{on motherhood} 365 days later

Last month, E turned one, so naturally I wanted to write up a little something-something for his birthday. It got me thinking about an email from a reader, who said she appreciate that I write about motherhood versus writing about my son

I would've never thought to word it that way, but she was right, and I felt grateful for the distinction. I will always want to write about my experience of motherhood in order to find the lines of similarity with other mothers, and note what seems unique or unusual or even commonplace to me. I will always want to talk about the stuff nobody else is really talking about, not openly, and I will always want to read other stories of motherhood as well on a whole range of topics.

But I'm not a mommy blogger. Nor will I write about my child's life at this moment in time, even though he can't talk or walk yet. That's an important distinction, though the two are entwined. 

Other moms might feel 100% comfortable sharing small anecdotes from their babies, and trust me, I looooove tagging along for that journey. I will like all your cute Instagram photos, I swear. I will tear up and laugh at your essays about what your kids are saying at age four. I will peer from across the Internet, kindly, or revel in what you choose to share with me real-time in real life. However, for me, the whole writing and blogging and posting experience is separate from my child. He is a part of it, sometimes, but not always. He is what made me a mother in the first place, so I'm grateful that his entry into the world shoved me up against the corners and cracks of my heart, mind and spirit—so I could see, and write, more clearly with all of you.

In honor of his first birthday, then, I want to share what he's taught me about motherhood thus far, which in turn, translates into what he's taught me about myself:

  • Lots of truly wonderful moments are simultaneously hard as hell. See: childbirth, marriage, buying property, career, time management, family, "balance", working out, patience, et cetera forever.
  • I often resent the endless neediness that accompanies parenthood, and at the same time, I cherish the gift of that same thing from my own parents. I think it's okay to feel the weight of responsibility, concern and love and also revel in the beauty of it.
  • "Mothers are keepers of bodies." I recently read these words by Courtney E. Martin, and they struck a chord in me. I never realized how much I would love the tactile parts of mothering. Some days, I miss breastfeeding: that sense of physical connection unlike any other. Other days, I miss being pregnant, which is funny because I didn't really love being pregnant while it was happening, but now I look back with wonder and awe about keeping little E by my side 24-7. And every time he grabs my hand, tugs at my shoulder, snags his fingers in my hair, gives an open-mouthed kiss and snuggles into my lap, I want to squish him back inside me. That's so weird, but moms, you get what I mean. It's the whole "your heart is living outside of your body" sentiment.
  • I can't do it all. And I'm not supposed to. 
  • Ask for help and then accept it. Seriously, accept the freaking help!
  • Most of the stuff I worry about is not important. Most of the things I'm looking at on my phone can wait. Most of the feelings I have will pass, for better or worse. Everything is temporary.
  • So many experiences are AMAZING: like dog tails, and light bulbs, and snowstorms, and books with flaps, and a bunch of people clapping in the same room at the same time, and raspberries, and music playing, and climbing two stairs, and long necklaces that jangle, and clothes hangers that click and clack, and walking holding onto someone's hands, and dumping a bowl of Cheerios on the ground, and opening and closing doors. The world is magical, and deserves a loud OOOOOOOH. 
  • My son thinks I'm beautiful, even when I've got three giant breakouts happening on different parts of my face, lines around my eyes, a wrinkled sweater that was supposed to go to the dry-cleaner a month ago, frizzy yet greasy (whyyyy) hair in a half-hearted bun and a crooked tooth. He thinks I'm beautiful, even still, and worthy of a giant smile and a big hug, so I try to offer that to myself, too. (Alternate title: how to come face-to-face with your own vanity and then get over yourself.)
  • Mac and cheese is a perfectly adequate dinner. Take-out is a lifesaver. Eating pizza for four meals a week is fine, especially if you eat a salad as your side dish every time. 
  • It is easy to put your kid first. It is harder to make time for yourself. Prioritize self-care, date nights with your husband, phone calls with your friends, yoga so you don't go crazy, and a quiet cup of coffee in the morning. But stop being a martyr. Quit with the self-imposed pressure around being perfect and doing everything right and living for your child 100% nonstop all the time. You're a woman, and a writer, and a wife, and a sister, and a friend, and a citizen, and a manager, and a runner, and a reader, and many more things. It's okay to care about these other things, too, and sometimes even more than your son for a given moment. 
  • You don't have to pick up your baby every time he cries, but boy, does it feel good to pick up your baby when he cries.
  • Find a breakfast and lunch routine and stick with it. Just makes life easier. For me, that's fruit and hard-boiled eggs in the morning, protein bar for a snack, and some sort of leftovers/sandwich combo for lunch. I don't overthink it.
  • Bathtime is the best. Making a mess is fun. Being naked part of the day is kinda nice. 
  • You are stronger than you think. 
  • You know when something doesn't seem right. Listen to yourself. Trust yourself.
  • Life is so very short, and it can change in an instant, so be present for the good and the bad. Hard days will shift into easier ones. Effortless, peaceful moments might be brief, but take all the pleasure you can from them; bank that shit up for later. 
  • Don't forget about the people who knew you before you became a mother. Those pieces of yourself matter, even if they've changed.
  • Anyone can have a baby, but not everyone can parent. It's so hard, and so incredible. Thank you to the mothers and fathers who have paved the way for me, and who help me parent better.

