Anxiety is for Babies, and Other Lies From the Devil

The first time I ever heard someone talk about being medicated for anxiety, I remember my thoughts clearly: “What a baby. They can’t cope with everyday life?? Good grief.” This sentiment was undoubtedly accompanied by an eye roll. Dripping with empathy, I know. 

The person who I’d heard talk about taking anxiety medications had what appeared to be a pretty great life. She was white, in her mid-20’s, had plenty of money, a steady job, a happy marriage, and no health concerns to speak of. What does she have to be anxious about? I wondered. 

That day years ago, I found myself thinking about how mentally weak we all are; that we require medication to cope with everyday life. My peers and I had somehow steered our lives into waters so murky and bleak that we couldn’t navigate them without some help from a psychiatrist and a bottle of pills. Of course, I had sympathy for people suffering from what I considered to be “real” mental health problems, like serious depression caused by trauma, or schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder. But anxiety? That’s just a feeling. That’s not a PROBLEM. “Buck up,” was my general sentiment. 

Oh, past me, you sweet little dumb dumb.

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Having recently watched The Sopranos all the way through for the first time (and oh my good God how had I not seen it before, IT’S SO BRILLIANT), I now realize that I had a very “Tony Soprano” attitude toward mental health issues. It might as well have been me sitting in Dr. Melfi’s office preaching: 

Nowadays, everybody’s gotta go to shrinks and counselors, and go on Sally Jesse Raphael and talk about their problems. What ever happened to Gary Cooper — the strong, silent type? That was a real American. 

As with dozens of other things I’ve come to firm conclusions about despite being completely uninformed, I didn’t understand anxiety until it knocked me between the eyes.

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I’m still not sure what exactly triggered my bout with anxiety. There was a concoction of events that all probably worked together. While I was unsure of the cause, the symptoms were unmissable. They came out of nowhere like a Navy Seal walking silently through a building - knees slightly bent, heel, toe, heel toe, carefully absorbing all the shock from his steps with his own knees, until WHAM. I was whacked. 

(So apparently this post is going to be full of violent and/or murder metaphors.)

For me, anxiety manifested itself as a conviction that all my best friends from home had stopped liking me as much as they used to, and that they never would again. Typing it here feels laughable and embarrassing, but that’s what was true for me for about 6 weeks. I pored over text exchanges, reached out by phone more than usual, and dissected interactions I had with them to see if there were any signs of disruption in the relationship. When she said, “Oh, gosh,” was she being sympathetic to the story I told, or was she rolling her eyes at me? I would think after hanging up.

Jordan started a running bit by coming home and asking, “Are you having an anxious day?” And if I said yes, he would (blessedly) lighten the mood by asking, “Is it because all your friends hate you?” Something about the joke combined with how ridiculous it sounded out loud always helped my heart feel less like it was stuffed too full of chocolate pudding, hanging in my chest by a thread. But, before long, the anxiety always came back.

On “good days,” days when my anxiety was at bay, I was afraid to talk about it because I thought talking about it would invite back in. It was as though the anxiety was a predator lurking outside the house, waiting for an open window or an unlocked door. I thought that if I could make my mind a fortress, I could keep it at bay. But that, I learned, was not how anxiety worked. Instead of a predator, it was more like a mist. It got in through the vents.

Besides Jordan, if you were to ask my friends and family whether they knew I was experiencing this, they’d say they didn’t. I am so desperately private about feelings of real vulnerability that it’s close to impossible for me to open up without feeling like I’ve failed. This will seem paradoxical to people who know me via my blog or through social media, because I’m a fairly open book on those platforms. But I’m open only about the things I can control - I know how people will perceive a certain brand of openness, so it feels safe for me. Saying something like, “I have a constant, underlying anxiety that I can’t seem to control,” feels like Michael Scott standing in the middle of the woods as Survivor Man and yelling, “I HAVE HEMORRHOIDS!” It’s humiliating, but only if other people know. 

You can imagine the never ending cycle: harboring the anxiety about people abandoning me, then having anxiety about the paralyzing certainty that if I told anyone about that anxiety, they’d think I was weak and leave me. 

