#MomCrushMonday Ashley Whitley

#MomCrushMonday Ashley Whitley

Ashely Whitley is the youngest of two children and the product of two parents who are ministers. She is a single mother with one daughter, Lilyawna, who is 8 years old going on 25. Ashely prides herself on being solution-focused and never meeting any obstacle that will take her out. She is originally from Baton Rouge, La but has been a resident in Houston for 9 years. As a single mother in a city with very few family members, she has been blessed to achieve two post graduate degrees in Psychology and Marriage and Family Therapy. She is currently working on my Master of Divinity degree as she accepted her call into the ministry 2 years ago.

Though she has few family members here, she has developed a family in the people she has met here and her church family. Among those she considers family, she and one of her closest friends decided to “take advantage of the power of NOW” and founded a nonprofit, Abundant Life Teaching, Inc., at the beginning of the year. “We hit the ground running participating in events and outreach that emphasize our mission of helping others live their life more abundantly.”

Professionally, she works for a mental health agency where she is a Community Outreach Specialist and educates the community, school districts, police officers, universities, and businesses on mental health awareness and suicide prevention. Helping others is near and dear to her heart and is a legacy she wants to leave for her daughter. Ashley wants her daughter to have the same passion to give back and help others and just be kind. She is a veteran and what her experience in the military and from the pastor of her church have taught her is that “we are better together!”

You can find Ashley on IG and find out more about her nonprofit, Abundant Life Teaching, Inc. here.

What was the dynamic surrounding your pregnancy?

My pregnancy was definitely unexpected. I was new to Houston only one month and realized I had a carry on that I was unaware of. I didn’t find out I was pregnant until I was about four months along and my biggest stressor was dealing with my own feelings and telling my parents. My feelings were riddled with the stigma of being a preacher’s daughter and pregnant. However, when you have protective factors of a supportive family it helps you handle the ridiculed and stigma that may surround you. After facing things head on, the remainder of my pregnancy was pretty uneventful until the day of delivery when I had to have an emergency C-section. As a person who had never been a patient in a hospital prior to delivery it was scary, but my parents were by my side the entire way. The result was my beautiful baby girl Lilyawna Rose.

How would you describe your post-pregnancy/motherhood experience?

My post-pregnancy and motherhood experience have truly been trial and error and a learning experience. Prior to having my daughter, I had never changed a diaper or even babysat a child and now this little bundle of joy was mine permanently. What I learned was to take advantage of the knowledge that surrounds me and tailor it to what works for me and my lifestyle. Everyone’s advice or suggestions are not going to be the best fit. However, we shouldn’t get offended but validate the person trying to help, then and do what is best for you! I’m still learning and growing as my daughter is reaching all of these milestones in her life and together we are going to make a life that is amazing!

Did you ever experience post-partum symptoms or battle with your mental health in any way? If so, how did you cope with it?

My mental health journey has been something that I continue to unfold. As a veteran with PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety and a mother it has proved to be very interesting. Though I was dealing with all these things my daughter became the biggest protective factor in my life. I realized the importance in getting help and understanding the strength in my vulnerability and openness. Each day I grow stronger with a sprinkle of days where things are a little more difficult. Considerably, my wellness and recovery are something I value and because of this I continue to be an advocate for mental wellness and demystifying stigma.

Describe your routine and activities that you do to maintain your mental health on a daily basis.

Routine and structure have proven to be one of the most important things, besides my faith, that I can have in my mental wellness activities. I intentionally plan breaks for meditation, exercise, and or positive affirmations. On any day I am juggling my activities and my daughter’s activities and what I have found is the importance of balance and being able to say no. I recognize my limits and really try to stay in tune with my body and mind. I understand the power of prayer, but I always recognize the power of therapy and I try as much as possible to surround myself with positive proactive people daily.

What advice would you give mothers/soon-to-be/potential mothers, based on your personal experience?

Advice I would give to mothers/soon-to-be/potential mothers, trust your instincts and engage yourself in wise counsel. Develop a circle of support with mothers and women you admire and that are in places you desire to be. You will never get everything perfect but realize that’s OK. Never compare your journey to others because you may only be seeing the highlights and may never be privy to the behind the scenes action of their life. Invest in yourself and self-care because your child only gets one parent and you don’t become 2nd when your child is born.

