Orlando Moms who Rock: Kristina Brownell
Moms who Rock highlights Orlando moms doing their thing. This week’s spotlight is on Kristina Brownell an Orlando mom, marketing manager, and jewelry maker.
Kristina Brownell headed to Orlando in 2003 to finish up school at UCF. And as many an Orlandoan will tell you, she didn’t ever picture staying here. In her senior year she did a marketing internship at a construction company. They offered her a job to stay on after graduation, about the best news a college senior could receive. As a graduation gift, her mother took her on a trip to Hawaii to visit family and learn more about her heritage. And as many a Hawaiian visitor will tell you, she immediately pictured staying there. As soon as she got back to Orlando she started planning her move. She quit her new marketing job, started applying to jobs in Hawaii, and made plans for a very big adventure.
Just before she headed out west, her two best friends came for a weekend visit. They begged her not to leave and promised to move to Orlando. Excited about the opportunity to live with her besties and have the time of her life, she agreed to postpone her move for six months. She asked her her job back and her boss agreed. And then, as fate would have it, a couple months later at work she met her future husband, Randy. Randy and Kristina have twin girls, Audrey and Parker, turning three this January. Kristina is a marketing & graphics manager for a commercial architecture firm and also the creative force behind Rockhaus Metals, a minimalist jewelry line. When we met, I was blown away by Kristina’s energy, creativity, and confidence. But she spoke honestly about the huge adjustment of becoming a mom. I found myself nodding along to so much of what she was saying. The new mom struggle always feels lonely, until I hear a fellow mama saying so many of the thing I’ve felt too.
On finding out she was pregnant with twins:
“It was totally unexpected. And it was our very first ultrasound at 8 weeks. And of course you don’t know what you’re looking at on the screen. And the doctor turns to my husband and just smiles and says ‘There’s two in there.’ My husband didn’t say anything and I started crying and laughing at the same time. It was just so absurd. It was a shock but probably one of the most exciting days of my life.”
On her desire to have a natural birth:
“Several weeks into the pregnancy, I started watching documentaries on pregnancy and childbirth and what to expect. My doctor made me feel like there was a huge chance I’d have a c-section. I didn’t have a great feeling on that and didn’t understand why [it had to be that way]. I decided I wanted to have a natural birth. And I ended up by chance meeting another OB and ended up switching over to her because she said she would deliver drug-free if that’s what I wanted.
So that was my goal the whole time. But of course anything can happen during childbirth especially with twins (they are high-risk.) I went to a chiropractor and acupuncturist all through my pregnancy. I was told I’d be induced at 38 weeks because with twins they don’t want you to carry them much longer than that. My water broke at 37 weeks and they were born the next day. I was able to have the natural delivery I wanted.”
On delivering twins without an epidural:
“It was one of those things, I kind of equate it to a marathon. A lot of it, it is obviously physical and painful , but a lot of it’s mental too. We hired a doula and she was fantastic. Unfortunately, I had a lot of people who said I was crazy for having a natural childbirth, but it lit a fire in me even more. I’m very fortunate there weren’t any complications during delivery.”
On having the confidence in herself to switch doctors:
“It was right about 12 weeks. I really didn’t know a lot about childbirth before that so I didn’t have an opinion either way about how I wanted my delivery to go. But after I started learning more about it and how I had choices about what happens that day, I just didn’t feel right anymore with my first doctor. She was so sweet and I hated leaving her but I wanted someone who was 100% behind me and my choice. It just felt right.”
On raising twins:
“We don’t know any other way. As any new mom, having a newborn is difficult. Your whole life gets turned upside down and it’s brand new and you’re trying to get to know this new human in your life. But yeah, having two it was extremely difficult. We were very lucky my mom came to live with us for three months. There’s no way we could’ve done it without her.”
On surviving the first year of motherhood:
“I was terrified of being left alone with them because it’s so hard. You’re trying to adjust to this new life. You’d have two screaming crying infants at the same time, but you can’t pick them both up at the same time to console them. There would be days I’d be alone with them and one would start crying then the other would start crying then I would start crying. The first year was survival mode. Once they turned about nine months it started getting a little easier and by a year I felt like, ‘Ok, we got through this’ and from then on it’s been getting easier and easier.”
