It's okay to take a time out.

The world feels really scary for so many people right now. The news, social media, they're reporting things that can be hard to read, especially when you have a new baby or are expecting to bring one into the world soon. When we are carrying a baby, if we're already parents, we all eventually have the realization that the world's children are our children. We uncover new depths of empathy. This can make the news very hard to watch. It's totally normal for new parents to experience grief and feelings of anxiety during times like these. 

It's okay to take a minute to just breathe. Find serenity and peace where you can. Please don't forget to take time for self care right now. It's okay to do that for yourself and for your baby. The world will be here when you get back.

Doula support for Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena and Los Angeles parents, helping with stress relief and support during your pregnancy. 

Mexican Pots De Creme - a healthy but decadent alternative.

Did you know that today is National Chocolate Mousse Day? No? IT IS! I think that it is probably the most amazing day of the year. A whole day dedicated to chocolate mousse! In honor of this day, I'm going to share with you my very favorite chocolate mousse alternative. I went paleo a couple of years ago and discovered Nom Nom Paleo shortly thereafter. This recipe has been a lifesaver, on days when I desperately need a chocolate fix but don't want to load up on sugar, or put any dairy into my diet. Because it's made with friendly dark chocolate, coconut milk (a good fat) and eggs, this dessert is a great source of nutrition. Plus it tastes great. 

You may never have mousse again... 

NomNom Paleo's Mexican Pots De Creme

  • 7 ounces dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher), finely chopped
  • 14 ounce can full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ⅛ – ¼ teaspoon ancho chile powder (depending on how much heat you prefer)
  • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    Topping: 
  • 14 ounce can full-fat coconut milk, chilled overnight in the refrigerator
  • Coconut sugar, to taste (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

    Chop the chocolate up and put it in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, add a can of coconut milk, egg yolks, ancho chile powder, and kosher salt. Whisk until it's all combined, then add the cinnamon stick. Put on the stove over medium low heat. You're making a custard here, so you want to just keep stirring, patiently, until it is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Don't rush this part. And don't overcook it. Steaming is good. Bubbling is bad. Use a thermometer to make sure the final temperature is about 175°F (80°C).

    When the custard is ready, take the pot off the heat, and remove the cinnamon stick. Put a mesh sieve over the bowl of chocolate, and pour the custard through. You want to catch any lumps. 

    Now walk away and let the hot custard sit on top of the chocolate for a full 5 minutes. No peeking, no stirring, no messing with it. Just leave it alone. 

    When your 5 minutes are up, stir very gently with a spatula. You want to mix the chocolate into the custard base, but you don't want a grainy texture. You want this to be really smooth. Once it is, stir in your vanilla extract. 

    Now the original recipe tells you to divide the mixture into 8 2-oz ramekins or shot glasses. I'm, um, well 2 oz just isn't enough. So I usually divide it into slightly larger bowls because if I'm making this, I want as much as possible to get into my mouth. But if you're doing a fancy dessert and sharing it among friends, then yes, shot glasses or ramekins will do nicely. Let these cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Or, in my case, for as many hours as you can stand before you are grabbing one and dipping in with a spoon. 

    When you're ready to eat, take your can of chilled coconut milk out of the fridge and pour off the thin liquid (save it for smoothies), then put the chilled solids into a cold metal bowl with coconut sugar and cinnamon, and whip it up, just like you would a bowl of cream. Dollop that on top of your pots de creme and serve. 

    Oh so delicious. 

Original link with pictures and preparation notes, here.  And if you're thinking about paleo, I'm just gonna give a little plug to her whole site and cookbook, they're an awesome resource. 

Happy Chocolate Mousse But We Did It Better And Healthier Day! 

 

 

April is National Stress Awareness Month

Relaxation during pregnancy is so important and sometimes it seems so hard to achieve. Whether you are feeling anxiety over your birth, just busy getting ready for your new little one, or running around after older siblings, there's always something that seems to get in the way.  Here are a few ways to lower your stress level during your pregnancy so you can all rest a little bit easier. 
 

Massage and chiropractic care.
 

Pregnancy massage and chiropractic care, when appropriate and approved by your provider, are great ways to lower your stress levels and deal with some of the physical discomforts of your changing body. Finding a massage therapist who is trained and certified in pregnancy massage is important, as they've been taught special techniques to safely work with the pregnant body.  If you can combine this with some friends and a spa day (current recommendations say that saunas and hot tubs are out during pregnancy, as are many essential oils, sorry!) all the better. Pamper yourself with a mani pedi. Get a facial. Enjoy the soothing atmosphere.  I particularly love the Glen Ivy Hot Springs and Spa in Corona, CA. It's a bit of a drive, but between the delicious and healthy dishes in the cafe, the sparkling pools, the Grotto and the array of spa services, you will emerge feeling rested and rejuvenated and you won't even miss the hot tub. 



