But…do I?

Friday, one of my best friends married the love of his life. Seeing them celebrate their step into holy matrimony made me think, Where is my happily ever after?

In 2013 I met my significant other while taking classes at a local community college. Five years late, we’re parents and simply stuck into a routine. As working parents know, it’s very easy to fall into a pattern as the days go by in the blink of an eye but I had goals. I wanted to have my bachelors degree by 25, Married by 28, and children around 30. Life doesn’t always go as planned so it went more like college dropout by 21, child by 24 and no direction in life. Usually, it takes no more than a good episode of ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ for me to begin planning my perfect wedding. But this time was different. I asked myself “Is marriage really for you?”.

My parents, though highly disfunctional, have been married for over 40 years. Growing up, I was apart of a close knit family so all I know is the strong marriage dynamic. My significant other, on the opposite end of the spectrum, lived in a home where his parents were never together, though they are married. His father is Mexican, believing that a man can do as he pleases, with whom he pleases while his wife raises the children and struggles with mental health problems among other things; the typical machismo. Until we started seeing each other, he’d never thought about getting married; marriage does not work!

I love my significant other but when it comes to making me a priority, he falls short. I’m not one to make excuses so I won’t start now. He takes care of his mom who suffers from a number of mental health issues in addition to ulcerative colitis and osteoporosis. She also speaks very limited English, doesn’t know how to drive, and is separated from his father. When we first got together I knew this was the situation. It wasn’t so bad because I had my own apartment while he held a place for him and his mom, though he was at my place majority of the time. Life got rough and I ended up losing my apartment and was forced to move in with them. It wasn’t until then I began to see the true hierarchy in our new family.

My mother in law is Queen Elizabeth on steroids. When she says jump, he asks how high. At first, I felt bad for her. Then I realized, she is a demanding B-I-T-C-H sometimes. It’s not her that’s the problem ultimately, it’s her son. He forgets everyone and everything when his mom calls upon him, which is more often than not. Even after we had our baby, it turned into having two babies.

GOD! WHEN DOES IT STOP!

I reached a breaking point when I lost a much-needed job because he wanted me to choose to help take her to her doctor appointments. Major bummer especially with a preemie infant. I bit the bullet. I declined the job offer. Did that get me any recognition or brownie points? No sir. It was the beginning of my depression; depression that lasted for two years, on and off.

My moment of liberation was re-enrolling into college. I’ve been taking college classes since I was 15 years old but I have NEVER declared a major. I boasted to my family over Thanksgiving dinner 2009 about how I was a pre-med biology student, I was going to be a neurologist. STRAIGHT PAID! BIG BILLS ONLY! Little did I know, three semester later I would receive a certified letter from the Dean of my college informing me that due to subpar grades I’d lost my financial aid and I was being put on academic suspension aka getting kicked out of college. I had failed.

Six years later, I find myself at the precipice of nursing school. I met with a counselor at my local community college who informed me that I only need to take four classes before applying to the nursing program. Taking all of those classes in high school really paid off for me in the end, especially since my math requirement was met by a class that I took in 10th grade. Before applying to the program, I must complete Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology, and English; the mountain in the distance was a hill.

My focus since has been on self-growth, which is hard when you are in a serious relationship. I am important. How will my daughter ever understand the importance of being an independent strong woman if I can’t do it myself? With this came with many thoughts, including property ownership. I’m not currently married, my career is about to take front seat next to my daughter, of course.

Does that leave room for marriage? The horse and carriage? Am I becoming one of those progressive, feminist that neglects the home for the advancement of her career, or so the story goes? No. I’m improving myself for my childs future. 

The Creative Struggle

By Jenna

I live a good life. I have a wonderful husband and two fantastic children. We live in a one bedroom apartment with our dog and cat. My husband has a good job and I am a full time student. That last part is what makes our lives a little more difficult. Being a full time student and a mom has put me in a position where I need to be a stay home mom instead of working mom. Though the trials that led me to this position were less than friendly, I am almost done with school and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The hardest part of being a stay home mom isn’t taking care of the children constantly, it’s the struggle to keep our head above water.