On having a partner 100% of the way:
“My husband is amazing. Having two infants at once he was 100% there all hands on deck. Every time we had to get up in the middle of the night he got up with me. I was breastfeeding and he got them out of the crib so I could tandem feed them. He had to go back to work but was still getting up multiple times a night to feed them with me. I knew he would be a great dad and it’s not that it surprised me but it just makes you love that person even more. He’s been the best partner.”
On raising toddlers:
“The girls are almost three. They are now just starting to play with each other and have little conversations. Their imaginations are going wild and we love to sit back and watch them play. We laugh all the time because they say the most hilarious silly things. Then we find ourselves saying something later and realize, oh I guess they got that from us.”
“We’re at a turning point where it’s easier to take the kids out. They’re little people now and it’s so much fun to introducing them to new things. Just a trip to the park is the greatest thing in the entire world to them.”
On recognizing she needed a change:
“Over the summer I reached this point where I wasn’t happy with who I was at home. I was losing my temper easily and I wasn’t handling situations very well. It wasn’t me. So I decided I needed to go get some help. I ended up going to therapy and it was really helpful being able to have somebody remind me that it’s okay and you don’t have to be perfect and to really take some time for yourself. That was a big thing for me this summer.”
In support of therapy:
“I hate that there’s a stigma about therapy . But it is hard work being a mom! This is my advice: if you are struggling and you don’t feel like you can handle it, or you’re not your true self or who you used to be, you’re totally not alone. Anyone who says they’re not struggling is lying. There’s help out there and you can go talk to somebody. You’ve got to heal yourself and be your best self if you’re gonna be the best mom.”
On deciding to learn to metalsmith:
“About a year and a half in as a mom, I still felt like I didn’t know who I was. I had a great job, and of course my most important job as a mom. But then I also just felt lost. My husband was like, ‘You don’t do anything for yourself anymore. You don’t have hobbies. When you go out without the girls it’s for errands or you have dinner with friends it’s not just for you. You need your creative outlet again.’ So somehow that led me down this road of metalsmithing.”
Kristina had painted in the past and always had some sort of a creative outlet. So she searched for classes online to learn to metalsmith. And she found a woman who taught out of her home. It was ideal, she was extremely flexible so it didn’t take time away from raising her girls. This was a year and a half ago, and she immediately fell in love. After friends saw what she had made they pushed her to sell them. Since the tools and equipment were expensive, she thought the sales could fund her new hobby. Rockhaus Metals was born.
On her first sale from a stranger:
“That was crazy. I thought for sure I have to know this person. It was like I’ve made it! Somebody who doesn’t know me thinks my stuff is cool. It’s such an amazing feeling.”
On finding community in an unexpected way:
“I think the most surprising thing is the local small business, creative, and maker community that I’ve met, via other jewelers or through instagram, and the overwhelming support and friendships that I’ve made as a result. I never would’ve thought finding this new hobby would turn into a business and feeling so connected to people in Orlando. That’s certainly the most fulfilling part of this.”
On when a hobby adds to the stress instead of releasing it:
“This was a whirlwind and I went really hard and put as much into it as I could. But then it became too much. I’m a mom and wife and I have a full-time job. At some point this summer, I started to feel overwhelmed. I was doing too much that I couldn’t focus on and handle. So the past few months I haven’t been working on Rockhaus quite as much. It sucks because I love just sitting and making jewelry. But the only time I have to do it is when the girls are sleeping, and most days by that time I’m exhausted.”
On not comparing yourself to others:
“I stepped back a little bit. I stopped looking at social media all the time. I didn’t realize it but it made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough. I was comparing myself to other people and feeling like I’m not out there enough. I had to step back and tell myself that I don’t do Rockhaus full-time. I need to be kinder to myself and enjoy this. So I’ve recently started spending more time at my jewelry bench and I feel ready to get back into it. But at a different pace. You have to remind yourself that you can’t do everything and it’s okay.”
It’s true we can’t do everything, but Kristina knows that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything. She’s an amazing mama who puts her family first and is finding time to follow her creative dreams as well. Without a doubt, she’s a Mom who Rocks the Haus. (Yes, cheesy but I had to take it.)
Want to read about other moms who rock? Check out our interview with Laura Diaz!