Tag Archives: self-esteem

All the Right Reasons- Thoughts on Pregnancy, Love & Staying Fit

14 Feb

I’ve always had a disdain for exercise. Maybe because I am not athletic, or because when I was younger  I didn’t think I needed it because I had a super high metabolism and could eat whatever I wanted and stayed skinny. Maybe it’s because it was forced on me when I attended a strict Christian program after High School that equated staying fit with spirituality.  Or maybe I am just lazy. I’d rather sit passively and observe. But I am not 19 anymore. And (thankfully) life isn’t just about me.

Today, on this rainy Valentine’s Day,  I was at the gym  and I had a sort of epiphany. I’ve been dragging myself there because I know I need it, because my husband is a personal trainer and encourages me to go, and honestly, because of the cheap childcare. I know it’s good for me, but it’s not really something I enjoy. In the past I made it a necessary evil, but a selfish one.  I thought maybe I could get my body back, feel good about myself, feel thin. But then I got pregnant again.

I realize Motherhood changes the shape and size of your body. It’s difficult at first. I catch my reflection in a full-length mirror or see the number on a scale and suddenly I don’t even recognize myself anymore. But then I remember that growing and sustaining life is a privilege and a miracle. And I know deep down, I don’t want to be skinny. I want to be strong. 

And today as I was on one of the leg machines, looking down at my belly, swollen with life, I realized I wanted to be there.

I want to be there because I don’t want labor just to happen to me, I want to prepare for it, like a marathon runner trains months in advance for the big day. I continue to try to exercise because I believe very strongly in natural childbirth. I believe it can be not only bearable but beautiful. I believe my son can come out my body smoothly, that it doesn’t have to be traumatic or something to dread.

Yes, I acknowledge that sometimes no matter how much we prepare, things happen.  I learned the painful lesson when my daughter was put in an ambulance and sent to the NICU 30 minutes after she was born— some things in life you just have no control over.

But I can prepare. I can pray. I can hope for the best. I can get my mind, spirit and body ready as much as I can.

I don’t have to just let and birth happen to me.

I have a choice the way my child comes into the world. I can be at peace. I can be strong. (I am strong.) I can make myself stronger. I can take captive every thought and fill my mind with beauty, peace and strength.

I think a large part of maturity means you realize you are in charge of your own life. But the conundrum lies in the realization that as much as you’re in charge, you’re not necessarily in control. It’s a grasping hard and letting go all at the same time. A pushing forward and a finally closing your eyes and resting. It’s a striving for the goal, yet understanding everything worth anything is a gift you can’t pay for.

It’s all about motivation really. I think that being strong is a much better motivation than trying to avoid weakness. Love always moves you farther than fear. It’s all the right reasons.

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“Because I want to,” always goes father than, “because I have to.”

So I’ll stay awake and active. I’ll let self-discipline not be something forced on me by some inner dark voice, but a light within me motivating me to never give up. Always keep moving forward. I’ll let it be fruit in my life that comes automatically from healthy roots, water and sun.

Because that’s what love looks like. It looks primarily like work, with emotions blindsiding us as an extra reward when we put the effort in. It looks like sweat, blood and tears. For all the right reasons.

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37 Weeks

9 Jun

I am not so sure who I am anymore, caught up in another like this.

The right colors, the right softness, a ready nest. That is what I am consumed with. It’s weird and cliché, and all too real at once. I get it now, this deafening urge to make a safe space for my child in a chaotic world. Safe is relative, as is space size, but I am think I am doing pretty good.

My mind feels so lost and unaware of trying to control any of this, it’s like I am going on autopilot and making decisions.

Small decisions like the color of her diaper changing pad cover.

Big decisions like listening to a doctor’s report or following my gut.

It’s scary sometimes, losing control like this. Grasping at the things I can control, but realizing nothing is certain.

I will be a mom soon, her mom. A mother to a new being that is part of me and part of my husband.

What?!

We made a person…

I know it’s a “rite of passage” or at least usually considered one for women, except those that can’t or don’t want to bring new life in the world. I know it’s ordinary, if you define ordinary as common, happening often, but that word just shouldn’t be paired with this.

If it’s ordinary, it’s the most miraculous ordinary event in the world,

one we smile or shed a tear at, but don’t feel its full weight and meaning until it is so close to home. As close as our own body.

It takes a lot, to fit two souls into one body.

It’s so weird, this sharing of my body. For 28 years I had my body to myself. I didn’t treat it as good as it deserved. It’s not that I abused it, it’s just that I never liked it really much.

