Celebrations… without libations

Last week Cody and I announced our amazing news that we are expecting our first baby bean!

It was the day of my girlfriend Kim’s baby shower – the entire day I had felt so sick, tired and dizzy. I went to her shower with my other love, Ashley, by my side, smiled and cooed at all the adorable blankets and stuffies, all the while thinking about the day she would get to hold her baby boy in her arms. She would make an amazing mother, and all these women where there surrounding her and supporting her.

I excused myself early. I was ready for my bed, but had cleaning to do and dinner to make.

As I was preparing dinner, I thought and calculated as to why I would be feeling so crappy…and suddenly it came to my mind…it wasn’t a tumor…It was a little bundle of something growing in my belly slowly exhausting me.

I had planned before how I would tell Cody and suddenly it all melted away, I screamed, cried and jumped up and down, then ran outside to tell Cody the news.

Best. Feeling. Ever.

Cody has always told me he wanted to be a daddy. I remember a conversation when we first moved into our house 5 years earlier about how he could see us having a baby sooner rather than later. I wanted to wait, I wanted to be married and get into the groove of owning a house – but that conversation always stuck in the back of my mind.

To be able to tell him that he was going to be a daddy, and see the excitement flood his eyes will be a memory I forever hold dear.

Now, I am a researcher and I google EVERYTHING – and from previous searches I know that people, doctors, and other baby professionals tell you that you should wait until your 12th week to announce to the world that you are expecting – which I don’t understand.

Well, we didn’t wait. I called my mom and told her to come over. Cody called his dad and told him and then called his mom and told her. We wanted to share our news – and I am so happy we did! My mom has done this before. This will be her 5th pregnancy announcement coming from one of her daughters, but the hug I got was one of the tightest I have ever had. Cody’s mom screamed for joy and still has not stopped telling me how happy she is. I told my sisters right away, because that was one reaction I was BEYOND excited to experience. In our group of friends, we are one of the…actually, we are the last couple to have a baby (2015 will forever be known as the year of love with all the weddings and babies), so we immediately announced to our friends too.

We told our family, and our friends and then when we hit 12 weeks, we announced it to the Facebook world.

The thought behind holding off until the 12th week is because a miscarriage is more common during the first trimester, but for me, I thought if something happens, and this feeling of love and joy (which is also known as nausea) goes away, then I am going to need support. I am going to want to talk about it, I am going to want to try to get through it, and work through it.

Why was I waiting 12 weeks for something bad to happen instead of celebrating something good? The something good right now! I am pregnant! I GOT PREGNANT! Suddenly every neurologist who told me that there was a high chance that this could not happen, it happened. All the doctors appointments and the wishing and waiting – it happened.

This week we announced to Facebook AND I celebrate two years seizure free. I am counting my blessings, and holding my belly tight.

Cody and I are beyond excited to start the next chapter of our life, and we and can’t wait to share our journey with you all!

~ Jacqui and Baby Bean ❤

For Cassidy Megan

It has been a year a half since my last seizure – and I am still scared shitless.

Every time that someone tells me that I am out of the woods, after all it has been a year and a half there is nothing to worry about, I secretly want to kick them and yell “DON’T JINX IT!” or “HOW DO YOU KNOW? DO YOU HAVE A CRYSTAL BALL?” and if they do have a crystal ball, why the hell haven’t I used it before!? I am so scared that it will happen again. Every time that I get sick with a flu or cold, the first sign of the sniffles, I panic. When my heart goes wonky because of stress, I immediately call my mom to take me to the emergency room. Every time I decide to have a libation after a rough day at work, I sip it gingerly in hopes of not triggering the sleeping monster. Because after all, that is what it is, a sleeping monster. A monster who lies waiting for me to be living my life, and then BAM!

