Practical advice for grandparents from a new mom

When I first had a baby, I asked everyone I knew for advice about navigating the relationships between me and my parents and my in-laws. I was surprised by how dramatically those relationships changed, practically overnight, after my husband and I became parents. We were no longer the children…our child was. Expectations changed too. For instance, we were now expected to host family holidays and other visits rather than traveling to our parents as we’d always done. I felt an unspoken shift in the power dynamic as well; we controlled access to the thing they cared most about: their first grandchild.

I won’t sugarcoat it: based on my experience and that of all of my close friends, this transition usually doesn’t go smoothly. Almost every mom I know admits that when grandparents come to visit, they end up bringing unwanted toys, enabling bad behavior, getting kids off schedule and spoiling them with sweets, often making the already strung-out mom’s job even harder. My midwife told me an anecdote about one of her clients whose mother-in-law came to visit after her grandchild was born. The grandmother told the new mom, days after delivery, that she would hold the baby while the healing mother cleaned the bathroom. There are at least two things wrong with this offer, but unfortunately the sentiment is fairly common. Most grandparents are so focused on and excited about their role as grandparents that their role as parents takes a back seat.

Obviously, everyone is entitled to decide where they place their priorities, but hear me out. If you, as a grandparent, decide to focus on your grown children during the first few difficult years that they’re parenting babies and toddlers, you will strengthen that relationship for a lifetime. You will avoid so much of the strain, hurt feelings and resentment that’s unfortunately so common today within families. And you’ll set the tone for a wonderfully healthy, loving relationship with your grandchildren as they get older.

I’ve given a lot of thought to this transition from my perspective as a new mom, and I’m sad to see how prevalent the rifts and resentments are that stem from them. The fact is, some of the stress is inevitable, but I’m convinced that most of the conflict is very avoidable. Below are a few practical suggestions for navigating the new relationship with your child and their partner to minimize conflict and improve communication,

1. Prioritize the support they need, not the support you want to give. It’s only natural that when grandparents come to visit, they want to spend time with their grandchildren, but it would go a long way to also consider what their parents need. Do they want a break from cooking and cleaning to spend some quality time with their children? Do they need a break from kids to run errands or have a date night? Do they need someone to take their older children to the library so they can get quality time with the baby? You could ask what they need, or better yet, make a few offers and see what they take you up on. Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help, after all.

2. Don’t create more work. The parents of children, particularly young children, are exhausted and overwhelmed. And in today’s world of social media, the pressure to make it all look easy and go above-and-beyond is enormous. In most cases, they probably feel like they’re barely getting by, much less getting everything done on their mental to-do lists. The simple act of adding guests to the mix, however helpful and low maintenance they are, automatically creates more work and planning for the parents. One of the best ways to avoid feelings of resentment is to mitigate that impact as much as possible. For instance, offer to bring food with you when you visit and/or coordinate ordering and picking up takeout meals. Help with preparing and cleaning up after meals. If you’re staying overnight, treat your “check out” like you would an Airbnb: strip the sheets off the beds, put your used towels in the washing machine and take out your trash. This might not be behavior that was modeled for you by your elders, but I urge you to try whatever version of this feels authentic and manageable for you. Even small gestures can go a long way.

3. Get informed about their parenting approach. If you plan to take an active (or more active) role in helping with your grandchildren, having a solid understanding of their daily life is critical. This doesn’t mean you need to check parenting books out of the library! But it does mean having a basic foundation for things like how your grandchildren are put to sleep, what they are/aren’t allowed to eat, their daily schedule, their nighttime routine, how much screen time they can have and whether or not they get disciplined. An easy way to begin is simply to ask their parents, without judgement or comparison to how you raised your children.

Be prepared to take notes; parents today are inundated with new and old parenting methods, expert opinions and the latest research results ranging from vaccine interactions to speech development…and that’s just on Instagram. Within two weeks of having my first baby, my husband and I saw a midwife, chiropractor, occupational therapist, lactation consultant and pediatric dentist specializing in tongue ties — all of whom shared different opinions, suggestions and resources to find out more information. And that was for a healthy baby! As a result, it’s easy to accidentally become an expert on any number of topics and trends as a new parent and to become particular about how your children are raised and what they’re exposed to.

It’s a tremendous help when grandparents can help reinforce good habits and maintain a sense of continuity and predictability that help children feel safe. For instance, my mom knows that we’re trying to encourage language development with our toddler, so when we pick her up, we say, “up, up, up!” My mom adopted that phrase and also says “down, down, down” when she’s done holding her. And that’s so important. Grandparents can create so many new traditions and habits and memories with their grandchildren without undermining the foundation set by the parents.

