I can. I will.

I don’t even know where to start. I’ve been struggling for days to find words to describe my workout Thursday morning, to describe the feeling I had as I finished my first round of Body Back (yes, first; yes, I’m going back for more).

squat jumps.

pushups.

reverse crunches.

bicycle crunches.

burpees.

mountain climbers.

Sure, those words work. And this week, yoga, barre, Body Back, Stroller Strides, Fit4Baby also work.

strong.

brave.

feisty.

understanding.

forgiving.

humble.

grateful.

love.

Those words work too. In yoga the other day, we were asked to set an intention for our practice. Mine was understanding. To be understanding of myself, and my limits; and of others and their limits.

As I began my workout, that I knew would be grueling, that morning, humble popped into my head. I’m humbled and grateful for what my body does for me each and everyday, for responding when I ask it to. I’m humbled that my brain listens when I tell it to STOP saying “I can’t” and start saying “Of course you can”.

I finished off Body Back 17 pounds lighter, 4″ smaller almost everywhere, standing taller, running faster, doing more pushups, situps, squats and holding a longer plank. I finished it knowing that when I want to have a class do a spiderman pushup, or a pushup to side plank, I can do that, and look damn good doing it. I can be an inspiration to others…that’s a heady feeling.

But I’m not done.

Now that I see what I’m capable of, what my body can do for me (you’d think after birthing three children, I’d have some sense of it, but it took a lot more), I want to continue to be faster and stronger. And then, I want to turn it around. I want to pay it forward, give it back. Because this feeling? It’s not mine. It has to be given…has to be shared. I’m so proud of myself and the hard work put in to get where I am. I can’t wait to take other mamas there, too.

I can. I will.

Watch me.

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Exceeding expectations

I’ve been thinking a lot about that phrase lately. Well, the last few days anyway. You see, in my blogging absence, I’ve been through just a few things. Namely, a major injury. A major injury that precluded me from running the Rock n Roll Half marathon. I pinched a nerve in my shoulder, resulting in a completely numb arm, for the better part of a month. Then a partially numb arm for a while, and so on. I’ve been through 4 months of physical therapy, and 4 months of not running much, and 4 months of wondering if I’d ever get back to “normal” and be able to do things that make me really happy.

And then I realized that I could. Suddenly, my arm was feeling better. Well, not suddenly, but still it felt like that. And I graduated physical therapy (got to ring a bell and everything). And I’m starting to train for a half in August. And I began Body Back. And it dawned on me that, at age 32, I’ve exceeded all expectations I ever had for myself. Now, I know that sounds kind of sad, but I think I had rather low expectations, and I had zero confidence in what I was capable of. Those who know me well might wonder at this, as I seem to be a pretty confident person, and I am, but I have always had a lot of self doubt.

I’m not a runner.

I’m not strong.

3 kids? Are you crazy? (well, yes, yes, I am.)

I’ll never be thin.

If you’d asked me 6 years ago if I’d ever thought of running a half marathon, I’d have laughed in your face. If you’d asked if I ever thought I’d have 6 pack abs, I’d have guffawed. If you’d suggested I should have three kids, I might have hit you. And thin? Well, nah. It’s just “not my body”.

But am all those things. I am a runner. I am now one of those people who can just hop on a trail or treadmill and run three miles. Like it’s no big thing. And the whole time I choke back tears because 2 years ago, this seemed impossible. I look at my stomach, after giving birth to three kids, and smile at the muscles that I can see developing. I look at my arms and shoulders and love seeing the strength I’m working so hard to build. I’m smaller than I’ve been since high school, and well, that’s fun too. I have three beautiful children who drive me entirely crazy, but I can’t imagine a life without.

At 32, I have already exceeded all expectations of myself.

What’s next? For me, the sky’s the limit. I don’t know what’s next. I want to be stronger, faster, healthier. I want to motivate more mamas to believe that they CAN be amazing, awesome, strong, and to not feel limited by genetics or your body, or your kids.

