Marriage

When the Nursery Walls Start Closing In

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

do

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?”

Apparently not.

“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.

mom and baby
mom and baby

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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This article also appeared on

The Huffington Post.

The Painfully Honest Truth About 6 Years and 2 Kids

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.

I really like celebrating.

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.

wedding couple
wedding couple

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.**

INFUSING MORE PLAY INTO YOUR MARRIAGE

You have this kick-ass marriage before the baby. Maybe you continue said kick-ass partnership during pregnancy, because guess what? You still have things like, I don't know SLEEP, sanity, social life and quality time together. Then baby arrives and it's all rainbows and unicorns and you are REALLY happy but something feels a bit, off? Your marriage is different post-baby. You aren't quite as connected. There's not as much time for just the TWO of you. This can look a MILLION different ways depending on the relationship, but my point is THIS IS NORMAL, and it's been a theme with all my clients and truth chats for the past couple weeks. Relationship issues are in the air, so let's talk about something we sometimes forget is possible once we become mothers:

PLAY!

In this week's video, I give you my tip for not even trying to balance my marriage with #momlife, but doing something even better — infusing PLAY into my relationship ALL DAY LONG with some simple tactics. Because, let's be serious, your husband frankly doesn't NEED the same amount of time, care and attention as your baby. He can feed himself, poop on the potty and make his own peanut butter and jelly sammich. So instead of trying to "balance" our marriages with our Mom Lives, why not change the game and just have a little FUN with it, instead?

Get on the list for Master Your #MomLife coming in July, people! It's. gonna. be. so. FUN.

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