Art in the Mess: Real Life vs Picture Perfect

One of my biggest anxiety triggers is mess. Mess, clutter, dirt; they stress me out! I’m not a neat-freak and I’m not at all OCD. I think it’s more of a self-esteem thing. The same way girls get depressed about their own bodies when they look at air brushed magazine models, I get depressed about my own home when I see furniture ads (or other people’s homes on Facebook, or walk through Ikea). My parents never cleaned the house except one time a year for their big holiday party. Then my mom would go nuts, begging, imploring, demanding that we all help make the house “magazine ready”. My mom was embarrassed about her own house, which was why we only had people over that one time a year. She was embarrassed, but exasperated and all but gave up by the time we started school.

House-envy is now at a whole new level with online house porn sites like and Pinterest telling us how to make a cute and useful entryway. I’m a stay-at-home-mom who spends most of her day cleaning, so why doesn’t my house ever look like those pictures?! I’ve got all the same furniture from Ikea, yet my 1000 sqft home never looks quite like the adorable 350 sqft displays.

The SOLSTA sofa-bed will give your visitors a comfy place to rest their heads.:

Pinterest version of Solsta sleeper couch vs. My version of Solsta sleeper couch. Hey, it’s $179 couch that I got on FreeCycle. And I live with cats. And kids. This is real life, not perfectly rumbled sheets.


The reason my house, despite my best efforts, doesn’t look like a display case is because it isn’t a picture enhanced with professional photographers, perfectly placed knick-knacks, and filters. Everything online looks better because real life has been edited, cropped, and sepia-ed out of it. I know this, yet it doesn’t change how I feel about my own house, my own children, my own mess. I still clutch at the idea of someone coming over and seeing my dust and clutter, my cat scratched couch and finger printed walls. I still feel frantic about the piles of mail in the entry way and the rubble of kids’ toys all over the place.

Hahaha! Apparently fictitious children don’t read or play with toys!’s professionally shot Expedit shelves vs. mine below.


So I came up with an idea. Look at the mess in a different way. Look at the beauty, the realism, and the art of the mess. Instead of having the kids pose in front of a pretty tree or a blank wall, I’ve been photographing them IN REAL LIFE doing their normal things, riding bikes across an unmowed yard, reading books amidst clutter, and playing on unmade beds. My mission is to expose the realness of parenting and growing up.


I call this one Shoes Left on Carpet. Everything about this is upsetting to me, but I’ve found that looking at it for what it is, my five year old’s sneakers that he’s left at the foot of the bunk bed in a tiny, junky room, from a tiny, junky house that we rent, calms me. Life with kids (and cats, and chickens, and husbands!) is sticky and messy and crumbly and glittery and gross and endearing and amazing. I don’t want to deal with anxiety over something as insignificant as sneakers left on a carpet or crumbling drywall or peeling wallpaper. I want to rejoice in the fact that I have a super cute five year who makes his own bed and sometimes remembers to keep his stinky shoes off of it.

I’ve started an Instagram account to document the Art in the Mess. Please feel free to follow me @mazymom.

It Wasn’t Rape

It wasn’t rape because he was my boyfriend. 

It wasn’t rape because he was popular. 

It wasn’t rape because he was funny & talented. 

It wasn’t rape because I followed him into the woods. 

It wasn’t rape because there were already “rumors” about me. 

It wasn’t rape because he didn’t finish and I didn’t bleed.

He loved me, so I had to stop crying, because I wasn’t hurt, broken, injured. Nothing happened that I wouldn’t have wanted anyway. If I just didn’t talk about it, neither would he. He’d protect me against what people already thought about me, against those rumors. I was just using him to be popular anyway. He felt so sorry for me. He’d helped me actually.  He made people like me. He made me a Prom Queen. I was lost and invisible without him. Didn’t I owe him that?  Didn’t he deserve at least that? 

I had been reduced to nothing. My “no”s were too feeble. With no one to believe me, how could I fight back? “Nobody wants to hear about your problems anymore, Mazy.” It would have just been more drama, more noise, and I was spent. So, even though I cried “no” and “stop” and pushed back, I didn’t call it rape. It wasn’t rape because I didn’t say it was and that was something I could control. 

