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My Tumultuous Introduction to Motherhood

15 November 2010

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?!?!?”

“I’m pregnant.”

“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!


9 Comments to “My Tumultuous Introduction to Motherhood”

  1. Wow sorry you couldnt be honest about all that struggle but then so glad you had someone who could understand. I have heard stories like that before and even one of my girls I’ve known for a long time struggled that way, has two still struggles with the first. Glad you had that moment today and I am glad for the opportunity to hear about your life as you have opened up your heart! Thanks Melissa.
    Love Patricia

  2. Remarkable Melissa! You are seriously a true Mom (just look at Elle, spitting image of you) and an amazing spirited person. I am glad to have known you way back when……

  3. Aww, Miss – that’s beautiful. Love your way with words that so accurately portray what so many of us have felt at one time or the other, but may not have been able to express – either because we didn’t know how, or were afraid to. This journey of motherhood truly has its bumps, but these moments that we get make the ride so worth it. And Happy Birthday to you tomorrow – November Girl!

  4. I had a very similar experience Melissa with Jettson. It was not easy and it was not postpartum depression for me…I just had very difficut time trasitioning into motherhood. I grieved for a long time for my single life. I will say that it was much easier the second time around for me. I was scared to death to have another baby for fear that I would go through what I went through with Jett. Jett was a suprise too and it was not part of my plan at that moment…Owen was a different story…a better pregnancy and we had planned on it so it made a huge difference for me. Thank you for sharing and there are more moms out there that have felt like you…it’s just still taboo to put it out there…where I feel like we need to share! It does not mean that we don’t love our children I wish people could get that through their head!!! Hugs to you…you are not alone! xoc

  5. I can totally relate to how you felt. I had a very hard time bonding with my first one, also a girl. Rough pregnancy to total lack of sleep as a new mom. I shared your whole spectrum of feelings also, feeling the guilt and wondering what was wrong with me, but NOT depressed. Like you had that moment with Ellie, I cherish those moments I share with Makalah where it feels like we are inseperable. Like Christy, I can assure you the second child was a whole different experience and those motherly feelings were there from day one.

  6. I forgot to add how amazingly well you put into words what I am sure many of us feel but are unable to express without alarming those around us. Thanks for being the spokesperson and making me feel not so “crazy” sometimes.

  7. Melissa,

    Your feelings sound all to familiar to me! We all have our struggles at some point with motherhood, being a good wife, keeping the perfect house, etc. Anyone who says that they haven’t is a liar. Nobody is perfect and we all have our own issues and deal with them in our own way. You should never keep your feelings inside as they will always become worse over time if you do. Any mom should be able to relate to what you said in at least one way and if they say they can’t it is probably because they are keeping their feelings and emotions inside to portray the perfect role as a mother and wife. Just be true to who you are, we all learn things along the way. The thing that it home for me the most is when you left and couldn’t focus because you were so distracted. I RARELY get away without baby and it seems as though every time that I do after about 15 minutes I feel totally lost and can’t seem to function. You would think a day out alone would equal getting about 30 errands done but for some unknown reason I am able to function better with a screaming baby who stands up in the shopping cart….go figure… Just keep loving her and your husband, everything else will fall into place…. over time. And remember, when you are having a bad day, wine is always your friend, in moderation of course 😉

  8. I wish I would have known you better then. I had all of the same issues with my first child. The first 6 weeks of struggling with breast feeding, 3 bouts of mastitis, and all of the changes almost did me in. It wasn’t until I let go of all of the things “you are supposed to do” and did what was right for us, that those maternal instincts kicked-in. Thank you for sharing what a lot of us couldn’t.

  9. I think about this a lot. I’m so afraid that if I have a child, I will end up resenting him/her because I miss the freedoms, full nights of sleep and other benefits of a child-free life. I love kids, but I’m afraid of the bonding difficulties that I’ve heard so many moms describe, of parenting in ways that are harmful, and on and on and on… But I see how you are with EG, and it helps me realize that this is reality–that all changes, no matter how positive, involve losses and the subsequent grief. But I see the joy and love that EG brings into your life as well. And what I admire about you as a mom is that no matter what you’re struggling with, you provide love and consistency and opportunities and acceptance for EG. And you don’t seem to have lost yourself in the process. And you’re honest about how difficult and wonderful that all is. Thank you.

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