To the woman who wants to become a mother more than anything and was joyfully pregnant with twins after her 5th IVF treatment and just listened, paralyzed, as her doctor confirmed she’s having another miscarriage.
BREATHE. Just get through today.
Sometimes I forget who I am.
This forgetting is like an open trap door in the floor of a gorgeous, cheery, naturally lit home that I slip through when I get careless.
Careless with my thoughts.
Careless with my people.
Careless with my goals.
Careless with my self-care.
Careless with my sovereignty.
When I forget who I am, then I forget what I need to care about.
I forget what I’m capable of, along with the types of thoughts, people, and practices I am dedicated to in the quest to always be MORE myself. (NOT more other people’s expectations of me.)
It’s like an abrupt emotional crash followed by a hit of searing pain before I land with a familiar THUD on the cold basement cement and look around, startled.
“What the . . .AGAIN? REALLY!?” I silently scream to myself. Judging the fall and stomping to my feet.
My basement is filled with creepy crawly things created to scare me into believing I’m not _____________.
“You’re not enough.”
“You’re not worthy.”
“You’re not good.”
And the most sneaky: “You are responsible.”
Luckily I’ve been flexing this muscle of mental and emotional resilience since I was 18 and I walked into my first therapist’s office. Since that moment I’ve racked up thousands of hours and dollars in people, certifications, programs, mentors, practices and books to move me from painful basements back home. Back to myself. Back to my most empowered place. The place from which I affect the most change in my life and the lives of my people - my partner, my girls’, my family and friends, my clients and tribe.
The silver lining of racking up frequent flier miles in one’s own personal hell of a mental basement - is a mere bad day or negative thought no longer holds power over me. I am less afraid. Less anxious. Less panicked. Less likely to lose myself in the dark and more likely to find the dangling chain and snap the light back on.
I am an expert at turning on lights when I accidentally find myself in dimly lit spaces.
And what I’ve found there in my brightly lit basement? None of my fears are real. No one is my enemy. I’m more than okay, and I’ve simply forgotten who I am.
I am enough.
I am worthy.
I am good.
And I never have been and never will be responsible for the mental and emotional well-being of anyone but myself.
I switch on that light, take a deep breath and ground into the present moment.
I am no longer available for the fears, limiting beliefs and projections of my childhood.
I am responsible for my own thoughts, beliefs, actions and projections.
And so onward I adventure.
Back to the staircare.
Up and up.
Popping out the trap door, dusting myself off and taking a moment to focus inward. To anchor into my heart. My power source.
“Silly, G,” I laugh to myself. “You forgot how powerful you are again! Oops.”
I resist the urge to give the fall any context.
I resist the temptation to make it MEAN something.
I allow my human-ness to exist without the judgment of it.
I take my power back as I remember who I am.
And then I’m back. Back in my own lane. Creating my life with every thought, belief and action to reflect on the outside exactly what I’ve made true on the inside.
And when I ask myself what feels true from that empowered place?
I remember I got this.
I call my dad “Papi” or “Pa,” which I swapped out for “Papa” somewhere in my twenties when I decided Papi was significantly less embarrassing to say in public. He is a handsome Colombian man with a thick accent, which my husband can still barely understand, and he appears much younger than his actual age (which I shall not disclose, lest he is horrified). Whoever coined the term “YOLO” was most definitely watching my dad at a tango festival one night working the room, if you know what I mean.
He and my mother (“mama”) divorced when I was 20ish and I think most people breathed a huge sigh of relief for both of them. My childhood was quite charming with pockets of minimal trauma and our family’s sad unraveling in my late teenage years is a long story for another day.
This weekend, Papi was sitting on my couch and laughing as our Maya, who turns 2 next week, pranced around in her standard uniform of a diaper, no clothes and some pirate tats, working the room for a laugh and some snacks, as the hubs and I rolled our eyes.
“It goes so so fast, you know,” pa said to us for what must only be the 976th time since we became parents.
“I remember you like this, running around in a diaper and then I’m here and it’s as if the time in between never happened. It’s incredible how fast it goes and soon she’ll be 12 years old running out the door.”
