My body hasn’t been my own since November 2015. Honestly, I’ve been so detatched that I just realized this recently.
I’ve had a pretty complicated relationship with my body since pretty much middle school, not super atypical from a lot of women who are taught to hate their bodies pretty young. I was a pretty small child, super active with dance, gymnastics-and a variety of other sports at which I was pretty consistently terrible. After taking a year off of gymnastics in 8th grade, I grew 6 inches (4’11” to 5’5”) over freshman year in High School. Also, got my period, grew boobs, and gained a lot of “squish” in a variety of places I never had it before. It was kind of a brutal year going from scrawny body to lady body. #pubertycomeslateforgymnasts
I always had a HUGE appetite, regardless of size. I was famous (or infamous) for eating 8 or more hot dogs at the Irish American Club St Patrick’s Day Parade after party when I was like 7 years old. Like, without a problem. Just put down a pack of hot dogs. In between singing Green Alligator and Long Necked Geese (if you know, you know). The only thing that saved me was being very active. I remember people always saying only to eat until you’re no longer hungry when I was little, and I was like got it, 10-4. The problem was I was never not hungry! I was only ever really full on Thanksgiving. Legit once a year. I blame my Grannie. I got a lot of qualities from her, and my appetite was definitely one of them. Grrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaat. I never had any body feelings as a little kid, mostly people thought my appetite was funny since I was pretty small. But after my 8th-9th grade growth spurt I was uncomfortable with my body ever since.
It was love-hate. Coming from a family whose members refer to themselves as “strong” as a loving way to describe overweight, I was pretty much considered on the more fit end of the spectrum. But my weight, and subsequently my feelings about my body, have fluctuated often over the course of time. It hit an all time low (or high depending on how you look at it) in 2012 when I moved to Brideport, CT. My new job responsibilites, lack of work-life balance, and difficulty managing on a small paycheck in an expensive area resulted in the peak of bad habits. Luckily, I woke up one morning and was like “girl, you better get it together. With all these health issues in your family history, it’s now or never.” So, I started making healthier choices in the kitchen and the gym and lost about 40 lbs. I maintained it, and more, as it got closer to the wedding in 2015. If I am being honest though, I took the “bride diet” to the extreme in the last few months pre-wedding getting up at the crack of dawn to workout hard before work and sticking to an unreasonably strict diet. But I had hated so many pictures of myself before, I was determined not to hate them on my wedding day. And I didn’t, I felt great.
Despite the diet being kind of intense, and something I did not plan on maintaining long term for my sanity, I realized for the first time during that period that it was more about what I was doing FOR myself that made me happier ABOUT myself than the weight/measurements exactly. Knowing I was doing good things for me made me see myself differently in the mirror.
On our honeymoon we let loose, and I mean really loose. Champagne All DAMN DAY. It was glorious. But when I got home I self-regulated and got back to a relatively healthy lifestyle. 2012-2015 had some fluctuations but for the most part it taught me a lot about what workouts I enjoyed, what delivered results and what nutrition was both filling and effective. As opposed to the baked cheetos and crystal lite with vodka diet I developed in college when trying to drop a few LBs lol. Ahh, memories.
Then came December 2015. When we decided we were going to start “trying” or stop trying not to get pregnant. It was weird to all of a sudden be like ok, welp, here goes nothing. But, if you’ve read my original posts you know that the first time we didn’t prevent pregnancy resulted in a chemical pregnancy and my first subsequent loss in January 2016. After that came a heavy dose of emotional eating…and that was before I had any idea what was to come.
We didn’t have any diagnosis or treatment for several months. But, starting December 2015 I gave up my body to the process of trying to be a mother. I peed on endless ovulation kits, I read about what to eat (or avoid) to “boost fertility”, I did acupuncture. I reduced my level of activity, at my acupuncturist’s recommendation because too much exercise ‘could affect my fertility level negatively’. It was annoying because I was kind of like, doubtful lady, but it was honestly a good reason for me to tell myself about not wanting to workout so I went with it. I was either trying to get pregnant at home, shooting myself twice a day with drugs, taking progesterone up the hoo ha, trying to stay pregnant, miscarrying, having blood drawn, having ultrasounds, having surgery or recovering for the better part of two years. My body was basically a science experiment. Throughout a lot of this time I was on pelvic rest, aka walking only. I was also on weird diets for several periods of weeks in a row related to medication I had to take for ectopic pregnancy (they make you avoid anything with folic acid while on methotrexate to remove an ectopic pregnancy. Basically anything they tell you TO eat when you’re pregnant, they tell you not to eat when on those meds).
And then in the most unpredictable turn of events in January 2018 I got pregnant for the 6th time. Expecting it would end like all the others before, and it didn’t. Thank God. But, I was on pelvic rest and progesterone twice a day for 13 weeks as a precaution. Then I was into my second trimester and hadn’t been allowed to exercise for months. Also, grieving the loss of my dad throughout this same period. I was so scared I was going to “do something” to put this pregnancy at risk. I stuck to the strictest of strict versions of the what you’re allowed to eat while pregnant. Keep in mind, I felt like drinking a hibiscus iced tea from Starbucks while avoiding coffee during one of my earlier pregnancies is what caused that loss. So, I was not willing to take any risks within my control, it just wasn’t worth it. There was enough out of my control that was scary and mysterious, I was definitely skipping the deli meat. I basically sustained myself on sesame bagels with butter for weeks. Carbs were safe, and yummy. But the stress of what I could or could not put in my body was exhausting.
