Recommended Reading: Favorite Posts

After years of writing about fashion, beauty, baby gear, or political nonsense, I'm so grateful to finally be making a living writing things I want to be writing. Not to knock any of those genres — it was fun, for sure — but, as a writer, I'm proud of the work I've been producing. And that's a good feeling.

For those of you who don't know, I also write weekly for Babble.com and Mom.me. And in case you don't follow each and every move I make (how dare you), here are some of my recent posts. Check 'em out, if you'd like:

The Day the Dandelions Stop Coming

 

Fun fact: According to my Babble.com author profile, I've written a whopping 8,912 posts for the site. Wowza!

Anywho, I hope you enjoy them. I regularly give my articles a shout-out via social media, so check me out there if you'd like to read more. (And don't forget to join our private Facebook group for some not-so-public early mama talk.)

Shop + Save at Schoola: Special Discount

schoola

For the first time in his (short) life, my 5-year-old love muffin has a preference on what he wears and how he looks. He has favorite t-shirts, a favorite pair of shorts, a favorite pair of underwear even. He also decided to grow his hair long ("to my shoulders") — inspired by a Mr. John Lennon — and so every night he carefully combs his wet hair, perfecting his look.

He's also going to Kindergarten in three short weeks (gasp), and I want to get some new back-to-school clothes to start the new year.

But have you seen how expensive kids' clothes can be? As for finding a reputable location for hand-me-down/budget-friendly clothes that don't look so (ahem) "hand-me-down," good luck. Unless you live in a big city or happen to majorly luck out in your community, thrift shopping can be a major miss.

And yet our generation of parents has something that no past generation has had: eBay, Instagram sales, and well-edited efforts like Schoola.

Now I'm not just saying this because it's a sponsored post — I truly believe in this company, and I'm excited for you to see for yourself. All you have to do is browse the site — read about their mission, their impressive percentages that get donated to a good cause, their vast selection of kids' clothes of all sizes. Many have the tags still on, and many are from reputable brands like H&M, Mini Boden, GAP, Old Navy, and Abercrombie.

To give you an idea of the selection, here are a bunch of 5T boys' clothes for Noah, all from Schoola. All of these clothes are $10 or less — most under $5:

schoolaclothes

Right?!? And good news...

Until August 20th, you can snag a 20% discount to shop at Schoola using the code Back2Schoola20.

AND REMEMBER! 40% of each purchase goes to a school's art or music program, and a percentage of the proceeds from your donated clothes will go to a local school of your choice.

(!!!!!!!!)

PLUS Early Mama readers will automatically donate money to my school of choice, the KIPP Academy in the Bronx, by simply requesting a donation bag or purchasing clothes using this link. (Read more about the campaign here.)

So go on! Save a little money on clothes you'll need anyway; do a little good in the process. It's a win, win all around.


DISCLAIMER
This post is brought to you by Schoola, the best place to buy discounted kids clothes all while give back to schools in need. Click here to learn more about Schoola. Click here to see what people are saying.

To All the Young Moms

youngpregnantmom

I hear I'm going to ruin my life.

I hear it about other girls, too. I hear it as a warning — from my parents, from my teachers, from TV Dads having heart-to-hearts with their TV daughters.

"You just have so much potential. Don't allow yourself to get pregnant and ruin your entire future."

I hear it in whispers, in punchlines. Some nights — after I settle down from a hectic day of classes, doctor's appointments, working, studying — I even hear it from my own brain.

I see it, too. I see it on PSA billboards, and in reality TV shows, Internet comment sections, snarky Facebook rants. I see it in your raised eyebrows and uncomfortable reactions. Why does "congratulations" feel so inappropriate to say? 

News spreads fast; people are wondering if I'm going to "keep it."

I don't feel ready. Aren't I supposed to feel ready? Wouldn't a "good mom" be ready?

It's funny, but I don't feel like a statistic — you know? I feel like an individual person with a deep capacity to love and nurture and grow. But they tell me I'm too young to know any better — that every young person thinks they know it all. They tell me it should be illegal for anyone under 30 to get married, and that I'll regret having a baby too soon.

Maybe they're right. Maybe they know something I don't. Maybe this has been doomed from the start.

Maybe I can't do this.

I can't do this.


You can do this.

The fact that you worry if you'll be a good mom — the fact that you're reading this right now, concerned about your future and your child's life — suggests that you'll be just fine.

