Birthday Blog

I’ve made it a tradition to blog on my birthday.

Birthdays make me even more introspective than usual, and I often feel compelled to write around this time of year.  This year is no exception, except…I don’t know what to write about exactly.

(and now I sit here watching the cursor blink for about 5 minutes, give or take)

I just got a massage (another birthday tradition of mine) and now I am sitting in a Starbucks (Tradition #3) feeling my caffeinated blood ooze past my loopy muscles and greased-up skin.  I suspect my brain has been turned to mush as a result.

During my massage, I desperately tried to stay in the moment and focus on how my body felt.  Part of this is because I want to get my money’s worth.  To me, massages are expensive and I usually only get them once a year.  But I also just want to be able to quiet my mind and get my body to freaking relax, or more accurately,  to allow my body to surrender to the relaxation that is happening to it.

Because I spend most of my time with a screaming, whining, giggling toddler, my adult mind is often off in left field having some imaginary conversation with an adult – any adult – I wish were there with me.  It’s hard to stay in the present, and I feel disappointed in myself that I often seem to be wishing away the present and fantasizing about being somewhere else, some time else.  Because I feel bad about this, I try very hard to highlight the times when I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else – when I want to be right here, right now.

One example of me wanting to be here now pops up from my past life as a therapist.  I was with a client I had seen longer than any other and to whom I felt particularly dedicated.  She was chronically depressed and wouldn’t admit to having many strengths.  In my office, this client picked up a broken kids’ toy – I think it was trying to be a toy ukulele or something, but it was missing strings – and she made music with it.  It was incredible.  I remember thinking to myself, This is why I do therapy.  This, right here.

Another example from the recent past: my kid is just starting to say Mama and Dada in context and with meaning.  Oh man, how amazingly wonderful it is to hear my boy call out my name.  Recently, we’ve been playing this game where I ask Dylan what my name is.  It goes like this:

Me:  Hey Dylan, can you say Mama?

D:  …Ma-ma!

Me:  Yay!  Now what’s my name?

D:  DADA!! (we both laugh)

Me:  Noooo, Daddy’s at work!….Can you say Mama?

D:  Mama!

Me:  What’s my name?

D:  DADA!!

We collapse in giggles, and I savor the moment.  I don’t want to be anywhere else.

So, mindfulness.  I had to reel my mind back in several times during today’s massage, and I did my very best to enjoy the time, to enjoy the feeling, and to enjoy my body.

That’s the other thing, is that during the massage I found myself thinking about how in awe of my body I am.  The last time I got a massage, I was about 8 months pregnant with Dylan.  I was hot and sweaty and swollen and in pain and huge.  A lot has changed since then.  My body has morphed.  Transformed.  Been made new.  And so I found myself saying thank you to my body through the massage, as the therapist moved her hands over my body that felt like waves gently lapping on my fleshy shores.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

My mind wandered again—>  The first time I ever got a massage was after my cancer surgery.  My roommate heard me complain (a lot) about how sore and broken I felt, and she got my friends together and they all gave me a gift certificate for one.  I want to make a joke and say that she got it for me just so she wouldn’t have to hear me bitch about it anymore, but she just wanted me to feel better and I think she knew I’d never go and get one for myself.  Another thank you is in order.

So, on the anniversary of my body becoming my own, here’s to loving my body and thanking it for the places it’s taken me and all it’s given to me.

And here’s to celebrating the here-and-nows that make the time in between well worth it.

 

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Week 26 – Doctor’s Orders

Last Tuesday, Brian and I had our first appointment with our new midwife.  We switched because our health insurance switched due to Brian’s job (long story).  The short story is that we liked her.  Yay!

When we got to the clinic, I was informed to hold my bladder until I was called, but that if I absolutely couldn’t hold it, I should check in with the lady at the desk first.  Oh yeah, I thought, no problem.  I totally went before we left.  Unfortunately, it continues to surprise me at how quickly my bodily conditions can change.  Within 15 minutes, I was dying.  I waddled to the front desk and asked the ladies what I should do.  I felt like I was 5 years old asking Teacher permission to use the potty.  They looked at me funny, asked if I was pregnant, and told me to just go and to pee in a cup just in case they needed a sample.  I returned to my chair with a little brown bag and told Brian I had a present for him.  Crisis averted.

