Friday, August 9, 2013

Your Mummy Tummy

Last week, I was breastfeeding Zoë while reading the news on my iPhone, when I came across an article covering the dress Kate Middleton wore while presenting her baby to the world. Her cornflower blue dress was beautifully high-waisted and unapologetically showed off her "mummy tummy".  When I first saw the photo, I was flooded with relief. It is normal to still look pregnant for a few days after giving birth, but Western society seems to have forgotten that. America's obsession with the perfect body puts an unrealistic and, quite frankly, unhealthy pressure on women - especially postpartum moms. Most celebrity mothers these days do not make a public appearance until they have regained their figure. I have to assume that every outfit the Duchess wears is carefully picked, since no doubt her appearance is under constant scrutiny. I love that she thoughtfully chose not wear baggy clothes or stand with her newborn covering her belly.  It seems she has busted the last taboo of pregnancy - the mummy tummy.

Kate Middleton unabashedly showing off her postpartum mummy tummy. Isn't she beautiful?
This got me thinking of my own postpartum body and the issues I have with my stomach, which now looks somewhat like a deflated weather balloon. After a c-section with my first daughter, I quickly became pregnant with my second before having the chance to lose any weight. While I am grateful that my second daughter was a quick and easy natural birth, both of my babies were around 10 lbs and have stretched out my belly leaving me with a lovely hanging apron and 30 extra lbs. Looking in the mirror has become an exercise in self-deprecation. While consuming 1,500 calories and working out 60-90 minutes a day, I have to remind myself that I am doing all that I can. I mean seriously, I could kill for some freaking carbs right now. 

I took this issue to prayer and was reminded of a passage I totally glossed over in Rachel Jankovic's book Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches. Here is the excerpt:
"...Our bodies are tools, not treasures. You should not spend your days trying to preserve your body in its eighteen-year-old form. Let it be used. By the time you die, you want to have a very dinted and dinged body. Motherhood uses your body in the way that God designed it to be used. Those are the right kind of damages. 

There are of course ways to hurt your body that are outside of God's design for it and disobedient. But motherhood is what your stomach was made for - and any wear and tear that it shows is simply the sign of a well-used tool. We are not to treat our bodies like museum pieces. They were not given to us to preserve, they were given to us to use. So use it cheerfully, and maintain it cheerfully. When you are working hard to maintain the baby weight (as you may need to), think of it as tool maintenance. You want to fix your body up to be able to use it some more. It might be used for more children, or might be used to take care of the children you have. We should not be trying to fix it up to put back on the shelf out of harm's way or to try to make ourselves look like nothing ever happened. Your body is a tool. Use it."
Wow. This passage has helped me to understand God's purpose for my body and to cut myself a little slack. Motherhood can be so demanding. It consumes our time, emotions, and even our bodies. While so many women either choose not to have children or to abort the ones they have, Jankovic is spot on when she says that one of the greatest testimonies Christian women can have in our world today is the testimony of joyfully giving your body to another. So think of it this way, the scars and stretch marks are all part of your vocation. This of course is no excuse to go schlepping around in sweatpants until your children are grown, but it should help you to put things in perspective. After all, aren't they worth it?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Summer Delights

Summer in Anchorage brings warmth, endless daylight, a verdant landscape, and lots of visitors. Because really, who wants to come here in the winter except the most extreme of outdoor enthusiasts? I have just seen off my last house guest and am anxious for fall already. I am ready for sweaters, suede boots, and a warm fire. Did I mention pie? Fall is arriving early this year, which means we will very soon be picking berries. We are slowly gaining darkness, and it has been dark as early as 11 p.m. lately. 

For our last "hurrah" we decided to play on the Kenai Peninsula. A dear friend of mine had spent a few weeks there and could not stop gushing about it. Since we were to be hosting my father the last couple weeks of summer, my husband and I decided to drag him down there. We spent close to four hours in a car with a toddler and a newborn. We were not sorry. 

We arrived in Seward, a quaint fishing town, to be greeted by breathtaking views of glaciers on the harbor. Our weekend consisted of sampling fresh eateries on Resurrection Bay, viewing sea lions and puffins, and supporting more microbreweries than I care to mention. Visitors can actually tour the glaciers on cruise ships, charter fishing boats, or dog sled if they so desire. The Seavey family, with three generations of Ididarod  mushers, offers tours and rides with the huskies. We decided to spend our money on gratuitous amounts of fish and beer instead, so we opted to hike Exit Glacier for free. 

