A Different Kind Of Mom Bod

I’m supposed to say, I love my body. I made little humans. I really like the cellulite that showed up on my butt. Aren’t these the things I’m supposed to believe with all of the body positivity, motherhood vibes and girl power that I champion??

Postpartum feelings are confusing and after both of my pregnancies I haven’t felt how I thought I would. For the last three years or so I’ve given my body away in a pretty substantial way, by going through two pregnancies in a relatively short period of time. Truth be told, I still give my body away every single day. I nurse my almost three week old, I hoist my two year old into the car, I schlep the dog up the stairs, I wipe dirty little faces and I pick up an endless array of toys.

It might sound selfish (and it feels selfish) that I want my old body back. I know what you’re thinking – you’re thinking, “Ashley, you’re not even three weeks postpartum. Let yourself heal. Give it time. It took months to make those beautiful babies, so allow yourself to take the time to get back to where you were.” I get it. I agree, but it’s not that easy.

Seeing your postpartum body for the first time can be a pretty big shock. It’s hard (and amazing) for any woman to see such a huge transformation. Being that I recently shared with all of you that I had history with an eating disorder, it feels even harder seeing this change in my body, especially for the second time.

The good thing is that I’ve been through this all once before and I know what my body is capable of. I know I will lose the baby weight, regain my strength and feel like some semblance of myself again. I just hate the waiting game. It’s uncomfortable, but life can be uncomfortable.

While I was pregnant with Gialina I worked out 5-6 days per week, ate a balanced diet and treated myself when it felt right. With Viviana I did the same routine. The only difference that I can think of is that with Gia I stuck with more cardio based workouts, and with Vivi I continued my weight training with my cardio.

I gained 43 pounds with Gia and 40 with Vivi. The only reason I tell you this is because I’m a firm believer that your body is programmed to gain a certain amount of weight while pregnant, regardless of what you do. I did everything “right” through both of my pregnancies, yet I still beat myself up for not gaining the recommended 25-35 pounds.

Obviously those numbers can’t apply to everyone. The woman who is 5’2″ will very likely gain differently than the woman who is 6’0″. We aren’t the same and neither are any of our pregnancies.

Trust the process. This is my own reminder to myself to do just that. Sometimes when you put things out in the universe (like sharing vulnerabilities) good things happen. Healing happens. Support is given. People feel less alone. That’s my intention here. I’m reminding myself that I will get where I want to be soon and if you’re in a similar season in your life, you will too.

I’m sure you may have heard the saying, “people only show their highlight reel” through social media outlets. A friend of mine reminded me of this the other day, and it’s so true. Of course we are all quick to share the great things in our lives, but I find it just as important to share our bumps in the road or messy moments. We are all so much more alike than we realize. The moment we stop pretending that we are better than one another or comparing our highlight reels, is the moment we will all feel more connected.

 This is about my entire self, about all the parts of me – more than just getting my body back. It’s about the parts that existed before two little people filled my arms and my heart, and the parts that will continue to exist long after those people have fully grown.

Share your experiences – good and maybe not so good. I having a sneaking suspicion that someone else will reach out in appreciation, creating a ripple effect. Pass on kindness, pay it forward and if comfortable, share your truth.


My Old Friend, ED

For a long time I’ve kept a secret. I used to think this was the kind of secret that could never be told. I was ashamed to share it with others, but today I choose to share it because it just feels right.

Sadly, like many young women (and men too) I suffered in silence with an eating disorder. I’ve been wanting to share this on my blog since I started writing. One, it feels empowering to talk about it now because I can proudly tell you that I no longer have disordered eating habits. Second, I tell you this because I know people who have had eating disorders and maybe my story will encourage someone who hasn’t gotten help to reach out.

The thing about many eating disorders is that they make you chase an unattainable goal. Initially for me, my goal was to just be even healthier than I already was. At the time when my eating disorder manifested, I was in college and on a full softball scholarship.

My logic behind all of this was that I ate healthy and worked hard, so why not turn it up a notch? I told myself I’d eat even healthier and workout outside of my rigorous, daily softball workouts and practices.

I’ve always been athletic and in “good” shape, but as soon as I started to tweak my routine in this extreme way I started to lose weight. I’d be gone for a weekend softball tournament and after having three games in one day, I’d go back to our hotel and run on the treadmill. Meanwhile, my healthy eating became full blown restriction and starvation. I’d lose a few pounds in one weekend, and it wasn’t like it was just water weight. My body had no fuel and my muscles were basically eating themselves.

After months of doing this to myself, I knew it was wrong and I’d tell myself I’d stop once I saw a certain number on the scale. But, each time I’d hit my “goal” I’d create a new one in my head. That’s where the unattainable comes in. With the state I was in I was constantly depressed about my outward appearance and I was angry. I’d lash out at loved ones, but it was always unintentional. I was so, so unhappy and in a very dark place. I knew I needed help but I was beyond scared and didn’t know where to start. I was scared to gain weight and do what it took to get healthy again. I was scared to tell anyone the truth about what was going on and I was scared of losing more than I already had – and I’m not talking about losing weight. I’m talking about losing things that were important to me, like softball.

