Mothergood Feature: Rebecca Embry

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

I am a wife and a mother to three children.

I am originally from Sri Lanka. My parents and I emigrated to the States 14 years ago. I became a citizen of the United States just a week ago, which was quite exciting! I met my husband at Ave Maria University in South Florida and we were married in the summer of 2013. Since then we’ve been blessed with three beautiful children! Through the past 5 years of being a wife and a mother, I’ve had the most delightful adventure of raising these little ones to try and be the best version of themselves. By being a stay at home mother I’ve been through the peaks of happiness to the depths of exhaustion. Through it all, I wouldn’t change a single thing. My children have made me a better person, a better wife and a better mother.

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

One of the most fulfilling and challenging aspects of motherhood for me is homeschooling. I also incorporate the Montessori method into my life and my children’s lives as well. Watching my 4.5-year-old daughter read and make words with her moveable alphabet, including her and my 2.5-year-old son in our daily tasks around the house, answering inquisitive questions and listening to their observations about all the little things in life are aspects of motherhood that I immensely enjoy. The challenging part of this, is in between lessons and housework, things happen. Children get hungry, the baby wants attention, and sometimes the day just doesn’t go as planned. I’ve had to adapt to the spontaneity of motherhood, since I have always been a planner. I’ve had to learn to let the little things go. You can’t always have a perfect day, a perfect meal and a perfect lesson. Another challenge is not being able to see my husband as much as I’d like. He is a full time Dairy Veterinarian and he works anywhere from 10-12 hour days and occasionally gets called in for surgeries on weekends. We cherish every minute of Papa being home! The challenges of motherhood make me appreciate the joyous moments even more!

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

I absolutely love this stage of motherhood especially because I’m starting to homeschool and getting the hang of balancing activities and school throughout the week. I also love that my children play together and slowly understand each other… most days! Since we don’t live close to neither one of our families and with my husband working such long hours I yearn for the day that we would be close to some family and that he would be home more often! I am hopeful that one day we will be able to have both.

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

Femininity and spirituality have always been extremely important in my life. I’ve always tried to maintain my femininity even in the chaos of getting toilet water splashed in my face to baby drool dripping down my shirt. Through it all, a splash of lipstick and some eyeliner always gets me in a good mood and reminds me that I should always take care of myself. Staying in shape and getting into an exercise regime has also been extremely helpful to my identity.  I wasn’t necessarily into exercising before I had babies. I have come to realize how important it is to be healthy, to exercise, and to watch what I eat, especially to keep up with my children but also to set a good example for them.

Now I’ve always had a spiritual life even before getting married, but I was finding it quite difficult to find the time as a mother to do more to nourish my soul. So I started to put in the extra effort, and even if it’s 5 minutes, I’ve been able to listen to podcasts about my faith, read a few pages of the books I’m reading and even pray!

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

Motherhood is a beautiful and chaotic journey! It will test you to the highest of limits but also give you exuberant joy you never thought you could feel. My children teach me something new every day. Whether it is to grow in patience, to grow in faith and holiness, or to grow in love. They’re always there to remind me to serve God in the highest possible way!  A quote I came across a few years ago by Archbishop Fulton Sheen is something that I absolutely adore.

“A woman is capable of more sacrifices than a man. Man is more apt to be a hero, through some great passionate outburst of heroism. But a woman’s love makes a thousand small sacrifices, sprinkling them through the days and the months; their very repetition gives them the character of the commonplace. Not only her soul, but her body, has some share in the Calvary of Redemption; furthermore, she comes closer to death than man, whenever she brings forth a child.” Archbishop Fulton Sheen (Life is Worth Living). With that, I hope I give you a glimpse into the beauty of Motherhood! Happy Mothering!  

Mothergood Feature: Kelli Seeley, Photograher

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

Hi, my name is Kelli. I’ve been married to my husband for 13 years and together we have 4

children and 1 on the way. I grew up in a small town on the central coast of California, but I now

call northern California home. Simple days playing sports and spending time with family and

friends defined my childhood years. It was around age 12 when I began planning photo shoots

using both my sister’s and my dolls as subjects (I still have the photos!). Since then, a camera

has never been far from my reach and as I’ll share later, has been and continues to be a means

of healing in my life.

I met my husband at a party in San Diego, where we found ourselves in a late night

conversation talking about philosophy, and from that conversation on, I knew there was

something special about him. I was 18 at that time and the college I attended was 8 hours away

from his college in San Diego. But, for 4 years, we made our long distance relationship work and

after my college graduation and his later law school graduation, we got married. I was 24.

We celebrated our 1 year marriage anniversary with a 10 day old baby, our first daughter. And

here we are, all these years later, expecting our 5th child together.

Before I answer the rest of the questions, I’d like to share a little bit more in depth about the first

few years as I entered into motherhood, as those years played such a significant role in the

mother I am today. It is also because of those early years, that I have my photography business

today.

My early years as a mother saw a lot of loneliness, anxiety and depression. What I believed

motherhood was going to be, in reality, was quite different. Motherhood has a way of stripping

you down and forcing you to face hidden things about your identity – your insecurities and the

areas of your life you are most vulnerable. It was only a few short months after giving birth to my

first child when I realize that I was suffering from panic attacks, and that the isolation from being

at home all day had reached an unhealthy point.

Having worked in the field of mental health before giving birth, I never associated asking for help

as a burden or saw it as a stigma. However, one of the hardest things for me at the time, was

knowing that I would need to let my husband know I wasn’t ok. We were newly married, and

from the outside, everything seemed fine. I am a fairly cheerful and outgoing person but on the

inside, I had hit a low point and needed help carrying this cross. I never envisioned suffering in

this way as being part of my motherhood – I thought it would come natural to me. Would he

think the woman he just married was a failure at being a mom? I wondered how his view of me

would change. When I did work up the courage to share with him, I was met with nothing but

kindness, mercy, and support (my eyes are filling with tears as I write this and recall this time

early in our marriage). That moment was one of many that helped set the foundation for being

able to openly communicate with each other.

