“And the 2015 ACM Song of the Year is 'Automatic', Miranda Lambert.“
My body is covered in needles. I put my head in my palms. I let go of my husband’s death grip. I wipe the sweat off my hands on the sides of my out-of-budget dress. I kiss said husband. Awkwardly. Cuz like, cameras. I look for Natalie (my-co-writer). I nervously walk through a blur of sincere eyes to a stage in front of 70,000 people. The room and the congratulatory pats on the back move in extreme slo-mo in contrast to the rapid fire flashbacks of childhood piano lessons & a Nashville-bound packed-up mini-van. And then right when the movie called “Your Whole Life Lead To This Moment” playing in my head gets to the part where I’m crying & swearing I’m quitting the music business… that’s when I take my first step onto the stage. And I breathe. Adjust the train of dress. Take next step. Forget to breathe. Take another step. Take four more steps. Turn around to see the faces of the voices I used to sing to on my way home from volleyball practice. I use every ounce of will power to swallow the lump in my throat that is hormonally tied to my tear ducts. Because if that switch gets flipped, this thing turns into a meme. And not a good one. Nervously readjust parts of dress that got disheveled on the treacherous journey up those six steps. And then the applause goes dead as I walk to the microphone and say:
This is for my daughter. So that she can know anything is possible. So that she can know why I’m not always there when she wakes up from a nap. And why sometimes we eat breakfast for breakfast - and then breakfast for supper. Because THIS is what I was doing during the day.
Yeah, that’s what I probably would’ve said.
But I didn’t.
Because I wasn’t there.
Instead, on the night we won Song Of The Year at the ACM’s in 2015 - I was on my couch in an XL sweatshirt holding my 4 day old son. Speechless. No really, speechless. Cuz they don’t Skype you in from remote locations unless you’re Reba.
So I cried. And my phone started melting from the texts. And about 4 minutes later Miranda & Natalie actually did Skype me from backstage in tears, but I couldn’t hear a word they said. Because approximately 2 seconds before they called, my 1 year old fell and hit her head on the coffee table and thought she was actually dying at 1 million decibals. It was a real rush, I tell ya. Kind of like the same rush as back in elementary school when one of my friends made me drink a “suicide” from the convenient store. (For lesser rednecks, a suicide is where you put a little bit of every single fountain drink in the same 32 oz cup and just see what happens.) Except in this situation, I felt like I had just taken a strong shot of ecstasy and FOMO and gratitude and WTF and OMG and sadness and confusion all at the same time. Side effects included occasional floating sensations and inability to complete full sentences. Not to be paired with postpartum hormones.
So the show ended, I called my mom crying, I nursed again, I put the baby to sleep, yada yada yada…and decided to run a bath. Behind our bath tub is a massive floor-to-ceiling mirror. And I don’t remember drawing the bath or grabbing a towel. I just remember being lost in my thoughts until I looked up and saw myself naked for the first time after having a baby in that mirror. And it felt like I instantly sobered up from whatever buzz I was still riding from the ACM win. And with the passion of a drunk sorority girl - and the depth of a grown ass woman - and the disappointment of a child - I locked eyes with the reflection in the mirror and we sobbed. Over the years, as I’ve told this story, my husband thinks it was whelm. My friends think it was hormones. The twenty-somethings go “whoa. That’s heavy.” (and nervously go back to looking at their phones.) I just know that as confused as I felt, I was exactly where I made to be in that moment. And I felt like I had two hearts in one body. One for my son, who will always know he is worth more than an award. And one for me, who knows how bad I wanted that once-in-a-lifetime moment.
So this year that once-in-a-lifetime moment turned into a twice-in-a-lifetime moment. And tomorrow morning, I fly to Vegas as we are nominated for a song I co-wrote called FEMALE. I don’t expect to win. And if we do, I don’t expect the microphone. But I have felt the tears try to resurface a dozen times this week as I have had frequent visions of that vulnerable, naked girl in the mirror 4 days postpartum. The one crying in her bath water while everyone else was drinking champagne with Reese Witherspoon at an after party. And I can’t not thank her. No matter what happens Sunday, she has given this weekend value for me in a way that no award ever could. So SHE is my new acceptance speech.
This is for the girl who just had a baby. The one whose heart and body are still in stitches. This is so you can know that you are always just getting started. Every day. The mountain top moments will keep coming. And that you can do hard things, because you are so much more than an extra 25 pounds of baby weight. You are gritty. And in a couple years you’ll be able to run circles around your 21 year old self. And you’ll do it all while still breathing life into 2 children that now can speak and they use those voices to tell their teachers that “their mama is a songwriter”. So girl that just had a baby, accept where you are in this exact moment. Accept crying in the bath water. Accept the reflection you don’t recognize. Accept the award you didn’t accept. Accept your limitations. Accept your vulnerabilities. Accept your emotions. Because a few years later it will be ALL those things that will help you write a song that will take you back to the party you once missed. And this year, your dress fits like a mother effing glove, girl. So I accept you and on behalf of you.