I’ve been having the heaviest, most insanely painful periods since having my baby. Is this normal?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

Can I start with a rant? Okay, thanks! I think it’s so unfair that after having monthly periods for many years, then growing a baby for nine months, then birthing said baby, we may have to deal with wildly painful periods — sometimes while our vagina or abdominal scar is still healing. Un- fair. And all dudes have to deal with is a slightly lowered testosterone level when they become a dad. Pshh.

Okay, rant over! Thanks for listening.

So what to do about your heavy, painful periods? First off, let’s look at why it’s happening. For many women, a larger postpregnancy uterine cavity is to blame for heavier periods, as it produces more mucous lining that has to be shed each cycle. But we also want to make sure the pain and bleeding aren’t a sign of a health condition. If the bleeding is occurring within the first few weeks after baby is born and is getting heavier instead of lighter, it could be a sign of a partially retained placenta, which prevents your uterus from contracting back down to size. In this case, you’re not having a period, you’re bleeding because open blood vessels in your uterus have not closed properly. Women experiencing excessively heavy, painful bleeding during this early postpartum period should contact their care provider posthaste.  

Other health conditions that can cause heavy, painful bleeding include endometriosis, polyps or fibroids, adenomyosis (thickening of the uterus), or an over- or underactive thyroid.

If you’re not breastfeeding and experience what feels like a period about six to eight weeks after birth (sometimes periods start as early as three weeks after birth), it’s probably a period. If you’re breastfeeding, you could go many months before menstruating, as prolactin can suppress ovulation.

What to do

Don’t suffer in silence. Look into the following to find relief:

Have your iron levels checked. Because heavy periods can screw with your iron levels, and low iron levels can lead to exhaustion and other unpleasant symptoms, have your care provider check for an iron deficiency. If you do have a deficiency, they might recommend iron supplements, IV iron therapy, or diet shifts.

Rule out underlying health issues. In addition to having your iron levels checked, ask your care provider to help you confirm your heavy periods are not being caused by conditions like fibroids or endometriosis. If your care provider is not a specialist in women’s health, ask for a referral.

Consider birth control. As many types of birth control reduce uncomfortable period symptoms or can completely stop periods, you might want to talk to your care provider about getting a prescription for one that’s right for your unique needs. However, make sure birth control doesn’t mask the symptoms of an underlying issue by first having an OB-GYN confirm your reproductive health.

Get some exercise. Exercise is a whiz at helping the body manage hormone imbalances, potentially reducing the heaviness of your next flow. Even going on a thirty-minute walk a few times a week can be helpful.

Know that time may alleviate uncomfortable period symptoms. As your intense periods may be caused by your uterus getting used to life after pregnancy, you can likely expect the heavy flow and pain to somewhat subside after a few months, as your uterus and hormones adapt to their new normal.

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I’ve been avoiding sex because I now associate my vagina and breasts with my baby, and I can’t reconcile motherhood with arousal. Is there a way to shift my mind and body out of mom mode so I can enjoy sex again?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

When I was a few months into motherhood, my husband and I had a big fight about sex — and not for the first time. Not surprisingly, he wanted more of it, and I couldn’t get into it. I associated my breasts with breastfeeding, and when I thought of my vagina I could think only of our baby coming out of me. My erogenous zones had turned into mommy zones. This severe shift in perspective suddenly made an act I had always enjoyed feel dirty, and not in the fun way.

To make myself feel better, I started rage journaling (obviously!). During this journaling session I drew what I called my sexuality spectrum. On one end of the spectrum was “using my body to care for a baby” (acts I perceived as requiring 0.01 percent of my sexuality), and on the other end was “using my body to feel sexual pleasure” (acts I thought required 100 percent of my sexuality). I wholly believed the dichotomy of that spectrum was accurate, and it screwed up my sex life for the first year of motherhood. Living by that model meant I had to push through intense mental, physical, and emotional shifts anytime my husband wanted sex, because I’d have to get all the way from one side of the spectrum to the other.

What I failed to realize when I created that spectrum was that the act of breastfeeding and vaginally birthing a baby is a lot more sexual than I realized. After all, my sexuality is what led to me becoming pregnant, birthing consists of the same uterine contractions that happen during orgasms (hence the phenomenon of orgasmic birth), and breastfeeding causes nipple stimulation that releases oxytocin, or “the love hormone.” Some women even have orgasms while breastfeeding.

Sex and motherhood mingle a lot more than we realize. But I think that also puts a lot of women off postpartum sex. For example, I have a client who felt aroused when breastfeeding and experienced a lot of shame around that. She then developed negative connotations about anything that caused arousal because it reminded her of what she called the “wrong feeling” when she fed her baby. This caused issues when it came to sex. She used the techniques in the “What to do” section to restructure her beliefs around motherhood and sexual arousal, and eventually found her way back to enjoying sex.

Something else that can turn a new mom off is the shift in identity that she and her partner experience. Our society often paints “good parents” as virtuous, wholesome, married citizens who never curse and have sex only to procreate. Little room is left for arousal, eroticism, and orgasm. I think that’s a shame. Sexual pleasure is an innate, healthy desire — something to be explored and celebrated instead of suppressed and shamed. But that takes work, because many of us have to reprogram our beliefs on having sex as a parent before we can enjoy having sex as a parent. So how do we start that reprogramming and get to the place where we want and enjoy carnal pleasures as much as our partner does?

What to do

Don’t give up on your sex life. Just because it feels awkward now doesn’t mean you can’t transition into a passionate, deeply pleasing sexual relationship with your partner. These tips can help you start that transition:

Look at where your beliefs about sex and parenthood come from. Many times, our blocks around postpartum sex were implanted long before we became mothers. To remove these blocks, take some time to examine where they came from. You could ask yourself . . .

  • What messages did my parents share about sex?
    • How did my parents navigate their own sexuality?
    • What messages have I received about what it means to be a good parent?
    • What societal messages about sex and parenthood have impacted me?
    • Do I associate aspects of sex with traits I’ve been made to feel are inappropriate for a parent to have? (For example, do you think dirty talk, oral sex, or masturbation aren’t appropriate
      for a mother?)

Continue asking these questions until you have a solid idea of the forces that impacted your perception of postpartum sex. From there, you can decide what can be thrown out — for example, outdated ideas passed to you from your parents, the media, or society at large. And then, determine how you would like to perceive postpartum sex. Because that’s the thing, you have the right to create your own definition of what sex after birth looks like, and you don’t need anyone’s permission to live by that new definition. Here’s an example of a new definition, “I perceive postpartum sex as a beautiful dance between me and my partner that allows us to bond and to enjoy pleasure. Being a good parent means honoring my need for pleasure.” Here’s to a shift in perspective that fosters unfettered arousal, rolling orgasms, and a shame-free after glow!

Tell your partner how you feel. I can almost guarantee that you that unless you tell your partner what’s actually going on, you not wanting sex will make them feel rejected, like there’s something about them that’s causing you to not want sex. Fill them in on the blocks you’re having, why they’re coming up, and how you want to navigate them. If you don’t yet know how you want to navigate them, ask your partner if they’re interested in helping you in this process. If so, you can read through these suggestions together or come up with other possible solutions that suit your unique relationship. This communication can foster connection and prevent rifts or resentment that might be caused by changes to your sex life. An added bonus is your partner will probably put less pressure on you to have sex when you’re not feeling it.

Ask to lead the way during sex. When you’re first finding your bearing as a mother who is also a sexual being, ensure that sex moves at your pace by asking to set the pace. Move as fast or slow as you want. Tell your partner how you want to be touched. Let them know when you’re ready to be penetrated or intimately touched on the vagina — of if you’re not ready for that. Teach them what kind of touch on your breasts does and does not feel good. While this instruction might seem strange at first, it can help you feel empowered in your sexuality, and support you and your partner in understanding how to please this new version of you.

Take solo “warm-up” time before sex. For many women, the mind needs to be aroused before the body can get on board. So before you and your partner get frisky, slip away to the bathroom or another private space, and start thinking about things that turn you on. You can also pleasure yourself. Take your time, giving your mind and body time to warm up. Then, when your freshly aroused self is ready, go to your partner.

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Will my vagina feel the same to my partner after a vaginal birth? Will sex feel the same for me?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

After a vaginal birth, your vagina might be a bit wider, which both you and your partner might notice in the first few months after birth. But as you continue to do those Kegels and your vagina settles into its new normal, the changes will be less and less noticeable. In addition, some women experience vaginal dryness as their hormones shift, but this will work itself out after a few months.

