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.

home: the nursery

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I am a watched pot over here in the 40th week. One of my pregnancy apps has ceased giving me anymore updates because there are only so many ways you can say, “Your baby is pretty much done growing and should be here any day now!”. No hard feelings, pregnancy app. I get it. I thought I had myself a nice collection of inappropriate/over the top/just downright weird things said to me while pregnant. But the past few days have given the whole nine months a run for their money. If you think people have no boundaries before, just wait until you’re full term. For everybody’s sake I try to keep a good humor about it (while texting my PG-13 responses to Andrew, of course). Mostly though? I’m just really, really excited. Each night that I go to kind-of-sleep still pregnant is exhausting and sometimes painful, but its also THAT much closer to her being here. There’s this feeling of imminence in my bones that is keeping my spirits high.

It’s been a hell of a year.

37 weeks

Come Tuesday I will reach the point where if labor begins then there won’t be anything done to stop it — we’ll just let her come as she may. As the midwife listened to her heartbeat with the Doppler at our appointment last week, I tried to think back to the last time this process made my own heart race. It’s been awhile; her kicking and rolling have served as my sigh of relief since they became daily, now hourly, occurrences. I felt almost nostalgic about those early appointments. Similar to when you find a middle school portrait and just wanna wrap that you in a hug and say, “Its all going to be ok. You’re going to make it through this.”

The tail end of week 36 brought with it a nasty head cold that I will do my best to not whine too much about. Well, not my BEST best. Because I think there may be actual legislation that dictates women in their last month of pregnancy get all the whining and brownies they want. No? You should double check because I could’ve sworn…

I was fortunate enough to get my Friday covered at work so I could get a head start on beating this thing. And thank goodness I did because damn does asthma complicate things. What the hell, lungs? The lovely Spring-like temps served as a bright spot though, and we managed to get out into the fresh air for a few hours each day to run small errands here and there (in yoga pants of course because those are also included in the Month Nine legislation). Sunday, we grabbed lunch at Chipotle (sofritas salad, yes please) before grocery shopping. I slid into the booth and attempted to adjust the table because there was barely any room for the sizable bump on my front. Clearly the previous occupants had shifted the table during their stay! Except, uh, nope. Those tables are bolted to the floor, Rachel. Your midsection is just THAT big now. Impressive.

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This weekend also brought a lot of cleaning and organizing in the house. I had written up a list of all the random, junky, forgotten spaces that should probably be paid attention to before the newborn haze destroys any hope of deep cleaning for a long time. I figured there was no way we’d complete everything, but if we could tackle a few of them and make a fair dent that would be great! I underestimated the baby daddy nesting instinct; Andrew has up and finished that whole damn list! I’m currently researching a way to bottle this up and will let y’all know when I’m ready to go to market.

I could very well still be pregnant a month from now, or she could be here this week. I read this quote somewhere and it’s awfully fitting: “Waiting for a baby is like picking up someone from the airport but you don’t know who they are or what time their flight comes in.” The ball is in your court, Ros. Always has been, really. You’ve got a completed (and freakin’ cute, if I do say so myself) nursery and two very excited & anxious parents here waiting for you. We’re ready when you are!

bump photos

I tried my hand at some DIY maternity photos and it was a semi-success! I only say semi because a photographer working with a tripod and remote just can’t produce the same work as a photographer free to interact with and react to her subjects. Overall though, I’m pleased with the finished photos! I just wanted a handful of print-worthy photos to hang with our engagement and wedding ones. That is, whenever I get around to actually printing any of those…

We used the vein of granite by my parents’ property as the backdrop and the blanket you see in a couple of shots is a family heirloom on my dad’s side. This Georgia December has been particularly warm so we didn’t have to bundle up as I had feared. We had a fun afternoon joking around as we ran back and forth from the camera, racing against a dying battery (someone please come find my charger before I get hysterical). My Canon was a trooper and held on until I attempted to look through the photos at the very end – win!

