A Lesson from my Daughter

My world has drastically changed since becoming a mother. Motherhood has taught me everything. I’ve learned about unconditional love, patience, failure, happiness, gratitude, and forgiveness to name a few.

My daughters are constantly teaching me new ways to be a better mother, a better person.

I remember this one time, a few months back, where I dropped something of my daughters. I don’t remember what it was exactly, a box of crayons, cereal maybe. All I know was that it made a huge mess. I apologized to my daughter and she just said “Don’t worry Mommy, accidents happen.” And it just stopped me in my tracks.

When my daughter was growing up, I always told her this. But recently, with the addition of another daughter and my patience wearing thin, I’ve gotten frustrated almost every time the girls make a mess. It took my daughter to remind me that accidents happen, we all make messes, and that’s OKAY.

I’ve been holding my daughters to a higher standard than I even hold myself. I’m clumsy, so if I drop something (which happens too much) I get upset but quickly brush it off. Why am I not doing the same for them?

When they get upset, aren’t they allowed to be angry or sad?

I’m learning more everyday about how they are just little people who need a great amount of patience. And I’m glad my daughter reminded me of that. It’s gotten too easy for me to lose my shit lately. But I’m learning to be patient with myself as well.

I’ve wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember. Two of the three happiest days of my life were the days they were both born. My daughters mean the world to me. This journey of motherhood has taught me everything, and I’m still learning every single day. I hope everyday that I can be the best mom for them. I want to be someone my daughters can be proud of.

Being a mom is hands down the toughest job in the world. But even on the worst days, I wouldn’t trade being their mom for the world.

I love you girls.

-Toniann

The Importance of Mom Friends

Making friends as an adult is one of the most difficult things to do. At least it’s been that way for me. I am usually very shy when I first meet people; it takes some time for me to warm up and I rarely initiate conversations with people I don’t know. Also, being a stay-at-home-mom, I don’t have many opportunities to meet new people. And of course, moving away from my family and childhood friends has made the quest for adult friendship much harder.

And it’s been even more difficult to make mom-friends.

I got pregnant with my first daughter at 20 years old, the first in my circle of friends (both of whom were back in the Bronx, while I was living in Florida) to start a family. My family was also back in the Bronx and I didn’t have anyone in Florida to lean on besides my husband. The friends we had made while living in Florida were all very different: the ones around our age were still living at home and the thought of kids was a long way off, and the ones who had kids already were so much older and a lot more established i.e. living in houses they owned while we were renting an apartment. So it was difficult for both my husband and I to find friends who truly understood our struggle as young parents.

Thankfully one of my best friends had a daughter a few years later. But living so far away from each other means not as much face time as we’d like. We do get together every time we visit New York and it’s like we were never apart. I love getting texts from her asking about breastfeeding and if I’ve gone through the same things. We lean on each other and realize things are okay.

My best friend, our daughters and I back in 2014.

And than goodness for my sister-in-law in Florida. Over the years, once my oldest was born, we grew closer and closer, which helped me so much. She has truly become my sister.

My amazing sister-in-law and my youngest daughter.

But we moved across the country to Arizona.

And we had to start all over. Don’t get me wrong, both my husband and I were all in on the decision to move, we felt this would be the best choice for our family, and it has been so far. But when we first arrived, I went through postpartum depression. I was already suffering from anxiety since my daughters and I were away from my husband for almost 3 months. To give you an idea of how my depression was triggered: before moving to Arizona, I lived with my sister-in-law, brother-in-law and their kids. So, I went from a place where I had more help with my kids than I knew what to do with, to having absolutely no help with my 6 year old and 6 week old daughters while my husband was at work.

Thankfully, my depression wasn’t too bad. We soon started to make friends, but no mom-friends for me. And the mom-friends I had tried to make on my own fell through. We just didn’t click. It seemed like the harder I tried to make mom-friends, the more horribly it would turn out. So, I had to just come to terms with the fact that I probably wouldn’t have any mom-friends in Arizona. Oh well, I guess.

