I just attempted to do a YouTube yoga workout for moms and toddlers. The mom and toddler in the video were serene and cute, whereas I was falling over most of the time, and my kid spent the first half looking upside down at me saying, “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy,” and the second half sitting on me, trying to pull me back up, climbing on my back, and finally, when he could bear no more, lying face down on the ground and saying, “This is the worst. God.”
This is my new writing space. For the year we’ve lived in this house, this room has been unused, mainly because the blue paint on the walls was so ugly I couldn’t stand to be in it. With my mom’s help, we painted. Then my husband and I finally unpacked some boxes, organized, and hung pictures. Now it’s my favorite room in the house.
Some of the best features:
* my mom’s old desk
* my favorite painting, Rooms by the Sea
* a great big white board, the hanging of which my husband valiantly conquered
* the green paint, which is my spirit color (my son keeps petting it and saying, “I love this green wall.”)
* a cool collage print with found phrases
* an old bulletin board made new with teal paint
* one of my husband’s typewriters
* two shelves of craft books
So, I am pretty much in love with it. It feels so good!
I took my two-year-old for a well visit today. I always get kind of anxious during the part where the nurse asks questions about development. Does he throw a ball? Does he respond to his name? I can’t explain why, but I always have this minor fear that he won’t be doing something “normal,” like that time she asked if he blows kisses at nine or twelve months, and I thought, I’ve never blown a kiss to him! How would he know that?
Maybe this explains why I became a smug little shit when she asked, “Does he know fifty words?” and “Does he put two words together?” I made this little sound, a kind of righteous scoff, and told her, “He uses coordinating conjunctions. So yeah.”
He is “perfectly normal,” the doctor said of his height and weight. Which is what every parent basically wants to hear, at least as a baseline. He is right at the 50th percentile, not extraordinarily tall or short.
During the whole visit, my kid said only one word: No.
I used to bristle when people assumed, because he doesn’t say hello or goodbye on command and gives strangers a death stare, that he wasn’t talking yet. At home, with people he knows, he talks a lot. He uses compound-complex sentences. He knows the names of at least as many kitchen gadgets as I do. He can identity about fifty animals, maybe more. After reading a book a couple times, he starts filling in end rhymes.
A woman in the waiting room spoke up during a lull while my kid was sitting in every chair in the waiting room to say, “I don’t even know why people get Dr. Seuss books for little kids. They’re so long. No two-year-old has that attention span.” And I nodded and said, “Oh, for sure.” I didn’t say my kid regularly requests The Cat in the Hat, two or three times in a row.
When I take him shopping, if we pass close to another shopper, he says, “Oh, sorry.”
I am always apologizing. I see that with clarity now.
When my kid talks to his stuffed animals, he says, “Aw, what’s wrong? Are you okay?” He tells me, out of the blue sometimes, “I’m okay. I’m okay.”
I get anxious about the nurse’s development questions because I feel like a “wrong” answer is a reflection of me, of my parenting. What if he can’t really jump off the ground? What does that say about me? Should I be creating obstacle courses to foster jumping? Should I bring him around other kids who jump? Should we read books about jumping? It’s exhausting.
At the end of the interrogation, I get to say, “Oh, he knows much more than fifty words. He uses coordinating conjunctions.” So there.
Today I went shopping with my mom, who is visiting for several days. I was looking for a dress for an event next month, and she bought me that one and another for a date tonight with my husband, which we have yet to plan, other than the fact that we are going on a date.
This is how it is now, still, two years after having a baby. Shopping for myself is hard to justify. If my mom wasn’t paying, I wouldn’t have even gone shopping in the first place.
And when it became apparent that I need real bras with actual shape and support, as opposed to stretchy, worn nursing bras, I was struck with the overwhelm of buying for my body. I still nurse, so I cannot commit to normal bras all the time. Thus, they feel extravagant. There was a sale: two for $59, and I thought, Jesus, that’s half a week’s groceries. So when the sales lady tried to push a third bra on me, because I “can’t wear the same one every day,” and I said I didn’t want to spend much, and my mom offered to buy them, and I said that wasn’t necessary, and the lady said, “She just wants you to be beautiful”… I just couldn’t talk for a moment.
A) How would three bras make me more beautiful than, say, two?
B) I don’t need a bra to be beautiful. No one will see it, and even if I will be more supported and perkier, the location of my boobs on my chest factors very little in my own sense of my beauty.
Sure, she’s trying to sell more product. And sure, that product is tied up in assumptions and stereotypes about gender, beauty, and worth. But still, I was kind of stunned. There I was, working to accept the cost of something nice for myself, something I wouldn’t normally buy, but something relatively basic, and suddenly it was as though my moderation was some reflection of unwomanliness.
I explained that I still nurse regularly, so I will still be wearing my other bras. I felt like I was trying to get away with something. For awhile, she stared at me, but I didn’t relent.
Later, my mom tried on some bras, and the sales lady came in to check on her. I was nursing my son in the corner of the dressing room. She told me about her daughter, whose baby likes to fiddle with the other nipple while nursing, and I said, “Oh yes, he does that too. It drives me crazy.” I softened toward her because she didn’t look away from me nursing a toddler, didn’t make me feel like an aberration for that. Still, I wanted to say, “Tell me I’m not beautiful as I am right now, with my stretch marks and puffy stomach and my boob hanging out, comforting my kid.”
I find it very tricky, the way my body is at once something I accept and respect and mostly love, post-pregnancy and post-birth, while how my body fits in the world is often at odds with that. I care less about flab or stretch marks than I used to, but the world is shouting about baby weight loss and stretch mark cream, specifically shouting at women like me, women who are mothers. I feel the urge to shop at maternity stores because their clothing is functional and accounts for a sagging stomach. During pregnancy and for awhile postpartum, I felt really free from the pressure to be sexy in the ways society deems sexy. I have held on to that most tangibly through extended breastfeeding because needing access to my breasts means making certain, limited choices about clothing.
But the moment I decide to treat my body less like an empty vessel and more like a body that’s my own, if only for a date, I am confronted with all these extra ideas: If you’re going to wear a pretty dress, your boobs should be perky, your saggy parts should be contained.
Your body should not be the body of a mother.
Your body should not be your body.