Learning To Love Myself

If you were given the opportunity to redo parts of your life, would you? Would you go back to your teens? Or would you go back to your 20’s? I’ve caught myself thinking about my life before I met my wonderful husband and before I had my girls. I would find myself asking, would I ever do it again?

The answer might seem like an easy one for so many. One of the biggest promises I made for myself was to always live my life without regrets. This was so important to me for so many reasons. I remember that first feeling of regret and how it made me feel, and that’s where I started to do some internal, emotional digging, and learned the tools I needed to cope and learn from each experience.

Growing up, I have had my fair share of being in the wrong places at the wrong time and making friends who made questionable decisions. Everyone around me saw me as crazy, reckless and wild. I was the “problem” child. I was labelled as defiant, and rebellious. These were the constant labels that I would often hear. But, was I actually rebellious, or was I seeking independence? No matter what outcome this had brought me, I learned from each mistake and learned things about myself that others around me wouldn’t have learned

Some of the best choices I have made and lessons I have learned were from pushing back, and making my own choices. Despite what others would think, I did choose my friends carefully. Despite what others thought, my friends were my village. I surrounded myself, and spent most of my time with my friends than I had with most of my family. I chose friends who allowed me to be who I wanted to be, without judgement. I surrounded myself with friends who not only chose their own decisions and their own path in life, but would never question my decisions or my paths. My friends, for the most part, were always there for me, when I needed someone the most. Early on, I knew how to look past questionable differences, because the choices that someone makes, doesn’t always translate to the choices I make. Everyday, we are making choices for ourself, consciously and subconsciously. Even though we can’t always control all circumstances, we always have the choice on how we act and react. This was something I remember that was not always trusted of me. From early on, it was easier for my parents to guard me instead of allowing me to experience and learn from them. When people hurt us, whether its from their choices, the choice is still ours even if we let it consume us, or if we choose to move on, and forgive. The choice to find something to numb the pain, run away from the pain, or choosing relationships with people who were wrong for you, are all choices we make.

I knew this all too well. Some of these choices I have experienced first hand, and others I have witnessed. I became very aware of my wrong doings and in so many cases I have allowed them to linger or have chosen not to correct them. I was not very good at navigating through challenging situations. I avoided shit outcomes of my poor choices.

Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Pexels.com

So, if I could redo parts of my life, would I? I would! But… The part that I would change would be to have learned how to love myself in its entirety. For most of my life, I have put others first before myself. I have learned early on, how to love others, but I was not very good at knowing how to love myself. From a young age, I was not very comfortable in my own skin. I struggled with appearance issues which led to unhealthy habits. I have found relationships in unhealthy ways. I grew up not feeling confident. Self-esteem was something that would drift in and out of my life. I never felt 100% comfortable in my own skin. I found ways to dodge pictures, even though I was outgoing and wanted to participate. I found excuses to not attend gatherings that involved swimming, where you had to wear a bathing suit. In the summer time I mostly wore pants and ignored the idea of wearing shorts, no matter how hot it was outside. There is no doubt that some of these issues stemmed from my upbringing. I would watch different family members express discomfort with wearing certain clothes and expressing vocally their discomfort with their own body. When they say that kids are like sponges, this is so true.

It wasn’t until I became a mother where I felt the most comfortable at being myself. I found comfort in my life with how my body is, now. I remember struggling with my weight a lot growing up, and what my weight was, consumed me. Now, that I am a mother, I have realized that weight should not consume your thoughts day in and day out. I have made a promise to myself that I would focus on “living in the moment.” Not just some, but all of it!

I am raising two young girls and the last thing I wan’t to display to them is how uncomfortable our body can be. By shifting the mindset from “I feel fat,” to the mindset of “I need to exercise more to keep my body healthy,” shifts the body image mindset. If I start to openly complain about how I dislike myself, my body and mind, this will translate to my young girls faster then I can predict. Part of my journey to loving myself begins with ACCEPTANCE. Accepting that I’m not like everyone else. Learning to love yourself begins with baby steps. Begins with ACCEPTING, RECOGNIZING, and GROWING with yourself. This will never be something that happens over night. I have to acknowledge and understand that this journey will be lifelong, and there will always be moments where there is doubt. So, one of my reminders is that my body carried and delivered 2 beautiful girls, and this is, and will be the new Me.

I have to remind myself that it’s OK to age, and that we all get older, despite what the media will show us. We are meant to age. It’s natural, and it’s ok for our weight to fluctuate. Staying healthy doesn’t always equal weight loss. There is no such thing as “perfect.” The word “PERFECT,” is so subjective, it should be removed from how we identify each other. What is perfect? What’s perfect to one person, is and will always be different to another person. We should look at people the same way we look at clothes. There are a million different styles, not one style is the same, and that’s ok.

