Erika Stroh of Parent From the Heart, Inc. is a Parent Coach, Educational Consultant, Relationship Counselor. Her background in education and social work, and own personal experience has led her to support families as they navigate the transition to becoming a family. Personal growth and development is critical to the well-being of relationships with yourself and partner. Families experience a range of emotions before, during and after our baby is born. Navigating these ‘uncharted’ waters can be stressful and overwhelming. Erika works with families to know what to expect and how to cope with the inevitable changes as well as the uncertainties that lie ahead, to empower and encourage new families.
The transition of adding a child to your family can seem overwhelming, preparing your relationship for this addition can seem daunting. Erika urges not to shy away from discussing the “hard conversations” with your partner, but to embrace them and have open and honesty in your communications.
Erika’s tips for “baby proofing” your relationship:
- Start the conversations early about the “hard stuff”. Talk about what kind of parent you want to be, what kind of person you want to be, what kind of partnership you want to have. These conversations can be uncomfortable, but not having them can be worse.
- Have realistic expectations of what having a baby is. Talk to honest friends and family that will open up about their struggles. Having a realistic expectation (NOT the Instagram worthy one) is one of the factors in decreasing the chance of suffering from any postpartum mood disorders.
- Turn the outside noise off. Don’t let negative, unsupportive comments into your space (even from well-meaning older relatives). Keep social media to a minimum, the bombardment of everyone else’s daily highlights only increases the chance that you will doubt your ability to “do it all” and being the “perfect parent”.
- Become self aware. Do some self-analyzation on how you handle change and transition. Once you can recognize how you cope with change, you can put into place some routines/measures to decrease your anxiety once this change happens.
- Be aware of both your childhood and your partner’s childhood experiences. Appreciate the differences, and how they shape how you parent.
- To maintain balance – you need to take it day by day. Don’t look too far into the future to judge whether you have achieved the elusive “balance”. Take it one day at a time.
- Meet your own needs, and the needs of the couple, not just needs of the baby. It is important to maintain yourselves in order to best take care of and nurture your baby.
- Support one another. Being supportive of one another as you navigate this transition will deepen your connection.
- All relationships grow. Your relationship will change, and that’s ok. Keep the conversation open about this change.
No matter where you are in your parenthood journey, pregnancy, early postpartum, toddler years, elementary years – it’s never too late to start working on your relationship. There may be a time (like immediately having a baby) that your relationship is put on the back burner, AND THAT’S OK. Just don’t keep it there forever. Eventually, your baby will be sleeping through the night and you WILL be able to have a coherent conversation with your partner.
To find out more about Erika Stroh – visit www.parentfromtheheart.com
To Follow her on Facebook for her latest workshops and classes.
The holidays can be stressful, add a pregnancy or new baby to the mix and it can be even more stressful than the “usual” holiday overwhelm. Candice of Lyla’s Birth and I discussed some things on our Facebook Live: Ask the Doulas that may arise during the holiday season when you are expecting or growing your family.
How do you manage creating your own traditions while incorporating your extended family’s traditions?
Tip: This can be difficult, and should be discussed way before the holidays. The first step would be to talk about the non-negotiables with your partner. That can be: a special breakfast as just you as a family, or not running around to a million different parties. Whatever it is that you (and your partner) aren’t willing to give up as a holiday tradition. Once this is decided, you can work backwards and filter in what you can/want to do from there. Recognize that there may be things important to your partner that aren’t as important to you, compromising will probably have to happen for both of you.
Tip: As soon as you can, set boundaries. It’s easier to add on activities then to take something away that people expect you to partake in.
Tip: Incorporate whatever fond memories you AND your partner have from your childhood. It can be sweet to share these traditions with your growing family.
Tip: If you have something that you grew up doing (i.e. family dinner) that now conflicts with another event or tradition, consider changing it to another night. Extend the festivities while still maintaining your traditions.
How do you deal with family members that don’t see eye to eye with on your parenting or parenting style?
Tip: If it’s an older relative/friend that isn’t supportive of your decisions, remember: they don’t have the same information/knowledge you have, out of touch with what is recommended now, and may feel guilty or uncomfortable with their decisions they made with their children. Most likely, it doesn’t actually have anything to do with you. Be forgiving, and try to brush it off best you can.
Tip: Talk about this with your partner/support person before it happens. Discuss the potential for remarks that may not be completely supportive with your partner. You both can be aware that it may happen, being prepared for it can make the difference between letting it get you down and letting it go. And, then you can commiserate about it after that family dinner with your great uncle.
