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September 27, 2017

CAN YOU IMAGINE? How Hurricane Maria has devastated the family we love in Puerto Rico and how you can help.

Written by my mother:

34 years ago, St Joseph, Missouri hosted the Bronco World Series. Our two sons played baseball and Mike coached the St. Joseph host team, so, naturally, we were invested heavily in this event.  The call was put out for homes that would be willing to host players, and we were excited to have two 12 year old boys from Puerto Rico stay with us.  One of those was a talented, sweet, and polite young boy named Erick Bracero. Through the decades that followed, he and his family became a part of our own family, just as if the ties that bound us were of an organic nature.  
Erick returned to live with us for a summer. We travelled to the island, and they visited us here in the states. After high school Erick settled into studies at Missouri Western State College (now Missouri Western State University), where he earned a degree in Engineering and played baseball for the Griffons. Erick graduated in 1995. When he returned to Puerto Rico, Erick joined his father's firm and eventually married Michelle and had children, Dyanna, Melissa and Lorenzo. His relationship with his American family became even stronger. We vacationed together, called and texted during Royal's and Chief's games, and they even came to Kansas City to be in our daughter, Taylor's, wedding.
When weather reports advised Hurricane Maria was headed straight for the island of Puerto Rico, Erick advised communications might be lost between us. After many days of silence, sleepless nights, and profound worry, today, September 26, 2017, is the first time we have been able to speak by phone since the eye of the hurricane hit the city he lives in, Gurabo 7 days ago. The conversation began with tears and ended with tears. We learned more information about the devastation and needs of Puerto Rico, and its U.S. citizens from he and Michelle - more than any reporter on the street could fathom. And it's not good.
They are worried, but in their humble and faithful fashion, Erick and Michelle always returned to the acknowledgment that others there are in more need than themselves. While updating us with the state of affairs, they had no knowledge or awareness of any details of recovery, assistance, the crack in the dam, conditions at the hospital, number of deaths reported, etc., because...they have no power to connect to a news station.
Their house was spared major damage, but other houses in the neighborhood were not so lucky.  They have a mini-generator which, when they can find fuel, gives them 3 hours per day of refrigeration, circulates the stifling air with 3 fans, and allows them to heat water and carry in buckets to the bathtub so their three children can bathe. They have Spam, canned sausage, cereal, crackers and a few eggs - enough food, Michelle says, to last them if they are prudent for perhaps 2 weeks. She heats food on a Coleman portable stove. Potable water cannot be found. Michelle says "a glass of cold water with ice would be like gold." Each day, they catch a co-op van with fuel supplied by Erick's company in San Juan and make the trip to his office where they can, for a brief time, be cooled by the air-conditioning and make a couple of phone calls. Darkness comes early each night for this, and other families.
Because of the downed power in Puerto Rico, no services or merchants are able to accept credit cards.  You must have cash in hand for fuel, food and necessities. Walmart will re-open and have supplies - if you have "cash in pocket.".  Banks were to try to open today. This will not help Erick much, however, as he is now a realtor and, as one can imagine, there will be no buying or selling for months, perhaps years, to come with 90% of the island damaged.
Erick said, "if it was just me I would pass up an offer of help and say I was strong and I would be fine.  But I can't now.  I'm a dad and I must take care of my children." The need for fuel, gas, water and food is immediate. He vowed that whatever anyone could spare would "be spent wisely on my family and my elderly parents."

The response to this disaster has been slow and the conditions there are immediate.  If you have been considering how you can help, please start by helping this one family.  Then, one at a time we can work together to throw another starfish "back into the sea." I will personally vouch for the legitimacy of this need, and the ethical process by which funds collected for this humanitarian effort will be disbursed to Erick and his family.

Instead of using a donation site such as "Go Fund Me", we have decided to use a direct Pay-Pal donation link to help the Bracero Family. Donation sites like "Go Fund Me" charge a 3% service set up fee, 5% per donation and the Bracero Family would be taxed on any relief donations they would see. We believe that NO ONE should have to pay taxes on natural disaster relief funds donated. To donate, please visit Erick Bracero's direct pay-pal link here.


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May 19, 2015

{Gimme a Break…Gimme a Break…}

Seriously, break me off a piece of that….
If I liked Kit-Kats I would finish that jingle. But I don't.  
Do you ever feel like you just need a break? Just one day? Prepare yourselves, friends. I'm about to take you to that thought I know for a fact has popped up in EVERY SINGLE ONE of your minds.

Well, hello there. It's been a while since I have last typed in you, my little blog. I want to start off by thanking each and every one of you (who read my last blog) for the uplifting, encouraging, compassionate, loving, and motivating comments I received. I was so incredibly nervous to put myself out there in such a vulnerable way. Come to find out, there are many more of "me" than I thought there were...which sucks…but was also very comforting knowing I wasn't alone. I really wish postpartum depression didn't exist. Wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

I realize I haven't updated you on my progress. I am happy to report that the good days have far exceeded the bad days since I last wrote. That's something I am proud of. Day by day, then week by week, then month by month. Progress. By the way, I am pretty sure I went on a cry-free streak for 6 whole weeks…until yesterday. 

