Joining a Cult and Other Uncomfortable Fall Activities

Sometimes I surprise myself.

Blindly saying “yes” is a very Lacey thing to do. It is something that has served me and manifested really wild and interesting opportunities throughout my life (ie. helping run an amazing local craft fair with two women I adore). I also really get off on saying “no” to anything and anyone. I love it. I find it cathartic, empowering, and necessary. You know what doesn’t hit for me? Being uncomfortable. Change. Forced or otherwise. Even if it’s good change, I tend to have a meltdown.

Going to college? Meltdown. Moving out of my parents house? Meltdown. Getting engaged? Possibly the most ridiculous meltdown of my life. Finding out I was pregnant? Meltdown. Not getting fired, just changing jobs to a different department? Meltdown.

All good things. All chosen change. So you can imagine what happens when changed is forced on me. Yooooo. Meltdown city. It’s an internal tug of war. I recognize it. I see it. I’m working through the nuttiness of this semi unchosen loony toon lifestyle. It’s time to stop perpetuating the crazy and embrace change with my big girl britches on.

You could ask, “How are you doing that, Lacey? How are you releasing this crazy spin cycle?”

Honestly. I don’t know. Living? Recognizing my deer in headlights tendencies when I see change barreling at me like a Jeep Wrangler. And adding sprinkles of positive discomfort into my life.

I can answer what positive discomfort looks like for me. It’s a direct sales business, a tattoo, a life coach, teaching myself a new skill set at work, and a Mother’s Day Out program. All of these things I have harbored super judgey feelings for in the past. I’m talking hard pass eyerolls kind of judgment.

WHY I JOINED A PYRAMID SCHEME CULT

SIDE NOTE: If you’re a piss pants and just don’t want to hear it feel free to skip to the next section.

pyramid scheme

Great. Me too. I have more jobs than I can count on one hand and IT’S A DIRECT SALES BUSINESS.

Harsh. Let’s be clear. Cults don’t hit (unless you are talking like a cult classic film) and pyramids schemes are illegal. Also, if you polled my friends I guarantee you 99.9% of them would say I don’t need a career in the service industry or sales. I will wholeheartedly agree. I’m ornery. Ironically enough my first jobs were in both those fields respectively and I have never hated or sucked so hard at anything in my life.

Among the things that are shocking about me are that this is not my first go around hustling products and once upon a time I was in a sorority. The thing that those two shared in common? Parties. No shade to companies that require parties or sororities. They just weren’t for me. Forced social events spike my anxiety like Everclear spikes prom punch. Hard.

So I avoided joining Rodan and Fields like one who would avoid a mouth breather with the plague. I had a family member and a close friend slinging it. My Facebook feed is saturated with products. Skincare, essential oils, tupperware, leggings, jewelry, embroidered lunch bags- it seems like everyone I know sells something. The only reason I ever bought any product was to get people to leave me alone and to see if something, ANYTHING would clear up my busted pregnancy skin. I’ve never had the perfect complexion but nothing rocked my skin like pregnancy did. I had breakouts of every variety across my entire body. Blackheads, rashes, backne, cystic acne. You name it I had it going on. My attitude was, “it can’t possibly get worse”.

Eventually I had buddies asking what I was using on my skin and I would refer them to people I knew that sold the products. I was selling without selling. Dumb. I would literally have friends (multiple friends) asking me who I knew that sold Rodan and Fields and saying, “If you sold it, I would buy from you.” It took me a year and a half of using the products before I even considered selling. I would stop any conversation that suggested I become a consultant in its tracks. Honestly. I thought I was too cool for selling skincare, that no one would take me seriously, and that I didn’t have anything to offer. Why me when you can ask just about anyone about this business? I thought I was above multilevel marketing and I would lose respect or some edge if I added it to my boss babe tool belt. I forgot who I was for a second.

Now here I am four months in with a solid coffee fund every month. I’m trying to make this business work for me. I’m still resistant to some things that are in my best interest because I haven’t been able to figure out how put my flavor on it. I’m also just contrary by nature. Honestly? I’m not great at this business so far. It doesn’t come naturally to me and approaching people about it and putting myself out there to be rejected by people I like and care about makes me super uncomfortable and borderline embarrassed. Nothing makes me panic quite like rejection, and I get tenderhearted and take it personally even though it’s business. It’s work. If I don’t work it. I don’t make any money. Even if people under me are busting their chops. I’m also kind of lazy when it comes to things I don’t absolutely have to do. Thankfully, I can work this biz by washing my face, coffee dates, self care and my phone. It’s millennial bliss. I don’t have to keep product (like my OCD or lack of self control would allow that) and I don’t have to host parties for strangers. Despite my reservations, it’s been good for my growth and my bank account. I refuse to sell in a pushy way. I refuse to offer a product I don’t believe in or think works. I am not naive enough to think I can dupe anyone into anything. I don’t have time for bullshit and I know my friends and family don’t have time for it either.

SHAMELESS R+F WEBSITE PAGE PLUG HERE

On to the next out of character thing I’ve roped myself into. Yay growth?

THIS IS UNNECESSARY

I’ve always loved being the girl you thought might have a tattoo who doesn’t have a tattoo. It’s a silly thing to like about myself especially since I’ve wanted a tattoo since I was probably sixteen. I’ve made it to 30 without one. You would think I had moved on by now. Nope. Hard no. I actually damn near pitched a fit when my husband told me he wanted one. It was a real buzzard like way to react to something. But, truth be told, I’ve always been afraid of the commitment that tattoos bring. I’m not willing to get one removed. It will become part of me just like a freckle. Once it’s there, it’s there.

tattoo

I was listening to a podcast (I’m pretty positive it was The Minimalists) and they said something to the effect of, “if it scares you, that’s what you should be doing.” When I first heard this I was with my husband on a road trip and I immediately related it to a business plan I was concocting, which is a fairly regular occurrence in the Strike household. I’m full of awesome ideas that I am afraid to commit to reality. But, I started applying that quote to all areas of my life. Am I afraid of this? Why? What would the possibilities be like if I weren’t afraid? Being afraid of a tattoo is a dumb thing to be afraid of, but it’s not the tattoo. It’s the commitment. So tattoo…I’m coming for you in a few months. Why? As silly as it sounds, to conquer the fear of commitment. Because having a mark on my body doesn’t matter. So, it shouldn’t effect me the way that it does right now. Maybe it will open a window for committing to things that do matter. And of course, like most things I do I plan to go all out. For those who will inevitably ask or wonder. It will be an homage to my motherland, South Knoxville. No more needs to be said.

LIFE COACHES AREN’T REAL LIFE

I thought life coaches were just for people like Paris Gellar. OCD, neurotic, pain in the ass people. People like me. Only I’m like Lorelai and Paris spawned some other awful creation. I’m definitely more charismatic and chill than Paris but neurotic and restless like Lorelai. I never realized life coaches came in the form of lovely blonde goddesses who empower you to be an organized boss bitch and like basically all the things that you like. And make you feel, dare I say, Well Supported.

Working from home fulltime threw my organization skills into a whirlwind. It’s not that I don’t have a system. I love a system. But when I shifted from constantly planning and having to have my Monday tasks and Tuesday tasks to a more request based work system my chronic list making went out the window. I’m not sure why that happened, but it happened, and it left me trying to do all of the things, all of the time, all of the days. I never caught a break. I never had a moment to think. It’s as if the freedom to choose my schedule, and having singular due dates and set my own pace resulted in me throwing all agendas out the window. I am a wearer of many hats and I like it that way. Wife, mom, artist, worker, creative director, dreamer but I am none of those things if I can’t focus or find the time to work it.

Having an objective third party perspective on how to work your life can bring about so much clarity. Whether it is coming from an acquaintance, spiritual guidance counselor, therapist, or life coach having someone look from the outside in and offer their two cents in a kind way sometimes blows my mind. It’s as if someone is looking into my soul and says, “Yeah, I see that in you too and here’s what you can do to work with it.” Is it comfortable being vulnerable and letting basically a stranger see those parts of you? Hell no. Is it comfortable letting someone know that you feel like you aren’t doing a good job at getting things done? Hard no. Has it been helpful and necessary for me? Absolutely. So far my biggest takeaway is that my dreams and personal goals matter. Just because they aren’t monetized (YET) doesn’t mean they aren’t as equally or more important as my day job. If you have dreams and goals that keep coming to you there is a reason for that, but no one is going to do that for you. Nothing will come of your dreams if you don’t make them a priority. I’ve learned that I have to do my passion projects, dreaming, or writing early in the day or I simply won’t do it; something with immediate pay off will take precedence. Give yourself a second to think about how flipping your schedule would afford you time to dream or take care of yourself better. What does that look like for you? Are you so stuck in your ways that the idea of changing your rhythm makes you uncomfortable? You should probably do it then. Don’t shoot the messenger.

I’M NOT CUT OUT FOR THIS

If I could afford to do it I would be an eternal scholar. I would audit all the college classes and just learn things all day everyday, at my own pace, and not worry whether I was making the grade or not (not that I ever particularly cared about that anyway). As a child I was a chronic keeper of hobbies. The common thread? If I was bad at it I was immediately uninterested.

ballet

Perfect example: I am 30 years old. I cannot do a cartwheel. Why? Because in ballet class they tried to teach us how and it didn’t hit for me. I thought I was going to break my neck. So I told my mother ballet was exercise class and I wasn’t going to do it. I was four. I played soccer for 12 years after that. Exercise was not the issue. The issue was me being bad and afraid of cartwheels.

Modern day example: In college I was the last class ever to learn tape to tape video editing. I was not good at it. And by not good I mean terrible. It requires a certain patience for the process and the equipment that infuriates me. This also applies to digital editing and editing of any sort. Once I realized this didn’t come naturally to me I immediately gave it a hard pass.

I am neither tech stupid nor tech savvy. My skills lie somewhere in between, especially if you add in an artist element. Now I edit photos and video for a living. The irony isn’t lost on me. But, when I was asked to learn how to do video editing in the most minimal of ways I a) blindly said yes and b) panicked. I already wasn’t super confident in my skills and now you’re wanting me to do something I feel like I can’t do, get paid for it, let other people see it and critique it, and then put it out into the world? Why does the universe hate me? Did it turn out better than okay? Absolutely.

I hopped on to some Lynda learning tutorials (get it fo free if you have a library card–hits) and taught myself skills that people pay money, lots of money and time, to learn how to do and ended up receiving really unexpected and very much appreciated praise for it. It was hard. I cried. Uncomfortable is an understatement. And I didn’t do it for praise but a simple, “thank you it made a difference” was worth it.

IS THIS OKAY?

Did you know you can pay people to watch your kid for the day? You can drive through a drop off line, drop your kid off with a packed lunch, and come pick them up a few hours later after you’ve accomplished things or just taken time to nap and shower and fed yourself the first full meal you’ve had in 48 hours. It’s a thing you can do.

