Posts in Mental Wellness
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.

 
Totum Stories: On Mothering the Mother
 

By McLean McGown

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

Follow Mclean @motherthemother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xo - McLean

Mother The Mother

 
Self-Care Cheat Sheet For The New Mom
 

By Dr. Michelle Glantz

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

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

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

You’ve got this Mamas!

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

Self Care Cheat Sheet

Eat well. 

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

Stay on all medications you have been instructed to take. 

Get a massage. 

Take a bath. 

Get out of the house.

Listen to music.

Light some candles.

Take calming breaths.

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

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

Seek support from friends and family.

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

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

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

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

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

Remind yourself that all changes take time.

Remember that this too shall pass.  

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

Confide in someone you trust. 

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

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

Surround yourself with people you love.

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

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

Expect some good days and some more difficult ones.

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

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

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

Avoid overdoing anything. 

Set small goals for yourself. 

Delegate household duties. 

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

Prioritize what needs to be done and what can wait.

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

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

 
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.

 
Week One: Answers to your Questions about Postpartum
 

Most questions we received this week were related to Postpartum OCD (ppOCD), so our brilliant and kind Dr. Michelle expounds on the topic here.  

Postpartum OCD (ppOCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive, unwanted, and repetitive thoughts, images, or urges (obsessions), which may or may not be accompanied by compulsive behaviors. While the exact cause of ppOCD is unknown, experts believe that it results from a combination of hormonal, psychological, genetic, biological, psychosocial, and environmental factors. Obsessions and compulsions can take many forms for different people and usually focus on the baby.

Obsessional thoughts might include:

  • I’m terrified my baby will get sick and die.

  • What if my baby stops breathing in the middle of the night?

  • I’m scared someone will steal my baby if we go out in public.

  • What if I accidentally or intentionally act on an urge to stab my baby?

  • Why do I keep having an image of my baby falling off the changing table?

Compulsions can include:

  • Repeatedly checking on the baby’s breathing in the middle of the night

  • Excessive bathing and washing rituals

  • Repeatedly asking others for reassurance that baby is okay

  • Taking great measures to avoid the baby

Obsessions are unwanted, difficult to control, and increase anxiety. In order to neutralize the anxiety associated with these obsessions, one might then engage in overt or mental compulsions or avoidance. For example, a mother might have repetitive images of something terrible happening to her baby while driving in the car. As a means to decrease the anxiety associated with this thought, she may avoid driving anywhere with her baby. Another mother might have unwanted thoughts that she will act on an urge to intentionally harm her own baby.  This mother might then begin to avoid her baby altogether. It is important to understand that in the latter example, this mother does not have these thoughts because she actually wants to hurt her child, but rather she is terrified that she might act on these thoughts. The obsessions are unwanted and conflict with a person's self-image and character.

According to the International OCD Foundation, up to 80% of new mothers report having strange, unwanted thoughts. This means that most new parents have similar experiences with anxiety and intrusive thoughts, but would not be diagnosed with Postpartum OCD. A diagnosis of OCD might be made when preoccupation with the intrusive thoughts is clearly disruptive to a mother’s normal functioning and greatly interferes with her ability to care for herself and her baby. It is no surprise that this can have devastating effects on the parent-child relationship and highlights the immense need for treatment. Due to the fear of stigma and feelings of intense shame, however many women are resistant to seeking help. If you or anyone you know is experiencing these symptoms please know that you are not alone and it is okay (and important) to reach out for help from a qualified and licensed mental health professional.

Others of you wanted to learn a little more about psychological and emotional responses to weaning. Dr. Michelle responds here: 

It is not uncommon for women to feel tearful, depressed, irritable, or anxious when weaning. Not much research exists on this topic, but some hypothesize that a shift in hormones when weaning may be a major cause for these feelings. Other factors might involve feelings of sadness around the loss of this special time with your infant. These mood changes usually go away on their own, but some weaning mothers may experience more severe symptoms that require treatment.

