Cambria: Expect The Unexpected

“This is story 3 of 10 of LoveYourzStory’s Motherhood Series. 10 mothers give us a glimpse into a small portion of their motherhood journey. I am so grateful that these 10 women gave me the opportunity to share their stories on my platform. Though they focus on different topics, each mother has gone through challenges that tested their strength, patience, and sense of self. Thank you again for sharing.” -Marinelle, LoveYourzStory

This is Cambria’s story, written in her own words:

“When I found out I was pregnant I had so many mixed emotions. I was 25 years old and still figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I had a decent job and a stable income, but kids were definitely not in my plans at that time. I was about 4-5 weeks along when I first found out I was pregnant. I remember I had gotten this really bad cramping which usually never happens to me. I hadn’t gone to the doctor yet to confirm my pregnancy so I wasn’t really sure what was happening. I ended up fainting from the pain and ended up pressed against the tile on my bathroom floor. Somehow, I managed to get myself undressed and threw myself into the shower while hyperventilating. It took me what felt like 30 minutes or so to get back to normal and gather myself together. After fainting, I already felt like this was a bad omen and I was not ready to have this child. 

I didn’t tell my parents about the pregnancy yet, but after that incident I felt the need to come clean to my mom. Me and my mom are very close, but for some reason I just felt so nervous telling her about what happened. After telling her about the whole situation, it comforted me a little bit just knowing that my boyfriend, Mark, and I weren’t the only ones keeping this secret. But I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep the pregnancy. I just wanted some reassurance to know that she wouldn’t be disappointed in me or I didn’t feel like I was going to be a burden to my family if I were to go through with it. My mom has always been supportive of anything I chose in life, but I knew this was going to be pushing it a bit. I initially told her I was going to make an appointment to get an abortion and I would schedule it sometime later that week. 

I vividly remember calling the Kaiser advice line to schedule my appointment and asked them if I could decide whether or not to go through with the abortion the day of the appointment. They straight up told me that I needed to know before scheduling the appointment so I ended up freaking out and told them I would call them back. I called Mark after and cried, telling him I didn’t know what to do. I gave him the run around about making the appointment because I felt in my heart that I didn’t want to give this pregnancy up. It wasn’t like I was a teenager anymore, I had just graduated college and I felt like I was ready for my next steps in life. After talking to Mark about our options, he saw that I really wanted to keep the pregnancy and after days of  going back and forth I finally made my first prenatal appointment. This would be the start of realizing that no matter how much you plan for things, life will always find a way to challenge you. 

Having a pandemic pregnancy was one of the loneliest experiences I ever been through. I was estimated to be due on January 12, 2021 so I was pregnant right when the pandemic started. I didn’t get to see my family and friends that often while I was pregnant so I felt like I couldn’t celebrate the happiness with my loved ones. Fortunately, I was still able to work but I would just work and go home and do it all over again. At times it did get a little lonely so I enjoyed going to work for socialization.

 Although, I didn’t mind staying home and enjoying my own space especially since COVID was at its peak. I wasn’t allowed to bring my boyfriend during my appointments or to ultrasounds, so it felt like I was doing everything by myself. On top of that, I wasn’t able to go to any lamaze classes, so I was super unprepared for birth. I had to resort to asking my sister in-law, Jayna, for advice and look at pregnancy posts from Instagram and TikTok. But even with all those resources nothing would mentally and physically prepare me for having a baby.

During my research, I knew having a premature baby was a possibility, but I never thought it would happen to me. I would workout and stay active, drink water, and take my prenatal vitamins religiously. I felt like I was doing everything right and I thought I was having a somewhat healthy pregnancy so far. It wasn’t until I was at work and I started getting cramps throughout my 10 hour shift. I had a lot of back pain throughout my pregnancy so I didn’t think much of it. I thought about just going home early from work but me being the stubborn person I am, I ended up staying the whole time.

On my drive home after getting off, I remember wincing in pain and taking deep breaths while trying to stay composed because the pain was getting unbearable. I called the advice nurse and they told me if it gets worse I should call back and they might have to admit me into the emergency to see what was going on. I had the hardest time falling asleep that night. I was constantly tossing and turning until around 2 in the morning. I couldn’t take the pain anymore and Mark made me call the labor and delivery nurse to see what I should do next. They told me it sounds like I could be having contractions and to go there right away.

