Money Mondays: The Road to Financial Recovery

The disease of addiction has left virtually no family completely unscathed.  It may be a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, sibling, spouse, child or dear friend – but all of know at least one person struggling.

Thankfully, the stigma associated with this disease is starting to dissolve away.  The battle against those who would vilify the afflicted isn’t totally won, but I think we can all agree that where we are now in regards to general understanding and acceptance is leaps and bounds ahead of even where we were 5 years ago.

Addiction recovery support is something I’m personally passionate about, having known many important people in my life who I love, adore and respect who have benefited tremendously from treatment at a center specializing in the disease of addiction.  So, as a financial advisor, I felt personal responsibility to help in the best way I know how – which for me has translated into a volunteer education role at a local Drug & Alcohol Treatment Center.  Once a month, I lead a one-hour session with all of the in-patients in the facility (usually about 25-30 adults) focusing on financial education.

Pathways picture #3

This is how I start the session:  “Welcome, everyone.  My name is Margo.  I’m a financial advisor in the area.  You all are here at this facility because you are dedicated to your recovery from the disease of addiction, and you are serious about putting in the work toward that recovery.  Oftentimes, a part of the recovery from the disease of addiction includes financial recovery.  While battling our addictions, sometimes we make bad financial decisions, but believe me when I say that things are never too far gone to fix.  So, I’m here today as a volunteer educator because each of you inspires me.  Your dedication to your recovery means I’m dedicated to giving you the information, tools and resources to begin on the road to financial recovery, and once there, start practicing healthy financial behaviors to support your continued recovery.”

Here are some of the topics I cover:

  1. How to get out of debt, and why high interest rate credit cards are the things to avoid
  2. How to avoid bankruptcy and the steps to take to climb out of an impossible debt situation
  3. How our decisions affect those around us (i.e. What does it mean when we ask Mom/Dad to take a distribution from a retirement account before age 59.5?)
  4. How to differentiate between “need to have,” “want to have,” and “nice to have” and tactics to avoid overspending
  5. Why our credit scores are so important, why you deserve to be able to borrow at an affordable rate, and how to improve a bad credit score.
  6. How to avoid financial pitfalls like applying for a personal loan from a TV ad promising to minimize monthly credit card/debt payments.
  7. How to save for retirement, especially if your work offers a qualified plan with a match
  8. How to prioritize bill pay once out of the recovery center, how to sign up for online bill pay instead of auto-bill pay (and why), and how much to save moving forward.

I’m not going to share with you anything specific about conversations I’ve had in these sessions because all of that is private, but the thing I most want to share with you is this:  The people in that room are YOU and ME.  The face of the disease of addiction is the face of your peers.  It spans ALL ages and ALL demographics.  It is very smart and accomplished people who made the brave move to ask for help.

So, why this post?  Well, I wanted to suggest you all do a few things:

1. Do some soul searching to figure out how to use your talents/knowledge to help other people and then SIGN UP TO DO IT.  There are so many volunteer opportunities out there and 1 hour a month is totally doable for everyone.  It is exceptionally good for the soul and will make you feel like a million bucks, I promise.  If you want a book to read, check out The Happiness Project – One young woman was inspired to look into what truly makes us happy and (spoiler alert) it has to do with being grateful, helping others, and purposefully reminding yourself of the blessings in your life.  One way to accomplish this is through volunteerism.

2. Take some time to learn about the disease of addiction and how it is affecting your local community.  These are important issues that you should be informed about as you advocate for making your community a better place, and providing support to those who need it.  In my county alone, there have been more than 70 overdoses this year, 8 of which were fatal.  These are my neighbors and friends.  These are people who are deserving of our compassion and support.

3. Be kinder.  Many people are fighting battles that you are unaware of, and you’d be surprised how much a kind word or just general supportive gesture can change their world.  I know I’ve needed it at times, and I’m grateful for those willing to give it to me.

I can assure you that I get MUCH more out of these sessions than the participants.  I am reminded to be grateful for the support system in my life.  I am reminded to be vigilant regarding my behaviors and how I impact those around me.  I am usually taught at least one or two new things about financial pitfalls and how specific marketing can prey on those without the knowledge base to avoid financial predators.  (BTW: Why AREN’T we taught basic financial education in middle school or high school?!)  Most of all, I leave feeling inspired – inspired by people who have been through a GREAT deal of trials and who yet still are SO dedicated to self-improvement.

I’ve got a lot of improving to do.   So, these brave people help me remember to get to it.

Much love,

Margo

Dear Teacher: An Open Letter to My Son’s Teacher

Now that it’s summer time, and we have the time to reflect upon a successful kindergarten year for my son, I have been thinking of you, his teacher, a lot.

Image result for teacher summer picture

A few years ago, I took my son to his preschool friend’s birthday party.  A few of the other moms in attendance were complaining to one another about our kids’ assistant teacher. They were saying, “She’s mean. She doesn’t like children.”   I said, “She isn’t mean; she is strict. Discipline is black and white for her – there is no gray area. She doesn’t harm the children, and she doesn’t say discouraging or disparaging things to them.  She is tough. I am ok with that. Structure in the classroom is good.”  No one seemed to agree with me, and that’s ok.

My reasons for feeling this way stem from a few things, not the least of which is due to the kind of mom I am.  I work long hours. When I get home I want to enjoy my children.  However, if they have been unhinged all day, it’s impossible to do because I spend all evening trying to reel them back in. I would rather spend the evening enjoying them, eating dinner, reading books, playing games, riding bikes, rolling around on the floor and snuggling on the sofa watching a movie.

I do understand viscerally the emotions these women are feeling, so my sharing this story isn’t meant to shame them for how they feel. I feel it myself sometimes. When my son is on the playground and another child shoves him aggressively to get by, I feel an intense desire to intervene and protect my son. “Wait,” my husband says, “and watch. Let him handle it first.” I stand by, my palms sweating and my heart beating, imagining myself march up to the parent of this kid and ask why they haven’t disciplined their kid for putting his hands on mine.  Then, something magical happens.  The kid does it again, and my son turns calmly to him and says, “Hey.  Don’t push me.  Ok?”  Just like that, it’s over.  As I’ve shared here, I learn very important things from my kids every day – usually, and especially, when I let them try to resolve their own issues.

Image result for kids playground picture

We were watching reruns of Friday Night Lights recently. There was a scene where the coach is yelling at the kids in the locker room.  Not speaking words of encouragement – straight up yelling at the top of his lungs.  The team members shrunk in their seats, feeling the heavy weight of disappointment on their shoulders.  Then, they worked harder, they ran sprints, they rolled in the mud.  They learned their lesson and they tried harder.

As I was watching this, a light bulb went off in my head.  I thought about my husband’s volunteer coaching gig at a local high school and remembered him telling me a story about a kid’s parent who wrote him a strongly worded email, chastising him for “yelling at” his son.  My husband is not a yeller.  He explained to the parent that he expressed dissatisfaction to the kid because he was disrespecting his teammates, but he didn’t yell.  And so I thought to myself, what is our obsession, as parents, with trying to prevent our children from being disciplined by the very people that we are asking to teach, coach, and discipline our children?  When I played sports, I got yelled at by my coaches.  I didn’t like it, sure.  It didn’t make feel good.  But you know what?  I am so glad it happened.  It taught me so much.

I want my kids to learn how it feels to do something wrong – to feel the consequences, most intensely and piercingly being when you disappoint someone you love and admire. Your teachers. Your coach. Your mom. Your dad. I remember those feelings in the pit of my stomach. I don’t want to protect my kids from that. It’s better that they make mistakes and understand the consequences in a space where those consequences don’t result in life altering outcomes like injury, jail, death, addiction. Teenagers are emotional and impulsive creatures.  I don’t want the first time for my son or daughter to be held responsible be years from now when he/she is a teenager and makes a bad decision like drinking and driving which can result in a DUI or worse, hurting themselves or others.

Emotional intelligence is more important to me than book smarts. Responsibility. Bravery.  I teach my son to stand up for what is right especially when it is hard. When he comes home and tells me that his heart hurts because someone was mean to his friend, I revel in that moment. He needs to understand empathy. Not sympathy. He can learn his ABC’s any day.  It doesn’t take a genius to teach ABC’s, but it does take a great teacher to teach empathy, kindness, bravery, humility and leadership.  Those things don’t develop when teachers are only allowed to dole out positive reinforcement instead of appropriate discipline.

I want that when my son is given accolades for an accomplishment that he feels true pride in knowing what he did was exemplary. I want him to motivated by this feeling over and over again.  It’s impossible to know this feeling if everyone gets a sticker, award or trophy. It’s also impossible to know this feeling if you are never disciplined for doing something wrong.

Image result for kid discipline picture

We find ourselves in interesting times. We are begging for leaders of strength, kindness, good-heartedness and intelligence. However, we aren’t fostering the growth of them. We won’t allow our kids to fail. Parents handle everything for their kids. Strength is not made when you don’t have to work for things. Our children must learn how to effectively communicate with their teachers, how to stand up for themselves, how to ask for help, and how to learn how they can do better, be better and reach higher.  Minds, souls and bodies are all like muscles. You must work them to grow them.

I am sorry, dear teacher, for the precarious situation you now find yourself in. I was surprised when my son’s amazing preschool teacher called me one day a few years ago  to talk to me about my son’s day. No, not because he is perfect. He most certainly is not, and I am thrilled that in our household we do not have those ridiculous expectations. But because she felt it was necessary to proactively explain to me that he was reprimanded for doing something mischievous with his friends (climbing a fence) and against the rules. That call made me so sad.  Not because my son did something wrong.  He was four, and he’s a very fun little boy who values his friendships above all else, so I wasn’t surprised.

The call made me sad because the teacher likely has to make dozens of these calls a week, if not more, in an attempt to protect herself from angry parents who want to know why their perfect child came home and told them that he/she was disciplined in the classroom.  You, teacher, must spend your evenings making these calls instead of relaxing after a hard day of being paid WAY less than you are owed.  What, my fellow parents, are we trying to accomplish with this intense oversight?  This is not a rhetorical question – I actually want someone to answer this for me.  Parents: What are you trying to accomplish by making our teachers and coaches afraid to teach and coach our children?

Image result for parent teacher conference picture

I don’t want my son and infant daughter to be me. I want them to be better than me. In whatever way that means for them.  As I see their shiny faces, looking up at me, happiness and interest and calm, I want the world to be a safe place.  But it isn’t. I can make my home safe but I can’t control the world. I don’t want to. Don’t get me wrong, if someone harms my child (physical abuse or worse), I will intervene (and God help whoever has to deal with me in that type of situation, believe me.)  But, that’s not what we are talking about here.  We are talking about normal discipline in a school setting.  Warnings, time outs, privilege revocation, etc.

I want my children to be equipped to thrive in the real world. To know triumph. To know disappointment so that the triumph is sweeter. To search and work toward a solution. To lose. To win. To be bad at some things. To be good at some things. To be prepared. To be unprepared. To love and innovate and shine independently from me. They don’t need to change the world – just themselves, and always in a positive direction. For as they become the best version of themselves, they will change my world, their world, and your world. All teachers are not the same.  Some are loving.  Some are strict.  Some are silly.  Some will like my kids, and some won’t.  But THAT’S LIFE.  My kids will learn, just as I did, that not everyone is going to like them, and that’s OK.  I want my kids to be prepared for the WORLD.

So to you, dear teacher, your role is an important one. You are my partner, and I am yours. We work together and support one another.  You aren’t the mother – I know that that’s my job. You are their teacher, and I am so glad you are.  Don’t give them the answers. Help them learn. Don’t let everyone win. Help them grow. Hold my child accountable. Hold us all accountable to ourselves.  I support you, and I hope for a world where you can do your job without fear of being fired because a parent is upset that you hurt their child’s feelings by moving them to the back of the line when they couldn’t listen or follow the rules.

Otherwise what is the purpose of school?

With Great Gratitude,

Margo

Lessons I’ve learned from my kids

Lying is bad:  “Mom, you don’t actually have eyes in the back of your head.  I checked under your hair when you were sleeping.  That means you weren’t telling the truth, and you have to sit in time out for 33 minutes because you are 33 years old.”

Image may contain: 2 people, including Lee Cook, people sitting and childHe has perfected the eye roll and he’s only 6 years old.

Rules are rules:  “Mom, what does S T O P spell?  Then why didn’t you stop at that corner back there?”

Don’t be mean: After Levi got his blood drawn, I was so impressed with how great he did.  No tears or fear.  I was telling someone about how proud I was of him, and how I couldn’t believe that the grown man next to him was scared and crying.  “Mom, that’s mean to talk about that man like that.  He has feelings too!”

Boundaries are healthy:  We are at the airport, and a kind-looking man in a suit leans down toward my 2 year old daughter Monroe and says, “What a pretty girl you are!  How old are you?”  She looks up at him, puts her arm out quickly in a Heisman move with her palm close to his face and screams, “GO AWAYYYYY!”  He tries one more time with the same result.  Guess she didn’t want to talk to you, dude, and it’s ok for her to say it.

