Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dear Body

I cannot recall a time in my life when I was happy with my body.  I remember being 6 years old and asking for "Get In Shape Girl" for Christmas.  I remember being 12 years old and staring at myself in the mirror, pinching parts of my body that I did not like.  (Admittedly, I still do this.)  I remember being 14 years old and convincing myself that the boy I liked didn't like me because I was too fat.  I used to fantasize about slicing off the "chubby" parts of my body.  I would often sit with a sweatshirt folded on my lap so I wouldn't have to look down and see the spread of my thighs.  Such shame I felt.

I have never been extremely overweight, and I have never been particularly thin, but I have always been self-conscious about my body.  Always.  It's like a bizarre form of self-torture, this unhappiness that I harbor towards myself.  I don't understand the root of it, but I know that it's a poisonous way to be.  It doesn't benefit me to chastise myself about my body, when really my body is what has carried my soul around this earth for the last 30 years.  I ought to write it a thank-you card.

So here goes.

Dear Body,
Thank you for always being there for me when I need you.  I appreciate the way you are always game for a walk or a swim.  You rarely complain when I don't grant you enough rest, and even though I sometimes drink too much caffeine or eat food that's not healthy, you always provide me with enough energy to make it through the day.  I remember back in 2001, we ran a half marathon together.  That was really difficult and challenging, but you pulled me through and did not falter.  I still count that as one of my biggest accomplishments, because I know the effort that went into preparing for it.  Body, the most amazing thing you have ever done was to give me my little boy.  You grew him from a tiny seed into the sweet baby that I know and love, and together we brought him into this world.  I know it was hard work, and it was not without a few scars.  Maybe the tummy is a little flabbier, the boobs are a little smaller, the skin is a little more stretch-marked, but just looking at Benjamin makes it all worth it.  And you did that!  Thank you for having a lap soft enough to comfort him.  Thank you for having arms strong enough to pick him up as he grows.  Thank you for having a belly that cradled that little angel before he was born.  Body, I'm sorry that I'm not always kind to you.  Sometimes I forget all the good that you do because I'm too worried what other people think.  They don't know you like I do.  I will try to remember to love you like I should, unconditionally.  The Universe saw fit to pair me with you, and I should know better than to question the Universe.  Body, you are perfectly imperfect.  I appreciate you.  I am grateful for you and for all that you have done and will continue to do.

The next time I feel the familiar dark cloud of self-loathing creep up on me, I will try to remember to smile and let it pass right by.  It isn't going to be easy, I know, but I will do my best.  Enough is enough.  It's time to be happy with myself.  Finally. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Beautiful Day

Today is a beautiful day.

Ben was up early because he peed through his diaper and onto his jammies.  So when I was up with him well before I wanted to be, I watched his smile and listed to him babble and smelled his sweet baby breath, and I thought to myself, "Today is a beautiful day." 

I have a great marriage.  I know a lot of people say that they married their best friend, but in my case it's true.  We laugh...a lot.  We do silly things to try to make the other one laugh.  Dave hikes his basketball shorts up to his armpits and walks around the house that way because he knows it makes me giggle.  I bust-out in random awkward dance moves because I know he thinks it's funny.  We like spending time together.  We go to bed early so we can face each other in bed and talk about our dreams, our fears, what we hope to do in life.  I knew Dave was "the one" long before he did, and I patiently waited an entire year for him to realize what I had known from the start.  He's the jelly to my peanut butter. 

Today is a beautiful day.

I have great girlfriends.  I have girlfriends that love me no matter what kind of crazy mood I am in.  They have loved me at my best and have supported me through my worst.  They have seen me through various hairstyles (and color changes).  They have seen me through my share of bad decisions.  They have seen me through some of my life's happiest milestones.  We have taken road trips, planned adventures, reveled in girls' days.  We have enjoyed cocktails and fried food and countless e-mails back and forth, and not an hour goes by that I don't wonder why I have been so blessed to win the friend lottery day after day.  I have several friend groups and I would not pick one over the other.  They are all my BFFs, my soul-sisters.  They are the olives to my martini.