I am here to set an example to my girls, that we need to embrace imperfections and remove the word “PERFECT.” I need to continue to love myself, and model that love to my girls. We only have 1 life to live, and we should be fulfilling our life with things that truly matter in life. I will never be like everyone else. There is only 1 of Me, in this world, and I am here to make the best of it. There is only 1 of YOU in the world, and that’s damn special!

Inner Strength

I am a failure. My body failed me. I’m not worthy to be a mother. I’m not strong enough. I gave up. I feel defeated. I suck at this. What have I done? Have any of these thoughts crossed your mind? I have let these thoughts come too close to my heart while I was in the delivery room, delivering my first baby girl, and I let them consume me afterwards. I have let myself continually replay these moments leading up to my surgery. 

I delivered my first baby girl via c-section. Was this my plan, Hell No! But, this plan was deemed necessary for a safe and healthy delivery. I was induced 10 days after my expected due date with no signs of active labour. I experienced prodromal labour for a couple of weeks with no delivery in sight. We had to round up our troops a.k.a my midwives to come up with a back up plan. After induction, and several hours waiting, It was GO time. My baby’s heart rate was dropping with each contraction. This decision was necessary, but it defeated me. I felt crushed. I wanted more than anything to deliver my baby the same way thousands of other women do, a vaginal delivery. 

Photo by Angela Best

Being a first time mom, 2nd time or 3rd time mom, doesn’t make this journey any less complicating or stressful. Being a mom is stressful. We all want to do what the other mom is doing. We are always comparing notes, talking and discussing the comparisons. We are simply judging the F out of each other. We can become each other’s worst enemy, and why? If we are all doing the same job, with the same end goal in mind: raising happy and healthy little humans, why are we constantly judging what the other one has, or doesn’t have? If all moms want the same the same thing, why aren’t we supporting each other?

If you shared with another mom that you had a c-section, you have a 50/50 chance that you will get a supportive response. If you shared with another mom your feeding regimen, formula or breastmilk, you will get either a 60/40 response. 60% support for breastfeeding, and only 40% support for formula. Why is that? Why can’t we just support each other no matter what? Once we become moms, we seem to know what’s best for not only for our self, but everyone else and their child. We instantly become the expert. We seem to have all of the greatest and latest sources of information about what’s better to raising our children and being a better mom. Well, let me tell you, you will never be the perfect mom, or have perfect children. I have learned very quickly that what works best for one mom and child, doesn’t work best for all moms. What works for one child in your family does not work for the other the child. I have also realized that what worked well in the 80’s or 90’s when our parents had us, becomes almost irrelevant, and outdated. So, why are we putting all of this pressure on ourselves?

Before I had my first daughter, I had enrolled myself and my husband to a prenatal class set up and hosted by our midwife clinic. There, I had met 4 other moms to be and their spouses. This was an 8 week program. From completion date, we all had remained friends. These girls quickly became great friends and positive supportive women I cherish each day. Our group is what helped me tremendously to get through my constant thoughts of failure and uncertainties of being a new mom. Even though they all had very different deliveries, they acknowledge that we are all strong mom warriors. When the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a family,” they are my village.  

I was holding my baby girl, when all I could think about was “how did I fail at this?” I had one job to do and so far I have failed. I reminded myself of my “mom” group. They were the ones who uplifted me, and reminded me that it’s not the delivery that defines who we are. The delivery is “just” the exit. Yes, some moms get to accomplish their dream birth plan. Yes, some moms walk out of the hospital as the stunningly hot milf that looks like she hasn’t carried a baby in her lifetime, but, if you’re the one who walks out looking like a garbage truck drove over you 3 times, and your belly still looks likes you’re still pregnant, that’s ok too. You know why? Because you just had a BABY! Looking the part of a mom, a mom who just delivered their baby deserves the Hi Fives and credit too. How you dress and what you look like does not define your strength. Your strength is the part where you screamed for a bloody epidural because you were managing hardcore contractions for so long, you needed a break. Or when you found yourself pushing for so long that you had to make the difficult choice to come up with a new plan of action. Your strength was when you gripped your husbands hand so tight you left prints for days because you had to sit still during the worst contraction while being prepped for surgery. Your strength was when you found the courage to walk into the hospital and say “I’m having my baby, today, or tomorrow.” No matter the “type” of delivery, you delivered, and that in itself is strength.

Photo by Angela Best

The delivery of our baby does not, and should never define who we are as a mother. Each delivery is unique, and not one delivery is the same, ever! If any moms experienced a c-section, remind yourself to be patient. Be patient with your healing, be patient with your mind, body and soul. Be patient with the process. You delivered a little human, and that’s the outcome you should be rewarding yourself with, not just the exit. The exit is such a small piece of the whole picture. Your delivery, is no less greater than someone who vaginally delivered their baby. You can never compare apples to oranges, so why the F should we be doing the same with deliveries? One c-section is not the same as the other. One vaginal delivery is not the same than the other. We need to normalize, appreciate and support ALL births. 

