Category Archives: mothers

Blissful Body Fridays: How Being A Kid = Loving Your Body

Me, before I cared.
Me, before I cared.

In case you didn’t know, Good ol’ New England is having a heat wave; the temps are expected to hit 93 before the end of today.  So naturally, I went to Revere Beach this morning with my 17 month old daughter.  It was 85 degrees by 9 in the morning.  Crazy.

I grew up overhearing tales of the old Revere Beach from my mother; she regaled us with stories of cotton candy and vomit-inducing roller coaster rides with her cousin.  It’s nothing like it used to be; it used to be a resort area filled with amusements and fast food.  Now, after a couple of conspiracy-story fires that were set, it’s just quiet.  Which is fine.

I camped out right where the dry sand met the wet, mushy stuff.  My daughter wanted nothing to do with the cold, rolling waves, but loved the sand.  So she literally bathed in it.  While I was leaning over to make a sandturtle, she had dumped a pile of sand on her head.  A thick layer of sand coated her scalp.  I groaned inwardly, but laughed to myself.  Because the best thing that’s ever been taught to me was by my daughter – the art of letting go.  The art of getting messy and not caring what things look like.

Before I had her, I would spend 20 minutes on my eye makeup.  I would have long pedicures at home and just curl my hair for fun sometimes.  Now, I don’t have time for that stuff.  Which sucks, sometimes, but it’s great, in another way.

Why?

When you are eating a mud pie and smooshing it all over your face, you don’t care if your blue veins are showing through your pale Irish skin.  You’re having fun and marvelling at the fabulousness of having mud pie ALL OVER YOUR FACE.  When you’re throwing sand in the wind, you don’t pay attention to the cellulite on your thighs because you’re jumping in big, funny lunges to avoid getting sand in your eyes.  And when you’re picking up shells, you’re not caring about your untoned tummy, because you are collecting little magical treasures, one at a time.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still have control problems; you’d probably all laugh at my nighttime routine, which is OCD-esque and consists of this strange “sweep-the-entire-house-feed-the-cats-change-their-litterbox” routine.  But spending time has done wonders for my body image; I use my body in way more fun ways now than I ever did.

Do you remember that time?  Before you hit puberty and all hell broke loose?  When you made soup in the ground with sticks and leaves?  When you rode bikes just as fast as the neighborhood boys?  When girls were equal to boys and just as capable?

It’s still there.

You can still have it now.

Have a blissful Friday.

 

Hi, My Name is Amanda, and I’m…Different.

normalIf nothing else, the following is true for me –

“Masquerading as a normal person day after day is exhausting.”

– Anonymous

*******

What I’m about to say goes against all advice given in any self-help meeting, but it’s how I feel, damnit.

I have often felt different than most, not a part of, less than.

Not always.  Sometimes, I feel on top of the world, totally present, and I love everything in my life.  And sometimes, I feel just like every other “bozo on the bus”, another nameless face in the crowd, which is honestly ok.  But often, I feel…different.

Why?

Well, let’s pick apart the seventy different kinds of recovery I’m in.  I can’t diet, I can’t drink in safety (in the words of Biggie, if you don’t know, now you know) and my therapist has diagnosed me with depression (that requires medication) and some trauma stuff for a long time now.  Let’s say this:  if you were a clinician, and you saw my rap sheet, you might wince a bit and say, “Jeez.”  You might expect me to be doin’ a lot worse than I am now.

Cause I am doing pretty damn well for the “stuff” I have.  I got my master’s degree, am successful in a field where I can turn my misery into someone else’s avoidance of said misery, and  have a family of my own.  I am fairly high-functioning; I am lucky.  Or resilient.

But there’s something funny about high-functioning anything-ers: they can slip more easily between the cracks.  They, in turn, can feel more different, because they mingle with the “normies” of society.  At work functions, at family parties, at friend’s BBQs.  They can be around people who drink or diet or binge or don’t experience the glory of mood swings, but it doesn’t make it any less hard.  In fact, it can be a particular kind of hard because they’re often the sole “different kid” in a group of “normies”.

So that’s why I feel different.

Self-help groups tell you to identify as just another worker among workers, which helps sometimes.  I’ll often use this example: I have a friend who is allergic to basically any kind of food.  So, I try to remind myself, “Wow.  She must feel the same way – like everyone is staring at her when she orders her food.  Maybe she feels different than, too.”

(And I do realize there is no normal.  And I do realize everybody’s got their thing.)

But I do think it can seem overwhelming to an individual when they realize –

“Hey!  I need an everything-anonymous!”

Fun.

How do YOU feel different?  Is there something that sets you apart from the crowd?

