There was once a time when your mommy led a fairly glamorous life. I know that is hard to believe when you look at the woman before you who has two bottles of dry shampoo in her 10-day unwashed hair, but it’s true. When you are older I will show you some of the terrible movies I was in. Or get you to play an ancient CSI board game with a DVD of clues- and there I will be as the key witness in the case. Maybe I will even let you see my comedy reel.
That’s right, I know one day in the not-so-distant future, you will roll your eyes at my jokes. When that happens I want you to know that people used to PAY me to be funny!
After I decided that the uncertainty of acting life was not for me anymore, I went to work as the executive assistant to the CEO of a large movie production company. I regularly interacted with famous people, I went to movie premiers- in fact you guys went to a couple of those in my belly! Norman Lear, one of the pioneers of the television industry, was one of the first people to congratulate me on the fact that I was having twin girls- something we had in common.
Your daddy and I realized that LA was going to be crazy expensive with twins and that we would need the help of family nearby, so we moved to Dallas. If you have any doubt about how un-glamorous my life got at the end of my pregnancy, here is a picture of me 3 weeks before I had you- in a Scooter, in a Walmart.
When I became a mom, everything changed. I changed. I lost a lot of the things that had shaped my pre-kids life:
I lost all sense of decency. That happened when the hospital lactation consultant grabbed my boob without warning, and started milking me. In fact, nursing infant twins was so constant that I stopped wearing shirts entirely. I became a shut-in who answered the door for the UPS guy with a “My Breast Friend” strapped around my waist, and a baby on each boob.
I lost my mind. Seriously, I used to be smart- I went to Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and spoke three languages! Now I barely speak one. As if pregnancy brain wasn’t bad enough, I think I got permanent brain damage from the lack of sleep for so long. My husband likes to joke that I used to have a mind like a steel trap, and now it’s like a steel trap that rusted open (in other words a hole!)
I lost my once-fit body. At one time in my life I was a model, like a for-real, living-in-New-York, walking-on-runways model. Not that I was ever a main-tents at Fashion Week model- but I strutted down some solidly C-list runways. Now I have squishy bits and stretch marks and scars that aren’t going anywhere.
I lost my sense-of-self. There was a dangerous time when you were 0-6 months old when I had no friends close by. I spent all day every day in a small apartment feeding, burping, changing, and bathing you and I started to go a little crazy. I would pounce on your father the moment he got home, desperate for any sort of adult human interaction. I used to dress you up in funny outfits and stage elaborate scenes for you and then take pictures just to pass the time.
Thankfully, joining a moms group re-invigorated me and forced me out of the house, but for a long time I felt just sort of– blank. My life was so consumed by the sheer exhaustion of early motherhood that I couldn’t find the spark that made me unique. It was probably hidden under layers of crusty breast milk and spit-up.
Becoming a mother also help me to lose some things that I am glad to be free of.
I lost my unhealthy need to be perfect all the time. By the end of my acting and modeling career I was exhausted from the constant worry about how I looked. There was a time when I was making myself sick in an effort to be skinny enough for what the industry seemed to want of me. Constant worry about what other people thought of me tied me in knots. Was I pretty enough? Did I impress that agent? Did the casting director like me? Basically, I relied on other people to tell me if I was good enough. And that is no way to live. Getting plonked down in the trenches of motherhood and having to come to terms with the fact that 98% of the time I would be un-showered, with no makeup, wearing nothing but yoga pants, and most likely covered in some sort of bodily fluid, was kind of a relief.
I lost my fear of looking dumb, of not being cool. Not that I ever was cool, but I tried really hard to hide that fact before. Like if someone asked me what kind of music I liked, I would generally say, “Oh I like a little bit of everything…” Now the same question gets my honest response- “Broadway Musicals and 80s and early 90s pop.” Once I got through that new mom fog, I started to connect with me again. I am more authentically myself than I have been since childhood. No, I’m not immune to some amount of worry about the judgment of others, but mostly I think I am awesome! People will like me or not but I try to abide by the line, “What other people think of me is none of my business.”
I lost control. No, I never really had it, but I thought I did. Having kids is a quick way to figure out that the world does not always work the way you want it to. You can plan and prepare and read every parenting book in the world, but you will still find yourself winging it most of the time. I remember as a child thinking my parents knew exactly what they were doing, like they had some big adult answer book of all knowledge. In becoming a Mom, I learned that about two thirds of what you do and say is just made up on the fly.
I lost my self-centeredness. Sure, I am still a believer in the “put your own oxygen mask on before helping others” philosophy, but having little extensions of my heart out in the world made me a lot more conscious of the importance of being kind. I always cared about others, but my dream was to be an award winning actress, with tons of money and acclaim and a generally fabulous life. Yeah, that didn’t happen, but my life is so much more. It has been in raising you two that I realized my true calling and started running a non-profit to help sick moms get childcare. My days aren’t just about me anymore and I am a much better person for it. And I have you two to thank for teaching me to let go of that and be open to what I was meant to do.
What I am trying to say in this letter, my sweet girls, is that I lost a lot by becoming a parent– but I gained so much more. My life is bigger now, my heart is more full of love, and every day I am grateful for all the things that I lost.
My love always,