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Stories of Strength

From Then Until Now

A smidge of the journey through the years of becoming mom at 18, single, broke, yet full of hope and ambition. A short note of how one consult, one other mom full of compassion, and a place that knew I could.
When I first found out that I was going to be a mother, I had already decided to quit high school and settled with a GED instead, which I got right away. One other thing I was certain of is that, I wanted to breastfeed. I always had hoped for the “ideal” family, married, home owning, successful, and comfortable. Beginning so early and unexpectedly, my journey was far from a start I had dreamed.

The relationship with my first child’s father was never solid, I never really felt content or wanted, as if I was replaceable and felt as if his attachment to our child was also. My first real Love came on November 16th, 2002, when I first met my 5lb 3oz gift from above, Natalie Kay. From that day forward I wasn’t living any more for myself, but my life was given a purpose and I wanted to give it my best shot. I knew right away that our story wouldn’t be like any other, I knew we would do the best with what we had, turn our nothing into something, always putting my child first, and so it began the motherhood of Christina Joy.

Natalie was born a term baby, through a medicated, vaginal delivery, and a long time in the hospital (over two days), but deemed healthy…..minus their remark “low-birth weight.” I let it bother me, as I was a smoker since 14 and was sure, that is why she had been so small. In fact, her father was smaller than me, and neither of us very big, so my little babe was just a peanut, and yes, she still is. Was smoking a good idea, absolutely not, but it was my vice. I’ll also let you know that I have been smoke free for over seven years. Praise that!

Here’s my gold story…. I began breastfeeding Natalie, immediately convincing myself I was doing it all wrong, was handed a nipple shield, and still not confident. They say you couldn’t over feed a breastfed baby, I’d bet you can……. I fed that little thing CONSTANTLY, I mean all day long, and all night long. This caused her to spit or burp up the extra milk, as well as numerous mastitis battles, and a freezer full of milk, just sitting there. Natalie NEVER had a bottle, never. Given she was so small, I was so sleep deprived, I’d watch her sleep in fear of her higher SIDS risk, still unsure of my role and ability to do it, we would just wing it. Dealing with the nipple shield had its own struggles, it left me feeling like “if I lost this would she still be able to eat?” I knew I had to see someone who could build my confidence, come along side me and help me write my story. We got a referral for this place called MilkWorks, from the office, it was the same place we got a hospital grade breast pump rented, with the Medicaid we had. I had no vehicle and not much family support. I avoided my mother, who at the time was struggling still with a long, long road of drug addiction. One of my solid rocks growing up was Kathy, my life long BFF’s mother. She had always supported us girls, even when were wrong, she showed us grace, a true woman of the Lord, at that time I had no idea where one could get such strength like that.

After getting this referral I immediately asked Kathy to take me to see this “IBCLC,” what a fancy title, to observe Nat and I during a feeding, with the nipple shield, and do a pre and post feed weight check and basically evaluate this new mother. Into MilkWorks we went.

My first impression was overwhelming, I felt totally out of place. I was the youngest, with the cheapest car seat, in baggy sweets, puffy eyes from tears of who knows what, other than baby blues, and there I was to get evaluated, oh boy! I was led into the room, and I had Miss Kathy come with me. The first woman I met was Kaye Lidolph, and shortly thereafter sweet Miss Suzy Meyers. These women gave me such encouragement, told me that in fact we were successfully breastfeeding, they knew I absolutely adored my child, and that the “shield” was temporary.

What they had not known then, that there was a relationship being planted. Again I was weary, very independent in nature, but also longing for a mentor to help me with this adventure. They said I would benefit from attending a moms group (what would that be like!), on Monday evenings and Wednesday mornings at MilkWorks. I was 100% excited, and a bit desperate for some sort of social activity, but, how would I get there. I told them I wasn’t mobile and didn’t have many options for rides. Instantly Suzy lit up, I don’t remember exactly what she said, but she suggested she could reach out to another mother by the name of Lisa Kopecky who also had a newborn, involved with MilkWorks and attending these mom “support” groups. Lisa and I made contact, at this time, I also had no phone. I was a bit timid over the arrangements, seems I didn’t have a way for last minute change of plans on either end, however, she was a breath of fresh air on the other end of the line. She arranged to pick me up from where I lived, in an upstairs apartment near 26th and J. It was winter time and super cold, that didn’t stop me from getting ready way too early and waiting at the front door with excitement for this other mom to pick me up. Lisa showed sure interest in us, she was such a blessing. Could chat her up all day.

