I WIll Talk About My Miscarriage

I'm Talking About My Miscarriage

It’s no secret that my daughter changed my life. She opened a part of my heart that I didn’t know existed. She is the reason I started my own business and she’s the reason I work so hard; I want to give her the best possible female role model. Adding a child to our lives has been nothing but positive so when it came to motherhood and pregnancy, I was naive.

We want more children. We started trying for our second baby about six months before Norah turned two years old. I didn’t want siblings too close in age, but I’m 32 and wasn’t comfortable waiting too long either.

I found out I was pregnant on April 7th, a few days before my missed period. I took a test the day before, but the line was so faint that my husband didn’t believe that it was positive. The next morning I took a digital test which read “Pregnant 1-2 weeks” and we celebrated. On April 18th, I started spotting after a weekend of yard work in hot weather. I assumed I pushed it a little too hard and took it easy on Monday. After going to the bathroom on April 20th and seeing bright red blood, I was certain that I was miscarrying.

My first pregnancy was rife with symptoms. A few days after the positive test, I began feeling incredibly nauseous. I threw up within the first week and didn’t stop until week 20 even with the help of anti-nausea medication. This time, I couldn’t believe that I felt so good and normal while pregnant. Instead of assuming something was wrong, I had hoped that I was just having one of those unicorn pregnancies. I imagined myself exercising, having a ton of energy, and being one of those rare women who claim they feel better pregnant than not. I had such a rough first pregnancy that I felt like I was getting a good second one to balance things out.

On April 20th, I spent six hours in the ER, but left with no concrete answers. The doctor couldn’t tell me whether I was having an ectopic pregnancy, a threatened abortion or a normal pregnancy. Ten days of going to the doctor every other day to get blood tests and ultrasounds followed. My hopes kept being lifted only to crash again. My HCG was going up, but not with the regularity that they expected which pointed to an ectopic pregnancy. My ultrasounds showed only an empty gestational sac, a blighted ovum, too small for the six weeks I was supposed to be. Finally, things accelerated and I had a natural miscarriage. My HCG numbers dropped from 1300 to 100 in a day. Three weeks later my number was 2.

My sadness waxed and waned. I would feel fine for hours then all of a sudden it would hit me that I wasn’t having a baby in December anymore. Was I ever pregnant? It hadn’t felt like it. I waited for pregnancy symptoms, but nothing had happened.

Uncertainty makes me uncomfortable. I like to know what’s going to happen and when. This experience made me feel very small. It made me realize that the amount of things I actually have control of in life is tiny.

I read a lot of other mother’s accounts of their feelings and experiences having a miscarriage and they gave me comfort. Unfortunately, my experience is not unique and many, many women have lost a pregnancy. I decided I wanted to write about this because not talking about it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. This was a big life event for me, even though it was a negative one. I am simultaneously extremely grateful to my body for giving me my daughter, but angry at it for failing me this time.

In the months that followed the miscarriage, I had a wonderful heart-to-heart talk with a pastor that gave me a huge sense of peace. I typically don’t cry in front of people, but this experience caused me to break down in front of several people. At first, I was embarrassed, but ultimately I realized that I was being true to my pain and my loss. I read many blogs about miscarriages. I watched many YouTube videos of women discussing their miscarriages and cried with them. I was as gentle with myself as I could be and tried not to play the ‘what if’ or ‘could have, would have, should have’ game.

We plan to continue trying to expand our family with hopes that this will not happen again. This will always be a part of my history, but I’ve made peace with it. I am grateful for the beautiful family I already have and optimistic for the family I want. As I said, this situation is too common and everyone deals with it in a different way. It is still a topic that women don’t always feel comfortable discussing with others. So yes, I will talk about my miscarriage. And if you’ve also had this experience, I invite you to talk about it too.

Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Best Content (Week of 8/15/16)

Mama's Favorites Aug 19

This is a weekly collection of content that I found valuable, interesting, entertaining – or all three! Topics mostly center on freelancing, parenting, and marketing, but occasional wild cards will be thrown in. If you like what I’m sharing, follow me on Twitter for more content suggestions.

