The Tooth Fairy


“Okay, Mommy – I’m going to ask you a question, because I know that parents don’t lie.”

Thing Four said this to me yesterday afternoon while standing in our kitchen, home early from school with his first-of-the-season cold. I tried to distract him by offering him a snack. But, he would not be deterred.

“I’m not hungry! I need you to answer this question, because I know you won’t lie to me.”

I knew what was coming… How? He’s my fourth kid, he lost his tooth in the middle of math class yesterday, and he was jumping up and down about the dollar that he found under his pillow before he headed off to school in the morning. I got myself ready.

“Okay. What’s your question?”

“Are you the Tooth Fairy?”

I tried to stall. “Why are you asking me that?

“Because a big kid at school today said that there’s no such thing as a Tooth Fairy and that it’s just the parents. I want to know if he’s right or not.”

The moment of truth. Ugh. I’ve walked down this path before, three times already. But with Things One, Two & Three they hadn’t posed the “Is (fill in the blank) real? Or is it just you and Daddy?” question until they were ten years old. Ten! In this day and age, I think ten might be pushing it when it comes to still believing in the magic of childhood and I was so happy that they did! Because, honestly, I still want to believe. But when I answered their questions, it was only to confirm what they already knew. Each of them expressed sadness – they were hoping against hope that magic was still real – but none of them were at all surprised.

As my tender-hearted, sweet and sensitive seven-year old boy stood before me with complete trust that I was going to confirm what he knew without question – that the Tooth Fairy was in fact very real – my heart was aching for him. The words, “Too soon! Too soon!” kept echoing in my head. He noticed my pause and asked again, “Are you the Tooth Fairy?”

“Are you really wanting the answer to that question right now?” This has been my go-to response for the older three on so many different topics over the years. I feel like it gives my kids an out if they aren’t really ready to hear the answer. And sometimes, my question stops them from going any further. My little guy’s smile started to falter and his bottom lip quivered a bit, but he still said, “Yes.”

When I told him that it was his Daddy who did the work of the Tooth Fairy his face crumpled and he started to cry. In that moment, I wanted nothing more than to find the older kid who’d given him a hard time at school earlier in the day, teasing him about still believing in the Tooth Fairy – and wring his little neck.

Instantly, I was transported back to the day I was five years old – FIVE! – and my older brothers, ages eleven and thirteen at the time sat me down and told me that none of it was real. They laid it all out – and I bawled my eyes out.

I decided to do my best to soften this moment for my little guy and asked if I could hold him in my lap and try to explain.

“I don’t ever want you to feel foolish or that you’ve been tricked. I don’t want you to think that we’ve lied to you.”

“But you DID lie to me! When I asked you in the past if if the Tooth Fairy was real, you always said yes!”

“Ah, but the Tooth Fairy IS real – your Daddy’s real, isn’t he?” (A loophole, I know – but I was needing to think fast…) “You could think of him as being the hands and feet of the Tooth Fairy. And the story of the Tooth Fairy been told forever! Longer than even when I was a little kid!” (That always makes them understand the passage of time. My kids think I’m ancient!) “I’d like to think that maybe the story started because somebody’s kid lost their tooth, it freaked them out, and the parents told them about the Tooth Fairy coming to take the tooth and leaving them a gift in exchange to make it all less scary. To make it more exciting and magical! It was never done to be mean-spirited or hurtful. Are you angry with me?”

“I’m angry that I ever believed in the first place,” he mumbled in between sobs.

“But didn’t believing in the magic of the Tooth Fairy make it special for you?”

“Yeah –  but it wasn’t real.”

“But the real magic is that your Daddy and me and all of your siblings -” I began, but he cut me off.

“Wait! Elisa, Ale and Lulu know there isn’t a Tooth Fairy?” a new round of tears coming down his sweet, little cheeks. “I’m the only one in this family who didn’t know?!”

And I was again transported back in time to what I remember feeling when I found out: a weird mix of wanting to fiercely believe that magic was absolutely real, wanting to remain young and innocent – and being utterly despondent that I wasn’t as grown-up and mature as my older siblings, feeling foolish for not realizing that it was all pretend.

