I feel pretty?

Rewind the clocks back to a nine year old version of me sitting on my grandmother’s bed watching her zipper up her dress, cinch her belt around her waist, and fasten her clip on earrings to her lobes.  Her waist looked so small, her fingers were so delicate.  “Grandma- you’re so pretty.  You’re so skinny.”  “Sarah,” she said to me “I’m slender.  Skinny is for crack whores.”

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My slender, lovely, loving Grandma.

Now, some find this story funny.  Others find it a little concerning.  To me, it’s an honest and endearing reminder of my grandmother.  The one who, good and, let’s face it, brutally honest, loved me to the moon and back.  But, it is also, in my adult years, a curious glimpse into body image and self awareness.

Like almost everyone I know, I struggle with my body sometimes.  I wish I was thinner.  I wish I could find clothes I feel good in.  I would love to take care of that underarm jiggle.  And I am taking steps to make positive change.  I’m working to feel better in those clothes.  I have taken stock of what I eat and feel good about how I have changed my daily intake.  I go to the gym and enjoy my workouts.  I play with my kids and run around in our backyard.  And here is where my quest for “slender” has taken on a different tone in recent years- I have these kids who soak up what I say and how I say it.

If you know me well, or honestly if you don’t, you might know that I come close to idolizing my mother.  She was smart and funny and kind and beautiful.  She taught me to be an independent and thoughtful person, but she did have faults and, one in particular, she passed on to me without even thinking about it.  She struggled with her body image.  In passing comments, in trying on clothes, in dressing for formal events- she had much the same struggle that many of us do.  And when she talked about it, or tugged at her clothes, or bought things without trying them on to avoid a different size, I heard her and worried about my own body.  I am now responsible for how I think and I am trying to change it, but those nagging concerns about my hips, my belly or my arms linger.

Another story.  In February 2012, joined by my husband and my father, I found out that our first baby was a girl.  I was so excited- I knew she would be a girl and now I had confirmation.  Justin and I already knew her name- she would be named after our mothers.  Nina Patricia was already a source of joy and pride.  And then, I started to overthink having a girl.  I started reading article after article about how to talk to girls about their bodies, how to love themselves.  She wasn’t even born yet and I was telling people to make sure not to call her cute or pretty or beautiful first.  “Isn’t it interesting,” I would say, “if we just make sure to call her kind or smart or thoughtful first, her whole self worth will change.”  ……

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My hope for my children is that they see what I see.

So, here’s my question as I consider my body image and how to talk with both my children, daughter and son, about our insides and our outsides- what’s wrong with being pretty?  When my daughter asks me why we go to the gym, I tell her that I exercise to be strong and healthy.  Which is true.  But I also exercise to be pretty.  Pretty as I see it.  I am DEFINITELY influenced by media and what popular culture thinks of as pretty, but I know what makes me feel good.  A hard work out, the right jeans, and a little make up helps me feel pretty.  And along with pretty comes confident and strong- when I feel pretty, I feel more prepared to take on the world.  It’s a loop really.

So, here’s where I am.  I want for Nina and Ryan to learn how to be confident about themselves.  But I also want for them to know how to use the tools at their disposal responsibly.  I want to teach them good eating habits, sure.  But almost more than that, I want to teach them how to move their bodies, how to feel good about their clothes, how to be proud of their appearance.

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Feeling pretty is important and fun. It’s just not the only thing.

I am happy when people tell Nina she’s smart and kind and funny and brave because she is those things.  But, I also like when people tell Nina how pretty she is, how gorgeous her hair is, how great her smile is.  Because both will be important- in the right measures.

“It” Happens

What is it?  Shit.  And, it does happen.  A story:

A few nights ago my husband was working an evening shift and so I was home to feed the kids, bathe them and put them to bed.  Dinner was a success- homemade Sesame Chicken, broccoli (only son ate it) and yogurt (only my daughter ate it), but overall, I was a happy mama.  After some playing, we trooped off to the bath.  I got them undressed and in the tub.  As I was turned around to get towels, my daughter screams, “Mama!!!  What IS that???”  Oh man.  It’s poop. photo 1 It looks like a medium-sized tootsie roll and I was relieved.  For anyone who has never had a kid poop DURING bath, let me tell you that this is the best possible of all scenarios.  There was no water, no toys out, kids were still dirty.  Perfect.  I popped them out, spot cleaned the tub and praised my luck.  Stupid move, mama.

