The Greatest Obligation

by Stacey on October 29, 2014

in motherhood

She’s 15 pounds, 10 ounces and 26.5 inches long. Her eyes are like pools of blue satin, shrouded in delicate, light brown lashes. She’s a girl on the go, always wiggling, kicking her legs and clapping her hands. She’s a tiny thing, really. She’s so small in this huge world, but I can feel the weight of her pressing on my soul each day.

I’m her mother, her teacher, her protector. She has no idea how much she’s changed me – forever. She’s softened me, slowed me down, given me the patience I never had before. It’s incredible and it’s too much. The weight of all the obligations I carry and all of my hopes and dreams for her that could fill a stadium – it’s all too much for her to bear on her tiny, slender shoulders.

I tell myself each day that I must not weigh her down with my expectations. She’s her own person. Her body, brain and soul belong to her. It’s my job to nurture those things and teach her about the world and how to live peacefully and lovingly in it. When I stop to think about it, it’s paralyzing. She’s an incredible obligation, and I know every single day how lucky I am to have this job. I must try, over and over again every day to do right by her and give her all the love I can gather. Just when I think the well might run dry, I’ll discover new depths and give thanks to The Universe for supplying me again and again. My tank will top off with her smiles, laughter and wonder of new experiences. One day I’ll come to understand that the well will never run dry.

She is my teacher. We’re learning together, and we navigate the learning curve as a team. Even when we fail, we do it together. When we succeed, it feels like Christmas, New Year’s, her birthday and the 4th of July all in one. She’s the greatest gift I’ve ever been given.

At night I go to bed exhausted with the weight of the world. I shut my eyes and try to turn off my thoughts. Sometimes I succeed, but other times I stare at the monitor and watch the rise and fall of her chest. At 5 a.m. I turn off my alarm and try to restrain myself from running into her room. I miss her and I need to hold her. I tiptoe into her bedroom and sing her the same song from the day before. We gently and quietly start our day together, and it is the best thing I’ll do that day. I’m tired but happy. Isn’t that what motherhood is?

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I’m still here

by Stacey on September 19, 2014

in love & marriage,motherhood

Sometimes if you’re not careful, the rope starts to fray and the knots come loose, and before you know it, the whole damn thing falls apart. You get busy with life – with just surviving and getting by – and everything you love gets blown to smithereens. Then you look back after some time and you’re able to point your finger to the exact moment shit fell apart. And you think “how did I let that happen?”

And here’s the thing – it can happen with everything: your marriage, your friendships, your career. It can all blow apart faster than you can put it back together. So you have to try. You have to cling to the things you love the most and try like hell to keep it all together. Some things will slide while you do this. Your house will get messy. Your car will go months past its scheduled maintenance. Your wardrobe will go to shit and every single shirt will smell like spit up. Your yard becomes a classified war zone, full of mushrooms and weeds and overgrown parts you’d like to forget about. But if you try hard enough, you might realize that your life is full and you’re loved and you’re loving others.

It’s just so damn hard to keep it all together sometimes. I have incredibly high standards for myself and I often stress myself out trying to excel at my life. And I wonder “who the hell is grading me?” ya know? NO ONE.

Last night I walked away from a kitchen sink full of dirty dishes to go lay with Natalie on her bedroom floor and stare up at her playmat mirror. I put my head next to hers and stared at the mirror with her. She pulled both feet up and rolled towards me as if to say “oh, you’re here!” So I pulled both of my feet up in the air and said “hey, I can do that too.” She laughed, and everything else just fell away.

The sound of her laughter – oh, it gets me every time.

Most days I do a really good job of being her mom. I’m figuring it out and I have the best time with her. But lately I fail at other things.

I have to remind myself to give Billy a hug and tell him what a good dad he is. He needs to hear it. I have to remind myself to email or call a friend just to say hi and tell them I love them. I have to tell myself it’s ok to leave the laundry unfolded for one night so that I can take a bath and relax with a glass of wine once Natalie is asleep. Those are the small moments to myself that keep me sane.