Dave slept in and Ben took a long morning nap, and I drank my coffee and listened to the sounds of summer outside my window.  Birds chirping, insects buzzing, kids playing.  Heaven.  Now the little one is up and playing with his daddy and I am looking at my two boys, one big and one little, wondering how I got this lucky.  They are the pieces of my heart that are not contained within my body, and I love them with a ferocity I didn't know existed.  

The sun is shining today and I am soaking up the yumminess of another weekend with my family.  I will not mar this precious time by finding things to complain about.  Instead, I will smile at my amazing life and be grateful for all that is good which has been given to me.  

Today is a beautiful day.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Chronic People-Pleaser

True story.  A few years ago I went to Six Flags in Dallas with Dave and my dad, just the three of us.  It was a cloudy May day and the perfect temperature for strolling around the amusement park.  As we were waiting in line for our first ride--The Texas Giant--the lightning flashed and the thunder struck.  Cue the rain delay.  We waited...and waited.  Eventually it became clear to us that the day was going to be a wash (literally) and we should probably rethink spending the day outside.  Now on the way out of the park there were several clearly visible signs that read "Absolutely No Ticket Refunds".  My dad was sure it would be no problem to have our tickets refunded since it was still early morning, we hadn't even been on a single ride and it looked like it would rain for the remainder of the day.  I pointed to the sign.  No refunds.  What didn't he understand about that?  My dad casually began to walk to to the ticket booth to claim our refund, and I headed briskly in the opposite direction.  I neither wanted to see nor hear the confrontation, if you could even call it that.  I was so nervous that the ticket booth lady (who, let's face it, was probably a teenager who could not care less) would somehow be angry/upset/displeased.  In less than a minute my dad was back by my side, refund in hand, looking at me like I was crazy.  Had I really been so afraid that a Six Flags employee would be mad at me?  Yes.  Yes I was.

My need to please everyone is so all-consuming that it really is a small miracle that I can get anything done in life.  If I tallied up the time I spent trying to please other people, I'd probably be really disappointed.  Why am I like this?  I'm sure it's a mixture of DNA and life experiences, but it's getting old.  I'm wasting time.  Now that I have a child, I see that it's really a terrible way to be.  Do I want my son to tip-toe through life, afraid of disturbing the peace, living like the whole world's happiness and contentment rests on his shoulders?  No.  So, what kind of example am I setting?

Going forward, I'm making a promise to myself to work on this glaring character flaw.  I absolutely cannot please everybody all of the time.  I cannot even please everybody some of the time.  I can try to make myself happy, and in doing so I will likely end up making those around me happy.  It makes me sick to my stomach to fathom a life of constantly apologizing for having an opinion, a want, a thought that is independently mine.  To go along with my whole "be braver and bolder" campaign, I will make an effort to stop being such a doormat.  I will no longer apologize to waiters who get my order wrong (Yes, I have done that more than once.).  I will no longer go along with things I don't want to do, simply because I am afraid someone will be upset with me.  (It's ok to say no sometimes.)  I will no longer put the world's happiness before my own.  I will, however, go out and pursue the life that I know is big and bold and beautiful.  It's perfectly okay to use "because it makes me happy" as a justification for anything.  I'm a work in progress, and so I know it's not easy to change what has become 30 years of people-pleasing habit, but I can try.  I really think you can teach an old dog new tricks.


Today is Saturday, and I survived my first week back at work since having Ben.  It was not an easy week, for several reasons, but I made it through.  Monday will come all too quickly, I know, but I'm trying to keep my chin up.  There are some exciting things in store, and I will try to keep that in mind when my desk phone rings incessantly.  For now though, there is a super snuggly baby who deserves to have two days with the momma who loves him so much.  And, that definitely makes me happy.

Remember:  A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  --Lao-Tzu

Friday, August 5, 2011

Benjamin's Birth Day

As I sit down to write this, I am still fascinated by it.  I am amazed at the miracle of life.  When I look at his tiny hands and feet, at the beautiful curl of his lashes, at the perfect curves of his ears, I really can see the hand of God in it all.

This is the story of Benjamin's birth.