This past episode of Grey’s Anatomy hurt my heart. A woman got into a car accident (well, the car drove through their house and hit her and her husband). She was pregnant and talking and fine and then all of a sudden she had a seizure and she was gone. She was gone and they delivered the baby. She was gone and the baby lived on while the father had some intense surgery. I fell apart while Cody slept soundly beside me. I messaged Julia who is my Grey’s Buddy…and she talked me off the ledge. It’s not just Grey’s though – every time that a character has a seizure on any TV show I hold my breath and then burst into tears because IT’S SCARY! My mind starts racing! Is this what my family watched? Did they hold their breath?

I am scared we won’t be able to have babies. Like, really scared. I am scared I won’t be able to, or that I will hurt them. A woman once thought it was a good idea to tell me that a friend of hers had a bath with her two year old, and while they were bathing she had a seizure and drowned her baby. I can’t get that out of my head. My mind keeps racing. What if I do that? What if some HORRIBLE accident happened and then I would lose my baby and Cody and my family and it just snow balls. Seriously – my brain, if it’s not seizing, it’s freaking out thinking of all the horrible things.

I have a coping mechanism – I make fun of my seizures to make it easier for me. I laugh about it, and joke about it and make it seem like it’s okay, but it’s scary. I will talk about them with anyone. I will answer anyone’s questions. I am not scared to do that. I am scared that it will happen again.

I am scared. 

Today is Purple Day, which is celebrated around the world. It is a day to raise awareness about epilepsy. My co-workers at my office are going to be holding a fundraiser tomorrow for it which is AWESOME! There are no other words for it other than AWESOME!  Purple Day was created by Cassidy Megan, a young Canadian girl, in 2008. She was motivated by her own struggles with complex partial seizures. She wanted people to know more about it and dispel myths. Purple Day didn’t become international until 2009.

I am going to be wearing purple, and putting my own selfish fears aside to support those who are going through worse than me. For those who suffer every day, multiple times a day. For you, I hope you find the treatment that works, find your trigger and live a life free of seizures! I wear purple for you, and know that you are always in my thoughts and prayers!

Purple Day

Purple Day 2014

~ Jacqui

Dear Baby Stuehler

I met Ashley at work. At first we were co-workers, then friends. Now I like to think we are soul mates. At work we call her Smashley. She has become another sister to me. I bring her along on hikes, she is known by my nieces, sisters, and my  mom. She truly has become a soul mate of mine, and someone I look up to.  She has shown me how to be more confident in my own skin, she has been there with me through some pretty tough times and I am so honored that she is standing with me on my wedding day.

Ashley and her husband Marty are expecting their first bundle of joy – a baby girl. This week will be the last week of work for her before she goes on her maternity leave. This pregnancy has been anything but easy on Ashley – although she has been healthy, she has also been blessed with “morning” sickness, even though it lasts all day, heartburn, back and butt pain, hip pain…and caffeine withdrawal.

To send her off in true, loving, sisterhood fashion, I have decided to write a letter to the future love of her life – her baby girl. I hope one day she will read this, and know that even before she could love them – they loved her.

I love you Smash, and can’t wait to watch you become an amazing mother.

Every brunette need’s a blonde best friend ❤

 

Dear Baby Stuehler,

Welcome to the world!

I hope you realize that you are one of the luckiest babies as you are born into such a loving family. Your Grandparents, Uncles and Aunt all can’t wait to meet you. I can’t wait for you to know how loved you are. 

Your mom has nurtured you since the beginning, and has has been anxiously awaiting your arrival. She is counting down the days until you arrive, preparing in every way. I wish you could see her face when she talks about you, all the worries for that moment melt away as she rubs her belly. I cannot say it enough – you are so loved.

Remember that as the years go on and you start to grow – your best interests are what she has in mind when she tells you that the shorts you are about to wear will not be worn out of the house, or that the makeup you have on is beyond too much.

When that first boy breaks your heart, it will be her shoulder you will cry on, as she promises you that the heartbreak won’t last. She will tell you how she met your Daddy, and she will tell you that one day the right one will come along.

She will be your shopping partner, your mentor and the wisest teacher you will ever come across. She will be your cheerleader and your coach. Your mom will be there for you when you call her late at night about anything – even if it is just to hear her voice.

