Fitness · Motherhood · Postpartum · Wellness

My Branding Photography Session Experience

After struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety, I knew that I wanted to use my skills and knowledge to support women during this very trying time of life. I started reading everything I could about safe postpartum fitness, diastasis recti, and body image during the fourth trimester and beyond. Thus was born: Strong Mama Fitness.

My classes were going well, but I wasn’t having much luck getting any new clients. When a very respected photographer in the birth community was having a giveaway on her page for branding photography, I entered. I was beyond thrilled when I won a branding photography package from Tavia Redburn Photography!

We had our consultation and I felt like Tavia was an old friend. She understood my style, my passions, and my insecurities.

As the date approached, I got more and more nervous though. Who did I think I was getting branding photos when I have less than 100 followers on my page? Who did I think I was posing as some sort of fitness expert when I haven’t lost the baby weight? I almost cancelled and told Tavia to award the prize to someone more deserving.

Thank goodness I didn’t listen to fear.

The photo shoot was a surprisingly comforting experience. Tavia gave me expert pointers to look my best. I told her I was self-conscious about my glasses and my chin; she made sure every shot was flattering. Tavia has great ideas and allows you to feel natural (even when the poses feel silly – just trust her!)

Fast forward to yesterday when I got the final pictures. Oh. My. Gosh. Y’all. To see myself in these photos affirmed for me that I have so much to offer my sisters, my friends, my clients. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t “lost the baby weight.” It doesn’t matter that I’m not the skinniest, the prettiest, the whateverest. I am passionate about motherhood, fitness, breastfeeding, supporting other women, redefining postpartum, nutrition, raising a healthy family, and being REAL. These photos are real. They are me.

Strong Mama Outdoor Workout With Baby

The experience of the photo shoot and the pictures I received will support me in building my brand through the new year. The photos inspired me with ideas for challenges, blog posts, groups, and more. The photos allowed me to see myself and what  reflect to my customers and followers – confidence, happiness, health, commitment.

To see a few more of my branding photos and check out what Tavia has to offer, click here!
Kindness · Motherhood · Postpartum

30 Ways to Compliment a Mama

I used to think the best compliment a woman could receive was, “you look so skinny.” Through college and even as recently as my own wedding, these words would have been music to my ears. I am now 40 pounds heavier than I was on my wedding day and I can honestly say I don’t mind it. It’s quite freeing to be comfortable in my skin for the first time in my life, regardless of a number on a scale or the tag of a pair of pants. I didn’t wake up one morning and magically stop caring about my bodyweight. There are days I look in the mirror and don’t love what I see in the tummy region. With the help of my husband’s unfailing love, my mother’s guidance in cultivating self-compassion, yoga, and friends who share my desire for a healthy lifestyle, I’ve learned to accept my mom bod with grace.

You know what didn’t help? The fitness industry. Fit Pregnancy magazine covers instruct us to “gain just enough weight.” Enough weight for what? Enough weight to still be worthy of love? Enough weight to still be beautiful? Everywhere you turn, someone is happy to dole out advice to “get your pre-baby body back” as if giving birth is something to be ashamed of, forgotten and erased as quickly as possible. Our bodies have the remarkable ability to grow and stretch to accommodate our tiny humans, yet instead of praising and glorifying this gift we are told that stretch marks are somehow the most terrible thing that could ever happen to a woman. The expectations to “lose the baby weight” don’t take into account the hormones, the stress, the LACK OF SLEEP, the fact that our children are now our #1 priority, or the lack of time to devote to physical exercise. These messages and expectations do nothing to support women. They only corroborate the painful, hurtful, wrong belief that a woman is only as valuable as her appearance is acceptable to the world. So what are we to do? How can we fight the unnerving and impossible expectations to “bounce back” after pregnancy into a nice, acceptable, petite, well-dressed, freshly-manicured skinny little package? Well, one way is by the words we use with each other.

We all want to be seen. Being truly seen, however, has nothing to do with how we look.

To support us all in the journey to love and accept our postpartum bodies, here are 30 ways to compliment a mama that have nothing to do with her appearance:
  1. You are a wonderful mother.
  2. Your kids are awesome.
  3. I love watching you parent.
  4. You talk to your family so sweetly.
  5. Your family is lucky to have you.
  6. You’re the best mom for your children.
  7. I see the energy you give to your family every day.
  8. You’re doing a great job, mama.
  9. You make the best choices for your kiddos.
  10. I admire your strength.
  11. Thank you for sharing your motherhood journey with me.
  12. I am thankful to have you as a friend.
  13. You’re always there for me.
  14. You are so wise
  15. You show love in very special ways.
  16. I admire your work ethic.
  17. Thank you for being so supportive.
  18. You inspire me.
  19. My life is better with you in it.
  20. You’re a great listener.
  21. You make me laugh.
  22. You get me.
  23. I admire your gentleness.
  24. You have a wonderful sense of humor.
  25. I admire your passion.
  26. You are so brave.
  27. You bring joy to others.
  28. Thank you for sharing your gifts with the world.
  29. You should be very proud of yourself.
  30. I see you. I love who I see.

