Life, mamahood, Uncategorized

Let’s stop the ‘shushing’

Last week I wrote about not being able to form, let alone speak in, complete sentences since become a mom. Mainly, my brain is fried from having to keep mental tabs on another human 24 hours a day, and I’m generally pretty exhausted by the emotional and physical labor that goes into motherhood. Most moms can relate. Having a kid that looks and acts like you is (mostly) great, but there’s just something about it that sucks the life out of you and makes you really excited for bedtime, theirs and yours. And, while these topics often come up in conversations with a laugh and a stifled sob amongst moms, we rarely get into the nitty-gritty of how moms’ brains can change and how hard – and scary – those changes can be.

We joke about not having time for our husbands or being touched out after having the baby on top of us all day and night, but rarely ever talk about how painful it is to see our dejected spouse shrink back onto the couch after realizing that we really, like really, can’t stand to be touched. How we want to scream, “I want you too but I don’t have the mental energy and I’ve had a toddler attached to my boob and hip all day and the thought of anything entering my personal space right now infuriates me!” How much we wish we could shake the layers of exhaustion off and be fresh and welcoming for them, but that requires a hot shower and a major offloading of feelings about how the day went, and we still have to do the dishes and put the leftovers away and then before we know it, the baby’s awake again, frantically looking for the boob, banishing you back to the bed with him when all you really wanted was that hot shower…

Another thing that I rarely get out of my mouth before I’m being shushed and told not to think such things are the awful thoughts that pop up randomly throughout the day. If you’re a mom, you know what I mean. Sometimes, when the baby is playing, I imagine him moving the wrong way, and the TV falling on top of him, or his head smashing into the hard tile. I see it in my head; the blood, the bones sticking out, I hear the crying, the gasping for air. I still wake up in the middle of the night, my heart pounding in my ears – if only for a second – and check if he’s breathing, especially when I haven’t been woken up in more than 2 hours. One night – and the only night – when A slept 5 hours, I woke my husband up in a panic and insisted on waking the baby, too, just in case he was breathing but there was something wrong. Sometimes when I leave him with someone else so I can go to the bathroom or if we need to make an emergency shwarma run (yes, there is such a thing!), I imagine the person dropping dead and A crying until we come back, traumatized for life by what his little mind saw. Or what if they hurt him, or kidnap him, or let someone else hurt him?

My body physically reacts when he falls, when he cries, when he’s not feeling well. This is how we were designed, this is what connects us to our babies, even though they can be autocratic jerks most of the time. The thoughts that come and go, the visceral reactions to our baby’s discomfort are uncontrollable, and just because they’re ridiculous doesn’t make them any less scary. The constant stream of what-ifs can really take a toll, and – I should actually consider myself one of the lucky ones. Some mamas who struggle with these thoughts can’t actually see reason and find themselves consumed with horrible images, and unable to function. Their fears of the unreasonable grip them by the throat, leave them crying on the bathroom floor, and make momming even harder than it already is. It can be compounded by pre-existing health conditions, Postpartum Depression or Anxiety, lack of support in their journey through mamahood, or just a Type A personality that is having a hard time adjusting to the chaotic, sleep-deprived nature of being a mom and can’t compare to the perfectly curated shots she sees on her Instagram feed.

I’m not sure why as a society who’s so connected by this thing called motherhood refuses to talk about the ugly sides. I find it comforting to know that another woman is going through the same things I am; it takes the edge of the craziness that I see when I look in the mirror. I also think it’s important for those moms who may not have control over those thoughts to know that they’re not alone!

So next time your mom friend wants to talk about the uncomfortable side of this new life, try comforting her in a different way. Instead of telling her that it will all be OK, and not to think so negatively (I get this one a lot…), tell her that you too have those thoughts, feelings, crazy-lady moments, and thank her for being brave enough to share it with you.

Life, Uncategorized

Chronicles of a hair-brained mommy brain

I used to think that going out with a 4-month-old was tough, and then my son started walking. While it’s a lot of fun to chase him around restaurants while he squeals and points at other customers and tries to steal everyone’s cell phone off of their tables (read: NOT FUN AT ALL, GUYS!), I also realize that we can’t just stay in the house until he’s learned to behave. So, a couple of times a week, we gather our strength and leave the house. Usually I like to wait until my husband is home so I can zone out with my ice cream cone and just watch him chase A around, but I do have friends and they do invite me out and it’s hard to say no more than 14 times in a row, so eventually I end up going out with A by myself.

Now, I will say that I have amazing friends. They all have – or have been around – kids enough to understand that going out with my will be chaotic. And, really, I don’t deserve such gems of friends because I wasn’t nearly as great as them when I was single and childless. I was kind of an asshole and didn’t want to deal with screaming kids so I always avoided going out with my mom friends (I’m sorry, ladies, please forgive me!!!) But, aside from having great friends, you really need to have a lot of stamina, not just to chase to your screaming child while he makes a beeline for the stairs, leaving a trail of crumbs in his wake, but also to remember what you were saying 3 seconds before you started chasing him.

Seriously, having a continuous stream of conscious thought it hard enough with a toddler, so making sense of those thoughts and translating them into a coherent, grown-up conversation is damn near impossible. I would say I feel dumb most of the time but I don’t even think I get enough time to myself for that thought to cross my mind before I’m off chasing A again.

To top things off, just when he naps and I plan to sit down to do something productive, I have to clean up 37 messes and put away 467 things before I get the chance, by which time the cat or just the sound of oxygen moving around has definitely woken up my child and he’s either, a.) happily awake and ready to make 532 new messes, or b.) he’s screaming for the boob and I’m banished to lie beside him, going over my to-do list so that I won’t forget, ultimately falling asleep from mental exhaustion.

So, my point is that if you ever feel like having 76 incomplete conversations and watching me run around after a little terrorist all morning, apologizing repeatedly for the way he’s thrashing your house, hit me up!

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.

 

Life, Uncategorized

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Sometimes. And other random weekend thoughts.

I’ve been feeling a bit foggy lately, so I thought I was dreaming my metaphoric fog into reality last night when I woke up to a house full of smoke, but it turns out I wasn’t. My house was really full of smoke at 1 am. Thankfully there was no fire (anymore); I guess apartment 9 was doing some late-night cooking and something didn’t go right. If I didn’t smell smoke every other day from this particular neighbor, I would have thought that was strange, but it totally made sense when my husband returned from downstairs where the night security told him that’s what it was.

It made me realize how vulnerable we are when we don’t have all the information, and how crazy it can make us. I thought back to the apartment building in London that was recently ravaged by flames, and the people who couldn’t make it out in time, knowing their fate, and just having to come to terms with it. Morbid thoughts for 1 am, I know, but sometimes I can’t help it.

Sometimes – most times, actually, we don’t really have all the answers, and – depending on how we usually let our brains wander – that can lead to negative unintended consequences. This is a phrase I’ve come to respect, since listening to Michael Bierut’s TED talk, and now I recognize it everywhere; in day-to-day decisions, when I’m cooking one thing and end up with another, and most usually when I allow myself to go down the road of either a positive or negative-thought process. Sometimes we don’t even have the right questions. And, sometimes, we doubt ourselves so much in the process of getting to the right answers that we derail a good thing before it even has a chance to get started. So, for now I’m trying to create more positive unintended consequences (does that negate the unintended part?) and I guess the best place to start is by getting all of the bad mojo out of the way and thinking only in love and light.

We’ve been stuck in the house lately. Partly because it’s Saudi Arabia in July and there’s nothing more than malls and restaurants to keep us – and the rest of the population – busy, but also because our car was rendered undrivable by an accident last week. It doesn’t really get to me until it does, if that makes sense. I can go about my days just fine – yoga, coffee, breakfast, baby naps, cleaning, exercise, cooking – and then suddenly, I realize how cooped up I am, like a cat, but without the luxury of just eating and sleeping. Netflix has been keeping us company a lot more, too, which I don’t think is too much to brag about, but it is what it is.

When I think of home, I miss a lot of things, but the ability just to leave the house at a moment’s notice (well, you know, within the hour now with a 10 month old) is one of the things I usually miss the most. Freedom of movement is important, but having somewhere to go is even more important. For the time being, I’m working on creating some of my own spaces and places to go. I can’t be the only one yearning to make a home away from home, right?

Childbirth, Life

And then there were three – my birth story

Delivering a baby is messy, however the little peanut comes out of your body. It’s hard, it’s painful, for first-time moms it’s scarier than anything we’ve ever experienced, (yes, even more than graduating college) and yet, to the doctors and nurses, it’s a standard procedure; there’s a checklist, protocol, things you should say and a timeframe things should follow. All things considered, though, the ladies laying on that hospital bed are human, and deserve to be shown kindness and comfort during labor and delivery, something I can’t say I saw until the last of 3 doctors arrived during my labor.  While I’d planned to have everything done a certain way, I had very little say in the matter once push came to shove (no pun intended). There is one thing, however, I dis have control over and really dropped the ball on; I didn’t get a doula for my delivery, and I regret it every single day. 

Maybe that’s why I’m now pursuing to become one myself, because one of the reasons why I didn’t have one was because there were only two available, and one was off having her own baby, while the other was on vacation and could only guarantee to be back in time for the delivery if I was sure I wanted her to be there. And I wasn’t. The cost was higher than I had anticipated, I was understandably overly emotional and thought my husband should be the one in the delivery room with me (I was under the impression I could only have one or the other, not both), and I just couldn’t commit because I wasn’t sure I wanted or needed one. I mean, I had written my birth plan, which, at its essence revolved around me getting an epidural, so what would I need a doula to support me with then? 

My birth story isn’t one that will make you sob (unless you went through the same thing, too, and thought nobody else had experienced it), but it is one that will hopefully teach you a couple of important lessons: that your experiences are your own, and that it is so important to understand that as much as you prepare yourself for everything when it comes to having a baby, you will never be prepared for what’s to come, and that’s OK. 

First let me preface this whole story by saying that I read everything. I had a birth plan, a hospital checklist, I knew what to bring and what I wouldn’t need, I read the gory birth stories, and the beautiful ones. When I learned that I would have to be induced (which I would not agree to again unless it was a medical emergency; our bodies know what they’re doing, mamas!), I knew what that meant, and I figured that while we were waiting for the induction to do it’s thing – and even when the epidural was in and we were then waiting for the baby to make his appearance – my husband and I would just chill. So, I packed like I was going on a staycation. Seriously, people, I had face creams and spritzes in case I felt flushed, hair ties and headbands that wouldn’t mess up my hair so I could take flawless pics once the little one was earthside, books, movies downloaded, my iPod, I think I even threw in a pack of cards because, hey, why not? If you’re wondering if I got around to using any of those things: I did not. At all. Ever. I could barely unpack my bag once we arrived home from the hospital out of sheer humiliation and seething anger that nothing had gone how I thought it would.

I also want to say that I think the strength of women is incredible. Like I said before, our bodies know what to do, and the transformative experience of childbirth is just such an incredible journey to be able to take and I am blessed and truly grateful that I was able to carry my son for 9 months and then deliver him. This story I’m about to share doesn’t serve to diminish that in any way.

There have been plenty of times in my life when I’ve felt alone; when I left for college, and when I moved to Saudi, just to name a few. But the only time that the full autonomy and separateness of my body, mind, and spirit from any other living being on this planet really hit me was when I was in the throes of labor. I was forced to have an unmedicated, vaginal delivery. (I don’t say natural here because I don’t want to diminish what c-section mamas go through, because they, too, are rockstars!) When I say forced, I mean that I didn’t want either of those things.

Now, I believe that some women have fantastic experiences with unmedicated vaginal deliveries, and I think their stories are beautiful and empowering and a true testament to the aforementioned strength of a woman. But I also believe in a woman’s right to make her own choices and me? I wanted drugs. And it wasn’t until I was in the height of pain that I was told I wouldn’t be able to have an epidural. I was in tears from the contractions, out of my mind with what I thought was the worst pain (it got worse…), and holding out because I wanted to show my husband how tough I could be. Even in this moment that he would never be able to experience because his body wasn’t created in the same awesome way as mine, I wanted him to be proud. The doctor’s words weren’t registering with me. I couldn’t have an epidural? Something about my platelets. The pitocin hadn’t even been administered yet, so I knew that the pain I was feeling was about to get 30 times worse. It just didn’t make sense. What did she want to give me then? They had gas, an injection they would be able to give me every 6 hours, my husband could massage me. But I didn’t understand how I would deal with the pain. So, in a moment of clarity, I did what any sane, rational-thinking woman with my expectations going into labor would do: I told her I would just have a c-section. I think she actually laughed a little. I couldn’t have a c-section because I didn’t need one. Yes, yes I did because I couldn’t deliver this baby with nothing. Again with the gas, the injection, the massage. And then it hit me: I wasn’t going to have an epidural, and I wasn’t going to have a c-section. Adam was on his way and I had to deal with it all by myself.

This is the point where, to put it bluntly, I lost my shit, and where a doula really would have been able to step up to the plate and do her thing. I was in hysterics; screaming and crying and yelling at the doctor and telling my husband to call my other doctor (who was on vacation in Italy and worked for an entirely different hospital). I was in so much pain and so determined to put myself into a medical emergency just so they would have to give me the c-section that I started saying no to everything. No, they couldn’t monitor me or the baby; no, I did not authorize them to start the pitocin; you are absolutely not going to strip my membranes or break my water. After two hours of refusing everything my husband finally snapped and said, “fine, let’s go home.” I looked at him, shocked that his usually calm demeanor was so harsh, and realized the ridiculousness of what I was doing.

Once the pitocin was started and whatever shred of dignity I had left had exited the building, it took another 16 hours for the baby to come out and, in all honesty, pushing him out was the least painful and the most relieving part of the whole ordeal. The injections they gave me only served to make me so high that I would pass out in between contractions – which were less than 2 minutes apart the. whole. fricken. time. – and the gas they gave me did absolutely nothing but annoy me that it was even a suggested.

I was euphoric once Adam came, of course, but I was traumatized, too. The first two times I tried to fall asleep that night I was jolted awake in panic, because that’s all I knew the last 16 hours – dozing off only to be awakened by excruciating pain. In those moments, I had become pain. No prayer or saying or comforting look from my husband could remove what I was feeling during those nearly minute-long contractions, and the way the doctors made me feel about the whole thing – that it was completely normal and that I was somehow supposed to just suck it up and deal with it – only added to the isolation, and later, to the anger. I felt that way for a long time. It didn’t help to hear people telling me that I would forget about it (I didn’t), or that I should be grateful that I didn’t have a c-section (I am and I’m not). I didn’t begin to come to terms with what had happened until I had joined an online breastfeeding support group called The Cleavage Club (if you’re breastfeeding or wanting to in the future, go join now!!! They’re on Facebook, based in Southern California, but have ladies from all over the US and the world) and was told by ICBLC and Doula extraordinaire Cass that it was OK to feel what I was feeling because that birth experience was mine, and I didn’t have to adjust it for anyone. Nobody else could have known what I felt, even if they were right next to me for the entire 16-hour experience (God bless my husband!), and it was OK to hate what happened. It doesn’t make me a bad person, or ungrateful, it just makes me a human that went through something quite traumatic and who has actual feelings about it.

Everything about my labor and delivery taught me that nothing is what it seems when it comes to childbirth and being a mom, and everything since Adam was born has only served to confirm that notion. Breastfeeding was incredibly hard – I will post more about this in the future – and I stuck with it only because my mom encouraged me not to quit on my hardest day, and because I had the support of groups like La Leche League and The Cleavage Club (on Facebook) to work things out with me. The first few weeks felt like 50 years. Adjusting to the overwhelming responsibility of taking care of a tiny human every second was beyond difficult, and it’s still a learning process every single day. Being a mom isn’t easy or cheap – it comes with a hefty price tag financially and emotionally. But I can’t think of anything else that I would rather be doing with my time, energy, or love.

Please leave a comment below to let me know what your birth experience was like, or if you would like any information about delivering a baby in Saudi.

Life

The baby is OK. Usually.

Some days I mess up. A is OK by the end of the day, thank God, but I’ve had many of those too-close-for-comfort, wow-what-was-I-thinking moments. The last time was when he decided to flop around like a fish until he was within an inch of falling off the bed. He had just gained the amazing and exhausting (for me, never for him) ability to be able to move around pretty well and I left him on the bed for nap time, thinking that the fortress of pillows on the sides of the bed would somehow deter him from falling down. And they did, kind of. Until they didn’t. In usual psycho-first-time-mommy-style, I ran back to the room as soon as I heard him make a sound and found him flopping around like an oblivious, chubby fish on the nightstand on hubby’s side of the bed. He had traversed the entire bed including one wall of pillows, and somehow managed not to topple over onto the floor. Moments like these make me wonder why the hospital let him come home with me without some kind of test (like, seriously, did you know they just give you the baby once you’re discharged? No strings attached, he’s just yours to keep and take care of, and they don’t even ask you if you know what you’re doing!) and they also make me grateful that we’ve made it this far.

