Gong show

I am a gong show. I am a walking, stumbling, no-balance, poor-spatial-skills gong show. I have a long history of injuring myself while…walking. I am the queen of showing up with giant, purple, angry bruises from…I HAVE NO IDEA. So, when I got myself couch-ridden last week, no one in the Sisterhood or in my life was surprised.

It all started innocently enough – a long 8-km walk a couple of weeks ago with two of the sisters, one that we had taken before and one we used as a wild-flower collecting expedition.

But on the last kilometer, just after buying supplies for the yummy breakfast we would have at Jacqui’s house afterwards, I rolled my ankle. It wasn’t a bad one (remember the long history? Yeah, also not the first one…), but it made me go down onto my knees and skin my elbow. Both Toni and Jacqui weren’t surprised to find me on the ground, but of course they were worried. I hobbled home, reassuring them that everything was okay, and after a day or so, my ankle felt normal again and happy.

That Tuesday, though, I did it again. This time I was also on a sidewalk (the most dangerous walking surface known to Julia), and I was just walking, minding my own business, but I was with Sophie. We were chatting on the way home from buying some bread and milk from the grocery store across the street from us, when I went down again. My ankle gave out, rolled, and stabbed me in the back.

This one hurt a lot. I was able to hobble home, reassuring Sophie that I was fine, but once I got inside the house with Ben, I started to sob. I so wasn’t okay. My ankle was sore and swelling, and my knee, which caught my fall, was torn and bleeding. Ben cleaned me up, found the biggest band aid we had in the house, and then left me to be a parent all day. Sugar daddies are like that. 😉

This roll stuck with me a bit more – my ankle was more tender and sore, but I kept plowing through my life, as I’m wont to do. I kept mothering and walking everywhere, including wandering the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market while pulling a wagon full of produce and babies, and hanging out with other mom-friends and their babies at splash pads and parks, and generally ignoring my traitor of an ankle.

But last Saturday, my ankle had the last laugh. I was sitting (SITTING!!!!), with my legs tucked under me as I always do because I’m short and can’t touch the floor, so it’s more comfortable to sit with legs pulled up than dangling down. I moved to get off of the stool I was on and my ankle twisted funny. From that moment on, I couldn’t bend it. I couldn’t stand on it. I couldn’t put any weight on it. I couldn’t move it without it screaming at me. It was all done. And so was I.

I tried to ‘pop’ it because it almost felt like the joint was stuck and just needed a bit of pressure to go back to normal. Nope.

I tried napping, hoping that my ankle would relax and be fine again. Nope.

I tried crawling around, hoping time off of it would help. Nope.

I tried getting Ben to carry me everywhere, while laughing my head off at how ridiculous I must have looked. Nope.

And then, after the babies were in bed, I tried going to the hospital for x-rays. Yep.

My ankle wasn’t broken, just sprained really, really horribly. And I was prescribed the classic athlete prescription – RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. I wasn’t allowed to put any weight on it, I had to keep it up, I had to put ice on it, and I had to wrap it in a sexy tensor bandage. Yay me! I hobbled out of the hospital with a brand-new pair of crutches and extreme worry.

Worry about walking with crutches – if I couldn’t walk like a normal person with two healthy legs, how the hell was I supposed to accomplish walking with two sticks stuck under my armpits??

Worry about the prescription – how was I supposed to complete my RICE with three babies under 7 at home??

Worry about my ankle – did I ruin it completely? Will I ever be able to walk or run normally again? When can I run again? When can I walk again? Why does my ankle hate me???

I got home, ate an ice cream sandwich because that’s what I do when I’m sad, and went upstairs to bed. Where I fell. Again. It was spectacular – I mis-crutched in my bedroom and ended up falling right back, like a tree timbering, to avoid catching myself on my out-of-commission ankle, all the way to the floor, where my head landed in the lost sock basket and my crutches flew into the air and I started laughing. Hysterical laughing. Tears streaming down my face until I actually started crying. Hysterical crying. Ben had to calm me down and literally put me to bed. Gong show.

gravity check

Of course, after a good night’s sleep, and some drugs, things started to unwind a little in the worry department. I remembered important things, like I’m not alone. I am not an island. I am a mother and wife and daughter and sister surrounded by a village of people who actually like me (they’re so screwed and crazy…). And that this silly ankle problem that HURT LIKE HELL was not the end of the world. I always think on the bad days that it’s the end of the world, that it will never get better, that this state is how things will always be. But then I get talked out of that tree and everything gets brighter.

