This post was originally published in May 2018.
It seems like no matter which way I turn right now, I’m bumping into messages about the importance of framing our thoughts in a positive way. Apparently, this is something that I’m supposed to be working on right now.
One of the messages that recently stuck with me was at the 2018 Bloom event, put on by Rochester Mom. Allison Loftus of Flourish Counseling gave a wonderful, honest seminar. She spoke about our internal monologues and how often the messages we tell ourselves are downright mean and destructive. She showed us how reframing negative statements–that we so often use to beat ourselves up–into positive ones can have a profound impact on the way that we see ourselves.
A couple of weeks later, I read an article in Runner’s World that dealt with the same topic. In this article, champion marathoner Deena Kastor describes how changing the negative thoughts she frequently repeated to herself changed not only her workouts but her outlook on life. Give it a quick read. It’s great! Kastor discusses her journey in discovering how the body aligns with the mind. Replacing the frequent thoughts of cold, hard, and tired during her training runs with challenging, tough, and adapting, filled her with “greater strength and purpose.” As she continued to experiment with conscious, positive word choice in her life, she saw changes happen across the board.
I had my third baby in September 2017, and it was also my third c-section. Each c-section was a very different experience, but this one was by far the most difficult. I had some complications, the recovery was significantly longer and more difficult, and the scar this time was a lot uglier. While my sweet baby boy is healthy and happy, the messages flying around in my head definitely did not line up with this good outcome. I was angry that the c-section this time did not go at all as I had hoped or planned. I was angry at the strength and energy the surgery “stole” from me, which I desperately needed to care for my 3 boys. I felt exhausted, weak, and was constantly frustrated and impatient with the healing process. I was mad at my body for not “bouncing back” like I thought it should. I felt like there was no possible way I would ever recover to the point that I hoped I would. These thoughts impacted my outlook on everything. Word and phrases like weak, tired, angry, never going to be the same, failure, and gross took center stage in my thoughts. And guess what? These phrases turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts.
Slowly, I began to realize what a pit I had fallen into, and made a choice to change. A daily, conscious CHOICE to change my thinking on these things. Yes, mistakes were made during my c-section, and this definitely impacted me negatively. BUT, I have a strong body that has done an amazing job of healing itself. Yes, my body may never look exactly the same, but three chubby, happy babies were grown in it and fed from it. And that is a miracle. Yes, I have scars, but they (and my body) are NOT gross. Those scars are the door through which 3 amazing people entered this world. Yes, my recovery has been slow and my body did not “bounce” back. But my body is HEALTHY and STRONG, and it is healing itself in its own sweet time. I am NOT a failure. I am making progress, slowly but surely. I will work with my body, giving it what it needs and encouraging it along, and not against it, as though it is somehow the enemy. Those negative words are slowly being replaced with new ones: strong, healthy, determined, and work-in-progress.
And sure enough, my outlook and body are starting to line up with my cleaned-up mind. At 8 months postpartum, I’m slowly and carefully getting back into running, which helps my body and my mind. I found out that I have diastasis recti and am working to repair my separated abdominal muscles. I don’t avoid mirrors anymore. I no longer feel angry and damaged when I look at my scar. I’m being kinder to my body and being smarter about giving it the food, exercise, and rest that it needs. I’m slowly working on rebuilding muscles and strength. I still struggle with sky-high expectations, but I’m more easily able to push them aside and call them out for being unreasonable. If I never wear those pants again, it’s going to be ok. They’re just pants. They make more! I’m choosing to refuse to ridicule my body over a stupid pair of pants (or any other arbitrary measure of “successful recovery”) after all it’s been through: growing 3 humans, enduring 3 major abdominal surgeries, and healing from each of them.
As I write this, my immediate thought is to write some kind of disqualifier here: “I’m no expert on this subject” or something of that nature. But instead, I’m going to write: I’m a work in progress, just like each of you. We all beat ourselves up regularly with negative thoughts. My hope is that we can be more aware of the messages we are telling ourselves, and make a choice each day to change our inner monologue to something positive. It’s not going to happen overnight, or like magic. It will take a lot of practice. But just like the adage we so often tell our kids, “You can do anything you set your mind to,” we can do this too. We literally will be what we make up our minds to be.