I was able to find a therapist that I loved, who shared my faith, and began doing the hard work

needed to address the issues related to my mental health. One of the things that helped me

most during this time, was that I had the opportunity to explore photography in the way I had

always dreamed of. At the moments when I was struggling most with unwanted thoughts and

emotions, I was able to channel that energy into this passion I had to create with my camera

and to expand my education through taking classes. It led to an opportunity to work and be

mentored by an established wedding photographer, and I slowly built up a portfolio of my own

work filled with families and weddings. I’ve been in business for 10 years now, and it truly is my

dream job.

Mental health as it relates to motherhood especially will always be a subject I am passionate

about and in my own life, it is something I continually work on managing. Healing didn’t happen

overnight, but it did come slowly, in time.

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

I find fulfillment in knowing that raising our family is my vocation and a sacred calling that I am

doing my best to say “yes” to everyday. I also love watching my children grow up together and

forming the cutest and funniest relationships especially as they work through conflict and still

love each other at the end of the day. My favorite ways to be with my kids are through our

adventures together, usually filled with chaos and highs and lows but knowing that through it all,

they are hopefully learning how to love and sacrifice and give thanks for the gift of one another.

The challenges are always changing, but one of the consistent challenges throughout 12 years

of motherhood, is learning when to listen and when to *not* listen to that “inner voice/critic” that

wants to tell me I’m not doing enough for my kids or that wants to point out all the ways I am

failing them. It requires a lot of hard work and discipline to raise kids and manage a household

and finding the balance between being gentle on myself as a mother and when to push myself

harder because I am slacking, can be hard. One of my favorite sayings is “begin again” – this

little mantra has helped me these past few years strike this balance. For example, maybe it’s

2pm, and I’ve been ignoring my chores and/or letting the kids watch too much tv, instead of

beating myself up, I try and remind myself “begin again” – meaning it’s never too late to start

over and that I can start over many times in the same day. What’s done is in the past and I can

begin again no matter what time it is and what matters most is that I keep trying.

3. How have you incorporated motherhood into your identity without losing your own

individuality?

When it comes to retaining my identity in motherhood, this is one of the gifts and fruits that has

come from the early work I did in therapy, and later working with a spiritual director. Going

through the healing work of therapy helped me to understand better who I was, the gifts I have

been given as a woman, and to know myself in a way that would ultimately help me to serve

others. You may have heard the saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” I learned about this

idea early on after having kids and the importance of finding the things that will fill my proverbial

cup. My goal is to do the best I can to serve my family, and when I take the time to do a few of

these “cup fillers,” I am better able to serve. For me that looks like an occasional meet up with a

few of my best friends for a girls night; at other times it looks like going out to a coffee shop by

myself to read and write. I also try to exercise a few times a week, and when I wake up in the

morning and get dressed and ready for the day, it helps me to feel confident and better able to

handle the stress of the day. I do believe it’s important for each woman to discern what these

things are that help them retain their identity and fill their cup, because it will be different for

everyone.

4. What does motherhood look like for your right now? What do you love about where you are?

What would you change?

My kids ages range from 3 to 12 so it makes for very interesting days and conversations. In one

moment I will be talking to my 12-year-old about pre-teen topics like friendships and growing up,

to the next moment which will require me to break up a wrestling match between my boys, to

then watching my 3-year-old wrapped up in a game of make believe with her dolls. Next Spring,

our dynamics will shift as we anticipate the arrival of our newest little addition, a baby girl due in

April.

But on a more practical level, my three older kids go to a school they love, in an amazing faith

filled community during the day, and during that time I hang out with my youngest. I cherish this

one-on-one time with her, and work on things related to my photography business and chores

around the house. We also try to meet up with friends at the park about once a week, or I’ll go

on a walk with a friend.

One of the nice things about having older kids now is that doing the household chores is more

like a team effort. Eating dinner together is one of the values we hold dearest, and now we have

help with the entire process. The kids help set the table, my oldest is pretty proficient in the

kitchen, and then afterwards, the kids each have their cleanup chores. It’s taken a lot of hard

work to build this rhythm into our daily schedule, but it has gotten easier as they’ve gotten older

and it’s a time we all look forward to.

One of the things I wish I could change is that I wish we had family nearby. My husband’s and

my family live pretty far, so seeing family on a regular basis isn’t part of our daily lives.

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

It’s a beautiful gift to bring a soul into the world, full of the best kind of hard work you will ever

do. It’s ok to be nervous or afraid because it’s true what they say, when you have a child, it’s like

your heart goes walking on the outside of your body. But it is always worth it – they will teach

you how to love and how to grow in love in ways never imagined.

On a more practical level, I’d also like women to know that one of the best parts of motherhood

are the other mothers. I truly believe we aren’t supposed to be on this road of motherhood

alone. When I had my first baby, I didn’t have any friends with children and social media wasn’t

very popular. Making friends with other mothers didn’t happen overnight either, but it did happen

after investing time getting to know one another. I am eternally grateful for my friendships, our

ongoing daily text messages/gifs, and their presence in my life when things have been hard.

Social media is wonderful, but nothing beats gathering together with other women and mothers

to connect and support and share a good laugh.

When I look back at the past 12 years, the times when motherhood was the hardest was when I

didn’t have those close friends to talk to, confide in and pray for one another. I so badly wish this

for every mother, whether you have 1 or 2 close friends, or a big network of close friends, don’t

go along this road alone and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help when you need it. We

are all a work in progress and when we are vulnerable with one another, that is when we are

strongest.