So, kids are back in the tub, water’s running and I begin to wash my son.  I soap up and reach down to wash his feet.  Then his legs.  And as I washed his butt, I CAUGHT the second deposit.  Seriously, it dropped right into my hands.  Now listen, I am immune to a lot of mom disgusting-ness, but this is pretty serious.  I’m not in the business of handling my kids’ feces, but I have two small children in the bath, so now is not the time to freak out.  I calmly tell myself I will call my friend later and quietly (because the kids will be asleep) shriek about how gross this was.  But, again, not the end of the world.  I throw the new tootsie roll in the toilet, wash my hands, pop my son out, wash his butt in the sink, and pop him back in with his sister.  Again, very little harm, very little foul….. and then….

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It’s like a really gross “Where’s Waldo.”

I don’t know why I didn’t catch on that this might be a theme.  I don’t know why I dumped out our ENTIRE toy bucket into the tub at that moment.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  But, as I began to lather up my daughter’s hair, I notice my son squatting.  Yup, he’s pooping- rapid fire now.  Little rabbit pellets are all over the tub.  Now things go into serious mode.  I get them both out, sit my son in the sink, wash off his hands and feet quickly to make sure nothing goes into his mouth, wrap him in a towel and put him on the floor, then turn my attention to my daughter who is screaming on the bathmat.  She’s naked, soap-y and her favorite bath toy is now covered in shit.  Great.  Another battle for another day.  I turn on the shower, and, fully clothed, step into the bath tub (avoiding the poop) and hold my daughter under the spray to wash her off.  She screamed the WHOLE time, but now, at least she was clean.  Next up, the offender.  He was also unhappy about the situation, but I got him showered off and both wrapped in towels into the bedroom.  I left all of my wet clothes in a pile on the bathroom floor and, wrapped in my own towel, made sure the kids were distracted.  Phone for my daughter, who subsequently FaceTime’d about 7 people, and a book for my son to chew on.  And then I had to gather the toys, get the poop.

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The morning after “the incident.” He’s fantastic.

Needless to say, after they were both asleep, I drank a big glass of wine.

The night I bit my husband

I write letters to my children.  I was inspired by my father who wrote us letters on our birthdays every year and then gifted us these letters in beautiful wood boxes years later.  In honor of my son’s first birthday, I share the first letter I wrote him.  Each of my babies have this letter- an accounting of their birth day.  As I re-read it this morning, I laughed, and cried, and remembered the pain and joy; but mostly, I remembered my intense love for this tiny human.  Happy birthday, Ryan.  Mama loves you

My sweet little Ryan-

You came into this world fast and furious on March 10, 2014…but that isn’t where the story begins.  This story really begins in July 2013.  Your father and I had your sister 11.5 months before we found out we were pregnant with you.  We were shocked, we were overwhelmed, we were (and are) overjoyed.  From the moment we knew of you, we loved you.  From the moment we thought about you, we felt like you were a part of our family.  You have made our circle complete.

Everything about my pregnancy with you was more mellow than it was with your sister.  I had less nausea, less heartburn, less insomnia, fewer headaches.  You were a mellow resident in my body.  Until March 9th.  And here is where the story gets good…

The morning of March 9th, I felt big.  I felt fat, and tired, and cranky.  I was anxious about your arrival.  I wanted to make sure everything was taken care of.  Something you’ll learn about me in the coming years, is that I like to pretend I am in control of everything.  I know, deep down, that I’m not.  But, a girl can hope.  So…there I was with your father checking last minute items off my to-do list.  I had gotten my hair cut, packed my bag, picked out your outfit for the hospital, called those who needed to be called to say “nope…no baby yet!”  And, I was anxious because I couldn’t control what was coming or when it was coming…but I had a good plan.

March 9: Your sister needed tending to.  PK was on his way.  Your father had his last shift to work for a few days.  March 10: My doctor (a woman I like and admire- who had delivered your sister) was on call- perfect!  PK would be here, Daddy would be home.  So, I just needed you to wait to be born until late in the day on Monday.  It would be perfect.  You had other plans.

On Sunday, I met a friend for a manicure and pedicure.  We got our nails done and chatted.  I innocently told her that I had been having contractions since that morning.  But, not to worry, I told her.  With Nina, I had contractions for almost 36 hours before the main event.  She warned me not to get cocky.  I was so sure.

