Life Lessons: Before We Can Get Back Up

I added “Blogging” on my Apple Watch app for building habits to get myself back on track. I’m currently on vacation (and promise to share more when I have 5 minutes to breathe!) but for now I wanted to share with you my latest parenting essay on Ravishly. (Feel free to check out my writing portfolio and subscribe for updates when I post links to new published work, too!)

I submitted this one when it was still warm enough outside for capri jeans and converse without socks, so it’s always strangely awesome to me when a piece finally publishes…and it’s exactly something I need to be reminded of, at exactly the right time.

I’d love to hear your thoughts or for you to share the link with a friend who you think might need to be reminded of the same message in this essay - Life knocks us down, day in and day out. How we handle to fall, and our ability to pick ourselves back up after each one, make all the difference in the world.

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Image source: Ravishly.com

Climbing Out of the Darkness

I used to feel shame. Now, I just know that I am being brave.

Just like the thousands of other mothers across the country who are participating in this year's PostPartum Progress Climb Out of the Darkness walk on June 18. I'll be climbing with my dear friend, Susan Petcher, in Boston. Eliana will be coming with me. I couldn't be more excited.

Only recently, and thanks to Susan's gentle prodding, I shared my own experience with postpartum depression. Not on my blog, I think, because I needed to share it elsewhere first, but I did share. Baby steps. Shaky, tentative baby steps. This is a big thing, this self-identifying as a survivor of postpartum depression. In a world where so many shy away from labels not already attached to jam jars, stepping up and saying I EXPERIENCED THIS...it's a big thing. It's a brave thing. 

I'm being brave. I know that now. So many mothers before me are leading the way. Postpartum Progress founder, Kathryn Stone, is leading the way. I'm grateful for this.

The thing about mental illness is that so many of us say that there is no shame...but there is. There shouldn't be...but there is. I'm no less a mother now than I was before sharing my experience. But it's almost easier for me to say these words now than it was for me to push for help when Eliana was a tiny baby and I sat up nights crying, convinced that the only safe place to break down was in the dark. I wish I had been braver, stronger...but it is what it is and I focus on today and the power of a community of warrior moms advocating for awareness, education, and services. 

I'm working with a therapist. Things aren't exactly roses right now inside of my head. ADHD, depression, anxiety...it's all still a very real part of my reality. So much so, in fact, that I'm now on crunch time to raise funds for the climb! I'll be back tomorrow with an update and a few items in my etsy shop that I am posting specifically to raise funds for my team, but for now, here's the link to my crowdrise page.  

How will your donation help? 

  • $10 helps Postpartum Progress keep current (and continue to grow) our referral list of more than 400 specialist providers in maternal mental health.
  • $20 Provides one set of free patient education materials, including Hugs Cards and our New Mom Checklist for Maternal Mental Health Help, to a clinician or other provider who serves pregnant and new moms.
  • http://postpartumprogress.org/tools/awareness-materials-order-form/
  • $30 Provides an entire year of support via the Postpartum Progress Private Forum to a mother who otherwise has no access to support groups
  • $50 Provides one mother with Daily Hope. Postpartum Progress’ daily email service created to provide messages of support and encouragement for moms with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, for a full year. 
  • $150 Provides a culturally relevant, medically correct translation of our patient education and support materials into another language. 
  • $200 Provides for one week of our award-winning educational website PostpartumProgress.com, reaching a minimum of 30,00 page views.

A little goes a long way and more goes even farther. Every step of the way, you are making a difference for a mother in need of services.

My name is Pauline Campos, and I am a survivor or postpartum depression. 

No shame in that. Not anymore. 

 

Because Your Mama's Worth a Buck

At least, I would assume she is. I know I am. I even asked The Husband I was worth a buck and after his face stopped contorting itself into inexplicably pained expressions, he totally gave me the thumbs up.

I figure that means he was too overcome with emotion to say the actual words, but awkward silences and dirty jokes are our love language, so I am confident in telling you that his thumbs up meant "Yes, my love, I would certainly buy you your book for 99 cents on Amazon as it is currently on sale through May 9 for 99 cents if your book was not, in fact, your book." And then he would pause, look into my eyes lovingly while trying not to laugh, and say "You are totally worth a buck. I'd give you a buck all day long."

