Finding Gratitude Through Tough Times

“I don’t want to carry gratitude in seasons. I want to carry it in my bones. I want it to rest on my tongue like it is a language that I never stop speaking.” -Arielle Estoria

I saw this quote the other night and it really resonated with me, especially with the holidays just around the corner! Yes, Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to celebrate all of the blessings in your life, and yes we all know we are of course just as thankful throughout the remainder of the year, but do we really focus on that gratitude outside of the holiday season? A lot of us do not. And what about when life has been particularly hard to us? How can we focus on gratitude when we feel like life has been unfairly cruel?

Having a special needs child has completely changed the way I celebrate gratitude. Madison is a constant reminder to be thankful. When you have watched your child fight for their life, and when they are left with needs in which people can’t tell you what to expect or how long you’ll have with them, every single day with that child becomes a blessing you are immeasurably thankful for. Every moment with her is a reason to be thankful because I truly don’t know what her future holds.

And special needs or not, the day to day of motherhood is HARD. There is no question about that. In fact, for many women their journey to motherhood is HARD. It doesn’t come easy to everyone. And when you’re longing for a family of your own, the holidays can be tough to bare.

When in the moment each day seems so hard, it can be difficult to be thankful. There are days when I just curse this universe for what it’s done to Madison and my family. How can I feel thankful when the daughter I’ve waited for my whole life was stolen from me at just 11 days old? And sometimes I let myself feel that way. I let myself have days where I’m angry and sad and that’s ok, because I have every right to be. That’s right mamas, you can be thankful AND be sad! We can be grateful AND be angry. We can feel all of our feelings, as long as we don’t let ourselves get stuck in the sad ones.

I have a lot of hard days as a special needs mama, but then I remember how much sadder I would be had Madison not survived. I think of all of the incredibly strong superhero parents that I’ve seen lose their children far too soon, and I know that I’m lucky I have this time with her. So even though I don’t always like this special needs journey I’m on, there are still things to be thankful for. There are still things all of us can be thankful for, even through the darkest times when it may not feel true.

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Personally, I am thankful for my husband and his unconditional love and support. I could not get through life without him. I’m thankful for our family and friends who stand by us everyday, help us when we need, and simply check in on us to see how we’re doing. I’m thankful for the doctors, nurses, specialists, and therapists who saved Madison, who continue to make her care a priority, and who have helped her get to where she is today. I’m thankful for the other special needs mamas that I’ve connected with over the year. These mamas have helped me immensely in learning about new treatments or side effects, have given me stories of hope, and also been those I could vent to knowing I would not be judged because they are the only ones who truly know what I’m going through. It’s a tribe I never thought I’d be a part of, but I’m blessed to know so many incredibly strong women.

It’s important as mamas that we find our tribe and hold onto them. For some of us our community consists of family or friends. For others, a yoga class or coworkers. Hell, your community might be an online support group of women you don’t even know in person, it doesn’t matter! Let’s value those relationships ladies, and be thankful for the people in your life that make you smile and lift you up, even when you may not realize it.

Progress

Sometimes it’s hard to see how far Madison has actually come, but when I think back to last year I realize how much more fragile she was. It’s so easy to focus on the areas our children struggle, especially when your child’s developmental goals are things that come so easy to a healthy child, but we need to remember to celebrate the inchstones too. Any progress is better than no progress and is something to be thankful for. No matter what Madison is able to accomplish, you can bet I’ll be proud of her. We cannot compare our child’s accomplishments to another’s. Try not to stress on the missed milestones or areas your child is struggling. Take it from the mama of a medically complex babe, these things truly don’t matter! Celebrate their health. Celebrate the things they CAN do. Celebrate the fact that you have a child when so many women long to be mothers. Celebrate your child for exactly who they are and watch how much fuller your heart becomes.

