The story of ours began like most; I heard your heartbeat and joy propelled me from dreamlike stupor to scheduling baby shower and maternity photography sessions, deciding on nursery decor and what names would match you.
When I received my preeclampsia diagnosis, my heart sank and everything on my carefully crafted to-do list dissipated, along with the idea that this story of ours would be easy.
Motherhood welcomed us at 31 weeks.
It also welcomed strength, unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. There would be no crying at our reality or our missed bonding time as you were wheeled away into a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) over an hour away. Instead, I had to summon whatever will and adrenaline coursing through my body and demanded it heal so I can be closer to my heart. Tears would come later. And as I sadly learned, tears would come in waves that crippled and made me wonder where that strength went all those days and weeks I spent by your isolate in the NICU.
The story of ours paralyzed me.
I don’t know for sure how I lived to see you celebrate your first birthday, when every image I’d see, you were surrounded by tubes and wires and your heart monitor constantly beeping.
Somehow I did learn to move freely. I learned to save my tears in the shower. I learned to whisper prayers of gratitude every night as I watched you sleep.
As I started to accept the idea that there would only be the three of us - you, me and your dad - I learned I was again expecting.
This did not bring me joy. I met this news with anger and I tried for a long time to be happy. You were a beautiful four year old. I survived our first year and I was becoming less afraid of your future.
When I heard the heartbeat, I didn’t want to know the sex. I couldn’t give this heart a name.
I didn’t want to write to-do lists and there was no dream like stupor, either. I was a mom on a mission and my mission was to live so I could go home to you and our life.
A history of preeclampsia could mean I was a ticking time bomb again.
A history of premature birth meant I would be revisiting my nightmare in an enclosed NICU space.
A history of traumatic birth meant the possibility of not surviving.
And history usually repeated itself.
I packed my bags at 30 weeks and waited anxiously for 31 weeks.
It came and went. I wept and almost believed we were going to make it to ‘full term,’ at 38 weeks.
When I woke up with a headache and felt nauseous at 34 weeks, I knew it was time. My vision blurred and my blood pressure was elevated. My heart had already shattered when I was told I’d be welcoming another bundle in a few hours.
I thought I welcomed him in my arms. I thought I kissed his head as he was wheeled to the NICU. I thought I was doing okay until I wasn’t.
Until I didn’t hear him crying even when he was next to me.
Until suddenly, the idea of leaving you and him seemed like a rational action.
Motherhood has defined me in ways I never knew I'd be defined by.
While I knew motherhood gives you a different identity and purpose. Mine came with a two time Preeclampsia survivor, a parent to premature babies, and NICU graduates. I also had to include on postpartum depression survivor - an identity that I didn’t know I’d endure and survive.
And while the story of ours is still writing itself, I am hopeful that you and your brother can overcome any obstacles in life. After all, the strength I had to push through my storms were reflected in your eyes. You gave me courage. I choose to live bravely because of you. My purpose isn’t to understand why the story of ours began the way it did but how our story could give a voice and comfort to another.
My purpose in advocating for maternal mental health came because of the way our story began.
For more of my preeclampsia and postpartum depression story, please see here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B073MVG4R4/
**preeclampsia survivor mamas + postpartum depression survivors, please message me for your free copy**
I miss blogging and I hate the idea of starting completely over because
1.) I don't have time for that - let's be honest
2.) I don't have the monetary funds to restart, buy another domain, etc.
So I'm reconstructing this website - originally intended to separate my writing about life and the silly little accomplishments like a poem being published.....not that its silly, I just wanted to form barriers for myself. But the thing I've learned over the past few years is that it's actually quite exhausting to separate things. I am a writer. I've blogged my way through preeclampsia, anxiety and depression. I am an author and I've been so excited to share new books, new poems, etc.
If Covid has taught me anything, it's that I need an outlet so badly. I've gone stir crazy. I've been on edge and barely hanging on.
So off to the blogging world I go. I haven't decided where I'm going with this. But this is better than nothing; better than the urge to scream every day.
Anyway, here's an update:
- Love, Defined will be available for 99cents May 29th - June 2nd!
So excited to announce that my book, Love, Defined, is now part of a romance collection! You get 1 price for 5 books to get your romance reading on.
When it comes to romance, trust and love go hand in hand…
Get ready to fall in love with these 5 full-length romance novels!