Freelancing

This Entrepreneur article talks about how freelancing has grown 500% from 2000 to 2014. The most popular freelance category in the US is graphic design with writing in second place. I shared my reasons for becoming a freelancer in this post.

Alicia Glenn talks about how she made $5000 in one week of freelancing. Her strategy involved using a successful Upwork profile to pitch as a “team member.” It worked for her, but I would suggest taking the time to build your own brand and freelance portfolio for better long-term growth.

These seven benefits of freelancing include some of the reasons why I love the work I do. However, being a freelancing mama means that some of them don’t apply to me – I don’t work from different locations or go to the gym in the middle of the day because I’m also the primary caregiver for my daughter.

Marketing

Brian Sutter talks about the four types of social media marketers – the newbie, the pro, the influencer, and the rising star. The good news is after about three years in the business, you’re well on your way to becoming a pro.

It’s getting harder to get your content noticed. Jayson DeMers shared some ideas on how companies can increase visibility. It’s no surprise the number one suggestion is to produce content worth sharing.

Parenting

Books are one of the most important factors in your child’s future success. Not only does this new study make my book hoarding husband happy, but it reinforces what we already expected. Children who have more than 10 non-school books in their home are 21% more likely to double their lifetime earning potential.

Parenting children in the digital age is not easy especially when social media can be toxic to their self-esteem. This Time article discusses the link between body image issues and social media use in teenage girls. I hope to raise my daughter to know her self-esteem is built on inherent worth and not other people’s opinions and ideals.

Are You a Multipotentialite?

Multipotentialite

When you were a child how did you answer the question,

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Were you quick to answer “veterinarian” or “ballerina” or were you part of the group that couldn’t decide? From the first time I was asked that question until now, I’ve wanted to be a marine biologist, a writer, an archeologist, a journalist, a teacher, a mother, and a business owner.

If you have a lot of interests and talents, should you double down and focus on one to the exclusion of others? No way! You just need to learn a new term for yourself, you’re a multipotentialite.

Being a multipotentialite means you have multiple skills and many interests. You may have numerous careers in different fields throughout your lifetime. If you’re a Millennial, this is almost a guarantee. The new normal is four job changes by the time you’re 32, according to CNN.

I recently watched a great Ted talk on being a multipotentialite. The speaker, Emilie Wapnick, talks about how she’s had many different interests throughout her lifetime. She didn’t want to be limited by the “what do you want to do when you grow up?” conversation. Instead, she believes that her varied interests give her a competitive advantage.

She talks about how she would find a topic she was interested in and spend a lot of time learning about it. When she started to master the topic, it would become boring and she’d want to move on to the next thing. I’ve experienced the same thing throughout my life. Each new thing I learnt would completely captivate my attention until I felt comfortable with it and then it would lose its shine. Soon after, I’d find something else to focus on.

These interests have overlapped to make me a more well-rounded person. For a long time, I felt like my passions were random and unrelated. I still haven’t integrated everything that I’m passionate about into my daily life or my career. I want to do more with nonprofits and become more involved in my local community. I enjoy public speaking and want to have more opportunities to do it. I’m also passionate about education. Some of these passions are active in my day-to-day while others may come into play in the future.

As a multipotentialite how do you approach life?

  • Keep pursuing whatever strikes your fancy. Follow any leads! Research your interests, get involved, and keep adding to your list of passions.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed by all of your passions, instead, focus on one thing at a time. For a few months, concentrate on the passion that makes you most excited and gets you motivated to put in work. Follow that thread and it will lead to other passions. You may not be able to see how things will connect, but eventually, they will.
  • Appreciate your unique point of view and zest for life. You are a lifelong learner and will never be bored.
  • If you can find the intersection of your passions, you’ll find a career that will be fulfilling and very successful. Not looking for a new job? Think of ways you can incorporate your passions into your current career. Could your report writing be more creative? Could you get involved with a special interest group within your company? If you have spare time after work, could you start a hobby or side hustle to pursue your passions?