And so, in some ways, this is a bit of a love letter. To myself, to my husband (for giving me the time and encouragement to keep going), to my friends for cheering me on, and to Hilary and the Stroller Strides crew. There is seriously NO WAY I’d be here now if I’d not met you.

The Middle One

I won’t pretend that I try to give my kids equal time on this blog – after all, this started 6 years ago as Ryan’s blog. But my middle, my Finleigh, there’s something extra special about that kid. Maybe it’s my soft spot for 2 year olds (yep, love ’em). Maybe it’s my soft spot for redheads (married one). Maybe it’s just her squishy cheeks. But there’s something about that girl.

She’s fast. She only cuddles on her terms. She likes things HER way, and she don’t give a crap if you have other ideas. We call her Honey Badger. And it suits her. To a “T”.

When she slows down though, oh my, what a sweet heart. I just breathe all her toddler-y goodness in at night, as she’s drifting off to sleep, doing her family roll call (Ryan, daddy, mama, Asher, Finleigh, Zoe, Unca Mike, Annie Allison, Unca Jame, nonna, papa) and naming off all the parts of my face (eyes, eyefrows, lips, ears, cheeks) and pausing with her sweet, slightly sticky, pudgy little hand on my cheek. I melt.

I know I enjoyed this age with Ryan. But I also know I had a lot of other stuff going on then: school, work, the possibility of going back to work, my own inner demons – I had a lot of my own crap. And, hindsight being, as always, 20/20, I know this sweet little moment is fleeting. So fast.
She’ll be 2 in 2 months. And those little hands will lose their pudge, and her cheeks will slim down, and she’ll no longer need me to lay with her at night and give her “nosies”. So, for now, I breathe it all in.

Struggling

I struggle with so many things as a parent; we’d be lying if we said we didn’t. I struggle to get my toddler to eat, my big girl to stop dawdling, my littlest to sleep. I struggle to run 2 miles, to hold a plank for a minute. Somedays I struggle to get a shower or eat breakfast. But these are physical struggles, and I know they can be overcome with hard work and perseverance.

But this is not that sort of struggle. The one I’m wrestling with these days, under the surface of all the other daily struggles, is my belief system, and thus, the beliefs we raise our children with. We’re not very religious people. Spiritual, yes. Religious, no.

We were both raised with a bit of a mishmash of religions. Me, everything from Presbyterian or Mormonism, Judaism to Catholicism (seriously, all of that, one childhood). Michael, raised in an Ashram with world religions all around, but Eastern religions pervasive.

Neither of us gave religion, or what religion we’d raise our kids with much thought. We didn’t think we’d need to. Raise your kids to be good people, et voila, it’s all good. But what we forgot is that we live in a religious society, one where Christianity is everywhere, and we’d encounter religion constantly.

Ryan came home from school the other day with a little rhyme about making the #7: “Through the sky and down from heaven, that’s the way to make a seven.” Of course, she wanted to know what “heaven” was. And here’s where I start to bumble. For someone who’s pretty good with words, I was at a loss. Because really, I don’t know what heaven is. What do I believe in?

I tried to explain as best I could: dying (which is still a tricky concept for her), up above the sky, where God is. Oh, wait, God. There’s another subject she’s unclear on. Again, because I am. (and none of this is to discount Michael’s role in all this, it’s just that I’m the one home, so I get the big questions that usually require immediate answers) Ryan’s told us before that God doesn’t exist. Which probably means I got a little too existential with one of my explanations, and little Miss Literal took it to heart. OK, fine. But God does exist. Maybe not literally, but in some sort of bigger way, something bigger than us, must. Humans have named that God, and given it a (male) persona, but I don’t know if I believe that.

A sweet friend posted a link to a blog the other day; it seemed quite appropriate for Christmastime, and certainly rang true for me.

