Growing up I never had an issue with body image. I had that natural athletic build and I made full advantage of it in my extra curricular activities.
I heard the other girls around me talk about aspects of their shape or looks that they liked or didn’t like all the time. I watched them consume themselves with looking in the mirror, making sure everything was just right. I heard comments about butt size, thigh size, breast size, hair length, hair consistency, height, foot size, skin complexion, skin color…and much, much more.
I couldn’t identify.
I suppose they were so concerned because they were so intent on winning over the attraction of some boy (which I couldn’t have cared less about – the reasons why are for another post). Or perhaps the caddy friends they kept made comments that damaged their self-image (I only had one female friend so I was safe there). Maybe it was just the way I was raised, just learning that there are so many other important things to be worried about.
Or maybe, just maybe, the real truth is that I didn’t worry about it because I was always fit and it wasn’t until I became “un-fit” that I’m finding that I’m really not much different than anyone else.
I was excited about the thought of being pregnant. I often looked forward to having SEVERAL children. I would joke that I wanted my own starting line up. I daydreamed about looking at a basketball bench and hearing the coach say “put in all five of those – whatever last name I would have – kids”. Over time my expectations became more realistic, but still I thought we would at least have three. Wow, but after the first I have found myself fixated on aspects of my body image in ways I have NEVER dealt with in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to go on some extreme, teenage-like, food disorder type stuff but I do find myself looking in the mirror and pulling out the scale more than I ever have before. And it’s not just the weight gain, but pregnancy brought on a whole onslaught of physical change that I was not ready for and whether I get the weight off or not the impact from those things might remain a constant for me the rest of my life. Things like acne and an increased level of facial blemishes and also dark marks all over my body from an allergic breakout I had while pregnant.
When I look in the mirror there is a lot to get used to, a lot of change. I’m realizing that I’m not any different than those girls I grew up with. I’m just like them. I AM them. I didn’t battle because I didn’t have to battle. I liked the way I looked, I was satisfied, but we’re not in Kansas anymore and clicking my heals three times doesn’t automatically port me back to the bodily “home” that I crave.
Again, this post is not to alarm anyone. No need for an intervention or reminders that I’m still beautiful or anything like that. I’m just acknowledging that I’ve been hit with the reality that the uber strong self-image of the past is more fragile than I thought and my uber deep thinking may be more shallow than I thought.
There is a part of this that is healthy right? There is nothing wrong with being in shape and living a healthy lifestyle and I can use these feelings as motivation to get back to my pre-pregnancy body. But there is a part of this that could be potentially damaging as well right? In my fixation I could lose sight of the fact that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made”, or that it is a privilege to give birth, or that my thoughts could be poisoned by the images portrayed in the media, or that by focusing on what I think others are saying about how I look I completely lose sight of God’s thoughts or my husband’s thoughts or even my own thoughts apart from others.
This is truly new territory…in a way.
There was a point in my life where I had to take anti-depressants and those pills caused what I believed to be significant weight gain. I went from a size 2-4 to wearing a size 8-10. And as if I weren’t already trying to get out of a slump I remember fielding comments from someone I admired about “getting that under control”. I remember battling a little bit in my mind but when I was able to stop the pills I very quickly lost the weight and got back down to the size I remember. Things today are a lot different. I pulled out the jeans I wore during that weight-spike and I cannot fit them. When I look at my face I find myself tempted to wear makeup just to cover the marks. And the belly…let’s not even talk about the belly.
Things are different. But at least I can recognize it and speak about it. The mental struggle is real but I will not be consumed by it.
Here is My Resolve
1) May I take what can be healthy thinking and be motivated towards healthy living, but…
2) May I not embrace unhealthy thinking and lose sight of the joys of motherhood and the honor of carrying a child…
3) Furthermore, may these thoughts never shape me to the point where I forsake doing this process again just for the sake of body image.
Did you battle with your body image during or after giving birth?
How did you overcome those thoughts?
What encouragement could you share to others who are going down this road?
~Written in smiles and cries. Cowritten by her mother and Aunt Candice
I am actually very glad that I did not post this when I originally scheduled to do so as my thoughts on the matter have changed. But before I share mine, I would love to hear yours.
Do you “Babywise“?
Are you an E-A-S-Y family?
Is your baby the “Happiest Baby on the Block“?
How do you feel about the Ferber method or “crying it out”?
I’m not asking rhetorically, I really want to know what my fellow Mom’s are doing in their homes. However I will say that I’ve had to ask myself these questions and many more as it relates to my little one’s sleep…and mine for that matter.
When I first started my answer to my blog title was “nah”. The first 9 weeks of her life have been a roller coaster of great sleep, little sleep, sleep on me, sleep in swing, sleep in rocker, nurse to sleep, drive to sleep…ALL KINDS OF SLEEP…and no sleep.
My “nah” response centered around what many people find controversial about Babywise and methods like it…I felt like I should be on her schedule, not her on mine. I mean she’s so new, so tiny, so used to being in the cozy of the womb where it is dark, and loud, and snuggly, and up against me. I could not bring myself to force her to do otherwise. If a good night’s sleep for her meant she slept on me, then so be it. If it meant that I had to nurse her down, then so be it. If my own ability to do basic hygienic tasks meant I had to put her in the swing and she fell asleep there then so be it.
Just this past week…
I have changed my mind.
