There are two huge misconceptions about labor, motherhood, and life: 1) If you do it right, it won’t be hard. 2) The hard and painful parts have absolutely no value to us and should be avoided at all costs.
I’m here to tell you both of those things are wrong, so wrong.
1) If you’re doing it right IT WILL BE HARD. 2) The hard parts — and our biggest mistakes — are what make us strong.
My friend Erin makes fun of me. She says not only do I take the road less traveled, but I choose the road that is more intentionally painful. She’s right. I’ve done that many, many times in my life. I’ve made a huge f***ing mess of my life. But the hardest moments have taught me the most important things. If ever I’m able to help anyone else, as a mother, nurse or doula, it’s because of those moments.
2001. Two weeks into my film school program at NYU, on my eighteenth birthday, two planes crashed into the world trade towers. For weeks and months (years?) afterwards all I wanted to do was leave NYC and move back home to Michigan. All I wanted to do was to fall asleep on my mother’s couch. Instead I stayed, for the next eight years.
HARD: I traded film school for nursing.
2003. I decided I didn’t want to work as a PA on set for a film production company, I wanted to clean up blood. I mean, I wanted to serve. So I spent the last year of film school taking chemistry and microbiology classes as pre-requisites for nursing school.
2007. My life in New York imploded. I discovered that my then-husband had been consistently cheating on me with barely-legal underwear models. I left him and everything we owned and lived on friend’s couches until I found a new place to live. One of the girls he was sleeping with became pregnant and gave birth at my small hospital unit, on a day I was scheduled to work. Very soon after, a woman I was caring for in labor gave birth to a stillborn baby.
I will never forget her.
2009. I gave away nearly everything I owned (see a pattern here?), packed the rest in a 50-lb backpack, and traveled by myself to Guatemala. I thought I knew how to speak Spanish (wrong!). I went to live with a midwife and her family of 12 children in a rural community two hours via chicken bus by muddy dirt road from the nearest city. For at least three months I did not understand anything that was happening, where we were going, what we were doing or why. During that time I got violent diarrhea while living without running water. I survived.
2010. I got back to the U.S., took a travel contract nursing job in L.A. and promptly got the canceled (they said it was because of low census, but reality ~ I sucked at that job.)
Somehow my next travel position in the middle of nowhere on the Navajo Reservation, three hours from the closest Walmart. I remember telling my dad about it and all he could say was, “Why?” When I opened the door to my assigned housing, a motel at the edge of a national park, I started sobbing. (Three months later, I met the love of my life.)
HARD: I had postpartum depression.
2011. I gave birth at home. That was the easy part. Then I got postpartum depression. That was the hardest thing I ever lived through. Let’s put it this way, it was harder than getting divorced or living without running water.
WHAT DID I LEARN?
- The hard parts of life don’t make you feel like you’re strong. They make you feel weak, and low, and not-enough. They make you feel like giving up. Like you’re STUPID not to give up.
- Any normal human would feel this way.
- The more hard things you go through, THE HARD THINGS DON’T GET ANY EASIER. You still feel like you’re starting from the beginning. You still feel like you’re pushing a giant rock up a mountain that’s just about to crush you. This is just the way that life works.
All that I have for you ~ right after the hard parts, something great is waiting.
For me it was wisdom, beauty, peace.
It was the most exciting city I’ve ever lived in.
It was meeting my best friend.
It was finding a career that changed my life.
It was me, exploring the world.
Me, meeting beautiful people that taught me how to heal my broken heart. It was me, learning how to heal others.
One of my “greatest hits” mistakes led to me meeting a handsome man in the middle of a canyon and falling in love with him instantly. That led to me, giving birth to the most beautiful human I’ve ever met. That led to me, finding out I was fucking BRAVE.
Sometimes you’ll make a mistake that’s so huge, its life cycle seems never-ending. But trust me, you were not born to fail. You were born to learn. And eventually the hardest parts of your life, the deep dark nights, will fade into dawn. The sun always fucking rises again. And promise me, the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen will be waiting for you on the other side.