Not just about me

ashley photoWhen I knew I was going to have my son, Liam, everything changed. I stopped smoking and drinking – I made a commitment to eat really healthy. I also began to research everything I could find about pregnancy; pintrest became my best friend. However, I knew I also needed to change the environment I was around. This choice was the most difficult. Choosing to remove myself from dysfunction also meant loosing someone I love. He didn’t agree with what I wanted for our son. I wanted safety, I wanted love, I wanted happiness, I wanted a calm enviorment, I wanted to give my son the beginning I never had. I changed so quickly when I knew I was going to be a mom, I had no choice. I guess I shocked him, I can understand. I couldn’t wait though I needed to do what I had to.

I want to be the best me I can for Liam. With that comes giving up a lot of things I did before I had him. It also means walking away from whatever is unsafe and unhealthy. Its difficult sometimes when my friends ask me to come out and hang with them. Or ask me when I won’t be breastfeeding anymore so I can drink. My son is only 2 months old so me not being around is not really an option. I also do not have anyone that can really watch him at this point, he is always with me. With this however, I get to see him explore the world in a different way everyday. I have not missed one of his smiles. I love this, it will definitely be a struggle when I go back to work in a month.

Being a young mom, doing this pretty much on my own is so difficult. I can’t tell you how many times I have cried. I also cannot tell you how many times I have smiled. At this point I have also really started to look at my goals and priorities. Ones which I need to do not just for my son but also me. Looking at everything that I need to do can be really overwhelming, but it helps when I remind myself that I can accomplish them, and that it doesn’t have to happen over night.

My world is no longer about just me. It’s no longer about just living in the moment and doing whatever I want. My world is now about making my son’s world safe, healthy and beautiful. Everyday I probably do something wrong, but I also probably do something right!

Knowledge is Power

My name is Grace Garcia and I’ve been a young parent ambassador for the past 16 months. As my time is up I have had a chance to reflect on my journey.

When I first started the program I believed that I knew exactly what all young parents were like and what they needed because I was a young parent. I believed I knew everything there was to know about the young parent community but over time I realized I was wrong. Not all parents were on food stamps and not all single parents were mothers and not everyone needed to go to college to be successful.

I also went into the program believing that I had made a mistake by becoming a mom and I thought my story would prevent teens from having babies. But my whole view on teen pregnancy was wrong. I associated unplanned and unwanted pregnancy to teen pregnancy and there is a difference that I have come to know.

Being part of the ambassadors program helped me to become aware of the issues my community faced and how these issues directly affect me. For example, racism was something I believed didn’t exist  anymore but now I know how greatly it has impacted me and how racism still exist not just between people but also in the schools systems and in government institutions. This has changed my perception of life and it is a constant reminder when I step outside my home in a “bad” neighborhood.

When I started this program I thought I had made a mistake when I had my child at 19 and even though he made my life better I felt a lot of pressure to say the opposite. I almost felt lucky because I wasn’t like the other teens that were made to think and say that having a child ruined their life. Before I associated unplanned and unwanted pregnancy to teen pregnancy and this was not necessarily true. I love being a mom and I learned that it’s ok!

I have to thank every person who I have come across on this program especially the ones who made me smile. Thank you to the people who supported me during my toughest times. And I have to thank the program for teaching me so much that school and my community failed to teach me after all “Knowledge is power” and I look forward to whatever great things life has next for me.

 

Breastfeeding is Empowering!

I breastfed my daughter for a year and six months (maybe a little more). I do not remember exactly when I stopped breastfeeding, even though it was a huge moment in both Lily’s life and mine. I tried to stop breastfeeding as soon as she became 11 months but breastfeeding was heaven for me. I gained an amazing connection with my daughter that I will forever be thankful for. I believe that our bond became stronger because my daughter felt safe, happy, and comfortable through this experience. After lily shots or when she was sick I would breastfeed her and that would calm her down in seconds. I never had to struggle to put my daughter to sleep as soon as she was on the breast she would drift away. My daughter and I were in our own bubble when I was breastfeeding her.

My daughter’s health is great and I believe breastfeeding was the cause of this. It is rare for my daughter to get sick; she does not get as sick as other children in the winter. So I am thrilled that she does not have health issues.

Breastfeeding was comforting to my daughter. I know that when I breastfeed lily she was more relaxed and happy. Everyone in my life supported my decision for breastfeeding. I would have my mother Spanish remedies to increasing my milk supply. I think that having this support made a difference in the connection that I had with my daughter. Having people cheer you on about breastfeeding is great and makes you want to continue and make the experience last a little bit longer.

I weighed 150 lbs. when I gave birth. After I stopped breastfeeding I weighed 98. Losing this weight was bittersweet. It was bad because I wanted to gain more weight after birth, but the good thing is that my body looked great afterwards. I could not believe that breastfeeding could cause such a weight change.

I stopped breastfeeding because I was becoming too skinny, my daughter used my boobs for comfort, and my schedule did not work with breastfeeding. My daughter would want to stay on the breast all day. She would pull my shirt and position herself for it, would play and watch TV while still being on the breast. It was weird to have her do this. But even with those negatives I wanted to continue breastfeeding.

It was empowering. I felt like any other mother out there. I did not feel just like a young mother, I felt like a powerful mom. Breastfeeding makes you feel powerful. That’s what I loved about it. I feel that my body was made to nurture a child. If I could go back in time, I would do it all over again to gain those emotions and awesome breastfeeding moments.

Tips on breastfeeding:

  • Always have that medical soothing for sore breast. It helps to apply it when the breast hurts. Helping to prevent sore breast.
  • Drink lots of fluid throughout the day. The more you drink the more your breast supply.
  • Remember what you eat and drink will influence what your child eats and drinks
  • Wear clothing that is easy to pull your breast out easily.
  • Turtle necks are a hassle when trying to breast feed
  • Breastfeeding bra are great but not necessarily needed.
  • Do not through away all your old bras, you may actually go back to the same cup.

Leave a comment below with your questions and tips!

And Then I Remember…

There are days when hiding in my closet is an option

There are days when pulling out my hair is an option

There are days when I can scream ’til my voice is no more

And then I remember I have the strength of two lions

That I’m not the same person I used to be

That bald may not be the look for me

That my closet doesn’t have a light and I really don’t like the dark

That I like talking

There are days when running is an option

There are days when crying is an option

And then I remember I have enough babies for that so turning into one may not be the best idea

That I’ll get one hell of a work out running and I’m sure I’ll get chased

Point is when the negative comes creeping just remember I do. 🙂

Getting Started on Your Anthology Submission

Our current culture is often having discussions about young parenthood without including the voices of young parents. We’re often told what should motivate us, why we should be happy, and our dreams are defined for us – without our input. As we advocate for respect, autonomy, support, and recognition, our viewpoints have often been considered unconventional.

I know how frustrating this can be.

The idea that all young parents need the same things is inaccurate and unjust. We all live different lives with different stories, backgrounds, and histories. The one thing we do experience is feeling like way too many people are trying to narrate our lives from their perspectives.

The annual young parent anthology is an opportunity for young parents to share stories, views, opinions, art, and creativity through their lens. This anthology is a collection of honest and genuine pieces created by young parents for young parents. Our mission is to publish and distribute these anthologies to other young parents and continue spreading positivity and empowerment throughout our communities.

If you are interested in submitting a piece, the submission guidelines are simple. There are 3 themes (motivation, happiness, and making your dreams a reality) and all submissions can be in writing or art form and in any language!

If you need help getting started, here are 10 prompts to think about:

1. Share a story about a time when you felt the happiest.

2. How would you define success as a young parent? Does it differ from others’ definitions?

3. What are some of your dreams and how are you achieving them?

4. How do you find and maintain your happiness?

5. If you could create an ideal environment for young parents, what would it look like?

6. What are some of the amazing things you have learned about yourself through struggles, obstacles, and hardship?

7. What motivates you? Write about the good, the bad, or the weird things that have motivated you to keep going.

8. Tell a story about a time when you challenged someone else’s definition of happiness or success.

9. Describe your epic journey. If your child wrote you a letter to you in 20 years, what would you hope he/she would say about your journey?

10. Write a letter to a younger you. What motivating and inspiring things would you tell yourself?

Comments? Ideas? Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram! More details about the anthology can be found here: BeProudToParent.org/Anthology.

Lily Loves the MBTA

My daughter and I take the public transportation daily. I have a love and hate relationship with it, especially now that I take it with my daughter. Lily loves public transportation. Seeing so many people amazes her. She loves going out and traveling from place to place. Staring out the window of the bus or the train makes her happy. I in the other hand, have a different experience with public transportation. Most times the public transportation is great, the bus/train not full with people, which is good because we are able to grab a seat. Then there are other times where it is completely full that we cannot even get on the bus. When this happens Lily has a tendency to scream “Wait bus!” I have to explain to Lily that it is fine that the bus left, we will get on the next bus.

On a busy bus day we had, Lily had actually surprised me. Lily and I had entered a full bus where there were no seats available for us. I thought to myself “great now I have to stand up while holding lily in my arms.” After few stops, Lily looked around and pointed at a lady sitting down in the front and said “you, my seat!” I gasp and thought this is embarrassing but awesome. The lady looking at lily smiled and said “you want this seat? Here.” I was glad that she did this. I would not have been able to. It is hard at times to find a seat when we are taking public transportation. It surprises me that people do not offer a seat for a child. When I see that another person with a child get on the bus and no one offers a seat, I stand and ask the person if they want the child to share the seat with my daughter (since Lily is so tiny).

Lily and I have built relationship with some of the frequent bus riders. We started to take public transportation when she was six months old. Lily will be two this September. Most of the frequent bus riders say hi and know us. We exchange a few words during the ride. Lily has started to know this nice people. Even the bus drivers recognize us too. When lily used to go to daycare in a stroller, the bus driver always had the front seat up for us. On days we would not take the bus, the driver would say the next day “Hey, I had the seat up for you girls yesterday, what happened?” Lily loves all of this. She likes being noticed. I like taking the public transportation but there are also days I don’t. I just try my best to plan the ride and take it at their best times to avoid the struggle for me and avoid having an upset baby.

Do your kids like public transportation as much as Lily does?

Getting Your Body Back

Having a baby is tough. There’s no time for anything, going to the gym can be pricey, looking for a babysitter is the worst so I came up with a few ideas to getting your body back. I think the first thing we have to do is admit that we are beautiful – embracing our motherhood is key. There and three things that we can do to get our body back.

Number 1: Eating healthy making it a lifestyle, not a diet. Use your phone, laptop, whatever you may have look on Google. There are many healthy recipes choices. Remember to buy more fresh foods and less packaged. Shop more in the fruits and veggies aisle, rather than the snacks, walk around the supermarket and try to stay away from the middle sections. That’s where a lot the oils, sugars, and unhealthy choices are. You can also watch the movies “Fat Sick” and “Nearly Dead” for more exciting ideas on weight loss.

Number 2: Playing and having fun with your child is exercise. Exercising can feel boring, so why not go to the park with your baby and play, even if they are small. Take a family member a friend to help you hold your baby so you can run around. If your child is a toddler, well, you know how much energy they have. Play with them and have fun. You can also get a running stroller!

Number 3: Make time for yourself.  This is very important! If you’re stressed, your body feels it. You may begin to develop acne, lose hair, and even not be able to lose the baby weight – it becomes a vicious cycle. So take a bath, read or do anything you like to do to de-stress for a little while. You can nap with your baby.

Find ways to not spend money or have to look for daycare on your journey to a healthy body. Best thing you can do to de-stress is laugh and make your baby laugh. Laughter and happiness is the best de-stressors!

Download a free weekly dinner planner here! 

My Natural Hair Journey

I love my natural hair but some days I wanna chop it all off! I always wanted to go natural but would always get a relaxer, I would even brush my relaxed hair to make it look like a fro. The last perm I got was in 2011 right before I found out I was pregnant. I ended up doing a short haircut because my hair was really damaged. I did braids my whole pregnancy and my hair what back to its usual length by the time I had the baby.

Natural hair is hard work especially when you’re a mom. Sometimes after a long day I don’t want to twist my hair before bed. And sometimes I don’t always feel that beautiful with my kinks, but I’m learning my hair and loving it along the way. 🙂

DymonMy daughter has a beautifully textured hair and I can’t wait to help her embrace it as she grows up. I don’t want her to think that long straight hair is going to make her beautiful. I will teach her that the person she is inside will be the person other people see. I love that I went natural and can now set a great example for my little princess to know who she is perfect just the way she was made!

Young Parent Ambassadors at STEPS

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5 Celebrities Born to Teen Moms

1. Dr. Dre’s mom was 17
Dre

2. Justin Bieber’s mom was 17
Justin

3. Barack Obama’s mom was 18
Obama

4. Oprah Winfrey’s mom was 17
Oprah

5. Selena Gomez’s mom was 16
Selena