There was so much information coming out of his mouth, but all I could hear were fragments of what he was saying. I kept nodding to keep up the apprearance that I was understanding what was going on, but all I heard was things like, "you are JAK2 positive....life expectancy ten years...chemotherapy...trial studies...bone marrow transplant". The room was spinning. I could hardly breathe. Was I going to die? Will my boys grow up without a mother? Why me?
I needed to get out of that exam room. I needed to breathe. I needed to wake up from this horrible nightmare.
This all happened two years ago, almost to the day. I was diagnosed with a rare bone marrow disease called Essential Thrombocythemia with a JAK2+ mutation (or ET for short...because I didn't already feel like an alien already!) where my stem cells mutated causing my body to over produce platelets which could turn into blood clots. Not good. The day that I found out my mother was watching my boys so that my husband & I could meet with an oncologist. I texted her asking if she could watch the boys for a few days. I knew that if I saw their faces that I would breakdown & scare them. We got home & all I could do was sob. I fell asleep in the arms of my husband crying as he prayed over me.
The next morning we had an appointment with another oncologist that specializes in bone marrow diseases that the other oncologist set up for me. We scheduled a bone marrow biopsy for a few weeks later. For an entire month I grieved. I cried every single day. I wanted to crawl up into a ball & not leave my bed. I wanted to shut down. But I couldn't. I had three boys who needed me. Though time seemed to have stopped, life kept going on around me. Food needed to be made, laundry had to be done. I had to keep moving. My family needed me.
A month later my bone marrow biopsy results came back that other than my mutation, my bone marrow looked good! This specialist believes that since my marrow was in good shape & because of my age that I should live a typical life expectancy! It was like I had been holding my breath for an entire month and I could finally take a breath. He explained that I basically have a form of blood cancer, chronic leukemia, or as they call it 'a happy cancer'. I will live but I will need to be on a daily aspirin & a daily low dose chemotherapy drug for the rest of my life.
OK, I can handle that. It sucks, but at least I'm not dying!
At the time of diagnosis (found with routine blood work), I had no symptoms. They asked me if I was tired or exhausted. I said yes but I thought that was suppose to be normal because I had three boys that I homeschool & run a business (a shout out to The Vintage Honey Shop, woot-woot)! I stayed symptom free for a few months which was great because coming to terms with a chronic disease was more than I could handle. Slowly I began to become more tired. I felt heavy, like there was an elephant sitting on top of me. It was like I was coming down with the flu. You know how your body starts to feel achey? Your bones, skin & muscles begin to hurt? Like all you want to do is crawl into your bed & sleep it off? This is how I feel everyday. Thankfully I have a pill that helps combat those symptoms but there are a few hours everyday that I'm feeling like a truck has hit me before the pills kick in.
Dealing with chronic pain is hard. Dealing with chronic pain is harder when you have children who need you. There are days when I am laying around all day. On those days we stay in our pajamas, watch Netflix & order pizza. In the perspective of kids it's probably the best days ever. In the perspective of a mother, I feel like a failure.
Do you know what the worst thing about having this disease is? It's not the pain or exhaustion, it's the guilt. While I'm beyond happy & feel so blessed to be alive, I do struggle with feeling like a failure as a mother. I use to take my kids to the zoo, the park, museums. I use to do craft projects with them...I was like a Disneyland mom all the time. I had it in my head that a good mom was someone who did all of those things, so when I couldn't do them anymore because of my exhaustion & acheiness it hit me hard. It broke my heart to hear one of my sons tell a stranger at the store that 'mommy is sick every days'. Is this how they see me? Will they look back to their childhood to remember mommy being sick all the time? It is more than my heart can handle sometimes.
Then I tell myself "Jennifer, you are a darn good mom! You aren't ruining the boys, in fact they are going to look back and see all the things you did with a chronic illness with amazement! They are going to see you as a fighter!"
If you are living with a chronic illness while parenting it's totally fine...and normal to feel overwhelmed. Parenting in itself is overwhelming let alone doing it when you don't feel good! Here are some tips that have helped me:
•You aren't super mom, so don't be afraid to ask for help! If a friend offers to help you out...don't turn it down! If they didn't want to do it they wouldn't have asked.
•Try to get outside as much as you can. I find that just sitting outside on a park bench while my kids play on the playground is helpful to all of us. I can rest while they play!
•If you are having a bad day physically, declare it 'Pajama & Movie Day'! No child has ever been ruined by wantching movies or Netflix all day with their mama!
•Take a big blanket outside with a bunch of books & have a 'let's lay down and read some books' kind of an afternoon!
•Order out! There is nothing wrong with ordering pizzas or something on Uber Eats!
•When you do cook, make double so that you can freeze the other half. On days you don't feel good you can pop a casserole in the oven!
•Do NOT hold your feelings inside of you! Look for an online support group on Facebook. It's sometimes easier to vent to strangers than to your friends & family...especially when they are going through the exact same thing as you!
•Try a new hobby! I've recently been experimenting with painting & needlework. Doing something new helps keep my mind off not feeling good!
Just know that you aren't alone. You are an awesome mom & your children will grow up stronger for it! How can they not, they have a fighter raising them!!!
Enjoy what precious time is left of Summer!
written by VHS contributor// Whitney Smith
Work it Mommy
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Since 2011 The Vintage Honey Shop has been handmaking and delivering gorgeous and functional teething + nursing necklaces to happy mamas nationwide! And now The Vintage Honey Shop proudly designs and offers Mama Teess. Sorry, not sorry- we just can't help but show off these adorable mommy + me matching tees today. Because nothing is sweeter than matching with your baby am I right?! How darling is this mama and little man in their "Queen Bee" and "Lil Honey" tees? The design is super cute and the tees are comfy and soft. These tees are perfect to wear any day of the week or even for a family photo shoot. You'll love that the "Lil Honey" tee is gender neutral too!
You can snag your Queen Bee and Lil Honey tee today! Oh and don't forget The King of the Hive, yes we have a matching tee for dads too! Tag us @thevintagehoneyshop we would love to see your adorable duo or trio too.
Photo credit: thanks to @ericasuee
This being my third trip to the Labor and Delivery unit at our local hospital (which so happens to have been my place of birth, my husband’s and our siblings and two daughters!) I felt confident packing my bag this go around.
I call this my minimalist packing list as I don't bring "everything and the kitchen sink". I also don't plan on staying longer than a day (or any more than I have to!)
Nursing tank- more coverage and support than those hospital gowns.
Cozy cardigan- a robe or hoodie would work just as well.
Yoga/jogger pants- I forgo the hospital gown ASAP after delivery and found that it makes me so much more comfortable when I'm in my own clothes.
Grippy socks or slippers- no one wants to put their bare feet onto hospital floors (shudder).
Toiletries- toothbrush/paste, facial soap/lotion, shampoo/conditioner, deodorant (and extra points if they're travel-sized!) hair ties, lip balm
Baby wipes- so easy to use and dispose when changing those first sticky merconium diapers!
Going home outfit for you and baby- truth be told I usually stay in my post-birth uniform of nursing tank/yoga pants/cardigan but a maxi dress would be just as comfy! But Baby's going home outfit is a pretty big deal, am I right?
Boppy nursing pillow- this item could technically be left off and regular pillows used but the shape is superior and using it to nurse is so much more convenient.
Water bottle- I don't go anywhere without mine!
Phone/charger- how else will you share baby's birth announcement on social media? ;)
***Car seat installed in car- this will stay in your car but is a must.***
I hope this list helps other mom's find that packing for the hospital need not be stressful or feel like you're laden-down with "stuff" as the best bundle is the one you get to carry in your arms for the first time after growing for nine months!
written by VHS contributor// Whitney Smith
Work it Mommy
When I was pregnant with my first son 5 years ago, I knew I wanted to breastfeed but had no clue what I was getting myself into. I was a clueless 19 year old. I didn't know blogs were a thing, let alone breastfeeding blogs. So I gave birth to my son and jumped into breastfeeding completely blinded. I didn't know what I needed, and what I didn't need.
So with my next two sons after, I was 100% prepared. I knew what I really needed to have a comfortable and successful breastfeeding relationship.
I've gathered up a list of the top 9 things every 1st time or 10th time mom needs for breastfeeding.
1. A Boppy pillow// This saved my back with my 2nd and 3rd son. What I love about Boppy, is that it has the right amount of stuffing in it so it properly supports your baby. The stuffing in it doesn't go flat and I've been using it for 2 years. And not only is it a nursing support pillow, it can be used for tummy time, and when your little one starts sitting up.
