Perfectly Imperfect Perfect Mom-It's A Magical Life

Perfectly Imperfect Perfect Mom

Some days I feel like I have motherhood figured out, I’m on my game, house cleaned, healthy meals cooked, laundry washed AND FOLDED (it’s a huge accomplishment) the kids have had no screen time, I’ve had meaningful conversations with my mom and my best friend. The stress is low and the frown lines aren’t getting deeper. Those days I manage to do all of the things, and I’m happy with myself. I feel like I’m actually doing a good job. But then there are days where I’m lucky if I even make it to 10am without an inner meltdown. Everything is wrong, everyone is crazy, the house is a mess, I’m a mess, and I’m far from enjoying every moment...the kids are on my last nerve, theyve spilled anything thats in front of them, they’ve pulled out every single toy, and I swear they’ve forgotten how to speak and are now just screaming random vowels..and I can’t, I just fucking can’t. So I yell, and I lose my shit, and I’m not the worlds greatest mommy. Those days when I’m too stressed out and have no time to or just don’t want to (gasp! I know! Terrible!) play hide and seek, are the days I really don’t think I have this mom thing down at all. I feel like I’m drowning and can’t even comprehend how any moms have it together all of the time. Or even half of the time. I wish I could be the mom I am on the good days, when I’m breezing through the day, every day. I wish I didn’t have those crazy, what the hell am I doing days. How am I trying to find the balance still, after three kids? But the truth is, that is the balance, you have great days and you have shitty days, you have Pinterest mom days and hot mess mom days. Whatever mom you are that day, you are still there, trying to mom. You are doing the best you can do, how ever much it is you can do that day, however little you can deal with that day. Showered, put together, checking off that to do list or in the same sweatpants for two days, ordering takeout for all your meals and forgetting the clothes in the wash again (yeah that’s me) it’s ok to be both, and you’re still a great mom. Because you’re loving those kids on ALL of the days. My kids feel all that love and they think I’m the best mom in the world even on those days when I can’t get my shit together. Ya know what else, they are still very well taken care of, even if their lunches were McPerfectly Prepared and came with a toy. And guess what else? They love me even if the dishes aren’t done, amazing right? I have to remind myself of that when I start feeling that mom guilt, when I’m worried that I’m failing because I can’t be on my game all of the time. When I am crying into my pizza, via hot mess moms dial-a-dinner, that the mom expectations that I put on my self, are so damn high, it’s alright if I don’t meet them at all times. That maybe I do have this mommin thing figured out for the most part. That it’s about love. There’s no  Instagram filter for real life, it’s not always perfect, and that perfectly ok. 

June 10, 2019 — Danielle Cohen
My Invisible Illness-It's A Magical Life

My Invisible Illness

I deal with and have dealt with a few, unseen but very much felt, illnesses in my life, anxiety, and what is commonly understood as depression. So In my 34 years I’ve known what it is like to be so unwell on the inside but look like there’s nothing going on, to the outside world. What I didn’t know is how some of those mental illnesses were caused by another issue completely. Some of these are misdiagnosed to be something they can easily be placed as, a common or easy diagnosis is often wrong. Instead of being the diagnosis, these illnesses should be symptoms of, caused by, or seen as a red flag for another serious underlying condition. Day to day we tend to put our own sickness and pain and sadness or worry into separate boxes, mental or physical, and I made that mistake my whole life.

What I have now, is something I would not wish on anyone. Everyday is a worsening symptom, a new ache, a new pain. I’m constantly worrying or rushing or hurrying, I am always on the flight end of fight or flight syndrome. My hands have slight tremors. My muscles spasm from nerve issues, my hands and toes go numb. I can’t sleep, even with kids where you survive on a few hours and cherish the nights you do get a solid stretch of sleep, I physically cannot shut off and doze off. I cant gain any weight, I continue to lose weight though. I’ve lost in total 108 pounds in 2 1/2 years. I’ve lost so much weight so fast my face looks sick, my eyes are sunken in, my cheekbones extremely prominent. I don’t like  how thin I am. I’m always defending my drastic weight loss, like it’s because I don’t eat or I’m on something. I’m dizzy and clumsy, and I cannot focus. My periods are abnormal, and with three kids under 5 and not wanting to expand, you want to be damn sure that you don’t unexpectedly miss any periods, so that gives my anxiety and panic a lil boost every month. 

Then there are days that I am so physically exhausted, so drained and tired I can’t get out of bed, and I thank God for my husband and that we work from home. My husband takes our three children and lets me sleep on those rare days, and I sometimes am sleeping so hard I wake up at 8pm. Those days are the hardest, I have explained them the only way I know how, I feel like I’m dying. I fully understand how Blessed I am to not be, dying, but that’s the only way I can explain the severity of it, how horrendous I must feel to put it in comparison with that. My back hurts, my bones hurt, my eyes are heavy and burn. My brain is a fog. My nerves send shocks throughout my body like fried wires. I feel like it’s because my mind and my nerves (and metabolism) are on such high speed all the time that on those days is when I crash. And everything catches up to me. Even though I feel like I don’t have an ounce of energy and can barely tolerate going through the motions of a normal day, if I didn’t have those days I might just lose my mind from the constant anxiety, panic attacks, nervousness, worry, hurried thoughts and words and insomnia. My mind and my body feel like I am a speeding train going going without any stops on a cross country trip that crashed into the ocean at the end of track, doesn’t stop, just goes over the edge when it’s at the end of the line.