What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?


Photo Credit: Jeanye’s Art

Motherhood · Postpartum · Wellness

Don’t Be a Mombie: Ways to Combat Exhaustion

The contributors over at OKC Moms Blog have a private Facebook group in which we discuss extremely important blogging-related topics like ta-ta towels and cookie butter oreos. A few weeks ago, I asked this group of new and seasoned moms from all walks of life if I would EVER not be tired again? (I’m eight months into this mom gig.) Although these moms were full of support and encouragement as always, no one came back with a resounding “YES! On this day. In this amount of time. You will have all your energy back.” Not exactly the reassurance I was hoping for, but it did inspire me to reflect on what I can do to get through this season of life in one piece.

Lack of sleep is part of mom life, but being a mombie doesn’t have to be! Here are my best tips to combat exhaustion:

  1. Exercise.
    I know, I know, I know. You don’t have time to workout. I’m not asking you for two hours at the gym every day. I’m talking about just 20-30 minutes of walking, lifting weights, swimming, something you enjoy. You’re too tired to work out. As Elle Woods reminds us, “Exercise makes you happy, and happy people just don’t kill their husbands.” Exercising helps get you into a good cycle – it provides you with happy hormones and energy for your day and helps you fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep at night, resulting in having more energy the next day!
  2. Avoid caffeine.
    I know, I know, I know. You can’t mom without coffee. I’m not asking you to give up lattes forever. Try giving up caffeine for 3 weeks, and you may find that you really don’t need it. Much of our beloved caffeine addiction is just a comforting habit – try switching to decaf or half-caff and keep it all before noon. outdoor tea
  3. Stay hydrated.
    Mild dehydration contributes to fatigue and headaches. Be sure you’re getting plenty of high quality, filtered water.
  4. Focus on nutrition.
    Exhaustion makes us crave the quick fix energy that comes from sugar & processed carbs – think donuts, bagels, & cheese fries. These foods may taste great in the moment, but they send our bodies into a vicious cycle of crashing and cravings. For your best energy, focus on anti-inflammatory foods and get plenty of protein and healthy fats.
  5. Practice meditation.
    Meditation is not only super relaxing, it helps you develop the skills to turn your mind down before bed each night. We spend so much time teaching our babies how to fall asleep, yet we often rely on television or cell phones to help us fall asleep! Mediation is a game changer for sure. When I was very early postpartum and had tons of heavy anxiety, I would use the Headspace app to help me fall asleep for naps during the day.
  6. Go outside… and take your babies with you.
    Not only does Vitamin D help ward off depression, the natural rhythms of the sun help our bodies develop a good circadian rhythm. Taking kiddos outside at dusk helps them get mentally prepared for bed time! woman outside
  7. Turn off those screens!
    You’ve probably heard this before, but maybe you’re not convinced. Let me be the one hundredth person to tell you that taking your cell phone to bed is a bad idea. The National Sleep Foundation warns that the blue light from screens suppresses melatonin, the hormone that helps us fall asleep and recommends 30 minutes of screen free time to unwind before bed.


What is your favorite restful ritual?

Breastfeeding · Nutrition · Postpartum

How to Whole30 With a Newborn

Whether it is your first or your thirtieth round of Whole30, having a newborn throws a kink in the best laid plans for success. There are a number of reasons new mamas might want to complete a Whole30. My main reasons were more energy and less anxiety.

If you’re ready to jump in to the Whole30, here are my best tips for doing it with your mini-me in tow.

  1. Find recipes that you enjoy cold.
    Not only will you have to eat on-the-go, but even when you’re at home, reheating food is a luxury with a newborn. Leftover steak is delicious straight from the fridge. Believe me.
  2. Get a handy lunch carrier.
    You will be out and about with your little one, and we know everything takes longer than you think it will. Do yourself a favor and pack a mini-meal any time you’re leaving the house for more than an hour!
  3. Eat breakfast. No. Matter. What.
    It doesn’t matter if it’s not “breakfast food” – just eat a meal that follows the meal template.
  4. Keep a “treat” on hand.
    Without breaking the SWYPO rule, keep something on hand that you can reach for in the difficult moments. A favorite treat of mine is grapefruit La Croix in a wine glass.
  5. Plan around growth spurts.
    This is the BEST advice I have for you. Basically ALL of the newborn stage is a growth spurt, and the first three leaps come at 5, 8, and 12 weeks. Do your best to have extra food on hand, especially if you are breastfeeding your little one.
  6. Don’t be afraid to quit.
    Consider your goals and whether or not a Whole30 is right for you! Do you simply need to be more mindful of your eating habits? Do you need to become more comfortable with your postpartum body? It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and we don’t need one more reason as mamas to be hard on ourselves. Maybe commit to just giving up sugar and dairy and not worrying about grains. Maybe work really hard toward 80/20.

