After I found out I was pregnant with twins, I asked many questions to God, the Universe, whatever you would like to call it. I was confused and scared of the stress and strain of a twin pregnancy. I felt overwhelmed in a new way I hadn’t experienced before. The answer I kept receiving over and over again was that Mack and Sawyer were meant to come into the world together. This is one small part of their story, our story, which I believe spans across time and space, including many past lives together. This is our birth story.Read More
I am really excited to share my personal take on all the hot new wellness trends this year (sauna pun intended)... As many of you know, I am on a constant hunt for finding wellness methods to heal, balance, and sustain me through new motherhood, running a growing business, and enjoying my life and family. I am always intrigued to try a new trend, but am honest with myself on what works and what doesn't. So, I'm keeping it real with you and sharing what I'm truly seeing - and using - as the top trends of the year. Because believe me, from following the moon eclipses to sitting in a bath of colored oils, I've tried them all. Here's what I'm loving.Read More
Two years ago now I set out to create a business centered on self-care, and Inner Light was born. Up until then, wellness had been my side hustle as I worked in a variety of jobs with different entrepreneurs and in interior design. In my spare time, I was cooking plant-based meals, learning about the food system and nutrition, trying all the Goop trends (adaptogens, foam rollers, charcoal galore), and devouring every self-help and spirituality book I could get my hands on. I even started studying as a health coach but dropped out of the course – I was getting closer to my calling but I hadn’t quite found my place in the world of wellness. In fact, I have always struggled to find my place period, and suffered from low-self esteem, anxiety, and a mild case of orthorexia.
Fast forward to January 2017, I was sitting in an infrared sauna and the idea for Inner Light just came to me. Things flowed fast, and by May I had secured our space in my hometown of Darien. On Mother’s Day, the weekend before we began construction, I found out I was pregnant. Two weeks later, I found out I was having natural, spontaneous twins. This threw me, to say the least. I doubted my ability to handle this new business and my baby boys, but the universe has a way of giving you exactly what you need. I had worked with therapists in the past, but it was my work with a life coach who used color and numerology in her practice that carried me through this transformative time.
I knew leading up to giving birth that this would be the most transformational moment in my life, apart from my own birth, and I was right. Mack and Sawyer were born on December 29, 2017 and my life was forever changed. The transition into motherhood knocked me off my feet, as I struggled with recovering physically from my emergency c-section due to pre-eclampsia and the difficulty of raising two very colicky babies. I was fortunate enough to have a village of support, including our amazing grandparents, my incredibly involved husband, and our angel of a post-partum doula.
The first time I met with my lactation consultant, she was pleasantly surprised by how I scored on the post-partum depression and anxiety scale and even said “you are so zen for a new mom of twins!” Two weeks later, I took the quiz again and she suggested that I speak to someone for support, as my old anxiety began to rear its head.
I spoke to a friend of a friend who did something I hadn’t heard of, “motherhood coaching.” My sessions with her, where we talked over everything that was going on and she provided a shoulder to cry on, support and encouragement that helped me immensely as I navigated “matrescence.”
As I began to catch my breath and get my feet under me, I started to look around and recognize that the patterns and narratives surrounding motherhood in our culture reveal the truth that so many mothers are suffering. There is an epidemic of anxiety, stress, low self-esteem and negative self-talk in our stories around motherhood (hello #momfail #momguilt and movies called “Bad Moms”). What I have learned from studying wellness and self-growth modalities for years is that we can write a different story and create the reality of our dreams.
Ever since I had the boys, I have felt a calling to hold space and provide support for pregnant and new mothers through this incredible portal of entering motherhood. This fall, I began leading workshops in partnership with my friend Kristin Meek of WYLD Leadership, while becoming a practitioner of color coaching and working on my certification as an Ayurvedic Post-Partum Doula and one as a Lactation Counselor. Over the past few months I have grappled with how Inner Light and my passion for supporting motherhood could co-exist, and I often felt pulled in too many directions. Then it came to me – I had to integrate this calling to support mothers within Inner Light.
