The Love That I Needed

My name is Lauren. I am 26 years old. I am a mother of two beautiful children; a student and I have 2 part-time jobs. I was adopted when I was 3 years old from Guatemala. I never realized the ups and downs of emotions I would have nor do I think my parents really knew the ups and downs we would have.

My parents loved and love me unconditionally. They never kept it a secret that I was adopted. My mom often asked me if I would like to find my birth parents and when I was younger I often thought it could potentially be nice to find them one day.  My immediate family or my friends never treated me differently. My parents loved me as if I was their flesh and blood and I loved them the same way too. But, a part of me always felt like something was missing and I sometimes felt guilty for feeling that way. I had unconditional love, clothes on my back, food in my belly, a roof over my head- what else could I want?

When I was a senior in high school, for our yearbook, the yearbook committee had asked that all senior students submit a baby photo of themselves. They were going to put the baby pictures on a page and people would have to guess which student it was. Sounds fun, right? It would be if you actually had a baby picture- I did not. I submitted a picture of myself when I was 2 and in the orphanage. This may sound like it is no big deal, but to someone who does not even know why she was put up for adoption, it was huge a deal. I had nobody who was a blood relative or even looked like me. I would go to my friend’s homes and I would see their parents and siblings and see how they all looked liked each other and thought that was what I wanted. I wanted to have people in my life that looked like me.

I found out I was pregnant when I was 19 years old and had my son when I was 20. My whole life had changed. He was everything that I needed. My blood relative and a somewhat mirror image of myself. I am 26 and just had my daughter who is a spitting image of me. I told my mom that when I look at her, I get a chance to see what I probably looked like as a baby. I am complete. That void that I had in my life has been filled. These little angels are my life-line.          lauren picture

My English Journey and the Journey to Motherhood

Like many in the United States, I am also an immigrant. I know what it to miss where you came from, struggle to learn a new language, fit in, and be discriminated against.

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My parents decided that the family (I came when I was 10 years old); was coming to the US in order to provide us opportunity for a better life and future; however, that’s very hard to understand when you’re being laughed at because you barely speak English and your struggles have just begun. As a parent now, I now understand that my parents only wanted the best for us and that life is about taking chances and making the decisions that at the beginning might not seem right but the end result is better than expected.

Learning English was not easy; I was in school from 6:30 am to 7:45 pm; I had six classes and a 7th period for enrichment which other kids got to use it to play,I however, had to stay in a room with a tutor learning how to pronounce my vowels and stay after school to practice my pronunciation. I would get home, eat, and begin to do homework with five translating dictionaries and both of my parents until two, three in the morning and wake up again to go to school. There was not a day I didn’t cry; I wanted to go back home and never come back. It took a year and half for me to perfect my English but I did it with the help of my parents that stayed all night long helping me do my work and to my tutors and my teachers that dedicated the time to also guide me and help me perfect my English. It wasn’t easy but today I am grateful and very proud of myself for over coming what I thought was my biggest challenge. I made friends and soon enough became known to everyone because I began to get good grades, always in honor roll and I became involved in extra curricular activities like soccer, word wizard, and the math club. However, all of that came after working very hard to get there. Life will always have challenges that you’ll have to overcome in order to gain new abilities, hone skills, and become a better you. It’s easy to get discouraged but always remember that it’s in you to work hard and reach goals, no one will do it for you and always remember to do what’s best for your child. That experience shaped me into the person, daughter, mother, and learning student I am today.

As a parent, I make decisions all of the time for the well being of my daughter. I want to offer her all that I didn’t have and more and provide her with the tools and guidance that my parents gave to me while growing up facing these challenges. They are my support system and that’s what I want to be for my daughter, her support system, her best friend, and the person she can always count on. The challenge I faced while learning English is nothing compared to that of becoming a parent and now having to look after a little human being that needs my help to survive. Making decisions for myself have always been hard, imagine making a decision for someone other than yourself. Just trust and believe that your judgment and your desire to be the best parent your child can have is the right one and no one will tell you otherwise. It’s okay to be wrong, parents not always make the right choices but acknowledgment goes a long way and your child will be appreciative of that. I am forever grateful of the education and guidance my parents gave to me and because of them and my struggles, when I held my daughter in my arms for the first time, I knew I was ready to face the world with her.

*Marinel Fuentes is a 2017-2018 Stronger Generations Young Parent Ambassador. To learn more about Marinel and our Young Parent Ambassador program visit our young parent ambassador page!

 

 

Then vs. Now

Today I walked in my moms office to talk to her about some stuff. As soon as I opened the door I was hit with heavy air and cigarette smoke. Now this is not to speak badly about my mom shes an amazing person. The thing is I hate the smell of cigarettes and the way they make an enclosed room feel even smaller. However, If I had opened that door a year, year and a half ago, I wouldn’t of minded. Honestly I would have been happy because that means my mom wouldn’t smell the smoke off of me. I use to smoke almost two packs of Newport’s a day. How much I smoked really just depended on what was going on that day. If I was drinking I would smoke a lot, if I was at a club I would smoke a lot, if I was around people that smoked I would have one when they did. What I’m trying to say is that I wasn’t healthy. Ya I was a vegetarian and didn’t drink soda or anything; but I drank jager like it was water, I smoked cigarettes like they were healthy for you. I would eat out a lot, mostly pizza. I guess I was just being 21 in some ways. Then I got pregnant and that’s when everything changed. Not only did I stop smoking but I stopped being anywhere that there was smoke. I started walking 2 miles a day. My eating habits became way better, mostly veggies, and spinach and fruit smoothies. I removed myself from anything that was dysfunctional or negative. I found some coping mechanisms that not only entertained me but kept me going. It was difficult; mainly because I would miss certain things or feel chained down. The thing is I knew I wanted to be healthy so that my son could be healthy. I was his vessel; I was the only one that could make it healthy and safe for him. My biggest motivator to do all this was not wanting to repeat a cycle. Was not wanting to do to my son what my biological mother did to me. At the age of 21 I was just living life day to day, took it as it came. I was in school and working. I was just always up for the unexpected. Sometimes I felt like I was stuck though. Ya I was working, ya I was in school, but what else? Well when I got pregnant with my son Liam I saw what the “what else” was and I am not sure I would have ever of saw that if it was not for him. So from 21 to 22 I went from being the unhealthiest me to the healthiest me. Getting pregnant young definitely has its cons. However, for me it was life changing in a beautiful way. So I ask the next time you see a young parent please do not assume that their life is over and they have no future. Do not see what was taken from them, but rather what was given.

Trapped?

This one is a touchy subject for me.  It took me a while to even share it within a small, trusted group, and it’s taken me quite some time to come to terms with it.

Sometimes you can feel trapped when parenting, especially when you’re a young parent.

Now, I’ve heard some people say it before, or ask me if I feel trapped or stuck, and I usually try and steer clear of the subject.  The fact is, parents can feel a little trapped, and I don’t think it’s something to be ashamed of.  If you’re a parent, or have ever read any parenting blog or magazine, talked to parents at all…you know what I mean.  The conversation goes something like this:

“Hey, wanna do something this weekend?”

“Yeah sure!  What were you-oh wait I can’t actually, I have the little guy!”

“Oh..uhh ok well can’t you find a babysitter or something?”

“I mean I guess I could, but I kind of want to hang out with my kiddo…you wanna come to the park with us or something?”

“Umm no that’s ok, I’ll hit you up later.”

Unless you have a lot of great friends that also happen to be parents of young kids, you know how hard it is to find time to hang out with your friends.  I think this goes for all parents.  You might be more likely to have friends that have kids later on in life, but you’re still bound to have some peers without kids, and they just don’t really understand how valuable your time is now.

It can be tough to make all of your decisions around a new person.  I’m not talking about being selfish, but on the other hand, being completely selfless isn’t a walk in the park.  A parent’s life revolves around their child, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Parenting is a long, difficult journey.  It’s extremely rewarding, but you also don’t really know what you’re signing up for when you start.

I think the hardest part of parenting for me, is the lack of freedom.  And, until recently, I thought I was alone.  I thought that maybe I just didn’t get it, or maybe I just wasn’t a great parent if I was thinking about myself too much, or even at all.

I had a conversation last week about this with some friends.  I joked that someday I’m going to live out of a backpack and travel the world, it might just be when I’m 55 instead of when I’m 25.  So maybe I wait until he’s on his own, or maybe I pick a closer destination, or a shorter trip, or maybe I even bring him with me!  Don’t worry, I’ve already picked out a kid’s backpack and size 4 hiking boots if the little one wants to come along, I kind of hope he does!  To my surprise, I found out I wasn’t crazy, and that many parents cope with similar feelings.  It’s important to know that you’re not the only one out there.

I guess what I’m saying, is:  never stop dreaming.

Parents lose sight of themselves sometimes.  Parenting is a selfless act.  If you’ve given your child a life full of love and support, what else do they need?

Well, I think they need parents that will be with them, spend time with them, and be present.  A kid needs someone that can dream with them and then help them achieve their own dreams.  A child needs a role model, not only in parenting, but also a role model when dealing with life’s challenges, staying positive, and sometimes reaching for the stars.

I still plan on living life fully, maybe just not in the traditional sequence.  For now, I have to realize that the little guy comes first, and show him a life of fulfillment.

And how exactly do you expect to give your child a life full of love, if you’ve lost your love of life?

My Breastfeeding Journey

breastfeedingFrom the moment I found I was pregnant, I knew I was going to breastfeed. Formula is fine and all, but I wanted the absolute best for my baby. When it was time to start preparing for his arrival, people would ask me what kind of formula I planned on giving him. When I said that I planned on strictly breastfeeding, everyone had an opinion. I heard everything from your breast are going to sag to its not gonna be enough for him because he needs formula. I did not care because it was important to me. When my son was finally born his sugars were low, so he had to stay in the NICU. The nurses told me that he needed my milk to get his sugars up. I pumped my heart out and barely got a tablespoon of milk. She told me that if I did not produce enough, it would be best to give him some formula. I cried and cried when I finally decided to give him formula. It was so important to me that I breastfed and gave him the best and created that bond, so I did not give up. I fed him and pumped for a week before my milk finally came in and I could take him off of formula. There was no better feeling in the world than knowing that I was the only person in the world that could give him this one thing. I was the sole provided of his nutrients, and I took pride in that. When he was 3 months old, it was time for me to go back to school and again I had to face the heart wrenching decision of giving him formula. I felt like I was letting him down. I WAS DEDICATED. In the end, I decided it was best for both of us that I gave him both. He is now 7 months old and I am still at it. He has 4 teeth and he is a biter. I thought it was time to call it quits, but I can’t. It’s a special bond that we share and I am not ready to give it up.

Breast is Best!

Louisha

The Struggle of Coparenting

Ariadna, Mónica i Sergi

You’re not in a relationship.

…and it’s still complicated.

I can hear the collective sigh of frustration.  I know.  I get it.  Coparenting is tough.  But it’s also so very important for your kids!  The other day, I found myself clicking through random articles on the web.  I came across one about the “Best Arrangement for Kids of Divorced Parents.”  Being ever so curious, I opened it.  The article just said what we’ve all heard a hundred times before:  it’s important to have both parents in the picture.

Well of course it is!  That’s easy to say for a researcher with no kids, or for a parent in the perfect relationship.  But what about the rest of us?

The article conveniently left out the fact that coparenting is difficult.  It’s hard to deal with the other parent sometimes.  It’s hard to be flexible, to be understanding.  It’s tough to agree on the same rules and the same schedule.  Every time you drop him off or pick him up, it’s important to make sure you both know the child is the most important part of the relationship.

I’ve been pretty lucky, both of us are in the picture, and we both get a long pretty well, for my son’s sake.  It can still be difficult though, especially when you two don’t agree on something.  Try to remember that the little human in the carseat is still the most important thing to your world.  If you truly want what’s best for them, it’s important to try and make it work with both parents.

You may not think the other parent is amazing, but your kid probably still loves them, and they’re very lucky to have both parents in the picture.  Every time you drop them off, you’re teaching your child that family is important, even if you don’t get along.  You’re teaching your child respect and love.

If you have trouble (like me) try some of these tips for coparenting!

  • Try and have some consistency with rules, schedules, etc.
  • Focus on the kids, not on your feelings or frustrations.
  • Always treat the other parent with respect.  Never say anything bad about them in front of the kids.
  • Try to commit to honest, frequent conversation with the other parent.
  • Be flexible with your time.  If you want a few extra hours with the little one this week, make sure to return the favor.
  • Remember what’s most important, you kiddo!

Being a young mom and suffering from Depression

Being a mother and suffering from depression can be the hardest. Now being a young single mother and suffering from depression can be even more hard for you. I know from experience. There are times where you feel like being in a dark place where nobody bothers you at all. There are times when you don’t want to see or speak to anyone. Sometimes you may even feel like your world is ending and that nobody cares/loves you when in reality you have alot of people who do.

Depression is something you cannot control no matter how hard you try. All you can do is stare at your beautiful child and start asking yourself questions like “what have I done so wrong? Why can’t I be the best mother I can be?” when in reality you are the best mother you can be. No matter what you are going through please NEVER give up. We have to be strong for our kids and they need us. When you are feeling down Play with your child and look at their smile, that’s what’s going to motivate you even more to keep pushing forward.

Never let anyone say you can’t make it because you could. Never let your mistakes tell who you are. We are all human and will make mistakes our entire lives. Our children needs us more than anyone. There’s no pure love like a mother’s love❤💞.

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The Breast and The Bottle

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I knew as soon as I found out that I was pregnant that I wanted to breastfeed my son. I went and did as much research as I could. WIC provided some great resources and my midwife gave me a lot of suport. Some of my family was very supportive and some just told me not to get my hopes up- that it’s very difficult. For me I paid them no mind honestly, I knew what I wanted to do.

However, skipping ahead to my labor and birth; nothing went as planned. I ended up having a c-section. My son was born with low blood sugar so had to be taken to the NICU. I gave birth to my son at 6:55am and did not hold him till 3:30 that afternoon. He was given a bottle and a pacifier, and no one told me that I should have pumped. I was nervous and very upset that I would not be able to breastfeed my son. In the hospital I would breastfeed him then give him a bottle then I would go and pump. The process took awhile, it was a lot of work; I honestly didn’t know how long I could keep up with it.

I did this continuously for about two weeks before my milk supply was enough for him. I was so excited to be able to just feed him off of my breasts. I experienced my first cluster feed with only feeding him off of my breast. It was pretty scary at first I felt like I didn’t have enough milk, and it felt like all I was doing was feeding him. I mean sleep? I barley experienced that in my first two months with my son. But cluster feeding is a topic for another day.

I ended up getting mastitis, an infection of the breast, when my son was almost two months old. This infection was horrible; flu like symptoms, 104 fever, and having to take care of my son on top of that. I remember there was a point at where I made a bed on the floor and put the heater on my back, because I had the chills that bad and breastfed him like that. As a result of this infection I lost my milk supply. I was back to square one. I was so discouraged. I was so upset. Apart of me felt like I was failing my son. I did everything to get my milk supply back up, but I am still only making 3-4oz for him when he needs 5-6oz per feeding. So as of now I am breastfeeding and bottle feeding my son. At first I was self-conscious to feed my son a bottle after I breastfed him. Other times I was self-conscious to breastfeed him. I was worried about what people thought, was worried that they would judge me for the way I choose to feed my son. It’s something…getting nervous about what other people think about how I feed my son.

My son has always gotten excited when it is time to breastfeed, but now I see him get excited when I make a bottle. So what is my son truly excited about? That he is being fed, that I am taking care of him and nourishing him. I think as women there is so much judgment about breast or bottle, bottle or breast. Whatever choice you make; breast or bottle (or both) your baby will be thankful.   However, I feel as women, we need to encourage and support each other no matter how we feed our baby. We do not know everyone’s story of why they choose to feed their baby the way they do. So as women lets empower each other.

 

Don’t Forget About You!

CalvinHobbesParenting

The number one thing people tell you about parenting?

Kids come first.

End of story.  No discussion, no questions.

Now, I don’t disagree with this advice, but there’s a fine distinction between the “kids come first”, and the “I have to do what’s best for my kids” approach.  The moment you do something for yourself, there are plenty of people ready to write you off as a selfish parent.  Don’t listen to them.  Listen to you kids.  Ask your kiddo, “Do you like it better when mom and dad are stressed out, or when we’re happy.”  Gee, I wonder what they’ll say.

Thankfully, people are starting to realize that if you want to raise happy, healthy kids, you have to be healthy and happy too!  This is important to remember, and I noticed it the most in this Proud to Parent program.  Every meeting, we go through a few questions at the beginning.  Guess which question is the hardest to answer….

“What have you done for yourself this week?”

This might seem like a strange question to ask, especially coming from the “drop everything for the kids” approach to parenting.  But it makes a lot of sense, and I think people need to remember that.  Any parent, no matter what age, will tell you that parenting is exhausting at times.  Parenting is a tough job, no doubt about it.  But it’s also so incredibly rewarding, and in order to get the most out of parenting, you have to be able to take a step back and reflect on it.

If you’re like me, it’s always hard to take time for yourself.  Between work, school, kids, and every other obligation I’m signed up for, “me-time” isn’t exactly a top priority.  You feel guilty, you can’t stop thinking about work tomorrow, or that exam coming up, you miss your kids.  But I’ve also started to see how important it is.  Trust me, if I’ve had time to hang out with a friend or relax and read a book, I have way more fun with my son.  Sleeping too; man does getting enough sleep help…

So don’t be afraid to help yourself help your kids.  If you need a break, that’s ok.  If you need a night out or time to yourself, don’t let anyone tell you you’re not entitled to that.  Parenting is a full time job, and full time jobs have vacation time for a reason.  Everybody needs a vacation, even if it’s just one night.  Trust me, taking a day to recharge, catch up with an old friend, do some yoga, take a nap, whatever, will pay back tenfold.  If taking a night to yourself lets you be able to relax and have fun with the kids all weekend, it’s totally worth it!

So let me ask, what have you done for yourself this week?