Beyond the physical components of sex, you, your partner, or both of you might experience some mental blocks. One of the big ones is feeling comfortable connecting to your sexual side when so much of your identity has suddenly shifted into parent mode. It can be tricky to reconcile these two pieces of yourself. Because of this, it’s normal for your sex life to go through a dry patch in the early months of parenthood. Just take it easy on yourselves, commit to continuing to have sex every now and then — even when it’s awkward — and know that you can find your way back to a steamy sexual connection.

What to do

Go to a vagina spa. I’m kidding. But doesn’t that sound like something that could actually exist in Los Angeles? Until we discover a vagina spa, try these ideas:

Do Kegels. This exercise is a sexual game changer as it strengthens the pelvic floor muscles that surround the vagina, making it tighter. It also increases circulation to the vagina and pelvic floor, which can enhance arousal and lubrication — Kegels are a great way to get you going before sex. To do them . . .

* Identify your pelvic floor muscles by stopping your stream of urine mid-flow. Release after a few seconds.

* Focus on pulling the pelvic floor muscles in and up, hold for the count of ten, and then fully

* Maintain smooth and easy breathing during reps, slowly inhaling with the intake of muscles, and exhaling with the release.

* Do ten sets, three times a day.

Use lube, if needed. Because nothing kills the mood quicker than a dry vagina, purchase an organic lube to utilize until your hormones start providing natural lubrication again.

Get creative with positions. The temporary changes in your vagina could make positions that used to be lovely feel painful; and positions you haven’t tried, the bee’s knees. Go into sex with curiosity, trying out different positions until you find the one (or many) that do the trick. It’s also important to let your partner know you’re going to lead the way with this, as you’re the one who will know when something is working for, or against, your pleasure.

Consider amping up foreplay. If you’ve tried all the positions and none are doing the trick, return to the tried-and-true techniques of oral sex and fondling. Sex will eventually feel good again, but there’s no need to forego pleasure in the meantime.

Love yourself. A transformed vagina, leaking boobs, a shift in identity, fatigue, seriously limited time to get frisky…it can all lead to some bummer thoughts about yourself. Common thoughts I had in the fourth trimester were, “I’m no longer a sexual being, but a bloated baby bottle. I can’t possibly seem sexy to Eric. I feel so gross. Why am I so sticky? My vagina is probably disgusting, but I’m too scared to look.” I was so mean to myself. And needless to say, this meanness didn’t enhance my connection with myself or Eric.

Do as I didn’t, and tell yourself that the mean voice is full of lies. Instead of allowing yourself to fall down the rabbit hole of those damaging thoughts, be gentle with yourself, continually coming back to the knowing that things will settle down, you’ll reclaim your sense of self and sexiness, and your sex life will get back on track. It won’t happen all at once, and that’s okay. Instead of focusing on what’s not working, pay attention to what is — like the fact that you can create, birth, and nurture a new human. And that stretchy pants exist.

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I had a horrible childhood and am afraid I’ll replicate that with my child, as I have no good parenting role models. Am I destined to be a bad parent?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

The fact that you want to step away from the negative parenting patterns of your parents is amazing — you’ve already taken a huge leap away from those patterns. Many people grow up in dysfunctional households and never identify what they should try to do differently with their children. You’re in an eyes-wide-open position that’s filled with possibility.

I also invite you to consider that your horrible childhood can be a blessing as well as a curse when it comes to parenting your child. It’s a blessing because you get to start from scratch, and a curse because you have to start from scratch. Regarding the blessing, you have a clean slate you get to fill with your own way of parenting. You get to seek out parenting philosophies that resonate with you, then use pieces of these philosophies to craft your own. It can be an exciting, enlightening process. Regarding the curse, the idea of starting from square one can feel overwhelming. You don’t have positive parenting presets. You don’t have memories filled with happy parenting moments to lean on. You — and your partner, if you have one — are tasked with starting from the beginning. Again, a blessing and a curse.

What to do

Stand firm in the knowing that you’re in no way destined to be a bad parent. You are a wholly unique human who gets to make her own decisions. The dated belief that all women turn into their mothers is ridiculous — you get to choose who you become. You get to choose how you want to parent. The following ideas will help you get on the path that will shape you into the amazing parent you’re destined to be:

Get specific about parenting traits you don’t want to repeat. While you realize you don’t want to parent like your parents, it can be helpful to break down exactly what it is they did or didn’t do that you found damaging. For example, did they ignore you, talk down to you, use corporal punishment, withhold affection, leave you home alone before you were old enough to care for yourself, shame you?

As painful as it might be to dredge this all up, it can be liberating to explore what your parents did and how it impacted you, so you develop a clear picture of how you want to parent. And if you find this difficult to do on your own, seek out the support of a mental health specialist, especially if you experienced abuse.

Determine the type of parent you want to be. Once you pinpoint the parenting methods you don’t want to use, it’ll be easier to determine what methods you want to try. A good place to start is figuring out what the opposite of the negative parenting methods you listed would be. For example, you might list, “actively listening, building up the child’s confidence, using communication instead of physical force to discipline, being openly affectionate, never leaving the child alone (until they’re old enough) or with iffy childcare, supporting the child in navigating failure without shame,” and so on.

Research. The parenting methods you list in the previous step will probably reveal parenting topics you want to learn more about. For example, maybe you’re unsure what nonviolent communication is, are at a loss about compassionate ways to discipline, and want to discover how to be more comfortable with physical affection. Start researching the topics you’re drawn to, and take note of all the ideas and methods you want to try. This will be an ongoing activity, as what works for your family will shift over the years. But every minute of research adds to your base of knowledge and enhances your dedication to being a loving parent.

In addition to this traditional research, you can research parents you respect. For example, if you appreciate the way your partner’s sister parents, you can spend time observing what she does and doesn’t do, and ask questions about her parenting philosophy. The more you’re around parents who show there’s a better way, the more you’ll develop confidence that you can also choose a better way.

Don’t forget about your intuition. While I’m all about that research, I’m also a big believer in your intuition. The fact that you recognize the damaging aspects of your childhood probably means you’re in tune with your emotions and gut instincts about what feels right and wrong to you. Lean on these instincts as you navigate parenting.

For example, when your child is a toddler and they become upset for no apparent reason, you’ll likely have an instinct about how you can support them. And sure, this instinct might be informed by the parenting research you’ve done, but it’s mainly coming from your inner knowing — your ability to tune into your child and support them in the way that works best for both of you. In some ways, the most important thing you can do as a parent is learn to trust your intuition, and take the time to listen to it when parenting decisions arise.

Stay aware of any impulses to emulate unwanted parenting habits passed on by your parents. As strong as your loving intuition is, it’s not perfect and will sometimes give way to subconscious habits learned from your parents. But all is not lost if that happens. It simply means you’re a human who — like every other human — inherited a few of your parent’s habits. The cool thing is, habits can be changed when they’re noticed. So whenever you have a parenting moment that makes you feel icky, analyze it. For example, if your child is being very persistent about their need for attention, and you snap at them in the way your mother used to snap at you, clock that. You might think, “Hmm, it’s interesting that I responded in that way. How can I stay more calm next time, and respond in a way I feel good about?”

The tricky thing is, it can be hard to have this insight when we’re stressed, as stress can automatically push us into ways of being and thinking we learned as a child. However, developing the habit of using stress-relieving tools like breathing or walking away from a situation until you’ve calmed down helps you step out of the responses your parents ingrained in you, and choose something else.

Essentially, managing stress and keeping your eyes open to the negative influences of your parents’ parenting are two of the best ways to prevent your parents’ unwanted influence from bleeding into your parenting experience.

Be wary of your parents’ current influence. If your parents are a regular fixture in your life, stay attuned to whether your parenting habits change when they’re around. For instance, I have a friend who had a painful childhood and spent years working through her issues with her parents. She eventually got to a place where she could have them in her home for visits — her children were four and eight when these visits began.

What she realized was that she changed the way she treated her children when her parents were around. She either reverted to parenting methods they had used, or went overboard with the new methods she’d learned. “It was like I left my rational mind and based my parenting on their reactions to my children,” she said. “I either wanted to please them, or show them I was a better parent than they were. My kids and husband started dreading visits from them because it changed me so much.”

It got so bad she had a sit-down with her parents. She told them how she felt when they were around and explained that if the visits were to continue, they had to hold their judgments and let her parent the way her children were used to. This didn’t immediately solve all the issues, but it set guidelines that helped prevent her parents’ influence from derailing her thoughtful parenting choices.

Know that you won’t be a perfect parent, and that’s okay. No matter how much effort you put into being an amazing parent, you will make mistakes. Your kids will yell at you, you might yell back, some doors will be slammed, and tears will be shed. This is an inevitable part of parenting, and something no one escapes. When this happens, I encourage you to not punish yourself with guilt and shame, but instead to chalk it up to one of those good ole learning moments and move on. The less time you spend lamenting your parenting mistakes, the more time you can spend loving on your children and yourself.

