Your Grief Is Not Mine

One of the biggest roadblocks I’ve had throughout my grief journey is feeling like my grief was “too much” or “unwarranted.” I’ve seen the baby loss community be silenced so many times on social media when users felt the grieving mother was oversharing. I’ve read how so many women felt trapped in their thoughts and feelings because the topic of miscarriage and pregnancy loss was taboo in their communities. In my personal experience, I’ve seen how some of the faces of people I’ve shared with turned flushed the moment I spoke about my loss and who my angel baby is. Can we blame them though? Hearing such a sad story about a painful experience someone has had will never feel good. I’ve also found myself comparing my grief to other women who’ve experienced a miscarriage and/or pregnancy loss. In the process I find myself shrinking my baby and experience because I’ve convinced myself that I made a big deal out of nothing. “I didn’t make it full term, so why cry a year later?” “This other woman suffered a miscarriage as well and appears to have moved on, you need to do the same.”

What I’ve learned through therapy (and what I keep telling myself) is that grief should not be compared. I’ve told myself several times that is a simple concept that should be understood, but my mind forgets it when I allow insecurity to set in. My husband made an excellent point one day I was feeling a little down. “Would you expect a person who lost their father when they were two months old not to grieve their deceased father just because they didn’t lose them at 35 years old?” Do you have to have someone in your life long in order for you to feel the pain of losing them? That’s not fair. He said, “It’s not fair to put that sort of restriction on yourself.”

The fact of the matter is that all of our grief is different. We’ve all lost our babies in different ways, and we are all different people. The grieving experience may be similar, but definitely won’t be the same. Family members will grieve loved ones differently, and strangers will grieve their deceased babies differently. Some women will not be deeply saddened by losing their babies, and that is OKAY. It shouldn’t be frowned upon. Some women will grieve their angel babies for the rest of their lives, and that’s okay too. Your grief is your grief, and the important thing is to make sure that you’re healthy mentally, physically, and emotionally. Grief is an ongoing cycle and has no destination. Grieving doesn’t mean being in a deep depression the entire time, but you may feel it from time to time depending on the season.

It’s so important to give yourself grace and to take it one second at a time.

Dear TJ,

The sun has been shining bright, and you have been shining bright in the night skies. These have been some of my better days, and I’m so grateful. I love you baby!

Love,

Mommy…

Must-Haves For A Successful Breastfeeding Experience

My breastfeeding journey started 7 years ago. My first try only lasted for 4.5 months, so I considered it a fail. My goal was 6 months to a year. I had fallen short. At that time I didn’t commend myself for going as long as I did because my focus was solely on the fact that I hadn’t reached my goal. I couldn’t help but think of all the things I could have done differently. So I vowed to do as much research as I could so that I would be prepared for my next child. When that time came, I took a breastfeeding and newborn basics class. I learned SO much and was very prepared for my next experience.

If you’re a new mom, or a repeat mom, you may encounter mothers who say “uggh I would never breastfeed, it hurts too bad.” You may have family who says “That baby isn’t eating enough by just drinking your breast milk.” Then you may join a mom group in person or on social media that makes the breastfeeding journey seem like it is the easiest and most satisfying thing. The truth is, breastfeeding has both negative and positive experiences. Breastfeeding hurts you mentally, physically and emotionally at times, but it  is also the best thing in the world seeing your baby grow, thrive and reach milestones off of your body alone! Everyone has their own way of making breastfeeding work for them and their baby, but here is a list of things that has helped me on my journey.

