Carrying On: An Excerpt

Illustration by Jacqueline Bisset

{ Buy Carrying On: Style, Beauty, Decor (and More) for the Nervous New Mom HERE }

Remember what I said about my second book being released in a couple of weeks? Scratch that. Apparently the date was pushed up and it’s presently hanging out in Amazon warehouses right now (with an arrival date as early as December 14, depending on the shipping method you choose). Which means: if you’re looking for a holiday gift for the mom-to-be or new mom in your life, you can totally get it into your (and then her) hands well in advance of Christmas Day.

So I thought I’d put up an excerpt today. Hope you enjoy 🙂 .

{ From Chapter 6: Shitty Days, Second Takes, and What Tori Spelling Taught Me }

I was lying in bed, seven months pregnant, when Tori Spelling made me cry. I was watching an episode of True Tori, which isn’t necessarily a fact I’d like to admit to publicly, but there you go. It’s a reality miniseries in which Tori Spelling and her husband, Dean McDermott, deal with the aftermath of his infidelity, and while the subject matter obviously isn’t the most uplifting topic in the world, I was still surprised to find myself actually crying.

The episode in question revolved around a therapy session during which the couple explored Dean’s “rationale” for cheating, and what the conversation quickly revealed was that he just didn’t feel like he was getting enough sex in his marriage. The subtext: even if that didn’t make his actions “right,” didn’t it make them a little more . . . understandable? . . . Maybe?

What was understandable: Tori Spelling’s response to this, which was to break down in tears. She said that she had always known that he would cheat on her, because he was so focused on what their marriage had been like “in the beginning”—the implication being that they started out doing what many new couples do, which was have sex every day, or even multiple times a day—and that he would never be happy unless she kept that standard going. Forever.

“We had a great relationship and we had a great sex life,” she said to her husband.

“We had sex once every two weeks,” Dean shot back. “It wasn’t fantastic.”

And in response to this, their therapist expressed the sentiment that I suspect was on the mind of every single woman watching the show: “Dean,” she said, “your expectation of what a marriage is supposed to be like sexually . . . it’s like a fairytale.”

Let’s get real: sex every other week is hardly cause to declare a State of Emergency for couples who have been together for many years, and who are raising young children (many might argue, in fact, that every other week ain’t half bad). But the set of expectations that Tori’s husband was working from makes perfect sense in a society where Real Housewives write books about how sex every other day (at a minimum!) is the only way to keep a marriage healthy, where celebrities appear in bikinis looking picture-perfect mere weeks after giving birth, where the message from every advertisement and every TV show and every magazine is that not only “can” you be a mom and a sex bomb, you must be, because if you are not you are just another woman who Got Married and Got Boring.

The message here, of course, is that if you fail to keep things “hot,” any subsequent failure is on you. Because men are men and men need sex and sure, we’ll all tell the woman who’s busy working and raising children and exploring her personal interests and not being intimate with her husband as often as he (or she) might have liked because sometimes life gets in the way that it wasn’t her fault that he sought out sex elsewhere, but inside we’re thinking: “Well, it kind of . . . was. Wasn’t it?”

I think mothers can—should—feel sexy. I think intimacy can—should—continue to be a wonderful, special, important part of a relationship during a pregnancy, and after the kids arrive.

But it’s not always that simple, and not always that easy. The scene between Tori Spelling and her husband broke my heart because I understood exactly where she was coming from, the exact fear that she was dealing with and could not get away from and that haunted her every day.

I am different than I used to be, in so many ways, up to and including the degree to which I prioritize intimacy. And so I have to wonder: does being “different than I used to be” mean that I’m failing to uphold my end of the “deal”? Because that’s how it feels, so much of the time. Like there was a deal that we made, and I broke it.

It’s not even about sex; sex is such a small part of it. It’s about all those things that were one way in the beginning, and are another way now. It’s also not my husband who makes me feel this way; it’s me. It’s me who worries that I promised my partner one version of myself, and that now, many years and many life changes down the line, I’m simply not the same girl he signed on for. I look older. I feel older. I’m exhausted nearly all of the time. I wear sweatpants—and not the cute ones; the kinds that all sorts of Internet articles and relationship “experts” tell you never, ever to wear around your husband—around my husband. Because sweatpants are comfortable, and because adorable negligees are not, and because sometimes I just want to eat my Chinese food and watch my dumb reality show like a big lump on the couch and not worry about it. Except I do worry about it.

