A wee tribute to a few asshole mothers

I have been asked by several friends to post photos of my pregnant self. I am currently 7 months along and have the sex appeal of a giant sea lion. Most of them are non-mothers and don’t understand that’s a taboo request. There is a reason Moms stop posting photos of themselves and resort to babies only. Contrary to popular belief it is not because we think our kids are now the center of the universe; it is because we look like shit and would rather fall in a pit of spikes than be seen in public. Baby pics are merely cute diversions from the harsh truth.

Just when you thought Easter was about bunnies, I give you Easter Jabba the Hutt. I wish the cute kid on my lap balanced it out.

Just when you thought Easter was about bunnies, I give you Easter Jabba the Hutt.

My husband and I happen to make huge babies that I carry like a two tonne truck and with the grace of a donkey. My belly is enormous; but pregnancy is an equal opportunity offender for me and makes its way to my face, arms, fingers, ass and chin. I am also borderline for gestational diabetes. In simple terms, when I get pregnant, my body stops absorbing nutrients properly and tries to compensate via quantity. So, despite eating the equivalent of a mid-sized zoo and putting on 40 pounds in 7 months, I rarely feel full, have the energy of an elderly sloth and the aptitude of Sarah Palin. I need a nap after a Skype call and am tempted to submit nursery rhymes instead of reports on organized crime in Africa.

I know, I really do, that pregnancy and motherhood are miracles. Anybody privileged enough to do it should be tarred and feathered for complaining – just ask someone struggling with fertility. I am beyond blessed to be able to conceive and carry my children in good health, with first-rate medical care and a spectacularly supportive husband to boot. But in the spirit of the ‘real’ movement and 3rd trimester hormones – sometimes it sucks balls.

Moms me 1Much has been said about motherhood, including calls to buck the pressure to be perfect and learn to appreciate the scars and stretch marks as tokens of a most meaningful journey. I love my kid and kid-to-be, but that doesn’t stop me from hating my butt for falling down my legs or the fact that I recently forgot my shoes at a friend’s house and walked barefoot across a driveway of loose stones without noticing something was amiss. Nor does it make me less nervous about the compounded effects having 2 kids in 2 years will have on my body, career and life. I don’t suffer from delusions of grandeur – I was never a swimsuit model or a budding Hemingway, but it is not just my vanity that misses my body and my brain. Some of my most sincere fears involve losing myself in the shuffle or failing to balance the growing list of important things.

Adding insult to injury, this is certainly not true for everyone.  Many women love pregnancy. In fact, I happen to be surrounded by a bunch of bitches that glow in both pregnancy and motherhood. Typically, I find great strength and purpose in being to close to awesomeness. But in this case, if I didn’t love them so much I would voodoo some extra chins on their over-achieving asses.

Some proof:

My Mom, 2 months after her 4th kid. She "flew through pregnancy and had easy births". I didn't those genes.

 My Mom, 2 months after her 4th kid. She “flew through pregnancy and had easy births”. Needless to say, I didn’t get those genes.

Moms Chloe an Anaise

My sister-in-law Chloe (doctor) 4 months after having Gisele. The J-Lo look-alike on the right? Anaise, also a working Mom (EY transaction advisor, whatevs). I owe it to the women of the world to line the shores with shark bait next time these 2 go to the beach.

Moms Tuesday

Tuesday – besides the spectacular T’s & A and striking children, worked as a UN consultant and completed her MBA during pregnancy. She returned to class (and got straight As) 2 days after giving birth. I owe her a report but am writing this blog instead.

Moms Tove

Tove, the toughest and coolest person I know, back to pre-pregnancy weight and frolicking in the snow 3 months after the hardest birth I have ever heard of.

Moms Lerato

Lerato – this is definitely what I looked like as the first time mother of a 2 month old. Anyone who disagrees with me is wrong.

Trish traveling through Europe with a piece of cake 7 month old. She also produced so much milk, she didn't know what to do with it all. Hmmmph. Trish traveling through 4 European countries with a ‘piece of cake’ 7 month old. She also produced so much milk she didn’t know what to do with it all. Hmmmph

Moms carmi

Carmi’s daughter once said “Mom, your belly looks like a man’s” (ripped 6 pack). She was insulted, I’m mad jealous. And forever wearing tents to pool parties.

Moms kelly

This picture doesn’t do her justice. But 3rd place in a half marathon and carrying your 6 month old (3rd child) to the medal ceremony? Yep, that’s my BFF Kelly.

Moms Wani

Wani, believe it or not, gained almost as much weight as I did. Here she is 6 months after child #2,  in such high demand as a TV Director she works when she wants.

Moms Julia

Julia, Yale MBA and working mother of 3 kids under the age of 4, lost her own Mom at age 7 and more recently her 2 closest aunts. I love and admire her for many reasons, including her willingness to be vulnerable, ask for help and admit her fears about f*#king it all up.

In all seriousness, it is not that serious. I am sincerely grateful to be on this journey and so stupidly blessed to be surrounded by friends and mentors to share it with. I hope that all my trivial woes will melt away with a bit of time and hard work. Even more so I pray they are not replaced with something real. Regardless, I will do my best to handle what comes with wisdom and grace.

