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!

A bonus tip for introducing your baby to your dog

Several months ago, I shared 3 tips for introducing a new baby to your dog. They worked so well for us when our daughter was born, and I’m so thankful that we spoke to a professional dog trainer in advance.

Last week, we went on a road trip to the beach, which was the first time the three of us and our dog Kona were in the car together for an extended amount of time.

It got me thinking that while we prepared Kona for the changes a baby would bring to our home (the smells, noises, new gadgets, etc.), we never prepared him for changes in the car. So I’m adding a fourth tip for introducing your baby to your dog….

#4 – Get your dog comfortable with riding beside a car seat. Kona is a large dog (husky mix), and before our baby was born, he was accustomed to having the entire backseat to himself. In hindsight, I wish we’d installed the car seat earlier so that he could get used to having less space. And since I’ve often ridden in the backseat with our daughter if she’s especially fussy, I also wish we’d let Kona practice riding in the front passenger seat as well. Introducing him to a new seat with much less space during a stressful car ride with a screaming baby (like we did last week) doesn’t set anyone up for success.

So take it from me…play out different scenarios of who will be in your car, where they’ll sit and what you’ll want on hand to keep them happy beforehand, and you’ll be much less likely to compound an already difficult situation.

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.

A friendly PSA on clean beauty and pregnancy

I’ve used clean beauty and personal care products for years. Once my partner and I decided to try to get pregnant with our first child, I committed to using clean products, including cleaning and other household products, exclusively. During my current pregnancy, I’ve gone a step further by educating myself and becoming more selective about what classifies as “clean.”

I love that brands like Sephora offer a clean label to make it easy to find safe products, but turns out, their standards aren’t always as discerning as I’d like. Instead, I now rely on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. It’s an incredible resource for finding out how clean your products actually are; you simply search for a product or brand, and the results include a 1 out of 10 overall rating as well as detailed categories for cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, allergies, etc. It might sound like information overload, but it’s actually extremely user friendly. Look for the label EWG Verified which is their highest stamp of approval.

I’ve been so surprised by the results of my searches, and it’s really helped me make decisions about where to spend my money. (For the record, Beautycounter and Honest Beauty are the safest brands I’ve come across.)

Needless to say, I’ve been phasing out some of my old products in favor of cleaner replacements recently. As I’ve been reading labels on the new products, I noticed something that makes this process even more tricky: just because a product is clean, it’s not necessarily safe during pregnancy. For example, I ordered Honest Beauty’s Vitamin C Radiance Serum, which is EWG Verified, but after getting it in the mail and reading the packaging, I realized it contains Gallic Acid, which is considered unsafe during pregnancy.

I’ve written before about product categories and specific ingredients that are unsafe (or questionable) during pregnancy. From that list, I’ve found that two categories tend to be the most troublesome:

  1. Any products that are smoothing or brightening tend to contain either alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). Most alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are considered unsafe during pregnancy, except for glycolic acid (7% concentration or lower) and lactic acid (5% concentration or lower). AHAs that shouldn’t be used during pregnancy are mandelic acid, malic acid, and tartaric acid. Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) is the category of acids that classifies salicylic acid, which you should avoid during pregnancy.
  2. Sunless tanner. Some sources say that sunless tanner sits on top of the skin and isn’t absorbed, so it’s safe. I’ve found other sources that say dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, could penetrate the skin. Most of the “cleanest” sunless tanners I’ve found contain DHA, so be on the lookout if that’s an ingredient you’re hoping to avoid.

Admittedly, finding conclusive information on this topic can be a confusing and frustrating process. When in doubt, look it up or check with a dermatologist or another expert you trust.

Pregnancy recipe: leafy green soup

Leafy greens vegetables like kale, spinach and collards are packed with vitamins and minerals (vitamins A, C, K and E along with iron, fiber, calcium and folate) that pregnant moms and babies need.

This soup is one of my favorite ways to consume a ton of vegetables in one meal. It’s easy to make and modify based on what vegetables you have in the kitchen. You can eat it warm or chilled.

Serves 4.

  • 5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 3/4 cups homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock
  • 1 pound fresh English peas, shelled (about 1 cup)
  • 8 ounces spinach, tough stems discarded (about 6 cups packed leaves)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  1. Heat 4 teaspoons oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, celery, zucchini, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Add stock, and bring to a boil.
  2. Add peas, and return to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until peas are tender and bright green, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in spinach. Cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until spinach has wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Working in 2 batches, puree pea mixture in a blender, filling no more than halfway and adding up to 2 tablespoons water to each batch to achieve desired consistency. Stir in 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Spinach and Pea Soup.

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.

Advice & resources for an evidence-based birth

When I was pregnant with our daughter, I started researching standard of care practices in prenatal care as well as labor and delivery. My research started with curiosity about ultrasounds, and from there, I really started questioning everything. Into my second pregnancy, I’m still doing research and finding new information all the time. My biggest takeaways from the experience are:

  1. Quite a few care practices, even ones that I assumed were perfectly fine, are considered controversial because of the health outcomes for mom and/or baby. I realized really quickly that my most important job as a pregnant mama was doing my homework so that I could make educated decisions. Knowledge is power.
  2. You have the right to decline care. Regardless of how information is presented to you, you have the final say. Fight for your rights, and enlist your loved ones and/or birth worker to advocate for you.
  3. Once you decide which care practices you are and aren’t comfortable with, find the best providers that align with your vision. Not everyone has a ton of options based on location, insurance and other resources, but try to make the most of what’s available to you. You’ll find so many differences doctor by doctor, practice by practice and state by state. For instance, during my first pregnancy, we lived in California, and I was put under an enormous amount of pressure to do prenatal testing….and they made us jump through hoops to opt out. In Georgia where we live now, prenatal testing is more of an opt-in approach.

In terms of care practices to research, I recommend starting with:

  • Ultrasounds, particularly the 20-week anatomy scan 
  • Glucose test during the third trimester to test for gestational diabetes (There are alternatives to the typical formula; my midwife gave me grape juice.)
  • Daily baby aspirin (81 mg) for birthers over 35 years old
  • RhoGAM shot during pregnancy for people with a negative blood type
  • Methods for inducing labor
  • Medications given during labor such as epidurals and Pitocin
  • Episiotomy
  • Delayed umbilical cord clamping
  • Hepatitis B vaccine for newborns, administered immediately after birth
  • Vitamin K shot for newborns, administered immediately after birth, and the alternative oral Vitamin K treatment
  • Antibiotic eye ointment for newborns, administered immediately after birth

This list is by no means exhaustive, but I hope that it illustrates the point: you have the right to question what goes into your body and the body of your baby, particularly if your gut instinct says “no.” For instance, my OBGYN told me at the end of my first trimester to start taking Baby Aspirin every day because I was considered geriatric at 35 years old. She said that it has been shown to decrease the risk of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a very serious condition, but one that I don’t fit the risk profile for. And as someone who rarely takes medicine when I’m not pregnant, the idea of taking medicine every single day for my last two trimesters made me very uneasy.  I followed her advice and began taking it but stopped after a couple of months because I had a nagging feeling in my body that it wasn’t the right thing for me. Listen to that voice and find resources that help you make informed decisions that are right for you.

Doing your homework is critical, regardless of whether or not you follow medical advice. One decision that was especially complicated for me was the  20-week anatomy scan. Ultimately, the uneasiness about exposing the baby to the ultrasound outweighed any benefits of the scan for me. It was a difficult decision. In fact, I scheduled and then canceled multiple appointments. I was torn because at that point in my pregnancy, the birth center where I wanted to deliver couldn’t take me as a patient unless I agreed to the 20-week anatomy scan. (The birth center made it very clear that their requirements were set by the state, and that in most cases, not evidence based). Knowing that one decision would change my entire birth plan made it especially complicated. (You can read my birth story here.) Make sure you know those details in advance so that you can make tradeoffs for yourself. 

Resources:

My midwife recommended the website Evidence Based Birth, and I found it incredibly balanced and helpful. I’ve also started listening to their podcast.

Natural birth books are another really great resource to find out more information on your care options, the pros and cons of each and alternatives to standard practices. Whether you plan to have a medicated or unmedicated birth, you will learn so much about all aspects of birth, pain management and how to feel empowered throughout your pregnancy. My favorites are listed here. They’re super informative and non-judgmental.

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?