I woke up from those years changed. Trauma changes you, no doubt. I went to a new therapist who specializes in trauma. The plan was to see her for about six months while we processed all the residual terror from the previous two years. Slowly but surely, the storms calmed and then one day the sky was clear. Terrible things weren't happening on the regular. I could take deep breaths again. My "your kid is going to die" triggers got less sensitive and less frequent. We somehow miraculously paid off the medical bills.
The new therapist was interesting. I wasn't sure about her at first, though she came highly recommended. Because so much of the things we went through in those crazy years was centered around our family, we ended up talking about motherhood a lot.
I feel like I need to be very clear here: Beatrice and Hollis and their miraculous entries into my life were the biggest dreams come true I've ever known. I am so grateful to be their mom, and to watch them become. The kids bring me a kind of joy that defies ample language to describe it (and continues to!). Women who have a typical path to pregnancy and childbirth sometimes don't really get this aspect, but the sheer fact that my children EXIST, that they are alive and mine still leaves me breathless after six years. When you are given a gift for which you had, after years of heartbreak, surrendered all hope of ever receiving, your perspective can't help but be transformed. I truly revel in their here-ness, their very presence still feels surreal. I love my kids with a fierce fire.
And maybe that's why I was so caught off guard when my transition into motherhood found me spinning. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. And I've learned it's okay for it to be both beautiful and brutal. I can be overjoyed and overwhelmed by it at the same time, and often am. No one tells you how hard parenting is. If they did, the earth might not be populated. Seriously. Songwriting has always been a way for me to make sense of life and all my big beautiful emotions. And the first thing that went out the window when I became a mom, was the space and time write. I'm not the kind of girl who functions well when bottled up. And I had lost my outlet. I missed that freedom and the chance for creative expression. I've mentioned this previously, but there were countless nights in the years since I birthed my tiny humans that I sat in the dark, lonely, desperate 3 am with a not-sleeping child wondering: Has my time as a musician come to a close?
Truthfully, I had more questions than answers:
Will I ever get the chance to make another record?
Will I feel the fulfillment of connecting with audiences night after night again?
Has all the work of my pre-child life even mattered?
If not, who am I?
Have I written all the songs that were in me?
Am I the only mother that feels like I'm being swallowed up by the role of motherhood?
How does anyone balance motherhood & music? (still searching for this answer..)
Can the two big dreams of my life, music and motherhood, co-exist?
In the seven years since I made my last new studio album, a significant personal transformation has happened for me. Taking off your masks will do that. Unveiling your trauma and showing up for yourself for the first time will do that. Becoming a mom will do that.
I honestly didn't notice it happening, the movements forward were almost imperceptible at first. I was still playing shows at the Blue Door a few times a year. There was a shift in how I embodied my work and identity on stage, the ideas I felt compelled to share, and the way I felt standing in my shoes. Long time fans started commenting about it, too. All of this ran parallel with some deep, excruciating emotional work I have been engaging in therapy. Motherhood broke me open in a way I never saw coming. Ultimately, my struggles with perfectionism and enoughness as a mom would become the lens through which I could see myself more clearly than I ever have. Simply put, I came to realize I was in my mid-forties with no idea of who I truly was outside of the masks I wear to meet the expectations of those around me. And because I didn't know who I was, I didn't assign any worth to that girl. All the years of therapy and examining my inability to offer myself kindness, self-care, and radical love FINALLY MADE SENSE. Deep down I did not believe I had the right to take up space. I spent my entire life diminishing myself to fit in. I was always too much and not enough at the same time. It's a painful place to live.
You might think I am off course, but this has everything to do with why we're here. When I finally got a glimpse of myself, for the first time in my life I saw what I had to offer the world. I began to connect the dots of my worth and how it shaped my work as an artist. I saw the power of my words and how my unique strengths help others feel less alone in their lives. I was no longer afraid or ashamed to take up space. Not only did I belong here, it was okay for me to experience joy. And as those shifts began to shake the earth inside me, the aftershocks rippled out across every corner of my life. I knew I had to fight for myself, and to fight for the world that needs songs now more than ever- songs that awaken hope, kindness and healing. We all need to be reminded of the call to love, empathy, and respect, and that we belong to each other.
And somehow, amidst the diapers and teething, and toddler tantrums and complete and utter exhaustion, one song came and pushed its way out. And then six months later, another one. I learned to structure my creative time in the nooks and crannies. I was often disappointed with my output, but I kept looking for the windows of time and listening for when a song was stirring. Dan and I slowly started our co-writing sessions. Somehow I woke up with a six year old, a three year old, and a record’s worth of songs begging to be heard.
I still don't have all the answers, and there's so far to go. But comebacks are like that. Just when you think all hope is lost, a little spark ignites, and the fire in your belly propels you forward. You do the thing that even you did not know you had in you.
The road ahead looks very different than the one behind. Full time touring as I once knew it is not a possibility right now. But as the kids grow, it is becoming more feasible for me to get back out there in measured amounts. And today I'm looking at it as an opportunity to get creative and find solutions that work for our family in the now.
What I do know for sure? Getting this record made is the next right step.
For those of you who have supported my music to this point, I thank you. I would not be able to do what I love without you all out there listening, coming to shows. I hope you’ll come along with me down this turn in the road, and help me write my comeback story.
I am more myself than I’ve ever been in all my 44 years.
It’s not that I’ve become someone else, it’s more of an unbecoming, a shedding off the things I put on to hide and mask, so desperate for belonging. I need less of that every day.
I humbly believe this is among the best work of my life, born from the truest place in me, my most authentic creative expression.
I am both mama and musician after all. I don't have to choose, and I won't be swallowed whole. The magic in all this is that Motherhood is the one who took my hand and gently walked me home to myself, a place where it turns out I had been waiting all along.