When The Dream Breaks, We All Will Survive

When I started this blog, I assumed that nothing about my life would be off-limits.  That was part of my depression: the encompassing feeling of alone-ness.  To fight it, I wrote openly about the “hard topics.”

Turns out, there is a topic too hard for me to really cover.

In fact, this topic came up loud and clear about the last time I published a post.  You may have noticed: I took a blog hiatus.

So here it is.  An explanation of my absence, and maybe the only time I touch on this particular topic (at least for now).

My marriage has ended.

I’m not interested in going into the details of the why and how.  It wouldn’t help and it certainly could hurt a lot.  But I will pen this post, as an homage to my pain and a declaration of my future.

I am getting divorced.

I hate even typing it.  It sounds so… I don’t even know.  I started to write the word “final,” but that’s not quite it.  It sounds the way a gavel sounds, slamming into a desk as a judgement is made.  “Divorce” sounds like a sentence.  It’s a label I never wanted, a future I fought against heart and soul.  The word is heavy both in my mouth and on the screen and I despise it.

I’ve come to despise a lot of words lately.

“Ex” is another word I hate.

Any word that smacks of the legal aspect of all of this, “custody” in particular; hate it.

And I hate writing this blog post.

Amy Poehler once wrote a painfully accurate chapter on divorce in her book Yes Please.  It’s honest, but not overly-detailed.  The chapter cuts to the heart of the matter and also makes you laugh and I highly recommend it to everyone.  I read it years ago, before marital issues were even on my radar; even then Poehler changed my perspective on the issue.  Two quotes in particular lodged in my mind:

“I don’t want to talk about my divorce because it is too sad and too personal.  I also don’t like people knowing my shit”

It’s fucking sad.  And it’s fucking personal.  And I don’t like people knowing my shit. She goes on to add,

“I don’t think a ten-year marriage constitutes failure.”

And my seven years should not be completely undone by how it all ended.  It just shouldn’t.  I don’t want it to be.  I’ve been married my entire adult life, since I was nineteen.  I refuse to believe that those seven years were wasted.

Divorce is a grieving process.  Most of the time, my struggle is not the grief on looking behind (although I certainly have and will continue to experience that), but the grief looking forward.  I mourn the life I thought I would have.  Some days I feel like that dream has been stolen from me and stolen from my boy.

My dreams have been crushed.  And yes, some of those dreams were unrealistic.  But they were my dreams and I held them extremely close.

This whole process has taken my heart and soul, it has re-framed my entire world.  It has made me feel both powerless and powerful.  It has narrowed my viewpoint of myself but also expanded my horizons.  It has forced an inner perspective that I often fight and sometimes abhor.  All of it just doesn’t make sense and yet it is all real and somehow mine.

It will be okay.

I will survive.  I am surviving.  I have a tribe of beautiful humans surrounding and protecting my son and myself.  I am facing myself in new and hard and awful ways, but the kind of awful that forces a person to grow.  I am growing more than I thought possible, and healing more than I knew I needed, and I am grateful for that.

I’m actually grateful for a lot of things, lately.  I am incredibly provided for.

And so is my son.

And we will continue to be.

Even though that part of the dream has broken, we are all surviving.  We will continue to survive and thrive and yes, hurt.  But move forward in our hurt onto better and healthier things.  The dream has died and I will mourn that.  But we all will survive.

Spencer Holdaway: The HIGH Standard of Society

This post was guest-authored by Spencer Holdaway, a dear friend of mine. When he sent me his thoughts in written form, the feminist in me wanted the whole world to hear them.  I settled for publishing them here.  Spencer is an active member of the LDS church, a lens that colors part of this post.  (Used with permission.)


Ever since I was little, I can recall being attracted to bigger women. If I was speaking to someone like Freud, he might have pointed towards some facts in my family that might suggest that, because of my upbringing and those I was around, I have the attractions that I do.  Needless to say, I highly disagree with many of Freud’s claims.

Whatever the case, I find a woman that looks like this:

FAR more attractive than someone like this:

Now, why is that important?

Because the world is under the insane impression that beauty is if you are as thin as a rod, show off a great butt, and all that junk. I like to use Michael Bay’s movies for a prime example of how the world views women and how disgusting that is for someone like me. Bay, and indeed MANY in the movie industry, naturally assume that all straight men are into this sort of woman…so they cast them as the lead’s love interest and make any other girl who might be buff and big a lesbian, a dumb-as-rocks comedic character, or otherwise. They try and make those types of women look comical in some perverted effort to install their own views into the minds of their viewers that THAT is not the kind of woman any sane, straight man or boy would want to date.

That’s where I fall, however. Because I do. I would LOVE to date a girl that’s 6’0”+, that would just be so beautiful and wonderful…not saying that I wouldn’t date anyone shorter! I just feel…perhaps not as comfortable with it? I’m not being picky, it’s just part of who I am now. My eyes naturally fall upon those girls who, quite literally, stand out in the crowd.

Of course, we need to talk about my anxiety and depression for a moment.

