Thursday, January 16, 2014

"Letdown"...Body Image After Nursing.

Letdown (noun): a physiological response of a lactating mammal to suckling and allied stimuli whereby previously secreted milk from the acini is expelled into ducts and drawn through the nipple

Perhaps more commonly defined as a "disappointment."

I breastfed our daughter, Lilah Grace, for 6 full wonderful months, and began weaning around month 7. She's 8 months old now, and still leans in to suckle on occasion, and I'll let her...followed with a full, warm, Dr. Brown's Level 3 bottle, where she can more easily get the amount of milk she needs. I haven't produced any milk for about a month now. When she pats on my chest or sucks on my shoulder, my heart aches. She is the sweetest little babe in all the land (says her mother) and I want to nurture her physically. But as I mentioned in my "Transitioning" post, my milk production drastically declined after adding solid foods. Not to mention, the most I could produce at one pumping session was  about 6 ounces, and she slams an 8 oz bottle like it's nothing. I actually DID try fenugreek, and it WORKED! But I didn't keep it up, as I wanted to let my body naturally do what it was going to do. I felt like even though I had my reservations about the end of the nursing chapter, it was inevitable, and it was upon us.

What nobody warned me about was a letdown after nursing. I remember my mom telling me that it's hard to wean, emotionally, because of the bond that comes with breastfeeding. I feel that. But I heard a lot about postpartum anxiety and depression, and fortunately never felt that. The only anxiety I had was my already existing anxiety that comes with attachment to my people. I've always had this intense fear of losing George or my mom/dad/sister. That same fear with a baby certainly existed, and still exists. I can't even go there for a second, my heart beats too fast and I go down this rabbit hole...and have to change the subject immediately.

From her birth until recently, I felt in the flow...euphoric, blissful... like I was on a fluffy cotton candy cloud in LaLaBabyLand. It didn't even feel real sometimes. Stress rolled off my back like water on a duck. Generally speaking, of course.

But lately, I've had a tough time identifying with the person I see looking back at me in the mirror. When I gained 60 pounds MAKING A HUMAN, I enjoyed the process. I thought pregnancy was magical. I was so proud of my body for inherently knowing what to do. While breastfeeding, I rarely thought about my body, and when I did, I was impressed that it knew how to make milk, and that my body was all my baby needed to survive.

Now when I see my body, it is mine again. All mine. And it's not at all how it used to be, when it used to be mine. It's like this process came through, and while it was amazing, it really did a number...and now, the process is over, and I'm left with the remnants. I have an umbilical hernia and rectus diastasis. Even if I lose all the weight, my abdomen will always protrude unless I have the muscle repaired (fortunately, I work for a plastic surgeon, and when I'm done making babies, THIS WILL BE HAPPENING).

THIS IS SOOOO NOT A DESPERATE COMPLIMENT-SEEKING POST. Truly. In fact, hearing compliments like "You look amazing," or "You're back to normal" invalidate me, because I KNOW the numbers on the scale, I KNOW the clothes don't fit like they used to, and I SEE my reflection. When I hear compliments, they seem empty, or challenging. While I found it easy to identify with the phases known as "pregnancy," and "breastfeeding," I do NOT find it easy to identify with this current phase... soft, flabby, and 10-15 pounds over my normal weight.

Not to mention, the hormones that surge during breastfeeding are incredible. Prolactin and oxytocin. Oxytocin is a powerful antidepressant. It is known as the "bonding hormone" and is also released during other mammalian activities involving love and attachment... ;) I MISS THE HORMONES.

There are upsides to not nursing anymore, like resuming my typical caffeine intake (5 cups of coffee a day, thank you very much), hot yoga, dieting, and wine without having to think about the number of glasses I've had in a 2 hour period (no, I don't have a problem).

Wait, did I just list "dieting" as an "upside"?? What the hell is wrong with me?

If I'm completely honest, vulnerable, and REAL...I can admit...

The vain girl inside of me wants to be skinny no matter the expense. 

