Saturday, May 19, 2012

Who?



Who?  Who?  Whooooo am I now?
I hear the concept of "identity" discussed a lot around major life changes.  There is talk about teenagers establishing their identity as they become more independent in high school.  It seems many of us felt this process was complete at some point in college, and then had an identity crisis upon graduating and entering the "real world." 

And then there is the identity shift of becoming a mother.  This is often discussed as an intense experience taking place in the first months - perhaps the first year - of motherhood.  I realize that I am only 7-and-a-half months out of that first year with A-Train...but I am becoming increasingly unconvinced that my identity will ever be static again.  And, upon reading my journals from middle school and high school, I think I am realizing that it never was static...that I have always been changing....that "who I am" and how I need and want people (including my children) to see me is constantly shifting and growing.

When Bean was born, his personality and our bond broke me down and rebuilt me as his mother - the mother that he needed.  Yes, it was an abrupt, forceful shift.  Eventually, I became comfortable with a baby almost always in my arms and only slightly less frequently at my breast.   Even into his second year, my identity was largely as "Bean's mom," and that went right along with having him in my arms and at my breast much more often than I had ever anticipated.  Then I became pregnant with A-Train and had to grow into his mom and a mother-of-two - though I think there was a lot less growing to do the second time around (both because I'd already become a mother before and the "becoming" was familiar, and because of A-Train's disposition).

For 4 years I have spent much of my days with a baby and/or toddler in my arms.  For 2 months before that, my life revolved entirely around keeping Bean and myself safe and healthy.  For months before that, the first thing people knew about me - because it was visible - was that I would soon become a mother.

But now Bean is now rarely in my arms (though snuggles and sitting near me and hugs and kisses are still abundant).  A-Train is a much more independent toddler than his brother was, so he's not much in my arms either (though much more so than Bean, currently). 

And, as I am nursing less and less, I have more opportunity to be apart from my children.  I suddenly feel like I'm showing up as things other than "Bean and A-Train's Mom."  Literally, I am showing up to events and meetings with a different role to play.  I go places and do things without them.  I have goals that are completely independent of them.

They are entering new phases all the time, and I feel like I am finally entering a new phase of my own that is not purely a reaction to them.  For the most part, this is a good and secure thing for me - mostly I am thrilled to have space again (physical and mental).  It's amazing to have my own goals again and to be able to accomplish them!

The one thing I am struggling with is this:  the concept of beauty and fashion in my current identity.  I used to have a consistent beauty routine of hair removal and styling, picking out clothes, makeup, etc.

Not only am I not sure now which parts of that beauty routine I even find unobjectionable, but I'm not sure what my personal style is, how to mix it with my lifestyle, or how much anybody really cares.  In some sense I feel invisible.  Who really cares if I pluck my eyebrows?  Is it worth the time?  Whose attention am I trying to get?  Certainly I no longer care to catch the eye of the opposite sex, aside from my husband who doesn't care about any aspect of that beauty routine.  So do I care to pluck my eyebrows?  To put on makeup?

And back then, I was in my mid-twenties!  Now, in my early 30s, I have little clue what is even age-appropriate.  It certainly doesn't help that I do not watch tv and do not tend to read fashion/celebrity magazines.  I've tried to get some inspiration from blogs (including how to stretch what's already in my closet, rather than go out and make new purchases...)

But just who do I think I am?  Who do I want to be?

Photo Credit

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Logoblog

This + this = my new logo?
Me:  I'm giving some thought to a logo and banner for the blog.  I'm thinking I like sunshine - maybe a psychedelic sun out of the late '60s or early '70s? in the background?  But juxtaposed with something modern...like..I don't even know.  An iPod?

The Beast:  I'm having trouble picturing it, but it sounds like it could work.

Me:  Yeah...content in the sunshine...I don't know....I'm just trying to figure out how it could represent my having these hippy tendencies but very much living a modern life.

The Beast:  A robot eating granola.

Me:  *blink blink*

The Beast:  Problem solved.  You're welcome.

Photo credit.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Story of My Body: Anne

The Story of My Body series is currently published on Mondays and Fridays here at Contentedly Crunchy.  Would you like to participate in this series? Email me your words and pictures!

I've never been overweight, and I've never had an eating disorder.  I'm 5' 8" tall, weighed 155 when I got pregnant in college, 185 when my son was born and currently hover right around 140, almost 20 months after delivering the most amazing gift God ever gave me.  My parents are loving, kind, wonderful individuals who raised my sister and me to the best of their abilities, even after they were no longer doing it together.  My dad didn't beat me, my mom didn't ridicule me; I've never been raped, assaulted or felt unsafe in my own home.  I have, however, had a painful and twisty journey toward being the woman I am today, as told by indelible marks on my skin.  It's taken me a couple drinks and a huge leap of faith to write this, but here goes nothing.

