A Scar or a Smile

I have a scar. It is low, beneath my belly, about six inches long. It’s my only scar, a reminder of my only trip to the hospital, my only surgery. It is still strange to touch it, to feel its knotted roughness beneath my fingertips, feel the skin prickle with sensitivity. Stranger still to see it, an unfamiliar smile from pointing from hip to hip.

A smile. I never really think of it that way, but I suppose it is one way to do so. A permanent smile in my flesh, made by the arrival of my daughter.


Art Made Nightmare

Disclaimer/spoiler alert: If you watch “Downton Abbey” and have not yet seen the 1/27/13 episode from Season 3, you may want to skip this blog post.







I adore “Downton Abbey”! It has been a very long while since I’ve been that enthralled with a television drama. We started watching it two years ago this month and, for Valentine’s Day in 2011, my husband bought me seasons 1 and 2 for my gift, and then season 3 for Christmas this year. So wonderful!

However, there is one episode that I do not allow myself to watch, not again – Season 3, episode 4. Sybil, the youngest of the Crawley girls, arrives home with her husband Tom Branson (the former chauffeur) close to giving birth. In her early labor pains, Sybil starts to exhibit signs of pre-eclampsia (swollen ankles, muddled mental state), which are ignored by the stately Harley Street doctor that Lord Grantham prefers over the local Dr. Clarkson. Dr. Clarkson insists in taking measures to protect Sybil from going into full eclampsia but is shouted down. Sybil gives birth to her baby, a girl, but, late in the night, she begins to have headaches and seizures. It is eclampsia and there is nothing to be done. The family stands by helplessly as Sybil slips away, her husband sobbing over her, her newborn girl now motherless.

As brilliantly as the episode was acted, it was too close to the center of fears that plagued my heart and mind during my pregnancy.  Granted, I watched it after Elizabeth was born but it made no difference. I still sobbed and ached and hid my face in Ben’s shoulder. My mother had two pregnancies before she became pregnant with me, and suffered from pre-eclampsia with her first and full-blown eclampsia with her second. She lost both babies, the first (my brother) was stillborn and then Mom had seizures with the second (my sister), the baby born early and passed away from respiratory distress three days later. So, when I was diagnosed as pre-eclamptic, I was terrified. I feared so much something happening to me and leaving Ben and Elizabeth without me or, ever more the worse, something happening to us both and my beloved husband being left all alone. They did weekly blood and urine tests, non-stress tests to monitor Elizabeth twice a week, put me on blood pressure medication, and when my swelling did not decrease, nor did my protein levels, I was put on bed rest a full three weeks early (I was teaching at the time and Elizabeth was originally due to arrive a week after the fall semester ended). I was scheduled to be induced 9 days before Elizabeth’s original due date and, when I went in for it, they put me on magnesium to keep me from going into seizures, pitocin to induce labor, and saline to keep me hydrated. Still, I was afraid. I do not remember much of the day but, when it was announced that a cesarean was going to be necessary to keep Elizabeth’s heart-rate from dropping, I began shaking and didn’t stop until the operation was over.

This episode embodied everything I feared. Art become nightmare indeed. Perhaps, some day, I will find the fortitude with which to watch it again but, until then, the fear is still too fresh, my heart still too tender from it. Again, it was perfectly executed and intensely acted. Just a little too much for me.

Me and My Body: A Love/Hate Story

As I have read back through my musings over the years, I find that I go in spurts in this love/hate thing called me and my body image. Not too long ago, I loved my body. I loved the way I looked and felt, and I think that I was finally content with my figure, my muscle tone, my strength, and my weight.

And then I got pregnant.

Now, understand this: I AM NOT saying that I regret being pregnant or having my child or any other absolutely insane, ridiculous context you wish to infer upon what I am writing. I AM NOT saying that.

