Mothergood Feature: Alexa

1. Tell us about your background and a little bit about who you are?

I grew up in Michigan and am the oldest of four (two sisters and a brother). My parents moved to the suburban Chicago area when I was a Junior in high school, and shortly thereafter, I left to get a liberal arts education from Albion College and graduated with degrees in business and journalism. I’ve always been very adventurous – seeking any opportunity to live and travel abroad or pitch my little REI tent in any starry-skied place. I moved out to Los Angeles seven months after I graduated college to work for a non-profit, start-up-like digital marketing team that was trying to solve a problem and do good. That experience also speaks to a long-time passion of mine: the will and desire to make positive change. I’ve always wanted to help people (women especially) in some capacity, which led me to share my story of unplanned pregnancy in the form of Back in February. Through a heartbreaking and grief-filled journey of finding out I was pregnant in February 2017 and delivered my daughter that following October, I learned so much about myself. To be honest, I became a better person. Motherhood challenged me, for the first time in my life, to choose someone other than myself.

2.  What do you find most fulfilling about motherhood? the most challenging?

Motherhood is the epitome of selflessness, in my book. I think I find that both the most fulfilling and the most challenging. On one hand, it challenges me to let go of my own idea of perfection and the need to control every twist and turn. It has challenged me to open my hands up and just simply let go. Every day is messy and busy and chaotic in its own way, but every single day I have the choice to freak out amidst the chaos or open my hands and say,  Messiness is okay. Imperfection is okay. In fact, imperfection makes life wonderful. 

So I think the most fulfilling part is the empowerment that comes with letting go and continuing to step forward. It’s that thought of “Wow, I can handle this. In fact, I’m killing it.” Because I think that when we let go of all the imperfections, we focus on this perfect, unbreakable love between ourselves and our children. For me, motherhood taught me how to love and be loved. I see the way Renley looks at me – and I at her – with a selfless, unconditional, inexpressable love. In time, I realized I should probably love myself with that same unconditional quality. Over time, I let go of the control, the judgment, and the harsh words; I saw myself as she sees me: enough. 

3.  What does motherhood look like for your right now? what do you love about where you are? what would you change?

Motherhood is wild for me right now! To be honest, since I launched Back in February, I’ve felt somewhat overwhelmed. I work a full-time 9-5 job in financial services and this little side gig – on top of being a mom (my #1 priority) – has kept me very busy. That said, I love where I’m at right now. After I moved to downtown Chicago into a two-bedroom apartment with Renley and my high school art-teaching sister last July, there was a very difficult six month adjustment period. I didn’t know what way was up, how to organize myself or how to transition from working woman to gentle mother each day when I came home. Along the way, I came up with a couple tricks to stay ahead of my busy schedule and swap hats more gracefully (though I still struggle with this). I love where I’m at in my life at the moment, I don’t think I’d change a thing!

4. How have you incorporated motherhood into your identity without losing your own individuality?

Great question. This is no easy feat. For a long time after becoming a mother, I grieved the loss of my adventurous soul, but as it turns out motherhood is just another adventure. Sure, I miss driving to Malibu every Saturday with my surfboard and diving into ridiculous philosophical thinking in my free time, but my life before Renley was a little bit lonely and I didn’t realize it until she arrived. This might not be the same for those of you who have partners but Renley has become my best friend, my adventure buddy in life. And when she’s sleeping or being watched by someone else, I crack open those philosophy books and make time to cultivate that introspective little spirit of mine. I make time for self-care (#selfcareSunday). Motherhood is all about balance (and it takes a very long time to find that balance). You have to keep working toward that balance because as much as your child or children become part of your identity, you’ve got to foster those little things you once loved and that fed your soul. As for the surfboard, that one is just going to have to wait in storage for a little while. 

5. What advice would you give women who are considering/desiring motherhood?

 Ah, your biggest life adventure awaits! Motherhood has been my most fulfilling endeavor. In every way possible, it transformed me into a better human being and cultivated a selflessness that was long overdue. I was not one of those day-dreamers for having children and I wasn’t sure what kind of mother I would be, but when it happened, I felt like I was simply made for it. Every evening, I peak (or crawl) into my daughter’s crib, and I gently trace the profile of her nose. Because of my journey, I often imagine what my life would look like without her and each time I do, the imagining feels painful and I’m flooded with gratitude for her rising belly, her wild curly red hair, and her warm existence. I feel so honored to be her mother. For those of you who are facing an unplanned pregnancy or know someone who is, remember that life is a gift – no matter how imperfect the circumstances. For those of you trying to have children, don’t give up and don’t lose hope. Motherhood is beautiful – surprise, single, adoptive, however it comes! And we women are on this journey together.

Mothergood Feature: Emily Fossier

1. Tell us about your background and a little bit about who you are?

My name is Emily Fossier and I am mother to 3.5 year-old Pier and 20 month old Eulalie, with another little girl arriving in a few weeks time. As a young child in Louisiana I always knew I wanted these three things in my future life: 1)  marry a doctor 2) have lots of cute kids 3)  live in a real Louisiana plantation.  I can laugh about it now because, unexpectedly, all three of those silly childhood dreams have come true — although, my younger self would be surprised at how much sacrifice those three things require.  I met my husband, Brad, when he was a sophomore in college and I was a sophomore in high school.  Immediately smitten at the tender age of sixteen, I told my best friends that I was going to marry him (and took great pleasure of telling them “told you so” on our wedding day, six years later).  We had a dream courtship, engagement, and wedding and a week after our honeymoon, packed everything to move from Louisiana to the Midwest for my husband to begin his residency.  I matured quickly in those residency years as I navigated how to become what I thought to be “the perfect” wife and mother.  My husband worked long hours, sometimes entire weekends, and I was often left alone with a newborn baby learning the new mama ropes away from my family, friends, familiar home, and all that I held dear.  Surprisingly, moving away was one of the best things I could have ever done for my personal growth and marriage because it set the groundwork for a strong family life. I can happily look back on those residency years with such affection at the roots we made there.  After spending four years away building our new life together, Brad graduated and we made the minivan exodus back to Louisiana.  Now, we are renovating a Louisiana plantation as our forever home while Brad works at a small hospital in town and I stay at home with the children.  

2.  What do you find most fulfilling about motherhood? the most challenging?

Since receiving a baby doll on my first birthday, all I wanted to be in life was a mom.  And in June 2015, my heart grew quicker than I ever thought possible when we welcomed our first child into our lives.  When I added the title “mother” to my identity, it was a bit of a shock as I learned about the hidden weight behind that word.  Motherhood stretches me, breaks me, and humbles me. It has transformed me into a new person — a stronger person — and it continues to refine me when I say “yes” to the little ways I serve my family.  That’s the most fulfilling and challenging thing, I think — to recognize that motherhood demands a strength you never thought you had. You get zero recognition for the sacrifices you make every day.  No pat on the back.  No gold medal.  But, honestly, it is the most beautiful thing to live out genuine, raw love by not expecting anything in return.  You do all the secret sacrificing not only because it is required, but also because it is important work…may be even the most important work. At the end of the day, you have  the knowledge that by persevering in the planting of seeds you will make a difference in this world.  By raising up kind, selfless, hard working sons and daughters in the sanctuary of a loving home, we are doing our part to transform our hurting world. That’s powerful.  And that is what keeps me going on the days where I question the importance of my role as a professional tickler, vegetable-eating coach, and storyteller.   

3.  What does motherhood look like for your right now? what do you love about where you are? what would you change?

I am currently “in the trenches” as they say with little ones who seem to never get enough of me.  As much as I would love if they were a bit more independent, that is just not where we are right now.  They need a mother with an open heart for kissing their ouchies, open imagination for playing dinosaurs, open ears for listening to their stories, and open eyes for witnessing their lego creations.  That is my day in a nutshell.  I realized early on that if I was going to be content in my role as a stay-at-home mom, I need to actively participate in their play. I learned that the most important thing I can do during the little years is learn how to be little again.  As difficult as it is for me to ignore the to do list when my son wants to pretend play, it is necessary because it is how he knows he is loved. The little years are hard because their needs are great, but I think we need to stop equating “hard” with “bad”.  I never thought I would find joy in reading stories multiple times in a row, building robot space stations out of magna tiles, and singing nursery rhymes to baby dolls.   But it turns out, as hard as it is for a grownup to be a kid again, it’s actually really fun!

4. How have you incorporated motherhood into your identity without losing your own individuality?

The first year of my son’s life was the hardest year of mine.  I realized that in order to be the best mother to my children, I have to take care of my self and my marriage before I can be in a place of serving anyone else. Here’s the reality of that truth: my physical, mental, and spiritual needs come before the needs of my children.  There I said it!  Even typing out that sentence makes me feel selfish! But it’s that kind of thinking that consumed me the first year of motherhood.  I thought that taking care of children meant always putting them first, even before eating and praying and drinking water, and as a result, I was a ball of stress. Tired, cranky, miserable, and constantly questioning if I was “good enough”. It’s easy to feel burnt out when you are taking care of other people without checking in to see how you are doing. And in my case, when you add a postpartum depression and anxiety disorder diagnosis, you will eventually reach your breaking point.  A month after Pier turned one I scheduled a doctor’s appointment and heard what I suspected all year long — that I had severe depression and anxiety and needed medication.  I didn’t realize the strength it took to vocalize for help, but I honestly don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t.  From that day forward, I started to put my physical and mental health first and the positive changes in my relationships were drastic.  When I feel like I need it, I tell my husband when I require an “Emily Day” — a completely free day where he watches the kids and I can go get coffee by myself, browse an antique shop, write a blog post, or do whatever is life-giving to me at the time.  Basically I pretend I am in college again, just minus the schoolwork. It’s not only makes me a better mother, but it helps me feel like myself again…I highly recommend it!  

5. What advice would you give women who are considering/desiring motherhood?

If I could give advice to a woman considering becoming a mother, I would tell them to prioritize their marriage before parenthood.  I cannot continue on with my story until I recognize the man who has held my hand through it all — Brad worked hard as a resident, but he worked even harder making sure I was taken care of in those tender years of new motherhood.  Having a supportive, understanding, forgiving spouse changes everything.   If you have communication issues, or any type of stress on your relationship, go to counseling.  Ask for outside help.  Fix what needs to be fixed.  And do it for the sake of your future family.  Becoming a parent is the best thing that has ever happened in our marriage, but I know how it can also be a stressor on a relationship. Children need solid parents who not only love them unconditionally, but love one another unconditionally.  They need examples of selfless love and, as parents, you are the most effective teacher they will ever have.  I don’t know if I could be a mom of three if my husband didn’t take an active role in his fatherhood. You aren’t meant to do it alone!  Take care of your marriage first, and it will make the challenges that come with parenting so much easier.  