Also, did you know most Mother’s Day Out programs are run in churches? I didn’t. And when I took a tour of the facility and program that my son attends I broke out into a cold sweat. I haven’t willingly walked into a church in more than a decade other than for a wedding here or there. Welcome to the bible belt where 1 out of every 4 people has emotional or spiritual trauma from a religious experience gone wrong.

daycare drop off

Leaving my son at what we call “school” and in a church full of very kind strangers is one of the hardest, most uncomfortable things I have done since giving birth. I was legitimately petrified. But, I did it for several reasons. My childcare situation changed quickly and unexpectedly so I was in desperate need of childcare a couple of days a week and I felt like I was doing my son, who is incredibly social and curious, a disservice by not providing him with a regular social experience with his peers. The first few weeks were excruciating. He scream cried when I dropped him off. I cried the whole way to the coffee shop and drowned my sorrows in quad lattes. Then he contracted a cold, HFM, and an ear infection. I legitimately questioned if it was worth it and if I should pull him from the program. But, after learning the tiny devil only cries until he makes it through the front door I’m feeling a lot better about things. Also, after spending Fall Break working nights and being constantly touched by a dog or child and seeing how happy he was to go back this morning (absolutely no tears shed by anyone), this is definitely one thing I know for certain is in the best interest of me and my family.

You may be asking why I’ve written the equivalent of a college term paper on things that make me uncomfortable (I checked the word count: it’s a lot). Because I have spent so much time the last 30 years spending too much time in my comfort zone. I’ve created a social media bubble for myself. I work from home in a comfortable nest. I keep friends that share a lot of similar interests. We are constantly doing things to make ourselves more comfortable, and I’ve realized that anytime I am committing, it’s because I feel almost certain I will succeed. These seemingly small things are pushing me. And I need it to grow. Now I’m craving a challenge. It’s making me a better woman, friend, wife, and mother.

Tell me below what are you doing that makes you uncomfortable? Are you choosing it or is it choosing you?

Tis the Season of Friendship

CUE BLOG THEME MUSIC

You better listen to it or I’ll be upset.

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Watching the boy interact with his friends at his first birthday thrust me into a bout of self reflection. The first was “how to not be the hovering parent.” I think resisting the urge to orchestrate a baby’s every move in order to keep from another child–especially a friend’s child that you also love–being bumped, scratched, pinched, tipped over, upset is a feat of self control. Thankfully my friends are great parents and all of us are pretty chilled out about baby drama. And by drama I mean the general being upset about virtually nothing. The second major reflection was realizing that the first year of parenting drew a clear line in the sand about my expectations for optional relationships in my life and what I needed to chose to invest my time into and what I needed to release.

best bitches

Making friends and keeping them has never been something that is effortless or natural for me. This may come as a surprise for some. I typically have a handful of pals. And one of my most fierce coping mechanisms is that in most aspects in life I exude confidence even when I am trying to mask my insecurities. I try to make up for whatever I feel like I am lacking in a social situation with sass, wit, and sarcasm. I’m the queen of acquaintance and being cordial and entertaining for a particular situation and retreating back into myself as soon as the event is over. But, friendship is and has always been a vulnerable thing or me. When it comes to including people in my life, my home, sharing stories, secrets, and my flaws I take it seriously and I take it to a deeply personal level. This probably comes from binge watching Now and Then every weekend in my formative years. I thought friendship was for life and now I realize that the majority of friendships are usually for a season or a specific moment in time. I’ve also come to truly believe that best friend is more a tier than a single person. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. This bit of knowledge has come from spending plenty of time in my teens and twenties broken hearted from investing too much into friendships where I got too little return on my investment. Where emotional energies clashed. I would take and not give or give and not take. This only ever lead to me getting burned out and not able to deal with the dynamic–letting relationships fizzle and fade or having a complete and utter meltdown and forcibly removing a person from my life by lighting that metaphorical bridge on fire. The first option has its place in life. The latter…well…

I’ve been every type of friend you can imagine. I’ve been the bitch, the bestie, best friend for life, second tier friend, the friend you just called when you were bored, the friend with the pool, the church friend, mortal enemy turned friend, cool friend, funny friend, little sister, big sister, coffee date, superficial gossip friend, Insta tag friend, mean girl, weird girl, neighbor friend, the girl across the street, study buddy, mom friend, AIM messenger friend, friend that is a co-worker, friend that is a business partner, the best friend “secret” girlfriend friend, the friend with really shitty benefits, the friend that sells stuff, the crafty friend, frenemy, best friend that just happens to be a girl friend, the “I didn’t necessarily want to be your friend but we happen to like all the same things” friend, the really crappy friend, travel buddy and everything in between. This has given me a unique perspective on my friendships (and at times lack thereof) and set a maybe impossibly high standard.

I was lucky enough to be paired with one of my best and, in terms of time, oldest friends straight out of the gate. For a long time we were inseparable and as children the highest compliment you could give me was to ask if she was my twin. I never had siblings growing up. This allowed me to handpick the people I looked up to and make my own surrogate siblings. She is and was the person I looked to for hand-me-down clothes, wisdom, and telling me life truths early on in life. This includes but is not limited to: the fact that Santa isn’t real and what a blow job is from the perspective of a prepubescent girl who had open parents, an older brother, and asked a lot of questions. Now she answers my questions about what your vagina feels like after you’ve had a baby, what do I do when my teething child turns my nips into hamburger meat and is an uncontrollable mood little monster, is it dumb to be afraid of dying during labor and gives me colorful commentary about what awaits me in my parenthood journey. Don’t get me wrong, our relationship hasn’t had a perfect track record. Circumstances beyond our control put distance between us right before middle school. It didn’t help that our middle school and high school experiences were littered with a smattering of awful. She was (and still is) the trifecta of pretty/popular/cool, I felt like I couldn’t compete with her new friends and didn’t want to because sometimes I am a stubborn cry baby. If my feelings are hurt I become a little petty and never forget it. Whether it is directly someone’s fault or not. This case was “or not”.

SIDE NOTE: In the process of working super hard on getting over that right this second.

But, even in the times of distance I was team her and vice versa. We watched each other go through the messy awkward, painful parts of life and come out on the other side. Motherhood has brought us together stronger in the most beautiful way, and for that I will forever be grateful. I’ve needed that in this journey. Someone that knows all the layers and shadow places. She speaks to me sans judgement. She never makes me feel ashamed of my shortcomings as a person or mother. She does nothing but lift me up. To top it off, I feel closer now with her being across the country than I feel to some of my friends that live in my backyard. She sets the bar high and sets the standard. In this season of life I have realized that I can no longer just be a friend by proximity. I simply don’t have the time or the emotional energy to do that anymore. If I can feel love from across the country via texts, then no one else has an excuse. Sorry not sorry.

I need the energy exchange to be equal. You’re in or out. As harsh as it sounds, I’ve had to set terms for myself: what I’m willing to give, what I’m willing to accept. Not everyone is going to be a super close, amazing, remarkable, memorable friend. But, that doesn’t make them a bad friend. It also doesn’t create an excuse for bad, flaky friends. Those who are close to me I want to dig deep and know them. To talk about the hard things. I feel like the connections I’ve made over the last year have been magnetic. They have been necessary, enlightening, and fulfilling. I’ve found them in unexpected places.

Coffee shops. Chiropractic offices. Warehouses. Hippie dippie birthing classes. Facebook messenger. Full moon circles. And I’m beyond thrilled that I’ve been open to it.

Thats the friendship

I feel like motherhood has been the only thing that has ever made me realize what a relationship is worth. It’s been the one thing that has allowed me the courage to say out loud, “I need this (whatever this may be) from you.” It has gifted me perspective and fierce connectivity.

I’ve been given the privilege of watching the boy begin to create meaningful connections. Until recently he hadn’t spent much time among his peers. He is funny, curious, brave, bashful, and spirited. He is an observer. Something that has already proven to draw others into him. His curiosity and want spurred on the decision for him to start a Mother’s Day Out program twice a week.

I want so many things for him in terms of relationships. Friends that lift him up and believe in his talents. Friends that want to walk through life with him and know him. Friends that buy him tacos on their birthday week. Friends that are excited to see him. Friends that love his weird. I want him to create genuine, positive connections. I want him to have a handful of forever friends. I don’t want it to take 30 years for him to figure it out and feel well supported.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t get a little morose realizing that everyone isn’t always going to engage with him they way the do now. Most people are just drawn to babies for the sake of the endorphins. I’m positive he will blaze a trail and draw people in all on his own. It’s already a talent he has that I recognize and want to foster. I am constantly working to not project my experiences on to him. We are crucial to each other’s journey. But, my experiences are not his and his are not mine. I want him to create his own adventure. Right now, that means just trying to navigate the balance between playfully curious and being so enamoured with faces that he slams his friends into the ground. I want to be present in his journey and keep myself from being overly protective or cautious when it comes to him figuring out his friends. Especially at this drunk monkey stage where they are constantly grasping to each other for stability (whoa–so much literal and figurative meaning there). I never thought I would have to learn to let him go so soon. I want everyone to love him and embrace him with open arms. I don’t want his spirit to be broken. That wild, free, open heart is so exciting to me.

You know what else is exciting to me? Quad lattes, tacos, and conversation. You can be a friend too if you provide me with these necessities. No pressure.

Identity Schmidentity

If you ever want to lose your sense of self than man, do I have a recipe for you:

HOW TO FEEL LIKE YOU’RE GOING INSANE PIE

but you're like really pretty.com pie.jpg

ADD

1 part having a baby

2 parts of starting to get your bearings as a parent then going back to a demanding job working full time

Toss in a handful of unintended home renovation

SIFT YOUR DRY INGREDIENTS

A dash of losing your position of 7 years

A pinch of transitioning into a new position

MIX WET INGREDIENTS

Tears from stress and unexpected Postpartum Depression

Throw up from heartburn related to stress, PPD, acid reflux

Sit in your basement alone with too much time to think

Grease your pan. Leave room for growth. Bake at a temperature closely related to the fires of hell. Cut your life up into as many small disoriented pieces as possible. Add whipped topping because you don’t give AF. Enjoy.

That last part is a little dramatic. But, in all seriousness, these last seven months have thrown me completely for a loop. They’ve been hard for many unexpected reasons and I’m just now starting to come back into my own again. Which is fitting since my son’s first birthday is this week.

THE RABBIT HOLE

Authenticity. Connection. Balance. Restoration. Intention.

These words have been resonating and shining light on places that I had let dust settle into over the last several months. They are helping me sort through some emotional baggage that I have been figuring out and attempting to release. They have been a reminder for me to let go of what has been holding me back. They have been ever-present in conversations with new and old friends. They make their appearance known in unexpected places. They’ve been the nudge I’ve needed to get my head out of my butt and start listening to the universe a little.

For some reason I thought postpartum depression would be more directly related to my relationship with my son and it hasn’t been at all. Silly me for thinking I knew how that would work. What do I know? It has showed itself in mysterious and confusing ways. It manifested itself physically first through sleepless nights of heartburn, acid reflux, throwing up, writhing in the floor convinced I was having a heart attack. Then with night sweats and panic attacks while nursing my son in the middle of the night. It wasn’t until the holidays when my OCD, anxiety and the need to organize the empty Amazon boxes and fold the burp clothes in uniform size before I went to bed peaked that I realized I was out of control.

FIX.com PPD image 2

Image from fix.com

I remembered having a conversation with a friend while I was still pregnant and her telling me that her PPD showed itself in an unexpected way. That she didn’t feel depressed at all. She felt overwhelmed. (Sidenote: There is a whole world beyond PPD that includes OCD, anxiety, and psychosis.)

Crap.

I put off calling my midwives. I was embarrassed. I thought because I had tried to prevent PPD, because I had made myself aware, because I was upfront about my history of anxiety and depression, because I had told my friends and family to be on the lookout that I had somehow manifested this nightmare I was living in.

I was afraid to leave the house. I was afraid I would hurt myself, my son, or my husband. Intentionally. Unintentionally. And it didn’t make sense. I am the kind of person that gets high off of my kid. I’m obsessed with him and the entire parenting experience. What the actual hell is going on with me?