Image may contain: 1 person, babySometimes it’s good to be sassy!

God lives behind our sofa:  “Mom, there is  a man in the front room behind the sofa.”  “Oh, don’t worry, Mom.  It’s just God.  Mrs. Sparks told the class that God is everywhere but he’s invisible so you don’t always see him.  So, I just wanted you to know that right now he is behind the sofa in the front room.”

I’m a bad mom for turning on Disney movies:  We were watching Ferdinand, and toward the end, Levi started to cry (more like sob.)  “What’s wrong?”  “Ferdinand sent his friends to the farm and he didn’t make it!  Now he might die!”  Then, at the end, after everyone was reunited and happy, Levi starts to sob again.  “What’s wrong?  It’s a happy ending!”  “I’m so relieved!”  Then, he starts to get mad.  “Why did you MAKE me watch this?  It was so sad!!!!”

Sometimes, it’s just time for bed:  Monroe, when she is tired, will grab her blankies and hug all of us and say, “Bye, bye, night, night.” Then she goes upstairs to her room and sings herself to sleep.

Image may contain: 1 person, sleeping and closeup

Honesty is the best policy, but if you know they won’t like your answer, end with a compliment: “Monroe, are you going to use the potty?”  “No, mommy.  Love you!  Awww. So pretty.”

If it hurts someone’s feelings, it’s not worth saying.  (Also, avoidance is a strategy too.):  Levi was upset because someone at school wanted to marry him and he didn’t want to marry her.  “So, just tell her you love her as a friend only.”  “No, mom, that’s mean.  I just won’t say anything at all, and then when I am older I’ll marry someone else.”

Spiders have feelings, too: “MOM!  I didn’t tell you about the spider so you would kill it!!  It deserves a chance to LIVE!”

Time is relative:  “Four more minutes, Levi!”  “You didn’t say five minutes yet, so I still have five more minutes to play!”  (We can also place this in the category of: If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, did it make a noise?)

Make sure you dress the part:  “I can’t go outside to play basketball until I find my new basketball shorts!”

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, indoor and food

Believe in yourself.  The sky is the limit:  “Mom, you know how you help people make money?  Can you help Cracker Barrel make more money so they can add a drive thru so I can get their chicken dumplings whenever I want?”  “Well, honey, they aren’t my clients.”  “Well, why not?”

Everyone you meet is a potential friend, and deserves a chance:  “Mom, someone was mean to me at school today.”  “Well, Levi, you don’t have to play with them if they are being mean.”  “Mom, that’s not the right thing to do.  The right thing to do is become their friend so they learn to be nicer.”

It’s never a bad time to sing a song:  Especially in the grocery store, when you can get some nice amplification of your voice without much effort.  Monroe’s favorite tunes, including Moana, Maui, Coco, and Frozen, sound especially great in the dairy aisle when sung by a 2-year old.

HEADSHOTMargo is a financial advisor, software developer, and married mom of 2 who is surprised and delighted when she makes it out of the house in the morning fully dressed for work.

Money Mondays: How Exactly are Financial Advisors Paid? And By Who?

Hi friends!

So, I’ve mentioned in the past that you should find a financial advisor that you trust to help you plan for retirement and invest your money.  I’ve had people say to me, “Margo, how come the person who sold me insurance is offering to do a retirement projection for free, but other advisors are charging money to do this?”  The answer lies in how different financial professionals are compensated.

This is where it gets a little tricky.  It’s not as easy as it would seem to figure out exactly how financial professionals are paid.  And, most people would agree that it’s kind of confusing to figure out how to find a financial advisor you trust if you can’t figure out how the advisor is paid!   Some people have told me that this prevents them from even trying to find one at all – because when you don’t know how they are paid it’s pretty hard to figure out what it will cost you.  To compound the issue, many professionals call themselves “financial advisors,” but they all aren’t created equal.  They each may have varying expertise and very different “end games” when it comes to their relationship with you.  I’m here to tell you:  It’s confusing, and I’ll explain it to you.  I’m also going to give you a list of questions you can ask the advisor when you are interviewing them to figure it out, too.

To simplify, we can basically put financial advisors into one of three categories:  Commission-only, Fee-only, or Fee-based.  Fee-only and Fee-based sound the same, but they are actually quite different!  Here are the details:

compensation of financial advisors

Fee-only:  Fee-only advisors are only paid directly by their clients for the services they provide.  This fee is usually represented as a percentage of your account value or an hourly rate.  They do not sell any products like insurance or annuities, they don’t represent a bank or any financial institution, they don’t have proprietary funds like mutual funds to place into your investment accounts, and they don’t receive referral fees for sending you to other advisors, like an attorney or insurance rep.  In this scenario, the financial advisor only represents the best interests of their client – they aren’t there to sell a product or represent the interests of a bank or other financial institution.  Every decision they make is in the best interest of their client because they don’t have any conflicts or receive compensation from any other party or institution.  Fee-only advisors are true fiduciaries for their clients.

Commission only:  These are your insurance sales-folks and annuity sales-folks.  What’s good about them?  You need to have certain kinds of insurance: home, auto, health & life, for example.  These people have expertise, execution and only indirect cost to you out of pocket.  Some of these individuals will offer free financial planning meetings, but beware.  Their planning usually revolves around insurance products and getting you to buy one.  The reason that they offer financial projections for free is that they use the time to convince you to buy a product that they sell.

Image result for gifs for insurance sales

Sometimes, in these financial planning meetings, they might encourage you to buy insurance or an annuity that may not appropriate for you because it makes them money.    I carefully vet the insurance representatives that I refer my clients to, so I know they aren’t going to inappropriately suggest a product to them, but there are unfortunately people like this out there.  I also review all insurance before my clients sign on that dotted line.  Having a neutral party who only works for you, and not a bank or an insurance company, review these sorts of things is a very smart move to make so you know it’s actually best for you.  And even though you aren’t paying the commission-only advisors directly (out of pocket) for the product they are selling you, you are paying them indirectly because of the fees you are paying upon purchase and/or the life of that product.  These products are not inexpensive, and the advisor receives payment from the company offering the product as a result of the money you spend to purchase it.

