Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Rocco Report: 29 Weeks!

Hello Hello Hello! 

We're at 29 weeks and I'm fast approaching the last and final stop of my pregnancy- the third trimester! With only 11 weeks to go, Rocco will be here before you know it. I've officially started the nesting process of 'getting ready for baby'- which is basically defined by me barking orders at Coco, getting our apartment in order, getting Rocco's clothes and necessities organized, and finishing up any last minute writing and photo projects (like Rocco's baby book). Once we get back from New York at the end of the month, I'll be taking a trip to storage to get our co-sleeper, momaroo, and glider- my three most essential must-haves. 

It's been a month since I've given you a rundown of my monthly check-ups. This past week  I went for one with Dr. Bonilla and we went over a few things that have started to pop up during the last months of this pregnancy. Weight wise, I've gained three pounds. I'm now up to 128 lbs. My belly is still measuring a week ahead, which is obviously a good sign because Rocco is growing like he's supposed to. His heartbeat is big and strong and it always bring a reassuring smile to my face to hear that. My constipation issues are back and its seriously a nuisance. For a few weeks, I've been dealing with a sensitive stomach, something that I never experienced with Maya. It's hit or miss depending on the food and it's just been so uncomfortable at times. My doctor thinks that the stomach issues and the constipation are related and expected during pregnancy for some women, but just in case, we did blood work to see if I had developed any aversions to specific foods. Unfortunately not the case (oh the joys of being pregnant)! My hemorrhoids have claimed land in my body with zero plans of vacating. I had my first bout of indigestion this past week. I've had some heartburn here and there- nothing a few Tums couldn't take care of, but this specific instance beat me up. I woke up in the middle of the night with the most severe burning sensation in my chest and proceeded to throw up. I felt so much better after that, but it was quite intense. With Maya, I had heartburn throughout the pregnancy but I never threw up because of it. Goes to show you that no two pregnancies are ever alike. This pregnancy has definitely been different from my first pregnancy, but the one common thread is that overall, I have felt great. 

Can we talk about this heat? It's disgusting. Being pregnant in Miami's 'hot as hell' summer is a nightmare. And anytime someone asks me when I'm due, the first thing they say is something along the lines of 'poor you in this miserable heat' (thanks for the reminder). I'm sweating in the AC just thinking about it. Unless I'm at the beach, I'm trying to keep my daily activities to a minimum and if not, I try to find some cool refuge as quickly as I can before I start running out of breath. For the record (and per doctor's orders), I'll be spending the month of August in the pool or in a bathtub full of ice. 

How to Dress Your Bump segment with Roxy Vargas and NBC 6 in the Mix.

Earlier this week, I did a segment with NBC 6 in the Mix, showing our mommies and  mommy-to-be viewers how to dress their baby bump in the summer heat!   ( http://www.nbcmiami.com/video/#!/on-air/as-seen-on/Fashion-Fix_-Dressing-Your-Baby-Bump/310727251). I teamed up with maternity giant, Destination Maternity (www.destinationmaternity.com) and beauty app, GlamSquad (www.glamsquad.com), to demonstrate three summer fashion and hair trends (all-white, florals, nautical) our fashionable preggo moms can easily sport to beat the heat! It was so much fun! 

I also treated myself to a very relaxing and soothing pre-natal massage at the Ritz Carlton Spa and laid by the pool for a couple of hours before picking up Maya at camp. We leave today for Siesta Key and we couldn't be more excited! It's our 4th year going to this family-friendly beach town, which boasts the #1 beach in the US, and it's the epitome of relaxation with good friends, good food, and great weather! And the kids love it! Can't we just leave now?! 
Just another day at the office 
Before I wrap up this post, you know I have to drop my weekly wisdom on you for some thought! This week is a personal one- laid off and pregnant. Apparently it's a thing and it happens and I'm not alone, so I'm sharing a little bit of my story with you! 

I never thought I would get laid off, let alone laid off while six months pregnant. I had a cushy job, one that I loved, doing exactly what I wanted to do, at the company I wanted to do it at. I knew I wanted to work in TV since I was a kid. My grandfather was a sports broadcaster and I grew up watching him work behind the mic at baseball games and at radio station gigs. I wanted a piece of that. After two internships at Good Morning America and Access Hollywood in the city, I landed my first (and only) job after graduation- working my way from receptionist to producer. I loved that every day was different- a different red carpet, a different celebrity to interview, a different story to cover. I was doing what I loved to do. I had also survived six rounds of lay-offs at the peak of uncertainty in the TV business so imagine my surprise when I strolled into the office one day, oblivious to anything but my shoots, only to find out I was getting laid off because of budget cuts. I mean, I had just submitted paperwork for my four month maternity leave. I didn't know what to say or what to do. My career and my job were a big part of my life- heck, of my identity- and now I was jobless and a little lost. 

My first thought was, 'what am I supposed to do with all this free time?!' That and, 'Am I still going to get my free blowouts?' I was about to have a baby- and now I had no job. But life goes on, and losing your job is not the end of the world. Is it nerve-wracking, an unexpected curve ball, and an annoying hurdle?! Yes to all three. But there was a silver lining to my predicament that I didn't see until Maya was born- a flexible schedule to be with my baby. My plan was always to return to work after those first four months and I never anticipated taking longer than that. This lay-off was a blessing in disguise. Not only was it time for me to move on career wise (I got comfortable), but I got to be present for so many of Maya's milestones I otherwise would have seen on video or through pictures. She was my partner in crime in the big city. So instead of seeing this as a personal disappointment, I saw it as some well-deserved time off. That didn't mean that I stopped working all together. I started freelancing and picking up work with other entertainment shows and production companies. On my time off, I took etiquette classes, went to museums, movies, walks in the park, and met friends for lunch. I got a Netflix subscription and decided to watch all the Old Hollywood movies on my list that I still hadn't seen. I knew my alone time window was slowly shrinking and I wanted to take advantage of that.  