All of this has lead to this, and I am thrilled to announce the formation of The Studio at Inner Light. In addition to The Saunas and The Shop, The Studio will provide a space for women and mothers to connect, grow and heal with one-on-one coaching sessions, intimate workshops and special events. Here, I will draw upon what I have learned from my personal journey of motherhood, wellness, and self-discovery, as well as my ongoing education in all things post-partum, to provide support, love and guidance. Together, we will work to cultivate deeper gratitude and tap into joy in a way that will provide resiliency to the struggle and stress that is inherent in modern motherhood. More than anything, I am here to hold space, to listen to your stories with love, and offer you the medicine that you are the perfect mother, exactly as you are.
Thank you for being here for the journey as Inner Light evolves and grows, always with the core mission of being a space for healing in our community. If you are interested in learning more about these new offerings, send me an email here. Stay tuned for more about The Studio, when sessions will open up and workshops/event dates - the plan is to launch it all by the end of the month!
One of the wellness tools that I find to be invaluable is writing in a journal. Although I have always loved to write, the format of the journal was not always my strong suit. When I was a child, I remember attempting to write a diary and I could never do it. I would always read it back a few days later and be so incredibly self-critical that I either threw the diary away or ripped out the pages. A few years ago I began my journaling practice while studying to be a health coach, a path I did not continue down but that I did gain some invaluable tips and insight from. One in particular was a lecture on journaling by Julia Cameron, the author or The Artists Way. She inspired me to begin writing in a journal, stream-of-consciousness style, first thing in the morning. It is one of the few wellness or spiritual modalities I have used that created an immediate shift in wellbeing – mind, body and soul.
Since then, I have regularly turned to journaling as a form of therapy. I journal in many different formats and forms – I rarely do Cameron’s “morning pages” in the morning and instead reflect whenever I have a moment. Writing my thoughts down is one of the most effective ways I have found for becoming conscious of my own limiting beliefs, negative self-talk patterns, and cultivating a greater sense of self-awareness. When I articulate and admit these shadow aspects to my Self on paper, I am immediately able to gain a distance from them. The first step is to recognize these thoughts and patterns and the truth that they are not mine. They were programmed by society, family, and peers since a very young age, and upon recognizing this reality I have been able to break the habit of them. From a scientific perspective, we know that the brain is also prone to negativity due to instincts that allowed us to evolve (known as “negativity bias”), but that the brain is “neuro-plastic” and we can rewire our minds in the way that we choose.
Writing in a journal is one way that I have been able to process and evaluate my emotions, thoughts and patterns and then rewrite my own story. Here are different forms of journaling that I practice and recommend:
Unloading. This is super-simple – whenever your mind is racing, just write it all down in your journal. For me, it often looks like a to-do list or just getting what I am thinking of saying to someone out on paper. Once you write it down, it helps stop repeating the maddening loop in your brain. In addition to quieting the mind, it can create perspective that allows you to see what is really necessary, what is true, and what may not be as bad or as demanding as your mind made it out to be. It’s great to do this before meditating or sleeping.
Morning pages. This is Julia Cameron’s method of writing at least three free-hand, stream-of-consciousness pages every morning first thing. It works best when done immediately upon waking and it is essential to not judge any of what comes up. Whenever you feel as if you’re going to go into judgment, keep writing. If you can’t think of what to write, literally write about that. Just flow for three pages and see what comes up. It is astoundingly effective at stimulating creativity and is soothing to the mind.
Dream journaling. Very similar to morning pages, this is when you write down everything that you recount from your dreams immediately upon waking up. It must be done before the dreams are lost, and may involve writing in the middle of the night if you awake. It’s most helpful when you jot down what you remember, and then later that day or week come back to take a look at the themes that have been coming up in your dreams. When looking at your dreams, do not take things literally. Instead, think in terms of symbolism and archetypes.
Prompt journaling. This is writing based upon a particular question. Some journals may have prompts in them, or you can find many on the internet or from books. One of my favorite and most transformative books for healing was Homecoming, which is about processing the inner child. Much of this book is based on journal prompts followed by meditations, and they are incredibly cathartic. You can also use something that happened to you that day that triggered you as a prompt. This form of journaling helps get to the heart of very specific issues and can be deeply difficult, but also very healing. My favorite recent prompt from my friend Kristin of WYLD Leadership is “what is your soul longing for?”
