The fate of our Pregnancy (Part 2)

The last two and a half weeks have been the longest of our lives to say the least. I felt completely unprepared and ill-equipped emotionally to deal with what we had undergone. This is our Part 2 of our story since we were last told to prepare for a miscarriage. The day after I wrote that blog, I was hopeful I would remain sane, calm, cool, collected and patient. After we decided to make our private business, public, in the hopes of prayers, we were overwhelmed with supportive messages from so many people in our lives, including words of inspiration for those maybe who had a similar experience.

“Prayer was key,” I told myself.

That weekend, our family took sometime to decompress and get rest. I had been an emotional wreck on Friday, uncontrollably sobbing, stopping, sobbing, then stopping. I was pretty drained on Saturday. To top it all off, I had the largest spike in morning sickness I had felt, and it completely incapacitated me. I woke up with hunger pains as if I had not eaten in days, to the point I was lightheaded and couldn’t sit up right. I would eat, only for the nausea to stay, but turn into an angry “What did you eat?!” In reality, all I was able to take down was Life Cereal and Almond Milk and the occasional box of mac and cheese. This lasted ALL DAY until I fell asleep. My fatigue was so bad, I could barely function after 12 noon. One day went by, then two, then five, and by the following Friday, I had not left my bed for more than four hours in more than a week.

In another hope to get a second opinion, we scheduled an abdominal ultrasound on Friday after we had our first ’empty ultrasound.’ We were hopeful this time. We didn’t just pray, we didn’t just hope, but we HOPED HARD. We could not wait for this second opinion and were SURE that the doctor had gotten it wrong. It had been a week and I still didn’t miscarry. I had read numerous stories of misdiagnosed Blighted Ovum of fetuses that were found a week later. We got to this appointment almost 45 mins early. It wasn’t a medical center, only a non-diagnostic ultrasound place. I sat quietly eating my Granny Smith Apples in the waiting room trying to hold my emotions together. I had also figured out by then that Altoids help with my nausea, and I had one clutched close to prepare.

It was our turn. We followed the tech into the the ultrasound room. She was friendly, though we didn’t tell her much about our story. As she got started, I felt the cold gel on my belly and waited. She searched, she moved, and searched. I clutched Justin’s hand tight.

“Did the doctor tell you they had seen a yolk sac?” the technician said.

Gulp. “Yes.” I answered. She kept looking. A few mins later…

“Okay, I see it, barely a yolk, but I am so sorry, I can’t see an embryo.”

She must have seen the look in my eyes, as she started to tear and offered us another follow up visit for free. She tried to instill some hope, but at the end of that visit we both left upset and angry. Angry at everything. Angry at the situation. We hadn’t been ready to talk to any friends at this point and it felt like this moved our strength back even further.

I didn’t speak for the whole day. I slept. I couldn’t do much else anyways as my nausea was painful and debilitating. Getting downstairs was difficult most moments. I couldn’t stand the smell of the kitchen or the refrigerator. I let time pass and we just slept through most of the weekend. I felt hopeless. I questioned my faith. I questioned the purpose of this situation. It might have been the hormones, but I also started going down a dark path of why women (any woman) would every deserve to go through this. Our once rising spirits were cut down.

Monday started another week, and one week closer to our final appointment with our OB GYN. I had just found enough energy to sit at my desk, only to take one trip to the bathroom and find blood. I was sure this was it. It was the second instance of blood. I was feeling horrible. I started to tell myself that my stomach pains must have been cramps, and I just didn’t know the difference. An hour later, Mesa, my college puppy adopted by my parents and bother was being put down after 15 years. I was so overwhelmed with negativity, I had no feelings. I SHUT DOWN. I felt nothing, and after calling the nurse line to log my symptoms of bleeding, I was told to head straight to Urgent Care.

I had given up at this point. They took me in quickly. He did an exam, but no ultrasound. Asked me about my bleeding, and then old me that the odd thing is he doesn’t see my cervix preparing for any type of miscarriage and ordered a panel of blood tests for me. One of those blood tests included HCG count. Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone normally produced by the placenta. If you are pregnant, you can detect it in your urine. Blood tests measuring hCG levels can also be used to check how well your pregnancy is progressing, including your baby’s development.

I went home. I had written it off. I had no more room for false hope. I still prayed. I repented. I apologized to God about questioning the path, and just accepted my fate. Within 2 hours, I received a call from the Urgent Care Doctor.

“Hello?”

“Yes, Michaella, this is Dr. Smith. I wanted to make sure I called you before the end of the day. I don’t know if you’ve already seen your test results, but your HCG is very high. You have a 140,000+ HCG count which is more consistent with a viable pregnancy. If I had to put my money on it, you have some high chances of a viable pregnancy. I am not sure why your OB didn’t order these tests before since it’s pretty standard practice, but we will send them to her asap.”

WHAT!??!?!??!?! What is he saying? I don’t think I could handle this emotional roller coaster. I told Justin immediately, and of course, he was skeptical. We had gone through so much false hope, this seemed unreal. And of course, it didn’t last long after more googling. High HCG could mean a lot of things, but it didn’t SOLIDIFY a viable pregnancy. I realize that now too, considering that Urgent Care doctor was not an OB. I chalked it up to at least being the explanation of why my morning sickness and stomach pain had been so high…I was pumping 2-3xs the hormones than usual. At this point, I was adamant and angry at my OB. I wanted answers, I wanted answers now, and I was not going to wait another week and a half to find out if I had miscarried by then. I BLEW UP MY OB’S Email.

My HCG tests came in and it was high. What does this mean? It shows that I am now at risk for a molar pregnancy, did you rule this out? I haven’t miscarried, what is this supposed to look like?

She responded simply with, “I have put in an urgent order for an ultrasound for your to go into radiology to check on this. Please feel free to walk into radiology this week.”

GLADLY! I thought.

I was able to schedule an ultrasound two days later on Friday, August 21, 10:10 am in Moreno Valley. I prayed hard at this point. Not to see a baby, but to give me the strength to accept the results. I prayed to bless all those how had also supported and loved us unconditionally during this time who we haven’t even had a chance to thank personally.

Justin wasn’t available, so my dad had taken the day off to drive me. I was still weak and also nauseous. Not to mention, we were preparing to see an empty sac, and I was ready to lose my “$h!t” and would need some emotional support.

