I’m loving the Before & After series here at The Dahlia Scene. I love that it reminds us all that EVERYONE had a vision for their life that changed once children came into their lives, but it also shows that you can do the things you always dreamed of doing or you find a new passion. We can’t do #allthethings, but we can be happily imperfect as my lovely friend Sara will tell you about today. I hope that you love this story as much as I do.
I feel apologetic towards all the moms I judged before I became a mom. It was never outright judgement like “I can’t believe she….” with disdain. It was lighter, I didn’t even identify it as judgement at the time. More like wondering. Wondering why they weren’t doing it differently. As in, “When I’m a mom, my kids will eat all organic, all the time. Of course. They just won’t know any differently. Couldn’t they just…” Not so much caring about how they were doing it but just being sure that I would do it exactly how I envisioned it. I also didn’t really believe that those new moms couldn’t get back into shape quickly if they really wanted to. It’s just a choice right?
So… I’m sorry I didn’t get it. Three years and two kids later I ummmm, get it. I’m not in the same shape I was before kids. And turns out children are their own little beings with their own needs and full of their own ideas. Who knew? Can we ever foresee what choices we will make after life altering events that we assumed we would never make before those events?
The vision: a dreamy pregnancy with only the best nutrition for myself and no problem keeping up with my yoga/fitness lifestyle. I would totally be one of those women that just gets a cute belly, none of that gaining weight in my arms or face stuff for me! I would exclusively breastfeed and then transition her to homemade organic baby food and then on to an ideal diet of whole, organic foods – always and only. I mean, I was the one in charge right?
When I became pregnant, I was working as a yoga & meditation instructor and nutrition counselor, living the life I had envisioned on a little island in the Caribbean. I had all the tools and knowledge I needed in my back pocket. My health and self-care had always been a top priority and felt pretty effortless at that point. How much could a baby really change all that?! I got smacked with a lot of answers to that unasked question. Many times over.
Oh, hello hormones and nausea. I’m suddenly standing over the sink eating crackers covered with ketchup because it was the only thing that sounded good. New demands from my body started derailing all the things I thought I knew (needing a burger after being a vegetarian for over 15 years) and everything went out the window. Then, at 13 weeks pregnant my baby was diagnosed with a potentially fatal birth defect that could have meant life-long special needs care for her. The decision was quickly made to move back up to my hometown in PA to have access to the health care we needed. That meant moving in with my parents while we figured everything out. At 34. But I should be able to handle it right? I had been teaching all the best tools for handling stress and living a healthy lifestyle. But what I really needed was permission to fall apart. I laid on the couch and watched tv and ate chocolate chip cookies. Like more cookies than I had eaten in the last 15 years of my life combined.
My first daughter was born. With big problems but best case scenario. I wasn’t allowed to even try to breastfeed for the first 2 weeks. Her condition dictated extra calories and supplementing formula once she started eating. Me, who couldn’t previously imagine a scenario where I wouldn’t breastfeed exclusively, was giving her a bottle 3 times a day. Turns out, I was grateful for it. It allowed me to much more easily return to teaching in the evenings without wondering if she was eating.
Eventually she was ready for food. In the meantime I had been slowly returning to a healthy diet but found that I didn’t have as much energy for it (lack of sleep sleep sleep) and just didn’t care as much. I had envisioned myself getting back into shape quickly and easily (yes, even while laying on that couch eating cookie after cookie) and will-powering myself back into all my previous habits. But all I really wanted to do was play with her. In general, my habit of laying around on the couch was not so easily broken when I was so tired – all. the. time. Or if I did have the motivation and energy to put in a workout video, she would inevitably begin fussing minutes after I started.
I was on a food budget for the first time in my adult life. The move had fantastically screwed up our finances (though we did manage to get our own apartment before she was born). I was suddenly very conscious of the cost of every item in the grocery store. Kombucha and organic everything and juicing ingredients (not to mention the time to actually use them) were off the table for the moment. Hmmm, so maybe there were factors I hadn’t been considering when I thought those moms could just jump right back into shape if they really wanted to.
My girl wasn’t into a spoon and so we started with the baby food pouches. I bought the refillable ones so that I could at least make all her food. I tried many times and she refused them every time. I put every vegetable I could afford in front of her and she ate puffs. I read about the importance of egg yolks for brain development and followed the preparation directions to a tee. She had 2 tiny bites and threw up. Oh, so, maybe this is why all those moms ‘didn’t just…’
Fast forward another year and I was pregnant again. Desperately trying to get through my days made getting ANY food in front of my 16 month old that she would actually eat good enough for me. The second time I started out 10 lbs heavier than the first time but was still convinced I wouldn’t gain that much weight. I stayed very active and ate much healthier. But I had learned not to weigh myself anymore. At my doctor’s office they were very accommodating about not telling me the number if I was clear about saying I didn’t want to know. I decided to find out at my 6 week postpartum appointment what had happened and turns out I delivered at exactly the same weight. My body was in charge, my mind had to take a back seat while making babies.
My (now) 2 year old eats sparingly and is very picky. Chicken nuggets are almost a daily thing. She currently refuses to put anything green in her mouth but we’re working on it. She is the light of my life and I do the best I can. And I love myself for that. Perfectionism can only go one of two ways when you become a mother. Take a back seat or drive you batshit crazy. I chose to give it the backseat.
I’m glad everyday that I had figured out how to know my self-worth in ways that weren’t tied to how I look, before I had kids. I’m grateful for the experiences of the last 3 years because it forced me to dive deeper into what I really want my life to be about. I’m still taking care of my health in the best ways I know possible, I just don’t worry about what the scale is doing while I’m living my life. I focus instead on how I can feel good while living – keeping my energy levels high and my mind clear, my mood stable. I give myself as much time as I can for self-care, even though it isn’t my first priority anymore. I keep my kid as healthy as I can without creating WWIII and I’m good with that.
Baby girl 2 is still breastfeeding. She won’t take a bottle even though I sincerely wish she would. And I’ve adjusted. I’m not in charge anymore, and usually, I’m good with that. There’s a lot of life to be lived between the vision and the reality. And I’m too happy being with what is to worry about what I thought it was going to be like. Most of the time 🙂 I’d rather have my mind space free than have my life be perfect. I’d rather feel strong than be the perfect size. Love it while you work on it is my motto now.
Sara Bowman is a full-time mother, yogi, life coach and the creator of the Body Confident program. She landed back in her sweet little hometown of Bloomsburg, PA with her partner and two daughters after spending a decade wandering around to find herself. She has extensive training in yoga, meditation, nutrition and mindset work. Her mission is to help women love living in their bodies.
When she’s not busy chasing her energetic toddler or snuggling with her baby, you might find Sara taking long walks, playing at the local creek or even occasionally painting, which is what she actually went to college for. One of her favorite movies Chocolat and she loves to eat excellent chocolate as much as she loves drinking her green juice. Deep conversations, laying in the grass and dance parties with her daughter also make her very happy.