Over the last two and a half years, my life has done a complete 180. In June of 2017 I returned to my hometown after spending 9 months in Mexico. I spent the latter 5 months managing a party hostel in the popular surf town of Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca where I made a lot of great friends and had a lot of fun. I planned to work at home until October, when I would return to Mexico and travel for a month before making it to the hostel for the high season. This was pretty typical of me. After graduating in 2013, I began traveling and working abroad. I lived in Spain, Morocco, and India and spent a lot of time in France and the rest of Europe as well. I would come home when I ran out of money and work for as long as it took to fund my next trip, and I really had no plans of stopping. Every time I was home, especially during the holidays, people would want to know when I planned on staying and getting a ‘real job’. I got pretty good at making up answers that seemed to please people and halt any further questioning. I really didn’t have a plan, nor did I want one. I was perfectly happy hopping from one place to the next on a whim.
This particular summer I worked for a landscaping company that I had worked for a couple of times before, doing various jobs. This time I was managing the installation department, where I met the love of my life and soulmate, Joe. I immediately noticed his good energy and how positive he was. He seemed to make the whole group have fun, even if they were just shoveling dirt. On our first date we sat talking at a bar until they kicked us out at closing time. So we walked on the beach, talking and holding hands, and even saw a shooting star! (sounds lame, I know. But it was special). We began to spend a lot of time together, at least a few nights a week after work, and it seemed too good to be true. We couldn’t get enough of each other and even strangers walking past us would stop to tell us how cute we were together. In a matter of months we fell in love and were obsessed with each other. Then, all of a sudden, it was time for me to go back to Mexico. I had already committed to working another season in the hostel that I had managed the year before. It felt silly to ask him to wait for me since we had only known each other a few months, but he said he wanted to stay together. So we did and it worked! Joe came to Mexico and we traveled together for 2 weeks in January of 2018 and shortly after I returned home. This time with no future plans to travel. And we picked up right where we left off, totally in love.
In August of 2018 I found out I was pregnant. I had been nauseous for a month straight but I chalked it up to food sensitivities. I decided to take a test to clear my mind, but I was sure I wasn’t pregnant. The second I saw the positive test I was beyond overwhelmed and scared. Joe was at work, and I would be working when he got home until late at night. When I got home he was waiting for me right inside the door like usual; I ran into his arms and started bawling. He was excited when I told him the news, but didn’t know what to say since I was so upset. So he just held me and told me everything would be okay. The next week or two were really tense. Joe was so positive that everything would be great, and I was worried about everything. How could we afford it? What would people think? How could I tell my parents? It may sound silly, it’s not like it was a teen pregnancy, I was 27 years old. But I was already the black sheep, so to speak. I did everything against the grain and I hated that this would be almost expected of me.
I struggled with telling my parents and was pretty slow in breaking the news to friends and everyone else. Once it was out there, it was difficult for me to talk to people because everyone was so, so excited. I am the first one in my family, my neighborhood, and of my friends to have a baby. So it was almost like everyone’s baby. It made me angry when people were excited because it made me feel alone with my fears and anxieties. Everyone loves to think of baby names and buy cute clothes, but nobody understood what I was going through. I was excited, but there was a lot more going on. Then I would feel guilty. Guilty for lashing out at my mom every time she asked about anything pregnancy related. Guilty for being rude to someone who asked if we had any name ideas. Guilty that I wasn’t as excited as I should be, and that because of that I was already a bad mom.
