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Post-Baby Bodies

     So, can we take a moment and talk about post-baby bodies? Are there any other Mamas out there struggling with the "Old Me Vs. New Me" syndrome as badly as I am? I mean, really, we all know we should be eating organically grown 5-star meals and exercising with a personal trainer 3 hours each day, but who says, "Wow, I just grew a human being for 10 months AND went through hours of labor a few weeks ago.... I'm totally in the mood for kale and a RUN!"? If you're anything like me, the only thing you want to run from is the person (doctor, husband, mother, inner-self) telling you to exercise in the first place. But what a hot topic this has become! Take a look at Hollywood, for instance... you can't watch an awards show or flip through a magazine without seeing a famous mother who had a baby "just 4 weeks ago!" looking like she's never touched a carb a day in her life. These well-known Mamas seem to be competing for who can lose baby weight the fastest, each one beating out another by a few days or pounds while graciously and humbly smiling and telling the world that it only took a little dedication and a few salads to get the job done.

     Don't get me wrong... there are some women out there (better known as "Freaks of Nature") that seem to bounce right back from child-birth. Their bodies miraculously take on their former shapes the second they leave the hospital and they're back in their pre-pregnancy pants by week's end (while the rest of us just hope to be able to get back into our "fat pants" before our babies start Kindergarten.) And frankly, these women kinda suck. Now, no offense if you're one of the Blessed, but really, for the sake of the rest of us chubby-flubby Mamas out there, couldn't you just pretend that it was super tough to get back into those skinny jeans? Anyway, these women are not the norm, despite what E! News depicts. And exactly how do I know this? Because I had a baby. I KNOW the particular kind of hell that a woman's body endures in order to grow a life AND (more importantly) to expel that life from her uterus. You can't tell me that it only takes "a little dedication" to unswell feet, erase stretch marks, and rectify a kangaroo pouch. (Don't even get me STARTED on incisions!) So, I'm calling these "dedicated" women and their crazy exercising-salad-eating notions out, and here are a few reasons why:

     1) Your baby needs you to spend time with him/her, NOT working out 10 hours a day in order to achieve a certain look. It's not a lack of dedication to your health, it's an increased dedication to bonding with your baby (who happens to love you just the way your are!). And honestly, who has the time to both bond and exercise? It's always feed the baby, change the baby, watch the baby to make sure he's still breathing, remember the other children, feed the baby again, change the baby, switch the laundry, break up a sibling fight, feed the baby again, change the baby again, make dinner but don't get to eat it, clean up the dinner mess, feed the baby, get everyone bathed, tuck the kids in, feed the baby, change the baby, and finally collapse with exhaustion for three hours until it's time to (you guessed it) feed the baby.... we don't all have nannies to step in so that we can hit the gym for a few hours. And even if I did, I know for a fact that I wouldn't look cute enough to take a Kim Kardashian gym-selfie to later be posted on Instagram, showing off my freshly flattened tummy, nor would I have the energy to hold my phone up to take the selfie in the first place, let alone lifting any ridiculous gym equipment.

     So, I decided to try a simpler approach to shedding those pesky baby pounds by attempting a work-out that I read about in an article showing all the wonderful ways that you can "exercise with your baby". The article said that this is supposed to increase bonding while burning calories all within the comfort of your own home.

Perfect. 

But what it should have said was to have 9-1-1 programmed into your speed dial before beginning the work-out....

Exercise #1: Place your baby on the floor beneath you while you do push-ups. Be sure to make silly faces at him or kiss his nose when you are in the lowered position. You'll be sure to get a smile AND a great work-out!

     BULL. Um, did the writer of this article even try to do a push-up herself?? Because let me tell you how MY "great work-out" went....

     I placed little Wyatt on his back on the carpet. His eyes were wide and little arms and legs were waving all over the place like they usually do when he's happy. Next, I confidently assumed the position.

I got this, I thought. Piece of cake.