Me and Mark went to the ER unprepared, coming only with our keys, wallet, and water bottles in hand. The nurse who checked us in laughed as we came empty handed while the family ahead of us brought overnight bags and a car seat. She said, “Wow you guys packed light.” We laughed nervously realizing that it did not occur to us at all that I could have a baby within the next couple of days since I wasn’t due for another 2 months. As the doctor came in to check me she said I was 1 cm dilated and that I was lucky I came in when I did or I would have been further dilated. I found out I was in preterm labor. They gave me medication to slow down the contractions and a steroid injection so my baby’s lungs could mature faster in the womb before being born and if they were effective I could potentially go home. 

A Doctor came in and talked to me about the possibility of having a premature baby and how a baby born at 32 weeks would definitely need to stay in the NICU at least until they reach full gestation which is around 40 weeks. I just remember bawling my eyes out because I was so sad to have to leave my baby in the hospital and I wouldn’t be able to take him home. Mark reassured me he would be in good hands but I was so crushed at the thought of not being with my baby for such a long time.

After my first dose of medications the contractions decreased and I could finally sleep comfortably for at least a couple of hours. The next morning I felt a lot better, my contractions slowed down and the doctor said I could be monitored and transferred to the neonatal floor and eventually be discharged to go home. I was so happy because it meant that my baby’s birth would be delayed by at least a couple days if not hours. A couple days didn’t seem like much but when your baby is born premature every second spent in the womb is crucial, as told to me by the Doctor. Hours passed and I was exhausted by being checked on by the nurses and doctors every 2 hours, but everytime they came in I was feeling much better in hopes that I could finally go home.

 It wasn’t until I started getting contractions again and I was further dilated at 3-4cm. That’s when everything started to speed back up again. After they saw how dilated I was, the nurse told me I needed to be transferred back to the labor and delivery floor. I remember feeling contractions more often than before. I remember her talking to me and saying, “It looks like you’re going to have this baby today,” and I was so scared for what was to happen next. I was in so much pain that I was like “Okay, whatever, how can I make him come out faster?” But the thing that stuck with me was when the Doctor came in to talk to me prior to giving birth and told me,”It’s not your fault.” I didn’t get that until later. There’s a lot of guilt that comes when having a premature baby. I felt like my body failed me. I felt like I wish I could have done something different, I wasn’t sure what that was but it broke me knowing that I couldn’t keep my baby inside me long enough for him to be healthy.

I was so mentally and physically exhausted that all I really wanted was to fall asleep but the contractions were getting closer and closer to each other that I knew for a fact this baby was coming soon. I kept asking for pain medications but they had given them to me so often that they were starting to wear off quicker and quicker to the point where the nurses told me there was nothing else they could give besides doing an epidural. I was too scared to do an epidural because of all the horror stories I’ve heard before of people getting paralyzed after giving birth because of it, so I refused it. The nurses respected my wishes and tried to make me as comfortable as possible. At some point I was having such bad contractions that I couldn’t even call the nurse for help because the pain was that bad. 

Things started to speed up a bit and the Doctor informed me that they were going to prep the delivery room for me. I constantly nodded my head in response to everything because I couldn’t really think straight but I wanted them to know I was aware of what was going on. I remember being wheeled in the delivery room and there were so many nurses surrounding me and it looked like there was a lot going on. Once I reached about 6-7cm the doctor decided that I could either wait for my water to break or they could break it themselves to speed up the process. I told them to pop it so I could get it over with because I couldn’t take the pain anymore. Once my water was broken, I pushed for a couple of minutes but nothing was happening. 

The doctor said that he didn’t like what the baby’s heartbeat was looking like and if I didn’t push him out soon they would have to intervene. To be completely honest, I was so out of it that I don’t even remember what was happening. All I knew was that if I didn’t push this baby out they would have to intervene and in the moment I absolutely did not want to get a C-section, so I started to push as hard as I could. The other doctor then coached me while in labor to push my baby out by holding my breath for 10 seconds while I was having a contraction. I did just that and then about 15 mins or so later my baby was finally born. 

Later I learned that that was the most incorrect way to push a baby out. You’re not supposed to hold your breath, you’re supposed to breathe through it and let it come out naturally but they were so pressed on getting him out that I didn’t really have a choice. I pushed so hard that my eyes were bloodshot and I got freckles on my face from breaking so many blood vessels. The bloodshot in my eyes didn’t go away for weeks. I looked so scary.

All I could really remember was saying “HI BABY” a hundred times and trying to rub all of the white stuff over his body because I heard that it was good for their skin. Then he was whisked away and went off to get weighed and measured then went straight to the NICU. After giving birth and getting a second for me and my baby to get settled the nurses mentioned to me that we could go visit him but this would be the only time we could see him together because of COVID. After that only one parent was able to visit per day. 