Women can tell this part of the story this Christmas, the glimpse behind the veil, the life lived in the in-between of the stuff of God. There is a story on your lips, isn’t there, mama? of how you saw the face of God in the midst of fear or pain or joy and understood, really understood, Mary, not kneeling chastely beside a clean manger refraining from touching her babe, just moments after birth but instead, sore and exhilarated, weary and pressing a sleepy, wrinkled newborn to her breasts, treasuring every moment in her heart, marvelling not only at his very presence but at her own strength, how surrender and letting go is true work, tucking every sight and smell and smack of his lips into her own marrow.

(http://deeperstory.com/incarnation/)

It’s what I find wrong with so much of religion; it’s all about men, and how men have made it, forgetting the very humanness of birth.

Michael and I have major issues with organized religion, and we’re both pretty clear that we don’t believe in Jesus as savior. But beyond that? But you can’t raise kids on what you DON’T believe in. I feel like I need to define my beliefs, and maybe it’s less for the kids and more for myself. And maybe I don’t think beliefs can really be defined in such a quantitative way. Maybe I need to explore Buddhism more. Sometimes, I’m quite jealous of friends who have such defined belief systems. It would certainly be easier for me to have one. But I don’t.

Part of this has come up as a natural introspection post-birth. Birth really does bring out the spirituality in so many of us. Part of this is due to the holidays, and our desire to create traditions for our kids, and wondering how to define them without the context of Christianity or Judaism (Solstice?).

So, where do I go from here? I’m not sure. I did find two books that might help: Raising Freethinkers: A practical guide for parenting beyond belief and Parenting Beyond Belief: on raising ethical, caring kids without religion. I’ll let you know where this all lands as it evolves.

What I do know, is that I believe in goodness, and family, and love. And the sun and the moon, and that it all keeps turning. And as the Mamas and the Papas sang, “to everything, there is a season, and a purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

Giving Thanks

It’s the cool thing to do this month. Apparently. I’ve been busy and missed the memo that I was supposed to update the world as to what I’ve been thankful for each day.

However, in our house, we’ve been practicing thankfulness, gratitude, and the beauty of fall, all at once.

Have you heard of a tree of gratitude?

It can be done any way you like (we found inspiration here). We found branches in our yard, plopped them in a vase, cut “leaves” with my paper punch and used strips of fabric to tie them on.

The idea is that you write something you’re thankful for. Not every day, not in any sort of prescribed way, but rather when the mood strikes you. The idea is to remind yourself of what is really important as we head into this holiday season. In our house, we’re finding this especially important with a nearly 6 year old who wants/needs everything.

We also invited our friends who joined us for our “welcome Asher/warm our house” party to add what they’re thankful for. Really, anyone who comes by our house is welcome to add to it. We’ll save the “leaves” to read next November.

So, what am I thankful for? In the grandest sense, community. I’m SO grateful for the wonderful community we’ve found in the area. I never expected it, and cannot express how overwhelmed I’ve been with gratitude these last many weeks.

Thank  you. May your Thanksgiving be full of gratitude, family, friends, and, of course, good food.

Hindsight is 20/20

(alternately titled: “If I knew then what I know now”)

You see all of those trite quotes all over the interwebs saying things like “dishes can wait, babies don’t keep” and “they grow up before your eyes” and la la la. And you think, no, the dishes are going to drive me insane, or that laundry just won’t fold itself, and the baby can just be there for a minute.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last 6 years, is that you lay that baby down for “just a minute” and then she’s off to kindergarten. And reading on her own. And enjoying a very wiggly tooth.

Or you set her down and she climbs to the top of the [insert tall item in your house here]. And she insists on “my do it”. And then she asks politely for a snack. And would you please read Brown Bear, Brown Bear.

Or you set her down, and suddenly she’s a month old, and trying to smile (and making all kinds of awesome expressions in her early attempts). And trying to push up on her arms. And weighing 10 pounds.

And I know, this time, just how fast it will go. And I didn’t honestly think I’d care, and I do find myself looking very much forward to a time when she’ll be able to coo, smile, sit up, play with her sisters, sleep through the night, etc. Because I know IT WILL HAPPEN.

