Comfort PT.1

Let’s dissect what it means to be at ease. What is comfort?

1. a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint: room for four people to travel in comfort.
• (comforts) things that contribute to physical ease and well-being: the low upholstered chair was one of the room’s few comforts.
• prosperity and the pleasant lifestyle secured by it: my father left us enough to live in comfort.


2. the easing or alleviation of a person’s feelings of grief or distress: a few words of comfort | they should take comfort that help is available.
• [ in sing. ] a person or thing that helps to alleviate a difficult situation: his friendship was a great comfort.

I generally agree with these definitions, I’d also like to remind you that when we talk about comfort and what brings us a sense of security and love, we should also mention the things that discomfort us. The things that make us uncomfortable, but ultimately bring us to a state of mental, physical and financial freedom. If we refuse to move out of our comfort zone, we may never achieve a true escape from our distress. I’ll do this in two parts because the two most toxic people in my life have very different relationships with me, but very very similar methods. I was made aware of the extent of the harm they were causing as my journey into motherhood progressed and I became more indignant.

Within the last month my son has been sick on and off. First, it was a cold then he got over it for about a week and it came back hitting even harder. On the tail end of the cold, he ended up getting croup and an ear infection then a mild allergic reaction to shrimp. I got sick for a second time and fortunately did not have any further complications that prolonged the cycle. It is quite difficult to manage our lives while sick. The logistics of daily life and motivation are completely different. I have the additional burden of giving medicine 2-3 times a day, wrestling him to put saline drops in his tiny congested nose and quarantining the best that I can, living in a multi-family home. Throughout this time, I kept Buddha’s (extended) family updated.

Coincidentally, his father’s birthday had just passed and we recently FaceTimed, as a courtesy, I sent him a message when at 3AM Buddha woke up with a 102 degree F fever. I relayed to him information until the next day with no response. So, in between there I sent a meme as a joke that read “every time a man does a woman wrong. God pushes his hairline back an inch.” So, the following day after Buddha’s fever has broken and we were riding the wave of croup, he texts me with (in silver):

After I asked him those last two questions, he responded with ‘My bad that’s Kool but don’t talk about my hair line” & It occurred to me he didn’t have the decency to ask about his son’s condition. This is after he blocked me off another video calling app once I started sending him receipts of expenses related to our son. A few days passed after this occurrence and he started hassling me about visits when he knows I live more than 150 miles away, have no transportation and he has given me $40 directly since Christmas. This was probably the string of messages that, both made me run up a wall and gave me a sense of peace:

He both acknowledged that I am poor and our son is a recipient of Medicaid while also telling me to go get some steak at a restaurant where the average plate is $20+. Those two things do not go hand in hand in any stretch of the imagination. I’m almost positive most tax paying citizens would agree they are a little put off by a social welfare recipient able to dine at a fine dining establishment. Do you or do you not have the income able to support yourself and your family? Right? He also has no financial responsibilities to me under our custody order besides Medicaid because once you open a child support case the obligor (noncustodial parent) is obligated to pay the state for the benefits that the obligee/custodial parent is using for their child.

This put me through a bit of grief on one end, I have a pretty big load to bear as an outcome of putting up with him for so long. The other end, he’s going to eat steaks while I’m scraping up what I can for my son and me to be able to eat on the budget that my Food Stamps allotted me. No, I never have money left over and the last week of the month is a struggle.

BUT, all of this, gave me peace in knowing that I did the right thing by turning my back on him.

In conflation with some pretty big blessings (transportation, a job with career possibilities on the horizon, our health being restored, etc.) I can finally see that Buddha’s dad prioritizes giving me grief over care taking or even contributing for his son. We went through fields and forests of metaphorical thorns and poison to finally get to a place, where I can (and, hopefully, continue to) ignore his provocations. His comfort lies somewhere between understanding his obligations as a father and being a single male living a lifestyle with no physical reminder of his offspring . He chose to continue on a path that he set on years before I came back into his life and his sacrifices to remain on that path only intensified with the birth of our son.

The comfort that he finds in his lifestyle makes it easy to use me as the scapegoat and ultimately evades accountability and responsibility for his own actions.

I find comfort in knowing I don’t have to maintain the cycle of abuse that allows someone to manipulate me, in order for them to stay afloat.

