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Staring Into the Abyss Without the Bandaid of Booze

Happy Anniversary to me, myself and I.


We’re celebrating six months without alcohol. Though, I will confess that the terms “happy” and “celebrating” are debatable.

Giving up something you love because you love it too much is a hateful task. Especially if you loved white wine and vodka martinis because they took some of the hate, anxiety and fear out of your life for a few hours every day.

Without those temporary fixes, you’re left with a big giant black hole into which you must stare day in and day out. That black hole can see you too. There is no reprieve. And neither of you blinks.

Scary? You bet. That’s what the last six months have been.

But I’m also here to tell you that there is light at the end of the tunnel – more like a tiny match.

I didn’t get a glimpse of it until day 151, but it was waiting for me the whole time. Things once too scary for words, grow less frightening the longer you stare unaided.

When my son David was born in 2004, I thought he was the most terrifying thing on Earth and I was overwhelmed by the prospects of keeping him safe. A little wine in the evening after he fell asleep helped push back the terror. The older he got, the more wine I needed for the increasing threats against us both. (Note: I didn’t drink while pregnant because the fear of those consequences outweighed the others.)

I had a constant pit in my stomach from parenting – or what I privately called “baby-alive keeping.” The “what-if beast” raged in my head. What if he gets a brain tumor? What if I get a brain tumor? Ironically, all that fear and wine was compromising my liver. And my need to drink was no doubt making my son less safe.

When my dad got sick with Alzheimer’s disease, I used wine to assuage that reality, too. When he died, I started to fixate on my mortality as well as my own odds of getting AD. Better sip a few martinis to push back those thoughts! Ironically, all that booze was compromising my memory, as well as my liver and my son’s safety.

And so it went. Worried about this? Drink that! The converse was true too. Happy about something? Drink to that! Feeling somewhere in the middle? Sip to support the sublime!

The answer to every question was either Chardonnay or Smirnoff.

Until the day it wasn’t.

Ironically, that day happened in the Middle East for me. Living in Abu Dhabi, as we were, offers a lot of good reasons to drink. Feelings of alienation. Concerns about terrorism. Worries about family back home. Doubts about your decisions to be in the UAE.

The truth is that most of the expats I met in Abu Dhabi were way more moderate. Moreover, my drinking habit stood out in a country whose native inhabitants were non-drinking Muslims. Nobody, where I worked at Khalifa University, was familiar with the concept of Happy Hour, which by this point I had extended into happy hours upon hours.

With every trip to the covert liquor store known as Spinney’s, I felt more and more aware of how much I was imbibing. On the occasions when I didn’t notice, my cab driver usually did.

“Do you drink every day?” one asked me after waiting 10 minutes while I shopped. I wanted to scream “NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!” Instead, his question got me thinking. But yet again, my answer was more of the same. Vodka and vermouth. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Treadmill to run off the hangover. Rinse. Repeat. Day in and day out. Days had turned into years.

Then came March 28, 2014.

I went to the doctor that morning to get a minor prescription refilled where I was confronted with the fact that my blood pressure was scarily high as was my weight. Even though I’d sensed that a reality check was coming, it arrived as a shock. New questions popped up: How did this happen? Now what? I was gonna need new answers.

I had no choice but to enter into a staring contest with the deep, scary abyss inside me without the bandaid of booze. I knew that deep in my recesses there was a secret weapon – a slight advantage over my demons – in the form of competitiveness and courage.

The same tendencies that helped me become a national championship swimmer – and carry on after my father’s death – might be able to help me face off against these liquid foes.

Bercaw in Lane 4. Chardonnay in Lane 5. Vodka in Lane 3. Whisky in Lane 2. Beer in Lane 6. But being a sprinter wasn’t going to serve me well in this race. I’d have to go the distance for the rest of my life.

Day by day, I duked it out with fear, anxiety and dread WITHOUT the boost of mother’s little helpers.

I watched what I thought was my identity go down the drain with the rest of the booze. I shuffled to work, where I couldn’t focus. I plodded home, where I couldn’t sleep. A day turned into a week. A week into a month.

Today, 185 days later, I feel relief. And I’ve come to some conclusions about how I can best manage my fears back home in Vermont.

