Friday, January 20, 2017

Connecting With My Newborn

When my daughter was born, and I saw her for the first time, I didn’t feel the instantaneous connection that I always heard about from other mothers. All I felt was relief. I was glad she was alive, and that was about all I could handle at the time. My daughter’s birth was unexpected and in many ways traumatic. I was 37 weeks pregnant and my daughter was presenting breech. In an effort to have a natural birth, I went in for a procedure that was meant to externally flip her. I was really scared, but I had my heart set on natural childbirth and I wanted to make sure I exhausted every option before having a c-section. I had read and read about all the benefits of labor and natural childbirth. I, like all parents, only wanted what was best for her. I also wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. Childbirth was like a mountain I was determined to climb. I attended a two day lamaze class and in the class we were taught to come up with some sort of focus tool to help us concentrate on the breathing techniques. I have always been a visualizer, so I created a visualization of the doctor laying my daughter on my chest after I delivered her. Needless to say, my visualization did not come to fruition. Instead, during the flipping procedure, my daughter’s heart rate dropped and I had to undergo an emergency c-section. It was the scariest moment of my life.

The days after her arrival I was in such a daze. Not only was I dealing with pain from the surgery, but I also was sore and had major bruising from the flipping procedure. It was hard to nurse my daughter because of all my abdominal pain, and as weird as it may sound, I was still processing the fact that she had been born- even though it had been days since her birth. To be honest, I was scared. This little baby in front of me was a stranger. I knew that I loved her, and that I would give my life for her, but I felt no connection to her. I didn’t know what to do or who to talk to, and I didn’t want to reveal the truth about how I was feeling. I feared it was abnormal. I had convinced myself I was broken.

Still, I went through the motions. I did everything I thought a mother should do with her newborn. I held her and rocked her, nursed her for hours on end, read to her, and sang to her. And as days turned into weeks, a bud of affection started to blossom within me that was different then what I already felt. And then it happened, out of nowhere. I can still remember the moment when it all clicked and I fell head over heals in love with my baby. I was singing a song to her softly after a nursing session. I held in in my lap facing me, and she looked up at me and blinked. I froze, right then and there, in that moment, it was like I was seeing her for the first time. From that moment on, I was engulfed in her. I felt like I had known her all my life. It was amazing and I was so relieved. Now, there is not a moment that goes by that I do not feel deeply rooted in my love and bond with my daughter.

Instantly bonding and connecting to our babies is something every mother is expected to do. I am sure, for many moms, it happens the moment they lay eyes on them. However, there are some moms, like me, who after undergoing a traumatic delivery, can experience something totally different- and it can be pretty scary. So, I continue to share my story and experiences so other new moms out there know that they are not alone, and most importantly, that connecting with your baby is different for every mother. Still, If you are feeling a distance from your baby or are having a hard time coping with motherhood, just remember that, the most important thing you need to do is find a way to help yourself. No matter what, your beautiful baby is going to need a mother who is happy and healthy, so be your own advocate and don’t be ashamed of what you may be feeling because you are definitely not alone.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

One More Thing Mothers Judge Each Other For: Push Presents

Technically, I didn’t push out my daughter. She was cut out of me during an emergency c-section. It was traumatic and scary, but successful. Within an hour after surgery, she was in my arms- this squirmy pink little thing. She was three weeks early, but  still absolutely perfect. The day we came home from the hospital, my husband ran out to pick up some necessities and when he returned he surprised me with a beautiful charm to add to the charm bracelet I had already started. My Push Present, he explained. I loved it then, I love it now, regardless of what judgments come my way.
Push presents, for those who may be confused, are gifts given to a woman after the birth of her child, by her partner. I am sure you can come to the conclusion on your own as to why it is called a “Push” Present. It is usually a piece of jewelry to mark the event, but I’ve also known woman who have received other small gifts. It’s a new practice, starting sometime after I was born, so my mother never received one or knew what it was. Out of the handful of women I know who have had children, only one woman was given a Push Present. Many of the others didn’t really know what a Push Present was, and a few said that it would have been nice, but they weren’t give one, and one knew what it was but didn’t want one.

I wanted one, and since my husband didn’t know what a Push Present was, I was happy to educate him. We talked about it briefly once. At first, my husband laughed at me about it, “You actually want a Push Present?” He asked. “Yep!” was my reply. I did, and I didn’t feel bad about it. Honestly, I just thought it was a kind gesture my husband could make in an effort to say, “Hey- thank you so much for growing a human inside of you, and going through the painful process of delivering said human.” Later in life, I would be able to look at my present, or wear it, and remember that special day. I honestly didn’t think there would be so much judging that would take place surrounding the idea.

Little did I realize that there would be so many women who would be appalled at the idea that I would enjoy receiving a gift after the delivery of my baby. Several times during my pregnancy while on Mommy Forums the topic of Push Presents came up and there were a lot of commenters who said things like, “My present is baby!” Well- obviously! Anyone out there who thinks that a woman would rather want a ring then their actual baby after the birth is crazy! Others would say things like, “I don’t need a present.” Neither do I, I don’t “need” a present, but none of us “need” presents, that’s why they are so special when you receive one. Another often repeated comment, “My husband isn’t going to get a present, so why should I?” This is true, my husband would  not be receiving a present, but to me that’s okay. The idea is to get the person who did all the hard labor-literally- a gift. My husband is not a neglected man, by any means. Finally, many woman posted that this was an expense they couldn't afford. By no means, should a Push Present create financial hardship! That's just downright irresponsible. Push Presents aren't meant to be something grand and majestic, rather something sweet and meaningful, and within your means.

I have to admit, after reading post after post, and blogs about how stupid and selfish Push Presents are, I definitely started to feel bad about wanting one. Was I being selfish? I guess in the most basic sense of the word I was, but then, does that mean anytime we get excited about the prospect of gifts from our loved ones for special occasions we are also being selfish? Yes, materialism is a problem, and that an over infatuation with things can affect your ability to appreciate what really counts in life. I get that. But I also think this wasn’t that big of a deal.

I finally decided that it didn’t matter to me what others would think. If my husband bought me a Push Present then that would be a special moment between the two of us. And it was. I love my little charm, and every time I look at it I think of that terrible turned beautiful moment of my daughter’s birth. I can hear the doctor telling me that my daughter’s heart rate was falling and she needed to perform a c-section and get her out. I can still see my husband’s eyes widen and his nervous smile as he looked at me, both of us knowing we were going to meet our baby girl that day. My Push Present is not just something pretty and sparkly that I wear around my wrist; it is the fear, excitement, pain, and overwhelming joy packed into a small silver heart. It is not something I am either ashamed of or proud, it just is. I am not sure if I will get a Push Present for every child I have, but if I do, I will happily accept the gift because I know it’s a tangible way for my husband to show his love and gratitude to me for helping our family grow and thrive. 

Life is too short to always be so judgemental. As mothers, we need to celebrate each other more and criticize less. Don't worry, mothers who have received Push Presents (myself included) know there is more to life than objects, we know it’s all about the beauty of our children. You may think our gifts are stupid, but that’s okay. On the days when I am working late and miss my daughter the most, I know that I can look down at my wrist and see that little silver heart and be reminded of the little girl who now holds a piece of mine. How can you judge me for that?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Big Problem with Little Lies

There is nothing more that I hate than when my husband lies. I’m not talking about big lies. I’m talking about small ones, like if he paid the phone bill on time or mailed something I asked him to. Tiny, seemingly inconsequential lies that come out of the mouth like a burp-a stinky reflex that one claims they have no control over. Some of you may be wondering, what’s the big deal? So spouses fib every once in awhile to keep the peace, so what? The big problem with constantly telling little lies is that eventually, with each lie, your word crumbles in the eyes of your spouse. Once a person’s word loses its worth, the respect one has for each other goes with it, as does the trust.   

Think about a wall. Picture it in your mind. It’s tall and strong, made with whatever infallible material you want. There is no bringing down this wall because it has a solid foundation. This wall represents your marriage. Fibs are tiny cracks in the wall. From afar, you don’t even notice the cracks. You think the wall is strong and can withstand anything. Then, as you approach it to get a better look, you realize with every tiny fib, more and more of the wall cracks and loses stability. A big lie would create a big hole- you can clearly see the problem, and you can usually fix it, if the wall is worth saving. Try repairing a wall with thousands of small cracks. Not only is it close to impossible, but even if you are able to repair the cracks, you may begin to distrust the original integrity of the wall. You question its strength and ability to withstand hard conditions.This is what can happen in a marriage when someone is constantly lying to the other over petty things. It may not seem like it, but that person is slowly and painfully chipping away at the foundation of love, commitment, and truth that the marriage is meant to maintain. From afar, the relationship may look unbreakable, but in reality it is one major crack away from crumbling. Once it crumbles, it may be too difficult to collect all of the pieces to rebuild.

