I’m a SAHM, not a housewife

A recent visit to Baby T’s doctor proved what I’ve been fearing: I am judged—and looked down on—for being a stay at home mom. Since it was a new doctor my husband and I filled out forms, including our occupations. Although I put “stay at home mom, former Tobacco Control Coordinator,” the doctor’s verbal assumptions made it clear that she missed that second part. While explaining the science behind her reasoning, which also sounded a lot like lecturing ironically (or not), she directed her speech mostly at my husband, assuming that his job title meant that he understood the physiology and anatomy behind the human body and function of immunoresponse. She even went so far as to say to him, “with your job title, you understand, right?” “Uh, no,” he answered, “That’s actually not what my field is in.” His answer barely phased her as she continued, and he turned to look at me with a “Wtf….” expression.

Because of my Master of Public Health degree, I have some background knowledge of the human body. I understood more of what she was rambling on about than my husband did. When we left, he said to me “That was pretty insulting to you to assume that you knew nothing. You know a lot more about this stuff than I do.” And he’s right. I do.

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Why is it that “stay at home mom” is such a dirty word[s], and one that brings about so many assumptions—more like accusations—about a woman, her intelligence, her drive, and her priorities? It’s odd to me that a country like this one that puts so much emphasis on women as nurturers and givers and shames women who chose to not have kids, also has created a stigma about stay at home moms (SAHM). I am educated beyond the standard college degree and have work experience, and am [most days] intelligent, and yet when I say that “what I do” is be a mom, I’m met with a lot of “Oh”s. I can read the expression on your face and can interpret it, by the way, as I just told you, I’m far from an idiot.

Being a SAHM doesn’t mean that someone is lazy, has it easy, or has given up. I hate answering the question “Will you go back to work one day?” I’m sure I will one day, I say, but what I really want to say is “I’m not sure, will you ever get a better job?” But I never would, because that would be an asshole thing to say. Which is kind of what I hear when I get asked that question.

I’m a stay at home mom, not a housewife. A stay at home mom has chosen a path that she believes is best for her family. She has prioritized her role as mother above all else, and performs that most sacred of jobs, to nurture and raise her children as the sole caregiver (for most of the day. Until Dad gets home. Then the baby is all his!). Her house is messy because her job isn’t to cook and clean, it’s to stimulate tiny brains as a teacher. Her job isn’t to fold laundry, it’s to be a nurse on call 24/7, whether it is changing diapers or kissing booboos, or freaking out over baby’s first fever. Her job isn’t to look perfect with a martini in hand when her husband gets home, but even with oily hair and dark circles, she is the most beautiful creature.

Would you ever tell an in-home nurse that her job is easy because she gets to be at a home all day? No. Would you ever tell someone that is on call 24/7, even in the middle of the night, that her job is simple because she can “sleep during the day”? No, you wouldn’t. That would be asinine. Being a mother is no different. And BTW, I don’t get to nap during the day, because Baby T recharges on just a few minutes of sleep. I’m not convinced he wasn’t switched at birth and was meant to go home with the Energizer Bunny.

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Please also know that I am by no means judging moms who return to work. There is definitely a strength in that, too. Sometimes forced by necessity, sometimes because a woman is more complete with work-life balance, women who go to work and can be full-time mom off hours is another form of powerful superhero. Some days I think it would be a lot easier to go to work and not be at my infant’s constant beck and call. It might be easier to eat lunch in peace and take leisurely bathroom breaks. But I would never tell you, working woman, that it is easier, because I haven’t walked your path and would never take the presumption to say such things. So in all fairness, don’t judge us SAHMs either, ok?

No matter what your path of motherhood looks like, it’s often hard AF. If you’re not a mom, if you’re a guy, or just someone with an overinflated sense of self, just keep your opinions to yourself—not that you will, keyboard warrior.

Every day I try to not be embarrassed or doubt my decision to become a SAHM. I don’t believe I or any other woman should feel like that. Why am I even embarrassed? Because of judgy-mc-judgersons like the doctor who make assumptions about me. As strongly as I believe in my decision, there is still that nagging critical voice in the back of my mind that makes me susceptible to outside criticism. It shouldn’t matter what someone else thinks, but realistically, many of us are affected by others’ words. We hear our own self-criticisms in their voices. It can be very hard not to internalize such negativity.