The fact that you care puts you miles ahead of some parents.

They're right about one thing, though: You are young. And because of your lack of life experience, perhaps you haven't had an opportunity to get rattled off the society-conditioned track you've been traveling for two decades. It's a comfortable ride — guided by a list of "shoulds" and fear-based warnings, and by sensible adults who hand out blueprints for life (Summary: Go to college, find a safe job, meet "the one," and live happily ever after). According to this blueprint, you must get your partying and "me decade" out of the way. You should "find yourself" before settling down. You should get all of your goals and accomplishments done before strapping yourself down with kids.

Maybe you don't know that your goals and priorities will shift with time — and having a child just might be the motivator you never knew you needed. Maybe you don't realize that it's possible to "find yourself" in unexpected life twists, scary changes, difficult moments.

Maybe you don't know that the blueprint is imaginary, and that all of these boxes we draw around people — identities, stereotypes, assumptions — are made of bullshit. Like, actual bullshit. Who knew!

young mom

And when people project their own fears and deep-set cultural beliefs onto you, it's not personal. It's not about you; it can't be. Because no one can possibly know how your life will unfold, and how motherhood will change you. They can't know what lessons you'll learn, how much self-awareness you'll harness, how a shift in perspective and lifestyle will affect you. Heck, I can't tell you these things, either.

Sure, you might have difficult moments — seasons, even — but that doesn't mean your life is doomed for misery and regret. You could be consumed by "what-ifs" and believe the negative self-talk, if you allow it. And maybe you do have unique obstacles and challenges that older parents don't have — but every life path has those. Highs and lows, perks and drawbacks.

There are no dead ends. This is not your dead end.

breastfeeding

You have more control over your life than they'll have you believe.

Trust your instincts. Tune out the unproductive distractions.

You can do this.

The only way you'll ruin your life is if you believe that it's already ruined.

You Just Do It

"But you were so great pregnant. You were happy and healthy, you always worked out and ate really well. You took care of yourself."

This is how my husband remembers my pregnancy — the same pregnancy that I always depict as being plagued with denial and darkness. And the truth is, we're both right.

The beginning of my pregnancy was hard, man. Emotionally hard. And maybe that emotional trauma got singed into my brain — it's what connects me to your emails and comments about our shared "WTF this isn't happening to me" moments.

But that's the thing: They're moments.

I know that when you email me, you're in desperate need of venting. I know how conflicted you feel (because you flat-out tell me how conflicted you feel), and I understand that it will pass. It always does.

Honestly, I did have a great pregnancy. My body seemed to be made for it — I felt at peace with myself, even if I was really in a deeper state of denial about what was happening. But it wasn't the kind of denial that made me ignore the pregnancy or pretend it wasn't happening. Quite the opposite. Going through the motions meant finding a midwife practice (after getting health insurance, of course — we can discuss that stress another time), obsessively eating healthy and balanced food, regularly exercising, researching baby stuff, contemplating baby names, making a scrapbook that — to this day — I never finished. But now, looking back, I realize that there was a teeny tiny voice in the back of my mind that reassured me with lies: This isn't really happening. You won't really have a baby. This is all pretend.

Don't get me wrong though — I still enjoyed most of the pregnancy. I was in love, newly engaged (ahem), with all sorts of nervous energy that flip-flopped from scared to anxious to excited. I got my tush out of bed every morning and hit the gym — for the baby. I tracked his weekly development and spread the news about what size fruit he was (a peach! he's a PEACH, you guys!). It was an exciting transitional phase.

Looking back or looking forward, things always seem harder than they actually were/will be. That's because when we're in the thick of it — when shit is real and happening and in the moment — it becomes the only normal we know.

"How did we do it?!" I asked Justin. I was referring to the scramble for jobs during my pregnancy, the last-minute moving to accommodate a new person, the doctor's appointments and daycare hunting and breast pumping and long sleepless nights. HOW DID WE DO IT?

"We just did it," he said, casually.

And that's about all there is to it.

It's so tempting to freak out about all of the "what ifs" in the future and dwell on the hardships in the past, but the truth is, you'll just do it.

It will be normal. It will be temporary. You'll get through it all.

You'll just do it — and you'll be grateful that you did.

Early Mamas Doing Good: Help Kids Rock

It's easy to dwell on all of the things we can't give our kids. Maybe we can't afford fancy private schools, or Mandarin tutors, or even a full back-to-school wardrobe of new clothes.

