This story starts out just like any other love story – boy meets girl and they fall madly in love. But that’s where the commonalities between our story and the average love story end.
My husband and I met on Plenty of Fish. Back before Tinder, it was the muddy pond where one-night-stands were openly broadcast and relationship seekers were scoffed at. When I found a cute (read: sexy) guy who also had “looking for friendship” in his profile, I rolled the dice. One message in and we already had butterflies. We were a couple of odd ducklings in a sea of suckerfish, and somehow we had found each other.
We were living about 1,000 kilometres apart, so email and FaceTime were our cupid and bow. After a couple of months of this nuttiness, he finally decided to fly his cute butt out to see me.
Skip to a month or so later, I was packing up my single girl life and following my stud muffin out to the West Coast.
Fast forward to December 2011, I was told by my doctor that, due to various medical issues, it would be impossible for me to carry children. Approximately nine days later, I got pregnant with trouble maker number one.
We freaked out and decided to take one last babymoon – where you go somewhere that you know you won’t get a chance to go for a very long time – and he proposed.
The ring was perfection, the location was breathtaking and in the months following, I dreamt of nothing but puffy white dresses, foot popping kisses, and bratty flower girls. I was basically a five-year-old in Barbie high heels and a Cinderella costume dress all over again.
Our little bundle of joy (read: poop) was born at the end of that summer and we were consumed with new baby life. All thoughts of wedding bells slipped through the cracks in my overwhelmed mom brain.
People would ask me if I was ready to be a mom and I would always respond with “Oh, I don’t think I’ll mind staying up all night with the baby. I’m usually up pretty late anyway.”
I was picturing snuggling up with this angelic, cooing baby while watching Friends reruns. I did not picture bouncing the baby in his car seat, strung up on his dad’s pull-up bar with bungee cords, for four hours straight because it was the only place he would sleep. (Yes, that really did happen.)
When number one turned seven-months-old I got pregnant with number two – more reassurance that doctor was getting high on her own supply.
Wedding plans hit the back burner again – and again when number two was about eight-months-old and number three came a-knockin’.
Frustration was mounting at that point. It was time.
In a first trimester fit of tears, we finally set a wedding date for the next year, when our wobbling was going to be about eight-months-old and our other monkeys would be two and three.
We pictured a quintessential West Coast wedding, inviting our families to celebrate with us, and our midwife to perform the ceremony. Tucked into a serene cove on a private beach, we were to tie the knot inside of a beautiful open-sided structure beside a roaring fire, a lapping ocean and surrounded by a circle of our loved ones.
After our littlest gremlin was born I immediately started the dieting. I did the waist training, the “no sugar cleanse,” protein shakes, fitness classes, and those magical fat burning wraps. But my butt wasn’t getting any smaller. As the weeks ticked down to the wedding and my arm-ginas were still plump, I started practicing posing in the mirror. Sucking in my mommy tummy, popping out my elbows to make my chubby arms look slimmer, jutting out my hip to make my waist look more shapely. I was especially obsessed with my face. I would look at every angle, trying to memorize how exactly to stick my tongue to the roof of my mouth so that my double chin would single out for our photos. I had three babies worth of weight packed onto that face, arms, and tummy – and it was consuming me.
I would laugh it off when mentioning it to my friends, joke about the jiggle. But, to be honest, the pressure that I was putting on myself to “bounce back” was immense.
It’s funny how the universe works, isn’t it? Our household was hit with a particularly nasty preschool plague just a week-and-a-half before the wedding. We were down and out. As us mommies usually do, I shook it off better than the rest of the family – or so I thought.
About five days before the wedding, I was hit. My sinuses were so sore that I had a permanent migraine, all of the teeth along my upper jaw were throbbing and I couldn’t eat. I did everything that I could think of but nothing helped, and finally, I went to the doctor. He prescribed me two different types of antibiotics for what he called a “stubborn sinus infection.” Despite the antibiotics, I woke up three days before the wedding with a swollen face. I continued on to my hair appointment, my nail appointment, my wedding errands but by that evening I was in so much pain that I had to cancel my bachelorette party. My face had swollen out so far that my speech was significantly affected, and my left eye wouldn’t open all the way. I found myself heading to the emergency room at 4 a.m.
By that point, the swelling had extended so far that my temple was swollen. The ER doctor I saw was beyond reassuring. He deduced that it wasn’t a sinus infection after all, but a tooth abscess gone horribly wrong. After IV antibiotics, an emergency dental surgery scheduled, and even more antibiotics, he guaranteed me it would “dry up” any remaining stuff in my face. I was trying not to think about the fact that I would be getting married in two days and concentrate on what he was saying.
After approximately 37 minutes of nightmare sleep, I drove back in for my surgery. The abscess was so aggressive and far along it had eaten through not only all of my gum tissue but also the bone that separated my mouth from my sinuses. The surgeon laughed when I asked if my face would be okay for the wedding.
Driving home with a wad of gauze shoved into my swollen, bleeding cheek, exhausted and in tremendous amounts of pain, I broke down on a level I never had before. I had obsessed about my double chin, chubby arms, and flabby thighs for months. It was like the universe was laughing in my face, my gigantic, pus-filled face.
I got home, filled my prescriptions for two different kinds of pain killers and antibiotics, climbed into my bed and cried.
I couldn’t postpone the damn wedding.
I was eye-to-eye with my demons – my weaknesses, my insecurities. They have done so much damage in my life. They have ruled over me, dictating the choices that I have made, every single day.
It’s depressing as hell to speak these things out loud, but that has been my inner voice for about 15 years. That voice has wasted so many opportunities, robbed so many experiences. I was about to let it ruin one of the happiest days of my life.
I had always thought that I loved myself, but in that moment I realized I never really had. If I postpone this wedding, the wedding I had waited so long for, I would be saying yet again that I’m not good enough.
I pictured myself as I wanted to be on that day. I wanted to be with the people that I love the most. I wanted to play on the beach with my babies, in my beautiful wedding dress, and kiss my new husband as the waves soaked my funky wedding shoes. I wanted to walk arm-in-arm with my dad and take in the scenery. I wanted to tear up as the love of my life read his vows to me. I wanted to be strong, confident, and beautiful. So, I was.
It really was that simple. My options were limited, so I chose to be happy.
The wedding day was such a whirlwind. My hair was flawless, my makeup was stunning, and my dress made me cry.
The weather was better than I could have imagined and the ceremony was hilarious. Perfectly chaotic – interrupted less than 30 seconds in with a 3-year-old tugging on his daddy’s arm, telling him he needed to pee.
I’ve realized that I’ll never look back on that day as perfect. I will always remember feeling self-conscious, wishing my face looked normal and my smile wasn’t crooked. I’ve also realized that none of that matters. I was brave on that day. I conquered something and I took a huge step towards being exactly who I want to be. I didn’t feel beautiful on my wedding day, but I felt confident and worthy of all of it.
I look back on that day and I swell with pride – just thankfully, not in my cheek.
Mommy’s Inside Voice is a biweekly column by Amie Jay, a local mother of three. This special edition appeared in the summer edition of West Shore Family.