This was such an honor and I still feel so unworthy of it when all I've done to advocate for maternal mental health is to share my struggles and my story. I'm honored and so humbled to be in amazing company with these incredible women.
I am grateful to anyone who listened to us moms - the doctors, the nurses, friends, families and strangers - who saw past the cuteness of our newborns and really tuned in to our internal battles and struggles.
**did you know 1 in 7 moms suffer from postpartum depression?**
I am grateful for those that fought in the trenches of postpartum depression and anxiety with me, and those who joined in on advocacy efforts, and those who encouraged me to keep sharing, keep speaking, keep championing. Organizations like 2020 Mom, Momma's Voices, Postpartum Support International (PSI), my peer support efforts with International Association of Premenstrual Disorders (IAPMD) have fueled this mama's cup and have been such incredible lifesaving resources.....think of them this December 1st (Giving Tuesday) or find an organization that supports your passion *also, find what fills you up and find a way to give back*
I recently did an interview with Dr. Kat from Mom and Mind. I'm always so thankful for every opportunity given to share my story.
Please have a listen here:
So I got some exciting news a few days ago.... and of course, once the excitement died down, anxiety came in to settle.
“What have I done that was worthy of this?” Kept popping in my head.
I’ve been sitting with that thought when I got some things I had to go over.
And then I read other people’s accomplishments.
And the cloak of uselessness, of pity, of not enough weighed heavy on me.
What have I done that was worthy of this?!
This morning, I woke up. Did a workout to get some clarity. And looked down at the cup I was drinking from.
Clarity: I share my story because I wanted other mamas who feel the same way, feel less alone.
All I managed to accomplish in this covid pandemic nightmare, doing pandemic homeschooling, in between doctor and lab visits, in the midst of #pmdd hell week, in living with #anxiety is telling my story.
In a few weeks, I will be telling my birth story, my #pregnancyanxiety story, my #preeclampsia story, my #postpartumdepression story for the THIRD time this year.
I get to sit and share what other mamas before me (and those after) won’t get to do.
And that alone is more than enough.
I am incredibly thankful for every opportunity that I get to share my story.
I'm doing a 30 day grateful November post on my Instagram and Facebook. Yesterday was the 12th, and I posted that I am grateful for moms.
Moms who champion for change.
Moms who show the messy and beautiful and awe inspiring stories of motherhood.
Moms who continue after a loss.
I put my mom leaf on the bottom because it starts with us.
Moms, our “work” may be “unseen.”
We teach, we nurse, we play, we pray,
we do. But what a privilege.
And it’s an honor that is not lost on me.
Our babies are watching what we do. Listening to what we say.
Advocacy, passion, the want for change starts with us moms.
I will probably circle back to this later for affirmations.
But for now, I will dry my tears, swallow my thoughts on not being enough and practice saying my story aloud.
And just in case you need to hear this too:
“the one thing that you have that nobody else has is you.
- 2020 Champions for Change summit.
#useyourmomvoice #mommasvpices #gratefulnovember #30daysofgratitude
A few months ago, I came across a 'patient stories' call from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologist (ACOG). They were looking for patient stories that dealt with birth, birth complications or trauma, mental health (postpartum and pregnancy), etc. I signed up to tell my story. A few weeks later, I got a call for an interview where I tried hard not to cry to the sweet lady on the other end of the line. Covid happened somewhere between our "thank yous" and "we'll get in touch."
And to be honest, I forgot about that day and what I shared because I was too busy dealing with life in the pandemic homeschool trenches. The other day, I got an email that my story was up on their website. So thank you for reading this far and for allowing me to share my story.
I recently did my first podcast interview ever with Mom&Mind. We talked about my birth story, my preeclampsia diagnosis, subsequent Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) stays for my premature babies. My eventual postpartum depression story in 2016, a small tidbit of my book, and the advocacy efforts I'm engaged in now.
The thing is.....I feel overwhelmed. There are so many things I want to do, I wish I could do for mamas and babies, and especially women of color, like me. But where do I start?
Some days, I feel like I am truly just shouting from the rooftops and screaming into the void, only to hear just echoes of myself.
Some days, I do absolutely nothing.
And I wonder if my volunteer in peer support is doing anything at all. I almost feel like I'm letting my peers down but simultaneously sharing my lived experience and not.
Mental Health advocacy is exhausting. It truly is never ending and I have to wonder if I'm making any difference at all.
So today was supposed to be the second day of Champions of Change Summit. I loved the energy from last year and I wanted so much to refuel and remember "my why."
Covid took us online. It wasn't the energy that mirrored last year but let me tell you, if I could capture the passion emitting from the screen, I would bottle it up, hold on to it and remember the reasons for why I always leave my inbox open for mamas, why I keep speaking up, even if no one is listening.
There will always be that one. The one who needed to hear my message.
So even if I have been lacking on social media - some of it intentional, some of it...well homeschooling has kept me busy - I will continue to advocate in any way I can.
So this is YET ANOTHER "website under construction" notice. But I won't be changing too much around. I'll be adding resources for maternal mental health and premenstrual dysphoric disorder tabs.
My FB social media post
What do you normally want to see on a lived experience advocacy page?
Excited to announce my poem, "Echo," was accepted in Undivided Magazine.
"There is an echo of a shadow that follows me everywhere I go.
I catch her in glimpses; she’s bent over like a child,
a still statue on the floor." Click here for more.
Before Covid came into our lives, I had this goal of finishing up my teaching certification classes online and be ready to teach for Fall 2020. I was subbing for different grade levels to get a feel for who I want to teach to. I was asking Ellie's teachers what study guides they've used in the past and volunteered for everything involving planning parties, games, etc.
I had plans.
I was studying and was "on track." I passed my Special Education Certification test and scheduled to take my Elementary - 6th (E-6) general certification. That was in February.
By March, the schools were closed and I wasn't able to do any in-person teaching observations.
By May, we started toying with the idea of doing homeschooling full time in the fall. This was later affirmed that we were making a right decision from my daughter's hematologist (Short story: she has an autoimmune blood disorder and on immunosuppressants).
Last week, I sent out my letter of resignation to our local district where I worked as a substitute teacher and then officially, un-enrolled my daughter.
I had a really hard week.
And while it still stings that my goals once again will be put on the "back burner" as they say, I have already made peace with the fact that I may not get my teaching certification for a few more years, or at all.
So here we are, truly, all works of progress.
And once again, a reminder from the Universe and in the words of John Lennon that
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
How and where to beginThe first thing is decide, are we really going to do this?
Unfortunately thanks to our patriarchal society, mommas are going to be the teachers. That's not to say that dads won't help and my husband will leave the homeschooling all up to me....it just means that the burden (like most things) fall onto the mom. We are teachers. Are you going to be able to teach your child while taking care of home, of work, of yourself?!
Self care, ladies.
If you are not able to do distance learning, or homeschool full time.....it's okay. We all have our individual burdens to carry and I can only speak for what is possible in our home.
If you need permission, this is it: do what feels right for you and your family. Don't apologize or be tricked into feeling guilty.
However, if you have made the decison to homeschool, I urge you to look at what your state requires.
The first step is here:
In Texas, homeschooling laws and requirements are very relaxed compared to most states.
Texas Homeschool Law At a Glance
In Texas, homeschools are considered private schools. To legally homeschool, you will need to follow these requirements:
1. Teach the required subjects. The required subjects are:
2. Use a written curriculum. The private school law as interpreted by the Texas Supreme Court requires that you use some form of written curriculum (online programs meet this requirement) and that you operate your homeschool in a “bona fide” manner.
I’m a planner girl and I was super excited to get the “organized home school planner.” I read a few reviews, watched this homeschooling mama break it down....and went out and bought it, Let me just say, for $50 a pop, it was a regretful buy. While I appreciated the layout and it had sections for ideas, design, planning, etc..... I basically was able to do the same things (plan) by doing a “brain dump.”
