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Learning How to Love Your Body Right After You Have Your Baby and Always
 

By Stephanie Boxerbaum

Stephanie is an entertainment attorney and founding partner of Box Counsel. She is also the creator of The High Vibe Secret Society, a lifestyle brand for the business minded and wellness driven woman. You can check out her Facebook group here.

 Credit: Hylah Hedgepeth

Credit: Hylah Hedgepeth

I remember calling my dietician right after having my first baby and asking whether I was “supposed to be” on a diet. By “right after” having my baby, I literally mean about three weeks into the whole thing. After all, there is no shortage of pre-baby/post-baby Instagram pictures with sometimes almost unbelievable comparisons or ads telling you how to “get your body back” knocking at your door. Lucky for me, my dietician knew the right things to say.

You see, I had an eating disorder years ago. Despite the fact that I was an attorney with a busy life living in Los Angeles, SO much of my energy was spent on food/workouts. Determined not to screw up my soon to be born children (and I had not even met my husband yet either!), I reached a point where I knew I needed to get help to address my issues around food. How could I bring new people into the world with the desire to guide them to the best of my ability when I thought eating a few cheerios for lunch seemed like a good idea?

After years of work on myself and these issues (of course meeting my husband in the process), I knew I was in the right headspace to have a baby and could support the idea that while my body would need to expand during pregnancy, I would be able to eventually and naturally “get my body back”. I had to feel comfortable eating more calories and knowing that my mission was to support this loving being growing inside of me. It felt uncomfortable but there was no way I was going to let my fear of how my body would look stop me from having a baby. When she arrived, I still remember after the C-section thinking that now was the time for me to really put all of my hard work into action and love my body no matter what.

After all, there is no shortage of pre-baby/post-baby Instagram pictures with sometimes almost unbelievable comparisons or ads telling you how to “get your body back” knocking at your door.

I felt truly blessed and so appreciative when my daughter was born (after 27 hours of labor!).  However, even with all of the work I had done to prepare for my post baby body’s arrival, I had my doubts. When I called my dietician that day, the answer was simple. No amount of dieting a few weeks out from having a baby would do anything except put my body in a state of deprivation (which no one needs when there is plenty of sleep deprivation happening already). My mind was in no kind of place a new mom’s needs to be. She helped to put me at ease and gave the gentle reminder that being in a state of nurturing, self-compassion and love – which is what ALL women need right after they have a baby - was the path to re-discover in my motherhood journey. I loved the reminder and really put into action true routines of self-care. 

After having my second daughter, the path was even easier to follow and truly, I want my daughters to love and honor their bodies. The messages they receive on these topics all start with me (and my husband) so I remind myself of that whenever necessary! I hear women stress all the time about their bodies, foods that they shouldn’t be eating especially around the post baby timing and while sometimes they are sarcastic (e.g., I already had my baby and still look three months pregnant), under the sarcasm typically is pain and/or shame. 

Being in a state of nurturing, self-compassion and love – which is what ALL women need right after they have a baby - was the path to re-discover in my motherhood journey.

ALL women deserve to be reminded to appreciate their body day in and day out. I am all for eating healthy and working out, mainly so you can put your energy into areas of your life you truly enjoy – especially like bonding with your baby! I call it living life from a high vibe perspective. Maximizing all of your energy to keep you in your flow. 

Many people talk about how it takes 9 months to have a baby and you should expect it to take that long (or longer) to get your body back. I would like to throw out the idea that maybe it isn’t about “getting your body back” but more that the focus is spent honoring and appreciating your body. Listening. Nurturing. Focusing on health and not listening to the inner critic inside that jumps out from time to time. Having a baby is a beautiful gift and if food and/or body image thoughts are running a little too rampant in your mind, there are people you can see to talk about it. I am here to give recommendations anytime! 

Just some tips to keep handy: 

  • If you aren’t fitting into your clothes, buy clothes that do fit. It will make you feel better instead of cringing every time you go into your closet. Body acceptance takes time and doesn’t mean that you just give up. It just means you can love yourself and appreciate everything you did to have a baby while your body finds itself again.

  • Snacks and more snacks. As new moms, we are busy, tired, busy again and then even more tired again. Have healthy snacks on hand at all times. Foods that fuel you and you can grab quickly – and foods that you love. If you don’t like carrot sticks, take those off the list! 

  • Love and more love. Every time that voice creeps in – the way your stomach looks, the way your boobs look, if your pants feel tight, whatever it is…shift toward love. You have everything to be proud of so march that body around and own its beauty!! 

  • Think high vibe thoughts. This may sound a little airy-fairy BUT…when you start questioning your body, how you look…literally tap back into your high vibe self. The part of you that honors everything, believes in everything and is just as beautiful as the new baby that has arrived in your life. You just brought ANOTHER HUMAN BEING into the world! If that isn’t high vibe, I don’t know what is! Don’t let any negativity bring you down, ever!

I would like to throw out the idea that maybe it isn’t about “getting your body back” but more that the focus is spent honoring and appreciating your body.

I wish so much love to anyone who is experiencing the joys of motherhood. If you looked in the mirror today to only think your dieting should kick in, let this be a gentle reminder that you are already amazing just as you are, no dieting necessary.

 
Six Time Saving Beauty Tips For Moms
 

By Candice Peroli Cortes

Candice Peroli Cortes is an aesthetician specializing in brows and lashes, semi-permanent makeup and tattoo removal. She's also a mother of two who runs several businesses. Candice knows that moms need to feel like their best selves, but have limited time (and concern) for spending hours in front of a mirror. Here Candice gives us some of her top tips and products for how to look your best, even in a hurry.

Read more about her motherhood journey on the Totum blog.

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As a busy mom, wife, and business owner, I struggle with finding a few minutes of me time every day! With the responsibilities of taking care of the kids, the household, and my business, it’s a constant rush to get things done. It is essential to carve out some time to give yourself a little TLC.

Feeling good about yourself is not a luxury; it’s an absolute necessity that will give you the energy and enthusiasm to keep up. In honor of all my fellow busy ladies, I am so excited to share my top six time-saving tips and products to help you stay beautiful, polished, and ready to take on life’s daily challenges while looking and feeling great!


1. Exfoliate

Our skin is naturally, and constantly, shedding its own dead cells. When these dead cells are shed, they sit on the surface of our skin, ready to be swept away. If they don’t, they can get caught in our skin’s natural oil and clog our pores, leading to blackheads and whiteheads. Worse, if bacteria finds these dead cells and sebum, our pores can become infected, and this is when inflammatory acne forms. One of my absolute favs is M3 Naturals Activated Charcoal Scrub.  If you are looking for a flawless complexion the natural way, this is it!

 
 

Try M3 Naturals Charcoal Scrub


2. SPF

I am always stressing the importance of SPF to everyone I come in contact with! Yes, really!  I have had basal cell carcinoma three times. You must protect your skin from sun damage and skin cancer.  Opt for an SPF that contains zinc oxide, such as Drunk Elephant Umbra™ Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30. Drunk Elephant strives to use only clean ingredients too!

 
 

Try Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30


3. Moisturize/Treat

Day and Night, after I cleanse my face I ALWAYS apply Amalie Beauty’s Shine Organic Brightening Oil. The heavenly scent of jasmine scent is what first sold me.  It adds a super concentrated amount of hydration, brightening and helps to correct fine lines and sun spots. I love this product so much I even include it into my dermaplaning treatments at my office! My clients are just as obsessed!

 
 

Try Amalie Beauty Shine Organic Brightening Oil


4. CC Creams

OK, I wear this every day! It Cosmetics Your Skin but Better CC Cream With SPF 50+. See SPF for the win!  It provides heavier coverage than your average CC cream, but doubles as an anti-aging serum thanks to peptides, niacin, vitamins A, C, B, and E, and hyaluronic acid. It Cosmetics also expanded their shade collection earlier this year.

Try It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream with SPF 50+

4. Cleansers

Girl, you better wash your face! Especially before going to bed! Going to sleep with your makeup on continuously will age you faster. Everyone’s skin care needs (and reactions) are different, so be sure to consult with you dermatologist as to which cleanser might be best for you. My skin needs tend to change like the weather so I try to use mild cleansers like Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser and Julep Love Your Bare Face Hydrating Cleansing Oil.

5. Hair Care

Gone are the days of showering when I want. Well that’s my current situation right now with two kids under 4! I think I have tried just about every dry shampoo out there, but it’s not one-size-fits-all. Once you find the right formula for you, it’s real game changer. For extra volume, fluff your locks with the hairdryer and a round brush for a couple of minutes.

*Note: dry conditioner is a fun added bonus and I am loving it!

Try UrbanFitCo. Day Two Dry Shampoo

6. Wipes

When I am pressed for time or traveling for work, beauty wipes are a lifesaver!

Makeup remover wipes can be thrown into your purse, placed in your bedside drawer, or even in your travel bag to be used virtually anywhere, anytime. These shouldn’t replace your cleansing routine but are perfect for days when you have to take a shortcut.

 
 
 
On the Need to Keep Dreaming, Building and Achieving with (Almost!) 3 Kids
 

By Candice Piroli Cortés

I met Candice when she was doing my makeup for my little sister's wedding, and she blew me away. She's a powerful combination of warmth, strength, candor and hustle. Whether she's removing tattoos with the only organic product on the market, launching a new skin care brand, or loving her son through a health challenge, she's fully present, creative and unstoppable. Read more about her motherhood story below, and check out her services and incredible organic skin care products here.

-Erin Erenberg

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What was the biggest surprise to you when you became a mom for the first time?

The biggest surprise was learning how strong I could be on my own. When I had my first child I was a single mom who'd experienced four pregnancy losses and a failed marriage. I was living in Mexico by myself. I had no family or friends to rely on. Just my son, Luca and me.

The biggest surprise was learning how strong I could be on my own.

How did you feel about returning to work?

I am a happier person and better mother when I am accomplishing something outside of the home. I have major respect for full time mothers because I am not able to be my best self without working outside the home. Full time motherhood is so hard. My business is my second baby, and I enjoy nurturing that too.

I am a happier person and better mother when I am accomplishing something.

Did you plan to breastfeed your baby? How did it go? Better or worse than expected?

Yes, I did plan to breastfeed. I was not able to with my first son but I managed it for almost a year with my second son, Giovanni. Now pregnant with my third, I do plan on breastfeeding this baby as well.

What were your expectations going into nursing your baby, if you had any?

I honestly did not know what to expect. I just wanted to breast feed him for as long as I possibly could.

If you lost a pregnancy and want to share your story, we would be grateful to hear from you in order to support other women going through the same thing.

