5 Taboo Symptoms of Endometriosis No One Talks About

Periods. No one talks about them, aside from kitschy tampon commercials featuring frolicking 20-somethings in white denim. Needless to say, if standard periods aren’t discussed, an ailment associated with monsoon-like menstruation is straight-up taboo. But Endometriosis (a condition that causes uterine tissue to grow outside of and beyond the uterus) is more than just vice-like cramps. More than just heavy bleeding. More than just irregular cycles and possible infertility. And I’m here to talk about it. Really talk about it in true raw, real, shameless form. So get ready. (WARNING: If you’re the skittish or woozy type, stop reading now.)

Endometriosis is an incurable, little-discussed yet life-changing medical condition shrouded in secrecy, entrenched in stigma, and plagued by inhumane, archaic, inaccurate — if not entirely harmful — medical “treatments.” Endometriosis’ reach spreads beyond the uterus and ovaries; it can affect the eyes, brain, heart, digestive tract, and more. The symptoms are so wide-ranging that many sufferers don’t connect their varying maladies to Endometriosis, because why would one think bouts of fainting, or extended postpartum bleeding, or inexplicable tachycardia could be tied to Endometriosis?

So how does my Endometriosis affect me? Like many sufferers, my cycles are irregular — though they are far more regular now that I’ve grown and birthed three children — and my flows are unbelievably heavy. No, seriously. I am in no way exaggerating when I say that by my fourth waking hour on my period I will have bled more than the average woman expels in three full days of menstruation. No wonder I am an exhausted shell of a human when I’m menstruating!

So what are some of my other odd symptoms?

1) Limited mobility: Ovulation is the worst. The pain can range from the distinct sensation of an irritating pebble in the lower abdomen, to the discomfort of a weighted golf ball embedded somewhere in the vicinity of my uterus, to a lead watermelon trying to press itself out of my body by way of my nether regions. During bad cycles, things are bad. As in every single step hurts, bad. Laughing hurts, bad. Sneezing hurts, bad. Sitting hurts, bad. Then, other months, it’s not so bad and I can manage with a mild limp or a couple of Advil and an epsom salt bath. Which is both good (because life — especially mom life — is not conducive to unexpected bouts of bedrest) and simutaneously challenging (because the inability to plan for the easy, not-so-bad, bad, or horrendous months is difficult.) Not only is any pain sudden in its onset (and, remember, my cycle is irregular so there’s no counting days to aid me in my planning), but it MUST be kept from public knowledge. Because we’re not yet at a point in social evolution when using red dye in a sanitary pad commercial is palatable, so the statement: “I’m sorry I can’t make it to our parent-teacher, conference; Endometriosis presently has a bowling ball trying to evict itself out through my perineum” isn’t socially acceptable. In fact, explaining or even addressing my Endometriosis pain at all isn’t socially acceptable, because “lady parts” are taboo and we must suffer in silence. We are to be ashamed of our affliction.

2) Sudden fatigue: Hormones are a B, and when hormones fluctuate drastically or menstruation is a deluge, energy levels plummet. Fast. It’s as if someone hacked into my body and drained my battery. One minute I’m at 90% and the next I’m at 10% battery life, and no coffee, nap, supplement, sunshine, or yoga is replenishing the drain. I’m a human zombie. It may last an afternoon or days. Who knows? But I’m a mom. I keep going, because that’s what I do.

3) Sexual dysfunction: Endometriosis isn’t just a literal and figurative pain in the butt (as the free-range, weed-like endometrial tissue often causes perineal and rectal pain in sufferers), it’s a pain in the vagina too. I am like many Endometriosis sufferers in that for at least one week per month, sex is unavoidably painful. Lube, foreplay, relaxation… nothing’s combating the painful internal inflammation. Widely, ovulation is the absolute worst time — in many ways — but other random days or weeks can be slotted for dysfunction too. Sometimes I can tell when things just aren’t going to work and sometimes I can’t. The unpredictable and personal nature of this symptom makes it the worst of all, in my book. It screws with your emotions, mind, self-esteem, and closest interpersonal relationships. But, again, it must NOT be discussed. Ever. If your significant other isn’t understanding of your excruciating physical and lingering emotional pain from this symptom, it could end a marriage if not throw the sufferer into a deep depression.

4) Digestive issues: Endometrial tissue easily spreads to the digestive tract. After all, it’s just a quick jaunt from an ovary to an intestine. So digestive woes, dietary restrictions, food sensitivities, and chronic bloating are common among sufferers. Many are put on special diets to reduce inflammation or ward off symptoms. For some, everything from the brain to the gallbladder to the heart to the rectum can be affected by the rogue tissue overgrowth. Just this year my Ob/Gyn had a patient with Endometriosis on her eye and brain. That said, if you can grow uterine tissue on your brain, you can grow it on your stomach. Though belly woes are almost expected with Endometriosis, few connect the symptomatic dots.