Vacuum Therapy


This bad boy showed up at my house the other day. Hubs was on the Dyson Website to replace a motorhead for the Animal that I already own and found that the newest model came with TWO motorheads; one for carpet and a soft spongy one for hardwood floors. The motorhead for the Animal was still under warrenty so that was replaced free of charge, but he plurged anyway and got the Absolute to go with it. So yes, now I have an “upstairs vacuum” and a “downstairs vacuum”. I am aware that this makes me nothing but a spoiled brat, however it is still cheaper than therapy and medication to cope with my floor OCD.

I love my Dyson Animal. Just love it. It makes me happy to vacuum the carpet in the bedrooms. There is just something so soothing about those carpet Vs… But the Animal just wasn’t as good on the wood and kitchen floors. I found myself not bothering, just going for the broom or dust mop. My floors were clean, but not CLEAN. And for me it mattered! I tested out the Absolute on “clean” floors. I had swept and mopped the hardwoods and kitchen floors the night before, so they were passable. Then I went over them with the new vacuum as soon as it was done charging.


That’s how much MORE dirt this sucker was able to pick up! It’s both gross and fantastic. Now I take one pass each night with the Absolute on the downstairs floor and one pass with the Animal on the upstairs carpet and feel confident that I am living in a cleaner enviornment. It’s more than obsessivly cleaning; it’s blissfully cleaning!

He Was Mean Because He Liked Me


A Mighty Girl's photo.
This post showed up in my newsfeed today on Facebook. I agreed with it & it struck a chord, so I reposted it. A few friends chimed in with comments lamenting the fact that it does still happen today, in 2016. They see it all the time at playgrounds, in schools, and don’t know how to react. So they don’t.
It’s great that we all agree that this is wrong, but the fact that ADULTS see it happen and don’t do anything about it is just as bad as the ill-deed itself. Ignoring it is enabling the bully (and they adult saying it), causing the problem to thrive.
So what’s the big deal about a little teasing? What if it’s because the boy really does like the girl? Really, there isn’t any harm right…it’s just a phase, right?
I grew up in a small town where this was all perfectly acceptable. At daycare, when I was about 7, a boy trapped me under a plastic kiddie slide and shook me so hard my teeth rattled. It hurt and it was scary. I was told he liked me & sent back out to play. In fourth grade my best friend was repeatedly slammed into a fence. The boy’s hands were around her neck as her head wobbled back & forth. “Boys can play rough,” she was told. “Go play by the swings instead,” she was told. I witnessed another friend in middle school being slammed into a locker, presumably because the boy might have had a crush on her. I was tripped, shaken, pulled, and tossed and simply told to ignore it or assume that some kid liked me. In gym class while running the mile for our yearly physical fitness test one boy jogged up alongside me. “You know I’m going to break your legs,” he said with a huge grin. Even though I was the best, I still came in second that day.
I was becoming afraid of boys, of attention, and saw no point in bringing it up to any adult. After all, I was just popular, right? The message that I was getting was that boys liked me & they showed it by hurting, and I was supposed to be flattered, and possibly like them back. If for some silly reason I didn’t like them back then I was the one who had to remove herself from the area, who had to pretend it wasn’t happening, who had to give up a little. Instead of wearing any armor, I had to curl up into a ball and wait for the danger to be over.
When I was a teenager I was dragged into the woods where my boyfriend wanted to have sex with me. I was supposed to be happy that someone liked me, that I was good enough for sex. I couldn’t complain in college because he didn’t mean to hurt me. I was told by police that my harasser & stalker “just liked me & wanted attention” and “thing like this tend to happen to pretty girls.”
I wonder if my relationships with boys & men would have escalated to rape, stalking, fear, bruises if an adult had stepped in and said something when I was 7. If someone told that little girl that it was not acceptable behavior would she have been stronger? Would she have had armor instead?
Please don’t use this line and please don’t let others use it. It sets both children up for a very screwed up, confusing history of what healthy relationships are. The concepts of like/love and relationships become very warped when adults permit violence (and it IS violence) among children in the name of “love”. It teaches the bully that he or she can take what they like by force. It teaches the victim that there isn’t really anything wrong…maybe they are wrong. It’s hurtful to both parties and probably not true.
A Mighty Girl