It hasn’t been a perfect 7 months, and I’ve had plenty of self-doubt along the way (read: every. single. day.), but I take comfort in the fact that he will literally not remember any of the stupid things I do. What he will remember, though, or rather what he will carry with him throughout the rest of his life is a sense of confidence, love, independence and the bond that we have and that we’re building every day. So that’s why instead of focusing on the dumb things I do (seriously, Krystle, leaving a crawling, rolling, MOVING baby on the bed by himself?!), I focus on the silly moments we have, singing songs and playing tickle monster, the fun we have at bath time, the way he looks up at me for assurance when he tumbles over as he learns to stand, the way we snuggle close as he nurses or sleeps; these are the moments that leave lasting impressions on the core of who he is and who he will be, the times that matter in the long run.

All too often we put pressure on ourselves to be perfect, to get it right the first time. Instagram, Snapchat, mommy blogs, and any other social media we’re exposed to on a daily basis don’t help the anxiety; the way they all portray curated images that make it seem like perfection is so easy to attain, when in reality, those moms are struggling and learning as they go, just like us.

So take it easy, mama. Slow down, enjoy the moments that matter, and don’t be too hard on yourself for the ones that don’t.

Life

Hospital beds and laban – and a charcoal face mask

So here’s a funny story to kick your week off: my husband and I weren’t at our own wedding.

Now, if you know anything about Arab culture, it’s that they know how to get down when it comes to weddings. And the entire family/neighborhood/sometimes district comes to eat cake, dance a little, and, obviously wish the bride and groom well. But hubby and I? Ya, we couldn’t make it that day.

Rewind to a month before the wedding – we didn’t even want to have one. We were torn because while most of his family is a quick two hour flight away in Lebanon, mine is all in the US, meaning that at most only a few of my people would be able to attend our big fat Lebnani wedding. So we decided to nix the whole thing and just host small, intimate dinners for each of our families when we saw them.

But, once we arrived in Lebanon it was clear that EVERYONE was expecting a wedding, and we did not want to be the ones to let them down. We had a week, which, with everyone offering to help, didn’t seem like such a challenge. And then I got food poisoning. Now, this wasn’t an isolated event. The sickest I had ever been in my life was the first time I visited Lebanon, after my then-fiance had already left, which meant his parents were tasked with nursing me back to health. It was awful. I thought I would die. They kept feeding me laban (sour yogurt) with raw garlic and I wanted to scream, but it did the trick.

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You would never guess that I was throwing up between takes

So, 3 days before the big event, I came down with another case of food poisoning that was quickly taking over as the sickest I’d ever been, and it sucked. Aside from the whole experience of wedding planning being something so different than what I’d imagined – which was simply because I was from California and not in California, so it was just a whole other ballgame – I just didn’t have the energy to really get into it. By the time the wedding rolled around, I barely had the strength to walk, let alone smile, dance, and interact with people.

Now let me just say, even though the fact that the bride and groom were stuck in a room inside the venue didn’t stop anyone from partying, everyone was so understanding and really sympathetic. There was some speculation that it was one of the cousin’s who had bought the raw meat the day before the wedding for this Lebanese specialty – it wasn’t! I was sick a few days before that – so he felt horrible and kept apologizing. There was a sea of faces in and out of the room wanting pictures and to give us their well-wishes, family doctors bringing syringes full of different cocktails to stick me with to help stop the vomiting, and a whiff here and there of the delicious food being served. Then the time came to cut the cake and I used every ounce of strength I could muster to walk out in my 5 inch heels and wield the traditional sword to cut a slice of cake (that I couldn’t even eat, btw). To my credit, I lasted about 7 minutes before throwing up in front of everyone and making the final call that we needed to go to the hospital ASAP.

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The night ended with hubby and I both hooked up to IVs (he was sick too!) in separate beds at his parent’s house, laughing about how ridiculous the whole thing had been.

 

From that moment on, I decided to be proactive when I visited Lebanon and ordered an arsenal of supplements that would toughen up and flush out my stomach, should the need arise. One of those things was activated charcoal. Since I was pregnant the next time we went to Lebanon and couldn’t use it, I had a whole bottle just sitting around, and decided to see what other uses I could find for it. Which leads me to today’s DIY: charcoal face mask!