Mothergood Feature: Tracy George

1. I am a wife, mama, entrepreneur, a creative, and a business owner! I call myself a creative because I do many things! I am a photographer, a crafter, a blogger, a homemaker, the list goes on! I don’t like to put one name to all of the things that I love to do because who like limits?! I have been married to my husband for just shy of 4 years now. We got married when I was 19 and he was 20! Since then, we have had 3 beautiful girls, Marlie, Hazel and Emma! The girls are currently 3 and under. I know, we are crazy! And, yes! We DO have our hands full! I am a stay at home mama and I love that we are able to make that work for out family. I have my 2 side businesses that give us some extra money here and there but I’m mainly mama! I have come a long way from where I was when I was younger and I thank God so much for the doors that He has opened for me and paths that He has led me to. I was adopted when I was just a young child and went through years of child abuse. In high-school, I finally mustered up the courage to talk to someone. After that, I was in foster care for a good amount of time. I moved 6 times in less than a month and self taught myself that building relationships with people was useless because they were just going to be gone one day. Abuse and foster care changes a person and changes them for good. I was lost for so long. It wasn’t until I had turned 18 and was out on my own, homeless, that I decided that I couldn’t live the way that I was living anymore, and that my past, my abuse, and my story didn’t have to be the end of who I wanted to be or was made to be. I went to church with a friend, and saw the worship leader singing his heart out, and fell in love. I obsessed over him for awhile, like any girl my age would have respectfully done, of course! That worship leader is now my husband! Between 18 year old, homeless me, and today, wife-mom-business owner me, I have learned so much about myself and the things in life that I love and the things that I was made to do. I have gained wisdom and now have such a heart for anyone who is struggling in abusive situations or teens that are struggling through the foster care system. So, to shortly answer the question- Who am I and what is my background, I am Tracy George and I came from nothing but sadness and feeling so very worthless, to being a wife and mother, and following my dreams of creating and starting my own, thriving businesses. I don’t let my dark, sad past determine who I am today and I don’t let it haunt my relationships or my family. When you are in the dark place and you see that light, there’s no reason to look behind you, just keep looking forward at the great things that are to come. There’s no honest reason to stop and turn around to see that place when you were meant for so much lighter and brighter things.

2. To me, the most fulfilling thing about motherhood is the laughter and the smiles of my babies. I could sit back and cry for a couple minutes just watching their little personalities form and their lives moving forward. The most special thing is when my oldest daughter tells me “You’re special, mama”. That’s a hit right to the heart, am I right? When I am feeling like a less than perfect mom and a terrible housewife, it’s almost like they can see straight into your soul and can tell that you need encouragement. I think that their innocents and their tender loving hearts are the most fulfilling. Kids have so much love in their hearts and they see no color and see no evil. That in itself is just so fulfilling. The most challenging thing in my motherhood walk is the constant perception of what a “Perfect Mom” should be and what a “Perfect Mom” should do. The idea/Worldly view is that the kids should be dressed to impress daily, hair done, shoes polished, face spotless. Also add, the house should be spic and span, laundry should be folded and put away, even the window seals should be cleaned with a toothbrush! Don’t forget that a huge homemade dinner should be made too! On top of all of that, YOUR hair should be done and make up looking perfect! The struggle of trying to meet the expectations of what the perfect mom should be and what a super great mom actually is…. man is that rough! It is such a challenging part of motherhood and I think that so many of us face that issue. But, here’s the thing ladies, WE DON’T NEED TO FEEL THAT WAY. I can preach that all day long, and I recently just started actually living it. It’s okay that the kids have a Pj day! It’s okay that the laundry is in a pile on the couch for a couple (or few) days! We don’t have to live up to the TV mom standards! Once we stop comparing ourselves to all of the other mamas around us, we will start to live life so much more free. It’s okay if your IG isn’t perfect! It’s okay if you don’t have a million followers, you’re Pinterest is unorganized? IT’S OKAY. Little Suzie’s mom volunteers at preschool? COOL! You don’t have to do that to be a great mama! The way that Stacy parents her kids might be great and work super great for her family, but the way that you parent, may also be super great for your family. We all “Mom” differently! It’s us who sets the tone for our families and us who knows our own limits and where we excel and where we need work. Not our neighbors or the other moms on the PTA, or whoever it is that you are comparing yourself to. Why are we comparing ourselves to people that aren’t ourselves and aren’t in our situations or even under our own roofs. Dump the comparisons, mom your way!

3. For a long time, I was only “Marlie’s Mom” or “The Girls’ Mom”. People wouldn’t start with “hey girl, how are you, what have you been up to?” It was always “How are the kids?” That was extremely tough for me because I wanted to be me. I was given a name for a reason and people should use it, right? I adore being a mother and raising my kids, but they aren’t all that there is to me. That’s what I struggled with. So, that was how my businesses and my blog were started. I had this idea in my head that I needed to be “More than Mama”. I needed something that people wanted to ask me about instead of only asking about the kids. Something that my husband could ask me about at the end of the day instead of the same kids routine everyday. My kids fuel me to be the best person that I can be, and I can’t be that if I am not doing something that excites me. I can’t teach them to reach for the stars and go for their dreams if I am not giving them that example! My businesses revolve around my kids and their needs and out lives. My blog is about our lives and our day to day. The ups and the downs, and the teaching moments of motherhood. My first business was started by wanting to design clothes for them and it turned into a full blown side hustle! Like I said, my girls need an example of what making your dreams come true looks like, so if I can’t show them that, where else are they going to learn it from? That is how motherhood is incorporated into my identity, is my identity, and how within that, I am still able to have my own identity.

