Second Side

She likes to pretend people can’t see it. In her own mind she is lean and lithe and neither the bulges she tries not to see nor the fit of her clothes seem to convince her otherwise.

At yoga she does triangle pose and imagines the length of her limbs must make everyone else notice. The slender feeling moves with her as she transitions into the stance of a warrior.

There’s a bit of comparison there; of course there is.

I’m not that heavy, she thinks.

I definitely don’t look like that. 

But what she’s imagining is what she used to look like, not what she looks like now.

rusted-red-barrel

Time has marched on. Life has intervened and left its marks. Former good practices now abandoned, she is flawed. Imperfect.

She knows this, yet doesn’t see it. Her body image is based on a mental picture, not what the mirror reflects. But she’s about to turn around.

The warrior windmills, hands to the ground, and a vinyasa follows. Chaturanga, cobra, downward dog. She steps to the top of her mat, takes a deep breath, returns to mountain.

Second side.

She takes the pose once again, picturing lissome limbs and graceful movements.

But she has placed her mat along the far wall, closest to the mirror, and the truth lurks. In triangle once again, she stands strong, reaching through her fingertips. Her pose stable and her balance solid, she moves her gaze towards the sky and in doing so catches a glimpse of her reflection.

In that moment, she sees it.

More large than lean; more bulgy than beautiful.

imperfection

The warrior vanishes; the wise yogi fades away.

She is just a girl in front of a mirror. Flawed. Imperfect. Trying to find her beauty.

This Is My Brave

“I wanted share a bit of my story with you and say thank you for sharing yours.”

The best emails I get start this way.

I’m always honoured when someone shares her story with me, and when I get a note of thanks for sharing my experience with postpartum depression it reinforces that the hard parts of sharing a tough story are worth it.

Today I’ve shared a guest post on This Is My Brave about why I think it’s important to speak out about mental health. And it is important – the emails I get tell me so, and I know it firsthand from those I’m thankful to.

I’d love for you to come and read, and while you’re there take some time to read about This Is My Brave the show. Jennifer and Anne Marie are doing a really good, really important, and really brave thing.

Five Months to Firm

I firmly believe people won’t quit something or start something or stick to something (like quitting a bad habit or starting a new one) if they’re not ready to do it. And that’s about the only thing I’ve got right now that’s firm.

on Connor's first birthday

on Connor’s first birthday

The other day I saw a picture of myself with Connor on his first birthday, when I was about 30 pounds lighter than I am right now. And a day or so later I looked in the mirror and sucked in my tummy and thought, “If I really suck it in it’s not too bad.” And then we went away for a few days and I got some perspective and decided that being in a state of not-too-bad-but-only-when-my-tummy-is-sucked-in is not okay.

I was happy with my body before Connor was born. I had a small crisis when he was about three months old and I had to buy some in-between clothes and I almost cried because I thought I was going to feel flabby forever. But thanks to a baby who needed a lot of bouncing and a very active maternity leave I did lose the weight and a few extra pounds to boot. But when I started antidepressants some of that flab came back and hasn’t left.

I didn’t actually get weighed regularly when I was pregnant with Ethan, but my best guess based on what I think I weighed before is that I gained about eight pounds. And I’m now about two pounds below what I weighed when he was born.

Are you feeling disheartened yet? Because I am.

I’m just sick of it. I’m sick of stuffing my face with crap because I’m bored or tired or just plain old in the habit of eating badly. I don’t want to have to hang my jeans to dry so I don’t have to hold my breath for the first couple of hours of wearing them after they come out of the dryer. And I didn’t want to have to buy shorts in a size larger than what I’ve been wearing recently, but that’s what I had to do. It doesn’t matter that they’re pink and summery and we finally have weather that requires shorts. I just don’t want to see that extra flab in the mirror anymore. And now I’m finally ready to do something about it.

So I solemnly swear that I quit. For the next month I’m going to cut out all the stuff I’ve been eating because I think it will make me feel better. No Coke, no chocolate, no ice cream. Bye bye Blizzards. Farewell fries. I’m going to keep up with the exercise I’ve been doing and try to add more, but my eating habits really need to go back to where they were.

I’ve got five months until Ethan turns one. I may not get back to where I was on my first child’s first birthday, but I’d like to at least feel better about myself when I see the pictures.

PS I’d like to offer a shout-out to Miranda from Not Super… Just Mom whose State of the Weight Wednesday series has contributed to my resolve.

 

Say What You Need to Say

I’ve been thinking a lot about resentment lately. I suppose that’s normal when your entry into motherhood is a crying-filled, sleepless smackdown and you subsequently have a second baby who offers you the sort of experience you expected to have when you became a mom. At least it’s normal for me.

“This isn’t the experience with motherhood I wanted you to have,” I remember my mom saying to me one day while I cried on the phone to her when Connor was a baby.

It wasn’t the experience I wanted to have either. It’s not that I thought having a baby should be lullaby perfect, but I didn’t want it to be filled with quite so much despair.

The moment my mom said that to me is a milestone in my motherhood journey. From where I stand now I see that moment like a marker stabbed into the sand on my path, noting what came before and what would follow after. This is how the beginning will always be for you, says the sign next to it. You can’t relive those earlier months and your motherhood picture will always be shaped by this experience. You don’t get to do it again and have it be easier, more fulfilling, more fun.

