I have not been okay, but, like, I’m okay.

c/w suicidal ideations, alcohol/drug use, grief/loss

Hello, my loves. It has been a minute, hasn’t it? My instinct is to apologize for the long, procrastinated post; however, I am working on apologizing less for me just being me. Therefore, I am not sorry, but I would like to provide you with an explanation of my recent absence. I realize that writing a personal blog about my journey with mental health is both apparent when there is a post and when there is not a post.

Over the last month or so I hit a low… again. This time was different because I didn’t really see it coming. I was riding a high for so long, that even though I knew I would hit a downward slope again, I was hoping that just maybe I was wrong. Just maybe with my therapy and medication and stable partner I could just be “normal”, whatever that is. In my head “normal” is being able to live everyday without this overwhelming pain of the past and fear of the future grabbing ahold of you at different times in your life. I suppose after 2020 though, nobody is truly normal. Everyone I have talked to has struggled with their mental health is some way, shape, or form. Is this the new normal then? AM I NORMAL? I could never.

Anyways… While I used to think that my lows bloomed out of random acts of the universe, I now understand the many triggers that send me into a downward spiral. These last few weeks it was a culmination of so many things. The change in weather, in sunlight, election anxiety, work stress, the ins and outs of a new relationship, the coping skills from my eating disorder that I still lean into, the upcoming anniversary of the loss of a dear friend (re: Alex Wolf), the lack of continued contact to so many loved ones, the never ending news of millions upon millions of deaths from a virus that has been mishandled, the nightmares of people that have hurt me that wake me up in the middle of the night, my upcoming 30th birthday… need I go on? It wasn’t out of nowhere these feelings formed. My depression and how it responds to all of these life stressors is valid. Life is hard, having a mental illness is hard, writing this blog post is hard.

In fact, my roommate just walked into the room and said “are you crying? Is writing that hard?” And I just came to the realization that part of the reason I haven’t written anything in over a month is because I knew it was going to bring up a lot of feelings in me. These feelings are honestly a bit overwhelming. They sometimes show up as tears, or debilitation, or over activeness, or cold sores, or all of the above; it’s all a fine line. I must say this most recent slump has been much more manageable than my past experiences. I’ve only though about dying once, and it was so fleeting I wondered if it even counted- that is a major improvement for me. Hip hip hurray!

As I prepare to enter my 30th year of life, I can’t help but look back at the last 30 years and reflect on all the different ways my life has twisted and turned. Did I think I would ever be able to say I barely think of dying? When I was little, did I ever imagine the life that I am living right now? Not even a little bit. If my life had turned out the way I dreamed of as a kid, I would be famous, married, and have many adopted children, and probably live somewhere else like London or Australia. If my life had turned out the way I dreamed of when I was a teenager, I wouldn’t exist. And if my life had turned out the way I dreamed of as a young college student, I would be lawyer with a drinking problem.

Through these reflective moments, I am also reminded of how my depression has transformed over the years. How my low days are primarily a lack of motivation and much less suicidal ideations. How I am able to recognize it and provide myself with comfort instead of searching for it from strangers on the internet. The way that I reach out to those who truly love me, instead of pulling away from everyone that I love. Even just the way that I know that I am loved instead of feeling like the world would prefer that I not be here. I spent the last month in a depressive state and it didn’t scare me. I listened to the things that I needed in moments that felt the hardest and stopped shaming myself into feeling that it was wrong. It is hard enough being depressed and then also have my brain reprimand me for the way I was dealing with that depression.

I frequently ask my patients what their coping skills are and 9 times out of 10 they slink down into their chair and they begin to mumble that they smoke weed, or drink alcohol, or watch hours upon hours of TV. I try to reposition their mind set, the shame that lives within their slouched backs and mumbled tones. We are, at the core, humans trying to survive. Is drinking wine because I am sad the healthiest coping skill? Nah. Does it make me feel good in the moment, you can bet your bottom dollar. And I tell my clients just that. We do these things because we want to feel better and we shouldn’t shame ourselves into feeling bad for that. We can recognize that these are not long term solutions and that without getting real care and proper help these coping skills could create more harm than good; we can also recognize that sometimes getting stoned feels good. There is no healing when shame is masking all that we do, no matter what we are trying to heal from.