It's been three years since I've had a full-time job and I consider myself blessed. I probably wouldn't have been able to say that when it first happened. I was to busy feeling sorry for myself and crying until I snapped back to reality. I learned so much more about myself, my determination, my resilience, and I learned that a job doesn't get to define all of me. That was a hard one to learn. This time off has been priceless getting to be with Maya and really getting to know her as this tiny person with a big, bubbly, and sassy personality. I know that many moms don't get that luxury so I don't take it for granted. That's not to say I don't miss what I do. I miss it everyday, and that's how I know that it's only a matter of time before I go back once Rocco is born. I'm thankful for the freelance work- the work trips back in New York, the writing gigs, the on-air segments- because they keep me connected to something that I love to do and I want my kids to see that joy and passion of doing something that comes with a career you love. Getting laid-off, despite the growing pains, was the kick in the ass I needed, and ultimately good for me. 

Sometimes, what you want isn't always what you need and in this case, I walked away with the grand prize- a chance to re imagine my career while getting to have the most rewarding job of them all- mom. 

Pass the wine and the gold stars! 

Bumpin' love, 

Rocco's Mom 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

It's All About Pulpo (Octopus) and Estrella Damm Beer for this week's Chef's Choice Experience

Estrella Damm, the beer of Barcelona 

This past week, I was invited to indulge in the Estrella Damm Chef's Choice experience, a specially crafted three course culinary tasting featuring Estrella Damm beer and a pulpo (octopus) dish as the main course. 

The menus, available from June 20th to July 5th, range in price from $30-$52 and will allow chefs from participating restaurants  to showcase their talents when it comes to creating a savory pulpo entree. The three course menu also pairs perfectly with Estrella Damm, the beer of Barcelona. 

"We selected pulpo because it is representative of Mediterranean cuisine and because we think it is an intriguing ingredient Miami foodies will love and who better to prepare these dishes than Miami's most inventive chefs," said Floris van Neerrijnen, Estrella Damm Brand Manager. 

Sangria Drunken Fig Brûlée 
Coincidentally, the tasting happened to land on our eight year anniversary and we decided to make it a celebratory affair! We picked participating venue and neighborhood eatery, Bin 18 Bistro and Beer Loft, located across from our apartment building. We also happen to like their pulpo presentation the best. 

Bin 18 chef, Alfredo Palino, put together a decadent yet tasty presentation that had us enjoying each and every bite. Kudos to him for his meticulous attention to detail and for creating dishes that fused together different flavors and textures that were never overpowering and just the right amount of spice. 

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the service. There was one lonesome waiter handling the whole restaurant. It was several minutes before he came to take our order and when I did let him know we were here for the tasting, he was very apologetic. The inadequate service wasn't a reflection of him per se, but because he was spread thin, we were left waiting for our food and drink order (we never even got bread for the table) for lengthy periods of time because he was all over the place. 

My husband, Coco, was a big fan of the Estrella Damm beer. I'm not a beer drinker but I did have a few sips and I found it refreshing and light. He said it was smooth enough where he never felt it was too heavy when had with each of the selections. Our appetizer was a delicious Sangria Drunken Fig Brûlée stuffed with toasted walnuts and Gorgonzola cheese. It was out of this world! The fig paired with the Gorgonzola cheese was mouth-watering. It was the perfect combination of sweet and salty. 

Portuguese Pulpo a la Plancha 

Portugues Pulpo a la Plancha
Our main dish, or as I like to call it, the piece de resistance, was a Portuguese Pulpo a la Plancha. It was really one of the best octopus dishes I've had in a long time. It was succulent, tender, and very balanced in flavor. Octopus can be a hard dish to master, due to the long cooking progress and can run the risk of being too rubbery. That was not the case with Chef Alfredo's masterpiece. The pulpo's taste was elevated by the chorizo, zucchini, roasted garlic, herbs, candied orange that it sat alongside. The fig reduction gave it another layer of flavor that made it extra scrumptious. 

Key lime pie 

No meal is complete without dessert and we feasted on a tradition key lime pie with an almond and graham crust topped off with whipped cream. Each bite was creamier than the last and I devoured the whole thing in seconds! It was delicious. 

I give the food portion of the experience two very thumbs up because you instantly knew it was cooked with passion, detail, and love. The service needs major improvement. But overall, the chef's choice experience is not one to pass up this week! Make those rezzies, Miami foodies! 

Exterior of Bin 18 Bistro and Beer Loft. 

Participating restaurants include: Barceloneta, Bin 18, Bulla Gatrobar, Cena by Michy, Dolores but you can Call Me Lolita, Fooq's, Jimmy'z Kitchen Wynwood, Joey's Italian Cafe, Klima Restaurant and Bar, La Mar by Gaston Acurio, Morgans Restaurant, Novecento, Ortanique on the Mile, Perfecto, Segafredo Brickell, Sugarcane Raw Bar and Grill, Tapas y Tintos, The Embassy, Tongue and Cheek, Wynwood Kitchen and Bar, Xixon. 

Visit www.chefschoicemiami.com for more info and make your reservations through your restaurant of choice! 

To learn more about Estrella Damm Beer, visit www.estrelladamm.com.

Bin 18 is located at: 
1800 Biscayne Blvd. 
Miami, FL 33132

Friday, June 26, 2015

NY Style Map- Loving and Leaving New York.

‘New York is the thing that formed me. New York is the thing that deformed me. New York is the thing that perverted me. New York is the thing that converted me.’ Patti Smith

I wasn’t ready to go. And that’s where my story begins.

If I would have written this essay the moment I arrived in Miami, it would have been an unstable and unfair reflection of my erratic emotions and half-empty expectations of a city I had no interest in. I needed time to let my new reality sink in and some time to allow myself growing pains before I could share my story on loving and leaving New York. I didn’t want to glorify one city and bash another in the midst of my most delicate transition. I equate the experience to that of a break up- where you spend those first couple of months crying and listening to depressing music until one day you snap back to your old self and are able to rationally make sense of a situation. I needed to do the same with my unwanted move. It was up to me to create my happiness in these challenging times. And I did. I have now been in Miami for almost two years, and I can honestly say it took me a good year and a half to be at peace with living here. I spent the those first few months, crying, being resentful, and not wanting to let go of my NY life. I was grieving. Does that sound exceptionally shallow and silly? I’m sure to some it does. But I was grieving my city and I was grieving the life I left behind. As the days and months went by, I knew I had a choice. I could sit on my couch and feel sorry for myself and be miserable, or I could choose to be happy and create a beautiful and positive experience for my family and I. If life has taught me anything about myself, is that I am resilient, I am determined, and I’m optimistic. I have worked hard at making a life in a new Miami- a Miami that I had to rediscover not only as a native, but also as a mother. This was a whole new world for me- and one I wanted to redefine with my husband and my baby, no matter how much I longed for New York.
On September 3, 2013, 12 years after touching down at LGA, I found myself inconsolably crying in the back of a yellow cab on my way to that same airport where I took my first steps as a New Yorker. The memory of my tears, of the 59th Street Bridge, and the slowly disappearing NYC skyline moving away from me, is etched permanently in my brain like a regretted tattoo. I never thought I would see the day when I would leave my beloved city- not now at least. My husband, always quick to give words of encouragement, was at a loss. He knew there was no consolation and he knew he was uprooting me from a life and a city that had become a part of me- a city that had molded me. I hadn’t even left and I was already homesick.

I couldn’t imagine myself living anywhere else but New York. New York was home. A month after becoming a NY resident, 9/11 happened. It was during the days that followed that unspeakable tragedy that I knew more than ever that there was no other place I would rather be. New York was where I decided to build my life, to go to college, to kick-start my television career, and ultimately to start a family. It was where I met my husband. Where we had our first date and we danced all night and then took a train back to my shoebox apartment. It was where we had our first kiss in Chinatown, where we bought our first home together, where we made it official in a City Hall wedding in lower Manhattan. It was where we welcomed our first child at Lenox Hill Hospital. It was where on so many nights on the Upper East Side, I would fall asleep with butterflies in my stomach thinking, “I get to live in the greatest city in the world.” There’s a magic to New York that can’t be duplicated. Love it or hate it, it’s a city that leaves an impression- that sucks you in, spits you out, and yet, you still come back for more. It’s a city of dreams, a city of community, of camaraderie, and a city where opportunities and adventures live in every street crevice, every neighborhood, and every soul you come across. It’s what Frank sings about, “if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere…” New York finds its way into your blood and consumes every inch of your sanity and of your spirit. Its aroma and its energy are intoxicating. It’s a city that will drive you madly in love or just plain mad.

New York is not for everyone, but it was for me. It was my city.

I wasn’t ready to leave, especially not for Miami. Yes, the land of palm trees, beaches, and cafecitos was idyllic and nice, but it had stopped being home for me the moment my mom passed away- long before I left to Manhattan. I knew that there was only so much Miami could give me and if I would have stayed, it would have killed me inside. Miami had given me 20 good years, but it was time to move on. I never thought I’d find myself moving back, at least not this soon. But sometimes life has a funny way of rearranging your best-laid plans. It may not be what you want or what you asked for, but it’s probably what you need. The reality of it all was that we were slowly getting priced out of New York. Even though my freelance gigs and Coco’s job brought in good money, the city just kept getting more ridiculously expensive and there was no denying we were feeling those effects. Being upper middle class in Manhattan was a recipe for ultimate extinction. It was time for us to rethink our next move. My thought process was more along the lines of a new life over the bridge; Coco’s was a move down South. I was crushed. I thought marrying a born and bred New Yorker would guarantee me long time residency in the city. I guess I was wrong. But Miami has been an eye-opening learning experience for me. I had to learn at a very young age to take care of myself and to put my well being first. I didn’t have to think about anyone else’s needs but mine. This move has been a lesson in doing for others- in putting Coco first (for a brief period at least). A little give and take in the sacrifice department goes a long way in strengthening your marriage. Miami has also turned out to be beneficial for me career wise. It has allotted me so many new and exciting freelance opportunities that I would have probably have never looked into if I was still in New York. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t be idle here- that I would somehow create a niche for myself in order to stay sane and keep the wheels in my head cranking for however long we would live here. And I have- I continue to cultivate that niche with hard work and gusto. I’m proud of myself for succeeding, for not giving up, and for creating a fresh path amidst this rollercoaster journey. Maya gets to witness first hand the manifestation of two hard-working parents who will stop at nothing when it comes to creating a sense of happiness. Miami came through for me in ways I never expected.  

I moved to New York with two suitcases full of an ungodly amount of colorful clothing and $500 to buy myself a bed for my new five story walk-up apartment on 91st street. That’s when you know you are foolishly and blindly in love with New York- when crowded subways, the stench of dog pee in the summer, and those horrible drunk late night walk-ups in your ‘no elevator’ building, don’t even begin to bother you. Instead, they were magical and served as some sort of independent stamp of approval in your up and coming life as a certified New Yorker. But I didn’t buy a bed. Instead I used those 500 bucks to buy myself my first pair of Jimmy Choos on Madison Avenue. I’d officially arrived and my style evolution had unofficially begun. The move to the city was one big culture slap for me. The idea that Miami was some sort of melting pot compared to the culturally saturated landscape of New York was peanuts in scale. Languages I had never even heard, nationalities only known to me from a textbook or globe, were now a part of my everyday. Walking, (yes walking!), was my main source of transportation- so were trains, buses, and cabs. Commuting on a crowded subway to my TV job in Rockefeller Center, listening to my Ipod and sharing a morning commute with other New Yorkers, never got old. Everyday was different and that’s what I loved about it. I never saw myself as a little fish in a big pond-. I saw myself as a really lucky fish because I got to do exactly what I wanted to do since I was little girl. I got to experience four glorious seasons. There was always something special about the city covered in a blanket of snow (before it turned into murky black puddles), especially during the holidays, because everyone knows no one does the holidays like New York. And once you dug yourself out of a blizzard aftermath, there was always a day of sledding at the park to enjoy. Going sledding with Maya and Coco in Central Park is one of my favorite memories to play back in my head. I’m thankful to have suffered through horrid winters of puffer coats and snow boots, only to be welcomed a few months later by a spring awakening. Watching the city and all those heat-starved New Yorkers resurface with smiles and tank tops is still one of my favorite things about living in this urban paradise. $7 manicures, metro cards, spontaneous happy hours with friends, hotdogs at Gray’s Papaya, late night bites at the neighborhood diner, field trips to the city’s countless museums, drunk rooftop soirees in the summertime, picnics in Central Park, and bottomless brunches every weekend were all part of My New York. And New York with a baby? Even better! The city was your classroom. Parks, music classes, and sprinklers were my new normal.

New York enchants you, but it also jades you. Once you’ve lived in the city, no other place measures up. Ask any die-hard New Yorker. Coming back to Miami felt like I was coming back to a different city. As I would tell my husband many times, ‘visiting Miami and living in Miami are two very different things.’ I loved visiting Miami- particularly between January and March when the winter was solemn and bleak. Miami enticed me with her sparkling beaches, her warm weather, and her laid-back ‘I’ll get to it later’ attitude. And I loved missing it. I loved coming to see my family, to see my friends, to get my Cuban food fix, and to show Coco all the memorable sights and scenes that I enjoyed while growing up in the Magic City. And after a week of soaking up all that Miami juju, I was always ready to come back to New York. When people ask me if I miss New York, if I love it here, or if I’m happy to be back, I usually tell them one of two things. I tell them that I love Miami, but I love New York more. It’s just my kind of town. Or I put it to them in these terms. It’s like when you break up with a boyfriend that you really love and you miss that boyfriend terribly, and sometimes you even want to hook up with that boyfriend when you’re feeling a little lonely, but you still NEVER want to get back with that boyfriend. Miami is that boyfriend for me. Yes, I missed it from time to time and there were things I particularly yearned for, at the end of the day, Miami is still a part of me too, but I never missed it enough where I wanted to move back because the thought of leaving New York was just mentally insane to me. New York is the love of my life but Miami is the dirty mistress I can’t shake.

Being back in Miami has been one of the most uncomfortable, challenging, rewarding, and revelatory experiences for me. Miami has forced me to live one day at a time and I’m thankful for that. I refer to my current living situation in Miami as my mommy phase. As a family, the move is a ‘pit stop’ for us- a refueling station- if you may, to reconnect with each other and for me to make amends with this city and my past. While I’ve had to put my career on the back burner for a bit, nothing brings me more joy than being with Maya and being able to do all those things with her that I loved to do while I was growing up. I love spending my afternoons with her at the pool or at the beach (because let’s face it NY, your beaches don’t even come close to Miami beaches). Being here has allowed me to get that one-on-one precious time with her that I probably wouldn’t have gotten if I was working nonstop in the city. I’m able to enjoy her and hang out with her whenever I want. I get to drop her off at school and nothing beats the genuine excitement in her voice and in her face when I pick her up at the end of the day. I get to take her to some of the same parks I used to go to as a kid, and some of the same Cuban bakeries for pastelitos and café con leche. We spend days off from school at attractions like the Miami Seaquarium just like I used to do as a kid.

This is the Miami that I have grown to love.

I don’t know how long we’ll be in Miami- maybe another year, maybe five or ten. I can’t really tell you. But for right now, it’s my home and everyday, I learn to love it a little more. But that doesn’t mean I’m waving my white flag. My NY love affair isn’t quite over and I know we’ll meet again. My feelings for the city haven’t wavered and I still get teary-eyed when my plane flies over that illustrious skyline that has come to mean so much to so many, knowing that in a few short minutes I get to pretend like I never left- because that’s how it feels. I pick up right where I left off- pushing my stroller down the UES and blending in with the 8 million stories that make this city ‘the greatest city in the world.’

 I’ve come home.

Photography by: Kim Mancuso Photography (@kimmancusophotophraphy) 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Rocco Report: 28 Weeks!

Hello and how are you, my lovely squeezers! I hope you all had a fantastic weekend celebrating those special men in your lives. Big shout out to all the daddies out there who love, nurture, and take care of their families who are constant role models and saviors to their kids and significant others! These are the best kind of partners. Happy Father's Day! Let's not forget that daddies aren't 'babysitters,' they aren't 'helpers,' and they don't just 'pitch in,' they are parents too and while they aren't mommies, they are still equal partners in this funhouse game we call parenting! 

Week 28 is upon us and I'm floored at how quickly time is flying. I'm two weeks away from hitting the 30 week mark and then it's just a speed train to the delivery room from there. Tomorrow I have my monthly check up with my OB, so I'll be filling you in with more details on how I'm feeling physically and all the sudden changes going on in my body. You're in for a treat! 

Maya's first feeding at Lenox Hill Hospital. 3/2/12.

I wanted to dive right into this week's topic of discussion, which seems to be a recurring hot button issue for most moms- the battle (should we even call it that?) between breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. Every parenting magazine, blog, site, handbook, Facebook post I come across, has some article, some picture, or some op-ed about how women choose to feed their baby. Some are judgey whether you bottle or breastfeed, some are very 'let go and live,' and some are just moms, like you and I, sharing their personal stories with anyone who is willing to read and listen. I had several moms and moms-to-be, personally reach out to me and ask me when would I be doing a post on my blog about breastfeeding and bottle feeding. And the answer is now. It's a story I always wanted to share and I think many moms just want to feel like they're not alone and it doesn't matter what feeding boat your own. 

Being a mother is the hardest and most rewarding job in the world. The last thing we need is judgement from other moms about how we feed our kids. Listen, we've all judged. I know I have. It's human nature to judge but it doesn't make it right. We, as moms and as women, need to cut each other some slack and be supportive instead of alienating with judgment. However way we choose to feed our children, is a personal choice. Whether you breast feed, or pump/bottle feed, or formula feed, it doesn't matter. There's no right or wrong answer here and you can't care what other people think or say about your decision. The moment you do, you have signed up for a never-ending slew of unwanted confident-thrashing opinions that have nothing to do with you as a parent. The bottom line is that you have to do what works best for you and for your family. Why do we, as moms, find ourselves struggling with the choices we make? Why do we let outside forces, society, 'parenting experts', tell us how they think we should be raising, feeding, clothing, our children? The only parenting expert in your family is you, and no one knows what your family needs better than you. As one friend put it, 'we have to do lots of other things for our kids other than feed them to help them grow and develop.' 