Whatever you decide to do, get plenty of support from your partner and and the rest of your tribe and know that with each healthy choice you make, you and your baby are reaping the endless benefits found in choosing to eat real food!

Have you Whole30d postpartum? How did it go? What tips would you share?



New Mama’s Anti-anxiety Kit

At 18 weeks postpartum, I am so thankful that I am no longer under the dark cloud of postpartum anxiety that held me captive those first few weeks. But anxiety is still something about which I must be mindful on a daily basis. I find value in gentle, natural remedies. I want to share the items that help me cope with the normal levels of anxiety that come with being a mother in hopes that some of these might work for you as well.

  • Nevaton Forte is a supplement that contains St. John’s Wort, Saffron, and Skullcap. (Note: St. John’s Wort can mess with the effectiveness of birth control and anecdotally increases a forceful letdown.)
  • CALM Magnesium Supplement
  • Chamomile Tea
  • Vitamin B-50
  • Probiotics (I like Garden of Life)
  • Vetiver and Orange Essential Oil (A few drops in a carrier oil on your tootsies before bedtime)
  • Happy Juice

In combination with chiropractic, exercise, and of course a healthy diet, these items go a long way in keeping my anxiety manageable.


Disclaimer: Considering I made a “C” in 9th grade biology, I am obviously not fit to give medical advice. This is just a list of things that worked for me!

Breastfeeding · Motherhood · Postpartum

Fitting in in a new world.

The first time I went to Milk Moms, it was two days after my baby’s tongue tie revision and it took everything in my power to get myself out the door. I arrived and it was packed. All the other moms were wearing jeans and mascara… I sure didn’t fit in. I left early. On my way home, I called my mom crying, telling her that I’d never fit in with these moms because they are so much better than me with the jeans and the mascara and babies happily nursing and napping. I had rendered myself unworthy of their friendship because I assumed I didn’t fit in. I assumed they had it all together. I assumed their babies cried less than mine and probably even slept in their cribs. I assumed they knew more about breastfeeding and birth and raising babies than I do. I assumed I was the only one who wasn’t completely on the cloth diaper bandwagon. I assumed these women didn’t have space in their life for this clueless mommy.

My mom reminded me that the most important thing is to just keep showing up. So the next week, I put on jeans and mascara and showed up to Milk Moms. And you know what? Those same mamas were wearing yoga pants and ponytails just like me. They are just other mamas who, like me, want to make new friends. Mamas who just like me had dealt with tongue tie revisions and painful breastfeeding. Mamas who are going to stay home just like me. Mamas who studied marketing in college just like me. Mamas who use disposable diapers! I’m not the only one! Mamas who love their babies and try to give them the best, just like me.

Turns out, I might not “fit in,” but I do belong. There is space for me, my loud laugh, and my disorganized diaper bag full of ‘sposies. As Brene Brown would say, fitting in is not belonging. I don’t have to be anything other than myself to be worthy of friendship. I don’t have to change anything to fit in, because I belong – ponytail, yoga pants and all.



Breastfeeding · Natural Childbirth · Postpartum · Pregnancy

All The Feels: Postpartum Anxiety

My name is Jenna and I am a planner. The unknown has never been my friend.

During pregnancy, I studied the Dr. Sears library, read a few thousand blog posts about natural childbirth, took a Breastfeeding 101 class and the childbirth prep course offered by our hospital. I meditated. I did yoga. I walked. I squatted. I was ready for birth. All of this preparation paid off and I achieved my desired natural hospital birth.

What I wasn’t prepared for was every single thing that happened starting the second that birth was over. While in the hospital, I had shivers, swelling, exhaustion, and soreness. Each of my concerns was met with “that’s normal.” I was afraid to go to the bathroom for the first time. Normal. My baby cried nonstop from 9p-3a his second night out of the womb. Normal. I had pain from breastfeeding. Normal. All of this normalcy led to the hospital allowing me to discharge and take home a two day old, seven pound tiny human.

Non-Expert Tip: Don’t just practice putting the carseat in the car. Practice putting the baby in the carseat! The nurse isn’t supposed to help you with this part, for legal reasons, but thankfully mine did because I had no clue how to strap him in there. One minute alone with my little guy and I was already a failure of a mother. This is where my postpartum anxiety story begins.

