Breaking the Bank

I look at social media and constantly say to myself, “How the f#$@ do these people afford that!?” I think comparing my situation to friends from high school and college is such a toxic thing to do, but I can’t help it sometimes. I am always left wondering how people, who are the same age as me, are affording cruises, tropical vacations, new homes, new cars, fancy gym memberships.

Deciding to be a teacher is not something I did for the money, thats for sure. My husband definitely didn’t choose to join the military for the lavish lifestyle either. We absolutely understand that our career choices mean we will not be “living the high life” any time soon, but we chose these careers out of love for kids and learning (me) and our country (him). Unfortunately, as a first-generation college student (whose parents had zero understanding of higher education let alone how to pay for it – I don’t blame them at all), I was left with a ridiculous amount of student loan debt. No one ever explained to me what it meant to take out a student loan. Sure, I obviously knew I had to pay it back, but it was never broken down for me. Had someone explained that the $25,000 I chose to spend on my first year of college at a big, out of state university would cost me over $60,000 by the time I was 30, I never would have done it. I’m sure there are people reading this thinking, “Wow, if you didn’t know that, you must be some kind of stupid!” You’re right. I was. Part of me regrets my college education every single day of my life, however, I could not be a teacher without it. I chose to go to graduate school and that added to my student loans, because in my career field, the only way to climb the pay scale is to get an advanced degree. So here I am, over $100k in student loan debt, not making much, married to a man not making much. But to me, getting to hang out with kids all day, show them awesome things about science, teach them how to express themselves through writing and art, find interest in great novels, crunch numbers and relate it to real life, and have my summers off..that is totally worth it.

So what does all of this mean? Well, I have had to learn how to “make it work” so to speak. I am by no means an expert, and I am definitely not debt free right now, but I am learning to make strides here and there. Here are my tips for low-income millennials (like myself) who feel crushed by crippling student loan, credit card, or medical bill debt:

Take Social Media Breaks

I think the best and worst thing about social media, is that it only shows someone’s highlight reel. We all like to post when we are at our very best, but that often leaves us feeling down and out when we see everyone else living the life we wish we had…or so we think. I take breaks from social media quite frequently. No, not the kind of breaks where I make some kind of big, dramatic status explaining my exit. I simply delete the app for a few days, weeks, whatever. If it isn’t there, I don’t think about it. Taking a step away from scrolling through my timeline and getting lost in jealousy and admiration of friends (and strangers!) is absolutely necessary sometimes.

Stop Using Credit Cards…Sort Of

Like so many other people, we have used our credit cards to bail us out more times than I can think of. It is so easy to swipe and not think about it, especially when you’re young. I got my first credit card at 18 years old, I was unemployed, and had a $2,000 line of credit. Who thought that was a good idea!? As we work to get those cards paid off, I stick them in a drawer and try to forget about them. Sure, its tempting when there is a HUGE sale at your favorite store and you know that money is sitting there, but it is NOT worth the financial burden it creates a month later.

I started poking around on Credit Karma back when it first became “a thing” about 6 years ago. I learned how store only credit cards don’t affect your score as much as major cards like Visa or Master Card. I also learned that, believe it or not, having more accounts is better than no accounts and keeping them for several years is important (sometimes its better not to cancel a card). One thing that blew my mind…I used the tool to estimate my credit score if I paid off all of my debt (it wasn’t much at the time) and my score went down! How is this possible? Carrying a small debt (30% or less of your limit) and consistently paying it off proves “credit worthiness” which is something you need to keep a high score. Installment loans (like personal, car, and student loans) have less negative impact than credit cards do. Also, understanding that credit checks can hurt your score is important. I went in to a car dealership just to price out a car and shop around…BIG MISTAKE. The dealership made 6 hard pulls on my credit score, causing it to go down quite a bit. Those pulls sit on your account for a few years. Better choice? Go to your bank and get pre-approved.

It is all a game. The best way I have found to increase my score (besides paying it off!) is to pay down major cards before store cards and before making big payments on loans, keep accounts open once they’re paid off (unless they have high interest rates or annual fees), and use one or two cards for small purchases I have cash for, such as gas or groceries, and immediately paying it off. Sounds like a no brainer to some, but being young and making financial mistakes early has caused me to dig a bit deeper into the credit score game.

Rewards & Perks Cards

Right now, I am not really in the position to open another credit card, but I have been shopping around looking for the right rewards card. Living across the country from our family means we fly A LOT. I have been looking into cards that offer airline miles. The tricky part is looking for ones that avoid black out dates (we travel during high traffic times like holidays), don’t have crazy annual fees, and still have low interest rates. I’m still on the hunt for the best deal. I love my Amazon credit card! I earn points with every purchase that turn into cash back on Amazon purchases. Nothing is better than going to check out and seeing a “$13.58” reward I can use!  My Old Navy/Gap credit card works similarly, awarding me after purchases with cash off coupons. If you are not interested in yet another credit card (trust me, I get it), the Target Red Debit card is fabulous! You get all the same perks, such as 5% off and FREE shipping, without the stress of a credit card. Be warned…sometimes it takes a day (or more) for your purchases to actually come out of your bank account, so watch carefully.

Mediocre Couponing

Not going to lie, I watch “Extreme Couponing” and it brings me life. I WISH I could dumpster dive for coupon inserts, have family and friends come over to help cut them out, shop around for store deals, sit down and crunch the numbers, and leave with a $500 haul of groceries for 12 cents…but its not going to happen. I work full time, have a crazy two year old, and honestly, do not have the brain power. I can, however, scroll through an app and digitally clip coupons! Many of the stores we frequently shop at have apps that tie coupons to your store rewards card. Fred Meyer (or Kroger), Safeway, Walgreens,  and Target are my go to apps (even though Target is RUDE and only allows Cartwheel offers in store) In all of these apps, you can check the weekly store circular for sales and clip coupons (store and manufacturer) to use right away. I have been known to park my cart in the bakery section, shove a cookie in my kid’s hand, and add coupons before I check out. Believe it or not, I have saved quite a bit. Some people say, “Yea but its like 25 cents here or there” which is true, but it adds up quickly. I think my greatest “haul” thus far included both paper coupons from the Sunday paper and digital coupons on my Fred Meyer app, which saved us over $30 in one shopping trip! That is a win for me!

Cashback or Scam?

