2018 was such a full year. When I did that Instagram most-liked post generator thing, it was clear that 2018 could be summed up as the year of the Daughter and the Degree. Every picture either focused on Etta’s arrival and presence, or the completion of my doctorate. A really, really good year of endings and beginnings that marked a shift for our family. But as I look forward to 2019 and start thinking of the things that I want to aspire to, one thing is very clear: 2018 is the year that I destroyed my body.
It is easy to trace the destruction. I can think back to the brutal days of pregnancy, a far cry from Henry’s where I did barre classes and ran until days before given birth. When I was finally cleared to exercise following our miscarriage scare, I was then stricken with crippling sciatica, not to mention the nausea that persisted my entire pregnancy, the nausea that only subsided under a steady stream of carbs. I gained the same amount of weight as I did with Henry, only I never lost all of his, and I carried this extreme weight so low that I was in constant pain all through my legs, hips, veins and feet. I would wake up at night and cry because everything hurt. It was aggravated, I’m sure, by the sedentary requirements of dissertation completion, the hours spent sitting and typing and editing and reading. I would unfold myself at the end of the day and feel a scholarly pain race through my limbs. My body felt like it was breaking, cracking, coming apart.
And then- she came. Some relief was instant. I could roll over and stretch. The weight didn’t budge, as my body clings to every last pound as long as I nurse, justttttt in case a famine strikes the land. But at least I could walk. And then the surge of post-partum emotions came, and I cried angry tears every night, struggling to understand how I could feel so happy and so sad all at once. The darkness subsided as long as we were out doing things wandering the city, searching for tasty treats and tiny indulgences. So I indulged and tried to heal. It swept back over me at night, and I wept much and slept little and my body felt like it was breaking, cracking, coming apart.
Emotions and hormones eventually evened out, but the adjustment to two leaves less space than I could have imagined, space for me. For the first time in years, 2018 marked a total cessation of exercise, a deep lapse in daily personal devotions, a rupture in the things I know I need for wholeness of body and soul. The exhaustion, sleep schedules, routine shifting, nursing, pumping – it takes a toll. Don’t misunderstand me- 2018 was perhaps the best year yet in so many ways. But best years can still wreak the worst havoc, and sometimes my physical body felt like the sacrifice for the joy of this past year.
Simply put, there is a bodily destruction inherent in motherhood. Our physical selves and our ordered lives are broken, cracked, worked apart to make room for new souls to grow, be born, and thrive. In many ways, this is beautiful. In many ways, this is painful. In all ways, it is necessary. I see that. I accept that.
But I don’t want to live permanently in the brokenness. I want to make 2019 a year of gently rebuilding my body. Sometimes there exists pressure to rebuild too quickly, to erase the marks of childbirth and “bounce back,” a phrase laden with implications of failure and lowness in childbearing. But there is an opposing pressure to just accept the broken state of our post-children bodies. Perhaps that puts some people at peace, but being told to love a state where my knees hurt, my clothes don’t fit, and I feel generally uncomfortable in my own skin seems wrong.
So in 2019, I want to work on allowing my body to rebuild, mend, and come together. James and I stayed up last night, planning and dreaming for 2019 in front of a fire. We both made lists of goals that included lofty aspirations (“Buy a house.”), easily accomplished changes (“Wear better pajamas so it doesn’t look like a homeless bum wanders our home.”), and then of course, lifestyle changes, but ones with concrete applications attached. We established phone free windows in our days, weeks, and year. We set a minimum monthly date limit and brainstormed on what our ideal mornings would look like and how to bring them about. And I made a list of ways to help heal the broken state of my body. Not just so my pants fit and I recognize the person in the mirror (though I really do want that), but so that my body and soul feel healed and equipped to do the good work of living.
Happy New Year!