After the holidays passed (ugh–I hate the holidays), I finally called my midwives. I broke out into a sweat on the phone. There is not a lot in this life that embarrasses me. But, admitting that I need help and feeling weak or vulnerable is enough to bring me to my knees. I’m not sure if it’s pride necessarily; I just want to feel capable. Even more so now that I have this tiny human that is looking to me.

The call was easier than I thought it would be, but I felt completely humbled and vulnerable. I just told them that I didn’t need to talk to anyone that day. I just wanted an appointment. And to see Blair the magical unicorn Midwife. She has seen me on my worst day, best day, and most vulnerable. Whatever she had to say I knew I could hear it coming from her mouth. And I knew she would say it with kindness.

I was surprised and a little confused when I got a call back. It was the nurse (who I love). They wanted to get me started on a med. But, she also just wanted to talk to me. Check in. And tell me her story. I ugly cried–wept to be exact. I just wanted to feel okay. But, the fact that someone cared enough to share with me and listen. It was the first time I had felt human, alive, seen and loved in days. I just needed someone to understand. To hear me. To know what I was feeling. I felt bad, broken, dirty, and ashamed. I felt like I was keeping secrets. It didn’t help that everyone thought I was fine. I was fine. And really not fine.

I put off writing about this very subject because I’m still working through this experience, I’m living it, and understanding my feelings associated with it. I’m not out of the woods…YET (shamelessly cue). I didn’t want to seem too “on trend”. Like PPD is something people want to have. Isn’t that dumb? Geeze, Lacey. It’s not “on trend”. Just because the goddess Chrissy Teigen talks about it does not mean that it is trendy. And let’s be real, thank god someone like her is talking about what so many of us experience. Everyone is just finally starting to talk about it like it’s not a scarlet letter. I need to get a grip. I’m also not too proud to admit that I was a little worried about what people might think. I hate pity. I don’t have time for it. I also don’t have time or energy for haters right now. Ew.

The medicine has helped (says the girl who is kind of anti big pharma and medicine in general). But it hasn’t been a cure-all. It shouldn’t be. And a lot has happened since I’ve started taking my antidepressant and I’ve changed and grown a lot in the last year. Hell, really the last six months. Which leads me to my next point.

THIS CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY

I’m in the middle of a work and life transition. This is the end of an era for me. My last shoot as a re-enactment producer happened on my 30th birthday and my official position move occurred right around my 7 year work anniversary. A job I did for most of my 20s. I’ve needed a little bit of time to mourn. I was weirdly fired and not fired. Video production is a strange, complicated business. It felt personal and at the same time very clinical and astringent. The juxtaposition of my feelings about it and how the shift happened are comical. But, in hindsight I need this so badly. I was feeling stuck, too at ease, too settled, maybe a bit too big for my britches and a little jaded. I’m relieved to be pushed out of my comfort zone, freed up and given the time and opportunity to use skills that had been pushed by the wayside. Another part of me is still in shock. Shifting gears has never really been my strong suit. I never learned to drive stick.

I placed so much of my identity into that job. I felt like I had the plug pulled on a crucial part of who I am (was). I thought if I ever left that position it would feel more like graduating college or it would be more of a shift or some kind of consent. But no.

It opened my eyes. I’ve been attaching my identity in all the wrong places. I’ve been the girl with the cool job, the cool hair, the cool house, the cool hobbies, the cool whatever…

I’m a mom, daughter, wife, producer, creative director, co-founder, blogger, dreamer.

No more.

I’m just a Lacey. I’m still me with all of those things and titles stripped away. I’m still me on or off antidepressants. I’m just me and that is okay.

I’m changing. I thrive on change. Very few bad things have come from big life shifts for me. But man, it is hard for me to stare change straight in the eye and conquer it head on. For someone who truly believes that change is healthy I dig my heels in, panic, meltdown, and hold on with a vice grip to what I am leaving behind. I would love to be able stare it down confidently. I’m a real stereotypical Taurus. I’m terrified of the unknown. Maybe that will be the lesson I master in this new decade of my life (Oh hey, I recently turned 30. Saturn returns and all, if you are into that kind of thing.) I am finally starting to feel my age. Still a little young and dumb, but more settled into my skin, my life, and myself. I’m just stumbling my way through it all–life, career, marriage, parenting.

But, hey, aren’t we all?

Fear and Parenting in KnoxVegas

I won’t lie. This season has been difficult for me. Finding a balance between being a wife, mother, daughter, employee, and friend has been exhausting to navigate. There are days that I want to lay on the ground and just give up. 

The last few weeks the world was burning around me. Around us. Around my family. The fire was literal. Often times it was metaphorical.

That fire struck a chord. It shook me. It made clear something that I’ve known for a long time. It’s something I try to hide but now that I’m a parent it seeps through the cracks.

I’m afraid all of the time.

What do you have to be afraid of?

I’m afraid of hurting the teeny tiny’s teeny tiny body, I’m afraid of breaking his spirit or ruining his kindness or childlike wonder, I’m afraid of not being enough, I’m afraid of not leaving him a world that is safe/good/alive/kind/functioning enough. I’m afraid I’m poisoning him unintentionally with the food we eat, the water we drink, or the air we breath. I’m afraid I’m melting his tiny brain with the radiation from various electronics around the house or the wifi (it doesn’t help that he’s started noticing the phone and TV). I’m afraid of the forest fires, drought, and war, and there are some days that I question whether or not I’m a selfish turd for bringing him into a world that is such a cluster fuck. I’m afraid of school buses, bullies, and sheltering him too much. I’m afraid I won’t let him explore enough, get dirty enough, or play hard enough. I’m afraid he will be lonely, awkward, picked on, that he might be mean, get his feelings hurt, or be afraid. I worry that he might be too privileged or spoiled. I worry if he finds himself in a scary situation, will he know what to do and will he tell me if something happens? I’m petrified of the general unrest our country is experiencing. I’m terrified that one day he could disappear. I’m terrified of losing him. I’m sick to death and terrified of all of the things I cannot possibly control.

The Blame Game

Part of it is that I’m generally just an anxiety ridden person. Some of it has been conditioned from being too connected, from being too invested in social media and other sensationalist media. Some of it is because 2016 has been a shit show of a year. I’m sure some of it is hormone related.

There are times the fear snowballs with such fury that it sends me into a downright panic and it’s a wonder that I don’t see my therapist more than I do. It’s only because I’m time and cash poor and she’s a busy lady. So my mom friends get midnight texts–because one of my favorite ones lives on the west coast and that’s super convenient because she’s a mom guru and up at midnight my time–and my husband talks me off ledges while I try to get it together. 

And my son doesn’t ever for a second think that I’m ever doing anything other than what’s best for him. He doesn’t know I’m plagued by fear on his behalf. He doesn’t know that there are days I’m terrified that the world will crumble to pieces before he ever reaches his fifth birthday. He is my grace. Unless I’m lollygagging getting the boob out when he’s ready to eat and then you’d think I was killing him or starving him to death. This has earned him the nickname Tiny Tyrant. Patience may not be his virtue, but he looks at me with hope and that makes me feel like we all have a chance and like we can turn it all around. Still the anxiety creeps in…

God, all I want is to do right by him. 

So what am I going to do?

These days I’m a big believer in putting the energy you want to receive into the world. There are times that this is borderline ridiculous for me to believe because I generally can’t stand people, am annoyed by everything, and have a bad attitude. I’m trying to improve myself for myself and in part for the boy. Self discovery and maintenance are important. This attitude towards life also seems reasonable to me: if you’re in a constant state of believing bad things will happen, bad things will happen. I can’t live in a fearful place everyday anymore. I don’t have the energy to be that anxious anymore because I have to put so much energy into raising my son, working, being a wife and daughter, and finding time for myself. I can’t do any of those things if I waste my energy with my anxiety and fear in dropping the ball somewhere. I’m trying. It doesn’t always work out that way, but I’m trying. Some days I feel stretched by it. Some days it feels easier to be overwhelmed.

Writing that out makes it seems like a high-pressure, counterintuitive, and stressful way to come at managing my anxious thoughts. It is a little. 

With the fire the rains came, help came. I’m hoping there is something to ease my mind. Metaphorical rain. 

I want to go into the New Year with clear eyes and a full heart. (Any FNL fans out there?)

So I will count my blessings. I will focus on self care. I will see my therapist. I will go speak with my doctor and make sure I’m still on the right track. I will ask for help. I will manage this fear.

In times of crisis, I find comfort in this quote:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” — Mister Rogers

It speaks volumes, especially living in the Volunteer State where the Red Cross has to tell people to slow their roll because they can’t keep up with the donations and the Queen Mother Saint Dolly Parton promises to take care of her people. 

There is still good in the world.

Tell me, how do you manage your fear?

The Little One That Got Away

This is the most personal thing I have ever shared. Even some of the people closest to me don’t know my truest feelings about what happened. It’s still an open wound. It’s also the story that pushed me to start this blog. If you choose to comment, I would appreciate you taking that into consideration…

….

Neither one of my pregnancies were planned.

You read that right. Plural. More than one. I only have one child earth side, and I suppose it was meant to be that way. My son is a rainbow baby. I’ve linked to an explanation of what that means because I hate to define him that way. It is a term that I scoff at whenever I see it on social media because there is something so cloying and saccharine about it that I physically reject it. Maybe it’s because there has never been any comfort in that description for me, although I can see where it would be comforting for some. I had a miscarriage before my son was born, and it was the most excruciating experience I have lived through. For whatever reason, giving birth to him has reopened that wound. It’s a wound that is mostly healed but still weeps from time to time.

Think of it like cooking with grease. You know that if it burns too hot and you stand too close that it can pop you. You won’t see it coming, but it will sink into your skin and burn red hot. That’s what it feels like.

I’ve avoided this topic because my feelings are complicated at best, and they’re not open for discussion. I want to just spew them out into the world in the hopes that it will detox my soul and make me feel better. Like a bad night on the town. And for whatever reason, when you miscarry, you spend a lot of time comforting others and convincing them you’re okay and that you’re loss isn’t going to rub off on them. I don’t need you to be sorry or sympathetic. Save it. I need you to hear me and know that at least a few of your friends have gone through the same thing. I am 1 in 5.

Unexpected

The first half of 2015 was hard. I lost my two remaining grandparents within 10 days of each other. They both lived long lives and had been unwell for quite some time. We knew that losing them was imminent, but that didn’t make losing them any easier. I had no remaining grandparents, and the finality of their deaths and that realization was something that aged and unnerved me. My husband and I left for our second anniversary trip days after my grandfather’s funeral. Our anniversary falls in the early spring, so it’s not uncommon for me to be plagued with seasonal allergies and the occasional vicious cold. When my husband informed me of my grandfather’s death, I had been sick in bed the day before with a cold and temperatures well over 100. Knowing I needed to be with my family, I called in a Z-pak just in case what I was battling wasn’t a cold. To top it off, I was on my period. It was a great week.

The celebration of my grandfather was lovely and our anniversary trip was a nice reprieve from the somber weeks. Not long after our return, I noticed I was still feeling off. I was exhausted to the point of nodding off at my desk, and I couldn’t be enticed to eat, even by my favorite meals. My first inclination was that I still had the seasonal crud, but there was a nagging feeling and a morbid curiosity–surely I couldn’t be pregnant. I was on birth control and had been for years. But I couldn’t wait. I had to know before my work day was even over.

