Let’s Talk Postpartum.

Before I was pregnant, I spent a long, long time each week on my appearance. I was a little more than slightly obsessed. I lived happily for four years as a Twenty-Something in New York City, the mecca of fashion, beauty, and looking fierce just to make a trip to the bodega. I wore carefully-selected vintage clothes that I religiously scoured from store after store to find. I took pride in that.

Now, I’m pretty much dressed in head-to-toe Target.

It’s just not as important to me right now. Wait, as I typed that, I realize that I wasn’t being honest with myself. It is still very important to me to be “put together.” Even though there have been many days this past year that I have left the house in loungewear (Actually, the first outing I went on postpartum, I accidentally wore a cotton nightgown, thinking it was a dress). But let’s be HONEST, it is so hard to try to put together outfits when your little one is crawling around on the floor trying to eat buttons (JG is really good at finding buttons–why are there so many buttons on the floor?!) I actually am pretty lucky, because my husband watches our babe to give me some prep time in the morning on most days, bless him.

But even now at 13 months postpartum after I put on makeup, do my hair, pick something out that fits and looks semi-presentable, I still feel…bleh. I look in the mirror and don’t recognize myself. Or, I do, it’s just a different version of me. There’s a wisdom in the lines on my forehead, and a deep level of tiredness in the blue-tinted rings under my eyes (which I covered with concealer, of course). I tend to nit-pick while a little voice in my head says, “Umm, not good enough.” I am my own worst critic.

But, we all are, aren’t we?

Especially as moms. I think there is definitely a social construct that moms feel pressured to fit into little perfect categories: Working Mom, Stay-At-Home-Mom, Upper-West-Side-Mom, Yoga Mom, you name it. But the truth is, that we are whatever we want to be, and we wear many different hats. On some days, I feel super confident and wear heels and a nice leather jacket, on others, I run around all day in my workout clothes, whether I have worked out or not…Most of the time not.

To get to the topic, however. I digress.

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts lately on mommy groups on Facebook, and like me, many of the new moms I encounter are concerned about losing the baby weight. I have struggled this past year to lose weight, despite assurances that, “Oh, breastfeeding will take the pounds off!” Hmmmm, nope.

I know that I will not ever look exactly like I did prepartum (Did I just make up that word?), unless I was a Kardashian. I am realistic, I don’t have thousands of dollars to recreate my early 20s bod. But, I would like to get somewhere NEAR to where I was, body composition-wise, mainly to just to feel healthier and stronger.

So, I started working with a trainer. I workout with a group of ladies, all moms, and we train together to keep the cost down. The trainer is amazing; She gives us great workouts twice a week, and then we do recovery workouts like walking or running on the other days, so it’s not like forcing me to go to a gym, which I hate. She also helps us with nutrition. It’s a great start, and I don’t feel like I’m breaking the bank.

Since my birthday in January, I’ve lost about 12 pounds (gained a little back on vacation, yay, bread), but that seems like a really big victory to me, because it is pretty much the first time in my life that I lost weight healthily, instead of starving myself like I used to. My habits and lifestyle are more important than fast results.

This year, and every year after, I have resolved to love my new bod.

It is strong, it is healthy, and it is slowly getting muscle tone definition. My tummy will always have a little “poof” to it, and I have some tiger stripes for all the hard work by body did to carry a baby. They will forever be the reminder of the love that I grew inside of me. And, as the icing on the CHOCOLATE cake, I get to see my beautiful daughter grow into an empowered woman one day.

Motherhood has put things into perspective for me about my body. I struggled for many years with body dysmorphia and bulimia, and I knew that that wasn’t going to fly now that I’m a mom. So, I’m tackling that mind set head on (by being gentle and curious with myself as much as possible). Fortunately, I have the support and love from my family to help me through those days when the negative thoughts overcome me and I feel so depressed that I can barely stand. Additionally, I am able to go to therapy, after losing my father, and for that I am very grateful.

All in all, I just want to say–

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, MOM. You are doing it. This is also a special time, because May is Postpartum Depression and Anxiety Awareness Month. With everything, all the pressures we put on ourselves, the way the media portrays moms that “Do it All,” I think we should give ourselves some credit– we fed our babies today. Even if it was pizza and blueberries.

And I know that there are PLENTY of moms who look awesome going to the bodega, by the way. In sweats or in heels, we look hot. XO

 

–Steph.

 

Squishy and New

I cannot believe that my little one is 4 1/2 months old today! She has grown so much in such a little amount of time– it is insane! Everyone tells you that it goes by so fast, and it’s totally true. It almost is like a vortex. Time goes slowly, at an alarmingly quick rate. Just yesterday, her smile was appearing, and then just a day before that, she was lying on my chest for the first time, covered in vernix.

But I guess what I didn’t expect, what I was not completely prepared for, was MY rebirth. I read all the books, talked to a lot of other moms, and got so much unsolicited advice about the first steps of mommyhood. But what I didn’t really hear about too much was what I would may go through— a complete and total loss of self.

