Dear 18-year-old Jenise,
You probably can't imagine this yet, but yesterday, we turned 32. I know. You probably think 32 seems so... ADULT. But really, it's not that bad.
As a matter of fact, 32 might actually be a prime year for you. In the last year, you've achieved things you didn't think you ever would - like run a half marathon (yes, I'm serious!), maintain a successful photography business while working from home, and reach many women, most of whom you have never met, via your blog. The next year only holds promises of even greater things.
You are married to this amazing man, Eddie (you've actually already met him and been on a date with him, but it didn't work out just yet. Be patient.). He treats you like a queen and loves you probably more than you deserve sometimes. You have a beautiful home you have built together, and an adorable two-year-old boy named Caleb. He is the light of both of your lives. You have a dog named Bella, a Lhasa Also, just like your first dog, Sassy.
The road here hasn't always been the smoothest. But with faith, family, love and support, you've made it to where you are, and you have come out stronger on the other side. But I'd like to give you some words of wisdom, from yourself, a few years down the line.
Love your body. Your body will do some incredible things over the next couple of years. Those boobs you were ashamed of because they grew so fast and were never perky enough? They will nourish your baby for nearly TWO years. They will sustain him completely for the first 6 months of his life. You'll carry your son in that belly that has never been quite flat enough, and there will be nothing on earth that will make you more proud of your body. Keep exercising - your body will do whatever you push it to do - including run 13.1 miles through Walt Disney World Resort. Feed it wisely - stop going through those drive-thrus and eating crappy junk. When you finally start to nourish it well, you'll notice a world of difference. Trust me.
Stop chasing love. Love will find you. Or rather, you will find each other. And it will be sweet, and it will be fiery, and it will leave you weak in the knees. But the day you decide to make it a forever kind of love, will be the day where you are more certain of anything than you have ever been in your entire life. Stop stressing yourself out over love. It will come. And on that note...
Don't put up with anyone mistreating you. This comes to guys and friends. You'll have one relationship in particular that will challenge you and leave you with scars. Don't let those scars get too deep. But if they do get too deep, don't beat yourself up over it, for one day, they will heal (because you will find the kind of love that is perfect for you). Friends will come and go. Friends who you thought would be forever friends will slowly start to fade into the background and new friends will emerge. But anyone who mistreats you or disrespects you shouldn't be in your life.
Don't carve your path in stone. This monumental decision about your career? Go with your gut. You will have a successful run in a profession you love. But you will also find something else that you are passionate about, and you will hone your skills and become good at that. You'll also find that running your home is a lot more work than you ever thought it would be, and you'll adapt to life as a stay-at-home mom, too.
Trust your gut. At 32, it hasn't steered you wrong. It will guide you on everything from your career, to your love life, to being a mother. People will try to give you advice about what you "should" be doing all the time. Your judgement will tell you which way to go. Trust it. You will always make the best decisions for yourself.
Accept yourself. Love yourself for who you are. Don't change your personality because someone else said it was cool to be a certain way. At the end of the day, if you've been true to yourself, you will lay your head on your pillow every night and rest easy. Be your kind, level-headed, easygoing self. You'll appreciate those traits more the older you get.
But most important of all, enjoy the ride. Life is so sweet. Savor every moment. Dance. Read. Hop on a plane. You'll never regret living your life fully.
A while back, I posted about accepting my MomBod. And while I don't beat myself up about my weight or the way I look anymore, If I'm 100% honest, I don't always love myself the way that I should. I brush off compliments and say, "Oh no way, they're just being nice." And really, that's a knee-jerk reaction that we develop to compliments when we don't feel worthy of them. And I don't want that to be what my son learns from me - that I, or any woman, doesn't feel worthy enough to accept a compliment from the ones they love.
I didn't realize just how much I did this until recently, when Eddie told me how beautiful I looked while we were at the beach last week. I nearly rolled my eyes and I definitely made some kind of guttural sound like "ugh, yea right." And he called me out on it. He wasn't upset or hurtful, but he definitely made me realize that I'm not as receptive of compliments as I should be. And in the last few weeks, Caleb has started to tell me, "Mommy, bee-ful (his version of beautiful)!" I don't ever want to shoot down his complimenting me. Because guess what? In their eyes, I am beautiful.