I pride myself on my mental and emotional fortitude. I am not a person who is scream-y about bugs or creepy crawly things. I don’t buckle at people sharing their upsetting life events. I keep my shit together in a crisis and rarely, if ever, break down, even to my very closest friends. I am relatively introspective and am constantly looking inward, getting to the root of my feelings, and entering into dialogue with myself about any given reaction. For whatever reason, I find it important to be a “good soldier.” To lose the ability to deal with my own thoughts and feelings on my own was foundation-shaking and humbling in a way that was deeply uncomfortable. 

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This is when it finally occurred to me: anxiety is not dismissable. It’s not something you can just get over by willing it away. If I was going to tackle it, I couldn’t do it by myself. 

So on a girls’ weekend with my four best friends, I broke down in tears and told them I was afraid they were all upset with me. Predictably, they were not. But the simple act of speaking the words, and the implicit cry for help buried in the breaths between them, unloaded something powerful. Palpable. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the Anxiety Monster tipping his hat to me as he stepped out of my life. For now, at least.

What I learned from this experience was profound. Anxiety is not a symptom of being a sissy. It can take any one of us down with its wily, unexpected wallop. We are better off bearing our hearts to each other and trusting that, even if we don’t believe it in the moment, there is grace in another person’s listening ear and open arms. 

For me specifically, it taught me that I didn’t need to try to carry it all alone, or to pretend it wasn’t happening to me. I booked a few appointments with a counselor to help for as long as I need the extra brain to lean on (and am discovering that an idle mind is anxiety’s playground - stay-at-home-parenting is a tough gig to figure out). Help is a good thing. Even when I got married, I never anticipated that I would lean on my husband in the ways I have this year. And boy, I have I. Guess what? He’s still around. And so are my friends. I’m getting the idea that I didn’t trust these relationships as fully as I should’ve. Here in these moments, I am a beneficiary of the continued blessing of being proven wrong. 

Tony Soprano and I have it wrong when it comes to keeping a stiff upper lip (I suspect he, too, is an Enneagram 8). For him, it led to murdering a whole lot of people. For me, it meant pretending I didn’t need anyone at all; stuffing the vulnerability way down deep until it couldn’t see the light of day.

Wouldn’t you know it? There in the dark, stumbling around, I ran smack into the people who love me most. They offered me a hand, and together, we walked back toward the sunshine. 

The Truth About Vaccines.

Deep breath, and here we go!

It started in early April when I was having a conversation with my husband, Jordan, and his parents about vaccines. Our son is about 18 months, and Jordan’s sister has a 6-month-old. We were discussing the measles outbreaks all over the country, and kept asking ourselves, “Why wouldn’t people just get vaccinated?

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Before we go on, I want to say two things plainly and up front.

The first is that I am not a doctor or medical professional of any kind. I am an English and Religious Studies major from a small, liberal arts college in Alabama. The information reflected in this post is a result of my own reading, conversations, and research as a lay person, seeking information and answers to be better informed in my conversations around this issue.

The second is that I am pro-vaccination. I was before diving into this topic for my blog, and my research has only caused me to double down on that stance. My child has received all the vaccines available to him at this age, and I do not agree with or support the choice not to vaccinate unless specifically advised not to do so by a pediatrician because of life-threatening risk factors.

When I originally began kicking the idea for this post around, it was over a month ago. I thought I’d spend two weeks on it, but one conversation has led to another, which has led to e-mails back and forth with award-winning epidemiologists, moms who’ve chosen not to vaccinate, and vaccine experts. I have read and listened to so much - so many hours of work writing, reading, and learning - but what I’ve been exposed to is ultimately a tiny drop in the bucket of the loads of information out there to consume.

