August 16, 2013

Mind and Body Update

It's so hard to believe that I'm quickly approaching the end of my son's seventh week of life (it's still so beautiful and strange to say "my son") and even more quickly approaching his two month birthday.  I would say that the time has flown, but it really hasn't.  If anything, it almost seems like it's been longer than just seven weeks and has he so quickly gone from this:

to THIS:

Real men love their pink chairs!

so quickly?!  He's already outgrown newborn diapers and newborn clothing, and we had to take the newborn insert out of his carseat because he was too big for it.  I won't pretend like this doesn't make my eyes fill up a little bit, but I look forward to each new day as he looks a little bit different and shows a little bit more of his personality!

But anyway, this blog post was going to be about me and how I'm doing!

I'm happy to say that I am feeling so much better.  Physically and mentally.  Do I still have hard days? Of course.  Sometimes I feel like two hard days' worth of emotions and feelings are crammed into one really crappy hour at work when I'm simultaneously a) overwhelmed with all that's going on at work, b) missing my kid something fierce, and c) somehow back in the Deep Dark Feeding Guilt area of my mind.  But those crappy times are getting easier to navigate and shorter in length as I find ways to acclimate to what is my New Normal.

Someone asked me recently if I miss being pregnant, or if I missed having Z inside my belly.  I don't miss the latter, really, because (as I've mentioned many times here on the blog), I never really felt as connected to him as I do now.  I think a lot of that has to do with us not finding out if he was a boy or a girl beforehand, but also with it being my first experience with pregnancy.  However, sometimes I do miss actually being pregnant.  Not those last few weeks of pregnant, but the middle and later parts when I felt like I was the cute pregnant girl everyone would smile at walking by.  Or how much I really did love how my pregnant belly looked (still so, so not taking for granted the fact that I managed to avoid stretch marks).  I also miss not being self-conscious of the extra flabby belly around my midsection...not feeling like I had to "suck it in" for 9 months was kind of awesome.

I'm very happy with how my body has bounced back after having Z, though, and I don't take that for granted. 

40wks pregnant (L) vs. 5wks postpartum (R)

I feel like maybe God is giving me a little bit of a break on that, after all I've gone through, physically, after my delivery.  Don't get me wrong; I'd happily carry around an extra 15-20lbs or still look a little pregnant in order to have had a better breastfeeding experience.  But I so badly needed to feel myself again, and this area of my life is helping. I got an extreme amount of joy in unpacking all of my favorite sundresses and washing them to wear again.  It's like I've got a whole new wardrobe all over again!

However, I'm still struggling with "feeling like myself," when the very definition of who I am has so drastically changed!  I'll never be the old Mandy again, because I'll never have NOT had Z again.  This experience changes a woman irrevocably and, while she is still the same person, she's...not.  It's really very hard to explain.  So I won't try.  Not right now, anyway.  Maybe on the next Mind & Body update.

I also miss feeling him kick inside me.  That really was a tremendous feeling.  I just recently discovered that another friend is about 17wks pregnant and, as she was describing feeling her baby move, I suddenly felt a bit envious of that! There really was nothing like that feeling.  Last night, as Michael and I were drowsily chatting as we were in bed, I suddenly said "Whoa!"  I felt very distinct phantom kicks in my stomach! I don't know what it actually was or, if they were phantom kicks, what causes them, but in that moment I remembered what it felt like to have his tiny, growing body kicking away in there.  It made me smile.

All of the physical issues caused by the Nursing Saga are healing very well, too.  I was actually able to sleep on my stomach the other night (and it. was. glorious.) because I was finally healed enough for it to be comfortable.  I saw the surgeon yesterday for what was probably (and hopefully) my last follow-up appointment and, for some reason, I felt sad about it being my last appointment. I actually got emotional when I was thanking him and the nurse for everything they've done. It's strange to say that, with all I've been through, but somehow seeing the hospital as I drive past it on the highway or visiting the surgeon's office for a follow-up and, I'm sure, next week when I go to my postpartum checkup with Dr. V, just ties up all the loose ends of the pregnancy and the birth, and means it's really over.  It probably sounds strange to say I'm sad about that.  It probably sounds even more strange to hear me say that I feel envious of the women who are having babies every time I drive past the hospital. I don't know how to explain it, really.  It just was such a huge, all-consuming part of my life for the better part of a year it's over. 

In all honesty, I'll also miss the doctors and their nurses.  I really loved going every month (then two weeks, then week...) to those appointments and learning about my changing body and developing baby, and asking questions based on what I'd read that month or researched that week.  It was kind of fun, and I think it speaks volumes about the medical professionals I worked with that I will genuinely miss seeing them with any regularity.  

Right now in this "adapting" stage of our new life, I'm finding that my biggest struggle is living in the moment and enjoying that moment or that day for exactly what it is.  I find that I'll either be sad about the past (still feeling acute disappointment about not nursing, looking at Z's newborn photos, packing up his teeny tiny clothes that I'm amazed ever even fit him) or I'll be worried or stressed about the future (holding him and fighting back tears already knowing that some day he won't want me to do that anymore).

I am trying to take all of this to God much more often than I have been.  I pray that God will allow me to forgive myself when I am angry about breastfeeding, and I pray that God will keep me in this moment right now when my son is asleep on my chest and making sucking motions with his mouth and sighing in his sleep.  I pray out loud while I stare at my son and ask God to guide Michael and I in raising him, and I pray that he'll be happy and kind and loving and sweet and inquisitive and compassionate...and that keeps me in that moment just a little longer. And when that happens, my brain quiets down enough to not worry so much about the past or the future.  I just am.  We just are.

I've discussed a lot of this with my husband, of course, and he just wants to see me less inside my own head, I think.  He tells me all the time, "I'm so proud of you," or "You're doing so great, Mommy," and I love that.  He knows what I need to hear when I need to hear it the most. 

Other moms (new moms of littles as well as moms with kids much older) have also been my saving grace, lately.  They understand like nobody else will -- especially recent new moms.  It's fresh on their minds or they're even currently going through the same things I am (shout out to the June 2013 mamas, for sure!), which makes it so much easier to talk about the ups and downs of these first weeks and months. On the other hand, it's also necessary for me to spend time talking to friends about things other than baby Z -- work, theatre, etc.  It reminds me that I'm not wholly defined by this child's birth or by being a mother; he's just altered the definition of who I am. The whole definition of me, once I figure it out, will be greater than the sum of its parts. 

I was emailing a lot of this stuff to my friend Kathy while simultaneously writing this blog, and she just really hit me with an arrow of emotion to the heart with this:

I have no idea what kind of parent I am. I only know that I'm pretty good at it and I love it. And my child is intensely happy and is turning into a spirited, kind, hilarious little person. That's my benchmark. I'm going to be me. This me is going to do theatre again someday. This me is going to get a new house sometime in the next year. This me is going to screw it all up, and cry and feel bad at times. This me is going to be profoundly joyful. This me is going to be frustrated. This me is going to feed my child fresh fruits and veggies and cheese as well as microwaved chicken nuggets and an ocean of Goldfish. This me is going to sing every single day, to an audience of one (or three if you count [my husband] and the cats).  This me is going to do great things. [My son] will be one of those things. 
Eventually, you will be excited to meet the new you. I know I am, because I can kind of see the woman you're becoming and I'm kinda crazy about her.

You know? I kinda like her, too.

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