I grew up in a pretty volatile home. There I said it. It most definitely could have been worse, and for that I am grateful daily, but there was this underlying sense of unease that followed me everywhere I went under that roof. I was never sure how the day would play out and while there were many wonderful memories, sad ones seem to be the ones that stick sometimes. [KEEP READING FOR THE ENTIRE ESSAY.]

Emily Frame for Bugaboo

My truest self is as tender-hearted as they come, even too much so, but with an uneasy upbringing came a slew of defense mechanisms. Namely, an angry cement coating over my heart that, at times, hurt just to beat. My husband and I had similar sad and sticking experiences, (unfortunately his are the kind I have the daily gratitude I did not encounter as mentioned previously.) We spent the first four years of our marriage cleaning house and taking inventory of all the dysfunctional things we didn’t want to bring into this new family we had created.  Once we felt like we could start a new path, and be our own people outside of it all, we decided to try for a baby.

In the midst of morning sickness and stretch marks, fear started to creep in. What if I couldn’t really change? What if I would just be another perpetuated familial trademark to be passed down like a recipe or a quilt. With three weeks left of my pr

egnancy, I looked up an old therapist I had seen as a teenager. She had smiling eyes and a smooth as honey voice. She had this way about her that made me feel like I was so totally normal, so totally validated, and just the most wonderful human being that ever graced her lazy-boy recliner. I spilled my heart to her while gently rocking the over-stuffed chair, a box of Kleenex under my arm, my hands gesticulating wildly.

Once we got to the end of the session, she aske

d me how I was feeling about giving birth. Before I could even answer she gushed, “My very favorite part about having babies is when the doctor finally let me push! It is just the best feeling in the whole world, OH! I just cannot wait for you!” My tear-stained eyes got wide, I had heard a lot of things about childbirth, but this was a new one. With every Hollywood reenactment, every veteran mother’s account of their own birth-days, pushing actually feeling good was something I had never, ever heard.


Something in my whole body and soul clicked. And I believed her. I believed her and yet simultaneously, I still knew that pushing my son to this world was going to hurt like hell. They don’t call if “the ring of fire” for nothing, after all. But there sitting on that chair, I knew that no matter what pain I felt in this life, it was my choice to let it eat me up inside, to let it surround my organs and control my emotions. Or I could look at it in the face and say, yes this hurts, and I will be okay. Once I finally let go of this urgent need to reconcile pain and happiness, my heart was finally free. They can coexist, our history does not always dictate our future, it merely gives meaning to it. A little pain isn’t going to stop me from loving this beautiful life I’ve been given, and isn’t that the most important lesson to learn as mothers? Raising a child is just one hilarious game of Pain and Happiness ping-pong.

It’s funny because a mere seven hours later, my slippery and sweet baby boy was placed on my chest and solidified all I had learned that morning. He was waiting for me to figure it out, and once I did, it seemed he couldn’t wait another moment to let me have a look at him.


This post is in partnership with Bugaboo’s Cameleon 3. We each have had the pleasure testing out the Cameleon 3, it is an all terrain stroller system that truly goes wherever we go. We are proud to be the Utahan correspondents for this project and will be sharing our pivotal moments in motherhood alongside our Camelon 3 escapades days with accompanying photos by Cee Bee Photography


43 thoughts on “ping-pong”

  1. Emily,
    What a beautifully honest & poignant post. I’m so glad you shared part of your story here. It’s a reminder that we all have gone through messy stuff and can still be amazing parents. I too, had a rough childhood. And I’m so glad that you shared a bit of your life to encourage us as parents that we have a beautiful opportunity each day to love our babies no matter who we were or what happened to us….Thank you again!

  2. Just needed to say thank you for writing this. We all need a reminder that we can be the parents we so desperately want to be, with support, and by choosing to be deliberate. Good luck with your beautiful family. I love your writing on Small Fry.

    1. I love that. Parenting can feel like a knee-jerk reaction some times, but when I’m a deliberate parent I do so much better! Thank you so much!

  3. Such a great post. What an incredible gift we have to be able to choose. You have done an incredible job. I love stories of hope and you are definitely one of them.

  4. Wow I think every pregnant woman needs to hear how wonderful birth will be instead of the horror stories that are always inevitable shared. Thanks for this I needed it! Your family is beautiful!

  5. Em,

    Thank you so much! I absolutely needed to read this today! I accidentally clicked on like three times, but who cares I loved it that much. Your honesty is refreshing and it helps me to think about my own pain and realize that I can be ok too! Love ya girl!


  6. Wow! I stumbled upon your blog through Instagram and I’m so glad I did! What an amazing first post to read. This “struggle” between pain and joy is relevant for many people, including me. I’m not a mother and I’m not pregnant but your words have encouraged me all the same. From one tendered hearted woman to another, you have given me a new perspective. Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. Mrs. D thank you! It’s a universal struggle I think, unfortunately it took me a lot longer to figure out than most. Thanks for your support! xoEmily

  7. We are quite the kindred spirits, Emily. Even though my childhood was so filled with darkness, it is so healing to do things differently with my own family. Every good meal I feed them, every book I read them before bed, every hug and kiss, I feel a part of my heart mending itself. It’s actually, quite miraculous.

  8. I really love the ping-pong image. It’s so true how we can have 2 conflicting feelings at the exact same time and yet they don’t conflict. Thanks for sharing

  9. i love every single thing you write, em. but especially this. 100% clear as day, you love those boys with all the energy (and smarts and lessons learned) of your life. they’re so lucky.

  10. you rock! I truly believe that we can shape our own destiny despite the environment we grew up in. We can choose happiness! I can see you are one amazing mama!

  11. amazing. i love that your therapist was so sweet and encouraging. I had a rough childhood along with good memories weaved in there. but like you said .. the bad ones are always the ones that stick out in my mind. Fmailies are crazy. ahah in a good way too. It feels good to not be alone working through crap to better our children and marraige.

  12. thank you for sharing this…. i can relate to all of the experiences you girls have shared… i’m grateful for your positive outlook on motherhood and can relate to trying to give the next generation better than you had, especially the emotional aspect… i find myself constantly evaluating my actions with my kids and trying to do so many things different than how it was for me at times in my life… it is healing to make those corrections and learn from those experiences…
    i also appreciate the positive outlook on childbirth, we need more positivity toward birth in our culture…

  13. Emily, it is comforting to hear about other women who have had childhoods where bad memories outweigh the good. I feel like my brother and I are the first in our family to deliberately choose to raise our children differently and to not stay on the track our family was on. I struggle every day to be a better parent and make better choices than my parents did. Sometimes I achievethis and sometimes I don’t, but I try.

  14. I appreciate this post because (constructive criticism coming) I felt disconnected from this blog as it’s always so…positive and pretty. Some real blog posts like this make me want to keep reading 🙂

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