If you follow my Instagram account, you know I have spent the last few weeks preparing for Caleb's second birthday. Last year, we didn't do a birthday party and instead took a trip to Disney with family. This year, when Eddie mentioned that he would love to throw a party for Caleb, I started my Pinterest board right away (Of course).
I decided on a Neverland theme, with the idea that I could incorporate elements of Peter Pan (a classic) and Jake and the Neverland Pirates (which Caleb loves and recognizes - as a matter of fact, every pirate is either "Jake" or "Hook"). Pinterest is a dangerous place, and my ideas quickly spun out of control. Thankfully, my parents are amazing at executing ideas and were able to let me borrow a LOT of things they already had. I took most of the photos myself, and in doing so while also trying to enjoy the party, I did miss a few details, but for the most part, they're included! Read on for party details...
I have toyed with the idea of writing this post for a while now, but to be totally honest, it scares the hell out of me to put all this out there. It took several rewrites and editing sessions, and out of privacy for my family I am choosing not to include every single detail of our process. This topic leaves me raw and feeling way more vulnerable than I feel comfortable. But it is also a topic that for too many women gets swept under the rug and makes us feel isolated, with only those closest to us being privy to the hard truth of our situation.
When I was 18, I had really irregular cycles... like every two weeks irregular. Clearly I was a raging bitch, because my dad suggested I go see a gynecologist. So I made my appointment and as soon as I told the doctor my symptoms, he told me, "I'm pretty certain you have polycystic ovary syndrome. But don't worry - it's totally treatable and 7 out of 10 women have it. It might be a little harder for you to have a baby when the time comes, but it won't be impossible." After an ultrasound confirmed this was the case, I was put on birth control and sent on my way.
To be totally honest, I didn't think about my PCOS very much after that. Birth control pills helped me maintain my weight, controlled the weird hair growth, and controlled the awful cystic acne that was caused by the hormonal imbalances of my PCOS.
But when Eddie and I were married, it was definitely something we discussed. We were not ready to have a baby right away and we decided we would wait. As soon as we came back from the honeymoon, though, the questions began: "When is that beautiful baby coming?" I usually laughed off the question because it seemed innocent enough. But a couple months before the four year anniversary mark, I started to get the itch in a bad way. We talked it over and decided December would be a good time to stop taking my birth control and let it work itself out of my system. That would give us a few months of wiggle room before our "deadline" (HA!). I made sure to eat really well, I worked out (something I hadn't done regularly since my teens).
Fast forward to July, on vacation in Greece. I was late - later than I had been in my whole life. I kept attributing it to the travel and the change in our eating and schedule. But deep down, there was a little seed that kept saying, maybe you're pregnant. So when my period started six days late, I broke down. I was miserable. I looked better than I had in a long time because of my fitness routine, and I hated my body. I hated my body for what it wouldn't, and couldn't seem to, do.
After the trip, I went back to my doctor and had her check me out. She ran a few tests and suggested I wait a few more months. In November, at my wit's end and unable to handle the disappointment that came every month, we made an appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist. After a few months of tests, he suggested we begin with the most non-invasive methods available. First would come medication, then if that didn't work after a few cycles, we would move on to IUI (intrauterine insemination), and the last resort would be IVF. Hearing all that was the scariest thing I had ever heard. I wanted a child more than anything in the world, but spending upwards of $10,000 on treatments left a huge lump in my throat.
All the while, people were still asking, "When is that beautiful baby coming?" I can not tell you the pain I felt each time those words were uttered. It was as if everyone was reminding me that my body couldn't do it's job. I know that wasn't the intention, but it certainly felt like it. My response went from a fun "We're working on it!" to kind of just shrugging my shoulders and casting my eyes downwards. It's so much damn harder than anyone ever imagines. In the meantime - friends are getting pregnant and announcing their pregnancies. We were, of course, elated for them, but each time someone announced their pregnancy it broke my heart a little more.
Finally, in April, after debating for a few months, we decided to give medication a chance. We had a million things going on - we had just begun major construction on our home, I had just been hired at a new school, and my photography business was thriving. But we had wanted this for so long. I honestly went in hoping and praying for the best, but expecting it not to work. We were pretty open with the people closest to us and we talked about what was going on. We knew that the more people knew, the more they would understand, and the more prayers would be on our side. I know that God had his hand in just about everything - it was as if everything had been perfectly aligned for us. Fast forward two weeks later (which was really like slow motion because it felt like the longest two weeks ever) and we found out that it had worked! I know so many prayers were said for us over those two weeks - candles were lit at the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche, prayer cards exchanged hands, prayers were said over us.
