I never planned on having children, so the fact that I have 3 almost feels like I've been punked by one of those "never say never" situations. I remember being 18 in the women's underwear section of Target with my mother and sister, arguing with my mother that I didn't "owe" her any grandchildren. I had absolutely nothing to do with the physical event that led to my conception; that was purely her choice and I was determined then that mine would be absolutely no biological children. I preferred adoption, if I decided to have children at all. The aspiring world changer in me, freshly graduated from high school, had her sights set on joining the Peace Corp and from there, who knew where life would take me. I wanted to be free as a bird, on the front lines of a cause, making my voice heard, putting my hands to work for others, advancing justice while rocking out to Prince. Children? Pfffft.Read More
Hello, dear readers of Butterfly Confessions. Lauren of My Postpartum Voice here. I've recruited some of Addye's friends to write posts for her blog while Addye babymoons with hear new little one. This letter is the first guest post and it's written by the fabulous Susan of Learned Happiness. If you'd like to submit a guest post to be published while Addye is babymooning, email me at mypostpartumvoice (@) gmail with "For Butterfly Confessions" in the subject line! Without further ado, I present Susan's lovely words for Addye.....
My Dear Addye,
You and I have been friends for 3 years, now. And in that time, I have watched you transform into a wholehearted woman. You took chances with your life and made huge leaps of faith - faith in yourself more than any one person. You have learned to be honest with yourself about who you are and who you want to be. Your integrity has been hard-fought and is well-deserved. You honor me with your friendship.
You said when you married Bert and took his name that it was the beginning of a new life - one written by you and you alone. One that speaks to all you hold sacred and points to a fulfilling life with your family. And this baby? Is a part of that new life. I can see it in your eyes - in the way you look at him and hold him. I have experienced the hope brought by a new baby birthed in joy and a sense of calm. It renews the spirit. And I couldn't have wished a better birth experience for you.
Remember that no matter how good your birth (or how much you love that amazing tiny man), having a newborn is a special kind of torture. The nights are long and the days are even longer. And no matter how happy you are, it's okay to be exhausted. It's okay to be emotional. And it's okay to still need help. This is not a test of your spirit. You are not being graded on how gracefully you weather the fourth trimester. There will be beautiful moments and there will be unbearable ones. And your tribe? Will be standing beside you for both.
I hope with all of my heart that the darkness you fear is blotted out by your joy. But if it's not, if it all becomes too much, you are armed and you are never alone.
With all my love, Susan
I'm approaching week 38. Still contracting. Still not progressing much. As of Wednesday, after 15hrs of contractions? 1 1/2 cm and 50%. I startled my OB with my exclamation of "FUCK!" as he finished my cervical exam. Distraction has been my focus-anything to take my mind off my body, and keep edginess away. Last night's distraction wwas season 2 of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. This morning's was scrubbing the grout between the tiles in kitchen til they were white. I found the rhythmic motion and sound of the scrubbing brush and soapy floor sparkling in the sunlight from the kitchen windows soothing as I went about it.
Bertski came back from the run I practically pushed him out the door to take, and we took the boys for a bike riding lesson on their newly acquired bikes at the middle school track down the street. They rode, they ran, I sat and soaked in the sun before making way around the track as Busta Rhymes & Talib Kweli blared through my headphones.
Just now, while laying here listening to my family snore the afternoon away, confessed these words via text to a dear friend who's worried about how quiet I've been lately:
"I keep telling myself once I have the baby I'll feel sane again. And not this anxious desperate person with thoughts that are too loud & too fast and who wants out of her body. I think that's half the reason why I want to have him already. I haven't felt like myself much of this pregnancy and that unnerves me. "
I know it's normal for women to feel like they're going mad with the waiting and anticipation of baby's arrival and from the physical strain of the final weeks. I do. But I don't like it. It's unsettling. My mind can't take it, it's not wired to handle such things very well without help. (Meds, YAY!) I'm also an impatient person by nature and while my pain threshold is relatively high, being in pain and under physical stress daily is triggering for me mentally & emotionally.
I just want it to be over and have him in my arms and my own physical space back. I want my hormones adjusted, my mind off the hamster wheel and fully engaged with living and learning as a mother of three. I want newborn snuggles and laughter and to not be consumed with the obsessive, compelling need to have everything in its "right" place internally and externally, from my house to the cluttered corners of my mind. I want to feel like myself more often and be consumed with the goodness that's taking up residence in life as the year prepares to close. I want to be present, not lost traipsing the corridors of my mind waiting for them to empty so I can breathe freely again.
I want to run. Not away to escape, but toward. To freedom. To the woman waiting for me on the other side of this. She's fully enjoying the season that's ahead and I'm desperate to join her.
But it I have to wait and somehow make patience my virtue until it's time.
My body shakes with the hope that it's soon. Very soon.
I woke up at 5:24 this morning and stumble-waddled my way through the dark for yet another trip to the bathroom. I sat there, on the throne, looking at myself in the bathroom mirror through vision hazy from sleep, and whispered out loud, "It's almost over."
As soon as the words left my lips and drifted off into space, a mix of varied emotions weaved their way up from my toes to my belly where my hands were interlaced. My fingers tensed as each emotion swept through and around me, each one squeezing tightly and then releasing me much like the contractions I've been having the past six weeks.
So many contractions. 2 trips to L&D. Body pumped full of medications to stop them but they've refused to surrender. They are tenacious and stubborn, insistent on being present. Stronger and more frequent than Braxton Hicks, but not productive enough to fully initiate labor. They last for hours, pulsing and squeezing, tightening and releasing me sometimes one to two minutes apart, at others three to five, and at their slowest every twenty to thirty. They are overwhelming and tiring at their most frequent intervals and annoying at their slowest.
They are altogether frustrating, and their constant presence since week thirty have taken a toll on my psyche. At times they are all I can think about, my nerves on edge, trying to decide if I should call the nurse line and go in or just ride them out. Confusion and doubt often set in, intermingling with the pain, setting my OCD senses tingling and on high alert. My thoughts often ruminate during the more intense rounds and I often can't tell if I'm losing my mind, responding mentally and emotionally as any pregnant woman in my situation would, or just being melodramatic & hormonal.
The past two weeks they've been accompanied by nausea, cramps, back aches, loose bowels, loss of appetite and a drop in weight-all of your textbook signs of your body preparing for birth & early labor. "Your labor will most likely be very slow in the beginning, much like your last," said my OB last week. "Which we want, because we want to keep him in just another week or two longer. Your cervix is stubborn, which we need it to be right now. Hang in there. Let's see what happens-hopefully next week we'll start to see some big changes!"
So here I am, sitting on the toilet at 5:24am, at 35 weeks and 7 days, staring at the start of week 36 with an aching back and pulsing thighs...nauseated....exhausted yet mind abuzz with energy....body contracting physically and emotionally....forcing myself to whisper words to counteract the anxiety that has separated itself from the emotions pulsing around my belly and wound its way up to my chest, squeezing my heart until it feels as though it will burst from the constriction.
