Friday, September 25, 2015

your changing body...

Have you ever seen a momma dog right after she's given birth to a litter of puppies? How her belly seems to sag to the earth, and she walks slowly and gingerly? How it appears that her body has been emptied in one swift moment and left her limping along with the aftermath?

I remember distinctly feeling as though I were that momma dog. Lovely comparison, I know. I had given birth to Gabriella on Friday at noon... and here it was, Monday morning--and it was business as usual. Rey was back at work, and Noe was to go back to school. However, we lived in a 2nd floor apartment... and just envisioning hauling the baby carrier in the crook of one arm and the necessary bags on the other arm out to the van--down those stairs--was giving me qualm. Actually, envisioning just the stairs was giving me qualm. Walking itself was a "as-needed-only" activity (like, "I'm starving", "Baby's crying", or "I can't hold it anymore" kind of necessity) at this point... For some reason, even driving was sounding overwhelming. And, how would the baby do on this drive? I'm so tired... let's just skip it...

But, no. It was mind over matter time. Since I knew I didn't have the energy to keep the three of them entertained all day... I knew I needed to bite the bullet and just get Noe to school. I vehemently hoped I wouldn't meet any neighbors on the way out. I just felt so war-torn, so in-pain... I was still oozing liquid out every pore of my body it seemed. It was a very hot, bright morning... so, I covered the top of my 3-day-old baby's carrier with a light blanket as we scooted out the door. I had almost limped to the van when the voice of two neighbors sounded behind me. They were excited to see the baby, who was sleeping and I wished her to stay that way. I pulled the blanket back a bit for them to see her and thanked them for their compliments. But really, I just wished I had been invisible.

I share this moment because it is so seared into my memory. How my body felt...

It was maybe two weeks later, when I found myself at the grocery store alone for the first time since Gabriella's birth. What coursed through me was the realization that it was the first time I had not had her "in or on me" in the last 9+ months! I suddenly felt a pang of loss, and I felt naked. Alone. I also suddenly felt to urge to cover my post-baby belly with the shopping cart or whatever was near. I knew I still looked like I was pregnant, and didn't want to field those questions...

When I was pregnant, I felt cute. I felt powerful. Yes, I felt large and awkward... but there was no feeling of a need to hide or camaflouge. No need to suck in, or be ashamed.

I took this picture 10 days after Gabriella was born:

I was honestly elated. I had heard the whole loosing weight thing got harder with each baby, and remember... I was looking like this just weeks before:

I also wanted to document what it really looks like to recover from birth. Each of us recovers differently... but, there is a definite recovery. Everyone needs to know that.

I took this picture about 3 weeks after G was born. I was proud of myself... because I was actually getting my butt out the door to take the girls on a walk. Must document!

Can I tell you something? This gentle treatment of myself, this tender self-encouragement ended about the time Gabriella turned 3 months old. I think before that point, I could always say how old Gabriella was in weeks, and always be assured a "You look so great!" kind of response. However, the older she got, the more shame began to creep in. I started to feel like my time for just taking it easy was running out. The less Gabriella began looking like a newborn, the more I felt as though my appearance was being judged, and the less comfortable I began to feel with myself. With the first two babies, I felt like the weight came off pretty easily. With this last one, it's been more of a journey, and I've had to accept that.

This picture: Gabriella is almost 4 months old, and I'm reminding myself to take pictures in every day mom mode. I'm not just about documenting my babies or getting myself back in shape--there's a lot of life happening in between! 

Why share this? Why document? Because I know it's not just me who feels this pressure. Who daily struggles between the reality that we birthed these babies, and now we are in charge of keeping them alive... and also are somehow expected to "look good" (whatever that means) in the meantime.  

