When AJ was born we were so in love with this little miracle God had blessed us with. We hugged and kissed him, never put him down. We watched him sleep and counted the number or times his little chest rose and fell as he took his first breaths of life, we were enamored.
But, the older he got, the harder motherhood became. The role of mom, particularly in its early stages, is all-encompassing and often overwhelming. It was for me.
I’ve started to write this blog at least 3 times, trying to pinpoint what exactly sent my marriage into a downward spiral after the birth of our first son, and each time I’ve put my laptop down as my brain started to spin in circles. The reason is because there was no one thing that caused it. Several things aligned to drive a wedge between my husband and I.
Me on our honeymoon in May 2010.
Me at 6 months pregnant in May of 2013.
I’ll start with me. I weighed 223 pounds the day AJ was born. I gained over 60 pounds during my pregnancy. This pregnancy was rough on me in many ways, and my appearance wasn’t spared. People actually said to me, in real life, out of their mouths, out loud, and I quote “you must be having a girl because this baby is stealing ALLLL your beauty!”. What the hell do you say back to something like that? The thing is they weren’t wrong. Before the end of my first trimester I vividly recall having a mini panic attack after looking in the mirror and realizing that the face I was used to seeing for the last 20 or so years was morphing into something else. I didn’t recognize the woman staring back at me. It was subtle at first, but over time, my nose was so wide, my cheeks were so full and my lips were so swollen I refused photos or company.
Let’s compound things, shall we? I had suddenly developed aggressive acne all over my face and back to complete the package of this 5 foot, 3 inch, 200+ pound gorgeousness. For anyone reading this and thinking I shouldn’t have been so shallow or that I should just have been grateful to be experiencing the miracle of creating life, I invite you to mature your thinking and appreciate that you can feel joy for one thing while feeling sadness for another at the same time. I had no idea if the woman I had been, the body and face I had grown to love to be in would ever return, I was in mourning. Each month, no matter how hard I tried, I gained more weight and my face grew more and more unrecognizable as the woman formerly known as Yollie.
I turned 30 at 9 months pregnant, friends wanted to celebrate, I forbade it. My best friend, Mimi, stopped by unannounced with cake, had she told me she was coming, I would have banned her from my property. I wasn’t in a good place. I didn’t feel good about me. Of course you can be beautiful at any size and most of your beauty comes from within but these sudden changes in my appearance didn’t allow me the time to internalize that. There were some people in my life kind enough to encourage me to keep my three chins up by assuring me that most of this weight was going to fall off through childbirth and the remainder through breastfeeding my baby. So I held out hope.
Then came baby. One of the happiest and certainly THE most significant day of my existence. My life was forever changed. I was now a mother forevermore. I loved this little boy beyond any feeling within the realm of description. I was a stay-at-home mom when AJ was born, so I was with him 24 hours a day, every day. I’m also a control-freak perfectionist. I didn’t want anyone to touch my baby much less help me. If they did, I chastised them in a manner that made them never want to do it again (sorry mom).
AJ was the kind of baby that woke up no less than 10 times a night, he cried uncontrollably for hours at a time, had colic, and digestion issues that caused him to be fussier than most babies. Burn out came within months of his birth. After countless consecutive nights with little to no sleep I would sit on the toilet each morning and sit there long after I was done peeing and think to myself, is this it? Am I really going to do it all over again today? In hindsight, I’m certain I suffered from some level of post-partum depression. Before I stop to ask if I sound fun to be married to yet, let me finish.
While pregnant, I had insomnia, and would read at night. I read in What to Expect When Expecting that many women experienced increased sex drive during pregnancy. Something having to do with hormone levels, and increased blood flow. I was not one of these women. Once during my first trimester, after the urge had already left me completely I realized my husband made it clear that his needs hadn’t changed, so I did my wifely duty despite having no interest. It was so painful I vowed to myself then an there I wouldn’t endure it again until I felt like it. Months, many months, went by before even the slightest inkling returned. Am I the only one that found intercourse painful during pregnancy?
Now, I’m ready to ask. Does it sound like it was fun to be married to me during this time? We’re talking about almost a year here people.
As tired as I was, and as much as I struggled to find happiness each day, my son brought me immense joy. He was my reason, nothing and no one else mattered. I used to give my husband weekly facials, lotion the parts of his body he was too muscular to reach, and greet him with a kiss each time he entered my presence. I was now so wrapped up in my baby and overwhelmed by all that came with being a new mom that I couldn’t even tell you when he came or went. I can tell you that when he did come home he found me wearing the exact same thing he left me in, probably for days in a row. Why get dressed? I was breastfeeding every hour on the hour around the clock. I had one blue robe that I wore every day, it was the only one big enough to fit me at 200 plus pounds and was covered in breastmilk and spit up. Just writing this I have to look back and laugh at what a far cry I was from the woman he had married just 3 years before.
I’m going to be 100 percent honest with you all. I didn’t care about his wellbeing, it didn’t cross my mind or concern me, not like it used to. Hell, I wasn’t even concerned about myself. Every ounce of energy I found each day, every fiber of my being was dedicated to taking the best care I possibly could of my little gift from God. Prior to baby, and again now, if my husband is five minutes late or doesn’t answer my phone call I’m racked with worry. Back then? He could have been 3 hours late and I wouldn’t have noticed. I breastfed, I burped, I cleaned spit up, I gave baths, I changed onesies, I washed bottles, I soothed, I put to sleep, I repeated. I had no concept of time. All the women around me who weren’t currently caught in the vortex that can be new motherhood would try to warn me: “have a bath before your husband gets home”, “change your clothes, comb your hair”, “leave the baby with me and go get your nails done”. My response was always the same, roll my eyes and get back to my baby.