"It's almost over."
"Hang in there."
"Pregnancy is a shitty and invasive force of Nature that always biologically beats my body into submission, but it's worth the end result."
The end result being my third child, another boy.
After the anxiety passes my interlaced fingers tighten their hold on my belly and I feel the other emotions that remain creating a sense of heat around my womb, both inside and out.
Yes it's almost over and there is excitement. There is anticipation. There is a desire for joy to meet me at the end when I peer into his eyes and behold the mystery behind them for the first time; the first glimpse into him, this tiny stranger, an extended combination of my husband and I that has been growing and squirming restlessly within me for nine months. There is hope. There is an eagerness to begin this new season of my life as a mother to him and his brothers, a mother of three. There is a shout wanting to shoot it's way from my soul and burst forth from my lips in exaltation at what a year it's been for me, for my husband, for the boys individually, and for our family as a whole. This child, this boy, is the culmination of the new life we set out to build for ourselves back in April of 2012; when my husband and I sat in an IHOP in Philly, allowing restoration to heal our broken relationship. He is the embodiment of our new life as a whole unit, and the cairn directing our steps towards yet another new way forward for our family.
I've had each of my children during life altering transitions and significant periods of growth in my life, and timing of this child's birth will be no different. What he embodies and signifies in my life at this moment are special to me, just like his brothers. Brennan healed my heart from my past, he is my empathy, my reincarnated self given another chance at a peaceful and full childhood, he showed me that I was good, and clean, and capable at motherhood and life. Alex is the one who challenged me in new and painful ways that were unexpected but oh so necessary. His entrance into my life dug itself deep into my core and unearthed in me things I had yet to see, and shone a harsh light on what I need to face and finally deal with. He shifted me as a woman, a mother, a believer...with him I was forced to throw all I thought I knew and carve out a new way of living and thinking. Alex taught me how to take care of myself and make my well-being a priority-a first for me. Alex pushed me out of the stagnant, boxed up life I had been living and out into a world I hadn't let myself explore. He pushed me up and out of the rubble of the past 29 years and into wholeness-into my real self. I am the woman I am right at this very moment because I gave birth to him.
And here I am with this one. I know what he means to me personally, as a mother, and our life as a family in one sense...but he remains a complete mystery to me in another, which I find exciting and my being twinges with eagerness to learn and explore the world through his eyes as I have through his brothers.
And yet there is also fear of what's to follow once we make our way back out through the hospital doors, and back to our home where the adjustment and shift of our family dynamic will begin to take shape; permanently rooting itself in our lives, our family.
Will I relapse? Will I catch it before it sucks me in? What if I can't get appointments or calls in to my therapist and psychiatrist because of how slow and overbooked the VA appointment system is? How will I handle the hard and the overwhelming task of meeting the needs of three children, who are all at very different stages and seasons of life? My husband being unavailable due to work obligations? Fluctuating hormones and fatigue?
And the boys: how will Alex adjust to the change and new presence, both as a three year old, and as a child who struggles with change and disruption of routine on the sensory level? Will his ABA based preschool be enough of an outlet for him? How will Brennan feel, as the oldest? So much of the focus has been on Alex and his therapies these past months, I often wonder if I've given him enough attention, and now with a newborn....
There is fear...despite all of the knowledge, support, and awareness I have, despite knowing that I'm at a much different place in life than I was when Alex was born and suffered through that first year...there is a lurking fear that sits and stares me directly in the eyes, making me all the more aware of the reality of my illness and how stress, change, and motherhood trigger it.
So I am here at 5:24 in the early dark of morning, with foggy eyes squinting through the bright bathroom lights at my pregnant self, fingers tightly interlaced across my belly. Body and mind are engulfed in emotions that jar against each other, breathing deeply and staring back at what has been, and into what lies ahead. Feeling new life roll and jab in a space that is becoming too cramped and ready to be birthed. Ready but yet not ready. Craving for it to be over, yet continue on because what's on the other side is still dark and unseen in a few areas. On the brink yet still stuck in the space and feelings between old and new. Waiting.
It's okay to have a mental illness... ...to need medication, even more than one, to manage it.
....to see a therapist for it.
.....to feel weak for having such shitty brain chemistry.
....to hate it for the impact it has on you, your relationships, your quality of life, your self-esteem, your perception of yourself and your worth.
....to be grateful for it for what it has taught you about yourself, your limits, your capabilities, your strengths...and for how it's changed you.
.....to be scared because you have it, and to worry about everything that comes with it from the stigma it carries to the side effects of the medications you take.
....to be a parent with one. To want to have children, and have one, or many, despite living with one.
.....to take the safest medications possible for it during pregnancy and breastfeeding if that's a choice you and your psychiatrist make.
....to be jealous of those who don't have one, of their "normal" states.
.....to be resentful of your spouse because they don't understand what it's like for you to live with it daily.
.....to hurt for your spouse or loved one because you know what it's like to live with it daily and you wish you could shield them from that part of you, spare them from seeing how deep your darkness can go or how high your brain can fly, and spare them the hurt the difficulty and weight of how heavy and distressing it can be to witness.
.....to love your spouse or loved one for standing by you as you manage the ups and downs, the nuances, the cracks and crevices of it.
....to be honest with your kids about it.
....to be yourself, to live your life fully, to create the life you want to live despite having it.
......to not let it define you.
......to embrace the parts of it that can help you grow, and learn, and empathize.
.......to feel strong because of it.
......to love yourself in spite of it.
It's okay to have a mental illness. Don't let anyone shame you for it. Don't let stigma keep you silent and held hostage by it. It's okay. As hard as it is, as dark as it can get, it doesn't diminish who you are or what you're capable of. It's okay. It's not your fault. Ever.
So take a deep, full breath, and say it out loud: "It's okay."
Three years and five days ago, I went into labor on Easter night. Six to be exact. I had just finished eating and went into the kitchen when I felt the first contraction-THE contraction that my body used to inform my mind that it was time. As I gripped the counter top and exhaled my way through its duration, Mother Ezekiel's words unearthed themselves from my memory and gripped my heart once again: "It's time, " she had whispered as she took my hand and drew me in close at the altar so I alone could hear the prayer on her heart for me...for us. "It's time, and it's going to be ok. All is well. It's time for the baby to come and he will be such a blessing to you-oh how God LOVES this baby A'Driane, " she said as her hands found their way to my belly and the small of my back.
Her grip was strong, yet gentle, much like the tone of her voice. I remember my heart breaking, releasing all of the turmoil that had been churning inside throughout my pregnancy. Her prayerful whispers of affirmation and encouragement were a soothing balm to my soul that had been bleeding quietly for months. I released the pain and weight of the depression I had been carrying and her arms encircled themselves around me, drawing me in yet even closer. Out of all of the altar calls I'd responded to in my life, that one was the most tender and beautiful. They were God's arms holding me, it was God's voice whispering healing and hope, affirming that despite the pain of the last month's, my son and I were going to be ok.