But I am saying that 9 months of pregnancy undid and ruined years of work and mental and physical struggle. It was ridiculously difficult to watch myself getting larger and larger, all my working coming apart at the seams, and not feel like a failure in some way. I wasn’t one of those moms who did yoga and pilates all the way through; certain health concerns just didn’t allow for it. So I lost my strength, my stamina, my muscle tone, all of it.

I want to feel like me, again. I want to look in the mirror and like what I see. I want to be stronger, more energetic, for me as well as for Elizabeth and Ben. So I am currently working to lose 16 lbs. by early September and tone up my body. While I lost my pregnancy weight fairly quickly (which made me happy), I also put on an extra 10 lbs. rather quickly again (which appalled me), being home with Elizabeth all day long. Admittedly, I drank way too many sodas and snacked on anything that was quickly at hand when I could. Not the best habits. So I did some research, figured out an appropriate weight for my 5’1 height, and set to work a week ago. I have never dieted before and I kind of refuse to, for personal reasons. So I am NOT dieting. What I AM doing, however, is trying to eat smarter and exercise more. I walk daily with Elizabeth, at least a half-mile round trip, and have been adding more blocks to that walk every few days. We’ll be walking the length of our little town before you know it. And I also try to work out after she has gone to bed for the evening, which, thankfully, is fairly early right now.

So far, so good. I have lost 4 lbs., I feel better about myself and my food choices, and I am starting to feel a difference in my body. Now don’t get me wrong; I still want to scarf down half of a cherry creme cake from Marsh, but I won’t, because I want this more. I want to fit into the beautiful dress that my mom bought me for Christmas two years ago that I have never worn yet. I want to make all of my fit-and-flare and pencil-line dresses look fabulous. I want to feel and look as strong and sleek as I was and did when I bellydanced on a regular basis.

I will admit, though, that my self-esteem is still fragile. For example, right now, I am struggling with whether or not to go to a bellydance hafla being held fifteen minutes away from my house by my first bellydance teacher and all the girls that I started dancing with.  It would be fun to see everyone but I’m a little scared about what it will do to my self-esteem. Yes, I’ve lost 4 lbs. this past week, but I no longer have the strength, fluidity, grace, skill, etc. that I did when I danced regularly. I’m a little afraid of watching other ladies who started dancing when I did and have kept up with it do exceptionally well (which they will) and how that will make me feel about myself. I know, it sounds silly but…that’s how I feel in this moment. We’ll see what happens.

So it’s a constant back and forth, love and hate, and, hopefully, I will get back to that nice place where I was content with myself. But, for now, it’s work, work, work.

Body Image Posts:

My Skin

Morning Body

I Love My Legs


“I CAN’T, you say?”

I’m not used to being told “you can’t”. It’s not normally in my vocabulary. When someone says to me, “You can’t do XYZ”, my response is usually, “Watch me.” I take it as a challenge to excel and I usually meet those challenges. I’ve always been rather independent and willing to work towards whatever goal I or others set for me. In fact, I often welcome the challenges and joy in rising to meet them.

However, pregnancy presents a brand-new set of challenges. Now I am being told more and more “don’t do that” or “you can’t do that”. I actually growled a little when my mother told me I couldn’t lift my in-laws’ retirement cake the other day as we were going through the check-out line. I’m used to working hard, to lifting, carrying, doing for myself and others a great deal. So, to be told that I can’t do the things that I am rather used to doing is, admittedly, a bit tough to swallow. It’s like telling me I can’t walk and have to be carried everywhere. And, yet, it makes me wonder if I will be able to do what I need to as the months progress. I am a middle-school teacher and there is a LOT that goes into that, as you are aware, I’m sure. Long days, and sometimes even longer nights, are involved, naturally. However, I’m used to managing it all, doing it all, and so being told or finding out that I can’t do things right now is rather jarring. I’m not used to being treated like I am made of glass, even as I am doing my best to be careful, for myself and for the baby.

I’m four and a half months along and already feel huge, so I have no idea how I will be coping in the months ahead, with the further changes in my body and the weariness and discomfort that will surely come with it all. But I know it’s all worth it.