Long Story Short : Dealing with Trauma

Long story short… I was halfway through my pregnancy until recently
Long story short … My little girl Ella Jo was born without a heartbeat 
Long story short… I’m still heartbroken and healing everyday
Long story short… We celebrated her anyway

We found out we were pregnant late in the game. Due to my present Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) the symptoms for early pregnancy were completely masked until the symptoms were lasting longer than normal. I knew then something else was up.

I’ve felt the bitter sting of positive tests and the dreaded words of “no heartbeat” twice over two years ago in consecutive miscarriages no further than 8 weeks.

And lo, before my very eyes was an estimated 12 week old baby happily swimming, staring right back at me.

God found a way. And from that moment, I stopped doubting.

My constant prayer was: “Let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Even if the answer is no.”

In the weeks that followed after officially seeing my OBGYN our uphill climb began. I just turned 34 and considered high risk. My husband and I were sent to a prenatal specialist to rule out the abnormal ultrasound of the fatal existence of hydrops fetalis.

We told only a close circle of moms and family what we were experiencing. I was picky to include moms that I knew experienced trauma in pregnancy. We contacted our church who continually prayed with us. I followed an online support group specifically for hydrops and read all the success stories of babies that died, survived and thrived.

Mentally I was worried but emotionally I was leaning on my faith. My faith was the “x” factor that all the medical doctors and statistics could not account for. I had witnessed it with my two born children now well past 9 years old.

Two weeks from that moment after genetic testing, we received more hope that it was meant to be, all tests were negative for clear indicators of downs and turners syndromes and we were in fact pregnant with my first ever girl.

At that point we chose to name her Ella-Josephine Ann Maria Stinnett after all the strongest women we knew, our grandmothers and the ultimate lady of song: Ella Fitzgerald. (cool tip: all my kids are named after Jazz greats.)

My husband glowed from ear to ear. I was scared our kids would find out solely from my husband bragging publicly about Gods miracle in my womb. We told our blended family of 3 kids the following day that their baby sister was coming after Christmas.

Everything felt so real. As if she would be here in just a few more months.

In the following week I felt her kick me for the first time. It felt as if she wanted to be here. I felt God wanted me to rest assured that she was happy growing in me.

Two weeks from that exact moment at our next checkup, Ella’s heart was not found. She laid there lifeless in my womb.

I was lifeless.

And just like that, the plan went from optimistic miracle to an unplanned early birth and funeral. I was preparing to live out my worst nightmare.

How do you get beyond this? Why did this happen to me? Was I being punished? What do you say to your spouse? Do you”sweep it under” and forget?

This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced… and I’ve experienced a lot.  To really share my feelings and grief is to really understand the heart of my faith.

What held me down in the middle of this hardship & uncertainty? These thought pillars helped: 

I am not alone.

According to the American Psychological Association, approximately one half (50 percent) of all individuals will be exposed to at least one traumatic event in their lifetime.

Specifically over 20% of women experience pregnancy loss each day. I was so incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by mama’s that either came from pregnancy loss or related to a not normal pregnancy that helped guide me through this journey.

Knowing we’re not alone is a huge pre-cursor to healing from what you lost.

God desires peace not a promise of perfection. 

For those of faith, any faith, its truly false hope to expect to live a perfect pain-free life from your creator. Our world is broken. It just doesn’t exists on this plane. With that in mind, we can’t expect even the most faithful followers to have a perfect life without trial or tribulation.

In fact, its often relayed that our closeness to our creator is woven through our trials and to rejoice even when our spiritual endurance is tested.

There are countless stories in the bible that reference “everyday people” used in extraordinary ways to deliver seasons of peace and restoration.

I’d like to think that through my faith I can experience peace through this emotional pain weaved throughout the ebb and flow of simply living and recognize a higher power that sought me through it.

My personal goal and lately a whispered mantra is: peace over perfection.

Understanding all life has value.

Before this specific season I had too often learned that no matter how small or how long, honor what you DO have. One day, one hour at a time. 

I decided to honor Ella’s life by not just sweeping it under the rug but acknowledging that she in fact existed. That she was loved long before she was born.

I valued what God gave me. For whatever short time that was.

And I celebrated it.

Who says you have to look at the big picture? It takes so much stress off of you to take things one step at a time.

With each contraction I relished in the idea of knowing she was in fact coming into this world. I refused to not be grateful.

The goal isn’t always the destination, its the journey, the pilgrimage you made is testament to who you are.

What do you want to be known for?

I share this often with students I mentor and I think this helped me a lot through my own trauma.

The weekend I went into early induced labor I had no clue that in actually birthing my child that would in fact be birthing pieces of myself that I didn’t think I was capable of.

It awoken me. What else was I capable of that I had no clue I could do?

#TrueStory: My two beautiful boys were all c-section births. Birthing this little girl was a surreal experience for me in joining the ancestral legacy of birthing naturally (give or take a few decades of modern medicine).

I got to be a part of that. That is very real to me. I felt a little initiated without the membership card.

In leading a blended family with adopted kids, my sons have experienced trauma before this in not so healthy ways.

To be able to use this moment to teach my 3 kids that there’s more living after death and how to process that in a healthy way is something I do want my kids to know me for.

Lastly I wanted to be HOPE to others. That through these experiences I can give value beyond the life that ended too soon. I choose to be a beacon to others through my life experiences.

Forgive yourself. 

This was hard. We as humans take a lot of personal stake when things go wrong or not the way we envision them to.