I walked in, right on time. I took a number and I was called in within 10 minutes. The technician was calming. I was so anxious, but it was nice to hear a friendly voice. I laid down. She started the ultrasound, but I could not see the screen.

The technician prodded and typed. Prodded, and typed. She paused. She squinted at the screen. She typed. This went on for several minutes. I closed my eyes, holding back tears, and prayed…

“Dear Lord, please hold my hand and provide me with the strength I need to accept this moment.”

And immediately felt a calm come over me. EXHALE.

I see the technician turn the screen over to me slowly.

“There it is, your little baby with a flickering heartbeat.”

…SILENCE…

My ears rang. Before I can get a word out, my tears were streaming out. My hands were shaking as they covered my face. I was breathing heavily, and struggled to get a word out as I sobbed.

The technician looked at me with blank eyes unsure what was happening. I responded to her with the little breath I had, my head in my hands…

“I was told I was going to miscarry and there would’t be a baby. I just can’t believe this. How’s the heartbeat?” SOB. SOB. SOB.

She responds that she sees a strong heartbeat with a fetus measuring 8 weeks and 1 day. It turns out I also have a retroverted uterus which is why she said my doctor would not have seen the baby, and asked if I was told that. No, I was not. I also don’t remember much after that moment, other than I was thanking God, believing in the power of prayer, and ready to go home.

I ran out into the parking lot to see my dad outside the car. I ran to him sobbing and inaudibly saying, “They found the baby!!!”

He starts to tear up, gives me a hug and says “Is that a good thing?” – after retelling this story, I realized he had no idea what I was saying (love my dad).

It was a GREAT thing. I am renewed in my faith. I am overwhelmed by the power of love and prayer from the people around us. I feel blessed. I feel nauseous, but I feel a sense of purpose. Our miscarriage rate just dropped dramatically seeing that heartbeat. I am so thankful for all of the people in our lives right now who checked in on us, prayed for us, and hoped for us.

I am renewed to be so much more positive that even during a time of COVID where we cannot see the people we love often, people were there for us. So I leave this note with this.

Thank you for your support, your love, your prayers. No matter what the ending would have been and what it will be in the future, your distant support and your place in my life is needed and valuable. Thank you for filling our our lives for everything we need at any time. We love you. We’re grateful for you. And we are also here for you. So here we are now, taking in every day, bringing in Everly into this joy, and hoping the best for the rest of this pregnancy.

We are far from the finish line, and with only at 8 weeks and 4 days, we have a long way to go before we are in the clear. We are going to celebrate this openly and share this blessing with you, no matter what we see from here…

PS – We had to tell Everly. Mostly because she kept asking me if I was dying because I was “always sick.” 🙂

They Told Me to Prepare for a Miscarriage

I should start by saying that I haven’t shared any of this with many people (including my family), so if I work with you and you see this, it’s because I trust you and would appreciate confidentiality as I haven’t shared this with my boss either.  

I internally debated myself about sharing this story and announcement this way.  I am typically a very realistic person, which at times, can be void of optimism.  I will also add that situations like this don’t always find a cozy, natural, and comfy place in my emotions and my mind that allow me to share my feelings and words verbally.  Sometimes, my emotions are extremely delayed and  I have a really bad habit of internalizing and pushing forward without much discussion of my feelings.  So instead of doing that in this situation, Justin and I thought that written word might be the best therapy for me.  It will also be a way to let the people I care about into our journey.  And so our story goes…

The last few years, I have been mostly preoccupied with work and Everly as most of my story goes.  Neither slowed down, and it always made having a second child seem like “not the right time.”   My career continued to morph and grow, as did Justin’s career path.  Everly required more and more from us as she grew into a toddler who needed a lot of stimulation and learning opportunities.  My life seemed like there could not be any extra time for another child.  But, being the softy that Justin is, he loves being a dad, and didn’t want our family to stop growing.  I didn’t either, but I may have had more reservations given the scare I had with my last delivery. However, time was tickin’…. AND I COMPLETELY HATE THAT AGE MATTERS, but at the end of the day it does.  I was in my mid-thirties and it was time to try again before it got harder.  We had always planned for 2020 to be the year.  (HA – seems absolutely ridiculous given our current COVID climate, but at this point, there was never going to be a good time).

I had started to track my LH to track my ovulation – I know, so romantic-  and we found my LH to be extremely low.  At that point, after 3 months, I didn’t get my hopes up that this would be as easy as the first time.  Fast forward 5 months later, however, on July 20, there it was, two lines.  

I tested again, another two lines.  They were faint, but they were there.  

I can’t say I was as excited I was when I was pregnant with Everly.  I was scared this time.  I thought it was the hormones and planned my announcement to Justin.

I left a print out on the kitchen table.  It read…

“I double checked the finish line.  The results are official.  We have a winner!”

It was a happy and cautious moment for me, and Justin was so happy.  We decided to hold off telling Everly (she still does not know), until we got a confirmation from the doctor.   

Almost immediately that week I experienced fatigue and major hunger pains.  I could not stop myself from eating every 2 hours.  It felt that pregnancy symptoms were underway, and based on my LMP, I was due March 23.  We shared this news with our parents and siblings for support and prayers.  I may have been protecting myself from disappointment because of fear from the last delivery and my LH levels.  I continued to take a pregnancy test almost every other day.  

“Okay, still pregnant.”    

We were not scheduled for an ultrasound until August 7.  This would have estimated me to be about 7 weeks and 5 days gestational age.    We waited patiently 3 weeks for that, knowing that this would relieve our feelings.  

If I could just see that baby and hear a heartbeat…I prayed every day. 

I asked our family to pray.  I still felt nausea and hunger.  But, somedays I just felt “not myself” vs “pregnant.” I still told myself this is all in my head.  Then, on August 5 (only 2 days away from our Ultrasound), I bled.  It was only a small amount, but I panicked, of course, and immediately called the doctor.  They asked a lot of questions about IVF, if I had an ectopic pregnancy before, and if I had been experiencing cramps.  Luckly, with no other symptoms, I was told to go on bed rest and continue to monitor and to go to the ER immediately if symptoms got worse. I calmed my fears and slept.  I tried my best to be positive.  I was still fatigued and nauseous.  The next day, I continued to rest.  I worked as normal, but abstained from my normal cycling or running routine.  I continued to spot, but it seemed to subside.  Later that evening, I took a nap, and woke up to go to the bathroom to find a lot more blood.  

