Life Lessons

Elegant! Sophisticated! And probably totally constipated.

Elegant! Sophisticated! And probably totally constipated.

I keep going to write a post for the blog, then realizing that all I ever talk about anymore is the baby and being pregnant, then NOT writing a post for the blog because I’m worried y’all are bored, and then just not writing anything ever, and then wash-rinse-repeating the whole cycle pretty much on the daily.

So, basically, what I’m saying is that I’m probably just going to be talking about pregnancy and the baby for a while. Maybe one day something will happen to me that is not related to either of these two things, but I think it’s safe to say that that thing will not happen in the next nine weeks.

Side bar: I only have LESS THAN TEN WEEKS left of my pregnancy? What the WHAT? Who decided that was a good idea?

That was a novel’s worth of preface, so let’s get down to brass tacks.

A sweet friend who also has a daughter recently offered me a bunch of baby stuff she and her girl had outgrown. It was your standard stuff: clothes, a baby carrier (actually, this is not standard, those thangs are pricey, and I’m so thrilled to get one as a hand-me-down!). Then she asked if I would be interested in her previously used breast pads, which she said were much more comfortable than the throwaway kind and would obviously be washed. Or, she asked, did I think that was weird?

You guys. It hadn’t even occurred to me to think it was weird. This is what happens when you become a parent: Nothing is sacred anymore.

And I think pregnancy is to blame.

Bowel movements? Discharge? Gas? Weight gain? When you’re pregnant, these things (and thinking about these things) are all part of your everyday life. You HAVE to talk about it with your doctor, and, to be honest, your girlfriends often want to know the sordid details, whether they are commiserating because they’ve been there or they are curious because one day they will be. By the time I pop this baby out, I will have completely lost sight of what is TMI.

The sad part is that I used to quietly judge parents who did this. Like, nobody wants to hear about your baby’s poop!

But you know what? If I’m telling a story, and part of the story involves the baby pooping, I already know I’m just going to say that and keep going with the story. No shame. (Though I promise not to take or make you look at photos of it. I’m not an animal.)

The fact is, pregnancy tends to wipe away a lot of insecurities (at least for me), which also removes a lot of your boundaries.

Don’t even get me started on the loss of modesty. I mean, you have to be mostly naked in front of another person several times during your pregnancy. (And, I don’t know if you know this, but someone is allll up in your junk when you actually have a baby.)

It’s gotten to the point where I pretty much start stripping down in my doctor appointments before anyone even asks me to.

No, Justine, you can keep your pants on this time.

WHOOPS.

I like to think at some point I’ll balance back out, but that’s probably wishful thinking. Besides, being able to discuss poop, gas, and weight gain now will just make it easier when I need to discuss poop, gas, and weight gain with Vivi’s doctor later. Moms can’t be grossed out by anything, you guys.

To all my baby mommas out there: Can you relate? Will I ever blush at bodily functions again?

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Last week, a group of my girlfriends and I got together for our book club. Before we dug into the actual book (and the plethora of treats), we sat around a bit catching up on our lives.

Since my life is basically just baby these days, we talked about that when we got around to me. My friend Kristina asked if pregnancy had been what I expected it to be or if anything surprised me.

I didn’t have a very good answer at the time because I hadn’t really thought about it, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since then.

Honestly, I always kind of thought (hoped?) that I would enjoy being pregnant. I don’t know why. I mean, a lot of people don’t. And it certainly comes with a host of discomforts. But for whatever reason, I looked forward to the chance to carry a baby and felt optimistic about the process.

And, for the most part, I have really enjoyed it. Yes, it helps that I am incredibly fortunate that getting and staying pregnant went smoothly for me. Yes, it helps that I managed to dodge difficult morning sickness and a host of other unpleasantness a lot of women go through. Some of those things I could impact, others were just the way it turned out. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful.

But there was one aspect of pregnancy that I always assumed I would have a big problem with: gaining weight.

I mean, it’s kind of a head trip. As a woman, you’re nearly constantly bombarded with confusing messages about your body and what it should be, and, as a rule, those messages tell you that you need to be smaller and weigh less. Like a lot of women my age (like a lot of women any age?), I spent a large portion of my life trying to weigh less or trying to maintain my lowest weight.

