Joy.

If you ever enter my house, you’ll see about 50,000 things that say JOY on it. The word has a special place in my heart. My grandmother, GG, made it her mantra. So much so that at 75 she got it tattood on her wrist like a bad ass grandmother, if ever there was one. She actually convinced me to get my first tattoo at 18, with half of my family standing around in an itty bitty tattoo shop in Torrington, CT on my 18th birthday. She really, really had to convince me. My first reaction was, NOPE.

Nope. Nope. Nope. And then another thought filled my head. ” You gotta live a little.” That was one of her sayings. I can hear her voice right now, ” Katie, you’ve just got to live a little!” So I did. Fastforward many, many years later…I have 8…and I’m getting another one soon. It’s easy to get addicted to tattoos, right? My cousins followed in my path, and now my parents and my sister have ink.

 

Anyway, I digress.

 

That’s how she lived her life. Everyday she was thankful. Everyday she would reflect on the joys in her life. She wrote all of this down, and after she died, as we went through all of her journals and pictures, we saw JOY on every page. She inspired all of us. Even strangers.

Right after I turned 25 and six months before my wedding, She fell ill. Still, she spread her message of joy and love with every single person she knew. I’m not just writing this to write it. I’m writing it to show the absolute magnitude of acceptance of love and life she shared. If you ask ANYONE who ever came in contact with her their lives were better for having her in it.

Honestly, I could write a book about how this woman changed the world on person at a time.

I struggled with God after she died. I wasn’t religious, but I kept thinking if there is a God, why is he taking her away from us? How could he?

 

The day she died, I had a couple hours with her alone while my famiy discussed hospice in the other room. Her eyes were closed. They would never open again. Her chest went up and down, taking in some of her lasts breaths. I held her delicate hand in mind and I wept. This woman was my rock. She was all of ours rock. It was devestating. We all knew she was ready to go, but she kept holding on. My wedding was coming up, and I had spent countless hours talking to her on the phone about it and how important to me it was to me for her to be there.

My tears poured out as I told her, ” It’s ok. You can go now. I know how badly you want to be there, but it’s ok. I will be ok.” I sat with my head on her bed, placing her hand on my cheek. My heart was breaking into a million pieces.

A few hours later, she was gone. Months went by and I couldn’t control my grief. It was too much. I found myself desperate to hear her voice.  I tried to grasp the acceptance of life without her.

It sucked. Really, really sucked.

 

A few months later I got married. It was beautiful. The sun was about so set as we stood under the gazeebo and shared our vows. Everything was perfect. Except one thing. My GG wasn’t there. Nothing could change that. We all tried so hard be brave, but the tears poured and poured.

What happened next was mind blowing.

Here’s two pictures of myself with her.

 

At some point in the evening, my cousin just so happened to be snapping some pictures on the lake. Then she saw this.

 

IMG_2615

 

She found a way to be at my wedding after all.

 

One of my biggest struggles is isolation. I hate being alone. I panic. It sucks. Most of my alcoholism revolved around isolation.

 

Step Two says: We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

This step was challenging at first. I wasn’t sure if there was a God. I thought this was kind of uncessary. I didn’t need God. Fuck that.

 

Then the miracles started to happen. My sponser said to just get on my knees every morning and night and ask God to help keep me sober throuought the day, and then thank him (or her) for keeping my sober another day. I did this for two weeks. I felt nothing. My sponser told me to be patient and kind to myself.

This shit ain’t easy.

Then all of a sudden, while on my knees, I felt the absolute prescence of my Higher Power, my God. The feeling came out nowhere and blew me away. I was stunned. I went from not believing in anything, to suddenly believing in something HUGE.

It still blows my mind.

 

There were many times when I was drinking that I wished I had GG in my life still. I would drink and drink while asking the universe to somehow bring her back to me. I cried when she missed the birth of my children. I cried at Thanksgiving dinner without her. Hell, I cried driving home from work, because I missed her in my life so badly.

 

Then, just today, another miracle happened.

 

Someone said sonething tonight that touched every part of my soul.

 

He said God works in us in amazing ways. We all will die someday. That’s a given. And, we all go through tough challenges, but we’re not alone. We are jealous of angels. Our loved ones and friends have not left our lives for good. Not at all. They stand side by side with our Higher Power. They live with us and in us along side our Higher Power.

It’s incredible. In that very moment I felt a wave of emotions. My grandmother didn’t leave me. She was waiting for me to find my Higher Power. Through him, she is with me. It’s crazy. Insane.

 

I cried on the way home tonight, because that isolation I had been feeling was gone. I am never alone. Ever.

 

It’s a gift. It’s a miracle.

 

I wasn’t sure about doing this…

I’m trying to be an open book when it comes to mental health, particularly when it involves postpartum issues. I recently wrote a blog about my struggles with PPD/PPA. When I wrote that I was not ok. I thought if I wrote about it, it would make me feel better.