I had an incredible pregnancy and a pretty relaxed birth. I think that was God's way of saying - I made you wait long enough, and you've paid your dues. We got lucky that things worked as they did and that we did not have to go through with more invasive treatments.
But shortly after Caleb was born, those questions started again.
"When is number two coming?"
"You don't want an only child for too long!"
"How about that little girl now?"
"You know, those grandparents would love to have another baby to love on."
My response now is not quite as laughable - I tend to be curt and change the topic. Because honestly, I don't know when it will happen again. I don't know if it will take us that long to have another baby. And the older I get, the more the question seems downright rude. I don't ask you when you have sex with your husband or wife - don't ask me a question that is more personal than any other. I honestly don't care about what anyone else except my husband and I want in regards to children because I know it's none of their business. (And don't even get me started on the girl question... that one makes me blow steam out of the ears) Sometimes I think people must really be so tactless to ask some of the questions that they do - especially when they know what we went through to get our son.
Sometimes I get sad because I don't know if my dream of having three children will ever be realized. I look at my son in wonder and awe because I know the miracles that occurred to get him here. I look at my husband with different eyes because of the patience and understanding he had in those most difficult of days, and because of the comfort his arms brought me in the biggest of my breakdowns. I pray every day for couples everywhere who are going through this.
So the next time you feel compelled to ask a young woman when she plans on bringing a new life into the world, think again. Weigh your words. Ask gently. Because you may be causing more harm than you could ever imagine. Because when you want to be a mother, and can't, words hurt. They sting. They can feel like the weight of the world, pushing you down.
And if you are the one being asked that question, I am with you. You are not alone. There are so many like you. It doesn't make it hurt less, but it makes it more bearable. You will never be alone.
I feel like parenting is one big game of dressing up all the imperfections to make them look like a tv sitcom. Social media makes us feel like we need to be perfect. We hear (or read) about people getting judged for parenting decisions we have all faced at one point or another. As a matter of fact, we see people getting judged for things that are totally ridiculous and not necessarily a conscious parenting choice (like Victoria Beckham kissing her daughter on the mouth - something my son does to me and my husband both). So we paint this picture of perfection. I'm guilty of it too!
This means that we feel like everyone around us is perfect. So we feel less-than-stellar when our kids do things they aren't supposed to do. As a matter of fact, we feel downright embarrassed and as if we have somehow failed at this parenting thing.
A few months ago, Caleb started hitting. We had never hit him, so I'm not sure where it came from. It seemed it was born of frustration, and he would just smack me over and over and over again. When I got upset, he would stop, grab my face, and kiss me (square on the mouth - I'm looking at you, Posh Spice haters). The first time it happened around other people, I wanted to ground to open up and swallow me whole. Then it kept occurring.
So I posted in this Mommy group I'm a part of on Facebook, and asked for "No judgement please." And guess what?! I didn't get judgement - I actually got multiple versions of, "Oh dear Lord I'm so glad you said something because I thought I was the only one going through this." At least ten other moms in that group were going through the same thing and were also feeling embarrassed about what their child was doing.
And in that moment, I realized it. I'm not alone. My kid is not the first, nor will he be the last child to hit his parents out of frustration. And instead of being embarrassed, I should definitely seek out help and advice from other parents who have been through the same thing.It made me realize how silly it was for me to feel like my son and I had to be perfect, all the time.
A few days later, I ended up realizing that he only hit me when he was overtired, so I try not to let him get to that point anymore, But in the meantime, it served as an invaluable lesson. No matter how embarrassed I feel by my child's behavior - there is always someone out there who is more embarrassed by something their kid just did than you are.
We're all in this together, Mommas.
Sorry for the hiatus! It's been so busy around here and there are no signs of letting up. I've got a few posts in the works but none of them has been finished so I decided to hunker down for an hour this morning and get this post out to you.
iPhones are amazing. Their cameras have grown in leaps and bounds and we can really capture amazing things on our phone. They are convenient and they are always with us. I probably have nearly 8,000 photos in my camera roll (yes, seriously!). But since I have started to realize how quickly time passes, I decided that I would start using my camera more often to capture some everyday moments of Caleb. I have made it a point to pull it out once a day and capture just a few snapshots of whatever is going on at the moment.