Ben stayed home with me on Monday all day, giving me a second full day on the couch and giving us time to figure out the rest of the week.

I kicked the day off with a shower, which of course included me falling again. This time no crutches were involved, but I fell in our tiny bathroom, and my underwear got caught on a door hinge on the way down, so that when I landed, I not only had a hurt toosh, but my underwear were up near my neck and I had a giant wedgie. Sexy gong show.

wedgie

Then, I asked for help from sisters and from my dear mom friends and my own mom.

Andreah came every morning to clean my kitchen, wrangle children, and fetch me coffee, water, and food.

My jerk of an ankle

My jerk of an ankle

Andrea and Michele ferried Sophie to her art class every morning, sometimes keeping her for lunch and play dates. Bethany took my kids for three of the afternoons, letting me rest and keep my foot up while she fed and napped and chased my babies.

McSteamy kept me company. <3

McSteamy kept me company. ❤

And my mom kicked in an afternoon of motherly love, which included toenail painting (including Isaac’s!).

Clockwise from the giant blue toes (mine!), we have Isaac's (who was more reluctant about the picture than the actual toe-painting), Lillian (who has Spider-Man blue and red) and Sophie (who is proud to be the kid with the most polish still intact on both fingers AND toes)

Clockwise from the giant blue toes (mine!), we then have Isaac’s (who was more reluctant about the picture than the actual toe-painting), Lillian (who has Spider-Man blue and red) and Sophie (who is proud to be the kid with the most polish still intact on both fingers AND toes)

I’m happy to report I’m walking around now, fairly crutch-free, with some tensor bandage fashion and ice-pack dates punctuating the day, versus being the day. My ankle still aches and I know I still have to take it easy, but at least I’m moving in the right direction, I haven’t fallen in a while and I’ve stopped giving myself door-hinge wedgies. I’m cured! At least until my ankle decides to hate me again.

~ Julia

That time we were almost cast for TLC

Have you ever experienced one of those moments where time seems suspended in midair and you observe the situation you’re in from a slightly removed perspective and know somewhere deep in your bones that this is a pivotal moment? A moment with a fork in the road and it could change your life completely if you go one way, or it could stay the exact same if you go the other?

Well did that EVER happen to the Sisterhood last week!

Roughly a month ago, we were contacted by a development company called Crybaby Media out of NEW YORK CITY (yeah, New York, New York!) regarding a mandate that had been sent down from the TLC and Lifetime networks to find and cast families with four or more sisters for a new docu-series they were looking to develop.

You can imagine our surprise when our wee-baby, fairly personal blog put us on the map and got us noticed. Reading and re-reading the initial email we were all pretty convinced we were probably being duped and that it had to be a scam of some sort. Our mama was just worried we would John & Kate Plus 8 the crap out of our lives if we participated.

....I can see why she would be concerned.

….I can see why she would be concerned.

As with all big, scary, exciting news, we met immediately to discuss our stance and if we wanted to proceed with the Skype interviews they had requested and aired our concerns. We decided to see what the show was about and what we would be giving up to participate.

To say the initial process left us feeling like we were in good hands would be a stretch – scheduling conflicts and poor communication led us to really question the legitimacy of the opportunity. After expressing our concerns after being stood up and emailed after the fact to reschedule us – again – things seemed to take a turn for the better and we were finally able to Skype with McKenna from Crybaby Media.

The initial interview was for McKenna to get to know us more and see if there was enough about us as a Sisterhood that people could relate to and was the rawest of the process. We nervously accepted her call as we heard Skype ring through our set up laptop at the bottom of Julia’s basement stairs where quiet, decent lighting and stacked seating were available.

McKenna was friendly and warm which put as ease fairly quickly. She got right into it and asked us to round-robin introduce ourselves and give a snapshot of who each of is, our lifestyle, age and position within the Sisterhood. We were asked to describe each other, our childhood, our parents, what we do together for fun, what we do apart that makes us unique – the typical kinds of questions you would expect for a reality-based series participant to divulge about themselves. After about 20 minutes of us cautiously answering the required questions, McKenna let us know she would like to pass us through to the second stage and interview, which would be taped and then cut down to make our 2-4 minute ‘pitch’ video to the network.