I actually lost four babies. Four in a row. I was treated at Magee Women's Hospital with the director of Maternal Fetal Medicine, and they could not understand why I had such an easy time getting pregnant but I could not hold the pregnancy. I have a theory: I was with the wrong man. After seem things happened that I could not forgive, my marriage ended, though I had a child with my first husband via gestational surrogacy. I was a single mother in Mexico when I met my current husband. Three months after my first son was born, I found out I was pregnant with my second son. It happened effortlessly with my current husband Aaron. I had no blood clots, no issues, and I carried our son for so long that I had to be induced. Now I am pregnant with my third baby. So far so good. I will keep you posted.

I actually lost four babies. Four in a row...they could not understand why I had such an easy time getting pregnant but I could not hold the pregnancy. I have a theory: I was with the wrong man.

Was your partner supportive of your decision to go back to work or stay home with baby? What did that decision look like for you?

My husband, Aaron is one of the most selfless people I know. I truly believe he was sent from God because this man saves my life every day. He is my biggest cheerleader. I have taken 10 advanced classes since becoming a mother. These classes are sometimes out of state for a week long. Never once has he tried to stop me. Instead he helps me to book my flights and tells me how proud he is of me. Aaron knows that I struggle with depression and anxiety. I need to be building, dreaming, achieving. Because I am a business owner I do have a flexibility that allows me create my own schedule as well as be there for my children when they are sick.

Did you decide to hire support after giving birth, e.g. baby nurse, nanny, housekeeper?

We are very fortunate to have the help of family as well as daycare for our children.

What do you miss most about your life before becoming a mother?

I miss showering when I want...alone, ha! And sleep. Restful sleep!

What has been the best thing you've given up since becoming a mother?

The best thing I have given up since becoming a mother is fake friends. I have meaningful relationships now and I am very grateful for my tribe.

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Totum Stories: On Mothering the Mother
 

By McLean McGown

McLean is a mother, wife, Postpartum Doula, Yoga & Pilates teacher, Nutritionist, Buddhist and yoga practitioner living in Los Angeles. McLean founded Mother The Mother to support women through their postpartum period into motherhood.

Follow Mclean @motherthemother

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Becoming a Mother is something so big that words usually fail me as I try to express it all. Every feeling packed into a cyclical well of emotion with layers of our past, our lineage, our own birth stories as well as those of our babies. I have had two births. I have two daughters aged 7 and 1. Each pregnancy and birth had so many different lessons for me to push up against and from which to learn.

The birth of my first daughter, Jemima, did not go as I had wanted. I had planned a birth center birth with midwives and due to meconium in the amniotic fluid (she pooped) we transferred to the hospital when I was 10 cm dilated and my water broken. That car ride was a living hell. I was trying with all of my might to escape my body. To not be where I was. By the time I got to the hospital I was screaming for drugs. They finally gave me some 6 hours later after pushing and having the Dr. try to pull her out of me. I felt ravaged and traumatized. The “natural” birth I had been coached on and so wanted was being respected by all of the people in the room. But I had changed my mind and nobody was listening. I felt unseen and unheard. Traumatized. But after they put her on my chest and she started nursing it all felt perfect and in order.

Cut to a year and a half later when I crashed and realized that all was not right.

Cut to a year and a half later when I crashed and realized that all was not right. I had struggled with postpartum anxiety, barely slept, barely ate. I carried on because I thought all of what I was going through was normal. My husband went back to work the day after her birth. He is in the film business and the pressure was on. I adored my baby but I suffered. I loved being a mom. But I did not respect my process nor did I ask for help. It took a handful of years and a lot of money, healers, therapy, inner work, meditation, proper nutrition, blood work, etc. for me to come back to being whole.

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After this journey I knew that I was being called to help women thrive not just survive. I became a prenatal yoga teacher and soon made my way to becoming a postpartum doula.

Almost 6 years later when I gave birth to my second daughter, Goldy Wolf. My dream of dreams homebirth came true. For most of the time in between the girls, I was 100% sure that I did not want another kid. In fact, I had a #oneanddone hashtag. I would get so offended when people would constantly ask me when I was having another one and wasn’t it kind of selfish to have an only child..?! I was an only child and for the most part loved it. People’s feedback is so frustrating when it comes to fertility, pregnancy, postpartum. There is a lot of unconscious sharing because they often themselves did not have the care or respect that they so needed. I conceived Goldy Wolf on my 7 year wedding anniversary and she was not planned. We were elated when I found out I was pregnant with her, and very shocked.

For most of the time in between the girls, I was 100% sure that I did not want another kid. In fact, I had a #oneanddone hashtag.

However, I had had a connection with a baby girl for about 3-4 years up until this point. I had communicated with her. And I of course fantasized about my home birth. I wasn’t sure if I was going to have her this lifetime or if she was a guide. But this baby girl was Goldy, and she came in strong and fast.

I was so determined to do things differently this time around now that I knew better. Now that I was steeped in the birth world, I had so many amazing women in my life that I knew would be game changers throughout my journey. I wasn’t sick everyday like the first time so I diligently walked 3-5 miles almost every day of my pregnancy. I was vegan and ate treats and whatever my body craved. I never weighed myself. I ate freely and exercised freely and felt fabulous in my body. I went inside. I did not go to yoga classes, I did not read books, I studied my Self. I practiced very slow ashtanga yoga in silence. I didn’t share a lot. I went deeper into my inner knowing than ever before. I had learned to respect and trust myself. I knew that if I had to transfer to the hospital I would be met with the loving arms of my new OB.

And I also knew that I needed to find the mind of a warrior. So that is what I did. Davi Khalsa was my midwife and she is a Queen from another realm. She is spiritual and tough and honest and uses the F word. She helped my husband and me get into warrior mode. She helped empower him to help me birth my baby if she didn’t arrive in time. She did, thank Spirit, but he did catch her as she was born en caul (inside the still intact amniotic sack) as I birthed her on our bed. This birth was amazing. And the fucking hardest thing I’d ever done. And I’d like to add that I ran a marathon with a busted knee and that was nothing compared to this few hours of unmedicated birth. I literally surrendered to my death. It felt that big. That real. And when I surrendered finally, I pushed my baby out. I will never be as proud of myself as I was then. Nobody can ever take that away from me. A new level of fearlessness has taken residence in my body. I also knew that as much as I had prepared and meditated on and manifested for this outcome, birth is birth and is a mystery. I had to let go of the outcome and trust the process.

I will never be as proud of myself as I was then. Nobody can ever take that away from me.

That is one of the things I want to share with every woman. Do the work to get what you want but then have the bravery to surrender to whatever is. Pregnancy is an incredible time in your life to lift up the veil and dive deep into truly knowing yourself. If you so chose. Or you can chose not to.

No woman gets through conception, pregnancy, birth and postpartum unscathed. There will always be a big life lesson. Because becoming a mother IS a death and rebirth of Self. It is intended to be that. Create the best support team that you can and then focus on making yourself the captain of that team. You and your baby will be the ones doing the work. Everyone else is support staff.

That is one of the things I want to share with every woman. Do the work to get what you want but then have the bravery to surrender to whatever is.

I am grateful that I had two such different births. I am grateful for the hard lessons that I have learned. They made me who I am today and helped me to be of greater service to the women in my community.

Xo - McLean

Mother The Mother

 
Self-Care Cheat Sheet For The New Mom
 

By Dr. Michelle Glantz

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Several months ago, I wrote a post on the importance of self-care and how it becomes easy to forget about ourselves while caring for our children. To reiterate, I discussed how I am a firm believer that we need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others. Self-care might have different meanings for you, but if you’re a happy and healthy mama, then the chances are your kids will be as well.  

Since my post on self-care, I have been asked for some simple suggestions to cope with anxiety and stress following the birth of a baby.  Many of these are geared towards the first few months following the birth of a child, but can be used at any time or for anyone.

My suggestions may not take the place of psychotherapy with a trained professional, but they can be used to provide additional care for one’s psychological and emotional well-being. Remember that you may not feel ready to do many of the things listed below, but do what you are able and take small steps. Balancing it all can be tough, so please be gentle with yourself. Remember that taking care of yourself is not only important for YOU, but you are also modeling the importance of self-care and happiness for your children.   

You’ve got this Mamas!

Remember that taking care of yourself is not only important for YOU, but you are also modeling the importance of self-care and happiness for your children.   

Self Care Cheat Sheet

Eat well. 

Take a walk (or exercise if you’re able to and cleared by your physician). 

Stay on all medications you have been instructed to take. 

Get a massage. 

Take a bath. 

Get out of the house.

Listen to music.

Light some candles.

Take calming breaths.

Rest when your baby sleeps or when someone else can provide care for baby.  Yes, here’s the age-old cliché again, “Sleep when your baby sleeps.”  We know how difficult this actually is to carry out, but even if you’re not sleeping, take a mental break or a few minutes to just zone out or meditate.  

Make your needs a priority. It’s easy to forget that the new baby isn’t the only person needing love and attention.  Remember that you can’t properly care for your child if you are not also caring for yourself. 

Seek support from friends and family.

Verbalize how you are feeling to your partner, friend, or family.

Let others know what they can do to help and be specific about what you need from others. Don’t assume that others can read your mind or that you are asking too much from others.  Our loved ones are there to provide additional support so don’t forget to lean on them. 

Don’t compare yourself to others. Every mama and every baby is different! What might be right or work for someone else may not be right for you. 

Do not blame yourself. Find ways to have compassion for yourself.  This is a difficult time and you are trying your best. 

Just do the best you can and remind yourself that you are doing your best.

Remind yourself that all changes take time.

Remember that this too shall pass.  

Remain mindful of when you need to slow down and take a break.   

Confide in someone you trust. 

Be careful asking too many people for advice. Everyone has an opinion!

Set limits with your guests. It’s okay to let others know that you are too tired or not up to having guests over.  Take care of you first!

Surround yourself with people you love.

Avoid people who make you feel bad or uneasy and set boundaries with people you can’t avoid. Okay Mamas, we all have those people in our lives. Perhaps you can’t avoid them forever, but at least give yourself an out for right now. It’s okay to screen your phone calls and If they don’t make you feel good, you don’t have to see them!

Give yourself permission to have negative feelings. Expect some good days and some more difficult ones. Allow yourself to dislike the negative parts and to soak in the positive and know that it’s okay to feel all these conflicting emotions at once.  We have all heard well-meaning versions of the message, “Don’t feel sad.” Take note that sadness is a normal human reaction and instead of telling ourselves NOT to feel, we need to remember that it is OKAY to feel and that we will be better and stronger in doing so. 

Expect some good days and some more difficult ones.

Play. D.W. Winnicott, a British pediatrician and psychoanalyst believed that playing serves as the basis for creativity and the discovery of the self. Playing, says Winnicott, opens up a space of trust and relaxation and is the key to emotional and psychological well-being . By "playing", he meant not only the ways that children play, but also the way adults "play" through creating art, or participating in hobbies, laughter, conversation, etc. Winnicott believed that play is critical to the development of authentic selfhood, because when people play they feel real, spontaneous and alive. So, go ahead and give yourselves the time and space to play! 