I have always thought those cash back apps and websites were a scam…until a friend of mine introduced me to Ebates. Living on an island means we are limited in the stores we have around us. Sure, I could drive 45 minutes to an hour to get to more stores, but who wants to waste the time or gas doing it? So yes, online shopping is my jam and Ebates has already earned me over $20 in just one week on purchases I had already planned on making! All you have to do (after you make your account) is go to the Ebates website, or open the Ebates app, then shop your favorite stores through their site. You will see what percent cash back you can earn, for example – Walmart was 10% cash back for me this week. They even show coupon and promo codes for the stores you are shopping at. How awesome is that? A new discovery is that you can use Ebates in store as well. This may be a deal breaker for some people, but if you add your card info, Ebates will automatically track purchases you make in store (be sure to swipe as credit even if it is a debit card!) and give you cash back. Some people may find this sketchy, but if you follow my advice on using credit cards for cash purchases, then the risk is low if your information were to be compromised. Your cash back can be sent to you via check or deposited right into your PayPal account! There are a lot of other cash back options, but this has been the easiest and most legitimate I have found so far. Use my referral link to get started >>> Ebates

Check Your Bank Statements

My bank (Navy Federal) offers this cool feature online where you can see exactly where your money is being spent each month. Purchases are broken down into categories such as entertainment, household, clothing, etc. You can create your budget for each category and set an alert when you approach and/or exceed it. This is a super simple way to start budgeting!

Student Loan Repayment Plans

I was SHOCKED to hear that a friend of mine was not taking advantage of income based repayment on her student loans. Depending on how much debt you have, this may be the best option for you. If you have a relatively small debt, then your minimum payment is probably small (since it is spread out over a ridiculous number of years), in which case making a larger payment to pay off your loan faster is a much better idea. When you are tens to a hundred thousand dollars in debt, with a minimum payment equivalent to a mortgage, you might not be able to afford it standard repayment. You can always make more than your minimum payment even on income based repayment plans, but this can be a life saver for anyone going through unemployment or a rough financial patch. If you are a public service employee (such as a teacher, nurse, etc.) then Public Service Loan Forgiveness allows your loans to be paid off after 10 years (120 payments) on time and in full. Here is the great part, income based repayment is accepted, so why pay $700 a month when you could pay $350? Paying more when it will be forgiven anyway is pointless and actually could throw off your 120 payments. I am not sure about new legislature and if this program is being stopped for current or future borrowers, but for those who took out loans from 2007 through 2017, you should still qualify. I was just introduced to this forgiveness plan recently and am working on my applications now. There are other forgiveness plans, you just have to dig deep and find them! Also, watch out for “Student Loan Consolidation Loans” that are not suggested through student aid.gov. The reason being, if you consolidate and refinance through some of these companies, you now have turned your federal debt into private debt, which disqualifies you from federal student loan forgiveness programs.

 

There is no simple fix. I am certainly not a billboard for a debt free life, but I am working on it. I mean, we are young, made mistakes, made moves out of necessity, and now are working our way out of it. It is life. My goal from this was to share some of the easier ways to tackle some of the overwhelming burdens of financial stress. What are some other ways you pinch pennies and make financial moves?

Finding Strength in Pain

Pregnancy is an emotional rollercoaster. With the surge of hormones, the stress of what is to come, and excitement for the biggest blessing ever, it is expected that women will go through ups and downs leading to baby’s big arrival. So often we hear about the “Baby Blues” where it is expected that you may cry a little more or be a little overly emotional for a short period of time, but it is only until recent years that we even hear the truth about what happens when the “baby blues” last for weeks, months, or more. According to Postpartum Progress, approximately 600,000 women get Postpartum Depression (PPD) each year. The saddest part about it is, we still have so much stigma attached to something that isn’t even talked about as much as is should be.

While my son was in the NICU, I failed every postpartum assessment I was given. At the time, I kept telling the nurses that I had just seen my baby turn blue and we’re sitting in a NICU, of course it is going to seem like I am depressed! I began to get a lot of anxiety during our stay. It was very intense having nurses in and out constantly, dealing with wires and weighing diapers, and many of our lactation nurses unfortunately made my nursing experience more stressful than it should have been. I became obsessive about keeping track of how many wet diapers he had, how long I had nursed, how much time elapsed between feedings, how long he was sleeping. I kept an incredibly detailed log of his every movement because in my mind, that was the only way I could make sure I was meeting his needs. I attributed all of this to simply being in the NICU and the emotional toll it was taking on me.

You always hear moms talk about bringing home a new baby…sleep deprivation, stress, worry, and emotions. I had convinced myself that what I was experiencing those first few weeks home was normal. At every single appointment, I failed the postpartum depression screener, just as I had in the hospital. Even after someone close to me suggested I “just put the answers you think they want to hear”, I continued to fail. I don’t think I was willing to admit to myself that I had postpartum depression. I had battled with depression and anxiety since I was a kid, but it was very well managed before I got pregnant. Every week, my OB office would call and check in because of those surveys. At the time, I would get frustrated and annoyed, still thinking I just had the baby blues and they were overreacting.

It wasn’t until our pediatrician, who was with us through our NICU experience, said to me, “I know you love your son, and he is happy and healthy. He deserves a mom who is happy and healthy too” that I knew I had to do something. 

As embarrassed and confused as I was when she said this to me, looking back at it now, I am so very grateful that she did. I finally called my OB and said, “I think I am failing the surveys because I might have postpartum depression”. It physically hurt to say those words, but I knew I had to do it. I went in and was prescribed Zoloft, since it was considered relatively safe to take while nursing. I also reached out to the nurse in the mother baby unit who was there when our son went through his episodes because she ran the postpartum depression support group at our hospital.

After about 2 weeks on medication, I was ready to go to my first meeting. I was proud of myself for even getting to the meeting that night, but it was not what I had expected. There were only three people there, in addition to the nurse running the group, a mom and a father-in-law to a woman who was currently hospitalized for postpartum psychosis. I remember introducing myself, explaining that I had just admitted to myself that I was suffering from postpartum depression even though I’ve had a history of depression and anxiety before. I explained that I decided to start taking medication and come to these meetings to help get myself out of it. When the other mom began to speak, I slowly got the creeping feeling that I needed to leave. She went on and on about how horrible it is to take medication, especially when nursing, and how she started doing crossfit and that just cured everything for her, that every mom who doesn’t become a gym rat is doing a disservice to themselves and their child because it will make your postpartum depression disappear. I wanted to leave, I wanted to run as far away from this situation as possible, but I convinced myself to stay and just chalk it up to her being ignorant. The father-in-law of another woman began to speak about his experience. It scared me. He talked about her having a history of mental health issues and how that caused her to slip into psychosis and eventually be hospitalized because she was a threat to herself and her children. He explained what a burden it was on the family, and how it was more difficult for her husband to deal with than her. I started to panic as he probed me for answers about my mental health history, as if that would somehow affect his daughter-in-law’s situation. I remember fighting back tears and counting the minutes until the meeting was over. I never went back.