Moon journaling. If you are new to following moon cycles, one way to connect with the energy of the moon is through writing in a journal. The New Moon is associated with new beginnings and is the perfect time to write a list of intentions for what you want to manifest and achieve, and how you want to be in the next 28 days – and next few months. It’s a way to gain clarity about what you truly want and broadcast this to the universe. The Full Moon is a time of both celebrating all that has come to fruition since the New Moon and of shedding to make room for the next cycle. At Full Moons, write about what you want to release and let go of, and how you are going to do so in the next two weeks.
Intentional journaling. This is all about setting out a signal to the universe, and to your Self, about what you want in life. It can be related to manifesting your dreams and getting more in touch with your highest Self. It doesn’t need to always be a list of intentions or coincide with the new moon or beginning of a month. Sometimes it’s just writing out the desire to know more about my purpose – I will literally write “Universe, I want to gain greater clarity on (insert aspect of life). Please send energy in a way that I can see a sign or gain more understanding around this.” It can also look like setting daily affirmations for how you envision your life and day, such as “all is well. Everything is working for my highest good. I am safe.”
Gratitude journaling. Gratitude is perhaps the strongest medicine for connecting back to joy and a positive state of being. One of the most effective ways to invoke the emotions of gratitude is to write about it or make lists of what you are thankful for. It is the perfect way to start or end the day by writing five to ten things that you are grateful for. It’s important to not just write about your dog or your children every time, but to bring to mind a range of aspects of your day, week, job, family, and friends that trigger happiness and gratitude.
There is no right or wrong way to use a journal. I have been finding that what works best for me is to just pick up my journal whenever I can, especially in the evenings, and write about whatever comes to mind. I am someone that does not do well with specific routines – in fact routines can make me feeling like I am failing. So I keep my relationship with my journal full of unstructured love. I have been loving daily affirmations in the morning, whether I write them, say them or think them, and picking up my journal as often as I can before bed to write a little bit. Reflecting back, I can see how in all the deep work I have done on my Self over the past ten years, my journal and writing has been along side me, carrying me through these initiations and transformations all along.
Whitney owned WM Goods, a beautiful shop in Portland focused on mindful design, and she was a massive inspiration for me when I started out with Inner Light. I met Whitney while I was working for Mary MacGill Jewelry, and I immediately fell in love with her and her space. Seeing a young, female business-owner with a shop that I admired for its aesthetic was inspirational for me and it helped me believe that I could open my own space some day. Even when designing Inner Light, I looked to WM Goods for ideas – I was tempted to copy her light wood display tables with white wire legs! Most recently, Whitney launched Well Made Consulting. She is leveraging her years of experience as a store owner and buyer to help brands craft authentic stories and strategies with everything from public relations to creative direction. To top it all off, she and her husband are expecting a baby girl this fall!
Kelly: Hi Whitney! It was so fun to reconnect on social media recently. I have always loved WM Goods and you were such an inspiration to me in opening Inner Light. What are the most significant lessons you’ve learned as an entrepreneur in the retail space?
Whitney: The lessons you learn as an entrepreneur are endless and constant. I think one of the biggest things is to remove ego from the equation. Some people will understand and love your concept, some people walk through the door in a horrible mood and are rude and criticize your work… it totally runs the gamut. You will also grow and at a certain point, won’t be able to have your hands in every component of the business. Learning to let go and trust your employees is a huge lesson. As a small business owner, I started out doing literally everything myself. Letting someone else in and handing over the responsibility was a big lesson in trust and realizing that I’m not anything ‘less’ because I can’t and don't do it all myself.
Kelly: I completely agree with all of this! I had to hire a team and delegate earlier than I anticipated with my pregnancy but it was one of the best things that happened for the business. I’d love to know how did the idea for Well Made Consulting came about and it’s been to launch this new venture?
Whitney: Interestingly enough, I had no background in retail when I opened the shop. My career has been focused in PR, marketing, branding, brand strategy, and events. I worked in NYC and LA for years both at agencies and in-house for fashion brands large and small. I really missed the collaborative effort of helping someone else grow their business. A few friends asked for help on their own projects, and it sparked something in me where I realized that between my previous life in PR/marketing and my current life as a small business owner, I had something to offer. I started Well Made Consulting just over a year ago and it naturally evolved into something consistent & real, which has opened my eyes to an entirely different world outside of retail that I’m really excited about! I’ve helped brands with everything from clarifying their messaging and creating a consistent voice & visual aesthetic, developing full branding including a logo, website, copy and personality, event & media support for store openings, setting up a showroom and e-commerce business, and so much more. I love the diversity of the job and that each project is completely different.