“You know, each one of your siblings asked me the same question you just did, only they didn’t ask until they were about ten years old. Asking now, when you’re only seven makes it a lot harder on you. But you asked me to tell you the truth. So, I did. I’m so sorry you’re sad. But the magic of all of us wanting to create special excitement for you as you’re growing up, the fact that we all wanted to keep this alive for you is still very, very real. And, you have to admit – it’s kind of magical that you go to bed with a tooth under your pillow and when you wake up – it’s gone and there’s a dollar bill in it’s place!”

He wasn’t really having any of it at the moment. I knew that I just needed to love him up and hold the space for him and his emotions. And that I also needed to figure out how to not ruin every other bit of magic still left. Not yet. “Too soon!”

“Well, what about…” he trailed off.

I responded quickly, “Listen, magic is real as long as you want to continue to believe in it.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, your fourteen year old brother just lost a tooth last year, right?”


“Well, he put his tooth under his pillow and the next morning what did he find?”

“A dollar.”

“See? The magic still works as long as you believe in it. But if you’re ready to stop believing in the Tooth Fairy – the magic stops.”

Did I mention my kid is smart? He got it immediately and answered, “Well, I still believe in the magic  – ALL of it.”

“Then it will still happen! Your Daddy will continue to be the hands and feet of the Tooth Fairy and when you lose a tooth and put it under your pillow, magically, a dollar will be there when you wake up.”

This was not the end of the conversation, of course. We hashed this out for at least another 30 minutes. He had loads of questions, but was quick to only ask those he felt ready to hear answers to. He needed to ask his Dad what he did with all those teeth over the years. He wanted to be the one to let his older siblings know that he knew. He had to figure out why some older kids kept the magic alive, and others felt the need to crush it.

He woke up this morning and climbed into bed between us and announced. “I’m still sad about all of this, you know.” I know, me too buddy, me too. But I still choose to believe. I choose to believe that the magic is not that a little fairy, (or in Puerto Rican tradition, a little mouse) picks up your lost tooth and leaves a gift in exchange. I choose to believe that the real magic lies in the desire to make this world with all of it’s harsh realities a little softer around the edges – to sustain just a bit of wonder in our minds and hearts for as long as possible.

I don’t know if you tell your kids that the Tooth Fairy is real or not. This isn’t supposed to be a “how-to” or “I do it like this” kind of post. Just one Momma’s way of finding her way with her littles about the big and not so big stuff of everyday living. And hoping that the decisions I’ve made in how I choose to speak to my children about magic and wonder keep these things alive in their minds and hearts for as long as they choose to believe.

Our world needs a little magic and wonder. Maybe now more than ever before.

ICEA Conference 2016


I just got back from the annual ICEA (International Childbirth Educator’s Association) Conference in Denver, Colorado. I don’t get to go every year, but I’d like to! These educational conferences are invaluable in keeping me current. Plus I love networking with other passionate-about-all-things-pregnancy-birth-and-parenting professionals! And snagging a boatload of my required continuing education credits for recertification is a nice perk.

This year, I was not just an attendee, but also a presenter. My breakout session, “Birth Plans: Helpful or Harmful?” went really well and the preliminary evaluations look good. I exchanged lots of business cards for what I hope will yield future collaborations. The other sessions that I attended were excellent and at the end of this post there’s a shout-out to some of the amazing women behind the presentations I was lucky enough to attend. They are doing great work in the field of maternal-fetal health and wellness.

But for this post, I want to highlight something that I saw as a really wonderful, positive, and hopefully continuing trend: a small but enthusiastic group of young, energetic Millennials attended this conference. These are young women, choosing to become Childbirth Educators in the digital age, who understand the importance of face-to-face, community building, peer-to-peer education that can really only happen in person. It’s just not the same via the Almighty Internet.

Sometimes I wonder how much longer I’ll remain relevant in this field, or even, how much longer the field of childbirth education will exist. It’s sad and scary to think about a time when I’ll be “too old” to teach classes, or worse – a time when expectant parents will just stop coming altogether:

“We can read about it on the Internet!”

“There’s so many YouTube births out there, we don’t need to take a class…”

“I’ve written my Birth Plan – what else do I need?”

