How I’ve Learned To Love My Body (Even when I feel like a cow)
The first time my baby slept through the night my rock hard breasts woke me up at 2AM. They were huge and they hurt. As I made my way into the bathroom I heard a steady “drip drip drip” on the tile floor. It was like condensation in a steam room. A lactating steam room. I leaned over the sink and wondered what to do. We were visiting my parents and I had left my pump at home which was 1000 miles away. I didn’t think I’d need it. But my baby had never slept this long before and my body was primed to feed her.
I contemplated offering her a “dream feed” but what if that woke her up? All the people who had ever asked me if my baby had “slept through the night” popped into my head. I wanted to be able finally tell them, “YES, yes in fact she has slept through the night already! Thank you very much for asking!”
Why is this so important?
Feeling simultaneously like a farmer and her cow I hand expressed a little to ease some of the pressure and went back to bed in my milk soaked sheets.
My daughter woke up 6:15 and I wasted no time offering her breakfast. She had milk for days.
I bought a hand pump that morning – I’d be damned if I was going to wake up to an unsexy version of Pamela Anderson size breasts a second time and not be able to do anything about it. But my daughter slept through the night again that night (as she would for the next 6 weeks) and I didn’t need to pump. My body had already regulated my supply.
And I was – reminded yet again – that our bodies know exactly what they’re doing.
I hadn’t always been keen to this – for decades I fought to control my body through diet and exercise. I participated in many a food fad – from the fat-free craze of the 90s (frozen yogurt for dinner anyone?) to eating exclusively raw food (nuts, nuts and more nuts) to the Paleo diet. And I burned these calories off through exercise trends like Tae-bo, kickboxing, marathon running, and yoga classes that were way too fast, hot and sweaty.
I equated being thin with being healthy. And if I missed a day of exercise – whoa – I was not much fun to be around.
But pregnancy helped me see things differently. There was someone else to take care of – to be healthy for – and I was amazed at the process. I watched as my body grew a human – along with an entire organ to support it – without my doing anything to make it happen, except listen. I ate when I was hungry and gave my body whatever food it was craving – from green juice to hamburgers to pancakes. I laid down when I was tired and didn’t force myself to exercise.
I felt great.
Postpartum, it was suggested by my yoga teacher to not worry about losing the “pregnancy weight” for the first year – that too much pressure is placed on new moms to get back into shape quickly. I liked that advice. I’ve continued to enjoy the food I’m eating (there’s a lot of it) and I’ve started exercising again because I missed how it felt, not so I could look a certain way.
And now 7 months postpartum my body is starting to look a little like the one I remember, without me forcing it.
And I continue to watch it transform as it meets the daily demands of motherhood. From producing milk, to gaining the strength required to pick her up countless times a day and push her stroller up and down the hills of our neighborhood (anything for a nap!) to building the stamina to survive on very little sleep (she is back to waking throughout the night – sigh – it was a glorious 6 weeks). I feel simultaneously supple and strong, like both a goddess and a warrior, at least when I don’t feel like a farm animal guest starring on Baywatch.
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