When girls get teased or bullied by boys, there’s often someone who pulls out this tired phrase: “I bet he likes you!” Joanna Schroeder vividly remembers finally going to a teacher about a boy’s constant harassment at age 11, and how that phrase made her feel: it “filled me with a shame so profound, I never again told an adult about something a boy did to me.” In her recent article, “You Should Never Tell Your Kids He’s Mean Because He Likes You,” Schroder writes, “You’d think blaming bad behavior on a crush would be dead and gone by now, but it’s not.” To encourage parents and other adults to think about what “he must like you” really teaches, she breaks down the four reasons we need to stop associating mistreatment with romantic affection.

Schroeder argues that “I bet he likes you” is a covert way of victim-blaming. “Your child did not ask for this negative attention, regardless of the aggressive kid’s intention. Even if your child was acting flirty or teasing, nobody asks to be hurt.” That victim-blaming “tells [your child] that you are not a source of support for them when they need you most.” Dismissing bad behavior, she says, is also bad for the bully: “Bad behavior is bad behavior, regardless of the reason why. A child — whether it’s a boy or a girl — who is harming another needs intervention so they don’t continue the behavior…. Instead of asking the child who is doing the hurting if they like the other, grownups should ask the child to imagine how their friend felt when he or she was hurt.”

Equally importantly, Schroeder says that “kids’ friendships shouldn’t be romanticized. Kids need the opportunity in childhood to have friendships with boys or girls, regardless of their gender, without grownups introducing the adult notions of romance or attraction. Strong friendships with kids of all genders are important for kids, and parents shouldn’t make their kids feel funny about them.” If bad behavior from a male friend is immediately associated with romantic feelings, kids will begin to believe that friendships between boys and girls are inherently different than same-sex friendships. And even if a crush does develop, she points out, “one child’s crush should never become a burden to another.”

But perhaps most significantly, Schroeder writes, “You shouldn’t teach your kids that love equals abuse. Love equals kindness and respect, and it never, ever means touching someone in a way that will hurt them. When you tell your child that they were harmed because another person likes them, you’re connecting pain with love. That not only normalizes being abused, but also abusing others.” And this, more than anything, is why it’s time to put an end to saying “I bet he likes you,” Schroeder asserts. “As parents, we have the ability to change the world by putting an end to harmful old traditions… I’m not sure how the ‘dipping her pigtails in the inkwell’ trope started, but it’s time it ended.”

To read all of Joanna Schroder’s advice on The Good Men Project, visit

To start teaching children — girls and boys alike — from a young age about the need to respect others and their personal boundaries, we recommend “No Means No!: Teaching Children about Personal Boundaries, Respect and Consent” for ages 3 to 6 ( and “Your Body Belongs To You” for ages 3 to 7 (

For books about healthy relationships for tweens and teens — as well as titles on recognizing and ending unhealthy ones — check out our new blog post, “20 Mighty Girl Books for Tweens & Teens About Healthy Relationships,” at

You can also find many bullying prevention books and resources for children and teens in our two blog posts: “‘The End of Bullying Begins With Me’: Bullying Prevention Books for Young Mighty Girls” ( and “Taking a Stand Against Bullying: Bullying Prevention Books for Tweens and Teens” (

And, for books to help children learn how to be supportive and caring friends, visit our blog post “Making and Keeping Friends: Mighty Girl Books About Friendship” at

Let the Creativity Begin!


Amazon delivered my books a day early & I’m thrilled! My brother gave me Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal last Christmas and while it’s fun, there isn’t as much creatie writing involved in it as I’d like. After checking these out, I think they will be just what I’m looking for.

My primary goal with these “diaries” is to 1. get to know myself a little, 2. let loose a bit & have some fun with something silly & superfluous, and 3. to get over myself. I’m sick of being depressed. I’m sick of being rigid and structured. I’m sick of being unproductive. I know that I’m my best self when I’m being creative, even if it’s guided creativity.

I’ll periodically check back with my creations and a review of these two new buddies.