 
Ask Dr. Michelle: "Good Enough" from Totum's Resident Psychologist
 

By Dr. Michelle Glantz, Ph.D.

Michelle Glantz, Ph.D

Will I be good enough?

Like many women, I found this concern repeatedly running through my mind as I looked towards my transition to motherhood. I knew what type of mother I wanted to be, but I wondered if I would ever be good enough (also known in my mind as “perfect”) to raise a happy, healthy, kind, and compassionate human?

Can I actually be responsible for another person?

I can barely keep my houseplants alive for longer than 3 months, how the &^%$ am I going to raise a child?

Would I inadvertently falter to childhood experiences of tough love and criticism or would I be kind, nurturing, sensitive, and patient?

Will I be consumed by my own life and career or will I leave enough time for my children?   

Will my baby even like me?

The questions went on and on…

D.W. Winnicott, a British pediatrician and psychoanalyst first coined the term, “good enough mother” in 1953. Through extensive observation of mothers and babies, Winnicott believed that it is actually beneficial when mothers “fail” their babies in manageable ways. At first, a mother is entirely devoted to her infant’s needs. The mother gradually allows her baby to experience small amounts of frustration, according to the infant's increased ability to deal with failure. The mother is not perfect, but she is good enough. She is caring, empathic, and compassionate, but may not respond immediately to her baby’s every cry. Winnicott believed that parenting through these tolerable failures is essential in teaching children how to live independently in a flawed world with imperfect people.

Winnicott believed that parenting through these tolerable failures is essential in teaching children how to live independently in a flawed world with imperfect people.

I understood this theoretical concept from my education and training as a clinical psychologist and discussed its value and implications with my patients. Nonetheless, I wasn’t spared from the anxieties around my own pregnancy and becoming a mother. After eating my way through all the bakeries on the west side of Los Angeles, I received a call halfway through pregnancy from my OB alerting me that my gestational diabetes (GD) test had come back positive. He assured me that this had absolutely nothing to do with my diet (yeah right, I thought). The doctor continued to explain that in some women, placental hormones are responsible for causing a rise in blood sugar to levels that may affect the growth of the baby. It was almost impossible for me to believe that my eating habits had not been the culprit behind the development of my diagnosis.

Throughout the rest of pregnancy, I was forced to avoid sugar and maintain a low carbohydrate diet. I was also required to prick my finger four times daily to check that my food intake had not increased my sugar levels beyond a certain level. I was informed of the dangers that GD can impose on a newborn including the possibility of macrosomia, a condition where the baby can grow too large. These babies can become wedged in the birth canal or undergo birth injuries if they are not delivered via C-section.  Additionally, GD can increase the likelihood of preterm birth, respiratory distress syndrome, or hypoglycemia and seizures. As a result, my doctor recommended that I be induced at 38.5 weeks to make sure that my baby would not have difficulty coming out the birth canal.

When induction day arrived, my husband and I packed our hospital bags and headed to the hospital. Despite the ease of this scenario, this was NOT the labor I had envisioned. The fantasy in which my water would break unexpectedly forcing my husband and I to rush frantically through LA traffic to the hospital was gone.

Shortly after arriving at the hospital, I was hooked up to IV’s and started on Pitocin to initiate contractions. The anesthesiologist arrived shortly after to give me an epidural, my OB broke my water and when I was fully dilated I began to push. After about a half hour of pushing, my son’s head was visible. After more pushing and no further progress, my doctor realized that his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck.  He didn’t seem overly concerned and proceeded to free him so that he could make his way completely out the birth canal.

When my baby was lifted out and brought into the world, it was the most beautiful experience I had ever witnessed in my lifetime. Unfortunately, it was cut short soon after because he wasn’t crying. The doctors placed him on me for a brief moment while they began to suction his airway, but quickly moved him to the table where they could begin extra stimulation. Naturally, I was terrified. As my doctor continued to stitch my episiotomy, the nurses continued to work with my baby. I asked if he was going to be okay and was reassured numerous times that he would be fine. My baby boy eventually began to cry and was placed on me again to try nursing for the first time.