Lately, I've been having Eddie take outfit photos of me. Not because I don't want to work with photographers, but because there is something different in the way Eddie captures me. I don't know if it's because he knows my best angles, or because he's looking through the lens at someone he loves, but I'm always so happy with the way those photos turn out, and I tend to nitpick at them way less than I do at other photos.
I actually had him take some photos of me this past week, on the beach, in a bathing suit. We had gotten up early and the morning was beautiful. I threw on my swimsuit and a sarong, and I grabbed my camera on the way out the door. I asked him to take a few shots of me, not knowing what I would use them for. When I started browsing through them, I was pleasantly surprised. Because before I noticed my belly sticking out, I noticed my smile. Before I noticed that my boobs didn't look perfect, I noticed how relaxed I looked. And I noticed that I did, in fact, look pretty.
And you know what? Since that moment on the beach, I haven't felt self-conscious about the way I look. I have been focused on making memories with my family, and relaxing, and enjoying the time we have been spending together. Because years from now, my son and my husband won't remember that I had a little extra back fat. They will remember jumping in the waves with me, and building sand castles with me, and walking up and down the beach with me. And that's what I want them to remember. Not that mom was too ashamed to take off her cover-up to jump in the water with them.
So from now on, I'm going to try to be more accepting of compliments. I'm going to try to see myself the way those who love me see me, for myself.
And you should try it momma. Because you're beautiful, just as you are. Trust me.
P.S. I want to shout out a blogger who epitomizes body confidence and positivity, Sarah Tripp at Sassy Red Lipstick. She is gorgeous, and every time I see her posts, I realize that I am normal, and that I should be happy with how I look, right now. Go check her out, I promise you won't be disappointed (her hubby also happens to be her photographer and they're the cutest).
Bathing Suit & Hat: Target
Guys, the twos have seriously taken me by storm. I know I promised this wouldn't be a horrible year, and there has been a lot of amazing development going on in Caleb's little mind. But man. It's been tough to keep my cool. And to be totally honest, I haven't always been able to do that.
The last few weeks have been fraught with tantrums, hitting, and an unimaginable stubbornness on the part of a very tiny little dictator who thinks he runs our home (truth is, he might, to a certain degree). I didn't know little personalities could be quite this strong.
If you follow me on Instagram, and you watch my stories, you have caught a glimpse of it. Truthfully, I have never been the kind of person who felt like she needed a glass of wine at the end of each day. I now feel like on the hardest evenings I need not just a glass, but a bottle. There are days when from start to finish, I feel like I am a hostage negotiator, negotiating every single little mundane detail of the day.
"If you let me change your diaper, you can play with Mr. Potato Head."
"If you eat one more bite, you can play outside."
"If you pick up the toys, you can watch TV."
"If you get in the tub, I'll fill it up all the way."
And so go my days. The negotiations are easy compared to the tantrums and the hitting though. On more than one occasion, I have relegated him to his crib so that I could calm myself down while he was contained and couldn't wreak anymore havoc on me.
And at what point do I say, I can no longer chalk this up to normal toddler behavior? I still don't know the answer to this, and I'm not sure I ever will. But according to everyone with whom I have spoken, we are still within the realm of toddler "normalcy." Everyone has told me to breathe, drink often, and remember that it's just a phase.
And you know what? It might not be over, but today was a good day. Today we played together, he napped when he needed to, and I didn't get hit, at all.
So don't you fret mama. Because this too, shall pass.
In case nobody has told you yet, momma. It's okay.
It's okay to feel overwhelmed.
It's okay to feel like you're drowning sometimes.
It's okay to want to escape.
It's okay to cry.
It's okay to not want to have to clean up after anyone.
It's okay to leave the dishes in the sink.
It's okay to take some time to yourself.
It's okay to feel like you don't have it all together.
It's okay to NOT have it all together.
Motherhood is hard. Working moms have it tough. Stay-at-home moms have it tough. Work-from-home moms have it tough. And some times are tougher than others. And it's okay to feel the pressures of motherhood weighing down on you.