My anxiety likes to try and point out a few things to me, they are as follows:

  1. You’re not attracted to sexy women like Megan Fox or thin models in bikinis? Oh, you must be gay then!
  2. Freak
  3. You’re attracted to women who are large, big, muscular, etc., who could probably bench you? Oh, you’re just secretly a closet homosexual because everything you find really attractive in certain women are only acceptable in men (pixie cuts, sportswomen, women in the armed forces, etc.)
  4. Freak
  5. You are attracted to a woman who could hold you in her arms, that would require you to get on your tip-toes to kiss? You must REALLY like those dominatrix women then, huh? Sicko.
  6. Freak
  7. Is this a “fetish?” Is it not? Some of your friends think it is, some of them think it’s not – What is it then? There is absolutely no clear definition on this either
  8. Freak
  9. You just view women as meat, you sicko.
  10. Freak
  11. What’s the Church’s stance on this kind of attraction? It certainly makes your heart flutter and gets you excited. Sinner.
  12. Freak
  13. You would rather cuddle up in the arms of a big, strong woman like a girl would to their big, buff football boyfriend? Huh. Wonder what that makes you then
  14. Freak
  15. You really do like those girls that have “junk in the trunk”, huh? You pig.
  16. Freak
  17. Why would ANY girl who is taller would want to date you? Don’t you know? Tall girls don’t LIKE shorter boys. Might as well get a cat now and die alone, weirdo.
  18. Freak
  19. Why would you EVER like a girl with arms as big as your chest? That’s disgusting, you’d never fit in with the other guys
  20. Freak
  21. What would your parents and family think if they ever found out? Gee, you’d be an outcast FOR SURE.
  22. Freak
  23. Did I mention freak?


These honestly are some of the things that have come into my mind as my anxiety locks me down.

There are some good things, that I’ve come to find though…thanks to some wonderful friends of mine.

1. There is NO commandment that says: “Thou shalt not like women bigger than you”

2. Are you sinning? NO.

3. Are you a worthy priesthood holder still? YES.

4. Quoted from a friend: “In some ways it makes you more masculine because you are not afraid of girls like that. A lot of guys would feel intimidated by dating stronger girls but you admire it! It also kinda makes you humble because you recognize that you need to be held and that you too need to feel safe in a relationship.”

5. This world is increasingly more understanding than my anxiety wants me to think.

6. The cuddle value of a big woman? Heck yeah, spot on

7. There are FAR weirder things out there to be attracted to, such as dead things and children…I think I’m doing pretty okay if I’m still attracted to women (albeit 6’5” ones…)

8. Who says that ONLY women are entitled to wanting that security that is found in a bigger significant other? Am I not free to want that as well?

Also, if anyone gives us crap? She can TOTALLY beat them up, and I’d be perfectly alright with that ❤


And the end of the day, it’s my choice, isn’t it? Yes, I am attracted to big woman; women who are strong, well-built, tall and even very tall. Is that normal? Eh, not really. But hey…it’s MY vision of beauty, and as the beautiful, wonderful Gwendoline Christie once said:


I’m worthy, I am not a freak, I am a wonderful guy who just has slightly different taste in women. And ya know what? That is OKAY. So, you have your attractions and tastes…

…and I’ll have mine.

I’d Rather Be a Shitty Teacher

When I was a student teacher, my cohort group would meet every couple of weeks.  Our coordinator (the liaison between the university and the middle school) was this tough old woman with the kind of zeal for education that anyone would find enviable.  She also had a resume the length of my arm: teacher for a billion years, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent, HR coordinator.  Unwilling to completely retire, she guided the fresh faces of the student teaching program.  She walked slowly, vocally despised driving of any kind, and her nails were always perfect. I loved her.  She was experienced, she was direct, and she answered every little question with brutal honesty.

And she looked shockingly like this stock photo woman

One day, us student teachers were talking about the work load.  Let me stress: the work load for new teachers is immense.  It is overwhelming at best, and burn-out worthy at worst.  Linda, the coordinator, leaned back in her chair and glanced out the window, which overlooked the staff parking lot.

“When I was a principal, I hated seeing teachers leave late.  Every school has a couple who do that.  They come before everyone else, when it’s still dark.  When they leave it’s dark too, and they’d often be lugging stacks of papers and carts of projects.  I knew they were going to go home and keep working on school stuff.  I hated that.”

We all looked at each other and looked at her.  Isn’t that a hallmark of a good teacher?  The kind of person that goes early and stays late?

Linda sighed.  “In this profession, you have to take care of yourself.  You can’t give 100% to your students every day.  Give it to them when you can, sure.  But if some days, you have to give them 70%, so that you save your sanity, do it.”  She looked at us.  Leveled with us, the kind of honest gaze that people of a certain age can just lay on you.  “It’s better to give 70% and still be in the profession in five years.  Your students will be okay.  You need to be okay, too.”

I clung to that advice like it was a ship mast in the middle of an epic sea storm, because that’s what student teaching feels like.  I worked my ass off most days and some days… I didn’t.  Some days I rested or ignored school, or let papers sit for a day or three extra.  I left student teaching excited about teaching, not scared of it.

My last day of student teaching.

I continued to set boundaries with my teaching.  I refused to take work home (except essays.  Essays almost always come home.)  I came early many days because I liked it and I felt productive, but I often left exactly on time.

We glorify teachers who ruin their lives for teaching.  Take Freedom Writers, that Hilary Swank movie.  In the movie, the selfless teacher slaves for her students, going so far as to get a second job to support her classroom supplies, so that she can be everything and more for her students.  She works heinous hours.  Her marriage falls apart.  She about loses her mind.  And yeah, she helped those kids.  And that’s great.  But at what price?

I mean, yeah this is ideal. Sure. But sacrificing everything for this? Nope.

I work with a phenomenal teacher who consistently amazes me.  He is a department head, his lesson-planning is superb, he coaches like three different sports, is working towards administrative positions, and volunteers all the time.  One day I was asking about his personal life.  He told me that he had a girlfriend.  When I asked about kids, he kind of shrugged and said that he didn’t really have time for them.  From his tone, I felt like he was implying that he wanted kids.  When I inquired further (because I suck at boundaries,) he admitted that he didn’t think he could be a good father because of all the stuff he does at school.

I am not the end-all be-all for my students.

My students are not my end-all, be-all.

I am not their friend.

I am not their counselor.

I am not their parent.

Point of fact, I am someone’s parent.  He is not my student.  As of this publishing, he is 20 months old and happily asleep in the next room.