4. My advice for mothers and anyone who wants to be a mom is firstly, it’s okay to need a break. It’s okay to be overwhelmed, and it’s okay to ask for help. The worldly view of a perfect mom is someone who can do it all on her own but it’s okay to dump that and just ask for help! If you need an hour or two to refresh yourself so that you can relax and be the best mom that you can be, for goodness sake, just do it. You can’t be the best mom for your kids if you aren’t the best you, for you! Do not feel one ounce of guilt for needed some you time. Being a full time mom can be so challenging and can start feeling so trapping if you don’t get any time for yourself. Really, even if it’s just an hour to go to the grocery store alone, YOU NEED IT, MAMA! The worldly view is that mothers need to always put their kids first, their husbands second, chores and everything else next, then the dog, oh yeah don’t forget the cat, and then, finally, themselves. Ladies, do not feel one single ounce of guilt for putting yourself first for a change! Get a sitter and get some you time! Go shopping, get your nails done, go for a walk, do whatever it is that you need to do to feel refreshed so that you can return to your children, husband, and home calm, relaxed, and ready to be the best that you can be. Next, it’s okay not to love every minute of motherhood. You know the times when the baby is teething and screaming while all you’re trying to do is get a second of sleep? Yeah, you don’t have to love that moment. When the baby dumped out all of the baby powder onto the carpet floor? Don’t have to love that either! Love your children, but don’t feel bad if you don’t love the situation. Think of someone who LOVES their job. Their full-time job. They LOVE their job but they might have a bad day here and there. Motherhood is a full-time job and you don’t have to love all of the minutes in the day. Lastly, even the “best” parents don’t know what the heck they are doing sometimes. Motherhood is a journey and we are all just winging it! No one knows all of the answers and no one can do it perfectly. Don’t be hard on yourself for not knowing all of the answers your first time around, or even your fifth. Motherhood is a learning experience. A hands-on learning experience that no one has all of the answers to.

Reflection of Fatherhood, by JP O’Hanlon, Father-to-be

A few days before Father’s Day this year, just as I had arrived home from commute across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, my wife, Tatiana greeted me with an eager kiss and was excited to show me the greeting cards she had picked out for our dads.  I thought her enthusiasm was a bit exaggerated, but I began reading a card that changed my life as I knew it. This was MY first Father’s Day card and she was pregnant!

We are now solidly settled into the second trimester, and to be honest, I still have no idea what I am supposed to be doing.  However, one thing I do know is this is something we are going through together, and I am doing everything I can to learn about how to be the best dad I can be, while supporting my wife as she is doing the brunt of the work during the pregnancy.

The first few weeks came in like a hurricane; almost immediately, Tatiana began to feel nauseous and could not stand to eat anything.  This was coupled with a general feel of disgust, confusion and uncertainty that plagued her daily. I wanted to comfort her, but she did not want to be touched.  I wanted to make sure she was eating properly, but every type of food made her want to vomit. I wanted to talk about our child that was growing inside her, but because it was too early and there were no visible signs other than the sickness, coupled with a history of reproductive health issues, she was concerned this child was not actually there, or may not make it through the first weeks.  I did not know what else I could do. Then one day, I turned to her and asked, “Tatiana, do you know I’m going through this pregnancy with you too?”

I know that all of the physical and emotional changes of pregnancy belongs to the woman, but I also knew how I was feeling during the first few months.  I think my involvement and what I was going through never occurred to Tatiana and she just assumed I was going on with life as if nothing had changed. My feeling of helplessness mixed with the excitement of meeting my child next spring with nobody to talk to was confusing.  By opening up to one another and understanding we were in this together as a partnership, we have become a team. She explained to me sometimes she does not want to be touched, not because she does not desire me, but because of the changes she is going through. Many days I prepared two entirely different meals; basic, unseasoned food for Tatiana, and perhaps pasta for myself (which I learned I would be banished to eat in a different room for adding garlic).

After making it through the first trimester, things have calmed down; there is much less nausea and we are mostly back to eating the same meals.  New pains present themselves to Tatiana, sometimes at inopportune times. But I am there to support her through it all. We now are able to have open conversations about what is going on with her, but also what I am feeling.  Knowing that I am with her through the entire process and she is not going through it alone has helped her to feel more confident in me and allowed me to be vulnerable with my feelings through the pregnancy. I will continue to be the man Tatiana needs me to be throughout, learn what I can to be the best dad to my boy when he arrives, and celebrate next Father’s Day with not only my beautiful wife, but my amazing son as well!

JP O’Hanlon is a Dodge City, Kansas native who fell in love with a California girl after moving to San Diego for law school. He currently manages the on-demand technician community across the U.S. for a tech startup in San Francisco. When he is not at home you can find him hiking in the woods, building things with his hands and looking for his next adventure. He is excited to begin this new adventure and hopes that his humble words can help other confused fathers navigate pregnancy and fatherhood.

Mothergood Feature: Lauren McKinley, Author

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

Hi, I’m Lauren! I am a wife, mama of two, and writer. I am part of a blended family and am passionate about sharing our story to encourage other folks in their co-parenting venture. I also run an online community, Her Soul Repair, for women who are healing from divorce. Wondering why I am qualified to offer advice in all things divorce and co-parenting? Well, long story short, five years back, I went through a crazy divorce. It’s a big part of my story because I came out of it a much stronger version of myself. My first marriage brought me my beautiful, creative, and passionate daughter. And, it paved the way for me to meet my now husband, my forever love. Present day, my husband and I spend our days rockin’ the blended family for our daughter and gushing over our nine-month-old son.

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

The layers that make up motherhood are as thick as they come. It brings out my best and my worst. It is full of oxymorons, the highest highs to the lowest lows. I am both killing it and failing miserably within moments of each other. This makes it hard to pinpoint the most fulfilling part of motherhood. For me, growing those babes in my very own body, physically bringing them into this world, and knowing that God gave me each one to hold, teach, and guide is where I find most fulfillment. I truly believe, God made my babies and me for each other. This is both a huge gift and a frightening responsibility. But, you know what, I trust He will make up for my shortcomings. This helps me when I find my voice raised over my daughter’s outfit choices or how much she despises brushing her teeth or the baby’s witching hour. I see how God is refining me through how I parent and filling in the gaps of my mom fails.