When I was a teenager I was misdiagnosed with manic depression (bipolar disorder) I was treated with intense medications that never ever worked. My symptoms were no where near what I have today I had some but not as intense, but close enough. And to most doctors everything I described and even to myself doing research on bipolar disorder, made sense as to why they would give me that diagnosis. But no combination of medicine worked, for 10 years different antidepressants and antipsychotic mixes, stand alone bipolar disorder medication, nothing helped. Nothing made my anxiety better and I really didn’t understand that “mood swings” and bad PMS were not really in a normal correlation with a depression diagnosis but at the time I was like yeah I have big ups and downs, that’s what I have, ok. Really it was just bad bad anxiety. Some antidepressants made me much much more anxious actually. So I would stop them, nothing changed with stopping the medication either (except the zombie personality, that came and went with a few specific meds) and a year later I’d get overwhelmed and unable to cope and start something else and so on, sometimes an anxiety specific medication. Sleep aids, sedatives. And the self help of 

Coronas, tequila shots and redbull vodkas (ew)

At the same time as my misdiagnosis, my early teens into my 20s saw other health issues. I had ovarian cysts which were the size of oranges, and uterine fibroids. I had a surgery to remove 14 large fibroids when I was 19. I was actually told that I may never have children because of these problems. (3 babies and no problem conceiving proved THAT was a lie)

Never did I think that any of these things were related to my anxiety, or “mood swings” I didn’t even put them in the same category, this was this and that was that. Unless PMS but who the hell doesnt have that, amiright? My mind and my reproductive system two totally different types of broken, right? Wrong.

When I had my first son when I was 29 I was 225 pounds. I was completely content with the size I was though, I was never in a big hurry to diet, I didn’t feel uncomfortable being that heavy. I just was happy, all around. I had a husband who loved me and a brand new baby to focus al of my attention. About a month after he was born though, in the middle of an average day, for no reason, no triggers, my chest started to get heavy and tight, my hands went numb, then the right side of my face, I felt like I was going to pass out I couldn’t breathe, I was getting tunnel vision. I was so hot, I’m spinning. I yelled for my husband I thought I was having a heart attack or a stroke. He put the baby in his car seat threw the stroller in the car and rushed me to the ER. I laid in the hospital bed while my husband walked outside with our newborn in the stroller. They ran tests, MRI, EKG, the whole thing, and I was...dun dun dun..completely healthy. The doctor came in and gave me a pill, an Ativan, and began telling me how a lot of new mothers go through post pardem depression, but it’s also very common and not really talked about separately, to have post pardon anxiety as well and stand alone. Well my anxiety had never felt like that in my life or caused such an intense fear in me that I raced to the hospital. I have had anxiety attacks but never so physically scary, that was a terror panic attack to say the least. They said because I had a first traumatic birth experience that it’s how my brain was well coping, I guess. They didn’t tell me, that there are other things that could cause a panic attack like that, or that a postpartum condition, a hormonal one, can be an underlying cause. Also extremely common within the first few months after having a baby. Nope. They kept me a little while longer until I calmed down indefinitely and sent me home to follow up with a doctor for my anxiety, I left embarrassed but honestly so confused as to how physically intense that was. But with the birth of my second son all of those questions were finally about to be answered and all of the confusion put to rest.

I had already begun to lose an insane amount of weight in the first year of my oldest sons life. (60 pounds) The next year brought so much new I had no time to think about my racing mind, life was racing right along with it. I started my own company, I had a whole new priority along with the huge responsibility of helicopter momming my first little boy. I don’t even think I realized how bad my anxiety, insomnia and “mania” really were because I didn’t stop, so none of those things hindered me, they helped me if anything. But they were getting worse.

Late in the year I had a miscarriage that absolutely broke me. That was the depression I had, the only time I had really felt that way honestly, I was always just used to being nervous and worried but never sad or hopeless or empty. I was unmedicated and decided to stay that way because I wasn’t allowing any more medicine to try to fix myself or mess with my mind when it wasn’t helping. It was normal to feel this way when experiencing a loss and I was not going to feel ashamed for that either. All around me were lives that I needed to be ok for. So I stuffed all of those emotions inside and I mean stuffed like vacation wardrobe for 5 people in one bag and kept on going. Three months later I was blessed by getting pregnant again. My rainbow baby boy. Not very long in between and not enough time for me to process grief and except insane joy. And not enough time for them to notice my hormone levels. I had a healthy second pregnancy but could not gain much weight. The doctor said that was a blessing, most woman would love that problem. I was worried. But I’m always worried, so that was the end of that. Stuffed that worry in with the rest of those emotions.

Two months after the birth of my second son when I was 32 years old, the same intense panic attacks retuned, along with more dramatic weight loss, I had lost all of the very small amount of baby weight, then another 30 pounds in 60 days. My eyes were black underneath, my hair fell out, my face was grey. All of this to anyone around me was just from having a new baby and a toddler running around. Oh you’re just worn out! I began having severe headaches, I looked bad, and to myself scary. Why wasn’t I happy? I had my second baby and “bounced back” skinnier than ever and I’m always panicky, of course I would blow this out of proportion. One night, after I’d gotten everyone to sleep, stressed out from things I didn’t get accomplished from the day, my mind still in overdrive, I was sneaking a cigarette (bullshit habit I’d picked back up) I stood there, inhaled and hoping that when I exhaled I’d somehow feel relief, or relaxed. Exhaling, I stretched my neck, my head upwards as I blew out the smoke, and I randomly ran my hand down my throat. 

“What the hell is that?!” I yelled out loud to myself. Panic. Fear. A massive lump right at the base of my neck. I had not felt that there before, how didn’t I notice this? It’s huge. How did something this big just appear. I flicked my cigarette and ran to the basement bathroom stretching my neck in the same way looked in the mirror examining myself. Shit you can see this thing, when I swallow it moved up and down. That was the night I found a mass on my thyroid and the one massive piece to my puzzle of illnesses. If I had not found that lump, I would have not gotten the tests done and would have not been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.