#MomCrushMonday Shyanne Thomas 8/26/2019

#MomCrushMonday Shyanne Thomas 8/26/2019

Shyanne Thomas celebrated her 31st birthday on August 14th. She works part time for TSA at LAX airport. She is a first-time mom to a 7 month old baby girl named Moon Stone. They breastfeed and co sleep and for Shyanne, becoming a mother has opened her eyes to the amount of strength women possess. “We are powerful!!” Click the link to follow and find out more about Shyanne!

What was the dynamic surrounding your pregnancy?

My pregnancy was shocking at first. I didn’t believe I was pregnant. I bought 5 different pregnancy tests and 3 were from the dollar store and they all said pregnant. I still didn’t believe it because I’m thinking they’re wrong. They were only a $1 and then I bought a $10 one and I was like “ok its true.” I had an easy pregnancy. I was really tired in the beginning; no morning sickness, I felt nauseous sometimes while brushing my teeth and I threw up a little maybe twice, but after brushing my teeth I was fine. I craved EVERYTHING; sweets, ice cream, donuts, hot chocolate, turkey burgers, Oreo o cereal, just a lot of junk food. I gained 40 lbs. All my appointments were good, she always had a strong heartbeat and she moved around a lot at night. I took some of the best naps while pregnant, pregnancy naps hit different, haha.

How would you describe your post-pregnancy/motherhood experience?

Post pregnancy in the beginning was really hard for me. I felt really overwhelmed at times and just completely exhausted. My daughter was colicky and fussy the first 3 months of her life and that made my newborn experience really rough. The exhaustion intensifies your feelings and hormones, so it was really hard. Breastfeeding was also a challenge because I had oversupply (produced a lot of milk) so I was always engorged and always needing to pump. I started pumping right away and saved up a lot of milk in the freezer for when I returned to work. It was harder on me because I was up with baby or up to pump. It was a cycle of feed, pump, sleep all day and night. Breastfeeding is a job, a tiring, painful job with many rewards and benefits. I knew that I had to stay dedicated no matter how much I wanted to just stop. Now I’m 7 months in, my milk has regulated so I only produce what she needs, and we have a beautiful bond. One of the many lovely sacrifices mothers make for their children. Motherhood has made me appreciate my mother and grandmother even more because it’s hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I’m just getting started. I found strength I never knew I had with becoming a mother and now I feel invincible. My daughter is my world. Watching her grow has been the most amazing experience.

Did you ever experience post-partum symptoms or battle with your mental health in any way? If so, how did you cope with it?

I definitely had post-partum symptoms and struggled mentally. I had anxiety when she was sleep and I would just stay awake because I was scared that she would wake up as soon as I went to sleep. I would have thoughts like “why did I have a baby right now?” “Why is this happening to me?” What did I do?” I cried so much because I was just exhausted and sometimes my baby would cry for hours. I had to come up with ways to comfort my baby. I coped by just talking to my friends, getting help from family and just telling myself that it will get better. She’s a baby and she needs me. I’m her source of comfort and it warmed my heart when I told myself that. It helped a lot. Some babies need extra snuggles and love and my daughter is definitely one of those babies so I had to remember that she needs me.

Describe your routine and activities that you do to maintain your mental health on a daily basis.

I take a shower for as long as I want. In the beginning I was lucky to even get a shower or it would be a 2 min shower, but now just being able to enjoy it, wash my hair, style my hair and just have time to groom myself. I also like to play spider solitaire on my tablet. I put it on a harder setting so I can challenge myself and also just zone out. It really calms me. I love talking on the phone to my best friends Ashley and Christin. They make me laugh and just take my mind off of mommy mode for a little bit. And the most important, I drive to work in silence, just to clear my head and enjoy the peace and quiet.

What advice would you give mothers/soon-to-be/potential mothers, based on your personal experience?

Do what is best for you and your baby. In today’s society everyone is opinionated on everything and it can sometimes make you second guess your choices and beliefs. If it works for you, stay strong and don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re failing as a mother. Always have a good support system of family and friends, people you trust for when you need a break, or to just talk to and vent. If you plan on breastfeeding or you are breastfeeding just know it’s hard. But don’t give up, it gets easier and breast milk is so good for your baby, so many nutrients and antibodies to protect them from the world they are now a part of. Be strong and take a break when you need to. Don’t let mom guilt get the best of you. We are all doing the best we can.

Back to School: We ready! We ready!

Back to School: We ready! We ready!

Welp, it’s time! This has been a much dreaded and much awaited event and it has finally made its debut. It’s back to school time and Bash is going to Kindergarten!