I had gone back to work after 11 weeks of maternity leave, stayed on my medication, was nursing and pumping pretty well, and was lucky to have my son be in the daycare I used to work in, with a dear friend that I trusted completely. I still had a hard time with worrying about my son, but it helped to receive picture updates throughout the day. I felt so guilty that I was going to work every day. I had decided that because I needed to work, that made me less of a mother than those who had the ability to stay home. I still wasn’t sleeping, sometimes for several days at a time, which did not make things easier emotionally. I was still crying in the shower, not inviting anyone over, and struggling to truly feel happy. We were getting ready to move across the country due to my husband’s military orders, and the guilt of taking my son away from his family was eating at me every single day. I continued to convince myself that this was normal, and that I just had to keep taking the medication so that I could eventually feel better.

We drove across the country and I ended up needing an emergency gall bladder removal immediately upon our arrival. As a result, my supply dropped drastically, and I ended up giving up nursing. I was disappointed in myself because my goal was to make it to at least 6 months, and I fell one month short of that goal. With the hospitalization and pain medication, I just couldn’t keep up with the pump and dump and the inability to eat normally didn’t help either. I hated myself for not being able to do what was “best” for my son, because giving my son formula was somehow feeding him my failure in a bottle.

I wish someone would have told me about the changes your body endures after you give birth and then again after you stop nursing. I didn’t know that my hormones would change and things would go from bad to much, much worse. 

Moving so far from home, to a small island community, was culture shock for me, but I convinced myself that if I just focused on my son and work, that everything would eventually go back to “normal”. I wasn’t interested in going anywhere, let alone by myself. If my husband wasn’t home, I didn’t go anywhere except work and daycare. My husband began going on detachments for a few weeks at a time and I was forced to start doing things alone. I had no interest in doing anything, but I also remember this crippling fear that kept telling me I couldn’t. I remember the feelings I would get each time I had to do anything…my heart would race, I would get cold sweats, I would be constantly looking over my shoulder, I tried to get in and out as quickly as possible. Somehow, I was convinced that everyone, anyone, was going to take my child. My mind began to go in directions like “What if someone crashes into my car and kills my baby?” “What if I’m strapping him into his car seat and someone comes up and steals my car with my son inside?” I had lived in some not-so-safe areas in my life, and never ever felt this way. I chalked it up to being a new mom and the normal fears you have when you are now responsible for another life.

I had been struggling with being away from our family and friends, that they wouldn’t get to watch him grow, and how that was all my fault. I couldn’t find happiness other than when I was holding that sweet boy in my hands, but even then I felt selfish for being happy because I felt that he was given a horrible person for a mother. Nothing else interested me or mattered. I struggled with feeling inadequate as I saw my friends happily having babies, makeup and hair done a few hours after labor and delivery, jogging with their strollers, and having friends and family visit. I started to convince myself that my lifelong dream of becoming a mom was maybe not something that was right for me. I loved my son so much, but I felt I was failing him and everyone around me.

About the same time that the anxiety and fear started, my mind would wander a lot. I started to have these thoughts that were unsettling and, honestly, terrifying. I didn’t want to call them hallucinations, because, at first, I knew they weren’t real, but I couldn’t get them to stop. It would happen right before I walked over to him in his bouncy seat, while I was in the middle of teaching math, as I was feeding him, every time I gave my son a bath…it started with once or twice a day but quickly grew to countless times. I would see my son, laying there, blue, and dead. No matter how hard I tried to avoid it, there the image was. And as time went on and they became more frequent, they became more real, they became harder to differentiate from reality.

I would open the door to his room, completely convinced that I would walk in and see my son dead in his crib.

I still wasn’t sleeping much at the time because I was so hyper vigilant (Is he breathing? What if he chokes in the middle of the night? Is it too hot in his room? What if someone breaks in?) and I was having horrific nightmares that would wake me up in a panic. I averaged maybe two hours of sleep a night. The fear of strangers hurting us, someone stealing my kid, and my son dying became so overwhelming that it was all I could think about. I could no longer make it through a quick trip to the store without a full blown panic attack. I was constantly worried he would choke on his bottle, on the rice cereal, on anything. I became obsessed with safe sleep while being paralyzed with fear over the thought of SIDS. I baby proofed the house to the point where I only let myself and my son stay in one small area of our living room. I began to check doors and windows, sanitize bottles, wash clothes, disinfect things in a ritualistic manner. I stopped opening the blinds, afraid someone would be able to see my son inside and come in and take him. I was seeing the image of my son dead everywhere in increasingly scary ways, like me driving off a bridge, getting hit by a car in his stroller, me falling down the stairs while holding him, my son being strangled by his blanket, or him simply dying in my arms. I never EVER had the thought or image of me hurting him. I just had this overwhelming fear that he was going to die, and I knew that if that happened, I could not and would not live without him. I kept telling myself that postpartum depression was one thing, but this was just me being dumb. But no matter how much I told myself that this wasn’t real, and these things were crazy, I couldn’t get myself to stop.

It slowly started to become so real that I could no longer tell myself that I was crazy, or that these things weren’t real. I finally hit the point where I wasn’t just seeing my son die, in my mind I knew he was going to die. I couldn’t remember if things were real or a nightmare. 

I hadn’t told anyone about what was happening because I was afraid they would think I was being over dramatic or looking for attention. I had considered talking to the doctor, but I was so terrified that, without my husband being home, they would call CPS and take my child away from me. That thought consumed me. I was convinced, at that point, that somehow CPS was watching me, following me, waiting for me to slip up or make a mistake, just so they could take my son away from me.

