Are you Afraid of the Dark?

I read today that motherhood fundamentally changes the chemical makeup of your brain. Just by way of conceiving a child, your entire psychology, along with your spiritual and physical body, morph into something else altogether. I can certainly say that this has been the case for me. As parents, we often talk about the deep love we have for our children. Rarely do we talk about the accompanying emotion that drives much of our decision making as 21st century parents: Fear.

A quiet, unobtrusive, lingering fear.

Especially when I’m hormonal or feeling down, in the quiet of the day I let my mind wander from here to there, no destination, no clarity. I feel tired and restless.  A hazy, thick fog settles on my mind, and I don’t know what or how to clear it.

I like to keep busy. People always comment on my hastiness. I’m always up and moving. Quicker, faster. No time to slow down. I don’t like slowing down. When I slow down and let my mind go, it wanders to painful places. I have to put scary thoughts out of view. Death and loss can twist the mind into a pretzel of fear and grief. I once read that there is a difference between love and attachment. I love deeply, but I’m also very deeply attached to my children as well. I’m sure my feelings are a reflection of the psychodrama that has been my life up to this point.

I’m an avid story teller, and sometimes the story of my life flashes before my eyes and I sit in quiet terror as my mind shuffles through a playlist of endlessly devastating scenarios that I could experience.  I’m crippled with the fear of the unknown. Fear that things I’ve experienced could one day be experienced by my own kids.  Or that the worst of the pain I’ve experienced, is the least of it. That is to say, there is more to come.

When the day’s raucous laughter and dancing and silliness is done, sometimes I’m afraid. For no reason at all. Images of my children hurt or in pain flash in my mind. The images are terrifying, and the more I try to push them away, the more they come.

I remember when I was young, and in love with Justin, a terrifying thought would come to mind. I would imagine that some unlikely accident had happened, and that he had died. I would dissolve into a puddle of grief at the very thought that I could lose him. As a child, I remember someone telling me that if we put anything before God, if we loved  anything more than God, he would take it from us.

What a terrible, horrible supposition. What a distorted, perverse personification of the will and character of God. Even back then, this just didn’t make sense. This figured world collided with the other version of God I learned of. The kind, loving God, who operated under the notion of free will. As with many of the religious teachings I’d been exposed too, I was often left with many more questions than answers. Still, the fear of losing a loved one to a vengeful God, crippled my young heart with paralyzing anxiety. I would often wonder…do I love mama more than God? Will he take her? Do I love Justin more than God? Will he take him?

Sad.

Despite the onset of adult rationality, despite having successfully reimagined God to be more loving, kind, and peaceful, I can’t help but relive this traumatic thought over and over. The narrative in my mind has changed a bit, however. I don’t worry  so much that God will take my children because I love them, as I do  that he won’t protect them. I worry that in a sinister world, filled with random acts of violence and hate, my precious, beautiful children could suffer the unimaginable.

In 10th grade, I remember reading the poem titled Thanatopsis, which put forth a euphemistic, alternative view of death. An egalitarian view of death whereby all who heave that last breath, whether king or servant, are made equal. Despite the small details of our lives, and the time we fritter away on senseless arguments, career ambitions, or impassioned escapades with a lover, we all come to rest in the same way, returned to Earth lying shoulder to shoulder with mankind, no one elevated over the other. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I found comfort in the poem then, realizing that no matter what heartache or  disappointments may befall me, we all will meet the same end.

Now that I have children of my own, though, the poem provides precious little comfort after all. My life’s focus is no longer on my own ambitions, disappointments, and goals. I fear for the future. What planet will my children inherit? When I’m gone, what pain will they endure at my loss?

I’ve often had well-meaning people share their opinion with me that I am too smart to be a stay-at-home mom (those exact words). I’ve had people question my decision to leave my PhD program and focus fully on the rearing of my children. I’m under no illusion that working moms, too, bear their fair share of criticism. As moms, we simply can’t win. 

But I want to be honest about that decision-making process, if for no other reason than to speak my truth. If I said my motivations for forsaking my career ambitions were for wholly altruistic reasons, I’d be telling a lie. I would love to say that I stayed home because;

  • I wanted to give my children a head start intellectually and morally
  • I wanted to spend time with and care for them myself
  • I wanted to be in control and carefully plan their lives
  • And, I wanted to be there to experience their milestones

All of these are very true. But the other half of the story is this: my decision to forsake my career, in part, was made out of paralyzing fear.

  • Fear that my children would be mistreated in my absence as I’d witnessed when I worked at a daycare
  • Fear that I would not have the control to be the main influence in my children’s lives
  • Fear of missing out
  • But mostly, fear that I would squander the precious time I have with them

This is my truth. As a new mother, I spent the first three months of Alexa’s life begging my husband to accept a dramatic change of plans. I would not return to my cushy research job at the biggest university in Maryland. I would no longer receive an excellent salary with health benefits to help pay off my graduate school debt. I would not contribute to the family income. I would not realize the goals I’d moved my entire family out of state to pursue. Instead, my singular focus would be my child.