Isn't he romantic? This is exactly why I said yes to becoming Mrs. The Husband fourteen years ago. He's a keeper, this guy.

To celebrate Mother's Day and the BabyFat sale, I'm going to have a little fun. I have a 24-hour giveaway on Amazon for ten winners to get a kindle copy of my book. No purchase is necessary, but you can't win the book if you already own it. (I might even run another contest before the sale is over just for fun!) 

How else can you be amazing and support me and this crazy writing dream?

If  you just wanna be awesome and help me claw my way to a spot on the Amazon bestseller list, you are more than welcome to gift Babyfat to everybody you have an email address for. Your mother-in-law, wife, girlfriend, sister, best friend forever, and that mom you made eye contact with at the last PTA meeting would be very grateful for your consideration and very impressed with your taste in books. Because really, BabyFat is like six degrees of separation from Neil Gaiman because Jenny Lawson blurbed the book and I tweeted Neil asking if I could send him and his wife, Amanda Palmer, a copy of BabyFat and he actually wrote back and said yes and...

Wait. That's only three degrees and now possibly a PPO, so it's probably a good thing I screen-shot that tweet so I have something to hold on to. Did I have a point here? Oh yes...BabyFat is on sale, I want to know how many mamas you know that you think are worth a buck, and I love you. 

Don't forget to enter that contest

The end. 

One of my favorite features in the book is that each chapter starts with a social media update from friends and followers. 

One of my favorite features in the book is that each chapter starts with a social media update from friends and followers. 

Have Kindle: Will Sign

Did you know that Babyfat for Kindle is still on sale for only 99 cents on Amazon? Or that if you buy the kindle copy, that you can then sign up for a free account on Authorgraph and request my signature? Of course, if you bought BabyFat for kindle already, I can sign that, too. This doesn't just apply to new purchases, y'all. 

That's right, people...I CAN E-SIGN YOUR E-BOOK BECAUSE TECHNOLOGY IS FUCKING AWESOME. 

Observe:

I've been meaning to write about this for months, but we all know that I'm nothing if not always behind myself on getting the To-Do list done, so technically I'm pretty much right on time. 

Before I go, I've got a contest for you. I'm giving away one signed paperback to one lucky reader. All you have to do is follow me on twitter and RT this update: 

One winner will be randomly selected and notified on twitter at the close of the giveaway. Good luck! 

Servin' Up a Sample: BabyFat Excerpt, Chapter Two

Yes, I know the book launched in October of 2015. I'm also Mexican and have ADHD so, by my calculations, I'm showing up for this party right on time.

You're Welcome. 

I've been asked a few times where readers can find an easily accessible book excerpt from BabyFat: Adventures in Motherhood, Muffin Tops, & Trying to Stay Sane, so I figured the easiest place to make that happen was right on the blog. I'm sharing chapter two with you, Internet. Click here for the Amazon link if you like what you read enough to buy the book! 

Cover design by Michelle Fairbanks. Find her on twitter at @freshdesign_BC

Cover design by Michelle Fairbanks. Find her on twitter at @freshdesign_BC


Chapter 2: Gimme an F! Gimme a U!


@FreshDesign_BC: Just fished a towel out of the toilet and had to tell toddler to stop licking the walls. Seriously.


July 28 

Ever have one of those days that starts out with unicorns and rainbows and then somehow magically warps itself into someone pissing in your Cheerios? 

While youre trying to eat them?

For me, that’s today. Mom, Pati, and I decided last night to skip Eliana’s gymnastics class for once and venture into town for our first look at the Tucson Mall. The Husband and I moved here from the East Coast in March for his new job. Because my father passed away just a few weeks before my thirtieth birthday, Mom joined us on our move cross-country. It’s all part of a deal my father struck with The Husband that said we’d look after her after he died. Pati must have stowed away in my mother’s suitcase because she wasn’t supposed to be part of the deal. 

Pati showed up six months after my mother. I’m sure it had to do with Pati needing to be near my mother after losing our dad. She’s the baby of the family, so I bitched and moaned about Eliana losing her playroom and then drove to the airport to pick her up. 

