Sunday, February 19, 2012

How I Became the Incredible Shrinking Woman

Sometimes you just can’t win. I’m the skinniest I’ve been since my twenties. But a lot of people, instead of thinking I look good, ask me if I’m sick. I guess it’s an unfortunate byproduct of being forty something, and being seen as closer to the death end of the spectrum than the birth, or birth-giving end.

I was never that heavy, but I guess I was never that skinny, either. After college sports, my lifestyle became more dormant. The idea of abdominal muscles seemed completely unattainable for most of my life, save the years when I rock climbed in my late teens.

Enter a baby. Motherhood has, quite unintentionally, whipped me back into shape. Your child is an increasing weight that you are lifting multiple times daily, into his high chair, into your arms, up onto the bed for a diaper change, into his car seat, for piggy back rides, back flips off your shoulders and flying around the house splayed out across your outstretched arms.

Never mind the small child I’ve been caring for part time. Between the two of them, it’s like I’m constantly juggling weights. Moms are weightlifters.

[And yet, instead of being seen as bearing heavy weights with heroic strength, we are seen as weighed down.]

Now add to the regular physical workouts of parenthood, add to the playground antics and the tickle fests and the somersaults, the fact of nursing a toddler.

But of course, if I tell some people that, they’ll tell me that I don’t just look sick, I AM sick.

The truth is, extended nursing is kind of like an extreme sport. It turns you into an instant superhero, if you get out alive.

But seriously, I have been going to La Leche League meetings since Cayce was wee, getting information and support to nurse my baby. And I learned about self weaning and knew that I would want to let my child self wean. And I am so blessed to have the support of a partner that has enabled me to have this lifestyle that supports my nursing our son.

So I’m here to tell you that I’m not sick on either count. And I’m not on crack. And I’m not any goddamned negative thing. I’m glowing with fucking life, damn it. I may be inwardly exhausted, but I finally get to be something like slender again, at least, for all my hard work. So I’d just like to ride this wave for a while, if I may. Skinny legs and all.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why I Don’t Want to Rush This Part

Can I just say that I’m having the time of my life over here? I may grow weary, or snap from time to time, but mostly I am asking my child, Have I told you, in the last half an hour, how much I love you? These days spent with my Mini Me, this one who gets me like no other, who laughs at my silliness and mimics me in a way that makes me laugh, at myself, at him, at the wonder of it, of this that we are, this incredible loving and bonding and becoming that we are, together. This little person who makes me more myself than I ever was. Who gives light and air to my hidden flame. Who shows me the magic in things my eyes had long forgotten how to see. Who in a stubborn moment reminds us of tenderness. Or who in a moment of frustration, reminds me of the music of innocence. But I want to crack eggs, Mommy. Why not?

I love this time of piggy back rides, of learning songs with infectious inflections. You’re a meannnn onnnne, Mr. Grinch-a. You really are a heeeeelllll… bad banana… greasy black peeeellllll. Of constant dialogue about the imagined or observable world. There’s the windmill. There’s the houses. There’s a octagon, and a triangle and a square and a rectangle… I love this daily delight in the ordinary. The enormity of small things, the routine of repetition, expanded conversations with neighbors inspired by this chattering boy who pulls you in, pulls everyone in.

I won’t lie. He’s my drug. My antidepressant. The thought of letting him go in sixteen years wrenches my heart. I’m addicted. Dependent. Hopelessly devoted.

I still love nursing him, even though he’s thirty-five inches long and counts to thirteen, then skips to seventeen. Sometimes when we're out and about and I carry his dangly form on my hip, he presses his soft cheek to mine. I’ve never been so important to somebody before. To experience this so often throughout the day can take my breath away. And to see the beauty of what he learns from me played back to me in his lilting voice, in the expressions of his perfect, god-made face piercing my soul, teaching me that I am, in fact, more than I ever thought I could be. I am the mother of this amazing, sentient, delightful creature. And to be someone’s mother— well it is really something.

Everything that came before in my life was just preparation for this, these few years, this teaspoonful of hours to quote Nick Flynn, in which I get to really matter, and make a difference in the life of just one other-- my child.