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what happened to me

This morning as I stood in front of the mirror, I wiped yesterday’s mascara from beneath my eyes and covered my unbrushed hair with a hat. I had just squeezed into a pair of the only exercise pants that fit me right now, and found the loosest fitting shirt I could pull from my closet.

My husband walked past and I said, “Have you ever looked in the mirror and just thought, What happened to me?

“All the time,” he responded. My husband, almost 7 years older than I am, is always forewarning me about the phases of your 30s.

As I pulled on my shoes and packed the water bottles, ordering my kids into the car (three times), and driving to the park, I felt quite a bit of pity for myself. I just kept thinking, what happened to me?

My face doesn’t look like the face my husband married. It sports dark spots, cheekbones more hidden by eh, padding we’ll call it, and often times a look mixed of worry, stress, and overwhelm. My body is finding it’s way through it’s third postpartum transition, and we’ll just say that everything hasn’t found it’s way back to where it belongs quite yet. My hair shows signs of a mom who once went to the salon and got highlights, a long time ago. My spirit, not crushed, but definitely more worn than ever before. And my brain, I don’t even know. We’ll just say I lose my car in parking lots more than I’d like to admit.

What on earth happened to me?

As I wallowed in my pity party, I drove my mini-van to the park. I met a group of moms there for a workout that I did not want to do. But hey, I’m trying to guide my body to a state that feels less like jelly.

There, I met other moms. Moms with babies, moms with older children, moms whose husbands are deployed, moms who I personally know who have been through some heavy stuff. And as we exercised together, we watched over our children with hawk like eyes. We interrupted ourselves to run to their aid, and this part of we ended up using her youngest as a weight (we’ll call this the “fussy baby modification”).

I left feeling less pity and more empowerment. Watching moms from all walks of life, living in different circumstances, with different stories, come together to strengthen ourselves, I felt strong and capable, less beat down.

And as I drove home, I replayed in my head what happened to me.

What happened was…

I have created three human beings. I have grown their life inside of my body, and then labored through hours of pain to bring them into this world.

I have spent more hours since then worrying over them then I’ve spent worrying about myself in my entire life. I have agonized over parental decisions, cried when I feel like I’ve failed them, and celebrated with them through every milestone we’ve reached together.

I have lost my mother to suicide. I have spent an entire night standing in the street staring at yellow tape, watched them carry her away, and then looked up at the sky and declared to myself that it wouldn’t change me. Then, I have watched it change me, almost as if I am a spectator watching through a television, with no control over the outcome.

I have sat in my car outside my mother’s house, recalling the time she told me about cleaning her mother’s apartment after she took her own life. I have taken a deep breath and told myself, “You can do this”, before entering to do the same in my mother’s house.

I have pulled myself out of bed feeling like I fought a battle against nightmares the night before, put a smile (or let’s be real, drank coffee and then put a smile) on my face and made my children’s breakfast so they never know the difference.

I have had an emergency appendectomy while pregnant with my surprise third baby, healed and carried on with work, homeschooling, driving kids to activities and putting dinner on the table.

I have walked through those three pregnancies, postpartum recoveries, losses and transitions in our family without ever taking a maternity leave or more than a week off of work because my family needs my full-time income.

And today, after all of that, I drove myself to that park in an effort to work this body back into a strong, healthy body that can serve my family and be happy, because I set the tone for them.

And I have felt joy, so much joy.

I have nursed three babies and watched them grow. I have worked so hard to get those first baby giggles that my face hurts, and probably earned myself a few future wrinkles.

I have read books, so many books. I have read some of their favorite books so many times that they are permanently engrained into my mind.

I have tucked kids into bed, time and time again (sometimes that again applies to the same night). I have made pancakes more times than I ever imagined I would in life, especially considering I don’t even like pancakes. I have cheered like a crazy person on the side of a soccer field.

I have hosted epic pajama dance parties in my living room, done the same 30 piece puzzles 100 times, built and crushed block towers like a boss, and tricked my kids into eating more vegetables than they’ll ever know.

I have loved every single minute of it.

So when I look back on the past several years, and all that’s happened to me, I realize that what happened is that I’ve become a woman. And women, we are strong. We can do amazingly hard things. We do hard things every single day and we don’t even realize it, until we look into the mirror and wonder, “What happened to me?”

So I don’t know what your story is. I’m sure it’s not exactly like mine. It may be harder, more riddled with trials. It may be sunnier, less loss. It may be somewhere in between. I don’t know your story, but I do know this:

We are different than we were. We are better. We have more compassion, more humility, we give more grace because we’ve learned how much we need it ourselves. We are not victims. We’ve developed a balance of moxie (grit and grace) to navigate this world we live in. We are strong enough to do squats while holding a baby, and walk through any trial placed in our path.

These extra pounds, scars, and stretch marks we’ve collected along the way, that’s where the true beauty lies. They show that we’re living, and doing, and sometimes fighting through another day.

And that, my friend, is beautiful.

So the next time you look into the mirror and think, “What happened to me?” Answer yourself with this: Oh yeah, I became a woman who can conquer hard things, and I’m pretty darn awesome.”

(Replace darn with whatever word makes you feel good. But guys, my grandma reads this. Hi Nanie!)

Share your story about what has shaped you into the woman you are today. You can share on social media, tag me on IG @_jessicalebrun or FB @onmoxieandmotherhood. Or, email me if you want to discuss the possibility to guest post and share your story of trials and triumph here on the blog.

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