Three Years Ago Today: A Birth Story

10669108_2448876388212_6300732187177903828_oTucker and I arrived at the hospital promptly by 5:30am to be induced, as our little miss was estimating at 10lbs and was already almost 2 weeks late! Little did I know, it wouldn’t be until the next day that we met our sweet little girl.

The labor was anything but what I expected. I didn’t respond to being induced; the pitocin was cranked up high after 6 hours of labor not starting. Then, all at once, my water broke and STRONG irregular contractions started, peaking without fully coming off of them. I labored for a hour before begging for an epidural with these medicine-induced contractions and no doula or education for pain management. The epidural wore off after an hour, and I was given a booster. Once that didn’t work, they took the epidural out and restuck me (still didn’t completely work). My temperature spiked and baby’s activity slowed. Then the oxygen mask. Then the anxiety meds. Hours and hours went by . . .

My sweet nurse took me by the face and told me “I’m here. I’m here. We’re gonna make it.”

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THREE years ago today, Tali arrived early in the morning after 4am. After the labor hadn’t gone as planned, and no progress had been made after four hours, after my body had gone through 23 hours of medicine-induced-contractions, an epidural removed and redone, anxiety medicine, and oxygen, the doctor said the words “Failure to Progress” and the word “C-Section” was spoken. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt like I had failed. I felt like my body failed. I felt like something was wrong with me. In that moment I felt like the most miraculous moment of life was stolen from me: watching an innocent babe come into the world, your child. It was like sand through a fist: the tighter I tried to hold on to it, the faster it slipped through my fingers.

Tucker was exhausted both emotionally and physically watching me fight through labor. I was exhausted mentally and physically as well. I couldn’t bring myself to say “Okay,” so Tucker did for me. Tucker was rushed off to get dressed and I was sent into a sterile, white-walled room, with obtrusive bright lights: anything but the serenity in which I wanted. I couldn’t see the doctors’ faces, as they were covered with a mask. I was told to lay my arms out flat. Tucker came in and stood over me, his eyes the only recognizable part of him that was visible.

I was so scared. Behind the curtain they’d be cutting into my body, pushing internal parts to the side to bring my daughter into the world. This isn’t the way it was supposed to be…Then, before I could think about much more, Tali was born into the world crying. I saw tears in Tucker’s eyes as he said “She’s beautiful.” In that moment, I “saw” her for the first time through his eyes – a shared emotion. I told Tucker to go to her, that I’d be okay. And, that’s my last memory.

Although I was “awake” during these pictures – I don’t remember them. I don’t remember holding my daughter for the first time. I don’t remember breastfeeding her. I don’t remember the first time I looked into her eyes. I don’t remember how she moved. I don’t remember how her skin felt or how she smelled. My first memory is looking across the room and seeing someone holding her. I remember a room full of people.

But yet, despite all the circumstances, when I saw her, all I could think about was her. That perfect moment hung in the air. She’s mine. She’s my daughter. She’s so perfect. She’s so beautiful. I brought her into the world. I’ll do anything for her. I love her.

Happy Birthday, Tali.

 

 

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No Shave November, Beauty, and The Sterilized Inhuman ‘Womanly’ Appearance 


So back in college, I participated in no shave November. Yep, for real. I did. And, I won the contest for hairiest legs for women. 

I think some women couldn’t believe I did this… and couldn’t believe I appeased the entire men’s basketball team by giving in to their request for a close up during the game where we presented our legs at halftime. It was fabulous. Seriously – wish you were there.

Now listen, leg hair may not be attractive to our culture — but we are also a cultural overly obsessed with a woman’s perfectly sterile appearance: no body hair allowed, must have acne covered by makeup, must lose all body weight gained after a baby, must have perfect hair without fly aways or frizz, must have thigh gap, must never have sweat showing through clothes, nor odor should ever be smelt — it’s ridiculous really, and frankly inhuman. Our culture sees us as “less womanly” with these human features…

Perhaps I thought it was good to go the extreme to show women to be confident in what makes us human. We can’t live up to a magazine standard, and most days we just don’t have the time nor energy to put on makeup or shave our legs. (Perhaps we thought spending that time with our kid was more important!) And guess what? That’s okay. You’re beautiful. Your legs don’t define you. Your makeup doesn’t define you. Your hair doesn’t define you. Your body shape doesn’t define you. Your clothes don’t define you.

And women can be the worst to engage and perpetuate this false identity and markers of worth, degrading a woman for her appearance. Instead, start valuing the heart — and start talking about the heart. Stop complimenting what she’s wearing and compliment her smile, her humanity, her love, her intellect, her dedication. Because that’s what continues to grow beautiful with age. That’s what we need to recognize. Make her hold tight to that, not what time will steal away from her.

Body Image: Your body’s sole purpose isn’t to please a gaze

 

 

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My body wasn’t meant to please your gaze. My body’s purpose is not to sell your brand of clothing, makeup, hair color, shoe brand, etc. Its sole purpose is to not be a over-sexualized symbol to turn the heads of men. Its purpose is not to wear a bikini in the summer. It’s not for other women to have an object to compare their body to. Its purpose is not to retain my 16 year old figure.