But we can give them access to art and music and unbounded creativity. We can give our kids an opportunity to find a language more valuable than Mandarin — a language that connects all cultures and tax brackets. A language that speaks to their deeper humanity.

For me, there's nothing more important than creative programs — especially for disadvantaged kids. Something like music or painting (or writing!) gives kids an outlet, an escape, an even playing field. And so when this sponsored post idea came my way, I knew it was something that Early Mamas would want to know about.

That's because the organization Schoola sells outgrown children's clothes (which, really, is the best way to buy children's clothes on a budget) and uses that money to fund art programs for at-need schools.

 

You know you have bags of outgrown clothes stacked in the closet. You know you'll eventually stop by the mall to pick up new jeans or Fall dresses once the weather cools down. So together — as one loving group of Early Mamas — we can all help fund a school's music program.

Early Mama is partnering with Schoola to help fund KIPP Academy's music program — a small school in the Bronx, close to my home and close to my heart. (I was born in the Bronx and formed my earliest memories on those sidewalks.) KIPP Academy has 95% of its students qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch, and 1 in 7 students receive special education services. And they desperately need funding for their music program.

These are the kids who need music in their lives. The empowering, uplifting affects of learning an instrument and immersing themselves in the language.

So here's the deal:

If you simply request a donation bag, they'll donate $1 to KIPP Academy.

If you make a purchase using this link, they'll donate another $1 to the program.

PLUS (!!!) when you donate clothes, you'll fill out your child's school information and $2 of every $5 will go to your child's school (or whatever school you want to support).

So basically everyone wins here: Empty out your closet, get a fresh batch of clothes on a budget, and donate funds to your kid's school AND the KIPP Academy. You don't even need to buy anything to help — simply request a donation bag.

(Please use the links in this post, as they're tracking our purchases and donation bags.)

So go forth and do good, Early Mamas.

Let's help all the kids rock on.


Disclaimer: This post is brought to you by Schoola, the best place to buy discounted kids clothes while giving back to schools in need. Click here to learn more about Schoola. Click here to see what people are saying.

Advice to our Formerly Pregnant Selves

pregnant

I only have five or six photos of myself pregnant, which is both pathetic and insightful into that time of my life. And man, if I could go back in time and talk to my formerly pregnant self, I'd hand her a camera. I'd tell her to document it; document it all!

I'd tell her to write out how she's feeling — not just the good, but the fear and anger and rawness. I'd tell her to stop worrying so much about how her future baby (Noah! His name will be Noah!) will one day feel when he stumbles on her tear-stained, yellowed paper, scrawled with deep anxieties about the ruin of her life. I'd let her know that, as soon as he's born, there won't be a moment where he doesn't feel her love. So maybe that honesty will teach him that the most terribly difficult moments can turn into life-changing blessings. That we can't judge change as being good or bad, because life is consistently unpredictable, and things have a way of working out for the best. That we all go through dark times, and we all come through.

I'd tell her that everything will be okay.

I'd tell her that she'll be a stronger, smarter, better person.

I'd tell her I love her, and so does her baby.

But more than anything, I'd tell her to take some damn pictures. She'll only be 22 for one year, and she'll only be pregnant with her first-born baby once. Document it all.

***

When I asked the private Early Mama group what advice they'd have for their formerly pregnant selves, we got some incredible answers.

A lot of "breathe, it'll be okay"s. "Things fall into place" reminders.

A lot of "enjoy this, don't be ashamed, allow yourself to be happy"s.

I saw quite a few reminders to trust their instincts rather than following everything their mother said to do, which is funny because I'D TELL MYSELF THE SAME EXACT THING. I didn't feel like a grown capable adult, and so I deferred to those around me who "knew better." I'd tell that girl that she's capable and valid.

Claire agreed, writing, "I would tell myself to listen to my mother less and my instincts more about things like natural birth, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, etc. I let things get far more medical than they needed to be in delivery because I didn't have faith." And Daniella added, "Stick to your guns on how you want to raise him."