Do you remember taking a course called, "You and Your Changing Body" (or some similarly titled book) when you were around the age of puberty?? I really think there needs to be more openness and more dialogue about the post-pregnancy body. It's like the new puberty. All the same awkwardness, all the same uncontrollable hormones & chemicals. All the same breakouts and body changes. But, none of the same openness, understanding. We have to make a home in a brand new body, figure out how to dress it... all with zero time. Or energy... Oh, and yes! Your body will keep changing--maybe every 3 months or so after pregnancy--as it morphs into the new thing it's going to be. You didn't have hips before? Ah, well, now you do! Did you used to have a curvy backside? Well, now it's flat. Enjoy. Your chest region will go from painfully large, to knows what??-- over the coming year. Let's throw in loose joints, hair breakage, and a good dose of post-baby acne as well. AND--now, we'll pile on the expectations of how quickly you should loose that baby belly... and baby thighs... Or, we'll pile on the guilt if you loose it "too fast"....

When I look in the mirror today, I still see a changing body. Thankfully, it is becoming stronger and--in some ways-- more like the body I remember, recognize. In other ways, it will never be the same. And, I don't really think I want it to be. I actually enjoy being able to feel the scattering of little vertical scars along my lower belly. They are the life-long proof that these 3 amazing lives running around my house today did--really--at one time, make their home inside of me. One side of my stomach is actually lower than the other side. That reminds me how our last little darling spent most of her incubation time hanging out on one side of my belly--which really made my back happy. Even as my belly shrinks and the rolls on my back become fewer, there is still a small mound of extra skin camped out in front. It may eventually disappear. It may not. But, for now... When I see it--whether in the mirror, or perhaps in my own shadow--I try not to wish it away. I try to see it for what it is, was. A cradle. A safe, soft place for three lives. Their beginning, their home. Some of the last remaining evidence that it really happened...

All this to say. Let's be gracious, ladies. Let's not become so focused on loosing the baby weight that the whole deal becomes a kind of curse. If weight-loss is coming easily, let's remember to season our words with grace--for perhaps our easy feels like condemnation to our sister. If weight-loss is not happening as we have hoped and we aren't liking this new body... let's take some of that love and grace we show others--and direct it towards the reflection in the mirror.  Let's be motivated, let's take care of ourselves... But, let's be real, and kind. Being a mom is hard. That identity stretches us in so many ways. We must remember that we are mind, soul AND body. You see?? Our bodies are only 1/3 of who we are! Our bodies house us mothers.... They do not define us (for good or bad). Our bodies are homes, safe places, love in motion, servant hood, emblems of grace and mercy poured out... Let us see them as such, not just as something to be controlled, dominated or used for competition.   

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I am a tree.
I am a butterfly.
And, my home is on the Mountain.

From here, where my roots go down deep
I can see far
I can see valleys, I can see higher mountains
My bark is rough, scarred by those who have cut it and pierced it with their sharp carvings.
But, my rings are many.
They circle around within, telling the story of the days I've marked,
My life pressed out in diameters white,
Even more to be made.
But, they don't tell it all--
The rings speak of years, but they don't tell about the fruit,
The nests,
The branches snapped in the storms... the weight of the ice, the bending of the wind.
My roots go down, while my arms stretch out high;
They reach up towards the heavens, scratching at it,
Longing for it.
They stretch wide, giving home and protection.
I am a tree.

My colorful, delicate wings carry me high over these ridges.
They, perhaps, make you think that there's not much there--
Not much substance, not much strength.
But, my wings have carried me far. And up.
Don't judge me by the soft flutter of my wings,
As I worship with my twirl and my swirl.
Maddening in unpredictability, unsteady perhaps.
But still, this is my dance.
I am a butterfly.

This is where I make my home.
To some, this Mountain may seem formidable and unapproachable.
But here....
I have found my stability, my strength
The mass of this Mountain fills me with its grandeur,
Even on days that leave me feeling small.
It's height takes me up, where I want to be.
The crags and valleys give road to the sparkling eddies of water,
The trickles of small streams,
The rush of towering waterfalls.
The sparkling, the fragrance, the music of it.
It is life to me.
My home is on the Mountain.

