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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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By Erin Erenberg, Totum Founder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Quinn Moss Photography

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

Connect with Mama Makers Collective on Instagram.



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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Photo by Cynthia Perez

Photo by Cynthia Perez

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

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


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

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


Totum Mum Crush

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

 
Answers to Your Questions About Working From Home and Hysterectomies
 
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How does one navigate life being a stay at home mom of two and trying to pursue passion projects / a work from home job?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Some additional helpful information about hysterectomies can be found here.

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

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

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

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

Love, Erin

 

Totum Mum Crush: Amy Eldon


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Totum Mum Crush

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

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

By Totum Founder, Erin Erenberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
Answers to Your Questions About Parenthood + Political Views
 
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Prior to having children, I was a Republican. Three children later, I find myself addicted to CNN and MSNBC, attending marches and wanting to have come-to-Jesus talks with friends who are Trump supporters. What caused the drastic political change?

Becoming a parent and raising children is one of the most profound and challenging life-changing experiences. It’s therefore not a surprise that you are finding that your political views have shifted following this transition. I’d be curious to hear more specifically about which aspects of your political beliefs have changed to better understand how this reflects your role as a parent.  

In their book The Politics of Parenthood, Causes and Consequences of the Politicization and Polarization of the American Family, Laurel Elder and Steven Greene write about how having and raising children greatly impacts one’s political priorities, attitudes, and behaviors. Using both quantitative and qualitative analyses, Elder and Greene’s results support the idea that time spent raising children has liberalizing political effects. Their analyses show that parents differ from their peers without children in terms of their political attitudes on many critical issues. 

To summarize, both parties have politicized parenthood and the family over the last several decades, but their messages about what pro-family and pro-parent policies should look like differ quite a bit. Laurel and Elder (2012) write the following:

The Republican party has promoted a wide array of social policies as ways to strengthen parental rights and help parents protect their children from illicit societal influences…In contrast, Democrats appealed to American parents by pledging more government regulation (e.g., mandating family leave policies, raising the minimum wage, implementing more environmental regulations, supporting a more generous social safety net) and endorsing policies supporting a broader array of lifestyle choices and family arrangements. (p. 4)

It would make sense that as a parent, you would place more importance on issues that are directly related to raising children such as funding for education and safety, protection, and security. It is more than likely that you are not alone in your experience of changing political beliefs as the transition to parenthood presents us with powerful and long-term changes that greatly impact our political priorities and beliefs. 

 

RESOURCES
Elder, L. & Greene, S. (2012). The politics of parenthood: Causes and consequences of the politicization and polarization of the American family. Albany, NY: State University of    New York press. 

 

 

 

 

 
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Answers to Your Questions About Postpartum
 
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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.

 
I Finally Understood What Being a Foster Parent Meant
 

By Cecy Hansen

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After learning that we would never be able to have a baby on our own, my husband and I made it a matter of prayer what to do next. We looked into agencies for adoption and with no answers, we decided to start looking into fostering to adopt. Chances were better through this method, or at least we thought so. We met with a group that fosters drug-exposed and medically fragile children, and we fell in love with all of the stories about these special needs children.

For months and months, I prayed for a baby, and even though we fostered for three years, none of the babies placed with us stayed. I was heartbroken. I was so attached to these kiddos that I would cry and cry every time I sent them home. I felt like it would never happen, and that I was ending up loving these precious children with no chances of adopting.  

But then, I had a placement of a little girl that called me “mommy.” She was so convinced that I was her mom, and her love was so sincere; it filled my heart with joy.  Sadly, she too had to move to a different placement, but this time I knew something was different. I had made her life better; I made her feel safe for once in her short life. She called me mommy because she trusted me, and she wanted her reality to be me. I finally understood what fostering meant: you, as a foster parent, will change that little kid’s life. You showed them what a family is like, what a loving environment feels like.  That was a turning point for me, because no matter how much I miss her, I know she will trust, she will love, and have the chance to be great at anything.  

I finally understood what fostering meant: you, as a foster parent, will change that little kid’s life.

Life as a foster parent will never be easy, but life as a biological parent isn’t easy either.  We go through the same ups and downs. I have to learn to be strong for these babies. I learn to rely on my husband and our amazing family and friends. I rejoice just like a biological parent would with their kid’s accomplishments. I have learned to see the world through the unconditional love these kids give me. I live by this saying: They give me the eyes to see the world as it is, and I give them the eyes to see how it could be. Being a mom of these amazing kids is my best accomplishment. 

Our dreams for adoption were definitely a challenge. As a military family facing the challenges of military relocations and deployments, it seemed like an impossible dream to us. But once we started the process, we knew this was the right way to grow our family.

I have learned to see the world through the unconditional love these kids give me.

From the time that we started the process, our whole family embraced our journey and stood behind us in every way. Although some of our family members live far away, it felt like they were right here supporting us. My husband was nervous at first, but after our first foster placement, he was confident that this was our calling. And my children from a previous relationship, ages 16 and 10, were also excited to welcome foster kids to our home. 

