#Throughfire

As Quarantine began, the community led by Catholic Creatives exploded with innovators inspired to help others through their struggles. We faced our own giants of fear and trepidation, but something in us drove us to community and fellowship. My desire was to fill social media with art to help with the constant deluge of news all over our feeds. I went to Catholic Creatives who had a similar desire and together we launched the #throughfire.

We asked that you create art and share it on every form of social media. Now, the quarantine is at an awkward point of being kind of over but not really, and #throughfire is changing. Catholic Creatives must get back to their daily projects, so suzannagoretti.com will be the new home for the project. I will be sharing your art and hopefully getting to talk to you as you create it. I hope to get all kinds of projects involved so we can all see how many of us are joining together to walk through fire hand in hand.

Please continue to share your amazing works, so that we can keep this fire going. Thank you for all you are doing to bring Beauty to the darkness.

Today is a Marathon, not a Sprint

I’m going to tell you about my favorite mom secret. The way I handle the days when everything is falling apart and you don’t even want to open your eyes, let alone run after toddlers all day long. It started when I was pregnant with my youngest and exhausted from HG. Willow and I would curl into a ball together on the couch and watch ‘The Chew.’ She snuggled her head into me and held my arm around her. They were these perfect quiet moments in the midst of chaos. Sage has not quite picked this cuddle habit up yet, but the idea remains the same. My motto for those days is “Today is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Monday should have been one of those days. I woke up heavy-lidded 3 hours early wanting nothing more than to crash back to sleep. I was determined to be better than what I had in me that day, inner me had a whip and was not afraid to use it. I can almost hear her even now, “GO! Make an omelette! Clean everything! You’re disgusting why is it dirty? Why aren’t you playing with the girls better? DO IT ALL RIGHT NOOOOWWW!!!” And you know what? I did. I rocked Monday. We played board games, we cleaned, we ate fancy all day, we worked out….twice, we did the laundry(we read books.)

Then, came Tuesday. I was angry and hopeless. I hated everything. I was so tired I did not even want to move and the kids touching me made my skin crawl because all I wanted was to sleep. In true waterfall fashion, all the stresses of Monday and Tuesday fell onto Wednesday evening ending me up in tears that bled over to the 4 am wake up. I have officially declared an emergency marathon not a sprint day, to make up for the two that should have been.

Runners talk often about the difference between a marathon and a sprint. In a sprint, you go all out as fast as you can because it’s such a short distance, but if you are running a marathon, you run at a slower, steady pace acknowledging that you need to preserve energy. Sometimes, as moms, we need to take a minute and rest, refuse to hold that against ourselves and allow ourselves to breathe and heal. We hold ourselves to such a high standard of working constantly on whatever the next task is, but it is so important to stop to hear our own thoughts and voice inside and catch up with ourselves. Just as runners run slow and steady when the course is long, we need to slow down sometimes because ours is even longer. Our marathon is 18 years long, and that cries out for slow and steady.

So, if you need to take a second to breathe for a day, slow your pace. Motherhood is always running, so take a break from everything unnecessary. Watch too much tv, lay around on the couch for a day, eat makeshift meals(the kids will probably like them better anyway.) Let things go a little bit. Then, when you have gotten through the marathon, build yourself back up, drink some water, take a breath, and get back up.

I hope you have a great day, and if it is a marathon day, I wish you well, and I’ll see you in the trenches. ♥️♥️

Also, for anyone who thought I was a parenting expert about 30 seconds after I wrote this I found my toddlers with my special birthday markers and theyrepeatedly tore their diapers off. I did not keep my cool.

#justbreathe #Todayisamarathonnotasprint

Finding Freedom in Motherhood

When I became a mom, I was terrified. I thought this meant I had to be into legos, Lincoln logs, and other little people toys and I was going to have to give up on everything I actually do love. The problem with this that a lot of people don’t have is that I wasn’t even into these things when I was a kid, so being forced to play with these for the rest of my life seemed like a horrifying fate. I still get the head tilt eye roll combo from some moms when I’m vocal about how much I hate that stuff.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with feeling like I had to give up and just be that mom, and it was killing me. I’m not a good mom when I try to be that quintessential mommy because it’s not me at all. This morning, though, I was reminded of how good it feels to be myself as a mother.