On my left wrist are a series of horizontal scars that date from when I was 16 all the way until I was 21.  There's one long one going along the vein in my arm that I gave myself when I was 15, the first time I ever took a razor to myself.  I think it was because my boyfriend at the time and I had been fighting, and it seemed like an acceptable way to make how I felt inside manifest itself outside where I could put a band-aid on it and watch it heal.  A couple of my friends at the time were suspicious, but I was a straight A student in all honors classes - why would I ever hurt myself?


Left Wrist
When I was 16 I landed myself in a psych ward for a week after swallowing an entire bottle of Excedrin migraine pills, half a pack of birth control and a couple caffeine pills I had floating around in my car.  I crawled into bed and waited to not wake up the next day, but the intervention of a (different) boyfriend had me in my father's car and on the way to the ER within twenty minutes.  I spent the night in the ER drinking charcoal and throwing up everything I'd eaten that day, which wasn't much.  A highly unpleasant several days followed until I was released due to insurance reasons.  I was sent to group therapy which continued through the rest of high school.

The cutting didn't stop after being released from the psych ward, I just got better about hiding it and lying about it.  In high school all that mattered was drawing blood - it didn't have to be deep, it just had to hurt.  I don't even remember when I did most of the scars on my body, but if I look at them I know which are from cutting and which are from other things.  I also switched it up sometimes - instead of using the tell tale razor I held a fist full of salt and ice and gave myself a remarkable "Superman S" scar on my palm.  That I could pass off to everyone since I worked at a bakery by saying I brushed an oven wrong.


Left Foot
 Then high school ended and college began.  After three weeks my (again, different) boyfriend dumped me citing a disinterest in a long-distance relationship.  I was devastated, far from home, and without many friends at my new college.  So falling back on bad habits I took a piece of broken glass to my hand.  My roommate didn't believe my flimsy excuse and reported me to the RA.  I was hauled in to talk to her, told some very convincing stories about it being a one-time slip-up, and was left to go about my own devices.  A few weeks, maybe a couple months later, I proceeded to consumer most of a bottle of Raspberry Vodka by myself in my dorm room and was talking to an old friend online.  One of his friends at college had a sister who went to the same university as I did, and after a roundabout series of phone calls the staff in my dorm was alerted to what I was doing.  I got remanded to the counseling center and told that if I didn't continue going I would be unwelcome to stay in my dorm.  Not wanting to explain to my parents why I wasn't living in a dorm anymore, I cooperated and resorted to a very sincere set of lies.

The cutting continued on and off throughout college.  When I felt out of control of my life, my grades, my parents, my relationships, I did something I could control exquisitely - I caused pain.  When I was sad and scared and angry and hurting inside, I made the pain external and put a band-aid on it.  I did it in the shower, I did it in my dorm room, I did it in my room at my parents' house, I even did it in a park at home once and got the cops called on "suspicious behavior."  As I was very good at deceiving authority figures I convinced the cop that I just needed to get away from some holiday stress at home and he left me alone.  I remember the most serious relationship I'd ever had ending and the pain in my heart could not be equaled on my skin so I went over and over the cuts, night after night; the scar is horrendous.  I tell people I got scratched by a cat - most believe it.


Left Thigh
Fast forward to the start of my senior year.  My friends and I were all 21 and loving it; the drinking, the bars, the boys - I found new ways to cause myself pain, and it was all legal, even approved of by my peers!  But deep down, in my darkest places, during my lowest lows, I still turned to the razor.  If you had told me then that one mere calendar year I would have given up drinking, bars, boys and cutting, I would have laughed in your face.

Then I got pregnant.

I was at the OB/GYN for a prescription for the pill - I had a new boyfriend, the man I hope will end up being my last boyfriend, and we wanted safe contraceptives.  I was planning on graduate school and a career as a teacher, he was thinking law school and politics.  When the doctor came back in and told me "we won't be doing a pap smear today - congratulations, your pregnancy test  came back positive!" I thought the world was ending.  I was 21 - this was NOT what I had planned.

Thank God nine months is a long time - I think God made pregnancy that long to give mamas, especially surprise mamas, enough time to let their worlds shatter and be rebuilt.  Gone were hopes of graduate school and moving out on my own; instead I moved back home and into my mom's house.  I put everything I had thought I cared about on the back burner to make room in my life for this amazing little man.  And just when I thought there was no way I was cut out for this, that I was SO NOT A MOM, they put him in my arms.  It didn't happen in that instant, it didn't happen in that first month, but somewhere along the line this amazing love blossomed.  When he's hurt my heart pounds and my adrenaline sky rockets.  The one or two times at the park that I haven't been able to immediately lay eyes on him, my breath grew short and tension soared through my veins.