Every mom has a story and you'll get to read a few of those after mine. I am thankful and humbled by the many responses I received from so many moms out there after I asked them to share their stories for the blog. And whether they chose to breast or formula feed, they all have a common thread- they all want to be good parents to their children. I think we can all stand behind that. It is important for me to make note, that the opinions and stories shared in this blog post, are personal ones. Negative comments or feedback are not welcomed here. So please check yourself when you click on this link. This is not a place to bash women who breastfeed or formula feed. This is a place of being able to strip down and share your stories with other moms. You'll read all about their joys, frustrations, anxieties, excitement, annoyances, and personal growth without judgement. 

This is my story and I invite you to read it. I made the decision even before pregnancy that I wanted to bottle feed. I have never once regretted my decision. I have never looked back and thought, 'what if.' And I have never once questioned my ability as a mother because I made the choice to bottle feed my child. Breastfeeding is not for everyone. It wasn't for me and I never saw an issue with that. The idea of breastfeeding my child was not something that I craved. I never once felt that maternal instinct to breastfeed. I never longed for it, not even after Maya was born. On the contrary, I find it awkward and odd and even unnatural at times (though rationally I know it's the most natural thing we are meant to do as mothers. It was just not natural to me). Many of my friends breastfeed and that's wonderful for them because it's what they wanted, but I never wanted that. I just never felt the need and why would I do something just because that's what you are told you are supposed to do? Especially knowing that I wasn't going to enjoy it based on my feelings towards it and it would ultimately take away from making any connection with my baby?  Let's not forget most of our parents bottle-fed us in the 70s and 80s and we turned out just fine. I was bottle fed and I think I'm pretty great (clearly with a healthy dose of positive self-esteem). 

I had heard so many stories from other moms who had told me that the hospital would push the whole 'breast is best' speech on me and I said, 'they can push all they want. They're not the ones feeding my baby.' And when I got to the hospital, and I was asked if I was bottle or breastfeeding, I firmly told them and that was that. I was never bothered. Not once. And I had the most positive hospital experience a new mom could ask for. I know that isn't the case for many new moms. When I was pregnant with Maya, someone said to me, 'Once she's born, you'll see. You'll feel that connection instantly and you'll change your mind and want to breastfeed." That didn't happen. In fact, my first reaction was to request the cold cabbage (the nutrients in cabbage have been known to quickly stop milk production) I had brought to the hospital so I could start applying it to my breasts to dry up my milk. Granted, I smelled like a rotten salad but it worked. I never once agreed with anyone who said that breastfeeding would be a bonding experience that couldn't be duplicated if I bottle fed. I couldn't have been more insulted hearing that. Not so much for me, but what about those women who DID want to breastfeed their baby but just couldn't for whatever reason? Or those moms who willingly chose to bottle/formula feed? Does that make them any less of a mother? I think not. How do you tell these mothers that they won't bond with their child unless they use their breast? That's not a fair assumption to make and one that couldn't be further from the truth. Feeding your baby is not the only way to bond. There are a million other ways to bond with your child that doesn't involve feeding. I also rolled my eyes whenever I heard that your child won't be as healthy unless they were breastfed. Kids get sick whether you breastfeed them or not. I know a lot of breastfed kids who are constantly sick and some who never get sick. Same goes for formula babies. That argument falls flat.

I loved feeding Maya. I loved sitting in my glider, rocking back and forth, singing to her while I fed her, and holding her in my arms forgetting about the time and anything else I had to do. It was just her and I- and for that brief time- the world stood still for us. Formula feeding Maya allowed us to put her on a schedule right away. She was a textbook baby- eating every 3.5-4 hours. She took to the bottle easily, ate generously, and slept contently, which makes for very two happy parents. Even our pediatrician applauded us for making a decision that worked for us and even mentioned how some new parents unfortunately get pressured into doing something they don't necessarily want to do and are made to feel guilty for it. That makes me sad. Bottle feeding also helped enormously with nighttime feedings. Coco wanted to have that one-on-one feeding time with her and it was important for me that he have that. He also loved doing the night time feedings, which was a blessing for me, especially since we didn't have any help whatsoever. It allowed me to rest and get my sleep at night without worrying. I come from the mentality of 'a sane mommy is a happy mommy' and because I never doubted my decision to formula feed her,  my experience was nothing but positive. I also knew that formula feeding was a better fit for our lifestyle. Coco and I are parents on the go and having her on the bottle and being able to feed her on-demand wherever we were, was crucial in my decision-making. 

When I speak to other moms who made the choice to give their babies formula, they always share the same sentiment- that they're often shamed for not choosing to breastfeed and questioned about their decision. There shouldn't be any guilt or shame with choosing to formula feed. Formula was invented for a reason and it is used in hospitals for a reason. And you don't have to give anyone a reason as to why you chose to feed your kid formula. It's your choice. Same goes for breastfeeding moms. Judgement exists amongst them too!  How long you choose to breastfeed doesn't make you any less of a good mom. Neither does your decision to pump or supplement. If you don't produce enough milk, it's not your fault. It happens. And if you decide you don't like it, that's fine too. And if you want to breastfeed until your kid is 4 years old, hey, go for it. More power to you. Whether you love doing it or hate doing it, it doesn't matter either. You don't have to prove anything to anyone. Ask yourselves this, mom-  Is your baby healthy? Is your baby loved? Is your baby getting everything he needs from you beyond feeding? If your answer is yes, you get a gold star for being the most amazing mom. End of discussion.

Rocco will be here in just a few months, and again, I have chosen to formula feed. My personal stance on how I've chosen to feed my children has not wavered and I know I am doing what works best for me and for all of us as a family. I'm excited that Maya will also be able to help feed her baby brother, which will be something special for her to do until she runs out of patience (which is expected since she's three). I'm looking forward to bonding with my little boy over some Similac, some lullabies, and good ol' fashion cuddling! 

So to all the moms and moms-to-be out there who are figuring out what's right- tune out the outside voices, the 'parenting experts' and do what works best for you. There's no guilt or shame in whatever you decide. No right or wrong. Be nice to one another- we're all just trying to make it through each day with our sanity. Breastfeed until your heart's content, pump the night away, or formula feed the sh#$t out of your baby! Whatever you choose, you're still a great mom. So tell those naysayers to take their opinions and shove them. 

Moms of the world unite! Read their stories...

