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From a bird's eye view, I can see two bright white plates from Homegoods filled with rice y gandules (rice and pigeon peas), fried chicken cutlets, tostones (fried plantains) and a salad filled with red cabbage and arugula. The brightly colored salad is dressed with an apple cider vinegar dressing from a friend's recipe that I've added to the list of comfort foods in our home.

A green olive is peeking out from the mound of rice on the plate, conjuring memories of when my sister and I would count each other's olives to make sure Mom gave us the same amount. (That quickly reminds me, I should double-check to be sure my husband and I have a fair share of olives, too.)

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The rice has one slice of a freshly roasted red pepper lying inside out across the top—a classic touch from my mother. The chicken, although fried, is not how she would typically make it. Since we don't often fry food in our home, we don't have breadcrumbs, so I use what we do have—a piece of a baguette blended with coarse cornmeal.

The tostones topped with Grandma's famous tomato mojito, per usual, are tucked neatly on top of each other. The extra mojo (and there is always extra), is in the wood pilon.

This was our Sunday dinner a couple of weeks ago. The beauty of the spread on our counter took my breath away. So I took a photo. The moment I put the phone down, I had my first mini-meltdown since our mandatory quarantine began. I cried hard for about three minutes (which felt like 20) and collapsed into my husband's arms.

Because at that moment—it all felt like too much.


This meal reminded me of home. Not just the place I currently live, but "home" home. That safe space which includes my parents, my sister, my brother and my grandma, too. The place that raised me. The best food that I was raised on. The place where the scent of every ingredient lingered throughout each crack in our home.

The place unlike any other.

It reminded me that my sister is currently in LA in her apartment, by herself, until further notice.

It reminded me that my grandmother keeps crying because she is sad she won't be able to see any of us, until further notice.

It reminded me some of my new mama friends are going through their fourth-trimester postpartum ups and downs and cannot see family or even simply ask for help from friends, until further notice.

It reminded me that one of my best friends is exposing herself to the coronavirus daily while treating her patients and is unable to see anyone, until further notice.

It reminded me that I cannot hug any of these people, the people I love the most—my family, "framily" and friends—until further notice. Hugging, for me, is a sign of affection that has been ingrained in me since I was in the womb.

It reminded me that I currently cannot even step foot inside "home" home right now, until further notice.

It reminded me I cannot even leave my current home for weeks because I've tested positive for COVID-19.

Even though we have made it through more than half of our mandatory quarantine already, I'm terrified by the thought of leaving again—even when I'm cleared to. I cannot stop thinking about the possibility that I could fully recover and then be reinfected, unknowingly carrying this virus around people I love.

It's all frightening and heartbreaking. I wonder, should I even be hugging my husband? Although, this act of affection and love is probably one of the only things helping me heal right now.

I cried looking at this meal full of comfort food I made because I wish I was sitting down to eat it with my entire family. Now, quarantined, until further notice, I don't even know when I will see them again. Although this meal is off from my usual low-carb-meatless diet, my soul has been craving ALL OF THE CARBS and meat. With the belief that food is medicine, right now I'm feeding my soul what it wants, plain and simple.

Although this comfort food brings some comfort, it breaks my heart, too. It's hard to reconcile the fact that we are required to stay inside our home for an indeterminate amount of time combined with the idea that we still know so little about this virus. The truth is though, that we are among the luckiest. I know this.

I feel privileged to simply be alive during this pandemic while so many others are losing loved ones every day. I have a job and am able to work from home full-time, for a company that cares about its employees.

My family is alive and well. I get to hug my husband whenever I want. My awesome brother has been picking up and delivering groceries to our building. And we live in a time of innumerable technologies that enable us to keep in close contact with our loved ones no matter where they are.

For the time being, I am doing my best to trust in our incredibly hard-working essential workers to keep crushing it, to have a positive outlook and to keep smiling. Bringing the feeling of home to my actual home through comfort food, hugs from my husband and FaceTime chats will do for now.

Hang in there, mama.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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As mamas we want our babies to be safe, and that's what makes what happened to Glee actress Naya Rivera and her 4-year-old son Josey so heartbreaking.

On July 13, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department announced the 33-year-old mother's body was found at Lake Piru, five days after her son was found floating alone on a rented boat. According to Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub, Rivera's last action was to save her son.

"We know from speaking with her son that he and Naya swam in the lake together at some point in her journey. It was at that time that her son described being helped into the boat by Naya, who boosted him onto the deck from behind. He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water," Ayub explained, adding that Rivera's son was wearing his life vest, but the adult life vest was left on the unanchored boat.

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Ayub says exactly what caused the drowning is still speculation but investigators believe the boat started drifting and that Rivera "mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat but not enough to save herself."

Our hearts are breaking for Josey and his dad right now. So much is unknown about what happened on Lake Piru but one thing is crystal clear: Naya Rivera has always loved her son with all her heart.

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