I have never once regretted that decision. That decision has given me more joy and peace than I could ever write in a simple blog post. For some, being a (now) work-from-home mom could never be fulfilling, and I completely understand that. But for a person who has met many defeats, challenges, disappointments, and trauma, the love and joy of my children has been both cathartic and healing. I will never be able to repay my husband for affording me this blessing. We have sacrificed a lot in making this decision. Thanks to VIPKID, I have been able to mesh my passion for teaching with my number one priority, being a mother to my children. But the driving force behind it all was fear, and I can admit that.

We’re All Faking It

We all have secrets. Some secrets are so big, so massively consuming, so deafening, you can’t even pick up your pen to admit to yourself all that you’ve overcome in 365 days.

This year was wild. If I told you that carrying twins, giving birth to them, and caring for three kids under the age of two was the easiest part of my year, you wouldn’t believe it. But it was.

This year I came face to face with some serious trials. My little family of five overcame more together than I’m ready to share. There were life threatening illnesses, financial woes, an out-of-state move, the grief that accompanies the death of a loved one, and so much more. In some ways, I think the challenges that young mothers and families face are often concealed, because voicing our fears and problems give them more power than we feel we can defeat.

On the other hand, speaking our truth also shatters the social media illusion that we all put forth: that we simply do not have it altogether. Authenticity is such a rare commodity in today’s carefully constructed social media alternative reality. We smugly snap photos of that all-organic meal we’ve prepared, our kids after they’re properly and impeccably dressed for the first time all week, and images of a loving embrace, only moments after a knock-down-drag-out fight. We’re all faking it. And nestled deep, we carry life’s burdens. Sometimes, bearing them and working through them, quietly and pensively, is just what we need to do to make it through.

For many months, as the babies got bigger and more mobile, I’d hoped to continue documenting my journey more consistently. I make no apologies or promises for the future. But I’ve missed this, and I pray I can do it more often.

So much has happened in the last few months. I began this blog when Alexa was only 14 months and the babies were still in utero. Now Alexa is a galloping, wild, intelligent, beautiful, two year old. Everyday, she surprises us with her knowledge and general zest for life.

Sesame Street has given way to Mickey Mouse, and top on her to-do list everyday is to put on somebody’s, anybody’s, clothing. She’s still mesmerized by bubbles, and today she said her first complete sentence “Wow! Did you see that? that’s amazing!”

As for the babies, they just turned one! I met their first year with a mixture of emotions, part melancholy, part excitement, part victory. I’d done it! I made it one year (now nearly 13 months) breastfeeding them both. They are so loving, so curious, such a pleasure to be with. They have spent the last 13 months making my heart burst to shreds with love.

They both started walking between the 11th and 12th month, Wesley first, then Charlotte.

And how is mama? Well, truth is, I’m okay. Things aren’t perfect. Life still has its many challenges, foremost right now is me trying to balance it all and make some time for myself in the process. A struggle, and one I’m working on.

I’m down 70 lbs. Life has been a roller coaster of emotions. I think in this past year I’ve learned my own strength more than ever, and somewhere along the way, I found love and acceptance for myself in a way I’ve never been able to achieve before. I could write a lot about my body and self-acceptance. But the truth is when I look in the mirror, I’m happy and proud of what I see. The critical voice has given way to something stronger, more certain, and kinder. This is one of the greatest gift the twins ever gave me. Who cares that my stomach is striped and pudgy. I grew twins, and continued to for 13 months. There is no space or time for entertaining negative self talk when you can reconcile that simple truth. My body has served me well, I ain’t mad at it.

In two years I created three wonderful little beings. It’s awesome and truly awe-some. It’s amazing, and I am completely awestruck by the shape my life has taken and the path I’m leading.

Oh yes, and this time I really did cheat. I got a job! I’m working as an ESL teacher for VIPKID, an online English language company based in Beijing. I love it!

I want to take this blog back to a more creative place. The next post will be on self-care, and the format will be less “update-y.” I’m slowly writing a work of fiction, I’ll be sharing more of that soon. I appreciate all who have continued to support this creative venture. I hope you’ll keep riding this ride with me, and stick around to see what’s next.

Let’s Chat: Catching Up

So, How you doin?

Over the last few weeks time has gotten away from me and I’ve barely had the chance think, much less blog! Here is a rundown of everything that’s been happening in my life!

Bigger Babies

“And now… the moment we’ve all be waiting for…….!!!!”

6 months. 6 MONTHS!

It’s hard to believe that these little tiny babies will be 6 months old in just a few short days.

While some, myself included, often wonder “where has the time gone,” if truth be told, I can honestly say that I’ve felt every single day of the last six months.