I don’t remember what caused me to do it, but one day I just unleashed it all on my husband. I told him everything. I explained the images I saw hundreds of times a day, the fears that I knew, at first, were ridiculous, but had become so bad that I could no longer talk myself out of them, the overwhelming guilt I continued to have for taking our son so far away from his grandparents, the sadness I felt that I wasn’t cut out to be a mom. The only way I could think of to describe it was like I had a giant spring inside of my body, that was twisted and suppressed so tightly that nothing in my body could work, that it could pop at any given moment, and that I was spending all day, every day just pushing that spring down to keep it from unleashing. I felt like I was no longer living in my body, that I was watching myself do all of these things and couldn’t recognize myself anymore because I had no control. I felt dead inside. Sometimes I knew it wasn’t right, but I couldn’t make it go away. My poor husband, I can’t imagine how he felt as I let this all out. He was scared, I could tell, but so was I. He reminded me that I was doing a good job, and that it was ok to be worried and scared, and that maybe I should find a doctor to talk to. I knew he was right, but it was not easy.

I’ll never forget when I finished talking to the nurse about wanting to discuss options for postpartum depression treatment, the doctor came in and said (in the worst condescending tone), “So…you’re feeling a little sad, is that right?” I lost my freaking mind. I remember fighting back the urge to scream, “This is more than being a LITTLE SAD. This is terrifying and I can’t get myself out of it!” I tried to explain a little more, saying that I was seeing scary images and that I was so anxiety ridden that I couldn’t sleep or leave the house. When I explained that the Zoloft wasn’t helping and that I maybe needed something more, he decided that “this is a bit more than I am comfortable with” and gave me a referral to a psychiatrist. Living on a small island made finding healthcare for mental illness extremely difficult, especially when working with my work schedule, but I eventually found it.

I started to see a therapist and I am lucky to have found one that was a mom and had been through a lot in life, giving her a ton of experience to draw from. When she explained that she felt I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that exacerbated my postpartum depression and anxiety, I was confused. PTSD? I thought only victims of abuse or combat veterans could have that. I had no idea that the night I woke up to my child turning blue and gasping for breath, was enough of a traumatic event to affect my brain. My therapist was a strong believer in explaining how your brain works, which helped me understand that I am not crazy, that my brain is wired a certain way and this was my brain’s reaction to trauma, that it was protecting me from future trauma. The more I learned about PTSD, the more I realized that it all made sense. My symptoms, which often overlap with PPD/PPA were also the very textbook symptoms of PTSD. Once we started to dissect this, I started to feel a little better.

I also saw a psychiatrist who prescribed medications that would help treat the symptoms I was experiencing. I mentioned that I didn’t want to live off pills and that I should just be able to get off the meds once I felt better. The doctor said something I think everyone should hear.

He said, “If you have a heart condition, it might not be your fault, right? So you take medication to treat the symptoms, so you can have a better quality life. If you get a bad cough, you take medicine to treat the cough, right? What is different about this? You are having symptoms of PTSD, so you take medication to treat the symptoms. Thats it.”

It made sense. There is such a stigma around taking medication for mental health, hell I experienced it when that mom shamed me for taking Zoloft. We did some trial and error and ended up with a medication to help me calmly fall asleep and prevent nightmares, an anti-depressant, and a mood medication I had been on as a teenager. These things, along with therapy, started to help. We continued to monitor and tweak my medication and eventually my doctor suggested Adderall. I remember thinking, “Umm no, I’m a teacher and I know what ADD looks like. I do not have ADD”. My doctor explained that I only see the pediatric side of it, the kind of ADD that prevents some kids from succeeding in school. He said that sometimes, the symptoms of PTSD are very similar to ADD in that you cannot focus and have a hard time shutting off my brain so I could get some sleep. In my case, my pervasive thoughts were keeping me from focusing on anything. I was a bit reluctant, again because of the stigma attached to drugs like Adderall, but I gave it a try. It was life altering. The best way I can think of to describe it is that I was finally able to slow down my brain enough where I could process the thoughts that were rushing through my mind. This, along with the coping skills I had learned in therapy, helped me confront those pervasive thoughts, those horrifying images that I would see, those panic attacks that would start, and talk myself through them. Through therapy I learned how to ground myself during times of panic or visions of my son, teaching myself to stop and evaluate instead of immediately reacting before I got a chance to think. I was challenged to “go left instead of right”, do things I might be afraid to do (like hiking or go shopping in a new mall I hadn’t been to before), and to force myself to address the trauma, reason through it, and use my arsenal of coping skills to get through tough times.

I don’t want to make it sound like this happened overnight or that I am somehow just “cured”. It took almost a year of weekly therapy, and medication, to get to the point where I am now. At this point right now, I am stable. I still struggle, I still have guilt, I still have bad days, and I still have work to do. I know that PTSD, PPD, and PPA are not things that will just go away and that this is something that will be a part of me for the rest of my life. I know that I will forever be a different version of myself because trauma changes your brain, but that it is ok. Its ok to need medication to help treat the symptoms. Its ok to talk about that night, that I can’t be afraid of what people might think. Its ok to admit that I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder brought on by my son’s birth, that my history of mental illness and this PTSD made my Postpartum Depression and Anxiety much worse than it may have been without that trauma.

Its also ok to admit that I waited far too long to get help, and that I was walking a fine line between PPD and postpartum psychosis, and that waiting any longer could have been life threatening. 

It has taken me over a year to write this down. My therapist and doctor encouraged me to talk about it and write it out as a means of facing it head on. I have tried and failed so many times, because it would bring back such horrible feelings that I couldn’t finish. Writing this today, I will admit, I have done it through tears. But now, those tears aren’t because of fear or sadness. The tears I am crying today acknowledge the pain I endured, but also applaud the strength I have gained because of it. I am proud to say that I am a survivor of PTSD, PPD, and PPA.

I am motivated now to be a mental health advocate. I want new moms (or “this is not my first rodeo” moms – because they are just as susceptible to it too) to know what the signs and symptoms are before they get too far. I want resources to be more readily available and easy to access. I want healthcare professionals to know and understand the appropriate ways to approach patients who ask for help. I want families to know what to look for and how to get a new mom help or support her through her treatment. I have owned my diagnosis and have been empowered to share my story in hopes that other moms don’t have to go down the road I did. Do not be afraid to ask for help, don’t be afraid of the stigma. The process is worth it. Your baby is worth it. You are worth it.

Self Care for the Solo Parent

“Self Care” is such a buzz word right now. When I first started treatment for my postpartum depression and anxiety, my therapist would always ask what I did for “self care” or what my “self care routine” was. At first, I really thought she was asking me about my hygiene…which isn’t really a crazy thought considering one huge battle with my depression is mustering up the energy to get out of bed and take a shower (sounds awful, but if you’ve felt this way before, you know exactly what I’m talking about). I had no idea that self care had more to do with the little things you do just for yourself than it did with hygiene.