Fee-based: This is where it starts to get a little more complicated.  Fee-based advisors are a mix between fee-only and commission-only advisors. They receive a fee from you directly for managing your investments, usually a percentage of the total dollar amount of your account AND they sell products like insurance, propriety mutual funds, and/or receive referral fees for other professionals they send you to.  I know a lot of fee-based advisors who are wonderful – very smart and very ethical.  However, if the fee-based advisor isn’t as ethical, you can see where they might get into difficulty.  Are the investments they are choosing in your portfolio always the best ones for you?  Or are they choosing them because they receive a commission?  Are they selling you a product like insurance or an annuity because it makes them a commission?  Or are they recommending it to you because it’s actually the best product for you, and it’s the right choice for your goals and risk tolerance?  When it comes to fee-based advisors, you are potentially paying them both directly and indirectly for their advice and the choices they make for you/recommend to you.  Again, I know a lot of really great advisors who are fee-based, and one of the positives of this model is that they can sell you directly the products you might need to ensure you are comprehensively planning for your future.  However, it’s imperative that you find an ethical advisor if you are shopping in the fee-based arena.

If this sounds confusing, you aren’t alone.  I’ve been asked the following question by clients pretty often:  “How do I figure out which bucket my financial advisor falls into?”

So, I created the following list of questions to help figure it out:

7-questions.png

If your advisor is fee-only, the answers to all of these questions are NO.

If your advisor is fee-based, the answer to any ONE of the following questions will be YES: 1, 2, 3, or 7.  A YES to any one of those questions means they are not fee-only.

If your advisor is commission-only, they will always answer YES to #1.  Another hint:  They won’t be charging you an investment management fee, which is how you know they are commission-only instead of fee-based.

Finally, if the answers to #4, 5 or 6 are YES, it’s time to find a new advisor regardless of the way they are compensated.

If you are looking for potential advisors, the initial meeting should always be complimentary.  This is an intro meeting so they can figure out your needs and how they might serve you.  So, cost shouldn’t prevent you from reaching out to a potential financial advisor and “interviewing” them to see if they are right for you.

In that meeting, use the list of questions I give you here to figure out how they are paid, culminating with the final one:  “How much will this cost me, and will you quote me ahead of time, or as we go?”

There are great financial advisors out there, and armed with this information, I am confident you will find the best one for you!

Happy Advisor Shopping!!

Margo

HEADSHOTMargo is a fee-only financial advisor and mom of two.

Ranting 101- The insidious perfection module

This post will be founded in rhetoric. Focused in a semi-dreamland. My hope is to provoke conversation that may or may not entice change and movement. We need one another.

The ridiculous notion of being “everything” as a parent has left a void in our connectedness. It’s left the human element incomplete. We are, in fact, left with missing pieces of ourselves trickled throughout the “have-it-all’s” that society pressures us to adopt. Not pressures, bulldozes. Why can’t we just have what we actually want?

We long for community, for organized togetherness. We stretch ourselves thin to be mom, wife, sister, aunt, lover, friend, daughter, boss, co-worker. Why? Why can’t we have a village. When we are hurt or injured, why can’t there be an answer right next door? When we are out of sugar, why must we run to the store? Why can’t we ask a village member?

When one of us cannot do life anymore, why can’t the one who can at the moment take over the dishes or the parenting or the damn laundry? And not just for a day or a week at a time. Not just as a visit here and there throughout the year. My wish is for it to be the NORM. The gold standard of living. We complete each other.

We are blasted with media images about “wolf-packs” and tribes and sisterhoods, and we answer those panging feelings of missing with a “thumbs up” to the photos that resemble those sentiments. Yet, we don’t seek to connect the virtual ones with the tangible potential of actual community. We longingly reach towards equally needing hands for comfort, for purpose, and for help, and yet…we don’t have the means/capacity/job or resident flexibility to celebrate it. We acquiesce to alienating motherhood. We post impossible perfection, only to close our eyes after we commit to send the farce that is said post. We are not always perfect. We are not always happy. And we DON’T have to always be alone.

So my question is, why the hell can’t we? Why can’t we find a piece of land with our wolf packs, and choose to live simply? To be there for one another unconditionally? To quench the thirst for our tribe on a daily basis. We need the guts, the money, and the cessation of excuses. I know these four friends talk about it, communicate and dream about it on the regular. Will it happen one day?  I think it will. I pray it will.

Let’s bring together all our talents and live the life of COMMUNE-ity. Isn’t that the root of the word after all? To be together in a sense that everyone has one another to lean on. Through the hardships of marriage strife, work stress, kid drama, and interpersonal agony. This is my solemn confession. A dignified admittance for the need to coexist. A demand for more like mindedness.

I am in….Are you in?

 

Let’s stop the social media epidemic. Let’s remember the times of friend therapy being a half mile bike ride away. Let us teach our children of cord phones, and the advancements of human cohesion. Let’s help fuse the gaping chasms technology has created amongst our generations by teaching older ways of loving..of being…of human being.

We live in an era of separation. I personally, am against it. No matter what side you stand on, however, know that I love you. For your part in the experiment we call life. For my part in the choice to participate in yours, and for the benefit of all of us.

 

Friday Fails

This week was a doozy ya’ll.

And today I am just drowning in a swamp of mom guilt and “not enoughs”.

I left Mimi crying for me not to go at Daycare this morning so I could get things done without the extra walking and lifting of bringing the girls with me. Cue severe mom guilt for being selfish.

I need the help today because I didn’t do enough rehab on my knee this winter when we were selling the house, moving and I started a new job and I tore a ligament again. Cue severe self guilt for not being stronger and more disciplined.

I didn’t get a “real” Friday post organized because I was late at work and then bedtime and my husband has been at work till 10:30pm every night this week and I crashed. Cue professional guilt.

I have a house that’s a wreck and still only 3/4 unpacked from moving in May, a mountain of laundry and a poor sad dog who hasn’t gotten a walk in weeks because of said knee and the fires even though it was his birthday this week. Cue alllllll the rest of the guilts.

It’s so so stinking easy to focus on the ways we are not doing enough and so much harder to give ourselves permission to celebrate the wins.

I also worked incredibly hard at my “day job” this week and helped over 60 people with their problems. I fed my family mostly healthy food. I stayed well hydrated. I did not push myself too hard on my injured knee (my default is to ignore, hence why the knee got so messed up to begin with). I caught up with several friends I’ve been missing. I organized things for my side business. I got dressed and brushed my dang teeth every. single. day. I know what Jen Sincero would tell me…

Why do we feel this need to push push push and not in the productive “make my dreams come true” way, but in a nit-picky, judgy way?? Why do we talk to ourselves in a way we would never let someone else talk to our kids?

I honestly used to do a lot more of this. I would drag myself down with the negativity until I felt more worthless than a slug marring someone’s garden walkway. I did a LOT of cognitive behavioral therapy learning to reroute those negative pathways. I have gotten WAY better at balancing the inner demons, but they still creep in now and then. And I know I’m not alone in this.

