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Editor’s note: This is the first in a four-part series about teens, sex, and social media. Read the entire series here


Remember the thrill you felt when you passed a note in junior high math class?

The anticipation of getting a response to that note was almost too much to bear. Would the recipient of your rule-breaking correspondence reply positively? Or… oh no! What if he or she didn’t like you the way you liked him or her?

What if the person you thought you could trust with this most intimate glimpse into your heart’s desires took that carefully crafted note and taped it to the bathroom door – laying bare your soul for all the school to see. That would be the worst!

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Yes, in 1989, that would be the worst. In 2016, that note would be a naked photo of you, snapped in a moment that felt brave and daring, and then sent with a light touch of a little circle on a screen.

And if things got really bad, that bathroom wall would be a Facebook wall, viewable by not only your entire school, but any of the three billion people worldwide with access to the internet.

Now that would be the worst.

According to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, 88% of teenagers in the U.S. have a cell phone, and 90% of them use their phone for texting.

Nearly three-quarters of teens (ages 13-17) visit various social media sites multiple times a day, and 33% use messaging apps like Kik, WhatsApp, or SnapChat.

This is all to say that a lot of your teen’s life happens through his or her phone. It’s very likely that most of what they’re writing, doing, and seeing on their phones is not concerning.

But it’s that relatively small percentage of highly inappropriate or downright scary-as-shit happenings – sexting rings, porn addiction, cyberbullying – that catch our attention and receive hours or pages of media coverage.

I’m generally of the mind that our fear-based mainstream media be taken with a hundred grains of salt or ignored altogether, but in the case of teens, sex, and social media, there’s a lot worth looking into.

Mainly because you – the parent – can help. The key is to approach these topics with an open mind and a little bit of context.

Sexting

A 2014 study out of Drexel University found that 28% of college students had sent a sext containing a nude or semi-nude photo before they were 18.

The same study also revealed that the average age of first sext was just under 16 years old, though some respondents were as young as 12 when they first sexted.

Kids who are busted for sending or receiving sexual or naked photos can face major criminal charges. Case law hasn’t caught up with this relatively new adolescent behavior, and so the criminal justice system does the best it can with the laws already on the books.

Some states rely on child pornography laws to prosecute such cases, which – in extreme examples – can lead to a 12-year-old being labeled a sex offender for the rest of his or her life.

Stephen LaTulippe is the director of the Community Justice Center in Williston, Vermont. He says Vermont tends to be more “forward-thinking” than some states, often referring first offenders to restorative justice programs like his.

But even in a more lenient state, the consensual sharing of nude photos is illegal for people under the age of majority.

If a minor receives a sext “and sends it on, without the sender’s consent, to a third party, it automatically becomes a felony,” explains LaTulippe. Sending that same image across state lines “really ups the ante. It becomes a federal issue: dissemination of pornographic material of an underage person across state lines. It becomes much more problematic,” he says.

Illustration: Katrina Weigand

It’s easy to see how an unwitting teen could excitedly or nefariously blast a nude photo out to friends in other states or broadcast the prurient material on a social media site.

The potential legal ramifications of their actions are truly terrifying, but the likelihood that your child would face these dire consequences is quite slim.

Social repercussions, like shame and humiliation, are more common, as is a general feeling of regret. There’s also a high percentage chance that your teen will feel none of these things and fail to understand what the “big deal” is. (If this is the case, recall yourself as a teen and remember the things you did and said that your parents found shocking.)

Though it may sound crazy that almost a third of teenagers engage in sexting, psychologist Eileen Kennedy Moore points out in Psychology Today that this means more than 70 percent of teens DO NOT sext.

It’s not exactly the widespread phenomenon that many news outlets would have us believe, but it is absolutely a thing that sometimes happens among young people who may not fully comprehend what they’re doing, may be doing it for the wrong reasons, and have no idea of the potential long-range effects.

Porn

Speaking of long-range effects, Time magazine recently ran a cover story about young men who were teens just a few years ago, when online porn was so readily available to them that it turned out to be harmful.

There is now a (predictably debatable) condition called porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED) afflicting a subset of male 20-somethings who say that, due to the unchecked hours of time they spent watching online porn and then masturbating, they were only able to become aroused by porn. Real girls were not enough.

