Another year older, and every day more comfortable in this ever changing skin.Read More
On a rainy day last week, Ella and I were cuddling in bed after her nap and she was playing with my hands. Her dimpled, tiny, six-month-old hands against my almost 30-year-old hands. It got me thinking about the passage of time and the enormous growth that takes place over a decade.
In our first ten years we go from a tiny helpless babe to a freethinking, active, wiry, curious, fifth grader. We learn to smile. We learn to speak and to read, we learn the names for all things. We learn how to order off a menu, how to throw a ball, how to apologize. We learn about friendship and family. We learn about home and about the world. We learn to play and to laugh, to negotiate, to bake cookies, and to use our imaginations.Read More
I spent most of 2017 growing a human, which consumed me entirely and was the single most challenging thing I have ever done. Pregnancy took an enormous physical toll, at first reducing me to a useless lump on the sofa, then I became a slave to my voracious appetite, followed by crippling back pain and general discomfort. It was the hottest summer in recent memory, and swimming was my only solace. I am so grateful I was able to swim throughout my second and third trimesters, which not only helped with the psychological impact of impending motherhood, but also helped contribute to a smooth labor and fast recovery.Read More
Five weeks postpartum. I love so much about this image. Her toes. My hair. The angle of our limbs. Beautiful in an obvious way. This is not the image I had in mind when I asked Jasmin to photograph us. I envisioned us from up above, bellies touching, stretch marks on display. She got it so much better. She did take the one I asked of her. It's beautiful in a different way. You just have to look a little harder to see the beauty and I feel brave sharing it. Perspective is everything.
I gained 50 lbs during my pregnancy, while eating incredibly well and swimming about 4,000 yards a week throughout my second and most of my third trimesters. 9 months in and I didn't have any stretchmarks. I felt happy and proud to have avoided them. And then they appeared at the very end, and not on my belly, but on my hips and breasts. And I'm so glad they did. Badges of motherhood, hiding beneath my clothes. Someone I admire told me, "your body is so deserving of all the love and admiration and praise you can nourish it with." And she's right. I'm grateful for my body, the body that grew this beautiful child. There is nothing more miraculous to me than the reality of every one of us growing inside our mothers' bodies.
Photos by Dogwood & Fern Photography
Going in, my confidence level was very high. The women in my family breastfed their babies no problem and so would I. In the first two weeks I found myself googling lip ties, lip blisters, and "when does nursing a newborn get easier?" I saw a lactation consultant when you were 6 days old and the week that followed was smooth sailing. I felt empowered.
And then the week after that it got harder. My breasts hurt more than they did before. We had one hellish night where you wouldn't latch and I was in pain, frustrated, and exhausted. I felt angry with you and I asked myself, "is there a way I don't have to do this at night?" and was instantly overwhelmed with grief and guilt and shame. I dreaded feeding you and it broke my heart. There were a lot of tears. My sweet baby, you didn't ask to be born with a lip tie and a tongue tie and a tiny little mouth.
I wanted to love nursing and thought I would. I didn't expect breastfeeding a baby to be more painful than childbirth. Every time you latch on I have to consciously unclench my teeth, relax my shoulders, and remind myself to breathe.
Things I'm grateful for: You are thriving—pooping, peeing, and gaining weight like a champ. I don't have a supply issue. My nipples aren't damaged. You are a great sleeper. I reached out to other moms and found solace in their stories and shared experience. They assured me that it does get easier.
And then all of a sudden around the 18 day mark we had a breakthrough. I am no longer so reliant on the positions we worked out with the lactation consultant. Your mouth has grown and you have an easier time latching. We're not quite out of the woods yet and haven't completely ruled out corrective surgery, but at this point, surgery would be more beneficial for me and my nipples than for you, and I think I can go without. Because being able to nourish my child is everything.
Two weeks you've been earthside, and in that time you have shown me how quickly people can change. I've watched my husband become a father, my mother a grandmother, and I feel like a completely new person. I've watched you grow, ounces every day. Your eyebrows are more defined, you're more expressive, more coordinated, and more predictable. You make the same funny face every time you've had enough milk. You're fussier than you were the first week, mostly because your tummy hurts, but you're very good at communicating your needs and love to be patted, bounced, and walked. You have two cries, hungry and uncomfortable, one of which is resolved the second I pull out a nipple. I've watched my own body change remarkably fast, my belly shrinking much quicker than it grew. You're our little bug, our little squish, our Ella Bella. It's fun to dream about all the things we'll do with you when you're older. It's also fun to appreciate you for who you are right now. We love you so.