I wept in the bathroom.  I was scared and felt defeated.  I am not usually a crier (validated by Justin), but I lost it.  I was having trouble catching my breath and felt completely out of control.  All Justin could do was hold me and say, “It will be okay.”   Once I calmed down, I called the after hours advice center to let them know that I had bled more.  This time, the nurse was not as optimistic.  It felt as if I was being prepared to miscarry that night.

“I’m going to go over with you some information about ectopic pregnancies, okay?” He said.

At this point, it made no sense to head to the ER with an Ultrasound scheduled the next day at 11 am. I prepared myself to miscarry that night and braced myself for cramps.  I fell asleep.  I woke up and realized we made it through the night.  I did not have cramps,  I did continue to bleed, but it looked old.  The morning went on, and we didn’t speak much, but prepared for our appointment.  

I don’t know what I was expecting.  I can hear people telling me to be optimistic and hopeful, knowing that my mind doesn’t work like that.  I can’t hold on to false hope without any facts and the call from the night before felt like a bad foreshadow in a movie.  But I tried.  I arrived at the Dr. office.  They called me in as I waited patiently in a room.  Covered up, next to the ultrasound machine, I was anxious. 

The Doctor walks in and asks how I am doing.  I immediately flood her with information.

“I have been bleeding for 3 days.”

“I have been feeling nauseous and hungry, though.”

“I had a bad first delivery – Cholestasis, dangerous high-blood pressure, and lost 20% of my oxygen saturation.”

“No I didn’t get a transfusion.”

“Yes, I did get infected during delivery.”

I watched her face to see if I can gauge her reaction.  “I see,” she says, “well, let’s see what’s happening.”

She starts the Ultrasound procedure.  I should note that because of Covid, I am in a mask and Justin was not allowed in the building.  I was prepared to Facetime him.

I close my eyes because I am scared to see what’s on the Ultrasound screen. 

The doctor is quiet.  She takes one “screen shot,” and then says,

“I don’t think you’ll be Facetiming today.  There’s nothing here to see, unfortunately.”

The room spun.  My heart stopped.  Part of me anticipated this, but it hurt, and there was no emotional preparing for it.  

There was a gestational sac and a yolk sac…but there was no fetus.  One had not developed.  She told me I likely have a Blighted Ovum and I may expect to miscarry.  It happens in 50% of miscarriages.  She told me that this happens frequently, and while it’s not great news, I should know it’s natural and unavoidable.  She explained that it’s due to chromosomal abnormalities.  I think I zoned out at this point.  She said, “Do you have any questions?”

“Yes, what do I do now?”

She said that I will likely miscarry naturally in the next 2 weeks.  I will experience some cramping and bleeding.  I should be okay doing this at home, but if I have extreme pain or bleeding that I should go to the ER.  She told me to rest with minimal activity until then.  She would schedule a follow-up Ultrasound in 2-3 weeks to make sure that “everything had cleared out of my system” and if it had not, that I would need to do a “D&C.”

Dilation and curettage (D&C) is a procedure to remove tissue from inside your uterus. Doctors perform dilation and curettage to clear the uterine lining after a miscarriage.

I think she saw me turn white at that point as I asked her, “Are there any other chances?”

“There is a chance that your fetal pole could develop, however, it will likely be a delayed and slow growth which would make this an abnormal pregnancy or that we could have miscalculated your gestational age and you’re just not as far along as 8 weeks.”

“What are the chances that I am just behind?” I asked.

She winced and awkwardly responded with, “Well, it’s not zero, but let’s focus on you getting rest and just making sure that you are monitoring your symptoms.  It’s not in your favor that you are bleeding, but the chances aren’t zero.  Even if you are miscarrying, you will still feel your pregnancy symptoms so take care of yourself.”

I don’t remember the rest of the visit.  I have a hard time holding on to “your chances are not zero.”  I was still confused, upset, and sad.  The doctor had made it clear not to get my hopes up as I walked out of the room, and had said “apologies for this circumstance.”

I had nothing to say to Justin.  Only a text that said…

I spent the rest of the day in bed, trying to wrap my head around what just happened.  I got some rest when I could, but continued to feel nausea, though my hunger pains were gone.  We were both AGAIN for the second time, preparing for me to miscarry any day.

I couldn’t sleep.  So, in true Mica fashion, I started to Google Blighted Ovum, 7 weeks no fetal pole, 8 weeks no fetal pole.  I wanted to know every single thing I could that was happening to me.  And I found something I didn’t think I would find: Success Stories.

There were floods of posts and stories about women in the exact same position.  They had seen no fetus at week 7 or 8 only to find out 2 weeks later that there is a little developed fetus with a strong heartbeat because they either had irregular cycles and ovulated later.  As I did more research, this seemed to happen about 50% of the time.  I continued to read for 4 hours.  I didn’t want to hold on to false hope.  I shared these stories with Justin, and we have a little new sense of hope.  There’s nothing that can prepare you for this up and down.  I am irregular, I do ovulate later than most women, and it seemed like there absolutely was a chance that the Ultrasound was just done too early.  We won’t know for sure, of course for 3 more weeks.  Our next appointment is not until August 28.  However, we hope by holding onto these successful stories and sharing this with people we love to send prayers our way, we have ONE MORE shot at making this pregnancy work.  We know this is unorthodox to share something like this so early and this way, but we know we can’t do this alone.  (And I suck at talking about it).  

So yes, they told me to prepare for miscarriage.  And I will follow doctor’s orders and keep to my realistic situation, but we hope the ending of this story is not the real ending…

Please send your prayers and love as we hope that our hope has not ended.

Much love,

The MicShaws

PSA: Weekends are for you too, mom and dad…

I know you. The workaholic (whether that’s a home hustle or a work hustle) who is counting down for the next weekend, because you burnt yourself out for Labor Day weekend and probably didn’t planning anything for yourself. Usually, when the weekend is just on our horizon, and my mind is racing with activities…for my family.