So, what can you do to deal with this issue? I believe the best way to handle this is to figure out why the lies are happening in the first place. This is a time for both people in the marriage to take accountability for what is happening. For me and my husband, the problem is twofold: I can overreact when things don’t go as planned, and my husband hates conflict. So, when an issue arises where he may have to tell me something that could cause a conflict, and deal with my drama, he may lie instead to pacify the situation. Once we figured this out, it meant that both of us had work to do. Now, I am sure it’s obvious, but it should be stated that my only expertise on this matter is that of my own marriage. But, I’ve spent plenty of girls’ nights with friends to know this is an issue in many marriages. There are times when it is still a problem in mine as well; however, it has exponentially improved once we figured out what the underlying issues were.

Lying is a slippery slope. It may seem like an easy fix in the moment, a way to avoid an argument or disappointment, but it creates a harmful lasting impact. The big problem with little lies is you may never know the damage you are causing. The slow breakage of  trust and respect between you and your spouse, even when unintentional, can create a situation that can’t be fixed. If you are going to take one thing from this post, it’s this: Both people must accept responsibility and agree to work towards total honesty if lying is an issue in your marriage. Once you sit down and figure out why the lies are happening, you can start to rebuild the foundation of trust and love that brought you two together in the first place.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Seeds of Wisdom From My Father

 My father is the king of lectures and my whole life he has tried hard to instill values in myself and my siblings through sharing his thoughts, stories, and life experiences with us. At the time, we usually just nodded and said something to the effect of, “Yeah, sure, you’re right.” And then we moved on to something else. What I didn’t realize is that my Dad was actually planting little seeds that began to grow and flourish as I got older and my life became watered by experiences and maturity. Soon these seeds began to bloom into a garden of values, wisdom, and ideals that I live my life by. I could write a book on all that I have learned from my father up until this point, but for now, I wanted to share 5 of the most significant lessons that have impacted my life:

  1. Live in the present- This is something I heard all my life from my father, and it didn’t really start making sense until I was married and pregnant. My father has always talked about how every chapter in his life has had something to look forward to. It did not sadden him when his life shifted and changed, because he knew there was always something wonderful happening in his life, in that moment. Nothing upsets my father more than when instead of enjoying the  moment, we are fretting about tasks that need to get done the next day. Time and time again, I have watched my Dad soak in a wonderful moment and internalize it to the point that he is able to recall it in a way that all of his senses are involved in the memory. This is not an easy thing to accomplish, but I know it’s so crucial to stop and enjoy the present before it flies by and becomes the distant past.
  2. Visualize your dreams- My Dad is a doctor, and one of the ways he kept himself motivated was he visualized himself walking into an exam room, in a white coat saying, “Hello I am Dr. Perez.” It sounds simple, but it wasn’t until I was in college when I truly understood how powerful visualization can be. I too developed a visual motivator. When things would get especially difficult, I would picture myself standing in front of a bright classroom full of smiling faces and I would say, “Hello class, I am your teacher, Ms. Perez.” It always got me through! I also used this when I was pregnant and preparing for childbirth. I wanted to have a natural childbirth, and I developed a visualization of laying on the hospital bed and the doctor placing my daughter on my chest and looking into her eyes. The visualization was so powerful that it would bring me to tears each time I used it, and even though I didn’t have a natural childbirth, it is what helped to keep me calm during my emergency c-section.
  3. There is always a solution- My father has always said, “There is always a solution to the problem even if the solution is, there is no solution.” Thinking about this saying makes me laugh because it doesn’t really seem logical, but to the Perez kids- it makes perfect sense. What my father meant by this was that if there is a problem that you can solve, you will solve it. If it’s something that is out of your hands, than that is the solution, and we should not worry about it because there is nothing you can do about that problem,other than changing your outlook by making a paradigm shift, which leads me to my next point...
  4. Make a paradigm shift- as a kid, I rolled my eyes every time I heard my Dad say, “Just make a paradigm shift.” because he said it a lot! I am so glad he did though, because this is one of my greatest strengths, my most favorite lesson to teach my students, and one of the first major values I hope to instill in my daughter. There are so many times in life when you are facing a problem or a challenge and the solution is out of your hands. When this happens instead of becoming a victim, you need to change your outlook on that problem. My dad would explain it as putting on a different set of glasses, or looking at the problem in a different way. Mastering the ability to make a paradigm shift can alter your life and empower you in ways you may never have realized.
  5. If something scares you, do it anyway- My Dad lost his father when he was just 13 years old. He has always said that after his father died, nothing scared him- the worst had already occurred in his life. I truly think this sorrowful event was a catalyst for some of my father’s achievements in life and is an a major event I can point to when figuring out where his strength derives from. Failure can be scary, but my father has always pushed us to follow our passion even if we were afraid because true failure is when you don’t even try.