To try and sum this up, Lisa showed us so much love. So much, she would pick us up and take us to Godfathers for dinner, before the Monday group, sending the leftovers with me always, as well as bringing me delicious snacks, snacks that were good for you, you see she was a dietician! She wanted me to be eating well for my strength to care for my little girl. She would also send VHS movies that we would watch over and over and over. Another Victory, Natalie eventually got off the shield, was and still is a growing thriving little doll. MilkWorks has given us much more then breastfeeding support, even though that is what got us there, and opened the door. We have made lifelong friends, networking to help other moms, a confidence I didn’t have before, and opportunities to lead other moms towards the experience that had such a role building up of the mom, and friend I wanted to become.

I love breast feeding! As I mentioned before Nat never took a bottle. She was around three months old when I finally got my job back at Taco Johns on north 27th. I had worked there several years before becoming pregnant, but one day had it with everything and just quit. That is not something I do. My boss was so gracious and gave me my job back, after pleading for it. Once I did, my mom helped with watching Natalie. I’ve always wanted to have a tight close relationship with my mom, which is something that doesn’t just happen. She was great to Natalie and never would have put her in harm’s way, yet she wasn’t in a place to be the mom I so badly wanted and needed. While I worked my mom was able to bring Nat down after lunch rush. Natalie and I were able to sit and relax for my break, while I nursed her, right there in the booth of the dining room. The support I had as a new, young breastfeeding mom, was nothing I could have planned, asked or even expected to receive. I had no idea then, what a positive example that was, to proudly sit there and nurture my babe.

Our story goes on. Natalie continued to breastfeed for over two years, oh I love her!! I continued to raise Miss Natalie on my own. Taco Johns and unreliable roommates made it difficult to survive, again blessed with two humbling landlords that even though most months didn’t get their full rent, on time, still allowed Nat and I a place to live. Natalie wasn’t quite a year when I took up working two jobs. The taco gig full time and now, pouring cement for my uncle on Fridays. Well the rest is about history and gets us to where we are today.
Over time my concrete work at Magic Trowel went full time, and I worked Taco Johns on Sundays. It was on the job site that I first met this super cute, older than me plumber nicknamed “Butters” from the cartoon South Park. Natalie was shy of turning one, but I’d still bring her around Mike occasionally when he was spending time with his daughter, who is four years older than Natalie and named Brittneay. He defiantly played the hard to get card, especially towards the little fireball I was. I respected him; he was employed, had a vehicle, his own place, adored his daughter and her responsibilities, and really seemed to have it together. Qualities I hadn’t experienced in a man before. I like to say we’ve been together since the day we met, in my heart we were, but it wasn’t until June of 2006 we were an official item.

It came about in March of 2007 that Nat and I were due for a change, rent fell way behind and so did bills and child care, and single mom income didn’t cut it, and I was still working both jobs. As much as I wanted to live with Mike, he had other plans. Those plans of his changed. We left our place and put everything in storage, round two. We took a few things to Mike’s one room apartment and made it work. After scooping the papers for rentals, it began to fall into place. Mike had decided we could in fact house together, that is if it was all split 50/50. DEAL.

We eventually found a house, bigger than anything I ever lived in, in a neighborhood too cute. I immediately knew, this is where we are to live, this is where I’d hoped we’d become a family. We got the call that we would be offered a lease and we took it. Like most things that are good and worth it they take time and work. We finally settled in May 2007 on Carolyn Ct.

It was a year later that Natalie was off to Kindergarten, and we became pregnant. During this time Mike got laid off with the economy failing, from a job he had been at close to twelve years. And I, getting bigger with baby, had to stop pouring cement and now unemployed. Back to the many qualities Mike holds: one was building a 401k, and now we were in “survival mode” living off that, anxious to see this all pan out. With our Nova, we didn’t know if baby was a boy or girl, already had two girls so what’s one more? But Nova, he was a boy! I’ll never regret those first few weeks that we were both home watching this little guy. We were broke beyond jokes, but this moment in our lives was so short and so priceless.

