Category: Counseling & support

By: Miriam Moussaioff

“Learning to quiet the mind is essential to awakening intuition…Remember that you are learning to listen to what you already know, but that in order to hear, your mind must be quiet rather than full of the things you think you need to learn…” – Frances Vaughan, Awakening Intuition

For parents and mothers-to be, finding time to care for yourself can be challenging. When your life is full of things to do, children to care for, errands to run, meals to cook and work to be done, it’s not easy to take time for yourself (let alone get enough sleep). And yet caring for yourself is the key to staying sane and being able to manage all that is on your plate.

What does caring for yourself really mean? For many parents and mothers-to-be, self care often means taking a break and getting some rest, exercising, pampering your body and/or eating well. This kind of loving attention to the body is important, especially when you are pregnant or parenting young children. And yet there is a deeper part of yourself that also needs attention. This deeper level of caring for yourself involves connecting with who you are —your inner self.

When you make real contact with yourself, you become more present and engaged with life. Feeling present and connected to yourself makes everything easier—from making decisions to navigating the many transitions in parenting. Connecting with yourself also helps you open to intuition—or what some people call your spirit, true nature, or essence. Intuition is a wellspring of deep knowing inside of you, an inner resource that helps you make wiser choices and meet life’s challenges. Like taste and smell, your intuitive sense is available if you open to it and trust it’s guidance. I believe that listening to mother’s (or father’s) intuition is an important way to care for yourself and feel nourished from the inside. The good news is that your intuitive sense is free, very wise, and always available. All you have to do is practice listening and trusting what it has to say!

When my sons were babies, I would often take a few minutes while they were nursing or napping to shift my awareness to my breath, feel my feet on the floor, and notice what was happening for me physically and emotionally. These moments of connecting deeply with my self, however fleeting, were calming and grounding for me back then and still are now that my kids are teenagers. Taking time to connect with yourself and your body opens the door to intuitive guidance and can help you move through the day with more ease.

How do you awaken your intuitive sense? In my work as a workshop facilitator, Rosen bodyworker and professional intuitive, I have created six simple steps to help you access your intuition. I invite you to care for your inner self each day by practicing these simple steps.

May this self-care practice and your intuitive wisdom nourish you so that you can enjoy the dance of life and be the wonderful parent you want to be. I believe you will find that the rewards are well worth the effort.


Step 1. Give yourself a few minutes of quiet time. Find a comfortable place to sit (turn off your cell phone). Bring your awareness to what is happening inside you.

Step 2. Quiet the mind.
Feel your breath as you inhale and exhale. Count 10 in-and-out breaths. Notice what is happening in your mind, without getting caught up in it. Let yourself be fully present—with kindness and compassion for your self. If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath.

Step 3. Relax your body and ground yourself.
Rest your feet on the floor. Notice what is happening in your body. Are the muscles in your neck or shoulders feeling tight? Listening to intuition starts by being present in your body. Take a few deep breaths and let your body begin to relax. Feel your belly, neck and shoulders soften. Notice any feelings and/or sensations that arise without resisting, trying to change or fix anything. Now, imagine that you are extending a large tree root from the base of your spine into the earth. See or sense this root anchoring deep into the heart of the earth. Feel the earth supporting you to be here.

Step 4. Imagine a protective cocoon around you.
Imagine there is a protective boundary around you. See yourself inside a golden cocoon with a gold perimeter, feeling totally safe, protected and loved. Visualize filling the inside of your cocoon with a color that feels healing.

Step 5. Be receptive.
Pay attention to feelings, sensations, messages, hunches, images, colors, dreams, and impressions. Intuition often speaks through the body as a gut feeling or knowing, or as mental pictures, telepathy, sounds, symbols, and synchronicity. Invite and allow rather than trying to make something happen. Intuition is a way of knowing that may not make sense to your rational mind. Be receptive to what your intuition says even if your head does not understand.

Step 6. Open to your intuitive sense.
Ask for guidance (about anything you wish) with an expectation that you will receive an answer. Focus your awareness on your heart or on the area behind your brow. Imagine welcoming your wise inner self or spirit to be here, the way you would welcome a beloved child into your arms. Relax and be patient.

If you get a hunch or gut feeling about something, however it comes, pay attention. The more you listen to your intuitive guidance the more it speaks. Test the information you receive. Give yourself some time each day to ground, meditate, and ask for guidance. In time, your intuitive sense will become a trusted source of wisdom and guidance.

Parenting can be hard work. While every parent needs and deserves support from friends, family, and community, you also have a powerful source of support right here inside you. So when that next decision or challenge arises, let yourself slow down for a few moments. Focus your awareness inside and ask your intuitive sense what it has to say. Take a few deep breaths to calm your mind, relax your body, and listen for a response. It might come right away or a few days later. Be patient and receptive. Caring for your self and listening to what’s going on inside—even for a few minutes each day—can help you manage the demands of daily life. With practice, you will discover some shiny pearls of wisdom right here inside of you.


Miriam Lelah Moussaioff is a Professional Intuitive, Rosen Bodywork Practitioner with a Master in Intuition Medicine. Miriam teaches classes in intuitive development and maintains a private practice in Berkeley, California offering individual intuitive consultations and bodywork. Learn more about her work at Miriam has been teaching workshops since 1995, including groups for mothers and mothers-to-be. She brings a compassionate, intuitive and joyful approach to her work. Miriam can be reached at or 510.525.0679.