I get asked all the time about my kiddos photos. How do I get such good photos? What camera do I use (little secret: the camera can improve your photos but it has very little to do with how you actually capture things)? The truth is, I'm a photographer sometimes and yes I know how to work a camera, but there are certainly things you can do to capture some great photos yourself! I won't be getting into technical aspects of a camera here, but I will be sharing some tips and tricks you can use yourself with either a point and shoot, a cell phone, or a digital SLR (what many people like to refer to as a "professional camera"). Many of the photos here were taken with my camera, but some were taken with my iPhone - in a pinch it can produce some great results!
1. Find the light
Direct sunlight is the worst. Squinty eyes and every line and imperfection visible. You want diffused light - so put the sun behind them, or stand in open shade or near a window. I have found that my covered front porch works great or near my French doors leading out to the backyard.
2. Turn off your flash.
Flash creates harsh shadows and ruins the natural feel of a photo. If you're using your iPhone, turn off your flash and use your finger to select the part of the photo you want the camera to expose for. On a digital SLR, switch your camera from Auto mode to almost any other mode. When I first started shooting, AV (Aperture Priority) on my Canon was my favorite setting to use. I set the aperture I wanted to use and the camera figured out the rest of the settings for me. No flash necessary. You want shadows and light - that gives your photos a really natural feel.
Sometimes you have no choice but to use flash (dark rooms, nighttime), in which case, do it, but do so sparingly.
3. Let them be.
Don't try and make them look at you. Kids naturally do the most adorable things. Let them be themselves. Give them bubbles. Let them play with the dog. Let them get dirty. And just snap away. Eventually you'll get a look in your direction, but it won't feel staged or posed.
4. Take multiple shots.
Don't just try to take one photo and say you can never get a good one. I usually take about 10 photos and out of every 10, I may have 3 that are sharp, clear, in focus, and where he isn't a total blur. Switch positions, change perspectives.
Capture those little feet, the little hands, the amazing eyelashes. You will miss those when they are bigger. Even the cranky, crying faces. They'll grow and change, and you want to etch that in your memory. But your memory fails, and photos are the only way to remember that cranky face.
6. Get in the picture.
Every once in a while, get in front of the camera too. Forget what you look like, that your makeup isn't done, that you want to lose 15 pounds. Your kids won't care about any of those things. They will care that they have photos with their parents.
7. Filter that!
To improve my iPhone shots, I use ColorStory or Afterlight, two photo editing apps that are pretty easy to use. I don't do heavy filtering, but a little can really add to the mood of your photo. I usually sharpen my photos and add a filter at about 10%-15%.
8. Get in the moment.
Take a few photos, but leave the full on photo sessions to professionals. Enjoy your kids and be in the moment - you'll never have it back. Take a couple of quick shots and then put the phone or the camera down. I promise you won't regret it.
Being a parent is hard. Being a new parent is even harder. You're subject to everyone's advice, opinions, and words of wisdom. You're confused. You're exhausted. You're trying to figure out feedings and get whatever sleep you can while there is this tiny, fragile human constantly crying and needing you. You don't leave the house for days at a time, your body doesn't feel like your own. It is hard. And one day, you think you can't do it anymore.
For me, that day came about 2 weeks after Caleb was born. My hormones were still going nuts, we were still feeding about every 2.5 hours, and there was this constant noise all around me. I was so overwhelmed. Everyone around me had nothing but the best of intentions, but it was making me crazy, because I couldn't just BE. Honestly, as helpful as it was having people come over and bring us food, I almost would have preferred a couple days where we could just adjust to life with this new tiny creature in our lives. We came home from the hospital to my parents cooking for us in our kitchen and having organized things for us (our kitchen cabinets were being installed while I was in labor so everything was out of place). My parents are do-ers. Big time. But as soon as I walked in the door, the questions started. "Where do you want this? What do you want to do with that? How are you going to display these?" I really appreciate everything they did for us and everything they continue to do, but that day, all I wanted was to snuggle my baby boy and lie down on my couch with my husband.
