Life, Uncategorized

New-old spaces

In a fit of restlessness, I moved all the furniture in the house around yesterday, thinking it would give me some inspiration, but something weird happened – I felt depressed. The sudden anxiety that hit me was strange, but I thought it was just due to the chaotic nature of moving things around; one step forward and 3 steps back, one thing rearranged, 3 messes to be cleaned up, especially with a toddler in tow. But as I was cleaning and reorganized, I realized that the reason I for the anxiety and melancholy wasn’t because of the cleaning I had ahead of me, it was for something that was already behind me.

Postpartum depression was something that I wasn’t going to let happen to me. I had read all about it, knew the supplements that made it less likely, had plenty of help around the house so I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed, and had a pretty good handle on dealing with depression due to several bouts with it previously. And then the baby came. Everything was spinning out of control. I was healthy, he was healthy, my husband was happy, everyone was congratulating us, but there was only one problem: I was miserable. Not only was I miserable, but I was also crippled by anxiety. As soon as the sun started to set, I went into panic mode, knowing the long, lonely night that stretched ahead, full of feedings, burps, and diaper changes, all while everyone else slept. That space I was in – the dark, isolated, suffocating space – made it difficult to function let alone interact with others.

Eventually, I made it out of that hole I was in, but the imprint on my life with forever be there. When I rearranged the bedroom, I realized that I had moved the things back to the way they were immediately after my son was born, and somehow I’d moved all the negative feelings back too.

I was exhausted after I moved everything so there was no way I was going to attempt to move them again, and after waking up this morning – happy and well-rested with my energetic toddler – I’m not sure I want to. I’m a firm believer in working through things, regardless of how painful they are. I know not everyone deals with things like this, and I respect everyone’s right to handle their own issues in their own way; our differences in perspective are what make us us. But for me, today, I think I’ll sit here and enjoy as many good memories in my new-old space as possible.

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Life, Uncategorized

Moms need friends, too.

I’ve always been a pretty open person, and don’t usually shy away from divulging about my personal life with friends. I mean, chances are what I’m going through at any given moment is something that you too have faced, so why not share and at least get some comfort, if not a solution? The human experience is such a fascinating one because literally billions of other people have gone through or are going through the same thing as you, yet our days are punctuated by moments of isolation and our circumstances sometimes really make us feel like nobody else would get it. Throughout the years and the stages – high school, college, whatever the hell comes after that – our circles change, and we start to see the herd of friends thinning out, yet, with the more time that passes, we start to realize that’s actually not a bad thing.

The funny thing about becoming a mom is that you’re thrust into this community of other mommies and – whether it seems like it or not – you suddenly have so much in common with women all over the world. It’s also such a weird time because you’re typically physically isolated with a tiny human staring at you 24/7 waiting for you to do something interesting or give him the boobs, which can really take a toll on your emotional state and ability to string coherent sentences together. By the time the baby is old enough to take out and you have the chance to reunite with your friends, you may find that you don’t have much in common with them anymore, especially if they don’t have kids, and sometimes even if they do. Our families take over our lives and the small differences in philosophies now become more pronounced as you’re juggling the new role of motherhood as you see fit.

So when you do find a mom friend that you share the same philosophy with, it’s really a special moment. But, just like your growing bump opened you up to unsolicited advice from complete strangers, the way you raise your kid will, strangely, always bring out peoples’ very strong reactions. Having mom friends doesn’t always mean having a support system during the times when we need it most; I’ve found that it can often mean judgmental, harsh criticism and advice during the times when we need it the least.

Look, I get that you’re doing the best you can based on what you know and that your way really is the right way. For you. But for me? Well, maybe it is, but it probably isn’t, and that doesn’t make me wrong. I find my self-doubt crippling enough most days without having to hear whether or not I’m turning my son into a spoiled brat by staying home and co-sleeping. If I were going back to work and leaving him with (gasp!) a stranger, I’m sure I would hear how awful that is from other mamas, so it just seems like a lose-lose situation in which everyone wants to flaunt how great they are at motherhood, when I’m sure that we all waver in our confidence (if you have any, to begin with).

