She is the Light

If you read the birth story of my daughter, or if you know me at all, you may know that I’ve suffered from some trauma following my transition into motherhood. Becoming a mom has felt crazy for a number of reasons. My daughter entered the world through an emotionally traumatic, whirlwind birth that left many important moments completely out of my control.

Only two months after her birth I jumped into working full time as a nurse, letting go of even more control. As time went on, the unhealed trauma from the birth continued to cause even further damage, and with a hectic work environment in the mix, I was a ticking time bomb.

Finally, the severity of my anxiety led me to quit my job entirely, in a desperate attempt to reevaluate my life, and save myself from the agony I’d been feeling for nearly a year.

Today, I can say that I am feeling more in control of my anxiety than ever before. I am blessed to have found a career path that allows me flexibility, and the ability to be home with my daughter most days. My life is more balanced than ever before as I’m understanding how seriously important it is to take care of myself — as hard as it may be sometimes.

I’ve taken an important step in my healing journey and I’ve begun going to therapy. It’s been a challenging process, to say the least.

Last night was my second session and we delved into the birth of my daughter and how it’s changed my life. Explaining this story was much more emotional of a process than I’d previously expected. Tears poured out of me as I said the words, “There was so much damage being done that I was totally naive to in the moment.”

My therapist encouraged me to reflect on those first hours and days with my daughter and try to remember some of the joy that came along with it. I cried even further because even in remembering the joyous moments, I still felt severe stress, sadness, and anger.

“These are happy tears,” she said. No, they were not happy tears. These tears were some of the most deeply painful tears I’ve felt because in that moment I was realizing that no matter the joy that did occur, the birth of my daughter is still overshadowed by stress.

My therapist’s advice was to take time and practice mindfulness. During this time, she encouraged me to try to remember the joyous moments of my daughter’s birth and make a conscious effort to feel that joy.

“Go towards the light,” she said.

As I reflect on this experience, so many emotions and tears have continued to pour out of me. I don’t want to always feel damaged by her birth. I never want her to hear me retell this story and think that any of this was her fault. What I realized was, it was hard to recollect specific moments of joy, although there were a few, and this is because she is the joy. My daughter is light that exists in this dark experience and although it’s been one of the most challenging of my life, I know that I am coming out stronger than ever before.

“When He tested me, I will come forth as gold.” Job 23:10

I want my daughter to always know that although her entrance into the world was painful and traumatic for me, I would never change a thing because it gave me the greatest gift, and that is her.

She is the light.

I know, it sounds painful and scary to relive trauma but I promise it is so worth it. Although I have a long road ahead of me, I know that going to therapy is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself and for my family. It’s not easy but it’s so entirely worth the pain and challenges required to finally feel healed. If you’ve been thinking about going to therapy, consider this your sign. I promise you won’t regret it.

Xx

25 Lessons Learned in 25 Years

25 Lessons learned in 25 years

One year ago today, I celebrated my 24th birthday. I remember feeling like I “had it all”, a high-paying job, a sweet family, and even a fancy beach getaway planned to celebrate. Regardless of what I had achieved on paper, I felt empty, lost, and riddled with anxiety. I remember sitting comfortably on a beach chair, watching the sunset over the clear blue ocean, surrounded by peace and silence. Even amid this environment, I was trying so hard to force myself to feel happy, and I just couldn’t budge.

This year, my life has changed entirely. I feel at ease and like I’m exactly where I am meant to be. Here are some of the valuable lessons learned along the way.

25 Lessons Learned in 25 Years

  1. Confidence and faith will carry you through many of life’s challenges.
  2. Always honor gut instincts. If you feel pulled to do something, run don’t walk.
  3. Your flaws are not meant to be hidden, they are a valuable part of who you are. Look them in the face, accept them, revel in them.
  4. Difficult conversations are the most important ones to have.
  5. Life doesn’t come with an agenda (or user manual), sometimes you have to let go and allow things to unfold.
  6. If you want to have money to spend and money in the bank, you’ve got to put money in the bank first. Or else you’ll just spend it all.
  7. Rest is required if you want to be successful. Constantly rushing around won’t win you any type of metal, it actually won’t win you anything at all.
  8. Eat what makes you feel good, dieting is stupid.
  9. Your relationships with others are a mirror of the relationship you have with yourself.
  10. Money is great but it doesn’t buy happiness. If you want both, then do what you love with passion and it might just become a reliable source of income.
  11. Make time for the people and things you love. Life moves fast and every moment that passes is precious time you’ll never get back.
  12. Always make your mental health a priority.
  13. Pain is a necessary part of life. If you strive for constant comfort, you may end up disappointed.
  14. If something didn’t go to plan, that does not mean you failed.
  15. Have patience with yourself and others. We’re all in this together.
  16. The most challenging times in my life have humbled me and had the biggest impact on who I am today. Try to see this moment for what it is, even if you’re not exactly where you want to be.
  17. Success, happiness, it’s all a work in progress. Give it time and trust the process.
  18. Focusing on your goals is important, but you have to find contentment in the present moment. If not, you may end up constantly chasing after a dream that you’ll never reach.
  19. Don’t run from your past. Look it in the face and seek understanding within it (even the ugly stuff). It’s what brought you to this moment, so it matters.
  20. You don’t have to spend a lot of money all the time to have nice things. You can take your time with well-thought-out purchases and still have the items you love without breaking the bank.
  21. It’s worth it to take a closer look at the aspects of life that cause you feelings of guilt and shame.
  22. Your job has a big influence on who you are (it may even become you). Choose wisely.
  23. Seeing your parents as flawed humans (just like everyone) may help you forgive any of the mistakes they’ve made.
  24. No matter how hard you try, you will forget things. Try to be present and take in as much of the present moment as you can.
  25. Pregnancy, the newborn days, your kid’s younger years — it’s all a tiny sliver of your life as a whole. Don’t waste it away by wishing for days of independence, those days will return and when they do you’ll wish you soaked up these moments.

Another year of life and so many valuable lessons learned are just a few of the many reasons why I feel blessed today. Thank you to all of the amazing people in my life who have influenced me in a positive way and supported me throughout this past year, as it hasn’t been any easy one.

With Love,

Sophia

Packing Daycare Lunches 101

I find few things as overwhelming as packing lunches for my toddler’s days at daycare. I used to feel the same exact way when I’d pack my own lunches when I was working full time as a nurse. Luckily, this isn’t nearly as stressful or strenuous mainly because she only goes to daycare 2 days per week and I’m not nearly as exhausted as I was back then. Lately, I feel like I’ve got it down to a bit of a science and I thought I’d share some tips for anyone who may be struggling. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. 

1. Plan your menu

Before I do anything, I take a sticky note and write out what I’m going to pack. When my daughter first started daycare I was told she would need a lunch and two snacks. So, on her first day, I sent her with a small container of beans and rice, some blueberries, and some scrambled eggs. I was later informed that she would actually need 2 morning snacks as well as 2 afternoon snacks. This seemed ridiculous to me, but I went with it.

Low and behold, my little lady ate all of her food and came home starving on her first day. The amount of food I send her with always seems like way more than necessary but I try to just roll with it. If there’s anything left over in her lunch that still seems edible, I try to feed it to her when she gets home to minimize the amount of food we throw away. I know she likes to snack throughout the day and as she grows her hunger demands are growing with her. 

So, now that she requires 4 snacks and a lunch entrée, it just seems like a lot to think about at once. Writing it all out really helps me. Here’s an example of what I usually pack her:

  • Snack 1: Oatmeal with cooked apples
  • Snack 2: Scrambled egg
  • Lunch: Rice or pasta with peas and/or shredded chicken
  • Snack 3: pretzels/crackers with sliced cheese
  • Snack 4:  Berries and tangerine

2. Break it up

I’ve found that any way I can break up the work load and do small parts, one at a time, it reduces the stress and overwhelming feeling of doing it all at once. For example, my daughter loves oatmeal and eats it everyday so I usually make a big pot of it in our Instant Pot and this lasts for a few days. So, when I go into packing her lunch, I’ve already got a container of oatmeal prepared so that’s one less thing to think about and all I have to do is portion it into a smaller container. When I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll cook up some apples and throw them in there too because I know she loves it. 

Another way I break up her lunches is by scrambling a few eggs in the morning before I drop her off, she’ll eat some of it with her breakfast before we leave and I put the extra into a container to count as one of her snacks. This just seems to make my life easier since it’s one less thing to think about the night before. Plus, I can always count on my daughter waking up bright and early around 6:30 so we have plenty of time in the morning to prep a few things before her drop off time of 8AM. 

It seems like leaving a few easy, smaller tasks for the morning of helps break it up but I wouldn’t want to save it all for the morning, since that would backfire and make me even more overwhelmed. By having a small task left for the morning, I don’t feel like I have a lot hanging over my head. 

3. Accept *some* nutritional compromise 

Alright, I’m not sure what other parents do, but I have a hunch that there’s some simple hack to packing toddler lunches that involves lots of processed, packaged, and/or frozen food. This is just my guess, but I make this process a bit more challenging on myself by cooking fresh food for my child. In the beginning, I would send the occasional baby food pouch but I didn’t feel like it even made things much easier and I felt like I was compromising nutritional value and spending unnecessary, additional money. 

Although I strive to send nutritious meals for my daughter, I’m realistic about what she’ll actually eat. In the beginning, I would always try to send nothing but healthy food, but she wouldn’t eat it all! I’ve decided that it’s okay to compromise a bit because it’s important that you send food that your kid actually likes to eat. 

I can’t help but think about it in the context of my own experience. Back when I was working as a nurse I often would pack super healthy meals so that I had no choice but to eat healthy and often I felt disappointed and unsatisfied. On the days when I knew I had a delicious sandwich or one of my favorite snacks like cheese and crackers I was excited for my lunch, and I walked away feeling satisfied and happy. 

I think it’s just all about finding a balance. I don’t think we should feed our kids junk, but a certain amount of tasty food within reason is definitely okay. I’ve made my daughter some healthy muffins in the past that had minimal sugar or were naturally sweetened but they were still tasty and she loved them. I was also reluctant to send her to school with sliced cheese and pasta or rice because I know these aren’t super-nutritious foods and I worried she would get addicted to them, but I know they’ll make her happy and keep her tummy full. I continue to offer healthier foods at home and sometimes she goes for them and other times, not so much. Remember, no diet is one-size-fits-all.

Also, I have to point out that I’m lucky to be a *mostly* stay at home mom who only works part time and has the time and energy to put this much effort into my little one’s lunches. I realize not everyone has this option. But I do think you can make the time to pack healthy yet satisfying lunches for your baby if you plan ahead and take the right steps. 

What are your hacks for packing toddler lunches? Share your favorite toddler recipes and snack ideas in the comments! 

The Undying: Book Review

Compelling, provoking, and intense; The Undying is Anne Boyer’s reflection of her experience battling breast cancer.

When I stumbled across The Undying while walking through a book store, I was immediately drawn in. Although working as a nurse had some major drawbacks, there are aspects of medicine that I find deeply interesting. I thought this would be the perfect book to bring back that satisfaction of working in the hospital setting without actually having to return to it. I wasn’t expecting to share such similar views on frustration against the medical field with this author, but ultimately I did. 

Boyer references historical figures, all the way back to ancient Roman and Greek times, who have fought severe diseases and compares experiences. 

She also discusses the unique challenge of breast cancer patients, the chemotherapy process, and the unique stigma that surrounds it. 

Someone once said that choosing chemotherapy is like choosing to jump off a building when someone is holding a gun to your head. You jump out of fear of death, or at least a fear of the painful and ugly version of death that is cancer, or you jump from a desire to live, even if that life will be for the rest of its duration a painful one.

Anne Boyer, The Undying

Something that resonated deeply with me from this book is Boyer’s skepticism of the cancer industry as a whole. I couldn’t help but ask some questions after working in the setting of cancer treatment. Did these strong drugs actually help? It’s hard not to be skeptical when you literally watch seemingly healthy patients walk in and sign up to receive drugs that will cause them to be hospitalized for months, only to add a couple of years onto their lives, but could ultimately be their cause of death in the end. 

Boyer even shares some eye-opening stories about doctors who have lied about diagnoses, in order to get patients to agree to expensive treatment, and asks when to draw the line. Obviously, a doctor flat-out lying about a diagnosis for money is extremely unethical. But what about the doctors who exaggerate, or scare patients into intense treatments that may not be necessary? What about the patients who are going to die soon regardless, and their doctors still talk them into expensive treatment? Where do we draw the line?

Some people are lied to about having cancer. Some people lie about having it. The world is full of anecdotal accounts of cancer fakers, all of whom seem to just want what everyone needs and deserves, some time off, a little spending money, a casserole in the fridge, some love. There are stories like the one of the man who took a hundred days off from work with forged notes, or the woman who shaved her head and asked for donations at church, or the sister who turned her HPV into full-on cervical cancer for leverage at the holiday dinner table. There are also the doctors who mislead people with benign or mild cancer-related conditions into aggressive, expensive treatment, or the doctors who do not tell patients they are dying, leading them into months of costly, painful, useless interventions. The people who fake having cancer, when found out, often face, if not legal prosecution, social ostracism. The doctors who subtly overtreat patients often don’t.

Anne Boyer, The Undying

When working in the oncology environment, I couldn’t help but put myself in some patient’s shoes and ask myself, “What would I do if I was diagnosed with cancer?” It’s really hard to say what my choice would be after seeing what chemotherapy can do to people. Boyer discusses the lifelong neurological side effects she suffers from after going through chemo (side effects that her doctor never warned her about, by the way). 

I have to say, I don’t think Anne Boyer is one bit crazy for asking the question of whether her diagnosis was even real or not. Hospitals are gigantic, extremely powerful systems. These systems are filled with people who are “just going with the motions”. These factors combine and create an extremely slippery slope. 

I begin to worry that my cancer never existed, that the paranoid websites about cancer are true, that it is all a con by big pharma, that the lump was nothing, that all that had happened to me was a profitable fiction that could have been cured by carrot juice or drinking urine. In the hospital, as the cardiologists try to prove or disprove that I have a failed heart, I worry I am dying of a lie.