But recently, I’ve made a mom-friend here, and things are going pretty well. We all just went on an impromptu trip this weekend. The toddlers had a few meltdowns, but they’re toddlers. The best part about that was we understood the struggle each of us was going through. The meltdowns, tears, and tantrums were things we were both trying to deal with. With other friends who don’t have kids, sometimes it’s just embarrassing when your kid cries or misbehaves.

That’s why having a mom friendship is so important. Being a mom isn’t always fun, its demanding and can really wear you down. A lot of times, I’ve felt lonely because I struggle so much with my girls. I’m constantly worrying about them, wondering if I’m doing a good job. It’s nice to have a friend who can empathize with you. To know you’re not the only one having a hard time managing motherhood is a great relief.

So to all my mamas out there who are struggling, it won’t last forever. Find the courage to put yourself out there and make some mom-friends. And don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen right away or if you don’t click with the moms you’re meeting. If you’re really having a difficult time, reach out to someone or even send me a message. Your tribe of mamas is out there. I sure do appreciate mine.

My girls and I at Walnut Canyon.

-Toniann

Creating Family Traditions

Growing up, we didn’t have much. I mean, my dad was a hoarder, so we had a lot of junk, but we were poor. But when I was younger, before my parents drinking got really bad, we had some great family traditions. I remember every October, my father would set up our Halloween monster, Harvey. He would take a pullover sweatshirt and sweatpants, stuff them with old clothes, and top him with the Harvey mask. We would set Harvey up on a chair outside of our apartment building, probably to scare the neighbors and religious solicitors away.

There was one time that my dad convinced my brother to wear the sweatshirt and sweatpants while we stuffed clothes around him. My father put the mask on him and then called my mother to see how Harvey looked. When she came into the living room, my brother jumped up and scared the shit out of my mom. But the sweatpants were stuffed so tight with clothes that my brother toppled over trying to lunge at my mom. We all laughed so hard, except for mom, who was pretty pissed off. It’s one of my favorite childhood memories.

Now that I have children of my own, I’m realizing more, just how important it is to have family traditions. Making precious memories is powerful. So I’ve created our own family traditions around the holidays to make them more special.

October, November and December are my favorite months because they involve my favorite holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and my most favorite holiday ever, Christmas.

We’re coming up on Halloween in a couple of months, and one of my favorite family traditions is all of us making Jack-O-Lanterns. We go and pick out the best pumpkins, we get our templates, stickers and other decorations for the girls and bring them home. We put on our favorite Halloween movie, Hocus Pocus, and get carving. It takes us about the whole length of the movie for my husband and I to finish our Jack-O-Lanterns. Then when we’re finished, we put our lights inside them, turn out the lights and marvel at the fruits of our labor.

Halloween 2018 Jack-O-Lanterns

Our longest standing family tradition is watching The Santa Clause with Tim Allen while we put up our Christmas tree. Jon and I started this in our first apartment in Florida while I was pregnant with my first daughter. Its my favorite thing to do around Christmastime.

December 2018

Since moving to Arizona, we recently started up new Christmastime traditions. A farm near our house sets up a little ice skating rink and this year will be our third year going ice skating. Its only August, but my daughter is already talking about how she cannot wait to go ice skating again. And yes, it gets cold here in Arizona.

First time ice skating December 2017

We also go to a show called Symphony of Light, which is a drive through show with synchronized lights and Christmas music. Its such a gorgeous and well-done show. Last year, we had the girls watching out of the sunroof of our SUV. We top out at 5 mph, so it’s safe.

Symphony of Light show December 2018

The best part about our family traditions is seeing how much joy my daughters get out of them. To see their faces light up and have so much fun. I love doing all these activities myself, but their reaction makes them much more enjoyable.

I hope when they’re older, they will remember how much fun we had together. I hope they will carry these memories and cherish them forever. I certainly will.

-Toniann

Terrible or Terrific Two’s?

My youngest daughter Emilia turned two almost two months ago and we’ve currently hit the “terrible” stage. She literally just had a meltdown because I didn’t put her favorite show on the tv. It’s little things like that that have BIG reactions.