At the moment I actually liked the fact that there were COVID restrictions and not that many people could come in because I felt like this was such an intimate moment. I wouldn’t want so many people in my delivery room while I was giving birth so I wasn’t really upset. It was after my birth experience that I wished my mom was there with me. She would know how to calm me down and check on me while I was having contractions and overall she would just know what to do. Mark barely knew what to do when it came down to it because we just were not mentally prepared for this early birth and on top of that he was sick so he wasn’t even in the right headspace himself. 

We walked down to the NICU and saw him in his incubator with all the wires and mini cpap over him and his little IV line attached to his arm. We weren’t able to carry him because his oxygen levels were low at the time so we stuck our hands inside to hold him. When I saw Jojo in the incubator for the first time it truly felt unreal. I was fine seeing him attached to all the machines because I knew that those were helping him thrive outside the womb but I was so sad that I couldn’t hold him that first time and actually get to see what he looked like. Mark took pictures shortly after he was born during his weight check so I would just stare at those for hours so I could just imagine what he looked like. I just couldn’t believe how small he really was. He was so tiny at 3 lbs. 

It was so unbelievable what just happened. I went back down a couple hours later while Mark rested during his touch times where the nurses check his vitals and I finally got to hold him in my arms since giving birth. I would soon find out that that would be one of the last times I would get to see him in person. They laid him on my chest and I couldn’t believe he was mine.

After coming back in the room, I later found out that Mark was coming down with a headache and wasn’t feeling well. He let the nurses know and they suggested that he leave and get tested for COVID just in case. After he left I was alone in my room until the next morning. I couldn’t have visitors due to COVID, so once again I was alone. I couldn’t even go to see my baby because I was at risk of having COVID, so I just stayed in my room until I was able to be discharged the next day. About a day after arriving home, I noticed I was starting to have a cough. At this point Mark had come back positive for COVID so I knew for sure I had it too. 

I let the doctors know at the NICU our situation and they said it’s best for us not to come in until we’ve had our 2 weeks of quarantine. I was crushed. I was so angry at Mark for giving me COVID, but I knew there was nothing I could do at that point. The NICU nurses allowed me to FaceTime Jojo everyday for two weeks until I could actually see him in person. It felt surreal to me that I just had a baby because I was finally home, but it was just me there. On top of that, Mark couldn’t be with me either because we were both in quarantine. It seemed like the loneliness never stopped. I was also worried that my baby wouldn’t know who I was because the first days after birth were so crucial for bonding that I was feeling so shitty at the fact that I couldn’t be there. Nonetheless, I continued to keep myself fed and hydrated so that when the time came, I would be healthy enough to see my son. 

Pumping in general was never a challenge for me. I always heard of people having a hard time pumping and producing milk but that was never the case for me. My only concern was that because I had COVID, I didn’t know if it was still safe for me to give my milk to my baby. The Doctor’s told me it was actually beneficial and I should be giving it to him not only for the health benefits it has but so it could potentially provide antibodies from the COVID virus. I didn’t think much of that until I noticed that my milk was turning green. At first I thought that my milk was getting spoiled but I wasn’t sure why it would be spoiled if I was handling it properly. Then I saw a post on Instagram talking about how breast milk turns colors when moms get sick and provides antibodies for your baby. I was in such awe about how amazing mothers’ bodies are and how our bodies were made to sustain a baby’s life. 

At last my two week quarantine was up and I would finally be able to hold my baby again for the first time in 2 weeks. I was so happy to see him after only seeing him through a screen. He was so plump and had so much more hair than I remembered. He was growing so fast and I remember him always smiling when we FaceTimed, but I cried the first time I got to see it in person. I knew there were so many angels surrounding him in the NICU that would keep him safe and looked after him while I couldn’t be there with him. I hated leaving him so I would stay there without eating just so I could be with him all day. Leaving Jojo was the hardest, but I knew the day would come when I could finally bring him home. 

Throughout those two weeks I got to see him, he was doing so well. The nurses said Jojo was their favorite because he was such a good and well mannered baby. I’m sure they said that to all the moms, but it made me so happy to know that he was doing so well without me there. One of the qualifications for them to be a NICU graduate was that they had to maintain their weight and hit at least 5 lbs. Everyday he grew so strong, he ate so well, and eventually he didn’t have to eat through his NG tube. Everyday was a celebration and every milestone hit from then on out was exciting. When Jojo was hitting all his milestones I felt like we were always just one step closer to him coming home. I wanted him to come home before Christmas so he wouldn’t have to celebrate another holiday in the NICU. I was so excited when I saw that he was gaining weight everyday and he finally got his NG tube out. All these little things could be checked off the box and he would eventually be a NICU graduate.