Let me know, are you a multipotentialite? How do you combine your passions into one cohesive life?

Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Can’t Miss Content (Week of 8/8/16)

Mama's Favorites

Mama’s Favorites is a weekly collection of content that I found valuable, interesting, entertaining – or all three! Topics mostly center on freelancing, parenting and marketing, but occasional wild cards will be thrown in. If you like what I’m sharing, follow me on Twitter for more content suggestions.

Freelancing

Bitch Media discusses the reasons why more women are choosing freelancing. Women are not only going into business for increased work/life balance flexibility but also for better pay. After you read this, check out my post on the same topic.

Tessa at CloudPeeps talks about how to maintain a positive client relationship after the job ends. As a freelancer, it’s so important to keep your connections strong and your reputation stellar. You never know how you and a former client might help each other in the future.

Improve your writing in two minutes with Josh Spector’s tips. I love Josh’s suggestions. Getting rid of “I think” can make your writing so much stronger. He doesn’t mention removing “just” from your written (and spoken) vocabulary, but it’s worth doing too.

Belle Beth Cooper was a former Buffer employee who has been freelancing for over a year now. She shares her insights on the pros and cons. I can relate to the entrepreneur life being a bit lonely. I have the company of my daughter, but she’s not old enough to brainstorm with me…yet.

Marketing

My husband wrote a tongue-in-cheek post on the 10 commandments of content. I’m biased, but it’s a funny read and offers some good suggestions – like less listicles!

Parenting

A new study shows mothers feel more judged than fathers and are less likely to rate themselves as “a really good parent”. This one hits close to home; I find that my expectations for myself as a mother are much higher than my expectations for my husband as a father.

On the Creative Process and Just Doing It Already

Virtual Assistant (1)

The most important part of the creative process is getting started. When I was younger, I wrote daily. I didn’t have much to do and was often grounded so I spent a lot of time in my room with only my thoughts for entertainment. I enjoyed reading, but I’d read most of the books in my house by the time I turned 11. To pass the time and keep myself sane, I created stories by writing out dreams, plans for the future, or plots of TV shows that I would want to watch. I also wrote a lot of poetry. When we got our first home computer, I spent hours figuring out basic HTML and creating an Angelfire website dedicated to my poetry. I updated it every few days. I was flattered when classmates told me they read my poems, but I didn’t really care if I had an audience.

I only wanted to write.

I wasn’t worried about running out of ideas. I wasn’t worried about whether I was producing my best content. I just did the work.

As I got older, I’d wait to feel inspired to write something. This was particularly true with my poetry. I’d have to be going through some intense emotional stuff to feel the desire to write anything. This produced some great pieces, but I only wrote a poem every six months or so. In college, not wanting to force the creative process led to many late nights writing final papers the day before they were due.

As I’ve made steps to make writing my career, I realize that like many things, you have to just do it. I can’t worry too much about the end product and whether it’s perfect. I can’t worry about who will read it and who won’t. I can’t worry about whether I’m contributing to the greater good every time I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

I just have to write. Sometimes it’s brilliant and sometimes it’s terrible. But I just have to keep doing it. That’s the only way to improve, that’s the only way to keep moving forward.

So I’ll write every day. I’ll sit down, turn on classical music or brain-stimulating ambient noise, try to focus my monkey mind and get my ideas on the page.

And like all things I wrote, I ultimately wrote this for myself, to remind myself that it’s what I need to do. Maybe you need to hear it too. My writing might be your anything. Whatever you need to be doing – whatever you want to be doing, but put off because it’s damn scary to actually do the work – go on now and get it done. You’ll thank yourself later.

Your Guide to Becoming a Virtual Assistant

If you are considering working from home, but don’t have a specific business idea in mind, being a virtual assistant is a great option. A virtual assistant handles many of the same duties that an in-person administrative assistant or receptionist does. Average pay for virtual assistants can range from $10-$40 per hour with the rate increasing depending on demand and experience. Virtual assistant may also choose to charge clients by hourly packages or work on a retainer.