The food-lovin' girl inside of me LOVES ANY/EVERY THING THAT COMES IN A CAN. CINNAMON ROLLS, CRESCENT ROLLS, MY MOUTH WATERS THINKING OF MY FAVORITE CARBS! I also love donuts, Thai drunken noodles, cereal like Cap'n Crunch and Trix, pizza, eggrolls, chicken fried steak, and bacon. And all of the pasta in the world. I over-indulged in the pregnancy (hence, the 60 pound weight gain), and have become kind of addicted to junk food. 

But the new mother inside of me is telling me to grow up and be healthy for my daughter. 

I'm grateful for Papa G and his perfect blend of adoration with concern. He can tell when things aren't right with me, and he speaks up. He also prevents me from slipping into unhealthy behaviors, that if I get real honest, could manifest without his influence over me. The most powerful comment he shared with me, was a reminder that I am an example for our sweet baby. The last thing I want is for our GORGEOUS, INNOCENT daughter, to have a body image disturbance. I know as her mother, I am going to be the most influential factor in this. I want her to have a healthy relationship with food and image. To be that good example, I need to take some time to work on myself over the next few months, and find a balance. And ultimately, if I eat right and exercise, and the numbers on the scale don't budge and the clothes just no longer fit, I need to come to terms with being a different size than I was before. I used to identify with being skinny. I don't mean that in a braggy way. I mean, that was part of how I defined myself, and identified myself. As a skinny person. Sure, I had areas that bothered me (what woman doesn't?), but overall, I was just petite and small. I was never really fit, never really buff or toned, just skinny. Maybe 2014 will teach me that I can be a healthy woman in a new size, with a new weight, and new health goals. I know I'm fortunate to have a life partner who finds me attractive (and even did at my heaviest during the pregnancy!), tells me openly, and makes me feel comfortable. He will never know how important his love is for my sanity.

I know what will prevail, despite some off days. I know there will be days I gorge and eat like crap, and days where I punish myself by not eating at all (which I know is so messed up, but it's how my brain works). My goal is to make each extreme less and less frequent, so I can find peace in moderation. I need to let the new mother inside of me win in this internal battle, so I can live longer, spend more time with her, and make a lasting impression on her, and teach by example what it means for a woman to love herself fully.

This wasn't an easy one to write. But it was honest. And my hope in sharing this publicly is that if there are other women out there experiencing similar feelings, there can be camaraderie and empathy. And if there are women APPROACHING this phase in life, maybe they can have a head's up on one woman's experience, and not feel so alone.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Why I Love George

I'm revisiting this post now ((Jan. 4, 2017)) after 3 years. Today is George's 30th Birthday! What?!?! He's robbin' the cradle with his 20-somethin' year old wife. So proud of my old man. So grateful for him. Celebrating him today.

A while back, I made an effort to write about each of my best friends, detailing WHY it is that I love them. I'm fairly open about letting the people I love know that I love them...but it has been my goal to let these people know why. What makes them special, and what makes them irresistible to me. I was sure to include my best friend from college, Jen, and my three best friends from my hometown...
and Jess.

I have thought no less than a hundred times that I someday wanted to write about why I love George. My husband. My favorite person! I never did before, because I was intimidated by the amount of time that post would take...and I figured it would also be a pretty mushy-gushy love post. And since today is his birthday, I think there is no better time than now to brag on my partner.

When I met George, I was 17, and working as a carhop on skates at the local Sonic.

We were BABIES.

I was completely disinterested in "The Odyssey" and "The Iliad," and not doing so great in my senior English class. While complaining at a Sonic shift one day, G offered to tutor me. I remember going to his house and many hang outs after. I did things with him that were new to me. Prior to George, typical dates or outings included sporting events, restaurants, the movies. Dates with George were various botanical gardens, games of disc golf, and playing with water guns at the community pool. I felt differently around him, and all I instinctively knew was I felt more MYSELF than I ever had, and I knew that attraction or not, when we hung out, I had a great time. I found myself WANTING to be around him, all of the time.