Your Mother will teach you confidence, that I am sure of. She will teach you how to be a strong and compassionate woman, and to stand ever steadfast in who you are. She will teach you self love and self worth. She will teach you how to stand alone, and work as a partner.

Your mother is an amazing woman. She will love you even when you slam the door in her face and challenge her. She will love you when you sneak out or when you try to lie to her (just a suggestion…don’t…she knows everything!).

Baby Stuehler, the world you are being born into is not always kind, it can be quite scary, but that’s why you were given your Daddy. He is working so hard to make sure that you are provided for, and will always keep you safe.

You are his princess, his baby girl. When your dad talks about you, there is a twinkle in his eye. Everything he does is with you in mind. Your daddy will be your knight in shining armor. 

Your daddy will ward off boys who will try to steal your heart, he will be your confidante at times when you feel alone. He will battle you when you are a teenager, and side with your mother more times than he will with you (just let it happen, trust me it’s for the best).

Your daddy will teach you so many things you won’t know are useful at first, be careful to try and remember them all. One day these memories will be all you have.

Your daddy will be your first love, and your favorite dance partner whether in the kitchen or at your wedding. You will be always be his little girl. Your teenage years will be hard on your relationship, and you may break his heart. Don’t worry – he will still love you, and will always remember holding his little girl and kissing her bruises to make them better.

Baby girl, I can not wait to meet you. I can not wait to watch you grow up into a young lady. I can’t wait to listen to your mom brag of your accomplishments and look back with her on this moment when you were still in her belly giving her the worst heartburn. 

Your parents are two of the most amazing, compassionate, people I have ever known. They will do anything for their friends, and I can not wait to do the same for them. 

Welcome to the world Baby Stuehler. We have been waiting for you. 

 

Congratulations you two – I can’t meet your little one.

The expectant parents – Love you guys!

~ Jacqui

Surprises of a stay-at-home mom

Before I had children, and knew everything (ha!), I had ideas about what stay-at-home parents did, what their houses looked like, and what their lives looked like. I also knew (ha!) that I’d never, ever become one. Ever. Never.

I went to a fancy university. I got a fancy (read: expensive) degree. I was a smart cookie. I had plans. I had ambitions. I had ideas. And I was stupid.

Fast forward through four pregnancies, three children, and years of being a stay-at-home mom to today, and let me tell you: I knew nothing. And I still know nothing.

I had some surprises when I became a stay-at-home parent and I thought I’d share them with you. So here, without further ado, are the 10 things that shocked the crap out of me when I became a stay-at-home mom:

1. My house will always be messy. If you do some quick math, I’m home from 10 until 3 every day. That’s five hours of prime cleaning time, you would think. But in reality, I do not have ‘free’ time from 10 until 3. I might have maybe 30 minutes of free time, maybe, and those minutes may not come all at once. They might come scattered throughout the day. So, while one would suppose (like I did before I took this gig) that I would have a magazine-worthy house, the fact of the matter is that there will always be floors to sweep, dishes to wash, toys to tidy, furniture to dust, windows to clean, toilets to scrub, and mirrors to shine. Always. It’s a horrible, self-perpetuating system that never ends.

2. The laundry will never be done. In therapy this week I was lamenting about the fact that my house is in constant chaos (see number 1) and that my laundry is never, ever ‘caught up’. One of the therapists (I had the pleasure of two at my last session!) said, “Unless you become nudists, that’s just the way it is.” She’s right. Even while I’m washing clothes, four other people besides myself are wearing clothes. Dirtying clothes is happening while I’m cleaning clothes. It’s just not fair. And it’s my reality.

3. I will not have a plan for every day. Somewhere in my ridiculous head I thought stay-at-home parents had some sort of social engagement calendar, filled with play dates, book clubs, leisurely coffees in shops, walks in the park pushing a  pram, library visits for grown-up books, or trips to the zoo, beach, fill-in-the-name-of-a-cool-place-here. So not the case. In fact, when we have a day where there isn’t a doctor’s appointment, a speech therapy appointment, groceries to fetch or errands to run, it’s blissful. It’s relaxing. It’s so much better than transporting all of the children with all of the things to the place that they’ll most likely destroy.

