The Breastfeeding Blues

When my baby was born 6 weeks ago, I thought I was fully prepared. I had read books, taken classes, meditated, washed all the baby stuff, organized, decorated, etc. Boy, oh boy, was I wrong. After my birth went completely differently than I expected, I thought nothing could surprise me, but then I tried to breastfeed. Ohhh, breastfeeding. It’s one of the greatest challenges I’ve ever been through as a woman and it feels like no one really talks about it. I know I can’t be the only one who’s ever struggled with it. I know that for a fact now that I’ve started asking other moms about it…but, for the most part, it seems as if most women are struggling in silence. Why is that? Is our society so weirded out over boobs that we can’t talk about the experiences we have when we try to use them for nature’s intended purpose? The general attitude seems to be this: We have these boobs on our bodies and, no matter what size they are, they feel like the wrong size. For our entire lives we are told that these boobs have a very important purpose and that is to make a nutritious elixir for our offspring. We are also told that if we do things right and we lay our babies on our chest right after they are born, they will latch onto these boobs and these boobs will feed them. Well, what if that’s not what happens? What if one or more of those stars don’t align and things don’t work like they are supposed to?

I’ll tell you what happens, because it happened to me. I can’t make enough milk to feed my baby properly. And that was and continues to be so-o hard for me. For the first few weeks, I flat-out couldn’t accept it, so I just tried harder to make it work. I went to multiple lactation consultants. I fed my baby formula every two hours through a device called a supplemental nursing system, because I wasn’t ready to give into bottle feeding. I rented more than one hospital-grade pump and pumped after every feeding, took supplements and drank lactation tea. I even broke down in my doctor’s office, begging him to check and see if I had any retained placenta that was preventing me from making milk. I read books, did online research, talked to numerous women who had experience breastfeeding, ate oatmeal every morning, suffered through drinking a Guinness. But, nothing worked. I was still making droplets of milk and nothing more.

I felt like a failure of a mother. My lack of lactation (see what I did there?) left me filled with guilt and shame and embarrassment. As I nursed, I would look down at my baby and her perfect latch and think about how she deserved better. I would think about how my body had already failed her once by almost killing her as she tried to exit it, and now it was failing her again by not producing enough food to keep her alive. I thought about how Matt would’ve been better off having a baby with some other woman who could produce more milk.

I knew that this mindset wasn’t good for me or the baby, so in an attempt to make myself feel better I started a list in my phone titled, “Things I CAN offer my baby even though I can’t make her enough milk.” I added things to the list as I thought of them. As the list grew, my confidence as a mother grew a little bit, too.

I still haven’t fully accepted that my boobs don’t work like they’re supposed to. I still have days that I feel like Matt and Lennon deserve better. I still have days where my tears fall onto Lennon’s tiny body as she nurses. But, I continue to nurse her anyway. Then afterwards, I feed her with a bottle so she can grow big and strong. And then she looks up at me and gives me a look that seems to say, “I don’t care how much milk I’m getting, I’m happy to be here with you,” and I grow stronger as well.

If you are a nursing mother or a mother who’s trying to be a nursing mother or a mother who can’t nurse but wishes she could, I see you and I think you’re doing a great job. In fact, if you’ve ever done anything that made you feel like a failure of a mother, I see you and think you’re amazing because you care enough to feel like a failure, even though you aren’t. I encourage you to make a list like I did so you can see all of the wonderful things you are giving to your child. Below is my list (it’s a work in progress), and I’d love to see yours, too.

Things I CAN offer my baby even though I can’t make her enough milk:

  • Unconditional love
  • A tiny bit of breast milk, which is better than none
  • Trust
  • Round-the-clock care
  • Snuggles
  • Songs with personalized lyrics
  • Kisses
  • Lots of smiles
  • Compliments
  • Honesty
  • A rocking motion when she’s fussy
  • A warm chest to cry against
  • A warm shoulder to spit up on
  • A warm bath followed by a foot massage
  • A safe place to sleep
  • Adventures
  • Book-reading sessions with many different voices
  • Clean clothes
  • Written accounts of how much she means to me that she can read when she’s older
  • A mom who hears her cries, studies them to try to figure out what they’re about and genuinely wants to make it all better
  • My attention (all of it)
  • My time (all of it)
  • Presence
  • Affection
  • The best bottles money can buy
  • Attention to detail so she never misses a feeding or has to sit too long in a dirty diaper
  • My hand to shade her eyes from the sun

Lennon’s Birth Story

It’s been two weeks since I received the greatest gift of my life, my beautiful daughter, Lennon, and I think I’m finally ready to talk about how it all went down.

As many of you know, our baby was due on May 9th, 2017, but that day came and went. So did the day after that and the day after that. With each day that passed, I got a little more anxious and worried. My doctors were talking about inducing me, but I was very reluctant. From what I had read, induced labors are much more intense and painful than natural labor. More importantly, I wanted to trust my body and I wanted to have a natural childbirth, though I always planned on doing it at the hospital, just in case something went wrong, I wanted to be in the safety net, but I was hoping it would all just happen the way it was supposed to, without interventions.
So, I waited and waited for her to come on her own. My doctors told me that I could wait until Monday, May 22nd, as long as I got non-stress tests twice a week. After that, they strongly recommended I stop waiting and get induced.