This is pretty standard wistful storytelling from papa. But this time he added a story that hurt my heart a little:
“You just have to try to be so patient and try to enjoy every single second, because if not, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. . . I remember your brother, Thomas, like it was yesterday. He was 1 or 2 years old and we were on a car trip, and he was hysterical, screaming for his milk. I lost my temper, pulled the van over, grabbed the bottle of milk and shoved it in his mouth. I can still see his eyes - he was so shocked. He wanted the milk, but I had just shoved the bottle in his mouth, and so of course then he started to cry. I replay it in my mind almost every time I think about him and I ask myself, ‘Why? Why did I do that? Why did I have to lose my temper like that?’ ”
There were tears in his eyes, and I could see how traumatic this memory was for him. This very classic human moment as a parent driving a minivan of screaming kids and losing it had somehow been burned into his mind for 30 years as an unforgivable mistake. To add a layer of pain to it all, Thomas died 11 years ago.
“Papi, you’ve been carrying that guilt around for a long time. Don’t you think it’s time to forgive yourself?” I asked him gently.
I then reflected to him something I had never quite articulated for myself. I told him that I have a few similar memories of him losing his temper with me, but the memory is a 3-part slideshow.
Part 1: He turns around in the minivan and is about to yell, but doesn’t even have to because I know he’s super mad.
Part 2: A tide of emotion rises up and I burst into tears because it was pretty hard to make my dad that mad and I feel a combo of little girl shock and shame.
Part 3: Some time passes, and Papa very humbly and sincerely apologizes for his reaction and all is well.
My dad gave me one of the greatest gifts. He taught me that adults sometimes mess up, too. And that the memory doesn’t have to end there. My father’s humble choice to apologize (not for disciplining me, but for a level of discipline that felt inauthentic for him) gave me the example of what authentic parenting would look like for me. I apologize to my girls all the time and release the tide of big girl shame and guilt that rises each time I act out of alignment with my highest self. I forgive myself and heal the episode with love all around. We all feel it every time. (I mean, it just happened again last night at bedtime, for God’s sake.)
Ironically, Papi said he could NEVER remember his mother losing her temper (nor needing to apologize) and for that reason, he felt justified in the guilt. Which as you can imagine, has served ZERO purpose for the past 30 years except to cause him unnecessary pain, even after my brother’s death.
We teared up a little and I shared how I can’t imagine any human (including my daughters) going through life making zero choices they don’t have a tiny bit of regret about, and so I want to teach my girls to move through that instead of stockpile it for years of self-loathing and suffering in a futile attempt to live up to a standard that isn’t real for them. We talked about the power of self-forgiveness and how helpful his example of doing the hard thing and apologizing has been for me as an adult who has to apologize to somebody for something on the damn daily.
To truly heal ourselves, we must feel the things we defensively push down.
To truly forgive ourselves, we must look around and recognize we are ALL deserving of forgiveness.
To move through regrets, there’s usually some form of making amends.
I’m sharing this with you today, because maybe you have something you need to forgive yourself for, too.
Maybe you are stockpiling your guilt to compensate for not living up to someone else’s standards.
And I want to remind you that in this tribe, we do real. We do messy. We make mistakes and we talk about them and heal them. We’re setting an example for the next generation of a real human, fighting the good fight, working on herself, every day, choice to choice, minivan crisis to minivan meltdown.
In your corner always,
I was blissfully ignorant on what to expect when my son arrived- I had always been a control freak, effortlessly sliding into the many new changes that had occurred during the few years prior to us getting pregnant. Obviously I could handle a baby, no problem (LOL). My delivery was pretty quick - my water broke around 3am and after a failed epidural and some intense back labor, Thomas was vacuumed out and arrived at 11:17am on 11.5.16. The first few days at home were okay - then began the emotional roller coaster. My postpartum was VERY up and down. I had a good amount of happy moments sprinkled into my days, which is the argument I used against myself to "show" I wasn't truly suffering.
Looking back at my behavior, I can now see where I began sinking deeper into PPD. For instance, the immense sense of dread and loneliness I'd feel around 4pm when the sun would go down. The walks I would take by myself (even if it was raining) to escape my growing suffocation. I was having insomnia and became OBSESSED with sleep; it was all I could talk and think about. I started taking melatonin and drinking endless cups of "sleepy time" teas to knock me out. Nothing worked. Most days I had a painful, heavy knot in my stomach. I was losing weight and having anxiety attacks. I was becoming scared of going to stores, changing diapers and taking showers.