Life has changed so much, but I’m still the same person I always was. I’m still way too hard on myself. I still have standards that are – at best – impossible to meet on most days. I still love my girlfriends for the different things they bring to my life, and I value them even more now than I ever did. I’m still married to my best friend, who reminds me to keep a sense of humor because it’s all going to be alright.

I’m still trying like hell to keep it all together.

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When you’re pregnant, everyone has a piece of advice that they just can’t wait to share with you.

“Sleep while you can!”

“Don’t forget – you’re eating for two!”

“Don’t be a hero. Get the epidural!”

The truth is, no one really tells you the stuff you need to hear. I can’t be sure if it’s out of fear of sounding ungrateful, selfish or pessimistic, but there were so many truths that hit me hard after Natalie was born – truths that came out of nowhere and left me feeling confused, alone, and as though I was sold a hard bargain. Whenever people have asked me “How are you?” I’ve been careful to be honest. Because the truth is hard to hear, but it’s valuable, and I wish more women were prepared.

I remember shortly before I left work on my last day before maternity leave began, a coworker said to me, “Remember, it’s OK if it sucks sometimes. And it’s OK to say it out loud.” I wasn’t sure how to take that, but in the days and weeks to come, that tiny piece of truth kept me going.

Here are the things no one told me, the things I wish someone had shared.

1. Recovery is worse than labor and childbirth itself. Granted, this might not be everyone’s experience, but I would rather relive those 16.5 hours than the next two weeks and all the surprises that awaited me at home.

2. You experience the highest highs and the lowest lows, and it equates to emotional whiplash. For two days after Natalie was born, I was high on adrenaline, endorphins and all sorts of other feel-good chemicals that come from hormonal changes. I felt fantastic! I showered, dried my hair, put on makeup, walked around, snuggled my girl and stared at her and Billy while thinking, “I’m the luckiest girl in the whole world!” Then the crash came, and it was ugly, devastating and alienating right down to my core.

3. The baby blues are incredibly common. Around 80% of women experience them, and it comes in different forms. For me, it equated to uncontrollable crying, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness and being so overwhelmed by everything. Each night for two weeks, as soon as the sun set, the tears would start. I stared at Natalie, completely unsure of my ability to be her mom. I missed Billy. He was right next to me, but I’d never felt farther away from him in my life. I’d sit on the couch, sobbing while holding Natalie. He would bring me tissues and tell me that I was doing a good job, that I was a good mom, and that this feeling would pass. Finally, at 16 days post-partum, I went to the doctor. Simply talking about it with a professional made a huge difference. Each day got a little easier. Around 4 weeks post-partum, I was feeling better. It’s hard for everyone in different ways, but I was not prepared to feel so sad after bringing a baby into this world.

4. Your life becomes distinctly divided into two phases: Before Baby & After Baby. There’s a period of time (for me, about the first month) where I’d think of my life before fondly, remembering all the times I didn’t have to plan my days around someone else’s needs. Then, on the good days, I’d think about how much different everything was in a great way. Once we hit the four week mark, I simply couldn’t imagine my life without her. And it felt great.

5. Everything is intense. Each emotion is heightened to an impossible extreme, and the way that this little person needs you can be overwhelming. Talking about it with someone who understands helps, and should not be regarded as a weakness.

6. Sleep deprivation is a means of torture for a reason. Little mishaps and blunders seem like national tragedies when you’re running on no sleep. At my lowest point, during a night where Natalie refused to sleep for longer than 15 minutes at a time, I gave her to Billy and sat in my dark bathroom and screamed. I needed a release, and that’s the only way I was going to get it. I cried afterwards, feeling like a complete failure and a piece of shit. Then I took a deep breath and went back to the bedroom and held her, silently praying for more patience and a few unbroken hours of sleep. Once I got four consecutive hours of sleep, I felt like a new woman.