38 weeks pregnant

I woke up at 12:30am on Monday, May 16th.  I remember my eyes popping open as I felt the familiar urge to go to the bathroom...again.  I was 2 days past my May 14th due date and was feeling pretty uncomfortable.  Feet, legs, hands swollen.  Heartburn so intense I was forced to sleep sitting up.  That morning was to be the first morning of my maternity leave.  Alone-time in the morning, pedicure in the afternoon...I had my day all planned out.  Just as I sat down to go to the bathroom...**gush**.  "Oh, crap!" I thought.  My water broke.  

Partly because I was in shock, and partly because I was too excited (and nervous) to move, I stayed in the bathroom for a few minutes, just thinking.  "We're going to meet our baby soon.  It will no longer be just the two of us.  Will it be a boy or a girl?"  My mind and my heart began racing.  Dave called out to me as my absence from the bed alerted him.  He asked if I was okay.

"Yes, but..."

We called the doctor at 1:30am and were instructed to head to the hospital.  I called my mom.  I could hear the excitement in her voice as I told her I was in labor and that we were going to swing by to drop off Emma, our dog.  I showered, Dave packed and we loaded up the car.  We drove the 25 minutes to my mom's house.  I had a few mild contractions, and we tried to time them but they were fairly irregular.  7-8 minutes apart.  Not painful.  I remember thinking "If this is what labor feels like, I'm going to do awesome."  (That makes me laugh now.  I had no idea what was in store for me.)  We dropped the dog off and proceeded to the hospital, getting there at 3:00am.  We checked in and I gowned-up, and we were told the midwife would be in shortly to see if I was dilated at all.  She came in the room and seemed nice.  Up until she examined me, my contractions were getting a little stronger and more regular but were still very manageable.  After she examined me (which was so painful that my eyes watered and my toes curled) I found out I was only 1cm dilated.  It was going to be a long day.

The next few hours went by in a blur of procedure, waiting, checking, contracting.  Nurses in and out.  Breathing in and out.  Inhaling, exhaling.  Trying to find a rhythm for managing pain that was intensifying.  Inhaling, exhaling.  Dave, looking at the monitor strip which measured the contractions.  Little mountains on a strip of paper.  Jagged peaks representing my pain.

My mom came to the hospital around 7:00am, and I was in full-blown labor.  Though only dilated 3-4cm, I wasn't sure I could handle much more of the pain.  Wave after wave overtook me.  I wanted silence during the contractions, so I kept shushing Dave and my mom.  Inhale, exhale, shhhhhhh.  Repeat.  I tried walking to keep things progressing, but I only made it through one lap of the labor and delivery unit before I was begging to lie back down.  When I got back to the room, I tried bouncing on a birthing ball.  By 8:30am I was told I could have an epidural if I wanted one, and that was a no-brainer.  Yes and please and hurry.

Trying to walk through a contraction.
The epidural made me numb from the waist down, which was an unpleasant feeling.  It felt like I had two dead legs strapped to my body.  Though I could still feel the contractions, they were doable.  The pain was reduced to intense pressure.  I tried to get some rest, but the automatic blood-pressure cuff went off every 15 minutes, so sleep was hard to come by.  I talked with Dave and my mom and watched the clock.  The nurse checked me and I was told we'd have an afternoon baby.  Friends sent text messages of excitement and support.  A woman in the labor and delivery room next to mine had her baby and I heard its first cry.  It was a beautiful sound and I burst into tears.  I knew the next time I heard that sound it would be my baby in this room.  I looked at the isolette situated in the corner of the room, fitted with fresh linens, waiting for my baby.  The baby that I had grown to know from within, the baby who kicked my ribs and hiccuped and wiggled, would soon be out of my body and laying in the isolette.  How wild.

At 1:00pm my doctor came in to examine me.  I was 9cm dilated and feeling all kinds of pressure.  I knew that I wouldn't be pregnant much longer.  He told me to "hang tight" and that he was going to go perform a c-section on another patient and would be back shortly.  I was panicky.  How long would that c-section take?  What if I felt like pushing?  What if he didn't get back in time?  For the next hour, the pain found its way back to me.  I clenched Dave's hand during the contractions and tried to breathe through the pain.  He rubbed my back and kissed my forehead and whispered words of love and encouragement.  My mom was lingering in the background, present and comforting but not intrusive or overwhelming.  I was shivering from the epidural and secretly wondering if I would have enough strength left to push.  After all, I was operating on no sleep.