Being a mom to newborn twins and a 14 month old was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. My still-bruised and painful tailbone is a constant reminder of all I went through to get these babies here.

I remember a few months back, my friend Kate told me, “yeah we really rounded a corner at about the six month mark,” speaking of her infant son. I remember thinking, great, I just need to get to six months and things will be more manageable.

And to my pleasant surprise, it has gotten so much easier. The days of the 45 minute nap are safely behind us. My babies giggle and squeal when people hold them and rarely ever cry anymore without a reason. They play contently together while I get things done. There are certainly still hard “moments,” but full days of stress and crying seem to be a thing of the past (let’s revisit when the teething gets going good 🙈)

Breastfeeding

When I started breastfeeding the twins, my first goal was to reach 6 months of exclusively breastfeeding. As I reach that goal, its amazing to think that my body grew two humans and then continued to grow them outside of me for the last six months. Without any formula or baby food, Charlotte and Wesley are now 15.4 and 19.4 lbs, respectively (were 6 and 7 lbs at birth).

In the beginning, I was so afraid to trust that my body could give them what they needed to grow. I remember weighing them before and after every nursing session to see how much they drank.

I also pumped after every feeding and offered them a bottle for the first month or so. 6 months into breastfeeding, I’ve learned to continue to trust myself as their sole source of nutrition, and being able to breastfeed them both is probably one of my greatest accomplishments, because in some ways it was more difficult and challenging than growing and delivering them.

The twins start solids this week, and will continue to be breastfed through the first year. I’m allowing myself to enjoy the baby days as much as I can. Justin would LOVE just one more, but I’m pretty sure this baby factory is closed. Since they may very well be my last babies, I’m trying my best to take it all in.

Alexa

As far as Alexa goes, she is going to be 20 months tomorrow, and seems to be morphing into a little lady before my eyes. It’s incredible how fast they grow, and how much they learn.

Her favorite phrases at the moment are “thank you!” “I’m sorry!” And “aww man” lol. She can say just about anything we say, and copies us nonstop. We’ve been doing a lesson every day and she can already sing most of her ABCs, count to 13, identify 3 shapes, and knows most all of her major body parts. I’m very proud of her progress, and this month we will begin potty training as well!

How am I doing?

At 6 months Postpartum, things are going much better for me. The hormones have calmed down a bit, and if it weren’t for my hair falling out by the truckloads, I’d say I’m doing great! I gained 40lbs exactly with the twins, and I’ve lost 53 lbs. Breastfeeding a 20 pounder and 15 pounder at the same time means I can barely eat enough calories in a day to maintain my weight, which is a huge win! On the downside, I can’t get lazy about eating or I’ll feel so depleted I feel faint like I’ve just given blood!

So far, my acne hasn’t returned yet, nor my menstrual cycle, so I’m enjoying not dealing with those at the moment. I’m feeling a bit antsy with things calming down, and I have been toying with going to community college (which is now free in my county, woohoo!) and taking some photography/cooking/knitting/childhood education courses lol. We shall see!

Summertime Fun

As many of you saw, the past two weeks has been filled with visiting family and friends, we traveled home for a surprise birthday party for my cousin Jose, and we had a wonderful time with family. Alexa loved playing with all of her cousins:

We have so much to look forward to in the coming months! Two new babies will be born into our family and we’re going on our first family vacation, a Christmas mountain trip with all of the siblings. We have a few more summer road trips to NC planned, as well!

Be on the look out for new posts, here and on my YouTube channel.

If These Walls Could Speak

Slightly queasy, somewhat breathless, and only a few weeks pregnant with my precious babies, I grabbed the keys and flung the door open with a grin.

“We’re home,” I thought. For now at least.

The minute I found out I was pregnant with twins, Justin and I decided to move into Mallory Square Apartments knowing full well that in a year’s time our family would outgrow the space, and once again, would have to move.

As we prepare to move again tomorrow, I think about all that’s changed over the course of the last year.

Having grown up in a tiny house with a ton of people crammed into a small space, I’ve always been comforted by tight spaces. Where all of my family could squeeze in together, live closely without vast distances between us. Forced to interact and be near.

There was something so comforting about living in this little two-bedroom apartment. Bringing my twins home, and having my twin sister right down the hall. It was a critical time in my life. More than a yard, or a garage, or large bedrooms, I needed my family. I needed Brittanie.

I think about all the time we spent together once the twins and Joanna were finally here. All of the hours talking and laughing, recovering, and struggling and coping, all in this teeny little apartment. Living here, and having her nearby, coffee at the ready, yoga on Saturdays. All of it was crucial to my self-care regimen, and frankly, my sanity.

There were many times during the newborn phase when I clung to my family, and having Justin and Brittanie right here with me was the only way I made it through those tough days. When my babies were gassy and crying nonstop, I’d think “I just have to make it to 2:30 and Brittanie will be coming through that door.” It was trying times, to say the least, but having her near gave me the hope I needed to get through each day.