Today’s expectant parents need connection – it’s a hunger that they might not even be fully conscious of, a product of this time when a sense of community is linked to how many friends “like” their posts, or how many “followers” they have. In the months and weeks prior to becoming a family, expectant parents need real connection:

Real connection with their childbirth educator who can provide evidence-based, unbiased information and encourage them to become truly informed consumers and advocates for themselves, their babies and their births.

Real connection with a group of people who are experiencing the same emotions and feelings of vulnerability. These are people who will not trivialize or sensationalize those feelings. They get it.

Real connection with one another as a couple, devoting time and energy to focus on each other and their baby and to learn as much as they can about the powerful transformation that the birth experience can offer.

It fills me with hope to realize that there are women who represent the age demographic of the Mommas in my classes, just entering into this field. That there are women who still get the importance of continuing to teach these classes to their peers.

I’m considered the Lead Educator at the places where I work – which means I do the mentoring of new educators. And I love it! I’m always trying to recruit potential newbies from my classes. If I see a Momma that has a certain twinkle in her eye, I try to connect with her so I can plant the seed of becoming a Childbirth Educator someday.

But as Lead Educator, I know that the classes we offer have to be nothing short of amazing. They can’t be fine. They can’t be good. They have to be classes that are an incredible value to today’s parents – not just in terms of money, but in terms of our most precious commodity – time.

When half of the class is wishing they were in their PJs, eating ice cream and binging on Netflix, and the other half of the class comes kicking and screaming because they think it’s going to be “All about HER!” – that’s a tough crowd. We have been charged with making our classes engaging, fun and entertaining. Oh, yeah, and don’t forget –  they need to learn a ton, as well!

It’s not an easy job. But none of the really important jobs ever are. Those of us working in this field know the potential that birth has to either positively or negatively affect the laboring woman’s self-identity, self-confidence, relationship with her baby, her partner and herself – for the rest of her life. We get it. But does this generation get it?

Well, this past week I got to see a sample of women from this generation taking notes, asking questions, learning from those who’ve gone before them, soaking it all up – showing me in words and actions, that yes indeed, they do get it.

And that’s good news for us all.

*I’m always, always trying to recruit younger women to do this work. If you’ve ever thought, “I wonder what’s involved in becoming a Childbirth Educator…” please, contact me – I’d love to talk with you about next steps.

And as promised, here are some amazing women doing some incredible things in the world of birth. Please check them out!

Jennie Joseph – is working to change what happens in materno-toxic zones to help reduce pre-term birth, low birth weight babies, and other complications that women of color experience at higher rates than their white counterparts.

Barbara Harper – travels the globe with the mission of making waterbirth an available option for all women.

Amy Rebekah Chavez – I’ll let you read all about who she is and what she does, but this woman is rad and she’s got the science and education to back up her work around trauma and healing.

Elizabeth Petrucelli – recognizes the importance of discussing unexpected outcomes with the families that attend her classes and this is a message that resonates with me for sure.

Aynsley Babinski & Pam Barnes-Palty – understand the need for birth workers to take part in self-care so that they can better address the needs and concerns of the families that they work with.

Colleen Weeks – shares from her personal experience in the field for 35+ years, how to continue to grow as an educator over the arc of your career and how to support our families when they’re hurting.

Amy Haderer-Swagman – I have to highlight this Momma-artist who was one of many great vendors from the conference, who made such gorgeous mandala birth art necklaces that I bought two of them!

This is not meant to be an exclusionary list – I was unable to attend all of the sessions that were available and I didn’t get to attend the last day at all, so my apologies to all of the other fantastic presenters who I know put as much care and attention into their presentations as I did. If you check out this ICEA Conference page, you can read more about these other wonderful women and find out more about the goodness they’re bringing into the world of birth.

All The Single Ladies (And Gentlemen)


This is a shout-out to any Mommas or Poppas out there who are doing this thing, parenting, on their own.  

By themselves.

I’ve been single parenting my four kiddos for the past week (with an entire village of helpers at the ready, mind you!) as my husband sat in a hospital bed with a bowel obstruction from a previous surgery from twenty years ago. It has been a challenge to say the least…

The hospital is a 25-minute drive from our house (if there’s no traffic) and for most of the week, I was dropping off the kids to school, then driving out to spend the day with my husband, then driving back to do the school pick-up, take them to their various activities, have dinner with them and then head back out to the hospital after bedtime to hang with my husband until passing out at home between 11 and 12 at night – only to get up and do it all over again.

