Mainly Marta :: A Motherhood + Lifestyle Blog

SLIDER

Welcome

What started as a digital diary to document a newfound journey as a stay at home mom / wife has quickly evolved into my own little corner on the internet where I share all that life brings my way -- the good, the bad, and those "aha!" moments. All with a hint of sarcasm, a dash of truth and bold European wit. Thanks for following along!

NEWSLETTER

10.18.2019

I Am The 1 in 4 :: My Miscarriage Story



I feel like talking about miscarriage is so taboo. There is a certain stigma of shame and guilt that swarms around this topic — I know I felt both those things with crippling fear after my loss. With October being infant loss awareness month, I wanted to share my story & perspective of what it's like for your first pregnancy to end in loss. 

I've shared about it on Instagram throughout the past three years, but have deleted them because I felt like those words didn't do my story justice. Today, I am putting it all on the table in hopes that someone stumbles across these words and feels encouraged. 


The Loss

SIX WEEKS PREGNANT | SEPTEMBER 2015

About a month after this photo was taken, I made a trip to the ER which resulted in us going home without a baby. I had just gotten back from a vacation in Florida that was interrupted by my fears that I may be miscarrying. I was at Disney World and had started to feel cramps in my abdomen and wiped a bit of blood upon a visit to the bathroom. A quick google search led me to convince myself that everything was fine & that I was just spotting. I went on my vacation and thought nothing of the constant cramps. But the day after I came home, I woke up at 4 am and felt intense pain... I went to the bathroom and to my horror, I was bleeding heavily... I knew then, it was happening. We went to the ER because my mother insisted I go and then a huge blow delivered to a couple who had just spent the last 12 weeks excitedly telling everyone who would listen that they were gonna be parents. The doctor confirmed, there was no baby. I miscarried at 12 weeks. I had almost made it to the second trimester and the pain set in like a tsunami. 


The grieving period was a rough one for us and while my husband was an amazing support system, I felt like my body had betrayed me. Something I couldn’t explain to anyone because everyone avoided the topic and anyone who wanted to talk to me about it would be immediately shut down because I didn’t want their pity. I started wondering if my body would even be able to carry to full term and loathed the idea of getting pregnant again because what if this would become a pattern? I mean, everything seemed to intensify the idea that I wasn’t going to have my baby? 



I had recently bought this baby cheetah stuffed animal (and named her Dotty) in my excitement to collect baby things. Every time I saw it in my closet, I’d break down in tears. I asked my husband to hide it because the mere thought of throwing it away only made my heart hurt more. 

I spent a lot of time alone, praying and asking God why He would do this to me. I had helped my mother raise my six siblings and felt so angry. I knew a lot of the kinks to motherhood already. I had practiced my whole life, I was ready to be a mom, so why was I watching all my other pregnant friends nearing their due dates while I was sitting on the floor childless?

The holidays rolled around and I just felt so lost -- I turned to more prayer & more hidden sessions of tears because people just assume that you’re over it after a few weeks. No one really acknowledges your loss even though you’re tormented with the idea of blame.
 It’s swept under the rug under the guise of “this is natural” & “sometimes things are just meant to happen.” Words that were meant for comfort, but I took with a bitter heart. 

DECEMBER 2015 

The new year rolled around and I got super sick. It was the sickest I’ve ever been and in retrospect, I see that had I been pregnant, I wouldn’t have been able to take the medicine I needed to get better. That's how I console the pain to this day -- everything happens for a reason, I tell myself over and over until I feel a little bit better. 

We got pregnant again in February and then October 2016 my sweet Felix was born. I've had three successful pregnancies since our loss and there is not a season in life that I don't think about our first baby. 

I ended up giving Dotty to Felix when he was born and she now is well-loved by all three of my boys. When I see them snuggling her and giving her nose kisses, I am reminded that beauty is all around me even though I went through a tremendous season of pain when I lost our baby. Dotty is a beautiful bittersweet reminder of a baby that would have been so loved and cherished by all of us. 


I guess I’m sharing this for two reasons: 


ONE: Miscarriage is NOT a taboo subject and should be acknowledged and talked through. The emotions you feel are so raw and real. The urge to deal with it alone and to constantly blame + punish yourself should be addressed. It wasn't your fault and please know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THIS

Here's something no one tells you -- miscarriage robs you of joy. 

