The 411 on Mom Brain and What to Do to Help Your Memory

A confused mom with question marks surrounding her.

The 411 on Mom Brain and What to Do to Help Your Memory

Have you or someone you know experienced serious forgetfulness during pregnancy or soon after having baby? (The postpartum period — the first three months after giving birth.) It’s sometimes called “momnesia,” “mom brain” or “pregnancy brain.” There is a study out there that has cast doubt on whether there is such a thing as pregnancy brain, but from what I have seen from my clients over the years and the stories that I have heard, I believe it’s absolutely true.

So, if it is real, what are some things that can you do about it while you’re pregnant? Well, there are a variety of things you can do. I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “Is there any chance of returning to the way I was?” Which was able to remember names and faces, birthdays, and when it’s your turn to bring in snacks? The good news is, absolutely.

Pregnancy Brain Is Real, but…

First, let me say that pregnancy does not actually change a woman’s brain even though some women don’t feel as sharp as usual when they’re pregnant. Helen Christensen, PhD, of The Australian National University, says, “If you read pregnancy manuals and listen to pregnant mothers, yes, there is such a thing as pregnancy brain or momnesia. And there is also evidence from research showing deficits in memory.” But, she adds, “the evidence from our study shows that the capacity of the brain is unaltered in pregnancy.” Interesting.

What Causes “Momnesia?”

It’s 100% normal to have memory lapses or be forgetful when you’re busy, stressed, or short on sleep. That’s my life. I’m not pregnant or a mom yet, but I will sometimes forget important things due to the amount of things on my mind, the minimal hours of sleep I get at night, etc. Jane Martin, MD, director of the Neuropsychological Testing and Evaluation Center at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center, agrees. “When you are not getting enough sleep and are multitasking, nobody’s memory is good,” she says. “You are not cognitively sharp when you haven’t slept well. Also, surging hormone levels and new priorities may help explain why pregnancy brain happens.

Pregnancy also shuffles what gets your attention. Your IQ doesn’t change, but your priorities do. You only have so much that you can remember at a time so the things that are most important to you are going to win. The majority of that is usually baby stuff.

Hormones may also affect spatial memory, which includes remembering where things are, in pregnant women and new moms.

How to Help Your Memory:

If you feel you’re not as sharp as usual, that should be your first clue. When you are preparing to have a baby, you need to simplify other areas of your life because life is about to get a lot more complicated. When the baby arrives, sleep deprivation is clearly a contributing factor. Louann Brizendine, MD, director of the Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic at the University of California, San Francisco, says, “Women accumulate up to 700 hours of sleep debt in the first year after having a baby, and that causes the brain not to be at its best for things other than caring for the baby.” Isn’t that wild?!

So now that we know that pregnancy brain/mom brain is real, in a sense, what can you do?

Write things down.

Jotting things down, whether on a grocery list or a list of questions to ask your obstetrician can really help. The human brain can only hold about seven bits of information in working memory at a time, though it can obviously store a lot more than that if needed.

If the days, weeks, or years since you became a mother feel like one big blank, give yourself a break. So what if you can’t remember the name of the last novel you read or where your husband took you on your last birthday? What you’ll never forget are the things that really matter: your baby’s first smile, your toddler’s first halting steps, and the utter joy of being a mom.

Things that you can do though are by making lists, leaving sticky notes for yourself, using a day planner, or whatever it is that can help you stay organized.

Get more sleep.

This may be tricky for new parents, but it can make a real difference. Most moms need more deep sleep, and within a week of getting better sleep, some of this momnesia stuff goes away.

New information is solidified in the brain while you sleep, so not getting enough can affect your ability to remember things. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine compared the response times and memorization skills of people who’d slept for four, six, or eight hours per night over a period of two weeks to those who stayed awake for three days. They found that the eight-hour sleepers did fine, but the four- and six-hour ones performed just as poorly as the folks who hadn’t gotten any shut-eye at all.

De-stress.

Cortisol, the same hormone that comes into play during childbirth, kicks in whenever we’re stressed. With the challenges of raising kids, moms might as well be mainlining it, which means an almost constant assault on the brain’s memory centers.

The key isn’t to try to avoid stress, but to figure out how to manage it. You can use exercise (such as yoga classes), or maybe read a few pages of a novel to help with your stress. Anything that enables you to relax. Don’t have much time? Find a quiet place and try to focus on your breathing for a few minutes. Close your eyes, imagine someone you love, and breathe deeply as you think of that person.

