Moms Make it Work: Dana | Full-Time Working Mom, Widow, Re-married and Expecting Again

Today we have Dana posting for the Moms Make it Work series, a fellow Milwaukee-area mama who found me through Erika. I was absolutely intrigued by Dana's story and immediately said 'YES' to her email, requesting to post for the series. Dana is a full time working mom to one little girl, who lost her first husband to brain cancer, later remarried, and is now expecting another baby in September. When I read her post I turned to Nate and said, 'I love you,' and promised myself not to take my husband's health for granted. Dana's post is inspirational and an awesome example of how moms make 'it' work---whatever 'it' may be. Enjoy!


I was first introduced to Julia through a friend that was also featured on the Mom's Make It Work Series.  I'm a huge fan of the "let's stop judging other moms" movement and really appreciate this series.  I love hearing what works for other moms - other normal moms - normal people.   I  Why not share my story too?  You can find me over at and for the historical information you can head over to .  I know I babble - a lot - thanks for sticking it out through the entire entry!

What is your background story? What was your career/schooling before you became a mom? And where are you now?

I grew up in a suburb North of Milwaukee, went to school downtown Milwaukee and now live in a suburb west of Milwaukee.  What can I say?  I love Milwaukee. 

I attended Marquette University and graduated with my BS in Human Resources.  I didn’t even know what HR was.  I just knew I wanted to a “business woman”.  Trust me – no one grows up saying, “I want to be in HR.”  But I actually love my profession. 

I met my first husband in October of 2003 - we worked together.  I can honestly say it was love at first sight.  But I was a professional HR woman, I was NOT going to date a co-worker.  Eh.  Flash-forward 3 years (almost to the date of meeting), and we were getting married.  Nic was the love of my life. 

Dating Nic - turning him into a Marquette Fan!

Nic was also a brain cancer survivor.  He had his first surgery before I met him and, being young and stupid, we thought it would never come back.  He had his second surgery in June of 2005.  He bought my engagement ring days later.  He battled chemo and radiation while we planned the wedding of our dreams.  

Our Wedding Day

We needed to wait one year after chemo before we could try getting pregnant and in March of 2008 we received the best news ever: I was pregnant – we were due December 28th.   I had an amazingly awesome pregnancy.  I got huge and fat and LOVED it. 

39 weeks pregnant - So bloated!
I started blogging around this time.  I don't know why.  I've always liked writing, so why not share my thoughts - and my pregnancy - with my family and friends.  Then on December 2nd, during a routine MRI, we learned Nic’s tumor was back.  He had brain surgery (again) on December 12.  Nic was so brave.  To him, this was just one more thing we had to go through.  I mean - who smiles for pictures minutes before brain surgery?  Nic was always positive. Nic was MY strength.
Getting ready for brain surgery - I'm pregnant - He's having surgery and he looks better then me!
His goal was to be off all of his pain meds by the time his daughter was born.  And he was.  On December 24th, we welcomed our beautiful baby girl, Eleanor Frances, into the world. 
Daddy's little girl
On the happiest day of my life, I could have never expected that my perfect little family would only exist for 2 years, 1 month and 29 days.  On February 22, 2011, Nicolas lost his battle with Brain Cancer.  I was 30.  I was working full-time.  I was a mother.  I was lost.  I was devastated.  And the only reason I got out of bed on February 23 was because of my daughter. 
This goofball makes life worth while - God I love her!
I continued working full-time.  I found a strength I didn’t know I had.  My life actually became better because I learned how to appreciate it.  I learned to slow down.  To live in the moment.  To value life.  To honor love.  To respect.  To laugher deeper.  I became this amazing person that my husband would have been so proud of. 

And when I least expected it – BAM!  In walked Andy.  Trust me.  My heart was NOT ready to love again.  And so Andy just picked up my heart…and Eleanor’s…and said, “When you are ready.  Take your time.”  And he was so delicate with us.  And my heart…it loved again.  I’ll never know why I get to be blessed with two amazing loves in one lifetime.  Some people don’t get the opportunity to love like this once.  And I get it twice.  And Andy accepts me as a Widow.  And knows that Nic is Eleanor’s Dad.  But now Andy is Eleanor’s Dad too. 

First "Family" Photo

Andy and Eleanor - Fast Friends!  

Strain for the Brain - 5K run for Brain Cancer - with my true love - for my true love.

In September of 2013, Andy and I were married.  It was a beautiful fall day…except for a few moments when the clouds opened up and it POURED and we had a crazy quick thunderstorm.  And it wasn’t coincidence.  And I sat in my wedding dress, holding my daughter’s hand, watching the rain….watching the blessing from above cover the land in happiness.  And as quickly as it started.  It stopped.  And our wedding was perfectly perfect. 

Becoming an official family

An amazingly perfect wedding day!

And then….BAM!  While preparing for a New Year’s Eve celebration….I thought…hm.  I wonder where my period is?  Andy and I will be expecting OUR first child in September 2014.  Eleanor will be a big sister…to a little brother. 

And through this all – through life’s twists and turns I have always remember that life is crazy sweet

 What are the best parts of your situation? What are the challenges?

The best parts?   The support that I have. 

1)      My husband dove head first into this “Family” thing. When I met him he was a 34 year old bachelor in every sense of the word.  Then two little ladies took over his life.  He supports me in EVERYTHING I do.  Want to apply for a new job?  Do it!  Want to run a ½ marathon?  Do it!  Want to make all of our wedding invitations even though I think you’re crazy?  Do it! (he even helped punch paper and tie ribbons.)  He’s amazing.  I have never felt more supported in my entire life.

2)      I just started a new job in January.  I work for a much smaller company now, located approximately 3 miles from home.  3 miles from day care.  I have breakfast every morning with my daughter and I take her to school.  By the time I leave work at night, my husband and daughter are just pulling in the driveway from daycare – he does pick up.  I work a lot of hours and have to travel for work, but I have a lot of flexibility.  I can chaperone a field trip, I can participate in school activities and given our proximity to school and daycare, I can still work a late night and manage to get out in time for an evening school event. 