Over the next several hours, my son’s blood sugar dropped to dangerously low levels, an effect of my gestational diabetes. Nurses entered my hospital room in the middle of the night to warn me that if they did not provide him formula to quickly raise his blood sugar, he could be at risk of having a seizure.  Scared and confused, with no one else to consult, my husband and I obviously agreed to give formula immediately, even though I had planned to breastfeed exclusively. Eventually, my son’s blood sugar raised and stabilized, and we were able to leave the hospital two days later.

The next several weeks were full of ups and downs. Breastfeeding was not going well, to say the least. My baby had difficulty latching and nursing felt like someone was scraping razor blades against my breasts. Countless lactation consultants visited us, with the last one advising us that if it was too difficult, then we should just quit. Despite this, I continued to nurse my baby for close to forty minutes per feeding, which did not satisfy him as he wasn’t able to suck adequately. This was then followed by twenty minutes of pumping, and finally giving a bottle of breast milk with additional formula. By the time this entire routine was over, it was time to start feeding him all over again. I was exhausted, anxious, and terrified that I was somehow inadequate. No one could explain to me why my baby was not latching or sucking effectively and I felt completely alone. Several weeks into my son’s life, I began to accept that I would not breast feed the way I had planned and my panic eventually subsided. I began to settle into motherhood as well as our never-ending feeding routine.   

After a couple months, we began a Mommy and Me group. The class was wonderful and I had the pleasure of spending time with other amazing moms and their babies. As the months progressed, however, I watched as the other babies reached milestones and mine did not. Rolling over, sitting up, crawling...my baby was as happy as a clam laying on his back, smiling at me, and gazing up at the world. I was too embarrassed and afraid to ask for advice in group.  Fearing that the other moms would think I wasn’t doing a good enough job with my baby or that worse, I would be told something could be terribly wrong, I chose to remain silent. After all, they were all with their babies during the day, and I had already returned to work. I thought that perhaps my baby was missing out on something he could have received from me, leading him to these delays. Unfortunately, these fears and concerns led to my early discontinuation in the group and I never felt courageous enough to share how I was feeling with the group leader or the other moms. 

And here it was again.  That self-doubting, critical voice I had become so familiar with insidiously repeating itself in my mind…Am I not good enough?

My pediatrician eventually referred us for evaluations with a neurologist, physical therapist, and developmental pediatrician. After numerous months of nerve-wracking testing, doctors and specialists finally determined that there was no specific or critical underlying cause for my son’s delays. I came to understand that my son had just been born this way and that he would meet his milestones on his own time. Additionally, it was not because of anything I did or didn’t do for him.

And here it was again. That self-doubting, critical voice I had become so familiar with insidiously repeating itself in my mind…Am I not good enough?

My son is now a happy, healthy 3.5-year-old boy who is just about caught up developmentally to his same age peers. It has been a long road of early intervention for us, with numerous physical, occupational, and speech therapy sessions per week. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing except for the way in which I was so harsh and critical of myself and so quick to believe that there had been something I had done wrong.   

Becoming a mother was one of the first major lessons I received in acceptance, losing control, and appreciating the beauty of imperfection. Although my initiation to parenting is just one of countless other experiences, I understand how terrifying it feels to be a new mother and to fear that you are now responsible for another living, completely dependent human. I know how distressing and shameful it feels to admit that you are uncertain about your new role as mother and how this leads many women to stay quiet about their experiences.

Becoming a mother was one of the first major lessons I received in acceptance, losing control, and appreciating the beauty of imperfection.

