I had my first son, Max, in August of 2007. I finished my 4th year of teaching and coaching high school in May and after that I quit my job to become a stay at home mom. I was really looking forward to the birth of our first child, and I was very excited about being a stay at home mom. I don’t really know that I had any expectations about how staying home would be, but I knew that I was kind of ready for a break from coaching. During the season I would get home around 6pm from practice and two nights a week we had games, so I wouldn’t get home till 10pm. I knew I was going to miss all the girls, but I wouldn’t miss the long hours. However, I LOVED teaching. Sure, I had been doing it for 4 years, but I knew I was really going to miss it. Teaching high school is my niche, and I genuinely loved the students and thoroughly enjoyed going to “work” everyday. Let me just say that there was never any question about whether I was going to keep working or stay home. Long before we had children we had made the decision that I would be a stay at home mom, at least until our kids were in school. So I NEVER considered to continue teaching once Max was born. I stand behind that decision, but making the transition from working to staying home with a baby was not an easy one.
Let me start off by saying that I know that I am very blessed to be able to stay home and raise my children. I can’t imagine putting them in daycare or handing someone else that responsibility. At the same time, we made a lot of sacrifices so that I could stay home. We sacrificed financially as a family, and I feel like I sacrificed personally by quitting a job that I loved. That’s not to say that I have any regrets about it, because I don’t. Sacrificing is the first thing you do as a parent. Your child becomes number one and everything and everyone else comes secondary, and that’s the way it should be. However, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. In fact, it was really hard for me, and even though it’s been 4 years since Max was born, it is still hard for me. I so badly want to feel completely fulfilled by motherhood, but I’m not. I have this nagging sense of ambition that won’t go away. After having Max I felt like I lost my personal identity and was suddenly thrown into the role of being a mom. I was a mom 24/7 and I didn’t really have an outlet away from it.
After having Max I had post-partum depression. I never actually saw a doctor or anything because I didn’t recognize it until afterwards. I was an emotional mess, I was completely overwhelmed, I had major anxiety, I hardly ever slept, and I rarely left the house. It was a very difficult time and I felt like I was at war with myself. On the one hand, I had this beautiful, healthy baby that I loved more than anything in this world. I had moments of joy and I felt so much love that sometimes I thought I would explode. In contrast, I also felt alone, helpless, exhausted, and just sad. Max was a colicky baby that cried a lot, had reflux and constantly spit up, and also didn’t sleep well. Needless to say, he was a difficult baby. Since he was my first baby I just assumed that all babies were that high maintenance. At the time I was a member to a baby forum, and after looking through some of the discussions that other moms were having about their babies I began to realize that Max wasn’t a “typical” baby. Obviously, no two babies are alike, but the amount of sleep (or lack thereof) and the amount of crying that Max did were not “normal” in comparison with most other babies. After talking to some other moms that had babies like Max we figured that he had reflux. I also read a lot of books on sleeping and getting babies on a schedule, especially difficult babies. Once I got Max on a sleep schedule he was a completely different baby, he was actually happy. He completely thrived, we both got more sleep and we were both a lot happier. All babies are high maintenance, some more than others. This realization really hit me when Jake was born.
Going from being a teacher and coach and having constant interaction to being at home all day with a crying baby was HARD. I had no idea what I was doing, but I thought something must be wrong with me. I would talk to other moms and they would tell me how much they loved staying home and how great it was to be a mom. I felt so guilty for being envious that my husband got to go to work everyday. I felt guilty for not being happy all the time and not just loving every minute of motherhood. Sure, I loved being a mother, and yes I loved my baby to death, but I wasn’t in a good mental state. I cried daily. I didn’t really talk to anyone. The second Max was put down for the night I literally ran straight to my bed. Even though I was more tired than I had ever been in my whole life, I couldn’t sleep, at least not for more than a few hours at a time. When Max was about 6 months old I finally broke down and went to the doctor. As soon as he walked in the door I started sobbing and I told him that I couldn’t sleep. He hugged me and gave me something that I could take (while breastfeeding) to help me sleep. My hormones had to have been totally out of wack, because after I quit nursing I started to feel more like myself. Quitting nursing, getting a sleep aide, getting out of the house and doing stuff with other stay at home moms, and coaching club volleyball started to bring me out of the hole I had been in for 6 months.
