How to Thrive in Single Motherhood | Erin Finnegan

How to Thrive in Single Motherhood | Erin Finnegan

How to Thrive in Single Motherhood | Erin Finnegan

Hey everyone, thanks for joining me today. My name is Christa and I'm from MomTalks with Christa. Today we have a really exciting guest. We have Erin Finnegan here today and she's going to talk about how to thrive and not just survive in single motherhood. Also, talking about our journey with breast milk, how our best book number came in, and she's talking about using donor milk. And she's a really awesome, empowering story of how she got stronger through her motherhood and so much more. So, thank you for being here. Erin, I can't wait to talk to you.

Erin: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It's really an honor to be here.


Christa: Yeah, I'm really excited. So just to get started, can you just tell everyone a little bit about you and we'll kind of go from there.

Erin: I live on the island of Hawaii, which I think is something that sets me a little bit apart because it's so different. I am from New Jersey originally. And I've been here for 11 years, I do a few different things. I wear many different hats. I work at a restaurant called Tahiti Nui is the oldest bar/restaurant in the state. And I'm also a life coach. I do business coaching and also empowerment coaching. And over the summer, I started a new Instagram account called badass moms club and it came from my own experience of having mom guilt and motherhood loneliness, and I didn't want to just swallow in it. I wanted to do something about it. And I knew if I was feeling it, there must be a lot of other people feeling it. And so, that's been a lot of my focus the last couple of months and connecting with a lot of different moms. And that's kind of how you and I got to connect as well. 


Christa: I know you really wanted to talk about your journey in breastfeeding and coming in because, you know, it's the other side of the story. We don't we don't hear it a lot of time. So I just want to kind of start from when your son was born and your kind of your struggles with it and kind of what you went through and using donor mouth.

Erin: I had a really great pregnancy I had, I feel like a really great birth but then the milk just never dropped in. I had a great latch and all of like the things everything seemed really great. My son didn't have, what is it called when, like they contain? Yeah, he wasn't tongue tight like nothing, everything was just seemed like it would be perfect, but there was just no supply coming in. So, I think it was on the fifth day, we realized that really, there was no milk for sure coming in and I went to a lactation specialist to double check all of the things. And so, she gave me some guidance of what to do as far as pumping and give me a little bit of a schedule of what to do. I went back to my acupuncturist to get some acupuncture, she gave me a recipe for making fish head soup, and I made this big batch of broth. And I was consuming that I was getting all of the supplements that I could get anything that you could suggest if somebody if there was any person in the world that tried a thing to get milk to come in, I did it and nothing. It just wasn't happening. I tried for five and a half weeks to get my supplier to come in. But it was probably I think it was about two days after we realized that my milk wasn't coming in. I ran into one of my Auntie's here. So again, part of the Ohana community and she's like, How is everything going? and I was like, everything's great. He's amazing. But my milk is not coming in. And so, she was like, really? I have somebody for you. And so, she called her daughter, who had an oversupply of milk in her freezer, because her son would only take from the chichi from the breast, and not from the bottle at all. And so, she had all of this milk, and she'd been praying for somebody to need this milk. And it was just the most beautiful thing and she had a whole month supply of milk that she brought to me. Well, she had like, at that point in time, I think she brought me like two weeks and then for the next two weeks after that, she was able to bring me milk, her son was getting to the point where I don't think she was like weaning him off, but then she was like getting herself to the point where she was like, not having to freeze the milk. So, my son was able to at least for the first month, get I'm guessing breast milk. And I wish kind of in hindsight that I had moved towards looking into like ordering donor milk online. I think if I lived on the mainland, I would have moved. I would have done that here is a little tricky getting stuff like that shipped to you. We're in the middle of the ocean, we're actually the furthest this island in particular is the furthest from any landmass. So, I felt really good about he got great, a great boost that first month of life and she's the most clean eating human on the island, probably we always like joke about that, like she's the most organically, locally sourced eating person ever. So, he probably got the best milk supply he could have ever gotten, which is awesome. But like I was saying, I wish that at the time, because it's now almost four years ago, I wish I was more knowledgeable about getting an ordering donor milk, because that wasn't really something people talked about. And so, I want people to know, really more and that's really an option for when this happens. So, when this did happen to me, and my milk really wasn't coming in, like I was saying I tried for five and a half weeks, even though he was on formula at that point, I want to have the bonding experience with him. I just wasn't gonna give up. I was like this, it's gonna come in and I was really determined to try to have it come in, but not allowing myself to put my mind in a failure state of mind. Like, I wasn't going to let myself think my body's failing me, because of all of the amazing things my body had already done. You know, like I was 38 when I was pregnant and it was like my first and only pregnancy had ever had I had a beautiful labor beautiful, healthy baby, all of those things. But at five and a half weeks, it was the only thing about motherhood that was stressing me out. And I was like this has to be done because I was starting to burn out. I was so tired. He was sleeping great practically through the night. But I was still having to get up to try to pump at for some for something that just wasn't producing so there was a point of defeat. I will say that well the circumstances with his father were never ideal. I do have to give him credit, he never made me feel guilty about the fact that my males never came in, he was actually very supportive about all the work that I put in verbally. There wasn't much that he ever, like did to help support the work that I was doing but he did acknowledge the work that I was doing at least and I do appreciate that. 


