“No, I don’t live with the regret at all. If I’m sitting here this moment talking to you and showing it, there isn’t a moment that took place that preceded it that wasn’t worth it. Good or bad…” — Norman Lear
Daughters of mine. I am going to talk at church on Mother’s Day. Mom doesn’t know and I want to keep it that way. Anyway, I would like each of you, as you are now Mothers and Wives, to write a paragraph about mom, looking from the perspective that you now have as daughters, mothers and wives. Thanks, Dad
I used to think that the greatest gift I had ever been given was my life. My literal, physical life. Now that I have my own children, I know what a sacrifice that literal, physical life is to give to another person, but I’ve since realized that the greatest gift I’ve ever been given was my LIFE – in the grander sense of the word.
My children are very young – six months and three years old – and so I have had but a VERY SMALL glimpse into what it is going to take to give two people a LIFE beyond life itself.
See, motherhood is not just in the life-giving, motherhood is in the every day, the choices made in the every moment. It is soothing that cry in the middle of the night followed by that 6:00 AM bright-eyed-bushy-tailed-toddler wake up call. It is in the grocery shopping and meal planning and meal making and meal clean up and you know, ALL the diapers. It is in the work to make the money to buy the food in the first place. It is in the bathing and the getting dressed and the laundry. The packing of the bags to make the memories. And then the unpacking of the bags. And then, well, more laundry. It is in the reading of the books every single day. It is in the singing of the nursery rhyme songs. It is in the dress up box and at the top of the slide at the park. It is in the painting of the tiniest fingernails, the brushing of the hair and the teeth, the kisses, the hugs, bandaids on scraped knees, and taking a deep, DEEP, DEEEEEEEEP breath during the tantrums.
I try not to think too hard about the fact that this is the simplest it is ever going to be for me as a mother. That we haven’t even started school, and friends, and alcohol, and the internet, and love, and sex, and jobs and the world. I just try to work hard and hope that my capacity grows along with theirs.
And the thing about being a mother is that it never stops. I firmly believe that the older your kids get the more they need you. At least, that’s how it is for me. I just turned 40 and I need my mother for everything from taking care of my kids while I’m laying on the bathroom floor, sick as a dog while my husband is on shift, to asking for the upteenth time how long it takes to cook an artichoke.
Every day Alek and I do what we like to call “the sweep.” After the kids are in bed we go around picking up toys, doing dishes, talking about how things went that day, how we could do better and be better and generally pushing the “reset” button in preparation for the next day. And every day at the end of “the sweep”, I feel SO grateful for my parents. So grateful for all of the moments and the days and the years and the choices that gave me my LIFE.
Thank you mom, for my LIFE. And for extending all of that infinite love to my babies, the life you give goes on and on.
Watching Estelle turn the big 01 was so…surreal. And amazing. We have felt so much love and received so much support from everyone in our lives that I couldn’t bring myself to do a toast at her party. I knew I would burst into tears and I wouldn’t have the excuse that I was pregnant and it would just be a big hot mess.
ANYWAYS, I received the loveliest letter from Alek’s sister Leanna. She is supremely smart and supremely funny and her letter summed up how I felt about Estelle’s birthday (and our lives in general) so perfectly, I had to share.
From Lone Star guacamole and chips brought to my postpartum recovery room to the surprise balloon arch waiting when we showed up at the big birthday bash, thank you, thank you, thank you, for the last year.
Alek + Natalia,
It was so much fun hanging out with you this trip. I’m pleased that you finally got some heirloom furniture in my room, but I will always have fond memories of sleeping on your couch.
I loved being there for Estelle’s first birthday. You surround yourselves with such fun, remarkable, interesting people: like the center of this perfect, glowing universe. I’m so lucky to be a part of it, and I love that your friends are always automatically my friends.
Even Especially the ones I made out with.
I love Alek’s rambling stories and firehouse BBQs and leaving me with crying Estelle. I miss being a part of your everyday lives, but I always feel like I fit right in. You two mean a lot to me, and one of these days, Nat will actually visit me instead of playing with my emotions. (I’ll make you do the 5K freedom run again as punishment).