I wrote down things that I thought would be appropriate to learn in different months, like pumpkins and how seasons change in October... or many different ways people celebrate Christmas around the world.
if you’re still looking, I suggest you do a big brainstorm day with you and your kiddo. Ask them what they like, what they’d like to learn and explore. Jot it down. And then find ways to incorporate that into the year. I also researched themes or awareness month and planning lessons around it. For instance, from September 15th-October 15th, is Hispanic Heritage month. We will be focusing on the people, the culture, the different foods and ways to appreciate the culture.
CurriculumThe third thing, after deciding you are going to homeschool and then planning, most people do is go out and BUY ALL THE THINGS.
It's great if you can afford it, but some of us want to slowly spend what we can and then if its worth it, buy it outright later.
In your research, do join homeschool groups in your area or online. See what everyone is using, ask around what would be appropriate for your child(ren) and then ask some more. Shop around. Remember what works for one family, or one child, may not and does not work for you and yours.
My upcoming 3rd grader is a tactile learner. She looks to read and play with manipulative and crafts.
She may not do well doing a workbook and sitting in one spot all day long.
You know your child(ren) best. So it's important when you're planning to get their input and see if they'll like what you picked out.
We will be using "Easy Peasy All in One" which, by the title, also gives you an "all in one" curriculum with health/pe, Spanish, poetry as some of the extra addons you can do besides math, science, history and language arts.
What has been good is that there are daily lessons you can do and it goes up to 180 days (your typical school year). It also has an "offline" or workbook option in case you didn't want to do all the computer work.
I will be supplementing this with another math workbook I found but this was the only one that I wanted to stay on track for, as math isn't Ellie's favorite subject.
It does go from preschool all the way through high school. I will be opting to do another workbook for Ro but I like that I can use their "daily lesson plans" as a guide to what he will be doing.
English, Language Arts, Reading (ELAR)
I patiently (not really) waited on the Good and the Beautiful work set. Although it is free to download online, I wanted to have the beautiful art work and poetry book, instead of what my black and white printer would dish out.
These books are gorgeous inside and I can't wait to get started. Each lesson can be done in a day, and per their website, if you do 4 lesson/week, you should be able to finish out the entire book by the end of the school year (end of May).
For science, I signed her up for a chemistry co-op. A local woman is doing a small Chemistry group for elementary aged kids and I thought, what fun! I'm loving that there is freedom in what she wants to learn. She asked to do Chemistry and that is what we are going to do this semester!
Luckily for her, 3rd graders only covers community, the helpers and various roles within a community. So we are going to be covering what it means for her to be a first generation Filipino American (my side) and a second generation Mexican American (dad's side). This basically means a LOT of books, a lot of arts and artists who are Filipinos and Mexicans. I moved to the US when I was 9 years old, so a lot of Philippine history was lost since here in Texas, there was no reason to cover it....we are a blip in most US textbooks and I know at some point, my children will learn all about US, what being a citizen means, the wars, etc....... but while I have them at home, we can learn Filipino folktales together, the different dialects across 7600 islands, and how it was colonized and by whom.
We are going to be living and breathing her history and I'm so excited to dive in!
She is currently taking her piano lessons from her teacher online, so we will keep doing that.
She has expressed interest in wanting to be a graphic novelist/animator, and we recently bought myself an apple pen. Can't wait to see what she does with it, however, I am excited to use it for coloring/lettering apps!
Spanish and Tagalog
This is where the "por favor" (please) and salamat (thank you) comes in. I want to give both my kids a living, breathing embrace of their roots.
So salamat for reading this far. I'd love to know your thoughts and what you have found so far!
Sometime in 2017, I stumbled into the The Poetry Marathon and signed up to do the "half" or 12 poems in 12 hours. Sadly, a series of events by the creators of this awesomeness meant they weren't going to be able to do it in 2018. I forgot all about it until recently when I saw a call on one of the many writers submissions group I'm in. I loved the energy, the camaraderie and the challenge of creating a poem, following their prompts and uploading it before the hour was up.
Naturally, when I saw they had returned and were going to be doing another anthology call, I jumped at the chance to redo this experience. This time, however, I am aiming to do 24 poems. A full marathon.
Honestly, the other day, my husband said he hadn't seen me so excited and happy in a while. It was after I got on a call with my sister and we were brainstorming and exchanging ideas for this Filipino folklore I've been saying I want to do. Writing stories gets me so excited, and I'm only sorry that I don't do it quite often.