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Sometimes I fantasize about running away. Do I need help?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

When I was a new mom, I fantasized about running away to a beachside hotel and sleeping until I no longer felt like I was living underwater. I had it all planned. I would loot my savings so I could pay the hotel in cash and no one could track me through my credit card. I would leave my cell phone under my mattress with a note saying, “I’m alive, but barely, and I’ll return when I’m ready.” The closest I got to this was stopping at the beach parking lot on my way home from Target one day, rolling down the windows, and sleeping for thirty minutes. Most new moms, as well as veteran moms, admit similar fantasies. So we’re not alone.

But just because we’re not alone doesn’t mean it feels good to want to run away from our lives. Something that might help you feel better is knowing most moms that have the running-away fantasy don’t actually want to ditch their families forever; they’re just looking for a few hours (okay, maybe a few days) where they don’t have to take care of anyone’s needs but their own. They want some precious time to screw their head back on. To get so deeply asleep they’re facedown, drooling into a pillow in a pitch-black, airconditioned hotel room. To order room service. To remember what their dreams are. To take a shower, or a poop, without someone crying for them. I think this is a totally normal, valid fantasy.

With that said, if you feel like you want to run away because it seems you’re of no value to your family, you feel too sad or anxious to care for anyone, or you’ve become so obsessed with thoughts of running away it becomes hard to function, you might be experiencing postpartum depression, anxiety, or OCD. In that case, a perinatal mental health specialist is the person to see. They can help you figure out what’s going on and provide specialized support.

What to do

Recognize that this fantasy is a not a sign that you weren’t meant to be a mother; instead it’s trying to guide you toward a life where your needs are honored. Here’s how to listen to that guidance:

Let yourself feel entitled to help and alone time. Some women think they should thank their lucky stars when someone steps in to help with their baby. Or that they need to sing their partner’s praises when they offer to hold the baby while mama sleeps. While it’s fine to feel thankful and express that thanks, you should also expect this support, and even demand it. It shouldn’t be something you stumble upon as often as you find a leprechaun passing out Xanax at the end of a rainbow. You should stumble upon help and time for yourself as often as you throw a load of spit-up-stained shirts into the wash.

What I’m saying is, when you start fantasizing about running away, make a clear plan with your partner or your go-to baby-care person about when you need them to take baby, and for how long. Some women feel that in asking their partner for this support they’re asking for a favor, but no. You’re not asking for a favor. You’re asking your partner to provide something that is your right, not a privilege. So as uncomfortable as this might initially be, I encourage you to clearly let them know what you need, instead of asking if it’s something they’d be willing to do. Claim your right for support.

Fulfill your fantasy. Because the fantasy of playing hooky from your life is usually sparked by a need for alone time, grab it by the horns. When your baby is an infant and incredibly dependent on you, maybe the most you can hope for is a few hours out of the house. But you should take it! Use that time to get a massage; bring a blanket to the beach or a local park, lie down, and sleep in the fresh air; or take your journal or laptop to a coffee shop and write. Do that thing you really want to do but keep thinking, “Nah, I don’t have enough time.”

When baby is a bit older and can survive without you for a night, consider booking a hotel room (and using it). And yes, there will probably be guilt and hesitancy and all that other mom stuff when you prepare to leave, but if you can force yourself to get to that hotel and fully focus on you for twenty-four hours, you’ll return as You 2.0.

Learn from your fantasy. Do me a favor and take a minute to envision what you would do after running away. After you take care of the basics like sleeping, eating, bathing, and maybe having a good cry, what do you see yourself doing? What are the things you would do to make yourself happy if you had no one else to care for? Let yourself go there, then write down what you see.

I did this when Hudson was a newborn, and I saw myself going on sunrise beach runs, taking long showers, sipping coffee while getting absorbed in a writing project, napping, watching some good ole reality television, and eating dessert I didn’t have to share. It was pretty basic stuff. What I realized was that while I wasn’t at a place where I could check off all those activities every day, I could sprinkle them in. So from that point on I committed to doing at least one activity from my fantasy list each day, and it was life changing. I now have a seven-year-old and am thrilled to say I usually do some version of everything on my fantasy list every day. And I didn’t have to run away from my family to do it!

So use your fantasy, mama. Use it to inform how you start blending your fantasy world with your real world.

Let yourself do less. I’ll bet that when you envisioned your fantasy you saw yourself juggling way less than you are now. There’s a reason for that. Moms are taught to stretch ourselves so thin we’re transparent. Cook fresh, organic food. Exercise. Feed baby on demand. Never let them sit in a wet diaper for longer than 3.5 minutes. Maintain a clean, organized home. Call your mom. Keep a foot in your career. Nurture your romantic relationship. Shower. Brush hair. Have a bowel movement. Burp baby. Sleep. (Wait, no, scratch that.) Oy vey. It’s just so much. But here’s a wild idea. What if you let yourself just cross some of the stuff off the list? (At least for now, when baby is such a fresh human and so demanding.) What if you asked someone else to do the cleaning and grocery shopping? What if you let yourself do less and know that it’s not giving up, but getting smart? Try it out for a week and see how it feels.

Tell someone where you’re going. I know a few women who went to the grocery store and ended up at a local hotel. In all cases but one, the women called their partner to let them know where they were. While those were awkward conversations, the partners at least knew they were safe. In one situation, the mom did not inform anyone and turned her phone off. Her sister found her right before her husband called the police. Don’t let that happen to you — it will just cause more stress. Play hooky if you feel you have no other choice, but make sure the person caring for your baby knows what’s up.

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I have horrific thoughts about awful things happening to my baby. Sometimes I imagine being the person inflicting harm. Am I crazy? Am I a danger to my baby?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

I would stop breathing whenever I let myself think about something horrible happening to my baby. Leukemia. A deadly car accident. SIDS. A kitchen accident. The list goes on. The thoughts would slam into me out of nowhere. One time, I was changing Hudson’s diaper and had a vision of him and Eric being in a lethal head-on collision. I froze. Diaper in mid-air. I was there. Feeling all the feelings I assume I would feel if that — the worst — happened. Then Hudson peed on me, and I snapped out of it. These thoughts didn’t come every day, but they came often enough that I had to build walls. I refused to let my mind go there. And if it tried, I would combat it with heavy-duty distraction.

When the distractions got too exhausting and less effective, I saw a therapist. She helped me find a balance between running from the nightmares and letting them swallow me. She also helped me recognize that feeling like something horrible was about to happen didn’t mean anything was actually going to happen. It was just a false thought triggered by the facts that my newborn was so vulnerable and I was almost entirely responsible for keeping him alive. She offered heaps of techniques, and I tried them all. The ones that worked are in the upcoming “What to do” section. But according to the therapist, what I experienced was pretty mild. Some women get so buried in nightmarish thoughts about their baby they can barely function.

One of the most frightening mental phenomena some new parents experience is thoughts of intentionally or accidentally harming, or even killing, their child — a type of something labeled “intrusive thoughts.” Most report that they don’t actually want to harm their baby but still have vivid thoughts of doing so. These thoughts can really become frightening for a parent when they’re doing something like bathing their baby, driving with them, or partaking in other activities that present obvious risks. It can cause an almost constant state of paranoia, and keeping things under control can take debilitating amounts of energy. For obvious reasons, this is a mental state parents rarely tell anyone about, out of fear their baby will be taken away. But what many don’t realize is that these thoughts are more common than you’d expect. A study published in BMC Psychiatry found that between 70 and 100 percent of new mothers report unwanted intrusive thoughts of infant-related harm, and half of all new mothers have intrusive thoughts about harming their infant on purpose. These thoughts don’t make you a monster, they’re just a sign you’re experiencing a very treatable psychological condition. Any mental health specialist worth their salt will not even think of reporting you, as long as you can honestly acknowledge that you find the intrusive thoughts disturbing.

When these intrusive thoughts become consistent and regularly impact your ability to function, they might be a sign of postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). This can manifest as obsessive attempts to suppress the intrusive thoughts, partaking in obsessive rituals that you are convinced will prevent harm from befalling your baby (like constantly praying or checking on them), or avoiding triggering situations like bathing the baby or driving with them. Not surprisingly, OCD has been connected to issues with serotonin regulation and elevated levels of oxytocin — both of which are hormones impacted during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Obsessions with intrusive thoughts can also be triggered by stressful situations and a rapid increase in responsibility, which are both major elements of early parenthood. Because of these factors, some mental health specialists believe slight OCD tendencies might be a normal by-product of the postpartum experience.

The rarest but most serious cause of these violent thoughts is postpartum psychosis. This condition usually consists of an inclination to harm the baby, extreme paranoia, hallucinations and delusions, sleep disturbances, and disorientation. It typically presents within a week of the baby’s birth. Unlike moms with conditions like postpartum OCD, those with postpartum psychosis rarely realize that they shouldn’t be having thoughts of harming their baby — they don’t find the thoughts terrifying or appalling. This is a situation that requires immediate intervention.