There have been so many wonderful offers of help – food at the ready, and many, many people willing to shuffle kids from one place to the next. But as many of you will understand, at some point it’s just easier on me and the kids if I’m there to meet them at the end of their day, reassure them that their Dad is going to be okay, and try to bring a bit of normalcy back into their lives when everything else seems so topsy-turvy. When I texted a friend to exclaim that I didn’t know how single parents did it, she reminded me that this past week carried with it the added stress of having an ill spouse who’s in the hospital. And while that is true…

Honestly, it gave me so much more appreciation for all of you who are doing such intense, hard and important work on your own. I’ve written about it here. At least I have someone (laid up or not!) who gets how hard it is to raise children, appreciates my efforts and tells me I’m doing a good job – especially on those days when I’m certain I won’t be winning any parenting awards.

I’d write about the latest evidence for not winning that award right here, but Things One, Two, Three & Four wouldn’t appreciate it very much! Suffice it to say, that my children have been feeling the strain of this past week as much as I have. But I had nothing left to give them when they needed it. I was, shall we say, less than compassionate.

And although I didn’t actually say this, my thoughts during the various meltdowns that were happening all around me over the past couple of days were, “Are you effing kidding me right now? Take whatever stress you’re feeling and multiply it by five and you’ll be approaching where I am right now…” I’m not proud of this reaction. At all. But it’s real, it’s honest, and it’s only a tiny little fraction of what my single parenting heroes go through on a daily, no-real-end-in-sight, basis.

I wanted/needed an attitude adjustment as I was leaving the hospital last night, as things were not looking good and the possibility of surgery was beginning to look like a reality – which would mean another full week of hospital living for my husband, and another full week of single-stressed-out-parenting for me.

I got that attitude adjustment by remembering and honoring all those who single parent Every.Damn.Day, with or without the added stressors of life that inevitably happen to each of us from time to time. I have renewed respect for all of you who are doing this work on your own. I honestly don’t know how you do it – or do it as well as you do. You’re amazing! Keep up the good work and please let me help you out every once in awhile. Because I get it, I really do. At least I get it a little bit more than I did a week ago…

If you are single parenting, where do you go to find support? Do you think those around you actually “get it” – how hard you work every day, all day, to do this important work of parenting? What do you wish those of us who have a co-parent knew about your experience? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

PS: It appears as if the particular stressor that has happened to our family this week might be about to end. Overnight, a little miracle occurred and it appears as if my husband will be able to avoid surgery. He might even be home before the weekend is out. Thanks to all who have been supporting our family this past week. All of us were less stressed than we would have been without you!

And, given the title of this post, readers will expect this: A little music from Queen B to get your Friday off to a good start!

Tell Me What You Want – What You Really, Really Want


So for the past two years, I’ve taken part in the Write 31 Days project – in fact, it’s how I really got my start as a blogger. Because, “Go Big or Go Home!” seems to be a personal motto of mine. The deal is that you commit to writing and publishing a blog post every day for the month of October!

It was great way for me to get into a regular, daily writing practice – but it’s a little grueling, I’m not going to lie. There were a few times in year #1 that I hit the publish button at 11:59 pm – just barely making it under the wire to be counted for the day. Year #2 was much more organized and much more specific – I wrote all about the 4th Trimester, those first three months home with a newborn. It was great to have more of a particular focus and I really enjoyed writing about this part of the pregnancy, birth and parenting picture that gets short shrift.

Well, here it is September 30th and the Write 31 Days project begins anew tomorrow. And historically (can I use historically when I’m really only going back two years?) this has been the day that I’ve announced: “I’m starting tomorrow and here’s my topic!”

But I’m not doing it this year.

I’m a little bit saddened by this, but also proud of myself for recognizing that this year, with everything that’s going on in my personal and professional life, it just doesn’t make much sense for me to jump on board again. This is not an easy thing for me to say no to… In fact, I have a hard time saying no to lots of things. It’s not in my nature – I tend to not only say yes, but to scream it from the top of my lungs!

This can be both a blessing and a curse.

