I am writing this as I lay reclined on my couch, greasy hair in a bun, my nursing bra stiff with dried milk, and a sleeping baby nestled in the warm softness of my postpartum belly. My apartment is calm with the golden light of the sun reflecting off of the Denver skyline and the soft whoosh of cars speeding right below our balcony. They make the most soothing white noise to add to the next hour of peace that I will have before Jack wakes up. My life is slow these days, and the buzz of the morning traffic is always reminding me of the continuous fast pace at which the world is moving right outside of my glass doors. I cannot help but laugh to myself as I realize life’s mean trick, because within the time warp of my apartment, I cannot decipher the steady passing of the days as it conceals my baby’s destiny of growing up.
I turned thirty recently, hushing the day away and hoping that it would pass with quiet grace. The last decade of my life had made me a master of extremes, where I rarely lived in the predictability of the middle. I swam through my twenties, sometimes diving deep for self-improvement and sometimes only laying on the surface to float. I spent different extents of time with sore feet and a hungry heart, at times making almost no money for my effort and other times making more than I knew what to do with. Then, there were different spaces of time where I found it hard to remove myself from the couch, with my indifference towards daily tasks and a lack of passion seeming to apply an unrelenting pressure that I could not equalize. Regardless of how I took on the waves and currents of my twenties, I was never able to wring out the wet weight of certain ailments. I was almost always heart-broken over a boy, sweating out last night’s cheap booze, and fantasizing about how my thirty-year-old self would definitely have it all together. I guess, stability can sound alluring from either end of those extremes. And, I guess, I thought that that would be what thirty would eventually grant me.
Jack was born three months shy of my thirtieth birthday. Before he had entered the world, a large part of me had believed that babies would change a woman for the worst, as if the bones of her hips would permanently widen her stance and she would be dehydrated of the youthful beauty that she once had. I imagined exhaustion would envelope her, and so, she would opt for an easy-to-blowdry haircut, the comfort of broader hemlines, and an endless amount of excuses as to why she could not have sex with her husband anymore. Her wrinkles would be filled with yesterdays makeup, and all of the feminine roundness she had once had would deflate as she fed her glowing, plump, and poreless baby. As much as I wanted to believe in the empowerment that motherhood had advertised, these images of women losing themselves in the blur of commitment and necessity scared the living hell out of me.
Now, here I am on the other side of it all. I am thirty, and my once small, perky boobs are almost always lopsided (depending on which one was last emptied by Jack). My tummy that was always flat is now dimpled and doughy. Showers happen less. Workouts happen less. And, my legs (amongst other things) are shaved less. Glimpses of me are visually what I was worried about, and, by the off-chance that I do catch my own reflection, I know that this is not what I had envisioned thirty would look like for me. My timing seems off, yet again, and my chance to “peak” feels more like a quick retreat back to the bottom. It seems as though my fears had materialized, and I now embody the appearance of motherhood that I had always so harshly judged.
But, unknowingly, where I had gone wrong was just that…
I had judged the appearance of motherhood.
What looks like a crusty, milk-stained, and stretched out nursing bra is actually just the leftover remnants of the warm, middle-of-the night snuggles during feedings. The deepened lines in my face are lengthening only because I smile more, stick out my tongue more, and pucker more than I ever have before. Yes, my stomach is cushiony and soft, but, for now, my little boy finds comfort and falls asleep in the squishiness. Everything may look messy, but all it is is what is leftover from pure joy. Obviously I want to work out regularly again, fill my body with the most nutrient-rich food at all times, and bounce back faster than the next woman. I am admirable of the moms that do, and I know that I am a better person, mother, and wife if self-care is a part of my daily routine. For now, however, these moments seem to be too fleeting, and I cannot imagine walking away from Jack and the way he smells. His five-month-old skin is too soft not to savor, and his little expressions are too cute to not witness. The squat rack and cardio machines can wait.
So, it was Jack who taught me a lesson in judgement and proved to me that I am more than I appear to be. Birthing him was power in the truest form, a force as natural and unforgiving as an ocean storm. Together, we were stranded in a sea of seemingly endless efforts. We were drug to the depths of self-doubt, giving us just seconds to gulp the fresh air of hope, before it did it all over again. With Jack, I had to learn to surrender to the uncontrollable in the most abrupt way. The storm subsided, and I was altered. But, below my newly-changed surface, I now knew that my spirit is the daughter of nature, not the enemy of her. The resilience of my twenties had the transparency of a shallow creek, with easy crossings to overcome and challenges that were practically illusory. Thinking that pregnancy and birth would devalue my womanhood, because my skin would stretch and my breasts would sag, was just a mirage created by a girl ignorantly succumbing to fear.
I have never been so mighty.
So, incredibly sexy.
Obviously, thirty is nothing like what I had imagined it to be. There was no party. No cake. No well-defined abs. But, on October 25th, 2018, as the glow of the autumn sun casted gold strands of light over my elastic skin and the curled eyelashes of my sleeping baby boy, I felt my spirit dance. She has worked tirelessly for three decades to celebrate her unapologetic strength and beauty, and, to finally meet her, it was the best birthday gift yet.
What could possibly be more divine than a woman who is tender with change? With every storm, she learns to soften, yet steady. Her wisdom ripples and expands from each drop of struggle, and the sediment of her soul settles into a new, beautiful form. She is strong, because she gives. She is gorgeous, because she changes.
I hope that every woman allows herself to admire the value that she holds, because we are mighty in the way that we are transformative.
Happy New Year everyone!