The way our world is wired, there’s a responsible party almost always.
… the president…
… our broken society…
… that one girl at work…
… that group of liberals…

A lot of times its easy to point to others…. but with trauma we often take it internally and point blame deeper at ourselves.
…If I didn’t wear that dress…
…If I didn’t ask him out first…
…If I had just said ‘no’…

Blogger and writer Shahida Arabi specifically nails an important part of the forgiving yourself in her article in the Thought Catalog:

How can I be more gentle in the ways in which I speak to myself? Is there space for self-compassion? These questions can be explored in countless different ways, such as through therapy, inner child work, positive affirmations, trauma-focused yoga, journaling, meditation, mind-body work, and support groups.

Shahida Arabi

For me personally, having a strong faith platform allowed me to experience a deeper peace and connection to my God. Being able to hold my baby allowed me to gently affirm that I was ok and truly so was she.

I had to forgive myself for not being “pregnant enough” or “healthy enough” and just absorb the fact I got a chance to be present in this moment, to see the positivity and grace in front of me.

Pass the baton.

I touched on this a little bit earlier in sharing: what do I want to be known for. I choose to pass on the knowledge and internal strength I experienced to some one that needs it.

As a person of faith I find it incredibly uplifting seeing myself in stories and fables of the bible. In sharing in open communities seeing yourself in another person’s story is powerful and allows “new inputs” for change and personal healing.

Long story short….

You don’t have to experience a stillbirth to understand any of these points but I believe they help anyone who feels life spinning out of control or experience any loss (parent, pet, a friend).  

I would love to hear your feedback / thoughts on wisdom that helped you in dark places. Feel free to share your thoughts with me by email at info@lexoctane.com.

Living beyond a plan

Octane is built on authentic communities and founded on acts of selfless service. Mothers of May is a month long celebration of moms from all aspects of life. By hosting a space for ‘each one teach one’ women share their own unique perspectives and lessons of motherhood. 

BY maria lorenz

I never thought I wouldn’t be a mother. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was my upbringing; mothers have daughters and daughters then become mothers, that’s what happens I can’t say that I knew what kind of mother I wanted to be, but who does? I also knew I was not going to be a young mother, I had a plan.

There is always a way things are to happen. There are plans. However, a strong theme in my life is me having a plan or a picture of how it should go, and then God says, “I’ve already written that path my daughter, just keep walking.”

My vision probably started in high school. I was to attend college, graduate, build my career, find the love of my life, have children, and grow old, etc…The ideal ‘normal’ life. My life and journey into motherhood has been anything but normal.

I did go to college, and I thought I was following the plan, but I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. Looking back, I should have taken some time off after high school, I was highly unaware of what path I wanted to pursue, but the plan was college, nothing else even crossed my mind. One year in, I changed my major three times and was more interested in being discovered by a WNBA coach than school. Then out of nowhere I also met the love of my life. Some parts of the plan weren’t ideal, but some were great, so went with it.

Matt and I were engaged after a year of dating and then a few months later we found out we were blessed with our engagement present. This was not a part of the plan. I never even wanted to physically have children, I wanted to adopt. This plan of mine was falling apart. I was struggling in school, WNBA was not calling, and now I’m supposed to be a mother??? I was barely an adult.

Maria and husband Matt

No one knows how to be a mom. No one knows what to do all the time. No one goes into motherhood knowing everything, but I didn’t know that.

I never remember my mother saying anything like, ‘I don’t know it all,’ or ‘I’m just trying to keep up,’ She just always seemed to know what to do, how to handle things, and how to keep the family going. I thought that was in inherent ‘mother thing’. I learned very quickly it’s not.

I didn’t know that growing a human being in my body would be the most amazing experience I would ever have.

I also didn’t know that with all the happiness and joy that a child brings, that sadness even has a possibility to be present. I didn’t even know this kind of sadness existed. That sadness could be overwhelming and crippling. That it would seemingly ruin this amazing new chapter.

No one told me about post-partum depression. It was mentioned in a few of pages of paperwork I was given from my OBGYN, but never discussed. I didn’t even remember hearing about it in passing, ever. Again, the picture in my head of how being a new mom was supposed to be, was falling apart.

At first I would try to be happy. I didn’t want Matt, or anyone for that matter, to even know I was sad. Why should I be sad? It seemed silly. So I just put on a happy face attempted to tough it out. Then Matt would see my crying and I’d blame it on a scene in the show or my allergies. Then I couldn’t hide it anymore. In the middle of a basic conversation with Matt, I started to cry and I couldn’t stop. I didn’t know if I would ever be happy again. I thought I was the worst mom in the world.

Eventually, I did know happy again. I was able to smile, and mean it. I was happy to go see people. I was excited to have people come over. I was back to me. This all took time.

I had to ask for help. A major contributor to my depression was feeling like it was all up to me. I had to be strong, I was the mother. This was not true. Matt and I had to find that balance, and it was a life saver. I also learned to talk to people about it. I asked questions, I didn’t feel shame in my depression, but rather, stronger and empowered. My mother shared her own struggle with post-partum that I was completely unaware of. It was comforting to know that I was not alone and I was not a bad mother because I was depressed.

Through each of our children, my depression returned. But each time, I am able to manage it much easier. It may sound strange, but I’m thankful for my type post-partum depression, if there are types. Maybe levels are more accurate. On a scale where green would be easy and red would be the worst, I’d fall in the green fading into yellow. I know it could have been much worse, and I am grateful that my struggle was not in the red.

My growth and journey into motherhood has not been easy. Shoot, I became a mom probably 10 years earlier than planned. So learning and finding what kind of parent I wanted to be, was interesting.

The Lorenz family

I grew up in a structured household. My parents allowed my siblings and myself to be ourselves, but there were rules and expectations. When I was in it, I didn’t quite appreciate it, but looking back, I was so lucky.

Knowing I wanted to be like my parents did not hit me right away. There are so many books and speakers and personalities that say how you should be, of course I was influenced by them. Baby should nap like this, you should feed this, and you should not use this, blah blah blah. It seriously becomes exhausting trying to keep up. It’s not that I didn’t know anything, but it seemed to be working for that person, so why shouldn’t it work for me and my family? It took many years and just growing up to realize that my family is my family and we can’t be like anyone else.

We can’t fit the perfect mold of how a family should look, act, dress, and live. One thing that has helped Matt and I learn to go with the flow is our children.

We may have had some preconceived expectations when we had our first son. He was going to love sports as much as us. He would ideally be amazing at basketball, be discovered in high school, get a college scholarship to the University of Louisville, and then the NBA would come calling. He was named after the best three-point shooter in NBA history for crying out loud. It was destiny. Again, God already had that story written. To say there weren’t some feelings of disappointment, that he wasn’t all about sports, like Matt and myself, would be a lie. We were hurt. We would try and sign him up for activities hoping this would be the time that it sticks, and it just wasn’t. It was pretty frustrating actually. But, Reggie showed us, very early, that sports are not life. Reggie is smart, artistic, kind, helpful, considerate, sensitive, a video gamer, and is actually just finding his love of football. He is competitive and strives for perfection, but doesn’t base his life on a score board. I couldn’t be more proud of the man he is turning into.

Thanks to Reggie, we learned that having preconceived expectations should not be a thing. Each child is going to be their own person and we were going to have to adapt. And true to form, each of our unique children has helped us to grow and be the parents we are today.

The kind of mother I am today can vary depending on the day. I am not very structured. A lot of days it’s more like a controlled chaos.

Our house is not always clean. It gets clean, but a lot of times, it stays messy. And I don’t always care. I learned, thanks to child number two, that life is too short to worry about all the things you cannot control. I will not waste a nice sunny day on making sure my house is picture perfect. The dishes, laundry, folding, and anything else will have to wait. Enjoying moments with my children or even my husband on those rare day dates, those are what’s important. I refuse to attempt to meet anyone’s expectations, that aren’t my own.

I wouldn’t say I keep my daily expectations low, but I don’t have many expectations of myself daily. My amazing husband gets the older three off to school every day. I get to sleep in a little with our youngest and I am so thankful. It’s not that I’m lazy and won’t get up, I work nights. Matt keeps the ship steered while I sometimes just sleep  in the seat next to him. So even on my nights off, I get to sleep in. I get to, for the most part, take my time on getting up and preparing for the day ahead. So on those days I’m off of work and my children don’t have to see my sleeping, I like to again, enjoy the moment and not be tied down to cleaning or societal ideals that are impossible to meet.

Society thinks it knows best. There is a way things should be done and that’s that. However, anytime I’ve seen, and tried myself, to meet those expectations, it hasn’t gone in my favor.

I’ve tried to be more structured, making sure naps take place at the same time every day. This stopped working with child number one. I’ve tried to be more social, but I’m not a play date mom. I’ve tried to be more Christian; presenting myself as someone who reads her Bible daily and has it all figured out. I’ve tried to be a creative mom. One of those moms who makes everything for their children; no store bought anything. I’ve tried being super involved in my children’s school; making PTO meetings, heading committees, and showing up for different events. I’ve tried to become who I thought I should be, and it hasn’t worked. So now I am just me.

I’m may not be structured, but my children know their expectations. We have a daily routine, and rules to follow. They’re happy, healthy, and thriving, so what more could I be?

I’m not the most social mom, but my children have their friends and I make sure they get time with them. I don’t have to hang out with their parents too, it’s fine. When we find families that have children and we can all hang together, that’s a huge blessing. We appreciate these families because they know what we go through. But sometimes, kids can go play and momma can take a nap. It’s a win, win.

I’m a Christian. That is enough. My children know God, they know Jesus. They know they are loved beyond measure by another Father who has laid out this amazing world just for them. I am proud of that and will help to continue to guide them. And I can only pray that I continue to be a model for them, but I will not give them a false notion of perfection.

Sometimes mommy doesn’t have it all together; sometimes I don’t know the answer. Let’s pray on it and go from there. Perfection is impossible and not real life.

I have spent crazy amounts of time and money making things for my children so they feel extra special. The more time I spent on something, the more I thought they would feel loved. Birthday parties, desserts for school, fun activities to do at home, or for entertainment on a rainy day. It was hard, it was stressful, and it honestly didn’t make any experience more enjoyable. In the end, I realized I was trying to impress others and not because I enjoyed doing any of it. If I feel like putting in a creative effort, I will, but I will not stress myself out just to impress others.

I’m also a working mom. This doesn’t mean I don’t love my children any less. My children love seeing me in a career I love and they know that I make a difference. There is sacrifice. I miss events, moments, and experiences, but I make sure my children know it isn’t because I don’t love them. I tried exhausting myself by being involved in their schools and activities, but in the end, my children were actually losing out on quality time with me. I balance life by work days and days I have off, and that’s working for us.

Being just me, means that I can be who God made me. I can be this strong independent woman who is also a partner to her husband. I have a voice and I use it. I speak up when I feel it necessary, and sometimes when it’s not. I don’t fall into the usual norms of what a wife should be and do, and that’s just fine. My husband loves every piece and part of me.

Being me means loving all of me. Sometimes, I don’t. Sometimes I get so discouraged about what I see in the mirror that I lose all motivation for the day. Sometimes I love what I see in the mirror and it makes me want to continue for big results. I’m not a yo-yo dieter; I go with the flow of life. Sometimes I look fit and feel it, and sometimes, I want to eat cake. I remember that I am a role model for my children. I let them know how beautiful they are. I let them know that God made them perfectly. I let them know that sometimes it’s great to be active and we have to remember to take care of the vessels God has given us. Sometimes it’s mommy going on a run, or to the YMCA with Daddy, or just going on a hike with the family. Let’s just be healthy together.

Being me means that I can teach my children that they can be who they want to be.

They can love who they love, dress how they want to dress, and enjoy life. I will not push them into a mold that doesn’t allow them to be happy or be themselves. I know I cannot protect them from everything, but I will do my best to make sure they are children for as long as possible. That they see the good in everyone, and that they never feel like they aren’t good enough. I will do my best to make sure they know they are enough.

Being me means that I get to be happy, sad, angry, tired, and sometimes lose my mind. I don’t always have it together, and I don’t have to pretend to.

Because I can be me, others around me can be them. They don’t have to have it all figured out. They don’t have to have a spotless house. They can just feel like poo some days and I’ll be there if they need me. Their kids can be a little crazy, have some messy hair, or food on their faces, and that’s great. Chances are my children will as well.

My point is that people will have a lot of opinions about you, your children, your life, that way things should be done. Don’t listen. It may sound cliché, but other people’s opinions of you don’t matter.  Not to say that sometimes sound advice is necessary and needed, but know who you are, know your family, and know who you want to be in life.

My ‘plan’ now is to not have one. That is to say, I don’t have any preconceived notions of how things are supposed to go. This epiphany has taken many years to learn, but it has brought me to where I am today, and that is the blessing.  

Maria and husband Matt

Maria Lorenz is the wife to Matt and mother to Reggie, Destiny, Zoey, and Walker. The family also consists of 3 doggies and a cat.

Maria also works as an emergency veterinary technician.

In her free time, Maria enjoys time with the family, hiking, camping, watching movies, listening to music, and going on new adventures. Maria also enjoys running and the challenges and clarity running brings to her.

She has been able to complete a few marathons and several half marathons. She hopes to complete a half marathon in every state.

Motherhood: Being Who You Can

Octane is built on authentic communities and founded on acts of selfless service. Mothers of May is a month long celebration of moms from all aspects of life. By hosting a space for ‘each one teach one’ women share their own unique perspectives and lessons of motherhood. 

By Heather Amos

Motherhood. I was a single Mom for 5 years. I was a young mom having my first child at the age of 19. Currently I wear the badge of stepmother as well. I suppose I have covered lots of Mom roles over the course of years.

Being a mother is absolutely not definable. Is that even a word? It is a medley of poems linked together in no particular order, all the while sounding lovely. It is bearing the life of another and always putting that life before yours.

It is not enchanting, this role, but it is magnificent.

The Amos Kids

As a mother you are expected to sow and sow, some screams and prayers included, and hope that eventually you will see the fruit develop from your child or children.

In some cases, we aren’t afforded that. Death, addictions and other choices trump those words we spoke years before. If we are granted the awesomeness of watching them flourish…wow. I would say what an honor.

Personally, I am thankful to my 18-year old daughter. She pulled open a tab in my life folder that I never even knew existed. She made me better. Not like the lame love songs, like for real, legit, agape love.

She sparked within me the challenge to show her what life was all about. Dreams? Goals? Early on, I was only able to show her what hard work was, as I put myself through night school and worked full time during the day. I think maybe she sees now, I did it for more than myself. Did I fail her on the regular. of course. But, I would like to cling to the hope that maybe some scraps of my nagging and preaching made their way onto her plate.

Now I am a stepmother also. I see that motherhood yet again requires adaptability to be who someone else “needs”. I do not fill the role or have to be the dream shaper or disciplinarian (even though I nag enough for both), but what I am assigned to be is an encourager.

In any form of mother-hood you are addressing, you will find that you are hated, and not validated at all.

This can be even more clear in the step parent role, but I have learned over the years that you have to remember who you “can” be for them, and not who they wish you were.

Heavy stuff, huh.

My youngest son is medically fragile. He has spiced up my mask changing exceptionally. The constant awareness of mortality and 24/7 care, not really required to that intensity of the others, brings forth even more new victories with each battle.

I know that some women refuse to be defined as anything specific, as not to change or challenge their individuality or accomplishments, and I agree for the most part.

However, I know, KNOW, that I have been a better woman, friend, daughter, spouse etc., because God made me a Mother.

In every capacity and all that it is. This position is highly valued, coveted and favored. So don’t down play the excellence therein.

I wish all of you others out there a blessed day to celebrate to hard times, the good times, the in-between times and just be in awe for a few seconds before someone yells and needs something to examine the fact that you brought forth life my dear.

How awesome.

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Heather holds an associate degree in science. The mother of two special-needs children, she has eight years of experience in complex home care and is the veteran of seventeen years of special-needs care. She was motivated to collate the stories in I’m Not “OK” to benefit others in her situation, using her experiences to foster a strong and powerful community of caregiving parents.

