There is no doubt that having a baby changes you. Though I have stepkids, I wasn’t fully prepared for all the things having a baby would alter immediately. It’s been a pretty incredible journey and while I don’t think my experience is unique, I can’t help but celebrate my newfound respect for things I once took for granted.
We ALL shame ourselves into believing our body sucks. Before getting pregnant I was on a summer beach trip where I spent the whole time wincing in disgust at my shape.
I wish I could go back and tell that skinny bitch to rock her bikini proud because everything was about to be different.
I had a very easy and comfortable pregnancy, which is where my body image started to change. As my belly swelled and my hips rounded I started to feel… powerful. Carrying a human and creating a life made me feel physically strong in a way I hadn’t ever felt it before, not even while playing sports.
I found myself actually exercising more and eating better because of this budding respect.
In the hospital the pain I felt in labor made me feel like a freaking super hero. I breathed and moaned my way through hours of discomfort and though I landed on an epidural, I realized my body had yet to be truly tested and in my opinion, it passed with flying colors.
I healed fast from a C-section and am currently biting through the initial breastfeeding aches. Though my stomach is saggy and stretched, I just look at it differently. As I balance my plumping baby boy on my stomach I feel great pride thinking about the few layers of anatomy that were holding him just weeks ago.
It’s amazing and it’s worth basking in.
You can read about the support I received through my trying labor and delivery, but it’s not to be understated just how amazing my husband was. In the hospital nurses told me “this is not usually how husbands respond” as he showered me and ushered me to and from the bathroom.
Justin, so often the jester, didn’t make light of our time in the hospital. He bared every ounce of the weight he could and then held me as I carried what he could not.
I knew I loved my husband before. I have felt utter confidence in the partner I have chosen since long before we said “I do.” Frankly, I underestimated just how much more our love could grow and watching him operate above and beyond what any man should, I wake up grateful every day.
My Support System
I have always known that I had great friends and supportive family, but I didn’t realize how much I truly need these people until I was a vulnerable mom recovering from birth. I tend to soldier on and not ask for help in moments of struggle, but in this instance, I didn’t have much of a choice other than to lay back and be assisted.
My mom was in and out of the hospital during our seven-day stretch doing our laundry and picking up necessities. My dad prepared five oven-ready meals for us when we finally got to take our bundle home. When I was home, struggling with breastfeeding and bawling my eyes out, wonderful mommy friends called to console and offer suggestions. It was like nothing I had experienced before. Not only did I feel fully surrounded by love, but I learned a thing or two about what it means to truly take care of someone when they need you.
My Kids and Their Mom
When you’re a stepparent for years and have taken kids in as your own, you think you understand what it means to love a child. You think that through osmosis you’ve gained the life-altering experience that is raising kids and absorbed it into your soul.
While my love for those kids is measureless, I now realize again, just how vastly I underestimated what growing a life does to your heart.
I once resented the people who said “just wait until you have your own” and I hated the implication that the kids’ mom and my husband somehow had something over on me despite our equal parenting time. I get it now. I get the difference. And while it doesn’t mean I love my stepkids less, I do understand how the love they have for their biological parents and vice versa is different than their relationship to me.
I accept that.
I accept that our love will always be one we earned over time, not one that courses naturally through our veins. I don’t think that love is lesser, but it is different. And I don’t flinch the same when my kids want their mom instead of me. And I take lighter steps when questioning or contemplating how my husband approaches certain parenting moments. The love is different and I get that now.
Like everyone, I am guilty of busying myself. That doesn’t mean I’m always busy, I just find a way to make myself unavailable virtually all the time. Starting before Cooper got here, I had decided to slow down my life by leaving the workforce. Sure I no longer had a full-time job, but I made sure I had a full schedule nonetheless.
Instead of meetings, I volunteered in the kids’ classrooms. Instead of business trips, I overcommitted to visiting friends and family. Instead of average household chores, I had deep cleaning excursions (i.e. trying to paint the laundry room and hang shelves while nine months pregnant, standing on the washer and dryer).
I had no respect for me time and zero ability to properly ask for help. Now that I have a baby strapped to my chest half the day, a pump attached for a quarter of the day and the basic human need to eat, sleep and occasionally shower, I understand how important it is to let some of the “must-dos” fall aside in exchange for some sanity.
I understand it’s okay to ask for help so I can paint my nails or write a blog post. Mentally I feel healthier than ever before. There are now huge swaths of time in the day where I don’t have a choice how my time is spent, so I try my darndest to maximize what time is mine (and not by power washing the patio).
There’s so much that has changed already and this is just the very beginning. I have truly enjoyed the process of bringing my little one into the world. Not only because he’s so damn cute, but I also like the changes it’s inspiring in me. God willing, I will be able to hold on to some of this sunshine-y goodness as the months of poop-filled diapers and late night cries unfold.