 

I started spiraling out of control. I started to feel hopeless again. I started having intrusive thoughts again. I pushed myself in to a dangerous, deceptive corner. I started to feel like I wasn’t the right mom for these three beautiful girls. I thought a lot of things.

 

I thought too much.

 

I decided to go get inpatient treatment, and it changed my life. I’m not ashamed about this, and I hope by writing this I can help another person struggling. My family (LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, THEM), didn’t want me to blog about this. It was kind of like, ” You don’t need to air your dirty laundry.” I respect that very much, but I also know that by writing about this and hoping reaches others, that I will have done something good.

 

I started noticing OCD issues.

 

I discovered I had rituals. I discovered that this OCD was interupting my my life. It caused my brain to spin, spin, spin at night so I never could sleep. I started to feel scared leaving the house, because I was certain something would happen. Maybe we would get into a car crash? It just goes on and on and on.

 

I thought I had tackled my postpartum issues. But, if theres anything I can learn from this is that… you’re not alone, and this shit takes time. Some of us need extra help, outside of the home. I was terrified for everyone to know I was in a psych ward for eight days, but those eight days changed my life. I walked in terrified, and I left with such happiness and bliss.

My entire family gave me so much love and support, whethere it was driving from Illinois to help with the kids, or my step-dad who drove 10 hours by himself to make sure he was here if we needed anything. My mom came too and organized all of my closests like a champ. I came out of the facility feeling so grateful and so loved.

 

The I want to share this, not only because I think it’s important, but also to reach out to everyone who is struggling. Life is worth living.

Let me repeat that.

Life is worth living.

To my fellow mamas… Your life is worth living. You are cherished and loved. If you need a reminder of that, hit me up and I will remind you how awesome you are. There’s also no shame in admitting that you might have a postpartum thing going on. Everyone wants to keep it quiet, because they probably dont know the correct response to something like this eithe.

I have some much to be grateful for.

 

My family. My family in Chicago, my family on the east coast… they came all the way out here to make sure Ryan and the girs were ok. We had wonderful babysitters that helped too.

I never thought I would do what I did, but I also know that because this happened I am healthier, happier, and eternally grateful for my entire family that supported and continously supports me.

 

Postparm diseases take away love, hope, sensibility, and your sanity.

 

I’m a warrior. I’m not going to let those things bring me down ever again. I hope you know that you are a warrior as well.

 

We got this mamas, we got this.fullsizeoutput_1c83

Bear.

My dear, beautiful Bear,

 

How can I even begin to sum up the joy that you have brought to my life, before you were even outside of my womb? You were the first. Just like me, just like your dad. The excitement surrounding your impending arrival into this world was something I had never experienced, nor did I know possible. It was magical. It was mysterious.  I laid awake at night wishing and hoping you’d kick, so I wouldn’t feel less alone. Your daddy had to work a lot, so it mostly just you and I trying to make Michigan our home. I washed your clothes in that stupid Dreft stuff. (Still wondering why that shit is so expensive.)

970698_10200673199305871_672312130_n*You were about ready to come out right about here*

Every singe breath I took while doing yoga, was no longer a  breath for me, it was a breath for us. I put my hand on my belly and said, ” Hi baby, I’m your mama”. I always cried. Literally, even single class. It was almost embarrassing.

You were the only child we decided to find out the gender for. I had spent years in Chicago as an actress at night, and days to a few families full of boys. I could play baseball all the time. (GO CUBBIES GO… well, until next year.) I could score some sweet soccer moves…ok. No, I couldn’t . I suck at sports. I liked to impress them by telling them that my uncle was a Major League Soccer Coach for the Columbus Crew and I had the opportunity to sing the national anthem at Crew Stadium when I was a freshman in college for the MLS playoffs.   Their response would be, ” Yeah, but can you TRY THIS TIME actually kick the ball into the goal?” I loved to build fortresses in the sand box at the park. I loved to line up their race cars and see which one went the fastest.

I also babysat for an incredible family with two daughters. They have now become part of our family. I spent countless hours writing plays, wearing tutus, watching ” Jessie” on the Disney channel,  making weird magic potions in their kitchen. We would watch every Disney movie, make popcorn, and snuggle while I sang them to sleep for a decade.

 

(Side note: FUCK JESSIE. I hate that stupid show with every fiber in my being and I hate that I even decided to mention it, because that stupid, stupid, STUPID DUMB THEME SONG IS IN MY HEAD. So, Fiona, if you want to make Mama happy- DO NOT WATCH IT. I’ll throw the TV right out. UGH.)

 

I also had the privilege to spend time with my two beautiful cousins. My aunt and uncle were one of the main reasons I decided to move to Chicago. I loved babysitting for them and watching my brave, smart, opinionated, special cousins as often as I could.