Laugh.  Research indicates numerous benefits of laughter including enhancing intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulation of the heart, lungs and muscles, and increases in the endorphins that are released by the brain.  Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress and promote relaxation.  Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. It also helps connection with other people and may serve to Improve mood.  

Trust your instincts. You are the expert of you. Listen to yourself and your body,  and have faith that you are sensing accurately. 

Avoid overdoing anything. 

Set small goals for yourself. 

Delegate household duties. 

You are the expert of you. Listen to yourself and your body,  and have faith that you are sensing accurately. 

Prioritize what needs to be done and what can wait.

Avoid strict or rigid schedules.  While schedules can be helpful in getting baby on a routine, adhering too rigidly to them may have the effect of creating undue stress on ourselves.  It’s okay to be flexible and deviate from the plan at times.  If your baby nurses or sleeps a bit early or late, it won’t be the end of the world. 

Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out for help from a skilled professional.  We’re always here to help. 

 
Learning to Self-Care, All Over Again, as a New Mom
 

By Irina Kopp

Irina is a mom to a 1 year old girl, who after giving birth in Sep 2017, found herself struggling to find balance between her old identity and new, and finding time to dedicate to self-care. After working on the concept for the past year, Irina launched MamaStay — an all-in one kit full of hand-selected items that are tailored toward moms of new babies to help them self-care without putting too much thought into it. Irina created the kit not just to help moms self-care, but to try and minimize the guilt some moms tend to feel around self-care, as well as help moms reconnect with their individual identity.


When I was a little girl, I was captivated by how my mom applied lotion to her face — dotting it symmetrically from cheek to cheek to nose to forehead before massaging it in. I must’ve been just about 2 years old when I first saw this, but it left it’s mark.

Through my teens and early twenties, I continued to learn from my mom’s self-care rituals. She worked hard, but always took time to ensure she felt good from the inside and out. The advice “when you look good, you feel good” always resonated with me — because it’s true, and it works in a cyclical process — when you feel good, you look good, vice versa.

Even through my grungy teens, and hippie twenties my mom tried to get me to put on eye cream. At times, I rebelled; at times, I gave in, but the seeds of self-care had been planted a long time ago, and by the time I hit my thirties the tree was in full bloom.

Last year, I gave birth to my own little girl, and like most new moms went to a state of shell shock. Shell shock is a term coined in World War I to describe the type of post-traumatic stress disorder many soldiers were afflicted with during and after the war (before PTSD itself was a term). It is a reaction to the intensity of the bombardment and fighting that produced a helplessness, appearing variously as panic and being scared, flight, or an inability to reason, sleep, walk or talk.

I was physically spent from the marathon of giving birth, overly emotional, overwhelmed, and generally tired.

YEP YEP YEP ^^^ all of that

And just like that, the queen of self-care turned into #gollum.

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So, what’s a girl to-do? Night after night, as I sat in bed nursing my newborn and dreaming of my next shower, mourning the loss of my old identity, and familiarizing myself with this new “mom me”, I scoured the internet for baby sleep tips, baby related everything, and also something that could help me self-care…I was physically spent from the marathon of giving birth, overly emotional, overwhelmed, and generally tired. I needed a self-care fix, a quick fix at that — mama hadn’t taken a shower in days.

To my surprise, I didn’t find many resources for helping new moms self-care. Most resources i found for new moms were all centered around the baby, not the mom. 

Some might say — “B!t$4, just give the baby to your partner, give the baby a bottle, go take a shower!” Sure, but that’s a one-time fix, not a sustainable one; a sustainable fix is learning to self-care, all over again, this time, as a new mom.

A sustainable fix is learning to let go of #momguilt and understanding the analogy: “In case of a loss of cabin pressure… please place your oxygen mask on first, and then assist your child or other passengers” If you try to put your child’s oxygen mask on first, you might not get enough time to put your own mask on — resulting in bad news for both of you.

A sustainable fix is learning to self-care, all over again, this time, as a new mom.

It takes a village to raise a child is an African proverb which means that it takes an entire community of different people interacting with children in order for a child to experience and grow in a safe environment. The whole villages look out for the children. In this traditional structure, a new mom would certainly be able to take time for self-care, but women in our culture are often remote and removed from family and friends and would call their “village”.

Many of us new moms spend lengthy days alone with our new babies — troubleshooting ourselves as new moms and figuring out how to care for baby. While this may be the norm in our twenty-first century society, it’s definitely not natural. We weren’t meant to raise babies on our own, but because we actually do, it often comes at the expense of other priorities — for me that was self-care.

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It takes a village, but the village has changed, it’s matrixed, it’s digital, it’s fast, and from an evolutionary perspective, as humans we haven’t caught up to today’s style of “village”. I greatly underestimated the demands of parenthood and the difficulties of combining life balance and parenting let alone returning to work and parenting.

It takes a village, but the village has changed, it’s matrixed, it’s digital, it’s fast, and from an evolutionary perspective, as humans we haven’t caught up to today’s style of “village”.

So moms, strap on your oxygen mask, we’re in uncharted territory, and we have a responsibility to catch up, recreate our village, and we’re going to need all our confidence, strength, and persistence to do so.

My mom gave me the gift of self care, and via MamaStay, my mission is to share that gift with my fellow moms.

 
Annie Jefferson
Totum Mum Crush x Hello My Tribe: Tosca Musk
 

Share a bit about yourself, family, and professional background with us.

I am the youngest of three, and the only girl. So you can imagine what that was like growing up. I learned to play soccer and participated in spitting fights like the best of them! My family was (and is) very close, and we spent every weekend with my cousins (also boys x 3), my mother’s twin sister’s children. We’re still all very close, spending most of our “off-work”, and some work time, with each other. It’s a wonderful way to be brought up and I hope to create that experience for my children too.


I’m a single mother by choice. I have 2 amazing children (b/g twins) with an anonymous sperm donor. I’m a strong advocate for women going for what they want without the pressure of social norms preventing them from achieving their dreams. I founded a company called Passionflix. Passionflix is a streaming platform that focuses on the female gaze. We take best selling romance novels and turn them into movies and series, and release them on our own platform along with curated studio features. Anything from Pride and Prejudice to 50 Shades of Grey. Our mission is to empower women through emotional strength, removing the shame from sexuality and sensuality, and showing a new way to present themselves, with strength, in all situations. We’re strong advocates for “people see, people do” and believe media has a role in showing people a more positive way of dealing with situations. Our mandate is love, passion, romance and hopeful/happy endings.

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What highs and lows did you experience as you transitioned to motherhood?

The highs are obvious: 2 amazing children; unconditional love; a feeling of belonging and of being needed that’s remarkably fulfilling. The lows… perhaps a little loneliness at the same time. As a single mother, it is inevitable that you will be alone. Once the kids are asleep, and the house is quiet, you can’t leave. The freedom of randomly popping out the house for a drink with a friend is gone. There is a sense of time passing, and a little bit of missing out on some fun times, hits at those quiet times. But the highs so outweigh the lows, and time passes so quickly, that those feelings are fleeting. I’d do this all over again, if I had to go back. Maybe even a few years earlier. Having children was the best decision I’ve ever made.

What surprised you most?

The biggest surprise is how much it changed me into a grounded, kinder, more patient human being. Children, for me, were life changing in the best way. I realized what was important to me, to fulfilling my life. It removed any kind of social barrier I’d ever put in front of me. And it allows me to ask for, strive for, know I can achieve, all the things I want from life.

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How do you practice daily self-care?

I go for an hour long walk with my kids in the morning. I read (or listen to audibles) of books that I feel can broaden my viewpoint. I try to go to the gym everyday. And I focus, work-wise, on making sure that every decision I make I can back up with a solid belief system.

Healthiest daily habit you practice?


A glass of wine every day…

And worst?

A glass of wine every day :-)

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This Mum Crush is in collaboration with Hello My Tribe and begins a series we are hosting together on moms who have recently rocked our worlds. 

I met Alex Winkleman Zeplain, Founder of Hello My Tribe, in January, when we were both chosen to be a part of a challenge to do a combo of 300 squats, push ups, sit ups, lunges and leg lifts every day for 30 days. What a weird way to meet, but the challenge included accountability via group text that led to connection among the participants. When Alex was introduced to the group, I was astounded at the similarity of the mission of Hello My Tribe and Totum Women. Additionally, Alex and I share a joy in collaboration over competition, and our first project together is to share some profiles of the awe-inspiring women who joined us in our January challenge.


With love,

Erin & Alex 

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I Had a 15-Minute Call about Tantrums with a Parenting Expert. Here’s What I Learned.
 

Our 3 year old daughter has been having at least one tantrum per day. Our whole family, including our extended family, has been suffering as a result. After late nights googling things like “how many tantrums is too many” and “how to know when toddler tantrums indicate a mental disorder,” I decided to finally follow a friend’s advice and dig into the writing of parenting coach Vicki Hoefle.

Vicki’s approach is rooted in Adler’s Individual Psychology, and is summed up by “less is more,” meaning we as parents need to focus on controlling our own behavior rather than micromanaging our children’s.

Through her website, I set up a 15 minute phone consultation with Vicki. I learned about a year’s worth of gold in that time.

I liked Vicki immediately. She had a warm chuckle that made me want to ask her for a hug. After we briefly connected and shared a little laugh, Vicki asked me to start off by giving her a peek into why I’d called. I told her that we’d just moved our three kids -- a 6 year old boy, 3 year old girl, and 10 month old baby boy -- across the country, away from their friends, schools, and the nanny who’d been in our lives for 6 years. I told her that my reason for calling was my daughter’s daily tantrums and that our older son seemed to be adjusting well.

Her first question startled me:

“So what’s your son worried about?” Mentally, I retreaded what I’d shared: “Maybe I did say something about our son being easy to read, open with communication…did I actually just say that our son is the easy one, and Arabella is difficult? Ugh, I did.”

I answered by telling her that our son is angry with his sister for his tantrums, complaining that they keep him up at night.

“Watch that,” she answered. “Tell him to pop in earplugs at night. Tell him that he needs to think of ways that he can help his little sister. Sounds like your son is playing right into the family dynamic that he’s the good kid, and she’s the problem.”

Eek. This woman is good. This woman is correct.

I told her that we’d been focused on acknowledging George for making his transition bravely and for being so pleasant and cooperative. Her response: “That’s fine, but kids who are discouraged need acknowledgment. Your daughter needs acknowledgement.”

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As for Arabella, she told me that she’s dealing with a lot of emotions, and that we should acknowledge her for only having 1 tantrum per day after all that she’s lost and all that’s being introduced to her. “I wouldn’t be surprised to hear if she’s having 6,” said Vicki.