What I do know is that I work my tail off every day, on very (VERY) little sleep. I am also very (VERY) proud of my occupation. It’s definitely all not cakes and rainbows, although if you ask me, it’s the best career in the entire world.

My baby pooped blood: The breastfeeding elimination diet

What it is and how to survive it

I am officially 7 months into breastfeeding. I never thought I’d be here. My original goal was to reach 6 months after a significantly challenging—okay hellish—start to breastfeeding. After a few months it got better, and eventually became a breeze. One of the biggest hurdles was something I’d never even heard of before.

A few months into life, my little guy started getting greener and greener poops. They were pretty bright…and loose. Soon I started seeing blood flecks in his diaper. Naturally, I totally freaked out. I went to the doctor and she said it was likely a protein intolerance. What, food allergies at 2 months old?!

Nope. Protein intolerance isn’t a true food allergy. It can occur in infants because their tiny, immature little digestive systems can’t handle complex proteins found in certain foods. Most often, the culprits are soy and dairy, but sometimes, egg, nuts, and wheat can also be the cause. After about a month and multiple more visits to the doctor (and several more blood-flecked poop diapers) we eventually decided to do a full elimination diet, which meant I would stop eating dairy, soy, wheat, eggs, and nuts. What the hell was there left to eat?

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It takes about three weeks for things to work out of a mom’s system, and then about 3 weeks after that to flush out of the baby’s system. Needless to say, the breastfeeding elimination diet is a LONG process. I hoped by the end of it I would at least be able to lose the rest of this baby weight.

So what could I actually eat? Well, I had to eat healthy and naturally. I could eat lean meats, fruits, vegetables, potatoes, and grains like rice and quinoa. Very healthy, very natural, very boring. Although I had eaten similarly before to lose weight, this time it felt very different, probably because I was being forced into it. I also couldn’t have any cheats, like chocolate or pizza. Sad face crying emoji.

It turns out that I really learned a lot about my eating habits. I ate way more cheese on a weekly basis than I thought. I also ate a lot of wheat-based products, and these processed foods aren’t really all that healthy. The less I ate of all of these products, the better I felt. It was like all my organ systems got a reboot and were finally functioning normally. I have also forgot to mention to you that my baby had pretty decent colic episodes every evening, so I had already cut out gas-inducing foods like beans, broccoli, peppers, tomato sauce, onions, and garlic. Making flavorful food was a challenge! Needless to say, we were eating pretty bland. My saint of a husband ate [almost] everything I ate.

I also learned how much dairy, wheat, and soy were in processed food products. There is an unreal amount of soy and soy protein (soy lecithin) added to food products. I actually found it very scary. I didn’t realize how much garbage was added to our foods. It was definitely a wake-up call.

I was willing to do anything to keep my little guy fed and healthy, and although some people suggested that now might be a good time to quit breastfeeding—and that I had given it a good run—I just couldn’t do it. I had worked so. hard. to breastfeed and I just knew in my heart I couldn’t quit now.

And so I spent the next few months making alternative foods, finding alternative products, slipping up and finding blood flecks return to my baby’s poop. The hardest part was eating at restaurants, which often use soy oil or a soy-blend oil (commonly just called “vegetable oil”), and waitstaff who weren’t thorough, or just didn’t care enough, to ensure that my meals were prepared accordingly. It was a lot easier to eat at home, but it also made it very isolating.

Eventually, I learned what restaurants I could eat at and what food I could eat there, which ones used canola oil only to cook, and how to get creative with the menu so that I could have a full meal that kept both me and my son happy.

I also found a vast array of alternative, albeit more expensive, food products I could cook with. I found rice flour blends, pancake and waffle mix, rice flour noodles, and even chocolate and ice cream made with coconut milk. The company Enjoy Life was a real life saver; they make a ton of products (including cookies and snack bars!) that I could eat. Daiya makes macaroni and cheese and pizza, although how they create the cheese still baffles me. I don’t really care, though. It helps me feel a little more normal to have pizza on Friday nights, and jazzing it up with spices and Italian sausage can make just about anything taste better. Luna and Larry’s coconut milk ice cream, particularly the Chocolate and Peanut Butter flavor, is to die for.

