Advocate. Advocate. Advocate.

An advocate is a person who pleads for another’s cause or writes in support of something.

If there is one thing that I have learned in the last 2 years, it is the importance of advocating for yourself and in my case, my children. When I was pregnant with my second child, I knew something was wrong. I was extremely tired, bruising easily and didn’t understand. I asked my OBGYN to have my blood drawn to figure out what was going on. After blood work and being referred to a hematologist, it turns out I had Gestational Thrombocytopenia. This is a condition in which your platelets in your blood drop below a safe number. In my case, they were a safe enough level to not need intervention, however, I was medically unable to receive an epidural (if I had wanted one) and I was considered high risk for hemorrhaging during birth. If I had not advocated for myself during that second trimester when things weren’t getting any better, I could have ended up in the delivery room unaware of the underlying condition I had. It is also worth mentioning that after looking back on my first pregnancy, I had this then as well but my numbers were a touch higher so never a cause for concern.

Continuing on the journey of my second pregnancy, I always felt like she wasn’t growing, or at least was not growing at a normal rate. Appointment after appointment I mentioned to the doctor. I often did measure right on track or a week behind, depending on her position. It was around 33 weeks that I stopped measuring within 2 weeks of her estimated gestational age. This was when I was referred to a high risk pregnancy doctor. That doctor did a series of ultrasounds comparing the measurements between each one. I went every 2 weeks. At 33 weeks, she was measuring 31. At 35 weeks, she was measuring 33. At 38 weeks, she was still measuring 33, which meant she had not grown at all in 2 weeks. The last month of pregnancy is actually when most of the growing happens. So it was extremely alarming that she hadn’t grown in 2 weeks. This was when the doctor told me that I was to go home, get my things in order and make my way to the hospital because I was having a baby that day. I was terrified.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with advocacy. It took me advocating for myself and my daughter for them to realize that there really was a problem. Fast forward 5 hours from that conversation, I had just pushed my beautiful baby girl out. She wasn’t breathing. She couldn’t breath on her own. The respiratory therapists immediately took her from me and began to do what they are trained for; they pumped her lungs, gave her oxygen, massaged her body, anything to get that baby to breath. It wasn’t until 5 minutes later that I could finally breathe; she cried. When she cried I knew that she was going to be okay. Luckily that was all the help that she needed that day so we were able to stay together without a NICU stay. Thank God for respiratory therapists, and especially pediatric respiratory therapists! They were my angels on earth that day.

Baby girl was born with a scare, but healthy otherwise. The days and weeks following her birth we had the normal appointments with her pediatrician to check her growth. She was growing right on track. But, I noticed something odd. Her lips were ALWAYS peeling. No matter what I did, her lips would peel. Lanolin, peel. Chapstick, peel. Breastmilk, peel. At her 1 week appointment, I brought this up to her pediatrician. He responded “Well she went from a very wet environment to a very dry one. This is normal.” Boy was he wrong.

2 month appointment, mouth still dry, lips still cracking. 4 month appointment, mouth still dry, lips still cracking, and she is teething. 6 month appointment, mouth still dry, lips still cracking, she has teeth now, and she is having issues with dry food/puffs getting stuck in the roof of her mouth. 9 month appointment, at this point I am pretty frustrated that we have gotten nowhere and my poor baby still has extremely dry mouth and continues to cut teeth! He finally agrees that it is very odd that she doesn’t drool and that she has issues eating and that she has never cried a tear. We get a referral to the Children’s Hospital ENT. ENT orders an ultrasound for her mouth to see if she has any salivary glands, she also sends a referral to the ophthalmologist for her tear ducts. In case you were wondering, a 9 month old does not sit still for an ultrasound device to be ON THEIR FACE. So that went well. Came back, no salivary glands visible. Okay, maybe she moved too much. ENT orders an MRI to get a solid answer.

This whole process with the Children’s Hospital took 3 months. She was 13 months when we finally got in for the MRI. She had to be sedated, if you’re a parent you know just how terrifying it is for your baby to be put under for any procedure. She was in and out within 45 minutes. We got the MRI Results the next day. She had one small parotid gland under her tongue, but she has no other salivary glands. These are things that form as they grow in utero, they aren’t things that will show up later in her life. Whew we finally have answers. Now, what do we do with those answers?

We got those results 9 months ago. With those results we got a referral to a geneticist because, come to find out, I have an aunt and cousin who have the same problem. They are thinking this could be the tip of the iceberg for determining what gene causes glands to not develop. So after 9 months of being on the waiting list, length partially due to COVID, we have an appointment next week. This will begin our next journey of advocacy for figuring out what causes this and what we can do to help, because there is no treatment for those who don’t have any glands. You can be treated if your glands don’t produce much saliva, but to have no glands at all, or even one, those treatments don’t help you.

It is so important to advocate for yourself and your children. If you don’t advocate, then who will? When we realized that my aunt had the same situation she told me, “well no one ever cared to look into it more.” Well, the reality is that if she or my grandparents had advocated for more answers to WHY this was happening, we could already have research and studies and medications to treat this. But, because they accepted “it is what it is” as an answer, my advocacy for my daughter is now paving the way to finding out answers for my whole family and potentially thousands of other people across the United States and the World.

Never take “I don’t know” as an answer. Press for deeper, more fact based answers. Be your own advocate and advocate for those who are unable to advocate for themselves.

Sometimes you have to be your own hero.

The Social Illusion

Sometimes we get caught up in social media and what other people are doing all the time and find ourselves yearning for the same life.

Social Media does not show you every aspect of a person’s life, it shows you what they want you to see. You could be seeing one thing on social media and the reality is actually very different. For example, almost 2 years ago I was posting about Kamryn’s milestones and work, but never posting about how I was 6 months pregnant. My pregnancy obviously was a huge part of my life, but I did not want to get my hopes up that people would be there for me, when I knew that once the baby was 3 days old, they would all disappear.

What I am trying to say is that you should not base your life on what you see of someone else’s life from the skewed image of social media. People are more complex than just a few status updates and a few pictures. That girl that “is always with her friends” works all the time and never gets a break. That girl who has the #squad at the end of every picture, goes to dinner by herself because her “friends” are too busy for her. The mom who is always posting cool arts and crafts with her kids just yelled at them because they spilled paint on the brand new carpet.

It is okay to feel the way you feel. More people than you think feel the way you do. Alone. Behind. Out of the Loop. You need to know that you are not alone. You are never alone. Sometimes work demands more than social life. Sometimes those friendships aren’t everyone else’s priority. It is okay to post on social media that your kids spilled the paint and you got upset while they were making that craft. It is okay to post the messy, not perfect things on social media too. I bet you that more friends would relate to the messy than to the perfect.

It is important to be vulnerable. It is important to show people that you do have a life outside of friendships. When you show that side of you, you gain more than you lose. If we are always showing the perfect, we are making someone else envy us and feel like they have failed because they don’t have it all together. I know that I feel envy every time I see a specific person post because according to social media, their life is perfect. They make good money, travel often, are always with their friends or family, they have it all. But, I talk to that person in real life and they are struggling with being alone. They travel so much for work that they never see their friends. They haven’t found a partner in life and their friends are all getting married. They are envious of my life because I have everything they yearn for, a husband, two kids, I have bought and sold my first home and own my second home. To them, I am settled and they feel very unsettled.

We always think the grass is greener on the other side. But, the person whose life you envy, could be envying yours thinking the same thing. We should love the life we live and find ways to improve it in the ways that we want to. If that’s traveling more, finding friends, being calm when your kid spills the paint, we can accomplish these things within ourselves without wishing to have someone else’s life completely. The first step is to be open and share the not so pretty sides of our lives. We all have them. Let people in. Find what you desire from that other persons life and make it happen in yours. You want to travel more? Spend less somewhere else. You want to have a #squad, find people who can be that for you. You want to not blow up on your kids for the small things, breathe and remind yourself that the moments are what matter.

You have complete control of making your life what you want. The grass is greener where you water it. When you realize that, the sky is the limit.

The Choice

Many times we find ourselves operating on auto pilot. It isn’t until something happens to throw us out of autopilot that we truly realize how bad it is to operate that way.

After operating on auto pilot for years, I found myself in a very dark place. I realized after gaining 30 pounds within 3 months that something had to change. That was the day I went to the doctor and got an appointment with a therapist. That was 6 months ago. In the last 6 months I have learned more about myself than I ever knew before. With this, I have also learned to stand my ground and know that I do have a CHOICE in what I do every single day.

