When my daughter, now 4, was an infant, I thought having a baby was the hardest thing in the whole entire world. It was my Everest. Everything about it was hard. The nonstop crying, the constant breastfeeding, the being exhausted and hormonal all the time. There’s a pretty good reason why I thought that: because it is hard. And no matter how many people have said it before me, that doesn’t make it any less true. It is just so damn hard.
But the mistake I made was waiting, hoping, wishing for it to get easier. All this waiting I did for things to get easier and while the postpartum fog did lift at some point, as I slowly came out of the trenches and back into the world where actual human beings lived, it never really did. The demands of parenting never really got easier. They just shifted.
The name of this blog just came to me one day. I was thinking about the kind of work I wanted to write if I was going to continue writing at all, which has always been a question for me. Keep writing or throw in the towel? Get off the internet! Do something different altogether? One day, I might, but for now the words keep coming so I keep jotting them down. But “mediocre” just fit with what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to be perfect. I didn’t want to be mind-blowing. I just wanted to be relatable.
Little known fact. Most of you know I’m a yoga teacher because I talk about it frequently on this blog. But I’m also a certified personal trainer, specializing in women’s training. Personal training was a fulfilling occupation for me when I had time for it (which I haven’t had much of in the past 4 1/2 years of stay at home mom-ing).
But there also came a point when I started to question it, or the struggle for perfection. Rightly or wrongly, my favorite people to work out with were the moms that came and brought their babies or two kids (who relentlessly beat the crap out of each other or their Ipads made sounds the whole time and the workout was actually really, incredibly hard to concentrate on).
While those workouts were no doubt more difficult to get through, I felt I was serving a purpose. Helping these moms who weren’t striving to be perfect, just striving to get in some exercise, feel good about themselves and call it a day, had an immediate impact on both their lives and mine. Sometimes they had to leave early from sessions. Sometimes they sat in my living room and breastfed afterwards while I went upstairs and folded laundry. Sometimes my own baby woke in the middle and I had to wear her or rock her through half the session. But it was worth it to help these mothers have something for themselves. Nothing about it was perfect. But for these parents, it was necessary.
What was tough for me though was finding the motivation to help a 4 pack become a 6 pack. Or a size two drop to a zero. I never got why it was so important, maybe because truthfully, I don’t believe it is. I think we should strive to be healthy, functional and happy. And sure, it’s true that striving for perfection might make some happy, but I don’t think dedicating our whole lives to our physical bodies is a healthy way to achieve feeling content. We are so much more than just a body.
So it makes sense that I went in a different direction altogether. Teaching yoga is different from personal training in every way. Yoga does not/should not focus on perfection. But it does focus on finding joy and moving into and creating a better, more positive space in your life where you can exist. This is something that resonates with me much more greatly than turning 4 packs into 6 packs. And while yoga isn’t a bad way to get there, it certainly isn’t the focus. It’s about creating a better life, not a better body, and no, creating a better body does not always equal a better life. It does not. It does not. It does not.
So I thought about this all today on my run. My first wildly mediocre run since having my baby 8 weeks ago. I started off jogging and immediately felt the need to stop because my pelvic floor is just… gone. But I kept going, jogged down a main road with traffic whizzing by and tried not to worry about my huge nursing breasts sloshing from side to side. I stopped to walk over a very uphill bridge and then picked up again jogging for 6 or 7 minutes before finishing up with a brisk walk that felt good and cleansing and I had to stop myself from dancing to the Van Morrison Pandora station playing on my phone. It was so not perfect. In truth, it was probably pretty ugly. But it felt good. I didn’t feel the need to push myself to uncomfortable extremes. My postpartum body is already doing amazing things, keeping my beautiful child nourished and healthy.
This seemingly simple experience that started my day only confirmed what I already knew. That being mediocre is pretty awesome, too. That not needing or wanting perfection goes a long way and opens you up to so many more meaningful and amazing forms of happiness. Strive for greatness, yes, but don’t lose yourself in the meantime. Being you is totally amazing enough.
Five years ago, I came fumbling into the world of parenting. It wasn’t intentional and I thought about the possibility of not becoming one. In the end, my child altered my life for the better. If it hadn’t happened by accident, I never would’ve made the conscious choice to have kids.
