Mother’s Day + Memories + Mirrors

With Mother’s Day quickly approaching, I’ve been looking back on the road that brought me to motherhood. It’s an interesting crossroad – not just for young or new mothers, but for mothers at any station in the journey – to look at how you’ve changed inside and out since becoming a mom. In a piece originally for xoJane, I wrote about reconciling the person I saw in the mirror with the woman I was inside and who society told me I should be. Below I share my perspective on the process and I look forward to hearing about how motherhood has changed the relationship you have with yourself and your body!

Lately, the media is in a tizzy over mothers and their bodies. From the Eva Mendes “Sweatpants-Gate” to Kelly Clarkson’s ongoing encounters with fat-shamers, our nation is seemingly obsessed with celebrities’ post-baby bodies. We hate and envy them when they’re impossibly fit and we mock and humiliate them when they’re not. Celebs like Kim Kardashian, Christina Aguilera, Pink, Kerry Washington, Mila Kunis, and even Princess Kate look ridiculously toned and thin on magazine covers with tips on how you, too, can be just like them. God forbid your body show any sign of having actually carried a child.

Christina Aguilera

Stop giving me tips I didn’t ask for, Magazine!

 

As a mother myself, I feel like I’m constantly barraged by images and articles that draw a clear line in the sand. You can either be a woman or be a mother. You can’t be both. Whether I’m in the check-out line at the grocery store or scrolling through my newsfeed at home, I’m painfully aware of the separation. It’s either Cosmo or Parenting, there’s seemingly no middle ground. Why can’t I read about the latest beauty hacks while simultaneously wiping tiny, sticky fingerprints of the screen?

Let’s be honest, sometimes motherhood isn’t glamorous. Sometimes my hair stays in a messy bun for three days in a row. Let’s be even more honest. Sometimes I don’t like to look at myself in a full-length mirror. You see, I have a chronic illness that causes my connective tissue to be stretchy. That means that when my skin was pushed to its limit during pregnancy, it didn’t and most likely won’t ever go back to what it used to be. I’m not going to lie and say some cheesy line about how motherhood is magical and babies are miracles and I love my body. I still struggle with body image issues and feel sharp pangs of bitter jealousy when I see young women on the beach without so much as a single dimple of cellulite or even a tiny stretch mark.

Motherhood isn't always cute

Motherhood isn’t always cute

I’m told by my fellow mommy friends that I need to just give up on the idea of being the same woman I was before I had a child. Look, I’ve seen Frozen a million times; I do not need to be told to just, “let it go.” Why are other women so content to say goodbye to that part of themselves? It may not be a popular opinion, but I’m going to say it: There’s no such thing as a pre or post-baby body. There is just your body. You don’t need to forget about pre-baby you because pre-baby you is you! You may wear many hats as a mother – caregiver, nurse, provider, etc. – but you are still the same woman just with a little more experience.

After going through a high-risk pregnancy, I had a real wander-in-the-desert crisis of identity. On the inside I was still the same nerdy, pop-culture junkie with a loud laugh and too many opinions. The outside was a different story, though. I couldn’t reconcile the two for what seemed like an eternity. I felt like my skin-deep complaints were somehow betraying all the feminists who came before me and fought so hard to not be judged on looks alone. At a time when I was supposed to be feeling like a mighty goddess with the power of creating life, I was struggling to even identify as feminine. The change in perception came when I began thinking about the example I would be setting for my son as he grew. I realized I needed to be the one to teach him that women are neither defined by their body nor their ability to reproduce.

You tell 'em, Kate!

You tell ’em, Kate!

I think we should a take cue from moms like Kate Winslet, Jennifer Garner, Kristen Bell, and Drew Barrymore and make our own narrative about the female body. Rather than labeling it and dividing it, we need to tell a complete story. My story involves surviving a high-risk pregnancy only to relearn how to trust my own body again through the eyes of my baby boy. Your story may be and probably is different, and that’s fine, too. I’m full of my own flaws, but at least I am full.

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Get Healthy and Start Complaining!

Just like a pregnant belly, we’re growing and expanding! Recently, The Huffington Post reached out and offered the opportunity to publish pieces from yours truly! This blog is still my baby (pun intended) but I’m so excited to be able to reach more people through this platform.