My labor started that Easter night, at the end of my 36th week of pregnancy....and lasted for the following five days. Yes you read that correctly, people-FIVE DAYS. Even my OB couldn't believe it. I was so desperate to move from 3 to 4 cm and be admitted to the hospital I left my OB's office and instead of taking a walk as he suggested, I RAN. A. MILE. In a maternity dress and sandals as my sister tried to keep up w/Brennan in the stroller.
22 hours and five pushes later, there he was, Alex the Great, laying on my chest, jet black eyes squinting from the harsh delivery room lights....we had made it.
Today, he's three and I'm always reminded of how I gave birth to him because every day he reminds me that he will do things in his own time, his own way, on his own terms. He's not one to be rushed, pushed or prodded into anything be it a t-shirt or trying something for the first time. He is fiercely independent, bold, fearless even, but cautionary when it's called for. He is a free thinker, stubborn like his father and I, adamant about having his way and never shy to voice his displeasure, but grows quiet when consumed with excitement. He's an old man in a young man's body, enjoying the simple pleasure of just sitting outside on the front step, observing all of the life going on around him. He trusts no one the way he does his big brother, and even we, Bertski and I have had to work diligently to earn his confidence.
He's addicted to trains, cars and trucks. Want to see pure joy? Watch his entire body explode with it as one of his trains falls off of a "cliff", be it the edge of the dining room table, the couch, or TV stand. Hear it in his laughter as you chase him around the house, or have him wrapped up in your arms as you tickle his belly.
Brennan saved me by healing my heart of wounds borne in childhood. Alex has saved me by forcing me to grow, mind, body and soul. As difficult as my pregnancy and first year postpartum were, carrying and giving birth to him helped me give birth to who I was underneath the wounds of my past. He's the one who has given ME new life. Were it not for him, I wouldn't be free of the tangles that kept me bound up in misery and ignorant of who I am. His birth led to me getting therapy and treatment and pushed me to grow and stretch in ways I didn't think were possible. From the challenges that have come with mothering him while battling a mental illness, I've learned empathy, patience, grace, and that time is my friend and not my enemy. He's taught me to slow down and LIVE. He's taught me to seek and not just rely on what I've always known. He's helped me expand my perspective and worldview. From him I've learned how to be open and flexible to whatever may come my way.
From the joys that have come with being his mother and watching him evolve into the three year old little boy he is today, I've learned how to cherish every laugh, every smile, every expression of love bestowed upon me, big or small. He's taught me how to value the simplest of things and how to be an individual. He's challenged everything I thought I knew about life and parenting, and taught me how to endure.
I'd be lost without you my sweet boy. I'm so glad you're here. Happy birthday son. I love you.
If you've been a reader here for at least the past year, or know me personally, you know how huge this is considering how much he and I have been through the past three and a half years. If you had walked up to me exactly a year ago today and told me that I'd be planning a wedding to the man I was separated from at the time, I would've shaken my head and walked away not believing any of it. We were so broken a year ago...barely able to speak to each other, both of our hearts raw from the emotional turmoil of a rocky relationship and dealing with my mental illness. I remember how I sat across from him and fought back tears and words that begged to be spoken as we ate dinner with the boys last New Year's eve in Philly. I remember sitting in my car afterward, staring at myself in the rearview mirror at a red light, and seeing nothing but pain and loneliness in my eyes...it actually felt as though a knife was cutting through me and all I could think about was how I needed to let go of what was, and enter 2012 with open arms, forcing myself to embrace whatever it brought my way. "Let go...move forward," were the words I used to describe my plans for the year when my therapist asked. "Well, I think that's a good approach-you can't embrace anything new if you're still holding on to what was....and you can't move toward anything if you're focused on what's behind you," she replied.
I should call her and tell her how right and necessary her reply to me was at the time. As painful as they were to live out, her words helped me face the heartbreak I had been trying to ignore and parse my way through it, cleaning out all of the junk I'd let pile up in my heart in the process. It hurt like HELL, you hear me? HELL.
But I got through it. I let go. I forgave him. I embraced being his friend, and learned to love him unconditionally.....10 months later, here we are, living as a family in Austin....and getting married in March-the same month we decided to give our relationship one last try back in 2012.
I'm still trying to wrap my head around all that's happened, and as I sit here thinking about it all, I just feel so much gratitude for the life we're living at this moment-it's a far cry from the devastation we had spent the last three years trying to just survive and recover from.
8 weeks from now, we'll be standing in an outdoor chapel, in front of those who have always supported us whether we were together or not, and vow to spend the rest of our lives with each other.
Needless to say I'm in full-blown wedding planning mode. (check out my pinterest wedding board!) Even though we're keeping it a small and simple affair, there are still about a hundred "to-do" items and I've spent the last two weeks making reservations, emailing invites, talking to dress designers, looking at rings....it's been a whirlwind, but I'm doing my best to not be overwhelmed and enjoy this process because it's exciting and I want to be present for every part of it.
Both Bertski and I keep saying how much we want that day and the coming weeks to be time of celebration, and every time I think of this, as corny as it sounds, my heart just swells with a joy I haven't allowed myself to feel in a very, very long time.
So I'm spending the first 3 months of this year celebrating. Dancing, laughing, smiling...I'm giving myself fully to the freedom that's found in it, and I'd love for you to join me!
How? Well, it's simple, really. Our friends and family (and some of YOU) have asked us about wedding gifts and such, so we created a gift registry....
What we would really love, far more than an appliance, box of wine glasses, or the Big Bang Theory 400 question Trivia Game, is for people to help us celebrate our marriage by helping us give back. We feel like we've been given a tremendous gift, and yes, have been blessed beyond what we imagined these past months, so we've made it our goal this year to pay it forward in various ways.
This is where you come in....We have a list of charities and nonprofits that work to address issues that are personal to us or have affected us in some way. They are:
- Cathedral Kitchen in Camden, NJ
- Charity Water
- Nothing but Nets
and the last one....the last one is Postpartum Progress, which many of you know pretty much saved my life after I had Alex, in more ways than one. It directed me to therapy and the treatment I needed, gave me a community of support I didn't have, and introduced me to women who have become my best friends over the last two years. I honestly would not be here, Bertski and I would not be together if I hadn't found Katherine Stone and the work she does with Postpartum Progress.
Would you consider making a donation to one of the above charities, especially to Postpartum Progress? It would mean so much to me and would help me give back all that I've been given as a result of Katherine's dedication to making maternal mental health a priority....as well as help Bertski and I support organizations we feel are working hard to address hunger and disease prevention both here in the U.S. and abroad.
I know you probably think I'm crazy or tacky for doing this, but if you do make a donation of any kind, PLEASE email me and let me know. (dudley dot adriane at gmail dot com) I'd love to send you a card or something thanking you for celebrating with me, with us!