Anne Boyer, The Undying

This book was compelling to say the least. If you’re looking for something emotionally provoking, a little dark, and poetically written, then I definitely recommend it. Anne Boyer is a phenomenal writer. Her writing style is so uniquely captivating, I often had trouble putting this book down. I can only aspire to write like her one day.

I spent years writing about minutes, months writing about days, weeks writing about seconds, and days writing about hours, and in the minutes of experience in which my years and days have now been lost, it still feels like the weight of these events remains too heavy for their telling.

Anne Boyer, The Undying

This book caused me to ponder the question: what would life be like without sickness? 

Buy the book here!

Xx

What is Anti Dieting and How it Changed My Life

I’m not going to lie, I eat everything. Cottage cheese is probably one of my favorite foods. However, there once was a time in my life when diet restrictions were a big part of my day-to-day. Recently, I’ve let go of that, thanks to a little concept called “anti-dieting”. Now my life is changed and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Keep reading to learn about what anti-dieting is, and how it’s helped me.

What is Anti-Dieting?

I first heard about anti-dieting when listening to this episode of “Stuff You Should Know”

The concept of anti-dieting is basically just saying, “stop dieting”. Like literally, stop worrying about cutting out certain food groups, and just eat what you want, when you want. This doesn’t necessarily mean to binge on candy and junk, but if you want to you can.

That’s the thing about anti-dieting, there are no rules. No restrictions, no shame, no guilt. You just live your life and let go of the fear of certain food groups.

The thought process is, if you just eat mindfully and pay attention to the way your body feels, you most likely won’t even want to binge on junk food because you’ll be satisfied. You can enjoy the foods you like, but since nothing is off-limits, you likely won’t be tempted to overindulge.

My experiences with dieting

I’m not exactly sure where I was in my wellness journey when I initially listened to this podcast, but I know I was definitely not okay with an “all foods diet”. I feared dairy, I constantly told myself that I needed to do a Whole30 detox again soon, I often avoided gluten for reasons that I don’t even know, and the worst part? When unhealthy foods were put in from of me, I had zero control and often binged on them and felt awful after the fact.

As a high schooler, I went through a short phase during which I mainly ate egg whites, spinach, and pickles. I obsessed over low-calorie foods and drank tons of diet coke, striving to be extremely skinny. Back then, it felt to me that many of the celebrities and public figures in pop culture were stick skinny, and an anorexic appearance was collectively strived for. Luckily, this was just a short phase of disordered eating and I wouldn’t say that it really got out of control for me. I was able to sort it out on my own and it didn’t last long.

Flash forward many years, I tried my first Whole30 diet when I was 22. I started this diet with the goal of feeling good. Whole30 is a super restrictive diet that lasts for 30 days. During these 30 days, you don’t eat any: dairy, grains, gluten, sugar, alcohol, soy, and legumes.

Basically, you eat a lot of vegetables, meat, and potatoes and always strive to buy high quality, organic foods.

A lot of great things came from my experience doing Whole30. I loved the way that it taught me to really read ingredient labels when grocery shopping, it showed me the important difference of buying organic, and I really did feel good during some of it.

However, this good feeling didn’t really last and such a restrictive diet just isn’t something I could stick to long term.

On top of that, the strictness of the rules kind of triggered some overly controlling and OCD behavior from me. I obsessed over the specific rules and took it super seriously. If I felt like I overate I would mentally beat myself up over it, and if I ever felt bloated I would get super frustrated.

In hindsight, doing Whole30 brought to the surface those same old disordered eating patterns I experienced in high school, but at the time I hadn’t realized it at all.

I’ll never forget when I figured out that the salad dressing I had been eating almost weekly, from one of my favorite restaurants, actually contained soy when I previously thought it hadn’t. I was on day 28 and I felt like all of my hard work was ruined.

“Have I completely ruined everything?” I asked in the Facebook support group, after confessing my noncompliance. I felt so much guilt and shame, and literally cried for hours! THIS IS NOT HEALTHY.

What I loved that they pointed out in the podcast, is the way that diets are often considered a “healthy” thing to do, but the reality is, dieting often leads to very unhealthy patterns in terms of mental health. Dieting can even cause a person to eat less healthy, because you’re often more likely to derail and go crazy after you’ve been restricting yourself. I’ll always remember “the last supper” before starting a Whole30 cleanse when I’d binge on pizza or pasta to celebrate my last night eating carbs for a month.

Something else to note is that when we binge on foods and emotionally eat, it’s usually related to a deeper-rooted issue. Anti-dieting encourages you to look deeper before you eat something you’re craving, if you’re wanting to eat because you’re upset about something else, the food may not be the solution. On the contrary, if you just simply want the food, you can go enjoy it and not worry!

Into an anti-dieting era

These days, I eat whatever I want and it honestly feels really good. I’m not going to Mcdonald’s every day or anything, but I’m also not bending over backward to comply with any type of diet rules. I feel free, relaxed, and accepting of myself and the foods that I like.

Sometimes what you eat goes a little deeper than you may realize. I know that my mental health has been negatively affected by dieting in the past and at the time I was oblivious. It wasn’t until I started to let go of restricting myself that I realized the negative effects it had on me.

I still try to eat well. I focus more on buying high-quality foods (less processed, organic, etc.) and definitely eating vegetables and whole foods frequently, but I’m more aware of my mental health and the way dieting can affect it. Basically, I eat what makes me feel good and some days that’s a salad while other days it’s a milkshake!

Have you hear of anti-dieting?

Xx

How the Enneagram Has Helped Me Better Understand Myself and Those Around Me / “The Road Back to You” Book Review

Thanks to one of my nearest and dearest friends, the Enneagram — “an ancient personality typing system” — has become a very common topic of discussion amongst a certain group of my friends. We don’t see each other all that often, but when we do, we almost always talk about the enneagram at some point.

After literal years of saying, “I have got to take this quiz”, I’ve finally delved into “The Road Back to You” by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile and was (and still am) completely blown away. 

A few months ago, I was out to dinner with that certain group of friends I mentioned above and of course, the topic of the enneagram came up, as it always does. 

“My husband is a type ___, so that’s why he does ___”

“I’m a type __ with a __ wing”

“What type am I?”

That final question was the one that always, always got asked.

It was guessed that I may be a type 6, because it seemed fitting. After being told some of the characteristics of a type 6 (anxious, loyaI) I said, “That does sound like me!” 

I went home after dinner, took the quiz, and was shocked by the results: 

Type 4?

I started to read, “The deadly sin of the type 4 is envy.” My shock deepened. Envy? I know way better than to envy anyone, there’s no way this is right. 

But then, I started to think. 

Here are a few of the ways that the enneagram has deepened my understanding of myself and those around me.

It caused me to think about envy/jealousy in a new way

Yes, it’s true, I do know better than to envy people. I know that everyone lives a different life, filled with its own unique struggles, so to envy someone else just doesn’t make sense. It won’t get you anywhere, there’s no point, it’s a waste of time, it’s unproductive. 