I knew I was moving to Oklahoma come August 2005, and didn't want a boyfriend. I had one unhealthy, disfunctional relationship that lasted 3 long years in high school, followed by a few random dates here and there, followed by a year long romance with the guy next door. I just didn't want a boyfriend. I was glad to have his friendship, but I couldn't deny the attraction. I tried! I lied to my friends and parents, saying we were just friends, but I knew I was falling for him. I was confused why I was?? I was attracted to the typical athlete, and G was a musician. I'd never dated a musician!

So we didn't have the title for a few months. George was persistent. He asked me to be his girlfriend multiple times, and I found that persistence attractive, and his desire to be exclusive endearing. We compromised and agreed to be mutually exclusive until August 1, and then we would end on good terms when I made the move. Little did I know, he was going to visit me a couple weeks later, and I would want desperately to give long distance a try...because it would be better to look back and know why we didn't work, rather than to wonder "what if"...

I'm so grateful for that first trip he made to Oklahoma. It was the first of many.

um i also love him because face it, he's a complete STUD

Beyond anything, George is my best friend. By all definitions. We've been friends since the moment we met. We both have mischievous, playful natures. We laugh at the same stuff. I prefer his company to anybody's. He makes me relaxed, and comfortable. I've ALWAYS felt comfortable in his presence. He's a fantastic date. He's a really good listener.

When I'm in a stressful situation, G is the kind of guy who doesn't offer me suggestions. He just hugs me and lets me know everything will be alright.

G is the kind of guy who will find a stray dog on the side of a road, and make her a pet.

G is driven at work, passionate about what he does, and doing an amazing job providing for his family. I feel such relief + freedom with my job being part-time. I couldn't do that without him.

G is generous. Sometimes, when we both have worked, or even if a good game is gonna be on TV, he'll be cool with ordering Chinese delivery. Even if it's not in the budget. He's all about the indulging and splurging and I totally dig that.

He was amazing during both pregnancies. Very complimentary, like, everyday. He is really good for my self-image. He is constantly adorning me with positive affirmations. My bod has completely changed after gaining + losing 120 pounds in 3 years with 2 pregnancies, and breast-feeding both babies for a total of almost 2 years. George has never given any indication of disapproval. He tells me how much he loves my body not just because the way it looks, but because what it has given him...our family. Even if he's lying through his teeth, he's good at it because it comes across as sincere, and it means a lot to me. Every woman wants to feel beautiful and he really makes me feel beautiful in his eyes, and his opinion is all that truly matters.

we've grown up together as partners and as individuals

he really didn't care about going to the farm in tennessee, but he made the trek with me. and that meant everything to me at the time.

nobody asked him if he was ready to be a dad....and more people compliment the woman because the changes are so visible on her. but he really stepped up to the plate, and has been an amazing husband and father.

he's so gentle and loving toward our girls

he was so supportive during Lilah Grace's 22 hour labor + emergency cesarean!
...and stepped up to the plate with Everleigh's scheduled breech cesarean delivery.

he fed LG before i could touch her. and changed her diaper. in the NICU. and face timed with me so i could get a glimpse of our angel.
he is helpful + playful + affectionate + silly + attentive toward me and our daughters

he's my festival buddy, only an even better one now, constantly hookin' it up with backstage passes and VIP 3-day wristbands

George is also my match. He keeps me in check, and puts me in my place sometimes. If this was all the time, I would probably be annoyed by him! But in the right doses, it reminds me that we are equals. Even when we disagree, I respect him enough to want to at least consider his opinion, and why he thinks that way. I learn as a result of our disagreements. 

In 30 years, you've done a lot, babe. First of all, you locked it down with the best wife in the world. Props for that. You graduated from college, you're in a career that entertains the masses + provides benefits + retirement. We're saving money for the girls to go to college. We bought a home. We had babies! You've maintained close relationships with the people who matter most in your life. And it's just going to keep getting better.

I can't even imagine where I'd be or what I'd be doing if it weren't for George. My life is better than I ever even pictured as a kid, and it is entirely because I found him. And fell in love with him. And I feel so lucky to be living this charmed life with my best friend.

I LOVE YOU GEORGE! Happy 30th Birthday!