This is why I’m writing this today. We all have our down moments and there are ways to fight it. You can turn the negativity train right around. Try a few things that work for me:

  • Say the thoughts out loud. To someone supportive of you can or to an imaginary supportive friend if not. Let them reality check you.
  • Read inspiring books. I have had my life changed by The Science of Happiness, The Happiness Project, The Universe Has Your Back, Girl Wash Your Face and now You Are A Badass.
  • Write down the positives. See them. Internalize them. Pat yourself on your damn back.

Happy Friday everyone! May you be filled with positivity!!

Dr. Annie

At Home with Christiana: Quick Style Fixes

While this is the Home Renovation and DIY section of our blog, there are many reasons and different stages in our lives where we may not have the ability to take on major home renovation projects. Be it time or budget constraints, or simply living in a rental where making permanent changes isn’t an option, sometimes the dirty work just has to wait.  This post is a nod to some of my favorite, time-tested quick style fixes for the home in times or situations like these. Big style, little effort. No sledgehammers, no permits, no construction loans required. Promise.

brown wooden center table

These simple tricks of the trade are great tools to make a temporary house feel like home, stage a home for sale, tap into design trends without commitment, or bring style into your home without investing a lot of time and money. 

Make a Gallery Wall

For those big, empty walls in your home, a gallery wall can make a big impact and really personalize your space without making any permanent changes or dropping any serious dinero.  Use your own photos, or print some cool stock images that speak to you. You can download some beautiful botanical prints for free from Botanicus.org.

art black and white decoration design

I love the clean, simple look of black and white photos in matching frames. Or for a more colorful look, I love coordinating images to create a theme for a space, as below.

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Improve Aesthetics with Lighting

Shed some light on your situation. Literally. I mean “wow this room is so great and dark” said no one, ever. Dark rooms feel smaller. Period.

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Adding lamps to a space can not only brighten it, but add an instant element of style to it as well. Rental properties, in particular, often lack quality lighting (think harsh, fluorescent lights) and softer light from accent lamps can provide a nice alternative.

Rule of thumb for table lamps: Always, always, buy a PAIR. Even if you only need one lamp at the time of purchase, someday you will, without fail, need two and you will hate yourself for not buying the pair while you could. Trust me.

Play with Pillows

Let me start by saying that I have a definite love/hate relationship with throw pillows. In the sense that I hate how much I love them.

brown and grey leather sofa with throw pillows

Like, I recognize how completely frivolous and unnecessary they are. I do. Remember that pillow scene in Along Came Polly?

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I want to embrace that minimalist “who-needs-throw-pillows” mentality in theory. But in reality… pretty, soft throw pillows got me like…

Because really, comfort is a thing. Fluff has never, that I am aware of, ever made anything less comfortable. And from a design perspective, throw pillows can totally change the look of a piece of furniture and/or update accent colors in a room for a fraction of the time and money required to replace large furniture pieces or paint walls.

ashtray book cushion decoration

You can easily change them when you’re tired of them, or even swap them out seasonally if you’re so inclined. Major pointer for pillows: Unless you are buying for staging purposes only, spend the money for pillows with removable, washable covers.

Bring the Green in

Indoor plants are another quick and simple way to warm and bring style to a space. (And I’m talking REAL plants here folks, none of your granny’s faux flower arrangements) With the added benefits of purifying your air, plants are a design multi-tasker for making your home both prettier and cleaner. A few personal favorites are the fiddleleaf fig, palms, succulents, and orchids. The fiddleleaf fig (shown below) is having a major style moment as of late, but is also a notoriously slow and finicky grower.

green indoor plant in a room

Orchids are a design classic often written off as pricey or difficult to maintain but at around $15 for a medium sized plant, which should last you a few months at minimum (even if you kill it) I would argue they are more cost-effective than buying cut bouquets. I’ve had a few re-bloom for 3-5 years, which is like $5 a year. Definitely less than most fancy design items, and I swear that maintaining them is as easy as just watering less than usual houseplants. (You can find straightforward orchid tips from the pros here.)

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For the non-plant people out there, succulents are the lowest maintenance way to bring the green in. (Bonus points if you coordinate your plants and your pillows.)

photo of plants on the table

Temporary Wallpaper

Temporary wallpaper is a great non-permanent alternative to traditional wallcoverings and is a quick way for renters and commitment-phobes alike to tap into the current wallpaper trend. Put it on an accent wall, on stair treads, in a closet, on a door, in cabinets or on shelves, and make a statement with it.

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Expressive Palm Removable Wallpaper, Urban Outfitters

Available in a variety of price points and design styles from mainstream retailers like Amazon, Wayfair, and Target. (Fixer Upper fans check out the shiplap print from Home Depot!)

Soften your Surroundings

Quality flooring is another element that is often lacking in rental properties and is generally difficult to install in homes without major expense and time. Area rugs provide a quick and easy way to add style to a space and cover less than desirable flooring.

white and tan english bulldog lying on black rug

Soften tile and vinyl floors wherever you can with rugs. Heck, I’ve even used area rugs over carpeted floors to define spaces and well, just to cover up ugly carpet. General rules for rugs: don’t float a rug in the middle of a room. Always buy a rug big enough that it reaches your furniture. If that’s not in your budget, I’m a big fan of layering smaller plush rugs over a more affordable natural fiber (jute) rug for a clean look with softness where it counts. Apartment Therapy breaks down how to layer rugs with style here.

Window coverings

Let’s be real. Curtains are about as fun to shop for as socks. They’re not exciting, but they’re style necessities. Vertical blinds never helped noooobody. The short and simple truth of window coverings: buy the best you can afford, and hang them as high as you can. You won’t regret it.

architecture chairs contemporary curtain

That’s it. A quick and dirty on the quickest style fixes in my book. What are your favorite ways to add style to your space? And what style problems do you need solved on the cheap and easy? Shout out!

Cheers to happy homes!

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer.

Dr. Annie Answers: Breastfeeding 101

Happy World Breastfeeding Week! Given the celebration of lactation we are in, I wanted to get out a quick and dirty, insider basics style guide to breastfeeding for mamas to be or current lactaters. It’s not comprehensive – for more details, please check out La Leche League, Kelly Mom and/or get a lactation consultation or talk with your own provider! These are just some hard-won tips of the trade.

