This post was inspired by the hilarious, authentic, all-around delightful blogger, Charlotte, over at Momaste. She recently wrote about how once we become mothers the conversations we have with our friends change and NOTHING is off limits.
Truer words were never uttered, my friends.
A few weeks ago I met three friends and their kids at the beach for the day. I had this idea that now that my kids are 6 and 5 that this would be chill and relaxing.
Not the case. Things would be so much better if I could just accept that now that I am a mother, my life is different. Good different, but there is really NOT A DAMN THING in my current reality that I would call chill and relaxing.
We left the house as early as humanly possible in my non-chill household, sometime in the nine-o’clock hour. We were sunscreened and on the beach by 10:45 and thanks to my sweet friend, Lydia, I had a mimosa in hand ready for the day.
I had just collapsed in my beach chair, already sweaty and sandy from lugging the kids, chairs, buckets, towels, coolers, and whatever else we might possibly need for the day from the parking lot, when my friend Kathleen cruises over looking way too chic for someone who has a brand new baby and FOUR other children under five.
It’s been ages since I’ve seen Kathleen so I was thrilled when my friend Maeve from Figi said she invited her. They’re neighbors. I last saw Kathleen in November at a birthday party shortly after she announced her pregnancy. It was during the wretched piñata smashing that she confessed to me that her unplanned pregnancy had left her unable to leave the couch, so she was having to take some medication in order to make it to work everyday and care for her children.
Maeve said that Kathleen’s husband thought she might have to be hospitalized after giving birth because her depression was so bad. Apparently things were considerably better now but Maeve said Kathleen recently shared with her that on the few occasions that she had left the house alone since baby number five made her debut, she frequented a nearby park where she liked to sit in silence and sob privately. Kathleen told Maeve that she didn’t want to go home to the noise and diapers and everything you can imagine is involved with FIVE kids under five.
Maeve was so traumatized hearing all this that she sent her husband immediately for a vasectomy. They had been on the fence about trying for number three, but after serving as Kathleen’s primary crying shoulder, she said no way.
I was beyond frazzled but felt guilty complaining with only two children who are starting to all-day school in a few weeks and are comfortably potty trained. Kathleen pulled her chair up next to mine, effortlessly removed the one-month-old from the Mama Wrap and placed her on a blanket a few feet away under the tent. Valentina wiggled her adorable baby rump and gurgled a bit and fell right to sleep as fifth babies often seem to do, probably cause they instinctively know better than to make too much of a fuss.
“So how’s it going?” I played dumb just as Maeve had instructed Lydia and me to do.
“Well, we made it here today, so I’m calling it a success.”
Kathleen and I continued chit-chatting about our summers. I tried not to gripe too much about the fact that I start hating summer by mid-July because Gil’s work picks up and my days managing the kids and working from home get even more tiring. It doesn’t help that 99% of the people I know have summers off and seem to go on amazing vacations.
One, I know these are whiney first world problems and two, I also know that the grass is always greener. I live 40 minutes from a beautiful beach. My life does not suck.
I was trying my best to be positive. I certainly didn’t want to drag her down further, but she busted out with, “Is it just me or can school not start back soon enough?”
She continued and I listened. I also sucked down the rest of my mimosa. Damn it I wish I hadn’t been blessed with such an ample amount of empathy. I catch people’s pain. She continued telling me how much she was struggling and couldn’t shake the overwhelming feeling that she was drowning every single minute of every day.
I just wanted to pack her up in my car and take her home and put her to bed in my guest room. Who am I kidding, I don’t have a guest room, but this is my co-dependent fantasy so work with me.
I told her how sorry I was and what a rough time I had had after Piers was born and then again when Wallace was a baby and Gil’s dad died, but that it would get better. I also threw in that in addition to those drugs that didn’t appear to be working all that well, she might want to think about making an appointment with a therapist.
I felt awful for her and was seriously trying to help.
And that’s when she brought up a topic that women RARELY discuss in pre-motherhood conversations.
With tears in her eyes she said, “How the hell am I supposed to afford therapy? I have five kids. I can’t fathom returning to work right now even though our checking account is overdrawn, and my insurance doesn’t cover the only antidepressant that actually works for me. AND, as if all that isn’t enough, my bladder is busting through my fucking vagina. I have an appointment next week with a physical therapist who specializes in vaginal tightening and it’s my only hope of salvaging my pelvic floor without surgery.”
Yep, I never once discussed my dysfunctional pelvic floor with my friends prior to having children. And if anyone had brought it up, I would have insisted that they stop talking immediately.
“Viv, I pee myself constantly these days. Do you know what that’s like?”
Actually, I kind of do thanks to a nine pound, sunny-side-up first born who ripped me to smithereens before my OB/GYN had to slice me from end to end in order to escort the mini-linebacker’s shoulders into this big bright world. I start automatically kegeling just typing this lovely trip down memory lane. No one ever accused me of glamorizing my birth stories.
But thank goodness nothing’s busting through and I don’t exactly leak, but when I have to go I have to find a restroom pronto.
Kathleen: “Mine is like one constant trickle.”
Lydia (who also happens to be a mom of five, all vaginally delivered): “I only pee when I run, but I run a lot and would like to run more. Let me know how your appointment goes.”
Maeve (mother of two birthed via c-section): “You’d think I wouldn’t have that problem since I had c-sections, but I recently decided to jump with the girls on the trampoline. It was bad. Now when they ask me to join them I have to say no — it makes Mommy leak. I’m certain I’m scratching all possibilities of ever having grandkids with my honesty.”
No joke, y’all. A random woman wandered up after chasing her toddler twins and heard us talking and chimed right in. “Me too!! It’s awful!”
So the four of us plus our new beach pal, commiserated for the next hour and by the end of the day, Kathleen said she felt better than she had in ages.
Yesterday I got this text from Kathleen: Girl…just got back from my vag-tightening appointment. She was amazing. There were weights and vibrators and all kinds of inappropriate touching. Don’t tell Ross I said this but girlfriend could teach him a few things. Lemme know if you want her number. Best $30 copay I’ve spent in ages.
In other news, Kathleen’s depression seems to be lifting and we’re helping watch her kids so she can go to therapy.
If you’re a mom, how have your conversations with friends changed?