Something hit me like a freight train running wild on the tracks. From the moment my daughter came into this world, my brain began racing with thoughts– “Is she breathing? Pooping enough? What if I fall down the stairs and drop her? What if she gets whooping cough? What if, what if, what if?” I know that these thoughts are actually quite normal, especially for first-time moms, but are they supposed to be around—always? I find myself wondering if I’m going to mess my baby up by traumatizing her with bad parenting 15 years down the road, or fearful that she is absorbing my negative energy like a sponge.

Are these normal thoughts to have? Am I going crazy?

I then realized that I was going through postpartum anxiety and depression. I found a postpartum checklist, and I checked off more than half of the symptoms:  soul-wrenching tears, hopelessness, and barely-able-to-get-off-the-couch fatigue (Also because I am breastfeeding around the clock) to name a few. But, could I really be going through this? I didn’t want to believe it. 

I also did not expect to reach such lows after such a high from the birth experience. For starters, it was very strenuous. A 35 hour-long exhausting journey, with no epidural or any drugs to help it along. I had a doula, my mom, my husband, and the midwife and nurse to help me. I pushed for almost 3 hours. I was so terribly exhausted towards the end, that I had to be given oxygen. At one point towards the end of it I thought, “I do not have the physical strength to push this baby out of me. She’s gonna stay in here forever.”And I really believed it. My mom said I almost fainted on the bed. When my daughter was finally coming out, I had to muster up all the strength I had in my body and soul, and reached down between my legs and hoisted her onto my chest. “It’s a girl! It’s a girl!” I exclaimed, even though I already knew the sex. I was just in so much awe that that’s all I knew to say. 

Afterwards, my body was a saggy balloon filled with Jell-o. I was literally…deflated, in pain, and oddly, angry. I was angry at my body for being so weak after the birth. I expected it to bounce back. I was appalled that I could barely stand or walk for two weeks. Not only that, but I developed diastasis recti (a condition where the abdominal wall separates), and intense perineal pain due to vaginal tearing. My body, once taught and springy, now looks and feels foreign to me.

And oh, the hormones! Daily I am filled with so many emotions: fear, anxiety, love, adoration, awe, and sadness, to name a handful. I am pretty sure that my husband has gone through emotional trauma dealing with my abrupt mood swings, which range from hysterical crying, to laughing with our daughter on the floor.

Now that I have had a few months to adjust to this new life, I feel like I have a better hold on my emotions, but I am seeking counseling for ways to cope with this transition.

And you know what, that’s ok. 

Some days I am so nervous, thinking something terrible is going to happen, that I am afraid to leave the house. My husband can usually coax me out, but I am filled with dread as I put our daughter in the car, that we will get into an accident or something, and I feel my legs tense around every turn. At times, all I want to do is stay in bed and cry. But of course, that is quite impossible with a 4 month old infant. 

With all this being said, the sight of my absolutely beautiful, unique child makes me joyful and giddy. I am in awe of her. She is the sweetest person I have ever met.

When she picks up a toy and passes it back and forth between her little hands, I am watching a Universe opening up in front of me.

I am so glad that I had her, that she came out of my vagina (still amazed by that) and into this crazy world. I am the one she will call “Mama.”

I am a MAMA. 

I am also incredibly fortunate to have the support of my immediate family, including my mother, who gladly watches her almost every morning for an hour or so so that I can start the day fresh and eat a damn bowl of cereal. I realize that not everyone has that as a resource– single moms are my new heroes, and I commend you.

But nonetheless, I miss my old life. I miss being able to get in the car and drive anywhere I want. I look at my face and see a totally different woman staring back at me. Before baby, I was completely self-centered, focused only on what I was going to wear that day or if I should eat Chipotle again.

My whole world was MY world. Now, I share it with a chunky little 18lb girl (Yes, she is a giant 4 month-old, everyone in my family makes huge babies—you should have seen me pregnant), who will grow up and become a badass adult one day! I am responsible for her well-being! AHHHHHHHH! It is totally mind-blowing.

But the most important lesson that I am learning, is how to love myself again.

I never really got the chance to do that, because I didn’t allow myself to do that. Now is the time of my spiritual rebirth, in which I realize that even though I gained weight, and put my dreams on halt for a little while, that I am still a worthwhile human being.

In fact, I’m more amazing than I was before, because I have created Life (insert maniacal science fiction laugh here.) I finally am making the choice to be Happy.

It is a choice that I have to make for my daughter. I don’t want her to grow up resenting her mother because all I did was fuss and worry and push her because I was living vicariously through her.

I want her to see that her mommy has the creativity, power, and strength to do what she loves in a world where women are told they have to “do it all” or to be the dreaded Perfect.

I want her to be proud of her vulnerability.

I want to teach her to embrace her imperfections, and to dance with herself everyday.

But in order for her to believe me, I have to look into the mirror and tell myself “I Love You!” and really mean it. I have this new (stronger, stranger) body, a new mind, and a full heart. I have to accept myself for who I am, right now.

I am reborn.

I am growing up again with my little squishy baby. Hell, I’m squishy, too. We’ll both be squishy and new together.