Every pregnancy since our loss, I hold my breath until I hit 15 weeks. I never announce before the second trimester. We tell our parents and then wait. Any sign of blood sends me into an instant panic. I have bled through most of my pregnancies, sometimes vessels in my placenta burst and I immediately think the worst. Miscarriage is something that is at the back of your mind.... and it never truly goes away. 

I think of my angel baby often. It's hard to think about the fact that you lost a child even if you never got hold of them. Our mothering hearts are attached and invested the moment we read a positive pregnancy test. The road to healing is long, it's painful, but you will get there in time. 

TWO: There is power in prayer. For me, the idea that I was alone was probably what had me going in a downward spiral. People tried to console me with words that felt empty as others avoided the topic altogether. Prayer was the only way I was able to channel all my frustration and hurt. I was able to talk through all my feelings + vocalize my anger & that’s what I love about God. He allows you to pour out your bitter heart without judgment.

Trust me when I say it wasn’t just crying softly. Tt was streaming my pain through hot tears & harsh words knowing that He was there holding on to me as I was so out of control when it came to my thoughts and emotions. In those very moments, as strange as it sounds, I felt the most loved. #godisgood even when life is not the greatest, a lesson I am reminded through every hardship this life hands me. 

In short, I want all my mama friends to know that my inbox is always open. If you need a friend to listen as you pour out a heavy heart and if you want someone to share in your joys or just someone to pray with you, I'm your gal. I am here for anyone who needs a friend. 



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10.08.2019

The Blog Hotline :: The Scoop On International Giveaways


Y'all know, I am always looking for ways to grow the gram & blog. That's not something I hide or am ashamed about. I try all kinds of methods, try to find hacks, and invest time in educating myself on what works and what doesn't. annnnnnd then, I share my findings with you via this little series because I like to be transparent.

++ I bought into an international giveaway, so you don't have to ++

I'm here to share my experience -- the pros and the cons of that experience and if I'd buy into one again. I've had several people reach out to me and ask how it went, so I thought I'd just blog about it rather than message everyone individually. With each segment, I'll explain my thoughts / reasoning going into it.

The Giveaways 

I bought into two giveaways -- one that projected 3K and one that projected 10k-20K gain. While skeptical, I wanted to see if they delivered what they promised. In essence, that little boost sounds amazing to get on your feet. I also bought these giveaways a few weeks apart, so I could watch the numbers closely. 

The Price

K, the prices are ridiculous and expensive. There is nothing more to it -- they suck.

& with these awful prices, the giveaway brands sometimes provide a disclaimer saying that they can't guarantee the gain because it's just a projection and that buy-ins are taken at your own risk. Others promise to promote the giveaway until they hit the projected gain, so that's kind of reassuring.

I worked on several collabs that were paid to place in a "giveaway fund" for this blog post, so mom, if you're reading this, don't freak out, I'm not a money waster.


The Results

3K projected gain got me around 700 followers.

10K to 20K projected gain barely scraped the barrel with a 10, 500 gain. 

The Aftermath 

So, none of the giveaways projected correctly. I did gain some, but then again, not as much as I hoped / expected, so that is a huge disappointment in itself.

But, you're probably thinking that now that I've got all these new followers, I should be happy right? meh, I'm finding myself not that happy with these results because, with both giveaways, more than half of the people unfollowed me. Now, I expected a few hundred to unfollow as all giveaways have unfollowers afterward, but when the buy-in is so high -- that's unacceptable. 

Another thing I noted is that my engagement rate took a big hit with my engagement numbers. I went from 4.59% to 2.35% which is a big hit. The thing is -- engagement rates are so important when you're a creator and are looking to collaborate with brands. The higher your rate, the more likely you're gonna score a collaboration!

While it's known that the higher your numbers are, the lower your engagement rate will be, I found that the large scale numbers gained in a giveaway impacted my numbers in a negative way and I'm still recuperating from that hit. 