3)      I have an amazing family!  My parents live relatively close by.  We used to live about 2 miles from them and after my first husband passed away they were an imperative part of my daughter's and my life.  They picked her up every day from day care.  They had us over for dinner more nights then not.  When I moved into Andy's house, they were devastated, but they still want to be involved as much as possible and will do anything to help.  I’m also still very involved with my first husband’s family.  I always loved them like my own.  Just because Nic isn’t around, doesn’t mean they get to get rid of me too!  And my husband’s parents are divorced.  So I have a mom and step-dad on one side of town and a dad and step-mom on the other side of town.  Both parents accepted me AND ELEANOR into their lives whole-heartedly.  What?  Do things like this really happen or do I live in a fairy tale?  Eleanor may be MY daughter - but there is truth in the saying, "It takes an army to raise a child".

Eleanor's 4 sets of Grandparents.  One Lucky Lady!

4)      I should probably mention that my husband works from home.  This is a blessing beyond words!  While I’m running around in the morning, he’s getting our daughter ready.  He cuddles with her in bed while I’m getting ready and while I’m making lunch and breakfast, he’s with her picking out clothes.  With him not having to get ready in the morning and not having a commute, our mornings are glorious!

What are the challenges?  Read everything above.  I work a lot of hours.  I’m the HR Director of a company with 450 people.  I travel for work.   I have 3 mother-in-laws and a mom that thinks I moved across the planet, when I really just moved across the city.  The working mom guilt is so oppressive sometimes it’s hard to breathe!  (More on that later).

Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids?

 Um.  Yes?  No?  I always knew I was going to work.  I always pictured myself dropping off my kids at school wearing my black power suit and black pumps.  I imagined changing in the car on my way to a PTA meeting that I was late for. 

I didn’t expect to be in a position like I’m in this early in my career, which is positive and negative at the same time.  It can certainly be stressful.  I feel a lot of pressure and I create my own internal pressure to succeed.  I didn’t expect to be a widow.  I didn’t expect to love again.  I didn’t expect to be the person I am today, but feel pretty dog-goned blessed that I am. 

Getting a visitor at work!

Is this your ideal situation? If not, what is?

Was this my ideal situation?  Ha!  No one imagines losing their husband after only 5 years of marriage.  I never imagined needing to start over.  I never imagined needing to date again, at 31, with a 2 year old daughter.  I never imagined I would get such an amazing second husband. 

When my first husband became really sick, I became someone I didn't know.  I found this strength I didn't know I had.  People ask me how I did it - I don't know.  I just did.  And if you found yourself in this situation - you too, could do it.  I needed to take care of him.  I needed to protect him.  I needed to protect our daughter.  Who cared about me?  I surely didn’t. 

But when my first husband became really sick and I stopped caring about me these people just came out of the woodwork to take care of us!  Friends, family, strangers.  People are AMAZING.  People are great.  Just give yourself a moment to trust humanity and amazing things can happen.  My job at the time wasn’t really great.  Not working, especially as the only person in the family making any money (can you believe at 2 my daughter wouldn’t get a job?!) wasn’t an option.  When all my friends were quitting their jobs to stay home, grow their family and raise their children, I didn't have an option.  If I wanted us to stay in our home, I needed to work.  I kept working hard and am now I'm in a great position with a great company.  I can work in a high level position because I have a husband that supports me and starts dinner if I send him a text saying…"Oops.  Running late.  Again."  And even when I get home late, he still greets me at the door with my running shoes, reminding me how much better I’ll feel after a run.  And I hate him for it…but he’s right. 

Is this my ideal situation.  Maybe.   Maybe not.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do you see yourself making a career change (whatever that means) in the next 5-10 years? Or is this current set up staying put for the long haul?

Career change.  No.  I’m in HR for life.  I truly love what I do, which is great because it's a big time commitment.  

Secret confession?  The only other second career I have in mind is a children's author.  I dream of writing a children's book.  The first one I will write will be for small children dealing with grief.  I had a hard time finding decent books to read to my daughter when Nic got sick and eventually passed away.  Unfortunately, Eleanor isn't the only 2 year old that has lost a parent.  If I could help just one person try to explain death to their small child, I would feel such a sense of accomplishment.  Someday I'll get the courage to take my scribbled out notes and turn them into a book.

Being a goof - as always!

Tips on how you make your situation work for you:

Plan for the unexpected.  Sometimes, we get home from work and we want to go play outside.  The next thing we know it's 7:00 and we are supposed to be getting Eleanor ready for bed.  So, we eat grilled cheese for dinner. 

Find support.  I'm lucky.  I have an amazingly involved family. But there is support in so many areas.  I have friends that I consider family, we are that close.  I'm involved in our church and am slowly meeting more people that way.

Communication with your spouse!  Andy told me on one of our first dates that he wasn't a mind reader.  And believe it or not, I had to hear that and remind myself of it constantly!  When I get mad at him, I think, Darn it!  Why can't you read my mind?  Ummm, because he's not a mind reader and I need to TELL him what I need.

How do you handle mommy guilt?

Wine. Chocolate. Online Shopping.  Running.

Seriously - it's HARD.  Every day, I drop my kid off at daycare.  I feel bad.  But she loves it there.  She has made friends and she has learned WAY more than I could have taught her if she staid with me these 5 years.  90% of my friends either stay home full-time or part-time.  Sometimes I get jealous.  But when I'm with my kid, I'm with my kid.  I try to put the phone down when talking about her day.  I make her a priority.  We make the most of our weekends.  And I know we get to enjoy things that we maybe couldn't enjoy if we both weren't working.  We can take a weekend trip away, plan for and look forward to a big vacation.  Eat out so we don't need to make dinner at home when things get super crazy.

Celebrating New Year's Eve 2013 in Disney World


I make time for me too.  Andy has been great with helping me with this.  When I lost Nic, I overcompensated with Eleanor and had to be mom and dad.  I felt like I needed to be with Eleanor all the time.  She lost one parent - I needed her to know I wasn't going anywhere.  And I know I got strength from her in return.  She kept me going.  I wanted life to be "normal" for her.  Andy teaches me, reminds me, that doing things for me is just as important.  Taking care of me is just as important.  It feels so special to have someone tell me that.  And now, while I'm running, and the mom guilt creeps in...I think...she might not be with ME, but she's with her Dad.  And I smile.  And Dads need that time...without mom interfering. 

