Cherishing Time with Your Kids

I remember the day we brought Isabella home from the hospital and I had her in my arms. I was doting over her and in complete awe of how beautiful she was. And my mother said “Enjoy it, soon she’ll be starting kindergarten.” I looked at her like she was crazy, “Ma, she’s a newborn, kindergarten is a long way off.” That was almost 8 years ago. Isabella will be 8 years old and four days after, Emilia will be turning 2. And ever since I became a mom, I keep asking myself:

“Where has the time gone?”

2 month old Isabella

When my daughter first started kindergarten, I knew exactly what my mom meant that day four years previous. She warned me about this, time going by so quickly. It’s unbelievable how fast time can go by once you have kids. I cry every year on my girls birthdays, the start of a new school year, and any significant milestone. But I’m realizing just how important it is to cherish the day-to-day as well.

In her big girl bed

Throughout the day I find myself waiting for the day to be over. “I can’t wait to put the girls to bed and relax” is the usual thought in my head most days. But I don’t want to be like that anymore. I want to appreciate all the moments I have with my girls, even the not-so-great ones.

Sisters

I know that one day from now, honestly not that far into the future, my girls will be grown and out of the house. There won’t be toys for me to trip over, messes to clean up, or the sound of them screaming and laughing as they play. And honestly, the thought of that breaks my heart.

They get along… mostly

So I’m going to play with them more, hug them more, kiss them and memorize how they look at this age. I’ll gladly read another story, change the poopy diapers, and cuddle my girls as much as they’ll let me. They will never be this little again.

Now, if you need me, I’ll be with my girls.

-Toniann

Birthday Anxiety

My birthday is a time that I’m always excited about. I count down the days and look forward to celebrating with the people I love most and going on great adventures. But coming up on my 29th birthday this year, I don’t feel the same excitement that I usually do. Last week I was anxious thinking about this being the last year in my 20s.

I would never have considered myself an anxious person, but since I got pregnant with my last daughter over 2 years ago, anxiety seems like a normal (and horrible) part of my daily routine. But despite countless anxiety attacks, I was happy about my birthday last year.

Why is this birthday different?

Turning 29 was a happy thought at first, but then I realized that this is the last year in my 20s, and I only have a year left to accomplish certain goals in my life. And that was frightening. I started to think about my best friends, who are earning their masters degrees, one of whom has 2 kids. I started to compare what I have accomplished in my life, and I couldn’t think of anything.

What have I truly accomplished in this decade, besides raising two wonderful daughters?

And panic set in at this thought. So I began to dread turning 29, my last chance at doing something meaningful with my life. To create lasting friendships in my new home state, to get my career and education back on track, and work on becoming a better version of myself. Its overwhelming to think about all I have to work on.

I spoke to my sister-in-law about this. I told her all my worries and how I’m feeling lost. And that I’m scared to pursue my own goals, because my anxiety has convinced me that taking care of myself meant that my relationship with my husband and children will suffer. But I owe it to myself, and my family to work on myself and my goals. She reminded me of all that I have accomplished in my life already. And I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.

In this past decade of my life, I’ve lived in 4 states: New York, Massachusetts, Florida, and now Arizona. It’s such a big achievement in my book that I’ve moved out of my hometown, something that many people will never do in their lives. I’ve met some amazing, and not-so-amazing people, and they’ve all taught me something. I’ve realized my passion for fitness and while I have neglected that passion these past few years, it’s a goal of mine to become a personal trainer again. I’ve become vegan, something I never thought would happen, ever. I married the most amazing man in the world and we’re coming up on our tenth anniversary. I’m proud of the work we’ve put into our relationship and we’ve become better people since we first got together. I’m raising two children, a job that is so important, and I’m doing a kickass job (even though I feel like I’m not most of the time).

And most important of all, I’m learning more about myself. I’m learning the kind of person I want to be, and I’m taking steps everyday to become that person. I’ve realized what kind of relationships I want in my life. And because of that I’ve let go of relationships and set boundaries with people. I know that I alone am in charge of my happiness. I’ve realized how strong of a person I am. The most difficult thing I’ve gone through was losing my father. I deal with the grief of that loss everyday. And all the struggles I’ve faced have made me a stronger person.

So I write this blog post to remind myself, and anyone else reading, not to compare your timeline to someone else’s. We’re all on different paths, dealing with our own struggles. It’s only natural to compare ourselves to others, but it’s unfair to do so. I’m trying to focus on my own journey, to count my blessings and to be okay with imperfection. I hope the same for you.

