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38 weeks | Your guide to sexy mothering | no. 0031
There are many reasons why I could laugh at today’s title. But I think mostly, I feel like if there were such a guide, I’d be the last one to write it. But you know how we laugh at what makes us uncomfortable? So this is also part of it too. The whole notion of “sexy” in this nearly 18-month pregnancy/postpartum season has largely escaped me. I even had to look up the definition to further investigate where it is I’m trying to go with this post.
I think I am trying to have a conversation with myself about my changing relationship with my body, and the inner and outer components that make me whole.
So I’ve started dancing again. High-energy, cardio-pumping, sweat-inducing, foot-stomping dancing in the little space that triples as our living room, kitchen, and toy palace. I blast music if it’s the day time. At night when my family is sleeping, I put on the low, sultry light above the stove, crack the window for the afterhours breeze, and turn the volume down so the whole world can’t hear my song.
Most of the time though, the munchkin is underfoot while I’m dancing. So my two-step is more often a 1.5-step, with a frantic spin or desperate leap to grab him up from whatever corner he’s not supposed to be in. The movement is not attempting to complete itself. There is no intended sequence, and nothing done on the right is likely to be repeated on the left. Rather I am just trying to experience as many new spaces in my dancing body as possible before the next cry, or fall, or urgent need to redirect the munchkin from danger.
Occasionally in those moments when he’s actually absorbed with his toys, and pleasantly collaborating with this dance ritual, our eyes meet and he smiles up at the interesting shapes mommy is making. He follows my arms, he stares at my belly going in circles, he grabs for the bottoms of my dance pants (read: loose pants with an elastic waistband that greatly enhance the sensation of movement). He watches the hips go all the way that way, and then all the way back the other way. His attention encourages me to keep going until the timer beeps. I try to maintain the momentum for the whole time. An hour is my usual goal, but it’s rare that that time isn’t partially displaced by intermittent breastfeeding, the comforting of a sleep-resistant child, or the monitoring of various pots that are busy boiling and simmering.
Still, I work hard to go into this dance with my entire self. To be present, to listen to my intuition, to stretch and twist and bend and slide as the spirit guides me. It’s a challenge to abandon an agenda, but it’s also much more liberating this way. Especially since the munchkin’s needs continue to alter the course of all my movements. It’s nice when I can spend some of my dance time by myself. But really, I’ve grown to appreciate what he brings to the process. When he’s with me, the dance takes on new forms, opens up exciting inquiries into who I am, and what my body means, as a mother.
The munchkin’s presence emphasizes the purpose of this extra weight I now wear. Each pound over the memory of what I used to look like and feel like is a testament to life itself, his very miraculous life. When he shares the space with my dance– however frustrating it might be to have to repeatedly pull him back from the thing we couldn’t figure out how to keep out of his reach– it becomes a genuine celebration. I literally have started to throw a party for my body, and he’s my hype-baby.
Now, this is where my neighbors might think I’m a little off. Depending on the flow of the dance, I could likely be in an all out praise-n-shout fest, going on and on about the wonders of my body. My body that grew a baby, that birthed a baby, that breastfeeds a baby. And I mean I get loud. At this party, I account for every extra ounce of me, every increased inch of me. I express my sincerest gratitude for the vital and sacred role these pounds have played, and still play, in giving life to my son.
You can imagine this is not hard for me to do. I mean I am a performer anyway, and being dramatic is something of a gift already. And so usually, at about 30 minutes into this dance groove, I am at full-shout. The munchkin is animated too. He looks right at me, widens his grin, and peels off one signature squeal at a time, usually while passionately banging something on the floor. I can only wonder what anyone outside might be thinking is going on. But at that point, I really don’t care. I am, after all, filled with complete joy for my body. For this body that has come through so many things to get me to where I am. For this larger, rounder, denser body that is so much more than I am used to being.
It took me a while to reenter my dance process. I think this was heavily due to the inauthentic reasoning crowding up my head about “needing to loose weight.” That’s just never been my narrative, and yet, that’s what was coming up so much for me. But what was also causing me to look deeper at myself, was this genuine calling to access fluidity and strength in my body, and to do this through dancing. You have so many stories to tell. More and more it was becoming apparent to me that there was this important physical work I needed to begin. Aside from the obvious health benefits of being more active, this dance work would be a critical part of sustaining emotional wellness. Of ensuring that my vibrant, abundant baby weight did not congeal into a stubborn, stagnant deadweight.