Approximately 18 months ago, we started fostering a little baby boy with special needs. My relationship with my children shifted to a different level when I was able to see how much compassion and love my children have to offer to him. They wanted to make sure that he was welcomed and felt like part of our family. My whole world evolved; I saw the most intimate emotion one can have as a parent.

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Our baby’s Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) through Voices for Children has been a pillar of our journey. She has followed him from his placement with us until now, helping us research, advocate, and find all of the services for our precious little boy. She goes above and beyond to make sure his special needs are met. We could not do it without our CASA by our side. 

My dear husband, baby’s social workers, and his CASA – we all work as a team. We all come together to plan for the best possible outcome for our baby boy, and I know he is growing stronger each day with such an amazing team dedicated to his well-being.

 
"Will I Be 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.

 
A Laywoman’s Guide to Breastfeeding Pro Tips
 

By Ellie Bergmann

Mom of 2 boys, social worker & addiction therapist, and wife to a cyclist & ski enthusiast (aka: nut)

Ellie Bergmann

What I’ve learned from opening up and chatting with other moms has been the gold of motherhood. Professionals like lactation consultants and postpartum doulas are angels. But I’ve gotta say: I’d be lost without the street smarts of other moms. So here’s a stream of consciousness account of some of my favorite pro tips learned in the (mother) hood.

With my first babe, breastfeeding and subsequent breast pumping went smoothly. I had enough milk, I didn’t experience pain, I had a few clogged ducts along the way, but all in all, it was manageable and enjoyable. I reached the one year goal I set and had to wean my supply. My son was over it within a day. My milk wasn’t. I talked to a few people and they suggested to take Sudafed for a few days, and it dried my milk right up. It was astonishing. This was after weeks of engorged pain and attempting to slowly pump less and less, all the while sporting a sexy cabbage leaf bra, even at work. None of this worked for me. But pop a few Sudafed? BAM, milk was gone.  That was my first pro tip.

What I’ve learned from opening up and chatting with other moms has been the gold of motherhood.

This time around with baby boy #2, I had a surplus of milk the first few months. Like, had-to-buy-a-deep-freezer-for-the-garage-in-order-to-store-all-the-milk, kind of surplus. Great right? Sure. Until baby started to sleep mostly thru the night (you hate me now and are about to stop reading, but hear me out) and my milk supply dipped. Suddenly at work I was pumping HALF of what he was consuming. I was NOT ready to stop or reduce breastfeeding. Baby was 7 months old. So again, I reached out to people. I talked to lactation consultants, I emailed lactation supplement people, I talked to moms, I talked to a dude at work who remembered his wife’s tips! I was desperate; I wouldn’t shut up. And again, I learned some tools that were revolutionary! And seemed so basic! How could I not have known these little tricks? Where is the universal manual that provided these gold nugget tips?  Am I the only one who doesn’t know how to pump?

One sneaky little tip was to hand express some milk upon finishing pumping. I was skeptical at this one. I just finished pumping? Why would I hand express an empty boob? Time waste…until I tried it and got probably 2 additional oz out. AFTER PUMPING. That was mind blowing. So not only getting more milk (BONUS) but also sending the message to your body to MAKE MORE MILK. So I’ve been doing that regularly and my milk supply is on the up!

Another tip related to that is to hand express about 10 mins AFTER pumping to mimic cluster feeding. I haven’t tried that but man, I now don’t doubt it.

Also, change out the little membranes on the valves of your pump. I hadn’t been doing that. Didn’t realize I needed to. They are the piece that help suction out milk.  Did that and noticed a difference. AMAZING.

Here are some other tips: make an appointment with your baby (AKA your pump) and put it on your calendar. If you have a shared calendar at work, first, my condolences. Second, call it a “hold” and keep the appointment like it’s with Michelle Obama. Space your sessions out about 2.5-3 hours apart, maybe even timing them to your baby’s feeds. As hard as it is to do, really try and shift out of your working day mentality by taking a few deep breaths with your eyes closed, thinking of or looking at photos of your baby, and/or facing away from your computer -- at least until letdown.

Make an appointment with your baby (AKA your pump) and put it on your calendar. Call it a “hold” and keep the appointment like it’s with Michelle Obama.

Speaking of letdown, the stimulation mode can be your best friend. It’s so tempting to skip ahead to the main event, but your baby always stimulates first. And they are the real experts.    

Don’t forget to eat, and drink, drink, drink. Bring a container you love to work, and try to drink 32 ounces or more of straight water. And eat healthy fats (avocados, walnuts, nut butters, Totum Treats [editor’s note, oopsie!] etc.). If you’ve found a lactation tea you like, put it in your insulated thermos with some almond milk and honey.  It’s your little secret stash.  

And then of course, the power pump. I hadn’t even heard that phrase with my first son. Probably because I was smooth sailin’ with a strong milk supply and a good eater. But with babe #2, I was told a few times by the pros to power pump. Here’s the deal with a power pump.  So after you pump a regular session, however long that is, you then take a 10 min break (those nipps need a rest, sis), then return and pump for 10 mins. Then stop for 10 mins. Then pump for 10 mins. And repeat. So you are pumping for 30 mins total over an hour. I initially did that for 3 days but was informed, again when I wouldn’t stop yapping about my reduction in milk supply, that to see a difference, do it for one week. 7 days. It’s brutal, but it’s WORKING .