Surf’s Up: The Ebbs and Flows of Motherhood

Octane is built on authentic communities and founded on acts of selfless service. Mothers of May is a month long celebration of moms from all aspects of life. By hosting a space for ‘each one teach one’ women share their own unique perspectives and lessons of motherhood. 

by: Le’Shae Robinson

“Your son doesn’t live with you?” is a question I’m often asked and I can see and hear the judgment when it comes up. No, my son doesn’t live with me. He lives with his father. No, I’m not a drug addict. I’ve had the same car for years now. I’ve had my current address for over a year. I have a BA in Communication. I have kept a 9-5 professional job since 2013. I freelance and help small business owners occasionally. Nothing is wrong with me.

My son lives with his father. It’s a really long story but basically my son’s father and I are no longer together for a number of reasons so we are working to learn how to co-parent while creating some form of stability for our child, hence the reason why he lives with his father.

Parenthood doesn’t come with a manual and I really wish it did.

Le’Shae & son Andre

It’s been trial and error for me. My son is only two years old but these two years have flown by and I have grown so much. I love being a mom. My son brings joy to my life. He is smart, funny, curious, caring, a natural born leader, loves to eat, sings all the time, and so much more. That’s what I know for sure today.

However, that wasn’t the case the first three months of his life. He couldn’t talk so he cried for things he needed. Sometimes the crying stopped soon if I could figure out what he needed. Sometimes there was nothing I could do to make him stop crying and so I would cry too. I felt defeated, sleep deprived, and sometimes depressed.

I breast fed him and felt so much pressure about making sure he had enough milk just from the time he was born until I stopped. I remember the lactation nurse coming in my room at the hospital and aggressively talking to me about how I might have to switch to bottles because my son was losing weight. My son was only a few days old! To add to that, I lived in a city with no family. My mom and I were disagreeing about things so we also weren’t speaking. It was really the perfect storm to put a damper on other things in my life and that’s exactly what happened.

So at the start of the new year, I moved out on my own. We made the agreement that I would get my son on the weekends. It was heartbreaking not to see my son everyday. It still is. It was difficult in other ways too. I live on the third floor and there isn’t an elevator so when I do have my son with me I have to lug him and whatever other bags we have up those stairs. They live 45 minutes from me and often I have to drive there to get him. It’s a far ride, completely out of the way, and it is a good bit of gas. I don’t have the relationship with his daycare teachers that I would like. I don’t get to spend every holiday with him anymore because we share every other holiday.

Sometimes I worry about what kind of meals his father makes him. Is it full of nutrition? Are there enough fruits and veggies in his diet? I have a lot of fears and worries about not seeing my son everyday like I used to. However, it it through the ways that I have learned to take better care of myself that I have become a better mom to him.

This isn’t a Tyler Perry film but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I had to get in touch with God again. I don’t actively go to church anymore but I have a much stronger relationship with God then when I left that house. I lost a lot of friends after leaving. Some of my family members judged me. I felt alone and I was so it was really easy to just start talking to God openly about things.

I started changing how I talked to myself. I cut off statements of “I’m poor” or “I’m so fat”. I’ve replaced negative statements with “You’re worthy”, “you’re that chick today!”, “you have all the resources you need”, “can’t stop, won’t stop”, “today’s a good day to have a good day” and many other positive mantras.

In turn, when I started saying the opposite I started making the real changes to manifest the new positive things I was telling myself. I got a personal trainer who is awesome! She would pump me up in the gym. She would text me positive things. I started following her fitness group online where there was more positivity. Then in turn, I started losing weight. I started purposely choosing new friends who were positive. I started going out to public events that promoted positive messages. I even started a new business!  

While these are all good results, it’s come with a lot of personal growth. For example, I overcame anxiety and negotiated a higher salary. I’ve had to professionally confront people on rumors that weren’t true in order to protect my reputation. I’ve had to barter services with people. I have completed and pushed projects and ideas that were near and dear to my heart that didn’t get the results that I wanted.

I’ve survived two months with no job. I’ve even had to let some friends go. All of these things were difficult for me to do. However, it is through a closer relationship with God, supportive family and friends,  and daily positive affirmations that I have had pushed through these tough situations.

I use these same tactics when it comes to parenting my son now. I pray to God to heal my son when he’s sick and there’s nothing I can do for him. I make time with my son intentional by making sure we are surrounded by positive family and friends who support us.

If I get overwhelmed, I repeat positive affirmations over and over.

These are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned through being a mom. The greatest one is that in order to better serve your children (or anyone) you have to take care of yourself first so that you can develop mental endurance. Life will still continue to happen so how will you ride the wave?

Le’Shae is a mom, author, market strategist and business owner of Hair to Door online wig subscription service.

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Life, changes.

Octane is built on authentic communities and founded on acts of selfless service. Mothers of May is a month long celebration of moms from all aspects of life. By hosting a space for ‘each one teach one’ women share their own unique perspectives and lessons of motherhood. 

By Celeste | @parentingandheels

As I was listening to “Life Changes” by Thomas Rhett, I was thinking about how relevant it was to my life. When Shawn and I got married we had this idea about how life would go. Well we all know life never goes the way we plan……

Over 8 years ago I began my journey in motherhood without even realizing it.