It’s a blessing because some of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life have been a result of me saying yes: Climb a mountain? YES! Go Skydiving? YES! Be the “hood ornament” on the raft in Class 4 rapids? YES! Walk a marathon? YES! Write a book? YES! Be one of the chairs for the school auction? YES!

It’s a curse, because I tend to say yes before I realize fully what I’ve committed myself to!

Climbing a mountain is haaaard work, people! Who knew it would take eight hours and that even my eyelashes would ache the next day? (Everyone else who’s ever actually trained to climb a mountain knows this, that’s who!) How often does the one-way speaker go out on the helmet you’re wearing as you let go of the plane 3,000 feet up in the air for your first solo jump? (Not very often. But it’ll scare the crap out of you, that’s for sure! I can attest to that!) If I sit in the front of the raft as the “hood ornament” for extra weight, I won’t have to paddle. Ohhhhh, I might fall out because of the wall of water that I’ll be the first to encounter – no wonder nobody else raised their hand. How long can it take to train for a marathon? I mean, we’ll be walking it – not running it. Oops – didn’t realize that our training walks would take 4+ hours on the weekend. It doesn’t take that long to write a crappy book. But if you want to write one that’s actually worth reading? Well, that’s a different story. So is the fact that as you get farther into the telling of said story, the focus gets more refined and the 70K words you’ve already written need to be rewritten. Who says that having four kids in four different schools this year and chairing an auction is a dumb idea? (Everyone. Absolutely. Every. Single. Person.)

You see? I’m a “Let’s DO this!” kinda gal and I leap before I look a lot of the time. I don’t have any regrets – for real – but that’s why this decision to not bust out another 31 days of writing is both hard for me, and smart of me. I’m feeling a teensy bit more mature than I was feeling this time last week as I was trying to figure out what the focus was going to be for year #3. Nope. Not going to do it.

Instead, I want to toss this back to you, my readers, and ask if there’s anything that you wish I would write more about or maybe write about for the first time. I’ve published 136 posts (137, if we count this one) and they’ve been all over the map about pregnancy, birth, parenting, couples relationship, sex, the 4th Trimester, partners, and birth stories (the links here are to a few of my personal favorites from each category…) What else would you like me to explore within those subjects, or outside of them?

I’ve kept my posts primarily focused on the experience of pregnancy, birth and parenting of young children, newborns in fact. But I have a 17 year old girl, a 14 year old boy, an 11 year old girl, and a 7 year old boy (hence the four kids in four different schools…). I can talk about what it is to parent older kiddos, the chaos that I asked for and usually embrace as a Momma to so many, the life-work-creativity balance of trying to do all that I’m wanting to do in these three realms and what that messiness looks like (because it is mess-sy, my friends!), maintaining a loving relationship of 20+ years, what is means to be in conflict with the age that my driver’s license says I am vs what I feel like on the inside… Oh, there’s lots of things I could write about!

But I really want to stop and listen to what my readers are wanting. How can I make this blog more useful to you? What can I write more – or less – of that would speak to you and the people you know about this experience of being human? I would love to hear from you about this. I really do want to know what you want, what you really, really want.

And now, for your listening pleasure, an ear worm from the late 90s, Wannabe by The Spice Girls. I guarantee you’ll be singing this one all weekend long. You’re welcome.

The Power of the Mind/Body Connection


Okay… Here’s the deal. It’s probably going to take you a long time to have your baby. Hours and hours and hours. Longer than you hope it will take. Way longer than you expect it will take. Way, way longer than you think it should take.

Don’t kill the messenger – I’m just trying to help you realize something: Giving birth is a B.F.D. It’s a once (maybe more) in a lifetime opportunity where you get to bring a brand new human into being. Through your body. When I put it into those terms, does it start to make sense how it might take a little while?

We live in an age where if our download from Netflix is not complete in less than three minutes, we’re either screaming at our screens, or switching to another TV show! Information – all of it – is available at the touch of a button! We’ve become accustomed to life happening at the speed of Now! and we just don’t have much collective patience anymore for the things that really count. And when anything – even giving birth – takes longer than we think it should, we freak out!

And therein lies the problem: not that birth might take a long time, but that we freak out when it does.