  • RESEARCH– Many women make the mistake of waiting until they have their baby to learn how to breastfeed. While there are lactation consultants in the hospital, you need to know what you’re getting yourself into before delivery. Most of the times, the hospital’s LC is making rounds to all the moms and you never know how long it may be before she gets to you. You need to understand how breastfeeding works and what your purpose is before beginning this journey. When you do your research, you are able to identify when things are going right and wrong. You’re able to work through the tough times a little easier when you understand what is going on. You are also able to recognize when it’s time to seek help when you’ve run into an issue that you have no idea to how to fix. Take classes, watch videos, etc.
  • LACTATION CONSULTANT– Find a lactation specialist/consultant in your area and visit them prior to having your baby. They are there to answer any questions you may have ahead of time, teach you nursing positions, teach you about the proper diet, warning signs, good signs and more. It’s great to build a relationship with them so that you are comfortable to reach out during your breastfeeding journey if you should ever run into an issue.
  • COCONUT OIL– Many women love lanolin or other nipple creams, but I love coconut oil. It’s natural with no added ingredients. It also works as an anti-fungal cream and can help prevent thrush on baby’s tongue or your nipple. HOWEVER, you can also save money by using your milk! Just express a little and rub it on your nipples to help with cracks, dryness, sensitivity and pain. Using your breastmilk also helps your baby to smell and latch when putting them to the breast.
  • SUPPORT SYSTEM– Please make sure you have a core individual or group around you that supports you, breastfeeding and your journey. Make sure they are attending as many classes they can with you. Take them research and talk about it with them so that they are knowledgeable. Make sure they view breastfeeding as something positive and are willing to motivate and support you when things are getting rough. Make sure they are supportive enough to advocate for you if there was ever an issue with your pediatrician or a stranger who has something smart to say out of their mouth when you’re nursing in public. If you didn’t have a doula during birth or don’t have a support person or team, hire a postpartum doula. I talk about the benefits of one in my post 10 Reasons to Hire a Doula.
  • NETFLIX/HULU- Mam! Cluster feeding during your breastfeeding journey is very real and you need to be prepared! They happen during growth spurts, but you can also experience it during teething or when baby is feeling ill. Find you a nice show or Netflix series to watch and binge! Some of my faves are Sons of Anarchy, Orange is the New Black, Grace & Frankie, New Girl, Jane the Virgin, Somewhere In Between, Revenge, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder and 7 Seconds. You can never go wrong with Law & Order: SVU either. Hulu has great shows as well. I love watching Food Network, movies and the show Black-ish on there.
  • HEALTHY MEALS/SNACKS– I don’t know about you, but breastfeeding makes me HUNGRY! It’s because feeding your hungry baby is burning calories. No matter how much you want to crush a bag of chips or some cookies, try to fill yourself up on healthy foods and snacks. Fruits, veggies, nuts, salads (spinach based) and oatmeal are some of my favorites! Smoothies are also a great choice. I’ll be honest and say that I definitely choose some unhealthy pleasurable snacks and foods at times lol.
  • WATER- Water should have been your bestfriend during pregnancy, and it’ll need to be attached to your hip during breastfeeding. You may wake up in the middle of the night like you haven’t had anything to drink in over a week. Staying hydrated is important in our every day lives, but it is also vital to a successful breastfeeding journey. Breastfeeding is more of a supply and demand process (the more you nurse baby, the more your breasts will produce milk), but if you do not have the proper water intake you risk depleting your milk supply.
  • CONFIDENCE/DRIVE– Confidence is key. You have to be confident that you are doing a great job. That your baby is growing. That your nipples will be ok. That you are the best mother to your child. When breastfeeding gets hard, you begin to feel weak and question if you should continue. You wonder why you did it in the first place. You have to be confident in your purpose and have the drive to push forward and through the hard times. You’ve got this mama!
  • KNOWLEDGE ABOUT PUMPING AND PACIFIERS- Breastfeeding is extremely demanding and causes sleep deprivation, lack of self-care, or the ability to have down time. Having dad or your support system to feed baby breastmilk from the bottle may seem like your saving grace, but hold on. You may want to give the baby a pacifier because you need something else to sooth him/her, but please wait. Please do not introduce another nipple to your baby until after 4 weeks if you want to continue to breastfeed. Introducing a nipple too early can cause nipple confusion. Of course pacifiers work for some babies, but you don’t want to take that risk of ending your breastfeeding journey early. If you want someone else to feed the baby, hand express into a little medicine cup or use a spoon to feed the baby. Also, pumping before 4 weeks increases your chance of getting mastitis. In the first month, your baby will continue to nurse every 2 hours, or as little as 30 minutes when cluster feeding. Through this, your baby is regulating how much milk should be produced. Pumping tells your breast that the baby needs more milk, so you’ll produce more milk. This will cause an oversupply and painful engorgement resulting in mastitis. You’ll have a painful knot in your breast(s) and experience flu-like symptoms. I hear it’s extremely painful. Outside of whatever the doctor prescribes you, you will still need to nurse baby so that they can get your boobies back in order. Try your hardest to wait until your baby is a month old before introducing a pacifier or bottle.

I find this list pretty neutral and usable for all moms, but it’s a different experience for every mother. I realize that some mothers go back to work and need to pump. I don’t have experience tandem feeding a newborn and toddler, or with twins. I also have no experience with nursing after a c-section. Those mothers must-haves may be different. My must-haves have helped me to go 14 months strong (and counting) thus far. I wish you the best of luck on your journey and hope you send that same energy my way as I search for a must-haves list on how to ween a baby from breastfeeding lol.

New to Homeschooling? Here’s How I set Up My Year

Homeschooling for my daughter and I began only two months ago, and has been going amazing thus far. I believe the journey has been successful because of three major things: it being the path God created for us, support and planning! As I stated in my previous posts about homeschooling, Homeschooling: The Best Choice for Us and How To Get Started With Homeschooling, it has turned out to be the best choice for my family, and we also receive tons of support which makes our journey absolutely beautiful. However, had I not done the proper research and prepared like I needed to, I would probably be in the corner crying somewhere and feeling like I’d failed my daughter. When you’re new to homeschooling, there is so much to learn as the parent/teacher, and it’s a huge adjustment for the child(ren). I’ve set high standards for myself, and have failed to meet some of my expectations in many ways, but I’ve also exceeded the others in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

I mentioned in “How To Get Started With Homeschooling” that it is great to connect with other homeschooling parents in order to get helpful insight on some of the methods of homeschooling that worked for them. One of my huge questions for other homeschooling moms was, “what does setting up the school year for your child even look like?” Where does one start?! The most neutral answer I received for choosing your first steps was, pull out a calendar and search for a curriculum. So I pulled out my general calendar (with all of the holidays), notepad (this allows for ideas to be written and edited freely), lesson planner (for when you’re ready to plan your subjects in detail) and laptop (pull everything together). If you don’t wish to purchase a personal or lesson planner, there are helpful apps out there that provide calendar and lesson plan templates.  I also received a helpful tip from a friend and printed out the calendar for the public schools in my state in order to see what their breaks were like. Once you have those items, you can then proceed with planning your school year!