Tip: Consider the source. Don’t let it get to you, you are a good mom. You’re child chose you, you are doing what’s best for you and your family.
Tip: People all have different ideas on how to raise a child, appreciate other’s paths as they should your own.
For Part 2: Tune in on Facebook on December 12th at 8pm!
For more Support:
Come to Birth Circle this Thursday, November 16th in Bridgehampton from 7-9pm.
Join Reality Tykes Facebook Group.
Confession: When I gave birth and went through all my postpartum periods, I didn’t have a birth OR postpartum doula. I wasn’t involved in the birth community, and hadn’t yet discovered how important it was to have support as I birthed and parented my children. I also was apprehensive at letting someone into this sacred time with me and my husband. My husband and I tend to be fairly private people, and we hadn’t warmed up to the idea of having ANYONE, let alone someone that was a perfect stranger into our birthing and postpartum space.
Boy, I wish I hadn’t been so oblivious to the truth: Doulas support BOTH the partner and the birthing woman, they enhance your ability to advocate for what you want and give you and your partner strength.
Candice and I did a recent “Ask the Doulas” on my Facebook page addressing the role of the partner during birth and postpartum. In case you missed it, here it is:
Some of my pointers for the postpartum period are:
1. Make sure you and your partner complete my Postpartum Support Workbook together. This can help you both know where to turn for support as you are navigating the postpartum.
2. Keep communication open. No one is a mind-reader, approach one another with kindness and honesty.
3. Give yourself and your partner grace. This is a bonding experience, something you and he/she will share only with one another.
4. A doula only enhances your partner’s role, doesn’t replace it.
If you are a working pregnant mom, the idea of maternity leave can be daunting.
How long should your leave be?
When should it start: a couple weeks before baby is due or work right up until you’re in labor?
How can you negotiate your leave?
I chatted with Arianna Taboada, a Maternity Leave Consultant, about what to think about when planning your maternity leave. She recognizes that every situation is unique, but she has some tips to help ease both in and out of your maternity leave:
Start scaling back your workload a couple weeks before your due date.
Plan on being completely “off grid” for at least 6 weeks after birth.
Start transitioning back into your work slowly (going back 20% the first two weeks, 50% the next 2, etc.) after the agreed upon “off grid”
Other things that we chatted about were Arianna’s fantastic “Postpartum Eco-Map”. This can help you map out where your support will be during your postpartum period. You can grab that here.
Another great resource that Arianna recommends is the website, Mindful Return
If you have any questions for Arianna or myself, feel free to reach out.
Preparing to bring your baby home and the fourth trimester can be extremely overwhelming. Where do you even start?
During your pregnancy you attend childbirth classes, think about your birth plan, plan the “coming home outfit”, but what happens once you come home?
I’ve created the Postpartum Support Workbook (sign up below) to help you start thinking about what you and your partner will need during your fourth trimester. I’ve broken it down into sections: Professional Support, Social Support, Peer Support, Practical Support, and Individual Support.
The video is a glimpse into what you should work through for your postpartum. For a more in depth postpartum prep – postpartum prep classes.
Tummy Time – most new moms know that their baby needs a lot of it, but are often confused about:
When do you start?
How often should you do it a day?
What if baby hates it, what do you do then?
Wendy Rohin of Everything Babies, a pediatric physical therapists answers these questions in the attached video.
Times have changed since our parents were raising us, we now have to place our babies on their backs to sleep. This causes a drastic decrease in the amount of time babies are on their tummies, which means – we need to incorporate more tummy time into their waking hours.
Wendy suggests 90 minutes of tummy time per day starting from day one of life.
I know what you’re thinking, 90 minutes?! That’s a lot. Well, fear not – this is not 90 minutes in one clip, rather 90 minutes throughout the day. AND, tummy time doesn’t have to be the traditional “lay your baby on the tummy time mat and leave them”. In fact, quite a few new babies don’t like being laid on the floor (by themselves), so they become distressed. We do not endorse letting your baby cry on their tummy so you can achieve your 90 minutes.
Using 90 minutes as your guideline for how long your baby should be on their tummy a day, there are lots of ways you can try tummy time.
One that seems to work best during the very newborn stage, is just having a parent recline (or lay down), and putting your baby on your chest, tummy down. This allows the baby to remain close to you, something they crave those early days and weeks, and get their tummy time in. As long as you are awake, it’s perfectly fine to have baby laying on your tummy down to rack up those tummy time minutes.