Yesterday, I found Useless Magic, a compilation of art and poetry by Florence Welch. I bought this for myself, to share with my oldest when she was not even one yet. It’s a beautiful red velvet art book with odd drawings and sketches, accompanied with random phrases from the wild imagination behind Florence and the Machine. She is my favorite singer and an artist I respect incredibly deeply. Willow curled into my lap and had me read it to her again and again. We traced the “Heartlines” on each other’s hands, laughed about the eye that was also a heart, and she misunderstood a song lyric to say “play dough head!”

Afterwards we scrambled to get our swimming gear on and we went to the pool to spend a glorious hour in the water and sun, which is by far my favorite activity in the world. We watched other people play, and ran our fingertips through the water, spun, and splashed. It was amazing, and the great thing is they got the active play and sunshine they needed, and I got to do something I enjoy.

Last night, I was wondering if parenthood meant giving up everything you love and becoming a shell of yourself. Today answered me that it doesn’t have to be like that. It reminded me of how much my oldest loved staring at mandalas with me when she was only a few weeks old, how much she still loves to read classic literature(at one year old her favorite book is an old copy of Crime and Punishment we let her play with), how happy her sister is when I do yoga, and how much they both love to dance and draw. All of these things are things I am so passionate about, and often felt lonely doing them alone, but now we can enjoy them together.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how hard motherhood is, and whether or not the sacrifice is worth it, and honestly, it is hard on a level that I cannot even explain, and I’ve never felt so defeated in my life, but at the same time, there is something to it, something more than happiness, something more than joy even, maybe even something just so perfect about that moment when you see your family becoming a family. That is what you do it for, worth it or not.

The Conversation about Abortion

With all of the abortion talk going around, I have been feeling so sad. There is so much pain on either side. It’s hard for me to take a side because I feel like I understand the arguments and feelings on either side. I have felt unwanted and that feeling is devastating, and I have seen how that particular painful feeling wreaks havoc in the lives of other people who have felt that way. I can understand why someone who has experienced that would want abortion to be an option, to avoid that deep all consuming pain.

I have also experienced pregnancy that scared me out of my mind. When I was pregnant with my first, we were not prepared financially or emotionally for her. We were terrified and emotional and taken aback by the amount of crazy hormones I was experiencing and we lost her. Later, after losses and fertility struggles, when I was pregnant with my first rainbow baby, I was devastated to find out I was pregnant. I was so sure I was going to lose her that I sobbed when I saw the test and cried that I didn’t want to go through that again. I didn’t really believe she wasn’t just another loss until I stepped into our apartment and realized we could keep all of the baby stuff. What’s more is I was very very sick the whole time I was pregnant, so I also felt that pain. I know what a surprise pregnancy feels like and how scary it is. I know what a painful pregnancy feels like and how scary that is. I understand the desire to make a pregnancy go away. I think a lot of pro-life women have experienced this, but the guilt of feeling that way while believing the way they do is unimaginable-at least it was for me.

That being said, I understand that if you believe that the baby in the womb is a baby, abortion is the most monstrous act that could possibly happen. A womb is traditionally supposed to be the safest place in the universe for the baby(not that it always is-there can be issues with it-but you get my point) to take a baby who is snuggled away that safe and end it’s life is horrifying. Absolutely horrifying. (( side note- again, I have never known a pro-choice person who believes they are actually killing a child, and it doesn’t help the argument to say that to them. Accusing anyone of being a murderer is a real quick way to end charitable conversation.))

I have also experienced pregnancy and pregnancy loss and these changed the abortion narrative completely for me. My first miscarriage Emma, had a distinct beautiful personality. She was wonderful. I was terrified to have her, but I loved having her with me. I doubted this strong understanding of who she was for a long time, but both of my now-loving daughters have exactly the personality I perceived from them when I was pregnant. Willow is just as determined and clear about what she wants as I told people she was, she loves music, she loves dancing, these were all things I saw about her before she was born. Sage is calm and serene most of the time. She is a happy peaceful little one, and it shows. She was so peaceful when I was pregnant with her that I was afraid that maybe I just didn’t have a good connection with her at all. Knowing these girls, and experiencing pregnancy, has me completely convinced that they are little humans and completely seperate from me.