Strength

Being on the special needs journey will mold you into a completely different person. I can’t tell you how many times people compliment me for my strength, but in all honesty, I have no other option but to be strong. Being an advocate for a medically complex child will make you more resilient, unafraid to speak your voice, smarter, more compassionate and understanding, and less judgmental. I have no time to worry about anything in life other than Madison and my family. Nothing else matters. And I’m thankful for this strength that has allowed me to think like that. It can be hard to be confident in our mothering abilities. We all wonder if we’re doing enough, even though most days it feels like we couldn’t possibly give any more. But trust me, you are enough. There is no one stronger than a mother. The days may be long and hard, but remember to be thankful for them; for they have made you the strong, badass woman you have become!

Resources

I’m also extremely thankful to have so many educational resources at my fingertips. With each diagnosis and with each failing medication, all I do is research what else I can do for Madison. What meds haven’t we tried that might work? What alternative treatments are available? What therapies have worked for others? I can’t imagine going through this journey in a country where the access to education and resources is limited. We’re lucky to be able to research and learn on our own and to have the ability to travel freely to esteemed medical professionals. Fertility struggles? Marriage problems? Addiction? The list goes on and on for the plethora of difficulties we might face, and yet there are so many resources available to help us through. Going through hard times can cloudy our want to be thankful, but it’s important to remember that we have resources to help pull us out, and that is a blessing in itself.

The Chaos

The pure chaos of motherhood may seem like something silly to be thankful for when it’s also the thing that drives us crazy, but trust me, it is. So your house is a mess? Be thankful to have a roof over your head. Be thankful your child is able to make that mess. It means they are learning and playing and figuring out this world, a joy that a mama of a disabled child, like me, would give anything for. So you’re juggling therapy and doctors appointments for your medically complex child? Be thankful you’re able to offer them care and opportunities to grow. So you’re balancing fertility appointments or childcare with work? Be thankful you have a job, a safe place to send your child, or the means to explore the wonderful advances science has to offer in helping you start or grow your family. The chaos, as exhausting as it might be, simply means we are living!

Let’s also remember that feeling grateful and being grateful are two different things. No one feels grateful for the bad things that happen to them, but despite those things, we can choose to BE grateful for the things we do have. Being forced into some really tough times has showed me not to take anything for granted, as I’ve seen firsthand how quickly life can change. When you learn that the things you love most can be taken away in an instant, you become immensely more thankful for them. My gratitude for the good times has also provided me hope and the will to keep going.

So as you sit with your loved ones this holiday season and reflect on how hard this year may have been, remember to instead focus on all that you DO have. There were moments and people and learnings and even your own bravery through these times, that you can and should be thankful for. Let us remember to be thankful every single day, and not just during the holidays. And above all, please be thankful for the health of yourself and your children. Not all mamas, like myself, are as lucky in that regard. Hold those babies close and I promise you, you’ll feel more reasons to be thankful than you ever imagined possible. Here’s to a wonderful holiday season mamas! We’ve got this!

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Kelly Backiel is a wife, and SAHM to her daughter, Madison. Madison was diagnosed with meningitis at 11 days old, leaving her with severe brain injuries and complications. Kelly blogs about her experiences as a special needs mom, and hopes to spread awareness and support to others in similar situations. She is a fan of the beach, and a nice glass of wine! Read more about her here!

Your Life Doesn’t Have to Be Over: 5 Ways To Reclaim Your Life After Baby

I hate to admit this, but I’m one of those girls who thought she had it all figured out BEFORE she had a baby of her own. I wasn’t so bad that I said my child would never use an iPad in public or would only eat organic food… I know better. But I thought I knew what life would be like—what I would be like once I became a mom. Spoiler alert: I had no idea.

 When we found out I was expecting, my husband and I talked about it and I decided I would quit my job and stay home with our son. I had wanted to be a stay at home mom for a while, and my husband was very supportive, so we figured out a way to make it work. Bryant was such an easy baby; Sleeping through the night at just one month old, really only crying when he was hungry or tired, and settling into his routine fairly quickly.