I've had meltdowns more times than I care to count in the last few months. Call it the terrible twos getting the best of me. Call it overworking myself. Call it trying to be a perfectionist in everything I do and feeling like I'm not succeeding at anything. Whatever you call it, I've been feeling it.
And guess what? Until I asked for help - from my hubby - it wasn't going to get better. Until I asked for help with the dishes and the laundry and the picking up and time for myself. I wasn't going to stop having tantrums on par with Caleb's.
But the thing is, I don't have to be perfect. I have to be present. I have to be happy. I have to be loving. Perfect doesn't fall into any of those categories.
But one day you'll wake up and feel better. One day you'll have an amazing morning with your little one, and maybe you'll be lucky enough to wake up and the dishes will be done, and the house will be picked up. And there's nothing wrong with me, or with you, when you're not okay.
But until that day, momma, it's okay to not be okay. Because soon it will be.
If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that I completed my half marathon on Sunday. I wrote a post not too long ago about my workout essentials, and how I felt I was unprepared for my half marathon.
And I wasn't prepared, not as much as I should have been. The furthest I had ever run before then was 5.5 miles. Nothing even close to 13.1. As a matter of fact, I almost didn't show up that morning. I was in the process of psyching myself out, I was crying, I didn't want to do it alone. And my husband looked at me and said, "You've got to be kidding, you can't be scared of this. You've birthed a human! You can do this."
I started off the morning with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, who signed up for the run because Eddie and I said we were going to do it. Disney and anything princess related is a major motivator. While we were standing in the corral, we were talking about our expectations for it, and my sister-in-law mentioned she had a time in which she wanted to finish. She then added, "My goal is to cross the finish line." I looked at them and said, "Honestly, you guys have trained hard for this. I haven't been nearly as good. My goal is six miles. If I make it through six miles, I'll have run farther than I have ever run before, and I'll make it all the way through Magic Kingdom." I ended up running the first mile or so with them, and then I fell behind. It gave me a lot of time to think.
I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I got emotional during this run. Within the first two miles I thought about my grandmother, who passed away in November, and how she would have been freaking out if she knew I was doing this, which then made me crack up. I thought about Caleb and Eddie, and how utterly blessed I am to have them in my life. I thought about my parents, and my in-laws, who gave up their anniversary weekend to watch us all run this thing (Fun fact: my parents anniversary is the 25th, my in-laws the 26th, and ours the 27th!). Before I knew it, I was crossing the Magic Kingdom parking lot and mile 3.
By the time I crossed mile 5, we were entering Magic Kingdom. Eddie was waiting for me in the spectator area on Main Street (Caleb stayed with my parents the night before so I could sleep). I had already been crying after passing a few super motivating signs, but once I saw Eddie, all bets were off. I was a blubbering mess. And I think I was so emotional because I had doubted myself so hard. Maybe also because I was PMSing, but whatever. He grabbed my face and said, "You're doing amazing. Keep going. You've got this." Then we took a picture together with the castle in the background, and you can clearly see tears in my eyes. It also might be my favorite picture of us with the castle, ever.
So I made myself a new goal - I would get to Mile 10. Miles 6 - 9 I slowed down some, but I was still trucking. Mile 10 was where it started to get HARD. My quads were burning, and I could feel blisters on the bottom of my feet. I didn't have any pain, but my body was definitely feeling every step. But right before I reached Mile 10, I started to get all kinds of texts from my family and friends, who were following along with my bib tracking.
When my parents texted that they were at the finish line with Eddie and Caleb, I knew that I would have to finish this race. Miles 11-13 were so damn long. And so hard. I was slow. I walked a lot. But I kept telling myself, just finish.
When I finally reached the finish line, I smiled, and then I broke down. I lost it. Ugly cried. Trust me, Disney PhotoPass Photographers caught it, and yes, I'm sharing with you.
I kept crying, and when I got my medal, I'm pretty sure I couldn't see straight. When I finally caught up with Eddie and Caleb and my parents, I was a mess.
But I learned so much doing this.
I learned that completing something like this is 25% training for it and 75% mental. If you have people pushing you and cheering for you, you can do it.
I learned that I can crush my goals, and then continue to surpass them.
I learned that I am stronger than I ever believed.
It reaffirmed that my body is incredible.