4. My kids will not do elaborate crafts every day. Or be enrolled in every play group or activity available to little people who aren’t in school. In fact, the moments where these things happen will be magic and the exception, and will be incredible and awesome, but will also be exhausting to coordinate, too expensive if they’re not free, and will wipe out any energy for anything else that week, making us yearn for days of nothing again (see number 3).

5. I will miss going to work. Before my last maternity leave from my last job, I couldn’t wait to stop working. To be at home and not have to get up with an alarm, or get dressed in fancy clothes and wear uncomfortable shoes, and eat lunch at a desk, and deal with the office politics that float in every workplace. But the reality of my day, complete with God-knows-what on my clothes, my hair looking like I’ve been run over by a tornado, and screaming children bouncing on me at 5:30 every. morning. there are some days, shockingly, that I dream of showering, brushing my teeth, going into work with clean, respectable clothing on, having structure to my day, performance reviews that don’t involve shrieking or temper tantrums, and a lunch where no one touches me. Some days having an out-of-the-house job sounds downright dreamy.

6. I will feel trapped sometimes. There seems to be such freedom for people who don’t have to work. But that’s just the thing: even though I don’t go anywhere, I still have to work. And my bosses don’t quit at 5 p.m. or stop sending demands outside of work hours. There are no such things as work hours. And so, some days, when my Monday looks like my Wednesday, which looks like my Saturday, it feels like I’m on a continuous loop with no end and no reprieve. Some days, there is nothing but boundary and restriction in my seemingly freedom-filled day.

7. I will wonder if I made the right decision. It’s a big decision to not return to work, to stay at home, and yet, for us, it was such a short conversation and it was made with very little debate or fuss. Ben and I talked about a few things: money that we would otherwise make, money we’d save if one of us stayed home, his career trajectory being able to recover in his industry versus mine after an extended absence, Lillian’s needs in terms of appointments at the children’s hospital an hour away, speech therapy weekly (at that time), and hearing aid/implant upkeep, and it just made sense: we needed someone to stay home and the person that it would work best for was me. Although logical, some days I wonder if everyone wouldn’t be happier, better off, our bank account less stressed out, if I were to just return to work. Some days.

8. I believe stay-at-home parents should be paid. I didn’t before. Because I didn’t recognize the magnitude of what they were doing and the positive effect they were having on their families by staying home. It’s a luxury in this day to stay home with your children. It shouldn’t have to be. It should be an option every family, whether single-parented or blended or couple-parented should have. It should be something that everyone has access too, not just the very rich. And let me say, we are not the very rich. I don’t know if we should get paid what people think we’re worth (like the infographic below argues), but I do think we should get something to make ends meet a little bit easier.

SAHM salary

No one is paying me this, let me tell you.

9. I don’t eat bon-bons and watch my stories. A little bit of me (okay, a lot a-bit-of-me) thought that stay-at-home parents had days like working people have when they call in sick – daytime TV, naps, lounging around in your pyjamas, eating because you’re bored, reading, playing video games, taking hot baths and going to bed early. Just like people who think having children is like having pets, I was mega-wrong. Even on days that Ben is home or someone is here helping me, my day doesn’t look anything like the sick days I had when I was in school or when we were just married.

10. I will work hard every day to stay present. It sounds like a fantasy, especially to a new mom or dad facing having to return to work: you get to stay home and watch your children grow up. You won’t miss the firsts that working parents might. You won’t miss out on milestones and you’ll have all the answers and know everything about your baby at appointments or when people ask. You’ll know you are your baby’s everything. The hard truth for me is that some days I want to be anywhere but here. That not every day is a monumental day that I give thanks for because I got to witness the first crawl, the first step, the first word, the first poop in the potty. That some days are bad or boring. Some days nothing happens at all, the minutes crawl by, and there is no end to the poop in the potty. Some days suck. But I know that this gift, this luxury, is a once-in-a-lifetime. That our babies will never be this age again, that I will never have this much access again. That I have a gift that Ben does not. That being home is a blessing. And I will work every day, even those crappy ones, to remember that. And I will accept that some days it will be impossible to remember. But most days it will be the thing that gets us through.