In my own mind, I envision this…

My family is relaxed, I am relaxed, and we’re spending some quality time together. But then, I get in the way of myself. I start planning ACTIVITIES…

The kind I think Everly wants to do. I cram in a visit to the zoo, Legoland, a road trip, and try to do all the things I feel that I owe her. Then, I feel bad. Why? Because I didn’t plan anything that my husband wanted to do. He’s resorted to his weekend following the crazy schedule of a million ‘activities” that I felt so inclined that we do.

I realized, this was my way of compensating. I was compensating for what I felt I was not giving Everly during the week. I was the militant mom who had a rushed schedule of school drop-off, work, ballet, and swim. I was a no-nonsense, do-not-have-time for dilly-dallying kind-of-mom. So when I had long weekends (or any weekend), I felt the need to make up for that crazy part of me.

I needed to give Everly experiences. But in the process of this, I stressed myself out and over-stimulated her. My husband? He was bored.

And ME? You guessed it…MORE MOM GUILT.

I ended up exhausted. Those jam-packed activities were not so fun for Everly. Of course, I, then, felt bad that she wasn’t having fun. I put myself in the same bad position every time. I was rushed trying to get from one thing to another. It wasn’t worth it anymore…for ANYONE. I’ve now learned, to take these weekends back.

So what are we doing this weekend? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. And I am okay with that. Being bored is a part of life. Being together to be forced to talk about things you don’t usually get to with your husband is important.

Most importantly, I realized these long weekends are not just for Everly. They are for Justin and me. I am going to let Everly run around in the park while I sit on a blanket and reconnect with my husband. We’re going to cook dinner together. We’re going to have coffee together. Most importantly, we’re going to be rested.

And when we’re rested as a family, and I actually get a chance to spend real, undiluted quality time with my husband (not just Everly). This can still be one of the best experiences Everly can have…watching the relationship of her mom and dad, when things are ordinary.

Things don’t have to be exciting. The calm can teach just as much as the storm of activities. So here’s a reminder to all your parents, who might have struggled with the same over-scheduling habits as me.

If you need a little inspiration for some awesome Staycation ideas, I love this list from Social Mom:

1. Choose Your Fabulous Staycation Destination and Plan Your Itinerary

Use this staycation as an excuse to try out all the spots you’ve been wanting to check out in your own hometown: the new park you haven’t yet visited, the hot new restaurant everyone’s raving about, or even the small museum you’ve been meaning to show the kids. Hold a family meeting and pick some sites you all want to visit, or new activities you want to try. Add them all to your staycation travel itinerary.

2. Transform Your Home into a Hotel

Add a little extra staycation oomph by transforming your home into a hotel. The day before your “departure”, do a deep clean, stock up on minibar-style snacks, and add an extra new little touch to every room (think fresh flowers, a new throw pillow, decorative soaps, or a summer vacation read). Assign the task of turndown service to one kid each day and have some mini-chocolates ready for pillow placement.

Adventuresome families can forget the home hotel and borrow or buy a tent for a campout in the wilds of … the backyard!

3. Spend Time at a Local Swimming Pool or Beach

Ask any kid what their favorite part of staying at a hotel is and they’re bound to reply, “the swimming pool!” Plan on spending some time during your staycation at a new-to-you local swimming pool, water park, or beach. Invest in a few pool toys from your local dollar store to make your staycation swim time all the merrier.

4. Document Your Trip

Just because you aren’t jetting off to a far away destination doesn’t mean you should forgo photos. Take your camera with you where ever you go, and snap lots of shots. Get each of your kids a spiral notebook and encourage them to keep staycation diaries. For each day of your staycation, encourage you kids to write about or draw a picture of their favorite activity.

5. Enjoy the moment

Be mindful on your staycation and focus on finding the joy right before your eyes. Put your phone away, take a social media break, and savor the simple moments with your little ones. Your kids will treasure uninterrupted time with you, no matter the travel destination.

Check out their blog here: https://www.socialmoms.com/live/travel-2/5-simple-steps-to-planning-the-perfect-summer-family-staycation/

Have a staycation. Take this weekend for yourself, and you’ll be surprised just how much your kids enjoy the simple pleasure of being with you.

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Fall vs. Halloween Decor: Who wins? And $5 Finds

It is officially Fall! My daughter and I were making our daily walk around the neighborhood when I noticed pumpkins and Halloween decorations everywhere. One of my favorite things about the last quarter of the year are these decorations, but I always have an internal debate. Do I decorate for Fall or do I decorate for Halloween?

Unlike probably most people, I am NOT very good at doing a subtle mix of Halloween and Fall. I am an all or nothing kind of girl. So I naively went to Target to see if I could gain some inspiration, regardless of my husband telling me that “Halloween decorations are the worst ‘investment’ you can make.” Yes…he is dead serious when he says that.

My response? The return on investment with the amount of joy it brings me to frivously purchase decoration that will be used for a month or two is invaluable!

Two hours later at Target, with absolutely no supervision…

The result?
Target: 1
Me: 0

There’s no such thing as too many pumpkins right? Well…Target made the decision for me, and our household officially picked Fall for the MAJORITY of the house instead of Halloween. I figured my Fall decor would be a lot less of a hassle for the Holidays too since I can keep them up till Thanksgiving. Here’s some of the results of what I did after raiding Target, and MOST of the SPOT.

Yes, most of these items were UNDER $5.

Love this double sign! Behind it, it says Home Sweet Home, so it doubles for Fall and the rest of the year. These sweet little pumpkins were only $1.

I also found this cute little letter board $5 that ome with a limited amount of letters. These items were perfect for my little kitchen corner nooks.

Target: Pumpkins!

The Target Spot had larger fabric pumpkins as well to add some size variations. These were only $3. I paired this with another small pumkpin, stuck it on the top of a candle holder with a tray including a bowl of pumpkin pretzels!

I also found a great 2-pack of art for $3. This MEET ME AT THE PUMPKIN PATCH came with another cute little framed word art piece that says “I am so glad there are Octobers.”

I went crazy for these cute little cornucopias for $3. I purchased some fake “weed” for $1 and two bags for $3 which came with an assortment of artificial mini squash and corn. I added a small artificial Fall-esque flower in a vase behind it which worked well for my dash of Fall in that dining room.

I probably could have done way more damage, but sometimes these little touches of Fall is all we need. Right?