I want to take care of my students.  I want to give them 100% on the days that I can, because I like to and they need it.  But more than that, I want to remain in the profession.  And more than both those things, I want to be a good mom.  And yeah, sometimes I have to choose between being a shitty mom and a shitty teacher.  And I can promise you, when it comes down to it, I would rather be a shitty teacher than a shitty mom.

Right now, I am the end-all, be all for my kid.

And in many ways, he is my end-all.

Good teachers go home on time.  Good teachers take care of themselves.  Good teachers work to balance their home life and their professional life.  I don’t always get that balance right (in fact, I often fail,) but at least I know what my priorities are and I work towards them accordingly.

Three Reasons the First Year of Motherhood is the WORST.

I’ll say it.  I don’t care anymore.  The first year of my child’s life sucked royal dick.

Those first twelve months? Hell.

Don’t get me wrong.  I loved that little boy with everything inside of me.  And.  I hated that first damn year.  I often brooded, “What the hell have I done?”  Because no one told me I would hate the entirety of that year.  No one told me how much I would resent everything about it (except the little boy, I promise I really did love him).

No one told me I wouldn’t enjoy this part.  I kind of figured I would just instantly love motherhood and everything that came along with it because, I dunno, sacrifice?  I feel like I was fed this line about how everything that is hard and frustrating becomes okay because you’re a mom.  As though all the negative things in life kind of wash away because of the great glory that is motherhood.  I bought it, hook line and sinker and I SUNK.  Holy shit did I sink.

And I’m not just talking about my post-partum depression.  That was certainly part of it.  But if I look back on my son’s first year rationally, three things stick out that objectively made everything about it just the Worst. With a capital W.


#1: Sleep deprivation.

There is no way to overstate the exhaustion of motherhood.  Like, parents try to explain it before you birth those little babies, but… There’s just no way.

When you have a baby, if you are breastfeeding, you have to feed that child at least every three hours.  Every.  Three.  Hours.  And every three hours from the moment he starts to suck, not the moment he finishes.  So if you have a slow feeder (mine took 45 minutes to an hour) that means that you get two hours, then an hour of feeding, two hours, then an hour of feeding, two hours, then an hour of feeding.  And in that two hours you have to do all the following: change the baby, bathe the baby, feed and clothe and bathe yourself, plus whatever household/work responsibilities you have.  Oh.  And sleep.  Literally sleeping in two hour increments.

And then.  He gets a little older.  And his feeding shortens, but he still eats all the damn time, so now you have two AND A HALF hours.  Which is a big bonus, trust me.

And then you get four hours and it feels like HEAVEN ON EARTH.  Seriously.  I never thought four hours of sleep could feel so good.

But that was basically my maximum for twelve months.

So I spent twelve months of my life extremely sleep-deprived.  Extremely.  And, to be honest, sleep is number one of my list of priorities before I had children.  I’m a nine-hour-a-night sleeper, minimum.  So this four-hour thing?  Absolute.  Hell.

Sleep deprivation fucks with you.  It messes with your emotional capability, your processing ability, your socializing skills.  I regularly experienced sleep deprivation so real, it mimicked intoxication.  Like, no.  All the no.  Just no.

My son did not sleep through the night until he was fifteen months old.  I swear, motherhood got so much better when I could sleep a whole night.  Before that?  It was damn hard.

#2 Everything is in transition.

Think back on the last big transition of your life.  Moving?  Job or career change?  Relationship shift?

Nobody really likes change.  We all struggle with the transition, finding our “new normal.”  Motherhood is the single biggest transition I have ever gone through.  All my normal was turned on its head.  And because babies grow incredibly fast, once you master one skill, they hurl another thing at you.  And babies require a million skills of you for basic survival.  A LOT of skills.

Like, diapering and cream and bathing and feeding (bottle or boob, it’s a giant pain) and daycare and sickness and different cries and sleep training and OH MY GOD STOP.  Full disclosure: I babysat constantly through my teens, including little babies.  It was helpful, yes, but it NEVER taught me the full range of skills my child required.

Remember the way you fumbled through your first “big girl” job?  My entire first year of teaching felt like a big clumsy series of missteps and anxiety and frustration.  Motherhood is no different except 1.) you’re sleep deprived and less able to handle your shit correctly, and 2.) there is a tiny human literally dependent on you for survival, and 3.) you never get to clock out.  Pressure’s on, bitch.

Plus, your relationships turn upside down.  All of them.  Suddenly you don’t have time for friends the way you used to, and sleep deprivation makes it difficult to form a complete sentence, and all you can talk about is diaper cream brands anyway.  Not to mention the relationship with your spouse.  Want to know what kind of hell that goes through?  Husband and I needed rehab and counseling just to begin to work through that shit.

#3 Babies are boring.

In perhaps the most ironic twist of it all, babies are boring as shit.

Let me repeat: I love my son.  I enjoyed going through all the milestones.  I enjoyed watching him grow.  I enjoyed all the snuggles and bonding.

Let’s get real, though.  Babies don’t do anything.  Especially at first.  They literally cry and eat and shit and piss and sleep.  They don’t smile.  They don’t hug.  They don’t say thank you.  They barely raise their arm.  IT’S DULL.

And yeah, as they get bigger they interact more.  But.  Is laying on a mat and smiling really interacting?  I didn’t know what to do with my son.  I felt like I was “supposed” to stimulate him or teach him or… something.  Leaving him just to sit and stare at the wall?  That seemed so barbaric.  Insensitive?  Cruel?  I don’t know.  But I didn’t have a clue how to interact with him.

Eventually I decided to just talk at him, which probably proves my own minimal degree of sanity and predicts his, but whatever.  It was still boring.  And sleep-deprived boring?  Fucking torture.

Cute, but boooooring.


When my son turned one, it was like the clouds parted and sunshine bathed the land.

BOOM. Personality and interaction!

While he did not sleep through the night until 15 months, by 12 months he was only waking once a night.  I could handle that.  I didn’t like it, but I could handle it.  The clutter of my sleep deprivation cleared and I started to think and feel clearer.