For a long time it felt like something separate from me, another strange thing in my life that I just wanted to be different, to be “normal.” I got angry  at it for not being the shape I wanted it. I was one of those annoying girls that was always so skinny, but still hated myself anyways. I never exercised because I thought I didn’t have to.

I didn’t hold enough regard for it, or myself, so I gave it away too easy. I picked at it, and picked it apart, thinking, “If only___________ I’ll be happy with it.”

We didn’t have the best relationship.

Slowly, I grew up and let God love me and learned to love myself. I took care of it better and wasn’t so quick to despise the things about me I always saw as negative. In fact, I began to see those things as positive.  Not to say things are completely mended, but I grew to appreciate this house I live in, and feel more connected to it.

Now, my body is no longer just mine. I’ve already given it to my husband for life, and I am now I am sharing it with her.  I have a new appreciation for all it can do, despite the wear and tear of having another being living inside.

It’s stretched out, to what feels like the limit at 37 weeks.

This barely 115 pound teenager is now an almost 200 pound pregnant woman pushing 30. This embarrassed underdeveloped preteen, now fully bloomed, beyond what I ever thought possible, so much more than something sexual, a source of sustenance for my child. My once skinny legs are swollen and red, from the summer heat, water retention, and lack of circulation. My back is killing me and my breath is short. But I wouldn’t trade a skinny, fully functioning body in for this. She’s so worth it.

And now, at 37 weeks I know she will soon be her own. Her body is changing and growing too, preparing to live fully functional, outside of me.

In a few weeks she will separate from me, and our journey will begin.

Our messy, gorgeous, heartbreaking  journey of beauty, learning  and growth.

I will love her more and more, and she will become more and more independent from me as each day passes, and her dad and I will watch with overwhelming joy and a twinge of sadness.

It takes a lot, to fit two souls into one body.

 

miracle

Beyond Beautiful: A Letter To My Daughter

11 Feb

Dear Baby Girl,

I can’t wait to welcome you into the world.

You are brave to enter this place. It’s big and wide and complicated and dangerous.

But it’s beautiful too.

It’s filled with laughter and the smell of fresh-cut grass,  and light shining on ocean waves and soon, you.

Your arrival will make this place better.

You and your perfect fingers, your smile, your eyes ready to capture all the color and light, to soak it all in and fill yourself up.

You are a brand new member of the human race. But it’s not a race in the sense of a competition where you shove everyone else out of the way to get first place.

To win at life is to ravenously live every moment, no fear, no regrets, nothing holding you back.

 

Right now, as you grow within this protected, temporary home, you are pure and perfect.

And my hope for you is that you will  know that you can always stay that way.

Some people think that the excitement, wonder and awe we have when we first start out,inevitably fades.

They say loss of innocence is a right of passage into adulthood, that “real life,” filled with all its pain and disappointment will ultimately change you.

But as you grow up, do whatever  you can to keep child-likeness.

Play. Giggle. Trust. Hug. Explore. Be silly. Look for the good.

Because the world will try to steal what matters right from under you.

Before you know it heartbreak will come, and if you let it, it will lead to bitter cynicism.

But if you’re real careful not to shut yourself up to the pain, if you still see life as still good through it all, something shiny and new will come out.

Redemption.

And you’ll realize how beautiful all of this is.

Your existence.

 

Baby girl, I want you to always know you’re beautiful.

Beyond the perfect skin I know you’ll have, the gorgeous hair and eyes, the sweet personality,

I want you to recognize that beauty that comes from loving life,

From loving the whole world so deeply you just have to drink in every moment.

From a love that comes from within you and surrounds you,

From a still small voice that defines you.

I want you to know that who you are is so much more than physical beauty.

 

Beyond beautiful,  I want you to know you are brave.

There are a lot of things in life that will try to bring fear into your heart.

Fear will paralyze you, steal your joy and passion.

I want you to know, you have the strength in you to defeat every monster.

You have the light in you to shine through every dark place.

You are a fighter, and you have the kindness and wisdom to know what is worth fighting for.

 

Beyond beautiful, I want you to be your brilliant self.

Don’t ever let anyone box you in.

Don’t be afraid to question the things you are told that make you feel less than amazing.

Don’t be afraid to make up your own dance, to your own rhythm.

Think outside of what the majority is doing.

Create something extraordinary.

I know you have it in you.

 

Beyond beautiful, I want you to live a life of conviction and compassion.

To love the loveless and see the potential in every fellow human no matter how “dirty” or far gone.

