A Year Called Nora

I’m sitting here, watching the clock creep closer and closer to midnight, and I have no idea where the year went. It flashed by in a few blinks and with some of the biggest changes in my life so far.

Every year that I write down my reflections, or my summation of the year, the theme is always the same: growth and rollercoasters. But every year, it happens again: unbelievable highs and lows and growth that I didn’t think was possible.

The year started off so optimistic with being a newlywed and exploring an exciting new city. My marriage was great, Charleston was great, life was great…and then I got the positive double line on a pregnancy test.

I feel so ungrateful writing about this because I know that pregnancy is a painful topic for so many people, but my stomach sank. Babies weren’t in my life plan for several years. I still wanted a few more years to enjoy marriage before a baby came along. Most importantly, my closest friend had been trying to conceive for years without hope, and this felt like I was stealing any of her happiness and replacing it with unspeakable hurt. Most of February and March passed by in a very guilty blur.

Of course, family was thrilled. My other friends were over the moon. Having to finally tell that friend the news about a baby was gut wrenching. I started off the conversation apologizing and crying, asking for forgiveness and that she wouldn’t hate me. I repeated “please don’t hate me” over and over again…and the response was just a little more than a click on the other side of the phone. I’m not going to act like this amazingly forgiving and generous person and say that I handled it in the most perfect way. I’m also not trying to act like a victim. It was one of the most defining moments of this year- and for sure the  single most painful one- but it happened, I’ve given her space, and any friendship we can salvage from this will contain hurt on both sides.

March also included my official bipolar diagnosis. I was already scared about being a parent before reaching a point in my life where I “felt ready”, and this added to my list of reasons why parenting worried me so much. What if the ups and downs continued to grow more extreme? What if I became too unstable to be a safe influence for my child? What if I broke and wasn’t able to recover? I started medication and regular psychiatry visits and held on to the comfort that I had a supportive core group that would fight with me through the mess.

Then Nora happened. She rushed into the world, heedless of the stress and fears that had been consuming me for the past nine months, and things changed. They weren’t completely healed or better, but I had now entered into the next phase of life that didn’t have a do-over option.

The first month felt like I was in hell. She screamed constantly, I couldn’t breastfeed her, and there was a little voice in the back of my head telling me that I was failing. I was trying to live with very little sleep, an extreme change in hormones, and attempting to regulate my meds. At one point, my panic attacks got so bad that my husband almost had to take me to the hospital. The sleep deprivation kept me so foggy that I don’t really remember much of that month, but I think that’s for the best.

I hope this doesn’t seem like a long list of complaints, but instead like an open window into this year void of all of those life filters. It was hard. It was painful. It was also full of growth (surprise). I now know that I have a really good support system all over the world. I know that I can figure out the cause of a problem and figure out a solution. I know that my body can do incredible things, even when it’s not at peak physical condition. I know that I have a husband who can lighten the darkest parts of my moods and calm my brain when it races too quickly. I know that I can keep a baby alive and happy all by myself on those days where my husband is working a twenty-four hour duty day and I have nobody around to really call on for help. I know that I can hang on to reality, even though it’s an ugly fight to do so.

I lived through this year. Many of the moments that are the most vivid were the difficult ones, but there were some really bright moments as well. Holding Nora for the first time. Starting our breastfeed journey with the support of women who have turned out to be amazing and supportive friends. Seeing the first sparks of recognition followed by the most precious smile when I walk into Nora’s room in the mornings. Feeling her head get heavier and heavier on my shoulder as she finally calms down and falls asleep. My life has completely changed thanks to one tiny person who has already taught me so much. I lived to survive another year, and I know I’ve come out on the other side with a little more confidence, wisdom, and strength.

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photo by Lindsey Tuscany Photography
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The Peace in Privacy

Miscarriages. Infertility. These are things that so many people struggle with, yet have a difficult time talking about.

I’ve been hit with the first. I’ve written about it before, but in the fall of 2011, I experienced the pain of an unexpected loss. One of my most painful memories during that season was finding out someone close to me was expecting a baby over Christmas of that year. I lost it. In fact, the news hit me so hard that I threw up and spent the entire next day in bed.

It’s hard to be happy for people when they’re expecting a child after you’ve been trying and hoping so hard for one of your own. It’s a sharp reminder of your own loss. I have a friend who has struggled with this pain for years, and when I first found out I was pregnant, my biggest concern was breaking the news to her. That story doesn’t have a pretty ending, but it did shape how I wanted to handle being pregnant in a public setting.

As of today, I’ve hit the halfway mark. I’ve stayed rather quiet on many aspects of this pregnancy, only mentioning it three or four times via social media. I’m planning on keeping it that way. There’s nothing wrong with weekly bump updates, sharing your pregnancy experiences online, or talking about all the things you have planned for the baby. However, for me, talking about it creates more self-guilt than excitement. I’ve finally reached the stage where I’m worrying less and less about how my mental health will affect my ability to be a good parent, and I’m learning to be excited for the future. However, I don’t want to be a contributor to my friends and family out there who are constantly bombarded with reminders of their loss.

I don’t want to hide anything from the world if it means giving up my ability to express myself, but I also want to be conscious of the people I’m surrounded with both in person and online. I want to be able to acknowledge that words can cause pain to others, even if that isn’t the intention. That’s the thing about writing: finding the fine balance between sharing who you are, and not damaging too many people along the way. When it comes to pregnancy and how it relates to my life, that’s a line I didn’t want to cross too often. It’s an aspect I hope to keep more private than others.

But today, I have no problem with expressing the joy in officially reaching the halfway point, and I’m enjoying the peace that comes with keeping things a little quiet and personal.

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