Loving Your Postpartum Self

What a powerful message this video brought me this morning. My cousin's sister participated in this and she posted it on Facebook. I couldn't help but share, because this message so badly needs to be heard loud and clear. Watch if you feel inclined, and I have a message below.

So many thoughts today as my daughter turned nine months old this morning. I am having a hard time soaking that bit of information in for some reason. Nine months already?  As much time as she was in the womb, she has also been out, breathing in the worldly air. In what seems like only a  blink, time has slipped right through my fingertips. 

After having Ellie, I had many different thoughts run through my mind about my body. Being my first child, I honestly didn't know what to expect. I had been fit and active my entire life, and the body that reflected in the mirror back at me, was foreign and strange.  I remember going on a quick "date night" with my husband in the hospital around midnight that second night we were there. We wheeled Ellie down to the nursery in her bassinet, while the two of us slowly walked hand in hand down to the hospital cafeteria for a needed (and well-deserved, may I add) ice cream cone. I remember I couldn't stop touching my stomach. I couldn't believe how squishy it felt. The skin on my stomach sagged, my butt and thighs were a little bigger around with a lot less tone.  My abs were nonexistent. My face and feet were still swollen and showed clearly how tired I was. So many thoughts crossed my mind: "Will my stomach ever get tight again?", "Will I ever lose this weight?", "Will I ever be able to sit on a bike again?" (<-- Sounds funny, but this thought of maybe never being able to sit on my bike again literally brought me to tears one night with my husband...blaming my #hormones on that one.) My body ached everywhere.  I was bleeding from places I thought would never heal. After I brought our sweet Ellie home, the first weeks that followed were no easier. My breasts were painfully sore, it hurt to walk, and even though I tried not to step on the scale, those numbers didn't seem to be falling as fast as I would've hoped. On top of everything, I was exhausted and felt the overwhelming responsibility to love and adequately take care of a newborn baby, who only knew how to cry and sleep at that point. Those days were hard. Beautiful, but hard.

Fast forward 6 weeks postpartum. I finally got the "go-ahead" to exercise. Prior to this day I kept having dreams of going to a track and sprinting out 100 meters. I so badly wanted to run, sprint, sweat, and feel my heart pumping wildly in my chest again. So I laced my shoes, and went out for my first mile-long run. My legs felt heavy. I was gasping for each breath, and I couldn't believe how hard it was to finish. I didn't even make it the entire way without having to walk a couple times to catch my breath. More negative thoughts crossed my mind... "I used to be able to run without getting tired!" "I used to be so fit." "Will I ever be the same again?"  I still felt tired and achy, and my body was begging me to slow down.

Fast forward to now. Let me tell you about an experience I had this past week before I jump into what I want to say.  

The last few nights, Ellie hasn't been going to sleep right away as she normally does as I'm feeding her a nighttime bottle. I think part of it may be that my body has pretty much given up on breastfeeding, and a bottle of formula isn't quite as soothing. Two nights ago, after she finished her bottle, her eyes were starting to doze, and I softly stood up and laid her down in her crib. As soon as my hands came out from under her, her eyes opened wide. She didn't cry, she didn't make a single sound, but looked up at me ever so gently and reached her tiny fingers out. I was a little shocked that she was holding so still and not making a sound, so I pulled up the little ottoman by my rocker to have a seat, and stuck my hand through the crib slats so her fingers could wrap around mine. In silence, my eyes looked at hers, back and forth, back and forth.

Probably only five minutes passed, but each second of time felt lengthened as we stared at each other through the slats. No words, just silence. I studied her deep blue eyes: eyes who trusted me to hold her and care for her; eyes that I had seen dance and laugh while playing near the ducks at the park earlier that day; eyes that looked curiously at the pages of the book I had read that morning; eyes that had been full of tears when she bonked her forehead after lunch; eyes that begged for attention; eyes that sought new places and new adventures; eyes that loved me entirely for who I was despite my shortcomings or imperfections.  Her eyes held a magic that I can't adequately describe in writing. I was captured in that moment of time, and frozen in deep thought.

I couldn't help but long for her to one day learn to love herself the way I love her. As I held her finger so tight, I thought about the way she sees herself in the mirror now. Whenever she eyes her reflection, she flaps her wings in excitement, and hyperventilates. It's actually one of my very favorite things. She just can't quite get over the darling face that she sees staring back at her. It's a face full of light, smiles, squeals, and laughter. She doesn't notice any imperfections; probably because there aren't any. Her chubby thighs and round, rosy cheeks are as perfect as can be.

I can't help but think about when she grows, will she still see that same smily face in the mirror? She probably won't flap her arms in excitement and hyperventilate, but I hope she is able to feel happy and content, in each stage of her life. I'm sure there will be times when she might not love everything she sees. We've all been there. I'm sure there will be negative thoughts that one day cross her mind. We've all had them. But I so desperately hope that the person she sees staring back at her, is a girl she loves:  a girl who is confident in herself, who doesn't need to be in the spotlight of fame, who doesn't need other people's reassurance or "likes" on Instagram that she's as amazing and beautiful as she is.  I hope she sees a girl, and woman, who is full of genuine light. And also, who is capable of uplifting and sharing her light with others who need it.

As I thought about all these things, I thought about the way I speak about myself and view myself and my body now. I hope to never speak badly about myself, especially in front of her, because I don't want her to think she should be able to do the same. I hope she sees the way I love to move my body and eat nutritious food, and begins to love to move and eat good food too. I hope she finds happiness and energy from living a healthy lifestyle the way that I try to live. I hope she realizes how intricate and most precious her body is, and can function, when she takes care of her physical, mental, and spiritual health.

My body is different now than it was before I had her. No doubt. It's not perfect. It comes with all the weird quirks and things that I now deal with from having a baby. Tone and muscle come at a much slower pace than they did before.  But I'm willing to put in the energy to work hard at keeping myself healthy and strong. I don't do it so I can look good next to her at the pool. I do it, because it makes me feel happy. I put in the work so that I can show her I'm strong, and capable, and because I love and honor the body I have. It is a most sacred temple to me.

I know with each baby, there will be new changes; new adaptations. I know and fully understand that one day my hair will turn gray, that my joints will ache, that my metabolism and energy will slow, and that wrinkles will become more pronounced. There's no way to reverse time or halt the aging process completely. But isn't it also a beautiful thing? Our bodies work tirelessly so that we can live and breathe and do the things we love to do. They give off carbon dioxide and take in oxygen with each breath to fuel and replenish our cells. Our heart never stops pumping or working hard for us. It pumps 60-100 times a minute, and 1,500-2,000 gallons of blood a day. Our legs and feet work hard to carry the weight of our body, and hope we'll give them an adequate rest when we sleep. Our arms carry our children and wrap them up in tight hugs. Our skin protects us from exposure to harmful things. Our brains are driving our nervous system and signaling commands to our body continuously.  There is meticulous and Godly detail to our anatomy and physiology. In short, we are more resilient and powerful than we may ever realize.

As mothers and women, our bodies are able to create and carry a living human being. We may get stretch marks, or added weight along the way, but our kids don't care about those things. Our kids just need us to try. They need us to love and care for ourselves the way we love and care for them. They need us to lead by example, to say kind words, and to be the best people we can be. 

Mothers, whatever stage you are in, learn to love your body. Learn to treat it with utmost respect. It's truly a gift. And lastly, you are enough.