Merck for Mothers Will Help Me KEEP HUGGING YOU at Every BlogHer

One of my favorite things about the annual BlogHer conference is being able to physically wrap my arms around women I love. The rooms are filled with blogger after blogger, all of whom I want to just tackle and hold tight when I see them. What can I say? This is what happens when you grow close in a community of women.
Now imagine if in the next 10 years, nearly 3 MILLION of those wonderful women we love- mothers- will lose their lives if we don’t do something about preventing maternal mortality.
That is exactly what the Merck for Mothers campaign set out to do at BlogHer ’14 by bringing a rock star line-up of speakers to discuss just how dangerous it can be to simply give birth in this day and age. Jennifer Albert told her story and it sounded a lot like MANY of our stories… including the one I told you all about before we even left for San Jose. Except hers was even more like the story of one of my best friends and a blogger I LOVE hugging every BlogHer Con… Sarah, from Sarah and the Goon Squad. Many of you may not know that Sarah, like Albert, lost a ridiculous amount of blood after giving birth to our favorite internet twins and we nearly lost her. She could have been a statistic. She could have been one of the many deaths Merck for Mothers is working to prevent.
Imagine not hugging Sarah at BlogHer.
And as we learned, even our wonderful United States is not immune to maternal mortality. You might want to be sitting when you hear what they told us but… the US ranks #64 in the world for maternal mortality. “We’re #64!!!!” doesn’t exactly have a nice ring to it, does it?
In fact, every 10 minutes a woman in the United States nearly dies from complications from pregnancy and childbirth. The three leading causes? Preeclampsia, embolism, or, like Sarah and Albert, Post-Partum hemorrhage. Put them all together and you get Merck’s PEP talk. At the event women in the room told their stories and honestly, I’d love to hear YOURS.
A virtual roundtable for those who couldn’t make it to San Jose.
One of the things that seems to stand out most is we women feel totally off-guard with pregnancy and delivery complications. Many of us agreeing we just don’t have enough info. I also think WE think it’s something that just happens in 3rd world countries. Places far, far away that can’t possibly be as industrial as we are.
Let’s change that.
If you have a birth story to share or not, you DO have information to share that can help save women’s lives.
Take the pledge just like I did and tell me who you will now have a PEP talk with… it might be your sister or your co-worker or your niece. I chose my daughter, because the more she knows now and the earlier she knows it, the better.
I look forward to your stories and who you would choose to “have the PEP talk with” because I want to hug all of you for many, many more BlogHer conferences to come.
My huggin girls
Learn more about Merck for Mothers and follow them on Twitter and Facebook!

BlogHer 2014: San Jose

It’s the first year for my daughter, a brand new blogger. It’s also a first for my Goddaughter, visiting for the summer.

I’d say we started off our first BlogHer with the right attitudes, don’t you think?

first BlogHer with the girls

The Beauty of Survival: Merck for Mothers, BlogHer, My Daughter & Me

HalaMerck

It’s funny how life works out, and I mean the word life in every way possible… in every breathing, heart-filled sense. About a decade ago I was bedridden and pregnant with my daughter. We weren’t sure she, or I, would make it through. She was my second baby. I also had complications with my son, who came two years before. Neither pregnancy was easy, and back then we didn’t know why. We know now many of my issues were caused by Lupus. Regardless, bed-rest was the best we could do. I would bemoan to my husband that despite advances in modern technology every time something was going wrong while pregnant, the best my OBGYN could do for me was to tell me to rest and put my feet up. With my daughter it was no different. It was on and off rest and putting my feet up. Again getting to the point of only being allowed to get up to shower and use the bathroom. This second pregnancy was a bit more difficult though, as my little girl decided to scare us all a few days before her scheduled arrival. After heading to the hospital with consistent labor pains, the doctor ordered an emergency C-section as her heart rate dangerously dipped and I frantically panicked. Our story, however, had a happy ending. With a crying baby and a safe, if not shaken, mother. And instead of what could have been the anniversary of a tragedy, we’ll be celebrating a decade of BlogHer in San Jose with thousands of other women. Mother and daughter, together. HalaMerck A decade of blogging, a decade of strong women, a decade of survival for my daughter and I despite the reality that women around the world die from complications related to pregnancy every day.  So while in San Jose, Hala and I will be honored to attend the Merck for Mothers event at BlogHer ’14. We know we are the lucky ones, because no woman should die giving life, not when it’s preventable. Yet, as Merck for Mothers tells us, every day some 800 women around the world die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Some 800 women die every. single. day. Think about that for a minute. And we’re not just talking about third world countries that don’t have state of the art medical care. According to Merck for Mothers, the number of deaths from complications of pregnancy and childbirth has more than doubled in the past 20 years in the United States. Hala and I could have easily been statistics. Instead, my spunky 9-year-old will be learning about the amazing things women can accomplish when we join forces. She will be empowered by the many amazing speakers, encouraging her to become the best version of herself and she will have the opportunity to learn more about how she, along with many other babies that had a hard time getting into this world, can help make sure all women have proper prenatal care and healthy pregnancies. Merck for Mothers is a 10-year, $500 million initiative – to help tackle this tragic issue. If you are headed to BlogHer ’14 in San Jose check out the Merck booth (411) in the Expo Hall.

Motherhood, in a word, to me… means survival. Every day I celebrate the survival of both of my children and myself. And the survival of having simply made it through another day of this amazing journey… teaching them about life, cleaning up after their spills, making sure they eat right and behave properly and learn all of the things necessary so they can eventually leave our home and become productive members of society. Of course my kids leaving will mean another type of survival for this Mom ;). In one word, what does motherhood mean to you? Now that you know not everyone has the easiest of times even safely carrying and giving birth to a child, does motherhood mean the same as it did? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Tell me your story in the comments below and explain to me what word you would choose to express what motherhood means to you. You can also learn more about Merck for Mothers on their website and follow them via Facebook and Twitter.

A New Generation: From Breastfeeding at BlogHer to Blogging at BlogHer ’14

I’m always proud of our kids. Always. But I think that is typical of most parents.

I mean, we’re the type of people who jump up and down clapping when they pee in a toilet.

So imagine my pride when my son thought he might start a blog. I immediately began to give him ideas for posts, got him started on wordpress, asked him if he wanted to make a custom design… you know, the usual.

Flash forward about 24 hours and he was already bored with his blog.

It was then I heard ‘Hey Mom, can I start a blog?’

It was my daughter. The one who would rather not sit and read the hilarious blog post I had found just for her. The one who would rather get a shot at the pediatrician than write.

But flash forward another 24 hours and not only was she blogging, but she was loving every second of it.

Begging me to check and see if she had any new comments to approve while she was at school-  you know that darn school, always getting in the way of her blogging ‘No Mom, I don’t need any ideas for a post, I have like….a million’ she would say, typing furiously. ‘And can you make sure to tweet this to everyone, oh and show Facebook?’

I did my best to show her the basics, but she is a bit like her mother and rather determined to learn all on her very own.

During one of her lectures to me about how important it was she learn how to blog without my help, I remembered her on my hip at the BlogHer conference in 2006 in San Jose.

It seems like yesterday, but not.

Now she has her own blog. Now she has her ow ideas about what a nine-year old should talk about. And now she has her own pass to BlogHer.

Yes, Princess Peanut has a student pass for BlogHer ’14 in San Jose and her and I are going to have a girls weekend writing, learning about all the wonderful things and issues that come with being part of a community, and with me re-introducing her to all the women who met her so many years ago.

#AllHailHala indeed. See you all in San Jose.

BlogHer ’13: Why You Will Make the Most of it…for ME

It’s no secret I’m proud of BlogHer.

It is my community. It is my employer.

It is that safe space I retreat to online when I need my virtual fix of inspiration and motivation.

This will be only the second time I’ve had to miss the annual conference (in person…my virtual self WILL BE THERE VIA SKYPE!) and I’m doing my best to not be seething with jealousy or pangs in my belly whenever I see the tweets or posts or photos of what a great time everyone is having and the rock stars they are running into in the hallways.

But to be brutally honest after last year’s triumphant return to the annual conference I really thought by this time THIS year I’d be working again. I thought you would barely see me at BlogHer ’13 because I’d be knee-deep in some amazing project, wrangling politicians as they came to address our community, executive producing an on-the-spot campaign for one of our clients and somewhere in the midst of it all finding time to say hello and network.

Instead I found myself faced with a choice: speak, in person, at my HealthMinder panel on Thursday and stay to enjoy the majority of the conference and then (after having flown from LA to Chicago) fly from Chicago to North Carolina to meet up with family.

You see, back over the holidays we had to cancel our family trip to North Carolina because I was too ill to get on a plane. It was too dangerous.

But back to the choice(s). The other choice was to stay home, rest up, and fly with my family to North Carolina. And a third choice was to fly to Chicago and back and then let my husband take the kids to North Carolina while I stayed home.

I knew the third choice wasn’t an option. So really, what it came down to, was if my body could handle jet-setting like it used to. Hopping on a flight from LA to Chicago and making the rounds at BlogHer ’13, then hopping a flight to North Carolina to meet up with family and making the rounds there. Then, making it back to LA.

And who are we kidding. A stomach bug hospitalized me for the 4th of July. I really did not want to give up BlogHer ’13. I really wanted another hot dog in Chicago.

I really hate that I’m not yet well enough to be capable of doing ALL THE THINGS that make me happy.

Part of this journey I am on…this path lined with tacks that seem to all stick straight up into my feet…is learning I now have limits. I might not later. They may get worse before they get better (again) and they may even get better and possibly GO THE HELL AWAY. But for better or worse my body has limits.

If you could hear me say ‘limits’ in my head as I type it you’d laugh. It’s this high-pitched whine really. LiMiTs. I have LIMITS!!!!!!!.

Travel takes very careful planning. In order to go to DC we left several days early so I could rest and rest and rest before we had to be at the White House.

In fact, we visited the White House the day before we LEFT FOR HOME. So I knew I couldn’t just jump on a plane and jet my way over to the Windy City for BlogHer ’13 and then hop another to Fort Bragg and then hop another back home to LA…all in the span of less than a week. It was a recipe for another stay at hotel hospital. Or worse, I’d get stuck in a hospital in Chicago. Or North Carolina. Or even worse, I’d have to cancel on family for a second time and once again let down people I love.

It’s true what they say about BlogHer’s annual conference, by the way; it’s totally what you make of it. It can be all parties and hugs and squees or it can be hardcore networking for that big gig you’ve been hoping for, or it can be your coming out party, of sorts. Where you decide to take that leap of faith and go meet those people you talk to daily through that screen on your lap. You know…the ones who make you laugh and cry and think.

The ones who’ve been there for you each and every time you mouthed off about breastfeeding or Pampered Chef parties or politics. They’ve been there from the moment you started to feel unwell, and were there for the first surgery. The second. The third. They sent cards and flowers and unicorn poop cookies. They sent hats and spoons. Some sent gnomes. Books. Silly postcards. Amazing jewelry. Inspirational works of art. Simple notes that made you cry like a child.

And last year they made you feel like a goddess when you were at your most vulnerable.

photo by @craftyb

You even listen to a certain voicemail on your phone, a full year later, when you are once again feeling down and stuck in treatment or a hospital bed or you simply can’t fit into a pair of pants that fit last week before they upped your steroids again.

They wrapped you in so much love that you can’t imagine life without the wonderful women and men on the other side of the screen.

I have come a long way in this battle. I still have a long way to go. Know that each of you have helped me in your own quirky way and I can’t thank you enough. I thought thanking you meant I HAD TO BE IN CHICAGO personally. But practicing what I preach, family must come first. Instead my family will be flying to North Carolina to make up for that trip Lupus canceled over the holidays.

Here is hoping during BlogHer ’14 I will wrap each of you in so much love that you can feel in the hug I give you just how important you are to me. That you can’t imagine life without the wonderful women and men on the other side of the screen. Or better yet, that I’m just a blur during the conference because I’m so busy working we barely had time to chat…but we did have that amazing but brief moment where we embraced and looked at each other knowingly, because we had made it.

Because dammit, I WILL make it.

NYC’s Toll

I’ve been home from New York for nearly a week now…and I’m still recovering. Emotionally. Physically.

It was a much needed trip to add some normalcy to our otherwise ‘school, work, doctor’ routine. It was a much needed trip to remind me that I am more than my illness and I am capable of greatness even with this illness.

But most importantly, it reminded me of how far we’ve come.

This carefree couple that haphazardly ended up together in the oddest of ways, never fully believing what we were doing until we were so far in we couldn’t imagine life any other way. From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows and everything in between. I was content to just have some time in a quiet hotel room with my best friend, spending more than a few minutes without being interrupted by the need for more chocolate milk or help with a video game.

And then returning home with a thud, as most vacations do, to absent chauffeurs and delayed flights and kids in need of extra attention and cars breaking down and doctors delivering treatment and news of what a simple flight across the country does to my body.

But we did it. And we had fun. And I managed to remind myself OF myself while there. The self he fell in love with that I am fighting to bring back through all this bullshit piled on us. Just being capable of doing it helped me reach an arm out and break through- grabbing him and holding tight.

He’s still here. I’m still here.

NYC, I thank you, even if you battered me a bit. As my doctor said…’these numbers are nothing compared to the smile I see on your face. Next time I’ll send you for longer!’

My man of steel @aaronvest is taking me to the natural history museum via wheelchair 'cause he's badass with potholes in NYC

BlogHer 2012: In New York, There’s Nothing You Can’t Do

I will admit it: I’m a blog snob.

Those silly fashion blogs? Pfffft. So long as they don’t take over the political news of the day, or the REAL news (as I stand tall and like to remark) then fine, they can have a headline or two. But they aren’t important and are fluff and as far as I’m concerned have no place getting higher ratings or more coverage than what I consider to be more important- real news.

So when the BlogHer team asked me to be a model in the first EVER BlogHer fashion show this year at BlogHer ’12 in New York, I had to laugh.

Hard.

Not only was I being asked to participate in a space I had very little respect for, but I was struggling with coming to terms with a body that is not my own. One I have written about time and time again since I began steroid treatment for Lupus. The dramatic shift from my 119lbs self to my now steroid induced 219lbs self has been life changing. Nearly as life changing as the disease trying to kill me.

The truth of the matter is I have not felt beautiful, or even comfortable, in a long time. 18 months, to be exact. I’ve learned to shop in the plus sized section, and cry when things even there didn’t fit.

I sobbed uncontrollably when all I wanted to hear from those I love was “you are beautiful no matter what” – which was said early on but after so long that sort of talk seems frivolous. Ok so I haven’t heard it in 15 months, to be exact. Not because they don’t love me, but because it seems unimportant in the sea of things going on. Treatment, medication, plans of action. My appearance should be the least of anyone’s worries and it would be insulting to even bring it up. Vain maybe. And down right stupid.

But as it turns out, you notice and remember things when you don’t recognize the person looking back at you in the mirror. You crave to know you are still beautiful to those who love you, if not in words, than in a kiss on the forehead or an arm around the waist. But that waist is now double in size. The forehead round and moon shaped from the drugs, and I certainly wasn’t feeling worthy of a kiss.

That’s not the Erin I know. But I was cutting her some slack, considering the hell we were going through.

Everyone treats you differently as a big girl too. Everyone. My kids love “squishy” Mommy. In fact they want to make sure I don’t lose ALL the weight I have gained as I diet because they insist some squish remain for cuddle time.

Then I realized how the outside world treats larger people. They aren’t nearly as nice to me as they used to be. At first I was angry, I wanted to wear a big sign that said “I AM ON A STEROID THAT SAVED MY LIFE THIS IS WHY I AM FAT.” And then I got even more angry, realizing that no one deserves to be treated differently simply based on looks and size. From those of us here involuntarily to those beautiful women born with curves to people who just are who they are.

So I said yes to being a model. Because my self-esteem needed a boost, I knew I had to learn about other blog communities, and most importantly, I wanted to show the world every size, shape, and sass of a woman is beautiful.

But could I really do it? Could I walk a runway in front of hundreds in New York knowing full well I’d be in tears and hating the body I’m supposed to show off and love? Would it be a big lie?

No. No. I could do it. I just had to believe. I had to believe, I had to get comfortable in this body of mine, and I had to own who I am now. OWN IT.

So with that thought in my mind, and some nudging from some people reminding me that others like me might be inspired and get that “you are beautiful” comment they too have been waiting for…I said yes.

Flash forward to rehearsals, fittings, hair, make up, shape wear discussions, stretch mark discussions, bra discussions, heels or flats, order of models,  how to walk, how many beats to count before posing…and on and on and on.

And at every point I wanted to bail. To run out of this thing that put butterflies in my stomach. Would the community think this was lame? Would anyone believe I was beautiful and model worthy? Would they see all the hard work and diversity of women of every stripe and say “that is awesome” or would they say “where are the supermodels?”

And I stood on the steps off the stage, music blaring, and knew there was no turning back. I was told that if I could do it, maybe next year another woman afraid to show her cancer scars might say yes too. Maybe, just maybe, a blogger who feels like the ugly duckling due to a birth defect will volunteer and say “ME NEXT!”

And I closed my eyes, and I counted my beats, and I believed, for the first time in so long, that I truly was beautiful. I believed what I had always written and told my daughter- it’s not what is outside, it’s what is inside that makes you pretty. My inside has sass, and silly, and attitude, and  power. POWER enough to be winning against a disease that kills. Power enough to be humbled by the “fluff” bloggers who I realize not only work hard, but work super hard to show every woman is beautiful, fighting the stereotype that you need to be a tall, skinny, white, blonde female to be the ideal.

They taught me everyone is the ideal woman, and I most certainly was welcome in their ranks. Not everything needs news and politics, but everything DOES need beauty.

So for every woman who isn’t society’s usual cover girl… I stepped on stage, walked to my mark, and soaked in what I KNEW was already there: family and friends who love me for me. And who all taught me EVERYONE in this community and beyond has an equally important voice. Because that voice gave me the confidence to return to who I really am.

photo by @craftyb

And I am beautiful.

 

 

 

 

*With special thanks to 6pm, Elizabeth Arden, Paul Mitchell, Monif C , and Marc Jacobs. And the wonderful team at Zappos.com. Fashion show guru Kathryn Finney and her amazing team. Photo caught by Kelly Cheatle. See more at Blogher.com.

Forward

The kids cried last night as my husband and I put them to bed. Cried because they were tired. Cried because they are kids. But cried mostly because we were leaving, while they slept, for New York.

This will be our longest trip ever away from the children. And our first since everything in our home has changed. Life operates differently with Mom not working, and undergoing treatment for Lupus. Cuddles are a nighttime ritual. Therapy for worries, a new childhood experience.

I explained to the children how important this trip was for me, and for our family. It means that I am getting better. And this trip is a big step in testing to see what my body can handle…and what it can not.

While I am very excited to speaking at BlogHer ’12, to be staying longer in New York than planned so that I may be a guest on the new Katie Couric show, and to travel on a plane-cross country no less- I’m also very much feeling what my children were feeling last night…

Fear.

I’m pushing many of the what if’s out of my head because I know that my body is ready. My doctor is confident and he wouldn’t have let me travel if he weren’t. This doesn’t mean I can handle this often yet, or even that I will be anywhere near full strength soon. But this is a step. A big step. And one I had hoped would make the children feel more secure, make me feel more confident.

Instead this morning my hands shook as I tried to take my pills with a glass of water, and I nearly called off the entire thing before we walked out the door. And nearly called it off again as we drove to the airport.

Yet here I sit, on the plane, blogging from the sky and trying to muster the old Erin that usually emerges right about now.

I’m just so determined to beat this, so determined to NOT go backwards, so determined to never cause the kids or my husband another thought of fear or pain that even taking this trip has me rethinking everything I do. Everything I am. Everything I WANT to be.

I’ve been doing my best to take those baby steps at home, from home, that feel comfortable and natural and don’t disrupt the worries of the household. I’m so proud to have been asked to blog for the President’s re-election.

Screen Shot 2012-07-28 at 12.49.26 PM

And I’m proud to be doing more around the house, slowly, steadily, and with great care.

I just wish I could shake this weight in my chest over this trip and all it’s implications. So many fantastic opportunities, so many chances to relapse.

So if you see me in New York, and I’m not entirely myself, please don’t take any offense. I currently have a one track mind that includes keeping my voice and hands steady, my head held high, and a fierce determination to turn around and go home if my body says it’s time-regardless of what opportunities I miss.

The crying children I left behind, and the man who accompanies me and has stood by my side through this hell deserve that much. In fact, they deserve much more.

I’m in control, even through my tears, and I will NOT go backwards.

FORWARD.