This kind of diet isn’t for the faint of heart, and isn’t for everyone. For some mamas, it may be easier and less stressful for both mom and baby to just make the switch to formula. For me, I am happy with my decision to eliminate things—and some happiness—from my diet. It’s just food right? Eh….

I have tried over the months to reintegrate these food groups into my diet. Every reintroduction I’ve tried has failed horribly. The blood flecks always come back. Even now that my baby eats Gerber Oatmeal cereal that has wheat in it with no problem, I can’t eat wheat. Maybe it is the way my body breaks down the proteins and delivers them through the breastmilk.

Oh well. Once Baby T is off the boob for good, I guess I’ll just have to have a whole cheese pizza and pint of Ben and Jerry’s by myself. What a sad celebration that will be, right? Winky smiling emoji.

Finding my calling in motherhood: How giving birth to one love gave birth to another

I feel really fat.

You know that feeling you get about yourself when you try to avoid looking in the mirror when undressing because you know you won’t really like the visage that looks back at you? I’ve been feeling really off all day. This whole “mom body” that I am trying really hard to embrace (she grew and birthed my son, after all!) just isn’t working out today—ha, figuratively and literally. Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation, days on end of baby talk, or the day-long silences between adult conversations. Maybe it is the moon, or just one of those days.

But today is coming to a close, and I’m getting ready for my shower. I peruse social media a little—my last link to the outside world, it seems—and see women who are also small business owners and scroll through their work on Instagram. They’re talking about the power of women, motherhood, and the divine female. The strength that women possess and the sacred. I’m not sure why, but the images of mothers, births, and the curves of clay molded into generic, faceless pregnant women and nursing mothers resonates deeply with me. I suddenly feel more connected again. To other women. To their experiences. To myself.

I step gingerly into the shower, lest I slip on some conditioner that squirted too hastily out of the bottle at the last cleansing. I reflect more on motherhood, the joy it has brought, and the lessons learned. I reflect on my full heart. I reflect on my blog, my new calling, my newfound purpose. Purpose.

It was like a lightning bolt of realization struck me from the top of my grown-out roots to the tips of my un-pedicured toes. “Holy shit,” I said to myself, “that’s it!”

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It has actually been years, a decade, maybe, that I have been searching for what my true calling is. I have a lot of passions—art, writing, spirituality… shopping (does that count?)—but I haven’t been able to quite put it all together. It’s caused a lot of emotional and mental turmoil and, in some instances, depression and anxiety about who I am and who I am meant to become. No matter which path I picked, it always seems like the wrong one. Another wrong turn. Things didn’t quite work out the way I’d hoped.

In that millisecond in the shower, I realize something brand new. Something for the first time that finally makes sense. What if I hadn’t been able to find my true calling because that piece of me was still missing? What if I couldn’t find it because it didn’t exist yet? What if it took having a child to realize that the realm of motherhood is my true calling? Mind. Blown.

I couldn’t find my calling all these years because it didn’t exist yet. I didn’t have that piece of my soul yet. Now that I have that missing element, I feel completed. Whole. From my heart to soul to brain and back again. I feel peace, and almost as importantly, purpose. Purpose.

I could hear those clanky wheels turning in my head as I scrubbed my mama body, causing the jiggly bits to jiggle. My calling is making those connections with other moms. Pregnant women who don’t love pregnancy. Pregnant women who do, but fear losing themselves in the process. New moms who feel overwhelmed and alone in a new city, or maybe new country, with a baby that she isn’t quite sure why she is suddenly entrusted with caring for and keeping alive. Moms of infants who are months into sleep deprivation, and know there are more months ahead, but are so in love that the sleepless nights are but a negligible part of the whole (this is where I fit in).

