Beyond the Burp Cloth

Beyond the Burp Cloth

There was a point in my life when I felt like I had nothing to share and contribute beyond my role as a fumbling mother. Because I was in constant “learn and adjust” mode, I could sum up most conversations with, “I don’t have the answers. I’m just trying to do my best, raise a good human, and keep my sanity.”

There was one thing I did know for sure though — that my energy (theoretically, not physically) was meant for the things beyond burp cloths.

When I had my first child more than seven years ago, I was only about a year out of college. Prior to sitting in the upstairs hallway floor of my parent’s home with a positive pregnancy test trembling in my hand, I had big dreams of living on the West Coast as a PR guru with a salary that would allow for a new wardrobe, an apartment complex with actual adults, and late nights at salsa clubs (or something swanky like that).

That was going to be life after college for me. I had known it for years.

It goes without saying (although I’m going to say it anyway) that my post-college fantasy was quickly trumped by post-partum depression, late-night nursing frustrations, crappy jobs to get me though my new life in limbo, and endless hours staring at my new little babe — contemplating our life together and how it was going to unravel.

As a twenty-something and new single mother, the uncertainty that naturally accompanies both those life phases hit me in a very big and scary way.

I had no idea who I was, a skewed idea of how I was going to get where I wanted to go and — all the while — living with a fierce anxiety that this was it for me.

I loved my baby, but I had no real outside passions to pull me out of myself. I just wanted to get through each day.

The other dimensions of me weren’t being tapped in a way that, as the complex human beings we all are, were going to make me feel alive and purposeful.

This went on for a good four years — being mostly concerned with just making it rather than making myself happy.

As I welcome my third decade of life, entering it as a newlywed and mother-to-be for the second time, my circumstances are drastically better, and I’ve picked up some lessons on juggling motherhood and maintaining an identity outside of it along the way.

Simply said, you must find out what makes you happy and pursue it. You must find a passion that won’t projectile vomit on you or talk back.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a late-twenties life filled with people who have inspired me creatively and encouraged me to share a more authentic side of myself with others.

With the support and validation I needed to take my interests more seriously and put myself out there, I started discovering and practicing those passions I speak of during the small bits and pieces of time I get to myself.

About three years ago, I started a blog. Although I abandon it often, it’s there, and it’s mine. It’s the place I go when I can convey how I’m feeling coherently enough for others to understand. It’s a place for me to remind myself about what’s important and that it’s very OK to not have a perfect life or be a perfect mother.

It gives me a chance to craft and shape my words and tone in a way that gives me satisfaction and, hopefully, makes others smile, too. Since my dancing days are now limited (outside of the living room), it’s my place for rhythm and flow.

It makes me happy, and I’m able to take on the next day with a renewed since of who I am — and that, it turns out, has been great for my family as well.

Not too long ago, with more encouragement from my husband, I put together another blog, but this one was for some of my favorite photos.

I’ve always thought Instagram had a way of making the masses believe they’re professional photographers and, although I enjoyed capturing moments, I felt silly proclaiming an interest in doing anything more.

But, in the comfort of love and support, I went ahead and posted my blog on Facebook and, surprisingly, received a lot of positive feedback.

It was enough to make me feel like I needed to start investing more time into this thing that makes me happy — and invest in a camera.

I’m in no way an expert and in every way a beginner who’s just getting her feet wet, but I’m making the time to grow and get better through pockets of practice, classes and mentorship.

These things — writing and snapping photos — make me feel good about myself, and that’s made me a better mother.

I think we all need something to grasp that’s just ours outside of the little fingers constantly reaching for us. Pursuing something for yourself lights a spark and challenges you in a way that radiates into so many other facets of life.

And that is something worth holding on to.

About the Author

ElyssaShapiroheashot-225x300Growing up in a household with a reading teacher and a newspaper editor for parents, Elyssa Shapiro has a great appreciation for storytelling as well as a natural curiosity. Those attributes eventually guided her through the University of Iowa’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication and into her career as a communications professional.

Elyssa has worked with a diverse group of organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies to nonprofits. She began her career at a small public affairs and public relations firm in Des Moines, Iowa, and then took over programming, media relations and eventually fundraising for a statewide nonprofit. She currently works in corporate communications and serves as a consultant for a local autism center as well as a freelance writer, editor and photographer.

Prior to calling Des Moines home, she lived in Vicenza, Italy working for various military programs that provided services for children and families.

She and her husband have a seven-year-old son and are expecting their second child this December. Together, they enjoy traveling and creating new memories.



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Being in the Moment: Some Ideas to Help You Achieve It!

PracticinG BeingIn the moment

I recently have been working hard on being in the moment. Sounds easy, right? Everyone is in a moment, but are you really focusing and experiencing what is actually happening?

It seems like these days, everyone is taking a picture, checking their e-mail (on their phones), checking social media (on their phones), planning ahead (what’s for dinner tonight? Next week?, What are we doing tomorrow night, etc.). It is common that people are planning and stressing over things that are possibly going to happen in the future, and then they never do. You spent all that time stressing, when it never even happened!

I am the first to admit, I am guilty of this. I have been slowly working hard on to change this. Here are some things I am doing:

  1. Turn off e-mail and Facebook (any social media) notifications.
  2. Take Facebook (any social media) completely off your phone if needed.
  3. Set certain times to check your e-mail and/or Facebook (any social media).
  4. Check your e-mail and/or Facebook (any social media) once a day. That’s it.
  5. Set a time you will put away your phone for the night. Leave it in a different room, so you are not tempted.

You may not even realize it, but if you work at doing the following things above, it will eliminate a lot of anxiety and stress. Electronics create so much anxiety, it’s crazy to think what our society was like without them. We need to remember that e-mails, messages, tweets, Instagram messages ….  do not need to be responded to ASAP. We have all of a sudden decided it is necessary to respond to everything as quickly as possible. It’s an emergency, it will be known. People will pick up the phone and call.

As part of working to be in the moment, I have started to learn mindfulness and/or meditation. I take that back, I have taken a meditation class and tried hard to meditate daily and I didn’t follow through so well 🙁 I was introduced to some guided mindfulness exercises, which I have found to be much easier for me to use daily. These were the ones introduced to me:

  1. UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center
  2. Free Mindfulness

My favorite is the UCLA. I downloaded it straight to my phone and can access it at anytime. I try to do it 2-3 times a day; morning, afternoon and evening. I like to be guided and some people do not. It definitely is a personal choice. I enjoy the guidance, because it keeps me focused on what I am doing. It’s important to remember, that your mind WILL wander to your laundry list of things to do and that is NORMAL.

I think it is important for every human, wife, mother, husband, father … to do this. Everyone gets caught up with life and we forget to enjoy what is happening NOW. I have discovered this to be even more important, after having two children, staying home, and blogging. It is a struggle to balance all these things. Following the suggestions above and practicing mindfulness, is making everything a bit better 🙂

Taking Care of Mama: Why Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

Taking Care of Mama_

Self-care. Weʼve heard the phrase, but are we actually doing it? Are we letting go of the feelings of “mama-guilt” or thoughts such as “I donʼt have time”? Or, do we feel stressed, tired and maybe, at times, a little resentful of the things we donʼt get to do since we had our sweet little ones? I have felt all of these things and had all of these thoughts. So whatʼs a mama supposed to do?

After my son was born, I felt, to put it lightly, awful. I was so incredibly tired, hormonal and emotional. The newborn stage was the most trying time of my life. All of the focus was on taking care of this little human. I didnʼt even think about taking care of me.

Once we were past the newborn stage, I still felt guilt about leaving baby to do some self-care. I donʼt ever remember my mom getting “me-time”, so why should I? It wasnʼt until a friend described self-care using an analogy that I finally got it. When on an airplane, when the flight attendant is giving safety instruction, they always say “Put your air mask on before helping others with theirs”.

So, how does a busy mom fit in self-care? While Iʼm still learning Iʼd like to share some thoughts and ideas that have been helpful to me for the past 9 months. I have one child, so I know for moms with more than one at home this is a bit more of a challenge. Do your best.

1) Ask for Help

No, really, ask for help. This is something I still struggle with, but Iʼm getting better. I felt so much guilt leaving my baby with my husband to go to an hour Yoga class, or even a walk around the block for that matter. But after the conversation with my friend, I almost had to force myself. I always felt so good after I did, and I felt more present and patient with my son and husband. You donʼt have to leave the house to do self-care, but sometimes itʼs a good idea to get out by yourself for a bit. So, ask your partner, trusted friend, family member, etc. ahead of time if they wouldnʼt mind watching your little one(s) for a short-period of time while you step out. Again, when you are ready, or as ready as youʼll ever be.