My goal in sharing my story is to help destigmatize the thoughts and fears around pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. It is time that we embrace our imperfections as parents and human beings and to remember that not only is this okay, but it is what our growing babies need. We, as mothers, are essential in modeling for our babies that perfection is not only impossible, but it is not and should not be our goal. We, as mothers, are human and we make mistakes.  It is time that we finally receive and welcome the idea of imperfection and allow ourselves to just be…good enough.


Dr. Michelle Glantz is a Los Angeles based mother of two and Clinical Psychologist. She works in private practice specializing in the treatment of life transitions and perinatal mental health disorders. Dr. Glantz works to help expecting or new mothers and fathers work through underlying conflicts that surface around their transitions to parenthood. As a mother herself, she combines a professional and personal approach to her practice and understands first-hand the struggles and difficulties around assuming a new role as a parent. Dr. Glantz also works with children and adolescents struggling with anxiety and/or mood disorders.  In doing so, she believes that including parents in the therapeutic process is vital in helping them to better understand the complexities of development and to improve communication with their children.

 
Totum Experts: Deconstructing Cravings with Compassion
 

by Daniela Kende

Daniela Kende is a Los Angeles-based holistic nutritionist, health coach, and wellness expert. She supports busy professionals in learning how to develop healthy habits on the go, prepare simple and nourishing real food meals at home, and to create abundant energy to live the life they desire. Daniela specializes in helping her clients break free from food rules and deconstruct cravings with compassion in order to get to the root underlying need, be it physical or emotional. Daniela’s goal is to help others ditch the diet mindset and find freedom with food for good.

Totum Woman Daniela Kende

One of the first things I noticed very early on in my pregnancy was the fact that I simply could not ignore how my body was feeling. Afternoon naps went from a rare luxury to an almost daily necessity. And my food preferences were distinct, particular, and ever-changing.

Pregnant or not, our bodies always have distinct needs in order to thrive –  pregnancy just has a way of amplifying those needs and making it harder (or sometimes impossible) to ignore them and push through.

I’ve coached a number of pregnant women and new moms in my private practice as a holistic nutritionist and health coach, but it wasn’t until experiencing pregnancy for myself this year that I had this aha moment: being pregnant offers women a unique opportunity to grow in compassion towards self – towards our cravings, emotions, and physical state. It’s an opportunity to embrace our needs on a new level, regardless of if they make sense or are convenient. Approaching our pregnancy cravings with compassion and patience can provide the perfect training for life with a newborn, where old expectations are replaced by a non-negotiable need to live in the here and now.

Being pregnant offers women a unique opportunity to grow in compassion towards self – towards our cravings, emotions, and physical state.

But what happens when your pregnancy cravings are for processed junk food you know you should avoid, and that chopped salad you used to love is a total turn off?

This is where we have an opportunity to become compassionate investigators, and dig deeper into our desires in order to understand our needs on a new level. When a craving arises, I find it usually falls into one of these three categories:

  1. A distinct physical desire for an ingredient: ie craving something salty. It could be pickles, potato chips, or sauerkraut, as long as there is salt. This type of craving usually comes from an actual physical need.

  2. A desire for emotional release: When we have feelings that we want to release, we often use food to help us feel a sense of expansion and freedom. This can take the form of a pizza or wine craving to find release after a challenging week.

  3. An emotional numbing or distraction: This type of craving stems from not wanting to deal with difficult feelings when they arise, and will usually manifest in a desire for something creamy, sweet, and/or fatty, such as ice cream, nut butter, or chocolate.

During pregnancy (and anytime, really!), it helps to slow down and bring more mindfulness to our cravings in order to consider the underlying physical or emotional need behind each one. By doing so, we can upgrade our reward and give our bodies and souls what they actually need to thrive.

To help you bring more clarity and compassion to your cravings, here are two of the more common pregnancy cravings I’ve seen in my clients (and myself!), and some tips for how to get what you want and take care of your health in the process:

Totum Women Daniela Kende

Common Craving #1: I scream, you scream, we all scream for ICE CREAM.