Shift out of your working day mentality by taking a few deep breaths with your eyes closed, thinking of or looking at photos of your baby, and/or facing away from your computer — at least until letdown.

I’m mid-way thru this power pump jam. Wish me luck. Wish my milk supply luck. Here’s hoping I return to Dairy Queen status.  I am not ready to stop, and judging from baby boy reaching for my shirt, he’s not ready to stop either. And lest we forget how this baby refuses new things and takes MONTHS to come around; See: taking a bottle (went on hunger strike for 1.5 months when I returned to work) and baby food: gross. No way. Pass. The thought of an attempt to introduce formula to this baby seems impossible. Another reason to be diligent in increasing my milk supply. Hopefully some of these suggestions contain some helpful new info for the moms out there.  If so, pass it on.  Get it Bosses.

 
The Story Behind the First At-Home Breast Milk Test
 

by Dr. Stephanie Canale

Totum Women Dr. Stephanie Canale

When I was breastfeeding my second child, I had so much milk that my husband and I joked that we’d have to buy an extra freezer!  Supply was never my problem. But when I returned to my medical practice around 5 weeks after my second daughter’s birth, pumping in my office in between seeing patients, something changed. My daughter stopped gaining enough weight, and she even stopped pooping. I was panicked.

I had enough stress juggling my medical practice, being on call, and doing hospital work while also caring for my older child. Now this? And I was perplexed - even though my supply appeared to be sufficient, something must have been off with the quality of my milk. The scientist in me wanted to know exactly what was in my milk and what I could do to help my baby thrive.

Extensive literature searches revealed blanket statements about the overall benefits of breast milk, but no tools or tests existed to find measurable, objective data. I wanted to confirm that I was providing my child with the nutrients she needed, and more, and I wanted to be able to help my patients, too. In my medical practice, many mothers expressed the same concerns about the quality of their breast milk and frustration with the inability to uncover any information about it through lab testing. 

The scientist in me wanted to know exactly what was in my milk and what I could do to help my baby thrive.

Faced with these questions and an obvious need for answers, I decided to use the academic resources available to me, consult with my colleagues and develop a unique, comprehensive set of tests specifically for breast milk. I spent over a year working with top chemists to develop a simple, at-home breast milk test to empower moms with nutritional information such as fat and calories, vitamin and mineral content and even whether their breast milk contained potentially toxic substances such as arsenic or mercury.

I made the test available first to the patients in my practice, with astounding results. I learned that while we’re all conditioned to worry about our breast milk supply, it’s actually quality, not quantity that matters most. And many of the assumptions that we have about breast milk may be wrong - especially, that all breast milk content is the same.

One mom whose baby wasn’t gaining weight took the test and found that her breast milk was extremely low in fat and calories. A simple switch to a fuller fat diet helped her baby start gaining weight.

Another mom took our premium test and found elevated levels of arsenic in her breast milk, originating from regular consumption of rice at dinnertime, which was easily remedied by reducing her rice intake.

One mother was found to have high levels of mercury, and we discovered it was her fish oil supplements. We changed her to a plant-based supplement and the levels decreased within one week. Another mother was found to have high levels of mercury which was directly related to eating sardines and tuna. She stopped eating fish and her levels went undetectable. (For more on which fish to avoid while breastfeeding, check out these FDA guidelines.)

I learned that while we’re all conditioned to worry about our breast milk supply, it’s actually quality, not quantity that matters most.

Several moms found low levels of DHA in their milk, which has been proven to support a healthy nervous system and most important for brain development. Many moms stop taking their prenatal vitamins after their baby is born, some women simply forget, and some are not sure about what they should take. Everyone knows about prenatal vitamins but there are few “postnatal” vitamins available. I am asked almost on a daily basis “well now that I am breastfeeding what should I take”? After re-starting DHA supplements, most moms I treat see noticeable improvement in under two weeks.

Seeing the value of our tests to my patients, I made the tests available commercially earlier this year through Lactation Lab, a company founded by me and my husband Eric.

Totum Women Dr. Stephanie Canale

Back to the story of why my baby wasn’t gaining weight despite adequate supply, I started to supplement my breast milk with formula, despite knowing the benefits of breastfeeding and wanting to continue. My daughter did start to gain weight and the problem resolved best when she started on solid food. I’m happy to say she loves to eat!

That said, I do believe that the quality (and quantity) of many mothers’ milk drops when they go back to work for several reasons. In general, working moms are just plain busy. They have less time to eat well and drink enough water and have more stress overall. Many moms do witness a drop in supply, but it’s important to consider the overall quality of milk as well. It’s critical for working breastfeeding moms to remember to take care of themselves, because that will affect the health of their baby.