What to do

If the thoughts you’re experiencing are limiting your ability to function, get support from a perinatal mental health specialist. They will likely recommend cognitive behavioral therapy, and they might recommend medication. Follow their advice before you try any of the other suggestions listed below, as you deserve the support of a mental health specialist who can take the unique circumstances you’re working with and help you craft a customized treatment plan. They can also help you normalize what you’re experiencing, which can be an immense relief.

With that said, I want to acknowledge that summoning the courage to tell someone about your intrusive thoughts can be one of the most challenging things you ever do. The good news is, a condition like postpartum OCD is no longer seen as a “scarlet letter.” Ongoing research is helping us understand that these conditions are not signs that someone is a dangerous miscreant, but rather they’re symptoms exhibited by a perfectly normal human experiencing a treatable psychological phenomenon. There’s no shame in speaking up and accepting help. And in the most extreme cases, speaking up might save the life of you or your baby. From there, consider the following:

Remember that the thoughts aren’t “real.” One of the only good things about horrific thoughts about your baby is that they’re likely a shocking contrast to your other thoughts. This contrast can make it easier to pinpoint when a thought is intrusive — aka, a thought that is produced not by the real you but by the condition you’re navigating (e.g., OCD, anxiety, or depression). This realization can help you separate from the thoughts and remember that they’re not indications of something you will do, or even want to do, and they aren’t markers of how you feel about your baby.

Write down what’s true. If you start getting lost in all the horrible things that could happen, home in on what’s actually real by writing it down. For example, you might write, “I grew and birthed my baby — that wasn’t easy; it took strength and courage. I provide a home and nourishment for my baby. I’m not broken. These thoughts aren’t me. These thoughts aren’t true. I love my baby. That’s true.” Keep writing until you feel firmly planted in your truth.

Bring yourself back to reality with your five senses. Another way to pull your mind out of a swirl of worst-case what-ifs is asking, “What do I see, smell, taste, hear, and feel?” Keep listing things your senses are experiencing until the intrusive thoughts loosen their grip.

Remind yourself that you’re not crazy. When you have intrusive thoughts you’re experiencing a symptom, just like someone with the flu experiences the symptom of a fever. And just as the flu can strike anyone, intrusive thoughts can strike anyone. So when you have the symptom of intrusive thoughts, continually remind yourself that you’re a whole, amazing person having an uncomfortable experience that will pass with the right support. And as long as you recognize that the thoughts are disturbing and are nothing you should act upon, you’re doing fine, as this is an indicator that you’re not experiencing postpartum psychosis. Of course, these thoughts aren’t fun, and they could be a sign of postpartum OCD, an anxiety disorder, or postpartum depression, so get that support, mama.

Find a support group. In addition to seeking support from a perinatal mental health specialist, it can be helpful to find an in-person or online support group composed of women having similar thoughts. This can help you feel less alone, normalize your experience, and help you develop a deeper understanding of what you’re going through. To ensure you find a quality group, ask your therapist for recommendations.

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The thought of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) keeps me up at night. Why does it happen, and how can I prevent it?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

I was so afraid of SIDS, I couldn’t fall asleep the first night of Hudson’s life. When I couldn’t hear him breathing, I placed my hand under his nostrils, waiting for the small puff of warm air that would confirm he was still alive. The fear of SIDS would have kept me from sleeping all through the next few months if the bone-deep exhaustion of motherhood hadn’t pulled me under. While many people talk about how amazing life is when a baby sleeps, my baby sleeping was one of my biggest sources of anxiety. And really, how could we not be terrified of SIDS? Defined as the sudden, unexplained death of an infant under the age of one, SIDS usually occurs when the baby stops breathing during sleep. Understandably, we want to figure out why it happens, and how we can prevent it.

While there’s been significant research on the topic, there’s still not a clear understanding of why it happens. But there are many theories, and these have led to certain safeguards we can implement to minimize the risk of this heartbreak striking our families.

The common SIDS risk factors are listed in the sidebar below. But before we get into that, I want to note that rarely does one factor cause SIDS. Often, the following elements must be present for SIDS to occur — if just one is removed, SIDS is much less likely to occur:

Vulnerability: A defect or brain abnormality that impacts a baby’s heart or lung function (such as the serotonin condition described below) can make them more susceptible to SIDS. Essentially, this vulnerability makes it more difficult for the body of a baby faced with an environmental complication (see below) to trigger a protective response.

Environmental complication: While most babies can manage environmental complications like lying facedown on a mattress or overheating, babies who are vulnerable and are six months old or younger are less able to respond protectively and so are at higher risk for SIDS.

Developmental changes: Infants six months old and younger experience rapid growth and change. These changes could temporarily disrupt internal systems that impact breathing. This is one reason why SIDS is most common in babies between the ages of two and six months.

Common SIDS Risk Factors

Here are many of the most common risk factors for SIDS:

Issue with serotonin-producing neurons: Properly working serotonin neurons are needed to maintain the continued functioning of the heart and lungs. Here’s how it works: The brain facilitates the flow of oxygen to the heart and lungs. If someone has sleep apnea, for example, they stop breathing, and the brain gets alerted that there’s not enough oxygen and too much carbon dioxide. Then the brain triggers a protective process called autoresuscitation, which usually consists of big gasps.

The belief is that in some cases of SIDS this protective mechanism is not triggered. A study done by Harvard Medical School found that when serotonin-producing neurons are inhibited, the brain’s ability to autoresuscitate and save the body from apnea is impeded. Continued research could lead to screening that might help detect infants at higher risk for SIDS.

Sleeping facedown: According to the book SIDS Sudden Infant and Early Childhood Death: The Past, the Present, and the Future, the prone (facedown) position has been found to increase the risk of rebreathing expired gases, overheating, and accidental suffocation. Placing an infant on their side to sleep is also not recommended. In 1994, a campaign called “Back to Sleep” was launched, urging parents to lay babies on their back for sleep. This lowered the rate of SIDS by 50 percent.

Sleeping on a soft surface, or near soft objects: A soft sleep surface or objects that could cover a baby’s face (like blankets, pillows, or stuffed animals) increase the risk for accidental suffocation and overheating.

Rebreathing: This consists of a baby breathing in the air they just exhaled, which causes oxygen levels to drop and carbon dioxide to rise. Putting a baby to sleep on their stomach or having a blanket or other soft material in the crib that can cover their face can result in rebreathing.

Overheating: As overheating could cause respiratory issues or depress a baby’s ability to wake up, it’s been found to be a risk factor for SIDS.

Respiratory infection: An article published in the medical journal Hippokratia found that a mild degree of respiratory viral infection was observed in 80 percent of SIDS cases. In addition, a study published in Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology reported that common bacterial toxins found in the respiratory tract, in association with a viral infection, could contribute to SIDS in an infant during a developmentally vulnerable period. An infection can be especially dangerous for a baby sleeping on their stomach, as this prone position could increase airway temperature and stimulate bacterial colonization and bacterial toxin production.

Maternal smoking and secondhand smoke: Maternal smoking during pregnancy is considered one of the greatest risk factors for SIDS, as it can lead to premature birth and low birth weight (both risk factors for SIDS), diminish lung growth, increase the chance of developing respiratory infections, and impair the baby’s ability to wake themselves. And exposure to secondhand smoke after birth could impact the baby’s inflammatory response during an infection and limit their body’s ability to respond to threats to the heart caused by inflammation.

Being born prematurely: A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that many premature babies have impaired blood pressure control, meaning if they have a drop in blood pressure during sleep, their body wouldn’t be able to quickly respond. In addition, premature babies often have a higher risk of developing respiratory distress, do not have strong sucking and swallowing reflexes, and have a higher risk of infection because of an underdeveloped immune system.

Long QT syndrome: This heart rhythm condition can potentially cause fatal arrhythmia — when the heart beats too fast or slow or has an irregular pattern. According to a study in Journal of Biological Research, long QT syndrome accounts for 12 percent of SIDS cases.

Toxins from the mattress: While I want to be super clear that this theory hasn’t been thoroughly tested, I think it’s worth sharing. A New Zealand scientist and chemist, Dr. James Sprott, believes the phosphorous, arsenic, and antimony found in some fire retardants used on crib mattresses can mix with mold created from the baby’s urine, spit-up, and drool to create toxic gas. He believes the inhalation of this gas could contribute to SIDS. An additional theory is that body heat can contribute to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in mattresses.

