In my world, unicorns can exist, I was devastated when I found out that people can’t walk on clouds like the Care Bears, I’m still a bit saddened yet I’m scared of heights so put those together…and the sun is seriously shining out of my extended array of goofy faces, exuberant way of talking and happy awkwardness. In lesser words…I’m a glass is always overfilled kinda gal. Yes, I understand that life is hard, life is not easy, life can be sad, life can be downright dirty and mean…I understand these things because I’ve lived them and have felt them deeply. But I still have this insane drive to be happy. To find the good amongst all of the crap that happens. My darling sisters are sometimes rather annoyed at this and my husband often asks me to be a little more calm as I start my day. They of course love me for who I am but sometimes need me to be a bit more…toned down.
I start with this to give you a base to work from. A mindset of my mindset on the daily.
And now we talk about the real-deal-with-after-baby-crazy-shit…or as most would say, the baby blues. Prior to having the boys, I spent three weeks on bed rest, almost entirely in the hospital. A handful of times I got to go on a 30 minute wheelchair ride, my husband and I called them our “dates.” Other than that it was a 10 foot walk to the bathroom inside my room and back to bed. Daily contractions started everything off and then my water broke with Henry to seal the deal of my fate which included sitting 23 hours a day and a terrified feeling that I would have a flat butt forever! At first my positive spirit thought it would be nice to finally slow down and enjoy reading a book or catching up on HGTV. Well, it turns out cooping up a wild hen such as myself is terrible! I began to get grumpier as my belly got bigger, my legs more swollen, my sleep continually disturbed by check-ins every three hours. I felt like nothing was ever going to happen, I was in a standstill. And seeing people come in and out of my room so freely was torture…did they understand how lucky they were??! I cried deeply on a few occasions and started to become withdrawn.
At 32 weeks and 3 days our handsome baby boys greeted us with their tiny awesomeness after three hours of pushing. Oh yes, Henry took one hour and Georgie? Well, he was pretty comfortable being an only child for awhile. He took a whopping two hours to make his exit and then entrance into this crazy world. Into the NICU they went and my digression into a world without unicorns followed. With the extended amount of pushing, I was left feeling like a car had slowly run over every muscle of my body. As they say in the workout world, “the second day is always worst” this led itself to be true here as well. Beyond that, I won’t go into the details, but there are the other “issues” surrounding giving birth that make any slight move…treacherous. My babies were hooked up to machines, in a different room and I could only get there with the help of my husband pushing me…once again in a wheelchair. I was totally and completely left to the mercy of others. My independence was lost.
I learned to take care of my babies among the tangled web of intricately placed monitors stuck to their tiny chests and around their ankles. I learned not to be saddened or alarmed by their fragile little limbs, wrinkled with skin that had yet to be backed by fat that would have come in those last couple months. I learned to take care of my babies not on my own terms but those of the hospital. I learned to be calm among the dinging, ringing, pinging, and beeping of the alarms that would go off for any one of a dozen reasons. I learned how to live in a body that had changed in every way possible, inside and out. I learned how to stomach the cold, hard bed and stale smell in the family room we thankfully got to stay in down the hall from the boys. I learned how to pack smartly for our extended stay and only bring necessary items into the shared shower. I learned to try, try, try and try again at breastfeeding my little men with frustrations galore. They needed to eat. They needed to maintain and gain weight. This was our key to freedom…to home. It was making me mad. Not a day went by that I didn’t cry my eyes red and swollen. Thank the universe for my dear, sweet husband.
We finally made it home and the salvation I was looking for was hidden by a fog. I sometimes think back and feel like I’ve felt after about three too many drinks. The memory is there but it’s like a picture that was accidentally snapped during a random moment in time. The picture is blurry with movement, no sense of making anything out because it just doesn’t make sense. I was caught in a hamster wheel of keeping the boys on the same schedule to desperately try and find some sense of sanity, control and organization. All the while serenaded by the sounds of crying and pooping in cyclical timing. All the while trying to keep my babies fed by breastfeeding, bottle feeding, washing those bottles, then pumping and repeat. All the while trying to find a sense of the sexiness and fit confidence that I once had.
I felt so much love, so much deep and never-ending gratitude for our family and friends but it was a struggle finding the energy to fit in visits while gasping for the air of normality…gasping for the air of feeling like I’m not completely losing my shit…gasping for the air in-between intense sobbing sessions…gasping for air as I tried to soak up precious moments with my boys while feeling like an emotionless robot going through the motions…gasping for air as I desperately tried to breastfeed but it just wasn’t working…gasping for air as I hugged my husband and tried to keep my legs from walking me straight to bed, closing my eyes and letting the rest of the world take care of things. I was so tired of gasping and grasping for normalcy, for the “me” that I had lost. I was so tired of not truly BEING with my babies, my mind in a constant fog, in a constant state of bare minimum survival.