Kelly: I have such deep admiration for you in general, and especially in this transition from store front to consultancy. It is so brave and inspiring to see someone stepping into the next part of their journey with so much grace. How has this process been for you?
Whitney: Yes, I’m in a true period of change in many regards and am so excited about it all. I decided to close WM GOODS for a number of reasons, the biggest of which being that I just realized that I was more passionate about my consulting work and certain aspects of the shop than retail itself. Retail is no joke and you have to be extremely passionate about it to make it work long-term, as there infinite ups and down. Closing the shop and focusing on WMC had been in the back of my mind, and once I found out I was pregnant, I took it as a sign.
I have absolutely loved creating the shop environment, developing events that connect creative people, and sharing the work of makers I truly believe in. These are all things that I want to bring into the next iteration of my business. I just crave more flexibility, less overhead, and have recently had a real desire to not be confined to a physical space. I’m sad to let it go but I also feel like I did what I aimed to do with it and look forward to the next chapter.
Kelly: What is your mission for Well Made Consulting – how do you want brands to feel and experience from working with you?
Whitney: My goal with Well Made Consulting is to serve as an advisor and trusted resource for brands. While my background is primarily in fashion & retail, the skills I have serve other industries as well and I love that it’s all about collaboration and sharing what I know to help someone else. I’m very honest and open, and hope that my insight provides a support system for brands that are either just starting out or need a fresh set of eyes on their work.
Kelly: I love that, your clients are so lucky to have your expertise and passion in their corners! Congratulations again on your pregnancy! How are you feeling thus far? What has surprised you the most about being pregnant?
Whitney: Thank you so much! It’s been a very interesting journey already, and I’m only in the early stages of my second trimester! Generally speaking, I’m feeling really good. There have been ups and downs for sure. I actually found out I was pregnant a few days before I was leaving for Israel and then came home briefly before heading on my honeymoon to Europe (my husband and I got married September ’17 and took forever to plan it out!) Needles to say, we had to approach our days abroad a little differently with my nausea and bizarre heat stroke/fatigue. My husband is a trooper! Beyond the physical stuff, I had a week or two with really intense emotional lows and anxiety, amplified by the fact that I was working towards closing my business. I’m taking it all day by day and working really hard to listen to my body and do what I need to do, whether it’s reading, prenatal yoga (I don’t ever do yoga so this was a big one for me!) or walking.
Kelly: Listening to yourself is so important. It is not easy to be a pregnant small business owner, at least in my experience! Can you tell me a little more about what it’s been like to have both your businesses to run while growing your babe?
Whitney: You’ve definitely been through it!! The first trimester I had to play the jet lag/not feeling well card a lot, as I wasn’t quite ready yet to let my employees or friends know about my pregnancy. I am lucky that I have a great team in the shop that hold down the fort a few days a week, and I’ve learned to use those days to work from home and do what I need to do. When I’m working in the shop, there’s no real flexibility since we have set hours and people come in at any moment, and you always have to be ‘on’, even when you’re feeling way less than ‘on’.
Of course, planning ahead is difficult as each pregnancy, birth, baby and mama are so unique and you don’t know how it’s going to be until it happens! But what are you looking forward to in motherhood and how are you feeling about being an entrepreneurial mama?
My husband and I have been talking a lot about the lifestyle that we want to have and the environment we want to create for our family. Our priorities are creative fulfillment, community, friends/family, food, nature, and exploration. I’m excited to use my consulting work to engage more with these priorities. Outside of my work with other brands, I’m interested in creating opportunities for women to connect through meet ups that center around these tenants. We’ll see where that leads! Let the journey begin!
It’s one of those things in pregnancy and early motherhood that you hear about being a rite of passage, but you don’t quite believe it will happen to you. I thought I would avoid acid reflux – I’d never had it before, yet I ended up an extremely severe case that turned out to be a condition of pre-eclampsia. I had heard that women often lost their hair post-partum, and I brushed it off until I ended up having to chop my hair into a lob from shedding so much. I have always been a little forgetful and scattered, so I thought it couldn’t get worse with “mom brain.” Wrong again. Throughout my second trimester into my third, I felt the focus of my mind soften and my memory falter. Since having my babies, I have been unable to watch anything remotely violent or demeaning – I even have trouble enjoying my beloved Real Housewives without being overcome by compassion for each woman’s trials and tribulations. For me I have felt at times a little like I am losing it, and I have a distinct sense that my mind is different than it was before, for better or worse.