When we’re in freak out mode over something that we cannot control (like birth, for instance) we take a process that is physical in nature and exquisitely designed to work just about every single time, and move it out of our body and up into our brain. I hate to state the obvious here, but babies don’t come out of our brains – they come out of our bodies. The brain needs to stay out of the whole process. But that’s not how the brain likes to do business.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the brain! I love how it acts like it knows everything! I love how it interacts and reacts to outside stimuli. I love how it tries to tell our bodies a story that may or may not even be true. I love to watch how our bodies respond to that story. I really do love the complex interconnectedness of the brain and the body. The mind/body connection is endlessly fascinating to me!

Had I held this same fascination when I was pregnant 7+ years ago I would have offered myself up to the neurobiological study of the pregnancy brain and its effects on the body from conception through the end of the 4th Trimester! What happens during this time is incredible and we know very little about it, really. But here’s what we know about how it works when we’re giving birth.

The uterus is made of smooth muscle tissue, the same kind of muscle tissue that comes in other pre-programmed organs like the esophagus and the stomach. These are two organs that don’t ever need to be told what to do. When you eat a sandwich, you don’t have to tell your esophagus to begin to contract and break down the bites of food into smaller bits and then move them down into your stomach. Once there, you’re not required to tell your stomach to release acid and begin to further break down food into the nutrients that are kept for your body and the waste products that are to be expelled.

Your body just does it – BECAUSE IT ALREADY KNOWS HOW.

The same is true for your uterus. It’s designed to hold your growing baby – up to a point. Then it’s designed to begin to contract and bring your baby down the birth canal and into this world. Without a whole lot of input from your brain, I might add.

When a Momma is calm, cool and collected – meaning her brain has been lulled into a state where it’s either pleasantly neutral or otherwise distracted and decidedly not in freak out mode – she creates the perfect environment for two hormones called Oxytocin and Endorphins to work their magic during birth. Together, they are unstoppable! Oxytocin fuels the contractions and keeps the contractions going, while the body’s natural pain killers, Endorphins, increase over time to help the birthing woman meet the challenges of her labor. They’re like two gorgeous dance partners, stepping in perfect unison with each other, anticipating each other’s next move.

When our birth doesn’t go according to plan: labor is too early or too late, too long or too short, too complicated, too painful – basically, not what our brain expected it to be… Our brain starts to tell our body a story. And it’s usually not a good one:

“Attention body! Listen up! This is not a drill! This is an emergency! There’s no way I’m ever going to survive birth! Somebody needs to make it stop! And stop now! I’m scared! I’m not in complete control! And I don’t know what’s happening to me!”

Such a negative story! And, unfortunately, the body listens to every single word. The body starts to buy into this story. It starts to believe what the brain is saying. And the body starts to react.

When our brain stages a birth coup, our body pays the price because everything we wish was moving faster can’t help but begin to slow down. When the brain is in freak out mode, there’s another hormone, called Adrenalin, that starts to seriously screw up the love fest going on between those two other hormones – Oxytocin & Endorphins.

When the body reacts to the negative story our brain is telling, a ton of Adrenalin gets released into our bloodstream. Adrenalin is like the drunk guy at a frat party who jumps in between Oxytocin and Endorphins and whisper-shout-slurs: “Hey, ken I dance with u guys? I like to dance! Watch my muufs – I’m umblieve, unbelief… I’m rilly, rilly good.”

Oxytocin and Endorphins want absolutely nothing to do with this guy, Adrenalin. They run away in opposite directions, leaving the confused body to wonder, “What the hell?” That awesome blood flow and oxygen that had been pumping into the uterus to help it do its thing, seems to shut down almost completely – to the point of the uterus not being able to function very well.

And then, what story does the brain try to tell the body?

“See what I told you? You can’t do this thing… Nobody can. It’s too hard, it’s too long, it’s too dangerous, it’s too – whatever.” The body doesn’t want to believe, but…

I don’t want any of you to be unconscious while you’re having your babies! I want just the opposite: I want you to be superconscious of what’s happening at all times in that brain of yours. And I want you to be ready to interrupt that overbearing and all-too controlling 3-pound organ that’s attempting to run the show. But how?

Learn to calm the beast within before labor even begins.