By the end of my pregnancy, I couldn’t wait for our daughter to be with us. Joe and my love for each other and the baby was so big and we were so excited for her to really be a part of it. I had read books, taken classes, and was actually excited to give birth! I planned to give birth naturally in a birth center with a midwife. Firstly, because it aligns more with my beliefs and values and how I wanted my birth to go, and secondly because I have an irrational fear of hospitals and anything medical. At midnight on May 17th my water broke and I began having strong contractions. I called my doula, Tristen, first to see if it was really happening - it was. Then I called Joe, who was working out of town 4 hours away - no answer. Then I called my mom three times - no answer. Then I called my Dad who was living with Joe - finally someone! He woke Joe up, “wake up! You're having a baby!” and Joe was on his way. Then my dad tried calling my mom and wanted to call the police to go knock on my mom’s door and wake her up (lol)! Luckily, we got ahold of her before that had to happen. I called my doula to come over for support and then I called the birth center to let them know where I was at - no answer. I tried again 20 minutes later, and 20 minutes after that - NO ANSWER! By the time Joe made it home, it was about 4am and I still hadn’t heard from the birth center or my midwife. My Doula was timing my contractions and said that it would be time to go soon. The next 10 minutes were a very hectic and high stress cycle, but hilarious in hindsight. It went: me having a super painful contraction, Joe getting nervous and saying we need to go to the hospital now, me getting angry and saying “try calling the midwife again!”, my doula trying to calmly say we should go soon, and repeat. There was a lot of panic and I knew that I had to go to the hospital, but I needed some more time to process what was happening. Eventually I gave in and agreed to go to the hospital, and on my way out the door I remember looking at Tristen and saying “this is really unfair.” Cut to a confusing arrival at the hospital, a super painful treatment in triage, and a rush to the maternity ward because I was so far along. The rest is pretty much a blur to me, I was so tired that I was literally falling asleep between contractions and waking up to push. I was in my own world. There could have been 30 people in the room and I would have had no idea. When Hazel was born and they handed her to me, I expected to be on cloud nine and to get a rush of hormones that would take away the pain. Instead, I felt like I was too tired to even hold her. I felt like I was frozen, in shock. Like I was separate from everything going on around me and could barely control my own body. I didn’t feel an immediate connection to her and I definitely wasn’t on cloud nine. I really felt like “what the f*** just happened?” The stress and fear surrounding the whole experience overshadowed what should have been one of the happiest moments of my life. I will never get that moment back, will never get a redo, and will never get to experience the pure joy of having my first baby. This moment is one that is really hard for me to deal with to this day. It makes me extremely sad to have missed out on the joy of seeing my baby for the first time and holding her in my arms full of love. I imagined holding her with Joe right next to me, and the magical feeling that must come with it. And I wish so badly that I had that. At the same time I feel guilty for even possibly feeling that way. What kind of mother doesn’t feel an instant bond with her child? How could I not have been over the moon? Once we were home as a family, much of that faded away. We were a new family and that was all that mattered. I was so happy and felt so full. I felt connected to her and I loved her more than anything; I had since she was in my belly.
Being a mom comes very naturally to me. I have always wanted to be a mom and have felt like it's what I was meant to do. Of course there are postpartum blues (not the same as postpartum depression), sleepless nights and difficult moments, but overall I would say the transition into early motherhood didn’t hit me very hard. When Hazel was 3 months old, I made the move to Kernville, where Joe had been living with my dad while they were both working on a job. Kernville is a very small town in the mountains; I'm talking about a population of 1,300. It is peaceful and beautiful and for many reasons, the best place to be as a new mom. I am fortunate enough to be a stay at home mom and it's awesome to be out in nature with Hazel just by stepping onto our porch. But, it was definitely an adjustment in the beginning. Being a new mom is already isolating for many, and now I was in a small town where I knew nobody and had no one nearby. On the days where I just needed a 20 minute break or nap, there was no one I could call. I have an amazing support system, friends and family who would help me without question, but sometimes you need more than a phone call. This too became normal with time, and now when I stay at my mom’s house for a week, I miss being in Kernville where it is quiet and simpler. I love being a mom, and spending my days doing whatever Hazel wants to do. And to top it all off, Joe and I got married in December of 2019, it was an intimate courthouse wedding that was just perfect for us.
I used to always say that if I could choose, I would have my first child when I was 27 years old, but with my traveling I didn’t really foresee that happening. I mean, I couldn’t even find one semi-normal guy until I met Joe! But then Hazel was born in the middle of my 27th year. Sometimes life happens and turns out better than you could have imagined, and I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. I never wish that I was still traveling the world or feel like I am missing out on anything. I am exactly where I want to be at this point in my life and I love the life that the universe has created for me.
That being said, I am still learning to navigate this new world of motherhood and settling down. I have good days and bad days and days when I can’t even figure out what I'm feeling. I’m sharing my story because I think that it is important for women to share how they are actually feeling, rather than just the highlight reel. We should embrace all of our feelings for what they are and know that they are all okay. It’s something I struggle with no matter how much I truly believe it. Mom-guilt is real, but the truth is we are all doing our best and on our own journey. If even one person reads this and feels less alone, it would mean so much. I hope to connect with other moms and to learn and grow together as a community who supports each other through all aspects of life.