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Baby Not Sleeping Through the Night? Read This.
 

By Totum Founder, Erin Erenberg

Mama always said, “life’s not worth living without a good night’s sleep.”

And, boy, did I hear that over and over in my head this past year, while taking a laissez-baby approach to sleep learning.  Although I’d trained our two bigger kids to sleep through the night at 3 and 5 months, I reasoned that it was too hard to sleep train Beau because we’d moved. I worried that any cry-it-out method would wake his older siblings. And let’s be real: I hated the idea of him crying. So I hoped that I could enjoy all the snuggles and sweetness of nursing him to sleep while his sleep routine naturally fell into place when we settled into our new home.

Ha, yeah right. I was suffering terribly, and I noticed that happy little Beau was cranky and agitated. It appears that unlike some other rites of motherhood that have fallen into place for me when I allow instinct to guide, sleep doesn’t work that way for us. For all three of our kids, I have needed to get serious about sleep training in order to reclaim my sanity and help our kids get the sleep they need for their growth, development and wellness.

For all three of our kids, I have needed to get serious about sleep training in order to reclaim my sanity and help our kids get the sleep they need for their growth, development and wellness.

With George (6) and Arabella (4), I used the Sleepeasy Solution (modified cry-it-out to teach self-soothing), and it worked beautifully. But since I’d broken all the big rules of that method for 12 months (feeding baby to sleep, putting him down asleep, rushing in to help him when he cried, starting sleep training too late) I decided to try a new approach. When I saw that Dream Baby Sleep was offering free 15-minute consults, I figured I had nothing to lose.

What I learned was truly life changing. I’m so excited to share it with you in case it rescues you as it did me. So here’s what I learned, in a nutshell:

  1. Move to an earlier bedtime for the baby. My routine had been to bathe all three of the kids at the same time, after dinner, around 6:30. They got PJ’d, lotioned, and hair/teeth-brushed in a line-up, and then George and Arabella were allowed 20-30 minutes of a movie while I put Beau down around 7PM. Erin at Dreambaby suggested I put Beau down no later than 6:30. Now I put him down between 5:45-6:30 PM. The early end of that spectrum is best if he skips his last nap or doesn’t have great daytime sleep. Not only has this been effective for Beau, but it’s also allowed me to have better quality time with the older kids in their last half-hour before bedtime.

  2. Separate the feed from the bedtime routine. Because I’m a rule-following kind of gal, I literally started doing Beau’s nighttime feed outside his bedroom and only move to his bedroom when it’s game-time.

  3. Keep the nighttime routine very short (15 minutes). After dinner, bath, PJs and final feed, next comes the real magic -- the tight and consistent bedtime routine. What works for us is this: Beau waves night-night to his siblings; we enter his room; we turn on the sound machine, turn down the blackout blinds (yes, you need these! Or a black garbage bag! Or these!); sit in the rocking chair; zip on the sleep sack; read one book; turn off the light; and then say good night.

  4. Put him down calm but awake. If Beau’s not calm after the book, I’ll rock him for as long as it takes me to sing two bars of a song and say a prayer with him. I only stand up to put him into his crib once I feel his little heartbeat slowing slightly. Calm is the key, but don’t let the baby fall asleep in your arms.

  5. The goodnight “mantra.” This seems simple but makes a big difference for mommy and baby. As I put Beau down in his crib, I say to him, “Night-night, Beau. It’s time for sleeping.  Mommy loves you.” Then I lie him down, calm but awake, and exit the room. The End!

Remarkably, just by following these tips, Beau started sleeping through the night in 2 nights! The first night, he cried for about 20 minutes, and I went in and checked on him 10 minutes into that cry. I didn’t touch him, just kept my calm and told him that I was right outside and he was learning to sleep on his own. The Dream Baby crew offers a number of different approaches to working through tears when babies are learning to sleep. Crying-it-out with check-ins works best for me because of Beau’s temperament and my cry tolerance. I love, though, that they offer a range of options for moms and babies so that you don’t feel lost if you don’t have the heart to hear your baby wail and baby’s not surrendering easily to rest.  

