Forget Equality, I Want Equity


Being is hard. Am I who I am because of who I am or because of who others project or say I am?

When I was a kid people would always tell me how pretty I was or how good I was and how strong I was. Hearing these things as a child, seemed positive. What it did though was plant the seed that pretty is important, I could never be bad or fail and I could never be vulnerable. What a heavy burden to bear all from what appears to be compliments. A psyche of perfection formed.

I’m 38 years old and I’m still striving to figure out who I am as my authentic self. I’m human, that’s one thing I know for sure. As I ponder this very thing, I fall down the proverbial rabbit hole.

I’m a woman, I’m a wife, I’m a mother, I’m a friend, I’m a doula, I’m an educator, the list goes on and on. These are things I do, roles I fill. Are they who I am? It’s quite perplexing to me. Yes, as such these contribute to the whole person but who am I?

I then start to think of my attributes or qualities. I’m caring, loving, kind, loyal, funny, thoughtful, giving, protective, smart, determined and steadfast. I like to think these are what truly make up me. These allow me to do all the other things.

The only caveat is; I’m African American and a woman. A double minority. These are pre-requisites on how you see me and how you’ll treat me. Now who I thought I was is tailored by your response to me. You see how difficult this thing is? Who I am is ever-changing.

The struggle to dispel familial damages to societal conformities and projections all contribute to choreography of putting oneself together.

I traveled to New Orleans with my husband for 4 days. It was the first trip in 8 years where it was just the two of us for a long stretch of time. A few days after returning my husband said, "I miss hanging out with you." I found that odd. I told my friend what he said when she responded, "Why would you find that odd? You are fun to hang out with." Oddly, I still found it odd and found her response odd. Crazy I know! It’s almost robotic, if that makes sense. I took some time later to think about what she said. I got to see myself through someone else's eyes. Eyes I could trust. Not patronizing eyes or eyes that wanted something. I gained an appreciation for myself. For a moment, I got to stop being and start seeing.

They say when you're 50 you’ll know your true self, because you’ll stop caring what other people think and you’ll stop trying to please others. Well, I have 12 years to go. There’s plenty of work ahead for me in finding me.

I want to be, but not on your terms.

This piece is my perspective but I’m sure it’s not too far removed from the feelings of most women. We are in a time where identity is broad and misunderstood. Do you feel you have adjust? Do you feel safe? Do you feel heard?

We women have it hard. No, this is not an oh poor women cry! Our reproductive rights and basic human rights are being at the very least violated. Forget equality, I want equity! I love being a woman and all that comes with it. Yup, I can build a house. I just may want a pink hammer to do so. Give me all the same comforts and access as anyone else.

Women’s rights issues are a lot to tackle. Start with one, that one being you. What we can do in the everyday is show respect. Ask rather than assume and be wrong and offend. See whoever you see for whoever they are at that moment. Be kind.

SheTara Smith is a birth worker from Boston, MA. Specifically a doula, lactation educator and infant sleep educator. I provide a holistic approach in my support of women and their families. Reach her via email at:

Racism: I Didn't Think I had It In Me


The horrifying events of Charlottesville happened while I was away on vacation.

My one week of respite from the stream of suffering that I often see while I work days and nights in the hospital was interrupted abruptly by watching humans yell at other humans. These humans were birthed by other humans, wishing for a good life for them, an event that I see every single day at work. How did we end up this way?

I read blog posts, talked with my family and friends, and tried to reason my way out of it. But one quote I heard kept coming back to me,  "What can I possibly do? I smile at black people.” All I could think about was myself - am I doing everything I can? All these thoughts left me as soon as I arrived back at work, to a deluge of patients in need of my medical care. I felt like I was under water with responsibilities.

Then came Tuesday morning. I walked in and was told there was a woman screaming in pain with a fetal demise and placental abruption - I would be doing her c-section. I immediately went to see her, sign her papers, get her back to the operating room as soon as possible. For the next two hours, I was focused on delivering her dead baby, clearing her uterus of 2 liters of blood and clot, and ultimately removing her uterus due to profound uterine atony. I felt like I had done what any great hospitalist should be able to do - take care of an emergency with skill, grace, calmness, and a stable safe patient at the end of it all.