The waiting was very hard for me. I wondered if I was doing the right thing, aware as I was that the risk of having a still-born baby goes up after week 41, and that an induction would bring risks as well. I just wanted a healthy baby. That’s all I cared about. I simply didn’t know the best way to get her.
On Tuesday, May 16th, I started having some mild cramping in the evening, and by Wednesday, May 17th, the cramping started to feel more like contractions. I started timing the contractions around lunchtime on the 17th and by late that night they were so intense that I was doubling over to get through each one. I had been told to go to the hospital when the contractions were 2-to-4 minutes apart, but when they were around 5 minutes apart, I felt a strong urge to head to the hospital. I talked Matt into going a little bit early and we headed to Sutter Amador.

When we arrived, I told the nurse that I might be a little early. I also told her that I knew they might send us home, but this was my first time and I felt safer at the hospital. Both of the nurses on duty that night were very nice and agreed to let me stay there to progress through my labor. They checked my cervix, looked over my birth plan, and agreed to do everything in the most natural way possible. At this point, it was about 1 a.m. We were just going to wait through the night and see how much I had progressed by about 6 a.m.

Around 3 a.m., during a fairly strong contraction, the heart monitors they had on the baby and me started going crazy and I felt the baby moving around a lot — I’m talking more movement than I had ever felt before — frantic movement. The nurse came running in the room and asked me to move into a few different positions as she moved the baby’s heart monitor around on my belly. She seemed scared, so I started to get scared. She pushed a button that was attached to her shirt and said “Code C.” An alarm started sounding. She told me to get on all fours, put on an oxygen mask and try to stay calm — that the baby’s heart rate had dropped significantly and she was trying to find it again. At this point, a bunch of other people, doctors and nurses, started coming into the room asking what they could do. I heard my nurse say that we needed to get my doctor there asap and prep for surgery. I heard her telling the team that if my doctor didn’t get there fast enough, we needed to have the ER doctor perform an emergency C-section, because something was wrong and we needed to get the baby out.

As I propped myself up on the hospital bed on all fours, ass in the open air for whoever to see, face in an oxygen mask, I thought about what would happen to me if I lost this baby. It was one of the darkest moments I’ve ever been in. I thought about how far we’d come together, me and my baby Lentil, and how badly I wanted her to be OK. I thought about how if she didn’t make it, I didn’t want to make it, either. I thought to myself over and over, “Please let her be OK. Please let her be OK. I want nothing more than for her to be OK, I’ve never wanted anything more than for her to be OK.”

The nurse came over to me and said, “Ginger, something is wrong. We won’t know what it is until we get you into surgery, but if you continue with this labor, we think it will end in the demise of your baby.”
Can we talk about the word “demise” for a moment? That word carries so much doom and gloom for me. When I heard that word is when I knew I would do anything the doctors told me to do, because baby demise was the last thing I wanted. Baby demise was my worst nightmare. Baby demise would ruin me.

When my doctor arrived, he looked as if we had awoken him from a deep sleep. He performed an ultrasound on me while I was on all fours. He said he’d never done an ultrasound upside-down before, but he found the baby’s heart beating on the screen and saw that she had switched positions in the womb, another sign of distress, seeing as she had been engaged and head-down for months before this.

Within minutes, they were wheeling me down to surgery. Matt was there by my side the whole time, telling me that everything would be OK. I don’t know how he stayed so calm, but I needed his kind, patient energy so badly and he gave it to me lovingly. As the surgery began, I just kept thinking, again, “Please let her be OK.” Then I heard her cry. It was the most beautiful sound, like nothing I’d ever heard before, a cry that was unique to her and let me know she was alive, even though I couldn’t yet see her.

As I lay on the operating table completely numb and in a very odd headspace, I heard the doctors talking about how things looked on the other side of the sheet. They were talking about my body, my insides. They were saying things looked “different” than usual.

Matt got to see the baby first. He came over to me with the biggest smile on his face, with a look I’ll never forget, a look of relief mixed with love mixed with hope. Luckily, baby Lentil passed all of her tests and they were able to let me hold her pretty quickly. She was perfect.

After surgery, the doctors and nurses explained to us that the umbilical cord was abnormally short. When the baby attempted to descend through my birthing canal, her oxygen supply was reduced and her heart rate dropped. The average umbilical cord is 50 to 60 cm long, but the cord connecting me and Lennon was only 17 cm. The doctors and nurses said she wouldn’t have survived labor. They also said she wouldn’t have survived an induction. One of the nurses even told me when I saw her a week later that it was one of the scariest days she’d ever worked.

The fact that my baby is here with me today makes me feel so fortunate. It also breaks my heart to know that if one tiny part of this story were different, like let’s say I didn’t go to the hospital when I did, or let’s say a different nurse was working and didn’t hear the heart monitor, then my baby wouldn’t be here with me today. It’s so scary to know that I could’ve easily lost my baby. And my heart goes out to all the women whose birthing stories ended differently. I wish I could hug them and tell them how brave and strong they are.

These past two weeks have been tough, because recovering from a C-section is no joke and being a new mom is no joke, but doing both simultaneously while also trying (and kind of failing) to breastfeed is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. And when my baby is sleeping on my chest or looking into my eyes or making a bunch of silly faces, I know that I’m exactly where I need to be. I didn’t get here the way I had hoped, but at least I’m here. More importantly, at least Lennon is here. Someone or something was looking out for us that day and we are all so lucky.

 

Lessons I’ve Learned from Pregnancy – Part Three

3. I can survive without self-medicating.

Let’s talk about a very touchy subject for a moment, shall we? Self-medication! It’s one of my favorite pastimes! I can’t really recall exactly when I started using alcohol as a crutch/self-soothing tool/anti-anxiety medication, but I can tell you that it was a very long time ago. For years and years, I used alcohol to help me cope with all of the hardships of life. Or so I thought. In reality, it never really helped with anything. If I had a stressful day, I’d have a glass of wine. If I liked a boy and he wasn’t giving me the attention I craved, I’d have a cocktail. If I got into an argument with a friend or family member, I’d have a drink. If I did something I wasn’t proud of and didn’t know how to deal with it, I’d just have a drink and forget about it. If I got depressed about being a waitress in my thirties, I’d have a drink. If something terrible happened to me and I didn’t know how to process, I’d go to happy hour.

One drink always turned into many drinks and it got to the point where I was using alcohol to actively try to shut off my feelings, desires and thoughts. The only problem with doing that is that alcohol can only shut things off for a short time. I would still wake up the next morning with the same thoughts, the same feelings, the same desires…and all of them were tired of being ignored and pushed under the rug. If I had had too much to drink the night (or day!) before, which I often did, I would also wake up with very heavy guilt and shame about drinking — guilt and shame about not being present; guilt and shame about not being myself; guilt and shame for dimming my own light. I was intoxicated probably 50% of the time, which means I wasn’t myself about 50% of the time, which is a lot! That’s half a person, half a personality, gone!

A few years ago, I somehow found the strength to admit to myself and a couple of other people that I was doing this. I was self-medicating. I wasn’t just a “social drinker,” like I had always wanted everyone to believe. I was drinking with purpose. I was drinking to try to hide how unhappy I was, from not only those around me, but also from myself. Unfortunately, admitting I had a problem with drinking was only the first step. Actually stopping the habit was a whole different can of worms. And even though I knew I wanted to stop self-medicating, I didn’t want to stop all the way. I associated fun with drinking, and I wasn’t ready to give it up.

So, I started trying to cut back. I would set goals for myself, like, “Tonight, I’m only going to have two glasses of wine (unless one of my customers buys me a drink). Or, “Tonight, I’m not going to black out.” Or, “This week, I’m only going to drink on my days off.” Most of the time, I wouldn’t share these goals with anyone, but I wouldn’t meet them, either. I thought it wasn’t that bad, because the only person I was letting down was myself, right? I was so wrong! Letting myself down over and over and over again is the single worst thing I’ve ever done to myself and my self-esteem. I know that now, but I didn’t then.

Anyway, the whole point of me telling you about this nasty, nasty habit I had is that I finally feel like I’ve been able to break away from it! I attribute that in part to my unborn baby. Before I got pregnant I was already starting on my journey away from self-medication. I had recognized the problem; I had learned to accept my feelings better. I had decided my feelings were there for a reason…they were usually trying to show me something or teach me an important lesson and I couldn’t learn the lesson if I was drowning the feelings in alcohol. I had successfully cut back on drinking and convinced myself that life without it wasn’t that bad. But, I would still slip up. I would still go back to my old ways and every time I did I would wake up with the same guilt and shame.

Then I got pregnant, and I stopped drinking immediately. Now I had this very important reason not to drink, the most important reason ever, growing inside of me. In the last nine months, I’ve gotten to know myself, and my anxiety, so well. I’ve had to feel all my feelings; I’ve had to worry all my worries; I’ve had to fear all my fears and cry all my tears. When I feel happy, I feel truly happy. When I laugh, I’m truly laughing from somewhere deep inside my belly. And I’ve done this all without medication, without alcohol and refreshingly, without much shame. And, guess what? I’ve survived! I’m even a little proud of myself. I’ve found that all the bad things aren’t really as bad as I imagined them to be, as long as I don’t run away from them.

My baby forced me to get to know my true self, an unadulterated version of myself, and for that I will forever be grateful. I can’t wait to enjoy a glass of rosé with friends, but now I know I don’t need it to survive. Now I know that I’m strong enough to feel any feeling and fight any fight and I’m strong enough all on my own. I don’t need any substance to help me. Thank you, baby Lentil. Thank you so much. I hope you never lose yourself as much as I did. But, if you do, I’m here to help you find yourself again. I can’t wait to be your present, vulnerable, flawed, ready-to-face-anything mom.

Lessons I’ve Learned from Pregnancy – Part Two

2. Animals can sense pregnancy! I’ve always loved animals (especially my own) and they’ve always liked me just fine. But now that I’m pregnant, watch out! The animals are all looking at me with hearts in their eyes. I’m convinced that the baby is the number one reason that Matt’s dog, Bok Choy, fell for me so hard. She always wants to be near me and my belly (as you can see from the photo, she even wanted to be part of my maternity photo shoot!). And, my cat Lola is the same way. In fact, they fight over being close to me and the baby. I’m enjoying every minute of the extra snuggles, love and attention I get from Lola and Choy, because animal love is truly some of the most enriching love I’ve ever felt. I can’t wait for Lentil to get here so she can have all of her days brightened by these furry friends of ours.

Lessons I’ve Learned from Pregnancy – Part One

  1. When you have a baby, you can’t worry about everyone else so much. I’ve always been the kind of person who worries…about everything and everyone. The more I love you, the more I’m going to worry about you. I’m aware that this drives people crazy, it drives me crazy sometimes too! During pregnancy, I’ve found myself doing my normal worrying plus some. If someone is running late, I imagine them in a car accident. If someone drinks too much, I’m up all night worrying about how they will feel in the morning or if they tried to drive or if they did anything they will regret. If someone cries, I worry about what is causing them to feel sad and what I could’ve done to help. When my cat throws up (which she’s been doing a lot because she’s sick) I worry that she is miserable or I’m not doing enough to help or I’m going to find her dead in my closet. When my brother borrows my dad’s chainsaw, I find myself worrying about him shredding his leg into a hundred pieces. When Matt is tired from work and then agrees to help my parents with a project over the weekend, I find myself worrying about him doing too much. Some of the worries are my own…like, did I eat too much sugar today or does one cup of coffee a day really affect my baby or did I say something too snarky to my mom or is the baby kicking enough or am I doing enough for myself and the people I love etc. But, whirling around in my head with my own worries, are a lot of worries that don’t belong to me. I’ve been sort of plagued by all these worries. If I’m being honest, I think I do this as a defense mechanism to shield myself from pain…like, if I imagine the worst case scenario, then I’ll be more prepared for the worst and it won’t hurt as much if it happens (which, btw, is total bullshit. It still hurts just as much when something bad happens). Anyway, I just keep thinking, “There must be some lesson here. There must be something I’m supposed to learn from all this worrying”. And I think I’ve figured out that the lesson in all of the worrying is this: I can’t worry about worries that don’t belong to me… because I need that space to worry about myself and my baby. I need to let adults worry about themselves, or not worry about themselves if that’s what they want to do, and I need to be OK with that. Because their worries aren’t mine. And I have the most important job of my life beginning soon…I’m gonna be a mom. As a mom, I need to worry about my baby and make sure my baby is doing OK and help my baby learn what it’s like to be in this world. My baby’s worries belong to me; they should be my main concern, my key priority.

This is how my maternal desire ruined my life…

“Oh, maybe someday,” used to be my go-to response when someone asked me if I wanted kids. And you know what? It was a flat-out lie, every single time. You see, I’ve wanted kids for as long as I can remember. But, somewhere along the way, I decided my maternal desire should be hidden. Why would I hide a part of myself? Great question, but that’s what I did for many, many years.

It’s hard to pinpoint when I turned into a canned, robotic version of myself. I think it was probably right around my senior year of high school. Growing up, I had quite a few beautiful friends and they all got a lot of attention from boys. On the other hand, I didn’t get as much attention, at least not for the way I looked. I quickly learned that I could make up for what I lacked in looks by having a “good personality.” It was simple — if I did or said something that other people seemed to like, I would just do that thing more. Voila! Attention! I told jokes that I knew people thought were funny; I did people lots of favors; I gave everything to be a good friend. I washed my hair with herbal essences because people loved the way it smelled, and I made fun of myself constantly, because people always laughed. If I said something and someone told me it was weird, I would make a note to myself to never say something like that again. When I started waiting tables at 18, my sense of what made people uncomfortable and what didn’t became more refined. If someone was made to feel even slightly uncomfortable by something I said or did, I would just stop saying that sort of thing altogether. And so, I turned off, or at least turned down, large parts of myself. I purposefully dimmed my light — for the benefit of others — and I operated like that for years and years and years.

When I finally started getting attention from boys for the way I looked, it totally blindsided me. I had lost about 40 pounds by going on a gluten-free diet and all of a sudden men were hitting on me, asking me out, flirting with me. I had worked so long and hard on being a “cool girl” and now men wanted to have sex with me, too!? Should I continue to be cool? Yes. Yes, I should, is what I decided. And now that I had this male attention, I tried to gauge what it was that men liked and what they didn’t like. The one major thing that I noticed most men freaking out about was the subject of babies, so my cookie-cutter answer to the question “Do you want kids?” was born. It wasn’t the only thing that I hid my true opinion about, but it was a big one. I knew I was lying, not only to whomever I was dating at the time, but also to myself. But if you asked me about it, my answer was, “Oh, maybe someday”.

The problem with lying to yourself and those around you is that you lose yourself. I told people what they wanted to hear for so long that I no longer knew what it was that I wanted, and this didn’t feel good. For over a decade, I would go to my job as a waitress; I would smile and put on my fake personality; and I would leave with loads of cash and zero sense of myself. I would go on dates or even be in full-on relationships, and I’d be wearing my fake personality. The longer I did it, the harder it got. If a table didn’t like me or a guy didn’t ask me on a second date or a friend got mad at me or a boyfriend broke up with me, I would be devastated. I would ask myself, “What did I do wrong? What did they need from me that I didn’t give them? What is wrong with me? What can I change about myself so that this won’t happen again?” I needed to do better, I needed to be better.

Right before my 33rd birthday, I decided that I needed to find some help. I was sad and. most of the time, I had no idea why. I had a job, I had a boyfriend, I had friends, I had family who loved me, but I felt sad all the time. With that sadness came guilt, guilt over the things I did, guilt over the way I acted, guilt over not knowing what I wanted, guilt over being sad. Why can’t I be happy? Why can’t I be appreciative? Why do I feel anxious and depressed all the time? And my answer to all of those questions was, ‘because you’re terrible, Ginger. You’re nobody.’

Lucky for me, I was able to find an amazing therapist who was so very kind to me, but more importantly, taught me to be kind to myself. She helped me to realize that I wasn’t nobody at all — I was just scared to show who I was. I had desires; I had dreams; I had a personality. They were just buried beneath years of abuse, mostly from myself. I was my own worst enemy. I learned that the negative voices in my head will never go away, but I can battle them with positive voices. I learned to stick up for myself, to myself.

While I was learning to be nice to myself, I also learned to trust myself more. My dreams and desires weren’t meaningless things that should be hidden from everyone. They were there for a reason, and if you’re reading this, your dreams and desires mean something to you, too. During this exploration of my desires, I realized that I didn’t want to be a waitress anymore. I wanted to write and create and have days where I didn’t have to fake it. I also realized that I had a strong maternal desire, I always had. I learned that if I didn’t start being honest with myself and others about these desires, they were going to bubble up inside of me until I lost my mind. This might sound overly dramatic, but it felt like I was going to explode.

I remember when I finally got the courage to have a serious conversation with my then-boyfriend about my maternal desire. I went over what I was going to say about a hundred times in my head. Then I told him something along the lines of, “I feel like I need to be really honest with you. I want to have kids. I want to get married, too, but I really want kids. I always have, and I’m getting older. It feels like there’s a portion of my heart that is reserved for my unborn children and it’s not accessible with any other love.”

Unfortunately, this scared him. He told me he had to think about it. The next several months felt like a tug of war, with each of us pushing the other away and then pulling them back when it started to feel too far. We should’ve just been honest right then and there that we were on different pages, but these things are hard to do when you care about someone. At one point, I even reverted back to my old ways of telling people what they want to hear and told him that maybe I could be happy without children, as long as we entertained a lot. Another lie.

Looking back, I can’t believe I put myself through such a torturous limbo period. I finally knew what I wanted and had the courage to speak up about it, but it scared people, most of all my boyfriend. I was now carrying around these truths of mine, but I didn’t really have anywhere to plant them. I guess I was hoping he would come around, he would realize that we should make babies and then we would and everything would be better. I was waiting for that to happen. I was putting my desires on hold, which I thought was slightly better than hiding them completely.

I was wrong. The day he broke up with me I found myself sitting in my car breaking down, not knowing where to go or who to call or what to do. It felt as though being honest about my feelings was ruining my life. I was mad, mostly at myself. I called my mom and shouted through sobs, “My maternal desire just made me lose the most important person in my life! Why is it here? Why do I have it? What is the point of being honest about it?” She tried to calm me down that day and for months afterwards by telling me that my desires were valid and I shouldn’t feel bad about them. It took me a long time to agree with her.

During the time after my breakup, with the help of my therapist, my friends and my family, I realized that maybe this was all happening for a reason. Maybe this was paving the way for me to finally be my true self. I felt like shit most days, but I just kept trying to be honest about my feelings.

That’s when I started dating Matt the DJ. I was this raw version of myself and, for some reason, he made me feel safe. He’s the only person I’ve ever dated that I didn’t hold back from. I told him from the get-go that I wanted kids; I hated my job; I felt lost, I wanted to write more, even though it scared me; I missed my family; I often drank too much because I just couldn’t hang … I was brutally honest with him. And you know what? It didn’t scare him at all. It felt so good to finally be 100 percent of myself. I’ll always be thankful to him for that.

You know how they say that the universe rewards courage and action? I’m here to tell you that I now believe this to be true. How do I know? Because a year ago I was miserable, heartbroken, confused and lost. The very best thing I could do was to show up for myself every day, to feel all the things I was feeling, to be honest, to be vulnerable. I got to the point where I just couldn’t fake it for the benefit of others anymore, I got to the point where I needed and wanted to get to know myself. I got to the point where I wanted to let my feelings guide me instead of the feelings of others. And I did (Somehow, I did it.) It was fucking hard, one of the hardest parts being that I had to admit that I had this maternal desire living inside of me, and it wasn’t going away. Admitting that felt like it made my life crumble around me. Admitting that meant I had to break up with someone I cared about, and move out of the home we shared. All that time I spent reflecting on what actually mattered to me made me realize that I also couldn’t keep doing my job, and I couldn’t keep living my life the way I was. To realize all of these things in such a short time meant I had to listen to my gut, I had to trust myself, and that was something I wasn’t familiar with.

But, I did it anyway. I survived that breakup; I quit that job; I moved home; I started dating Matt, even though I worried about people judging me; I started writing for the newspaper, even though I worried about people judging me; I changed my diet, my perspective, my daily routine; I changed almost everything. And I did all of it simply because it felt right. I trusted myself, no matter how hard it was to do so.

It may sound simple, but listening to myself and treating myself with kindness has literally changed my life in less than a year. And the rewards for loving myself? Well, they are aplenty. I now get to share my life with this amazing man, Matt the DJ, who loves me for exactly who I really am and is crazy enough to want to marry me. I also just accepted a full-time job as a reporter at the newspaper, which I can hardly believe is true, because it means that I’m going to get paid a decent wage to write things, and I don’t have to wait tables anymore. But, my biggest reward of all is that there is a BABY growing inside of me — a baby whose parents love each other, but also love themselves; a baby who is already changing me and making me better; a baby who is making a dream that I thought would never come true, come true.  With each passing day, I can feel that part of my heart that I had reserved for my unborn child warming up and swelling. So I’m here to tell you, listen to yourself! Be kind to yourself! Your dreams and desires live inside of you for a reason: let them out; give them a chance to surprise you.

Waitress Blues

When I was 13, going on 14, my parents opened a restaurant in Sutter Creek, California, the town I would later go to High School in. The first family photo that we ever took in front of the restaurant is engraved in my mind, partially because I was wearing a denim skort (yikes!), but mostly because it was a turning point. It marked the beginning of something big, and the end of my childhood. I had no idea the day that photo was taken how much the restaurant would change me and the course of my life.

I started working there before the place even opened. For weeks, we would stay there late at night and go there early in the morning, getting everything ready for opening day. It was a really special time for my family, a time where we all worked together and got in lots of arguments; but we always showed up the next day to do it again. The biggest and most rewarding project of all came when we ripped up the ratty, old carpet to expose the beautiful, original wood floor underneath! Then, we got on our hands and knees and covered all the big wholes with aluminum flashing and tin can lids. The finished product was stunning — a patchwork floor, crafted by my loving, little family. By the time we opened the doors to the restaurant, it’s safe to say that I was 100% committed to the place. It may have started as my parents project, but it quickly became our family’s project. I worked as much as I could while still being in school, and I wanted to learn how to do every single job. I was a dishwasher, a pizza chef, a hostess, a busser, a runner, I helped my Mom with filing and payroll and I couldn’t wait to be old enough to become a waitress. I wanted to be the kind of employee who could do anything. I wanted my parents and everyone else on the staff to be able to count on me when it was busy or when someone called in sick.

Oh, yes, I convinced my parents to hire all of my friends — that way I could be there all the time, with all my favorite people. The place became a home to me. I loved everyone that worked there and I loved being there. And I wanted everyone else to love it, too. To say I cared too much would be an understatement. The restaurant was more than a job; it was an extension of me. If a guest had a good experience or someone around town told me they loved the chicken fettuccini, it would feel so very good to me. But, if someone had a bad experience or said something bad about the place, I would be crushed. And I would do everything in my power to make it better the next time around. When I was 18, my Dad finally let me be a full-fledged waitress, because I was old enough to be allowed to serve beer and wine. I was hooked from the beginning! I got to make people happy at the place I loved, and I made a bunch of cash doing it. And then, after every shift, I got to sit down, eat delicious food and talk to all of my friends and family. And I’ve been hooked ever since. When I graduated from high school, I moved to San Francisco and went to college. Of course I waited tables the whole time. After I graduated college, I tried to get a “real” job, but ended up back in the service industry pretty quickly. And that is where I’ve been ever since. I’ve worked in restaurants/bars in San Francisco, San Diego, Amador City, Sutter Creek, Fair play, Los Angeles and now in Pasadena. Every single service industry job I’ve had, I’ve cared too much about. I enter every single one of them with the same attitude I had at my parents’ restaurant. It’s in my blood. I’m unable to just leave work and forget about the day. I’m always thinking about what I could do better, what ideas I can come up with to make the restaurant better. I wake up in the middle of the night and realize I forgot to bring water to table 25 during the late rush, and I hope it didn’t ruin their experience. When I’m making my morning coffee, I think about the folks at table 9 who were on their way to see a movie and I hope they enjoyed it. Or I think about the couple that was on their first date on table 32 and I wonder if they will go on a second date. And you know what? I love that part of me. I love the part of me that cares about other people and worries about their feelings and can’t turn it off. That empathy and vulnerability and nurturing side of me serves me well in most parts of my life.

But, the problem is, some people are very rude.

Over the years, I’ve served thousands of great people, but I’ve also served quite a few assholes. And lately, the rude ones have been almost too much for me to bear. I’ve been working in the service industry for almost 20 years now, and I’ve tried with all my might to do it in the most thoughtful, genuine way I can, just like my parents taught me at their magical restaurant so long ago. But the rude people kill that for me  — a little bit at a time. They take something that I love and hold dear, and they try to kill it. Every time a man corners me to hit on me in an aggressive way, a little part of me dies. Every time a person accuses me of something I didn’t do, a little part of me dies. Every time someone tells me they don’t like the way I look, when I didn’t ask for their opinion, a little part of me dies. Every time someone is unhappy, or writes a poor yelp review, or says they’ll never be back, a little part of me dies. Every time I have to apologize for something that wasn’t my fault, or clean up a drunken person’s vomit, or take food off of a check because they hated it, a little part of me dies. And, I just don’t have much left to give! Over the course of all these years, I’ve told myself that if I could just be a little more resilient, have a little bit thicker skin, everything would be ok. But, I cant. If I haven’t become more resilient yet, it’s not going to happen. It’s time to finally see myself for what I am, a person who cares too much. A person who is empathetic and vulnerable and sensitive. It’s time for me to get out of the abusive relationship I have with serving. So, I’ve given up all my serving shifts for the next month (!!!) and I’m going to see how I feel. I know that I’ll be poor, but hopefully I’ll also be happy. Hopefully I can hang on to some of my passion for restauranting while I’ve still got it. And hopefully those tender parts of me that I’ve been trying to push away for years can finally have their time to shine.

P.S. Be kind to your servers, please, I beg this of you.

2016

Normally, I ring in the new year a little too hard and end up really hungover on the 1st. But, this year, I set a goal to not do that! And, it worked! I stayed in on NYE with some of my favorite ladies; we had delicious snacks, drank some cocktails (without over-doing it) and talked about our desires for the new year. On New Year’s Day, Julia and I kept the positivity going by sitting down and really thinking about and listing our desires for 2016. Then, we both made a long, handwritten list (please see photo) of our desires to hang somewhere in our homes. I wrote hers and she wrote mine, because it seemed more special that way. I’ve now got my list hanging in the kitchen to remind me of how wonderful my life is and how I’m working towards making it even more wonderful. Happy New Year, friends! I hope your NYE and New Year’s Day were magical in whatever way you needed them to be!

Lashing Out

A couple months ago, I got some eyelash extensions. At the time, my boyfriend didn’t want to be with me and it was pretty obvious. I was feeling ugly and shitty and confused and I thought that my face wasn’t pretty enough. I thought that if my face could just get a little boost, maybe things would be better. If I could just be a little prettier, maybe I would have a boyfriend who did want to be with me. Maybe I wouldn’t feel like I was clinging for dear life onto something that was broken and failing. Maybe I wouldn’t look so exhausted all the time. Maybe I wouldn’t look so sad, and in turn, maybe I wouldn’t be so sad. So, I got some beautiful, long, black lashes applied to my eyes. And oooooohhhhh-eeeeeeee, they looked GREAT! I felt SO much prettier. I even sort-of liked my face when it didn’t have makeup on it.

I was batting my eyes at strangers. I was taking selfies right out of the shower. I was getting compliments from servers in restaurants, and compliments from friends who would ask, “What mascara are you using!?” It was great!

But, you know what, it didn’t save my relationship, so my eyelash extensions and I had to go through a breakup.

On top of that, I’m a crier. Sometimes, I cry while watching commercials. So, when I’m going through a breakup, the tears are a-flowin’. So many tears. A river of tears. And eyelash extensions aren’t really supposed to get wet! You’re also not supposed to wash them. And they feel kind of like a caterpillar is taking a rest on your eyelid. Between the tears and the not being able to wash my face and the breakup feelings, I started to hate the eyelash extensions. They were itchy and felt foreign and fake and they started to look a little wonky, with some of them going in all different directions. I decided I wanted them off of my face, I needed them off.

So, I did what any savvy gal would do — I looked online for advice about how to remove eyelash extensions. Now, mind you, the woman who had put them on had told me, “DO NOT TRY TO REMOVE THEM YOURSELF.”

However, the Internet made it sound simple enough — just steam your face for 15 minutes and wipe your eyes with coconut oil. I had some coconut oil and some time to kill! Perfect!

The hour and a half I spent trying to get those things off was brutal. It could be considered abuse in most states. I think I steamed my face about four times, and used about 100 cotton balls, just rubbing gobs and gobs of coconut oil on my face and applying far more pressure than anyone should apply to an eyeball. If I pushed hard enough, one or two eyelashes would rip off, but most of them would take my real eyelashes off with them. It was terrible and very painful. After I was finished, my eyes were red and swollen and almost all of my eyelashes were gone.

There were a few really long extensions left that I couldn’t get to come off. Other than that, I was eye-bald. I stared at myself in the mirror and felt uglier than I’d ever felt before.

Now I was 32, single and had no eyelashes. I fell to the floor and had an actual breakdown. The thoughts going through my head were, “Why do I never feel good enough? Why did I get these stupid things in the first place? I got them because I didn’t think I was pretty enough, but now I’m less pretty than ever before, what a huge backfire! Why didn’t I pay someone to remove them? What am I going to do now? How can I go about my day, my week, my year without eyelashes? Why do I care so much about the way I look? Why do I feel like I have to be attractive to be worthy of love? Why do I live in this fucked-up world, where beauty feels more important than honesty, and integrity, and intelligence, and kindness? Why? Why?”

Reluctantly, I picked myself up and I told myself that there are people with far larger problems in the world. Then, I went to work — feeling hideous. But, you know what, no one noticed. I told all of my co-workers about it, because it felt so obvious to me that I felt I needed to explain the way I looked. Every single one of them said that they would never have noticed if I hadn’t said something. Since then, I’ve been walking around feeling self conscious and just hoping my real lashes will grow fast. The moral of this story is, eyelash extensions won’t save you from your problems. In fact, they might make all of your problems worse! And you’re beautiful just the way you are.

Sincerely,

Eye-bald and OK in Pasadena

 

The Truth Behind my Instagram Beach Pic

Remember the beach photo I posted last week of me in a bikini? You probably don’t because to you it was just a picture. But to me, it was a lot more than a picture! Here’s why: I’ve never, ever posted a picture of myself in a bathing suit. In fact, bathing suits have been my arch nemesis for most of my life. I’ve been uncomfortable in my own skin since before I knew what skin was. Honestly, I have vivid memories of self-hatred and regret about eating too much watermelon whilst wearing a bathing suit back when I was 5 years old. And many other memories from all different ages where I’m in my cover-up sitting in a shady corner of the pool or the beach, petrified that someone might notice how big my thighs are. But, recently, I’ve been attempting to ignore the insulting bitch in my head who tells me I can’t wear a bathing suit. Don’t get me wrong, she’s still there. And she still has quite a few offensive opinions about my body, but I’m choosing to tell her, “thanks for coming by, please leave now.” Because, who is SHE to tell me I can’t walk on the beach, bask in the sun, splash in the water and laugh with my friends on a sunny summer day? Cellulite isn’t a crime! Posting that photo last week was tough, I took about 100 shots of the same photo and got creative with the cropping and filtering just to be able to have the balls to post it (please see a screen shot of my camera roll below for proof). But, I’m so glad I posted it! Because it was a huge step for me. A step towards taking the power back and being nice to myself and saying, “girl, you look as good as you can right now and that is good enough for me.” And I’m telling you this, dear women of the Internet, because I encourage you to do the same thing. Take that beautiful body of yours out for a spin on the beach! Post photos! I think you look great, even if the voice in your head says you’re too tall/short/fat/skinny/old/young/pale/tan/bloated/chubby/flat-chested/freckled/scarred/etc. I think the voice in your head should take a longggggg nap (maybe in the sun, maybe without sunscreen on) and let you have some fun!

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Coachella Collaboration with Horseshoe!

A story about love(ing yourself)

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Jennifer, my boyfriend’s sweet friend (and now mine, too) asked me to do a collaboration with Horseshoe (the super-cute boutique she works at in Seattle). The idea was that they would send me some clothes that fit the Coachella vibe, with which I would put together some outfits. Then I would have photos shot of me in the clothes. I, of course, said, “Yes! That sounds fun!” but then quickly worked myself into a stressed out state of mind over it. You know, the old “I’m-too-old-too-plain-my-butt’s-too-big-my-boobs-are-too-small” negative self-talk that always seems to creep up in the back of my mind. But you know what? I’m getting real tired of that negative self-talk! So, I told it to shut up. I woke up early on my days off, I put on some makeup, I did my hair, I told the mean voice in my head that I didn’t want to hang out and I had my friends and my boyfriend take a bunch of pictures of me. Do I look perfect in the pictures? NO! Did I big-girl cry a little bit one day thinking they weren’t good enough? YES! But, in the long-run, it ended up being a really enjoyable, fulfilling project! And, the best part is — that I got to document myself at this stage in my life…31 years old, busy as hell, excited for Coachella 2015, full of love and life and complications and emotions. Forever now, I’ll have these beautifully imperfect pictures where I’m wearing Horseshoe’s cute Coachella clothes and attempting to love myself. Now that is something worth remembering! AND, I fell in love with a couple of the items and ended up buying them to actually take to Coachella…like the awesome Astronaut tank below!

To see the photos and interview questions that Horseshoe posted —> click here!

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Lessons I’ve Learned from my Boyfriend, Zack Hagan

Zack’s birthday was on Wednesday and we are celebrating all weekend so it seemed like the perfect time to put together this list of some important lessons he has taught me…

  1. Never text message when you’re upset. Even if your silence drives the person on the other end crazy. You’ll avoid a lot of trouble this way.
  2. Napping is necessary. So is dancing. And coffee. And bourbon.
  3. Wake up early, even on the weekends because a.) it makes you look responsible to others and b.) you can just take a nap a few hours later when you are tired and c.) it gives you lots of opportunities to use the phrase “carpe the fucking diem.”
  4. When in doubt, eat mac and cheese.
  5. If there are two things worth getting worked up over, they are sports and politics.
  6. You’re never too old to play games.
  7. Having a few high-quality clothing items is better than having a ton of low-quality clothing items.
  8. If you find a shirt, pair of pants or pair of shoes you like, buy it in multiple colors!
  9. Family and cats are super important! And even when they drive you crazy, it’s important to remember you love them.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Waiting Tables

Being a cocktail waitress is kind of like being the host of a bunch of little parties. The guests come sit at the table (the party). I greet them; I ask them how they are doing; I offer them something to drink; I bring them food when they are hungry; and I clean up their messes. And I do this because I want them to have a good time at my party — every last one of them. I want them all to have a great time! Sometimes, too many guests show up to the parties at once and I can’t get them all drinks and food as fast as I’d like and it makes me feel like a bad host. Sometimes, one of the guests acts up, or pees in the sink or makes another guest uncomfortable and I’m like, “You’ve gotta leave this party immediately!” Sometimes, an asshole shows up to one of the parties and it’s really hard to make sure they have a good time and it makes me feel like a bad host and a bad person. I often wake up the next morning thinking about the parties from the night before and hoping they had a great time — every last one of them. So, if you are someone who likes to go to the little parties that waiters and waitresses are throwing at restaurants and bars across the nation, please be kind to your host. They care about you and want you to have a good time!

How to Survive Wedding Dress Shopping when you’re “Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride’’

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  1. When someone says, “You’re next!” immediately say it to another non-engaged person in the room! Even if you don’t know them. It’s like a game of dominoes! (silly voices are encouraged while doing this)
  2. Try to remember: you aren’t getting married, which is awesome, because you don’t have to be on a diet!
  3. Find a few descriptive phrases to add to your vocab. When you don’t know what to say about a dress, just throw one in, like “It’s very beachy,” “So classic,” “Oooh, princessy!”
  4. Repeat “I look good in EVERY color” to yourself all morning to avoid disappointment with your bridesmaid dress.
  5. Try to remember: today isn’t about you, which is awesome, because no one is staring at you. Everyone is staring at that girl in the puffy, sequiny thing.
  6. Wear something comfortable that you look good in while sitting in front of a mirror. There are mirrors everywhere and you’ll be sitting a lot. So. Many. Mirrors.
  7. Take lots of pictures from lots of different angles! Because, if you don’t, some other bridesmaid will, and you don’t want to be the lazy, less-helpful bridesmaid!
  8. Don’t compare yourself to anyone! This will be tough, ‘cause there are lots of beautiful women at bridal boutiques. But none of them are beautiful in the same way you are!
  9. Make at least one appointment at a fancy bridal boutique…why? Because FREE CHAMPAGNE!! (you’re gonna need it)SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSo many dresses

The Blogcademy!

About a week ago I went to this wonderful weekend class called The Blogcademy! If anyone is thinking of attending, you should! The class taught me way more than I could’ve ever dreamed about blogging, loving myself, not comparing myself to others, taking great photos, branding myself, embracing my weirdness and just being a supportive, fabulous female! Here’s some photos from my experience…

Super, super nervous in my car saturday morning right before I went in and met everyone.

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The Blogcademy Head Mistresses. They are awesome!

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(Photo by This Rad Love)

The beautiful venue. (I actually won a prize for this photo in the Instagram contest. Whoop whoop!)

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Practicing with still-life photos.

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Sparkly headbands from our gift bags (you better believe I wore mine all weekend and even made some trades!)

Blogcademy Sparkle Ears

(Photo by This Rad Love)

A group shot of the whole class.

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(Photo by This Rad Love)

My “diploma”, report card and a thank you note from The Blogcademy! Yay! (Oh, and some dinosaurs that I found under my bed. Seriously.)

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All in all, it was a weekend well spent and I would recommend it to anyone. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have so much to do to make all of my blogging dreams come true!

P.S. Did you happen to notice the new look of my blog? What do you think?