Growing Love

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Every birth usually ends with tears. I’m crying, mom is crying, dad is crying. Tears of gratitude because we’re all incredibly appreciative of this moment and for each other. Yesterday, I attended my thirteenth birth and this family conceived through IVF. Their journey to conception was long, hard, expensive and at times heartbreaking. I previously learned pieces of their experience during our initial and prenatal meetings but it was while we labored together for 18 hours on the upper east side of Manhattan, that I learned the details. So much had gone towards the bringing to life of this little baby boy, who we were all waiting to welcome.

Because the conception story is different for IVF families, the experience of pregnancy, labor, and birth can also be different. Sometimes families feel a distrust of their bodies because they were not able to experience conception without medical intervention. When I work with IVF families, part of my job responsibilities is to remind my client of their strength, of their abilities, and if they are planning a hospital birth, of the options that are available to assist them if they want or need them.

Yesterday, this incredibly loved and yearned for baby was placed on the chest of his mother after long and hard laboring and she just broke down. Some families wait nine months for their bundle but in this case, years of ups and downs, disappointments and miracles had to happen to bring us to where we were.

Witnessing this moment was the catalyst of my own emotional release. I began to think about the love that I already have for my next child and how the work that I do as a birth and postpartum doula keeps me in a constant mental space surrounding my next pregnancy and baby. In the past, Rick, friends and I refer to the future baby as baby Ricky. More recently, I’ve started calling him by his name and sometimes I get glimpses of his face. I don’t know what conception will be like for Rick and I in the coming months when we begin to try,  but the love for our baby boy has already begun to grow. The love is real even though, as of yet, he is not.

I Am Not a Photographer

I am not a photographer

I am a girl

who takes pictures

sometimes 

when the inconvenience

of taking out my phone

doesn’t outweigh

the aesthetics of my view

 

I am not a photographer

but I play one on Instagram

 

I am not a photographer

but when I see homegirl

on the A train

in the corner

with swelling eyes

and tears forming

I think about the intensity in her gaze

and the perfect shadow formed by her profile

like a photographer would

but I’m not one

 

I am not a photographer 

but my commute

my reflection

my experience

is made better

because I pretend to be

a photographer

sometimes

Managing An On-Call Life

I went from working very predictable and typical hours, to a job that is widely on-call. Some of the work I do these days can be pre-planned and arranged (such as prenatal, postpartum and overnight support) however the bulk of what I do is attend births and those are hard to plan around.

People have the notion that their baby will be delivered on their due date, but the truth of the matter is that due dates are just rough estimates based on the last date of menstruation. No one can accurately predict the day that their baby will be born even if they know the exact date of conception and your baby certainly isn’t keeping track. Babies come when they’re ready. Luckily we have estimated due dates because they give us a ballpark idea of when to expect the baby but knowing exactly when is near impossible (outside of scheduling a cesarean). Even once labor has begun, it’s hard to predict how long it will last before your little one arrives. Throw in prodromal labor (contractions that can begin anytime at term and last for a few days to a week) and Braxton hicks (“false labor”), and you’ll start to see the value in going with the flow.

As a birth worker, this has been a difficult transition for me. There have been times when I’ve received word that a client believes labor has begun but she isn’t quite ready for me to join her yet. I have sat on the edge of my bed, frozen, like a statue. Afraid to start anything (like cooking or cleaning) and afraid to exert any energy for fear that when it’s time for me to join I’ll be exhausted, or asleep.

The last time this happened, I knew I had to develop a plan to help myself cope with being on call, and here it is…