All of that being said, there are so many mitigating factors to the abortion argument that distance me from the pro-life movement and make it hard for me to connect to it at all.

First of all, even as a Catholic, I have seen firsthand how little help is available for families and how hard and emotionally taxing it is to get that help. I have been in situations so stressful I hated the idea of having a child. A lot of Catholics say there is so much help out there, but a lot of it has a catch to it, and the catches tend to be really big. Our culture is not set up for families right now. I had help in a lot of ways and still was completely exhausted and miserable at times. Mothers need a better village if we are going to be pro-life, not because a life without money is not worth living but because a life of financial strain can be absolutely terrifying.

Second, The people who believe in abortion ARE NOT MURDERERS!!! This makes me crazy. For years, many many years, the human race did not know when a baby had a soul, some didn’t believe they had it until they were born. There is an article St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that basically insinuates that a child doesn’t have a soul until it is born. There just was not a lot of scientific evidence for when life as a human started. Science is starting to find some amazing things about babies in the womb that are arguments that the pro-life side uses to say that the other side is ridiculous, but there are HUNDREDS of years of debate about when exactly life begins, and it takes time for new science to prove itself. It also takes time for old knowledge and traditions to die out-so there are still a lot of people who do not believe it is a child in the womb. Just because the pro-life side believes they are right does not mean that the pro-choice side is savage monsters.

Third, most pro-lifers should not even be called pro-life. They should be called anti-abortion. I have heard vicious talk about war from pro-lifers, and talk about the death penalty that scared me, and that should not happen. If every life is sacred, then a 30 year old man should be too, a bad man should be too, anyone should be. If it is so evil to end any life in any circumstances, then you should believe in preserving it under any circumstances.

Fourth, pro-life people condemning unwed mothers and talking bad about them, judging them, making nasty comments to people about how many kids they have, or ignoring them because they are exhausted and have PPD, is a real thing. Maybe not everyone, but there are a lot of pro-life people who really hurt people when it comes to children, and it is ridiculous to me, because that kind of treatment is exactly the kind of treatment that could make someone want to end a pregnancy. Motherhood needs to become something of value in our country again, and that will make people excited to have babies instead of depleted and exhausted. This doesn’t mean that women shouldn’t be able to work outside the home, on the contrary, the way we work needs to change, for men and women. Some workplaces are already getting that the persons health and happiness needs to come first, and their work second, because the work is better if you take care of the person. More need to do this.

I guess the most important point of what I am trying to say, is both sides need to calm down and really understand the other sides point of view. Yes, it is important to protect women’s rights. Yes, it is important to protect children. But we are not getting anywhere with calling each other names and hurling our own facts at each other. What the world needs is honest discussion about what each person believes and a constant effort from both sides to take care of each other.

Surprise surprise, “what the world needs now is love, love, love.”

Academy Nicholls, Here I Come

I did a thing last night.

It might be crazy. It may be a little arrogant? It takes a lot of arrogance to be an artist, or at least that’s what I tell myself so I won’t hide all of my work under a rock. Yes, this writing of mine is a conscious decision in favor of pride in the face of possible humiliation-in a way at least.

Anyway, the thing I did is bold if you say it nicely, foolish if not. We have been struggling so much with money. Last week I decided that I would use my fun money that I’ve been saving for months and all of my returns for our emergency fund and debt payoff. It was more important that little rewards right? I’m so discouraged about money, maybe that is what would make me feel better.

Then I found out that I hadn’t missed the deadline for the Academy Nicholls Fellowship.

For those of you who don’t know what that is, it is the most prestigious film competition out there for new writers. But that’s not what matters to me(although it’s the first thing I tell people so they get the context of what I did.) What matters to me, is that it is the answer to all of the prayers I’ve said this year if I get it.

It is just enough money that Patrick could stay home or work part time while he finishes school, so he could have some time to breathe, which I have been begging God for all year.

It is just enough money that we could cover everything. We wouldn’t be rolling in the dough by any means, but we would be ok. I have been asking for help with that.