Blissful Body Fridays: Mama’s Wisdom

How’s everyone doing?  Hope you’re having a great Friday.  I’m kind of blah, to be honest…have a migraine and am exhausted…but I didn’t want to skip posting this AWESOME blog post my friend Michelle sent me on FB.

In this post, this brave mama blogs about her fearless daughter, and her attempt to explain beauty to her (which she does flawlessly).  I totally related to it because my daughter is a little daredevil with tons of energy, and is always having accidents like her daughter had.

Read away!

A little bit of both is health, IMO...

My Toddler Knows About Dunkin’ Donuts (And Other Non-Atrocities)

A little bit of both is health, IMO...
A little bit of both is health, IMO…

Every day I’m convinced I’m going to give my 16 month old an eating disorder.

Which is stupid, really, because it’s not just one thing that causes one – but the fact that I’m recovered from one ups the ante a little bit.

Let me give you an example:

Every week, my daughter has her play group and like one week out of the month we stop to get Dunkin’ Donuts right before (me: iced french vanilla with cream, you know it, and her: one or two munchkins ((crazy baby doesn’t seem to care either way for them.  WHAT??))  This morning, as I narrated her life, as I do maniacally every day, I said absentmindedly, “So we’ll get in the car and we’ll stop at Dunkin Donuts.”

She halted.  Her head swiveled and her eyes lit up.

I guess she cared more about those sprinkles-encrusted balls of goodness than I previously thought.

And my head went into a mindspin.  Is this why she’s in the 90th percentile?  She’s going to get bombarded by obesity comments at the doctor’s in a couple of years.  I’m so bad for giving her sugar, at all?  I’m going to parent hell!  I might as well be Honey Boo Boo’s mom!  I might as well set up camp at McDonald’s.  I’m ruining my daughter’s future!!!!!!

And then I stop, take a pretend Xanax, and reality-check myself.

First, I try to remember my therapist’s words (“It’d be pretty hard to force food to a baby, Amanda”).  Then, I remember that I feed my baby quinoa on a regular basis.

(You should have seen it when I tried to explain what it was to my mother.  She kept going, Kinney?  Quinna?  Finally I had to tell her to remember Joaquin Phoenix but backwards.)

(Some might even call me a “Quinoa Mom” – horrors)

And I mix spinach into her sweet potato so my fruit-lover will get some much-needed vegetables as well.  And I buy those overpriced organic pouches so she’ll eat SOMETHING nutritious on a day when all she wants is cheese in 1/2 inch squares only.  And, I don’t keep juice in the house.   And over my dead body will she have soda.

I think my downfall is comparing myself to those gluten-free-paleo-vegan-vegetarian-GMO free mothers who don’t let a drop of sugar pass into their kids’ sacred bodies.  But that’s kind of redonk, because a.  I’m never going to be that kind of mother and b.  I don’t, personally, think that’s healthy.  Do I think kids should snack on Happy Meals regularly?  No way.  But do I think they should enjoy the occasional bowl of ice cream that you can get messy in and smash all over your face?  Absolutely.  That’s part of being a kid.

And lastly, I try to remember the work I did on myself that brought me to the place where I don’t attach moral value to food, and the valuable lesson I will pass on to her.

So, I think I’m doing ok.  In spite of the neuroticism.

Aya De Leon

Recently, my friend Liz sent me the link to this stunning blog entry.  In it, the fabulous Ms. Aya De Leon wittily takes on the media and its inability to make her feel her body is inferior.

Read and enjoy!

Screw the Easter Bonnet…

gender stereotypes start young...
gender stereotypes start young…

“What is she wearing?”

I was asked that question 35 times the week before Easter.  It was as if my child was going to a debutante ball.  I tried to shrug off vague annoyance and proceeded to judge myself for having that vaguely uneasy feeling.  But after judging myself as a “think-too-much Mom”, (Yes, I have been told that, even though I was under the impression it is 2013) I snapped upright and paid full attention to that feeling.  I was annoyed, because –

Girls are supposed to be pretty and feminine and all decked out for everyone else’s enjoyment.  Raiiight??

Perhaps boys’ mothers got asked as much; I don’t know because I haven’t had the chance to ask my mama friends yet.  But I have an inkling that the pressure is on the girls, yet again, to step up to the plate and look pretty.  The fashion industry snaps us up at birth by making girls’ clothing more fun.  I’ve heard a million times from mama friends in hushed tones, “I love putting him in this suit, but it’s much more fun to look in the girls section.  You have so much more.”

Can I please put my daughter in ripped jeans and a wife beater next year?  Please?

