I caught a glimpse of my tank top hugging my postpartum belly as I talked to my friend on FaceTime. Trying to ignore my dissatisfaction, I continued on with what I was saying.
It wasn’t until the next morning, with my stomach growling and my brain working to convince it that it wasn’t yet hungry, that I realized I was back to dealing with the same body image issues I’ve wrestled with since junior high. The ones I’ve believed on more than one occasion that I’ve beat.
They’re like a hair clogged drain. Each time I dump the Draino down, I’m confident that I’ve cleared it. But within a month, the water is pooling once again.
I became a fitness instructor and yoga teacher before I became a mom.
The trend towards self-care and inspirational Pinterest boards took off during my training tenure and I enthusiastically turned into a spokesperson for the popular social media proverb, “You can’t pour from an empty cup”.
I cringe a bit each time I recall the way I would readily offer that insight. After class, someone would share with me that it felt so nice to practice. That she knew she needed to do it more often. But between work, and family, and life, it was just hard to find the motivation, and space, and energy. I would nod. Understanding that of course, we all face obstacles. But she needed to take care of herself too, I’d say. Because how could she meaningfully show up for her work, and her people, and her life if she wasn’t tending to herself first? I posed the question rhetorically. Food for thought when she had the time to digest it.
36 weeks + 6 days pregnant. That’s when I officially lost my chill.
It wasn’t as if things started off in an Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day kind of way. In fact, if you’d seen me just an hour earlier you might have assumed that I had it all together.
Sometimes they’re small things: I forgot to move the laundry to the dryer or I forgot to answer a text. Other times, they’re a little more significant: a work email that’s sitting in my draft folder, an invoice I need to send, the paperwork from my accountant for tax season. I’ll remember at inconvenient times: driving on the highway, brushing my teeth before bed, or while trying to fall asleep. Oops, I’ll think. I’ll do it tomorrow.
You know those things that just come naturally to some people? Like running or baking or hitting a tennis ball over a net? Well, cheerleading was not that thing for me. As an awkward 13-year-old navigating middle school, I really hoped it might be my undiscovered talent. And, after a week spent learning the routines, I discovered that linking movement and words and flexibility was not (and would not be) my hidden skill. Still, I went to tryouts and gave it my all. Clumsily flopping my arms and legs in the air, following the movement of the girls around me, and yelling to “Go! Fight! Win!”
On a cold spring morning, I stood alongside my aspiring peers, anxiously awaiting a glimpse of the roster for the upcoming year. To the surprise of no one, my name was not on the list. I suppose I felt the familiar kind of disappointment that comes with failure of any type. And maybe a little embarrassment too, because I had enough self awareness to know what my high kicks looked like. But more than that, I felt relief. I could put the pompoms down forever knowing that cheering wasn’t in my wheelhouse.
“Be away from me” my almost-three-year-old boy shouts at me, for likely the seventh time this week. To compliment his bold declaration, he throws one small arm out straight in front him and swings it from side to side, as if indicating the exact amount of space he needs in order for me to “be away”.
Though he is good with language for his age, he obviously lacks a command of the English language, which sometimes win us some great little phrases. When he doesn’t want to snuggle before bed at night, I am told to “be off his body”. Typically my husband and I giggle about these mistakes in wording. We try to document them because we know that one day he won’t make mistakes like these. Or he will…. But it won’t be funny so much as a reason for a concerning parent teacher conference.
As I’m sitting on the living room rug with my son building blocks, my mind starts running through its regular list of questions. Have we read enough books today? Does he get the socialization he needs? How many servings of fruit has he had? Vegetables? Dairy? What am I missing that I don’t even know I’m missing?
It’s not unlike the list I work through when I’m racing through the checklist of my own life. Am I setting a good example for him? Should I be working out of the house? Do I bring enough to our family? Am I doing it as well as she (mom on Instagram, mom at the grocery story, mom at the park, mom I’ve never met, and mom who is my best friend) is doing it?
Last month, I passed another mom at the park.“Just wait”she muttered, shaking her head, as she trailed the three kids in front of her. With my son toddling alongside me, I smiled and thought back to the day before. A man at the mall, noticing my growing belly remarked,“you’re about to have your hands full”. I nodded as we shuffled along.
For every cautionary tale of what’s just ahead is another of the opposite kind: The moms saying how they’d give everything to go back to the season I’m in right now. The ones who would trade graduation caps for diaper bags in a second and eagerly remind me of what’s slipping through my fingers as we speak.