Christa: Yeah, I think you made a really good point there that a lot of moms should hear is when you get to the point where it's your, your mental health is suffering, because you're trying so hard and you have to take in consideration, like, take care of yourself at that point. Because I think so many moms are like, I have to breastfeed, I have to get this much and I have to do this and then in the meantime, their mental health suffers, and you got to take a step back and be like, what's going to make me feel better right now?

Erin: Yeah, absolutely.


Christa: Any point, for using formula or donor milk, or whatever, or supplement here and there and just know what works best for your situation.

Erin: Yeah, and it was a little bit of letting go of that, like, being part of them normalizing breastfeeding movement to, because I had those, like, dreams of being that lady that just like whips, or boobs out and starts feeding your kid and like, I don't care who it makes feel uncomfortable, like wanting to just be a part of that. And then not being able to be a part of that there was like, definitely letting having to let that go. But I was really shocked when I had that experience, how many women said, Oh, I had that happen to me, or I know somebody who had that happened to where their milk never came in. And for a lot of women, it then came in abundantly if they had another child that they had an oversupply the second time around. But for a lot of women, they just they don't produce milk for whatever reason. It's not necessarily. When I remember that it's not really a very understood thing, why it can't come in because I also was even on a prescription from my doctor, he called in something to see if that would also stimulate the milk. But there was just like, nothing happening. There seems to be some sort of like connection to if you were breastfed as a child as well, which I wasn't and that was like circumstantially, because my mom, my birth was a little bit traumatic, like my mom had preeclampsia, and I was an emergency C section, and then I was in that ICU for a few days, if I remember the story correctly. And then, I don't think I don't know that her supply ever came in or she just chose to go to formula, I think that was like in the it was 1979. So, they were like, I think starting to push the formula. Maybe at that point in time, I don't really know where the choice was, but I know that I wasn't breastfed, so that might have something to do with that also. But anyway, there's a lot of women out there, who their milk doesn't come in. And I think in our beautiful movement of normalizing breastfeeding, we're losing a little bit of that preparing women during pregnancy, for the fact of you might not have a choice between breast milk and formula milk that just be ready for, it's okay, if your milk doesn't come in, you haven't failed.


Christa: I love that, actually. Because my next question is gonna be what yeah, what advice did you have for other moms that's gone through that? so I think that's amazing advice to know that you haven't failed like, sometimes your body just doesn't produce milk and in people produce different amounts because of different things and doesn't make you any less of a mom or a failure. So that was yeah, that's a great, that's a great point.

Erin: And you know, there's a I actually just had a really great conversation the other day with my friend Alex, she came on Instagram with me and she just was struggling with her supply as well. Hers really started to come in at 11 weeks she was able to really like power through and I commend her at are there was like nine more maybe it was like nine weeks but she really committed to a longer time than I could. I think the difference in that was that she really has a committed partner and I think that's also important that like immediate help at home and having somebody support you and you know, tag team with you also so that for any of the partners out there to remember like it is a lot of work mentally and physically and all that kind of stuff. So, whether you're breastfeeding or not, there's a lot of work that's happening in those first few months and beyond that the help is needed.