At about a year, the transition settled (mostly) and I felt far more secure in the world of “Mom.”  It wasn’t always easy, but I had a clear idea of my expectations.  I felt like MOST (not all) of the literal and figurative shit he threw at me I could handle.  Or.  I at least knew which Mom-Friends to call and ask for advice.

And the best part?  The very best part?

My son is now the most interesting human in the world .  He has a personality that totally sweeps me off my feet and restores my faith in humanity.  He is gentle and snugly and determined.  He loves our little dog and giggles uncontrollably when he gets to pet her.  He likes to say “Bye!” to everyone anytime we change location (including, yes, strangers).  He loves to blow kisses and give hugs and name things.  All of those things are SO EXCITING and I love seeing the world through his fascinated and happy eyes.  None of these wonderful aspects of him existed, at least not obviously, in that first year.


Hang in there, you first year mamas.  It gets better, I promise.


What Does it Mean? The story of an ellipsis

. . . 

Is it just ’cause it looks cool?

It’s for your family, right?  You, your husband, your son.  Three of you.

Oh my god, how long have you had that?  I just noticed it.

What does it mean?

I get asked these questions on a semi-regular basis.  I got my little tattoo just over one year ago; it was a gift to myself and a reminder of hard-learned lessons.

Usually, I simply tell my curious questioners, “It’s an ellipsis.  You know, the dot-dot-dot in punctuation?”

They respond, “Oh!  I didn’t know it had a name.”  Sometimes, they add, “What does it mean?”

“It’s my reminder to pause.”

I usually leave it at that.  Because the rest of the story isn’t something you usually tell a perfect stranger, and quite honestly most of those strangers are pretty satisfied just to know what the dots mean.  It doesn’t change that there is a rest of the story, however.

In April 2016, I was hospitalized for suicidal ideation, stemming from postpartum depression.  It was horrifying; I was ashamed, I was scared, and I was desperate.  That was the beginning of my healing journey, because it turns out that postpartum depression wasn’t my only struggle.  In the following months, I took drastic steps in my mental health recovery.  That is a story for another time, but suffice it to say that it was long and hard-won.  I had to face fears I desperately wanted to ignore, and I had to let myself experience nearly debilitating emotional pain in order to move forward.

I learned valuable skills.  The ability to pause, for example.  Mindfulness, the art of staying present, is the kind of thing that is so simple to explain but so incredibly difficult to practice.  It is literally just keeping your mind entirely on what is happening in reality in your present.  It’s not obsessing over the thoughts in your head, or clinging to the memory of something painful; it’s figuratively grabbing hold of the present and staring it in the face with your full attention.  It has been said that depression happens when you focus too much on the past, and anxiety is when you focus too much on the future.  Mindfulness is a medicine for the extreme anxiety that I battle on a regular basis.

I had to learn that pain isn’t permanent.  Pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice.  I could choose to recognize my pain for what it was, and recognize that it wasn’t permanent.  Life marches forward without your permission, and pain moves too if you let it.

I also had to learn “No.”  It’s a simple word, but a hard word.  I commit myself too often to too much and I wear myself thin.  My hospitalization forced me to find ways to self-soothe, to self-care, to self-appreciate.  Often, this included saying, “No” to extra obligations, “No” to unfinished projects, and “No” to perfection.

Move forward I did, and heal I did, and heal I continue to do.

Which is where my tattoo comes in.

Have you heard of the semi colon project? In sum, it’s about suicide awareness, using the semi colon as its symbol.  In punctuation, a semi colon functions as a place where the author could end the sentence, but decides to keep going.  The sentence isn’t over yet.  Your life isn’t over yet.  Get it?

My tattoo is in homage of that.  In punctuation, an elipsis, also known as dot-dot-dot or [ . . . ], represents one of three things:

  1. a pause
  2. a trailing off, with an implication that there is more information
  3. a way to omit unnecessary information when quoting material

As such, my tattoo is my own personal reminder of three things:

  1. Pause.  Breathe.  Remain mindful, especially when anxiety arises. Mindfulness = medicine.
  2. Things go on, always.  My life went on when I was convinced that it wouldn’t.  My pain moved on, even when I thought it was permanent.
  3. Omit the unnecessary.  Say no when you need to, and get rid of the extra.

It’s not a perfect metaphor, but it’s my perfect metaphor.  Every day it reminds me and strengthens me.

Not Another Birth Story

I was kind of iffy on the power of visualization before I gave birth.  I mean, just because I imagine something doesn’t make it so, right?  That’s a load of hooey.

Of course, when my due date came and went without fanfare, I started getting desperate.  The last weeks of pregnancy are just terrible.  Like, I cannot adequately get across the encompassing discomfort, coupled with the looming question: “Is this it?”  Seriously, I found myself googling the most ridiculous things.  “Is ankle pain a sign of labor?”

Fun fact: everything is a sign of labor, which means nothing is a sign of labor.

My baby was due on December 19.  When the 19th passed, and then the 20th, and then the 21st, a Christmas baby became a real possibility. I got very nervous, very frustrated, and extremely desperate.

And then… I couldn’t be any of those things.  Sometime late on December 21, it occurred to me that I couldn’t control when my labor happened.  I don’t know why it took so long for this little thought to surface.  I mean, I was doing everything I could: I drank pineapple smoothies by the gallon.  I had my membranes swiped.  I was doing yoga and timing Braxton Hicks and begging my husband to get it on with me.

Nothing, nothing, nothing.

I had to consciously choose to relax and let it all go.  It finally occurred to me that I couldn’t control this, no matter how much I wanted to puppet every bit of it – you don’t get to decide when you go into labor.  Well, pitocin can decide that for you, but I wasn’t there yet.

Me, on December 22. I spent soooo much time in that rocking chair watching Netflix on that TV.

