When There Is No Glow- Nymphai and Nurturing Our Own Healing

by Jessica Martin-Weber
I have a tattoo on my upper right arm that starts at a three pointed scar on my inner arm and wraps up and around my shoulder. A twisty, viney type of tree with swirls, knots, and sharp looking points. The tree looks like it has grown around many obstacles and against the wind. It isn’t a tall, straight tree, it is a tree with gnarls and curves, marked by it’s struggle to survive. A beautiful tree that springs from a scar in the soil. Flapping their wings, 6 birds that may have just been resting on the curved and hunched branches of this tree are taking flight. Delicate but obviously powerful, these birds are majestic and strong. I dreamed of this tattoo for years, shared the vision with my tattoo artist Colin Kolker, sketched many variations with my husband Jeremy, and eventually Colin captured the essence in the design that is permanently etched into my arm. This tattoo means so much to me it is now woven into Tekhni fabric to carry babies. Find your opportunity to enter in a Tekhni giveaway at the end of this article!
This is why.
When pregnancy isn't glowing

Photo Credit: Meghann Buswell, Your Street Photography.

“You look terrible!”  There was concern in her voice, not malice. I did look terrible, frightening even. I could have been auditioning to be an extra in Schindler’s List. I knew I looked bad. Not wanting to explain much, I tell her I’m ok, I’m just pregnant. She looks horrified and whispers “I thought pregnant women glowed.”

No, nope, nu-uh. Ok, well, some pregnant women glow. Maybe even most. I don’t glow. Unless you count the green tinged pallor I sport in pregnancy a glow.

In my head pregnancy is going to be this serene existence of light, one with the earth, I’ll feel like a goddess, my body humming with the growing life within and a sense of wisdom and peace filling me. It radiates from me as I float along my every day life where everything suddenly has more meaning. I had expectations.

Unfortunately, that isn’t what happens.

Instead of floating, I crash to the ground in a heap of extra saliva and a stomach that rejects all food and liquid all day, every day. This causes my skin to lose elasticity, my body fat to burn off quickly, my kidneys to release toxins, my eyes to sink deeper into my skull, the tiny blood vessels in my face and neck to burst, my complexion to take on a green yellow hue, my head to spin when I shift my weight, my other organs to work harder as they dehydrate, and my veins to go into hiding so that every IV attempt results in bruises the size of plums up and down my arms. I don’t even know how to tell youHyperemesis Gravidarum.

Decidedly not glowing.

Every pregnancy I hoped the results would be different. There were plans, you see. Plans for how I would eat, how I would prepare for my coming baby. Plans for a level of physical activity and creativity bursts. Plans for how my baby and I would grow together, healthy and strong. Plans for how my friends and family would share in my pregnancy, how we would celebrate and enjoy the journey. Plans for how everything would go the way it was supposed to go. Plans that never came to be.

Because no glowing.

I hate being pregnant.

Cue a new glow, those fuming at me for not fulfilling my role of goddess mother because I dare to admit I don’t love pregnancy. Even Kim Kardashian, who people love to hate and hate to love, can’t state that pregnancy isn’t an experience she enjoys without encountering more vitriol than normal.

 

Pregnant mothers are supposed to glow and love pregnancy.

You can fail being a mother before your kid is even outside of your body.

All because you didn’t. feel. the. glow.

When pregnancy isn't glowing

Photo Credit: Meghann Buswell, Your Street Photography.

We have a romanticized version of all aspects of motherhood upheld in our society. A version that is always glowing, radiating from some isolated pedestal of unattainable idealism. While sometimes we may feel like a goddess in our mothering, for many of us those luminescent images require metaphorical if not literal special lighting, makeup, shape wear, and most elusive of all, a nap. In other words, the river goddess nursing her baby in the stream may be beautiful and remind of us some inner peace we’ve made contact with a time or two but for many of us it is heavily staged.

Most of my moments in parenting haven’t been glowing. Some of them I was barely surviving.

When pregnancy isn't glowing

Photo Credit: Meghann Buswell, Your Street Photography.