I started off my remote working career as a virtual assistant. I didn’t have administrative assistant experience, but my previous position as an Information Specialist required me to be meticulous and organized. These traits came in handy when I applied for a virtual assistant position with Zirtual. After a short interview process, I was offered the job. It paid $12 per hour with optional healthcare and 401K. Other benefits were added a few months after I started.

I went through a two week training process which detailed all of Zirtual’s policies and procedures. The training process was very organized and helped clarify what would be expected of me as a virtual assistant. The company had created an organizational system through Google Apps that included documents and templates for most requests and a list of things that a ‘Zirtual Assistant’ could and couldn’t do. Anything “specialized” such as writing, photography, accounting, etc. was considered out of scope. Everyone who worked for Zirtual was college educated and many had advanced degrees.

Although I enjoyed working for Zirtual, I felt constrained by the set work hours and inability to do creative tasks. I’d been slowly picking up marketing clients throughout and I had enough business to strike out on my own. I left in February 2015 to pursue my marketing business. In August 2015, Zirtual imploded and 450 employees were instantly out of jobs with no warning. Many of these employees went on to create their own successful virtual assistant companies.

I currently maintain one virtual assistant client. My work with this client is a mix of administrative assistant, project manager, writer/editor, and social media management job duties.

What Does a Virtual Assistant Do?

Some of the regular duties I perform as a virtual assistant include making and returning phone calls, digitally filing emails and documents, invoicing and creating expense reports, and inbox maintenance. Other responsibilities include booking flights, hotels, and restaurants, making appointments and scheduling meetings.

Many other virtual assistants offer some level of social media management, data entry, transcription or other tasks suited to their skillset.

If you work for yourself as a virtual assistant, you can set your own hours and decide which job duties you’d like to do and which ones you don’t.

Where to Find Virtual Assistant Jobs

Consider starting your own business

Most virtual assistant companies will have you work as a 1099 independent contractor. This means you’re a freelancer. You will not be provided healthcare or benefits. Some companies may offer to have you work as an remote employee which would give you whatever benefits that company offers to traditional employees.

If you’re going to work as an independent contractor, you may want to consider starting your own business to cut out the middle man and maximize your full earning potential. You can look into filing as an LLC, C Corp, or S Corp – each choice offers different tax benefits. My business, The Sturm Agency, is an S Corp.

How to get started

  • Build a website

You can hire someone to do this for you or you can use a premade template option like Squarespace. My professional website was created on Squarespace and I highly recommend the platform; my site was easy to make and looks beautiful. Squarespace offers easily to install ecommerce plugins that allow you to sell through your website. If you’d prefer to invoice and manage your business through another program, I’d suggest 17Hats. I use it for time-tracking, invoicing, and project management.

  • Create social media pages

At the very least, create a Facebook page and a LinkedIn page for your business. Consider each social channel a difference customer acquisition point. The same people on Facebook may not be on Twitter and vice versa. Your social media profiles should be updated with some frequency, but you can decide how often that should be. One to three times per week for a business page is good. You don’t want people to think you’re out of business, but you don’t need to fill people’s profiles with constant self promotion either.

  • Join some Facebook and/or LinkedIn groups

Search for freelancers or virtual assistants groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, join the groups and introduce yourself. One of the most active Facebook groups I belong to is the Freelance to Freedom Project Community. People regularly post business opportunities in groups that may not be listed anywhere else. You can also network with your fellow virtual assistants to share tips and tricks. If you have questions or encounter a situation you don’t know how to handle, you can ask for advice from other professionals who have been there.

  • Work with an established company

There are a number of established virtual assistant companies that you can work with (FancyHands, Zirtual, EAHelp). Most, if not all, will employ you as an independent contractor. If you’re concerned about how quickly you can get work, it may be a good idea to start with an established company because they will supply your clients. Keep in mind some companies will have you sign an agreement that you won’t create a competing business or poach clients.