I went and got my favorite lunch (which was disgusting) and a box of pregnancy tests from the Walgreens down the street. I came back. I peed on one and what showed up was the faintest line I have ever seen. It was borderline comical. Surely not. I peed on another. Same results. I was shocked, scared, and confused. I tried not to panic. I mentioned it casually to one of my best friends at dinner. She laughed and told me that I was probably pregnant. I brushed her off and slowly sipped my beer. In total denial. I had saved one last test…just in case. I would take it a few days later. You know, because if I was really pregnant the HcG would build up. Right? I felt that panic you only feel when you are desperately in trouble. The kind where your stomach drops and your body begins to heat up from the inside out. You feel it deep down and it eventually makes it to the tips of your ears and top of your head. I hate that feeling.

A few days later, I took the last test. The line was darker. Unmistakeable. So I did what any woman who wasn’t planning a pregnancy would do. On the way home that night I went and dropped extra money on digital tests just in case I was a dumbass who couldn’t read an analog test. I also stopped at Chick-fil-a. If Chick-fil-a tasted awful something was horribly wrong. And it did. It was terrible. I couldn’t even finish it. I took one test when I got home. I knew my husband would be working late and I would be alone. Pregnant. It said pregnant. I just sat on the couch with it for a long time. Like it was a stranger who had showed up at my front door and tried to witness to me. It was tense and awkward. I couldn’t even look at the dogs. I wanted to text my husband and tell him to come home immediately that something was horribly wrong. Part of me was mad. We weren’t trying to get pregnant. In fact, we are actively not trying. That same part of me was terrified. Another part of me knew I should just feel grateful. Some people wait their whole lives for this moment. I was not one of those people. I had strongly considered never procreating. My husband and our lives together was enough.

But there I was alone on my couch and too bewildered to even look my dogs in the face.

The thing about digital tests is the results disappear after awhile. So I could pretend like it didn’t happen. But I didn’t. I hid the test behind me when my husband got home knowing full well that he had a terrible day. Then when he was getting ready for bed I placed it where I was 100% sure he would find it. Under the remote on his pillow. When he finally figured out what it was, we both just laid there shocked. How did we get here?

I blame the Z-pak.

Then I blamed God, misfortune, my cold, the Z-pak, fate, that stupid awful year, timing, luck…you name it, I blamed it. The timing was terrible. I had just lost my grandparents, we were both slammed at work, I was working on my passion project, and we were looking for a new house. And I was happy with where we were in our relationship. I wasn’t ready to change things.

I was a tangled mess of emotions. I was tired, sick, exhausted, and on progesterone which exacerbates every single thing that is awful about the first trimester of pregnancy. I couldn’t keep my pregnancy a secret. Not really. And the fact that I was blindsided by it made things worse. Planning is sort of my strong suit. It’s what I do for a living. It’s mostly worked out for me in life. I’m also the product of an unplanned pregnancy, and I swore that I would not bring a child into the world that way. Something deep-seeded was triggered inside of me, and I was in a mental downward spiral. I just wasn’t ready, and I blamed myself for not being able to pull it together. My baby deserved better. I would sob in my office alone. I would sob during lunch. I would sob on my way home. I felt deeply afraid and alone. I was not ready. This was not what I wanted. This is not how I wanted to feel when I got pregnant.

Acceptance

Days turned into weeks, and I started becoming more accepting of the idea. I was going to be a parent. I was going to be a parent. I was going to be a parent. Then I tried talking myself into the idea of being a great parent. I’m not ready, but I am going to be an awesome parent. We announced my pregnancy to our families. Their excitement was infectious. I was still terrified and unsure, but I was in a better place. I took my vitamins. I took my progesterone pills. We went to our appointments. We got to hear the baby’s heartbeat. Things were progressing and progressing well. Until they weren’t.

One day I was feeling particularly not good at work and went to the bathroom and saw the thing every pregnant woman fears–blood. It was just a small spot and not particularly red. I called the nurse. We played phone tag for a bit and finally when I reached her I was greeted with the comforting advice: “If the blood isn’t bright red and you aren’t cramping, don’t worry about it.” I was offered a reassurance appointment, but turned it down because my questions had been answered. Don’t worry about it. So I didn’t. A couple of nights later I had what felt like excruciating heartburn. I wallowed in the pain. I thrashed. I vomited. What was happening to me? I’ll never forget it. We were watching the Paddington movie. I will forever hate Paddington bear because of that night.

Twisted

We went to our 10-week appointment a few days after that. It was the first appointment where I didn’t have to be violated by the giant ultrasound dildo. I dressed extra special cute for the occasion because I was excited. They couldn’t hear a heartbeat. Not super uncommon. Sometimes babies are turned and they are so teeny tiny at that stage they can hide. So…here comes the giant ultrasound wand. Still no heartbeat. She apologized with the straightest face, and it was the most vacant sound I had ever heard. She called it a blighted ovum. The baby stopped growing at six weeks. I felt the same feelings I felt when I found out I was pregnant. Panic, fear, dread. I vibrated. My face felt hot. My hands were clammy. I couldn’t eek out a sound other than, “Okay.” She told me that Blair, the wonder midwife, would come discuss my options with me. This isn’t what I wanted to happen. We were almost out of the first trimester. I was excited now. All this time I had just wanted to feel ready.

I sat in a small room. I remember thinking that the lighting looked green. I felt like when you see someone in the movies and they seem to get smaller while everything around them gets bigger? I felt that. My sweet husband asked me if I was okay. I was numb. I can’t remember what all was said. I just remember what I felt. I remember Blair’s smile and how much I wanted to feel comforted by it, but I was furious. I felt robbed. I felt sick and offended and irritated that the lighting was green and the room was sterile and the pictures on the walls were crooked. I was crumbling and people kept talking to me about what was happening with my body and I wanted to scream.

I felt like my body failed me. Why didn’t it do its job?! Why. Why. Why. Why. Why did it hold on to this baby that wasn’t there? The progesterone that I need in the early stages of pregnancy to maintain my pregnancy had a lot to do with it. I was asked if I wanted surgery to remove what was still inside of me or if I wanted to try and pass what remained at home. I chose the at home option. They prescribed me Cytotec and a pain reliever so that I didn’t have to have a D&C. I called my mom. I drove home on a beautiful summer day. I climbed in bed with my dogs and I cried. I cried until I made myself ill. I let my bosses know I wouldn’t be working for a few days.

The next morning after my husband left for work I took a handful of pills and inserted them into my vagina and waited. When the cramps came I cried. This wasn’t right. This is the pill women use for abortions. I wanted my baby. I took a pain pill and laid in my room in the dark and the silence. I passed the amniotic sac later that afternoon. I vowed then to stop thinking about what was happening to me as losing my baby. I couldn’t bear to think of my baby’s remains in my septic tank in a house I wouldn’t be living in for much longer. I ran a bath to ease the cramps. I watched the water turn pink. The dogs came to check on me and I held their faces from the side of the tub and wept. I stayed there until the sweet husband returned home to rescue my exhausted, limp body from the lukewarm water. It was torture and I blamed myself.

I blamed myself for being afraid to be pregnant in the first place. I blamed myself for getting what I wished for and for ever wishing I wasn’t pregnant. I never wanted this to happen.

I had a follow-up appointment a few days later to make sure that I had passed everything. The ultrasound showed that my placenta was still getting blood flow and still trying to grow. I had to take the pills again. My anger grew. I was hopeless. I was at rock bottom. I was floundering.

I took the pills again…nothing happened. At least nothing like the first time. I followed up. Placenta still there. Still getting blood flow. Still mocking me. My therapist suggested I mentally let go. I couldn’t.

They finally scheduled a D&C. They didn’t want to risk me getting an infection. At that point I could have dropped dead and not cared. I was mentally and physically exhausted. I felt like I had every ounce of feeling wrung from my bones.

Mourning

We moved into our new house. I wasn’t even particularly excited. I just wanted to be in and to feel the comfort of home. I had spent the spring and summer pregnant or trying to get rid of a failed pregnancy. My surgery came and went. I felt alone. Even in bed lying next to a husband that adored me and with friends and family checking in with me I felt utterly alone.

My emptiness led to one of the worst Italian meals and dates that my husband and I have had in the history of our relationship. I can count on one hand (and not fill it up) the instances that we have legitimately argued. I have never felt more isolated or further away from him than I did that evening. I was angry that he would never be able to feel as vacant as I was feeling in that moment and that his body would never experience what it felt like to house another life and lose it. I have never wanted to flee my life like I did when we were on our way home that night. I felt like if he couldn’t reach me that I was doomed to feel like this forever.

I felt embarrassed when I had to tell someone what happened and angry when I felt like I had to comfort them when they apologized for my loss. I wanted to smack every single person that for a second had pity in their eyes for me. I didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

I wanted to move on.

I tried to throw myself into making our new house a home. That failed when I couldn’t afford a rug that I wanted because I had to pay for a surgery that I never wanted and that I never saw coming. I crumpled in the floor and sobbed and felt selfish. I was heavy on the floor in the sun with my husband’s arms around me. I was inconsolable and it started because I wanted a rug.

And then the Facebook pregnancy announcements started to come. The amount of people announcing their pregnancies right around the same time I would have been were astonishing, and I grew more bitter with every single one of them. I unfollowed people that I had been friends with since childhood. And then one of my favorite friends in the world got pregnant. She told me at my house in the kindest, most delicate way. She knew. She knew how I would feel. She was the one who had listened to me cry, gone with me to dinner, helped me eat the biggest cheese tray known to man, and taken me to see Pitch Perfect 2 (because you have to be happy watching Pitch Perfect 2). Here she was, in my house, sharing her most exciting news. I wanted to tackle her to the ground in my living room. I wanted to tell her to get out of my house. I wanted to cry right in front of her face and all I could say was, “Congratulations.” I tried to speak as little as possible for the rest of the time that she was over because I knew my voice would crack. When she left I cried. I felt personally betrayed and unfollowed her on Facebook too. And then I felt like a selfish asshole for not being happy for one of my favorite friends.

The next day while I was home alone, I did YWA “Yoga for a Broken Heart” and openly sobbed on my living room floor until I was sick and gave myself petechiae under my eyes. I screamed at God and the Powers that Be for putting me through this pain. I threw things. I pitched a fit. I felt like what was left of my heart was being poured out on the floor. I let my mind wander to places I hadn’t seen in a long time. I was terrified that this might happen to me again. I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to have babies. I was mad and felt utterly stupid that it took me losing my baby to realized that was what I wanted in the first place.

Fate

I isolated myself for weeks. Friends tried to comfort me with stories of other friends or family members who had miscarried. All I could think was, “Why does nobody talk about this?” I was a statistic. 1 in 5. 20%. And no one talks about it. No one talks about it until it’s already happened. No one talks about it until you’ve dipped your toes in the “I was almost a parent” pond. Some already see themselves as a parent. I didn’t. I saw myself as alone and a failure. Because no one talks about it. Why? Is it the hushed whispers leftover from 1950s housewives? Is it because I live in the South and it’s not something that is polite to discuss at the dinner table? Has the statistic always been 20%? Is it more or less because no one wants to raise their hand and say, “Hey, this happened to me and it sucks and I’m torn up about it”? The thoughts and questions sent me reeling. That’s a lot of people. A lot of women keeping something painful inside. I didn’t choose for this to happen to me so why am I acting like l ashamed?