As I gave Charlotte and Wesley their baths in this apartment for the last time, I thought about all we’ve all overcome together within these four walls.

Last bath at Mallory Square 6/29/18

Nursing strikes and bottle strikes, coming home from the hospital and feeling that raw vulnerability of having just given birth and not knowing what’s next, how Lex will deal, what the twins will be like, when I’ll feel like myself again.

It’s an amazing, hazy swirl of complete joy and unspeakable grief, amazing wonder and hopeless depression. Twin pregnancy was an incredible experience, one that still confounds me to this day. I actually did it. I grew two beautiful humans.

If these walls could speak, boy would they have a story to tell. They’d replay all the moments spent laughing, and crying, and singing, and dancing. All the hours spent twirling Alexa around and dancing to “The Number of the Day.” The endearing song Brittanie made up for Wesley– “little Mr. Wesley Man, Why Are Ya Cwying?” And me screeching, to the top of my lungs, every single morning, “good morning LITTLE MISS CHARLOTTE, GOOD MORNING LITTLE MR. WESLEY MAN, GOOOODD MORNING ALEXXAAA!”

To the tune of a sad violin, they’d replay the moments I walked into my closet, closed the door, and screamed and cried, very close to my breaking point. In a time-lapse spanning only a few seconds, it would show me in that same closet replacing newborn clothes with 0-3 size, 0-3 with 3-6, and so on.

Its only been a single solitary year, but the insane experiences from carrying twins, to giving birth, to adapting to our new normal, could span a decade. What a beautiful and exciting time to be alive. The love in my heart for my family has exploded and multiplied times two, and these little walls can no longer contain it. Time to move on.

As excited as I am for what’s ahead, I know there will never, ever be a year in my life like this one. It’s been incredible. Feeling twenty fingers and toes in my belly, carrying Alexa on my back because there was nowhere else to put her, going to Dunkin to make it through the day, loving and fighting and hugging and stressing and snuggling my way through 365 days. Man what a year it’s been.

I’m really going to miss this place.

Farewell little apartment, the best is yet to come.

When the Dust Settles

I remember watching a random YouTube video of Adele once, many years ago. When asked why she hadn’t put forth any new content, no new hit singles, she casually mused about what an impediment happiness was to her budding career. Newly married and in love, she noted that it was a lot easier to produce awesome music when her life was consumed with heartbreak and depression.

And that’s the space I find myself in these days. Straddling the line between contentment and happiness. It’s much easier to write compelling blogs when everyday is a struggle. When you’re drowning in your own sweat. When you’re working so hard you don’t even know what day of the week it is, or which way is up.

But this post shares a glimpse into my life these days. Lord knows I’m still working hard, still eating dinner cold most nights, still grinding. Without a doubt, I coasted into the fourth month of postpartum life on empty, running on fumes, gas light on E. But I’ve made it. I’m here. And I’m so happy.

Over the last few years, I’ve made so many new friends, who wouldn’t even recognize the old me. Who aren’t acquainted with who I am outside of pregnant-with-twins Brandie, or mother-of-twins Brandie. In fact, I’m almost an entirely different person from the person I was just a few short years ago. A couple of years ago I was:

  • Studying day and night in a PhD program
  • Athletic, running 5-6 miles a day
  • In love with a dog
  • Political and opinionated
  • A professional at The University of Maryland

I think back to who I was merely 18 months ago, with both admiration and criticism. I’ve learned so much in two years, like:

The value of silence – being silent (not always voicing my opinion) and also drinking in silence after a long day with the kids lolBeing a mother has made me more patient, forgiving, strong, and loving.

I’ve also learned that being a stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean I have to stop being a lifelong learner and teacher — I have a new subject matter for sure, but I now have a captive audience, (my three little humans), who are my students now. I may not be a professor, but I’m still a teacher — they watch and learn from every one of my actions, and somehow that job is just as fulfilling as having a classroom full of pupils.

I’m more nurturing, and silly, and fun-loving than I’ve ever allowed myself to be in the past. And I’m learning that taking time for myself isn’t something I should feel guilty about. I can still make time for myself for self-improvement and be a great mom.

So far I’m on week one of a new weight-loss journey. This time around, I have foreign loose skin and quite a few stretch-marks that have taken up residence on my body. But I’m ready to get in the best shape of my life so that I have all the energy I need to chase three toddlers in a year’s time.Today I was listening to one of my favorite Ed Sheeran songs, and he sang:

Before I save someone else, I’ve got to save myself. Before I blame someone else, I’ve got to blame myself. Before I love someone else, I’ve got to love myself.”

I’m finally in a phase of motherhood where I’m starting to realize how I can reconcile who I used to be, with who I am now, and who I’d like to be.

