Posts tagged motherhood
Getting 'Unstuck' From The Rut
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Here I am pulling myself out of the huge, gigantic, rut I’ve been sitting in for the past few months.

I used to have so much energy to actively snap pictures with thoughtful posts and the ability to write and edit children books for hours on end. Now, I find myself unable to write and unable to tune out all the noise and distractions in life to write anything at all.

I am a writer who has stopped writing altogether. Nothing could be more damaging to my professional skills and my sanity to stop doing what I love. Navigating life lately has been like sitting in a lifeboat on an ocean and each challenge has been a bigger wave that could take me under. As soon as I recovered from one wave, another was on the horizon.

Finally, the rocky waters cleared and it felt like I could breathe and recover when we finally moved out of my in-laws’ home. The pressure of trying to find a house, find a nanny, find a new school for Aria, establish Sire’s sleep schedule, make time for my new husband, manage the housework, keep a fridge full of food, spending time with the dogs, all while working full-time with NO vacation in sight was absolutely crippling. Even my outlet, writing, began to feel like a chore and God knows I already had enough of those.

I have had enough of this dark place I had been dwelling in and I am determined to start back writing and creating by remembering what had driven me to become a professional writer in the first place, my family. In 2016, I published my very first book ever and dedicated the story to my daughter, Aria and my husband, Dezmond.

They both inspired me for different reasons to put my work out there for kids and families to read. Having Aria inspired me to write books for kids of color so they would see themselves in the books they read and Dezmond inspired me to pull the trigger and release one of the many manuscripts I’ve been hoarding over the years.

When I finally published my book, I got such a high from seeing my words come to life with the illustrations and visiting classrooms, guest appearing at radio programs in DC, and having two professional readings at Barnes & Noble which is a huge fete for an independent author. I was even a nominated as Author of the Year in Social Awareness at the Indie Author Legacy Awards in 2018. I went on to publish 5 new books in 2018 under my business, A. Cole Books, and have mentored countless new indie authors since then. I know how incredible it is to create art, inspire kids, and challenge myself, so why did I ever stop?

Well the truth is, I had to move out obstacles out of my life that affected my creativity. I was living in the wrong place, hanging with incompatible people, and had the wrong mentality to take on new projects. We finally found a house, we found a nanny, we found a school for Aria, and all of a sudden, it felt like I could breathe again!

Moving to a new area allowed us to get a fresh start in a new home that my husband and I have already had a ton of fun decorating together. Eliminating my major ‘stressers’ allowed me to want to get back into my lifestyle as a blogger and an author because it’s who I am and what I love.

Have you ever been in a giant rut when life took over? What helped you overcome it?

Here’s what I’ve learned

Getting out of a rut is 99% about changing your mental state and 1% about the physical effort to do what you enjoy.

XO

Love thyself: Three Months Postpartum
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I had a baby three months ago.

This is the honest truth I have to say out loud when I look at myself in the mirror. Sometimes, I have to say it over and over again. I had a baby three months ago.

It seems like society places so much emphasis on “snapping back” after having a baby. I had so many people commenting on my body after having Sire, it made me incredibly insecure. I felt like a specimen in an invisible cage that was on display for people to comment on and give their opinions to.

I heard everything from “Yeah, you look bigger now,” only two weeks after having Sire. Well, duh. I also heard “Wow! You just had a baby?” [Cue the eyeroll]. Some people let it be known that it annoyed them that I lost most of my weight so quickly. Regardless of the feedback that I heard, it left an awful taste in my mouth like my weight and body were being picked apart by people I knew and even absolute strangers.

Why is it anyone else’s place to tell me how good, or bad, I look after having a baby? Three months postpartum, I still have about 8-10 pounds left to shed to get to my “pre-baby” weight but I am in absolutely no rush to see any specific number on the scale. Why? Because, I am so incredibly proud of my body and what it has done to deliver two healthy beautiful babies. So what if I have extra weight on my hips or that those stretchmarks from my first pregnancy look more noticeable than ever.