My anxiety has been all over the place. I have been thinking about him starting school day and night for months. I have been making up scenarios about how the first day will go. I have even struggled with sleeping some nights because it has been all I’ve thought about. Making sure that he has all he needs, worrying about him catching on to this new learning experience and don’t let me forget about how much brain power I have been using worrying if he will be able to make new friends.

Bash has never been in any type of childcare or pre-kindergarten program, so the adjustment is definitely going to be something new for both of us. My mom has been watching him since he has been home from the hospital and that has only changed recently when my mom got sick. He has not had to utilize social skills without me being around to coach him on how to introduce himself to people. He has an innocence about him that worries me. I constantly think about if he will be able to handle himself without me being able to watch him and insert myself as needed. Oh, the nerves!

I do have to admit. As the date gets closer, I do feel some of my worries slowing waning and turning into excitement. I am receiving more information and getting a better understanding of how the entire school system works which provides a great deal of reassurance.

I want to share some of the little tricks that I did to help me feel better about the upcoming big day!

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask “stupid” questions. The more you know, the better prepared you feel. At Meet the Teacher I was able to get information about supplies that he needed…or didn’t need that was actually on the list. (It saved me some money and possibly extra trips). I also got a better understanding of how the first day drop off would go.
  2. Read everything that the school/teacher sends via mail or email. This is where you will find vital information that may fill in the gaps and answer those last-minute questions.
  3. Get connected! The teacher and school will send out information regarding school messaging systems, apps to download for classroom communication, and you will even be able to connect with other parents to get better acquainted with the other children in the classroom.
  4. Talk to your kid. Ask how they feel about the upcoming big day. Filter out any concerns that they may be feeling. Talk to them about some of the new experiences they will have.
  5. Speak life. Bash has an affirmation that he says in the mornings before we leave the house. “I am brave. I am strong. I am intelligent.” He may not understand it right now but as he grows older, the words will develop a meaning for him which will help him to grow and stand strong in the person that he is. (Remind them who they are so when they leave the house they don’t forget.)

There are a number of other things that I can add to this list, like take deep breaths and remember that you can’t control what happens when you’re not around. But in all reality that will likely cause increased anxiety. What I will say is simply enjoy this moment. This will be a time that you will never get back and you don’t want to miss out on the excitement of getting ready today by worrying about the what ifs of tomorrow.

Have fun and good luck!

#MomCrushMonday Amber Oliver 8/19/2019

#MomCrushMonday Amber Oliver 8/19/2019

Amber Oliver is a married, SAHM (Stay-at-Home mom) of 2 from the DMV area. Her oldest is on the Autism spectrum and also has an ADHD diagnosis. Her youngest is her rainbow baby who came after 2 consecutive losses in the same year. Amber is also an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). She decided to go for her certification after having difficulties with breastfeeding her oldest. She currently provides virtual support via my Facebook community group. Amber is also a blogger who focuses on breastfeeding support, Minority and Mental Health Awareness and Parenting Styles. You can find her blog on Instagram and Facebook !

What was the dynamic surrounding your pregnancy?

My first pregnancy was pretty much textbook – no extreme symptoms and no complications. It was also unplanned and I was homeless at the time. Due to my living situation, I considered placing him for adoption with a family member. I am glad I changed my mind. His delivery wasn’t so easy. He swallowed some of my fluid when exiting the birth canal and wasn’t breathing for 14 minutes. He spent a few days in NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit).

Several years later, I met my husband and we became pregnant. I ended up having a miscarriage at 6 weeks due to a cyst on my ovary rupturing. We became pregnant again 6 months later. This turned out to be an ectopic/tubal pregnancy which we had to terminate at 9 weeks via methotrexate shots. Shortly after, I learned my body wasn’t producing enough progesterone to sustain pregnancy until the placenta takes over. I decided I didn’t want to have any more children after this.

A few months later, I became pregnant with my now 13-month-old. I had to take progesterone supplements the first 13 weeks which made me extremely nauseated. I also developed antepartum depression due to severe anxiety about losing another child and wasn’t very present for my family the 1st trimester. I developed sciatic pain in second trimester and was going to the chiropractor for relief.