Then, here he came, bursting through the door 6 weeks early and 4 hours away from home. Spent 2 weeks eating out of hospital cafeterias and local takeout, only sleeping 90 minutes at a time in between pumps. THEN you come home and have the whirlwind of trying to keep this tiny creature (and yourself) alive, and put together the nursery you never got to set up in your free time.
Many women talk about how their bodies change during pregnancy and after, and how it’s hard to feel like yourself again.
This is more closely a representation of my current chestal situation than I’d like to admit.
You had a creature growing inside you for 40 weeks (or 34) stretching out all your stuff, moving things around, making you puke or gag or cry or pee or basically anything else without warning. Then they come out, and sometimes you need stitches-regardless of their exit strategy. You may try breastfeeding, or nah. And if you do, you may continue this for a year or more, or less. Or if you’re me, you will have tried and tried and tried and failed, and ended up pumping somewhere between 5 and 10 times a day for 8 months (so far).
So, for a year your body has been taken over by an adorable alien. And before that you spent two years being poked and prodded trying to create said alien. And after that you spent 8 months trying to feed said adorable alien. I have literally no idea what my body “normally” feels like. No idea. I don’t know what my normal SELF feels like at all. I get that this whole mothehood thing creates a new normal, but what if you don’t even recall an old normal. How do you even spell normal???
When we moved back to Massachusetts, a friend of my cousin told me about a dance studio in the area that was all adults. No offense to any of the studios geared towards kids that offer adult classes. I’ve taken a lot of those. But sometimes they’re older ladies learning “hip hop” to Bruno Mars.
Not really my style. This place sounded up my alley: a bunch of people who used to be dancers and wanted to still do it. They had drop in classes, or you could audition to be part of the company that performs twice a year. I took a bunch of classes and liked them, was rusty AF, but it was fun. It was kind of a hike to get there and kept getting interrupted by pregnancies, or treatments, or losses so it was inconsistent but I always liked going. I wanted to try my luck at auditioning. The dates just never lined up to when we were taking a break from trying or with my work commitments. So, I never got to do it.
This is probably the least sensical time in my life to do it. I feel like I am drowning. I have no time and feel like I am running 100 miles an hour from home to daycare to work to daycare to home to bed. Rinse. Repeat. There’s no time for playing or cooking or cleaning or shopping or anything. But I got an email with a reminder about auditions, looked at the dates required and realized somehow I didn’t have any conflicts. I thought it was wild, but I sent Kenny an email saying “Is this crazy or should I tryout?”. He was like DO IT. So, I signed up. For hip hop, tap and jazz. Haven’t done the latter two in approx a decade? Went to a hip hop class the week before auditions and I was LITERAL TRASH. I didn’t have high expectations, but it was bad. Painful.
While I knew I was rusty, out of shape and out of it entirely, I also used to be good. Like, actually pretty good. So, it was hard to see how far I’d fallen. Also, I am old and I don’t get how the kids move these days. But I went. And on the morning of the auditions, Kenny and Liam were sick, I told him I should probably stay home and take care of them and he basically through me out of the house while wearing a medical mask (thankfully). I borrowed his Alife sweatshirt so I could feel cool, curled my hair and hit the road.
The audition choreography wasn’t as hard as the class, thank God. But, I still struggled to the utmost degree remembering the choreography. I don’t know if it was just being out of practice, or mom brain, or combination. But, nonetheless. I couldn’t remember 8 counts for shit. But, I did three auditions, and didn’t feel HORRIBLE afterwards.
I was prepared not to make it at all. But got an email that week that I made it in at least one category and I got invited to the showcase to see the dances for the shows and select which one(s) I wanted to be in. I made level 1 Hip Hop, which is the lowest level, I’m cool with that! Gotta work my way back into the fold.
Rehearsals started last week and the show is in June. I know I could’ve just taken classes randomly, but I also knew those would be very easy to talk myself out of. If we were too busy, if something came up, if money was tight. But in this case I am committed. I am not going to let the group or company down by blowing it off, therefore I can’t let myself down by blowing it off either.
The first rehearsal was so fun and I didn’t completely suck! There are 15 women; all different levels, ages and years of experience. It feels great to be back doing something I have always loved. I’m mad awkward because I don’t know these people, but the dance studio was always a reprieve for me and it is again. It is nice to be working towards something, have something to rehearse, and look forward to the performance. And, as often happens, making one good decision results in other good ones. So, I’ve been finding time to squeeze in some short workouts every day this week (#thanksonlinecontent). I realized that I am perpetually tired, so getting up a half an hour earlier doesn’t really change that.
Not going to lie, it is hard to be away from the baby for a couple hours each Sunday given how little time I get to spend with him already. But it feels like a good thing, and the right thing, to be doing for me and for him. It feels like therapy. And, speaking of therapy…
Next blog post about Post Partum Depression, actual non-dance therapy, and how my therapist was horrendous (but don’t worry I am finding a new one).
Another Opening, Another Show. My mom would always sing that as I was prepping for my recitals each year. So, here goes nothing. Catch me on a stage June 15th!