 Carefully, from the plank position, I slowly began to lower myself down to my 8-week old son. But you see, the problem is that I have absolutely no upper body strength since I went almost a full year without exercising. And there's also the dilemma of my monstrous, milk-filled boobs working with gravity and against me as they seemed to pull me towards my son's ever-widening eyes at great speed, giving new meaning to the term Fast Food. "

Abort! Abort!", my mind screamed, but my weak arms were no match for my two-ton-tits. I stealthily flung my right arm forward and came crashing down onto my elbows just in time, missing my newborn by a matter of centimeters. I think this proves my point that exercise is, in fact, lethal and should be reserved for the military and Olympians, NOT new mothers. PS, I was not "sure to get a smile" from my little man, either.

Exercise #2: Sit Indian -style on the floor with your back straight, baby in your hands. Then, slowly lift baby above your head for a shoulder press. Repeat 10 times.

Ok, this one doesn't sound nearly as dangerous as crushing your baby with push-ups. So, I assumed the described position and made sure I had a firm (but gentle... always gentle...) grasp on little Wyatt. With back straight, I began to lift my baby high above my head until my arms were completely straightened. But you see, the difference between pressing a bar or dumbbell versus pressing a baby is that a baby is floppy.... AND squishy. As I held my 2-month old above me, I watched his head bob back and forth like a bobble-head doll. I tried to adjust my hands to stabilize his floppiness, but my squishy baby wriggled and squirmed (probably trying to keep his head from falling off) and I nearly lost my entire grip on my son! 

That's it.... CYS is going to take my baby... they're going to take my baby, all because I tried to work out!

  Ultimately I decided that this was not the exercise for us.

Exercise #3: Securely strap your baby to your chest with your baby carrier and go for a run.

Oh, heck no.

     2) If you're nursing, you're still eating for two. Remember those dedicated salad-only eaters? Yeah... that kind of diet doesn't flow if you want your milk to. In fact, there's this crazy diet called the Breast-Feeding Diet (clever name) and it tells you all the nutritious foods you need to consume daily in order to have a healthy milk supply for your little one. Not only are you not supposed to do any form of regular dieting, but you're actually supposed to INCREASE your calories to 2500 daily in order to support your baby! All you need is 5-9 servings of vegetables, 4-5 servings of fruit, 70-100 grams of lean protein per meal, 5 servings of dairy, 90 oz of water (at a minimum), 2 small servings of fat, 6-9 ounces of high-fiber whole grains, folic acid, B12, Vitamin D, Omega 3s, and Vitamin C....that's it.

     To be honest, by the time I ingest half of my necessary water supply and scarf down a protein bar while running out the door with the kids, diaper bag, purse, and carseat in tow, I'm already feeling bloated and ready for a pee break! With 2400 calories to go by 11:00 am, I start feeling a little uneasy about not eating a bigger protein bar. Too bad I didn't get breakfast due to the fact that I was still upstairs getting the baby and me presentable after the first outfit got pooped on (his) and the second got spit up on (mine) and the third, fourth, and fifth ones just plain didn't fit (mine again). I had really high hopes of getting lunch this time around, but between library program and getting the older kids ready for swim lessons, I only had time to make them lunch (greedily licking the mayo from the knife) before my next duty called.

     Hmmmm, I ponder. I didn't see coffee in the diet plan, but surely they don't expect a Mama to do this uncaffinated.... I wonder how many calories are in my mug? (I look it up.) Only 120?? It's 4:00 pm and I still have 2280 calories to go?!? Better knock off another 30 for that knife-mayo I licked earlier.... Good, I'm down to 2250! Well, I guess I could eat a tub of ice cream for dinner to get my dairy in.... and I better do something about that lean meat thing. Crap, do we even have any veggies other than that mushy red pepper in the fridge? I wonder how many servings are left after I cut off the fuzzy parts? Did I even go to the grocery store this week? Shoot, what's today's date, anyway? Is this still July?? Oooo, a banana! I can eat that while I feed the baby! There's little chance of spillage and even if I clobber him with the entire thing, it won't stain (preventing at least one more clothing change for the day).