At the time we were traveling to Aruba and Las Vegas and here and there having a good time as husband and wife. One day (I can’t even remember how we found out about this) we decided to travel ten hours to Wilmington, NC. There was a promotion for a free stay and dinner if you booked an appointment to see a residential development they were building. We thought why not?!! It’s free and who knows maybe we will buy a house there! If you’re not familiar with Wilmington it’s a beautiful historic town built on the Cape Fear River and next door to Wrightsville Beach. Well we absolutely fell in love with this little town and when we returned home we decided to sell our first home and move to the beach!!!

Well like I said before, life changes! Not two weeks after we sold our home and was packing up, I found out I was pregnant. Keep in mind that we were moving on a whim. That meant we were quitting our jobs and just moving! Obviously I couldn’t just quit my job being pregnant; we needed to keep our insurance. Besides the fact that my mom would kill me if I moved far away with her grandchild! We made the responsible decision to stay and look for a home here. We ended up moving two houses down from our old house. Our neighbors must have thought we were nuts!!! They were kind of right.

We were bummed about not living by the beach but we were excited about this new adventure!! We were thrilled when Audrey was born and loved her more than the beach (that’s right; I said it!).

It was about two weeks in when the realities of parenthood hit us hard. She had colic, and I’m not talking that one hour a night of crying. If she was awake, she was crying. She took three 30 minute naps a day. You can do the math. She cried ALL the time. She also went through a 6 week period when she woke every hour on the hour throughout the night. We were utterly exhausted. I obviously still loved her, but I needed a break!! We both did!!
Luckily she eventually grew out of her colic and is the BEST kid now! She’s so responsible, so sweet and compassionate. But, we decided NO MORE kids!!! We just couldn’t do the “baby thing” again.

The picture above is the vacation we took in 2017. We took Audrey to swim with the dolphins, took a sunset dolphin cruise and had the best time!!! It was the first vacation we had been on that we could actually relax because she was older and more self sufficient. It was AMAZING!!! I remember watching families with young children thinking “Shew, I’m glad we’re done with that stage!” Little did I know, I was pregnant with Brooklyn at the time. Talk about life changing!!! I had no idea what we were about to be hit with when we got home.

Celeste & daughter Audrey

It wasn’t until three days after we got back that I found out. I was going on Audrey’s school field trip as a chaperone to the orchard but that morning I woke up SO sick!! I could barely get dressed and I had to monitor 24 kids that day!

I pulled myself together and made it there (barely). A friend of mine was there chaperoning another class. She said, “You look awful. Are you ok?” I told her how sick I was. She said, “Are you pregnant?!” Umm no! Don’t be ridiculous!!! I’m almost 40 years old! No way, no how!! The whole day she kept asking me if I was ok and trying to persuade me to take a pregnancy test. I think I finally agreed when I dry heaved on one of the kids!

TRUE STORY! Later that afternoon she bought a test for me and dropped it off. It was like a scene from a bad 80’s movie…taking a pregnancy test and keeping it under wraps.

Our lives changed forever that afternoon. The lines on that test couldn’t have been clearer. I remember texting Shawn a picture of the test at work. Yeah I know. I could’ve been much more eloquent about it, but I was in total shock!! He called me and said, “Soooo….how do you feel?” I said, “I feel better now that I’ve had some crackers and ginger ale.” He said, “No I mean…how do you FEEL??” Well I was scared and shocked, but I knew God had a plan and I had to trust that. My whole pregnancy I was a nervous wreck. I thought, “There is no way I can do this again! I’m completely starting over and I’m almost 40 years old!! What am I going to do?!” We had even given away EVERYTHING! We had to buy all new baby stuff. We were literally starting from scratch.

Now we have two beautiful little girls (7 years apart) and wouldn’t trade it for the world!!! Side note: Brooklyn was such an easy baby compared to Audrey. We had a lot of people praying she would be much calmer and it definitely worked!!

Now we‘re not living our dream of spending days by the ocean but we’re living a dream we didn’t know we wanted until we had it!!!

I couldn’t imagine my life without my two girls and my husband. Days are hard sometimes, but it’s all worth having those big smiles in my small little world. Life definitely changes, but sometimes those changes are bigger than us and exactly what we need!!!

Photo by @momentscapturedbyhannah

Hi!! I’m Celeste, a KY blogger, wife and mom of two girls who are 11 months and 7 years. That’s right! I’m starting over in the baby world.

 I am about creating balance between self and family. My passions are my family of course, fashion and food. 

I have been a stay-at-home mom for 7 years with my two girls. I am both in the school age world and the baby world. 

 I love to share what I have learned on this journey called motherhood! I don’t consider myself an expert by any means, but I love talking about my experiences over the past 7 years as a mom!!

Moms need other moms to support each other and that’s why I love what I’m doing!!

Life beyond our prisons: A mothers story

Octane is built on authentic communities and founded on acts of selfless service. Mothers of May is a month long celebration of moms from all aspects of life. By hosting a space for ‘each one teach one’ women share their own unique perspectives and lessons of motherhood. 

By Joy Bolton Berry

My name is Joy … And I’m the mother of three adult children ages 29, 27 and 23. My oldest son was convicted of a horrible crime and was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

Chase my first beautiful son has battled mental and intellectual issues primarily all of his life. He was also much larger than most kids his age and was a victim of bullying. He lost his father unexpectedly before he finished high school.

Joy Bolton-Berry

After two knee surgeries within two years it was no longer eligible to play basketball and became depressed and lost. This was a connection to kids that accepted and looked out for him. He was now forced to find another peer group to do the same. This peer group was kids that turned to drugs to soften the blow of life.

The background information is not for sympathy but a brief synopsis into the life of a good human being dealing with difficulties and ultimately making choices that impacted not only himself but his entire family.

