Body Acceptance: Change the Conversation
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It's a really delicate subject, and I don't know where to begin. I'm going to let you know right up front that there's a little bit of shame lurking behind what I'm about to spew out, so I'm asking for your compassion and an open heart. 

The 'love your body' movement that's happening right now is powerful. I'm inspired and uplifted by so many friends and strangers I'm seeing on social media loving on their bodies - whether they're one week, 10 years, somewhere in between, or not at all postpartum. This movement has triggered something within me I'd like to share from my viewpoint.

Before, and even during my pregnancy, I would never have thought that I'd have postpartum body image issues. I've always been considered a 'healthy weight' according to my BMI, etc. I didn't gain a lot of weight during my pregnancy and at my daughter's two week checkup, I was back to my 'pre-pregnancy' weight. Woo-hoo, right?

I'll come right out and say that I'm currently struggling with what I can't describe other than feeling self conscious of being thin. Right now, I weigh less than I weighed my senior year of high school. I'm hungry almost all of the time. My hormones are messy. The intensity of my sugar cravings often leave me wondering if something is wrong with me (my poor husband). I hesitate to exercise beyond slow flow yoga because in the back of my mind, I know that if I exert myself too much, I'll be even hungrier, and I have to catch up even more calorie wise - it takes a lot right now to make me feel truly full. I'm breastfeeding around the clock and because of that, I'm burning calories like I've run 3 miles and to be totally honest, I don't do a lot more than sit on the floor and sing along to Raffi radio. Genetically, I was handed a fast metabolism. Before you think, "I wish I had that problem!", please wait.

The message I'm seeing on social media is that you should love the body you're rockin' no matter what size it is. And I agree. I can get behind this message 1,000%. I'm struggling though, because what I'm hearing a lot of, by family, friends and even strangers, is a lot of: "Look how tiny you are." "Geez, Natalie, you look really skinny", or "You're so small", otherwise translating my already self-conscious mind to, "you are not enough", a voice I work so hard to quiet. Body shaming, even the unintentional kind from well meaning folks, exists no matter what size a person is. 

Every single time one of these comments comes my way, I want to curl into a ball and crawl into a hole because it makes me feel uncomfortable. I don't always feel good in the skin I'm in. I often feel hungry and exhausted, and I feel like I miss working out and practicing strong yoga poses and going to pilates and eating one meal at meal times and feeling like that's enough. I used to fend off my emotions around body-specific comments by saying, "Thanks, I feel healthy" (trying to speak to what actually matters to me)  but I can't even respond with that anymore and feel like I'm being honest because it's not totally true. So I awkwardly change the subject because, why are we talking about my body anyway? Why does it matter? I know that while I medically check out as healthy, I don't always feel like it. And, you guys, I've always been on the side of feeling healthy is way more important than looking good.  

Breastfeeding adds an additional biological demand on my body on top of the emotional and physical demands of taking care of a baby around the clock. I know that a lot of how I'm feeling right now is related to how much it takes for my body to make breastmilk to help June grow, which is why it's particularly shame-inducing when I hear the comments about June's size. I hear them all the time. "She's so petite!!" "Look how tiny she is!". If you didn't know what this does to me mentally when you say this, now you do. I'm good at brushing it off, but internally it's hard not to go to back to that place of 'not enough'. I'm busting ass to keep her healthy, full, and happy - but she's still "small" to most. Like every other breastfeeding mama out there, I'm literally giving it my all for her and as I mentioned above, I'm feeling the repercussions around the clock. Guess what? June has steadily climbed her growth curve and has even made some leaps. She's never, ever dropped on her curve. She's healthy and perfect and I'm empowered by this because I'm the reason for that. I've put in the hard work and she's thriving and this all makes me want to cry because biology and growing humans is fucking incredible and I am doing my damn best and I am PROUD.

Brene Brown said it best in her TED talk about shame: "Shame, for women, is this web of unobtainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we’re supposed to be. And it’s a straight-jacket." I'm feeling these words, big time. Postpartum, who am I supposed to be? What size should I be? What size should my baby be to fit the norm? The fact that I'm even asking those questions makes my stomach hurt. 