Little did I know that I haven't been practicing medicine the way I aspired to - I, in fact, was practicing racism in a way I never realized before.

After she woke up from surgery, I went to see her. She didn't have much to say. I thought of the last patient I cared for who presented with a similar tragic situation in which she lost her baby and I had to take her to emergent surgery as soon as she arrived. This part of my job is like reverse dating - I have to make a relationship with the patient postoperatively instead of preoperatively, because we started our relationship so abruptly and with such urgency.

I was able to make a strong connection with the last patient who went through a similar situation - so why couldn't I do that this time? The last patient was white. This patient was black. I didn't think this mattered to me...until I spent more time with her and gave myself the chance to really evaluate my actions.

I took time to reflect on my feelings while I saw in her room with her. I was unbelievably self conscious. I was worried she assumed that I hated her. I was worried that she thought I would treat her differently and even though I thought I wouldn't I WAS TREATING HER DIFFERENTLY. Because I WAS SCARED. I was scared that I wouldn't be able to make a connection with her the way I've made connections with my white patients, my Hispanic patients, my old patients, my poor patients, my young affluent patients. She helped me learn in such an acute way that I was terrified that we wouldn't be able to make a connection so I simply stayed away from the opportunity. This is racism. Stepping away from opportunities to connect with fellow humans is RACISM.  I have such potential to impose my implicit bias on my patients. I've been doing it, for years! How horrifying to know that I've been doing this AND HAD NO IDEA.

So the rest of the week I just kept trying. I forgave myself for my past. I gave myself a second chance. I was kind to myself. And I kept going to see her, checking on her, trying to make a connection if she wanted one.

I went to her room and asked if she got some photos of her son. She was holding him and was fairly quiet. She didn't make eye contact with me. She was going to be started on magnesium for preeclampsia with severe features, so I recommended she get some photos of her with her son and I went to find a nurse who would take the photos. I asked if she wanted a hat for him, and she responded that she had really wanted the pink and blue striped one, so I brought her two. I tried to offer other hats but she declined.

I put the hat gently on his head, didn't feel right putting on gloves before I did it, not wanting to seem like his body was something I refused to touch. Still no eye contact, but I at least felt like I had performed an act of kindness. I offered to call someone from her family, but she said her mother hadn't answered and she didn't want me to call.

The next day she didn't respond much to my visit. I told her I would come back later and take her on a walk in the halls that I thought would help her pain and mood. She reluctantly agreed.

When I returned to her room that afternoon, she was sitting in bed, holding her son, sobbing over him. I couldn't bear to leave her alone like that, even though I felt so very awkward and sad. I sat on her bed with her, put my hand on her leg, and let the silence wash over me. After several minutes without her saying a word, I asked "are you the praying type?" and she replied, “Yes.” I stumbled through a prayer for her and her baby - thanking God for the months of pregnancy she had with him, thanking him for letting her feel his movements while she went about her day. I prayed for him to be with her as she sits in the grief of not only him not being alive, but the death of all the hopes and dreams she had for him. I prayed for her other children, that they would find support in their grief of losing their littlest brother. I prayed that she would be strong enough when she arrived home to support her other children while in her own grief. I prayed for healing.

She didn't respond to my prayer. I finished and left. I felt the fright creeping back in that maybe I had said something wrong. Self doubt is a strong emotion.

A day later I returned, and visited quickly. She didn't say much other than she was feeling better. I was sure that I wouldn't ever be able to make a connection with her and that surely I'd never be able to make it over this hurdle, because I was too racist - a trait I didn't know I had but just picked up after Charlottesville. My playing favorites is racism. My spending more time with people I feel more comfortable around is racism. My “not acting like myself” is racism.

I saw on her white board that it was her birthday. I immediately left her room and asked her nurses if it was her birthday - we looked in the computer and confirmed that yes, she was here, admitted to the hospital, alone, with a dead baby in her room, on her birthday.

I frantically searched labor and delivery for small gifts. I found a pre-wrapped cookie, a pack of gum, a chapstick, a nail file, and three flower stems from a flower arrangement on one of our tables. I found colored paper and made a card writing, "Happy Birthday - We are happy to be here with you on your birthday, and hope you will get to celebrate when you are feeling better." It took me far too long to come up with acceptable words for the situation, and again doubted that I was doing it right.

