to our nest of 4.
All of the precious, tiny outfits have been sorted by size and the medical, bathing, feeding, changing, diapering, swaddling, entertaining and comforting items have been gathered into baskets (although not yet placed into their final homes). Each item represents a person who has gone out of their way to shower us with love. Each item will witness the joy, frustration, excitement, and terror that will fill our home so soon. To say that we are both humbled and grateful right now is an understatement, and I think we don’t even grasp how thankful we actually are just yet.
My mom bought Baby a stuffed duck a few weeks ago whose foot reminds us that “Jesus Loves Me.” He’s yellow, coincidentally matching the accents in our bedroom, which makes him a perfect addition to the space we’re working to create. He piles into the bed with Daniel, Moose, Shiya and me each night, hopefully absorbing all of our scents for Baby to appreciate later.
In the corner now sits a handmade bassinet alongside a matching wooden rocking chair three generations old. These both held and rocked Daniel as an infant, seeing him and his parents through sleepless nights, ear infections, and precious quiet moments together as a new family of three. Across the chair drapes a hand-knit blanket made specifically for our little one by some of our dearest friends, something that is all Baby’s own, and the top of the chair is crowned with the matching hat which will keep their tiny ears warm.
We hope to add more pictures of our adventures to the wall above our bed to show our baby a little bit about who we are as people and the things we’ve seen and done. To remind them that the world outside is vast and beautiful. Hopefully to encourage them to seek adventures of their own.
All of these things are filled with love. They represent generations of it–of us, of our parents, of their parents, all extending our love out to this little baby, our Wild West, our Tigger. I will miss having my bouncing little companion with me all the time (and boy! do they BOUNCE!), but it’s really wonderful to be surrounded by reminders of all the people who have helped to get us here, of all the people who already love them, and of all the support we have. That love will be needed once Baby is earth-side and showing us along the adventure of parenthood, no doubt.
There’s still so much work to be done, but thank you all for being a part of our tribe and leaving your mark on our nest. It seems so small but it feels so, so special to our family.