The day Mark and I finally got to bring him home, we were so nervous but ready to start this new chapter of our lives. Once our baby was in the stroller and we were on our way to our car we looked at each other and said, “Now what?” 

It wasn’t until we walked out the hospital with him that day that he got discharged that it finally hit me. I felt like I was on my own now and there were no nurses to help me. I was really on my own and all the knowledge I got from the NICU nurses I would actually have to apply and eventually teach Mark how to do the same. I developed PTSD from hearing the machines go off and I was more paranoid than ever knowing that now as he was coming home, there was no way I could tell that he was breathing on his own other than physically looking at him and seeing his chest move up and down. Now that we’re past that and he’s sturdy and is doing things an almost 1 year old should do, it hits me every once in a while that he’s a whole human being and I have to take care of him everyday for the rest of my life.” -Cambria

It’s Okay to Change Your Mind

We live in the age of information. With the plethora of information and sources out there, it’s almost inexcusable to not look into things deeper. Especially with the current political climate and election day roaming around the corner, people are becoming more aware of the importance of voting. Where does our tax dollars go? What are we funding? How can we make change? How can I do my part in this all?

But we all know how life goes, people get busy, we get caught up in work, and sometimes we don’t make the time to dig deeper and do research. We get to pick and choose who we follow and what kind of content we get to see. That’s a blessing and a curse all at once. We get to filter and sift through all the things we don’t want to see. On my Instagram feed I’ll never find someone or a company trying to profit off of my insecurities, I’ll never see Trump-supporting content, I’ll never read racist commentary, I’ll never see anti-gay, anti-fat, anti-feminist content, I’ll never see any of that. Because I’ve tailored my Instagram to show me things I believe in, and filtered out the things I don’t want to see.

But what if someone is on the wrong side of thinking? It used to be “agree to disagree” and “everyone has a different opinion,” but now with everything going on, I really feel like there’s no going back to those ignorant days. And I don’t want to be a “my opinion is the right opinion” kind of bitch, but when it comes down to what is taking place right now, with Trump in office and all the havoc and pain he’s caused this nation in just under 4 years, it does boil down to “right and wrong” opinions.

We all knew from the get what kind of guy Trump was before he was elected into office. But after all this, after almost 4 years of presidency, whoever is still “Trump 2020”-ing, all I have to say is what the fuck?! Like genuine confusion. But I have to realize that there really are people out there that think like him, hate like him, and want him for president again. And sometimes I stop and wonder if they’re actually all for him, or if they’re too embarrassed to say he is wrong. And in turn, that they were wrong in wanting him as president. That, or they’re too set in their ways of thinking to ever see past their own views.

When new information is presented on a topic, situation, person, and it proves your previous beliefs to be wrong, it is okay to change your mind! There’s nothing wrong about changing your mind. There’s nothing wrong with getting more information and facts. There’s nothing wrong about being proven wrong. It’s time we normalize changing our minds and learning more information. But most importantly, taking accountability and admitting that your actions and beliefs may have been damaging and hurtful to others.

If you refuse to open your mind to new information, you’re not learning or growing. You’re depriving yourself from making a decision for yourself. And ultimately, you just follow whatever you’re accustomed to. And that’s dangerous when it comes to passing down beliefs from generation to generation. That’s why we still have racists, homophobics, and cult religious people who don’t practice what they preach.

It’s honestly terrifying to see all these people that hide behind religion be the biggest Trump supporters. It makes no sense to me. These are the same kind of people that condemn George Floyd and his past. The same kid of people that say the media is turning Floyd into a “martyr” and we all shouldn’t mourn his death because of his track record. The same kind of people that are justifying an unjust murder. The same kind of people that will back up murderers to the grave before they admit that a black man was wrongfully killed. The same kind of people that care more about animal rights than human rights. The same kind of people that talk down on peaceful protesters and say they are “thugs” and disturbing the peace but they can’t even wear a mask at a grocery store. It’s people that think like this that will pass down their beliefs to their children.

And unfortunately, sometimes these people never see why their views and microagressions are harmful. They have that privilege to not have to do the research because the results don’t affect them directly. And that’s wrong. You can’t force people to care about the well-being of someone other than themselves. You can’t force someone to want to change their view. You can just hope that some realize their privilege and try to educate themselves.

Admitting that you didn’t have all the information and your views may have been one sided, is the ultimate redemption. Just acknowledging how your actions and beliefs were hurtful and making an active change to educate yourself, people like you, and those around you will make change.