I learned that half marathoners come in all shapes, sizes, and athletic abilities.
I learned that if you want to do something, just do it. Don't set mental barriers for yourself. Don't tell yourself anything else except, you CAN.
One note: don't do this without training some. I knew I could do 5 miles, and with the motivation and the energy levels around me, I was able to complete it, but I would definitely recommend a lot more training than what I did. But if this is something that you want to do, then train for it, and do it. I promise, you can. Even in the best shape of my life, and when I was the most active, running a mile was something I was never able to do. If you had told me 5 years ago I would be able to complete 13.1 miles, I would have laughed in your face. But here I am. And yes, I'm totally getting that magnet for my car, because why the heck not?!
Crush it, momma.
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.
Before I say a word, I want to make something really clear. I know that I am incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom. I know how many women would love to be in my position. I do not take for granted the amazing gift I have been given, and I really try not to complain about this. That being said, being a stay-at-home mom is probably the most tiresome, nonstop, and lonely job I have ever held.
I worked for a few months after maternity leave while I was finishing the school year. It wasn't a long time, but I can say that I have experienced both sides of the coin, even if just for a little bit. I know what it feels like to have to leave your baby every day. I know what it feels like to know that someone else is snuggling with your little one and experiencing their milestones while you're out there hustling. I know.
Okay, I'm going to come out and say it. I'm not thin. I'm actually on the heavier side. And you know what? At this point in my life, I don't care.
I have never been extraordinarily thin. Not in my entire life. Even in elementary/middle school - I was never overweight, but I always felt like I was just a little bit bigger than the other girls. I danced ballet most of my childhood, and I always felt like I was the biggest girl in class. Call it what you will, but I have always been self-conscious. My parents are both on the thin side, not because it is naturally occurring but because they have always been extra careful with what they eat.
From very early on, my husband and I decided that we would not put our lives on hold because we had children. We enjoy eating out, we enjoy going on vacation, and we can't be expected to live life in the bubble of our home just because we have a kid. And one of the best pieces of advice I received before Caleb was born was, "Don't mold your life to your kids, fit your kids into your life."
And becoming a stay-at-home mom cemented this for me. I don't have the time to wait around to find someone who can stay with him while I got to the grocery store. Some weeks, I'm really lucky and my mother-in-law comes over and spends a few hours with him, or my parents have a day off and they come over and hang out with him, and I can go get things done really efficiently. But most of the time, I do everything with him. And I don't see why the weekends have to be any different.
He has been to doctors appointments with me, he goes shopping with me (frequently, I might add), he goes to restaurants, and he certainly goes to mass with us on Sundays. Why do I subject myself to these stressful levels of toddlerhood? Well, because if I don't expose him to these situations now, when is he going to learn what is appropriate behavior in certain settings and what isn't?
We are far from having perfect behavior in these public places, but for the most part, he does pretty well. He knows that when we are at the grocery store or at Target, he is going to be in the cart. He knows that when we are shopping, he sits in his stroller (and he usually deals with this atrocity by taking a nap).
I feel like there are two big things that annoy others when it comes to kids (there are probably a million more but these are the big ones). I try to abide by some general rules to keep myself, baby, and the rest of those around us happy (let's face it, as much as we would like to think it does, the world doesn't revolve around us and our kids).
We also make every effort to go to restaurants that are child-friendly. I wouldn't take my toddler to an upscale restaurant with a quiet ambiance. We choose places where we know some of his noise will be drowned out by the noise of the restaurant. Places where we know he will be welcomed and it won't be frowned upon that we have a toddler with us.
And truthfully, I have found that more places than not are very accepting and friendly towards small children. I have found this in every city, in every country we have been to with Caleb - From Toronto, to Paris, to New York, to the Dominican Republic. The rules of common courtesy apply everywhere!
So don't lock yourself in your house with your kids. Take them out, expose them to the sights and sounds and smells that this world has to offer. Teach them socially acceptable behaviors and norms for all the different situations they can encounter. It will make them more adaptable and ready to handle all kinds of situations!
Good luck and I can't wait to hear all about your adventures!
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.
About this Mom
A Miami wife and mom documenting her days with her toddler and all that comes along with it.