Happy first birthday, E. You light up our life.

{on pregnancy} the second trimester

{my idea of balance}

{my idea of balance}

I spent my entire second trimester trying to get in the groove of pregnancy, an experience I hadn't planned on having anytime soon. As my belly grew, I felt fairly normal; clothes stopped fitting, and occasionally I had an old school female "fat" day, but I didn't mind my changing appearance and the higher number on the scale. Emotionally, I embarked on a roller coaster; as we shared the news of our baby, most people responded with questions or comments directed at me specifically. It felt overwhelming some days to receive that much attention, and it took me a while to make peace with having such a private journey play out somewhat publicly.

My goals were simple through the middle part of pregnancy: to stay active, rest, nourish myself, and chill out.

staying active

My old version of "active" meant lots of hot yoga, daily runs or walks, plenty of go-go-go... and of course, that had to change to some degree. To be honest, I wanted to stay as active as possible to maintain strength, endurance, and flexibility for a successful labor and delivery -- not to try to manage weight or look good. Plus, being active always makes me happy and helps me level out any residing anxiety, moodiness or stress, so daily movement or activity remained a huge priority for me in terms of emotional and psychological well-being.

I did talk to my doctor and midwives about practicing yoga, and they basically said as long as I stayed mindful, careful and hydrated, there was no problem for me to continue with modifications. If I had experienced more of a high-risk pregnancy in any way, my choices would have likely been different. But yoga and walking intermixed with a little strength work here and there worked well for me.

rest

I used to sleep maybe 6 hours a night and then thrive on coffee during the day, but while pregnancy, I relished getting 8-10 hours a night and taking daily naps. I figured, this is like the only time in my whole life where I am encouraged to sleep AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. And you know what? Taking it slower reminded me that the world didn't... actually stop turning because I chose to watch television on a Tuesday night on the couch. People with children are a damn broken record about how when you have the actual kiddos, you never sleep, so I enjoyed sleeping in and going to bed early. Even though my energy levels went wayyy up during the second trimester, I relaxed whenever I felt like it. It was nice to shift from having a million weeknight obligations to simply going home after work and doing nothing.

nourish myself

I've always loved food and eating, but like many women, I spent the majority of my college and young adult years fixated on weighing a certain amount and looking a particular way. Such obsessions reared their ugly heads at various points, and I've not really written about them publicly, but suffice it to say that I dealt with disordered eating off and on for a long time. When I got pregnant, I was at a peaceful juncture with my body, so I felt relatively curious about how I would feel about gaining weight and being encouraged to eat a lot, often, for the next nine months.

Surprisingly, I had no issues about food or weight during pregnancy. I didn't feel the need to "eat for two," but I ate what I wanted when I was hungry and I stopped when I was full. Nothing was off-limits. I tried to include healthy items when possible, took my prenatal vitamins, and attempted to be thoughtful about protein and iron and basic nutrients for growing a baby. But on the days that consisted of toast with butter for breakfast, plain noodles with Parmesan cheese for lunch, and eggs for dinner with a dessert of Swedish Fish? I didn't stress over it and trusted my taste buds would balance out over time. I figured my body was doing what it needed to do, and I was simply along for the ride.

chill out

{fancy night out + 6 months of baby}

{fancy night out + 6 months of baby}

As I mentioned, I struggled more with the emotions of pregnancy versus anything physical. Reading books or articles about childbirth, browsing registry lists, watching videos about sleep training, people asking about breastfeeding and epidurals and a million other things: it all stressed me out. I had to constantly remind myself to hit the pause button and not overthink things, and I had to develop strategies to deal with well-meaning friends and acquaintances who wanted to talk to me about our baby-to-be. 

It helped quite a bit to journal and write about these difficult emotions, as well as share them with my close family and friends. My husband was particularly thoughtful in all sorts of little and big ways: picking me up breakfast in the morning, rubbing my shoulders, being a good listener, cleaning and cooking more frequently, giving my stomach kisses goodnight and talking to the baby, reassuring my wild fears, supporting my lack of interest in being social. Every time I felt down, he lit me back up and helped me locate a new place of comfort and calm. He also reminded me to chill the fuck out about what we couldn't control -- which is always an important thing to keep in the back of one's mind! 

Before I knew it, we hit 28 weeks and all of a sudden, only a few months remained until we would meet our tiny babe.

Mantra of the second trimester: OMG this baby is really coming.