Dave and me, shortly before I started pushing.
The doctor came back into the room at 2:00pm and confirmed I was fully dilated and ready to start pushing.  The pushing was harder than I could have imagined.  It's much harder than anyone ever tells you.  I pushed as hard as I could, inhaled and pushed again.  Three times for each contraction.  My face hurt from the pressure of pushing and my throat felt raw.  I was told not to "push with my face" and to really bear down.  Nurses came in and out.  Instruments were opened and set aside.  A flurry of activity went on in my peripheral vision.  Dave held my left leg and a nurse held my right.  At one point the baby's heart rate dropped and so I was given oxygen and was told to turn onto my right side.  I pushed on my side for awhile.  I had breaks in between contractions and I would try to catch my breath and take sips of water.  Then I would feel the contraction building again and I knew I was about to embark on another round of pushing.  Dave kept telling me I was doing a good job and that he could see the baby's head.  It all felt very surreal.  How did I get here?  I tried to keep focusing and keep pushing.  This was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.  My doctor looked at me and said "Ok, Kelly.  We should have a baby in the next few pushes."

I curled my body around the next contraction and pushed.  I pushed out my pain.  I pushed out my fear.  I pushed out my anticipation.  I pushed out the frustration of a year of trying to get pregnant and I pushed out the heartbreak of two lost pregnancies.  I pushed out the morning sickness and the heartburn and the swelling.  I pushed and pushed and then out he came.  I saw it was a boy.  Arms and legs flailing, lungs wailing.  I reached out and grabbed him, warm and wet and so tiny.  The most beautiful face I have ever seen.  My Benjamin,  6 pounds 13 ounces, born at 2:49pm.  We were a family.

Benjamin David Kompf

Emotion poured out of me as I sobbed and thanked everyone in the room for helping to make me a mommy.  I watched as Dave held our son for the first time.  I watched as my mom became a grandma.  My life was transformed.

I have thought about that day everyday since, and it's still so magical to me.  I feel so privileged that I got to experience childbirth, and there is no feeling on this earth like looking at your child's face for the first time.  I am excited to watch him grow from a baby into a little boy, and I will cherish every moment along the way.

I am so blessed to be Benjamin's mommy.  

Mommy and Benjamin meet.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

On Fear and Bravery

A dear friend once gave me a blank notebook, and printed on the cover was the phrase "Do one thing each day that scares you."  Great advice.  I never wrote in the notebook.  As a matter of fact, I'm not even sure where that notebook is although I'm certain it's in my house somewhere.  

I've been thinking about that phrase a lot lately.  I have not always been bold with my choices.  I fancy myself a rather conservative person.  I am liberal with my views of the world and those around me, but when it comes to steering my own ship, I maintain a very narrow course and I tend not to make waves.  I sail in calm waters.  I am queen of the comfort zone.  Whenever I see people who dare to take risks in life, who are brave enough to try new things, I get this kernel of discomfort inside.  It grows and grows until eventually it sprouts into full blown jealousy.  Why can't I be braver, bolder?  What makes those people so fearless?  It hit me the other day as Dave and I were talking about doing something we've always wanted to do, but until now have been too afraid to consider.  Everyone is afraid and insecure.  There are no fearless people.  To be truly brave is to acknowledge your fear, and then move past it.  Don't let fear hold you back from anything you want to do in life.  

There have been times I have dared to try things that were scary to me.  But like dipping your toes into a freezing pool, I quickly recoiled the instant things got a little uncomfortable.  That's okay though.  Life is a process.  I now know that once you make it through the uncomfortable beginning of something, there is great joy to be found.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Life is too short to miss out on great joy.

Now when I look at people who seem braver than I am, I will try to remind myself that we're all the same.  We all have fears, and whether the fear is great or small we all have to make the decision to move past it and leave it behind, or let it loom in front of us like a big cement wall.

So here's to being brave and bold and daring.  Here's to trying new things.  Here's to letting ourselves be vulnerable to that uncomfortable feeling, because we know the payoff will be worth it.  Here's to adventure.  

Here's to life.