OK, I’ll calm the feminist rebel in me for a second.  Do I love dressing my daughter up?  Of course.  Is the baby girls’ clothing department aesthetically pleasing?  Hell yes.  But does your happiness and satisfaction lay in my daughter’s appearance?  No it doesn’t.  And my daughter and I also don’t want your projections of what a little girl should act or be like.

And even though I try to shield myself from the judgment, I then feel like I have to wipe off every frickin crumb off my daughter’s face and straighten out every hair from her ponytail.  Aaaaand, the funny thing is, I don’t, because a kid’s job is be messy and ruin her clothes and fall sometimes.

And the bonnet!  The f^%&ing Easter bonnet.  I had a million frickin comments from people because she wasn’t wearing one.  OK.  If they only knew putting (and keeping) a hat on my kid is like trying to write with a gummy worm.  Or something.  And I’m not going to put my kid in something she hates just for appearances.

I’m not saying change tradition and stop parading kids around in their Sunday best once a year.  I’m just saying, be aware.  Body image and gender stereotyping stuff starts YOUNG.  And it’s not me “thinking too much.”

(Image provided by zulily)

I Never Thought I’d Say This, But Lay Off Kim Kardashian.

Any of you who know me understand that I can’t stand celebrities like the Kardashians.  I don’t touch reality TV with a 10 foot pole, and basically think it’s the breakdown of American society.  So I paid little attention when she became pregnant.  I paid a little more attention when I found out they are naming the baby “North”, (read:  full name is North West.  Want to commit heinous crimes.)  and I paid a LOT more attention when photos like this surfaced:

0131-kim-kardashian-akmgsi-3

 

…And of course, critique ensued.  “She’s bingeing on cake, pasta and cereal!”  “She looks fat!”  BLAH BLAH BLAH.

Whoop de ding.  Another female on this planet is pregnant, and she’s gaining weight.  NO.  WAY.

The joke’s on you, you dumbass media.  You’re busy being all sick and gossipy, and Kim probably doesn’t give two sh*$s because she has every maternity designer and personal trainer at her fingertips.  And we don’t give two sh%$s because we’ve gotten pregnant too.

Just lay off.  Pregnancy is not a story anymore.  A million women have gained weight and pushed babies out.  Go find something more interesting to report on.  I hear there’s a small situation in North Korea going on right now.

(Image provided by tmz)

Pregnancy and Body Image: Some Surprises

I’ll never forget the way I felt when I saw the “Yes” on the pregnancy test screen. First there was disbelief, then panic, then later, after crying in a dazed state to my best friend and mother, joy. I had anticipated this for a long time; I had ALWAYS wanted to be a mother. But I anticipated this with dread and happiness simultaneously. Happiness, because I knew I would (minus the learning curve) be a great mother, and dread, because I didn’t know how I’d react to the weight gain, being in eating disorder recovery.

I seemed to worry less about my weight during the pregnancy. I think (and most doctors would shudder at this) I looked on it as the one time I could eat whatever I want and it wouldn’t matter. It was such an escape from my ED, in a sense. Society was cool with me getting bigger. I DID have to stop myself from calculating possible weight gain in my head, however (“If I’ve gained a pound a week then I’ll be X amount of pounds by nine months…AHHH!”) I was proud of myself though; I faced the numbers on the scale every couple of weeks and for the most part, left them at the OBGYN office. I didn’t hold back on eating.

28 Weeks
28 Weeks

But I worried incessantly about how quick my body would bounce back after. How long would it take to lose X amount of weight? Was I screwing myself by now by not curtailing what I ate? As soon as I gave birth, I looked down at my confused, tired stomach and wondered if it would ever change from it’s current war-torn state.

Still in shock...
Still in shock…

And I proceeded to have the strangest experience.  The weight dropped off like NOTHING.  I know, I know, you can call me a bitch if you want, but it was like a giant F%#$ you to my eating disorder.  I had been obsessing about how I would lose weight, and my body ended up taking care of for me. This began my admiration for the power of the human body.

I marveled at how I simply produced milk for my daughter.  I was astounded by the healing powers of my body when I, six weeks later, was able to run a mile after, well….let’s just say: there were some blood loss issues.  And I was impressed again, when my body truly resumed its pre-pregnancy form post-breastfeeding.   I have a trainer acquaintance who swears up and down that weight loss or gain is all hormone-related; I’m beginning to believe this.  Hormones, in my opinion, are NUTS!  (I’m sure my significant other, John, would attest to that.  Notice that I’m not talking about the emotional piece of my pregnancy.  That’s another book for another time.  Ahem.)