Alright 29, I’m ready for you.

-Toniann

My Experience with Pregnancy Loss

Last night, we were sitting around the dinner table talking about babies. Isabella, my oldest daughter said “Mommy, you’ve been pregnant two times and you’re not having anymore babies.” I hesitated at the “pregnant two times” part of her sentence but I told her she was right. My daughter, and so many other people, do not know that I’ve been pregnant 4 times but only have 2 children.

When my oldest daughter, Isabella, was about 18 months old, I went through baby fever, and it was bad. I wanted to have another baby, I wanted Isabella to have a sibling to play and grow up with. But my husband wasn’t ready, and he knew deep down, I wasn’t either. So we decided to wait. I was taking birth control pills after having my daughter. The birth control was covered by Medicaid, but as Isabella’s second birthday was approaching, my medical coverage was ending. My birth control was $90 a month, an expense we couldn’t afford at the time, so I had decided to get an intrauterine device or IUD.

I made an appointment with my gynecologist, and I told her I needed to get an IUD as soon as possible, before my insurance coverage ended. We talked about different IUD’s and I decided on ParaGard, which is has copper and no hormones. It was supposed to be more effective than the hormonal IUD’s and I was more comfortable with a hormone free one. I wasn’t sure how I would react to the hormones in other IUD’s and I couldn’t chance it. And the copper IUD would last 10 years and I could just make an appointment to get it removed whenever Jonathan and I decided to try for another child.

I laid there on the table, my feet in the stirrups while my gynecologist prepared to insert my IUD. She was having some trouble but after a lot of poking and prodding at my cervix (ouch) I finally had my IUD inserted. And I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that I wouldn’t have to worry about getting pregnant any time soon.

Or so I thought…

It was about a year after having my IUD and I had no issues with it. My husband occasionally felt the string from the IUD when we would have sex, but overall, no real problems. Then one day, I had just finished working out at home, and it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t gotten my period. I ran to my calendar in the kitchen to count the days since my last period.

29 days…

Not very late, but late nonetheless. “Fuck, could I be pregnant?” I went to the store and got a pregnancy test. A faint positive appeared and I cried on the toilet. How? How did this happen? I know the IUD is still in, did it move?

I called Jon and told him I was pregnant and he thought I was joking. I told him “no, baby, I’m not kidding. The pregnancy test is positive and I’m scared.”

I started looking up the chances of getting pregnant with a copper IUD, less than 1%. What are the chances of having a healthy pregnancy and delivery with an IUD? Mixed research. I made an appointment with my gynecologist and I remember telling the woman at the office “I’m pregnant and have a copper IUD.” She couldn’t believe what I was saying.

I had to wait until the next week for my appointment, which was hell. Even though I didn’t want to get pregnant at the time, knowing that I was in fact pregnant, I wanted my baby to be okay. But I started spotting, and the bleeding got worse as the days went on.

I heard blighted ovum at one appointment and ectopic pregnancy at another. I honestly don’t know what it was and I was in too much shock to ask questions. Either way, I was not going to have another baby.

And I was crushed.

I got my IUD removed because it didn’t work for whatever reason. Maybe it moved or wasn’t inserted correctly. It could be possible since my gynecologist at the time had trouble inserting it. I’ll never know and the answer wouldn’t make me feel any better.

I was heartbroken. And I wanted us to try for another baby. But every month, my period came and my heart broke all over again. I tried to act like it didn’t bother me, but it did.

And a year later, I got pregnant again. I was excited, but I was wary. I made sure not to tell anyone but my husband and mother. I wanted to go to the doctor before I said anything. But I’d have to wait until at least 8 weeks to have my first appointment and I was only 5 weeks.

When I got to 6 weeks, I started spotting. And my heart sank. I went to the emergency room and sure enough my hCG (pregnancy hormone) levels were low. I stayed at the hospital for a few hours so they could test my levels again, and if they were continuing to lower, that meant I was having a miscarriage. I tried to hold on to hope that things were fine, but after a few hours and another test, we found out I was miscarrying.

I remember how direct the nurse was. Quick and to the point, and not sympathetic. I was told, just like the first time, that my body should “take care of it” and my body should expel all remaining tissue. And to follow up with my doctor in a few weeks. My husband, daughter and I made it to the car before I started crying. And I kept crying.

When we got home, I was crying in my husbands arms and I looked at him and told him…

“…I feel broken. I’d rather never get pregnant again than to feel this pain one more time.”

I didn’t tell anyone, no one knew I was pregnant, so why should I share my loss? I convinced myself that I was lucky. I was lucky that my body would take care of things and I wouldn’t need surgery like other women have. I was lucky not to have gotten so far along in my pregnancy. I was lucky to have one child, when so many other women struggle with this loss and still don’t have children. I told myself that my grief wasn’t valid because there were other women who have endured much worse than I have. And maybe that helped me cope at the time, but my loss was real. My pain was excruciating, both physically and emotionally. And it’s a pain I still carry today.

I didn’t realize at the time that I was going through something called secondary infertility. I found out later that it’s common for some woman to have trouble either getting pregnant or carrying a baby to term after giving birth to a child previously. It was over a year later before I got pregnant again. And four years total after my first pregnancy loss before I got pregnant for the last time.

But I am lucky. I got my rainbow baby, my Emilia. When I got pregnant with her, I was wary yet again. I was careful not to let myself get excited. But I made it to my 8 week appointment and explained to my midwife that I needed to have an ultrasound since I had 2 previous pregnancy losses. And I got my ultrasound, and we saw that heartbeat flicker and I breathed a sigh of relief. Not a big one, because I knew I was not through the woods, you never are when you’re pregnant. But I was relieved and I was excited. And she’s here, and one of the greatest joys in my life. I am incredibly fortunate to have 2 beautiful children.

But some women never get their rainbow baby, and for that I am truly sorry. To anyone reading this who is struggling to have a baby, I see you. To those who have endured countless pregnancy losses, I feel your pain. And to the women, suffering in silence, trying to put on a smile at the news of other women getting pregnant, I see you too. There are no words that can ease the pain of losing a pregnancy. Grieving a life that could have been.

You are not alone.

Below, I will include a link for pregnancy loss support or if anyone who wants to chat about pregnancy loss can email me.

NationalShare.org

-Toniann

Spending One on One Time with Your Children

My oldest daughter was an only child for 6 years before her baby sister came along. My husband and I referred to her as “the baby” up until that point, and we’d probably still refer to her that way if she was an only child. I am happy about the age difference between them. I feel that Isabella had a lot of time as “the baby” and got my undivided attention most of the time. So when I got pregnant with Emilia, I was very worried about Isabella getting jealous of her baby sister. I remember talking to other moms who had more than one child and the one thing they all told me was to make time for her once her sister came. That having one on one time with her is important so she doesn’t feel jealous or feels that she has to compete for my attention.

Then Emilia was born. Fast-forward to now.

I was recently scrolling through old photos and videos on my phone and I came across a video I took of Isabella meeting Emilia for the first time. I made it a point to record this moment because I knew how special it would be. And it was special. And then Isabella looks at her dad and says “Daddy, Daddy, you were holding me when I was a baby too.” I didn’t notice when she said it but watching the video recently, I realized there have been so many more moments like this since her sister was born.

Isabella does compete for my attention. I’ve noticed it a lot more lately with her baby sister getting older. Emilia is doing new things, adorable things like talking and being silly. And when we all dote over Emilia for being cute, Isabella will rush to do the same thing.

So even though my goal was to make sure I spent one on one time with Isabella, I’ve been failing at keeping up with that promise.

It’s difficult to get one on one time with Isabella. My day usually consists of making sure Isabella gets to school, cooking, cleaning, work out, getting Isabella from school, grocery shopping, then home to complete homework (which gives me the most anxiety), then cook dinner, hubbs comes home, eat dinner, bath time and then bedtime. And when both of the girls are together, I yell A LOT. A lot more than I would like to but I’m working on it. Anyway, during my weekday, there really isn’t much opportunity for actual one on one time. And admittedly, I need to try harder.

I make it a point to have one on one time with my husband by going on date nights. I should be doing the same for my daughter.

She needs to have me to herself sometimes and her dad to herself as well. Emilia is almost 2 years old and during these last 2 years, we’ve probably had less than 5 planned one on one outings. And she still talks about them. She loves the time when the two of us went to get our nails done. I had a great time too. So yesterday I made sure to take her out to lunch, and it was great. Smoothies and quesadillas.