Welcome to the world, baby girl! You joined our family on a sunny afternoon in October, and have pretty much been sleeping ever since. There were a few things I intuited about your birth. I thought you would be born on 10/2 (you were), I thought my labor would start with contractions (it did) and last 10-15 hours (it was 12 hours on the nose). And I thought you would be a girl. We are so glad you're here. Yesterday morning I stepped out of the shower and felt like someone should pinch me—the fact that we made it to this point is astounding. I know we're only at the beginning of this journey, but it feels like a huge accomplishment to have gotten here. And we feel so incredibly lucky to have you.
Ella Clementine. Ella, a variation of Ellen, means light. When I read that I cried and knew it would be your name if you were a girl. I also love the way the name Ella feels in my mouth when I say it. Clementine because we wanted a nature name. And when I read that a nickname for Clementine was Lemon, I just about died I thought that was the cutest thing ever. Our little lemon.
You are due in two days. Your dad is working tirelessly on house projects, finishing up the floors in your room and painting baseboards so we can move your things in. I am relishing in the change in seasons and have been baking and cooking quite a bit. Applesauce, marinara, chile verde, carrot ginger soup, oatmeal raisin cookies...I hope you love food as much as we do. I get choked up when I think about how close we are to meeting you and naming you, I'm 3 cm dilated and 80% effaced, making progress. My midwives think it may happen within the week. I'm not sleeping great, particularly between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m., but I'm still swimming every other day and trying to nap as much as possible. Our days have an unhurried pace to them, and I feel happy and content. My body feels good, I'm not in any pain and I'm much more comfortable than I have been in weeks past. You are low in my pelvis and are no longer taking up real estate in my ribs, which is a relief. Getting closer!
A woman at the grocery store asked me if I was nervous about giving birth. I told her I'm not. "Really?" she pressed, "you're not nervous at all?" Really, I'm not. But it sounds like you are, lady. I have felt really calm throughout this entire pregnancy, and I'm hoping the peace and serenity continue into early motherhood.
That being said, I feel like I'm waiting for a train, and I have no idea when it's going to get here. It could be two days, it could be three weeks. The train is going 100 mph, and once I get on, I'll never get off.
I'm really excited to watch Jeffery become a dad. And I can't wait to meet our baby. I'm trying to swim every other day so my feet don't swell and nap daily. I got a pedicure and finished editing my August wedding. I have more thank-you-notes to write and I'm working my way through this novel. I'm mostly sleeping okay, as long as I prop myself up with lots of pillows. Tomorrow I'll be 38 weeks.
Last year I wrote this post, about being childless on Mother's Day. And this year, I'm 20 weeks pregnant. Halfway there. Typing those words brings tears to my eyes, because it's something I've wanted for as long as I can remember, and I am so grateful to be growing this child inside of me. It's the hardest thing I've ever done, and I keep thinking about all of the women all over the world who do this alone, or who do this even though they don't have enough food to eat, or who do this because they don't have the choice not to, and my heart breaks for them. I feel connected to every mother who has come before me and every one who will come after.
My entire life I have wondered what it would feel like to grow a baby. At first it was crippling nausea and exhaustion, and no motivation. Now it's much better. Some days I don't even feel pregnant, I just feel bloated. But it definitely doesn't feel like an alien has invaded my body, which is what I imagined as a child. It's still my body, and the human growing inside (now the length of a banana) is an extension of me. It is part of my body, and I think I will always feel that way.
I have felt the baby move a few times, always like a little butterfly fluttering its wings. I look forward to the kicks becoming more regular. Sometimes I sit and try to will it to move, and it doesn't. It's just another lesson on this path to motherhood, that I have no more control over this than anyone else.
This pregnancy has had a calming effect on me. I have never felt this relaxed or at peace in my life and I am really happy. The gratitude overpowers any negative thoughts that creep in. It's shocking how much my body has changed in such a short amount of time, and when I look in the mirror I try to replace any critical thoughts with gratitude for what my body is capable of. I am in awe.