Not all mothers have a chronic illness and not all women are mothers. But I’ve found all women can use a little encouragement from time to time and need to be told that every beautiful mess they create just makes their life story a little more full.

So without further ado, click on over to HuffPo Parents and see why venting may just be the healthiest thing you can do for yourself!

Why It’s OK to Complain

Harmony at Home

Do You Have A Love/Hate Relationship With Swimsuit Season?

Beach weather is just around the corner and you know what that means, right? Swimsuits. If you’re like me, you love to spend time with your little one splashing around in the pool, but dread facing the mirror or (worse) looking at yourself in photos. One-piece, bikini, or full cover-up, we still have to deal with what our bodies our like now that they’ve popped out a tiny human.

So I’m super excited that Ten to Twenty is featuring my post on the topic of post-baby body issues! I love learning from the other mothers on their site about everything from yummy recipes to honest yet humorous personal essays. I can only hope to do half as well as my fellow mom bloggers! Go on over and check it out and let me know how you’re feeling about the upcoming swimsuit season!

http://tentotwenty.com/goodbye-and-hello-a-tummy-timeline/

5 Things Never To Say To A Chronically Ill Parent

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just write a letter to the world, expressing everything we’re too polite to say, and that could just be the end of all our awkward encounters? Well a gal can dream, right? Yet things aren’t usually so simple in real life. Actually, things tend to get quite messy when you’re a parent with a chronic illness (or two, if you’re like me). We chronically ill folks have years of experience dealing with unknowingly rude comments. But something changes when you become a parent. All of a sudden the harmless jokes and insensitive remarks hit us harder and deeper because we are already painfully aware of our limitations and what we can and can’t do with our children. So to all the well-meaning friends and family, here’s a list of the top five things you should probably not say to a parent with a chronic illness:

“But You Look Fine!”

Unless you want to receive a death stare that could burn a hold through even the thickest slab of marble, keep this one to yourself. While you may mean this as a compliment, saying that they look good, it actually invalidates them. You’re basically implying that because they don’t physically look sick that they must be fine. For most people with a chronic illness, this is usually far from the truth.

How I feel when you tell me I don't look sick

How I feel when you tell me I don’t look sick

“It Could Be Worse.”

Sure it could be worse. A meteor could crash through the roof while we’re talking. Wait, no, maybe that’s a good thing. Regardless of how you “meant it,” this one again comes off as rude and minimize the chronically ill person’s situation. A good rule of thumb is to put yourself in their shoes. If you just told someone about a bad or difficult experience and that person responded with, “It could be worse,” wouldn’t you feel hurt by that?

It could be worse; I could be on Wipeout

It could be worse; I could be on Wipeout

“Do You Ever Regret/Wish…?”

Sadly this is something that has been said to me more times than I can count – which is crazy when you consider that one time is too many. Even if you genuinely think that not having a child would make things easier for this person, don’t say it. Sure, if I’m being embarrassingly honest, there are times when I daydream that I’m on an island somewhere, relaxing pain-free, with an unlimited lives on Candy Crush. But I don’t for a second wish I wasn’t a parent. Although not being vaguely sticky 24/7 would be nice.

These are real questions, people

These are real questions, people

“Have You Tried…?”

Yes. Whatever it is you’re about to name, yes. We’ve tried it and a hundred other things and nothing has worked. Whether it’s trying to find an easier way to be physically active with our kids or endless amounts of Google searches for cures to whatever ails us, chances are we’ve been there and done that. While you may be trying to help us brainstorm the perfect solution, here’s a little something that may blow your mind: even healthy, average parents with healthy, average children run into challenges with no clear, easy solution.

Even the best parents have cake-related inuries

Even the best parents have cake-related inuries

“What Can I Do To Help?”

Actually, just kidding, this would be amazing! You may think we’re invincible superheroes who can do it all, but that’s just a front we put on because if we didn’t we might not want to get out of bed. So even if you think that offering help could be demeaning or intrusive, please do it anyways. And to all the people out there who can see through our hard exteriors, thank you. Thank you for listening and thank you for supporting us.

cas thank you