We logged off the call with instructions for follow-up and instantly burst into a common commotion of chatter throwing around concerns, questions, statements and ideas for how to get all of this to process through our overloaded brains.

What just happened?

Did our little blog just set off a series of events for us that we could have never imagined? Did we even want to participate now that we knew what we’d be sharing with the world? How would this affect our lives and relationships? There were so many questions and unknowns it was hard not to get too ahead of ourselves. We were still reeling from even being found on this wide world of the internet and to be honest, our concerns for our little lives were beginning to surpass our interest in being cast.

Maybe a little too real for reality TV?

Maybe a little too real for reality TV?

After confirming our follow-up taped interview, we were provided a general guideline for the questions and style of answering in order to get a good cut for our final video. When the day of the taping came we met early to discuss what had come to the surface for each of us over the two days between interviews. We were sure to be honest with one another about what we were comfortable discussing and what we would rather not shed light on just yet – surprisingly there are still things about us that we are just not ready to let our readers learn just yet. We determined a good rule of thumb to be if we were comfortable writing about it here, we should be comfortable being honest and open about it on camera.

Our taping went really well and I think I speak for all of the sisters when I say that we might have benefited from the structure and style of the conversation more than anyone. In the 45 minutes of taping we were able to learn a little more about each other, what we want out of this blog, how we view the world, our childhood and each other uniquely from one another.

Most importantly, we uncovered that we wanted to raise our blog to be a community for people to come and experience what it is to be a part of such a tight sisterhood, to feel not so alone with the battles they wage daily, and to know that there are a bunch weirdos out there stumbling through this insanity that we call life just as awkwardly as any one.

We all didn’t express it then, but we were all filled with anxiety of the changes that may come into our lives if we were picked up by the network and it wasn’t an eager anxiety. Personally, I made sure to pray on it that if this was not meant for us or would not bring only light and love into our lives it would be removed from our hands to choose.

Please? Or, no thank you?

Please? Or, no thank you?

A day later we received an email stating we had been passed on and ironically enough were told we were not nearly “outrageous” enough for the casting – which if you’ve ever been to one of our family events you know this is not entirely true – however, we did take that as a compliment when we considered the network that had put out the mandate.

Can you IMAGINE if we had made it through!?

When we all found out about not making it to the next round there were shared expressions of relief – we weren’t exactly sure we were ready for TLC… or if TLC was ready for the likes of us.

So for now, we are your humble community blog, focused on sharing our lives with whoever happens upon us. Who knows what the future brings though – stranger things have happened!

~ Toni

How I’m doing

It’s been quite a few months since I came out as suffering from a postpartum mood disorder (PPMD/PPD) and I was thinking it might be a good idea to let you know how I’m doing.

I am doing really, really well.

In terms of the PPMD/PPD, I’m completely recovered. I don’t have a foggy brain anymore, I’m not anxious and overwhelmed anymore, I’m not flying off the handle with blind rage anymore. I’m controlled. I’m confident in my parenting. I’m taking care of myself. And I am actually thriving as a person, instead of drowning.

I am doing really, really well.

Of course, there was no magic pill or instant cure, there was no lightbulb moment that changed everything, but there was hard work and lots of help. And I wanted to share with you what fueled my success this time.

I stayed medicated. This is controversial, in that I was medicated all throughout my pregnancy with Isaac and even bumped my medication up at the end of my pregnancy. It’s controversial because it means Isaac went through withdrawal when he was born and was at a tiny (read: minuscule) risk for birth defects. But the risk of me committing suicide or hurting myself or my babies or landing myself into a mental hospital were all severely high if I had stopped taking my medication. I have been medicated since after Lillian was born and still am to this day. Will I be medicated for the rest of my life? I have no idea, but at this point it’s working and that’s all that matters.