Anyway, the plan had been to be out of the house by 9:15 a.m. to arrive at the mall by 10 o’clock. With a forty-five minute drive to sales and civilization, I wanted to make sure we got the biggest bang for our buck when it came to gas and mileage by spending the whole day there. We all figured we’d be fine since Eliana’s woken up at the crack of dawn since we moved here thanks to her internal clock still being stuck on Eastern Time. Good for me since having my mother and sister in the house makes it so easy to revert to family habits like sleeping in until noon. So I didn’t bother setting an alarm.

That was my first mistake.

I’m cocooned in bed, still thanking God and all of creation for my all-weather Ikea quilt. It might be 100 degrees, but I have an innate desire to be wrapped up in all things snuggly. If Ikea didn’t exist, I’d be sweating my ass off with one leg hanging off the bed for ventilation like The Husband does. 

I can hear Eliana laughing and talking in the kitchen with my mother, who graciously takes the morning shift so I can recover from my vampire-friendly writing routine. Figuring I’m two hours ahead of schedule, I roll back over and pass out for a few more precious moments of sleep. Staying up until 4 a.m. has earned me the right to more than three hours of sleep, and I’m estimating it’s about 6 a.m. I’ve got time to kill, right? 

My cell phone vibrates loud enough to shake me out of my haze and I reach for it, still groggy, to Tweet whoever it was that tagged me. It isn’t until I’m already bending over the sink to wash my face and hastily yanking on a pair of Lane Bryant crops that I realize it’s already ten minutes later than we had planned on leaving. 

Shit! 

I barrel downstairs, fully dressed and expecting my mother to be ready with diaper bag in hand, Eliana dressed, and choosing the “baby” she wants to bring (baby Elmo almost always wins) with Pati cranking the air on the minivan so we don’t melt en route to the mall. 

“Mama!” squeals out my fuzzy-haired, diaper-clad Eliana as I run into the kitchen. “I LOVE you!” She emphasizes the word “love” like Elmo does in the theme song to his own show. 

My mother, still in her pajamas, laughs at Eliana’s reaction.

“What’s so funny?” asks Pati. She is still sporting the bra-less PJ look that tells me we are not getting out of the house any time soon. 

“Funny!” Eliana repeats with a mouthful of waffle. 

“Nothing is funny, baby girl. We’re running late, so let’s get moving,” I say, hurriedly calculating my breakfast points and shoveling three-fourths of a cup of Chex into my mouth while Pati runs upstairs to get dressed in the ten-minute window I’ve just allotted her. Drill sergeant-ish? Perhaps. But I know my family. Either I light a fire under their asses now (and keep myself focused in the process) or we won’t be leaving until well past lunch. 

“Aren’t you coming?” I ask my mother, who has made no move to change out of her pajamas. 

“You guys go ahead,” she says. “It’s too hot to leave the dogs outside and I don’t want to crate them all day.” She nods at the couch where our dogs, Finnigan, a border terrier mix, Catherine (Cat) the Great, a Rottweiler, and Francis, our street mutt, are all lounging. The first two are mine. Francis belongs to my mother.

“Damn it!” I hiss when I stub my toe on a chair in my rush to stock the diaper bag full of cloth diapers, wipes, a spare outfit, and a snack. Pati rushes back down and follows me out to the minivan, her desire to shop clearly stronger than the desire to spend forty-five minutes running up my water bill while showering.

“Damn it!” Eliana is on a roll. She does a killer parrot impersonation and keeps the show going while I strap her into her car seat and head out of our subdivision. I don’t mean to brag, but this little girl has always been pretty far ahead of the game when it comes to verbal skills. This is great when at pediatric well checks. Not so great when you happen to have a penchant for dropping more “f-bombs” in conversations than most convicted felons. 

Finally, we are on the freeway heading for civilization.

I’m still pissy from running late, so Pati shifts her attention between her iPod and answering Eliana’s occasional questions about why the airplanes in the sky are going back to their families or where the caballo-horsies are. My Spanish skills call me out as a hyphenated American to the family members who are on permanent visas (and any Mexican with a regional accent), but I’ve been trying to teach some of what I remember to Eliana. The result is usually an adorable mix of baby-voiced Spanglish. 