In a practical sense, fulfillment comes when you see the fruits of your labor. Discipline, re-direction, consequences, minor progress, setbacks … then, all of a sudden, weeks go by without (fill in the blank) being an issue. The work and consistency have paid off. Whether it’s sleep training or tantrums, when you put exhausting work in and the end result is a good one, that’s the fulfillment. And, the entire process of getting there is the challenge. The two work together beautifully.

What does motherhood look like for your right now? What do you love about where you are? what would you change?
Right now, motherhood looks like balancing my time, showing up for what matters, and accepting help everywhere in between. In the day to day, I work from home with my active nine-month-old while my daughter is either at school or with her dad and bonus mom. I have accepted that the household stuff must come second to my work and taking care of our baby. I want so bad to both financially provide for my family and devote all my time to our babies, a clean house, and those picture-perfect organic dinners night after night, but I can’t do it all. I have a partner who helps with ALL the things and this is a shift I have had to accept about my current season. The traditional roles I had ingrained in my mind of what makes up a “good” marriage/mom have changed. With my plate this full, I need the help of my partner, and that doesn’t make me less of a mom or wife.

As a “semi-seasoned” mom, I will say my favorite realization is that the very things that are most challenging about our children are the exact parts that make them so freaking incredible. The hardest parts of my daughter to parent are the parts of her that I love so much it hurts. She is fiery, passionate, and creative. When this is channeled in ways that disobey me as her parent, it all feels impossible. But, when I see this same passion take over another endeavor of hers, I beam with pride over this amazing little human I have been entrusted with. So, take the good with the bad and accept that often times the two go hand in hand.

How have you incorporated motherhood into your identity without losing your own individuality?
There’s a six year age gap between my two babies. A lifetime of happenings took place in that six years, so I have a unique perspective on my identity as a mom and how it’s shifted. When I had my daughter, all I wanted was to be a stay at home mom. It felt as if I was made for it and that role was more than enough. And, I did stay home with her until life’s circumstances (that crazy divorce mentioned earlier) forced me to go back to work. I must say that during this entire time I did write a book, start a blog, and started to fully own these accomplishments.

I was a working mom until I had my son. I, then, took six months off of the salary job. Six months passed by and our family needed that salary once again, so I went back to work (but, from home. yay!). As much as when I first became a mom all I saw in my future was the stay at home mom gig, I love showing my daughter how mommy does both and not to mention, teaching her the reality that all of the extra things she enjoys doing, in fact, requires money.

And, on the other side, as an author, I hope my children one day see that I wrote my story down to bring peace to others. I hope they are encouraged to share their own pain for a greater purpose. Owning your individuality as a mom is everything. I pray that when my babies are old enough to look back on it all, they’ll be real proud of all my accomplishments and above all feel like I loved the heck out of them with every single fiber in me.

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

Having kids is the best! If you are fearful of how life may change once kids enter the picture, let me tell you, it’ll change in all of the best possible ways. Not to say, it’ll be easy. It won’t be easy, but it’ll be so darn worth it.

Also, God’s time is always perfect. I realize this is a tough pill to swallow if you’re still waiting or have experienced loss. We had our first loss a couple months back and it was devastating. The little peanut only lived in me for seven weeks, but we had already welcomed that baby into our world. The whys aren’t important, but God refining our character to trust in His timing during the times we don’t understand, that’s what it’s all about. Whatever route God takes to bless you with a babe, it’ll be amazing. And you’ll be ready to fulfill that role in ways you never knew existed. You and your littles were made for each other.

Mothergood Feature: Emily Hannon

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

I am 25 years old, a wife, and mother of two little boys (19 months and 3 weeks). We live on a quiet street in the country and I love that our home and space allows us to live a simple, free, and slow day-to-day life. As a young stay-at-home mom to small children, I am constantly learning how to navigate this beautiful, but challenging, vocation. Even though most days are messy and tiring, I feel fuller and more at peace than ever before. 

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

Knowing with complete certainty that I am exactly where I should be brings me such deep peace and joy. I am often overwhelmed with gratitude that two tiny souls have been entrusted to me and my husband. It is such important, valuable work that literally reaches into eternity. 

A challenge that I have been faced with, as a mother, is learning to let go of my own desires, fears, and anxieties. There are so many ups and downs of motherhood, and it’s sometimes a challenge to pick myself up after a long, hard day and start anew.  It’s also so easy to compare myself to other moms or to forget that I am uniquely capable of loving and leading my children in a beautifully specific way. In the midst of the mundane and nitty-gritty of caring for a toddler and newborn, it can be difficult to see the beauty that still surrounds me in the everyday, ordinary moments. But, it is there if I look for it, and the Creator is ever present amidst it all. 

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

I am a 25 year-old stay-at-home mom of a one and a half year-old old little boy and 3 week old baby brother. My husband and I got married two years ago and had our first child before our first wedding anniversary. Within a year, I was married, pregnant, had quit my daytime job, and had moved from the city to the suburbs as a full-time mom. It was a lot of change in a short period of time! But, I love that every day brings small wonders and opportunities to learn more about my children and to allow them to stretch and teach me.

I feel blessed to be able to stay home full time and to build an environment for my children that is nurturing, peaceful, and joyful. I wish it were a bit easier, as a young stay-at-home mom, to find and build community amongst other young moms, since I struggled with this in the first few months of motherhood. I’ve come to learn that you don’t necessarily need to be involved in every moms group or schedule play dates every day. But, every mom does need one or two close friends who are always there for you, to spend quality time with, and relate to on a deeper level. 

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

I have always wanted to be a mother.  When I became a parent, I felt even more myself and whole than ever before. In so many ways, motherhood has forced me to be less selfish and more focused on serving others, particularly my husband and children. It has actually made me more secure in my individuality and more aware of the particular gifts I’ve been given as a woman. I’m learning to embrace exactly who I am and appreciate that my life doesn’t have to look exactly like anyone else’s. In fact, I love that it is fully my own and I have the freedom to create a particular home for my children.  