And I have to remind myself to let her be. To let them all be. To let them all grow as they must, and not rush them at all. And that’s hard. But having already seen two of them grow and change SO FAST, this time I know the growing is inevitable, and obviously a good thing, but I know to enjoy what we have while we have it.

Maybe it’s because Asher is the last (oh yes, she’s it. swear.). Maybe it’s because I’m watching one kid learn to read, one kid learn to speak, and another learn to smile. And I’m just trying to enjoy the ride.

 

STILL pregnant

No, this is not a comment on comments made…in fact, most friends seem to feel like this pregnancy has flown by.

I, on the other hand, do not feel as such. It seems as though I’ve been pregnant FORever.

A friend pointed out tonight, and somehow this was the first it dawned on me: our lives have changed ENTIRELY in the last 9 months. Since last February, we, as a family:

celebrated Finleigh’s first birthday

found out we were (unexpectedly) pregnant with our third

had our condo on the market

finally got our “maybe house” and moved

Ryan started kindergarten

bought a new (to us) minivan

sold off all of the REgarding Peanut inventory

and, soon, will have our third girl join our family.

It’s no wonder I’ve been reeling lately. It’s no wonder Michael has been on edge. And really, it’s a wonder the girls have been as awesome as they have been with all the stress we’ve had.

But to be honest, this has been an easy pregnancy. I worked out up until 35w. I’ve had very few aches and pains, and have really been pretty comfortable. That said, I’m whiny, cranky, and I’d much prefer to give birth over being pregnant. Now, at 37w, we’re excited to meet this little girl, and introduce her to our friends and family.

I know our lives will continue to grow and change over the years, and that staying stationary is never an option, but I would love (LOVE) to settle, just a little bit, into some sort of routine, just so we can all breathe a bit.

{all photos are taken by my AMAZING photog friend Chantelle of http://www.livelovelaughphotographblog.com/}

First day of Kinder

Yep, yesterday, we sent our first baby, our Peanut, to Kindergarten. One small step for her, one giant step for mom and dad.

It’s so much more than just a first day of school. It’s the first day of her joining the public school institution; of US, as a family, joining that institution, and is the beginning of the next 13 years of her life.

I did good yesterday. I hid behind my camera, focusing and f-stopping to avoid crying. It worked. I got great shots and held it together. Of course, now, writing this, the tears are pouring. Can I blame it on the pregnancy?

She loved it though. She made a little friend, sat next to some boys on the bus (was disappointed to not find a girl to sit with), and enjoyed her teacher, Mrs. T.

Test Drive

Do you ever feel a little like you’re still test driving the life you’re living? I know that sounds strange, and maybe very un-“live in the moment” but occasionally I feel like I’m still trying it on, seeing if it fits, and tossing it back on the ground as if it doesn’t quite work for me.

Yes, I know, I have 2 kids and one on the way. One who’s a bit of a surprise, and still I sometimes think “oh my, am I really going to have 3 little girls in all of 7 weeks?” Yes, I know I have a house now, which makes me feel rather grown up, but again, like I might be a bit of a poser. Yes, I am a landlord now, again, making me appear much more grown up than I feel I am. And these are only a few of the things that make me feel like I’m still trying on this life. Still test driving it to see if I want to buy in…except someone else (myself, actually) already bought it and gave me the keys. And it’s what I have, so I drive it.

Where the heck did all this come from? It definitely started with test driving minivans last week. Three kids doesn’t really leave you a whole lot of options for toting them around, and though a station wagon could fit all the necessary carseats, it wouldn’t leave a lot of room for groceries. So minivan it is, but man, it felt strange driving one. And will continue to feel strange. Part of me wants to camp it up, embrace it and go all “soccer mom” on it. Part of me wants to RUN to the Audi dealership and buy a TT that I can’t afford and won’t hold all of my kids, but damn, would be fun to drive.

It could be that Ryan started Kindergarten this week. That Finleigh is wanting to learn to use the potty and saying about 10 new words each day. That we are having our house painted. That we found renters for our condo. That I’m due in all of 7 weeks.