Never again could I hurt myself - what if I got an infection and lost a hand, or an arm?  How would I hug him and soothe his tears?  How would I carry him when he's tired?  How would I snuggle him to sleep?  What if I went too far, pushed too deep, and cheated him out of the only mother he'll ever have?  What if I got committed again and they took him away from me?  Decided I was unfit to take care of him because I couldn't take care of myself?

Finally, as a new mom and at the age of 24, I found new ways to cope with pain, stress and difficulty.  I found healthy ways to exorcise my demons and lick my wounds.  I put my trust in my guys, the little one and the big one, and know that they would catch me if I fall and pick me up when I'm down.  Remembering my son's giggle, or envisioning his smile helps me push through all kinds of tough times, from working out to conflicts with my family. 

But now I have these marks, these reminders of that person I used to be.  That behind this happy, smiley SAHM at the park with the most awesome toddler ever lies a dark, scary and unhappy past.  Someday he will be big enough to ask me about the scars, what happened and where I got them.  I haven't figured out what I'm going to say about that yet.  I don't want to lie to him, and I don't want to gloss over my imperfections, but I don't want to ever condone that kind of thing for him, even tacitly.  I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

So that is the story of my body.  If you asked me what was so hard about my life that I felt the need to self-injure, I would have a hard time coming up with specifics.  It was just something I started doing when I was young and vulnerable, and was a very difficult habit to kick.  Every once in awhile I see a scar I'd previously forgotten about, because they're all so faded by now, and I go back to that place where it was my only solution.  I wonder what on earth possessed me to think it was a good idea, and I worry about how to teach my kid better coping strategies than I had when I was a teenager.  But then he wakes up from his nap, or dumps his water on the floor, and I'm yanked back to the here and now, to the body and the life I love.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Baby Musings


I have been incredibly busy recently, and subsequently haven't actually been writing on this here blog that much.  The Story of My Body series has taken some time to edit, format, etc, but the main thing keeping me busy (aside from the usual two kids thing!) has been preparing for the postpartum doula training I attended this past weekend.

I'm not even sure where to begin in talking about the training.  It was practical, emotional, and educational...much like the support I hope to provide in postpartum doula work, I suppose!  There was clarification of values, and there was clarification of our role as a doula. 

A lot of stuff came up for me, but one thing that I just had to chuckle about was this:  as much as I enjoy snuggling tiny babies, it is not the part of the job I look forward to.  Snuggling my own babies is divine; I have said that I think baby snuggles are the key to world peace.  But snuggling someone else's baby just doesn't feel quite right - I am a placeholder for a Mom or partner.  I feel less effective, less connected, and less wise than I do holding my own babies.  With my own babies, I've known their every sound, smell, and expression - and they've known and needed mine and nobody else's.  I guess this feeling that I'm not meant to hold other people's newborn could be a good thing - my default position is that I'm not there to hold the baby, but I certainly will if that's what's needed (and of course I will be happy to do it!). 

I do wonder if I will have a greater outright desire to hold babies when A-Train is older, less snuggly, and no longer nursing. I haven't been hit with any "baby fever" at all since he was born.  Every now and then I get a tiny hint of sadness that I'll never have another tiny newborn skin-to-skin to stare at for hours and memorize every feature of, or just smell...but then I breathe a sigh of relief that I will never contemplate nursing another tongue-tied newborn, will never have to make a decision about treating that tongue-tie in any way, will never again contemplate weaning/pumping/something on a daily basis.  And I'll never again wonder if I have permanent nerve damage to my nipples ever ever ever again.  Likely, I'll never have thrush again.

In case it's not obvious, the fact that my postpartum phases sucked kind of stood out for me at the training.  But still - in spite of so. much. crap. - I had the physical, emotional, spiritual, and educational support to not go off the deep end.  I even found great joy.  Space was made for me to bond with A-Train in what I came to realize was a profound way

My family and I required a lot (a lot) of help.  I haven't even listed everything that was going on that impacted the first months of A-Train's life.  We had multiple medical professionals involved, family helping (physically, emotionally, financially), non-medical professional support, etc etc etc.  But we made it through.  In fact, we didn't just survive - we have come through it and thrived.

For me, this work is kind of like paying it forward and I wish I could do it for free.  If (an intense amount of) postpartum support can keep an extraordinary situation like mine from spiraling out of control, and even leave us with memories of joy and a strong bond with our children, then what is possible for the less dramatic situations if families are well-supported through this amazing, joyous, driving-blind, wouldn't-trade-the-insanity-for-anything transition?
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