Anyhow, the marathon starts this Sunday and I am pumped!
Write on, friends!
I'm a terrible liar. When I tell a lie, I know my eyes twitch and I can't look at whoever I'm lying to in the eyes. I'm pretty sure I stammer a bit or bite my lip as soon as I've uttered untruth.
So whenever my children asks me a question - about death, about the world around them, about the candy stash in my purse - I have to swallow the reply to make sure I've filtered it for their little hearts.
Sometimes, it works, and they accept the lie. Sometimes they frown and demand the truth (or the chocolate).
There are times when I respond and then make this passionate speech about the truths (as I see them/interpret them) and by the time I'm done, I know I've either confused my children, or opened up their world of innocence just a little bit to let clouds come in.
I've been glued to the news for the past few days. It's one of the most unhealthiest thing you can do. But I can't help it. I've been soaking in the hurt, cursing a little out loud in anger and trying my hardest to find God in the midst of the chaos.
When my children sees the news, they ask what's happening. They wonder why there are marches and fires, what the chants mean and why people are screaming.
I told them it's because black people are tired of being judged and killed for the color of their skin.
I told them that a black man died just because he went out jogging.
I told them that a police officer who should be protecting people made an evil choice and took a life.
I told them people are angry and hurt and exhausted.
I wish I knew a better response.
I wish I could shelter them from hate. I know there will be a time when they'll be asked a seemingly benign question of "where are you from," but really the truth is they're fishing for confirmation that you're different, a 'foreigner,' and your answer confirms that they could tell from far away that you're not from here.
That you don't belong.
I wish I could hold their hand and tell them that they won't be judged because of their skin color.
But the truth is that they will be. They won't see the preemie fighters, or the sweet boy and his precious big sister, they'll see a brown Mexican boy and a brown girl.
And then I think about my own shortcomings and the way I brush off people. I think about the circle of friends and people I surround myself with; mostly white, Middle class women. I know of 2 black women in my mom circle and I rarely see both of them (mostly thanks to nursing school, and travels). I'm the lone Asian in my book club. And I can count on one hand, how many Hispanics I'm friends with in this upper middle class suburbia I'm in.
I need my son and my daughter to be proud of their mixed heritage and their rich culture.
I need them to understand their privileges and to make sure they are able to help those around them who do not.
I need to educate not just myself but the generation I am raising to do better and to listen to stories that aren't ours to tell.
We need to amplify the voices on the screen screaming for justice and take our voices to the polls.
Revolutions were never peaceful.
And that's a story I want to tell.
Some resources I've found:
If you have this urge to reach out to the nearest POC (person of color) in your life about what this all means, please pause. They are tired of having to explain themselves...again. There exists a plethora of information, if you google it. I recommend you start here at "Be the Bridge," as they have educational resources, books, podcasts and movies that can educate you about racial injustice and inequality.
If you know of any other resources, please list them!
https://bethebridge.com/ - which serves to "Inspire people to have a distinctive and transformative response to racial division and be present and intentional toward racial reconciliation. Equip bridge-builders toward fostering and developing vision, skills, and heart for racial healing, and partner with existing organizations who have a heart for racial justice, restoration, and reconciliation.
https://diversebooks.org/ - We Need Diverse Books™ is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry. Our aim is to help produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.
https://thelovelandfoundation.org/Loveland Foundation is committed to showing up for communities of color in unique and powerful ways, with a particular focus on Black women and girls. Our resources and initiatives are collaborative and they prioritize opportunity, access, validation, and healing. We are becoming the ones we’ve been waiting for.
http://www.shadesofblueproject.org/index.html - The Shades of Blue Project is dedicated to breaking cultural barriers in maternal mental health by raising awareness and ensuring action is taken to break the stigma surrounding seeking treatment in the minority community when experiencing complications after childbirth. We do this by helping women before, during and after child-birth with maternal mental health advocacy, treatment and support.
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 drink too much coffee, read too many books, and in between raising miracle babies, I find time to write.