For the past 14 years… I have attended court proceedings, talked with psychiatrist, made multiple calls to attorneys, made weekly jail visits (some entailed a three hour round-trip drive), accepted weekly phone calls, deposited money in jail account, and updated family members with pertinent information for 14 years!!!!

I dealt with sadness, anger, depression and most of all guilt. I was constantly thinking that I must have hurt Chase so badly that I caused him to behave so recklessly. Where did I fail at being a good mother? I felt so much pain for so many years. I was angry at everyone. No one is fighting for Chase but me.

I was tired. Change arrived in the form of a divorce, discovering self-love, and most importantly… my new relationship and faith in God. Anger, anxiety, exhaustion, fear, frustrated and was given over to God. I began to see my life outside of my sons incarceration.

I have fought so long for my son that I forgot to fight for myself.

Joy Bolton-Berry

There’s so much more to discuss as it pertains to intellectual disabilities and incarcerated persons, mental health care in prison facilities, delayed and nonexistent services for individuals reentering society, predatory phone in prison services, etc. you simply cannot fight everything and everyone alone. And I cannot dissect every moment of my life to try to figure out how things could be different.

What I’ve learned is to find balance. You have to find the joy in every circumstance. I hear the joy in my sons voice, laugh and smile. I will not feel guilty as I experience joy in my own life.

There’s so much to experience that I can give to chase, to uplift and motivate him. He is excited for me in spite of the circumstance. I could be excited for him as well.

Chase will be eligible for parole soon. I pray for his opportunity to make a better life for himself. He wants me to be proud. He talks about photography, animals and having a family.

Incarceration has damaged my family but there is still joy in the aftermath.

For that I am thankful.

Joy is the co-host of local show “The Joys and Lowes of Relationships” on Lexington Community Radio on WLXU 93.1FM and local columnist for The Lextropolis.

She is a vocal advocate for families affected by incarceration, neglect and abuse and a fierce community leader among women of color.

No Milestone Left Uncelebrated: A Note on Being an Autism Mom

Octane is built on authentic communities and founded on acts of selfless service. Mothers of May is a month long celebration of moms from all aspects of life. By hosting a space for ‘each one teach one’ women share their own unique perspectives and lessons of motherhood.

By Cicely N. Carter

When I was first thrust into the realm of special needs parenting, I feel like many of the articles I was able to find about being a special needs parent or Autism mom specifically we’re a little bit gloom and doom. Of course they spoke to hope and how the diagnosis is not the end of the world, but I didn’t find too many people who were truly celebratory. They celebrated their children of course, but no one truly took hold of the special needs parent title and embraced it. I now realize it may have been because at the root of it all, we are all still moms. No less than other moms, just different.

We are now almost 7 years into Liam’s diagnosis and I will say that the challenges we face today and the hope I feel for Liam’s future are a stark contrast to how we started out. I did not know what Autism really was at the time, but I do remember feeling very sad and grieving for the normal life I thought he would never have. Here he is turning 10 later this year and living his best life. Of course he and we have faced struggles and obstacles, but from some of the things I heard along our journey, the outlook wasn’t very good.

I remember when he was about 3 and ½ years old and we went to a meeting about SSI because as a single parent who worked and was in school, I still needed additional income to help pay for daycare and to meet our daily needs. As a part of the SSI application process, they send you to a third-party agency to do a psychological evaluation. Much of Autism diagnoses and evaluations are done simply by observation. The woman who gave him the third-party diagnosis, also told me that he almost certainly had ADHD and I should probably get that checked on and get him medicated for that as well.  I remember seething internally and believing that there was some sort of racial or cultural bias because all the things I had read and observed from him at that point said nothing about ADHD. I ignored what she had to say and at 9 years old, there is still no ADHD diagnosis and Liam is not on any medications.

Cicely + Liam

Being Liam’s mom has made me grow and expand into roles I never knew I would take on. I have become Liam’s number one advocate. If I don’t believe something is pertinent to him or relevant for the challenges he faces, I speak up and say something. Although he is the one experiencing Autism and I am the one on the outside looking in, I have to use both my mom intuition and my knowledge of my child to make the most informed decision that I can about his life. Turning into an advocate has also given me strength and confidence in myself and in other areas.

While so often the focus on the struggle of Autism parenting, there is so much joy that Liam experiences in his life and joy that he brings to mine.

Due in part to Autism and to heredity, Liam speaks his mind and holds nothing back. He has said some things that have put me in slightly awkward situations, but it’s really nothing that I haven’t been able to laugh off and get over. Liam took his first international trip at 6 to the Bahamas and I’m not even sure he had one meltdown that entire trip. That was such huge progress for him. He got on a plane, we stayed at an Airbnb and then we boarded a huge cruise ship. Everything except the plane ride was completely new to him. He scaled that obstacle without a hitch.

There was the time a year and a half ago that Liam decided to play basketball for the first time. Although he complained about going to practice, he got better at dribbling and shooting and towards the end was finally engaged in the game. He decided not to continue his future NBA career, but I applaud him for trying because it was his first time doing a team sport and I know it caused him a lot of anxiety.

If being an Autism mom has done nothing else for me, it has made me appreciate and celebrate every milestone no matter how small.

Every single time Liam shows progression and overcomes an obstacle, I am his biggest cheerleader. I want him to know that there is cause to celebrate every triumph. I have experienced this life with him right by his side. I can’t be everywhere, I can’t know everything and I can’t ever see thing through his eyes, but I can be the support he needs. If that’s all I was ever meant to do on this Earth, I am more than happy that I was divinely chosen as his mom.