Creamy foods provide us with soothing comfort when we are overwhelmed, uncomfortable, or fatigued. Add sugar to the equation, and we’ve got an addicting new habit on our hands.

What your body and mind might actually need: An emotional hug and “time out” from the hustle and bustle of your life. Try establishing a healing nighttime bath routine following these steps:

  1. Run a bath -- just not too hot for baby -- and add a large scoop of pure epsom salts (skip brands with artificial fragrance)

  2. Add a few drops of essential oils right into your tub. I like using chamomile and lavender for night time, as they both promote deep relaxation.

  3. Next, light a candle, dim the lights, put on some relaxing tunes, and BREATHE, using your bath as a time to slow down and reset pesky stress hormones.

  4. Bonus points for bringing a cup of herbal nighttime tea with you to sip while you soak.

Sometimes, an ice cream craving means you’re going to have ice cream! Full stop, no discussion, no bath (or maybe ice cream in the bath?). For those times, try to prioritize the quality of product you choose, in order to lessen the negative impact on your health.

Upgrade your reward: Most ice creams on the market are made from non-organic dairy and have additives that disrupt your hormones and trigger bloating and indigestion. Instead, look for an organic ‘scream that contains just a few whole food ingredients. My favorite clean ice cream brands include:

  • NadaMoo! (dairy-free)

  • Luna & Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss (dairy-free)

  • Three Twins Organic Ice Cream

  • Alden’s Organic Ice Cream

  • BONUS option: While it’s not ice cream, I find sheep’s milk yogurt to be an incredibly satisfying alternative. It is easier to digest than cow’s milk, has twice the protein, and a lot less sugar. Check out Bellwether Farms Yogurt.

Finally, a note about dairy cravings: Consistently craving dairy during pregnancy could be a sign that your body needs more calcium. Check with your doctor about adding a high quality mineral supplement (I personally take Osteoforce by Designs for Health), to help your body get what it needs to thrive.

If my work with clients has showed me anything, it’s that cravings are good - they tell us exactly what our bodies need. The trick is listening to them, specifically the emotion behind the craving.

Common Craving #2:  Carbs carbs carbs!

Especially during early pregnancy, white bread, bagels, and crackers may be the most appealing option. It’s no wonder: simple, refined carbs require less energy to digest, and are void of any strong smell or taste that could trigger sickness. The downside, beyond the lack of nutrients, is that fluctuations in blood sugar caused by simple carbohydrates can exacerbate morning sickness, which is the last thing any of us want.

What your body and mind might actually need: Rest and more rest. While increasing your nightly Zzzs might feel pretty inconvenient if you’re used to getting by on little sleep, hitting the hay a few hours earlier is the best free medicine available. When we are sleep deprived, our brains scream for simple carbohydrates for a quick burst of energy. Try committing to at least 8-9 hours of sleep per night for a week and see how it impacts your cravings for carbs. Finally, sneak in afternoon naps whenever you can. Even a 10-minute nap can go a long way in reducing cravings and resetting your mental state.

Upgrade your reward: Rather than reaching for refined white flour products, focus on fiber-rich carbs to help slow the blood sugar spike. I’m a big fan of oat, coconut, and buckwheat, all of which are more nutrient-dense and less inflammatory than refined wheat. Here are some of my favorite comforting and nutritious carbs that were a lifesaver during my first trimester and beyond:

  • Oatmeal: Try the Trader Joe’s GF Ancient Grain & Super Seed Oatmeal, which includes flax, hemp, pumpkin, sunflower, and chia seeds -- all of which are fantastic ingredients for a healthy pregnancy. Stir a scoop of plant protein powder into your oatmeal to make it a more complete meal.

  • Sweet potatoes: Rich in vitamins A, C, iron, and potassium, sweet potatoes are pregnancy food all stars. Bake a few at the top of the week and try one topped with almond butter, peanut butter, or tahini for a boost of beneficial fats and protein.

