Category Archives: self

Strength vs. Guilt – Battle of the Fourth Trimester

I have a friend who just had a baby and is adapting to her new role as Lord Ruler of All Things Baby-Related. The boundaries she sets for visitors, for instance, are clear.  If you want to interact with her baby, you must be a close family member, your hands need to be washed, and you need to have received a pertussis vaccine. It’s her home, her baby, her rules. She is finding herself surprised at the strength of her desire to protect her family bubble for the first few months. Equally surprising is her guilt for wanting people to stay away unless they are fully on board with her style of parenting. It’s the classic inner battle for women: strength vs. guilt.

When I gave birth to my oldest, it was a surprise to find that I had a Mama Bear instinct. I was floored at how strong it was. I felt, for the first time in my life, that my own intuition and feelings about what I wanted for my family trumped what other people might feel or think about my choices. The most important views about what was best for my baby belonged to me and my husband. I had never felt that important before. Hello, power.

Photo by Lea Wolf

Lea Wolf, my doula for my that birth, was essential in helping me understand that the first few weeks after birth are yours, your baby’s, and your partners. They belong to no one else and no one else can claim them, though they may try to. I understood this rationally, but not emotionally, with my first and made some mistakes in not creating a month-long safe space to honor that fourth trimester bond, find a rhythm, and heal from the birth.

It can be hard and foreign to explain our instincts to others in the face of their sometimes different expectations.   We need to start with our instinct as the starting point and create space for it. If we can find the strength to create that space, we are rewarded in so many ways. Because as we maintain our truth, it grows bigger and stronger. Crucial!

Your inner, intuitive voice may ring so loudly and strongly after baby is born, it may take your breath away in how certain and solid it feels.  Following that inner voice is the most blessed actualization of mother’s intuition.  It is as real and valid as your five senses, developed over generations of our ancestors fine tuning their ability to love, guide and protect their children and themselves.

So when an un-nurturing neighbor knocks on the door two days postpartum and wants to see baby, and you hear that inner voice saying “No.” — that “no” is there for a reason. So that the word can find your lips: “No.” It’s not right for you.

Social expectations can push up against this instinct and try and sway you toward a “yes.” You might think “It isn’t polite” or “I want to be nice” or “I don’t want them to think I don’t appreciate them.”  Part of listening to yourself is knowing that when you choose what’s right for you, it is quite likely that you will not please everyone all the time. And as far as I can tell, not pleasing everyone all the time, staying true to yourself, and accepting yourself for it…. is just the beginning of motherhood.

You are doing a great job.

 

From time to time, I listen to a meditation cd from a local energy healer, Mary Preuss Olson at Magnificent Living Institute.  It’s great for centering, collecting all bits of my thoughts and energy back to where they belong, clearing away what I don’t want, and enhancing my state of being. It feels good to this- I like the whole meditation. But my favorite part of the entire cd is where she says,

You are doing a great job.

It melts into my bones when I hear it.

You are doing a great job.

I know that she means it and I know I deserve to hear it. And so do you. Because it’s true. This is a phrase that mothers (ok, and everyone) need to hear and, most importantly, believe. Knowing this statement to be true calms every fiber in our energy field, especially when we are in a place of really being able to absorb its meaning.

I try not to argue with it, try to burn through the shadowy mental response of “But….” But I didn’t get the dishes put away. But we don’t make enough money. But my kids has peanut butter in his hair. But I don’t make freezer meals. But I never went to grad school. No buts, no coconuts.

You are doing a great job.

You might not hear these words from your kids. They might not know you want to hear it. It’s ok to tell them that it sounds good to your ears, and that you like hearing it. You might not hear it from your partner either, unless you tell them it will make a difference in your life if they say it every now and again (and only when they really mean it.) What matters most is not who says it to you, but that you feel that it’s true in your bones.

You are doing a great job.

It’s true. Know it. Say it to yourself, especially when the wheels have fallen off the bus. There will always be unanswered questions and uncertain choices. There will always be more on the to-do list. Maybe it’s not actually your job to answer every question and be certain about everything. Maybe it’s ok to not know.  What preschool is the best. What size your kids will be in next fall. What toy they’ll take to. Maybe it’s ok not to be certain. I’m not sure if this music class will be worth it. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to pay off our debt this year. This car seat we bought might not be the best choice.  I don’t know.  I don’t know. And not knowing is totally ok. What a relief.

You are doing a great job.

I’m saying this to you now and I mean it. If you are keeping up with things and sometimes not keeping up, if you’re self-loving enough to take a moment to yourself to read a mom-blog, if you keep your kids breathing and fed, if you know how to cook a hot dog, if you notice things your kids might like, if you manage to shower when you need to and maybe even find time to shave your armpits, if you think about things like whether cloth diapers or disposables are more responsible, if you read to your kids, if you kiss them on the forehead before they go to sleep….

You are doing a great job.

(If this is not your child, you are doing a great job.)

 

Do you like my hat?

During my stay here in Florida I’ve been keenly aware that my self-consciousness has been slowly receding. I can tell because I walked around all day today wearing a ridiculous hat I bought at the grocery store and aviator sunglasses like Tom Cruise wore in Top Gun, while my sunburned neon face and legs literally shined a light onto anyone who came within 2 feet of me.

 

Photo on 5-26-14 at 5.26 PM #2

 

I was keenly aware that I looked like a ridiculous tourist and I absolutely did not care. Yes. It’s happened. Either I’m middle aged and I’ve finally reached the point where I don’t care what others think of me, or I’m officially a “mom” and the benefit of what is practical in any given clothing situation far outweighs what is attractive.

 

The voices of judgment and fear of being judged have grown so quiet during my time here, that I feel my sense of humor sprouting up and actually growing back. Like a lot of women I know, when stress gets me down, I tend to really get in my head. My sense of humor disappears. Everything is worrisome. I can’t do a single thing without wondering if it’s the right thing. Wondering what people are thinking about it. Whether I look (or am) ridiculous or sad or out of my element. I feel hyper-aware of what I’m saying and doing.

 

So I was psyched to find today, as I walked on the beach, that the critical, worried voice in my head had faded.

 

If I were starring in an HBO sitcom, the narrative of my walk on the beach would go like this:

After gathering seashells on the beach for hours, I started to realize that I was my own worst enemy. So much of my own energy was being wasted in wondering what others were thinking of me. I had been dampening down my actions or changing my course all together so as not to offend or distract the people around me. I picked up a pink shell and threw it into the waves. A young couple walked by and I listened for the voice in my head…that self-conscious flag alerting me to others that might be watching or noticing me, and what they might think of me.  I reached down to pick up a black shell with a small chip on the side- imperfect in the most beautiful way- and noticed the voice was gone. All I could hear was the sound of the waves breaking on the shore.

 

OK, so that’s sort of what happened. In reality, I could still hear the voice a little. I am not a tv show character. But after spending 3 days alone, crying my eyes out about my dad, and soaking in every drop of healing the ocean offered, I noticed that the voice was quieter, sitting way in the back row balcony of my self-talk.

 

Surprisingly, I did discover a new voice emerging to the forefront. This one is sassy as hell. When I walked on the beach past a hot middle-aged, string bikini-wearing woman with thin, toned, legs and long blonde hair, and boobs that were naturally still at boob height…this voice immediately snarked in my head “Well, congratulations.” But the difference was that I wasn’t wishing to be more like her or wondering what she thought of me and my grown-ass-woman-wearing-an-ugly-hat self.

 

So that’s something.

The Mom-cation: You’re next.

I am writing this post while sitting in a tiny Florida cottage on the Gulf Coast. I am by myself and have been by myself for 56 hours now. I can hear the clock ticking. I have spoken no more than a handful of sentences since I’ve been here, except for the times I talked to my husband and kids on the phone.

 

Let this stock beach photo inspire you.

 

I came to this place to visit the spot where my sister and I sprinkled my dad’s ashes into the ocean 2 years ago. I came here, too, because I need to stare out at the ocean once or twice a year…if I don’t do that, then something undefinable is missing in my world. I came here because the routine of my daily life was starting to feel like a routine of stressors. I was tense all the time- enough so that a yoga class or a walk in the woods wasn’t going to make me feel better. And I ain’t no dummy. I’ve been down the road before where a little slip turns into a long slide and there you are suddenly wondering about how to change your whole life when really all you may need is one small change. Like maybe a vacation all to yourself.

 

I firmly believe that time alone is healing for most people. I encourage you to give it a try. You never know what you might discover.

If you’re ready to explore the Mom-cation, here is how it goes:

Pick a place you would like to visit. Not a place your kids would have fun visiting or your partner has been talking about going to. A place YOU would like to visit. Maybe it’s been on your mind for months. Maybe you’ve been thinking of it for years. You know the place. Start short and sweet if it’s more comfortable. A car ride and an overnight. You don’t have to jump into a week in Thailand just yet.

Find a moment to get online. (The next time you are supposed to be taking a shower, turn on the water, close the door and sit on the toilet seat lid while researching trip options.)

Bolster you nerve. Yes, you can do this: Number of travelers: 1.

See if you can make it happen financially (where there’s a will there’s a way.)

Tell your partner or support system that you need this. The kind of need that is non-negotiable. Like I need to work out. I need 4 hours of sleep. I need a haircut. Tell him/her that you will help arrange for extra support for the kids if needed and will return the favor in kind when he/she needs time away. If a partner is not in the picture, try your closest friend or relative.

Pick a few days that will work with your calendars. Yes, the kids can miss preschool. Yes, relatives can help out. Yes, you can miss your book club meeting.

Book your trip.

Go. You deserve it.

 

 

Who Are You Now?

Two nights ago I had a dream about a bald eagle hatching. Most animal dreams are significant and I try to pay attention when they happen. This one, in particular, jumped out at me as containing a relevant message, particularly because eagles are such a powerful animal and have represented major spiritual concepts to many cultures throughout history. Powerful medicine.