I on the other hand… did not adjust so well. I had zero routine. I was somewhere between going with the flow and getting run over. My husband would call me during his lunch break and ask what I had been doing, and sometimes my answer would be 100 things before 10:00AM! And other days, all I had done was watched Real Housewives and eaten a bowl of cereal.

I was constantly criticizing myself, feeling like a failure at the end of most days. Did I read Bryant enough books? Did he do tummy time for long enough? When was the last time I showered? What’s for dinner? I felt like the days were going by and Bryant was growing up, but what was I doing with my life? Was motherhood the only thing that defined me now? Did staying at home mean my life was truly over and all about Bryant?

I knew had to get some semblance of control back, but how would I do it? I decided I would set some non-negotiable “daily rules” now that I was staying at home. I do these things consistently, every single day, and I think it has made me feel so much more confident in my choice to stay home, so much happier as a mom and just makes me feel successful day in and day out!

1. Wash your face and brush your teeth.

I do this every morning before I get Bryant out of bed. In 20 years, your baby is not going to tell their therapist about all the times you didn’t go get them out of their crib the moment they woke up. He/she will survive you taking 3 minutes to practice a little personal hygiene.

It just makes me feel alive and awake and ready for the day ahead!

2. Get dressed.

I don’t mean get dressed up, by any means! If I’m being honest, sometimes I just change out of a pair of pajamas and into a pair of leggings! But some days I do put on a bra and a cute top. It just depends on what that day holds! But this is just a simple way I can feel like I accomplished something.

3. Set up a cleaning/laundry schedule.

This has saved me. I am a extremely distracted person, so having things planned out and written down is VERY helpful. At the beginning of this year I wrote out a cleaning schedule and stuck it on the fridge and it has been so helpful! Each day I clean one room in my house during Bryant’s naptime. For clarification, this isn’t a deep clean. I just do the basics: dust and vacuum and pick up clutter. But it helps! And it feels like I really got something done, and there’s usually still time to watch an episode of Law & Order before the baby wakes up!

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4. Meal Plan

I’m not big into meal prepping, but I ALWAYS meal plan. This is something that just makes me feel like I have a little bit of structure to lean on when the days are chaotic. I start at the beginning of each month and write down anything going on that month, and then plan meals week by week. That way I can see our schedule at a glance, and then plan supper around anything we have going on. I try and plan ahead for eating out and picking up fast food, too!

5. Journal

This is not something I did pre-baby, but I wish I had. I take time each day to write down something—anything! It doesn’t have to be a page full of your deepest hopes and dreams, but just what you’re feeling or what you have planned for the day. I usually do it in the morning, but doing it at night could be cool as a way to reflect on the day before you go to bed. I think journaling is just an easy way to feel connected to your life, especially when it feels monotonous.

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Of course, you don’t have to follow all of my “rules” – in fact, you don’t have to follow any of them! But when I felt like my life was spinning somewhat out of control, these are just some of the ways I found helpful to take back control. What about you? What “rules” have you set to make life run a little bit more smoothly day to day?

 


 

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Laura Beth Harpe is a wife and mother, living in small-town Georgia. She loves connecting with other mamas as they stumble through the new season of motherhood. She loves shopping and binging Bravo and Law and Order: SUV. Learn more about her here!

An Unexpected Journey : Teen Pregnancy

It was the November 2003. I was 15 years old, and had been dating him for a few months when I decided that I was going to have sex for the first time. Again I was 15, never really had a clue about monitoring periods, pregnancy etc. A little naive, if you will.

Fast forward to May 2004. I was getting ready for prom with my friends (after a pretty rough few months being in the middle of a custody battle between my parents) and I noticed the dress I had just bought a month before no longer fit like it did when I first bought it.

So did my mom.

I went off to prom, had a great time and finished up the weekend at home. The next Monday I went to school and received a note that I was going home for the afternoon. It was my mom picking me up to take me to the doctors because she had a feeling I was pregnant. In the car on the way there I remember laughing at her and saying she was crazy, it only happened one time and it was back in November.