I guess I just wish making mom friends was a little less stressful and a bit more inclusive; I breastfeed and co-sleep, so I probably won’t be able to give you advice on formula or sleep training, but that doesn’t mean we can’t grab a cup of coffee and commiserate together about all the extra laundry we have now that our babies want to feed themselves or come up with theories as to why causing us excruciating pain (especially by biting the nipples at 4 am) is the funniest thing in the world to our littles.

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Thursday Thoughts

In this week’s edition of the highly-irregular and too-infrequent-to-be-called-a-segment segment of Thursday’s thoughts:

  • I’m 30, Y’all. Well, not yet, not technically, but almost. I can see the date on my calendar whenever I look at the month of October, and I guess more than anything I’m just hyper aware of where I want to be in the next 5 years and wonder if there’s anything I could have done to be there now. I know the answer is no – mainly because the birth of my son was the catalyst for this journey I’ve found myself on – but I still can’t help but feel like everyone else has it a bit more put together than I do. But then when I talk to everyone else they’re like, “no way, I feel the same way you do, I don’t have my shit together at all,” and that doesn’t make me feel any better it just makes me then wonder who is responsible for an entire generation of people pretending like they know what they’re doing when they have no idea.

 

  • I’m also really going through it. And by it, I mean everything. Adam is teething, which I’m pretty sure is just the state of any fresh human from the age of just-born to maybe around 2 years. I actually got really lucky with him as a newborn because he was pretty easy, as long as I followed my instinct of just popping out the boob whenever he wanted it (which I did!). There have been phases that have been more challenging than others, but it seems like now-me would go back in time not to tell then-me that it gets easier, but instead that it actually gets a LOT harder so to stop crying. (Kidding. Kind of.) The hardest part about having him as a newborn was just the fact that I had never done it before, and the PPD and PPA kicked me down a notch or twenty, too. So, here we are, sleepless nights, nursing strikes, days spent with a fussy baby attached to me, wishing I would take away his pain. Another part of that ‘it’ is personal, as I am definitely in the middle of a life lesson, and I know that because it’s uncomfortable as hell. Without unpacking the whole thing here (because I wouldn’t even know where to start at the moment, honestly) I will just say that the mantra, “everybody gets what’s meant for them,” has been on repeat, and not in a psychotic, hope-karma-kicks-your-ass way.

 

  • Part of what made today easier than the last two days, even though Adam has been the exact same totally un-chill kid is that I lowered my expectations and just enjoyed the moment, even when the moment was a screaming baby who wanted to be held without being touched. Today, I wasn’t shocked when he woke up at 7 am (after sleeping at 1), and I didn’t expect him to nap as easily as he did before teething pains took over his life, so I didn’t find myself as frustrated as I’ve been when he finally did nap (8 hours later…) I think part of what can be really challenging as a new mom (and maybe as an experienced one, too) is the ideas that we have in our head, particularly the one that we can maintain some kind of similar life to what we had before kids; we can’t expect to be able to cook, clean, self-maintain, and socialize the way we used to because that’s just not practical. I find myself getting the most upset at the 2-hour go-the-F-to-bed routine when I have something else I expected to do. Instead, I try to be present and understand that the needs of my baby will change so quickly and frequently – and that they are actual needs! – and postpone whatever else I had in mind until he’s settled. It’s not necessarily being patient (because I suck at that), but more so letting go and just going with the flow.
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Saudi is many things…

There aren’t many moments that I can look back on in life and say, “that was huge,” because most things build up over time. Sure I can map things out in a nice straight line – high school, my first job, college, my favorite classes, my first PR internship, the client that hated us (this actually needs its own blog post), converting to Islam, graduation – but the fact is that it wasn’t neat or linear. It was messy and chaotic and beautiful. 

Some moments, of course will stick out in mt mind no many how many years pass. Meeting my husband and falling in love – although it was pretty instantaneous – and building our life together was obviously one of the highs. The birth of my son was bittersweet, but let to something amazing, as did moving to Saudi. I can unequivocally say that making the choice to move to Saudi was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

There were a ton of things that went into it when I decided to come, but ultimately it was just about stepping out of my comfort zone and taking a chance; I got on the bus.  Living here has allowed me to experience sunsets under the Bosphorus, sway along with flamenco dancers in Barcelona, and savor dim sum in Hong Kong. I’ve found love as a wife, fulfillment as a mom, chased my passion into birth work and breastfeeding support, and still manage to make some killer banana bread sometimes. Above all else, I’ve grown up; I’m not the same 23-year-old girl who left home in search of something bigger.