5) Blurred vision: The adrenal gland is taxed with Endometriosis so hormones are raging. And anyone who has been pregnant knows that wild hormones can mean more than just mood swings, but vision changes. With Endometriosis, no cycle is identical which means certain cycles can be worse or easier than others. Some months may present just some mild cramping but others may rack up a host of horrendous life-halting symptoms, blurred vision being one possible experience. Unexpectedly blurred vision can be bothersome if not worrisome, but when Endometriosis is to blame it becomes a hush-hush scenario.

My symptoms and my experience with Endometriosis are not universal. If you too have Endometriosis, reach out. Talk about it. Don’t let society win. You should be no more ashamed of your Endometriosis than a diabetic or an ulcer sufferer are ashamed of their ailments. There may not be a cure. There may not even be universally effective or accessible treatments, but there are ways to make life better. Reaching out, speaking out, and rejecting shame is one way to improve your life.

You didn’t choose Endometriosis, but you can choose to have hope. You’re not alone.

Advertisements

When I Realized I was Parenting Myself

If I had known as a kid that every bad behavior and poor decision I made would come back to haunt me in the form of my own offspring, I might’ve acted differently. (Maybe.) At least a little heads-up would’ve been nice.

Instead, I went about being a stubborn, verbally inclined, willful pain in the rear. And now — as fate would have it — my daughter is just like me. Joy!

As much as all of those qualities make me want to tear out my hair, they are undeniably phenomenal personal assets. And — as the now-adult version who shares these traits — I know it, which sort of adds to the parental frustration in a “what’s good for the world presently sucks for me” kind of way.

Stubbornness can be a beautiful thing because peer pressure and eschewing personal ethics for outside approval are non-issues. Verbal inclinations allow for vivid self-expression and aid in academic endeavors. Strong willpower is never to be underestimated in its value and is a fiery gift of endurance, resilience, and fortitude. However, sometimes these traits are a bit exhausting to harness and guide and just generally parent.

For example, toddler tantrums. A stubborn, highly verbal child with willpower like a steel-plated ox will tantrum for at least a solid half-hour without relenting. Why? Because that expression of discontent incorporates all of the child’s greatest assets. Whereas an easy-going, quiet, amenable child may only throw a fit for five maaaaybe ten minutes before getting bored. Same thing goes for potty-training, or learning to ride a bike, or doing undesirable chores, or… you name it.

However, despite all of the struggles of parenting a stubborn, highly verbal, willful child who is much like myself, there are moments that knock me backwards in awe. Moments that remind me how amazing this fearsome force of a child is. How much potential to grow and blossom and contribute and attain happiness and be truly and ethically herself the child has. And it’s all because of these innate gifts that drive me nuts. I had a such a moment recently.

I picked up my newly first grade daughter from school and asked about her day: if she made any new friends, who she played with on the playground, etc. She went on to tell me that she played with a couple of pals she’s had since kindergarten and a girl who has never been in her class before. Then my daughter said an old friend spotted her playing with this new-to-her girl and called my daughter over to talk. The old friend said that she didn’t like that new-to-her girl because the girl was bossy. Then the old friend disclosed that she didn’t want my daughter playing with the girl. That’s when my daughter did something I never expected her to do, and it both astounded and scared me.

“I want to be friends with everyone,” my daughter told the old friend. My daughter explained to the friend that the newer girl had not been bossy towards her so she had no reason not to be friends with her, but that she wanted to still be friends with the old friend too. Even when the old friend scoffed and tried to make my daughter choose and then refused to play with her, my daughter stood firm.

“I couldn’t choose, Mommy,” my daughter told me. “I want to be friends with everyone and I can’t be unfriendly to someone just because one of my friend doesn’t like them. That person didn’t do anything to me. That’s just not ok.” And that’s when I realized that I was parenting myself.

I’d never instructed my kids on how to handle this kind of scenario because I — foolishly — didn’t yet think it was necessary to do so. But she figured it out on her own.

This situation I’d painfully lived and relived countless times in my life, was only now just making an entrance into her young life. She had many more such tests of ethics ahead.

It’s such a challenging scenario to navigate because in order to be kind to one you often end up hurting another’s feelings, if not losing a friend entirely. Truly, it’d be much easier to just go with the social norm: kow-tow, prove loyalty, and forget personal ethics. But that’s not what I ever did and it seems that’s not what my daughter is doing either. Ethics above ego… it’s not a popular road.

As my daughter chattered on about her day, my mind spun on the drama and frustration that laid ahead for her. All of the friends (and “friends”) and sometimes family who’d tug at her to dismiss her ethics. I thought about how much easier it’d be to swim downstream instead of up. But I knew that easy road wasn’t within our morals. It wasn’t our path.