     By the time I get dinner made, clean up the kitchen mess, feed the baby, and sit down to finally eat my meal (which is now room temperature and soggy), I stuff my face as quickly as possible for 2 reasons: 1) it is impossible for me to answer any more questions  from my 6- and 8-year-olds if my mouth is full, and 2) it is REALLY hard to chew and bounce a baby in his bouncy seat when he is bouncing at a different rhythm than I am chewing.... but bouncing means not crying and is therefore more necessary than my eating at a normal person's pace. After I eat, I estimate that I probably consumed close to 600 calories with dinner, bringing me down to 1650 left to consume in the next 4 hours. Yeah, that's not gonna happen. Maybe pre-baby I would've considered this a fun little challenge, but all I'm wondering now is when these silly children will go to sleep so I can finally close my eyes for a few precious hours before I have to start this all over again?

     Even though I do my best to consume at least something from the Breast-Feeding diet each day, I never come anywhere close to my calories. And with the 500 calories I burn daily by nursing, you'd think I'd have those pregnancy pounds dropped like a stack of hot cakes.

Not so.

Each morning I bounce to the scale and shake my head in amazement that I've lost only 1 ounce. Sometimes I've even gained a pound or two! Maybe there is something to this "just eat salads" thing.... but honestly, we've got newborn babies to tend to, ladies.... do we really need to be hungry on top of it all? Are a few measly pounds (or 20....30...40?) worth not making enough milk for our babies? Nope. I'll stick to my make-shift Breast-Feeding Diet, thank you very much.

     3) Your body needs time to 

heal

. PERIOD. A few weeks ago I went to my OB for my dreaded 6-week follow-up appointment. Having had a c-section, my doctor needed to check my incision to make sure that I was healing properly. So, she dutifully asked if I was having any pain. I told her that there was no pain, per say, just some discomfort when I touch any area between my navel and my thighs (you can only imagine my husband's dismay). "Oh, well that will be there for months, maybe even a year... in fact, some discomfort may never go away," she said matter of factly. 

Excuse me?

 I don't recall this being printed out on any of the memos I received... "But feel free to start exercising. You're healing nicely."

     Ok, now just hold on! You're telling me that my stomach may never feel good again, but that I should go ahead and exercise?? Sure. That sounds super fun (I mean, "dedicated") and I can't wait to get started! In fact, I'll leave the van in the parking lot now and just jog home... considering the sponginess of my swollen feet and the fact that I am still 25 lbs past my normal weight, it's likely I'll even make it home before my 12-week check up... since I'm healing so nicely and all.

I. Don't. Think. So.

     I have to admit, I was kind of hoping to have been told that my incision looked good, but that I should hold off exercising for a few more weeks, just to be safe. Crazy doctors and their progressive ways... promoting exercise and all that nonsense every chance they get. Not that I'm against working out, not at all actually! But on some level I think there is a little bit of fear in each new mom's heart... the fear that the pounds just won't go away, no matter how hard she tries. And no one wants to try and then fail, because the magazines will make it seem like she simply didn't give it a good enough effort. Afterall, if 99% of all movie stars can do it, surely the average Jane should be able to do it, too, right? (Although, I'd like to see Kate Hudson return to her size 0 frame while eating on a Save-A-Lot budget and arranging the summer schedules of 4 kids while getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night. Don't forget the laundry, cooking, and cleaning, Katie, dear!)