Here's some more advice from readers:

Take countless naps and bubble baths before she’s born. Stop prolonging the inevitable ending of some friendships. Stop letting people feel like you don’t deserve to still go to college. And she is far less scary than you think she is now, and she will be worth everything you’re going through.
— Andie
To be kind to myself. This includes releasing the guilt of not being a ‘better’ mom and my perceived failings, but also allowing myself time and energy for me, because I will be a better mom when I make sure to take care of myself.
— Liann
Think about how you want to do things with your new baby (feeding, sleeping, etc.), but don’t be hard on yourself when you need to change the plan. Same goes for a birth plan. Have some ideas of what you want, but go into it with a flexible mind.
— Tara
I would have reminded myself to eat a little better, as these last 15 lbs. of baby weight aren’t coming off. Also, establish breastfeeding support ASAP.
— Leigh
[Don’t] let your significant other slack so much because 9 years from now he’ll be doing the exact same things because you let him off before. Best piece of advice my mother ever gave me that I should have listened to: Start as you mean to go on.
— Jaime-Lynn
The thing that got to me the most, and still does to some extent, is that my mother-in-law projected her bad feelings about her own early motherhood onto me. It left me feeling unhappy during my entire pregnancy as well as the first few months of Rory’s life. If I could tell myself to understand that it really wasn’t about me, it would have saved me a lot of heartache (and Kleenex).
— Lauren

***

Of course I can't go back in time and chit-chat with a former version of myself, but maybe in some weird cosmic connectedness, I can send this out into the Universe and comfort a kindred spirit of sorts. Maybe there's a 22-year-old magazine intern who wakes up every day and has to remind herself that, yes, she's pregnant; no, this isn't a dream. This is real life — scary, uncertain, demoralizing — and her entire future looks like a bleak, blank slate. She cries a lot, and goes through the pregnancy motions, yet — on some level — is in a weird state of denial.

This is for her. And you. And me.

Breathe. You'll be okay. You'll do great. Everything is as it is, and that's the way it's meant to be.


Read all of the responses + interact with other young moms in our private Facebook group. Request to join.

Q+A with Chaunie Brusie, Author + Young Mom Advocate (WIN Her Book!)

Today I have a special interview with my friend and colleague Chaunie Brusie, of the blog Tiny Blue Lines. I first started chatting with Chaunie back in 2012, when she was a young mom of two little girls and a full-time nurse, with big ambitions of being a writer. Since then, I've watched her expand her family (she's now pregnant with #4) and her career, taking the leap to follow her dream of being a writer.

And she did it!

Her new book, Tiny Blue Lines, is a guide for young moms who can't find a pregnancy book that really speaks to their situation — especially if the pregnancy was unplanned, and/or before marriage, and/or while you're still in school. Read on for more, plus a chance to win a copy of the book:

Who did you write this book for?

I wrote this book for myself, six years ago. I remember walking into Barnes and Nobles after I took my pregnancy test and specifically looking for a book that I felt would address me — an otherwise successful, motivated, smart and educated woman who was in the middle of an unplanned pregnancy. I didn’t want to hear a lecture, or preaching about how much I needed God in my life. I wanted real stories from women like me — I was a senior in college and I had big ambitions for my life — that would help me become the sort of mother and professional that I had always dreamed of being. Basically, I wanted reassurance that it would be okay, and that motherhood didn’t mean a life banished to knitting baby booties and baking in my kitchen forever.

Spoiler alert: That book didn’t exist. Most books on unplanned pregnancy are completely over-the-top religious or designed for “troubled” teen mothers. There’s not a whole lot for women in their early twenties, which is ironic, because when you look at the number, we’re the ones with the majority of unplanned pregnancies.


What’s one thing you hope readers take away from your book?

That an unplanned pregnancy at a young age is NOT a dead end, and in many ways, women like me, who had a baby in their early twenties, have genuinely found both professional and personal success and happiness. In many ways, having a baby “young” helped us have both our careers and our families, which is something that doesn’t get recognized a lot in the discussion about having it all. Maybe we’ve stumbled on the secret that women have been looking for all along!


What do you see as the biggest challenge to student parents today?

Although there are many practical challenges to being a student parent, like the cost of daycare, limited on-campus child care options, campus housing that often excludes families, student insurance that isn’t comprehensive for maternity coverage, or even flexible class options for when you’re off, oh, say, giving birth, I think one of the biggest challenges is simply feeling accepted. When you are that 21-year-old pregnant girl on a typical college campus, it can feel very isolating and you start to wonder if you really do belong there. For whatever reason, we have this stereotype of children as not fitting into our “professional” world and we perpetuate the idea that college is about “finding yourself” and self-discovery. But the reality is that kids can be a normal part of life, and there are more ways to discover your passion and pursue an education than partying every weekend.


