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What I Didn’t Know About Being a Mother

I had my daughter in 2001. She will soon be a legal adult, and make her way in the world at a completely different level. Here are some observations I am reflecting on lately, specifically the things I didn’t know:

I didn’t know how an invisible force would take over my body. Seriously. Obviously, I knew there would be changes and reading “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” helped me. But I didn’t realize the amazing ways your body knows what it needs and doesn’t need. My aversion to red meat and eggs, my hankering for refried beans and Hawaiian punch. The discomfort in my tailbone while my spine adapted to carrying her. The headaches because of my changing hormones. The way my belly button felt as it began to protrude. The nausea, the exhaustion, the ankles swelling, the NOSE swelling! I also didn’t know the seriousness of a C-Section. I didn’t know I would have internal body parts taken out of me, and then put back in (never to be the same again, by the way). Or staples, stiches, scar tissue. I also didn’t know the amazing feeling of your child kick within your belly. It starts as a flutter, then one day she’s stepping on my bladder with a vengeance.

I didn’t know the fear I would feel. Here is this tiny human that I had to keep safe- keep ALIVE!  I was sitting in the hospital room waiting to be discharged. All I could think was, “How am I going to do this?”. I found myself in fear like I had never experienced before. The fear of being in charge of someone else’s life experience. Everything from what she ate to what I taught her. From what detergent to use to how tight should she be swaddled. My whole world changed instantly. Every choice, every decision- revolved around her. The biggest fear was (and still is): Did I do the right thing?

I didn’t know she would become part acrobat and stunt woman at two years old. As she approached the toddler years, I knew about crawling and walking. Nobody warned me about climbing! Dresser drawers become stairs. Shelves become a ladder. A basket of stuffed animals becomes her way of escaping her crib. She slipped, she tripped, she fell, she hit the back of her head, she broke her collar bone. She got bruises and scrapes and cuts.

I didn’t know what a joy Kindergarten would be. I knew it was a big deal, but I didn’t know how much fun it would be for her- and me! She had a fantastic teacher and made friends quickly. She learned basic information and tough topics, too. Kindergarten was the kick off to a pretty successful elementary education. She stayed at the same school through fifth grade. She was smart, excelled and stood out. Although it was a uniform school, you could count on my kid being the one wearing wacky socks or bright yellow boots. She was a bright light, bold, funny and practically fearless.

I didn’t know middle school would be a difficult transition. My daughter was strong- a leader, not a follower. I thought she would be exempt from the difficulties middle school presented. I underestimated the pressure of so many teachers, so many classes, so many expectations. I underestimated the need to figure out who she was and how she fit in with her peers. She learned tough lessons and moved through her experiences. I braced myself for high school.

I didn’t know how fast her time in high school would go. She will graduate in 2020 and I am in awe. Everyone tells you raising kids will go quickly- and they didn’t lie! High school has been a pretty good experience over all. She lives in a different world than I did, though. She has concerns and pressures that I didn’t have. While some issues are the same, a lot has changed. She already lost a friend to suicide and her school repeatedly has “active shooter drills”. Her spare time is filled with acting and singing and watching her on stage has become my ultimate pleasure as a parent!

I didn’t know my daughter would serve as the biggest mirror in my life. I would have to re-visit painful times in my life in order help her with hers. I would have to go back to difficult ages and ask myself what I needed then in order to give her what she needed. I would have to move through my personal traumas in order to help her through hers.

I didn’t know that raising her would test every ounce of my maturity. Anybody can be a controlling mother. But it takes the utmost patience and maturity to be a conscious one. In the world we live in today, spanking or “Because I said so.” doesn’t cut it. It takes a level of vulnerability I wasn’t prepared for.

I didn’t know that she would be such a cool human. She is a beautiful young adult that will make her own mark on this complex world. I love her world view and I’m impressed by her passion. I look forward to watching her grow into a beautiful woman.

