Friday, June 27, 2014

Embracing my Post Partum Bod

Body image. A woman's post partum body. My post partum body. Fashion, clothing, fit. Aging. The gaze. The media. Beauty. Identity.

These related topics have been on my mind lately, as I near Polly's six-month birthday and my body stubbornly clings to those ten or fifteen extra pounds that two pregnancies in quick succession so readily brought me. As my breasts are much larger than ever before, impossible to hide especially paired with the need for easy access to my growing babe. As I wonder if I'll ever wear shorts again.
As I recently learned that there is a thigh gap craze, a fetish I won't even grace with googling, because I don't want to give it one iota of power.



And as Lucy just had her first week of swimming lessons - "tadpoles"- and I had to go in with her each day, alongside other moms, dads, and grandmas, in the midst of about ten other classes for youth of various ages, and a whole crowd of spectators. I wore a different "momsuit" each day, and damned if I didn't actually feel kind of proud of myself! Not for looking fit or tan, certainly not for having "worked out" or adjusted my diet to achieve a specially approved media-friendly body, no, but for being brave and for going in anyway, for trying really hard to just not care, to love myself and to love my special time with my babe in the pool.

I was inspired by mary's link to that swimsuit article going around on facebook. Put on your swimsuit mamas! Feel comfortable in your skin! This doesn't just go for mothers, but anyone who has to fight that urge to reduce and dishonor herself. It's only fair to our children, to our communities, to ourselves. It's dangerous to sit on the sidelines in a tee shirt because it says you aren't worthy of being out there playing and enjoying the water and the sun and the laughter and the kids. Embrace yourself and send a little beam of love and self-love into the universe. Be real. Don't let anyone or anything get under your skin and make you feel any certain way about yourself. It's all you. Own it.

A mother who radiates self-love and self-acceptance actually vaccinates her daughter against low self-esteem. - Naomi Wolf



 I wrote this post last time around, and I have to catch myself and remind myself until the refrain still rings in my ears: I LOVE MY BODY. There are plenty of moments I don't. I have a laundry list of ""issues" with my body since my second pregnancy. In the interest of honesty, I can tell you some of them, offhandedly, they're as familiar to me as breath: back fat. belly chubs. thicker arms. round face, less definition. girth. lack of collar bones. But why are these even considered problems? It's so stupid. It's pure vanity, and by whose definitions? I RESIST THIS! And  I suspect it smacks of consumerism and power; I want to know what kind of wheel was set in motion that gets women thinking this way, that urges us to make comparisons, that promotes self-denigration. Who stands to gain? I find the whole thing very suspect; I want to find that little wizard behind the curtain and knock him off his high horse. We are so much bigger and better than that.






For the record, I do want to be healthy, (although I feel stronger and more energetic than ever on those good days when I am in supermom mode.) so I do have plans to work in some yoga and some aerobic exercise, but not because I want to be a certain number on the scale. I just want to feel good and I hear those endorphins can be addictive :) 

I mean, look at this guy! I am so grateful I have two strong legs. And he's doing just fine, he's rocking it and he's confident as hell squawking for treats at the city park.

Swimming lessons were really fun. It was a half hour session every day for a week, and the time flew. Lucy was pretty overwhelmed the first day, but she grew more and more confident and outgoing in the class. She went flying down that little slide straight into the water and my arms. She held onto the side. She tried to plug her nose and dip her little face in. And she kicked like nobody's business. That's about as far as we got, but that is enough for us. We are happy in the water, we are confident, and we are loving being alive in our bodies, having fun and being together. 



I have to mention Anne and Jessica's post at The Ma Books on post partum fashion! Why does no one talk about it? With both of my babies, I have found it more difficult to dress my post-partum body than my pregnant body. Especially because of breastfeeding. Not to mention function, form, necessity: if I'm going to be running around all day, bending over carseats to nurse, hoisting babes and strollers, picking up toys, being smeared with popsicles and spit up, I want my clothes to be easy as air to wear, and yet I also want to look at least somewhat cute. Anne and Jessica, both with brand spanking new gorgeous newborns of their own, do a perfect job at finding that balance of beauty and comfort that makes you feel so good through the long, (well short actually!) exhausting, radiant days of mothering a wee child. 

I wanted to do a little post-partum fashion post myself, but honestly I haven't had the time to photograph myself and on some days I'm lucky if getting dressed involves anything more than throwing on the quickest tank top and wrap skirt I could find. Although maybe that counts!We'll see. Maybe I'll get a burst of energy and time. Maybe. Meanwhile I'll keep putting on my funny collection of 1980's momsuits and plunging into the water at every chance I get! How about you? Does vanity sometime stop you from donning a swimsuit? How are you going about the vital work of self-love? 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

aunties


It's always good healthy medicine to gather with your best girlfriends for a campout, even if it's not exactly real camping. My lady friends rented a tent cabin down at Coloma Resort right along the river, for a spontaneous girls' weekend. We had stayed there once before for our own little private mellow girls' camp for CarolAnn's bachelorette party, which was in May, which is pre-season.....different story this time around. The place was hopping, an organized village by the river, bursting at the seams;  bustling with families, RVs, barbecues, face painting, music. We were kind of taken aback, but had lots of fun anyway.

We've been friends forever it seems, and it all keeps changing and growing. Marriages, break-ups, travels, romances, babies, moves...we will never leave each other behind. There are stories to tell for hours.  Clockwise from the left, that's Suzanne, Rebecca, CarolAnn, me, Polly, Doniella, and Addie. 


The sad truth is, with a nursling babe and a toddler at home, I couldn't stay long for the first night, the real girls' night. (and i missed the juiciest gossip and sex talk. pooh.) I did get to spend a few hours with the earliest arrivals, Doniella and Rebecca, who are party hostesses and planners extraordinaires, who bring everything good you could think of to eat or drink, who hand you a wine lemonade spritzer right when you arrive, open a bag of kettle chips, take you for a walk down to the river, hold your babe, and settle in for the juicy talk. 


