Edition Number 23 - LOVE YOURSELF FIRST
Hi Everyone,

Yep, that’s me. And my belly. I am miraculously, healthfully, and surprisingly seven months pregnant with a “rainbow” baby girl! Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays and I thought it was the right time to share this wonderful news with all of you.

Last year, at this time, I was recovering from my first (and only) round of IVF, swollen inside and out, devastated to learn on Valentine's Day itself that out of my 22 eggs, no embryo was “normal for transfer.” The year continued, and I carried on, and with each subsequent pregnancy and loss Kamuti and I decided to really let it go and surrender with joy, love and total faith that another baby might not be in our destiny after all. We released that narrative and were no longer attached to if, how and when she would come to us. (It was always a “she” in my mind.)

And then, because I’m still terrible at math, I counted my days incorrectly. In that tiny cosmic window last August she was conceived, from a place of total surrender. The day I found out I felt a wave of calm in my uterus, panic in my brain. But I always miscarry! My embryo will be chromosomally defective! I can’t go through another miscarriage! And yet, she persisted. And ever since then, a beautiful partnership has been brewing in my belly. I feel so in awe of what my body has been able to do and can not wait to meet her.

In the spirit of loving our miraculous bodies, no matter what they “do” or “don’t” do, and no matter what shape or size they might be for today, I’ve included an article on body positive parenting that offers some helpful reminders as I practice gratitude for my resilient body. I shared a last minute roundup of fun and easy V-Day gifts for the Littles; essential oils for you to try to get rid of that cough; suggestions to keep your iPhone data private; and an article on vision boarding, yes, seriously. I also shared a thoughtful piece from an English-slash-Canadian perspective on the incompatibilities of breastfeeding at work in the U.S; a link to view that oh-so-controversial Frida Mom ad which dared to show a postpartum woman and was banned by ABC; and a reminder to keep our friendships flexible when we embark on having babies, something I have to remember the farther down the path of motherhood I go.

I’ll end with a recent TBD Mama quote from the lovely Raquel Nowak, mother and founder of Matrescence Skin.  “I wish someone had told me that it was just as important to mother myself,” she shares, a wise message of self-love to carry in our hearts always. 
With lots of love,
If it takes a village to raise a healthy human then it takes a super “woke” village to raise one with positive body attitudes, awareness, and autonomy. Zoë Bisbing and Leslie Bloch, NYC-based adolescent eating disorder therapists, mothers of two, and co-founders of The Full Bloom Project, shared some fundamental ways with Mother Mag on how to be body-positive parents. Their suggestions resonated with me, while also reminding me to stay honest about my own, sometimes conflicted feelings about body, food and weight. You can read more in their book, “ABC Guide to Body Positivity Parenting,” but for now, here are some key takeaways to consider and implement:

Distance yourselves from diet culture with love:  While it’s perfectly fine to want to achieve a personal weight or body size goal, it’s essential to keep home a “body talk free zone.” Our children will undoubtedly see and hear all kinds of (mixed) messages about their bodies as they go about their school days navigating friendships, strangers and plenty of media. The idea is to provide a safe buffer zone where the focus is, as quaint as it may sound, on the inside being what really counts.

Health and weight are not equals:  While they’re not the same, we are programmed to assume that they are. “Losing weight” continues to be diet culture’s number one goal when a better arbiter of health would be to emphasize a new definition of health that makes space for different body sizes, BMIs, and shifts the focus toward mindful, balanced eating, building strength, and discovering a love for movement.

Embrace your child’s “genetic blueprint” : Body shapes and sizes are often informed by genetics and no amount of Pilates or bone broth will dramatically change that. Instead, focus on embracing the potential similarities and use that as a way to talk about our unique connections to each other and pride for where our bodies come from. 

Encourage intuitive, positive eating : Allow a child to develop their own “eating competence,” an ability to decide how much to eat and if they are actually hungry. Reinforce that kids can trust their own bodies, with guidance, and know how to self-regulate physical hunger.

Surround your family with people who support your body-positive parenting and set boundaries with those who don't: This can include caregivers, teachers, family, friends, and doctors who may not be the best person to message information to your kids about their bodies. A recommendation, for example, is to ask them to refrain from highlighting a “weight problem” in front of your child and instead talk with you. Then you can speak with your child directly about support and strategies. Lastly, if someone in your community hyper-focuses on weight loss, diet culture, or anything that feels body-negative, then tell them to respectfully share those ideas with someone else, like their therapist!
In a world where we glamorize, idealize and normalize something called football, where grown men otherwise are paid handsomely to attack each other, and half-time entertainment involves near naked (yet incredible!) ladies gyrating on stripper poles, it's both ironic and incensing that an ad depicting the reality of painful postpartum life, specifically a woman’s healing postpartum body, would be flatly rejected by ABC. Not surprising, given ABC’s parent company is Disney and advertising decisions are still mostly made by men who, by and large, have no interest in understanding or seeing the inner workings of vaginas especially ones that just pushed out life. 