     I decided to give myself two extra weeks to be kind to my body before forcing it back into work-out mode (because, honestly, breast-feeding counts as exercise, right? I mean, I'm certainly hungry enough afterwards to feel like I ran a marathon.) But finally, at the 8 week mark, I reminded myself that I love yoga. And it's true. The breathing, the stretching, the relaxation... it practically calls for a nap at the end of each session. How utterly fantastic is that? I remembered the comfy pants and the feel-good endorphins, not to mention the fact that I'm actually very good at yoga and feel downright proud of myself during classes. After some fond recollections of the wonderful art of yoga, I found myself actually getting excited for my my first official work out!

     I arrived at the studio 15 minutes early to pick out the perfect spot. I was the first one there so I introduced myself to the instructor with enthusiasm. Certain I was going to be her star student for the day, I casually asked what level she usually runs her class at. 

Beginner.

 I felt a stab of disappointment at this news. I mean, if I'm gonna go to all this effort to get dressed and drive to the studio, I at least want to get an intermediate work out in, if not an advanced one! But I decided to make the most of my time and I reverently unrolled my mat in the center of the room.

     The studio was dimly lit with antique lamps that had vintage handkerchiefs draped over the shades. There was a low hum from the floor fan that created the perfect temperature. And from the cd player came ambiguous sounds of monk-like chants, flutes, and ocean waves. Ahhh, I could feel myself relaxing already. Excitedly, I perched myself on the center of my mat, closed my eyes, and began to take deep breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth....Yes, this was going to be fantastic.

     The instructor led us through a series of mild stretches and I noticed that I had lost just a bit of flexibility during the course of my pregnancy. 

No worries, though, by the end of this class I'll be back to normal, I assured myself. The instructor then brought us to our first Downward Dog pose. At once, I was aware of the familiar stretch in the backs of my legs.... and then some more in my lower back.... and again in my shoulders. 

Huh, this is a little unusual, I suppose.

 We were just starting a new series of deep breaths and... 

Oh my gosh, is anyone else super dizzy right now?? Whew, I almost feel faint!

 I noticed at once that my arms were trembling and my hands felt as if they were cramping up from the extra weight pressing them down into the floor. You can imagine my relief when the yogi called for Child's Pose, the best resting pose in all of yoga....

     ....That is unless you now have fat legs that hurt when they're tightly squished together as you sit on your knees. But I was determined to complete at least one pose by the end of the day, even if it meant that my butt was so high off the ground it could've been used for a bike rack. Trying to fight the discouragement mounting in me as we went through all the Warrior poses, my self-esteem boosted slightly when I was able to pull these off with a modicum of ease. Sure, I was sweatier than usual (way sweatier, actually), but that's probably just the hormones, right? A few more dizzying Down Dogs later and it was time for Cobra. 

Finally! We get to lay flat and rest for a second!

 Except laying on my engorged breasts and bikini-line incision was about as relaxing as swimming with piranhas that would attack at the faint smell of milk. Forget trying to arch any part of my back whatsoever, because I was pretty certain that my stitches were going to pop open, despite the go ahead from my OB just two weeks prior. What was even more concerning was the fact that I couldn't get my hips to even themselves on the floor. Yes, I know I still have a bit of a tummy, but that's not what I mean. It was as if my doctor had opened me up, removed the baby, and then put the rest of my organs back in any ole haphazard way! My body didn't feel like mine. Not at all. In fact, it just felt wrong. I've heard of incredibly advanced yogis being able to transcend from their bodies, but this was NOT the type of out of body experience I was going for when I wanted to center myself.

     I left the class dripping, dizzy, sore, and defeated, and in need of feeding my little man. Why was I putting so much of my worth into this work-out? I felt happy with myself before entering, and for the first time after a yoga class, I felt deflated. So what if Olivia Wilde weighs less than a bag of feathers weeks after having her baby? My body is my body, not someone else's. And my baby needs me and my body to be happy, healthy, and FULLY HEALED. In that moment I determined that no amount of Cobra poses or Us Weekly articles were going to make me rush this process I'm going through. I'll take my beginner yoga classes, slathering myself with extra deodorant beforehand, and be happy to discover whatever my new normal body will be. Afterall, having this baby has forever changed my emotions, the way that I think, and the way that I look at life. Of course it's going to leave my external body forever changed as well, and I am learning to love the new me.