I have realized that the world does not end if I take a day off work or do a little bit less work in a day. I have realized that the world does not end if I choose not to pick up the house before I go to bed. I have realized that the world does not end when I choose to do the things that make me happy and surround myself with people who make me happy. I have realized that I feel better, my kids are happier and my husband is happier when I choose myself every day. If I am feeling down, I choose to take the day off to get in a better mood for my family. If I am feeling overwhelmed, I choose to do just a little less work to lift that feeling. If I am feeling frustrated and upset, I choose to be around people who make me happy and remind me of the good things in life.

It is with these choices that I have found my own happiness. Now, my choices do impact others, but it gives them an opportunity to choose what they want to do with it. My co-worker has chosen to pick up those extra tasks on the days that I choose that they would be too much for me. If someone upsets me, I choose to distance myself because my happiness is important too. This allows them to choose whether they want to make it right or remain distant.

In the past, I always felt the need to do everything and be everything. That caused me to be a very overwhelmed, burnt out, depressed person with a lot of anxiety. I have always done it all. Kids need something? I’ll do it. Family needs something? I’ll do it. Work needs a project done? I’ll do it. I was doing the work of 2-3 people every single day in every aspect of my life. It is absolutely no wonder that I was as overwhelmed as I was. It is no wonder that I was not always the greatest person to be around. I was strung so tight and demanding so much of myself I did not even know what made me happy anymore.

Moral of the story is: You do not have to do everything all the time. Find where your happiness is, and do those things. If you start to feel like you are falling back into doing everything all the time or the mental pressure to do it all, come back here and be reminded that you don’t have to do anything that does not bring you joy or happiness. It is okay to take the day off. It is okay to do one thing less. It is okay to order dinner instead of cooking dinner. It is okay to let that task wait until tomorrow. There is nothing more important in the world than your happiness, and only you can create that. The first step is realizing that you have a choice.

The Tribe

As I have grown older, I have realized how important it is to find your tribe and love them fiercely.

It has taken me most of my life to build my tribe, and honestly, I did not have the key parts of my tribe until this past year. Having a tribe is essential to survival, especially as you get older and have kids. When you have kids, you lose most of your friends who don’t have kids. They aren’t able to understand that the kids need to be in bed by 730PM or that every hour later you are out, the more it costs you on a babysitter.

It is important to have 4 types of people in your tribe: the lifelong, the unfiltered, the supportive, and the pathfinder.

The lifelong will always be there for you no matter how often or little you talk. They know where you’ve come from and know what you’ve been through. They are always there to lend an ear when your cup overflows. They are always there for every milestone in your life. In my tribe, this is Audrey, Kristin and Chrissy. These three girls have been there for me through it all. Audrey and I met in 8th grade. She was a new girl and only in our class for a brief period of time but we have never lost touch. No matter how much time goes between when we talk, we pick up right where we left off. She is a true sister to me. Kristin has been there for 8 years. She was there when I eloped. She was there when I graduated college (we graduated together). We both experienced our last pregnancy together. Chrissy has been there for 6 years. She is the person that I trusted over the years with the most sensitive information because I knew that she would keep a secret. We only lived close for a year but we have traveled across the world to spend time with each other. Her and her husband were our first “couple friends,” where I got along with her and Kevin got along with her husband. We could all hang out together for hours and hours on end. Despite the distance, she has been there for me through it all.

The unfiltered will give you advice whether you want it or not. She will tell you that you look homeless when you haven’t showered in a few days, but will also tell you how beautiful you are when you take those extra few minutes in the morning. In my tribe, that’s Jess. She tells me to get my ass out of bed when I don’t want to. She has a free reign on her words and says exactly what I need on a daily basis.

The supportive will be there for you no matter what. She is your biggest cheerleader, the one who backs you in everything you do. She is your biggest listener too, she is always lending her ear to hear your latest problem or success. She is just there for you no matter what decision you make, reminding you that it is always the right one. In my tribe, that’s Morgan. She is always listening to me vent, all hours of the day and night, and I listen to her too. I know that she will have my back no matter what I do in life.

The pathfinder will push you outside of your comfort zone and remind you to live a little wild sometimes! She is always coming up with crazy ideas and you can’t help but go along for the ride. She will always keep you young and remind you that life is short so take that shot of vodka and dance! In my tribe, this is Emily. Emily is always making me think outside of the box and reminding me that if you set your sights on the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.

As long as you have these 4 types of women to fill your tribe, you can get through anything and come out on top. I am so thankful to do life with these women and can’t wait to see what shenanigans the future holds for us!