2. A nursing bra// This particular nursing bra that I'm showing is a sleep nursing bra. In the early days of breastfeeding, you almost always have to have a nursing pad in because of leaking boobs. This bra doesn't have an underwire, and your breasts are easily accessible for your little one. It's so comfy, you almost forget you're wearing a bra.
3. Coveredgoods nursing cover// If you're not 100% Comfortable nursing in front of people, this thing is a must. This is great when you're in the hospital with your baby and you have visitors but your baby is ready to nurse, you're able to cover yourself and continue to converse with your visitors. Or for doctor appointments, or just any public trip out with the baby. What I love about it, it's not only a nursing cover, it's a car seat cover, an infinity scarf, and a shopping cart cover.
4. Honest Co. Nipple Balm// In the early weeks of breastfeeding, this balm saved me! It helps heal cracked nipples and soothes them as well. I carried this stuff everywhere with me.
5. Lansinoh Nursing Pads// Want to walk around with 2 milk stains on your shirt? No, right? Nursing pads are there to catch any unexpected let downs. It saves your shirts, and bras from leaking milk.
6. Water cup// You have to stay hydrated while breastfeeding. Having a cute cup to hold your water makes drinking it so much easier and fun. Whether it's this super cute tumbler or the hospital cup you bring home with you, you're going to need something portable and with a lid.
7. Vintage Honey Shop Nursing/Teething Necklace// my personal favorite! Right around when my kids turn 4 months, they get very observant (aka NOSEY) and have a hard time nursing in a public setting. With my Vintage Honey Shop nursing necklace, my little ones are able to stay focused on breastfeeding. They grab onto the ring and literally just tug and stare at it while they nurse. Without it, they are turning their heads, un-latching, trying to look at everything else around them. And plus they’re super stylish!
8. Medela Breastpump// It's always good to have a little backup stash for emergencies or a night out with your significant other or some girlfriends. So having a reliable breast pump is a must!
9. Milkmaid Tea// I don't care who you are or where you are in your breastfeeding journey, we all obsess over milk supply. So having a milk tea in your pantry whenever you feel like your supply is taking a dip, is always a good idea. I love this particular brand because it taste really good, and I've actually seen results.
written by VHS contributor// Aseky Bonnaire
Aseky + The Boys
If you are able to go on a babymoon, DO IT! It’s so easy to get caught up in prepping for your baby’s arrival, but it’s also important to take a step back and enjoy the time you have with your partner. When your baby arrives, you and your partner will rely so much on one another. It’s great if you are able to invest time in each other before your family grows.
I was able to take a babymoon before the arrival of our second baby. We got to explore Victoria, BC which is just a few hours from where we live. It was really special because it was the first time my husband and I had been away for 2 nights without our oldest. We were able to sleep in, have leisurely meals and just walk around care-free. It was perfect.
It was especially perfect because I packed the right things. I knew some of the activities we’d be doing and what the weather would be like. As a seasoned Mom, I also knew what I should take advantage of since I’d be without children.
What to Pack for a Babymoon:
1. Maxi Dresses. As far as maternity clothes go, maxi dresses are key to looking cute and feeling comfortable. They are easy to dress up or dress down. They are perfect for touring around major cities, cruising the tropics, or going out for a quiet dinner.
2. Swimsuit and Cover Up. If you are traveling during the summer or going somewhere warm, you’ll definitely want these. But, you may also want them if you are going anywhere that has an indoor pool, regardless of weather. Being in a pool while pregnant is amazing! Pack a cover up so you won’t have to worry about wiggling out of your clothes at the pool.
3. Sunscreen. It’s important to protect your skin anyway, but it’s especially vital when pregnant. . I love Babyganic's SPF 50 spray on sunscreen because it's not greasy and soaks into my skin. It's also perfect for babies (6 months+) so you can share later on.
4. Skincare Products: If you have a favorite stretch mark cream or lotion, make sure to pack it! I really liked Mambino Organic products because they smell great and felt so good on my skin.
5. Comfy Shoes/Sandals: If you are going on a Babymoon later in your pregnancy, you'll definitely want to pack comfortable footwear. I like FitFlop sandals because they go with a variety of clothing styles and I can walk around all day without getting tired legs or feet. Plus, I didn’t need to fuss with buckles, which can be your enemy when you can’t see your feet!
