For as long as I can remember, I've been the girl that my parents said they never had to worry about. I was the good kid, the kid who got her homework done, the kid who enjoyed cleaning her room, the kid who got straight A's and a scholarship and a job—and did it all with seamless ease. "We never had to worry about you," my dad once said, a sliver of pride creeping in his voice.
Inevitably, I carried that sense of can-do independence into my life as a wife and a mom. I've juggled working full-time from home, having four kids, going through miscarriages, moving and managing so many balls in the air I worked myself into a breakdown where my hair literally fell out of my head. But still, I kept going.
I'm fine, I insisted. I don't need any help.
I kept the ship running at home, even when I was exhausted, even when I couldn't face another day because it needed to be done. Truth be told, I did such a good job of keeping up appearances that my husband genuinely thought everything was fine. I had everyone fooled.
It wasn't until a few weeks ago, when I was miscarrying my sixth pregnancy, when my husband walked out of the door without so much as a glance back and I was left alone with a 3-year-old and I had to resort to curling up on the couch in pain from the cramping, tears running down my face, that I finally admitted the truth to myself.
I'm not fine.
How many of you out there are just like me? Putting your heads down and plodding through and insisting that you are fine, just fine?
How many of you out there can't remember the last time you had an honest-to-goodness break?
How many of you out there feel completely and totally guilty when you think about the fact that you would dare complain about anything when there are so many people facing struggles out there that seem so much worse than yours?
Let me tell you, mama, that I have been there and done that. It took losing two babies in a row for me to finally come to a place where I could admit that I wasn't fine. Yes, there are women out there struggling with so much more, from babies born with medical conditions to mothers losing older children to parents dealing with addicted kids to families who are now trying to figure out how to send their kids back to school after a shooter took everything from them.
There will always be people who have it worse than you. There will always be people that you can compare yourself to, those you can set up as the ones who really have reason to complain, unlike you, who is just whiny and ungrateful. But do you want to know a shocking truth?
Ignoring your own needs and struggles and shortcomings and weaknesses doesn't help those people in any way. And even more shocking? It doesn't help you either.
I mistakenly thought that if I let myself get to a place where other people could see that I was not fine, that everything would fall apart.
You can protest that you're fine all the live long day, but denying yourself what you really need, whether that be a break or a vacation or help or even just some plain old acknowledgement, will not change anything for anyone. I've learned this the hard way, unfortunately, but I am happy to report that since having my second loss, I stopped pretending that I was fine. I stopped putting my head down and pushing through work and deadlines and my home life when everything felt too overwhelming to bear.
I. Just. Stopped.
I had finally reached a point where I couldn't pretend anymore and although I went in kicking and screaming and dragging my feet, I finally acknowledged it was just impossible to keep going. I started asking myself what it was that I actually needed to get back to being fine.
It took a good four or five months, but I'm happy to report that I'm getting there. I'm finally getting my "spark" back and feeling like myself again and now that the light is back in sight, I can say with 100 percent certainty that it came down to me finally admitting to myself—and to the world—that I wasn't just fine.
Ironically, just taking that small step allowed me to get back to a place where I could be fine once again.
I mistakenly thought that if I let myself get to a place where other people could see that I was not fine, that everything would fall apart. I thought that my kids would become unruly, my house would fall in disarray, my marriage would dissolve and my career would collapse. But you know what? None of that happened. Sure, my laundry definitely piles up , but let's be real, laundry is never going away, so that's a trade-off I'm willing to make.
What did happen is that I was able to become so much stronger. I was able to find strength in admitting that I needed help. Instead of getting weaker, I was shocked to discover that there was enormous growth in finally taking pause and being OK with not being fine.
I would encourage all of you mamas who are feeling the same way—who may be going through a hard time or a miscarriage or a loss or a change or just a difficult season of motherhood—to stop fighting and pretending. It's OK to not be OK. When you can finally admit to yourself that you're not fine, you may just be surprised by what you find on the other side.