~ TOUCH ME NOT by Apryl Baker ~
A past tragedy has left Lily Holmes burdened with a devastating secret. Since the death of her twin sister, Lily can’t bear to be touched.
Enter Nikoli Kinkaid, the campus manwhore.
In an intricate dance of control and surrender, a reluctant friendship becomes something more.
Lily begins to crave things she never believed she could, and Nikoli realizes there is more at stake than his reputation.
~ TRUTH OR DARE by Aimee McNeil ~
Sophie Rogers has left her demons in the past and finally has her life under control. Until Ashton King saunters back into her life as a nude model for her art class…
Ashton’s body is made for sin, and his icy blue eyes scorch her with feelings too intense for a heart as scarred as Sophie’s to bear. Glimpses of another side of Ashton give her a flash of hope, but his deceptions run much deeper than she ever dreamed.
~ UNPREDICTABLE by CA Harms ~
Jett Jameson was the distraction Quinn needed, even if it was just for one night. A void-filler and a chance for a moment to allow herself to feel something other than emptiness.
He wasn’t what she expected, though. He was gentle. But her life didn’t have room for a man like Jett.
And now, it was too late. There was no turning back.
Nothing would ever be the same…
~ LEARNING TO TRUST by Cynthia P. O’Neill ~
When Garrett Andrews finds something that catches his eye, he goes after it, letting nothing stand in the way of what he wants to possess.
Laurel Hart was a swimming champion until a frightful event and unknown health issues derailed her career.
Once Garrett finds out about Laurel’s past, all rules are changed. He attempts to calm her nightmares and gain her trust so he can show her who he really is and the relationship he desires from her. Will they be able to overcome the damage their hearts have encountered?
~ LOVE DEFINED by Leila Tualla ~
In their final summer before graduating college, three childhood friends expect an uncomplicated transition to adulthood…but learn they all still have some growing up to do.
As the summer unfolds, three young women learn love and faith go hand in hand, not everything is black and white, and sometimes in a fast-paced world you have to slow down, breathe a little, and find your own definition of love.
I am fully embracing living and sharing my story - whether that means that I get to retell the same thing over and over again like a broken record; or figuring out how to navigate this fire and put it into words.
I am pumped. I'm excited to do something MORE.
I started finding opportunities that I know I can handle and commit to and among them was to speak to someone from ACOG (Am College of Obs and Gyn) about my preeclampsia and postpartum depression story. We spoke for over an hour about how we absolutely adore the new life (infant) while simultaneously forgetting about the one that made it (mom). We pass her over. We don't see mom. We see the most adorable cherub that we can't wait to cuddle and hold. We look past mom's sometimes harried appearance and go straight for the questions that sting: "how's breastfeeding going?" - I can't tell you how many moms dread this question. Breastfeeding is hard and the picture we have are these lovely breastfeeding moments, bonding moments, and not the crying, cracked bleeding nipples of the before or the surrender of not measuring up.
"are you excited to no longer be pregnant?"
"how long is your maternity leave?" followed by, "too bad, you can't stay home," or "you're so lucky you get to stay home."
We are measured by how much we can handle.
And then guilted into believing that super moms exist and we are far far from holding our own.
The things that continue to strike me are the tears that find its way down my face, the way my voice breaks or changes in octave. I had hoped that almost four years later, my courage takes hold over me. I had prayed that I can look back in awe at my own strength and bravery.....instead of reminding myself of past fears. In order words, I had really hoped to be over all of it by now, but time hasn't softened or healed my wounds of having 2 traumatic births. I may not recall every small detail but my broken heart finds its way to paint my nightmare.
So I told her that I am in the midst of the "after." There was life before NICU, before preeclampsia, before anxiety......but I am no longer welcomed there. Life in the "after NICU, after preeclampsia, after postpartum depression," is slow and measured. My movements calculated to avoid potential triggers. Life in the "after" consists of giving daily thanks and hugs and a quick reminder that we are all here. All three of us, my daughter, my son and myself. We're present and not figments of my imagination.
what happens next?
What happens now is laying down the foundation of helping mamas feel less alone after their storms. If all I ever write about is poetry on motherhood, preeclampsia, postpartum depression...... then I am thankful for those moments and use those lived in experiences to tell my story. It's not over yet.
I'm told it's easier to break this list down.
1.) Read 2-3 books
(Currently listening to I am Malala and Handmaid's Tale is our book club pick for January).