We need to be each other’s village and support system. We are women of strength, courage and a heck of alot of love. We all are warriors, fighting for the same outcome We are leaders leading the same journey. We are survivors, surviving the same chaos of mom life. Praise each other for the hard days we all experience. We have hard days, good days and days where we want to hide out in the bathroom from all of our frustrations. We all share the same goal. We are capable! We are strong! We are courageous! We are a mom! Let’s do this together!

Finding the balance

My daughter is almost two years old, and I never for a second thought that the hardest part of being a mom is balancing being a mom and a working mom.  When deciding to go to back to work, at the initial time, it seemed like an easy decision. My decision to return to work was purely a financial decision in my household. The time of my return,  and coordinating the household with my husband, we knew we wouldn’t be able to maintain our family’s lifestyle if I stayed at home.  Knowing that, becoming a stay-at-home mom wasn’t a thought. I had mentally prepared myself (at least I thought I had) to return to work. I felt strongly that I would go back to work, carry on with my regular job, and motherly duties: pick up my daughter from daycare, go home & make dinner and everyone would be happy; all would be well. At least, that is what I envisioned would happen. A part of me was excited about the time away from my daughter and homelife. I would interact with adults, and engage in adult conversations instead of my days discussing The Wiggles, Peppa Pig & Sesame Street.  

Leading up to and returning to work, I started doubting my decision. The excitement mixed with fear, mixed with anxiety and nervousness became so surreal. Don’t get me wrong, all of these feelings are to be expected. As any new mom would do, and with the realization that there isn’t another option, I put one foot in front of the other and carried on for days, weeks & months. I’ll be honest, some days were easier than others. Finding the right balance was, and still is the most challenging thing I have ever experienced.

IMG_4983   So many moms to be, and new moms often receive an outpour of advice solicited and unsolicited from family, friends and strangers about what you should, or shouldn’t be doing as a parent.  However, I have yet to receive insight about what to expect or what you should know about deciding to return to work. I wish someone would have told me that your exhaustion level goes from 0-100 by 9:00 AM and you still have to find a way to manage the next 8 hours of your work day on top of the next 4-5 hours work you have at home in the evening as a mom. So, when you think you have 1 fulltime job, times that by 2. You’re now working full time, and you are a mother full time. 

I wish I had known that the feeling of failing: failing as a mom, and failing at work was to be expected, and was likely to happen. There are no words to describe what it truly feels like to “fail.”  While I would hug my daughter each morning in the doorway of her daycare, letting her go was incredibly hard. I would take that extra moment to soak up her cuddle, and her smell, before letting her go. She cried, and then I would cry driving myself to work.  This process took months, before it got just a little bit easy. This wasn’t an easy transition for me, and the one advice that WAS given to me, was that this transition is normal, and your child will eventually stop crying.  I kept reminding myself that she will stop crying… eventually.

As mothers, what we struggle with the most is admitting when something is hard. We are wired to take on challenges daily, from getting the right colour cup and spoon each morning for breakfast, lunch, dinner,  while coordinating multiple tasks simultaneously: pretending to be princesses and fairies reading a book to a group of teddies while the floor is lava (yes, this is a real game). We are warriors! We are STRONG! But where we fall short, and what we don’t talk about is how we try to keep the glue stuck, while dividing our self from what we know best, being a mom and our workplace. What some of us are born to do, is to raise our babies. Our constant need to be the “perfect” mom foreshadows our ability to admit when we are struggling. When we admit we are struggling, we are no longer seen as “perfect,” we are now seen as “weak”. Being seen as “weak” now translates to the feeling of “failed”  which is something no mom wants to feel or admit too.

All I wanted to hear  was that this transition in your life will be hard! This process isn’t always an easy one.  The feelings you are feeling are normal. There is no timeline on your feelings. Your feelings will come and go. You will have good days & bad days. You will constantly feel like you can’t do it all. When you can’t, you feel like you have let someone down and that someone is YOU. You have let yourself down, your child down, your husband/partner down,  and that’s a hard pill to swallow.  I wish I was told that the whole “work life balance,” is completely, and utterly, full of crap! Repeat after me, CRAP!! There is no balance. We are all trying to keep ourselves from sinking, and drifting away at sea. What is true is that some moms are just better at hiding it than others.

Lastly, I wish as a working mom there was better support, for us.  Better resources helping moms cope with their decision to go back to work. This decision is not easy. In fact, it is the absolute, most challenging decision you might face. For some mothers, this means weaning from breastfeeding, pumping and/ or bottle feeding routines and implementing new routines and structure. These changes affect not only you , but your little one. This is a difficult time for both you and your little one.  Changes like these cause incredible hormonal changes that affect you physically and mentally (scientifically proven). Gearing up to go back to work is overwhelming, sad, happy, frustrating, exhausting, angry and all feelings in between and the most important thing we need, is patience and support!

From a mother to a mother, I understand you! I commend your strength! A mother who claims they have figured it all out, I am all ears … but until then, I  will continue to send to my fellow moms, support & love during this difficult time ❤️ .