I think I cried for 72 hours straight when I finally called the emergency line for my OBGYN. It was a Sunday night around 11pm- luckily the doctor who delivered my son was on call and told me to come in the next morning.
I started Zoloft and began therapy shortly after. My husband had to take a week off of work to stay home with me while I adjusted to the medication and calmed my frazzled nerves. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, anxiety and an adjustment disorder. I struggled for a while accepting that I needed professional help. It made me feel weak and unfit to be someone's mother.
I'm so happy I pushed through and committed to getting better. While it still hurts to look back and remember what I was feeling during the first few months of my sons life, I'm in a really good place today and have learned a lot about myself!
*Thank you to our brave and real mama from the Mommy Soul Tribe, Lindsay Showmaker, for sharing her diary entry with us here on the blog. To join this honest conversation and countless others over in the free soul tribe, join us HERE. We are always looking for diary entries from members of our tribe on the following topics:
Postpartum Depression, Miscarriage, #MeToo, Rainbow Babies, Choosing to go back to work, Choosing to be a SAHM, Breastfeeding, Pumping, Starting a business, and God knows what else.
If you have a story you are generously willing to share, please email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Look at me. Please.”
She’s only four, and yet I hear myself saying these words to my eldest daughter daily. Imploring and even begging her to see me standing here trying to connect amidst the frustration of a “human moment” where her will and boundary testing is far more powerful than my patience.
In these moments, I find myself in a constant state of “trying.”
Trying to be the right kind of mother for this kind of daughter.
Trying to say the thing that will teach her manners and self-responsibility, but not shame her.
Trying to lead with love and connection over the traditional parenting paradigms valuing control and discipline.
Trying to be the best version of me in moments that are often mirroring back to me my least favorite human traits.
My daughter is excruciatingly sensitive.
So am I.
My daughter is unreasonable (and a bit terrifying) when hungry.
So am I.
My daughter wants love and connection, even when she’s at at the peak of emotional rage.
So do I.
My daughter is cautious and self-aware, making it nearly impossible to force her into something before she’s ready. And when she is, the shift in perception and attitude is swift and palpable.
So I lean heavily on all that self-awareness when I’m asking her to look at me and she won’t. I stare straight into the mirror she holds up when she’s sobbing uncontrollably because I’ve drawn a line in the sand and said it’s this or that, and she can’t have the in-between.
I, personally, love the in-between. I dive into the spaces between two opposing truths and I make myself a nest. Not willing to fall into the trap of believing my life’s choices are black and white or that my thoughts or actions can be good or bad.
I’m not sure she understands there’s an in between at all, but in these moments of parenting, it makes sense to me that my daughter is resistant to staying in the corner I’ve backed her into. If I’m honest, I can see parallels of me behaving the same way yesterday, last week, two decades ago.
So in my BEST mothering moments—the ones when I lead with self-awareness, love and empathy, instead of ultimatums and exhaustion—I get curious, and I ask myself WHY.
Why have I drawn this line in the sand and what does it say about ME that I’m drawing it right now? When did my mood bend from upbeat to beat down and did my daughter have anything to do with it or am I imposing my mood on her will?
And I understand that there really is no right or wrong. And my mother was doing the best she could with the information she had, and so am I. And every encounter can bring us closer together or farther apart, and even if I mess up this moment, I can choose again in 5 minutes and invite her eyes to find mine. And when she’s finally ready to look at me, she’ll see a mama who’s only positive about the following: “I love you. I care. I’m trying. I’m human. I’m learning. Let’s keep doing this together. Forever and always.”
I stumbled upon that quote a couple years ago, and it called. me. out. I wanted to make more money, and it kept slipping through my fingers. I couldn't figure it out! I was thisclose to a sustainable career, but suspected I had some old money beliefs that were blocking me.
Here's how they came up: I JUDGED PEOPLE WITH MONEY. I was totally subconsciously attached to being the person who DIDN'T have money.
"Oh - you took a vacation to Ibiza?!" (To myself: MUST BE NICE.) "You always look amazing. I love your clothes." (To myself: MUST BE NICE TO SHOP SO MUCH.) "Oh your kid goes to THAT SCHOOL?" (To myself: We will never be able to afford that.)
