“First the breaking, then the rising.” Glennon Doyle
I used to tell myself a whole bunch of lies. I had this vision of who I was, an immovable personality structure that influenced everything. My partnerships, friendships, familial relationships, and how I moved through the world were in orbit around who I thought I was. I was fixed, learning and growing sure, but learning and growing as a particular person. A representative that was poised and polished and traditionally beautiful, and I would send her out into the world.
Who I was (my most secret, true, and honest self) was tucked away. Still there, always there, listening but not participating. My real self was too much for the world. Too emotional, loud, brave, wild, opinionated, sexual, passionate, angry, awake, happy and big- the world doesn’t like big and bold and passionate girls and women- so I continued to send my representative out into the world.
She smiled and waved, cared and loved, had good times and bad times. She lived well, but when she came home at the end of the day, in the quiet and truth, she was so tired. My true self would pat her on the head and thank her for getting us through another day in this world that doesn’t like brave, wild girls.
My representative isn’t here anymore. Slowly but surely over the past few years she has been unraveling. Each blow to my representative, to who I though I was, who I thought I should be, gave way to the real me hiding underneath. As I allowed pieces of the forward facing me to fall away, it would leave a spot for my truest, deepest self to step into the light. Graduate school, losing my dad, coming out, finding my life partner, having my beautiful baby, transitioning jobs, listening to podcasts, reading books, having conversations with amazing, real people- all separate moments, smaller parts of a greater whole.
The universe was speaking to me, asking the question, “Who are you when all else falls away?” That is, after all, who we really are. At the end of things, after this beautiful, brutal life- we’re all that’s left. The me that’s here now? Inside and out? I like her. I really like her. Love her even. I love who I have become, who I am becoming- I’m not done.
Small change over time becomes big change. What lies are you telling yourself? What is your representative telling the world about you that isn’t true deep in your heart, in your gut. Our representatives protect us, they keep us safe in times when we need them- I don’t need mine anymore.
Disclaimer: This post is very personal, I hope it will be honored and respected. Trigger warning for references to sexual assault.
“Women are enculturated to be uncomfortable most of the time. And to ignore their discomfort.”
I consider this post to be a part II to my Me Too post, if you haven’t read that one yet it will give my current thoughts and writings more context.
In the past few weeks I have read Like a Mother by Angela Garbes, listened to the Podcast episode of Bodies called “Sex Hurts”, read “The Female Price of Male Pleasure” and talked with countless women through Instagram message, text and phone about how comfortable the world is with women being uncomfortable.
We, as a culture, do not consider women’s bodies. We do not think about, study, understand or consider biological realities of women. To exemplify and personalize this reality, here’s my story.
I grew up with a strong mama. A mama that taught me self love, waiting for sex until I was old enough to understand it, and honoring myself and other women always.
What my mama was unable to teach me about was pleasure. Taking time to discover what is pleasurable, what feels good and right physically, is not granted to women. My mama was not taught. She like all the other women before her was taught that sex is shameful, and then when you’re in a marriage it’s not shameful because you’re giving something to your partner. We’re always giving of ourselves aren’t we?
This isn’t what the world tells little boys. Boys are encouraged to explore their pleasure. Male masturbation is a part of our culture. It’s normal, it’s exemplified, it’s in every movie or TV show I’ve ever seen. Women’s masturbation? Oh no no we don’t talk about that, how could we?
Back to my story. Even though my mama wasn’t taught about healthy sex or women’s pleasure (because so few women are) she did a wonderful job teaching me about my body and to love it. But my mama’s words and love couldn’t overtake the patriarchy. Our world, our taboos, our gender “norms”- they were too strong. High school and boys and friends told me I was nothing if I didn’t have a boyfriend. How could I be worth anything if I didn’t have a crush or wasn’t attached to a man?
And so I made them up. I pretended I had attractions to various boys in my school. I “dated” the same boy from kindergarten to about 6th grade and I hated it. Nothing tied me to him except the pressure to like someone, to have a boyfriend. Boyfriends kept you safe. They legitimized you and made you popular. I have a visceral memory of everyday after school when my then boyfriend would expect a kiss before I went home. We would stand there for almost an hour with me moving away from him and trying to get out of it but I wasn’t allowed. I was his girlfriend after all, he was owed this.