Kelly- I chose to breastfeed for as long as possible. The feeling and emotional bond is such a beautiful experience. Although it can be exhausting at times, I wouldn't change a thing!  It truly is an incredible and an unforgettable moment shared with my child. Also the perks of saving money rather than using and spending formula also helped for the first six months. When I went back to work, I tried pumping and keeping a schedule to pump at work, but milk production was an issue and then had to eventually switch to formula, which was a very easy change as well for our son. The choice to breastfeed or not is yours. I don't feel there is a right or wrong answer here. However, there are some great benefits as well to your child having your breast milk. But it all depends on you and what works best for you.

JessicaBreastfeeding is something that I knew I wanted to do. My mother nursed me and my grandmother nursed her. I was determined to make it work. I went to the classes and read all the books I could get my hands on. My son was a very hungry newborn. I felt pressure from the nurses at the hospital to give him some formula to hold him over until my milk came in. I felt so guilty. I couldn't do it myself. I asked the nurses to feed him in the nursery so I didn't have to see it. Once my milk came in a couple days later, it was so much better. He latched like a champ and would feed very quickly. It was such a beautiful experience to see him grow, week after week, solely on what my body was providing for him. I went back to work at 3 months. I was able to pump at work for another 10 months. I did everything in the books to keep my supply up. It was demanding and exhausting at times, but for me, worth every single minute. Since nursing went so well with my son, I thought it would be the same for my daughter. I was wrong. She was a terribly, lazy eater. She had a terrible latch and would fall asleep at the breast. After a week of this, I had to go see a lactation consultant. I cried in the office, feeling like a failure. I didn't understand how I was able to nurse my son for 13 months and now I couldn't even do it for a couple of days. The LC was amazing and with her help we taught my daughter in just one day, that the breast was for eating. It was night and day after that! I also went back to work when she was 3 months old and pumped again for 10 months. I feel blessed that I was able to provide the perfect nutrition for my babies for so long. My husband was a very big supporter and advocate for me. Even on the bad nights, he was there, reassuring me that my body was meant to do this. I understand that breastfeeding is not for everyone, but it was the perfect choice for our family.

Christina- My first baby I breastfeed for about two and half weeks and I was just so frustrated and gave up. I ended up getting postpartum depression after it. I was so upset with myself for not trying harder. Then with the second, it went super smooth and I did it for 10 and a half months. I got an infection and mastitis but didn't give up. I stayed home with the other two and with number three, I will be going back to work in September.  I am nursing and it has been great. I am just torn because #1 I am leaving her with my mom, though wonderful, I am so sad I have to leave her but I have to do it and #2, I have so much going on with the older ones I don't know if I will be able to handle pumping at work and all the craziness. So I am torn on which formula to choose. Should I start supplementing now etc. I know that many children are formula fed and I should not feel guilty but as a mom I have always felt it is what our bodies were made to do. 

Jen- I will say it's challenging and rewarding at the time same time. You get a sense of motherly fulfillment to see the milk your body produces feeding and sustaining your child. But it's really a sacrifice of time and body and diet and life, especially if you're a mom like me that likes to get up and go. Breastfeeding is supposed to be quick and convenient, but it's not for all moms. Like me- I go to the mall and spend a lot of time in a bathroom or in a fitting room feeding my otherwise starving and screaming child. I'm dying to switch to formula in my day to day but my gut and my instinct are telling me to continue to feed him myself and wait just a little longer before introducing 'foreign' substance into his little body. And every night I go to sleep, is another day that I gave him the milk that's custom made for him. 

Cari- Breast is great but it wasn't for me. My constant level of stress, guilt, anxiety, and perfectionism was going to make it all the worse an experience. I already battle with feeling like I'm doing a good enough job on my own with no family around whatsoever, that the stress of not succeeding at breastfeeding was going to be too much. Maybe others view me as selfish but in reality, I know what I gave up in order for me to be a better mom in all other aspects to my baby. And it also felt awkward for me. Him sucking on my breast was also something difficult for me to wrap my head around. So many breast moms make formula moms feel bad. Such was my experience. I'm sure it goes both ways but since I'm on the formula end, I usually see the breast moms doing the judging. Moms put so much judgement on each other when we are already doing the hardest job. 

Jessie- I don't like breastfeeding. To me, it's awkward and extremely depressing and it is not something that felt natural to me. I don't care if my opinions shock others, because it's MY feeling. With my first, I breast fed for four weeks. With my second, I pumped for four weeks, and with my third, I pumped for two days. I do think that breast is best for your child; however, a sane mommy is a lot more important to me. I really don't think we should care what other people think. At the end of the day, you have to do what works best for you and I am happy with the choices I made. We have a stronger connection because of it. 

MichelleI'm nursing for the second time around. The first time we made it 8 months and this time I'd love to make it to a year. The first time was much harder and luckily things have really fallen in to place this time. I think it's a deeply personal decision just like many other decisions that you make as parents. Everyone's situation is different, Nursing if you stay at home is completely different than going back to work and having to pump multiple times a day. At the end of the day you have to do what works for your family and makes you happy!

JennyI was a baby when I had my 1st child at the age of 20 in 1999 and things have definitely changed. I tried to breastfeed because it was "the right thing to do". I lasted 2 weeks of what felt like torture. I quit when I was pumping one day and blood started coming out. My doctor who was a saint (may he RIP) told me "Don't worry sweetie, she likes the bottle so stick to it." And so I did. I felt great comfort in seeing the amount she was drinking vs. not knowing if she was actually sucking anything out. My daughter couldn't have been any healthier. When #2 came along in 2004, I was determined not to even try breastfeeding. The nurses in the hospital gave me a real hard time about not wanting to try, to the point of tears. My husband came to my rescue and shut them up. I stuck to formula from day one and baby #2 couldn't have been healthier. I remember my mom telling me "ustedes nunca tomaron teta y mira lo bien que estan." A part of me felt failure because everyone was doing it and succeeding at it, while I thought it was torture. I felt like I was taking the easy way out. I respect everyone's choice and think it should be tried at least once but it is not for everyone. Much respect and kudos to the mommies that succeed. But my kids were strong and just as healthy.