Each test that we complete through Lactation Labs is helping us to learn more about how moms can give their babies the best nutrition possible. Short term, it’s very gratifying to see a mother’s frustration transformed into confidence; to know that a simple and accessible test can open up new vitality for a newborn baby. Long term, I’m optimistic that patterns we see through the results of these tests will give way to new discoveries about what makes breast milk so powerful.

It is my hope that the scientific knowledge gained by this research will ensure that mothers everywhere raise the healthiest babies possible.

Moms wishing to try Lactation Lab’s breast milk testing kits can receive 20% off their order by using promo code TOTUM at checkout. (Offer valid through March 31, 2018) 

 
Adjusting To Life With A Baby After 20 Years Together
 

By Lindsey Staples

A Wife, Mommy and Career-Focused Wine Lover

Lindsey Staples

For the first 15 years of our marriage, we were the “if” we ever have kids, not the “when” we have kids kind of people. We have been together for 20 years and spent that time growing our careers and making memories while enjoying the freedom that being DINKs (dual income, no kids) provides! But once we decided that parenthood was for us, we tried and tried and I was eventually diagnosed with premature ovarian failure. Basically, I had no eggs and if, according to the doctor, I did have any, they were likely “no good.” We were devastated, to say the least.

I began questioning our decision to wait for so long. Did my career-focus stand in the way of us having a family? We got married when I was 20 years old – if we had started our family then, I would have had plenty of eggs, right? The guilt and regret was overwhelming. So overwhelming that my husband and I decided to put our house on the market, move to the beach in Southern California and completely reboot our lives (my firm has an office in LA, so I could transfer easily and the hubs owns his own business, so he can work from anywhere). I needed the beach. It’s a happy place for me. 

Did my career-focus stand in the way of us having a family? We got married when I was 20 years old – if we had started our family then, I would have had plenty of eggs, right?

In the meantime, we were referred to a fertility specialist and made an appointment even though we had told ourselves we were not willing to use medical intervention to conceive. Much to our surprise, the specialist disagreed with the diagnosis. And even more to our surprise, shock and awe actually, she did an ultrasound at that appointment and told us that I had an egg, prime and ready to be fertilized. She told us to go home and make a baby. I had no faith that it would work, but who were we to question our doctor’s orders? So make a baby we did and two weeks later, we got the answers to our prayers: a positive pregnancy test. Well, 5 positive pregnancy tests to be exact! We pulled our house off the market and Northern California became home again; the place where we would raise our family. 

When discussing starting a family, we promised ourselves that our marriage would always come first. We were committed to this baby not changing who we were as husband and wife. The reality is that our relationship as husband and wife did change. Seeing my husband love our daughter so deeply changed the way I look at him. I admire his commitment to being a dad; he is so natural at it. I am so blessed to have him as my partner in parenthood! Becoming parents has changed our marriage, which still comes first, but the love I have for him is so much deeper. Something I never thought was even possible.

Lindsey Staples

To be honest, I also didn’t want having a baby to change who I was as an individual either. In that vein, I was so naïve. The evening before my first day back to work I held our daughter and rocked her to sleep. With tears streaming down my face, I felt something I never thought possible: I felt like my daughter was enough, like I wanted to be a stay at home mom. Who had I become? I never understood how a child could be enough. Had I lost my sense of self since becoming a mother? I had always prided myself on my commitment to being an executive, my strong work ethic and my ability to travel the state, working long days while tirelessly keeping up with our busy social calendar. And now I was ready to throw in the towel on that. What had my daughter done to me?

I went to sleep that night and awoke the next morning to head to the office to begin construction on the build-out of my office, which had been put on hold while I was on leave. As I walked in, I was greeted by an office full of people who were happy to have me back and met with my construction crew to kick off our project. I felt fulfilled in a different way than I had been for the past two months. Not a better way, just a different way. I felt like I was right where I was meant to be. I knew then that I had indeed changed, but that I didn’t need to throw in the towel on my career, I just needed to find a balance.

Lindsey Staples

Fast forward nine months and I can say that motherhood is the most demanding job I’ve ever had, but also the most rewarding. My husband and I often joke that the first eight months were spent just keeping her alive. What does a newborn really need other than intermittent sleep, a little food, a lot of diaper changes and a ton of love? Nothing…that’s the answer…nothing! But now we are entering the fun zone! I love coming home from work each night and ditching my Director of Operations body armor and getting silly during bath time or participating in our family 3 piece band, where Juliet plays the tambourine, daddy plays the guitar and I become a world renowned maraca shaker! 

I felt fulfilled in a different way than I had been for the past two months. Not a better way, just a different way. I felt like I was right where I was meant to be.

I will forever be grateful that the stars aligned and we kept that appointment with the fertility specialist and that we followed doctor’s orders and my one good egg turned into light of our lives!

Lindsey Staples
 
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
 
I Couldn’t Forgive the Way Our Healthcare System Had Almost Failed Me
 

by Dr. Robin Fawcett

I am an American MD now practicing as a general practitioner in England with my own natural wellness business. I have an MA in the History of Medicine and I'm a member of the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine. You can find me on Facebook as The Essential GP.