There were a few nights in the past few weeks when Beau woke up, teething. One night, I caved and brought him into bed to nurse. I felt worried about that, but I went back to our game plan the following night. And it all snapped back into place beautifully.

I’m a big believer in following your maternal instincts. But if sleep isn’t falling into place for you without some work, give these tips a try and definitely check out Dream Baby Sleep. They offer consults, sleep plans, and private Facebook Live events. I’ve found their approach completely non-judgmental, caring and EFFECTIVE!  

Hope this helps you have day after day of love and light, thanks to a good night’s sleep for you and your babies.

Dreamily,

Erin

 
Can I Schedule Time for Being Sad?
 

By Totum Founder, Erin Erenberg

Photo by  @juliahirsch_  via  @mothermag

We’ve all heard the cliches about moms putting everyone else first, forgetting themselves, being caught up in the many “thankless” tasks, logistics, and concerns of daily mothering. This usually presents itself as sacrifices in hygiene -- bad food, no sleep, no bra, no using the restroom without a tiny companion.

For me, putting myself last more often looks like appearing to “have it all together” for the sake of our kids’ sense of comfort and wellbeing. The real me lets it all out, with plenty of tears and talk, when things aren’t working. But lately I either (a) have a constant tiny audience or (b) am jamming through work-related tasks while paying someone to help me with the baby. There is no time block for letting it out, alone.

For me, putting myself last more often looks like appearing to “have it all together” for the sake of our kids’ sense of comfort and wellbeing.

Most of us know someone who’s crippled by anxiety because his/her mom didn’t create a sense of wellbeing and safety in the home. I think I’m really worried about this for my kids because my parents did create a sense of safety and security, and the beauty of that gift has yielded returns well into my adulthood. I want to provide a similar sense for our kids. I want to put my positive role models to work.

So, because I don’t want George (6) and Arabella (4) to be anxious adults, I do things like turning on upbeat music and presenting a mellow outlook if we run dangerously late for drop off.  I try to avoid arguing in front of them or double-back and talk through it when I lose my temper in their presence. But the downside is that I’m so focused on attuning to their ups and downs that I shove my feelings down where I think my kids can’t see them.  The fallacy is not lost on me, but I’m trying my best.  

But the downside is that I’m so focused on attuning to their ups and downs that I shove my feelings down where I think my kids can’t see them.

And lately I’m not actually “ok.” You see, two of my very closest friends in the whole world -- Robin and Wendy -- have gone through mastectomies in the last 8 months.  Just before turning 40. And until yesterday, I hadn’t even cried.

When living in Los Angeles, I heard so many people use the phrase “holding space,” and I didn’t know what that really meant until now. It seemed vaguely woo-woo and eye-roll. But for me, over the past months, it’s meant that I have this big, gaping morass of fear, hope, pain, loss, confusion, bewilderment, shock, disillusionment and love that I hold for two friends who are part of my soul.

I still see my friends Robin and Wendy in their late teens. Their beauty, vitality, brilliance, wit, grace and strength is irreplaceable and ageless. They’ve got smiles that make your heart dance, each a wicked sense of humor, and so loyal that I’ve never once questioned where I stand. They each have two boys. We all went to the same college but now live in 3 different countries. Despite distance and time, these girls are in my mind and heart every hour.  

And this year, they each faced down breast cancer and feared for their lives.

Two days ago, on a Saturday, I sat with my coffee, in my robe, and just completely broke down. The tears wouldn’t stop. At first, our kids were stunned, and then ran over to me and held me, telling me it would be okay. As most moms do, I immediately felt a flood of worry and shame about losing my cool in front of my kids. But instead of pretending, I let it go.

Two days ago, on a Saturday, I sat with my coffee, in my robe, and just completely broke down. The tears wouldn’t stop.

Then I tried to convey my feelings with words they might understand. I told them that I was really sad for my friend. That my friend Robin was having a scary surgery in the hospital that day, and that I felt helpless in saving my friend from big feelings and scary thoughts. I told them that I was okay but that sometimes when we love our friends so much, it makes us cry when we know they are in pain.

