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9 ways to manage your fear + anxiety—and become a more peaceful parent

As we grow tiny souls in our bellies, it's much more exciting to take breastfeeding classes, a birthing course, or even DIY wallpaper classes at Home Depot to plan the perfect nursery… but planning for fear, anxiety and anger? Not so much.

At least that's what I always thought before real humans (who quickly turned into toddlers that screamed "NO" with explosive tears and meltdowns), were actually entrusted to my care.

I had always thought I'd handle parenthood with total ease and calm because that's who I was. I had always been great with kids, but we all know it's different once you have your own, a lesson I definitely learned when things took a sharp turn south for me as a mom the year I had my second colicky baby and my first child's strong-willed soul reached its record-breaking peak at age 3.

Fear, anger and anxiety became my everyday go-to emotions, and my back-breaking norm.

After working with thousands of parents through the years, I know that these three strong emotions catch a lot of moms by surprise and it makes sense. Most of us didn't grow up in homes that taught us how to take care of ourselves and act with integrity when we got angry, felt anxious or were scared of something.

We grew up thinking happy was good and sad, angry and scared was bad. Do anything to avoid those and if they did come up, get out and away from them fast.

Building a solid preparation kit for how to identify and manage these strong emotions is essential in finding more peace in parenthood.

These nine tips and tools can help you navigate through these feelings with integrity to get you to a place where even the most challenging of parenting situations are handled with great purpose, intention, confidence and calm.

1. Practice a pause and connect with your heart.

  • Take a break from: Reacting like a volcano.
  • Try: Responding as an EMT driver would.

Many times, when a strong feeling of anger, anxiety or fear pops up, we have zero space between the stimulus (misbehavior) and our reaction. When we react so quickly, we squash our chances of purposely planning our next steps.

When something triggers you, take notice of your blood boiling, or your urge to yell, or your teeth clenching… and just pause to practice a heart connector. Put your hand on your heart, take a deep breath and find a healthy intention (to teach, to model, to redirect), then respond to the challenging situation.

2. Ask yourself why. 

  • Take a break from: Assuming you know why your child misbehaved.
  • Try: Getting curious and asking questions.

It can be so easy to think we know what is going on, but often, our kids are here to teach us just as much as we are teaching them. When we slow down to "seek to understand" why they're upset, or the reason behind a sibling squabble, or the feelings they felt when they talked back, we open our hearts to working with our kids and many times get surprised by what we learn.

Trusting that our kids are not out to get us, but instead just figuring out how to live this thing we call life, leads us to want to understand them versus assuming we know their negative intentions.

3. Dive headfirst into empathy.

  • Take a break from: Thinking I would never or seeing your child as so different than you.
  • Try: Imagining what it must feel like to be in their shoes.

We were kids once and we've all had those times in life where you just hated having a little brother, or just really disliked math, or really, really wanted to have soda with dinner every night.

Exercising your empathy muscles will cause you to feel connected with your kiddo and will do wonders to soften your heart while also helping your child feel understood (causing them to listen and behave better).

4. State your feelings aloud. 

  • Take a break from: Internalizing everything and skipping over feelings.
  • Try: Saying aloud, "I feel _____"

Our feelings are meant to be felt, but since many of us didn't grow up with this truth, it can be easy to skip over them and move right to actions we regret when we feel angry, anxious or scared.

Slowing down to say aloud how you feel helps your brain remember, This is a feeling and I have a choice with how I process and manage it. Saying your feelings aloud also models to your kids what healthy emotional intelligence and management looks like.

5. Ask for help. 

  • Take a break from: Thinking you have to do it all alone.
  • Try: Asking your kids or spouse for what you want after you've stated how you feel.

When we get angry, we can create a pseudo sense of power with actions like yelling, controlling or forcing, that later make us feel guilty and shameful. Combining verbiage of "I feel like...", with "I want..." will help you feel powerful at the very same time you are feeling powerless (which will lead to you feeling better).

Asking for what you want is important to model for your kids too as we want our children to grow up being able to ask for what they want instead of always telling people what they don't want.

6. Walk away if needed. 

  • Take a break from: Thinking the problem is a life or death situation.
  • Try: Stepping to the side to self-calm.

It's beyond easy to get caught up in the busy rat-race style of life where every day is a rush, every moment of the week is filled, and every situation needs to be handled in a rush. But it's important to slow down and think through the way we show up, especially when challenges arise.

Rushing through conflict resolution doesn't work well. Effective problem solving takes place once we are calm, so be sure you and your children have built a self-calming bag (a tool taught inside of The Fresh Start Family Foundations Course) to use when you feel anxiety, fear or anger rising. Step to the side, do some things to take care of yourself and then come back to the situation when you're ready to be a teacher.

7. Try it again.

  • Take a break from: Quitting when things don't go perfectly the first time.
  • Try: Consistently trying to look inward and model what you want, even after failure.

Many parents jump off the train way too early when trying new positive parenting tools. Kids (just like adults) often have trouble transitioning to new things. Switch it up and everyone gets a little confused.

First time application can be like a new deer learning to walk with shaky legs. Slipping and falling is part of the journey but doesn't mean it's not working. Expect messiness, embrace messiness, learn from messiness, keep trying.

8. Experiment with silence. 

  • Take a break from: Believing the myth that sometimes you have to yell to get your child to listen.
  • Try: Walking over and using loving touch, a warm smile and silence (or one word).

Silence and fewer words can be incredibly effective at getting kids to listen, especially if they're used to an adult who yells when angry. Raising our voice can be exhausting, so save your energy and instead use it to walk up and look your child in their beautiful eyes and touch them softly on their shoulder or offer a warm hug.

The connection this process brings will help bring you down to room temperature with your emotions while also moving your child to listen and cooperate better.

9. Give yourself credit. 

  • Take a break from: Berating yourself about the times your fear, anxiety or anger has flared up.
  • Try: Keeping track of all the times where your hard work and efforts to learn and grow have paid off.

Beating ourselves up over our moments of complete messiness doesn't help us learn and grow. When you try new things like:

  • Empathy instead of nagging
  • Silence instead of yelling
  • Responding instead of reacting
  • Walking away instead of hurting
  • Asking for help instead of silently wishing others would change
  • Feeling your feelings before jumping into action…

...acknowledge your courage and success. Share with someone how proud you are of yourself and how much work it took to even try some new things with your kids, emotions and parenting.

Writing in your journal each night is a great way to do this, or even saying to yourself while you brush your teeth three things you slayed today will help you see your magnificence and remind you that even amidst anger, fear and anxiety, joy and growth can exist.

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Becoming Mama™: A Pregnancy and Birth Podcast by Motherly

The essential pregnancy + birth companion podcast to the groundbreaking book, The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama.

Becoming Mama ™: A Pregnancy and Birth Podcast by Motherly is the essential pregnancy + birth companion podcast to the groundbreaking book, The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama: Redefining the Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum Journey, the evidence-based, women center book you have been waiting for.

Host Diana Spalding is Motherly's Digital Education Editor, a certified nurse-midwife, pediatric nurse and mother of three, and she wrote The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama. Each week of your pregnancy (and beyond), Diana shares insight, support and non-judgmental guidance about the things that matter most to you.

Please remember that Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This podcast does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Learn about all episodes of Becoming Mama ™: A Pregnancy and Birth Podcast by Motherly

Introduction

Becoming Mama™: A Pregnancy and Birth Podcast by Motherly is the essential pregnancy + birth companion podcast to the groundbreaking book, The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama: Redefining the Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum Journey. Meet your host Diana Spalding, Motherly's Digital Education Editor and certified nurse-midwife and learn more about what to expect in each episode.

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Episode Overview Quicklinks:

# 1: Pregnancy and self-care

In the very first episode of the Becoming Mama Podcast, you'll meet your host Diana Spalding and learn more about what to anticipate in each episode.

Diana talks about the importance of self-care through pregnancy. We live in a society that makes us feel like self-care is selfish, but really it is the least selfish thing you can do, especially when you are on the brink of motherhood.

