Why I Absolutely Can’t Put My Kids Before My Husband

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“Are you and daddy getting divorced?”

I was 4-years-old, sitting on the bathroom floor and chatting with my mom while she soaked in the tub, when I blurted out this question. “No, of course not!” she immediately responded. “Why would you think that?” I don’t remember what I said next, but somehow we moved on to a new topic.

Later I heard her whispering on the phone about what I’d said. She must have been thinking, How did my little girl, the one with the stay-at-home mom and Catholic upbringing, know about divorce? It’s not like my parents were screaming and slamming doors all the time. Their unhappiness wasn’t supposed to be obvious, especially not to a little girl. But somehow, even at that young age, I could sense that my parents were deeply unhappy in their marriage.

Turns out they did get divorced—four years later, right around my eighth birthday. The quietly hostile relationship that my parents had when they were married bloomed into an outwardly hostile one during the split, and it stayed that way for years after the divorce papers were signed. By the time my sister and I were pre-teens, our dad had remarried and pretty much vanished from our lives.

The whole thing—the divorce, our father deciding to go his own separate way—was incredibly sad and unfortunate, but it taught me an important lesson: It’s almost impossible to have a happy childhood if you have miserable parents.
 At some point I decided that if I were ever to get married and have kids I would do everything I could to have a happy marriage that lasted for the long haul…and if that wasn’t possible, then at least I would do my best to forge a positive relationship with my ex-husband for the sake of my kids.

Years later, I met an amazing man. I got married and we celebrated our twelfth wedding anniversary last June. We’re very happy, and because I want to stay happily married and give our 5-year-old son and 20-month-old daughter the kind of joyful home I didn’t have while I was growing up, I put my marriage first. That’s right. My husband comes before anyone else in my life, including my beloved children.

Before anyone calls me a selfish, terrible mother, please let me explain what I mean by that: I think you’ll see that it’s not as harsh as it sounds. And, in fact, the priorities that we’ve set benefit everyone involved.

Putting my marriage first means I’m protecting the relationship that’s central to my children’s happy childhood; I’m making sure that Chris and I coexist happily despite the changes that we experienced in our relationship after they were born, particularly in those first few months (from the way that we needed to divert our attention and, at times, affections to this new little person in our lives to the mind-boggling lack of sleep that lasted for months and made us argue about silly little things like who forgot to buy more coffee when the last bag ran out).

Putting my marriage first does not mean neglecting our kids; Chris and I are extremely involved parents. We both say constantly that Mason and Poppy are the love of our lives. They’re the greatest things we’ve ever done; we can’t imagine our lives without them. We love them infinity plus. So for our children’s sake (and for ours), here’s how we make our marriage our top priority:

1. We plan child-free couple vacations. This isn’t something my husband and I do every year; in fact, we’ve only done it once so far, but we plan on taking more trips alone in the future. Our first vacation a deux took place when our oldest child, Mason, was 6-months-old.

Too soon? No way. Chris and I needed to go somewhere and reconnect after my extremely difficult pregnancy (which included 30-weeks of morning sickness and extreme anxiety), so my mom graciously volunteered to come to New York to stay with him for five days. She insisted that we needed that time alone, even though I dreaded leaving the baby.

And you know what? She was right. Going on that trip was the best thing we could have done for our marriage. We had sex, we got some much-needed rest and we had wonderful dinners together. By the time we returned to New York, we were a stronger, happier couple—and ready to take on whatever Mason dished out. Bring on those sleepless nights, baby: we can handle it!

2. We present a united front. This means we always have each other’s back, no matter what. When Chris needed to take a job that would keep him in another city five days a week, I supported him. When I told Chris in September that I needed to leave my nightmare job and do something else, he supported me, no further explanation needed.

With our kids, it’s all about being on the same page at all times; we never try to become the favorite parent by caving in to what they want versus what we believe is right. For example, I feel strongly that our oldest child, Mason, needs to go to bed at 8 p.m. unless it’s a special occasion. Chris, on the other hand, would be fine with letting him stay up later…but he knows this issue is important to me, so he respects my wishes.