I was immediately flooded with both relief and empathy for Arabella. My instinct has been telling me that the consequences I’ve been enforcing for her tantrums were a mismatch. Don’t get me wrong; I eschew a lot of the modern permissive, talky-talky parenting, and I think rules and limits are important for kids to feel safe. However Vicki affirmed that, in this case, our daughter needs support, not stricture.


I was immediately flooded with both relief and empathy for Arabella. My instinct has been telling me that the consequences I’ve been enforcing for her tantrums were a mismatch.

Here’s how her advice boiled down for me.

When Arabella starts to rev up, and I know the cues, I make eye contact with her, tell her that I can see she needs some support, and ask her to participate in something with me. This morning, I’d put this into practice without realizing it, and it was our first tantrum-free morning since we’ve moved. I heard Arabella groaning to her dad, so I went to her and reminded her that we’d bought pumpkin to make pumpkin pancakes. I asked her if she wanted to help me make them. One key here is that she and I teamed up on something that I was going to do anyway -- make breakfast. Vicki emphasized that supporting an overwhelmed child isn’t about field-trip style quality time; it can be about really connecting with your child for 2 minutes every hour. It’s also about helping them see their role and importance in the family and its normal routines. 


One of Vicki’s more popular pieces on parenting compares childhood behavior to a weed and parental behavior to fertilizer.

She cautions that we often pay way too much attention to the things that drive us nuts (tantrums and whining especially) and can get past that behavior by starving it. However, with a child that’s endured a lot of change or is going through some kind of transition, our role isn’t to ignore but to support the root of the emotion.

How about when a child is in the throes of a tantrum?

Her advice was for me to connect heart to heart, literally. I’ve read a lot about holding or hugging a child who’s having a tantrum, and it doesn’t work for me. But Vicki’s advice was to make the connection by sitting together, putting my hand on her heart, acknowledging what she’s going through, trying to help her regulate her breathing. If she’s still out of her mind or is having a tantrum just to get what she wants, I can simply tell her that her tantrum will not change the outcome: I’m not going to change my mind. Then I just continue doing whatever else it is that I need to do. Firm but kind, do not lose your temper, do not model the behavior you don't want to see.

With a child that’s endured a lot of change or is going through some kind of transition, our role isn’t to ignore but to support the root of the emotion.

And what about baby Beau (10 months old)?

I’ve been concerned that there’s so much yelling at home, primarily from his 3 year old sister. Vicki reminded me that only I know that Beau could have had it any other way. A third sibling can never be a first child. She also reminded me that I can tell Beau “your sister’s having a hard time with school; she’s having a lot of feelings.” An important shift away from my usual “Arabella, please stop. You are upsetting the baby.”

In the end, Vicki told me that she usually recommends a coaching plan on this initial call but felt like I was in good shape and had good instincts. That felt like the hug that I’ve been needing through this transition, and she may have just staved off my tantrum tonight.

 
Totum Mum Crush: Allison Oswald
 

Allison Oswald, PT, DPT, WCS, CPT founded her private clinic, Plumb Line Studios in Santa Monica in 2011. Allison works with clients on an individual basis and sets up the proper treatment plan for them, utilizing other aspects of her clinic, such as Pilates, lymphatic treatments, massage and more. As a mother herself, Allison finds her passion in working with women who are in their childbearing years and postnatally, as she knows first hand, this area of health can be challenging without the proper support. Allison lives in Santa Monica, CA with her husband and two sons.

*Follow ALLISON on Instagram*


For you, what has been the biggest surprise about becoming a mother?

Motherhood surprises me everyday, both the the sweet moments and the challenging ones. But overall I think I was most surprised by the pure magnitude of love that one can possibly have for another person. Children seem to fall into a different heart space than anything or anyone else. I feel like my children are a part of my soul, and the love I have for them will never diminish. This doesn't mean there aren't difficult moments/days/weeks, but even with the tantrums and the constant negotiations, I feel that love in my heart.

Children seem to fall into a different heart space than anything or anyone else.


How did you feel about returning to work?

As I entered motherhood with my first son, I had also just opened my physical therapy studio 8 months prior. So it is with no hesitation, that my most memorable challenge was finding balance as I returned to a working schedule. I vividly remember wanting to go home to nurse him between patients so that I wouldn't have to pump. So I would race home, nurse, and then race back for my last couple of hours. One day driving home I ran a stop sign and was pulled over, I started sobbing unconditionally, leaking milk everywhere and the thoughtful police officer (who was a father), consoled me and told me how difficult it is for moms to juggle it all (with a warning to stop more completely too). In that moment, which was both my low and high, I realized what I was trying to achieve was impossible. I couldn't do it all, I needed support and it was up to me to ask for it. That was the lesson I needed and still remind myself of every day.

Allison Oswald


What do you miss most about your life before becoming a mother?

After giving birth I definitely felt supported on the physical aspect, as that is what I educate other women about on a daily basis. But I don't think I was prepared for the moments of loneliness in the initial postpartum period. Even with all of the support around me, I remember feeling so alone. I'm still not quite sure if it was the fact that there are many things that only a mother can do (ie. nursing) or that I felt like I didn't know enough to be a mom. But what I do know is that all that helped was talking to other moms. Sharing experiences with them was so reassuring, in that none of us know all the answers and that we need to follow our mama instincts from the start!
 

Even with all of the support around me, I remember feeling so alone.

WHAT HAS MOTHERHOOD MEANT FOR YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR PARTNER AND/OR YOUR OTHER SIGNIFICANT RELATIONSHIPS?

None of us ever know what type of parent we or our partners will be, until we actually have a child. My husband fell into fatherhood seamlessly. He was and is so involved in every aspect of parenting – from swaddling to changing diapers – he did it all without hesitation. And seeing him willingly participate made our connection, our understanding of one another, our love and our mutual respect grow exponentially. We openly discuss the highs and lows of motherhood and parenting, and I believe that communication like this is really key for any successful relationship.

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DID YOUR CENTRAL VALUES CHANGE OR SHIFT IN SOME WAY THAT YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE?

If anything has changed with my core values, it's just that I want to be sure they are transparent to my children. I believe showing them by example is the best lesson, so I think about them a little more intentionally than before having children. And then we often talk about how certain actions make us feel, especially the positive ones. This creates a conversation with your littles that will hopefully leave an impression and seamlessly become a part of their lives as well.


Totum Mum Crush

Totum Women is excited to feature some moms who inspire us in a series called "Mum Crush."  Listen, though: every woman finds her own path as a mother, so our hope is that these women uplift and inspire.  We know that sometimes features like these can lead to some comparison thinking that hurts more than helps, so we choose women who exemplify our brand values of being real and whole in their approach to womanhood and motherhood.  Women who make us feel stronger because they're full of love and keep it real. 

 
Totum Mum Crush x Hello My Tribe: Joy Fehily
 

This Mum Crush is in collaboration with Hello My Tribe and is part of a series we are hosting together on moms who have recently rocked our worlds. 

I met Alex Winkleman Zeplain, Founder of Hello My Tribe, in January, when we were both chosen to be a part of a challenge to do a combo of 300 squats, push ups, sit ups, lunges and leg lifts every day for 30 days. What a weird way to meet, but the challenge included accountability via group text that led to  connection among the participants. When Alex was introduced to the group, I was astounded at the similarity of the mission of Hello My Tribe and Totum Women. Additionally, Alex and I share a joy in collaboration over competition, and our first project together is to share some profiles of the awe-inspiring women who joined us in our January challenge.

With love,

Erin & Alex


Joy Fehily

On Motherhood

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Share a bit about yourself, family, and professional background with us.

I was raised by a motivated and energetic Chilean immigrant father and a wise and graceful Italian mother from Brooklyn. Both were spirited and loving, and they encouraged me to believe that I could do anything. After earning my Communications degree at USC, I ventured into the entertainment business and soon found my passion for publicity and branding. Twenty-three years later, I’m still enjoying guiding the images of some of the top actors, writers, producers and directors in the business today. I am married to an incredible man and my best friend who also happens to be one of the most talented writers I’ve ever met. He is a writer on the number one show on the planet, NCIS. We have two daughters (8 & 11) who have inherited my parents' energy, grace and wisdom.
 

What highs and lows did you experience as you transitioned to motherhood?

The lows began with the realization that nobody in my life could do this with me or for me. My husband and I were so extremely close and did everything together that I was shocked when I came to the realization that parenthood really is different for a mother versus a father. The transition to motherhood is such a change to your personal identity that I wasn’t prepared for how long it would take me to adjust. I had to get to know my new self while being completely obsessed and overwhelmed by this new little being that took my breath away— yet also took my freedom away.

When I returned to work after my maternity leave, I had the greatest physical yearning I’ve ever experienced in my life. My body and soul couldn’t wait to see her. I would describe it as leaving my arm at home all day, and I couldn’t wait to put it back on to feel whole again. The highs of early stages of motherhood are other worldly. I felt and continue to feel my heart actually expand with pure love and awe. The creation of life is a miracle and it is the greatest high when you see your little miracle sleep, eat, smile, laugh and even cry.

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What surprised you most?

I was surprised to learn that I wasn’t as strong and independent as I thought I was. I was surprised by how desperate I was for likeminded “mommy friends.” I needed a new tribe that was going through exactly what I was going through and when I found it, it was life-changing. I discovered that strength and independence can also mean knowing when to admit you can’t do something alone.
 

How do you practice daily self-care?

There are several ways I practice self-care and I’m still working on making it a daily occurrence. I’ve been going to a wellness retreat with my mother for the last six years. It’s one week a year where I reconnect with myself and also spend uninterrupted quality time with my mom. I was just like many working moms that think they could never take a week off just for themselves, but now that I’ve done it, I will never not do it. I have an a-ha moment every time and I come home a better wife and mother. Last year it hit me hard that the best way to take care of those I love is to take care of myself. I’m a giver at heart, but I can’t do it when there is nothing left to give. I have now added in exercise, meditation and journaling into my life. These practices have brought me more internal peace, balance and gratitude than I ever thought possible.

I’m a giver at heart, but I can’t do it when there is nothing left to give.


Healthiest daily habit you practice?

I have three daily habits to share:

1. My husband and I make a “kitchen sink” shake for breakfast. It has everything you can think of- fruits, veggies, all sorts of protein and energy powders, probiotics, oils, nuts, seeds, aloe vera, etc. I do my best to eat healthy all day, but this shake gives me the mental freedom to know I can cheat a little!

2. Sunscreen. I love the sun and I live in Southern California, so I’m in it a lot.  I refuse to hide from the thing I love, so I won’t leave the house without putting on sunscreen. Those brown spots and wrinkles my mom always warned me about are real!!

3. I never, ever leave my husband or children without a kiss goodbye. I tease my girls that they’ll have a bad day without it- I know I will!