Carolina- I always knew I wanted to give breast milk probably because my sisters did so I thought that was best, but I also have so many friends and family that have struggled so much with it that I thought, 'if it doesn't work, I will likely give it up quickly.' Ain't nobody got time for that stress! Anyways, when baby girl came at 35 weeks and ended up in the NICU, the doctors really pushed me to pump because they felt breast was best for a preemie so I did. I pumped and pumped and pumped and have not stopped! When I got home from the hospital, I tried to get her to latch and it just didn't go too well. I know a lot of people say breastfeeding takes work but I honestly wasn't up for it. I got so angry and frustrated each time I would try to get her to latch that it became a horrible chore! So I gave up. Some say that breastfeeding is better for bonding, well with her crying and me frustrated, there was no bonding going on. After three weeks I became an 'exclusive pumper' and it's been one of my best decisions! I feel that her and I are so bonded. I'm happy because I know how much she eats and I'm a control freak. She's happy because she is full and she digests it well. I was able to sleep and let others feed her and put her on a schedule, and my mind is at ease since I'm giving her what the doctors told me I should. Pumping ain't easy, but it's been the best decision for me and my baby girl- 7 months going strong!

Gladys- For me, breastfeeding didn't work. I have big boobs and for what?! If I produced three ounces of milk a day, I was lucky. I'm thankful for formula, particularly Enfamil, which I used to feed both my healthy girls.

Cheyenne- Unfortunately. I did not have a chance to breastfeed. Kenzie would not take and I didn't produce enough to pump for her. It kills me when people talk badly about formula-fed babies! If i was able to choose, I would choose breastfeeding not only because it is natural and better, but it's also cheaper! But I'll tell you what- my baby is just as healthy being formula-fed compared to breastfed babies her age. I don't see a problem with either way as long as your baby is getting what they need.

Rosie- I did both. Formula helps with the feedings and you don't need to go crazy pumping. Also, William didn't take to the breastfeeding and it was frustrating. I think all kids are different and you should at least try to breastfeed as it is beneficial for the baby. But as a product of the 70s where you only got a bottle, most kids turned out fine. And the breastfeeding did work better with the girls. I mostly breastfed them until almost six months. Formula is a lifesaver though when they are with other people or for night feedings because the hubby can do.

Lisa- When I was pregnant and asked which I preferred, I was on the fence. I always leaned towards the bottle but I always understood the benefits of breastfeeding.  It was my husband who really wanted me to breastfeed so I figured I would try it. Because I told the hospital I was breastfeeding prior to my arrival, when my baby was born and my milk hadn't come in and my baby wouldn't breastfeed, that's when I decided I would never make that mistake again. The hospital pushed me to the point of a nervous breakdown with its "breast is best" campaign - so much so I along with my son's pediatrician had to basically fight for formula because the hospital didn't want to loose a statistic to the bottle. It was a horrible experience, one that greatly interfered with the happy arrival of my son.  Once I checked out of the hospital I didn't let it go and I contacted everyone who would listen and from that point on I realized that breastfeeding vs. the bottle is a way more personal choice than I ever anticipated.  Everyone gave me their opinion pre/post baby's arrival but I personally vowed to never judge one way or the other because I lived it. My newborn was beyond hungry, I had no milk and the hospital insisted for me to "keep waiting and trying." It is a very personal choice and I support both but the most valuable lesson I learned was to be flexible with my choices - I wanted to but couldn't and once I realized that the bottle was fine, I was happy with my decision. Today my son is happy, healthy and a hearty eater! What would I have done differently? I would have never pre-indicated I was breastfeeding at the hospital.  

Kris- The topic of breast feeding is always a hot topic between moms. When I was on bed rest and my due date was approaching, I decided I was going to mentally prepare myself and read as much as I could about child development and the birthing process. Before I even thought about having kids I always thought  A) I will get a c-section because the thought of having a natural birth disgusts me.  and b) NO BREAST FEEDING.  Lo and behold, both things did not happen. When I spoke about it with my husband, I was anti- breast feeding and his natural response was, "You should make an informed decision before you decide whole-heartedly what you should do. And why wouldn't you breast feed if that's what's best for our baby?"  As I started to do my research, I found out how great breast feeding is for baby. So after reading that, I felt kind of guilty not breastfeeding and so I changed my mind. Plus, if it'll make me skinnier faster, why not? Once my baby girl was born, it was a different story. She didn't want to feed. She would just fall asleep so she became jaundice, and I had to bottle feed per the doctor, but I could pump to supplement and get that milk flowing! May I add that no one ever tells you how difficult it is to breastfeed. It takes a lot of work and it is super painful. So I would pump every 2 to 3 hours and I would feel like a cow every single time. I was only able to last 3 weeks. Pathetic, I know. I almost got Mastitis twice. I thought to myself, 'I don't feel less attached to her because she isn't drinking my milk or latched on to me.' And I couldn't even get out of bed because I had a fever, and I couldn't even raise my arms to hold her. That wasn't worth it to me at all! I much rather be a happy and healthy mom and be able to care for my child. 

Vivi- Breastfeeding my kids was one of the most frustrating, humbling and empowering experience of my life (in that order). Once breastfeeding started to work easily, and that took a few weeks for each, it was really amazing to think that all that your child needs to survive is you. If you take care of yourself, you are everything you need to take care of your child.  It really was the most remarkable thing I have ever experienced.

Adriana- I breastfed for three months. I had to return to work after one week so that's why I didn't last longer with the breastfeeding. I didn't pump as often as needed. I believe breastfeeding helps the mom get back into shape faster and gives her a closer connection with her child. If I had another kid, I would have done the same. The transition from breastfeeding to bottle feeding was smooth since my child enjoyed eating. At the end of the day, it's whatever works for the mom. The kid will be fine. 

Do you have a story you want to share? Message me! I would love to hear it. 

Bumpin' love, 

Rocco's mom. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Boho-Luxe Affair with A Pea In A Pod Maternity and Sprout Miami

A wanderlust dream of bohemian raptures became a reality for me last week with a little help from my friends and some pretty amazing brands. Rocco's boho-luxe baby shower held at Love is Blind in Coral Gables (http://www.loveisblindrestaurant.com/main.php), was the epitome of ethereal delight- from the fashion to the flower crowns- and it brought together all the special women in my life to celebrate my baby boy. 