Choose what your first and last days of school will be. Lawfully, there has to be 180 days of school. The public school calendar assisted me with this step. I looked over when the state would take their holiday breaks, when they would have professional development, half days and holidays that were only one day. My calendar is altered throughout the year because we may take a day off throughout the month, but it doesn’t hurt us because I have no need for a professional development day. On the rare occasion where we miss more days than expected, I add an additional day to our school year.

After those few steps, I went rogue. I mentioned in my posts from earlier that I took the unconventional step and chose to create my own curriculum and lesson plans rather than purchase one. If you plan on purchasing a curriculum, RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH! There are so many available, you want to make sure you’re choosing the best for your child(ren). Look at the reviews, search YouTube responses to the curriculum, visit the website, participate in free trials, use the free the samples and call the publisher if you need to! You’re investing in your child and into the curriculum. As a frugal parent, it’s best you do your due diligence before purchasing, but there are cases where you will purchase and the curriculum just doesn’t work for your household. It’s called trial and error…it happens! It’s not favorable, but you live and you learn.

When creating my curriculum, I worked through each subject one at a time. This is where your notepad comes in handy. I used my working knowledge of what Taniya learned in her subjects during the school year, and then thought about what I wanted my daughter to know, and found appropriate for her age. This is a tedious process, and isn’t the route most will take, but it worked for me. I thought about all the things Taniya found interesting, things I wish I learned in school, and things I wish Taniya was able to spend more time learning while in school. For example, I wish children had more than a month to learn about Black History. I remember feeling terrible as I got older and realized I couldn’t remember the significance of the many heroes in Black History. I then thought about how children are given a project that focuses on one person, and then they learn through the presentations of the other students, or through a program. That’s ok, but it’s not enough for me. In one months time, Taniya couldn’t tell me what she learned through her peers presentations. I decided that Black History would be taught through each subject all year round. It’s the theme of my curriculum. In science, she learns about plants, animals and sea life and more, in addition to Black scientists and inventors. In music, she learns about different instruments and Black musicians. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. I knew Taniya would have the general knowledge of what is taught in school so that she would be able to have an understanding when going out into the world, but it was vital that she had thorough knowledge of her history. Another example of having a recurring theme throughout your subjects is relating everything to science or technology. You really have to let those creative juices flow.

Once I had pages worth of notes, I googled what the common core standards were for the grade level my daughter would be entering. You want to be sure that your set up matches what is required by the state. I saw there were only core standards for English and math, which was perfect! Those were the two subjects I wanted to have more structure in, and needed a little more guidance in. Everything was clear and concise on what your child should know for each grade level.

Afterwards, I used my calendar in order to give each topic for each subject, a month for learning. I allotted for days where there is no school and months where there are specific holidays where we can learn about certain historical events tied to that month. I also selected days where I wanted to use them for field trips. When you’re done with all of that writing, you should have pages of notes with points scratched out, notes on what you need to do further for a subject and more. I’m pretty sure you’re able to read it, but you’ll struggle trying to understand what you meant when reading and creating lesson plans from some of those points.

Grab your laptop and create a spreadsheet! I love spreadsheets! You’re able to organize those thoughts, put them into tables, create graphs for progress, keep record of attendance and more. Spreadsheets are so neat and organized. You can add notes without having jumbled thoughts across your paper. This year, I opted for my spreadsheet to show all of my subjects, the months, topics, and all of the resources that I can use for continued learning.

Although I use a spreadsheet, I also make use of great lesson planner that I got from Target for $5. I like to plan my lessons for each day a month prior to having to teach them. I use my spreadsheet as a reference in order to know what I’ll be teaching, what resources to use, and what field trips we can take to support the lesson(s). I choose one weekend out of the month in order to plan for the next month. It allows me to have an idea of what I will be teaching, and relieves me of having to make time each day to figure out what to do the next day. If we need more time on a topic or surpassed the time frame I had in mind, I adjust the days to reflect our needs.

As I’ve stated in my posts before, this was MY process, and it worked for ME. I do believe this method will work for other homeschoolers, but I’m also sure that some will frown their faces when reading. There are so many different techniques to teaching your child(ren) and preparing for the school year. Grab and take from this post and the other resources that you’ve researched.

If you wish to learn more (one-on-one) or to view my spreadsheet, please reach out to me through the either platform listed on the homepage and we can discuss further.

Happy Homeschooling!