And worst?

I don’t drink enough water every day. I’ve realized that I just need some flavor, so I’ve started pureeing ginger and freezing the liquid in ice cube trays. One ginger cube with hot water and lemon makes an energizing drink.  

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How have your priorities shifted over the last few years?

Everything shifted when my youngest turned five, and I realized I didn’t have babies anymore. That’s the threshold where motherhood gets less physical and more mental. It is no longer about chasing them around to eat or change their diapers, it’s now about guiding them through adolescence and beyond. As they grow, I’m learning that it isn’t just about the one thousand things we do every day to take care of them, it’s about being present. It’s about listening and being their constant source of love and support. So, I’ve shifted my schedule so I can pick them up from school 1-2 days a week. Spending more time with them — quality time that doesn’t involve rushing to get them to bed or get them to school — has become my main priority.

As they grow, I’m learning that it isn’t just about the one thousand things we do every day to take care of them, it’s about being present. It’s about listening and being their constant source of love and support.

Piece of advice you want all women to have as they transition into motherhood?

Be prepared to find your new identity. You will change. Drastically. It is hard, but the reward for that journey is worth it.

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Totum Mum Crush x Hello My Tribe: Elsa Marie Collins
 

This Mum Crush is in collaboration with Hello My Tribe and begins a series we are hosting together on moms who have recently rocked our worlds. 

I met Alex Winkleman Zeplain, Founder of Hello My Tribe, in January, when we were both chosen to be a part of a challenge to do a combo of 300 squats, push ups, sit ups, lunges and leg lifts every day for 30 days. What a weird way to meet, but the challenge included accountability via group text that led to connection among the participants. When Alex was introduced to the group, I was astounded at the similarity of the mission of Hello My Tribe and Totum Women. Additionally, Alex and I share a joy in collaboration over competition, and our first project together is to share some profiles of the awe-inspiring women who joined us in our January challenge.


With love,

Erin & Alex 


Elsa Marie Collins

On Motherhood

First up is Elsa Marie Collins. Elsa rose to the top of our list because she's been a force in the fight for justice for immigrants and is delivering aid to child detainees this week. Here's her incredible story, with an introduction about how she became an advocate for child detainees.  

Tell us a little bit about your current work to fight injustices against immigrant families.  

When the news first hit of young children being detained and separated from their parents this summer, Elsa Collins called her sister, Yolanda Selene Walther-Meade and said, “We have to do something.” The first and fifth of five children raised on both sides of the border, the sisters took their experience in social impact and crossborder issues and issued a rallying cry to their networks.

A group of us banded together and collected goods (backpacks, toiletries, blankets, books and toys) and had over 80 boxes to distribute to separated children at a facility, Casa Cornelia, the non profit legal clinic representing these children as well as Border Angels.
 

Share a bit about yourself, family, and professional background with us.

The youngest of five children, I grew up in Tijuana, Mexico, and moved to San Diego at the age of 16. After finishing high school in San Diego, I went to Stanford for my B.A. and Masters Degree followed by the obligatory Sex and the City phase of living in New York City where I got my JD from Columbia Law School. I met my husband at Stanford, yes we have been together since I was 18, and because of our careers and lives we have maintained a long distance relationship for the majority of the time.

Settling in Los Angeles while my husband, Jarron, was playing basketball in Utah, I co-founded BabytalkLA, a parenting education company addressing issues on raising children and parenting. I transitioned from there to working for Fusion/Univision on their social impact strategy team working on campaigns such as: the push to eradicate solitary confinement for juveniles, early childhood education and the value of mentorship with the organization My Brother's Keeper.

Most recently, I co-founded The Ideateur, with Liza Pasciuto, a social impact and political consulting group focusing on sports, culture and the entertainment space helping clients construct a strategy to address the issues they care about and then move the needle in the direction they want to see it shift.

I have three children, Alessandra 9, Valentina 7 and Massimo 6.

What shocked me the most was how many things I started doing that I said I would never do because I hated it when my mom did it!

I continue to educate on parenting through articles and essays published at Lenny Letter and Parents Latina addressing how to talk about race with your children and addressing the gender bias when having children.
 

What highs and lows did you experience as you transitioned to motherhood?

The transition to motherhood for me has always been a windy road. The ultimate high for me was giving birth. I had never felt more powerful or in awe of my own body. This continued especially with my second and third children. Every time I went into the hospital I was beyond excited. Being pregnant was never my cup of tea, but giving birth? Oh I was born for that. I will miss that more than anything (yes I am done having kids).

I think the biggest difficulty I had with the transition was realizing that I had to change the way I made decisions about everything in my life. From where was a good place to live (are there good schools nearby), to eating that piece of cake for dessert (have I gotten my body back?) to having coffee with a girlfriend (she has no kids will she be bored if I talk about mine?).

What surprised you most?

I think the right word is shocked. What shocked me the most was how many things I started doing that I said I would never do because I hated it when my mom did it! I always used to hate going to church and proclaimed when I had kids, I wouldn't have them go to Church...my girls are having their First Communion this summer. When my brother and I used to fight, my mom would never pass judgement on fault unless she had witnessed it. I would be so mad as a kid saying this is what happened Mom and I will never do that...I now use that line.  If I didn't see it, I don't want to know, you need to figure it out.
 

How do you practice daily self-care?

Other people's glass of wine is my workout. That is how I express my self-care. Whether it’s a run, a pilates or yoga class, not only do I need it but I have no guilt when I do it because I know it makes me a better person.


Healthiest daily habit you practice?

Going to bed right after I put my kids to bed.


And worst?

Looking at my phone in the middle of the night.

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How have your priorities shifted over the last few years?

I want my kids to know they come first. If you would have told me years ago I would be the head of the PTA at school I would have laughed in your face. But I want to be involved in the community where my kids spend the majority of their days. Since my husband lives in the Bay Area for 10 months out of the year, being at practices and games and performances take precedent over everything and that is a welcome adjustment. I also realize that I need to take care of myself as much as I am taking care of the kids. So going to bed early, drinking water, all of the things I encourage my kids to do I also try to do! And of course when my husband is home, leaving the kids to do a date night or a short vacation is essential
 

Piece of advice you want all women to have as they transition into motherhood?

My best piece of advice is to not compare yourself or your kids to anyone else. This parenting role will go on for the rest of your life and it isn't worth wasting your energy to continue to look around you and compare. Embrace who you are and who your children are!

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Totum Mum Crush: Daniela Rey
 

Daniela is a mindful mama, photographer and the founder of Mama Niela. She is dedicated to shooting and sharing the stories that make our journey through motherhood special. Daniela lives in Los Angeles with her daughter Amelie and her husband Grant.

*Follow Mama Niela on Instagram*
 

MAMA PORTRAITS

Daniela offers at-home photography sessions in Los Angeles for mamas with babies of all ages. If you’re in the area, and can’t remember when was the last time you got professional photos taken with your little ones, click here for more information or to contact Daniela and book a session. Your story is beautiful and worth being told with photos!


Daniela Ray

For you, what has been the biggest surprise about becoming a mother?

I still remember. Amelie was but a week old when she caught her first cold. Her tiny body, so congested and uncomfortable. So hard to see and so little you can do. Then one time, while breastfeeding, she chocked on some milk. No oxygen was going in, she was quiet, quickly turned purple and went limb. I froze and held her up, moaning for help. Her dad picked her up, hit her in the back, and brought her back. Back to life and to my arms. An X-ray the next day found some milk in her lungs … something easy to fix with lots of pats in the back. But the lesson I learned stayed with me forever. This beautiful baby, so unique, so little and so mine, yet, not really mine at all. The idea that something could happen to her and I couldn’t stop it. Unbearable.

This was the biggest surprise. This feeling so many moms before me have tried to describe, but that is so hard to explain in words. My heart now lives outside of my body. I can’t control much of what happens to her, and that makes me feel so vulnerable. So anxious, so scared, so stressed, so helpless. 


How did you feel about returning to work?

Before Amelie was born I quit a job teaching graphic design. They refused to give me maternity leave, so I quit with a 7-month belly and went home to rest. The teaching gig was something temporary while I figured out what to do next. I had graduated from film school and spent a few years getting my foot in the door, only to realize that the life I wanted was not possible within the confines of the Hollywood film industry. The long hours and big egos didn’t feel safe to me.

My whole family lives in Colombia and I wanted to make them a part of my new journey. I wanted them to connect with Amelie so they could love her and feel ownership of her … even at a distance. So I began to take photos and share my story on a Spanish blog. And although it was intended for my family, soon Hispanic mamas from all over the world began to connect and leave me comments. This little blog idea helped me connect with more people than I thought possible, it became an empowering creative outlet for me, and it unleashed a passion for motherhood photography I didn’t know I had. 

This was the beginning of my brand, Mama Niela. A project of love that has gone through a few metamorphoses and is constantly growing, just like I grow in my motherhood journey. At its core, I love to meet other mamas. I love when they invite me into their homes and let me photograph their story even if they think it’s all a mess. Photography has this beautiful way of capturing the stillness in the chaos. I’ve been told before that my photos help moms see themselves as moms for the first time … and see the magic in the craziness they think they’re living at home. I know it's done that for me over and over.

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What do you miss most about your life before becoming a mother?

I keep chasing a need for alone time. I think what I miss the most is a healthy dose of selfishness. I miss doing what I want when I want it. But on the other side having limited alone time, has made me value it so much more. A couple of hours at a coffee shop, like I’m doing as I write this, are so precious. So much more than they ever were before.

With a 5-year-old, I think what I miss the most is silence … and less laundry ;)

But to be honest, I was born wanting to be a mama. And when I became one it felt like everything made sense. This is without a doubt, my purpose in this life. So much so that it became the core of my business, just like yours a Totum!

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Totum Mum Crush

Totum Women is excited to feature some moms who inspire us in a series called "Mum Crush."  Listen, though: every woman finds her own path as a mother, so our hope is that these women uplift and inspire.  We know that sometimes features like these can lead to some comparison thinking that hurts more than helps, so we choose women who exemplify our brand values of being real and whole in their approach to womanhood and motherhood.  Women who make us feel stronger because they're full of love and keep it real. 

 
The Family Separation Crisis and What it Teaches Us About How to Respond to Our Own Children’s Trauma
 

In recent weeks, the media has been inundated with disturbing pictures, videos, and audio recordings of distraught children and parents having been forcibly separated from one another. Much of the coverage of the “Zero Tolerance” immigration policy guides our attention towards debates around which president or political party is at fault for the implementation of a policy that has separated at least 2500 children from their parents over the last couple months. The more crucial dialogue surrounds how separating children from primary attachment figures causes profound psychological harm, which can have long lasting and devastating effects.