I want to continue having one on one time with Isabella. It won’t always be lunch or getting our nails done, it might just be the two of us jumping on the trampoline together. But my goal is to have one planned outing a month with Isabella, and her dad and I will trade months.

First Daddy daughter dance!

Its important to make her feel special and try to keep her from competing for our attention. My hope is that spending more one on one time, not just monthly, but even 10-15 minutes each day will help strengthen our bond. And not only Isabella’s bond with my husband and I, but also her sister. She might be less resentful towards her sister if she feels that she doesn’t have to fight her sister for our love.

Isabella and I have a good relationship. But my hope is that our bond only grows stronger, and that when she’s a teenager and an adult, she will still want to spend time with me. And I’m realizing more and more that I need to lay that foundation now. To make and effort to spend time with just her so she knows without a doubt that she is loved and she is special in her own way. I know that I love her, but she needs to know that by me showing her. And I’m promising myself to be better at spending one on one time with my daughter.

-Toniann

I’m Vegan and my Children ARE NOT

Yes folks, you read that right. My daughters are not vegan and that’s ok. My household is not a vegan one. My husband eats meat and my girls eat… a varied diet. I mean, they’re kids. They go through phases of foods they like and then hate, willing to try and not try. It’s all trial and error, and they each have their own preferences just like anyone else does. I’ll admit it took me a while to accept my girls eating dairy, and rarely eating meat, and sometimes it’s still a struggle but in the end, they will make their own choices when it comes to food.

The girls eat a mostly plant-based diet since that’s what I cook at home. They love tofu and almost every fruit they’ve tried. There is the rare occasion where I’ll make pizza and get regular cheese for them and the hubbs. Because, honestly, vegan cheese is nothing like dairy cheese. And there are probably a few times a year that the girls will eat meat, and that’ll usually happen at a family barbeque or some special event at school. There are many birthday parties they will be going to and the last thing I want is to tell them they can’t have any treats or cake because they’re not vegan. Their diet doesn’t need to be so strict.

Like I said before, my kids go through phases with food. When my oldest was 2 years old, she never ate meat, even though she was offered at every meal. Her favorite food for almost a year was a peanut butter sandwich. But she’ll try meat now when she sees her father eating it, the same with my toddler. I forgot how tricky toddlers are with meals. One day she’ll love oatmeal and literally the next day will not eat it. But she loves fruits, both of my girls do. Since I’ve become vegan, there are lots of foods that we’ve tried that we wouldn’t have otherwise. We love to try new vegan restaurants and go to vegan food festivals as often as we can. My husband even went vegetarian for a year and vegan for 3 months (something he claimed he would never do. Love you baby!) So when I actually think about what my girls eat, I would say they have a healthy diet.

I have been vegan for almost 6 years now, a decision I made happily on my own. The last thing that I want is to force a vegan diet on my daughters and they, in turn, never want to be vegans when they get older. I have had many talks with my oldest daughter about where meat, cheese and eggs come from and she knows I went vegan because I love animals so much. In my opinion, being vegan seems like the most natural and logical way to live. And it was hard for me to accept that I had to let my daughters choose for themselves, the same way I did. It’s only fair. What you eat is a very personal choice. And while I can guide my children with what I serve them at home, in the end, they will be making their own food choices. I’ll love them no matter what.

-Toniann

The Reality of Parenting Failures

Being a parent is hard work: you’re in charge of raising a tiny human being into a functional, hopefully self-sufficient, adult. And if you have more than one kid, that makes it a lot harder. Especially if they have totally different personalities like my daughters do. It’s an adventure to say the least.

I feel like more parents nowadays worry about EVERYTHING! Well, I know I sure as hell do. Sometimes, the tiniest mistake I make as a mom crushes me, and it shouldn’t.

Living in this online age, where information is so readily available is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, I can check to see if my daughter’s wart is indeed a wart (which it is), and on the other hand find out that I’m probably scarring my children by yelling at them so much.

And then you have social media.

We all have that one friend that makes motherhood look like a fucking breeze. They’ve got an amazing outfit on, their hair is done, house is immaculate and their kids look just perfect. They also work and still have time to make these fancy individualized little lunches for their kids. I mean, how the fuck? I haven’t cooked dinner since Thursday and last month, one of our dinners was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And bless my husbands heart because he was so excited that night. But to be honest, I feel bad when I don’t cook for my family. I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I should no fucking excuse, right?