Here is the article Diana mentioned in the episode: If I wrote your 'before you were born' letter now, here's what I'd say

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# 2: Getting pregnant

In this episode, Diana talks about getting pregnant, and one of the most important concepts to know when you're trying to get pregnant: Timing is everything. Plus, you'll learn about an important sign that you are ovulating.

Sign up for our newsletter and get Motherly's fertility worksheet.

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# 3: Miscarriage

This episode is dedicated to women who are experiencing a miscarriage if listening feels right. Miscarriage is perhaps the most intensely personal experience a person can go through. There is no right way to feel, except the way that comes up for you naturally—just know that you are deeply and lovingly held and supported.

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# 4: Week 4: Foods to avoid

If you've just found out you are pregnant, in addition to hundreds of feelings (!), you may be wondering about what you can and cannot eat. In this episode, we'll give an overview of the foods that experts usually recommend avoiding during pregnancy.

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# 5: Week 5: Choosing where to get prenatal care

It may seem impossibly early in your pregnancy to start thinking about birth! But where you give birth influences where you get your prenatal care, and you'll be having your first prenatal appointment soon. In this episode, Diana will give an overview of your options.

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# 6: Week 6: Baby development

This podcast is about you, but you are probably curious about what your bay is up to in there. This week, check in and see what is happening with your baby's development at 6 weeks pregnant.

Here is the article Diana mentioned in the episode: How pregnancy taught me to love my body

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# 7: Week 7: Pregnancy village

Pregnancy is an amazing but vulnerable time. So it's essential to surround yourself with people that lift you up. In the episode, Diana shares some ideas when considering who to have in your pregnancy village.

Here is the article Diana mentioned in the episode: Motherhood helped me learn who my real friends are

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# 8: Week 8: Pelvic exams

It's week 8, which means you may be having your first prenatal visit pretty soon. In this episode, Diana discusses what to anticipate at that first visit, and shares some tips on making pelvic exams more tolerable.

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# 9: Week 9: Pregnancy nausea

If you are following week by week and are nine weeks pregnant, nausea may really be starting to take hold, as it does for most pregnant women. Diana shares some ideas to make it better and offers emotional support for this very difficult symptom.

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# 10: Week 10: Baby development and nutrition

It's time for a little "what is your baby up to" update! The 10-week mark of pregnancy is an exciting milestone because it is the last week of the embryo stage. We'll also talk about your concerns related to nutrition when you have pregnancy nausea.

Here is the article Diana mentioned in the episode: The most surprising thing about my pregnancy was how powerful I felt

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# 11: Week 11: Sex and intimacy

Sex and intimacy during pregnancy can feel mysterious—but it doesn't have to! In this episode, Diana talks about how to stay safe, how to (gasp) enjoy it, and shares a note on feeling comfortable about your body with your provider.

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# 12: Week 12: Registry

This is the time when many parents start to think about their registries and the items they'd like to acquire for their babies! In this episode Diana shares some tips for creating the perfect registry.

Check out Motherly's Essential Baby Registry!

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# 13: Week 13: Pause and reflect

Let's pause and reflect on everything in your life that's led you to this very important moment in time. And, Diana encourages you to try to "release the not enoughs, the can'ts, and the doubts," so that you can step into your true self and power.

Here is the article Diana mentioned in the episode: Our kids are watching—let's teach them how to love who they are

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# 14: Week 14: Pregnancy and work

Making the decision about what work looks like for you after the baby comes is super personal. In his episode, Diana addresses a common concern for women: telling your employer or co-workers that you are pregnant.

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# 15: Week 15: Baby development and baby kicks

Let's check in on your baby's development at week 15. Diana also shares a way to bond with your baby this month, and some info on when you'll get to feel those first baby movements.

Here is the article Diana mentioned in the episode: This is the last time I'll ever be pregnant

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# 16: Week 16: Exercise and cravings

In this episode, Diana reviews the benefits of exercise during pregnancy and shares some insight into pregnancy cravings—why we have them, and some ideas for healthy foods.