2.) Visit 2 museums
(already met when we went to Lone Star Flight Museum and Play Street Museum)
3.) Submit to 2 - 3 different publications.
(As of now, I've printed out 2 lit magazines submission guidelines).
4.) Walk 20 miles this month!
5.) 1 thing that scares me: ask this moms' group if I can share my testimony.....I'll let you know how that goes!!
What are your goals this year? Do you break it down to a more manageable list?
Happy reading and writing, friends!
2009 - 2019. Have you seen those decade challenge on Facebook? I haven't had a chance to participate yet. But apparently, since I can't find a 2009 picture of me anywhere....I wouldn't have been able to participate in said decade challenge.
Wowzers, what have I accomplished in 10 years?
I had 2 lovely babies (2012, and 2015).
I went from working gal (2009) to stay at home ('13 and '16 through now).
I learned about Preeclampsia in 2012.
I understood grace and kindness from being in a postpartum depression storm (2015).
I learned what strength comes from surviving storms.
I became a volunteer for International Association For Premenstrual Disorders last year and went one step further and started lending a hand as a Peer Support Provider (PSP).
I published my first book in 2012 and dabbled with poetry.
I lent what courage I had and started submitting works to various anthologies. I'm so proud to say that my words are in 9 different anthologies, some benefiting mental health charities like MIND UK and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).
If I can sum up what I've learned, and lost, and gained in a decade with just one word, I would say, "transformative," but that feels like a cop out. I should hope everyone's decade was transformative. I hope everyone saw growth, and happiness, and learned from triumph, and walked away from negativity, and pain.
I don't know if at the brink of 2009 I pictured my decade challenge looking like this. This messy, perfectly chaotic, constantly changing view of self but I'm feeling hopeful, and secure about this coming one. I went from dreaming what was possible to living what could be, finding out my whys of existing, and grabbing hold of a passion. I want my next decade to continue to live with purpose.
If this decade of going from mid to late 20s to mid to late 30s has been transformative.
My word for the following 10 years would be AUDACITY.
I want to have the audacity to write about maternal mental health and speak to others about my lived in experiences.
I want to be bold enough to speak up about what I am: author, writer, poet, versus the identities that are my current seasons: stay at home mama, substitute teacher.
My identities of always aspirating for more.
I want to have the audacity to pick up that sword fighting class I say I'm going to do and be a black belt, sword fighting ninja or run across a finish line 13 1/2 miles away.
I want to be bold in speaking up about my faith, my courage, my dreams and hopes.
I want to have the audacity to do
and live for Christ
this coming decade.
May your Christmas be bright, your year be sparkly and new.
Happy Holidays and a bright decade is my wish for you.
November is coming up and it's always been rough. One the one hand, it's Prematurity Awareness month. The day before I see images of cute 'trick-or-treaters' and then all of a sudden, my feed is inundated with mamas and pictures of their preemies. I remember it all over again; the NICU, the isolette, the alarms and my two premature babies.
On the other hand, I post my gratitudes as a daily reminder that I am here. They are here. It's helped me over the years but I still second guess the 'why NOT me?' 'why NOT US?' that survivors often wrestle with.
A few weekends ago, I attended the Champions for Change summit and I heard so so so many stories of near misses.
I was lucky.
My OB knew at 26 weeks and told me that my birth plan needed to change.
She knew at 31 weeks that I was not doing my care at home and I needed to be on strict hospital bed rest.
She knew when it was time to deliver Ellie. And because of her, I knew to do my research.
I advocated for myself and knew to seek a high risk pregnancy doc for the second one.
I knew to do my daily blood pressure readings and let the nurses know when it would spike above average.
I knew to pay attention to my body and knew at 34 weeks and change that my headache, my blurry vision and high blood pressure reading meant it was time to go.
And the nurse who triaged me in the emergency room knew to call my doctor and start prepping the labor and delivery room.
Women who knew versus others who didn't know or couldn't have known or choose not to listen.
I was lucky.
And I count my daily thanks.
But that doesn't mean it has gotten easier. I've often heard well intentioned friends and family asking, "why are you not over it? it's been years." How could I get over trauma so easily when I see my trauma daily? When I hold my what-ifs daily? When I take my miracle to her monthly hematologist and wonder was it because of her being premature? Because of my preeclampsia that caused this blood disorder? What did she do to deserve every bruised arm from nurses who can't find her veins?