A few weeks after Kendrick and I met, he came out to visit me in Los Angeles. We drove to Las Vegas and got engaged at three o’clock in the morning in a hotel room with gold-painted walls and a mirrored ceiling. On the way back to L.A., we stopped at a Ralph’s supermarket and picked up a Brides magazine and hamburger meat and buns and blue cheese and cheap champagne, and we went back to my house and sat in my backyard and grilled burgers and drank champagne and couldn’t keep our hands off of each other, and at one point he turned to me and said, “Can life always be just like this?”

And I said that yes, it could, and I meant it.

But at that moment, twenty-six years old and newly engaged to a man I barely knew, sitting by a pool in the California sunshine, I didn’t know what I was promising.

At seven months’ pregnant, all that I want to do is fall asleep the moment that I finally collapse into my bed at night. I want to sleep as long as I can, and as much as I can, and when I’m not sleeping or taking care of our two-year-old son I’m working or preparing a nursery for our unborn daughter or cooking or vacuuming up whatever horrible thing our dogs just left in our living room…and where, exactly, does intimacy figure into all of that?

Sometimes it feels like I don’t even know.

I went into motherhood absolutely committed to the idea that I’d keep my “wife” self and my “mom” self separate. I had this fantasy that once our children were in bed and our responsibilities for the day had ended we’d return to who we’d always been: that couple who couldn’t keep their hands off of each other, who chased each other around the house and acted like kids and viewed intimacy not as another mark on the to-do list, but as an addiction.

My husband and I used to spend all day in bed together in a big tangle of sheets, nothing to do but pick up a phone and order another pizza. And now I want to get into that bed and sleep, and sleep, and if I’ve gotten enough sleep, which I never do, I want to read a book, or surf around on the Internet. I want to wake up with the sun, jump off of stone walls yelling “Superman!” with my son, and one day help my daughter figure out the difference between a triangle and a square. I want to want to light candles and eat pasta in bed on a Sunday afternoon and find that time that is just for my husband and me . . . but right now, I don’t know where I’d even start looking for it, because there is so much else to do. And that scares me.

Because I can’t help but remember that day when my husband asked me if life could always be this way, and feel like I lied. Sure, he was asking about hamburgers and champagne and making even the smallest moments feel like celebrations, but really: wasn’t what he was asking about us? Would we always be that way?

We would not. We would change, and then change some more, and eventually change so much that it would be hard to even remember that we used to be those kids sitting in the backyard with ketchup in their hair.

And so when I saw that episode of True Tori, I cried. Because it was one of my greatest fears come to life: that the changes that come to be in any marriage, those up-and-downs that are an inevitable part of weeks and months and years spent in the company of another person, wouldn’t be okay with my partner. They’d make him feel cheated, like he’d been promised one thing and given another, and they’d eventually bring our partnership—and, worst of all, our family—to an end.

Society pressures women to be sexy, and expects women to be note-perfect mothers, but does not want them to be sexual creatures and mothers at the same time. It tells us that we must put our children above everything, but also that while it’s maybe not technically our fault if we don’t have sex with our husband every day and he cheats on us . . . it kinda is.

The expectations placed upon us aren’t just “high”—they are fundamentally opposed to themselves, and are thus not just “tough,” but actually impossible to uphold. And if you are struggling—as I am—with figuring out how to be all of the things that you want to be, all at the same time, that simple fact—if nothing else—should make you feel so much better.

It’s impossible.

And that’s okay. You are okay. Even if you don’t feel like being “sexy” today; even if you do. Because when you partner up with someone for the whole of Forever, evolution isn’t only inevitable, it’s necessary. Exciting. And becoming a parent is the greatest evolution of all, and it is going to result in changes: changes you’re happy about; changes you’re not; changes that just are, because there’s no other way to be.

That feeling that you had in Week One with your partner—that crazy, wild, can’t-get-enough feeling—that’s so much fun, of course it is, and there are threads of that intoxication that will trail through your relationship forever, but that’s also such a narrow scratch on the surface of what you get when what you get is a lifetime. The beauty isn’t in the champagne; it’s in the moments when you’re cleaning up the dishes after your guests have left, standing next to each other in the kitchen scrubbing at some pots, and you realize that this is the most fun you’ve had all night: just the two of you all alone in an empty room after the party is over, laughing at the same unsaid joke.

{ Carrying On: Style, Beauty, Decor (and More) for the Nervous New Mom is available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble }


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