Don't be afraid to put your feet up! 

 

I know, you may be busy, but try to find a few minutes every day to just put your feet up for a minute. Make a cup of tea or some sparkling water if it's too hot, and close your eyes. Some soothing music, a good book, whatever you need. It's important to take these moments in our busy daily lives. Your growing baby needs all the rest you can get. Consciously relax your body. Focus on your breathing. When I can carve out a few minutes to relax I like to pop on a short, soothing, guided meditation from the Buddify app. 
 

Rest and stress reduction during pregnancy both help keep you and your baby healthy. A visibly pregnant caucasian woman in a blue dress relaxes on a patio chair. 

Get close to the water.

 

Even stepping into a warm shower can help you relax when you're in a state of stress. Got a few extra minutes? Take a bubble bath with something relaxing, like lavender bath salts (if you're ok with the smell). Here in LA it's generally not a terribly long drive to the beach, depending on the time of day. Just walking along the sand listening to the sound of the water can heighten your calm and promote a sense of well being. If you've got older kids, letting them run off some steam in the sand and play in the water can also contribute to everyone's relaxation later on! 

 

Get your body moving.
 

Everybody knows that exercise is good for you, but exercise also helps you deal with your stress levels a little more effectively. A gentle walk, stretching, a pregnancy yoga or tai chi class, or going swimming are all great forms of exercise for pregnancy. Bonus, they help keep your heart and body flexible, strong, and healthy for your upcoming labor and delivery. 

Gentle exercise such as walking, stretching or pregnancy yoga are important for a healthy baby and a healthy body. Exercise can help your delivery go more smoothly. 

It's important to take time for self care during your pregnancy and to consciously manage your stress levels. You deserve to be the most relaxed you that you can be, and so does your baby!  If you're still overwhelmed and need a hand, consider hiring an antepartum doula to help you out before your baby comes. From handling light housekeeping and meal preparation, providing informational and emotional support, helping with comfort measures for advanced pregnancy, an antepartum doula can be a great tool in your stress management toolbox. 

Three Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Had A Baby

I had my babies a long time ago, but I still remember the feelings of anxiety. Was I doing it right? Was I making the best choices for my baby, myself, our family? There was so much noise being thrown at me from well meaning family, friends, doctors and experts, sometimes it was hard to hear my own heart. 
 


I knew that my guts and intuition were spot on when it came to my baby's needs.

 

I wish I had known that it was appropriate to expect the people around me to respect and support my choices. As a new parent, it's healthy to set boundaries when the people around us are not being supportive. It's not okay when other people undermine our confidence in our choices. Having healthy boundaries is a huge part of emotional health in the fourth trimester. Well-meaning relatives and friends like to give advice and to help solve problems that aren't always actual problems, just normal adjustments postpartum. This can keep new parents from finding their own rhythms.

I knew that it was impossible to spoil my baby, whether through too much snuggling, baby wearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding and attachment parenting.  I wish I had known that other people's choices were equally valid for their families, that those choices do not define a "good" or a "bad" parent.  These divides undermine every new parent. It makes little sense to create separation where we could be building supportive community. The truth is, we don't know the details of another person's life or why they make the choices that they do. We're all doing the best we can, for the most part, making the best choices we can.



We all deserve respect for our parenting choices, even when we disagree.

 

I wish I had known more about what to expect during my second birth in the hospital. My first birth was a home birth. I had a great birth team, I was prepared, and I knew exactly what to expect. My second birth was in a hospital. I didn't do any preparation for what hospital birth would entail. I didn't really realize it would be that different from my home birth!  I wish that I'd had more access to education and information, that someone had explained what a hospital and its procedures would be like. As it was, the hospital birth I had was also positive, but it was very different from what I expected. I felt like I was learning to swim, in the middle of labor, and hospital procedure was a shock. 

I've long since worked through the emotions and feelings about my own birth experiences. But those experiences inform what I try to bring to my clients during their pregnancies, labors and births. It's a huge part of my "why." Why I listen, why I validate, why I encourage birthing people and parents to trust their intuition, to ask questions of their providers, to set boundaries, and to use their voices when they disagree. It's why I bring an attitude of non-judgment to the table, so that all of my clients feel supported in their choices, no matter what those choices are. And why I strive to stay informed, so I can offer the most current, evidence based information to my clients so that they are never left adrift or bewildered in the face of a decision or a hospital procedure. 