Having children is restricting in so many ways. Early mornings take a lot of adjustment and I think the lack of sleep is still one of the most mind-numbingly hard things about it all.
But it’s more than that. It’s that feeling that you are no longer steering the ship of your own life because someone else is. And half the time you don’t know where you’re going or even if you’re going. You’re just along for the ride.
I’m currently trying to respond to emails and tweets in response to my last HuffPost piece asking me “how I overcame” my postpartum struggles. This is so hard to answer because it’s such a loaded question. It’s really more like a book than a tweet or even a blog post. But I’m pacing around the upstairs of my house wondering what to write back. I don’t want to leave these women hanging. I don’t get emailed for expert advice all that often, after all.
But I find myself wondering, did I? Overcome it, that is? The way I see it, postpartum changed me completely. It wasn’t exactly a phase that I one day awoke from. It was a momentous shift in my life and one that I could never turn back from. It was growing up, saying painful goodbyes, learning to look forward instead of back. Does that answer the question? Probably not.
It was accepting that there was hard, and really hard, and excruciating things in front of me that I couldn’t run away from. That there were things that a shot of tequila and a couple of margs couldn’t fix. That there was an entire life dependent on me because I created it and that that was okay. That I could handle it. That it wasn’t beyond me. It was embracing things I was born with but had to uncover and letting them unfold within me. It was knowing that I was the mother, no longer the child and that I was capable and strong. That it was okay if I was misunderstood, that I had bigger fish to fry. That my life was divided in two, that my heart now lived in two places.
I don’t know if these things are the right answer. I think you all might want something a bit more black and white or easily attainable, as I did. But there isn’t one answer. There is no cut and dry. It took me years to feel happy, good, centered, like I wasn’t failing all the time. But there are some things I couldn’t have done without.
Here are a few things that helped me that you can actually put your finger on.
Yoga. Not as much the physical practice but the learning to breathe, to let go, to be present (even in the rough moments because they are the ones that help us grow).
A supportive spouse. Sometimes I felt I was teaching my husband how to support me and at the same time learning how to support him. If your partner has no paternity leave (ugh) this is really hard because time together to figure out how to give each other breaks is crucial. It took years and my husband switching jobs to be closer to home and a lot of practice to figure this one out.
Realizing that every stage passes quickly and tomorrow the next stress will seem bigger, more important and likely it will be. Now that I have a four year old with more emotional struggles and awareness I find myself thinking, “oh things were so simple when I could pop her in the car and let her fall asleep.” I know they weren’t really so simple but the grass is always greener, eh?
Babywearing for bonding, yes, but also moments of peace.
Accepting and embracing my new normal.
Learning to say no, a lot. “No, I can’t go to dinner. No, you can’t hold the baby. No, we aren’t coming for a visit.” This is a lot harder for some of us than others. The most assertive mothers I know are by far the more content ones. I’m a work in progress.
Believing in yourself. Knowing that you aren’t screwing it all up, though every mother feels this way at some point. But it’s that insecurity that should really tell you how good of a mother you are because caring is the most important thing you can do.
Finding friends, acquaintances, blogs, books, anyone who understands what you’re going through because feeling alone is the worst part. The truth is you are so not alone. Every day mothers struggle. Every day mothers don’t know how to ask for help. Be brave and start the conversation.
Now I’ll ask you all the same questions. What were your postpartum struggles? And, who/what helped you? How did you move forward and what can you tell other mothers about this sacred time? I’d love to hear from you! There is so much more to be said and written…
Before I was a mom, I was convinced I’d be a cool one. I suppose I had big aspirations to not sweat the small stuff, wear cute outfits and be fun pretty much all of the time. But what I didn’t realize was that some of the small stuff is actually bigger than I thought when it comes to molding tiny humans. And some of the seemingly fun stuff is not all that fun. At this point in my parental journey, I don’t even know what it means to be a “cool mom,” and I’d certainly never attempt to try and be one. It seems far too… problematic. Though my priorities as a parent are constantly evolving as our family does, being laid-back or “cool” will likely never be near the top of my list.
Here are 20 reasons (to name a few) why I’m so not a cool mom:
1. I don’t do different dinners for picky eaters. You are eating what we are having or nothing at all. Really big breakfasts are always an option.
