By: Sinead Quinn-Biskup at grateful-wellness.com
My life was what I considered pretty normal until my first son was born, then it got pretty complicated very quickly. But it’s also funny, but dark funny, like in a dark comedy this shit can’t be real kinda funny. But instead of explaining it all in detail, I am going to keep it brief and start it off from when I got married.
I got married at 27 yrs, at 31 yrs we had our first baby. We have 3 kids. Popped them all out pretty quickly, 3 babies inside 4 years and inside those 4 years was the bit where life got complicated…at points absolute chaos. Our first son was born and then diagnosed with Down Syndrome 3 days later. My Dad was then diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer. I fell pregnant with baby no. 2. She arrived at 28 weeks – lived and thrived and screamed literally every inch of the way. Dad died. I fell pregnant with baby no.3. Mom had surgery it went wrong and she ended up on life support for pretty much 5 months, she lived – much to the disbelief of the entire medical team. Baby no. 3 arrived safely, but only after almost losing him at 23 weeks… In that time we also moved house twice and nearly went broke.
I remember one day standing out into our garden and walking up to my husband, it was a really hot day baby no.3 was about 2 weeks old, I was so tired I could have slept standing, more than likely I had milk dripping from my bra and food or poo or both on my clothes. I turned to my husband and said…
I think I totally fucked up our lives.
And I was very serious. With tears rolling down my face in that moment it all felt like it was too much and everything came crashing down on me. Every. Damn. Thing.
I had postnatal depression – I mean… are you surprised? I wasn’t.
I took myself to the Dr. and built a support network around myself, got a therapist and used it as a safe place to cry for an hour each week.
Before that point in time I was possibly one of the most annoyingly optimistic people you could meet, but that day I finally hit a wall. I remember not too long afterwards walking down the street wearing one of those baby carrier wraps and pushing the stroller with my two toddlers in it. The baby wrap just wouldn’t stay in place and the baby kept sliding out, so I was trying to push the stroller with one hand while stopping the baby from hitting the footpath with my other. All the kids were screaming crying, tantrums, red faces, snot bubbles, the works and then the stroller hit a pothole in the footpath and almost toppled over.
I look up and there were people on the other side of the street staring at me and I just start to laugh. And laugh, and laugh and laugh. But it was a crazy lady laugh, not a normal laugh totally crazy arse laugh… I definitely looked like and sounded like a crazy lady. If there was EVER a walking billboard for birth control… in that moment I was the billboard. Laughing crazy lady, with 3 screaming babies and a stroller stuck in a pothole – walking billboard for birth control.
I can’t say there was a pinnacle point in the year that followed when life turned around. But I do know that it got easier. Slowly but surely the clouds cleared, the sun shone and life improved. But when I looked in the mirror I looked like death. There was no way around it, I was fat, faded and fatigued. My self esteem was in the toilet and I hated my body and my brain was fried. My body was failing me.
My feet ached, my back hurt and I was wearing my maternity jeans well past what I suspected is acceptable. My skin was a mess with hormonal acne, hair limp and greesy and let’s not even talk about the hairy spider legs and revival of the 70’s bush along my bikini line.
As women we live life often believing when we become Moms it’s going to be magical. Pregnant with our first, it’s rainbows and unicorns with an image of the perfect baby, with the perfect sleep routine and the perfect baby clothes in photos that are all instagram worthy. And Perfect.
But the reality is, even if you didn’t have the shit storm of chaos we had, parenting is hard. Life can be really god damn hard. I don’t know exactly what made me stop and assess what the fuck was going on in my life. But watching my Dad die of cancer way too young and my Mom almost die under the knife definitely helped. As did pure unadulterated vanity! I started to realise. I had to stop focusing on everyone else around me and focus on me. I needed to look after ME even if it involved dragging my kids and husband kicking and screaming along the way.
I threw out the takeaway menus, deleted the local pizza delivery number from my phone and went to the green grocer and bought some damn kale and a blender.
I hired a personal trainer and signed up for a 2km open water swim to raise money for Cancer Research in my Dad’s memory, taking my grief and turning it into something to make him proud. But can I just add on a side note here, that apart from it forcing me to take care of the ‘yeti situation’ going on below my waist line, that swim was hands down, one of the worst ideas I’ve ever had. I got so sea sick after every training session I would often vomit in the car park and the water was so cold I had to wear a wetsuit. It was awful, but I was proud as hell I completed it.
In totally I lost over 40lbs I changed my nutrition, cutting out sugar, shifting my mindset and my focus and slowly but surely with those shifts my optimism started to creep back in and I realised, I had the opportunity to change my path and change the story of my life. It was up to me whether I continue to write a tragedy or opt for a comedic adventure. For me the choice was easy… even though the path is not always smooth.
That was almost 6 years ago and in the time since then we moved to America from Melbourne, Australia – that is another entire blog post in itself. I went back to school to study Integrative Nutrition and digestive health – through that I discovered I have Celiac Disease and Hypothyroid – and started my business as a health and wellness coach for busy moms, I work with weight loss, autoimmune disease and lifestyle changes so they can create the shifts I know are possible.
I even got qualified as a yoga teacher – though it’s unlikely I’ll ever teach a class in my life lol! I did it for myself, I think it might have also been part of a midlife crisis… highly possible.
I am 41 now, still married and still with 3 kids – 10 yrs, 8 yrs and 6 yrs, we also now have 2 dogs. Life can be busy to say the least, our eldest son – as I mentioned in the beginning has Down Syndrome and we discovered along his journey, also severe speech apraxia. So life definitely has a bit of ‘extra’ stuff to deal with and thrown into the mix.
But, over the past 10 years I have learnt a lot about myself. I have dug deep, faced unknown fears, stepped up in situations I never saw coming, I am stronger than I ever thought possible. I am a problem solver extraordinaire. I now feel more love than I ever imagined I could actually feel and that loves continues to grow every day – for my husband, my children, my brother, my Mom and my Dad. And most importantly, for myself.
I know that no matter what happens on the crazy arse roller coaster of life, that in the darkest places there is always a light, even in the moments when it felt like my heart had been physically ripped open, there was something to be grateful for.
Through grief we can find love, through pain we can find happiness, through heartache we can rise up, through darkness we can find humor.
Life can be totally fucked up, putting big arse potholes in our path when we least expect them. But it is up to us what we do when we hit them. We can sit down and wallow in it. Or we can laugh like a crazy lady, rise up and dust ourselves off and follow the light.
I followed the light and will continue to follow the light. Always looking for the silver lining in the darkness and sun behind the clouds. Often our whole family – including my brother and Mom – looks like a big bag of chaos and craziness, with screaming, yelling, dogs barking and laughter, but there is so much amazing beautiful love it’s impossible not to follow the light.