And sometimes, Andy and I even get time alone.  Which is so important for any adult relationship, but I feel it's especially important for us since we have only been together for a short time.  And sometimes I feel guilty about that.  I feel guilty that I'm choosing me, instead of Eleanor.  That I should be the one to put her to bed every time.  But Grandparent time is just as important.  Eleanor has some great grandparents that love her unconditionally.  Those grandparents are just as deserving of her time.  It's so special that she can go have a sleepover with one of them and Andy and I can go out to dinner, catch a sporting event, catch a concert - or just sleep!  I'm the parent - but I'm not raising my kid alone. 

My two best girls - Eleanor and my sister - after I completed my 1/2 marathon

Advice for new moms struggling with returning to work outside of the home? Or struggling to decide if staying at home is the right choice?

Argh.  It's the toughest decision a mom has to make. I remember starting my maternity leave thinking I never wanted to return to work ever again - It didn't help that I didn't like my job.  I couldn't imagine parting from my baby girl.  But every day it got easier.  I love working. I love knowing that I'm being a great role model for my daughter.  I am a strong, independent woman.  I can stand on my own two feet.  But I know how to ask for help.  I'm proud of myself and feel two little eyes watching everything I do.  You HAVE to make the right decision for YOU.  But don't make it in the hospital when they are handing you your baby for the first time.  And whatever decision you make at first, doesn't have to be the decision you keep for the rest of your life.  I have friends that went back to work right after maternity leave and then 3 years later decided they want to stay at home.  The decision that each of us makes is the best decision for us.  No one can tell you what to do...and seriously, don't ask anyone what to do.  What they do works for them.   

Oh yeah - I'm a proud momma to a 55 lb. fur-baby - Karl!  It's a full family photo...

How do meals work in your family? Meal planning? How often do you grocery shop? Who is in charge of this task in your family??

I meal plan for the upcoming week and do all my grocery shopping on Sunday.  It's sometimes hard to decide what I want to eat for dinner on Thursday on the previous Sunday, but if not we'd be eating out every night.  I plan a great dinner for Sunday evenings because I have time to cook and I really don't mind cooking.  Then I try to keep it simple and easy Monday through Thursday.  On Fridays and Saturdays I'll either run to the grocery store to pick up ingredients or we'll eat out, at a friends or at my parents.  It REALLY helps that my husband works from home.  He's pretty good with being able to start dinner before I get home so we aren't eating at 7 at night.  Andy wasn't much of a cook before we entered his life.  He still needs to follow a recipe pretty literally, whereas I'm more likely to improvise or substitute, but he's come a long way in a short time! 

How do you keep your house clean? Power cleaning after bedtime? Staying out of the house as much as possible? Cleaning while kids are awake? Purging often? Cleaning schedule?

Am I supposed to keep my house clean?  Again - my husband works from home.  So when Eleanor and I leave for daycare in the morning, he has about 30 minutes before he starts work.  He usually takes care of the kitchen at this time.  I'll try to clean the bathroom while giving Eleanor a bath.  And usually we'll both take a room one day over the weekend and try to clean it.  When we move (did I mention that?  With baby #2 on the way and a husband working from home, we needed to do a little upgrading!), Andy's office will be in the basement, so I'm going to hire a cleaning lady to come in and do my deep cleaning.  Then I just need to do maintenance.  Andy feels weird having a cleaning lady with him working from home, but he's WORKING.  Just because he's at home doesn't mean he has time to clean.  So I'm hiring a cleaning lady.  Yeah!

My life might not be exactly as I imagined it, but I’ll tell you this – it’s great and I wouldn’t change it.  Life really is what you make of it.  Life hands you lemons.  Sit down and cry about it.  Eat a ton of chocolate.  Drink yourself silly.  But pick yourself up.  This is the only life you will get.  Make the most of it.  It won’t go as planned.  I promise you that.  But you never know…it might just turn out beyond your wildest dreams.

You just can't help smiling!

{Thank you so much, Dana! Best of luck with baby number two. Find the rest of the MMIW series here}

Moms Make it Work: Liz | Full Time Working Mom to Four (Going on Five) Kids

Today on the Moms Make it Work series, we have Liz who is a full time working mom of four going on FIVE children. Wow, right? My real-life friend Kim suggested that Liz write for this series and I'm so glad she did. I asked Kim if she knew Liz's story, other than the fact that she has a lot of children, and Kim said she wasn't sure if Liz worked or not. I automatically assumed 'no way---who can consistently work outside of the home with nearly 5 kids?' Well, guess what? I was totally wrong to assume Liz was at home full time. My bad, Liz, you are amazing for juggling the kids and work and childcare! It makes my part time job and nearly three kids seem like small potatoes for a juggling act. I really enjoyed reading how Liz makes it work and hope you do, too!


I was asked by a friend if I would consider guest writing for Juila’s blog because her readers were looking for a mom of a large family. Let me just start this by saying I don’t consider myself a mom of a large family, though I understand most will disagree. But I’m happy to share with Julia’s readers! I love being a mom and have some pretty terrific little people that make it so fun.

A little bit about my current life and then I’ll dive into the specifics. I am a full time working mom of 4 little ones….. soon to be 5. My oldest, Maura, is 5. Yes, 5 (she will be 6 in September). My youngest, John, is 10 months old and will be just 12 months when new baby joins us. In between are Katie (4), and Molly (2). Is it a challenge? Yes. Do I love every minute? NO! But I do love every little smile and hug and kiss that I get. And I do love being able to have a career and be a mother.

John's Birthday

What is your background story? What was your career/schooling before you became a mom? And where are you now?