Attachment theory suggests that children are born with an attachment system that is activated when the child is in or perceives distress. When activated, children exhibit proximity seeking behaviors such as crying or looking towards their primary attachments for comfort and protection. A secure attachment to a primary caregiver functions to provide a sense of safety and security, regulates emotions by soothing distress and supporting calm, and offers a secure base from which to explore the world.

When immigrant children are suddenly and forcibly separated from their primary attachments, they are taken from their very source of safety and security. This disruption of attachment is often compounded by poverty, violence in their country of origin, and harsh conditions during travel. Once separated from their parents, children are then placed for an indefinite amount of time in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

When immigrant children are suddenly and forcibly separated from their primary attachments, they are taken from their very source of safety and security.

Psychiatrist and author, Judith Herman (1997) defines psychological trauma as “an affliction of the powerless. At the moment of trauma, the victim is rendered helpless by overwhelming force. Traumatic events overwhelm the ordinary systems of care that give people a sense of control, connection, and meaning.”

FACT: Childhood trauma is pervasive and can have long-term negative effects on all aspects of health and well-being. This policy of separating immigrant parents and children who are detained while crossing the border leads to profoundly harmful and traumatic consequences.

Countless studies have explored the effects of war and/or post-conflict situations on children’s mental health and have found a high prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety disorders, and depressive symptoms. Learning difficulties, hyperactivity, somatization, and social isolation was found in Central American refugee children resettled in Canada. (Rousseau et al., 1996). 

Fifty-seven percent of Cuban children and adolescents detained in a U.S. refugee camp, 4 to 6 months after release, reported moderate to severe PTSD symptoms (Rothe et al., 2002). 

A literature review conducted by Lustig et. al. (2004) explored stressful experiences and stress reactions among child and adolescent refugees including unaccompanied minors, asylum seekers, and former child soldiers. They found that child and adolescent refugees suffer from significant conflict-related exposures.

Sourander (1998) examined the traumatic events and behavior symptoms of unaccompanied refugee minors waiting for placement in an asylum center in Finland and concluded that the refugee children had experienced a number of losses, separations, persecution, and threats. About half of the minors exhibited aggressive behavior, anxiety and depression, attention problems, rule-breaking behavior, somatic complaints, social problems, thought problems, and were withdrawn. Those who were younger than 15 years old displayed more severe psychiatric problems than the older children. There was a lack of rehabilitative services, the staff ratio was very low and the time spent in the asylum center waiting for the placement decision was relatively long for these minors.

Trauma researchers Van Der Kolk and D’Andrea (2010) outline the many ways in which prolonged interpersonal childhood trauma continues to affect individuals throughout life.


AFFECT DYSREGULATION

lability, explosive anger, psychic numbing, social withdrawal, dysphoria, depression, lack of motivation, behavioral and emotional “shutting down” in the face of overwhelming stress

ImPULSE DYSREGULATION

self-injury, risk taking, eating disorders, substance abuse, oppositional behavior, reenactment of trauma

SOMATIZATION AND BIOLOGICAL DYSREGULATION

digestive problems, migraines, conversion symptoms, sexual symptoms, inflammation, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, autoimmune disorders, sensory integration difficulties

Disturbances of attention, consciousness and cognition

dissociation, depersonalization, memory disturbances, concentration issues, lack of curiosity, poor executive functioning, learning difficulties

Distortions in self-perception and systems of meaning

poor self worth, distorted body image, poor sense of separateness, shame and guilt, learned helplessness, expectations of victimization, lack of sense of meaning and belief system

INTERPERSONAL DIFFICULTIES

disrupted attachment styles, trust difficultires, low interpersonal effectiveness, intimacy issues, poor social skills and boundaries


Fortunately, most of our children are not faced with the inexplicable trauma of separation from their caregivers. The “Zero Tolerance Policy,” however has forced many parents and caregivers to contemplate the unpredictability of life and to reflect on how we can strive to better protect our children.  Despite our best efforts to do so, there are times when we are unable to shield our children from the inevitable complexities, hardships, and uncertainties of life. We can’t help but consider, how we can best support our own children when they face difficulties, loss, or traumatic experiences?

A complete and thorough discussion of helping children through trauma is complex and highly dependent on each child’s particular circumstance.

Children may face sickness or death of a parent, family member, friend, or pet. They may struggle with parents’ divorce, a major move, or perhaps something less traumatic, but nonetheless emotionally challenging, such as difficulties with friends or bullying. The best we can do as parents is to prepare children to tolerate the range of complex emotions that will inevitably arise in the face of difficulties. Establishing a foundation for coping effectively with adversity can be one of the most valuable lessons one can provide for their child. A complete and thorough discussion of helping children through trauma is complex and highly dependent on each child’s particular circumstance, but there are several key points to help guide parents through this difficult journey (James and Friedman, 2001).
 

1.

It is okay to feel sad. We have all heard well-meaning adults communicate versions of the message, “Don’t feel sad.”  When we invalidate children’s feelings in this way, it sends the message that their feelings are not okay. While we would prefer that our children are happy, telling them not to feel sad only causes them to feel shame about these emotions and to hide them from us. Sadness is a normal human reaction and instead of telling children NOT to feel, we want to teach them that it is OKAY to feel and they will be okay in doing so. If your child broke a leg we wouldn’t tell him or her not to feel hurt. Emotional pain should be accepted in the same ways in which we tolerate physical pain.

2.

Help your child by naming the feeling/emotion. Sometimes, children (especially younger ones) have difficulty understanding and labeling their emotions. They might be aware that their tummy feels tight or that their heart is beating faster, but they cannot connect these physical sensations to particular emotions. As parents, we can help our children to connect their physical sensations to their feelings so they can more easily make sense of and process what they are experiencing.

3.

Losses cannot just be replaced. Well-meaning parents often will say things to grieving children such as, “I’m sorry your pet died, but we will get another one soon.” In addition to sending the message that it is not okay to feel sad, parents are communicating that relationships are replaceable. Help children to mourn the loss of a loved one or beloved possession in a meaningful way, which in turn teaches them that each relationship is unique and special.  There is always time to form new relationships (or get a new pet), but every relationship is separate and unique from another.

4.

Sadness, grief, and fear are emotional, not intellectual. Listen and allow all emotions to be expressed without criticism, judgment, or scrutiny. Don’t try to talk your child out of his feelings and remember that emotions don’t always make intellectual sense. Hold off on giving advice or asking, “What is wrong?” Although we are tempted to “make it better,” it’s more helpful to accept and reflect on your child’s feelings and thoughts. Sometimes, just being there physically and listening intently is enough.

When we allow ourselves to model appropriate emotional reactions, our children learn that it is okay for them to have difficult feelings as well.

5.

Showing emotion, does not mean you are not strong. It is okay to be emotional in front of your child. This doesn’t suggest that you should have a complete melt-down while your child is watching, but feeling sad and being tearful is an appropriate reaction to a sad and emotionally painful experience. When we allow ourselves to model appropriate emotional reactions, our children learn that it is okay for them to have difficult feelings as well. Additionally, it might be helpful for adults to share openly about their own feelings which will help your child feel more comfortable opening up about their own.

6.

It is okay to leave time to just grieve. Messages such as “Stay busy” or “Just spend time with friends to keep your mind off it,” are just another way of saying that it’s not okay to feel badly.

7.

There is no wrong way or time limit to grieve. Everyone grieves in their own time and in their own way. If your child is grieving longer than you, it doesn’t necessarily mean this is not okay. Yes, he or she may need some professional assistance, however the length of time alone does not indicate that something is not right. Be patient and don’t force your child to talk if he or she is not ready to do so. Each child is unique and each has a unique relationship to the loss or trauma.


References

D’Andrea W. and Van Der Kolk, B. (2010). Towards a developmental trauma disorder diagnosis for childhood interpersonal trauma.

In Lanius R.A., Vermetten E., & Pain, C. (Eds.) The Impact of Early Life Trauma on Health and Disease (pp. 57-68). United Kingdom: The Cambridge University Press.

James, J.W. & Friedman, R. (2001). When children grieve; for adults to help children deal with death, divorce, pet loss, moving, and other losses. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.

Herman, J. L. (1997). Trauma and recovery: The aftermath of violence, from domestic abuse to political terror. New York: Basic Books.

Lustig S.L., Kia-Keating M., Knight W.G., Geltman P., Ellis H., Kinzie J.D., Keane T., & Saxe G.N. (2004). Review of child and adolescent refugee mental health. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 43, 24-36.

Rothe E., Lewis J., Castillo-Matos H., Martinez O., Busquets R., & Martinez I. (2002). Posttraumatic stress disorder among Cuban children and adolescents after release from a refugee camp.   Psychiatric Services, 53, 970–976.

Rousseau C, Drapeau A, & Corin E (1996). School performance and emotional problems in refugee children. The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 66, 239–251.

Sourander, A. (1998). Behavior problems and traumatic events of unaccompanied refugee minors. Child Abuse & Neglect, 7, 719-727.

 
Totum Mum Crush: Sandra
 
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I am Sandra--I only go by one name now (there's a story behind that as well). I live in Northern New Jersey and am a Chef by trade. Former dance teacher, mother of five incredible humans and grandmother to three amazing grand babies. I believe that part of my purpose here is to encourage, nurture and guide everyone who crosses my path using my life experiences, pulling from my inner faith and strength. I value personal time more than material wealth or "things" but family time and communication are as essential to me as breathing. 

My favorite quote is "Your life is what YOU say it is!" I'm a firm believer that you can actually SPEAK things into existence and that no matter what happens in your life, if you stay focused on the good parts of it, you'll be okay! I SURVIVED!!


For you, what has been the biggest surprise about becoming a mother?

Although my children are all grown up now, the biggest surprise about becoming a Mom for me was the discovery that I could survive motherhood and tell my children (particularly my daughters) the story of my experiences to apply to their journey with their own children. I learned patience (sometimes more than I thought I had) innocence, pure joy, kindness and commitment. The ability of the child to teach YOU is amazing because they do it without even being aware YOU'RE the student!


What highs and lows did you experience as you transitioned to motherhood? Were they related to a specific experience like recovery, breastfeeding, sleep, or the question of working outside the home? 

As a single Mom, I did not have guidance or instruction from other women to apply to my expectations of what motherhood really entailed. It was literally hands-on learning and baptism by fire. I gave birth to them all naturally (no epidurals!) and breast fed each one, instinctively. Not only did it felt so natural, truthfully I really didn't have the resources to provide food across the board. It made sense to me that if I could at least eat enough to sustain myself, I would be able to feed and provide for all my children. Working outside of the home was only an issue for me because I didn't want to be apart from them --ever! I once gave up a full time, good paying job with benefits for a part-time job outside of my career path so that I could be there for them when they needed me--I felt this was super important since I was the only parent in their lives at the time.  