Ultimately, I was losing weight at a pace that was pretty dangerous. I was ordered by my doctor to no longer travel with my team and participate in practice or games. Talk about a crushing blow. At the time I felt like I was totally abandoned and forgotten by my coaches and teammates because I wasn’t present with them everyday, even though I was still a part of the team. I was so embarrassed that I had this huge part of me taken away. After all, my whole identity was wrapped up in being a softball player. It’s something that defined me since a very young age. To say I was having an identity crisis during this time would be putting it mildly.

Part of me wants to place the blame on someone else for all that I went through. I won’t go into detail about that here, but at the end of the day I did essentially do this to myself. I still have a very bittersweet taste in my mouth when I look back at some of my college years. Regardless of all that, I’d never change what happened because it has molded me into the woman I am today.

Without my eating disorder I wouldn’t have the outlook on health and mental wellbeing that I do now. I also probably wouldn’t be as mindful of my actions and habits. If there’s one thing that this disease (yes, it is a disease) has taught me, it’s that I NEVER want my daughters to measure their worth by a number on the scale or from their outside appearance. Although I think my girls are the most beautiful beings on the planet, it’s what is in their hearts that matters. If I’m not kind to myself, they will never know how to be kind to themselves, or others.

So for anyone out there suffering, whether it be from an eating disorder or any other terrible struggle – there’s a hope that’s waiting for you in the dark. If you don’t want to get better, do it for someone else who loves you. Asking for help was by far the hardest thing I did through my journey back to health. There were setbacks, countless tears shed, fights and loss, but today I am healthy in my mind and body.

Having a healthy mind after having an eating disorder is tricky though. Although I don’t act on my old ways of thinking, there are days where I do have negative self talk, just like anyone might. Recovering from an eating disorder is kind of like sobriety. There’s always temptations out there and that little devil on your shoulder can sometimes talk a little louder than the angel on the other shoulder. With that, you accept the challenges and push through to the best of your ability. At least that is always the goal.

There’s a lot more to my story, but I hope that this little glimpse into one of my most unhappy times can help someone else heal.

We are all worthy and we deserve to love ourselves! Sometimes we just need a reminder of that.


Raising Strong, Confident Daughters

One thing I’ve already begun to realize over the last year and a half, or so, is that bringing up daughters is complicated: Messages of empowerment and achievement are everywhere, yet depression and anxiety plague so many.

I know these things because I am still a daughter even though I’m now also a mother. I know these things because I never want Gialina and her sister to go through the hard things that I went through. I want to raise my girls to be their best, well-rounded selves despite so many negative outside influences in our world.

During a routine morning not long ago, I was looking in our downstairs mirror. I lifted my shirt to look at my stomach – I’d recently found out I was pregnant with Gia’s sister. I was checking for any signs of a growing baby in my stomach and caught myself feeling a little bit upset. I was upset because I selfishly thought about how hard it will be to watch my body grow through another pregnancy. Although the creation of life is truly an amazing miracle, it can really do a number on a woman’s mindset and body confidence. In my case, I suffered from an eating disorder during my early twenties and although I am healthy today, the negative voices are still there and will always need to be tamped down.

After checking myself out for a quick moment I realized that my daughter Gia had been watching my every move, as she always does. To my surprise and slight horror, she walked over to where I was standing and proceeded to lift her shirt to show her tummy. She clearly was just mimicking mommy, but this instance just goes to show you that your children are always watching, listening and learning from you.

I love having a daughter and I am thrilled to be a girl-mom once again, but nothing annoys me more than when someone says, “Oooh, two girls! You sure are in for it!”

I feel like I was born to parent girls because of the challenges I overcame that tend to overwhelmingly affect women. God gave me not only one, but two girls so that I could teach them to love themselves as much as I should have been loving myself through my eating disorder. I’m excited to be raising two strong little girls, but even this early on it can feel like walking a tightrope.

Part of me is so excited for their future. There are so many female role models out there for them to aspire to be like. Unfortunately, there are also things like stress, anxiety and depression that come with high achievement. When my girls grow up and are doing everything possible to be all that they can, I want them to enjoy it. Like any parent, I want my girls to have boundless opportunity, but more than that, I want them to be happy. The bigger part of that is making sure they are ready for whatever challenges they will someday face.

Know the impact you will have on your child – celebrate their uniqueness, praise their imperfections and instill social confidence.

I know that I will always try to raise strong, confident daughters, but I also realize that they will be who they will be. I can’t make my daughters be something they weren’t meant to be. I just hope and pray that I continue to be the best parent that I can be through their challenging teen years and young adult lives.

Looking at Gia sitting beside me right now also makes me relish the simplicity of toddlerhood. She is completely unfiltered and totally herself in this moment. In a couple of years she will be more aware of the opinions of others, but I hope she holds on to her own opinions while remaining kind, strong-willed and unique.