With so much information available to us now, there is always so much that we won’t know until we experience it ourselves. Being a mother has been a challenging, difficult, uncertain, painful, exhausting, amazing, beautiful, rewarding, healing, nurturing, loving experience for me. What I DO know: I wouldn’t change any of it!

~April

 

 

Legacy

My husband and I recently ate dinner at the local Cracker Barrel. I’ve always enjoyed their simple meals, the friendly staff and of course, the post-meal gift shop perusal! However, one thing has always bothered me about the restaurant- the décor on their walls. Don’t get me wrong- I love looking at vintage ads. I enjoy the antiques and guessing what they are and what they were once used for. But there are always pictures. This is what bothers me.

Usually you are sure to find a black and white photo of a stern-faced woman or a serious looking man that clearly lived well over a century ago. Sometimes they are vintage photos of people enjoying fun activities, or maybe even a group family photo in an antique frame. No matter what the subject, they are there. Staring at you as you eat your southern meal.

These pictures bother me because to me, they represent life. Life lived, life over. I stare at the faces, wondering why in the world they are hanging in a local eatery. Where is their family? Were these photos sold in bulk at an estate sale? Was there nobody to pass these wonderful photos to? Who are these people? Where did they live? What was their life like? What happened in their life that this would be the final resting place for their picture- that at one time was important enough to someone to be documented at all?

This leads me to the subject of legacy. I’ve been pondering this concept for awhile. Often, we think of legacy in terms of it’s first definition: a gift by will especially of money or other personal property. I know I have. I know I have thought about what my legacy will be. What will I be able to leave my daughter, my family, upon my death? Will it be enough? Will I have anything to leave at all? I believe most people want to leave something for their family when they pass away. Many believe this is their legacy.

But there is a second definition: something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past. This is the definition I’m leaning in to. This is the definition that has been speaking to me. This is the definition I believe is more valuable than any dollar amount, bank account or piece of property. This is the legacy that is less tangible, yet more impactful.

Maybe our legacy is emotional. Maybe it’s how we teach our children- or WHAT we teach them. Maybe it’s the way my child learns how to have fun from her Grandma, how to be strong like her aunts, how to be kind like her uncle, how to be loving like her mom. Maybe it’s the learning of how to continue to move forward even if you want to fall apart. Or how you can face adversity and still be grateful. How you can have a passion for life in spite of hardship. How obstacles will exist, but it’s all about how you overcome them. How pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. How to remain hopeful. How to make their mark on the world, showing up authentically and living their best life. Maybe our legacy is tied more to life experience and life lessons than material stuff.

I don’t know what my legacy will be. I don’t know what, if anything monetarily, I will have to leave my daughter when I die. I DO know, she will be left with everything money can’t buy. I know she will have inherited knowledge and wisdom from generations of life experiences. Strength, love, hope, perseverance, positivity, authenticity.

My sincere hope is that my photo doesn’t end up on the wall of a Cracker Barrel. But if it does, maybe someone will look at my face and ask themselves the same questions I once did. Better yet, maybe they will come to the realization which definition of legacy is most important to them. You know, thinking about those pictures on the wall- maybe that was their legacy all along.

-April

Reason, season or lifetime

Tonight I found out a former co-worker passed away. We weren’t close and our contact over the years after we worked together was only on Facebook. The news of his loss reminded me of the years I was at this job. It reminded me of the many people we come in contact with through life and the impact we can have on one another. Gregg and I weren’t very good friends, but his placement in my life at that very time was important and pivotal.

Shortly after being promoted to Supervisor, my husband and I separated. Our daughter was a toddler. I was the only female Supervisor on our leadership team. I was excited and nervous. I was eager to do a good job and please a boss that had high expectations. My family was falling apart and I was juggling the emotions of all circumstances in my life.

Gregg spoke with me often about our religious beliefs, often referencing faith and quoting scripture. He referred me to a counseling center at a local church that had been helpful to he and his wife when they were struggling. I made an appointment and began therapy. As my husband stopped attending the appointments, I continued solo. I worked through layers of issues that I didn’t even realize I had.