I’m piecing together my identity day by day, hoping to learn to love and prioritize myself, as I continue to change. Above all else, I’m grateful to God for the sun. For my husband and babies. For my family and friends. For every single day. As the dust settles, I’m realizing I’m more blessed than I could ever have imagined. Thanking God the doctor said, “there are two!” Thanking God for everything he’s done, and everything he’s doing in my life. I have no idea what’s next, but I’m soaking in this moment. I think I’ll stay a while.

Have You No Shame?!

When I was a kid, my mother, quite randomly, decided she wanted wanted to be a board game creator.

In her free time, she busied herself drawing cards, creating the rules for, and contacting potential buyers for a game called “Ain’t No Shame in my Game” Lol.

The basic premise of the game was that any random card draw could have you performing a ridiculous dance, repeating something embarrassing, or otherwise making a complete fool of yourself.

As I walked with my own children nearly twenty years later, I reminisced fondly on the time we spent playing that game. It was a fun and creative game, but more importantly it was an excellent crash-course in not taking life, and one’s self, too seriously. It required you to do some pretty embarrassing things to move forward on the board.

And I realized as I thought about that game, what a beautiful lesson it truly was. Thematically, and symbolically, it’s one of the most valuable lessons I could have learned. Because in this phase of life, I’ve at times been dealt some embarrassing cards, but to move forward I have to keep playing, and sometimes look a fool (lol).

Having three kids under the age of two poses some logistical challenges I wasn’t quite prepared for. But I have to push past the stares, comments and facial expressions of onlookers and persevere for my kids.

For example, in order to do anything, go to the store, to the park, anywhere alone, I have to wear one child (the alternative is to buy a triple stroller which is a rarity, super expensive, and about as bulky as a small school bus).

Sometimes I feel slightly embarrassed. Here I am, with three tiny kids, one on my back (or hip) and the other two in a double stroller (which alone draws many eyes and gleeful comments along the lines of “wow you have twins!?!”)

But honestly I don’t care. I keep occupying space, and showing up for my kids because they deserve it. They deserve fresh air and to go outside. They deserve the effort it takes me to get them to the park or out for a quick trip in the sun to the store. Sometimes by the time I’ve packed a lunch, got Alexa’s shoes on, put her in the carrier, packed the diaper bag with three changes of clothes, a breastfeeding cover, diapers, wipes, toys, etc. etc. a whole hour has passed and I’m pouring sweat and likely looking like a wild-eyed rabid animal. All to have a picnic in the park.

I’m sure people who come in contact with me experience a myriad of emotions, everything from sympathy, to annoyance to joy at seeing the beautiful faces of such sweet babies.

But on a near constant basis I’m told, “wow you sure do have your hands full.” Every. Dern. Day. Same comment. “Wow you have your hands full.” And I know I do. But it wears me down to hear it constantly lol. Sometimes I’m ashamed that I drive a van although I swore I never would lol. That I’ve gone for a jog (more than once) with a 25lb toddler on my back pushing a double stroller because it’s the only way I could workout that day.

That sometimes my babies cry at unexpected times in unexpected places. Although it seems from the outside that I do these things with pride, and that I have it all together, if you look a bit closer I’m probably sweating. Both from effort and yes, embarrassment. I’m sure I look quite ridiculous to others. My inner voice narrates what I believe is going through their heads

What is that girl doing? Why does she have all of those kids? Has she no shame!?

But I learned early on that what other people think of me isn’t my business. My mama taught me, in a somewhat creative way, that sometimes the cards life deals will make you look and feel a bit foolish. But you keep playing anyway. You don’t give up, you push through anyway. Go where you want anyway. Do what you want anyway. Be bold.

Just because I have three kids doesn’t mean I’m going to sit holed-up in the house so that other people aren’t inconvenienced by the presence of my kids and I.

And let me just say, in no way am I complaining. I feel incredibly blessed that my second child turned out to be twins. So cool.

That God blessed me with three little ones that I can throw all of my love at daily. But this blog is about truth-telling and sharing my honest-to-God lived experiences, through narrative. I want to remember what it was truly like. So here it is, here’s the truth. Sometimes I feel foolish. But I care much more about being a good mom to my kids than about the judgmental stares of onlookers. I care about giving them the life and experiences they deserve more than the criticism that I’m sure to receive. But it isn’t always easy. Sometimes it stings a little. Sometimes I wish I had Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. And sometimes averting my eyes, putting my head down and pressing forward is all I can do.

The other day on a long walk, I happened upon an elderly man coming towards me at lightning speed, power walking. He had on a Nike shirt that read, Just do it. He flashed me a kind smile, and gave me a wink. I caught myself thinking about him and his shirt later. The slogan I’d seen and heard a million times had new meaning. Just do it.