There have been a lot of things happening in our lives in the past year -- new baby, new business, new home (to name a few). Meanwhile, there are major emotional realities at play for me that have nothing to do with my daily (pre)occupations. And one big one is grappling with two of my closest friends facing down cancer before turning 40.

Funny enough, my friend Robin is a brilliant doctor and is convinced that her diagnosis has something to do with some major losses in her life, both of which she feels she didn’t fully process.  And Wendy faced horrible unexpected loss a few times in the last decade as well.

So in the spirit of facing pain head on, I’m sharing this with all of you. I don’t really have the answer to the question of how to feel and process painful adult realities when you’ve got a constant tiny audience. But I know that I need more friendship and understanding to work through it in a healthy way. So thank you for letting me share this with you. Thank you for “holding space” for me.

I’d love to hear from you about how you process your pain while prioritizing your babies.  And I’d love to hear tips on how to best support friends going through breast cancer.

In this together,

Erin

 
The Bittersweet Wonder of Watching Your Kids Become More Independent
 

By Alexis Gantsoudes

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Almost daily, when a blurry moment of parenting kids who are in 3rd, 6th and 8th grades subsides into a fleeting pause, I am struck with a sense of wonder.

This wonder is different from the universal kind I felt when watching each of my babies do something for the first time or discover something about themselves or the world around them; it is the kind you might feel in a crowded public place when you’ve lost your people--in the world before you could use a cellphone to find them. This sneaky and persistent feeling comes from finding myself undeniably and squarely in the middle of the the first phase of parenting, meaning the phase where the kids live at home, under our wings and under our roofs.

This summer, I watched from my car at a stoplight as a mom waiting at the edge of the crosswalk with her child kneeled to tie a sweatshirt around her waist. I suddenly realized that none of my children needs me to do that sort of thing for them anymore--the sort of thing that once filled up my entire day: putting on shoes, cutting up fruit, washing hair, or making a lunch. I find myself being wistful for my preschool-aged buddies who accompanied me on the sometimes drab daily tasks of life. Waiting in line at the post office with a toddler can be exhausting, but it also brings with it the possibility of the unexpected. Sweet moments are everywhere and always possible when you’re literally attached to someone who still inhabits his own little world.

I suddenly realized that none of my children needs me to do that sort of thing for them anymore—the sort of thing that once filled up my entire day: putting on shoes, cutting up fruit, washing hair, or making a lunch.

I will be the first to admit as someone who was at home with my kids while my husband traveled endlessly and family lived airplane flights away, that I regularly fantasized about reclaiming my independence for just the briefest moments when my children were younger. Going for a run without a double stroller--liberating! Driving to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription without buckling three car seats--as indulgent as a massage! Doing any daily task that moms do in an endless cycle without strategizing about food, sleep, thwarting temptations and meltdowns seemed a milestone that was far away and the stuff of dreams to my tired, weary body.

But somewhere between waiting for my youngest to drop his nap so we could be more footloose as a family and living every day in the details, I lost track of time. While the kids seem to need me as much as ever, they need me more intensely and for fewer minutes a day. This has created an “on-call” role that I never imagined when I thought of being a parent and has disrupted my sense of self as a mother. The busyness that so completely overfilled my world with younger children comes now in unpredictable fits and starts, and in many ways, I feel as new to the job as I did when my firstborn was an infant.

While the kids seem to need me as much as ever, they need me more intensely and for fewer minutes a day.

It is not my personality to just let go--to just experience things without analyzing them or trying to understand their role in a greater path that I am trying to follow. However, during those moments of wonder that bubble to the surface so often, I feel the bittersweet call to take a step back, and to allow my presence to be felt more in my kids’ minds as they make a decision than in my deeds. This is all quiet, mental work, but it requires a deceptive amount of effort, awareness and self-restraint. It also requires the bittersweet acknowledgement of another unanticipated parental shift.