Cicely is a mom, a graduating nurse student, MUA and blogger behind @bougiebeautybabe. When not the co-host of the #MoreThanGraphics podcast Cicely is raising curiosity and exploration within her beloved son Liam. Follow her on Instagram.

The Obligatory Birthday Post

Transparent Moment: My birthday is today and I’m honestly in my feels. Days I’m so filled with purpose and others I want to never leave my bed. I’ve felt attacked all month by trial and circumstance to not feel worthy of celebrating myself, my success or my life.

#TrueFact: I get this way every birthday. It’s like my emotional purging before I make that uphill climb to being a strategic badass. I’ve been told this process is quiet normal for strong creatives. This time, you get to read through my process…

Feel Your Feelings

  • I’ve felt unvalued.
  • I’ve felt depressed & sometimes isolated or contained.
  • I feel unworthy.

See The Good

But I know (from the foundation of Christ) that on the other side of all this fear and anxiety is JOY (and peace).

  • Joy in knowing I’m alive today & I get to see others that love just as hard.
  • Joy in knowing others care and share in the positivity of healing others in the smallest ways.
  • Joy in knowing God loves me and that’s GREATER then the immediate satisfaction of the previous two joys…

My life is far from perfect. I struggle with the best of them. I’m living proof that God wrestles tirelessly in this realm. God is fighting for my good even when I don’t feel good in this season.


Birthdays are hard because it forces me to look at things that aren’t always pretty. I feel guilt about things I woulda/ coulda/ shoulda done. But that is what also makes my life extremely rich and beautiful.

My life has been an ebb and flow of experiencing the best and worst of myself. As I’ve built my business I’ve also made eternal friendships and built foundations that could’ve only happened the way it did.

I’m incredibly grateful for each of you that have spoken wisdom and truth into my life. To my clients and friends that have gifted me direction and clarity this past year; thank you. 

Hoping this next year reveals even deeper planting for my life, my business and everything in between.

Happy Birthday to this beautiful mess.

#MSfamily #joy #PlantSeeds #seasons

NOTE: Depression is very real and can affect your everyday life. If you or anyone you love is experiencing signs of depression, seek professional help, offer this natural remedy article.

Octane Presents: The LexParty Project

“Just get the idea out so you don’t have to worry/stress about it anymore.”

I’ve recently listened to the words and advice of Tim Jones, Creative Director of Cornett at a local networking event at Pivot Brewing and this specific one stuck.

I love crafting. The idea of uplifting others is always a core denominator for me. But this specific idea keeps recirculating in my heart and I can’t keep holding onto it anymore!

Time to get it out!

Since the adoption of our son in 2012 I’ve gone the extra mile to make sure his little moments were just as meaningful as the big ones. I’ve seen countless unique birthday project organizations outside of Kentucky for foster kids and newly relocated families. At first I started crafting a few cards to parents that mentioned there child didn’t have any friends show up at birthday parties or a newly moved family that was just getting settled and the kid(s) needed some encouragement.

These moments resonate with anyone at some point in there life. And with all the wordly pressure to “fit in” I figure a few sheets of glitter and cardstock can make an impact with others in a dark or lonely place. Put that next to an amazing cake or a cool gift card and you’ve got a few extra smiles that wouldn’t have come any other way.

Keywords here: Positive. Vibes. Only.

So look out Kentucky! I’m rolling up my sleeves and partnering with multiple organizations across the Bluegrass to form The LexParty Project. A simple way to ‘pay it forward’ and inspire others! Click below for info or fill out the form to send a kid some encouragement in Kentucky.

Check it out here! 

On The Last Day: You Were There

To the parents of students receiving school awards but were not present — you were there.

Let’s face it… with elementary aged kids the last day of school is EPIC, right? Most of the last week of school is filled with end of the year accolades to further boost their esteem for summer break.

Today I got dressed extra early just to get to school two hours after I dropped my kids off to watch them receive special recognition at the end-of-the-year school awards.

I got there 20 minutes early to grab a decent seat. This year the award ceremony seemed faster than before. I watched each student receive an award and receive applause from peers and the gathered assembly.

There were smile’s and cheers. There were kids that were told to stand still for pictures with their teachers.

But there were also students that received their award and quietly sat back down in the gym.  Whether by accident or design they there was no extra picture taking or parental hugs or pats on the back. No matter what direction they looked.

And that is OK too.

It’s OK for kids to understand the importance of work ethic. It is important for children to see their mothers put in hours so that they can value higher achievement and future opportunities.

As mothers we can’t be everywhere all the time. But we can celebrate the milestones in our own way.

So whether or not you were present at the school assembly is irrelevant. Because you were there along the way helping them to success.

You were there for homework time banging your head against the table for them to finish the worksheets. You were there when you got the discouraging teacher phone call from school about your child’s class behavior. You were there when they brought home the A+ spelling test.

You were present when they ask you questions about life. You responded when they acted out of pain and anger. You comforted them on their darker days. You help them to prioritize things that matter.

All of these things are greater achievements than sitting in a chair for 30 minutes. In this self bubbling world it is our obligation to keep our children planted in the things that matter. Do not succumb to the customs and behaviors of this world. (Romans 12:2)

To the parents of students receiving school awards but were not present — you were there right there with them, dancing/smiling /fist pumping in the place that matters most— their hearts.

Go get’em 🙂