It can be crushing to realize that your experience with conception, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding aren’t a breathtaking image of serenity, that your reality isn’t naturally incandescent. When all you want is to glow, to radiate, to enjoy the path that gets you to your baby but what you get is near destruction, it can be hard to separate the journey from your own personhood. Sometimes it can be hard to separate the journey from the gift. There were times when my baby felt like my enemy, my torturer, my reminder of my failure. Those times were dark and twisted. But they were nothing compared to the times when I felt my baby suffered because I just. couldn’t. glow. The agony that my babies paid the price was by far the most painful to endure.

  • Infertility.
  • Pregnancy loss.
  • Pregnancy complications.
  • Birth trauma.
  • Relationship problems.
  • Financial stress.
  • Disrupted bonding.
  • Feeding difficulties.
  • Postpartum depression.

Whatever it is, the grief is real, the suffering is profound. And the shaping is valuable.

Even if you aren’t glowing.

Specially if you aren’t glowing.

Poopins front wrap Tekhni Nymphai

Photo Credit: Meghann Buswell, Your Street Photography.

When there is no glow, particularly when there is no glow when pure radiance is what is expected, how do you go about being honest with yourself and others? And how do you start to heal while accepting what it is?

Here’s what has helped me.

Journal. Write it all down. The reality, the struggle, the loneliness, the fear that the fact that you feel this way or have experienced these things means you’re not enough. All of it, write it down.

Cry. Yep, cry. You’re going to anyway. Give yourself permission and cry. And don’t dismiss it as hormones or being a woman or overreacting or whatever. Cry because you’re human and humans cry when something hurts. It is not weakness to cry, it is a strength to stop pretending.

Art. Whether you enjoy expressing yourself through art or not, drawing, coloring, painting, sculpting, dancing, playing music, you name it, artistic expression can be incredibly cathartic because sometimes words alone just art enough to full get those feelings out. And taking in someone else’s artistic expression can be just as powerful.

Talk. You may be afraid that people may not like hearing your journey because it isn’t warm and fuzzy but more often than not sharing your story will actually help someone processing their own glowless experience. That sharing can help you and them. Be it in person or online, opening up about our struggles builds community that values authenticity and that can actually help save lives.

Commemorate. An event, big or small, to honor the journey (but please don’t do a balloon release, it’s littering and hard on animal friends); a special purchase that holds a lot of meaning for you; a ritualistic occasion that connects deeply with you; a meaningful plant/tree/shrub planted in your yard as a hopeful yet gentle reminder; compile mementos in a book; create something unique that captures the profound nature of your journey.

The tree on my arm represents me, the birds my daughters. My tattoo turned Tekhni woven wrap, named for the nymphs of Greek mythology who nurture nature, has helped me glow. From reclaiming my body to having a beautiful woven wrap that represents so much healing, hope, and promise in nurturing that surrounds other moms and their precious children, I have found a glow I can’t contain. May we all glow with honesty and hope.

When pregnancy isn't glowing

Photo Credit: Meghann Buswell, Your Street Photography.

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Thank you for reading my story, I would love to hear yours as well. Comment here sharing your glowing or not-so-glowing experience with parenting, how you’ve found healing, and how you commemorate that experience.

If you’d like to share your story with a larger audience, submit your story with photos, your bio, and the subject #MyStoryMatters to content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces).

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Jessica Martin-WeberDrawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com,co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and co-creator of OurStableTable.com, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book and a children’s book.

 

Enter for your chance to win a ring sling with a pattern based on my tattoo. This beautiful Tekhni Wovens ring sling in Clover is yours for the winning! Enter below:

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Comments

  1. Morgan Weilbrenner says:

    Was this with all 6 babies?

  2. Molly Scott says:

    Thank you for the giveaway! ♡

  3. Molly Scott says:

    Wearing my son has helped me deal with my PPD

  4. Krissie Lambert says:

    This is such a beautiful ring sling. I love your tattoo and the meaning behind it. I would love to get a tattoo in honor of my son and myself. After struggling with infertility, 2 miscarriages, one ended in an emotionally scarring d&c, I finally got my baby boy. Postpartum has been a struggle for me. He is almost 18 months now. I feel like I fight myself every day to do the simplest things. Thank you for sharing your story & for offering a piece of you in this giveaway.