My husband and I met in college and both graduated from the University of MO-Rolla in 2003. We were married a month later and a few months after that I joined a large Aerospace company as a finance analyst. While working, I went to Saint Louis University in the evenings and obtained my Masters in Business Administration in 2007. This was my personal milestone for being “ready” to have kids. Maura was born in September the following year. I took off 12 weeks and returned to work as planned. 3 more kids and 3 more maternity leaves later, I have progressed through multiple assignments and am now in a lead position. I aspire to senior management and am confident that one day I will reach that goal.

What are the best parts of your situations? What are the challenges?

The first question I get when people find out I’m a working mom to 4 littles is who is taking care of all of them???? We are fortunate to have a loving Grandma who is willing to be with them while we are working. As they’ve grown, the 2 older girls were in preschool part time, so that helped with the daycare load at home. So, one of the best parts of leaving is that I don’t have to pack everyone up and drop them at a daycare facility every morning. Frequently, I leave one or more of them sleeping in the mornings. The biggest challenge is staying organized. Being able to get out the door on time as well as handling the dinner/bath/bedtime routine when I come home. My husband owns his own business which means his hours are a bit unpredictable sometimes, so there are a lot of evenings where I am balancing it all myself.

Maura and Katie

Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids?

Yes and no. Yes because I always wanted a big family. No because I never expected to love having a career as much as I do. I honestly thought I would have kids and figure out how to stay home with them or at least find a job in a teaching field so I could be home with them more during the summers. But I do enjoy having my non-mom life at my job. And I feel that even though I’m not home with my girls, I am setting an example for them. I’m in an industry where women are still trying to make a name for themselves in senior level positions and we need as many role models as we can get for our girls. Especially in Science and Technology.

Is this your ideal situation? If not, what is?

This one is hard. I don’t know what ideal is. Ok, I do. Ideal for me/us, ideal would be travelling the country in an RV letting the open road educate our children. Since that is unreasonable, yes, I believe that what we are doing is best for us right now, so we are in our ideal situation.


Do you see yourself making a career change (whatever that means) in the next 5-10 years? Or is this current set up staying put for the long haul?

In my season of life right now, I have to live a lot in the moment. When people ask me “how do you do it?” I usually just shrug and reply “one day at a time” which is 100% the truth. So planning 5-10 years is hard (and I refuse to look ahead to having a 15 year old in my house!), but I am pushed to do it a lot by my mentors at work. In 10 years, I do hope to see myself sitting in that senior management position. I will continue to work because I enjoy it (and because of husbands business, the healthcare is a must).

Tips on how you make your situation work for you? How do you handle mommy guilt?

I’ve always been a guilty person. Always wondering if what I’m doing is good enough, even before having kids. I like to attribute this to being a middle child people pleaser. So mommy guilt is just a different form of that. The best way I’ve found to combat it is to reflect on the great things that we do together and what I am able to provide for my family. And I make an effort to spend 1-1 time with each child as often as I can. One of my favorite times has been my breakfast dates with my 2 oldest girls. Their preschool requires that a parent help in the classroom a few times each semester, so I take those mornings off of work. I take them out to breakfast before school and it’s a nice time to just sit and chat with them 1-1.

Katie Breakfast

Advice for new moms struggling with returning to work outside of the home? Or struggling to decide if staying at home is the right choice?

The biggest thing I had to learn was that everybody’s family situation is different and you can’t let other mom’s experiences lead your own choices. It’s so hard not to compare yourself to other families, but only you truly know what is best for you and your children.

How do meals work in your family? Meal planning? How often do you grocery shop? Who is in charge of this task in your family??

My oldest was an extremely colicky baby. I was killing myself trying to make dinner and soothe a fussy baby every evening just to have dinner ready before my husband got home. Then it dawned on me. She goes to bed at 7 – why couldn’t we just have dinner at 8 and actually enjoy a few minutes together instead of hastily eating a thrown together, mis-cooked, meal before she goes to bed? It was then we started having 2 dinners in our house. It sounds like more work, but it has made a difference. So, the kids eat something that is leftover from what I cooked earlier in the week soon after I get home from work. We still have a family table – I’m not in another room while they eat – we sit and chat about their day, but I wait to eat with my husband later in the evening. This allows more time for me to enjoy with the kids when I get home instead of cooking and then I will cook after they are in bed (still early bedtimes in this house!) and enjoy a non-rushed, able to eat a hot meal, dinner with my husband. This does require weekly planning and shopping.

Molly and John

How do you keep your house clean? Power cleaning after bedtime? Staying out of the house as much as possible? Cleaning while kids are awake? Purging often? Cleaning schedule?

Oh, is my house supposed to be clean? This goes back to one of the disadvantages of my situation. My children get the benefit of a stay home grandma, but I get the disadvantage of having a lived in house all day. They do their best to keep it neat, but its 4 kids. Mess happens. I try to enforce picked up living room/bedrooms before dinner and then after they are in bed I clean up the kitchen and get the lunches/milk cups/etc ready for the following day. I don’t even think about laundry or scrubbing until the weekends. The 5 year old and 4 year old participate in weekend chores.

I’d like to also mention keeping kids clean. Because when you have 4, cleaning the kids can be a chore as well. I used to enforce nightly baths/showers. Then I realized this was exhausting. Then I had an every other bath night and took a night off. But getting 4 kids clean in one night is exhausting. But – what if I split it up? Much better. So, I’m still bathing kids each night, but the 2 year old and the 10 month old share a bath one night, and then the 5 year old and 4 year old share a bath or shower the next.

The bottom line is there is no perfect solution. I have learned that the hard way. I always say I feel bad for my oldest because she is our test case and we learn what works and what doesn’t work with her. I hope that maybe something I said helped you. One comment I’d like to leave you with is please be supportive. I see too many mothers tearing other mothers down about the choices they make or the way they are raising their children. We are all just doing the best we can to make the world a better place. I applaud each and every one of you for getting out of bed and taking on the challenge one more day.

{Thank you, Liz! Find the rest of the MMIW series here}

Social Media stuff

A few things...

