Posts in family
Lost and Found

Just a note: I’m going to talk about my journey during the early days of motherhood and the struggles I had. If you find reading on that subject difficult or uncomfortable please feel free to close this window in your browser. I promise I’ll write more about crystals soon.

I often describe the time after I had my first son, when I became a mother, as the hardest time of my life. Crossing the threshold of pregnant woman to mother was something that nobody can prepare you for. I imagine that it’s the same for every woman who has ever carried a baby, or adopted a baby, or has been pregnant, or lost a pregnancy. Once you cross that threshold, there’s no going back. You simply aren’t the same woman that you were before, in small ways and in big ways, you know things and feel things and have unlocked a part of yourself that you can’t put back. I felt as if one night I went to sleep as one person and woke up as an entirely different person. I couldn’t even recognize myself in the mirror.

Photo: Chelise Renee Photography

Photo: Chelise Renee Photography

I wasn’t prepared for that. 

I was the first of the “kids” in my family to have a baby. I have a group of cousins who I grew up with and am close to, I’m the oldest of the bunch. I was the first for, well, everything. From bringing a boyfriend home for Christmas, to moving away to a new city after college, to getting married, getting a puppy and then - having a baby. I asked my aunt, one of my dearest friends, if she thought I would be a good mom. “Of course you will”, she said plainly, “you’re good at everything you put your mind to”. 

At the time, I’ll admit, I thought she was right. I was good at everything I put my mind to. I got the roles I wanted on stage, I got the job I wanted in Chicago, and had the wedding of my dreams and a honeymoon filled with adventure. I was good at the things I put my mind to. In hindsight, I wish I put my mind to more things, but that’s a different blog post.

Photo: Chelise Renee Photography

Photo: Chelise Renee Photography

Then I had my son. After 30 hours of labor, I sat, terrified and in love with this new human. I expected to blossom into this whole new person, a loving miracle of a human who effortlessly took care of this baby. I did not. I struggled with everything. I felt lost in a sea of worries and uncertainty. The months ticked by and the feelings I had of being an impostor only intensified.

 

Quickly after I had my son, two of my friends had their first babies. I remember going to visit them in the hospital and when I walked in the room they were glowing. They looked so natural, so happy, so immediately at home in their motherhood - and I sobbed the entire way home. It only confirmed my suspicion, that I was not a natural mother. That there has been a terrible mistake. I was missing a piece of the puzzle and now my poor son is going to have to grow up with this frazzled, overwhelmed shell of a mother who can’t seem to do anything right.

Photo: Chelise Renee Photography

Photo: Chelise Renee Photography

(Note: Of course, that’s total bullshit. The phrase “natural mother” is bullshit.) 

If I could go back in time just once it would be to comfort that version of myself. I would let her cry in my arms and say, “You are enough”. 

My problem was that I had lost myself. When you cross the threshold into mother an entirely new identity is thrust upon you. Lose the weight. Breastfeed. Keep working. Stay home. Music class. Swim class. Sacrifice. Don’t ask for help. Cook. Clean. Sacrifice more. 

I couldn’t check any of the boxes, I felt like it was all-consuming and a struggle, I was trying to live up to an ideal that I had created in my mind and failing at every turn. I had unknowingly set myself up for failure by creating a report card that was impossible for me to pass.  

When you stripped away my job, my body, my old hobbies - I didn’t know who I was. The version of “mom” I was trying to be was making me miserable. Like, cry-every-day-what-is-wrong-with-me miserable. 

I had to start from scratch with myself and my expectations. I started noticing what made me feel happy, and what made me feel miserable - and started doing more of the happy things.

Photo: Chelise Renee Photography

Photo: Chelise Renee Photography

 

I know this sounds elementary but please believe me that it’s a big deal. I felt like I was building myself from the ground up. Waking up at night and pumping to increase my supply made me miserable, so I stopped. Going for a walk by myself made me happy, so I went for a small one every day. Trying crash diet after crash diet and drinking protein shakes made me miserable, so I stopped. Meditating made me feel awesome, so I did more. Watching TV made me feel like crap, so I stopped. Reading self-development and poetry and collecting crystals made happy, so I did more.  

I let go of the expectations I had for myself as a mother and tried to enjoy the small moments and, eventually, I found myself again. I swear too much and feed my toddler too many fruit snacks, but I dropped the guilt and try to do better everyday. I’ve gained 20 pounds since my wedding day and I’m just tired of beating myself up about it, so I don’t. I have fewer friends, but I surround myself with the most extraordinary and supportive ones in the world.