Listen now:

# 17: Week 17: Parenting

It may seem far away, but remember that at the end of all of this, you will have a baby! In this episode, Diana talks about beginning to think about how you'll want to be a parent to your child—and the most important piece to remember.

Listen now:

# 18: Week 18: Defining your values

Values are essentially your guiding principles—the concepts that are the most important to you as you go through your days and years. Defining those values during pregnancy can be incredibly helpful so that you can stay true to yourself as you transition into motherhood.

Listen now:

# 19: Week 19: Baby development and sleep

Let's check in and see what's going on with your baby! And, Diana shares tips on getting enough sleep as your pregnancy progresses, your belly gets bigger, and sleep is harder to come by.

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# 20: Week 20: Ultrasounds, and when they find a problem

Many women have their big anatomy scan, a long ultrasound that looks at all the parts of the baby around this week. Sometimes, ultrasounds reveal a concern. This episode is focused on supporting you should that become a part of your story.

Here is The Motherly Podcast episode with Kristen Bell that Diana mentioned.

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# 21: Week 21: Doulas

Doulas can be an incredibly powerful member of your team. In this episode, Diana talks about what doulas are, how they can help, how to choose one, and how doulas can be instrumental in improving disparities in maternal health.

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# 22: Week 22: When pregnancy is hard

Pregnancy is amazing—but sometimes it can be very hard. In this episode, Diana offers support and love to women experiencing difficult pregnancies (for any reason).

Here is the article Diana mentioned in the episode: Dear mama: You're not doing it wrong, it's just *that* hard

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# 23: Week 23: Birth overview

It's time to start talking about birth! Diana gives an overview of what happens during the first, second, third and fourth stages of labor, and what you might experience during each of them.

In response to COVID-19, Motherly's Becoming Mama ™ Online birth class is free.

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# 24: Week 24: Baby development and hobbies

In this episode, we'll check in with your baby's development, and talk about the importance of having fun—both during pregnancy and in motherhood.

Listen now:

# 25: Week 25: Preterm labor

In today's episode, we are going to talk about preterm labor—the signs and symptoms, and what to do if you are worried that you might be going into labor early. Plus, Diana shares some support for warrior NICU mamas.

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# 26: Week 26: Relationships

Let's talk about relationships. You are approaching the end of the second trimester, which means that things are getting very real. If you have a partner, let's think about what your relationship is all going to be like when the baby is here.

Here is the article Diana mentioned in the episode: Dear husband, I miss you

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# 27: Week 27: The placenta

The placenta is a wildly cool organ, with very important functions during pregnancy—and some very interesting potential uses after.

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# 28: Week 28: Fetal movement

It's important to pay attention to your baby's movement—in this episode Diana shares one way to keep track. Plus, she invites you to marvel at this important pregnancy milestone—the third trimester.

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# 29: Week 29: Baby development and umbilical cords

Let's do our first check in to see what your baby is up to in the third trimester. Plus, Diana shares some comforting insight into the common concern of umbilical cords being wrapped around the baby's neck, as well as information on the practice of delayed cord clamping.

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# 30: Week 30: Nourishment and movement

Anemia can be more common during the third trimester, so let's talk about the symptoms, and some ways to increase your iron intake. We'll also talk through diaphragmatic breathing—how to do it, and why you might want to.

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# 31: Week 31: Breech and transverse babies

In this episode, Diana discusses breech and transverse baby positions, ways to encourage them to move to a head-down position, and what to anticipate if they don't.

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# 32: Week 32: Fear

Today, we are going to talk about fear, specifically the fear of birth. Diana discusses when to seek help for fearful thoughts, and share some ideas for making your fear feel less powerful.

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# 33: Week 33: Baby development and birth plans

Your pregnancy is 33 weeks along, so let's check in with their development. And, Diana talks about why you might want to consider developing a birth plan for your upcoming birth.

Sign up for our newsletter and get Motherly's birth plan worksheet.

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# 34: Week 34: Pain and the epidural decision

Today we are going to talk about pain and the epidural decision—in a completely non-judgmental way, of course.

