Strong Is Beautiful

I grew up in a matriarchal extended family with a thick military heritage. As the able-bodied eldest sibling of a brother with involved special needs, I had a somewhat unique upbringing. There were rules and consequences, expectations and protocol, duties and obligations. Inner and physical strength were prized. Beauty and emotional expression were afterthoughts. To be strong, to be able to withstand and persevere, to be resilient and sturdy was paramount. To shoulder any burden and smile beneath the weight was ideal.

20170629_123159

I recently told my 5-year-old daughter that being a female member of the family means she is strong; stronger than many. I told her that feigning frailty or valuing femininity over strength is not ideal. “Sometimes you’ll need help. Sometimes you’ll cry. That’s ok. You can like feeling pretty. You can have your feelings. That doesn’t mean you should intentionally act or choose to be weak. You can do more than you think. You can handle more than you realize. You’re strong. Remember that. Being strong IS beautiful.”

20170629_123928

 

Today on the beach my nearly-30lb toddler nursed himself into a nap. So, I stood rocking his sleeping body for 30 minutes. His limbs limp and heavy, the ocean hush lulling him further into slumber, my back supporting him, my arms cradling him, my heart was full. My muscles strong.

I breathed in his sand-dusted hair, listened to his gentle snore, and felt his comforted weight. I was grateful. Grateful for this moment. Grateful for my upbringing. Grateful for my strength. Without it I would not have this effortless, loving moment. Without it I would lament physical strain instead of savoring the experience.

Because of my strength, I could soak in this memory. Because of my strength, I brimmed with love. Because of my strength I could be the mother I dreamed to be.

Small Victories: Sometimes We’re All Stupid

Sometimes we’re stupid. Sometimes we’re brilliant. Sometimes this is a victory in and of itself.

20170620_123259

You see this cup of coffee? It was hard won. After a week of shoddy sleep — thanks to a wakeful, nursing toddler — and a morning of wack-a-mole style kid meltdowns, I was running of fumes by noon. Mama. Needed. Coffee.

I put my toddler down for a nap while my older two played on the deck. Then, I began to ready the coffee maker. My sleep-deprived mind filled with all of the glorious possibilities ahead of me — the boundless energy and amplified patience, the miraculously well-behaved brood and angelic giggles — that this cup of coffee would provide.

First, I poured the grounds into the water tank. Damn! Next, while cleaning the machine, I turned the entire device upside down over the sink just to have all of the unsecured parts fall directly onto my bare feet. Ouch! Then, machine cleansed and grounds ready to be properly inserted, I fumbled the cup of coffee grounds and poured the entire mound of caffeination granules all over the kitchen counter. GAH! After extracting coffee grounds from underneath every counter-dwelling appliance, I carefully — carefully — prepared my cup of coffee. Taking excess caution not to mangle my own efforts this time.

I did it! I was not stupid.  (This time.)

I loaded the dishwasher, listening to the coffee drip into my mug, feeling quite accomplished in my remedial coffee brewing success. I collected my mug of sweet liquid energy and grinned. I sat down on the sofa to take a much-needed break, stretching my stumpy legs and bare feet out onto the cushions, and sinking back into the pillows. Then: “WAH!!!!”

My 4-year-old tried to close the deck door behind himself while holding the interior door handle. Yes, he closed the door on his own hand. Like mother like son.

Maybe tomorrow we’ll be smarter. But for now, I’ll take my luke-warm coffee as my participation award.

When Mommy is caffeinated, everyone wins. Small victories.

Better Than Therapy Yin Yoga: Boho Beautiful

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got stuff to let go. I woke up yesterday morning tired and tense, just aching for 15 more minutes to snooze. But something within me told me to get up and do my yoga. I knew I’d be grateful for my persistence, despite what my inner sloth said.