My identity was so entrenched in being the girl who was NOT rolling in dough, it's a wonder I held onto ANY dollars that year. This is called "scarcity mindset" and it's gross and makes you small and insecure and resentful and whiny, and I highly recommend you "do the work" on these thoughts, if you have them. (Note: I can help you via private coaching.)
"To have what you want in life, you must first give up being the person who doesn't have it."
This subconscious limiting of ourselves does NOT just apply to money, by the way. As moms, we do it with our self-care, freedom, alone time, girl time, you name it. Someone posted in the Mommy Soul Tribe recently about feeling resentment creeping in because her husband was taking a long guys' trip and she "wouldn't be able to take a long vacation without her kids for 20 years."
Have you ever felt this way? I know I was on the brink of this mommy martyrdom 3 years ago, and I'm so grateful I did "the work" around those thoughts. I pushed through the resistance of attending my first women's retreat solo, and that life-changing experience proved to be pivotal in almost every single thing that has followed. Literally...
It would feel ridiculous for a mother with the above belief system to even consider the definite possibility that she could take a girls' trip, because her identity is tied to being the parent who "doesn't have that luxury." Guess what? Once it's a luxury, it feels irresponsible and like something a "respectable" mother would never.
Is this you? Are you accidentally making yourself the person who CAN'T? Consider this an invitation for you to break that old pattern and evolve into the woman who most definitely CAN have it all. Feeling unsure where to start? A coaching+self-care tropical vacay with an intimate group of like-minded mamas would probably do the trick.
Translation: Cut. That. Shit. Out.
Get curious about the things you might be accidentally holding yourself back from only because YOU'VE DECIDED you can't. What might be possible if you started changing your story and creating a well-rounded identity that had you feeling the way you wanted to?
You know what I think now when tribe members who are wealthy AF tell me about their family vacations?
"That sounds effing amazing!" (To myself: Love that I'm surrounded by so many women who are ABUNDANT AF. More permission for me to create what I desire! Can't wait to take our family's perfect-for-us vacay. Maybe we'll go there!)
Can't wait to help you feel abundant AF every damn day.
We don’t waste precious energy conforming to some mythical stereotype. We love being moms and we also love being ourselves...and we know we're not "bad moms" for saying it.
Some of us had rough pregnancies (raises hand) and some struggled with breastfeeding (raises other hand). Most of us were and are deliriously exhausted (and sometimes pissed about it), and we’ve all had moments when we miss our old identities and social life.
We prefer our playdates with wine and we love bedtime, because, wine. We want our marriages to be an adventure, and we know in our hearts that life as we’ve known it does not end because we’ve birthed a child (even if we're still figuring that one out).
We are FUN moms with big, scary dreams of our own. Some of us want to quit our jobs and start our own gigs, and some of us have realized (to our astonishment) that the once-dreaded role of SAHM (that’s stay-at-home-mom, which you’ll learn to abbreviate right quick) is actually OUR DREAM JOB.
Oh, and around these parts, postpartum depression isn’t an embarrassing disease we whisper about in shame. In THIS corner of the internet, we say very matter-of-factly, “I am one of almost 1 million women dealing with postpartum depression, AND I’m an awesome mom.”
One thing we all have in common is that we feel different - really different - than we did before having a baby. We love this mothering gig, but we feel like we lost a piece of ourselves during the transition into it. We believe it’s not “selfish” to WANT THAT PIECE BACK.
This isn’t about parenting advice, because there are approximately 10 billion other corners of the Internet that will help you with that. You won’t learn how to sleep train, potty train, or teach your baby sign language.
(*Cough, Cough* Gervase is a Life Coach for Mamas, NOT a parenting coach.)
We’re here to rediscover ourselves...to redefine and redesign our identity. We talk a lot about the woman behind the mom because we’re ready for holistic happiness. That means happiness as a mom, wife, and woman.
Reclaiming our identity is part of the secret sauce that makes us HAPPY MAMAS. When we’re fully expressed, empowered, fulfilled, and supported by our tribe, we have SO MUCH MORE to give to our families. Don’t believe me? Ask them. Happiness is infectious, and we spread it all around so our kids get some, our partners get some, our friends and family get some, and we still have some left over for ourselves.