Her sister is playing with a toy she wants to play with:

Tears.

When she’s hungry (which is pretty much every hour now):

Tears and screams. But I’m the same way so…

And god help you if she’s tired and hungry because she will scream, cry and throw her little fists at anyone who bothers her.

Honestly, its difficult to manage to say the least. I try very much to keep a cool head because a strong reaction from me only makes things worse. It’s this balance between maintaining boundaries with her (i.e. no hitting) and pacifying her (i.e. let her play with the toy). Her being as cute as she is, it’s hard not to just give in all the time.

Most days I feel stressed and anxious to the point where I want to pull my hair out.

But there are such great moments throughout the day. She’s doing countless things she couldn’t do even a month ago.

She’s talking more, she sings and dances. She loves to cuddle with everyone (provided she’s fed and well-rested). We have conversations and she’s starting to understand more and more. She’s in the process of being potty trained, which I was not ready for AT ALL. She loves to play games and she is so silly. Her personality is really shining through now.

Singing “Let it Go” with her sister.

So yes, two’s are tough and I know from experience that three will be more strenuous, but it’s also terrific. It’s honestly the most fun age. With all the new things she’s doing, I can’t help but be amazed and proud. She knows what she wants, and definitely what she does not want and will tell you so. Emilia is totally my sour patch kid. She is a little firecracker and I hope that her strong-willed personality will never leave her.

-Toniann

My Traumatic Birth Experience

I got pregnant with my first daughter at 20 years old. Back then, I thought I was grown, but looking back, I realize how naïve I was. The birth of my daughter was one of the most frightening experiences I ever had.

My whole pregnancy was wonderful, no complications at all. If I was tired, I would nap. I never had any pain, even during my last trimester. All I had was horrible heartburn. I didn’t even realize that my gas pains were actually Braxton-Hicks contractions until I was in the hospital getting induced.

My husband, my mother and I went to my final 40 week appointment and it was there that my doctor told me that she wanted to induce labor later that night. I was 1cm dilated for the last four weeks, which was normal. I had hoped to go into labor naturally, but she had explained that there might be complications if we wait longer. I don’t recall exactly what, but I trusted her. This was my first pregnancy and I was young, so as much as I didn’t want to be induced, I believed my doctor knew best.

Later that night, we all drove to the hospital. I was so excited and nervous that I was finally going to meet my baby girl. When we arrived, I changed into a hospital gown and my stomach was strapped with a contraction monitor. My doctor then gave me Pitocin to induce labor.

And we waited.

My contractions started to get stronger and stronger after a few hours. Labor was progressing, very slowly. I wasn’t sure how much longer labor would be and I knew the pain would only get worse, so I asked for an epidural.

It was the middle of the night when the anesthesiologist came into my room. His hair was disheveled and he looked like he had just been woken up out of his sleep. He told my husband and mother that they were not allowed in the room with me and they left.

I had seen a video on how an epidural is performed and I was fucking scared.

I sat off the side of the hospital bed with my nurse in front of me. She gave me a pillow and told me to hunch over. The anesthesiologist warned me not to move and he gave me a small shot to numb the area. But it didn’t work. He started to poke at my back and I felt everything. He told me to stop moving and I apologized but I couldn’t help but wince at the pain. He poked me more than once and at one point said that my “vertebrae were really close together.”

I remember this going on for some time, and I started to get cold sweats and I felt nauseous because I was in so much pain. I looked up at my nurse and told her, “I feel like I’m going to vomit.” It was then that my nurse yelled at the anesthesiologist:

“Can’t you see she’s in pain? Give her some more numbing.”

I got a second shot of numbing and I felt my body finally relax. The epidural was in and I laid back in bed and felt my pain melt away.

Later, my doctor popped my water bag to try and help speed things along. She saw meconium, which is the baby’s first poop, so she flushed my womb. And we waited some more.