[ALSO READ: A Comprehensive Guide for College Moms]


What changes would you like to see made at colleges across the country?

There are some incredible strides being made across college campuses in the country and I’m so glad to see them. Grand Valley State University, for example, has a great student parent support group and some schools like Georgetown, have set aside housing and special forums to address the needs of pregnant and parenting students. I think a lot of schools and administrators are afraid of the cost of implementing resources on campus, but they really don’t have to cost a lot. It starts with an attitude of acceptance — believing that pregnant and parenting students have a right to be on campus just as much as any other student — and then starting with some low-cost solutions, like more online classes, volunteer babysitting groups, or a simple website that lists where students can get additional help. At the very least, every campus health center needs to be equipped with the knowledge to help a student facing an unplanned pregnancy. Most schools have free pregnancy testing, but definitely don’t always know how to deal when that test is positive!

Also, if any student or graduate is interested in more step-by-step ways to bring more changes to campus that can help student parents, my book has a detailed guide of how I did it — and how you can make it happen too.


Beyond being a student parent, your book addresses the unique pain and struggle of having an unplanned pregnancy. I know you had a lot of religion-related guilt associated with being an unwed pregnant college student, but beyond religion, there’s a universal panic that often sets in when our bodies and lives are overtaken by two tiny blue lines. For all of the women who are still shaking from the aftershocks of a positive pregnancy test, what would you tell them?

Give yourself time. Oh my goodness, give yourself time. You don’t need all the answers today and I guarantee you that you won’t be able to answer all those great big motherhood questions early on anyways — Will I be a good mom? How on earth will I do this? Is this really the way things are supposed to be? — I’ve had them all, and to be perfectly honest, I’m still having them now, pregnant with my fourth baby at the age of 28!

There is so much about an unplanned pregnancy that throws your whole life into a complete upheaval and the hardest part is trying to reconcile this image of who you were before you were pregnant with this person you soon won’t even recognize in the mirror!

Try to focus on staying true to the type of woman that YOU want to be and I promise, the rest will fall into place.


What are the biggest misconceptions you (and maybe others) had about your future when you first got pregnant?

I had this crazy idea that because I had an unplanned pregnancy at a young age, that I was supposed to struggle because of it. I set myself up to work a job I didn’t want to, rationalized that my marriage would probably be worse off, and resigned myself to the fact my dreams would be on hold for a while. Deep down, I think I actually wanted to punish myself, as awful as that may be, as if I could somehow “make up” for my bad start to motherhood by sacrificing in the early years.

It took me some time, but I finally realized that it doesn’t work that way — there’s no hard and fast rule about what it takes to become a parent, there is no motherhood police telling you the right way to become a mother. And honestly, there is no such thing as one path. Any parenting website is testament to that — there are biological children and adopted children, breastfed and bottle-fed, swaddled and not swaddled — and we all need to find our way. It was such a relief when I finally understood that I didn’t have to lead an extra hard life just because I had become a mom. It really is possible that motherhood can be what you make of it.

Chaunie is now pregnant with her fourth baby!

Chaunie is now pregnant with her fourth baby!

When you first contacted me, you were a nurse who wanted to be a writer. And now, three years later, you’ve built an impressive reputation as a freelance writer — with full-time writing gigs on big Web sites, articles in national magazines, and a published book.  YOU DID IT.  How does it feel looking back on that beginning time? What advice do you wish someone gave you back then?

Oh my gosh, Michelle, that was all your doing! No, but really, you encouraged me in the early years, and that means the world to any new writer, just having someone believe in them. So thank you! Looking back, I am still in awe that this is my life and that I am lucky enough to make a living from writing. It’s hard in many ways, of course, and it took me a long time to get to this point, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Recognizing what I wanted and steadily pursuing it were the keys for me — I’m a big believer in setting small and large monthly/yearly goals and working at them. And also, treating what I wanted to do as a real job — as a mom with young children at home, I struggled with justifying taking time away from them or affording a sitter when I wasn’t making the money back, but eventually I learned to consider it an investment in my business, like any business start-up, and stop feeling so much guilt for pursuing what I loved.