I wish it didn’t take the birth of my son as the catalyst to burn it all down and start from scratch, because I do feel like I missed a lot of time in those early days when all I did was worry and cry. But I can say now that I’m a happy, messy, mom-in-progress. Being mindful, looking inward, and focusing on my truest self has - to be dramatic - saved my life, and at the very least saved my happiness. And with this platform I only hope that it can inspire you to take inventory and find what makes you truly come alive. It’s not the ideal that society or your ego has for you, but the whispers of your heart.

Photo: Chelise Renee Photography

Photo: Chelise Renee Photography

The Spirit of Christmas

The last thing attorney Kate Jordan wants to do is travel to Vermont during Christmas to oversee the sale of a gorgeous, yet undeniably chilling, estate. But what is it about this house that has everybody at unease? OH THAT’S RIGHT IT’S HAUNTED BY A SUPER HOT CHRISTMAS GHOST WITH A PERFECT BEARD NAMED DANIEL. He was murdered on Christmas Eve, and you can bet your last candy cane that Kate and Daniel solve the mystery of his murder together and fall in love in the process.

The-Spirit-of-Christmas-movie.jpg

 

I have watched this movie. The Spirit Of Christmas.

 

More than once.

 

This year.

 

Because I love it. I love those Hallmark-esque Romantic Christmas Themed movies. I love how all of the women have perfect blowouts and like 15 gorgeous wool coats. I love how they all involve a trip to New England. I love how people are always falling in love with ghosts or angels or time travelers. They. Are. Terrible. And. I. Love. Them.  

Put a pin in this because were going to come back to the sexy ghost. 

The-Spirit-of-Christmas-shirtless.jpg

Ahem.

 

I was having a conversation last night about holiday stress, and it just seems that no matter what you do to avoid your personal holiday triggers you simply can’t tip-toe around them. It’s in the energy. This year I made a deal with myself that I was going to have a completely flowing and lovely holiday full of ease and low cortisol levels. And yet, just yesterday I called my mom in a panic begging for some help with the kids so that I could take boxes downstairs and finish cookies for my swap and start wrapping presents and check all of my tracking numbers to be sure everything is arriving before Christmas and go to the Post Office and make a menu for Christmas Eve dinner so I can get groceries. 

Shit. I’ve done it again. 

Like I said, it’s hard to avoid. It all kind of snowballs for me about a week before Christmas. It’s like I’m looking at the calendar for the first time - what’s that, you say? Christmas in ONE WEEK? But despite the inevitable stress of the holiday I am feeling much happier than I have during past holiday whirlwinds.  

That’s because I have intentionally dropped the ball on several classic Christmas activities that I just wasn’t feelin’. I didn’t just drop the ball, I dropped the ball and then I kicked it into the ocean and watched the ball drift into the sunset. I punted that thing into oblivion. 

I didn’t send Christmas cards this year. I didn’t decorate the mantle. I didn’t take the kids to see Santa. I didn’t take the kids to the zoo light festival. I didn’t make cute ornaments with their hand-prints. I don’t feel one speck of guilt.

 

Because I’m honoring my preferences and it feels gooooooood.

 This is where I’m going back to The Spirit of Christmas and the hot ghost with the beard and suspenders, because I’m embracing all of the things and activities that bring me the most joy. I’m watching tons of Hallmark movies (more than once). I have baked TEN DOZEN COOKIES SO FAR. I started drinking Golden Mylk. I’m shopping my little heart out for my loved ones. I decorated cookies with my kids. Loads and loads of Christmas music and Polar Express. I’m singing carols on Christmas Eve at church. 

All of the above are things that feel good in this moment, in this season of my life. Drinking boatloads of coffee and zoning out while rolling dough makes me feel peaceful and full. Addressing Christmas cards and dragging out all of my decorations just feel stressful to me, so I’m not doing it. And I feel lighter and happier for it, I think my family does too. A lot of people, myself included, lose track of what they truly enjoy in their heart of hearts because we’re too busy doing crap to make other people happy. We think we’re being selfish. We’re TOLD we’re being selfish. This is true for all of us but especially for women and especially for mother’s of young children. My conditioning tells me that I should be cutting back on the Christmas cookies and taking my kids to the fancy mall to visit Santa. My heart is telling me to stay away from the mall and eat more cookies.

 

I’m listening to my heart.

 

Now here is your weekly dose of woo-woo from me. When we ignore our preferences and do crap that frankly we don’t care about that doesn’t serve us, we starve our connection to our intuition. The feeling in our gut or in our heart that says “this is good for me - do more” or “this is bad for me - do less” becomes quieter and quieter until you lose yourself in pleasing other people completely. That’s not a fun place to be, trust me. I still struggle with it all the time. But more and more often I’m simply doing things that make me feel good and letting go of the stuff that doesn’t work right now, and that inner voice that I lost so long ago is becoming a little louder everyday.