The controversial ad in question comes from Frida Mom, a company specializing in much-needed postpartum recovery kits, and it didn’t even show anyone’s vagina. The ad alludes to the postpartum struggle without being explicit. We don’t actually see blood, torn flesh, feces, or any bodily fluid at all. Rather, the informative ad portrays a very sore and tired mother, ostensibly with a sore and tired vagina, who is struggling to get relief in the bathroom as her newborn cries in the background: something that happens on repeat for every mother in her fourth trimester.  

In truth, more vag was shown during the Superbowl which leaves me, and ostensibly many other women, with this cruel message: Superbowl Vag = good; acceptable viewing material; even family-friendly. Postpartum Vag = bad; inappropriate for TV; not suitable viewing for anyone really.

Herein lies an overarching problem. Women have bodies and are taught through various messages and mediums, explicit and implicit, NOT to actually embody, talk about, understand or support them. The majority of men don’t want to see women’s bodies in their functional entirety, many women don’t want to see them either, and childbirth is still perceived as “gross,” “offensive” and something that should happen to someone else’s…. vagina.  

Please watch this banned ad and ask yourself why in 2020 we can’t support women in their postpartum process by showing them what really happens to their bodies. I think back to my confused 12-year-old self reading “What’s Happening to Me?” (what seemed to be the only book on puberty) or more accurately, trying to decode a picture of an animated girl holding up her bra and staring at her boobs as the caption touched on menstruation. Friends: I thought periods came out of boobs because of this illustration! Point being: images matter. Visuals count. How else do we learn? How can a preteen girl learn about periods without actually understanding that there will be blood? Similarly, how can a postpartum mom help herself at a critically vulnerable time if she doesn’t know what a perineum is let alone how to heal it? So, without much further ado, here’s an article on Motherly with a link to view that “Big & Scary Banned Vagina Ad.”
The short answer is, yes, as in anything can be possible and women make impossible things work all the time under all kinds of challenging situations. But why should any woman, particularly a new mama, be so pressed to be Wonder Woman? Perhaps a more important question to ask is how companies can make it easier for women attempting to do both? Plenty of women have done both but at what expense?

This Guardian piece from a Canadian mother offers an interesting POV (both Canada and the UK are far more maternity friendly than the U.S.) that breaks down the burden, financially, of attempting to breastfeed in an office, full-time. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend all women breastfeed exclusively for a minimum of six months. Making it to five wasn't easy for me and I worked part-time, from home. The AAP further states, “Infant nutrition should be considered a public health issue and not only a lifestyle choice.” Translation: If you’re not breastfeeding then you’re making a dangerous choice for society. Ugh.  

What is most often overlooked in the breast-is-best doctrine is how the bar was set so damn high for women without implementing any of the critical support systems first at the federal, state and employer levels. There are minimal guidelines to ensure in-office breastfeeding can be safe, sanitary and scheduled. And let’s not forget the cost of a woman’s time. Estimates cite that on average a woman will spend at least 900 hours breastfeeding those first six months, or approx. 37 hours p/wk, the equivalent of a full time job. The reality of the time required to exclusively breastfeed is a strange omission from most cultural calculations and sends another message that a mother’s time is and should be free particularly when it comes to feeding society’s new batch of humans. 

In the U.S., the standard “solution” to the time crunch is to provide a new mama access to a breast pump but pumping is laborious, takes yet more time, and is only free when a woman has access to private health insurance (typically through a large employer.) Telling a new mom that a pump will allow her to work outside of the home full-time is akin to telling her to rub two sticks to make fire in order to make a nutritious dinner for her child dail y. The pump is no substitute for sufficient paid parental leave, period, something that 75% of women in the U.S. workforce still do not have.

While I don’t dispute the many merits of breastfeeding, I do think the system sets women up to struggle, “fail,” and yet again be unsupported in early motherhood. Thankfully, the “FED is best” mantra is gathering steam and more mamas are empowered to make feeding choices that work for their unique circumstances.
I don’t exactly read Country Living but I certainly peruse it on occasion for cute and inexpensive holiday gift ideas that I would never have encountered in Chelsea. So for your mini Valentines, consider these: A stuffed unicorn complete with birth certificate; mini Play-Dohs (what Karuna’s friends will get in lieu of candy); slime, a perennial favorite, in pink and shaped like a cupcake; chocolate video game players; foam paper airplanes; something called a Mini Mochi Squeezie that you don’t eat but squish to relieve stress; DIY princess wands and more. There’s also plenty of rose gold, my favorite, including a heart-shaped charger for those with devices, personalized heart necklaces and adjustable “love” bangles. I think I’m most excited about having a girl so we can share bangles one day!

I swear you’ll find something on this list for someone in your 10ish and under set. Plus, everything noted can be bought or overnighted via The Amazon. 
I am a big believer in manifestation, a deliberate process where thoughts eventually become things. It is akin to magical thinking but I have no problem with that and believe magic, as in the sublime and inexplicable, surrounds us all the time.