What I learned the hard way about mastitis—by Cullen

Just one month after the birth of my baby, I began experiencing breast tenderness, but was mostly concerned with why I suddenly had a piercing headache and was feeling feverish. I was experiencing tenderness of the breast but was mostly concerned with why I suddenly had a piercing headache and was feeling feverish. I had a one month old to care for and my husband was gone for the week working — I couldn’t afford to get sick. I took Ibuprofen but the symptoms progressed quickly. I caught my reflection in the mirror getting into the shower and was surprised to see my breast so swollen and red. I felt it and realized the skin was extremely hot to touch. I decided then to go to urgent care, but by the time I was seen, my entire body ached, I felt so weak and had zero appetite. I was curled up into a ball with the baby in the stroller and I didn’t know how I was going to get through this.

The doctor confirmed mastitis, another name for a breast infection or an obstructed flow of milk in the duct. He explained different ways it can come about and pinpointed this particular instance was most likely from engorged breasts and an oversupply of milk. I was prescribed antibiotics and told to continue taking ibuprofen. I was also instructed to continue nursing, and even pumping after nursing, as much as possible until the breast was completely emptied. Not long after taking the prescription I felt some relief but spent the next two days in bed resting, nursing/pumping non-stop, and sleeping as much as possible.

I unfortunately got mastitis again about five months later, only this time due to a bad latch. As soon as I began recognizing the symptoms again I sought medical attention right away. Mastitis hits fast and hard — the sooner you’re treated for it the better.

Here’s what I learned about mastitis the hard way:

– Overfull/engorged breasts or a bad latch can lead to a plugged duct or mastitis.

– It’s most common in the first few weeks of breastfeeding, although it can happen at any point in lactation, usually affecting just one breast. It can also come on very suddenly.

– You need to continue to breastfeed, pump, or hand express through the discomfort of mastitis. Expressed milk may look strange but is still safe for your child to consume.

– Avoid tight fitting bras (ie sports bras) and shirts in the first few months of breastfeeding to avoid pressure on the milk ducts.

– Non-infectious mastitis (no fever present) can be recognized and treated at home if managed properly without taking antibiotics.

– You are more prone to getting mastitis again if you’ve had it before.

Symptoms you may experience:

    – Tenderness, hot to touch, and redness of skin in infected area

    – Headache

    – Body aches

    – Painful nursing, especially during let downFaintness

    – Fever

    – Exhaustion

    – Loss of appetite

If you recognize these symptoms call your doctor and consider some of these preventive measures:

    – Drink plenty of water

    – Take ibuprofen

    – Up your intake of vitamin C and consider taking probiotics or lecithin if you’re getting reoccurring infections

    – Get plenty of sleep and consume nutritious foods to help strengthen immune system

    – Apply a hot compress and massage tender area

    – Take the handle of an electric toothbrush and hold it to the infected area to help “loosen” the clog

An additional resource I found helpful on the topic of mastitis:

Mothergood Feature: Hafsa Mason

Tell us about your background and who you are.

My name is Hafsa Mason and I am a 34 year old wife and mother of 5. I have been married for 11 years. My husband and I met when we were both working for the Department of Education as textbook readers for public school students with learning disabilities. I am now a stay at home mom of 8 year old fraternal twins, one of whom is low functioning autistic, a 7 year old daughter, a 5 year old son, and a 2 year old daughter. I am currently homeschooling three of my kiddos, so that takes up a good portion of my days. My hobbies include baking, reading, and I’m about halfway into my preparation for running a half marathon.

What do you find the most fulfilling about motherhood? The most challenging?

Gosh, there are so many little things that fulfill me. But, probably the most fulfilling part of motherhood has been just being a mother period. When my husband and I were first married, I discovered that I had PCOS. We struggled with infertility for three years. I never thought I would be able to have biological children, and at one point considered foster to adopt. We now have five children, including twins! It’s not easy raising five children so close in age (my first three are what I like to call Irish triplets as they are twins one minute apart, and our third came along 14 months later). But, little things like receiving decorated rocks or crayon drawings makes it all worth it. Also, getting to see their compassionate natures, such as helping a sibling put their shoes on or saving the last bite of a cupcake for another sibling makes me think I’m doing ok with this motherhood thing.

The most challenging thing about motherhood for me is letting go of a self-imposed ideal. We are raising a child with special needs. Annie was diagnosed with regressive autism spectrum disorder at 2 1/2 years old and it has been a cross to bear since then. Don’t misunderstand me, it has been a true blessing having her as my daughter. But, there have been many sleepless nights worrying if I’m doing all that I can, wondering if her development will increase or decrease. I wonder if she’ll ever talk or ever be semi-independent and what the future will look like for her and for us. It has been difficult trusting that it will all work out somehow.