As baby ages, using a simple blanket (simple primary colors) with a tummy time pillow (like this one), nursing pillow (like this one), or a pool noodle (like this one) to support your baby’s chest and keep their heads off the blanket.
If you start your baby’s tummy time from the beginning and use modalities to help them get used to it, before you know it they will be tummy time pros.
And, remember – each day with a baby is a new day, if you feel like you didn’t do enough tummy time one day – THAT IS OK. Try again tomorrow. You are doing the best you can with what you have (including a cranky, teething baby).
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As some of you may know, Candice of Lyla’s Birth Services and I are now hosting a monthly Q and A via Facebook Live on my Facebook page the second Tuesday of each month around 8 pm. We will be happily answering any questions you may have about pregnancy and postpartum.
Last week we recorded our first Q and A – we chatted about our upcoming event, our Ceremonial Release, and the benefits of attending a La Leche League meeting if you are planning or are currently breastfeeding.
Our Ceremonial Release is on July 10th in Hampton Bays and is an event for all women as they travel this journey of motherhood. Whether you are trying to conceive, pregnant, postpartum, mothering, or grandfathering – all are welcome. We are planning a special evening of sisterhood, community, and nurture. We will provide space for relaxation (which, we all need more of!), a safe space to release any fears you may have about being a mother, and well-deserved nurture and self care for all our participants. Tickets are on sale now, and are required to attend the event. To find out more visit: www.ktpostpartumdoula.com/release
La Leche League of Southampton is a great place to receive unbiased support as you set up for, or are navigating your breastfeeding journey. The leaders are knowledgeable and down to earth. They support breastfeeding no matter the level, if you are a exclusive breastfeeder, a pumping mom, or a supplementing mom. As long as breastfeeding is a part of your mothering journey, you are more than welcome. They meet the first Friday of each month in Southampton, and third Saturday in Riverhead. Visit www.eastendparentsupport.com for the upcoming dates and times.
Tune in next month, July 11th around 8 pm EST for our next Q & A. We haven’t decided on a topic yet, but follow my Facebook page to find out.
Meet my friend and fellow doula, Candice of Lyla’s Birth Services. Candice is a trained birth doula and placenta services professional here on the East End of Long Island (Suffolk and eastern Nassau counties). We chat about her path to becoming a doula, her training, her services, what to expect for placenta encapsulation, and her work she does in our community with Long Island Birth Network. Candice started and continues to facilitate a monthly Birth Circle which meets on the third Thursday in both Hampton Bays and Bridgehampton (alternating locations each month). Birth Circle is going on it’s fifth year!
To find more about her birth and placenta services visit her website: www.lylasbirth.com
In honor of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month, I’m sharing Gayle’s story of perinatal mood disorders. Gayle is a doula and student midwife, and has had extensive training in perinatal mood disorders. See more here.
Despite all her training, after her third birthing experience, Gayle suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety. She discusses how she felt, what triggered her symptoms, and her road to recovery.
In honor of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month, this week I’m sharing Emily’s story. Emily suffered from both postpartum depression and anxiety during the first year of her daughter’s life. Emily had previously suffered from anxiety before her pregnancy, and was managing it well with regular talk therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and good self care routines. During her postpartum, she was unable to sleep, which then exacerbated her anxiety and depression symptoms.
She discusses how she isolated and depressed she felt, her angst over taking medication, and how she continues her self care routines in order to keep her symptoms in check.
Emily also recommends East End Mental Health for talk therapy here on the East End of Long Island.
In honor of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month, this week I’m sharing Michele’s story of postpartum anxiety and depression. Michele is a mom of two and had experienced depression and general anxiety before pregnancy and postpartum. She was actively managing her symptoms through talk therapy, medication, and self-care. Because she had experience with it, she tried the best that she could to set up her support for the postpartum experience; she encapsulated her placenta, continued her relationship with her talk therapist, continued taking her medication, and practiced self care.
Despite all her best efforts, she still experienced both postpartum depression and anxiety. She discusses how it felt during this dark time, and how she climbed out. In addition to everything she was already doing to manage her symptoms, Michele says just admitting it to her support network (husband, close friends, etc.) and getting out of the house (Mom groups, walks, etc.) were helpful during this period.
This week I’m sharing Jessica’s maternal mental health story. Jessica had never experienced any clinical mental health disorder previous to having children. She had a “normal” pregnancy and healthy delivery, but as you will find out she had some medical complications following her delivery that consumed her maternity leave. So, on top of the normal first time mom overwhelm, she was managing multiple doctor appointments, infections, and the looming date of returning to work.