Whether I was expecting a boy or a girl, I knew I wanted a hippie yet elegant ambiance for this magical day. I envisioned what I wanted the flowers to look like, the kind of free-spirited mood I was hoping to capture, and most importantly, what I wanted to wear and feel on this festive occasion. Even Maya got into the boho spirit with her pink tutu and flower crown! My mini freshly squeezed fashionista picked out her own shoes ( pink cowboy boots of course)  for the family photo shoot! I'm a proud mama! 

You need a good photographer to bring this whimsical dream to life and I was so fortunate to have Ricky Iglesias from Simply Captivating (www.simplycaptivating.com), working diligently behind the scenes, capturing every detail, every baby breath, and every accessory of not only the shower, but of my hippie-at-heart look! 

Before the shower, Ricky and I ventured a few blocks to the iconic and stylish, Biltmore Hotel, to photograph this beautiful lace number from A Pea in a Pod Maternity (www.apeainapod.com). In all my pregnancy style posts, I often talk about how you can use so many of the pieces already in your closet through your pregnancy; but, its also wise to purchase a few key maternity items that will take you through your three trimesters with comfort and chicness. Some of the maternity pieces I have come from several different brands, some of which I have learned about through the blog. But most of them come from Destination Maternity/A Pea in a Pod. When I was pregnant with Maya, I invested in some maternity essentials (which I am now using for this pregnancy)  like bras, skinny jeans, two blouses, and two dresses to integrate with my wardrobe. The store carries everything from intimates to swimsuits to cocktail dresses. It's a maternity mecca for the fashionable pregnant set. 

 So when the opportunity to collaborate with the brand presented itself, I was literally smiling from ear to ear and doing a little happy dance. The Destination Maternity umbrella (www.destinationmaternity.com) is the largest retailer of brands for maternity fashion. Teaming up with them for this blog post is a huge honor. 

We decided on this stunning and feminine lace maternity maxi dress (http://www.apeainthepod.com/Product.asp?Product_Id=154120547&MasterCategory_Id=MC46), which retails for $148, because it meshed organically with the bohemian 'all white' vibe of the shower. This dress is not only effortless and seriously comfortable, you can wear it through any stage of your pregnancy, through any season (hello leather jacket), and you can dress it down for during the day adventures and dress it up for some sexy nighttime escapades! You can throw a kimono over it, an embroidered jacket, and over sized sweater or cardigan, even a pair of stilettos  There are endless fashion opportunities when you have such an easy and girlish piece like this one. 

The beauty of this dress is that it is a blank canvas for accessorizing and personalization. I love flower crowns. I don't care if they're overdone, underdone, dead this season, alive and well the next. I find them youthful and enchanted- an accessory that embodies that bohemian soul that allows you transform and escape into another world or dream. I knew that I wanted to wear the most glorious and over sized flower crown that would put all other flower crowns to shame. I wanted that effervescent splendor of what it feels like to be pregnant, beautiful and glowing. I also knew exactly where I wanted to get my crown made- Sprout Miami- a flower and coffee boutique in the heart of Wynwood that specializes in creating unique flower and plant arrangements for its customers (www.sproutmiami.com). Walking into their shop, feels like a miniature oasis of lush greenery. It's such a zen-like hidden hem to kick back with a cup of tea, browse through their floral selection, and admire (and buy) some of the cutest decor I've seen when it comes to a flower shop! The owner, Bianca, has cool chick written all over her. She's engaging with her customers and she has a knowledgeable quiet presence that makes it real easy when trying to figure out what you want and you know nothing about flowers (she's great on email too)! 

I gave her some feedback of what I wanted- a crown bursting with bright flowers mixed in with a little green. The end result was my initial vision multiplied by 1000! I was completely speechless when I went to pick it up. It was a broken record of 'OMG, this is absolutely beautiful. OMG.' It exceeded my expectations. The moment that crown touched my head, I felt like some divine fairy queen that spends her days frolicking in people's gardens. Bianca used a 'rockstar' rose, a mum, greenery, and limonium for the crown and it was perfection. 

If you know me and you follow my blog, you know that I'm a die hard boot girl. The scruffier the better. I live in booties and I can care less about the weather! To me, they go with everything and are a reflection of my style and personality. I love these beat up once from Steve Madden. I like that they are slightly oval, I like their gold detailing, and I especially like how they pair with lace.

All my accessories were courtesy of Rocksbox (www.rocksbox.com) The black tribal ring is from House of Harlow, the gold geometric bracelet is from Urban Gem, and the pearlized necklace is Margaret Elizabeth. And can you spy my Chip and Chisel nameplate necklace that I can't live without?! It has both my babies' names on it. I kept the accessories simple and classic since the flower crown is the biggest and boldest accessory of them all. 

I threw a Forever 21 lace cardigan over the dress in case I got cold inside the restaurant. It complimented the dress as well the bohemian vibe of the look! 

I wanted to give a special shout out to makeup artist, Jessie, and hair stylist, Ana, from Makeup Artistry by Jessie, for being my go-to glam team (www.makeupartistrybyjessie.com)! My makeup was absolutely flawless and Jessie even matched my coral lipstick to the rose on my crown, and Ana did a fantastic job of creating exactly the low chignon I wanted to keep me cool, chic, and looking effortless! 

It's hard to believe that my little family of three will soon be four in just a few months! We are all anticipating the arrival of Rocco Sebastian and just can't wait to meet the little boy that's already stolen our hearts! Even his fashionista big sister keeps asking when he's coming out of the belly! It was important for me to take a few snapshots of us three on this special occasion, so that one day, Maya and Rocco can look back at these memorable moments with love and joy. 

These are the moments that make life SO worth living! 

On Me: 

Lace Dress- A Pea in a Pod Maternity
Booties- Steve Madden 
Lace Cardigan- Forever 21
Flower Crown- Sprout Miami
Jewelry- Via Rocksbox and Chip and Chisel 

Photography- Ricky Iglesias from Simply Captivating
Hair and Makeup- Makeup Artistry by Jessie 

Locations: Love is Blind Restaurant and The Biltmore Hotel 

In Style,