I recalled all of the upheaval it can cause having such an awareness of moral code, such a fervent stance against choosing sides. How some view it as a lack of loyalty. How some feel hurt if you don’t dislike the same people they do. How some draw comfort from a band of peers rallying behind them to be unkind to someone who somehow riled them. How sororities and cliques and organizational thinking and herd mentality don’t take well to this line of thought. How maintaining personal ethics can cause lost friendships and social woes, but it also enables you to look back at those same scenarios and know in your heart that you chose correctly. Even if no one else can see it.

Because someone else’s insecurity is not a reason to dash your morals. Because a true friend would never require you to abandon your ethics to simply prove fealty.

As proud as I was of my daughter, I mourned for her the easy path she’d miss. I fretted for her the heartbreak her morals would cause. I pined for the friendships she’d lose. I glowed with pride for her strength. I stood in awe of her youthful wisdom and fearlessness. I gave thanks for her fortitude.

That’s when I realized I was parenting myself. And I knew she’d be just fine.

The Beauty in Slowing Down

I am DC suburbs born and raised. I rush when I’m in no hurry. I feel a sense of urgency even when I have nowhere to be. And as much as having 3 kids in under 4 years has fostered that inner frenzy, it has also taught me the beauty of slowing down. It has reopened my eyes to everyday wonder.

Nothing teaches you how fast time goes quite like having kids. Child years are like dog years and somehow we parents get sucked into the timewarp. Seasons change with swift progression. Developmental leaps abound overnight. Inches are added in a day. Gray hairs arise in a blink. And yet amidst all of this hurry we are pulled down towards the ground to witness ants crawl across a pavement crack, slowed to hold hands at a stubby-legged stride, drawn to seek out passing trucks and flowers and colors.

We miss so much from our adult height and speed. Our children see what we no longer do. They remind us of the wonder around us. The magic in the everyday.

Yesterday my littlest and I went to the farmers market and walked home instead of driving. What would’ve taken us 5 minutes required 40, but that was the beauty of it. The luxury of slowing down. Of seeing. Feeling.

From our sidewalk perspective we saw what we so often blindly pass by. We stopped to examine flowers, watch bumblebees, wonder at historic homes, and truly feel the morning breeze. We experienced the coolness of the shade, the warmth of the sun, the hug of humidity on a not-quite-fall day.

We took the slow way home. And it was wonderful.

So often we need to hurry and plan and prepare and race. But sometimes all we really need is to slow down. To appreciate. To wonder.

I’m Sorry, Friends!

I want to take a moment and apologize to my friends. I’ve been pretty sucky lately. And, what’s worse, is I’ve known it and I haven’t done a thing about it. On purpose.

Do you ever have times when you can just feel the wave of stress, change, upheaval, mourning, or even just heavy life demands coming your way? It’s like that electric breeze that rattles the uppermost leaves on the trees just before a storm descends. You know something’s coming but you’re not quite sure what. Well, I felt that. So, I turned off, shut down, holed up, and placed focus on my little family.

I didn’t schedule playdates. I didn’t send check-in texts or arrange mom dates. I didn’t return messages or texts or phone calls. I felt that distinct inner need to go into self-preservation mode. To shield myself from outside woes. To prevent myself from taking on — from feeling — others’ anxieties and woes. Because I felt I needed to hoard every love-filled, fun family experience, save every ounce of strength and calm and positivity for the impending storm.

I’ve lived enough to know never to doubt one’s intuition. To always listen to that inner pull, that whisper from within that directs and guides. Because when we don’t, that’s when we falter the most.

And so, I’ve been a bad friend. It’s not because I don’t care or love or want deeply to help. The problem is that I DO. I care so much that your worries worry me. I love so much that I harbor your burdens in my heart. I want so deeply to help that I lose sleep over how to make your struggles just a bit easier. But right now I can’t do that. I can’t be the friend I want to be or should be. I’m sorry.

In short time, I’ll come back and text you those check-in messages or “thinking of you” snippets. I’ll hold you in my intuitive heart and feel inexplicably tense when you’re worried or sad when you’re suffering. I’ll be a good friend again.

We’ll schedule playdates or mom dates or walks or coffee. We’ll share our happiness and woes. We’ll laugh and vent and laugh some more. We’ll come together again.

I’m sorry, friends! I love you.

Our 8 Summer Journey

The rest of the world may begin and end years in January, but moms of school-age children know September to be the true New Year. With each closing summer and impending fall comes a mixture of celebration, anticipation, mourning, anxiety, and reflection. 8 summers have changed so much in our lives.

As beach bags shift to backpacks and flip flops are replaced with school shoes, long sun-drenched days of summer come to a close. A chapter filled with memories, experiences, and togetherness is filed away in the mind to be recalled upon in following years for comparison and nostalgia.