Maybe my role is to provide a new voice, one that moms don’t often express for fear of looking ungrateful, incapable, complaining, weak, annoying, “that mom”, or a hundred other degrading words that are used to describe women who have just given life to someone brand new on this earth. I should also note that as I’m writing these exact words and feeling the well of energy bursting forth from within and up to my head and hands, the song playing on Pandora is called “Transcendence/Kundalini Rising” which [Googling] means the spiritual emergence that brings many shifts in energy and consciousness from the spine chakra upward and outward to the head chakra. That’s some deep stuff! I don’t think this is coincidence…

I feel that my purpose for you, and for me, is to share these experiences and hope that some of you will say “me too!” either inside or out loud, and feel less alone when you read my posts. I want to create for you an online tribe so that you can see that your experiences aren’t so weird and aren’t so uncommon. I’ve had readers tell me “I thought I was the only one” or “I really needed to hear this today,” and that makes me feel like I am doing some good. Even if I reach just one of you, my heart is content.

No matter how tired I am or how giving I must be, I always do it with gusto because my son is the ultimate reward and fulfillment nature affords. It might be hard to see the light through the clouds on some days, but the sun always comes back out.

Motherhood isn’t for the weak, so it’s good that you aren’t. We’re stronger together, don’t you think?

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Me and the little man

Why I’m actually happy to be turning 30

I never thought I’d actually say I am happy to be turning 30. But here I am, days away, and I can’t help but feeling at peace about the number.

I’d always imagined what my 30 would look like. A couple kids that weren’t under the age of 1, successful career, and a big house with lots of money (can you tell I was a little materialistic in my teenage years?). Once I turned 21, however, I started dreading the next decade marker. Thirty meant old. Thirty meant my days of partying were over. I was so in love with my 20’s and being young that I couldn’t foresee anything good from getting older. The years crept on, as they tend to do, and 30 was getting closer, and my apprehension grew.

I spent my 20’s with my loving husband by my side, partying, traveling, and trying to figure out who I thought I was, and what I thought I wanted to be. I just couldn’t capture that all-important (at the time) career I was lusting after. Still, I loved 20’s and didn’t want him to leave, so I clung to him desperately.

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But then something miraculous happened. I had a baby. Much later than I thought, I might add. I say miraculous because conceiving, growing a human, and birthing him is truly a miracle. I didn’t realize all of these things until I was in the midst of it and reading everything I could get my hands on. The timing had to be just right, the bodily conditions perfect, and then the 8 weeks after conception were a time of prayers of please please stay. The “oops” baby mothers made it look so easy to achieve; I didn’t know that it wasn’t. As it turns out, all my husband had to do was sneeze and I was pregnant. Okay, the second sneeze worked. We were #blessed that way (did I really just #? Ugh okay I did).

Now that my little guy isn’t so little anymore—I mean he is, but growing so fast!—and I have almost completed my 30th trip around the sun, I’ve made a few realizations I wasn’t expecting, like that

I am much more able to live in the present. When I was in my 20’s, I loved myself. My anthem was that little known song that goes kinda like “I’m a badass bitch, bitch, bitch.” But for some reason, I was still insecure. I longed for the past. I couldn’t live in the present, let alone create my future. All of that has changed. That girl in her 20’s was still good, but this woman is great. Mostly because

I know who I am and I like her. A lot. The anthem may not have changed, but my self-confidence sure has. And not just in my view of my new mom body (rolls anyone?) but also who I am as a person. I like who I am. I like that I am strong. I like that I don’t take any shit anymore. I like that I am done with making excuses. This is who I am, and I’m happy to report that people seem to be responding (positively!) to her. It’s not just that, but there is also this brand new part of me that was birthed with my son. It turns out that

I love that I am a mother. Motherhood was never really on my career agenda. I wasn’t even sure that I wanted kids. Maybe getting closer to 30 also activated that little ticking clock that some women have—baby baby baby BABY. Now that I’m a mama, I’m a little obsessed! I’ve written about how motherhood has changed me, and how I get a little lost in motherhood. I said it before and I’ll say it again, I love who I found there. Motherhood has a way of changing people. For me,

I’m a kinder, gentler, and more patient woman. And that’s not half bad! I think it allows for better bonds with everyone in my life. I’m also able to see a lot more clearly. If someone or something isn’t worth the time and energy, I am prepared to put some distance there, whereas before, I just held on and couldn’t let go. I’m just realizing as I’m writing this, that that statement is a pretty good metaphor for my 20’s. I just couldn’t let go. The past, the old friends who I’ve since outgrown (and vice versa), the relationships, and most importantly, the ideals of what I thought my life would be. As it turns out, my life isn’t at all what I imagined it would be,

My life is better than I’d ever imagined. I didn’t know I could be capable of so much love—I’m basically shooting rainbows and sparkly hearts out of my eyeballs! I didn’t know I would find my passion for helping women in my experience of pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and motherhood. I didn’t know I could be this happy. I didn’t know I could just be. But I still realize that

I’m still not perfect. Life is about growing and changing and getting stronger, much like the maple in my back yard. It’s not much fun to be like the rocks that are always the same shape, color, and hardness (bor-ing!). But I’m okay with that. I can now look forward to the changes instead of trying to keep everything the same.

