I get by with a little help from my friends….

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A number of studies have shown that an individuals sense of happiness and overall well-being are enhanced through good friendships. From the moment we are infants and we are able to socialize we start trying to create bonds with the people we interact with the most.

From what I have observed with my kids in childhood friendships are often based on the sharing of toys, and the enjoyment received from performing activities together. As parents, we are the ones in charge of making sure these friendships are maintained by organizing play-dates for our kids or taking them to various activities where they can interact with other children.

Growing up I was always good at making friends. I am not naturally shy or introverted so I was able to approach kids I thought would make good friends.Friendships got a little complicated when I was 13. I remember a lot of tears, disappointment when I realized certain girls didn’t want to be my friend anymore and a lot of confusion. I know this is totally normal when growing up but I was happy when at 14 I made the most amazing group of girl friends. There were about 12 of us and we were inseparable. We all liked to do well in school, we all enjoyed sports and we all looked out for each other. When I was 16 I moved to boarding school in France and was faced with having to make new friends.

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After I finished high school in France and had made some good friends from different parts of the world (Holland, Scotland, New York, France, Italy, Belgium) I moved to England for university.

Making friends in University in England involved a lot of drinking. Basically, if you didn’t drink then you didn’t socialize. So a drinker I became!! I made two good friends, Nat and Caroline,  in my first year and somehow that was all I needed.  I see university as the best years of my life. I met so many interesting people, traveled and had a lot of fun.

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When I graduated and moved to London I found it harder to make friends. Maybe it was the fact that only three months after graduating I got pregnant or that I worked in an office with only three other employees. All I know is that suddenly the only friends I had were my husbands and the ones I had from university.

Scientific studies have shown that loneliness and a lack of social support have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, viral infections, and cancer, as well as depression. I can say I have experienced the depression side of things personally.

When I moved to California, I was once again I faced with making new friends. Having a five year old daughter gave me hope. I thought that surely I would be able to make good friends with the others moms I met. Unfortunately, that was a lot harder than I realized. When my daughter started kindergarten I realized that most moms were so relieved that they finally had some kid free hours in their day. They would drop off their kids and walk away before I had a chance to introduce myself. When it was time to pick up the kids they would chat to the people they already new and weren’t very open to meeting new people.

Then I decided that I would try and make friends through the moms of kids my daughter was friends with. Only problem with that is that at her age when I arranged a playdate the mom would drop off the kid and come back later…..so much for my brilliant idea!!!

After months of feeling really lonely and isolated I was finally able to become friends with two moms. That was a life saver. I would go for walks with one of the moms after we dropped the kids off at school. It made such a difference in my life.

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The real change happened after I had my son last year. All of a sudden I had access to a group of new mommies who needed friends just as much as I did. When you go from not having kids to having them your friendships change. Maybe you have kids at the same time as your friends and you enter that new season together, but that is not always the case. More times than not a new mom has all this free time during the day with their little baby and they are also desperate for some adult interaction.

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I joined a bible study group with lots of new mommies and a mommy and baby workout class called Stroller Strides. I finally hit the mother-load for new friendships. These moms are my lifeline. They cheer me up when I need it, they encourage me when I think I am failing as a mother or as a wife. They make me laugh, they help me with my kids when I need it and they WANT to hang out with me. I cant imagine my life without them.

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The only thing I hope for is that when our new babies reach school age we don’t become closed off and alienate other moms who are looking for friendships. It is so easy to stay in our comfort zone or to be selfish and closed off and think to ourselves “well, I have enough friends” or “I really don’t have the energy to make new friends right now” but you never know when there is a person out there feeling alone and isolated and in desperate need of a friend or maybe even just some friendly conversation.

 

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Shaming my life away….

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There is a natural order to life. Things are meant to happen in sequential order. We are taught from a young age even through playground songs that “First comes love, then come marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage”. So what happens when all of a sudden you find yourself having reversed the “natural” order of things?

I was raised mostly in Mexico, a very catholic country. There people tend to be very judgmental if you decide to jump out of line and do something that “society” doesn’t consider appropriate. Getting pregnant by your boyfriend when you aren’t married is definitely one of those situations.

When I was 16 years old and living in Mexico I found myself trying to explore who I was and experiencing a surge of hormones most teenagers are faced with. Unfortunately, I was wrecking my reputation and causing a lot of hurt to my siblings when all the rumors about me would circulate around school. At the time I lied and told my parents that I dreamed of learning a third language and I asked them if they could please send me away to boarding school. The next thing I knew I was on a plane headed to the South of France where I would do my International Baccalaureate at the Centre International du Valbonne.