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Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

     From what I can gather, there comes a time in every woman's pregnancy where she is simply done with being pregnant. I mean, over it. That time when all she wants to do is hold her new baby, get her body back to a somewhat normal existence, and finally stop feeling sick. Sadly, I may have reached that mark prematurely, because now this ticking time bomb flipping and flopping inside of me has me living on pins and needles, fearful that he won't come out at an opportune time or, worse, that he simply won't come out at all! I have vivid dreams that my water has broken, only to wake up and realize that I was just sweating.... really badly. And, when asked the daily question "Wait, you're STILL pregnant??" I joke that I'll be taking this kid to college in utero, only to seconds later well up with tears because maybe I wasn't really joking. And since pregnant women are known for their highly rational thoughts and emotions (gulp), it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that I bounce and rock back and forth on my yoga ball so much during each day that I induce motion sickness and nausea instead of labor.... and since this method obviously doesn't work, I continue to do it again later that day.... and that evening.... and right before bed.
     I had one ray of hope on Monday when I went for my weekly check-up and the doctor gave me my "show".... ladies, for the men's sake, I won't discuss what kind of show it was, but let's just say that I was mortified and thoroughly grateful that this happened at the doctor's office and NOT in my bathroom at home, or I would've thought I was dying for sure. It looked like Edward Scissorhands himself had performed the pelvic exam. My doctor followed this ray of hope up with the usual comments about 0 cm dilated (blah blah blah) and still only the same amount of cervical softness as last week (blah blah blah). So, in true pregnancy form, I decided to celebrate my feelings of overwhelming disappointment with a blizzard from Dairy Queen.... size? Large. But, Shivonne, you may ask, won't that upset your lactose-sensitive stomach??? And in reply, I would laugh heartily in your face, because this stomach of mine refuses to keep ANYTHING inside, lactose or not, for more than an hour anyways.... one more "symptom" that labor is surely on it's way (which I'll believe when I see it, because this has been going on for WEEKS and still, no labor!).
     The "show" is yet another sign that labor is 24-48 hours away, or so I'm told. Although, like weathermen, the writers at What To Expect are simply misguided fools getting paid to raise one's hopes, only to dash them away again with a clause that says "But every body is different" or "There's a 50% chance of rain, hail, and sunshine". Because it's been 49.5 hours and I am still not contracting, laboring, or doing anything else that would make me feel hopeful that my baby will ever come out. And D-Day is tomorrow! A mere 9 hours away!! What is he waiting for!?!? Does he not want to meet me as much as I want to meet him? Is he just as scared as I am that he's too big to fit through an impossible opening?? (Because I could at least get on board with that line of reasoning.) Or maybe he just really likes a good game of Hide and Seek.... whatever his thoughts, I hope he changes his mind soon, because I want to see him (and my feet) in the worst way. Please come out, Baby Boy. Mama wants to hold you, kiss you, and finally be able to sleep on her stomach again. PS, I love you.