So...yeah. I'm getting married. I'M SO EXCITED! Be excited with me!
To learn more about any of the charities/nonprofits listed above, and make a donation, please visit these links:
Postpartum Progress: http://postpartumprogress.org/donate-postpartum-depression-2/ (you can also read the blog here: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/)
Cathedral Kitchen: http://cathedralkitchen.org/
Charity Water: http://www.charitywater.org/
Nothing but Nets: http://nothingbutnets.net/
The holidays are always hard for me to get through for varying reasons, as I know they are for a lot of people, particularly those of us who live with mental illness. The one thing that I've been focused on amidst all the frenzy of the holiday season and my own erratic moods is simply being grateful that life for the boys and I is not what it was this time last year. Bertski and I weren't together and it was our first time navigating the tricky process of splitting the holidays with Alex. I hated it. It was lonely...I felt awful that I had contributed to my boys not being able to spend the holidays together, with both of their parents. Christmas was especially difficult for me, and also for Brennan. He kept asking when Alex was coming back, why Alex and Bertski were in Philly and not with us, and I kept fighting back tears and despairing thoughts. I felt hollow, emotionally cold, my mind was dark, and I just wanted it all to be over with. I was angry...bitterness had started to settle in my heart.
This Christmas, however, things are COMPLETELY different. If you've been reading along these past months, you know this. Instead of trying to navigate the ups and downs of co-parenting while forging lives independent of each other, Bertski and I are finally finding our way down a path that allows us to be parents AND a couple, building and living a family centric lifestyle-a first for both of us.
This Christmas I also find myself being grateful to say goodbye to life as a single mother and preparing myself to experience the holidays in the years to come as a wife. I don't regret having to learn the ins and outs of parenting and how to balance the responsibility of it on both of my shoulders. The past 5 1/2 years have taught me a significant amount about myself...about life. It changed me into a new person, someone capable of doing things I didn't think I'd be able to handle on my own. I'm grateful for the life I lived as a single parent, but I'm also ready to say goodbye to it. I'm ready to move forward with someone not only willing to share the responsibility of parenting, but also willing to build a life with me. That's huge for me. I'm used to people walking out of my life and removing me from theirs in one way or another, for varying reasons. I don't always blame them, but it's always left me feeling abandoned and unworthy of so many things-like having a family and a partner. To have someone see the value and worth I see in myself and decide to embrace and cherish it, cherish me, is the one gift I've begged for since I was a child and never received-until now.
When Bertski asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told him I wanted nothing and it was the honest truth. There is nothing material he would've purchased at a store that would've meant more to me than the gift of love I've found in our family and in my friends this year-my heart is too full to hold in anything else.
I hope that if you find yourself feeling lonely or down for whatever reason today you will be able to at least find one thing you can fix your mind on to get you through today and even into the new year just a few days away. I hope that no matter what you find yourself struggling with in life today, that at least in one way, no matter how small or trivial it may seem, you are better than you were last year. Take some time to reflect on what that one thing make this day a special one for you, one that allows grace and gratitude to abide in your heart...it's working for me :)
Merry Christmas y'all. Now...enjoy the brilliant weirdness that is Cee-Lo Green's Magic Moment. Seriously.
Maybe I was being naive, but I thought once we moved here to Austin and got settled in, we'd be done with Mr. Change. I mean after going through so much of it the last 8 months, and all of it permanently altering our lives, I thought our season was over once we moved into our apartment. I was wrong. Dead wrong. I forgot that change is fluid, always there, weaving its way throughout our lives daily. It doesn't matter if it's life changing or something we wouldn't think twice about or deem trivial, change is a constant companion in our journey through life.
Some of the changes we've experienced since moving here were planned, well-thought out and goals we set for ourselves. When we talked about moving here back in April, we sat down and talked about what kind of changes in our lifestyle we wanted to make. For example, we wanted to get back into being more active and doing the kinds of recreational activities we enjoy-running, hiking, being outside, exercising, yoga, taking the boys on bike rides, all of us learning how to swim, etc.
I'm happy to report that we've done that. We joined the YMCA in September and we're addicted to it. The kids love going to the child watch play area and basketball courts, Brennan's going to do track this winter, and both are being signed up for swimming lessons. I'm addicted to the rowing machine, Bertski to the strength training and BOTH of us are addicted to the running trail just across the street. People-I can leave my kids in the child watch at the Y and go run on the 3 mile trail that loops around Lady Bird Lake. IT'S FREAKING GORGEOUS . What I love the most about it is that you see all kinds of people out there walking or running, whether they are in amazing shape, young, old, or trying to get into better shape. There's such a huge focus on health here in Austin-you can see and feel it. It's really been one of the best parts about our move. Being active is super easy in this city and we're in love with it.
Some of the other changes that have happened have been surprising, incredible, and disappointingly difficult to deal with.
The surprising? Brennan being in school. Why? Well for one, he's in school. Kindergarten. My baby boy has grown into an incredibly intelligent and dynamic 5-year-old BOY who goes to school. I knew when we moved here that he'd be going. But in the chaos of moving, it was just some intangible theory in the back of my mind. When it came time to walk him to his classroom I was a wreck. Bertski even teared up.
Something we didn't know when we moved into our neighborhood was that we moved into the one with the best elementary school in the city. A huge part of why it's so good is because it has access to money (it's an affluent area, so the parents who are in the PTA pour a lot of money into the school-and they fundraise LIKE CRAZY.) which means they have access to a wealth of resources that other schools do not. Brennan goes to music, art, PE, spanish, and other "specials" offered during his school day in addition to his regular curriculum. His teacher rocks, keeps us well-informed of what's going on week to week, and to say that Brennan is thriving there is an understatement. His mind has literally exploded with knowledge and he comes home every single day with a huge grin on his face as he tells us about what he learned.
That's the incredible part. The surprising part? Kindergarten is a LOT of work, yo. We haven't even gotten to the homework stage and I'm already terrified of the next 12 years. There are projects to do, (which is a first for us because I'm craft challenged) Teacher Appreciation lunches to bring food for, library volunteering to do, car lines to wait in (pause for a breath) school carnivals to attend and donate to, booths to work at said carnival, online resources to practice on, apps to download, music performances to go to.... are you getting what I'm saying? Trying to remember what's due when, and all of the other details has been more overwhelming than I'd like to admit. I wasn't expecting it to be this tough of a learning curve. But overall? It's good. We'll get through it.
Our lives overall are good. It's been an incredible experience to have something that was just a dream and a plan become tangible and just plain awesome when you start to live it out. We've been so fortunate.
The really disappointing part? Well there are two. One-while Austin is a progressive city, the VA system here is not unfortunately. Actually it's f*cking awful. I've never been to a place where they don't have operators to answer the phones whether it be at a clinic, hospital, or whatever. It's so frustrating when you're in crisis and trying to get ahold of someone and a) no one answers the damn phone b) your new psychiatrist treats you like you're inconveniencing them and doesn't listen you, and c) you get the run around when it comes to treatment options or question the lack thereof. (ex: they don't offer individual counseling. WTF?!)