This is what I thought of tonight. As quick as I was to say that he and I weren’t close, he also gave me one of the greatest gifts in my life. Because of his referral, I began a path of healing. Tough inner work, exploration, acknowledging difficult truths- that continues to this day as I show up daily as authentically as I can. A path that has led me to who I am today.

Sometimes we think we have to be close to someone for them to have deep meaning in our life. My knowing Gregg at this moment on my timeline of life is a perfect example of how false that assumption is. Back then I used to say, “People come in to your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.” Today, I realize people have the potential to be all three. I’m grateful for him and the many people I worked with in those years. Thank you, Gregg. RIP

-April

Other Than

I want to be younger.

I want to have better skin,

I want to have better hair.

I want to be trimmer,

want to be thinner.

But none of these things matter

to the power within her.

I want to poised,

want to be classy.

But what comes out when I speak

is curse words and sassy.

I want to be cool, calm, collected.

But when I speak,

my inner fire is resurrected.

I want to have an education from a university.

But my degree was earned

by surviving and living.

I want to have less wrinkles,

I want to look different than me.

But I know my power is in

my authenticity.

I want to be eloquent,

I want to be poetic.

But I’ve learned the best thing I can do

is silence my inner critic.

In so many ways,

I want to be other than what I am.

But I realized the world has enough “other”

and I can take a stand.

I stand in my power,

I stand in honesty.

I stand with my arms wide open,

in vulnerability.

I stand in confidence,

knowing in every moment I have a choice.

With my age, my truth and every part of who I am,

I decide my most valuable attribute is my voice.

-April Stanley

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change

A few weeks ago my husband and I found out his job may be changing due to a company merger. As in- he might not have a job. I told myself many cliché phrases: When a door closes, another opens. An ending is just a new beginning. It will all work out. I’ve lived long enough and went through enough life experiences to know all of those phrases are true statements. But that doesn’t mean fear doesn’t present itself.

I went through weeks of repeating these phrases when I felt fear rise up within me.  Through the first couple of weeks, I just swept the news under the rug. I’m busy and avoidance seemed just fine, too. Then the other day my husband shared more information with me that solidified the impending doom. Now it wasn’t just a rumor or assumption. There was physical evidence to back up the fear. I felt the fear bubble within my gut, slowly moving through my abdomen, through my chest then to my throat. I held it there- fighting back the worry and anxiety. Then I broke.

Now, it showed itself in a way that I describe as an adult equivalent to a toddler tantrum. I cried to my co-worker (Oh yeah, I was at work when I melted down. *rolling eyes here*). I was saying things like, “Life isn’t fair!”, “This isn’t what I signed up for!”, “I’m so tired of getting nowhere!”, “We work so hard for so little in return!”. Then I asked questions like, “Why can’t we catch a break?!”, “What do we have to do to get ahead?!”, “Why do others have it so easy?!”, “When will it end?!”. I emotionally ruptured. In the following days, I processed my outburst.

Here’s the deal- I flipped out over a simple thing. Change. That’s all it is. Change. Most of us hate it, because it causes uncertainty. A lot of us hate uncertainty because we don’t want to experience uncomfortable circumstances. But change is inevitable. We experience it every day. Alexi Panos once said, “You need to learn to fall in love with uncertainty.” Change affects all of us, but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.

Another contributor? Expectations. We create expectations in our mind and then fall apart again in our mind when things don’t turn out the way we expected. Or wanted. Or hoped for. When I attended birth classes while I was pregnant, the facilitator told us to have our birth plans prepared- and then be ready to throw them out the window. I created a birth plan: I wanted to not be induced. I wanted to have a natural delivery with no epidural. I wanted to hold my child immediately after birth. I wanted to breast feed right away. Well, the plan got thrown out the window. I was induced because I never dilated. I had an epidural because 20 hours later I ran a temperature and they needed to take my daughter via C-section. I didn’t get to hold her or breast feed immediately because of said C-section. You know what? It all worked out. It didn’t go according to plan (like most things in life), but the outcome was good. Actually, it was great!