This was mainly just a checkup and most everything looks and feels good with baby.  We were sat down to watch a short video about preterm labor, and it scared me for two reasons.  One, preterm labor is scary and two, the 80s hairstyles.  I think we used the humor of the latter to get through the terror of the former for those 8 minutes.

In all seriousness, I’ve had two people close to me comment on how either they were born or birthed a child right around where I’m at now in my pregnancy (26 weeks), and that both terrifies and amazes me.  Terrifies because I look at where I’m at now and how much more growing Little Duck has to do, and it seems impossible, unthinkable that such a little squirmy worm could live outside me at this point.  At the same time, both of those babies lived and are very healthy and I am amazed at what modern medicine can do for us.  Looking at it this way, it gives me some comfort knowing that amazing things are possible if my Little Duck decides to make an early appearance.

I decided to do the glucose test at this doctor’s appointment, and my midwife ordered some other blood tests to be done at the same time.  Let the record show that there were no snacks (the glucose most definitely does not count) provided at this blood draw.  For some reason, I’d heard vague horror stories about the glucose test over the years, and I can’t remember specifically why.  For those who don’t know, they give you a 10 oz super sweet, syrupy drink that you have to drink within 5 minutes, then you wait an hour and get your blood drawn to test for gestational diabetes (pronounced a la Wilford Brimley).  Now, I have a hard time drinking any substantial quantity very quickly, save from water.  I could never guzzle, and forget kegstands.  Needless to say, it took me the full 5 minutes to drink this stuff.  The first few gulps were ok, but it had this ghastly lime aftertaste that just got worse and worse the more I drank.  And then I started to burp and it was all downhill from there.  At least I didn’t have any adverse reactions after drinking it, and hey, I passed the test.  I hope Little Duck thoroughly enjoyed that sugar rush, cuz I ain’t doing it again.

Remember how I talked about body issues from my last post?  Well, my midwife basically said that I’m not gaining weight fast enough.  I responded by saying that I just eat when I’m hungry, even if that means it’s 3:30am, and I’ll continue to do so.  My reasoning is that my body knows what it’s doing.  The other note to take away from the visit was that my vitamin D levels are a bit low.  I blame the Northwestern cloudcover; California would never have selfishly deprived me of my year-round sunny D.  The recommendation was to either take a supplement, eat more dairy, or get some more sunshine.

Basically, putting all these recommendations together in my head, I picture myself in full sun on the beach in a bikini, hugely pregnant, belly hanging over, wearing a floppy hat and ginormous round sunglasses and eating the biggest ice cream sundae you’ve ever seen.

Doctor’s orders!

Lost In Transition

I’m feeling all the feelings, you guys.

I had a mommy friend ask me if I wanted advice.  She had written a list of things she wished she had known before giving birth.  I said yes, and I read it.

Then I cried.

This thing really has to come out of me.  And it’s going to hurt.  Like, a lot.  Breastfeeding might be hard.  And painful.  Projectile poop really does exist.  All this responsibility…

Even though I’m the type of person who always wants to know all the good and the bad stuff, it was still pretty overwhelming.

I asked myself, how am I going to handle all this?

That voice inside me shrugged and said, one day at a time.

I’m also having some feelings around body image.

My body hasn’t changed much throughout my life, with the exception of cancer and the resulting surgery.  This week marks the highest weight I have ever been.  I knew it was coming, of course, and I know it’s healthy and it’s supposed to happen.  And I’m cool with it; it means that Little Duck is growing and my body is growing with fe.  At the same time, I felt a pang when I saw the number on the scale.  I’ve never been one to weigh myself, like ever, because I’ve never seen the point.  But with the pregnancy, I’ve wanted to track my changes and so I’ve been weighing myself once a week.

It’s not just the number on the scale, but a combination of that plus how I look and how I feel.  I’ve always been fairly petite, and sometimes it’s tough for me to see my waistline disappear.  Honestly, it depends on the day.  When I first started showing, I was so happy and excited.  This is real!  Look at me, how cute I look!  I feel so special!  And sometimes, a lot of the time, I still feel like that.  But on the days when I feel achy and bloated, I wonder how big I’m going to get.  Where is my limit?  What will my body do?  It’s the not knowing that can be unsettling.

What I’ve concluded is that my body is changing faster than my thoughts and emotions can catch up.  And I have to keep telling myself what I already know to be true – that my body knows what it’s doing.  Trust it.

Even when cancer invaded my body and I felt like it [my body] had betrayed me, it still let me know what was going on.  And when I stop to think about my progress during this pregnancy so far, I realize that my body has done all the work unaided.  All the medical procedures I’ve had have been purely for screening purposes.  Of course, if my body needs medical help along the way, that’s all well and good, but overall, my body’s in charge.  And she knows what she’s doing.

Lastly, I’ve been feeling all pent up.  I really need a project (besides growing life) and what I’d really like to be doing is decorating and organizing a house, but we’re just not there yet.  Not only are we not there, but we’re crammed into a one bedroom apartment with boxes stacked everywhere.  I feel closed in, it feels cluttered in here, and I have no idea how we’re going to fit a baby in here, let alone all the baby crap.

I know this situation is only temporary, and our next move, if it’s not a house, will definitely be someplace bigger and quieter.  We’ll only have to have the baby here for one month max, if at all.

It also doesn’t help that I am not currently working, or otherwise have something to do with my time.  I’ve been looking for work half-assedly, mostly because, while I do want to be productive and useful, I don’t want the added stress of having to learn a new job, and I certainly don’t want to have to sell my soul to any job – and that’s even if anyone offers this 5 month pregnant lady a position in the first place.

I hate how the American work force – and the social service professions specifically – expect you to bend over backwords just to work.  The job openings I’ve seen aren’t only full time, but the descriptions are peppered with lines like: must be able to work evenings and Saturdays, shifts subject to change with little notice, must be able to drive to multiple locations, may be exposed to clients with violent tendencies, must give up first born child to Satan, etc.  I’d be hesitant to take jobs like this even if I wasn’t pregnant, and forget it now.  I’m not even sure I’d want to keep a full time job after I have the baby, anyway, so that adds to my lack of enthusiasm.  Don’t employers want healthy, happy, well-rounded workers who have lives outside of work?  Sheesh.  Jobs are just jobs, and I want one that I don’t have to be married to.

That said, I do feel incredibly fortunate that I am being supported by my husband right now.  I have the privilege of having the choice to work or not, and for that I am very thankful.  I also feel a bit guilty about not contributing financially to the household, and a part of me really does want to get out there and do the profession I love, but Brian totally understands my priorities and he’s supportive.  I’ll keep looking for work, and if I find something that fits our needs, then awesome.  If not, we’ll adjust and get by together.

So.  It seems as though my theme for the moment is transition.

But, now that I think about it, am I ever really not transitioning?

Contributing to the Revolution

I took a class on counseling women at Boston College, and during one class session, the professor jokingly and rhetorically asked if any of us (as I recall, this particular class didn’t have any menfolk in it) hadn’t ever been on a diet.  Even though the professor kept talking at that point and didn’t wait for any answers, I quietly raised my hand.  A very short conversation followed, and the vibe that I gathered was that no one believed me, including the professor.

That brings me to the following question: what is a diet?

di·et
1.  food and drink considered in terms of its qualities, composition, and its effects on health: Milk is a wholesome article of diet.
2.  a particular selection of food, especially as designed or prescribed to improve a person’s physical condition or to prevent or treat a disease: a diet low in sugar.
3.  such a selection or a limitation on the amount a person eats for reducing weight: No pie for me, I’m on a diet.
4.  the foods eaten, as by a particular person or group: The native diet consists of fish and fruit.
5.  food or feed habitually eaten or provided: The rabbits were fed a diet of carrots and lettuce.
(taken from dictionary.com)

So, in some senses of the word, diet is simply what we eat or don’t eat. In that sense, everyone is on a diet because everyone must eat something in order to live.  Of course, my professor was not using the word in this sense, nor do most people use the word in that sense.  The word has come to signify more about what isn’t being eaten rather than what is.