I guess what I'm trying to get at is, there has to be SOME WAY to change the conversation. There are so many other ways to talk to people than to bring up physical appearance, even in small talk. This Buzzfeed Parents video was going around a few weeks ago on Facebook and reiterates further why it's so important to find other ways to talk to others, especially little kids. I want June to know what's actually important instead of focusing on outward appearance. You don't always know what someone else is going through. It's great to give compliments but there has to be more. Being sensitive and aware of what's coming out of your mouth and how it might be received on the other end is part of empathetic communication and we could ALL be better at it, myself included.

I can't live any longer expecting myself to do more and be more. Take this as my commitment to continuing the hard work on accepting who I am in this moment, knowing that I'm doing the best I can with what I have. Aren't we all? Take the commitment with me and thank you for having an open heart. 


What the F****: Our FPIES Journey

A lot can happen in a couple months time. Last time I checked in, I was diving into "April Accountability" (which went great, by the way!) By simply stating my intention of moving my body more, I accomplished it. Having my intentions out in the open was helpful in keeping me accountable, which was the whole point, but things kind of derailed at the end of April.

June had a significant vomiting episode and we weren't sure what was going on, but in my gut I knew something wasn't right and we ended up at the ER. We thought we had a game plan and went on our way. Then it happened again at the beginning of May. After some back and fourth, we're 99% certain she had an FPIES reaction to being fed oats + avocado. A diagnosis like this is enough to make a Mama's head spin. We're grateful that so far, her FPIES reactions have only included profuse vomiting and haven't gone all the way to extreme dehydration/shock, but that's the path it can take, and for that reason, it's my biggest fear. 

There are a lot of things to be said about getting a diagnosis that remains to be somewhat of a mystery to the medical community. Most medical professionals I know have never even heard of FPIES. We are grateful to have a physician that is willing to look at and learn about what's happening with June, and has committed to staying as involved as we need her to be as we move forward in introducing new foods to our sweet little girl. We have a plan, we feel as informed as we can be at this time, and we have no choice except to move forward.

If I'm being totally honest and transparent, this diagnosis shook me up - big time. I was not, and sometimes still, am not doing well with it. Both severe vomiting episodes were in response to foods she had eaten several times in the past successfully (common of FPIES), so I was left with 100 questions - will the next 'safe' food she eats trigger her? Will it be only vomiting again, or worse? I feel like I went through the 5 stages grief. At first, I had a hard time wrapping my head around it, thinking "if it's so rare, how can it be happening to us?", and believed on and off that it's not FPIES, just fluke symptoms that are seemingly very similar.  That passed, and I just felt angry. Really, really mad and frustrated and anxious - it's not fair that everything about the way we planned to introduce foods to June has to change. I can't tell you how many times I have gotten mad at myself for introducing solids to her the way that we did - feeling like it's my fault, that I could have done something to prevent this, or all the ice cream I ate during my pregnancy is the reason for this happening (newsflash: it's not.) Then, the sadness and, I admit, jealousy. Seeing videos and photos of all of my friends babies happily devouring everything their parents are having for dinner - knowing we are so far from doing that with June. For example: if I make enchiladas and would like to share bits of it with June, I would have to first trial each single ingredient for 10 days - do you know how many things go into enchiladas? A lot. It will take me over two months to trial a dish that has 6 'new to June' ingredients to make sure she doesn't have a reaction to each ingredient before I can combine them into a meal. 

I'm working on acceptance. It's a process, and some days are better than others. We are so grateful that June seemingly has a handful of safe foods, both fruits and veggies and we're making sure they're for sure safe before moving on and introducing new things to her. It's going to take a long time. I keep telling myself, "it could be worse" - because it's true, it could be. She's not having FPIES reactions through my breastmilk, she's growing, healthy, and SO happy - all the time. You would never know we were dealing with this unless we talked about it - all good things. Despite all the things I'm grateful for, I'm reminded often by my best friend and sounding board that just because our reality isn't the 'worst reality possible', doesn't mean it still isn't stressful and impacting our lives. It's okay for me to feel feelings about this. It's okay to be worried, scared, hopeful, and confused - all at once. 

There are still a ton of unknowns we're dealing with and feeding her is, in a word, stressful. The reaction, if it happens, occurs 2-3 hours after ingesting the trigger food - so you can bet that in this time frame after I feed her, I'm a wreck inside. We don't leave the house 2-3 hours after she eats because I'm terrified she's going to start throwing up in her carseat and I won't be able pull over and help her. So we time everything around her meals, and wait, and hope for no signs of a reaction. I can't even describe the sweet feelings of relief - like I can breathe again - when we're past that 2-3 hour window. But, it's a cycle - and it's our every day reality. 