We’re being consistent with our messaging to Mason so that he doesn’t get confused and so that he feels secure with a consistent routine—but more importantly we’re showing him that we’re united in the decisions that we make, as well as demonstrating unequivocal support and respect for each other.

3. We keep the baby out of the bed. Chris and I made a conscious decision from the very beginning not to co-sleep (although both children were in a bassinet in our bedroom for months), because we wanted a space where we could have sex or cuddle without worrying about a baby sleeping between us. Now that they’re older, they may come into bed with us in the early morning hours, and we’re not going to kick them out; we’re more than happy (and grateful!) for that cuddle time. But when it’s time to go to sleep every night, it’s just the two of us, no exceptions. And since that’s always the way we’ve operated, we’ve never had an issue with them about it. They understand that this space is mommy’s and daddy’s special place, just like their room is theirs.

4. I respect my husband’s needs (and he does the same). Neither of us are morning people, so we take turns getting up with our youngest child, Poppy, at the crack of dawn every day. Sometimes she insists that mommy (or daddy) needs to be up, too, and we’re very clear that she gets the undivided attention of one parent every morning because mommy or daddy is tired and she/he needs some extra rest. Or sometimes mommy needs to go to the gym alone, or daddy needs a night out with friends. We protect the other partner’s needs out of love and respect. Those time-outs make us better parents—and better partners, too.

5. I recognize my husband’s greatness (and he returns the favor). I am Chris’ biggest fan (his publicist, even) and he’s mine. We praise each other to other people, as well as to our son. Every morning when I come out into the living room, dressed for work, Chris points to me and says to the kids, “Isn’t mommy beautiful?” When Chris cooks us one of his amazing dinners, I point to the food and say to them, “Isn’t daddy the best cook?” We compliment each other in front of our kids, both to build his respect and love for the other parent, as well as to show our love and appreciation for each other. It’s our way of keeping the other partner from feeling unimportant, unnoticed, or on the back burner.

*© Heather Morgan Shott, as first published on Your Tango.

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To All the Other Moms Who Have Had a Miscarriage

miscarriagegrieving_sizedAugust 2012 marked a low point for me: I lost a baby boy at 10 weeks gestation. The baby had been a surprise, most likely conceived on our 10-year wedding anniversary, and we had been ecstatic. Now he was suddenly gone.

It was a Friday when we learned I had miscarried. We had an appointment with my ob-gyn for our first ultrasound, and we were so excited we both took the day off work. We planned to go out to lunch afterwards to celebrate. Instead, we left the doctor’s office with me sobbing behind huge sunglasses. There was no celebratory lunch, only an immediate appointment with a maternal-fetal specialist to confirm that the pregnancy was no longer viable; my ob-gyn hadn’t been able to find a heartbeat, even though the little baby on the screen looked perfect to us. Two hours later, with the awful news confirmed, I was scheduled to have a D&C (a procedure to remove the baby’s remains) the following morning. My doctor had told me that it could take a month for the baby to leave my body naturally, and I just couldn’t wait that long. I needed to let him go for my own sanity.

On my way out to dinner for my 36th birthday, I had no I was 3-weeks-pregnant. Sadly, that baby would pass away a few weeks later.

On my way to my birthday dinner; I had no idea I was 3-weeks-pregnant. Sadly, that baby would pass away a few weeks later.

 

The procedure itself wasn’t awful, I don’t think. I don’t remember much beyond feeling achingly empty afterwards. I was filled with grief so thick I felt like I was suffocating. I spent the weekend afterward in sweats, sobbing every time my then-3-year-old son wasn’t around, feeling empty and desperately alone. I wrote a letter to Angel Baby. I purchased a heart bracelet to wear in his honor. Groggy from the medication I was given during the procedure, I slept a lot.