The hard part about making sure I include self care in my daily routine, is that I am a solo parent most of the time. I will not say I am a “single mom” because I am not, but when my husband is deployed for the better part of a year, I am definitely doing it alone. We are far from home (across the country to be exact!) so I lack the physical support from my family as well. Being a solo parent means self care might look a little bit different for me.

 

Setting a strict bedtime for my child is a MUST.

I sometimes struggle, as a working mom, with the guilt of putting my kid to bed early since I haven’t gotten to spend a ton of time with him all day. Not having my other half around to tag team the nighttime routine means it is all left on me. Not only is a strict bedtime better for my cranky (soon to be) two year old, but it gives me the routine and time I need to do something for myself. Knowing that my son will be in bed by 7:30pm each night means I can count on that hour and a half each night (after doing all the tedious chores – dishes, laundry, etc.) spent on self care, such as popping some popcorn and binge-watching SVU on Netflix, laying in a hot bath with that crazy new bath bomb I bought off Facebook, or something as simple as painting my toes. When I start to feel overwhelmed and stressed during the day, I remind myself that I will get my “me time” tonight.

 

What needs to be done right now, and what can wait. 

I had been explaining to my therapist that I felt the constant need to keep a spotless home because that is “what a good mom does” (in my mind). She asked me, “Are you expecting Martha Stewart over for dinner?” I laughed, but she was right. Who was I trying to impress? No, my home is never a filthy mess, but I would get a lot of anxiety when theres an overflowing laundry basket or shoes strewn across the living room. We decided to list the things that needed to be done right now, and things that could be put off until later (or never – because really, the bathroom doesn’t actually have to be painted turquoise just because you pinned it on Pinterest). Things like washing the dishes after dinner…would it matter if I did it the next morning? Probably not. Do we need clean clothes tomorrow morning? Of course. Prioritizing my To Do List is a huge part of self care because feeling overwhelmed and like I am a bad mom for something so silly is just unnecessary.

 

It can be the little things that mean the most. 

Since I do not have a steady babysitter or family and friends that I can bribe ask to babysit, I have had to find self care options that are quick and easy to fit into my schedule. Sometimes this means I stop on the way to work for my favorite drink from my favorite coffee shop or get my eyebrows waxed on the way home from work (because seriously…have you seen how different you look after getting those things cleaned up!?). Self care doesn’t always mean elaborate nights out, massages, or weekend getaways. Self care can mean you sit in the car outside of day care, listening to your favorite song for just an extra three minutes before walking in.

 

Celebrate your independence. 

A huge part of what gets me down is feeling like I am never doing “enough” as a mom. Being a solo parent means I usually don’t have someone to remind me that I am doing a good job or to help me when I’m struggling so I end up NOT feeling like a failure. Part of my self care routine now is looking at my day and thinking about ONE thing I did that proves I am a good mom. It can be the fact that I got to day care drop off on time this morning, that I managed to cook a healthy meal for dinner, or that I made sure I spent extra time cuddling my son today. It sounds so silly, but sometimes you have to be your own cheerleader when you are alone!

 

Yes, my son comes first 100%, but I’ve learned that I am not giving him any less by shifting HOW I meet his needs. He will always be loved, fed, clothed, bathed, etc., but it may look different depending on my needs that day (because, as hard as it was to learn, I am important too!). Putting my kid down for bedtime early so I can veg out on the couch after a rough day is much better for him (and me) than getting frustrated and snapping because he ripped his diaper off (again) and went running through the house right before bedtime. Self care doesn’t have to be something elaborate or expensive, it can be quick, free, and easy once you know what YOUR self care is and how you can fit it into YOUR schedule.

The Mother of All Competitions

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed one night and stumbled upon an article posted by Scary Mommy. The article (blog really) was by a single mother who was explaining why she felt it is not ok for married women to ever refer to themselves as “single moms”. Naturally, I cruised on over to the comments section and to my HORROR the women were being absolutely awful to each other. Now, whether or not I agree with the blogger is not the issue…the issue is what women were saying. Suddenly life has become a mom competition. Every married woman who tried to relate to parenting alone was attacked by a single mom saying there is no way their life was harder and married woman telling single moms their lives weren’t really all that hard. The single moms were offended that anyone used the term “single mom” if they were not legally SINGLE. Ok, I get it. The next claim was that any woman who is married, instantly has it easier because they have a second income and someone there for emotional support. Well, that was met with resistance as some pointed out that not every married couple has two incomes or that some men are just not supportive in the least bit. Some argued that single moms can have boyfriends who provide emotional support but just because they aren’t married doesn’t mean anything; a partner is a partner. Then some argued that even a married woman whose husband is constantly away (hey military spouses, we’re talking to you!) have much easier lives because they can e-mail their husbands for emotional support and are still getting a big fat pay check. It went on and on. I felt some comments had merit, but some were just downright nasty and absolutely absurd. I may or may not have taken a bit of offense when anyone tried to tell me that my life was a cake walk when my husband was gone *insert emotionally triggered, pissed off face*

WHY? Why did it become a competition of who has it worse? The argument was no longer about a term…SINGLE MOM…it was about women tearing each other down and belittling their struggles because “My life is harder than yours!”

I don’t always comment on things on social media….but I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut any longer. Read on…

Oh hell…this is a ridiculous argument. Some single moms make as much or more than some married couples. Not all, but some do. Some single moms make next to nothing but live with their parents to help make ends meet. Some single moms get alimony and decent child support in addition to their own income. Some single moms have nothing but are able to receive some assistance through certain programs and, if they’re lucky, get a bit of child support. Some get nothing at all. Some single moms live close to family, friends, or have significant others to provide emotional support/emergency help/child care and some don’t. There are married women whose military husbands are gone 90% of the time, but get financial support by means of a shared income, which may or may not make ends meet. These women may not live anywhere near their families and friends, so they may not have any physical means of support in terms of child care or emotional help when times get tough. They have the added stress of not knowing if their spouse will make it home alive or not. Some get to talk to their spouses while deployed and receive that emotional support of “doing it together” but some don’t hear from their spouses for months at a time. Some women’s spouses come back from war completely changed and empty, unable to provide emotional or financial support due to physical or mental disability. Some women have spouses who are chronically or terminally ill, who lose their second income and second set of hands due to hospitalizations or physical handicaps. These women have the added burden of being a caretaker to their spouse and worry about the day their spouse dies in addition to being a mom.

So…case by case, this is apples and oranges.

Single mom, living with her parents, making an ok wage, dating a guy but isn’t married vs. married military spouse whose husband is gone for 9 months who together make barely enough to get by, and live in a different country than their families…which is worse?

Married woman whose husband is gone for business a lot, makes decent money, and lives near family vs. single mom who fled abuse and is working her butt off trying to keep a roof over her kids’ heads…which is worse?

Single mom who works full time making hardly anything, getting a little bit of child support, and emotional support from family and friends vs. a married woman whose husband has stage 4 cancer and physically cannot do much, who are about to lose their house due to the loss of income, and have minimal family support…which is worse?

It’s about the situation and it’s effects emotionally, not finances, not support, not anything else.

I have tons of respect for women who are unmarried or divorced and are doing everything alone…but I also know what it’s like to do it all alone while my husband is gone for almost a year at a time.

No matter what money is coming in and no matter who you have supporting you emotionally…waking up alone being the only one to get the kids ready, watch the kids or drop them off at child care, work full time or 2 jobs, coming home alone to be the one to cook dinner, clean the house, do the laundry, to be the only one sitting there in front of a pile of bills wondering how to make it work without someone there to make decisions with, being the only one physically responsible for your child so you have to miss work and wages when your child is sick, having no one to give you a break to go out with the girls or get your nails done or go to the dang gynecologist…(I could go on and on) it is NOT easy and quite honestly it freaking sucks.

The bottom line is, single mom or someone who feels like they’re doing it alone, either way, no one has the right to tell you that your situation isn’t as hard as someone else’s. At the end of the day, we love our kids and we do everything in our power to provide for them and make them happy with or without a spouse.

Single mom, military spouse, domestic abuse survivor, Mom with a terminally/chronically ill spouse…wear it as a badge of honor and keep pushing forward. Sitting and comparing situations does not change your life and certainly doesn’t make it any better.

Shout out to the moms who physically, emotionally, or physically and emotionally do it alone. You’re doing great.

 

Labor & Delivery…and Trauma

Pregnancy was such a joy for me. Although I dealt with awful morning sickness and some pretty tough back pain, I always just felt SO good. Maybe not physically, but emotionally, mentally, I felt like I was glowing. Around 5 months, I found out that I had “Polyhydramnios” (extra amniotic fluid for no apparent reason) which caused my pregnancy to become high-risk. I ended up needing to go for non-stress tests and ultrasounds weekly, but even through that, I remained pretty optimistic and thankful to just be carrying this little human life. My doctor decided to induce me about a week early (standard practice for Polyhydramnios apparently), so when the time came to go to the hospital, I was just over the moon thinking about bringing my baby home in a few days.

I think my idea of induction was a little overly optimistic. I went in around 7pm and was given Cervidil to help dilate my cervix overnight. The next morning…nothing. I was disappointed, but I knew there was no way this was going to be a cake walk. The doctor began Pitocin and within a few hours, the most excruciating pain began in my lower back. I pride myself in having a pretty high pain tolerance, but this was NOT like anything I could have expected. I felt like I had one HUGE contraction that just never let up. All my dreams of walking around the hospital or dancing my way through labor went out the window. I was in so much pain, I was basically blacking out, coming to as nurses rolled me around on a peanut ball, and blacking back out again. Finally, after an entire day of this, a nurse came in and said, “I can’t even bear to look at you like this, I think we need to talk about an epidural.” I knew I wanted to get an epidural, but the other nurses kept saying it was too soon. I don’t even remember getting the epidural put in, but boy do I remember it kicking in! I finally was able to relax a bit, but I continued to make very little progress toward labor. The nurses had me rolling back and forth almost constantly. I thought, at the time, that this was normal. Finally, the next afternoon, after about 32 hours of labor, the doctor came in to put a little hole in my water. She came back to check a few hours later and was welcomed by a big old splash to the face (her expression was priceless)! It was FINALLY time to push!

I will never EVER forget the nurse saying to me, “The NICU team is going to come in, you know, just incase he comes out a little floppy.” WHAT? What exactly did FLOPPY mean? I didn’t even put much thought into it at the time, but looking back, what in the actual hell? I would find out later that my son’s cord was wrapped around his neck, and every time his heart rate would go down, the nurses would rush in to reposition me. They didn’t want to tell me about the cord, and part of me is grateful for that. Once it was go time, I pushed for 18 minutes and out he came, looking perfect. I was on top of the world. The NICU team left once they got the all clear, and we thought that was the last time we would see those nurses. We were wrong.

About 8 hours after my son was born, while my husband and I were exhausted and elated all at the same time, the scariest moment of my life happened. I hadn’t slept in days, and after 32+ hours of labor, I was exhausted. I swaddled my baby, laid him down in the bassinet, and tried to get some shut eye.

I woke up to my husband yelling, “Breathe! Come on! Breathe!” I jumped out of the hospital bed as he held our son, who was turning grey and then blue. I started screaming as we desperately tried to pat his back, rub his chest, and get him breathing. He was choking, struggling to get a breath, and not crying. I don’t even remember what happened next, but suddenly our nurse was in the room and Logan finally started to breathe again, gaining color back in his face. I collapsed into a pile on the floor, sobbing. I was terrified. The nurse seemed calm, reassuring us that this happens sometimes and they’re called “dusky episodes”. She convinced us to let her take him to the nursery so we could get some sleep.

While our son was in the nursery, he continued to have these episodes. A doctor came in and decided to send him to the NICU. My husband was a wreck, but somehow it just didn’t sink in for me. In my mind, I thought, “Ok, they are just going to check him out. He is fine, he will be in the best place he could be and we will take him home later tonight.” Walking into the NICU and seeing my son hooked up to tubes, wires, and an IV was heartbreaking, but it still didn’t quite click for me. When the charge nurse explained that he would have to stay in the NICU, I just froze. I remember hearing the nurses talk to me, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Everything was moving in slow motion around my son and I just felt broken inside.

Leaving the hospital without your baby has got to be one of the most painful experiences a mother could go through. Yes, I was lucky he was alive, and I know there are moms who don’t get to say that. I had to keep reminding myself of this each and every step I took down that long, empty hallway toward the parking garage that night. That week (again, yes, I am extremely blessed it was a week and not months) is still a blur to me. Luckily our son was in his own room in the NICU with a fold out couch, so we spent a LOT of time in that room. The nurses had to convince us to leave for showers and sleep, but it was heartbreaking each and every time we made that walk down the hallway.

Apparently my son had aspirated and swallowed amniotic fluid during birth, which caused an excess amount of fluid in his lungs and belly. Because of this, he needed his stomach pumped, lungs cleared, and antibiotics given all while monitoring him for all the standard things. I know that we are blessed that his was “all” that happened. I feel like when I share our story I have to keep saying that I know it could have been worse, I know he wasn’t a preemie, I know HE IS ALIVE. But what is important to understand that this trauma was just that…a trauma. In no way could comparing it to “what could have happened” make it feel any less painful.

The day we finally got to take our son home, I remember being happy, but dark and sad at the same time. I felt like I had failed as a mom. I felt guilty. What if my husband hadn’t been in the room that night? My son was gasping for breath and I didn’t wake up. I DIDN’T WAKE UP. It was the worst guilt I have ever felt in my life, that I laid there asleep as my son was struggling to breathe. I couldn’t let that feeling go. I remember the first night home, after laying him in his rock n’ play, I walked into his nursery, plopped down on the rocking chair, and sobbed uncontrollably. My husband came in and tried his best to calm me down, but I had lost all control. I couldn’t sleep, I was constantly flashing back to seeing my son turning blue, feeling that intense guilt, and watching every single breath he took.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the beginning of my journey with PTSD and postpartum depression & anxiety. Now, almost 2 years later, I am finally able to tell this story without bursting into tears. I have gone through a lot to get to this point, and I have made it part of my purpose as a mom to share my story, not just about what happened that night, but about my journey afterward. For now, I am happy to get through this post with dry eyes, but I know sharing the next part of my journey will be difficult.

 

This is one of the first pictures I took of my son in the NICU. I had refused to take pictures when he was on oxygen and all the other wires and monitors, it was just too painful. The nurses convinced me to take photos and video to help me at home when trying to pump. This photo is still tough to look at because it brings back a lot of emotions. I know we are beyond blessed to have a healthy baby, but it doesn’t take the pain away from our experience.

Deployment Woes Then & Now

During our first deployment, we were still young (21 to be exact!) and had only been dating for about six months. We went through a lot…and when I say a lot I mean…A LOT. We didn’t have a super strong foundation as a couple seeing as we were long distance for those six months, his mother absolutely hated me and caused an unGodly amount of drama, and it was his very first deployment which is going to be tough on anyone. I documented a lot of how I felt, what I was afraid of, things I wanted to say but couldn’t, in a private blog that somehow got passed along in the young Navy girlfriend community (unbeknownst to me at the time). Its funny how I can look at those blog posts now and remember those pains and feelings so strongly, but I also am a bit ashamed of some of the things I wrote. There is a certain level of maturity one must have to successfully survive a deployment (let alone a military relationship), and needless to say, I did not have it.

The first time around I can tell you the hardest part was simply losing communication. Talk about privilege…we are so used to being able to call, text, Amazon Prime anytime of day or night, so when it is taken away from us, all hell breaks loose. I never remember having any kind of attachment to my phone until that deployment. I could go to class or work without it and be just fine. I never slept with my phone in my bed, never worried if it was on silent when it was lost, never worried about who needed to contact me. In my mind, it couldn’t be that important that it couldn’t wait…..or could it? Knowing I had very few opportunities to talk to my boyfriend meant that phone was attached to me 24/7 just waiting for an e-mail. When he was in port? Forget it. I got no sleep, I slept with the phone laying on my chest, and I would have given up my left arm to Skype with him.

Now? Meh. At the risk of sounding cold-hearted, its not that I don’t WANT to talk to him, its about time. Before, I had time to kill. I could sit up all night waiting for an e-mail or stop everything I was doing to Skype. Not so much anymore. I work full time teaching elementary school, so there is no way I can say, “Oh kids, hold on just a second, I need to go FaceTime my husband, you just work on those fractions for an hour or so, ok?” HA. I can’t stay up all night, not only because of work, but because my child requires a whole lot of attention that I simply cannot give properly if I am exhausted. I am finally old enough to realize that giving up my social life to sit around and wait for a call is unhealthy, let alone unfair, so thats not happening anymore either. I think now I know that although conversations are precious and important, we WILL hear from each other eventually and that radio silence doesn’t mean “its over” or something terrible has happened. He knows that my world has to keep spinning even if he isn’t around and that means that my identity is not “wife of a deployed service member” so I will go about my daily life. Do I want to hear from him? Of course! I obviously still miss him. But what I am saying is, it is not “life-or-death mass hysterics” if I don’t respond to an e-mail within 3 minutes or miss one video chat request. Life will go on. There will be other opportunities. (And before anyone says, “But what if he dies?! Then you’ll regret that!”…you’re right, if my husband dies in combat I will definitely just focus on the fact that I missed an e-mail…NOT. You can’t think like that…ever)

Last time, port visits were exciting and stressful at the same time. I was so happy for him to get off the ship, see new places, try new things, find wifi to video chat with me all day, and report back on everything. But on the other side was my worry. Young + American + probably (definitely) shit faced + pay day = nothing good at all. So yes, while I was happy he was able to see Paris, I was also quite concerned when he was doing shots of Absinthe in the Red Light District of Paris before going MIA for about 8 hours. Again, being young and in a different country with more money than you’re ever used to having with zero financial responsibilities back home? Sure sounds like a recipe for success to me! *insert overly exaggerated eye roll*

Seven years later and we have both grown up a lot. Port visits now consist of me telling my husband how much I’ve budgeted for him to splurge in port, him finding somewhere quiet to FaceTime while drinking a beer or two, and calling it a night at a decent hour for each of us. BORING. But I love it. I love that he wants to sit in the corner of a coffee shop and talk to our son or tell me how much he missed wearing sneakers for the past few months. I love starring at each other and talking about how tired we are. I wish I was kidding you right now, but this is the part of getting older that I really have grown to appreciate.

The last woe I remember being pretty big back then was, as much as I hate to admit it, the fear of infidelity or breaking up. Think about who you were dating at 21 and really, truly try and picture yourself going through something like a deployment together. (All you veteran military couples who were high school sweethearts need not participate in this exercise!) This is not something normal “kids” go through, so naturally it is tough thinking, “Are we going to make it through this?” “Is he still going to want to be with me?” “What if he meets someone on the ship?” “What if he meets someone in port?” “What if he gets drunk and cheats on me?” Although these could be fears for any young couple, they get amplified by ten when you are in a deployment situation. Right now, I am sure there are lots of readers thinking, “Uh uh not my man, I knew he wouldn’t do any of those things because I trust/ed him 100% so this girl has to be out of her mind…” OK. Again, six months into it, I was not stupid. I knew that six months wasn’t a marriage, it wasn’t some whirlwind romance, it was six months of fun and “lets see where this goes”. Sure, we loved each other, but was that enough? I had no idea. I had never loved someone like I loved him. It had nothing to do with trust, insecurity, or any of that. It had everything to do with fear of the unknown and deep down just wanting things to work.

Fast forward through love, marriage, and the baby carriage…I don’t even think about these things anymore. I’ve learned a whole lot about the different kinds of women in the Navy (shout out to all of you hard working, intelligent, fabulous Navy women!) and about what happens mentally on deployment (have you ever heard of “deployment goggles”? They’re real. Don’t ever get a pair. They lead to poor decisions), so I think I….WE are better prepared this time. We are much better at communicating and expressing our feelings, even when those feelings aren’t easy to vocalize. I know that not every woman on that ship is out to be a home wrecker (even if a few still are…don’t think I forgot your name Jessica…*cough* bitch *cough*) and he knows that no one stateside is ever going to lead me astray. We have a relationship that has history, a commitment, a future, something tangible that is not as easy to destroy as our relationship was last time.

I’m writing this all thinking, “How do I sum this up into one thing I have learned?”

MATURITY.

Like a fine wine, some relationships get better with age, and we are an example of that. Think about this for a minute. Most men and women who join the military do so at the age of 17, 18, 19…and they’re all hitting their first deployment either immediately or within a few short years. Who in the hell thought it was a good idea to let these children have significant others?! I mean really, we are BABIES being shipped off to God knows where to do Lord knows what, but they are leaving huge pieces of their hearts back home. I’m not saying this isn’t true for those without significant others, but leaving momma is a different feeling than leaving “the love of your life”. Being 19 and freshly in love may seem great, but throw deployment in the mix and its going to be a lot more difficult than your standard freshman-year-of-college-romance. Sure, there are some couples who get through it just fine, and I say, applause for you, because I sure as hell didn’t do too well. I like to assume most young couples struggle a bit during that first deployment. The good news is, it may not get easier, but you do get used to it and things are just…different.

My suggestion to any young couple going through their first deployment is to live each day with intention. We went into that deployment completely blind, not knowing what our relationship would be, if there would even be one in the end. Being with someone in the military is a commitment unlike any other. You may be married, but if you don’t have the intention to stay married, grow in your love, and/or make upward movements as a couple/family, then you may find yourself in the same place as an unmarried couple. Having goals and making sure each decision you make is purposeful and helps you attain those goals is extremely important. Maybe you’re not married but want to get engaged after deployment. What can you do as a couple to strengthen your bond while he/she is away so that you are 100% ready for that next step? Maybe you are engaged and planning a wedding. What can you do to keep your relationship strong through the added stress of wedding planning during deployment? How can you save money? Maybe you’re married and hoping to start a family after deployment. In what ways will you ensure you are ready for that change once he/she gets home? I could go on and on with examples. I guess my point is, unless both people are on the same page and going in the same direction with the same enthusiasm, it is very easy to derail your relationship when you throw deployment into the mix. The distance, the stress, the uncertainty, the lack of reliable communication, it all makes every little thing 300 times more difficult. Since it is pretty much impossible to expect the unexpected, instead be prepared for the journey toward a common destination as best you can, think two steps ahead, keep your eyes on the prize, and deal with small set backs as they come.

To any of my young, newbie girlfriends/wives out there, stay strong. You will get through it, and as long as you are both in it for the long haul together with the same goals and drive, it will be worth it. I promise you it will be worth it.

What It Means to Be a Mom

Not everyone is religious, so not everyone can relate to this, but since I could remember, I felt that my purpose in life was to be a mom. Even as a little girl, I remember thinking that no matter what I did, no matter what career path I took, as long as I was a mom then my life would be complete. I may have been thinking beyond my years, but it was a feeling I had deep down in my soul.

When I met my (now) husband, I remember thinking about our future a lot. During his first deployment, I remember this very vivid nightmare where my dad walked into the living room to tell me that my boyfriend had been killed and that he wasn’t coming home. I woke up hysterical and thought about all of the things we never would have been able to do, like have kids. I remember thinking that if I had to lose him, I wanted to have a piece of him with me forever.

As I am typing this, I am well aware that I sound absolutely crazy.

Needless to say, having a baby was always part of our plan and I was ready right away. My parents always preached “education, career, husband, then babies” so that is precisely what we did. Eight months after our wedding, I was pregnant and couldn’t be happier. So many of my friends asked if I was worried or scared, but I wasn’t either. This was what I had wanted my whole life and I felt it was my purpose.

No matter how many years I spent babysitting, being a nanny, working in a day care, or teaching, nothing, and I mean absolutely NOTHING, could have prepared me for motherhood. Sure, I knew the developmental milestones of kids from infancy through adolescence, I understood what babies needed, and I could change a diaper in about 48 seconds, but that wasn’t MOTHERHOOD.

Being a mom proved to be so much more than pushing out a baby and taking care of it. The emotional aspect of motherhood is so much more powerful. It may sound cliche but the moment he arrived, everything else in my life melted away. We often joke about the things that happen after becoming a mom as if they’re negative…mom jeans, stretch marks, permanently looking like a red hot mess…but those things come along with feeling your baby’s pain when they’re sick, welling up with tears after every tiny accomplishment (who knew you could be proud of someone for pooping?!), and that indescribable feeling you get in the bottom of your heart when you smell your babies breath. I knew that for the rest of my life, I had to live for this little life sitting in my arms. As time would go on, I learned that this feeling was both beautiful and terrifying at the same time. The title of mom means unconditional love, sacrifice, fear, hopes & dreams, routines, schedules, impulse, instincts, and…IMPERFECTION.

Becoming a mom also made me a survivor of PTSD due to complications after childbirth and postpartum depression & anxiety. Almost two years ago, I absolutely could not have said that I was thankful for this walk through hell and back that we call mental health, but I am thankful for it today.

Being a mom means I will never be perfect, but I’ll be damned if I don’t embrace the failures, the flaws, and the mistakes and love the journey.