The mass on my neck was biopsied and is benign, it is not going to kill me, even though I’d prepared for the worst. It is actually something I’m so glad I found. Because it being there made them check my thyroid levels, showing them that I had hyperthyroidism, (which is an overactive thyroid. In my case, very overactive) My thyroid levels are much higher after the birth of each child then just a little better as the pregnancy hormones leave my body, but my levels are always high, I always have an overactive thyroid gland. And do you know what the symptoms are for that, for this (for the most part) invisible illness? Feelings of Anxiety, Insomnia, weight loss, tremors, mood swings, irregular periods, heat intolerance, rapid and fluttering heart beat. It controls your metabolism and nervous system. Yeah that was all new news to me. Do you know what else it causes? Your likelihood for ovarian cysts, and fibroids like I had when I was younger. All part of the thyroid problem I never knew I had. This small gland over working and producing too much hormone caused me so many separate problems, that I never would have tied together. And had that gland not overproduced so much hormone it made this mass, I would have not known that there was something I could do to FIX all of the problems I had when I was younger until now. By just fixing my thyroid. It’s not an easy fix, and it’s not the same exact way for every person so it’s a long road to getting the right medication.

I got pregnant very fast after the thyroid diagnosis, my middle son was only 4 months old. I was concerned that if they chose to do radiation as my treatment, I would not be able to have anymore children, and I wanted more. I was so afraid if then not that iodine radiation, and a removal of my thyroid or I started the medication for my thyroid it would somehow make it hard or impossible to naturally get pregnant again. So we tried and the next month I got a positive pregnancy test. (After speaking with two endocrinologists one of which is also an OB, I was better informed and told there would not have been any real issues had I started my treatment plan right away and I would have been able to have more children in any of the routes chosen)

My pregnancy with my third was so horrid and I was so sick and in so much pain, and had so much panic and overwhelming feelings I was a basket case. In my head. I still had to be a mom, run a business and grow a human. But I was going through hell mentally trying to stop my brain from going 24/7. I kept busy but was so worn down, I rested my body as much as I could in my third trimester when it was the absolute worst. Still I could not calm my mind, and the pain and muscle aches began to be a constant, not like normal 3 trimester aches and pains, full on I can’t walk pain..I looked terrible, I was embarrassed to post pictures of myself and growing belly because while the baby was growing perfectly and healthy, I couple not gain weight. I was embarrassed I felt I was always defending myself because the rest of me was so skinny and my face looked so tired and old and sunken. I felt like I was dying but I was taking care of myself well. I ate so much I walked as much as I could tolerate to get fresh air, always took my vitamins, I stayed away from all the bad and over did the good. The baby was healthy. I was, apart from this but I felt like I was wasting away, and looked like beetle juice by the time I was 8 months. Not. Even. Kidding. The overactive nature of my thyroid and whatever hormones it over produces reek havoc on you, in so many ways you would not even know possible, but at the end of a pregnancy this was scary. And pregnancy hormones combined were for me like someone sucked the soul from me, I imagined it like the opening scene from Hocus Pocus. But I wasn’t having my youth breathed in by a trio of witches, I was supposed to be creating a small human being, and I was doing damn near anything possible to make sure he was ok even when I felt was not ok. 

I gave birth 3 1/2 weeks early, in a precipitous labor, (9 min total!!) The minute he was born I swear the color retuned to my face, no dark circles under my eyes, my skin and entire face went from crypt keeper to normal crazy mom in the next day. It’s like everything I had in me the last month pregnancy that was supposed to keep this third time mama plumpy and glowing, finally had a chance to stop fighting off the hyperthyroidism, fighting so that my babe could thrive, was now after birth able to do what it’s supposed to do and give me life. My son was early but he was 6 pounds. I don’t know how, but if I didn’t have him earlier I’m sure I would have died. I could not handle another 3 weeks and not because I wouldn’t give up but because my body would have. My body was not able to create and protect a new life, and also take care of his mother because it was so depleted. I had been pregnant for two years with the miscarriage second and third babies. My body was not metabolizing food properly, I wasn’t gaining weight, my body wasn’t putting back into what was being taken out all because of this thyroid disorder. And my mind was racing, running on overdrive the whole time never being able to fully rest. I’m blessed I was able to carry and deliver a third and healthy son, even if it sucked every ounce out of me, literally. It wasn’t like anyone told me that it would have been so hard, no one took my concerns too seriously. You don’t know what this thyroid disorder, or any illness like this can do to you mentally and physically. Also no one told me how pregnancy can amplify that or for some woman bring it on entirely. I was not given enough information or correct information and I think if I’d been warned or given a heads up, if I’d have known to ask better questions or heard other stories I could have better prepared myself. This is nothing to be taken lightly as one little gland can take you down. It effects so much of you, mind, weight, nerves, muscles, eye sight, sweating, reproductive system, the list can be longer if left untreated longer.

