Once upon a time, almost 9 years ago, I met my Prince Charming. We got married and started a beautiful family and we lived happily every after.
Well, sort of. Because it’s never that simple, is it?
What does happen is a lot of hard stuff and a lot of change but, thankfully, it doesn’t happen all at once.
Marriage, parenthood, and time change us and it’s never how we expect. We make what seem like insignificant choices every day, that all add up over the minutes, hours, days, months, and years. These refining moments, shape us into the people we become as we continue to grow up. Because growing up doesn’t stop at 18 or 21 or 30 in this journey we’re all on.
This year is off to a rough start. Every year the hard stuff hits a little bit closer to home. Saturday, operating on less sleep than usual after a late night call from a devastated best friend who lost her dog only two months after losing her father, which resulted in a 3am babysitting adventure, and then Sunday an ER visit for my son after he passed out, the reality of how fragile every life is weighs heavily on my heart. I’ve been here before with life, but not with enough clarity to write about it.
I think I’m supposed to start writing here again. Only this time, my motivations are so different than they’ve ever been before. It’s hard to explain that one, but maybe that’s for another time.
It’s my prayer that my words and my transparency are able to reach out and touch your life. Because this journey is so hard, you are doing an incredible job, and you are so loved.
Sometimes, when I have the time to read my social media posts, blog posts and journal entries from years past, I don’t recognize the person I was. She feels like a stranger I can’t understand at all. And yet deep down, I know I’m still her.
As I sit here now, I realize it’s been SEVEN years, almost to the day, that I sat in bed feeling my former sense of self slipping away. I felt scared and lost and completely different. My first baby, still fresh to the world at 6 weeks old, was always nearby. He was the sweetest most amazing little being and my heart was so full, but I was T.I.R.E.D. He was colicky, but I had made the decision to only take 6 weeks of maternity leave before he was born. I worked in Corporate IT Data Migration for Honeywell and I had a remote, work-from-home office set-up.
What could go wrong?
Oh, just pretty much everything.
Within the first few weeks of returning to work: I trained for a new position and then did my best to juggle work, childcare and pumping, while operating on about 3 hours of sleep per night and post-partum hormones that were all over the place. The new position required more time on the phone and less flexibility to shift my work-day into the evening. I went into my pregnancy with the expectation of a “family friendly” job, but by the time my baby boy was 3 months old, I had resigned and I spent the next few years wrestling with that decision.
I’ve spent so much of the last 7 years feeling like I wasn’t me anymore. Constantly worrying that I wasn’t the woman my husband had married.
When Andy and I met and started building our life together, I was this energetic, optimistic person. I was so excited about life because I had met this man for whom I’d prayed. I had very much prayed for him. I recognized him as soon as we met. We dated for 3 months, got an apartment together, got a cat and after 9 months were engaged in July with a wedding date immediately set for April. In other words, I knew my man for 18 months total before we said, “I do”.
We planned a wedding on the East Coast and bought a house in Colorado, got married and launched this life we had dreamed about, new puppy and all. As newlyweds, I had this amazing work-from-home job doing exactly what I had dreamed of doing for years AND I started training through Core Power Yoga to be a Yoga instructor. With everything in place, we decided we wanted to start a family after a year of marriage and D was born a few months before our second anniversary.
Whew! Anyone else exhausted just reading that?
It all felt so incredibly overwhelming. After carefully crafting this life, it all just fell apart the second we became parents. Everything we planned for and everything we had in place was so much different than we ever could have imagined.
Once I became a stay at home mom, everything changed for me. Suddenly I felt this intense desire to toss it all to the wind and start over. I started pushing to move back east to live closer to our families and, with a 6 month old baby, 2 year old Border Terrier, and 3 year old Siamese cat in tow, we moved cross-country. Again. Only our house hadn’t sold because the new buyer tax credit had just ended and the housing market tanked. We moved to an expensive DC suburb to be closer to Andy’s new job and simultaneously paid our Colorado mortgage. Our rent was higher than our mortgage for a walk-up Eco-efficient “town-home” that wasn’t only a quarter the size of the house we left behind, but frequently lost power (locking us out of our building and making it impossible to keep fresh food around) because it sat on an old Maryland power grid on probably one of the craziest intersections in our area. And then the cost of tolls to travel up to our families in Pennsylvania and New Jersey was hefty.