I took her the makeshift gift.

She was standing in her room, holding her baby next to the sink with the water running, a baby hairbrush in her hand. She was startled, and looked embarrassed that I had arrived to see her grooming her child who had now been dead for 4 days. "He just had a little blood on his head I was trying to get off, and his scalp and hair have gotten dry and......." Her words trailed off. I told her it was her son, and she should do what felt right. "This is all just so weird" she responded, finally making eye contact with me. "Damnit. It is, isn't it?!" I responded. We both laughed at life, because there was nothing else left to do. We laughed at how no matter how old you are there are still situations that you have no idea how to handle.

I realized in that moment that I had been with other moms in these rooms - I've been with other moms who have to lay in bed, no longer pregnant, with their previously wiggling fetus now cold and still in a bassinet next to them. I'm no expert, but I do know that the emotions that this situation conjures up are strong and undulating and so unpredictable. I had that to offer her, and after 4 days she took my offer of connection.

After we got him settled back into his bassinet, onesie just so, blanket where she liked it, I gave her the small gift. She laughed and thanked me. We talked about birthdays as adults, and how your children's birthdays take such precedent that she can hardly remember the last time she celebrated a birthday..Maybe when she was 21?

I apologized for it not being much, to which she responded, "At least you tried. No one else did."

The experience she gave me has stayed with me, the courage she had to let me in after 4 days. I can't stop thinking about my experience with her - the incredible amount of growth I had in one short week, one week that I worked too many hours and missed my family. I am not immune to racism. I'm surrounded by it in the news, in my colleagues, but most importantly, in myself.

I've made huge mistakes! I've let huge opportunities slip away! WHAT THE HELL HAVE I BEEN DOING!?

As health care providers, we take an oath with something along these lines:
“I will not permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, party politics or social standing to intervene between my duty and my patient.”

I realized this has not always been me. I have work to do. We have work to do.

Let us carry onward and upward, giving ourselves courage for introspection and kindness for second chances.

With love and courage,
Your physician

Standing Up For Women

Stories from You

A few weeks ago, I found out a teacher of mine died. It caught me off guard to learn about her death, and lead me to go through some the things she'd said to me over time. One line scratched onto a page of notebook paper read, "Stand up for Women."  It stopped me, made me look to the sky, probably choke down a few tears and then ideas started swirling in..content. People. Collecting people's words. Collating people's experiences.  All centered around Standing Up for Women. I've been standing up for women for almost 2 decades in my career, and it was time to see how other people everywhere are doing their best in their communities to stand up.

Especially in 2017. It's been hell-uv-a-year for many women - all around the globe. 

The stories come from the heart. They are rich. Some contributors wished to remain anonymous, and we respect their reasons. Some stories might piss you off. Others might make you cry. Some will lift your hearts. We hope some fire you up. 

Our first story goes live tomorrow morning, and will continue to go live every Friday morning until the end of the year. 

Many of the stories are from women contributors. But, hey guys, we welcome your stories too! Actually, we would love to hear how you are standing up for women. 

If you share with other Mother Lovers why you're Standing Up for Women, shoot an email to and let us know why you want to contribute.

Thank you for your attention, and love!

Rebecca + TML team

No Baby...Not Tonight.

Good evening Mother Lovers,

I recently met a woman, pregnant with her third baby. She was around 23 weeks and we started talking about the pains in our butts. Not people, literal pain, which lead to a lively discussion about my new found love for being a PT patient and how quickly it is helping me heal. She too had tried ALL the things for her butt/low/pelvic pain - massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, cupping. But she hadn't tried PT. By the end of the conversation, she was on her way to book her appointment with a PT as fast as she can. 

Guys. PT is so important for our bodies when we try all the things but we still have pain. Living with pain is NOT normal. And yes..those capital letters are my head screaming because it is the truth. Living with pain is not normal or tough.

We want you to live in the light and learn how to bounce back with resiliency. So tonight, we show up for you with part two of a three part simple series from our Vagina Whisperer Sara Reardon, PT, DPT, WCS and mother. Covering painful sex after birth, and how to take care of yourself.

Hold your loves close tonight. Thank you for trusting us with your heart!

Love you so BIG!

One in five women can experience pain with sex at some point in their lifetime.

Despite how frequently this occurs, women are often told to “just relax” or “drink a glass of wine” when they report it to their doctors.  This is bullsh*t. Sex is not supposed to hurt… at all.

It’s supposed to be pleasurable and enjoyable.

Because this pain is not accurately diagnosed and often goes untreated, women continue to unnecessarily suffer, experience pain, or avoid intercourse altogether. Their relationships become rocky; their partners get frustrated; they feel embarrassed, ashamed, inadequate, and like something is wrong with them.

It is not.

There are numerous physical, psychological, and emotional reasons where pain with sex may occur. From a purely physical perspective, the pain can be due to infection, hormonal imbalance, nerve entrapment, scar tissue, tense pelvic floor muscles, or a variety of other causes. I’m going to focus on one part of your body that is often overlooked, but commonly is a source of the pain: your muscles.

The muscles in your vagina, specifically.

These floor muscles are often not considered as a source of painful sex, while weak or untreated floor muscles can lead women to suffer for months or even years. By the time I see these women in my clinic, they are often exhausted, depressed, deflated, and even traumatized by what has seemed an endless journey to figure out why their vagina hurts.

Your pelvic floor muscles sit at the base of your pelvis and help support your pelvic organs, keep in pee and poop until you are ready to empty, and have a role in sexual activity. However, these muscles are like any other muscles in your body. They can get short and tight and go into spasm. This can cause vaginal penetration to be difficult and sometimes impossible.

Pain can also occur with deeper penetration, with orgasm, or even after intercourse is over. These muscles need to be lengthened and relaxed to their normal resting state. A pelvic physical therapist can help by guiding you through breathing exercises, yoga and stretching, performing massage, and educating on pain, posture, and returning to sex that is pain-free and pleasurable.

Here are some quick tips that may be helpful to start getting your muscle to let go and help decrease pain with sex:

  1. Practice belly breathing daily. Slowly inhale and puff your belly outward and exhale slowly let it fall. Performing this technique for 5 minutes once to twice a day can help your pelvic muscles relax and decrease overall tension in your body.
  2. Use lube. Lots of it.  I cannot repeat this enough. I recommend a water soluble lubricant (my fave is Slippery Stuff) or a natural oil (my fave is coconut oil) during intercourse.
  3. Get vaginal dilators. Dilators look like a set of tampons of increasingly larger diameter. Inserting these into the vagina can help desensitize your vaginal tissues, relax your muscles, and massage any scar tissue at the vaginal opening resulting from an episiotomy or tear. 
  4. Massage with a crystal wand. This looks like a dilator with a curved tip at the end. It can be used to apply pressure to the tender, tense muscles to help them relax. Pretty much a vagina massage.

These tips may help if muscles are a source of your pain.

Consult with a physician (and…a good one who listens to you) and a pelvic health physical therapist if you are having pain with sex and want to know if muscles are a piece of the puzzle.

Sara Reardon is a Doctor of Physical Therapy specializing in pelvic health, helping women across the lifespan optimize bladder and bowel health, sexual health, and pregnancy and the postpartum period. She is a practicing clinician, educator, and author in the field women's health physiotherapy. She helps fix what can go wrong with a woman's body, and she is passionate about focusing on what can go right. She is a momma, New Orleans native, and wanna be yogi.

Boosting Your Immunity as The Season Shifts

When the seasons change there are just more people sick than less.


Up here, in the Northern Hemisphere we're going from summer to autumn and it's trickier - immune system wise - than we imagine to stay healthy and stable.

Kids are back in school, more snot is running everywhere, people still think they can eat really raw and drink spritzers when in reality our body and organ system wants us all to chill the F out and drink more tea than bourbon - although bourbon is really good..

Here's the thing, I've had this resident rabbits in my yard all summer. It's decided to eat the tops of all my Echinacea plants and has become the running joke in our hood that it is the most immune strong of all the rabbits, and definitely ready for the shift. 

So today, here are some simple go-to's when it comes to planning ahead and building a strong immune system with the shift in seasons:

1. Plan how you're going to move your body, and just because everyone says it's time to den in - remember we're not bears. Get outside!

We need to keep moving and stimulating our lymphatic system during seasonal shifts. Move your body and shake your lymph system out, because it is the bodies natural form of detoxing. When you shake it out, you move any cells that can attack your immune system.