Again, this theory hasn’t been conclusively proven, but I think it’s worth it to bypass this potential risk by purchasing an organic crib mattress from a company that’s Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified. If that’s too pricey, you may be able to prevent the release of these gases with a mattress cover specifically designed to block toxic gases. (If you’re wondering where the information about cosleeping is, go to question 97.)

As research continues, new potential causes of SIDS will likely be revealed. Your care provider can provide information about the most up-to-date SIDS research.

What to do

While there’s no foolproof way to prevent SIDS, the following can help you significantly reduce your baby’s risk:

Practice healthy habits during pregnancy. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that babies of women who obtain regular prenatal care, do not smoke, and abstain from regular illicit drug and alcohol use during pregnancy have a lower risk for SIDS.

Put baby on their back for sleep. Even if your baby seems to be more soothed on their stomach, always put them to sleep on their back.

Breastfeed. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that babies who are exclusively breastfed have a  percent lower risk of SIDS, as breastfeeding provides the following benefits:

  • Supports the baby’s ability to arouse from sleep more easily
    • Decreases incidence of diarrhea, upper and lower respiratory infections, and other infectious diseases
    • Supports the overall immune system
    • Helps the brain systems that control breathing to mature
    • Minimizes allergies that could cause inflammation in air passageways
    • Reduces gastroesophageal reflux
    • Supports the development of the oral cavity and throat muscles, helping to keep the airway open
    • Enhances the mother’s awareness of the baby

Ensure that the crib is empty, and use a sleepsack. Have baby sleep on a firm mattress with a fitted sheet — there should be nothing else in the crib, not even crib bumpers. Regarding clothing, put baby in a breathable sleepsack, which is a “wearable blanket.” This allows them to stay warm without using a blanket that could bunch up around their face. If the weather is so warm that you yourself are using little more than a sheet for coverage, your baby will likely be fine in a onesie or a light sleepsack.

Create a cool environment. As it’s important to prevent overheating, keep the thermostat between sixty-eight and seventy-two degrees Fahrenheit, have a fan on in baby’s sleep area, and clothe them in the aforementioned sleepsack or onesie. In addition, it’s not advised to put them to sleep in a hat, as it can trap heat.

Open windows when weather permits. Fresh air helps keep the air in baby’s sleep environment cool and clean, minimizing SIDS risk factors. If the weather allows and you feel it’s safe, open the windows in your baby’s sleep zone, being sure to insert a window guard when they become mobile.

Cleanse air with plants and an air purifier. Enhance the cleanliness of the air in baby’s room by using an air purifier and placing one or two air-purifying plants in areas of the room they can’t reach. Plants that can cleanse the air of harmful toxins, like trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene, and xylene, include the peace lily, Gerbera daisy, florist’s chrysanthemum, red-edged Dracaena, and English ivy.

Use a firm, GOTS-certified organic crib mattress or a toxin-resistant mattress cover. As the toxins in standard mattresses might increase the risk of SIDS, opt for a GOTS-certified organic crib mattress or wrap the mattress in a cover that’s a “toxic gas shield.”

Make sure baby’s bed adheres to Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) guidelines. A government organization that oversees products sold in the United States, the CPSC provides recommendations for purchasing a safe infant bed; see “Safe Sleep — Cribs and Infant Products Information Center” at

Skip swaddling. While the research is ongoing, a study published in Pediatrics found that swaddling might increase the risk for SIDS, as it could hinder a baby’s ability to wake up during cardiovascular stress.

Have baby sleep in your room for at least the first year of life. A report by the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep in their parents’ room for the first twelve months, as this can reduce SIDS by up to 50 percent. While there’s not a definitive reason for this outcome, it’s believed that a baby will arouse from sleep easier when sleeping in a room with others, and that parents are better able to monitor the baby when they’re in the same room.

Consider a bedside sleeper. These aptly named baby beds are essentially bassinets that can be pushed up next to your bed and readjusted so baby is level with you. Some also have a side that can fold down, allowing you to easily access baby. If you go this route, make sure you select a bed that meets CPSC safety standards. Ideally, it will have a thin and firm mattress that’s no more than an inch thick. In addition, net or mesh walls are preferred, as they increase air flow.

Stay away from cigarette smoke. As breathing in secondhand smoke can be incredibly harmful to infants, remove your baby from any area where someone is smoking. And because smoke can linger on furniture, carpet, and other material, it’s best to not have baby in the home of a smoker, which is why it’s strongly advised that any smoker who lives in the same home as an infant quit smoking. In addition, do not let anyone who smokes hold baby, as smoke can linger in hair and clothes.

Ensure that all babysitters and childcare facilities you utilize follow these safety guidelines. Whenever anyone else will be caring for baby, make sure they adhere to this sleeping protocol. If baby will be at a daycare, have someone there walk you through their protocol. You can also stop in during naptime to see them in action.

The same goes for a babysitter; walk them through your sleepy-time routine, ensuring they understand its importance by having them repeat it back to you. You can also provide a simple written reminder. For example, “Put baby to sleep on their back, in their designated, empty bed, without a blanket and in a sleepsack or onesie, depending on temperature. And turn on the fan.”

If a parent or in-law seems resistant, remind them that this is not a request. While they might have done things differently when their children were infants, it’s up to you how your child is put to sleep.

Contact your pediatrician if baby seems to have respiratory issues. As respiratory issues can be a SIDS risk factor, contact your care provider if baby has a cough, breathing issues, or any symptom that concerns you.

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birth podcast, Childbirth, Pregnancy, pregnancy podcast

When To See a Fertility Specialist

The common signs that it’s time to seek the support of a fertility specialist.

To receive more support, get your copy of Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood


Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

Email me at if you have any questions about pregnancy, childbirth or early motherhood that you would like answered on this podcast 🙂


My pet used to feel like my child, but now that I have a human child I never want my pet around because I’m nervous they’ll hurt the baby. Should I find my pet a new home?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

Isn’t it wild how having a baby can change your perspective of almost everyone in your life? Especially your animals. It’s like one minute your pet is a constant companion and best friend, and then, bam, your baby’s born and that pet suddenly feels like a looming threat. This can feel jarring and heartbreaking. While you’re celebrating and savoring the new love that’s come into your life, you’re also mourning the relationship you’re losing. Because even if your pet is able to stay in your home, it’s unlikely your bond will ever be the same, as you now have a new creature to dote on. On the other hand, if you determine it’s safe to keep your pet, their life may become even richer as they develop their own bond with baby. Everyone can win.

Regarding your fear of your pet hurting the baby, there’s no guarantee either way. But there are ways to objectively look at the situation and make a decision that’s best for all involved. And luckily, it’s not very often that a family needs to remove a pet from their home for baby’s safety. In most cases, training, limiting and/or supervising your fur-baby’s contact with your human baby and taking other precautions can ensure your baby’s safety without the need to say goodbye to your pet.

What to do

Here are some ideas to keep your baby safe while also nurturing your pet’s well-being:

Consider whether your pet has ever been violent. One of the best ways to determine if your pet will cause harm to your baby is to review their history. Has your pet been aggressive toward other animals or humans? How do they react to children? Is there anything about their personality or history that would lead you to believe they might cause harm to your baby? Answering these questions honestly can be an important first step in making your final decision about rehoming.

Hire a trainer. A trainer can not only help your pet break bad habits but can also help you determine if they’re a threat to your baby, as animal trainers are often experts in the behaviors of their animal-of-choice and know the signs that indicate an animal could be a danger to others. If the trainer believes your pet is safe to stay in your home, and you agree, you can ask them to help your pet break certain habits to create a safer environment for baby. For example, if you have a dog that jumps on people, is used to sleeping on your bed and getting on other furniture, and normally goes into the room that is now the nursery, the trainer can help you teach them that those habits are no longer allowed. If you’re reading this during pregnancy, I recommend working with a trainer before baby is born.

Introduce your pet to baby’s scent. As most animals have a heightened sense of smell, prepare your pet for the array of new odors baby will supply by having them smell an article of clothing that the baby has worn, before they meet the baby. Pet them as they’re taking a whiff, as this can help them create positive associations with the baby’s scent.

Don’t leave your pet alone with the baby. Make sure you’re always present when your pet and baby are near one another. Both children and animals can be erratic, so you’ll want to monitor all interactions until your baby is much older. In addition, begin teaching your baby that it’s not okay to pull the dog or cat’s tail, for example, by gently removing their hand if such an action occurs.

Stay aware of your pet’s emotions. Keep an eye on how your pet responds when they hear baby cry, for example, or when they’re simply around baby. Is their personality unchanged? Are they acting more aggressive or skittish than usual? Do they seem depressed? Do they shake or show other signs of anxiety when baby cries? Are they indicating stress by averting their eyes or moving away when baby is around? Your observations can inform how you navigate their relationship with your baby. A trainer can also provide invaluable insight into what various behaviors indicate, and what, if anything, should be done.