We walked into the doctors office, went back into a room and the doctor came in. I remember at that time getting extremely nervous, but I did not know why. She gave me a cup, I went to the bathroom and came out. The doctor came back within 10 minutes to tell us the results.

I was pregnant.

I instantly got sick to my stomach and thought to myself “What the heck am I going to do!?” My mom was in shock and she did not say much after that. The doctor asked me a series of questions, none of which I could really answer because, like I said, I never really paid attention to when I got my periods. She sent me to another room and did an ultrasound to determine how far along I really was. After she completed her exam and measurements of the baby she told me I was due around August 19th, 2004 and ITS A GIRL! August 19th?! That was only 3 months away! How did I not know?

On July 22nd, 2004 after being in preterm labor for around 2 weeks, I gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby girl, Michelle Elizabeth. One look at her, and I knew I was destined to be her mother. It was 8 days shy of my 16th birthday, and I was a mom. I promised her on that day, I would never give up and I will always do my best to be a great mom to her. I was not going to let the stigmas surrounding teenage pregnancy affect anything.

I was going to beat the statistics.

For two days I sat in the hospital just staring at her, holding her and loving her. For a moment, I forgot that I was just a baby myself.

Fifteen years later, I still hold those same promises to her (at least I think I do, with a few bumps here and there… I AM STILL HUMAN).

I proved every person that doubted me wrong. I graduated high school with HONORS, went to college and got a degree. All while working and taking care of her without much help.

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Life was definitely not easy. I still dealt with all the teenage drama, breakups, being broke etc. But I never let it steer me from my ultimate goal….providing Michelle with the best life possible.

Now I am raising a daughter, who is 15 (along with another 14 year old bonus daughter, and two 10 year old boys; biological and bonus). She is the same age as I was when I became pregnant with her. She is smart, sassy, beautiful and completely obsessed with school. When she first got a boyfriend, I was worried. But hoped I had raised her to know she can always come to me and how to prevent teen pregnancy. It is a conversation I have openly with her, because it was not a conversation my parents were willing to have with me. While I do not regret being her mother, as it has made me who I am today, I do not want the same for my children (or bonus ones). There are times where I wonder who I would be today if I had not become a teen mom, but the answers are blank.

Yes, I am often asked how old she is and how old I am, and I watch those who ask do the math in their heads and just stare at me. I just simply say, “Yes, I was a teen mom.” My daughter often gets the same treatment from people that ask her the same questions. She just smiles and tells them they’d be lucky to have me as a mom. GOAL ACCOMPLISHED. No matter how many times we argue or “I’m ruining her life” because I take her phone; she always knows I always did my best.

As a probation officer, I often come in contact with girls in similar situations. Not the best family life, lost in the world, and making poor decisions. I try to use my struggles and most importantly my accomplishments to help them get on the right path in life and not dwell on what could have been done and focus on what CAN be done. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But just like 15 years ago, I never stop trying.

It is true that your current life is, to a large extent, the result of your past actions, choices and experiences. The great news, however, is that your future is determined by how you act in the present moment. In other words, your past does not have to define you or your future.

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Nicolette Geigle is a wife and mom to 4 amazing kids (2 bio, and 2 bonus). She works as a Parole Office and resides in Metro Detroit. You can usually find her supporting her daughter at dance, or on the sidelines cheering her sons on in sports. Read more about her here!

My Journey to Motherhood: Loss + Love

Hi. My name is Destiny. The only way to start my first post as a contributor for, “Outnumbered Mamas” is to tell my journey to motherhood. I’ll tell you in advance it’s not the fairy-tale version and right away I was shown how difficult motherhood was. How different every journey to motherhood is.