I got some sleep and in the morning my doctor came to check me again. I was 6cm dilated. I thought to myself, “great, we’re making some progress.” But my doctor told me I wasn’t progressing quickly enough, and she was having an operating room prepped for me to have a C-section.

I would be down in the operating room in 30 minutes.

Holy shit.

I didn’t speak up because I truly believed she had my best intentions in mind.

We went down to the operating room and my husband was the only one allowed to be with me. The put a big blue curtain up under my chest so we couldn’t see anything. And then they started.

I remember a lot of pulling and tugging. They even pressed down on the top of my stomach to get my daughter out. I know the used forceps to get her head out because she had a bruise later on. Finally her head was out, and she cried right away.

And then I cried. I cried this huge sigh of relief that she was finally here, and that she was okay. They told my husband to look over to see her and I remember asking him if she had a lot of hair, which she did. And I asked if she really was a girl, which she was. She was 8 lbs 9oz, my big beautiful girl.

They gave her her bath right in the room, dressed her and my husband went with our daughter to the nursery while they closed me up.

Jonathan and baby Isabella in the nursery.

And I was all alone.

I was surrounded by so many hospital staff but it was like I wasn’t even there. No one asked me how I was feeling, if I was okay or not.

I remember feeling freezing cold and exhausted. My job was done, I had my baby, and I was tired. So I closed my eyes to try and go to sleep and I heard my own voice in my head scream:

“Don’t go to sleep! Open your eyes!”

So I did. I opened my eyes wide and kept myself from going to sleep. At the time I didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I realized what had happened.

I was brought back to my room and my epidural was removed. I had a heated blanket on me because I was freezing cold. I tried to go to sleep but the pain started to creep in. My incision felt like it was on fire and the damn heated blanket was not helping. I rang for my nurse and told her I was in excruciating pain. She gave me morphine, which felt like a heat wave all over my body. I still felt some of the pain but I was relaxed enough to get some sleep.

Later that day, my new nurse came to my room and asked me how I was feeling. I told her I was really tired, but I had attributed that to the fact that I just had a baby. She had told me that I had lost a lot of blood and kept asking me if I was sure I was okay. I told her yes and brushed it off. But my husband told me later that when he looked over the curtain after our daughter was born, it looked like a horror movie. All he saw was my body there, open and surrounded by an enormous amount of blood.

And I realized why I heard my voice in the operating room, yelling at me not to go to sleep. I probably wouldn’t have woken up had I kept my eyes closed.

It’s unnerving to think back to what I went through over 8 years ago. The pain that I went through before, during and after my daughters birth still haunts me. I had a huge bruise on my back after giving birth that my mother pointed out and she saw four distinct holes where the anesthesiologist had attempted to put that giant needle. I still have pain in my spine where he performed my epidural.

Despite all that I went through, I would do it all again for my daughter. She is the biggest gift I never knew I needed.

My Isabella

To all you mamas who have had a traumatic birth experience, I know your pain. I know how it feels to have your baby born, and suddenly you don’t exist anymore. I know a lot of you have had it much worse than I have, and I’m sorry. Having a baby should be the most magical time of our lives. I wish it was always like that.

Stay strong mamas, you got this.

-Toniann

A Lesson in Gratitude

Hi everyone, I haven’t posted in a while because a lot has been going on. We went to San Diego for Memorial Day weekend to celebrate my oldest daughter’s birthday. The weekend started off great, we went to the beach, which was my youngest’s first time, so it was wonderful. The next day we went to LEGOLAND waterpark and we were really having a fun time. But as we went to one last area to wrap up our day, my diaper bag was stolen. Someone went into my stroller and stole my bag with everything in it: mine and my husbands phone, my wallet, my car keys and my daughters diapers and change of clothes.

I was fucking furious. Enraged that someone could actually do that at a family park. I felt violated; I couldn’t believe that someone felt they had a right to just take our belongings. And most of all, I was mad at myself. I was mad at myself for being foolish enough to let my guard down. I was stupid to believe that there are no bad people out there anymore. I was so mad, I started to cry.

