I woke up to the soft cries of a hungry baby next to me with the pungent smell of stomach virus and morning breath permeating from my pores. I could hardly see straight and felt like I could have used a padded room as I carried my almost six-month-old down the hall to the playroom where my little family convenes Saturday mornings for bottles and diaper changes.
My two-year-old was drinking her morning bottle on the couch cradled into my husband’s chest. As I walked past them, I saw his lips muttering something inaudible but I didn’t even care to pretend to hear him as I melted into the other side of the couch to feed the baby.
I hardly had the energy to lift the bottle I pumped in the middle of the night. I just wanted to close my sleep-ridden eyes and crawl back under the covers, but in a different way than the normal mom-exhaustion. I pride myself on always being present and not missing a moment because too often in my life I had numbed out (with destructive behaviors) to get by, but all I wanted to do this day was sleep. I felt that awful.
The reality is when you are the primary caregiver of your family, calling in sick, even on a weekend, is not a viable option. I am the captain of the mother ship and without the captain, not only the ship, but all of its passengers can be in danger of sinking, vulnerable to chaos, or worse.
One thing is for certain this weekend gave me some perspective on how I could never have been a good mom five years ago when I was struggling with eating disorders. Back then I had limited energy—a weak, moody and at times irrational shell of myself. I couldn’t express feelings and would often say, “everything is OK” when that was the farthest thing from the truth and my tiny body was visual proof. My newfound ability to express my feelings and experience shows on my imperfect post pregnancy body. I mean one of my boobs (my hyper lactating left one) hangs lower than the other from breastfeeding two babies, talk about a worthwhile flaw! After this past weekend of stomach bug hell, I appreciate this body more than ever and wouldn’t change it.
My arms throw my toddler up and down—all 27-pounds of her goes flying in the air. Her hair is wild, curls bouncing like ten Slinkys let down a flight of stairs at the same time. I smile as she lets out a laugh so hard it seems to weigh her down, as she falls into my chest. My arms have flesh on them. They aren’t the bare twigs they once were, and it serves as padding to my new muscles that give me the strength to carry my daughters—sometimes both at the same time. For that, I wouldn’t change them.
My legs walk up and down the stairs when I forget something: a pacifier, bottle, bib, burp cloth etc.
“Oh darn, I forgot your socks upstairs sweet love,” I muse to my two-year-old.
I scoop her up into my arms humming Run That Race from Cars 3 (naturally)—run up the stairs to her room, grab socks, run back down—while my other daughter sits buckled into her Fisher Price chair serving as a finish line and motivation for our quick return. Repeat about 20 times a day. I run around the playroom with my toddler as she says “catch me, catch me.” I squat down to pick up around the house, cleaning my way through our morning or afternoon fun. I now have cellulite that has made a home on the back of my thighs and am a little bottom heavy for my liking, my inner critic can still be tough, but these legs do a lot. For that, I wouldn’t change them.
I take up space. I am a person of substance both in flesh and brain. This space I take up is the body of a person who is a mother who has the privilege of raising two amazing little women. Two women who I hope emulate Jo March in that they are brave and real—strong in their senses of self. I appreciate this space I take up. It is seen, bold and heard and present for the good and bad—it’s a body that lives and experiences. And for that, I wouldn’t change it.