I’m turning 30, but that doesn’t mean anything does it? It’s more about turning into the person I’d always dreamed I could be but didn’t know how to find. Hello, you, you’re a badass bitch….

Why wait on January 1? An action guide to enact your resolutions.

It’s a few days into the new year. The Christmas lights are down, decorations put away, and holiday magic now lies dormant for another year. There is almost something peaceful and restorative once everything is over. As a Christmas fanatic, I can assure you I’m one of the first to turn on the Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving and play it until the songs are tired of even themselves. But after the stockings are neatly folded and the ornaments carefully wrapped and put away, I find the end of the holiday season almost cathartic. A fresh start to a fresh year.

I always tend to laugh at all the people making resolutions on January 1. They have such big plans for the year ahead. Inevitably there is always “eat healthy”, “exercise”, and a “be more”/”be less” on the list. Don’t get me wrong, I love goal setting. I think it is an important thing to do for yourself, and evaluating and revising our goals is how we grow and see evidence of that growth as a person. However, setting these arbitrary goals that tend to only last a month or so seems like an ineffective use of our energy. Lord knows there isn’t enough of that around to waste!

What is it about the new year that drives us to, sometimes desperately, try to change ourselves? Maybe it is because there is nothing like the feeling of that fresh first day of the first month on a brand spankin’ new calendar, especially if the year behind you was difficult or long. Maybe it’s because now feels like the right time to become someone else, especially if we don’t like who we have been. Maybe it is because of a birthday, marriage, divorce, baby, or some other catastrophically good or bad life event.

Whatever the drive is, it is great to set goals. I think it is important, though, to recognize that goals are a work in progress, and need continuous evaluation, changes, and restarts through the year. We cannot just rely on a date on a calendar to set and work towards goals (although it’s a great place to start if you haven’t yet!). We also need to rely on our ability to constantly change, improve, and refocus.

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How do we set these goals? When goal setting, it is important to differentiate goals from action steps. “I want to be happier this year” is a great goal, but what does that look like? What does that feel like? How will you measure this? It can change from person to person. Some action steps might look like this:

Goal: Be happier in 2017

Measure: Less stress, more inner peace, accomplish three personal projects

Action steps:

  1. Sign up for (and attend!) yoga class to learn how to meditate and control physical stress.
  2. Set aside one hour both Saturday and Sunday for personal projects (writing one day, painting the other).
  3. Set aside 20 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, Friday to pick up the house (less clutter and mess = less stress).

Here we can see several things. We can see the actual goal in mind for the year. We can see how movement towards this goal will make us feel (calmer and more tranquil in mind and body), and we can see specifically how this goal will be accomplished.

I have a bad habit of making lofty goals for myself—Painting! Writing! Exercising!—but end up getting so overwhelmed by my goals that I don’t know where to start and quit before I even begin. My failure is not because I tried and it didn’t work out, it was because I didn’t even begin! What is that cliché phrase? You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take?

Look, no one is perfect. Life is hectic, and things happen. To be really honest, I (and maybe you, too) won’t accomplish every single step and every single goal this year. Or you might discover that downward dog really sucks and you hate your ass in yoga pants and drop the class. That’s totally fine, too. As we change, goals change. The more I try to force something to be resolute, the more I get angry and resentful at it. Instead of aiming for perfection, aim for just starting. Begin the process. Frequently, I find that once I get started my motivation increases and I accomplish, and follow through with, a lot more.