And so breastfeeding round two began and was another success, this time, no shield. Some think that with each child breastfeeding becomes easier? Not always, always some sort of struggle, but again MilkWorks was there to pat me on the back, hold me in their hugs, and reassure me that “yes, you’re doing this”! Mike’s daughter was not breastfed, so this too was new for him, he learned that this was super awesome and such a great thing for our little boy. Nova also nursed for two years, never a drop of formula or a bottle of any kind!
Mike eventually got a job, and we were so torn over what I should do. I finally took advice from a great friend in my journey named Robin Roberts. She had lived in the house we were in (it was her parents), and had an in-home child care here, and was convinced I could do it….. I was very uncertain. Well turns out I got a license and opened Crissy’s Super Star Child Care in spring 2009. It has been such a rewarding job for me and my family.

Speed up here, Mike proposed to me Christmas 2009, of course I was shocked, never thought I would be asked to be married, but I said YES!!! Without a doubt!!

Things continued, Mike stayed busy and my business was also growing. I was a mother on WIC at Family Service as well during both pregnancies. It was at an appointment for Nova that I learned about the Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program with WIC, and that they were hiring new Peer Counselors. I applied, and also got the job, as a part-time employee, completely passionate about breastfeeding and helping other moms. So before Nova’s first birthday I was settling in my role as child care provider and a Peer Counselor. I was so thrilled where my life had turned!

September 2011 I was at a training, when I got a call from my niece’s case worker, letting me know that today was the day they were pulling Nevaeh from her mother’s care and needed to place her in mine. My heart sank. A brief history of my sister, Nevaeh’s birth mother, she is a hurting woman, who struggles with prostitution, prescription drug abuse, as well as alcohol and substance abuse. She also has high anxiety and co-dependency issues. Nevaeh has an older and a younger brother, both being raised outside of their mother’s care. The year leading up to the removal of Nevaeh from her home, Mike and I knew without a doubt she could be in our house as her new forever home. And that is just what happened. It was only two days before Nevaeh turned nine that she was delivered to us with the clothes on her back, the heavy sent of filth and cigarettes, and no more than a milk crate worth of her belongings. We knew she was not ever going back home. Of this whole experience the hardest thing as a mother is to try and understand how one could be so selfish and put themselves always before their children, three times. My relationship with my older sister is still so distant since this happened. She has quite a road ahead of her, to process this life out, seek help and hopefully begin the recovery road we all so badly would like to see her on.

2012 was an amazing year, we got married, bought our house and legally adopted Nevaeh as our daughter. Still on Carolyn Court, this blended family had grown again.

Then in April 2015 Mike became a legal father to Natalie, we forgave her birth father seventeen thousand dollars in back child support debt, in exchange he relinquished his rights, he didn’t hesitate. Nor did Mike at stepping up to the plate for Natalie and I, and providing the forever father she needed and wanted. We were all ONE FAMILY!!

Many trials both hard and easy have come along, days we would like to forget and days we would love to replay over and over. Suddenly, here we are in 2016, Brittneay, eighteen, graduated from school and attending UNL for nursing this fall. Our sweet, Nevaeh, thirteen, is anxious to start high school this fall at East, proudly playing her trumpet in the band. Natalie, also 13, is the big dog at Lefler, and loves her volley ball. Then you have the spit fire Nova, seven, he will be in second grade and is sooooo full of life and energy.
I haven’t seen the whole world and never will, but I have learned a lot about myself over the thirty two years I’ve been blessed to live. My family is the best, I like the saying that “we might not have it all together, but together we have it all”.

My relationship with my mother is the best it has ever been. She has been sober and clean over four years, I couldn’t ask for more from her. Her relationships with her grandchildren are wonderful, they all love spending time with grandma. Being a mother to my children is my hardest role I will ever have. You always wonder, “am I doing this right?” We are together and that makes the most sense to me. We are a team.
This was supposed to be a short note to celebrate my connection to MilkWorks, the local non-profit celebrating 15 years of successful service to my home town Lincoln, Nebraska, but turned out a bit more like a life line.

I said it before, becoming a mom to Natalie, and knowing she depended on me, no questions asked was the best change I could ever have had. She is a gift! Of all the things I’ve been called, mom is what I like to hear best.

MilkWorks you also are a gift, thank you for the encouragement, knowledge and support you offer to all moms and babies. My decision to breastfeed was backed up by your commitment to moms like me, and what a wonderful opportunity is it to breastfeed. It is about the nutrition, but we all know there is more to it than that! Thank you for being part of my story.