The truth was that I couldn’t bear to be in my home town a second longer. Going to school every day was torture. I had a great group of friends but they would beg me to change my ways for fear of their reputations being tarnished. My little brother would get into fist fights at school defending my honor (or lack thereof) and then my dad would punish him for getting in trouble at school. It was the hardest months of my life. I couldn’t sleep at nights, I found it hard to focus at school and keep up with my school work. Which is why I came up with the idea of going away, leaving everything I had ever known behind. I was only 16 years old but somehow I knew that life was not meant to be that hard. I hoped that distance and a fresh start would be enough to help me through those difficult times and would allow my friends and siblings to mend their own lives.

Gossip is something we all fall into from time to time. We may not do it maliciously but even if we have the best intentions we can find ourselves sharing information that wasn’t ours to share. We find ourselves judging someone else when we don’t have all of the information. We may not set out to be destructive but at some point or another we have hurt someone with the words we allow to come out of our mouths.

Perhaps this is why I was so tormented when I found out I was pregnant. I used to walk to work with my massive pregnant belly and my bare ring finger with my head held low. I used to think people looked straight at my ring finger when they saw I was pregnant and that when they spotted the empty finger they were silently judging me as they walked past.

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Pregnancy is normally a magical time for a woman. It is a time when she glows, she is growing life inside of her and everyone can witness the miracle of her growing bump. For me my pregnancy was a time of shame. No one ever came right out and said it to my face but I can imagine the conversations that took place behind my back when people back in my home town found out I was pregnant and unmarried. Not just old classmates but also aunts and uncles who told others at my wedding that they couldn’t believe my parents were celebrating me, it was shameful that I had gotten pregnant and there they were throwing me a lavish wedding. Perhaps things were a lot worse in my mind, perhaps I projected a lot of my own feelings and insecurities on others. All I know is that even after I had my daughter I continued to feel ashamed and guilty for messing up the natural order of things.

It has now been eight years since I was pregnant and I am happy to report that the guilt and shame has faded. It has been a long road to get to this place where I am happy with the way my life has turned out. Perhaps it would have been more convenient if I had gotten married and then gotten pregnant but to be honest I don’t think things would be any different. I wouldn’t love my husband more or my daughter more if I had followed the natural order of things. Many times we are our own worst enemies. When I think back to the amount of time I spent judging myself, being hard on myself and allowing the shame to consume me I want to cry. It didn’t help me, it didn’t make things easier for me and it certainly didn’t fix anything. All I am is grateful now that I lived through it, came out the other side and am stronger for it.

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No matter what you are going through don’t forget you are not alone. Hold your head up high and remember that this too shall pass. Things in life are temporary and we have to enjoy them while they last.

Here comes the Fear of Everything

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I have never considered myself to be a fearful person. I’m cautious, responsible and aware of potential dangers but have never been the kind of person that lets fear come between her and something she wants to do. When I was younger I practiced gymnastics and at our gym there was a saying drawn on the wall “don’t let fear steal your dreams”. Now in gymnastics this is a crucial factor. When you are trying to do a flip in a balance beam towering over the ground below or you and running full speed ahead towards a stationary vault you cannot allow fear to enter your mind even for a second. If you let fear in you freeze up and that is when you could really get hurt. My worst injury in gymnastics was on the balance beam when I landed with the whole weight and force of my body onto my “private parts” and cut myself in ways I didn’t even know were possible. Needless to say that after that my confidence was never the same. I ended up retiring from gymnastics once I realized the fear was there to stay. Why risk it right?

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Well, when becoming a mom I was in for a crash course in not letting fear take hold of me. When I delivered my baby girl she had no heartbeat and was not breathing. She was given chest compressions and intubated and rushed to the NICU. She spent the first five days of her life in the NICU and unfortunately I had a series of medical complications which meant I was not able to leave my hospital bed. The above photo is the first time I got to see my daughter. My husband took the photo once they had stabilized her and he printed it out for me to keep until I was able to meet her in person.

I spent nine months waiting to meet this tiny human and then when she finally arrives I don’t even get to meet her. Talk about soul crushing. Everyone that came to visit got to go and meet her and then they would come and visit me and tell me all about her. I was so grateful that everyone had taken the time to come meet her but inside I was crying every time I heard from someone else what my little girl was like.