What we all call “mom brain” can often feel like a weakness in a society where we’re expected to be on-the-ball, razor-sharp, picture-perfect and, let’s be honest, unemotional. Being an emotional woman is perceived as a negative trait – it’s seen as out-of-control, crazy, unstable, and even dangerous. “Hysteria” as a disease may have been deleted from our lexicon in the 1950’s, but the cultural effects remain. All of these different aspects – the inattention to details, the foggy memory, the deep empathetic sensitivity – of new motherhood that we continue to view as weaknesses due to our outdated cultural standards are, in fact, super-powers. Scientists have discovered that the new mother’s brain undergoes upgrades during pregnancy that persist for up to two years after giving birth. During this period, a mother’s brain’s chemistry and circuitry change dramatically in a way that’s unlike any other time in life, outside of adolescence.
The numbers of neurons and connections in emotional centers of the brain, as well as in the taste and smell centers, of a mother’s brain increase in number. Scientists believe that the elevated levels of the hormone progesterone and estrogen during pregnancy play a role in the maturation of neurons and neuronal connections. They also believe that these hormones protect the expectant mother against cortisol, the stress hormone. Dr. Pilyoung Kim, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Denver, is one of these scientists studying the way the mother’s brain changes. She has observed significant structural growth changes in the midbrain, where what we call “maternal instinct” is controlled, and the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in decision-making, learning, and regulating thoughts and feelings. Researchers even believe that mother’s IQs may raise slightly after giving birth, although this is still being investigated.
What these mom brain upgrades mean is that the brain is essentially rewired for a woman to become the best possible mom she can be. Her senses are all heightened, making her better able to connect with her baby and her natural environment, which is important for both bonding and survival. It makes the mother what psychologists call “learner ready,” meaning she is able to pick up new skills and gather knowledge on new topics with greater ease. The mother has a more developed, and literally larger, emotional intelligence – she feels more deeply and is especially attuned to the subtle emotional cues of her child. A very strong bias in the brain is formed that motivates the mother to care for her child above all else, which is what can negatively affect the previous ability to multi-task or put other parts of life first.
These are super-powers. Mothers are biologically redesigned during pregnancy and early motherhood to support their role in being attentive, emotionally attuned, and focused on their babies. We are adapted perfectly to our new role, and need only to more deeply believe in ourselves, our brains included. This isn’t as easy said as it is done, however. Our brains are wired with what scientists call a “negativity bias.” This basically means that we are programmed to weigh anything (events, thoughts, feelings) that are negative more heavily and prominently than things of a positive nature. For mothers, this is heightened by our super-powered senses that in previous times helped us to avoid danger and protect our newborn babies. It’s an old trick that served us well during our evolution, but in today’s modern world it is detrimental to our wellbeing.
We also know that in times of stress, our brains rely on the neural pathways that are already in place, essentially our habitual patterns of thinking and being. The good news is that we also have something called neuroplasticity, the brains ability to create new neural connections and pathways. We can train our brains out of this negativity bias by continually triggering positive thoughts, emotions, and telling ourselves new stories in order to sculpt neural pathways in our brain that support positive habits and behaviors. Some of the best tools for releasing old patterns and rewiring the brain include mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy. I have personally used both and found each to be deeply helpful and life changing.
Another tool that I have used is working with coaches, including my friend and mentor Kristin Meek of WYLD Leadership. Kristin and I are co-creating WYLD Mamas is be a monthly workshop where we create time and space to learn about the brain and have meaningful conversations about motherhood, our purpose and designing the lives of our dreams. With Kristin becoming a new Mama at the end of the year and me in my first year, there is so much for us to both learn from each other and other new and experienced Mamas out there. We are looking forward to connecting with many of you in and outside these workshops as we all go through this incredible journey.
For more information on WYLD Mamas, check out:
The Post Natal Depletion Cure by Dr. Oscar Serrelach