Researchers say this could be the result of unintentional conditioning. Cognitive neuroscientist Brian Anderson explains in the Time story that the visual nature of porn may make it particularly habit-forming. “There probably comes a point in time where you open up your browser and you just start thinking about porn,” says Anderson. 

The fact that viewers receive this form of stimulus through a computer, and that computers are essentially everywhere, compounds the problem yet again. 

Connect this neuroscience with the simple fact that the brain of a teenager is still deeply involved in the business of developing, and it’s easy to understand why some boys can’t stop watching porn, and then cannot achieve an erection without it.

Illustration: Katrina Weigand

Another important factor left out of the science is the fact that porn is overwhelmingly misogynistic. Peggy Orenstein, in her book “Girls and Sex,” refers to a study that found almost 90% of 304 randomly selected porn scenes “contained physical aggression toward women, who nearly always responded neutrally or with pleasure.” Orenstein goes on to say that some scenes also depicted women who beg “their partners to stop, then acquiesce and begin to enjoy the activity, regardless of how painful or debasing.”

While all this porn is doing some measure of damage to the brains of young men, it is simultaneously harming girls by presenting women as tools for male enjoyment versus wholly formed people with thoughts, standards, and desires of their own.

The subversive cruelty of porn is that it tricks both boys and girls (who aren’t legally meant to be viewing it anyway) into thinking that men are supposed to dominate, women are supposed to give in, and both parties should look a certain brand of ridiculous while doing it.

Okay, so, big picture, why is this an issue? Because in the absence of useful, honest, age-appropriate sex education in schools and homes, many teens turn to porn to learn about way more than the birds and the bees.

You cannot wait for institutionalized sex ed to step up and deliver the kind of knowledge your kids are looking for. It’s one of your responsibilities, as a parent, to teach your children about healthy relationships, open communication, and good sex.

Cyberbullying

While researching this story, the idea that struck me as most alarming is that any boy would think it’s okay to harass a girl for nude photos.

The slope from that point to rape seems far too steep. Research by the Urban Institute found that “96% of (dating) teens experiencing digital abuse and harassment also experience other forms of violence or abuse from their partners.”

Janine Zweig, Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute, explains that these other forms of abuse included psychological and physical abuse, as well as sexual coercion experiences. “The way we defined sexual coercion experience in this study was completed acts. So, not just the pressuring behaviors, but (teens) reporting that they were having sexual experiences that they didn’t want,” says Zwieg.

About one-third of teen victims of digital abuse reported being sexually coerced, a rate that is five times higher than dating teens who are not experiencing digital abuse.

This confirmed my fear that someone who feels okay about pressuring another person to send a nude photo or sharing that photo, without consent, might feel less inhibited when it comes to pressuring offline, too.

Information of this kind – the kind that feels scary and overwhelming at first – often presents a gift when you sit with it for a few minutes. The numbers and faces appearing in your mind’s eye will coalesce into a clear picture of empowerment. You have people to care for! And now you have a little more information to help you do just that!

Because you see, there are red flags, and if you’re paying attention, you’ll spot them. If your teen is on his or her phone late at night, behind a closed bedroom or bathroom door, she or he might be doing something unsafe. If their online behavior seems unsafe to you, there’s good reason for you to ask a few questions about their offline experiences.

While there’s no guarantee that your teen will immediately engage with you on the level you’re hoping for, a compassionate, curious, understanding approach will help make it clear that you’re available to them.

Put down your own phone, close the laptop, and reach out.

Our kids are not lost

The idea of speaking openly with your child about sexuality is scary to a lot of people. That’s okay.

Illustration: Katrina Weigand

There’s a very good chance that nobody covered the topic with you in a blunt and honest manner when you were a kid – especially if you live in the United States.

Our country came out of its great sexual revolution with very little lasting change to show for it. Conversely, the Netherlands experienced a similar renaissance in the 1960s and emerged with vastly different attitudes towards sex and sex ed.

PBS NewsHour reported last year that Dutch teen pregnancy rates are now five times lower than in the U.S., and rates of sexually transmitted infections are markedly lower, too.

Dutch schools utilize a comprehensive sexual education curriculum that begins in kindergarten; a program that’s supported in homes by parents who understand that their children are best served when sexuality is treated as the natural, normal, healthy part of living that it is.

And that’s the thing – your child will become a sexual being. It’s going to happen. It may be happening now. We went through it, as did every single generation of human beings before us. Curiosity led you to sneak a peak at your dad’s stack of Playboys hidden under the bed. Pubescent inklings led me to surreptitiously marvel at the illustrations in “The Joy of Sex.”