Another thing I realized is fear is valid. It’s ok to have fear. It’s normal. But we can’t live there. We can’t allow it to take root and grow. Everything I proclaimed to my co-worker that day were not true statements or questions. They were the product of the fear I was feeling. Acknowledge the fear, feel the fear, then talk to it. I imagined something like this: “I see you fear. I feel you. I hear you loud and clear. But I refuse to let you run the show.” We may not have a choice in everything that happens, but we definitely have a choice in how we react to it.

There is an excellent book by Allison Carmen titled, “The Gift of Maybe”. It is a small, potent book with simple exercises on how to unravel the downward spiral of thoughts like I experienced that day. What I took from reading her book actually assisted me in pulling out of the spiral quicker than I would have years- or even months- ago. Maybe this career change is a blessing in disguise. Maybe my husband will make more money than he is now. Maybe he will have a job he loves. Maybe he will be home with his family more. Maybe there is nothing to be afraid of at all.

I’m not saying don’t have hopes, dreams, goals or plans. I’m saying have them- and get ready to throw them out the window. The world is changing on a daily basis. We (I) need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Fall in love with uncertainty. Hope for the best and understand when the change happens, it maybe even better than I imagined.

-April

Tree of Life

Two days ago, a man opened fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. His actions resulted in 11 fatalities and 6 people injured. There are so many aspects of this event that I could write about. But there is one thing that keeps stirring in me. The name of the synagogue. The Tree of Life.

The Tree of Life is an ancient symbol that has been used in various cultures and mythology from all over the world. Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Paganism, Baha’i,  Hinduism, Kabbalah, Judaism. The Tree of Life was a reference found throughout the globe from Ancient Iran to North America. I find it beautiful that so many belief systems incorporate this symbol, even as their meanings may vary. What stands out to me is how it unites us.

Mother Teresa once said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” I believe we need to remember we belong to each other. Stop focusing on our differences and focus on our commonalities. We are so much bigger than our religious affiliation, our gender, our sexual preference, our ethnicity, our political party.

I found this description on a metaphysical website (www.old-earth.com) and found it perfectly fitting: “The Tree of Life carries the meaning that we are all related to the Cosmos- to our human family- our animal family- our earth family and our beyond-the-earth family. All of us are physically inter-related and the Tree of Life symbolizes this, as well. Like an enormous family tree, the symbol of the tree shows the roots and the branches- where we have diverged and where we have joined. It shows where we come from and who comes from us.”

My thoughts, prayers, love and light are with this community. As you grieve, we grieve.

-April

 

 

 

Me too

I was talking to a female friend this week. She said, “I’ve never told anyone about this before. I was in college and I had a guy friend that I had known for a very long time. Our families knew each other, I liked him and I was very comfortable with him. He picked me up one afternoon and took me to a park. He shoved his hands down my pants and then called me a ‘cock tease’ because I wouldn’t have sex with him.” My friend is in her 50’s. She NEVER told anyone about this. I asked her why. She assumed if she told her mother, she would only tell her she shouldn’t have gone to the park with him. This was also a boy whose father was her father’s boss. She has never even told her husband. “It never came up.”

This is only one woman’s story. Only one of my friends. Only ONE out of MANY. Let’s discuss.

“I’ve never told anyone before.” Often, we hear questions and statements like, “Why didn’t she say anything?”, “Why is she saying something after all of these years?”, “If it really happened, surely she would have told someone by now.” We don’t say anything for many reasons. Fear. Fear of retaliation, fear of not being believed, fear of being ridiculed, fear of the affect on our immediate loved ones, fear of blame. Shame. We feel shame because maybe we liked him, maybe we wanted to go to the park (or the movie, or the dance, or the party, or for a ride.) Maybe we wanted to make out with him, too.