I feel the bittersweet call to take a step back, and to allow my presence to be felt more in my kids’ minds as they make a decision than in my deeds

My youngest, who is prone to worry, preferred to be physically close to me as a preschooler and in his early elementary years. When I was encouraging him to venture from my side to do what he wished without me, such as get a drink from the water fountain across a waiting room, I would tell him that we were connected by a stretchy-string--that he could go and get the drink while still being connected to me. My world now feels like a web of endless stretchy-strings. As each of my children ventures towards something new--walking to town with a friend, walking alone around the corner to play soccer with neighborhood kids, staying up late at a friend’s house for a sleepover--I feel the same cocktail of pride, worry, and love I felt as I sent my son to the water fountain. Just as much, though, I feel the need to accept my ever-shifting role and perhaps even celebrate the way in which mothering reinvents us over and over again.

 
At Christmas My Mom Was a Cross Between Martha Stewart and Bob Vila. I Can't Be That Mom But I Can Do This.
 

By Erin Erenberg

Originally published on Fox News.

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I was raised by the ultimate “Pinterest mom.” She made icing-bedecked one of a kind homemade gingerbread men when it was my turn to bring cookies to school and still makes our three kids individually themed Christmas trees each year. She’s Martha Stewart meets Bob Vila, and the care she puts into what she makes has always made us feel special.

But I’m not that mom. While I enjoy putting creativity into meals or the occasional craft, if I put too many projects on my plate at the holidays, I become the person I loathed growing up: someone who dreads Christmas. These days, between multiple holiday shows, sports obligations, school-sponsored Thanksgiving feasts, holiday cards, gift-buying and documenting every minute on social media, it’s easy for moms to feel overwhelmed and lesser-than, all of which has nothing to do with the real meaning of Christmas.

“It’s easy for moms to feel overwhelmed and lesser-than, all of which has nothing to do with the real meaning of Christmas.”

So instead of losing the joy to the pressures of modern momming, I’ve decided to strip down to the essentials with a focus on the real meaning of Christmas. Here are three things we’re being sure to check off our list this Christmas season. The rest is just icing on the gingerbread man.

1. Gather to read the Bible’s account of the first Christmas.

My dad always did this with us on Christmas Eve, often gathered by the fire and after an evening church service. It’s a lovely way to cut through the noise, spend time together, and remember why we’re celebrating in the first place.

Here are our family favorite verses, as selected by my dad:

Luke 2:1-21 (The Shepherds’ Story)

Luke 1: 26-31 (Mary Hears the News)

Matthew 1: 18-25 (Joseph Hears the News)

Matthew 2: 12 (Wise Men Story)

It’s great to highlight the wise men and their offerings so that kids realize there is a history behind the gift-giving at Christmas. Some other cultures, such as those in Latin America, do a better job at tying traditions back to the story of the first Christmas. See, for example, Las Posadas, a nine-day long nativity celebration meant to represent the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy.

2. Sponsor another family’s Christmas

We did this when I was little, and I remember it so clearly. My parents got wish lists from our local Salvation Army and chose a family with kids roughly the ages of my sister and I. I can still see the racks of clothes and the wishlist in my hands. I was so concerned that there were kids who didn’t have enough food and clothing, let alone gifts on Christmas morning. A deep sense of gratitude, concern and awareness of privilege and disparity moved me, and I was energized by the idea that I could do something to help. That sense has remained with me into adulthood.

Every region has local charities who can help with the logistics of giving to families in need. It’s well worth it to connect with one in your area and “adopt” a family or a child for Christmas.   The process of taking time away from ourselves and standing in another family’s shoes steers us away from the temptation toward greed and consumption this season and fosters meaningful conversations with our little ones. More to the point: it’s just the right thing to do to give to someone who is in need, especially during a time that’s all about giving and receiving.

3. Sibling gift exchange

Our 6-year-old little boy and 4-year-old girl argue too much. Christmas seems like the perfect time to remind them that our family is in our lives so that we can support, acknowledge and learn from each other.

“Christmas seems like the perfect time to remind them that our family is in our lives so that we can support, acknowledge and learn from each other.”