I find comfort in knowing I don’t have to put up with abuse that ranges from trivial texts to being lambasted with degradations to legal threats to theft.

I can finally find comfort in myself and the hundreds of ways I’ve changed my life to adapt to this little life the universe bestowed upon me.

I can find comfort in not being the victim.

I can find comfort that my son will never have to grow up thinking women should be treated as inferior beings while they uphold the family financially and mentally.

I can find comfort in breaking the cycle from abusive men and abusive parenting.

I have finally distanced myself far enough to find comfort in the belief that what I’ve gone through isn’t something I have to continue to go through.

I have found comfort and support from victims of domestic abuse that make me feel valid and whole and empowered.

I have found comfort in understanding that I don’t have to live in other people’s distorted versions of reality.

Valentine’s Day

I am so fortunate to have the family and friends that I have, they’re more than what I could have ever asked for. They know my needs more than me at times. SO many people have been here to help me up after I’ve fallen. Even to intervene before a fall has taken place, the capacity to love and the depth of love that I’ve been shown in the past two years has been astounding. The slow erosion of my dysfunctional love has allowed me to find love in the connections of friends and family that have always been there.

Sometimes Love can manifest itself in simply being present and offering your time and ears.

I haven’t written a poem in awhile so I took a little pause to love myself and my (chosen) family. That’s a revolutionary act in its own right from someone who struggles to fully accept and love herself.

So, I will revel in the love that others have so graciously shown to me.


Love

When you can recognize the stillness of sleep, from the hours of rocking you clocked

When Grandpa goes the extra mile because they see you doing your best

When They smile at waking up next to you

When their Great Cousin tells you you’re family and treats you like it

When they hold your hand because they want you, not need you

When your Sister says I got Him, you go

When They don’t readily give kisses, but will present their cheek for one

When your Coworker reminds you to value yourself

When They look for you in times of the unfamiliar because you’ve given them security

When Tía goes to the first doctor’s appointment and pulls up when your water breaks

When their eyebrows are furrowed, lips upturned and sincerely offer hugs

When your Brother welcomes you into his home and fixes yall a homecooked meal

When they barrage you with strings of mom mom mom, as a nod to all you’ve done

When their Aunties are nap time cushions

When their fingers are stretched and wiggling waiting for your strength to uplift them

When their Nanny consistently boosts your parenting

When They make faces at you knowing you gladly return the gesture

When your Partner watches them so you can nap

When They have a screaming fit from your discipline and still want your arms to comfort them

When their Granny sends them curriculum before their one

When They find relief in the crook of your neck

When their Great Auntie bolsters you through your baby blues

When it’s the middle of the night, bathroom door shut, on the toilet with a hot shower running so They can breathe a little easier

When your Friend offers you refuge and redemption and ultimately becomes Family

When your Village rotates 10-hour shifts, so you can do your 8-hour shift

When you realize you can provide

When Their whole face lights up in genuine joy that you’ve returned

Of course I would, I love you baby

Sick Day

Well,

I’ll keep it short.

I was so happy about daycare and we both got sick. Aint that something?

I just thought it was so funny how excited I was and that same day my baby started showing symptoms and two days later I was down for the count.

We’re over it now. Today marks a week since he’s been symptomatic, so his infection window has just closed. Today is my 5th day of being symptomatic so I am also outside of the window.

No fever, just a regular cold with nasal and throat mucous.

Some things I changed during our sick days were to up our vitamin c intake. We ate an orange every day, mangoes, cantaloupe, coconut and papaya (Buddha is not a fan of papaya, lol). We ate square meals and ate veggies (found out he loves cherry tomatoes) and fruits for snacks instead of starches. We did still have some cereal breaks, hehe. Damn Annie’s Cocoa Bunnies got US hooked.

Let’s see… Buddha takes Mommy’s Bliss cough syrup at night and Zarbee’s cough syrup during the day. I used a nasal aspirator with Little Remedies Saline drops (I prefer theirs) because I left my nose frida in Houston. I have to strong arm that boy to give him medicine or take his snot out, up until these last few cough syrup applications where he’ll sit still and open his mouth for me.