It might not end up exactly how I had pictured it in my head, but some form of it will unfold and work out. Letting go of this ideal of the futures I had planned for my kids and facing an uncertain future has been a struggle. Learning how to take life one day at a time and trying not to overthink it when my personality is screaming at me to do the opposite has been an incredible challenge. It’s like telling my brain to do the opposite of what it’s been trained to do for so many years. Honestly, it’s probably the exact challenge in motherhood that I needed. There are obviously great and humbling lessons to be learned from mothering a special needs child.

What does motherhood look like for you right now? What do you love about where you are? What would you change?

Motherhood is so different from how I thought it would be at this point. When the kids were much younger, I couldn’t see past the diapers and breastfeeding. And, now I am seeing my babies turn into great conversationalists and forming their own opinions. It’s funny because as the kids get older and more independent in certain areas, I can see how mothering has changed from what it looked like even 3 years ago.

I’m a homeschooler, so we spend a lot of time together. And, because of that, I am able to see them becoming individuals separate from me and how different their personalities all are. It still comes with its challenges, parenting older children, but they are different. Now I can leave the room and shower for a few minutes without worrying that the house will burn down, ha. I can leave the house without a bulky diaper bag. All those things are awesome, yes, but I think the best thing about parenting older children are the conversations I get to have with my 7 and 8 year old.  

I love that as the kids get older I am feeling less guilty about doing things that I love for myself. Leaving the house to go for a run or even to grab lunch and eat in the car while reading a book on my kindle. I also feel that five kids in, I have a bit more confidence in my mothering than I did as a first time mother. It hasn’t gotten easier, just different if that makes sense. I know I’m not going to ruin the toddler if she stays up an extra hour past her bedtime.

I don’t think there’s anything I would change. For me that opens up a door of should haves and could haves. And, the reality is, life has thrown us a few curveballs. Having babies back to back, dealing with autism spectrum disorder and the chaos that comes with that, having gone through all of it has made me into the person today. Exhausted, overwhelmed, but also it has led me to grow in my faith, to grow in humility and compassion. Ok, maybe one thing I would change is that I would have liked to have embraced the challenges in early motherhood a lot better than I did.

How have you incorporated motherhood into your identity without losing your own individuality?

That’s an interesting question because I don’t really feel like I had a sense of myself before I was a mother. To be honest, I wasn’t much of an individual before motherhood. I was always following someone else’s idea of what I should be doing or not doing and rarely had the self-esteem to make my own decisions or think for myself. All that changed when I became a mother. Here were these little lives that needed me for everything. In raising these babies, I found my passion and that led to gaining the confidence to find other passions.   I never really felt that motherhood took away my individuality. If anything, it has shown me that I am capable of so much more than I thought.

What advice would you give women who are considering/desiring motherhood?

I’m not a big advice giver because I’m definitely still navigating the mothering waters and haven’t even come close to figuring it all out for myself. But, if I give one piece of advice (one that I wish I had taken myself), it would be to know that you can do it. And by that I mean, you’re going to come across every single parenting philosophy there is, but trust yourself. Do what works for you because what worked for your mom, mother in-law, or even your BFF may not work for you and that’s okay. Don’t force what doesn’t feel right to you.  In the world of social media, moms tend to get wrapped up in what they see as the perfect idea of motherhood, but there is no one perfect way. Spend more time enjoying the now and not worrying so much about the future.

Mothergood Feature: Kathleen Wallach, MBA + Stay-At-Home-Mom

1. Tell us about your background and a little bit about who you are?

After earning a liberal arts degree in the Midwest, I worked in finance for a few years before pursuing my MBA in my hometown of Pittsburgh. My first son was born three days before graduation, and I still walked (painfully and slowly) across stage to get my diploma! From there, I walked away from a job offer in financial services consulting to take a position as a full-time stay-at-home mom. Fast forward four years, and I’m cruising the grocery store aisles with the big race car cart holding my four boys, ages 4, 3, 2, and 6 months, and getting all the stares and comments.

2.  What do you find most fulfilling about motherhood? the most challenging?

Having so many boys so very close together has forced me to “trim the fat.” Let me explain! When you are chasing after little ones and trying very hard to prevent head injuries (because boys!), you don’t have as much time to focus on things that don’t really matter. I am a type-a, perfectionist, over-achiever at heart, and the tendency I have to create unattainably high standards is beautifully hampered by my brood of handsome boys.  I truly believe that God blessed me with my boys to show me, the queen of life planning, that it’s actually His plan.

One thing that brings me great joy in the midst of our sometimes crazy days is to witness sibling interactions. Today my 3 year old bumped his head, and I heard my four year old ask him if he needed a kiss to make it feel better. Yesterday, my two year old danced and jumped around with the sole intention of making the baby laugh (which he did, of course!). When my 3 year old walked up from the basement with one of the new superhero costumes, and asked me to make sure the 2 year old got it when he woke up from his nap, my heart smiled. Seeing these bonds grow between my boys is one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given as a mom, and it fuels my fire to wake up each day and “begin again.”