1. Re-iterating, again, how incredibly blessed I feel to have had a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. So please don’t misinterpret any of this as complaining. But after having a baby I now realize how much we DON’T say when it comes to the postpartum body. So this is my attempt at being honest.
2. Alek has never, and I mean NEVER made me feel less than beautiful. Every day. Every time he sees me, no matter the state I am in. I always feel loved. I always feel desired. He is an incredible partner. I don’t know how you do this with someone who makes you feel lesser. And if you happen to be with someone who ever makes you feel less than beautiful, DO NOT have a baby with that person. And if you see a pregnant or freshly postpartum lady around, give her a compliment. Trust me, it will be well-received.
The questions I get asked about most from my girlfriends who have not had babies all have to do with the postpartum body: Did you get stretch marks? How much weight did you gain? Etc. etc. All of these are asked of me in low tones with pleading eyes. And there is nothing you can say to make these women feel less apprehensive.
Yes, I gained weight.
Yes, I greased the shit out of my belly with the best prayer creams money could buy from the moment I found out I was pregnant until the day I went in for an induction and yes, I got stretch marks.
[SIDEBAR: To my point above, when my stretch marks hit, I was, on a range of mildly disappointed to pretty upset, more on the upset side of the scale. And Alek found some meme or article or chain email or Facebook something something about an African tribe where women with stretch marks were the most desirable in the tribe because stretch marks were considered the ultimate sign of womanhood. And then he kissed my belly, told me he loved me, thanked me for carrying our baby and, well, the stretch marks haven’t really upset me as much since. See what I mean about the right partner?]
Here is the thing that I don’t feel like we women talk about: you will have a completely different body after you have a baby. I am surrounded by women who have BEAUTIFUL bodies AND also have kids. So I am in no way saying that you will have a “bad” body after a baby. But you will have a DIFFERENT body. And that is just a fact.
You will always feel tired. [I don’t know when this part ends. Maybe when they go to Kindergarten?]
Your hair will be different. [Nothing falls out your entire pregnancy and a few weeks postpartum and you’re standing in the shower holding a clump of hair in your hand that takes your breath away. I have more gray hair now than ever. Much of what laser hair removal did has now been undone. The list goes on…]
Your skin will be different.
Your belly will be different.
Your breasts will be gone, and they are never coming back.
Your lady business will be different. [TIP: Maybe wait until a few weeks after you’ve had that gorgeous baby before you get all curious and check out your lady business in a mirror…just saying…]
Your feet will be different. [And by different I mean bigger. And sure, you’ll squish those big bastards into your stilettos for in important presentation at work one day, but you’ll pay for it.]
You will be…softer. That is the only way I can describe it.
Your body will have done what it was made to do. And pretty much all of that “doing” is driven by hormones. Hormones that come into play when you get pregnant, when you enter new phases of pregnancy, when you go into labor, when your labor is over, when your milk comes in, while you’re breast feeding, when you STOP breastfeeding. [Are my hormones now back to where they were pre-pregnancy? Do they ever go back? Is this just the new normal? I really have no idea.]
We are culturally fixated on postpartum baby weight. How much weight did you gain? How quickly did you lose the weight? How much weight did Kim Kardashian gain? And OMG have you SEEN Kate Middleton? She looks AMAZING!
So let’s just get it out there about my weight gain – ~16 pounds. OF COURSE I ballooned up to ~50 pounds of weight gain by the time I gave birth, but after birth, losing water weight, breast feeding, some light walking around the neighborhood, not eating ice cream every single day, etc. etc. I really netted out at about ~16 extra pounds. And if I’m being honest I had about 25 pounds to lose BEFORE I even got pregnant so ~16 pounds in exchange for THIS:
SO not a big deal. And when you really start to think about what you GET for that weight gain – A F**KING BABY – any amount of pounds put on is SO not a big deal.
I have a friend who said to me “If you’re planning two kids back to back, you just need to know that you’re not going to feel like yourself for a long time.”
This is, BY FAR, the best piece of pregnancy wisdom that has been shared with me. Because the reality for me is that my postpartum body experience has not been about the weight or the hair loss or the big feet, it has been about finding myself again, and finding well-being for ME, not for the baby.