To be totally candid, one of the reasons I’ve spent so long working on this post because I’ve been trying to strike exactly the right, reverent chord of stating my opinions and the opinions of medical professionals, while still respecting the women who were kind enough to help me understand the reasons they chose not to vaccinate their children. The doctors I interviewed implored me not to be overly sympathetic to the anti-vaccination movement; the women I spoke to who didn’t vaccinate urged me to make sure I was doing my own research. It has been overwhelming, and so the best I can do here is relay the facts, as plainly as possible, and with the context I feel is important in understanding them.

What this month+ of reading, research, podcasts, and trading e-mails with new friends and with doctors has reinforced to me is that this is a very complicated issue.

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In an effort to actually get a conclusive answer to my “Why not just get vaccinated?” question, I posed it to my Instagram followers. Because of some partnerships I’ve done, I have a few hundred followers I don’t know personally, and I knew I’d have a broad spectrum of young moms with differing opinions. I asked them to Direct Message me if they had chosen not to vaccinate their children. I expected one or two replies and wound up with a little over a dozen.

Two women in particular offered themselves as guides through the mindsets of parents who choose not to vaccinate their kids. I took them up on their offers, and wound up with loads of information they provided to me in the way of explaining their rationale. There were tables, articles, and counterarguments to popular scientific theories. They poured so much effort and compassion into helping me get a clear window into their minds.

As I delved into the resources they sent, it became clear that lots of it was hyper-specific and in-depth. I decided I needed someone who knew more about this than I did to help walk me through the various anti-vaccination arguments.

Through some friends, I was able to hook up with two epidemiologists, one of whom is an MD/PhD and the other of whom is a PhD. I won't mention them by name here to avoid any unwanted attention, but both women teach at major universities and have published very well-known papers, made discoveries, and are considered top-tier experts in their fields. For the sake of this post, we'll call them Dr. Brown and Dr. Jones. I synthesized the basic arguments from my new friends and sent them to Dr. Brown (MD/PhD) first, then Dr. Jones (PhD) a few weeks later. They were both kind enough to reply with articles, data points, and research of their own.

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When I polled Instagram that day, I’ll admit: I did so with a very particular preconception in mind. The only people I’d ever met or heard about in the “anti-vaxx” community seemed to be willfully ignoring important data. I didn’t have much sympathy or empathy for them because I felt they were putting people at large (and now my child specifically) at risk.

Since polling my Instagram followers a few weeks ago, I have learned so much. As is usually the case when I have a strong (if uninformed) opinion about a group of people, getting to know parents of unvaccinated kids personally has softened my heart enormously.

The truth is that these parents love their children. They are nurturing, kind people, two of whom went to great lengths to type out pages and pages of their rationale for not vaccinating. Putting a human face on something that was simply an “issue” before has helped me so much in beginning to understand how people arrive at the conclusion not to vaccinate. It’s easy to call a point of view ignorant when you don’t actually know anyone in that camp; I am very appreciative of the moms who took time out to respond to me. These women are college-educated - certainly not ignorant, as is a popular refrain from the pro-vaccination camp - and have made this choice with that they feel is the best possible information that they can find. It’s very important to me that this post offers a kinder view of people with this opinion. I don’t think they’re right, but in all the cases I’ve encountered, they’re also trying their dead-level best to protect their kids. Like every issue, just because I disagree with someone doesn’t mean I have to demonize them.

And we don’t agree. In fact, we almost categorically disagree. But I have relished the opportunities they each provided: a chance to have respectful, intelligent conversation across lines of difference, especially with fellow women.

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Having said all that, let’s dive into the data. I hope you’re ready to nerd out.

What are some of the major objections to having one’s child vaccinated?

  1. Mistrust of government.

  2. Mistrust of the medical community.

  3. Mistrust of Big Pharma.

  4. Fear of vaccine injury or overwhelming a child’s immune system.

  5. Fear of autism caused by vaccines.

  6. Lack of clarity about ingredients, AKA the “heavy metals” argument.

  7. Ethical issues over “aborted fetal cells” being included in vaccine content.

  8. Believing that natural is best, and that the body can fight off illnesses on its own.

  9. Belief in information dispensed by groups like Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Children's Health Defense.

  10. Concerns about vaccine shedding, herd immunity, and lack of adult vaccination.

What does the medical community say?