However, to be honest (and Lord knows, I always am…almost to a fault) the past 6 weeks have been SO challenging for me. I started a contract position with Children's Mercy Hospital and I have really enjoyed that. It's inevitable that it will probably come to an end which makes me sad. I finally felt like I found a place and and environment that I felt at peace with. I love the people I work with. It's fun. At a place where there are so many sick children, the philanthropy department is the place where it is their soul mission to make kid's lives better…to raise money for the hospital which in turn goes to erasing medical bills that some families just can't meet. It is a place where you get to hand out stuffed animals in the lobby as the kiddos walk or wheel by. Their smiles…it's worth everything in that moment. 
A week after I started my new job, Tyler had sinus surgery. We went into it thinking it was no big deal. Boy, were we wrong. And boy, were we the exception to the rule. He unfortunately had quite a few complications with the anesthesia and the post recovery process. Doctor's orders: stay in bed, don't lift anything over 5 pounds for three weeks. Don't leave the house to work. Do nothing. Listen to your body.

May I remind you all that Millie is definitely over 5 pounds?
May I remind you that grass grows in the front AND the back yard? And quite frequently. Like every 4/5 days.
May I remind you that families accumulate trash and that trash has to be taken out of the trashcans in the house once a day and dragged to the curb once a week?
May I remind you that everyone has to eat?
May I remind you everyone has to bathe...has to be put to sleep?
May I remind you that one of those humans is cutting what seems to be every tooth in her mouth right now? She was referred to as "fang tooth" for all of one day before the next nightmare started.
May I remind you that all of us wear clothes? And those clothes get dirty and need to be washed.
Same with dishes….we all eat off of them and they all need to be loaded and unloaded from the dishwasher.
And then there's the dog. Don't even get me started on the dog that sheds at least one layer of coating a day…and barks. He barks a lot. Oh, and it's Spring so it rains a lot which mean muddy dog paws need to be wiped off the floors at least 6-8 times a day.
Bills need to be paid. Tags need to be renewed on cars. 
It's Spring, so hello wedding season!
Oh, and congratulations graduates!

You catch my drift. I hope. Because if that last satirical rant wasn't enough, I don't know what will be.

I AM EXHAUSTED. Like, I almost need a nap after typing that whole thing.

I went to my primary care doctor yesterday and ended up talking with her longer about the past six weeks rather than the silly thing I went in for. Now, as you know…in most of my blogs, I always pause for a moment and say how thankful I am for at least one person in my life. Today, I am going to talk about my doctor. I've just adopted her within the last few months. I've always had men. No offense to the male doctors, but we women…we just get each other. Her name is Dr. Kimmel. Never in my 29 years of life have I had a doctor who I felt understood me and truly cared for my OVERALL health. The big picture…I'm talking mental health, physical health, emotional health….just someone to talk to. As a society (myself included), we've always just gone to the doctor when that cold has hung around for longer than it was welcome. Yesterday, after I told her about the last six weeks, she listened and responded not only as a doctor but mom to mom…friend to friend. She didn't judge me. Because, I will tell you…at that moment, I felt embarrassed and weak as a human. She offered advice that a friend would offer. 

"Make a date night once a week with your husband." 
"Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it…and take that help when it is offered."
"Being a mom is hard."
"Your health and well being is just as important as everyone else's. Take care of yourself."
"Take a break when you need it."
Compassion. That was my cure. It's all I needed. That or a glass of wine and to be honest I don't even really like the taste of alcohol anymore and haven't for a while so that's not an option.

The point of this blog is…whether you are a mom, a dad, not a mom, not a dad, a high school student, a college student, a single person with a full-time job, an older person…I don't know…whoever you are, I have finally realized, that it is OKAY to take a day for yourself. To be honest with you, my mom is watching Millie today and I am crawled up in bed watching the entire last season of Grey's Anatomy because I needed something sappy. I needed a break. I needed to just sit and do nothing. I needed to come up with my next plan of action. 
Day by day, remember?

This is what my child's room looks like right now. I'm going to take Dr. Kimmel's advice and LET IT GO. Frozen style.

Thanks for reading. And promise me you will take a 'sick day' once in a while. You deserve it.

March 25, 2015

{Coming Clean}

 I have contemplated whether or not to write this post for a month now. In true "Taylor fashion", I have decided and learned that sharing my experiences and not keeping them to myself have helped so many people. I know this because I get random messages from people saying that. To those that have messaged me, thank you. I am so glad that anything that I have written has helped you put obstacles in your own lives into perspective. As mothers, it's important to support one another instead of judge. It is important to realize that none of us truly know what we are doing and are all just trying to do our best and make the most effective decisions in raising our beautiful babies. 