Tip: You can prepare your pet for your baby’s cries and other noises by playing recordings of baby sounds when you’re pregnant. It can be telling to see how they respond to the recording.

Organize extra care for your pet. Because your pets will likely be dealing with emotions that range from irritation to depression as your attention shifts from them to the baby, ensure they still feel the love by asking friends or family members to spend time with them during the first few weeks postpartum. If you have a dog, find people who can take them for a walk or a romp at the dog park. If you have a cat, ask a fellow cat lover to come over and give them attention. And of course whenever possible, remind your pets they’re still important to you by carving out bits of time throughout the day to spend with them. In addition, when your pet is with you and baby, be sure to also pay attention to them so they don’t feel jealous of the baby.

Ease into baby-pet interactions. When you’ve determined it’s safe to allow your pet to meet your baby, take it slow. Start by having someone hold your pet while you hold the baby, and allow the pet to slowly move toward the baby. They’ll likely sniff them, and maybe give a little lick. During this initial interaction (and all the following) stay as calm as possible, as pets and babies are sensitive to our energy and will react accordingly. A tense mood makes everyone else tense. So take deep breaths, and trust that the meeting will go great.

Read Good Dog, Happy Baby. This excellent book by dog trainer Michael Wombacher provides an effective twelve-step process for preparing your dog and family for a new baby.

Know that you’re not a horrible person if you need to find your fur-baby a new home. As heartbreaking as it is to determine your baby really isn’t safe around your pet, the decision to find them a new home will be best for all involved. Not only will you be keeping your baby safe, but you’ll also be ensuring your pet doesn’t spend the rest of their life being scolded and shut off from the family, and you won’t have to suffer the distress of being the one to hand out that punishment. While it’s devastating to say goodbye, you’re ultimately doing right by all involved.

Get your copy today.

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Alcohol and Pregnancy – Can They Mix?

The signs that indicate it might be time to see a fertility specialist.

To receive more support, get your copy of Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood


Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

Email me at if you have any questions about pregnancy, childbirth or early motherhood that you would like answered on this podcast 🙂

birth podcast, Childbirth, Pregnancy, pregnancy podcast

The Tests You Need Before Using Donor Eggs

The evaluations women and men need before using donor eggs.

To receive more support, get your copy of Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood


Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

Email me at if you have any questions about pregnancy, childbirth or early motherhood that you would like answered on this podcast 🙂


Since giving birth to my second baby, I’ve been finding my first child kind of irritating. Am I a bad mom for not feeling equal favor for my children?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

While most parents swear they feel the same about all their children, that’s usually not true. A study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that 74 percent of mothers and 70 percent of fathers reported preferential treatment toward one child. This isn’t surprising, as personalities, shifting life circumstances, and a slew of other factors impact how we feel about the people in our life, meaning there will be seasons when we enjoy spending time with some people more than others — and our children aren’t immune to this.

While you probably love all your children so much you’d die for them, that doesn’t mean you equally enjoy spending time with all of them. For example, you might have an adorable baby who can’t talk back, a four- year-old who worships the ground you walk on, and a teenager who primarily communicates with eye rolls. Not surprisingly, you’d probably prefer to hang with the little ones. Even if your children are close in age, you’ll likely still have your “favorite.” Like if the two-year-old has intense emotions that trigger you, and your baby is super mellow, you’ll probably favor the baby. There is nothing wrong with any of this. You can love all your children unconditionally while not liking them equally.

Something else to consider is that your older child might be feeling especially “needy” right now. They can sense that your focus has shifted, and they want your attention. Many children, even older ones, often seek this attention by acting out of character or creating disturbances. Essentially, they create circumstances that force you to pay attention to them. And because sleep deprivation and the endless needs of a newborn make it hard to recognize the deeper meaning of these outbursts, it’s easy to lash out and create even more of a divide between you and your child. This will probably resolve itself as your family settles into its new structure, but in the meantime, you can call on your partner or other adults close to your older child to spend more time with them. You can also ask these adults to take the baby for short stints so you can spend one-on-one time with your firstborn, even if it’s the last thing you want to do. (No judgment!)

It’s also important to remember that your favor may shift as you and your children change. As life continues molding your family, you might find that one child’s irritating traits are dissolving, while your “favorite” child begins getting under your skin. And remember, that preverbal baby will eventually find their voice, and it’s anyone’s guess how you’ll respond to what they have to say. Isn’t parenthood exciting?!

What to do

Keep reminding yourself that while it’s totally normal to like one child more than the other, it’s still important to not engage in differential treatment (aka treating one child better than the other) and to continually ensure that all your children know how loved they are. These activities can help you do that:

Examine what bugs you about the child you don’t like as much. It can feel really icky to not know why you don’t like one of your children as much as the other. This not-knowing can lead you to believe you’re a bad mom, cold hearted, or just destined to have a tumultuous relationship with that child. I don’t think any of that is true. I’ll bet there are specific reasons why certain things about your child trigger you. Let’s figure out what they are.

When you find yourself inwardly (or outwardly) rolling your eyes at this child or gritting your teeth, notice that. Press pause and objectively look at what’s happening. What about this moment is irritating you? Is your child responding to something in the same way your partner does, a way that you wish they didn’t? Are they responding in the opposite way that you would, and that’s triggering? Does their behavior remind you of someone you don’t like, and that dislike is being reflected onto your child? Does their behavior remind you of flaws in yourself you want to avoid? Is your child acting needy in a moment where you feel stretched thin? Unravel the situation until you figure out what the core source of your annoyance is.

Developing this deeper understanding about your child and how you respond to them will support you with the upcoming activities, and help you realize that neither of you have a fatal flaw or are intentionally trying to irritate one another. You’re both just doing your best to feel loved, seen, and heard as your family adapts to the big changes brought on by a new baby.

Create intentional opportunities to bond with your not-the-favorite child. Now that you’ve started pinpointing why your child irks you, brainstorm activities you can do together that have the lowest potential for irritation. For example, snuggling on the couch and watching a movie, making a smoothie, or building a LEGO tower might be situations that allow you to be together without getting peeved with each other. When it’s time to do activities like cleaning up, brushing teeth, getting dressed, or other tasks that typically find you and your child clashing, you could tap out and call in your partner, at least while you have a newborn. While this won’t always be possible, being aware of situations that typically cause you to get frustrated with your child, having another adult take on these situations, and investing time in the activities that are usually harmonious can begin shifting your parent- child relationship.

Talk with your partner. If you have a partner in this parenting thing, they can help you see your relationships with your children more clearly. They likely witness your interactions with the kids more than any other adult and can support you in identifying dynamics you’re not aware of, or easing up when you’re too hard on yourself. For example, they can let you know if your actions make your favoritism clear, and if you’re overly harsh with the child that’s bugging you. They can also help you make a plan for how the two of you can provide all the children equal care and attention, which might look like them picking up the slack with the child who’s frustrating you, making sure they don’t feel neglected.

Help your kids feel emotionally safe. If you sense the child you don’t favor as much is picking up on your energy, remind them how much you love them and let them know what’s going on — in an age- appropriate way. For example, my friend Amy has an eleven-year-old son who really irritates her. “He is me in a little boy’s body,” she said. “He’s constantly showing me all the things I don’t like about myself, and I have no patience for it.” Her daughter, on the other hand, has a temperament similar to Amy’s husband’s. “She’s so easy to be with,” Amy said. “Sometimes when I’m spending time with her in the morning and her brother wakes up, I feel angry. I feel like he’s going to ruin my mood before he even does anything.”

Needless to say, Amy was wracked with guilt about this, especially when her son straight up asked, “Mom, why don’t you like me?” Amy was inclined to tell him all the things that would make him feel better, but she decided that would only mask the problem. Instead, she told him that because he was so much like her, he sometimes reminded her of things in herself she wanted to change. She told him it wasn’t fair to take this out on him, and asked him to let her know when she was being unkind. He now says, “Mom, are you seeing you in me?” when he senses that he’s bugging her.

If Amy’s son had been younger, she probably wouldn’t have gone into the whole “You remind me of me” thing, as he might not have been able to process that. Instead, she could have acknowledged his feelings, asked questions to get more insight into what was making him feel unliked, and then assured him that things would change.

Above all, stay aware of how you’re treating each child so you can avoid hurting anyone, glean insights into how to improve these relationships, and tune into your children so you can tell when they are in need of reassurance that you love them deeply.

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Is a Postpartum Doula Worth the Money?

A breakdown of what postpartum doulas do, how they charge, and if they’re worth the money.

To receive more support, get your copy of Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood


Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

Email me at if you have any questions about pregnancy, childbirth or early motherhood that you would like answered on this podcast 🙂

birth podcast, Childbirth, Pregnancy, pregnancy podcast

Uterine Fibroids and Fertility 101

A breakdown of what uterine fibroids, how they impact fertility, and how fertility specialists can help.