CarolAnn arrived a little later, complete with adorable tiny baby bump.  Addie was right on her heels but by that time it was already an hour past Lucy's bedtime and I knew my mom would be getting tired. I had to hit the road (we all know how Polly does on the road at dusk...yep, it happened again and a fifteen minute drive home took a half hour.) But with plans to get together again the next day.


When you've known each other this long you get to know about the real deal, the stories behind the stories, the saddest heartbreaks, the wildest longings, the secret crushes, the motivations. Talking, laughing, hanging out, cooking, eating, sleeping: it doesn't matter what you do. you feel beautiful around your beautiful friends. They light something up inside you and infuse you with energy. That's why getting together as much as possible is necessary even when they live in different cities, even when they land full time jobs as professors, even though bay area traffic sucks, even if they're in school, or pregnant, or business owners.

I want my daughters to grow up knowing their mom's friends thoroughly. We talked about how there should be a word for it, a word like "aunties" but without the familial connotation, a word that just means the rad strong women surrounding a mom that help tote her babes around, that watch those babies grow, see them fuss and see them light up with bright smiles.


Another new mama in our group, Eva, stopped by with her sweet boy Rolla, just a couple weeks old. We immediately flocked and clucked of course, as little aunty banty hens tend to do. Talking breastfeeding, bonding, the big beautiful bombardment of new motherhood.




Back to our trusty tent cabin the next night, men, children and dogs welcome now, it was a free for all: we were located adjacent to a massive family reunion, a long line for ice cream, a surprisingly wonderful live band, and screaming summery children whipping by. 





I was so relaxed, especially with such incredible playmates for Lucy around as Suzanne and Sylvan.



we got to the pool about five minutes before they closed it up for the night.



but that's okay because look at our view.


sylvan and tootie still got to rock out on the playground for a while. in between sliding with her bestie, lucy stayed busy checking out some tween-aged girls (up close and personal: she goes right up to them and peers into their faces and goes GIRL!) and commenting on their cool purple toenails. 




caught up with some old friends too....tell me, how does 2005 feel like an eternity ago?!

by the way, me and these girls? we have experienced magic together. remind me sometime to tell you the story of June 22, 2000. 
when you experience actual magic together, you know you will be friends forever. and also, that you can get as goofy, gross, wild, or ecstatic as you want around them because they've pretty much seen it all.

love you ladies.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

backyardin'

we spent the month of may mostly in our backyard.
i remember last may, i was newly pregnant and although it was a delight watching my little 9-month-old lucy (how was that just one year ago?!!) discover water, grass, picnics, and dandelions, everything was tinged by that around-the-edges sickness that colors my first-trimester world. even on mother's day! i have the most distinct feeling of queasiness mixed in with my happiness from that day.

this year, i felt like a million bucks.


my loves.

it was the first time lucy took one look at what i was wearing (yolo! yolo!) and wanted to match; we had to find her a yellow dress to wear too. i asked darin if i should put polly in her yellow dress as well, and he said that's just going too far ;)


before we left on our trip, we had been watching a nest of baby bluejays in our plum tree. The three little babies became fledglings the day before we left. (Lucy and I watched one of them make his first exploratory dive-bomb from the nest and hop clumsily over to this fence.) I was relieved about the timing, because we planned to leave our two cats inside anyway, and this would give those groundlings the chance to learn to fly, a process that takes about a week. Did you know that the mother and father bluejay continue to feed their offspring for the first month or so of the babies' flying lives? Bluejays have complicated social situations, and I watched multiple adults keeping a watchful eye on these fledglings from spots around the yard, squawking if danger seemed eminent.


As soon as we got back from Utah, I found that I could recognize the young bluejays by their scrappy, smallish appearance, and their low-flying jaunts around the yard, and that it appeared that all three had made it into safe-flying adulthood! Our backyard is still their home, and they are luckily wary and quick when the cats are out.



Almost daily, the laundry on my line changes. You can tell a little about what the weather's been like, activities we've been doing. 


You might find rugs, or sundresses, or diapers. Or a lightweight vintage Beatrix Potter bedspread my mom thrifted for us.


and lately...it's undies! Yep, Toot was so ready. As soon as we got back I started putting her in underwear that my mom got her (she calls them Nana Unnies) and she only had a handful of accidents. At first, nights were looking good too, but there have definitely been cute little twin bedsheets on this line too. 


my own little groundlings. me and my own squawking: i have the fiercest love and protective spirit for these babies.




especially as we embark on my big tradition when summer hits: putting up my pool. This year pops did most of the work, with a special little assistant who is very excited about the water.


Ready to float around even when there's only about six inches. 
Now it's full and we are in there every day, she's brown as a berry, fearless, and yes...she starts swim lessons Monday.



an attempt at a ponytail.

polly began sitting up in earnest when we got home, and practice makes perfect. She might be small, but she is so strong and sturdy. and of course THE MOST KISSABLE!


pops also worked long and hard trying to fix our rusty old lawn mower, but finally after a couple of days, and sky-high weeds, we gave in and got a new one. it felt good.


and finally, with a mowed lawn and a filled pool...let the backyard hangouts begin!

us mamas got together one day and let the kids play all afternoon.



scout, arlo, polly: (i was just looking at this post [very end] and marveling at how close they all came to their due dates.)




a backyard is a terrible thing to waste. so we won't. it's the saving grace of our house and is full of memories of parties, cat graves, failed garden plots, and echoes of the shouting laughing voices of adults and children alike. i hope one day even after we move from this house, the spirit of joy we've felt in this yard will linger forever.