5:45am, I padded downstairs, brewed my green tea, and set out kids’ breakfasts. All the while, an internal negative churn brewed unmistakably beneath the surface positivity. The best way I can describe it is digestive upset — bubbling, squeaking, cramping, and impending doom — but of my emotions instead of my gut. I couldn’t pinpoint the precise cause though.

So, I headed outside to do my yoga. I unfurled my yoga mat on the deck and scrolled through my favorite yoga YouTube Channel, Boho Beautiful. For months I have been doing Boho Beautiful yoga and yoga workout videos at least twice a day (they range from 5-30 minutes in length, which is perfect for a busy mom with an ever-changing list of demands) to help me feel not just healthy and strong, but centered.

I scrolled through the videos in search of an appropriate selection for my morning practice. I clicked on the Boho Beautiful Yin Yoga video.

FB_IMG_1497374430425

The practice started as any other. Juliana, the instructor, coached me through breathing and reminded me to use this practice to release any negative manifestations. Any people, situations, or memories bringing me down were to be recalled, acknowledged, and released. Fair enough!

I figured I’d be feeling mom guilt or stress from eventual career uncertainty. Nope.

I folded myself into pigeon pose and just as Juliana cued me to pay attention to any emotions or thoughts that presented and to allow myself to experience and release them, I began crying. Ugly crying — snot pouring, shoulders pulsing, fat tears dripping into puddles on my yoga mat — as I laid in pigeon pose. A mental slideshow of my eldest’s first year flipped through at a rapid, heart-wrenching pace. This child we’d dreamed of, struggled for, thought we’d never have, then thought we’d lose just as soon as she’d arrived, was speeding through her beautiful childhood faster than I could capture memories.

My ultimate dream for my life had been fulfilled. What a precious blessing! But what now? To peak so young is a catch-22. Why can’t I slow down time??

I breathed out the negativity coursing through my glutes and thighs. I breathed in positivity.

Juliana instructed a position change. A back-lying quad stretch. As abruptly as the tearful siege began, it ended. I was calm, peaceful, positive. When we returned to the opposite leg pigeon pose, the tears returned. Juliana coached me through the emotional onslaught, knowingly providing acknowledgement and release direction.

Then we switched poses and Juliana told viewers to think about what makes us happy and grateful. A series of mental images from family beach trips, outings, and day-to-day mental snapshots poured through my mind. I was inundated with love and gratitude for my children and husband. The rush of positivity filled my inner fibers where the negativity once festered. I released.

I still felt raw throughout the day, but self-aware. Centered. Knowing with certainty why I was emotionally off kilter strengthened me. It allowed me to be kinder to myself because I understood myself.

The yoga was better than therapy.

 

This was in no way a sponsored blog post. I purely and simply wanted to share something positive I have encountered to help me lead a healthier, happier, more balanced life. In addition to the YouTube channel, Boho Beautiful has a webpage, blog, Facebook account, and Instagram feed. Visit and follow along if you desire.

Breastfeeding Belligerence

When you’re breastfeeding, you’re rife with hormones. Just overflowing. Your body is not your own, your personal space is not your own, your schedule is not your own, your wardrobe choices are not entirely your own, your bed may not even be your own. Heaven knows your toilet stall is not your own! This and so many scenarios can make a breastfeeding mom a tad… cantankerous.

IMG_20170118_161526_350

You know you are doing the best thing you can for your child. You may be struggling and pumping and supplementing and rubbing tinctures and sipping lactation teas and stirring voodoo milk-making magic, all to feed your child. You may have blebs and bleeding nipples; you may talk to your lactation consultant more than your own mother. You may suffer vasospasms but cry through it because you know it’s worth it. You may be overrun with milk and suffer clogs and mastitis. You may face unsupportive counterparts who dismiss your breastfeeding endeavor. You may be happily in the middle with just the right supply, perfect latch, and cheering support system. You may desperately want to nurse, but through no choice of your own, are forced to wean, supplement, or exclusively pump. No matter your nursing situation, you get crabby. You do. And that’s ok.