2) Focus on Health

Being healthy while caring for your family can be a challenge, especially if the household budget allows only enough funds for health visits for your kiddos. These visits, however, are important, and by taking the time to get an acupuncture treatment, massage, or chiropractic adjustment or any other healing modality you love, you are not only reducing stress producing hormones in your body, but also boosting your immune system and eliminating aches and pains. This not only teaches your kids the importance of taking care of yourself, but also puts your body back in to balance, so time with your children is spent feeling your best.

Food and meal prep can be a challenge as well. However, anything you put in to your body feeds vitality, or feeds stress, anxiety and illness. I use about one to two hours on the weekend (usually a Sunday) to prep some food for the week to make healthy meals quicker to prepare. I have also become good friends with my slow cooker. You can include your kids and have them help, or if you have a baby, you can wear him or her while you prep. It also helps to make sure only healthy options are available for quick meals and snacks so one isnʼt tempted to eat something that wonʼt make you a healthy mama.

3) A Little Goes a Long Way

When it comes to self-care, for me, itʼs not something I have to do daily to feel itʼs effects. If you can make time for 1 acupuncture session a month, great! If you can spend 15 minutes taking a bath uninterrupted, fantastic! Itʼs all about balance.

4) Do Something You Enjoy

Do self-care that makes you feel rejuvenated. If it has been so long since youʼve included some self-care in to your life, here is a list of things you can try:

• Meditation
• Yoga
• A walk outside
• A bath
• Acupuncture
• Massage therapy
• Chiropractic adjustment • Energy work/Reiki
• Counseling
• Reflexology
• Aromatherapy
• Read
• Journaling

Letʼs banish the thought of self-care being selfish and understand that itʼs not a “treat” but a necessity. The love and care a mother gives her child is unlike anything else. How amazing would it be if our children were able to see their mom love and care for herself as well?

About the Author

View More: Stephanie Braunwarth is a board-certified Licensed Acupuncturist with a special focus in womenʼs health, fertility and nutrition. Stephanieeducates her patients about the importance of treating the underlying cause of a health condition and encourages them to take an active role in their health.

Stephanie serves patients at Des Moines Acupuncture Clinic in Des Moines.

CAPPA Postpartum Doula Training

World Doula Week is fast approaching!


(Image Source)

I had never heard of a doula until after the birth of Monte and I definitely wish I had the support of a doula with his birth. When I discovered I was pregnant with Amelia, I knew I needed and wanted a doula. The women in the Des Moines area are very lucky with the amount of doulas that are available to help with birth.

During World Doula Week, I am looking forward to sharing with you the awesome resources we have in our area, why you need a doula for your birth, what is involved to become one and an AWESOME giveaway 🙂

For now, I want to focus and share with you an awesome opportunity coming to Des Moines.  Midwest Mom & Wife is hosting a CAPPA Postpartum Doula Training! If you are wanting to become a postpartum doula or are interested in increasing your skills and education, in this field, this is for you.

CAPPA is a pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum organization.

“Since 1998, CAPPA’s mission has been to offer comprehensive, evidence-based education, certification, professional membership and training to childbirth educators, lactation educators, labor doulas, antepartum doulas and postpartum doulas worldwide. CAPPA is proud to provide new and expectant families access to these professionals here. Cappa is a non-profit organization headquartered in the USA, with branches worldwide.”

You will learn:

  • Scope of your Doula Practice
  • How to support parents
  • Breastfeeding support
  • Baby care techniques
  • Calming & soothing techniques
  • Postpartum mood disorders
  • SIDS/Back to sleep campaigns
  • Listening & communication skills
  • Record keeping & contracts
  • Creating & Marketing your business
  • Networking soultions

This whole workshop is going to be AWESOME 🙂

The After Baby Lady, from Michigan, is a certified CAPPA instructor and will be leading our Postpartum Doula Training.

This event will be held May 30th & 31st in Des Moines, Iowa. Location is to be determined! Please share and spread the word!

Please print, post & share the flier!