8 summers ago was unrecognizably different. The Hubs and I were a year deep into trying to conceive our first child. My hair was thinning and my abdomen was painfully swollen not from pregnancy, but from Clomid-induced ovarian cysts. I was hurting in all ways. Beach trips were quiet if not dull. We’d pack two beach chairs, two towels, and a small cooler for a stint on the sand. We visited the local medical center for a vacation sonogram to ensure my cysts were not dangerously large. Now — 8 years and 3 kids later — we have a bike buggy, two bikes, and an overflowing beach cart to haul a day’s worth of gear.

7 years ago our summer was split in two: massively pregnant then new parents. I went from cooling my swollen ankles in the surf to dusting sand off of my 5-week-old’s duckling fluff head. It was a time of anxiety, adjustment, upheaval, gratitude, and fatigue.

6 years ago we had a crawling 1-year-old on the beach and a brand new pregnancy. We arrived on the seashore exhausted from little sleep and morning-sickness. We chased our sleep-averse tot along the sand feeding her bits of lunch as she explored. We packed just one beach chair that stared at us mockingly; it knew sitting was a luxury we would not regain for another half a decade. It was a tiring but happy year full of newness.

5 years ago we had a newborn and a tantruming toddler. I — still skittish about nursing in public — would tuck myself away in the sandy, sweaty foldable beach tent to breastfeed every 20 minutes, looking longingly at sunbathers and swimmers floating through their beach days. I unnecessarily tortured myself for fear of offending others. It was a time of unending exhaustion, guilt, enjoyment, and envy.

4 years ago was our toughest beach year. We had a highly verbal, temperamental 3-year-old and a newly mobile 1-year-old who was hell bent on self-endangerment. It was constant wrangling, from tantrums to keeping a toddler from wandering into neighboring beachside camp sites, toddling into the waves, bopping his way over the dunes and into the parking lot, eating or throwing sand, stabbing himself or others with sticks or shards of seashells, or climbing rickety sand-planted umbrellas was a never-ending task. Beach days were exhausting. Naptimes and pumping times had to be kept. Vacation breastmilk recipients had to be found. All time had to be filled lest the un-childproofed beach house be destroyed. No one sat. Ever. It was a trying time filled with adorable snapshots and long sunny days.

3 years ago I was ginormous with baby #3 while keeping tabs on a social yet still emotionally unhinged 4-year-old and an adventurous 2-year-old. They enjoyed scouting out campsites containing the most enviable beach toys — ignoring their own laundry sack of plastic playthings — and striking up faux friendships before trying to abscond with the coveted items. It was not a proud year and, still, no one sat. It was a time of many apologies and reprimands, precious photos and cute memories, tired legs and sandy hugs.

2 years ago we had a 5-year-old rising kindergartener, a princess-adoring 3-year-old, and a babycarrier dwelling 1-year-old. I had tanlines from my Ergo carrier. Every day we’d walk like packmules onto the sand. Every day we’d set up camp and the two eldest would fervently request their first of many snacks. Every day our 1-year-old would promptly lose his mind and cling to my leg, demanding yet lamenting the morning nap from which he was beginning to self-wean. Every day I’d strap his sandy, sweaty, stout body back into the baby carrier and walk and nurse and walk and think. It was simultaneously soothing and tiring. When the nursing stroll ended, I’d return to the campsite — ankles and feet sore from striding along the slanted water’s edge — to nurse the baby or settle squabbles or fetch snacks to appease the unquenchable appetites of my growing 5- and 3-year-olds. We had to navigate sleep schedules and pumping sessions. I had to find local milk recipients for my vacation-pumped breastmilk. There was no sleeping. There was no sitting. The vacation was a marathon. It was a cuddly, demanding, active, milky, memorable time.

1 year ago things got easier. Our 6-, 4-, and 2-year-olds were sleeping more, testing limits less, and becoming increasingly independent. I weaned from pumping breastmilk for donation. We invested in a beach cart to lug our tower of beach gear. Siblings played with one another, content with their collection of toys instead of pilfering others’, and enjoyed playing in the waves. Occasionally we sat. It was an enjoyable time of memories and sand-dusted days.

This year — with a 7-, 5-, and 3-year-old — we hit our stride. The kids played. The tantrums were fewer. There were no naptimes or pumping sessions to navigate. Snack requests were still numerous, but The Hubs and I were able to sit on occasion… at the same time! Child duty was often divided one parent with the older two and one parent with the youngest one, unless my parents were also seaside, which meant one adult might be entirely untethered. There were actual moments of true relaxation! It was a time of laughter and memories, enjoyment, and fun.

It took us 8 years to get here. So much changes in four seasons. As warm sand turns to crisp fallen leaves to silvery snow to blooming flowers and back again, where will this next year lead us? How will we arrive on these same sandy dunes next summer? A little older, a little wiser, a little wilder, a little grayer, and a little more nostalgic of a time not so long ago.

Lessons from Beach Evacuation

Well, the kids experienced their first beach evacuation. And it taught me a lot about my family, myself, and others.