I would be getting paid to write MY work. I would be getting paid to do what I always wanted to do, and not on someone else’s terms. I’d have a mentor, but I wouldn’t have to write a story fitting their guidelines. It would be mine. (Not that there’s anything wrong with getting paid to write for someone else, but this is a whole other level.) I have been asking God for this since I was born.

I would have a mentor to encourage and help me to improve my work and it would be their job to help me write another screenplay. I’ve got one almost done, one done, I’d have time to do another one. I’ve been praying for that this year.

I would have more time with Patrick and more time to breathe. I’ve been praying for this since Willow was born.

This year has been so hard. It’s hard to express how hard because some stupid things don’t make any sense if you describe them, but they can devastate you if you are having a hard enough time. I’ve noticed sometimes if I stub my toe I don’t even care, but if a day is bad enough it’s enough to resort me to a sobbing mess, or a cursing sailor. This year, has made the smallest issues into mountains that make me feel completely helpless.

It took over year for me to build the courage to do this. God has been working in so many ways in my life to prepare me. He healed my trauma about miscarriage and spiritual abuse through a hellish year teaching at a Catholic school and a horrific birth that was still the most amazing thing that could ever have happened to me. He healed the trauma from that birth a little over a year later with another birth. He healed the wounds from the Catholic school by bringing me to a new Catholic Church and Bible study.

My first time at the Bible study, I hated it. I was never coming back, until I saw the back of one of the books. “I am looking for a deeper relationship with you.” I knew without a doubt it was God talking to me. Every single time I have made it to this Bible Study He has shown up for me. He has taught me SO much. He brought me back to myself through the women that I met, the readings they supplied, and the time out that I got because of the study. I am incomprehensibly grateful for what He gave me in them.

If I tried to list all of the lies and fears that God came down and disproved this would be the longest blog in the universe, but suffice it to say that He worked on me hard, and that is exhausting and hard, but it was amazing in so many ways too.

Holy Week was like that point in labor when you decide you can’t do it and you are totally ready to give up. I started to think there was no point to anything that I had heard all year. I felt myself fading away, and I was so angry. Easter was, surprisingly, even worse.

It was awful. God sent me a free Christian concert(yes I believe it was from Him because it was my favorite Christian band and I had been longing for a Christian concert and mourning that we couldn’t afford it and this was free) and I was so excited, but then it was actually a Protestant service. I was raised that you don’t go to those, so I was in a tailspin of enjoying it, and being terrified of the guilt and shame of being there. They talked about “taking your place at the table” and “the battle is already won,” and I loved it, and I heard Jesus in it, but then I became lost in sadness about the Catholic Church and the fact that I couldn’t accept their message because I’m Catholic.

I fought that, because none of what they said went against the Church. They had a message that we are supposed to be giving and arent. And sure, I believe there are things Catholics have to offer too, but Protestants have some amazing gifts. So I prayed away the guilt and shame a little bit more everyday.

And I found out about Academy Nicholls.

Part of what I have learned this year through Dave Ramsey is that I have been serving money, not making my money serve God. I’ve got a whole lot more coming about that, and how it doesn’t always look like Scrooge hoarding money, but for now suffice it to say that I was convinced I couldn’t try for this fellowship that I believed God wanted me to try for, because money said no.

I prayed every day for the money, but I was convinced it would be a no.

Then I got the money, and I fell into despair and misery because I became sure I wouldn’t win it.

Then I went home and I read the reading from the Bible Study. Ephesians 6, about putting the armor of faith on to conquer evil in the world. And I knew.

So I entered the Academy Nicholls Fellowship competition, and I probably will not win, but, I could. With the money I spent to enter it, I bought freedom from fear financially, I bought hope, I bought one of the greatest acts of faith of my entire life, I bought a new life. So wish me luck, and say a prayer when you can for my dream job. ♥️♥️♥️

I have a theory about Post Partum Depression. I haven’t talked about it, because I’m kind of afraid I’m going to get stoned for this, but hear me out, ok? I have a theory that PPD is not really a thing as much as we think it is. I think what everyone thinks is PPD is really just a natural reaction to insane amounts of stress brought on by how completely our society neglects moms, especially at the beginning of motherhood.