I couldn’t until now, 6 months after my third son start the process to treat my hyperthyroidism. And the symptoms have gotten better and worse then ok then the worst they have ever been in that short time. My blood tests were different a month apart, but the problem remains the same. And I’m still losing weight. I now have to have even more testing, more time, then more blood work, then a series of testing, all so my endocrinologist can give me the right treatment plan, right dosage of medication. All while my old symptoms are raging and new ones have arrived, I at least know, I have a solid reason and diagnosis of why all of these things are happening, it makes me feel like there is an end, and I don’t think I’m crazy or overreacting, I don’t think I’m just always worried anymore, because I have a reason a solid and undeniable diagnosis that explains it all. Everything I couldn’t not fix was caused by this, hyperthyroidism. My misdiagnosed bipolar disorder, the anxiety I’ve had my whole life, mood swings, painful and irregular periods, cysts, fibroids, shakes, heart palpitations, insomnia my hand and feet numbness, muscle spasms, involuntary movements, dizziness, vertigo, light sensitivity. All of the things I suffer with and the things I’ve suffered from in the past that I didn’t know were all due to this one common disorder. Some people have hyperthyroidism and they never know, because it doesn’t effect them or they are effected severely due to the thyroid levels not being that high, some don’t realize that it’s their thyroid causing so many problems because they were never tested or their doctor didn’t think to test them. How many woman give birth and have Postpartum Thyroiditis and it’s causing their anxiety and effecting their metabolism and moods? I used to think an endocrinologist was the same as an herbalist before this and was quite taken back with how much your endocrine system controls everything head to toe and how important it is for us to have that checked. It’s often misdiagnosed as something else. It’s sometimes even made to be not anything, not bad or completely fine, by family doctors who don’t really know that well, when you’re tests don’t show a big difference from normal levels, but your body is reacting to the very small amount terribly. You, until you are on the other side of a diagnosis, feel lost and uncertain as to why you feel this way and it’s terrifying. You have done everything you can and nothing is working the way it’s supposed to be, and you give into just living sick, because no one believes you or understands. If it wasn’t for the 4cm thyroid nodule I found in my neck I would have never known and I probably would have never in my life known. I wouldn’t have had the peace of mind in a diagnosis that brought all of my unfixable issues and put them into one category, and said it’s all going to be fixed together with one treatment. No, it’s not a cut and dry diagnosis with one medication, it’s an illness that fluctuates, that I cannot guarantee how long it will be until I get better but I know that I will get better and that’s amazing. I will always have this, I will probably always have to take medication, and I can accept that knowing that I finally know what it is that I have.

April 16, 2019 — Danielle Cohen
Not Your Average Girl Power-It's A Magical Life

Not Your Average Girl Power

In a time where girl power is celebrated, little girls are being told to dream big and being empowered, told they can be anything, do anything they set their minds and hearts to. Women speaking out against inequality in everything from t-shirt sayings to the work place. I see so much of the saying “it’s hard to be a man right now” well if your a shitty man hell yes it is, and if you’re not then keep on keeping on. But there’s is so much less of the latter in this time, that we don’t really see anything but. Women are sick of being less than, they want to be on the same line, toe to toe with her head held high, as any other male  and not be mocked or cat called. Some don’t want to be equal they want the advantage and to be greater than. Now I’m all for this feminist movement we are living with right now, I am a Female Business owner. I started my company and grew it to a point where my husband quit his job and we made my business our full time gig. That’s pretty amazing, that I as a woman am running this show right? I can do anything, girl power. But you know what else I am? A mom of THREE boys. And they are watching me everyday. I am setting the example of how they view women. I am their first idea of what a woman is. Three boys that look to me as what a woman should be, how to treat a woman, how to love a woman, how to respect a woman. And that empowers me more than any “I am woman hear me roar” campaign out there. I have to mold my young boys into decent men, I have to show them that a woman can be successful in business, a woman deserves the utmost respect, a woman can be anything and that’s just as wonderful as you becoming anything you desire as you are equal beings. I have to lead by example, show them how much a woman is capable of and how strong we are, yet show them how fragile we can be and gently we should be treated as well. I have to raise my boys to be men that will never hurt or look down on, abuse or harass, never discriminate against any woman for any reason. To be proud to be who they are but to never think they are above any woman just because they are a man. What can’t be changed or fixed now in our society can be mended for our future fellow women. Not by man shaming, and hating. 

This is what the real movement should be: Mothers raise your sons right so we don’t have to do this anymore. So there’s no more #metoo, so there’s no more fear of being alone with men, so there’s no more inappropriate comments. So future women get the same opportunities and pay as their male colleagues because their bosses will BE our sons we have raised differently and they won’t draw that line and make those decisions, they won’t turn the other way. Raise them right so we can have a future generation of girls that don’t need “girl power” campaigns because they have never nor will ever feel power-less. So we don’t have a future generation of men like some of the disgusting and cruel men out there today. Make it ok for them to be emotional and compassionate make it important for them to be kind. And fathers raise your sons to be strong but never big headed, be tough for what is important and leave all that typical guy, no feelings shit behind. Raise your sons to take care of THEIR wives THEIR daughters and be outspoken about how they should be treated. Fathers show your sons the way, raise them to love their mother as strongly as you love her but to fear her fierceness too, and they will take that with them into adulthood. I am the strongest, most powerful woman, because in my hands lies three future men of the world, and I have the responsibility to teach them how to, and pave the way for them to, become good men, good people. I have the privilege and opportunity to send out into the world three beautiful people that will know better and know wrong from right, and practice what they were taught. So if you have sons, and I’ve heard this multiple times this week alone, don’t say you “don’t know what to say to them when all they see is the uplifting of girls on the news and social media, girl power commercials, woman pride” and “where is the empowerment and uplifting of little boys? How does my son feel not having boy power”. It’s hard for men these days? No no no. YOU are their guide, explain why we need to be having this conversation about gender equality, still. Why we need to be having these conversations about boundaries and limits with woman. Explain why right now girls need to know they are strong and powerful because of the past making us feel weak and unheard. Don’t let your boys feel slighted or left out, talk to them about why these things are happening and what has happened in the past to get to this point. Take the ultimate job of raising your boys to be respectful and fair and kind and understanding men, and we will not have to have these issues plague us going further. Stop it now and make your little boys practice respect and humility and equality and they will take that with them into their life later the way you want adult men to act now. We won’t have to worry about our sons being categorized as monsters and sexists and ignorant because of the generalized inferiority of woman most men have and were raised seeing. If we as woman don’t take the responsibility to make sure we are not creating those stereotypes and raise them to be better than the generations before them, then we are fighting and standing up for nothing. Be the change you want to see in the world. Ladies we can raise hell or raise honest boys to be wonderful men, what’s gonna have the best outcome? We as women have the power to control the future for other women, by raising and giving them better men, not by standing still in protest.