I concentrate on staying calm while navigating one-lane roads behind a long line of drivers content to coast along ten miles under the posted speed limit. Let me just put this out there: I’m from Detroit. Motown and Big Beaver, exit 69, baby. Seventy-five means eighty and stay the hell out of the left lane if you weren’t prepared to drive like a maniac. Needless to say, it’s been a little difficult adjusting to driving down here in the land of desert and tumbleweed. Then again, my sisters like to say that riding shotgun with Mama Leadfoot and her potty mouth has always been a fantastic form of free entertainment. 

“We’re almost there,” I finally announce, after checking the GPS. Thank God. I need some real food and I can’t wait to…

Dammit!” 

My sister is too busy focusing on my barely contained rage to stop and laugh at the chipmunk-voiced profanities being repeated from the car seat as I continue to throw them out. “What’s wrong? Are we out of gas or something?”

“I wish,” I sigh, pulling into the very same emergency vet clinic I was at two days before with an injured poodle I found wandering my subdivision. This was the last destination I’d entered into my GPS, of course. In my haste this morning I hadn’t thought to enter the address of the mall. Angrily chewing on a baby carrot (zero points!), I Google map the Tucson Mall on my iPhone. The last forty-five minutes have been a total waste of time and gas and my perfectly laid plans for a long and relaxing day strolling the air-conditioned mall are continuing to blow up in my face. I silently thank God The Husband wasn’t with us. He’d be the first person to point out that I and my crazy self like to make my own life more difficult by rushing everything and then ending up surprised when I find I’ve done something stupid.

I consider turning around and going home. I’m tired, cranky, and need to eat. Carrot sticks and cucumber slices only work for so long. But I promised Eliana a surprise and staring at the flashing “Open” sign in the veterinarian’s window from her car seat doesn’t quite cut it. I hastily plug the correct address into the GPS and breathe a sigh of relief. We’re just twenty minutes away. 

Thankfully, Eliana’s a pretty patient kid. I reach back with one of those snack trap cups filled with dried cereal to tide her over and head back onto the road. I’ve got a sea of pizza and Chinese takeout to navigate in that food court just to get to my low-point cold-cut sub. 


***


Poundage Peepers Journal

Subway six-inch turkey and ham with cheese and veggies: six points

Baked Lays, one bag: two points

Diet Coke: zero points


***


Awesome. I survive the mall with its giant and soft pretzels, with only an eight-point dent in my daily allotment. My wallet? Yeah, that took a hit. 


***


Maybe for you it’s balancing kids and a job or rocking the Soccer Mom thing. Or maybe after grocery shopping and getting the kids from school and making a dinner they won’t eat because the crusts aren’t cut off, you move the clocks up an hour without telling them and sit down with a glass of wine after the house is quiet instead of digging the elliptical out from under the pile of winter jackets. Maybe then you channel your inner Orphan Annie and focus on the fact that the sun will come out tomorrow and then you can try again. 

Maybe it’s that. Or maybe it’s my hypoactive thyroid or my insulin resistance or my PCOS, which I like to refer to as The Trifecta of Excuses for a Fat Ass. I’m one of the lucky ones who can claim a reason for my muffin top. It might be easier to blame the doctors who have, for the most part, left me on my own to figure out what works and what doesn’t. After all, they like to say things like “eat less, exercise more” while throwing prescriptions at me as they move on to their next patient, leaving me to run back to Dr. Google to research diets and lifestyle changes and fix myself. 

But now that I’m finally back on the right medications and working on my diet, I’m finally realizing a very important distinction: My medical conditions are just medical conditions. They are not reasons to stay fat. And under no circumstances are they ever to become reasons to stop trying to lose weight

That, my friends, is where I screwed the pooch. I let my body become its own excuse. 

Why bother when nothing I do seems to work, right? 

“You’re so lucky,” I’d gush to new mom friends who were trim and fit and rockin’ their MILF status like a shiny new engagement ring. “I wish I could have lost just a few pounds! And here you’ve already lost it all and then some!”

They’d smile brightly (but not too brightly so as to not hurt my feelings), always rushing to make me feel better with a, “Yeah, but look how good you look considering…”

Considering. The Trifecta of Excuses implied but not named. 