As you faced the enormous changes in your life after giving birth - physically, emotionally, added responsibilities and lifestyle shifts - in what areas did you feel supported? And where/how would you have liked more support?

I really did not have support at all. Everything changed for me! I didn't sleep when they slept because that was my time to bathe or shower, prepare food or do chores. I didn't go out to socialize or hand my children off to someone every weekend.  I dug myself into work so they would be taken care of and at least have the basics. I didn't want to rely on the system and it was really, really hard at times. I lived in shelters with them and saved every penny that I could to keep moving toward a better life. I certainly would have loved to have more support from my family and those I thought were friends. I don't have any regrets however, I feel the experience gave me the wisdom to empower other single parents who may feel hopeless and alone.
 

What has motherhood meant for your relationship with your partner and/or your other significant relationships?

I currently don't have a partner but I feel those who are my friends acknowledge and respect the strength and wisdom I have as a mother of five children. Every now and then they remind me of that strength and so do my children--their relationship is and will always be the one I cherish the most because when I see them, its a reflection of something I've done thats okay with the world. 

Whether it was my heart, my home or the kitchen table, the trials and joys of Motherhood truly outlined my purpose.


Did your central values change or shift in some way that you'd like to share?

I've always opened my heart and my home to my children as well as those not my own. The lack of parenting and nurturing that I grew up with, the environment of dysfunction and the abuse was something I never wanted to see in the life of ANY child. I don't believe my central values have changed. I think that any time a person changes their core values, it takes away from the experience and causes regret and guilt. There was however, a definitive shift into becoming a place of peace and safety for any child to come in and be nurtured. Whether it was my heart, my home or the kitchen table, the trials and joys of Motherhood truly outlined my purpose.


Totum Mum Crush

Totum Women is excited to feature some moms who inspire us in a series called "Mum Crush."  Listen, though: every woman finds her own path as a mother, so our hope is that these women uplift and inspire.  We know that sometimes features like these can lead to some comparison thinking that hurts more than helps, so we choose women who exemplify our brand values of being real and whole in their approach to womanhood and motherhood.  Women who make us feel stronger because they're full of love and keep it real. 

 
Week Five: Answers to your Questions about Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex
 
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Hey breastfeeding mamas -- have you ever felt a rush of intense negative emotions just prior to your milk letdown? This feeling might have felt like a slight fog or perhaps it was a heavy, depressed feeling in your chest or pit of the stomach. You may have worried how you could possibly feel this during such a special and intimate moment with your child. If this has been your experience with breastfeeding, you already know the bad news (this sucks A LOT), so I’ll skip ahead to the good news. This is a real thing, with a name, and you are not alone.

Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, also referred to as D-MER, is characterized by a wave of negative emotion just prior to milk letdown. Breastfeeding mothers may experience this rush of negative emotions around 30-90 seconds prior to milk release. These feelings usually dissipate, between several seconds to a couple minutes after letdown, but return prior to another milk letdown. Moms who have experienced D-MER have described it as sadness, dread, anxiety, hollow feelings, irritability, hopelessness or angst. The feelings differ and range in intensity. One mother with mild D-MER may experience slight worry or even a feeling of homesickness. Another with more severe symptoms may feel intense sadness, anger, dread, or fear leading to thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation. These feelings are usually brief, and it is rare that women act on their catastrophic thoughts.

Moms who have experienced D-MER have described it as sadness, dread, anxiety, hollow feelings, irritability, hopelessness or angst.

Experts believe that D-MER is related to the relationship between the three main hormones involved in milk production: oxytocin; prolactin; and dopamine. Oxytocin is released when nipples are stimulated, breasts are full, baby latches, or even at baby's scheduled feeding time. This helps trigger the production of prolactin, which peaks at the beginning of a feed. However, in order for prolactin to peak, dopamine must drop. Some women may be more sensitive to this sudden drop, or their dopamine may drop more than what is necessary to stimulate milk flow. According to D-MER.org, some mothers may experience this due to an environmental effect, a nutritional deficiency, a breakdown in normal hormonal activity with aging, increased sensitivity to a normal drop in dopamine, dopamine receptor mutation, a predisposition to abnormal dopamine activity, or some other unknown cause.

Many women find it helpful to know that these feelings are due to a natural dance of the hormones that make breastfeeding work.

Most mothers notice the onset of D-MER within the first couple weeks of breastfeeding, and for many it will subside by the time the baby is around three months old. For others D-MER remains until weaning. In contrast to a mother who is experiencing a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder, a mother with D-MER generally feels okay except just before her milk starts to flow. It is possible that a mother who experiences D-MER may also struggle with postpartum depression or anxiety, but they are separate issues. It is important to distinguish one from the other in order to receive proper and effective treatment. Some mothers with D-MER may need to consider professional support in order to more effectively manage their D-MER.

Many women find it helpful to know that these feelings are due to a natural dance of the hormones that make breastfeeding work. They can then practice positive visualization techniques to tolerate and work through the negative feelings. Mothers without this information might consider discontinuing breastfeeding because they are confused by and afraid of what they are experiencing. Of course, deciding whether or not to breastfeed is a personal decision, but it is best when that decision comes from a position of knowledge as opposed to a state of fear. Often, just knowing what D-MER is can provide the comfort and support that is needed and the reassurance that these feelings will pass shortly.

Hang in there, beauties, and for more information, please visit D-MER.org.  

 
Totum Mum Crush: Yhanni Jamila Brown
 
 Photo by Quinn Moss Photography

Photo by Quinn Moss Photography

I am a mama of a 5 year old big brother and 10 month old twin girls with NICU PTSD and postpartum anxiety. I am on a mission to recognize my worth and all the hard work I put in as a mother (this sentence alone makes me happy!) When I’m not cooking, or changing a diaper or playing Legos I’m curating events that connect women. Mama Makers Collective is all about celebrating mother business owners & self care through creative expression!

Connect with Mama Makers Collective on Instagram.



For you, what has been the biggest surprise about becoming a mother?

The biggest surprise in my journey as a mother, thus far, has been how challenging it is! It is so HARD. Particularly with multiple children. I am in the thick of raising three incredibly spirited, independent beings. It is crazy, beautifully HARD.


What highs and lows did you experience as you transitioned to motherhood? Were they related to a specific experience like recovery, breastfeeding, sleep, or the question of working outside the home? 

When I think “transition to motherhood” I think fourth trimester. That time was a complete blissed out blur.  A high and low in itself. Being stripped down to my pit after a long birth, yoni bleeding, boobs leaking, hips aching but so in love with our child.

I am on a mission to recognize my worth and all the hard work I put in as a mother.


As you faced the enormous changes in your life after giving birth - physically, emotionally, added responsibilities and lifestyle shifts - in what areas did you feel supported? And where/how would you have liked more support?

I felt so supported with meals and well wishes after the birth of our first. One thing I really wished we had was more financial support. My partner and I were young when we had our first. We were still figuring out how to finish paying our midwife let alone all the other bills. Oh, the new parent struggles!

 Photo by Cynthia Perez

Photo by Cynthia Perez

What has motherhood meant for your relationship with your partner and/or your other significant relationships?

I have grown so close to the father of my children. We have journeyed from friendship to dating to parents to marriage.  At the same time, we have been pushed apart romantically.  It's a sacrifice that happens when you have young kids.  Just means that date nights are EXTRA special.  My love for him grew as I watched him with our children. He was meant for fatherhood.  


Did your central values change or shift in some way that you'd like to share?

I wasn't attached to anything very strongly before I had kids. My core values have been built around raising healthy, well-rounded children of color. That allowed me to step into motherhood with no expectations. My core values have stayed the same. I have and will always be a crunchy, prideful mama!


Totum Mum Crush

Totum Women is excited to feature some moms who inspire us in a series called "Mum Crush."  Listen, though: every woman finds her own path as a mother, so our hope is that these women uplift and inspire.  We know that sometimes features like these can lead to some comparison thinking that hurts more than helps, so we choose women who exemplify our brand values of being real and whole in their approach to womanhood and motherhood.  Women who make us feel stronger because they're full of love and keep it real. 

 
Week Four: Answers to your Questions about Working from Home and Hysterectomies
 
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How does one navigate life being a stay at home mom of two and trying to pursue passion projects / a work from home job?

I’m a firm believer in the old cliché that you need to take care of yourself in order to take care of others. Self-care might have different meanings for you, whether it's pursuing a career or passion, exercising, meditation, reading, eating healthy, taking a much-needed afternoon snooze, or even just hiding in the closet for a couple minutes while you recover from a toddler temper tantrum (I’ve been there)...If you’re a happy and healthy mama, then chances are your kids will be as well.

In terms of the actual navigation of pursuing a stay at home job or passion with children, this would depend on several different factors.  These might include: age and number of kids, if they’re in school yet, how many hours of alone time you have, and whether or not you have childcare help, etc.

I’m not aware of your particular situation, but I can share from my personal experience as a working mom of two high-energy toddlers. I don’t usually work from home, but there are those occasional times when I will need to make a work call or do a phone session with a patient when I am home. I try my best to schedule those when the kids are napping or at school, but this doesn’t always work out. In the moments when we are all home together, I try to give my children as much notice as possible and let them know ahead of time so that they’re not caught off guard. I will usually say something to the effect of, “Mommy needs a little bit of alone time to do some work. I know it’s hard to wait, but when I’m finished we can read a book or do an art project together.” Through this, I am letting them know what to expect and conveying to them that I am sensitive to and understand their feelings. I am also empowering them with the choice of a “time-with-mommy” reward for when I'm finished. I do my best to set them up with a fun activity so they’re not knocking at the door and yelling for me. I try to choose times when our nanny or my husband are available to help corral The Littles away from my work space. (I’m not risking any toddler power struggles over who was using the the yellow hot wheels truck to crash the purple sports car first, while I’m trying to speak professionally with a colleague or client!).

Sometimes this works, and sometimes I’m scrambling to find new ways. When all else fails…there’s always screen time (Yes, I do… we've got to get by, right?)  

Remember that taking care of yourself is not only important for YOU, but you are also modeling the importance of self-care and happiness for your children.

It’s also important for me to try and schedule my week ahead of time so I can communicate and plan logistics with my husband and our nanny. I will update the white-board calendar on the wall at the start of every week to make sure I have given myself enough time to do what I need to do, while also prioritizing my children’s needs and activities. I use my nights after I have put the kids down to bed for paperwork, while also trying not to stay up too late. If I need to revisit something the next day, then so be it. (All this talk of self-care and here I am writing this blog entry at 4am because I kept waking up thinking about it).

I’m not going to lie, it can be really difficult, both emotionally and physically. There are times when I feel like I’m spread so thin and that I’m not doing anything well enough. I consistently need to remind myself that I am doing my best and to remain mindful of when I need to slow down and take a break.   Balancing it all can be tough, so please be gentle with yourself Mama! Remember that taking care of yourself is not only important for YOU, but you are also modeling the importance of self-care and happiness for your children. 