Hoards of people hurriedly packing up sandy beach gear, streaming up and over the dunes, swarming across the streets and highway while thunder claps, lightening crackles, and warm rain pours. It’s a beach life milestone and a memory-maker, for sure. But it’s also a test of character.

AirBrush_20180730083610

I was on the beach solo with my three children — aged 7, 5, and 3 — while The Hubs popped into town to grab some yummy cold brew coffee for him and me. I saw the gray clouds and, knowing the fickle nature of seaside weather, began to pack the beach cart with presently unused items as the kids played. Soon I felt rain and called my brood close to start getting flip flops on feet and chairs folded. Just as I heaved the mesh laundry bag of toys into the beach cart: thunder. The lifeguard blew the whistle signaling the evacuation.

Swimmers herded like soggy cattle from the ocean to the sand. People in large groups and simple pairs grabbed their gear and swarmed to the exit. Just as the first few sandy evacuees crested the dunes, The Hubs walked down the hill carrying two cups of sweating cold brew coffee.

He made his way to us. The kids were just about ready to depart but there was still some packing to do. “You take the kids. Get them out of here. I’ll finish this and meet you in the parking lot,” I told The Hubs. He briefly disputed, kindly saying he’d shoulder the burden of packing up but he had the kid cart attached to his bike, so it only made sense that he get the kids off the sand and away to safety. “I want them out of here,” I told him. I knew how dangerous thunderstorms were on the beach.

As plump raindrops fell heavy and thunder grumbled, off went my herd over the dunes while I completed the last bits of clean up. The whole time I checked about me, cognizant of my neighbors. In these snapshots of perception, I felt an almost voyeuristic, telling awareness of them.

What you see in your fellow beachgoers is generally limited at best. If anyone looks up from their book or sandwich or ocean view it’s usually only for a brief glance or a passing nicety. Emotional sharing and soul baring is not the stuff of seaside tourists. And unintentionally unveiling one’s true inner self is most certainly not commonplace.

But in that odd moment of rush and worry, you could see the part of people they kept hidden. The aniexty, the selfishness, the kindness, the bravery, the vulnerability they keep wrapped and bound beneath a carefully curated exterior.

Some gathered blankets in rumpled sandy lumps beneath their arms, dragging beach chairs in their wake, without a thought about the friends they just abandoned or those they cut in front of in line; they purely focused on their own safety. Some yelled and panicked, barked orders and swirled, overwhelmed by the situation, their taskload, their emotions. They fired frenzied orders in between anxious glances at the darkening afternoon sky. Some froze with eyes wide and jaws slack witnessing the evacuation as if from afar. Some laughed and shrugged entirely unaffected by the change in plans while others grumbled as if the weather was a personal affront. Some herded and helped, shouldered others’ loads and ushered strangers to safety. Some simply followed.

Checking that my cart was properly loaded before I began my exit, I noticed my neighbors — a young grandmother, a tween girl, and a 4-year-old boy — were standing entirely still watching the exodus while holding onto the metal beach umbrella still planted in the sand.

Thunder rolled. Lightning cracked. I had to get them out of there.

“Excuse me ma’am,” the girl asked. “Do we really need to leave the beach in a storm?” “Yes,” I said, “lightening likes to strike people on the beach and we have lots of metal,” I said motioning to my beach cart and their umbrella, “so it’s not safe to stay.” The grandmother seemed to be returning to awareness but seemed entirely incapable of taking charge in that moment.

“Can I take your things on my cart? I can get you to the parking lot” I said, looking up at the grandmother as I grabbed two corners of their beach blanket. She nodded, wide-eyed. I rolled up the blanket folded their chairs and popped the items on top of my cart. The tween girl folded the umbrella and removed it from the ground. The 4-year-old boy, still in a dripping wet Puddle Jumper floatie, grabbed a bag. Grandma shouldered the dismantled umbrella and off we went into the exiting masses we .

“Where are you from?” I asked the tween, trying to lighten things as the rain grew steady. It turned out they lived an hour away from where I grew up. At the top of the packed sand ramp we ran into the girl’s uncle. He thanked me and unloaded the items from my cart just as thunder and lightening put on a show.

I descended into the parking lot with my beach cart and found my family. My boys were just finishing getting settled into their bike cart and my daughter was at the ready on her bike. The Hubs was chugging his coffee and held out mine to me.

I hurried The Hubs along, hoping to get the kids home to safety. Off they went and off I went. As their bikes grew smaller in the distance, relief washed over me. Now it was just me and the hoards in the thick summer rain.

Traffic on side streets came to a standstill as pedestrians and bicyclists streamed across roadways. Tensions began to ease. Chatter and laughter among stranded neighbors and strangers flourished.

Thunder boomed. Lightening split the charcoal sky. Everyone froze. Rain poured down in warm sheets. Water cascaded over the brim of my baseball cap. Some scurried to escape the deluge. Some ducked into cars. Some — like me — owned their waterlogged state.