Honestly, I surrounded myself with amazing mentors — you, Meagan Francis of The Happiest Home, Tara of The Young Mommy Life — and I saw very early on that it is possible to make a living from writing and that I did have something valuable to bring to the table. That was the best early advice I could have ever received — knowing that self-employment is very financially doable and learning to recognize your own unique contributions to the game.

 

What obstacles have you faced in your pursuit to be a full-time writer? How were you able to overcome them?

The biggest obstacles for me were: 1) childcare, 2) self-confidence, and 3) knowing where to pitch. When I first started trying to become a writer, my second daughter was only 9 months old and it took me almost four years to get to the point I’m at now — and in that time, I worked as a nurse and also had another baby! It was so hard to have all those little people at home and juggling my “real” job with writing. I fought tooth and nail for my writing time, and even had to learn to take a loss in profit to hire a sitter every now and then as my business investment.

I also lacked confidence in the writing world — I saw Babble.com greats like you and didn’t think I belonged at all. In fact, I had a page on my website labeled “Wanna-Be Writer” and my writing teacher (Meagan Francis) pointed out how bad that looked — who would want to hire a “wanna-be?” She was so right and when I changed my thinking, I was able to nab the jobs I really wanted.

As far as breaking into the business, that was a hard transition. It’s a strange mix of following writers you admire, trying to network with them and get tips and “ins” without seeming like an annoying stalker (#awkward). I tried to focus on being authentic in reaching out to writers I admired, following sites I genuinely enjoyed reading, and building up my niche — the expertise I could base my own articles on. For instance, I’m a nurse, so I used a lot of that medical background to my advantage.

 

[ALSO READ: 6 Books for New Young Moms]

 

Any advice to the Early Mama readers who want to be writers and bloggers, but feel like their daily responsibilities are keeping them from pursuing their passion?

In the very very beginning, I printed out a weekly to-do list and focused on doing ONE thing every day that would bring me a step closer to my goal. Whether it was printing business cards, or hiring a website designer, or making a list of article ideas, crossing one task off of my list every day helped me feel productive, even on those days I might only have literally five minutes to pursue my dream. Keep at it and it will happen!


Win Chaunie's book, Tiny Blue Lines!

Tiny-Blue-Lines.jpg

Chaunie is giving one Early Mama a free copy of her book, Tiny Blue Lines: Reclaiming Your Life, Preparing for Your Baby, and Moving Forward with Faith in an Unplanned Pregnancy.

To Enter:

Hit one of the "share" buttons below, on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. Then leave a comment on this post, sharing your initial reaction to when you saw your own "tiny blue lines" pop up on a pregnancy test.

I'll pick a winner next Friday and announce on all of our social media channels.

Good luck!


Buy Chaunie's book: Tiny Blue Lines, $12.50

Read Chaunie's blog: TinyBlueLines.com

"Like" Chaunie's page on Facebook

When a Young Woman Has a Miscarriage

Today I'm featuring an important guest post from Gemma, who you might remember from her posts on young marriage and postpartum depression. Click on her byline for more.  -Michelle

miscarriage

A few months ago, I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant, again. I went through a whirlwind of emotions, mostly good. We had talked about having a third baby, but making that decision is just so hard. It was like fate decided for us and I was so grateful, so excited.

We had already told our family and many of our friends. We had started picking out names. Calculating when room sharing would need to begin. I brushed off our old baby budget and began adjusting it for our third babe. I was all in from the moment I saw those two pink lines.

A few days after that, I woke up and realized something was wrong. I knew I was having a miscarriage. Writing those words, even months later, breaks my heart wide open.

I was floored by grief and anger and shock. I was young and healthy and fertile enough to get pregnant without even trying. Miscarriage doesn’t happen to early mamas. The girl who gets pregnant without even trying? This doesn’t happen to her.

I wrote about my miscarriage because the thought of being alone in my grief was far more daunting than laying it all out there. And I’m glad I did, because it made me realize I was not alone.

I was stunned and heartbroken by the number of women who reached out to me privately to let me know they too had known this grief. Many of them were young. Some weren’t mothers yet, only for that brief and fleeting time they held new life inside of them. It does happen to the girl who gets pregnant without even trying. It happens to all kinds of women.

I soon found out, through this private outreach of love and support, why young mothers or young would-have-been mothers don’t speak out about their miscarriages. Because when you are young and unexpectedly pregnant and the unthinkable happens, you aren’t always met with gasps of horror, you’re met with sighs of relief.