If you can’t get a second to yourself, unwind with your kids. You can sit down with them and color with your toddler for fifteen minutes, or take your little ones on a walk. I find that when mothers are around their children, it grounds them. They will forget about their bad day by focusing on whatever they’re little one is doing at that moment together.

Balance your diet.

Certain nutrients, including zinc (found in meats and fortified cereals), vitamin B12, and folic acid, may affect memory when in short supply. But the one that has the greatest impact on a mom’s memory is iron. Did you know that as many as 25 percent of all pregnant women are iron-deficient?!  Yup! During pregnancy, not only does the baby’s growth sap your stores, but the increase in your blood volume dilutes them as well. The loss of blood during childbirth (and every month from your period, when it comes back) also takes a toll. Afterward, time constraints can keep you from eating well.

Do less.

Live in the moment. If you don’t focus on what’s going on, there’s no way you’ll remember it. When you’re getting some important information, turn off the TV, leave the playroom, do whatever it takes to allow you to listen.

Cut down on the things you need to remember.

Call it what you will –baby brain drain, maternal absentmindedness–the phenomenon of forgetfulness is a fact of life for moms, often setting in even before they give birth. Have you experienced mom brain? What are some things that have helped you feel back to your usual self?

About the Author /

Nina is The Baby Chick® & CEO of Baby Chick®. She is a baby planner, birth doula, postpartum doula, childbirth educator, newborn care specialist, and a mother. With over eight years of experience, she has supported hundreds of families during their pregnancies, births, and postpartum journeys.