To receive more support, get your copy of Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood


Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

Email me at if you have any questions about pregnancy, childbirth or early motherhood that you would like answered on this podcast 🙂


I know there’s a whole movement about not judging mothers, but I’m still afraid I’ll be judged. How can I feel secure in my parenting decisions and manage the judgment when it comes?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

There sure is a movement to stop judging mothers. And for good reason! Us poor mamas have everything from side-eye to full-on trolling thrown at us for putting even a finger out of line. But where to put “the line” is the biggest problem. What’s the definition of that line? Where the heck does it live? Each parenting camp (and there are many) will give you a different answer to those questions. And all of those camps are certain their way of parenting is The Way to parent. It’s a dangerous recipe for excessive judgment that sadly causes mothers to feel unsure and shamed about their parenting choices.

I wish I could tell you the movement to let moms be has resulted in a rosy world where all parenting trolls say, “You know what, I don’t agree with you, but that’s okay! I’m sure you have your reasons.” But it hasn’t. The judgment still exists, and not just on the internet. Family gatherings, mommy-and-me groups, preschools, parks, and all the other places where mothers and offspring congregate can be ground zero for judgment, even from people who know better and mean well. And it will probably always be that way.

So what to do? Luckily, I’ve developed this fairy dust that you blow in the face of anyone who starts judging your parenting, and they suddenly understand where you’re coming from. Or no…maybe I haven’t. But wouldn’t that be cool?

What’s actually cooler is the realization that the only person we need to convince to stop judging us is ourselves. When we figure out how to be solid in our unique parenting choices and realize it’s not the right way, or the wrong way, but our way, we’re free to stop caring (at least as much) about the judgments that come from external sources. It’s like my mom said for the entirety of my teen years and was annoyingly right about, “What other people think and say about you has nothing to do with you.” You just need to get right with you.

The main reason people judge another’s parenting decision is because that decision is different from what they’re doing, and they process it as that person implying that they’re doing it wrong. Their judgments are essentially saying, “Nah-ah, I’m not doing it wrong, you’re doing it wrong.” So ultimately, the judgment comes down to that person’s own stuff. I know this because I used to be a big-time judger. I wouldn’t do it openly; I would do it behind people’s backs like a civilized person. When I finally started looking at why I did that, I realized that every time I judged someone’s parenting choice it was because that choice ignited my own insecurity. For example, I had a friend who shared how they no longer let their toddler have screen time because he got too obsessed with it. I was so triggered by this. I immediately went to my husband and was like, “There’s no way they’re actually doing that. They have to be lying. And if they’re not lying, they’re just going to make their kid obsessed with screens when they’re older because they were deprived as a child.” My judgments completely came from the fact that I was feeling guilty about how much screen time I let our son have. But I didn’t want to give it up because it made life so much easier. I was fighting hard to feel okay about my choice, even though I didn’t. As you can see, those harsh judgments were all about me and my stuff.

What to do

Keep reminding yourself that judgments aren’t personal and that you can trust yourself — then try the following:

Above all, listen to feedback from your intuition. You already know the best way to parent your unique child, in the unique circumstances you live in. Deep down, it’s all there. But the opinions of others, books by the experts, how we were parented, and various other factors muddy the waters, making us second guess our decisions.

To step out of that muddiness and make decisions that feel intuitively right, get into a quiet space and ask yourself about the parenting decision you’ve been conflicted about. For example, “Where should my baby sleep?” When the voice of your mother or that expert or whomever starts babbling, push them away. Seek the answer that makes your insides happy. When you find the right answer for you, your stomach will unclench, your chest will feel light, and your heart will say, “Yes! That feels right!” And you don’t have to ask permission to listen to these feelings. You can just do what feels right.

And the cool thing with decisions is, you can always change them. If you decide cosleeping is right for your family, but then circumstances change and it no longer seems like the best option, you can edit what you’re doing. And while many parenting decisions might have to be made with a partner, you’ll be able to discuss the options with more clarity when you first determine what decision makes your insides happy.

Caveat: Some of your decisions will come more from that place in your brain that’s craving ease than your deep wells of wisdom — and that’s okay. We will never be perfect parents. We will sometimes be like, “Yeah, I know I shouldn’t let my kid watch so much SpongeBob, but it’s saving my sanity right now, so oh well.” We’ve all been there. Heck, I’m there while I type this.

If someone’s disapproval triggers you, explore that. When my mom gently insinuates that I might try something different with Hudson, I. Get. So. Angry. Irrationally angry. When I started looking at where that came from, I noticed that the angrier I got over a suggestion, the more my insides (those traitors!) thought she was right. She knows me so well. She knows when I’m not honoring my instincts. And I hate when she’s right, because obviously we all hate when our moms are right, right?

So if someone’s judgment really ticks you off, explore whether you’re being triggered because what they’re suggesting is what you actually feel is best deep down, or because it just doesn’t feel good to be judged. If it’s the latter, remember that their response to your choices has way more to do with them than you, and go on your merry way.

Find soothing tools for when you’re triggered. When I feel judged I immediately get defensive. I want to lash out. Sometimes I do lash out. But when I catch myself, I keep my ego from raging by saying, “I hear you, but I really have to pee. Let’s press pause on this, and I’ll be right back.” It sounds ridiculous, but it works like a charm. This protocol gives me the opportunity to be alone and get hold of my emotions. I’m able to step away from what was said and figure out if the person was being hostile, trying to be helpful, or just making an offhand comment they didn’t intend as a judgment. Usually, I’m able to come back to the conversation with some perspective and more self-control. You certainly don’t have to use my “I gotta pee” trick, but I encourage you to make a plan for how you’ll respond when judgment causes an ego flare-up.

Feel free to not share your parenting philosophy. If you’re with someone you know won’t understand your parenting choices, you have every right to not discuss them. For example, if your judgy in-laws are constantly asking why you do this or that with your child, you don’t have to explain yourself. You can simply say, “It’s just something that works for our family. We’re not saying it’s the way everyone needs to parent, but it’s the way we’re choosing to parent.” If they harp on about what they think you should do or how kids were parented “in their day,” feel free to just smile and nod while using your brain power to figure out which Netflix show to watch tonight, or tell them your tampon is leaking and walk away.

Steer clear of toxic parenting spaces, online and IRL. Certain Facebook groups, some parenting forums, get-togethers with parents you know you aren’t aligned with . . . these are all environments where toxic judgments run amok. While of course there are exceptions, you’d be wise to avoid gatherings you believe will be saturated with strong, maybe even hurtful opinions, especially when you’re still trying to figure out how you want to mother. There’s nothing wrong with guarding your heart.

Broaden your perspective on judgment from loved ones. The potential exception to my “stay away from toxic environments” spiel is family gatherings. While certain familial situations are definitely toxic and should be avoided, there are others that are uncomfortable just because a family member is having an awkward time being involved in your child’s life.

For example, let’s say one of your child’s grandparents gets to see them only twice a year. Every time you see that grandparent, they might be full of suggestions for how to parent. You would be within your right to be incredibly irritated by this. But riddle me this — what if the unsolicited advice was the family member’s misguided way of feeling more connected to your child? What if they feel that sharing their “wisdom” is a gift that will enhance your family’s life? If you suspect this is where a judgy family member is coming from, you might help them find other ways of feeling connected — for example, taking on some feedings or diaper changes or, in the case of older kids, having a few one-on-one outings. If this doesn’t stop the “Maybe you should try. . .” comments, feel free to straight-up tell them that while you respect their insight, you’ll let them know if it’s needed.

Resist the urge to make your own judgments. While placing judgment can feel so juicy in the moment, the “high” never lasts. Moral of the story: If we don’t want others to judge us, we shouldn’t judge them. We’re all doing the best we can, and we all deserve more understanding and “you do you” from our fellow parents.

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What To Do If Your Pregnant Partner Can’t Stand You

Advice for how to navigate the annoyance your pregnant partner might feel for you, and how to make them feel deeply loved and supported.

To receive more support, get your copy of Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood


Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

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Why Your Pregnant Partner Can’t Stand You

Insight into the many reasons pregnant people sometimes find their partner to be the most irritating person ever.

To receive more support, get your copy of Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood


Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

Email me at if you have any questions about pregnancy, childbirth or early motherhood that you would like answered on this podcast 🙂

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New Year’s Resolutions for Infertility

New Year’s resolutions for those hoping to develop a healthy pregnancy in 2023.