Not letting fear consume me was all I could think about. When it is 1am and you get woken up by neonatal doctors telling you that your baby has an infection that isn’t responding to antibiotics and they need to get your consent to give her a lumbar puncture it’s kinda hard to not go into full on panic mode. Not to mention when the next day they tell you that there is swelling in her brain and a small bleed. Talk about experiencing the Fear Factor of parenting straight off the bat. I had only one choice and that was to trust that my baby was in God’s hands and he was guiding all the doctors. I knew I would get to meet her eventually and until then I had to make sure I took care of myself and recovered.

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Finally, on the fifth day I was able to go and meet my baby. It was hard not to cry when I was wheeled into the NICU and saw her covered in cables, feeding tube into her nose, bruising on her tiny face from the forceps. When I finally got to hold her it was bliss. A real miracle occurred when she recovered a lot faster than they expected and on the 7th day we were allowed to go home.

Our first night back in our apartment was the scariest of all. The reality finally kicked in, we were home alone (no medical staff around to rescue us) in charge of a tiny human…… Talk about fear kicking in, we took turns through the night making sure she was still breathing. At one point she was so still my hubby put his finger under her nose to make sure she was breathing, when he couldn’t feel anything he decided the best thing would be to place his hand on her chest and give her a little nudge. I have never been more terrified.

Becoming a mom certainly makes you more acutely aware of all the possible dangers in your every day life. Some nights I would lie in bed and think about all the things that could go wrong…. It’s a good thing I’m not normally a fearful person otherwise I doubt I ever would have left my house. I see mom’s who are terrified of letting their kids be touched by friends and family without a complete wipe down with antibacterial wipes, moms who wont let their kids go on play-date for fear that something might happen while they are away and of course the helicopter moms I see on the playground who don’t let their kids out of their sight for a second and their arms are always outstretched ready to catch. I don’t judge them, I don’t think anything badly about the ways they chose to deal with these fears that parenting seem to awaken within us.

All I know is that I am grateful that over the years the fears have subsided and now with my second child they are almost non-existent. Charlie is the kid that eats leaves off the floor at the park, or the kid who gets to play on the jungle-gym and then gets to have a snack without even washing his little hands. He falls all the time and being a boy he definitely likes to climb everything he sets his eyes on, so I guess it’s a good thing I have learned to let fear go and embrace the unknown.

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Underneath it all….I hate being pregnant!

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Don’t get me wrong, I love my daughter. When she smiles at me my heart melts. Everything I have gotten to experience with her is worth more than any plans I could have had for myself in my early twenties. Sure, I was the only person in my circle of friends to have a kid and when I met mommies I tended to be the youngest by almost ten years but somehow she makes it all worthwhile. The way I felt when I found out I was pregnant and the months of my pregnancy that followed are hard to put into words these days. So I thought that sharing a journal entry that I wrote from the 20th February 2008 when I was about four months pregnant was the best way to share what I went through. I want to be honest and transparent in all of my blog entries. Sometimes they will be funny and other times they will be painfully honest. So here it goes……

“I can’t explain the envy, sadness and the sense of being overwhelmed by everything that is going on in my life. One day I was trying to get to know myself. To figure out what dreams I had, what goals I wanted to set for myself, to discover what I enjoyed doing, what kind of life I wanted to make for myself! One test, one day changed that all.

I feel like I have to apologize for how sad I’m feeling. When people ask and say that I must be so happy that I’m expecting a baby, the normal answer should be “yes, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been!” But I can’t say that, it wouldn’t be the truth about how my heart and mind are feeling about it.

I’m hoping this feeling of being overwhelmed by all the rapid changes will soon pass. That I will begin to be happy with my pregnancy, to be content with what life I have now. But that’s all that it is- hope! I can’t actually make myself feel different. It would be fake, I would be fooling those around me and myself!

So many changes, the obvious changes for those around me are of course the physical ones. The fact that the money we need to be saving for the baby may need to be spent on clothes that fit me. The dreaded feeling of standing in front of my wardrobe and realizing that none of my nice clothes fit me. That my maternity bra’s are so tight that they leave bruises on my breasts. Yes, this has been and is hard to deal with but its not the toughest aspect of it all!

What I find hardest to deal with is my mind. The thoughts of sadness, frustration and jealousy that course through me: WHAT ABOUT MY DREAMS? MY SELFISH DESIRES? MY NEEDS AND MY PLANS? I can’t reconcile these with what I expect is to come. Perhaps I have a misguided conception of motherhood, that once you are a mother you no longer have time for yourself!