I felt sick after. I didn’t want to kiss boys. I wanted to read and write and be the weird, awkward 13 year old I was at home, where I was safe. I fantasized about a different life out in some distant countryside where I wouldn’t have to wear makeup or bras or talk to anyone. I could live an Emily Dickinson style life where I wore white floaty dresses and didn’t have to pretend. I could just write and read and breathe and live, but that was not an option for me. The world didn’t like that.
Eventually, puberty hit and I did have some interest in boys. I also had the biggest crush on a girl a year ahead of me. I didn’t know it was a crush at the time, I wasn’t comfortable with my bisexuality. I was interested in boys too so how could I like girls? Sexuality wasn’t seen as fluid then, it was one or the other and I picked the more socially acceptable one.
Then started the succession of boys not listening to me. Boys that weren’t okay with just kissing. Boys that demanded more and if I gave less they took it anyway. My pleasure was derived from being desired. I did not consider what I wanted, I only thought about how much pleasure I could give them. And they accepted this because the world told us both that this was the only way. I thought it was okay to always put myself second, and so did they.
This pattern repeated itself through high school, through college, through grad school. Then I met my now husband. Before we were intimate together for the first time he asked a simple, “Are we doing this?” He asked for my consent. I had never been asked before, I nodded vigorously and proceeded to have the first mutually pleasurable sexual experience of my life.
As our relationship continued and the honeymoon phase of our relationship passed, I became angry. My partner no longer desired me every waking moment, so what did he want? How could he want me for anything other than my body? If I wasn’t physically desirable then what was I?
I was a self-proclaimed feminist and strong willed woman, but the patriarchy was louder than I was. I listened to the world when it told me I was an object. Thankfully, Chase combated this notion at every turn. It almost broke us. Daily he had to remind me that I wasn’t just a body to him, I was so much more. I was funny, and weird, intelligent, and kind- I was everything he ever wanted.
I finally listened, and then I fell pregnant with Miles. My body went and did something so big and beautiful and wonderful that I could no longer deny it’s beauty, it’s worth, it’s biological needs and wants. It took an amazing, patient, loving partner and the most beautiful little boy to teach me that my body was mine. That I am not supposed to ignore my thoughts, my feelings. My wants and my discomforts.
Just a few days ago my wonderful husband hugged me as I wept and said, “I didn’t know sex was supposed to be for me too. I didn’t know I was supposed to listen to it, to myself.”
“I wish we lived in a world that encouraged women to attend to their bodies’ pain signals instead of powering through like endurance champs. It would be grand if women (and men) were taught to consider a woman’s pain abnormal; better still if we understood a woman’s discomfort to be reason enough to cut a man’s pleasure short.”
“Talking details is hard, and it’s good we’re finally starting to. But next time we’re inclined to wonder why a woman didn’t immediately register and fix her own discomfort, we might wonder why we spent the preceding decades instructing her to override the signals we now blame her for not recognizing.”
And don’t even get me started on what our society does to mothers, I’ll save that for next time.
When I was pregnant with the little Miles chickens, and for the first three months of his life, I was obsessed with routine. I needed a bit of structure that’s true, but I also got caught up in what everyone else was doing. So many parents had sleeping routines, eating routines, and we worried about keeping baby on a schedule.
Then one night in the middle of trying to get Miles to sleep in his crib I picked him up and brought him into bed with me. Based on nothing but gut feeling, exhaustion, and mama instinct I stopped listening to the bloggers and the online experts and I listened to my heart. We’ve been co-sleeping ever since.
Life and little ones do not follow a schedule. They have no need for time, they aren’t worried about your itinerary. Before Miles, I didn’t have a routine. We live a slow, intentional life where we follow the rhythm of the day without strictly adhering to a clock or a schedule. Sure, we have loose guidelines like when we need to be at work and when Miles should be in bed, but they aren’t so rigid that we beat ourselves up.
I’m not saying that schedules and routines are bad if they make your life better. If having a routine and sleep training your baby bring you joy and make your life better then that is beautiful- and if they don’t? There is another way.