Bottom line…I feel sexier now that I had a child.  Even if I don’t look stereotypically sexier.  Before you think I’m a total Pollyanna, you should know it’s not 80% of the day, when I’m in a shirt that’s been thrown-up on (holy acid reflux, my Fiona had) or my hair looks like Mom hair or when I’m wearing flannels next to John.  It’s moments when I’m walking down the street to my job, and I realize, “I gave birth, goddamnit!  And I’m still here!”  Seriously, does anyone else take pride in that?  I sure as hell do.

goofball.
goofball.

I think the other piece of it the lack of appreciation I had for my body pre-pregnancy.  I just didn’t know what I had.  This amazing, regenerating, life-giving machine that was capable of so much strength.  But because I believed that it was just to be looked at…I hid it.

I don’t have perfect body image.  No way.  I have this little dimpled section of skin above my belly button that is a leftover physical mark of pregnancy.  Do I wish it was there?  Of course not.  But I’m pretty damn amazed that I was able to push a baby out.  I’m…proud of myself.  I’m proud of my body.  And after 14 years of criticizing my body, I’m pleasantly surprised at that.

I know this isn’t everyone’s experience.  I’ve talked to friends who struggle with body image after giving birth.  (I’m convinced whether you gain or lose weight during or after pregnancy is one big genetic, hormonal crapshoot.)   I just wish for all of them that they can feel empowered after what they did.  Cause I “still got it”, and so do you.

Like Mother, Unlike Daughter

My daughter was born at 5 lbs, 13 oz.  She was little and we didn’t expect it, as both my partner and I had been average-to-above-average weight as babies.  She was so little newborn clothes hung off of her until she was about 1 month old.  She was gorgeous, but I did worry about her size at the time.  Someone that small seemed even more vulnerable.

So I fed her every three hours, sometimes every two hours, and on really difficult days, every hour.  I myself started to shed weight quickly, so quickly in fact I fit into jeans I had when I was using eating disordered behaviors.  I thought I had a thyroid problem, as I ate nonstop and gained nothing.  I recently was informed by my PCP that it was probably the 700-1000 extra calories I was using up to feed my daughter daily.  Whatever it was, it messed with my mind.

Immediately I started to get the external validation.  “You look amazing!  How did you do it?  You seriously had a baby one week ago?  You look better now that you’re a mother!”  (Everything short of, hey, you’re a bitch.)  I know that these comments were well-meaning and honestly, they felt great and got me through work days when I had no sleep the night before.  But my old thoughts began to creep in.  “Once you stop breastfeeding, you’ll be invisible and worthless again…”  And the voice has gotten louder now that I’ve gained a much-needed 10 pounds.  It’s gotten louder, but it hasn’t won.  I really don’t think it ever will again.

(People are *obsessed* with appearance.  I just had to get that out.  Never has been more evident.)

Anyway, flash forward to my daughter’s 4 month check up.  Looking at her that day, you would never have guessed it was the same baby.  Round cheeks replace an angular face.  Beautiful plump legs instead of her tiny “chicken legs” we joked about when she was born.  She had no problem eating and gaining weight.  It was so freeing to see an unbridled appetite.

“You can stop worrying about helping her to gain weight now.”  My daughter’s pediatrician delivered this statement with a wary tone and a furrowed brow after her weigh-in.  “In fact, she has a little belly.”

I am assuming he meant the second part in a cutesy way, but a part of me thinks he was worried.

I know, I know, obesity is an epidemic, a serious one, and that’s probably what he’s worried about.  But don’t you all get it??  It’s the hyperfocus on it that makes the problem worse.  If you are repeatedly on a kid about losing weight and shaming him with merely a tone, he’s going to emotionally eat more.  If you tell a kid, “Don’t eat donuts!”  The kid is going to eat donuts.  If you introduce a variety of foods to your child, and teach him to respect his appetite, his weight will balance out where it’s supposed to after puberty.  Like mine would have, if I didn’t intercept it with anorexia.  Both my partner and I were overweight kids who grew up to be slim teenagers.

I just didn’t think the obsession started at 4 months old.

Have you all noticed that the more media focuses on the obesity epidemic, the worse it becomes?  Back in the dark ages, when people ate meat and potatoes, how big was the obesity epidemic then?  Yes, money and lots of other things play into it, but I sincerely believe mind obsession (especially for people with addictive personalities) plays a huge part in it.  And it’s no coinki-dink that substance abuse is on the rise either.  We live in an empty society today.

Babies aren’t supposed to be perfect.  Rather, they are perfect because they’re chubby and loud and have big tempers and listen to their cues better than us adults could ever dream of doing.  If you respond to their cues, even if the cue is a big appetite, they will grow up to be happy and healthy, physically and emotionally.  If you don’t, they will fear their appetite, their voice, and their presence.  And you all know that’s the last thing I want for my child.

Poor doctor, he doesn’t know what he ran into.