6. Jewelry: Wear as much jewelry as you can because once baby arrives, you might not be wearing your favorite dainty pieces because babies like to pull on dangly earrings and necklaces. I wore my Vintage Honey necklaces a lot because they gave my maternity outfits a pop of colorful fun!
7. Haircare Products: Bring your straightener, curling iron, haircare product of choice so you'll look extra cute in your photos. This may not be a priority after baby so take advantage while you have the time.
8. Small Purse: You will probably be lugging around a large diaper bag for the next year or more. Carry a small purse while you can!
Perhaps the best thing you can pack is an upbeat attitude! You may be a bit more tired and walk more slowly that you are used to, but if you're able to focus on spending time with your partner and just enjoying your surroundings it will do wonders for you and your pregnancy!
written by VHS contributor// Marcie Cheung
Marcie in Mommyland
Do you ever see a product and wonder "what the heck is that?!" or "how do people actually buy this?!" It happens to me all the time, especially with baby gear.. Some of the things I've come across are so strange! Here are the Top 5 Weirdest Baby Products (at least in my opinion).
So, you suck the boogies out of your babies nose with your mouth.. Supposedly it really works. But I can't get over how gross it is!
Some may find these types of onesies comical.. And don't get me wrong there are a few that have made me chuckle, for example "Party In My Crib BYOB" but some of them really cross the line in my opinion!
Choosing the right baby products can be overwhelming. I remember feeling panicked roaming the aisles of Babies R Us when I was pregnant with my first wondering what all my baby would need and what would make my life easier as a new Mom. I ended up over-buying and we didn’t even use some of the products. It was very frustrating.
When I found out I was pregnant for the second time I started to take inventory of the baby items I had. I'm usually a fairly frugal person and I'm all for re-using items. I figured I was all set for baby items. Then I really thought about what I liked and disliked about the products I used with my oldest. I realized that I bought a lot of items without doing much research. After being a Mom for a couple of years (and talking to countless other Moms) I had a better idea of what I needed.
Here are my favorite baby products for 2017:
1. A Better Nursing Cover
The cover I used with my oldest didn’t really do much in terms of giving me privacy when nursing in public. It meant that I didn’t want to nurse in public because I didn’t want to struggle with the cover. This time, I got a poncho-style nursing cover which is easy to use and keeps me comfortable.
2. Milkies Milk Savers
I really hate leaking milk. I don’t like feeling soggy or wearing damp clothes and it just makes me feel like a hot mess. I didn’t even think about the fact that I was wasting precious milk until I found Milk Savers. You insert it in your bra of the side you’re not nursing on and it catches the milk that’s released during your let-down. Then, you can put it in a bottle and save it for later. The extra bonus is that it kept me from leaking milk so I’m nice a dry!
3. Somewhere Safe to Put the Baby
Since we had a toddler at home, it wasn’t always a good idea to leave our baby on the floor for fear that my toddler might try to jump over him or pick him up. I’ve been really impressed with the different types of baby nests available. We have both the Snuggle Me Organic and the DockATot and they have been so helpful for keeping our baby happy and safe. Plus we bring one with us when visiting family or traveling because then we have a clean spot for the baby where ever we go.
4. A Versatile Changing Pad
Babies squirm and they put their hands places they shouldn’t during eventful diaper changes. This time we got a SnoofyBee changing pad that velcros the top half the the baby away from the bottom. There’s even a place to attach toys to it. I love that my son can keep his hands clean. Plus the pad is easily wiped down after messy changes.
5. A More Functional Diaper Bag
Like most first-time Moms, I picked my first diaper bag based on what I thought was cute and would make me look like an adorable new Mommy. It ended up feeling heavy and didn’t have enough room for the items I wanted to pack on a daily basis. This time around, I found a larger bag that has pockets for everything! I feel so much more organized and it’s large enough that I can use it as a carry-on when traveling.
6. An Adjustable Baby Carrier
When my oldest was a newborn, I had a baby carrier that wasn’t really adjustable. I worried a bit about if I was doing it right. This time, I decided to try a woven wrap. I met with a babywearing educator who taught me how to wrap. I tried it when my youngest was just a few days old and it was so comfortable for both of us! I was even able to teach my husband and it’s now his favorite carrier. I like that we can also use it on our 3-year-old because it’s one-size-fits-all.