Fate would have it that I got pregnant again really quickly. And I was terrified all over again, but for completely different reasons. I will never forget telling my husband and him replying, “In theory you’re pregnant.” All I could think was, “No…in all reality I am 100% pregnant, and we could lose another baby.” I was petrified throughout my first trimester. I had to take progesterone again. My psyche couldn’t handle me losing another. I was perpetually exhausted from my fear. I missed the naivety I felt when I found out I was pregnant the first time. I had just assumed that nine months later I would be cradling a teeny tiny baby of my very own. This time I braced myself for my body and biology to fail me again.I didn’t accept that I might have happiness until my baby boy was in my arms. Even now there are days that I hover over him and just watch his chest go up and down and hope and pray that he makes it until tomorrow. To say my loss has had an effect on my parenting style would be an understatement.

Even after getting pregnant and well into my pregnancy I still couldn’t follow my friends’ parental journeys on social media. I still clung tight to a little bitterness. Why was it so easy for them? Why had I been put through this torture? And even now that I have an amazing little boy, I still envy what seems to be the ease and general lightness they seem to have as parents. That’s not to say I’m a gray cloud of a hover parent. I’m not. But since this wound has reopened a little, I have a bit of heaviness in my heart. I’ll never know why it happened. Maybe it was because I wasn’t ready. Maybe it’s because there’s someone out there that needed me to share my story so they don’t feel as alone as I did when it happened to me. I’ll never know.

If you are part of the 20%, if you lost a pregnancy, if you lost a child, if you lost a baby full term, if you want to talk about it–talk about it. Get it out there. If you want to talk to me, I’ll listen. If you want to scream because someone looked at you with pity in their eyes–scream. I’ll never understand why women don’t tell anyone they are pregnant until after the first trimester of pregnancy. I understand it from the perspective that you can lose a pregnancy in the early stages, but that is exactly why I think people should know. Those first 12 weeks are incredibly isolating. I felt like garbage. All I wanted was for everyone to know why I was feeling and acting terrible. I wanted everyone to let me grieve my loss. I wanted to not feel alone.

I encourage you to talk about it. Even if it’s hard. I encourage you to break that mold.

 

But What if I Don’t Want it All?

Right now I feel like my inner monologue is battling with a terrible used car salesman that I argue with every single day, but instead of a used car he is selling me a used life.

“You can have it all for the low, low price of—“

“—Of what? Missing milestones in my son’s life, feeling like I’m being an absentee parent, feeling frustrated with my child because I’m exhausted, and feeling like I’m half-assing everything and there’s not enough time in the day to get everything done, having mommy guilt because if and when I do get it all done I want to rest, take a bath, have a glass of wine, have some alone time, and sleep so I don’t feel crazy?”

I’m not saying this is how things will be once my maternity leave ends, but right now that’s how I feel and it’s awful.

I have never really wanted to have it all. I think maybe I thought I did at one time, but I don’t. And I respect women that do. There are days that I wish I did feel that way. Some of my closest friends are those picture perfect wives and mothers that seem to juggle everything with grace and ease. But, there is no feeling worse to me than feeling like I am spread too thin. I’ve never had a problem finding projects for myself, but usually when I take something else on I am pretty positive I can accomplish it. There have been rare occasions I’ve had to step away from things, but it’s only because when I do something, I want to do it well. If I can’t do it well I would at least like to do it sufficiently. If I can’t do it sufficiently then why bother? I don’t want my name attached to crappy garbage work, and I’m shocked at people who do. My mother can tell you I’ve been some version of this for a long time. If I wasn’t my version of an expert at my chosen hobby that year I wouldn’t continue to do it. She thought it was fickle and indicated at a lack of wanting to practice, and maybe it was a little. I like to think of it as knowing my limitations. I may have a short attention span, but that attention span is all in to whatever it is I choose to do.

You Want Me To Do What?

I resent the notion that being made to feel like having it all is even possible. You’re telling me that I’m expected to work 40 hours a week, be a present and loving wife and mother, maintain some level of cleanliness in my home, clean myself and my child, feed us (just kidding–I don’t cook but I make that boobie juice), love my dogs, have a hobby, participate in my child’s hobbies (when he gets them), maintain my handful of meaningful friendships, bathe, sleep, exercise, and do all of it well and be happy about it? All while running on little to no sleep. That is insane and unrealistic. I refuse to accept it. Something has got to give. I have both feet in my new life as a mother and one toe dipped in my “pre-mom” life and I’m going back to my job in two weeks. I’m panicking. I’m staring at a life that I don’t recognize right in the eyes, and I feel like I’ve seen a ghost. It’s crazy that I should even feel this level of anxiety while my child is still considered a newborn.

Life Isn’t Fair—To Women

It’s not fair. And yes, I know I sound like the millennial I am right now. But it’s really not. I shouldn’t be torn right now. My hormones, my body, my mind, and everything I am says I should be with my son at basically all times. Hell, I can’t go to dinner with my girlfriends or a football game without my boobs leaking and longing to be with him. I am primal right now. I should be enjoying this time with my son and I am, but in the back of my head at all times I’m worried about what kind of parent I am going to be when I return back to work in a couple of weeks.

I’m fortunate enough that I have it a lot easier than most parents who return to work. My mother will be the one taking care of my son, and I have the privilege of working from home most days. But anyone who works from home can tell you that once your home becomes your office, the lines between your work and home life become increasingly blurred and it takes discipline to create boundaries. It’s fairly common for me to respond to emails at 11:00 at night or in the middle of Sunday brunch. Working at a job that is so integrated into my life with a baby at home that hasn’t quite figured out the joys of a nap that lasts longer than 30 minutes has me stressed, and I should be blissed out on oxytocin right now.

I am not one of these women who wants to stay home with my child until they are 12, not that there’s a thing wrong with that. Like I’ve said, I enjoy working and have no problems finding projects for myself. And I know women who were ready to return to work immediately and that is fine too, but I’m not one of them. I need more time to find that balance. I crave time with my boy. 12 weeks isn’t enough and I already feel like I’m floundering. I feel helpless, and I feel like it’s a broken system that has failed me.

FMLA Senator Response.png

So Long Savings Account

America is the only industrialized country IN THE WORLD that does not offer paid maternity leave. Yeah, you read that right. In the world. Our “progressive” country? Doesn’t offer paid maternity leave. Neither does the company that I work for, and when people talk to me about what they assume is my paid time off—I laugh in their face. They also didn’t start offering temporary disability until I was eight months pregnant. People just assume I was stupid and didn’t know about temporary disability. I knew. It wasn’t an option for me because apparently you have to have temporary disability for nine months before you ever get pregnant. What a freaking joke. To say that I am bitter is an understatement. I’m bitter that I had to use my vacation hours. Guess what? Expelling a human from your body isn’t a vacation. I’m bitter because helping that tiny human acclimate to life outside of the womb isn’t a vacation. And babies only start becoming super pleasant to be around once your 12-week FMLA stint is over. I’m sure this post makes me sound like a bitter feminist shrew, and I kind of am. I’m also bitter because women in charge are okay with these policies because “that’s how things have always been.” That kind of temperament is what gets you in trouble. That kind of reasoning is why women still get paid 75 cents to the man’s dollar. That kind of acceptance is why my savings account is dwindling because I wanted to be at home for at least 12 weeks with my newborn son.

An Antiquated System

The fact that FMLA even needs to exist blows my mind and to me is further proof that the human race treats its fellow man like garbage. I will link to the actual FMLA government page because it is worth the read and is important for mothers-to-be, but for those of you that don’t know and need to know, the short of it is this:

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a United States federal law requiring covered employers to provide employees job-protected and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons.

Listen, I know private companies can’t pay for people to have baby after baby or for employees to go take care of family members or get injured and never come back. I may have failed economics twice in college, but it wasn’t because I don’t understand how making money works. It was because I can’t read complex graphs, and I wanted to take a nap. In all things in life, I believe in moderation. But what this says to me is that in the 1990s, someone thought that this federal law was adequate?! Less than 30 years ago no one stopped and thought that paid maternity leave was even an option or necessary? What about paternity leave? Shouldn’t fathers get ample time to bond with their children as well? Did these people have families? If my husband was responsible for passing some half-assed law like that he would never get laid again. Ever. And to top it off, before FMLA existed my company could have given my job away despite the fact I told them I would return to work, and I’ve been a loyal and hardworking employee for the better half of a decade. What the hell, America? How are we not more advanced than this by now?

So What’s the Solution? Hell if I know.

Do I have a solution? Yeah, fix it. Give families the time they deserve. Not only is it what is best for the family and child–it is a biological need. Do I have a solution that I think will be effective immediately? No, not really. Write your Congressmen. Even if they give you a dipshit response. Stop accepting that FMLA is enough. Ask your companies to review their outdated leave policies. Write a blog. Start a ruckus. Vote for someone who gives a damn. Just stop accepting that this is normal and okay. It’s not okay. It’s bullshit. Private companies shouldn’t stand for it. States shouldn’t stand for it. And our “progressive” (backwards) freaking country needs to get its act together.

Okay, I’m worn out. Rant on pause. I would say it made me feel better, but it didn’t. I’m going to go tend to the needs of my child while he still has the 24/7, undivided attention that he deserves during the first few weeks of life.

 

Human Pacifier

It’s been one of those weeks in our house where life just seems to get in the way. Everyone has felt under the weather and ragweed is blossoming in full force. It’s a joke in the Scruffy City that if you didn’t have allergies when you arrived here…you do now. And it’s true. We’re basically always voted in the top 10 cities for the worst allergies. If we are being totally honest the grogginess of battling allergies, preventing them from becoming a full blown cold or sinus infection, feeding the boy at night, keeping up with his needs during the day, and trying to maintain a general level of cleanliness in the house has me on the brink. Stay-at-home moms are warriors, man. I never underestimated them before, but now I never will. All of this is to say that I’m exhausted. Like cry in the middle of the coffee shop exhausted and I love the time I’ve spent at home. I wish it could be this way forever. But, I’ve had very little of myself to give this week. And when you are the food source for another human being you don’t always get the option to say, “no”.  Sure, I have bags of breast milk squirreled away in the freezer, but pumping milk also requires some sort of effort so in my mind despite the fact that I feel awful I might as well just feed the boy the good old fashioned way and give him the boob. I’m trying to save my milk for late nights when I am sleeping hard, days when the boy stays with my mom so I can accomplish something other than our survival, and my eventual return to the true-crime hustle.

It Ain’t Easy

I have a complicated relationship with breastfeeding. There was a moment in the hospital when the boy latched for the first time that I thought, “We’re not going to be able to do this.” It was painful, bordering on excruciating and I had just gotten done with 17 hours of labor without a single bit of pain medication. I knew it was wrong. I had enough friends and family members who struggled with breastfeeding to know that this wasn’t supposed to be a painful process thru and thru. It was going to take some getting used to, but this was too much. The first two days my son was alive he ate some from the breast, but got most of his milk from a syringe, tube, finger, and a spoon. I asked if they had checked him for tongue-tie when he initially went to the nursery. The nurses assured me that he had been checked, but that they would send the lactation consultant to see me as soon as possible. Let me tell you, a good lactation consultant is a gift from the powers that be. A lot of people don’t know that breastfeeding can be complicated as best, but these women…they know their shit. They taught me different holds and showed me exactly where my nipple should land in the boy’s mouth. But something was still off despite the fact that the consultant said I was doing everything right and that I had the perfect nipples for breastfeeding (such a strange compliment). I was devastated at the prospect that this might not be for me. I didn’t tell anyone that I had any doubts. I was just determined. After our second consult I asked the lactation consultant if she though he might have a tongue-tie. Sure enough she thought he might. He saw another pediatrician and eventually had both lips and tongue clipped. And everything about feeding became a million times easier and less painful. We never looked back and my doubts immediately faded. Mamas, trust your instincts.