My first goal I’m making a relatively easy one. I hope it is, anyway. I want to live in the moment more, and primarily I plan to accomplish this by putting my phone down more and not living through social media. I don’t want to miss a moment with my handsome son or that wonderful big guy that married messy ol’ me. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m addicted to technology. I have a zillion other goals, so I should probably follow my own advice and start making those pesky action steps.

Step 1: Walk awaaaaayyyy from the computer…

Reflections on motherhood

It’s the final eve of 2016, and it’s going how I never expected it to go. Instead of drinking my face off at a party with friends, I’m sitting in a rocking chair, holding my precious babe. Instead of turning up at the stroke of midnight when the New Year officially begins, I’m shoving Kleenex up my nose until I look like a tissue walrus, so that I don’t wake up my baby by blowing my stuffy nose. Instead of raging until the 3 am hour, I anxiously watch the clock at 8:45 pm, hoping to get to bed soon and fall asleep fast. No, New Year’s Eve isn’t at all what I had ever seen myself doing. Yet it is the happiest I’ve ever felt when starting a new year, sober and so in love with the life my husband and I created.

Pregnancy and motherhood have been unique challenges. I’ve written about my identity loss during pregnancy, my extreme difficulties breastfeeding, and the isolation and anguish that having a new baby can cause. I’ve also written about how motherhood has made me a better person, and how I wouldn’t change my new life for the world. Every new experience is scary, and every challenge overwhelming until we’re in the thick of it.

I wouldn’t say that I’ve nailed this parenting thing, but at least I feel settled in my new role. I quit my career and found my new calling in helping women just like you.

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An irrational and insane move to everyone but me, I started my blog when Baby T was just a few months old. I had found my calling, and I wasn’t going to waste a second of it. You see, when I was pregnant, I often felt misunderstood and alone. I didn’t love pregnancy, and I felt like a freak because of it. When my baby was born, I wasn’t immediately in love. Deep rooted attachment, yes, but not love. I felt even worse. I often felt judged for my decisions I was making as a mom (no visitors, hypersensitivity to germs, and choosing to breastfeed despite my pain) and once my mom and parents-in-law left, I had never felt so alone.

It took me awhile to find the support I needed in moms’ group and to allow in the support from my friends, and once I did I felt relief. My daily walks were my metaphorical Xanax, and I felt I could go on. Not that I didn’t have really fucking hard days—and nights—but at least I knew I could keep going. Those beautiful baby smiles that were just for me in the mornings and the sweet coos of my little guy weren’t too bad to receive either.

It was all of these challenging experiences that motivated me to write to you. To you, the pregnant woman who is emotionally struggling, and struggling to keep it together. To you, the new mom who can now only find solace in the two minute hot shower (even though you feel guilty as fuck when your baby starts crying when you are only halfway through it). To you, the mom who perseveres or chooses another feeding method when the pain is too much, and your nipples too chafed to go on. To you, the mom who feels like an outcast because her parenting decisions are against the “norm.” To you, the mom of older kids but still doesn’t quite fit in with the Lululemon wearing, Kate-Spade toting tiger moms—okay I have a Kate Spade diaper bag, but I swear I’m not one of them!

I couldn’t find the support when I needed it most, so I want to create the space for you. I want to create a community of bad-ass mama-jamas that can feel the best when they feel themselves. Motherhood is the most joyous, yet hardest, experience I’ve ever had.

It’s not all rainbows and home-made playdough, with pictures of happy, clean faces and tidy houses. It’s on-and-off storms, diaper blowouts, spit-up in hair, and messy houses. Not many moms want to share that side. Maybe because it’s hard to show that side, the side that makes us feel like failures, the side that makes it look like we don’t have it all together. I’m here to tell you it’s okay to not have your shit together—and to be far from it—with mom hair and yoga pants.

Motherhood is more than that. It’s the sleepy newborn smiles in the middle of the night that make it worth it. It’s the first time baby laughs for you. It’s the first time baby sits up all by himself. It’s the first time baby and daddy engage each other in pure love and joy, and your heart melts and your tears of happiness say it all.

If you have no one else to turn to, you have me. You’re not alone. You have the mothers and the mothers before them, doing the same things you are doing, facing the same self-doubt, and celebrating the same triumphs. We are all in this together.

Happy 2017 mama, let’s make this a year of parenting triumph and joy, and kick-ass while doing it.