No, I don’t.

But do I resent Connor?

No, I don’t.

***bench-and-blue-sky

I danced with Ethan this morning.

He was full of smiles when I went to get him out of bed to start the day. I fed him and then he played happily in his high chair while I had breakfast. He splashed in the bath, experimenting with what happens when he kicks his feet.

We’ve been working on sleep lately and this morning, not for the first time, he had a nice, long nap. He woke up, pink-cheeked and laughing. I fed him and then thought he might like some play time on the floor, but he didn’t. So we danced.

“Say what you need to say,” sang John Mayer, as I held Ethan around the waist and placed my hand in his small chubby one. He put his nose in the crook of my neck and leaned his cheek against mine. He let me sing and he stuck to me as I swayed, breathing him in.

***

If Ethan had been my first baby, I wouldn’t have spent so much time bouncing a screaming baby. I wouldn’t have logged hours in his room trying to get him to sleep and wondering at what point my sanity would actually break. I wouldn’t have been anxious about doing errands or shopping for groceries in case he had a colossal meltdown in public.

I would have been able to go to play dates without dreading having to go home and deal with him by myself. I would have had more hot meals. I would have had more meals, period. I would have cherished the time and his laugh and those slobbery, open-mouthed kisses without wondering why the lovely baby stuff had to be overshadowed by so very much hard stuff.

That sign in the sand is right. I don’t get a motherhood do-over, though my experience with Ethan has given me a glimpse of what might have been.

With a different baby, my early days of motherhood might have been more peaceful. They might have been more fun. They might even have been diaper-commercial sweet. With a second, very different baby, I can see it now.

***

Do I resent Connor?

No, I don’t.

I don’t resent him, neither the baby he was nor the boy he is now. But do I resent my introduction to motherhood and wish it had been different?

Sometimes. A little bit. I do.

Say what you need to say.

 

The Fuck-You Fours

4-on-fireA friend of ours noted that it’s not the Terrible Twos parents have to worry about, it’s the Fuck-You Fours. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The word “fuck” is not one you will see me use often on this blog, but in this case there’s really no other that quite does the topic justice, because lately pretty much everything Connor does seems like a gigantic Fuck You, Mom. I don’t think it’s a result of adjusting to a new baby; I think this is just the phase he’s in right now. And I don’t like it.

Let me pause to say that I hesitate to write this for fear it’s going to be taken as a post, accessible online for all eternity, saying I don’t like my child. But I’m pretty damn sure most parents go through this sort of phase with their kids sooner or later, so let’s just acknowledge that we all love our kids and get on with the rant, shall we?

Four is not a fun age. Two wasn’t bad, and in fact, while we had our challenges, there are many things about two-year-olds (or mine, at least) that I thought were just awesome. At the time, everyone told me three was worse, and while three had its own challenges it really wasn’t awful either. But four. Oh dear lord. Some days I want to lock him in the basement.

Connor has always been very much his own person. We learned early on that if he wanted something he would do everything in his three-foot-tall power to get it. And if he didn’t want it? You’d better have been prepared to have it thrown back at you. Something about this attitude must have worked for him, because as a four-year-old this is now very much his MO.

I’ve thought a lot about our interactions with him and whether we need to be taking a different approach. And honestly, sometimes we do. Some of his behaviour is because he’s bored, and some is because we don’t give him enough time with something, or enough warning that it’s time to stop something, or enough autonomy. And some of it is because he’s hungry. Or tired. Those issues are all theoretically easy to fix and, at times, practically impossible.

I will admit to not having done a lot of reading about parenting philosophy. I don’t have the attention span and I find too much “should”ing counterproductive. But a large part of it is due to having come across so much advice that I just don’t find useful.

Proponents of “gentle parenting” seem to be everywhere these days. I get the concept, and a lot of it I agree with, though the amount of condescension in much of it leaves me blinking in disbelief. (This gentle parenting article (Update: which has now been deleted – hmm…) is especially annoying. The first three paragraphs, which assume that some people either completely ignore or rudely yell at their children, make me really quite cranky. If there’s a gentle parent out there who has never lost her patience with her child I would like to meet her and find out what medication she’s on.) But some much-touted gentle parenting practices are downright farcical when attempted on a child like mine.

The classic “give him a choice” approach is a perfect example. This is how it tends to go in my house [not an actual conversation, but the typical outcome of many real ones nonetheless]:

“Would you like soup or a sandwich for lunch?”

“I want a hog dog.”

“We’re not having hot dogs today. You have a choice of either soup or a sandwich.”

“I want a hot dog.”

“That’s not one of your choices.”

From here his response goes one of two ways:

A: “Well, that’s what I’m having.” [Feet stomping, pout big enough for a bird to land on.]

or

B: Meltdown that makes Chernobyl look tame.

Giving him a choice is not a parenting or communication strategy that works.

I still try. It’s not as though, having been unsuccessful with this approach, I instead turn to dictatorial parenting. I try to determine what he actually needs (as opposed to what he says he wants). I work hard to summon my patience from the reserve tanks when my (admittedly limited) supply has run out. I try to remember that he’s only four.

But, oy. Four. I do love my child, and most of the time I really like him too. But to Four I really have only one thing to say:

Fuck you.