What we know about birth is that it does not always go as planned. It can be full of surprises.

 

Having a doula doesn't guarantee outcomes but it can help you deal with surprises or when your plans change. A doula offers validation, support, empowerment and information. These things all go a long way towards helping you get the outcome you want and can help you feel good about your birth outcome even if it wasn't what you'd planned for. And that's a good thing to know before you have a baby. 

You have an all inclusive pass, new parents. It's okay.

I was horrified this morning when a business, one that supposedly helps and supports new families, posted this on social media:

“Just because you're a mom with little ones doesn't mean that it's OK to walk around with wrinkled clothes on being all frumpy looking…. Having children doesn't give you a "look like I just rolled out of bed pass."

Really?

How about, no. Thank you. 


It's no secret, we live in a culture that tries to make women, their bodies, their needs, and their lived experience, invisible.

I’ve lost track of how many magazine articles I’ve seen, lauding this celebrity parent or that for “getting their body back in just 6 weeks” or “being bikini ready after having a baby.”  The problem is, and anyone who has given birth to a baby will tell you this, is that you don’t, actually, get your pre-baby body back. Ever. Your body is irrevocably changed by the process of pregnancy and the forces of giving birth, whether that's vaginally or surgically. You might have plastic surgery, exercise the pounds away, and hide most of the external markers of motherhood, but your body, your mind, and your spirit are all, still, forever, changed. That means your life is forever changed. You shouldn’t have to hide that, and you shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of the changes. Yet our culture sets these unreal expectations up and berates new parents for not meeting them, all when they are at their most vulnerable.  

Getting comfortable with your post-baby body and your post-baby life is a big deal! 


As a birth and postpartum doula, a professional who works with new parents and young families, what I care about is this.  Has the person I'm talking to had something nourishing to eat yet, today? Are they getting any sleep (notice I don't say enough sleep, just any sleep) and are they getting any support from their family, friends and community? 

It's the first thing I ask them.  9 times out of 10, the answer is, “I grabbed half a stale bagel which I ate standing up over the sink/over my child’s head while they were nursing/on the way to work. I haven’t had more than 2 consecutive hours of sleep a night, my partner is working double shifts/overtime/7 days a week, my parents live 3000 miles away and had to go home last week, and I feel exhausted.”

The last thing you want, when you are stretched that thin, is for someone to give you a hard time over what you’re wearing or whether or not you managed to pull a brush through your hair.

Don’t let celebrity and pop culture gas-light you or shame you for your experience. Or parenting "experts" either! Believe me when I tell you, it IS a big change and it’s okay for your priorities to shift after you have kids. Practicing good self care is a challenge when you have children. Yes, it’s necessary and it is worth doing for yourself, but you get to define what that looks like and you get to define how that works for your family. And sometimes meeting those needs means asking for help, when you’re in over your head.


The very last person who should be judging you is the person you are paying to help you. 
 

New parents, parents of small children, I salute your yoga pants, your pj’s, your leggings. You have a pass to wear whatever the hell you want to wear, and I really only have one question for you. Well, two. Are you getting enough to eat? Did you get some sleep last night? 


How can I help? 

Perioral Dermatitis and Pregnancy - Pt. 2 - Food Triggers

We know that what you put IN your body is as important as what you put ON it. The only way to learn your personal triggers is to pay attention to what you are putting on and in your body and then notice how your symptoms respond.

  • Spicy foods. This is a common one to watch. If you notice an increase in tingling, redness, painful new blisters or a spread of affected areas after a Thai curry with extra chilies or Taco Tuesday, then spicy food may be a trigger for you.

  • Caffeine. For the latte lover, this one is tragic. Caffeine appears to be a perioral dermatitis trigger for some people. While you're probably already limiting your caffeine intake during pregnancy, this is one to pay attention to. 

  • Salt, oil, acids.  These 3 triggers can all fall under the umbrella of things that go “ON” the skin in addition to “IN” the body. Greasy foods like fries and chips, acidic things like citrus and vinegar, salty things. All worth paying attention to when you're keeping a food diary. 

    Goodbye, shoestring french fries. It’s only for a little while.

  • Is there a yeast connection? There has been some discussion about whether or not perioral dermatitis is linked to candida. If you have a lot of yeast infections, thrush, or have previously dealt with candida overgrowth, it may be something you want to check out with your doctor, midwife or a nutritionist.


If you suspect there’s a link between your PD and certain foods, it is really worth investigating!