Mistrust of the government. It’s hard to argue against a feeling, but Dr. Peter Hotez (MD, PhD, and vaccine expert) made a great point in a podcast where I heard him interviewed: “You don’t have to trust the current administration or any of its policies to believe that vaccines are effective and important. Plenty of people who don’t work for the government promote the benefits of vaccines.” The doctors I spoke to for this post are not affiliated with the government. Although it’s possible that they’ve taken advantage of government grant programs I’m not aware of, they both work for private organizations. (Dr. Hotez also works for a private organization: Baylor College of Medicine.)

Mistrust of the medical community. Any parent of a new baby has grappled with the thousands of decisions, both large and small, that come as a part of caring for a newborn. If the first time you hear about vaccines and their benefits is in the first appointment with your 2-week-old when your #1, hyper-vigilant concern is keeping them from harm, the idea of injecting them with live viruses could seem daunting and frightening. I don’t share this concern, but I can empathize deeply. There often simply isn’t enough time in those first appointments to have the types of long, careful conversations needed to satiate the minds of fearful new parents.

Mistrust of Big Pharma. Another great quote here from Dr. Hotez: “One of the things that anti-vaxxers say to pro-vaccination advocates is that they’re being ‘propped up’ by Big Pharma.” For this reason, I specifically chose to listen to or speak with doctors or epidemiologists who have no association to the pharmaceutical industry to my knowledge. Like the government point above, these people aren’t being compensated by the pharmaceutical industry for advocating for vaccines. HOWEVER - it is 100% understandable that people would be suspicious of Big Pharma in the midst of the opioid crisis happening in this country. To those people, I’d say: It’s possible to condemn the over-peddling of painkillers while still acknowledging the benefits of vaccines.

Vaccine injury/adverse reactions. The term “vaccine injury” refers to extreme shoulder injury, encephalitis, and other serious consequences as defined by the National Vaccine Compensation Act. Soreness at the injection site and even a fever for up to 24 hours are perfectly normal as a vaccine stimulates your immune system.

Vaccine injury is extremely rare. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), here are the numbers:

  • Between 2006 and 2017, 3.4 billion doses of vaccines were given in the United States.

  • Out of those 3.4 billion doses, 4,328 people brought cases of vaccine injury before the court and received compensation.

  • The HRSA is careful to say, though, that around 70% of those cases were not, in fact, paid out because the court concluded that vaccine injury had taken place. Rather, because the court and the client reached a settlement. (You’ll often hear the number of $4 billion being referenced as the amount of money that has been paid out by the vaccine court; this context is helpful in understanding that that number does not represent anything about the validity of the cases or verdicts.)

  • That means out of 3.4 billion doses, 1,299 led to vaccine courts compensating families.

Another important point to consider: it’s impossible to say how many of those cases were caused by an unidentified and underlying immune deficiency. Roughly, the odds are 1 in 1 million that you will experience vaccine injury. For context, the chances of being struck by lightning are 1 in 700,000. So - yes. There is a risk in getting vaccinated. But it’s very, very small. For further interesting reading, the New York Times just published a piece on this topic.

Overwhelming a child’s immune system. This was a really interesting and important set of facts that I came to understand. Babies are exposed to hundreds of antigens from the second they’re born, which means they’re perfectly capable of handling the immune response triggered by vaccine antigens. However, a child’s immune system is NOT strong enough to withstand an infectious disease, which is why they’re vaccinated so early for things like measles. For a deeper understanding of how scientists have combined vaccines to make them more effective and even safer, this article is a great read.

Fear of autism caused by vaccines. The idea that the MMR vaccine (or any other vaccine) causes autism has been definitively and roundly debunked. Andrew Wakefield, the former MD who alleged that there was a link between vaccines and autism, has been stripped of his medical license and the study he published has been discredited for a number of reasons (both scientific and ethical). Interestingly, Andrew Wakefield is also the person who directed and starred in the popular anti-vaxx documentary, Vaxxed. (The not-so-subtle subtext I’m trying to get across here is that Vaxxed was created by a man who’s had his medical license revoked, so the material in it is questionable.)

