Life is not always avocados and protein shakes.
Or, as I tell mom, life isn’t always rainbows and unicorns.
An important experience I write about in Never Saw Jesus in the Mirror is the mother’s body . From Hollywood, we—as women—sometimes see new moms who’ve gone to the gym. They lose weight in six weeks.
There is so much baggage that we—as a culture—fail to discuss, or are afraid to discuss, when it comes to being a mother. These struggles don’t end six weeks after giving birth. This baggage includes the expectation to be yourself again … whatever that means. Slim down …
There is also the fear of: How will I work at the rate I did before? Will I be what I was before?
I was inspired by this woman’s recent video where she talks about her body and the peer pressure moms have faced. She had twins, and one of the ideas she discusses is: The motherhood body challenge doesn’t stop six weeks or even six months after your child is born.
In my memoir, Never Saw Jesus in the Mirror, one poem written about an experience in 2011 states:
“I had hoped to lose all of the baby weight by then, so I could rub something in your face. Like a body snapping back in place after giving birth is really going to improve anything other than the fact I feel good“ ( Reasons Why, February 2011).
It took me one year to get back to my original size after my son’s birth. I’ve been one pants size from my prebaby weight with my second child for one year now. My daughter is two-and-a-half years old, and I breastfed her for two years and two months. It takes longer to lose weight when breastfeeding.
No matter how many times I felt like I’d failed, I had to remind myself I was doing the best thing for her.
Sometimes, when you work and try to do what you did before your child was born, you feel anger.
- Not being with your baby long enough
- Feeling like others are impeding on your time with your child
- Unable to complete tasks you did easily before
- Trying to balance being a mom, wife, and your job
I went back to work as a graduate assistant four weeks after giving birth. In those four weeks, my newborn daughter had been in the hospital over Christmas with pneumonia We were scared we would lose her. I was mad at myself because I had to leave her toosoon.
Sometimes anger in motherhood seeps in little by little, and we don’t realize it.
That is how it was for me. I remember climbing the stairs to run errands when I returned to my graduate assistantship. These stairs are no joke. I went up three flights. I expected to go up like bad ass; like the reporter I once was with a notebook and pen in hand. I nearly collapsed.
I wasn’t even supposed to work out for six weeks. I had to leave that day because I felt so sick. I believe anger started that day. I had been diagnosed with depression when I was 14, but had controlled it well without medication for several years. Anger and anxiety began as a little snowball and then grew bigger.
In my poem, Love with Vinegar, I wrote:
“In moments such as that, I saw a monster ripping away my job, degree, dreams, and ability to help Ben provide for our children. I saw the slip of paper being torn in my face. I saw two barefoot children on the street, so I sucked it up and dealt one more semester …
And, one week after the fall semester of graduate school had ended, I told Ben, ‘I felt as though I was fighting off wolves.’ Ben said, ‘You thought you were in an ocean with nowhere to swim and sharks surrounded you, except you were swimming with dolphins; not sharks. People want to help you.’ I laughed. ‘Only that one supervisor. She’s a shark. She smelled blood.’ ‘But,’ Ben said, ‘People forget even dolphins bite.'” (from Love with Vinegar, May 2016).
How do we, as moms, deal with these issues?
I finally got help with counseling, and I kept writing. I just kept writing. I keep a fitness and health journal, a financial journal, and my regular journal where I write a lot of my poems. I began a fitness commitment, and just started my third week. I plan to continue with it in the school year. I also wrote about my new nutritional plans.
This may not work for everyone.
I have had victories and defeats in my personal and professional life, but I think writing, eating, and fitness are helping me return to the more positive version of myself.
I read in Ecclesiastes 12: 2-4 about remembering God before dark times come, “…and the clouds return after the rain, in the days when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men bent…” I wrote this in my fitness journal, because I had forgotten the walk before I journeyed into the challenging times.