  

Let me know what you think and I’ll be back with a Christmas Day post next week! Tell me what are you doing this holiday season that lights you up like a Christmas Tree?

A Story About Stories Chapter 1: I Hate Summer

Are you familiar with the concept of stories?

I don’t mean the fairytale kind or the kind that they tell on The Moth podcast, I mean the kind that we tell to ourselves. The kind of stories that run on repeat through our brains all day (and lets me honest, sometimes all night) that shape our world.

Okay stay with me here.

Sometimes we pick them up while we’re so young that we couldn’t possibly remember how they even came to be. In fact, I think most of the stories that we’re saddled with throughout our lives are collected through our childhood years and tucked away deep in our subconscious. They run the show. They become the lens through which we view the world.

If you let them.

Three years ago I bought Jen Sincero’s book, “You Are a Badass”, right after my son was born. I devoured it, twice. Then I bought the audiobook and listened to it, oh I dunno, about 3 or 4 times. I loved the concepts and I loved all of the ideas that it brought forward for me, but I didn’t apply any of her teachings to my life, I just sat on the sidelines.

Then her next book, “You Are a Badass at Making Money”, came out and I did the same. Bought the book, loved it. Listened to the audiobook, obsessed. Only this time something clicked for me. People changing their stories sounded silly, or more like being in denial to me before…but if people could really change their stories around money and become millionaires - what could I achieve if I started changing mine? Not about money, specifically, but other stories that have been holding me back.

I picked a story that I had been telling myself my entire life, as far back as I can remember. One that was as much a part of me as my laugh and my stretch marks. I hate summer.

No, I really hate summer.

It’s hot. It’s buggy. I’m constantly fighting with my husband over the thermostat. I sweat and sweat AND SWEAT. My legs stick to everything. Summer music is awful I mean can you BELIEVE what is popular on the radio now? Where is all the good TV?

Now that I’m a mom of a one and three year old - there was an entirely new set of gripes. Is it too hot for the kids to go outside? Make them wear their hats! Simon, KEEP THE HAT ON. Sunscreen. More sunscreen. My oldest son is so pale he’s practically translucent, WHO MOVED THE SUNSCREEN? Sand in the house. Sand in the cracks. ALL THE CRACKS. And so it goes.

So I told myself that every time I had a negative thought about summer I would simply say to myself, “That’s not true, I love summer!”. And that when I talked about summer I would only talk about it in the nicest of terms, and I would tell anybody who would listen that I LOVED summer and how you just can’t beat a Michigan summer! Amirite?!

When anybody asked how the summer was going I would say, “We’re having the best summer! Wow! I love the summer! Weeeeee!”.

lovingsummer.jpg

It felt fakey and weird.

At first.

Then something strange started to happen.

I didn’t notice how sweaty I was. The kids and I went outside and played every single day. We all smelled intensely of sunscreen and I loved it so much, I can still smell it now as the leaves fall behind me like snowflakes. At 4pm every day we took freeze pops on the deck and sat on the steps and ate them as they melted in record time. The kids were always sticky, thus, I was always sticky. We blew bubbles and water balloons and swam and ate SO MANY HOTDOGS. Chlorine counted as a bath. Feet were dirty. Kids were happy.

changingstories.jpg

One afternoon as we sat on the steps slurping freeze pops, my older son scooted closer to me and I smelled his dirty, sweaty sunscreen hair and I wanted to remember it forever. I wanted to remember this summer forever. I never wanted it to end.

Then fall slowly started arriving and all the back-to-school supplies showed up on the shelves. My oldest started pre-school and Starbucks started advertising pumpkin spice. A friend asked me how my summer was and I said, “You know, honestly I had the best summer of my life”. And I meant it. And I mean it now. It really was the best summer. I was sad to see it go.

Our thought’s create our emotions. Our emotions create our reality. Those are the basics. By changing my “I hate summer” mantra to something completely different, my emotions around it shifted, and then everything about it became beautiful.

mindfulliving.jpg

Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all s’mores and rainbows (oh hello did you catch that I have a one and three year old?) but the bad didn’t seem so bad and the ordinary seemed wonderful and the wonderful seemed incredible.

Now it’s on to the next story to examine, and that’s for another blog post. But really, challenge yourself to think about a story that you have been telling yourself, perhaps, for your entire life, that’s simply not serving you.

See how it feels when you talk about it differently. Try on a new story for a while and see if it fits. And of course, let me know if you do - or if you have - changed a story for yourself. I, for one, already can’t wait for next summer.