What’s different is that our kids have the internet, in all its stakes-raising glory. A whole lot of their life is lived inside the pages of that virtual world, so attempting to ban its use altogether, or to severely restrict their access, would be tone-deaf at best and destructive at worst.

This confluence of online access – to other people, to information and mis-information, to words and images that teen brains are not ready to adequately process – and a naturally budding sexuality creates the conditions under which sexting, youth porn addiction, and cyberbullying can prosper.

But the super important, often overlooked, third contributing factor is the dearth of actual human resources available to kids who genuinely want to talk about this stuff. That’s YOU.

You are the human resource your kid needs.

Compassionate parents provide a counterweight to the inherent pressures of adolescence. Our kids may not always feel the balancing power of our love on a conscious level, but maybe that’s the point. It’s just there – they don’t have to think about it.

By opening up to your children about sex, desire, relationships, and young love, you’re creating the space into which they will move when they need it most.

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We've all been there. You first hear those cries that don't sound like any other cries and immediately know what's happening. It's like our mama hearts know when our little ones need us the most. Having little ones feeling under the weather is hard. They can't tell you exactly how they feel. You can't explain to them that they'll feel better soon, and all there is for everyone to do is to take it easy and stay cuddled inside until you can get them to the doctor.

The issue, by this point, is that my son is old enough to know what's coming when we open the medicine cabinet, so giving him something for his throat ends up being like a wrestling match without the fun and giggles. My son especially likes spitting out anything as a way to protest how he's generally feeling, so we both end up covered in sticky syrup feeling defeated. Because, seriously, who thought that using a syringe or pipette to squirt out gooey liquid down an unwilling toddler's mouth was a good idea? (Probably not a parent.)

That's why when I found out there was an easier and more fun way to make these dreaded sick days better, I was all about it.

Enter: Lolleez.

Lolleez are organic throat soothing pops for kids—and adults!—that are made with organic ingredients that you can pronounce and understand like honey and natural fruit pectin. Plus, they're non-GMO as well as gluten, dairy and nut-free i.e. worry-free for all kinds of kiddos. The pops help soothe sore throats while acting like a treat for when kids are feeling under the weather. I also appreciate that the pops are actually flat and on a stick, as opposed to a lozenge or round ball lollipop. They were also created by a mom, which makes me feel a million times more confident about them since I know she knows exactly how hard sick days with a little one can be.

loleez

When I introduced my son to Lolleez pops, everything changed. Suddenly the battle to get him to take something to feel better wasn't... well, a battle. In the few times he's been sick since, he's been more than happy to pop a Lolleez, and I've been more than grateful that soothing him is now as easy as peeling open a wrapper. And, since they come in watermelon, strawberry and orange mango—strawberry is the favorite in this household—he never gets bored of getting a soothing lolly.

Also, they're easy to find—you can get them at stores like Target, CVS and online so I never worry that I'll be caught without in a pinch. After the sick days have run their course and my son starts feeling better, there's nothing like seeing that glow in his eyes come back and have him greet me with a big smile when I come into his room in the morning, ready for the day.

While our littles not feeling well is inevitable, as a mama, I'll do anything to make my child feel better, and I'm so thankful for products that make it just a little easier for the both of us. So here's to enjoying the snuggles that come with sick days, while also looking forward to the giggles that come after them.

This article was sponsored by Lolleez. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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The nurses and my husband were pushing the stretcher as I tried to put some makeup on; I have always loved red lipstick and bought a new one for this special occasion. I want to look pretty in the pictures, I can not be seen with this face, I thought.

My brown skin contrasted with the white of the operating room—I was there because twins generally means it's high-risk pregnancy, so this was an extra precaution before starting to push. Doctors were ready; clean and sterilized. My husband was dressed as an astronaut and I? Well, I was disheveled, with huge dark circles and no sleep, but extremely nervous and excited.

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"Push, push, push," they said when everyone was set up, but I was just trying to get my hair in a ponytail. There is nothing glamorous about giving birth.

Labor began shortly before 11:00 in the morning. At 11:04, my daughter was born and by 11:07 my son arrived. The two of them were vaginal deliveries. No cesarean. It was so fast that I didn't have time to put makeup on or do my hair. I had no time to get picture ready even when I had spent 37.5 weeks waiting for this moment.