Being sick and having to take care of a baby is probably the most miserable side of being a single parent. It’s the ONLY time I wish I had help in any avenue. Besides that doing everything for us is pretty rewarding. Difficult, but I like a challenge. The other downside is we also got the family that we’re staying with sick -_- , I’m sure their baby is the only one safe because she’s the only one drinking mother’s milk.

xx

June

Frustration

I had a brief exchange the other day with a facebook friend about temper tantrums. She’s a mom of a 3-week old and a step-mom/coparent to a 5-year old; she believes that temper tantrums are avoidable. I do not. She believes that kids should do as the parents says and I would like to qualify that.

Despite temperament and environment, you will not be able to force your one-year old to digest your commands and their emotions at every moment. There is so much growth and development occurring for toddlers who are experimenting with sounds, gravity and mobility, it’s almost unfair to expect them to be on their best behavior. The best thing we can do is lay the groundwork for emotional intelligence. I teach him that frustration is a part of life, I identify the emotion (anger, sadness, tired, FRUSTRATION, etc.) what caused it and ‘resolve’ it for him.

Example: He bonked his head on the wall turns around slaps the wall because it hurt him and then yells at it with some extra smacks.- At first, I use to smack it with him. THEN it occurred to me I don’t want him smacking someone if they get in his way or an accident happens. I don’t want to encourage violent behaviors. So, I now hold him and I make a silly voice for whatever the object was and make it apologize to him. I’ve been doing it for a little over  a month and he no longer hits everything when it frustrates him. He still smacks things and people every now and again, but he’s learning to be more gentle with the family and pets that we’re living with so I’m really proud of him.

Of course, I don’t expect Buddha to fall out and writhe on the floor if he doesn’t get his way. Has he? Yes, in private, mostly when I’m trying to put him to sleep & we’re sleep training now while he’s teething (oh joy, you must be thinking). Most of his meltdowns are associated with, ‘it’s bedtime’ and not getting extra outside time and I always promise him we’ll go back outside or that he’ll get to see/ play with xyz at a later day/time. & I always come through. Don’t lie to your kids, that’s ugly. Be dependable. Show your kids they can trust you. Especially if you’re a single parent, YALL ARE A TEAM!

The latter part of this discussion was that kids should do as parents say. Sure, to make my life easy I want my son to do as I say and he does for the most part, but to cultivate the strong-will that he was blessed with I want him to question authority. I want him to be curious and I want him to be an independent thinker. Does that work out for me all the time? No. Will it benefit him in the long run? I absolutely believe so. I think this will lay the ground work for social consciousness and questioning (mis)information, which is especially needed in a time of heightened political propaganda.

It’s important to me that he is intellectually curious even if he sticks his hand in the toilet after I told him 20 times to not touch the lid, even if he puts all the pots and pans on the floor after I told him for 2 months to only play with the plasticware, even if he throws his toys to the ground until I eventually confiscate them. I reprimand him and I try to not yell too much, I try to find a stern but gentle voice when dealing with misbehavior. I get mad every now again, especially if he did something to hurt me (so far, I got my first lick about a month ago with a wooden toy clubbed to the eyebrow and hairspray to the side of my nose 2 weeks following that incident) and I always remember IT’S NOT MALICIOUS.

He’s not purposely hurting me (or you, if you’re going through this), I teared up that last time and I was pissed and I just held his hand and my nose and stayed completely quiet and still, I was fuming, and told him that he really hurt me and he had already stopped paying attention and started on something else. HA. Their attention spans are hilarious and can out run a snap, don’t expect too much on listening skills at this point. Tell them so that information is shared but don’t be disappointed if they don’t acknowledge the sounds you’re throwing at them. He’s learning about his strength and his capabilities to grasp, kick, smack, throw, push, pull, lift etc. Everything’s new to toddlers, why be mad at them? Let them explore.

A lot of raising and teaching a kid is also being aware of your own reactions and demeanor. So, while you’re teaching them with how to deal with their frustrations there are plenty plenty of opportunities to learn about how to deal with your own frustration. I’ve learned to watch the volume of my voice, to not so easily be offended, to not take things personal, to let go of grievances, to know there will always be a mess and laundry to clean up 😅

What are some ways you mitigate frustration for you or your child?

Let me know!