I now have a healthy two month old. Her weight gain is appropriate, she is happy and smiley, my milk production is sufficient, we are in a good place. Along with her physical developments is also her mental development. Meaning, she knows more, she see’s more, she understands more and she uses the time we should be sleeping as the exact time she decides to go HAM in an effort to keep me in the room, or keep us holding her, or keep being nursed. She’s smart, she knows what her cries do to me and she’s using it to her full advantage.
Enter sleep training.
I was kinda’, sorta’, sometimes, holding a schedule over these past two months, but it was very loose and very fluent to her cues. Starting this week I am doing it all out. I’ve written it down in large letters, it is on display for all who enter the home to see, and I am trying it out to the best of my ability. Our nighttime routines need more normalcy (while being well aware of her wonder weeks and potential need for more attention) and so Mommy has a plan…or so I think.
This is not just about me being comfortable and sleeping well, but this is also about her sleeping well and about her ability to continue to sleep well when Dad begins his paternity leave and when she begins to be watched by someone else during the day. I have 4 weeks from now to set a proper schedule before Dad takes over and then 6 weeks after that before she is it at daycare regularly. Mama has to go back to work, Daddy is in school, and so Baby, as cute as she is, needs to learn how to go to sleep and stay asleep on a more consistent basis.
I will say, however, that I am not fully a fan of the Ferber method or “crying it out”. There is maybe a minute or two of crying to see if she will self-soothe and then one of us will go in to help with the process. A quick soothe, then lay her back down. We do not increase the time we wait as instructed by Ferber, we simply do not allow it to escalate too high. So far, this has worked out well. It is a little time-consuming, as it may take multiple times of this before she is fully calm, but she will be continually assured that we are there and that she is not alone.
I’ll report back just before going back to work to say how this has been going, but in the meantime, I would love to hear what has worked (or not worked) for you.
This year has been an tremendous roller coaster of highs and hurts, loss and love, pain and promotion, advancement and anger, blessing and breaking, faith and fight. It will be a year I will never forget for both obvious reasons and reasons about which you will never know. I pray for anyone else whose year looked like this, that you were amazed by the awesomeness and built up stronger by the awfulness. May 2015 continue to encourage and strengthen us all. Here’s to the remaining hours of 2014.
Not really working out for us.
It’s been seven weeks. I’ve had the chance to transition from the mere wipe downs to actually butt-in-water baths. I’ve done it by myself, I’ve done it with my husband, I’ve done it with another experienced mom, I’ve done it with baby bath up high on the counter, I’ve done it by sitting baby bath in the larger bathtub, I’ve done it using the spray hose, I’ve done it by scooping water with a cup, I’ve done it by pre-heating the room first, I’ve done a lot of things!
Finding a flow has been difficult no matter how I switch it up. Holding her with one hand and cleaning her with another, I’ve found, does not allow me to really, truly get into the crevices that need the most attention.
Sooo…I go to my mommy blogs. What does the interwebs have to say about bathing a newborn? What videos can I watch? Dear Mommies of the world…HELP ME!
I feel like I’ve found something and I’ve created a flow that will work for us…for now.
I’ve decided to still do the water baths about twice a week, as she is beginning to find the water a little soothing, she needs to get used to it, and that’s when I wash her hair. But, her many, many neck folds, creases behind her ears, wrinkles in her armpits, and intricate innards of her most delicate private parts needed a different plan. No way was my little one allowing my one free hand to navigate into those hard-to-reach places. Even with Dads help, our awkward dance around the bathtub and her squirmy body created a real challenge.
So here’s the plan…
I saw on this Mommy YouTube channel an idea to daily use cotton balls and a cup of warm water on those tiny places during one of her changing sessions in the morning. I tried it for the first time the other day and it was perfect. My little one is high on the changing table, I have use of both hands, the bag of cotton balls and cup of water are propped within reach, and all her hard-to-reach places are readily at my disposal.
I use a different cotton ball for each of her eyes, and another for her face. I’ll grab another two for behind her ears (ewww the grime that gets back there), and then another set of two for each of her armpits. Cotton balls for her hands (I recently discovered a whole new world of cheese in between each finger – sheesh) and two more for her feet. One cotton ball cleanses her frontside, another for her backside, and then I tackle the mother of it all…her neck.
Oh her neck. It is a breeding ground for stinky cheese. I was never sure how children ever inherited the name “Stink stink” but it’s clear to me now. Keeping her neck clean and free from the stinks has been an immense battle. I have to admit it…that girl’s head is STRONG and sometimes she clamps down so hard to keep my fingers out that she wins. I just let her win and she lives to be stinky another day. As I mentioned in a previous post, sometimes I’m clever enough to get to clean one side a little easier if I have the supplies around me while she’s nursing. But even then, just when she seems most preoccupied, the moment I touch that neck, her shoulder comes up and access DENIED.
But now she’s mine. On the changing table, I’ve got both hands, and victory will be had.
I’m learning one ingredient is very key. I never thought I would have to do this of my newborn, but it’s real. And what is that ingredient?
Yup, I ask permission. I show her the cotton ball. I gently touch her close to her neck first to put down her guard. I smile and explain what I need to do. I try to get her smiling back…AND I GO IN FOR THE KILL!
Oh…sorry, I mean, I swiftly but gently remove the stinky cheese from those folds. Finish up with a moisturizer, baby massage and leave feeling satisfied.
Baby in the bathtub hath no power over me.