I'm 36 and about to have a hysterectomy. What can I expect as far as emotions and aftermath?

A woman may choose to have a hysterectomy for elective reasons or for a number of medical issues, and the emotional effects can have varying implications for different women. For example, the removal of one’s uterus may represent a significant loss for a woman. This loss may trigger feelings that she is no longer a "real" or "whole" woman due to the removal of some of her female organs. With a hysterectomy, women are also experiencing the end of their childbearing years. Even though these women may not even desire to have more children, they may nonetheless feel saddened by this loss. 

Remember that despite these feelings and the difficulties you are encountering, you are still an incredible and whole woman. This medical procedure does not, in any way, make you any less. On the contrary, you are living and persevering through this difficult time, which makes you an even stronger and resilient woman. It is completely normal and expected that you would feel a degree of anxiety, fear, or uncertainty around this major surgery.

Remember that despite these feelings and the difficulties you are encountering, you are still an incredible and whole woman.

If you find that these feelings get in the way of daily functioning, it might be important to seek support. A trusted therapist can assist you in exploring your associated thoughts and beliefs, as well as the meaning and significance of this for you. He or she can then help you work through and process the associated emotions. Regardless of whether or not you experience any significant negative emotional effects, it may be beneficial for you to speak with a mental health professional during this stressful time. Find and accept support through friends and family, and don’t be afraid to reach out when you need some extra love, care, and attention. You deserve it!

Some additional helpful information about hysterectomies can be found here.

Wishing you all the best along with a safe and speedy recovery!

 
Totum Mum Crush: Amy Eldon
 
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Welcome to the Totum Mum Crush Series

Our first Totum Mum Crush is on Amy Eldon. Amy and her mum started Creative Visions Foundation to honor the legacy of her brother Daniel, who was killed while using creativity to fight for freedom in Mogadishu, Somalia. I met Amy in 2012 at a meeting about a work partnership to support other filmmakers making impact through their work. I was bursting-pregnant with our first, and Amy welcomed me into motherhood by sharing her story and even setting up a preschool tour for me at the school she loved for her sons.  Fast forward some years, and we were reconnected through my chance encounter with her stepfather, who calmed my daughter's tantrum in the pharmacy line at CVS.  While he comforted my then 2 year old Arabella, he shared that he had a granddaughter named Arabella and shared her last name. Long story short, I reconnected with Amy about that coincidence and now enjoy her monthly "Spark" meetings for women in the LA area and play dates with our Arabellas.  

Amy is truly a world changer. But what I love most about Amy is her humor, confidence, generosity and directness. Somehow I come away from every encounter with her feeling half an inch taller and better about myself and life in general. Without further ado, here's Amy's response to our Q&A. Enjoy the belly laugh to come with this read.

Love, Erin

 

Totum Mum Crush: Amy Eldon


For you, what has been the biggest surprise about becoming a mother?

I had no idea how time-consuming parenting is. There’s not a moment for self-reflection. Now I get what CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour said when I interviewed her for a show on motherhood, “You can do it all, but not at the same time.” 

It’s a real struggle juggling all aspects of your life when you have kids. Something has to give. Still, I try not to beat myself up about the things that slip through the cracks—like exercising and cooking gourmet meals. Or any meals. 

The other surprise for me has been the assortment of children that popped out of me -- each with his or her own character. It has been interesting, actually baffling, as I learn to handle each personality type, knowing I need to model Mr. Rogers when he said, “I love you just the way you are.”

I am certainly learning on the job, although I know I should/could be reading the parenting books that sit on my bedside table that reflect the latest issues I’m dealing with.  


What highs and lows did you experience as you transitioned to motherhood? Were they related to a specific experience like recovery, breastfeeding, sleep, or the question of working outside the home? 

Lack of sleep has been my biggest challenge. Our three-year-old is still in our bed (how do I not have this down after three kids??), so I am tired all the time. Even before I go to bed I’m already getting wound up about not getting enough sleep. Without rest I get very emotional and stressed out — so right now I am very emotional and stressed out. I keep trying to remind myself that "this too shall pass," but it is so hard to believe that it will ever end.


As you faced the enormous changes in your life after giving birth - physically, emotionally, added responsibilities and lifestyle shifts - in what areas did you feel supported? And where/how would you have liked more support?

I feel so lucky to have an amazing circle of girlfriends who support me and don’t judge me for occasionally flicking my kids off behind their backs and forgetting to pack their lunches. You need good friends who make you laugh because a lot of the mothering job is boring. Registering for things online and reading the same book 100 times is not exactly what I envisioned when I was dreaming of little booties and mobiles.  

I have an incredible baby sitter from Indonesia who literally looks after all of us. She has had my kids out of diapers by the age of two, riding a bike by four and eating hot sauce by seven.  Without her I would have lost my marbles (like more than I already have.) 

And finally, I have my mother who is the antithesis of an anxious Westside mother. She keeps me from getting too neurotic and encourages me to relax and enjoy the journey. 

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What has motherhood meant for your relationship with your partner and/or your other significant relationships?

I miss my husband now that I mainly just bark orders at him as we pass in the hallway.  We do make a point of getting away together every six months or so and it is always such a relief to find that I still like him. He makes me laugh. 

So many people tell me that this period will be over "in a blink of an eye,” so I feel lots of pressure to enjoy every minute, but much of it is hard and frustrating so it’s really important to have a partner who has you back. 


Did your central values change or shift in some way that you'd like to share?

I don’t think my values have changed, in fact I believe I have had to double down on them. I have to walk my talk because there are all those little eyes watching me. Now I can’t jam my cart into the curb at the supermarket because I have to live by example. Bloody annoying. 


Totum Mum Crush

Totum Women is excited to feature some moms who inspire us in a series called "Mum Crush."  Listen, though: every woman finds her own path as a mother, so our hope is that these women uplift and inspire.  We know that sometimes features like these can lead to some comparison thinking that hurts more than helps, so we choose women who exemplify our brand values of being real and whole in their approach to womanhood and motherhood.  Women who make us feel stronger because they're full of love and keep it real. 

 
Totum Stories: The Number One Nicest Thing to Do for a New Mom, and How to Do It
 

By Totum Founder, Erin Erenberg

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I had a friend text me the day I gave birth saying, “I am going to make you dinner and drop it off on your doorstep Wednesday around 4PM.”

There is so much to love about that simple sentence. First, she was insistent about it (“I am going to…”). She didn’t say “How can I help?”  “What can I do?” Or even “would it be ok if….” All of those phrases come from love, but they’re tossing a to-do onto the plate of a new mom. Instead, this was a statement and left no room for negotiation.

Second, she gave me a date several days out from when I’d arrive home from the hospital. By being so clear, she removed the need for me to think. It was happening Wednesday, before dinnertime. I didn’t have to open my calendar and schedule something and take myself out of the newborn haze for a nanosecond.

The third point I’ll make came down to execution. And this is the most important part. SHE DROPPED IT OFF AND ONLY TEXT’D ME THAT IT WAS THERE AFTER SHE DROVE AWAY.  Listen, friends, family and loved ones: a brand new mom does not need visitors. She needs food. She needs rest. She needs to lie around in a robe with her baby on her body without thinking that anyone is taking stock of how she looks.  She does not need to feel the pressure to entertain you. Unless you are there to help her, save the visits for a few weeks out, at least. Heng Ou states this much more gently in her book The First Forty Days. For a more elaborate and kind explanation of why this is, check it out.

Listen, friends, family and loved ones: a brand new mom does not need visitors.

This friend happened to drop of a reusable basket complete with dinner for our entire family that could be easily reheated, and she included healthy granola for snacking. It was pretty incredible. Of course, the homemade element gave our whole family a sense of love and nurturing that’s second to none.

But you know what else was awesome: getting food Door-Dashed or Postmat-ed to us. We had one friend send a box of sushi for the grown-ups and Italian for our 5 and 3 year olds.  Another sent a Mediterranean spread that we could reheat all week. Yet another went out of her way to bring over a modular taco salad that could be customized for all the picky eaters in the family.

But for those of you who, like me, fall short of Pinterest-Mom status, are forgetful and harried, yet truly want to serve a friend who’s just had a baby, know that executing a perfect food drop is just the trick.

There are many, many kind things to do for a new mother, and our friends and family did all sorts of wonderful things that I’ll always remember (my goddess of a sister in law made me a hand-curated basket full of luxurious postpartum treats, for one). But for those of you who, like me, fall short of Pinterest-Mom status, are forgetful and harried, yet truly want to serve a friend who’s just had a baby, know that executing a perfect food drop is just the trick.

 
Week Three: Answers to your Questions about Checking on Your Baby at Night
 
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This week and over the past few weeks, there have been a lot of questions about repeatedly checking in on your baby at night. One of you shared that you wake up at night panicking after dreaming that your baby is falling or lost in the covers of your bed. Dr. Michelle answers here, and we will be following up with a video on Instagram with some suggestions for self care when you're plagued by these and other symptoms of postpartum anxiety.

"I've been waking up in the middle of the night in a panic about the baby. I am either dreaming she is falling or lost in the covers in our bed. I wake up and frantically search for her or jump out of bed "to catch her." I eventually realize that she is safe and sound in her crib in our room, but for a few seconds I am terrified. I've had other friends tell me this happens to them. What causes this? How do I stop or ease it? Will it go away?"

It sounds as if you might be experiencing some symptoms of postpartum anxiety, but to be able to more clearly speak to your concern, I would need to clarify a few things.  First off, how old is your baby now?   While some anxiety and mood fluctuations are normal post-birth (up to 2 weeks), if they are too debilitating or last too long, you might consider seeking professional assistance.  I am also curious to hear if you are having any symptoms of anxiety during the day such as intrusive thoughts, difficulty concentrating etc?  How often are you waking up in the middle of the night feeling panicked and having these experiences? From your brief description, it sounds as if you might have some fears surrounding the potential loss of your baby. If you are not troubled by these thoughts or feeling anxious during the day, then I wonder if you are somehow repressing your anxiety and fears. As a result, your mind is still active during the night and while you are sleeping, forcing you to confront your fears.  Lucky for us, our brains are smart, but they’re crafty and don’t let us get away with much.  If we’re not allowing ourselves to acknowledge and confront our fears while awake, our brains are going to make sure we are doing it when we sleep (or at least when we are trying to sleep). The transition to parenthood is the most common and likely time for old traumas, conflicts, and fears that had been previously hidden away, to rise to the surface. With the help and support of a mental health professional, I would explore your fears in depth to understand how underlying conflicts might be contributing to your current symptoms. Hang in there, mama.  I know this is hard, but it might also be that your little one is providing you with an opportunity to grow through something.  It's amazing how these tiny babies can be our teachers.