Broken Finger

The good news is that I didn’t lose the first three chapters and complete outline to my novel. I finally found the flash drive it was saved on before I had to reformate my computer a few months ago. The bad news is that my hand injury is still causing too much pain to write.

I broke my finger a few weeks ago by slamming it in the car door. Yup, crushed the end of my right pointer finger. And I’ve come to learn that I use my right pointer finger an awful lot! Because even the slightest bit of weight or touch is enough to bring tears, I’ve been using my right hand in all sorts of weird ways, which has caused me to develop a bit of tendonitis/carpel tunnel in my right wrist. Yaaay for double pain.

Life in general hasn’t exactly been too encouraging in the writing department either. The constant snow storms (and snow days for the kids), extreme temps (-30 degrees in CT!), and continuing to struggle with chronic headaches is just doing me in. But, I’m going to see if I can force my mojo back. I’ve ordered a few writing prompt journals off of Amazon and I’ve been keeping a running journal with a creative voice. (Hey, maybe I can make my marathon training into a fun story?!) I’m hoping that if I can’t bring myself to write my novel, then perhaps I can still fight off the lethargy and depression with some writing prompts…and perhaps even prompt myself to get back to work!

I have been trying to focus my creativity in other ways too. I’ve made a couple of “dress shirt” dresses for my daughter out of my son’s old shirts and turned a few maternity shirts into running skirts. I’m also working on finally getting around to editing the images from the kids’ photo shoot we did before Christmas for the grandparents. Hopefully I can get those finished up and framed before Easter.

Basically I’m oozing back into regular life. I’m still slow & foggy, forgetful & sleepy, but I’m pretty much “normal” again. It just takes a lot more planning and scheduling than it used to. If I don’t keep a to-do list and write down the day’s goals I will stare at the wall for hours, completely lost on what I should do with myself until bedtime. Maybe in a few more weeks I’ll be my true productive self again.  If not, then I may need a little redirection.

Pre-Eclampsia & Post Partum Aftermath

It has been a month and I’ve been contemplating on how to start writing this. I still am not really sure what to say first. I feel inclined to start off with a joke; brush it off with nonchalance and minimize the situation because that’s what I do. And I do it very well, a little too well. And really, that’s sort of what got me into the problem in the first place. Four weeks ago I was compelled to simply write about the order of events that happened to me, but that seemed kind of pointless. Then I wanted to relate it all to surrogacy and birth, but again, so what? However, I’ve had a lot of time to think in these last four weeks and I’ve reflected on myself quite a bit. I realized that my anxiety, more specifically my anxiety coping methods, almost killed me.

I have anxiety and depression, however, I have a pretty good handle on it. I’m in tune with myself and almost always am able to head off a panic attack. I’ve learned what my triggers are and I can talk myself out of a mood. I also have an amazingly supportive husband who also can see through me (most of the time) and can help minimize a situation and handle a mood swing. I’ve not had any issues since college; that’s ten years of keeping myself in check and sane without medication or therapy. I’m happy with that. I feel very successful with that. Sometimes I even feel “cured”.

My anxiety nearly always presents it’s self as a physical ailment rather than an emotional one. I simply am not emotional. I don’t cry and rarely get mad. Instead I suffer from angina, headaches, muscle aches or cramps, bloody noses, dizziness, etc. When I was a junior in college I ended up in the hospital with severe chest pain. I could have sworn I was DYING. I was fine. I was just terrified of finals approaching and trying to juggle three jobs. My senior year I was rushed to the ER for fainting and extreme kidney pain. Again, my organs were failing me and I was on my death bed. I was fine. The emotional toll of moving cross country and living with an abusive boyfriend was really getting to me though. Over the years I learned to not freak out so much about the physical aches and pains. I learned to stay away from Dr. Google and to evaluate emotional issues first. By looking at stressful situations at the onset of a headache I’ve been able to avoid both the physical pain and the panic attack. I’ve learned how to let nearly everything roll off my back as a means of self preservation; this has saved me both physically and mentally.

I’m strong. I’m really strong. I can run an all up-hill race in sub zero temperatures and set a course record doing so. I can birth giant babies in my living room without so much as a Motrin. I really can just kind of turn my brain off and power through anything. It doesn’t matter how much something hurts. I can take a deep breath and muscle through to the end. I like that about myself. And, that is my coping method. Muscle through and it will be over soon. Suck it up, Buttercup. Just Do It.  I hate involving other people in my drama, so I usually brush it off with an “I’m fine!” I act calm or even use humor to deflect what I’m feeling. And it usually resolves it’s self. You’re not dying. If you ignore it, it will go away.

Except when it doesn’t. Apparently sometimes physical pain really is more than what one can simply suck up.

I started gaining weight rather rapidly in December. I knew I wasn’t running as frequently as I had wanted. The plan was to run 3 to 4 times a week (no more than 5 miles at a time) until there was ice and snow on the trails, making it dangerous. With the consistent 60 degrees there was no excuse to NOT get out there and workout, but the start of the start of the third trimester brought on a new fatigue. I began taking naps during my workout time. I blamed those extra pounds on my lack of movement. I also wasn’t really digging the pregnancy anymore. I was uncomfortable, nothing fit right, doctor’s visits drove me nuts, and I just wanted my body back. I was feeling aches and pains that I had never experienced during any of my other three. I had figured it would be my last pregnancy anyway. And then the dizziness and headaches started. My butt was growing bigger by the day and (surprisingly) causing a serious depression. I was having strange body image issues that I had never had before, but again, I assumed it was because it was a surrogacy pregnancy.

Monday, December 14th was a difficult day to get through. Something just wasn’t right. I was beyond tired. I felt like I was walking through Jello. My thighs and butt were huge. I was dizzy and paranoid, but I couldn’t figure out why. I kept thinking and feeling that any moment I would simply be dead. But, like all the other days the week before, there wasn’t really anything that bad. I had to admit that my pain level was fairly low, that there wasn’t really anything wrong. It was brushed off as pregnancy aches and pains as well as some stress related to either the surrogacy and/or the upcoming holidays. Anyway, there was no need for alarm. I knew I had an OB appointment on Wednesday the 16th. I would just mention all of these nuisances to him and I assumed he’d brush them off as well. I’d be fine because I’m always fine.

That evening my husband wasn’t as convinced as I was. He feared I was suffering from pre-eclampsia, a very dangerous condition that affects pregnant women, usually after the 20th week, and the only cure is delivery of the baby and placenta. He took my blood pressure at the dining room table; 150 over 90. My stomach flip-flopped and my heart sank. This wasn’t just nothing. This really was serious. Even though I felt pretty much ok, I realized I might actually not be. But I had three small kids around me and my husband’s terrified eyes looking at me. Act normal, there’s nothing to see here I told myself. “That’s too high. I guess we should go to the hospital then and get things checked out.” While Hubs called around for a babysitter I quickly braided my hair as tightly as possible (I knew I’d be in the hospital for a few days and I didn’t want to deal with tangles) and threw together a go-bag (the largest novel I could find, tablet, phone charger, a few changes of socks and underwear) and off we went to Manchester ER.

At first I wasn’t taken very seriously. I clearly wasn’t in any sort of distress, let alone labor. I was very calm. My pain level was around a 3, maybe, I guess….am I in any pain, really? I explained that my blood pressure was typically low, in the 90 over 60 range, but this evening it was 150 over 90, and I had significant swelling, and I had gained over 6 pounds in the last two days. I was given a gown and some hospital socks (that wouldn’t fit over my feet), I was put on a gurney, and hooked up to all the monitors. My hands were flapping and I had whole body shakes, but I was incredibly warm. I couldn’t focus my vision and I kept having episodes of dark spots and sparklers on the edges, forming a strange shimmering tunnel. I felt like I was falling even when I was laying flat on my back. I couldn’t breathe and a giant lump in my throat made it hard to swallow. I felt like I was dying, but knew it was an anxiety attack. Being in a hospital was terrifying and my body was betraying me. My blood pressure was checked every ten minutes and it went up with every reading. My blood was drawn and a scant amount of urine taken. My platelets were low, liver enzymes were up, and I had a crazy amount of protein in my urine. I actually was dying.

I was hooked up to an IV of magnesium sulfate and given some pill for the headaches. Because my blood was being drawn every two hours and vitals were taken every 30 minutes it was impossible to sleep. The fear of a seizure didn’t help. Thankfully my sister arrived early the next morning (Tuesday, December 15th) and the hospital let me have some breakfast. Unfortunately, as I finished up my oatmeal they determined that I would be delivering ASAP. I was given a shot of steroids in the rear (to help the baby with his lungs) and told that I had to hang on 24 hours for the next shot. The baby needed two shots. I needed to stay on magnesium (and then remain on the IV for a full 24 hours after delivery). I was also going to be transferred to Hartford Hospital so that the baby and I could be in a more advanced NICU. I was terrified but I knew that succumbing to the fear wasn’t going to help. I knew I had to stay in control to try and keep my pressures down and to cause as little stress for the baby as possible.

My swelling continued and by the time the ambulance arrived at Hartford I couldn’t even stand on my own. I was given a catheter and the nurses practically willed me to produce urine, but my kidneys had given up, leaving me dry. My sister followed the ambulance in her car with my belongings and made it to my room just as I was meeting my new team of doctors and nurses. A doctor was performing an ultrasound on the baby when I felt a new wave of nausea, but I knew I wouldn’t throw up. I was falling very fast backwards into a hole, yet I was strangely peaceful. “Something bad is about to happen,” I said to the doctor. She looked up alarmed. “Are you nauseas? Do you need a bucket?” she asked and motioned to a nurse. “No, no. It’s not that. Something else isn’t right.” Suddenly my body broke out into a cold sweat, drenching my body as I hit the bottom of the hole causing a terrible, slamming pain to go through my body. At the same time all the alarms and bells went off on the machines. Someone said something about the O2 being at zero. Someone else said something about my blood pressure and my pulse being gone. I was surrounded by more doctors than I could count, but all I could see was my sister’s eyes looking at me over the top of their heads. I could see the whites of her eyes and all I could think about was how unfair it would be to die in front of her. An oxygen mask was put over me and I realized I couldn’t hear anything anymore. I don’t want to deal with this, I thought to myself. I just want to sleep. So I rolled over and went to sleep. I dreamt about walking through the woods with my daughter.

I don’t know how long I was out, probably not long really, but I woke up to someone in blue scrubs doing an echo on my heart. My head was on fire. My pulse was back up to 40 and my pressures were back to being too high. I wasn’t dead yet and the doctors didn’t know what had happened. Through chattering teeth I tried to explain that it was most likely an anxiety attack. I don’t think they believed me. It didn’t matter anyway. By now I had gone into self preservation mode and basically shut my brain off. I had to take this in steps. The first step was allowing enough time for the steroids to work. The next step would be delivering the baby. The third step would be getting through the rest of the magnesium and hoping my blood pressures would come down.

I delivered my three children without and medications, completely natural and on my own terms. My children were also born well past their due dates and without so much as a hiccup and entirely on my own terms. This was going to be my first hospital birth and I was a little nervous. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to labor the way I wanted to, that the doctors and nurses would be too medical, would insist I lay on my back, stab me with needles, and tell me when to push. I was also very nervous about being pushed into a C-section. The idea of having my abdomen sliced open while I was awake was simply terrifying. I was afraid that the Pitocin wouldn’t induce labor because it was too early and I’d have no choice in the matter. I was afraid they’d hack me open and I’d die anyway.

My husband came and went (he was incredibly nervous), my sister had to leave to go to work, and my father had to go home to sleep. My mother stayed with me though. Finally the next morning, Wednesday the 16th, came and I was given the second shot of steroids. By noon they had decided that my liver was going the way of my kidneys and so I was given Pitocin to begin labor. I was 29 weeks and 6 days pregnant. The surrogacy agency had already been in contact with the baby’s parents and they were well on their way to CT. I could feel early labor contractions and they were a welcomed distraction from my headache. By 4pm I had a pretty good sense of a timeline and suggested that Hubs and my father go and get some dinner; the show would be on soon and they wouldn’t want to do this on an empty stomach. And I was right. They came back about an hour and a half later just as full on labor was starting.

