The Fourth Trimester

When Wendy was about 3 days old, I went to Walmart on a late-night grocery run (because 3 kids under the age of 4!?), and when I was checking out, the teenage cashier asked me when the baby was due, and that she thought pregnant women were just Adorable. I told her the baby was due like a week ago but I had her three days ago, and she apologized all over herself, but I told her it was ok, how could she know? my body still looked pregnant.

Then I told her how *most* women, even those of Princess Kate beauty, go home from the hospital with at least a little post-baby belly, it’s just how God made women’s bodies to work. You are Kidding me, she said, looking at me, in my flip flops and workout pants and maternity shirt. No, I am for real, this is how most women look. She just raised her eyebrows and said that she thinks kids are so cute but not for her.

I was surprised too about what a post-partum body looked like. I guess I was never around (or never paid attention to) post-partum ladies when I was growing up or even when bryan and I were first married. I really want my daughters to know about these normal sort of changes so they aren’t as surprised as that cashier was when they don’t fit into their skinny jeans (if those are still popular—let’s hope not!) on the way home from the hospital with their families years from now.

Even with this being my third baby, it is still so hard not to feel insecure and just generally negative about my body image while post-partum. I know it is a very worthwhile sacrifice, my “figure” for three daughters, but I am still not ready for real pants yet (thank you, inventor of jeggings and tunics!)

Why would it bother me though to look post-partum, when I knew to expect it, I’ve been through it twice before, and I know it is just a season? I suppose it is really because of feelings of entitlement—that I Deserve to look like how I used to look—feelings of wanting to “conceal” any imperfections so that I can appear to be “perfect”, perhaps fear of being rejected or looked down on? I don’t really have any wisdom to share here, just questions I’m asking myself.

Bryan sent me shopping today to buy some things that fit (he’s pretty awesome that way). I hate shopping, unless it is thrift shopping or yardsale shopping. I like to wear my clothes until they have holes in them (and a little past then), and I prefer to have not bought my clothes at all but to just wear hand me downs from my sisters or friends. If I do buy clothes, I like to buy my clothes for $10 or less. Bryan says this is being a little cheap and that we can actually afford for me to wear clothes.

So today was a little bit painful. I went to an Actual Store, with just one kid (like a vacation!), and tried on so much stuff that fit horribly and awkwardly until I finally found  some leggings, cropped pants, a couple tops that will work.  When the girls get home from their parent’s day out day, I’ll give a fashion show, which they will adore (especially if they get to  try on mommy’s clothes too). there will be dancing and and music and high heels involved. and less time spent criticizing myself for not being my own ideal.

a luminous green

(originally posted May 2012)

as i sit feeding zuzu this morning, i notice out the sunroom window the shoots of new growth on our tallest magnolia are marked by a brighter green than the old. you can see that everywhere in our yard; the wife who lived here before me was a gardener and planted the right things so that something would always be blooming no matter the season.

i doubt i’ll ever have such natural timing. in our sloping front yard you can see that luminous new green where the flowers have fallen away from the pink and white flowering bushes that i don’t know the name for.

i don’t think such growth is as evident in human beings. as much as life has changed in the past year, i look for the most part the same. not the same the same but similar.

last night was a long night. bryan moved to the guestroom around 2 because his rls was keeping us both up. zu woke up sometime in those murky hours completely soaked through–her jimmy-jams, her diaper, her cribsheets–and crying. i changed her automatically, without turning on the light, then held her. i love the heavy feeling of a sleeping baby against my chest. i kept her with me in our bed for a little while, something i rarely do, since she woke up everytime i tried to set her down. at some point she ended up in her bed, and i went back to sleep.

not so enjoyable in rapid succession, the occasional night up with the baby can be a pleasure, i’ll admit. the weariness in the morning redeemed by the purpose behind it. the satisfying ache of motherhood.

when i couldn’t breastfeed zu, it wasn’t guilt over giving her formula that bothered me. she’s healthy and happy as can be, formula-fed since 2 months old, so i don’t feel like it hurt her in any way. the hard part for me was that i was naturally incapable of caring for my child.

you know those “motherwomen” (as Edna from the Awakening calls them). the women that have always always wanted children, that babysat, that the babies always smile at, that said their career goal was mother,  homemaker. i was never one of them. though i worked at a daycare and enjoyed children, i never thought much about having my own, not even a few years into marriage, before the baby bug bit. i was a little scared of them. i held a newborn baby carefully as a snake at the zoo.

then when i couldn’t breastfeed i felt like it was nature’s way of saying i wasn’t meant to do this. that i have already been proven incapable of mothering. the weight of that failure. the elaborate post-partum hormones wouldn’t let it go, for a long time. incapable, incapable. i held that word close.

even though what i was feeling and thinking wasn’t truth, it felt like truth at the time, it felt inescapably real. the dark confusion after having a child is the one thing i am afraid of about having more.

i think there is an obsession in mothers, an obsession of capability. we measure ourselves with unfair measures, mostly against the yardstick of our friends, families, neighbors. like comparing your very best orange to her most complex math problem.

i’ve worn myself out on such comparisons the past few months and i would like to let them go now. to stop gauging my parenting by how i feed my baby, my beauty on how much i weigh, my motherhood by how much i’m home. by God’s measurements i am utterly lacking but paid in full.

redeemed, how i love to proclaim it.

new growth and inexperience go hand in hand. i would like to take joy in my lack of expertise, the learning how to become a mother, the shaping constant shaping, clay on the wheel.

Indoor activities for rainy (or too hot) summer days: for toddlers / preschoolers

 

  • Make-up: I park the girls on a towel in front of a mirror in their room and let them to go town with real make-up. not mine—they have their own bin of cast-offs from my sister who works at a fancy make-up store. We wash it off, of course.
  • Indoor Easter Egg Hunt: we bought some cute forest easter eggs last easter, so occasionally when the kids are very stir crazy, I pull them out and have an indoor easter egg hung. Usually I only put candy in some of them, but that is enough to get them excited
  • “gold doubloon hunt”: I cut some circles out of yellow construction paper and hide them like an easter egg hunt. The twist is that I give them “pirate-y” clues as to where the doubloons are (for example: “if a doubloon my maties seek, they ought take a peak where they sleep”
  • Homeschool: we’re working through “God’s Little Explorers” til the end of June, then taking July, August, and maybe part of September off, to accommodate our new addition. I like this homeschool plan because it gives me lots to do with the girls indoors (and out sometimes too) and it feels like a good baseline I can build off of.
  • Basics: playdoh, coloring, and painting are all favorite activities for my girls—especially painting, though it can get a little messy sometimes.
  • Drama: sometimes we put on little plays of biblical stories. The girls enjoy this. I used to do “puppet shows” where I’d take their stuffed animals and pretend like they are puppets over the top of the couch.
  • Camping: zu has a bunk bed, so we put sheets overtop it to make a tent then pretend to go camping with flashlights and stories

Of course we mostly enjoy playing outside during the summer; I take advantage of the cool mornings and try to have my kids outdoors by 7:30 or 8 (we wake up early anyway) so they can at least get some morning time play in, even if its too hot to play outside in the afternoon.

What are some fun activities and games you like to play with your preschoolers and toddlers when it’s the summer weather isn’t cooperating?