January 07, 2019 — Danielle Cohen
Mommin In A Different Era-It's A Magical Life

Mommin In A Different Era

Grandmas are wonderful, grandmas are loving and helpful and make life easier. They mean well, they’ve raised kids, they have seen it all, and most of the time you can learn a thing or two. But they raised kids in a different day and age. Life is a whole lot different the when they had babies and toddlers. My grandma actually asked me why I couldn’t just hold the baby in my arms when we took him home from the hospital. (There are so many things wrong with that statement alone I can’t even.) Like I said they mean well, I’m beyond blessed my kids and I have her. But when she starts in on how I raise my kids and what I should and shouldn’t be doing, I can’t help but grit my teeth, because it’s just not the same anymore. The time we are living in right now, I can’t let my kids go outside and play and be home when the “street lights come on”. People call the police on moms for kids playing in the backyard by themselves, with said mom watching from the window. The way of parenting back in the day, is child endangerment now. So some advice from my grandma and mom just ain’t gonna work out for me. Parenting is just plain different now. You can’t, and in a lot of cases shouldn’t, be parenting the way they did 20 something years ago. Would I like for my kids to be able to ride their bikes down the street without me jogging along side of them? Hell yes. Can I do that without Susan from across the street thinking I’m an asshole? No. But my kids grandmas can’t grasp that. What do you mean you can’t mother how you want to?! And I have to hear how I’m doing life wrong. I get eye rolls, and pursed lips and “you really shouldn’t be so overprotective”. When I say you can’t send your kids to school with a pb&j in their lunch bag anymore. When I say the kids can’t walk to and from school alone. When I say that you are judged from every angle these days from everyone from the mailman to your hair stylist, It’s like I have three heads. Its hard not to be frustrated when you’re being told how to parent from someone who has no idea how it actually is to parent in this, bento box, screen time, social media judging, keyboard warrior, allergy fearing, Pinterest party, anti discipline, anti vaccine, organic, vegan, gluten free, helicopter mom world we live in today. Give me all the recipes, teach me and my kids all the things. Snuggle my babies. Give me your ideas, help me decorate (maybe) but please please understand that even though mommin basics are the same, today the WAY you mom (or are allowed to mom) is a whole different potato.

January 03, 2019 — Danielle Cohen
Not Your Average Kind Of Love-It's A Magical Life

Not Your Average Kind Of Love

I’ve been married for 5 years now. We have been together for 8 years and living together for 7 1/2. Before we started dating and were young, neither of us had any real responsibilities, life was a day to day come what will. Both careless and misguided . Both of us in our own separate lives had no real direction and had no intentions of settling down. I was in fact never going to get married and never have children. That just wasn’t for me, wasn’t in my plans, or cards. I never wanted to be anything but wild and I thought that’s what was going to make my life amazing. I was going to be this free spirited, non grown up adult that lived for the moment. Why change the constant blur of a party life I was living? Selfish and stupid, that’s what I was. It’s amazing how your perspective on life changes when you find the right person. How easily your world falls into place just by being with each other. In the time since we have been together, we have built a wonderful life, three beautiful little boys, a big house in the suburbs on the North Shore of Chicago, we own and run our own company, and still love each other just as much and even more every day. My husband is truly my best friend. He’s the only one that will still think I’m perfect when I’m at my darkest. Still talk to me after I’ve said things I regret. He is the only one that knows me for who I was, am and will be, and never judged me or doubted me. Even though there are bad times, and some sad times, there are so many amazing and perfect times, and laughs and falling in love again in new ways. He’s my constant, and my steady. He is my biggest supporter. He gives me encouragement in everything I do, things big and small. We are growing together, and for every moment meant to tear two people apart we move past it, and are stronger than we were before. I’m fortunate to have found unconditional love. Im not perfect, neither is he. We make mistakes and we act crazy at times. We sometimes but rarely didn’t put each other first, but never let it happen again. There is still so much of life left to live and we will probably go through some rough patches, but I know that we will always be us. I know it’s never going to change, because when he looks at me, even when I am exhausted and have had the worst day with the kids and I look like a complete wreck and I’m at my absolute worst, that look, is still like I am the most beautiful woman in the world. Like he looked at me when we first started dating, when I walked down the isle, when we had our first son and second and third. When the world is against me, he is my rock. He makes everything ok, and even if it’s not, ok, he sure makes it feel like it doesn’t have to be anymore. He will stop me in the hallway, grab my waist and kiss me, and it will sweep me off my feet. He makes me happy even when I am angry. He makes me smile when all I want to do is cry. Any person can get under your skin and any two people can fight, but when all that is said and done and you can still kiss each other goodnight and let all that just fall away and start over, that’s something so special. There’s something about our love that is never ordinary. Say what you will about either one of us, it doesn’t matter, because all that matters is that we always have one another. I’m so lucky I get to spend my life in such a way. And I’m so grateful my kids will get to see what true love is.

December 23, 2018 — Danielle Cohen
Not Your Average Mom Tired-It's A Magical Life

Not Your Average Mom Tired

I wonder if other moms do the same shit I do, feel like I do on some days. Also, sit and stare at a wall with the “taxidermy Fox” look on their face. Literally so momed out that all you can do is scowl at the wall, an eye twitch here and there. Breathily and high pitched you let out an airy squeak  “whaaat the fuuuuuuhhhaa?!” Have you ever been that over mommed that you literally feel nothing but numb yet everything all at once at the end of a bad day (or sometimes half way through said day?) that all you can do is blankly stare. I’ve seen some things man...