(What, happiness and joy for me? mommy? YES.) This creates a magical ripple effect, and we want you to be part of it.
Oh, and we want to FEEL things! . . .Things like FUN, FULFILLED, JOYFUL, PEACEFUL, SEXY & ADVENTUROUS.
We want to feel PROUD of the women we are for our children and AUTHENTIC in whatever that ends up being.
WE ARE ENOUGH.
We figure, if we’re comfortable in our own skin, then maybe our children will be, too. And wouldn’t that just be the best ever world to create for our kids? A world where we lead the way to show them how to grow up empowered, confident, and holistically happy?
By investing in our own happiness we show our children what’s possible, and we do it together with zero judgment, mad love and total bad-assery. If you’ve never felt like you had a corner of the Internet where you belonged, this is it.
Welcome, mama. You belong here.
Get your free Mommy Soul Tribe Welcome Kit HERE.
Something was seriously out of alignment, and I knew it.All the signs were there. My throat started to feel swollen and scratchy. I couldn't focus or complete complex tasks, and the weighted feeling of overwhelm clung to me like a suffocating Eeyore-like cloud. So many moving parts; so little time. Blah, blah, blah.
"Here I am again," I thought. "I'm a mess. I can't get it together. I'm going to F it up. She always has it together." Running the same sob story mix tape of my story-telling days about who I am and what I'm capable of.
"What should I do? Why does this feel so hard? Where is the energy leak?" I asked myself. (Literally. To myself.) And then the answer I heard, "Let it be EASY."
"What feels so hard about this? What would make this NOT SO HARD?" I asked myself next. And then, the TOTALLY OBVIOUS ANSWER right there in front of me. A simple scheduling switch. Pushing something back a few weeks - changing my mental state entirely and affecting the quality of said product not at all.
If it feels like you're pushing a boulder up a mountain, then you probably are. I'd like to invite you to pause. Reconsider your rigid life choices. Find another way up. Perhaps a curvier path with a not-so-steep incline? Or, shit, just skip on down and explore a new destination entirely!
I don't know. Just an idea. From my hard-learned earth lessons to your bursting inbox.
I’m crashing again. Dropping out of the bottom of a wave that feels like it might smash me to pieces.
It’s 9pm and my beautiful, round-cheeked, incredibly perfect 8-week-old has been resisting her bedtime for almost two hours now. Her nursery feels more like a prison to me with every passing minute. I feel claustrophobic within these four walls, hour after hour. Baby is snorting and snuffling like a tiny pink piglet against my chest, having been sick for a week now. She needs me so much, and yet my mind seems unable to focus on HER. I’m five moves ahead in the next scene—the one on my couch. God I want that couch. With my husband. I want whiskey. I want to numb out the groundhog days and stretched-out nights of newborn life with whiskey and TV, and I want it an hour ago.
Naturally, I hate myself for these thoughts. I can smell my own weakness. My ingratitude. Impatience.
Why am I so focused on what I want her to
instead of how fleeting this moment is? I berate myself. From today until forever I will have neither the ability nor right to control her, I think. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?
Even though I know I can’t control my newborn or her sleep or my thoughts about the situation in this moment, I try to anyway.
I try to coach myself through it.
“What is the end result you are trying so hard to control right now?”
Her sleep schedule.
“Do you actually have control over this?”
“What can you focus on that you DO have control over?”
I try focusing on my breath for a change. It seems like the obvious choice. It is steady. I focus on my love for this child. It is fierce. Solid. Anchor deep. I ground in this moment long enough to notice how much easier it is now than it was just four short weeks ago when I felt the crushing isolation of newborn life. When breastfeeding still felt like cruel and unnatural painful torture. When instead of four or five hour stretches of sleep, I had to be content with two or three. And still . . .
It’s not enough in that moment. I cannot be still. Gratitude feels forced and shallow. It doesn’t feel real for me right NOW.
And then, shit. I’m falling again. Back under that wave and drowning under the weight of my thoughts—my own toxic thoughts. I would do anything to rid myself of these merciless postpartum thoughts.
I dream of weightlessness. Selfish, self-satisfying freedom. Joy. Where is my joy? I am a joyful person. Shiny and happy. Where am I?
What is happening to me?