Totum Woman Dr Robin Fawcett

I got pregnant during my second year of residency training. I waddled bravely through 80-hour work-weeks, determined to show my physician colleagues that pregnancy hadn’t made me weaker or slower. But then I received unprofessional advice from my obstetrician, and I began to question the integrity of our entire medical system.

Specifically, my OB made two errors when I was under her care for our first child, Henry. The first was at my 18 week ultrasound, which revealed two cystic structures in Henry's brain. They are harmless in themselves but can be an indication of a chromosome abnormality. The recommended management is to offer genetic counseling and potential amniocentesis, or do nothing. Instead, I was advised to have regular ultrasounds to monitor the cysts. It was simply the wrong advice. I knew enough of the medicine to realise it, so we said no.

In fact, and as a bit of an aside, there is an epidemic of unnecessary ultrasounds in US obstetrical practices that goes against medical advice. Often, OBs comply because patients enjoy the photos, and the practice can charge a lot for the ultrasounds. This is an area of enormous concern for me because more intervention and imaging may actually cause harm, and moms aren't fully informed or consented for this additional testing. It's unethical.

The second piece of unethical guidance came when we were given a handout written by the senior OB in the practice, a very well-respected man in our area, outlining why he strongly opposes natural childbirth. It was such an inflammatory and insulting letter; he compared natural birth to a farm animal giving birth in a barn. It took my breath away. I wasn't even thinking about a birth plan at that stage, but just knowing his bias and that I'd have a 33% chance of him being my OB at delivery made us choose to walk away.

Another factor was my research into what the primary C-section rates were for the OB practices in our area. From what I could tell, it was in the area of 35-40% for uncomplicated first time moms. The World Health Organization says it should be 10%. To me, that just means unnecessary harm to moms and babies. I'm sure it's based on malpractice concerns and defensive medicine, but that isn't an excuse for hurting people.

A dear friend reached out and offered me her own birth story with a totally different vision of childbirth; at 28 weeks, I switched my care to a hospital midwife team 30 miles away. Our son Henry was born after a beautiful, powerful, and unmedicated labor.

Any doctor should know that birthing a child is so much more than a physical process, but I was still unprepared for the emotional and spiritual aspects of new motherhood. When I returned to work at 7 weeks postpartum, I felt ashamed by the panic I felt about being separated from my baby. My new mother-self felt tender, not tough. And I couldn’t forgive the way our healthcare system had almost failed me, and my career ambitions and confidence collapsed.

My new mother-self felt tender, not tough. I couldn’t forgive the way our healthcare system had almost failed me, and my career ambitions and confidence collapsed.

I’m so grateful that motherhood led me to a different path. With the birth of my second son, I experienced how powerfully I could improve my resilience – and the health of our entire family – through good nutrition, gentle physical activity, emotional openness, and a connection with nature. My medical career is now focused on lifestyle medicine and natural wellness. I want all women to know their own incredible capacity for healing.

Empowerment can be uncomfortable, I’ve discovered. Owning our stories and taking charge of our health takes inquiry and courage. There are risks: we may be noticed – and confronted – by those who feel challenged by our freedom. But the invitation to greater wellness is right there in our bodies, and there has never been a better time to say YES.

Owning our stories and taking charge of our health takes inquiry and courage.

So never doubt the power of a nutritious meal, a walk among the trees, or a good laugh/cry with a friend. Most of all, please speak up when you don’t feel heard by your doctor. Listen to your instincts. Ask questions. Be heard. You are stronger than you know.

Dr Robin Fawcett
drfawcett@hotmail.com

 
Totum Stories: The Raw Deal
 
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Verkeya Holman

Victorious, Fighter, "With a giving spirit I hope that sharing my story will benefit others"



I knew no one who did not get pregnant naturally. Once again, I am the black sheep, oddball, anomaly.

My first pregnancy began with nothing but pure excitement, but ended at my first full prenatal appointment. At eight weeks and four days, in the merry month of May, I was told there was no heartbeat, after having heard a very strong heartbeat about two weeks prior. I was at my appointment, alone and scared and sad. My doctor had me go to the hospital to check again with superior equipment. Still, No Heartbeat! Pure silence. My husband, mother and father hugging me so tightly. I wanted to melt into the floor.

After this awful life tragedy, my doctor suggested to give it six months and if we, my husband and I, had not conceived to see a fertility specialist. 

We did not get pregnant. The Raw Deal and a multitude of exams. One of my Fallopian tubes was blocked, making getting pregnant more difficult. I had fibroids, very common in the African-American community. My fertility specialist sent me to a gynecological oncologist. Not only were they checking the fibroids, but looking for cancer. Thankfully no cancer, but I had endometriosis and the fibroids needed to be surgically removed. All of this before starting fertility treatment. I can't begin to tell you the mental and emotional anguish I experienced. Feeling less than a woman. Feeling defective. I was unable to do something that I was supposed to naturally be able to do and now I had even more hurdles to jump before I could get assistance to attempt to get pregnant again. I felt broken.   

Insurance companies dictate so many things. With fertility treatment, you have to do at least three rounds of IUI (intrauterine insemination) first before being allowed to do IVF (in vitro fertilization), even if your physician feels IVF is the best course of action for you. 

I experienced my second miscarriage on the last IUI try. I was devastated and feeling Raw. The only good news in this - it wasn’t an ectopic pregnancy.  My doctor asked if we'd like to do IUI a fourth time. My husband and I opted not to. 

IVF is an interesting process in the sense that your eggs are removed from your body and joined with sperm outside only to be implanted back into your body with the hope that they nestle in and the cells begin to multiply. We had two eggs implanted and only one survived. I went through 27 weeks of pregnancy, with no indication that anything was wrong. I felt good most days. Though I do have lupus, another hurdle for me. This pregnancy forced me to start taking medication because I began to have flare-ups. Since this, medication has become a staple in my daily routine. I also have the Sjogrens Syndrome trait and any child I carry has the potential to have heart block.

I did see my OB as I should and did all I needed to do and yet, a bad outcome. The Raw Deal. My son, Kaleb was Born Still on December 4, 2013. My heart aches - it felt like the world was crashing in all around me. Sometimes I sit and go over everything in my head trying to figure out what I did or did not do, how come I didn't know something was wrong and why I couldn't get this becoming a mom thing right. The worst feeling is to go to the hospital pregnant and come home empty handed.

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My husband and I decided we would try again. I was terrified because what if IVF didn't work, what if my kidneys started shutting down from the lupus and strain on my body, what if? There were so many variables. We decided to just go do it and tell no one. This time, because we had eggs stored, we only did half of the IVF process. My doctor only implanted one egg this time. He felt it was too risky to put in two considering my lupus. We were pregnant again and the egg split. I thought I'd get two babies, but only one survived. 

Sometimes I sit and go over everything in my head trying to figure out what I did or did not do, how come I didn’t know something was wrong and why I couldn’t get this becoming a mom thing right. 

My second long-term pregnancy was hard. Preeclampsia was a concern, ketones and protein in my urine, specialists, tests and extra fetal monitoring. Hospital stays during the holidays. I was so afraid to be excited. 

Finally, the day of my last appointment before my shower, I just knew I was about to be hospitalized. I begged my doctor to let me go to the shower. He had all reason to hospitalize me because I had both ketones and protein in my urine and had experienced preeclampsia in my previous pregnancy with Kaleb. He was kind enough to let me go home and skip bed rest in the hospital.

I was so afraid to be excited.

My shower was on a Saturday and I gave birth on the following Monday, March 23, 2015. During fetal monitoring, Kaiden's heart rate took a dip and I got sent to labor and delivery. I was so anxious. But when he got here, his premature self was making faces at me, like…I'm here, so now what?

I love Kaiden, he's got a big personality. I miss Kaleb and often wonder what he would be like. My husband and I both have siblings and I often feel like Kaiden has been cheated out of that experience. I just try to love on him as much as I can. We honor Kaleb's memory yearly on what would have been his birthday. We honor him at the Walk to End Lupus Now, every May. Kaleb is always part of who we are as a family.

The Raw Deal has been upgraded to...The Deal of a Lifetime. 

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The Pelvic Floor Demystified
 
Totum Women, Lauren Spahn

Lauren Spahn

Yoga Teacher, Birth Doula, Writer


Vagina. Privates. Yoni. Lady bits. Flower. Noony.

The list of words we use to refer to the pelvis goes on and on. Take a moment to consider the word you use in your vernacular. Now what exactly do you mean when using that word? Are you referring to the external genital organs such as the labia, mons pubis, and clitoral hood (the vulva)? Or are you referring to the elastic muscular canal that extends from the cervix to the vulva (the vagina)? What about the uterus, which has the remarkable capacity to double in size during menstruation? Or the 16 different layered muscles that make up the pelvic floor?

If we consider the true anatomy of the female reproductive system, none of these terms alone effectively encapsulates the beautiful complexity. Which is why, despite its lack of sexiness and pizazz, I have consciously shifted – in my life and work - from using the term “vagina” to embracing the term “pelvis.” For, the pelvis is the sacred home of all the elements that make us women. *That is NOT to say that if you were born with extra or without certain anatomy, have had the surgical removal of organs, or identify as transgender that you are not a woman. You are a woman. Real. Whole. You.

For, the pelvis is the sacred home of all the elements that make us women.

I’ve come to observe in my time as a doula and yoga instructor, that while many elements of our bodies feel foreign, the pelvic floor seems to take the cake. Yet it is also the root of so many conditions that ail women, particularly as we cross the threshold into motherhood. Incontinence – check. Prolapse – check. Vulvodynia – check. Vaginismus – check. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – check.  And the list goes on! If you’ve suffered from any of these, I want to assert that 1) you are not alone and 2) there is support available on all levels. If you don’t know what any of those strange words mean and don’t care to become acquainted, I encourage you to get to know your pelvic floor!

So exactly is the pelvic floor?  

