Interviewing the #UndauntedWoman: Maria Hernandez

Welcome back to my "Interviewing the Undaunted Woman" post series! In these monthly interviews, I'll be talking with women YOU nominate, asking hard questions about how your favorite undaunted women became the strong and admirable humans they are today. It's amazing how much life can change us, and it doesn't take some big huge story to become Undaunted. Sometimes it's in the little things too - the drive to keep going, to keep trying, to keep surviving. Every woman has a story, and I'm thrilled to get to share those stories here - so let's jump right in and welcome our Undaunted Woman for October 2017, Maria Hernandez.

This lovely lady and I have been chatting back and forth for most of this month, sharing stories and little bits about ourselves, and while I'm thankful for her patience as I've had lots of other life stuff of my own going on, I'm also so excited that she agreed to be interviewed despite her nervousness.

Welcome to the blog, Maria! Tell me about yourself - what's your story, and how did you become an undaunted woman?
I am a mother of three. An 8 yr old boy, a 2.5 yr old girl, and a 1.5 yr old girl. I was a registered early childhood educator, before having my second child, and became a stay-at-home-mom after. I am married to a project engineer who works in the automation industry, and spends a lot of time travelling. While these are the most prominent picture I share of who I am, there’s plenty more that makes me who I am. Being a mother, makes me feel an undaunted woman, but perhaps, it’s more than that. I’ve never really heard of this word, outside of its prefix. But I feel, I am an undaunted woman, for my strength to overcome and undergo hard situations in life.

This year, I found out I have postpartum depression mixed with postpartum anxiety & ocd. I may have had anxiety, depression and later on ocd growing up, just never really been able to name it or get diagnosed until this year. I had my last child a year and a half ago, and only found out after my third child turned 1. It has been a struggle and continuous battle trying to cope and deal with PPD. For someone who knew nothing about Postpartum Depression, or what that means, it was a hard realization. But I’m dealing with it, the best I can.

My past contributes to this illness. I grew up in the Philippines until I was about nine. I grew up with my aunt (father’s sister-in-law), because he had left to come to Canada when I was just three. I am also adopted. I was adopted at the age of ‘eight months’. I grew up with my cousins, always being the black sheep, not being able to categorize with everyone else. I struggled with the social aspect of growing up, not being to relate to most children and the usual lifestyles of a well-loved, and taken care child.

After coming to Canada, to live with my father, I struggled to have the relationship one should or usually has with their parent/s. As I got older, and began to exercise my own understanding of the world and the experiences that come with that, it separated my father and I even more. In high school, I ended up in the foster care system for a year, and that set the foundation to my ideal future.

I ended up partying a lot in high school, even getting into marijuana, smoking and binge drinking all underage (19 or less) of the legal age in Canada. It became the ‘thing’ that helped me forget my feelings and emotions about the things happening in my life - inconsistencies and unhappiness.

Just after I turned 18, I began dating my now, husband. At 21, we would have a child, unplanned, but would take the responsibility and do our best. It was the most challenging thing in the world at the time. We didn’t know how to move forward from being teens to now being responsible adults raising a child. Our relationship suffered a lot of challenges but we made it to the other side, still together. I didn’t have have the best beginning with his parents, and even to this day, there’s still a bit of that, that lingers.

But here I am now, 11 years later with my husband, a house, two cars and a lifestyle one can only dream to have. I am blessed, but I have a life that's not perfect. I have scars, some still fresh wounds, like the topic of my birth parents, or the guilt and continuous nag that crawls my skin of not being a good enough person, to be a mother of three. But I live day-in and day-out, giving my best.

That's quite a story! Have you ever struggled with confidence and/or self-worth? If yes, how did you overcome that struggle - and if no, how did you avoid it?
I did for a bit as a child. But as I got older, I learnt to build ‘thick skin' for life’s challenges. I still struggle with self-worth, but it may just be my postpartum depression kicking in. I try to live an honest life, whether that means always sharing unfiltered thoughts about life, or maintaining honest relationships in my life. Many see me as a rude b*tch, but most appreciate my ability to speak my mind truthfully.