When a non-breastfeeding adult is sick, he or she gets extra rest, long showers, and can request extra personal space due to skin aches. When a breastfeeding mom gets sick, she gets none of this. Instead, her nursling may suckle for longer and more often due to supply dips. Of course this is partially priceless because: hellooooo antibodies! You are, in that sickly moment, your child’s best medicine and tailor-made defense against whatever bug plagues you. You are also exhausted, possibly nauseated, and every touch feels like a pummeling, so nourishing a human with your own ill body is a task only a fellow breastfeeder could truly understand. It is a true act of love and self-sacrifice. You shoot death-glares at your non-lactating spouse because… well, because.

It’s hot and humid and all you want is air-conditioning and a cool drink, but guess what your nursling wants? Boob. He wants to press his sweaty, chubby body up against your sweltering self and nurse. You cringe, anticipating the discomfort, but still pull your babe close, offer your breast, and feel the co-mingling sweat pool on your under-boob. You once were hot but now you are a furnace drenched in sweat that is not entirely your own. Visions of sixth grade bacteria slideshows dance in your heat-exhausted head. Still, you know your breastmilk is not just nourishing your little one but it provides better hydration than any sports drink. You are a saturated powerhouse! You’re still irritated though.

It’s quiet and genteel . You are in a conservative setting and your breastfeeding toddler — who will not wean — wants milkies NOW. There’s no time to run to the car or duck into some secluded corner. Your have two choices: nurse your toddler right there in public or face the milk-craving wrath of a boob-addicted tot. Either way you’re facing ridicule. So, might as well feed your child. You grab a seat and breastfeed, bolstering yourself with all of the courage-boosting mantras you can muster. If you are unflappable, if you are confident, haters will be silenced. You are a breastfeeding badass, a lactation warrior. You are standing up to ridiculous social mores for the benefit of your child. It still sucks and inner you feels vulnerable and wishes this wasn’t happening, but screw it! It is what it is. This is motherhood. Milk on milky mama! It’s ok to feel on edge.

You’re at work and need to pump. Someone — who has no children or is unfamiliar with breastfeeding body requirements — requests that you skip your pumping session to meet his or her business needs. If you push this session you know that, 1) you won’t have another pumping opportunity that day or at least not for hours, 2) you will leak and will be painfully engorged which could not just lead to milk duct clogs but mastitis, 3) you may not produce enough milk today to feed your child at daycare the next day, 4) you set a dangerous precedent that your medically necessary pumping sessions are negotiable. Explain that you have a legally-protected medical need to pump but, after you pump to feed your child, you would be happy to meet with him or her. You cringe having your colleague think about your breasts, shudder worrying about career fall-out, and loathe having to stand up for yourself, but you embolden yourself knowing no one would ask a diabetic to delay his or her insulin shot for a meeting, and your medical need should be equally honored. You’re anxious and frustrated, knowing full well that men don’t face such dilemmas.

You want to have adult time. You want to go away with friends, have freedom, feel momentarily human. But you’re breastfeeding. If your little one accepts a bottle, you can navigate this with careful planning. You can pack your pump, a cover, and a cooler. You can enjoy the fun then dip out to pump and rejoin the festivities. It’s not ideal or entirely relaxing, but it’s feasible. If your little one does not accept a bottle and/or your body doesn’t respond to the pump, you either delay such activities until the babe has been weaned, or bring your nursling with you. One option is depressing and one is exhausting. You know breastfeeding is more than worth this temporary inconvenience. You know this is but a blink of a moment in the journey of your life. You know you won’t breastfeed forever and may even miss it one day. But you’re still miffed.

You go shopping and find a few clothing options that wonderfully work with your postpartum physique. But there’s no boob access. You can either buy the items and hold onto them until after you wean — but will they fit you then? And you really wanted the morale boost of a new cute outfit. — or you keep looking. Either option is frustrating. It’s so minute in the grande scheme, and you know it, but it still irks you. It’s a little gut punch to your postpartum paunch.