The highway halted as the drenched herd reached the shoulder. Like swamp zombies, we lumbered across the roadway. Dry and air-conditioned motorists shook their heads in pity at us, the slovenly evacuees. Some of us groaned. Some of us fretted. Some of us shrugged against the rain. Some of us smiled knowing this was beautiful.

 

I Am Worthy: Bikini Body Vow

After having three kids in under four years, after turning 35, after having four abdominal surgeries, I thought bikinis were off limits. Then I realized I was being an idiot.

20180724_092015

When I see women and girls of all ages and sizes, shapes and forms baring it in a bikini, I appreciate them and their individual beauty. Scars, cellulite, wrinkles, stretch marks, rolls, rib bones, freckles, skin variations… it doesn’t matter what the wearer looks like, I think she’s fabulous. I have yet to see a bikini wearer and think she is unworthy of the ensemble. So why did I deem myself unworthy?

I told myself I was too scarred, too imperfect, too “Mom” for a bikini. I knew how physically comfortable bikinis were but how mentally challenging they could be (especially now that I didn’t constantly have a crying/sleeping/cuddling/nursing baby blocking my midsection from view.) Yet one-pieces didn’t feel right either, and were way too uncomfortable. I’d look at matronly maillots and moan, but see a two-piece and think: “I can’t wear that.” Until I asked myself: “Why not?”

Why was everyone else a reasonable bikini body candidate except for me? Why did I berate myself whenever I donned a two-piece? Why was I unworthy?

IMG_20180722_193041_509

Because I had scars? Because I was insecure? Because I was imperfect? Because I was a mom? But aren’t those the exact reasons I SHOULD wear a bikini?

Being scarred meant I’d survived. I’d lived. That my body had surpassed hurdles and won. Did I really want to hide that? Did I want my children to think that their own scars were ugly? That these signs of life should be hidden? Did I want my children to view themselves or others as lesser because of their external marks?

No.

Being imperfect was being human. Being imperfect was being unique. Individual. I told my children to take pride in their individuality. Should I not value my own? Could my children  truly honor their own uniqueness if their mother lamented and hid her own?

No!

Being insecure meant I should counter my desire to hide my perceived imperfections and, instead, love them if not simply accept them. Society tells us that surgical scars are grotesque, that stretch marks are unattractive, that an imperfect midsection is unworthy of exposure. Did I want to impart those demeaning messages onto my children?

NO!

Being a mom meant I needed the utilitarianism of a two-piece bathing suit (Hello, peeing in a public pool restroom with a toddler resting his fingers on the door lock!) It meant I likely required a different size top and bottom. It meant I’d earned every damn stretch mark and scar I had. It meant this body didn’t just do… it MADE. This body grew and birthed three lives, sustained those lives through breastmilk for a minimum of a year and a half each, and nourished 30 other babies through peer-to-peer milk donation. Was that achievement not to be celebrated? Did I want to show my children that the remnants of their creation, the souvenirs of their births, the signs of their nourishment were shameful? Should I indicate that the raw strength and soft beauty of a postpartum body are to be concealed? To be hidden in disgust?

NO!!

Realizing the idiocy of it all, I said: SCREW SOCIETY! Heck, screw myself for believing that slop and imposing it on myself! I made a vow to myself — for my children — that I would wear only bikini bathing suits (no one-pieces) all summer in order to show to them and myself that all bodies are beautiful, that scars are a sign of survival — of life lived –, that moms are beautiful too.

IMG_20180625_135244_451.jpg

At first I felt jittery with my midriff bared at the pool and then at the beach. I had to silence that internal voice telling me others were judging. I reminded myself: so what if they were! That’s their problem, not mine. Others’ thoughts — perceived or real — were none of my business and shouldn’t confine me.

Day after summery day, I became more comfortable. More confident. I was content in my own skin. I rocked my scars. I shrugged off any jiggle. I smiled at the stretch marks. I owned my physique. I was standing as an example for my children to accept themselves and others as beautiful individuals. I was happy.

IMG_20180725_074939_606

I don’t want my children feeling lesser because of their scars; I want them to rock them as badges of honor! I don’t want my children feeling ashamed of their bodies; I want them to cherish them as gorgeously unique vessels! I want my children to appreciate others’ uniqueness as well. Because we’re all different. And different is beautiful. Scars, sags, stretch marks, and all.

AirBrush_20180724194935.jpg

I’m a 35-year-old mom with scars and, yes, I wear a bikini. Because I’m scarred. Because I’m imperfect. Because I’m a mom. Because I’m worthy.

We’ve Come So Far…

It’s been seven years. My, how far we’ve come!

 

This was the much-wanted child I feared I’d never have. This was the embryo that changed my whole body and my life. This was the fetus that sent my body into gestational hypertension and preeclampsia. This was the tiny new human who almost didn’t survive her entrance and had to be resuscitated twice within hours of being born.