But, is it true that I don’t envy anyone ever? Not necessarily, but before I started to really think about it, that’s what I wanted to believe.

Before I asked myself if I envied anyone, I had always just assumed that I didn’t simply because I knew better. 

I guess it is possible to know better than to do something but still do it sometimes. Here I was, all I had done was take an online quiz and read briefly and I was already opening my mind, becoming more aware of my thoughts, and shifting my perspective.

Personality is a mask

“Human beings are wired for survival. As little kids we instinctually place a mask called personality over parts of our authentic self to protect us from harm and make our way in the world. Made up of innate qualities, coping strategies, conditioned reflexes and defense mechanisms, among lots of other things, our personality helps us know and do what we sense is required to please our parents, to fit in and relate well to friends, to satisfy the expectations of our culture and to get our basic needs met.”

– Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, The Road Back to You

I was less than 30 minutes into this audiobook and I was already mind blown by this concept of how we wear our personalities like a mask to protect ourselves. I instantly thought about some of my own insecurities that I was currently grappling with: questioning friendships, fearing that I act overly confident to compensate for insecurities, laughing at my pain. 

According to Cron and Stabile, as we age, our personalities become so reflexive and natural that they begin to merge with who we really are, making it difficult to distinguish the true self from the version of ourselves that we present to the world. 

“Now we no longer have a personality; our personality has us!”

– Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, The Road Back to You

Understanding our authentic self brings us closer to God

“May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.” 

– Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, The Road Back to You

The concept that instantly drew me into the enneagram and helped me fully understand the seeming-obsession that some people have with it, was the idea of knowing oneself to get closer to God. 

We all know that it’s in our nature to be flawed; no human is perfect. Through understanding the enneagram, we are understanding ourselves in the context of God’s creation of us. He crafted us all to be perfectly imperfect. Rather than try to change or fix our flaws, the enneagram motivates us to look our flaws in the face and understand where they come from.

Through getting to know our authentic, true selves, we get closer to the person that God created us to be, and in turn, closer with God.  

The message that most deeply resonated with me: Nothing is missing.

As a type 4, I’m a deeply emotional person. I’m prone to mood swings and I often feel left out. Sometimes when I’m upset, I look at others and think that life is easier for them or that they have something that I don’t have. When I feel off, I search for the answer by thinking of changes I can make in my life. I’ve repetitively found myself trying out new diets, cutting out caffeine, adding a new supplement, or cutting back on alcohol, because I’m trying to feel better in some way.

Although these are healthy switches to make, I was searching for external solutions to internal problems.

Fours are moody and can sometimes identify with their feelings, thinking that they are their feelings. This can cause insecurity and uncertainty. 

“Fours need to hear this loud and clear: there’s nothing missing. It may be hard to believe, but God didn’t ship them here with a vital part absent from their essential makeup. Fours arrived on life’s doorstep with the same equipment everyone else did. The kingdom is inside them too. Everything they need is here.”

– Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, The Road Back to You

I could type and reread that quote over and over and it still gives me chills because of how deeply it resonates with me. When I find myself brainstorming what I need to buy next or writing out long lists of goals or longing for material items, I say to myself “nothing is missing” and these words instantly make me feel so calm and accepting of the moment. I’ll have to add this to my list of mantras.

In the past, when I’ve notice myself having stronger feelings than those around me, I think, “What’s wrong with me? Am I crazy?” But now I understand that I’m just a highly emotional person and not everyone is. 

I’ve definitely only scratched the surface when it comes to understanding myself in the context of the enneagram, but I’m so excited to continue this journey. I definitely think I am a type 4 but some aspects of types 1 and 9 resonate with me as well. 

Overall, I’m looking at everyone around me in a different light because I’m healing my relationship with myself. I’m starting to have a deeper understanding of my flaws, insecurities, and relationships and by accepting myself more, I’m more easily able to accept those around me.

I truly think that everyone should read this book.

Have you taken the enneagram quiz yet? What’s your type? 

Xx

Our Breastfeeding Journey: 17 months + 2 weeks

For me, breastfeeding was one (of the many) paradoxical aspects of motherhood that is virtually impossible to put into words. It somehow felt like a long, drawn out stage while it was happening, yet now that it’s over, I’m looking back and feeling like it flashed before my eyes in a matter of seconds.

Kind of like those first few days at home alone with my newborn baby; she had only been on this earth for a matter of days, and every moment of every day felt so new yet so natural and instinctual at the same time.

Those days felt long. I’d factor in little rituals, like 2:00 afternoon coffee and TV time, to help break up the day. I definitely wasn’t wishing those moments away, I loved them, but they were extremely challenging. Although striving to stay in the moment as much as possible, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some days when I was counting down the hours until Ray got home.  

At the time, I could feel the momentous nature of this huge milestone in my life, it was all so intense and real. Although it feels like the newborn stage was just yesterday, somehow it feels as if I’ve lived a lifetime since then. When I see old photos of myself, during pregnancy or in those early months after the birth — I feel like I see a different person.

That’s one thing that I love so much about being a mom — the way it’s so indescribably special. There’s so much wonder in the uniqueness of raising a tiny person, and I’m so blessed to be able to experience it firsthand.

This past week marks a bittersweet milestone in mine and my daughter’s life: the end of the breastfeeding stage. Below I’ve summarized some of the highlights of this stage that took up the last 17 and a half months; how it started, the maintenance of keeping it going for as long as we did, and the weaning process.

Everyone’s journey is different, I don’t intend to give any advice and I truly hope that nothing about this blog post triggers you.

Beginning stages of breastfeeding and the first latch

When I was pregnant, I had a birth plan. I was going to have a fully natural, unmedicated birth. Once the baby arrived, he/she (we didn’t know the gender at the time) was to be placed on my chest immediately to establish a good bond and initiate breastfeeding.

To be honest, I was really nervous about breastfeeding. I had read about many of the benefits of breastfeeding, the challenges that come along with it, and why many women quit sooner than necessary. It didn’t sound easy and I feared failure.

The birth didn’t go at all as planned and my daughter was born via C-section. The moments after she was born, I laid flat and numb on a surgical table while my abdomen was stitched back together on the other side of a curtain. After being held by a doctor, nurse, and respiratory therapist, my daughter was finally held by her father. He held her near my head and I put my hand on her face. It was the only physical contact I could give her and it just didn’t feel like enough.

I was incredibly anxious in those immediate moments. Finally, she was handed to me and I got to hold her for what felt like about 15-20 minutes. A nurse tried to help me breastfeed, without success, while my daughter screamed, and then she was taken away again.

She wasn’t actually handed back to me until about 3 hours after she was born. This is when I finally breastfed her for the first time.

Overcome with emotions and relief, I was finally able to hold her in my arms and everything felt right in the world. Finally, you’re here.

I wouldn’t say that breastfeeding was easy for us (I don’t think it’s easy for anyone), but I was always able to maintain a supply, and the milk naturally came in quickly after birth. My daughter never spit up much or had a lot of acid reflux, another blessing.