In class, I found that I began to defend myself and the claim I had just made.  I asked my classmates what they considered a diet (in the restrictive sense) was and got no answer.  I said that I make choices everyday about what I will eat and thus what I won’t, just the same as everyone else.
Does that mean I am on a diet?

Sometimes I eat lots of dessert several days in a row and then I choose to not have dessert for a day because of what I ate the previous days.
Is that a diet?

After my grandma died of colon cancer, my mom made a rule that we couldn’t have cereal with less than 1 gram of fiber per serving.
Is that a diet?

I govern my eating habits by guidelines that my parents instilled in me and ones I have adopted on my own.  Examples are having three meals a day, not snacking too close to a mealtime, having a glass of milk with dinner, I could go on.

I often turn down foods that sound good or I choose not to eat something that I might have a craving for, the intention having to do with weight and the way I look.
Does any of this mean that I have been “on a diet?”

Maybe it’s just the way I think about all of this, or the way I don’t think about it.  Not once while growing up did I ever hear about my mom being on a diet, and there was never talk of me being on one.  I don’t have any memories of hearing either of my parents speak derogatorily about their bodies and body images.  And that’s what this post is really about, I suppose.  Body image.  That is what diet: definition 3 is all about anyway.

The goal of a definition 3 diet is about an end result: weight, how you look, but most importantly, how you feel about how you look.  I mean, how you will look and feel (or hope to look and feel) by the time the diet is over.  Everyone’s heard and knows on some level that these kinds of diets don’t work.  And even if they do “work” in terms of weight and how you look, that’s still not a guarantee that you’ll end up feeling the way you want to feel! So why do people keep going on them?  And why did no one in my class believe I had never been on one?  I think the answer is the same for both questions: everyone, especially women, have been taught how to hate our bodies so profoundly that we keep searching, working, covering up, restricting in order to reach an unreachable-by-definition ideal end goal.

One of my clinical supervisors says that the majority of unhappiness comes from people wishing that they were different from what they are, here and now.  I try very hard to remind myself this as often as I can, and I use this concept frequently with my clients.  It is so simple that it sounds ridiculous.  What if you were enough just the way you are?  What if you could feel happy without going on a diet?……without doing ANYTHING except changing the way you think about yourself?

“What I see is that even the most Botoxed, lipo’d, lifted woman cannot conceal herself. If you hate yourself, it shows through every cream and cure there is. Until we stop trying to exorcise our own imperfect selves, driving out normal physical traits as if they were signs of pathology, there will always be some misery in the eyes that nothing can hide.”

In the past few years, my collection of pants and shorts have been growing tight on me, or rather, my body has been growing outward and my pants have stubbornly stayed the same.  I feel horrible every single time I put on those pants.  This past summer, I finally bought a pair of bigger shorts that actually fit me for the me I happened to be at that time.  And you know what?  I felt GREAT!  I felt sexy and cute and GOOD about myself. And nothing had changed about my body. That was the key to this particular issue with myself.  I realized that I was somehow honestly expecting my body to stay the same shape and size it was around…2003.  One day, I just realized how ridiculous this (therapy jargon alert!) distorted belief was.  Of course my body is going to change as I age.  I get to solve the problem by- wait for it- buying clothes that fit instead of trying to get my body back to when I was 20, which will never happen.  And I am actually cool with that.  Does anyone really, truly want to look 20 years old their whole life?  I sure as hell don’t. When I grow up, I wanna be an old woman.

I still have to remind myself about this revelation of mine on a regular basis.  And I still have to buy more pants.  I hope we all get to a place where we’ll actually believe someone when she raises her hand and says she’s never been on a diet (the definition 3 kind).

I’ll end this rather meandering post with one of my favorite body positive quotes:

“My body is fucking beautiful, and every time I look in the mirror and acknowledge that, I am contributing to the revolution.” –nomi lamm