Final Thoughts 

First, if you ever see someone that increased followers and it seems like they grew overnight like Jack's bean stock, they've purchased an international giveaway -- I am 100% sure of this. It's the only way especially with the algorithm making it harder for micro-influencers to be seen. 

If they're growing fast and they haven't done a giveaway, then they are either super-rich and are sponsoring every single post with a large budget or they're a celebrity. Honestly, that's the only way I can explain it. MAYBE, they've found the key to fast engagement without these things, but I find that hard to believe because I have researched and researched this topic pretty thoroughly. 

In all honesty, I used to think that great content produces massive growth, but you guys -- it doesn't. Sorry to burst the bubble, but great content produces a quality following and steady growth over time. it's naive to think otherwise and in all honesty, a quality following is better than a big number in the long run. 

Secondly, I would not recommend buying into a large scale, international giveaways & I personally won't be buying in ever again because it's not worth it. You get a BANG for your buck at the beginning, but then the bang dwindles and they have your money and you're back where you were in the first place. 

If you're wanting to grow, smaller-scale giveaways that are niche-oriented are a great tool, but my favorites are follow for follow threads, follow trains and follow loops because you're getting support and supporting others too -- which is what Instagram is all about.

So yah! That was my experience with international giveaways. I hope this helped answer any questions you may have had about them. If you'd like to know anything else, my DMs and inbox are always open!

As always, thanks for being here, I appreciate you!









MINI DISCLAIMER: 
I'm not nagging or ragging on BIG giveaways, this was just my experience with them! If you had a different experience, I'd love to hear your take on them. 
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9.05.2019

Back To School Guide With A Mama With 3 Under 3


Guys, back to school season is upon us and even though my kids are all under the age of three, I am slowly gearing up for the "school year."  We're starting homeschool early and by that, I mean that I am trying to get the boys to work on their vocabulary and speech. Not many of you know this, but I majored in Speech Pathology for a while in college and then switched to communication. Here are some tools that I am using to gear up.

SUPPLIES FOR THE BOYS

--------------------------------

No. 1 :: Books

I don't know about your kiddos, but my boys love ripping out pages out of books, so this year, we're using board / felt books. They're childproof and that's what I need with three under three. I get books off of Amazon or in-store at Costco and Target dollar section.

No. 2 :: Stickers 

Educational ones in addition to the fun ones. Stickers can be a great teaching tool. I've been using an empty notebook and having my 2.5 year old place stickers on it. He's learned all the planets and continents this way. It's a fun interactive way to get new words in your little's vocabulary without them realizing it's happening.

No. 3 :: Play Doh & Cookie Cutters

My boys love play-doh and even though it's a mess, I am planning on teaching the boys colors, shapes and letters this way. It's another way to make home school lessons fun. I really want the boys to have fun learning at home. My favorite thing is to see them smiling while learning. 

No. 4 :: Washable Kid's Fingerpaint & Watercolor Paints

I love painting for rainy days. It's such a fun activity and it's a great way for the kids to learn colors.

No. 5 :: Crayons & Colored Pencils

Kinda obvious, but I thought I'd list it anyway. I don't do markers at our house because they get it all over the table and their hands which makes clean up time longer. I also have a one year old who puts everything in his mouth, so at least crayons and pencils give me a bit of time to grab it out of his hands before it gets everywhere.

No. 6 :: Wooden Toys: Blocks, Numbers, Letters

Target had a little block set in the dollar section which had letters on them, so I grabbed it. I also got this cute wooden puzzle of numbers from IKEA that the boys are loving. It's such a fun way of learning things together. Wooden toys are also durable and when you have boys, that is a BIG bonus.

No. 7 :: Snacks

We have these in our home regardless, but back to school season is a great time to stock up on healthy snacks with all the sales going on. I am buying our favorite snacks in bulk when I see them because a penny saved is a penny earned, am I right?

No. 8 :: Educational Apps 

We have an iPad dedicated to "education." While some parents are strictly no electronics, but we chose to not be so strict. We opted this to go this route because Felix is an interactive learner and this is another form of interactive learning that works for us. Here are several apps that we're currently loving.