Christa: And so, we kind of touched on a little bit about single motherhood, how it’s kind of happen need abruptly for you. And I know when you're saying I was six months old. So, I don't know if you want to kind of go into that story a little bit about that happened.

Erin: Yeah, so I think it's important. I think, to kind of touch on how the pregnancy that even happened to begin with. So, it was not a, it was never a relationship. Like we were never in love, we met, we became friends, we hooked up and it was I am somewhat into astrology and these things called destiny cards, and we're caught, we are karma cards, and he owes me something from a past life and I literally got pregnant the very first time we slept together and it was really crazy kind of how that happened. Because like I said, I'd never had a pregnancy before in my life at 30 years old. And he's also a lot younger than I am. He's 14 years younger than I am, it was just kind of like one of those like fun, like, oh, whatever, we have a good like connection as friends and stuff. So, when I found out I was pregnant, he did say I can't be a dad. That was his very first words out of his mouth. And I said, I understand that but this is my opportunity to be a mom, I have always wanted to be a mom that this is this is happening like you're if with or without you, it's happening. But then, he didn't he didn't walk away at that point, he then seems committed to wanting to be involved, but kind of like one foot in the door, one foot out. We weren't together for the duration of the pregnancy and it was a little it was a little tricky. It was the stickiest part of the pregnancy was dealing with him and kind of having to like manage his emotions. And then my son was born, he was staying with us and then things did get like remote romantically involved about a month after my son was born. And we were together, we were like living in the house together. It was a we were a family unit. And then, but not in love. It was one of those things where you're just trying to make it work, because now there's this baby involved. And I think we all wanted to live under one roof and I think we both just wanted to try to make it work. And it wasn't working and so over that summer, so Declan was born in February and over the summer, his father said he was going to take a trip back to Oregon, where he was from, he wanted to make amends with his mom. And it wasn't really the most ideal time for him to leave since it was shortly after I had returned to work. There wasn't really that much money and all that stuff but we agreed he was going to go initially was for two weeks. And then he said he was going to go for a month and I had like a little bit of a panic attack about it. It's like I have this newborn and I'm going to be working, I still have to work all of this stuff, but he was going it wasn't even up for debate. And then shortly after he booked his ticket, the relationship actually became a bit emotionally abusive. He was arguing with me picking fights all the time. There were a few times where he threw things in the house, it was just not an ideal situation at all, and I can to look forward to him leaving on that trip. So, I could breathe and he I took him my son and I drove him to the airport and he left and then I never heard from him. I was supposed to be looking for a new place. So, we were actually living in this house, but upstairs and the person who now lives upstairs, my friends, she needed to take over the whole upstairs and she'd given us kind of a heads up, I need you guys to look for a different place. I need to take over her family's larger, she's like I need more space up there. So, we're supposed to be looking for a place and I was texting him about it and he just wasn't responding. And not responding, not responding, it went on for, like, probably 10 days, when I decided I was going to look through the boxes that he had up on these high shelves and he had left his storage boxes there. But he had taken most of his important things out. And so that's when I knew he wasn't coming back. You know, when he had left, we had left like that he left the day after we had a terrible argument. So, I figured he was just like, I'm not talking to you for a bit and stuff but then as it went on, I was like something's not right here. So, when I realized that his kitchen knives were gone, because he worked seemed like restaurants and stuff that he really wasn't coming back. So, then we were on a shared cell phone plan and I decided to look to see if there were any phone numbers. He frequently called over there and there was one so I sent a text message say, hey, listen, I need to get in touch with him. I need to have a clearer understanding of what's going on. Is he coming back and just going to live elsewhere? I need to figure out childcare starting October 1 when he was supposed to come back all of those things and he actually made up a whole different reality for the people of where he went to and that I was keeping his son from him. It was really ugly and very hurtful the things that he decided to tell people there. But that's for him to deal with and his own karma to handle as life goes on and then he eventually sent me a text message and saying that the fighting was too much for him. He didn't know how to tell me he wasn't coming back and I think the thing that was the most frustrating for me was that all of the fighting was instigated fighting that it was all picked fights. And otherwise, I would have been fine to just be in a calm household, I also would have been fine to co parent, if you wanted to live separate and CO parent, I think it all went back to the very first statement, he said, when I told them I was pregnant, that he wasn't ready to be a dad, I went through kind of that experience of seeing how he was through the disengage throughout the pregnancy. But then like, the hormones kicked in after you deliver, and then wanting him to be a part of it wanting to have a family unit for my child's allowing some behaviors to happen that shouldn't happen. But I'm but relieved when he did get on that plane, and leave. And I think I was able to kind of step back. Once I felt that sense of relief to know that it was really a blessing that my son was being saved from a lot of toxic behavior, and a lot of toxic energy because at that age kids are, you know, they're just energy, and they're absorbing all of that stuff. And he was a really, really calm and easy baby. So that's really like kind of how it went down when I knew that I was in this single parenthood. And then I didn't hear from him for a few months after that. And then that was when he asked if he could have some pictures and videos and I told him that he could have when he started taking parent responsibility, he could have parent privileges. And then I didn't hear from him again for another two and a half years. And, and still with that same message of when you start taking parent responsibility, you can have parent privileges and now I still don't hear from him.