  1. Live my life. If I was heading to the gym, or the store, or was about to start cooking dinner, then I will continue to do what I intended on doing. Being fully supportive to my clients doesn’t have to include putting my life on hold. When they’re ready for me I will put everything down, but in the meantime, I must go on as I normally would.
  2. Don’t be afraid of being tired. I know for a fact that when it is time for me to join my clients, my adrenaline kicks in and I am filled with energy and ready to work! I know that since I am a doula full-time now I don’t have to worry about being rested for any other jobs and after the birth, I can come back home to sleep and recharge as necessary. I also stock red bull in my fridge now. This has more of a placebo effect than anything else. Knowing that it’s there gives me peace of mind, even if I never drink it.
  3. Change my client’s ringtones. If I do fall asleep or find myself in noisy New York streets, a brash and startling ringtone will do the trick to make sure I never miss a call.
  4. Schedule the classes that I teach online to be lighter around my clients EDD (estimated due date). I have already come to terms with the idea that sometimes I might have to cancel classes in order to support my clients, and by scheduling fewer classes in the first place I reduce my chances of having to cancel at all. Luckily my teaching job is pretty flexible and I can make up classes on the weekends or any other time, really.

Handling an on-call life has been a challenge for me, but I’m happy that I took the time to figure out how to best support myself so that I can best support my clients.

Do you live an on-call life?

How do you cope with the unpredictability?

When One Gig Isn’t Enough

When I quit my full-time job to freelance as a doula and blogger I knew that as any new career would have it, the growth of income would be slow and unsteady at first.

However, I am a planner and at times a true type A personality. There is no way I could tolerate a completely unpredictable income. Since last summer, when I first began to plan my transition from full-time employment to freelancing, I reached out to a friend of mine who I knew was teaching English online to students in China with a company called VIPKID. We met for drinks in November, where she outlined how the business worked and how she applied and got started. By the end of December, I began teaching and earning $10-$12 per 30-minute class. I love the flexibility of this job. I work as many hours as I want and all from the comfort of my home!

Although VIPKID income alone isn’t enough to be financially sustainable, it was a nice supplement to my income during the 6 months that I worked three jobs (as Case Manager, Doula, and online Teacher). The plan is for it to continue to be a supplement to my income now, as just a doula.

I wanted to write about this because I’ve been paying more attention to the fact that so many people seem to be unhappy with their work but feel stuck and limited by their options. There are ways to build a life for yourself that you love from top to bottom. It usually involves talking to and learning from other people, a bit of creativity and an open mind. I took my time and planned my escape from traditional employment because I didn’t want to wing it and possibly suffer financially and I recognize that my way is just one way to do it.

It is said that time is the most precious commodity we have. It is something that you can never get back, once it’s gone. True as that is, time is also all we have. Whether it is written in the stars that I will live for one more year or for one hundred more years, it is up to me to make the time I have, the best time of my life. We can spend our lives grumbling Monday through Friday, or we can work towards making every day worthy of weekend celebration! VIPKID is just one step in my path, and maybe one step in your path too. Click here for a referral code and please contact me if you have specific questions or would like more information. I am happy to share!

If you have other ideas for part-time gigs/online employment, comment below and potentially help a fellow reader in their journey!

 

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A Hair Journey

I began my journey in the Fall of 2015 when I stopped perming my hair. This was my second time attempting to go natural but this time I was more determined than before because I realized there was more on the line than I initially thought. I had become conscious about the images of beauty that I was portraying for my daughter. I was asking her to embrace her afro and natural curls while I was taming and stripping my own. She was the catalyst for a monumental change.

On my first attempt at going natural, I gave up a few months into the process because dealing with my roots was “too hard”. This time around, I believe that posting my hair intentions on Facebook in addition to Jayda as a motivator, were the factors that contributed to my sticktoitiveness. Not that anyone was keeping track or anything but it filled me with a sense of accountability.

I finally cut off the permed ends, Fall 2016 and since I am now approaching the three-year mark of having natural hair growth, I’ve compiled some before, in between and current pictures to celebrate the milestone. Enjoy!


PRETRANSITION

Hooked on that creamy crack


TRANSITIONING

Lots of braids, Bantu knots, and puffy roots


POST CHOP

I didn’t go the big chop route which at the time felt like I was cheating myself from a full experience but the end result is the same: volume, health, and length.


I’m still learning my hair and figuring out what products, oils, and regimes work for it best. I am currently leaning towards Shea Moisture’s Low Porosity line and Argon Oil. I am mostly low maintenance. I have wash hour, not wash day and I do my best to deep condition when I remember. I’ve tried making my own hair masks with fruits and vegetables but the effort didn’t seem to match the results I was getting. I often find that doing less with my hair works just as well as doing the most in terms of helping me to achieve my goals.