 

In 2014, my daughter was born. I had a good job working in hospice as a team coordinator. Right as I was asking to go back to work from a set maternity leave, not paid for by the company since they only would allow me to work per diem, the company advised me they were looking to downsize. Guess what that meant. The person who worked nearly 40 hours a week on per diem and had just had a baby was now the most expendable person in the company. My boss had refused to give me a termination notice for fear that I would take legal measures. I had begged her at least to write a letter for my apartment so I could get out of my lease. Without a job, we couldn’t afford my previous apartment. My boss refused and instead wrote a letter saying it was my decision to be a stay home mother instead of work. I cried because her lies and fears were controlling her actions to make my life harder than it was already.

 

I did not sue the company for wronging me. I did not have enough funds to hire a lawyer and I knew my heart couldn’t handle a new baby, searching for a job that would pay me enough, and a lawsuit. It simply wasn’t worth the misery I would have experienced. Instead, I went back to school. It was a long term goal of mine to have my BA in History. I chose history because I am passionate about history. I have one more year of school and I want to share how my little family of four survived this far on a single income in Orange County California.

 

When I started school, about 2 years ago, I was working a part time job making calls for a company, but wasn’t even making grocery money. This, plus my husband’s $20 an hour income was just enough to get us through my first year with our first newborn. Part way through the first year, we had to get creative with our finances because there was another baby on the way. We already had school debt from both my previous semester out of state, my husband’s education, and credit card debt from a vacation or two. Coupled with paying for my both of my children’s home water birth, we have been strapped tight with debt.

 

The first thing my husband started doing to help us is begin consolidating our debt. We were able to take out a bit extra in the student loans to cover some of our credit card debt and our children’s births. The student loans were at lower interest rates, and it allows me to postpone paying of that debt until I’m more financially stable. We have decided to stay in a one bedroom since we have that flexibility. We are in a downstairs unit with a backyard so we are as comfortable as we can afford for the short run.

 

As the years ticked by (I say that, but only 3 have passed), I was able to find cheaper groceries at stores like Aldi, how to make meals, where to find cheap and used baby clothes, and my husband was able to secure a bit of a raise. Even through all of this, he still had to get a second job. That is what being an adult is about though, I guess. Doing what you need to do, even though it isn’t fun or easy.

 

What’s the smartest animal? A fish because they stay in schools! Our visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific

By Leigh

IMG_9559Happy summer to all of our followers in the northern hemisphere! If you live in California, you are aware of the current “heat wave” which is just typical summer weather. To fight the hot and stickys, Jenna and I took a trip to the Aquarium of the Pacific with our children this past Saturday. As a child, I loved going to the Aquarium! All of the sea life and fun facts always aroused my little mind. Now that is a joy that I would like to share with my baby.

IMG_9486.JPGThe first thing that caught my attention was the massive reconstruction project. They are remodeling the front portion of the aquarium, unfortunately. The construction took away from the amazing structure but luckily it is temporary. The second ‘Woah’ was the entrance fee. For adult, child(3-17), and senior respectively, the prices were $29.95,$17.95,$26.95. I was not expecting those prices at all! But for a experience with my daughter, I’ll bite bullet.

IMG_9490.JPGThe first stop that we made was lunch! We stopped in to the Scuba Cafe to see what they had to offer. The menus was fantastic; not too complicated and just the right amount of items. I tried the fish & chips. Definitely try the fish & chips! The kids options were tasty as well.

IMG_9497.JPGAfter lunch, we headed to the exhibits. Jenna was our tour guide for the day. We were lucky to catch the end of the scuba diver show in the large tank in the main hall. It’s not very accessible for us stroller baring parents but there is a nice parking area for strollers on the first level if you are willing to live on the wild side.

IMG_9523.JPGThe new Frogs exhibit was nice for the 8 and up crowd. The exhibit hosts a large number of frogs, many too small for our toddlers to see. Our favorite exhibits were the Shark and Jellyfish, for obvious reasons. The kids loved being able to touch animals! 

Before you leave, don’t forget to validate your parking! It will save you so much money with the parking structure

Aquarium of the Pacific: A Member’s Perspective

By Jenna

Birthdays have always been a bit of a let down for me. This past year, I knew exactly what I wanted; a gift that keeps giving. I wanted a membership to the Aquarium of the Pacific so I could visit throughout the year. Our children are still under three, so we were able to get the dual membership, which is two adults for $110 a year. It has only been 6 months and I have already gone enough times to make it well worth the money!

