It’s a lot on our bodies

Our hair is getting longer. Both of us. Sweaty curls, plastered against her head, and wispy, thin tree trunk strands, standing on end, reaching up and away. Some of each. And myself. Length wanting of explanation. Tangles I can’t get out.

Sweat is a lot on our bodies.

Knots are a lot on our bodies.

I hope my daughter’s fever has broken.  She has been sleeping on me for well over two hours, longer than her normal nap time. She is so, so sweaty.  

I’m proud of her. I’m really, really proud of her.  It was her first major fever, the highest she’d ever had before. It did not come with a cold or other symptoms, so I wasn’t panicking.  She was generally happy: playing, eating, eliminating, and sleeping well for the two days that I treated it.  Then, this morning, it was higher. Fuck. 104.4. Her eyes were glassy. I called the doctor. We went in. She’s fine, she doesn’t have any treatable infection, and we just have to wait out her normal, healthy immune reaction to a probable virus.  I looked at her as she suffered, and I look at her now as she rests to recover, and I see how much of a strain it was on her.

A fever is a lot on our bodies.

It worked. Her body worked. I mean, that’s what’s supposed to happen, right?  An invader comes in, and something kicks into gear to fight it off. She is draped so heavily on me, as if she just finished a long battle. In the doctor’s office, the comment was made that it looked like it finally got to her. Fighting for two days on a level you don’t even have control over will wear out a person, especially a small person still managing to keep up her energy and her spirits that whole time. I’m so proud of her. She handled it. She did something she had never done before. I tried to help. I did the usual: taking her temperature, giving her food, drink, medicine, and comfort. I held her skin to mine.. that little body was so hot.  I wanted my body to know she was fighting. I wanted my milk to respond to her. My body teaching her, working with her. And we won.  

Fighting an attack is a lot on our bodies.

That same skin is so cool now, it feels like a different baby is in my arms. I suspect she is different, because she is stronger.  If we keep trying, maybe experiences in life can keep us on a path of growth.

Persistence is a lot on our bodies.

I just wrote to a friend who is in her last weeks of pregnancy.  The aches, the discomfort, the mystery of the future all came back to me. The feeling of having a person kick you painfully from the inside of your body.  Truly, it was nothing short of wondrous. The wondrously tiring experience of having your body support two people at once. Experiencing it for the first time, we marvel at the unforgettable process. Our bodies taught their bodies how to be.

Pregnancy is a lot on our bodies.

After my daughter was born I was shaking. My arms and hands, my face, my legs, they all felt as if I were shivering, even though I wasn’t cold. Every so often all my muscles would jerk. I told the nurse. Her response was that my body had just been through a lot, more than I realized.  That statement has stuck with me. We begin the process of responding to another human.

Childbirth is a lot on our bodies.

Babies cry after they are born. Everything has just changed, They make faces, they kick and root, they try to suck; they’ve practiced the first essential skills, the basics, they need for living on the outside.  They’ve just transitioned to an unfamiliar place, and their senses long for what nature has programmed them to require.  A mother’s touch, her scent, her voice, her heart, her breast. They are immediate comfort to start what will be a long journey.

Coming into the world is a lot on our bodies.

I get really, really hungry as a nursing mother. The truth is, I have a huge appetite anyway, so it really brings me into a seemingly endless search-for-food mode.  Honestly, it is worse than pregnancy.  It’s hard to keep feeling like you want to eat. It’s hard to stop eating.  There’s emotion behind it.  Guilt, worry, enjoyment, satiation, body concerns.

Sustenance is a lot on our bodies.

I’m watching a television show, something which hasn’t happened in a while.  Discussing it with a friend, we touched on a central topic: body image.  I still judge myself, and I still judge others.  Revelations about accepting myself don’t always stick. Ideals about all of us being equal seem to fall away, like a Cheshire cat, when there is a more interesting comment to voice.  Concentrating on how our own bodies should look or work, and snarling when they don’t do so, is a way of fitting in, even when it hurts.

Judgement is a lot on our bodies.

The way our bodies change is hard.  Currently I have seen how a baby changes from birth through their first year.  In my professional life, I worked with elderly and disabled patients.  The metamorphosis our bodies go through is phenomenal.  At each stage, it becomes a reexamination of our abilities. With knowledge of our abilities comes the challenge of utilizing them.  Somehow, in all of that, lies a self-perceived identity.  Our worth to ourselves wavers in those identities, in those actions and abilities, and in those bodies.

Development is a lot on our bodies.

A lot of people push themselves physically.  We run, climb mountains, stay up all night, drink. We try to make ourselves perfect by doing everything right, or maybe we head the other way and fail to care for ourselves at all. We are beat up either way. Often absent from our daily lives is a focus on what is happening to us and what we are doing to ourselves. For years we may continue in this way.

We are a lot on our bodies.

