what is my excuse?

8:16 AM

last november

There's been a lot of talk about "that photo" in the last week or so. I think most of you know what I'm talking about and I don't feel like linking to it since I'm not looking to kick up more dust. And because the opposition at this point is doing the same thing, it's all women bashing women in the end. Which I can't stand and which brings me to this post. I thought a lot about writing it and in the end I felt I had to if only for the reason that it has been so helpful to me in the past when other women have opened up about their struggles. 
The gist of the photo is a very, very thin and fit mother of three (under 3) with the caption "what's your excuse?" My first reaction was just sadness. Sadness over the fact that this woman could not find a more magnanimous way of being proud of her accomplishment and sad over everything that has followed since. And here is why.
Pregnancy is amazing and beautiful, it really is, but I know that every single mama would admit that you get to a certain point, somewhere after 35 weeks, where you start to hate it. You hate the way clothes fit (or rather don't), you hate how heavy, bloated and exhausted you feel and you hate the way you can't get comfortable anywhere. And then you have those moments of panic when you catch your reflection and you can't possibly imagine how you'll ever look like yourself again. It's at both times horrifying and exhilarating to watch your body change so much. 
Then you have your little bundle of joy and the real work begins. Perhaps there are some non-earthly creatures that don't go through postpartum, don't struggle with breastfeeding and are back to a size zero by week two. God bless them. But I am about to get very real and honest and perhaps say things that are not politically correct. But it's the truth and for the sake of others who feel they are in the same place I feel that I must share this - the first two months after I had Birdie were some of the darkest times I have ever experienced. 
I will try and not bore you with extreme detail but suffice to say I had a very traumatic delivery and severe damage to my coccyx. For a week I could not sit or stand completely upright. This made nursing a complete nightmare. Once the severe pain subsided I still could not sit until I started going to physical therapy, which I'm still going to twice a week. Dealing with my injury has taken every ounce of patience in me and I am only now starting to make peace with the fact that my recovery is years down the line. So that is one aspect of my postpartum recovery.
The other part was almost equally as frustrating. When I looked in the mirror at myself I simply did not recognize the body I saw. It genuinely scared me. I've pretty much always looked the same, since freshman year of college, minus a few small weight fluctuations here and there. And trust me it's not just the weight, it's the way my skin looked, the way different body parts looked. To me I felt like I looked like a giant mess. I pretty much lived in pajamas and giant plush robe I had bought for the hospital. 
But a newborn will keep you busy and though I had a lot of negative thoughts I never quite understood just how far down the "mean reds" rabbit hole I had gotten. That is until our first weekend getaway with my parents. It was the first time we had a lot of help for a prolonged period of time and the first time since Birdie's birth that I wasn't on "alert" at all times. And I felt it hit me like a wave, threatening to take me under - I hate me. I hate how I look. I hate how I feel. I hate that I'm thinking this right now. I'm a bad mum. I'm a bad woman. I hate this all... I felt disconnected from life, as if I was just going through the motions when in reality my mind dwelled in a dark hole. 
Then my hair started to fall out, in clumps. My nails were ripping all the time. I never wanted to eat and I slept every chance I got. Some days all I could accomplish were the bare necessities - taking care of my baby. About two months postpartum I had an appointment with my midwife regarding my coccyx and I decided to ask her about these symptoms. They ran my blood work. Turns out my thyroid has stopped functioning after the delivery. And so the race to level out my thyroid began. 
So now I go to physical therapy twice a week and take thyroid medication. Let me tell you something about your thyroid, to whichever degree it's malfunctioning will determine whether you lose extreme amounts of weight or gain. Right now I'm on the "gain" part of this journey. So you know my hair isn't falling out anymore and I'm not as tired but I'm gaining approximately two pounds a week (starting to question whether I'm making the right choice here...). On top of that my exercising has been limited due to my injury so running isn't recommended, neither is biking and I have to be "careful" with certain aerobics. 
And I'll be honest with you some days it's really hard. I still try and exercise several times a week but it starts to feel incredibly frustrating when I can't see an ounce of a difference. Some days I still can't get comfortable in a sitting position and I'll take pain killers to make it through a long drive. And I beat myself up about it. I wonder all the time, long before the photo, what really is my excuse?? I see plenty of women on instagram, blogs, facebook with more kids than I have that look much more fit and thin. I'm constantly thinking am I eating wrong? Do I need to exercise more? Should I be eating at all??? And truly the last thing I need is another more fit mother asking me the question that already runs through my mind every day. 
Motherhood and pregnancy are one of the hardest things any woman will go through, I am convinced of that. It's a thorny path and often a path that can feel lonely and isolating. If anything we need to support each other, to offer empathy and understanding and just give ourselves time. Time to heal and time to find our place both physically and emotionally in this world again. Motherhood has radically changed the way I look at women. Ever since I had Birdie I look at women as heroes, as people that have gone through not only something incredibly difficult and brave but something transforming as well. We grow babies inside of these bodies after all!! 
And it does get better. I have faith that my thyroid will function normally again and I will have at least a semblance of my old metabolism back. My coccyx may never be better but I'm learning that that's alright too. Builds character right??? And I'm learning to not be so hard on myself and to give myself a break every once in a while. And while I can't say I'm entirely happy with my body yet I do appreciate the fact that it was such a good home to our baby and the miraculous way that it has healed since delivery. We've come along way, this bag of bones and I, and there's more to go but I believe that there is hope.