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Big Belly Update

     The inevitable FMLA / maternity leave has finally begun. No, there is no baby yet, but this Mama's health had been deteriorating (along with her sanity) and she needed a break to help prepare this abundantly rotund body for the vigorous workout that is called labor. And frankly, I'm not sure who is more nervous about this whole process, me or my husband. He routinely informs me that he can't rest because he's anxious with not knowing the when, where, and how all this is gonna go down, like we're waiting for a nuclear attack or something. In fact, when I was having contractions the other day (which occur daily at this point), he demanded that I tell him if the baby was coming right then or not..... as if! And then today, he informed me that I'm no longer allowed to call him during the day because it freaks him out that I'm going into labor. In the meantime, he wakes me up almost nightly to ask how I'm doing.... I thought all men had an innate sense of self-preservation that warned them away from ever waking a pregnant woman, especially when she's in her 9th month!! And then, to top things off, he just stares at me while I'm in the shower.... and not in the way he used to stare at me in the shower, but in an entirely new way, as if he's watching in astonishment as the world's largest woman attempts to shave her legs without falling and taking the curtain down with her or as if she's a time-bomb ready to explode.
     Even little Isaac is amazed at my big belly. He routinely tries to climb the mountain that has become his Mama, and he lifts my shirt to try to poke my "button" back in, rubbing my stomach while saying "baby" like it's a magic lamp. He is also quite taken with my equally enlarged "upstairs" as he tries to push those "buttons" back in, too.... I think he's pretty convinced that everything in my torso is a baby, the entire womb-concept proving to be a bit to much his 18-month mentality. Cameron and Taylor are just excited that I'm no longer working. There were actually cheers (complete with fist pumps) when I informed them of my last day of work. Even if I have to spend half the time lying down while they're home, you can see the happiness radiating off of them. Taylor was thrilled that I got to watch her in gymnastics once again and Cameron's homework is improving greatly. Not to mention my own health is improving, just in this first week off! My feet are far less swollen and my back pain is much more manageable. Even my tonsillitis is nearly cleared up (thank God, no surgery was needed!) but the bronchitis is still sucking up my life. In fact, this morning, in the middle of an extra long coughing spell, my bladder just couldn't take the pressure and I ended up wishing I had saved some adult diapers for myself instead of donating them all to my work when I left last week. But lesson learned.... I now know the importance (nay, the necessity) of heading straight to the restroom when I feel a cough coming on!
     And now, it's just a matter of time.... the wait is agonizing, but the end result will be fantastic! Just knowing that my cervix is softening rapidly (although not dilated yet) helps me come to grips with the few stray stretch marks that have made their way from my hips to the lower left side of my belly, and the fact that I'm nearly two hundred pounds (holy crap), and that my groin feels like I have pulled every muscle in the forbidden zone that is humanly possible. Still, it's almost over. Will I miss it? Hmmmm, some say that I will. I say those people probably smoke crack, but whether I do miss it or I don't, I will have my little man in my arms and I will feel so grateful to have had this experience. I know it's one I'll never want to repeat again (not for love nor money!) but I'll have experienced the greatest miracle of a woman's life, an experience I didn't think I was capable of having. So, until the big day, my goals are to 1) find a machine that will carry me up and down the stairs, 2) get a catheter installed, 3) stay under that 199 pound mark, even if it means taking up jogging in my 9th month, and 4) rest (when not jogging) so that I can have a safe delivery for my little guy. Until later!!