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On demand means on freaking demand

Breastfeeding is not easy, people. I have lots of family doctor and OBGYN mommy friends who have ALL said at one point or another, “this was so much harder than I though it would be!” … and of all people we should know what to expect! Some people certainly have an easier go of things than others – a challenge rather than the literal blood, sweat and (so many) tears battle other mamas fight through. But if it’s possible to get your baby that “liquid gold”, the health benefits are innumerable for you and babe alike. Also… No shaming here for the mamas who truly can’t make it work! Breast is best, but fed is a damn close second.

1) Initiation

Starting breastfeeding off right begins at birth. This is a super important part of breastfeeding going well with less difficulty. Many hospitals around the country have signed on to the “Baby-Friendly Hospital” guidelines to help mom and baby get an optimal start to breastfeeding and bonding, which is FANTASTIC! This includes (see Baby Friendly USA for more info) 10 items the hospital must comply with to show they are on board with supporting breastfeeding.

Probably the most important of all is recommendation #4: “Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within 1 hour of birth”.

This goes along with another important recommendation that isn’t always included in hospital protocols: The Magical or Golden Hour. Babies should be delivered and immediately placed naked, skin-to-skin with mom and kept that way for at LEAST 1 hour after birth. That means no bath first (there is actually very good evidence your baby should NOT be bathed in the hospital at all to keep their healthy skin flora), no shots, no eye ointment, and assessments done ON MOM unless there is an urgent medical concern that requires otherwise for the first hour of life.

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Sweet Mimi in her Golden Hour

This is not the favorite policy of many Labor and Delivery floors because it delays some of the tasks needed to wrap up post-delivery care. As much as I love and hugely appreciate my L&D RN friends, this efficiency concern gets a big ol

The Magical Hour is profoundly helpful in establishing proper physiology, bonding and strong initiation of latch and breastfeeding and should be protected. It is truly magical. Most babies will, completely independently, literally crawl up mom to the breast and latch themselves properly with practically no intervention. Check out the YouTube video and hundreds of others if you don’t believe me.

There are, unfortunately, sometimes medical emergencies that make this not possible. That’s ok too! Do as close to this as you can. Mom can’t do skin-to-skin? Dad/partner/birth partner can do it. Baby needs to be monitored more closely? Get mom or dad touching them as soon as it’s medically safe. Once you can, do skin-to-skin for as many hours of the day as you can to catch up. Some wonderful providers have even started doing skin-to-skin in the OR for their cesarean birth patients when it is safe. Do your best!

2) After The First Latch, Lube it Up

After you get that initial magical latch in, the real fun starts. Bring in and use nipple oil (I prefer coconut oil, some use lanolin or compounded ones with both) after EVERY feed. Warm it gently between your fingers and slather it on there. Wipe off any excess gently with your breast pad before the next feed – but no need to wash off.

Whichever your choose (if you can, buy a small one of each and figure out which you like best), try to pick an organic one – we’re talking about some of the very first things to go into your baby’s mouth and gut. Spring for the best.

3) Ask for Help

If you don’t have a doula to personally help you, ask for help from the birth center. Most hospitals now have staff lactation specialists who can come help you. DON’T pass this up!!! Unless you’re an ultra experienced mom of multiple babes or lactation nurse yourself, have them check you out. Get comfortable with what to look for in a good latch and have them demonstrate with you and your actual baby several different positions.

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upside down side lying position to sooth baby for photo shoot… not super highly recommended

 

If you don’t have access to one right away, there is guaranteed to be an experienced nurse on the floor who can help and then schedule your lactation consult for after discharge. La Leche League website is a great place to find local support and resources for follow up.

4) Fuel Up

You’ll need to eat and drink a LOT for your body to make enough good milk. You should aim for 3-4 liters of water or other hydration daily. Keep a LARGE water receptacle by you at all times. Make sure your support person knows to refill when low. If you’re thirsty, you’re already over a quart of water low.

Breastfeeding burns up to 800 calories a day in the early days. As you’re starting out, you’ll want to eat like a teenage boy doing two-a-day practices in the middle of a growth spurt. All of a sudden, the crazy guy who speed-eats 100 hot dogs will seem somewhat reasonable. Go for it. If you want to be “healthier”, focus on getting in LOTS of fat and protein and limiting stuff with chemical additives or added sugar. Yes fat. You’ll burn it off later – don’t worry. No dieting of any kind until after 6 weeks when your milk is established. period.

5) Forget All Else

This is the last of the basics I’m gonna throw at you. For the first month (or two) of your baby’s life, breastfeeding should be your only task. If people want to come over? Great! they have to be people who 1) you’re ok with seeing your boob flopping around and 2) be willing to do chores with 3) no actual promise of holding or even touching the baby. Let everything else go – you eat, sleep and breastfeed.

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or not sleep…

Breastfeeding on demand (which will feel like the full 24 hours of the day) is the best way to make sure your milk comes in and your baby has enough. Almost no one truly does not make enough milk if they initiate feeding on demand without formula (or nosy know-it-all in-law) interference. Let your baby’s health care provider guide you on whether there’s enough milk getting in. Your job isn’t to guesstimate volume of milk, it’s to put a boob in the baby’s mouth every time they seem hungry. TheMilkMeg sums it up:

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Happy Feeding Mamas!

Dr. Annie is a family doctor and mom of 2 with 1 on the way with 25 months personal breastfeeding experience and lots more hours helping others. Please add your questions and personal tips to comments below! Let’s help each other this week and all weeks!

Money Mondays: Charitable Giving in our New Tax World

If you are charitably-inclined, this message is for you.

There has been a lot of discussion about the new tax laws and how they will affect charitable giving since the standard deduction for both an individual and a married couple has reached historically high levels.  ($12,000 for single-filers, $24,000 for married filing joint)

Your CPA is the authority, but it’s very likely that you may be, for the first time in a long time, taking the new standard deduction for the 2018 tax year.  If you take the standard deduction, and if you write a check from your checking account to make a donation or give by credit card, you cannot take a tax deduction for those gifts this year!  It’s very possible that, even if you itemized deductions for 2017 and took those charitable deductions, you will not be itemizing this year and won’t get a charitable deduction for donations to non-profit organizations.

I have tips for consideration today on how you can still give tax-efficiently in this new environment.  Regardless of the amount of the donations you are making, there are some important insights to share.

Best ways to give to charities NOW: If you are still writing a check from your checking account or giving by a swipe of your credit card, please pause before giving this way this year. There is are more tax-efficient ways to give while in the new tax environment where you will still save money and the charity of your choice will get the same amount of money.