Your grief doesn’t count because you didn’t want to become a mother. You didn’t try for years.

Your grief doesn’t count because you are young. You can try again. At least you know you can get pregnant.

Your grief doesn’t count because you ought to feel lucky, relieved. You can have a baby when the timing is better. When it won’t ruin your life.

Your grief doesn’t count because this baby wasn’t part of the plan. Your plan, god’s plan, anyone’s plan. Your life can go back to normal now.

Young women are left to battle their grief alone, and feel guilty for feeling that grief at all.

But that grief does matter, it matters deeply.

It doesn’t matter if you are young and it was unexpected, it still hurts deeply to lose those hopes and dreams and even fears that come with new life. It hurts to lose a pregnancy, and there is no shame in that. Your life changes the moment you know there’s a baby growing inside you. You change in ways you don’t quite realize until the unthinkable happens.

It’s okay if the well-intentioned comments hurt. It’s normal to feel angry and sad and heartbroken.

And perhaps by allowing ourselves to feel the vastness of our grief without shame, we can begin to heal.


Read more from Gemma at Journey of Love.

Fourth of July: Before and After Kids

My first 4th of July as a new mom, I had a 5-month-old baby who was just starting to get on a sleep schedule, and who required an elaborate ritual of rhythmic shush-ing and energy healing to flutter those eyelids closed. And just as he went to sleep, and I stiffly backed out of the room holding my breath, I hear, POP-POP, POPPOPOPOPOPOPOPOP.

MOTHERFFF—AHHHHHHHHHHH! Those goddamn neighbors (she says with a slight growl in her throat).

You know that urge you have to strangle the UPS man who rings the doorbell, or the 17-year-old twat revving his supped-up Honda right in front of your house when you need ONE MORE HOUR OF NAPTIME PLEASE GOD? Take that feeling, and put whatever illegal weapons you can find into my hands. THAT'S how I felt.

I wish I could say that the holiday got better from there.

Second 4th of July: Noah passes out in my arms waiting for the fireworks to start, and we end up pulling over on the side of the road to show a groggy one-year-old kid how the sky is exploding in white lights. He smiles, but, really, the fact that grass grows from the dirt is magical enough for a one-year-old.

Third 4th of July: With high hopes, we funnel our car into the epic traffic that is 4th of July night, only to have him shriek and cover his ears when the BOOMs start happening. His face didn't light up with joy, as I had imagined, but contorted itself into the look of sheer terror. That was fun.

Fourth 4th of July: Determined to avoid the traffic, we hiked up a hill near a local firework spot, which turned out to be the epicenter of all mosquitoes on Planet Earth. Hours and liters of blood loss later, we realized that the fireworks must have been cancelled. And even if they weren't, Noah was too fascinated with chasing fireflies with his friend to care. #priorities

 

And so if you're not quite as excited for this holiday as you used to be, you're not alone. Here's an illustrated guide to the Fourth of July: BEFORE and AFTER Kids...

 

Anticipation of Fourth of July BEFORE Kids:

 

Anticipation of Fourth of July AFTER Kids:

"What do you mean you're going out at 9:30? That's, like, two hours after bedtime!"

 

 

Expectation of toddler's reaction to first fireworks:

 

Reality of toddler's reaction to first fireworks:

"TOO YOUD, MAMA! TOO YOUD!!!!"

 

 

You, during the firework finale, before kids:

 

You, during the firework finale, with kids who are already in bed:

"ENOUGH! ENOUGH! EEEEEEEE-NOUGH!"


fourthofjuly

Good luck tonight, mamas.

And bright side: It looks like Year Five might be the magical year where loud fireworks and late-night celebrations are actually possible. Here's to hoping!

Young Mom Inspires the Internet

youngmom

One of my favorite Facebook pages/Instagram feeds is Humans of New York, which highlights the stories and humanity walking the streets of New York City — beyond the nameless faces we all pass and ignore in our endless hurry.

Sad stories, inspiring stories — stories that make us feel. It's a beautiful project, and a clear example of how the Internet can help us be more compassionate, understanding people.

And one recent feature of a young mom had the Internet on its feet, clapping.

As of right now, the entry has almost 44,000 Tumblr notes, over 1 million Facebook likes, and over 50,000 shares.

And the comments! Tens of thousands of strangers were congratulating her, lifting her up, and also sharing their own inspiring stories as young moms.

All the feels.

She did it, they did it, you can do it.