Christa: Wow. So, this last time he was trying again, just to get pictures but not doing anything else regards to.

Erin: Yeah, so last time I heard from him was this last February, he messaged me out of the blue wanting to talk to Declan for his birthday. And he said he understood if I wanted to talk to him first. I think it was like the day before his deathless birthday or two days before his birthday. And at this age, it was Jacqueline's third birthday. He's conscious of what a dad is. But he doesn't yet ask about his dad. As far as he knows, he doesn't have one and I'm not going to talk about it. Until he asks. I've had a meeting with a child psychologist and the child psychologist has directed answer the questions you're asked, don't give anything, until you're asked the questions from Declan so you don't confuse him like until his heart and brain go there. You don't need to. So anyway, I told his father, yes, you know, we can talk and but I was taking Declan to a part of the island for his birthday where there's no cell phone service. So, he wasn't going to be able to talk to him on his actual birthday. So, I told him when we could speak and then he said, that didn't work for him. And then we kind of like went back and forth on when we could talk, Declan ended up getting really sick, and the doctors thought maybe he had pneumonia. So, I had to, we did have a call that was scheduled, and I apologized, and I said I needed to push it back. My plan was to have definitely go with a sitter when we spoke because I wasn't sure if it was going to get heated and I didn't want him to hear. I didn't want Declan to hear me yelling on the phone to somebody, because it's not as unusual behavior. So, I knew that he would know something was off. So, when I did hear back from him, he didn't ask how was Declan feeling, it was just like, well, this is what I can talk and the day that we were going to speak, five minutes before he said he was going to be late. So, I waited about 30 minutes for him to call, he still didn't. And I sent a message. I said, I have things to do today. And then he responded to that with like a barrage of very negative like threatening things. I wasn't even saying we couldn't speak again or reschedule it was just that I'm not going to sit around waiting all day for this phone call to happen. Be respectful of my time. He's like, threatened to take me to court and I said, okay, you can choose to either reschedule this phone call, or we can go back to court, whatever you want to do, it's your choice. and so, I gave him two options. I said, you can either call me Friday at this time or Sunday at this time, he said, I'll let you know and I never heard from him since. My instinct is that I only hear from him when he's at the beginning of a new relationship and he needs to try to show his new lady that he's either involved with his son or that I'm this evil person or something. right, exactly. And so that, again, that's on him, I'm not here to play that my biggest job is to protect my son and to raise a good human. And so part of the reason why you and I was actually scheduled earlier this month to talk, the reason why I rescheduled it is when I originally booked it, I didn't realize it was my son's fall break, and I won't talk about this if he's anywhere around, because I don't ever want him to hear me speak ill of his father, or even just any thing that could be construed as speaking ill of him, because he is two halves of one person made up of two people, and his other half is this other person. And well, I obviously have strong feelings about what his father has chosen to do, I don't want Declan to ever grow up and feel bad about this other half of himself. And so, I'm very conscious about how I speak about it, or choose not to speak about it in front of him.