More on that later, but the last disappointing change is that today Bertski started a new job and I'm a little sad about that. A lot of sad. Even though he spent a lot of time during the day previously working remote for his old client, he was still here and I found a lot of strength and comfort in that. The boys loved it, he loved it, I found relief in it and loved the routine we had developed. He already told me that this new contract is going to involve a lot of late nights, impossible to meet deadlines, and frenzy we've experienced with his previous contracts. That worries me, because it tires and stresses him out. He has less time to spend with us and on his side A.I. projects. In the past when he has a contract like this, any routine we've developed dissipates and we just kind of let things go. I'm hoping that as tough as this new contract will be, we'll still be able to adapt ourselves to it and maintain what's been working so well for us since moving here.
Whether it's good or bad, large or small change is and will remain constant. I'm going to try to remember this and focus on learning to be even more adaptable to it as I move through these new stages of my life.
Friday afternoon I noticed my phone light up with a number calling that I didn't recognize. "Hello?"
"Yes, I'm calling for A'Driane Dudley, uh this is...."
Oh. It was the owner of the condo we applied to rent for the next 12 months.
I sucked in all the oxygen around me and tried to edge all the nerves out of my voice as I answered his questions.
"Well, I don't have any problem approving you guys for the place..."
I slowly let out the breath I had been holding and with it I could feel myself starting to release all of the stress & pressure I'd been carrying the past 7 months.
My next inhale brought in relief, joy, tears, little squeals of excitement.
We have a place to call home in this city. Our leaps of faith paid off y'all.
It's cute, in a pretty affluent neighborhood with one of Austin's top elementary schools.
I'm over the moon. I'm grateful.
I can't wait til Bertski gets back from PA so we can get moved in and start really making it and Austin "home."
Here's a few photos of what it looks like with someone else's furniture in it...I'll post more once we fill it with our own! :)
"I could be daydreaming but for a moment And somehow they're creeping back in I could be sleeping awakened the torrent Somehow I get caught in their grips again
And here I am in my shame spiral I'm sucked in to it again And I reach out for your benevolent opinion You bring the light back in
Don't leave me here with all these critical voices Cause they do their best to bring me down When I'm alone with all these negative voices I will need your help to turn them down..." Spiral/Havoc and Bright Lights/Alanis Morrisette
no one loves you. you're so weak. first name incapable, last name burden-that's you.
the Voice. it mercilessly plays it's record of shame endlessly on my inner loudspeaker, stirring up my irrational insecurities into a paranoid frenzy.
no one loves you. you're so weak. first name incapable, last name burden, that's you.
tiny arms reach up & around my neck, pulling me in close as if to say "You're mine, I won't let It take you."
boyish grins light up their faces as giggles escape from their little bodies as if to say "you make us so happy."
little legs struggle to climb into my lap, seeking solace & comfort as if to say "I need you...we're safe here, together."
his voice travels confidently through the phone, reminding me once again that I haven't been abandoned to wander Illness' deadly streets on my own. "you're not alone, you have me, I'm here, I came back, I'm not going anywhere. I love you, we'll get through this together," he says.
I am loved, they love me. I'm strongest when I'm weak because I don't give up. first name Addy, last name capable, that's me.
I am loved. I am needed. I am strong. I am capable....no matter how mixed & chaotic this illness makes me.
*I've been in a hypomanic/mixed mood since we left. It's been hard, but thanks to my meds & my family I've been managing ok....until this past week. I've upped my meds again & am trying to wait patiently for the Austin VA to place me in their system and assign me a psychiatrist....I was told today it's going to take 3-4 weeks. I'll be fighting like hell to keep the heaviness & chaos from weighing me down...and praying my mind doesn't get any worse. In my next post I swear I'll finally tell you about the awesomeness that has become our lives in Austin...and those fears I mentioned last post-have to share those too. In the meantime, enjoy your Labor Day weekend lovelies.*
From the weather, to the squeals of laughter erupting from the boys as they ran from Bertski, to the time spent outdoors, we had a beautiful weekend. We woke up way earlier than normal for us on a Saturday and went hiking through Historic Rittenhouse & Wissahickon Creek, one of Bertski's favorite places in Philly.
We rounded out the day with a little retail therapy at (where else?) Target and finished the night off with a Pocoyo marathon for the boys and a date night for us, complete with take out from Carrabas. NOM. (I don't have any pictures because I practically inhaled my food before I could snap any food porn for ya)
We started off Father's Day letting Berski sleep in...because honestly he's usually the one who gets up with the boys on the weekends and feeds them breakfast while I continue to slobber all over my pillow. But this morning I put my big girl panties on, stumbled my way into the boys room armed with milk and cereal, locked myself in and proceeded to engross myself in the nuanced life of Curious George.
Once Bertski woke up, we headed out for another hike, this time at the infamous Valley Forge Historic National Park in Valley Forge, PA.
This place? GORGEOUS y'all. It was once the headquarters for George Washington and the Revolutionary Army, and served as the location for some of the Revolution's most epic battles.
Today, it's sprawling landscape serves as a place for bikers, hikers, and any other "ers" to enjoy and take advantage of. Lush vegetation, sky high trees, deeply wooded areas, and beautifully mysterious trails and pathways accentuate the historical feel of the park. Scattered throughout are various log cabins and buildings that once housed farmers & troops. As we hiked our way through, I could envision British and Rebel soldiers marching toward each other over its rolling hills, as canons fired rounds and each side's Calvary lead the charge to battle. I told Bertski how humbled and somber I felt thinking of those who met their fate at the end of a bayonet or canon blast (shudder)...our nation's very first veterans, if I'm not mistaken. (If I am, correct me you history buffs)
It was a gorgeous day, the boys loved exploring and chasing each other, I snapped a slew of pictures, everyone worked up a good sweat and a serious craving for some Mexican Post-our favorite place in Philly for Mexican food and Grand Marnier Margaritas.
Coming home consisted of the three males in the house chasing each other, rough housing, and tearing through the apartment-all in their underwear (and diaper) and I snuggled in for a good read, feeling grateful for the noise.
I couldn't have asked for a better weekend or for a more fulfilling way for Bertski to spend his Father's Day. I really hope we have more like this as we venture through the summer.
You've seen it before... You're in the mall, at a restaurant, in line at Target, at the grocery store, shopping or eating in peace when all of a sudden it sounds like an animal is being slaughtered. Ear piecing screams shatter the peaceful atmosphere as everyone stops wherever they're at to ascertain the location of the disturbance. As the commotion gets louder, your eyes scan the area around you back & forth, you step out of the aisle, perhaps try to peer over at the next register, and then you zero in on a painful sight.