Well…okay, I lied. We kept a little bit of Halloween as to not completely miss it :)…but we left it in the backyard.

Cobwebs and left over Halloween decor couldn’t go to waste!

What do you do for the Fall Season? Do you do Halloween or Fall? Or both? Comment, Share and Subscribe!

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Mental Check Days ARE Parenting Hacks too

I’m late to the game here on the topic of Mental Health. It’s been a big topic the last few years, and it’s never meant so much more to me than after I became a mom. From all the stages we could go through as a mom, postpardum depression, mom guilt, to just plain, “I don’t know what the f*ck” to do moments,” I found myself in mounds of stress and very little sleep.

If you already know our story (like many others), we work a lot, at times, too much. And when I mean by too much, it’s the point where work or EVERYTHING else has grown into some obligatory priority that starts to impact your livelihood as a person, your relationships personally and with your family. The last few years have been that exactly. At some point, I didn’t know how to separate my life from my work. I was taking conference calls from birthday parties. I never let go of my laptop or shut it off while on vacation. I held my phone at all times anticipating whatever I was working on. And you guessed it! That went from annoying my family, to really pissing them off.

At some point in this journey, my marriage was greatly impacted, and my daughter was too accustomed to me being gone than I was comfortable with. Most importantly, I lost myself. Before working motherhood, I found time to cook, eat right, work out, and find time with my friends. Post motherhood and fast forward 2 years after having Everly, I went from working out nearly every day and playing competitive volleyball to sitting on my @ss, completely tired and barely finding the time to make dinner.

I never went back to my pre-baby weight. I never felt the same way. I lost confidence in wearing ‘nice things.’ I was too tired to do anything fun, and I gave up on my social life. I convinced myself that my true purpose was to make everything I could and provide money to fund my family life, and that later in the future is when I would get my time to rest.

Whoever said, “We will sleep when we die” maybe didn’t realize that doing that would send you to the grave ALONE, and FASTER.

THEN A MOMENT HIT ME…

I had attended a women’s conference, happily funded by my company (very awesome). It was meant to be career development focused for leaders, but I attended a session about prioritization. There were 30 women in the room. We were first handed a sheet of paper and given 10 minutes to write down everyone we take care of. I was certain I had it accurate. If anything, I started to feel bad thinking, “wow, do I take care of ENOUGH people?”

The instructor begins with, please raise your hand if you wrote down yourself on your list. I was thinking, “oh…wow, I definitely did not.” I looked around the room, and ONE WOMAN had raised her hand. ONE WOMAN out of 30 made a realization that she takes care of herself! The rest of us commiserated about how we definitely don’t do that.

That was a wake up call for me to focus on self care, and since that conference, I have tried very hard to provide myself the self care I need to sufficiently and happily take care of my family. No one likes a grumpy mom. NO ONE.

Now, I want to bring this back to mental checks. The thing I had to realize is that mental checks don’t have to be negative, dramatic, or dire. I definitely don’t undermine diagnosis of depression, etc…, but my point is it’s okay to take a mental check for self-care when you start to feel like you are losing yourself. You don’t need to be depressed or anxious to realize you need to check yourself.

Waiting till you hit the bottom is like saying you aren’t going to have eat because you haven’t yet felt your insides trying to eat itself. For godsakes mamas, let’s FEED OURSELVES! We deserve it mentally. Don’t let any guilt take that away from you.

THE PROOF

Coincidentally, I came across an article on mental health days by U.S. News who reference Alison Ross. Alison Ross, a psychologist in New York City and an adjunct associate professor of psychology at City College of New York defines self-care as “taking a few moments on a regular basis to check in with oneself, to take stock of how they’re doing emotionally and physically. Are they exhausted? Overwhelmed? Burned-out? Completely depleted? Many people don’t do this in an ongoing way; they just go, go, go with regards to their work life and their home life, and this contributes to feelings of unhappiness, resentment and a sense of hopelessness about being on an endless treadmill they can’t get off of.” Ross encourages everyone to carve out “me time” that includes taking time to do something pleasurable. “This can include taking a mental health day off from their job,” she says.

– U.S News
I am purposely not looking at the camera because it annoys my husband.

And that’s what I did. That’s what I DO. This is the 3rd mental check day I’ve taken this year. The last few months I focused hard on work. I found myself slowing losing sleep. I was getting overly anxious with my travel schedule (I am going to be gone for 6 weeks straight in October). It was time for a mental check day. Today is about me. My daughter still went to school. I had coffee, I wrote, I am going to take a drive. At the end of it, I am going to feel refreshed. I will be more productive and patient than I was last week.

Here’s a reminder to you that you CAN take a mental health check day. Feed yourselves parents!

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Put Your Toddler to Work with 5 Toddler-Friendly Chores

Chores. There’s always more to do, and there’s always something to do. You see, I work from home. When I’m not traveling, I’m usually in my office, in front of a computer, on a WebEx also slightly annoyed or distracted by the fact that the kitchen is filthy and the laundry is not done.

(I literally stopped writing for 5 mins as I wrote the last sentence to put laundry in the wash, because I realized it would bother me.) Anyways, back to this blog.

I don’t know how we manage to do this, but even though we do get house-cleaning every two weeks, it takes us only 24 hours to absolutely ruin the place again (Dirty dishes in the sink and a million shoes stacked in the front entry way and on the stairs). During the weekday, my husband also has a 4 hour round-trip commute (yes, 4-hours in car and on the train to get to work which is another story) and is not around for the morning and typically not home till around bed time. This means the mess and dinner, are usually my responsibility and my annoyance.

This probably sounds like a story most of you have: Rush out the door, leave breakfast dishes in the sink, drop off your kid to school, start work, end work, and simultaneously cook dinner, watch your kid, and clean the mess that’s bothering you, while also trying to do the laundry, just in time to put your child down to bed at 7 pm. Which usually leaves me like this by the time my husband comes home

I felt like I was ALWAYS cleaning, and again, doing something completely separate from my daughter. I felt the guilt of ignoring her, and not giving her the full attention she deserved…not to mention the learning opportunities. So one day, I decided to talk to her about what I was doing while I was cleaning the kitchen, and why I was doing it.

Next thing you know, she says, “I want to help mama.”

