Expect the Unexpected (In which I discuss body image after baby…or babies)

What I’ve learned from parenting so far is this: Expect the unexpected. Planning a picnic? Don’t forget the umbrella. Scheduled a family photo shoot? Learn to love photos in which someone is crying (not necessarily a child). Going out for drinks with the girls? Until some sweet child you have no choice but to claim as yours loses her dinner all over your sweater and hangs onto you for dear life as she carries on with a scene rivaling those of The Exorcist (not speaking from personal experience or anything). Oh, and that uterus of yours that’s built to house one baby? Congratulations, you’re having twins!

Expect the unexpected. I should eat these words because when the doctors at my ob-gyn practice warned me that my stomach would be stretched beyond recognition (I’m talking postpartum here), I didn’t believe them. They told me that most women who have multiples end up getting tummy tucks, but I brushed it off without a second thought. I’ve always been (somewhat) active, I try to eat healthy, I’m not overweight by any means, and within weeks after giving birth to Mia I was back in fighting form. Maybe not pre-baby form, but fighting form nonetheless.

After I gave birth to the boys (via c-section), I knew it was going to be a long road back to fighting form when I left the hospital nearly the same size I was when I went in. Worse, my entire body was swollen. I told Zach that I looked like a completely different person. He joked that I looked like I was wearing a fat suit while my dad thought it was okay to verbalize that I resembled someone with elephantitis. Score one for the men in my life.

Before we left the hospital, the nurses told me to drink water like it was my job, so I did. Eventually, the extra fluid drained out of my body and everything was pretty much back to normal. Except for my stomach.

There’s something we do as women that I think is fantastic: we talk about stretch marks and c-section scars and varicose veins as battle wounds, scars worthy of superheroes, the marks of bringing life into the world. We build each other up, confirming our roles as warriors, as the bearers of pain that threatens to split us in two but one that is uniquely ours. We know that the pain is only something to be pushed aside in order to get to the prize because what’s waiting for us at the finish line is a moment, both permanent and fleeting, that can’t be put into words: the euphoria of holding our baby for the first time, of looking into their eyes and speaking that language between mother and baby, the one that gets lost in translation to anyone else. And when we bounce back after giving birth (and by “bounce back” I mean work our asses off), we’re the first to cheer each other on and trade high-fives because we too have fought/are fighting the battle against baby bulge. And if we’re one of the lucky ones to have given birth to multiples (I mean that earnestly, by the way), our climb is only that much steeper.

But I wonder if the battle wounds are visible to only those who’ve gone to battle. Are stretch marks recognized as the mappings of motherhood by anyone other than mothers? Is all the “Yay, rah! Go us!” a grand facade to hide the truth that when we look in the mirror we still mourn our childless bodies? (Or maybe that’s just me.) When I look in the mirror I think of that game, Which one of these is not like the other? It’s my stomach. Still a bit paunchy no matter the sit-ups crunched or miles ran with loose, wrinkled skin rivaling that of an 80-year-old and a sad, droopy area formerly known as my bellybutton.

I’ve thought about this frequently since having the boys, when the ghost of abs past haunts me, and I wrestle with wanting a tummy tuck vs saying, whatever, I went to battle, I’m strong, I am woman hear me roar. It’s just that sometimes I would like to roar with a stomach that doesn’t look like a warm slab of dough thrown against the wall.

infant twin boys

I know they were worth it, okay? I know.

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Joy, Lovely Joy

Twelve years ago today I sat across from you at a restaurant for the first time. You had called earlier that week as I was watching That 70s Show with my roommate, trying to recall the face that belonged to the voice on the other end of the line. I had forgotten that I gave you my number when we met the previous weekend. Our conversation was brief. I didn’t know then that you can be shy, that you’re not much of a talker with people you don’t know.

I don’t remember every minute of our first date. In fact, I don’t remember a lot of it. I do remember that I instigated a lot of the conversation (12 years later and nothing’s changed). We went to a chain Mexican restaurant. You told me that you had made reservations at a little restaurant downtown but I was late and it…

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Fall: 10 Things

Who doesn’t love fall?

Central Park, New York, 2011

I know that spring is the season best known for beginnings, what with its claims to new life pushing through dry soil and all that, but there’s something about fall that has always signified a new beginning for me. I’m sure this has to do with the return of school buses, the scent of fresh pencil shavings, wet leaves pressed to pavement, warm apple cider, the first fire after a blustering day spent outside. These are some of the things I’m looking forward to this fall:

  1. Few things remind me of fall like It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
  2. Well, maybe E.T. I love this movie. There’s nothing “fall” about it other than the season in which it’s set, but it’s just not the same during the dog days of summer. It’s much better viewed snuggled under a cozy blanket with a big bowl of popcorn.
  3. Chocolate chip muffins. I realize there’s nothing specifically fall about these either, but Mia is sick right now and she asked in her sweet little sick voice if we could make them sometime, and who am I to deny a sick child her wish? (I like this version because the addition of the bananas lets me feel less guilty.)
  4. Fall is also known as The Season of Apples, so I’m excited to make these: a more nutritious take on those McDonald’s apple pies.
  5. Sticking with the apple theme, we’re making these caramel apples. Yum.
  6. Pumpkins straight from the pumpkin patch.
  7. I want to make a fall wreath for our front door, DIY style. I’m not known for my DIY prowess but that won’t stop me. We moved into our house last spring and I’ve been wanting to try some DIY projects. Is anything easier than a wreath, what with the pre-made foam round thingies and plethora of online tutorials? How hard can it be? Stay tuned.
  8. Footie jammies. I love me a baby (or two) in warm footies. I love snuggling warm bodies in the early morning. I love the soft pats of their covered feet on wood floors. I love the way they still look like babies in footie jammies even though I think they’re technically toddlers now.
  9. Spiced apple cider. This version is way better than Starbucks.
  10. Colorful leaves, bundled-up kids, crisp apples, comfort food, riding boots, cozy sweaters, football Sundays…Need I go on?

P.S. You’ve heard of Weelicious, right? I mean, right?