Anytime you feel anxious, worried or frightened – check in with your body and try to gauge whether or not the situation really, sincerely calls for an Adrenalin dump. Here’s a hint to figuring this out: If you’re not actively being chased down by a deadly predator, then the answer is most likely “Not really in need of much Adrenalin at this time. But thanks for the offer, brain. Catcha later.”

Then see if you can calm yourself through breathing. Close your eyes if you have to, and take in nice, deep belly breaths through your nose to a slow count of four “In – 2,3,4” and then exhale through your mouth, “Out – 2,3,4” and do this for a couple of minutes just to see what happens. The body sometimes forgets it’s ability to reverse the effects of a brain takeover. Once the brain settles down and realizes that it’s not actually in any real danger, the body can continue to go about its business without interruption.

Our brain is like a toddler in full tantrum when it’s in freak out mode. Logic very rarely works to calm a screaming toddler. In fact, sometimes it only makes the screaming louder! The same is true with your brain. But holding a calm, quiet space while breathing can really help. It settles the brain and cuts off that flood of Adrenalin to just a slight trickle.

There’s good reason for Adrenalin to be hanging around. When it spikes right before the actual birth of the baby, it’s ends up being really beneficial. It helps to heighten awareness and can assist in initial bonding between Mommas and babies. Adrenalin isn’t bad – it’s all about timing and striking the right balance between these three hormones: Oxytocin, Endorphins & Adrenalin.

It’s not necessarily an easy thing to do, but it sure is simple:

Calm the brain and watch what the body can do!

Have you ever noticed how your brain wants to be in control all the time? What kinds of stories does your brain tell you? Are they negative, stress-inducing stories? What other ways have you tried to settle your brain so that your body can do its thing?

Five Minute Friday: LISTEN


Sometimes I feel like the brokenness of our world could be fixed through this one little word: listen. It seems like we’re always talking – sometimes screaming – at one another, trying to shout over each other to be heard, to be right.

But what if we all just shut up for a moment and tried extra hard to listen to each other instead? What if we recognized that no one has a monopoly on the truth? What if we took a little time to sit, be still, and listen to one another’s stories? What if we discovered that our differences are minor in comparison to how much alike we really are? What then?

I think much of what is broken in the birth world could also benefit from listening to one another. The “us vs them” shouting matches are divisive and do nothing to reconcile what we all want at the end of the day: happy & healthy Mommas, happy & healthy babies, happy & healthy families.

We cannot achieve this shared goal when we’re too busy. Too busy to show up. Too busy to be still and quiet. Too busy to ask the right questions. Too busy to practice patience and wait for the answers. Too busy to listen to one another for what is being said, and what is not being said.

Listening is a skill that I’m afraid many of us are lacking and it’s in dwindling supply. It’s like a muscle that might atrophy if we don’t exercise it more often. Daily? Maybe even by the hour.

How can you show up today and listen? Who will benefit from your gift of focused time and attention? What might you discover if you will only truly listen?

*This was my reflection for Five Minute Friday. There is a word prompt, and you write for 5 minutes – that is all. You can find out more about this right here. I visit their Facebook page from time to time just to see the prompt. I was unable to resist the word for today. I guess you could say that “listen” spoke loudly enough for me to hear it – and then write about it.

What do you think about the value of listening in the world of pregnancy, birth and parenting (or any other work that you do)? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this word today, or to hear how you exercise this particular muscle in your own particular worlds. Share your comments here. Thanks!

PREMADs – Do You Know About These?


I read this article by Juli Fraga from the Washington Post: “Prenatal Depression May Be The Most Severe Form of Maternal Depression” and it got me thinking… There are probably lots of pregnant women out there who don’t even know that PREMADs exist. What are PREMADs? PRE-natal Mood and Anxiety Disorders. It’s a word I came up with to describe what happens when a woman experiences a mood or anxiety disorder prenatally, during pregnancy.

Our focus in the field of maternal mental health has primarily been on raising awareness of PMADs – Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders. And rightly so! According to PSI International, 1 in 7 women suffer from postpartum depression, and 1 in 10 men do as well.

A recent search I did for information about the rates of prenatal depression yielded this information from a 2009 ACOG report that states somewhere between “14-23% of women will experience depressive symptoms while pregnant.” I would guess that now that we’ve expanded the umbrella of postpartum depression to include anxiety, OCD, PTSD, bipolar and psychosis, that the percentage of women who might be experiencing one of these anxiety or mood disorders during pregnancy has expanded as well.