There's no animal being sacrificed, no demon being exorcised...it's just some kid going bat s*it crazy on their poor parent. Embarrassed and red in the face, the parent tries to calm their little terror down by employing all the SWAT team & verbal judo tactics they learned in those parenting books. This only seems to fan the flames of the meltdown as the child resorts to more animistic sounds and flailing about on the floor, face purple from the rage boiling over inside of them.
At this point I've only ever seen one of two things happen: either the parent scoops up the kid and flees the store while being pummeled by tiny fists of fury, crushed & mortified, OR the meltdown and failed attempts to squash it tip the parent over the edge of their sanity and they resort to either screaming right back at the child, or lowering their voice to just above a whisper and starting to issue threats that range from bodily harm to being left at the store.
I've witnessed this countless times. Before I had children, I used to be one of those people who just stare in disapproval, shaking their heads and whispering to the person next to them how THEY would handle the situation. Yea. I'm ashamed to say I was one of those people. The ones who just stare & cast judgement like they've got some kind of f*cking degree in child rearing that you, the one who pushed the little barbarian out, don't. "Oh I wouldn't have that. Nope. My child would know better than to embarrass me like that, shoooooot." (Insert finger snapping & neck rolling here, if you'd like.) " I wish they would. I'd snatch them up in a heartbeat! There's no way I'd let my child get that out of control." (Yea, I was pretty stupid before I had kids, but in my defense I was young and childless-my middle name was Naive.)
Once I had Brennan though, my attitude changed of course. It went from thinking I knew how my child wouldn't act, to asking God to get us in and out of public places without incident. For the most part, God heard my supplications & was merciful. Brennan was the model toddler. No public scream fests, I never had to exorcise any demons at Target, and thankfully, any tantrums he did have were easily subdued.
Then I had Alex. I knew within months he was going to be that kid, and I would become that mom... you know the one trying to desperately talk down a two year old who's losing their s*it because he ran out of milk in his sippy cup? Yea, I knew that was going to be me.
How did I know, you ask? Well, there were clues. As an infant, he cried all. the. time. He despised car rides and never let us get through one without unleashing his wrath. The older he's gotten, the more independent he's become. I mean fiercely independent. He has to do things his way, and in his time. You can't feed him. Changing his diaper is a WWE match punctuated with screams. My boy is so picky he's gone from eating whole Chic-Fil-A nuggets (no other nuggets will do) to only eating the corners of them. If he's not happy about something, trust and believe he's going to vocalize his discontent over it. Change the channel? Tantrum. A commercial comes on? Ear piercing screams. Tell him he has to wait until after dinner for his daily PediaSure hit? You're getting cussed out in toddler speak. Catch him dancing to the Fresh Beat Band and say "yay! Go Alex!" and he's prostrate on the floor, hands covering eyes, face distorted in a scowl. Tell him it's time to go bye bye and take too long to get to the door? Tasmanian devil-sized meltdown.
Screams. Scowls. Body flailing. Fists of fury. Anger. Aggression. He's full of all of it, and I'm completely lost as to how to handle any of it. Do I fall out on the floor with him? Discipline him? How? Since he turned 2 in April we've been treated to shouts of "NOOOO!!!!!" while either hitting one of us, pushing Brennan, or launching something across the room. Sometimes it's whatever's next to him or in his hand, others it's his actual body.
It was manageable when he was 1. It's become hell now that he's 2. His father and I have been trying everything to keep from resorting to how our parents dealt with us...you know, with a back hand. These days, if you were to eavesdrop outside our door, you're sure to hear lots of "NOOOOOOOOO!" "Do you want timeout?!" "NO! NO! (more toddler gibberish) NO!" I'm buying a special "time out chair" next week. We'll see how effective it is.
Yep. I've become that mom who has that kid. Maybe we'll just become a family of recluses. Stay inside until he's 10...or 30. Or maybe we'll be the family the entire store is staring at as we try to navigate the Terrible Two's without losing our sanity...or going to jail.
Just do me a favor: If you happen to see me fleeing Target with a screaming, purple-faced Alex, be a friend. Chase after me and tell me it's going to be okay and he'll grow out of it eventually. Also? Bring Tequila. Patron if you can swing it.
*Note: Alex is an awesome kid. Full of laughter and rambunctious energy. I love him to death, but I had to vent about this Terrible Two nonsense. It's testing the limits of my sanity*
**This post is part of All Work & No Play Makes Mommy Go Something Something's Secret Mommyhood Confession link up. You can read the rest of these posts, add your own, and more by clicking here**
"I don’t know what’s going to come of us….where we will be next July 10th…."
I wrote that here on July 10, 2011... a week after we had broken up for the third & final time. Both pushed beyond our limits, I no longer believed I could make him happy, and he couldn't carry the weight of the previous two years any longer. He knew he had to let me go, I spent the months following our break up resenting and hating him for doing so. I didn't know how to articulate the turmoil and pain I had been in during and after my pregnancy with Alex, he felt he had to walk on egg shells around me. (He did. My rage was explosive) While we were aware that I was fighting PPD, neither of us knew I BP was causing my mental instability. He didn't know how to help me, I felt he didn't understand and didn't care to. I felt abandoned and rejected, he felt abused and like his life had spiraled out of control.
To be honest it had. Both of our lives were a wreck. What had started off as a casual date back in July 2009 had turned into something neither of us were prepared for. Take two people at two very different stages in life who have a budding friendship and mutual attraction to each other, add an unexpected pregnancy, a fledgling romantic relationship, and a then unknown mental illness and you've got a world of chaos to sort through and carry. By the time we neared our two-year anniversary last summer we were both bloodied and bruised from the beatings we had given each other during our tumultuous time together. We wanted to keep it together for the kids, and even for ourselves, but the wounds ran too deep, the pain was too raw, our treatment of each other too ugly, our anger and resentment toward each other boiling over and exploding into abrasive, rage filled arguments in our home, our car, and in parking lots.
I tried....he tried... but neither of us believed the other was giving their all and no matter what we did, our interactions with each other became so toxic we had to separate. So we did. There was a finality to our breakup last summer that I believed we couldn't recover from. The shock of our life together ending left me numb for months afterward. Every time I tried to process everything that had happened between us I only felt more hurt and confusion. The pain left me reeling emotionally but I tried to make myself believe our being apart was for the best.
"We tried & tried to loosen the knots, thinking once we're untangled we'll be better off....but it's these failures & faults that hold us together..."
I tried moving on. He encouraged me to and he expressed his desire to do so as well. I dated an amazing guy only to realize 2 months later it wasn't what I wanted. I wanted my family back. I just couldn't wrap my mind around us living and going about our daily lives separated from each other. When he took Alex full-time in January, the hole in my heart only deepened and the shock of our separation left me shaken. I finally started talking about our break up in therapy and made the decision to finally let go of "us" so I could heal...and move on with my life; not necessarily with someone new, but so that the reality of being a single mother wouldn't pain me as much as it was.I told him that co-parenting Alex with him was difficult enough; being friends was out of the question...It hurt too much. I spent the whole month of February and two weeks of March crying my eyes out every night and begging God to heal my heart. I vividly remember saying one night as I sobbed into my pillow, "God if this isn't what you want for me...if I'm supposed to let this go, I'll do it. But dammit you've got to f*cking help me. I don't know how to get over this."