Diana Hinek

 

I encountered Diana Henik, birth doula and photographer, on Instagram (@artshapedphotography). I was drawn to her by looking through her feed, her photography is captivating and visceral. I couldn’t tell where her job ended and her life started. I enjoyed her images because they captured the joy of (carrying, creating and giving) life, she uses interesting angles and playful lighting. Her lighting is of interest to me because she doesn’t stick to one end of the spectrum, it’s not overexposed nor is it completely dark and moody. So, I reached out to her for a phone interview and she agreed.

It was a refreshing take on interviews, more informal compared to past interviews where I’m recording and have the questions in front of me. My questions were in mind from a brainstorming session prior, the conversation was easy and flowing and there were plenty of opportunities to satisfy my curiosity. We talked about life as a doula and as a photographer and how the two intersected in her life.

She had long been a creative prior to becoming a doula, starting her career as a digital compositor and having worked at the acclaimed visual effects company Marvel (RIP to a world-changing creative and creator, Stan Lee), and transitioned into working for herself as a photographer after working at home for 3 years after her first child. She began to transition into doula-ship once she took on more opportunities with birth photography after her second child. She was encouraged to educate herself as a doula so that she could be a supportive entity sharing this sacred space where all would be welcoming a new life.

When asked if Marvel or the stylistic choices that comics and their film counterparts (think film noir with deep contrasts in lighting) had a creative influence on her photographic work, her response was:

“being a compositor is a huge creative opportunity, because often times you get to deliver the director’s ideas and you need to come up with a concrete way to translate thoughts into real images. It can also be a curse, because that same creativity needs to function within the rule of visual physics -so to speak. So there is the tendency to nip picking and making sure the shots look clean and fluid. In birth photography, you have to rely on your light skills, time reading and emotions tuning, but it falls into the documentary part of photography, so photoshop often does not make sense. On the other hand compositing skills can be useful for other type of sessions, like maternity, family or newborn, where dads are rigidly nervous and babies are fussy.”

Doulas have an important caretaking role during pregnancy, having the knowledge to guide (new) parents: teaching them techniques for soothing prenatal aches and pains, resolving concerns in a less invasive and approaching prenatal hormonal shifts as a small part of the entire experience. They can be advocates for mothers when they are at their most vulnerable, going through the throes of labor is not easy and there can be things we acquiesce to just to relieve the nuisance (signing papers, agreeing to things we would not have if we were not under duress).

The piece of advice that she would give to pregnant mothers is to be present in the process, to know that the pain is temporary and to be ready for the rewarding journey that is motherhood. Doulas are essentially the fairy godmothers of pregnancy. They approach pregnancy in a holistic way that allows for a gentleness not often seen in the doctor’s office. This perspective on pregnancy as a natural process also allows your soon-to-be-born baby to be connected to their parents and support system in a way that is not often cultivated in the hospital conveyor-belt-you-are-on-my-time-cyborg-doctor’s birth process.

Doulas can, in a sense, liberate you as a mother because they’re giving you the power of knowledge. This power transcends your understanding of your baby to an understanding of yourself and that is powerful when you can communicate to your partner or doctor your feelings and WHY you are choosing to do things a certain way. You shouldn’t have to explain yourself and your birthing plan or process, but if you’re choosing to go to a hospital 9 times out of 10 you will be explaining why YOU DON’T WANT ANY MEDICINE in between contractions. I digress.

We touched on doulas doing volunteer work which was spurred by this article and she was on board with the idea, stating she would volunteer once things settled down in her life. She mentioned that her mentor was actually someone who helped create/support a volunteer network of doulas for low income mothers. I am an advocate of increased access to healthcare and after having my son I will gladly advocate for increased prenatal support. Our children are our futures.

Diana was lovely to talk to and this format was more suitable to our conversation because I did ask a lot of questions on the process to becoming a doula and how does one go about that (which she answered very helpfully), so if you want to know about that portion of the conversation, feel free to ask.

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Check Diana out at her Instagram: @artshapedphotography

Or her website.

She is a photographer, doula and mother of 3 based in the Los Angeles area.

Tips to Freelancing and Moming

This summer has been so good to me! I had a fairly busy summer full of different photography and creation work. I had three different photography projects. I had two parties that I’m helping with/ planning. (My dad’s party was yesterday and Buddha’s is in a week).