The hardest part about staying home with 4 boys four and under is that I’m choosing not to pursue a full-time career right now. Whilst my husband, siblings, MBA classmates, and most of my friends are advancing in their chosen fields, I’ve chosen a different path. I remind myself on a daily basis that, “children are not a distraction from more important work, they are the most important work.” The opportunity to shape their hearts and minds is one that I don’t take lightly, and I’m grateful for the chance to be with my boys all day.

3.  What does motherhood look like for your right now? what do you love about where you are? what would you change?

Right now, motherhood for me is all about instilling virtues in my children while also trying desperately to be a good person to emulate. With four pairs of eyes following my every move, I cannot afford to lose my temper because I immediately see that behavior repeated back to me. Right now, because only my four year old goes to school for 2 hours a day, my children are the truest reflection of myself, for better or worse.

To that end, I’ve found that the best way to keep my cool and maintain peace in our home is by filling our days with things that bring us joy and stretch our imaginations. For us, the biggest part of that is reading all day every day, whenever possible. We pass ours days with books, crafts, music, friends, coloring, magna-tiles, Legos, baking, laundry, cooking, cleaning, swimming, skiing, dress-up, and as much outdoor time as we can. Our kids don’t have any screen time, but we do have lots of praying in the car, and we practice gratitude as often as we can each day.

As a mom, one thing I’ve been working hard to change lately is my own attitude when my children are being children, and not the perfect little miniature adults I wrongly expect them to be. I’ve been trying to recognize my triggers (yelling is a big one for me!), and respond with love by demonstrating an appropriate mature reaction instead of by acting like a kid myself. This is easy to talk about, but much harder for me to put into action on a daily basis!

4. How have you incorporated motherhood into your identity without losing your own individuality?

I think for me, motherhood is my identity right now! The way I mother my children is my current expression of my individuality. Because I get to choose every single thing my children do each day, I see the full illustration of my personality through the books we read, the things we discuss, and how we spend our days. On a personal level, I maintain my own individuality by putting my relationship with my husband first. I learned about this in my marriage preparation class, but I never fully understood how important it was until I had kids!

5. What advice would you give women who are considering/desiring motherhood?

 My advice is to have kids as young as you can.  Looking back, I only wish I had started earlier so I could have even more kids!

Mothergood Feature: Laura Rogers, College Student

Tell us about your background and a little bit about who you are?

I am 23 years old, a wife, a mother, and a full-time sophomore in college. I was born in Colombia, raised in Jamaica after my mom remarried, and relocated to the United States five years ago. I was never the type to want to get married or have kids. I never even played with baby dolls or strollers, but then I met my husband. We started dating five years ago, and got married not too long afterward, at 19 years old. Everyone thought we were crazy, but we didn’t care—we were (and still are) so in love.

We were told that pregnancy for us would be highly unlikely, and if it did manage to happen, very high risk. A few years later, the biggest surprise of our lives (to put it mildly) greeted us in the form of our son, Solomon Bach Rogers.

2.  What do you find most fulfilling about motherhood? the most challenging?

To me, everything is fulfilling, from that first smile in the morning, to the last kiss goodnight. When my son looks at me with pure love, those are my favorite moments right there. What I have found to be the most challenging is dealing with my anxiety, periodic postpartum depression, and panic attacks that happen when I feel not good enough as a mother. They can come completely out of the blue when I’m sitting and staring at Solomon sleep. I begin crying, feeling unworthy of being his mama, like no matter what I do, I fail him. That’s something I definitely need to work on. Another thing is balancing school, motherhood, and being a wife. Whenever I don’t get an A+ on an assignment, I start freaking out, as if I have to constantly prove to myself that having a baby hasn’t stopped me from “succeeding in life” or “having a career.” This has lead me to being too hard on myself.

3.  What does motherhood look like for your right now? what do you love about where you are? what would you change?

Motherhood for me right now is spending as much time as I can with my son, not stressing about keeping a clean house or doing every load of laundry, and soaking in every little moment that I get with him. One thing I would change about my motherhood journey is the amount of mom guilt I feel every day, such as thoughts that I can’t do anything right as a mom, or that I don’t deserve him.

Motherhood has given me a sense of confident maturity. When I was pregnant, I used to hide my belly in baggy clothes whenever I’d go to class. So, when my Calc Physics professor announced to the class when I arrived late one day that he thought I had gone into labor, I almost didn’t go back. I almost took the semester off because of how ashamed and embarrassed I felt to be pregnant in college at a young age. But now, I am confident. I love that I am now less focused on what others think of me.

4. How have you incorporated motherhood into your identity without losing your own individuality?

Man, this was so difficult for me after I had Solomon. I was still wearing maternity pants, and had him attached to my boob all day and all night. I couldn’t shower or use the bathroom in peace. I didn’t feel human, and felt like I had lost my identity completely. I felt like I was “just a mom”. Even when I attempted to dress the way I used to before getting pregnant, I felt like a phony, and like I was trying to be someone I’m not.

When Solomon and I started to get into the groove of things, it got easier, and I started feeling like myself again. Slowly but surely I realized that I don’t have to be JUST a mom—I am Laura and I happen to be a mom. Of course he is my #1 priority when it comes to all life decisions, but I can still be me. Self-care is so important in the process of feeling like yourself again, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help and don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself. A happy mom is a good mom, and if you’re a young mom, don’t hide your youth just to prove your capability to others. Be young and carefree—kids love that.

5. What advice would you give women who are considering/desiring motherhood?

There’s no right way to be a mom. You’re going to make so many mistakes, but they won’t remember that. They’ll remember all the moments you played with them, read them stories, and gave them cuddles. The reason I didn’t want to have kids was out of fear of not being a good mom, and oh the joy I would’ve missed out on. And, for all my career-driven ladies out there, don’t let them tell you you can’t have it all!! There’s nothing stronger than a woman. When I got pregnant, EVERYONE assumed I was going to take a break from school. Yet, here I am—almost at the finish line. I’m exhausted, rocking dirty hair, but almost there.

Mothergood Feature: Ana Carisse, Nurse

1. Tell us about your background and a little bit about who you are?

My name is Ana Carisse and I am from Ontario, Canada. I am a wife and a first time mom to my sweet little girl, Mia, who is now 6 months old. Ugh time really flies! It feels like it was just yesterday when my husband and I found out we were pregnant. I remember we were in the middle of our engagement at that time and it was our little secret that eventually turned into a big surprise to everyone! She arrived just in time for our wedding. She was only two months old then and she was our little flower girl. But, boy I tell you, wedding planning and having a newborn is some next level challenge! I am glad it’s all over now and I can just solely focus on raising her, seeing her bloom, and just creating memories!

Aside from being a new mom, I have a career in the nursing field. Even before then, it is already in my nature to care and have compassion for people especially children. I guess me being a nurse helped me a lot to nurture Mia and understand her needs and development. I may sound like I know what I am doing, but let me tell you I am still trying to navigate my way to motherhood. Like I always tell people, I am just learning as I go.

2.  What do you find most fulfilling about motherhood? the most challenging?

Seeing the fruit of my labor gives me the most fulfillment, and with that I mean giving birth to a healthy baby girl regardless of all medical uncertainties we both had to go through. My pregnancy was comparable to a roller coaster ride. There was a lot of ups and downs and unforeseen situations that almost put me over the edge, but all of it was worth it. I am now a mother, a title that I am very honoured to hold.  God entrusted me with something so precious and it is now my duty to nurture that life.

The most challenging part of motherhood for me is my postpartum anxiety. Being a first time mom, my lack of experience scares me! I always tend to second guess myself about everything. Even the simplest task of putting on a diaper mind-boggled me for days and I am a nurse Hah! Breastfeeding or formula-feeding? Do I have enough milk supply? Am I feeding her enough? Is she developing her skills on time? Am i dressing her too warm or too cold? The list can go on and on and on. My anxiety grows as she grows that it became my shadow, it follows me everywhere and lingers on.

 3.  What does motherhood look like for your right now? what do you love about where you are? What would you change?

I could say that I am getting the hang of it now and starting to love it. Everyday I see Mia grows, see her skills evolve and start to have her own personality; it gives me the validation of the hard work that I have been putting in and somehow I am doing it right.

If I could change something it would be about accepting help. As I have mentioned, I had the worst anxiety that I had to control everything. I was not keen on the idea of entrusting the care of my baby to other people, even to my own mother and sometimes even my husband.  Other than that, I would not change anything else because every mistake taught me and the misstep led me to where I am now.  

4. How have you incorporated motherhood into your identity without losing your own individuality?

Fitness had played a major role in keeping my sanity in the earlier stage of motherhood. Staying physically active keeps me energized, strong and ready for anything. It makes me feel good. t makes me feel like “I am myself. I could say that “This is me!” So despite of my crazy schedule and chores, I made sure I find time to get some exercise in. I looked for activities that me and my baby can both enjoy! Mom and baby fitness classes and bootcamp are one of our fave!  

In addition to that, my renewed and deeper connection to God also brought me the realization of the new purpose I have now without losing my individuality. His teaching gives me peace. His words cleanses my soul. His love reminds me not only the love I have for my family but also for myself.

5. What advice would you give women who are considering/desiring motherhood?

Motherhood can be really messy and stressful but do not forget to find the beauty in ugly situations. It is up to you on how you are going to rise up in difficult times. It is going to be hard. It might make you want to give up! But when you do, just remember that you are stronger than your fears. Do not give up! Do not forget about yourself. Take a break. Breathe. Reset your mind, body and soul. After that, trust me you would ready for another chaotic day!

Mothergood Feature: Rayvin

1. Tell us about your background and a little bit about who you are?

I am a stay-at-home mom, wife, and artist from and residing in South Louisiana. I came from a single parent home of a Registered Nurse. We were well off, so we were fortunate not to have struggled.

I suffered a miscarriage at 18 with my first love who broke my heart. I thought the best revenge was to act like a man and treat men like objects. Boy, was I drinking the poison. I was kicked out the house, went to Houston and enrolled at Texas Southern University. By the time the first semester was completed, I landed in jail on false criminal charges. My mom hired a lawyer and wanted me back home, and I had no strength to fight her after finding peace during my brief stint in jail.

After this time in my life, I met my husband on a street in South Louisiana called Friendship.  Through him, God allowed my children to be the ones who saved me.  I’m forever grateful for our journey, and who I am to others and myself today.

2.  What do you find most fulfilling about motherhood? the most challenging?

The most fulfilling thing about motherhood is my responsibility to my children. It gives me purpose and I am glad for it. The responsibility is also the most challenging thing.  I’m responsible for them, so everyone else and their opinions of what and how I do what I do with my children are completely off limits. That’s a challenge.  That causes me to choose between my father and my children, my mother and my children, sadly, even my husband and my children.

3.  What does motherhood look like for your right now? what do you love about where you are? what would you change?

Motherhood looks like waking up at 6am for some me-time. Caffeinated tea, mopping the floor and washing the dishes. If I don’t get some me-time in when they’re sleeping, I feel like my toddlers completely ruin my day. I used to do graphic design before having kids, but I’ve chosen to not do that at this point in my life.  Hey, I wouldn’t trade a ruined day or postponed career for anything in the world.

I do wish I was more consistent in contributing to the household financially but I can’t fathom anyone else with my children so consistently. I play different musical instruments, and my hobbies include photography, and makeup.  I have to follow my passions so that my children feel confident enough to do the same.

4. How have you incorporated motherhood into your identity without losing your own individuality?

I have no earthly clue. I equally hear from the same mouths. “Rayvin, I never ever thought you’d have kids…you don’t even like kids….you’re an amazing mother and you make it look soooo good”.  Motherhood and the business of nurturing has engulfed my reputation. I like it.

5. What advice would you give women who are considering/desiring motherhood?

Let go.

When I had my miscarriage, it consumed me. Every toxic behavior, that was the root. While me and my husband were trying to conceive, I surrendered.  I surrendered to the thought that I may never get pregnant and vowed to be a mother to his already present children. The day after I spoke to God..THE DAY AFTER, I found out I was pregnant. Letting go of expectations, especially of the female body functions, is the very key to peace but most of all, the avoidance of disappointment.


Mothergood Feature: Janet Easter

1. Tell us about your background and a little bit about who you are?

A Midwesterner at heart, I spent nine years in New York City and co-founded a women’s magazine with the mission to help women become the best versions of themselves.  I was passionate about providing alternative content that respected the dignity of women and still believe in the need for beautiful, intelligent media. After meeting my husband on a blind date and getting married a year later in Pittsburgh (crazy right?), we’ve since had three children in under three years. I no longer work and spend full-time at home with my children, Gemma (3), Felicity (1.5), and William (3 months). To say the transition to motherhood rocked my world is an understatement.    

2.  What do you find most fulfilling about motherhood? the most challenging?

I think what I find most fulfilling about motherhood is also the most challenging. Motherhood requires a total self gift, all of who you are – mind, body, heart and soul, for better or worse. I always thought I would love motherhood and that it would come naturally to me. I mean, I was sensitive and compassionate, I’d be OK right?

Well, my first born, Gemma, threw all my expectations out the window and I was left feeling raw and scared of the unknown. Every new stage of development was terrifying for me because what I had “read” in parenting books or saw my friends doing didn’t quite fly with her. She didn’t easily sleep, like to be cuddled, and had a difficult time nursing. Even still, she is a highly sensitive little girl who has a difficult time coping with different situations, and we are in the midst of working with her to feel out if she needs more outside help.

My experience with Gemma, as well with my other children, has required me to dig deep and give my all, even when I may not “feel” like it. I’m painfully learning that it is in giving of myself, sacrificing for something other than myself, is where true, lasting joy is to be found. Becoming a mother has, and continues to refine my heart.

3.  What does motherhood look like for your right now? what do you love about where you are? what would you change?

             Motherhood is full on right now. But, really, when isn’t it? I have three little ones who each need me in a particular way, on top of the basic daily needs. I’m so in the thick of diapers and potty training, it is hard for me to imagine a time when everyone can wipe themselves, ha! I literally take one hour at a time and focus on getting everyone fed, changed, and try to give each one an extra kiss or hug. Because, ultimately there are balls that are dropped, or one kid who gets the short end of the stick.  But, I’m slowly learning that it’s OK.

By having kids less than a year and a half apart, I use to mourn that so and so would feel left out or wouldn’t get enough from “me.” And yes, sometimes I still feel that way, but I’ve realized how beautiful it is for them to have each other for the rest of their lives. Having siblings teaches them to communicate, to have compassion, to work together for the good of another. Even though my babes are so little, I’m starting to see the beauty of their relationships blossom, and it’s incredible to witness it grow. I love that they’ll always have each other.

            Being in the baby/toddler stage all at once really narrows the focus of each day and I find myself letting go of unimportant things that used to bother me. I love that about the stage I’m in right now.  It truly is freeing to worry less about superficial things and focus on what’s right in front of you, even if it’s a dirty diaper.

          If I was to change anything though, it would be my attitude on some days. There is a world of a difference when I begin the day with a few minutes of quiet time and prayer, and an intentional plan to put my children first.  It sounds silly to “plan” to focus on my children (and probably doesn’t reflect well on me!), but I’ve found that if I start the day off looking for every break imaginable for “me” time, I am way more impatient, short, and frustrated with my kids.  By switching my focus and entering into a spirit of serving them out of love, I’m more at peace and content, as well as delighted by how many windows of time I actually do have to fill up on “me” time.

4. How have you incorporated motherhood into your identity without losing your own individuality?

I had a very difficult time incorporating motherhood into my identity at first. I hadn’t realized how much of my identity and worth was wrapped up in what I did for work.  Co-founding a positive women’s magazine felt like a mission, and I was passionate about it. But, it took motherhood to teach me that I am not just what I do. Even if it is good work.

Since becoming a mom and stepping away from work, I have learned so much about myself – good and bad – and I’ve realized that motherhood forces you to live with integrity. The values and behaviors I want my children to have, I actually need to strive to live. I want my children to know their worth doesn’t rest on their career choice. It’s way more challenging that I imagined, but in a way my identity is becoming more crystalized and multifaceted.

And, although I’m in the “trenches” as some would say of the early years, I have found so many moments to celebrate beauty. I have always loved being creative and working with my hands, and motherhood has actually made me appreciate those windows of time when I am able to do just that. I’ve gotten into gardening, flower arranging, decorating, and I want to learn photography, sewing, baking, etc. I don’t feel like motherhood dampens my desire to learn new skills, but only spurs me on. I also don’t feel like I can’t go back to work in the future. Just because I made the choice to stay home with my children during their little stage, doesn’t mean I can’t explore and grow as a woman in the workforce down the road. We don’t have to do or be it all, all the time.

5. What advice would you give women who are considering/desiring motherhood?

Motherhood requires much of you, it can be intimidating and overwhelming, but it also fills your heart more than you could imagine. Becoming a mom does change your world, and always for the better.

Beginning to find my motherhood through adoption

We mailed the application on September 5, 2018. Senate hearings to appoint Justice Kavanaugh had just begun and there was something about an anonymous op-ed for the New York Times trending on Twitter. 

It was also the feast day of Mother Teresa. 

I said a brief prayer to her as I sealed an envelope with a 15-page application and a $75 dollar check. I don’t remember the prayer exactly. But I knew that she would understand my anxious petition, which went something like, “Can we do this? Can I do this? Please, help me.”

It wasn’t the first time I’d made such a prayer. I’d said it at doctors’ offices and while being wheeled into surgery. I’d said it in half a dozen LabCorp waiting rooms. And I said it while standing at a UPS store in Arlington, Virginia, while swiping my debit card for $2.55 to mail the application to adopt a baby. It was a moment I consciously took a moment to savor – a page at the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. 

The chapter I was closing was one that many women have lived a version of. Mine started with one of the happiest days of my life: our wedding. I looked into Matt’s eyes and vowed, among other things, “to accept children lovingly from God.” But when it became clear that children would not be coming as quickly or as easily as we’d assumed, I started down the path of dozens of doctor visits and a barrage of unsolicited advice: 

“Relax! Have a glass of wine. It took us three months!” Two years in, this one started to sting.

“Let’s do blood draws every other day for thirty days and really nail this down.” That was the month I got looks and concerned questions about the bruises up and down the inside of my arms.

“Are you charting? It really helped us.” I ordered the charts and those little stickers.

I know all of the advice I received came from a good place. Most of our friends had children immediately and in quick succession. They had no frame of reference for what I, or Matt and I as a couple, were experiencing. They wanted to help. But in conversation I always braced for the inevitable: “How are you feeling? Any news?” Maybe it was my own pride, but I felt pitied. And I didn’t want pity. I wanted control. And I wanted answers — answers that friends, doctors, and even God weren’t providing.

Three years into our saga, over a glass of Malbec (and a cigar for Matt), we made the decision that we would look into adoption on our fifth anniversary. That moment was the first deep breath I’d taken in years. I don’t believe God wants us beating our heads against a wall and mine felt bruised; I was so, so tired. 

Simply setting a date to begin the adoption process allowed me to stop focusing on my own perceived deficits and turn my attention to God’s plan for our family. I continued — and will continue for now — the doctor visits and the tinkering of medication dosages. Pursuing adoption doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll never have a biological child. And while it’s easy for me to say this now, we wouldn’t change a single moment that led us here.

I’m a stronger woman because of this struggle. Because of it, I hope to become the mother to a child who may not grow inside me, but is already growing in our hearts.

I’m also grateful for the empathy I’ve gained for every woman — particularly every Catholic woman – who didn’t get pregnant as a newlywed and feels like a failure. We vow and plan and want — and dare I say, expect? — to get pregnant when we get married. Children are a blessing. And if we aren’t having them, doesn’t that mean we aren’t blessed? Of course not. 

The fact is, my own life has been blessed in ways I could never have predicted. My husband and I have traveled the world and lived rich friendships. We moved across the county and Matt got a masters degree. I worked at a hip coffee shop and have done communications work for Supreme Court cases and federal elections. We got a dog and are godparents to two spunky kids. We’re entering our eighth year of marriage and it’s just as full of the heady highs and gutsy adventures as our first year. Children are a blessing and I look forward to the parenting season of our lives when it arrives. But until then, my life is full, and we are blessed. 

We are now in the middle of our home study process, and from under the mountain of paperwork or after a long visit with our social workers I say some version of, “Can we do this? Can I do this? Please, help me.” But we rest in the knowledge that with God’s help, we can. He already has been, and always will be, faithful.

Republished with permission. Original article published in Aleteia at