IMG_9517.JPGThis weekend, me and the kiddos got to take an adventure with Leigh and her lovely family! Parking wasn’t as hard as I expected. Since there are constantly people coming in and going out, there were parking spots available while driving around the structure. I felt confident in passing a few spots further away for a spot closer to the elevator. Once Leah and her SO got to my truck, we let the other adults in our party care for our littles while we took a quick toke!

While Leigh got her tickets, I went through the Member’s entrance. Since I have been to the Aquarium of the Pacific a few times this year already, I was able to map out all the exhibits and stops we wanted. I did manage to get us lost once though, but I covered it up with a restroom break. We ate a quick, but delicious, meal at the Scuba Cafe before heading to the Sea Lions. We also got to touch the sharks and moon jellyfish! We explored the tropical climate aquatic life including the Frogs exhibit! I couldn’t leave without watching the sea otters cuddle and play though!

IMG_9588.JPGOn our way out we got our ticket validated so we only paid the $8 fee instead of the higher rate the structure offers. The kids ran around and admired all there was to see. I was surprised when my youngest showed so much more interest than my older had shown at the same age. We had a fun filled day, and I can’t wait to get out to the Aquarium of the Pacific again! Since I am a member, my visits can be as often as my kids can enjoy!

July 3rd, My Independence Day

While America is celebrating it’s 241st birthday, I’m celebrating my 2nd. July 3, 2015 was the day of my rebirth. My second coming. That is the day that I became a mom. As a person that vowed to never have children, I’m so much happier as a parent. Sometimes life gives you blessings, wrapped in tragedy.

I found out that I was pregnant at 27 weeks. How the hell did I make it 27 weeks without knowing that I was pregnant?!

Let me answer all of the FAQ:

Was I on birth control? Yes. I used the birth control patch faithfully.

What about missed periods? There were not missed periods. I had my normal menstrual cycle until I removed the patch.

Did you not have morning sickness? Uh no. I medicate daily so I never experienced any of the nausea, vomiting, etc. that comes with pregnancy.

Don’t worry. There is only a 1% chance of this happening to you. I was that 1%. For the first and only time in my life I was in the 1%. Yay me! The only symptom that I had was weight gain. I attributed this to my love for a good joint and munchies. My SO and I were in the gym as much as my new found plus sized body would allow. I went as far as taking laxatives because I was constipated, explaining the extra belly weight.

I don’t know how far I would have made it had I not woke up wet in the middle of the night. I thought that I had pee’d myself, so I rushed to the bathroom. As I removed my bottoms I smelled semen. Ladies, you know that smell. The liquid that was dripping from me smelled like semen, with a consistency more slippery than water. No matter that I did, I could not get the dripping to stop. I thought that my bladder was malfunctioning so I pushed with all my might, forcing a stream of water out. The dripping continued. I put on a pad and went back to bed.

The next morning I made a appointment with my gynecologist. There weren’t any appointments until Friday and it was Monday. By Wednesday, I knew something wasn’t right. I was going through about 12 pads per day. My best friend had done research on the mysterious fluid but kept coming back with amniotic fluid. How could it be amniotic fluid?

“You are most definitely pregnant. Let’s check the babies heart beat…”

As my gynecologist stepped out of the room to retrieve his utensil, my brain completely stopped. PREGNANT?! I’m planning a trip to Las Vegas in a few months, how can I be pregnant?! It was too farfetched for me to comprehend until I heard the strong heart beat coming from my uterus. Woah.

“Not sure of how far along you are but if the measurements are correct, you are about 27 weeks. I’m going to send you to a specialist since you are having this leaking.”

That was not what I wanted to hear AT ALL. I remember driving home, crying to my best friend over the Bluetooth, telling her how my life was over. There was a part of me that was excited but mostly I was shocked and scared. My SO is seven years older than me but I felt that he too was not ready for a baby; how wrong I was. He was beyond elated! His entire family was ecstatic. That’s when I remembered, my mom and dad.