I know that most of what those moms post is just a façade. I’ve also been guilty of posting gorgeous pictures of myself and my kids, but for the most part I try to keep shit real. I’m not afraid to open up about some of my struggles as a mother. Mostly, I hope not to isolate other mothers who might be facing the same problems as I am.

There was more of a village mentality back in the day when it came to raising kids. There were many family members and trusted friends who would help and ease the burden. But that seems like a rarity now. And I know in a lot of cases, that’s for good reason.

But can we just stop with all the judgement? Being a parent is hard enough without people offering unsolicited advice and criticism. I beat myself up enough on my own, I definitely don’t need anyone else doing it too. I have so much anxiety now, wondering if I’m doing right by daughters. I want to make sure I don’t yell too much, feed them healthy meals, raise them to be strong and stand up for themselves, to come to us whenever they need help, to love themselves and each other. Most of all I want my children to be happy and to feel loved by my husband and I.

There is the rare day where I feel like a bad ass mom, but most days I feel like an epic failure. My daughters mean the world to me, and I go to bed every night and I hope that I haven’t fucked them up in some way. And I promise myself that the next day I’ll do better, but sometimes it’s difficult. I’m not perfect. But the shit of it is, no matter how horribly I think I’m doing as a mom, my kids still love me. They give me the biggest hugs and make me feel like the best mom in the world. I hope one day soon, I can see myself the way they see me.

-Toniann


A Letter to My First Daughter

My darling baby girl,

I love you so much. I know that I don’t always show it and I’m sorry for that. Mommy is not perfect, no matter how hard I might try. But never forget how much I love you.

You are growing up so fast. It’s such a wonder to see all that you can do now but it also fills me with a lot of sadness and fear. You are strong and brave, energetic and silly, and best of all, you are so loving and kind, just like daddy.

I remember the day I found out I was going to have you. Daddy and I were home at our first apartment when I took the pregnancy test. The second pink line was faint but undeniable. I was gonna be a mommy. And while I couldn’t believe it at first, I was so incredibly happy.

I couldn’t wait to meet you, to hold you and give you kisses. I would have dreams about you almost every night. You had such dark hair in my dreams, and I remember hoping that you would be born with lots of hair, especially because I had so much heartburn! But most of all, I just hoped you would be born happy and healthy.

And after all that waiting, the time came to give birth to you. It was finally happening.

I remember Daddy, Grandma and I going to my last doctors appointment on May 26th. I was 40 weeks pregnant and the doctor told me she wanted us to go to the hospital that night so I could give birth to you. So later that day we went to the hospital, and they gave me medicine to start labor. When the morning came, you still hadn’t come, you were so comfy inside me, you didn’t want to leave. My doctor came in and told me that she wanted to send me to the operating room and have a C-section to get you out. After waiting all this time, I was finally going to meet you.

Daddy held my hand the whole time, there was a curtain under my chest so I couldn’t see anything. The doctor got your head out first and you started crying right away. And I cried too, I cried this huge sigh of relief because you were finally here. I asked Daddy if you had a lot of hair, he said yes. Every time you cried, I cried along with you. And when the nurse put you in my arms, I couldn’t believe how beautiful you were. I was amazed that Daddy and I made you, this wonderful little baby. And I still feel that way, each day you get older.

The day we came home from the hospital. Look at all that hair!

I just want to share a few things I want you to remember as you get older:

Stay kind. This world can be a very dark place but please don’t let it harden you. You always look on the bright side of things and see the good in everything. It’s a quality I wish I had, so please don’t ever lose it.

Don’t ever settle, for anything or anyone. You deserve the best.

Mistakes are important. I know sometimes its difficult to fail, but it really is the best teacher. Don’t be afraid to fail, just make sure you get back up and try again.

Most of all, I want you to be happy. Life is short, and it’s easy to think you have time to do things later on, but time still goes on. So do what makes you happy.

Baby girl, life will be difficult sometimes, and it may feel overwhelming, but know that I am here for you. You are a strong, kind, brave, intelligent and beautiful girl. You have taught me so much since you were born and I thank you for that. You gave me the greatest gift, you made me a mommy. The day you were born was one of the happiest days of my life. I know sometimes I’m not the best mommy, but I hope you know that I am trying everyday. I hope you grow up to be a better woman than I could ever be.

I love you.

Love, Mommy

-Toniann