Living in Alaska is like walking through a postcard, as evidenced by the photo above. Exit Glacier greeted us with lush fireweed, crisp air, and and up close view of the ice. We were exhausted by the end of the weekend, but it was totally worth it. I spent the next week showing my dad Anchorage. Downtown comes alive once the ice thaws with lots of live music and tourists, and there are lots of small shops that showcase ivory, furs, and native art. I actually got my dad to try caribou burgers and reindeer dogs (sorry Rudolph). We had a delightful week, a fitting end to the summer

I met a local who told me that the winters here are like a pregnancy - nine months and horrible, but that the summer totally makes up for it. I may not have believed that when I was up to my knees in snow our first winter here, but she was right. I don't think I've ever appreciated summer until I moved here. And in just a short couple of weeks, we will have fall. We will have pie, berries, and sunsets in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Life in Anchorage

August marks my fifth month in Anchorage, and it's hard to believe I have spent nearly half a year here. It feels like just yesterday I was in Virginia Beach, wearing flip flops in November. At six months pregnant with only three months to relocate across the country, I spent my last few days frantically researching homes, doctors, and parkas. I had little time once here to catch up with friends from home. At seven months pregnant, trying to unpack a home with a toddler underfoot was no small challenge. We were blessed with finding a lovely two story home complete with a back yard, hardwood floors, and a fireplace. I found a great doctor who was willing to let me VBAC, and we had a very beautiful natural birth. Now that our newest bundle is sleeping more, I have finally decided to start a blog and chronicle our adventures in Alaska.  

People are so curious about this state, as I was when we first learned of our upcoming orders. Two of the most common questions I get from friends are, "So, do you like, live in civilization?" and, "Oh my gosh, have you seen Sarah Palin?"

Contrary to what a lot of people may think, we do not sit around endlessly tweeting Sarah Palin. We are not "roughing it". Anchorage is a city just like anywhere else, except noticeably smaller. We do have modern amenities. We even have traffic! Here is what it is like to live in Anchorage:
  • Anchorage is very small. With a population of just 200,000 we have a very tight knit community. The people here are some of the friendliest I have ever met. I got stuck in the snow while driving my first month here, and within two minutes I had 3 strangers who offered to assist me. Within about 5 minutes, I was on my way.
  • You do need to be a little outdoorsy to live here. I would have gone stark raving mad this winter if I did not bundle the girls up and get out for a few minutes each day, no matter how cold or dark. Plus, a lot of activities are outdoors, like Fur Rondy, the kick-off to the Ididarod complete with food and fireworks. 
  • Anchorage is very diverse. There is a military community, a large Alaska native population, many ethnic minorities including Pacific Islanders and Asian, oil-company workers, outdoor enthusiasts, and hippies who want to get away from the lower 48 and enjoy our lax laws. 
  • Alaska truly is the last frontier. Alaska is huge and sparsely populated, with not a lot of government to enforce laws. People come here to be left alone. Many homestead. The land is diverse. Up north is a vast treeless expanse and down south is a coastal rain forest. 
  • The wilderness is right here, right on our doorstep. Literally. I get moose in my yard once or twice a week. People die in avalanches, get mauled by bears, or suffer hypothermia - all within or just outside city limits. There is unparalleled access to public lands and wildlife. The Cook Inlet and Chucagh range surround Anchorage. Some of the most beautiful hiking is just ten minutes from my driveway. 
  • The winters are cold and dark; the summers are bright, rainy, and less cold. I saw very little daylight when I arrived here in February. In the middle of summer, I think I had about 2 hours of darkness.  It is called the Land of the Midnight Sun for a reason, but our biological clocks have adjusted accordingly. 
  • It's really expensive to fly to or from here. Shipping costs for imports can be almost as expensive as the item itself. Since I tend to hang out on Amazon like some people do on Facebook, I have discovered some things that ship here for free. Actually, it's just plain expensive to live here. Cost of living is high. 
  • Oil money does exist. Thanks to the Permanent Fund Dividend, residents can get up to $1,000 a year. 
  • Getting dressed up means putting on your cleanest flannel.
  • Alaska comes with it's own vocabulary. "Break-up" season is spring when the ice breaks up, and the "lower 48" refers to, well, everyone else. 
Alaska has been a true haven for us, a refuge. Upon first arriving, the winter seemed harsh and unyielding, the mountains forlorn and distant. Eventually, the snow seemed inviting, the fireplace cozy, and coffee comforting. I have begun to feel a connection to this land. It breaks you down, but then builds you back up. It's healing. Whether we stay here just our three year tour or longer, this place will always have a very special place in my heart.