My daughter cried softly and my son was tiny. I could only hold them for a couple of minutes, just a short skin-to-skin hug before they were taken to the NICU. They needed more oxygen and some tests.

From the operating room, I had time to send photos to the family, give the good news on WhatsApp and post something on Facebook. Their dad ran behind them as they went to the NICU. I was left alone, but not empty. I was happy, proud and full of love; I don't know if the epidural was working its magic, but I was never afraid.

Then I was back in my room. A nurse bathed me, braided my hair and put a little makeup on my exhausted face. My mom came to see me, probably a little disappointed that the twins were not with me. Everything happened so fast. Just half an hour after the delivery, I was in a wheelchair on my way to the NICU to see those little strangers that had formed in my belly.

They were twins, but completely different. My daughter was a brunette, but my son was more likely to be blond; she was fully awake and he was sleeping. You could definitely tell that she would be the one with a strong personality and he would be the sweet mama's boy. They were two tiny individuals that grew together in my belly.

"I'm mom," I introduced myself in a whisper.

It was the second time they saw me and I made sure that I looked a little bit better this time. It was not the makeup or the hair, love made me look pretty and I was full of that wild and inexplicable new emotion.

Then something happened. It was just a second, a click.

We recognized each other and loved each other instantly. My mom told me about that "magical connection" but I never really believed it until I felt it.

I was a brand new mom with no experience at all (I have to confess that I even took classes to learn how to change diapers and use a stroller). And, of course, I didn't know what to tell them or how to lull them; there are no classes to prepare you for that. It was so unexpected that I, a writer and a journalist, was out of words.

I was so in love that I was speechless. They were so tiny and had so many tubes and machines on them that I was afraid to do or say the wrong thing.

So I sang. I sang every single lullaby in Spanish that I could remember while I rocked them to sleep. In the beginning, it was one by one, in their own rooms and then, together, one on each arm, like the family we've been since then.

I spent my first night as a mother away from them, yearning for them and missing them. I spent the second night in a larger room with no crib or babies. The third, the fourth and even the seventh—and others—I spent in the NICU, with them.

Our boy was still in the hospital and our daughter in my arms. I discovered the magic of motherhood amid pediatricians and nurses, pumps and tubes. But, even with all that chaos, I found true joy and the most frightening fear.

It has been five years now. Today they are no longer babies; they say they are a big boy/girl now. I know it's true. Where did the time go?

They have grown a lot, but they are still my babies; they can bathe alone and brush their teeth making circles as the dentist taught them, but they are still looking for my arms, my kisses, my touch and my words of love.

They think they need me, but in reality, I need them more. We're a team; we are family. We love each other, we accept each other, we challenge ourselves, we—almost always—like each other, we push ourselves to the limit, but with the same intensity we love each other.

I'm so blessed to have them in my life. I'm lucky and beyond. I'm so excited to walk with them in this life and I'm so thankful that they chose me to be their mom.

Larga vida, mis cachorros. Los amo.

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I have a secret to tell you.

I really, really loved breastfeeding my babies. I loved it so much I fed them both from my breasts for nearly two years each. I nursed my first son while pregnant with my second. And man, I loved every single second of it. I cried for two days when I decided to wean my second and last baby. I will always remember the way the tops of their heads looked and smelled as they nursed. It is a memory emblazoned in my soul.

I am afraid to admit this though because I have been told that if I did I would be shaming other moms who struggled to nurse. I would never want to make another mother feel bad about her choice or struggle.

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You see, I think sometimes in an effort to "not shame mothers" (all for the not shaming btw), we have made celebrating our own joys as a sort of shame-inducing thing for other mothers. And man, I think that kind of stinks.

So here is my plea... Moms, dads, SAHMs, working mamas and every kind of mama, can we bring back more of the celebration? Feelings of accomplishment no matter the feat. Praise for a job well done, whatever that job is.

I am never going to say "breast is best" or working moms have it harder, or anything like that. Nope, I am not here for that. I am, however, going to do my very best and do what works for me. I would love some space to feel good about that. And in turn, I would love to praise you for your choices, your accomplishments and your mommy style

I want to hear about how great your kid is at soccer. I really want you to brag as much as possible about her athletic prowess. She scored three goals today? So amazing! We need more of that mom-brag and swag.