See, if you are planning a pregnancy, there is the lead up to the unprotected sex part. Where you start looking at yourself as a potential baby making machine. You take up a healthier lifestyle so that when you get pregnant, you’re in a good state. [Well, in my case, I probably needed to lose that 25 pounds, but I did lose all those prescription medications and soft cheeses and never missed a prenatal vitamin so…] This is when you start to distance yourself from, well, yourself. And the choices you make and the lifestyle you’re living become less about you.
When you get pregnant, every choice that you make when it comes to your health and well-being is about the well-being of your baby. And there’s also the part where you’re just trying to figure out what the hell is going on down there.
Then you have the baby and you’re STILL figuring out what the hell is going on down there. And that doesn’t really matter because you’re now smitten and fascinated by this whole entire person that just came into your life and making sure their needs are met.
Then you go back to work and there’s THAT.
And time with Alek.
And time with friends.
And time with family.
And grocery shopping.
And then suddenly it’s the holidays.
This year our Christmas Card photo was taken by Justin Hackworth, a photographer that is known for creating very real, very NOT-Photoshopped, #nofilter -type portraits. We have our shoot, and everything seems great. And we go back to look at the photos and when he shows them to us I am kind of in a state of shock, because I really felt like I was looking at a stranger. I kept thinking “So, this is what I look like now?” And I was forced, literally, to take a good look at myself.
And it was really, really hard to face how disconnected I felt from my own body.
But I had to face it, and then quickly choose one of these photos to mail to 175 of our closest family, friends and colleagues.
I’m not gonna lie, it took some time to love these photos. I am so so grateful to have them though. All extra-41-pounds-tired-wrinkled-bad-hair-no-boobs-soft-belly single one of them. Because FINALLY, after six months, I SAW MYSELF.
One of the many reasons I wanted to have a baby was to evolve who I was as a person. To challenge myself every single day with something I had never experienced before. It was just so unexpected that the first evolution was a physical one.
So as I go into this New Year, YES, I KNOW, I need to lose 40-ish pounds. Sheesh.
But more importantly, I want to focus on this when I look in the mirror:
Being grateful and MARVELING in the fact that this body [THIS BODY!] brought life to a new person.
My body [THIS BODY!] channeled a human being with a heart and a soul and a smile and a demeanor that totally and completely surprises and delights me every single day.
I am DIFFERENT.
I am NEW.
I am POWERFUL.
This is an EVOLUTION.
This is an OPPORTUNITY.
This is an AWAKENING.
I am becoming the person I was meant to be.
And this is what I look like now.
all photos by Justin Hackworth
I want to state a couple of things up front:
Let’s just talk about Alek for a minute. One of the reasons I was so confident that I could handle a natural birth was knowing that he would be my partner. I knew that I could completely surrender myself to this process and that he could handle everything else. I trusted him completely and I knew that he would be there for me in every way and would be the best possible advocate for me and our baby. And just like everything else my life, labor and delivery rolled out smoothly because he was so helpful and so loving and so present. I have a vivid memory of looking at him when it was time to push. He was at my side with his hand on my head. He was looking at me and tears were rolling down his face. I guess I was surprised at how emotional it was for him. And I knew in that moment that the stretch marks and the sleep loss and the weight gained were so worth it to give Alek a child and that I would do it all over again in a heartbeat for him.
- Good music that took me to a happy place
- Simple yoga breathing. In-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, Out-2-3-4-5-6-7-8…
- My hypnotherapy coach had given me an “anchor.” When I touched my thumb and forefinger together it brought me to a calm, centered, place of power.
- The hypnobirthing script I was most familiar with had a line “There is no pain, only pressure.” I repeated this over and over. That very simple twist on what I was supposed to be feeling was very powerful. Thinking back on labor I don’t really feel like there was any pain, only pressure.
If you are pregnant and considering a natural childbirth – know this: YOU CAN DO IT. You absolutely can. Believe that. And if in the end, you don’t have a natural birth – that’s perfectly wonderful too. Estelle was right – stay flexible and do what it takes to stay healthy and get your baby here safely.
Today was just one of those days. Stressful. Frustrating. Embarrassing.