So consider I did. Eventually I considered myself lucky to only have gained the weight that I did. Then I considered myself resigned to my fate. I began to consider eating peanut butter from the jar with chocolate chips sprinkled across the top as a pick-me-up snack. Then I woke up one morning feeling like crap and wishing I could feel as good as I did before I started considering, so I decided to do something about it.

That’s when I joined Poundage Peepers.


July 31

The Husband is thirty-six today and I’m having fun reminding him that I was just a little eighth-grader when he was walking across the stage to receive his high school diploma. He counters by reminding me that he is regularly confused for a twenty-something while the last time I got carded was before I became a Mrs.

His eyes disappear into a smile.

So far, everything is going great. We have a small group of friends over and our shindig consists of good food and plenty of booze. I’m enjoying the fruit plate I prepared for myself and doing a mental tally of the points I’ve saved up for this very splurge. 

Thanks to some very careful working of the system with plenty of veggies and fruit that barely put a dent in my daily points allotment, I can have a few more glasses of wine before I even have to worry. 

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Eliana blinks up at me, her fork poised over the plate. She’s waiting for the signal to strike. “Now, Mama?” She looks hopeful. 

“Now,” I say, kissing her face before it’s covered in frosting.

“Birthday cake!” she squeals, her brown eyes crinkling in a smile just like her dad’s, and dives in with the delightfully carefree outlook of a child unaware of the complexities that come with fat grams, cellulite, or calories in versus calories out. I’m jealous, but plan to make sure cake remains a magical part of her childhood—like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy—for as long as I can.

I’m proud of myself, considering I chose a really bad week to jump on the weight-loss bandwagon. First we had the mall food court full of Bad Food the day after our first meeting. I even behaved at The Husband’s birthday dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack last night. It was his suggestion, and I promised him naughty things for choosing a place where I could truly enjoy myself. Shellfish is my favorite food group in the whole world, and minus the butter you can eat a shitload of the stuff without breaking the calorie bank. 

“It’s good stuff, isn’t it?” a little girl asked me from the next table, her mouth formed into a silent “O” as she watched me suck a crab leg dry with all the gusto of a porn star wannabe. Jenna Jameson, eat your heart out.

“Yes, thank you,” I said indignantly as I cracked into another leg, stopping only to gobble up a shrimp. I’m not sure if she was amused or horrified, so I smiled and took a breather. Her mother told her to stop staring and I can bet I was the topic of conversation on the way home. 

But I can’t help it. Ever since I was a kid and made trips to Red Lobster for shrimp cocktail and raw oysters on my birthday, seafood has been the ultimate escape for me. Normally I behave with a bit more decorum, but I had starved myself all day to allow for a nice splurge with some wine and baked potato. All bets are off and I was attacking those crab legs like a death row inmate enjoying her last meal.

“If this had been our first date,” The Husband said fighting laughter, “you do understand that I probably would not have called you for a second, right?” 

I shot him a death glare as I finished up. 

“Oh fuck off, sweetie. I love you, too.” 


***


August 2

While there are a few lucky ones, most of us are still not fitting into our pre-pregnancy jeans anytime before the baby’s first birthday. More likely, we are leaving the maternity ward looking like we still belong there. 

“When are you due?” ask kind strangers as they reach for our still swollen bellies. Maybe our children are with Daddy, or perhaps we have left them with the sitter for some much-needed “me” time. Either way, there is no outward evidence to match up with the baby belly we’re sporting. We raise an eyebrow, defensive. Where the hell does this asshole get off? 

“I’m not pregnant,” we respond stiffly. “In fact, I gave birth six months ago.”

Or maybe it was six years. In any case, our bodies were irrevocably changed the moment we crossed into the second trimester and there really was no turning back. The world no longer revolves around us. Our needs are not foremost in our minds. The role of mother (what baby/toddler/child/teenager needs) now comes first. Who has time to devote to a regular workout schedule when trying to juggle diaper changes, playdates, laundry, soccer games, parent/teacher conferences, and that precious little thing called sanity? 

But, well, there are those who are living proof that balancing Motherhood and Self—while only slightly easier than impossible—can be done. And to be perfectly blunt, I think it needs to be done, or we chance losing ourselves to the motherhood role. I’m not saying to let the kids go feral and start roaming the neighborhood in packs just so Mommy can get a few precious moments to herself, but it is necessary to refocus our lives to keep ourselves somewhere at the top of our own priority lists. Because if we lose ourselves in the effort to be all that we can be to our kids, what are we really giving them? 