If you’re spending more time stressing and thinking about routines, milestones, sleep training, and eating schedules than just being with your little one or doing what you love most, maybe it’s time to shift. To slow down. To hit the reset button.
I have adopted rhythms over strict routines. A routine can make you feel like you’re failing because you’re not meeting high standards you’ve set for yourself. A rhythm is more fluid. It moves with you, adjusts as life does- as your baby does.
My favorite blogger & podcaster Brooke McAlary of the Slow Your Home Podcast writes beautifully about rhythm and how to suss out the rhythm of your life.
If it’s time for a shift, ask yourself the following questions.
What are my priorities/values? Is it exercising before breakfast, or taking the time to eat dinner as a family every night?
What do other people in my home need? Does my husband need time to study? Perhaps you want time to write or have a bath?
What feels positive? What makes me feel vital and happy and energetic? Make this a priority.
What can change from the current situation? It’s always possible to get up earlier or go to bed later. Similarly, if there are areas where a lot of time is wasted, this can be shifted elsewhere.
What can’t change – no matter how much I’d like it to? School times, bus and train timetables, meetings and appointments can’t change. Make sure these are taken into account and allow some wiggle-room for the inevitable delay.
Since shifting from routine to rhythm I have found forgiveness for myself. I am less stressed and more present. I have stopped comparing myself to other mamas.
Why set ourselves up in a routine that we can fail at when we don’t have to? Instead of asking yourself what you should be doing embrace the flow, choose your pace, let go of the expectations and the pressures our world creates.
“Tomorrow they’ll be a little older than they were today. This day is a gift. Just breathe, notice, study their faces and little feet. Pay attention.”
Miles is seven months old. On one hand I can’t believe how quickly it has gone, on the other I can’t wait for what’s ahead. I’m desperate to hold his hand as he walks and to hear him call me mama, and I‘m soaking up every baby coo and cuddle.
For now, as we transition, a reflection on what has gotten us through these past few months. As always, these are not necessities- they simply made life easier. All your baby really needs is you, something to eat, and something to diaper them. That being said, here are the items we loved for months 3 though 6.
This podcast & blog. Rachel Rainbolt talks though Gentle Parenting, Natural Homeschooling, Simple Living, and Family Adventure. Her podcast is easily listened to on a commute or over lunch. (I listen when I vacuum.)
This amber necklace. Amber naturally calms your baby and eases the pains of teething. They do not chew on this necklace, they simply wear it. It soothes and calms baby and in turn lessens drool. It’s a wonderful alternative to traditional, synthetic teething medicine.
This teething relief oil. Gentle herbal extracts and botanical oils to soothe babies gums. I put some of this on my own gums and it’s just gentle relief for the toughest of teething days. This combined with the amber necklace has made teething feel like a non issue in our house.
This activity gym. We bought two of these. That’s right, the minimalist parents bought TWO of the same activity gym- it’s that good. One for our nanny and one for our house, Miles loves this thing and it grows with him by turning into an activity table. Love love love. This is how we get anything done at home.
Ergobaby Omni-360. We found our Ergobaby Omni 360 on the MerCari app for half the price! Definitely look for these second hand. The great thing about this is that you can turn baby forward facing. At about four months Miles was desperate to start looking out at the world and at six months he refused to do anything but. We use it daily and have not yet purchased a stroller because we love this so much.
This diaper & wipe subscription service. 1 in 3 families struggle with diaper need. This diaper subscription service is vegan, non-toxic, delivered to your door each month, adjustable, and each purchase you make donates diapers to a mama and baby in need. We love it so much. Cloth diapering is something we absolutely want to look into but this works best for our family right now.
This cook book. If you haven’t heard of baby led weaning, check it out! Starting solids was so intimidating at first but we are in love with baby led weaning! There are tons of YouTube videos that help explain it as well.
Baby rompers. These organic one-piece rompers are the zipper-sleep suit of the summer. One piece and you have the cutest little outfit. Check out this post for other items we love to dress Miles in.
That’s all for now, we still use so many of the items in my our newborn favorites video, check it out if you’re in, or soon to be in, the newborn stage.