To receive more support, get your copy of Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood


Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

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I get really defensive when I receive unsolicited parenting advice. It’s so bad I’ve been snapping at strangers and find it hard to be around friends and family members who have kids. How can I navigate this advice without creating tension?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

Unsolicited advice is composed of an interesting mix of motivations and emotions, as the advice-giver is usually trying to make themselves feel important and helpful, while the advice-receiver often feels like they’re being told they don’t know what they’re doing. For the most part, the only kind of advice that doesn’t cause tension is the solicited kind. So yup, it’s perfectly natural for your hackles to rise when someone starts preaching

about sleep training, insists you’ll kill the planet if you use disposable diapers, or shares some other opinion that primarily serves to pump up their ego. And while you have every right to be annoyed or defensive, remember that you and the advice-giver likely have two completely different perceptions of the conversation. They think the two of you are bonding over their knowledge and helpfulness, while you feel like they’re judging your parenting and putting their opinions where they don’t belong. Keeping that in mind can significantly reduce your defensiveness.

Something else that could be happening is that you’re feeling insecure about your parenting knowledge and choices, and need space to figure out what feels best for you. People telling you what you should do can make you feel rushed to make decisions and even more insecure about your base of knowledge. If you’re feeling this way, I encourage you to remember that you’re the expert on your child. You’re the guru of your family, even if you haven’t consumed as much parenting literature as the other person or haven’t found all the answers. (And spoiler alert: no one ever finds all the answers.) So instead of letting the advice get to you, take it as a sign that it might feel good to take some alone time to meditate on what’s going on with your baby, yourself, or your family and what solution intuitively feels right. If you don’t know where to start, use that alone time to research the issue and make a list of potential solutions that resonate with you.

It’s also common to feel the urge to tell the advice-giver why certain advice wouldn’t work for your family and, in the case of something like corporal punishment, why you think it’s wrong. But the fact is, they don’t want to hear it, and you don’t want to waste your breath. You don’t have to convince them their advice is misguided, or the way you’re doing something is working fine, or you’re confident you can come up with a solution on your own. You don’t owe them any explanation, and you don’t have to get sucked into a parenting debate — save your energy for something enjoyable.

What to do

Here are some tips for slipping away from advice sessions with minimal effort and emotion.

Scream “No!” when someone tries to give you advice. Just kidding. Try this:

Keep parenting challenges to yourself when you’re with chronic advice-givers. Minimize the chance of receiving advice that might activate your defensiveness and anger by dodging parenting conversations with people prone to offering advice.

Compose go-to responses. When most people give advice, the response they want is an unsarcastic version of, “Oh my gosh, thank you! I never would have thought of that. You’re a genius! What would I do without your superior insights?” But you don’t have to give them that. You get to think of a response that allows you to shut down the outpouring of advice without getting into an argument. I usually say something like, “Hmm. That’s interesting. I’ll think about it.” If they continue with the advice, I’ll interrupt with an, “I’m so sorry but I think my baby just pooped. I’ll be right back.” And then I’m not right back.

Here are additional responses you can tinker with:

  • “[Insert the parenting choice here] is working just fine for us. No need to fix what isn’t broken.”
  • “It sounds like that worked great for your family. I love how there’s so many unique ways to raise a child, and that every family gets to make their own decisions.”
  • “I’m sure that’s an ideal option for some families. We’re going to keep doing what feels right for us.”
  • “We tried that, but it didn’t work for us. Just shows that each child is different!”
  • “I’m doing what the pediatrician advised.” And it doesn’t matter if this is a lie — it will likely shut down the advice or judgment, as people are often loath to go against the word of an expert.
  • “Luckily, we don’t have to agree on the right way to [insert parenting topic here]. We can each do it our own way.”
  • “Thanks for your concern.”
  • “I’ll keep that in mind. Anyways, tell me about that book club you joined.”

Check in with yourself after receiving advice. After you’ve gotten out of an unwanted-advice conversation, take a pause and look objectively at the advice. Do you instinctually know it won’t work for your family? Does it go against your parenting philosophy? If so, fuggedaboutit. But if the advice sparked some interest, file it away for later use.

Remember that the advice-giver is (probably) coming from a good place. Most people aren’t trying to insult or annoy when they give advice — usually, they’re genuinely trying to help. Hold on to this belief when they blast you with their counsel. While you don’t have to agree, or even listen to it, remembering that they’re probably not intending to insult you can help you stay calm enough to gently extract yourself from the conversation, instead of raging.

Avoid being the advice-giver. I like to preach about how annoying unsolicited advice is, but I myself give it all the time. And I’m working on this. Be better than me and swallow your advice when it tiptoes to the tip of your tongue. I can almost guarantee that people would prefer your empathy or your questions about what they think they should do over your wisdom (as wise as it might be). And of course, if they ask for your opinion, you can let it rip.

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I don’t feel connected to my baby. I don’t even like to look at them. Am I a monster?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

You’re not a monster. Not even a little bit. You’re one of the many women facing postpartum blues or postpartum depression. According to a study published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, one in nine women experience symptoms of postpartum depression. But some believe the number is actually much higher, as many mothers don’t feel comfortable talking about their depressive symptoms.

While it’s easy to convince yourself that the lack of connection with your baby is a sign you’re lacking some essential “good mother” chip, it probably just means that wonky hormones, plus the ingredients of exhaustion and extreme change, are impacting your ability to bond. However, just because the causes of what you’re experiencing aren’t dark and sinister doesn’t mean you’re not feeling like this is the end of the world. Many of us are given the consistent message — especially during pregnancy — that the bond between a mother and child is unbreakable. That it’s the greatest love story we’ll ever experience. When that’s not our reality, it can feel life shattering.

Something important to remember as you navigate this likely heartbreaking experience is that it’s temporary. While any form of anxiety or depression can easily trick us into thinking we’ll never feel better, that’s rarely the case.

If you’re sad and unable to develop a bond in the two weeks following baby’s birth, you might be facing the common phenomenon of postpartum blues, which is believed to be caused by a combination of your hormone levels plunging and a struggle to adapt to the abrupt changes of motherhood. If the feelings of sadness and disconnection don’t lift after two weeks, you might be experiencing postpartum depression.

It’s also important to realize that you’re not scarring your child, or your future bond with them, by not feeling connected now. The mother-child bond develops over a lifetime, and it will happen for you, even if you first have to navigate medical and emotional support. And it’s wise to seek that support. Sadly, about 60 percent of women with symptoms of depression do not receive a clinical diagnosis, and 50 percent of women with a diagnosis do not receive treatment. As added incentive to seek support, consider this: studies have shown that while postpartum depression can have short-term impacts on infants, there are rarely long-term emotional effects if the mother receives treatment early-on.

What to do

Get help, as you should not have to navigate this pain alone. While I totally get the resistance to being open about your depression (I waited two years before I asked for help!), I can almost guarantee that your care provider won’t judge you. They’ll probably be relieved you were brave enough to speak up. And I want to remind you again that postpartum blues or depression is not a fatal character flaw, it’s a very common by-product of going through the intense physical and mental shifts of pregnancy, childbirth, and early motherhood. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother, or that you’ll never bond with your baby. Asking for help is actually one of the best things you can do for your baby.

Here are a few support-steps you’ll likely need to take:

See your primary care provider. The first stop on the path to moving past postpartum blues or depression is your care provider. They can help evaluate what’s going on and refer you to a mental health specialist. They might also prescribe medication, like an antidepressant. For many women, medication is a key player in getting out of the grips of postpartum depression.

Be consistent with counseling. After you find a mental health specialist you resonate with, commit to showing up. When I was depressed, I cancelled on my therapist all the time because I felt too listless to leave the house. Needless to say, I didn’t get much out of the relationship. Years later I faced another bout of depression and forced myself to see my therapist once a week. If I couldn’t get out of bed, I would FaceTime her. I always felt lighter after our sessions and gleaned serious benefits from our time together — and I also needed medication.

As hard as it can be to keep showing up for counseling, it’s one of the most potent ways you can nurture yourself through depression. Even if some days you’re sure you have nothing to say to your therapist, you’ll benefit from simply arriving at the appointment.
Find quality care for baby. As you navigate this challenging time, it will be essential to ask trusted loved ones for help with your baby. Being their sole caregiver while trying to get through depression might feel impossible, which is why calling in reinforcements can ensure that you and baby get the care you deserve.

You might resist this because you don’t want to tell people about your depression. This is normal, but you’ll probably be amazed by how supportive friends and family are when you trust them with your vulnerability. (And you might also be surprised to learn that some of your loved ones have been through the same thing.)

Continue to spend time with baby. While being with your baby might be a painful reminder of how disconnected you feel, it’s important to continue being with them, even if you have to fake affection. Because “faking it ‘til you make it” might just help you develop an authentic bond with baby, and it will definitely support them in feeling bonded to you. If you don’t trust yourself to adequately care for your baby on your own, ask an adult to be with you when you’re spending time together.

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