To really care for the “least of these” not just as another popular cause or spiritual duty,

But with a deep, aching sense that speaking life into another soul, fighting injustice, freeing someone from bondage,

that giving a single glass of water or piece of bread away is the most important thing you can do.

 

Beyond beautiful, I want you to know Jesus, for who He really is.

Your friend, who will always be with you.

Complete love and grace.

Truth that sets you free.

The giver of all good gifts in life.

And if anyone ever tries to tell you anything different, you will know deep in your heart they are wrong.

You will know what is good and right and true because you will know Him.

And you won’t need a soapbox or pedestal because people will see your life and know what is real.

 

And beyond everything, I want you to know you are loved.

loved

So, so loved.

That love is what makes you grow, what gets you through life’s challenges, what shows you a billion possibilities.

That love will be your choice. Above being right, being smart, being cool, successful or tough.

That love will be your story.

And you story, my dear,  will be a great adventure.

I can’t wait to start at the beginning and watch as you turn the pages.

See you real soon.

Love,

Your Mother

I’ve Decided to Forget About Self-Esteem

10 Jan

This morning in the shower I almost lost balance. My body feels so awkward as it stretches and grows, expanding to make space for the life inside me.  It’s hard sometimes. One moment I am filled with joy at the thought of my coming baby, the next I just feel awkward and fat.

Yesterday I watched an interview with my favorite angst-filled 90’s singer Alanis Morissette, talking about her experience being pregnant and giving birth. She candidly shared how her whole life she did everything she could to ignore the fact she had a body. She didn’t want to confront it head on, for the insecurity would be too much. Everything she did was to transcend.

We’ll love you just the way you are
If you’re perfect

-Alanis, Perfect

But, as Alanis discovered, there is no escaping your body when you are pregnant.

I understand. I never felt comfortable in my skin. As a kid, I was the definition of gangly. I was painfully shy and just wanted to disappear into the background, but my tall stature prevented that. I suffered from deep fear and insecurity and  it showed in my bent posture and awkward hand placement. I resented my body and all the space it took. I wished I was tiny because that’s how I felt.

It wasn’t until my early twenties that I actually began to believe I was beautiful. It wasn’t that a man convinced me, or repeating some spiritual incantation about how God made me special.

It took God, showing me outside myself to see within myself.

It took me understanding the root of my childhood fear, and understanding Grace in Jesus to have grace on myself.

It took me finally loving my life to see that it was beautiful.

I know we all struggle with the way we see ourselves. There are so many books and blogs on body image, especially for girls.

But maybe the answer to this self-esteem crisis isn’t repeating some kind of chant or putting make-up on, or taking it off.

Maybe it isn’t found in the compliments of others, in using or hating Photoshop, in blaming magazine editors for our false view of what being pretty means.

Maybe it isn’t even in repeating bible verses about how wonderfully made we are, and convincing ourselves we really believe it.

Maybe the real way to finally accept your body image is to begin to realize what a miracle this vessel we were given is. 

Maybe the way to love yourself is to allow yourself to be in awe at the way your eyes are reading these words and your brain is processing them.

 I’ve decided to forget about self-esteem and focus instead on esteeming life.

Because when I quit comparing myself to others and realize each person is a miracle, I can’t help but love myself and those around me.

Our blood flows, our brain sends messages.

These systems inside us are vastly complex and creative.

We feel and stretch and smile.

We love and go through loss and get sick and heal.

We invent and create art and societies and make babies.

We are alive. 

I am reading an autobiography of a boy who is almost completely paralyzed. He typed the book with a stick in his mouth.  He is stuck in his chair, unable to talk or hardly move.

And yet, he is not confined. He is not limited.

His imagination more than compensates for his lack of physical movement.

In his mind, he travels and soars. 

He is not stuck.

It’s time to stop believing the lie that we are stuck.

I am not stuck.

You are not stuck.

Whether you are bursting with new life, maybe a baby or a dream,

or you feel all weathered up and used, and are just going through the motions,

Your life is a miracle.

life

Lately, I place one hand on my heart and one on my growing belly.

I breathe in deep and close my eyes and imagine my child.

Kicking, smiling, growing, anticipating entering this brilliant world.

A unique being, alive and breathing. Thinking and feeling.

I know then, that even if I gain one hundred more pounds and the hair on my head falls out, even when lines and marks on my body stretch out, and half-moons grow darker under my eyes,

I am and will always be beautiful. 

Because life is a miracle, and I get to partake in it.

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