“I liked him and I was comfortable with him.” I know a woman who at 15 had a boyfriend she adored. He gave her time, gifts, attention. She was smitten. After a few months of dating, she left her home to travel out of state to meet his family. Upon arrival, she was promptly chained in his attic and used as a sex slave for months. Whether it is my friend in the park, or my friend held against her will- they liked these guys. That’s all. They were interested. They thought they were attractive, wanted to pursue a relationship. Even if a woman wants to have sex, that is normal. What is NOT normal is anyone thinking they have the right to take that from you.

“He called me a ‘cock tease’ because I wouldn’t have sex with him.” We are assaulted, then called names because they didn’t completely get what they wanted. If we were to give them what they wanted, we are called names, too.

“She assumed if she told her mother, she would have said she shouldn’t have gone to the park with him.” I understand the age factor here. This mother was from a different generation, a different time. But we are still hearing the same things, the same victim shaming. “She should have known better.”, “She shouldn’t have been wearing that outfit.”, “She should have known she would give him the wrong idea.”, “She shouldn’t have been drinking.”, “She shouldn’t have gone to the park with him.” Sexual assault and rape is not the fault of the victim. It doesn’t matter what you wore, what you drank or where you went. Nothing gives anyone the right to touch you. Period. It is NOT YOUR FAULT.

“It never came up.” Numerous people live with memories of sexual assault every day. It is always with you, even if not a present thought. It affects you throughout your entire life. There are countless people living with sexual trauma that are silent. Their family might not know, their spouse, their children.

Maybe that is why there are so many people (including A LOT of women) that don’t understand the “Me Too” movement. Maybe it’s because we never openly talked about our experiences. Maybe they were lucky enough to not be sexually assaulted. Maybe they are afraid, too. Maybe they thought it WAS their fault, that they asked for it. Maybe because they never had the experience, it seems too extreme to support. Maybe they are silent because it’s just too painful.

We are living in a time where we no longer have to endure this. We are drawing boundaries. We are changing our future. We are evolving. We are having difficult conversations. It is tough. For some, it is brutal. But we are in this together. And it is necessary. Nobody has the right to touch you without your consent. You have the right to say “NO”. You should be able to go to a park with a boy you like and expect he will know not to forcibly fondle you. It’s that simple.

Thank you to every dear soul that has endured, survived, thrived. Thank you to every dear soul who has opened up, was honest and had the courage to tell their story. And to the dear ones who stay silent, until you’re ready, we will speak for you.

9/11

On 9/11/2001 I was pregnant with my daughter and was due in less than four weeks. I was in the last stretch and found myself anxious and stressed out. I decided to take a mental health day that day. I thought I would spend time that morning setting up my daughter’s bedroom. I unpacked gifts received at my showers. I laundered her clothes, organized her closet, set up a diaper changing area and unwrapped toys. I sat in her room, feeling blessed at what we were given. I was in awe that her birth was right around the corner. Feeling accomplished, I took a break from my preparations.

I sat down and turned on the television. The news was on, and there was the image of a hole in the one of the trade center towers, smoke rolling out of the side of the building. The headline read “Plane hits World Trade Center”. I couldn’t really believe what I was seeing. I immediately thought how odd that was. Even if there was a plane in the vicinity (which was odd in and of itself), HOW could it have NOT missed the WTC? Could someone have done this on purpose? It didn’t make sense. As I was watching the live footage, mulling over the different possibilities while struggling to make sense of what I was watching- the second plane hit. Oh my God. I was in shock at what I was witnessing. Disbelief, confusion, horror. This WAS intentional.

I called my mother crying, “Mom…. the world trade center. Planes hit. Both of them……” Knowing my current place mentality, my mother in all sincerity said, “Oh, I was hoping you wouldn’t see that.” She tried to reassure me that firefighters were going to help. They were going to put out the fire. I kept telling her, “No. They won’t. They can’t. It’s not possible. The floors above the fire- they will die. All of the people on the floors that were hit- they are dead.”