Or it could just be that some days, some weeks, I feel like I’m just a kid, trying on the grown up clothes and finding they’re still kinda big, they still look a little silly, and I still have a lot of growing to do before they’ll really fit.

This photo says 773 words.

celestin by ~oye on deviantART.

I stumbled on this image the other day on Pinterest and it’s been haunting me ever since. Likely not so much because I’m pregnant right now (or maybe it is) but moreso because of how much, and how often, I think about the state of maternity care in our nation.

Though I understand the photographer was simply paying homage to another photographer, using her newly born nephew as the subject, I find it speaks VOLUMES about birth in hospitals. And yes, I recognize that this post may piss people off. The good ones usually do. They touch nerves, they elicit guilt, they bring up memories you’d might have rather not remembered. But the truth is that our maternity care is abysmal, we’re doing it to ourselves (yes, even those self-selecting OUT of hospitals), and we can change it, if we just choose to open our eyes to what’s really going on.

Maternal Mortality in the United States falls behind 40 other countries at 11 deaths per 100,000 live births. It’s defined as the death of a mother, from a number of various causes, within 42 hours after giving birth (1). Severe bleeding/hemorrhage is listed as the top cause of death. One of the most used drugs during labor in American hospitals is Pitocin. Why? Because it (can) speed labor up (why, I ask, must labor be sped up and not allowed to go at the pace the woman’s body deems it should go?). One of the side effects of Pit is post partum hemorrhage (2). Ironically, it’s also administered by midwives FOR post partum hemorrhage. The drug works, much like our own natural oxytocin, to create uterine contractions. This can be a good thing, or it can be a very, very bad thing.

The use of Pit often leads a laboring woman towards an epidural a lot faster than she might have gone on her own (if at all). Pitocin contractions are notoriously intense, moreso than oxytocin contractions, and can come on stronger and more suddenly than a woman’s body (and baby) are ready for. So she asks for an epidural. Though epidurals are considered generally “safe” by the medical community, they introduce a whole host of other potential problems to a labor (3). It is extremely controversial to say that the likelihood of a cesarean delivery is greater with an epidural, but it appears more and more that this may be the case. And, though a cesarean is again, generally considered a “safe” surgery, it is still major surgery. And with that comes another host of potential side effects, including blood clots and anesthesia issues, and placenta previa and accreta for future pregnancies (4).

Maternal death is highly preventable. Highly. If modern obstetrics would just LEAVE BIRTH ALONE, and let it develop as it needs to, most of the time, it would be fine. The WHO believes our cesarean section rate should be at 10-15%. It’s currently above 35%. I refuse to believe that all of those are true, true emergencies. Yes, I know, yours was. I understand that, and this post is not to undermine your birth, how you’re processing it, or how it has been retold to you. What’s hard for me to process is how many women are told their c/s was an emergency, needed to happen, baby might die, and it’s largely because of how we care for women in labor in hospitals. Care providers push, nudge, outright force babies out of wombs before they’re ready, and we are left to believe that our doctor saved our sweet baby (and likely ourselves) from the throes of evil, scary, deadly labor. Except that many of the hospital interventions LEAD TO that “life saving” c/s. Again, I DO NOT wish to undercut YOUR experience, how YOU felt about it, or how it makes YOU feel. What I wish to highlight is the culture surrounding birth, and how it’s so much more about an institution (a patriarchal one at that, believe that women are simply not capable of doing this whole “labor thing” without modern science to help it along) rather than an individual. And again, until the institution can change, there’s little hope for women and babies.

So where the hell was I going with this little lesson in the “snowball of interventions”? I was getting to the picture, and what it said to me.

And to me, it shows a newborn, alone, on a hospital bed and I wonder, where’s mama? Because I don’t know of many mamas who’ve just given birth and would voluntarily leave that sweet baby, lying there, alone. That is, quite possibly, the most tragic thing I can think of.