In the past several years, I’ve witnessed an increased awareness across the board from OBGYNs, midwives and nurses for the need to screen women postpartum for mood or anxiety disorders. And I can speak directly to how much more time Childbirth Educators spend talking about this issue in the classroom.

But I’m beginning to think that there’s a hole in that education and screening, as the focus continues to be on a mood disorder waiting to happen to a women until after her baby is born. What if she’s experiencing anxiety or depression right now – while she’s pregnant? PREMADs might be getting overlooked entirely (seeing as I just made up the word today!) and women end up suffering in silence during their pregnancies hoping that they’ll eventually feel better. I’m afraid this might be leading to higher rates and more intense mood disorders in the postpartum period.

This doesn’t need to happen.

The symptoms of PREMADs might get overlooked during pregnancy because they’re chalked up to just being a part of the hormonal ups and downs of pregnancy. These will all even out in the 2nd trimester, or after childbirth classes begin, or whatever. But they don’t.

We all have days during pregnancy that are really stressful – we may even question whether this pregnancy was a great idea! (Personal confession: In each of my four pregnancies I had a day where not only did I question whether it was a good idea, I actually said it – out loud, to other people. “This was a bad idea. A very, very bad idea.” All four times. No lie.)

But if you’ve been experiencing any of the following symptoms pretty consistently over a two week period, you should really be touching base with your provider – or someone else you trust who can get you the professional support you need.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Being sad most of the time and not being able to “shake it off”
  • Feeling anxious or worried about the pregnancy, the baby, the birth, your relationship… the list goes on and on
  • No enjoyment in the stuff you usually like to do
  • Sleeping a lot – or not being able to sleep very much at all
  • Not being able to focus for very long periods of time
  • Feeling guilty or worthless
  • Thinking about harming yourself
  • Feeling hopeless

Again, after a stressful day at work or following a recent fight with your partner, you might be able to say yes to a few of these symptoms – but they go away after some time has passed. It’s when any of these symptoms are persistent or nearly continuous over a two week period that you need to be checking in with someone.

You don’t have to have all of these symptoms to seek help. Even one of these would be an indication to be talking to your provider so they can screen you further and then create a treatment plan that might include lots of different things that have been shown to help: exercise, diet, support groups, acupuncture, getting more sleep, herbal remedies and Omega 3s, individual psychotherapy and medications.

Please take note of these symptoms and ask your provider to screen you during your pregnancy for your risk of PREMADs.

There’s no reason to not get help as soon as you can. Because if you seek and receive support now, you might not be so overwhelmed in the first few days, weeks and months of postpartum with your newborn.

My biggest concern is that women who are experiencing an undiagnosed PREMAD now, are at a greater risk for a PMAD after the baby is born. Add in a challenging birth experience and the normal – but huge – adjustments involved with new parenting and these women may end up experiencing a PMAD that’s much more severe than it would’ve been if it had been addressed prenatally.

I’d love to see screening for PREMADs become part of the routine care for women as they prepare for birth and parenting. Help me spread the word by sharing this post far and wide so that awareness of PREMADs can be something we’re all on the lookout for when we, or our friends and family become pregnant.

Find the support and care that are available to address anxiety, depression or other mood disorders experienced during pregnancy. Learning how to lessen feelings of anxiety, sadness and fear, might increase feelings of enjoyment of the pregnancy experience. This can lead to feelings of anticipation and joy for the upcoming birth which might translate into an easier postpartum transition. It’s a win-win-win-win-win situation. (That’s a lot of winning!)

Thanks for spreading the word. And I hope that this mini-PSA of mine finds a few of those women who might be wondering if their feelings of anxiety or sadness are beyond the usual hormonal changes brought on by becoming pregnant. Even if only one woman reads this post and seeks support, I’ll feel like raising awareness for PREMADs made an important difference.

Do you know any women who you think might be suffering from something beyond the usual hormonal fluctuations that happen during pregnancy? And now that I’ve named it PREMADs, do you, or someone you know, recognize that this is what was happening at the time? How would seeking help during pregnancy have helped you in the postpartum period? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please leave a comment here.