I will tell you right now, my kid is not that soccer star, but you sharing how awesome your daughter is will not make me feel ashamed. I want to celebrate you and revel in your pride even while my kid is taking his 10th water break of a 20-minute game.

Mom life is legit hard right? If you are anything like me, you worry approximately 7,453 times a day about your kids— are they "normal," are they succeeding, am I making sure they are not turning into legit insane monsters?

Mom life is also riddled with self-doubt (hey there, talking about myself again!), insecurity and uncertainness. So I understand the need to make sure we are never shaming another mama. I work hard at this, and I also work hard to make it clear that just because a mama parents differently, it doesn't mean it's better or worse.

Since mom-life has all these stressors, I really want to see if we can let go of the idea that sharing our joys and triumphs means we are shaming one another.

Your kid sleeps through the night every night at 2 weeks old? Um, so I may be the most jealous ever, but goodness, I am so happy for you and genuinely want to celebrate you.

Your kindergartner is reading chapter books and mine is over here coloring outside the lines and still gets confused between his b's and his d's? I am so proud of your buddy and you! Mine will get there, in his own time, as it is meant to be.

Share with me, celebrate with me, beam with pride, mama.

What do you say, mamas? Can we start to share those joys a little more? Celebrate those accomplishments of the tiny humans we are working so hard to raise? Find the joy in our friends' kids and our own?

I'll start. Today my 3-year-old only cried a little when I dropped him off at preschool. He typically screams. Tiny victories Mama, they count too.

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Your to-do list is kind of under control. The kitchen is mostly clean. You just finished that big work project and to celebrate, you scheduled a lunch out with the girls tomorrow while your little one is at school. As you rest your head on the pillow you think to yourself, “Okay! I might actually sorta-kinda have this whole thing under control!"

And then you hear it from down the hallway: cough cough.

Your eyes shoot open. No. It's fine, just a little tickle in her throat. She's fine.

Cough cough cough.

Nope, it's fine. If I lay here and don't move nothing will be...

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“MOOOOOOMMMMMMYYYYYYYYY I don't feeeeeeel goooooooood."

Sigh.

You break out the humidifier, the Tylenol and the snuggles. And then comes the inevitable question—can they go to school tomorrow? It's not an easy question to answer, for sure.

On the one hand, kids are basically walking booger factories at all times—if we kept them home for every sneeze and cough they'd never go to school. On the other hand, we don't want to put our kids in a situation where they could get sicker—or make other kids sick.

When in doubt, you should always give your pediatrician a call for guidance. Most schools have policies on it as well.

But as a general rule of thumb, here's what to know when your child isn't feeling well:

On fevers

The most clear cut of all symptoms are fevers—if they have a fever, they stay home. A fever is any temperature of 100.4 Fahrenheit or greater. A child needs to be fever-free for a full 24-hours before they can return to school.

Note: If your newborn has a fever she needs medical attention right away. It could be an emergency.

On stuffy noses and coughs

A mildly stuffy nose, or an occasional cough isn't enough to warrant a day off from school. But if the mucus is really thick and/or the cough is frequent, loud, or just sounds “gross," it's probably best to keep her home.

Coughs can linger for a long time in children, but if it persists for several days, or she has a fever with it, give your doctor a call. If the cough sounds like a seal barking, and certainly if she is having any trouble breathing, get medical attention right away.

On tummy troubles

Or as my daughter's preschool teacher called it, “intestinal mischief." If your child is vomiting or has diarrhea, they should stay home (and should stay home for 24 hours after the last incident). Make sure everyone at home washes their hands really well, as stomach bugs tend to be very contagious.

Remember to encourage your child to drink lots of fluids. If they aren't drinking, call your doctor right away.

On skin issues

This can be tricky—between marker explosions, dry skin and rashes, it seems like my kids' skin looks different every day. Rashes are almost impossible to diagnose over the phone, so if you are concerned, they'll need to be evaluated by their doctor to help determine the cause (and contagiousness) of the rash.

If you suspect your child has lice, they should stay home as well—and you'll probably have to give the school a call so they can ANONYMOUSLY alert the other parents.

Along the same lines is the dreaded conjunctivitis, or pink eye. Usually your child (or lucky you) will wake up with their eyelids crusted shut, or they'll have a very pink eye with lots of goop (sorry—but we're all moms here, we can handle the eye goop convo right?)