As I sit here, I am watching my daughter play with a cardboard box with The Backyardigans on in the background. This post may take me a while to write. She is now VERY interested in outlets, cords, the scarves that sit in my bottom drawer and any piece of furniture that allows her to pull herself up on her feet. So, up and down, up and down for mama. :)

Most of you that have followed my blog for a while now know about Millie's birth story and my experience the morning of her birth. After she was born, I was on this extreme high that I had never experienced before. It masked the pain from the c-section. It made me feel like I wanted to have 10 babies. It made me feel invincible. I guess they call that "falling in love." I had truly fallen in love and felt this love come over me that I had never felt before…a deep love for my sweet Millie. That's why when people asked me if my c-section hurt, I told them it really wasn't that bad. The adrenaline masked the pain to the point where I was refusing pain medication.

Millie spent her 7 weeks in the hospital and there wasn't a day that went by that I wasn't there for at least 7-8 hours a day. Sometimes I was there from 9am until 10:30 that night. I just wanted her to know me. It wasn't an ideal situation. Most babies know their mamas right away. They are put on their mama's chest directly after delivery, they begin breastfeeding and then are never separated. Millie was being fed through an NG tube and I didn't even get to hold her for the first time until she was 2 days old. So, after that 7 weeks spent in the NICU, Tyler and I brought her home, put her in her crib and when we stopped filming her "going home video", we looked at each other and both said, "Okay, now what?!?"

That's when reality set in for us and that "dream period" was over. There was no nurse to step in if we were doing something wrong. There was no one there to remind us of diaper change time, feeding time or vitamin time. We were completely on our own with a 5 pound baby that felt breakable to us.

As the days and weeks went by, I began to notice I was different. I just attributed it to the little sleep I was getting, the fact that I could never really shower and I knew my hormones were completely thrown off from just having a baby and the breast feeding. I noticed I cried every day. Sometimes for no reason. I think I even mentioned in one of my posts that my favorite time to cry was when I was in the shower and no one could hear or see me. I just kept telling myself, this is the new norm. You are just adjusting and it WILL get better. 

All of my motherhood posts for the most part were completely positive, hopeful and faithful. However, I was always completely real and honest when it came to adjusting to life with a new baby and all the trials that come with it. That's just who I am. I am not the type of person that only shares the good things. I share things that are true and that really put things into perspective. Life raising children is not a cake-walk. 

One night, in the middle of the night, I awoke from a terrible nightmare. I sat straight up and realized I had just had the most vivid flashback of the worst 5 minutes of my life. You all know those 5 minutes... the rush from my pre-natal hospital room into the operating room and the 3 minutes where they couldn't find my baby's heartbeat, were trying to insert a catheter, a nurse's entire arm was shoved up my cervix holding my baby off her cord, the anesthesiologist no where to be found, and the last thing I remember: the doctor looking at me saying, "We have to get her out now because we can't find a heartbeat" and me screaming and crying out "Just do it!!!"

I continued to have these nightmares for months and I never told anyone. They even began occurring during the day. I would daze off out of nowhere and then snap back out if it after it was all over. It brought chills up my spine every time.

My mother, God love her. She is a psychologist and has always psychoanalyzed everything in my life. "Tabey, I think you have anxiety." Tabey, I am worried about you. You seem somewhat down lately (finals week in college) and I am worried you are depressed." "Tabey, you just cleaned your bedroom and vacuumed yesterday. I think you have OCD." "Tabey, you are eating really healthy lately and exercising a lot. Are you sure nothing is going on?"  

Haha. Love you mom.

She knows she does this. I've just gotten used to it. And every time she did it, I would snap at her and tell her to "just be my mom and stop analyzing everything in my life!"

A couple months ago, I got a random email in my inbox from her. The subject line stated: "The Symptoms of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety (in Plain Mama English)".
There was no message from her…just a link.
(She later would tell me she was scared to death to send that article because she knew I was going to rip her apart.)

I immediately rolled my eyes and closed the email. Then, later in the day, while I was putting Millie down for her nap, I decided to check my email and I clicked the dreaded link. I began reading each symptom the article listed and felt my body go numb part by part. Then I felt my eyes welt up in tears. Then, I felt extreme fear and embarrassment. "Oh my God. I have this. She is right. What do I do next? Can I fix this on my own? How am I supposed to share this with my husband? I want him to think I am strong and that I would never let anything like this happen to me."