Saudi is many things, but for now, it’s home. There are things I would change, sure, and the list is probably almost as long as the one I have for my home country. I wish people respected personal space, I wish the concept of a line was a bit more common, I wish customer service existed, and I wish our attire (and lifestyle in general) was a bit more colorful and free. But, it’s here that I learned how to take care of myself. It’s here that I learned how a strong and supportive a community of friends could turn into family. It’s here I learned that life is challenging anywhere you go, and it really is just what you make of it. I learned that if you put yourself out there openly and unapologetically, the universe will respond in kind and the right people will find their way to you; your vibe will attract your tribe. And that tribe may come and go, but the lessons they shared, the love they showed, the insight into who you are they reflected, these things will be a part of you forever.

I look forward to many more milestones reached, for me and my family, for Saudi and its people, and to all those who call a home-away-from-home home (say that 5 times fast), take a second to appreciate the life you’ve made, the chances you’ve been offered, and the adventure that awaits you.

doula, Uncategorized

Sisterhood Sunday

Growing up, I was always looking for a fight. In every situation, I always seemed to find the underdog and defend them vigorously. My nana used to tell me I’d make a great lawyer, my mom would tell me I can’t fight for everyone, my dad would tell me some causes and people are better stood for in private. And while each person was attesting to some truth, there’s just something about being able to speak for people who aren’t able to speak for themselves; I’m instantly attracted to the downtrodden, no matter how hard something is to look at, I want to see it for all that it is and I want to know what I can do to fix it.

Things haven’t changed much (especially the looking for a fight part, according to hubby), so it’s no surprise that, as a woman, I feel called to support other women. Or, maybe in today’s highly but secretly competitive society – where perfectly posed shots of handcrafted cupcakes are currency and not liking someone’s picture on Instagram is grounds for excommunication – it is surprising. But that’s a different post for a different day.

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that delivering my son was no walk in the park, nor was it a picnic (seriously, someone described their labor to me as being like a picnic before I delivered; no wonder my expectations were so unrealistic!). It was traumatic, and it still, to this day, has the power to flip my mood upside down. I’d always thought it was that way because the hospital that I went to wouldn’t give me the epidural, the country that I delivered in didn’t have higher standards of care, the doctor that was on duty at the time wasn’t nice to me and treated me as though I was weak and whiny. And, it may have been in part a combination of those things. But the biggest reason why I had such an awful birth experience was that I wasn’t prepared.

Yes, I Googled everything: pregnancy aches and pains, what was OK and what wasn’t, what to buy for baby, how to handle baby once he’s earthside, but all of that preparation was for before and after the labor. I didn’t research one thing related to the actual part where I was going to push a baby out of my lady parts. Looking back, it’s like, duh how could you be so dumb, but if I actually dissect why I didn’t feel the need to, I feel a little less stupid and a little more angry.

Growing up in a Western culture, we are often taught to see drugs as a blessing, a technological advance that we are lucky enough to have access to. It wasn’t until recently that the resistance and skepticism of such “advances” became mainstream and people started questioning our dependence on Big Pharma. What’s even worse is that the healthcare community and Big Pharma are in on it together. So it’s no wonder that one of the most natural things in the history of the universe – childbirth – has also become heavily medicalized, with all interested parties making a pretty penny off of every birth they highjack.

I’m not saying there haven’t been leaps and bounds made in terms of maternal morbidity and mortality due to technological advances, but I am pointing out that a majority of mamas don’t need any of that stuff because our bodies know what to do. (And, I would also like to point out that as far as developed nations go, the US is failing mamas and babies BIG TIME; two of the biggest reasons? The rise in C-sections and a greater focus on fetal and infant health over that of the mama.)

Y’all – we have been making and having and raising babies for as long as time has existed. We do not need a trained Obstetric surgeon to attend every birth. 

Naturally, when it came time for me to have a baby, not getting an epidural didn’t even cross my mind. Um, yes I will take the drug that makes me feel nothing so I can smile pretty for pictures when the baby is placed in my arms. So when the doctor told me I couldn’t have one, I really – for the first time in my life – was woefully helpless. I hadn’t studied even one technique to get through the pains of labor naturally, and at that moment, I was sure there weren’t any. My husband was at a loss, my doctor and nurse were overrun with patients, my closest female family members were 7,000 miles away, and I thought I was going to die from the pain. I didn’t have any other options because I hadn’t given myself any other options.

In retrospect, I know that beyond the other responsibilities that come along with mamahood, figuring out how and on which terms you want to labor is a huge one. It goes beyond whether you want drugs, episiotomies, or to breastfeed, and some may even say that it’s a political issue, the subjugation of women how it’s in the patriarchy’s best interest to make sure we’re not empowered (again, another post for another day)…

At your most vulnerable moment, when you’ve reached the lowest of lows, you’re lucky to have someone to be able to pull you out, or at the very least to chill in the darkness with you. This togetherness – this sisterhood, if you will – is something we all crave, but not many of us have the skills or resources to seek out. Yet, this village plays such an integral role in whether we’re successful in life, whether it’s in business ventures, creative adventures, or – yup, you guessed it – child rearing.

So, to do my part in empowering women with education and knowledge, I’ve become a doula and childbirth educator, as well as began my formal training to become an IBCLC.

No matter what you want your birth experience to be like, you deserve to be informed and supported completely. If more women empowered and supported other women, there’s no telling the things we could accomplish. If more women enjoyed their birth experiences and came together to help others enjoy theirs, who knows how our communities would change.

 

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Thursday Thoughts

I don’t do this nearly enough to call it a segment (I think weekly segments are done weekly, no?), but that’s only because I have a really hard time remembering what day of the week it is most days.

Terrible twos, before first birthday – Is this a thing? I know most people are hopeful that their kids will be advanced in other ways, like walking or talking or solving geometric equations (is that a thing?), but I guess mine is diving into challenging behavioral changes early so, yay? He’s taking nearly an hour to get to sleep each night, and when he decides to sleep before midnight (1:15 was the time on the clock by the time I untangled myself from him last night), he wakes up after an hour ready to rumble as if we’re having a big party without him. I know some people swear by sleep training and go on and on about how it’s actually beneficial for the kid to learn to soothe themselves (can I even do that, though, like, let’s be real) but I don’t buy it. I mean, it’s cool if you do, but it just doesn’t fit with my parenting style, so I’ll pass. But that doesn’t mean I can’t complain about the boobie barnacle’s bad late-night habits.

I’m leaving the baby for the first time in a few weeks – Is it crazy that I made it 11 months without ever going anywhere without this kid? What will that feel like? Am I going to randomly cry, or will I enjoy myself? I’ll be attending a doula workshop in Riyadh for 3 days and hubby will take charge of the monkey during the day for those days, so that should be really interesting. As with all things related to his dad, though, I’m sure he will be just a peach and make me look like a total drama queen for being at my wit’s end most days.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I’m looking for ways to revamp the blog (or vamp, because it will be the first time), and working on some fun new content for you guys, mainly about mom stuff (shocking, I know), but I also want to explore some fashion topics and see what happens.

Happy weekend – or almost-weekend if you’re on another side of the world.

 

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If We Were Having Coffee…

In an effort to finish what I started – even if it’s a bit late – I wrote a little something for the last prompt on the Write Tribe’s Festival of Words, which was: if we were having coffee. 

It’s no secret that I love and need coffee, but what you may not know is that every time I drink a cup, I think of my grandfather, my Papa. I was blessed to be close with my grandparents, and am even more blessed to still be close with them. They’ve had such a profound influence on my life, and have a special place in my heart.

This one’s for you, Papa. I’ve had coffee all around the world, but nothing compares to coffee with you.


If we were having coffee

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you about your day.

You’d mention how much pain you’re in, and how you wish that I could stay.

I’d start to say something like, “I’m sorry,” but stop myself, knowing how lame it sounds, I’d search for the words, and fall short, and come up with nothing profound.

Because what I mean to say is so much more than words could convey; I wish you could move and dance freely, joke and laugh, and that life wouldn’t take me away.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you what’s up with me.

We’d catch up on baby, on life, and I’d share with you all that I wish to be.

You were always the best listener, someone in whom I could always confide, and I never felt any pressure to be someone other than me, I never felt like I had to hide.