This is highly contagious, so they should for sure stay home from school. Depending on if it's viral or bacterial, you doctor may prescribe medicine that clears it up quickly.

On pain

This one is tough—kids often complain about various boo-boos, especially when it means that they get a Frozen Bandaid out of the deal. If they complain of pain persistently, if the pain prevents them from playing, and of course if you witness a bad injury, keep them home and get medical help right away.

Remember that you know your child best. Ultimately, you get to make the decision. Your pediatrician will be there to guide you, and one day, ONE DAY, you really will get that whole to-do list tackled... we think?

You've got this.

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Learn + Play

"I understand what you're going through."

"That happened to a friend of mine."

"Everything happens for a reason."

"It wasn't meant to be."

Silence.

On the rare occasion that I open up about our experience with family expansion losses, disappointments and tragedies, I almost always find myself faced with a loving person who has no idea what to say or do. Reactions typically range from awkwardness to avoidance. And while it certainly hurts to watch friends fumble, I get it.

The reality is, there is no perfect way to respond. It is tricky terrain. But here are some thoughts I encourage you to consider before sharing your words of support.

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No, you probably can't relate. We all have different experiences in life.

Not all failed pregnancies are the same. My husband and I have had a failed pregnancy when the stakes were low—early in our efforts when we were younger. We've had a failed pregnancy when the stakes were high—after countless cycles of crushingly expensive, time-consuming, emotionally draining IVF with the last healthy embryo we'd (likely) ever create. They weren't the same.

Not all failed adoptions are the same. We've had a failed adoption that cost us zero dollars. We've had a failed adoption that cost us 40 grand. We've had a failed adoption that happened within a week. We've had a failed adoption that happened after 6 months of dreaming and planning. We've had a failed adoption in which we never met the child. We've had a failed adoption in which we held, fed, changed and photographed ourselves with the child.

Thankfully, we've never experienced a failed adoption where the child was removed from our home after a year. But this has happened to families we know.

Even if you've had an experience related to the same topic, please don't assume you can understand the experience. It's highly likely that you can't, and that's okay.

You don't need to tiptoe around the topic like you're on eggshells.

If you treat a person like they're broken, they may start to feel as if they are. They're in pain. They're hurting. Their dreams may have been shattered. But they are not broken.


There have been times when friends haven't included us in their joyful moments because we weren't experiencing ours at the same time. I'm sure they thought it was kinder to do so as they likely deemed the events not "relevant to us" and being present might cause us pain. But the reality is that blessings in their lives are not things we want to avoid. If someone I know is pregnant while I'm not, nothing they do will make me forget my reality.

Assume the best.

I believe that most people can be happy for others even if they haven't received the same gifts. I know I can. For instance, I don't fly first class to exotic locations around the world, but one of my best friends does. When she returns from her adventures, I love to hear her stories and look through her pictures.

I do wish that someday I can join her on an adventure, but for now, I am simply happy for her. She's living her best life, and that's exactly what I'd wish for her.

I have a big heart, and it has space for the joys of my loved ones. If you're bringing another child into your family, that's a blessing. Might I sit in envy for a little while? Maybe. Might I shed some tears wishing I could have what you do? Possibly. But that's human. A true friend will work to carry themselves through those feelings. Assume they will.

Please don't judge. It isn't about anyone else but those going through it.

Along this journey, I'm sure there have been times we haven't been "ourselves." All we needed from those around us was a little patience until we were feeling better again. Sometimes that can take longer than usual. Trauma can do that to a person. Repeated trauma certainly can.

I had a tendency to drown myself in work. Sometimes we distanced ourselves from friends. Occasionally we didn't leave the house for an entire weekend. As long as people kept inviting us out, even when we repeatedly declined, we felt supported. Eventually, we rejoined them.

The last thing we ever needed while going through those hard moments in our lives was to feel guilty for the things we weren't doing with our friends. It was a period of grief or us, and getting through it took every ounce of our energy.

We remember.

We have anniversaries that no one else may know about. We can't and won't forget about them because they've been part of our journey. We haven't needed others to know about them or remember them if they were told. All we continue to need is the grace to let us handle those times in our own way, and be kept in their hearts.

As for where we are right now…

Are we through our pain? To some degree.

Do our hearts continue to heal daily? They do.

Will we always need our friends and their loving hearts? We will. We always will.

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