MAMA'S SUPPLIES 

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No 1 :: New Glasses + Contacts 

What better excuse than the new school year to get a new pair of trendy frames or some new contacts?! I am loving these frames from discountglasses.com! Ya'll these frames are only $69.99 -- what a bargain, am I right?! I love that you can get both frames and lenses all for a super affordable price over on the Discount Glasses website AND they're still super stylish. 

They have glasses for mom, dad, and even the kids! It's super quick and simple to order and checkout once you know what pair(s) you like. I also really love that they have a 365 free shipping + return policy, so if you end up not liking your glasses, you can send them right back! 

Don't wear glasses? No problem. discountcontactlenses.com is the place for you! They offer all major contact lens brands like Acuvue, Air Optix, and Dailies. They also have a contact lens subscription service, so long gone are the days where you have to worry about the possibility of running out. 

AND GET THIS -- both sites offer first-time customers 20% off their already affordable pricing. So, at this point, there's nothing stopping you from grabbing a new pair of glasses or frames. 



No. 2 :: Planner 

I am a planner. I love having things organized and so a planner is a must for me. Between projects for my blog, day trips with the boys, appointments and family activities, I need things written down and posted everywhere. I've always been this way and it's not gonna change now that I have 3 boys, a nurse of a husband and my blogging side hustle.

No. 3 :: Coffee

I'm not gonna lie, I am an addict at this point. I have a hot cup in the morning and then an iced one in the afternoon because mom life is wild and I need a mini pick me up. We are always looking for good coffee beans and when our favorites are on sale, we stock up!

No. 4 :: Gym Membership

Decided that I'll be investing in one of these babies because mama needs some me time and that's one way to get it. Let's be real, it's also an investment into my health because having three under three has wrecked my body and the baby weight needs to come off.  


... so there you have it babes! My mini back to school guide even though I am a stay at home mom. I'm technically starting Pre-K homeschool with Felix this year, it's gonna be pretty relaxed, but we are starting! Excited to share that part of my journey through here as well!



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8.29.2019

The Blog Hotline :: Hype Around IG Algorithm & Updates

Don't buy into it -- bloggers panic every time Instagram rolls out another update and I’ve been on the Instagram since 2010 with rumors constantly going every year that IG is “cracking down” on pods & engagement pages. But you guys, it’s not true. They just want you to stay away from 3RD party apps, automated likes, etc. I mean, this is not news to anyone, it’s in their community terms and we're just trying to beat the system because the updates do impact micro-influencers negatively.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not criticizing my fellow micro-influencers for trying to be seen in a supersaturated network. I'm right there with everyone and am trying to be seen / compete too, but I am over the freakouts over the updates. I've stopped freaking out and observing what works and what doesn't. I've tried to find practical ways to engage.

Is Telegram Safe?

No. Personally, I would stay away from Telegram all together — Instagram will be able to see that you’re coming in the app and then getting out, coming back in, liking one photo at a time -- they can see this pattern even if you remove the "?igsheild-mumbojumo" part of the link! Especially when you only have 2 hours to complete a drop on telegram nd now the 24-hour groups are not practical either because you should not be liking 300+ posts at a time anyways.

Is There Hope?

Yes. I used Telegram + LikeItAll in the past and would be hit with a ban every other week as soon as IG published their, latest update. so I’m sticking to engagement pages on IG and I’ve been fine since the update with no action block just by trying to mimic actual human behavior. IG is looking for mass liking + commenting and banning people for doing that because that looks suspicious. so if you’re really wanting to be “SAFE” do not use telegram AT ALL. The key with Instagram is mimicking human behavior and not copying the link every day.

SAFE METHODS TO ENGAGE:

◎ don’t copy your link — from the browser, from the app.
◎ find threads that give you at least or more than 24 hours to engage.
complete 20 to 30 likes at a time, take a 10 min break, go back and engage.
don't exceed more than 500 likes / 300 comments a day
find threads where you have to explain what you want boosted.
on FB group threads, instead of copying the link from browser and posting it, type out instagram.com/ighandle — I’ve noticed that they hide / remove comments that are links that are copied from the browser.
TAKE BREAKS FROM LIKING
don’t do anything too fast — liking, comment, liking comments on your own photos, following, direct messaging people, etc.
make sure not all your pictures have the same amount of likes on them because followers typically like some posts more than others and if they all have the same number on them it looks like you’re engaging artificial comments + likes.
if you’re in an IG pod, don’t send the photo to the group, screenshot it
pods should have more talking and interaction throughout the day — talk, connect, don't just send emojis and photos. cultivate relationships and connections because anything else might place a flag on your account.
pods should always stay away from the word new, I’ve heard that’s been flagged — not sure if it’s true but best to be safe than be sorry.