Literal Titty Baby

The boy is a good eater. A very good eater, so good that he wants to do it 24/7. Awake. Asleep. Doesn’t matter he wants to eat and touch me. And apparently he has his father’s metabolism. He should be approximately 9 million pounds at this point, but he’s just putting on weight at a healthy rate. It’s really kind of annoying. Those Strike genes are crazy good stuff. Little did I know when we started our breastfeeding journey that it meant my child would want to be attached to me at all times and if his mouth isn’t latched on to my nipple directly then he wants to have it hanging out of his mouth or his face touching it just in case he decides he wants to eat. And on days when he isn’t feeling great he wants to actually nurse every second of the day. Before I was a parent and thought I knew everything I would have thought or said something like, “Well just don’t let him do that.” (Laughs maniacally and eye begins to twitch) Fuck off. I’m not a chump. It is not for lack of trying to get this child to use a pacifier or a bottle, hangout in his play gym, sit in the bouncer, lay in his crib, or just live for a second not on my body. I’m not stranger these days to being screamed at or baby sassed and even though this kid makes me a puddle of mush I think I still have a pretty thick skin.  But, like his parents, the boy is nothing if not persistent or stubborn as hell. Whichever way you choose to look at it. And there are days where I would rather drop dead than be touched for one more second. Those days I just want to tear my boobs off and hand them to my child and tell him that I don’t want them anymore and he can have them. I can’t decide if that is an only-child thing, a human thing, or a dramatic thing. Let’s just say all three to make me feel better. I’m an only child and I have basically a 3-foot personal space bubble around me at all times. It’s the reason I am not allowed to go to concerts or sporting events that don’t give me a designated seat anymore. Being someone’s comfort and food source has been an adjustment to say the least.

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Photo by: Colleen Keough Petree

Royal Pain in the…Boob?

I didn’t know boobs could get tired and mine get really, really tired. There are days that my nips look like soggy bathtub toes. This is because the boy is a really good faker and seems like he is still eating, but really he is asleep and using me as a human pacifier. We know if nothing else will comfort him he can be passed off to me and within seconds he will be fine. As hard as that is sometimes there is a part of me that loves that I have that effect on him. But, the second he is upset or hungry my boobs can sense it and my letdown begins. Hell, he can just look at me and there it goes. Fun thing about that? My body didn’t think that the pins and needles feeling was enough for it to know that milk is on its way. My letdown burns with the fire of a thousand suns and I start to leak everywhere. It is painful. Doesn’t matter where I am at or what I am doing I become a milk geyser. If I could do something about it I might be borderline embarrassed, but there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it so I’ve just embraced it. Another reason I have soggy bathtub toe nips? My breast pads are constantly soaked. Whoever invented those could become a billionaire solely from keeping me comfortable and dry. I invested in reusable ones because I feel like I’m single-handedly responsible for saving the planet and FMLA has made me poor. The boy is also an aggressive eater. There are times he is so happy and consumed in eating that he tears at my nipples like he’s a puppy. It takes everything I have in me not to boop his nose. There other day he pulled it like 2 inches from my body. I squealed. There may or may not have been tears.

Not the Fountain of Youth

As silly (and vain) as it may seem there have been a fair amount of tears associated with my boobs these days. My letdown burns like a mother, my nips are used as chew toys, and simply put they just aren’t what they used to be and that has been the hardest part of my postpartum body to accept. One of the best compliments I received in college was from a classmate was that I had some of the perkiest breasts she has ever seen. I’ve held on to that for years. If I had nothing else I had perky boobs. When I got pregnant they were perky and full. They were never huge. They were just right and I loved them. Now not so much. I have mom boobs. I love them for different reasons, but the streaks of purple, extra pink nips, and the heaviness and emptiness that comes from filling and emptying of milk is still taking some getting used to. But, I love that they are responsible for giving my boy a full belly at night.

What IS there to Like?

Before y’all think I’m down on breastfeeding (cause everyone on the internet is a hater these days) let me reiterate that for everything that is hard about breastfeeding there is something equally as fascinating and rewarding. I can’t pretend that every time I pump (I’ll write about that necessary evil one day) or accidentally squirt milk across the room that I’m not a little bit fascinated. I have the same, “that came out of me” reaction every time. It’s shocking. The same milk that feeds my son can also help clear up his baby acne and has about a billion other uses. It’s liquid magic. And making that milk can help melt off all of that ass fat I accumulated growing a human and eating delicious lard fried donuts every week. It’s science. If you’re into science this is a cool and encouraging article a friend sent me when I began breastfeeding. And there are days like today that we laze around and he eats a leisurely second breakfast or elevenses and pets me on the chest as if to say, “Thanks mom”.  It’s a gift and sometimes it brings me to my knees with gratitude that I get to spend that special time with him. Those moments during the day are ours. Do I feel lucky to be able to do that for my son? Totally. I know that not everyone is as lucky as I have been. I’m just here to let you know it ain’t easy. I’m so thankful to my friends that shared their stories with me. I thought it would just be second nature. Caveperson style instinct and ease. Nope.

Do What is Right—For You

I also know that fed is best. I don’t think any mom should ever be shamed or made to feel like she is less because she can’t breastfeed. What the hell is that about these days anyway? Sometimes it’s just not an option and that is okay. I was adopted. Not a single bit of breast milk touched this sass mouth. And to top it all off I was lactose intolerant. I got soy formula and I’m pretty sure it was before the days of putting DHA in everything. I’m here, fine, and a mostly well adjusted human being and I don’t have an extra appendage or strange ailment. Do what is right for you, your baby, and your family. You don’t have anyone else to please. Just know that if you are having a rough go of it you are not alone. If you need to reach out to someone about it you can reach out to me! I definitely encourage those who are struggling to reach out to someone. Even though my specific struggle (it’s still exhausting every night) didn’t last very long it was just a comfort to know that there were other moms in my immediate friend group that also didn’t just magically pick up their baby and breastfeed.

The most encouraging words I’ve heard all week are, “You got this mama. Remember, you can do hard things.” You can and you will.

And a word to the wise. Count your blessings. Either way count them. Because one day your little one might start to latch and never turn back and you will be feeding your baby  (who is taking their sweet time) on the couch and you’ll need to poop. Bad. Just saying. Not that I know from experience or anything.

Postpartum Life?

I don’t know why, but I always assumed that postpartum was a distinct amount of time like six to 12 weeks or three months. When I Googled postpartum, Postpartum Depression (PPD) automatically came up. That was it. That wasn’t what I was looking for, so I had to reevaluate my search and instead looked up “postpartum definition”. Turns out that the definition of postpartum is “following childbirth or the birth of young”. Uhhh. Duh. Isn’t that just life now? Isn’t everything postpartum? The fact that Google and Merriam-Webster don’t know what exactly I am trying to find is further proof that postpartum life is kind of an enigma and that no one really talks about it. I personally think that is really annoying because I had no idea what to expect after giving birth. Sometimes my questions are too big for the Google.

Postpartum life brings along more than just physical changes. And as discussed before, those physical changes can elicit an emotional response. (Thanks, hormones!) I’ve been an emotional train wreck. I’ve experienced some “baby blues”. The things I have anxiety about range from reasonable to “I’m afraid my baby is smiling at ghosts” (a legitimate concern this week). During my pregnancy I was absolutely terrified of getting PPD. It actually kept me awake some nights. Not to mention there’s also postpartum OCD, postpartum psychosis, and pretty much any other mental break you can think of, and I was afraid of getting all of them. I’m sure there’s still time.

Now before you think that I’m a hypochondriac, you have to understand that I have dealt with anxiety and depression on and off for the last 15 years, basically since I hit puberty. These were genuine fears, and I discussed these fears with my therapist, midwives, doula, husband, mom, and good friends. I wanted them (and still do want them) to hold me accountable for my actions, whether that is just in life or specific to parenting. I am the queen of keeping it together until I can’t anymore and trying to convince everyone “it’s fine” when really I’m about to lose it. I didn’t want that to happen once the boy got here, so I started building my tribe based on that fear. I hate asking for help, but I was too afraid not to ask for help in this arena. It is nothing to be ashamed of, especially if it’s something that concerns you. Plus, ain’t nobody got time for that shit when they are trying to take care of a teeny tiny.

Meat Pills

Along with preparing myself by building a solid support group, I also looked into encapsulating my placenta. I had read that it was supposed to help boost milk supply, help prevent PPD, balance your hormones, and replenish your iron levels among many other benefits. This isn’t an exact science or proven by the FDA (honestly who gives a crap about them), but I figured every other animal on the planet consumes their placenta and they can’t all be wrong. Plus, your body just created an amazing organ that helped to keep your baby alive. I couldn’t bear the thought of throwing it in the garbage (I’m also kind of an emotional hoarder). Much like all of the different things I was willing to try in order to not tear my nether regions, I was willing to try just about anything I thought might help with PPD. If you are considering having encapsulation done be forewarned: placenta capsule burps taste like you are burping up really beefy dog food. This stupidly surprised me, and I feel like I shouldn’t have been because it makes sense. But I swear they help. I think the body still needs those nutrients, but I’m not a medical professional. Not even close. What do I know?

Freakin’ Cry Baby

I thought it might be fun to make a list about all of the things I have cried or teared up about since the boy has arrived. All of these reasons I feel like are valid in their own way. Here they are:

My new set of balls” hurts, and I forgot to take my Motrin and Tylenol 3.

My nipples hurt, and the boy just gave me a tittie twister.

I haven’t had a hug or touched my husband or any person other than my son in days and I feel lonely.

I haven’t been out of the house in days.

I haven’t showered since God knows when (which is ironic because I would go days and days without showering before the boy arrived and it never bothered me).

I smell weird. Like a new kind of weird. My BO has completely changed. I also can smell a pee diaper from a mile away.

I’m exhausted. I am an 8-10 hour a night kind of girl and mom life has been a rude awakening.

I feel bad for my dogs because their lives have changed, and they never saw it coming.

My husband went back to work.

I suck at this.

I miss my old life.

Sometimes I don’t want to be a mom anymore.

I feel bad because I hate everything.

I love my son too much.

I wish that no one would ever touch me again for as long as I live.

The boy is growing and cannot fit into a newborn onesie.

The boy has gas, and I cannot help him.

The boy is crying for some unknown reason, and I cannot figure it out and I am so tired that I want to die.

The boy nuzzled me.

I love my mom.

I’m starving and haven’t eaten in hours but the boy is asleep on me.

Shelter dogs.

The Subaru commercial with the dog.

The prescription med commercial with the old people and the Annie tune.

Everything is harder.

More “It takes a village” Advice

Because everything is harder than it was before, having a support system has been key for me. Like super key. Like I’m calling or texting someone everyday wondering what the hell I am supposed to be doing. Motherhood has blessed me by deepening my connections with friends, my own mother, and bringing me some great new friends. I don’t think I ever knew how loved my family and I were until the boy arrived. It’s been overwhelming. I know not everyone is fortunate enough to get that feeling, but in part it has been because we have let people in and let them love and take care of us. Have there been moments where I wanted everyone to piss off and go home? Totally. But mostly it has been really nice to see people come together because our little man in is in the world.