Let me start this off by saying, I have said that I have PPD, and my counselor agreed. I am not saying this out of some suffering-free glass box. I am saying this out of the heart of someone who curled up on the floor in complete despair, more than once. I had to ask my husband to tell me that he wanted me alive and wanted me around, over and over again because I was so overwhelmed by it. I have been in the trenches, and they were bad.

As someone who has gone through it, I don’t know if I even believe in it. Not because I don’t believe in the suffering, but because I believe that IT IS NOT IN OUR HEADS! The problem is not women. The problem is that women are being put under insane amounts of pressure at the most vulnerable time of their lives, and then people are asking why they are having a hard time.

After birth, women have a wound NINE INCHES WIDE inside of them, and they have just gone through one of the most physically and emotionally taxing experiences in existence. I was lucky enough to have people to watch out for me for the first week after my first birth and a month after my second, and I still had a hard time. I was not feeling better by the time my family had to go back to work and daily life. They just had to go back to work and daily life.

For months after birth, women are enduring huge hormonal shifts, an adjustment to their new body, their new mind, their new life, their new child, and at the same time, most of them are dealing with working, and the ones who aren’t dealing with that are dealing with staying home with other kids, which comes with built in expectations of keeping the house clean, cooking all the meals, getting the errands done, being the best mom ever, and not worrying about money, which is no cake walk when you are dealing with all of these other things.

So moms are overwhelmed, physically and emotionally and mentally exhausted, their entire lives have changed, and everyone is telling them that everything is fine, and this is how it goes, and life is just hard. Then, we blame it on their minds that they are suffering.

My midwife gave me a list of things that would help with my feelings after birth. For a little while I had time to do them, and when I did, they helped a TON. Who has time to do anything extra with two under two though? And the people around me would ask why I wasn’t doing them, but sometimes you are barely holding your own head up, let alone able to follow all the things you are supposed to be doing.

If you are suffering PPD and you reading this, I am NOT in ANY way saying that you are not suffering, what I am saying it is possible that there is NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU OR YOUR BODY.

Women are being neglected and wronged. We do not have a society that supports women who are just starting out, that is, unless they think about having an abortion, then we will help them, either to not have the baby or to “save” it.

Women need a community to rally around them, not for a week or two, but I would say for a year. While all these hormones and changes are happening, women need extra support. Their struggles and their suffering NEEDS to matter. They need to not be told it’s “just depression,” and “maybe they should go talk to someone.” They need HELP.

I’ll just clarify here, this is a symptom of a bigger problem. I am not saying moms need help and other people don’t. I am saying our entire society is built on rushing to keep up with everything going on in our lives, but people are not helping each other. I believe we have widespread issues we are experiencing because we are not taking care of each other. I believe men need to be supported too, I believe children need to be supported. I believe everyone needs more love.

Be the love that changes the world.

Post Partum Depression

A mama who I admire and respect posted a link about Post Partum Depression today. She commented above it about her own struggle with “raging hormones” and “stream of consciousness” thoughts. My stomach clenched in excitement and fear. Someone saw me. Someone knew whats been happening to me. Something that I have been trying to hide, even from myself.

The scariest thing about Post Partum Depression, for me, is feel so out of control of my thoughts and feelings. One second I am so happy and grateful to be a mom and overwhelmed with joy, less than an hour later I’m miserable and incapable, feeling like I never should have had kids, and all I’m doing is hurting them(I’m not actually abusing them by the way, just hurting them be being upset and not the best mom I can be.) I want to have the whole house clean, both girls happy, everyone fed well, but something is always falling behind, and once it does I feel like a complete mess. I start to doubt myself and I can’t encourage myself enough to keep up with the discouraging train of thought in head.

The other thing, that only happens when I’m really really exhausted, is the intrusive thoughts. The chorus of cruel voices shouting at me, “You’re not a good mom,” “what were you thinking?” “They’d be better off if you were dead.” “Maybe you should get a job, patrick(my husband) is better at this than you anyway.” “They are going to hate you forever.” “You should just kill your self.” “They will all be so much happier if you leave.”

Even just writing these now is terrifying. These are not actions that I plan on following through, these are thoughts that have a life of their own, that I am sometimes afraid I don’t have a choice.