And why not? I realized she is not really a “baby-baby” anymore (sobbing inside). She’s developing her independence at this age, both emotionally and physically. That’s what prompted me to start making some of our family chores more inclusive and use them as opportunities to teach her that we all help each other. (Not to mention, allow me to get some small help). Everly also does receive an allowance at the end of every week of 25 cents, which she knows is dependent on her completing her chores. She’s not used the money for anything, but does find joy in putting it in her piggy bank!

Here’s the top (non-exhausting) 5 Chores for Toddlers:

1) Sorting the Laundry

Every week, we do the laundry together. I dump out the clothes from our hampers on the floor, and I review with her the difference between “colors” and “whites.” She then digs through the laundry and puts them in two perfect piles for me. She is amazing at this. I had to check her for the first couple of times, but this was a perfect task for a toddler. TIP: It’s always good to explain the rules of the game every time to avoid confusion. Also, don’t leave them to do it on their own, but do something in parallel or help.

2) Putting all the front door shoe clutter away

I know some of you have this problem. The infamous front entry way or the stairway, cluttered with shoes and dirty socks from everyone in your family walking in and getting comfortable. For some reason, the stairs is a perfect catch all for sitting and leaving sh*t on. (*clink* – the sound of me adding to the swear jar). This was another awesome way to get Everly to MOVE and have a mission critical task – To bring her shoes into her closet (and into her bin) and to bring our shoes to our closet. It’s another great sorting chore, and one she especially loves when there’s a race – or if we’re racing!

3) Watering the plants

Watering the plants is by far, one of Everly’s FAVORITE chores. We have a few plants in the garden in our backyard that need watering, daily. If you haven’t fancied-it up with an irrigation system for all your plants, this is a great toddler-friendly chore. You can easily get a toddler-sized watering can from Amazon, and let her help you nurture your garden. It’s an opportunity for you to do something outside together and also teach her about the care of plants and living things.

4) Cleaning up after eating

This might not save you much work, but it does teach a toddler independence. Everly finds pride in showing me that she’s done with her food and will then slowly take her plate and utensils to the sink for me to wash later. You can also encourage your toddler to look for the napkins on the table to put them in the trash (if it’s accessible). I know many Montessori schools already emphasize this clean-up practice after eating, so why not emphasize it at home?

5) Clean out the backpack

When I pick up Everly from school, it’s usually packed with random napkins, leftovers from school, loose paper, and spare clothes. It usually needs to be emptied in some capacity. This is another really great help to me, and wonderful way for Everly to take responsibility for her things while learning about “sequence.” She takes out the items in her backpack. She does 3 things: 1) Throws away the loose papers 2) Empties out her lunch box (putting her bento box into the sink) and 3) puts the ice pack back into the freezer.

Whatever chores might be piling up on your to do list, think about which ones could be toddler-friendly for your family. Whether it’s any of these above, or others like feeding the dog, the types of chores that have worked best for us have been sorting, clutter-removal, or destination-driven tasks (i.e giving an item to my husband upstairs).

We hope you enjoyed our list of chores! We also always love to hear more of what chores work for your toddlers. Share them in the comments!

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Creating a Toddler-Proof Calm Box

If you have a toddler, you’ve at some point experienced the infamous tantrum.

tan·trum

/ˈtantrəm/ noun

an uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration, typically in a young child.

It has the simplest definition, that can have the most complicated and emotionally draining side effects.  They can be big, or small. They can happen in the middle of a crowded restaurant because you ordered apple juice instead of lemonade.  Or maybe it happens in the comfort of your own home as your toddler’s upset because you told them it was time to eat lunch. Or these wonderful events may occur while at someone else’s house where you have to quietly walk outside because you told them they couldn’t have any Swedish Fish.

The point is, most toddlers have an inside banche waiting to come out.  And if you have a toddler, and have never had a meltdown, please write a book about how you managed to do that, and teach me.  I would be willing to sell my soul for it.

Tantrums and meltdowns are the most draining parts of being a mom (for me).  Most of the time, I don’t mind the constant clean up or the constrained schedules of nap and bedtime, but the irrational tantrums that I can NOT remedy with pure logic, is the bain of my existence.  Many times, I’m pretty sure I look at my husband and say, “I think I’m not built to be a mom.” Everly is already a very vocal and strong willed little girl. For the most part, she is excellent at accepting the word, “NO,” but when her inner banche is unleashed, it’s a true live emergency.  There are loud noises, screaming, casualties, and running, all from a small ticking time bomb.  

Most of the time, we have to wait it out, but sometimes the wait is too long.  Sometimes we don’t have the luxury of waiting when you are in a public place. I searched online for different methods, looked in my mommy groups, and this idea of a “calm box.” had come up a few times.  It seemed too easy, but I thought I would give it a try.


What is a calm box?

The objective of a Calm Box is to encourage a child to take time, use some tools within the box to self-regulate and calm down their feelings of intense anger or emotion.    I found these boxes are sold in a lot of places (For adults and children). But these can also be made in very inexpensive ways through sensory tools and activities that you can create for your toddler. 

I personally love having a mix of both consistent activities/physical motions that my daughter can do to calm herself, and pair them with something that is sensory.  


Here are the 5 different activities/exercises that we usually use when Everly throws her fit:

  1. Smell the flower and blow out the candle.  When she’s throwing her fit, I’ll hold an imaginary flower towards her, and ask her to smell the flower.  To get her to exhale big, I hold up 2 fingers and tell her to blow out those candles. I repeat until she’s calmed down.
  2. Put your hands in the air and breathe.  Sometimes physically showing them to put their hands in the air is a small enough distraction to redirect emotions.
  3. Touch your toes.  Same as above.
  4. Count my fingers.  This encourages a pause from the situation by counting to 10.  
  5. Hold their hand on your chest while you hum.  This sounds odd, but it’s part activity distraction and part sensory.  Hum a calming tune your toddler will respond to, and they feel the vibration from your throat or chest which can be calming.  If they’re able to, have them do this on their own.