And for those looking to appease me with lies about looking good, please don’t. I have already lost my cheekbones and knees, don’t steal my sense of humour too.

The Extraordinary Kind of Ordinary – A wee ode to my sister

Blythe hall of fame“Of two sisters one is always the watcher, one the dancer.” ― Louise Glück

Name: Blythe Hartley
Age: Dirty Thirty (+1)
Hometown: Calgary, AB
Occupation: HR Advisor, ARC Resource
Education: BA Communications and Business, University of Southern California
Relationship Status: Single, but if you even think of stepping, you have to pass me first
Hobbies: Hip hop dance every Tuesday

My sister. Lucky girl. She loved it. When I was 16 and bored I decided to abandon my own perfectly good bedroom and move into hers. Our one alarm clock was on her side of the room. She had to wake up earlier than me and would re-set it so that I would not sleep through class. Invariably, everyday she had to run back up the stairs to turn it off while I stayed under the covers like a hibernating bear, too lazy to get up. Amazingly, if you let any noise go on long enough, it can start to sound good.

198932_5367085411_7282_nBlythe is the only person that I remember being born (including my daughter, but that’s selective memory).  I was 3, got to wear my brand new pink track suit and go on a field trip with my brothers. I don’t remember bringing her home and the next couple years are a blur, but the significance of that day was unmistakable. It remains one of my earliest memories.

This weekend, my little sister was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame. The next day, she ran a half marathon (just for fun in 1:39) with a group of 40 people who fundraised over $8,000 for a charity in our brother’s name.

blythe6I know very little about what the Hall of Fame said about her. Getting her to talk about herself is like pulling teeth. She is frustratingly self-deprecating. I speculate they honoured her 12 years on the Canadian National Diving Team, 25 National Titles, 2 World Champion Titles,1 World Record, 5 Commonwealth medals, Olympic medal, 5 NCAA Titles, Pan American, Goodwill and World Cup medals. Something like that.

It goes without saying that Blythe is one of the highest achievers I have ever known. Growing up, she was better than me at absolutely everything. She remains the most gifted athlete I have ever met, I am certain she could have gone to the Olympics in any sport. By 6 she had dozens of swimming records. Her elementary school high jump and track records still stand. Her report cards sparkled. Teachers loved her, she was popular and made good choices. At 12 she appeared on the cover of the Vancouver Sun under the title “So Good, So Young”.  She had set a record as the youngest person to ever win a medal at the Senior National level. I cut it out and put it in my diary to remind myself I had the same genes.

Strachan's wedding in 2007, 6 weeks before we lost him

Strachan’s wedding 6 weeks before we lost him

She retired in 2008 after her third Olympics. 2007 was brutal for the Hartleys.  We lost Strachan in July after an all-consuming 21 month battle with cancer. It was exhausting and devastating. We were each left wasted to the full extent of the word. We lost one of our limbs. It took me at least a year to pick myself up and begin to limp forward. It happened only because day after day the sun continued to rise, regardless of how I felt. Eventually, I had no choice but to put one foot in front of the other.

blythe2That Blythe found fresh motivation through her loss made for a great media vignette and pulled on a lot of heart strings. But that says nothing of how hard it was. She once had to sprint to the bathroom to vomit after opening her closet and seeing Strachan’s sweatshirt. Another time, she drove all the way to the pool only to sit crying in the parking lot before heading home. While a whole lot of sympathetic friends and colleagues accepted that I could only half ass my way through life until I was good and ready, Blythe rose up and committed herself to an endeavour that demanded her absolute best. In the public eye, wearing a bathing suit on high definition television.

She went on to have a career best season, including a 4th place finish in her final Olympics. We watched in the stands with baited breath, 4th can be the toughest place. We released a collective sigh of relief and cheered our asses off when we saw her huge, genuine, beaming smile.

Auntie Blythee

Auntie Blythee

She later told me that the key to that year was to stop caring altogether.  She was competing for herself, her family and teammates. The only measure for achievement was whether she did her very best. She did. She gave her career best performance. That 3 people had even better days or that her scores would have medalled at any other Olympics in history had no bearing. It is every woman’s unattainable dream – to stop caring what others think and start using the right barometers for success, peace and happiness. Chalk it up to yet another impossible feat that Blythe has achieved.

She has since retired gracefully from sport and transitioned seamlessly into civilian life. Needless to say, she continues to excel. The last time I visited her office, her Vice President was so enthused about her that he high-fived me. She surrounds herself with outstanding friends, has chili cook-offs, plays flag football and finds pleasure in simple things. Her priorities are in tact, she is unpretentious and refreshingly humble.  Most importantly for me, she has the best laugh, sits on my feet when they are cold and I am always at home in her company.

Such an honourable maid

Such an honourable maid

Watching someone grow up from the beginning is the most remarkable journey.  Since my earliest memories, I have watched Blythe in angst and in wonder. I still do. I have worried about every risk, wished I could protect her from every hurt and beamed with pride at every reward.  I apologize if you have barfed in your mouth while reading this, but knowing that the very person I have watched grow up since birth is the one who has lived the best life helps me believe that I matter.

So Blythe, before you fly across the world to kick my ass for writing this, know that nothing has made me more proud than the person you have become. Congratulations on the Hall of Fame; they have great taste.

Blythe1 blythe3