FB_IMG_1531994364647.jpg

This was the newborn they questioned would be able to walk or talk or process information with ease, but whom they called a “two pacifier” NICU resident because she was their most vocal guest. This was the infant with latch issues and a proclivity for choking day and night. This was the baby with a ferocious wail and a voracious appetite who woke up six times each night until she was 2-years old.

FB_IMG_1532030114699.jpg

This was the pudgy ringlet-haired 1-year old who refused to walk — in favor of pilgrimage-style knee-walking — until she was 19-months old. This was the sparkle-loving, highly verbal 2-year old who was fiercely independent and vocally wilful but absolutely precious. This was the bright, tutu-wearing 3-year-old who loved being a big sister to her toddler brother almost as much as she enjoyed testing her mother’s patience.

Screenshot_20180719-160419.jpg

This was the out-going 4-year old who strived to please others and be kind to friends but threw head-spinning, pea-soup-spewing, shrieking tantrums at home yet adored her newest baby brother. This was the 5-year-old who loved kindergarten but struggled to master reading and painfully adjusted to the full-day school schedule.

20160829_073654

This was the 6-year-old who shrugged off dolls in favor of doctor kits and rockstar dress-ups, who dove into Tae Kwon Do and yoga, who finally figured out reading and excelled at math, who uncovered ways to harness her powerful emotions, who expressed kindness to those around her, who had more good moments than rough moments. This was the child who turned the corner from emotional whirlwind to strong, expressive, kind-hearted individual.

IMG_20180123_182333_966

This is the 7-year-old of whom I am endlessly proud, for whom I prayed when I didn’t know to whom or what I was praying. This is the child who changed every shred of me, who tore me (literally and figuratively) apart but inspired in me the strength to piece myself back together.

20180719_072935.jpg

I am who I am now because of her. I love her more than she will ever know until/if she has children of her own. For all of the struggles, our worries, our pains (of all kinds and intensities), our sleepless nights, our brutal days, our cherished hugs, our belly laughs, our tears, our proud moments, our cherished memories, I am profoundly grateful. She made me a better me; I can only hope I help her become her best her.

IMG_20180526_165857_579

Seven years behind us, there are no more nap times, no more pumping schedules, no more night terrors, no more sleeping baby on my chest, no more toddler arm rolls, no more kindergarten plays, no more fingerpaints, no more waiting room meltdowns. We’ve come so far.

We have so far to go.

 

What I do When Life Goes Sideways

As I tell my kids — especially my middle son who has a phenomenal gift for getting himself and things stuck in bizarre places — “If the way you’re doing something isn’t working, try doing it a different way.” Life is always going to throw curveballs — especially when there are kids involved — so what’s my hack?

1) Choose a different path.

2) Laugh.

It may seem simple but if you’re unaccustomed to the practice, it will take time and repetition to ingrain it as second nature. Let me use my own nutty life for example.

Yesterday was a sideways day, but instead of bemoaning it, I stayed flexible and laughed. When plan after plan for family activities went awry, when my endometriosis pain flared, I looked for a different path. Then I found a way to laugh.

20180715_111916

(In case you’re wondering, lunch was homemade broccoli slaw Beyond Meat vegan and gluten-free “sausage”, and grilled corn)

Today we rented a family paddle boat and ate a picnic lunch on the lake. All was going well until we were surrounded by a flock of fearsome feathered foe. You guessed it: Canada Geese. Ferocious beasts.

One brazenly stole a corn cob right from my 5-year-old’s hand! My 5-year-old sat slack jawed in shock. My 6-year-old screeched and crawled up the seat. My 3-year-old, husband, and I laughed. Needless to say what was “supposed to be” a peaceful paddle boat picnic turned into my husband and I laughing and feverishly pedaling the unresponsive Titanic of a dingy away from hungry geese while our 6-year-old hid her lunch and shrieked. The outing was a pure fail in its efforts to relax but it was an epic win for making a hilarious (well, for all except our 6-year-old) memory.

20180715_111903

The day continued on — geese left behind at the lake to harass other paddlers — when endometriosis pain flared again (this was day 2 of discomfort.) I knew I needed to take a beat. (Though I can only do this temporarily or else I feel worse. I am better when I am up and distracted. It’s like a mental game: if I act or look ill, I feel ill but if I act or look well, I feel (comparatively) well.) So I was a human car racing track for my toddler for a bit and then back to life: TO THE POOL!

20180714_131854

We arrived at the pool — suited, lotioned, and snacks ready — only to find it was closed due to thunder. So we devised another plan: SLIP-AND-SLIDE!

AirBrush_20180716060756

I felt my endometriosis pain starting to rile my frustrations, so I knew I needed to change course. I dove in. Yep, 35-year-old me fully clothed sliding down a lubricated tarp in our yard. Classy? No. Medicinal? You bet! And that worked well until thunder rolled again and again making it clear indoors was the place to be. New plan: INDOOR PLAYGROUND!