  5. Amanda Taveira says:

    Beautiful Wrap!
    I couldnt bond with my daughter after she came out because I had a fever and she had meconium. I delivered her and she went straight to the NICU and then Stepdown nursery for a week of antibiotics. The best part is that now she is EBF even though she had some formula and my breast milk from bottles at her time at the hospital.

  6. windyindy says:

    After losing our first pregnancy (and dealing with extreme anxiety issues after my second pregnancy, first child) I learned to be patient with myself and the healing process. There were good days and bad days. Hugs helped. And so did finding a community of moms online who had been through the same thing. Talking, and validating what I had been through and was feeling and knowing that I had a whole team of women behind me was incredibly helpful.

  7. Dawnielle Garvie says:

    This is beautifully written. I need to try these as some days are so hard. Still trying to find what works for me at 17 months.

  8. Meghan bruce says:

    Meditation and yoga got me through my pregnancy

  9. Thank you for speaking the truth.

  10. Elisabeth H says:

    Yoga has helped me heal tremendously. I did not fall into the roll of “mom” easily, and quickly felt like I was losing myself. Taking just an hour each week to ground myself has been an incredible help to remind me of what is important, who I am, and stay present in my life. I’ve been able to reflect on my expectations, and accept my new normal, even if it’s not what I imagined.

  11. Lyndsi Boysen says:

    My husband and I were blessed with a twin pregnancy. Unfortunately, I miscarried twin B. My husband and I were devastated; we were also thankful that twin A was healthy. We had a wonderful delivery, resulting in our sweet baby girl arriving earthside. Even though I was incredibly grateful for my one beautiful baby, my heart longed to have two babies in my arms. I suffered through post partum depression. The ONLY thing that got me through the days and nights was keeping my baby close enough to kiss in our baby carrier. It eased my anxiety and depression to feel her breathe and to smell her. She had a lip and tongue tie that was undiagnosed until she was 9 months old, so babywearing was crucial to keeping her upright due to awful acid reflux. I am forever grateful to keep my baby close! It has helped me and her in so many ways. I will wear her until she no longer wants to be worn.
    Thank you for sharing your story and thank you for an incredible giveaway. Much love!

  12. Actually my husband has been an incredible encouragement and has been steadfast throughout pregnancy depression and all sorts of speedbumps in the past few years! this would be amazing for our new little due this winter!

  13. Cristina Waite says:

    So my less than glowing experience would probably have been cosleeping. It seems wonderful and it’s worked for so long as a culture and it did help me breastfeed at night…BUT I got the worst sleep, turning and flipping to keep offering a breast, havingaching back and hips from poor support in bed and somehow always seemong to be stuck on what felt like only 3 inches in our bed…and I was miserable until I sleep trained. After I was getting regular sleep, I felt like a super mom. It just all seemed so wonderful and I believed in it’s worth for so long (19 months) even when it wasn’t worthwhile for our family. I don’t really commemorate this but I love being able to go in and kiss my sweet girls head at night…in her room, in her bed, and then go back to my glorious haven King sized bed. Oh well I guess we commemorated her sleep training by getting a kick ass, king sized, sleep number bed! Haha

  14. I think time has simply been the only healing method for me. I honestly can’t think of anything specific and I don’t feel “healed”.

  15. I had a cesarean with my first baby, which was the very opposite of what I’d always envisioned birth to be. I didn’t even go into labor, she was cut out of me at 36w6d after three days in the hospital for oligohydramnios (and complete breech presentation). I later found out that at delivery her fluid level was listed as “moderate”. Having a VBAC did so much to fix the hole where it felt like something was missing. My first VBAC was an induction and highly medicalized, and while I rejoiced, it was still “off”. My second was spontaneous and unmedicated, and I can finally look back and see the good that came from my cesarean. Sharing what I’ve learned with others is also very healing.

  16. I hated being pregnant,a lot of the time. Every now and then I’d feel the glow, but mostly just tired and off somehow. Frustrated with trying to feed myself healthily because of gestational diabetes. Unable to get comfortable, heartburn, pains, aches. It’s worth it, truly, but so much of the miracle is invisible inside and meanwhile you just feel worn down. Is anything this big and eventful really ever 100% wonderful? How could it be? Life doesn’t work like that and I love this post for not being afraid to say it aloud.

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