This mask is one of my favorites and it’s so easy to make. I open a few capsules of the charcoal tabs, mix it with a drop or two of essential oil – lavender or tea tree, depending on how my skin is feeling that day – and a tiny bit of aloe vera gel, paint it onto my face, wait about 10 minutes, then rinse it off after exfoliating with my clarisonic and a drop of sweet almond oil. You can also add some rose water if you have it laying around.

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My trusted and beloved Clarisonic, Now Foods Sweet Almond Oil, Nature’s Way Activated Charcoal, Lily of the Desert Aloe Vera Gel, and Woolzies Essential Oils

The ingredients in this mask are really great for acne-prone skin, if you have blackheads, or if you just want to get rid of the gunk that builds up over time. I would caution you to test it out on a small patch of skin first, especially if you’ve never used tea tree oil before.

Head over to my instagram @mama.fil for more pics of the products I used and to let me know how it worked out for you.

Enjoy!

Life

Get on the bus.

 

I had a History teacher in high school who told the most amazing stories. I can’t remember a time in my life where I was so captivated by the words coming out of someone’s mouth (aside from when I met my husband, of course!) than when Mr. Welch told us stories. Marie Antoinette, the Crusades, the Salem Witch Trials; things that your average high schooler wouldn’t really care about, except we did. A lot. Because we had a teacher who brought those tales to life. One of my closest friends in high school can still recall the time I animatedly narrated the story of ill-fated Queen Mary I and her hysterical pregnancy that ended not in a prince being born, but rather in a large, foul wind and utter humiliation.

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Me (left) in high school

Mr. Welch had a story for everything, but the thing that really set him apart from other teachers was that he listened to our stories as well. As high schoolers, not many people took us seriously, but Mr. Welch did. Not many people thought the events in our lives mattered – the every day he said/she said was seen as just unimportant fodder that we wasted our time on. But Mr. Welch cared. He listened to us, asked us about our weekends, our future plans, our families. He shared details of his life, too, and made us feel like he was invested in us. To the overly-emotional teenager whose single mom was busy with work much of the time, whose closest sibling was 8 years younger, and whose dad lived 2,000 miles away, this meant a lot.

So when Mr. Welch told us the story of the bus, I listened.

The story goes something like this: each and every one of us will go through life, day by day, slaving away at whatever dream-of-the-month we’re dedicated to at the time. If we’re lucky, we love what we’re doing, if we’re not, well, we still get by. But at a certain point in everyone’s life, a bus is going to come. The bus will look different for all of us; for some it will be a covetable internship in a field we’d never dreamed of, for others it will be an invitation to a party with people we’d never get the chance to socialize with that will lead to a big career break. To get on the bus would seem like the craziest idea in the world. You may not have the money, it may not be logical, your parents would probably get upset. But some part of you, no matter how small or how quietly, will be screaming, “GET ON THE BUS!” And that’s when you have to make a choice. Will you risk getting on the bus, and maybe make the biggest mistake of your life, or will you stay, doing what you’re doing, and keep on keepin’ on? Mr. Welch’s advice? (and I quote…) “Get on the damn bus.”

So I did. When the chance to go to Saudi Arabia to teach English presented itself, I went. It was crazy. It didn’t make any sense; I was from Roseville, California and had never traveled by myself. I had no business going to a country where women couldn’t drive and where even in the most liberal of towns we were expected to don the abaya. My parents were scared and furious, and tried every play in the book to get me to stay. But I didn’t. And you know what? It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

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Me and my sister, Katlynn, the night before I left for Saudi Arabia

I’m not saying it has always been easy, or that I didn’t want to run home a billion times over the last 6 years. But the hard times built character, and the good times hold amazing memories. I met my husband, forged strong friendships with amazing people, and experienced unforgettable journeys all over the world, from Amsterdam to Hong Kong.

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Adam, hubby, me September 2016

And the adventure isn’t over yet. As I enter into motherhood, I realize that the world is still my doorstep, and as each challenge presents itself, I can’t help wonder what kind of storyteller I will be for my kids. Will I leave the same impression as Mr. Welch? Will my kids feel captivated by me or just humor me because I’m their mom then laugh about it later? Either way, I’m determined to make our life one with lots of stories to tell. I may not end up telling my kids the most exhilarating stories, but I’m determined to be right there next to them making the most amazing memories.