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

Don’t be afraid of the unknown. You will be stretched in ways you never thought possible—spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally—and there will be times when you will rely on grace alone to just get through the day. But, if you say yes and keep saying yes, the joy only multiplies. The love and joy simply increases more than you ever thought possible.  

My Journey with Postpartum Pelvic Pain

I did not know it was possible to become temporarily crippled from delivering my child, until it happened to me. Never in my most nightmarish labor and delivery scenario would I have imagined that months after birthing my child, I would be sitting here writing this with severe pelvic pain.  I never thought pregnancy could cause a disability (even if just temporary).  I never dreamed I would need to go to physical therapy twice a week to recover from childbirth.  Yet, here I am.  

My condition is a common pregnancy and postpartum complication (some estimate as high as one in three pregnant women).  It is not very well known and commonly undiagnosed.  It has a complicated name, symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), that means a very simple thing—a woman’s pelvis is separated during pregnancy and/or labor. (Anatomy sidebar: all pelvises are connected in the front by a piece of cartilage called the symphysis pubis located on the pubic bone. This is where the pelvis can separate and/or misalign during pregnancy or labor.) There are varying grades of separation that range from mild to severe.  Some women only have it while they are pregnant, and delivering the baby cures them of it.  For the other lucky ladies, including myself, labor and delivery actually causes the pelvis separation.  

I remember sitting in the hospital bed after delivery and my pelvic bones feeling like someone had used a jack hammer on them in a merciless torture session (I know that sounds dramatic, but that’s exactly how I felt).  I could barely get out of the hospital bed due to my bone pain.  For three weeks post-delivery, I could barely walk.  I thought my inability to walk post-delivery was a normal thing, but later learned it was not.  My all-star husband had to lift my legs in and out of the bed and the car.  He had to help me sit and stand.  I could only manage to walk up and down our stairs at a very slow pace and with many tears, so I only went upstairs when I had to go to bed.  Even then, my husband sometimes had to carry me up the stairs because the pain was just too much to bear.  I finally felt moderately better at 4 weeks postpartum and went very slowly on a two mile walk.  I limped the entire next day.  That’s when I realized something must be wrong.

I am a very active person and even exercised all throughout pregnancy, so debilitating pain while doing something as simple as a little stroll around the block was very heartbreaking.  Feeling like I was crippled was even more emotional with my crazy postpartum hormones raging inside of me.  If I sat on the couch all day, I felt alright.  But, if I did simple housework choose, like dishes or laundry, my pelvis would throb in crippling pain.  If I went on a walk, my pelvis hurt.  If I bounced my baby around and walked around the house, my pelvic was in pain.  It wasn’t the kind of pain I could push through, either.  All of my pelvic bones felt like they were recovering from being broken and were severely bruised.  

At my 6 week postpartum checkup, I was given a physical therapy prescription, since I was still having pelvic pain.  My physical therapist evaluated me and diagnosed me with SPD, which I was relatively unfamiliar with.  (An orthopedic surgeon confirmed a few days later with an evaluation and x-ray.)  It took me awhile to process the diagnosis, as I was initially stunned when my therapist told me this.  Eager to recover as quickly as possible, I diligently did (and am still doing) all the home exercises I was prescribed and go to PT twice a week.  

Ten month Postpartum Update: The recovery process is still to be continued, but I have come a long way. I am still unable to resume my regular workout routines, including running and lifting heavy weights. But, after going to physical therapy twice a week for several months and continuing a home program, I have gotten much better.  Ten months postpartum, I am able to do household chores without being in pain, lift small weights, and go on longer walks than I have been in the past.

I don’t have all the answers.  But, I want to share my story to bring awareness of SPD. I want other women to be empowered with the knowledge of what SPD is.  That way, they can make the decision for themselves whether to get evaluated by their doctor and/or a specialist before labor to reduce their risk of SPD or seek medical help postpartum. I want to help bring greater awareness of SPD and ways to prevent it so no woman will have to unnecessarily endure it and suffer in silence. 

My journey with postpartum pelvic pain is one reason I founded Mothergood with a few of my friends. It’s a shame that we, as mothers, are not properly equipped with knowledge about our bodies during all aspects of motherhood—from pregnancy to postpartum to day-to-day life as a mother. Especially for common conditions, such as this, women should be empowered with knowledge so that they may identify issues and how to seek the appropriate care for healing. If I can help just one mother with my story, this effort was worthwhile.

*This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to replace medical care. As always, check with your doctor to discuss your feelings when pregnant to make sure the feelings you are having are normal and not antenatal depression.

Mothergood Feature:  Emily Runyan, Artist

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

My name is Emily, and I grew up on a pig and corn/soybean farm in Nebraska. Truly, my upbringing was that of country songs:  daddy in the field, momma in the kitchen, rolling hills, bonfires, barefoot nights, lightning bugs, Friday night football games, and church on Sunday.

I’ve bounced around from living in Nebraska, Arizona, California, and settled (for now) in Colorado. My husband, Jeff, is a man with an international heart. We met in Miami, then wed in Miami a few years later. We have a son, Isaiah. He is 17-months-old, and we are expecting baby #2 in March. Here, in Denver, Colorado, I attempt to balance working part-time from home, running a little art business, and being a full-time momma—all with a husband who travels several days a month for his job.

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

I love being Isaiah’s momma. There is nothing better than those sweet hugs and “mooooo-ah!” kisses from a one-year-old. I love watching Isaiah discover the world, develop his own personality, and hone his dance moves. I experience a deep gratitude for Isaiah and experience the beauty of the small things because of him.

Being a mom also has shown me the realities of myself. It can be really challenging to spend the whole day with an irrational human being (because no one-year-old can be considered rational). I overestimated my patience and generosity prior to becoming a mother. But, motherhood has really humbled me in the respect of revealing my personal failings. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I am not, and will never be, a perfect human or mother, while always trying to do my best to learn and grow in my ability to give and love. My husband and I pray every day to become better parents, continue to try our best, and support one another in the journey.

One thing that has helped me to find peace with myself is to connect with other moms who understand the challenges of motherhood, to exchange advice, and to just provide a listening ear. As mothers, it’s easy to keep busy and get caught up in our own lives and families. We really have to work to step outside of our homes and schedules to build friendships with other moms, but that support is vital.

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

As a mom, I often reflect on my upbringing in Nebraska and the childhood feeling of being totally free and safe on the farm. Sometimes, I feel sad knowing that my children will never grow up like that. We live in suburbia, Denver, in a simple home and a small backyard (compared to the acres and acres of land I grew up with). At the same time, there are also so many things that excite me when I think about my husband and I providing different childhood experiences for them: making faith more than a Sunday activity, teaching about loving one another through examples of our international experiences, and the gift of being surrounded by many other faithful families. We want to take the good of our own experiences and share it with our children the best we can.

On a practical level, I work away while the babe naps. Because my husband travels often, I’ll try to plan some travel for Isaiah and I during that time:  a work trip, visit a friend, or head home to Nebraska. On the other hand, when we are home without Jeff, the days can go really slow. It can be lonely sometimes, but I keep myself busy with by planning hang outs with friends, projects around the house, work, art, and a couple of shows (Poldark, anyone?!).

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

That first step into motherhood was completely life-altering. It’s shocking when you step out of the hospital and they just let you drive off with your firstborn. At first, I think I was just doing everything to keep my child alive and not thinking about myself because I had no idea what I was doing. But with the help and encouragement of my husband, soon it became more natural, and Isaiah has always brought me so much joy in the transition to parenthood.

Although he wasn’t the easiest baby, we traveled a lot with Isaiah. At four-weeks-old, Isaiah went on his first flight. At six weeks old, we took him to England, Ireland, and Portugal. We’ve continued our adventures and invited Isaiah into them. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a challenge, but the experience of traveling is something we value as a family. At 17-months-old, Isaiah has been on about 100 flights and to six countries.

At home, I find myself so grateful for nap times because they have allowed me to get into a rhythm of finding time for prayer, work, and creativity. Pouring myself into these outlets during Isaiah’s nap times fill me up so that I can be more present when Isaiah wakes up. I know that with #2 on the way, things will look totally different. Yet, I’m also recognizing that, although I desire to be our children’s primary caretaker, it is ok to schedule babysitting to do a few extra things for myself every now and then.

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

Being a mom is a gift, and it’s important that we communicate that not only to those around us, but especially to our own children. While motherhood has its challenges, it draws out more joy than I ever could have dreamed. Motherhood requires that we learn to love without expecting anything in return.

A beautiful (and sometimes scary) thing I’ve come to realize is that our hearts become our children’s home and it’s important that we prepare our hearts for this gift. Motherhood does not require perfection. At the same time, it is important to allow ourselves the time to exercise self-awareness and practice self-care, so that we don’t project our own insecurities and shortcomings on our children. The experience of motherhood includes both the highs and the lows. And, it’s all about growing and teaching—both parties play an important role in that, and we end up better human beings because of it.

Also, don’t google things. The internet can be a scary place for mommas.

Mothergood Feature: Jaclyn Hulburt

The questions are as follows:

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

I am a California native, married to my high school sweetheart, and previously worked in special education before becoming a mom. After 100+ hours of classes, my husband and I received our license to parent. In the past two years, I have been a mom to five children—ages newborn to 5-years-old—and I am currently a stay-at-home mom to two of the cutest little girls who are 19 and 20-months-old.

For my husband and me, this December will mark two years of foster parenting, and this November will be the first anniversary of finalizing our daughter’s adoption.

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

The most fulfilling parts of motherhood have been my children’s achievements. Our 5-year-old asks for vegetables and turns down junk food. Our 2-year-old recently picked out a new pair of shoes and let us do his hair for the first time after coming to us in a diaper too many sizes too small, a zip-up sweatshirt, and dirty pants.

After coming home from the NICU, our babies fought through countless days and nights of withdrawal as we held them tight. After a difficult start to her life, our daughter has been able to form healthy attachments with adults and has started re-bonding with her mom. Our daughter and her mom have worked tremendously hard to reach a point where reunification is on the horizon, and we will be saying goodbye to her. Every milestone our children achieve with us is fulfilling, but, at the same time, we also recognize that their parents are missing out on these precious moments.

The most challenging part of motherhood has been balancing all that comes with being a foster parent—between multiple appointments a week, children who have come from different parenting styles, and trying to incorporate our own parenting style to fit what they need. Parenting from a trauma-informed lens, and living in a place of trauma, is HARD and just part of our daily life because foster care and adoption are not without trauma.

It is the countless emails, texts, and phone calls that you receive from fellow foster parents, or social workers looking for a bed for a new child who is entering foster care, or who is having to leave emergency housing because they are past the allotted time allowed. The harsh reality that there are not nearly enough licensed foster homes for the number of children entering care hits home almost daily. It is having to say no because you just cannot mentally, physically, emotionally, or legally accept any new children into your family because you are at full capacity. The No’s we have to give, and the reality of lack of homes, is the most challenging part because at the end of the day the number one thing all these babies need, unconditional love, is also the number one reason why most people are afraid to do foster care, because they fear they can’t give that.

Being a transracial family and parenting children from all walks of life, especially right now, is a challenge. It is hard to know that I will never fully understand what my children will experience.  We cannot ignore the racism and inequality in the world, especially here in the United States. It is our job and our duty to raise strong children who are proud and confident in their skin. I find myself constantly striving to break down unknown biases I once had and educating friends and family on why certain things matter and are inappropriate or need fighting for.  I know that some are going to disagree with me, but that is their choice and I have to stand up for my daughters, sons, and all my future children.