Postpartum thoughts are not like ordinary thoughts. Under no circumstances may they be trusted. They are unforgiving and rash. Anxious and irrational.
A woman postpartum is adjusting to imbalanced hormones that can take up to a year to right themselves. Our sanity’s delicate reliance on 8 hours of sleep, moderate exercise, sunlight, self-care and healthy diet is reliably disrupted by a newborn’s needs. I don’t have the solution to this. I can’t figure out a way to realistically balance all these things with the demands of a new baby and a toddler. At least not right now. Not yet.
I find myself trying to relentlessly, anyway.
Suddenly, the breath of the tiny body on my chest slows. Deeper inhales; longer exhales. The weight of her warm, soft body sinks into my chest. I’m suddenly aware of the fact that we’re attached—My heart, her whole body, snuggled in like she was before she joined us earth-side.
I take in the quiet and feel my own blood pressure slow in tandem.
I focus on her breath now. I anchor into it. And then . . .
Oh my God, THIS IS MAGIC. How could I ever NOT want this? Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for sweet silence and this moment. The silencing of her cries silences my own spiraling thoughts, and I’m back. Back to this moment. Back to gratitude and overpowering love.
Yes, YES. This is me. Here I am. I like this me. I'm addicted to this discovering of myself amidst motherhood. To the endless personal challenge of growing bigger than myself and becoming more of who I want to be. Raising tiny humans helps me do this. It plants me firmly in soil that DEMANDS my own personal growth. Demands I be still. Demands I look within. Demands I grow bigger and do better and find the teachable moments. This mothering soil tests me and shows me that yes I can DO this. There is no right or wrong way. There is no perfect or imperfect. There is only THIS. Like a devoted farmer who will not be discouraged by a passing storm, I keep planting the seeds of the kind of woman and mother I have chosen to be. The type of strong and resilient daughters I hope to raise. Sometimes I plant in neat little rows. Sometimes I just throw them out and pray they root.
That same wave that dragged me under is now cresting and I’m riding it, buoyant and gleeful. I CAN HANDLE THIS. I sit in the moment and let it linger. I inhale the intoxicating scent of her milky breath and feel her warm, smooth cheek on mine. God I love her. So much love it hurts. I am so so grateful.
Less than 30 minutes later I’m back on that blessed couch with my partner. I’m more relaxed than I’ve been in weeks. We’re connecting. Laughing. Present.
“This is my favorite moment I’ve had since I can remember,” he tells me.
“Me too,” I whisper. And I mean it. I mean it so so much.
I am so happy. So completely MYSELF on this couch, with the power out post-hurricane and candles burning and everything that felt so utterly upside down and overwhelming just an hour ago is suddenly exactly everything I need and more than I could have asked for. I feel so so lucky and happy and I’m aware that I’m cresting yet another wave. Two in a row?! Hell yes. Here I am. This is me. This is us. We are good. I am good.
And then the lesson hits me like a hurricane. Down one minute and up the next and nothing is wrong or bad. I’m not doing it wrong.
Hard doesn't equal wrong or unworthy or weak. Sometimes hard is just human. Our pain is our greatest teacher, if we spend enough time sitting with it instead of running from it, judging ourselves.
I am that woman in the nursery and I am this person with the whiskey and the candles and the romance. I am too much and just enough and maybe THIS is actually normal? Maybe I’m not the only one?
Maybe I can just accept myself as the perfectly worthy and imperfect woman I already am and keep riding these waves with as much grace, courage, gratitude and love as possible to become more and more of whom I’m meant to be. For my daughters. For the man on the couch. For me.
It’s a few nights later and I’m back in the nursery. I’ve been in the glider for another two hours with the baby. Midway through, husband rushes in to relieve me for a spell but I shake my head and smile a NON-passive aggressive smile.
“I’m good. I’ve got this,” I say.
I am presence, patience and gratitude. No wave riding tonight. We are still. As I feed and rock and snuggle our creation, the love overpowers the overwhelm for a change and I smile recognizing some seeds have taken root.
I am better today than I was yesterday and still holding on for the ride.