Bottom Line

JUST BE SAFE AND ACT LIKE THE HUMAN THAT YOU ARE ON AN APP THAT HAS STARTED LOOKING MORE INTENTLY AT PATTERNED SUSPICIOUS BEHAVIOR! oh, and have fun while you’re doing it because beside the side hustle, we really should be making those connections and friends on the app too.
As always, I hope you've found this blog post helpful! I'd love to hear what you're doing to beat the algorithm, what you've observed and any tips you might have in the comments!
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8.12.2019

How To Increase Profile Instagram Views Using Stories


Hey friends, today's post is sponsored by @mainlymamas on Instagram. It's a little community I've set up on the gram & facebook to help out fellow aspiring bloggers + Instagram influencers get a bit of inside information. After a few rebrandings, I finally feel like we're off in the right direction. I'd love to have you join the community, use our resources and interact / engage with us.

Mainly.Co ::  Community + What We Offer


Instagram 

I've set up several spaces on Instagram -- @mainlymamas, @mainlyloops, and @mainlygives. I set up separate spaces because I know that everyone is looking for something different. Some people want to focus on growing their following and others want to give back to their communities. So, I wanted everyone to have a space that is beneficial to them.

I just want to note here real quick that these spaces are completely free -- all I ask is that you follow the admins as we work really hard to brainstorm relevant and new ways for you to grow & boost your numbers.

@mainlymamas

is going to focus on Instagram engagement. we'll have daily threads for users that focus on like + saves, comments and a thread for Instagram story engagement. these will all be separate threads, so you can choose what you engage in.

I know that several of these engagement groups have popped up lately, but I promise we're going to be different. I won't say how in this blog post because I've had several of my ideas stolen from other group admins in the past, but I promise you, our group will have several unique opportunities for our members once we are up and running.


L A U N C H I N G :: September 4th, 2019

Feel free to join now, so you won't miss any updates + news. We're going to have a fun giveaway in honor of our re-launch and I'd love for you to come & take part in it. 

@mainlyloops 

is a place for follow loops + trains. I created this space for people who want to grow their numbers because growing organically is nearly impossible these days. I really love supporting people on the gram, so even though there are a lot of loops on instagram already -- I'm hoping this fresh new loop bring about fresh new faces who aren't playing the follow / unfollow game.

F I R S T L O O P I S L I V E :: T O D A Y @ 1 2 P M | P S T 

come loop with us & join in on the fun. the next loop is on friday [ 8/16 ] and sign-ups to host are live on the feed as well! a few people have asked me about ghost spots and I won't be charging for ghost spots the first two weeks, instead, I'll be giving away two ghost spots each loop -- find out how YOU can get one in the captions of our loops and sign ups!

@mainlygives 

this space used to be @mainly.gifts and I hosted two successful giveaways in 2018! It was so fun, but running them on my own was hard! I had to step back once I got pregnant with baby no. three, but I'm hoping that as soon as @mainly.co & @mainlyloops take off, I will be able to start doing giveaways again. It's another way to grow our numbers, but most importantly, an amazing way to give back to our communities. 

Facebook 

FB is mainly geared towards bloggers & influencers who are wanting to expand & grow their blog and brand as a whole.  Instagram influencers are encouraged to join our FB group because we have information that is valuable to them also -- collaboration information, tips, etc. It's a space with a lot of information that you want access to!

+++ J O I N T H E F B G R O U P :: C L I C K H E R E +++



Okay, Let's Get To The Good Stuff -- Those Profile Views

So, this is a method that will double, if not triple your profile views! It's a simple little hack that works for everyone and it'll boost those numbers that are plummeting with each algorithm update.