You want to sleep in after a rough night’s sleep, but your little one just wants to nurse. And nurse and nurse and nurse. You just want to flop down on your stomach and sleep-drool on your pillow. Then you see your spouse, snoring away. Blissfully sleeping with nipples unencumbered. You fill with irrational frustration that seeps out of you in unglamorous, unflattering aggravation throughout the day. You know you’re in the wrong for being grumpy. You know your spouse cannot nurse your child for you. But you just wanted to sleep! It’s not fair. You’re feeling envious and burdened.

All of this is ok. It’s ok to love breastfeeding but hate it sometimes. It’s ok to love your spouse but envy his/her nipple freedom sometimes. It’s ok to feel burdened or frustrated or touched-out. It’s ok to feel like breastfeeding is the longest brief life phase. It’s ok. It doesn’t make you a bad mom. It doesn’t lessen your efforts.

Sure, you should try to harness your emotions and not lash out at others. Of course hormones aren’t a blanket excuse to act however you please. Yes, you shouldn’t be edgy towards non-breastfeeders because they don’t face your same trials; you know full well that they battle their own struggles.

Still, we’re human. Sometimes we falter. Sometimes our burdens overwhelm us and sully our good intentions. That’s natural. That’s normal. Breastfeeding is still worth it. You can do this. You’re still a good mom. Even if you are grumpy.

 

 

 

It’s All Impermanent

So often we get stuck in the minute trials of life that we forget that it’s all fleeting. We get buried in the deliverables and career paths, tantrums and to-do lists, routines and skirmishes, tantrums and developmental timelines, carpool and never-ending laundry that we lose perspective entirely.

Then, a moment strikes us back into reality. We realize the beauty of the moment — this very moment — and the speed with which time is racing. We pause amidst the surrounding churn and process the impermanence of it all.

Everything is temporary. The pain, the joy, the fun, the challenges, the frustrations, the worries, the celebrations, the sleepless stages, the adorable phases. All of it — good and bad, fretful and consoling — is fleeting.

We must remember that as we go about our days, toiling (simply for money or for personal aspiration) and/or raising our humans and growing ourselves. We must remind ourselves that no matter what pain or sadness, worry or frustration, anger or embarrassment we are feeling, it is not forever. It will end. We must too remember that the joyous, beautiful, precious, balanced times are not permanent. They too will end. So we must savor them. We will experience pain and comfort, mourning and elation, and that is natural. It is good. It is all good.

We must simply survive and savor, honoring the balance and minding the impermanence of life.

Moments It’s All Worth It

Every day contains moments of laughter, frustration, disbelief, relaxation, anxiety, disgust, and happiness. Some days contain more memorably good — or not-so-good — moments than others, but that’s life. Moments like this, though, make it all worth it.

IMG_1496437080920

It’s the quiet, unexpected moments that snatch your breath and make your eyes well. It’s the little things that spur you to press the mental “save” button with frenzied intensity, like an impatient elevator rider battering an elevator call button. As if you think the more you tell yourself, “Remember this! Remember THIS! REMEMBER THIS!” The more likely you will be to ensure the recollection is stored away safely in your mental files. And not have it instantaneously forgotten, like the fellow mom’s name you’ve re-asked too many times already to possibly question again without seeming senile.

Seeing the people you love most love one another is unlike anything else. It’s one of the biggest rewards of having multiple kids.

For that moment all of the tantrums and boundary-pushing, the intentionally soiled clothing and mealtime drama is forgotten. For that breath in time everything is blissful and magical. Parenthood is the most rewarding endeavor ever undertaken. You are the best parent on earth blessed with the most angelic cherubs ever dreamt.

Then someone wipes a booger on you, and you’re back to reality.

Savor those moments. During the rough times, remember they’re there… those glimmering mementos of beauty, those cherubs you see shine through the crusted snot and marker-streaked faces. Those moments of joy, they’ll carry you through. Treasure them. You earned it.