Hey everyone! Hope your night is going well <3 While I get things ready for tomorrow’s Winter Shape Up excitement, here’s a beautiful and very important guest post from Meagan, who has left many amazing comments here on the blog. I sent her a little email to see if she’d be down with guest posting as I settle into life with our baby girl, and here’s what she wrote:
What I Didn’t Know: I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends
Claire emerged into the world on a triple-digit afternoon in the middle of a Texas August. I had labored for 60 hours, 48 of it without medication and 12 of it with the blessed relief (when the epidural took effect I turned to my best friend and said, “It feels like smiles and sparkles!”). I started labor in a birth center, with all my hopes and dreams of an non-medicated birth. By the dawning of the third day, though, I whispered to my husband, “I want to transfer.” And so we did, driving to the hospital on dark early-morning highways with my best friend, midwives and parents in tow. Twelve hours later, with the help of an epidural, Pitocin, husband, best friend and amazing nurses I gave birth to Claire.
Truthfully, I don’t remember much of the first six months of Claire’s life. Most of my memories flicker in and out in a haze of exhaustion, breastfeeding and reruns of The Office. Claire and I struggled with breastfeeding from the start. Month by month her percentiles slipped, and our breastfeeding-friendly pediatrician became concerned. I wanted this to be the happiest time of my life, and, unfortunately, it was one of the loneliest and most isolating experiences I’d ever had. I felt like I couldn’t quite get it. We switched to formula, I still carried 30 extra pregnancy pounds, and, honestly, I was (a lot) lost.
One January night, fed up with the extra-weight and despondent feelings, I marched my way into a Target and down the diet-aid isle. I knew this pattern before: I had an eating disorder as a teenager. With counseling and years of therapeutic and life-work, I emerged onto the other side. Falling into those patterns is easy though, especially when you’re desperate and seeking control. I stared at the glossy boxes. I walked away. I came back, cheeks burning. Meandered away again.
After an hour of literal back-and-forth, I looked upon the boxes of Fat Burner! Carb Blocker! Detox! and had a thought that changed my life, forever. It rang through my brain, clear and loud as bell: What if Claire was five, or ten, or fifteen, and she saw this hidden in your purse? What would she think?
I didn’t have another thought. I turned away and walked out the door. I still had legitimate weight to lose, but when I went home I no longer looked in the mirror with disgust. I didn’t resent what I perceived to be my failings as a new mom. I just thought:
Hey. I have work to do.
And I need help.
Slowly, I started to do it. For the first time I looked at my daughter with a sense of I have to be better for me, for you, for us.
I know now that I probably had a good dose of Post-Partum Depression (PPD). I should have sought professional counseling. At the time I told myself that this was normal, that I was the one having problems coping (obviously!) and normal (!) mothers don’t need help. I wanted to be normal. I didn’t want help; I had something to prove. It’s a load of bullshit, especially since I never had qualms pursuing therapy before. It was some weird combination of pride and shame that I’ve found to be unique to motherhood: I’ve got this.
Well, I didn’t have it. I’m just grateful that one thought pierced through the haze, an amalgam of prior years of counseling, journaling and some intuitive better-self. I’m also grateful that I listened to it, turned out of that aisle and took a hard look at how depression, anxiety and disordered eating behavior had reemerged in my life.
Motherhood—especially the newborn/infant time period—can make life changes complex. I found the solutions at one time easy, but also perplexing to initiate. I needed to exercise more—great, when? I needed to adjust my diet to avoid certain triggers—but those foods make dinner so easy! I took it one step at a time, and I also began asking for support. If I needed to exercise, I asked my husband to step in after work. A friend and I coordinated a “baby exchange” during the week, giving each of us a morning off. I shifted my focus from losing weight to becoming more functional—able to keep up with my baby, have energy for the day, etc.—and I sought guidance from resources I trusted.
It took six months to regain my footing, but by the time Claire turned a year, I loved being a mom. I loved being her mom. More, I loved who I had become (am becoming) and the changes I had made (am making) to my life. I feel stronger than ever. I accomplish more than I did before Claire—but I don’t do it alone.
I want to be the best mother possible for Claire and any future children we have, and now I know that sometimes—most of the time—all of the time—that requires some help.
Claire at 15 months: