E24 – We Are Pediatric Single Mamas (with Dr. Catricia Tilford)
March 3, 2021
E25 – Dancing Into Parenthood – My Story
January 11, 2022
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Dancing Into Parenthood - My Story

In this first blog I wanted to start off with the story of "Dancing Into Parenthood".

I think it is important for you to understand where this all actually started and how it became an idea for me. You have to learn a little bit about my personal life, which for me is not something that's easy to share because I'm a very private person. What I can say is that 2021 had been a year of discovering myself and understanding many things that have happened in my past. Growing from those experiences and taking time to learn about myself, made me feel comfortable to share my story today.

I decided this was a good opportunity to tell you the birth story of "Dancing Into Parenthood". For those of you who don't know me personally, which is many of you, I am a person who likes to do things by the book. I'm a Taurus, I do things slowly. I like to make sure I'm doing things correctly. I examine everything in my life before I actually make decisions and that is just Divina in a nutshell, perhaps I have a type A personality.

A lot of that has lead me to my successful career in medicine. Choosing a career in medicine came pretty easy for me, and it was something that I loved because I love to be of service to people. When I decided to go to medical school, I did not think, not even for a second, that I would have ever wanted to become a Pediatrician. Actually, I went to medical school thinking that I loved women's health and I loved gynecology/obstetrics, and that's what I thought I was going to do for the rest of my life. During my OB/GYN rotation, as a medical student, I gave it my all! When I was done with that rotation, the program asked me to sign a contract for residency (which I did not do because I decided I wanted other opportunities and would go through the residency MATCH). Right afterwards I did my pediatric rotation, which by the way I left for last.

I started my pediatric rotation, and let me just tell you that I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed pediatrics because I was not a person who loved kids at that time. I wasn't like a kid person ever. I never wanted to be a mom, I just was not a very maternal person. So when I did my pediatric rotation, and fell in love with the kids I was surprised! I fell in love with watching this dynamic of unconditional love parents had for their children. These resilient, little sick kids and their parents doing their best to make sure that their kids got better. It was amazing. The chief resident of that program approached me one day and said "you're definitely a Pediatrician" And I was like, no I already know I want to be an OB/GYN. I thought she had no idea what she was talking about!? She didn't even know me from a hole in the wall. She really tried talking me out of it, but again I am a stubborn Taurus, so I was definitely not changing my mind!

If you know anything about the different specialties in medicine, then you'll know that each specialty has a certain personality. Pediatricians for example are known to be like the big kids of medicine and I didn't want to believe that I could be a Pediatrician. I was like, absolutely not! The truth is the kids won me over.

When it was time for the residency MATCH I had to make my final decision. I chose pediatrics and no regrets. I love what I do. I love children. I love taking care of them and healing them. And what I love most is helping new parents figure it all out. I did my pediatric residency in Long Island, and I was invited to stay on as the chief resident. This was truly an honor! It turned out to be a year of growth because I handled everything from administrative duties, to the emergency room, to the pediatric ICU, to the neonatal ICU, to the regular pediatric hospital ward and even the clinic. I truly loved being a resident. I embraced spending all those sleepless nights in the hospital. I found it to be fun and exciting! It was a very social environment. I got to meet all the other doctors and the nurses, and it was a wonderful experience.

Towards the end of residency, I started to think about what my life was going to be like when I "grew up". I was finally going to have a real job now and be like a real adult. I started taking dating more seriously at that point because I thought that was the next step in life, to get married. That's how you think when you're young and naive and believe you need to follow societal rules. So that's what I did.

I started dating and I seriously found someone that I thought would make a great partner for me. We were inseparable from the minute we met. We were crazy about each other. We did everything too quickly, but I thought this was what love was all about. I probably watch too many romantic comedies, lol! You know, one thing led to another and the next thing I knew we got married! Just like that we were a newlywed couple and on our honeymoon. My husband asked if we should start trying to get pregnant (I think he was concerned because we had friends that had been trying for a few years but were unsuccessful) and we were in our early thirties, which for a ‘latino family', early thirties without kids, it's like we were way behind. It was time to have a family already. Also from a medical point of view there's something called advanced maternal age, and I was already approaching that.

Although I felt like I wasn't ready yet. I said, OK, let's start trying, because we both didn't know. So we decided to just go for it. I got off of birth control and I was pregnant within a month and a half! Like that was crazy! I really wasn't expecting it to happen that soon because I had been on birth control for so many years. I believed it would take some time for my menstrual cycle to get back to normal, yada yada yada. But it was nothing like that. Within a month and a half, I was pregnant and I was shocked! It was a beautiful blessing, but I just felt terrified because I did not feel ready. Although I had already been a Pediatrician for a few years, although I knew everything about baby development and baby health, I just felt like this was too quick.