Which leads me to a couple of helpful suggestions.

  • Food based sources of probiotics*.  We know that the gut is linked to skin issues. You can get probiotic benefits from eating yogurt with active cultures, kefir, miso soup, pickled foods, and dark chocolate.
     
  • Food based sources of zinc*. Allergies allowing, you might add pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, spinach, chickpeas, shitaki mushrooms, and fresh green peas to your diet. Plus? Throw in some organic dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao. Shave some over a midnight snack of antioxidant rich strawberries, what’s not to love?

If you are struggling with perioral dermatitis and skin outbreaks during your pregnancy, it can really help to pay close attention to food-based triggers and increase foods that promote gut health.

Perioral dermatitis can be healed.

*Always run any dietary supplements past your midwife or doctor first. Some things can be toxic for you and/or baby at elevated levels.



 

Perioral Dermatitis and Pregnancy - Pt. 1

You wake up one morning and discover a strange, bumpy rash on your face.

Perioral dermatitis during pregnancy affects many women. It can feel unsightly and lead to feelings of depression and unhappiness. Managing perioral dermatitis is possible. 

Maybe it’s next to your mouth or between your lips and nose. It might extend down to your chin or even around your eyes. You’re not sure what it is, but you dab a little steroid cream on it and it goes away, only to return when you stop. Except this time it’s worse. SO much worse. It might burn, it itches, and it seems like every single thing you do just makes it worse.

Perioral dermatitis is a skin condition - a kissing cousin to rosacea and eczema - affecting primarily women of childbearing age, though you can also see it in children. Most often it just starts flaring up for unknown reasons, very often during pregnancy or other times of hormonal fluctuation. While non-contagious in nature, perioral dermatitis can be unsightly and it is very stressful. The last thing you want to deal with - ever - is a painful, bright red, bumpy face rash, right?


Let me validate you, here. Perioral dermatitis can feel like the end of the world.  

I had my first bout with this in 1991, while pregnant with my first daughter. My midwife mis-diagnosed it, and the treatment she recommended made it oh, so much worse. Once it cleared up, I was so happy. But just like the Cat in the Hat, perioral dermatitis comes back. It came back with a vengeance during my second pregnancy, and I’ve experienced several more bouts over the years.  The first, and most important thing I learned was this: 

While steroid creams are the cure of choice for many forms of dermatitis, perioral dermatitis is not one of them.

Using steroids will make it go away for a short period, and then it will come back 3x worse than before. Just don’t use them. 

It's really important to let your dermatologist and/or primary care doctor know that you are pregnant, as tetracycline antibiotics are contra-indicated for  the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy.  The most common treatment for this condition is to prescribe tetracycline antibiotics for a period of several months. Obviously, you are going to want to ask your doctor to help you find alternative treatments that are safe for both you and baby. 

In my own personal journey with perioral dermatitis, I have found a few things to be helpful and I'm listing them here as things you might want to explore or talk about with your doctor. 

  1. Skip the cover up. 
    I know you want to cover it up with makeup. Don’t. Go clean-faced for a while. Makeup can just irritate it more. 

  2. Read the labels on all of your skincare products. 
    There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that sodium laurel sulfate (SLS), glycols, fluoride, and parabens can irritate and worsen PD.  You might want to eliminate them. Look for SLS free products that have been formulated for skin conditions like eczema, acne and rosacea. Whatever you use, you want to find something gentle and non-irritating. 

  3. Toothpaste, especially whitening toothpaste, is a suspected trigger for PD.  
    During pregnancy, great dental hygiene is super important, so don't stop brushing your teeth! There are some great non SLS/fluoride free toothpastes available on the market.  Talk to your dentist and make sure your choice of alternative products are supporting your best dental health. 

  4.  Shampoo can affect PD. 
    Consider going to a gentle, SLS and sulfate free, no-poo regimen while your skin heals and even after. There are some fantastic options available now, thanks to all the curly girls out there. 

  5. Perioral dermatitis likes to be left alone.
    Don’t touch it or rub it. It just makes it hurt, and look, worse. Plus, it spreads faster.

  6. Food can be a trigger for some people. 
    You know your body best, so if you feel like something you are eating is having an adverse effect on your PD, make a note and try eliminating it. Obviously, if a suspected trigger food is an important source of something you need during pregnancy, you will want to find an alternative. Look for a second blog post on common food triggers, coming next week! 

