Category Archives: aha moment

The Fall (Or Getting Back Up) – My Messy, Beautiful

Editor’s note: Almost eight years ago, I had a molar pregnancy. I don’t often write about it, but it’s not because I don’t want to. It’s because it’s hard. I mean, really hard. But here I go anyway, because I can do hard things.

I never thought of my body as a vessel put here on this Earth to procreate until my body proved incapable of the task. It was only then that I wondered about the hows and the whys of life and considered the consequences of having a body that didn’t do what it was meant to. It was only then that I shuddered from the sting of failure. Any previous feelings of disappointment were mere ripples compared to the wave that took me under when I couldn’t make a baby.

I’m not a religious person, but I believe in an energy that runs through the universe. It’s what drew me to dance. Very occasionally, moving through time and space allowed me to tap into that force and feel something larger than myself.   Those precious moments of light and connection gave dance significance in my life that went far beyond livelihood (not that I ever earned a penny doing it).

I’m fortunate to have felt light and connection in my life, but they’re not answers to the hows. They’re not explanations for the whys. When my first pregnancy turned out to be a molar pregnancy, which turned into choriocarcinoma (i.e. I wanted a baby but got cancer in my uterus instead), the ground crumbled beneath me. With nothing to grasp on to, I quite simply fell.

It was a bad math equation. A chemistry experiment gone horribly wrong.   A bunch of cells that didn’t do their job. None of it was my fault, and I know that now, but I struggled for a long time to figure it out.

Did having a molar pregnancy make me stronger? Maybe. Did it make me more determined? Perhaps. Did it help me not sweat the small stuff? Hardly.

For better or for worse, it taught me that sometimes falling feels good. That time doesn’t heal all wounds. That loss is lonely but must be felt alone. That in order to be privy to life’s most supreme miracles, we must surrender to our vulnerability.

More than anything, it taught me what I don’t believe.  I don’t believe it was fate.  I don’t believe it happened for a reason.  I don’t believe it was God’s plan, and I don’t believe it made my future children possible.

It might’ve been helpful to have faith in something during that dark time instead of a list of all the things I don’t believe. If I’m being completely honest, what eventually lifted me up wasn’t some grand aha-moment that motherhood didn’t define me; rather, it was the messy, beautiful realization that it did.

Beautiful because making and carrying a baby inside my body was the embodiment of connection and holding that miraculous human life in my arms was the epitome of light. Messy because had I not ultimately fulfilled my longing to have a baby, I don’t think I ever would’ve been whole.

There is a sense of gratitude that comes from enduring tragedy. It’s the appreciation not for the thrill of the fall, but for the more authentic version of you that emerges in the daunting process of getting back up.

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This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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Filed under aha moment, dance, giving birth, gratitude, mess, molar pregnancy

Making The Case For A Puppy (A List!)

Upon Harry’s death, I vowed to never get another dog. To never again open my heart and be vulnerable to sadness, disappointment and loss. Then, I remembered that I’m a mother and my heart is wide open and vulnerable every minute of every day. With that aha-moment under my belt, we bravely welcomed Gertie into our home.

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Even though training her – with two busy boys already reaping havoc all over the damn place – has occasionally often perpetually thrust me on the brink of insanity, adopting her was the smartest thing we’ve done as parents since we decided two kids was plenty.

Of course, there are pros and cons to having a puppy.  Annoyances like poopy paw prints on the floor, pee stains on the rug, nighttime wake-ups, chewed shoes, missing socks, and toilet paper dragged through the house come to mind easily. But the good stuff far outweighs the bad. Here are some of the awesome ways Gertie has rocked our family’s world.

1. We Are Happier

Gertie’s presence has helped heal our broken hearts. She’s been a delightful, albeit messy, distraction from the sadness of our loss and a grateful trigger for the memories of Harry that we hold so close. We miss our Bo-Berry like crazy and always will, but through Gertie, we feel a connection to him that we never expected.

2. I Can Do It All

On afternoons when Dylan whines about homework, Riley begs me to sit with him in the bathroom, the phone is ringing, UPS is at the door with a package for which I need to sign, and I have a pot of macaroni boiling on the stove because everyone will be hungry any minute, it doesn’t seem possible to meet another being’s needs. But here’s the thing. It totally is. I’m handling all of the parenting madness plus I’m feeding, playing with, cleaning up after, and training a puppy. I’m stretched thin, but just like when Riley was born and I discovered I could simultaneously breastfeed one kid and flip a grilled cheese sandwich for the other, I have a renewed sense that I’m capable of way more than I think.

