Reframing your parenting challenges

This week, my husband has been away on a work trip. This marks the first time he and I have been apart since February 2020, and the only time I’ve been home with our daughter for an extended period of time without him. I’m spoiled in a big way.

I won’t lie; leading up to this week, I was definitely nervous. What if she had a tough growth spurt week? What if my patience faded under the pressure of around-the-clock care? What if I couldn’t juggle our daughter, our dog, managing the house and being pregnant? And aside from all of that, I actually like spending time with him 🙂 Spending that much time apart after so long seemed so abrupt and lonely.

On the first day he was gone, everything was business as usual. I stuck to the baby’s routine and before I knew it, I was starting her bath time. I was so relieved and felt confident that things would continue to go smoothly.

On the second day, something shifted. Our day flew by, and as I was putting her to sleep, I got really emotional. I wasn’t ready to put her to sleep and was struck by the realization that I was enjoying her companionship. Our relationship has shifted from caretaker and baby. We genuinely have fun together. We communicate with and without words. We laugh. And this is just the beginning of a lifetime of creating memories together.

As a new parent, it’s so easy to get hung up on the caretaker role…which is in many ways a thankless job. You can easily lose sight of the big picture and the future under the strain of the day-to-day grind, the monotony and the stress. That’s why I thought of this week with trepidation: I was focused on how I would manage. By reframing it as getting to spend more quality time with my daughter, just the two of us without dad around, it shifted from something stressful to a memory I’ll never forget.

Reframing can be a powerful tool in parenting, moving your perspective from…

….frustration about a baby’s sleep schedule to gratitude for seeing every sunrise.

…feeling unproductive in how much you accomplish every day to appreciating the opportunity to slow down.

…missing your old self and former life to welcoming growth, transformation and the new you.

It’s not always easy to reframe while you’re in the thick of a challenging situation, but if you set the intention, the right perspective will come to you!

What’s the origin of your fear?

Yesterday, I had my 15-week prenatal appointment with my midwife. During every appointment, she goes through a checklist of questions related to my physical and emotional wellbeing. This time, when she asked about how I’m doing emotionally, I paused. I told her about the anxiety I’ve felt related to violence in our area, particularly gun violence related to kids. I also talked about how my fears around COVID really flared up around the holidays and into January.

As she let me ramble, I had a major realization: my anxiety and fear actually had very little to do with COVID and the violence we’ve seen on the news. Rationally, I know that we’re safe. We make thoughtful choices, and we’re not taking many (if any) risks to put us in harm’s way. I realized that I have some unaddressed fear as a new mom that’s been compounded by the fact that I’m pregnant again. Out of shame for not living up to my own standards, I wasn’t allowing myself to express that fear, so instead I attached it to two very real, widespread and acceptable fears…COVID and gun violence.

The reasons those fears have persisted and evolved into anxiety is because I hadn’t addressed their root cause. By allowing myself to be honest about the more vulnerable cause – motherhood can be scary – I continue to accept my whole self and show myself some grace. I also have the opportunity to evaluate my own expectations. Do I judge other mothers for their fears as parents? Absolutely not. So why do I judge myself?

All that to say, our fears as parents are valid. But there’s a big difference between recognizing fears, taking proper precautions and letting them go and what I was doing…taking proper precautions and then continuing to worry.

If you find yourself caught in a fear-based cycle of feeling anxious and attempting to control situations, it’s worth checking in. Have you taken precautions? Are you still worrying? What can you let go? Know that your fears are valid, but they don’t have to control you.

One piece of advice that’s worked for me is to find an emotional anchor that you can come back to again and again when you feel yourself slipping into anxious mode. For me, that’s a deep conviction that the house we moved into a couple years ago was divine intervention. The timing, the features and the neighborhood were exactly what we wanted. We are meant to be there as a family and so we are safe.

Postpartum healing isn’t linear

Before we had our first child, I became fascinated with the postpartum period: the personal transformation that’s possible if you’re nurtured, allowed enough space to sit with the changes and probably most important of all, open to surrender. Cultures around the world have recognized this critical juncture for centuries and emphasize the need to “mother the mother” to support her transition from woman to mother. In Ayurveda, the first 42 days is considered a sacred window, a time that defines the next 42 years.

I entered my postpartum days with a list of things I wasn’t going to do…things like worrying about how my body looked, hyper-focusing on keeping our house tidy and perfect, getting out of bed, entertaining and being active too soon. Despite a couple of setbacks, the first six weeks went beautifully. I felt physically healed, at peace and so deeply connected to our daughter.

Fast forward to today, eight months later. Over the past month, my emotions started to spike, and suddenly feel turbulent, seemingly out of nowhere. My nervous system felt unbalanced. I was having dreams about flooding water and rollercoasters, an ongoing theme in my dreams when I’m feeling emotionally overwhelmed in life.

I felt myself going off track, so I started focusing more on restoring balance to my body and recommitted to my spiritual practice. I also booked a psychic reading this week with Gina Fuschetto, She talked me through several visuals she saw of my emotional state, and we talked about what the symbolism meant to me. Through that experience, I was finally able to see my emotional landscape more objectively.

In my attempt to do everything “right” in my postpartum period (and let’s be honest, my life overall) I missed the bigger picture…the importance of letting go. I held too tightly to my ideal vision of what my postpartum period “should” be that I unknowingly managed and controlled my emotions throughout the process. As a result, my inner world felt only partially acknowledged.

That realization is so liberating. I haven’t appreciated how much pressure I’ve been putting on myself. The changes I’ll make are small but profound. I am determined to be more vulnerable with my loved ones and myself about how I’m really feeling. And I’m committed to being even more transparent about my own experiences on this platform, too.

As I reflect on the past eight months of motherhood, my biggest surprise has been that the healing process (emotional and physical) hasn’t been linear…and I don’t think I’m alone in that experience. I expected the transition to be really hard for the first six weeks and then taper off in a predictable way once we got the swing of things. I focused so much on that sacred window that I really didn’t give myself permission to struggle after that. But I found that actually, there have been so many ebbs and flows…

Months 0-2 – physical healing, complete awe, crying because of deep love, not having a clue

Month 3 – feeling adjusted, starting to get in a rhythm

Month 4 – major sleep setback for baby, tired, depleted, anxious

Month 5-6 – deeper physical healing, finding a good schedule for us

Month 7 – loss of self, feelings of monotony, mild depression, disruption from teething leading to crankiness and lack of sleep

Month 8– return to balance and to self

As a first born and a perfectionist, I wanted make motherhood look easy. But I owe it to myself to let it look messy and complicated and exhausting, because it is! That’s not the lesson I expected to learn during my sacred window, but I’m so incredibly thankful that I see it now and that I can set the intention to let. it. go.

Parenting for highly sensitive people

Last week, I wrote about a new commitment to reimagine my every day rituals to better meet my needs. One of the three pillars of this goal is my spiritual practice.

I want to say at the outset that I’m going to be very honest here, and my intention is not to complain but to normalize talking about the hard parts of parenting. My friend Hana Raftery’s amazing vulnerability in sharing her experience with mothering as an HSP opened my eyes, and my hope is that by sharing my experience, I can help empower others. If we don’t take care of ourselves and our mental health, we can’t take care of anyone else.

Becoming a mom has been the single most soul-expanding, heart-filling, incredible experience of my life. But as a highly sensitive person, the sensory overload I’ve started to feel over the past month or so has been a struggle.

I’ve found that many of the aspects of motherhood are triggers for highly sensitive people (HSP); according to the Highly Sensitive Person Test, qualities of HSPs include:

  • Becoming easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input like loud noises or bright lights
  • Being affected by other people’s moods
  • Needing to withdraw for privacy and to avoid stimulation
  • Finding it unpleasant to have a lot going on at once
  • Feeling your nervous system become so rattled that you need time alone

Motherhood hasn’t been the only life phase that’s been a challenge for my sensitive nature. When I worked in an office, we had an open floor plan with literally dozens of people working at cubicles within earshot of my desk. The sounds of people on the phone, the frenetic energy, stressful deadlines and bright florescent lights made it difficult for me to concentrate and impossible to not feel overwhelmed and drained. At least once a day, I booked an empty conference room and sat alone with the lights off to just breathe, feel my feet and try to ground myself.

But the difference between my office job and motherhood is that now there are very few breaks. I can’t step away, put on headphones and turn off the lights whenever I feel overwhelmed. It’s harder to detach myself from feeling my daughter’s energy and moods as I did with coworkers, because I’m responsible for her wellbeing…and she’s literally part of me. The sound of her playing and laughing is so joyful, but the sound of her unhappy, tired, frustrated or in pain from teething hurts me in a way that’s experiential and deeply upsetting. The combination of these new stimuli plus less sleep plus giving so much of my physical and emotional energy to look after and entertain her has resulted in an emptiness in me.

Like so many things we struggle with in life, just naming it can bring healing. I’ve known I was an HSP for a decade, but I didn’t put it through the lens of motherhood until Hana started sharing her experience. Having that understanding helps me know where my feelings are coming from and explain them to my husband. So many of my friends have confided that they regularly feel a sensory overload as parents, so I know I’m not alone. Neither are you.

I’m still testing out healing spiritual practices that bring grounding, connection and insight and that work with my new lifestyle. Life my office job, I know I’ll find new ways to adapt and grow.

A healing visualization: expand your heart & reduce anxiety

In January, a six-month old baby was shot and killed by stray bullets at 3 p.m. on a Monday in Atlanta, about 30 minutes from where we live. Gunfire erupted when two adults got into an altercation outside of a grocery store. The baby was riding in the car with his mom, and their car was struck as they drove by.

The reality of the world we live in can be terrifying, heartbreaking and disgusting. This crime is so senseless and avoidable and yet deeply complex at its root. As parents, my husband and I have been shaken to our core by this news. Yesterday evening, we had a long discussion about fear, loss, generational trauma and how a community can and should respond.

Last night, as I was falling asleep, I started to feel my mind racing about COVID and whether or not we’re taking too many risks; I replayed our afternoon walk from that day and our outside interactions with a few neighbors. I stopped my chattering thoughts long enough to realize that this anxiety wasn’t about COVID at all; it actually stemmed from our discussion about the shooting. In an effort to create a false sense of control over my family’s safety, I started obsessing over something I can control: exposure to COVID.

In that moment, an image came over me that immediately soothed my fear and transformed it into its original state….love. This only takes a few minutes, and I hope you’ll try it if you start to feel overwhelmed.

VISUALIZATION

Close your eyes and take a few slow, restorative breaths.

Check in with your body and identify where you’re holding anxiety. (I felt mine in my stomach.)

Let one of your fears come to mind. Once you’ve identified it, picture it as a black string inside your body. Now imagine pinching that string with your fingertips and pulling it out of your body to remove it. Do that again and again until you’ve collected all of the fears bothering you in this moment.

Look at your handful of strings and say these words to yourself or out loud: “Beings of light and love, I feel these fears because I’m afraid of losing what I love. Please transmute these fears into feelings of love and return them to my heart.” (The words are just a guide; change them or address them to another being that is meaningful to you.)

As you finish saying the words, imagine the black threads transforming, becoming a vibrant red, twisting together and joining over your head into the shape of a heart. Notice the energy of these beautiful feelings and welcome them as they land on your chest and sink into your heart. Feel the expansion of your heart and let its pulsing energy radiate outwards until it reaches every part of your body.

Enjoy this sensation until you feel complete and give gratitude for your transformation.

How to get out of your head and into your body

For the most part, we live in a society that rewards thinking, logic and analysis…living exclusively in our heads. The upside is productivity and progress, but at the risk of over analysis, anxiety, burnout, exhaustion, and worst of all, living a life full of things we were “supposed” to do, but that leaves us entirely unfulfilled.

The problem isn’t in the thinking; it’s in forgetting the balance of thinking and feeling. In fact, most of us have gotten so accustomed to being in our heads that we struggle to even know how to be in our bodies. We’ve lost our connection to our inner knowing, our intuition, our gut, our compass…the only path to a fulfilling life.

Getting in touch with that inner voice guides big decisions about our careers, the people we choose to surround ourselves with and where we live, as well as thousands of every-day decisions. Most people notice that inner voice every now and then, whether we’re trying to or not; you might find yourself saying or thinking things like, “That person gave me a bad feeling,” “Something told me to call you” or “It just felt right.” The goal of living more in our bodies is to connect with that instinct all of the time for the direction and answers we seek.

The idea of finding answers within ourselves can be both liberating and terrifying. I read recently that although anxiety expresses itself differently ways, its root cause is a lack of trust in ourselves; if we had full trust and confidence in our ability to make the right decisions, find and give love, be good parents and employees, handle difficult situations, provide for ourselves and our families and all of the other ways we worry, we would live a more settled, peaceful and content life.

Looking back over the years, the split-second decisions I made based on a feeling that I couldn’t justify or rationalize have always made me so much happier than the decisions I agonized over. You might find the same is true for you.


A note for pregnant mamas and new parents: Having information about pregnancy and parents at our fingertips is incredible, but also terribly overwhelming. I poured myself into research, but when in came down to making decisions, I checked in with myself and with my baby to find the path that was right for us. Know that you have options and the right to choose every aspect of your care; I believe that a truly empowered pregnancy and birth requires the ability to make decisions based on your instinctual knowing, rather than your mind, which can so easily become clouded by fear, worry and doubt. I’ve found that all of the troubleshooting we’ve done as first-time parents has required instinct and going with our gut. (That was especially true when trying to navigate dozens of different expert opinions on our daughter’s tongue tie.)


Getting back into your body is a constant practice that requires some unlearning of old habits and frequent check-ins with yourself. With some dedication, you will see major changes as you access your knowing and relax into the flow of your life. You already have all of the tools you need.

The following practices have worked for me during different stages of my life. I recommend setting aside 5 or 10 minutes every day…choose a length of time that feels attainable to you. Select a few practices from this list (or others that work for you) and dedicate a week to each one. Notice how they feel and adopt one/s that bring you closer into connection with yourself.

  • Meditation or guided meditation. Meditation can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. A meditation app can help remove the guesswork and make the practice feel accessible. Here is a list of some of the best apps that either offer free meditations or a free trial. If apps aren’t your thing, you could set a timer for yourself and put on relaxing music….or no music at all.
  • Reiki. Reiki is a type of energy work. Before you write this one off as not for you, hear me out. When I lived in California, I worked with a group that offered Reiki for patients and caregivers at Stanford Hospital. We only had 10 minutes with each person in a crowded waiting room, but the results were truly amazing. We made believers out of dozens of skeptical patients each week. I was introduced to Reiki by my life coach Arda Ozdemir, and coupled with our weekly therapy sessions, Reiki changed my life.
  • Qigong. Qigong is also a type of energy work. It’s a gentle exercise that involves breathing and simple, slow motions. Qigong helps me get into my body and connect with and move the energy in my body. You can find a lot of great videos on YouTube that guide you.
  • Journaling. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron maps out a routine to help tap into your creativity, and one daily practice she recommends is writing. She suggests overcoming writer’s block by not getting hung up on the topic; write about whatever is occupying your mind, even if that’s a grocery list or an interaction you’re worried about that day. By writing it down and silencing the chatter in your head, you can start to tap into your inner voice.
  • Yoga or other movement. Remember that the goal for this isn’t necessarily exercise, but getting into the body. Experiment with different types of yoga to see what works for you. For me, yoga nidra and yin yoga are most effective. These forms of yoga are meant to be slow and meditative. They offer a chance to check in with your body and explore your emotional well-being. 
  • Breathwork. A simple but very effective place to start with breathwork is belly breathing. The simple step of directing your attention to your breath can regulate your nervous system and bring you back into your body. If you’d like to hear more about the science behind breathwork and healing, this Ted Talk with Max Strom is an excellent resource.
  • Self massage. According to Ayurveda, daily self massage is recommended to boost circulation, remove tension, improve sleep and nourish the body. Ideally, it’s done with oil (like sesame oil) in a warm room and followed by a warm bath or shower. You can find an overview of how to perform an Ayurvedic massage. If you don’t have time for a full massage every day, you can massage your scalp, ears, palms of your hands and soles of your feet instead. It can be easy to let your mind wander, but try to always come back to the physical sensations in your body.
  • Feel your feet. This tip came from my life coach Arda Ozdemir, and it’s so easy because you can do it anytime and anywhere, and it takes about 10 seconds. If you find your thoughts spinning, anxiety swelling or you’re just in need for a reset, take a few slow breaths and concentrate on the bottoms of your feet for about 10 seconds. By directing your energy there, you send your focus from your head to your body and feel more grounded.

Let me know what you try and which practice works best for you!

Parenting choices and repeating patterns

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we show up as parents based on what was modeled for us as children. As I look around at the people closest to me, I see example after example of either parents trying to replicate their own childhood or parents desperately trying to create the exact opposite of their own childhood. A selfless, guilt-ridden mom, like her own mom was. Another mom trying to create structure and order for her kids because her own childhood home was unstable. A dad who started therapy when his wife was pregnant to address and undo the trauma he experienced as a child.

We have an enormous opportunity as parents to learn from our experiences and put an end to these cycles. But it takes a great deal of strength, persistence and courage to do this work. It demands that we get really honest with ourselves about our childhood experience, a process that can be incredibly painful, especially when abuse, addiction, loss or absent parents are involved.

Usually, looking back a few generations can help you to notice patterns of behavior and better understand the present. An acquaintance of mine mentioned offhandedly that three generations of women in her family (herself included) had gotten pregnant without being married and had become single moms. I don’t believe that’s a coincidence.

In my own family, I’ve noticed a lineage of women who married unhappy, abusive men. I’ve asked myself questions like: How did those women attract that negative force into their lives? What was their father figure like? What was their lesson? How did that experience affect their children? Did their children recreate that pattern for themselves, or take a different path? Notice that these are neutral questions, not emotional ones. This is not about judgement or anger; it’s about compassion and understanding.

Give some thought to your own family and any patterns you see. Remember, the patterns you’ll find aren’t necessarily bad; consider them all as information for you…clues into your family history and yourself.

What experiences are you bringing in as a parent?

What unresolved hurt or trauma are you holding on to?

What can you let go of?

What do you need to do as a parent to end unhealthy cycles for your children?

This can be an incredibly healing meditation or journaling exercise, but I also recommend seeing a counselor, therapist or life coach if that’s an option for you. There’s a lot to be said for professional guidance and not going through the process alone. Although the process can be long and sometimes painful, you, and future generations, will be so much happier for it.

Reinventing my rituals

I read an interesting article recently on the impact of COVID-19 on our rituals, from weddings and birthdays to coffee breaks with co-workers and morning commutes. Humans and societies thrive on rituals to mark the passage of time and celebrate milestones. In losing that aspect of our lives, we’re missing out on monumental occasions but also the day-to-day routines that govern, and in many ways, give meaning to our lives. For me, the past two years have been a blur.

My husband and I have been particularly careful during the pandemic since I’ve been pregnant for quite literally most of it and we had a newborn at home.

It’s been relatively easy for us to live like hermits because we were both able to work from home and both had very generous parental leave policies where we worked, so we didn’t have to worry about exposure at daycare. We have been blessed beyond measure to have the luxury to stay home and have done so very happily. My husband and I have a mantra that “every day is a birthday party,” and we work hard to invite joy and gratitude into our day to day, regardless of the circumstances. We’ve had so much more to celebrate with a new baby around.

Our sacrifices have been minor compared to so many people, but they haven’t always been easy. After two years, we still haven’t had our wedding celebration. I had a virtual mother blessing. We had a virtual funeral to mark my grandmother’s passing. When I had a miscarriage, I had to go to the doctor’s office alone.

Now that our daughter is almost eight months old, and we’re settling into a routine (again), I’m really feeling the absence of my rituals, and I want to find a way to incorporate them, or some version of them, back into my life. I think it’ll provide a big boost to my mental health.

I’ve been thinking about the rituals I miss, boiling them down to their essence and then finding ways to recreate them. And the more I work to understand what I’m missing, the more I realize this has little to do with the pandemic and more to do with my new role as a mother.

The journey into parenthood is such a sacred, monumental transition; my goal is to honor my needs, redefine myself and what serves me, and give myself a little grace along the way.

The three rituals I’m going to focus on over the next few months are:

  1. Learning new things and having new experiences. Instead of travel, I’m committing to learning new crafts, reading more books and listening to more podcasts.
  2. Getting ready first thing in the morning. I spoke to a friend recently, and she pointed out that I’m doing a great job of taking care of my baby, but at the expense of taking care of myself. Putting on an outfit and some lip gloss can go a long way in feeling ready for the day.
  3. Enhancing my spiritual practice. I’m always so much more fulfilled during times in my life when my spiritual practice is a top priority. Lately, I’ve had the time, but not the mental space for meditation, deep journaling, rituals to observe the passing seasons and other ways to help me feel grounded and connected. I plan to carve out a specific time every day, starting small (10 minutes) and experiment with practices that work for this new version of me.

What are you doing to bring rituals back into your life? What’s been meaningful to you?

Gift for mom to honor a rainbow baby

I’m not a huge fan of the term “push present,” a gift given by a loved one marking the occasion of “pushing” a baby into the world. But I love the sentiment of honoring the birth of a baby and mom’s transition into motherhood.

My husband and I agreed that I would look for something I liked to commemorate our daughter’s birth, but after eight months of looking on and off, I’ve really struggled to find something that captures her essence.

Today, I came across a really unique rainbow necklace by Bryan Anthonys that might work perfectly. Our daughter is a rainbow baby, a baby that was born after a pregnancy loss. But she’s more than that definition. She’s our miracle. Like a rainbow, she brings so much light and joy. Her birth brought heaven down to earth. Like childbirth, rainbows can be explained by science but they’re still downright awe inspiring. They’re both a reminder of the sacredness and beauty of life.

How are you commemorating the birth of a baby?

Beautiful blessing for a baby girl

My cousin read this poem to close my mother blessing when I was pregnant with our daughter, and there wasn’t a dry eye by the time she finished. You could incorporate it into your baby shower, birth announcement, needlepoint or calligraphy artwork for your nursery, religious ceremony…the opportunities are endless. I adore it so much and still get emotional reading it.

A Prayer for One Who Comes to Choose This Life

By Danelia Wild

May she know the welcome

of open arms and hearts

May she know she is loved

by many and by one

May she know the circle of friendship that gives

and receives love in all its forms

May she know and be known

in the heart of another

May she know the heart

that is this earth

reach for the stars and

call it home

And in the end

may she find everything

in her heart

and her heart

in everything