Body Be

January 26, 2010

What the hell? I thought to myself yesterday as I prepared to check out at the craft store, baby William in tow. On the checkout rack was a popular tabloid with the headline "Best Winter Beach Bodies" and a photo of a famous actress and her family strolling the shoreline of some tropical paradise. Really? Have we honestly reached this point in our culture, where women are expected to obsess over their body image all year round?

Oh, right. Silly me.

But that wasn't the worst offender of the day. At the grocery store, another magazine devoted to exploring the alleged intricacies of the never-ending "Bradjennelina" lust triangle trumpeted news of Jennifer Aniston's new "Revenge Body" designed to snag Brad Pitt and turn Angelina Jolie green with if Brad's just sitting around waiting to throw his affections to the woman who can produce the tightest buns.

(It's far likelier that he's a despicable shmuck who has figured out that he can play two women all he wants and get away with it...or that the media is making up the whole thing. But I digress....)

Revenge body? Ok, I'll admit that there might be such a thing. After all, what woman hasn't dreamed of showing up to her high school reunion looking far more fabulous than she did in the 10th grade just to stick it to every guy who ever rejected her? But the implication that an attractive, talented woman would pour all of her energy into producing a lovely body just to catch the eye of a man with flighty intentions is disturbing, disgusting, and just plain wrong in my book. And how many women buy into this load of horse hockey!

Granted, I'm no Jennifer Aniston, especially since just giving birth. I have stretch marks on my thighs and loose skin hanging from my belly. But I still have reason to like my body. It is mine, after all. And as my husband pointed out, that patch of loose skin is incredibly soft.

There's too much in society that forces women to feel bad about themselves: we're told that we're not sexy enough, smart enough, successful enough, feminine enough, adequate mothers. But women were never meant to be shoehorned into a narrowly defined ideal type. We are much stronger and much more valuable than that.

If you are a woman, take a moment today to celebrate your body, no matter what kind of body you have. Turn a deaf ear to a culture of "revenge bodies" and "winter beach bodies" and know that you are beautiful in your own way.

Broken Milk Dreams

January 20, 2010

"April, are you ok? April? April?"

I couldn't answer my husband because I was sobbing...for about the fourth time this week.

See, I can't get my son to breastfeed. And it's not for a lack of trying. I worked for two hours with a lactation consultant at the hospital after my son's birth to ensure he could latch on properly. I nursed him despite nipples so sore that I'd yelp and writhe at his first suck. Everyone assured me, though, that the pain would subside with consistent effort and that I'd soon be enjoying the benefits of nourishing my baby.

About a day after leaving the hospital, however, the feeding situation rapidly deteriorated. William began fussing at my breast, fighting my attempts to feed him. Getting him to latch on soon took 20 minutes, 40 minutes, an hour. His whimpers turned to blood-curdling screams. In desperation, I finally agreed to my mother-in-law's suggestion to start supplementing William's diet with formula. The next day, at William's 48-hour hospital weigh-in, I learned that William had lost 11% of his birth weight since leaving the hospital--and if he didn't gain some of it back in 24 hours, he would have to be admitted. So per the pediatrician's orders, I started giving William formula at every meal. William then refused to take my breast at all.

I haven't quite given up yet. I went to the store a couple of nights ago and purchased an electric pump. But the results have been less than encouraging. An hour of pumping so far yields about half a teaspoon of nutritious milk...milk that I know is far more gentler on my son's stomach than formula. Seeing him spit up formula tells me that I've failed at one of the most natural acts in the universe, and it's like a dagger through my heart every time.

I nearly cried at William's weigh-in watching another woman breastfeed her newborn in the hospital waiting room, knowing that such a thing was impossible for me and my baby.

My husband reassures me that it's no big deal. And in a way, he's right: as long as William is eating something and gaining weight, he'll be fine and healthy. But for me, being unable to produce for my baby enough milk--a special gift from my body--is akin to how I think a man might feel if he were told that he's impotent. It hurts in a deep way.

When I was pregnant, my daydream about nursing resembled something like a passage from one of my favorite books, The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. In this particular passage, the protagonist's wife, Olan, sits in the doorway of her home, nursing her firstborn son. Her husband describes her milk as being so plentiful that it flows out, rich and white, onto the dark soil of the fields. The imagery of this passage has always stayed with me, even when I first read The Good Earth in the eighth grade. Right now, I can only pray that my daydream might still become a reality. Pray with me, friends.

Books I Wish Existed

January 18, 2010

When I was pregnant, I was overwhelmed by the number of parenting books on the market: What to Expect The First Year, Parenting by the Book, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, etc., etc., etc. forever and ever, amen. Now that I'm a new parent, however, I've discovered that maybe there aren't enough books on the subject after all. So for all you publishers out there, here is a list of book titles I'd like to see on the market in each genre:

Memoir: Lost in the Fog: How Childbirth Turned Me into a Walking Vegetable

Instructional: Keeping 25 Baby Care Essentials Within Arm's Reach at all Times

Medicine: The Plastic Surgeon's Guide to Turning Two Arms into Four (or more)

Sci-Fi: The Baby that Never Slept

Horror: The Meconium of Doom

Romance: Love May Hurt for a While

Self-Help: Believing You are a Good Mother (even if you can't breastfeed)

Mystery: The Case of the Tiny Vanishing Socks

Fantasy: A Painless Birth

Cooking: Microwave Gourmet: Amazing Edibles in Under Ten Minutes

Reference: The World Encyclopedia of Non-Essential Baby Items

and finally...