2012 was a year of many changes for me as a woman and I did not feel prepared. I was scared shitless. I wondered if I was going to be able to handle all of it? I loved my career and was getting used to being a wife. On top of it all I was now responsible for another human being! The transition to becoming a mother definitely started during pregnancy. It wasn't the easiest transition for me. I pushed my body when I didn't feel like it. I wanted to continue functioning as if my body wasn't creating another life. I had thoughts that I shouldn't be prioritizing my career anymore, which frustrated me. That maybe I needed to start prioritizing being a wife and a mother instead. I was not ready to do that yet!

Towards the end of my pregnancy I was getting terrible pain at work because I worked 10 hour days, on my feet. It was a really busy practice and I'm not a person who likes to sit down to begin with. I went in one day to go see my OB and she examined me and told me my amniotic fluid was low. She kind of got upset with me and told me that I wasn't taking care of myself enough and put me on bed rest. She told me I wasn't resting enough, and that I wasn't hydrating myself enough and I didn't want to risk my pregnancy. This is when I started to learn about self-care and setting boundaries, and how important it is to do that. Although I felt guilty the entire time.

I focused on getting my baby's nursery all together! It was fun and I finally had time to enjoy being a new mom and let it all soak in. For the first time in my life I felt like I could relax. I started to embrace the role of becoming a mother. After my son arrived, I was the happiest person on Earth! It was like getting the best surprise that I never knew I wanted. Instinctively, I understood what love really was. I don't think I really understood unconditional love prior to my son coming into my life. I always say, my son is my best teacher, and he is because he's taught me the most important lessons in patience, love and strength.

People would always say I was so lucky to be a Pediatrician and a mom, but I didn't feel like that. Actually, I struggled with anxiety because I knew too much. Having too much knowledge, and a baby, was a pretty bad combination for me. I was constantly just looking at him and making sure that everything was normal with him. I examined him all the time. If anything was off, I would start thinking about what could be wrong with him. Being a new mother and having this much anxiety, plus acting as if everything was alright with me to appear strong was detrimental to my mental health. It was really bad because everyone thought I had everything under control. Inside, my thoughts were racing constantly. I had a lot of concerns and fears. I didn't know how to calm my anxiety. I would get angry easily and I felt misunderstood by my partner and my own family. I felt really unsupported during that time.

I felt like people were not respecting what I wanted for my son and they would criticize me for it a lot. To make things worse, I had a partner who was not supportive of the things that I thought were going to be great for our son and he definitely was not supportive of what I was going through.

When I look back, I probably struggled with postpartum blues and depression. But nobody knew about it. There was no way I would have allowed myself to be that vulnerable to let anyone know. This created a lot of problems in my marriage because I felt that I constantly needed to protect my son and that my husband didn't have my back when I needed him the most. Instead of us being able to communicate about it, I shut down and he basically started doing his own thing. It felt like we had two separate lives. He didn't even seem happy that I was a mom; he just accused me of being someone totally different from what he thought he married.

We tried counseling but that didn't seem to help. Actually, it made things worse. I think we were just both not ready for that. When communication and respect are lost, it is hard to repair things. I wanted him to understand, but he didn't, and I didn't feel like he cared to enough to even explain what was going on with me. My son was two years old when we got divorced and I had never planned to be a single mother. That was not something that I would have ever believed could have happened to us.

Since the divorce I have been in the process of rebuilding my life. I had to learn to love myself unconditionally. I had to learn to trust myself and I had to learn that it was not weak to get help for myself. Actually it's the bravest thing I have done. I now love myself and accept who I really am. I know how strong and fierce I am. I learned to stop looking for external validation and I learned that I value and validate myself.

After healing myself I wanted to create something for parents everywhere - not only to teach them about how to take care of their baby (like the newborn care stuff that we all need to learn if we haven't been around a baby for a while, for example feeding and diapering and making a baby burrito and soothing them and taking care of their umbilical cord and all that stuff that comes with a baby, physically), but I also want parents to be able to understand each other and what their family goals are. I want partners to be supportive of moms. I love empowering parents to be their best for their baby! It is so important to heal generational trauma as well, so that we don't repeat those cycles with our own children.

I don't want anyone to go through what my family went through. My son lives in two homes. Can you imagine what it feels like to not be with your child all the time and having to share them? It could really break your heart as a parent.

I want families to be happy and healthy in every way! I want families to thrive and this is why I created "DANCING INTO PARENTHOOD."