There are days when I have had it up to here so many damn times that I can’t even stand the sound of me saying “I’ve had it up to here.” Today in particular I cannot physically and mentally go on any longer I’m burned the fuck out. This is a little how my day played out:

I’ve been cleaning the same mess of a family room for hours and the cluster fuck of toys somehow grew in size during the day, the laundry pile which I thought I had made some progress with, barely has a dent. Gotta keep washing and folding these tiny clothes, they can’t be naked! I have had every single possible problem with every single customer I’ve emailed today. Someone asked me if I could call USPS and ask them to speed it up. Sorry no, I don’t have the delivery drivers number in Philadelphia. My kids have not slept more than 2 hours per kid, in a “one wakes up when the other goes to sleep” pattern. And now they are refusing naps and screaming for Moana and to watch Ryan Toy Video. To give myself a breather I agree to both, and now they are battling each other with the volume of their iPads. Probably shouldn’t have gotten them iPads, am I bad mom? Screen time is not good. I’ll take care of that later. I have orders to print and pack that are probably overdue that I now have no time to ship because it’s almost 7. I have to cook yet another meal, do the dishes, which who even used all those dishes? Did we throw a party recently? Shit. And what the fuck is that smell? Me? Oh good the baby spit up and the middle one shit and is still dancing around to Moana songs, and the big one just dropped his juice all the way down the stairs. Oh look more laundry. Yay, my husband is feeling sorry for himself because I’m not listening. I’m listening! I’m always listening, but I’m doing things and thinking about the things I still have to do. And now I’m thinking you suck, and I don’t even want to listen to you. Now the big one is wailing because there is no more juice. What the fuck is that smell??! Phones ringing, No grandma I cannot face time right now. *Ding* email, another customer wants to know where their order is, it’s not supposed to ship for another 7 days. Are you kidding? Don’t you know it’s the holidays? Omg my Christmas tree is sideways. Why is the Christmas Tree Sideways?! Did anyone buy milk? Did my four year old just call me what I think he just called me? Shit his juice, still that language is not gonna fly, probably something on You Tube, but I blocked those channels. I better cut the screen time. Didn’t we put age guidelines on that stupid app? Omg I’m failing as a mom. And now I’ve been boiling water for the noodles so long the water has evaporated. Cool. My husband again, this time he needs to know where every single thing he owns is, because I apparently keep track of where he left it last and he can’t possibly look for something, no Im not busy. Nope still not listening either. Shit who’s calling me now?! Omg I forgot to text my friend back 2 days ago and now she’s calling me, I l don’t even have an excuse as to why I’m ignoring her, I’m not really I just haven’t had the time to- what are they screaming about? Who’s screaming? Are you ok? *Ding* Omfg another email, no Susan you ordered two days ago, it’s not lost and we did not forget about you. Please make it stop. Please, I just need one second please. The baby is now crying, have to rock him, the toddler is crying because I can’t carry them both at the same time and the big one is “starving”. Fuck, the water is boiling and almost evaporated AGAIN! Phones ringing, Omg no grandma I cannot face time right now. Great! The big one picked up the call cause I put my phone down for one damn second. Now I have to talk. Loud noises!! 

“Hi Gram!“ “Danielle you have dark circles under your eyes” my grandma so lovingly starts in on me. “You need to eat healthy. Are you taking vitamins” Oh her intentions are pure but I can’t fucking do it right now. “Hey gram let me-“ “BALLS BALLS BALLS PEEEENNNISS” my son is singing a package song at the top of his lungs. My grandma tells me “he can’t be talking like that when he goes to school. The teachers will call you down there” yeah well we aren’t really promoting scrotum rap at the moment, so I’m not taking the blame on this one. I’m also so in the fuck over my head I’m not sure that I even care at this point. He’s creatively making up songs, that’s kind of good right? I tell her “He is just trying to get attention, gram, he’s a boy, they do weird shit” she says she’s gotta go. Ok great the four year old scared my grandma away. Have to call her later and smooth that over. What is sticky? Why are the floors wet. Where did my husband go? Omfg why is he not helping me? Doesn’t he hear this? That’s it!!! *Ding* email, “Can this arrive by the 10th? I’ll be sure to leave a great review” The 10th...it’s the 8th. And if I can’t somehow make magic happen and print and overnight ship this tomorrow then what? What if the Holiday season slammed post office isn’t on time. Since I know you’re review driven it’s gonna be a no for me. I’m not gonna even stress, it’s just one order and I’m not super woman. *Ding* email of all emails, caps lock, so basically screaming at me. Look up the order number. Hahahaha! Wow not even my shop. This isn’t even ordered from me! Don’t even have this, kinda relieved, but damn she really pissed me off and she’s not even my customer. Oh look a 5 star review, that’s so nice there are still some wonderful people in this-SHIT! Dinner. Fuck it I’ll order a pizza. Hey husband that I’m not listening to, can you please order a pizza? I’ve been boiling water for almost two hours and it hasn’t cooked anything and the kids can’t have anymore snacks. Goldfish crackers and string cheese and..ugh cookies???...who opened the cookies? My husband opened the cookies, that’s who. Put some kind of vegetable on the pizza! Nope, wait scratch that, the four year old might die if he sees a topping on pizza. Or so I’ve heard.

“Mama, Jack Jack is playing in the toilet!” The big one yells. Who left that god damn gate open omg. How fast did he go in there? He was just right next to me. What. The. Hell. Now? And with the sound of another *ding* I collapse into my kitchen chair. My eyes glaze over. “Whaaaaaat the fuuuuuuuaaaahh” escaping from my lips. Staring at the wall. I just can’t do it anymore today. I can’t even. I’m momed out and momfried. Mombie. Night of the living dead mom. I can’t possibly go on. 