Even when you didn’t agree, you always stayed with me, because you knew who I was and never saw me as who you wished I would be.

If we were having coffee, I’d apologize for breaking your heart.

I know when I put all the miles between us, it tore our family apart. You never stopped me, or begged me not to go, and it hurts me to be so far away from you, too, I hope that’s something you always know.

If we were having coffee, I’d sit as close to you as I could, because I know these moments are precious and fleeting, and rarely do we get to spend time in the presence of someone so pure, so kind, so good.

When I’m having coffee, I think of you a lot; we could always count on you to have a freshly brewed pot. But it wasn’t the coffee, or even the flavored creamer that kept us coming back, it was you, Papa, the love you showed us, the comfort you gave, and we will always smile at that.

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Guest Post – Feelin’ All the Feels

So, I’m a day late on the Word Tribe’s Festival of Words (what’s new, really?) but I’m not letting it discourage me from posting because this, this, is a really special one.

While I haven’t delved much into my family life outside of hubby and baby, I do in fact have the whole shebang, including parents and siblings – one badass brother whose current pursuits include a degree in Criminal Justice and powerlifting, and the sweetest, most artistic sister who’s about to make you feel allllllll the feels.

Today’s prompt was to have a guest post or interview, and – as always – my sis was the first one to pop into my mind. She’s been tirelessly working on an ebook of poetry that’s set to release on Amazon later this month and it. is. beautiful.

I chose only one piece to include here, though you can see another sneak peak on my Instagram. Get in touch and let me know what you think; and I will keep you posted on release date and details.

Into the moonlight

Lightning, thunder and rain.

The one that brings you pain.

The two that bring you blues.

The three together are just beauty into the moonlight as the rain fills your shoes.

-KNA

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Dear son

So, today is the 5th day of the Write Tribe’s Festival of Words and the 3rd time I’m writing. Even if you’re horrible at math you know that doesn’t add up. In the spirit of full transparency, aside from dealing with daily tasks and a cranky baby (are there teeth coming in at 11 months? Is he just upset to be another year older like the rest of us? I can’t tell where the grouchiness comes from anymore…), I’ve been dealing with a bit of mental fog that just won’t let me get motivated for anything, even things that I enjoy doing. So it seems like forcing myself to sit down and write instead of watching another episode of “The Good Wife” on Netflix (seriously, have you seen that show? I know I’m 10 years behind but the chemistry between Will and Alicia is off the charts!) is the only way to go.

Today’s topic is simple: write a letter.

And, as a new mom staring my son’s first birthday in the face, the choice of whom to write the letter to was simple, too. Although, a letter to hubby did cross my mind, I imagine the contents to this letter will be more… publishable. So, without further ado…

Dear son,

I know every mom makes a point to say this, but bringing you into this world was not an easy task. Aside from the usual pain that comes with pushing a tiny-but-still-not-that-tiny human out of my body, the aftermath of your birth hit me hard, and the first few weeks home with you I wasn’t sure I would survive. But, somehow, we did. You and me, we helped each other make it through.

You’ve always had a strong personality, something they don’t tell you about babies – that you can see a glimpse of your future teenager from day one. You don’t take shit from anyone; if you like something, you love it, and if you dislike something, everyone knows it. I wouldn’t say that you’ve been a serious baby, but your laughter doesn’t come easily, which makes it all the more precious to hear. I hope that this one day will translate itself into someone who thinks before he speaks, and weighs his options carefully (but not too carefully); someone who understands that while logic should rule our decisions, our heart should guide our logic, and someone who knows that best thing to do is not always the easy thing, or the most accepted thing, but the right thing.

There are a million things left to say and – lucky you! – I’m sure you’ll hear it all over the years from your dad and me. But the most important thing to remember is this: most things in life are shades of grey, but a mother’s love and support is not. The love I have for you, son, will never fade, diminish, or age. I will support you in all things, even if my support doesn’t always look like acceptance. I will listen to you, even to the things I may not want to hear, and I will always keep in mind that you are your own person, and that’s who I will raise you to be. If there ever comes a day where you don’t feel the comfort of my love and encouragement surrounding you, then I have failed, and if I fail at being a good mom, no other accomplishment could ever make up for it.