7. A Sturdier Nursing Pillow
You know how you like a product until you find a better one? I had no idea that my old nursing pillow was too soft and that’s why my back always hurt. I tried a different brand that was much firmer and it’s been infinitely more comfortable! It holds my 16lb baby without sagging and keeps him at the right height. I wish I would have tried it with my oldest!
8. Thicker Sleep Sacks
I’ve been lucky enough to test out lots of swaddlers and sleep sacks and I have to say that my son really loves the thicker ones. My husband and I are smitten with the bamboo duvet sleep sacks from Gunapod. It’s not only super soft but my son stays warm all night long. Plus there’s a zipper that goes around the sack so we can change his diaper while he’s wearing the sack.
9. A Sound Machine
My oldest was a pretty solid sleeper, but I was always whispering anywhere in the house when he was sleeping. Now that we have 2 kids, I realize that I spend a lot of time trying to keep everyone quiet for fear of waking someone. That’s when it dawned on me that a sound machine would really help! We actually use it in our toddler’s room so he won’t hear our baby. And we take it with us traveling to mask the unfamiliar noises.
10. A Softer Bathtub
Like most Moms, I got one of those plastic whale tubs with my oldest. He hated bath time and would squirm around and hit himself on the hard sides of the tub. Plus, I had to use it in our bath tub, so I’d end up sitting in our tub so I could reach him. This time, I got a Puj tub that fits in our sink. It’s made of foam and lays flat for easy storage. It’s also really flexible so my baby can move around without hurting himself.
11. Kangaroo Care Shirt
My oldest son was a NICU baby and I saw the power of skin-to-skin care firsthand. I knew instantly that I would do skin-to-skin as much as possible with any kids I may have. There are several companies who make babywearing shirts. It’s so easy to do kangaroo care with them, even if you need to multi-task.
12. An Easy Nursing Necklace
Nursing necklaces are not all the same. I learned that the hard way with my oldest. I got one that pulled the little hairs on the back of my neck and it was more painful to wear the necklace than it was to deal with my son pinching my skin. Now, I use fabric-covered nursing necklaces that are much more comfortable for me and my youngest loves playing with it. It’s been a good distraction and I hope it will allow me to nurse longer than I did with my first.
13. Attachable Teething Toys
Call me naïve, but I didn’t realize that my oldest would drop every single toy on the dirtiest floors I’ve ever seen. This time, I’m strictly using toys that I can attach to the cars eat, baby carrier, stroller, etc. One of my favorites right now are Chewbeads GO Links because they are teethers themselves, plus I can attach toys to them and link them to laundry baskets, the activity gym, the jumparoo, etc.
14. Absorbent Drool Bibs
I didn’t understand the purpose of drool bibs with my oldest. He had so many cute outfits that I just changed his clothes a lot. But, his onesies were always wet and his chest would get red. This time, I stocked up on the bandana bibs. While there are a lot of companies making bandana style bibs, the layer of fleece on the back of Matimati bibs really sets them apart. They truly keep clothes dry, even if your baby drools or spits up a lot. Plus, they look trendy and who doesn’t want a trendy baby?
15. Gadgets for Colds
There are few things worse than hearing a little baby cough or gasp for air. When your little one gets their first cold, you will feel so helpless. We rely heavily on our Nosefrida and our Oogiebear to help both our kids breathe. They are easy to use and our kids don’t seem bothered by them. They actually seem more relieved, which makes everyone a bit more relieved.
16. Cozy Blankets
My oldest was lucky enough to have many blankets specially made for him. He uses them every day. That’s when I realized how important blankets can be in helping kids feel safe and secure. For my youngest, I discovered Tula blankets and they are so incredibly soft! My baby actually smiles and grabs the blanket when I put it in the swing or car seat. They seem to comfort him instantly and I’m really happy to have found something to soothe him.
17. Nicer Nursing Clothes
I know this isn’t technically a baby item, but I’m including it in this list. I didn’t really see the point of nursing clothes with my oldest. I wore a lot of nursing camisoles with regular shirts on top and called it good. However, this time I invested in a nursing dress, some nursing shirts and (most importantly) nursing sweatshirts. They are so much easier to nurse in and I honestly don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner.