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21 notes

  1. I love this post...thanks for baring your soul & sharing these thoughts. My daughter just turned ten months (ten!!) and back before she was born, I had these unrealistic notions that I'd be in kicka$$ shape by the time she turns one. No. It hasn't happened that way. What's *my* excuse? Life (the short answer). Right now, I just want to be healthy...my fitness will come back, but after all I've/we've been through this year, I'm just not vain enough to care. This was so beautifully conveyed...well done.

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    1. Thank you so much Kim. I couldn't agree with our sentiment more. I so appreciate your support and kindness. Here's to healthy mama's and babies! xo

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  2. This is a wonderful post - thanks for your honesty, I know that has to be tough when there's such a push for mommydom to be this magical wonderland.

    I have a good, good friend who just gave birth about six months ago, and while she was this tiny twig before she got pregnant and she DID lose the weight fairly quickly, her body shape has just changed. She has a roundness to her stomach she never had before, and it's not going away. It's just a part of her now. She and I have talked about the roughness involved in not recognizing your own body in the mirror, how alienating that can be, the worst part being that it alienates you from yourself and from the people who are supposed to be right there with you (in her case, her husband) because you almost don't want them to touch this new version of you you're still trying to reconcile with who you were before.

    That photo made me angry and sad, for all the women who would look at it and have their shoulders slump and feel that much more defeated and at fault. Not everyone has the life that woman has - if you look her up, her job is based around fitness, her LIFE is based around fitness. For women getting up to go to an eight-hour sit-down office-job all day, coming home to three kids under three doesn't mean time for workouts, it means a desperate chase to make sure the kids are fed, loved, entertained, and in bed on time. Then, after that woman's fourteen-hour-constant-movement day... who wants to work out?

    I understand what the woman in question was trying to do, and I get where her defenders are coming from. But every single mother's experience is different. We do motherhood a giant disservice, and we hurt women, when we try to argue that there is any generality that is applicable at all.

    Hopefully your recovery will grow speedier and easier as time goes on!

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    1. Thank you so much for this Katie. Your insight is so valuable and I couldn't agree more. We have a tough job as it is and you are right, we need support not condescension. And thank you for your support, it really does mean the world to me. xo

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  3. I just wanted to comment and say I really appreciated you writing this. I know everyone's motherhood journey is specific to themselves, but as I read this, I felt so much kindness...Which may sound weird, but going through my own journey of motherhood, I've struggled with the honest feelings and physical changes of it all and it touches my heart, makes me feel normal, when I read someone else's honest capture of their journey (both the good and difficult). And to me, that's a kindness, a huge support to fellow women who are all aiming at the same thing, but are all having to take different paths. So thanks! And also, from one mama to another, you're doing an incredible job!