Being a working mom and returning to work only 2 months after giving birth is what presented the most challenges for me. My goal was to breastfeed for at least a year but I had a lot of fear that it wouldn’t be possible, given the demands of my job.

Maintaining a supply as a working mom

The first two months of breastfeeding were pretty straightforward, but it was when I started working that it became a roller coaster of emotions. My job was hectic and I had little time to pump during my shifts. I’d run to and from the pumping room that was three floors away, in a haste. My supply definitely fluctuated a lot, but somehow we always pulled it off despite almost running out of pumped milk multiple times.

I started my job with a good supply of milk in our freezer but after about 6 months, that supply was nearly gone since I always pumped less milk than what my daughter would consume in a given day. There were a number of evenings when I got home from work and we didn’t have enough milk in the fridge to cover the following day. I remember crying over this issue many times over. The uncertainty of whether we would have enough milk or whether I’d have to go buy some type of formula was emotionally exhausting.

One day, I called out of work to spend the next day pumping between feedings in an effort to rebuild the supply. Most days, I would pump before work, as soon as I got home, then I’d stay up late and pump again at night so I had milk to add to the supply. I’ll never forget those early morning 5AM pumping sessions on the couch, chugging coffee in a desperate attempt to keep my eyes open. 

Maintaining a supply through so much stress was not easy at all. I worked really hard at this. After my birth plan didn’t work out, I was determined to hang on to anything that I could keep in my control. Breastfeeding felt like a way to make up for the loss of a natural birth, it just felt like something I had to do; for my daughter but also for myself.

Had I not pulled this off, I probably would have been extremely disappointed. I could have fallen into negative self-talk and told myself that I wasn’t enough or capable. I was setting myself up for disappointment by setting extremely high expectations and putting immense pressure on myself to deliver. As a mom, I’ve really struggled with finding acceptance and wanting to be in control all of the time. Although it happened to work out in my favor, I’d try to relax a little more in the future.

Breastfeeding past 12 months + the weaning process

I quit my job around the same time that my daughter turned 1. Once I got to that milestone, I started to consider when I’d want to stop.

I didn’t feel ready to stop quite yet and the fact that I didn’t have to pump anymore made it even better (there was a time during my nursing career when I briefly considered weaning her earlier than my one-year milestone because I was so sick of pumping at work). 

At one year old, my daughter would nurse a few times a day in-between meals, before naps and bedtime to fall asleep, and a couple of times overnight as well. I wouldn’t say that I nursed her round-the-clock but she was still dependent enough that going into the weaning process was daunting.

At some point, night nursing went from: my daughter waking up briefly, 2-3 times in a given night, me feeding her, and us all going back to sleep; to: my daughter waking up 2-3 times per HOUR and only sleeping when she’s latched. I wasn’t able to sleep while she was latched so when that started, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and slowly start the process of weaning. 

In the beginning, we tried to cut her off cold turkey and it didn’t work at all. She’d wake up to nurse and we would try to just comfort her by holding her and rocking her. I’d go lay on the couch for a while and she would scream and scream while Ray tried to comfort her. Eventually I’d cave in and just go feed her so we could all get some sleep. At that point, I decided we needed to try a different approach.

She was about 15 months old when I bought some plant-based toddler formula (it just felt like the best thing to start with in my opinion; I wasn’t really ready to try cow’s milk yet) and decided to start supplementing some feedings during the day.

Also, during this time, my daughter started to go back to her babysitter two days a week for a few hours while I worked. While she was gone, I decided I was no longer going to pump. I’d send her with a bottle of the toddler formula and some food to eat and let this help her get used to less and less of the boob.

Slowly but surely, she stopped breastfeeding during the day. I started by only breastfeeding her when she’d ask for it and offer the bottles first. Sometimes she’d take a bottle, other times she wouldn’t. There was one time when she caught a cold and I digressed and fed her normally for a few days because I wanted her to get the extra nutrients.

Through some kicking and screaming, I was able to get her used to falling asleep for naps and bedtime without being nursed to sleep. This was a huge breakthrough for us and eventually led to her only nursing once during the day, around 4PM, and then over night when she’d wake up.

We maintained this pattern for a couple of weeks. I felt like it was nice to drag it out a bit. That way, everyone got a bit of a break from the stress of weaning before we delved into it even more to tackle night weaning. 

One day she didn’t ask to nurse in the afternoon so I didn’t offer it, and that was it, no more breastfeeding during the day and all that was left was night weaning.

I approached night weaning with a similar approach: I noticed about how many times she would nurse overnight and intended to slowly drop one feeding at a time until she was down to none. In the beginning she was waking up about 4 times.

I started to slowly cut down on how many times I’d nurse her until we were down to nothing. She just got used to being held to be comforted rather than being nursed.

Heading into a post-breastfeeding era

Overall, it took approximately 3 months to fully wean my daughter. For us, it was the perfect amount of time. It was long enough that it didn’t feel abrupt or traumatic and we both had plenty of time to process it.

My biggest fear going into the weaning process was that my daughter and I wouldn’t feel close anymore or that she’d be mad at me for cutting her off from this source of comfort. Luckily, she still crawls into my arms, hugs me and loves to be held by me — we’re just as close as we’ve always been.

On the second night without breastfeeding, I thought to myself, Wow, I’m really never going to breastfeed this child again, and it made me emotional.  

It was surprising that our relationship didn’t feel much different, even though such a huge aspect of it had changed. I also wasn’t nearly as sad as I had expected myself to be, which tells me that the timing was just right.

If I’ve learned anything it’s to take more photos. I’m looking back and feeling like I have hardly any breastfeeding photos, when I thought I had taken a bunch. I know I can’t hang on to every memory, but I still wish I would have documented this journey just a little better. 

Another thing I’ve learned from this journey: patience and determination. There were many times when I doubted my ability to continue breastfeeding for a year, but I somehow made it past all of the obstacles and succeeded at my goal. I feared the weaning process and how it would effect our relationship but I recognized when the time was right, and we made it happen.

Sometimes these types of milestones sit before me and I stand back with fear, but now in hindsight, I realize that the power to overcome has been within me all along. I’ve also been learning to find acceptance when things feel out of my control as a mom, although I’m definitely still working on it.

Thanks for reading.

Xx

Freelancing: How I Started | What I’ve Learned So Far

Freelancing gives me the ability to work from my porch in the sun!

If you told me one year ago that I’d be making a comfortable income working from home, freelancing, in the near future, I would not have believed you. It was probably around this time last year when I started to feel called to write. Yes, it was that simple, I felt a pull to be creative, and I just went with it. I started by jotting down 10 words a day in a journal.

Then more words started to come to me, and I kept writing. Eventually, I decided I wanted to share my writing so I started this blog and it’s been growing ever since. I initially saw my blog as a hobby (it still is) but I did not at all expect writing to become a source of income. I thought, “yeah, it’d be cool to write a book one day but there’s no way that will be attainable for me anytime soon.”

Yet somehow, here I sit. At my little desk where I’ve worked part-time for the last 4 months. I still have a ways to go, but I’ve gained valuable time with my young daughter, the time I’ve needed to focus on my mental health and personal growth, the ability to make money doing something I find interesting and enjoyable, and I’m able to afford to do all of the things I enjoy.