What I wish people paid attention to more than a mother’s physical appearance is her mental health. This time around, I’ve been able to keep postpartum depression at bay which is an incredible feeling to have a sound mind. I can be fully present at my job, and when I’m home being a wife and mother. I don’t have the fog of darkness that surrounds so many of us when our hormones are going haywire.

I know there will be plenty of time for toning to get ready for summer when I’m ready. I haven’t been putting emphasis on working out rigorously because I’ve been so busy trying to nurse a baby and establish a sleep schedule for Sire with my [amazing] partner.

I know that I’m rounding the corner to depart from my 4th trimester which is all about loving yourself and your new flaws as well as obsessing over your new baby. Love thyself. It is so important to be kind to yourself even in the midst of constant criticism from people who make a comment about your body. I’ve officially said screw all the feedback. I am damn proud of my mom-bod and the incredible blessings it’s provided, my children.

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What I’ve learned…

All you can honestly do is tune out all the comments and focus on eating healthy during and after pregnancy, especially if you’re nursing. Set fitness goals for yourself to start at your own pace. I encourage you to listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs and focus on loving yourself from the inside out.

That's How I Got Here Part 2: Sire's Birth Story

Dezmond “Sire” Seifu was born on Friday, 10/26/18 at 9:06 am.

The entire week leading up to his birth was agonizing. I was in an early laboring stage for a full 7 days before little Sire made his grand appearance. I thought I would know what to expect out of the laboring process since this was my second time around, but boy was I wrong…

Side note: Labor for Aria was terribly different and set unrealistic expectations for this new baby. I went from 2 cm dilated to 10 cm in 24 hours with her.

Flashback to a 10/17.

Our hospital was about an hour away from where we’re currently living in comparison to being 10 minutes away from our studio that is located in Washington DC. I figured, the worst case scenario was that I would stay with Dez at the studio if I felt like I was going to go into labor. So, the day my contractions started, I immediately was alert and excited.

As you may know, the closer the contractions are together, the closer you are to delivering. The contractions I had that day went from 30 minutes apart, to 10 minutes apart, to 5, and it stayed like that for about 12 hours before they stopped completely. I had even called the midwives to alert them that I may be coming in if they intensified, but they didn’t. I was shocked. I had my hospital bag packed by 35 weeks so I had everything in the car ready to go! Hospital bag, check. Newborn carseat, check.

At 10:00pm that night I felt the contractions start up again, this time they were more intense. I happily got in my car and drove to our studio, where Dez already was, thinking our boy would be arriving soon. I stayed up, waiting and hoping it was true. I just knew that I wouldn’t have a long labor this time. The midwives warned me to move faster this time because labor is about half the time the second time around. If the first time labor was eight hours, I was expecting to be in labor for about four hours this time.

I finally fell asleep on an air mattress around midnight, thinking that any intense contractions would wake me up out of my sleep. The next morning, I woke up early and was still pregnant, sigh. My contractions consistently came and went for days and days, leading me to become frustrated, emotional, and strained physically.

Luckily, I had a doctor’s appointment the next morning in the city, so I got dressed and went to see the midwives as normal for my 39 week check up. When I arrived, a midwife named Virginia greeted me and decided it was time to check my cervix. I was dilating but it was only at 2cm which was disappointing. She said it could stay like that for days or a week. Yikes.

How was I feeling during this pregnancy? MISERABLE by the end. Carrying boys is SO different than carrying girls. Sire ran out of room in my body weeks before he arrived. He would kick the hell out of my sciatic nerve which is the long cord that runs down your back down to your legs. It cuts off feeling through half of your body if it’s struck hard enough.

I didn’t have any of these pains when I was carrying Aria. He kicked my nerve so hard one day that my sister-in-law had to bring me ice because I couldn’t walk for three hours. He would sit on the nerves that operated my legs and would cause them to go numb for seconds at a time, often in front of other people who I’m sure thought I was seizing or needed serious medical attention.

