Thursday, March 20, 2014
I had come to terms with the fact that it would likely be just Jimmy, me, and the dogs before I ever took that pregnancy test. I’d decided that I could just throw myself into other passions if “mothering” wasn’t something I’d experience, unfortunately that passion tended to be criticizing myself. I was happy with being the “mommy dog” to our (then) three dogs. I worked full-time, went to the gym religiously, poured myself into reading any nutrition information I could find. I was determined to achieve dietary perfection, which I thought would lead me to the physical body I always wanted. I wanted the ever-elusive “thigh gap”. Never mind the fact that I’m a pear, always have been, always will be. I was born with tree-trunk legs, and that’s how they’ll stay. I guess you could say I was incredibly vein and image-obsessed. It probably stems from my time spent as a model; always comparing myself to the girl standing next to me who was always a little skinnier, a little taller, a little more gifted (although more often than not, purchased) in the breast department. My self-esteem had taken many hits, and I was pretty low by 2012. I weighed the most I had in my life, but I was still wearing the same clothes, so I wasn’t huge by any means. I was stronger than I’d ever been, but that was just a trivial matter to someone who was obsessed with being skinny. It was to the point that I didn’t wear shorts the entire summer if I could avoid it. I felt like everyone was pointing and laughing at my cellulite (another genetic gift that I thought I could diet away). I just wasn’t happy with me. We were living miles from civilization, spending almost two hours per day in the car, and losing touch with friends as the months went on. I was sinking into depression. Luckily, in the summer of 2012, we were able to purchase our current home, smack-dab in the middle of the city. As soon as we moved, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I started running every morning, because, hey, we had sidewalks now! It was July, and the weather was perfect. I was so close to everything and everyone, and the gym, of course.
When August 3rd rolled around, I was so tired and craving white potatoes, which I hadn’t eaten in probably two years. You may remember from my first post that at this point in time, I had been eating 100% raw vegan for almost a year. When I decided to take that pregnancy test, I really didn’t expect it to be positive. I had so much doubt in myself and my abilities as a woman. I even drove to Walgreens and bought two more, just because I KNEW that first one was toying with my emotions. When I saw those plus-signs on TWO more tests, something immediately shifted in my mind. It wasn’t about me anymore. I had this little life, no matter how small, living in me. He or she needed me to be the strongest person I could be. Baby needed me to eat enough. It was that very moment that I started to think differently. I started to listen to my body in a way I’d never been able to do. If I was feeling tired, I knew it was my body telling me to slow down because Baby needed me to rest. If I was craving white potatoes, it was because Baby needed me to eat more carbs. My focus shifted to someone else for the first time in my life. I was bound and determined to do whatever it took to bring this life into the world in the best way possible.
When I was pregnant, my birth plan was made to be as natural and calm as possible. I was going to give birth quietly at home, squatting in a tub, with my mother and midwife assisting while Jimmy waited anxiously right outside the door. I was going to cradle my daughter in my arms as soon as she was born and immediately breast feed her. I was going to feel so great after my natural home birth that I’d be up walking around and making dinner a few hours later. This was my plan. Of course, plans have a way of going… NOT according to plan. After 37 hours of tough, mind-bending, unbelievable pain and blood-curdling screams, I gave birth in a hospital bed, on my back, with a room full of strangers. I was able to hold Charlotte for a brief moment before she was whisked away for a bath, measurement-taking, and the full 120-point inspection. I was then stuck in a hospital bed for the next two days. I was disappointed to say the least. I felt like I’d failed. I felt like I wasn’t able to give my daughter the start in life that she deserved. I was back to my old feelings of inadequacy, my mind telling me I wasn’t woman enough.
The funny thing, as tiny and helpless as a newborn is, she sure can teach you some lessons about yourself. When I was settled into my hospital room, they brought Charlotte to me. I couldn’t wait to hold her and count her toes, smell her few strands of hair, kiss her tiny fingers. I sat there for a few minutes just staring at her as she slept, curling her precious lips and made little stretching movements. That’s when the thought occurred to me… I MADE THIS. My body, however imperfect, cellulite and all, I made another person. And she was beautiful and perfect in every way. She had fat legs… just like me. Suddenly, that was a desirable trait. She looked just like her daddy (still does), and that was the most precious outcome of which I could think. I looked down at my stretched out skin around my mid-section and in my mind, I said “thank you.” Charlotte’s birth gave me so much confidence in my body. I started to see myself differently. Sure those skinny models in the magazines have a thigh-gap, but had they endured 37 hours of labor followed by a completely natural birth? I doubt it. I had a newly profound love for, not what my body looked like, but WHAT IT COULD DO! Since that life-affirming moment, I’ve learned many lessons.
For many years, I had thought I’d be a stay-at-home mom, but in the current economy, I had to come to terms with the fact that we couldn’t afford that luxury. I resented that for many months after returning to work. However, now I’ve come to appreciate that I have a great job working with some amazing people who I’d probably never see if we weren’t coworkers. It affords me the opportunity to buy organic groceries to feed my beautiful family. Because I work, Charlotte gets to spend many hours daily with her grandparents who are two of the coolest, most intelligent, loving people I’ve ever known. She’s read to and played with all day, and who else would care for her in the way that I would? And as her mom, there’s no greater feeling than that of walking through the door after work and seeing her grin as our eyes meet. I know she’s as happy to see me as I am to see her.
Having this amazing little person watching and listening to everything I do has made me hyper-aware of the life I’m demonstrating. I’m becoming a better person, and it’s all because of her. My language has evolved to a more “acceptable” vernacular. I’m learning patience… oh dear Lord, am I learning patience. I no longer rush in the mornings. If she want to take an hour to eat half of a banana, so be it. If I’m making a smoothie and she’s clinging to my leg whining because she just wants me to hold her, I stop what I’m doing and pick her up. There will be time for blending smoothies in just a few minutes. If I don’t make it to the store because Charlotte needs a nap instead, I just wait until she’s ready. If we’re at Trader Joe’s and she decides she wants to spend ten minutes discovering the flowers, then our grocery list can wait. It’s like she’s literally telling me to “stop and smell the roses.” I’ve started to think more about the world around us and the planet I’m leaving behind for the next generation. We've started a compost. I’ve been diligent about recycling plastics, even carrying home any plastic trash that I happen to have from work. I’m trying to buy most of her clothes and toys secondhand to cut-down on the environmental waste caused from manufacturing. She and I already eat a vegan diet, and I’m making sure to prepare all of her food from-scratch. It saves money, and bulk items tend to create less waste.
I guess what I’m saying, is that it’s all coming full-circle. She’s taught me how to be a better person, which has made me want to strive to teach her to be the best person she can possibly be, all while learning how to flex with the changing winds of life. Oh, and that body-image issue… I stopped worrying about it, and I’ve lost a couple of pounds. When I gaze into my mirror, I see a strong body, a body that carried and birthed an amazing daughter, breasts that have produced enough milk to grow a very healthy and happy child. More often than not, I even catch myself smiling. My new mantra is “I love myself right now, as is.” I may not look like a supermodel after having my baby, but then again, no one is paying me to look like that. And who are we kidding? I’m awesome! But you know who’s even more awesome? Charlotte.