flesh

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I used to dart past mirrors and shop windows. If I happened to linger too long and catch a glimpse I would pause to rearrange my limbs and stomach into poses and shapes more pleasing to the eye. Most days I would cringe, embarrassed to be seen by even myself. Every once in awhile something magical would happen and I would think to myself, “Ok, it’s not that bad.” I was allowed to be happy for the rest of the day; if I was lucky I might even get to eat without guilt, forgiven for my sins momentarily. 

Now, I laugh as I am poked and prodded, squished like biscuit dough by the curious hands of a toddler. Her eyes are wide and thoughtful as they take in the different shapes and details of my body, her father’s, her own. I draw circles around my stretch marked belly and tell her how she grew there, how her sister grows there now. It has been swollen with hate and emptied out by hate again. But this? This is love. Some fear and trepidation, too – but mostly love. 

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I am not a force of nature, I am Mother Nature incarnate. Minuscule ravines carved out by continuous and determined pressure. Constellations of dimples and pores splayed out. Not smooth but rough like bark; bags under my eyes like the age rings of an oak. 

I make no excuses, no justifications. My body looks like it does because of what it’s made of and what I’ve done in my life. It apologizes to no one. 

(Although, sometimes I do.)

At more than one point in time my skin has burst from the containment of life – another person’s life separate from my own. The magnitude of that is often lost on me but I only need look in the mirror. 

For as much progress we’ve made as a society, we are still very uncomfortable when someone (particularly a woman) doesn’t say sorry for her physical presence. When I talk publicly about my body and my experiences it is often followed by some sort of offer to fix it. “Oh the poor dear, look at her putting on a brave face. Here, I will give her what she really needs.” I have and will always decline your magic potions and pills. You cannot wrap and dehydrate yourself to greatness, to goodness. My heart hurts. We squirm at others because we are at unease with ourselves.

My daughter looks at me with awe. She inspects every freckle, hair, scar, and tattoo – each one receiving the same amount of reverence and fascination. My body is other worldly. Marked and marred, so different from her own brand new blank canvas. Her opinion, unfiltered and unaffected, is the one I take to heart. 

So if you don’t mind, I’ll be over here – a worn, happy bag of bones and torn flesh – occupying space just as I am.

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on unplanned pregnancy

Are you still there?

Is this still a safe space?

I keep a list in my heart, of those I know who are trying or hoping or hurting. I carry it with me – heavy – every day and in everything I do. Like a precious heirloom locket I hold it closely, protectively and whisper fervent prayer for each of their names. Small breaths of love, the only thing I can offer them. I’ve been there and I know.

To those, warriors of women, I can only hope my words do not claw at you and sting. But if they do, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

I hate being pregnant.


My skin crawls and turns to ice at the realization that my body is not my own for the next two years, at least. There is an ever present lump in my throat, threatening to turn my churning stomach inside out. My hips and back ache as my body swells and shifts to create room, to create a home. I try to swallow back the acid bubbling up and out over my tongue. Vivid nightmares filled with guns and babies and bullets wrench me awake each night; I shake and tears burn my face as I try to come back down to reality. I have panicky flashbacks to the traumatic birth and newbornhood of my first. I wonder daily if we will bring home a new member of our family or if I’m walking through hell only to return empty handed.

My depression, anxiety, and eating disorder start to pull me down as I mourn control; I see my daughter watching my every move and try to find some sort of resolve – No, they cannot have her, too. I will not let them.

With Rosalyn, every week that I progressed and remained with a tiny heart still beating within my womb was celebration enough to carry me through. I wish it were enough right now. Right now, as I work my way through the third month all I can see is the miles that stretch out before me and I just. don’t. want to do it. I know (I hope?) that this will change as we move forward. It has to. For both our sakes.

This fruit-sized, unknown babe is taking everything I have. I end most days in tears at the thought of having to wake up and repeat what I’ve just done. Barely able to make it through work, nauseated beyond relief, completely unable to be present for my toddler or husband. It’s too much. I cannot possibly continue on.

Yet, that’s what we do, isn’t it? We keep on. We get up and just fucking do it, every day. Sun up to sun up we keep running.

How dare I, though. Complain about this gift and privilege. Not choose to focus on my blessings. Consider this honor an inconvenience or a bother. Guilt consumes me.

I’m in a dark place right now. But it will change. It has to.

new years eve

As December ticked by and brought us closer to an end and subsequent beginning that is the New Years, I kept thinking on this post from January.

Truthfully, my gut reaction was embarrassment followed by a scoff. How silly of me to think we’d breeze through this first year of parenthood with finesse or ease. Thrive? HA. We barely SURVIVED. Stupid. You were so stupid, Rachel. That’s what you get for making those grand sweeping declarations and predictions like you always do.

For a moment I even considered deleting it, quietly sweeping the evidence of my naïveté under the rug. But for the sake of authenticity I left it and just continued saying mean things about myself as I shook my head. It was a bit like shoving a dog’s nose in their mess. Unnecessary, ineffective, abusive.