My husband returned home from work a couple hours later and I was standing in the kitchen holding the baby and I immediately began to bawl upon seeing his face. (Poor guy. He told me later he thought something terrible had happened like I had dropped the baby or something.) He came over to me, hugged me and said, "Whats wrong?" I mumbled, "I think I have postpartum depression." I showed him the article and realizing the signs he had noticed as well, without hesitation, he was on the phone calling Millie's pediatrician. When they told him to call my OBGYN, they directed him to call my General Practitioner. When they referred him back to the OBGYN, they began to say that it had been 10 months since I had my baby. I didn't have postpartum depression, I was more than likely just depressed. Feeling very frustrated and like we had been sent in circles, he got on the internet and began researching therapists for PPD. We came across a woman named Meeka Centimano. This is a woman who has not only experienced this but decided to point her specialty towards childbearing women who have had preemies and difficult and traumatic deliveries. He made a quick phone call, and within 15 minutes, I had an appointment set up for that week.  I began to think, no wonder women never get help and are afraid to come forward. We were sent in so many different directions from the healthcare professionals that I thought were supposed to take things like this seriously. This disappointed me greatly. 

I have to pause for a quick moment and say how incredibly thankful I am for my husband. He didn't judge me. He didn't get mad at me. He acted. At that time, I didn't have the strength to call or speak to anyone. He was my rock that entire evening and did everything he could to take action.

My first appointment, Tyler joined me. I explained to Meeka that instead of feeling extreme gratitude that my baby, my beautiful healthy baby was perfect and what could have been a horrible situation turned into a great one, I felt resentment. Not towards anyone or anything in particular. I just felt resentment that I didn't get to have that perfect birth. That perfect first moment where my baby latched on to form that perfect bond between a mother and her child. After we told her our entire story, she began to tell me that she believed my Postpartum Depression and Anxiety was brought on by something called Post Traumatic Stress. 
Those 5 minutes. 
I can't believe 5 minutes of one's life can change everything and make someone's brain completely shift from being normal to "off". 
After that revelation, I felt so validated in just knowing what had been wrong with me for the past 10 months. I finally felt relief that it was nothing I did to cause this. I have continued to see Meeka and am slowly but surely healing from the inside out. She has helped me to realize that there is no correct way to parent, expectations in life will ruin you and that I am in fact a strong woman and just because I am dealing with this right now, does not make me a lesser person.

What made me write this post? 
Education and awareness. 

Had my mother not sent me that article, who knows how long this could have gone on for? My marriage could have suffered. My ability to cope with certain situations would have gotten worse. I would have gone on being miserable and missing out on soaking in experiences and my life's greatest gift. My baby. I do need to say that of all the symptoms I had, I NEVER ever felt like I was going to hurt myself or my baby. That would never in a million years cross my mind. But unfortunately, that is  not the case for some women which is why awareness and education is so important. Some women don't have the support I received. 

I have shared my story with 5 people. My mother and father, my husband and two friends. So the fact that I am posting this today, is going to be a shock to most of my friends and family that I speak to on a regular basis. It just felt like the right time to share and I know that my words come out better through writing. 

If you or anyone you know is showing signs of PPD, PPA or PTSD, please share this blog or the article I linked in this blog with them. Be aware of the women around you. Look for signs. You could be their saving grace.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Thank you for constantly praying for our family and for following along on our journey raising Millie. She is a special little girl. She has that spark. And since she was born, I just have had this feeling that she will make an impact in her lifetime. I am so proud to be her mommy and will love her to the ends of the Earth and back again for as long as I live. 

March 2, 2015

{Winter Lately}

Every season, Tyler and I like to make little videos of Millie to remind ourselves just how far she has come. By capturing these moments on video we will forever be able to follow her progress as she grows, learns and buds into a beautiful, strong young lady. The music overlay is a song entitled "Midnight Swim" by recording artist St. Grandson who resides in Ghent, Belgium. As soon as I heard the song and it's lyrics, I wrote to him immediately asking permission to share his music with my readers. He was so gracious by allowing me to do so and asked me to send him a preview in advance. And he liked it! Phew!

I chose this song because, like Millie, it is endearing, gentle and beautiful. Not to mention the lyrics really hit home for us with our feelings raising Millie the last 10 months.

We hope you enjoy watching as much as we did filming it over the past couple months. For those of you that know the long road she traveled, these clips are a reminder of her strength and tenacity. 

I am busy planning Millie's first birthday party, a fruit theme. :P 
Stay tuned.

I have attached the video in this blog, but for better viewing quality, please click the You Tube link for the ability to watch in HD! Also, please check the description box in You Tube for more detailed information.

Published March 1, 2015

Millie: Winter 2015
"The one where Millie crawls, "rides", discovers snow, swims for the first time, eats and flashes lots of baby smiles."

We owe a special "thank you" to St. Grandson for giving us permission to use their amazing music for our video. Please take a moment and go check them out!

"Midnight Swim" by St. Grandson


Millie's bows: Harper Kate Boutique