“MAAAAMMAAAA?” 

No, no time for giving up now, I’ll try that tomorrow. I got up and I momed again after all.

December 22, 2018 — Danielle Cohen
Not Your Average Tantrums-It's A Magical Life

Not Your Average Tantrums

Having children is the most wonderful thing that’s ever happened to me. I love each of them with every fiber of my being. And when you read this please remember how much I love them. 

And don’t be judging me Brenda, your precious peach isn’t any better...

My oldest son is a very strong spirited little boy. And when I say strong spirited I mean well, un-fucking controllable. When he turned four, hells gates opened and put into my child a personality that would make the strongest of men buckle at the knees. And that was the same time I was pregnant with my third. I was thrilled with this new found sense of defiance, let me tell you. I was 9 months pregnant when he had his first ultimate meltdown and it was like trying to wrangle a coked up cat in the deep end of a pool. What the actual fuck happens to their tiny brain when they turn four? The transition from babyhood to childhood is not it, no, no, no. That’s not transitioning. Anyone who has had to try to strap one of these banshees into a car seat when they want to go back to the LEGO store (and made it out alive) will tell you. I have read so many “terrible twos” articles and stories about the epic three year old battles. I have yet to see anyone write about their experiences with a four year old. I’m so stupid I actually thought it was because it gets better. Holy shit was I wrong. I was given a false sense of hope. I think it’s because no one wants to tell you what you’re really in for. These tantrums trump any two year olds kicking and screaming I’ve ever seen. It’s like when I said “omg could this get any worse” my three year old said “hold my beer” (or sippy cup, kids shouldn’t be drinking) This kid can go on for hoooouuurs!! Hours! And two year olds have meltdowns about nothing, four year olds have intent and opinions and they want to plead their case and they have a BIGGER vocabulary!! And you know that little f bomb you dropped last week not thinking he heard you? Oh he did, and he will repeat it on blast maliciously in the middle of the quiet grocery store over and over again. Louder each time because you’re an asshole who didn’t let him eat the marshmallows in isle 5. And guess what? He won’t drop it until after you’ve gotten home. And then when you think it’s over? Something will remind him of those fucking marshmallows two hours later and it starts..All. Over. Again. My son kicked a hole, an actual HOLE in our bathtub over a Starburst. Not only are the meltdowns gigantic, the strength of these little bodies is amazing.. Like should we sign him up for the worlds strongest baby competition or call an exorcist? I thought it was just my kid for awhile. I thought I was failing as a mom. And after diet changes, time outs, all the reading a mom can do these blow out scream fests continued with my little human. After conversations with other mamas, turns out four year olds are just kind of assholes sometimes. And you can’t prepare for it or change it. They just are. Because I’m realistic and I’m not here to sugar coat the shit show of motherhood, I can say that. It’s hard. And if we can’t be honest we will be hiding in our bathrooms alone crying for all eternity. Thinking it’s us or just our kids. But it’s everyone’s. Even you Brenda!! 

So if you think you are really in it right now with the terrible twos, but are holding out for a much calmer three and four ... I’m here to tell you the truth, it gets worse. Brace yourself, Winter is coming. My darling boy, my brown eyed sweetheart with bouncing curls and pudgy hands would never! ...Ooooh boy was I clueless. So I’m holding it together, and holding on tight. I have two more boys that have not entered this season of life yet, so lucky me I get it three fold. 

But BUT..somewhere in between all of those insane meltdowns there are still cuddles and sweetness and kisses and you know, when they sleep they’re cute. Love them in their worst, love them in their best. It’s the only way to survive sanely remember how much you love them even in the toughest of times. Maybe 5 will be the calm after the storm? I said maybe. I’ll let you know.

December 14, 2018 — Danielle Cohen
Not Your Average Birth Story-It's A Magical Life

Not Your Average Birth Story

36 & 4 that was what I heard often when the doctors did rounds every morning. My baby was born at 36 weeks and 4 days. 3 1/2 weeks early. He was premature. And he was taken away from me the minute he was born. I didn’t get to hold him, I didn’t get to even see him for 3 hours after. Nurses threw around “special care nursery” said his lungs were struggling and he needed to be on a ventilator. I didn’t know what that really meant in that moment. One nurse even told me he would have to be airlifted to another hospital for better care. That was the scariest moment of my life. When I arrived at the hospital, dramatically and in a panic. I jumped out of the car and they had me on a stretcher in seconds. From the time I entered the hospital I had him in 10 min, with one push. He was almost delivered in the car on the way there. They called it a precipitous birth. No time for an Epidural like I had planned, no time for skin to skin snuggles after an easy delivery. I never got that easy delivery. I suffered. It was one intense contraction with no breaks in between. It’s was panic and agony, loss of control. It was fear and looking to anyone’s eyes for a sense of what was happening. The concern in their eyes, the lack of answers. The panic omg the panic. One push, no one was ready, I had to push. One push. He was here!! But then he was gone. 

I asked every question to any person who walked in my room. How is he? Where is he? How much did he weigh? Is he going to be ok?? Can I see him? Please give me an answer. I had none. What was going on?! Should I be worried? Please tell me! No one would. 