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If anyone has discovered the secret to keeping pregnant hair volume post partum then I’m allllll ears.

it’s a girl! let’s go to the mountains

This past week has been a wonderful whirlwind. Wednesday we confirmed my sneaking suspicions that this babe is in fact a she! It feels so good to be able to use her name. Rosalyn Virginia. I cannot wait to meet our little Ros come February – or March depending on how much she likes her current digs.

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image10Thursday we packed up the pups and made our way up to North Georgia for a long weekend. We stayed in a small, two room cabin that was rough around the edges in all the best ways. Upon unpacking it was realized that we had plenty of hiking fixin’s and yet the hiking backpack was nowhere to be found. The nearest store was at least 45 minutes away but the vision of Rachel huffing & puffing her way up a mountain with a Target bag in hand was enough motivation to get back in the car. It ended up working out for the best and we found a really great deal on two hiking packs with 2L water bladders (yes, I did take every opportunity to sneak the phrase “water bladder” into conversation – its too much fun to say). The real adventure came on the drive home when a missed turn was realized 20 minutes too late. With no service my phone was relegated from GPS to flashlight. For what its worth, we DID have a map but maps are completely useless when there are no lights, no signs, and approximately three million trees. Did you know not one church located near a mountain will miss the opportunity to use the name “Mount Zion _________ Church”?? Oi. We eventually made it back though, and the sweet new hiking gear eased our frustrations (WATER BLADDER!).

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IMG_8676-1Friday was hiking day. I spent some time researching the different options; with Robin being as anxious and reactive as she is its best for everyone involved if we stick to quieter areas. You know what I didn’t think of though? The “path less traveled” is HARD. Whoa, logic. I knew we wanted to use the Indian Grave Gap trailhead along the Appalachian Trail. I wasn’t sure how long of a hike we’d feel up to however, so we picked a few marks of varying mileage. The shortest option was Indian Grave to Tray Mountain, a round trip of 5 miles. Now, here’s the second thing I didn’t think of: ELEVATION. In the couple of miles it takes to reach Tray Mountain there’s an elevation of about 1500 feet. In case you don’t have a mind for number estimation, much like myself, that translates to, “steep as shit”. My goal was accomplished: we passed a total of five people during a very popular hiking season. Gee, I wonder why. Robin, you don’t even know the lengths (and heights) we go to for you. In the world of hiking, 5 miles clearly isn’t a huge deal. But it was the farthest we had ever taken the dogs and my asthma + shortness of breath combo warranted quite a few breaks just to be safe. It’s funny looking at how much water and food we packed, just in case we wanted to an 8-mile or even 12-mile jaunt. LOL NOPE. Post-hike was a well-earned shower followed by dinner in Helen, the best hot chocolate in the world, and people-watching all the lederhosen-clad Oktoberfesters. We were one of those Oktoberfesters this time last year. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss a good brew but I guess hot cocoa will do for now…

IMG_8679-1I owe my Taurus MAJORLY after all we put her through this weekend. She went hiking, too.

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image3-1Saturday was spent sleeping off a monster dehydration headache and babying my protesting muscles. Relaxation was aided by an unexpectedly fancy cabin bath set-up with double opposing shower heads. I felt conflicted with the simultaneous thoughts of, “This is an incredible waste of water… BUT I AM A SHOWER QUEEN!” Coincidentally, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law Scott & Summer were also cabin-ing this weekend not too far away from us. So we met up for lunch in Helen for more lederhosen-watching plus a trip to the Christmas Shoppe (anyone else pronounce this “Shop-ee”?) to expand our ornament collection. If y’all don’t already have yourselves a Christmas Pickle then you need to remedy that situation this year.

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IMG_8824-1Later that night we hunkered down for a campfire and s’mores — an experience that quickly turned into a couples therapy exercise as we figured out we hadn’t really built a real fire since, like, never (thanks, gas fireplace! you da best). Veni, vidi, vici and we got to enjoy our mallows (blackened and melty, there is no other way) in the company of no less than twelve hundred billion stars. Stars like God intended. A humble reminder that we’re the tiny ones, not them. Air that clear and fresh is worth having to bundle a blanket around your pajamas. Pineapple print, naturally.