Lack of clarity about ingredients; concerns about “heavy metals” or aluminum. The most helpful piece I found here is this great article that breaks down exactly what’s in a vaccine and how vaccines are made. I won’t even try to paraphrase it here - she says it best.

For parents concerned about thimerosal, From Dr. Jones: “Some vaccines did contain thimerosal, a mercury salt, but that's like saying that table salt = chlorine gas. Basic chemistry demonstrates that compounds have different properties than the elements from which they come. And thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines almost a generation ago. It is present in some multi-dose flu vaccines but one can ask for those to be thimerosal-free, and it has never been demonstrated to have caused any harm. Aluminum is not a heavy metal, and again, is in the form of salts and not metallic aluminum in vaccines.”

From Dr. Brown: “Aluminum is not a heavy metal. Aluminum is used in vaccines as an adjuvant – meaning a substance that is added to vaccines that stimulates a stronger immune response.  There is no aluminum in any live vaccines, including MMR. Aluminum is naturally present in the environment. There is normally a very small amount of aluminum in (the) human body.  The amount used in vaccines is so small that it does not make an impact on the total.”

From Dr. Hotez, when asked, “What’s in a vaccine?”: “Liquid, like saline or saltwater plus antigens.”

Ethical issues about aborted fetal cells being used:

From Dr. Brown: “No, there are no fetal cells in the vaccines. Viruses require human cells to grow in the lab, and some grow better in fetal cells. Also, fetal cells divide well, which means that they can be preserved long term to grow the vaccine virus – because every batch you make you need to make it the same way.  The original fetal cells which were used in vaccine development came from elective pregnancy terminations. These cells have resulted in medical products that have saved the lives of millions of people.”

From Dr. Jones: “Many viruses can only be grown in human cells, so fetal cells are the best way to grow these. The cells are removed during processing--think of it like the dirt in which we grow carrots or potatoes. Even religious bodies have demonstrated that they are fine with these types of cells, though of course would prefer an alternative (that does not currently exist).”

In response to information cited by RFK Jr. and Children’s Health Defense, particularly the data about “wild measles” being preferable to the MMR vaccine:

From Dr. Jones: “There is just no evidence to support what he claims. We know wild measles is associated with deaths in around 1-2 per 1000, encephalitis, pneumonia, and years of immune amnesia, not to mention the chance of SSPE which is universally fatal and horrific. Yes, there was a clinical trial that showed measles eliminated cancer in *one patient*--but they gave her a megadose of a *genetically-modified measles vaccine*, not the wild virus. There also is one epidemiological study that suggested fevers from measles is protective against later cancers but it's pretty poorly done and doesn't have other support (it has not been repeated or supported by other investigators).”

Vaccine shedding and questions about herd immunity.

The concept of vaccine shedding simply means that for a few days after a person receives a vaccine, they threaten to expose immunocompromised people around them to the diseases for which they were vaccinated. In the end, this concept is one that doesn’t hold water. This article was recommended to me by Dr. Jones and does a great job of addressing that concern, even including a tweet from Johns Hopkins stating specifically that it’s okay for recently vaccinated children to visit immunocompromised patients in their hospital.

Herd immunity is a simple enough concept: vaccinated people (or people who have naturally encountered and survived a germ or disease) protect immunocompromised people from contracting a particular disease. It’s important for exactly that reason - there are lots of people who are vulnerable. (think: children who are too young, chronically ill people, and people who can’t be vaccinated for a specific medical reason) and rely on the rest of us to vaccinate ourselves in order to protest them.

For herd immunity to be effective, a certain percentage of the population has to be vaccinated against or immune to a disease (and it’s different for every disease - measles, for example, requires 92-95% of the population to be immune to keep from spreading. An important note here is that an outbreak can still occur, but it can’t spread if effective herd immunity is in play.) Obviously, in many cases in the U.S., there’s low herd immunity because so many unvaccinated people have contracted measles. Here’s a great piece on Mental Floss that does a deep-dive into the hard math behind how herd immunity works, how diseases spread and at what rate, and why diseases seem to “favor” children.