I asked for help. It’s tough admitting you don’t have it all together. It’s even harder when you did have it together at the beginning and now it’s starting to crumble months after your baby is born. Especially because up until my confession in February, I had been the poster girl for what to do when you have a history of mental illness and you want more children. I encapsulated my placenta and took it as prescribed (no, really). I stayed medicated. I put supports in place for the first six weeks after birth to ensure I healed properly from my scheduled C-section. I got rest. I didn’t act like a hero. My house fell into even further disarray and I was okay with it. I did everything RIGHTAnd yet, everything still fell apart. Asking for help was eating humble pie and accepting that even though we do everything the way we’re “supposed to,” things can still fall spectacularly apart. But I did it. I asked for help. I called my therapist and got an appointment that week. I was told by Toni and Jacqui that I would be getting help from Toni, and I accepted it. Let the leaning and the healing begin.

I remembered what I had learned. I joked when I got to therapy that I was going for my PhD in PPD…that I had been here twice before, that this was my third time, and by the time this was done I would be set for life. Full of PPD knowledge. You know, it turned out to be true. I remembered what I needed to do. I remembered the importance of self-care and how vital it was to my past recovery. I remembered that sleep was a key component to getting through the day in one piece. I remembered that I had to take things one excruciating step at a time, not rush through or jump from step 1 to step 74398574. I remembered that it was a journey full of peaks and valleys. I remembered that the Julia that I remembered from before babies, before the first two rounds of PPD, before the miscarriage, before this moment would come back, that she wasn’t lost for good, that she still existed. And I remembered I had to trust the process, not jump ship just because it wasn’t working. My therapist told me that this would be my shortest journey through PPD. The first round was seven months with no help. The second round was five months with medication and therapy. This round was just shy of four months. She was right. My quickest yet. PhD in the BAG!

I exercised my tushy off. No, literally. I’m 30 pounds lighter than when I started this journey. Exercising, whether bootcamp with my sisters, hiking at ridiculous o’clock, or finding my zen in running, became an integral part of my recovery. It’s no wonder – exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins make you happy; happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.

Or maybe it’s something more like this (although I will argue that the above is COMPLETELY valid):

Exercise-is-better-than-antidepressants

I feel it when I don’t exercise – the anxiety, the irritability, the brain that won’t shut up, the anger that’s bubbling far too close to the surface. And I feel it when I do – the power that exists in me, the calm that comes from achieving something so simple yet hard, the brain break because all I can do is concentrate on my breathing when I run alone, or the friend/sister-therapy that comes from running with others. It is the thing that is gluing me together. It has replaced chocolate and mindless eating. It has replaced napping and hiding. It is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. Period.

I am kind to myself. There are bad days. There are days when I feel like I’m not a great mom…or maybe not even a good mom. There are days when I feel like there’s no way I’ll ever be able to accomplish all the things I need to do…days when Isaac is screaming and Lillian is pooping on the floor and Sophie is late for school and we haven’t even left yet. These are the days I practice being kind to myself, not shaming myself. I don’t berate me for not having it all together (i.e. no poop, no screaming, on time school kid). I don’t sit there and fume and fight with the babies who only dig their heels in more when you rush them. I don’t let it ruin the whole day. I accept my fate in that moment (we are going to be late). I remind myself that no one is dying, that this is by far not the worst situation, that I’m normal and this is nuts and it’s hard because it’s hard, not because I’m failing.

Life is hard. Not because we're doing it wrong, just because it's hard.

Glennon Doyle Melton (Way-back-play-back because I LOVE this quote so much.)

I have a village. There is no supporting cast as important as the village that helps you raise your babies. It is the thing that we turn to when we have a question, want perspective, or need an ear to just listen and then respond with, “I get it. You’re not alone.” In one of my earliest therapy sessions, my counselor said that I needed to create a village for myself, that without it I would be eternally lost. And she’s right. My village is HUGE and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Shout-outs go to The Mothers, both Ben’s and mine, for loving us and our babies, for providing second homes and soft places to land when things get out of hand, for hugging and listening and never judging. Props over to my sisters, my soulmates, the people that God saw fit to put in my permanent family, especially my nanny Toni, my dopelanger-in-spirit Jacqui, and Kim, my sister-in-broken-brainedness. To my dear broken brain friends, both past and present, thank you for never letting me feel crazy…but rather, helping me feel normal. To my kindred spirit Laura, for crafting with me, praying for me, and listening to me – love you! And to the ladies of the drop-off brigade – Heather, Bethany, Andrea, Michele, and Danika – without you holding Lillian’s hands, being second moms to Sophie, sharing in the school experience, this anxiety-ridden gal would have no friends at school. Thank you thank you thank you.