This change in our lives has forced me to look at all of my own shit, which I've done before, but the difference is that now, when looking at my own shortcomings, I have to actually deal with them. I can't ignore or push it away unwanted thoughts or anxieties because it's not about me anymore. This is all about June. She needs all of me, and she needs a Mama that can be present with her incase she gets sick - not a Mama that escapes mentally into a nervous, panic-stricken oblivion. She needs me to be present with her in moments when she's not well, but even more - she needs me to be silly, playful and fun during that dreaded 2-3 hour window instead of watching the clock and living in my own anxious thoughts. 

So, aside from the plan we made with our doctor, I've got my own self-care plan. You may notice I'm not on the schedule anymore at TuliVesi Yoga. I had to make the call to step back from teaching regular classes. I have expectations of myself when I step into the room to lead a class, and I'm not in a place right now where I can deliver regular classes that I feel satisfied with. My focus isn't there - instead of delivering a class I'm not proud of, I made the choice to step away. In doing this, I'm making more time for myself on my own yoga mat. I need to slow the F down. I need slow flows, restorative yoga, and meditation. I've also started acupuncture at Acupuncture of Marquette - after two sessions, I'm already noticing major benefits. I practically floated out of the office this week. 

Before our FPIES diagnosis, I was already struggling a bit with finding time for self-care. For all the reasons I've mentioned, it's time for me to care for myself so that I can be the best Mama for my June. I'll still be hosting Yoga & Hops once a month, an event I sooooo look forward to every month. 

Thanks for hearing me out. Part of my healing is owning our story and sharing it so that I can create connections with my community and can feel less often like I'm on an island on my own. XOXO. 

I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.
— Brene Brown
Ebb & Flow: April Accountability

I know I've admitted it in the last few months, at least a few times. I'm not ashamed to admit that I've lost touch with my yoga practice. I have struggled since having a baby six months ago to find time, energy and motivation to get up and find time to spend on my mat. Since June was born, I've 'started' my practice again more times than I care to admit. Practiced a few days in a row, felt amazing, said "I've got this!". Then something would come up, a break in routine, a sleepless night, a social event - and I'd skip one day, and then two, and then three...

You get it. 

This last 'break' in my practice is the longest I've gone since I started practicing yoga - seriously. I practiced more yoga in my first trimester of pregnancy when I was exhausted than I have in the last few months. 

Recently, in a few ways, I feel like I've hit the new-Mama jackpot. I somehow accomplished the elusive "sleeping through the night" phenomenon. I'm experiencing what sleeping 6-8 hours straight feels like for the first time since sometime last summer. I've got more energy, and with that I'm better able to participate in adult conversations and check things off my to-do list. In getting June to sleep through the night, I've (maybe) created some bad habits - like letting her nap on me, for every nap she takes. She sleeps longer, meaning she's more well-rested, meaning she sleeps great at night. I'm not complaining - I get to snuggle my baby a few hours a day, hear her little breaths, and see her huge gummy smile when she wakes up and sees me right away - it's all delicious and amazing. 

But there's a downside, and I know it's brief, but it's impacting my relationship with myself. I'm never really 'by myself', which makes practicing yoga somewhat difficult. Instead of sitting back and thinking about what I "need" to change about June's nap habits, I'm focusing on how I can change my awake time to help me feel better about me. I need minutes on my mat. 

And it's a new month, a new week. It's Monday. Today is the day I focus on what I can change and I'm here to hold myself totally accountable. I'm committing to practicing yoga or pilates, even for a short while, every day this month. 

Today I got on my mat for 15 minutes. Tomorrow I intend to do the same. I'm going to post about it on my Instagram account for the entire month of April. Follow along for the little realizations or big revelations, as I hold myself to making time for the self-care that I need. There's a natural ebb & flow to being a new Mama, and while I'm making a pretty solid effort not to be on my phone as much, especially when June is awake, I think the accountability I need is to share my journey back into a consistent movement practice. The Effort & Ease Instagram page is the perfect place to do just that. 

So, join along - and thanks for letting me share my set-backs, progress, and everything in-between.