-I will likely post The Announcement for baby boy on Instagram, my Facebook fan page, and also this blog pretty soon after he is born. I'm not promising anything, but I'm guessing I will probably post in the order I just listed those sites since that tends to be the order I prefer in general;). Therefore, you should definitely follow me on Instagram @mrsjuliagoolia. And you should also follow me on Facebook at My Life in Transition Blog. Because even after baby is born, I'm not sure how much I will be posting here versus just throwing countless pictures at you of a certain baby boy. IG and FB seem much more phone/picture friendly and 'chaos of having three kids' friendly, too.

-But I promise not to totally forget about the old bloggy blog, either. One very exciting bit of news is that I have scheduled 24 new Moms Make it Work posts to last us twice per week, through the middle of September. I'm also expecting at least 7 more posts in the next week or two so I think we will be set through October! Isn't that amazing?? Just check out that link to see all of the icons all lined up to get a sneak peek of who will post. So many wonderful stories are ready for you to read, from moms in many walks of life. I've been working hard to get these posts formatted, get the intros written, icons made, links provided, and all of it scheduled NOW so that I'm not trying to do it all when I'm on maternity leave. It's sort of a bummer to ask these new posters to get me their posts right now, but then I'm not posting them for a few months...but I hope everyone understands why I'm pushing the posts through the summer. It's a lot easier for me that way!! And then we will have some good reading material guaranteed to post on the blog even if I'm knee-deep in sleep deprivation and 'OMG, why did we do this' with another newborn. We shall see. I'm still loving this series and am grateful it's continuing on through this year---many more stories to be heard!

-Speaking of the blog--apparently I'm approaching 1000 published posts over here. Woah. Probably have to do some sort of giveaway or something to celebrate the wordiness that is this blog! ;)

Still pregnant! Not in labor! (feeling like I need to include these phrases in every text, email, and post I send out right now) 

Baby #3: 38 weeks

6.24.14: Two more weeks until my due date!!

Camera Roll-543 Camera Roll-546

OB appointment update: no big changes in the cervix-region. In fact, with this internal I think she was about to tell me I'm 'totally closed up', but then I was like, 'huh, that is weird since you said I was a 1cm last week.' To which she replied, 'A very tight 1cm then.' Ha! It really doesn't matter to me and unless I was found to be hanging out at a 3cm or something, I wouldn't have cared much either way. That would have been really cool and different! Again, I just don't seem to dilate much (or at all) until right during labor. I am 50% effaced now, though, which is something. Again, with Truman I was induced and had no cervical changes whatsoever before he shot out of there with 2 days of pitocin coursing through my veins. With Cecelia I was 0cm and 75% effaced two days before I had her (quickly!). So whatever, I guess.

His heart rate was 132, he's still head down, measured on track, and was kicking me like crazy the entire appointment. Me? My blood pressure was good, I'm up 30 pounds, and guess who is three for three for being Group B Strep positive? This girl! Meh. All that really means is that I should get to the hospital sooner than later when in labor, just to have some of the antibiotics. Remember: last two labors I was also GBS positive and only got one out of the four bags of IV antibiotics, and both kids were fine. My OB says there is a 1% chance of the baby getting a serious pneumonia or respiratory issues if the full amount of antibiotics are not received during the delivery. So I'm not too concerned and will just do the best I can to get to the hospital when I'm 100% sure I'm in labor and won't be turned away.

(shadow tricks--3pm makes for a giant belly)

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Which reminds me: last week I found a drafted blog post that I used to journal all of my inner most thoughts at the very end of Cecelia's pregnancy. I started babbling about the fun of The End at 39w2d and continued through 39w4d when I officially went into labor at home and doubted every second of it. Ahhh, just reading back over those thoughts brought me back to the magical, crazy, scary, exciting time of labor and delivery. I mean, it can all change SO QUICKLY....I had no early labor signs, really, just started timing contractions that weren't too painful (sounds familiar) around 10pm and had her in my arms by 8am. Craziness. Cannot. Wait.

Actually, I will say this for my current mental state: I am not d-o-n-e yet. I have not hit the wall, like I thought I was reaching last week. The weather has been cooler, I haven't been having as many contractions lately, and I am not quite as 'could this be it?' every second of every loooooong day. Don't get me wrong: I feel ready. I want to meet this boy. And it's like a switch has been flipped now that I am 38 weeks---he can come anytime now and I will be less worried about his readiness. BUT. He is going to come when he is good and ready, so for now I'm mostly relaxed about it and not slamming pineapple cores or eating super spicy food to evict this child from the womb. Yet. It probably fluctuates by the hour, though;)

(still not looking all that pregs from the front, but for sure knocked up with the side view)

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This is a peek into my brain for this entire pregnancy:

Weeks 5-12--->Holy crap, please stick, please stick, please be healthy, please show a heart beat, holy crap, I feel like crap, is this really happening? I'm tired, naps are the best, I might puke, please stick.

Weeks 13-28-->Holy crap, is this really happening? I'm really pregnant, I'm starving, please be healthy, please be healthy, please be healthy, holy crap, grow baby, grow.

Weeks 29-38--> Holy crap, this is really happening, please don't come too early, please don't come too early, please be healthy, I'm tired, grow baby, grow.

Weeks 38+ -->Holy crap, any day now, come on out baby, please start labor, please start labor, but I'm not ready yet, I'm ready now, I'm not ready yet, I cannot wait to meet him, I'm huge, I'm not so huge, I'm tired, I'm so so so tired, I'm ready, I'm scared, I'm happy, I'm sad, I'm a mess. Please come out now.

It's so strange and so surreal to be at this stage of pregnancy. He could come tonight and he could come in two more weeks. NOBODY KNOWS and it's insane to have something as monumental as birthing a tiny human being as a 'maybe' each day. Messes with this Type A mind, because I have no control and I dislike that feeling quite a bit;)

So yeah, mentally I'm playing the mind game of the final weeks of pregnancy. A bit moody and lacking patience, for sure, but hanging in there. The kids seemed especially testy last week and really pushed a lot of buttons on my parenting switch board---some buttons I didn't know I had. I mean, my normally sweet, happy, lets-all-get-along children seemed to fight like mortal enemies Picking on each other, refusing to listen, lots of tears, time-outs, times. It's either my lack of patience that fueled this naughtiness or they can sense change in the air. Or it was just a bad week. Here's hoping!