Man Crush

Parenthood has also changed my relationship with my husband. To know me is to know that I am weirdly obsessed with the man I married. I basically think he is perfect. Even when he gets on my nerves, I kind of like it because it just proves to me that he is human and not actually perfect but almost perfect. We took a really strange and long winding road to find each other and I think that has only intensified my love for him. I was honestly a little afraid of what parenthood would do to our relationship because it was so dreamy to me. I didn’t want anything to upset our balance. Has it? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Like I mentioned before, I have wept because I felt like I hadn’t hugged him or carried on an actual conversation with him in days. But despite the growing pains, I feel like we truly are a team now. It’s not that I didn’t think we were before, but now it’s more active. Before the boy arrived we leaned on each other a lot in day-to-day life, but the heavy lifting teamwork came out for big life changes and tragedies. This is everyday. And you better believe if he didn’t change diapers in the middle of the night I would like him a lot less.

He can see when I’m getting worn down before I even know it’s happening, and being able to step in for each other has been the key to neither of us going insane. Sometimes this happens gracefully. Other times he intervenes because I’m having a full-blown meltdown, crying in our bed, begging him not to go to work and leave me with the baby because I didn’t sleep any the night before because the boy had gas and made weird jungle noises all night long. That was the case this week, and he called my mom for reinforcement. I was basically pissed about it all day long, but was thankful for the meal, shower, nap, and the comfort of knowing someone I trusted was watching my child. Teamwork is not always pretty.

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Also, as a side note, I need someone to explain to me how they ever think having a child is going to save or strengthen a relationship. After experiencing pregnancy and the early stages of child rearing, that is the craziest shit theory I have ever heard. The fact that any broken relationship survives pregnancy alone blows my mind. If the person you have procreated with was a lazy pain in the ass before the baby, guess what? Chances are they are still going to be a lazy pain in the ass when the baby gets here. The difference is that you are going to have a baby to take care of and you will be running on little to no sleep so their behavior will be more glaringly obvious to you. You will not change them and the baby will not change them. Cut them loose now.

All of this (the gushing about my husband and the rant) is to say: find your tribe. Find your support system, whatever that means to you. Parenting isn’t meant to be a solo sport. And mamas, when you are riding the highs and lows of all of those hormones coursing through your body, you will not want to be alone. So call a partner, a friend, a family member, a coworker, a church member–just someone you feel like you can rely on. But you need to feel 100% confident that this person is going to support you and have your back. Ride or die.

This is Your Life Now

Anxiety is a bitch, and babies will make you anxious about the stupidest stuff. At some point you will realize that you’re worrying about something ridiculous and think, “This is my life now.” Babies do that to you. They make you feel stupid. My son was smiling and cooing at God knows what the other day, and I thought to myself, “Oh no, what if he sees ghosts?! What if he’s one of those weird kids you read about on the Internet that talks to ghosts, and I see it on the baby monitor one day??” I would die if that happened. That probably wasn’t what was happening (at least I hope not), but that is the kind of crazy thing you will worry about. If they have gas, you will worry that your breast milk or formula is killing them. You will Google every possible cause of death and discomfort that exists. You will wonder if they have colic despite the fact that they are perfectly normal 90% of the day. Chances are they are crying because they aren’t sure how to live yet, and they probably have a shitty dipe. I always forget about the dipes.

Babies have some kind of death wish. The boy only wants to sleep in the most SIDS-risk positions. He loves to lay on his stomach and side, and the place he sleeps most soundly is in the big bed, after nursing, right against my side. If I rolled over, I would crush him to death. Anytime I put him in the baby wrap so I can go about my day and try to get something accomplished, I will spend too much time making sure he is placed perfectly just for him to wiggle into a position that looks like his head is going to fall off his body. When I try to move him, I get grunted or screamed at. Whatever kid. You do you. He also makes jungle cat noises in his sleep and gasps. All. Night. Long. Let me tell you that gasping is a joy to hear in the middle of the night. To quell our anxieties on the sleep front, my husband purchased us an Owlet system. Be warned, it’s expensive, but to us it was worth it. There are definitely nights I want to throw it out the window. This is usually because I’ve walked too far from the base or the boy wiggled his sock off. We’ve only had one “red alert”, and it was because the boy was trying to suffocate himself in my boob while nursing in the middle of the night. It was terrifying even though I knew he was awake and breathing. My mom gives me flack over some of my gadgetry. I get the, “I don’t know how you survived” speech often, but honestly I don’t know how I survived. I was a preemie. The odds were not in my favor (cue: Destiny’s Child “Survivor”).

It Won’t Last Forever

If you are feeling broken or overwhelmed postpartum, remember that it’s a phase and that it will not last forever. Know that all people do not automatically bond with their baby. Not everyone gets that rush of endorphins. If you are feeling hopeless, talk to your doctor. They will not judge you, and trust me, they will ask you all about how you are feeling at your six week appointment regardless. They will also ask you if your butthole has been leaking, and because you are paranoid, you will have to actually think about it. Be honest.

And all banter aside, know that your postpartum mental health is just as important as your physical health. People die from PPD and that tears me up inside because it’s senseless. Take it seriously and ask for help. It’s so much more common than you realize. I can list at least five people off the top of my head who have struggled with it, and just because it hasn’t been a part of my journey in the first six weeks doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. It means I’m blessed right now and I have to stay proactive.

Know that your baby is going to make you feel stupid. You will do stupid things. “Pregnancy brain” does not go away once baby is earth side. It just turns into a different kind of forgetfulness, and the same people who were shits to you about your forgetfulness during pregnancy will continue to be shits to you about your new forgetfulness. These are people you don’t need in your life. Ignore them. Just because you are forgetful doesn’t mean you still can’t be clever.

There will be days you super suck at being a parent.

For example: I went to my six-week check up this week with my son in a swim diaper because I was washing the rest of his diapers. I didn’t dry them in time so I brought a wet diaper with me and hoped it dried in the car. I left the diaper and diaper bag in the car. I realized it once I got in the office but hoped for the best because I changed him before we left the house. Who had a blowout and no diaper? Thank god the staff loved us enough to find another diaper and change him. Eye rolls at myself for days.

There will be days you hate everything about being a parent. For those days when you just need to cry until you feel sick, this is my secret weapon. Please read that and get it out of your system. There have been days I have just read that post, cried and vowed to just make it to tomorrow. And my kid doesn’t have colic or anything weird going on. I’m lucky and this shit is just hard.

But for all of those days that are awful, there are days when your baby pets your chest while you are feeding them or plays footsie with your arm while they are sleeping. They will belly laugh and coo at you. You get to watch other people love this tiny human you are raising. There are days when the shitty diapers are so shitty that they are comical. They are not going to be this tiny forever. Soak it in as much as you can. The sleeplessness will make that hard. Just remember in the words of Kimmy Schmidt, “I can do anything for 10 seconds.”

 

Your Postpartum Body and You

Your Postpartum Body and You--a brief rundown on what to expect the weeks following birth.

It is okay and normal to still look pregnant post birth. The uterus is a magical thing, but it needs time.  Photo by: Colleen Keough Petree

I already planned on writing about the postpartum subject, but it’s also been requested of me several times, so I wanted to go ahead and address it. Why? Because no one really wants to talk about what goes on with a woman postpartum, and when they do, it’s when you’ve already entered the mom club by announcing your pregnancy and for the most part it’s in hushed tones. This might be because it’s kind of gross and not pretty or glossy so it’s not the kind of thing you’re going to hear about in a Today Show segment. At least not in a way that’s going to be helpful to you down the road.

When I was thinking about exactly what I wanted to say about the postpartum body, I had a flashback about sitting in my elementary school library learning about how boys and girls are different and what a period is and why it happens. I left that discussion with a tiny little plastic bag with a pad and a pamphlet in it. I feel like they should have a similar class when you’re an adult before you ever consider getting pregnant, except this class will include cocktails and contraceptives. Someone should bring one of those shock machines that simulates contractions and they should hook you up to a breast pump just so you know what that feels like. You will be rewarded with cocktails once your penance has been paid to the pregnancy and postpartum gods.

I tried to find out about what postpartum life was like on the down low because it was kind of embarrassing (to me at least) to be a pregnant female and have no clue what I was getting myself into or what my body was going to be like once the baby was evicted from his water condo. Luckily most of my friends have been pretty candid with me about the days following childbirth (and a few of them are doulas) so I at least knew enough to buy some extra Tucks pads, make some panty popsicles (yes, seriously), and stock up on those giant pads they give you in the 5th grade when you’re learning about periods that they keep in the school nurse’s office.

In case you haven’t gathered, the rest of this post is going to be about vaginas, female blood, and leaky boobs. If those topics sound gross or don’t interest you, go reevaluate your interest in women. It is gross, but it’s also fascinating. The female body is capable of weird and awesome things.

People Are the Worst

I’m going to be straight up. I may not be the best person to give the true true on this subject. Or I might. It really depends on how you look at the situation. All births are different. No one birth is better or deserves a badge of honor more than the other. What is important is in the end, baby is here and he or she is safe. The reason I say I may or may not be the best person to give the down and dirty on this subject is because I don’t have a horror story to give you. Shocking, I know. But honestly nothing pissed me off more than someone telling me while I was pregnant, “I know so and so and they had their baby last week and that baby was 15 pounds and the mama she was no bigger than a bean pole and she had ninth degree tearing that ripped her all the way up to her ear lobes.”

For the love. If you are pregnant and your grandma, best friend, mama, mama’s best friend, cashier, stranger in Target, coworker, or whoever else tells you some stupid story like that feel free to tell them that you don’t appreciate it. Seriously, I had hardly gotten the words, “I’m pregnant” out of my mouth before a family member told me a story like that. Women. Stop doing this to each other. Every birth is different and yes…sometimes you get ripped a new one. But that’s not always the case.

Elasticity Isn’t Sexy

I did not tear, and I’m so thankful for that. If you want to know what that’s like, I can get someone to guest blog about it because it is important to know–that and about c-sections. I also did not get hemorrhoids, and I thank the powers that be everyday for that gift. As cheesy as it sounds, I went into my birth with the power of positive thought. This is not usually my M.O. In work and in life I usually suss out the worst-case scenario and work from that point backwards. But when it came to birthing my son, I was hopeful that I would not tear and I did everything I could to prevent myself from tearing. If someone suggested a remedy, I gave it a whirl. I did squats and perineum stretches. I took Hypnobirthing classes and learned deep breathing techniques, all of which I used during my labor. I also spent some of my time laboring in the water, which made my nether regions more elastic. And I swear it all helped. I don’t feel like I wasted my time doing any of those things. I did not tear. I think my midwife described what I had going on as road rash. And I could live with that.

Damage Control

Just because you don’t tear doesn’t mean that your vagina comes out of childbirth feeling unscathed. You will be swollen and there is nothing that can prepare you for what that looks or feels like. Everything expands during labor. I thought it was just the hole that the baby comes out of…but no. Everything. All of it gets bigger. So once baby is out, everything is just big and swollen and angry. It feels like what I can only imagine having a giant set of balls must feel like (mentally picture a baboon butt here). But everything down yonder is hard and tender and you have to sit on it. You will be offered ice. It sounds terrible, the idea of putting ice on your vagina. But it is glorious. Take the ice and pat yourself on the back for already having made panty popsicles before baby was born. You will waddle because of your new set of balls. Let someone help you to the toilet or shower or wherever you need to go. It will be humbling, but getting in and out of bed will hurt. Sitting will hurt. Lying down and sleeping will hurt. Basically you will feel like you were hit by a bus. You will be sore in places you didn’t even know could be sore. Take your Motrin* and whatever pain med you are offered. If you need to break your pain meds in half do that. Your baby will be fine. Don’t make yourself miserable thinking that Motrin is going to get into your breast milk and make your baby grow a third eye. Take the fucking Motrin or whatever you are given so you can move your body and take care of your baby.