The TLDR version of this is: vaccine shedding does not pose a threat to the immunocompromised; herd immunity effectively prevents immunocompromised people from contracting contagious and potentially fatal diseases.

My personal takeaways:

  • The anti-vaccination lobby is extremely powerful, and has done a truly remarkable job of making it a challenge to find clear, scientific data about vaccines online. I am now quite clear on why so many people have deeply held opinions that they feel are based in science, but are actually based on misinformation.

    1. The anti-vaccination lobby is also a bit of a mystery. I still have big questions: who’s backing it? Where is all the money coming from? What’s the ultimate goal?

  • There are some things that are black and white - easy to understand and digest. For example: vaccines do not cause autism. Full stop.

  • There are other pieces of the puzzle that take a lot of digging to understand. For example: the truth behind vaccine injury and whether the number $4 billion in payouts is accurate. It’s frustrating to me that this information is so misrepresented and has confused or misled so many people. It shouldn’t take hours of reading to figure out the truth.

  • I understand that time is always pressed at the doctor’s office, but I would love it if it was possible for vaccine education to begin as early as prenatal visits. The pressure parents feel at the pediatrician to just say, “Okay - whatever you think is best!” is heavy, especially for first-time parents. Having the space to talk through and ask any questions you might have is essential to eliminating misinformation and fear around vaccinations, and I think that’s a huge area for growth in our system. (A caveat here that I love our pediatrician, who always gives us time to ask questions. Shout out to Dr. Templeton!)

  • I understand why people are suspicious of Big Pharma. No need to elaborate. It just makes sense to me.

  • It is not only unkind, but unhelpful to assume that people who choose not to vaccinate are ignorant about risks, research, or data. At least in the conversations I’ve had, these parents are dutiful, involved, and extremely caring. If you’re curious or concerned, opening up a conversation can be helpful and informative for everyone.

Okay, folks. That’s it. I ask for your grace and understanding in reading and processing all this, welcome your questions, and am grateful for your time. Hopefully you’re leaving this post with a few more tools in your belt so that you can engage one another in conversation about this stuff. It’s been a fascinating journey for me.

Over and out.

I Love My Body; I Hate My Body.

Sometimes I wonder what it must be like for men who’ve literally never thought for a second about the food they’re eating. EVERY time I eat something, I’m thinking about it.  

Sometimes I’m thinking, “Well this is super unhealthy. But I deserve it. I’m stressed. I’m gonna pack myself full of food and not care a bit.”  

Sometimes I’m thinking, “This is super unhealthy. I kind of hate myself for eating it, but I’m too tired to care.”

Sometimes I’m thinking, “This is so healthy! Good for me! I am amazing and basically an Instagram fitness model!”  

But I am ALWAYS thinking. There is never a meal or a snack to which I don’t ascribe some sort of value judgment. 

This is not to say that I have an unhealthy relationship with food in any kind of catastrophic, life-altering way. It’s simply to say that I am female. And this is what we have been taught to do.  

When I was pregnant, I loved so much about the experience, chiefly how delightful it was to bare my big giant belly with PRIDE. A lot of pregnant women I know choose to wear loose, blousy tops or dresses, but not me. HELL no. Every chance I got, I was wearing something snug and form-fitting. It was both a treat and a relief to have a completely socially acceptable reason to be straight up overweight. It was a dream I’d had for years and boy, did it deliver. 

On the back end, after Mac was born, things were a little different.

The cute little boobs that I’d always been proud of looked quite different (AKA deflated and sad) after nursing a baby for 11 months. The strong legs that I’d cultivated through months of Pure Barre classes had a solid layer of fat from my hipbones to my ankles. And then there’s the obvious midsection trouble: flabbier, softer, and looser-skinned. My hair fell out and regrew, which means short tendrils sprouted from the corners of my hairline and the nape of my neck and have now grown into inches-long-but-still-not-long-enough chunks of weird hair that has to be tended to specifically or else it sticks out. OUT. Straight out of my head. 