Of course, none of it would be possible if not for Budda’s and my support system, without them I would have Buddha on my hip at meetings and for photography sessions. Buddha’s daddy has been living with us and just bossing the heck out of house-/baby- work. Really, since he’s been back Buddha has been so joyful and I have learned so many multi-tasking tips and ideas. If I put them to use is a whole other matter.

When freelancing you work for your clients and yourself so your work directly reflects your quality of care and effort you put into your projects. When working for an employer you may or may not feel this pressure.

Here are some tips I try to employ:

1) Always make work you’re proud of.
– Never half-heartedly create. Create with a purpose. You can have something in mind, but the amount youre getting paid does not equal the amount of work to achieve it. It’s ok to shelf it & revisit it on your own time. Or it just turns into another idea that didn’t work. That’s ok 🙂 You’ll get the opportunity to take your time and on projects that you want further in your career. Or refer to #2.

2) Set mini-goals for yourself in your professional development.
– Some goals of mine as a photographer / graphic designer are centered around Adobe programs. I have a mile long list of youtube videos I should be watching to learn how to do xyz on Adobe. You can YouTube almost anything nowadays so you can learn how to do just about anything.

3) Make time for self-maintenance between projects.
– Whether that be personal (mentally, physically, spiritually) or professional (classes, workshops, etc.), make time for it because your work will never grow if you are not actively contributing to your self-care and well-being.

4)Make time for your family and support system.
– Don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re taking all these side jobs and time away from your family to provide for them. I have to remind myself to be present and enjoy my family. Some wisdom that my boyfriend imparted on me was that: the most important person is the person in front of you. I don’t believe that, but I like the reminder to be in the moment.

5) Prioritization
– The better you can prioritize, plan and execute your necessary tasks, the better off you are in the long-run. Always look at your plans in a short- and long- term scope.

& make visual timelines.

Those are my tips to freelancing and moming. Feel free to share some ideas with me. I’m all ears 👂🏽

The Countdown to the FIRST birthday

Yesterday was Buddha’s monthaversary & After 11 months … I’ve realized:

  • Baby blues are real – ruminating on the barren emotional landscape of my transition into postpartum & sympathizing with new moms and their struggle to maintain … it’s so hard to navigate with a seemingly unforgiving ANXIETY. I. Feel. You. & it fades, trust the process.
  • Motherhood is not easy. – remembering when I thought ‘hmm why doesn’t she do this and that’, judging moms when I had NO IDEA of how difficult raising a little one would be. I indulge in humble pie regularly.
  • I have to trust my mothering style and trust my partners parenting style… they might not match up exactly but there’s a reason the universe brought us together to have a kid. Don’t micromanage him.
  • Babies will teach you about biorhythms. You will learn, if not your own, the circadian rhythm of a whole separate tiny human- reminiscing on when junior use to eat every 2 hours, on the dot.
  • Breastfeeding is rewarding, a lot of time sweat and tears (+ raw nipples, bad latches, engorged bubbies, sleepless nights) BUT completely worth it! – looking back on CRYING at 2 weeks when my baby could FINALLY latch. DONT GIVE UP!!! Keep trying, stay focused on your resolve !!! Don’t be discouraged, if all else your baby can still be fed breast milk if you dedicate yourself to a pump and always offer the boob! I’m 11 months in ❤️❤️❤️
  • Pumping is hard. Pumping in a jewelery store and dodging cameras is… 🙄 an acquired skill. – looking back on all the preparation and equipment needed before I could hide and pump 😂
  • Confidence is 🔑 – excogitating on the fact that I’m STILL learning that I have to trust my motherly intuition! I know what’s best; JUST DO IT! To not second guess myself. Grandma daddy etc aren’t going to have the connection that I have with baby, after all, I did carry them around for 9 months. I have to have faith in our relationship.
  • Daycare’s difficult. – Thinking back on the terrible sitter and daycare I put him in. No one is ever ‘good enough’ and no one is going to take care of him how I take care of him.
  • There’s never enough time in the day – remembering the stress I use to feel & thankful I’ve begun the process to prioritize and be forgiving.

I CANT BELIEVE IT. Ill have a ONE year old in one month! 😩