Ciao Mama Italia!

Italy was everything I expected, wanted and needed! Going into the experience I knew that I was desperate for nature and the idea of a retreat was ideal. Visiting Italy had always been on my bucket list as far as I could remember. Before my brother or I were born, my mother spent years living in Italy and that is where she got the nickname: Baci, which everyone called her, friends and family alike. Her nieces and nephews called her Titi Baci and my daughter currently calls her Grandma Baci. I even have that name tattooed on my body, twice. In Italian, Baci means “kisses”. She was given the name by someone who I would later know as Big Judi.

I was excited to interview Big Judi for the interview project I’ve been working on and I knew I wanted to do so before visiting Italy. Big Judi came to my house the day before my flight. After noticing her marijuana socks, I asked her if she wanted to partake in any cannabis activities and with socks like those I was not surprised with her response.  We lit up and began talking about how and where she first met my mom. Shortly after getting started, Big Judi asked if it would be ok for her to lay down and a bit later Rick drove her home. The interview itself wasn’t as concentrated with information as I would have hoped but we promised to get together again so that she could share more. Before she left, she gifted me with a small white pillow that was used at my parent’s wedding. I am thrilled to have received this just before my own wedding and plan to use it as well.

Big Judi may not have shared much yet but she got my mind ready in a voicemail she left, just as I was boarding my plane. Take a listen…

I was traveling with my friend Patria. In addition to wanting this trip for very personal and self-involved reasons, I was also happy to have time to spend with Patria, outside of wedding planning which is currently running my life and is the topic of most conversations I have with people. I considered this trip, among many other things to be a pre-wedding-friend-honeymoon.

The flight was smooth, as I slept nearly the entire eight-hour direct flight to Rome. After landing, Patria and I met with the retreat coordinator‘s husband and daughter who we would then share the 3-hour drive with to the tiny town of Piobicco.

As we more closely approached our destination, I began noticing the hiking trails off the side of the road that led into the forest. My eyes swelled up, this was exactly it! I got excited that this was going to be my life for the next 10 days. There would be no other responsibilities of wedding planning, or picking up and dropping off my daughter: just me, nature, yoga, meditation and my best friend.

The way Tanya leads yoga is different than anyone else. She gives writing exercises, visualizations, breathing and stretching along with traditional yoga poses. When you work with Tanya you will get a full body, mind, and soul work out and I am stronger for it now. The things I worked on have led me to be gentler to myself and more supportive as a mother and soon to be wife.  

I am so happy that my path, which was always leading to Italy, crossed with Tanya’s and that I was invited to participate in this fantastic voyage!

Patria and I shared spacious accommodations with seven other ladies all from different walks of life. Each taught me something and lead to my overall experience. We spent a lot of our downtime discussing our childhoods, trauma and all the variables that shaped the women we are today. I have to admit I was taken back by the fact that many of these women who are somewhat older than I am still felt very impacted by their childhood. This brought me a sense of calm because it was then that I realized even if I don’t remember much of my mom, she raised me for eight crucial years, at a time when I was being shaped into the person I am today. This meant that I am effected by her whether I knew it, remembered it or not. I am comforted by this realization.

One of the most transformative parts was during a yoga session when I was reflecting on the things I’ve learned about my mom over the past year. So far I’ve interviewed my dad, who had a lover‘s perspective. My godmother, who had the perspective of a childhood friend. A woman who became close to my mom in the last years of her life and Big Judi who knew her somewhere in the middle and gave her the name Baci, which was a huge part of her identity. Here I was in Italy, where she lived for years and for the very first time I felt like I knew her and I missed her. Does it sound crazy that I never missed her before? I didn’t know her and I didn’t think I remembered her so how could I have missed a stranger? For years I was too afraid to engage in conversation about my mom because I was saving myself from deep sadness.  That served and protected me then and now I am ready to feel.

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