2. Eat seasonally (for a delicious seasonal recipe click on the pic above). I've said it before, and I'm saying it again.

Eating with the seasons, mostly an Ayurvedic practice, helps your blood, nervous, and immune system work easily. When our systems "work easily" we get sick less.

It's okay to eat rich foods for us Northern Hemi folks, like olive oil, avocados, red meats (if you're a carnivore), and even things like liver. 

3. best as you can when your body calls for it.  

4. Top supplements I take to stay well daily as the seasons shift: Vitamin C (in the morning and afternoon), Zinc (in the afternoon), electrolytes (with exercise), Lysine (morning and night), DHA (before bed) and I might throw some herbs. Please consult your health care provider or herbalist before you take any supplements to know if they're right for your body.

Anything you love that is your secret remedy to staying immune strong during the seasonal shifts? Let us know in the comments below! 

Have a vibrant and fun week Mother Lovers!
All love surround.

Your Words to Us


Every week, your letters come to my inbox from around the globe. Your stories are powerful and make me sit back and say to myself, "Woman that took a lot of guts to send me that email." The courage to press send and hope we will read them, I read every one btw, it's incredible.

Trust is more inherent than we think..or imagine.

I once heard as I launched this business, "We need armies of Mother Lovers in every town." I have realized over time, we are raising armies. Of Mother Lovers..Everywhere. It is happening.

Not just me doing all the caring and raising, but us. 

Your reaching out, like patients used to, and we can help. You come and share what you learned once you get through your own messy and bright, then you go out and help other mothers. I see it happening. It is the coolest!

This is what deep healing is all about. It's not just something a surgeon or shaman can do. It's only something a movement of people can do. Together.

Your words, your stories - they are everything! Your trust that we might help your heart, soothe your soul, provide health to your body, or inspire you to kick into gear where there's really a need for help in your lives - thank you! That is an incredible opportunity for us.

You help our heart beat stronger, because our lives are messy, real, bright, brave and we are just figuring it all out too. Thank you for helping us make waves!  

Love you, Mother Lover, always and forever.

How to Turn "Mom Worry" into a Vehicle for Strength

Image from @nytimes

Image from @nytimes

Lindsey is a powerhouse. When she was getting back to work after her daughter was born, she texted me about an experience she had at a breastfeeding group where she told the group she might wean early because working and pumping was hard (that's another post). Instead of support, she was met with shame. She was livid, to say the least.

She was looking for was a community where she felt safe to talk and do what is right for her, not a place where she'd be met with judgement. We opened that door.

Lindsey's post today was written between CA and MN on a plane home from a work trip. A mother does what she's got to do when she's got a quiet minute. We're thrilled to have her back as a contributing writer, mom, badass, and warm heart. We hope you are too!

R + team

My daughter was born in the spring.

So on a warm day not long after, my husband and I found ourselves bundling her up so we could all enjoy the thaw that was taking place in our backyard.  Our neighbors must have had the same idea because when we stepped outside we heard them chatting quietly over the fence. We hadn’t yet introduced them to the baby so we greeted them cheerfully and tenderly leaned the bundle toward the top of the fence to show her off. They had had a daughter about eight months prior so we found ourselves in a curious but light-hearted “Neighbor Wilson” situation comparing notes about new parenthood. 

It was my first encounter like this, and I felt a bit clumsy trying to gain some insight from their experience without being too overbearing or worse, coming across as judgmental.

As I’ve now learned is a typical direction for these conversations to go, we ended up discussing sleep: “Are you guys getting any sleep? Is she a good sleeper? What’s the longest stretch you’ve had?” Truthfully, we were still in the fog of the very early days and were all still trying to get into a rhythm.  But before I had the chance to respond, my husband chimed in and said, “yeah it’s alright, but nighttime is always a little nerve-wracking because you never know how it’s going to go.” 

And right on beat the dad chuckled and said, “Yeah, that doesn’t really go away.” We all had a good laugh and shared a moment of parenthood camaraderie, but as I walked away I felt jolted – confused and terrified at the thought that this nervous, sometimes sick-to-my-stomach feeling may actually just be a side-effect of parenthood.