December 22 I found myself relaxed in a way I hadn’t in weeks.  I put finishing touches on the nursery.  I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, my latest Netflix binge.  I felt more energized than I had in a while, which still wasn’t much.  That night, to get out of the house, Husband and I went to P F Chang’s, my favoritest restaurant.  As I squeezed my butt into that booth, scarfing down all my favorites like hot and sour soup and lettuce wraps, I mentally timed contractions between bites.

Fun fact about pregnancy: contractions do not mean labor.  What the hell, right? In fact, a woman can experience contractions for literally months before real labor happens.  Most of these obnoxious quote, unquote contractions are called Braxton Hicks contractions, which are basically fake contractions.  They don’t particularly hurt, they are at worst mildly uncomfortable.  The whole belly goes hard, as though “practicing” for the real deal.  Of course, those fake contractions start to come on harder and get closer together before labor.

The 4-1-1 rule helps a woman know if she’s in labor.  When the contractions come every FOUR minutes for ONE hour and the contractions are ONE minute in length, then maybe you might be in labor.  If not, suck it up buttercup.

During dinner, my contractions were six minutes apart, lasting roughly 4o seconds.

I didn’t tell my husband.  Why worry him, right?  Besides, if I could keep eating, then it probably wasn’t “real” labor, right?

At home, my contractions were five minutes apart, lasting 40-50 seconds.  What the hell, I thought.  I had just eaten my body weight in Chinese food and I was tired.  If it was “real” labor, I wouldn’t be able to sleep through it, right?  So I went to bed.

I managed to completely underestimate my sleeping ability.  If sleeping were a sport, I could compete on a national scale.  I can sleep through anything.  Earlier this year, I literally slept through an earthquake.  It’s a gift, really.  Both the husband and the dog snore like it’s a competition.  Doesn’t bother me.  I am also not hindered by location: futons, floor, cars, airplane, I can sleep on anything.  And sleep right through it all I will.

I cannot, however, sleep through pregnancy peeing.  I woke up on December 23 at 1:00 am, and had to pee.  Story of a pregnant girl’s life.  Three steps from my bed, I felt a sort of tearing sensation on my left abdomen.  Could it be…? Thirty seconds on the toilet confirmed it–my water broke.  Gushes of reddish water came out of me.  I got up and called over my husband.  I didn’t realize that water just keeps coming.  Yeah, those clothes and the bed sheet were eventually thrown out.

While Husband flew into activity, I noticed that the contractions of the Chinese restaurant were clearly NOT the contractions of 1:00 in the morning post water-breakage.  They started pretty immediately and there were definitely harder than all the Braxton Hicks I had felt.

The plan was to labor at home for as long as possible.  Stay in a safe spot, avoid being sent home from the hospital (literally my worst fear about labor *insert hindsight eye roll*).  I sat in the rocking chair and focused on breathing through the contractions.  Husband, meanwhile, was doing the anxious things that husbands do when the wife is definitely in labor.  Packed the car, made phone calls, and generally freaked the fuck out.

The contractions quickly intensified, like really quickly intensified.  They went from, “Okay, I can do this,” to “Holy shit what is my body doing” in about 10 minutes.  Right along with that intensity, my anxiety climbed.  Stories of women forced to give birth at home danced through my head.  On the phone, the midwife said to stay at home as long as I was comfortable, which didn’t last long.  Particularly when I started vomiting.

Yeah.  Vomiting.  Apparently some women react to the extreme pain of labor by blowing chunks.  There went my Chinese food.  Over and over and over… Every time I had a contraction, I puked.  No one had prepared me for this possibility, the throwing up, so I basically decided I was done.  Less than an hour after waking up and experiencing water breakage, I demanded we go to the hospital.

Husband didn’t argue.  Protip: never argue with a woman in labor.

I held to Husband as we walked haltingly to the car.  It was very cold, and snow was starting to fall, so he insisted I walk through the contractions.  Like I was even thinking about the cold.  In retrospect, I feel like a damn Amazon warrior for walking through contractions.  Never mind that I was clinging to Husband with one arm and a pot of vomit in the other.  In the car that I started to realize the severity of the pain.  I mean, I knew it was bad.  What I realized in the car is that it was so bad I was basically losing awareness.  When I would come out of a contraction, I’d look out the car window into the snow-dusted streets and I had no recollection of the last several blocks–the pain blocked my ability to comprehend events around me.  Like, damn.  That’s painful.

At some point during the car ride, mid-contraction, Husband asked, “Are you hot or cold?”  I was thoroughly irritated.  In a sounder mind, I might have punched him.  Protip: only ask a woman in labor yes or no questions.  The kind of questions that she can either nod or shake her head at.

The roads were empty of people but coated in snow.  The hospital was so bare it almost looked closed.  We were met at the door by security.  They offered me a wheelchair, which I gratefully took.  It felt like a movie-moment: a security guard wheeling the cringing pregnant lady to labor and delivery.  Rest assured, that was the only movie-moment of this whole affair.  On the third floor, a nurse made me stand on a scale before she directed me to a room.  I resisted the urge to call her a nasty word.  Who makes a pregnant woman stand on a scale?  Whatever.  I made it all the way to the door frame before literally vomiting on the floor.  I was so embarrassed, but unable to apologize, already conserving my energy for the next wave of contractions.  I just shuffled into the bathroom and followed a different nurse’s orders to change.

From here, things are somewhat of a blur.  I remember pieces but everything is fragmented, broken, I assume, by the contractions.  Husband later liked to described it as an “endorphin hole,” where I was basically unreachable.  The contraction would rise up, overtake every part of me and consume me, and when it receded I could communicate like a normal human.  Well, an exhausted somewhat terrified human in the midst of child labor.

The birth plan I had written months before specifically stated SEVEN pain management techniques before I wrote the words, “I am not opposed to an epidural, but I would like to wait as long as possible.”