We swiftly peeled off our wet swimsuits in favor of dry clothes then into the car we went. 20 minutes later, we arrived. The indoor play place was closed. I looked up the next indoor play option: also closed. Ugh! Right? No. Plan D: HAIRCUTS!

My middle son’s hair had transitioned from chic to shaggy and my littlest’s natural rat-tail was looking rather twangy. So, a trim was due. We drove just down the road to the hair salon: booked solid. I spotted another option across the shopping center. We scampered over. The hairdresser stopped me before I could even sign in warning me of the long wait. Well, Plan E it was. SMOOTHIES!

Our herd of five exited the air-conditioned store and were engulfed in the hot swampy breath of Mid-Atlantic summer. Then we notice it was raining. Seemed fitting. We laughed at the continuity of our misadventures. On we walked.

We arrived a tad soggy at the smoothie place, my curly hair now double its usual girth, but the store was open, there was no line, and it was serving beverages. Win!

20180715_151230

The Hubs doing a little smoothie stealing trickery

There we sat, kids slurping pureed fruit while perched on bar-height stools. And we laughed. It wasn’t the afternoon we had planned, but it was the one we had. And that’s all that mattered. That and the laughter.

If life doesn’t go your way find a new path and laugh. It’ll be worth it.

3 Things Every Parent Should Know About the Baby Stage

For 6 years I had a toddler or infant in the house. Now, nearing my 7th year as a parent — with a newly minted 3-year-old, a 5-year-old, and a nearly-7-year-old — I can reflect with greater clarity on that precious, wholly exhausting, messy, beautiful time. In doing so I’ve discovered 3 important things every parent should know about the baby stage.

IMG_20180627_132653_409.jpg

1. EVERYTHING IS TEMPORARY. If you haven’t yet learned that every single stage, phase, good time, rough patch, annoying habit, and terrifying challenge is temporary, you’re most certainly new to the parenting game. As soon as you gloat about your child’s brilliance at creating 3-word sentences well ahead of developmental norms, they’re licking the storefront window. As soon as you feel like your child will never poop in the potty, the digestive dilemma is no more. As soon as you wonder when you’ll ever get your body back, your child weans. As soon as you really begin enjoying the morning cuddle routine, it’s over and replaced with another habit. As soon as you begin to think you will never again not be a heap of saggy, leaking, oddly pillow-like human randomly crying into your 3-day-old breastmilk stained pajamas in a mixture of fear, deep sadness, exhaustion, and raging postpartum hormones, you exit the hole. As soon as you think, “Will these needy, week-long days ever end?” They’re over. All of it comes to an end; positive and challenging. And you may loathe reading this if you’re presently in the parenting trenches with no light peeking above your laundry piles of spit-up and diaper-blowout stained onesies, but it’s true: it goes fast — faster than you can ever imagine — these are the good, hard (incredibly hard), long, worthwhile days.

2. IT GETS WORSE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER. Think of most any developmental leap, milestone, or change and you can pretty much guarantee that things took a nose dive before the ride got smoother. Potty-training: a regression is bound to happen before you’re in dry pants territory. Sleeping: you’re going to hit (multiple) regressions and blips before you get some semblance of solid sleep. Walking: they go from speedy independent all-fours (or some variant) mobility to a rickety, slow gait before a sturdy walk is established. The first high fever bug: that thermometer reading has to keep going up and up (along with your blood pressure) until it eventually inches down. And afterwards, all of that stress and worry and strain remains as nothing but a memory. So know that if you’re at a parenting point when you end each day exhausted in all ways, doubting yourself and your abilities, feeling frustrated and stressed beyond what you ever knew possible, and wondering:”Will this ever end?” Know it will. And trust that this is just the precursor to improvement.

3. IT’S SURVIVABLE AND SAVORABLE You will have days when you lower your personal performance bar to such a degree that you refuse to be witnessed by any outsiders… your goal is survival. That’s ok. Those days (or a week) are normal. Nope, you’re not a failure. Nope, you’re not doing anything or everything wrong. Yep, it happens to everyone — EVERYONE — just people don’t admit it. But amidst it all, you can find a way to savor it. Savor your child’s smile in between tantrums or the sweetness of your child’s finally sleeping face or your own strength for being there despite everything going sideways. You may read this in the thick of things and think I’m full of it, but just try it: savor it. I’m not saying relish the crappy moments. No, those can stay sucky. I’m saying ignore the big picture of awful and appreciate the snapshots of good. In those tiny hidden moments you’ll find something to savor. There’s always something, no matter how small. Just look for it. Squint if you need to.

In no time at all you’ll be looking back on where you’ve been and think, “Wow, that was a shitshow, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world!” This is your life, your child’s life; don’t wish it away for what it isn’t. Don’t ignore all the pitfalls and spin it into what it never was. Dig in and appreciate it for what it is.

Survive it. Savor it. One day at a time.