3. I Can Survive With Less Sleep

Before we brought Gertie home, I dreaded the nighttime wake-ups that would accompany her arrival. Memories of the sleep deprivation of early motherhood and the feeling of desperation that accompanied it washed over and left me chilled to the bone. The part I forgot is that over time your body adjusts and learns how to function on less sleep. That, and coffee technology has come a long way since Dylan was an infant. All hail the K-Cup! Thankfully, Gertie has handled nights way better than either of my boys ever did. I’m definitely tired, and I’ve dropped off the kids at school without their backpacks a few times (oops), but I’m persevering because, as with human babies, this too shall pass!

4. My Children Are Learning The True Meaning Of Love

My boys adore every soft, square inch of Gertie, and the tenderness they show her (except when they chase her with light sabers) makes me a very Proud Mama. But love is more than kisses and cuddles. It’s being responsible for another person’s (or pet’s) basic needs and, more importantly, putting those needs ahead of your own. In this age of overparenting, where our children are the center of our universe and demand our undivided attention all the time, my boys have quickly learned that sometimes Gertie comes first. What a concept for my 21st century kids!

It’s not only that they’ve learned to have patience and wait their turn, but also that they want to help. Whether it’s feeding, walking, bathing, or taking Gertie outside to pee or poop, they’re happy to lend a hand.   Dylan has become quite skilled in retrieving items from Gertie’s mouth that she’s not supposed to have, like shoes, socks, toilet paper, and field trip permission slips, and Riley has even attempted to scoop the poop in the yard. (Watch your step. Seriously.)

They take turns opening and closing her crate, race to the couch every morning to get the first snuggle of the day, and follow the new house rules, which include closing bathroom doors (Gertie has made us well aware of her fondness for toilet paper), keeping toys off the floor or in their rooms, and never letting chocolate, grapes, or raisins fall from a plate. They genuinely care about the well being of their “little sister” and it’s an absolute joy to watch.

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5. I’ve Slowed Down

Fitting Gertie into our already chaotic schedule has forced me to slow down. To let go of what’s not important. Because of Gertie, I’ve learned to say the impossible. I’ve learned to say NO. Instead of over-committing myself to activities at the kids’ schools, running needless errands (i.e. shopping for shoes I that don’t need or, knowing me, already have), and fretting over unfinished projects (Riley’s baby book comes to mind…dear God, he just turned five), I’ve spent buckets of quiet and – believe it or not – relaxing time at home in my backyard. In fact, I wrote most of this essay sitting on the patio with a breeze blowing through my hair and a snoring puppy in my lap.

6. My Kids Like To Play Outside

My “indoor” OnDemandNetflixBlue-rayXboxiPhoneiPad addicted zombies kids have dirt under their nails and mosquito bites up and down their legs from romping around outside with their new pup. Before Gertie, our swing set was covered in cobwebs. Now, the boys climb, swing, throw balls, toss Frisbees, and run around with Gertie until the sun goes down, and even then it’s hard to get them inside. My kids have turned into adventurous, tired, itchy, and filthy “outdoor” kids, and I couldn’t be happier!

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7. Bedtime Is Easier

We promised the boys they could take turns sleeping with Gertie once she made it through the night reliably. About a week ago, we tossed her in Dylan’s bed, but as much as he adores her, he was immediately annoyed by the smell of her chew toy and her lack of awareness of personal space. (He is so my child!) Riley, however, took her in unconditionally. Here’s the part that will blow your mind. If Gertie sleeps in Riley’s bed, Riley actually goes to sleep. In other words, he doesn’t come out every five minutes to tell us he’s scared or thirsty or hungry or worried about what’s happening in Ukraine. He doesn’t insist on falling asleep on the couch. He doesn’t crawl into our bed in the middle of the night. He goes the #$%& to sleep, and it’s reason enough for every Mama in the world to get a puppy IMMEDIATELY!

Welcoming a dog into the family at any age or stage is a huge commitment and a crap load of responsibility. I’m in no way suggesting a puppy is a good fit for every family, but I am telling you that just as with human children, the reward far exceeds the work.

If you’re on the fence about getting a dog, be bold, say YES, and prepare yourself for a wild (poopy) ride…just like you did when you decided to have kids. The only thing I don’t recommend is having a baby and a puppy at the same time. I know some people think, “Well, as long as I’m home with one…” Well, those people are crazy. I don’t know anything about the pros and cons of that kind of craziness, but I bet the cons are bad. Real bad. Unless you’re #TheoandBeau, in which case everything will be just fine.

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Filed under aha moment, boys, Harry, list, pets