At 33 weeks we found out she was breech. I was planning for a water birth and all turning alternatives we attempted (acupuncture, spinning babies, chiro etc.) didn’t work. We even tried an ECV (External cephalic version) where an OB tried to manually turn her head down from the outside. After 3 excruciatingly painful attempts, it was unsuccessful. We then scheduled a gentle C-section. I’d only heard bad things about c-sections, so I became depressed the remainder of my 3rd trimester. The procedure did go well, as well as the healing process.

How would you describe your post-pregnancy/motherhood experience? Did you ever experience post-partum symptoms or battle with your mental health in any way? If so, how did you cope with it?

My post-partum experience with my oldest was great and textbook as well. After my 13-month old I did develop Post-Partum Depression as the transition from 1 to 2 children and from a working mom to a SAHM was very hard. I decided to become open about my PPD via my blog which was a great coping mechanism for me. While I had a ton of support, I also felt I’d lose a sense of self in my motherhood and didn’t know who I was anymore. This is a major reason for my blogging because writing was always a favorite hobby of mine.

Describe your routine and activities that you do to maintain your mental health on a daily basis.

Yoga is a big part of my life; I also teach it to my oldest to cope with his own anxiety as he was also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. I start each day with yoga. Aside from blog writing; I also got back into reading for fun as well. I also started getting out of the house and found a mom group at our local library. I make sure to get at least 5min of “me time” daily as well.

What advice would you give mothers/soon-to-be/potential mothers, based on your personal experience?

Research all areas of pregnancy and birth to help prepare you for things to not go as planned. If you feel like you are in need of help seek it out; don’t wait around thinking it’s a phase or anything else. Lean on your support system, they won’t be able to help you unless you make it known you need help. Know what symptoms of antepartum and post-partum anxiety and depression are so you are aware and know how to proceed if you have the symptoms. In pregnancy TRY to not worry in spite of loss history, “no bad news is good news.”

#MomCrushMonday 8/12/2019

#MomCrushMonday 8/12/2019

Conswella is a 37-year-old single mother of two: a 17-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. She is a Gang Intervention Counselor for the City of Houston and Co-Founder of Abundant Life Teaching, Inc which is an nonprofit to educate, inspire, and empower youth, families, and communities through education regarding mental health, life transitions, and self-esteem! She is “in a stage of life where self-care is a priority and mandatory.” She loves music, and spoken word, and loves to spend time with family and friends.

What was the dynamic surrounding your pregnancy?

With my first pregnancy I was 19 years old and away from home in college. That pregnancy and experience was my catalyst for change. My son was my number #1 motivator to succeed and to continue to better myself on a daily basis! I was unprepared at that age of course, but it pushed me to get in alignment with my purpose! My second pregnancy! Whoooo this little girl has kept me on my toes from the beginning! She has made me sit down and slow down from the womb! My pregnancy was rough on my body physically, where I was placed on bed rest. This drove me crazy seeing that I’m an individual who’s used to moving a mile a minute! I have learned along the way to slow down and appreciate every phase of my pregnancy as well as every stage of my daughter’s development! I’m able to now enjoy watching my daughter grow up before my eyes, as before with my son…I was too busy to enjoy it!

How would you describe your post-pregnancy/motherhood experience?

I believe that throughout both pregnancies my post symptoms were because they were both through cesarean sections. I believe I was with most women with no energy, no sleep, and not enough time to do anything!

Did you ever experience post-partum symptoms or battle with your mental health in any way? If so, how did you cope with it?

I did not personally deal with any post-partum symptoms, but throughout my lifespan had some issues with depression from time to time. I coped with my depression through my faith, counseling, and making time to be present in day to day life. Meditation and Yoga are huge for me, as well as spending time with loved ones.

Describe your routine and activities that you do to maintain your mental health on a daily basis.

I wake up every day and choose to be Grateful for any & every situation!! It can always be worse, and my faith and life has taught me that if I just keep moving…everything works out for the greater good! I practice daily affirmations, and meditation! I practice yoga weekly, and keep myself grounded with being around nature! I try to exercise outside at least 3-4 times a week! I pray daily! Sometimes ALL day! Lol …and again I choose to be present in every encounter & spread love and light to others!

What advice would you give mothers/soon-to-be/potential mothers, based on your personal experience?

I would say that it’s okay if you don’t complete everything on your daily to do list! It’s okay to ask for help! It’s okay that you don’t have all of the answers! …no one does! Surround yourself with individuals whom are positive and radiates light from within! You’re going to need them the most when you don’t have any love or light to give to yourself!! Do your best, and God will carry you the rest of the way!