Was it because of me?
And so the guilt keeps coming back around and around,
But I can change guilt to action
I can change guilt from weighing me down and make it become something. I can funnel my words for change, I've been so inspired about the stories I heard and I know my story can't stop now. Especially, since looking around the room, I never saw another 'me.' I saw so many white women and I wonder why there was so few black women? Why so few latinas? Why not another one of me? Another Filipina.
Where are we in the community of mental health advocates and preeclampsia survivors?
A few projects
So next month is also National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I'm still converting my novelette into a Christmas themed novella. I started on it a few weeks ago and then my ever so distracted brain decided to put it down and start working on a journal prompt book idea for mamas. Motherhood is tough and we so desperately need community. I want my community to be filled with Filipina mamas navigating mental health challenges, life after diagnosis - be it a preeclampsia diagnosis or postpartum diagnosis. I want community and I want it filled with mamas that look like me.
So I don't exactly know what that looks like.
But I do know that I am lucky to be surrounded by women who do. I just need to get over the guilt and grab some courage and ask questions.
What are you working on friends?
Any other passion you have that you can incorporate writing into?
It's September but in Texas, we are still figuring out how to cool off in 100 degree weather. I've been itching to take my fall decor out, but I can't find the motivation to pull out fake pumpkins and autumn leaves when I'm clearly drenched in sweat.
Looking back on June - August goals:
1.) Work on self - promotion more and not apologize for it. Did I actually do any type of promoting? My blank royalty checks say no (I get an email and a breakdown for the month). I haven't been feeling motivated to do these either. But I need money and I'm sure my indie publisher would appreciate if I put in any effort!
2.) READ. I read quite a bit this summer. 6 books total: 5 fiction, 1 nonfiction. The
This reminded me that I needed to do the reviews for all of them.
3.) REVIEW. see above. However, they are on goodreads, so does that count??
3.) Work on one short story with my little girl. Sadly, we never did get to work on our short story together. She did start a little cartoon about it!
I miss writing, in general. I haven't had much success in getting into the "mindset." Perhaps, I need to start just journaling or writing a few minutes a day, to get in the habit of writing. I'll go ahead and revisit some of my goals though.
1.) Actually work on self-promotion.
2.) Read and catch up on my reviews.
3.) Visit a writing critique/group. Perhaps being surrounded by other writers will get me motivated enough to write!
Other things to motivate: inquire about the pieces that were accepted for publication but haven't heard back from the publishers, even though they've said they'll get back to me in August.
That's all for now.
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
As we are winding down from summer and looking towards fall and winter, please know that September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. This is a reminder to be kind to yourself and to the people around you. You never know what someone is going through. We cover up all sorts of pain and madness to fit in.
Know that you are not alone.
**the following information below was taken from NAMI**
I'm always here, if you need me. I hope you know that. I'm not a trained counselor, but I can listen and offer a shoulder. Whether you want to reach out via email: email@example.com or private message me on any of my social media handles on twitter, instagram or facebook, please reach out.
I really do miss blogging and from time to time, I revisit the old blog (tuallaleila.blogspot.com) and go through each post waiting in the draft pile. I haven't made the jump to fully revive it. Whenever I feel like I'm in a "good" place to finally get down to writing and scheduling, something distracts me and I'm off. But I'd love to try again and per my wayward and distracted little personality, I'll blog once a week (Wednesdays) here and break that down into different series. A bit ambitious for me, but I'm up for anything!
So today, I present the first in my motherhood series. I'm a mama and I love getting to know other mamas to find tips and tricks and "hacks" or basic survival + wine stories. One of the things I'm exploring is this need to simultaneously leave the house and make needed friendships or stay in pjs all day long and entertain myself + kids because friendships, especially in your mid-30s are complex and truly an effort for everyone on board.
But so much is made about needing/having a "tribe." What do you do when you don't have one? I've lived in Houston for almost 5 years and it took a while for me to find friends. I signed up for our neighborhood book club, left the book club, got invited to another one, left that one only to form a solid crew of booknerds. We're a team comprised of single mamas, grandmas, working and stay at home mamas, and a single ladies. It's been a lovely connection but our only get togethers because of everyone's schedules are once a month. However it's always much appreciated and needed.