Even though I was 24 years old, I was terrified to tell my parents. They noticed that I’d gained a lot of weight but thought I was just over eating. My dad questioned me about being pregnant on separate occasions but I never took it seriously.

I met with the specialist 4 days after finding out that I was pregnant. My SO and mother-in-law went to the appointment with me. It was so nerve wrecking watching the doctor take measurements of my baby on a ultrasound. This would give me the actual factuals. Was the baby healthy? How far along am I? Is it a boy or girl? The doctor finished the exam after 20 minutes of clicking buttons and turning knobs.

“Let’s start with the easy part: it’s a girl. You are 27 weeks and 5 days. However, you have a hole in your amniotic sack so your amniotic fluid is very low. The good thing is you are holding some fluid and as long as the baby is still making it everything is fine. But we have to admit you to the hospital.”

“Admit me? Can I go home first?”

“If you don’t go straight to the hospital from here, you must sign a waiver stating if anything happens to you or the baby we are not responsible.”

This was serious. We immediately drove to Cedars Sinai to admit me to labor and delivery. It didn’t click that I would be staying until that evening. The head nurse came to explain our plan for the next 7 weeks. Ideally, our little bundle of joy needed to make it in the womb at least 35 weeks. BUT should she come early, we were hoping it would be after 30 weeks. At 30 weeks, the brain is fully developed which is vital.

The days went by slow. Sitting in a hospital bed, watching hospital T.V, eating hospital food, isn’t as glamourous as it seems. Besides the nurses coming to put me on a fetal monitor every three hours, it was quiet. My naps were frequent and long. It wasn’t until around 7pm, after a long days work, that my SO would show up to stay the evening with me. This was our routine.

My first night I started having terrible back spasms. When I was 10, I broke my tailbone. Those hospital beds are not for people with back injuries. It got so bad that they had to give me Norco (pills that are stronger than Vicodin) twice!

On July 1st, my back spasms were particularly bad. I found myself pacing at 2am because the spasms kept me from laying in bed more than a few seconds.  The next morning, my doctor gave the green light for me to have Norco for the second time. It made me feel like crap. I just wanted to curl up into a ball. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I was MISERABLE. Suddenly a wave of nausea swept over me, causing me to jump from bed and rush to the bath room. I squatted and strained against my the toilet as my stomach heaved, empty. When I stood up, there was a huge pool of amniotic fluid on the floor. I was constantly leaking so I assumed this was okay.

I crawled back into bed just as the nurse entered.

“You don’t look like yourself. How are you feeling?”

“I think the Norco made me sick. I’ll feel better once my boyfriend gets here.”

It was Wednesday so we were planning to watch the Fox tv show Wayward Pines. The baby had other plans. Around 9pm, as the show was starting, I couldn’t take it anymore. The pain was at a 10. I thought that maybe it was because I was constipated from all of the prenatal vitamins.

“I’m going to try to poop. Maybe my back will feel better.” I scuffled to the bathroom.

As soon as I sat on the toilet and pulled my hospital issued mesh undies down, blood streamed into the toilet. There was blood everywhere.

I could hear my obstetrician, “If you see blood, tell the nurses. You are going into labor.” I was going into labor. I took a deep breath before reentering the room.

“Babe, get the nurse. I think I’m going into labor.”

“DON’T SAY THAT! WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT?!”

“BECAUSE I’M FULL OF BLOOD! LOOK!” I lifted my hospital gown to reveal the horror scene underneath. He didn’t say much of anything after that. Just rushed to get the nurses who immediately came to examine me.

“You are most definitely in labor….3cm dilated.”

As I was wheeled out of the room, I looked up at the board where we would count the weeks and days. 29 weeks, 5 days. Missed 30 weeks by 2 days. You’re killing me smalls!

Seven hours and 20 minutes later I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl; all 2 lbs 15oz of her.

This changed my life forever. I found a new appreciation for life as I entered a new chapter of my own: Premie Mom. Spending 46 days in the NICU was the hardest time of my life. Never knowing if my child would be okay from one day to the next. Waiting on brain scan results. Learning to breastfeed. At the end of my experience I was a new woman and mom.

 

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