This was an interesting article in New York which speaks to the power of the vision board, something that might be seen by doubters as magical thinking in the pejorative sense, yet here makes a scientific case to do so in order to cultivate more financial clarity and abundance. While the most widely tested theory to get people to save and generate money is to increase financial education, actual results are mixed. Instead, it is our emotions that influence the outcome the most.  

A recent study published in the “Journal of Financial Planning” found that imbuing a sentimental object with intention, as in making a visual, or a board of visuals, to remind yourself of what you want to manifest in your life, actually works. It worked 78% better than facts and education alone. According to Brad Klontz, one of the study’s authors, “The point of the object is to conjure up imagery and emotions that are related to your savings goal, which usually involve people you care about, and then help bridge the gap between that future and your current life. There’s nothing more boring and less inspirational than a savings account.” 

Yuh-huh.  Nodding my head to that one as I begin to cut out images for my next vision board.
I am finally recovering from another horrible virus (not Corona!) that I would not wish on anyone. While essential oils aren’t medicine, per se, they are medicinal and often help me breathe better. Here are some good ones to try according to Valerie Oula, director of vibrational energy (actual title) at The Well , a new membership-based wellness club in NY and Kiara LeBlanc, the chief innovation & brand officer at Saje Natural Wellness , which sells essential oils.

  • Eucalyptus - An essential ingredient (also found in Vicks VapoRub) that helps loosen phlegm to ease congestion.
  • Tea tree - Great for clearing and supporting your breathing.
  • Cinnamon - Breathing in the scent may benefit the respiratory tract, protecting it against bacteria that can make you sick.
  • Rosemary - Anti-inflammatory effects can relax the muscles in your trachea and is often used in traditional Chinese medicine.
  • Nutmeg - Chock-full of anti-inflammatory compounds called monoterpenes that might help ease bronchitis.
  • Frankincense - This aromatic oil has been used for centuries to treat illness and may contain antibacterial compounds. At minimum, it smells divine.

Missing from this Refinery 29 list is oregano oil, a game changer for me, and good old honey, which is often recommended instead of OTC cough syrups for kids (but never babies.) Just remember to diffuse or dilute an essential oil unless otherwise stated—when applied incorrectly they can cause more harm than good! 
Our iPhones hold more personal data than our homes and memories combined. I can’t even remember if I have a “secondary password” let alone what it is but my iPhone sure does! Do you remember what it felt like not to carry a tracking device all day long? 

I vaguely recall that there was a time, long, long ago, when my first cell phone was the size of a blender, sending a text on a Razr was like typing Morse code, and everyone on a Bluetooth headset looked like they were nutjobs talking to themselves. Those cell-free days are long gone so if they continue to suck us dry of attention and personal data, let’s implement whatever safeties we can, together as families, to protect our privacy. 

Apple has offered some very basic suggestions (which might seem suspect coming from the main culprit) courtesy of Bustle. In brief, try the following: enable Face ID and Fingerprint Touch ID; turn on two-factor authentication for more sensitive items like docs and photos; know which apps are following your location and turn that shite off!; and the same goes for checking “permission” settings for each app (I love how companies still call this “permission” when it’s not explicitly asked for up front.) 

If you want to manage your data and privacy settings with Apple directly, you can go to privacy.apple.com and find out what strange and detailed information Apple is collecting from you. I haven’t braved this one yet (knowledge is power but can also be scary) but as part of an overall commitment to my “digital health,“ I will, one day!
So much changes after having a child and the focus on postpartum life tends to be, understandably, on a woman’s physical recovery. Thankfully, there’s more conversation around a mama’s overall emotional wellbeing, even professional, but what about the social part? We don’t talk very much about that and it’s important that we do.

The below article in The Atlantic explores the prevalence of loneliness in early parenthood, particularly in the first year of parenting. According to the charity, Action for Children, 68% of 2,000 parents surveyed felt “cut off” from friends, colleagues, and family after the birth of a child. The numbers, not surprisingly, were higher for mothers given they are typically the primary everything -givers. Isolation, alienation, and fatigue typically combine to uproot just about everything, including friendships. What once upon a childless time was a simple invite to dinner becomes a litany of logistics to navigate for a new parent—not the least of which is the evening part which, last time I checked, is still when most normal dinners take place. 

Some friendships survive this transitional time, others fade away. For me, there's been ghosting with some friendships with childless friends while other ones have only strengthened. The commonly held assumptions that I will grow closer to women just because they’re also moms, or moms with a child the same age as mine, have proven false again and again. After all, if we didn’t have anything in common before becoming moms we probably won’t have much in common after. At the same time, some of my deepest friendships are now with women navigating motherhood like me.

The author sums it up well, “I have to work harder than I did pre-kids to make my old friendships work. For now, my benchmark for social fulfillment isn’t a state of pre-child “normalcy,” but a constant negotiation: I do my best to make room for the friendships that matter to me while accepting that I—at least occasionally—might have to comply with my child’s dubious taste in playmates.” 

Occasionally being the operative word.