And now you’re telling me I need to undo all that hard work and deliberately try to gain weight? Are you crazy?!

Part of me was deliciously enticed by the possibility (guilt-free weight gain!). Another part of me was totally terrified.

Because, you guys? I’ve gained weight before. Significant amounts of weight. (Though, of course, that’s subjective.) And the resulting shame spiral took me to dark, spiny mental places that I worked for years to get out of. It destroyed my relationship with my body and just generally screwed me up for a while. I clawed my way out of that place. And I work actively and aggressively to keep myself from going back there.

So…I was scared. Because I didn’t want to feel negative feelings about anything associated with creating my baby. I wanted the process to be filled with love and joy as much as possible. Maybe that sounds naive, but it was how I had always pictured and hoped the experience would be.

And then I got pregnant. And, yes, obviously, started to gain weight. And you know what?

It hasn’t bothered me even the teeniest, tiniest bit.

It probably helps that I NEVER weigh myself except at my doctor appointments. Not in pre-pregnancy life, and certainly not now. Like always, I let the way my clothes fit and the way I feel determine if my size is acceptable, instead of attaching too much meaning to a silly, downright objective number.

I’m not delusional — I know that I’ve gained 10-12 pounds (maybe more…I have an appointment next week) in the last seven months. It’s just that…I couldn’t care less. Yes, I know it’s weight for the baby (even though the little miss is only two-ish pounds, the rest is all fluid and uterus and that whole extra organ your body grows to feed your baby, the placenta), so maybe that contributes to my not freaking out about it.

But beyond not caring about the extra pounds, I feel so much more loving toward my body than I ever thought I would. It’s like I’ve found an old friend after years of (at times) abusive silence.

I’m so proud of my body for not only growing a human full-time, but also for sticking it out through the still-challenging workouts that I put it through to maintain my mental balance. I cherish the increasingly convex curve of my stomach way more than I ever did its flatter counterpart because this tummy lovingly cradles my baby all day and night. I want to high-five my swiftly changing reflection so I can congratulate my body on being a total rockstar and miraculously knowing exactly what to do to create and nurture another person.

The most surprising thing about this process, for me, is how much awe it has filled me with. For women and their amazing bodies. For God who created them in his incredible wisdom.

I’m proud of the mental journey I’ve made and my newfound ability to see myself as I really am for possibly the first time in my life — wonderfully made.

When I first got married, I’m going to be totally honest, I was a little bit sad to be giving up that feeling of potential that you could meet someone.

You know the one I mean: The one that makes you put a little bit more time into your hair before going out to dinner with a new group of people. The one that floods your body when you first walk into a party where you know you won’t know everyone. The one that says, “You could meet the one tonight.”

Of course, I saw the irony in this: I was sad to be losing something because…I had found it? Brains are weird.

But the point is, a very small part of me realized I was forever losing something that had been defined by excitement and hope, and that made me a little sad.

For the record, this is not the same as regret. I did not and do not regret getting married when I did. I’m just sayin’, it’s one of those funny life transitions that you don’t really consider until after the fact.

Now, though, I have such a different feeling about it.

The thing is, there is quite a bit of power in realizing that you don’t really care if you impress. In knowing that it doesn’t matter one tiny bit if that good-looking guy at the bar finds you attractive or annoying or what. I can be totally, 100 percent honest and myself because, when the conversation is over, I get to go back to the person I love who loves me more than anything.

Nowadays, if a guy tries to chat me up or flirt or whatever, I respond in exactly the way I always wanted to (but for whatever reason felt like I couldn’t because, well, “maybe” is a powerful thing). And that’s pretty cool. The idea of being exactly who I am without caveat is so freeing to me.

And the really funny part? I find I have much more meaningful conversations, even with total strangers, the quicker I can clear up that nothing beyond a friendly chat is going to happen here. I’ve actually had guys who at one point were hitting on me end up sincerely asking me for relationship advice just a few minutes after finding out I was unavailable. It might help that I’m just a friendly gal, but I like to think that removing the tension of “could something happen between us” allows people to just be themselves on both sides and make an actual connection with another human being. Neat, huh?

So, I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re still in that phase of somewhat lamenting what you’ve lost, take heart. You probably never really loved the unknown all that much anyway.