Being a virtual assistant can be a very rewarding job. You will interact with people in many different roles in a variety of businesses. You will become knowledgeable in a multitude of fields, making you a Jack or Jill of all trades. You will be able to keep a flexible schedule and work from anywhere with a reliable internet connection. You will be able to develop meaningful relationships with people that you may never have had the chance to meet otherwise. Whether you start you own business or work with an established company, being a virtual assistant is a fulfilling remote career option.

 

Is Limiting Screen Time Realistic?

By the time a child reaches their first birthday, they begin to notice that screens play a large role in their world. They understand that phones, tablets, and TVs are sources of entertainment and begin to show interest in them. Our children are considered digital natives- they won’t know a time without technology.

In 1999, the AAP recommended that children under two years old have no screen time, however those recommendations are considered outdated and are being revised. Is it possible or even practical to set strict limits on screen time today?

My daughter will be two in June. She’s been interested in phones and the television since she was 18 months old. As she grows up, we know we will have to navigate many discussions about the type and amount of technology in her life.

Passive versus active screen time

Not all screen time is created equal. Passive screen time has been shown to provide almost no benefit to children. Passive screen time includes watching TV shows and videos, but not all TV shows and videos fall into this category. If the show has an element of interaction, it may spark imagination or teach your child something about the world. Some examples of interactive shows include Little Einsteins, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and Sesame Street. Entertainment that is strictly passive includes movies and shows where the characters do not break the fourth wall and talk to the audience.

Active screen time promotes brain activity and critical thinking. There are a variety of TV shows, apps, games, and educational websites that fit into this category. Active screen time can also include video chatting on Skype and Facetime with friends and family members. These activities encourage the child to interact with the screen. As a rule of thumb, if the medium requires interaction to work – e.g. pushing arrows on the screen to advance the game – then it would be considered active screen time.

Screentime in moderation

I’ve worked from home with Norah since she was 10 weeks old. After she became more active and interested in the world (around 18 months old) she required near constant interaction. Before that she had no interest in what was happening on the TV and barely glanced at it. She was entertained by toys, stuffed animals, and household items. Since she became an active toddler, I’ve used screen time to get things done around the house, answer emails and phone calls, and to take short breaks.

Norah enjoys her shows. She loves to sing along with Daniel Tiger, pat her legs and lift her arms for Little Einsteins, and dance to Mickey Mouse’s Hot Dog song. She gets so much enjoyment out of 25-40 minutes of television a day that I don’t see the harm in it. I also don’t mind letting her play on my phone. Although she’s frozen me out more times than I can count, she learns something new every time she interacts with it.

The two most important things about screen time are not to use it too often and not to feel guilty when you do use it.

I initially thought I would follow the doctor’s recommendation and not let her touch a screen until she was two years old, but it wasn’t doable with our lifestyle. As a work at home / stay at home mom, I occasionally need something to distract her and nothing does the job better than a TV show or smartphone app.

There are so many factors to consider when trying to figure out the best way to parent your child. You can’t do everything perfectly 100% of the time, it’s not possible. I choose not to be overly cautious about screen time. I feel that the combination of exclusive attention and enriching social activities contribute more to Norah’s development than the screen time takes away from it.

Screen Free Time

As a family, we’ve decided that dinner time is a screen free time. My husband and I aren’t glued to our devices. We prefer to talk to each other and make Norah part of our conversation. When we go out to eat, we bring books and small toys and use smartphones as a last resort to resolve a tantrum. We plan on keeping dinner time screen free permanently.

We also try not to be on our phones in front of Norah. When we’re playing with her, we give her our full attention. We do at least 2-3 activities per week with Norah’s peers. I recently joined a mom’s group and hope to participate in many more activities this summer. We signed up for swimming and tumbling lessons that start when Norah turns two. When she turns three, she will be enrolled in preschool. We want Norah to have a full life that includes technology as well as nature, science, literature, art, and anything else that interests her.

As technology become more and more prevalent in everyday life, we all need to set boundaries for ourselves and our families. Every generation has different challenges than the generation before and screen time is one of ours. The right amount of screen time is different for every person so have a conversation, set some guidelines, and decide what works for your family. Enjoy your time with technology and without.

Toddler selfie
One of the Norah’s many selfies