Contractions picked up speed, but they still didn’t feel strong enough to birth a baby, but I was also so done with being pregnant and wasn’t going to give in to having a C-section. My body was huge and unwieldy, but Hubs managed to pick me up so I could turn to all fours into a semi-squat, using the back of the labor bed to support me. Hubs pushed on my hips and the small of my back and I could suddenly feel the pressure of true labor at 6:30pm. A doctor with an ultrasound wand was insisting that I lay back so she could determine the position of the baby. “I know the position!” I yelled at her. “He’s just fine, I know he’s head down!” She didn’t seem to believe me, again insisting on an ultrasound. I was afraid that if I managed to turn over and lay down again I wouldn’t have time or even be able to get back up and would be stuck trying to push on my back. I stood up a little straighter and told her she’d have to do it this way or not at all.

Suddenly a whole new fear came over me. I knew this was going to be a very tiny baby. What if the contractions were too much for his little bones? What if I broke him just by pushing? I didn’t know what to do. I knew I had to push to get him out, in fact, my body was screaming at me to push. But I was so desperately afraid of hurting him that I didn’t even want to move and I held back against my primal urges. I could feel that his head was at the cervix and all I could envision was having his head emerge but his neck being broken with the next contraction. I decided it was time to just be done with it. It was certainly too late to do anything else, so I just pushed. And I kept pushing. At 6:44pm, less than an hour after labor began, the baby rushed out all at once, intact in the bag of waters, and with his placenta. He was immediately whisked off to the NICU while the remaining doctors examined me. I had had a full placental abruption and some minor clotting.

Now that everything was over (and I was still breathing) my husband and parents went home for the night. I stayed on the magnesium and continued to swell.

I had gone up to about 180 lbs, almost 40 pounds of water weight in less than two weeks. My body felt like it was going to burst like an over-ripe tomato. My skin was hot and it hurt. I was getting a new text message every five minutes, but my hands and arms were too swollen to respond. Even my scalp was swollen! The nurses could no longer find a vein and gave up drawing blood. Now we were just waiting for my kidneys to kick in.

I finally peed a tiny trickle about noon the next day (Thursday December 17th). The only way to get the swelling down would be to pee it out. The magnesium drip was stopped at 6:45 and my pressures were monitored until about 8:30pm. That’s when I left in the ICU and was placed in the “general population” on another floor where they continued to monitor my blood pressure every two hours. I also no longer had a catheter would have to get up on my own to pee.

The first time I had to stand on my own without the nurse to help me was a little terrifying and extremely painful. I was so swollen that the pressure of my body weight on my legs and feet was incredible. The nerve endings in my feet were going nuts. The muscles and ligaments in my legs were straining. But I knew I had to get up. I had to pee because the faster I started using the toilet, the faster the swelling would go down & the faster I could get back to normal and a lot less pain. I gritted my teeth and dug down somewhere inside of myself and just did it. I just got up. I could hardly stagger to the toilet, but thankfully it was only three steps away. I got myself into a two hour routine: get up and pee, wash hands, set up pump & pump breastmilk to send to NICU, get up and pee, wash hands and pump parts. That was all I could do for the next 24 hours. The TV was too stimulating and caused a headache. Reading was impossible since I still couldn’t focus. Texting my friends was just as difficult. Staring at the clock and waiting for the next half hour was all I could pull off.

I was told that it could take up to six weeks for my blood pressures and the swelling to return to normal. Just take it easy, remain on bed rest except to use the toilet, and monitor my pressures. I was told to return to the hospital if my pressures went back to 160 over 90. I was handed a breast pump, a giant box of bottles, and 500 labels along with discharge paperwork. I went home (Friday December 18th) just as they were passing out dinner trays.

Life at home was much more trying than life in the hospital. Children were making noise, the TV was always on, and the house was a complete disaster. I was in the hospital less than a week but the whole household seemed to have disintegrated. I tried to avoid anything that would cause too much stimulation, but that proved to be difficult. The simple task of folding laundry was enough to cause dizziness and raise my blood pressure. I was down to about 160 pounds, but I still felt terrible and was depressed about the condition of my body. My parents’ Solstice Party loomed ahead and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go because I didn’t want to be seen. I felt like Jaba de Hutt and wasn’t sure if the stimulation of a holiday party would be too much for my head. I would wake up in the middle of the night in convulsive tears because the headaches were just too much to bare.