It was the first time someone actually pinpointed one of the distinct differences I felt as a new mother. This constant state of worry - whether for sleep (or the lack of it), for safety, for health, for above-averageness, and even for love – had become a constant thread of internal discussion. It was alarming at how often these thoughts occurred and how “doom and gloom” they can get.

And what’s more, these worries can become compounded by the added decision of whether or not to act. You have always got to be on your game, because if you let your guard down, you may miss something - something that could harm her if you don’t thwart it or may pass her by if not nurtured. It’s on you.

My daughter is now nine months old, and although I may have gotten used to this worry I can’t say it has gotten any easier - a small stone in your shoe that is both hard to ignore but too cumbersome to remove. But last week, I saw something that jolted me almost as much as I was that day last spring.

It was an illustration of a mother (I know because I follow her on Instagram) with a huge beautiful set of golden wings spreading out from behind her kneeling naked self. Above her were the words from Rumi:


And just like that, I made a decision.

I decided that my worry will no longer just be a side effect, but rather a vehicle for keeping myself in check. Because to a certain extent, your worry is right – it IS on you.

So why not own it?

This means that now I can view my worry as an opportunity rather than an inhibitor.  It’s a chance for me to reflect on myself as a person and as a parent – to recognize that one worry could offer up a chance for me to anticipate a potential threat, whereas another could send me searching for a better way to be a teacher to my child. And dammit, I’m smart enough to recognize both.

Okay…We ALL know it’s not as simple as that. It’s not a perfect science and it’s hard, but it’s also a choice. For us women - who bounce just a little bit longer, who tilt our neck just a little further even though it’s less comfortable, who give just a little bit more at the end of a long day – a little change in perspective might just help alleviate some of those intangible difficulties of motherhood, like worry.

So own it.  You’ve already got your wings.

Lindsey Ransom doesn't let labels define her but she occupies her time with developing wind farms, baby squishes, baking sweets, sailing boats, riding bikes, and playing in the snow.  She sometimes lets her words define her through an assortment of blog posts and Instagram wonderings and will someday write an historical fiction novel.

Physical Therapy: The Key to what is missing in US Postpartum Care

How do I repair my body after childbirth and pregnancy, or after a break from consistent exercise? That's a super common question I got as a midwife in practice. 

When I learned the importance of how to approach healing the muscles and tissues of the body, after having children, I was blown away by the intricate steps it takes to get to your new normal. But more so, the lack of education around the process.

What's missing from the US maternity and women's health system on the whole is basic education for women on retraining important muscles that are part of your abdomen, like your diaphragm.

Even if you're years postpartum, the simple exercises below are really important for women of all ages. There's a three step process to restoring your breath, but we're beginning with the first step to begin your healing:

Restore Breathing to Your Diaphragm

The diaphragm is a muscle. During pregnancy your diaphragm gets compressed. After pregnancy or after a long break from a consistent exercise routine the diaphragm needs to be retrained.

To retrain your diaphragm, first:
   Imagine you are wearing a pair of high-waisted pants. 
   Place your hands between your breasts and your waistline. Inhale, expanding your belly against light pressure of your hands.
   Exhale, releasing the diaphragm. The diaphragm will naturally sink into your hands.

Second, do this exercise to restore breathing to your diaphragm:
•  Stand up straight, with feet at hips’ width.
•  Take a scarf or an exercise band and wrap it from behind your body and criss-cross it in front, about 3 inches above the belly button.
•  Pull the opposite ends so that the scarf is snug around your middle and inhale, expanding your diaphragm so it makes the scarf tighten.
•  Exhale, imagining that your diaphragm is deflating back up into your rib cage.
   Repeat this sequence for one minute.

Finally, KNOW where you are breathing from:
This a really important breathing tip. Breathing from the upper part of the lungs instead of from the (lower) diaphragm can make you feel anxious. 

Learning about lungs and the relationship to anxiety was not new to me, as my dad while dying, had a lot of fear and anxiety and a major reason is because his lungs were hit hard from the cancer. 

As a practitioner, I can see women holding their breath and stress in their lungs, while exhibiting signs of anxiety when they talk to me. Teaching women to breath into and from their diaphram is one I teach often, because it's simple, powerful and grounding.

Now, question of the week: Are you aware of your breath and where it comes from? 

Have a fantastic week! Tell me how the exercises treat you.