This life change was so shocking to my still postpartum, lactating body, I developed reoccurring mastitis and a milk-blister that wouldn’t heal and D started getting reoccurring ear infections. I was anxiety ridden and depressed. I spent too much time online and Andy worried about me. I had trouble connecting with moms locally, though I did venture out and try by joining a bible study and local moms group, and some of my long-distance mommy friendships were suffering from my internalization of just how hard it all was for me. I was not leaning on my God and I was putting unfair expectations on other people to help me somehow, while never fully communicating what I was going through.
Our house back in Colorado finally sold just in time for the Jamaica destination wedding of one of my best friends from college. The trip was a welcome celebration and distraction from the weight of our life.
About a month before our January vacation, in a panicked attempt to fix our life and fix myself, I accepted a temporary position up closer to our families. Within 6 months of moving to DC, we packed up and moved to NJ to a bigger rental for less money, a 15 minute drive down the road from my parents and about 30-45 minutes from Andy’s family. But nothing felt right. My job was a far commute from the new home, as was Andy’s, and D kept getting sick from daycare, so I decided to stop working when the contract position ended.
I was back “home” and I had my family, but I was still so lost. My memories from that time in our life are pretty sad. I felt very alone and my self-esteem was at an all-time low. We conceived baby #2 that summer and were thrilled, but we still ached for the life we had begun to build in Colorado. Andy and I both felt restless and, in an attempt to anchor our hearts, we bought a house a little further from both of our families, but closer to New York City to ease the burden of Andy’s commute. The new house was also closer to an amazing friend I had made through a mom’s group. We made this move two months before baby #2’s due date.
We spent the next few months spinning our wheels trying to find happiness.
Then came little brother. The bond between the two brothers was palpable and I was in heaven.
For a month.
That’s when one of my closest friends, the daughter of close family friends, lost the twins she was pregnant with at 19 weeks. Her water had broken unexpectedly and within a few days the twins were born too early to sustain life. It was heart-wrenching and world-shattering. This friend I had known since first grade, who’s family had introduced my family to church and led me into a relationship with Christ. Her dad was my childhood minister and had married my husband and me. All at once her world was crashing down around her and my hardened, closed-up, self-reliant heart had no idea how to respond. I choked, I stabbed our friendship in the heart, and she decided this unhealthy relationship needed to end.
That’s when I completely lost my mind. I let myself go on spinning out of control and into depression, unable to handle small things and crying constantly. I was barely able to handle toddler tantrums and baby cries. I blamed myself and tore myself apart while trying to blame her too and somehow reclaim what I felt she had somehow taken. And yet, I desperately wanted her to be my friend again.
I’m so thankful I had Andy’s steady hand trying to keep me grounded, our moms and my friend D around helping me function through all of that.
I was trapped by my own bitterness and that’s when the Lord showed up. An online friend I had made through blogging reached out and invited me to do an Instagram and email based bible study with her through Good Morning Girls. Slowly, my heart started to open up again. My Lord and savior reached out His hand and gently pulled me out of the dark hole I had thrown myself into. I found an artistic outlet in photography, I committed to bettering my health, and I started pouring myself into documenting our family, while finally pursuing a full relationship with Christ.
About a year after W’s birth, Andy and I prayed for our restless hearts. We prayed for contentment if we were meant to stay and wisdom if we weren’t. We began to plant seeds and to grow where we were, until one day we realized we weren’t meant to stay any longer. We listed the house, Andy’s job transferred him out west, and our house sold in a weekend with a cash offer that was set to close in 4 weeks. With our 6 year old cat, 5 year old terrier, 4 year old preschooler, and an 18 month old toddler, we moved cross-country. Again.
We added a boxer puppy to the mix a few months later and then a year after we moved back to Colorado baby #3, our baby girl N, was born.
N just turned 2 a few months ago, D’s 7 now, and W’s almost 5. The past three years have been a roller coaster of their own, but more than anything there’s been a lot fun and so much healing.
This past month, Andy and I had this amazing opportunity to go on a trip together without the kids. It was a reward through his job and it was in Aspen, so we could drive. I can’t even express how much of an answer to prayer this was. I had been yearning to go into the mountains for a romantic getaway for over a year and we had been failing to communicate well for months.
You know what I’ve finally realized? I’m done beating myself up for the woman I’ve become. I’m not the same woman my husband married and he’s not the same man. We’ve been through so much and the Lord has carried us through it all. We are older and wiser, but we are very much still the same couple. We are silly. We enjoy laughing and good food and wine. We like to get out into nature and try new things. All that matters for us to live “happily ever after” is that we continue to choose each other through the good times and the bad. After all, isn’t that what we promised to do when we got married?