After my nail appointment, I came home to wait for PK to show up.  He was coming to help and was due to land at the airport around 4pm.  Nina and I played outside in the backyard.  You rolled around in my tummy.  Daddy went to work- he kissed us goodbye and told me to keep him updated.  I think he was nervous to leave us, but he had a shift to work- he had to go.  I promised to call if anything changed.  I would keep him updated.

PK arrived at the house just in time for dinner and we got Nina fed, bathed and in bed.  As PK and I sat down for our dinner, you got a little more insistent that I pay attention to you.  The contractions were getting harder but they weren’t evenly spaced or easily tracked.  I gritted my teeth and pushed through them- at this point, I knew you would be a March 10th baby, so I made my list of things to get done that night before heading to the hospital the next day.  As it turns out….I was right…sort of.

As the night progressed, I did a load of laundry, submitted a writing sample for a teaching job I applied for (I subsequently got that job), went to Dunkin Doughnuts to get PK doughnuts, built a chair for Nina, got Nina’s food and clothes squared away for the next day and made sure my bag was packed.  PK went to bed around 10- he asked me if I was ok.  That’s when things started to go sideways, little boy.

I started to feel pretty intense pain.  It wasn’t “bad” pain- in that I wasn’t afraid anything was wrong.  But it was INTENSE.  I started pacing the floor.  I thought I was going crazy.  I called your Aunt Jaci, who woke up from what sounded like a dead sleep, to talk to me for a while.  I let her go back to bed and decided to take a shower and shave my legs.  Now, Ryan, years from now, this may gross you out.  But, I’m telling you, should you ever have a wife who is having a baby and she tells you while she’s in labor that she wants to shave her legs…you support that decision.  It’s an important one.  No one was around for me to worry about, so I got in the shower and shaved my legs.  I washed my hair.  At this point, it was almost 11:30pm and I had had it.  These contractions were still uneven but they HURT.  “Justin, you have to come home.  Now.”  Your dad asked if I could wait for him to sign out.  No.  Get home.  Now.

I woke up your PK.  “Um, Dad [PK]? I’m going to go have a baby.”  I was wearing yoga pants and a tank top.  I had my shoes on.  PK helped me get my bag to the door.  We waited for Daddy to come home and get me to drive me right back to the hospital he was coming from.  The contractions were so strong, I considered having you on the living room floor.  You were coming and you were coming fast.  PK started to worry that I would be cold outside- it was afterall, almost midnight in the middle of March.  He got my sweatshirt and, instead of throwing it in his face, I put it on.  He’s my daddy and he wanted to take care of me.

I’m going to skip all the expletives I was thinking and shouting.  I was in some pain.  Your father pulled up to the house with a squeal.  He was definitely moving.  If I could have run to the car, I would have, but I got in and off we went.  I rolled the window down because, despite the coolness of the evening, I was so hot.  You may not remember as we have likely moved from the house we lived in when you were born, but we lived less than a mile from the hospital.  It was across the street.  Literally.  And I didn’t think I would make it.  Your father pulled up to the hospital and I got out before he put the car in park.

I walked passed the triage nurses without speaking…I couldn’t really.  I was making weird noises, I was worried, pissed off, hurting, and somewhere, in the back of my brain, excited.  So, I just walked into the triage area.  The nurse who chased me in told me that I would need to put on a gown and, as I paced the room she showed me into, making that weird, low animal noise, I started taking my clothes off and throwing them on the ground.  “I’m going to have this baby now!” I told the nurse.  She was less than impressed.  And then she checked me.  “Don’t. Push.”  And your father and I were whisked to the elevator.  The nurse was calling the labor and delivery team in transit.  The doctor met us at the elevator and started talking to me.  Your father was holding the gurney, telling me I would be fine, and, as another wave of contraction hit me…I bit your father’s hand.  That was my low moment.

We got into the birthing room and, while a lot happened and not a lot happened, the low down is I pushed twice and you were out. 10013970_10102799440096409_8881248540233038845_n You, my sweet little boy, were so excited to meet us that from the time we pulled up at the hospital to the time you were born was 13 minutes.  You were 6 pounds and 14 ounces, 21 inches long and you were perfect.  I was dazzled.  The pain of the past few hours was erased from my mind and I was focused on your sweet face.  I love you so very much and I am so lucky to be your mama.  I love you more every day that I get to spend with you.  I’m ready for this wild ride, little one.  I hope you are.

All my love, now and forever,

Mama