  • Cream of buckwheat: For those times when you need something VERY bland and soothing, try organic cream of buckwheat (I like this old school brand!) cooked in water or unsweetened almond milk to help settle nausea.

  • Tortillas: I’m pretty obsessed with the tortillas from Siete Foods. They are soft and flexible like flour tortillas, but are totally grain-free. Warm one up and top with organic scrambled eggs and half an avocado for a balanced breakfast taco that’ll keep you satisfied and energized.

  • Chips: I love the crunchy coconut flour chips from The Real Coconut.

  • Crackers: Try Jilz or Simple MIlls for a nutrient-dense and delicious anytime cracker.

Pregnancy is a unique journey for every woman, and a special opportunity for us to listen to our bodies on a whole new level. If my work with clients has showed me anything, it’s that cravings are good - they tell us exactly what our bodies need. The trick is listening to them, specifically the emotion behind the craving. If you can do that, you’ll see how much power you have to create a peaceful and healthy pregnancy and transition into motherhood. I’m always here to offer customized support for mamas at any stage, so don’t hesitate to reach out.

In the meantime, try my Sunflower Lemon Zest Mighty Bites recipe for a pregnancy super snack filled with nutrient-dense superfoods that will support your energy and baby’s development, and find more healthy recipes at www.danielakende.com.

Totum Women Daniela Kende
 
Totum Experts: The Difference Between Happening FOR You & TO You
 
Sarah Gibbons

Meet Conscious Working Mama Founder, Sarah Gibbons. Sarah is a legacy builder. She believes that feeling fulfilled is a result of marrying inner purpose and outer expression. A high-achiever herself, Sarah helps ambitious, driven women experience their truth and express it authentically in order to create unique, dynamic, and fulfilling lives. Conscious Working Mama offers 1-1 coaching and workshops for mothers in business.

Sarah is one of Totum's expert contributors on motherhood. To read more from our experts, click here.


The other day I was caught up with getting ready for a school holiday, prepping for a trip, packing up my family, and all that goes into taking a break from my practice. I was buzzing around, tying up loose ends, when my middle son looked up and said, “Look mom, the trees are dancing. They’re trying to delight me.”

It stopped me in my tracks. I looked up, and sure enough, it was windy, and the trees were dancing.

It was the last part of his observation that really got me though: “They’re trying to delight me.”

What a beautiful, joyous way of seeing the wind in the trees, as though they are there just to delight you. This simple idea that things are happening for you.

Imagine if that was the way you perceived everything around you?

How much more joy would you be able to receive?

What if you were able to perceive even the challenges as “happening for you” rather than “happening to you”?

That is my challenge to you this week, Mamas: Can you awaken your consciousness during one moment of stress and become so present to this new idea that you’re able to shift your perspective away from “This thing [fill in the blank with whatever awful, joyful, or even mundane circumstance is before you] is happening to me” and toward “this thing is happening for me?”

Would you perceive mundane things like wind in the trees as happening just for you, to delight you? Would you perceive challenging things, like an argument with your partner or an email from your boss, as happening just for you, to grow you, to awaken you, or to connect you rather than to you as punishment?

What if you were able to perceive even the challenges as “happening for you” rather than “happening to you”?

How would the landscape of your day change if you were to practice this perspective shift? What if you went from practicing this once a day to five times a day, to eventually seeing everything around you at every moment as happening just for you, as a gift, as the perfect package delivered just to your heart for you to continuously renew your experience of life. What if you believe that everything is happening to you for your own growth and expansion?

Imagine the infinite possibilities.

I’m the first to admit that when something goes wrong, it can feel good to point fingers. But talk about a joy robber. Let’s leave the victim number behind and own this, ladies. If we want to experience a calmer version of ourselves, and one that’s able to make a greater impact and laugh a heck of a lot more, then this spiritual tip is how you’re going to do it.

Remember the distinction: life is happening for you vs. to you.

Onward powerful women,

Sarah

Read more from Sarah on her Conscious Working Mama blog.

Sarah Gibbons