Christa: And I have to commend you for that, because I think there's a lot of people that would just talk negatively to their kids about the other person, and you're right, it's half of him. And so, you don't want him growing up to be like, well, that's part of me, though. So, if she doesn't like him, is she not gonna like that part of me? or so I think that's awesome. I think just how you've dealt with the situation, I think that's like, just amazing how you've had this calm environment you kind of saw the hand that was dealt, and you just went along, you're like, This is what's what we're gonna do and this is how our life is gonna be.

Erin: Yeah, absolutely. You know, my son is here for a reason. And he's a blessing to me, and everybody who meets him. He's such a firecracker. He's hilarious, he's super smart. And, you know, if his father ever decides who really wants to follow through and take responsibility, I'm absolutely not going to stop him from having a relationship with him, there will be boundaries, and I'll protect Declan from being hurt, and I don't want him to start building a relationship, and then have his father disappear, and him again, and all of those kinds of things. So, I really will tread lightly with those things, but I would never stop him from having a relationship with Him. Because I do believe that that would hurt Declan in the long run, also, if he found out that his father was really actually trying to have a relationship with him. So, I'm conscious of that, also. But yeah, I don't think that other people's choices should hold me for Declan, back, beaver.


Christa: it's amazing to hear your story and how you have found this like community around you, that has allowed you to, I mean, you're just talking about, like, how you have a friend upstairs, and pull down your street and stuff. So, you have this amazing community surrounded surrounding you. And so, I'm just curious for anyone that's listening, that is in a similar situation, or maybe they're pregnant right now. And they know they're going to be a mom, what tips or advice would you give to them? If you could? Yeah, if you could say something directly to these moms?

Erin: Yeah. So, I think the biggest thing and no matter what the parenthood journey is, whether it's partnered, or single parenthood, I think to remember everything is temporary. Absolutely, everything is temporary, whether it's good, bad, indifferent, everything's temporary. The sleepless nights are temporary. If you're struggling with money, it's temporary. If your child is struggling with tantrums, or some sort of behavioral problem, it's temporary. All of the things, it's all temporary potty-training struggles is temporary and like that. That was like one big bet. I've laughed about when I was potty training. decklid. And you really like, pooping was like, the big thing for me where I really struggled. And I had a friend who her kids are growing up, and she knew I was really having like my own personal feelings and struggles with it. And I was letting it go, always do my best not to put pressure on him. But she's like, he's not going to be in college wearing diapers, just like, let it go and just like, remember it's temporary. So that's like my biggest thing. And I had lost that mentality a little bit. In the last year, I think with everything that has happened with COVID. I kind of got out of that philosophy, because prior to becoming a mom, that was one of my biggest philosophies if I could feel any like twinge of like stress happening, I always said like, I would stop and I say, Okay, this is gonna matter in 30 minutes. Is this going to matter next week, is it going to matter in five years? And depending on what the answer to those questions would be? I would gauge how much energy I would put into it and I always did that and then somewhere along in that last year I really struggled with asking myself those questions and then I recognize that a couple of months ago, and I've really, really gotten myself back into embracing that philosophy.


Christa: Yeah. I love that. And I think a lot of us within these last couple years had kind of needed to refocus, because this whole, the whole pandemic through I think, everyone kind of for a loop, and it was something that none of us could have planned for. So, I think all of our like mental health needed to do like some like refocusing and reset, almost. And I think that's a, that's a great point to kind of ask ourselves, like, will this matter next week? will it matter in six months? And yeah, because in the moment, everything seems huge, you know? Yeah. Biggest deal, even though it could be like a small thing. So, I think that's a great, great advice.

Erin: Yeah. And then what can you do about it? You know, because that you can't do something about everything.


Christa: Yeah, exactly. Learning, like, what things are out of our control, and what things we can actually control, I think is a huge thing.