As it was, I was only just discovering what I enjoyed doing with my free time. How will I now be able to do anything other than breastfeed, clean, cook, change the baby, play with the baby, etc.? I repeat, what about me? What about my selfish desires?

Will I perhaps lose myself forever, before I really ever got a chance to find myself? Will my life, the way it was 5 months ago, become a distant memory? A faded reality of what once was? Why do I feel so much pain, so much sorrow, confusion and disappointment?

Then I feel mad at myself. There are young lives prevented from living on. There are women, and families that are unable to have children. And here I am being sad about very superficial issues! When I should just get over it!

This is where the difficult part begins! Perhaps it’s natural to feel this way, but how would I know when no one else around me has ever been through this or has ever mentioned struggling in this way. I think it may also be because so much is happening in so little time: a baby, a husband, a job, no job!

The End”

Reading over these words I wrote almost 8 years ago now still makes me cry. They bring back very strong emotions and if I am honest I am not sure if I have worked through all of them. All I know is that if I could go back in time to my 24 year old self all I would say is you are allowed to feel the way you feel. Own your feelings, work through them and have faith that in the end it will all work out for the best. Because guess what? It really truly has!

That’s not saying that the past eight years haven’t brought many challenges but the one thing I can say is that I made a choice when I decided to keep my baby to fight for my future everyday. To not let myself get defeated by my circumstances but instead grow stronger and wiser. Even today I continue the search to find “myself” which at times gets lost in being a mother and a wife. I am no longer overwhelmed with the feeling of not knowing who I am. I have found that I will never complete the task of knowing myself because the person I am today is very different from who I was even a year ago. My pregnancy changed me but then again the loss of my dad was also a very big obstacle in discovering who I am. I know that life still has many more curve balls to throw at me but I am ready to play ball!

Pregnant in a bathroom

So there I am, my pencil skirt wrapped around my tummy, my stocking down by my ankles and the worlds smallest employee bathroom in the basement of my office- oh and a positive pregnancy test in my hand. They say the whole world stops when you find out you are pregnant. All I know is that the already tiny bathroom started to close in on me while a thousand thoughts flushed my mind. What was happening? How did this happen? My parents are going to freak. What about George, oh George, we are too young.

Lets just say that when I contemplated my life and my ten year plan, pregnant in a bathroom at work fresh out of college was not part of the deal. I was only twenty three, hadn’t even started my career in law, hadn’t even done all the traveling I had planned (Cambodia, Thailand, Fiji, Australia).

Flash forward to present day. I am a mom of two incredible children, Bella who is currently seven years old and baby Charlie my little fifteen month old. I am blessed enough to be a stay at home mom now while my husband goes out to work everyday and leaves me behind to what he thinks is basically a permanent vacation.

George seems to think that when he goes off to work my life is a fairy tale. The kids behave, everyone does what they are supposed to do. The house cleans itself, the groceries just magically arrive in our fridge and the children never have meltdowns. My job is the easy one-  said no mom EVER!!!

Of course parenting is totally rewarding and I wouldn’t have it any other way (I think we are paid to say that) but when my sister or husband or someone else who hasn’t had the pleasure of 24/7 with an infant and no breaks decides to brush off what I do everyday as “easy” or “oh I would love to do this everyday” it takes all of my strength to smile and nod.

In my family I am known as the addict, the TV addict. Yes, I am that girl who watches EVERY show out there. Sci-fi, Romcom, Drama, Crime, Teen-angst, you name it I watch it. What no one seems to get is that when the show starts rolling, I am no longer someone’s mommy, I am no longer Mrs Complaints department, the finder of all lost things. I am a girl, on a sofa, with a remote control watching someone else’s problems and struggles. Do I use TV as a form of coping, yes, yes I do (you got a problem with that?). Do I use TV as a form of escapism? Why of course I do, doesn’t everybody else? I promise Netflix was created for people like me, an endless list of shows to binge watch and discover- yes please!

Should I be doing something else with all of that time? Probably, then again the cleaning can wait, the kids are in bed, my husband is on his computer and I have a date with #TVD #Thegoodwife #chicagopd #HTGAWM #scandal #greysanatomy #elementary #reign #arrow #codeblack #gameofthrones #blacklist #bones #suits #whitecollar #castle #pll #teenwolf #fliporflop #homeland #sherlock