I made it through the weekend okay and decided not to mess with the kids’ holiday and do the party. Plus I was down another 5 pounds and able to squeeze into some of my own clothes again. (I left the hospital wearing a giant pair of men’s PJ bottoms and a hospital gown because I was too swollen to wear even my maternity clothes.) The goal was to go to my follow-up visit on Tuesday December 22, pick up the kids from school on the way home, and then go straight to my parents’ house & just sit in a quiet corner. But Tuesday felt a little off. I didn’t complain because I didn’t have anything to really complain about. Of course I’d be a bit dizzy. I had just given birth and gotten out of the hospital…I could suck it up. My OB did not agree with me. My blood pressure was 175 over 95. My reflexes were excited. My vision was spotty. The doctor insisted that I immediately be admitted for stroke symptoms. So we flew back to get the children from school and an ambulance met us at the house. At this point I was completely flushed on one side and had very little strength in my right hand. Shooting sparklers flew across my vision and the headache began to mount. My blood pressure had risen to 190 over 118.

I was given two IVs with various kinds of medication in attempts at bringing my pressures down. I was given several kinds of headache medication to attempts to return my vision to normal. An EKG was taken. I was put in an MRI machine to look at my brain. The nurses watched me like hawks, waiting for the stroke to get worse or a seizure to take over. Finally the right kind of drugs was found and I was able to sleep.

But it was a terrifying ordeal, much worse than waiting out the pre-eclampsia and birth. Now it was truly serious and I knew it. I kept thinking about my brother and how insanely disappointed I was that I was missing the holiday party and my one chance this year at getting to visit with him. He hadn’t been at Thanksgiving dinner and wasn’t going to be at Christmas dinner. I was lonely and scared. What if I had a full on stroke before seeing him again? Would I recognize him if I got to see him again? How badly was this going to affect my brain? How much work was this going to be for my husband? What would we do?! Just dying from it all seemed easier, but I was terrified that I wouldn’t be so lucky. I didn’t even care about my blood pressures and brain anymore; I just wanted to see my brother and sister, laugh and be goofy like we did at every Solstice party. I wanted to watch my kids open their presents from Santa. I wanted to eat a Christmas cookie. But that just wasn’t going to happen.

Despite how badly I just wanted to break down and cry, I somehow I managed to push aside all the emotion and just focus on willing myself to not have a seizure. I made it through the night and my pressures came down. I still had a headache, but it was tolerable. By the middle of the afternoon the following day (Wednesday December 23rd) I was discharged for a second time in less than a week. I was put on blood pressure medication and instructed to take my pressures at least twice a day.

Physically I got better very quickly. My swelling was almost completely gone by Christmas and by New Year’s I was a “normal” weight. (I’m three pounds shy of pre-pregnancy weight right now.) I even started running again last week. I’ve been off the blood pressure medication since January 11th and my pressures have been my regular 90s over 60s. Even my headaches have subsided. My only lingering symptom is the lump in my throat. While physically I am well again, the pre-eclampsia has left my body, I have to be honest with myself. I am not yet mentally well. I can brush it off all I want and make all the jokes, but my emotions are still raw. I’m crushed that I had such a less than perfect birthing experience. I’m scared at how quickly my health deteriorated without me even being aware until it was almost too late. I worry at the thought of my family being left to deal without me. I’m nervous about the brain fog and any lingering effects the whole ordeal may have had on my brain. I’m not afraid of death, I’m afraid of living broken and now that’s just another thing I need to deal with. I haven’t yet completely addressed the whole emotional aspect of everything that happened, and I know I still need to. But for some reason it is the emotional pain that seems so much harder to deal with than the physical pain. What if I’m just not as mentally strong as I am physically?

P.S. The baby is doing very well. The parents did make it in time and were there to hold him right away. He has had no complications and his lungs have proved to be very strong. At the time of this writing he is still in the NICU gaining weight. He was born at 2 pounds, 6 ounces but gaining close to an ounce a day. I am still pumping breastmilk every two hours and sending it to the hospital for them.