As I mentioned earlier, the anniversary of the loss of Alex Wolf is coming up on November 20th. Grief is not linear and there is no right way to heal. Many of us this year are experiencing that feeling. I can promise you that on Friday, I will be crying and I will have wine and I will call my best friend, his sister, and we will probably cry together and that might happen every year on November 20th and there is healing in that. I’m over feeling shame. Shame for what I put in my body, shame for how I heal, shame for how I look, shame for any of it.

Alex Wolf is one of the best people I’ve had in my life and when he passed I made a promise to live life like Alex. Alex was like the antidote for feeling shame. He made the people around him feel proud to be who they were because he was proud of himself and proud of his friends. In fact, I am smiling while I write this thinking about the time I was capturing images of my friends and asking them to give me their essence. [Image posted below.] Alex ran to put on his homemade corduroy shorts and take a picture with his best friend and I’ve never seen anyone more proud, even while me, his sister, and best friend mocked the shorts.

(Pictured: Stephanie B. and Alex W.)

So, all of this is to say 1. I haven’t been okay, but, like, I’m okay, 2. I still have depression and that is very real and I am still working to heal and cope, 3. thank goodness my life has taken twists and turns 4. There is no right way to cope, 5. Let’s stop shame altogether, 6. I miss you, Alex, 7. I am still trying to live my life like Alex, 8. Best friend, call me on Friday.

A[wo]men

when i let shame take ahold of me

i let go of knowing

i am exactly

where i need to be

-reasons to get rid of shame

Connecting it all

Hey friends. Today is Thursday in case any of you were wondering. I know days seem irrelevant in the current state of the world, but I am here to remind of arbitrary things like the day of the week and how we are already in the middle of July… somehow. My past week has been a week of grief, strength, and, if I’m being honest, pure angst.

I have been on this up and down rollercoaster of emotions which honestly reminds me of being a teenager. If I had to venture a guess, I would assume this is where the angst is coming from. It’s wild to me that even as a 29 year old I can be transported back to my 16 year old responses so easily. However, I am still 29, so the rollercoaster just ends up giving me acid reflux and neck pain. I’m easing into turning 30 quite swimmingly.

Grief is a funny thing. Not a like LOL hilarious funny thing, but like a this is oddly familiar, yet totally foreign funny thing. Whenever someone I love dies, I am flooded with memories of all the other losses I have experienced in my life. My first experience with death was as a kid. We had barn cats that would always think it was okay to cross the highway and very rarely did they make it. Although, my pet cat Eric (named after Eric Matthews/the boy I happened to have a crush on in 3rd grade with the same name) really did have 9 lives. He was one of our only cats that got hit by a car and ended up surviving. My little miracle kitty. Then, the first human loss I experienced was in high school. It was an odd thing to feel suicidal while also mourning the loss of a teenage life. I think I stuck around in the ‘bargaining’ stage of grief much longer during that period of my life. “Take me instead. Her life was better than mine. Why wasn’t it me?” I remember thinking nothing can feel as painful as this loss, but I was wrong. Each loss cuts through me, without warning, and I lose my own breath when someone else loses theirs. What I have learned from each loss is how grief is not a straight line of moving on, rather it is a scar that we will always live with and while the mark may dim it will always remain.

For a long time I hated my body. (I promise this connects, just hear me out.) For a long, long time I hated my body. I would curse the way it looked and prayed that some how it could change. In the last few years I have worked really hard to not only be comfortable with my body, but to love it. Each mark and dimple no longer gets harsh words tossed at them, but rather each part of myself has felt a gentle touch and words of love. Part of the past hatred included my scars- both the physical and psychological one. (See I told you it would connect again.) In my discovery of self love I have also learned how to heal in the other parts of life. Those scars, those losses, no matter how painful are the result of deep and vast love. I no longer sit around in the bargaining phase, instead I think about all of the ways that life impacted me. I use a gentle touch and words of love to work through grief.

When I first started blogging, I didn’t expect to ever right about loss or depression or mental health or a number of other topics I have touched on. In the beginning it was about me documenting my weight loss journey. I’m pretty sure I am 10lbs heavier than when I first started blogging, so jokes on all of you. The thing is, I didn’t realize that writing would actually help me overcome this desire to change everything about me. I didn’t realize that all this healing, this whole time, was actually a way for me to understand the way I move through the world.

I celebrated my one year anniversary of blogging [with more fervor and tenacity] recently and I spent some time reading through old post. I got to read real moments of self-discovery that I can remember viscerally. I am lucky enough to be able to go back in time and feel parts of myself that I might have otherwise forgotten. Through this reading, as I was mourning, I realized all the tools I have in my toolbox to get through hardships. All the ways I have built a community around myself to fall upon when I am struggling. I will go through a million more hard moments in my life, but I finally realize that I will make it through all of them.

With a loss there is a moment where we look upon the persons life and wonder if they were happy? If they did all the things they wanted to do? The thing I have realized about these questions is that we are partially asking them because we want to be happy; we want to do all the things we want to do. So, as I continue to move forward with this new scar I am being gentle with myself, I am using my tools, I am leaning on my supports, and I am reflecting on all the ways death brings new life.

A[wo]men

physical, mental, imaginary.

round, square, heart.

scars come in many shapes.

love them all

as they are u

-seeing all of urself

 

 

 

 

 

A Butterfly Spirit

Hi, friends. A lot has happened in the last two weeks, but I don’t want to talk about most of them. Most of them are minuscule and irrelevant at this point in time. This is not to diminish my experiences, but rather to express the fact that I’ve experienced a great loss this week. A loss changes your world, alters your perception, and minimizes all else around you. This past week my supervisor, my work advocate, my friend passed away- Vilma.

She was the light during one of the darkest times in my working life. I would work with her often and sit in her office. She had the worlds softest giggle that made things just seem like they would be okay. Vilma was an employee for 31 years, so her knowledge of the job was invaluable. I would often sit with her as she described what the role was like ‘back in the day’ and all the major changes along the way. During this time of uncertainty she would always say “Sarah, I’ve seen some really hard times here before. We’ll get through this.” She shared stories of her youth, how she would always leave her hair long and natural like I do and would only wear skirts and dresses, unlike I do.

We would often sit laughing at the fact that she had an iPhone 6 that refused to hold a charge. She would say to me “Sarah, come look at this. It’s at 15% and I haven’t used it all day!” I would ask her why she didn’t just get a new phone all the time and she always said, “eh, it still works though. Why would I get a new one?” And we would both giggle. She told me she loved her phone before this one and would still have it to this day if it didn’t shatter in her hands. We laughed at how the pieces of her old phone just broke. She thought it was a defect in the way it came apart. She made it clear to me thought that she didn’t need anything fancy, she just needed things to work. I admired this about her.

She also had a love for sweets. On my lunch break she would often give me her Starbucks gift card to pick her up a Frappuccino to help her get through the day. The last few times I worked with her I also would grab us both lunch to ease her need to walk far. Through this I learned that she loved Italian subs, with extra mayo, and Cole slaw on the side. She would also always want me to grab her a shake, but last minute would say- no I don’t need that, maybe next time. I wish I got her the milkshakes anyway. She would make hot cocoa in the break room, even on hot days when she needed a “quick fix”. Her face would light up when our coworkers would bring in donuts or bake sweet treats. I loved to see her smile.

She talked to me a lot about her family. It was clear she loved her family more than anything in the world. I got to hear stories of her father who worked in fancy hotels, and the stories he would tell her and the way he watched the landscape of New York City change over time. She spoke of her parents unending energy, even as they aged. She told me how much she hopes to have that much energy when she gets older. I wish I was right when I said “I bet you will, it runs in your family.” She should’ve have gotten that chance.

Her room was a spectacle and every patient that entered would say “I love all your decorations.” I wish I could’ve taken credit, but I’d always respond with “unfortunately, it’s not my room, but it’s my favorite room to work in.” Vilma was a big fan of tchotchke’s many of which she had collected over the years of working. I could spend hours sitting in her office discovering things I had no idea were there before. My favorite was a sign that read ‘kindness is always free” something Vilma always lived by. It sat across from where our patients sat, so I always wondered if it also served as a reminder for those sitting in that chair. Not that they would need it- Vilma was so kind it just radiated and permeated those around her.

Over the last few days I went from sadness that took over my entire body, to anger, to complete numbness. I knew writing this post would help me break out of feeling numb and enter a stage of feeling complete luck for having known such a beautiful person (while also feeling continued sadness). Writing and talking about my memories just reminds me that she was right when she said “I’ve seen some really hard times before. We’ll get through this.” The thought of getting through this without her is hard to imagine, but I know I can. She has given me strength over these last few months and will continue to be a guiding light for me. She may be gone, but her warmth, kindness, and maternal energy will always be with me.

I hope wherever you are, Vilma, there are endless shakes and sweets. I love you.

A[wo]men

your voice,

a memory.

ingrained forever-

soft,

gentle,

calm.

-a butterfly spirit

From the Year of Change to the Year of Stability

Hello loves, I would first like to start off by thanking you all for the kind words after my post about Alex Wolf. I am so happy to hear all the people that also want to live their life like Alex. As I continue to follow those words, I would also like to share that this will be my last post of 2019. Taking a bit of winter break for myself and focusing on building more stability and grounding. I will return in 2020 with more to talk about and *fingers crossed* more interviews. So for today, I would like to do my own year in review. Thank you, Spotify, for the idea.

My greatest hits of 2019 include:

  1. Travel Girl  (feat. Hawaii, Rhode Island & Myrtle Beach)
  2. Ending a Relationship (feat. my ex)
  3. Alaska to New York
  4. Goodbye first job, Hello new job
  5. Got a new therapist, who dis?
  6. Dating (half of NYC)
  7. Oops, I got robbed on the train
  8. Forever Missed (feat. Alex Wolf)

I am officially coining 2019 the year of change. There were so many ups and downs. Constant, life changing events were thrown in my direction. I would like to say I handled them with grace and ease, but I absolutely did not because I am human. I stumbled about as if I were a new born dear trying to walk. It was not pretty. I find something quite beautiful in that ugliness of living though. A bit of a contradiction, I suppose. Yet, it simply is the epitome of human life to fall and get up and fall and get up. It is how we learn to do most things in life. How can that not be beautiful in its ugliness?

While I reflect on the past and the ways that I careened through the year, I would also like to look toward the future. Typically, each year I make a list of things I hope to accomplish. I know, v. original. I went back in my blog for 2019 to see what my list said… There was no list. When 2019 began I was in a deep, deep depression. The future seemed bleak and if I remember correctly the only thing on my list was to heal. A to-do that I believe is never quite finished. We are always healing from new marks that find their way to us. Though, as I make my way to the end of 2019, I am in a completely different headspace. I now have the tools to help the healing and the wisdom to know that nothing is permanent. Things change, always.

With that being said, I want to highlight some changes I hope to see in 2020:

  • Learn a new hobby (knitting?)
  • Continue to work towards obtaining my LCSW
  • Reduce CC debt by 50%
  • Travel (Colorado, New Mexico, Alaska, Maine, Spain)
  • Build strong relationships
  • Run a 5k
  • Fall in love with myself again, and again, and again
  • Write more
  • Scroll less
  • A new president

If 2019 was the year of change, I would like 2020 to be the year of stability. All that change I went through was vital to my own growth; however, I want to feel more grounded as I enter this new year. This is also why I intend to take a break from writing for the next month. I plan to use that time to focus on my goals and come up with a concrete plan. I was a bit willy-nilly with how I moved through the world this year. I was very much reactive, rather than proactive. It is my hope to now become proactive. A trait I believe is curated as we age. In 2020, I will become 30 years old. Another decade will have passed in my life and I hope by the time I get there I understand myself in a deeper way and care for myself in the way I care for others.

They say we are creatures of habit, so I am encouraging us to create a habit of self-compassion this year. Let’s become so in love with ourselves that we can’t help but feel safe and stable in our own arms. Coin this year whatever you feel you need to move forward. Perhaps you need change, perhaps you need stability, perhaps you need something totally different. Just remember that your path is for you. Figure out what you need and let it guide you.

I will greet you all again in January, until then spread love to yourself and to others.

A[wo]men

it’s me

in the dew of the morning

in the dark of the night

through the forest

and the depths of the ocean

in the sunshine &

the moon

love & heartache

growth & regrowth

i am with me through it all

-you are your best partner through life

 

Alexander David Wolf

Hi my loves. Today I am one year older and one year more versed in all of life’s experiences, including the tough stuff. Last week you may have noticed that there was no new post, no update on my life, and no explanation as to why. Today, I would like to explain.

C/W death, grief, loss

On November 20th, 2019 Alexander David Wolf died unexpectedly at the age of 30. Alex Wolf is my best friends brother. When you have a best friend like I do, they are a part of our soul- their family becomes your family. When my best friend hurts, so do I. This last week I sat with her family in the pain that is the loss of Alex Wolf.

My hope today is to not only speak of loss but also of life. The first time I met Alex I was in La Crosse, WI. I immediately was crushing… hard. He was easy to talk to, a vegetarian, cared for the earth, and overall was one of the sweetest people I had met. Bonus, he was my best friends brother. “Rebekah, we could be sisters for real!” I remember saying on multiple occassions. Every time something bad would happen with a boy I would remark “it doesn’t really matter, I am going to marry Alex someday anyways.” He never knew I had a crush on him, but it’s a dream I never want to forget.

Alex lived in Minneapolis, so I didn’t get to see him too often. Although, Rebekah and I spent some weekends visiting him. Each visit with Alex I could see his love for his family and friends. Alex knew how to make people feel welcome in a way that I didn’t know was possible. I would sometimes wonder if I built him up in my head because of my crush, until this past week when I got to hear more and more stories from family and friends. Alex touched people in a deep way, a way that made them feel safe. Every story that was told brought tears, yet at the same time, brought smiles. It seemed almost impossible for people to speak of him without feeling that connection and his love.

Last week was absolutely one of the toughest weeks I have endured. Not only was I grieving for someone I held dear, but I also was trying to help my best friend who was hurting in a way I have not felt before. How do you help someone who feels as though a piece of them is forever gone? How do you hold your best friend and hear her say ‘I don’t know if I can get through this.’ What words suffice?

The answers are not simple, but I think when it comes to loss and grief we all just try to do our best. Sometimes it is saying nothing at all, just letting people feel exactly what they are feeling with no interruption of that thought. Sometimes it is holding a hand and/or wiping up snot. Sometimes it is posting quotes of grief and loss to instagram that seem helpful. Sometimes it is reflecting on the life of the person now gone. Sometimes it is reminding people to breathe and reminding them that sometimes that is all they need to do. Sometimes it is drinking wine at 3pm. Sometimes it is zoning out in front of the TV, turning off the brain for just a moment. This list could go on and on. The one thing though, that works without fail, guaranteed, is simply being there. I don’t necessarily mean physically either. Just being available to talk. Reminding people that you love them. Reaching out. These are the ways to help people work through pain. I often believe for most of life’s painful experiences, that we don’t need advice or even any words at all. There is power in hearing tears and not feeling the need to interrupt them. There is nothing that can bring Alex back and that is painful- nothing flowery about it. It sucks and it hurts and it is not fair. The loss of Alex is painful for the world. He was a gift to the human race. Alex lived simply and beautifully. He is gone too soon. So, for now I am here to hold a hand, provide a shoulder and/or ear, and a hug for those grieving Alex, or any other people in your life that you have lost. Grief is one of the toughest experiences for us to go through.

Though, as I enter a new year of my life, there is something I have learned from this loss that helps me to keep going: Live life like Alex. I’ve repeated it several times to myself since finding out. For me, there is no other option and no better way to honor his life and to work through the grief. Simply put, love each other and be there for one another, as Alex was.

To read Alex’s obituary follow this link.

A[wo]men

a smile, a tear, a fist, a laugh, a wish,

hurting and healing,

in their own way,

on their own time.

a loss is a loss is a loss.

-how people grieve

 

 

 

Erin Riley: #momlife

Welcome to the third installment of my interview sessions. I am so excited about this weeks storyteller because it is my first family member to be interviewed. As some of you know, I am the sister to four other girls. That’s right, 5 daughters… “my poor dad” yada yada yada. Erin is the second oldest of the group. As my interview began with Erin she was tiptoeing around her house finding a spot that she can speak a little louder than a whisper because her youngest son had just gone down for a nap.

“Dude, I didn’t know this was going to be on FaceTime. I did not prepare for this.”

I would liken her look to a mom with a sick kid. Comfy PJ clothes and hair pulled back lightly to keep it from her eyes. Even still though, Erin always has this petite-blondie-mom glow about her, even when she’s sharing that she’s been up too long nursing her son’s fever away. She is a mama warrior as you will read about throughout her story. However, I always like to start with the basics.

“[Erin] how did we meet?”

“Girl, I known you since you were born. So yeah..”

“Do you remember me being born?”

“I remember Corie [the oldest sister] was super upset because we were in Florida. This was crazy. Back in the day, yo, mom and dad stuck us on a plane by ourselves and asked the flight attendant to keep an eye on us… and then nan and pop-pop got us off in Florida.”

Erin’s demeanor at this point is one of pure astonishment. It was clear in her body language that the idea of putting her boys on a plane by themselves would not be in the cards anytime soon. One of my favorite things about hearing stories from Erin, is being able to read how she would feel in that position. She is someone who wears her heart on her sleeve and does not hide how she is feeling from anyone, except perhaps her customers that she serves at the diner down the road. Customer service calls for masking true emotions, unfortunately.

“Corie was super worried. She was like *in scared child voice* ‘I just feel like mom is going to have the baby while we’re gone’ and I don’t think she did. I think it was after we got back… It was so bizarre. And I remember we met a lady on the plane that ugh… kept saying ‘Look I see the moon’ and then she would sing ‘made you look, made you look, made you buy a penny book.'”

We both laughed at the absurdity of the whole situation. It was clear that this was a memory to Erin that was both strange and exciting. Another little sister was on the way and she was getting treated like a real older sister. She got to ride a plane and go to Florida without her parents.

As we continued it was clear that Erin often thinks of her own childhood experiences as she is raising her own children. Erin is the proud mother, as I am the proud Auntie Rahrah, of two boys, Elias (7) and Sampson (1). Erin takes her role as mom very seriously and her passion for being a mother was clear in our conversation.

One of the exciting parts about getting to do these interviews with people is seeing what story comes up as we sit together. I have zero expectations as to what story people are going to tell me and this often makes the reader feel a little overwhelmed at first, but as we talk, it is clear there is a story that has been waiting to get out all along. I was especially excited to hear what story Erin had to tell because, as a sibling, it was exciting to see what she felt comfortable telling me.

“So, [Erin] what story would you like to tell?”

“I don’t know it’s hard.. I know you’re all about self love…”

“It can literally be about whatever you want to talk about. It doesn’t have to be something you feel you have to talk about or that you think would fit in this space. What is your story?”

Exhales deeply “Ugh.. that’s a tough one. It is cuz I mean I don’t know… I was thinking about talking about how hard it is raising kids and the strain on trying to figure Eli out with his attitudes and all this digital sh*t that we didn’t have growing up and I try to think back and it’s like we were never that big into playing video games. I mean we watched a lot of TV but I don’t think then it was like ‘oh TV’s bad. It was like oh good, something to keep them occupied, get’s them out of your hair.’ Plus, we were still all over the freakin’ place and they wouldn’t call us in until like night time and we would watch TV then.”

“Okay, let’s start with this then. What would you say it was like before you had kids? Do you remember?”

“At the time it was great, but looking back I’m like.. how boring! There was just no purpose to it. And not saying that everyone needs to have kids to have a purpose, but for us it was like we were bartending and at the bars every night. It was all about this party or that one, and I mean I still want to go to a party every now and again or go see music or whatever but I don’t know… Now there are more important things for me.  Like there are these people depending on you and trying to make sure they grow up to not be a**holes and that’s f****ing hard. It’s really hard. Especially when I’m a yeller and I don’t want to be a yeller, but I’m a yeller. And that’s part of the reason that Eli gets yell-y and stomp-y when he’s mad because that’s how I am and I’ve been trying to change it. I’ve actually been reading this book called ‘Happy child, peaceful parent’ or whatever.”

*giggling*

“And I’ve told Eli before when he get’s all pissed that I’m like ‘you know man, I know that I yell sometimes and that’s not right and I’m trying to change it and I want you to know that I don’t want you to grow up and be like this and yell and have to work on your anger and that’s why I’m trying to work on it with you now’… and I don’t know if he get’s it or not but maybe who knows?”

As she is talking her hands are playing with her hair and she is looking off as if this is not the first time she’s had this conversation with herself. I can tell she often reflects on her behaviors and the way she influences her children. Erin is a mom that is constantly working to improve so that she can show her children how to improve and she is always helping them to learn and grow with her. Reading books with silly titles or talking to other mom’s or watching videos- anyway she can grow, she tries too. It’s apparent in her children too, who constantly show their ability to grow and learn. Eli, by the age of 3 could name and the planets and some of their moons. I don’t even know the moons to different planets. Heck, I barely know the planets without ‘My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas’. Sampson at the age of one is ready to run around and I can tell he wants to have a full on conversation when I FaceTime. I don’t know what he is trying to tell me yet, but it definitely involves something about a ball.

She then dove into how her and her partner try to work together to parent and help them grow. Erin and her husband Pat grew under two different parenting styles, and so, it makes sense that as the try to raise kids together, there are disagreements and compromises that are made.

“What kind of parenting style does Pat have?”

“[He] is a little bit more goofy and a little bit more laid back. I’m more.. I don’t know. I’m not uptight I guess… [For example] table manors [are] really important and listening and saying thank you instead of thanks… you should look someone in the eye and say thank you… and Pat sometimes feels that I am hard on him, like ‘as long as he’s eating, that’s what’s important’. And we try to find that balance. It’s so hard sometimes. Freakin’ kids should come with manuals. It would be a lot easier.”

There isn’t a manual, yet I believe some people believe they could write one. One thing that I always found fascinating with people is when they feel they know better than someone else about that person’s life. So, I was dying to know if Erin experiences the “mom politics” as I like to call it. People policing other people’s ways to parents.

“Tell me about mom politics.”

“Oh like the judge-y moms and stuff? I’ve noticed not too many mom’s say sh*t to me. I mean like no ones like ‘oh god… you’re not using cloth diapers’… I don’t know. I know there are mom’s out there that are like super judge-y. The biggest thing I have noticed is the pro-vaxxers vs anti-vaxxers situation. I just don’t even talk about vaccinations anymore. Thankfully though, I don’t notice it too much and I’ve even noticed from myself that I would get upset with my friends about certain things, but I realized most of it was coming from a place of jealousy and wanting to have the same things as them. So, once I saw where it was coming from, I was able to check it. To me though and my friends, it’s just whatever works. Every family is different. None of us really judge each other [about things] because we’re just trying to survive.”

She took a deep breathe in and I could hear there was another side of her journey to becoming a parent that she wanted to share. Often parenthood is discussed in terms of after the birth, but parenting for those trying to get pregnant starts with that positive test. Often, the pregnancy is the part that the person who is carrying goes through individually and then once they pass that part they are able to commiserate and be open and honest about their experience. However, we are beginning to see a cultural change in this narrative. More pregnant people are sharing their stories about their choices, loss, pains, heartbreak, joy, etc. There are more and more people connecting their stories to others that need to hear them and no longer allowing their story to be swept under the rug.

“It still hurts thinking about it and I think I just posted about it on Facebook about my rainbow baby Sampson, but we are so lucky that we got to have another child. That we have two kids.”

A rainbow baby for those that aren’t aware is a child that is born shortly after going through a miscarriage. As Erin talked about her experience you could hear her holding back the tears and you could also feel the strength she has gained through her experience. I remember talking to her that day, the day they couldn’t find the heartbeat. She could barely speak to me through the phone as her tears overtook the conversation. I felt her heartbreak that day and can still feel it as she talks bout it with a stronger voice.

“I know some people that they just can’t and I have a friend that she considers herself a lucky one because she has one and she’s been trying for longer than Pat and I have. It has gotten better as far as like the amount of people that talk about it. If you think back to like when mom and [our aunts] were getting pregnant and stuff people didn’t really talk about it that much. And just suffering like that alone is just so hard. That’s why it sucked that this last time it was [about] four months along where they say it’s safe to tell people and we lost it so I had to publicly announce on facebook that we lost our child, but in a way I’m glad that I had to post it because I had so many people reach out to me telling me [their experiences]. Just so heartbreaking and people that I thought I was close with reached out to me to be like ‘yeah, we just lost one’ or ‘just before we had this child we lost one’. It’s just amazing and I [tell people now], tell your family. If anything happens people are going to know why you are upset and are talking about it. Get the support you need because you don’t have to suffer alone.”

She then went on to talk about the pregnancy that followed her miscarriage. The fear that they faced every doctors appointment, as she held her breath when they looked for Sampson’s heartbeat and how that fear never truly leaves, just hoping every second, of every day that her kids are safe and healthy and happy. Then as we wrapped up the conversation she went back to reflecting on her own childhood. Apologizing for being “an a**hole” (her words, not mine) and daydreaming about what her own kids will be like as teenagers. I think the best part of this interview was just getting to see the love that radiated from her as she got to spend a full hour talking about her life as a mom and her love for her children. Every sentence, even when she was talking about ways that motherhood has been difficult, was coming from a place of love and hope that she is going about it the right way.

When we started this interview she said that she is impressed with me and my blog and jokingly stated “I hope I’m like you when I grow up.” As I am not a mom yet and got to hear her experience- being open and honest about #momlife I think I feel the same way. Erin, I hope I’m a mom like you when I grow up- Full of love, hope, kindness, and raw honesty.

A[wo]men & Erin Riley

I sincerely thank Erin for sharing her story and being so brave and honest with me about what it is like to be a mom. If you or someone you know has a story they would like to share please fill out the form on my contact page. And if you are experiencing difficulties with pregnancy and/or parenting, know that you are not alone and that people want to connect with and support you.

i struggle so deeply

to understand

how someone can

pour their entire soul

blood and energy

into someone

without wanting

anything in

return

i will have to wait till i’m a mother– Rupi Kaur