  • Have a brokerage account? Transfer appreciated securities from it to the charity directly: This is way easier than you think.  You would make a transfer of appreciated securities (like stock) to the charity of your choice, and as a result, avoid capital gains taxes on these securities.  So, even though you might not take a charitable deduction on your taxes for 2018 if you are using the standard deduction, you will still save money on would-be capital gains for these appreciated securities.  Then, deposit the cash you would have given from your checking account into your brokerage account and invest it to replenish that money.
  • If you are at least age 70.5, utilize the Charitable RMD Rollover: If you are at least age 70.5, you are required to take a distribution (called RMD) from your retirement accounts like your Traditional IRA or former 401(K)/403(B). Tax laws allow you to roll some or all (up to $100k per year) of this RMD directly to a charity, and as such, it is not included in your taxable income for the year!  This is very beneficial from a tax perspective.  To make this even easier, some banks/custodians (like Charles Schwab) have introduced a Charitable Check Book.  This means that you can write checks directly to a charity from your IRA.  It’s easier than ever.

Best ways to give cash LATER:  If you are considering what’s called a planned gift to your favorite organization by including them in your estate plans, it’s very possible that the most tax-efficient way to give this gift will be from your retirement plan, like your Traditional IRA or former 401(K)/403(B).  These accounts can be taxed heavily when transferred after death to a loved one.  The better assets to gift loved ones in your estate plans are cash, real estate, Roth IRAs, or other items.  You can easily include the charity as a charitable beneficiary (or even alternate charitable beneficiary) of your retirement account.

Don’t STOP giving, please.  Now more than ever, it’s important to support the causes in your community and beyond that you are passionate about.

Obviously, you don’t give for the tax deduction.  However, if there are ways to give that also save you money, I want to make sure you know about them.

With gratitude,

Margo

Friday Faves: Rainy day “bored games”

If you’re like many of us East Coasters here lately, there are only so many interesting muddy puddles to be found in a rain-filled summer like ours.  With the weekend forecast looking something like this for um, the ENTIRE coast… we thought some of you parents out there might be in need of some rainy-day entertainment for the kids.

rain map

 So,  here is our list of favorite rainy day family “bored” games when the weather takes you and your littles indoors, again.

Kristy’s picks

Chutes and Ladders

chutes and ladders export

This classic game is simple enough for the youngest players and nostalgic fun for the whole family. If you have a competitive guy, like I do, they’ll have so much fun laddering up to take the win!
 And, um, consider yourself warned if you have more than one competitive guy (or girl)…

Hedbanz

This game has us using our brains, laughing, and teaching our kids how to ask relevant and out of the box questions. We love it for the laugh factor, and the fact that there are moving parts that can be delegated amongst all the kids.

hedbanz

One kid is on timer, one divvies out the winner’s coins, and the oldest plays the games. Our little one has the job of the main “yes, no, or maybe” regulator which adds an extra element of fun while teaching her how to spell and understand the word that is in play.

 #rainydaywinner

Annie’s Picks

I’m not afraid to say that I may be a bit of a board game traditionalist. These oldies but goodies keep us (and more importantly) the kids coming back time and time again.

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Candyland

Everyone still plays this game for a reason. There are simple instructions for the youngest players,  bright colors, matching, and a little healthy family competition.  (The health of said competition may depend, however on your sibling situation…) “WHY DO I ALWAYS GET THE ICE CREAM?!?!” You know the feeling. We all do.

Uno

Another classic. UNO is awesome for one, because it is a card game with NO board to take up space in avalanche that is your board game cabinet. You’re welcome.

UNO

UNO is also super educational and can easily be played at whatever level suit your child’s abilities. Players take turns matching one of their cards with the color or number card shown on the top of the deck, and first player out of cards wins. You can write your own rules with customizable wild cards that older kids love, too. 

Christiana’s Picks

I will just come straight out and say that both of my picks here are for NON-competitive games. As a mother to fiercely competitive brothers who turn life’s most mundane daily activities into a competition, some days I really just don’t need another “I WON!!” in my life. With that in mind…

Hoot owl hoot

Hoot Owl Hoot

Hoot Owl Hoot is an adorable, award winning cooperative matching game that encourages players to work together instead of compete against each other to win.  I wasn’t sure if my boys would go for it, but BEHOLD! They love it. 

Our family has fun working together to “fly all the owls back to their nest” and our middle child loves the suspense of moving the sun toward the dawn as we race to the finish. As a bonus, this game can be played at two difficulty levels so it can grow with your children. Highly recommend!

Wooden Dominoes

I love the look and feel of this sweet wooden domino set. Our kids love matching, playing and building with these, and the illustrations keep even our little 18 month old engaged.

dominoes

These sets are durable, fun, and great for teaching animal names, as well as counting, hand-eye coordination, and word recognition. Perfect for a rainy day!

Oh, and muddy puddles aren’t all that bad either. 😉 Happy summer showers, friends!

 

 

Pregnant, MD: What’s Safe in Pregnancy Myth vs Fact, Part 1

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Photo Credit: Fiona Margo Photography

Hey mamas and mamas-to-be! There is a lot of confusing and alarmist information out there on the interwebs about the safety of lots of things everything in pregnancy. We all want to be safe, but also to not be deprived of allofthethings for 9+ months. This post is a quickie guide to set the record straight on some of the most common questions we pregnancy providers get. This, like all my posts, are not ever meant to replace the personal guidance of your own health care provider – when in doubt, as them! I’m breaking this down on the following very non-scientific scale:

Myth – Mostly Myth – Kind of Fact – Mostly Fact- Fact

No Coffee – Myth

Our family lived in Portugal when I was in Kindergarten and first grade, so that was about the time I started drinking coffee. No joke. So, when I was learning about pregnancy, you better believe I looked up all the information on this topic! I can’t tell you how many people I have talked to – even other doctors – who are under the impression people have to stop drinking all caffeine the moment they conceive. That’s just cruel.

My actual face if you told me not to drink coffee while pregnant.

The truth is, The Cochrane Review looked at the research and the best studies have shown no difference in pregnancy outcomes with moderate caffeine intake. What’s “moderate caffeine intake”? About 200mg caffeine daily. That’s one tall Starbucks brewed coffee or an espresso drink with 2 shots. Strong black tea has about 50mg per cup and regular or diet soda (bad for other reasons….but) about 35mg. Energy drinks vary widely – if you want to look up your specific fave bev, check out Caffeine Informer.

No Hot Tubs – Mostly Fact

This one is legit. Studies have shown that raising your core body temperature can increase the risk of miscarriage in early pregnancy and other complications later on in pregnancy. This is true whether it’s a high fever from being sick or you are in a hot tub, sauna, hot yoga, or even hot bath or shower at home.