I’m lucky enough to know a man who does shamanic work here in Madison (and around the world, as well.) When I told him I was planning to do a little research to find out what this dream’s meaning was, he said he believed it was that a deep dream of mine was “hatching” or about to be realized. Sweet!

Then I got to thinking…What are my dreams these days? I am so intimately absorbed in the day to day life with my kids and husband, do I even have dreams that go beyond getting a full night’s sleep, going to Target by myself, and getting in a good workout a couple times a week? That feels so lame, somehow, but is really indicative of this time of my life. Family life, man, I’m deep in it.

But to honor the parts of me that might be holding steady to some of my other dreams I may have lost sight of, I sometimes revisit questions to bring those dreams back into my awareness. To find my location and spiritual coordinates on my life map.  I encourage you to answer some of them for yourself. It’s often surprising what you don’t know about yourself. Here are a few….

What makes you laugh?
What scares you?
Where do you most want to travel to alone?
Where do you most want to travel to with your family?
What is your favorite color?
What are three things you would like to spend more time doing?
What are three things you would like to stop doing?
What are three life goals you have already achieved?
What are three life goals you look forward to achieving?
What is a goal you have that you don’t think you can achieve? What if you could?
What do you love about your home?
What do you not like about your home?
What do you love about your town?
What do you not like about your town?
What makes you feel happy?
What makes you feel lonely?
What is your favorite song?
What is some new activity you’d like to try?
Where do you see yourself in five years? Does it make you smile?
What is your favorite piece of clothing?
Who is a good friend to you?
Whose friendship are you letting go of?
What do you feel guilty about?
How can you celebrate who you are today?

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you sit there.” – Will Rogers

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you sit there.” – Will Rogers

newton

I am great at sitting there. I’ve mastered it, actually. Especially sitting there on the right track but not moving in any particular direction. It’s kind of my speciality. But in order to steer the direction of my life, I must make, at the very least, micromovements toward my goals. When sitting comfortably in my comfy comfort zone, eating pretzel rods, and practicing not moving, it helps me to remember one of Newton’s  laws of physics:

In order for the motion of an object to change, a force must act upon it.

To me, that means if I want the motion and direction of my life to change, I must make a change, even if it’s a small change. (Yes, I know life is not an object, but just pretend that it is.) Making one small change can often have profound effects. I can change a thought, emotion, or action. Doesn’t matter which. That change is a force acting upon my life’s current trajectory and acts to steer me toward my goals….Wha-bam! Newton’s laws and train track quotes working together to inspire change! Yeah, baby.

Postpartum Jeans Shopping – Part 2

Continued from Part 1  (yesterday’s post)

Ok- this is embarrassing- but it was ridiculous how attractive I thought I’d look in skinny jeans.  Those skinny jeans models and celebrities look so good in skinny jeans!  When I saw the jeans on the hanger, in my mind I saw those women, wearing their skinny jeans like they do.  In the dressing room, as I was pulling on said skinny jeans, I looked super awesome from the knees down.  I was thinking “Hotblooded, check it and see! These skinny jeans are going to make me look skinny!”  But as I kept pulling, tugging, yanking upward it became evident that my postpartum body is in no mood for skinny jeans.  The tops of my legs looked like water balloons packed neatly into a nylon stocking.  The Foreigner song in my head scratched abruptly off and I got angry.  Skinny jeans? What is this concept anyways?  Only skinny people look good in them. Back to the curvy fit boot cut.  Only two sizes bigger than I was three years ago.

There’s a little culture shock from the blessed body acceptance during pregnancy where no matter how much weight you put on, it’s beautiful.  Endearing.  Sexy. My butt was three times its normal size with my last pregnancy and I regularly heard how beautiful I looked.  Size did not matter.  Being big symbolized and embodied life, renewal, and miracles.  But now, postpartum, I feel a pressure to get skinny fast. (And, by the way, how long can I keep saying that I’m postpartum as an excuse?  I’m 24 months postpartum doesn’t seem acceptable.)

Every time I look in the mirror, I hear my thoughts echoing ridiculous cultural expectations: “I could stand to lose that back fat.  It should only be a few more months before I can wear my old jeans.”  When I hear myself judging, I have to stop myself: “What the hell? Have I learned nothing from the monumental experience of birthing a child?  Am I really going back to the mindset I learned in adolescence that women need to be thin like Barbie?  Bah.”  That mindset did some major damage to me, not to mention the millions of other girls who struggle with body image.

Today I will pull on my yoga pants and t-shirt and wear them proudly.  I have two gorgeous kids and an amazing husband who thinks I’m beautiful.  I’m a great mom. I’m gorgeous. (We all need to say this to ourselves.) Gorgeous! Gorgeous! Muffin top- gorgeous! Cellulite- gorgeous! Big ass- gorgeous! Double chin-gorgeous! If I am overweight 48 months postpartum, guess what I will be: GORGEOUS!

It is so important for me to love this body of mine: my soul’s only home for this lovely life I have.   It’s been said before, because it’s true: we must teach our kids to know that women love and respect their own bodies.  Because as my boys see me respecting my body as it changes, they will grow and become short, tall, big, or small- and hopefully see they must love and respect their own.