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Pregnancy Hormones Vs. Life

     Perhaps it's all the running around I do throughout my day, or the normal child neediness of my 6 and 8 year olds when I get home, or the fact that I had a whirlwind trip to Michigan for my second baby shower and maternity photo shoot, or possibly it's the fact that I had the flu for 5 days and ended up sitting in the Triage unit getting pumped full of fluids and meds.... and maybe it's just  a combination of all these things that have me worn and ragged these days. (Not to mention all the normal pregnancy joys that you other Mamas out there warned me of.... ok, screw not mentioning them! If these things have to plague me daily then somebody is gonna hear about them! Things such as insomnia, constant indegestion, peeing EVERY FIVE MINUTES, headaches, nausea, and shear exhaustion.)
     So, today, in honor of not feeling like death, I decided to try to knock a few things off of my to-do list... that ever-growing list that multiplies by 10 each time I cross one thing off. The list that haunts my dreams and makes me sleepy before I even wake up in the morning. But if I'm not puking, I should take the opportunity to be productive, right? Unfortunately, everything that I touched today broke (quite literally). Pay the bills? Sure! Except that our internet connection refused to cooperative for the first half of the day... and then, when it did, wouldn't you know that my bank's page froze on me twice AND pop-up ads almost led to the demise of my computer screen. Forget bills, I said to myelf, I'll vacuum! After spending 20 minutes untangling the cord (yes, someone is going to pay for this injustice when they get home!), I plugged in my brand new vacuum and started in one corner of the first room.
     I was branching out of my corner when I noticed a sea of dead lady bugs in the window sill (no, this wasn't the first time I had noticed them, just the first time I had bothered to care in, oh, about 8 months). So I hooked on my new handy-dandy wand attachment and sucked those little ladies right up! Feeling pleased, I put the attachment hose back into it's place and realized that I was unable to release the base of the wand from the main vacuum. I checked for special buttons, read the manual, and prayed for miracles.... and still nothing. That attachment is stuck like cement on the end of my handle, making it impossible for me to use the vacuum for anything else. Looking at my one clean corner in my one lonely room, and noticing that I had just shook out the rugs in all the other rooms in preparation for The Great Sweep of 2014, a wave of anger washed over me. My calm, rational "There must be a way to figure this out" self went right out the window and a crazed, hormonal woman that I barely recognized appeared. I found great comfort in beating the wand off the arms of the couch... I may have also found it rather therapeutic to scream at the top of my lungs, sending all three dogs, tails between their legs, running for the upstairs with panic in their eyes. And then finally, the vacuum cleaner won.
     In a fit of exhaustion, I flopped myself down on the loveseat (causing me to wince in pain because, let's face it, EVERYTHING hurts these days) and I sobbed. These were uncontrollable, face-swelling wretches that increased everytime I looked back at the sweeper. And I didn't even try to stop them. For some reason, I needed the release, and I let myself have it. Several minutes later, I was feeling slightly better, braver even, and I was ready to try again with fresh eyes. I looked back at the vacuum cleaner and spent about 10 seconds pondering the situation before I chucked the wand across the room and screamed in rage, "I'M PREGNANT, DON'T MESS WITH ME, DANG IT!!" And then I screamed some more and dissolved into a second fit of tears. I decided to call my mother-in-law, the evil woman who bought me said vacuum cleaner, to see if she had any ideas. Before she arrived to give the sweeper a try, I gave the machine one last stab, sending myself into such a tizzy that my nose began to bleed... by the time my husband's mother arrived, I was drenched in sweat, my eyes were almost swollen shut, and I was nursing my nose. Slightly embarrassed, I pointed her in the direction of the broken piece of crap that was once called my vacuum cleaner.
     Twenty minutes later, my mother-in-law was in the same state as me.... except she used cool things like pliars and hammers, butter knives and liquid soap while she did her ranting.... none of which worked, all of which caused her to yell and hit the wand off the same couch that had taken the beating earlier. So we called customer service and this was their reply.... "Why don't you wait for your husband to come home and have him fix it?" Excuse me?? For one, this isn't the 1940's! And two, unless my husband is the Incredible Hulk, he ain't going to be able to get this stupid wand off either!!! So, I yelled about that for a while too. And after two hours, my mother-in-law gave up, as did I, and I continued with my to-do list... I started to unpack baby gifts from my shower and put them away. That will be fun and productivce, right? Which it was, until I bent to pick up the first bag and my back went out. You know the drill.... I cried for a while, although carefully, as not to aggravate my nose again. And I hobbled down the stairs to let my frantic dogs outside while I rested on the unbeaten couch. When it was time to bring them back in, I knelt slowly, keeping my back as straight as possible.... and when my left knee touched the ground, I heard a POP and felt pain shoot up my leg. Unable to now bend my leg, stand upright, vacuum, or accomplish anything on my to-do list, I retired back to the couch and cried for the millionth time today.
    I'm still not sure if it's the flu, the traveling, the long days at work, or the mulititude of lovely pregnancy symptoms that have me down, but one thing IS for sure.... in the battle of Hormones Vs. Life today, it is very apparent that Life won. Now here's hoping that my husband brings home a heating pad and Bruce Banner for dinner this evening! 