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The baby was crying again. Actually, replace crying with shrieking. The baby was alerting us—7 minutes after the last alarm—to the fact that she was in critical pain. Or had to fart. Or wanted to a snack. Or was having trouble falling asleep. I have no idea, actually, why she was shrieking that loud (or how in this blessed world our 3 year old could sleep through it in the next room, THANK YOU, SWEET BABY JESUS), but it was obviously our problem. One of us braced for another round of what was quickly becoming quite literally back-breaking shushing, rocking, holding and swaddling, as my post-pregnancy wrists and back—still trying to rearrange themselves after 9 months of baby-building work—buckled under the weight of my giant 9-pound baby. (I am weak, okay.) My husband and I are pretty diplomatic about alternating shifts during nights like these with our newborn. Or just tapping out when we can sense the other is about to lose it from patiently working through 20 or more prolonged minutes of shrieking. I was rescued from my last such shift. Husband silently crept up behind me in the nightlight-lit nursery like the hero he is and found me forcefully rewrapping our newborn’s swaddle as she wailed. I don’t know how long I had been in there. 30 minutes? An hour? When he touched my shoulder I looked up, a sob catching in my throat, “They say the tighter you wrap it, the more it calms her,” I said, before I fled to my bedroom, feeling like an AWOL soldier deserting my post. I laid in bed pretending to sleep with a pillow over my head, but I could still hear the wails, and the guilt slowly washed over me as the minutes ticked by: 10, 15, 25. I could feel my blood pressure returning to normal just as my husband of six years collapsed into bed beside me. Again. A parenting battle won. For at least another 7 minutes.
It was 2:48am.
“Happy anniversary,” I had whispered then in the dark.
“Happy anniversary, baby,” he had whispered back.
We laid there on our backs, making sure our sides touched, and I reached for his left hand and threaded my fingers through his, as I always did before falling asleep, even just for 7 minutes.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
This is our marriage today—six years after our raucous wedding day and eight years after our first date circling the Festival of Lights, when husband hid two wine glasses in his car’s glove compartment and won me over forever by asking if I wanted red or white.
It is not usually sexy.
It is not always kind.
It is not always patient and lately it only feels warm in the moments we steal late at night with our sides touching and our fingers threaded together.
But it is real and it is solid and it is incredibly committed.
This is real life.
I am tired. He is tired. I miss me. I miss us, and I know he does too.
When the sun rises, it is officially the daylight hours of this six-year anniversary, and it proves to be no more romantic. This six-week growth spurt is going nowhere fast and our normally chill baby is fussy all day.
I gift him two extra hours of sleep. He gifts me two hours toddler-free. I write him a card on notepad paper at 2am that is sweet, if not embarrassingly last-minute. He buys me a card on his toddler shift that day and leaves it, blank, in a plastic bag in the kitchen for a few days.
“We need to get out of this house together ASAP,” I tell him while baby-wearing and chugging my third cup of coffee.
I text the sitter on a whim and ask her if she can come an hour earlier than I initially asked, and she blessedly can.
When she walks in the door at 5pm, we are ready for her. We throw her our baby, tell her the toddler can watch as much TV as she wants, and we BOUNCE. We agree beforehand that the total price tag of this night for shenanigans + sitter will be 100% worth it and we throw caution to the wind like the wild, delirious new parents of two that we have just become.
“We need to celebrate the fact that our marriage has lasted this long,” I tell husband.
The night that follows is perfect—well until I find myself in the hospital, but let’s not rush ahead.
We spend an hour together walking the bridge and burning off some physical and emotional steam while talking about things that are hard to talk about with small children around needing your total attention. The walk starts off a little tense, with both of us in our own weird survival funks from said growth spurt. We are a bit shell shocked. We are trying not to force the process that we hope will inevitably follow of loosening from business partners to best friends to lovers.
Being married with babies can easily start to feel like you run a business with a tall guy you really like who you can also boss around and blame things on. Then you might work your way out of those roles into the best friends place. Awww, best friends are so cute, right? This means you really like each other and want to spend every day together but forget to do things like kiss and hold hands because you’re still running a business and you have shiz. to. do. And then sometimes, if you’re lucky (and stubborn), you get back to the lovers stage. And I’m not even really talking about sex, though that’s a nice bonus. On this relationship stop, you can’t keep your hands off each other and you smile and laugh a lot. You obviously still keep your kids alive, but you kiss your partner as much as you kiss your kids and you actually mean it when you tell him you love him just as much as you love your angelic offspring.