There is simply no non-cliche way to say, “golly, can you believe the year is almost over?!” So I’m just going to avoid it all together. But you get the sentiment.

2014 was a really good year for me. As my Facebook feed starts to fill with the social network’s latest look-back campaign, I paused to actually think about all I had accomplished this year.

I started the year in the cold, training for my first ever full marathon. It wasn’t always great, but in the end I accomplished my goal.

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Besides the race itself, Joey and I also took our second trip to Paris, which, like the race, was full of terrible and wonderful moments. I like the think the wonderful (mostly) outweighed the bad, though.

Monet's garden.

Monet’s garden.

2014 was also the year of weddings. And weddings. And more weddings. After watching five of our dear friends tie the knot, I was reminded of two things: 1) It’s a good thing I really love weddings. 2) I am so glad Joey and I got that out of the way years ago. Turns out there’s less stress about scheduling when you get hitched young.

One of the best things that happened to me this year? This fuzzy face.

Sleep on alllll the pillows...

Sleep on alllll the pillows…

Yes, after years of dreaming, hoping, wishing, and all the other verbs you can pack into a ’50s doo-wop song, we finally got a dog of our own. Anyone who spends even a few minutes with me knows how much I love that little dog — Joey and I say all the time we can’t imagine not having him. He has certainly been a highlight of the year.

I didn’t make it back to the Midwest this year (le siiiiigh), but I did get to see my family for my parents’ 30th anniversary. The planning was a bit stressful, but the part itself turned out exactly how I had hoped it would. (And, honestly, how often can you say that?)

lurrrve

lurrrve

The most exciting thing that happened this fall was our trip to California, when I finally did the drive down the West Coast I’ve always wanted to do.

That's a happy girl right there.

That’s a happy girl right there.

After months spent planning that trip, it also went off without a hitch. Which, if you know me, NEVER happens to me. But it was so lovely getting to see my brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, and a bunch of friends as we made our way south. And, you guys? That weather? I honestly don’t understand why people live anywhere else.

Other than the California trip, our fall/winter has been pretty quiet so far as we’ve gotten more serious about paying off debts and saving money. #adulthood, dude. Besides a long weekend in Vermont in January, we don’t really have any other trips planned for a while. (Besides Iowa next summer…it has been way too long.) Fortunately, my parents are visiting in February to temper some of my Midwest homesickness.

Like I said, a pretty good year all around. For old time’s sake, here is my sixth annual Year-End Sum-Uppance. (Here’s last year’s, for reference.)

Age: 27, but I still need to wear makeup to get taken seriously in meetings. And I finally grew out the little-girl bangs, which helped.

Location: New York City

Occupation: Social Media Strategy Manager.

New favorite food: Some of you may remember that last year I adjust this to be a shout-out to a food I realized I loved in the last year. The winner for 2014? Grilled octopus. Those Astoria Greeks know what they’re doing.

TV shows I’m watching: This year I got SUPER into Parks & Rec (I’m not emotionally ready for the series finale in 2015), and I’ve started rewatching Gilmore Girls. Up next, I think I want to get into The West Wing. (Obviously these sentences brought to you by Netflix.)

Book I’m reading: Life of Pi

What’s my hair doing right now: Sort of a joke, but also sort of serious since I talk about it often enough on this blog. Still blonde and super long at the moment. Getting a haircut the first week of January. But I think I’m done with bangs. (FOR NOW.)

How I did on my goals from last year: Just to remind you, these were last year’s goals, along with how I did:

1. Travel more.
Check! One international trip and one cross-country vacation definitely qualify.

2. Run a marathon.
Another check!

3. Finally get a dog.
You guys. I killed it this year.

4. Pick up at least 20 freelance assignments.
I think it was actually closer to 15, but I still feel good about that. I have a pretty regular gig at a local magazine, which has been a nice creative outlet.

5. Get closer to figuring out where we want to settle.
We’ll be in New York for at least another year, but I think our California trip narrowed things down for me. Guess we’ll see!

Goals for next year: Completely pay off our debts, build up a savings account, pioneer at least five times, and find a new apartment in April (still in Queens).