I was so tired of everyone worrying about my husband and his needs while I felt like I was drowning in far more important issues. It just felt so unfair and immature that I was trying to keep a helpless human being alive and well and I was expected to worry about a grown ass man too.
Motherhood was forcing me to learn and grow as a person at lightning speed, surely he could adjust too. He wanted this baby just as badly as I did, I thought, he better adjust.
After almost a year of refusing sex, moving to Texas for 4 months to film a TV show and rarely calling or texting him to check in on the man who used to be my best friend, he checked out too. He grew tired of reassuring me that I was still gorgeous, reassuring me that he still found me attractive and always being the first one to send a note to say hey. His efforts were met with little to no reaction or reciprocation.
Before I knew it we were just co-existing. We both loved and doted on our son but were no longer showing the same affection to each other. He was working more, we were talking less and growing apart a little more each day.
My husband has a LOT of friends. His family is huge, we live in the same city he was raised in, he coached high school sports for years and is just an all-around great guy. Any friend he makes remains a friend for life. Of those friends he had a male friend he called by his initials. Let’s say his name was Adam Barnes. Adrian called him A.B. or so I thought. He would talk to A.B. in my presence without hesitation and I thought nothing of it among the many other calls and texts he sent and received throughout the day.
Then one day I told him he had missed a call from A.B. and he said, “oh, Amanda?”.
My heart sunk. My stomach was in knots and my rage was immediate. Everything hit me like a ton of bricks as my mind raced back through time to reprocess and reassess everything I thought I knew.
I screamed, I threw some hands, I cursed, I cried. How could he do this? How could he think it was ok to talk to a female on the phone, and not one from his childhood that I knew since we got together. I felt betrayed and disrespected to think someone was getting the time and attention from my husband I had been rejecting, and worse yet that she might have been giving him the time and attention I had not.
I’d been sleeping on my relationship for last year, but I was awake now. And pissed.
I don’t blame myself. I never did. At this point we had been together 13 years, happy all along. A few off months and you think you can talk to some chick on the phone? Nah. We never talked, I was never given a warning, he never said a word. Tapping me on the shoulder at night hinting at intimacy is not a conversation. He needed to say something. Or did he?
I was so vulnerable at this time. I felt like a shell of my former self. I was giving motherhood EVERYTHING I had and felt like I was losing. I was a damn good mom, but it wasn’t as easy as other moms made it look. I wasn’t one of those moms who could mother, snap back, cook, look pretty and keep her man satisfied all at the same time. I felt overwhelmed and sad at some point every day. So this? From him? Too much. It cut like a knife. I felt like the person who was supposed to be my biggest supporter had tabbed me in the back.
We called the pastor who married us and we began counseling. Let me pause here and say, if you are in a relationship of any kind, but especially a marriage that is strained and you believe is worth saving, try counseling. Try talking with a professional, unbiased third party. If the relationship means something to you, its worth a try.
He couldn’t understand how I could be so upset when he didn’t believe he did anything wrong. I couldn’t believe that he couldn’t see that he had done something wrong. Better yet, if he couldn’t understand why I felt disrespected, we had a bigger problem. The pastor helped us see both sides. He had a way of putting things in perspective that we couldn’t do on our own through our anger. He forced my husband to acknowledge where he went wrong and forced me to see his point of view.
As we made progress in counseling I began to feel like the man sitting across from me was the man I had given my heart to at 18 years old and that I could trust him with it again.
Listen, everyone is motivated by different things. I never would have thought it but just the thought of another woman thinking she had my husband’s attention lit a fire in me. I suddenly remembered that Yoles is that beeeeetch. No matter where we ended up I was gone get back to being me.
I started eating better, working out, bathing daily (shut up) and shopping again, even though I didn’t want any clothes in the size I was. I called my skin care spa and ordered some products for the pregnancy acne I was still suffering from, made a nail appointment and got my ends trimmed. I started to take care of AJ AND me.
I learned to accept help and got out of the house, alone, even it was just to go to Target and wander down every singe aisle. I left baby in daddy’s more than capable hands and got me-time often without calling 100 times to check on them both.
We made time for date night and I can’t say loudly enough, or often enough how important this is! You can be together every day co-parenting and coexisting, but nothing takes the place of going out without your children and remembering who you are as a couple. Make time to enjoy each other’s company and not just as mom and dad.
The more I invested in myself, the better I began to feel. As the weight came off, my skin began to clear up and I made just a little time to take care of myself, the more we began to reconnect. Soon, the man I barely noticed as anything other than my relief at the end of a long day of taking care of a baby, was making my heart skip a beat when he entered a room again.
By the time AJ turned 1, I was 3 months pregnant with Asia 😉
There’s a lot of pressure on us as women. We’re expected to be so many things to so many people. Not only do we have to wear all these hats, fill all these shoes and play all these roles, we have to do each and every one of them well.
All the clichés are true ladies. We’re the center of our families, they need us, but if we don’t take care of ourselves, everything falls apart. You can’t fill everyone else up from an empty tank.