Health: The Breastfeeding Father: The Art of Achieving Male Lactation

I think 7% in royalties sounds fair. You know where to find me.

Welcome Little One

January 16, 2010

Well, wouldn't you know...

At 1:30 a.m. on Thursday, just hours after blogging about my frustration over waiting for my son's birth, the contractions started. At first I thought I just had an upset stomach. But after several trips to the bathroom and ending up doubled over in my mother-in-law's arms, we drove to the hospital at 3:45 a.m.

I delivered William at 2:01 on Thursday afternoon after just 12.5 hours of labor.

William's birth brought a mixture of joy, pride, relief, and disappointment: joy at finally meeting the little man that had started life inside of me and seeing him handsome and healthy...pride at having successfully delivered without having taken childbirth classes...relief that the long pregnancy and the pain of delivery had ended...and the crushing disappointment that followed as I realized that my pain hadn't quite ended just yet.

In fact, the worst was yet to come.

After the nurses carried William away to the warmer in the corner, the attending midwife began stitching the soft tissues between my legs that William had torn on his way out. At 8 lbs., 9 oz. and 20.5 inches long, William's body left me fairly devastated. Even with an epidural, the pain caused by the stitching was incredible.

For weeks I had been subjected to the line that "once you hold your baby in your arms, you forget about the pain of childbirth." I guess that's assuming the pain ends at childbirth. As of right now, sitting down on a chair requires great effort and care and cannot be accomplished without using a pillow that keeps my nether regions floating in midair. My back throbs from the pressure caused by the epidural, and William's attempts at breastfeeding have turned my nipples into two bright red targets of suffering. Only a regular dosing of Percocet, prescription strength Motrin, Dermoplast and witch hazel pads keeps me halfway on my feet.

The intense physical pain, combined with fluctuating hormones and the exhaustion of caring for a fussy newborn, has sent me into hysterics more than once in the past two days. The apartment is currently strewn with baby clothes and blankets, half of them soiled. Dirty dishes litter the living room. A pile of tissues, damp with my tears, lies on the floor beside my bed. My husband reports back to work in a week, which will leave me to care for the baby almost entirely on my own. And I can barely move.

But then I look at this precious little face...

...and ask myself if it's worth it.

Absolutely, unequivocally, yes. I have been smitten.

And I'm pretty sure this guy has been, too.

Welcome little baby.

Still Waiting

January 12, 2010

So baby William still hasn't arrived yet, though he's so close it's worrisome. If he were any lower into the birth canal, he'd be waving at me. So for now, I'm just sitting around waiting for labor to start. It's so frustrating. However, if he doesn't make an appearance by the 15th, my nurse will schedule me to be induced. As much as I wish for a natural birth, I can't really risk William getting any larger. I'm beyond huge and walk like an old woman. See?

I celebrated my 27th birthday a few days ago, but had to do a before-and-after day celebration because my husband was on duty...again. Fortunately, his duty rotation was recently changed to every four days instead of three, so maybe he'll actually be around for the next special occasion. Aside from my birthday, he missed Christmas and New Years. But such is Navy life, and I managed to have a decent birthday anyway despite being huge with child and sick with a horrid cold. Besides, I'm proud to have a husband who is serving his country.

In the meantime, I've been going jewelry crazy. I received several jewelry-making books for Christmas and lots of cash for supplies, so I've been making new pieces about every other day. Check it out:

"Party Time" earrings

"Raspberry Delight"

(Yes, I did make that silver pendant!)

"Rose Web"

"Summer Love"

I think making jewelry is better than taking Prozac. Shhh! Don't tell!

Old Ends and New Beginnings

January 1, 2010

Well, friends, my long pregnancy is finally drawing to a close. The official word is that I can go into labor at any time now. I feel it, too.

I'd love to say that it seems like only yesterday I was posting the results of my pregnancy test on this blog, but that wouldn't be accurate at all. It feels like eons. So much has happened in the past two years crammed into one. And life doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Such is life in the military.

But today marks the beginning of a new year, and I'm looking forward to finally holding my son in my arms. Life may still be hectic, but at least it will be different, and I'll have discovered a new love: a mother's love. Only in the past few weeks have I tasted the power of this new feeling...lying awake at night imagining my baby suckling at my breast, the smell of his new skin, his soft head against my shoulder. And then all the fears and worries: SIDS, falling, running out into the street, choking, getting beat up at school, falling in love too young...the scenarios play in my head like a bad Lifetime movie. Sometimes I just have to shut it out...and believe that everything will work out just fine.

Wishing all of you a beautiful new beginning!