I thought about it more and began to wonder what kind of standard I was holding myself to. What should I have done this year that I didn’t do? What about how I lived wasn’t true to the word “thrive”? I had a flashback to two weeks postpartum. My right nipple was torn to shreds by a tiny baby latch so I was nursing on one side and pumping on the other. My brand new girl was sleeping very little and crying all the time. My temperature was slowly rising due to some mystery infection that would later land me in the ER, stump the doctors, and  be filed under, “extreme sleep deprivation and stress”. As The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt marathoned on Netflix in the background, I sobbed under the intense weight of my new life and weirdly found solace in the catchy intro music.

“Unbreakable – they alive damnit!” I sang as tears seared my cheeks. In the haze of my hormone hallucination I felt as though they had written those words for me. “Females are strong as hell,” the television cheered me on to make it through another hour in the day.

Looking back I realize I probably looked and sounded deranged. I probably was, a little bit. But I made it through that hour. And the next one. And the next. And here I am – here we are, nine months later and we’re surviving. Maybe even thriving? I mean, the house is a wreck and we consider sleeping for four whole hours to be a miracle. But we smile and laugh every day. We hug and kiss and hold hands every day. We play and learn and sing every day. The Unbreakble song still makes me smile.

This has been a year of lowered standards. It’s easy to say, “let go of the little things.” But I’m learning how to actually DO that. I feel peace and freedom when I’m able to unclench my jaw, loosen my grip, and let something insignificant slip through my raw, blistered hands. Goodbye, you do not matter to me right now.

When I said, “thrive” earlier this year I meant, “have control over everything.” And it turns out it actually means, “don’t give a shit unless you really need to.” Or maybe something a little more eloquent. But that’s the gist.

I’ve done a lot of really hard things this year. Hard, sharp, grinding things. And I’m pushed and stretched and challenged more every single day. Sometimes I feel run down and not sure I have it in me to do this. And that makes me question if I did what I set out to do – did I thrive? And you know what?

I think I did.

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good enough

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

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Yeah, its a lovely poem. And on a particularly good (or bad) day it tugs on my already strung out heart strings. But, what if your need for a tidy home doesn’t come from outside societal pressures to have it all, all at once? What if it stems from your own deep-seated desires to have things just so? Where’s the sweetly worded poetry about how stepping on a crumb makes you want to peel your skin off? I’ve yet to come across prose addressing the anxiety that makes my very brain tissue itch when dishes are piled with last night’s sauce still smeared and wet towels are slumped on the floor. Sure, clutter-free homes are prime Instagram content, but I can promise you the place I’m coming from is that stuff suffocates me. I’m not trying to impress anyone; I’m trying to breathe.

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Yet, what can I do when my day starts at 5:30am, I get home twelve hours later, and only have a couple more before the whole bedtime rigmarole? And then we’re up three, four, five (six, seven??) times a night?

Sorry. The whine snuck out there. Let’s start over. Everyone go grab a cup of tea and come back when you’re feeling better.

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Ok.

What I’m trying to get at is that I spend a lot of time intentionally directing my gaze away from mounds of, well, basically its just random junk all over the house. That dining room table? I don’t even know what’s on there anymore. I could probably just sweep it all into a box for Goodwill and be happy. At this point, the only thing keeping me from doing that is this inkling I have that there are a couple of lenses lurking under some paper. For a couple of weeks we made a valiant effort of clearing off enough space that we could still dine like civilized people each night. We have since said, “Fuck it,” and now eat on the couch. (While on the couch I make a real effort to not notice the GIANT spot on our beautiful rug; it was created when recently my dog removed a box of hot chocolate from the pantry? And opened a packet?? And then forcefully licked its contents into the rug??? Fantastic.)

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I had every intention of opening this text box and telling you all how I gladly turn my back to the mess while I rock my babe, thinking wistfully how woefully short this season of life is.

Sometimes I do that.

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But, sometimes I am rock-rock-rocking in the dark asking God to please give me a grateful heart because in that moment I want little more than to throw all of our shit into a dumpster and light it on fire because its gotta be a helluva lot easier to keep an empty house clean. Sometimes I gaze lovingly at her perfect, angel face and think about how lucky I am. And sometimes I want to sit her down for a talk and explain in my Mom Voice, “It’s time* for you to sleep longer than three hours, young lady.”

(*It’s not “time”. You’re only six months old. Keep doing you, you’re doing just fine.)

I wanted to be able to say that I am at peace with my surroundings right now. That because I’m doing the important, holy work of mothering it is well with my soul. Amen. Hallelujah. Praise God. It is good enough. Except its not.

I think I slipped back into whining again back there somewhere. Ughhhhhhh I really didn’t want to bring that to this space today. I wanted to bring you something better. Something tastier. That we could all fold neatly into our back pockets and walk away a lighter, happier person for it.

I couldn’t. I can’t. And for now, that has to be good enough.

IMG_0246-1What the hell is wrong with you, ceiling?