On the sensory side, Lemon Lime Adventures has a great post about sensory hacks specifically for an angry child.  Dayna is a National Board Certified teacher with Early Child Development background.  I admired her story of parenting and the methods she used for her son who was diagnosed with SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder).  She talks about how sensory is part of her child’s frustration and anger, and shared some really great sensory hacks posted below that I think are great additions to a calm box:

  1. Use glitter glue to make these Lego Calm Down Jars. Simply shake and wait for the calming to begin.
  2. Making worry stones for children to use when they are feeling nervous or anxious. Great to use in the car, at a desk or on the go.
  3. These DIY stress relievers are a great hack to creating your own squeezy tool. Have kids squeeze and take out their anger on these instead of hitting or pushing others.
  4. Make a Mermaid Fabric Weighted Lap Pad for your child give them some deep pressure and a fun sensory lap pad!
  5. 2 simple ingredients will help you make DIY Squeeze Balls for your child to use anytime they are angry. Squeezing the balloons helps provide proprioceptive input and organizes their sensory system.
  6. Make a DIY Squoosh Box out of a cardboard box to give your child somewhere to calm down.
  7. If you are looking for something to have on hand at all times, you can put together an anti-anxiety kit  complete with essential oils, songs, and stress balls.
  8. Make a fire-breathing dragon out of a simple cup to practice calming breathes.
  9. A DIY Crash Pad is a fantastic place for your angry child to thrash and bang around without hurting them or anyone else.
  10. Use ice cubes to create these awesome calm down cubes for your classroom.
  11. Use pillows or stuffed animals to make a pillow cave to provide joint compression to help your child organize their nervous system while calming down.

READ HER FULL STORY HERE: https://lemonlimeadventures.com/sensory-hacks-calm-an-angry-child/

Will this work for every child?  NO. Every child is different. Every child responds to things differently.  If anything, we hope this gives you some inspiration, on other methods for calming your child’s emotions.  Whether it’s a calm box, a time-out, time alone, or whatever, find what works for you!

Share your stories and successes with the community.  

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My Confession: I Sometimes Lie to My Daughter

I confess…I lie more often than I want to, and it’s a bad habit.   Please don’t judge me. Let me explain. Growing up, I had a very superstitious upbringing (being Filipino).  I was fed stories of mermaids who could potentially grab and drown you if you stand too close to the river or monsters who ate only children.  A horror movie in the making? You BET, and there have been many made since then. #gottalovefilipinoroots  

As I grew older, I obviously saw the intent for these stories and swore to myself I would never use those tactics with my daughter.  In fact, I set myself a standard to NEVER lie to my kid. I envisioned my very logical-self being able to reason with whatever my daughter would challenge me with.  I swore to myself I would do this with the intent that my daughter would mature. I would use the same logical reasoning with my husband but with the patience of Mary Poppins.  And honestly, I did pretty damn well in the first 2 years of Everly’s life.   

THE EARLY NON-LYING STAGES

Everly was a smart and balanced little girl.  She learned sign language early, and by the time she was 6 months old, she communicated with us.  She was mellow andshe took “no” very well. Once she was a little over 1 year old, she was speaking.  By 2 years old, she could hold a full conversation. We would go to Disneyland and toy stores where she would ask for us to buy her things.  We would say no, and she would simply give them a hug and say ‘goodbye.’ If I asked her to eat something specific, and she originally refused, I was able to tell her WHY this was important, WHY she needed to eat it (logically), and she gave in.  Then, something happened. I remember it vividly…

We went on a family vacation to Orlando when Everly was 2.5 years old.  In the last few months prior, she had been playing with another 2 little girls at her school, which her teachers at the time warned me  they were negatively impacting her. They were a little bossier and one child was physical. That’s another story for another time, but it did change Everly. In addition to  that she was also turning into a threenager. She screamed, she didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. It was a challenge, but we stuck to our guns. Sometimes we won, sometimes she was in time out for a long time, but we were getting worn down.

We took a red-eye flight to Orlando (our mistake, which we will never do again).  Everly didn’t sleep at all. We went to Disneyworld after we landed, hoping she would crash when she was tired, but instead, she was worse than a zombie.  She was a flesh-eating, shrieking zombie who needed what she wanted and needed it now. She needed to see a princess, and if there wasn’t one available…MELTDOWN CENTRAL.  The pepperoni on her pizza fell on her napkin…MELTDOWN. She wanted to eat, but she didn’t want to leave the room…MELTDOWN. This all happened before noon.  

She was clearly overtired.  It was a perfect storm of what she had been exposed to in the last few months, the development that she experienced going from baby to vocal toddler, and the fact that we all had NO sleep.  And then it happened…

THE LIE…

It was dinner time. We were staying in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, conveniently with animals outside our balcony.  She hadn’t had a proper meal all day. She was flipping out with the food that was on the table. She was screaming, pulling her clothes, yelling “NO,” and would just not eat.   We were frantic trying to keep her volume down not to bother other hotel guests who probably thought we were torturing our child. 

And I blurt out…”Everly, if you don’t eat and calm down the BEARS will hear you!”

And Justin, blurts out…”Yeah, and they’ll  EAT YOU.” (as I whispered, “too far, babe, babe, too far.)

And Everly’s response?  

She went completely silent. 

Looked at us with big, wide eyes with a slight feeling of concern. 

“Bears?”…she said.  

“Yes, Bears…” I said in a nervous tone.  

“Okay, then we better hurry.” Everly says, as she heads to the table, and complies, without a fight, without tears, and eats ALL her food.

We thought, what are we thinking?  Bears??!! WTF – How messed up are we?  But it worked… And we abused it. We’ve now taken it  to another level.

When she fights sleep or fights eating, or can’t self regulate herself, the bears knock on doors.To this day (a year later), she still complies.  She sometimes yells, “BEARS, DON’T COME, I’M EATING, okay?”

Do we feel like  horrible parents?  We totally did, and then I realized, YOU HAVE TO DO WHAT KEEPS YOU SANE AND YOUR CHILD HEALTHY. 

Logic doesn’t always work with a child. When time is limited, reason doesn’t always work, and I don’t have hours to let her figure things out. We use bears.  I stopped being critical of myself. I stopped letting judgment hit me on our methods. I don’t use it all the time. I use it when all else has fails and she’s at risk of impacting her health – eating, sleeping, self harm.  Sometimes you need to access your crazy imagination to help your kids.  