4. Be conscientious about gift giving. Sadly, I think one of the most common points of contention among my friends is the amount and type of gifts given by grandparents to their kids A friend of mine told me recently that her husband has been getting increasingly agitated about the gifts his mom brings to their two sons when she visits. After many warnings, she arrived at their house for a visit with tons of presents in hand. Her husband immediately stormed out of the house with the gifts, took them out to the street and left them on the curb. In this situation, everybody means well but the conflict and tension are completely avoidable.

The first step comes from tip number three: get familiar with their parenting style. Whether or not they’ve shared gift-giving “rules” or preferences with you, knowing what they value as parents will only help you buy gifts that their children will use. For instance, if the family is modeling a Montessori approach, they likely don’t want the children to be inundated with toys; instead, the children have access to a few toys that are rotated in and out of circulation regularly. These parents might prefer that you give the toys directly to them to put into circulation gradually rather than the children receiving a bundle of new toys at once; in this case, it’s less about what you’re giving the children than how you’re giving it. But the what can be important too; some children have learning and/or sensory needs to take into consideration. And there’s always the issue of duplicates; this year, my daughter received four xylophones for her birthday.

Although on the surface the act of gift giving seems straightforward, it’s actually quite complicated and should be given the consideration it deserves. I urge you to have the conversation and ask questions to understand motives. A little compromise might be necessary, but ultimately, the end result will be happy children, parents and grandparents.

5. If conflict arises, seek professional advice. The transitions of becoming parents or grandparents are challenging — life altering — although as a society we don’t always honor them the way we should. Typically, we receive a few Hallmark cards, maybe read a book as preparation and consider our work done. But these transition can be incredibly triggering for people, particularly those who haven’t adequately dealt with experiences and emotions from the past. For instance, a woman see her new role as grandmother as an opportunity to make up for how she raised her own children; she wants to undo what she perceives as her previous shortcomings and prove her worth as a mother and grandmother. Or in another situation, a young man wants his parents involved in the lives of his children, but he’s resentful and angry towards them about his own upbringing; he subconsciously uses the new power dynamic as a way to punish his parents and make them feel inadequate as grandparents. Or a mom who exerts extreme control over her children — their schedules, diets, toys and their relationship with their grandparents — because her own childhood was chaotic and unpredictable; she wants her children to feel because she never did.

Situations like these are complicated and bound to generate extreme emotional responses from everyone involved, even over seemingly trivial conflicts. Until the underlying feelings — inadequacy, guilt, anger, resentment — are resolved, each interaction will carry a painful memory and an unspoken significance as old wounds are reopened and new ones are formed. If you or other family members are struggling to resolve issues, I strongly encourage you to see a therapist. Healing and forgiveness can end cycles of family conflict and help create healthy environments for children. Do it for yourself and for the generations to come.

The early days of parenthood: All I See is You

The following poem on parenthood is one of the most beautiful, raw literary pieces I’ve come across. It’s an excerpt from the All I See is You poetry book by Jessica Urlichs. I’ve returned to it often over the past couple of years, and it makes me sob every single time. For me, nothing has felt more tender than those early days with a new baby, when you both feel so fragile and your whole heart is blown wide open. Jessica captures it so perfectly.

“Mama,

I can’t see past you right now, I’m so small and everything’s a little blurry.

All I see is you.

When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I’m here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren’t lonely for me.

You are my everything.

When you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re making it look easy to me. Even though we’re still getting to know each other, you know me better than anyone.

I trust you.

When you think some nights you’ll never get sleep again, you will. We both will. But I’m scared right now. I promise I’m not manipulating you. I just need your smell and comfort. Do you feel that tug in your heart when we’re apart? I do too.

I miss you.

When you feel as if you’ve achieved nothing, please know, my cup has never been so full. The days that get away on you will be some of my best memories of us playing together on the ground.

I love you.

When you feel like you don’t know who you are anymore, when you turn away from the mirror. That face will be the one I look to when I achieve something, the one I search for in a crowd. The reason for my first smile.

You’re perfect to me.

When you feel like the weight of it all is heavy in your heart, please know I’ve never felt lighter. Can I lay here with you a little longer? I won’t always need you like this.

But I need you right now.

When you feel as if you have nothing left to give, when I see your hands outstretched at me, pleading. When we’re both crying. I wish I could talk, but I can’t. If I could I would tell you,

There’s a reason I chose you.

I can’t see past you right now mama, because you are my world. It will get bigger, soon enough.

But for now,

All I see is you.”

We had babies 14 months apart. Here’s how I prepared.

My babies are 14 months apart. When I was pregnant with our second daughter, Camille, I struggled a lot with how such a monumental change would affect her older sister Aurelia. After all, Aurelia was herself still a baby. I had faith that my husband and I would eventually figure out how to raise two under two, but I worried that Aurelia would have a hard time adjusting.

So many well-meaning people who I shared my concerns with said, “oh it’s good that Aurelia is so young. She won’t remember life as an only child.” In theory, that sounds logical, but research actually suggests the opposite; young children who are thrust into an older sibling role have a harder time coping because they don’t yet have the skills to manage their emotions or the words to the express them. The younger they are, the less equipped they are and the harder it is for them to adjust.

On more than one occasion in the months leading up to Camille’s birth, I remember sobbing as I tried to hold Aurelia over my growing bump, absolutely heartbroken for her.

Then I read Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings by Dr. Laura Markham, and it changed my life. The book takes a hands-on, research-based approach to facilitating a loving, happy, respectful family culture. It centers on the importance of the parent-child bond and on practicing empathy to help foster a safe environment for children to manage their emotions and ultimately build life-long bonds with siblings. She doesn’t sugarcoat the issues parents and children face, and she doesn’t minimize the very real assumptions a child can make when parents bring home a new baby. (She likens it to a spouse bringing home a new partner who sleeps in their room and gets all the attention. How would you feel?) She offers dozens of real-life conflict-resolution examples (including sample scripts) to help put theories into practice. She explains how parents should evaluate tantrums and how to address them. And throughout her book, she references books by other authors that have turned out to be great resources for me as well.

After reading the book, I felt incredibly prepared and empowered. Dr. Markham spoke my language, and her approach to parenting really resonated with me. She challenged popular child-rearing methods that instinctively didn’t feel right for me and gave me other tools to try instead. She specifically covered challenges that arise when siblings are close in age. She even addressed families who were about to add a new baby and offered suggestions on how to prepare siblings, introduce them for the first time and arm visitors/friends/family with tips to avoid making siblings feel overlooked. Honestly, this book is a treasure.

Today, Camille is almost three months old, and we’re all adjusting incredibly well. That’s not to say there aren’t meltdowns or power struggles, but given the magnitude of the changes in Aurelia’s life, she’s responded beautifully. We use the principles in this book every single day. They’ve given me permission to parent the way that feels natural to me, but that I’ve never seen modeled before. And they’ve given me new ideas for bonding with my children that I can’t wait to continue to implement, adapt and build upon.

P.S. If you don’t plan on having multiple children, you might be interested in Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, which as the title suggests, doesn’t have the same emphasis on siblings.

Holiday gifts for toddlers

My husband and I try to be mindful about the types (and amount) of toys that our daughters have access to at home. We’ve been fairly minimalistic in our approach, particularly regarding how many toys are available at any given time. (I have a toy and book rotation in place so that they only have a few things to focus on.) We’ve favored experiential toys like musical instruments and art supplies, and we make time each day to use them. Our approach might feel a little militaristic — especially to the grandparents πŸ™‚ — but we believe in the importance of using toys to help our children learn new skills, use their imaginations and teach an appreciation for their belongings. This already feels like an uphill battle amidst the commercialism of the U.S., and our oldest is barely a toddler.

With those goals in mind, here are a few things from our 18 month old’s Christmas list that I’m really excited about:

Books about emotions. I’m a believer in the gentle parenting approach, and I’ve seen firsthand that young children have big emotions that they need help processing. The Color Monster by Anna Llenas helps kids identify and categorize their emotions (fear, sadness, joy, etc.) so that they’re better able to recognize and talk about them. Little Monkey Calms Down by Michael Dahl begins with a monkey who’s having a bad day and then offers suggestions for how he/she can calm down (breathing, singing, cuddling, etc.). Both books emphasize that emotions are normal and that it’s okay to cry. I can’t wait to introduce these to Aurelia during calming corner time.

Calming corner. In the spirit of helping children regulate and express their emotions, I’m in the process of creating a calming corner in our nursery. A major feature will be the Generation Mindful Time-In Toolkit. The toolkit includes tools that help teach children lifelong skills about emotions and how to regulate them in the safe space of a calming corner.

As the name implies, a time in is the opposite of a time out — sending a child to be alone as punishment for “bad” behavior. My parents never used time outs with me, so I honestly hadn’t given them much thought in my parenting journey. But after reading Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings by Dr. Laura Markham (CHANGED. MY. LIFE), I was sold on the concept of time ins. Dr. Markham makes an incredibly compelling argument for radical empathy and the vital importance of actively helping your child learn to embrace and regulate their emotions. She explains (and demonstrates through case studies) that children act out due to their inability to manage big emotions on their own. Casting them out away from the family during a time out only further reinforces whatever emotion(s) they’re struggling with and sends the message that emotions are bad. If you’re interested in creating your own calming corner, I highly recommend also reading the book; it will provide a really sold foundation and understanding when it comes time to put the calming corner into practice.

The Time-In Toolkit includes posters that share information about emotions and techniques to help children calm their bodies. It also includes an activity mat and a set of positive affirmation cards which Generation Mindful recommends pulling first thing in the morning . You know I love a daily ritual, and these cards totally sold me on the kit. If the toolkit is above your price point or you’d rather start smaller, this poster set is a great alternative.

Side note: I’m also planning to make a glitter jar — a concept I first heard about on Sesame Street — with Aurelia to include in the space as another calming tool to try.

Cleaning tools. A major tenement of the Montessori approach is to empower kids, respect them, build their confidence and teach life skills by allowing them to become more autonomous. This is reinforced through daily practices like allowing them to set their place at the table, feed themselves, select their outfit for the day and even help with cooking and cleaning from a very young age. At just 15 months, Aurelia started trying to use our hand-held broom and dustpan to clean up after her meals. A couple of months later, she started wiping the table down after she ate. We didn’t teach her to do this; she learned by observation and seems to enjoy being able to contribute to our household.

To help facilitate that interest, we’ve added the Teamson Kids Little Helper Cleaning Set to her wish list. Having access to tools that are her size should really help her learn new skills and curb the frustration that comes with trying to use adult-sized supplies. We’ll keep the set in our kitchen for ease of use. I love this particular product for its pastel colors and the fact that it’s made by a small business.

Cooking tools. My husband recently built a toddler tower to give Aurelia access to our kitchen sink and counters so that she can begin to help with cooking and cleaning up after meals. She’s used it help me make muffins and watch my husband cook on the stove since she’s always intrigued by our meal prep. So far, I’ve only asked her to dump ingredients from measuring cups into a bowl, but I think she’ll be ready to try other skills soon. We’ve added a toddler-sized (and safe) wooden “knife” to her wish list so that we can start to incorporate cutting soft foods into her daily list of activities. Etsy is an incredible resource for wooden cooking utensils for kids like cutting boards, more advanced knives and whisks and scoops, spoons and tongs.

A whimsical nursery edit: part 1

From the very beginning, I never put much thought into our nursery. I think for the same reason that we didn’t name our daughters until a day or more after they were born, I thought we’d always decorate their room once we got a better sense for who they are and what they like. But I realized a month or so ago that Aurelia’s almost a year and a half, and her room is about as imaginative as the inside of a closet. It was pretty basic to start with, and then several months ago we transitioned her from a crib to a floor bed, at which point we had to further childproof her room (since she could get around easily and unattended at night), and it became downright bare.

I’d also been stuck in a circular argument with myself that went something like, “why spend time and money decorating a room when we never spend much time in it?….would we spend more time in it if it was more inviting?” I’m guessing that the answer is “yes.” Either way, it’s time to test out the theory.

So now I’m in the process of making the room more cozy, more whimsical and now that Aurelia’s older, a bit more instructional as well. Here are a few things I’ve ordered so far:

New bedding. Aurelia was sleeping on set of plain white sheets with a wheat-colored comforter. My goal was to replace them with bedding that was both more colorful and imaginative. When I was a toddler, I had a Minnie Mouse sheet set that showed Minnie in different outfits and settings. I loved making up stories about the different versions of Minnie, and I wanted something similar for Aurelia. This Willa Woodland Sheet Set from West Elm is exactly what I was looking for from a design perspective, plus it’s made with organic cotton. I love that we can use it to reinforce animal names with her now and that it will (hopefully) continue to hold her interest as she gets older.

World map. I’ve been on the hunt for wall art that we could hang at Aurelia’s height so that she’s not looking at blank walls all the time. I decided on a world map for several reasons; my husband is from Iran, and I think it’s important for our children to understand their heritage, including where their ancestors lived. We also plan to travel as much as possible with our children and to teach them about other cultures. I think seeing a map of the entire world, and not just our state or country, is an important first step. Admittedly, I also could use a refresher on world geography, so this map is also for my education πŸ™‚ This particular map from PaperMundi on Etsy has beautiful watercolor illustrations including landmarks and animals. It’s the seller’s pastel map, but they have other versions and also can customize colors and landmarks for you. The colors match the Woodland Sheet Set perfectly, so I chose not to do any customizations. Since it will be at eye level, I was nervous about putting our map in a glass frame, so we had it laminated instead and stuck it to the wall with Velcro.

“Flying” hot air balloon. To continue with the theme of maps and travel, I purchased an amazing hot air balloon from TiTics Etsy shop. The balloon I ordered is light gray with rainbow bunting (shown on the right in the photo above), but the seller offers a variety of shapes, sizes and other customizations. It’s coming all the way from Poland so it hasn’t arrived yet, but I can’t wait to finally see it in person.

Festive bunting. Aurelia’s room has dark sage blackout curtains to help block out light during naps. They definitely serve their purpose, but I wanted to brighten them up a bit. I ordered this pastel rainbow bunting from TheCottonSocks on Etsy since it’s so similar to the bunting on the hot air balloon I ordered, and I think it adds a nice air of celebration.

Gold stars. Since the walls in the nursery are dark blue, I wanted to add a few stars around Aurelia’s bed. I’d originally chosen these from Etsy because I loved the design, but opted for these from Amazon instead because they claim to be repositionable and I wasn’t sure if my daughter would stay awake all night peeling them off the wall (she hasn’t). They were super easy to apply and look amazing on her dark walls.

Discovering divine love…in the bathroom

Something profoundly changed within me last night. My husband usually gets our oldest daughter, Aurelia, bathed and to sleep while I make dinner. Last night, he was working, so I did more of the bedtime routine and shared such sweet, tender moments with both babies. One of my favorite things to do is draw one of them up very close on my chest and wrap a blanket over both of us. The feeling satisfies something very primal within me. I realized last night that it’s almost like a womb, with baby and me so close together, tucked away, warm and shielded behind an outward covering.

The more I think about it, the more the past year and the next few years to come feel like the womb, too. We spend nearly all of our time at home, nurturing our babies, protecting them, loving them and watching them grow. Two short years ago, my husband and I went into offices every day. We traveled extensively for work and for pleasure. We commuted and went to happy hours and hosted dinner parties. And now, in our little bubble with our babies, we incubate and relish the simplicity of our days. Our lifestyle was partially shaped by COVID — my husband now works from home indefinitely — and partially by babies born 14 months apart in June 2021 and August 2022. While I was pregnant, I was amazed at how much I was forced to slow down; I wasn’t able to walk very quickly, multi-task or ignore rest. I’ve managed to hold onto those lessons and truly appreciate our routine and the pace of life with two babies…leisurely strolls around the neighborhood, hour-long meals, a complete reframing of what it means to be productive.

In an instant during bedtime last night, I realized what had shifted for me. For the the first, maybe ever, I felt fully present in the moment. It didn’t happen during yoga or meditation. I was untangling and hanging twinkle lights in the bathroom and singing silly songs while Aurelia splashed around in the tub, and it struck me that THIS IS IT. I wasn’t thinking about what I needed to get done after she was asleep. I wasn’t worried about her little sister Camille waking up from her nap. I was fully immersed in the moment. In our beautiful, exhausting, monotonous, multi-sensory, technicolor life of diapers and bottles and first words and first steps and pinching ourselves every day that they’re ours. For months, my husband and I have randomly looked at each and said “We’re married?! We have two kids?!?” because it’s all felt so surreal.

But after that moment in the bathroom, I thought with so much conviction as I held Camille later in the evening, that nothing has ever felt more like real life, like my life. Years from now, I’ll lie in bed at night remembering these beautiful early days of getting to know two precious souls, and I’ll smile. I’ll imagine the cheeky, exuberant expression that crosses Aurelia’s face when she shows us for the first time that she’s learned something new. Or the way that Camille beams and wiggles in excitement every time she catches one of us gazing at her. They are the light of my life, and I’m so blessed.

Not everything is easy, of course. There are tantrums and sleepless nights and teething pains and shortened tempers. I’ve struggled with missing meaningful self care time to ground myself and recharge spiritually. As a couple, we try to remember that each challenge shows us something new about ourselves and ultimately helps us grow; sometimes it works and sometimes it’s only aspirational. But every day, we feel the love of our girls, we appreciate the abundance in our life and we’re deeply humbled that they chose us. And nothing brings me closer to spirit — to divine love — than that.

Remembering your future and other wisdom from Dr. Joe Dispenza

I’ve been in a bit of a spiritual slump lately and decided to read Becoming Supernatural by Dr. Joe Dispenza for inspiration. I first heard about the book during an interview with the author on The goop Podcast, which I’m ashamed to say was several years ago. I found an old list of books to read this week, and seeing Becoming Supernatural on the list, took it as a sign to start it.

I finished the book last night, so I’m still processing some of the nuances, but I wanted to share a summary while the content is still fresh.

A science-based approach to mystical experiences

According to the book’s description, Dr. Joe Dispenza “draws on research conducted at his advanced workshops since 2012 to explore how common people are doing the uncommon to transform themselves and their lives.” Specifically, he takes a science-based approach to studying the effects of different types of meditation on individuals and, when conducted as a group, the collective. He also includes relevant research done by other scientists on topics like the mind body connection and the impact of heart coherence on society as a whole. Their findings blew me away. Although he gets deep into the science, Dr. Dispenza uses simple explanations and helpful examples to make the content approachable.

A method for “remembering your future”

Although Dr. Dispenza doesn’t use the word “manifesting” more than a few times in the book, his entire approach is focused on getting out of the routine of our daily lives, releasing limiting beliefs holding us back from reaching our goals and using several processes he outlines in the book to imagine our future selves in such a tangible, sensory way that our bodies, minds and spirits actually believe and operate as if that future self already exists. He encourages his students to step out of each meditation as a new person. (If you’re interested in manifestation, I wrote about other approaches to manifesting here.)

One of the most profound studies he cites was done on two groups of people who were learning to play the piano: one group practiced by actually playing the instrument while the second group only visualized it. The study looked at the brains of all of the participants and found no difference. In other words, by simply focusing our attention and intentions, we can make our brains believe that a future that we only imagined is reality. In doing so, we bring about profound change and attract a life that’s energetically aligned to our new selves. He gives dozens of examples of people who have manifested better health, relationships and jobs for themselves through his approach.

However, the reverse is also true. When we are stuck in the past, reliving past traumas and feeling an emotional response to those experiences, our bodies don’t know the difference between a memory and reality, so our physical bodies respond as if the event is happening again and again, putting us in a constant state of fight or flight. We become so used to these hormones, even though they’re uncomfortable, that we continue to seek out ways to perpetuate the cycle. and stay attached to negative feelings like anger, resentment and victimization.

Dr. Dispenza uses meditation as a means to liberate the energy that is tied up with our negative emotions, invent our future selves, access information from the quantum, initiate metaphysical experiences and fill ourselves with love and light.

Easy-to-replicate meditations

Dr. Dispenza describes each of the major concepts he teaches during his workshops in this book and then follows each with a detailed meditation that readers can try at home on their own. It includes meditations that focus on the body’s energy centers, the pineal gland, trapped energy within the body and heart coherence, among others. You can access recordings of the meditations on his website. (Fair warning, they’re pricey.) If you’re like me and prefer guided meditations, you could easily write your own script based on the outlines in the book, record your own meditation and save yourself $30 πŸ™‚

Other resources:

Dr. Dispenza has written other books including You Are the Placebo and Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself.

He also has a blog, a summary of scientific research and other interesting content on his website.

If you really want to dive in, he continues to host workshops and launched a virtual course with Gaia.

My birth story with Camille

I always heard that childbirth rarely goes as planned, which was certainly the case with our first baby, Aurelia, and it turns out our second child’s birth was equally unpredictable. I’d wanted to give birth to Aurelia at home but after 24 hours of labor I was dehydrated, exhausted and not progressing, so I decided to transfer to the hospital. Since my transfer wasn’t an emergency, we had the luxury of choosing the best (not the closest) hospital, and so we went to North Fulton Hospital on the recommendation of my midwife. The care Aurelia and I received there was outstanding, and to be honest, it restored my faith in empowered hospital birth experiences.

On the same day as Aurelia’s six month well visit with her pediatrician, I confirmed what I already knew: that I was pregnant with our second baby. I shared the good news with my midwife and let her know that I wanted to try a home birth again. I had several reasons for wanting a home birth, but I desperately wanted a water birth, and hospitals that allow them are hard to come by.

My pregnancy was blessedly uneventful; in fact, I felt significantly better than I had while I was pregnant with Aurelia. I felt so good during my first trimester that I convinced myself I must be having a boy (if you believe the old wives’ tale that morning sickness is worse with girls). In my case, morning sickness was worse when I was depleted, and the weekly acupuncture visits and a few supplements that I started after Aurelia was born made me feel healthier than I had in years.

I took our good health for granted because everything was going well…until my 37 week appointment. My midwife heard an irregular heartbeat and urged me pretty insistently to drive directly to the hospital for monitoring. Fortunately, after a couple of hours of monitoring, the hospital’s midwife told me that the baby’s heartbeat was steady and strong and that sometimes babies can get “worked up” so their heartrate fluctuates. Regardless, the experience left me shaken. I drove home, burst into tears and told my husband that I no longer wanted a home birth. It actually wasn’t the fear of something going wrong that changed my mind; I’d had a nagging feeling throughout my pregnancy that something didn’t feel right about a home birth. That day, driving home from the hospital, I realized that I’d chosen to do a home birth sort of by default, without really considering what I wanted for this pregnancy. I wanted to do a home birth to prove to myself that I could, not because it was the right choice for this baby. I also wanted to give birth at home to minimize time away from Aurelia since I’d never spent the night away from her…again, not because it was right for this baby. After making the decision to deliver again at North Fulton, I felt a weight lift.

Because of the change in plans, I found a new midwife who was allowed to deliver at the hospital and my previous midwife remained on my birth team as my doula. During my first appointment with my new midwife (at 37 weeks!), I found out, to my surprise and delight, that North Fulton actually allows water births. Finally, my birth plan felt right.

Over the following weeks, I had several labor false starts. The day before my due date, my husband took matters into his own hands and made eggplant parmesan to try to bring on labor. Within two hours of eating it, at about 8:00 pm, I let my midwife and doula know that I was starting to feel contractions. At first, they were mild and irregular, but by 10:00 pm, they had become more intense, a minute long and about 12 minutes apart. By 10:30, they were about 90 seconds long and six minutes apart, so my husband packed the car with our overnight bags, my yoga ball, snacks for me during labor and gifts for the nursing staff and my birth team. We met my midwife at her office at 12:30 am; she said I was 4 cm dilated and that we were ready to go to the hospital. By the time we drove to the hospital and got settled in our room, about 15 minutes later, I was 6 cm dilated.

The nurse attached a fetal heart monitoring device to my belly. In order to qualify for a water birth, the baby’s heart rate had to remain normal for 30 minutes, which fortunately it did! After that, the nurse removed the monitor and I was free to get off the bed and move around the room. I labored on the yoga ball and then in a standing position leaning over the bed for about an hour. My midwife gave me a cold towel with peppermint essential oils which significantly helped keep my nausea under control, and my doula applied counter pressure on my hips and sacrum during contractions which made the sensations so much more bearable.

At around 2:15 am, my doula suggested a change in position to keep labor moving, so I went to the bathroom to labor on the toilet. I jokingly asked “do I have to?” This was my least favorite position when I was laboring with Aurelia because it really strengthens contractions, so I was prepared for more intensity. Once I sat on the toilet, I threw up from the pain almost immediately, but the change of position worked; I felt almost a thud when the baby dropped even further down.

At this point, I asked my doula “what’s the plan?” because I was ready to get into the birth pool for some relief. She and my midwife both agreed that I was ready, so I got in around 2:45 am. WOW…the birth pool was incredible. The warmth of the water was so therapeutic, and the almost weightless feeling helped with the pressure and discomfort. It definitely didn’t mask the pain (I still threw up again) but it took the edge off and gave me the support I needed for the last phase of labor. I remember talking to the baby and asking him/her to work together with me during the last phase of labor. During contractions, my doula urged me to use sound to push energy downwards, helping move the baby and helping curb my nausea as well.

About an hour later, around 3:45, I moved into a side lying position in the water. My midwife and doula said that this was a good position for pushing, and I realized for the first time that I might actually pull this off! It seemed too good to be true. A few minutes later, my midwife and nurse brought in the receiving table for the baby, a mirror and a light on a stand to shine into the pool; until now, the only light in the room was from twinkle lights hung on the wall around the birth pool and bathroom. I couldn’t believe I was getting so close!

A few minutes later, I started feeling the urge to bear down, and I knew I had made it to the pushing phase of labor. What came next felt so primal. My body completely took over during contractions and started pushing on its own. The sounds I made were guttural and almost animalistic. While I was pushing, my water broke. It felt and sounded like a champagne cork shooting out of a bottle. I had my eyes closed and was so focused that I was surprised by the sensation and looked at my doula. I had no idea what happened!

My doula told me that I could reach down and feel the baby’s head, which was another boost I needed for the last few pushes. After that, the baby’s head started to crown and I felt the infamous ring of fire as my body stretched to fit around the head. Now, just six weeks later, I don’t remember the pain. I just remember being ecstatic and in complete awe that I was about to meet my baby and that I finally got the water birth I wanted.

I had a big contraction, which turned out to be the last during labor, and it felt right to kept pushing after it was over. My midwife said “LOOK, Lindsey!” because my eyes were shut tight and I was about to miss the baby being born! It was 4:22 am. I’ll never forget how she looked coming up from the water with her eyes open. My husband was supposed to announce the gender but I was closer to her and shouted “it’s a GIRL!” When they handed her to me, my first thoughts were 1) this is a big baby, and she feels so strong, and 2) she’s so calm. She was looking around and quiet; we had to work very hard to agitate her enough to make her cry. I absolutely believe that she was so calm because of our birth experience and the environment.

My midwife asked me to reach into the water to grab the umbilical cord to see if it was still pulsing. Once it stopped, she helped my husband cut it, then she helped me out of the water and into the bed while my husband did skin-to-skin time with the baby. Then he handed her to me to nurse. I held her for about an hour, then another nurse came in to measure the baby. She was 8 pounds 10 ounces and 22 inches long and perfectly healthy. While the baby was with the nurse, my nurse helped me go to the bathroom. After having an epidural with Aurelia, I have to say that it was so nice to be able to walk on my own immediately and not have a catheter this time around.

Throughout the entire process of labor and delivery, I felt so focused, in control and present. While the sensations were incredibly intense, I didn’t try to run and hide from the pain like I had with Aurelia. With each contraction, I made the decision to run toward the intensity because I was more afraid of a long labor (my first was 34 hours) than I was of the intensity of one contraction. I credit that mentality with my steady progression and short 8 hour labor.

At one point in the labor pool, I remember joking with my midwife and doula, and then I realized because we’d been talking, I hadn’t had a contraction in a few minutes. I wanted to keep labor moving, so I decided to bring on a contraction, and instantly, one started. In that moment, I understood the mind-body connection in a new way and truly appreciated how critical your mentality is to the labor experience.

That’s why your birth team, your state of mind and your environment are such critical elements to the outcome of your labor experience. If I can offer one piece of unsolicited advice it’s this: don’t settle into auto pilot when it comes to creating your birth plan. Dig deep. Get honest with yourself about what you want. Be picky about who’s by your side when the time comes. And if necessary, be prepared fight like hell for yourself and your baby. You can’t control much about the miraculous, beautiful, transformative event that is the birth of your child, but you can control that.

Favorite books for a 9-month old baby

I read to our daughter pretty regularly from the very beginning, but only recently has she started showing a real interest in books. She’s nine and a half months old now, and about a week ago, she actually started “asking” to be read to. (As an avid reader, my heart melted on the spot!) Not only does she ask to be read to every day, she also lets me know really quickly which books she likes and which she doesn’t.

Here’s the list of her top five favorites:

The Napping House is her absolute favorite at the moment. She asks me to read it multiple times in one sitting.

She showed now interest in Little Blue Truck until a couple of weeks ago, and now she can’t get enough. She is starting to understand animal sounds, and she squeals with delight when I’m reading this book to her.

I have to admit, I’d never heard of The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss until my mother-in-law purchased it for our daughter since she’s teething. I wasn’t sure if she would understand that the book is about teeth, but she points to the teeth in the pictures and absolutely makes the connection.

Let me start by saying that my daughter doesn’t watch CoComelon, so that’s not a prerequisite for liking this book. She does, however, love the song The Wheels on the Bus, which is why CoComelon The Wheels on the Bus is such a hit. The book is also shaped like a bus, and you guessed it, the wheels actually turn, which is really fun for her.

My aunt, who was in Early Childhood Education, has gotten my daughter several finger puppet books, and they are amazing. The stories are simple but my daughter is enamored with the puppets and squeals and claps when we read the books and they “say hi” to her.

What I learned from our first trip with baby

My husband and I recently took a short three-day trip to the beach with our daughter, who is nine months old. We stayed in Seagrove, Florida, which is about five and a half hours from where we live in Atlanta. Considering the longest we’ve been in the car at any given time is two hours, it was

I’d give us a B+ overall on trip planning and execution, with some definite room for improvement. I’ve included our observations and learnings from the trip below:

  1. Find accommodations that offer baby-related amenities. We rented a condo through Airbnb and chose it in part because of the amazing baby equipment the owners provided: a Pack ‘n Play and high chair. When you’re packing for another human, the less you have to bring from home, the better. Other must-haves were a bath tub (a must for our night time routine), a large beach umbrella (important for that delicate baby skin) and large-ish bedroom that had enough space for our daughter to sleep in the room with us. Our one regret with our lodgings was that the bedroom window didn’t have curtains, so the room was really bright during the day…not ideal for naptime.
  2. Plan out your car ride. Since our daughter is so good in the car, we never expected the extent and magnitude of meltdowns that we experienced during our drive. Chalk it up to us being naΓ―ve. Only you’ll know what works for your baby, so the only advice I’ll leave you with is: build in stops along the way to get out of the car and reset, load up on toys/entertainment and way more food than you expect to need.
  3. Arrive early. I really regret arriving at our destination so late in the afternoon. We got to the condo about an hour past our daughter’s bedtime, so we rushed through bath time and put her to bed (or tried to) immediately when we arrived in an attempt to keep her on schedule. Big mistake. We woefully underestimated how curious she was about her new surroundings and unsettled she was after spending most of the day in the car. In hindsight, we should’ve arrived with ample time to show her around and get her comfortable in her environment before sticking her in a dark room by herself.
  4. Replicate your normal routine to maintain some degree of familiarity despite your new surroundings. We were very intentional about which toys, blankets and bath time equipment we took with us, specifically those that are bedtime associations for our daughter. At nighttime, she always takes a bath, has her favorite bath time toys, wears the same PJs/sleep sack, has the same white noise, etc. We did our best to replicate her morning and evening routines, with tons of flexibility for fun and exploring during the rest of the day, to anchor her and help her day feel familiar.
  5. Consider your typical schedule and plan your meals accordingly. This is mainly an issue if, like us, you typically have most meals at home. In other words, none of us is accustomed to dining out. We took into account our daughter’s sleep schedule, our condo’s proximity to dining options, whether they were kid friendly and their hours. We also had to factor in a one-hour time difference since we crossed time zones going into Florida. Bottom line, meals can get complicated and you can end up hangry and in a bit of a lurch like we did on the first night. Ultimately, we prepared breakfast at our condo every day since we expected to be up by 5:30 am local time; we at lunch out and we got takeout for dinner each night since our daughter’s bedtime was about 5:00 pm local time. The ability to comfortably eat meals where we were staying was such a life saver.

As you can see, we’re definitely still beginners at this, so please share your tips as well!