From Manhattan to Motherhood

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The normal life and the afterlife. Here is an honest memoir of the tough, emotional transition I went through as a former no-nonsense, career-driven go-getter.

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My own experiences inspire the posts on Turnovers Baby Blog, and this one is no exception. I'm sharing many photos (below) that used make me feel uneasy to look at. It was a rough time in my life. I was not the happiest pregnant girl.

Thinking back to my baby shower in Summer 2009, I realize that the friends and family members who planned, prepared and attended knew me better than I knew myself at the time.

My sneaky little sister had tricked me into a spa day, so when I clocked out in mid-town Manhattan that Friday afternoon, I travelled home to South Jersey for a weekend with family. Our faces glowing from the facial treatments, we showed up at my grandparent's house.

Unsuspectingly, I walked through the front door to hear "SUR-PRISE!"  and nearly jumped out of my freshly moisturized skin.

A beautiful collection of the most valuable people in my life were standing on their feet in the large living room. It was the most shocking experience of my life. BOOM, right in front of me, was the undeniable proof that my life was changing and I was going to be having a baby on a fast-approaching day.

Furthermore, I was surrounded by happy women who were excited for me, and many of them were mothers themselves. I tried to navigate around and give each one a hug, as I took in the scene: An enormous stack of presents, giant trays of fresh fruits and veggies, complete with a chocolate fountain party punch and a brightly colored cake.

My belly was enormous and my face was rounder than ever and at the age of twenty-two, I felt unlovely and awkward. Seeing all the happy faces and having my mom tug on my hair reassuringly helped to ease my nerves a bit. I tried to appear happy and prepared, but inside I was freaking out and felt somewhat sad. On the bright side, my pregnancy was extremely easy and I suffered only minor symptoms like motion sickness, gag reflex, and pressure against my ribs and internal organs.

It was the emotional side of it which was far more taxing. 

If pre-partum depression is an actual condition, I will self-diagnose my previous state of being. I felt an intense pressure to be happy- to be bubbling over about the whole thing- but that feeling wasn't there at all. The best way to verbally describe my situation is a quote that I stumbled upon in a brand new book called Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom.

This quote hit me like a bolt of lightening:

I wanted the baby to love me with such unbridled, ador- ing passion that everything I’d lost along the way would be worth it. Especially my size 6 jeans from Prague.
I didn’t know it then, but I was grieving.
I was grieving the loss of a stage of life I’d loved, and I needed directions to navigate into this new one. A life where everything was unfamiliar and often scary. A life that couldn’t be reduced to a poster-board checklist. A life that was mun- dane and unpredictable at the same time.
— Lisa-Jo Baker, Surprised by Motherhood

The book has not been released yet, but somebody out there knew that I needed to read a few chapters ASAP, so I got to take a sneak peek. If anyone out there wants to buy me an I Love You present, it launches on April 1st, 2014.

So during those moody nine months (yes, all nine of them) I relied on close friends and relatives to keep my spirits up while my upbeat personality was on vacation. Hormones raging, I realized a lot of things for the first time, and also felt strangely about things that never affected me before. 

Where was the strong sense of self that I'd always had?

My boyfriend was staying strong for me and he was getting prepared to raise a baby, but the idea of becoming a mother gave me chills and was scary beyond all reason. I had not pictured myself raising a child until now. But this baby was indeed a small human whose health and development depended strictly on me, and it was my honor to cut out the coffee, follow the doctor's guidelines religiously, and try to keep my feet up as often as possible.

I tried to resist thinking too far in advance and instead I took one day at a time. My career in the fashion industry was the focus, so I continued working as usual until I was in real labor (the baby type). It was May 20th, 2009- ten days before my due date. My hesitation to leave the desk and go to the hospital was symbolic as I think back. I was clinging to the life I knew and I was keeping a firm grip on the identity I was comfortable with. I waited and waited, ignoring the contractions and dismissing the concerns of my boss and coworkers. Finally, I waddled downstairs to call a cab. Four hours after being admitted to Roosevelt Hospital, I was holding a perfectly formed baby. "It's a boy!" the wonderful doctor said as she announced that well-kept secret.

My life has never been the same. But what I didn't know is this: Looking at my life today, I don't have any regrets and if I could go back, I wouldn't change a thing.

Life is not perfect nor is it easy, and some days I feel like I'm not cut out for motherhood AT ALL. I refuse to pretend that everything is wonderful and that my children are angels and that life is so perfect. On the contrary, it's usually QUITE a challenge. I ranted on YouTube after a particularly rough day, and the video is still there so that other parents can witness the real deal. We don't live in a perfect place like Stepford and anyone who makes parenting look easy all the time is faking it! I'm here to tell you this.

After going through it all, I am empowered to know that my life has been shaped and my character has been strengthened as a result. Also, and most importantly, I now have two little people who I love more than anything else in the world, and they know it.

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Gender Unknown, Names unchosen. But a super cute cake to celebrate the baby.
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Left: My two cousins Center: Me & baby belly Right: My sister

End Note: Writing this post was therapeutic and it's the first time I'm getting it off of my chest. I feel relief and a sense of peace. I understand it all now. I hope you do too.