I can go on and on sharing things I have learned from my father. I am lucky to say I have a toolbox of values and wisdom that I often turn to when life gets tough. I know that as I continue to get older, more seeds from my father’s words will bloom into understanding. As I venture into adulthood, marriage and parenting, I know that I will continue to seek his help and words of encouragement for some of life’s biggest challenges. I  can only hope seeing his children become passionate, confident, and successful adults is remuneration enough for everything he has given us.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Not a Lazy Girl


A hack is a “clever solution to a tricky problem.” Those of us who frequent social media are all too familiar with the plethora of articles and videos that claim to show us a multitude of ways to make things easier for ourselves, also known as “Life Hacks.” These hacks come in all forms. I am a personal fan of beauty hacks, especially those that help me deal with my thick, curly hair, and I quite enjoy watching videos and flipping through the slide shows of different ways to tame my mane. Yet all too recently, I have seen one too many articles with titles like, “Beauty Hacks Every Lazy Girl Should Know.” Since when is a person who wants to find a clever solution for a problem considered “lazy?”

I would not consider myself lazy. My beauty routine is quick and simple, because it is not something that I care a lot about; however, my desire to find ways to make applying makeup and doing my hair easier should not equate to laziness. Let me get this straight-as a teacher I work  60 hours a week. This does not include time spent on the weekend planning and grading. I run after school clubs and am involved in my local school union. I am a mother of an energetic 7 month old and a wife who likes to spend time with her husband when she can. I also have friends who I try and see now and again, and family who fills my time as well. Yet because I don’t want to spend a long amount of time on my hair and makeup, I am given the label, “lazy.”

Now, I am not the type of woman who is trying to sound better than others because I do not spend a lot of time on my beauty routine, and I definitely do not judge women who do. In this day and age, I do not believe makeup or lack thereof is an indication of one’s feminist values. I know some pretty badass feminists who always wear a full face of makeup, just like I know some who don’t even own any lip gloss.

The point I am trying to make is simple- don’t call women “lazy girls,” because they don’t want to spend a lot of time on a beauty routine. Stop indoctrinating women through social media, advertisements, and fashion, leading them to believe that there is a right and a wrong amount of time to spend on their looks. The beauty of beauty is that it is multifaceted and not based on one set of standards-at least that’s how it should be. Unfortunately, articles like the ones I am referring to create, even if doing so inadvertently, a “right” and a “wrong” way of doing things. The word “lazy,” has a negative connotation. It describes someone who spends less time and effort on something than they should.

So, I say to all the ladies out there, if you want to spend an hour on your makeup-do it! If you want to spend 1 minute-cool! Neither of those are the wrong way as long as you are happy with how you look and feel. Don’t let a silly article or video make you feel like you should be spending more time (and money) on your daily routine if that’s not who you are. Keep doing what you are doing, and the next time you come across an article targeted for “lazy girls,” on your newsfeed read it with a grain of salt, or  just keep scrolling.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Thing About Girlfriends...

Relationships makes the world go ‘round. Take away all the materialistic items in your life and all you have left are the relationships you have cultivated with others. Besides my family and husband, my favorite people in my life are my girlfriends. When we get together, the stresses of my life seem to melt away. It’s an amazing and beautiful thing to be friends with women who you have gone through some of the most memorable moments of your life. When you have found a true friend- time will only make things better between you. Just as I have matured, grown, and changed, so have my girlfriends and so has our friendship. And even though I still feel like a teenager when I am with them, there are still  some major ways our interactions have changed (for the better) over the years:

We used to….
Now we….
Call each other to talk about a crazy sleepless night at a club and ask advice about boys
Call each other to talk about a crazy sleepless night with a newborn and ask advice about sleep training
Discuss the pros and cons of  “bad boys”
Discuss the pros and cons of investment property
Shop for club tops, dresses, and heels that made us feel sexy
Shop for suit jackets and shoes with a reasonable heel that make us feel responsible
Celebrate good grades, college acceptances, and scholarships
Celebrate new jobs, promotions, and degrees
Ask for help with math homework, projects, and essays
Ask for help with taxes, resumes, and 401K’s
Help each other meet cute guys who would eventually break our hearts
Help each other network with people who can take us forward in our careers
Pose for pictures at prom
Pose for pictures at weddings
Get together to play with a new puppy
Get together to welcome a new baby
Plan sleepovers and house parties
Plan bachelorette parties and baby showers
Pregame with shots while getting ready together and go out to a club around 11pm
Finish a bottle or two of wine while talking and catching up and head home around 11 pm

These are just a few of the ways my relationships with my girlfriends have evolved over the years. Still,  there is one thing that has always remained the same, and that is our support for one another. Even as teenagers, we didn’t spend a lot of our time hating on each other. Our goal was to have fun together and enjoy each others' company, and as we got older that goal changed to raising each other up and being supportive of each others' goals and dreams. Today, my girlfriends are the first people I deliver good news to after family, because they know everything I’ve gone through and how far I have come. We are proud of accomplishments and continue to push and encourage each other to go further than we ever thought we could. Being in committed friendships for over a decade takes work, and the relationships we have forged over the years are definitely not perfect. We still argue and get mad with each other. We may go long periods of time without seeing each other or communicating, but when we come back together we pick up where we left off, as if no time has passed at all.

So, if I can offer a piece of advice, it’s this: when looking back at your friendships, any woman that you’re still friends with should be someone who has continually lifted your spirits, not brought you down. She should be someone who has always been excited about your success. There is no room for jealousy in a lasting friendship. My girlfriends and I are all at different points in our life; some of us are married, some still single, some in long term relationships. Some of us have kids, some don’t. Some of us have college and graduate degrees. You can make a long list of how we all have grown in different directions from where we started as teenagers, but one thing we all have in common is each other.

You see, the thing about girlfriends is- even though time will change your relationship by leaps and bounds, if you continually celebrate each other and support one another, you will always have a friendship worth working for.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Haiku of Motherhood Series: Breastfeeding

The first major challenge I experienced as a new mother was learning the ropes of breastfeeding. My daughter was born 3 weeks early and was not a very strong nurser. She also has a tongue and lip tie which made it hard for her to get a good latch. Luckily I had a good supply from the beginning and between her nursing and supplemental bottles of breast milk, I have been able to avoid giving my daughter formula, which has been a major personal goal of mine.

Eventually, the nursing sessions happened less and less and she was given more bottles of breast milk. This really upset me at first, because I wanted to have an exclusive nursing relationship, but she just couldn’t enough milk while nursing, and the daily struggle was taking a toll on my mental and emotional health. Bottle feeding my daughter for the majority of the day proved to be the best move for our family and made for a much happier baby.

The following Haiku are based on my experiences throughout my breastfeeding journey. My daughter is currently 5 ½ months and I know I still have a whole half-year to get through, but writing these Haiku have been a sort of therapy for me, and I am now excited to continue breastfeeding. I know my goal of a year is possible!

I hope those reading this who breastfeed their babies will be able to relate to the moments-good and bad-mentioned in these poems.

What are some breastfeeding topics you would add to the list?

Breastfeeding is hard
But it is the best for her
So I will nurse on!

Nipple pain for days
Baby has a shallow latch
How will I survive?

"You smell good," I'm told
"It's Eau de Breast milk..." I say
"...would you like a spritz?"

Two o’clock-am
Baby cries for Mama's milk
I stumble from bed

When she falls asleep
After a nursing session
I feel complete
Made it three whole months
Now onto my goal of six
After that, a year!

Nursing on the couch
She pauses and looks at me
A treasured moment

Seedy breast milk poop
Exploding up baby’s back
Third outfit today

Nursing in public
Suddenly all eyes on me
They don’t understand

Pump at 3 am
Must maintain my milk supply
Even though she sleeps

Nursing cravings ruin
My plans to lose baby weight
More of me to love

Engorged and in pain
Looking for a place to nurse
I may spring a leak!

Pumping while at work
Not as easy as it sounds
I can do it all

8 ounces of milk
Spilled on the kitchen counter
Waste of liquid gold

An exclusively
Breastfed baby doesn’t mean
I can’t use bottles

When I want to quit
I look at my little girl
She deserves the best