*You’re entitled to think whatever you want to about your pain meds and breast milk, but I’m here to tell you that it’s fine. I would tell you that if you don’t take them then you are being dumb, but that’s a little aggressive. Oh wait…

Channeling Your Inner Feral Cat

Sometime after birth you will have to pee. You may or may not have a catheter. I did not and I was like a feral cat. I was willing to pee anywhere they would let me. Don’t judge because peeing will burn with the fire of a thousand suns and walking to get to the bathroom with your giant set of new balls will feel terrible. I peed on the flannel pad in the bed. I peed in the sitz bath. I peed in the shower. I peed everywhere. If my nurse told me it was okay to pee there, I peed. I was not a single bit ashamed and I felt better for it. The sitz bath is a gift from God, whether you are peeing in it or just using it for its intended purpose of soaking your girl bits. Breathe a sigh of relief and just relish in the warm water that’s helping your vagina get back to its sort-of original state. Thankfully because I did not tear I was able to take normal baths once I got home so I didn’t have to use the sitz bath for long, but it was lovely and mine is still in my bathroom closet. Just in case. But my nether regions started feeling more normal about two and a half weeks after birth (which is about how long I bled—give or take) and now I feel mostly fine–a little tender, but fine.

Oh God, I almost forgot about the pooping. Your first do-do after birth might give you PTSD if you delivered vaginally, but regardless of how you delivered, it will be terrible and possibly painful. You may vow to never go number two ever again. I refused to let my father-in-law come visit his grandson unless he came bearing a bottle of Colace. Much like peeing, that first poop is going to come whenever it comes and it may or may not be in the toilet. Embrace the weird because there ain’t shit you can do about it. See what I did there?

Enjoying Your Last Moments Before You’re On Your Own

This doesn’t have anything to do with your body directly. This is just a bit of advice because sleep is important, and if you labor for almost a full day you will need a nap in a bad way. Get some sleep while you’re in the hospital. I specifically chose the birthing center I was at because they let your baby stay in the room, and they don’t whisk them away to the nursery. I love that. I really do love it. But after 17 hours of labor and staying awake for another three to four hours after my son was born basking in his glory and visiting with people after a cat nap listening to his pops, squeaks, and grunts all night was enough to send me over the edge. I all but begged them to take him to the nursery. And that was the last good sleep I ever had. He’s a breastfed baby so they brought him to me every time he needed to feed.

Speaking of feeding, eat the hospital food. I was obsessed with it because it was the perfect amount of bland. I would still eat it everyday because for whatever reason, I could eat garbage while I was pregnant, but now that I’m not, I can’t even eat food that is properly spiced. Eat the food if you can. Let the nurses put your meds in your mouth. If they are good to you, get them a small token of your appreciation. Accept help while you have it. Take every single thing that isn’t nailed down home with you. Just assume if they have it in the hospital that you will need it. My favorite things I came home with are my official blue mom cup (which I’ve already broken because I can’t have nice things) and a giant bottle of blue Dawn dish soap.

You Will Probably Cry in the Mirror

These are all changes that you get hit with pretty much out of the gate. And truthfully, as insane as it sounds, I have kind of enjoyed the last few weeks. Call me a glutton for punishment, but all of the aches, pains, and general grossness make me feel like my body is really doing something and actively changing. And it is. But guess what? You will not look like Chrissy Teigen after you give birth and that is okay. For whatever reason, American women think looking like a model after birth is something that is attainable. It’s not and the fact that media has made us believe that is attainable is insane. If Chrissy can rock stretch marks you can too! Her hips are wider and she has stretch marks and you will too and that is still beautiful. Most of us didn’t have Victoria’s Secret bodies before we got pregnant anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my moments of thinking, “Holy shit, I will never look or feel normal again.” I’ve looked in the mirror and cried at the person that looked back at me. I’ve asked my husband if he still loves the way I look because everything has shifted. I am human and I have insecurities. I put on weight long before I got pregnant due to a couple of foot surgeries, so I’ve just accepted that I have a new “normal” for my body. I am, however, shocked at just how much my body has changed in a few weeks. I got hella huge at the end of my pregnancy due to swelling, so anything less than that physically feels better.

I ache in different ways, but if my hips don’t hurt ever again I consider that a win. I have night sweats and weirdly dry and itchy skin because of hormones. I purchased some pretty decent, inexpensive shape wear and have worn it some in the last few weeks, and I feel like that has helped my posture. It also helps put some compression on your busted uterus, and that is not a bad thing and it will help you look a little more like your normal self. I also asked my midwives for permission—don’t just go taking my advice. My torso and chest are riddled with purple stretch marks. I’m a little self conscious about them, but I know over time that they will fade. I also feel like I earned them. My skin was literally splitting apart to accommodate my baby. If that isn’t some superhero Hulk craziness, then I don’t know what is. If you need to feel good about your pregnancy stretch marks, I suggest you get on Instagram. There are some great, empowering profiles about motherhood and birth on there and they call them “tiger stripes.” I prefer to look at them that way. Also, if you hate them… save some money and find a good dermatologist and go get them lasered away. I’m a firm believer in doing whatever you need to do to love your body. Like I said, I’m breastfeeding, so I am pretty sure my boobs will never look or feel the same again. I’m not sure what I will do about that when I am done having children. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. They leak if my baby cries, I look at my baby, I take a shower, or I breathe the wrong way. As frustrating and painful as that can be (my letdown burns), for now I take comfort in the fact that I am sustaining a human life on boob power alone and that is crazy cool. And the production process to make that milk that is sustaining his life is breaking down stored fat from my butt and thighs. Thank you, science.

All in all, this new body doesn’t look like the body of 20-year-old me or even 27-year-old me. It shouldn’t. Am I sad about that sometimes? Yes, mostly because it makes me feel old. But it is still changing to accommodate the human I made, and now I have more reasons than ever to take care of myself. All of the weird, painful, and gross of the last few weeks just makes me feel like I’ve won some sort of battle with life. And that’s the truth.

 

Postpartum Disaster Relief Kit

  • Giant pads
  • Mesh underwear (If it were socially acceptable, I would wear these for the rest of my life.)
  • Panty popsicles
  • Tucks Witch Hazel Pads
  • Dermoplast
  • Colace (Combine these with whatever else makes you poop—i.e. COFFEE.)
  • Sitz bath (Add unscented–very important–Epsom salts to make your bath even better.)
  • Little squirty bottle
  • Lip balm
  • Lanolin (Very necessary because your nips will hurt if you are breastfeeding.)
  • Breast pads (Leaking boobies is a real thing.)
  • Your own baby wipes (Highly recommended because your nether regions are icky, your arms pits will stink, and you probably won’t get a shower when you want one.)
  • Snacks

The True True: Pregnancy, Parenthood and the Shit No One Wants to Talk About

I thought my blog title could use a little explanation–

I honestly can’t remember the first time I uttered the phrase, “let me tell you the true true.” I know I can’t take credit for the phrase, but it has been a part of my adult vernacular and it has always been used in conjunction with story telling about a major life moment. Drinking, dating, sex, graduations, first jobs, weddings, marriages, pregnancy and now birth and parenting. This truth telling has been fostered by working in a place, where I am surrounded by my peers and we are all, for the most part, going through the same life events one right after the other. And having people to follow means there is always some stream of advice heading your way. There’s always some kind of truth that isn’t necessarily common knowledge, that most everyone goes through (your mama, sister, cousin, auntie, bestie, coworker, you name it), but is too polite to talk about.

Being polite. That is just a thing expected of women, especially Southern women. And I am from some of the finest, most polite Southern women that exist. We just don’t talk about it. Whatever IT happens to be. Except for me and my mom. We talk about almost everything. And I’ve found from my experiences on social media and living life with little to no filter and far too many swear words that it’s not because women don’t want to talk about these things. They just don’t and there’s no real rhyme or reason for it. So after having several friends, male and female, encourage and compliment a long stream of posts where I was brutally honest and a little bit dramatic about what was going on with me and my pregnancy– I decided I wanted to be the one to talk about it. I didn’t want to be one of those sweet people that is telling someone else, “I love that you say everything that I’ve been thinking” or “I feel like you are in my head reading my mind” or “your posts crack me up”. I wanted to continue being the one giving everyone my thoughts. No filter. A little bit of humor. And my truth. I also decided I probably needed another outlet for my thoughts because my sweet, polite, deeply Southern aunts are constantly shocked by the things I have to say and the amount of swear words I use to say them and all of my co-workers and contacts shouldn’t be forced to read about my boobs leaking on my personal Facebook page. I asked a few questions, took some advice and encouragement and it lead me to a blog.

As far as storytelling goes–the thing I like about the truth is that it’s almost always better than fiction. It can be raw, funny, unexpected, deep, emotional, terrible, but it’s real, tangible, and someone else has probably been in your same position. I’ve always been drawn to telling the truth almost to a fault. There is nothing that would get you into trouble faster in my house growing up than telling a lie. Even if it came to telling a “white lie” or half truth I felt an immeasurable amount of guilt. Unless it is why I am 15 minutes late to something. That is just who I am and it’s usually because I forgot I needed gas. My conscience took that guilt one step further and once I became a teenager I had a reputation of saying exactly what was on my mind, littered with swear words (because those are colorful and fun), and little regard for who was on the receiving end of my words. Once I reached full-blown adulthood and the workforce I learned to rein it in a bit, but kept a reputation of honest opinions and stream of conscious conversations. Believe it or not, I do have a filter. I’ve come a long way in the last ten years. But, I also discovered that there are people that are willing to talk about life and the moments you don’t always hear about and I wanted to be a part of those conversations. I wanted to know the stripped down version about everything. I didn’t want the glossy, magazine or movie screen version of life. I didn’t want to be disappointed by ideas or experiences that were unattainable. No fairy tale nonsense for me.

Choosing to tell the truth about pregnancy was easy. God, there is so much I didn’t know. And I felt like people SHOULD know. Like for instance, breast milk comes out of a bunch of different holes. Not just one. And it doesn’t just start coming out after you have a baby. It can happen before they get earth side. If you say everyone knows that I’m going to call you a damn liar.

At my office there has been a span of about four years where at least 3 people are pregnant at any given time. Which I guess is what happens when you hire an office full of 20-somethings fresh out of college. I was hearing about pregnancy all of the time. And I was getting the opportunity to see a lot of different personalities, body types, upbringings, and women in different stages of their careers navigate everything it meant to be pregnant. Once it was my turn it helped that one of my best friends/co-workers/business partners and I were nine weeks apart during our pregnancies. She was my glimpse into the future and she always promised to tell me “the true true.” And thank God she did. Even now that our collective pregnancy is over and our boys are here she is still giving me real talk and I’m still updating her on the progress of my bowel movements. Everyone needs a friend like that.

These blog posts are going to be all about pregnancy, parenthood, and life. I plan to address it like I do everything in life: head on, with whatever sense of humor I can muster, and little tolerance for bullshit. I’m so glad you all are along for the ride. No topic is off-limits so if there is something you want me to write about please ask. I’m here to amuse and make others feel like they are less alone in their journey. Judgers, haters, trolls and Debbie downers are not welcome here. It’s easy to bring people down. Take that crap somewhere else. Life is hard enough. This is my truth and you are not expected to agree. It’s not all going to be pretty or funny, but I can promise you it will be heartfelt and honest.