So it’s time to get busy and find my body; the one I lost when I pushed a baby out and let myself go to hell. Just let me change this diaper first.

Pass the Boxed Wine, Please: Moments in Parenting

I deserve a cookie. Or wine. 

Okay, forget the cookie. My friend Issa told me that a glass of red wine is now proven to be as effective as an hour at the gym, so... fuck the cookie. I deserve to put on a pair of yoga pants, crack open a new box of wine, and sit my classy ass on the couch with my new favorite work out. That's what you do when you make it, straight-faced, through the following conversations with my offspring.

Conversation Numero Uno:

Me: (on the way to church): Dammit! I forgot to put on my rings. 

Her: Your marriage rings, mama?

Me: Yes. I left them sitting on my nightstand. I'm not turning around though. Oh well.

Her: Well, it's okay. If someone asks you today while we are out, just tell them you're not available. 

Me: I'm sorry...WHUT?

Her: You know, if someone asks you to marry them today, just kindly tell them that you are already engaged and married and you left your rings at home. But thank them for asking you because it's nice of them to ask.

 

Conversation Number Dos

We are sitting in church for Sunday mass. We happen to be sitting front and center because of course that is where we would be sitting on a day like today. Father's homily is about the visitation of Mary to her cousin, while they were both pregnant with Jesus and John the Baptist, respectively. 

(Note to self: Tell the Husband when we get home how I just know my dad would be laughing his ass off if I could call him right now to ask him if John started calling Jesus Chui when they were both babies.)

Father: Blah Blah Important Religious Message Blah Blah Blah and so a child was to be born of Mary, a peasant girl who had not had relations with a man; the miracle of a child born of a virgin.

Congregation: (Reverent silence)

My kid: WHAT'S A VIRGIN!?!!?!?

Me: (Choking)

Father: (Eyebrow twitches)

Congregation: (Reverent Silence is broken by muffled snickering)

Friend sitting one pew behind us: PEASANT. It means Mary was a peasant!

Me: (No words. It's not possible to speak when your face is contorted from the physical pain resulting in trying to not burst out in hysterical laughter.)

 

Cinderella: The Dust Destroyer

I'm sitting in my room at the Drury Inn & Suites in Columbus Ohio, taking a short break from repacking to blog. #NaBloPoMo is A Thing, and I'm trying like bloody hell to make this Thing happen, so that means blogging is back on the priority list...like it used to be when Twitter was for Actual Conversation and Feminist still was confused as a proper noun defined by the average person as One Who Burns Bras and Hates Men. 

You know, the good ol' days. 

Tomorrow marks the end for the second annual #365FeministSelfie #SelfieCon - my first, even though I've been an on-again, off-again participant in the ongoing photo project. And I've enjoyed myself immensely. I have words to share, stories to tell, and photos for the visual eye-candy we all like to see with the narratives we lose ourselves in, but my brain is fried, so the good stuff waits for after I get home and sleep for 30 ba-jillion hours while recovering from travel. But blog I must and blog I shall, so I'll share a little story about the little girl that inspires me daily to be and give the best of myself to and for myself and those I love. She's impressed the hell out of my newly adopted #365feministselfie family, and reminded me once again how incredibly lucky I am to be able to share these life experiences with her by my side. 

This is what happens when you tell her it's time for chores.

The fashion bandana she reserves for these occasions is a must.

The skater dress Not Bought On Clearance becomes her apron.

Cue cards are too cumbersome so she becomes both Star of the Show and Prompter...

..."and now you're re evil step-Mother and step-father"

and

"What am I supposed to do now?"

and

"No, mom, you have to tell me to vacuum more evily, because that was too nice. I'm not buying it"

and

"Are my wicked stepsisters at the spa again while I'm stuck here cleaning?"

And

"Of course, Dear Child, for we must stick to the story line, mustn't we?" 

It's all part of the dialogue. This is normal in our home and for this, I am grateful. 

And why not? Putting on your game face and becoming Cinderella the Dust Destroyer is the only way to clean.