 Fast forward to 10/26.

FINALLY, a week went by, and I was in the city again at the office. I was with Dezmond working late and was exhausted. I decided to bite the bullet to get a nicer air mattress from Walmart, some soul food from Oohs and Ahhs (the best soul food in the DC), and to get comfortable at the studio for the last time.

I woke up about 4:00am with very intense contractions and felt relieved because it was finally time! I gently woke up Dezmond to tell him the news! I knew the contractions would get more intense, but decided I definitely needed an hour or two more of sleep before we went into the hospital. I recall being up literally all day the day Aria was born between nurse check ups and visitors, the hospital is a place where rest rarely happens.

At 6:00am we packed our things and headed to the hospital. Unfortunately, we had the hardest time finding the ER entrance, which was something I knew was inevitable. We had missed our hospital tour more than once and we could have easily avoided this dilemma altogether if we had made it to any of our tour times.

We had Aria with us, and I couldn’t walk far distances, so Dez let me out at the ER entrance so he could park, grab all our bags, and lead Aria in. I walked to the attendant’s desk and let them know I needed to go to Labor and Delivery. They called a transporter who wheeled me to the fifth floor.

When I got there, it dawned on me that I had left my wallet in the car. All I had was my cell phone and a bottle of water. The security guard started asking me questions about the nature of my visit. I told her I was 39 weeks pregnant and was going into labor. The desk was crowded by nurses but for some reason, they asked me “how I knew I was going into labor?” I told them that my contractions were strong and that I was already dilating the week before.

Like an angel, Virginia floated in to the room and smiled at me. I felt relieved she could vouch for who I was to speed up this idiotic intake process. They took me into the triage room to have me answer more questions while they put an IV needle in my arm and started tracking the contractions with a belt around my belly.

Once they finished they wheeled me into the hallway to take me into the delivery suite. There, holding all our baggage, was my amazing fiancé who had our loud, energetic toddler in tow. Luckily we had an iPad with us and headphones to keep her busy. We finally got to the room and it seemed like it took an eternity to connect the device to wifi. The midwives who were on call and assisting me were two lovely women named Brenda and Alkita. They were two of the only midwife nurses I had never met, but it didn't matter.

They made sure I was comfortable and spoke to me in calm soothing voices. They continued to monitor me and the baby and helped me breathe through the unbearable stage of labor where every contraction feels like it’s ripping through your body. They placed cool rags on my face and told me I could walk around and move if it helped me. I knew it was time for me to push within a half hour of being in the delivery room.

I started pushing on my back, but something told me to flip to my hands and knees which is a position I researched about more comfortable natural birthing. I opted for no medication again?which I realize some people think is crazy but I find it to be empowering and beautiful. I know how much pain I can stand to bring our children into this world with limited assistance by doctors or medicine to speed up or slow down the process.

On my hands and knees I pushed and Sire came out crying. Beautiful and raw. Aria was in the room and her dad shielded her from the graphic part but she was one of the first faces to greet her new brother. My nose started to bleed, something that has never happened in my life, and the rest was a small blur until they placed our son in my arms. They handed him to me, cord still attached to the both of us. I laid there with him just soaking up all those moments until the midwives asked Dez to cut his umbilical cord.

We bonded skin-to-skin for about an hour just embracing each other. I was absolutely in love with him from the very first time he was handed to me. Ah, my boy. His delivery was fast and smooth. We are absolutely blessed to have had two beautiful, uneventful, natural births. It was a wonderful thing to be able to have had calming midwives who allowed my whole family to be together in the room to witness the birth of our new family member.

And just like that, we went from a family of three to a family of four.

How life’s changed

We are slowly transitioning into our new lives with two. We have no routines yet at 6 days in. Dez took a few days off from work to help us get situated which was amazing to have his help in the first few days. We’re just learning to balance the needs of both children and figuring out Sire’s personality. The house has gotten a lot quieter now that we have a sleeping babe around. Aria is still learning about her “inside” voice. I have a feeling, learning that will take some time.

