#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 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!

#MomCrushMonday 8/5/2019

#MomCrushMonday 8/5/2019

Jordan is a millennial work from home mom of one (for now). She is currently a small YouTuber and Instagram Influencer but her educational background is in Sports and Wellness Science.

What was the dynamic surrounding your pregnancy?

My pregnancy was a surprise to say the least. Around the time we found out we were pregnant, my husband and I had just gotten married about 3-4 months prior and were considering moving to Charlotte, NC to build our new life together from scratch. On the drive down, we were making jokes about baby names and how crazy it would be to be parents. While we were in Charlotte visiting, my husband had scheduled a try out for a professional Soccer team there. On the day of the try out, I was supposed to start my period. I went the whole day waiting for it and on the drive to the hotel afterwards I stopped at Target and bought a couple boxes of pregnancy tests. Mind you, I hadn’t told my husband about what was going through my head yet because I didn’t want to get his hopes up and it be nothing. After he showered and went to sleep, I took ALL of the pregnancy tests and they ALL came back positive. So, me being the considerate wife I am, I woke him up and showed him the tests. He was half asleep and didn’t even know what I was showing him until a couple hours later. 9 months and ten days after that, I gave birth to our son, Braedan A. Kalaka.

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

My experience as a mommy has been so eye opening. I always considered myself a tomboy but after my son was born, it’s like I became this superwoman. I still like sports and sneakers, but I now know my balance between heels and Jordans.

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

As far as postpartum symptoms, the only issue I had was postpartum shedding. My edges were dust. Besides that, my mental state was fine, but I do believe that it was because I was surrounded by friends and family that were always checking in on me and helped whenever I needed.

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

On a daily basis, I take time to pray and thank God for the life that I have. I usually do a morning yoga flow to meditate a little bit and set my intentions for the day. Then after all that is complete, I take care of everyone else. I like to believe that I can’t take care of others properly until I take care of myself.

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

Enjoy every phase of your life, even the difficult ones. They are there for a reason and you’ll appreciate them one day.

#MomCrushMonday 7/29/2019

#MomCrushMonday 7/29/2019

Kelley Woods is a single working mother of 2 sons, Gabriel and Raphael. She is the founder of Traveling with Cute Luggage which is geared toward helping single working parents travel with their kids inexpensively. In order to do that, she creates blog posts, travel digital products, travel strategy sessions, and shares her travel journey. She uses creativity and travel to overcome adversity and make travel dreams a reality.

What was the dynamic surrounding your pregnancy?

The two times I’ve became pregnant was after a very traumatic event in my life. I was just happy to bring life into the world, because each time brought the relief that everything was going to be just fine. I’ve struggled, I’ve dealt with depression with both pregnancies. The dynamic was being able to overcome so much.

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

My kids are like night and day. The oldest, Gabriel is a very chill kid. My youngest, Raphael keeps me on my toes. We make sure we show love to each other every day from a hug to a kiss on their foreheads. I have them to express themselves, but my childhood was strict beyond measures, toxic at times. I also don’t sugarcoat anything with my kids. My kids and I are so close to each other.

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

Absolutely, especially after I dropped both of my baby fathers. (I’m not the judgmental type, can’t talk about no one else’s issue, but my own). When I dropped them, I definitely had to take several steps back and see what the patterns were for me. How did I get to this point, what was really going on with me? I’ve found out a few things about myself that I had definitely no idea about. It made me shift some things around not only for myself but for my kids. I deal with depression and anxiety and found travel as a way to suppress or to cope with what I’ve went through and what I’m going through.

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

Music has and will always be a love of mine. I go to concerts, live shows, HBCU football games, and chill with kids. I meet with friends every now and again. But, on a daily music is my getaway.

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

Don’t lose touch with yourself. I lost myself for years. My kids, every now and again, remind me who I am. Be sure you know who you are, so you can give the best you to your child.