"This beautiful tangle that's bruising us blue, it's a beautiful knot that we just can't undo. Together we're one, but apart tell me who are we fooling ?"
When he dropped Brennan & I off at the airport when we went to Austin for spring break, I remember seeing a softness in his eyes as he said goodbye and admonished me to be careful...it was a gentleness I hadn't seen in over a year, but I told myself I was imagining things and ejected that thought along with any attached heart-strings completely out of my mind. But then I felt it when he hugged me as he picked us up. Again I ignored it, but couldn't help but wonder what to make of it. He asked me a lot about Austin, said he wanted to spend some time talking about it after I settled back into the swing of things. Two weeks later, on a Wednesday evening, after I'd had a pretty hellish day, he called. Asked me if I could skip class, come down to Philly while the boys were in school. He wanted to talk. Said there was a lot he wanted to talk about. The only hope I was that he'd want to talk about helping me move to Austin or better yet, want to move there with me, even though we weren't together.
That talk, that day changed our lives. We found our way back to each other as we sat in the IHOP on the corner of 13th & Walnut sipping on coffee & stuffing our faces full of steak tips & pancakes. Conversation flowed easier than it had in the past, both of us freely and openly sharing our thoughts and feelings about a variety of things. We did what we couldn't do a year ago-give up the grounds we were standing on & meet in the middle. Our love for each other both as friends and partners found us as we stood on our common ground that day. We both shared things we had previously been afraid to, and we both agreed we were better off trying to make our relationship work than remain apart.
That was 8 weeks ago. We've had some rough moments between then & now but we've laughed more than we ever have in the past. The boys are happier than they've ever been...having us all under the same roof and seeing their parents making it work is fueling that I think.
If you would've asked me at the beginning of this year if I thought this would happen, I would've said absolutely not...but now that we're here with our future ahead of us, all I can do is just be so grateful that it did.
"Cause real love, is hard love, it's all we have....So we're back here again, turning away from the edge of the end, arm in arm..."
We're moving to Austin this fall...and getting married.
We know it won't be easy. But this time around we're stronger than we were before and committed to making this work.
"Together we're one but apart tell me who are we fooling?"
"Have a great summer A'Driane. It was a real pleasure having you in class, " he said as I turned in my scantron answer sheet. 32 minutes.
That's all the time it took for me to answer 200 questions about the Pentateuch, thank my professor for expanding my knowledge about the first 5 books of the Bible, and hit the door.
A crisp late morning spring breeze greeted me as I burst out the door into the glowing sunlight. It lifted the stress and frustration of research papers, presentations, projects, reading assignments, and final exams that had been piling up on my shoulders like pollen the past 7 weeks, and blew it all far away from where I stood in the parking lot, my face turned toward the sun.
I stood there, in silence, slowly letting the stress of the semester dissipate into the cool morning air, breathing in the sweet fragrance of newly cut grass and soaking in the reality of what lay in front of me:
No more assignments.
No more stuffy classrooms.
No more deadlines.
No more trying to balance motherhood with the rigorous demands of a 15 credit semester while battling my way to recovery.
I was finished.
It was over.
I had spent weeks praying I'd make it to that moment and there it was, greeting me with outstretched arms.
The whirlwind that has been my life for the last 7 weeks ended as abruptly as it began as I sat there trying to wrap my mind around all that's taken place during that time.
Good things...so many good and wonderful things have happened the past 7 weeks. There have been difficult moments...there has been pain...there have tears....there has been sadness...but there has been restoration...there has been joy...there has been LIFE breathed back into my soul...there has been laughter and excitement...there has been change.
So much has changed for me this semester....and I'm finally free to write about all of it.
When I got in the truck, I initially thought I'd go home and write this very post, starting to fill you all in on what's been going on in my world as of late, maybe even write a triumphant, "I made it through the semester!' kind of post...as soon as I started driving though, I knew I needed to do more to celebrate this achievement...and I knew I couldn't do it alone.
So I went home and grabbed the three most important men in my life: Brennan, Alex, and Bertski...and hit the road to Atlantic City.
Beach. Boardwalk. (a little) Gambling. Toddler Mayhem. Sing-a-longs in the car. Hugs. Kisses. Meltdowns. Starbucks. Running after two boys hopped up on sugar as they tear through the Taj Mahal. Laughter. The sand soft and warm under my feet. Teaching Brennan how to splash in the ocean without drowning. Listening to Alex scream at seagulls as he chases them down the boardwalk.
Today we celebrated the end of one chapter and began writing the opening lines to a new one...Today we greeted what lies ahead of us with open arms.
Here's to our new beginning :)
What time is it? (squints in the dark, trying to eyeball the clock)
Oh. It's 5:15 am. (goes to stretch) um OUCH.
(heads to bathroom...notices some weird alien like goo in the toilet bowl....frantically runs for the cell phone laying on the bed)
"Mom...Mom...MOM! There's...there's something in the toilet. Some goo looking thing, it's all...brown and clear and red. Should I call my midwi-oh and my back hurts. It has this dull ache in it-is that labor? Oh it is?! Ok, ok, I'm going to call her now. I'll call you back! "
And that is how, 5 years ago today, my labor started.
I remember when I left my midwife's appointment that day, after she told me I was in active labor and 3cm dilated that it started snowing. I remember all of my friends being excited and wanting to help in some kind of way. I remember my mother took the fastest train from New Jersey, like ever, to get there to see her first grandson be born....and laugh at my labor pains. Seriously, who laughs and cracks jokes every time their daughter goes into a contraction? My mother, obviously.
I remember learning for the first time what back labor was (they didn't mention THAT during my midwife visits). I remember taking a bath to try to "relax" my midwife said, but honestly? I was funky y'all. I had been either peeing or throwing up on myself every contraction...did I mention they were 2-3 minutes apart?
I remember the doctor, Sarah, who was both a midwife and a doctor....she told me to listen to my body and just go with its rhythmic urges. I remember that as I started pushing my nurse and I made a bet that I would have him out before the season premiere of that year's all new Grey's Anatomy.
I remember my best friend calling me and asking me to wait to push him out until she could get there to hold my hand....
But at 5:47pm, two minutes before she arrived, he arrived....placed on my chest for me to hold. He had the biggest, blackest eyes I had ever looked into. He was looking right at me, right into my eyes, and his soft but intent gaze went straight to my soul.
In that moment I didn't care that his father wasn't there to see him delivered, or that he would never be a part of his life.
In that moment I didn't care that the only place we had to sleep was a friend's couch.
In that moment I didn't care that, living off of unemployment, I could barely afford to buy him any clothes.