In order to help her adjust to all the changes that come with having a new baby and sibling, we made her room feel more “princessy” and grown up so she wouldn’t feel left out of getting all cool new gear and so she would enjoy spending time in her room. I think it helped ease the jealousy of having a new baby being in our room with us too. She’s a wonderful, attentive big sister already. She holds his hand and sings to him which melts my heart. We’re happy she loves him as much as we do!

Happy birthday to our son Dezmond “Sire” Seifu. We are so lucky to have you.

 

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Stretch Marks in the Home Stretch
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Watching your body grow a baby is one of the most beautiful things to witness. What's not so beautiful? The stretch marks. It seems like they make 1,001 products for scar removal, but what about prevention?

This is my second pregnancy so there are a ton of things I've learned from the first go. One of the main things I wanted to do better this time around is to experiment with what works to keep my skin moisturized against all the tugging and stretching it endures, especially in the second-third trimester.

There are two items I absolutely swear by. Let me first say I am not advertising or affiliated with these brands! These are just products I use and love. They aren't super fancy, but they are super effective. The item I use every day at least 2 times a day is the Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Skin Therapy Oil with Vitamin E. This oil is amazing because it isn't heavy and absorbs straight into the skin. It's good for scars, stretch marks, uneven skin tone, and aging. It is very lightly scented which is great because I have very sensitive skin.

The second item is from a natural brand that I found when I was at an event in Washington, DC. It is the Shea Gourmet Oatmeal Essence Cream by Kimo Bentley. Kimo Bentley can only be found on their website! The owner is a International Esthetician who's been making natural beauty products for over 10+ years. Her and her husband are the spokespeople for the brand and they are literally the sweetest people ever! They even added free oatmeal soap bars to the order for Aria who has pretty severe eczema.

I use both of these products everyday, the oil first, then the moisturizer. I'm a little obsessive about rubbing down my belly because I really only got stretch marks in the last three weeks of my first pregnancy. This time, I'm absolutely determined to stick to this regime until our boy is born. So that's it! I've linked both of the products I shared with you all above, so definitely take some time to check them out if you're growing your own bean. 

Let me know if you have any amazing home remedies or family recipes. I'd love to hear what worked for you all.

Xo,

Ashley

So That's How I Got Here! Aria's Birth Story

So although I've been blogging for more than 2 years, I realized that I have never shared Aria's birth story! With all this new baby hullabaloo, it's brought up so many old memories that I want to make sure I document on in the baby book and on the blog!

Some of you may know that when I was pregnant with Aria, Dez and I decided to not find out the gender. It was a cute idea at first but it drove our parents totally crazy. We figured gender neutral items would do and when the baby arrived we would get things more geared toward the gender. At about the 20 week mark, I was absolutely positive we were having a boy. We threw out names like Malachi (Kai), Cruz, we even bought one comforter with sports gear on it, just in case.

We had planned to have a natural birth. I even checked out the natural birthing center at the hospital I was designated to. I read up about all the benefits of a natural birth for baby and mom. How hard could it be, right?

At 37 weeks, I had a regular check up on a Tuesday. I saw my OB, Dr. Winthrop in the morning and she excitedly shared with me that I was 2 cm dilated. I was terribly surprised to say the least remembering the fancy Doona carseat/stroller we had ordered from BuyBuy baby hadn't even arrived yet! She assured me that it could be days or weeks before I gave birth, so I went home and continued on with my day.

Calling me "active" while pregnant would be an understatement. I single-handedly set up the nursery when I was in nesting mode. I successfully put together the crib, the rocking chair, hung all the closet gear, hand-painted and framed a canvas, picked out every tiny piece of decor to be nailed into the wall, or sit nicely on the steel bolted shelves I power-drilled into the wall. I even changed out the electrical fixture because everything had to be perfect for our new babe. 