7. Life at home with a newborn is boring! Make no mistake – it’s not a vacation. There is so much work to do, but it’s an endless monotony of feed the baby, change the baby, bathe the baby, snuggle the baby, try to get the baby to sleep, all while trying to decipher just what their cries and screams are asking for. Hours pass like this. You watch so much TV, simply for the background noise it provides, and you get tired of seeing the same four walls of your own house. For me, getting outside in the fresh air and finding excuses to run errands provided relief and a nice change of scenery.

8. Breastfeeding is not easy, and it doesn’t feel natural for everyone. Natalie was diagnosed with reflux at her two-week check-up, and despite daily doses of Zantac, roughly half of our nursing sessions feel like a battle. She kicks her legs, flails her arms and screams. During the good times, she settles in sweetly and falls asleep easily afterwards. I never know what I’m going to get when I sit down to feed her, and it makes me feel anxious each time.

9. Your world shrinks. Before Natalie, my life was filled with too much stimulation, too many obligations and never enough time to see everyone and accomplish everything. Once she was born, my only responsibility was to take care of her. For some, that’s a welcome change, but for me, it made me feel stir crazy. I dealt with the change by getting out of the house. Simply seeing other people made me feel better. We went for walks, went on trips to Target and made plans with friends. People will surprise you and disappoint you. The good ones are the friends who make the time for you, even though you now have this little person in tow, and they’ll offer to hold your baby so you can eat a meal with two hands, shower, or take a nap.

10. The little moments make it worth it. The first time Natalie smiled at me, I burst into tears – happy tears. It was the first time I could see that she actually saw me. She recognized my face and gave me a huge, gummy grin. It was one of the best moments of my entire life.

New motherhood is different for everyone, but this is my journey. There were some dark moments, but there have also been some of the best, most fulfilling moments of my life. I’m content with the knowledge that it only gets better from here. I’m excited to see what’s ahead.

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Welcome to the world, Natalie Jane!

May 5, 2014

A few short seconds later, Sara returned to the room. “Are you ready to start pushing?” She was grinning from ear to ear. This is why everyone says it’s the nurses that make or break your experience. And she was awesome! “Yes, let’s do this!” What no one tells you is that you have to [...]

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Natalie’s Birth Story – Part 2

May 4, 2014

At 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 27, the doctor broke my water. Talk about an unusual feeling! Afterwards, the nurse told me to sit tight and wait a few minutes. I mean, really – what else am I going to do? Run around the block? What caught me completely by surprise was just how quickly [...]

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Natalie’s Birth Story – Part 1

April 13, 2014

At my 20-week ultrasound, we were notified about a slight complication with my pregnancy. The good news was the baby looked completely healthy and was growing just fine. The bad news was my pregnancy would require additional monitoring and a medical induction at 40 weeks if the baby didn’t come on her own. At my [...]

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Everything is changing

March 20, 2014

With all that’s changing, the way I share information is changing too. I don’t know what the future holds for this space, and I don’t feel pressured to make any decisions right now. But today I wanted to take a moment and preserve my thoughts before this little girl comes screaming into the world. My [...]

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{Listed} 5 things that made my week

February 21, 2014

1. My birthday card from Billy: I walked in the house on Tuesday night to find quite the surprise – Billy baking me a chocolate cake! He poured me a half glass of wine (my doc says it’s fine to have one every once in a while) and gave me my birthday card. He always [...]

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On maternity photos and the best kinds of friendship

February 3, 2014

Over the weekend, I had a maternity photo shoot. I debated doing them at all, but I figured it was time for Billy and I to have some pictures done since we hadn’t had any taken since our wedding in 2009. It was the best decision. Here are a couple of preview (read: not edited) [...]

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31 Weeks & the Role of Fear

January 24, 2014

Let’s get real and talk about fear. Time is going by very fast. I’m 31 weeks along into this journey, and that means that I’m down to single digits on the countdown: 9 weeks left! (Insert panicked face here.) Things are going well, but my to do list is rather long, and I’m having trouble [...]

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