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One of the most common questions in an expecting mother's mind is what her unborn baby will look like. 💭 From the moment we realize we're pregnant 🤰 until the day our baby is in our arms, 🤱 most mothers will spend countless hours daydreaming about who their little one will resemble. Most babies will look more like mom, more like dad, or a curiously even combination of the two. On the other hand, some babies come out looking like no one expected!⁠ 😃⁠⠀
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There are a great number of factors that go into what your unborn baby will look like. Here are some of the most common things that can influence how your baby will look when they finally make their grand debut.⁠ ❤️ {Click 🔗 in bio to continue reading!⁠}⁠⠀
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7 Reasons Why Childbirth is Easier Than Parenting 7 Reasons Why Childbirth is Easier Than Parenting a Toddler 🙈⁠
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In our culture, it is common for women to feel nervous and even fearful of childbirth. We've all heard scary horror stories from other people about their babies' births. But something that people aren't as willing to share is how much of a turd toddlerhood can be. 💩 Don't get me wrong. I LOVE and ADORE my crazy toddler. But he is the true definition of a sour patch kid. Sour one moment and then sweet the next. He keeps me on my toes almost every minute of every day. 🤪 When I think about the day I gave birth to him, I think, "Psssshhh, that's child's play compared to what this kid puts me through on the regular." Why aren't more people acknowledging that, yes, childbirth can be tough, but wrangling a toddler isn't much easier? This is just my personal experience, but some mothers might agree. Here is why I believe childbirth is easier than parenting a toddler. {Click 🔗 in bio to continue reading!}⁠
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👩‍🏫 How to Teach Your Child to Pick Up Aft 👩‍🏫 How to Teach Your Child to Pick Up After Themselves⁠ 🪀⁠
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I often tell my pregnant clients that birth has mo I often tell my pregnant clients that birth has more to do with what happens between your ears (your brain 🧠) than between your legs.⁠ 😳⁠
The fear, tension, pain cycle in childbirth is REAL. The more fear you have, the more tension you will hold, which means the more pain you will feel. The more pain you feel means that you will more likely clench and fight against the natural surges your body needs to produce to open your cervix and bring your baby earthside. That's why the more that you can practice, prepare and educate yourself about calm breathing and positive birth experiences before your baby's birth, the better you'll be able to control what's happening in your mind and allow the labor and birth process to unfold and bloom.⁠ ❤️ The mind is a powerful and beautiful thing. Your birth experience can be too.⁠ ✨
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As soon as a woman welcomes a baby into the world, oftentimes, her family and others around her become focused on the baby. The mother can sometimes somewhat be forgotten. If you are wanting to congratulate HER and show her that she is not forgotten, we are sharing the best gifts for a new mom. 💗 Any of these gifts will show her that you thought of her too and that she is cared for. And we promise you, all of these items will be used and loved. {Click 🔗 in bio to continue reading!}⁠
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I have friends that formula-fed.⁠
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Never once has my parenting choices gotten in the way of our friendship.⁠
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When I think back to when I gave birth to my son, When I think back to when I gave birth to my son, I do remember the surges of the contractions, the release of being in the water in the tub, and the pushing. So much pushing. 😓⁠
But I also remember the relief I felt when I first saw Mary Alice, one of my midwives, walk into my master bathroom while I was laboring in the tub. I remember my doula holding my hand in between pushes giving me encouragement, and my husband gently stroking my hair as I came down from the height of contractions.⁠
After giving birth, I remember how my midwives made my bed with fresh linens and with me in it feeling comfortable as I nestled with my newborn son. I remember how a meal was brought to me in bed and how everything was cleaned up and looked as if nothing happened -- not like I had just given birth to a baby. (I had a home birth, by the way.) And I remember how they were all with me by my side every step of the way.⁠
I felt the love, the patience, and the respect that I needed. Those are the memories that I hold with me when I think about the day my son was born. It's how I was cared for and how my birth team made me feel that stays with me.⁠
For expecting women out there, be intentional with the people that you invite into your birthing room. That includes your doctor, your midwife, and your support people. I know that things look very different right now with hospitals only allowing one support person, but you can still receive good support. Take an online birthing class with your partner and practice how they can help you in labor. Speak up to your nurse and ask for what you need and what you want for your experience. Be your own advocate! And if you feel like you can't speak up, hire a doula and receive virtual support during your pregnancy, birth, and immediate postpartum. Feeling supported, respected, and truly cared for is just as important as having a successful birth with a healthy mom and baby. 💗
I've been searching for an image that captures how I've been searching for an image that captures how I've been feeling. And it's this. Parenthood. Love. Protection. ❤️ Standing up for those who can't or they get struck down. 