When I was pregnant with Jake I fully expected that he would be as difficult as Max had been, and I was terrified of falling back in the hole of depression. I got Jake on a schedule early on, I made an effort to get out of the house almost everyday, and I asked for help. Luckily, I didn’t have the same experience with Jake that I had with Max, and honestly, I did everything in my power to avoid depression. I’m not saying it was a cake walk to have two children under the age of 2, because it wasn’t, but at least I wasn’t isolating myself and getting so overwhelmed. I had a part-time job teaching 6 hours a week at a private school, I was playing volleyball one night a week, so I had outlets to help me through everything. I was even crazy enough to go back to school and get my Master’s degree when Jake was just 8 months old. It might seem ridiculous to other people, but I LOVE school. I enjoyed learning and I was just happy to be doing other things that I love and fulfill me as a person, outside of being a mom.
Fast forward to 2011. I ended up being in a bad place in April of this year. My back pain and leg pain became intolerable. I dealt with it 7 years, but this was nothing like what I had dealt with before. The only way I can describe the leg pain is like lightening striking through you. It’s flat out scary. So back in the hole I went, down, down, down. Surgery was finally decided. So May 16th, the Monday after I “graduated” from graduate school, I had a spinal fusion at L5-S1. I’ve already written about it so I won’t drone on. Needless to say, hardest thing I’ve ever been through. Painful and trying both physically and emotionally. Recovery, physical therapy, trying to be a stay at home mom to two small boys. Overdoing it and paying for it, not just me, but everyone around me. Like being in bed for a full day because I was an idiot the day before and my mom having to watch the boys. I hate relying on other people and I needed help and hated asking for it. I still hate asking for it. If I ask for help you know it’s pretty bad. Then having to an an emergency appendectomy one day and stopping physical therapy, when I really needed to still be going. Recovering from yet another stupid surgery. Now having 8, count them, yes 8 surgery scars. 7 of which are on my stomach. Feeling tore up and not wanting to get out of bed. It’s been difficult for me. Now I’m not saying I have a hard life, because I’m very blessed in many ways. However, this has been a valley, but that is the nature of life. Valleys and mountains for us all. Some worse than others. Things do go on, and this too shall pass.
So in September I was ecstatic when I got a call from Tarrant County College wanting to interview me for an adjunct professor position. It was just what I needed. Since April I quit everything. I quit my teaching job at the private school (which I was going to quit at the end of the year anyway for various reasons), I quit playing volleyball, I quit doing much of anything. A few weeks ago when I started to emerge from this hole I starting feeling the the same need I have all along. The need to do something else outside of being a mom. I still want to stay home with my boys and for them to be the priority, but is it wrong for me to have something on the side for ME? I’ve decided it’s not. I think women feel guilty for not being completely fulfilled by motherhood and I don’t think you should. I still think my family is number 1 and that I put their needs above mine, but it’s okay for me to still want some outlet for me. Even better if it’s an outlet that makes money instead of spend it, right? So I’m going to start teaching, very part-time, just a few hours a week. I’m going to try to work it around Max’s preschool schedule so that my mom or a friend of mine will just have to watch Jake. It’s hopefully going to be only 2 days a week for a couple of hours, and I know that it’s something I will enjoy. The extra money will be nice, and I’ll be teaching again. I’m excited.
So up I go, to a mountain for a while. I know another valley will come, but valleys build character, right? That’s what I’m telling myself. If you would have asked me at 20 where I would be at 30 (which I will turn next month), I would never have guessed. But it’s good. I’m thankful. I’ve got the love of my life, that I met when I was 18 and have been with ever since. We are coming up on our 8 year anniversary, and our marriage is stronger today than it ever has been. These trials have shown us that through thick and thin we are there for one another unconditionally. He is good for me. He calms me down, he helps me to be a better person. I would never imagine that we would have two beautiful boys, and yes they are boys, and yes they ARE beautiful. I couldn’t imagine being a mom and how awesome it is. I would never imagine how you can love something so much that you would give everything for it. I couldn’t imagine having my Masters degree and teaching at a junior college, having the best of both my worlds. My boys as my priority, but also getting to teach, which is something I love. So yep, I’ve got it good. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that life doesn’t always end up how you think it will. I know I have no control over many of the things that happen to me, but I have control on how I react to them. I can fall down and get back up, and I can adapt to life and roll with the punches. Who knows where I will be 10 more years from now, if I’ll even still be here. God knows. I trust what he has planned, even if I can’t see it or understand it. But I’m thankful for the present and for today.