 

What I”m trying to say here is that I had plenty of experience with kids. I started getting a little cocky around 16 weeks pregnant. I was ONE HUNDRED PERCENT CERTAIN THAT YOU WERE A BOY. I thought boys were easy. I would let you outside, let you run around in the mud, and call it a day. You’d love trains and cars. None of that princess shit.  I will admit though, I was absolutely terrified to change you diaper if it had a penis in it. Just keepin’ it real over here.

I laid on the table as your daddy held my hand while the technician put cold gel on my barely there bump. She started showing us the various organs and I was thinking, ” Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever… WHAT IS IT?”

 

A girl.

” I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”

A girl.

” How accurate are these ultrasounds?”

 

I watched Daddy’s face go white. I saw his mind spinning. He was mentally making a checklist for any boy or girl that ever would want to date you. I didn’t even realize how HUGE the smile on my face was. Don’t get me wrong, I was terrified. I”m still terrified, but a daughter. My daughter. I thought you would look like me, have the same interests as me and together as a mommy-daughter team, we could take over the world.

IMG_5136*sometimes, we bake…*

Haha. HAHAHA. First time moms are so cute. 

Originally we were going to name you Aoife, which is Ava in Gaelic, but my family begged us not to torture you  with that. What kindergarten teach is going to know how to say that in Detroit, Michigan. None. The answer is none.

So, I let your Daddy pick your name. Lots of people think we named you after Fiona Apple, because I”m basically obsessed with her. That had nothing to do with it. Daddy wanted you to be his Fiona, and I chose your middle name, Margaret, to honor the life of my precious grandmother.

So, now you’re four and you make me late for literally everything. I can’t remember the last time we were on time for anything at all. But, you did make your grand entrance ON YOUR DUE DATE.

They said it couldn’t be done. I said, ” Fuck off, I”m having this baby today.” Granted, you came out a little more dramatic than I would have preferred, but you were finally here. Finally in my arms. I could almost physically feel my heart grow, explode, grow some more, explode some more. I didn’t want anyoene else to hold you. I placed you on my breast and it was a beautiful moment. ( HAHAHAHA. No it wasn’t. It sucked, literally and figuratively. You were trying to kill me with your inability to latch. Big shout out to all of the Lactation Consultants out there, you saved my life.) I couldn’t stop looking at your tiny fingers and long legs. Other than that, you didn’t look a thing like me. You are your fathers twin. Your blonde hair (what little of it you had) was beautiful. Your gummy smile warmed my soul over and over again.

You made me a mommy, Fiona Margaret.

947360_10200701796300778_1687657825_n*This is Us*

Before you I was selfish. Before you I didn’t care what happened to my body or my mind. I wanted to spend my life numb. I put on a huge act for everyone, so that no one would worry. Something about becoming your mother changed that. I’m not saying this, because I want you to feel the pressure of aways keeping me happy in life, but your birth was a turning point for me. How can I even begin to thank you for that? You showed me the mystery of life. You showed me the wonder of birth. I realized I had to take care of myself for the rest of my life, because you needed me.

20799783_10102187734644517_868879360969540009_n*stop growing up!*

You will always need me. I could have sat and wallowed in my postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, and you know what? Sometimes, I do. More than I wish I did. But, I look at you when you ask me to come play, and my heart melts. I let you sleep in my bed still, because cuddling you at night is still the most powerful moment of the day and night.

11074155_10101113310558997_4325101330229421730_n*Enjoying the view at GGB’s house*

The time is going to fast. I remember the day you sat up on your own for the first time. My next thought was, ” Well, shit, pretty soon she’ll be asking for the car keys to go meet up with her friends.” When you were itty bitty we did yoga together, I didn’t realize you were even paying attention. Now, at four years old you and I practice yoga or workout together in the basement so that we can be healthy and strong.

 

You amaze me. Every day. Even when I’m screaming at you, like today when I said, ” IF YOU DON’T STOP BOTHERING MAEVE RIGHT NOW I AM STOPPING THE CAR AND KICKING YOU OUT.” I”m such a great mom.

1234172_10100726410335147_756170434_n*seemed like a good idea at the time*

You love school, you love the outdoors, you love your cousins and family all across the country. You love to giggle with Maeve and you love to hold your baby sister Lucie. You’re still growing, and I watch you with happiness and also a twing of sadness. It won’t always be like this. There’s going to come a day where you will think you won’t need me anymore.

I speak from experience. You will always need me, and I will always answer your call.

I call you Bear, because there’s no efficient nick name for Fiona. Fi? Eh. Fi Fi? I think that sounds like a dog name, although I do let two of your grandparents call you that. I decided we would call you Nona Bear, until someone pointed out to me that Nona means grandmother in Italian… so Bear it was!

 

You are my bear. You give me nose kisses to wake me up in the morning. You give me big bear bear hugs. You let me hold you as if you were still my little baby when you know I’m having a tough day. You are wise beyond your years.

 

It is an honor being your mother, Bear.

21317530_10102224612745507_4260930839800514326_n