Where people fall short in this is when they realize they are “wrong” but have too much pride to admit it. Some even go the extra mile and obnoxiously rep their wrong views even harder because they have the mentality of “well, no going back now.” Everyone just wants to be right, but it’s okay to say you were wrong, that you didn’t have all the information, that you educated yourself and came to a different conclusion.

It makes me think of all the statues that are being taken down by protesters. As they should be, since they are statues of racists. But all these people that are tripping out about these statues being taken down….. I genuinely sit here thinking “why?!” Like why are you so pressed? The removal of a statue of a person who owned slaves is bothering you because? ….. Because your history books told you otherwise? Because we’ve been taught a sugar-coated version of American history? Because you’re realizing that a great majority of those who have things and places named after them weren’t that great? Because you’re too set in your narrow-minded thinking that you can’t fathom the true facts to be real? Or because you refuse to look at the facts?

Normalize changing your opinion when presented with new facts and information. It doesn’t make you look bad or uneducated. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Nobody comes out of the womb knowing everything and anything. We need to take accountability and educate ourselves. Be open to look and critique information on your own. Not just being force fed beliefs that you are accustomed to.

Shelter in Place Diaries – Giselle & Belami

Watch “Shelter in Place Diaries – Giselle & Belami” now:

UPDATE: Originally, I named this series, “Quarantine Diaries.” My cousins and I have a mass group chat on Instagram where we have been sending each other updates on COVID-19. I came across an article about Trump saying it is not necessary for New York to be under quarantine.

“Wait,” I sent to the group chat, “Haven’t we all been quarantining this whole time…”

Nope. Even though everyone, including myself, use “quarantine” and “shelter in place” interchangeably, they are two very completely different things. In a CNN article by Theresa Waldrop, she states that:

Quarantine –

This is for people who may have been exposed to the virus. They are asked to stay at home, or as in the case with people who were repatriated from China to the United States, to stay in a provided facility.

They’re required to be in quarantine for 14 days. After that, people who still don’t test positive for the virus no longer have to be in a contained environment.

Shelter in Place –

Until recently, the term “shelter in place” meant for most people an active shooter situation — stay where you until the coast is clear.

Now, millions of Americans have been ordered to shelter in place, and other areas may follow.

These people are being asked to stay at home as much as possible, meaning they shouldn’t be out unless getting food, gas or other essentials, or for medical reasons.

The U.S. has been sheltering in place, while individuals who were traveling / believe they have come in contact with someone with the illness is under quarantine for 14 days. Sometimes they quarantine in their home or at designated quarantine locations, and they are not allowed to leave for any reason until they show no symptoms of the virus. Sheltering in place is a precaution folks, who do not believe they have come in contact with someone with COVID-19, take to flatten the curve. Under the “Shelter in Place” order, people are asked to stay in the house, but can leave for necessities, medical attention, or for some exercise around the neighborhood (while still keeping 6 feet apart.) Those who are sheltering in place are not forced to stay inside, but understand that they are doing their part in slowing down the spread of COVID-19.

I felt the need to address this because many others, like myself, are using these terms interchangeably. Therefore, I changed the name of this series accordingly. The appropriate and correct name for this series is the “Shelter in Place Diaries.” I felt the need to address this because I want to be as transparent and real as possible. I was misinformed, and the right thing to do is address it, and fix it 🙂

That being said, most Americans have been sheltering in place since mid-March. All across the nation schools and businesses are closing their doors for weeks on end, leaving a lot of people out of work and out of school. This shutdown is especially hard on parents who have young children and depend on Early Childhood Educators. Giselle is one of those parents.

Giselle lives in the Los Angeles area in California and has a 3 year old son, Belami. Belami’s school is shut down until further notice due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Sheltering in place has disrupted Belami’s routine, and its forcing Giselle to get creative with keeping her son entertained. Now, Giselle has to play both roles of mom and teacher 24/7.

Giselle has a tough time explaining to Belami why there’s a sudden change in their routine. At 3 years old, Belami doesn’t understand why he can’t be at school with his friends, or at the mall, or playing at the park. As a parent, Giselle is doing her best to keep her son sheltering in place where he is safe, but also switching up his day with different learning and art activities to keep the energetic 3 year old entertained.

Many parents with little ones at home can relate to Giselle’s “Shelter in Place Diaries,” because she’s working with the materials they already have around the house. She creatively uses toys, colors, and art to stimulate Belami’s curiosities. Giselle has been using this time to organize the house, cross off things in her “to do’s” around the house, and most importantly spend time with her family and son.

Giselle is keeping her head up and staying positive amidst the COVID-19 chaos. Get a mother / parent’s perspective on sheltering in place with a child by watching Giselle and Belami’s “Shelter in Place Diaries.”

Watch it here: