One year ago, I had it all. The loving husband. The successful career. The perfect house. The budding baby bump. The white picket fence. And just as suddenly as it seemed to arrive, it was gone.
On an average September Sunday, a trip to Target to purchase maternity pants was the most important item on my to-do list. My husband’s agenda for that day was more ambitious: it included picking up two gallons of paint for our unborn twins’ nursery and coming out to me as gay.
I can’t tell you how I reacted that day. I was angry, hurt, proud, devastated, worried, and hopeful on a rotating basis over the next several months. There was one thing that remained clear no matter my mood: I had to do what was best for the babies, and, in turn, what was best for me. I left the house I had built and traveled the 725 miles to the home where I was raised.
While I received the best support a girl could ask for from my friends and family, it was hard not to dwell on the fact that I lost my life as I knew it. And lest I forget, all I had to do was turn on the TV and see same-sex marriage news (which I continue to support, albeit less vocally), sitcoms with gay couples, and even Neil Patrick Harris’ bulge at the Oscars. It felt like I had a trail of rainbows in my path, attracting all things gay to my awkward attention.
Just when I was starting to heal from the shock of my marriage ending, I was pitched another curve ball: my twins arrived seven weeks early, necessitating an 8-week stay in the NICU. As my obstetrician so bluntly put it, I became the “poster child for postpartum depression”. I fell apart hard, and I fell apart often during the first few months of my babies’ life. This once extroverted girl became terrified to talk to anyone outside of immediate family and close friends. For the sake of my boys, I tried to keep myself healthy and on a routine; on the outside I was functioning as an average—if tired—new mom. On the inside, however, I was sad, miserable, and lonely.
Then I realized: I need to give up on the white picket fence.
I need to let go of the could-have-been future and instead focus on the beautiful aspects of my new reality.
Nail by nail, board by board, post by post, the fence began coming down. The twins are healthy, happy, and home: three nails. They outgrow preemie clothes: one nail. They learn to smile and laugh and coo: two boards. They roll over: one nail. They sleep through the night: one post. They taste their first bite of banana: one nail. They grow, right along with me, every single day.
Fences, as I have learned, can be confusing. Sometimes I forget what I’m doing and nail that board right back up after it has been taken down. I hide my left hand when I am in public, fearing judgement for being a single mom: one board goes up. A stranger asks about a “proud dad”: one nail back in. Dad comes to visit the boys: a new section of fence appears. On those days, it's best to put my hammer down and walk away. Take a breath, play with the babies, and try again tomorrow.
One day, I hope to build a brand new fence, maybe a pink or orange one, or, hell, even a big rainbow display! But before I can imagine a new version of my ideal life, one full of laughter and messes and excitement, the first order of business is to continue tearing down the worn, sad, white picket fence. Nail by nail, board by board, post by post.
Guest post written by Jessica Hall. Jessica is a single mother to six month old twin boys, full time financial consultant, and novice writer. She currently lives with her parents, believing in the phrase "it takes a village" more than she ever knew possible. She gains more confidence and courage as a mother ever day.
Photo By Darkblue Photography.
P.S. If you enjoyed this essay, don’t miss our podcast episode on postpartum depression