My body is meant for many things in fact. And a sexualized, ‘perfectly shaped’ being is not the highlight.

My body is for usefulness: it’s to move, to jump, to run, to breathe, to child rear, to breastfeed, to digest, to hear, to see, to feel, to climb, to make, to read, to create, to go, to write, to play music, to contribute, to renew, to grow, to age . . .

My body is made to express: love, art, kindness, compassion, beauty, gentleness, frustration, anger, to serve, to hug, to kiss, to hold, to be held, to assist…

My body is to create: to create peace, to create shelter, to create art, to create music, to create joy, to create new things, to recreate old things, to create a space for community, to create a family, to create beauty…

My body is for my husband: to love, to make love, to serve, to hold, to assist, to laugh, to cry, to grow old with, to behold, to take care of, to admire, to create with…

My body is for my children: that I may bring them into this world with the growth and marks of pregnancy and the pains of labor, that I may pick them up when they are sick and cradle them. That I should chase them when they take off the first time they ride a bike without training wheels. That I should have bags under my eyes because I didn’t sleep because they were awake and lonely. That my hair and nails aren’t done because instead I spent the money to go on a trip with them…

At the end of my life, I want my body to be marked. Marked with smile wrinkles. Marked with scars from adventures. Marked with stretch marks, my tattoos left by my children who forever changed my life. My breasts will hang differently from breastfeeding. My hips will be worn and achey from playing on the ground with children and grandchildren. My skin will be aged from playing in the sun and gardening. My nails will be torn and worn from working hard and serving others. My feet will have callouses from staying active and moving.

And, my life will be full.

Women, allow your body to be marked by life — in the most beautiful of ways. Embrace the shape you are in, the skin you are in, the hair you are in, the type of clothes you can afford, the color of your features, the shape of your legs, your thighs, your marks, your scars. Remember all that your body is and does and has been through — and its endless beauty in these moments — It’s not just some outer covering meant to please some passerby’s eyes. It never has been. It never should be. And it should never be your definition of its worth.

Tattoo for My Daughter

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“When the scar, this scar, formed I was astounded to find that for the first time people looked at me. Not unkindly, and with interest. And they were not the sort of people I had known before. Oh no, these were interesting people, people who were not unmarked by life. And my mark, my scar, made me in some way approachable; this blemish gave me confidence. And it occurred to me then, or very shortly thereafter, that perhaps it might be best to wear lives upon our skin. And so I do.”

– Excerpt from “Marks” within the collection of dramatic monologues “Talking With…” by Jane Martin –

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What is a tattoo? There’s something different about this type of art. It’s the inner reflections of our soul painting the outer shapes our bodies, the willing waiting canvas. We all wear our tattoos, but some are just simply more visible to others. Some are kept written on our hearts while others are cemented in ink. Some people, you see, just choose to make it more permanent, to make the memory physically present when it seems it’s slowly slipping out of their grasp. And unlike an artist who paints on a canvas, who can choose to walk away from their creation, to recreate, to rehang, to store, to sell, this type of art remains with you, a part of you. It goes with you. It matures with you. It tells a story.

As soon as I was pregnant, I started thinking about this permanent design on my body. I knew its form, its shape, and the potential location. I knew it perfectly captured my journey into motherhood, a moment that forever changed my life. To capture even a glimpse of this moment on the canvas of my body would be beautiful, sacred even. Although, I was equally anxious, anxious to have a new mark.

I watched the design take shape for months, my fingers tracing every new line, the artist working delicately with great care to document my journey. I smiled. And, I hesitated. I showed my husband, his own fingers tracing the change to my skin, telling me, reassuring me of its beauty, insisting I be confident if people thought otherwise. He marveled in its design, a physical representation of what was growing not only in my womb, but in our hearts.

Today, my design is still taking shape. It’s still growing with me, changing color, changing form, changing texture. And, I imagine with time, it will continue to. The design is recognized as “stretch marks” by most, those outside of motherhood. To me though, they are my “tiger stripes” or my “mommy marks” or “mommy lines.” Most people would tell me to prevent them. To hide them. To have a body untouched by my journey in life.

No. I will not hide them. I am not ashamed of them. I will not be scared to show my tattoo, life’s mark. You see these lines on my body? These lines mean this body, my body, carried life! Created LIFE! Sustained LIFE. With no practice, no preparation, my body knew what to do to make itself a home. For nine months, my body worked, watched, and waited as her entire being was being formed from a blueprint invisible to the naked eye. It was present as her heart took shape and when the first beat of life sounded.

My body is beautiful, and its journey is beautiful. I display that beauty outwardly with this tattoo. I show you my journey through the lines. The artist? My daughter. Who better to mark my body with her life? With the life we created together as a family.

We all wear our tattoos, but some are just simply more visible to others. Some are written on our hearts while others are cemented in ink, while some are written on the canvas of our skin as the wrinkles in our faces, the dimples in our cheeks, the scars from surviving a fire, and yes, even the lines of childbirth.

Mommies, celebrate your lines. Celebrate your journey. They are not flaws. They are resilient, strong, and beautiful. Wear your tattoo with pride.

Photo subject and credit: Mandi Brock