concepts, Faith, inspiration, personal, sharing

The Struggle With An After Baby Body

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By Elise Boutin

The following was actually written in July, seven months post-partum. Eight months later and one comment sparked the same feeling and thoughts. It reminded me of this piece and that maybe it was time to share it. I’ve updated it and hesitantly hit “post”…

I’m going to be a little vulnerable in an effort for connectivity. 

This is not for compliments, but for camaraderie. It’s for the woman who is breastfeeding at 3 a.m. scrolling through Facebook desperate to hear adult conversation. It’s for the mom who had to go back to work and doesn’t feel like herself. It’s for the woman who has had multiple children and has fully embraced motherhood and her feminine essence.

I’m talking about what it feels like in your own skin after you have had a baby.

I’ve just had my fourth child in under five years. I say just, but he made a year in January. I have had three c-sections where my tummy acquired a thin, discreet, horizontal line. For my fourth, however, it involved a vertical line straight through my belly button that connected to my previous scars. It looks like an anchor, pulling me into motherhood.

The difference with this anchor is that organs came out as well as my baby. At 33 years old I had a full hysterectomy to prevent me from bleeding out after birth because my placenta was attached to my uterus.

I am reminded of this fact sporadically during my reality. It’s strange how our brain copes with major issues. But that’s an entry for another time.

In July, I had a friend’s wedding to attend. I felt radiant when I left my house. I had been swimming daily and I no longer had the bedridden pasty look. I fit into an old special dress and I knew it was the best I had looked in a year. I received compliments all night, but there was the one unintentional, “So, is this your fifth baby?” I laughed it off and explained that I just had a baby. And added a little somberly that I can no longer have children.

I know it was a completely innocent comment, but no matter how exquisite I felt, I still looked pregnant. And it’s a hard thing to carry around sometimes. Some days I am empowered by the strength it takes to have four children. Other days I’m more conscious of my soft tummy.

It’s not the first time I’ve been body aware. During my freshman year of college I gained 40 pounds of Jim Beam and Taco Bell. After years of unhealthy choices, I returned to an athletic life style. It took a year to lose 50 pounds. Never once was I asked if I was pregnant during my heavier phase.

I’ve been asked for up to a year after having a child if I was still pregnant. A week after birthing my 11 pound 10 ounce first child, my youngest sister (who was 19 at the time) asked me why my stomach wasn’t flat yet. Uummmm. Because I’m 29 and life’s natural processes aren’t instant? I have to admit, I did wonder the same question. Five years and three more children later, I now understand that your body changes with each child and that your shape is never quite the same.

The expectation to have it all appear perfect is so ridiculous. Not only am I supposed to keep this child alive, but I’m also supposed to feed them Pinterest worthy snacks, have a home that Joanna Gaines could have designed (I love you, Joanna), and also rock a bod that could be on the cover of Self magazine…all while having a full-time job, too. This makes my brain hurt so much that my only logical response is to quote Cher from Clueless, “OH, As if!”

My body is finally starting to feel like my skin is sinking back to its original form. Even though I’ve lost 30 pounds, my belly still looks like I could be expecting.

After the mortality scare, I shouldn’t care about such superficiality, but here I am squaring off with the most trivial human inadequacies. Maybe it’s what distracts me from contemplating my loss of a uterus. Even though I know it was the right plan, there is a strange emptiness that exists within me. It’s not sad, just different. Slightly empowering, yet equally as weird. My body won’t be doing something it was designed to do. No periods each month. No more babies. At least the no period thing isn’t that bad.

There are no perfect words to describe the swirling vortex of emotions and thoughts that occur after you’ve had a child. Whether it’s your first or fourth, there is always something new to adapt to. Our bodies are how we interact with the world. Whether it’s the internal thoughts and pains that lend to spiritual growth or the outward shape that constantly changes, the body is a miraculous creation.

I just want to offer the reminder to work with it and respect its pace.

When that well intentioned, “When are you due?” pops up, remind yourself that you are a goddess. You grew another human being. You created life! You are strong and powerful and will celebrate your divine opportunities. Let it allow you to feel connected to your creator and your child.

Then take a cue from William’s character on This Is Us. Roll down your windows. Turn up your favorite song. And let it go. Because You, sister, are a rock star.

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community, inspiration, motivation

Elise’s Ted Talk

workingElise is a high school American Literature and Theater teacher. She also sponsors Rayne, Alive!, a student produced news program. She is currently working on her Masters of Arts in Teaching at McNeese State University.

In honor of the upcoming TedXVermilionStreet Talk on September 12, 2015, in Lafayette, Louisiana, I decided to share a talk I had to create for one of my summer courses: Motivating the Reluctant Learner. If you’ve never seen a TedTalk, do yourself a favor and enlighten your mind by clicking here (only after you have read the rest of this essay, of course). There is discussion among leaders in virtually every field to share motivating discoveries and inspirational experiences, hence the slogan, “Ideas worth spreading.”

TedX is an independently organized program that uses the same discussion platform, but features local leaders. If you haven’t recognized the progressive potential in Acadiana, please start to look around. There are invigorating ideas that will take our Cajun culture and lifestyle to an even greater level.

Now, I wasn’t one of the hundreds of applicants who vied for one of the speaking spots at TedX, however I will use this line to commend Butch Roussel, one of my best friend’s younger brothers who constantly fascinates me with his endeavors. He is the founder of civicside.com, which helps to raise funds for projects around the area. Mr. Roussel is just one of the impressive list of speakers you can hear in just a few more days.

My “talk” is short. We had to discuss Dr. Carol Dweck’s concept of a fixed vs. growth mindset. Dweck is a psychologist who advocates for our ability to constantly improve. I was inspired after studying a few of her concepts. I hope you walk away feeling just that way after you finish this piece.

The Talk:     According to a USA Today article on October 9, 2014, Americans are living an average life expectancy of 78.8 years, the highest in history. Let’s use an old cliche that someone “peaked” in high school or college. Their highest moments of achievement, fulfillment, satisfaction, occurred when they were under 20 years old. That means if they live the average life span, nothing of value happens for 58.8 years. How boring and tragic.

I would offer that many Americans live within a fixed mindset. They believe they possess certain talents and abilities and don’t venture away from what they know. Especially in South Louisiana. I can’t tell you how many times I hear, “But that’s the way it’s always been done.” There is not much change or growth in a land that I feel is abundant and rich in culture and possibility.

How do we shift people to a growth mindset? One where we can focus on the process of learning, of life, of chances. I live around some of the hardest working people I’ve ever met, but their effort only goes into limited domains. If the adults are being examples of a fixed mindset, how can we transition students to growth?

One of the tools I am using right at this moment can be part of the way. Many of these wise elders do not utilize technology. As educators, we can find important Ted Talks and incorporate it into our classrooms for our students to be exposed to these thought processes. We can also send out these messages to parents to encourage them to learn something new or to simply not give up on one of their dreams. We can have students create media to share. We can have older students give pep talks at younger feeder schools to give those students practice and motivation.

The possibilities are endless. We just have be to open to finding what will work in our area and our own lives.

I am not even half way to the average life expectancy and I do not feel like I peaked yet. If it’s a constant uphill climb until the end, I feel that may be just as satisfying.

Don’t close yourself off and become one of those boring adults who stick with what they know or peaked when they were still in their youth.

Be one of those adults who aren’t afraid to say they may not have mastered something yet because they know their best is still yet to come.