Three hours and a bottle of champagne after we start our walk, we’re back on lovers lane. We remember what it feels like to be connected. We bask in the part of our identities that is not mom or dad. Fun Gervase, relaxed Kev. We lean into the spontaneity of a night out that ends with karaoke. It is exactly what we needed.
Cards and gifts don’t matter to me or husband. You know what does? Quality time and how we show up emotionally and energetically in our relationship. When I’m okay, he’s okay and we’re okay. Tonight teaches us that lesson for the 200th time.
So about that hospital visit . . .
Because we wanted to create an anniversary that we would remember for-e-ver,we decide that a growth spurt, bridge walk, a couple bottles of wine and karaoke are not enough . . .
Home in bed later that night, I startle awake to the baby’s wailing alarm, per usual. Unsure of the time and definitely not fully awake yet, I launch—literally, LAUNCH MYSELF—from the deepest sleep towards the bedroom door. As someone with low blood pressure and a propensity for fainting, particularly when I’ve been drinking for several hours, I catch myself mid-fall on the bookshelf right outside our bedroom door, seconds later. The bookshelf just happens to carry a large glass-blown decorative plate from our travels in South America atop it (DEFINITELY NOT BABY PROOFED). Aforementioned plate crashes to the ground and shatters at my bare feet.
Husband comes running from the nursery where he was ALREADY HANDLING IT, to find me standing in a pool of blood in the dark insisting I’m totally fine. I could have stayed in bed where I belonged. “This is a waste of much blood and stress,” I can’t help but thinking as husband dutifully cleans up crime scene.
Three hours later (because I need to sober up), I drive myself to the emergency room and tell that same embarrassing story to about 13 ER staff members over the course of four hours. “Kind of an odd hour to be doing housework,” the lady at the front desk tells me at 4:30 am when I tell her about the plate attacking me. “It was our anniversary,” I mutter. I was just celebrating.
She is the worst.
Six hours and six stitches later, I hop on one foot (literally) back to my car and drive home to where husband is doing his best to hold down the fort without me. He will, regrettably, need to continue doing so for the next 48 hours since I cannot stand upright, let alone care for my children. This is terribly inconvenient, of course. #MomoftheYear
The weird thing is that my husband and I are kinder and more loving towards each other for those next 48 high-stress hours than we have been in weeks, which just goes to show it’s not necessarily about the quality of the “hard,” but about the quality of the breaks and connecting opportunities we take in between the hard #ThisIsRealLife moments.
Because, let’s be honest, marriage is hard work.
Raising tiny humans is hard.
But still— it can still be kind of a fun ride if you take TIME to create the moments you and your relationship and your #momlife need to survive it in one piece.
Why do women have a warped concept of marriage after kids?
Because nobody tells the truth.
Because everyone pretends theirs is the best.
Or everyone secretly feels like theirs is the worst.
We aren’t talking about it honestly and we definitely aren’t portraying it honestly through the filters on Instagram.
This is REAL life.
What if marriage after kids wasn’t the best or the worst?
What if it was both and we could totally handle it?
Marriage is an adventure. You get to fight in it and forit. You get to design it and evolve it and be surprised along the way. You can choose to stop the busyness and the hamster wheel living and celebrate it, without excuses. Celebrate the growth spurts and the date nights. The hospital visits and the picture-perfect moments, because you earned it ALL, and you do not get the GIFT of the highs without the lows. You don’t get to have one without the other. At least not if we’re talking about REAL LIFE MARRIAGES.
We’re here to live the full range of what it means to be human, and there’s nothing wrong with that experience. Your life doesn’t all have to be Instagram-ready to be fulfilling and freaking epic.
Yesterday, I brought the baby into our bed at 7am and she cooed and smiled at us for 10 minutes before the toddler climbed into bed and the four of us snuggled and laughed and loved harder than we ever thought we could love.
This is real life.
It hard then it’s easy then it’s hard again, and it’s all totally okay.
Happy (late) anniversary to the best life partner I could have ever chosen for this crazy ride.
I promise to keep apologizing to you, being honest with you, loving you and being brave enough to live the highs and the lows with you every year till we’re old and fat and these kids we’ve raised will pour our champagne and change our diapers.
**Note: This article was originally published on The Huffington Post.**