I don’t like doing things at night because darkness worsens the abyss. I do like to go out during the day for breakfast and lunch and COFFEE and milkshakes and air and sun and clouds and butterflies and my son’s swim meets and my husband’s gigs and walks to end Alzheimer’s disease. At night, however, I need candles, HGTV and a cozy blanket and fancy seltzer and peace and quiet to stave off the “what ifs.”

I don’t know if I’ll always prefer curling up on the couch to going out at night, but this is the way I arrived at September 28, 2015. One thing I do know, though, is that I will forever be grateful to the Middle East – a region that confounds so many Americans – for bringing me clarity.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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With two babies in tow, getting out the door often becomes doubly challenging. From the extra things to carry to the extra space needed in your backseat, it can be easy to feel daunted at the prospect of a day out. But before you resign yourself to life indoors, try incorporating these five genius products from Nuna to get you and the littles out the door. (Because Vitamin D is important, mama!)

1. A brilliant double stroller

You've got more to carry—and this stroller gets it. The DEMI™ grow stroller from Nuna easily converts from a single ride to a double stroller thanks to a few easy-to-install accessories. And with 23 potential configurations, you're ready to hit the road no matter what life throws at you.

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2. A light car seat

Lugging a heavy car seat is the last thing a mama of two needs to have on her hands. Instead, pick up the PIPA™ lite, a safe, svelte design that weighs in at just 5.3 pounds (not counting the canopy or insert)—that's less than the average newborn! When you need to transition from car to stroller, this little beauty works seamlessly with Nuna's DEMI™ grow.

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3. A super safe car seat base

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With 5 essentials that are as flexible as you need to be, the only thing we're left asking is, where are you going to go, mama?

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Parents in New Jersey will soon get more money and more time for parental leave after welcoming a baby.

This week New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed off on legislation that extends New Jersey's paid family leave from six weeks to 12.

It also increases the benefit cap from 53% of the average weekly wage to 70%, meaning the maximum benefit for a parent on family leave will be $860 a week, up from $650.

It might not seem like a huge difference, but by raising the benefit from two-thirds of a parent's pay to 85%, lawmakers in New Jersey are hoping to encourage more parents to actually take leave, which is good for the parents, their baby and their family. "Especially for that new mom and dad, we know that more time spent bonding with a child can lead to a better long-term outcome for that child," Murphy said at a press conference this week.

The law will also make it easier for people to take time off when a family member is sick.

Because NJ's paid leave is funded through payroll deductions, workers could see an increase in those deductions, but Murphy is betting that workers and businesses will see the benefits in increasing paid leave benefits. "Morale goes up, productivity goes up, and more money goes into the system," Murphy said. "And increasingly, companies big and small realize that a happy workforce and a secure workforce is a key ingredient to their success."

The new benefits will go into effect in July 2020 (making next Halloween a good time to get pregnant in the Garden State).

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Whether you just need to stock up on diapers or you've had your eye on a specific piece of baby gear, you might want to swing by your local Walmart this Saturday, February 23rd.

Walmart's big "Baby Savings Day" is happening from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at participating Walmarts (but more deals can be found online at Walmart.com already and the website deals are happening for the rest of the month).

About 3,000 of the 3,570 Supercenter locations are participating in the sale (check here to see if your local Walmart is).

The deals vary, but in general you can expect up to 30% off on items like cribs, strollers, car seats, wipes, diapers and formula.

Some items, like this Graco Modes 3 Lite Travel System have been marked down by more than $100. Other hot items include this Lille Baby Complete Carrier (It's usually $119, going for $99 during the sale) and the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat (for as low as $199).

So if you're in need of baby gear, you should check out this sale. Travel gear isn't the only category that's been marked down, there are some steep discounts on breast pumps, too.

Many of the Walmart locations will also be offering samples and expert demos of certain products on Saturday so it's worth checking out!

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Any Schumer has not had an easy pregnancy. She intended to keep working, but if you follow her on social media you know she's been very sick through each trimester.