The next evening, we had about 10 or 12 people in our house. Eddie had gone back to work that morning. With 12 people in my house, and everyone wanting to hold the baby, I was completely frazzled. Then my milk came in. More on that another time, but if you've had a baby, you know what this feels like and you know it is not fun.
Anyway, I managed to truck through it. The following week was a blur, with constant visitors and people with the best of possible intentions wanting to help. Eventually I was honest with my mom and let her know that everything didn't need to be perfect and that what I really needed was rest. That made a huge difference and I truly wish I would have said something sooner. Everyone was excited to help, and I know that deep within my heart they were doing what they thought I wanted done. But at the end of the day, you need to be honest and direct and just tell people exactly what you need. My needs always have been, and always will be, very different from my mom's, my dad's, and even my husband's. So when I gave them an expectation, it made it a lot easier for them than just letting them try to read my mind (which we know never goes over well).
I also stopped feeling bad when people were over and would just excuse myself whenever I needed to feed him or just have a minute to breathe.
However, a few times, I would leave to nurse Caleb, and people would follow. I started to shut the door, and people would knock and come in anyway. I was struggling with nursing and I was overwhelmed and felt awkward. I wanted to be able to sit there and look at my baby or close my eyes without having to worry that someone was looking at my nipple (I eventually got over that). The anxiety would make me tense up and to this day, I don't understand how people didn't sense my discomfort. I finally told Eddie, "When I leave to nurse Caleb, if anyone gets up to follow me, you need to be the bad guy. I'm overwhelmed here and I can't get comfortable if someone is in the room with me." So he started doing that and it helped. So much.
But the following week it happened again. And the next day I lost it. A few small things had happened during the birth that I wasn't really happy with, and it honestly hadn't been what I had imagined it to be in my head. Two weeks later it all hit me like a ton of bricks and I fell apart. I spent a straight 2 hours crying, and being weepy the entire rest of the day. I would cry for any little thing. When Eddie called me, I said "I don't know what's wrong with me." I talked to a friend and she assured me that what I was feeling was very normal.
Looking back, I think any sane person would have broken down. I was at the most vulnerable point in my life, and I had zero privacy, my every move was being questioned, and I was tired. But once I broke down, and I shared my frustrations with a couple of people, things started to improve. And from then on, I became a lot more sure of myself when it came to Caleb.
So I needed that - I needed to let go of all the emotion that I had bottled up inside. I needed a good cry. And I should never have been surprised by that, because I am the kind of person who, every once in a while, needs a good cry.
It's hard to be honest with those around you. But you know what? It's even harder to try and be tough and keep everything bottled up inside. So if you're there, if you're at the point of breaking down? Let it out momma. I promise, you'll be all the better for it.
Over the last fourteen months, I've learned a lot about myself and others. I've learned that I'm way stronger than I ever gave myself credit for, and that strength comes from somewhere deep within. I've learned that I can retain an inordinate amount of information when it comes to my son, but I can't remember what I had for breakfast yesterday.
I've also learned that moms can be pretty exclusionary. The minute I announced on social media that my husband and I were expecting, I was invited to join several mommy groups on Facebook (If you don't believe this is a thing, I swear, it very much is... there are countless numbers of mommy groups out there). Some of the groups were filled with women who were so kind and helpful to one another. Others were full of drama and required group administrators to place bans on topics and to remove people from the group. Can you imagine?
So my friend Ale and I started our own group. We have managed to keep it rather small, and we don't accept everyone to be a part of the group. We have managed to keep it intimate, even though the member count climbed quickly to nearly 200. Time and time again, I have heard from some of the moms in there, "It's so nice to come to place where you can ask questions and not feel like you are going to be attacked."
How SAD is that?!
That new moms have to be weary of asking questions because they are afraid they will get attacked for a choice they have made. It makes me so disappointed. I know I myself am guilty of judging, but I would never make a mother feel bad for her decision, nor would I ever attack a mother or call her names because she is doing something I don't agree with.
In attending mommy & me classes, and going to a couple of different activities, I have also noticed that us moms can be pretty exclusionary. We think, "Oh that mom is doing it differently," or "They look different."
It's the Mean Girls "you can't sit with us" mentality. And that's not right.
Let's change that. Let's be the nice moms. Let's have a "you CAN sit with us" mentality. We'll all be a lot happier that way.
About this Mom
A Miami wife and mom documenting her days with her toddler and all that comes along with it.