Body Positivity In the Age of Instagram

I have moles, freckles, stretch marks and scars, they may not be pretty but THEY ARE ME.

When I was growing up my Mom was ALWAYS on some kind of diet. For as long as I can remember she never seemed to be happy with the way she looked. While my sister and I were pretty healthy children, constantly outside playing in the summer and riding bikes through the hills in our community, both of us developed a complex where we thought we were fat. Just the idea of those words coming out of my daughter’s mouth makes my heart break, but my Mom didn’t seem too fazed by this.

You might think that Mom could have done better at instilling us with self-esteem, and you are probably right. But I try not to blame her too much. If there is one thing that I know to be true, it is that all behavior is LEARNED. If my children see me constantly speaking negatively about myself, there is a much higher chance that they are going to pick up on it and start speaking negatively about themselves as well.

Have you ever been around a kid who watches a lot of one specific show? I would bet that more often than not, that child begins to adopt the way at least one of those characters talks. I have seen it first hand while babysitting my nieces and nephew. They pick up catch phrases, and most of the time, don’t even understand what it is they are saying.  The most important gift I feel like I can give to my children (besides being totally awesome like I am) is to end this cycle of negativity with me.

But Julia, how do you plan to do that? I am so happy that you asked, faithful reader. No matter how I feel about my body I will absolutely not discuss it in negative terms with my child around. My goal is to stop all negative self-talk completely, but baby steps. (I have 28 years of bad habits to break here) My mom was always discussing her diets, talking about how bad she looked in clothes, and most harmful, calling herself fat. She even kept her “fat picture” taped to the fridge as a deterrent for unhealthy snacking.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m just going to eat whatever I want 24/7, never do anything healthy and call that body positive. My goal is positive self-talk to achieve a positive body image. We only have one life and I don’t want to waste it hating the way I look. Of course I want my kid to be healthy, which means promoting healthy choices and making it fun, but if she wants to eat a spoonful of peanut butter or a handful of salami, hey, at least she’s eating.

Are there things about my body I don’t like? Absolutely? I was a healthy child, but as soon as I hit puberty, out came the stretch marks. It wasn’t because I was fat, it was genetics. I have moles, freckles, stretch marks and scars, they may not be pretty but THEY ARE ME. If my child is anything like me at all, these things will likely characterize her as well. The last thing I would want to do is make her feel ashamed of them.

In the age of Instagram, Youtube, Netflix and the general connected world I know it is going to be so much more difficult for me to protect my children from the world’s idea of what they are supposed to look like, or what is normal. Therefore, if I can take one tiny step by being a positive example in self-love that is what is important to me. If I want to wear a bikini in the summer, I’m not going to shy away because I have surgical scars from getting my gallbladder removed, or stretch marks from carrying my daughter for 9.5 months. I am proud of these marks, they are proof and reminders of my life experiences.

There was something about being pregnant that completely changed the way I thought about my body. I was no longer ashamed when I looked in the mirror and saw thighs that were bigger than I would have liked, and an overall “squishy” look that I seem to have. I was excited to slowly watch my body change. My hips became even wider than they were, and my stomach slowly grew big and round. It made me so proud that I was finally getting the chance to grow this tiny human. It was proof that I COULD do it, disproving the fear that I may never get to experience pregnancy for myself. It was a long, and not always easy 9.5 months. But when I look back on it now, I feel like it went by so quickly and I miss those days so much. 

There are still days when I catch a glimpse of my body and cringe, the bad thoughts come into my head. “How can my husband even stand to look at, or even touch me? I look horrible!” Then I take a breath and remind myself, “Hey, you made a freaking baby! You had surgery 3 months ago! Scars and stretch marks fade!”

As stupid as it sounds, I have some advice for every person reading this. Look at yourself in a mirror, find every single thing that you don’t like about yourself. Then, look yourself straight in the eyes and tell yourself, “I am beautiful the way that I am. My flaws make me who I am. I am perfectly unique, and there is nobody in the world like me.” It’s a baby step; but there is always the chance that one day, you may start to believe it.

 

Breastfeeding… And why it sucks (no pun intended)

Doctors never had to tell me how important breast milk is to a growing baby… I thought I was prepared, oh how incredibly wrong I was.

You always hear “Breast is Best” and they aren’t talking about chicken. From the second you conceive you will most likely be asked “Are you planning to breastfeed?” If you say no, they will give you a million reasons why you should at least try.

Now, I’m not going to pretend like I wasn’t planning to exclusively breastfeed for AT LEAST a year, because I absolutely was. Doctors never had to tell me how important breast milk is to a growing baby. It provides all of the nutrients the baby could need (except vitamin D apparently) and it even provides your own antibodies to your baby to protect them against illness (how cool is that?). I even signed up for a breastfeeding class provided by my hospital and watched Youtube videos to learn how to use my breast pump and build the best supply possible for my baby. I thought I was prepared, oh how incredibly wrong I was.

They tell you that breastfeeding is uncomfortable when you are first starting until you get used to it. That is such an understatement. Breastfeeding absolutely SUCKS, up until your nipples are so desensitized you can barely feel anything anymore. Luckily my nipples never bled (which totally happens, I know people it has happened to) but they did become cracked and unbearable to touch. There were nights that my nipples were so sore that I was up crying as my baby ate because it just hurt so bad and I knew that I would be doing it over and over and over again all night long. It took about 3 months before I was completely comfortable with breastfeeding and it was a LONG 3 months.

They also tell you that breastfeeding is a supply and demand venture. The more you breastfeed the more milk you will make. This led me to an obsession for at least the first month. I wanted to be able to make the most milk possible for my daughter. That meant not only breastfeeding, but pumping. My entire day revolved around feeding and pumping, pumping and feeding. I would feed my daughter on one side and pump on the other, and then switch sides.

You may be thinking to yourself “I bet you had such a great supply of milk. I wish I could see your freezer stash, full of milk.” That is what I was expecting to have. A freezer supply full of milk so that I would be able to keep feeding my daughter breast milk long after we finished nursing. Well, I currently have 3 bags (15 oz) of frozen milk in my freezer and that is it. I became so burned out from constantly having something attached to my breasts, and feeling like it wasn’t even making a difference that I rarely use my pump anymore, and when I do, it is because we are probably planning on going out somewhere and I want my daughter to have more than just formula (in case she won’t drink the formula). There were only 4 or 5 times that I can remember that I was ever able to pump more than a couple of ounces at a time and I would be pumping all day long in order for my husband to give our daughter a bottle at bed time. It was exhausting, and I hated it. So eventually we started supplementing with formula and it was such a relief. I didn’t have to worry about pumping enough for my husband to feed her, I was able to actually go to bed instead of staying up to pump. I was less stressed, and my baby was fed and full!

They told me that when your baby is full, they will unlatch and be happy. That’s totally true, UNLESS THEY LIKE TO NURSE FOR COMFORT! The only time my baby ever unlatched because she was full and happy was when we had both fallen asleep while nursing. She would stay latched to me all. day. long. if I would let her. Which meant that I was holding her constantly. She woke up and cried any time I would put her down during the day in the early weeks, which led to me having quite a few breakdowns when all I really wanted was 5 minutes to make and eat a sandwich, or go to the bathroom by myself. And forget taking a shower, that could only be done when my husband was home to take care of her for me.

We tried every pacifier we could find, but all she wanted was MY nipple, and it was completely draining (no pun intended). My daughter also had this really fun habit of not unlatching before pulling away from my nipple. I liked to call it the nipple ripper. There were multiple occasions where I had to check and make sure she hadn’t actually ripped my nipple off because it had hurt so badly. Either my nipples are completely dead now, or she’s gotten better, but it is not as bad as it used to be. She still comfort nurses (mostly when she wakes up at night) but I am ok with it now because she is also a little more independent throughout the day. She actually naps in her crib and not in my lap. She doesn’t cry during floor time and plays in her Exersaucer so that I can actually get things done.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love nursing my baby. I actually hope that we can make it to a full year. But I never would have been able to keep my sanity if we had done it exclusively. Sometimes supplementing is necessary, and that is ok. FED is best, whether it be breastfeeding, exclusively pumping, or formula as long as your baby is full, that is really what matters.

My Journey to Motherhood

How do I become a Mom, without my Mom here with me?

When my husband and I first started talking about expanding our little family, there was one question that kept springing to my mind. How do I become a Mom, without my Mom here with me?

It probably seems like a silly question to anyone who still had their mother around when they started their family. “You grew up with your Mom your whole life, of course you know how to do it.” But, I never thought to ask child rearing questions to my Mom while she was alive, we just talked about life. While I do have a Mother-In-Law that I could potentially ask questions, we just don’t have that close of a relationship, and it has really been my decision to keep her at arms length so that I never feel as though I am trying to replace the relationship that I lost when my Mom passed away 6 and a half years ago.

“You could always ask you Dad, he probably would know the answer,” you might think to yourself, and you are probably right. But how comfortable would you be talking to your father about lightning crotch? Or discussing your miscarriages when he doesn’t even know you were trying to have a baby. These are all things that I would have discussed with Mom at length, and if she were still around I may have discussed them with him as well. However, after her death our relationship suffered greatly and unfortunately, it has never fully recovered.

 

 

So that brings us back to my original question, how do I become a Mom, without my own? I had 3 years of trying to conceive and pregnancy to figure it out, and I still don’t have a clear answer. What I did do was watch. I watched all of the other parents around me, how did they parent their kids? I took mental notes of all the good, the bad, and the ugly moments.

Now let me say this, I try my hardest not to pass judgement on ANYONE else and their parenting, especially since becoming a Mom myself. No one wants to feel as if the world thinks they are doing it wrong. THERE IS NO WRONG WAY TO RAISE YOUR KIDS (unless you are abusing them, obviously) That being said, not everything works for everybody. I also took mental notes of the things I didn’t think we would do with our own children and notes of the things that seemed to work really well with other children. I also took note of the things that reminded me of how I was raised. I watched lots of parenting vlogs, I read other blogs, but much to my surprise not many of them seemed to talk about parenting without the presence of their own parents around. (Something I will probably discuss at least a few times here)

Now, here’s my main piece of advice for anyone else that may be asking themselves the same question. How do I become a Mom, without my own Mom around?  You just do it. (I know, completely not helpful) But here’s the thing, most of the questions you have about pregnancy, babies, what is or isn’t normal is usually available online. If not that’s what your doctor is there for. And when the time comes that you finally have that little human in your arms, you are overcome with so much love and absolutely nothing else matters in the entire world. As far as I know, no kid has ever come out back-talking or getting into trouble, so the whole parenting thing starts off very simple. Feeding, diapering, cleaning, and sleeping, those are the basics and everything else comes along gradually. As your baby grows, so do your own skills and instincts as a mother. Hang in there, and you will make it through.