I think of the alternative.  I could let her not sleep (or pass out).  She will likely not pass out. She will be tired, cranky, upset.   I could let her skip dinner, wake up hungry with stomach pains. I could let her cry until she’s done.  I’ve tried this before (and she will outlast 45 mins). Her throat hurts and she’s upset.  

OR, I can tell her the bears are coming.  In the same way parents use Santa Clause, or the Easter Bunny.  I chose the mythical creature. One day, I will tell her the truth.  Until then, my child is rested, and happy and safe from the bears. Until the next time she decides she doesn’t want to listen.

Share this blog with someone who needs a reminder they’re not crazy…because there are crazier parents like us.  🙂

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What I Learned Day 3 About Writing a Mom Blog

OH, Everly… is what I think as all these stories of embarrassment, triumph, and humor rush through my head.  After writing my first blog post – EVER – I learned quite a few things about myself. If you have already read the <meet us> post, you know I was hoping to share our story through our journey to find a semblance of sanity in a messy life that includes work and being a parent.  I had always dreamt about writing a book to share my experience to anyone willing to read, but year after year, I left “writing something” an unchecked item on my list of New Year’s Resolutions(among many other things). I gave myself plenty of excuses: There’s not a lot of time.  It will just impact the time I spend with Everly and Justin. How would I even start? No one would read it anyways. I’m a bad writer. I have so much to talk about and nothing to talk about all at the same time.

Lately, something felt different.  I started feeling a wisp of inspiration around me – from my family and friends, and my daughter.  As Everly grows into a little girl, I realized there are so many stories I wish I would have documented and so many that I should in the future.  I began to realize that she was freakin’ hilarious, and that was enough to share and write about so my family and I can hold on to it in the future.  I decided to stop thinking, start writing, and start up a WordPress blog. I sat down with a glass of wine (of course), and started to free-write. Day 3 of this journey, and this is what I learned: 

  1. Writing was therapy I didn’t know I needed – It forced me to really think through my thoughts, my experiences, and see how they impacted me and the mark I want to make with others.  It was the self assessment I never have time to do, but is so crucial to my mental health.
  2. I do have time – Because writing even just 2 posts purged my soul and my mind, I found it has given me time back.  It gives me an opportunity to let things out so I can be more present in the future. It’s almost as if I was trying to read multiple books at once because my mind was processing all things – about my day, about my performance, and what I did or didn’t do, and about what I wanted to say.  It has forced me to dedicate 30 mins a day to release what’s on my mind, which clears my mind to maximize my time with my family
  3. It forced me to embrace the mom I’ve been thus far (even more so than I have before) – I get to look back and think, reassess what I did wrong, celebrate what I did right, and help me remember I am a good enough mom.  Perfection is overrated! Writing forced me to look back at all I’ve accomplished as a mom, despite the obstacles of mom guilt and working, and it puts it all in perspective for me.  

So moms and dads – find your therapy. You are an important piece to your family. What will be (is your therapy)?

Share or like if writing has been therapeutic for you.

Or comment below with things that you find therapeutic or something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t.

I’d love to hear!

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Our First Blog: Oh, Everly!

“Someday when the pages of my life end, I know that you will be one of the most beautiful chapters.”

-Unknown

“Oh, Everly…” A phrase I catch my self saying quite often these days, for many reasons. One, because my now 3-year old daughter seems to do/say/shout/yell the most ridiculous things (that are times, quite jolting! – more on that in later blogs). Two, it’s a TIRED response to these ridiculous things, because yes, I AM EXHAUSTED, and 3-year-old(s) (mine, in particular) wear me down, and three, it’s (hopefully) a sign of me ‘letting things go.’

You see, prior to “Oh, Everly…” responses, I picture myself getting flustered, frustrated, upset, or something in between over things that don’t matter… Like Everly breaking her toy, spilling her dinner, or (in most cases) walking out of her room dressed as an “alien-looking princess” with an outfit that could set off a car alarm it’s so loud. I learned to let these go. I learned to re-define what it means to “have everything,” and it meant I had to change what having everything looked like.

I realized that life is a fixed-pie. Having everything doesn’t necessarily mean that you have ALL of everything (because that’s crazy for MOST people), but it’s understanding your happy place, your balance, regardless of what you might have pictured before or what others might pictured for you.

For me, I thought having everything was getting to the top of the corporate ladder, having a wildly passionate, crazy amazing marriage, while being a saintly-patient mom who gave my daughter undivided attention when I wasn’t working. We would have cute little tea-time together as she politely asks me if I want tea. Because, guess what? That’s what I saw on TV. That’s what I see on social media. Talk about pressure. In reality, my work seeped into my marriage, which then seeped into quality time with my daughter, which meant there was no separation. That needed to change.

What does this look like for me now? BALANCE IN TIME. I found perspective. I changed my vision of what success meant. Success was not being a minority woman at the top of a billion-dollar company (although I would still 100% welcome that), but being a happy, healthy woman who is fulfilled by the positive impact I’ve made for my company (altruistically) and my family. It’s being happy about my personal development as an HUMAN, and not just as an employee. Knowing that life is messy, and work seeps into personal life, I’ve learned to embrace the ‘messy,’ and found a way to still enjoy things.

Over the last couple of years, I am happy to say I found some balance, even though I haven’t found more time. I’ve learned to enjoy my family more, without sacrificing my career/impact. So much so, that I found time to start this blog, boutique, inspired by my life as Everly’s mom.

SO, WHAT IS THE OH, EVERLY! BOUTIQUE?

As a “toast” to our new life of balance, Everly and I bring this online lifestyle to you, sharing our stories (in my eyes) in addition to some Everly-curated dresses that can be purchased in our Oh, Everly! boutique. In my embrace of the messy, of life, work, mommy-ing, I thought, why not share our story, find a way for Everly and I to share our love for shopping and fashion, and give back.

This is why we decided to launch “OH, Everly!” – the Boutique. Every 2 weeks (or so), Everly will pick out 5-6 of her favorite styles to share with you to purchase, to love, to whatever! We will play photo shoot and hold fashion parties with friends – sharing this experience with you. 10% off all the profits will go to a Children’s Charity of the month which we will have our fans, family, and friends vote for every month.

Check these out at www.oheverly.com – WILL BE LAUNCHED SOON!

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Meet Us

Being a working woman is hard…being a working mom is harder. Finding balance can be impossible.

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