I can definitely relate to that! What is the one thing you've survived that makes you feel most like an "undaunted woman?"
My childhood. It was a lot of struggle, and it still haunts me. But I feel for the most part, it really strengthened me and how I see the world, and how I present myself to everyone.

What aspect of your current life do you find most rewarding?
I feel accomplished. Being one that rarely conforms to society's expectations and doing things how I feel is right for me, allows me to live my life according to who I am and what I want out of it.

And what is your favorite successful strategy or coping mechanism for dealing with challenging people or situations? How is that strategy impacted by what you've survived?
Though I vouch myself to be strong-willed, and honest, there is still a big part of me, who has a weak heart for a lot of people who I value. Sometimes that means, being less vocal and more understanding. I have a good heart. I try to really lead with my heart, because I’m used to leading with my head. Being more emotionally understanding, helps my relationships or thread of communication with others who share challenging behaviours find a median.

What other woman do you most admire, and why?
I’m not really sure, if there’s a specific woman I admire. But most of the time, I find myself leaning towards strong characters in films. But if there’s anything I mostly admire are moms, in general. The amount of love that pours out of a mother, and the strength that comes with that territory. I admire how strong women are, in general and how we are slowly changing the world.

Me too - we moms don't tend give ourselves nearly enough credit, do we? Alright then, what one quality serves you best as an undaunted woman?
Having been through a lot of hardships and understanding where the line is with my limitations, and expectations, really brings about contentment and satisfaction on my end. Always leading with the ability to understand and intellectually share my thoughts with honesty, brings about a character most people that know me seem to admire of me.

And what one quality are you most looking to improve in yourself?
Patience. I have very low patience, easy to anger, and it can get in the way of progress in my day-to-day life. I hope to really find coping ways, to deal with situations that trigger negative outbursts from me. Though, this may also be a contribution from postpartum depression.

If you could do any one thing right now to help other women become undaunted, what would you be doing?
Motivational speaking. I feel most women I speak to, whether they are my friends or acquaintances, and even strangers, always leave my conversation with them, with a spark of courage and motivation in their heart. I am actually writing an autobiography book on my life, in hopes to inspire others and find hope in life no matter the circumstance.

That's an amazing way to share your story with women who could be touched by it! And speaking of motivational speaking, if you could stand in front of every woman on the planet right now and speak into their hearts, what would you most want to say to them?
We all have struggles. Life will always challenge us to live a life to its fullest, overcoming its obstacles, making it worth every bit and never having regrets that we didn’t live. So when you look at yourself and you think you are not good enough, worth it, or capable, YOU ARE! The power we have within us is activated, by kindness, love and versatility. Being able to take on challenges, and working through them allows one to express their strengths, and to gain experience for themselves.

Do not let others mold you, because you being you is the best anyone can have of you. If you’re a mom, remember the seasons in your life that seem so chaotic and excessively hard, is exactly just that, A SEASON. It won’t be long, and all the hard work and stress, and sleep deprivation, and crying, and worry you have will soon ease because they will grow. What you give and teach them, it will stick, over time, when time requires them to remember all the values you’ve taught them. Remember, while women may be viewed as graceful, poised, and taken for a weak human, we are everything more. Empower other women, lift-up other women with kind words, and an open heart. We can change the future of our kids, by setting examples, which will contribute to change the world one love, at a time.

Thanks for being here, Maria! I'm amazed by your story and especially by your beautiful perspective. I've been having a rough go of things lately myself, and reading through your answers to my interview questions has inspired me as well. Thank you for having the courage to participate even when you weren't sure your story was big enough to share!

And to my readers: Thank you for being here! I love being able to share these interviews - it's such a blessing to be able to help share my little spotlight with other women who have stories of their own to tell! Let us hear from you in the comments; tell us your favorite part of the interview, or how you feel that Maria's story relates to your own.

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