I had been instructed to feed my newborn baby every three hours, even if he was sleeping. To offer him both breasts every time and to let him feed on demand. And so I did. I didn’t watch tv. I didn’t eat anything but chocolate covered almonds and various bars. I barely spoke to my visitors or my husband. I just nursed this baby. When I got the courage to let someone else hold him so that I could sleep, I would set an alarm for two hours later but, like clockwork, one hour into my nap I would imagine that I heard my baby crying. I would rush into the living room to find a peacefully sleeping baby. I obsessed about his temperature. He was too hot in the swaddle. He was too cold without it. I obsessed about his breathing. It’s too fast. It’s too slow. I obsessed about his feeding schedule. What time did I feed him last? Which breast did I offer first? When was his last wet diaper? Luckily, there is an app for that. I downloaded it and religiously tracked my baby’s every move.

During all my childbirth preparations, I heard many times that if you have any thoughts of harming yourself or your baby to immediately put your baby in a safe place and call for help. I never had these thoughts. Not once. But I worried. And I cried. And I googled. And I worried more. And I cried more. Every other thought through my brain was, I CAN’T DO THIS.

Eleven days postpartum, imaginary baby cries woke me from a nap and once again I rushed into the living room to find a peacefully sleeping babe. I collapsed on the kitchen floor in tears. I called the nurse’s station and told her that I couldn’t stop crying. “Do you have any thoughts of harming yourself or your baby?” she asked. Of course not, people, I would never harm myself or my baby. I’m not depressed. I just can’t stop crying. She instructed me to call my doctor’s office immediately. And so I called. And they said to come in immediately. So I packed up my not-even-two-week-old and went to visit my doctor.

Our visit was a short one. She asked if I had any thoughts of harming myself or baby. No, doctor, I would never. I just can’t stop crying. Well, here is a prescription for Zoloft. Take it and come back in two weeks. I told her I didn’t want to take medication. Well, she asked, what exactly where you expecting when you came in today? I was expecting you to say that this is normal; that this too shall pass. “It’s most certainly not normal” were her exact words.

I left that doctor’s appointment in tears as I had spent many of my waking hours. I called my husband, told him I had been diagnosed with post-partum depression, and also told him I wasn’t depressed. I called my mom and told her the same thing. I asked her to come back and be with me. I headed to my amazing chiropractor who helped me understand that I was stuck in “fight or flight” mode. She asked what was bothering me the most. I blurted out: the schedule. Worrying about when he needs to eat next. She said, what if you stopped setting alarms and let your baby tell you when he is hungry? But the nurses had said to feed him every three hours. And, just like that, my next feed alarm and my baby went off in unison. Maybe I could trust this tiny human. After all, he hadn’t let me down yet. I deleted that stupid app. That was my first step to recovery.

My mom arrived and things got a little bit better, but when the time approached for her to return home I was again flooded with doubt, insecurity, anxiety, and fear. Through many tears, we decided that I would return home with her for a week. I couldn’t bear the idea of being away from my husband for a week. Even more, I couldn’t bear the idea of my son being away from his dad for a week. But I needed constant physical & emotional support. I needed my mommy.

While I would never discourage someone from taking medication if they needed it, I knew in my heart that taking an antidepressant was not the answer for me. Not only did the mere thought of taking it create more anxiety, but I didn’t want to simply stop myself from feeling the anxiety. I believe our emotions have something to teach us. I wanted the anxiety to go away, but I wanted to understand why I was having it and what thought patterns needed to change to put myself on a path to wholehearted motherhood.

During that week at my parents’ house, I went to two color therapy sessions where I explored my fears about becoming  mother. I got a second opinion from a trusted doctor who believed that I could refill my self-care cup without the assistance of antidepressants. I got a postpartum massage with my baby laying on me. I slept. Soundly. I still woke up and rushed to my baby. But day by day I was able to sleep a little bit more soundly. I meditated. I laughed. I watched tv. I went outside. I took vitamin B, vitamin D, NevaTon, and probiotics. I ate real food. I googled less (but still way too much). I returned home a week later, and it was difficult. I was alone for most hours of the day. I was still crying, but not as much. I was still worrying, but not as much. I just kept trusting my baby and he taught me to trust myself. I leaned on my incredible husband who is the strongest person I have ever met. Together, we made it through.

These days, I think twice before checking Dr. Google. I tear up every now and then, and when I do I don’t judge myself for it. I just let the tears fall and move on. I still worry, but I am a mother after all!

I’ve read many stories of other mamas’ postpartum experiences and each one of them is beautiful. There is so much power in sharing our stories. Mamas – whatever your struggle is, whatever your postpartumthrive looks like, YOU ARE NORMAL. You are loved and supported by your baby and the sisterhood. One of my favorite parts of prenatal yoga was when Darci would remind us of the millions of women to which we are connected through the act of childbearing. So on the dark days, reach your hand into the endless bucket of love that is available to you. On the bright days, exhale joy & love to all the struggling mamas out there. We are never alone on our motherhood journey. Together, we thrive.

Interested in this gorgeous babywearing art? Check out my mom’s page!