I’ve become much more aware of my finances and learned how to budget, and if you ask me, it’s only up from here in terms of my income. The most important lesson I’ve learned is that this is possible! If I can do it, anyone can. So, how did I do it? Today I’m sharing with you the story of how I got into freelancing, and what I’ve learned so far. 

The right amount of hard work + good timing

I think my success as a freelancer stemmed from a combination of things, but ultimately, good timing, determination, and even a little desperation all came together to lead me where I am today. A few months before I quit my job as a nurse, I started to contemplate it. I was realizing that my job was just way too stressful for me to handle and after starting a new one and still not feeling much better, I just knew I had to take a step back. I didn’t want to go back to restaurant work but I needed to make some type of money.

I had been writing for my blog for a couple of months at this point and I was starting to realize my love for writing. I had a mutual friend who worked from home as a writer and was in the process of rebranding her personal business. I was so unclear on what she did for work but I was definitely intrigued. So, I reached out. She shared with me about how she got started at freelancing, through an app called Upwork

She inspired me, to say the least. “Anyone can do this, don’t go back to school,” she told me. So, I went for it, I started my profile on Upwork and started to browse job postings. Pretty early on, I got my first writing job. It was a random blog post about a topic I didn’t find interesting at all, and it paid $16. I wrote it and got a 5 star review. 

Flash forward to a couple of months later, once I’ve quit my job. The mutual friend I mentioned above read my blog post about it and was impressed. She offered me a position writing some articles for her copywriting business. It started slow but has since evolved into my main place for writing work. I write consistent articles for 3 of her clients, and have even taken the lead on one, creating monthly schedules for the client’s blog. 

During this time, I was simultaneously applying for and completing additional freelancing jobs in Upwork as well. Each month was sporadic and unpredictable. I never knew how much money I’d make and to be honest, in the first few months I didn’t make much money at all. Luckily, nurses make good money and my final paycheck was enough to cover my bills for 3 months, so I had some time to get things rolling. 

My first few months of freelancing were definitely stressful at times and I dealt with lots of insecurities and self-doubt. I even questioned my own judgment at times, but ultimately pushed past it all and kept going.

Because of the level of desperation that I felt, I was determined to impress every client. I never wanted to push a deadline, or even be on time. I always strived to deliver projects early when I was first starting out (well, I still do). I’m always aiming to be humble, yet confident in my skills as a writer and so far, it’s worked out well in my favor. My clientele has grown and remained consistent.

Using my customer service skills and learning to accept criticism

Strong communication has been a big player in my success as a copywriter. There have been many times when I’ve had to ask questions to make sure I’m clear on what a client is looking for and I’ve had to jump on sudden zoom calls when it wasn’t exactly super convenient for me. But I’ve always been driven to make this freelancing career happen for myself and that’s what’s motivated me to go out of my comfort zone many times over. You have to show that you care so that people want to hire you, and that is the case with any job (not just freelancing). 

I’ve definitely run into situations where people weren’t super keen on what I’ve written for them. By being okay with accepting criticism, it’s helped me work with people to get a project to where they wanted it. This has helped me always receive 5-star reviews in Upwork (even when the project wasn’t perfect on the first try) and in turn, continue getting more and more job offers. 

I’ve utilized the valuable customer service skills that I learned during my 7 year stint working in the restaurant business to help keep clients happy and communicate clearly, even when clients aren’t always the nicest. 

Most importantly, I’ve had to learn to be okay with criticism, which isn’t always the easiest. When you spend hours pouring into a writing piece that you think they’re going to love and then you’re sent tons of revisions, it can feel defeating but you just have to accept it and keep trying. Sometimes you work on something continuously and they still aren’t happy in the end, and that can suck but that’s also just a part of life.

You truly can’t please everyone and you have to learn when to draw the line. I had to personally cut ties with a client once because they were expecting too much from me. I told her she needed a more experienced writer for the job, and she responded well (and left me a 5-star review in the end!)

My perspective on money has shifted drastically

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as a freelancer is that I truly do not need nearly as much money as I once thought I did. Sure, it will be amazing when my income is so high that I can save tons of money, spend on myself all the time, and splurge on family vacations (those days are coming!) But in order to pay my bills, afford groceries, and have a little leftover for spending, I really don’t need much more than $1,500 per month. I was making almost triple this amount as a nurse and hardly saved any money back then. I would never write a budget and I hardly ever checked my bank accounts. I would wrack up a credit card bill then just pay it off each payday and rarely had much leftover.

Now I’m constantly aware of how much money I have in savings, checking, and I’ve even added money to a retirement account. I’ve fully paid off my car and I’ve been able to keep my credit card bills low and manageable. I’m more satisfied now with a fraction of the income that I once had because my quality of life is so much better. 

I’m going to write a full blog post soon about money and how much I make freelancing (in detail), so be on the lookout for that if you’re interested!

So that’s the gist of how I got started as a freelancer, and as my career grows, I’m so happy to continue sharing this journey with you. Are you happy with your current source of income? If you aren’t, you don’t have to settle. Leave questions and thoughts in the comments!

Thanks for reading.

Xx

Lessons Learned From One of the Craziest Months of My Life

This month felt like a tightrope walk, an intricate maze, like flailing in unforgiving waters just trying to stay afloat as waves keep crashing overhead, over and over again.  It’s funny because I remember feeling bored in February. I didn’t have as much writing work as I would have liked to, life felt a little monotonous and I wished for more. More obligations, more time with friends, more opportunities to make money. 

Let’s just say, “be careful what you wish for” is veryyy appropriate right now. It was the day before Valentine’s day when my fiancé, Ray received a text from our landlord. It basically stated that we had to move out in a month because she suddenly had to sell the condo that we were living in. We started looking at rentals and contemplated buying the place ourselves. This hectic moment of uncertainty was unsettling. Feeling like our housing was insecure when we have a baby to care for was super uncomfortable – I felt more motivated than ever to own my own place and the more I looked around the more I thought, well this place isn’t that bad. 

So, we decided to buy it.  We filled out a mortgage application, got approved and the process began. Round-the-clock emails from loan officers, texts from realtors, and coordinating home inspections and repairs, just scratches the surface of how involved this process was. It was definitely super exciting but it was a lot to think about. Every day was filled with decision making, corresponding, and communicating (three things that I happen to find exhausting).

In addition to all this, March happened to be my busiest month yet as a copywriter. This was a huge blessing and a moment I had been waiting for. I was ready to deliver some of my best work. I had over $1,000 worth of work lined up before the month even began and I’d be writing my first ever full website copy which felt like a big step. I was stoked. 

Less than one week into the month I started to develop a UTI. I tried to treat it myself and it just kept getting worse. When I started to have unbearable kidney pain, I took the plunge and went to the doctor to start antibiotics. The stress and anxiety of going to a doctor was enough to set me back for weeks. I hate doctors and I hate taking antibiotics but I was afraid I had no choice. I wasn’t trying to end up with a systemic infection that would land me in the ER.

