Monday, July 9, 2018

Dear Body

Good Morning,

As some of you know, I was recently diagnosed with a herniated disc in my back.  For most, this would be annoying, painful, and perhaps routine-altering.  Yep, that's me.  Times five, of course.  It seems like so much in my life is times five.  

Diapers?  Times five.
Wipes?  Times five.
Pajamas?  Times five.
Meatballs?  Times five.
Sliced fruit?  Times five.
Lovies needed for bedtime?  Times five.

But that's ok with me.  Because each of these kiddos is a baby of one.  They have their individual needs and individual personalities.  They don't know that I have to put pajamas on four other babies--they just know that I put on their pajamas and kiss their nose before bed.

Yet, I digress.  

My body and I have a love/hate relationship.  Mostly hate these days, if I'm being honest.  So, I've decided to do what I do when I'm struggling in one of my relationships.  I write a letter.  This tends to be my solution to most relationship challenges.  So, here we go:

Dear Body,

You and I have been through alot and I'm truly thankful for you.  In the beginning, you and I worked together to train in the art of dance for 22 years.  You endured all of that stretching, uncomfortable toe pointing, and joint-rattling jumping.   We were a unit.  You did what I needed you to do--and I loved what we produced together.  We were art--and I was proud of our accomplishments.  I loved that we could entertain an audience.  

Then came college and graduate school.  We continued to spend most of our time in the dance studio--or the library.  Brain, you did your thing.  We were firing on all cylinders.  Exhaustion rarely plagued us.  We were inspired by our surroundings and reveled in the academic fellowship.  We read The Odyssey, Beowulf, and all of Edmund Spencer.  I wrote countless papers on Shakespeare, John Locke, and Winston Churchill.  Body, I loved that we worked as a unit.

Yes, nerds can have fun too!

Then came marriage.  With the retirement of our dance career, Body, you and I worked hard to get ready for that wedding dress.  We did daily elliptical runs, weight lifting, and dieting.  And Body, you responded.  You recognized the need to shape up--and you did.  I've never felt more beautiful than I did on our wedding day.  Thanks for rising to the occasion.

Years passed and we worked together.  You rarely failed me.  We slept well.  Worked out.  Rarely got sick and remembered almost every name of any student we worked with at UVA.  I didn't even take vitamins and you were thriving.  

Ellie was our only child!

Honeymoon in Greece and Turkey

Then, I wanted to get pregnant.  I wanted to be someone's mom.  I wanted the bike riding, the giggles, and the hair bows.  And, body, you didn't seem to get it.  I took your temperature.  I took vitamins.  I took ovulation tests.  I did everything I could to help you.  And you failed me.  

We lost two babies.  Two human lives.  We couldn't save them.  You couldn't nurture them.  I couldn't be their mommy.  Those babies I will only meet in Heaven when you, Body, are no more.  

We learned to lean on each other during this time more than any other.

Image result for olympic ringsAnd then, we were pregnant again.  And very, very pregnant.  We found a specialist.  You, Body, had a major task in front of you.  I remember watching the 2016 Summer Olympics and thinking, "This pregnancy is our Olympics, Body.  I sure hope you can pull through on this one." 

Then, the doctors sent us to a dietician.  You needed to consume 4,500 calories a day.  I needed to feed you every 2-3 hours.  You needed to process that food and store as much of it as you could.  Our stomach would start losing capacity once the babies began to grow.  I was scared.  I felt like I was literally feeding you to keep the babies alive.  We were eating for life--not for nutrition or even pleasure.  We ate to keep the babies alive.  I remember packing two Ensure shakes every day for work.  I remember eating avocado on nearly everything--even things that shouldn't have avocado (yes, there are such things).

And then the pain came.  Pain in our back.  Pain in our ribs.  Pain in our hips.  Pain to bend over.  Pain to stand up.  Pain to roll over in bed.  Lightheaded feelings when laying on my back.  Breathless feelings when walking to the bathroom.  Then, the emotions came.  The fear, the frustration, the grief.  I mourned a "normal" pregnancy.  I didn't get to do a baby shower with my Virginia friends.  I didn't get to see people around town and smile knowingly at them.  I didn't get to register at Babies R Us standing on my own two feet.  No no, we were wheelchair bound by then.  

So, Body, I felt like you were barely hanging on.  We were barely hanging on.  And then, the delivery came and you were cut open to bring these five beautiful babies into the world. 

And they are beautiful.  We did a good job growing them.  That I know.  Between 3 and 4 pounds each, they were remarkably healthy.  We did a good job, Body.  I/We need to remember that.

L to R:  Millie, Clara, Luke, Isabelle and Ava

But the recovery was hard on us, too, Body.  You continued to struggle with the incision and breast feeding was so hard.  We couldn't nurse our babies in the hospital, so we sat in lonely hospital rooms and pumped.  And pumped.

And then we pumped at home.  We ate lactation cookies. We drank all sorts of weird teas and juices.  And then you kept getting clogged ducts and the pain increased.  And then mastitis set in.  You could barely take any more.  I remember crying as I leaned over in a hot shower trying to relieve the pain from a clogged duct with an electric toothbrush.  We were broken, Body.  We just couldn't provide for these babies.  It was just too much.  We had given too much.  Been asked too much.  Suffered too much.

So breast feeding had to stop after only three months.  But, that was it.  We had to do something for ourselves.  You and me, Body, we are the people who got those babies through eight months of gestation and three months of breast feeding.  Well, us, and God.  Thank you, Lord, for sustaining us.  

And then the baby care really kicked in.  We were home from Arizona and back in our bed (hallelujah!).  But, sleep didn't come.  It rarely did (does).  And everything we did never felt like enough.  There was always more housework.  Another baby that needed us.  And then I got frustrated with you.  You, Body, you couldn't do everything I needed you to.  

You can detect my exhaustion by how dirty my hair becomes.

You were tired.  You were sore.  You weren't superhuman.  And that frustrated me.  Moreover, I hated the way we looked.  There was this disgusting, wrinkly blubber that now served as an overhang on what used to be my abdomen.  I was so embarrassed, especially when people on the street would ask me when I was due (Ummm...NEVER again, thank you very much)

Nothing fit.  You didn't go back to normal like most women's bodies did. You sweat all the time.  Putting on make up?  Sweating.  Washing dishes?  Sweating.  Sleeping?  Yes, you guessed it, sweating then, too.  

And now, 19 months into this whole motherhood thing, you and I are still struggling in our relationship.  I am so frustrated with your refusal to do the things we used to be able to do.  I'm frustrated that you don't burn calories the way you used to.   That we can't seem to rid ourselves of this ridiculous belly pooch.  And now, our back is busted?  This is ridiculous.  We are only 33 years old.  I shouldn't feel this broken--this let down by my own body.

So, a few weeks ago, I came to a realization.  I haven't been treating you very well, dear Body.  I barely feed you under the guise of being too busy.  I rarely allow you to work out, unless you count carrying babies up and down the stairs.  I don't take you to yoga anymore.  I don't allow you to sleep, must less just rest and take deep breaths.  I don't feed you food that would fuel you, unless hershey bars and wine are the new fad diet?  Me thinks not.

So, Body, here's the plan.  I'm going to stop hating you and start trying to serve you.  Eat balanced meals regularly throughout the day.  I'm going to take you to the gym and let you burn off some steam.  I'm going to stretch and help you find some inner balance with all of those muscles that were stretched (and in some instances, torn).

Body, I know you're doing your best.  I am too.  I want to start working with each other--not against.  Let's try to treat each other better.  We have this one life and these five precious souls.  Let's find peace.


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