For weeks I mourned the loss of the last two months of my pregnancy. I still do sometimes. I couldn’t believe that all the days, all the months and all the years of trying to get pregnant left me having to give up a piece of it. There were actually moments when I just couldn’t look at a pregnant woman on Facebook or even look at my very own pregnant photos…my heart would sink as I would touch my belly.
Where did I go? I was completely and utterly blindsided, t-boned, cold-cocked, you name it. How could someone with my vitality and addiction to happiness get here, get to this point? My smile was forced, my laugh a crumbling facade, my mind a web of feelings that I was wrapped in and felt strangled by. The tightest one around my heart, knowing that I had two perfect babies that I had longed for, shed so many tears for and was so fucking thankful for yet I felt this way…the irony was overwhelming. How could I feel like this? I got exactly what I wanted. I was finally a mom, finally created a family and brought two healthy littles into this world. How could I feel the way I did? How could I feel that way and not be an awful person? How could I give up on breastfeeding when it was the best thing to do for my babies? How could I let everything fall apart inside me? How could I keep putting my husband through a daily battle of trying to keep me afloat? How could I put my husband through another day of added stress? How could I be drowning when I was stronger than that? I was stronger than that!
A few months went by like this. Then a dear, sweet, loving friend visited. She gave me the point of clarity I’d been in search of. She told me it was okay if I needed to get help. Sometimes, she said, it’s just something you can’t handle by yourself and that’s okay. That’s okay because you did something that is so amazing, creating life and then sacrificing yours for their well-being. I thought about this over and over. Then, I came to the conclusion that what I was doing was obviously not working and I needed to take charge. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t escape my hormonal and chemical imbalance and this, this was the single largest roadblock to finding myself. I was in there, but I needed something to literally clear my head so that I could effectively put the pieces together. In years past, yoga, boot camp and meditation were the cure but now there was less time for that. Fortunately I had the support of both grandparents and other family members and friends that were trying to help me create time for these things, but I didn’t even have the mental capacity to put myself together and get over the feeling of being out of control, to even get to the point of being able to do those things.
The following day, I called and made an appointment. The following week I saw my doctor. I choked down the tears that were bubbling up from my toes so much so that my eyes burned and my throat felt like it was on fire. I told her my story to the best of my ability. She wrote a prescription and the next day I started taking a low dose of Prozac. It was something I thought I’d never do yet it changed everything. I must have needed it in a bad sort of way because I felt clarity just a couple days after the first one hit my tongue and took a ride down to my belly. This was my vehicle to getting myself together, to digging beneath the layers of this new life, of confusion of self-doubt, depression and anxiety, so that I could find the overwhelmingly goofy person I’ve always been. And that’s still a work in progress but it’s getting easier. Deciding to take the medication and get help was a giant leap into clarity. I slowly broke through these feelings like the sunshine melts through the fog on a crisp fall morning.
In the beginning, I thought my unicorn would let me hop on for a ride and I would gallop blissfully into motherhood with a breeze lightly flowing through my well-maintained hair. The rainbows would arch over my babies and I wearing our coordinated attire and things would be magical, I would suddenly know how to navigate this new life, I would have it all…I would have it all together. But the truth is, that sometimes we need to accept that we are doing the best we can. Sometimes we just need help. We need a good friend to remind us how supported we are. We need to get out into the fresh air and walk or run or stretch or just sit and take a moment for ourselves…a moment to put the oxygen mask on so that we can function optimally for our families. We need to rely on our village whether that’s friends, family and/or our spouse.
Being a mom is seriously freaking hard and we need to find ways to love ourselves and feed ourselves with happiness! All of the time that we spend doing this will come back tenfold to our babies, our husbands, our loved ones, and to ourselves as women, mothers, lovers, life-LIVING souls, life-LOVING souls!
The sun isn’t always shining, the sky isn’t always blue and the ground is often rocky but I found my “unicorn”, his name is Spencer. My hair isn’t flowing but up in a bun so the boys can’t yank on it and my rainbows aren’t overhead but bursting out of the smiles and bright eyes of my baby boys.
Every woman’s journey is so specific, so real, so authentic and powerful to them. This was mine. We must take care of ourselves, we’ll never regret it.
Just breathe. Just breathe and know, you’re doing a kick-ass job.