In the evening following my appointment I was still moving like a champion. I was crushing piles of laundry and whipping up my daily craving-baked lemon chicken, while I waited for Dez to get home from work. He got home around an hour after I was feeling minor contractions. We ate and got comfortable on our bed watching tv until he started drifting off to sleep. Unfortunately, I was wide awake when the contractions gradually started to increase.

Soon, they were almost intolerable! I had the bright idea to take a warm bath. I filled the tub with warm water and epsom salt and slid into the tub. It felt amazing for the first 15 minutes and I got out because I didn't want to overheat. For a few minutes, the pain stopped, only to return with a vengeance. I ripped off my towel and sunk back into the tub for another 15 minutes. This time, when I got out, they only stopped for a few minutes. 

I remember putting on a sleeveless flannel nightgown (it was September) and I laid in the bed next to Dez swatting at him every few minutes when the contractions started up again. He was dazed but reached out his hand to squeeze when the pain got too tough. Soon, I was sweating buckets and I forced him to wake up so I could call the nurse.

I could barely make it through the phone call without screeching in this poor woman's ear and she politely told me it was time to get my -ish and make our way to the hospital. We were stunned! No baby bag was packed. I was jamming stuff into my petite Vera Bradley duffle through the contractions which were now only a few minutes apart. I had to stop at times while packing sitting on all fours just trying to get through the pain of each one. 

Slippers, check, nightgown, check, newborn outfit, check, eyeliner? Sure, throw that in there. I'm pretty positive it was the most ill-prepared bag in history. I coiled up the straps in my arms and my beloved snoodle pillow (curved pregnancy pillow) and Dez was ready to take us to the hospital. He raised his phone for a selfie and I almost punched the phone out of his hand. We got into my sedan He drove eagerly to the hospital which was only 10 minutes away. I screamed in the backseat of my Hyundai, laid across all the seats. I was pressing the door of the car with my soles so hard that my left foot kicked a hole through the speaker of the car. It was almost 3:00 am so luckily there was no traffic because nobody was on the road that early. 

When we got to the hospital, it was after-hours so the normal entrance was locked. We felt defeated and desperately tried to find the entrance while I waddled around in pain with my pillow in hand. We had to enter through the emergency room of the building, and when I realized the room was absolutely full, I realized I looked absolutely ridiculous. I had a Ludacris fro, I was sweating all over my face. I'm trying to block everyone's view of this tragedy with my gigantic pillow and the woman at the front desk was entirely too calm.

"What are you here for?" She asked us. I'm 37 weeks pregnant and I'm about to have a baby." I responded with a hand on my belly and a grimace. She called the Ob unit and told me to sit in a wheelchair while we waited for assistance. Soon, my name was called and Dez wheeled me to the triage room where the nurse asked me to pee in a cup for her. "A WHAT?" I thought. I was absolutely positive I was going to have our baby on the floor of the bathroom. 

"You're 10 centimeters dilated," she informed me as I laid on the hospital bed when she finally came back into the room and checked on me. Even though we had planned to have a natural birth, I was ready to throw all of that out the window for pain relief. I asked for an epidural and she uttered, "It is too late for that, you're about to have this baby, now." They wheeled me over to the delivery room and I gripped the hospital bed darting my eyes from left to right as I watched the nurses scramble to prepare for delivery.

Thank GOD, my normal Obstetrician Dr. Winthrop was on call and she walked into the room and greeted me with a smile. "Didn't I just see you today?" She laughed. Once she was dressed and ready she checked the monitors and told me I needed to get ready to push. Dez was standing to the right of the bed doing his best to walk me through their instructions and stay calm. Pushing wasn't the hardest part, the contractions were, but by now, I was exhausted and I felt like she would never make her way through; even though I pushed as hard as I could.

With one last gust of energy, I was able to bring her into the world. She cried and her daddy gladly cut her umbilical cord to assist them and they whisked her away to be cleaned. At 3:42 a.m on a Wednesday, they informed us "It's a girl!" And we looked at each other in total shock. We were grateful for whatever gender our baby was and were just glad she was healthy and safely in our arms.