The pelvic floor is comprised of 16 muscles in three different layers:

  1. Bulbocavernosus (known as the bulbospongiosis in males)

  2. Transverse Perineal

  3. Levator Ani (also known as the “Pelvic Diaphragm”)

You certainly don’t need to memorize those names, but what you do need to know is that each layer runs a different direction, creating a woven hammock in which the organs of the pelvis sit. Just as the diaphragm of our lungs billows wide and expands downward as we inhale, so does the pelvic floor. Upon exhalation, a healthy pelvic floor and diaphragm return to a neutral state almost parallel to the ground. Inviting this visualization with breath is a beautiful exercise to practice. Not only does it enhance our awareness of and connection to the pelvic floor, but it also serves to maintain a healthy range of motion for the muscles. Which leads me to my next point:

What makes a healthy pelvic floor?

To answer that question, we need to challenge the status quo of what defines a healthy muscle. Our culture often misinterprets strength and health. We assume that if our muscles are big and defined, that means we are strong and therefore healthy. Or, alternatively, we strive to elongate our muscles enough to be able to contort our legs into a pretzel, assuming that to be the epitome of health. But the reality is that those “big” muscles are simply short and contracted, while those “lean” muscles are elongated and lengthened. If all our muscles were only one or the other, our bodies would be in serious trouble. Just imagine your six pack abdominal muscles as short and contracted. Now think about how limited your breathing would be if those muscles couldn’t expand as you inhaled. Or consider how those shorter muscles create less space between your  ribs and hips, thus rounding your spine and rolling your shoulders forward (think hunchback).  

Our culture often misinterprets strength and health. We assume that if our muscles are big and defined, that means we are strong and therefore healthy.

Muscle health is, actually, elasticity. In other words, it’s the ability of a muscle to exert its full range of motion, from short and contracted to elongated and lengthened, according to use.

Let’s apply this to the muscles of the pelvic floor. When too toned or overly tight, those short and contracted (known as hypertonic) muscles can cause complications such as the constant need to urinate, irritable bowel syndrome, and painful intercourse. On the flip side, pelvic floor muscles that have no or low tone (known as hypotonic) remain lengthened and can result in the lack of urinary control with impact (like jumping or sneezing), prolapse of pelvic organs, or the passage of air through the vagina during intercourse. The reality is that many of us experience an array of these complications over the course of our lives, particularly during pregnancy and postpartum. Just as our bodies change over time, so do the muscles of our pelvic floor. In fact, sometimes the transverse perineal will be too toned while the levator ani has low tone - even though they’re woven together, they each have their own conditioning and, therefore, their own levels of elasticity.

Which leads us to our answer: A healthy pelvic floor is when each of the three layers of muscle can exert a full range of motion in accordance with the action of the body.

So how do you attain a healthy pelvic floor?

The first step is acquainting yourself with your pelvis and those ever-so-important pelvic floor muscles. Here are a few exercises for you to familiarize yourself with the vast world of your pelvis:

  1. Write the story of your pelvis - Documenting the journey of your pelvis to date is a beautiful tool of exploration and understanding. I invite you to write free form or answer any of the following questions as a prompt:

    • What is one word that you would use to describe your pelvis?

    • Is your pelvis a source of power, a source of vulnerability, or both?

    • What delights your pelvis (i.e. touch, a bubble bath, candles, music)? What frightens it (i.e. touch, strangers, childbirth, the mirror)?

    • When did you first touch your pelvis? When did you first see your pelvis? How did those experiences make you feel in the moment and how do they make you feel in retrospect?
       

  2. Breath work - As mentioned above, breath work helps to inform us about the health of many of our core muscles, including the pelvic floor. So here is an exercise for you to do once or daily:

    • Recline on your spine and find a comfortable position.

    • Place your left hand on your chest and your right hand on your belly.

    • Concentrate your breath in your chest; observe how your chest and left hand rise with each inhale and fall with each exhale.

    • Once you’ve found a rhythm to your breath in your chest, expand that breath from the chest into the belly; observe how both hands rise along with the chest and belly as you inhale and fall as you exhale.

    • Once you’ve found a rhythm to your breath in both your chest and belly, send each inhale into the chest, belly and pelvis. Just as the hands rise, feel the full expansion of your pelvis with each inhale. As you exhale, left the breath exit the pelvis, then the belly then the chest.
       

  3. Posture evaluation - Our posture tells us a lot about the natural resting state of the pelvic floor muscles, so I invite you to take inventory of your posture:

    • Stand with your feet hip width distance apart.

    • Place your hands on your hips, with all four fingers on the front side and your thumbs pointed towards the back. Now press your fingers down toward the earth and notice the tilt in your pelvis. In this position, the belly protrudes forward and the curve in the low back is exaggerated. In this position, the pelvic floor muscles are lengthened.

    • Place your hands on your hips, with the thumbs on the front side and all four fingers around back. Now press your fingers down toward the earth and notice the tilt in your pelvis. The belly is drawn in and the curve in the low back is neutralized. Just as the core and glut muscles are contracted, so are the muscles of the pelvic floor.

    • Apply these observations to your posture at different points throughout the day (i.e. when you’re standing in the kitchen, when you’re driving in the car, when you’re carrying a child on your hip, when you’re lounging on the couch) to understand the natural resting state of your pelvic floor muscles.