At the end, there is you. I’ve had the valuable experience of being with two of the closest people in the world to me while they died. An adequate description of what that connection is would be tough to explain. It affects you both. Hearing is the last sense to go. I talked to them, I played music, I held their hands.  After a while, they could no longer respond; it became the last response to end what had begun at birth.  We cannot describe how we start to breathe as we cannot describe how we then struggle to breathe. What we experience as our skin mottles, as our organs shut down, or even as the morphine drips down into our veins, is a mystery.  It is something else that occurs on a level we do not control.  

Death is a lot on our bodies.

A lot is hard on our bodies and our minds.  A lot of things add up to, well, a lot.  Maybe they aren’t even that hard, because our bodies are equipped to handle it all. They certainly aren’t impossible, they are simply a lot. From the cellular struggles we don’t notice, to the personal and interpersonal trials we mull over in our minds and lose sleep over, sometimes we do not fully comprehend how strained and stressed our physical matter has become.  We do not fully understand the complexity, or how incredible it all is.  

Life is a lot on our bodies. From sweaty hair to painful memories, from tough knots to sighs of relief, from birth all the way through death, may we get stronger and increase our immunity along the way, and realize at each step that existence signifies something for us. May we contribute whatever it is that we are able to bring to it.

Take care as your recover from life.  Time passes, our hair grows longer. The sweaty baby is still sleeping, but maybe not for long.

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Knight Nursing: How the Plates of Armor on my Chest Saved my Life

I share a bed with my 14 month old daughter. When she stirs during her 10-12 or so hours of sleep, any time in the middle of the night or early morning, she will turn her body, searching. Sometimes she will glide toward me with a gentle roll, as if she were being carried or pulled in the natural flow of an ocean wave, or, at other times, she seems to lunge at me with a desperate flop.  A little sound of panic is emitted, somehow my shirt is pulled down, she latches, she sucks, she drinks, and she is saved. We both usually remain half-asleep through all of this.  It has been a miracle, one born of convenience and continued because of bonding. We both sleep well. It is just one example of our relationship; I nurse my child all the time, with virtually no restrictions. Though she has reached toddlerhood, she still seems to drink her milk as often as a newborn. The benefits to both of us have become astronomically apparent. It is a big, bold star in our night sky that guides, and saves, us.

When I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed my baby, and I figured it would be a special bond.  With that in mind, I definitely did not quite understand the level of time, commitment, and love that a true, exclusive, breastfeeding-on-demand nursing relationship would entail. Once you fully flesh out that relationship (pun intended), all the myriad of needs that those mounds of flesh on your chest fulfill is astounding. They provide nourishment for the body, mind, and soul. They can save your child from hunger, from loneliness, from pain, from fear. With that soothing oxytocin release, they can calmly save you both from tears of frustration. They protect both mother and child from wants and hurts. They protect like armor. They make you feel invincible. When your baby is upset for any reason, those boobs swoop in like a superhero to solve the problem.  In private, you as a mother may have your own worries and tension as well. When the world attempts to stab you, and many are the jabs of life’s sword, and the sharp pangs of slings and arrows, these breasts serve to deflect the blow. There may yet be times when they can cause tears, themselves becoming as much of a double-edged sword as what has attacked you. Like armor, it may not breathe. You can feel trapped, enclosed, cut off from the freedom of the outside world. I guess such feelings arise when your body is taken over by your child in so many ways at different points in their development. Or when the female body is constantly ogled and labeled by society. No one truly understands that balance except for your own self, contained in that heart buried deeply under your fleshly mounds of armor. Yes, that isolation may take hold, but your safety remains.  