Hours later, we cradled her in our arms checking her face and all her tiny toes. "What should we name her?" I asked Dez. Aria? I asked. Aria. He agreed. Aria Rose. Aria Rose clocked in at 6 lbs. and 6 oz.

Baby was perfect, and we all left the hospital together a day later after staying only that first night in the hospital.

Fun fact: Mommy popped a blood vessel in her eye which was visible in all our initial pictures together.

Did any of you have to switch up your whole birthing plan? What did or didn't work for you all? Sound off below!

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What Moms Really Wants for Mother's Day (When you're on a budget)
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Happy Mother's Day weekend to all my mums out there!

We are amazing people to be able to deal with tiny humans, live out our own dreams, work out 9-5's, wash everyone's laundry, and STILL make time for our partner-before we even think of ourselves. 

Most of our American holidays shove down our throats that we need to go to Kay Jewelers to find something special and unique for mom, but that's NOT what moms really want for mother's day. I'm going to speak for all of us when I say, we just want a restful day with our loved ones. A day where we're not sprinting children to practice, or waking up at 7 a.m. to not be late for school. Here are some awesome ideas to celebrate mother's day without breaking the bank!

  1. Freshly baked bread. You can literally go to the grocery store, buy a box of bread mix, throw some chocolate chips or dried fruit in it. Hell, throw some nuts in it if that's what mom likes and throw it in the oven. Banana Nut is highly recommended.
  2. Breakfast in bed. I'm telling y'all, we LOVE it when our families take the time to cook for us. It's like waking up on Christmas for a mom. You can keep it simple with toast, eggs, and bacon, or you can shake it up by making some crepes or blueberry pancakes for her. Here's a fab recipe for my favorite, Lingonberry crepes.
  3. Make her a video. Heck, you have an iphone. Get it edited on Fiverr to personalize it for $5. For all of her children to speak and share what they love about her. Movies and film are forever, we cherish all our pictures but videos make us feel like we can remember exactly what they looked and sounded like at that moment in time. Doblonk is a great person to use!
  4. Set up an outdoor picnic. Make some basic sandwiches with cut fruit and chips or swing on over to Potbelly and grab some. Set up a cute blanket outside with wine or juice for mom. We love to slip off our shoes and surround ourselves in the great outdoors.
  5. Clean up the house. Take some initiative by vacuuming the house, sweeping and picking up the rooms. Having a clean home without forcing someone to do their chores is a magical feeling that no mom can truly explain. Warm a candle or stick some cinnamon in a pot with water with some citrus, bring it to boil then let it simmer.
  6. Paint her something. Michael's has amazing deals for assorted acrylic paints that you can get for about 0.50 cents each. Kids can use brushes or paint with their hands. We literally try to keep everything so anything handmade feels that much more special.
  7. Give her a day off. Ask dad to make sure mom doesn't have to lift a finger unless she wants to. Kids forget every other day that they can ask their dad for snacks and everything else they harass mom for. Let dad take the lead that day. 
  8. An Edible Arrangement. You can literally make them at home with hand-cut fruit and bamboo skewers if you're a DIY queen like me. I used a bucket from the dollar store, styrofoam, skewers, a pineapple, strawberries, grapes, and cantaloupe which cost me about $12. If not, Edible Arrangements can be purchased in time for mother's day for pick up near your home! 
  9. Movie day. Binge on Netflix or load up on the newest Redbox movies. You can set up a comfy spot to lounge in your living room where everyone can pile together. Lazy days are the absolute best days and when you're a mom, those days are few and far in between.
  10. Make a Handmade Card. We literally always get sappy when we look at the ornaments and cards our kids made from scratch. Cards can be expensive when you purchase them from the store and often aren't very personal. Colored pencils and some help from dad goes a long way in making mom smile.