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by Karlisa Cryer

You think, there is no way I can move on from this. I will never recover. I will never be the same. No, you won’t be the same. Life, it turns out, is a series of deaths, and, thankfully, rebirths. If you thought you knew me then, you are not alone. I thought I knew me too.” -- Gabrielle Union

I was about six weeks postpartum when I walked through the outdoor mall with my husband and our sons. As we passed the J. Crew window, I could see my reflection in the glass. I had gone from having a scrumptious hour-glass figure to having a brand new, round body shape. My stomach was protruding over my leggings, my hips were much wider than usual, and my breasts looked as if they were about to pop from being engorged with milk. Before I could analyze another inch of my new body, my eight-week-old snapped me out of it as he began to cry, so I picked him up from the stroller and endearingly placed him over my shoulder.

When my husband decided to go into Banana Republic, I told him I would keep Alonzo, our youngest son, and that he could take Kaiden, our toddler. That’s our main conversation these days as we juggle two children. Every time we arrive at any location with both boys, we move into 1:1 defense and the question between us is, “Who ya got?”

Once we settled who had what kid, I found a rocking chair outside the store and began to cuddle and rock Alonzo to sleep as a cool, yet humid breeze grazed my face. After a while, a woman passed me, and we locked eyes. I could see her cheekbones rise as she smiled underneath her mask. “What a pretty baby, Mama,” she said. “Thank You!” I replied, beaming with pride.

Another lady walked past me pushing a toddler in a stroller. As she approached, she came over, smiling. “See, that’s a sweet age,” she laughed. Then she pointed to her own baby, who looked to be around two. “When they get to be this age, they are too busy.” Little did she know, I also had a toddler, so I could completely relate.

Alonzo fell asleep, and I began to think about my body again, this time reflecting on the miracle it had performed six weeks prior. I birthed a seven-pound baby, with no epidural, might I add. Amazing, right!?!? The nurses at the hospital treated me like I was a superwoman! “You were such a trooper,” one cheered as she wheelchaired me to the recovery room. I felt so happy and blessed to have given birth to another healthy baby boy. In the moments following my delivery, I had zero thoughts about weight loss, missing out on work, or any other pressures that women feel during postpartum. In fact, I felt like I was deserving of a victory meal to celebrate! And of course my honey obliged. Barbecue was the winning meal of choice, from one of our favorite restaurants. But that wasn't enough for my victory meal. To top it off, my husband and I added slices of caramel and strawberry cake. Now, we are winning!

This new postpartum body deserved all of that. But as many of you know, thoughts of our body frame aren't the only thing that consumes you after having the baby. The next thought was how do I jump back in, head first, with my work?

At seven months pregnant with Alonzo, I was blessed to start a new job. Two months into my new role, I went on maternity leave. As a new hire, I didn’t have the luxury of taking more than two months off. I returned to work, although working from home, and I felt completely in over my head. This was my first tech gig, and the meetings started pouring in, followed quickly by deadlines and deliverables. Even though I was told it would take a full year to be confident in my contributions, I didn’t have a full year before I was expected to know things that I was still seeking to understand myself. Not to mention, as much as I wanted to schedule morning yoga, followed by breakfast and a shower, I realized I was on borrowed time from my at home colleague - Alonzo, the eight-week old. Now, I suddenly had two jobs on my plate: to excel in my new tech position and to make sure I was as present as possible with the newest addition to our family. I've gotten back in my groove at work, I have established somewhat of a routine at home with my family, and now I am on a pursuit to be healthy, which doesn't mean having the body I used to have.

This week, I had plans to eat better. Then, I realized I hadn’t gone to the grocery store or prepared any meals. Just when I thought I was going to attempt to eat well, my husband called to see if I wanted food, and just like that, he unintentionally swayed my healthy decisions. As I fixed my mouth to say I wanted a salad, he interrupted me and said he was at Dixie Queen - my favorite burger spot, of all places. I quickly gave in and asked him to order me a burger and fries. Give me a break, I haven't had time to build up my willpower muscle yet. To be honest, it was convenient, and I had no other options to choose from because, as I said before, I didn’t prepare not one meal for this week. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Everybody has been telling me to give myself grace. But what is grace?

I recently finished reading Gabrielle Union’s book, Got Anything Stronger? It was a really good read, and one of my favorite chapters is called “Fuck Balance.” [Sorry to my seasoned readers. Yes, I know better, shame on me. Carry on...] She basically describes balance as the recipe that haunts all women and tells us that we are failing at everything because we are trying to juggle marriage, motherhood, careers, and fitness. Can anyone relate? Union decided to ask for grace from her family during times of transition. “Grace, it turns out, is more doable than balance.” Union describes grace as, “that combination of love and mercy that we all give, yet are trained to think we don’t deserve.”

It turns out that grace is the gift I didn’t even know I needed and it has been the best gift to give, at the same time. To me, giving myself grace means the following:

TECH MOM IN THE MAKING I always said that when I became a mother, I would not have “tablet children” - kids glued to a laptop or tablet screen out in public. Then, I had kids. Well, allow me to reintroduce myself. I am the woman who now keeps her kids occupied on different kids programs, WAIT FOR IT... on their tablets! I AM HER. SHE IS ME. HERE I AM. ARMS OUTSTRETCHED. CoComelon and Sesame Street have saved me during scheduled doctor appointments and long car drives, and I am grateful, to say the least.

HEALED FROM THE BOUNCE BACK Giving myself grace with my new mama body means not subscribing to the snap-back culture that encourages women to quickly bounce back to their pre-baby weight after giving birth. A few weeks after I had delivered my son, one of my male relatives came by the house and jokingly mentioned that it was time for me to start back working out. “NO,” I said, correctively. “Now is the time for me to heal.” My first goal is to physically heal and then ease into a workout routine that suits me. I am not comparing my body to any other woman, rather, I want to be the best version of myself. With Easter past us, and Mother’s Day upon us, I will focus on eating healthier after the holidays. No need to start a healthy meal plan before either of those.

NOT WRONG, JUST NEW I saw a social media post the other day that gave me peace. It read, “I’m not doing something wrong. I’m doing something new.” Giving myself grace in a new professional role means I won’t be afraid to ask questions or make mistakes or just be new. Making mistakes is a part of growth and learning and I can’t reach my goals without them.

I am a mom of two now, and that means sharing my love. I want both of my children to feel the unconditional love I will always have for them.

I used to keep the cleanest house, because a clean home is a garden of Zen for me. In my current world, if I can’t achieve it as often as I used to, it’s really okay. My time is torn between a husband, a toddler, and a newborn baby. A few chicken tenders on the kitchen floor and a trail of alphabet flash cards in the hallway are my new normal, and I am learning to go with the flow.

I am giving myself grace in all areas of life, and I am moving along at my own pace.

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