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    1. Thank you so, so much Jodi. You are such a sweetheart and I so appreciate your kind and wonderful words. You always put a smile on my face! Sending you a big fat hug! xoxo

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  4. Don't be so hard on yourself! I know, much easier said than done. It took me two years after I had my daughter to get my butt in gear/shape and I didn't have any medical issues. I completely understand the misery that encompasses you when you don't feel like yourself and you feel out of control of the situation. Take care of yourself, give yourself time to heal and get stronger. xoxo

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    1. Aww! Thank you SO much Meg! You are so sweet and I appreciate your advice and the hope that things will get better :). xoxo

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  5. Oh sweetie, you're so brave!! Birdie isn't even one year old so you're in no rush to get back in shape. I actually think you look gorgeous for a new mom.
    I don't know what the fuss is all about but ''what's your excuse?'' ?!?! Really? That's so judgmental and simplistic and it only shows how ignorant this person is.
    Love you xxx

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    1. Thank you so much darling!! Your sweet words are much appreciated! Lots of love to you!! xoxo

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  6. Wow. That sounds really really hard and painful. I haven't had as much to deal with physically (besides getting sick too often), but I have had A LOT of stress... as you know. It's been a year now, and I still can't fit into my clothes (I can't believe I thought I was fat before pregnancy... I was such an idiot). I don't have the motivation to work out because I'm always recovering from some extreme financial disaster or yet another cold. Sometimes food is the only thing I like about my day. And it's just really hard! I hadn't seen that photo until I looked it up after reading this post. It came across as really thoughtless to me. Many of us have huge challenges that others don't know anything about so we really need to watch what we believe about others and what we say to them. Good for her that she can look like that after three children, but I don't and I can't right now. And asking myself what my excuse is isn't going to help me. I think it's safe to say that as mothers, the majority of us are trying our hardest to do a million different things well. I wish it was more common to encourage and support each other than to shame and judge.

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    1. Ditto on the thinking I was fat before pregnancy. Sometimes I remember the thoughts that used to go through my head and I want to personally punch past me in the face. I totally understand everything you said about stress, it's so true. Sometimes we're both so beat by the end of the day all we want to do is crawl into bed with some delicious food. Yes, yes, yes to everything you said. You are such a great mama and it's nice to share this journey with women like you! xoxo

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  7. Lauren Brimley reccomended this post to me and I'm so glad she did!!! I identified with so many things!!! The traumatic delivery, the thyoid issues, the body issues, etc. Thank you for sharing this. I'm so happy to know I'm not alone.

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    1. Yes! I'm so glad Lauren brought us together! We're gonna get through this my dear! I just know it! Love your blog! xo

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  8. I'm 34 weeks pregnant and am starting to struggle. My half days at work mean I end up in bed the rest of the day. I'm swollen, aching and cannot BELIEVE I'm going to get bigger- there's no way I can stretch any further! I've never even thought about body issues before, I'm lucky to have generally liked the way I looked, so thanks for this post. I'm book marking it for once my little lady appears and I need reminded things will be ok!

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    1. Aww! Hang in there sweetie! You're almost there! If I could give any advice for these last few weeks I would say one thing - distraction! Go see every movie in the movie theater because odds are you won't be doing that again for a long time :). Go out to eat and enjoy the silence and the alone time :). And before you know it it will be time! Sending you hugs! xo

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  9. Beautiful and inspiring post! When I gave birth I was all alone in a foreign country with no parents and friends, just me and my husband. Not to say that I gave birth on Saturday and my husband went to work on Monday. I was alone and I had to figure it out, to stay awake night and day and just take care of that little miracle. It's amazing to be a mum, but it is also exhausted, hard and so difficult sometimes. Thanks for writing this post! Wish you a wonderful day!

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    1. Oh wow! You are such a trooper honey!! Ditto to everything you said and thank you SO much for your kind and supportive words! Lots of love to you my dear! xoxo

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  10. I don't think this will help as I understand it's your body and your struggle but I'm ALWAYS thinking that I can't believe you've had a baby. Because to me you look so pretty and fit and thin.

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    1. Awwww! You are incredibly sweet! Thank you so much! xo

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  11. Hello I am writing from madrid, Spain. I'm a girl (actually a mother) that followed you on your old blog (love, life.lace) and suddenly I find you again!
    I have brought a pleasant surprise to see that you too have been mother of a girl almost at the same time that I (she will be one year old in january), but I am really writing to you because this post has reached me the soul:
    I'm totally agree with you be mother is the more apasionatente and hard experience that ever happened, I also later long to recover, was a long and hard birth and then my little baby need our attention 24 hours a day (thank God I have a wonderful husband that is with me on this all the time)
    I liked a lot found this post, really talk about what it takes to be a mother!
    Congratulations on your little girl, and for the blog
    Follow you

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