Friday, September 18, 2015


On a gloomy, sticky morning... this flower decided to open its petals. While all the flowers around it remained dry, brown, withered.... this flower lifted up its head and shone yellow. In a not-much-visited corner of the world, among browness and dirt and mud.... it bloomed. It soaked in the small rainshower that came to it the previous day, and did not hoard it--anxiously imagining the heat and dryness to come. It didn't wonder "What's even the point, no one's going to notice?" It received the water, it released its effect. Smiled, nodded, and spread beauty & light to all who passed by.

Sometimes I struggle...sometimes I'm more like the brown withered stuff around the flower. Soaking in the rain, feeling the hurt of scarcity--wanting to keep it to myself. Sometimes, I feel too tired to shine. Sometimes, I want other flowers to provide me with their beauty; sometimes I wonder if my efforts are even worth it.

But then I'm reminded: Beauty is no less beautiful when it shines alone... And, it shines most when it shines in a hard, dark place.

Friday, September 4, 2015

summer lessons

Summer's over. And, it kinda makes me sad. Oh, no. I'm not harboring any silent wishes to be in charge of schooling my kiddos--but, I did feel like we were getting to a great place of synchronization. Or, maybe...I felt like I was just opening my eyes to a big "mommy-ing" revelation. 
Throughout the summer, I felt like I was getting bits and pieces of a bigger lesson (ever get that feeling?)... and the week before school started--I felt that many of the pieces came together, so I grabbed my phone, and began furiously typing thoughts as they came (in between dinner prep and cleaning up and....). Here are those thoughts, which I think I need to post somewhere in my house, to keep them fresh in my mind. I'm so good at forgetting.

Being a good mom means learning to live in the tension of constant companionship. Learning to lean into it--to feel the prickle of annoyance or desire for solitude... and just sit with it for a while. Until you are used to it. Learning that this thing--this having new appendages, being wanted at every moment--though draining, is not meant to be escaped from, sighed over or bemoaned. Mothering is not our suffocation, stifling or suppression. It is our wings, our roots, our legacy.

I cannot do "checked out" mothering. Going through the motions, while my heart, mind and soul are somewhere else. Community--companionship--is only right and healthful when I am fully God-dreamed, God-formed self. When I am fully alive, fully living, fully accepting, fully giving. When I can not only laugh at the future--but at the messes and the bodies all tangled together on top of me...just wanting to be closer. When I lean in, seeking to sow love, perspective and security--while tenderly exploring the souls doing life with me. Seeking moments to bring them along side of me in my quiet times, my work times--rather than always retreating into my own mind and space, Avoiding the "I deserve this time away from the leeches" mentality... knowing I have sometimes found that "me time" can be the unhealthiest thing...especially when accompanied by martyr-like moans and groans.

I am the woman of the house. I am powerful. I create the spaces, I set the tones, I build the home. Learning to "do" community comes easier to some of us--thanks to differences in the home culture you were brought up in and/or your own personality. Whether or not you are naturally a "people-person", I am coming to believe that we can only truly learn to do deep, authentic community when we first practice it in our homes... and in this setting, I am the initiator. My tone makes or breaks the moment; my tempo nurtures or prods; my inward focus can miss the life marching by--or can be turned outwards and bring joy-filled focus to those around.

Being the woman of your house, the mother of your children is a hefty calling. It is hard and sometimes heavy--but I believe it can also be our salvation, when we embrace it and allow us to mold us. When we choose to shine our brightest light, be our best selves, in our homes. To strangle those dark whispers in the background of our minds that swear to us that we are poor, suppressed, down-trodden individuals... being sucked of our life and our potential. When we realize that these little patience-needers also help shine the light on areas within ourselves not fully yielded to God, not yet relinquished to His kingdom. When we believe that each child in our home has been divinely "matched" to us by God... we can open our hearts and souls to them, to this "job", and dive into sharing life--really living--with these kids. These wonders. These disciples.