The First Picture
This picture shows up every year in my Facebook memories. It is the very first picture of our family completed, taken by my sister. Red is 7 weeks old, admittedly there should have been one sooner. Believe it or not though, once upon a time I was not great at taking pictures. Now, I am just bad at sharing them. Baby steps, people.
I always get a kick out of this photo. It is proof that we have never been able to take a serious picture. Blondie was just 4 years old and slowly returning from the depths of terrible toddler-hood to become a sweet goofball. The Dude was the happiest one year old you ever met, alternating constantly between wanting to cuddle and testing his complete lack of fear by climbing on everything with a triumphant “Ta Da!”. And Red? Well, he was a wrinkly slacker who slept when he wasn’t eating and loved to spend all day being held by his mama while she chased after his brother. But I adored him still.
It was a great day. We wandered around the hotel for hours, taking in all the beautiful Christmas decorations. The kids ate fresh gingerbread cookies and Blondie even made snowballs. The Dude, having just started really walking a few weeks before decided this was the day he would master running. And my sweet ginger babe still had that new baby smell.
What do I see in this picture? My family, my people, my favorite things about this life. I see love, pure love. It was something we never lacked and honestly, some days it was all we had.
What You Can’t See
I am going to be brutally honest here. I am telling you that now because I don’t want you to hurt and now is the time to skip to the end if you want. Here is your chance to hop to the last section, it won’t hurt my feelings. But I encourage you to stick with me, you may need to hear it or someone you know may need you to hear it.
Here is the truth.
I see two boys, who were both on the brink of some medical issues. Short term for Red and long term for The Dude. Absolutely nothing life threatening. But oh man, the struggle was and continues to be real.
I see all the shit that went down in just a few years for us. Decade long fertility issues, miscarriages. The death of one parent and the decisions made by others that led us to step away from them and lose that family base. The recession hitting us like a bus, losing both our house and Moose’s job. Multiple moves. Going back to school, changing careers, and struggling for years financially.
I see a marriage that was really struggling. It was rough. I will be honest, I am not even sure how Red was even conceived. We loved each other, absolutely but life was so hard and the hits just kept coming. I don’t know if we have a deep understanding that marriage is a mountain range or we are just too lazy to divorce but thankfully we held on.
I see exhaustion. You guys. In the midst of everything above, we had 3 babies in 4 years. Largely alone. There was very little in the way of a village. We were so f’ing tired. Physically and emotionally. I don’t even know how to adequately describe it.
And Then There Was This
So I said this was a great day and it really was. I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. But here is the deal.
Standing at the edge of the parking garage at that hotel, I waited for Moose to get the kids out of the car and wondered briefly what would happen if I just fell. I wish I could say that was the first time I had that kind of thought. I wish I could say it was the last. Both would be lies though. But the truth is, I wondered if death would be easier than life within hours of this photo being taken.
I was deep in the throes of postpartum depression here. I suffered silently with all three kids. Once when Blondie was about 3 months old, I had voiced my concerns to my doctor and he said I should learn to control my emotions. Mortified, I left and decided that suffering alone was what he meant. (Yes, I know how fortunate I am to have made it to the other side of my PPD.)
What’s The Lesson Here
Well, I have 3 lessons really.
Pictures don’t always tell the whole story. Social Media statuses don’t always tell the whole story. People don’t always tell the whole story. I share that photo almost every year and never once have I shared that story or our struggles at the time. So hear me out, I know things.
Don’t compare your lives to what you see. Especially this time of year. Shit looks perfect. But it’s not. TRUST ME. Marriages are failing, kids are sick or struggling, people are broke in every sense. Don’t judge them either. They may be grasping for anything they can reach, just like you. If that perfect “picture” they create helps them…well, let’s just say I get it.
It gets better. Okay, it ebbs and flows. Something is always going to suck. Find a way to let the good outweigh the bad. Not easy, I know but please believe me that there is an exit to every cave. I am here to tell you life can be pretty damn good and you deserve it.
Be someone’s village and allow them to be yours. Help and be helped. I am a lifetime away from the first photo. We all are. But it wasn’t a one man job. Some have come and gone, some are lifers, some I haven’t even met in person. If you suspect someone needs you, be there. And if you need help, please don’t be silent.