~ Julia

I want to be happy for you

It happens all the time.

It happened on Tuesday when I went to the hospital for therapy.

It happened when I was watching The Social.

It happens every time someone announces their pregnancy.

It happens when I spy on my neighbours across the way with their new family of three.

It happens with every person I love who tells me they want to have babies.

It happens All. The. Time.

I feel sad and worried for them. I feel engulfed in feelings of anxiety and fear for them. I want to tell them it’s a decision that is heavier than the fun they had or will have making the baby. That once they make it, they’ll never be able to un-make it. That it will be so hard. And not just hard, but the hardest. I want to say to them that they should run away, stay single, stay a DINK, do anything but become parents, have babies, make a family. ANYTHING.

I don’t of course. I smile and act happy, act excited, act enthused. I sit there and bite my tongue and cheeks and teeth, praying that my experience, my history, my perspective doesn’t come tumbling out of me and scare the crap out of them, especially if they’re announcing they’re expecting (a little late for a change of plans, you know).

But it’s my truth. It’s my experience. It’s what I know. You get pregnant and you’re happy. SO happy. You are a walking miracle. And then you have the baby and it’s awful. Your brain breaks into hundreds of fragments and only the worst parts of yourself rise to the surface. You fight every day to stay in your skin, to get out of bed, to keep tiny bundles of need alive, to not lose yourself, to not break-up your relationship with your partner, your family, your friends, to learn to love your baby, to grow into a mother instead of the monster you’ve become.

You hide because you can’t stand the thought of people seeing through the façade you’re putting on. You run away from home every chance you can because if you spend one more second in your house alone with your infant you’re not sure you’ll survive it. You seek out crowds or stay in your room. You are the extreme of unhappy in what should be the happiest moment of your life. And you have no control over anything, least of all what your brain is doing to you.

I’m not sure if there will ever be a time where I feel genuine happiness for someone when they share their stork-schedule news. I don’t know if I’ll ever get enough distance between me and postpartum depression and mood disorders to be able to conjure up anything but dread for the couple that is leaving the hospital, walking around Wal-Mart like disoriented zombies, or showing off their brand-new baby. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be ‘normal’ when it comes to pregnancy or birth announcements.

But let me be clear.

I love my babies. It’s a love that I’ve earned and that for me was hard-won. It’s a love that is complicated and messy, fulfilling and exhausting, absorbing and alienating. It’s a love and experience I wouldn’t change for anything in the world. Ever.

Sophie and me

Sophie and me

I wouldn’t send any of them back or not have babies. It was in the game plan since before I can recall ever making a game plan and there is no other way I would have my life or any other way that I see my life.

Lillian and me

Lillian and me

I would love to have anything other than a mental illness every time I had a baby, but it’s not enough for me to wish all of my babies, my loves, away.

Isaac and me

Isaac and me

And when you do tell me that you’re pregnant, or that you want oodles of babies, or when I see your Facebook announcement that you’ve given birth to a beautiful new member of your family, I will do everything in my power to be happy out loud for you. To recall how I felt in the seconds after we found out about Sophie, Lillian, Charlie, and Isaac, in the seconds after I got to meet them, in the days, weeks, months after I learned to love them. To focus on the moment you are sharing with me, not the moments that might be for you and have been for me. To be present in your happiness, in your joy, in the experience that will change your life forever.

Babies and me

Babies and me

Because I want to be happy for you. I do. And I’m so humbled that you are choosing to share it with me, even though I’m a walking train-wreck PSA of what not to do when you have a baby.

So tell me. And I’ll hug you and pray that your experience is what mine becomes, that your love and health is present from the start and carries through, always.

I promise.

~ Julia