  7. Pay close attention. 
    Keep a product and food diary. You will begin to see patterns. 

Perioral dermatitis can take several months to fully heal, but once you've eliminated your triggers, it does go away. With the right care, you can soothe the burn and keep it from being too angry looking while you’re in the healing phase. It’s important to treat yourself with patience, compassion and care while you’re healing. With perseverance, I promise you will get through this!

You aren't alone.

A quick word of warning:


Google wisely! 

Supplements: There are some supplements that are commonly recommended to treat perioral dermatitis. They can be very toxic for your baby and for you too, at the wrong dosage - or at all. ALWAYS double and triple check these with your doctor before you take anything. 

Essential oils: EO's are powerful chemicals. Please don't ingest or put EO's directly on your skin or your child's skin. You can set yourself up for lifelong problems, including sensitization, allergies and organ failure. If you are considering essential oil use, please talk to your physician or midwife and also seek a consultation with a qualified professional - a certified or clinical aromatherapist - who has trained through a reputable and accredited program, not a random "wellness advocate" from an MLM company. 

Your health, and that of your baby are too important to risk. 

(Originally posted at Great Valley Doula.)
 

 

 

Three "Must Haves" For Every Pregnant Person

Every baby magazine and website on the planet has a list of “must haves.” From fancy creams, essential oils, bags, clothes and baby products, everyone has their favorite.  

I've boiled it down a little bit more to my three most essential things for every pregnant person.

A positive attitude can have a tremendous affect on your pregnancy, labor and birth outcome.  


1. A good sense of humor.  You’re going to need one.


Pregnancy is fraught with change, both physiological and emotional. Changing hormones, a changing body, it’s a roller coaster! There are days where if you don’t find something to laugh about, you might cry. And there days when you will cry anyway.  Heartburn, morning sickness, a sudden aversion to your favorite snacks, no sushi for 9 months, and baby rolling on your bladder 2 stops away from home on the subway; all of these things are temporary, but they can also be inconvenient, frustrating, and very uncomfortable.


Don’t talk yourself out of the very real feelings you will experience during your pregnancy.


Give yourself the space to simply experience what is real for you, good, bad, easy, hard, conflicted... It makes the ups and downs of making a tiny human just a little bit easier.  


2. A Reliable source of take-out and well-stocked snacks.


You don't always have the energy to run down to the corner bodega or go pick up an order of 9pm egg rolls. Having a reliable, pre-planned source of take-out during your pregnancy is key. When you want Thai food, you want it now, right? 

It’s also really handy if you think ahead each week and pre-stock your favorite pregnancy snacks. Whether that’s pre-slicing veggies, bagging up smoothie fixings, making up a batch of fresh, healthy salsa, or making sure your favorite ice cream is in the freezer.  By planning ahead you’ll be more apt to make healthy choices, plus you'll feel less deprived and grouchy when you’re peckish and wanting a nibble of something right now. And if you're planning ahead, you might just think about putting some healthy (well, healthier anyway) egg rolls or chicken satay in the freezer for those days when a smoothie just won't do. 
 

A healthy berry smoothie is a wonderful pregnancy pick me up and can contribute to your prenatal nutrition. 


3. A pregnancy buddy. Someone who is there for you through it all.

It really helps when there’s someone you can call, day or night, with questions and concerns, or when pregnancy anxiety has you fretting. It’s nice to know you have someone who will squeal at the tiny jammies you just bought and get excited that you bought your first box of newborn diapers.  That stuff is fun and believe me, you need that joyful, fun support just as much as you need support for the tough stuff. Could be your bestie, your mom, your sister, and... it could also be a doula.  

It helps to know you have the rock-solid support of someone who won’t judge the choices you make for yourself or your baby.

It helps to know that you have someone in your corner who isn’t going to put in their $.02 unless you ask for it. Who, even then, is going to keep the conversation centered around what you think is best for you and your family, not their opinion. That’s what doulas do. We’re there for you, when you need a laugh, a shoulder, wisdom, support, or just a ready ear.  Your doula is going to be excited to hear that you found a super cute Doctor Who onesie or bought a car seat and your doula will be there for you if you just need an ear because your sense of humor is faltering. Your doula will help you B.R.A.I.N through important decisions and help you with research to find the resources you need, when you need them.


And who knows? Your doula might even bring you egg rolls…

 

Together We Stand


This woman owned, small business supports the LGBTQIA+ community, Black Lives Matter, supports the rights of immigrants and the rights of indigenous people, religious freedoms, civil rights, and this business will always stand for the simple truth that women are PEOPLE who have the fundamental right to reproductive choice.  

As your doula, I will always support your right to advocate for yourself, with your own voice and in your own words.