PARENTING WITH ANXIETY BY CAROLYN STACK MATERNAL WELLNESS RN
I am so excited to share this piece today for so many reasons.
It will 100 percent help every mom dealing with anxiety that will read this
It will help those be better support systems to those who are living with anxiety
It’s written by my sisters best friend who is basically my older sister because being four years younger than your sister makes all her BFFS your sisters as well. Carolyn seriously makes every person around her laugh and smile. She has a larger than life personality that makes you just simply want to be near her at all times. When you read Carolyn’s story below you will find that she lives with anxiety but it does not define her. She has dedicated her life to help those around her.
Carolyn is a Maternal Wellness Nurse at The Center for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, NJ. One of only 10 comprehensive programs in the entire country for PMADS. She is a two time survivor of Postpartum Anxiety, Intrusive Thoughts and Birth Trauma. She is a maternal mental health advocate and a peer group facilitator for The Bloom Foundation for Maternal Wellness. She lives at the Jersey Shore with her 2 little boys and amazing unicorn of a husband who helped her out of the dark.
Parenting with Anxiety: Coming Along for the Ride.
You know that meme about anxiety that goes something like, “Hold on. I’ve gotta overthink about it.” ? That’s pretty much me. The majority of the time. In some form, anxiety has always accompanied me on my journeys. Sometimes in the back seat quietly peaking its head up over my shoulder every once in while, and other times, like when I suffered from severe postpartum anxiety and intrusive thoughts, it has been the pilot of this ship. For the most part, I had a pretty good handle on my anxiety in my early 30’s. Life was moving along nicely. That was until I had kids. There’s nothing like babies and kids and pregnancy and childbirth and PARENTHOOD to wake up that backseat driver and push you right out of the front seat. But if you have anxiety as a parent it doesn't mean you have to always be teetering on the edge - holding on for dear life from that shriveled up fossilized french fry you've found lodge into the carseat. Postpartum goddess and guru, Karen Kleinman, author of Dropping the Baby and Other Scary Thoughts, says it best: “Recognizing and understanding your anxiety might mean the difference between unnecessary suffering and healthy coping.”
So what does parenting with anxiety mean for me? It means a lot of self care. And I don't mean in the form of manicures and massages and GNO’s (although don't get me wrong - these are important much needed time outs that can FEED your soul). I’m talking about the type of self care that involves doing the hard work, the heavy lifting. For me it means still going to therapy every other Monday to make myself accountable for my anxiety and to figure out what I can do to make it better. It means that I do a lot of checking in, grounding and mindfulness when I feel my brain going to that place. Stoping. Taking a deep breath. Fact checking what my brain is telling me vs what is really going on. ANXIETY IS A LIAR, and when we take the power away from our thoughts, they become that, just thoughts.
If I feel my heart starting to race or a tightness in my chest, it means pressing pause on whatever I'm doing and (if possible) splashing some water on my face, sticking my head in the freezer ( silly sounding but totally effective), or using some yummy smelling hand cream to get in touch with my five senses and to ground myself back to the present.
Sometimes doing my best also means taking medication. There is SO MUCH stigma around medication - everyone, everywhere wants to be the one who “doesn’t need it” - myself included for a long time. I would advocate for everyone else, but when it was my turn to take that little white pill I’d come up with every excuse in the book. My favorite analogy for taking medication for anxiety goes something like this: “I wear glasses. Can I manage without glasses? Well, yes, probably. I could squint a lot, constantly move up close to anything I want to see…I could just accept that I’ll never be able to see eagles flying in the sky or whales jumping out of the ocean.But why? Why try so hard to manage life when I could just put on a pair of glasses? No one would ever suggest a near-sighted person should just work harder. No one would say ‘Maybe that’s just your normal’ to someone that needs glasses. They would say ‘Let’s go to the eye doctor and get you a prescription so you’re able to see again.’ So, I’m here to tell you its ok. Its ok to take medication. Its one tool in your toolbox. It doesn't make you weak. It makes you strong, mama.
Sleep. I know that sleep is huge for me, so making sure that I get at least seven hours a night is a must. No screen time right before bed (easier said than done) so my mind can relax. I found checking Insta or FB right before I went to bed made my mind race with all sorts of thoughts. Find a little nighttime ritual that sets your body up for a deep sleep. We play ambient sounds thru Alexa and use some lavender spray on the sheets before bed. You could always put on your essential oils diffuser or do a quick mindful meditation thru one of many free apps available. I LOVE Insight Timer and Calm!
Lets go back to social media for a second, I know that this can be a huge trigger for me and a lot of other parents. Social media can be amazing and give us a support system and help us connect with other parents - just like in this platform. I find personally and professionally, that social media can also be fuel for the fire. I refuse to read sad or upsetting stories about babies and children. It doesn't make you a bad person to not read it - you must protect yourself - JUST KEEP ON SCROLLING! It’s like a social media version of ear muffs.
Exercise and clean eating is also a must to keep my anxiety at bay. It’s no secret that exercise helps improve our mood thru the release of endorphins. This was a major hurdle for me, but something that I had to commit to because I knew how important it was to my over all mental health. Doing some moderate to light exercise 3 x week makes me feel more level headed and clear. It makes me feel like a good mom! I’m not talking about anything crazy (but if that’s your thing by all means go for it). For me, it is 20 mins on the bike or a 30 min jog in the park. Just pushing your stroller around the block or getting out in the fresh air and running around with your kids at the park can be invigorating. And it’s a win/win for everyone involved.
Here’s another tough one: learning how to say NO and then doing it! If you’re anything like me you're a people pleaser and you want to do all of the things, all of the time. There would be some weekends we’d look at the calendar and see that we had committed ourselves to too many things, and that would send me into a complete tailspin and my anxiety would go into overdrive. I had to learn to under schedule. CRINGE. To say no to that second birthday party in 1 day or that playdate when your kid had a crappy night sleep, or your husband’s brother’s girlfriend’s BBQ that interferes with bedtime. Its OK to say NO!
And the big finale - the concept of radical acceptance. For years, I fought the fact that I was an anxious person. If someone mentioned that I was anxious, I’d almost physically wince. I’d get defensive and angry. When I was struggling with severe Postpartum Anxiety after my first was born, it took me OVER A YEAR to accept help. When I finally completely and totally accepted that anxiety was a part of my life and probably always would be— I stopped letting it define me. I was no longer an “anxious parent”. I was a parent who had anxiety - along with a long list of other wonderful traits.
So what am I saying? - I’m saying OWN IT. Talk about it - speak its name. Call yourself out. Tell your family and friends whats going on - they can’t begin to understand if they are left in the dark. I also started finding the humor in it. “Anxious mom, over here!” I’d say if the after school playground banter turned to something that would start to make my heart race. And you know what? I realized when I let my guard down - that I wasn't alone. That there are plenty of other parents out there having the same struggles, and we are all just doing our best and TRYING to do our best for our kids. At the end of the day, healthy moms equal healthy families and we owe it to ourselves and our children to be present and available.
Carolyn is a Maternal Wellness Nurse at The Center for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, NJ. One of only 10 comprehensive programs in the entire country for PMADS. She is a two time survivor of Postpartum Anxiety, Intrusive Thoughts and Birth Trauma. She is a maternal mental health advocate and a peer group facilitator for The Bloom Foundation for Maternal Wellness. She lives at the Jersey Shore with her 2 little boys and amazing unicorn of a husband who helped her out of the dark.
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SOMETIMES WE CAN FEEL LIKE THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD IS ON OUR SHOULDERS ,SELF CARE IS SO IMPORTANT. WHAT I LOVE ABOUT PERSONAL TRAINING WITH COUNTDOWN FITNESS FOR BUSY MOMS ARE 30 MINUTE SESSIONS , THE SLOW BURN METHOD (THINK TONING TO THE MAX) & ONCE A WEEK TRAINING. COUNTDOWN FITNESS IS OWNED BY A TODDLER DAD SO HE GETS IT! YOU CAN CHECK OUT THE WEBSITE, HERE.
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INNERLIGHT OFFERS SELF CARE ON ALL LEVELS FOR MOMS. THEY OFFER ‘INFARED SAUNAS’ WHICH PROVIDE HEALING BENEFITS AND ARE CLINICALLY PROVEN TO DECREASE INFLAMMATION, BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM, AND ASSIST THE BODY IN IT’S NATURAL DETOXIFICATION PROCESS. AT ILW YOU CAN ALSO FIND THE ‘STUDIO’ WHERE COACHING SERVICES AND WELLNESS EVENTS ARE HELD. THERE ARE SO MANY GREAT OPTIONS FOR NEW MOMS. NEED SOME CBD? YOU CAN ALSO PICK IT UP IN THEIR STORE. THE OWNER IS A TWIN MAMA!
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After our engagement, my good friend sent Ray a list of questions she asked Ray to answer so she could share them at my bachelorette. They were pretty simple questions. She read the question out loud and I had to guess what his answer were. Hearing his answers was one of the most special moments of my wedding season. Reading them this afternoon brought a smile to my face, that time in my life feels like decades ago. It seemed to be just what I needed.
I want to start out by saying, if you are struggling in your marriage you are not alone. Many women can relate and have been there. I can confidently say both new moms and seasoned moms have as well. Sometimes it can feel like you are all alone, you might often wonder if the distance you feel between yourself and someone you once called your best friend is normal, or if you have bigger issues to tackle.
If you are feeling like you don't know how you can get through this week or month or year.....I'm here to tell you that you can. Having babies is a wonderful thing but it can also flip your world upside down. We deal with crazy hormonal changes, grow an actual human, birth that human and then pretty much don't sleep for ten or so years. It's normal in my opinion to go through some serious growing pains in the relationship department. Don't be too hard on yourself and take one day at a time, it's NEVER to EARLY to reach out for help.
I'm no expert but I spoke with one and here are some tips she wanted me to share:
-Plan a date night with just the two of you once a month and leave your phones at home. If there are triggers that create conflict in your relationship agree not to talk about them during date night.
-Double date. Sometimes being around others will make you realize, "Hey, my spouse is fun :)” and you will naturally avoid most triggers mentioned above. Go out with other couples!
-Put the kids down and have a meal together once a week while sitting across from one another, no phones or television. Eye contact is key so make sure you are sitting across from one another, not next to each other.
-Focus on physical touch....holding hands, cuddling, kissing, sex (I know your exhausted but physical connection is so important)
-Plan an activity together once a quarter or twice a year without the kids that will incorporate some sort of team building. Cooking class, workout class, hike, wine tasting. Think 'something fun' where you will work together.
-If you can get away for a weekend or longer once a year without the kids, do it.
-If you have older memories of when you were in a better place, revisit them…what did you love about your spouse at that time?
I will be having a mom and a professional both share in-depth articles in the near future that will really get into marital issues after kids. For now, I wanted to give you some takeaways and let you know you are not alone.
I also want to share the question + answer game I briefly discussed above. I encourage you to try and get your husbands to play along. Send them the questions below. Have them answer them but don't have them show you. Then when you are together at date night have them ask you the questions and try and guess what they typed out. I know it sounds super corny but I promise it will get you laughing + connecting. If that’s something you haven't done in a while it could be a nice activity. Remind your husband that this is important to you. It might take some negotiating :)
Below you can find the list of questions to share with your spouse and here are Ray's answers ….from 2014:
What date did you meet Liz? March 17th, 2011
Where did Liz and you go on your first date? Well technically we went to Morimoto, but you can’t really count that, back then she wouldn’t go out with me alone for about two months (group dates only), so our first "real" date was at Locanda Verde, the same place we went after we got engaged
Where was your first kiss? On the lips. Just kidding. It was at Morimoto, about 30 minutes before we got kicked out
Describe your first impression of Liz in one word. Stunning (it’s Liz chiming in real quick…. I remembered this and I answered funny and then I also answered funny for the next one. Then I soon realized Ray doesn’t actually think I’m funny) lol
What's your favorite quality of Liz's personality? (ie - funny, trustworthy, kind, hardworking...) if I had to choose just one, I would say her loyalty/trustworthiness
What's your favorite body part of Liz? I’ll keep this PG and say her eyes...but I really love her butt. Don't say this in front of my 100-year-old grandmother, please.
What thing does Liz do that annoys you the most? when she doesn’t clean up after herself/leaves dirty pans on the stove
If you could get rid of one item of Liz's clothing what would it be? Sports bras. All of them.
What item of clothing would Liz throw away for you? That already happened. Nothing was left behind and she dresses me now. But prob her ex-boyfriend's t-shirt that I am actually wearing as I type this
What's Liz's most embarrassing moment? (if you can think of it) When she accidentally walked out of her apartment naked and locked herself out. I'd like to note that this was before she met me
Who is the one celebrity you would be worried Liz would leave you for? Prob Ronaldo Christiano, the soccer player
How many kids will you and Liz have? I say two, she says at LEAST 4. We will prob meet in the middle.
If you and Liz had a perfect day in NYC, what one place would you have had to visit? I actually think this is your hardest question and I am going to give you a very indirect answer. Before I met Liz, I was a lazy person not really living my life. I would get generally drunk on weekend nights and sit in my apartment all day watching TV. She taught me how to embrace this city and explore every corner of it. My favorite times with Liz are when we start out going for a walk and end up discovering the city for the next 6 hours, and I love that we have taken that zest for life and exploring to so many other parts of the world together. So there really isn’t one place, but I credit her with not only changing the way I appreciate this city but the way that I live my life. She will prob say Five Points for brunch...
If you could live anywhere in the world with Liz where would it be? California. Cheesy answer, but we both want to do it
What moment did you know Liz was your main squeeze for life? After our relationship continued to persevere through a lot of challenges early on (you guys remember Liz when she was a single 25-year-old right? juuussttt kidding), I knew it was for a reason, and we continued to grow closer. I’m not sure when it exactly happened for me, but the deciding factor was that I simply never wanted to do anything without her, and it was the first time in my life that I have ever felt this way. Whether it was happy hour, watching a movie, or going to watch football with friends at a bar, I always wanted her by my side no matter what, and I had NEVER been like that before, that is how I knew. My life is simply better when she is alongside me.
Reading that brought me back to the us before kids. I wonder how it would sound now :) You can find the questions below to send to your significant other xx Keep a lookout for the in-depth relationship post from both a mom & an expert coming soon.
QUESTIONS TO SEND TO SIGNIFICANT OTHER
What date did you meet?
Where did you go on your first date with your wife?
Where was your first kiss?
Describe your first impression of your wife in one word
What's your favorite quality of your wife’s personality?
What's your favorite body part of your wife?
What thing does your wife do that annoys you the most?
if you could get rid of one item of your wife’s clothing what would it be?
What item of clothing would she throw away of yours?
What's your wife’s most embarrassing moment? (if you can think of it)
Who is the one celebrity you would be worried your wife would leave you for?
How many kids will you and your wife have?
If you and your wife had a perfect day, what one place would you have had visited?
If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
What moment did you know your wife was your main squeeze for life?
BABIES & RELATIONSHIPS
Hope Is Not A Strategy....Until It is Written by: Krysten Beaven
A former colleague and great friend used to love to remind me (and our team) that “hope isn’t a strategy” when we were creating and setting our team’s objectives and goals. I heard many times throughout the years that one must use concrete, action verbs (you know, the whole "SMART" - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound statements) when creating them so that you can ultimately measure whether or not you are making progress toward and, ultimately, meeting your objectives and achieving your goals. This is helpful and works quite well in the business world. Not so much, however, when you are looking to start your family and are faced with infertility.
It was almost exactly two years ago that we began IVF (in-vitro fertilization) after extensive testing, a definitive diagnosis (something I was ultimately thankful we got as many couples suffer from “unexplained infertility”), a treatment plan and two (or was it three?) other failed less-consuming treatments. As someone who was used to leveling up when the going gets tough in order to meet professional goals I set, this whole journey to start a family threw me for a huge loop. My husband and I wanted to become parents. To put that dream into a SMART-type objective statement sounded ludicrous or at best came across as an aggressive attempt at manifestation (not to mention phrasing such a precious wish in that manner made my superstitious self squirm). This was precisely one of those times in your life when you have to give up any illusion of control and look to hope and faith. Since so, so much of the process is out of your hands when you are going through it, hope is really the one thing that you can cling to throughout.
And cling to it I did. In this fight, there were no guarantees. I vividly recall sitting in our Reproductive Endocrinologist’s (or RE’s) office, staring at her computer screen that displayed our fertility testing results and blinking back tears, wishing she would just tell us that the odds were good that we would be successful. Unfortunately, she had limited data to go on and was not able to give that type of reassurance. “But what if this doesn’t work out?”This panicked question swirled through my head multiple times per day, every day. That period when we were going between lab visits and doctor’s appointments, unsure of whether or not there would be a baby at the end of it all was a hard space to live in. I led a dual existence: going in to work each day and showing up, contributing to and being present in meetings, meeting my deliverables and gaining a clearer understanding of my professional value while personally I was spiraling into doubt and feeling “less than” as I struggled to understand why something that happens to so many people unintentionally every day was not happening for my husband and me despite all this effort. And if one more person told me to just relax…
I tried to look to the next appointment, the next step in order to maintain some optimism. It was so hard. I felt like I was walking around with a heart that was a little bit broken and I cried a lot during those days - often times while driving to and from work but also in the doctor’s office, my acupuncturist’s office and probably some other places as well and made for some awkward times. I also prayed during that time as well. I won’t say that I just went ahead and “let go and let God” - noooo I am way too much of an overthinking control freak for that but I did find myself talking to God, St. Anthony and the other patron saints of mothers and those who wished to become mothers. I also was happy to receive any communication from the universe when it came about: that time one morning after a failed treatment round, I drove into work behind a car with the license plate “ITCANB” and found it comforting.
There were so many points in the process where I was pushed to the limit of what I thought I could handle but in those instances I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and some days those steps were tiny, but they were steps nonetheless:
Being told we had to take an IVF class before we could proceed with treatment. What? Yep. We ultimately did it and were certainly not alone as the room was full of couples seeking the same end. We left there with a binder of information on all the ins and outs of IVF (and who said babies don’t come with manuals??)
The fertility drug regimen. That box filled with hella expensive medications seemed so intimidating when it arrived. We read each and every label and all of the instructions and then lived by the alarms on my phone. I also got very used to needles.
Our first round of IVF that resulted in an ectopic pregnancy. This was certainly not the outcome we had wanted but I ultimately felt encouraged that I did get pregnant. For this, I had to go to regular lab visits as well as some additional doctor’s office visits to confirm that the pregnancy was, in fact, ectopic as they closely monitored my hormone levels. Once they had final confirmation, they called me in the middle of my work day and informed me that I had to leave work to go to the hospital for treatment.
The hours I sat in the hospital waiting for my name to be called for me to receive treatment for my ectopic pregnancy were some of the worst and lowest I had ever experienced. I grew numb as I sat and tried not to make eye contact with anyone. There were pregnant women all around me and I knew most would be leaving there that day still pregnant, but I would not. I saw an expectant teenage couple walking by, a little reminder that no, life is not always fair. The treatment itself was a Methotrexate shot that was administered in under five minutes. The hours of waiting among pregnant folk were just icing on the cake. I asked my doctor if there was a chance I would have a normal pregnancy and she said that she had a patient who was recently in my same position and who was now pregnant again and was 25+ weeks along. Thank you, universe. I needed that glimmer of hope so very much then.
When we returned to the RE’s office three months later, I found myself looking at that same computer screen, but this time the doctor’s words were different. “Based on the last round and the fact that you responded so well to the meds and you got pregnant, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t be able to have a successful pregnancy.” At last, the phrase I had wanted nothing more than to hear. Happy tears welled up this time and I offered a silent thanks to the universe. Data can be a beautiful thing.
After our first loss, returning to yoga helped me see clearly how angry I had been at my body for so long and allowed me a space to truly witness that I could do more than I believed I was capable of physically (aside from self-administering fertility meds like a pro). It flipped my thought process on its head to be gentler, softer, and more hopeful. At the opening of a yoga class shortly before that second round of IVF, the reading that the instructor did felt like it was being delivered directly to me: it was about how sometimes there is something that we want but can’t have and that it can be so incredibly hard, but that we must keep an open heart as miracles can only happen when your heart is open. I felt the tears well up in my eyes and began class with goosebumps, a grateful heart, and hope. As we went into our embryo transfer on that cold January day a week later, we had no idea what would come of it, but we did believe that miracles were possible and hope carried us. Throughout everything, I was able to keep moving forward thanks to more than a little support and encouragement from my husband. Those two and a half years plus were hard. Yet, he always knew we would become parents. Many nights I asked him how he knew. He replied that he just knew. As frustrating as that answer was at times, it was just what I needed to hear. His hope was unwavering and helped renew mine. As my acupuncturist told me many times “families are built in many beautiful ways,” and if IVF ultimately didn’t end up being our path then there would most certainly be another way to parenthood for us.
Nine months later, the greatest little miracle came into our lives. I still look at him and marvel, thinking back to all the heartbreak and tears I shed during that dark time and his little face and smile are so much more than my heart could ever have imagined. Trying to comprehend and then convey the magnitude of the blessing we received in our son is overwhelming to me still and it feels a bit like staring into the sun. Suffice to say, even on the periphery it is pretty wonderful. Hearing his babbling and giggles each morning when he wakes up brings a smile to my face. In a world that at times can break your heart and take your breath away with its cruelty and injustice without a second thought, miracles and magic do exist as long as you believe in them. Any attempt to articulate the dream that has manifested into a small human form that I see in front of me now could never have been summed up into the tidy goal statements I was so used to setting and then achieving. Ah, no. He is so much more than that. This quest in realizing the dream of parenthood far surpasses anything that small SMART box could ever hold and it would have never revealed the beauty, grace and gifts that only come from struggle, uncertainty and hope when that is all you have to hold onto.
Becoming Me in Motherhood: Letting Go of the Guilt and Perfection
I love turning on the 90’s on 9 or Hits from the 00’s while I am in the car and sing or rap all the songs from my years past. I never realized what a cliché that was with moms listening to the songs of their youth and embarrassing their kids until, here I am. Because every time I hear one of those songs it brings me back to a great memory- of doing things. Things that brought me so much joy. Dressing up and going out on dates. Singing and dancing with my friends before we went out together to sing and dance even crazier. Running to a really good beat while I trained for a triathlon. When I hear and sing those songs in the car, I can remember a time when making those memories was my only focus.
Having kids has changed that. I LOVE my kids more than anything in this world. Becoming a mother fulfilled a lifelong wish of mine, and it’s everything I could have ever wanted. But the focus of my priorities shifted so drastically and so quickly, as I was trying to keep up I forgot to hold on to a lot of what made me, me. I was so busy trying to check all the boxes for both of my children- enrolling them in activities for their enrichment, making homemade purees, photographing all of their milestones that I forgot what I even liked to do. I work full time and my new manager asked me to write up a little paragraph of what I like to do in my spare time and I honestly couldn’t come up with anything other than “spend time with my family”. I felt fake writing down “I like to run, do pilates and travel” because I hadn’t done any of those in a while. I used to be really creative and spontaneous, and when a mood struck me I did whatever it was I felt like doing. Even if that mood was just to sleep when I was tired. On my schedule.
For two years I was still adjusting to how no matter how carefully laid out my plans were, after having kids, I had no more control. Their needs came first. Their meals, their activities, their play time and I didn’t even question if that was the way it was supposed to be. If I actually did plan to go to the gym but one baby was fussy or needy, I wouldn’t even think twice for not going because they needed me more than I needed the gym. I was meticulous with the foods they ate- all homemade and according to the latest baby nutrition books. I had perfectly planned outfits laid out for them. Until I realized the care I put into their appearance and health was inversely proportionate to mine. They were thriving, looking adorable and fully engaged in activities. I had been gaining weight, not going out with friends like I had used to, and just feeling so unattractive I didn’t even want to go out on date nights with my husband anymore. I have a quote framed in my home office that says “Happiness is pretty simple: someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to” -Rita Mae Brown. I was so focused on surviving the days as the best mommy I could be that I stopped making plans I looked forward to as me. My daughter was getting older and I wanted to make it a point that she saw me have my own personality and have friends and have a healthy routine. I knew that them seeing me in action would be a better lesson than simply telling them to be healthy. I decided I needed to put my own needs into the schedule again despite the nagging excuses I had seemed to easily fall back on. Instead of my normal gym membership, I signed up for Orange Theory, an intense hour long exercise class with fun loud music and enough stimulation to make me forget I was away from the kids. The class also runs on a policy where you sign up ahead of time, and if you cancel within an 8 hour window before class you get charged a fee. It held me accountable to go when I signed up. I also made it a point to sign up in the early morning classes before I let the day get away from me and I found an excuse to not go. I could get to class and back before the kids needed to be dropped off in daycare and before my work. The first few months I struggled with letting my husband- who was completely supportive of me getting back into what I loved doing – get the kids ready. I felt guilty I wasn’t doing it, since this was the time I normally played with them in the morning, and would also get upset when he dressed my daughter in mis matched clothes and her hair was a disaster. But as my energy increased and my mood got so much better from this little me time I carved out I realized: no one but me cared that she had a bow in her hair that didn’t match. No one cared if I didn’t have homemade purees in my toddler’s lunch for daycare but me. I was becoming a happier mama to them because of the little time I took care of myself in the morning. I didn’t need to facilitate every minute of the time we were home and together- their play could be independent during the hour I was working out. I learned to practice grace for myself over perfection. I recently joined a women’s league to network with other moms. I love that I can plan ahead to these meetings, which take place after the kids have gone to bed and share in great female/mom/work conversations again. I also looked back at my quote and realized I needed to book things that got me excited in advance. I just signed up for my first race in a long time for two months from now, and a family vacation for later in the summer. Having the excitement of training for the race and planning for the vacation has me excited and focused on my goals.
I talked to a lot of my mom friends about what their thoughts and best tips were for rediscovering themselves after they had kids and I was surprised how much of the theme revolved around letting the little things go. Here are some of what they said:
“I was surprised how much of myself I had lost (and how guilty I felt for feeling that way). My whole world flipped upside down in the first two years of motherhood. When I was 7 months pregnant my dad got diagnosed with cancer, he finished his last chemo treatment the day my son was born and died right after my son turned 1. A couple of months later I was pregnant with number 2. Not only was he gone, my North Star in many ways in my life, but I had disappeared too. My life pre kids was filled with adventure, challenge, travel and well, freedom. All of a sudden I woke up in a life where I was idle. I LOVE my kids but craved anything that used to make me feel alive. I signed up for Body Back through Fit4Mom and a Ragnar race- a crazy 200 mile relay race where you run for 36+ hours. Nothing like a crazy adventure to get me back where I was. I then decided to become a Fit4Mom running coach to connect with other like minded moms local to me” -Missy, 39 Seattle, WA.
“I don’t sweat the small stuff (my kids don’t need a bath every night, they eat mac and cheese more than I thought I would be ok with and I take help whenever I can. I am ok with things not being perfect and instead taking me time in lieu of a perfectly cooked meal.” -Kate, 34, NYC NY
“I think working full time gives you extra guilt as a mother. Being away already for so long during the workday I don’t want to spend more time away from the kids. But I have had to learn to really say ‘no’ to things. I can’t volunteer for everything and I am more protective of my time so I can put my needs and my family’s on equal playing field.” Nicole, 38, NY
“As a mom I want the best for my kids. Sometimes wanting the best for them can lead you to compare your situation to others and that’s when the feelings of insecurity and nagging guilt can creep into your thoughts. I have learned that all my kids want is to be loved and feel safe. What my kids want is for me to be happy. Letting go of keeping up with what others are doing can be liberating!” Christina, 41, San Francisco, CA
“Since becoming a mom there has been an element of guilt when I splurge on something for myself. Recently I’ve realized that by not treating myself occasionally I may start harboring a tiny bit of resentment which ultimately detracts me from the fulfillment of being a mom... so now I buy the outfit or the pair of shoes. I still don’t spend on myself like I used to but I’m no longer rostering the same 4 outfits.” Rena, 39 Oakland, CA
“I realize the days of extravagant girls’ trips are on hold for now but it doesn’t mean a weekend getaway with girlfriends is impossible. I should feel confident enough in my spouse that my children will still be alive after 48 hours, after all it makes me a happier mom and wife”. R 42, CT
I will still listen to the songs and reminisce about the days before becoming a mother and enjoy the memories. I am learning and accepting that there is a difference between putting my kids’ needs first before mine vs.not tending to mine at all. I am exercising my “no” muscle and prioritizing my needs above anything else that isn’t mandatory. I’m still a work in progress, but slowly rediscovering that I am, indeed, more than just a mom.
TIPS & TRICKS: EVERYTHING FAMILY PHOTOS WITH JULIA DAGS
Julia Dags has been shooting our family for seven months. She is extremely talented and I am always so impressed with her work, shoot after shoot. She also has such an incredible personality which is so important when shooting families & businesses! When you find a photographer that is super talented they will capture the shots that are not planned…the ones you don’t even see. The photos I’m speaking about are the lifestyle shots of your kids just….being kids.
A talented photographer sees the shots you would never even think to take and that’s where Julia shines. As moms we are so used to booking photography sessions trying to get that perfect shot where the family is sitting together, looking forward, with the perfect smile. How many times have you shouted, “Everyone look at the camera!” GUILTY!
I want you to take a step back and think about booking lifestyle sessions vs. posed family photos. I’m confident that in 30 years when we are all looking back at the days our babes were little it’s the lifestyle, movement type shots that will bring you back the most memories. If you only want to do one shoot a year instead of booking a photographer for that Christmas staged photo think about booking a pool summer session or fun family activity. I promise you will get some amazing authentic photos of your kids being crazy :) Their personalities will shine and bring that photo to life for that Christmas card. Julia talks more about this during her Q & A below.
FINDING A PHOTOGRAPHER
Finding a photographer can be tough. Here are some of my own tips, especially for someone shooting with kids:
1) Love their work. If you don’t absolutely love their style you won’t 100 percent trust them during the shoot and that stress will come out. One thing kids pick up on is stress! So book someone who’s work you are obsessed with so they can do their thing and you can do yours.
2) Price. I would find someone affordable enough that you can do a few shoots a year. You can always ask if the photographer has any packages. Photography sessions also make great gifts from the grandparents. Remember these sessions do not have to break the bank!
3) Personality. Finding someone that is great with kids should be top of the list. You want your children to be themselves during the session. I have worked with two photographers through Mrs. Nipple, one being Julia, and both always walk in and immediately gravitate towards the kids. Julia is so wonderful with the boys which is so important. A Warm and friendly outgoing personality works best with my kids. You can always get a sense of someone over the phone so don’t be afraid to book a call before you book someone.
Q & A WITH JULIA DAGS
Julia will take it from here!
I didn’t have time to shower this morning let alone put together coordinating family outfits for our family photo shoot. What do I do?
Okay, listen. Family photo shoots truly sound stressful. The pure thought of getting yourself together on top of getting your kids together, and hoping your husband or wife can also pull themself together - shit do you need to clean the house - to look decent sounds impossible.
I’m going to do my best to take you step by step how to be prepared for a photo shoot.
First, discuss with your photographer when your kids schedules are best. What is that golden hour of the day for your family when everyone is happy after a meal, energy isn’t depleted, naps aren’t needed, and crankiness usually hasn’t set in yet? That’s the most important factor. You want to make sure your kids are in a great mental state before you sign up for a photo shoot during one of your kid’s nap time. Disaster! Ideally for photographers, at the end of the day, around an hour and a half before sunset, is the best light to start photographing in. When photographing bloggers, I am able to direct each blogger in regards to the light. With family sessions, if your family golden hour matches up with that last hour and a half of the day, take that time slot. Kids run around and move… constantly. A photographer can’t, and shouldn’t if you’re going for that lifestyle look, direct your child to the inch of where and how to move. With the light being softer at the end of the day, it is easier to photograph without worrying too much about the sunshine impacting the images at this time.
Typically, photo shoots will run for one hour. If sunset is at 7:00pm, beginning your photo shoot at 5:30pm is an ideal time. It gives you time to be a little late to your photo shoot if one of your kids put on two different shoes and you need to run back home to grab both matching pairs. It gives time for you and your kids to get to know your photographer. It’s so important for a child to be comfortable with the person who is photographing them. The photographer should give time to interact with each of the kids before photographing them. The most important part of that hour that you’re given to photo shoot? Meltdowns. They happen. Someone gets sand in their eye, someone throws sand at someone else, someone wipes ketchup into someone else’s hair. We’ve all been there. An hour gives you time to literally breathe in case any of the above and beyond happen.
Next, WHAT DO YOU WEAR?! I think this has to be my most frequently asked question. Well, to start, putting a shirt and pants on your child is cool. Or not! Want to have a photo shoot of your kids enjoying a hot summer day in the pool? Let’s do it - but I’ll get to more on that later. My point is, dress your kids in something they’re going to be comfortable in and something that shows who they are. It’s even more important for you, as a mom, to wear something you’re going to be comfortable in. You don’t want to wear a pair of jeans that are too tight, no matter HOW great they make your butt look, if you don’t feel comfortable being able to lean over, grab your kid off the ground and swing him or her up in the air to give them a kiss. You’re going to be interacting with your kids for an hour - tickle fights, playing in the sand, swinging them around the park isn’t easy with tight jeans. Stick to things that you know look good on you. If you don’t own a single red shirt in your closet and you suddenly think you need a red shirt for your family photo shoot, I’m going to highly suggest against that notion! Generally, the same color scheme is just fine. Light colors are great in the spring and summer, deeper and darker hues are great for fall. Keep it plain and simple - the photos are most importantly about the moments you’re sharing with your family.
Now, going back to taking photos in the pool. What kind of family session is that? It’s a lifestyle session, a day in the life, a family activity you can be caught doing on any particular Saturday with the whole family. Baking a whole assortment of breakfast goodies on a Sunday morning, making a fort in the upstairs playroom, going ice skating down at your local ice rink, swimming lessons, family picnics, playing on the neighborhood playground. Your kids will look happiest in your photos when they’re doing what they want to do and when they’re having fun doing it. My favorite images that I take of families are the ones of kids playing on the playground or playing in the sand on the beach. It’s not always about “smile, look at the camera, cheese!” A great photographer will capture those giggles and laugh of your child, the interactions between your kids, and those images will be what will make you happiest. If your kid is being ticked and hugged on the ground by your other child, you’ll never say, “I wish he was looking at the camera,” you’ll love it just the way it is. These images are also perfect for your holiday cards. It’s a great way to show each of your children individually and your family as a whole through different images instead of a yearbook-like image for your family + your kids.
Finally, reward your kids! Take them out for ice cream, bring them jelly beans, or surprise them with toys to play in the sand with. This gets your kids so happy and excited, and it ends the photo shoot on a happy note and may even result in some extra little smiles towards the end of your photo gallery!
Don’t stress! Your kids will have fun, and you’ll be sitting there smiling at them having such a great time, and you’ll have the best time with them. Even with some booger wiping, drooling, sneezing, screaming or running away photos, lifestyle photo shoots will capture your entire family’s personality.
You can find Julia’s website, HERE.
A BIG thanks to Julia for everything she does!! She captures the moments that are right in front of us that sometimes we miss. I’m so grateful for her incredible work. There are so many local businesses and families that rely on Julia, thank you for making our visions come to life 🙌🏻
Self care is so important and something I try and fit in especially as a new mom, but it seemed to never happen during those first six months postpartum. It’s also something that is extremely hard to make time for. As moms I’m sure many of you can relate to taking care of everyone else but yourself.
I’ve been having trouble shedding my baby weight from being pregnant with Ford (now 11 months) . That mixed with exhaustion leading to unhealthy eating choices left me low on energy and feeling pretty bummed out. By the time I feed the kids and get them to bed the last thing I want to think about is cooking for both myself and Ray. I decided to take a month and try out different food delivery services in the area. I wanted the plans I chose to be centered around using fresh and healthy/anti-inflammatory ingredients, being easy to follow, breastfeeding friendly, and delicious. I chose three local brands and one national brand.
If you are local take advantage of these great options. So many moms reached out to me expressing how lucky I was that I had such great services at my finger tips. For moms that are not local, Sakara Life is a wonderful nationwide delivery food service option.
Maikana foods is my go-to for everyday clean eating done right.
MANTRA: “Today's world is filled with diets and fads and an insane amount of information of what and how you should eat. Maikana believes in a simpler world. We use whole real foods. We use fresh ingredients. We believe in all things in moderation (except love and laughter). We believe eating a wholesome meal should not be a stressful ordeal. We want to make the healthy world one that is easy and convenient to navigate. We want to make eating healthy as straightforward & convenient as possible. Simply satisfying, healthy and delicious meals- made with love- and delivered right to your door. It can't get easier than that.” -Maikana
Things I loved:
SCHEDULE: The meals are made and delivered on the same day.
MENU: The menu changes every week so you won’t get tired of the same choices & everything is as fresh as you can get as it’s prepared and delivered on the same day. You can also order one-off meals, you don’t have to do an entire program to still benefit from eating healthy.
DELIVERY: Convenient delivery to your home or work every day.
SUPPORT: During the New Year Reset that I was a part of I had access to a nutrition and health expert, Katie Diehl and I was also part of a facebook support group for the week. This was so helpful, especially when going from unhealthy eating to trying to make good choices. I also loved how Maikana Food incorporated other great brands in their delivery, including Nit Noi. I loved the Nit Noi Provisions bone broth. I also really enjoyed using the adaptogenic powder they included in the reset. I highly recommend jumping on the next reset to kick off changes in your eating.
EASY TO FOLLOW: Everything was so clearly outlined and incredibly well organized. My first shipment arrived with a packet that went over every aspect of the program and answered every single question I had. It was extremely informative and really set me up for success.
MINI MAIKANA: It’s not always easy eating clean but having the option to order nourishing foods for you kids as well really helps set you up for success.
You can find Maikana Foods website, HERE.
Kinney Lane is my go-to for meals the entire family can enjoy while you still feel like you are making great healthy choices.
MANTRA: “Our food philosophy is pretty simple. We think healthy food should taste good and be easily attainable. We know that the food that is best for us isn’t usually fast or easy and we don’t always have the time to prepare the nutritious meals we need to fuel our busy lives.
At Kinney Lane, we realize there is a need for readily available and prepared wholesome foods. When life gets busy, making healthy choices isn’t always easy. Kinney Lane’s goal is to help busy families and professionals eat well by providing them with healthy choices that are already prepared - giving you more time for work and family.” -Kinney Lane
Things I loved:
SCHEDULE: The meals are delivered twice a week.
MENU: I love that there is a super simple ordering system online but I also love that they can pick for you. I really didn’t have the time to go back and forth around what I was going to order so I simply told them I wanted it to be whole 30 compliant and I was delivered such a delicious weeks worth of food that was also family friendly! I told them I was breastfeeding and they included a special overnight oat container just incase my supply dipped from the whole30 meals. I loved that! Their menu also changes every week which is nice.
DELIVERY: Convenient delivery or pick up.
FAMILY MEALS: It’s really hard to stay healthy when I’m responsible for feeding my family as well! Having meals, especially dinners that were big enough for the whole family was a game changer.
EASY TO FOLLOW: Very simple and easy to follow!
Owner,Rachael, shares some thoughts:
“All meals are ready to heat and eat. We serve our entrees in oven-friendly containers equipped with heating instructions. This allows for easy heating and clean-up.
We believe in using organic, simple and natural ingredients: no refined sugar, gluten, or artificial ingredients. Many of our options are also dairy-free. Meals are designed to taste good but also fuel our clients busy lives with nutrient dense meal options.
As a local mom (I live in OG) I felt there was a need for a healthy, prepared foods service that could help busy moms and professionals get meals on the table and feel good about the food their families were eating. I am a classically trained chef, who has a passion for health and wellness. Being a mom I understand the flexibility that moms need which is why I provide several sizing options for different family sizes.” -Rachael
You can find Kinney Lane’s Foods website, HERE.
GREEN & TONIC
Green & Tonic is my go-to for the most cleanse like plan
MANTRA: At Green & Tonic, we want to help you make informed choices that positively affect your health, everyday.
G&T is delicious. We believe that healthy food should be fresh, vibrant, and full of interesting flavor and textures. “Good enough for health food…” said no one ever at G&T.
G&T is easy. On the run or taking it slow, we offer easy solutions for a healthy fuel-up on the go or an afternoon catch-up session with a friend. We feed your healthy lifestyle.
G&T is good for you. We put plants at the center of your plate and serve non-GMO, locally and sustainably-grown ingredients. We count quality, not calories. We embrace healthy fats, sweeten mindfully, and celebrate food in its least-processed form.
G&T is the real deal. We pride ourselves on being authentic, honest and transparent—with our employees, our customers, and everyone with whom we get to do business.
G&T makes sense. We feed your healthy appetite for information, inspiration and motivation so you can make better-for-you choices
Things I loved:
SCHEDULE: Depending on what food delivery service you choose you will be picking up your meal one or two times during the week.
MENU: The three food cleanses that are offered are the 1 day reset, the 3 or 5 day seasonal cleanse, or the G&T til’ dinner (You go off the cleanse at night to eat with your family). You can choose a cleanse that is juice based or choose one that incorporates clean eating.
PICK UP: No delivery offered but G&T has locations all over CT.
CLEANSE: What makes this different than the other services is this is much more cleanse focused in my opinion. You are incorporating multiple juices per day on top of the clean meals. Sometimes I feel like my body just needs a break and that’s where this cleanse comes in.
EASY TO FOLLOW: Very easy! There was a print out that went over each day and what I should be eating.
You can find Green and Tonic’s website, HERE.
Sakara is my go-to for out of towners
MANTRA: “THE SAKARA SECRET. Our philosophy is a combination of cutting-edge nutrition science and ancient healing wisdom. We source the highest-quality organic ingredients and powerful superfoods from trusted farmers and suppliers. Our meal delivery program brings everything to your door, fresh and completely ready to enjoy.”
Things I loved:
SCHEDULE: This was delivered to our front door two times during the week at 5 a.m.
MENU: Sakara offers a signature program (what I did), a deep cleanse, and a program specifically designed for brides.
THOUGHTS: Honestly I was impressed with this service. I didn’t think I would like it because it was not local and I was worried about freshness and taste etc. Everything was delicious and tasted fresh. I would highly recommend as a wonderful option if you don’t live in Connecticut and you can not take advantage of the local services. You can use my code for a discount, REF_NIPPLE15
EASY TO FOLLOW: Everything came in a box and was very easy to follow.
You can find Sakara’s Food website, HERE.
THE MAMA SERIES
Surrogacy: A Peek into the Lives of a Surrogate and Intended Mom Pair
WHY I decided to use a surrogate...
Stephanie O’Hara, Intended Mother:
My son Aidan was 5-years old and had just lost his first tooth when I realized he was a genuine miracle. He was jumping around in rain puddles, wearing his cute little plastic boots with monkeys on them. As I watched him splash around with his gap-tooth smile, I flashed back to each of the six failed pregnancies I’d had since his birth. Sitting there on the front steps of the porch, I was lost in my thoughts.
“What am I doing?”
I was pregnant again, this time via IVF. My bloodwork had come back at a dangerously high level. Doctors thought it was a molar pregnancy, where the cells multiply at a rapid rate. Here we were talking about the possibility of cancer.
I was in shock.
I was already blessed by being Mommy to this precious little boy. Each one of my pregnancies had become more dangerous than the last, and now there was a chance of leaving Aidan without a mother. I had exhausted my mind, my body and my spirit. A voice in my head told me if this pregnancy didn’t work out, then it was time to hang it up.
I ended up miscarrying that weekend for the seventh time --during Sunday School, no less. I will never forget seeing the blood swirling in the bowl of the toilet. It was absolutely devastating. Once again, I felt like my body was failing me and my husband.
Fortunately, we had an incredible and cautious specialist who told me I shouldn’t try getting pregnant again. He told me that my body needed the assistance of a gestational carrier. Using a surrogate wasn’t our Plan B, C or even D but we knew we weren’t ready to give up. We already had frozen embryos, so my husband and I couldn’t bear the thought of not trying to have someone else carry our baby for us.
WHY I decided to be a surrogate...
Tiffany Jo Baker, 3x Surrogate:
Never in a million years would I have guessed that I would become a surrogate and carry five children for three families dealing with infertility plus our two. Had you asked me as a teenager or young adult, being pregnant or a mom was a thought, but really I thought more about what my career was going to be or how I was going to change the world by being a successful CEO, sought after speaker or first female president.
It’s funny how life works out differently than we expected. It turned out that one of my gifts was being pregnant. My husband and I were blessed to quickly and easily get pregnant, I had amazing pregnancies and loved being pregnant. The excuse to gain weight, wear comfy clothes and have food cravings fulfilled by a wonderful husband… was like a dream job for me.
So when I told my friend that we were pregnant with our second just after Trinity’s first birthday and the intense look of joy and pain flashed across her face all at the same time, God began to put something in my heart. In that moment I realized two things. One, she must be having a hard time getting pregnant (since she never said anything to me) and two, I have been given a gift. I remember thinking, “I would do that for someone, I would carry their child.” And so my journey began.
About four years later the timing was right for our family to begin the process. I researched agencies and submitted my application waiting to see what God would do with all this. While driving around doing errands less than 24 hours after placing it in the mail, I received a call from the director of the agency saying she had a couple that had been looking for a surrogate like me for almost two years. In that moment it was like time stood still. I remember it being almost like a holy moment, a divine moment, a moment of destiny. I haven’t had many moments like that, but I knew this was a pivotal moment in my life and I clearly remember God speaking to my heart, “If you make the dreams of others come true, I will make your dreams come true.” Yep… it was powerful and you know the ugly cry quickly began under my sunglasses as I continued to drive around taking it all in.
Since then I have walked the journey of being a surrogate with three amazing families. Each family had different medical reasons for needing a gestational carrier from cancer to suffering through seven miscarriages. The truth is that we were all created with unique gifts and talents. There isn’t one of us that has all the gifts, talents and resources we will ever need in life to be successful. Why would getting pregnant or becoming parents be any different? We were made to need others and be in relationships. We all need help to be successful in our businesses, relationships, mindset and life. Couples dealing with infertility often live in a world of secrecy, loneliness, stigma and shame, but why should we ever feel shame about needing help or having a struggle? Sometimes God performs miracles, sometimes we work hard and work through our struggles and sometimes God uses others to meet our needs.
Surrogacy: A Peek into the Lives of a Surrogate and Intended Mom Pair
WHAT it was like to use a surrogate…
Stephanie O’Hara, Intended Mother:
Once we had made the decision to hire a gestational carrier, we were inundated with applications. One agency sent them individually and another sent them in groups of four at a time.
I printed them all out so I could look through them thoughtfully. Ever judicious, my husband cautioned me to consider the agency as much as the applicant. It was unchartered territory for both of us.
Dirk and I were surrendering, obeying and trusting in the direction in which we were being guided. I knew in my heart our surrogate would feel like a sister or a good friend on paper.
In addition to our specialist’s high standard of physical health, my husband and I had our own benchmarks that were important to us.
For practical reasons, we hoped to find someone who had prior experience as a surrogate. And because we wanted to be part of the doctor appointments, we wanted her to live within three hours of us. It was also important for us to find someone who was a Christian.
We had a lot of boxes to check but our faith kept us from being worried about finding someone. About a week into the process, a profile came through that made me look twice.
Her name was Tiffany and she lived in Dallas (within the 3-hour range we wanted). She had advanced degrees, was in good health and had her own family. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I read on and saw that not only had she been a surrogate before - she worked at a church and was a pastor’s wife.
Tiffany’s photograph was printed on the application. Her beautiful smile jumped off the page. I knew she was the one. I was so excited that I couldn’t help reading through her profile several times and praying over it.
I showed my husband the profile when he got home from work that day. I left the stack of applications on his dresser with hers on top. He looked through them as he was undoing his tie and taking off his shoes.
"Yep. She's the one."
A week later the surrogacy agency set up a conference call with Tiffany and her husband. At the end of the forty-five minute phone call we agreed to meet for lunch in Dallas where they lived.
The next week, we arrived at the cute little Mexican restaurant Tiffany had suggested for lunch. It was Cinco de Mayo, so the restaurant was busy and festive. Tiffany and Brian were waiting for us at the table. They smiled, got up and we hugged briefly. She was absolutely darling. The real litmus test was that she was someone I would be friends with if she weren’t carrying my baby.
The first thing she did was ask to hear our story. As we talked about our infertility journey, a few tears ran down her cheek. Once we finished, I felt that she was connected with us and wanted to help. I could tell by my husband’s facial expression he felt the same way I did. There was no question for either one of us. Tiffany was our angel.
I won’t sugar coat and tell you that the legal and medical aspects of surrogacy were easy or fast. From the time we met Tiffany until the time of the embryo transfer, it was almost nine months. But we believed in God’s perfect timing and trusted the process.
Three weeks after the transfer, we learned that Tiffany was pregnant with our biological twins – a boy and a girl. We were absolutely over the moon!
Our experience with Tiffany was nothing short of wonderful and perfect. She was so organized, communicative, and sweet. She had virtually no complications from the pregnancy, other than high blood pressure towards the end (which is common).
I was worried about having feelings of jealousy towards her when she was pregnant with our babies, but that never happened. Instead, I was completely grateful for this “bonus” round that God had given us and for finding a surrogate who became like a sister to me.
When she was about eight months pregnant, her belly jutted straight out. It was August, and I knew she was miserable. Still, she never complained. Instead, she was positive and upbeat.
‘We are doing great!” she would say.
We had a lot of funny moments – from our parents rubbing on Tiffany’s belly within five minutes of meeting her, to lots of stares in the OB/GYN waiting room. “We are sister wives!” I would joke with people as they stared at me and my husband when we walked back with Tiffany to the exam room.
We also had lots of questions and comments…although people were curious, they were always kind and supportive.
It was definitely surreal and emotional to watch someone else give birth to your children. Tiffany gave us the most precious gift on earth – life. It brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it. How do you ever thank someone enough for such an act?
To be able to hold those babies in our arms after dreaming about them for six long years – well, it was nothing short of magical. We also wanted Tiffany to meet them right away – after all, she carried them for nine months.
We still keep in close contact with Tiffany and her family. In fact, our twins call her our “Special Angel”. They will know their special story – how much they were wanted and loved. And how because of someone else’s faithfulness and selfless act, they were brought into the world.
We are so grateful for the opportunity and give all the Glory to God.
Sidenote: Although I can’t promise you that you will get pregnant or have twins (ha), what I do know is that having a balance between Mind, Body and Spirit will help to set you up for the absolute best chance of success.
Remember – if you are truly open, it’s not a question of IF you will have a baby, but a question of HOW.
Will it be through IVF? A surprise normal pregnancy? Hiring a gestational carrier? An egg donor? Adoption? Fostering?
Think outside the box. Pray for wisdom. Take action.
WHAT it was like to be a surrogate…..
Tiffany Jo Baker, 3x Surrogate:
Two words that express what being a surrogate is like, but at the same time, they don’t even come close to describing the experience accurately.
I remember the first ultra-sound after the positive pregnancy and beta tests with Stephanie and Dirk’s embryos. The three of us walked into the small doctors’ office room with an ultrasound machine prominently in the middle. The sonographer got me situated and as modest as possible and Dirk and Stephanie came into the room. Two sacs quickly became visible and the sonographer confirmed that there were twins.
Stephanie practically jumped out of her chair and shouted for joy. What a moment! It is forever etched in my memory and heart.
From the beginning Stephanie and Dirk were at every Doctor’s appointment with me. The three of us, along with our friends, family and medical professionals, joined forces to become the dream team for Team O’Hara. We shared tears, cheers and lots of prayers.
The surrogacy journey is full of ups and downs, just like anything worthwhile. There are countless injections and medications involved with IVF (and since I’ve carried for three families, I’ve undergone five IVF cycles, plus two dropped cycles). So if I would give a third word to describe the journey, it might be – “hormotional.” Fertility medications are no joke. (If you know, you know.) I sometimes did this laugh-cry thing while pregnant. I would start laughing at something and then seemingly out of no-where, it would turn in to a cry. My family thought it was hilarious.
I hear it all the time. The first question I get asked when someone finds out that I am a surrogate is, “was it hard to give up the babies after delivery?” My response is always the same, “No, it wasn’t hard at all.”
I’m a very logical person and I know what my role is. I see myself as a piece of the puzzle to birthing their dreams and more like an Aunt or a God-mom.
It’s hard to put into words the feelings that come after you birth someone else’s babies. Aside from being pregnant or being in God’s presence, I’m not someone who normally cries, but during these times I cry. The tears come from a place so deep. A place of humbleness. A place of thankfulness. A place of awe and wonder. A place of seeing someone else’s dreams come true, being humbled that God would choose me to be a part and thankful that God was faithful each step of the unexpected way.
Meet Stephanie & Tiffany:
Stephanie O’Hara is an American Mom, Wife, Entrepreneur, Community Leader, Former Rock Singer and Advocate for women experiencing fertility challenges. Stephanie collaborated with Brenda Aréchiga, a Los Angeles based editor whose client list includes Candy Spelling and Rachael Ashwell. Her memoir is completed and is slated to be released in late spring 2019. For more information on their step by step process to obtaining a gestational carrier, please visit Stephanie’s website at www.yourangelwings.net Or follow her on Instagram, Facebook or find her Podcast on Anchor (Steph O’Hara).
Tiffany Jo Baker is a caffeinated mom of two teen girls, surrogate mom of five (two sets of twins + 1), mom to two fur-babies (dog and bunny) and wife to one outdoorsman. As a 3x Surrogate, Speaker and Goal-Getter, she thrives as a Right-Hand Woman, Dream Carrier and Dream Project Manager for Entrepreneurs, Ministry Leaders and Couples dealing with Infertility. Find out how Tiffany can help you love your life, live your dreams and leave a legacy at www.tiffanyjobaker.com and on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Blog subscribers get instant access to her 17pg “Don’t Quit Survival Kit” full of soul-care, self-care and dream-care goodness to help you while you’re in the fight for your dreams. Click HERE to sign up.
I had trouble figuring out how to start this post as not many of you really know much about me outside of being a mom and my mom life. I grew up with dyslexia and ADD. Growing up with two learning disabilities was pretty tough, but at the same time it’s all I ever knew. However, it’s made me who I am today for which I am very grateful. When I grew up, the school system was unfortunately not set up for children like myself, or at least that’s how I felt. I was very self conscious about my ability to concentrate, process information, and spell. I discovered a wealth of confidence and an incredible boost in my self esteem as I excelled in my passion, soccer.
When it came time to deciding on a career, I thought long and hard about my strengths and focused on choosing one in which I would find personal fulfillment. I loved connecting with people, was very competitive, and had a passion for innovation. I landed my first job at Eli Lilly and two years later at Johnson and Johnson. I worked in outside medical sales in Manhattan and loved every minute of it. I flew up the corporate ladder, receiving the highest title in executive sales before the age of 30. I was the youngest person in my company to attend the Johnson and Johnson Management Development University.
I share this with you for two reasons: first, for all the moms struggling with children with learning disabilities, please realize there is a light at the end of the tunnel and amazing things await these unique children as they grow and find their niche in life. Secondly, it’s never too late to change your path. I am a highly creative person, and my career was the furthest thing from it. I felt like I was walking around with an emptiness, like there was something more I was supposed to do in the creative world. If I didn’t take a risk and try something different, I would always wonder what if…
A year after a very lonely winter with a newborn, I decided to take a chance. I started the Mrs. Nipple blog and community because I felt like there wasn’t a space to connect with new moms during pregnancy and that first year home with a newborn. I also remembered having a million questions when I was pregnant. While registering, I so wanted to connect with real moms and not just websites filled with information. I was also blown away by the amount of women running small baby companies and so passionate about innovative baby products. I launched Mrs. Nipple November of 2017 and my empty creative tank started to fill.
It’s been an incredible few years! I’ve loved every minute of this journey. As I started learning more and more about blogging, I became extremely passionate about the business aspect of blogging and influencers. I also started doing a great amount of networking with brands. One common theme I heard from small, medium, and large sized companies was the obstacles they faced when trying to find influencers that both align with their brands and deliver results.
This didn’t surprise me. After over a year of market research, it was very clear that from a brand perspective it’s very hard to weed out the influencers from the people who want to be influencers but just inflate their follower count and likes and comments with unethical strategies. From a brand perspective, follow count, likes, and comments are how many brands decide if they want to work with an influencer. However there are more important metrics on which brands should be focused. At Mrs. Nipple + Co we’ve developed a vetting system which analyzes multiple data points so brands can be confident in their partnerships in the influencer space.
At Mrs. Nipple + Co. we also developed the highest level of respect for so many bloggers that are busting their backsides every single day with hundreds or even thousands of real likes, comments and followers but are having to compete with knock off influencers who hurt this entire market. I wanted to work with brands to help them develop an influencer strategy they can feel good about and help connect them with authentic influencers who are moms.
What I soon realized was millennial moms are all influencers in their own right. We naturally love talking about everything mom and what’s working and what’s not. That’s why I’m launching the first social media agency, Mrs. Nipple + Co. that is open to bloggers, mom coaches (anyone that guides a mom or mom to be in any way), and the everyday mom (moms that love telling their mom friends and family about everything baby). I wanted this entire community to have a space at Mrs. Nipple + Co. and be able to connect all of you with mom brands, either with paid partnerships, access to mom events, sampling programs plus have access to free products. There really is something for everyone of us!!
Please visit www.mrsnippleandco.com to learn more about my new influencer agency and be sure to sign up for potential brand collaborations.
MY THOUGHTS ON BEAUTY & SOME ANTI-AGING TREATMENTS WITH MODERN DERMATOLOGY
If you just started following along on my skin journey I ended up in Dr. Robinson’s office when I noticed an extreme jump in aging. It was for obvious reasons. Two under two, babies will do it to you. I was taking care of everyone in my life except myself and it was starting to show. I always told myself to be proactive with skincare but at this point I felt like if I didn’t act soon the proactive thing was going to be a lost cause. My issues were wrinkles (deep ones between my eyes a.k.a. the 11 lines), texture, redness, and uneven skin tone. Dr. Robinson put together a series of treatments to try and combat my concerns. Aging can mean different things to different people. For me my main concern was the lack of a natural glow. I miss that youthful glow I had back in the day and honestly if I had to pick the thing that is the most important to me it’s not the wrinkles, it’s that glow. Though, yes, the 11 lines do drive me crazy as well. I just want smooth glowing skin. Is that too much for a mama to ask for!? I think not.
I decided to do three treatments to help battle my issues. Picosure treatments, Vampire facials and a small amount of botox on my forehead.
Dr. Robinson’s summary of the Picosure treatment: “This laser treatment is highly customizable to each patient's skin and goals. It's a great option for patients who don't want downtime but are looking to improve their skin and reduce signs of aging. The laser uses highly targeted energy delivered in a trillionth of a second to break up areas of pigment (freckles, sunspots) while causing minimal injury to the skin, which triggers the body's natural response to produce new collagen. It is a great treatment for fine lines, wrinkles, acne scars, and can also be used for tattoo removal.”
Mrs. Nipples summary: This is a great treatment not only for the many benefits but it’s a very quick treatment for those busy moms that need to be in and out. I was just a little pink post procedure so there’s virtually no downtime. I do recommend making sure you use numbing cream before each treatment so I head in about 30 minutes before my session. After I’m nice and numb it’s then a quick 15 minute session followed by 5-10 minutes with an ice pack. I haven’t finished my package of treatments but I will be sharing the results when I do. Bonus: It’s breastfeeding friendly!
Dr. Robinson’s summary of the Vampire facial: “The Vampire Facial refers to the process of micro needling the face (creating small holes in the skin) and then applying a patent PRP (platelet-rich-plasma) overtop to sink in. To create the PRP, we draw the patient's blood, spin it down in a centrifuge to isolate the platelets. This treatment is most effective when done in a series and is great for overall skin rejuvenation, treatment of texture, and fine lines.”
Mrs. Nipples summary: I’m loving the immediate results I see with my vampire facial also known as the PRP facial. I also think it’s a super interesting treatment. The doctor draws blood for the facial, hence the name. They then spin the blood to separate the platelets and plasma from the red blood cells. The liquid that is then applied to your face is the platelet-rich plasma. The dated way of performing the facial is to put the blood on the patients face as well. New studies show the benefits lay in the platelet-rich plasma and that is why it is now separated. The platelet-rich plasma is applied onto your face during microneedling so it can penetrate your skin. I did not find this treatment painful at all. The microneedling basically permeates the skin with platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and in turn it stimulates collagen and elastin fibers to promote cell turnover. This is also a great treatment for moms as it is packed with benefits with no downtime and is all done during a short office visit. I’m still mid package with this one but I already can highly recommend it. Bonus: It’s breastfeeding friendly!
Dr. Robinson’s summary of Botox: “Botox is a neuromodulator (Dysport and Xeomin are other options in this same category). Botox can be used for lines, wrinkles and facial sculpting. It can be used preventatively in light doses to prevent deep wrinkles from developing. It can be used for people who have already developed wrinkles to smooth the area and prevent them from worsening. The treatment works by blocking nerve impulses to the muscles that create these movements, causing them to relax which will soften your expressions and reduce your wrinkles. They can also work to soften and sculpt the face and neck by decreasing unwanted muscle mass. It can also be used for medical conditions like Migraines and Excessive Sweating.”
Dr. Robinson’s summary around the safety of Botox: “Botox is safe when injected by a qualified and experienced board certified dermatologist. Botox is a drug made from a neurotoxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum called botulinum toxin. What we inject is a highly diluted version of this toxin, it stays where it is injected, but even if it entered your bloodstream, the cosmetic doses (typically less than 100 units) used are significantly lower than the toxic dose that would be harmful systemically (2,500-3,000 units).”
Mrs. Nipple’s summary: I know there are many of us that might hide their love for botox. I don’t really see the big deal. I feel by women not being honest and open with other women about the work they have done can set unrealistic expectation for other women. There should be no shame in the botox game.
Though yes I used to be one of the women that was like whaaattttttttt???? Never!
I had two treatments of botox before Charlie was conceived, both used as preventative measures. The first time I had a small amount injected into my forehead and loved it. No one noticed, not even my own mother. I think the secret is putting just enough for preventative measures but not too much that it looks like you had work done. I went in 6 months later and had a little more injected along with a small injection around my eyes. I honestly did not like the results when I had it done to my eyes. I would smile and feel like my eyes looked hallow. I felt like I couldn’t smile with my eyes….if that makes sense. (This was most likely due to the Doctor that injected it, which was before I found Modern Dermatology) I really loved the results I saw by having it done to my forehead. It was quick and it really wasn’t that painful at all. There is also basically minimal downtime, I just had slight bumps where the injection site was and they went down soon after.
I was planning on doing a small amount of botox on my forehead after Charlie was done breastfeeding but I found out I was pregnant when I was just 10 months postpartum. That plan was put on hold and my lines between my eyes have only continued to get deeper. So here I am again a few years later counting down the days. I breastfeed my babies until they turn one so I will wait until Ford is one for my treatment. I think some people, especially men think of the completely frozen plastic look when they think of botox or the overfilled over botoxed look you might see on a Bravo reality show. This is not what I’m referring to here. I think botox can go undetected when it is used correctly by an expert to keep the natural look of a persons face or when it is used as a preventative measure.
I also would like to point out there is so much beauty in aging and I’m in no way telling you that you need botox if you have wrinkles. My mom has never done anything to her skin and has such a beautiful complexion. It is such a personal decision. I’m just giving you what is some useful information so you can make your own choice.
ICE QUEEN: disclaimer
IMPORTANT: Remember, just don’t over do it. I don’t like the frozen look for many reasons, one it looks so unnatural, two the more important one…human connection. Human connection is so important and without being able to make facial expressions based on how you are feeling when speaking to your children or others in many ways can change the way you process emotions. Studies suggest, that when you can’t physically express your emotions, you feel less emotion. Again along with that it also just looks unnatural and processed. What are your feelings towards botox? Go comment on my latest post and share!
Q & A
HAVE YOU EVER DONE FILLERS OR ANY OTHER COSMETIC PROCEDURES: I have not had fillers and it’s not something I plan to do. I also have never had any other cosmetic procedures.
DO YOU STILL HAVE BOTOX IN YOUR FACE: Nope, I don’t. I have not had it in over three years. Botox only lasts around 3 months and I had it done 4 years ago.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND BOTOX: Honestly I wouldn’t get it done if you are very young. I got it done too early in my opinion. I only had a few very very fine lines and I didn’t really need it. I was 29 years old and thought I was getting it as a preventative measure. The problem with that is Botox only lasts a few months so 4 years later, two babies, pronounced 11 lines and no botox left in my face, I kind of felt like I flushed that money down the toilet.
DEBUNKING THE BUMP
ABOUT: When Daphne Adler, a mother and mathematician, was pregnant a colleague scolded her for sprinkling Parmesan cheese on her pasta. After dutifully dumping her dinner in the trash, she decided to investigate to find out whether the admonishment and similar warnings were based on fact.
What she discovered surprised her—and will surprise you, too. After three years of research where she pored over thousands of studies, Adler has reframed the parameters of what should and shouldn't be allowable during pregnancy. Her refreshing and reassuring book finally provides us with a way to separate myth from reality.
Fact or fallacy? Debunking the Bump sets the record straight with eye-opening revelations such as:
• 44% of obstetricians never mention the most important avoidable cause of birth defects.
• Less than half of all pregnant women are counseled about the most dangerous activity they could undertake while pregnant.
• In the long list of forbidden foods, one category is 10,000 times more risky than others...but its danger is not emphasized.
• Many pregnant women cut down their consumption of the single substance that's the most beneficial to their developing baby.
MAMA REVIEW: I am a natural childbirth educator and this was a fascinating read. it is well organized, not gender specific and full of analysis that sheds light on so many of the topics that new parents to be worry over. Every thing from sushi to pesticides, driving to sleeping on your left side. It is all covered. While it is a heavy read for the parent look for bare bones information or who has committed to doing things the way the doc tells them, this book a wealth of knowledge for the parent looking to make sure that they know their facts so that they can make informed decisions about their upcoming birth day
IT STARTS WITH AN EGG
ABOUT: Whether you are trying to conceive naturally or through IVF, the quality of your eggs will have a powerful impact on how long it takes you to get pregnant and whether you face an increased risk of miscarriage. Poor egg quality is emerging as the single most important cause of age-related infertility, recurrent miscarriage, and failed IVF cycles. It is also a major contributor to infertility in PCOS.
Based on a comprehensive investigation of a vast array of scientific research, It Starts with the Egg reveals a groundbreaking new approach for improving egg quality and fertility. With a concrete strategy that includes minimizing exposure to toxins such as BPA and phthalates, choosing the right vitamins and supplements to safeguard developing eggs, and harnessing nutritional advice shown to boost IVF success rates, this book offers practical solutions that will help you get pregnant faster and deliver a healthy baby.
"This timely synthesis of scientific literature is essential reading for both women and men wanting practical, evidence-based recommendations to enhance their fertility." - Dr. Loretta McKinnon, Epidemiologist, Princess Alexandra Hospital.
"A thoroughly-researched and eye-opening account of how small, simple lifestyle changes can have powerful, positive effects on your health and fertility. A must-read for women wanting the best chance of conceiving a healthy baby." - Beth Greer, bestselling author of Super Natural Home.
MAMA REVIEW: I found this book so helpful. You hear about things like BPAs and other chemicals being bad for you, but I was never sure exactly what I should be avoiding and to be honest it all just seemed too difficult. This is the first book I've read that really puts it all together, explains what you should avoid and what the risks are, and also what positive things you can do, what nutrients are important, etc. I also had no idea how much much of an impact you could make to your fertility by making a few simple changes.
This book has a lot of in-depth discussion of scientific material that I found really interesting but if you're not curious about that level of detail its easy to skim through to get to the practical advice - the end of the book includes an action plan, which distills everything into a handy list. And nice to know that the practical advice is based on scientific studies, unlike other fertility books I've read.
ABOUT: What to Expect When You're Expecting meets Freakonomics: an award-winning economist disproves standard recommendations about pregnancy to empower women while they're expecting.
Pregnancy—unquestionably one of the most profound, meaningful experiences of adulthood—can reduce otherwise intelligent women to, well, babies. We’re told to avoid cold cuts, sushi, alcohol, and coffee, but aren’t told why these are forbidden. Rules for prenatal testing are hard and fast—and unexplained. Are these recommendations even correct? Are all of them right for every mom-to-be? In Expecting Better, award-winning economist Emily Oster proves that pregnancy rules are often misguided and sometimes flat-out wrong.
A mom-to-be herself, Oster debunks the myths of pregnancy using her particular mode of critical thinking: economics, the study of how we get what we want. Oster knows that the value of anything—a home, an amniocentesis—is in the eyes of the informed beholder, and like any complicated endeavor, pregnancy is not a one-size-fits-all affair. And yet medicine often treats it as such. Are doctors working from bad data? Are well-meaning friends and family perpetuating false myths and raising unfounded concerns? Oster’s answer is yes, and often.
Pregnant women face an endless stream of decisions, from the casual (Can I eat this?) to the frightening (Is it worth risking a miscarriage to test for genetic defects?). Expecting Better presents the hard facts and real-world advice you’ll never get at the doctor’s office or in the existing literature. Oster’s revelatory work identifies everything from the real effects of caffeine and tobacco to the surprising dangers of gardening.
Any expectant mother knows that the health of her baby is paramount, but she will be less anxious and better able to enjoy a healthy pregnancy if she is informed . . . and can have the occasional glass of wine.
MAMA REVIEW: Loved it! If you are the type of person that likes data and statistics, and wants to know WHY all these conflicting "rules" about pregnancy exist, this book is for you. I wish I had read it at the beginning of my pregnancy rather than in month 9 -- but it wasn't out yet!
Oster's big idea is that women should be trusted with specific, accurate data so they can make their own decisions based on the risks vs. rewards.
ABOUT: Nurture is the only all-in-one pregnancy and birthing book for modern mothers-to-be and their partners who want a more integrative approach. Author Erica Chidi Cohen has assisted countless births and helped hundreds of families ease into their new roles through her work as a doula. This beautiful, comprehensive and judgement-free pregnancy companion covers everything from the beginning months of pregnancy to the baby's first weeks. Including supportive self-care and mindfulness exercises, trimester-specific holistic remedies, nourishing foods and recipes for every month of pregnancy along with more than 40 charming and helpful illustrations, and expert tips for every birth environment, it's got everything modern mother would want to know: fetal development, making choices for a hospital, home or birth center birth, the basics of breastfeeding, tips on what to expect postpartum and more.
MAMA REVIEW: “Erica is one of the warmest, kindest women I know, so it’s no surprise that Nurturereveals how to take gentle care of yourself during pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood (as you gradually develop what she calls your “mother muscle”). Nurturesupports all different approaches—home births, epidurals, breastfeeding, bottle feeding—so you can choose your own path with Erica's reassuring advice. It’s like having an expert doula and friend at your fingertips. I’d recommend this book for the nightstand of every expectant mother.” —Joanna Goddard, founder of the women’s lifestyle website Cup of Jo
THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING
ABOUT: It’s no secret that breastfeeding is the normal, healthy way to nourish and nurture your baby. Dedicated to supporting nursing and expectant mothers, the internationally respected La Leche League has set the standard for educating and empowering mothers in this natural art for generations.
Now their classic bestselling guide has been retooled, refocused, and updated for today’s mothers and lifestyles. Working mothers, stay-at-home moms, single moms, and mothers of multiples will all benefit from the book’s range of nursing advice, stories, and information—from preparing for breastfeeding during pregnancy to feeding cues, from nursing positions to expressing and storing breast milk. With all-new photos and illustrations, this ultimate support bible offers
• real-mom wisdom on breastfeeding comfortably—from avoiding sore nipples to simply enjoying the amazing bonding experience
• new insights into old approaches toward latching and attaching, ages and stages, and answers to the most-asked questions
• strategies for moms who choose to breastfeed for a short time or who plan to nurse for a year or more
• reassuring information on nursing after a C-section or delivery complications
• recent scientific data that highlight the many lifelong health benefits of breastfeeding
• helpful tips for building your support network—at home or when back at work
• nursing special-needs infants, premies, multiples, and how to thrive no matter what curveball life throws
• guidance on breast health issues, weight gain, day care, colic, postpartum depression, food allergies, and medications
Plus—Internet references for further information, including La Leche League support sites and groups.
Mothers bringing babies into a new world want sustainable, healthy, positive ways to help their children blossom and thrive. There is no better beginning for your baby than the womanly art of breastfeeding.
MAMA REVIEW: I wish I'd read this book before my first child was born! I think it had great advice and was really in depth and thorough. I read a few other breastfeeding books before #1 was born but breastfeeding did not go smoothly and my references books were not very help - didn't address my problem at all. I honestly though the name of the book was weird so I picked something more bland and clinical. I saw 3 lactation consultants and was really frustrated and disappointment with my experience.
BECOMING BABY WISE: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep
ABOUT: The infant management concepts presented in this book have found favor with over two million parents and twice as many contented babies. On Becoming Babywise brings hope to the tired and bewildered parents looking for an alternative to sleepless nights and fussy babies. The Babywise Parent Directed Feeding concept has enough structure to bring security and order to your baby's world, yet enough flexibility to give mom freedom to respond to any need at any time. It teaches parents how to lovingly guide their baby's day rather than be guided or enslaved to the infant's unknown needs.
The information contained within On Becoming Babywise is loaded with success. Comprehensive breast-feeding follow-up surveys spanning three countries, of mothers using the PDF method verify that as a result of the PDF concepts, 88% breast-feed, compared to the national average of only 54% (from the National Center for Health Statistics). Of these breast-feeding mothers, 80% of them breast-feed exclusively without a formula complement. And while 70% of our mothers are still breast-feeding after six months, the national average encourage to follow demand feeding without any guidelines is only 20%. The mean average time of breast-feeding for PDF moms is 33 1/2 weeks, well above the national average. Over 50% of PDF mothers extend their breast-feeding toward and well into the first year.
Added to these statistics is another critical factor. The average breast-fed PDF baby sleeps continuously through night seven to eight hours between weeks seven and nine. Healthy sleep in infants is analogous to healthy growth and development. Find out for yourself why a world of parents and pediatricians utilize the concepts found in On Becoming Babywise
MAMA REVIEW: I know some people don't like the author or his ideas, but I found them lifesaving with our first baby. I saw how effective these methods were for my best friend, so I was very interested in reading this book for myself.
We started Babywise with Lily when she was two weeks old--basically, we started giving her life a consistent pattern of feeding, having waketime, then napping. The big difference between this and the way that most babies naturally operate is that babies like to fall asleep eating. The problem is that they often don't take a full feeding and end up snacking all day. So, you feed your baby when she's hungry (generally every 2.5-3 hours at first, though you adjust to your baby), keep her awake through the whole feeding (it gets easier after the first couple of weeks), play with her and have good "wake time," and then put her down for a nap. This regulates the baby's rhythms and worked really well with our first baby.
BABY LED WEANING by GILL RAPLEY
ABOUT: Contrary to popular belief, there is no research that supports the current mainstream view that babies should be weaned by being spoon-fed purées. Self-feeding allows babies to use their natural abilities to explore taste, texture, colour and smell. It encourages independence and confidence by allowing them to experiment with foods at their own pace and helps to develop hand-eye coordination and chewing.
Baby-led Weaning is a practical and authoritative guide to introducing solid food, enabling your child to grow up a happy and confident eater. It shows parents why baby-led weaning makes sense and gives them the confidence to trust their baby's natural skills and instincts.
With practical tips for getting started and the low-down on what to expect, Baby-led Weaning explodes the myth that babies need to be spoon-fed and shows why self-feeding from the start is the healthiest way for your child to develop. Your baby is allowed to decide how much he wants to eat, how to eat it and to experiment with everything at his own pace.
Baby-led weaning is a common-sense, safe, easy and enjoyable approach to feeding your baby. No more purées and weaning spoons, and no more mealtime battles. Simply let your baby feed himself healthy family food.
MAMA REVIEW: ”I loved this book so much I read through the entire thing in a day. We had already decided to do BLW before we bought this book, so we required very little convincing. Still, this book presented some of the research done on BLW and contained TONS of personal anecdotes by BLW parents, all of which really solidified our resolve to take this approach with our son”
CHERISH THE FIRST 6 WEEKS BY HELEN MOON
ABOUT: From baby nurse to the stars, Helen Moon, a step-by-step plan to managing sleep and feeding issues to survive--and enjoy--the first six weeks of your newborn baby's life.
Have you ever wondered why celebrities look so rested in such a short time after giving birth? The answer: baby specialists like Helen Moon. A baby specialist and professional nanny for the past 25 years, Helen has worked closely with hundreds of families, including some of Hollywood's biggest stars.
Helen knows that the first six weeks of a baby's life--when parents tend to be nervous, siblings are needy, and new babies need immediate and constant attention--has a huge impact on the entire family. Getting a baby on a sleeping and eating schedule is an achievable dream, and it's not a mystery. Helen's step-by-step plan shows new parents exactly how to integrate their baby into the family so that she will be able to sleep when she's tired, eat when she's hungry, and calm herself when she's fussy--self-regulating skills that will enable her to thrive for the rest of her life.
Assured that their babies are secure and happy, parents can confidently enjoy this most precious time of their baby's life, trusting their own instincts, and--most importantly--sleeping through the night themselves!
MAMA REVIEW: This book is a step-by-step guide to creating a daily routine with your newborn, including diapering, feeding, sleeping and soothing. In practical terms, the eventual goal of this routine is to help your baby sleep through the night (and nap well during the day) but it's more about creating security and structure for all members of the family. The philosophy is that parents act as guides, and baby looks to the parents to help her regulate and develop predictable routines that give her enough comfort and safety to be able to sleep on her own.
ABOUT: When Hope Edelman finished writing Motherless Daughters, she thought she had said all she could about the long-term effects of early mother loss. Published in 1994, the book touched a nerve in women across the country and went on to become an enduring New York Times bestseller. Edelman, who was seventeen when her own mother died, told the collective story of mother loss with such candor, empathy, and informed wisdom that she quickly became a widely recognized expert on the topic.
But when she became a parent, she found herself revisiting her loss in ways she had never anticipated. Now the mother of two young girls, Edelman set out to learn how the loss of a mother to death or abandonment can affect the ways women raise their own children. From her exhaustive investigation, including a survey of more than one thousand women, comes Motherless Mothers, the enlightening and inspiring next step in the motherless journey.
Using her own story as a prism, Edelman reveals the unique anxieties and desires these mothers experience as they raise their children without the help of a living maternal guide. She examines their parenting choices, their unexpected triumphs, and their fears, from the initial decision to have a child, through pregnancy, the delivery room, and the child-rearing years. Identifying "Eight Themes of Motherless Mothers" that cut across all racial, ethnic, and socio-economic lines, Edelman illuminates how the experience of loss directly impacts the ways in which these women parent their own children.
Enriched by the voices of the mothers themselves, as well as filled with practical insight and advice from experienced professionals, this impeccably researched and luminously written book offers motherless mothers the guidance and support they want and need.
MAMA REVIEW: An incredible book. Gives some great insight into the mixed emotions that come of losing one's mother and becoming a mother. This isn't a topic people really want to hear you bring up and it's rare to find someone with whom to talk it over, so having this book was incredibly comforting at some very low points. I wish I could thank Hope Edelman in person for thinking of it and writing it.
ABOUT: The Wonder Weeks. How to stimulate your baby's mental development and help him turn his 10 predictable, great, fussy phases into magical leaps forward describes in easy-to-understand terms the incredible developmental changes that all babies go through during the first 20 months of their lives. This is the extended, "fat" edition with 2 more chapters covering 2 more leaps in the mental development of your baby up to the end of the sensorimotor period.
The book is based on the discovery of a little known phenomenon: all normal, healthy babies appear to be more tearful, troublesome, demanding and clingy at very nearly the same ages.
These age-related fluctuations in need for body contact and attention are related to major and quite dramatic changes in the brains of the children. These changes enable a baby to enter a whole new perceptual world and, as a consequence, to learn many new skills. This should be a reason for celebration, but as far as the baby is concerned these changes are bewildering. He's taken aback -- everything has changed overnight. It is as if he has woken up on a strange planet.
The book includes:
- Week-by-week guide to baby's behavior
- An explanation of the markers for cranky, clingy, crying (the three C's) behavior and how to deal with them
- A description from your baby's perspective of the world around him and how you can understand the changes he's going through
- Fun games and gentle activities you can do with your child
The book offers parents:
- Support in times of trouble
- Help in understanding their baby
- Hints on how to help their baby play and learn
- A unique account of their baby's development
For more detailed information about contents and the research behind the book, please visit www.thewonderweeks.com
MAMA REVIEW: I'm grateful for this book--if nothing else, it assured me that those random flows of fussiness aren't because I'm a bad parent or because my baby is actually the mayor of Crazytown. She is being fussy because she's actually doing something amazing. She learns more in a day than I do in a year, I swear.
BRINGING UP BEBE
ABOUT: The runaway New York Times bestseller that shows American parents the secrets behind France's amazingly well-behaved children
When American journalist Pamela Druckerman had a baby in Paris, she didn't aspire to become a "French parent." But she noticed that French children slept through the night by two or three months old. They ate braised leeks. They played by themselves while their parents sipped coffee. And yet French kids were still boisterous, curious, and creative. Why? How? With a notebook stashed in her diaper bag, Druckerman set out to investigate—and wound up sparking a national debate on parenting. Researched over three years and written in her warm, funny voice, Bringing Up Bébé is deeply wise, charmingly told, and destined to become a classic resource for American parents.
MAMA REVIEW: Also known as "French children don't throw food". One of the best parenting books I've ever read, and entertaining as well! I actually took notes and have been trying some things out. I love the author's attitude and I can see a lot of logic in many of the French ideas. But regardless, I really enjoyed reading the story of this family!
THE HAPPIEST BABY ON THE BLOCK
ABOUT: In perhaps the most important parenting book of the decade, Dr. Harvey Karp reveals an extraordinary treasure sought by parents for centuries --an automatic “off-switch” for their baby’s crying.
No wonder pediatricians across the country are praising him and thousands of Los Angeles parents, from working moms to superstars like Madonna and Pierce Brosnan, have turned to him to learn the secrets for making babies happy.
Never again will parents have to stand by helpless and frazzled while their poor baby cries and cries. Dr. Karp has found there isa remedy for colic. “I share with parents techniques known only to the most gifted baby soothers throughout history …and I explain exactly how they work.”
In an innovative and thought-provoking reevaluation of early infancy, Dr. Karp blends modern science and ancient wisdom to prove that newborns are not fully ready for the world when they are born. Through his research and experience, he has developed four basic principles that are crucial for understanding babies as well as improving their sleep and soothing their senses. ·The Missing Fourth Trimester: as odd as it may sound, one of the main reasons babies cry is because they are born three months too soon.
·The Calming Reflex: the automatic reset switch to stop crying of any baby in the first few months of life.
·The 5 “S’s”: the simple steps (swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging and sucking) that trigger the calming reflex. For centuries, parents have tried these methods only to fail because, as with a knee reflex, the calming reflex only works when it is triggered in precisely the right way. Unlike other books that merely list these techniques Dr. Karp teaches parents exactly how to do them, to guide cranky infants to calm and easy babies to serenity in minutes…and help them sleep longer too.
·The Cuddle Cure: the perfect mix the 5 “S’s” that can soothe even the most colicky of infants.
In the book, Dr. Karp also explains:
What is colic?
Why do most babies get much more upset in the evening?
How can a parent calm a baby--in mere minutes?
Can babies be spoiled?
When should a parent of a crying baby call the doctor?
How can a parent get their baby to sleep a few hours longer?
Even the most loving moms and dads sometimes feel pushed to the breaking point by their infant’s persistent cries. Coming to the rescue, however, Dr. Karp places in the hands of parents, grandparents, and all childcare givers the tools they need to be able to calm their babies almost as easily as…turning off a light.
MAMA REVIEW: This book is an absolute parenting essential. In the future, I will purchase this book, along with a swaddler, for every friend/relative who has a new baby. It's the closest thing to magic I have encountered during my brief time as a parent!
We used the techniques in this book almost every day for the first 4 months of our child's life. We still swaddle our son now and he's almost six months old.
I wold strongly recommend reading it before you give birth - we actually used the entire technique our first night home from the hospital.
The book really, truly works. I know a DVD is available too, but I would say read the book as well because it really gets into the science of sleep and infant development.
THE NEW CONTENDED BABY BOOK BY GINA FORD
MOMS ON CALL
ABOUT: Advice from two pediatric nurse moms with over 20 years of experience and eight children between them (including two sets of twins). Who says that babies don't come with instructions? They do now!
Everything that modern parents need to know about caring for babies in the first six months, including:
• Step by step guidelines for getting babies on a routine
• Hour by hour schedules at a glance
• Feeding instructions for breast, bottle or both!
• What symptoms warrant a trip to the emergency room
• How to get your baby to sleep all night so you can too!
Plus, much more!
Advice from two pediatric nurse moms with eight children between them has moms all over the globe hailing this as, "The absolute best baby book ever.
MAMA REVIEW: This book had my twins sleeping through the night at 2 months old! But it also gave me something even more valuable, which was confidence as a new mother. It has everything you need...no other books are necessary. And my pediatrician agreed with everything it advised. Just make sure you get it through their website and not Amazon for the best price.
DR. SEARS LIBRARY-
THE BABY BOOK
ABOUT: The "baby bible" of the post-Dr. Spock generation, already embraced by hundreds of thousands of American parents, has now been revised, expanded, and brought thoroughly up-to-date -- with the latest information on everything from diapering to day care, from midwifery to hospital birthing rooms, from postpartum nutrition to infant development. Dr. Bill and Martha Sears draw from their vast experience both as medical professionals and as the parents of eight children to provide comprehensive information on virtually every aspect of infant care. Working for the first time with their sons Dr. Bob and Dr. Jim, both pediatric specialists in their own right, the Searses have produced a completely updated guide that is unrivaled in its scope and authority. The Baby Book focuses on the essential needs of babies -- cating, sleeping, development, health, and comfort -- as it addresses the questions of greatest concern to today's parents. The Baby Book presents a practical, contemporary approach to parenting that reflects the way we live today. The Searses acknowledge that there is no one way to parent a baby, and they offer the basic guidance and inspiration you need to develop the parenting style that best suits you and your child. The Baby Book is a rich and invaluable resource that will help you get the most out of parenting -- for your child, for yourself, and for your entire family.
MAMA REVIEW: I'm finding that my favorite baby books were ones recommended to me by family and friends, and "The Baby Book" by William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N., was recommended to me by one of my oldest friends. As with any parenting book, I would recommend taking from it the parts that you find most useful, acknowledging that there might be sections where you disagree.
Dr. Sears and his wife, Martha, are proponents of attachment parenting, a term which is often misunderstood. But even if you're not the sort of person who walks around 24/7 with a baby carrier strapped to you, there is plenty of good, practical advice within these pages.
What I liked most about this book is the relaxed tone. As both a parent of multiple children and a practicing pediatrician, Dr. Sears knows that it's easy to get worked up about possible problems or issues. The book's reassuring tone presents the latest medical information, combined with practical advice, and I can't count the number of times we raced to this book during a perceived emergency and received comfort from the information we learned.
Above all, the book is valuable because of its multiple charts and tables about such topics as sicknesses, immunizations, feeding solid foods, development, and more. The book is packed with useful information, as well as playful activities to encourage development and other useful tips.
I would highly recommend it to any first-time parent or guardian of a baby from birth to age 2.
THE DISCIPLINE BOOK
ABOUT: Everything you need to know about discipline to raise a happy, well-adjusted, well-behaved child-from America's foremost baby and childcare experts Disciplining children means equipping them with the tools to succeed in life. In this unique guide, Dr. Bill and Martha Sears, the pediatrics specialists whose books on birth, babies, and parenting have become widely praised bestsellers, explain what you can do to shape your child's behavior so that good conduct comes naturally. With a focus not just on managing behavior problems but also on preventing them, the Searses offer clear, practical advice on a broad range of disciplinary issues, including: * mother's role vs. father's role * developing the connection with your baby that will make discipline easier in years to come * saying no * taming temper tantrums * self-esteem as the foundation of good behavior * helping a child to express feelings * the constructive use of anger * good nutrition for good behavior * sleep and nighttime discipline * sibling rivalry * spanking and alternatives to spanking * how to eliminate bothersome behaviors such as whining and talking back * how to respond when your child lies, cheats, or steals * discipline after divorce and in the single-parent household Drawing on nearly thirty years of the Searses' experience as childcare professionals and as the parents of eight children, The Discipline Book will make you confident in your ability to correct undesirable behavior, to promote good behavior, and to instill the values that will help your child become morally literate.
MAMA REVIEW: This book was a game changer for me. I was already familiar with Dr. Sears' philosophies from reading "The Baby Book", and have tried my best to use "attachment parenting" principles because they make sense to me.
This book made a lot of sense to me too; I found myself agreeing with pretty much every idea presented. They are not all always easy to DO, but they all make sense.
The main idea that struck me was this: Discipline isn't about using any certain discipline, but rather about creating the right kind of relationship with your child. That relationship comes from attachment parenting, he says, simply because that is what establishes a connection and mutual sensitivity between parent and child.
Sears also addresses almost every conceivable bad behavior or annoyance and gives suggestions on how to address them (without spanking). I will be keeping this as a reference book for many years to come.
THE baby SLEEP BOOK
ABOUT: Everything you need to know about getting your baby or toddler to sleep -- from America's foremost baby and childcare experts.
Babies don't automatically know how to sleep through the night; they need to be taught. The Sears family has learned from decades of pediatric practice, bolstered by their own parenting experiences, that different babies have different nighttime temperaments -- and, of course, different families have different lifestyles. Instead of espousing the kind of "one method fits all" approach advocated in other baby sleep guides, the Sears family explains how you can create a sleep plan that suits the needs of your entire family.
With a sharp focus on the practical tools and techniques, The Baby Sleep Book covers such topics as:
the facts of infant sleep vs. adult sleep
figuring out where, when, and how your child sleeps best
fail-safe methods for soothing a crying infant
how to make night nursing easier, and how to stop
nighttime fathering tips
whether co-sleeping makes sense for you
nap-time strategies that work
medical and physical causes of night waking
sleep habits in special situations such as traveling, teething, and illness.
MAMA REVIEW: I'm a big fan of Dr. Sears. I think his thoughts on parenting are reasonable, compassionate, and gentle. Several times when I've been frustrated with DD's sleep problems, I read what Dr. Sears has written and it helps me to try and view things from my daughter's point of view. He reaffirms my own "gut" feelings about how to parent my child. I like that he doesn't advocate "crying it out", even dedicating a whole chapter on how it can be detrimental to your child. However, he does make the point of differentiating between "crying it out" and "crying it out alone". His tone is gentle and affirming. He always offers that every family is different and has to do what is best for them. I was a little frustrated at first that he doesn't offer any hard and fast solutions to nightwaking problems, but then I realized that there aren't any hard and fast solutions! I have to be patient.
12 HOURS BY 12 WEEKS
ABOUT: There is no bigger issue for healthy infants than sleeping through the night. In this simple, straightforward book, Suzy Giordano presents her amazingly effective "Limited- Crying Solution" that will get any baby to sleep for twelve hours at night—and three hours in the day—by the age of twelve weeks old.
Giordano is the mother of five children and one of the most sought-after baby sleep specialists in the country. The Washington Post calls her a baby sleep "guru" and "an underground legend in the Washington area for her ability to teach newborns how to achieve that parenting nirvana: sleeping through the night." Her sleep plan has been tested with singletons, twins, triplets, babies with special needs, and colicky babies—and it has never failed.
Whether you are pregnant, first-time parents, or parents who seek a different path with your second or third child, anyone can benefit from the Baby Coach’s popular system of regular feeding times, twelve hours of sleep at night and three hours of sleep during the day, and the peace of mind that comes with taking the parent and child out of a sleep- deprived world.
MAMA REVIEW: EASILY THE BEST ADVICE TO GET YOUR BABY TO SLEEP!!!!! I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK!!! Our first baby is 4 weeks old, and just barely hit 9 lbs (the minimum to start training). We did as the book instructed and were easily able to spread his day feedings to 4 hours apart (4 times/day). We kept him awake between the third and last feeding and that first night he slept for 7 hours (8pm-3am) then fed, and then slept till 8am!!! (The previous night he fed 3 times.) And he is still eating a TON of breastmilk and gaining weight. He also takes two naps a day and is the happiest baby ever and so playful during the day! Even when following this system he still gets about 15 hours of sleep per day (the recommended amount for his age).
This system works and is very easy to follow. It also doesn't involve doing anything that seems cruel or makes you feel bad for your baby. Most babies take longer to get to the point we are at, but using this system I believe all babies can get to 12 hours sleep at night.
EVERY NEW PARENT SHOULD GET THIS BOOK! I like that it is concise, easy to read and gets straight to the point. Other books have similar information, but take 2-3 times as many pages to give you the same information.
THE FERBER METHOD
ABOUT: In a nutshell, Ferber says you can teach your baby to soothe himself to sleep when he's physically and emotionally ready, usually between 3 and 5 months of age.
He recommends following a warm, loving bedtime routine and then putting your baby in bed awake and leaving him (even if he cries) for gradually longer periods of time. Putting a child to bed awake, says Ferber, is crucial to teaching him successfully to go to sleep on his own.
Parents are instructed to pat and comfort their baby after each predetermined period of time but not to pick up or feed their baby. This routine is called "progressive waiting."
The suggested waiting time, which Ferber charts in his book, is based on how comfortable you are with the technique, how many days you've been using it, and how many times you've already checked on your child that night.
The theory goes that after a few days to a week of gradually increasing the waiting time, most babies learn to fall asleep on their own, having realized that crying earns nothing more than a brief check from you.
MAMA REVIEW: If you choose to ferberize, it will take several nights of LO (little one) crying it out. You're already doing 2-3 hours nightly, you'll probably do the same the first few nights you try this. But after the fifth or sixth night when you place LO (little one) in bed, he will know to go to sleep. But I only have experience doing it with an older child. My cousin did it when her LO (little one) was about 6-7 mos, successfully. But once you start the "process", you shouldn't stop. First night 5 minutes, second night 10 minutes, etc until you have success.
ABOUT: Addressing the task of disciplining children ages 2 through 12 without arguing, yelling, or spanking, this program offers easy-to- follow steps to immediately manage troublesome behaviour with reason, patience, and compassion.
MAMA REVIEW: This book on the other hand is Excellent. Its a short book that really gives you a framework to:
1) Stop your kids obnoxious behavior,
2) Get your kids to Start doing stuff (chores, getting ready for bed, etc.) and
3) Helping you set aside time to build healthy friendships with your kids.
ABOUT: Dr. Spock meets Judge Judy--finally a parenting book that separates fact from fiction. What if you could bottle the wisdom of all those parents who've come before you...and combine them with the sold medical advice from an award-winning pediatrician? Baby 411 is the answer.
MAMA REVIEW: This is a great, information-packed book on baby's first year. It covers pretty much every topic you could hope for (feeding, sleeping, development, etc). It's very thorough. My only issue was getting paranoid after reading the second half of the book, since it's all about viruses, illnesses, and other freaky things that could go wrong. It's good to know, but not fun to think about.
DISEASE PROOF YOUR BABY BY DR. FUHRMAN
ABOUT: In his private practice, Joel Fuhrman, M.D. helps families transform their eating habits and recover their health. His nutrient-rich eating plan can have a significant impact on your child's resistance to dangerous infections, and a dramatic effect on reducing the occurrence of illnesses like asthma, ear infections, and allergies. Dr. Fuhrman explains how you can make sure your children are eating right to maintain a healthy mind and body, and how eating certain foods and avoiding others can positively impact your child's IQ and success in school.
He also presents the fascinating science that demonstrates that the current epidemic of adult cancers and other diseases is closely linked to what we eat in the first quarter of life. Eating well in our early years may enable us to win the war on cancer. Bolstered by this scientific evidence, he helps you do everything you can to protect your child against developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, and cancer through a solid nutritional groundwork.
Featuring easy-to-prepare, kid-friendly recipes that will satisfy even the pickiest eaters, Disease-Proof Your Child will help your whole family will learn to establish life-long healthful eating habits.
MAMA REVIEW: “…a timely response to America's health care crisis. The time to effectively institute healthy nutrition is during childhood. Dr. Fuhrman provides solutions for children, parents, and physicians.” ―Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D., Preventive Cardiology – Cleveland Clinic Foundation
“Dr. Fuhrman's latest book couldn't have come at a better time given the epidemic of obesity, cancer, diabetes and heart disease which is reaching earlier and earlier into the lives of our children. It is destined to take its place among the most important child-rearing books ever written…” ―Mark A. Huberman, President, National Health Association
“The reduction in disease and suffering from this book could exceed any ‘medical' advance one can conceive of.” ―John Kelly, MD, MPH, President, American College of Lifestyle Medicine, professor, Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health, Loma Linda University
ABOUT: With over 100,000 copies in print, Baby 411 is the country's fast-growing parenting series with legions of fans nationwide. Now, here comes the sequel: Toddler 411! From picky eaters to temper tantrums, Toddler 411 provides practical answers and advice from an award-winning pediatrician and mom who've been there, done that!
MAMA REVIEW: Toddler 411 (much as its predecessor, Baby 411) is a great book to have on hand when you have a question about your child that you don't feel warrants a doctor call, and yet you feel you need a little bit more than your own common sense. It's straight-laced answers are very calming in the wake of some of toddlerhood's scariest scenarios for a parent (illness, etc.). The Q&A form in which it's written makes things easy to find. Once you've read it through once, you can easily revert back to pertinent topics at a moment's notice. Or you can simply use it as a reference in general without ever needing to read it cover-to-cover. A+
HOW TODDLERS THRIVE
ABOUT: What makes a child succeed…or wander into an unfulfilled adulthood? New research indicates that the seeds for adult success are often planted in the toddler years, ages 2-5. Dr. Tovah Klein runs the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development, the laboratory at the forefront of understanding toddler behavior and development.
MAMA REVIEW: One of the best toddler-parenting books I've read, it focuses on: 1) the need to provide structure, 2) the need to let toddlers do things for themselves (parents not always fixing the problem), and 3) the importance of seeing a situation from a child's point of view. The book also discusses parents' natural inclinations to shame, and the harm it causes. Because the book is written by a daycare/pre-school director, the author is used to two working parents, which was a refreshing departure from many parenting books in providing tools that work in that environment
THE HAPPIEST TODDLER ON THE BLOCK
ABOUT: Toddlers can drive you bonkers...so adorable and fun one minute...so stubborn and demanding the next! Yet, as unbelievable as it sounds, there is a way to turn the daily stream of "nos" and "don'ts" into "yeses" and hugs...if you know how to speak your toddler's language. In one of the most useful advances in parenting techniques of the past twenty-five years, Dr. Karp reveals that toddlers, with their immature brains and stormy outbursts, should be thought of not as pint-size people but as pintsize...cavemen.
Having noticed that the usual techniques often failed to calm crying toddlers, Dr. Karp discovered that the key to effective communication was to speak to them in their own primitive language. When he did, suddenly he was able to soothe their outbursts almost every time! This amazing success led him to the realization that children between the ages of one and four go through four stages of "evolutionary" growth, each linked to the development of the brain, and each echoing a step in prehistoric humankind's journey to civilization:
- The "Charming Chimp-Child" (12 to 18 months): Wobbles around on two legs, grabs everything in reach, plays a nonstop game of "monkey see monkey do."
- The "Knee-High Neanderthal" (18 to 24 months): Strong-willed, fun-loving, messy, with a vocabulary of about thirty words, the favorites being "no" and "mine."
- The "Clever Caveman" (24 to 36 months):
Just beginning to learn how to share, make friends, take turns, and use the potty.
- The "Versatile Villager" (36 to 48 months): Loves to tell stories, sing songs and dance, while trying hard to behave.
To speak to these children, Dr. Karp has developed two extraordinarily effective techniques:
1) The "fast food" rule--restating what your child has said to make sure you got it right;
2) The four-step rule--using gesture, repetition, simplicity, and tone to help your
irate Stone-Ager be happy again.
Once you've mastered "toddler-ese," you will be ready to apply behavioral techniques specific to each stage of your child's development, such as teaching patience and calm, doing time-outs (and time-ins), praise through "gossiping," and many other strategies. Then all the major challenges of the toddler years--including separation anxiety, sibling rivalry, toilet training, night fears, sleep problems, picky eating, biting and hitting, medicine taking "-- "can be handled in a way that will make your toddler feel understood. The result: fewer tantrums, less yelling, and, best of all, more happy, loving time for you and your child. "From the Hardcover edition."
MAMA REVIEW: I have to disagree with most of the reviews of this book. I read this book during a period of severe tantrums from my one year old, and a lot of the strategies suggested in this book really seemed to help. Simply coming to the realization that my toddler was more like a little caveman rather than a little person helped dramatically. Before reading the book, I constantly was asking myself an anyone else near, "why is she acting like this?!?!" Reading this book have me some much needed insight. Also, some things I was doing wrong seemed so silly after reading the explanations. For example, a lot of parents make the mistake of always trying to distract their child when they're upset. This is similar to reacting to friend who is telling you about a bad day like "hey, look at my shoes", not helpful. I got a lot out of this book, and my daughter's tantrums have decreased and are much more manageable now
NO BAD KIDS
ABOUT: Janet Lansbury is unique among parenting experts. As a RIE teacher and student of pioneering child specialist Magda Gerber, her advice is not based solely on formal studies and the research of others, but also on her twenty years of hands-on experience guiding hundreds of parents and their toddlers. “No Bad Kids” is a collection of Janet's most popular and widely read articles pertaining to common toddler behaviors and how respectful parenting practices can be applied to benefit both parents and children. It covers such common topics as punishment, cooperation, boundaries, testing, tantrums, hitting, and more. “No Bad Kids” provides a practical, indispensable tool for parents who are anticipating or experiencing those critical years when toddlers are developmentally obliged to test the limits of our patience and love. Armed with knowledge and a clearer sense of the world through our children’s eyes, this period of uncertainty can afford a myriad of opportunities to forge unbreakable bonds of trust and respect.
MAMA REVIEW: This book came out at just the right time for my family. My son had just turned 20 months and was starting to hit my husband and me, his classmates, and other family members. He had thrown a couple of tantrums by this point, too; and he was becoming a bit defiant. I've followed Janet Lansbury's blog over the past couple of years, and even though I knew this would basically be a collection of posts I'd read before, I knew I needed to read it all again now that these topics were timely for me.
It has been such a benefit to my family and to our relationship with our son to know how to interact with him in a gentle and respectful way. I want to encourage his confidence and independence while instilling in him a healthy respect for boundaries and consequences, so Lansbury and RIE are just right for my family. We've had very few moments in which I did not feel in control and capable, and it's because the guidelines Lansbury sets up for readers are simple and effective.
I recommend this for all parents, regardless of age. I've even applied these concepts to my high school students and have been amazed at their effectiveness!
NO DRAMA DISCIPLINE
ABOUT: NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - The pioneering experts behind The Whole-Brain Child and The Yes Brain tackle the ultimate parenting challenge: discipline.
Highlighting the fascinating link between a child's neurological development and the way a parent reacts to misbehavior, No-Drama Discipline provides an effective, compassionate road map for dealing with tantrums, tensions, and tears--without causing a scene.
Defining the true meaning of the "d" word (to instruct, not to shout or reprimand), the authors explain how to reach your child, redirect emotions, and turn a meltdown into an opportunity for growth. By doing so, the cycle of negative behavior (and punishment) is essentially brought to a halt, as problem solving becomes a win/win situation. Inside this sanity-saving guide you'll discover
- strategies that help parents identify their own discipline philosophy--and master the best methods to communicate the lessons they are trying to impart
- facts on child brain development--and what kind of discipline is most appropriate and constructive at all ages and stages
- the way to calmly and lovingly connect with a child--no matter how extreme the behavior--while still setting clear and consistent limits
- tips for navigating your child through a tantrum to achieve insight, empathy, and repair
- twenty discipline mistakes even the best parents make--and how to stay focused on the principles of whole-brain parenting and discipline techniques
Complete with candid stories and playful illustrations that bring the authors' suggestions to life, No-Drama Discipline shows you how to work with your child's developing mind, peacefully resolve conflicts, and inspire happiness and strengthen resilience in everyone in the family.
MAMA REVIEW: This book suggests that disciplinary moments are opportunities for parents to develop the executive function of their children’s brains. It presents a “connect, then redirect” model whereby parents first focus on connecting emotionally with their children to deescalate heightened situations and then work with them to redirect behaviour to a more positive outcome. It’s definitely too early for me to use this information now, but I’ll be revisiting this book in the future for sure!!
THE WHOLE BRAIN CHILD
ABOUT: Your toddler throws a tantrum in the middle of a store. Your preschooler refuses to get dressed. Your fifth-grader sulks on the bench instead of playing on the field. Do children conspire to make their parents’ lives endlessly challenging? No—it’s just their developing brain calling the shots!
In this pioneering, practical book, Daniel J. Siegel, neuropsychiatrist and author of the bestselling Mindsight, and parenting expert Tina Payne Bryson demystify the meltdowns and aggravation, explaining the new science of how a child’s brain is wired and how it matures. The “upstairs brain,” which makes decisions and balances emotions, is under construction until the mid-twenties. And especially in young children, the right brain and its emotions tend to rule over the logic of the left brain. No wonder kids can seem—and feel—so out of control. By applying these discoveries to everyday parenting, you can turn any outburst, argument, or fear into a chance to integrate your child’s brain and foster vital growth. Raise calmer, happier children using twelve key strategies, including
• Name It to Tame It: Corral raging right-brain behavior through left-brain storytelling, appealing to the left brain’s affinity for words and reasoning to calm emotional storms and bodily tension.
• Engage, Don’t Enrage: Keep your child thinking and listening, instead of purely reacting.
• Move It or Lose It: Use physical activities to shift your child’s emotional state.
• Let the Clouds of Emotion Roll By: Guide your children when they are stuck on a negative emotion, and help them understand that feelings come and go.
• SIFT: Help children pay attention to the Sensations, Images, Feelings, and Thoughts within them so that they can make better decisions and be more flexible.
• Connect Through Conflict: Use discord to encourage empathy and greater social success.
Complete with clear explanations, age-appropriate strategies for dealing with day-to-day struggles, and illustrations that will help you explain these concepts to your child, The Whole-Brain Child shows you how to cultivate healthy emotional and intellectual development so that your children can lead balanced, meaningful, and connected lives.
MAMA REVIEW: I am pleased to add this to my very, very small pile of approved discipline books.
1) It fits in very nicely with our family's go-to discipline philosophy, Positive Discipline (as taught by Jane Nelson)
2) It doesn't recommend punitive measures like time outs or spanking
3) it's relatively fast and easy to read with some quick reference tips when you need them most
4) it's fairly easy to implement...once you've made the paradigm shift, that is.
5) it honors and respects children and reminds parents that many of the "behavioral problems" we see are, in fact, totally normal developmental phases that children simply need additional support and nuturing to manage through.
6) it's not just a discipline book....but also a wonderful and eye-opening look at how children develop and what parents can do to ensure their children continue to thrive and grow
POSITIVE PARENTING BY REBECCA AENES
ABOUT: Popular parenting blogger Rebecca Eanes believes that parenting advice should be about more than just getting kids to behave. Struggling to maintain a meaningful connection with her two little ones and frustrated by the lack of emotionally aware books for parents, she began to share her own insights with readers online. Her following has grown into a thriving community--hundreds of thousands strong.
In this eagerly anticipated guide, Eanes shares her hard-won wisdom for overcoming limiting thought patterns and recognizing emotional triggers, as well as advice for connecting with kids at each stage, from infancy to adolescence. This heartfelt, insightful advice comes not from an "expert," but from a learning, evolving parent. Filled with practical, solution-oriented advice, this is an empowering guide for any parent who longs to end the yelling, power struggles, and downward spiral of acting out, punishment, resentment, and shame--and instead foster an emotional connection that helps kids learn self-discipline, feel confident, and create lasting, loving bonds.
MAMA REVIEW: This is a really great book for new moms. The way author has explained each everything is remarkable. In this book you will read about how to discipline your child and also how to maintain your marriage after having a baby.
I will highly recommend this book for all the moms out there.
PERMISSION TO PARENT BY ROBIN BERMAN
ABOUT: Over the past few decades, the power structure intrinsic to the family unit has flip-flopped. Children have become the center of the universe, ruling the roost with some serious ramifications for their wellbeing. By trying to constantly please their children and make them happy, parents are actually making their children anxious. In attempting to veer from the strictness of their own upbringing, many parents have gone too far the other way, showering praise onto their children in the hope of increasing self-esteem, forgetting that self-control is a key to instilling self-confidence.
Dr. Robin Berman’s extensive clinical experience has helped parents and children navigate the emotional and psychological minefields of family dynamics. In this essential parenting guide, she strikes the perfect balance of advice, anecdote, and research, explaining why parents need to be in charge and providing the tools they can use to give their children what they really need: limits, time, and more love.
Ten Tips from Permission to Parent
Parenting is not a democracy. Rules make kids feel safe.
Don’t be emotionally bullied by your child. Emotionally wimpy parenting leads to emotionally fragile kids.
A child who has too much power often becomes anxious.
Catering to your child’s every whim can lead to a child who is self-centered and lacks empathy.
Look long-term at a child who hasn’t faced consequences for behavior and, therefore, never learned accountability: Would you want to date this person as an adult?
If you say, “If you do that one more time,” mean it. Consistent follow-through is essential for a child’s emotional safety and your sanity.
Keep your eye on the long-term goal of raising a lovely child. Remember your mantra: Hate me now, thank me later.
Talk less, give fewer choices, keep it simple. Less is clearly more.
No is a complete sentence. No does not begin a negotiation.
Reverse negotiate. The more they argue, the less they get. It works like a charm.
MAMA REVIEW: My favorite parenting book (along side Ignore It! By Catherine Pearlman). It gives a great overview of peaceful parenting techniques I have read in other books, but it also gives clear examples on how to set proper boundaries and discipline techniques. If you are more on the permissive side of the parenting spectrum and you need reminders on why and how to implement strong leadership in your home this is a good book for you. It also goes over many topics such as technology, overbuying for our kids, and helicopter parenting. I would recommend this to any parent!
THE HAPPIEST PROJECT
ABOUT: Award-winning author Gretchen Rubin is back with a bang, with The Happiness Project. The author of the bestselling 40 Ways to Look at Winston Churchill has produced a work that is “a cross between the Dalai Lama’s The Art of Happiness and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love.” (Sonya Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want) In the vein of Julie and Julia, The Happiness Project describes one person’s year-long attempt to discover what leads to true contentment. Drawing at once on cutting-edge science, classical philosophy, and real-world applicability, Rubin has written an engaging, eminently relatable chronicle of transformation.
MAMA REVIEW: “An enlightening, laugh-aloud read. . . . Filled with open, honest glimpses into [Rubin’s] real life, woven together with constant doses of humor.” (Terry Hong, Christian Science Monitor)
“For those who generally loathe the self-help genre, Rubin’s book is a breath of peppermint-scented air. Well-researched and sharply written. . . . Rubin takes an orderly, methodical approach to forging her own path to a happier state of mind.” (Kim Crow, Cleveland Plain Dealer)
“Practical and never preachy . . . the rare self-help tome that doesn’t feel shameful to read.” (Daily Beast)
“Packed with fascinating facts about the science of happiness and rich examples of how she improves her life through changes small and big The Happiness Project made me happier by just reading it.” (Amy Scribner, Bookpage)
ABOUT: Today’s busier, faster, supersized society is waging an undeclared war . . . on childhood. As the pace of life accelerates to hyperspeed–with too much stuff, too many choices, and too little time–children feel the pressure. They can become anxious, have trouble with friends and school, or even be diagnosed with behavioral problems. Now, in defense of the extraordinary power of less, internationally renowned family consultant Kim John Payne helps parents reclaim for their children the space and freedom that all kids need, allowing their children’s attention to focus and their individuality to flourish.
Based on Payne’s twenty year’s experience successfully counseling busy families, Simplicity Parenting teaches parents how to worry and hover less–and how to enjoy more. For those who want to slow their children’s lives down but don’t know where to start, Payne offers both inspiration and a blueprint for change.
• Streamline your home environment. The average child has more than 150 toys. Here are tips for reducing the amount of toys, books, and clutter–as well as the lights, sounds, and general sensory overload that crowd the space young imaginations need in order to grow.
• Establish rhythms and rituals. Predictability (routines) and transparency (knowing the day’s plan) are soothing pressure valves for children. Here are ways to ease daily tensions, create battle-free mealtimes and bedtimes, and tell if your child is overwhelmed.
• Schedule a break in the schedule. Too many activities may limit children’s ability to motivate and direct themselves. Learn how to establish intervals of calm in your child’s daily torrent of constant doing–and familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of organized sports and other “enrichment” activities.
• Scale back on media and parental involvement. Back out of hyperparenting by managing your children’s “screen time” to limit the endless and sometimes scary deluge of information and stimulation.
Parental hovering is really about anxiety; by doing less and trusting more, parents can create a sanctuary that nurtures children’s identity, well-being, and resiliency as they grow–slowly–into themselves. A manifesto for protecting the grace of childhood, Simplicity Parenting is an eloquent guide to bringing new rhythms to bear on the lifelong art of parenting.
MAMA REVIEW: Best parenting book I've read. And really more than a parenting book, this a book about how to live life well in modern times. The author is a family counselor and over his career of helping many families, has developed a particular theory and philosophy about what is challenging so many families. To simplify (which is the theme of the book), we've become too busy, and that busyness is particularly bad for children.
PART 1Emergency C-section by Abigail Dixon
PART 2 Emergency C-Section | Postpartum PTSD by Stacy Hutton
PART 1 by Abigail Dixon
I found out I was pregnant in August of 2016, in our new home in a quiet Connecticut suburb. My husband was staying in the city since we were still going back and forth and had not fully moved in yet, so I was waiting to tell him until I saw him. We had been married six weeks, and were not expecting to be expecting so soon. We had not even been trying. We knew how lucky we were. Despite some hyperemesis gravidarum that lasted until thirty-two weeks, the pregnancy was uneventful. I met all of the pregnancy milestones, and my daughter measured in the fiftieth percentile the entire time. No gestational diabetes, no preeclampsia, no anatomical or genetic red flags. Everyone was perfectly healthy as we neared D Day.
In the two months between when I was stopped puking my guts up multiple times a day and the day I had my daughter, I dreamed about how labor and delivery would go. I dreamed of her being placed on my chest, all covered in gook and screaming. I dreamed of her latching right away and all three of us, our new little family, enjoying the golden hour together doing skin-to-skin and staring lovingly at each other. This dream included a vaginal delivery, with an epidural, and the thought of a C-section crossed my mind on occasion, only because I’d been born via C-section because I was breech and it was the late 80’s. But my daughter was head down so I didn’t think I would end up having a C-section. Why would I? C-sections are for breech babies, big babies, or complicated pregnancies. Not my case at all.
Then, at forty weeks and two days, at 7:45 pm, my water broke while I was peeing. It wasn’t a dramatic gush of water, just a pop followed by a small trickle of water that didn’t stop. So I did what every other mom anticipating labor does (not really, I was just feeling super calm): I called my OBGYN, hopped in the shower, shaved my legs, threw on some comfortable clothes (absorbent pad included due to fluid still trickling out), blow dried my hair (gotta look good for those photos, am I right?) and came down to make my husband a grilled cheese after his Tuesday night tennis match.
My contractions weren’t crippling or frequent so my doctor suggested I not come to the hospital until 4am or if the contractions got stronger and closer together. She suggested we get some sleep if possible. Hah, sleep. That was funny. Around 11pm my contractions started to become more painful and by 2am I decided we were going to the hospital. In the car on the way to the hospital contractions were every five minutes and pretty strong but not intolerable. When I got to the hospital, they slowed to every ten minutes or so and were not at all strong. This is where my delivery starts to turn.
The hospital OB consulted my doctor and decided to start me on Pitocin. Having been somewhat traumatized by how painful my sister said Pitocin contractions were, I requested an epidural before they gave it to me. This is also when I learned that you’re on a clock once your water breaks. You have 24 hours to deliver your baby due to risk of infection. Talk about stress! Who puts deadlines on a woman in labor?!
Four hours into the Pitocin, I hadn’t made much progress dilation-wise, so they decided to up my dosage. This is when the shit hit the fan. Within minutes of the increased dosage, my contractions definitely got stronger, but my daughter’s heart rate would drop at the peak of each contraction. Seeing this on their monitors, my OB and L&D nurse rushed in, changed my position, and waited a few contractions to see that her heart rate wouldn’t decelerate again. This worked for a little while. Then the decelerations started again. My OB figured out that it was because amniotic fluid was still leaking out and there was little left to cushion the umbilical cord against the strong Pitocin contractions.
My OB was desperate for me to have a vaginal birth, even commenting on how great a birthing pelvis I have, so as a last ditch effort, she inserted a catheter into my cervix and tried to replace the fluid being lost. This also worked for a while….then it stopped. With each contraction peaking, my daughter’s heart rate would tank. At this point, 19 hours into labor, my OB came in and told me that a baby can only tolerate so many decelerations and that for her and my safety (risk of infection due to ruptured membranes), we needed to get her out pronto.
My anxiety took over and I immediately started sobbing. I was so terrified I asked for Xanax, which you cannot have because it can sedate the baby. I was whisked away to the OR, hooked up to spinal anesthesia, and surgery began. I felt completely helpless, on top of extremely nauseated from the meds. You can hear people discussing what is happening, and cauterized flesh is not the most pleasant of aromas. I was beyond terrified, and really cold. The anesthesiologist was lovely and tried to calm me down. I was itchy from the anesthesia as well, a little talked about yet very common side effect. There was no relief from that. My husband did his best too, but you’re having surgery while awake: despite being numb, it’s not a walk in the park.
Then suddenly it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I was warned this would happen as they were pulling the baby out. Then I heard her cry and I saw her little face over the curtain. The nurses took her and I sent my husband over to be with her. She needed him now, not me. This was one of the most confusing points of the entire experience. I was overjoyed that my daughter and I were both safe, and that she was absolutely perfect, but I felt so guilty about her abrupt entrance into the world. She would be an hour without her mother, the only familiar scent and sensation she had at that point. That golden hour I had so badly wanted to experience with her and my husband was gone.
In recovery, about an hour after she made her entrance into the world, I got to hold my sweet, perfect, and hungry baby girl. I put her on the boob to nurse, but I couldn’t feel anything. I was still so numb, and would remain so for another twelve hours. When she finally came off, my nipples were bleeding and badly abraded. I couldn’t feel her improper latch, which made learning to breastfeed even harder as I had to wear shields for the first few weeks to allow the tissue to heal. There was another dream dashed.
Those twelve hours following the C-Section were blurry but difficult. I couldn’t get up to pick my baby up from the bassinet. I could barely adjust myself in the bed to nurse her. I was in so much pain with the incision and my nipples that I begged the nurses for extra pain medicine. Once the anesthesia fully wore off, catheter was out, my pain was controlled, and I was allowed to walk around, the guilt and shame set in big time. Did I scar my child by not delivering her vaginally? Did I ruin our chance at bonding? Why did my body not do what it was “supposed” to do? Did I even give birth? Did I take the easy way out? Was her gut flora going to be healthy despite not passing through the birth canal? (Yes, I really thought this; I’m a science nerd!) Would I be able to nurse her and have those special moments with her? Was this my fault?
For many moms, me included, the shame, guilt, and anxiety following an unexpected C-section are very, very real and painful. Maybe even more so than the incision itself. A week after delivery, around 1am, I would wake up from a dead sleep shaking and nauseated. When it happened several nights in a row, I knew this was my body’s way of telling me I need to talk to someone about the anxiety, guilt, and shame and get it under control. Thankfully, my supportive husband, sisters, and amazing mom friends were there. But as a therapist myself, I knew I needed professional care. I sought it out and the validation and perspective shift that my therapist offered were priceless.
We are now on the other side of all of this, and I am so grateful today for the health and well being of both my daughter and myself. I’m grateful to my OB who tried to make the experience as positive as possible and for doing everything in her power to give me the delivery I had dreamed of. This was not an easy place to get to, and I resented my body for a long time for not doing its job. But mothers are strong and fierce, and with the courage to ask for help, and a shift in perspective (which is not easy and takes time!), we can take the sting of things not having gone the way they were “supposed” to go. We can learn that the experience that was taken away by unforeseen circumstances, though it can’t be replaced, can be soothed with love, care, and lots of grace given. You’re a mom, and nothing will take that away from you. Ever.
Clearly, this was an unexpected turn of events, and not the way any mom dreams of having her baby come into the world. However, I learned some tips and tricks to help me and other mamas cope and prepare in the case of a future C-Section:
I’m going to put this in all caps because it’s that important. REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE A MOTHER NO MATTER HOW YOU DELIVERED. NO, YOU DIDN’T TAKE THE EASY WAY OUT. YES, YOU DID GIVE BIRTH AND HAVING A C-SECTION DOES NOT MAKE YOU LESS OF A MOM THAN SOMEONE WHO HAD A VAGINAL DELIVERY!
Fed is best! If you do plan on breastfeeding and end up needing an urgent or emergency C-section, have a nurse watch the latch since you may be numb and don’t want to end up with shorn nipples from an improper latch right from the get go. If you don’t get the hang of nursing right away due to numbness or pain, it’s ok to hand express into a cup or give some formula, whatever you are comfortable with. Don’t forget baby’s tummy is tiny in the beginning!
Give yourself grace. You won’t be able to do much for baby in the first few days. You just had MAJOR surgery. Let your partner, family member, nurse, or doula help you. Let someone take care of you so you can care for baby.
This one is easier said than done, but it made a world of difference for me. Try to reflect on the fact that most doctors have yours and your baby’s best interest at heart. They did whatever they could to get you both through labor and delivery safely.
Post C-Section, drink lots of water and, for Pete’s sake, take the Colace. That first post surgery poop is terrifying, and you can’t go home until you do it but you think your incision will bust wide open! Mine was a breeze thanks to water, Colace, and walking around the maternity ward while trying to calm my incessantly screaming newborn.
Go to physical therapy. Your abdominal muscles are severed during surgery, and feeling connected to your core will make you feel more human and allow you the physical ability to play with, and eventually chase after, your bundle of joy!
Talk. Talk to your friends. Talk to your partner. Talk to your sisters and brothers and moms and dads. Talk to someone you trust. Talk to a therapist. Talk to me, I’m here to listen. Allow yourself to mourn the experience you didn’t get to have, get real about what happened in great detail, but also look towards moving forward with gratitude and love for your body and your new baby. Your body did an incredible thing, growing and bringing safely into the world this amazing new tiny human. You deserve to acknowledge yourself, your courage, and your strength and to be validated in your feelings. Bring to light the lows and work through them, because there are so many highs to experience in parenthood.
PART 2 by Stacy Hutton
After 21 hours of labor, a nurse quickly walks into my room and asks me to turn onto my side and shoves a peanut ball in between my legs. A few minutes go by and she hits the call button on my bed yelling “We have a d-cel!” (Deceleration: Dip in fetal heart rate) Within 60 seconds my room had 15 medical professionals – techs, nurses, my midwife and my OB. Two nurses and my midwife are helping get me onto all fours, which was not happening because of my epidural. As they are trying to help me back onto the bed, I suddenly have a young man in my face barking “Stacy, do you consent to an emergency C-Section?” I was so confused because no one was explaining to me what was happening. No one told me what a “D-Cel” meant. No one told me why they were changing my position. No one told me that my baby’s heart rate was dropping. All I knew was that everything was fine until it wasn't.
You know how in a movie when someone is being rushed through the hospital and they always do a quick shot of the ceiling and lights blurring by above you? Well that's exactly what I saw as I was being rushed into an OR.
When it came to my Birth Plan, I naively joked that Plan A was “all the drugs” and Plan B was a C-Section. I was told by my birthing coach that 30% of women require C-Sections, but that number dramatically drops to less than 10% for women who have done some form of birth education. This number drops because women are properly educated on different techniques and positions to help baby descend into the birth canal as opposed to laboring in bed slowing down the process. With this knowledge in mind, I never properly prepared and planned for the possibility of a C-Section. I did not know what I was in for.
I had a perfect vision of how my birth would happen – I saw my baby being placed onto my chest immediately, gazing down at him and soaking up that beautiful moment of skin-to-skin and instant bonding. In reality, my son was not placed into my arms until they were rolling me out of the operating room and I just remember crying. I wasn't crying because I had this beautiful baby boy in my arms, I was crying because my arms were so numb from all the drugs and I was struggling to hold him. This was not the magical bonding experience I had read about.
My extended stay in the hospital was a blur of nurses, midwives, doctors, lactation consultants and visitors. There were so many other things to focus on and distract me from truly focusing on my experience and what had happened. Once I got home, however, it all changed. The revolving door of people had gone away and I was suddenly left with the feeling of “What just happened?” This question running over and over again through my mind coupled with sleepless nights, breastfeeding issues, and weeks of healing left me feeling bewildered and in a haze.
As you prepare for the birth of your baby you hear about “the baby blues” and Postpartum Depression/Anxiety, but no one discusses the emotional healing that can be necessary from a C-Section. I had no idea that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder could be a thing when it came to birth, but Postpartum PTSD affects about 9% of women following childbirth. I found myself avoiding anything that triggered memories of my birth, I was irritable, jumpy and I was experiencing anxiety.
I was lucky enough to have a pair of post-partum doulas help me after my birth. The wonderful thing about a doula versus a baby nurse is that their job isn’t just to take care of the baby, but they also focus on the mother and her needs. They were able to help me understand what I was going through and to let me know that I was not alone, that everything I was feeling was normal and that it may be beneficial to speak to a medical professional about what I was feeling.
Have A Plan
I highly recommend sitting down with your partner, doing the research and going through the multitude of scenarios that could happen during labor and how you would confront each one. By doing so, knowing how you plan to handle different situations makes them less scary if/when they come up. For example, if you have to have a C-Section, emergency or not, do the research and know what you want. Hospitals do allow skin-to-skin in the OR.
Create a support system to help you. Doulas, baby nurses, and nannies are of course helpful, but if you cannot afford one of those services lean on your spouse/partner, family and/or friends. You have just had major abdominal surgery and you need to properly heal as much for you as for your baby.
Do Not Be Afraid To Ask For Help
I know it is cliché, and everyone says it, but it is SO TRUE! If you feel you need to speak with a professional, there is absolutely NO shame in that! When you’re on an airplane, they tell you to put your oxygen mask on before helping others around you. The same goes for being a mother, taking care of you is what’s best for your baby. Your OBGYN or your Primary Care Physician are helpful resources and can refer you to someone who will specialize in what you need and will be in-network if that is something you require.
It is Temporary and Treatable
Postpartum PTSD is temporary and treatable with professional help. If you feel you may be suffering from this illness, know that it is not your fault and you are not to blame. Reach out.
BREAST ISSUES AFTER BIRTH
The first time I got a clogged duct was 2-3 weeks after having Peyton. I don't remember it extremely well, I just remember feeling a hard lump in my right breast, trying to feed Peyton a little more that day, and thinking it had resolved itself when the discomfort went away. I was wrong.
I had briefly heard about mastitis from one of my best friends, who had a sister that had ended up getting it with each of her 3 kids, but I didn't think it was something I would have to deal with. Well, that clogged duct I thought I had taken care of quickly turned in to mastitis by the next evening, and that part I do remember well. I remember leaning over P's bassinet crying, and my husband (Jordan) coming out of the bathroom freaked out that it was postpartum depression, when in reality I couldn't remember ever feeling so terrible. It was like the worst flu ever, but without the head cold symptoms. My whole body ached, I had a fever, and worst of all I had a giant red triangle on my breast that was radiating heat. I called the on-call doctor, and was seen the next day by my hospitals lactation group. I definitely had mastitis, and little did I know this would be the first of many visits to lactation specialists and doctors for mastitis, engorgement and clogged ducts. The first time I got mastitis they gave me clindamycin (I'm allergic to amoxicillin) and it cleared up within about 24 hours.
I thought if I made a conscious effort to nurse diligently I wouldn't have any more issues with clogged ducts, but at this point I hadn't started pumping. Well at 5 weeks I got mastitis again in the other breast. I knew how to recognize the signs/symptoms so I called the doctor right away, they called in a prescription for me since I was heading to Hawaii for 5 days, and I assumed that I would have the same experience as the first time and it would clear up quickly. It's also worth mentioning that my left breast was extremely engorged. I'm talking the size of a melon, while the other one was closer to an apple. I managed through the pain and awkwardness of having quasimodo boobs while in a place where I was planning to live in bathing suits most of the day, but the after I returned I knew something was wrong.
I had been out shopping with my mom and noticed the pain in my breast starting to radiate to my arm. It was afternoon so I figured I would go home, call the doctor, and have Jordan go in with me after work rather than just telling my mom something was wrong and asking her to go with me (I'm stubborn). By the time I got home I was in tears, I couldn't lift my left arm and could barely carry P inside. I called Jordan in tears to come home right away and drive me to the lactation specialist at the hospital who had gotten me in for an emergency appointment. Once we got there I broke down in tears before I could even tell the specialist what was wrong. After a quick exam she transferred me to the ER, who transferred me to the Labor unit where my regular OB-Gyn was working a shift.
I ended up being checked in to the hospital for 2 nights. They did an ultrasound of my breast to make sure I didn't have an abscess, and I ended up having to be given 3 IV's of antibiotics. The first antibiotic I was on no longer was working, so the second 2 doses were Bactrim, a heavy duty antibiotic used to treat MRSA.
After being released from the hospital I started looking more seriously in to how to treat clogged ducts and engorgement, and avoid another bought with mastitis. I thankfully found an amazing local lactation consultant (Lotus Lactation for any Portland, OR based moms!). These are the treatments that worked for me as I battled multiple additional clogged ducts over the 18 months I breast-fed my daughter
Treatment of Clogged Ducts
Adjust Position : Depending on where the clogged duct is located on your breast, changing the position of breast feeding can help your baby drain the milk from that area.
Pump : Clogged ducts develop when your baby doesn't fully drain the milk in the ducts. We discovered that I had a pretty significant oversupply of milk, so while Peyton and I got in to a routine of feeding and pumping those first few months I had to pump nearly every 2 hours to ensure my ducts remained clear. I was slowly able to spread out the time little by little, but at the first sign of a clog my BFF the pump was pretty much attached to my side.
Hot Shower & Hand Expression : The hot water, especially on a shower head with a massage setting, can help to loosen up a clog in conjunction with hand expression. I'm not an expert but I think of this similar to a way that pores on your face react to steam.
Hot Towels : These were a life saver for me. Jordan was an angel any time I had an inkling of a clog, and would bring me hot towels (soaked in water and microwaved) in the middle of the night to use before and after nursing and while pumping after nursing. For some reason these worked wonders in helping to quickly address clogs.
Lecithin : This is a natural supplement that was recommended to me by my lactation consultant. The simplified reason to use this is that it can affect the fats in your milk and makes it less sticky
Wear Soft Bras : I found that any time I tried to wear a more structured nursing bra or one with underwire I triggered clogged ducts. I ended up wearing the soft medela nursing bras for most of the 18 months I spent breast feeding.
I'm not a health professional so my advice definitely should not take the place of talking to your doctor, but if you experience signs of mastitis definitely call your doctor!
KellyMom.com : provides a ton of great articles and resources from professionals
Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions for me or want to know more about my experience. I'm happy to share and hope that some of the things that helped me will help someone else avoid some of the experiences I went through.
Breastfeeding wasn’t a question for me. I thought Fritz and my boobs would be BFF’s. I was fully committed it to do it for as long as my body and sanity would allow. But you know how plans go, just the opposite of what you would expect.
Fritz was in the special care nursery at Mayo Clinic and I pumped exclusively, during those days. He wouldn’t latch and was hooked up to monitors. If I wanted to hold him I had to buzz in a nurse to remove him from his bassinet. I tried and failed to breastfeed him. I wanted my baby to eat, so he was given a high flow nipple. Every time I attempted to feed Fritz he became agitated that my let down wasn’t instant. I didn’t want to give up on breastfeeding, so I met with a fantastic lactation consultant. This is a service that Mayo Clinic offers for free to new mothers and my husband and I learned so much. We practiced feeding Fritz at my breast and with a nipple shield, he had zero interest. It was apparent that I would be exclusively pumping to feed Fritz, we would make it work!
Pumping was going really well for me. My production after two weeks was over abundant, and I already had a great supply frozen. However, the grass isn’t always greener, overproducing can be a burden. My breasts hurt, they were engorged and no matter how much I pumped I always felt full. I have a large chest to begin with and physically I was entering a territory of bust size that was inconceivably huge and made me so self-conscious.
I was producing between 60 and 100 ounces a day and my breasts weren’t emptying, with the help of my LC we decided I needed to drop two pumps. She warned me about Mastitis because I would be pumping less often, so the buildup of milk could cause me some discomfort. It was important to express my breasts manually if they felt too full and monitor how I felt. Mastitis was something I had heard of before, but I didn’t realize how severe it could be. I didn’t really understand how sick you could get. We talked through the warning signs: a temperature, chills, flu-like symptoms, body aches and pink breast that felt warm to the touch. I left the meeting feeling confident that I could make feeding my baby this way work and maybe even enjoy it.
Spoiler alert: 48 hours later I thought I was dying. I do have a flair for the dramatic, but this was a kind of sick I had never been before. Picture it: a first-time mother, helpless, a 104-degree fever, attached to her breast pump, under four down comforters, all while sobbing. I had chills, I was sweating, I was emotional and honestly didn’t know how I could get through it. They leave this out in perinatal class. I felt broken and was heartbroken for my child.
Thankfully Mayo has a protocol where you can send in your symptoms to the lactation consultant and they can get antibiotics to you right away. It took me four days to get back on my feet. I couldn’t care for my baby (my mother in law did everything for me), I couldn’t eat and only got out of bed to take a scalding hot shower, change out of the sweat-soaked clothes or pump. I also cried, all the time. I would go downstairs to look at my sweet newborn in his dock-a-tot, but it hurt to hold him. The tears didn’t stop.
My sweet friends texted, and I told them all, “I WOULD RATHER GO THROUGH LABOR AGAIN.” To this day, I still would.
Getting sick, while being a new mom brought me to my knees, but oh my goodness, it taught me to never take my health for granted.
Here is what helped me get through the dark days of Mastitis:
Use a warm compress. This opens up any clogged ducts. I picked up gels that could go in the microwave and they were a lifesaver.
My lactation consultant also recommended not wearing any restrictive clothing. I was changing my shirt every few hours from sweating through it, so leaking didn’t matter.
This tip was barbaric but really helped me break down the lumps I had in my breasts due to clogged ducts. Take a scalding hot shower with your new best friend – a wide tooth comb. Lather your breasts with soap for lubrication and run the comb vertically from top to bottom, applying moderate pressure.
When I had the energy, I would also take Epsom salt baths to submerge in the hot water and massage where the ducts felt clogged.
If you are breastfeeding – FEED! If you are pumping – PUMP! This was the hardest part for me. Taking a shower felt like a marathon, but I was determined to get better and also didn’t want my supply to dip.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I was so lucky to have my MIL staying with us.
Sleep. Your body needs rest. Your baby won’t remember you being sick for those few days. As heartbreaking as it feels, just rest. The more you do, the faster you can get back to baby and being the amazing mother you are!
Q&A WITH MODERN DERMATOLOGY
I’m beyond excited to announce I’ve partnered with Modern Dermatology on a quest to reverse my skin to my pre-mama/pre 30s days.
I wanted to find an office that had the latest technology, were very up to date with current trends and studies, and something else that was important to me was that my doctor was a mom! Trusting someone with your skin is a big deal. I wanted to not only be able to express my concerns but I really wanted to feel like I was seeing someone who really “got” the changes I felt I was going through due to #momlife. Both women that founded Modern Dermatology are moms of…….wait for it…..FOUR KIDS EACH. What are the chances that I find an office that exceeds all of my concerns and between both of the dermatologists they have eight children.
Dr. Klein and Dr. Robinson first met during their residency at Yale, where they received top-tier training from leaders in medicine. They each went on to gain experience in medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology, while participating in cutting edge research, and presentations locally and around the world….YUP! I knew I found the right spot! You can check out their website, HERE.
Soon after the birth of my second baby I noticed an extreme jump in aging when it came to my skin. It wasn’t gradual by any stretch of the imagination. I felt as though I went to bed one night and woke up the next with large pores, some acne scars, wrinkles, and an extreme lack of any glow. Maybe I’ve been too busy to notice but it felt like an overnight change. It’s been three years and counting that have been full of pregnancies and breastfeeding with no break in between and I was left with skin I didn’t recognize.
Now that I’m 33 years old I’ve decided this year was the year to really focus on restoring my skin. I’ll be sharing more about the specific treatments I will be doing but they include multiple treatments of the PicoSure laser and vampire facials. Dr. Robinson took a look at my skin and told me exactly what I needed to reverse the signs of aging that I was concerned with. I realized the average facial at the spa was not cutting it. I needed something that had longterm benefits but was also breastfeeding friendly.
After sharing my my feelings around my mama skin I had such a huge response online. So many of you agreed and had so many questions. It can get confusing around what you can & can’t do pre baby, during pregnancy and post baby. Here were the most common questions. Dr. Robinson answers all of them below. The most popular being BOTOX.
Is botox safe while pregnant and/or breastfeeding?
It is not safe to treat while pregnant or nursing as the toxin does enter our blood stream, albeit briefly, and has not been tested on pregnancy/nursing women.
What are your thoughts around light therapy? Low frequency stimulation...
Laser and light therapies are great options for needle-shy patients who are looking for skin rejuvenation. The light therapies available in our office are stronger versions of the “at home” devices on the market, which offer low-level stimulation. These devices activate receptors in your skin, and stimulate cells to regenerate – and when we increase the cadence of cell turnover it can help calm existing issues like acne, while boosting collagen production, which will lead to a decrease in visible fine lines and wrinkles.
What can you do to treat wrinkles while breastfeeding?
I recommend HydraFacials for patients looking to treat their skin while nursing. Just be sure to tell your aesthetician you are nursing so they can customize which products are used during the treatment.
What should our daily skincare routine consist of? Serums, toners, collagen...
1) Cleanse with a gentle cleanser like Alastin Gentle Cleanser
2) Toner (if you use one, but they really aren’t necessary and I generally advice against them)
3) SPF if you’re using a chemical blocker. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the UV energy into the skin, so for it to work it needs to be on top of clean skin so it can be absorbed and do its job.
4) Prescription or Topical if you have one (e.g. an Rx Acne topical)
5) Antioxidant Serum
6) Oil Free Moisturizer
7) SPF if you’re using a physical sunscreen. Physical sunscreens work by reflecting the UV rays off of the skin, so it should be the last thing on your skin.
If you start botox what happens if you stop? Do you have to keep getting treatments forever?
Botox generally wears off in 3-4 months. Nothing “happens” it just wears off and your muscle movement returns. You can choose whether or not to re-treat, it’s not an “all-in” commitment.
I am pregnant with my third and I really want to get the broken/ruptured blood vessels on my face removed. How do I go about doing this and can I do it while pregnant?
During pregnancy blood volume in your body increases, which can worsen this issue and can lead to new broken blood vessels (along with other conditions like varicose veins). I would suggest treating after delivery with a series of Vbeam Pulsed-Dye-Laser treatments.
What is the injection procedure for smile creases?
It always depends on the anatomy of the specific patient’s concerns, but in general a combination of light toxin and a small amount of filler. The toxin would help prevent the wrinkles from worsening, especially lines above the upper lip, while the filler provides instant plumping of the sunken area where the wrinkle currently sits.
Are there any retinol products (like a daily serum) that are pregnancy safe?
Retinols and retinoids are NOT safe during pregnancy. Alternatives to retinols to build collagen such as petpides, can be used safelty.
Should you wait until you are done having babies to start getting botox?
You certainly don’t have to. Many of my patients like to treat between pregnancies.
What negative side effects does botox have?
If you’re treated by an inexperienced injector you may be over-treated and left looking “frozen.” While botulinum toxin injections are easy in terms of comfort time for the patient, the treatment still needs to be done by a trained and experienced medical professional. If the injections are too deep, too low, or in the wrong spot, you could have negative side effects, like a droopy eyelid or forehead or asymmetry. It’s important to see an experienced, board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon for botulinum toxin injections .
What can I use to help the 11 lines between my eye brows?
botulinum toxin, as it stops the muscles from contracting. Stopping or softening the muscle contractions in the glabella ( muscles between the eyebrows) leads to a softening of the 11 lines. ]
Best skincare products that are breastfeeding safe AND effective?
I love peptides based products as they are retinol/retinoid free but can have a great effect on collagen and elastin production. My favorite is Alastin Restorative Complex. I also find that a great morning antioxidant with vitamin C complexed with safe but effective topicals acids is imperative. My favorite is Pure BioDerm Super Antioxidant
Is botox safe to get in between pregnancies? (If you are planning on having another baby but you are not pregnant yet)
Can you really get rid of stretch marks via laser treatments?
Stretch marks come in two varieties, red and white. Red stretch marks can be treated with a series of PDL or VBeam laser which helps dimish the redness. In addition, white stretch marks can be lessened with a series of fractional resurfacing, such as the Fraxel Dual, as it helps to build collagen and reduce the depth of the stretch marks.
Any easy ways to help Melasama spots?
There are a few options including laser treatments, as well as peels. The Cosmelan peel is a great option for most patients. The peel targets hyperpigmentation by reducing melanin production. The mask stays on for 6-8 hours, is rinsed off with a gentle cleanser and within 1-2 days the skin becomes red and swollen, then 3-5 days later peeling begins. In addition, as series or lasers such as the Pico and Revlite can be helpful for reducing melasma. Just remember though, when exposed to the sun, the melasma can return, so great sun protection is the key.
What safe treatments (pregnant) should we be doing to help keep our skin looking youthful (Since botox is out)?
During pregnancy a series of light treatments can help reduce inflammation, redness, and the occasional breakout. This paired with gentle peels and facials can keep your skin glowing and looking great while waiting for baby
What's the best treatment for post pregnancy melasma that can be used during a new pregnancy?
Many chemicals and treatments for melasma can’t be used during pregnancy. Also, as melasma is the “mask of pregnancy” and is linkled to the pregnancy hormone status, it makes sense to wait to treat until after delivery. But again, sun protection and topical antioxidants are key.
My skin is so loose on my face and neck after my baby. What is this happening?
What can I do thats natural and safe? (34 years old) Sounds like part of your issue might be dehydration – which is common for new moms, especially if you’re nursing – so start with some water and try a hydrating treatment like HydraFacial.
What in office treatments result in that youthful glow I feel like this tired mom is lacking?
There are SO many options – the best first step is a consult to evaluate what is the best for your concerns. We can customize a treatment plan based on your skin and your comfort level with needles, lasers, pain…etc.
I've been working out non stop and feel like I have pockets of fat I just can't get rid of. What can I do?
We have a few options…Kybella is an injectable solution for the pouch of fat under the chin, other options include SculpSure (heating fat) and CoolSculpting (freezing fat). These are all permanent fat reduction treatments.
I'm still struggling with diastasis recti 12 months post-delivery. Did you struggle with this at all? Any advice?
Diastasis recti can be really tough. Targeted therapy can help to rebuild the abdominal wall muscles. Somestimes, surgery is needed to put the muscles back together and it is best to consult with a plastic surgeon for more information.
What are the best ways to age well?
At the core it’s all about prevention. That starts with daily use of sunscreen SPF 30+. The sun – specifically UVA rays – is the biggest “bad guy” when it comes to aging. Second to that are our lifestyle choices – eating a healthy diet and getting exercise. From there we are fortunate to have many advances in cosmetic medicine from injectables and laser treatments to skincare products and body sculpting.
Deanne Mraz Robinson, M.D., FAAD
President, Modern Dermatology
I found Modern Dermatology through my friend and fellow blogger Lindsay Blackinton. We will be teaming up together for a great giveaway with Modern Dermatology! stay tuned.
THE MAMA SERIES X EMILY KASEL
I am honored that Emily decided to share her story with us, she is one strong individual. Thank you Emily. I know you are going to help so many other women that might be suffering in silence. Emily will take it from here.
I am a 30 something girl from Long Island who once sold ad space, taught kindergarten and now spends her days raising kids and then writing about it. I have a tiny dictator toddler and a newborn arriving in a few weeks. I am wildly obsessed with my children and overwhelmed by them every day.
I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety 6 weeks after my daughter’s birth. It brought me strength and passion I didn’t know I had. I began sharing my story on Instagram and later launched my blog to document my journey. My dream now focuses on redefining the expectations of motherhood and shedding light on the realities of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
Motherhood: Expectations versus Reality
Learning to manage my own expectations is one of the most important tools in managing anxiety. Though for much of my life, I didn’t know how to do that well. I’ve always had this way of building things up in my mind, only to be very let down. Alternatively, I’d worry about how something might turn out, particularly things out of my control, only to be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. I don’t think I am alone here. This kind of “future tripping” is very common. Motherhood was no different. I expected that I’d take to motherhood like a fish to water. I was sure that nothing would come more naturally. Motherhood was in my bones, I was sure of it.
Then I became a mother and all of those dreams and expectations came crashing down. After giving birth to Mary Clare in September 2017, I found myself in a very dark place. I felt little to no connection to my daughter. I didn't want to be with her while simultaneously wanting to control every aspect of her life. When Mary Clare cried, I panicked. When I left the house without her, the anxiety was crippling. Ultimately, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety about 6 weeks after giving birth. I received treatment under the care of my primary care doctor and my longtime therapist. Recovery was a process that took time. The hardest part was not blaming myself but with the support of so many I started to make progress.
After a few weeks, the fog slowly lifted. By the new year, I was having more good moments than bad ones. I began to hit my stride as a mother around February 2018. Then under the care of my doctor, I weaned off my medication in May. I finally had my happy ending.
Then when Mary Clare was about 9 months old, I found out I was pregnant. I remember when I got the positive pregnancy test with Mary Clare, I was overjoyed, this was what I had been wanting for so long! I did not have those feelings the second time around. When I saw the positive test, the walls started closing in all over again. I was having panic attacks. I felt my connection to Mary Clare slipping away. The anxiety seemed inescapable. I never expected to feel this way while pregnant. Yet there I was, again, experiencing a reality that was vastly different from my expectations.
I would soon find out, I was experiencing a relapse which is extremely common. This time around, I knew right away something was not right. I sought treatment immediately and discovered an incredible specialized program right in my backyard – The Perinatal Psychiatry program at Zucker Hillside Hospital. Perinatal mental health care focuses on the unique behavioral and mental challenges women may experience during and after pregnancy. I saw a doctor who specializes in perinatal psychiatry, it was through her I learned more about perinatal mental health and the safety of taking medication while pregnant. I went back on medication and began group therapy. Little by little, I came out on the other side of this episode.
Currently, I’m doing really well. I still take SSRI medication and will continue to do at least one year postpartum in order to avoid a relapse. I continue to see my psychiatrist and regularly attend group therapy. We are excitedly expecting Mary Clare’s little sibling in just a few weeks. Mary Clare is curious, perseverant, funny and sweet. We have so much fun together and the love I have for her cannot be captured in words.
Even still, I have days where I wonder how I’ll make it through the next hour. It’s on those days that I feel the expectations starting to take over, so I do my best I use the tools I have to help me cope. The way I cope with the anxiety that my expectations cause is through a reality check. I ask myself, “what is real right now?” The answer is always, “this moment, Mary Clare and me.” Seems simple but honestly, that’s all we’ve got. The moment we’re in and the people in it with us. When your mind is running away with itself, you must find a way to ground yourself, to bring yourself back down to earth. This reality check helps brings me back to the present. It reminds me that we have no way of knowing what the future holds and that focusing on made up expectations will only do one thing for me. It will steal my joy. I am reminded that enjoying life is about living in the here and now.
I didn’t expect to have postpartum depression and anxiety. I didn’t expect to get pregnant again so quickly. I didn’t expect that pregnancy could cause me to relapse. In a lot of ways, those unmanaged expectations made me really angry. They caused a lot of sadness and pain for me in my first year of motherhood.
However, those unmet expectations also lit a fire inside me, one that drives me to help and educate other women. Historically, the realities of motherhood and childbirth are not part of the mainstream conversation. I believe this has set womankind up with unrealistic expectations of motherhood and ultimately makes it so much harder for us. That’s why, I believe, as a community of mothers, it is up to us to change the conversation. It is us, the ones who know what it is really like, to shed light on the truth of motherhood.
It feels like a big task but each of us doing little things each day makes a big difference. It can be as simple as speaking honestly when a friend asks how you’re doing. It’s okay to say, “I haven’t pooped in days and my nipples are bleeding,” or “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, the baby is always crying.” It’s okay to keep it real and say how you really feel. Motherhood is really really hard but it is also the best thing you will ever do. We need to create a space where those two realities can exist in tandem. So let’s make sure we keep it real so we can make the transition to motherhood easier for our sisters!
Motherhood is so much harder than I expected. It has made me so much stronger than I ever imagined I could be. It has brought me the deepest joy I have ever felt and brought me more peace than I ever knew possible. That is my reality. It’s a reality I love and wouldn’t change.
Tips for Easing Anxiety – these are immediate actions you can take right now.
Get out: go outside in the fresh air, a simple walk around the block will do wonders.
Reach out: do not sit alone suffering. Call a family member or friend, express how you feel and if you can, ask them to come over.
Breathe out: when I have a panic attack I place both hands over where my neck and chest meet, I breathe deeply in my nose and out my mouth then say the mantra, “I won’t always feel this way, it’s going to be okay.” Repeat. The hands placement physically center me, the mantra and breathe work focus my mind.
Resources – use these resources to seek help at the first sign of any symptoms.
Take the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) Assessment which has universally been the first step in diagnosing cases of PPD for over 30 years
PSI HelpLine call: 1-800-944-4773 or text: 503-894-9453
Postpartum Support International (PSI) is the ultimate resource for any woman who may be experiencing PPD/A
Find a perinatal psychiatric program near you
If you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression and/or anxiety, DO NOT WAIT, please seek help immediately. Thank you for letting me share my story. You can find me by heading over to my blog, click here.
THE MAMA SERIES X ELIZABETH CLEMENTS ON SUPPLEMENTING + PUMPING
This is a beautiful and raw piece that I think many women will be able to connect with. I love Elizabeth’s outlook at the end of her story and I could not agree more with her on her thoughts around supplementing with formula and pumping. At the end of the day we need to do what’s best for our babies , what is best for our relationship with our children and for our well being. I also think it is important to point out the real unexpected challenges that can occur after birth. Not only is this a sensitive time in a mother’s life but add in the physical and mental exhaustion and it is not hard for self doubt to enter the equation. Elizabeth you are one strong mama! Thank you for sharing your story with us.
Elizabeth will take it from here:
Throughout my pregnancy, I received a lot of well-meaning but intrusive questions and advice, including assumptions about my plans to breastfeed. I fully intended on breastfeeding but that was the extent of my planning. I knew that my mom had breastfed me for over a year and I figured we would be equally as successful. I naively assumed that since breastfeeding was the most “natural thing in the world,” it would come, well, naturally to us.
After a happy, healthy pregnancy and a relatively uneventful labor and delivery, I welcomed a beautiful, baby girl. The following hours were a blur as we got to know our sweet girl and tried to process all the procedures and information being thrown our way. Multiple lactation consultants (LCs) came to visit us in the hospital and my husband diligently listened along to their tips and suggestions so that we could both be armed with the requisite knowledge. I really only clicked with one of the LCs - the one who taught me how to pump, which would ultimately became our saving grace. I remember starting to get stressed that my milk wasn’t coming in yet (I vaguely remember manually expressing a few precious drops of colostrum every few hours), but everyone reassured me that it would come in any time now and then we’d be off to the races.
By the time we were ready to be discharged, our daughter was losing weight, but we weren’t within the window of concern just yet. We were eager to get home and start our new normal, and assumed things would fall into place as we found our groove. My milk finally came in once we got home and I set up a little nursing station with my trusty breastfeeding pillow. My husband stood by, eager to help, and tried to coach me through the positions the LCs had taught us. After that, however, the wheels started to come off pretty quickly.
Still running on a swirling mix of adrenaline and anxiety, I swore I would stay up all night to watch her sleep. While my husband talked some sense into me and convinced me to get some sleep, our daughter would only stay down for ten minutes at a time before erupting in heartbreaking wails. We frantically tried to follow the 5 S’s and everything under the sun to soothe her back to sleep. I kept trying to nurse her around the clock, but each attempt ended with both of us in tears. I stood helplessly as we resorted to my husband finger feeding her via syringe with my small but growing stash of pumped milk.
At our first post-discharge pediatrician visit, we learned she had lost even more weight and were told to come back in 48 hours for another weight check. We headed back home feeling even more exhausted and dejected and decided to start operating in two-hour shifts so that we could each grab a few minutes of sleep. The next few days were awful - I dreaded feeding her, I was terrified of having to do this alone when my husband went back to work in a few days, and we were running on fumes. By the time we made it back for her next weight check, we were desperate for good news.
Our daughter had lost even more weight at this point and I completely broke down in the doctor's office. The pediatrician was kind but frank with us, telling us that our baby was quite simply starving and we were trapped in a vicious cycle where she was too hungry to sleep but too weak to nurse. We were hours away from having to take her back to the hospital to be hooked up on an IV. She instructed us to go straight to the grocery store to buy formula. She also told me to take a break from nursing since it was only causing me more distress and suggested I continue pumping each time we fed her. I flashed back to the doctor on call screaming at the nurses to get the formula samples out of all the recovery rooms and I broke down again in the baby care aisle, sobbing that I would be setting our baby up for a lifetime of health and academic failures by having to supplement. My husband brought me back to earth and reminded me that the most important thing we could do for our daughter right now was to feed her, any which way we could.
As we slowly but surely started to make progress with her formula and pumped feedings, I felt torn and conflicted. When I was given the “freedom” to take a break from breastfeeding and just pump, I felt like an enormous weight had finally been lifted off my shoulders. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like a failure. This beautiful, magical, natural experience that we were “supposed” to have wasn’t ours and therefore there must be something wrong with me.
I knew that I should be celebrating each weight milestone (she stopped losing weight, started gaining, and finally climbed back up to her birth weight) but instead I was wracked with incredible guilt for not being strong enough to give her what she needed on my own. Our pediatrician didn’t try to force the issue of switching from pumping back to nursing, but I agreed to get help from the LCs at our hospital once more. It was an exhausting evaluation throughout which I still felt like I was doing everything wrong, but it did confirm an underlying tongue and lip tie (this experience requires an entirely separate post, you can read Mrs. Nipple’s experience with that HERE ) was preventing my daughter from effectively transferring milk. Again, this should have brought me some relief but I was almost too overwhelmed to process it.
Shortly after that consultation, I took a step back to consider our options, keeping in mind the ultimate goal, feeding our baby. I could suck it up and try to power through nursing, despite the anxiety it caused us both, or I could choose a different feeding journey of supplementing and pumping that seemed to alleviate tensions all around. Close friends shared similar experiences with me, and their reassuring words and guidance convinced me we could choose this path instead. My supply was steady enough that we were able to stop supplementing within a few weeks and I furiously tried to research everything I could find on exclusively pumping (“EPing”). I tried not to get discouraged by the limited research and naysayers, and forced myself to take it one step a time - could I make it to the end of the month? Her 1 month birthday? 2 month birthday?
I soon became a pumping machine, scheduling pump sessions around her feedings, appointments, and outings, and quickly grew to love my pump time. It forced me to slow down and stop trying to do everything at once - the extent of my multitasking was playing with her or catching up on Instagram if she was napping. When it was time to go back to work, I mastered my new pumping schedule and schlepped all of my gear back and forth. I pumped at the airport, in the car on long roadtrips, and put my “PackIT” freezer bags to the test safely transporting milk across town and up and down the East Coast.
I had set an arbitrary goal of making it to her 6-month birthday and as at that date grew nearer, my love for pumping started to turn. It was the first thing I did when I woke up and the last thing I did before I went to bed and it was growing tiresome and somewhat isolating. I mapped out a weaning timeline and gradually started decreasing my pump sessions. I worked out a (perhaps unnecessarily complex) system for working through my freezer stash and reintroducing formula. I started to beat myself up again, feeling guilty that I was stopping pumping for selfish reasons and nervous that she wouldn’t adjust back to formula. My last pump session was filled with mixed emotions - I remember feeling proud of myself for having made this option work for us for as long as it did, relieved that I could go about my day without factoring in pumping logistics, and sad that this particular chapter was coming to a close. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at this point, but she handled the transition like a champ and happily gobbled down whatever bottle was given to her.
I still cringe when I hear comments implying that the only way to bond with your baby is by breastfeeding. While I have no doubt that breastfeeding your baby is a unique, strengthening experience, I also know that pumping and supplementing allowed me to be the best mother to my sweet girl. I gained confidence with each pump session and I loved holding her while feeding her - two things that eluded us in our early days. Further, it provided a wonderful opportunity for other family members to bond easily with her, a win for everyone.
My daughter is days away from her first birthday and as I watch her thriving now, our early struggles seem like a lifetime ago. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself that we were doing an amazing job and everything was going to be okay. Since time travel is impossible, there are a few suggestions I’d like to pass along to others who may be in the same boat.
Be Kind to Yourself: One of my friends who gave me the courage to try EPing shared a phrase that really stuck with me: Motherhood =/= Martyrdom. No one was going to win if I stubbornly (and unsuccessfully) insisted on breastfeeding just because that’s what every other mother did. I became a different mother when I stopped beating myself up and I firmly believe that my relationship with my daughter fundamentally shifted for the best when we chose to supplement and pump.
Lean on your Partner: My husband has long been a partner in every sense of the word, but I’m eternally grateful for the way he jumped in to try to understand the mechanics of feeding. He knew that even though he wouldn’t be the one to physically nurse her, he could follow along with the instructions and support me from the side. When we had to try other forms of feeding, he was right there trying to figure out the best position for holding her. He listened to my frustrations, encouraged me when I was too hard on myself, and kept us focused on getting our daughter healthy and strong, and it really helped me feel like we were in this together.
Talk About It: Whether it was because I was feeling vulnerable or too exhausted to filter myself, I was brutally honest when friends would check in on us. If I had swept our challenges under the rug, I don’t know that our friends would have been equally as honest with me in sharing their own challenges. I had felt frustratingly isolated until I learned that other women had been in this exact same position. Their words of support and reassurance brought me to happy tears and gave me the push I needed to choose our own feeding path.
Trust Your Gut: This is easy for me to say with nearly a year of parenting under my belt now, but I do wish I had spoken up sooner and more forcefully. One of the LCs who first met with us (and later the first pediatrician) made a passing reference to the tongue tie, but it didn’t really register. I wish that I had flagged that (or at least asked more questions) when we were still in the hospital, since we could have had it addressed on the spot. There were a few other warning signs in those first few days that I wish I had pressed as well.
Focus on your Journey: I wish I could have spent less time worrying about what we were “supposed” to be doing and more time focusing on what worked best for us. How other moms were feeding their babies is frankly irrelevant. Their opinions of how you are feeding your baby is irrelevant. We got there eventually, but it took a lot of pep talks from our doctor and my husband to remember that fed is best. Period.
Finding a nanny that feels like family!
Where to start
I’ve successfully found two nannies that I fully trust with my children. I know I am very blessed that we were able to find someone we love not only once but twice. Leaving your baby with a complete stranger is not only sad but it can be very terrifying for a new mother. We struggle with mama guilt. Will my baby still love me? What if he cries when the nanny leaves? Will our relationship be affected? Am I a bad mother for leaving my child? I want every mom out there that’s reading this to know all of these feelings and questions are NORMAL. Almost every mother before you who has left her new baby to go back to work has felt the same exact way. Know that as a mother you have a bond no one will ever be able to take away.
As long as you find someone you trust, before you know it you will be in a wonderful routine. You will go to work, come home and be able to spend a few precious hours with you babe. The key is to find someone you fully trust. I’m here to help you with that part.
Though I am going to share some tips and tricks I used to find both of our nannies just remember this is just as much about mommy intuition. You might find someone that fits the Mrs. Nipple criteria, but if it doesn’t feel right, DON’T hire them. TRUST YOUR GUT.
If you are a new mom, I would suggest you sign up for your town mom facebook group. Most towns in the country have a mom Facebook group and it’s a great way to find someone that comes recommended by someone in your town. This would be my first recommendation.
Also sign up for care.com. It’s very easy to use and you can do a monthly package. I do not use care.com for our weekend or vacation babysitters but I did use it for both of our nannies. You can create an “ad” around what you are looking for and post it. You will start getting many responses, but now what?!
Start responding to get a better understanding of what they are looking for. If they align with hours, pay, and any other non-negotiables you can ask for a phone interview.
There are a number of questions I ask before I even think about inviting the caregiver over to my home. We’ve only interviewed four nannies (face to face) total for both of our hires. Here are the questions I ask before I invite them into our home to meet our children.
Why do you think you would be a good fit for caring for our children?
What has your past experience been? I like someone that has at least 5 years of experience with babies and infants. Experience with twins is a bonus!
What was your last job, and why are you leaving? I always like to talk to the family of the job they are leaving. Sometimes the timing works perfectly and the other kids are grown but you want to make sure they were not fired.
How many sick days have you taken in the last year? Are you on time? I look for under 3 sick days in a year. Both of our nannies took zero sick days when I asked. Their references even told me stories of them coming during snow storms. You need to first find someone that you can trust with your children but you also need to find someone that is reliable. You need to set yourself up for a smooth transition back to work and this is a non-negotiable. You can’t have someone taking multiple sick days per quarter or being consistently late. Our nanny called out sick one day in over a year.
Are you comfortable wearing multiple hats? As a working mother you need someone that can wear multiple hats. You can’t be running around after work trying to be it all. That’s the time you have to spend with you baby. Find someone that is comfortable running to the dry cleaners or to the grocery store if needed. The more flexible you tell them they need to be up front the better. That way when you do need help you will feel 100 percent comfortable asking. Remember…again…YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL AND IT’S OK.
Do you drive and do you have a safe car? Our first nanny didn’t drive and it was ok because we lived downtown, walking distance to everything. For the sake of your nanny’s mental health and your baby’s, you need them to have their license. Even if you don’t want them to drive your children in the car at first, after you get to know them you will get comfortable with the idea. I didn’t want any one to drive Charlie around but when they get a little older they should be going to classes and socializing and to get to classes in your community they need a car. It’s also important to make sure they are not relying on anyone else to get to your home on time.
What is their fee? Get this out of the way. Don’t accept a range. Ask for a specific weekly or per hour amount. Also ask them how many hours they are expecting per week.
What are some things you would have changed about your last position if you could? This gives them an opportunity to share what they disliked about their old job. I think this is an important one to ask so even if they say everything was perfect push a touch to get a better understanding of their likes and dislikes, etc. This will help get a sense if you will be a good fit
Are you CPR certified? If not will you be willing to take a class before you start? Can I run a background check? or driving record? Non- negotiables
How many years have you nannied on average for families? Take me through the last ten years. I look for at least 3-4 years with each family unless one of the parents decided to leave work and stay with the kids full time or the kids were in school most of the day and they were not working enough hours during the day to stay with the family.
If you feel great about the above then invite them over for a face to face interview. If you are on the fence let them know you will follow up with them in a few days and keep doing phone interviews. If you are still thinking about them after the other interviews then invite them over. If not then you can send them a note on care.com or text letting them know it won’t work out.
In person interview
This is where your mama gut plays a large role. Try and have two people at the interview so someone can hang with the kids and you can focus on the interview. Invite them over to your home. Really watch their every move and pay attention to anything and everything from their eye contact to their tone to their hand movements.
Shirley, our first nanny, was the only interviewee that came in immediately washed her hands and asked to hold the baby. Those were the first things she did. She was a natural and even began cooing to him. She didn’t care how she looked to us (making baby sounds) she was just trying to connect with him. I knew I wanted to hire her from the moment she interacted with him. I just had this over whelming feeling she was perfect.
During our nanny #2 interview, Charlie was 1 1/2 years old and I knew he would try and interrupt our interview. I made a conscious effort not to help him if he needed help. I wanted to see if the interviewee would get up and help him on her own. When Charlie was getting frusterated as he tried to pull out a chair to sit with us, she got up immediatly asked if I would mind if she helped him. She gently placed her hand on his arm and said “I’ll help you” in a soft tone and pulled out the chair. I mention how she touched him and spoke to him because remember this person will be with your child many hours each day. You need to make sure they speak to your child and act in a way you would want your child to speak and act because things they do will rub off on them. I wasn’t as sure about this nanny as I was our first. This is where the reference call is key.
Having a call with the employer of their last job is so important. The conversation I had with the two families about both nannies really sealed the deal. They could not say enough good things about them, and kept ME on the phone for 30 minutes before I could even get a word in. This made it very clear that they were not doing this as a favor but really truly wanted both of their nannies to find another long term family to be a part of. I was very confident with both women after my reference calls.
I hope this helps you mamas going back to work or just searching for help find someone special. Don’t settle. I know it’s a very emotional time but I promise it gets better.
TIPS FOR CUTTING OUR DAIRY AND WHAT TO EAT INSTEAD, MRS. NIPPLE X MAMA SERIES
Welcome to the mama series! Today Mrs. Nipple is featuring Jenny, just a mom that loves cheese :)
JENNY WILL TAKE IT FROM HERE:
I remember exactly when I discovered that my daughter, Maple, had a dairy allergy. She was five weeks old and we were at the zoo alleviating some of the guilt that I had been feeling over taking my son’s only child status away. While changing her in the less than clean bathroom, I saw a small amount of blood in her diaper. From my weekly trips to our hospital’s New Moms group, I knew that it meant, dairy intolerance. That being said I wasn’t surprised when the nurse from our pediatrician’s office told me to cut out dairy and monitor her diapers.
The thought of cutting out all dairy from my diet was daunting. Never being much of a meat eater, I have always relied on dairy for a large part of my protein intake. And I also loved cheese. Like really really loved cheese. All kinds of cheese. Warm brie with toasty bread. Sharp cheddar on a crispy cracker. A salty tortilla chip dripping with queso. Fondue. Nachos. The perfect grilled cheese sandwich….and pizza. Ohhh pizza. I wondered how I going to give up so many of my favorite foods but I was determined. Nursing my first baby had been such a rewarding and wonderful experience. Cheese could wait because nursing this baby wouldn’t.
I never saw blood in Maple’s diaper again, and a rash that she had had for weeks disappeared within days of me cutting out dairy from my diet. Seeing these positive changes made me realize it was time to buckle down for the long haul of dairy free living. I joined a helpful Facebook group and reached out to my vegan friends for recommendations on substitutions.
I quickly learned that sometimes in life, there are no substitutions. So I’m here to share some of my tricks for navigating dairy free products and avoiding getting dairy-ed while you’re out.
As far as the grocery store, I’ve found that cheese cannot be replaced, unless you really do your homework and know which brands are best. TIP: Someone told me that you should wait a little while to even try “fake” cheese so that you’ve forgotten how good the real thing is but you can find some great alternatives below.
I’ve seen such an increase in dairy free products over the two years that it does make dairy free living much easier. I was never a milk drinker and have used Almond Milk for years. I use it in my coffee and oatmeal, and did you know it’s even froth-able? I have played around with different milks and discovered that coconut milk is great for baking and using to make pasta sauces.
If you’re having a sweet tooth, there are so many choices. Enjoy Life chocolate chips are great for baking and their cookies aren’t bad either. Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups are my go to treat. I have a recipe on my website for lactation boosting, energy balls that are sweet, healthy and will increase your milk supply, too! You can find the lactation boosting energy balls, HERE.
The biggest tip I have is to read all labels. Many products that you wouldn’t think have dairy in them do. It can differ from brand to brand. Our local grocery store’s brand of English muffins are dairy free, but most other brands have dairy. you should check every time. Sometimes brands change their recipes, so something that was once safe, may not be the next time. While companies are required to list allergens, you still have to read the ingredients. Sometimes the allergens will just be in bold in the main list of ingredients rather than highlighted underneath the ingredients. Thankfully, most of the time the latter is the case.
A great place for recipes, both dessert and main dishes is the Minimalist Baker. You can find her website, HERE. Her recipes are easy, have minimal ingredients and are always yummy. Her recipes are also gluten free!
When you’re eating out, you really can’t be clear enough. Sometimes people don’t think of butter as dairy. Or if you ask for no cheese on something, it could still arrive with sour cream on it. A friend of mine got baked fish and didn’t think of the butter that was hiding in there. You have to be vigilant. It’s hard to be that person at a restaurant but it’s for your baby, so that should help. Servers handle these requests interestingly. I had one ask me if it was an allergy or a preference, with a lot of emphasis on preference. I made sure to tell him exactly why it was not a preference, thank you very much. He also got a little lesson in breastfeeding.
Giving up dairy feels very overwhelming at first but you’ll start to get the hang of it and you’ll notice that your baby’s symptoms start to dissipate. You will feel like the rockstar mom that you are: feeding your baby through a little bit of adversity. So maybe you’ll be dreaming of being reunited with a margherita pizza with the perfect amount fresh mozzarella. But just think of how amazing that first bite will be. You got this.
Jenny’s Bio: Jenny formerly used her quick wit to charm people at parties but now she mainly uses it to trick her children into eating vegetables. She can be found pondering mamahood on her blog, HERE and on instagram as JennyRadish.
A big thank you to jenny for sharing!!
One of my friends, Stephanie Trotta, who also happens to be a blogger lives a dairy and gluten freeish lifestyle. She is the force behind, The Girl Guide. You can read her post about being dairy free, HERE. Many of her go to recipes are found on GOOP. She uses some really good dairy free alternatives which include,
Califia Farms Almond Milk
Follow Your Heart Parmesan style shredded cheese alternative
Kite Hill Ravioli made with almond milk ricotta
Kite Hill Chive cream cheese
LAVA original whole food plant based yogurt
Follow Your Heart soy-free Vegenaise Better Than Mayo
Thanks for sharing your go-to DF products Stephanie xx