Erin: Yeah. And that's really huge. With the single parenthood journey, there's so much you can't do about a lot of it, because you can't do anything about the behavior. What about the other parent, and so you have to really let that go and you can only control how you respond to that their behavior if they're still involved, and how you choose to, to carry yourself. And I think, like I was saying, and how I choose to not talk about it in front of my son, I think it's really important to choose not to do that, because we are really influencing not only how our children feel about themselves, but we're influencing them in how it's okay to talk about other people. And saying hurtful things about other people and that's something that we should try to start young and teaching them not to do.


Christa: Absolutely. So, we've kind of talked about this a little bit, but we want to talk about how you can thrive and not just survive in motherhood, what would you say are your main tips? Because we hear about a lot of times like surviving, thriving motherhood. So how do you personally thrive? And what tips would you have for other moms to thrive?

Erin: I know that I met, I know, I mentioned that I'm a life coach, I also have my own life coach. And that, for me has been really important. And I had one I actually started working with shortly after Declan was born. Oddly enough, it was about a month before his father left when I had met her a couple months prior, but I didn't really like commit to doing work with her. And for me, that has been really huge, because it's like, a good check in with another person to have accountability and I don't think that it's not in everybody's budget necessarily to be able to have that but I think it's really important to have a person in your life you can be accountable with. And so, accountability is really huge, and to have things that you're working for yourself that a lot of us tend to lose ourselves in the first few years of motherhood. And I don't know that we have to, I know that I did lose sight of some of my bigger goals that I wanted to work on in just focusing on being mom and letting mom take up 150% of my time, which, of course is a great thing to do. But there's a way to balance it a little bit more. and so, I definitely do. Like I take conscious time to check in with myself and making sure I'm balancing that time a little bit more. I'm a big believer in whiteboards and writing out my goals on whiteboards, I actually used to have them on this room, I don't know if you can, like see behind here, they used to be here. But I've now moved it into my bedroom at the foot of my bed so that I can like look at my goals before I go to sleep and when I wake up in the morning, and then this has been replaced by affirmations that my son and I say in the morning, each day. And so, affirmations are actually another great thing to do as well and that I love like affirmations for myself. I've always believed in but now that my son is old enough and doing them with him, I think is really great too. And so, there's another thing that I did that I don't have it handy, but about a year and a half ago. Like I'm really big into manifesting and I think that that's like really a great way to like thrive and not just like to be in a survival mindset and to just like, be really envisioning what you want for your life and it took $1 bill about a year and a half ago when I was really to a point where I was so tired of feeling like I was struggling, making it work, like making finances work and all of those things and I wrote on it, thank you for all the money that I've ever been given in my life or something like that and I put it inside this one cabinet here, and I do see it every single day and it changed my entire relationship with money and how money flows and I have knock on wood, and I won't find myself back in that situation that I was in a year and a half ago, and it's really changed. So, I think that like, the power of positive thinking, and manifesting and really having like clear things you want to work towards is a really great way to really thrive and not lose yourself.


Christa: Yeah, that's amazing. We were just talking in actually one of our previous practice episodes about power of affirmations, and power words and just saying things out loud that you want, or you see for your life or getting kids involved. It's so powerful because it's something that's a positive thing that will help you with your own self-love, self-worth, but also getting kids and got involved starting young is so powerful.

Erin: That's awesome. Yeah, it's really important that inner monologue is and dialogue is really, really important and I also like if I hear people, like my coworkers and stuff, if I hear people even say anything that's self-deprecating, I immediately call them out on it, and try to help anyone I come across to start changing the way they speak to themselves. I think that's more we can pass that along to people, moms or not, all of us just keep spreading the joy and love. I think it's really important.


Christa: Absolutely. I love that. So, this was an awesome conversation I love. Just thank you for sharing your story first. So, I know it's a personal story. And so, just you sharing I think has been is going to help and impact so many women that hear this.

Erin: Thank you so much. 


Christa: Yeah, so I always like to end these with fun thinking questions, I call them. And so, if you have a billboard made today, we could share one tip with moms everywhere. What would you have it say?

Erin: Everything's temporary. 


Christa: Oh, that perfect. That's a Yeah. And of course, where can everyone follow you on Instagram and any other courses or things that you offer for moms.

Erin: And there's going to be a website that will be linked in the badass mom’s club, but it's still getting work done. But for now, just that one.


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