All of this gets so much worse when I don’t get time alone, or don’t go to counseling, or don’t do yoga, so I try to be consistent. However, sometimes someone in the family is sick, the weather is bad, I don’t get enough sleep, we don’t have enough money. Then, I am just edging through each day trying to be enough and hating myself for everywhere I fail by the end of the day.

So for those of you who know someone struggling with post partum depression, give her a hug today. Tell her it’s all going to be ok. Give her a chance to eat something slowlyand calmly. Let her know you love her, and that she is doing a good job, even if you disagree with how she does things. She already has a thousand voices in her head telling her what she’s doing wrong, and what she needs more than anything is for you to tell her that they are lying, and it’s your voice against a thousand, so give her the strongest words you’ve got.

Motherhood DID Ruin My Life

I keep seeing all these posts from other women that are supposed to be jabs at “the liberals” for talking about how miserable having lots of kids makes them.(I know I know Stereotype but it’s not my stereotype it’s theirs!) Instead it just makes me feel like they are showing off how awesome their life is.

Now I know they aren’t doing this on purpose, but having kids has been the most miserable experience of my life. For 26 years I looked forward to being married. I was so excited for everything about it but a big part of how excited I was was the sex! So obviously hubby and I had sex every chance we got when we first got married. 9 times the first day, and at least once after that.

Until we lost Emma. Now, losing Emma was not as simple as it looks in the movies. I gave up a job I had been working for for 2 years to keep her safe, Hubby and I worried constantly and panicked about the insurance and taking care of her and where she was going to live, I was miserably tired and sick the entire time I was pregnant and SO fat. I gained a whole size the 9 weeks I was pregnant with her.

Then actually losing her was the most horrifying thing you can imagine. Huge blood clots, blood constantly steaming out of me, so much blood it just constantly streamed even when I was the shower, insane cramps, and panic attacks so severe you can’t imagine. Even most of the women I know who’ve had miscarriages don’t seem to have panicked as severely as I did. I was sure I was going to die.

Then she was gone. I did not even get to hold a beautiful baby girl at the end of it. I got nothing good, just loss and utter misery. And worse, now sex, which I looked forward to for 26 years, became a nightmare. Every time we are together it becomes about avoiding a baby, no simple love anymore. Charting, dating, recording, timing. All conspiring to make it really hard to just enjoy each other.

Then I got sick of it. We tried again. Lost Charlie at 3 or 4 weeks. I didn’t even get far enough to feel like I can grieve him. But I know he was there, and that was a miscarriage clot. I NEVER have clots at the time of the month, and that time of the month was way too early to not be losing my baby boy. That was followed by quite a panic attack.

Then, I find out that my religion forbids oral sex. I asked priests for 2 years if they did, but I don’t find out they forbid until it becomes the only way I survive our time avoiding. So my religion is in tatters and has become a weapon against my survival.

Now if I go to Church I have to listen to them talk about how great women are if they have lots of babies. And if I go to a Catholic young adults group my husband and I get stares, and glares, and other couples boasting about getting pregnant after “only 3 months” of being married. Well, I TRIED. I did not want to have kids, but I gave it a chance because I love my husband and my Church wanted us to have kids, and I did not want to do NFP. And only 3 months? We were pregnant within a week. And in that week we lost our chances for a blissful first year of being newlyweds.

And that is just a taste of everything motherhood has done to me.

So, motherhood didn’t ruin your life? Great. Good for you. I am glad you got so fucking lucky. But I didn’t. Motherhood ruined me. I am a completely different person now, and I don’t want to be her. This isn’t who I am. But now it is.

The Ever-Mother Part 2

“But” the poor one groaned in ignorance,
How could you loose the chains ignominible?
They each tread diamond black on my chest,
And render dirty hands incapable.
A glare descended from nearby on high,
A towerer who had come to her once
And asking dear one to with the Lord’s will comply
Looked on with joy as she was crowned since.
He challenged mortal heart of questing doubt
And chided for her solitary woe.
Why would you try to live, endure, without,
When one so pure has come now to bestow?
Hush, little one, SHE, ever-mother said,
Go to her heart, go rest your weary head.

 

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