My prayer for you is and will always be that you are kind, gentle but strong, intelligent, and surrounded by love, light, and happiness (and that you will sleep through the night by next month). You were a part of me once – and as long as I remember the heartburn and backaches, so will you! – and so it won’t be easy letting you go into the world, but I will do it because I know at the end of the day I don’t own you, I’ve only been charged with raising you, and although we’re only a year in, what an amazing privilege it has been.

I know we will have bumps along the way, as all parent-child relationships are fraught with disagreements and miscommunication, but I hope we come out of it stronger, as friends; you may be stuck with me as your mom, but I would like to think that one day – even if it’s 30 years down the road – you would actually choose to hang out with me.

I love you, son, and I can’t imagine my life without you.

Love,

Mama

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Time Isn’t Money. It’s Much More.

So, as promised, today’s a two-for-one day! Before I dive into the second topic, I want to say a bit about why I decided to join the challenge in the first place. It actually wasn’t a complicated decision; I saw something about it on Instagram, thought to myself ‘that would be cool’, and signed up. It was one of the simpler decisions I’ve made in the past week, and I’m glad to be a part of something that gets my creative juices flowing.

So, without further ado, the second topic of the Write Tribe’s Festival of Words is: Share about a resource/s you have or use

As your typical American Millennial from a middle-class suburb, I got lucky. I had the right opportunities at the right times with the right passport and ended up in the right places. To say I didn’t work hard for all I have in my life would be a discredit to all the elbow grease I put in over the years, but I certainly didn’t have to work as hard as others to get where I am. But the resource that I’ve come to see as my most valuable is something that everyone technically has the same of, though it seems the poor have more and the rich have less.

That resource is time.

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As a kid I had a bedtime, a time to start school, a time to be home before mom came looking for me (which you did not want). I spent time with my friends, time on the computer, time daydreaming about N*SYNC, and time with family. As I grew older I split my time between high school and a part time job, hanging out with friends, and shopping. College saw time disappear and suddenly I couldn’t consume enough iced coffee from Creekside Cafe and even the all-nighters I spent writing 10-page papers didn’t seem to be long enough. And, as if time couldn’t go any faster, I was starting out at the sea of parents and friends as I waltzed across the stage to collect my diploma. And then, well, then I’m not sure what happened, but 24 hours just didn’t seem like enough to have the kind of life I wanted.

Work. Home. Family. Friends. Bed. Repeat. I couldn’t stay out too late on weekdays, I could never wake up as early as my alarm clock implored, the weekends seemed to pass in three breaths, and somehow Decembers and Junes were speeding by. My friends were getting married, I was getting married, and then I found myself pregnant, and knew it was time to slow down.

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The funny thing about having kids is that you have the perfect idea of how to do absolutely everything. And then the baby comes and somehow all your perfect ideas turn into theories that never quite work out as planned. I was in over my head, and time seemed to stop. Feed, burp, sleep, change, play, repeat. You’d think it would fly by all too quickly, but somehow in the moment, it felt like a lifetime. I wasn’t sure the first 2 weeks were going to ever pass, let alone the 8 month mark, which is when everyone told me it got better. I spent countless hours in the room, door closed, hoping nobody wanted to hold the baby, because I couldn’t let anyone hold the baby, crying, rocking, feeding, sleeping.

Of course, if you’ve been down the dark road of Postpartum Depression, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It may not have looked the same, but it all feels the same; cold, lonely, and never ending. Instasize_0928135723.jpg

When I decided to quit my teaching job to stay at home with the baby, I knew that there would be days when my world was so small – 25 pounds and 29 inches small – but what I didn’t expect were all the moments that would take my breath away, and make me so happy to have all 24 hours to spend with my son. By quitting my job I gave myself the gift of time with this tiny human, and I haven’t missed out on a single moment. All the first babbles and movements, the crawls and the steps, the problem solving and the cat attacking; I’ve been here for it all. Sometimes when I think about the future, about Adam going off to school, I stop to hold him close just a few seconds longer, or smell his head just a few more times, because I know one day time will speed up again, and I’ll miss these moments where he and I are suspended in the giddiness of our own little world.

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Time is our most valuable resource because no matter how much money or fame we acquire, we can never get more of it. It’s something that we need to invest wisely because time well spent can mean the difference between a good life and a great life, and more time with loved ones is never guaranteed.

Check me out on Instagram @mama.fil