A couple weeks before returning to work, she experienced one of her friends gave birth and Jessica had a hard time talking to her about her labor and delivery. This was the turning point for Jessica, she realized that she was suffering and needed help.
She discusses her birth, the trauma she experienced from her birth and postpartum experience, and what helped her manage her symptoms.
May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month.
In an effort to help dispel the stigma behind postpartum/perinatal mood disorders I sat down with Gayle Eckey to discuss perinatal mood disorders. We discuss the “normal” feelings to expect during the postpartum, when to reach out for help, where to find support, and ways to take care of yourself during recovery.
Resources we mention in the video:
NY Postpartum Resource Center: https://postpartumny.org
Long Island Doula Association: www.lidoulas.com
Lact Med: https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/newtoxnet/lactmed.htm
La Leche League of Southampton: www.facebook.com/lalecheleagueofsouthampton
For the last 6 weeks, we’ve been talking about self care and how to incorporate it into our busy lives as new moms.
Week 1: I defined self care as a decision you make for yourself that makes you feel good, either physically, spiritually, or emotionally feel good. I asked that you make 5 self care decisions in the next week. These decisions don’t have to be big ones, but rather small changes. Maybe you take time to finish your cup of coffee while it’s still hot instead of trying to get chores done while drinking it. Or, maybe you turn off the notifications on your phone for part of the day. Just small changes to help keep your pitcher full.
Week 2: I looked at the guilt aspect of self care. Why do we feel guilty for taking care of ourselves? You don’t tell your friend (or even your kids!) to forgo taking care of themselves. I urged us all to put aside the guilt, and to continue making small changes in our routine to better take care of ourselves. One decision a day that makes you feel good.
Week 3: I added to the definition of self care, self care is making a decision that feels good AND energizes you. This can be spiritual, emotional, or physical energy. I also discussed the importance of getting outside the house. Getting outside of the house can do wonders, even if it’s just a trip to the grocery story to get bananas (been there, done that). Just getting out gives you a purpose, a reason to get dressed, and maybe even some lively banter with a cashier.
Week 4: You can’t talk about self care without talking about relationships. There are two types of relationships: ones that are nurturing to you and your family, and those that aren’t. Sometimes, you can easily limit your interaction with individuals that aren’t nurturing. Sometimes, you can’t. So, this week, a gentle reminder that setting up limitations and boundaries on some relationships may be needed at this point in your life. You don’t have to be everything to everyone, you need to be everything to a select few during your early motherhood journey, AND THAT’S OK. In addition to one decision a day that energizes you (bonus points if it gets you out of the house), I urged us all to look at the relationships in our lives and decide if limitations or boundaries need to be put into place so we can better take care of ourselves.
Week 5: This week I talk about the relationships that ARE nurturing (opposite of last week). When you are in the thick of early motherhood (or any trying time, really), it’s easy to forget to pay attention to those that are closest to you. And, I’m a firm believer that doing good for others (who appreciate it), will make you feel better, too. So, this week I asked in addition to making time for ourselves, we make a little extra time for someone special to us. Just give a little extra effort to one person that you love.
That brings us to this week, Week 6. I hope that you all learned a little about yourself, the relationships in your life, and what energizes you. I also hope that after 6 weeks of make one decision a day for yourself, that you continue this (maybe some are now incorporated into your routine by now!).
It’s important to take care of ourselves. If we don’t take care of ourselves, how can we expect to take care of anyone else?
Practice self care & some well-deserved self love daily.
Week 5 of the Self Care Challenge is here!
Last week I asked you to look at relationships in your life that weren’t nurturing to you right now. This week, I want to explore relationships in your life that ARE nurturing to you. I want you to think about loved ones in your life that you both rely on and enjoy spending time with.
I’m a firm believer that doing good for others can make us feel pretty darn good about ourselves, too.
So, this week – I want you to carve out a little time for someone that you hold dear to you and do something above the ordinary for them. What you do for them will be different from what you do for them when you don’t have a baby or littles needing your attention (remember, the days before kids…bet you felt you spent more time on these relationships than you do now). Your loved ones understand that your time and energy is *almost* wholly consumed by little people in your lives, so don’t feel guilty about it. But, doing something to show your appreciation towards someone else will make them feel good, and I bet you will feel energized about your relationship and feel more connected to them.
Some ideas are:
Text or call a dear friend or family member just to say hi.
Make a little extra time for your partner, maybe try to disconnect from your phone and carve out some extra time for them once the babe goes to sleep.
Maybe you meet someone for coffee or a walk, just to catch up.