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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