I’m sure being close to 80 years old, power walking in the blazing sun, at that speed, was tough. I’m sure he saw me with all of my kids struggling up a hill and thought, “my, that looks tough!” Neither of us spoke. But we both made the choice to get out and just do it. That’s what I plan on continuing to do. Even when I’m feeling introverted and antisocial. Even when I don’t want to explain for the hundredth time that no I don’t have triplets and yes they are twins and yep I do have my hands full– I plan to just do it. Every — single — day. Just show up. Just be there for my kids. Try to make their lives as fun and engaging as possible. To teach them all I know. To just do it until I can’t anymore.

Truth is: Divorce Came Knocking

Marriage is hard.

If you scroll through Facebook or Instagram or social media in general, what you’ll find is unadulterated, unwavering, sheer delightful …happiness. You’ll find highlights.

One of the many reasons I completely deleted my social media accounts from May 2015 – June 2016 was because of this. Honestly, social media wasn’t the issue — I was.

I bragged about my relationship and how wonderful my husband was/is. I humble bragged about my accomplishments in my Master’s program, or my new weight-loss accomplishments, or whatever it was that I needed affirmation for in that moment.

I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling that none of it was real. It was all a rouse, all a facade.

Of course my husband was/is great. Indeed I did do well academically, and lost plenty of weight.

But there were lots of low moments, too.

Lots of arguing and yelling, lots of binge eating when I felt I’d failed. Lots of crying in the bed when I was running 6 miles a day and had lost almost 40 lbs only to still hate my body, bawling because I’d lost my boobs and felt I looked like a teenage boy.

What is sorely lacking from social media, is authenticity. Raw, real emotions. Real experiences. The honest-to-God truth.

So here it is. Here’s the truth.

My marriage isn’t perfect. And I almost left.

Coping with the transition from no kids, to three children in two years, nearly killed our marriage.

The sad truth is that a small sliver of you will feel a pang of delight at reading those words. You’ll feel satisfied that your worst isn’t my worst, that at least you’ve never considered divorce. You’ll pleasure in the idea that wow, guess they’re not perfect after all.

And in some ways, it means you can feel that much better about yourself than how social media has caused you to feel otherwise…. less than.

But many of you will know. Many will understand because you’ve been there.

My sister and I often joke that nothing…NOTHING…will test the strength of your marriage like having kids. It’s not the children themselves, per se, that’s so difficult. In my experience, it’s the pregnancy, and the hormones, and that three month period postpartum, that is the most challenging. Ten months of pregnancy plus three months postpartum is well over a year of being, for all intents and purposes, bat sh!t crazy. Lol

Let me explain. You’ve got a million postpartum hormones trying to exit stage left, plus a pretty grueling physical recovery period, and yes, sleep deprivation and a newborn (or two) to tend to.

We laugh, in mock condescension, at the blissful unity of childless couples with their dogs and date nights. To put it a bit crassly, when you have kids shit gets real. It’s not to say that children aren’t unequivocally worth it. But having children tests everything: your will, your ideologies and beliefs and world views. Your patience. Everything.

If you look at social media and wonder why you can’t have the perfect life and marriage like so and so, I guarantee you that so and so doesn’t have the perfect life and marriage. I know this for a fact, because I don’t have the perfect life and marriage, yet so many people BELIEVE I do.

Here’s the gag. The postpartum period is always super difficult for me. The first time, I was depressed, disheveled, and self-loathing. I thought I was a terrible mom before I’d even given myself the chance to be a mom for more than five seconds.

This time, I didn’t doubt my capabilities as a mother. I knew how to do that much. But my hormones caused me to act like a raving, angry lunatic for at least a month. Despite everything you saw on social media, I was a hot mess for a while there. I was so angry. I was angry that I had to get through so many hard days on my own with no help. In some ways, despite Justin absolutely HAVING to go back to work to provide for our family, instead of appreciating it, I was resentful. Every single morning for at least a month, maybe two, I was angry when he left for work and angry when he got home.

Despite the pleasant outings you saw, and the happy times, the stress of caring for two newborns and a one year old all day, suppressing my emotions so Alexa didn’t see me sad or mad all day, trying to console two inconsolable babies all day …BY MYSELF, nearly did me in.

I was angry, and bitter, and hateful. I felt Justin wasn’t compassionate enough, doting enough, agreeable enough, present enough. It wasn’t until I took an antidepressant that I realized just how much my hormones and circumstances were affecting my view of my marriage and myself. I realized with a bit of shock, that nothing was as it seemed, and that realization was terrifying. Knowing that I wasn’t in complete control of myself, and that my mind was awash with negativity, was scary and sobering.

Despite all of the breaks I took, and humor I tried to infuse into my situation, I just wasn’t coping well. It was hard as hell and I was trying to bear the weight the best I could, but in some ways every day when Justin left for work I felt abandoned. I claimed I was upset for a million other reasons — I blamed him solely for our marriage being on the brink of ruin. But the reality was that my soul was screaming…”I NEED HELP.” “I NEED YOU.”