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"I'm a sucker for birth stories! I've had a variet "I'm a sucker for birth stories! I've had a variety of lengths of labor and birth situations, no C-section or breech experience so far though, but I hope we can find encouragement and hope in each of our stories. While I love sharing about all these boys' births, I don't have the space here for all of them so let's chat about my fav and most unique one. Boy number 4's says an accidental unassisted home birth, but the true reality is that I was assisted by my husband, Michael. My midwife just didn't make it until he was 15 minutes old. I have prodromal labor for weeks before the real thing so when I first went into labor with him, I thought it was the same as it had been almost every night for weeks. When I finally got into the shower, Michael knew I was in transition (7-8cm) because it's what I always do at that point and called the midwife. She could hear me and knew she wouldn't make it, but she had only made it for 30 mins with the one before so that man of mine was prepared. The comical part of this story is that we had a 4-month-old puppy at the time and he was trying to get into the bathroom so Michael went to put him outside, realized the dog had pooped and cleaned it up, only to come back to the bathroom and tell me 'His head is almost out!' I told him, 'no duh!' And within a few more seconds, he was born in the sac still 😳 so I freaked a bit that he wasn't breathing before I realized. Michael calmly broke the sac, go the suction bulb, and then I held him wrapped in a towel in the shower until my midwife arrived. It's my husband's favorite story to tell because of his calm demeanor in the crazy 😝 and I'm all "yeah, I had NOTHING to do with it!" So what's your #birthstory, friends?" 📷 & story: @arielctyson
One day a pregnant client of mine started having a One day a pregnant client of mine started having abdominal pain. She called her OBGYN's office and they had her come in to check on the baby to make sure everything was okay. Everything looked fine and well with the baby so they sent her home saying that it was probably something that she ate and that it must be gas or indigestion pain.
Days went by and the pain not only continued but it got WORSE. I encouraged her to continue reaching out to her doctor, which she did. She would call the office and the nurse and doctor would tell her that everything was fine. They told her what meds she could take that could help, and that if she wanted to come in again the next day, she could.
The next day she went in and they looked at the baby and the baby was still perfect. They told her to go home and said to her, "You must have a very low pain tolerance because everything is appearing normal." Little did they know that she had labored for days and delivered her first baby withOUT any pain medication. (She had a different OBGYN with her first baby.) This client of mine is a strong woman and definitely does NOT have a low pain tolerance. I would know because I was her doula for both of her babies.
The pain she experienced only got worse the next day. She was in agony. She did her own research and thought it might be appendicitis. She decided to drive herself to the hospital this time without calling and told the nurse that she was in severe pain and that she thinks she has appendicitis. The nurse said, "there is no way that you could have appendicitis. You wouldn't be able to stand or drive yourself here or even talk if you had appendicitis." My client demanded that she see a doctor to get evaluated. Once a doctor was available to see her and examine her safely (since she was 34 weeks pregnant) they realized that, in fact, she DID have appendicitis & that it was so bad she needed immediate emergency surgery since it could be life-threatening. The surgery then caused her body to go into labor. Just hours after her surgery she pushed & delivered her second child.
I tell this story because I have seen & been told countless stories like this. (Continue reading in the comments.)
😐😐😐😐😐😂⁠ 📷: @thedad 😐😐😐😐😐😂⁠
📷: @thedad
The Ultimate List of Grandpa Names⁠ 👴⁠ .⁠ The Ultimate List of Grandpa Names⁠ 👴⁠
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We recently posted our ultimate list of Grandma names, but you might be looking for the perfect match for a Grandpa name. 💙 Many fathers that turn into Grandpas usually go with what their dads were called as grandparents or something traditional, but we encourage you to take a look at all of the options! There just might be a better fit that suits you. 😊 Here is our ultimate list of over 100 Grandpa names to choose from!⁠
{Click 🔗 in bio to continue reading!}⁠
📷: @royalty_europe
Tag your squad 😎⁠ 😂😂😂⁠ 📷: @then Tag your squad 😎⁠
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As soon as a woman becomes pregnant she will hear As soon as a woman becomes pregnant she will hear ALL kinds of unsolicited advice from everyone around her. 🤰 Friends, family members, even strangers will tell her what they went through and what they think she should do with her body and her baby. 😑 And this unsolicited advice continues long into parenthood. ⁠
Something that I think ALL mothers should know and learn is that you do NOT have to own or accept any information or stories someone tells you if it does not serve you. If it's unhelpful and not inline with your choices, hopes, and desires as a mother, then as soon as it was received immediately discard it. Don't harbor any information that does a disservice to you. The mind is a powerful thing. When we are told war stories and how terrible, awful, or painful things were for them (pregnancy, childbirth, or parenthood), that can live and stay with you. You do not have to own someone else's story. It may have been told with good intentions, but if you do not find value in it let it go. Release it and surround yourself with positive talk, uplifting stories, and happy, respectful, and supportive people.⁠ Be bold enough to go against the grain if you must and do what is right for you and your family.⁠
Ultimately, listen to your intuition. And if you're unsure of what your intuition is telling you, seek counsel from people who you admire and trust.⁠
You're doing great and if you didn't know this, you're already are a great mother. 💕 #thebabychick
Transition to Motherhood in Uncertain Times⁠ 🤱⁠
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When a first baby is born, so is a new mother. 💗 The transition to motherhood can be a very difficult one that is impossible to be fully prepared for. As you become a mother you take on a completely new identity. It is a new phase of life that comes with new challenges, emotions, and growth.⁠ 🌱⁠