I have Ben. Beyond the village, you also need a good man in a storm. Ben is that good man. He watched me sob on the couch as I worried they would take away our babies and lock me up when I confessed to the third bout of PPD. He held me and told me we’d do whatever it took to get better. He never left me, even when I was being an asshole to him (PPD brings out the worst in people). He never blamed me, even though I felt like every crappy moment was my fault (I own the brain, ergo…). He has never stopped loving me, even when I made it impossible for him to love me. He let me run. He gave me time to regroup. He’s taken 50% of the night feeds since the 7-week mark. He is awesome. And to top it all off – he’s a great dad to our crazy kids. To the moms who are fighting this alone, I don’t know how you’re doing it. You are my heroes, because this is hard and hellish with a partner…without one, you must be made of steel or something. Seriously. I bow to you.

To the moms who are still fighting – don’t lose hope. I got my PhD. I survived my third round. I’m a confident, well-adjusted (most days) mom of three kids. I am still here, better, stronger, more vivid than I was before, and you will be too. Promise.

Babies and Mama

~ Julia

 

What motherhood means to me

I have been blessed throughout my entire life with a wide range of mothers coming in and out of my life, but for the most part they all stay. They come into my life when I need them the most, even if I don’t think I do. They help me through the hard things, and hold my hand when I need them. They adopt me and keep me in their lives, and are never surprised when I show up to their houses unannounced. They are the women who raised me (and continue to do so), and it seems like it really did take a village to raise me, and because of them I always find the strength to move on to greater and better things in my life.

Motherhood to me is acceptance.

Acceptance is something I have always wanted for most of my life. I have always wanted to be welcomed in and cared for, it is something even to this day I crave. As the youngest of four girls I felt alone quite often in my life. Not always left behind, but more just brushed aside at times, especially when I wasn’t too lovable. My mom had her hands full raising all of us, and I came around when the rules seemed a little bit more relaxed, and when they weren’t quite expecting another one.

“She was your little accident,” my grandmother had said.

“I didn’t accidentally have sex; she is my miracle,” my mother replied sassily.

My mother, from that first moment, accepted that I was coming into the world, and she has never stopped accepting who I am and who I am becoming. The next mothers I have known are the women at our various congregations of our church, all of them loving to watch me and guiding me in small, but meaningful ways. They are the women in my life who I still call my ‘Aunts’ even though there is no actual relation. These are also the women that my mother coins as her life-long friends. Helping her raise me with a shoulder to cry on when needed, complain to when I was being impossible, and being another ear for me to voice my opinion and give me some insight into what my mother must be feeling.

Motherhood means listening.

I have a wonderful friend named Elena, and when I felt like I had nowhere to turn and was feeling overwhelmed in college, she and her mother were there to lend a third party unbiased listening ear to me. Whenever I see Birute, Elena’s mom, I still run towards her yelling, “MOMMY!” And whenever I am over and can actually get my butt out of bed, I still spend some wee hours of the morning sharing a cup of coffee and a little bit of catch up with her.

Motherhood to me means hugs.

I know that is a young thought, but think about it. Still to this day, whenever I am upset, have problems, or just feeling overwhelmed, all I want is a mommy-hug. There is nothing like a hug from a mother. It is warm, comforting, and just allows everything to lift from your shoulders. The only thing stopping me from saying that magic doesn’t exist is the mom-hug. It feels magical and is the one thing that feels like an instantaneous problem solver. Call me crazy all you want, but mom hugs are magic.

All of my various moms have had all of these qualities, they all accept me wholeheartedly, they all have listened to my various (sometimes overly dramatic, yeah, I admit it), problems, and all of them are always willing to give me that hug that I need so much on a constant basis.

However, motherhood, to me, is a beautiful, unconditional, all-encompassing love and the beautiful part? You don’t even have to be related to show this motherly love to people. I should know.

Thank you all my wonderful mothers, you know who you are, and I hope you know that you all are definitely counted as my blessings.

~ Andreah