Does this mean you can’t take a quick hot shower ever? No! You can go in any of these warm environments for a little while. What’s a little while? As soon as you feel hot, break a sweat, or of course if you feel light headed at all, leave and cool off immediately. If you can’t trust yourself to make that judgement, avoid altogether.

No Hair Treatment – Mostly Myth

The old types of hair treatments for dying and perming had toxic chemical derivatives which were potentially dangerous, especially in first trimester of pregnancy.

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Definitely got my hair did before these pics.

Newer dyes should be free of these chemicals and are ok. Highlights that aren’t applied to your scalp are also fine – just stay in a well-ventilated area because your breathing can be more sensitive during pregnancy. Perms and straightening treatments again vary – ask your salon if they offer safe, natural alternatives to the older more harsh treatments. More info HERE on American Pregnancy’s Website.

No Nail Polish – Mostly Myth

You can get your nails did with no worries as long as the salon uses good hygiene practices. One of my favorite midwives from my training at UCSF, Judith Bishop, wrote a great summary HERE on this. Any kind of polish and even fake nails are ok. Beware though – the chemical smells might make your sensitive nose and stomach unhappy!

No Cheese – Mostly Myth

The key here is *pasteurized*. You can get Listeria, a dangerous bacterial infection that can cause miscarriage, from unpasteurized dairy products. Pasteurized cheeses that are within their expiration dates and have been properly stored are fine. Even soft cheeses. Most restaurants should be able to tell you if their cheese is “raw” or pasteurized – if they can’t skip it.

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No Lunchmeat – Kind of Fact

This again is due to Listeria concern. You should avoid lunch meat unless it’s been heating to steaming in the microwave, stovetop or oven. Not sure how you feel about warm lunchmeat, but this preggo is NOT for it! Opt for grilled chicken, tuna salad (no more than 2 servings per week though) or other choice if you don’t like warm sliced meat.

 

No Fish – Kind of Fact

Speaking of tuna…. The main concern with seafood is about mercury. Check out and print yourself THIS PDF from American Pregnancy if you want a quick guide to which fish are “highest mercury” aka, avoid entirely or just “high mercury” aka have no more than 2 small servings weekly or lower and you can enjoy at will.

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

What about sushi?? So, cooked sushi is always ok as long as you are paying attention to mercury issues. Raw sushi *theoretically* should all be flash frozen based on USDA safety regulations and therefore should NOT have the parasites that are of concern in pregnancy. However, you are putting your trust in the sushi fish purchaser and preparer in this care, so approach with caution.

 

 

 

 

No Strenuous Exercise – Mostly Myth

There are no strict guidelines regarding exercise in pregnancy because this is highly variable as to what is safe and normal for YOU. There are elite athletes who’s “norm” is to run 10 miles or lift hundreds of pounds of weights on the regular. There are couch potatoes who get winded walking up a single flight of stairs.

Seriously, though… Exercising in pregnancy is actually key to having a healthy pregnancy, easier delivery, and – get this – fewer stretch marks! The main guide here is how the exercise makes YOU feel. Yes, that’s right, you have to listen to your body. This is not the time to “push through” and override your body telling you it is hot, too winded or  overworked. You will need to be more cautious with yourself because your blood flow is altered, your body shape is changing and your muscles, ligaments and tendons will be affected by relaxin hormone eventually.

No Sex – Mostly Myth

OK, think about it. If having sex while pregnant was dangerous, do you really think humans would have survived this long? A lot of pregnant woman have their libido skyrocket thanks to increased blood flow to the lady parts (though if you don’t that’s nothing to worry about). It is ok and GOOD to have sex if you want to in pregnancy. Get. It. On.

A few words of caution though… If you have pain or bleeding during sex, stop. Have your doctor check you and tell you if it’s safe to continue having intercourse during your pregnancy. And if you’re pregnant and single – you need to be ultra careful about not contracting an STD. They can cause severe birth defects, miscarriage or stillbirth if contracted while you are gestating. Safe sex – good. Unsafe sex – bad.

No Smoking – Fact

This includes ALL smoking. Smoking cigarettes and being exposed to second-hand or even third-hand (if you smell it even though no smoke is around, that’s third-hand smoke) can cause complications in pregnancy. If you are smoking when you conceive, talk to your provider right away about how they can help you quit. If people around you are smokers, same goes. It is NOT sufficient for them to just go outside. If your sensitive sniffer can smell the smoke, you’re being exposed. 

What about pot? It’s legal now and stuff, and doesn’t it help with appetite? NO, not safe in pregnancy. Marijuana has been shown to increase rates of ADHD, anxiety and other cognitive disorders in children who were exposed in utero. Stay away.

No Alcohol – Mostly Fact

Saved the most controversial for last! So, here in the USA, all of the official guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, etc… go along these lines, “There is no amount of alcohol known to be safe in pregnancy”. So, pregnancy providers will tell you to abstain completely from the time of ovulation if you might conceive through birth.

The Royal College of OBGYNs (Britain’s version of ACOG) takes a slightly more relaxed tone, saying “The safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all if you are pregnant, if you think you could become pregnant or if you are breastfeeding. Although the risk of harm to the baby is low with small amounts of alcohol before becoming
aware of the pregnancy, there is no ‘safe’ level of alcohol to drink when you are pregnant”. None of the large studies done recently showed negative effects on the baby or child with having a few drinks per week. However, the risk of preterm birth with alcohol exposure and of the devastating fetal alcohol syndrome makes pregnancy providers approach this with significant caution.

I know you are looking for a straight forward “yes you can have a glass of wine now and then” or “no, alcohol is truly dangerous”. We don’t have that yet. As a health provider, I follow the lines of saying, no amount is safe. As a woman physician, I know a whole lot of doctors who have read the studies and comfortably go ahead and have a drink now and then in the later parts of pregnancy. Ultimately, you’re in charge of making that decision for yourself and your unborn. Think about whether the anxiety when your kid seems hyper at age 3 that maybe they have subtle effects because you had a glass of wine at that dinner party is manageable vs the benefit you’ll really get from said glass of wine. You should for SURE never get drunk or even tipsy – that’s a no-brainer.

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Photo Credit: Fiona Margo Photography

What else?

This is why I called this Part 1… Please, comment away with questions, Myths you want busted, funny examples of crap your mother in law told you was unsafe in pregnancy! Part 2 will be based on your input. Whatcha wanna know??

Dr. Annie is a married mom of 2 with 1 more on the way (bump captured by Fiona Margo in the above pics, if you’re in the PNW look her up!!) and family physician in California.