I kind of need a win. And I’m not talking about a win like “You did a ppprrreeeettttyyy good job, but [insert constructive criticism here] and have you started working on [insert project that I know I need to be working on but haven’t had the time to start yet here]? Oh, and have you thought about [insert thing that I’ve totally thought about but haven’t had the time to articulate out loud here]?”
I feel like I’ve been working really hard for the last few months and yet I’ve somehow found myself dug into a hole that I am having to desperately climb out of.
And my climbing is not enough.
And I am not enough.
And it’s all just a big shit show.
Alright, I don’t kind of need a win. I want a straight up win.
Great work. Full stop.
Today I watched Brene Brown’s 2012 TED talk.
Let’s just say it hit the spot.
One night Alek and I were snuggled up in bed and — as he is often wont to do — Alek grabbed a handful.
“Man, your boobs are SO awesome.”
“I know, right??!! They’re the greatest irony of pregnancy.”
“From the minute you find out you’re pregnant your boobs start to grow. But the first few weeks, when you basically still have your thin(ish) body with these fascinating, ever-changing ever-bigger boobs, you’re just not up to the task of enjoying them, you know? The heart is willing, but the body just wants to sleep and/or puke. By the time you’re feeling SO MUCH better and have SO MUCH more energy your belly is catching up, and then quickly surpassing, your ever-growing breasts. Then, when your boobs are at their most luscious and ripe state and your body is back(ish), you’ve got milk leaking out all over the place – or so I’ve been told. Meanwhile, your baby is sucking them dry, never to return to their former glorious state.”
[Alek is now curled up in a ball on the other side of the bed, laughing hysterically.]
“Please please PLEASE tell me you will write down what you just said, word for word. Just like that. Aaaaahhhhhh, I love you Babah.”
And I love you too.
Wow. All work and no play makes Natalie a dull blogger. I think I actually spent more time awake at the office in October and November than I did awake at home. (And I have the laundry pile to show for it.) But figuring out those numbers exactly sounds really boring, no?
One of the effects of being at the office so much and sleeping so little is that I’ve been super sick…twice. Sidenote: Please, for the love of all that his holy, work from home if you’re feeling sick!
So, today I’m sitting here on the couch, sick, and trying to catch up on my life. (Oh yeah, you know it, that laundry pile is still sitting here beside me.)
Anyhoo, my DVR is getting full and I have been saving an episode of this season of Dexter because I wanted to write about it. So, while there is much to blog about right now, I must talk about Dexter first to free up some space before Walking Dead, Archer and Justified come back from hiatus.
Now, if you don’t watch Dexter, you probably think it’s about a serial killer. If you do watch Dexter, you know that while yes, there are thrills and intrigue, the reason the show is so utterly brilliant is that it is really about about finding your humanity.
This season is about my favorite topic: Love. And this bit of dialogue between Dexter and the man who wants to kill him is just, well, it’s perfect.
Love and Dexter. Who knew?
Isaak: “That’s how love is. It’s a powerful weapon. It can work for us or against us can’t it?”
Dexter: “I don’t understand much about love.”
Isaak: “That’s because you’re a scientist. Love defies reason.”
Dexter: “Nothing defies reason.”
Isaak: “I suppose the heart knows something that we just don’t know.”
Dexter: “Maybe the heart is just wrong.”
Isaak: “Oh, I doubt that. Love can be inconvenient, perhaps inappropriate. It can be dangerous…make us do things we wouldn’t dream of doing. But wrong? That just depends on where we end up, doesn’t it?”
Today I was invited to attend the 5th Annual Women Tech Awards luncheon, presented by the Women Tech Council. Whitney Johnson was the keynote speaker. I was not familiar with her work before this event, but her philosophies about dreaming BIG, daring BIG and doing BIG are right up my street. So, pretty much expect me to be spazzing out about her stuff like I do about Brene Brown.
Her keynote address featured a quote from “The Journey” by Mary Oliver. What an absolutely lovely thought for today.
Let’s dream big.
Let’s dare big.
Let’s do big.
Let’s get out there and start disrupting, shall we?
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.
— Mary Oliver