Let me begin by saying I don’t care what kind of birth anyone else in the whole wide world has. I don’t care if a woman plans for an epidural or ends up getting one when the pain is more than she believes she can take. I don’t care if she gets induced or plans her c-section months in advance. I don’t care if her birth experience is a series of interventions (as long as everyone comes out safe in the end). Her body, her prerogative. Right? Right.
I do however believe that the way we birth is a choice and in recent years that choice has been taken away from us in an often frightening and forceful way. But as long a woman’s choices are informed and not being forced upon her then it’s really no one’s business but her own what kind of birth she has. Hopefully, that much we can agree on.
But with that being said, people these days, specifically women, really don’t seem to like the idea of unmedicated or “natural” birth as we’ve come to call it. Mention you are planning one and you will no doubt be met with eyerolls and “what if”s and “what are you trying to prove”s? Or simply “why?” Or even the forceful “why in God’s name would you ever want to experience that kind of pain!? Are you some kind of martyr?”
Having an unmedicated birth can be about a lot more than just trying to prove to the world how strong you are. You grew a human so we already know that anyway. There are all kinds of reasons that birth remains important to many women and we shouldn’t feel badly about that. Of all the things we are taught to feel badly about as women, this really, really should not be one of them.
Here are ten reasons why I’m planning a natural birth that have nothing to do with something to prove.
1. Because I want to feel my baby entering the world. Yes, I want to feel it and not because I’m a martyr but because, well, how is that not an incredible thing to feel? It’s a once or twice or maybe three times in a lifetime chance and as long as nature intends, I’m going to take it.
2. Because having a baby is nothing like going to the dentist. It’s not the same as getting a root-canal without being numb (as I’ve heard many argue). It’s just not because where are the perks to that!? I pretty much avoid going to the dentist (when I can) but birth on the other hand, I’m looking forward to. And I’ve done it once before and it basically sucked altogether so that’s saying something.
3. Because I believe the experience has value and is one that every woman should get the opportunity to experience (if she wants it). I believe the experience can be life-changing and I’m a sucker for feeling (and writing about) the real, painfully beautiful parts of life.
4. Pure curiosity. I don’t know about anyone else but unmedicated birth is a huge point of curiosity in my life. It’s something women and mammals have done for centuries and yet it evaded me once, multiplying my intrigue by about a million.
5. Because needles in my spine and other interventions take longer to heal from, both physically and emotionally. The battle scars from my first birth were all from the interventions that occurred, not from the natural course of things. Pain in my back where the epidural went in for about two years, an unnecessary episiotomy that took months to heal properly, not to mention feelings of distrust towards medical professionals who seem to undermine women’s choices (and sometimes health) for the sake of their own agenda.
6. To create the ultimate bonding experience with my child. To feel the oxytocin running through me, the hormone rush, the body’s natural response to childbirth. To not be numb to those things like I was once before. To have that “golden hour” with my offspring to begin our journey together.
7. Because at the heart of it, I’m not really afraid of birth. I have nerves about the pain of birth, yes but most of that comes from the lack of control I had during my first birth. I wasn’t scared before that and so I know that is where my fear comes from. When I really look deep down, I have far more confidence about birth than I do fear.
8. Because I was built for it. I can read all the books that Amazon has to offer, but when it comes down to it, my body knows so much more about birth than my brain and it always will. It has literally been preparing for it since before I was born. I don’t doubt what it can do when nature takes it’s course.
9. Because pain is beauty. I believe that sometimes we have to go through difficult things in life to reap the rewards.
10. Because it just feels right. In my head, in my heart and in my body (here’s hoping). They might not agree on much, but they’re all aligned on this one.
Motherhood comes with a ton of hardships like sleepless nights and diaper blow-outs. Fortunately, it also comes with some perks you might not have expected. Obviously, there’s the whole endless love part and hugs and cute baby onesies, but here are a few other benefits that are pretty sweet, too…
1. Tax refunds. Upon my first post-kid visit to TurboTax.com, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the universe (er, well, the government) wanted to monetarily acknowledge all the hard work I’d been doing in the baby maintenance department that year. I typed in my new addition and BAM- I just doubled my tax refund! Of course, it didn’t come close to covering L&D costs, diapers, or my many trips to the therapist (kidding, kind of), but I guess that’s a bone to pick with the insurance company. Yay for totally awesome tax refunds that make life with kids a wee bit more manageable!