This year we’re encouraging them to think about what their sister/brother would enjoy and dip into their piggy banks to buy a gift for their sibling.  Sure, there are wonderful lessons about math and commerce, but most important to me is that they learn that the purpose of a gift is to show someone you have thought about them, notice what they like, and give up something of yours to communicate your love. It’s also a welcome shift from the rivalry and bickering that’s so frustrating but natural in kids close together in age.

Overall, I find that when I’m able to cut through the potential to keep busy this season and focus on a few valuable opportunities to grow together, we all experience more joy.

Find us on Instagram @totumwomen or comment below. We’d love to hear about your honored family traditions. Merry Christmas!

 
Annie JeffersonComment
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.

 
Move over Black Friday. Give it up for Cyber Mom-Day!
 

By Erin Erenberg

Originally published on Fox News.

My mom and sister hitting Cyber Monday hard last year, days after I gave birth to our third baby, Beau.

My mom and sister hitting Cyber Monday hard last year, days after I gave birth to our third baby, Beau.

We had a family tradition around Black Friday when I was young. With our cousins in town for Thanksgiving, my mom would load us into the car to head to the “big city” of Columbus, Ohio.

We shifted into the Christmas spirit while checking loved ones off our gift lists. Some of my favorite childhood memories were made on this day, amid twinkling street lights, looping holiday anthems, and commiserating, bag-laden dads camped out in the pit of City Center Mall.  Between stores, we’d make a detour to the suburb of Dublin to sip glogg while my mom drank in inspiration for that year’s tree.  It was crisp, cozy, wintery, idyllic Christmas bliss. But those were slower times, decades before shop.org handed us “Cyber Monday” in 2005.

Now that I’m the mom and we have three little ones, I’d rather avoid the manufactured urgency of Black Friday and take time to enjoy making holiday traditions that don’t center around buying.  But don’t get me wrong: I still love to get and give gifts.  So it was last year, when I gave birth to our third baby two days before Thanksgiving, that I learned the true beauty of Cyber Monday for mothers.

This year, instead of falling for the tempting promotional emails and Instagram ads that seem to know my every thought, I’ve been taking a minute to keep a list of all the retailers or manufacturers who are tempting me. Beside their name, I list the items I’d like to purchase, and for whom. My plan is to go online on Black Friday to see if there are deals on the things I’ve listed. If so, I’ll make the purchase then. If not, I’ll wait for Cyber Monday.

To all my busy moms out there, here are my top ten favorite things about Cyber Monday.

1. I can shop in sweats and no makeup, while using the loo if so inclined.

2. It can be a team sport. My mom, sister and I shopped together using our own laptops at my dining room table last year, and it was really fun.  We called out good deals to one another, gasped when we saw something we wanted, and made purchases for one another without having to hide the evidence.

3. There are no (visible) crowds.

4. Ditto no pushy sales people.

5. My stroller isn’t in anyone’s way.

6. I don’t have to repeat “look with your eyes” to my children roughly 5,249 times per store.

7. We can access every store around the world without spending a dime on gas or worrying about our carbon footprint.

8. I MAKE BAD SHOPPING DECISIONS IN REAL LIFE SINCE BECOMING A MOM! Truly, I either break the bank or leave with nothing. I don’t think straight about purchases when I’m more worried about whether my child is going to touch something made of glass.

9. It seems like the deals are better. I’ve found that many stores will allow stacked discounts and promotions, often with free shipping.

10.  The gifts can be shipped directly to the recipient and to where you’re celebrating the holidays. This not only saves money but (more importantly for me) also the opportunity costs associated with the time and risk of shipping gifts yourself.  If the retailer misses the Christmas deadline, you’ll wind up with a refund and maybe some future discount codes. That’s a lot better than what happened when I tried to ship all my gifts from California to Ohio, only to find out that they were misrouted to Milwaukee and lost until Easter. #neveragain

Here’s to helping you maximize your time and budget this holiday (but hands-off the Anine Bing bag in my shopping cart on November 26.)

See you online,

Erin

 
Annie JeffersonComment
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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On the Importance of 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. 

 
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.