Physically I'm just really freaking tired. Like, first trimester-going-to-pass-out-mid-sentence tired. In fact, on Sunday I had to take a 1.5 hour nap at 10:30 am randomly. I slept HARD and dreamed and everything---very odd since I felt fine right before then, but it hit me and I had to sleeeeeeep. I find that I can't be too active with the kids for longer than an hour or so before I get crampy and notice more contractions. My back/rib feels better but isn't totally healed----maybe I'm just getting used to that type of pain? I really cannot wait to lay on my stomach again.

(Erin and I, 30 weeks versus 38 weeks. Likely our last comparison shot!! Will miss being pregnant with her but not *too* much when I have this baby to hold and she is going through the brutal final weeks.)

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Baby boy feels so LOW it's nuts. I think I've dropped, am noticing more and more sharp 'zingers', and yet his movement hasn't slowed down a bit. Strong little bugger in there, I think! I'm peeing all of the time, including at least once at night. It's pretty good sleep I'm getting but I really hate that 'explosive bladder' feeling that wakes me up around 4-5am each day. I'm a little hungrier lately and cannot get enough watermelon or Bomb Pops. Mmmmmmm.

I've decided that when I'm done with work (July 2, baby!), I might have a better mental outlook on life. Work is very difficult for me right now. It just takes everything I have, both mentally and physically, and it feels like it's one extra ball to juggle---I have very limited ball juggling abilities at this stage of pregnancy/summer/two kids/etc. I am worthless on work days after about 4pm and on my days home I can make it until about 8pm before my worth is lost. Once I'm on maternity leave, assuming baby boy is not yet here, I hope I feel extra relaxed and can just wait with a zen attitude/less exhaustion.  I wish I could be finished RIGHT NOW, trust me, but four more work days and I'm there. One day at a time, man.

Comments of the week:
-''Are you SURE that's a boy in there?'' Yes, thank you.
-"You look tired." Thank you.
-"Your belly looks like a pancake." -Truman one morning staring at my bare belly (?)
-"You look like you could be pregnant for two more months." Agggghhhhhhhh, noooooooo!
-"Why three kids? Most people have two or four. With three, there will always be someone left out." Huh? Haven't heard that one before and I feel like a lot of families have three.
-"That baby looks REALLY small." Didn't know you had xray vision to see how big my babies are, thankyouverymuch.

And this would be why I do NOT feel small, most of the time. Major change from my pre-pregnancy self, and even from week 17...when I happened to wear the same shirt as now. Hahahahaha. Wow. My hair is getting longer, too! Boobs/belly/butt = woah.

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My predictions/in a perfect world:
If I had my way, I think I'd like to have baby boy this weekend. Or maybe July 1. That seems like a fantastic birthday to me! I'd be exactly 39 weeks, Truman was a first-of-the-month baby, and we could be home from the hospital by the Fourth of July. I predict that I will go into labor in the evening since I always feel so many more contractions/labor-could-be-coming vibes at night. It could even happen some evening after work since that's when I'm cashed out completely. I think it will go pretty quickly once it actually happens, and I really hope that I can enjoy my final labor and delivery experience without a lot of anxiety/pain/negativity that sometimes creeps into those intense moments before/after birth. There is just so much that can go wrong and I haven't felt a lot of panic this time around until right now. Maybe it's just because we are so close and this pregnancy has been so calm----keeping my head in the game, trusting that all is well with mister man, and looking forward to holding him in my arms. Soon.

Or I could play the guessing game for another two weeks and be overdue by the end of it. I know. Torture. We will see, no point in trying to plan just yet....because no matter what he is coming SOON, you guys!!!

Highlights of last week:
Treating myself to a fabulous mani/pedi for no reason but because I'm super pregnant and treats are a must right now. Quick pool dates with the whole family both on Tues and Friday evenings. Walking to the Farmers Market Saturday morning, a coffee shop Sunday morning, ice cream Saturday night...lots of walking and fresh air! Starbucks alone time with my laptop on Thursday. Cleaning and organizing the house, as always. And lots of progress made in the basement remodel!


At 38 weeks with Truman, I birthed him! I was in labor for almost two full days but out he came. I remember taking this picture the night before we went to the hospital---definitely retaining fluid with the high BP and oh, first time belly was so 'flat' looking to me! There was a 7lb10oz baby in there, you guys. And now his brother is just chilling out inside, getting ready to meet us. Sigh. (Totally wore this shirt on purpose this time, remembering I wore it at 38 weeks with T).
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At 38 weeks with Cecelia: marveling that my BP was still good and I was the most pregnant I had ever been. I had a growth US because CC suddenly measured behind, but all was well. Jealous that I got to see her again! I guess I got growth ultrasounds with both babies before birth, but not this time (so far). The fatigue, cervical and ovary zingers, LOW feeling belly, and weight gain are all identical to this time around. I guess somehow I managed to hang in there for another 11 days even though I really hoped to go 'soon' and 'early'. Very reassuring to read this! I still think this third time belly is a little rounder on top and bigger than last time but it's hard to say for sure. Wish I would have worn the same shirt with CC as I did with T and this baby!

And because it's fun, the last weekly pictures I will have from all three pregnancies together:

Or black and white, bare bellies if you prefer:

Camera Roll-554 Had Truman technically a few days before that picture, Cecelia came 11 days later, and WHO KNOWS about Baby 3? Isn't it interesting to see how differently my bump can be with each child? So much flatter and higher with Truman, then low and round on bottom with CC, and now round on top and I think a little bigger. Also: gained 43 lbs/36 lbs/30 lbs at each of these points. And of course boy/girl/boy. I love comparison shots----can't do another one of all three bellies after today!