What To Do

  share the photo you’ve just posted on your feed to your instagram story.

 then find a gif to your cover the majority of your photo — you’ve heard this one before right? well, here's where the hack part comes in!

now, move your photo & gif to the bottom of the page, & find three hashtags to describe your photo, type them out. 

⥤ next, go to where you find gifs & click on the #HASHTAG sticker, find another tag to describe your photo.

go back & add a geotag / location sticker. 
the trick here is to use major cities and a different one each time for more exposure

shrink all tags & stickers.

⥤ place them in the middle of your screen and use your post to cover them. 

⥤ now use the gif to cover your photo.

type a mini explanation that could spark someone’s interest underneath your post & publish! 

⥤ now watch your numbers & profile visits rise.

... and now watch your numbers grow! It's honestly THAT simple ladies and gentlemen. T H A T S I M P L E.  So yah! I hope this mini hack works out amazing for you, just like it did for me. Still a bit confused? Check out this graphic for a visual of these steps! 


⥥ S H A R E / P I N I T ⥥


... if you end up using this method, let me know how it worked out for you in the comments! I hope to see you over on the @mainly.co spaces and that we can engage + grow our brands together because your success is my success!


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8.01.2019

Review | Lily Jade's Jennifer Lifestyle Bag


Hi Friends! Today I'm featuring my current diaper bag from Lily Jade because I feel like it's the perfect bag for moms of multiples. It can fit supplies, snacks, bottles, a change of clothes for everyone and a few of my mom things! It's super practical and that makes this my current go-to when I'm out with all three boys.


One feature that I am really loving is the fact that it has a backpack wearing feature in addition to the shoulder straps. Before I received this bag, I really didn't think I'd like the aesthetics of the backpack look, but now that I have it, I am always carrying it on my back. It's so convenient to have both hands free and not worry about your bag when you're wrangling two toddlers and a newborn.

When I am not wearing it as a backpack, I am loving on the shoulder straps. Made from real leather, they are sturdy, strong and sleek looking. In addition to the visual appeal of the straps, one of the most important things is that they are comfortable. Long gone are the days when my shoulders hurt from carrying a bag. They are just wide enough to lay on your shoulder instead of digging into them, so that is a major bonus as well.



Now, let's talk about the inside of the bag + storage ability because this is something extremely important to me as a mom with three under three. I tend to be an over-packer, so if I can fit all the things inside, then this bag is gold.

It has two huge pockets -- one on the front and one on the back which allows me easy access for essentials like keys, phone, wallet, and chapstick. I don't have to dig into the bag for the keys and I really love that aspect of it. I am also loving that the spacious aspect of this bag -- I can fit a change of clothes for all three boys, diapers for two babies, baby wipes, bottles, burp cloths, and extra supplies with room to spare for snacks and toys! You guys.... I can fit alllllll the things! How amazing is that?!



So the final verdict is I love this bag. It's my go-to for shopping trips, park days, and outings with all my boys because I adore its spaciousness. It's the PERFECT bag for moms that have multiples and are looking to use it as a diaper bag.

I have also used this bag as a carry on when I traveled alone and let me tell you -- it was the most perfect experience. So, even if you don't have babies, this bag is super practical and multifunctional enough that you can take it with you on short trips, beach days, or on a staycation.



Lily Jade has a wide selection of bags to choose from and while my bag (the Jennifer) is the very best, I thought it would be fun to show you a few more bags that they offer. I'll be linking them below, so if you see one you like and are curious about their color options, go check it out!



No. 1 :: Packaging Cases

No. 2 :: The Anna  [ large version ◍ they also have a medium ◍ not pictured ]

No. 3 :: The Elizabeth

No. 4 :: The Lorie

No. 5 :: The Rosie

No. 6 :: The Meggan

No. 7 :: The Anne Marie

... so there you have it. A full-on review of the Lily Jade bag I own and a mini look at some of the other bags on their site. All made with full-grain leather, built to last with double-sided leather stitching so you won't have to worry about the edges cracking and peeling. These bags are not only beautiful, but they are worth every penny due to its durability, quality of production and functionality of each bag.

Each time I'm out with mine, people comment on how chic this bag looks and how nice it is that a boy mom like myself can find something to fit all my needs and still look as nice as it does. It's really a win / win for all involved.



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