Literally the birth plan text

I never even tried those seven other methods. I asked for the epidural within half an hour of getting to the hospital.  Why beeline for the epidural after alllllllllll the careful planning?  Let me explain.  After literally puking on the hospital floor, I sat on the toilet of the hospital bathroom, naked, holding a new puke bag and my brain piped up:  “Remind me again why we don’t want the epidural?  Like, what is the benefit of fully experiencing this debilitating pain?” And then I puked into the stupid bag.  “Literally, why opt out?  So you can tell people that you did all this without an epidural?  You know there’s not an award, right?  Seriously are bragging rights really worth this shit?” I puked again.  “Fuck that!”  Husband was surprised.  The nurses were surprised.  Husband quietly suggested one of my seven planned “natural” techniques.  I not-so-nicely told him to can it.

After wrapping me in the barest of hospitals gowns, the nurse directed me into bed.  THE bed.  The one in the movies.  The one that moves in all the different ways, with the stirrups and the nice warm sheets.  The quiet little nurse informed me that she needed 30 minutes of continuous monitoring and 30 minutes of an IV before I could get my epidural.  Thirty minutes until that sweet, sweet pain relief.

Of course the word “continuous” means “without stopping.”  My thirty minutes kept getting pushed back because I kept vomiting, which made me lurch forward, and off came all the monitoring equipment. Which the nurse would try to put back on before the next wave of nausea materialized.  And because I had been vomiting for a good hour at least, I was incredibly dehydrated, which meant that my IV line couldn’t get in.  My quiet little hospital room started to fill with nurses as they stuck my arm once… three times… five times…. New nurses kept coming in.  Each one made a special point to tell me her name.  Like, really?  I’m vomiting my guts out while breathing through unmediated contractions, I don’t give a shit about your name.  At one point, six nurses surrounded my bed, poking my arm and calmly discussing the options.  Purple-green bruises popped up on my arms.  Meanwhile, I’m STILL throwing up and breathing my way through contractions.  The labor and delivery nurse kept trying to coach my breath.  “In through your nose, out through your mouth.”  Which really pissed me off because I was doing the breathing from my damn labor class.  But every time I made up my mind to slap her, someone would stick my arm or I would hurl.

An hour (more? less? time is strange when you’re in that much pain) later, I’m still vomiting, the IV isn’t in, which means pain relief is still far away, I start to feel panicky.  The L&D nurse is contradicting what I learned in labor class about breathing, so I started to lose control of my breathing.

Basically, I started to lose my mind.

Which is really the last thing that a woman in labor wants.  You already feel like your body is moving without you, so the few things you do have control over (like your breath and your thoughts) are really precious.  So pain, plus vomiting, plus anger at this stupid nurse, PLUS I can’t fricking talk to her because the pain is so bad annnnnnnnnnd I had all the ingredients for…


A panic attack.

I am no stranger to panic attacks.  I have experienced those frightening little suckers since adolescence and they are NOT something to be taken lightly.  My main go-to for a panic attack is to crouch into a dark little room (AKA a closet) and breathe it out.  Usually with lots of tears.  Yeah, not happening when I am in bed surrounded by nurses trying to get an IV into my damn arm, contractions coming on top of each other, and my belly wrapped in equipment.

I started to feel extremely claustrophobic and overwhelmed, the pain started to feel unbearable.  Bad things were happening.  Very bad things.  But how do you tell everyone to shut up so you can have a panic attack?  You don’t.  I lay back in bed and imagined the horror of a panic attack in labor.  My breath quickened, my pulse started to pick up, my fists clenched.

At literally the best possible moment, right as a panic attack started to become a very real possibility, the door swung open and my midwife walked in the room.

I cannot sing the praises of midwifery accurately.  My group of midwives had led me through pregnancy in a way that made me feel like a fertile goddess.  They helped me feel confident and educated, answered every stupid question and assuaged all our ridiculous (and sometimes extremely valid) fears.

Jenn the Midwife hit my room with a wave of calm, she sauntered in and silently demanded the room to calm down with just her strut and her eye balls.  The hospital would have knelt before her had she demanded.  In she walked, right past my anxious Husband and the congregating nurses, straight to my bedside.  In her cold but so comforting hands, she took one of my hands and she started speaking.

To this day, I have zero recollection of what she said.  I remember only her tone–firm, calm, confident, real.  Somehow, in a couple sentences, she restored my confidence in myself.  I felt calm and secure and in charge but also cared for.  She coached me through the ensuing contraction, her attentive and loving focus on me, and then Jenn the Midwife took over the room.

The IV got in.  Anti-nausea and anti-anxiety meds were administered.  The extra nurses cleared out.  A soft man came and administered an epidural.  My fears about the epidural had long been replaced with an overwhelming desire for pain relief.  Finally, someone got a hand up me and checked. I  was 6 centimeters dilated.  Six centimeters is a long way to go in just a couple hours.  It was no wonder I was overwhelmed.  As the epidural kicked in, I was instructed to rest and relax.  Apparently, people can nap while in labor.  Nurses changed shifts.  I listened to music.  The pain hung around me.  Occasionally I would have to breathe through a contraction, but it was no longer all-consuming, penetrating everything.

God bless the epidural.

I thought about the baby a lot, through all of this.  He brought me a great deal of comfort.  Not because he was the “prize” at the finish line (I detest that turn of phrase in regards to labor) but rather, he and I were in this together.  I was not alone, nor was my pain for naught: every contraction we were both working towards meeting.  I mean, I knew him–I grew him.  We had been communicating for 9 months, by touch and by energy.  But now we would look each other in the eye, see each other, hold each other.  I imagined every contraction pushing him down, widening the cervix.  Despite the pain, I refused to fight the contractions; instead, I channeled them.  I focused my attention and my energy towards working with those contractions, I leaned into them, I let them overtake my body but not my mind and I embraced them.  Of course, all of this was a whole lot easier since I wasn’t throwing up or getting coached by an idiot nurse.

Around this time, as I focused on relaxing, my best friend Michelle came.   I’ve known Michelle since high school.  Where I am a straight-laced rule-follower, Michelle is a sort of nomadic hippie who literally lives life on highlines in the air.  I remember talking to her through sleepy blinks, describing what had happened so far.  She seemed uncomfortable at first.  I wondered vaguely if she was disappointed in me for getting the epidural, she’s definitely in favor of the natural side of life.  Occasionally, a contraction would break through my haze and I would have to breathe through it.  I had discovered that holding a hand was helpful.  It made me feel less alone, and it gave me something to focus on.  I grabbed Michelle’s hand.  That seemed to give her a purpose and she embraced the supportive role.

Which had really been her role from the beginning.  She was one of the first people I told about my pregnancy.  I occasionally waffled with the idea of her presence at my delivery, however.  It’s an extremely intimate event.  Bonding.  Of course my husband was there, but should someone else be there?

A note about Husband.  He’s a bit of a sideline in my mind for this event, but he was present.  And he was his best self, as best as he could be.  But the simple truth is this: Blood freaks him out.  Pain freaks him out.  He wanted (and I know he wanted) to be as supportive as possible, but he was also becoming a dad and totally unsure of how to support me.  So he did it as he knew how to do it: he controlled the environment (who could be in the room), he did all the contacting (so that I wouldn’t have to worry about anything outside my hospital room), and he had EXPLICIT orders to leave the room if he started to panic or get woozy.

Michelle was my back-up plan.  Michelle was to take over Husband’s role should he freak out.  In his heightened state of protection, Husband double-checked to make sure Michelle could be “allowed” in the room.  Nervous, I said yes, with the caveat that I could change my mind.  I never did, although she would have been gracious.  Thank goodness for Michelle.  She offered the perfect counterbalance to Husband–where he was a sort of masculine anxiety (in a terribly loving way, of course) she was a feminine calm.  They complemented each other, both provided two sides to what I needed.

The urge to push came far sooner than expected.  Around 9:00 am (remember my water broke at like 1:00 am) the contractions broke through the epidural barrier and I felt myself “leaning into” them.

Some women describe pushing as “a relief.”  I hated it.  Hated.  It.  Like, I literally remember laying there between contractions, staring at the ceiling, thinking, “Okay, I’m done.  Let’s go home.”  Of course, that’s not how labor works, and I was too exhausted between contractions to actually say anything, but damn.  If I could’ve sat up and walked out, I think I would have tried.

Determined (and painfully aware that there wasn’t any going back), I worked to channel the pushing and not fight it.  Jenn the Midwife coached me.  I clung to her words desperately, hanging on them and soaking them up like my survival depended on it.  It wasn’t like the movies–no screaming, no cursing.  Lots of careful breathing and low moaning, encouraging words, and a marked increase of movement and activity in the room.  I ignored almost everything.  I focused on listening to my body, on implementing Jenn’s instructions, on breathing.  Michelle, who held my hand and massaged my leg, kept saying, “You’re so brave.”  I didn’t feel brave.  I felt strong, though.

Due to the pain and exhaustion, I was unable to communicate more than a nod or a word.  My labor and delivery nurse moved my leg.  For some reason completely lost to me now (was I pushing the leg into her? Maybe?) I really liked the feeling of my leg held like she had it.  When she went to put it back down, I meant to say, “Hey, could you keep doing that?  It feels nice and is really helpful.”  Except, I didn’t have the energy for all that so instead I sat up and pointed and said, “No!”  She held my leg for the rest of the delivery.  At one point, between pushes, I overheard Michelle and Husband debating eye color.  One said he would have green eyes.  The other thought grey or hazel.  I wanted to tell them, “Blue!  They’ll be blue!”  I didn’t have the strength to speak.

I knew things were picking up when people starting saying, “There he is” and when Husband started gasping.  He stood by my head, a hand in my hair, and he counted with Jenn the Midwife.  I found all of those things extremely annoying, but I didn’t have the strength to say, “Knock it off!”  My baby boy was getting close; we all knew it.

And then… the urge to push ceased.  I leaned back, chest heaving.  Everyone was silent.  My rest in between stretched double, then triple its normal amount.  “This is a big one,” the delivery nurse said.  The room held its breath.  I lay on my back and panted.

The push contraction, when it came, was dizzying.  And then, all at once, Jenn the Midwife said, “Molly, look down.”  I did.  And there he was.

Everything fell away.  Everything.  There were no nurses, no hospital, no sound.  I reached out for that baby, that naked, blood-coated baby, and pulled him to me.  I felt a small pop as I did so, but I only had eyes and focus for that beautiful baby.  He started crying.  My heart fell into little pieces: crying meant life.  He was alive and breathing and here.

“Hello, beautiful,” I said.  Then I said it again and again.  Slowly, the crying calmed and he blinked those big eyes open and looked directly at me.  He had the darkest blue eyes.  Beautiful, alert eyes.  My heart assembled itself larger and softer and it ached with all the love.  My beautiful child, my son.

Dimly, I became aware of the activity of the room.  There was talk about blood and the nurses kept asking me to adjust and move so they could look at these big patches of blood on my gown and the hospital sheets.  When did those get there?  It seemed like a lot of people were in the room with us.

Ten minutes into holding and talking to my perfect baby, a nurse told me that they needed to take him.  She spoke softly and reassuringly and insisted that it was just to be sure, that there was nothing to worry about.  I said it was fine, as long as Husband could be with the baby the whole time.

Then the room cleared.  Just me and Michelle, and Jenn the Midwife and a nurse.  Jenn the Midwife stitched me up (not as horrifying as it sounds after you’ve just pushed out a baby and you’re still under the epidural) while Michelle talked to distract me.  I was shockingly okay without my baby there.  I mean, I missed him, I wanted to be with him, but I wanted him to be healthy more than anything.

I later learned that his cord had ruptured on delivery–an extremely rare occurrence (none of the nurses, midwife, or pediatricians had seen it before) and it resulted in quite a lot of blood loss to my son.  Luckily, Jenn the Midwife was on top of it and clamped the cord before too much was lost, but his blood pressure sky rocketed, prompting a visit to the NICU where they ran some blood tests to ensure his health.  There, Husband loved on him, holding his hand and talking to him.


After I was stitched up and Jenn the Midwife had shown Michelle and me the placenta (soooooo cool, by the way) I started to get anxious to see my child again.  I just… missed him.  How can you miss something you literally just met?  Nurses and Husband ran back and forth to give me updates, so I knew he was stable and interactive, they were just running tests.  My mother in law preceded him when they brought him back.  She gave me a hug and said something, but over her shoulder I could see him being brought into the room.  All I wanted was to hold him.  The mother in law moved, they handed me my baby, and literally the entire world was perfect.

Of course, the “fun” had only began, but it was my beginning.  And in that moment, I was thrilled.IMG_1329

The Whiteboard Set-Up

As the first weeks of school get rolling, a common teacher blog post is the classroom set up.  I love reading all the set up stories, instructions, and creative ideas (I really do,) BUT… I find so little of it useful to me.  At my last school, teachers were very limited to what they could physically do to the classroom.  I couldn’t paint, I couldn’t add to or change the furniture in any way, and I was just barely allowed to hang up posters.  The system gave the school a uniform and professional appearance, but left me itching to add a personal touch.

Uniform, Professional
Uniform, Professional (And insane bright light at the end of the day, sorry about that.)

Hence, the whiteboard set up.

Almost every classroom has a whiteboard.  Mine had two: one behind the projector screen (which I rarely used, because projector) and another up front and clear.  The set-up I used (still use, actually,) worked extremely well for me – so much so that my colleagues asked where I had gotten my materials and if the students liked it.  You are welcome to modify and make use of it for your classroom.  I find that this set up is helpful to the students and myself, appeases administration demands, costs nothing, and looks great.

The purpose:

This is another way to give your students (and your admin) a very clear purpose for the day.  It’s about organization and consistency.  It’s about state standards.  It’s about flow and expectations.

The materials:

  • Colorful whiteboard markers
  • An eraser
  • Magnetic strips or colored tape (I used 12 inch strips and lined them up)
  • Whatever else you deem important (for me, that’s some colorful/relevant paper posters)

The sections:

The white board areas

  • 7th grade week ahead
  • 8th grade week ahead
  • Journal prompts (or whatever else you would like to call/decorate your weeks)
  • The daily agenda
  • The assorted area (that blank space in the upper left)

7th and 8th grade week ahead:

Week ahead from August

Using your tape or magnetic strips, divide out two (or however many classes you teach) vertical sections of board.  Yes, I do recommend using something physical to divide it.  Drawn lines will work, but the physical separation of something they can’t slyly erase helps the students mentally divide the sections.  Students are… special like that.

Most schools now require teachers to post their daily objective or a state standard focus.  I post one for every day, starting on Monday.  Administration sees I am following the rules and students see the purpose and goal of what we are learning. I used used the SWBAT form (Students Will Be Able To), which I talked about with my students.  Currently, I use “I can” statements, because admin likes that phrasing. By posting it for the whole week, students can look ahead and feel like all is planned and I, the teacher, can stay on topic.

Helpful hint: Color code.  On my board, homework always shows up in black (it’s the easiest to read; none of that “I couldn’t see it from back here”).  Make your own color code.  Do students need certain materials on certain days?  Do you have a weekly quiz?  This is especially helpful for students with an IEP or 504, as the colors provide a sort of built-in organization.

Journal Prompts:

I use my journal prompts on the left to mark out the days of the week (made by this fabulous friend from whom I am always stealing things,) but you can use your own way to indicate days.  Again, I highly recommend something tangible, not written in dry erase.  It really helps add that sense of physical separation.  Plus, do you really want to be writing “Monday, Tuesday…” every week?

The daily agenda:

I am a firm believer in the daily agenda.  Not only do certain students like to see what we are doing all class period, it helps me.  You know how it is: you get rolling, a discussion happens, then you’ve forgotten to take roll and announce that really important administration thing.  By posting the agenda, I keep myself on track (and if I don’t, you can bet the students will).

I always write the homework here too, so students are never interrupting class to ask, “Do we have homework?”

The daily agenda and the assorted section

The assorted area:

This one varies based on what you need.  The only trick is: it shouldn’t be a working area.  It should be semi-permanent (like the rest of the board).

Right now I’ve got the TRIBES learning communities agreements up there (thanks again, to that great friend,) but that’s just for a couple weeks as I reinforce these agreements.  The first week of school I wrote the class schedule.  Next week, the class is learning about something called alpha and beta goals, so I’ll write Mrs. M’s beta goals up there.

The full picture (Yes, I know 7th and 8th grade are the same this week. It worked out that way.)

I usually do my entire board in one sweep before school starts on Monday, then add little changes as the week goes.  Administration loves it because they can see I have a purpose behind every day.  I love it because, frankly, it appeals to my aesthetic nature and it adds personal touch to an otherwise uniform room.  The students love it because it gives them vital information and has a consistency that I know they crave.

I have used this format in all three classrooms I’ve taught in, including summer school in a room I didn’t even have a desk drawer.  It works everywhere.

I couldn’t find a picture, but I took a still from a video that was used for a class project.  In the background, you can see this set up.  Looks nice, works nice.


{This post originally appeared on SecondaryDreamTream.  I have edited for clarity and added based on experience.}