The weeks after that were filled with ups and downs. I’d burst into tears at random times. I’d see a newborn out with his mom, or a pregnant lady would walk past me on the street, and I’d feel insanely jealous. My son would innocently say “I want a baby brother,” and I’d have to leave the room until I could pull myself together. I’d see on Facebook that yet another friend was pregnant, and I’d have to swallow feelings of self-pity for my own loss. I even endured some incredibly thoughtless comments from people (I was showing when I lost the baby and had been called out a few times) that left me angry and speechless. In a particularly unbelievable moment, one pregnant co-worker said (while rubbing her swollen belly), “You’re so lucky you can drink now! Hopefully the next one will be good.”

Then, two months after my miscarriage, something miraculous happened: I was pregnant again. I couldn’t believe my good fortune, but as excited as I was I was also terrified. My heart had broken so badly after the loss of my second son, I couldn’t imagine enduring that pain again. The holidays came and we shared our big news with our parents and grandparents, but no one else. I didn’t want the word to get out until after we received the results of our first trimester tests, since we lost our little boy due to a devastating genetic disease (Trisomy 18). I wore layers of clothing trying in vain to hide the little bump that seemed to appear within days of my positive pregnancy test.

Our first ultrasound with baby #3, which took place around 7 weeks, went beautifully. We saw the baby’s gorgeous heartbeat. We left my ob-gyn’s office — this time thrilled, a stark contrast to how we felt after our last ultrasound — and I counted down the days until our 11-week ultrasound. That ultrasound was even better; this time the baby waved at us and filled me with incredible happiness. I held my breath through our first trimester ultrasound and blood tests; once again, all went well. The tests were normal. To calm my anxious mind, we had one more genetic test: Materni21, the new blood test that screens for dozens of genetic diseases with 99 percent accuracy.

At 8 a.m. on Valentine’s Day, we got the best imaginable news: Our Materni21 results came back normal. And then the doctor delivered a huge surprise: We were having a little girl! We were elated and shocked. Elated because our test came back normal, which had been my biggest concern. Shocked because we were having a little girl — we had been convinced it was another boy. Of course we were delighted too; we didn’t care what our baby’s gender was, we just wanted a healthy baby.

It’s been two years since my miscarriage, and I can honestly say that getting pregnant again helped heal my heart more than anything else. It wasn’t that the baby I was carrying replaced the baby I lost; I’ll never forget him, he’ll always have a special place in my heart. It’s just that I had a much more profound appreciation for the miracle of life, and how delicate and fragile it really is. And I was so thankful for a third opportunity to become a mom again. (My daughter, Poppy Belle, was born healthy and happy in August 2014; she just turned 20-months-old!)

But here’s the thing: Those first six months, especially, were so difficult for me. I sobbed on February 27, 2014, the day that would have been my second son’s due date. I cried for the little boy I would never meet, and for his terrible fate — even as I celebrated the new life growing inside of me. I reached out to a close friend and told her how I was feeling, and in consoling me she said, “I’m happy that you won’t have to go through the day wondering if you’ll ever get pregnant again.”

Her words gave me perspective, and so have the words of other friends. Talking to moms who have had miscarriages has been especially helpful. If you’ve lost a baby recently, and you can stand to talk about it, I encourage you to reach out for support. I couldn’t have gotten through those first six months after my miscarriage without the phone calls, emails, and text messages that I’ve received from other women, some strangers, who have been in my shoes — and I’m trying to pay that support forward by writing about what I’ve been through and reaching out to other moms that I know who have lost a baby. My message today is that it does get better. There is hope, you will begin to heal. I promise.

© Heather Morgan Shott, as first published on Momtastic.com

Visit the New High Chair Times!

Greetings, mamas and daddies!

High Chair Times is now part of Parents.com! Mason and I are so jazzed — and we hope you’ll visit us at our new home (we’ll be posting there instead of here!).

We’ve had lots of new food adventures, so please come visit and let us know what you think.

We’re looking forward to bringing you more food adventures — and hearing all about yours!

Love,
Heather & Mason