The past few years, in addition to gifting the joy of new motherhood, have held a lot of trauma for me. There was a lot of change, loss, and soul-searching, more than ever before in my adult life. It sometimes all seems too much. It has been life, not something necessarily like the major depressive episodes of my younger years, or even like postpartum depression, for I am actually happier in so many ways post-partum. Just life circumstances. I nurse and I feel content and safe and proud in my protective bond with my daughter, yet somehow, at times, alone in that very same armor.  Hours were hard. I imagined not being.  Not being can feel warm. In your mind, it can feel like a safe place to run when stress levels are high, even if it is something you would never want in reality. The line between darkness and security is blurred. It isn’t purely dark ideation; I also knew that, as a new parent, I would need to come up with a plan in the event something ever happened to me. I discussed it with others. The consensus was: Don’t Die. Thus brought forth more thinking.  I did imagine myself dead, or dying. What would happen? All I pictured was my daughter wanting me. I am not a doctor, but I am fairly certain my mammary glands would soon cease to function upon my death.  I would no longer be that warm comfort.  No longer that flesh. No longer that savior.  And my heart broke. It broke. The years of her life, raising her — that means so much to me and, considering how incredible of a person she is already, I just dream of knowing her in all her lovable quirks and perfect imperfections as she becomes who she is. But as a new first time mother, my initial instinct, the immediate need I thought of, was my baby’s need for my breasts. What would she do? How would she be comforted?  Nursing is our favorite; it makes her so happy and I just love it for that. She often loves keeping a hand on her boobies even when she isn’t nursing. Nothing else will ever quite do it for her, even her most favorite people. How cruel. Please, please, when you beg life to help smooth the way, let me stay. Let me nourish her.  I need to comfort her. She is my everything, my best friend, the one who has given me the opportunity to breastfeed, to bring more life into the world, and do those two most beautiful things perfectly. I don’t want to die. Let me live for her. And I analyzed my train of thought right there: I love my daughter so much and I need to be alive for her, but it comes down to my breasts. The reason I didn’t want to die was because of my breasts.  Again, I could not die because of my breasts. My breasts were all I had to offer this world. Was that all I could rely on? Then I questioned my stupidity, my egoism, and how this applied to others. What about women who struggle to breastfeed and are unable to do so? What about women who don’t want children or never have children to breastfeed? What about women whose breasts feel like enemies — alien appendages they don’t like, things that draw unwanted attention or aggression,  or reminders of a body that is sick or cancerous?  Hell, what about my own life once I am no longer breastfeeding? Where is our worth then?  Worth cannot be tied up in just our breasts! How superficial! Is this selfish of me, to use my breasts’ ability to justify my own self-worth?  To use my gift to another autonomous human being, one borne of my own flesh and blood, to piece together my own life’s purpose?  No. Our life’s journey is our own, and the connections and interactions with other people and the world around us enrich it.  Everyone’s armor is different. We move from one stage of life to another, gathering our strengths, our worth, our reasons along the way. At this moment, my breasts are my saving armor. Someday, that will change. Our priorities change. Yet their protection is currently an integral part of me. I am more than the sum of my parts, more than my breasts. I am even more than my status as a mother. I know I, and she, and you, have more to offer the world. It is not the only thing I value about myself, but in exceedingly difficult moments — seconds I cannot bear — it is the most poignant. You need to find your life, piece by piece, at every stage.  Build your arsenal, be a fighter – a knight!  Tally the reasons you can look back and be proud of who you are and what you did with your life.  Just because a stage is fleeting, different from others’ experiences, or just because it helps you in addition to helping another person, does not delegitimize its worth, nor your worth.  When I think of the heaviness of life, I might want to run.  When I think I cannot take another day’s insult, or I question whether I will rise to an occasion that has not yet arrived, I know I have to stay to meet those challenges. Because of my daughter. Because of my breasts.  Because I know when it is hard for me to do anything else, I am succeeding at feeding and comforting her. I cannot die because my breasts will die. If my breasts die, my daughter will be alone. Both our hearts will break, and she is still too young for me to leave. That thought has saved me. My breasts encourage me to stay. My breasts — my armor — have saved my life. For a moment in time, I fearlessly ride through, wearing their protection over my chest, like a knight. They cover my body; they protect my heart. With my heart protected I can be a better mother. They become our joint protection. They are small and imperfect, but they serve us well. They save my daughter from hunger. Her cries of pain or fear are met by her mama-knight in shining boobie-armor. Swooping in, I feed and comfort her. I’ve saved her with my breasts. The overwhelming sense of peace and pride and love arises. They save me from lingering on the thought of not being, of fleeing. Upon life’s next attempt to ram its sword into me, I think not of the bad, but of that gently rolling, loving baby, filling my heart with her ocean waves at night.  I am her night-nursing knight.  My breasts are there to meet her as she rolls to me. My breasts are strengthened. I’ve put on my plates. I am her knight. I am my own knight. My breasts are my armor. They protect me in life’s battles. Again. I am a knight, my breasts are my armor.  Day or night, I will nurse. Day or night, I will not give up.  Day or night, my armor remains: the thin shiny steel mounds of flesh, the plates upon my chest. That sword will not penetrate that armor.  It will not penetrate my chest. It will not penetrate my heart. Day or night, these breasts will save our lives.

 

Ciao from the Existential Mommy

Soo.. friends, family, acquaintances, strangers, fellow seekers, fellow parents, anyone who knows and likes my style of thinking and writing.. I decided to start a mommy blog.  It might not be a typical mommy blog about the typical mommy things.   I want to take those mommy things, extend their brilliance, and make them analogous to other major, meaningful life experiences, and hence hope for aspects of it to resonate with anyone.  My writing is extremely personal and heartfelt. I want even those dear to me who do not have children to find our common ground. My goal is to articulate how motherhood fits in and can add to our existence, our lives outside of our children, and the ongoing process of meaning-making that everyone faces.  I feel guilty doing this. I really don’t have time for a full time blog; the way my life is, I have so many other things on my to-do list that I’ve procrastinated on for too long that are more pressing. But sometimes, if you fail to express and let certain things out, it’s actually harder to do those more important things. Whatever I end up actually posting, this is really just a personal blog, minus certain details, of things I need to write about, if for no one else but myself.  If anyone else can gain something, it’s a wonderful bonus.  As a relatively new mother, I thought I would make it more public than private in order to get some more moms reading who might be able to relate.  For anyone who doesn’t know me, I’m an emotional, introspective, quirky, happy and proud stay-at-home mom to an amazing little girl born in February of 2016.  🙂