Moms Make it Work: Jessica | Part-Time, Work-at-Home Mom as a Photography Business Owner

Today we have Jessica posting for us, and she is a real-life friend of Sara--which is how she found me and the Moms Make it Work series. Jessica is mom to Julia (yay!) and Lana, lives in St. Louis, and owns her own photography business. She was previously working as a lady lawyer and now she calls herself a part-time, work from home mom as a photographer. I loved Jessica's post and know you will, too. Enjoy!


Thank you so much, Julia, for hosting this fantastic series and letting me be a part of it! I used to blog, but quit when my second was born (apparently I’ve been saving up all my words for this post!). For now, I can be found on Instagram @jesglunt, and posting about photography at

-What is your background story? What was your career/schooling before you became a mom? And where are you now?

In college, I majored in biology and chemistry. I ended up going to law school, planning to do intellectual property law (patents and trademarks). Long story short, I was in law school for the wrong reasons, but by the time I figured out I wanted to bail, I was already neck-deep in debt, so I decided to stick it out. I got my masters degree in biology at night at the same time, which helped me keep one foot in the science world.

In my parallel personal life, I met my husband Robert a few weeks into our freshman year of college, and we were finally dating a few months before we graduated. I decided to attend law school here in St. Louis, conveniently where Robert grew up and where he had a job lined up after graduation. We got married in the summer between my first and second years of law school. We were such babies - just 23!
Photo Credit: Paul Dyer

After graduating law school, I got a job at one of the top firms in town. The projects were great and the people were great, but it wasn’t a great fit for me at the time. Still, the experience and salary were also great, so I stuck with it, hoping things would get better and paying down my loans in the mean time.

After about two years, we could financially swing me quitting in favor of a much less lucrative science job. Part of me wanted to go back to school for a PhD, but I was terrified of more debt and lukewarm on going back to school for so many years unless I was positive that’s what I wanted to do. So, I found a job doing genome research work to test the waters, and I loved it.

Then.... Pregnant!

Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

We were thrilled, but the timing wasn’t great. I hadn’t been at the new job long enough to qualify for FMLA, my boss wasn’t especially supportive of the situation, and childcare costs would have entirely eaten up my newly-reduced salary. So, I quit.

Julia arrived in October 2010, and she was fantastic: bright-eyed and easygoing from the get-go.
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Photo Credit: Joel Marion Photography

When she was about six months old, I looked at Robert and said, “Kids are easy. Let’s do this again.” We decided to roll the dice. I was exclusively breastfeeding Julia, and I didn’t really expect to get pregnant right away, so.....

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Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

We ended up with two darling girls eighteen months apart when Lana was born in April 2012.

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Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

After that, it was simply survival at our house. Lana was very decidedly NOT easygoing as a baby, so we had lots of drama, for a very long time.

When Lana was about eighteen months old, I finally felt like I could keep my head above water again. I had gotten a DSLR when Julia was very young, and I started taking photos of other children and families, just for experience. After doing that for awhile, to reach a comfort level with the workload and with photography itself, I launched an actual photography business. There’s still a lot of change and adjusting happening as I ramp things up, but I feel comfortable calling myself a part-time, work-at-home-mom.

Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

I do around four photo sessions a month, which are usually during the evening or on weekends, so Robert watches the girls during those. I edit photos and do business-related work during their nap and sometimes after they go to bed. But, I wouldn’t be able to swing this if I didn’t have either my mother-in-law or a babysitter watch the girls for a half day about once a week. When that doesn’t work out (which is more often than I’d like!), I find I fall really behind. Both girls will be in school at the same time for two whole mornings this fall, and I’m hoping that gives me some more time to work on the business.

-What are the best parts of your situations? What are the challenges?

I’m not a person who particularly loves staying home with her kids, but I love that I have stayed home. Whether it’s nature or nurture, the girls are just like Robert and me in that they love routine and calmness. Because I stay home, the household runs (relatively) smoothly: there’s always food to eat, someone to stay home with a sick child, and the bedtime routine happens the same way at the same time every day. We’re just not chaos people, and if I worked, we’d ALL have more chaotic lives than any of us would want.

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Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

While there are certainly days when I think I’d be a better mom if I could just get a freaking break from children for a few hours - even if that break is at a paying job! - I think I’m a better mom overall because I stay home. I’m able to approach parenting with a clearer mind and a deliberateness that I wouldn’t be able to manage if I were working full time.

That said, the transition was really difficult for me. I’d always based a large chunk of my identity on school and work success, and to suddenly have that part of me go dormant was really tough, especially on my ego. Suddenly, I was alone with a toddler and a baby, and days could go by without me talking to another adult.

Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

While lots of my working friends were having babies around the same time, I can’t think of a single friend who also quit her job to stay home full time. Of course I know other SAHMs, but I was a rarity for quitting. Also, because my career path was in flux when I quit, a part of me felt like I just gave up at the working world, like staying home was a symptom of personal failure.


Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

Of course, I always came back around to the fact that Robert and I made this decision because we thought it was best for our family, but it still took me a really long time to come to terms with my new life.

Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

There’s been an unexpected side effect to me staying home: I’ve grown a lot as a person, and in particular, I’ve become much calmer. Despite hating chaos, I love the busy, GO-GO-GO life, and suddenly dropping off the hamster wheel has forced me to change some things about myself. I’ve had to learn internal validation (no more GPAs or fat paychecks to tell me whether I’m good at life!). I’ve had to learn to cope with stress and disappointment without a cocktail or three. I’ve had to find peace and joy in doing the seven thousand mundane tasks that I do every day - that are usually erased or reversed almost immediately - in service to my family.

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Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

I’ve had to redefine what gives me value as a person. Basically, it’s been a really humbling time, and a time that’s forced me to get back to the basics of what’s important in life. It’s not a lesson I was particularly interested in learning, to be honest, but I’m also learning that I need to try to embrace, rather than control, what life throws at me.

-Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids?

I don’t know! I never had a firm 5-year-plan, so I’m not sure exactly where I was going, career-wise. Robert and I both had moms who stayed at home, though, so I think that was always in the back of our minds as the more comfortable option. I was never even set on having children, but I knew Robert wanted them when I married him. It was just always ... sometime in the future.
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Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

If I could go back and give Young Jessica one piece of advice, it’d be to actually sit down and deliberately plan out our goals for growing a family and try to work a career around that.