Then, there is saying goodbye to our kids.  There is nothing to prepare you for the goodbye, and each goodbye has been so different. The good bye’s hurt, and they break you.  But, as adults we pick ourselves back up, take a break

from foster care, and jump back in because there are still more kids who need to be loved and more families that need a cheerleader.  Although with each goodbye we receive a new scar, that scar heals and makes us a little bit stronger.

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 is chasing around two under two, trying to keep up with the energy and tantrums that come with a child bouncing from house to house, and lots of outside and playtime. We just started weekly gymnastics class and preschool once a week. It is also balancing various appointments, such as therapies, play dates, worker visits, transportations to and from visitation, and finding time to relax and be with my husband. Both girls are currently very into sensory play, and our favorite morning and evening activity is to play with water beads as a way to help calm down. I love being a mom and watching my daughters play together. Watching their little friendship form the way they hold each other’s hands, give hugs and kiss to each other and to us, ask about their sis sis, and just watching their vocabulary blow up.

What would I change, that feels like a loaded question. I would say what I am working on right now is trying to be consciously present in their lives and not distracted when I am playing with the kids. It is so easy to get distracted and scroll Instagram, read the news, or read a book.  But, I’m trying to be more and more present each day while they are awake. I would change the way people look at our family, the way we are considered inspirational, and told by others they could never do this. If you find our story inspirational, then do something. Let this inspire you to look into foster care, to look into being a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) or an advocate for foster children and the juvenile justice system, support your local foster families by cooking meals or offering to do errands for them when a new child is welcomed into their home. Don’t tell the next foster or adoptive mama you meet how amazing she is, or how inspirational or what a savior she is, because she is just doing her momming duties.

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

I have made it a priority to take self-care time.  Some weeks I am better at it, and other weeks I get very little self-care time. I also have surrounded myself with an amazing support team made up of moms across the country, ones that understand the walk of foster care and adoption, friends who have biological children, and friends with no children at all. I try to work out for 30 minutes a day in the mornings- honest disclaimer I haven’t worked out in 2 months because we have been moving and have big transitions in our life. I make an extra effort to schedule nights out with my girlfriends so that I can get that adult time alone and feel like myself. As far as with my husband, we make it a priority to have date nights as often as possible to keep the romance alive and to connect without our children present. We love to dive into a tv show at night after the kids are asleep, have a glass of wine or some beer, and a cheese plate and just relax.

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

After being in the foster care and adoption world for two-plus years, I have learned that we are not owed children, we are not entitled to children, and that we do not have a right to children, because children are not commodities.

It is important to remember that all types of motherhood are beautiful and different, but they are all our individual journey. There is no one type of mom that is better than the rest—adoptive, biological, guardian, foster, step—they are all MOM. I would say to remember that adopting and foster care are not second best, the answer to infertility, or plan B.  They can be your plan A! The path to motherhood can be long, twisted, and full of hills and valleys, but stay on the path. Ultimately, it is important to discern all types of motherhood, and not just biological motherhood.

5 Tips to Get You and Your Little One Out—By Jeanette Perez

Having a very active and spirited toddler, I’ve learned the value of getting out of the house. At first, the thought of leaving the house alone with my wild child seemed stressful, but it turned out it wasn’t. Plus, it was needed for both of us.  A change of environment, with new spaces to explore, is refreshing. Through many attempts, we’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work for us.

Whether you are interested in getting out of the house for one hour or four, here are five tips to get you started:

  1. Find Your Go-To Spots—Personally, anywhere I can get my active boy to run around is high up on my list. When I first started my mission to get out of the house more, I created a list of local parks and started visiting each one. Two of the key things I looked for when visiting parks (here where I live in sunny southern California) were 1) shaded parking, especially in summer months so that the carseat wouldn’t get too hot when it was time to go home, and  2) plenty of shade to rest, change diapers and eat. Parks may or may not be your thing, but this tip is mainly to figure out what go-to spot(s) work for you and your little one.

  2. Plan and Prep—I like to plan and prep the night before an outing when my son is asleep. My prep involves assembling healthy snacks, packing my backpack with a fresh stash of diapers, wipes, change of clothes, easy eats (see tip #4), and loading the car the night before with my backpack, a few toys and a blanket. If it’s a chaotic morning, I can find peace in knowing everything is prepped and ready to go. If it’s a smooth morning, well then I can relish in that rarity and enjoy more coffee…can I get an AMEN? 

  3. Invite Friends—You don’t have to venture out alone. Invite close friends (with and without kids), reach out to an acquaintance, or seek out a new friend! Outings with others is a wonderful way to build community, maintain or create friendships and teach your little one to socialize with new and familiar faces. Even when a conversation takes twice as long due to little ones needing attention, it’s worth the adult interaction. Plus, when you invite friends on an outing, you are more likely to stick to your plan on leaving the house—even if you are a bit (or a lot) late. 

  4. Easy Eats—Keep eating-on-the-go simple. I usually bring an array of dry snacks and finger foods in a small insulated lunch bag. Don’t forget to pack some snacks for yourself! Bringing easy eats is not only convenient, but it’s a great money saver. However, if you choose to eat out, remember to order food you can eat with one hand.

  5. Bring the Bubbles—In my experience, bubbles are magic to babies and toddlers. I found this to be my secret weapon when my son was on the verge of a meltdown. Bring out the bubbles, and voila—a happy baby. 

Bonus Tip: If the day doesn’t go as planned, if he or she won’t stop crying, if an unforeseeable problem arises, simply go home. Going home early does not equate to a failed outing—you successfully stepped out. That’s a mom win right there! And, it’s important to remember, there’s always another day.