It occurred to me during this season of body insecurity that I had never really had any body insecurity before.  

I mean, yes. Obviously I’d been self conscious growing up about certain things - my nose is big, the hair on my legs is so black and stipply and even when I’ve just shaved, you can see the little pores where it grows (like if any boy ever touched my legs I was secretly freaking out). But real body insecurity that’s based on being overweight or something I couldn’t control immediately - that was new.  

And it kind of rocked how I perceived myself. For the first few months of Mac’s life, I was doing my hair and makeup every day just to counterbalance the weight of my appearance. I didn’t hate myself, but for the first time in my life, I dreaded passing a mirror between the moment I got undressed and the moment I got in the shower.  

Now, things have settled a bit more. My legs are mostly back to where they used to be, through the wonder of genetics. I’ve lost the baby weight and am back in my pre-baby clothes. But I still struggle to feel “beautiful” unless certain boxes are checked: my hair is freshly colored, I have self-tanner on my face, I have undereye makeup on, and I’m under 145 pounds.  

You can add in your own list of things here that you don’t feel pretty without. We all have them.  

Jordan and I are going to Mexico tomorrow, and as I started dreading being in a two piece, I started thinking about how incredible the journey my body has been on actually is.  

I’ve grown a baby to term and endured the physiological trauma of labor and a C-section - one of the very few major, non-laparoscopic surgeries that is still routinely performed. I’ve made food for my new baby and gotten it to him for almost a full year. I gained a little over 50 pounds and lost it again. And this is just pregnancy stuff. 

I’ve endured two rounds of stitches to the left knee and a gnarly high ankle sprain. Wrist sprain. Busted lip so hard my tooth almost popped through. Pink scar on my left shoulder from a bike wreck in 7th grade. Exercise-induced asthma for the first 10 years of life. Caffeine, alcohol, repeat on countless weekends. No sleep. Stomach bugs. Junk food. No food. Too much food. 

Those aren’t traumas by any means, but they’re the things we all put our bodies through. Every day, our bodies serve us in ways that we completely take for granted. This is to say nothing of people who have chronic disease, illness, or pain. 

When I sat down to write this post, I couldn’t decide if I wanted it to be a “Who gives a shit about your stretch marks? You’re fabulous!” post, or an “Okay yeah, we can acknowledge our flaws. But life is about more than that!” post. I couldn’t really land on one or the other.

So here’s what I’ll say instead. When I board the plane tomorrow for our vacation, I’ll go through about 11 cycles of, “Okay - don’t look too bad! Way to go, me!” Followed by a spiral of “I really wish I’d worked out more before this vacation,” followed by, “I deserve to eat EVERYTHING AT THIS RESORT AND I PLAN TO, DAMMIT!” Pepper in some “Oh my gosh my, my thighs are sticking to this chair,” and “My legs will never be smooth,” and “Did I remember to shave my underarms this morning??”

But what I’m really hoping for is to quiet my mind and enjoy myself without being my own constant hall monitor of body talk. 

Maybe the important thing is to have a check on your thoughts and reign them in occasionally. Body mindfulness, maybe? I’m no authority on this subject, because I struggle with it in some capacity every day, like many women do. I don’t have wisdom to extol.

Except to say, at the risk of being trite, that our bodies are actually pretty incredible. And that if we’re doing things right, maybe we can move past a bit of the obsessive self-talk about food and body image and just live our lives. I guess I do have a point to this post, after all. It’s about presence. We only have one life, so maybe you oughta go live your best one in your shorts or your bathing suit or your tank top or your skin tight dress or your caftan or your suit - I’m going to, too. My body has worked so hard for me, so this upcoming week, I’m choosing to celebrate where I am and not fret over the things I find imperfect about myself, like the little bit of extra skin above my belly button that will never seem to go away. I’m channeling pregnant Mary Catherine on vacation for the next 5 days (and maybe beyond!).  ‘Cause that girl?  

She didn’t give a damn.  

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