And now in her final trimester she's had to cancel her tour due to hyperemesis gravidarum, also known as HG. It's a rare but very serious form of extreme morning sickness, and on Friday evening Schumer announced she is canceling the rest of her tour because of it.

“I vomit every time [I] ride in a car even for 5 minutes," Schumer explained in an Instagram post.

Due to the constant vomiting she's not cleared to fly and just can't continue to the tour.

This is not the first time Schumer has had to make an announcement about HG. Back in November, just weeks after announcing her pregnancy, she had to cancel shows and again broke the news via Instagram.

She posted a photo of herself in a hospital bed with her little dog Tati, and spelled out the details of her health issues in the caption. "I have hyperemesis and it blows," Schumer wrote.

Poor Amy. Hyperemesis gravidarum is really tough.

Kate Middleton, Ayesha Curry and Motherly co-founder Elizabeth Tenety are among those who, like Schumer, have suffered from this form of severe morning sickness that can be totally debilitating.

As she previously wrote for Motherly, Tenety remembers becoming desperately ill, being confined to her apartment (mostly her bed) and never being far from a trash can, "I lost 10% of my body weight. I became severely dehydrated. I couldn't work. I couldn't even get out of bed. I could barely talk on the phone to tell my doctor how sick I was—begging them to please give me something, anything—to help."

Thankfully, she found relief through a prescription for Zofran, an anti-nausea drug.


Schumer probably knows all about that drug. It looks she is getting the medical help she obviously needs, and she was totally right to cancel the tour in order to stay as healthy as possible.

We're glad to see Schumer is getting help, and totally understand why she would have to cancel her shows. Any mama who has been through HG will tell you, that wouldn't be a show you'd want front row seats for anyway.

Get well soon, Amy!

[A version of this post was published November 15, 2018. It has been updated.]

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As a military spouse, Cydney Cooper is used to doing things alone. But when she delivered her twin daughters early after complications due to Influenza A, she was missing her husband Skylar more than ever.

Recovering from the flu and an emergency C-section, and trying to parent the couple's two older boys and be with her new infant daughters in the NICU, Cydney was exhausted and scared and just wanted her husband who was deployed in Kuwait with the Army and wasn't expected home for weeks.

Alone in the NICU 12 days after giving birth, Cydney was texting an update on the twins to her husband when he walked through the door to shoulder some of the massive burden this mama was carrying.

"I was typing up their summary as best I could and trying to remember every detail to tell him when I looked up and saw him standing there. Shock, relief, and the feeling that everything was just alright hit me at once. I just finally let go," she explains in a statement to Motherly.

The moment was captured on video thanks to a family member who was in on Skylar's surprise and the reunion has now gone viral, having been viewed millions of times. It's an incredible moment for the couple who hadn't seen each other since Skylar had a three-day pass in seven months earlier.

Cydney had been caring for the couple's two boys and progressing in her pregnancy when, just over a week before the viral video was taken, she tested positive for Influenza A and went into preterm labor. "My husband was gone, my babies were early, I had the flu, and I was terrified," she tells Motherly.

"Over the next 48 hours they were able to stop my labor and I was discharged from the hospital. It only lasted two days and I went right back up and was in full on labor that was too far to stop."

Cydney needed an emergency C-section due to the babies' positioning, and her medical team could not allow anyone who had previously been around her into the operating room because anyone close to Cydney had been exposed to the flu.

"So I went in alone. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and held my hand through the entire thing but at the same time, I felt very very alone and scared. [Skylar] had been present for our first two and he was my rock and I didn't have him when I wanted him the most. But I did it! He was messaging me the second they wheeled me to recovery. Little did I know he was already working on being on his way."

When he found out his baby girls were coming early Skylar did everything he could to get home, and seeing him walk into the NICU is a moment Cydney will hold in her heart and her memory forever. "I had been having to hop back and forth from our sons to our daughters and felt guilty constantly because I couldn't be with all of them especially with their dad gone. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life and I won't be forgetting it."

It's so hard for a military spouse to do everything alone after a baby comes, and the military does recognize this. Just last month the Army doubled the amount of leave qualifying secondary caregivers (most often dads) can take after a birth or adoption, from 10 days to 21 so that moms like Cydney don't have to do it all alone.

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