All I cared about was that he was there. We had made it. Through all the struggles, the pain of being abandoned and left to fend for ourselves, through the days when I would wait for hours at social services offices just to get healthcare and benefits so we could survive, eat, and have a healthy start. All the fears, and shame I felt for not being able to provide him with more. The guilt I felt about leaving the military, even though I knew that as a single mother, being a police officer was the wrong job for us. All of that dissipated in that brief moment when we looked at each other for the first time.
Today Brennan, my "Stink Stink" is 5 years old.
I can't believe it. He's so grown up now. So far from the little chunky monkey who I nursed in the back of my Corolla while out looking for jobs and taking him to appointments.
We're far from the days where we slept on my friend Dion's couch, Brennan tucked right up under me, our body warmth the only comfort I had in those first stressful months.
People ask me all the time why I believe in God when I've been through so much hell.
Honestly? Brennan. God gave me Brennan.
Who else would know what this heart, abused, mistreated, and broken by life and circumstance would need to heal it?
Who else would know what it would take to mend me and make me whole again?
I could have had a daughter, and that would have been nice.
But having a son....who loves me as God Himself does, unconditionally, without reservation, and with all of who he is? It heals me. DAILY. It heals the parts of me that have been ravaged and destroyed by others.
God knew that I struggle with the idea of having a heavenly father who loves me because my biological one did not. He knew unconditional love and grace would be concepts I would struggle to comprehend and hold on to. He knew that I would suffer mentally and would need a reminder.
So He gave me a son who is all of those wrapped up in a this little body that is growing up too fast for me, in these gangling arms that wrap themselves around me when I least expect it, in the hands that are placed on my shoulder, in the random kisses and words of encouragement that always seem to come at the right moment. When I'm hurting the most but trying to hide it, it's Brennan who walks up to me and says, "Mommie I love you. You're a good mommie. It's ok. It will get better. Don't be sad."
Happy Birthday Brennan. You heal my heart and save my life daily. You are my favorite Marvel Superhero, my favorite Power Ranger, my favorite aspiring musician.
I love you.
"Lights will guide you home, and ignite your bones, and I will try....to fix you." (Coldplay)
I'm going to try to get through this post without crying and do my best to make sense of what I want to say...but you'll have to forgive me if I accomplish neither of those because I'm already welling up and babbling out loud to myself. Change.
A major change occurs in our lives today. I made mention over the weekend that it was on the horizon and promised to tell you what it is....so...here goes.
Alex is moving today. He is going to go live with his father, my ex.
I will still get to see him on the weekends, but after today I will be a passenger in this parenting car, as I am letting my ex take the steering wheel. My ex will be full-time daddy and I will be part-time mommie.
Part-time vs. full-time.
No...I didn't come to this decision lightly.
In order to go from just thinking about it to actually deciding to do it, I had to shed A LOT of tangles and sticky spiderwebs along the way.
Just what were those tangles and webs?
- feelings of failure
Every single one of those tangles I mentioned were caught up in one giant web called EXPECTATIONS.
I talked about those on Friday, remember? Those standards we hold ourselves and others to?
Yes. Expectations. I had been living my life by a rather unhealthy set of those and I was choking on them. You see I'm an African-American Christian woman. If you're a part of either of those cultures or just a woman period, then you know all about the standards set in place for us. If you're a single parent and a woman, the expectation is that your child will live with you and you will be the primary caregiver. I know there are exceptions to the rule and that joint custody is a regular occurrence. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the expectation society has, the standard we are expected to live by. I know that in the black community, single mothers ARE the end all be all, and there's no complaining about it. You do what you have to do to take care of your kids, sacrifice what's necessary and you pull yourself up by your bootstraps daily to get through the ups and downs of being responsible for another human. This was impressed upon me by those around me when I became pregnant with Brennan 5 years ago and his father told me he wasn't going to be in the picture. That's when I started striving to live up to the standard. And even though my ex has been in the picture with Alex and Brennan the last 2 1/2 years, the reality is that I've been with them 24/7 during that time. No breaks. No real breaks. My ex helps me with Alex, but I have sole custody of Brennan. If something were to happen to me, I don't know who I would leave him with other than maybe my parents because well, that's just our reality. I'm mommie and daddy to him. The sole responsibility of providing and caring for him rests solely on my shoulders. As a single mother, I used to wear this expectation like a badge instead of the burden it can be most of the time. I wore it like a badge because I needed it to feel strong, to prove to myself and others that I'm not weak. I can be and do all. I AM WOMAN. RAWWRRRR. As a Christian single mother, I wore it like a scarlet letter, feeling like I deserved to be worn out and pushed to the max because I hadn't "lived right,' and had my children the "right" way.
Here's the thing though: I'm tired. Parenting has beat me down the past 2 1/2 years and I'm exhausted. Depleted. Worn down. I have no strength left. If it's one thing that living with a mental illness has taught me, it's that you have to learn what your limitations are and work with them, not against them. It's also taught me the importance of having a solid support system you can reach out to for help.
Well...Back in December I cried uncle. I called my ex. Said we needed to talk. Told him that I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't be everything to both boys and take care of myself anymore. Said that if I was going to be a full-time student and have to get my BP under control I couldn't be a full-time mother to TWO children under the age of 5 anymore. Said I didn't want to end up being that mom at the grocery store cussing out her kids because the strain of single parenting is causing her to buckle and bend. Told him I didn't want that for me and I didn't want that for the boys.
So...he agreed. Today Alex is moving to Philly.
When you're a single parent, especially if you're the only one calling the shots, the hardest thing to do is give up the driver's seat and let someone else navigate. But today I'm taking a major step for all of us in a healthier direction by doing so.
I want my sons to be happy and healthy. I want them to live in nurturing and loving environments. I want what's best for them. This wasn't an easy decision to make, but once I let go of all the tangles and freed myself from the web, I've had an enormous amount of peace about it. I know deep down in my heart of hearts, as scary as this is, and as nervous as my ex and I are about taking this step, it's the right thing to do. It's the healthiest thing.
And that...is the only expectation I'm striving to live by from here on out.
- Single parenthood a stigma difficult to shake (oscarnahunja.wordpress.com)
brennan up at 5:30am. alex up by 6:30am. crash collision. 4yr old shenanigans. blueberry pancakes. Bert & Ernie. Diego. my client's 3 minute segment on the TODAY Show (Jim Carrey sucked up all the time being, well, Jim Carrey, which cut down my client's segment, but hey, it's Jim Carrey.)
bubbles & Afro Fairies
some sidewalk chalk
a secret garden
grilled cheese. yo gabba gabba dancey dance time. robots. naptime. angry birds. a little work for said client. shower (I actually took time to shave my legs-doesn't happen very often these days). dinner. popcorn. movie night.
operation enjoy Mamahood is underway & day one of summer vacay is complete. i know every day won't be like this, but when the tough ones do come, i'll have this to remind me of how beautiful my life really is.
anxiety-you can go kick rocks with open toe shoes.