-Is this your ideal situation? If not, what is?

You know, I had written a whole answer to this question, talking about where I’d like to be with my business and how I’d like to tweak the balance between work and family... And then I realized: of course I will always have changes I want to make, because hopefully I’ll always have goals and always be growing.


Photo Credit: Jodie Allen, Fresh Art Photography

And, in that sense, yes, this is my ideal situation. I don’t want it to always be exactly like this, but I love that I’m finally in a season of growth after what felt like a very long season of just barely getting by.

-Do you see yourself making a career change (whatever that means) in the next 5-10 years? Or is this current set up staying put for the long haul?

Like I said, I’m not especially in love with staying home full-time. Of course I love my little bugs immeasurably, and I treasure the moments we have, but child care is not and never will be my thing. I’m viewing these early years as taking one for the family team, and I do hope to make some changes in the next couple years as the girls work their way through preschool and into elementary school.

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Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

But I don’t know what that looks like. It’s unnerving, but I’m trying to embrace the uncertainty. I had no idea, three years ago, that I’d be doing photography right now. I’ve considered everything from growing the photography business to going to medical school to finding another legal job. Everything has its pros and cons, and the decision will just have to be made in a few years when I know what variables we’re working with. I know it’s likely that I’ll always be the more hands-on parent as long as Robert is pulling in our main source of income, and I’m okay with that.

-Tips on how you make your situation work for you:

Just like many other posters have said, I could not do this without my husband. He’s a fantastic, incredibly hands-on father, and we are a 50/50 team. Sure, we divvy up the duties, but we’re both working in one capacity or another from the moment the alarm goes off in the morning to whatever o’clock at night when we finally collapse on the couch together.
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Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

We communicate a ton, perhaps a nauseating amount. And he has been such a huge support throughout all my transitions - from telling me that I’m a good mom when I desperately need to hear those words, to never once complaining about fielding the kiddos while I’m off taking pictures.
Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

And schedules! The girls are on a daily schedule. Lana’s sleep is still a little unpredictable, but generally, we have meals, nap, and bedtime at the same time, in the same way, each day. I’m not crazy rigid, I swear, but it has to be a pretty special occasion for me to blow off the schedule. Robert and I also sit down with our calendars every few days. We schedule everything - grocery shopping, trips to the gym, even sometimes a block of time to sit down and discuss a difficult topic.

-How do you handle mommy guilt?

Most of my mommy guilt is justified, and I use it to identify areas that I need to change (or motivate me to make those changes), like, “Aw my kids watch too much TV” so maybe I should cut out a show or two.

But my general mommy guilt has lessened as I’ve gotten more mature. I’ve been fortunate to watch many of my friends become mothers, and that’s taught me like nothing else could, how different people have different styles, different priorities, and different constraints, but everyone I know is trying as hard as they can. Parents only have finite resources and everyone is juggling too many balls with not enough arms (ok so metaphors are also not my thing), and as I cut other parents some slack, I do the same with myself. I try my best so I can sit down at the end of the day and find peace in that.
Photo Credit: Jessica Glunt, Emma Constance Photography

Suffering is part of the human condition; I cannot create a perfect life for my kids no matter how hard I try, nor should I want to. My job is to teach them to cope with the bad things, and it’s inevitable I will be the source of some of their sadness. I accept that, and I don’t even think it’s such a bad thing for them to learn that everyone - even their mom - has limits to their patience and time. We all smile when we see each other every morning, and I love them so fiercely. That’s what matters.

Photo Credit: Jessica Glunt, Emma Constance Photography

-Advice for new moms struggling with returning to work outside of the home? Or struggling to decide if staying at home is the right choice?

Figure out what’s right for you, stand behind it, and let it go. Anyone who gives you a hard time about your decisions is struggling with their own issues, and that has nothing to do with you. People who are secure don’t try to make other people feel insecure; don’t take on anyone else’s baggage.
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Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

-How do meals work in your family? Meal planning? How often do you grocery shop? Who is in charge of this task in your family??

I handle 95% of the meals. After Robert and I sync our schedules for the week, I menu plan and do the big grocery shop and farmer’s market on the weekend. I also usually run out mid-week to stock up on perishables. I cook or prep dinner for Robert to grill almost every night of the week, then we eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. We’re in the process of trying to cut down on meals out on the weekends. It’s so nice to take a break from cooking and dishes, but it can get so expensive!

For those interested in minutiae: I usually get our protein in the crockpot either first thing in the morning or over nap. Veggies go in the crockpot too, or they’re prepped for the oven during nap. Carbs are usually combined with either the crockpot or the oven - although I’m not above throwing a box of crackers on the dinner table - and fruit is cut up as we’re setting the table. I’ve accumulated a bunch of great recipes over the past three years, just by trying to make one new recipe a week. Sometimes it’s a bust, but sometimes it’s a keeper, and if it is, it goes in the binder.

-How do you keep your house clean? Power cleaning after bedtime? Staying out of the house as much as possible? Cleaning while kids are awake? Purging often? Cleaning schedule?

We have a cleaning lady who comes every other week, for deep cleaning, and I don’t know how I’d manage without that. I do very little vacuuming, dusting, etc., otherwise, but I clean the kitchen constantly and pick up the house at least nightly. I’m also constantly moving furniture around and reorganizing things, so something is usually getting deep-cleaned every week. I rotate the girls’ toys so we only have a few out at a time, which helps with pick-up. We also only store toys in our sunroom and our basement, so the main areas of the house stay pretty neat. It’s not perfect, but it works. And as much as I hate cleaning at 9:00 at night, it’s SO worth it to not wake up to a mess.

Photo Credit: Caroline Nelson, A Better Story Photography

If you’re still reading, thank you! And thank you so much, Julia, for letting me enter the “World’s Longest Guest Post” contest! Big hugs to everyone who’s participated, including the readers and commenters. It’s been such a pleasure reading all these posts, and I look forward to the rest of the series!

{Thank you, Jessica ! Find the rest of the MMIW series here}
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