I felt alone in dealing with this, probably because I literally was. I was lucky enough that my daughter was at daycare on the day when the symptoms got really bad, so that gave me time away from being a mom so I could rest. But I felt scared and alone. I really wanted Ray to come home and take care of me but he couldn’t and it really wasn’t truly necessary. I just wanted company and to feel supported. 

I started the antibiotics and they worked quickly. But then, I received a message from my daughter’s teacher “just want to inform everyone that there’s been a tummy bug going around” Oh God, I thought. Please spare us.

And He didn’t. After enduring a week of moming, working from home, and fighting off a kidney infection, it was the weekend and I felt like I could breathe a little.

That Saturday, my daughter started to have some let’s just say, “tummy troubles”. All the while, I was still feeling pretty rough from the kidney infection. So, now Ray had to take over caring for her while I rested. I’m glad I had the relief from him but I felt like I needed attention myself (I know I sound selfish but I’m just being honest). 

The next day, I woke up and I felt like I had been hit by a train. My entire body was sore and achy, I felt weak, I just felt awful overall. I got up with my daughter in an attempt to let Ray sleep in a little, but only about 15 minutes after getting up I realized I was not equipped to do anything more than lay on the couch and my daughter needed a lot more attention than that. I had to call out for help “wake up, I need you.” 

Low and behold, I now had the stomach bug. I felt so weak that I could barely walk from the living room to kitchen, my whole body hurt like crazy and I had no appetite at all. It was a Sunday. I asked Ray if he could stay home from work the next day to help me with our daughter, I felt like there was no way I could do it on my own. He said yes and I felt a huge relief. Finally, I’ll have some help and I can actually rest a little and recover.

That evening, Ray started to feel off and before we knew it, he was vomiting violently in the bathroom. Well, looks like I just lost my caretaker for tomorrow. Luckily, the stomach bug only lasted for about 24 hours so my symptoms were starting to wear off but I wasn’t 100% yet. 

I still felt like I needed rest but now I would need to take over as the caretaker and rest just was not in the cards for me. It was really frustrating. I’ve noticed that I can struggle with asking for help, but often when I do ask for help it doesn’t work out in my favor so then I lose faith and I stop asking. Maybe I’m setting too many expectations? 

Anyways, so this was the start of the second week of March. We’re all finally recovering from the stomach bug when Ray’s tooth really starts to hurt, he goes to a dentist and it turns out that he’ll be needing a root canal, scheduled for the 29th. “It’s only appropriate to end this month on a high note,” we joked, thinking this was it as far as challenges for the month. Oh, but we were mistaken. 

Amid all of these other things going on, we had a home inspection earlier in the month and then had to have multiple repairs done as well. So, most of our weekends were filled with scheduling for repair people to come out, and gathering documents for the loan officers.

Now, going in to the third week of March we said, “this weekend, we are resting”. I was feeling incredibly burnt out, stressed, and drained and I knew that it was related to a lack of rest. 

About midweek, we received the unfortunate news that there had been a death in Ray’s family. So, that weekend we would be driving 3 hours to Tampa to be with his family. There was no question or frustration about it, this is something we wanted to do. So, our weekend of rest would just have to wait, again. 

And here we are, in the middle of the 4th week of March and I’ve now come down with some type of upper respiratory/sinus infection that I’ve been struggling with for about a week now. This is the third sickness I’ve come down with in only a month, it’s insane. Usually my immune system feels strong. I take (what I think to be) good care of myself, so it’s really frustrating. But I’ve realized that sickness is very humbling. I’m practicing acceptance and just trying to shift my mindset.

Overall, this month has kind of sucked! But there have been some positives too. All of the craziness has been intertwined with plenty of blessings as well. I mean, we’re about to be homeowners, how awesome is that?!

I was also able to deliver all of my copywriting work and all clients seemed to be pleased with the quality of my writing (yay!) I’ve made the most money I’ve ever made in a month as a freelancer, and thanks to my tax return and stimulus check, I am going into April feeling way on top of my finances (credit cards and car loan are fully paid off!)

Here are my three main takeaways from this month that’s leaving me feeling like I’ve been run over by a bus:

1) I am capable

Recently, I was home with my daughter and feeling totally drained. I had a couple of moments where I thought to myself “I truly cannot do this, I cannot be a mom today, I just don’t have the energy” I feared that if I keep pushing myself, then I’m just going to keep feeling sick and my health is going to deteriorate. Then I realized that I literally have no choice. At first, it frustrated and upset me. 

But then I took a look around and I realized that even though I was telling myself that I was incapable, I was actually entirely capable. I was feeding my daughter her meals, cleaning her up after, getting her down for her nap, and overall meeting her needs. It might have felt like I wasn’t capable but I actually was and the proof is in the pudding. I was making it, I was moving forward, her needs were met! I need to remind myself of this more often. Sometimes a negative mindset can totally fool you and alter your reality. 

2) Slowing down is vital

Some days it feels impossible to actually rest. But you have to just do it when you can. I actually laid down with my daughter and napped with her the other day for the first time in a very long time. It took me a while to fall asleep because I kept contemplating whether I should get up or not. I kept thinking of the things I needed to/wanted to do and worrying a little. But then I kept telling myself, “no, those things will get done eventually, right now you need to rest.” I feel like a lot of the health issues I’ve dealt with this month have been related to my restless mentality. I take great care of myself in a lot of ways, but one area where I struggle is with slowing down. I don’t let myself rest enough, I spend a lot of time rushing around, multitasking, and I also don’t always manage my stress well. You could eat all the veggies in the world but if you’re letting stress take over, you’re still doing damage and most likely sabotaging all that other hard work you’re putting in to take care of yourself. 

So, I’m reminding myself that rest is vital. I have no choice but to rest, even though it doesn’t always feel like slowing down is an option. If that means dropping what I’m doing, putting things off for later, accepting a messy house, or letting the laundry pile up – then I’m just going to let it happen. Because if I’m not cared for, then I can’t function and my whole family suffers. It’s actually kind of a beautiful thing to be relied on so heavily by others, it feels like a lot of pressure some days but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

3) I’m not alone 

It’s easy to feel alone and isolated sometimes. Some days I started to feel bad for myself “I have no support/no help/etc.” The reality is, I am not alone, but I struggle with asking for help. I need to be more vocal to my loved ones when I feel like I’m struggling because there is some support there, I just have to ask for it because no one can read my mind. 

4) Acceptance

I’m realizing that acceptance really is the key to happiness. It’s easy to be avoidant sometimes. Looking forward to the future is exciting, traveling and getting out into the world is awesome, but if you can’t feel happy sitting at home doing nothing then you’re probably avoiding something that needs to be faced. 

So, how was your month? Hopefully, a little better than mine! What are your goals going into April?  Let me know in the comments & as always, thanks for reading. ❤️

Xx

Why Maternity Leave in the U.S. is a Not-So-Funny Joke

I’ll never forget the time I was talking with a girl from Germany when I was 6 months pregnant. I was explaining to her that I had recently graduated from nursing school and my plan was to take 6 to 8 weeks off after giving birth, a typical maternity leave in the U.S. I also told her that I had recently had a job interview for a night shift position at a hospital that was about an hour away from my home and I was really hoping to get the job. 

She was appalled by everything that was coming out of my mouth.

“You’re going to drive an hour to and from work and work overnight? With a newborn baby at home? Only 6 weeks off?” 

Her genuine concern and my nonchalance about something so justifiably alarming is the perfect representation of how maternity leave in the U.S. is a joke. Except, it’s not funny.

The United States — despite being one of the leading countries in the world — is so painfully behind when it comes to maternity leave support and postpartum resources for mothers (and fathers). 

“How long do women take off after having a baby in Germany?” I had asked her.

The answer to this is that in Germany, all working women are entitled to a minimum of 14 weeks paid leave if they become pregnant. There is also the option for the mother or father to take an extended parental leave of up to 24 months, during which they are entitled to 14 months of an allowance (paid by the government) and their employer cannot terminate them during this time. 

A 2019 study from UNICEF, “Are the world’s richest countries family-friendly?” compares the maternity leave policies of some of the richest countries in the world. Included is a table with country names going down one row and rows with the following headings: “paid leave available to mothers”; “paid leave reserved for fathers”. I scrolled allll the way down to the bottom to find the United States, the only country on the list with zeros across the board. 

That’s right, the United States does not offer any form of paid leave for new mothers and fathers and women only get 6 weeks of guaranteed unpaid leave from a job before they are at risk of termination.

Some jobs offer their own private benefits for mothers that may be better and some states have issued state mandated maternity leave policies, but if you’re not one of the women who has a job with good benefits or lives in a state with better policies? You’re simply out of luck. 

My experience with postpartum recovery

Before my child left the womb I was talking about getting back to work. Mainly because I was in between jobs and getting ready to start my career. I waited tables up until my due date, gave birth a week later, and started my first nursing job exactly 8 weeks after my daughter was born. I was lucky enough to go into my “maternity leave” with some money in savings and a paid off credit card, but I still didn’t have much wiggle room financially so I was really ready to get back to work and start making money again.

No one warned me about the complete culture shock that I would feel when I transitioned from being a full time student to being a full time nurse; and now there was a baby thrown in the mix. I went from pregnant waitress, to registered nurse with a kid in just over 2 months. It was a huge identity shift to just cram into such a short time period. I rushed right through a huge transition in my life as if none of it mattered. So it’s no surprise that I dealt with crippling anxiety shortly into this transition that inevitably led to me quitting my job entirely

This is such typical U.S. culture (in my opinion). We literally work our lives away and can even become completely oblivious to what we’re sacrificing in the process because we’re so fixated on working, making money, and chasing a dream. We fool ourselves into believing that our jobs can fill some type of void.

Many women don’t even take the 8 weeks that I took off, many only take 6. My partner was offered no paternity leave benefits from his job so he used some of his PTO to take one week off.

I was also in a hurry to get back into running, I had set a goal to run a marathon 4 months after giving birth. I started running a lot in the evenings and even went for a 9 mile run at about 2 months postpartum. In hindsight, I was being reckless and trying to prove something to myself and those around me. I can do it all, I don’t need to rest; I was gravely mistaken.

Trying to run a marathon so soon after giving birth was unrealistic and I eventually gave up on that goal. Returning to work so soon definitely wasn’t wise either but I didn’t really have much of a choice in that regard. I was quickly running out of money and feared becoming a “rusty new grad” and losing my skills before I even got a chance to use them. It felt like I had to get into my career in order to compete with my former classmates who were already way ahead of me. 

I was more worried about competing in my career than easing into becoming a mom and that’s our culture in the U.S. 

Eventually, my lack of rest caught up with me. I was working full time in a fast-paced environment, barely eating, completely devoted to taking care of my newborn baby at any free moment I had, and just telling myself that I was handling it okay when I definitely wasn’t. I was losing weight like crazy, not sleeping well, and the most anxious I’ve ever been in my life. My body was just so depleted and off balance. 

The short moments that I would have throughout the day at work were almost entirely devoted to pumping so that I could maintain my goal of breastfeeding for at least a year. I had to go way out of my way to keep this goal alive. I often had to ask for support from coworkers so I could drop what I was doing and pump. Luckily, I had that support, so it was possible. But I had to ask for it or it just wouldn’t have been possible, and that was uncomfortable. I know that I made other people uncomfortable by openly talking about pumping and breastfeeding and I definitely felt judged at times. 

At first, I was reluctant to be so open about breastfeeding/pumping at work but I let go of this care quickly. We’re talking about feeding a baby here. Giving an innocent newborn child a healthy start to their life. I can see why some women feel uncomfortable and how this probably leads many working moms to stop breastfeeding sooner than they would like to.

This CDC study found that only 58% of surveyed mothers breastfed past 6 months and  that number drops down to 35% when talking about 12 month old babies. Many women stop way before 6 months or don’t try at all.

The thing is, women shouldn’t have to start the discussion about breastfeeding in the workplace. We shouldn’t have to be the ones advocating for ourselves. We shouldn’t have to befriend other breastfeeding moms at work to learn where the secret unused locker rooms are that can be used for pumping when the single pumping room for the entire hospital is occupied. As if it’s a “hush hush” topic.

Yes, a hospital, a place filled with healthcare workers who are well aware of the importance of breastfeeding, is also a place with a single room designated to pumping. Luckily, there are extra rooms that you can find and use, but again, you have to figure these things out on your own by seeking out other breastfeeding moms and talking to them. It’s pretty wild when you think about it. And it makes sense why so many women don’t go out of their way to advocate for themselves. 

The importance of recovering after having a baby

If you know my story, then you know that I struggle with anxiety. The anxiety I dealt with postpartum was a whole new beast, and I know that rushing back into work too soon was a huge factor that led me to such a low place. It lead me to walk away from one of the best jobs I could have gotten, from a career that I worked so hard to create for myself, because I was struggling so badly from anxiety and I just felt like I had no other choice. 

Postpartum recovery is so incredibly vital. If you don’t fully recover, it will catch up with you, whether it be one year later or 10 years later. For me, it took about one year after giving birth for me to completely break down. I can’t help but wonder how my life would be different, had I taken more time off to recover after giving birth.

The depletion that comes with insufficient postpartum recovery inherently effects your ability to care for your child. By raising our children with love and support, we are effecting future generations who will have an impact on this world. So all in all, our recovery as moms has an impact on the future of our entire society. 

UNICEF said it best, “There is no time more critical to children’s brain development – and therefore their futures – than the earliest years of life. Parents hold the biggest stake in creating the nurturing environment their children need, and governments should give them the resources to do so.”

So, what’s the answer?

I feel like in the U.S. the mindset of rushing back into work after having a baby is normalized and it should be the opposite. We need to normalize taking as much time off as you need, whether that’s 12 weeks or 12 months. The government should provide resources that give women the ability to do this. Breastfeeding in the workplace should be advocated for by everyone. The first step is starting the discussion.

PL + US is an organization that is working to make a change in our country, you can join them and donate to help make a difference.

What’s your country’s maternity leave policy? How much time did you take off after giving birth? Share thoughts and postpartum recovery stories in the comments!

xx