We spent the rest of the night with security from the park, and later the police to file a report. I knew that since our phones were turned off, there was no way to track them, and our stuff was gone forever.

I went to the LEGOLAND hotel and used their phone to call a locksmith to get a new key cut for my car so we wouldn’t be stranded. I was on the phone and computer cancelling credit cards and trying to get replacement phones. We had to print directions out to and from our hotel. You don’t realize how much you depend on your smartphone until you don’t have access to one.

Since all this happened and my anger has subsided a bit, I’ve had some time to reflect on what happened.

I’m GRATEFUL it wasn’t worse.

I’m constantly reminded that no matter what happens, things could always be worse. I’m grateful that my daughters weren’t injured in any way. I’m grateful I didn’t have any cash in my wallet, whatever money they spent on my credit card can be replaced by the bank. I’m grateful my husband had his wallet on him and not in my purse like much of the day. I’m grateful that while I was on the phone and computer for hours at the hotels in LEGOLAND, my daughters were having fun playing with the slide by the stairs and the countless LEGO bricks. I’m grateful for the staff at LEGOLAND who helped us with everything we needed. I’m grateful for a dear friend in San Diego that happened to have an extra phone that we were able to use for the rest of our trip. And despite being robbed of my possessions, I’m grateful that my daughters still had an amazing time.

Everything that was taken from me can be replaced. It’s easy to stay angry at this situation, but I want to remember this trip as a fun one. That’s how my daughters see it. They’ll look back at all the rides they went on, the prizes they won and all the fun we had together.

And to the person(s) who took my diaper bag: you may have stolen my belongings but I refuse to let you steal my joy. What goes around comes around, so I’ll just sit back and let karma take care of it.

I’m grateful either way.

Birthday dinner with my favorite people in the world.

-Toniann

Dear Anxiety, You’re a Bitch

This weekend, we’re going away for the weekend to celebrate my oldest daughter’s birthday. A trip that I am really excited about. But today, checking the weather for the weekend at our destination, I see that it’s going to be a chilly weekend. Our plans were to go to the beach and to a water park. So I couldn’t help but feel like our weekend’s plans would be ruined. But I know that’s my anxiety talking.

It all started when I was pregnant with my second daughter. I was so scared of having another C-section because my previous one with my oldest was horrible. But being pregnant, I was in a constant state of worry for my baby, which I think is pretty normal. But on top of that, we decided to move across the country, WHILE I WAS PREGNANT! My husband was in Arizona while I was still in Florida with my daughter. I talked to my midwife about my anxiety but I opted not to take medication. I just assumed once I was in Arizona with my husband and daughters, things would go back to normal.

But my anxiety hasn’t gone anywhere.

It’s not just worrying. My heart races, my chest feels so tight I can hardly breathe, I’m tired and irritable. Lately I’m noticing that there is little or nothing to prompt my anxiety. And I’m trying to manage my anxiety on my own but it’s so exhausting.

I exercise 6 days a week for at least an hour, I have a healthy diet, and I try to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine are all bad for anxiety. The three things I turn to when I’m feeling anxious and stressed out are making things worse. So I’ve managed to cut out my beloved morning cup of espresso, which was fucking painful. I’m still working on cutting out nicotine (yes, I vape and am a former cigarette smoker), and working on keeping my alcohol consumption to just weekends. Which is so hard because I love having my red wine!

I haven’t been consistent with my meditating either, but I’m starting tomorrow. I’ve already started waking up earlier to make time to meditate, my problem is just getting out of bed.

It’s hard for me to reach out and talk to people about what I’m going through. Especially when my anxiety makes me worry about trivial stuff. Honestly, even writing this blog post right now is making me anxious. But I’m trying to find a positive outlet, so here I am typing away. I knew I wanted to write about my anxiety at some point, so I figured now was a good a time as any.

I’m a work in progress, I always will be. Managing my anxiety is just something I have to deal with everyday. Some days are better than others. But I’m getting better at realizing which situations make me anxious and I’m making an effort to stay away from those situations.

I am more than my anxiety.

-Toniann