These are just my top 17 products of 2017, so far. I’m excited to see what other new products I will discover later this year!
Marcie in Mommyland
I love shopping. There’s something about the thrill of the hunt that is the best form of entertainment for me. But nothing beats my love of scoring a good deal.
I started going to baby consignment sales when I was about 5 months pregnant with my oldest. I was able to get tickets to the New Mom pres-sale event, and we waited in line for about 30 minutes just to get in the doors. I was completely overwhelmed with the amount of stuff available and what a mad house it was! I had no game plan and just wandered aimlessly for hours. I found some great deals, but it was exhausting.
Since that first sale, I’ve experienced more than 20 baby consignment sales in the Seattle-area. Some are large-scale and held in huge spaces and others are small sales at co-op preschools. But I’ve been able to navigate each one quickly and effectively.
Top 10 Tips for Baby Consignment Sales
1. Make a List. The most important thing is to write down what items you are looking for. It’s easy to get distracted and you’ll want to focus your efforts on items you actually need.
2. Leave toddlers at home, if possible. They will slow you down and plead for all the toys.
3. Wear your baby in a carrier so you are more mobile.
4. Get there early. Bargain-hunters always arrive before the sale opens so be prepared to wait outside.
5. Bring a large bag. I like to bring my reusable IKEA bag because I mainly shop for toys and it can hold a lot. Some sales will lend bags during the sale but not for you to take home.
6. Start with Big Items. It’s been my experience that items like jumparoos, bouncers, swings, etc are some of the first items to go. The ones in great condition go instantly. If you are in the market for any of those, make that your first stop.
7. Take advantage of the Item Hold area. Usually, there’s a place for you to store large items that you want to buy but don’t want to drag all over the sale. Then, you can pick them up after you’ve paid for them.
8. If you need clothes, you will most likely be there a while as it’s a popular stop.
9. Don’t hoard expensive clothing brands just to immediately resell them online. This is more of a personal plea.
10. Cell reception is sometimes wonky at sales, so in your car, look up some of your purchases to see what kind of deals you’ve scored!
Most importantly, enjoy yourself! The sales aren’t for the faint-of-heart, but they can be an adrenaline rush for those who like good quality items for a fraction of the cost.
Marcie in Mommyland
When I was a little girl, I dreamed of my future.. A fancy wedding and a big white dress, my Daddy walking me down the isle and eventually babies.. lots of babies! And I got all of those things. I was happily married, I was a stay at home mom, I had a really good life. Until I didn't anymore. And I found myself divorced with three children.
Until a man, who I now call my husband, walked back into my life (we had dated a decade before) and I was in love again. All of a sudden I was not only a mom, I was dating.. which I hadn't done in about 9 years. Then I was introduced to my boyfriend's children. I wasn't really sure what my role was. From the get-go I loved them so much, but I didn't want to overstep.
When we got married I went from Daddy's girlfriend to "step mom", though I preferred the term "bonus mom". Shortly after, we ended up with sole custody of the kids. Their biological mother was no longer involved.
I was doing my best to blend our family, to take on my new role and find my place. To make sure everyone adapted and adjusted well. One day I came across this quote, "There is an instinct in a woman to love most her own child; and an instinct to make any child who needs her love, her own." and everything just clicked for me. I wasn't a "step mom" I wasn't a "bonus mom" I was just a mom. I pick out their clothes and pack their lunches. I help with homework and took them to their activities. I take care of them when they're sick. I hug them and kiss them and love them as if they were my own.
See, I was born to be a mother. It's the only thing I ever knew for sure I wanted to do. I have given birth four times and that love is instant. But these children needed a mom. They needed me and my love. It doesn't matter if they grew in my belly, they grew in my heart and they were mine.
Every situation is different. I know not every blended family functions the same as ours, and that's okay! It takes time to combine families and find what works. Being a "step mom" isn't easy.. but it's totally worth it! It takes time to earn their trust and build that bond. Especially if they've been hurt. But once you do, it's amazing. I can't imagine my life without my children. All 6 of them. God brought each and every one of them to me for a reason.
I'm not a step mom, I'm not a bonus mom, I'm just a mom. And that's all I ever wanted!