I called my dad. “We are under attack.” I called my husband. “Get home NOW.” I called work. “Turn on the TV.” Then came footage of the Pentagon. WHAT IS HAPPENING? Then the field in Pennsylvania. HOW MANY MORE? Footage of people in New York City. Fear and bewilderment on their faces. People were voluntarily jumping from the towers to their death. Then the tower fell. I simply can not explain the emotions that ran through me at that moment. I just sat on my couch in my living room, holding my enormous belly and sobbing. As I felt my daughter kick, I could not comprehend what was occurring and further, I had no idea what kind of world I was bringing her in to.

Following the attack, there was a bonding in this country I had never seen before. Then again, most of us had never experienced something like this. Many of us thought, “This just doesn’t happen HERE. To US.” We as a country were wounded. We were hurt, grieving. We were heartbroken. We were fearful. We were angry. We were unified by the trauma. We donated blood, we made eye contact, we spoke to strangers, we supported charities, we flew our flag on our cars and homes, we signed up for military service and most importantly- we were kind to one another. 9/11 changed our lives and our country in countless ways. We would never be the same.

I gave birth to my daughter on October 4, 2001. I brought her into a world that is uncertain. Scary. Destructive. It is also a world that is loving. Kind. Hopeful. A world where we work through, overcome and get better. We heal. A world where in the midst of our greatest darkness, we have a daily choice of being the light.

-A

Power in our stories

Hello beautiful souls! I have a friend named Thomas that created a podcast called RISE/Inner Monologue. He has conversations with different people of various backgrounds with incredible life stories that are doing awesome things in the world! Today, I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with him and have a conversation myself.

I listen to this podcast weekly. Thomas asks for people to contact him if they feel there is something they want to talk about. As many times as I have heard his request, and as many times as I considered telling my own story, I was afraid. I was afraid my experiences weren’t important enough, big enough. I didn’t think what I was doing in the world was special enough, impactful enough, big enough. There’s that “big enough” again. I realized that in my fear of not being big enough, I was actually keeping myself small.

So many times we think we are insignificant, less than, not ENOUGH. It’s false. It’s a flat out lie. Each of us has stories from choices we made and experiences we had. They are all important and they are all valuable. They are worth sharing. It might not be in a forum such as a blog or podcast, but it might be with a loved one, a spouse, a friend, a co-worker, your child.

I have no idea who will hear my conversation with Thomas. I have no idea who it will affect or in what way. What I do know is that I made a choice to not be afraid. Well, actually I just did it afraid. Ha! I chose to tell my story. I chose to show up authentically, to use my voice, to share. That is priceless! I encourage you to share your story if you feel compelled to. There is power in our stories and when we share ours, we give others permission to do the same. Much love!

Podcast: http://www.risephoenix.org/

Art: Sharon Stelluto: https://www.sharonstelluto.com/

Prohibition

While in Savannah, Georgia, I went to the local Prohibition Museum. Prohibition is something I knew of, but didn’t know much about. It wasn’t a subject I had an interest in or an opinion of. The museum was informative and I definitely left with more information on the subject than when I walked in.

Here is what really stood out to me: The division in our country regarding the subject, the way each side manipulated their messages in order to win the vote and how we still see this behavior now in our country (only regarding different subjects).

Each side had propaganda implying if you didn’t support one side or the other, you were not patriotic. If you supported prohibition, it was implied you were morally superior. If you didn’t support prohibition, you must not be supportive of the family unit. Either this or that. Each side stated they were better than the other and demonized anyone who didn’t agree with them. Each side played to emotions and promoted fear. There were threats and worse- actions from hate groups such as the KKK. I couldn’t help but see the direct link to behavior in our country then and behavior in our country now. Then I wondered: How long are we going to keep buying this bullshit? When will we wake up?

Fear mongering, degrading name calling, divisive rhetoric, “either or” campaign tactics, character attacks… it’s still in play and we still fall for it. I believe we need to level up and I also believe it’s not impossible. It might take time, it might take perseverance, it might take difficult conversations and a complete unwiring of personal belief systems. But it CAN be done.

Please go to my Facebook page (Inspiration by April) for all photos from the museum.