I always knew I wanted to be a wife. Ha! I’m sure you thought I was going to say mom. Nope. As a matter of fact, I was very very unsure on that front. My husband, Christian, and I were married on Cinco De Mayo 2012. We were married for going on 3 years when we started talking about becoming parents. Christian wasn’t sure, and I had no idea. We must have gone back and forth for a good two years. The same old points were discussed over and over. Yet, I always came back to the same thought, “we are so happy and have reached such a good rhythm. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.” At this point in 2015 I was 30 and about to be 31, of course my age was on my mind and I was very mindful that there was a clock ticking. I remember distinctly going up to my husband and saying, “Hey, I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure if I want to be a mom-so I’m going to have to defer to you.” So we did, and that meant taking a leap of faith. Trusting that when I held my baby, whenever that was, that I would suddenly get the mom gene I felt I lacked and be a rock star parent. A few months later….

After one try, were were pregnant.

I was terrified, I had no idea it would happen as quickly as it did. Yet I was so excited. I was surprised by this excitement. What happened to all that uncertainty?! We told our families on Christmas and it could not have been more magical. Around 7 weeks along, we had some announcement photos taken. They were gorgeous and captured our elation perfectly. As I looked at them I thought, “oh….there it is.” The desire to be a mom I was worried I wouldn’t have even after being pregnant. It showed up right away. We were living in a little dream. We posted our announcement early and were encouraged by all the excitement surrounding our little babe!

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That very week I began to bleed. I knew right away this wasn’t something to be calm about, and I went to the doctor right away to check on my little one. My hormone levels were checked, and at that time everything seemed ok, so I was sent home with some scary news about what could be coming. My family and friends rallied around us with prayers and hope, but we couldn’t do much but wait.

We returned to the doctor on a Friday just two days later to check on baby and my cervix was nice and closed but we were told the chances of loss were high. I was once again sent home and told that if I was still pregnant on Monday then we would have reason to hope. If, however, I had a miscarriage over the weekend, the pain would be bad and I would know it was happening. I remember that Sunday very well. I stayed on the couch the whole day, going to the bathroom often. I was cramping but not at the level where I would even consider the ER so we were hoping that was a good sign.

Then I miscarried that evening.

Some might say my loss was easier as I was not far along. I was a mere 8 weeks, but my heart doesn’t understand that logic. I was a mom the moment we saw that pregnancy test. All the worry, anxiety and confusion about whether I had what it took to be a good mom, melted away. I fiercely believe I will meet that little babe in heaven one day. I’m forever grateful for the mom heart that grew as a result of that sweet baby. So little one, this first post is for you. Thank you for the mom heart you gave me, and for the short time we were together. I miss you.

And then came Emma, my rainbow. I was terrified my entire pregnancy, for good reason-but 9 months came and went and I was introduced to my very own real life princess. I became a mom everyone could see September 12, 2017. But I was a mom before then, too.

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I know everyone’s journey is different. I know ladies who are moms at heart even though they don’t have any children. I know ladies who’ve adopted after years of loss after loss. I know women who have had their miracle child after being told they would never have children. We all walk a different road to become moms. If you’re reading this and have experienced loss-I see you. You’re not alone. Grieve however you need. Some need the support of others, while others need to do it alone. Just know, there is a whole tribe of women who are right there with you, and I’m ready and willing to pray with you, for you.

Now that you’ve learned a little about my journey to motherhood, I can tell you that when I share a post, you can expect it to be: humorous, usually Disney or Harry Potter related, and real. I love sharing the happy moments of life and motherhood, but I have to share the unhappy ones too. It’s my life-and I believe strongly that when we let others in and allow them to see the pain we’ve experienced it can help soothe the pain of others (and ourselves!). I believe pain can have a purpose, and I believe community is necessary to get by. I’m excited to be contributing here alongside some other amazing moms!

Welcome to my little corner of the world,

Destiny Warren

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Destiny Warren is a wife, mother and a native Houstonian, who packed up her life and moved to Florida to be closer to the magic of Disney and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. She is a fan of antiquing, coffee, classic movies, traveling and obviously anything Disney! You can  learn more about her here!