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Friend or Foe

     I woke up today and was devastated to find that I had mysteriously grown my first stretch mark while I was asleep last night. One deep, red line standing out against the ridiculously pale flesh of my right hip. I traced the line with my fingertip as my brow furrowed and a stabbing pain of ugliness began to nag its way into my mind. As I stood before the mirror, I examined every part of me (well, the parts that I can still see, that is), making sure that my frustratingly bright new mark hadn't brought any friends with him. I was saddened to see the two cysts on my thighs, ingrown hairs in places that can no longer be attended to, dark circles under my eyes, and a new patch of gray hair coming in at my temple. And let's not even dwell too long on the fact that I am much closer to 200 lbs that I am to 100 lbs, a thought that makes me nauseous and, surprisingly hungry, all at the same time. I realized that it's official.... I am now grotesque.
     So, I decided to take my hideous self to the bathroom for a shower, crying stupid tears the entire time. You know the ones I'm talking about. The tears that don't cleanse you or leave you feeling sated... but the ones that are filled with self-pity and nothingness... the ones that are vain and childish and hormonal and that reek of "I know I shouldn't be crying about this, but I just don't care"... the ones that are over a single, red stretch mark. Was there more to my morning than the mark? Sure, there always is. The kids I already have are nuttier than a jar of peanuts, I argued with my husband over something I can't even now remember, and my sweet baby Isaac looked at the dog and said "Mama" with such heart-felt conviction that I nearly had stupid tears all over again! But there was just something about that single stretch mark that pushed me over the edge into mood-swingy blubbering. Not because I pride myself on being something beautiful to behold, now marred forever by this silly line on my side, but because I now feel like a striped hot air balloon... you know, the family-sized kind. I feel fat. I feel ugly. I feel like crying stupid tears all over again because this dumb laptop I'm typing on can't actually fit on my lap anymore because I NO LONGER HAVE A LAP!!!
     What I do have, however, is a liiitttllle bit too many hormones, and tttaaaaddd bit too much sickness, and a wwweeeee bit of a problem getting a decent night's sleep (because apparently growing a stretch mark will just take it right out of a girl!). Yes, I realize that I could have woken up in some third world nation with little to no food or money to my name. I could have woken to find myself at death's door with an incurable illness. Or I simply could not have woken up at all. These things I was aware of as I balled my eyes out in the shower today. And then I remembered that I'm 6 months pregnant and that now is not the time to kick myself for being a blubbering mess and that everyone is allowed to have stupid tears sometimes, especially when they can't see their feet anymore... it's just a right of passage, I think, and I'm going to let myself have the occasional pity party every now and again (while still thanking God that I woke up in my safe, warm bed anyways!).
     What did help, however, was to realize that all these marks and changes are just reminders of the miracle swirling and kicking inside of me; Mere battle scars from this pregnancy war that I'm sure to win in just a few more short months. I know that when my little boy traces his little fingertip on my deep red line, I can choose to feel honored that his life, his very existence, is forever etched on my right hip... my special little tattoo that will always remind me of the months I carried him in my tummy (and my in back, and my rib cage, and bladder, and oh, in my lungs). Will my husband still find me "sexy" when it's time to undress for bed? Will I wear a burka to the pool from now on? Will I be tempted to Jackie Chan the next Mama that tells me, "You shoulda used cocoa butter...." in that sing-songy voice that oozes with I-told-you-so-ness? (Side note: I DO use cocoa butter, twice daily, and look who still has a red line on her side, folks!) And will I cry stupid tears again with the next stretch mark I see? I have no idea. I'm gonna go ahead and say that all of these are likely at this point. But I am going to try to see this new mark as a friend, not a foe... a line of love, not of shame... my special little mark that will forever symbolize my little baby boy.

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