Ok, so let’s get straight into it tonight.
Over the last two years since Ellie was born, I have NOT been shy about the fact that becoming a mother has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Many of you thought that since I had been a nanny for so many years – and in such extreme situations (I mean, seriously, was working and living with Madonna really normal?!?!) – that things would “be different when it was my own.” I have always been up front about my struggle with my pregnancy, my struggle to bond with my baby, my struggles to keep my marriage alive, and my struggles to support my husband when business was beyond difficult and while I was insanely exhausted. The identity crisis I found myself in after my daughter was born, was something that I never dreamed would be worse than labor, or worse than the 38 kidney stones I’ve passed over the last 15 years, or even worse than reinventing myself after leaving a restrictive cult that had stunted any hope of growing self-esteem, establishing a social life, or expressing my individuality – but it has.
So what’s this post all about? I’m not really sure. I’ve just been mulling this around in my head, and I need to get it off my chest…………….
I’m the first one to say that my life has been damn amazing. I have experienced so much, achieved so much, and seen so much. My parents somehow taught me to make the most of the opportunities that were presented to me, and if there was something I wanted – I had to create my own opportunities. Time and time again, things that would have passed on by, I followed and fought for; things that people thought would NEVER happen I bull-headedly pushed for – and, in all honesty, the pay off has been fantastic. I’ve always believed in taking chances, of putting myself into situations that are totally out of my comfort zone, and in doing things that stretch the limits of what I thought I was capable of. I have on more than one occasion made a complete fool out of myself. I have committed to things that I had NO idea how to fulfill. I have pushed my personal limits to the absolute hilt. Yet somehow, I have flourished – alive with the vibrancy of my story and the brilliant richness of my tapestry.
A few years ago, I was on the road to “living the life; living the dream” (as my boss Patrick Demspey used to say). In my head I had always wanted to be a mom, but the idea was just sort of THERE – I don’t know that I had really ever thought farther than the assumption that one day I would have children. When things with my riding career started moving forward, I was thrilled. I was newly married, riding 8 – 10 hours every day, becoming more and more confident and more and more skilled. Owning multiple horses felt so natural to me – almost necessary. After having had NO life outside of work for years, I finally understood the concept of “loving what you do” (Folks, I’m talking about working 24/7 for 30 – 40 days in a row without an hour off, not just 12 hour days). I was looking forward to training my new baby horse and having an amazing show season – for the first time! Plus, I had established an amazing group of friends in LA, and I loved my life. I really did – despite all the crap I say about Los Angeles, the place had become my HOME.
That’s when it all happened. I woke up one morning – a Sunday, I believe – at 3 am. I tossed and turned; I peed, and laid back down…then I tossed and turned some more. Suddenly, I sat up.
“Oh My GOD! I’m pregnant. Christ on a Cracker!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BABE! BABE! BABE! WAKE UP!!!” Nothing could stir my soundly sleeping husband.
“Ok. Ok. Ok. Ok. This is NOT good. Crap. OH man. S***!!!!! I have a riding clinic with that German Jumper guy – I CAN’T be pregnant. No. I’m not pregnant. Yes, I am. Crap. I know I am.”
I jumped out of bed, threw on some sweats, grabbed my keys and headed down to the 24 hour Walgreens in Beverly Hills. I bought a huge bottle of water and three packs of pregnancy tests (each a different brand, and each with TWO tests). I raced back home down Pico Blvd. and screeched into our driveway. I had downed half the bottle of water at one of the stoplights, and was ready for the first test. I ran straight to the bathroom.
The first test: positive. The second test: positive. The third test: positive…..all the way until I realized that the sixth test would ALSO be positive. The first thought through my head was, “Oh Lord, no. NO. NO. How in the world will I tell my sister????? This is bad. This is REALLY bad.”
I ran into our bedroom, leaned over to my husband and said, “Jeffrey! Wake up!!!!”
He stirred slightly and angrily muttered, “WHAT?!?!?”
“It’s six o’clock in the morning on a Sunday!!! You’ll still be pregnant at 9 – wake me up then.”
I sat there staring at him…then reached for the phone to call my mom who was living on the East Coast: at least for HER it already was 9 am!
Things obviously changed pretty drastically after that morning. No more going out with the girls; no more jumping 3′ courses – though I did continue to ride for a few more weeks – until AFTER Stefen Hauter’s jumping clinic. Then, I quit….then we moved to Oregon…and then things went a little haywire.
While I have never regretted buying Deer Park, I most certainly have questioned the timing of our decision. We were about to become parents; we were pretty much newlyweds; and we were enjoying an amazing amount of success in many aspects of our lives. Jeffrey’s business was booming, and he was looking to grow the company exponentially. It seemed like nothing could go wrong – but it did. A LOT of things went wrong. The details don’t matter all that much, but I spent a HUGE amount of time in the hospital over the course of my pregnancy (kidney stones/surgery), the business nearly collapsed, my husband was living in San Jose and was only here on the weekends. The million other things? I just won’t get into.
And then…….SHE CAME. Yes! My crazy, squirmy, bubbly, spirited, rambunctious, strong-willed, precocious, beautiful, funny daughter showed up. I’ve talked to many, many people about how difficult it was for me to bond with her. Many people had told me that we would instantly have a bond and a love for this wiggly, screaming, needy, wrinkled face thing — but we didn’t. I just felt numb. My boobs hurt; I was exhausted; I missed my husband; I missed my friends; I missed HOME. On top of it, I had to be careful who I shared my struggles with, because a couple of my close friends were discovering that they were unable to have children, and keeping my pain to myself was apparently the only acceptable thing to do. Saying I was having a hard time was too much for them to hear. Thus, a whole new struggle showed its face: I had GUILT for feeling so confused, hurt, lonely, tired, and afraid. I had so much frustration – and most of all, I wanted to feel what everyone else seemed to think should be natural…I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me – and at the same time, I couldn’t understand why I should be ashamed of it. I loved her, there was no doubt about that, but I didn’t have what I had heard other parents speak of….
A good friend of mine who had been working toward becoming a parent (through all avenues available to her) once told me that she believed that I should be honest and upfront about my feelings with the people I love – because while our struggles were opposite, she wanted to support me and she loved me and she wanted me to be happy (thank you, Sweetie, it still means more to me than you know). However, I quickly discovered that not everyone feels the same way as she does. Soon, I found myself presenting my emotions as a joke, making them palatable to people who would otherwise be incredibly critical. I found myself masking my pain with lies and self-demeaning comments like, “I must be a totally horrible person, but I am really struggling” or “I so don’t deserve this little girl, I’m such a selfish person.”
All that being said, I some how made it through…..and today…well, today, I had a miraculous thing happen:
I headed out on some errands that Jeffrey needed me to get done, leaving Ellie at home – supervised, of course! Within a couple hours, my heart started aching; I became distracted, and couldn’t focus on what needed to get done. All I could think about was getting home to spend some time with that little munchkin – and the moment I saw her, the world melted away. I don’t know if I’ll ever have it again, but, trust me, I’m going to treasure it, remember it, honor it – because I’ve fought damn hard for it…
I love you, Ellie Graye – that has always been true – but now I know what it means to have my heart beat outside my chest!