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.


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.


Natalie Jane

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 learn how to push. It’s instinctual to want to push, but you don’t know how to do it properly. I was tilted to my left side and trying to hold behind my legs, only I was exhausted. Each time I felt a contraction, I let it build, then I took a deep breath and pushed as hard as I could. The effort, along with my reaction to the epidural, made me incredibly tired. Between each contraction I breathed through the oxygen mask and shut my eyes, practically falling asleep. Billy had my right leg and Sara had my left leg. At one point, I heard Sara say to me, “Sweetie, are you with us? You need to open your eyes!” Hours later, Billy told me that scared him the most. I went completely white and they thought I passed out. I was just exhausted and feeling so sick. I opened my eyes and said, “I’m fine, I’m just really tired.”

I pushed for what seemed like hours, but was barely 30 minutes. Then, Sara said, “Let’s try something different.” She twisted up a sheet and handed the middle to me. She put her foot on the bed and positioned my left foot against it. She put my right leg back in Billy’s arm and instructed me to pull myself up using the sheet and push as hard as I could. This made things so much easier. I was weak, but this gave me the support I needed to sit up enough and push productively. And push I did! I pushed and pushed and pushed as hard as I could. Then, Billy said, “Babe, I can see her head! You’re doing great!” I didn’t believe him. I responded, “Are you sure?” “Yes, babe! I can see her!”

Then, in an instant, lots of activity. Billy started moving furniture around to make room for the staff. He was grinning from ear to ear, but I was incredulous. “Billy! What the hell are you doing? Come help me!” He was so excited that didn’t know what to do. The doctor entered the room – by now, with the late hour, it was the doctor on call. More nurses and lots of equipment. The doctor introduced himself and said “Let’s have a baby!” I cried out, “DO YOU PROMISE?” You have to understand – I was so tired, and I’d been working so hard for such a long time. I was starting to think she was never going to come out. He laughed, looked me right in the eyes and said, “I promise. You’re almost there.”

So I pushed and pushed and pushed. Then I screamed. It hurt so bad – like fire – and I could feel him trying to help slowly deliver her head. I pushed and Billy told me how great I was doing. I was in a steady rhythm of three pushes and a break. I was loud, too. At one point, as I finished a push, I shouted, “Get out of me! Get her out!” Then, the doctor said to me during my third push of one set, “Give me one more just like that. Do you have one more left?” I dug deep, took a huge breath and pushed as hard as I could. And just like that, at 10:53 p.m., after just under an hour of pushing, she was out. She came out so fast, and the doctor held her above me. He said, “Meet your daughter!” Up until this point, I still had no idea what her name would be. I had options, but no decision. As soon as I saw her, I looked at Billy. “Her name is Natalie Jane. Is that ok?” Billy was crying, and he smiled and said “Of course.”

Billy cut her umbilical cord – this lifeline that kept her connected to me for 40 weeks, that she received nourishment from, smaller than normal umbilical cords, and the cause of all the extra monitoring and medical induction – and I stared into her eyes. All the fear, all the worry that something would be wrong because of her two vessel cord, was for nothing. She was perfect. She was screaming at first, but they placed her on my chest and she went silent, with big, blue eyes staring up at me. “That’s amazing,” Billy said, “She is instantly calm now.” Ten fingers, ten toes, the cutest button nose and tiny little ears. After we bonded for a while, they placed her on the scale: 6 pounds, 15 ounces and 21 inches long. Natalie Jane was here, and she was beautiful!


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