Whether you’re overwhelmed, excited, fearful, angry, or in awe by this information and/or by practicing these exercises, please don’t hesitate to share your experiences and reactions with me. I’m here as a part of Totum Women to hold space for you to feel heard, supported, and strong in all that you are: lspahn@gmail.com.

 

 

 
On the Eve of My Daughter's First Birthday
 
Totum Women

Evangeline Koslowsky

Brand-Builder, Mom to Lola, LA by way of Chicago, Food Network/HGTV/Amazon Prime Addict

She is almost one. I just ordered her a cake. I can’t believe how fast this has all gone. I never believed anyone when they said it would fly by—but now she is almost one, and I feel like everything is changing—again. I have just started to get used to being a “new mom”--and now it is time for her to be one. The baby phase officially over. I know it’s just a number, but it feels big and my emotions are mixed.

I was so scared before I met her that I wouldn’t be good enough for her at all of her stages—newborn, infant, baby—but we did it together.

I will soon be the mother to a toddler and I have no idea what that means. Will I still be able to hold her in my arms? Will she want me to sing her to sleep? Will we ever get these quiet times back where she just wants to sit on my lap? I know that my mind is spiraling, and I know things will be fine, but turning one just seems like such a huge milestone—and just something I never focused on. 

The one thing I try to keep telling myself is that I need to trust her. I was so scared before I met her that I wouldn’t be good enough for her at all of her stages—newborn, infant, baby—but we did it together. It never felt scary in the moment because we learned together—albeit sometimes it was insane and involved a lot of diapers, messes, tears—but we got through it and she taught me that not only was it not as bad as I thought—but I was good enough. I know I just need to keep reminding myself we will do this together too--these changes seem like they are going to all come overnight, but it's only overwhelming if I let it be overwhelming. I need to be present--and be excited--for both of us. As much as I would love time to slow down, I need to remind myself this is a happy time, and yes one year is behind us but we have so many ahead.

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I Wanted to Prove That I Could Nurse My Child With an Extra Chromosome
 
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Maria Jordan MacKeigan

Edmonton, Canada

Author of mommytor blog and A Princess Wish

When I was twenty weeks pregnant we found out our baby on the way had a heart defect; immediately after, we also found out she would be born with Down syndrome.

My world was literally shattered. I felt that our lives were about to change for the worse. We were told by the doctor who delivered the news to us that our baby wouldn’t be able to feed herself or clothe herself, that she would be a burden to society and more than likely end up in an institution. 

This mama’s heart was broken into a million pieces. We had been longing for a baby for quite some time now, and my daughter was begging for a sister by her side. We had tried to get pregnant but it had taken us more than nine months. Now this doctor was telling us our best choice would be to terminate our pregnancy. 

I didn’t want to read anything in regards to Down syndrome, so I stayed away from Google, but as the word spread that we would have a little one with Trisomy 21, people came out of the woodwork with “knowledge” and advice. 

I wasn’t thrilled to hear all the things my baby wouldn’t be able to do, including nursing. Some of the causes of having Down syndrome are low muscle tone, which would make it difficult to breastfeed according to all the stories I was hearing.

My first daughter nursed until she was a year old. I had every intention of nursing my second child even if it was six years later. 

When our Jordan Grace was born, she latched on pretty well, she was nursing like a pro and I had absolutely no concerns. The nurses on the other hand were doubting me and wanted to make sure the baby was getting enough milk. 

Some of the causes of having Down syndrome are low muscle tone, which would make it difficult to breastfeed according to all the stories I was hearing.

I was told I needed to pump and feed her with a bottle. I didn’t agree, but I felt I had to show them that she was indeed eating well. 

My stress level was beginning to rise as nurse after nurse would come in even after I had breastfed to tell me that I needed to pump and write down the amounts I was feeding her. I had to oblige or else they would not be able to release us. 

Two days later, we were released and sent home with some paperwork that would have to be completed. I needed to prove that the baby was eating. 

To be honest, there was so much stress in my life in those moments from the diagnoses to the feedings, that I hadn’t fully thought about how this was affecting the baby or me. I was successfully able to nurse for a few months, and then my milk supply stopped. I was still wanting to prove the professional world wrong, that I indeed could nurse my child with an extra chromosome. 

After a few days of tears, pain and suffering to feed my own baby naturally, my husband and I decided it was time to turn to formula. I feel the milk supply must have stopped after my body went through so much stress in not only trying prove I could feed her, but all the stress I had endured for weeks and weeks of mourning the child I thought I was having. 

I was still wanting to prove the professional world wrong, that I indeed could nurse my child with an extra chromosome. 

Turns out there are many children with Down syndrome who have successfully nursed. But I also believe that stress cannot help our bodies positively. I’m happy that I was able to feed my baby girl naturally for at least a few months. She got the most important nutrients during the start of her precious little life. 

Three years later, I can say with confidence that the doctor was wrong. Jordan Grace feeds herself, gets dressed, learns just like the others, just in her own time. She brings us incredible joy each day. She’s our dream come true in ways we never expected.