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# 35: Week 35: Immediate postpartum and postpartum bleeding

We've spent time in recent episodes talking about birth, and today we are going to talk about what happens just after birth. Plus, Diana talks about what to anticipate when it comes to postpartum bleeding.

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# 36: Week 36: Prepping for postpartum

Start thinking about ways you can create a postpartum haven for yourself—a place where you can just rest and heal and take care of your baby in a way that feels like you are being cocooned in love and nurturing goodness.

Check out Motherly's Fourth Trimester Challenge with LiveItUp!, hosted by Motherly co-founder, Jill Koziol.

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# 37: Week 37: Baby development and big babies

In this episode, Diana checks in with your baby's development one more time, and shares some comforting words regarding the common concern around giving birth to a big baby.

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# 38: Week 38: Cesarean births

Diana discusses what happens during a Cesarean section, and reminds us that Cesarean births are very much births.

Here is the article Diana mentioned in the episode: My birth story: A scheduled repeat C-section

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This episode is sponsored by Target. Shop Target Baby Month Deals now and get 10% off one Nursery Furniture item from 9/13/20-9/19/20 by entering "BABYMONTH" in your checkout cart. *exclusions apply, must be capitalized when entered.

# 39: Week 39: You can do this

You. Are. So. Close. Let Diana offer you some inspiration and comfort as you get ready to give birth. You've got this.

Here is the Letter to my Baby Meditation that Diana mentions in the episode.

Listen now:

This episode is sponsored by Target. Shop Target Baby Month Deals now and get 10% off one Nursery Furniture item from 9/13/20-9/19/20 by entering "BABYMONTH" in your checkout cart. *exclusions apply, must be capitalized when entered.

# 40: Week 40: Going past your due date

Most first time mamas go past their due date—but that doesn't make it easy. In this episode, Diana offers some encouragement, and a way to stay positive during this potentially tough period of time.

Here is the article Diana mentioned in the episode: To the mama about to give birth—there's magic in the waiting

Listen now:

This episode is sponsored by Target. Shop Target Baby Month Deals now and get 10% off one Nursery Furniture item from 9/13/20-9/19/20 by entering "BABYMONTH" in your checkout cart. *exclusions apply, must be capitalized when entered.

# 41: Week 41: Baby blues and postpartum mood disorders

Today, Diana talks about your emotional wellbeing after giving birth, specifically the baby blues and postpartum depression and anxiety and other mood disorders.

Check out Motherly's guide to postpartum mood disorders.

Listen now:

This episode is sponsored by Target. Shop Target Baby Month Deals now and get 10% off one Nursery Furniture item from 9/13/20-9/19/20 by entering "BABYMONTH" in your checkout cart. *exclusions apply, must be capitalized when entered.

# 42: Week 42: Postpartum physical recovery

Let's spend some time talking about your physical recovery from birth, specifically your vagina and pelvis.

Listen now:

This episode is sponsored by Target. Shop Target Baby Month Deals now and get 10% off one Nursery Furniture item from 9/13/20-9/19/20 by entering "BABYMONTH" in your checkout cart. *exclusions apply, must be capitalized when entered.

# 43: Week 43: Bonding with your baby

In today's episode, Diana talks about the sweet new addition to your life, and some ways that you can bond with them.

Listen now:

This episode is sponsored by Target. Shop Target Baby Month Deals now and get 10% off one Nursery Furniture item from 9/13/20-9/19/20 by entering "BABYMONTH" in your checkout cart. *exclusions apply, must be capitalized when entered.

# 44: Week 44: Feeding your baby

Today we are going to talk about feeding your baby, and what is perhaps the most common worry is among new parents—how do I know that my baby is getting enough to eat?

Listen now:

This episode is sponsored by Target. Shop Target Baby Month Deals now and get 10% off one Nursery Furniture item from 9/13/20-9/19/20 by entering "BABYMONTH" in your checkout cart. *exclusions apply, must be capitalized when entered.

# 45: Week 45: Becoming a mama

In this final weekly episode, Diana spends a few moments talking about evolution, specifically the way that your life and your motherhood journey are going to continue to evolve.

Listen now:

popular

I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

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Life

A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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Life