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As a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit occupational therapist, I find that I take care of the mothers just as much as I take care of the babies. ❤️ Many, if not most mothers, are prepared with the tangibles: a place for the new baby to sleep, clothes for the new baby to wear, bottles, and diapers. But it is impossible to fully prepare for the emotional transition that takes place. New moms are met with not only a little baby who is completely dependent but also a barrage of new and different emotions that you may not fully understand.⁠ {Click 🔗 in bio to continue reading!}⁠
Author by: Aimee Ketchum⁠ @aimeeketchum⁠
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Let me just stop you right there! *pew pew* 🔫🤱
Surprising Body Changes During Pregnancy – Podca Surprising Body Changes During Pregnancy – Podcast Ep 33⁠ 😮⁠
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Pregnancy is such a beautiful time in a woman's life. 💕 But don't get me wrong, not every day of pregnancy is glamorous. 😬 We've all heard of the luxurious hair, the glowing skin, the stretchmarks with the growing belly, but there are also things that happen to a woman's body during pregnancy that aren't really discussed. That's why we are covering all of the surprising body changes a woman can experience during pregnancy on today's podcast episode. So if you're currently expecting and are noticing some odd changes happening to your body, you can feel relieved knowing that you are not alone. 🤰 {Click 🔗 in bio to listen to the episode!}⁠
Now that "homeschool" is over, we can now enjoy ou Now that "homeschool" is over, we can now enjoy our summer! 😎 Oh, wait . . . #looksalotlikerightnow 🤔⁠
📷: @hallmark
When you become a mother you realize how much your When you become a mother you realize how much your mother did (or didn't do) for you. 💗 Sending love to all of the mothers, step-mothers, mother figures out there.
Happy Monday, mamas!⁠ 👋⁠ ⁠ Lately, with e Happy Monday, mamas!⁠ 👋⁠
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Lately, with everything going on, I've been thinking a lot about mothers with newborns. 🤱 As a postpartum doula, I get the pleasure of supporting new families in their homes and helping them navigate the winding roads and highs and lows of early parenthood. But right now I know that families are bringing home their precious babies and are feeling alone more than ever. They have less physical support, which can feel like they have less emotional and informational support as well. This breaks my heart. 💔 I wish this wasn't happening to families or to our world and I wish that I could be there for these moms.⁠
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That's why today, I am hopping on our stories and answering YOUR questions. Since I can't be there PHYSICALLY to help you with your pregnancy and newborns, I want you to know that I am here virtually for you. How can I help?⁠
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{I've left a question box in our stories. Have a question about your postpartum recovery? About your newborn? About breastfeeding? Bottle-feeding? You name it! I've been helping mothers as a birth doula and postpartum doula for 10 years and I am here for you.💕}⁠
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Okay, grandma. 🙄⁠ 📷: unknown Okay, grandma. 🙄⁠
📷: unknown
To the mamas, papas, dreamers, visionaries, SAHMs, To the mamas, papas, dreamers, visionaries, SAHMs, etc. out there, kudos to you! For going so hard, for not quitting even on the worst days, even on the tired days, even on the days you don't know how you're going to do it, or don't feel like you can. You know it's okay to have some patience, grace, and forgiveness with yourself, right?⁠
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Our children are the future. I had to learn to give myself some grace. Sometimes when I evaluate where I am in life and see that I'm not exactly where I want to be or could've been frustrates me, or gets me down. I'm so hard on myself. But then I realized if the ONLY good thing I've done or successfully done is raise great children, I am in fact doing well!! *Parents, it's so important how we raise our children, and many of you KNOW that is not an easy task.⁠
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There are so many different aspects on this one topic. First, their confidence, self-love, etc. is so important. They need to know who they are, so when they encounter times and people that aren't so kind they are not completely crushed.⁠
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Secondly, think about who you're putting into the world. Do you remember your heartbreak(s), or some of the sh*%$y people you've come across and thought who raised them? Or even when you encountered a child that needed a hug or just some TLC. It's important!⁠
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Thirdly, but not least, for the dreamer or the visionary . . . Yes, we are working so hard for our dreams and goals. And one day we may achieve them, but our building and growing may also be in the building for our children. As we are building a future for them. Show yourself a little love. ❤️"⁠
Words & 📷: @tanishasnell_
"On my headstone, I hope they write, 'Here lies a "On my headstone, I hope they write, 'Here lies a devoted mother who suffocated under her enormous laundry pile.' #kiddingnotkidding⁠
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I'm trying to be more mindful about laundry and use it as a meditation practice (my main squeeze Thich Nhat Hanh talks about washing your dishes like you're bathing baby Buddha. 😊) Sometimes I can do it and feel grateful and grounded (I find cloth diapers particularly soothing for some reason. 🤷‍♀️) And sometimes I consider just turning our living room into one huge laundry pile and letting everyone forage for their clothes each morning. #wildstyle⁠
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So tell me, wise women of the world--how do you do laundry? Are you a load-a-day type or do you wait until it piles up and tackle it all at once?"⁠
Words & 📷: @spiritysol
It's called balance. And motherhood. And it's the It's called balance. And motherhood. And it's the weekend. 💁‍♀️🤪 Cheers!
Want to jazz up breakfast or lunch for the kids (o Want to jazz up breakfast or lunch for the kids (or yourself 😉) in an easy way? Animal Face Toast! 😍⁠
Pop an emoji for your favorite animal!🐱🦉🦊🐻🐷🐵⁠
📷: @weelicious