I didn’t know how to say it, or communicate how I was feeling. I felt helpless and alone with three children that we both were so happy to welcome into the world. I felt like I was serving a jail sentence.

Now that the crying has fallen silent, and the smiles abound, I feel I can truly admit just how hard those moments were for my family and I. We are happily past them now and working to rebuild. When I threatened to leave, or claimed I didn’t feel our love anymore, Justin was right there, telling me he still loved me the same, trying to give me what I needed.

But what I really needed was time, and I see that now. Time to heal physically and emotionally. Time for my babies to get a tad older and a tad more satiated. Time to develop my new normal. Time to love him again. And I do. Love him again.

It’s a sad metaphor but a real one. I think of divorce like Jehovah’s Witnesses (no offense). Knock, knock, knock. In bad times, divorce can seem like an easy out. But the next time divorce comes knocking, I’ll peep through the blinds, listen quietly at the door, smile, turn, and run back into my husband’s arms. Not today, guys. Not ever.

This Little Light of Mine, I’m Gonna Let Her Shine

I’m not the mother I thought I’d be. As I sat this morning watching in sheer delight as my daughter smeared oatmeal on our window with her toddler spoon, this thought dawned on me.

Inspiration struck, and here we are.

As most moms do, before I had children I knew exactly what type of mother I thought I’d be. My sister often said “your kids are going to hate you, you’re so boring!”

And for all intents and purposes, it was genuinely true. I’ve always been a rule follower. I imagined I’d run a tight ship. I’ve always colored within the lines, stayed organized, avoided risk, and worst of all…judged people who did not.

Thats the honest to God truth. Seeing other people live out loud scared me. What would people think of me??

For anyone who knows my twin sister and I, they immediately recognize the irony of this. My twin sister is my polar opposite. She’s the most hilarious, outgoing, funny, dont-give-a-crap-gonna-do-me person you’ve ever met. Lol. She’s always lived out loud, and for years I was embarrassed by it. I thought that people would judge us if they knew how silly we were. I tried to dull her glitter and stamp out her shine because I was too afraid to damage the image that I thought I wanted to portray. Professional, poised, mature.

Then I had Alexa, and everything changed.

See what most people don’t realize, is that my daughter Alexa, who we affectionately call my “razzy-tazzy angel” short for “Tasmanian angel” (instead of devil lol), is the mini embodiment of my twin sister. In fact, if I had not been there myself (and pushed her out) I would swear she is my sister’s child. She’s hilarious. She’s into EVERYTHING. She sparkles and shines and is unembarrassed. She’s bold and smart and independent. She’s everything I’ve ever wanted to be, and everything I’ve tried to tame about my sister.

So I let her be wild. I let her get messy. I let her have fun. My worst fear is that someone (like me) would come along, and stamp out her shine because they’re jealous, or judgmental, or just plain mean. She has the same zest and zeal for life that Brittanie has. I absolutely love that about her.

My entire childhood I listened to people tell me that because I’m a girl I should behave a certain way. Don’t be too loud. Don’t be too rough. Don’t make a fuss.

When people would comment on our behavior, my grandmother would say “I love it, they’re full of life.” She didn’t try to dull our shine or force us to be what we were not. In fact, my grandpa loved so much that we were wild, he called us his lil boys. Lol.

The truth is, being Alexa’s Mom has not only made me a better mother and sister, it has also made me a better person. I’m less judgmental. I no longer feel the need to toe the line and always behave lol. I try to do what my sister has been coaxing me to do for a lifetime… just live a little.

Alexa is so full of life, and it’s honestly hard to put into words how much I love her love of life. Through this experience I see my sister in a new light, and for once in my life I’m not worried about image, or professionalism, or manners. I just want my kids to see me enjoying and loving life, because life is too short to live in a box and be unable to laugh at yourself. Hence our crazy video series, #thatpostpartumlyfe.

It’s time to celebrate life and let the people around you be their best selves. Alexa is my little ray of sunshine and her whole life I hope I can teach her to let her light shine. I hope I can teach her what she’s spent 16 months teaching me.

I Cheated

Okay shameless bait and switch there.

Yes I did, but not how you might think.

Not on my husband, are you insane? Have you been reading at all? I just had twins and look like a retired hot air balloon; all skin and bum hips and postpartum hair loss.

No I couldn’t pay someone to have an affair with me at the moment lol. Plus my husband is perfect.

No, heck no, not on my husband.

On my kids.

That’s right. In the dark of night, I switched on my computer and did the unthinkable.

The most salacious thing a SAHM could ever do.

Yes I did. I applied for a job.

Lest you feel inclined to judge as you sit shivering, perched way up on your moral high ground, let me explain.

I love my kids. Yes I’m in love with my kids. I would give my life for my kids. They mean everything to me. But of late I’ve been wondering how I could get back to me. The old Brandie. One aspect of motherhood that few people discuss is its impact on your identity. In some ways I feel that the moment my daughter was born, I was reborn, and the old me died. I often wonder: who am I?