Then finally a sweet nurse came and got me put me in a wheelchair and wheeled me up an elevator and down the longest hallway I’d ever seen in my life, to a locked NICU. Then it hit me, omg there is something really wrong. They wheeled me to his room, and there I finally got to see my little boy. Cannula, wires, leads, feeding tubes everywhere. Beeping omg the beeping. His tiny little body so fragile and I couldn’t keep him safe. I was told how I can touch him, certain ways aggravated his delicate skin and felt more like sand paper and hurt him rather than comfort him. I couldn’t hold him, I couldn’t feed him, I couldn’t breathe. My son was born with very weak and immature lungs. He was going to have to stay and there was no way of telling how long it would be. He had been treated twice with antibiotics as a preventative. CPAP oxygen monitors and a feeding tube were all now a part of my vocabulary. I spent a very short 26 hours as a patient myself on the floor above his. I was released and I would have to go home with out my baby. My broken heart had to care for my other two children and then make my way back to the hospital every minute I could be there. We thankfully had help, to watch the kids so I could spend more time there. But the guilt and the pain of leaving our baby in the NICU was the worst soul breaking heart wrenching thing I’ve ever had to do. A week went by they removed his breathing help and he was breathing room air all by himself. But that wasn’t the end of the care. I thought that was and was so stupid, and disappointed. I still didjt fully trust the doctors or the nurses. I didn’t understand. He was still breathing too fast and needed to gain weight. He was just now allowed to “through a feeding tube” eat my breast milk and man that was another blow. I couldn’t even breast feed him. I didn’t get that beautiful experience. I got to be hooked up to a pump every 3 hours while I cried. Day after day I cried. The next week was full of lows and disappointments then highs anddidn’t being hopeful. I think I went numb at a point. I  know what to feel. Then he started getting stronger and better and gaining weight. I started to feed him normally. Everything was looking up. Until it wasn’t.

The doctor came in and said they found a bacteria infection in his blood. They have to do tests and a spinal tap, more antibiotics. They used words like Center for disease control. All my world stopped. This is bad, this could be weeks of antibiotics and what is the future, could he die from this? My god I was lost. Two days later we were informed that he never had an infection the blood sample was contaminated. He had nothing. 

Days went by no answers just time. A few more days, a little more weight gain. My life outside of this was falling apart. My home, that we bought earlier this year to make room for my third little boy, was not a home. It was a motel for family and friends, who came and went.  Right food, played with the kids, did some laundry. But it was empty and cold and not the house full of life I had so imagined with my 3 sons. 

My job, my work from home, built it myslef company that was thriving just a few short weeks ago was failing. We were on the verge of losing our business and our income. How would we recover from this? How can I rebuild and fix everything I’d been letting fall to pieces along with my mind. 

Most of all my children my poor sweetheart 1 year old who was still a baby himself was sad. Omg he’d never been anything but a happy smiling little boy and now there was hurt in his eyes. Reaching for me when I’d go to leave. That killed me. My 4 year old, asking me “ Mommy the baby came out of your belly why isn’t he home yet?” Then when we brought him to the hospital to meet him, he stood on a step stool looking down at his tiny brother. And he cried. His innocent little heart couldn’t handle seeing his brother like that, and he cried. I never brought him back with me, I just didn’t know how much that would effect him and I didn’t want him to worry or be hurt again. Have to protect them, have to fix this, have to be sane they all needed me their mama, I needed to get back to normal. 

But I couldn’t fix this, I had no control. His life, my life, my world was up in the air. We didn’t know when or if or why or what. We just waited. I couldn’t fix this. I couldn’t fix this.

Another few days of Of we will see how he does through the night, how much weight he gains, if his breathing slows down. Told over and over IF he does this he can go home tomorrow. Tomorrow’s came and went and we waited. 

Torture is the exact word for helplessly watching your baby in the NICU. Night nurses with attitudes making you feel like less of a mother for not being there enough, or being there too much and not getting enough sleep. Day nurses judging you for looking like a zombie and judging you for going home to rest. I never knew what was the right thing, I still don’t even after experiencing it. I just know I was doing the best I could. And I don’t even know what that is. The best I could was not being torn between two lives, my newborn baby and this hospital and my young children at home. No one got the best of me. I was tired and angry and guilty and sad. Best I could was never even in the cards. 

The next Monday morning I walked in already expecting disappointment and I had tears in my eyes 18 days, and I still didn’t have any clear answers. Every health issue they had brought to me, every worse case scenario and they always came back with “no he doesn’t have that, the test came back negative, his lungs are clear, maybe that’s just the way he breathes” all the tests they had done were precautionary, and all the things they said might be wrong were not. So why were we still here? Why a spinal tap, chest x-ray, two rounds of two different antibiotics, all the worry all the fear all the time spent away from my baby. Why? 

I sat there waiting for rounds, my stomach turning, my eyes on fire from crying, my head pounding. The doctor came in with a few nurses, one of which was there when I delivered. This doctor in particular was one of two that I actually became very fond of, something about her she was the only one I had any trust in. I stood up she came and stood next to me shoulder to shoulder, she leaned into me and said “well he gained some weight, his breathing is still the same though, a little fast.” My heart sunk. I just knew it was another day and more time. She leaned into me a little more, “but you can take your baby home today” I collapsed into her sobbing and thanking her. I was in some kind of adrenaline induced flight mode after that. I couldn’t get him dressed and into his car seat and out of that hospital fast enough, yet I was moving In slow motion. 

The nurse handed me his discharge paperwork. There were pictures and thank you’s and good byes. My baby was finally coming home. After we got him into the car I looked at the paper work. His diagnosis was observation of premature baby. 18 days, all my strength, all my heart ache. It was over. I’m fortunate to have taken my baby home, and even write about this. I feel guilt for being as traumatized as I am. But I am sad, I am sad that I will never get back those precious weeks after he was born, that he was born too soon. Nothing prepared me for this and the roller coaster of emotions. The pain I still feel. I don’t think I will ever get over any of it. But to have him and be his mommy I’d go through it all over again. 

December 14, 2018 — Danielle Cohen