I think here is where I find my delicate line– (and it must also be said that I have always had an aversion to structured exercise, and so it’s also my needing to have some fun, dance experiment-esque tint on any movement I am doing)– between working towards a desired appearance of the body and working towards an optimal function of the body. I know my path is rooted in more than just wanting to look a certain way, even though I acknowledge my bouts of body shaming that flower in my silent thoughts. This is often the impetus of the picture policing I do because I don’t recognize my postpartum body when I see it smiling back at me, and feel awkward about sharing that image of me publicly.
This is an ever-evolving process, though. I am learning to see all of me as is, versus recalling vividly, even longingly, what was. Who wants to grow old in nostalgia? Mothering demands I be present anyway. As I opened myself up to this postpartum dance inquiry, it clicked for me why it wasn’t fulfilling me to treat my excess body weight as a burden to be sloughed off, as accumulated calories holding me back from a more beautiful life. I asked myself, “But why am I bigger now?” And then all I could think was my body has the victory. This stomach that is not flat, these breasts that do not hardly fit in any bra, these hips that spill out of my old jeans, these feet too wide for my cute shoes, this face more full than the faces of my before. All of this I claim as a victory. Look at my child. The munchkin is here, and he is here because my body made room for him to be here. This is my cause for celebration.
So one day I am deep into my dance groove. The munchkin is temporarily occupied with the vigorous task of eating the big wheels on his school bus. Today, I wanted to mix things up, so I am using a playlist of all women artists. A compilation of old and new music, of known and unknown tongues. There’s several hundred songs on there so I’m anticipating I’ll definitely journey to many places in the movement, each song inviting another opportunity to find dance that is both near and distant to me.
Then it happens. Tweet’s “Oops (Oh My)” comes on. I am not even a huge Tweet fan, but if you’re familiar with the song, you understand how it’s beat, and message, impress upon you the immediacy of tuning into your own bliss. That’s one way to put it.
Suddenly I am on stage at the BTV Awards (that’s not a typo folks!) performing as a back-up dancer for Tweet. My feet, hips, back, arms, neck all find there way into a coordination that has been severely out of commission for longer than I can remember. On the fly, I put together this sexy choreography that included a few dips, some butterfly arms, and the definite walk of a woman who knows the point of every move she makes. I take on this persona of sensual power mama for the duration of the song. Munchkin follows me with his eyes back and forth across the room as I attempt with each step to add more attitude, bounce, and flare. This is MY show!
Most of all though, I am having fun. I like feeling hot it seems. Umm, who doesn’t? The shimmies, the pops, the booty rolls, the leg lifts– yes, lifts y’all!– are just flowing effortlessly. I almost don’t want the song to end. It’s in that moment that I realize the imperative before me: I have to do this everyday. I have to spend some time communing with this awesome body of mine, feeding it good thoughts, giving it juicy, happy narratives to process, dreaming up dynamic acts for it to pour out into the world.
I’m only a few days into this restorative dance awakening that has, among other things, sparked a revival of sexy in my mothering self. Somedays are actually quieter than others, and I allow the dance to be slower and softer in my tired, achy body. It’s amazing to me how nothing feels the same any more. My new body moves differently. Gravity leaves more of an impression when I am traveling from low to high. The landing, the spinning. The reaching, the rising. Each movement doing its part to make way for even more movement.
Oh by the way, have you danced with yourself today?
The munchkin, my first born, was born on a Wednesday. Wednesday’s Bloom: Textual Portraits of a New Mommy is an ongoing multi-media documentary project about my process as a mother. Today’s story is a part of Volume 1, 73 consecutive weeks of posts, spanning about the first year and a half of the munchkin’s life. Each episode explores my weekly discoveries, challenges, questions, and hopes as a mother. I also facilitate the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop for all mothers and women active in their mothering work who are excited about cultivating their own writing practices.