In general, I feel like 2014 was a semi-pivotal year for me. I feel so much more secure with who I am and my relationship with so many people in my life than I ever have before. I feel like maybe I’m getting better at this whole life thing.

How was your year?

In general, I think transitional periods of our life are only truly recognized retroactively. In my life, it is rare that I’ve had the perspective or wisdom to realize, in the moment, that my life is changing. That I’m changing.

But it’s pretty easy for me to look back over the last 27 years and say, “Ah yes, May of 2009. That was a doozy.”

I bring this up because, for the first time ever, I think I’m finally learning to recognize the signs.

I haven’t been updating the ol’ blog very much in the last couple of weeks. I’ve been making the usual excuses:

1. I’m tired.
2. I’m busy.
3. I have a life, you guys.
4. Despite being busy, nothing really note-worthy has been happening.

But if I’m totally honest, I’ve been feeling a little off. That crippling “holding pattern” feeling has permeated my day-to-day, and every mentally drafted blog post usually starts out with, “So today I….boringboringboringboring.” It’s how I end up with posts like this.

Lady baggage. We've all got it.

Lady baggage. We’ve all got it.

So I’ve waited instead of posting more drivel. I’ve waited for something interesting or funny or awkward to happen to me. Something that makes for a good story. But you know what? Life has been relatively par for the course.

Good for stress levels. Bad for the blogging biz.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that whenever I start to feel that trying-to-run-through-wet-cement feeling, it usually means something in my life is about to change. It usually means I am changing.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this concept of who I am. A coworker recently attended a conference about how to raise confident girls, and the main point of the speaker was that girls are put under a lot of pressure to be a lot of things: smart, charming, funny, pretty, athletic, sweet, perfect. And by the time they reach middle school, they are so busy acting out these roles, they don’t even know who they really are.

No offense to the speaker, but that’s not a middle girl school thing. That’s a life girl thing.

In my pondering, I’ve realized that a lot of the insecurities I’ve thought I let go of haven’t really packed up and moved on — they’ve just been quieter tenants. It’s not that I’m not insecure, I just have a healthy sense of perspective. I realize that it doesn’t matter if I’m not good enough because there are just much bigger and more important issues out there than little ol’ me.

That sounds self-deprecating, but the one thing that actually doesn’t bother me about me is the not mattering bit. I’m just one person — and what kind of psycho actually thinks the world revolves around them?

The point is, I’m trying not to run from these insecurities anymore. I’d rather face them, accept them, welcome them to the club that is me, and then move on. Maybe that’s me getting closer to who I am.

So is this definitely one of those transitional periods I’ll look back on one day as a “before/after” date? I guess I can’t say for sure until I reach the other side of the hill. But I think it is.

Does this even make any sense? Anyone else feel like they’re just waiting for things to start? Any other lady readers totally relate to the idea of not being sure who you are?

I turned 27 last week.

I don’t celebrate birthdays, so there was predictably little fanfare around this one (plus, I had an ear infection, so I was a bit more preoccupied with taking antibiotics and drinking fluids than anything else that day).

Don’t worry, I’m not going to throw a list of 27 things you have to do by 27 (I could never top this one anyway). I’m also not going to bore you with my list of goals. (BECAUSE I DO THAT ALL THE TIME ALREADY.) The only reason why I even bring it up is because, to be totally honest, I have been super jazzed about 27 for a while now.

Is it just me, or is 27 really the first time people start to treat you like you’re legitimate? For most of my life, the majority of my friends have been older than me. I’ve always been pretty driven in my career, so I often find myself working with people older than I am as well. And the moment that I always dread (because it always comes up) is when someone asks me how old I am.

If you’re 26 or under, answering that question is usually met with the equivalent of this:

SUPER FUN. Not.

But whether it’s 27’s proximity to 30 or just that it takes four full syllables to say, I can’t help but notice that the response is much more similar to this:

Ok, maybe not QUITE like that…but there is definitely more respect there.

And when you’re like me and started acting (mostly) like a grown-up right around the age of 13, 27 is finally (FINALLY) the year when you start acting your age, amiright?

The point is, I feel like this is going to be my best year yet. Yes, I say that every year, but I feel especially good about 2014/2015.

What was the year you really started to feel like a grown-up?