When Nina Garcia found out she was expecting her first child she bought all the books and signed up for all the classes. But, as she remembers it, “there's a difference between knowing it in your head and actually experiencing it.”
She went into labor in the middle of the night, and from that moment on nothing was quite like what she’d expected.
No matter how much she prepared, and no matter how much she deeply loved and was grateful for her beautiful son, parenthood was still a shock to the system. She was thrown. “I miss my old life,” she thought. “Will this ever get better?”
She didn’t really know.
Like most intense changes in our lives, it doesn’t matter that millions or even billions have experienced them before – what is also universal is that in those first moments we often still feel utterly and completely alone.
But then, while searching for answers in the middle of the night, Nina discovered blogs and forums where moms were sharing their honest experiences.
She wasn’t alone.
She decided to become part of the conversation too.
On March 4, 2010, she started her own blog, sleepingshouldbeeasy.com. The name was inspired by sleep-deprived musings she and her husband shared about the irony that something as natural as sleep could cause so much turmoil in their lives.
You'd think that something like sleeping – something that comes so naturally and is such a necessary part of your day – would be easy. You would think that babies would just fall asleep, but of course it's not the case. That was sort of the irony of it. I was like, ‘It should be easy.’ But of course it's not in the beginning.
She blogged weekly for years, with no intention of it ever becoming more than a way to build community and maybe help another mom out there feel less alone.
Then she got news from a doctor that would change everything.
“We're fine with one.”
Nina and her husband both came from big families, so when they decided to start a family they hoped to eventually have four kids.
But after their first son was born, Nina changed her mind. “I think I’m good with one,” she told her husband.
One sounded good.
But when their son was almost three years old, the inkling to have just one more rose up for Nina. They’d try for just one more, a sibling for their son.
“There's a difference between knowing it in your head and actually experiencing it.”
They were thrilled when she got pregnant.
At the first sonogram, the doctor came in to tell Nina some news.
She was not going to have one baby.
She was going to have two.
The Instagram version of this story would include feelings of being hashtag blessed and grateful, and those feelings would come in spades for Nina – she knew what a brutal journey many go through just to conceive one child in their lifetime.
But if only the sufferings of others tempered our own in the moment; life just doesn’t work that way, and I’m honored that Nina shares the truth of what she felt when she first found out – the kind of truth you usually only hear behind closed doors, sitting on living room rugs with your best friends.
“I was devastated,” she tells me honestly. “That first week, I cried every day.”
She was overwhelmed with questions.
How will my body take to carrying two babies?
How will we afford two babies?
She thought about all they had gone through with their first and couldn’t fathom doubling that.
And when she started googling “twin pregnancy bellies” she became even more terrified of what was to come.
“I literally threw my phone across the room,” she remembers.
In those early days, she was consumed with one daunting question: “How am I going to do this?”
“My ultimate dream was to earn $200 a month.”
With the help of friends, family, forums, and blogs, Nina got through it. She had two healthy twin boys and was so grateful for her family of five.
But money was tight.
All the income she was making from her day job in graphic design was going toward childcare.
As her kids got older, she longed to do things like take them to the zoo, but they simply couldn’t afford it.
Then she remembered her blog.
At this point she’d been blogging for five years and had made some sporadic money from ads.
She knew some people made a full-time living from their blogs; maybe she could find a way to make just enough money to take her kids to the zoo and do other fun things?
My ultimate dream was to earn $200 a month.
So for a year, while raising her kids and working a full-time job, Nina dedicated her nights and weekends to building her blog.
She never felt burnt out; she loved it.
If I was at home then I would be working on the blog. I guess you just find the time, if it's something that's really important to you.
For me that was willingly saying ‘no’ to a lot of things that frankly were not even that interesting. But I'm a homebody. I love being on the computer and writing and doing all the quirky website stuff. It was a source of joy for me. It was never a battle of ‘How will I squeeze this in?’ Or ‘I have to drag myself out of bed to do this.’ It was never that way. It still isn't. It's not something I ever dread.
Between ads and a company that reached out to have her do a sponsored post on infant cushions to help babies sleep better, she felt like she’d reached her “ultimate dream”, making almost $200 in her first month (to this day she still remembers the exact amount: $197.52).
A few months later, with the goal of learning more about how to make consistent income with her blog, she invested in what was then a new online course called Elite Blog Academy. Nina remembers how the very act of even paying for the course shifted her mindset.
I'm invested in this; I'm going to put everything I have into it.
She applied everything she learned from the course, focused on increasing her traffic through Google, Pinterest, and SEO, and kept writing about her experience being a mom of three.
There was also something the instructor of the course, Ruth Soukup, said in April 2015 that stuck with Nina:
‘Imagine if you could quit your job a year from now.’
Nina never planned to quit her job.
But then, as the year went on, her mom – who helped out a lot with the kids and childcare – got sick and had to be hospitalized.
Nina felt like she constantly had to ask for time off work to pick up her kids from school, and she started to feel the strain.
She hated having to ask for someone else's permission to take care of her kids.
Ruth had planted a seed that Nina’s frustrations with her job began to water, and she couldn’t help but start to dream an impossible dream: What if I could quit my job?
“Those first few months were so tinged with fear.”
Nina worked even harder on her blog, using all her spare time, implementing all the strategies she was learning.
A year after buying the course, her income grew steadily, and was close to matching her full-time income, but not quite there yet. She just needed a little more time.
At that same time, her childcare costs rose so high that she wondered if it might make more financial sense to quit her job now to take care of her kids and work on the blog.
Six years after starting her blog, and one year and one month after Ruth inspired her to dream bigger, Nina quit her job.
She couldn't wait to see what would happen with her blog when she went all in, working on it as her full-time job.
It was indeed a dream come true.
It was also a bit of a nightmare.
“Those first few months were so tinged with fear,” she remembers. With her predictable income gone, the steady paycheck was swiftly replaced with steady worry.
It almost felt like if I worried enough about it, then at least I wouldn’t be disappointed if something bad does happen. I was trying to beat worry to the punch.
To stifle the constant barrage of worry, she took freelance jobs from her former employer to supplement the income gap between her blog income and her old paycheck.
The freelance work helped silence her worry for a while, but after five months of freelancing, she realized her blog had stalled.
She hadn’t grown her blog income by even one penny despite working on the blog “full-time” for months; she was still earning the same amount she’d been earning when she worked on it part-time.
The whole point of leaving the job was so that I would increase the blog’s income now that I had more time for it.
She'd really wanted to see what would happen when she gave it her all, but was struggling to get there. First worry took over, and now freelance.
She was disappointed in herself.
“Imagine if you could quit your job a year from now?”
She’d love to say she got bold and decided to take the big risk and say no to freelance and yes to going all in on her blog – but being responsible for three kids is no joke. The true story is that there was no big leap, no big revelation.
The freelance work just dried up.
And she’d be lying if she said she wasn’t terrified when it did.
But the month she lost her freelancing work was also the month her blog income finally jumped.
If she wanted the freedom, she also needed to get comfortable with the instability.
Each month, it increased.
Sometimes it decreases, too. But Nina started to shift her interpretation of the instability that had paralyzed her when she first started – she realized the instability was not a reflection on her, her worth, or even her blog’s potential.
Once she realized that there will never be this I made it, I’m never going to have to worry again feeling, the worry started to dissipate.
And the more the fear faded, the more her income grew.
When you're always operating from that fear mindset, you're inhibited. You're not able to think creatively about what you can offer, how you can change your business, or how you can grow your business.
You're always turning to the past like, ‘Oh I wish I had the stability of that paycheck,’ rather than thinking creatively; ‘Okay, well how can I turn this business or this blog into something that makes my salary or more?’
She realized that the only way she was going to make this work is to accept the fact that if she wanted the freedom, she also needed to get comfortable with the instability.
It’s always going to be unstable. That's just the essence of being an entrepreneur. It's not going to be consistent paychecks every month. But, rather than seeing it as a source of fear, I try to see it now with excitement and faith.
“A lot of the times people buy from you after they've known you.”
With renewed commitment, Nina went all in, and in April 2017 she replaced her full-time salary.
She did that primarily through making her own products, like ebooks and courses, and selling them through her email list, which she says helped a ton when her blog traffic started to dip due to changing search algorithms.
Because I constantly run sales on my digital products to my email list every month, I didn't suffer the effects of it as drastically as I would without it.
It's not a coincidence that the Mondays I send my newsletters out are also my highest traffic days.
Now she’s even working on turning her most popular email newsletters into an ebook.
One of my favorite things to do is writing my weekly newsletters…you're not beholden to Google Search terms or what's popular. I see it as more like the personal side of me. I'm able to just share advice and insights that probably won't make for good SEO, but it really touches lives and impacts people.
And that personal relationship Nina builds with her audience is also what helps her sell her products. “A lot of the times people buy from you after they've known you, after they've had several emails from you.”
But what she loves most is getting the email replies like this:
Wow, you read my mind. How did you know? Every time I open your email it's exactly what I'm going through.
Nina’s work helps moms feel less alone.
And no matter the instability or what may come next, she's thankful that she took the leap, because in addition to the freedom and income, it gave her something precious – five words that she now carries wherever she goes, an immutable fact: “Oh, I can do this.”