I have done the "playdate thing" and walked around the playground hoping some other mom would look at me and go, huh, there's a friend. But it's always taken a few awkward tries to find the "right mom friend." It's almost like dating but you have to put not only your best foot forward but hope that your child gets along with theirs.
Rather than continue to make this post into a whiney lamentation snippet, I will share my recent epiphany with you. It was the moment I knew I finally found the "right group."
On one of our lovely book club monthly chat, I was FINALLY comfortable enough to pour my heart out to one of my fellow booknerds and she said, "put me on the list." Whatever I need, whenever I needed help, if there is a list, put her there. I cried.
Isn't that something? For another person to listen to your brokenness and instead of giving advice or a talking to, she offered unconditional support.
Put me on the list to add when you need a shoulder.
Put me on the list for when you need a break to breathe.
Put me on the list for anything.
Mamas, if you have no one - put me on the list. I am an email or a message away. I offer a shoulder. A stranger to vent to, judgement free. A prayer warrior for when you need to be lifted up and loved up on.
Sending you much love and light - Leila
Birthday month ahead
At some point, I am sure I will be doing a blog on reflections. I will be turning 37(!!!) this year and I still don't feel like a "grown up." Which is scary since I have to pretend I know what I'm doing and 'mommy-ing' hard. Anyhow, before I do my reflection post, here is my monthly goals for July. I haven't done a goals sheet in a while and I'm starting to wonder why.....I'm all about checklist and having been flying "off the cuff" without one these past few months have resulted in one frazzled mama and over booking several things. I have stretched myself too thin and I need to scale way back. I guess one of my goals for myself is the ability to say no once in a while.
JULY - AUGUST GOALS
**School starts in the middle of August and I know it'll get a bit hectic for our household, so this monthly goal will be "extended" until mid-August. I will begin a new goal for September.**
1.) Work on self - promotion more and not apologize for it. It's hard for me to seek a spotlight. I prefer hiding behind everyone and letting everyone have a go before my say. Sometimes that means though, I never get a turn. I never get to speak up. And I shouldn't have to view this as a selfish thing. I need to be bold enough to say it's my turn. I mean, I see friends and family, promoting their businesses with gusto. My books, my stories...these are major accomplishments and something to be proud of. I am. I need to treat my "babies" proud and promote them with just as much gusto.
I bought and downloaded this social media calendar by Angie Gensler. I spent $37 for it so I will let you know how my "engagements" and social media has grown, if any, by the end of the year. I'm starting this month, so if you see a sudden jump of activities all across my social media channels (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook), it's because I am working on my author platform.
2.) READ. I have been neglecting my reading list and goals!! This month, I aim to read (1) non-fiction an (1) fiction works.
3.) REVIEW. Again, neglecting all my reviewing. One of the lovely things about reviews is that even if I haven't written a poem/story for myself, I at least get to write something. It's a great practice and good for recalling what you read. Catch up on at least 5 reviews this month.
3.) Work on one short story with my little girl. Funnily enough, my daughter wants to write her superhero story. I outlined one with her a few months ago and still have it but this time, I hope we gett to finally sit down and work on it together. Bonus: it'll help her with her handwriting skills.
What about you, do you have any writing/author/life goals this month? Share them with me below or anywhere you see this post!
Keep writing on, friends!
Just in case you didn't know one thing about me....it is that I crave change. I get overtly anxious when things stay exactly the same. I don't know why. But every so often (and because I have a husband and 2 kids) I like to change the look of my house. Some are small: a little lamp there, a new vase here, a framed picture there. Some things are big and more noticeable: moving furniture around, taking down curtains, hanging giant posters there.
I can't seem to sit still and therefore my house shouldn't either...it seems is my random thought.
So, due to it being summer and I have kids all day long and my budget-friendly husband has had to put his foot down, I recently decided I need to make a change here. I don't blog anymore and I so do miss that. I'm not online anymore as myself and for a while, I loved stepping back from it, but I am more involved online repping for another organization and it's made me want to revamp my whole online 'self.' So I'm looking at you, website. Here's my "under construction" notice. I'm still toying with the possibility of having 2 sites: a blog and this author website but I've neglected both. I'm going to start combining both...starting in July. My goal would be to blog once a week about what I do best: mental health and preeclampsia advocating, book/author goals and whatever I feel like.
Thanks, friends for your continued support and hope you are still writing!
I drink too much coffee, read too many books, and in between raising miracle babies, I find time to write.