If you’ve followed my other blog you know identity is something that has always interested me. As a person of mixed race identity, I often struggle with my sense of belongingness. As a twin, I struggle with distinguishing myself from my twin sister: who am I outside of Brittanie’s sister? As a woman in a relationship with the same man from age 16 to present I often wonder: who am I outside of Justin’s wife?

Now a new complexity. Motherhood. They say that you know your priorities by how you spend your time. Nearly every minute of my day (and night, as it were) is spent on mothering.

So I wonder, is there any me left? I wonder, what did I do before my days were consumed with nursery rhymes, children’s books, kissing boo boos and attending to my three little heart beats? What things did I like? How did I spend my time? I strain my brain as hard as I can, but I can’t seem to remember who I was or what I did.

So this is a little experiment I’m conducting. I’m wondering if I could work a little part-time gig. Just a few hours a week for myself. What would that look like? Would my entire paycheck go to the few hours of childcare? (Very likely). But would it be worth it to clear my head and focus on my own identity for a few moments? To use my skills and talents to assist someone else? To hold adult conversations for just a few hours a day?

I don’t know if I’ll get the job. I don’t know what the future holds. But I do know that I don’t have to feel guilty about doing something just for me. I’d like to believe that being a SAHM is enough, but I’m starting to wonder if it is.

Somehow, even entertaining the thought feels like cheating. I’ve been a stay at home Mom now for 16 months. I felt nervous writing my bio… what do I even say? Expert nurser and Elmo impersonator?

My confidence as a professional has definitely taken a beating. But I’m going to try. And wait. And see what happens. You never know what’s possible unless you try. And I’ll let this little thing, whatever it is, ride. And if it’s good, I’ll keep it. We’ll just have to see.

Here Comes the Sun

Few things in life align as well as the analogy of weather and mood. Happy = Sunny, Sad = Cloudy, Mercurial = Stormy.

Today was a sunny day. I’ve had this cloud following me all week. At various times I’ve battled hopelessness, anxiety, intense stress, sadness, and depression. Like a roller coaster with no track ahead in complete free-fall, my emotions have been all over the place this week. I hate the feeling I get when I feel I’m being bullied by my hormones and emotions. They sneak up on me from behind, gently tap me on the shoulder, and just as I turn around– sucker punch!

I never feel prepared for when depression and anxiety come by my locker, take me by the shirt collar, and demand my lunch money. It’s just been a hard week.

But today was sunny. Today was warm. It was a tease for the days that lie ahead. When my babies are bigger, and stronger, and smiley, and satiated. I know I just have to get to summer; having winter babies is rough because it’s a factor that almost instantly isolates you, confining you indoors. Just you, the kids, and those rampant, unruly emotions.

It was 71 degrees today, and by the hair on my chinny chin chin, I was bound and determined to make it to the park. It wasn’t perfect; Charlotte cried on the way; I found myself unsure of what to do with a double stroller and a one year old eager to play. We made do. I hoisted her on my back for some of the time, and took her into the gated tennis court for the rest to let her run around a bit. I didn’t have a ball for her to kick, or toys to play with. It was just the four of us, and the sun, and the warmth. It was so nice. It was all we needed.

With Alexa, after three months of colic and postpartum depression, I told myself that if that sneaky old friend, depression, came knocking on my door this time, I’d be armed and ready. I won’t suffer for three months again. Not this time. Here’s what’s different this go ’round:

  1. I’m Serious about Self-Care

That means showering every. Single. Day. That means brushing my teeth. It means prioritizing meals. It means having conversations with friends and family and not isolating myself. It means taking a breather every day and refusing to feel guilty about it.

2. I’m Jumping Into Action

I let the mood fluxes and depression ride for a week, then I made an appointment with my doctor. My doctor is the best in his field, I trust him. He said I’m high risk for PPD and gave me options for medication. I took the safest option. This time I’m not afraid to get help to stabilize my mood. It’s temporary, and I need it. I won’t feel guilty or shamed about that. I’m proud of myself for doing what needs to be done and getting the support and help I need.

3. Not My First Rodeo

This time I understand that the tough days of the newborn phase is just that: a phase. It will pass quickly. Having my experiences with Alexa has helped reassure me that this genuinely is as hard as it gets, at least as far as I know. My babies will never need me as much as they do right now. I’ll be there for them and we will get through. Knowing the sun is coming soon, as they approach 2 months on Monday, is giving me all of the hope-feels.

Today I couldn’t help but hum:

Here comes the sun (do do do dooo) here comes the sun (and it’s alright), it’s all right…”

I’ve made it through winter, soldiering through the final tough days, a mix of sun, and clouds, and rain, and storms. I’m anxiously anticipating summer, sunshine, and happy days. I see it just there. The sun is coming. It’ll be alright.