By: Angela Jernigan

We now know more than ever before about the kinds of social and emotional interactions that babies and young children need from their parents in order to grow into emotionally healthy, cognitively sharp, and morally adept adults. There is tons of information out there about how to nurture the connection that our young ones need in order to thrive. However, as parents we are far more socially isolated, and dealing with a wider range of stressors and demands, than previous generations of parents had to face. So we have all this great information at our fingertips about what children need to thrive, and we are alone spinning in thoughts and feelings that make it impossible at times to tune in to the experience of our children in the ways they most need. The bottom line: isolated, stressed out people cannot provide consistent emotional connection to children (no matter how much we understand that children need it). And it’s not our fault! As human beings, we are not built to parent in isolation.

When I was a single mom of a young child, some days seemed endlessly long. By dinnertime, if a tantrum, a meltdown, or a defiant streak came over my child, I wanted to lie down on the kitchen floor and cry myself.  I had done my reading about early childhood development, and I had even received training to teach parents how to connect with children.  I understood that connection breeds cooperation for little ones, but that didn’t help me when I was at the end of my rope.  Information reaches the limit of its usefulness when you are fried, coming unhinged, and alone.

I was a big believer in taking care of myself so I could be the best me possible for my child. There were lots of things I did to maintain my sanity, from great nutrition, to exercise, to regular social outings.  But there was one self care practice that blew all the others of out of the water: my listening partnership. I had taken a class where I learned about listening partnerships, and there I met another single mom who I partnered with to practice. Almost every night I would call her and we would exchange listening time. First one of us would listen for ten minutes to the other, then we’d switch. We used a timer, we kept confidentiality, and we didn’t give one another advice. This ten to twenty minutes a day rocked my whole world.

It sounds too simple to be so helpful. But what I found was that after hours and hours of being with my child, I was brimming over. I was riddled with worries, confusions, complaints, and sometimes surprisingly big feelings of my own. Usually by the time I got to my ten minutes of listening, I felt I couldn’t parent another day. I was done. But my desperate love for this little person I mothered made me pick up the phone and share my experience in the raw with this other mom—who in turn bared her soul to me.  I had close friends, and people I could be pretty open with in my life, but this practice was different from other conversations.  It was like taking a mental shower. I let my listening partner’s warm, caring attention wash over all the stuff I was carrying.  Miraculously, at the end of the ten minutes, my brain felt clearer, I felt more centered and equipped to show up again–tuned in and attentive–to the daily art of loving my daughter.

When we talk about needing a village to raise our children we are absolutely right. We need people to talk to, ask questions of, leave our children with from time-to-time, share the work with, and simply be with while we navigate family life. And we also need places where we can show the raw stuff; places where we won’t be judged or peppered with advice; where we don’t have to “make sense” or “be reasonable” or worry about how anyone else is going to feel about what we’re feeling or thinking. Raising children stirs up so much in us, and our world does not offer a spot where we get to show that, unabashed. But you can create a listening sanctuary for yourself in your life.  Here are some steps to get started:

  1. Make a list of the people in your life who are really warm with you. These might be friends, relatives, a minister or rabbi, neighbors, or even acquaintances.
  2. Identify two or three people who you can approach about creating a listening partnership.
  3. Reach out to these people and ask them if they’d like to try a listening practice with you where you take turns listening and each have a chance to share whatever you are “full” with in that moment. In person is always preferable (at least at first), but Skype, FaceTime, and phone are also fine options.
  4. Tell your listening partner that it is important to try not to mention what you talk about in your listening time outside of the designated time–even with you! You need to be in charge of when that emotional material is brought up. You will do the same.
  5. Agree to keep what you learn about one another to yourselves. Confidentiality keeps the sanctuary safe.
  6. The listener is to put all their attention on the person who is sharing, offering eye contact, smiles and warm expressions, maybe even a hand to hold, without judgment or advice. The listener trusts that the other person will find her own solutions once her mind has cleared and become balanced again.
  7. As a listener, maintain an attitude of confidence, warmth and respect. When listening, know that the person sharing is stronger, smarter, and clearer, than how she may seem right now. Know that the person sharing loves her children just like you do and that she is the best possible parent she can be.
  8. At the end of each turn, the listener can ask the person who just shared if she wants a little question about something unrelated as sort of a palate cleanser. This shifts their attention onto something else. You might ask, “Can you name five kinds of trees?” or “What three colors look great together?”
  9. Remember to use a timer and both take a turn.

If you continue doing this listening practice with the same person or people over time, you will be amazed at the trust and safety you will develop with one another.  You’ll be delighted at how healing and rejuvenating it can be to get to exhale, to be seen and known, in the throws of your life as a parent.

Angela Jernigan is a parent educator and co-founder of Parent Connect East Bay, a Berkeley organization dedicated to the mission “Every Child Heard – Every Parent Supported.” She offers classes, coaching, and listening time to parents who want to grow, heal, and connect even better with their kids.

By: Dr. Meghan Lewis

Congratulations! You have mastered the art of early parenting. You’ve figured out how to make it through the day on very, very little shut eye; you’re managing to shovel in cold bites of leftovers from the ever-so-appealingly-prepared Meal Train drop offs; biodegradable bamboo diaper changes on the fly are already a breeze; you’ve got the supplemental chestfeeding system down like it’s nobody’s business; and, you skillfully snatch scarce seconds uploading the cutest sleeping baby pics ever, so your eagerly awaiting Ello family of friends can virtually coo with you.

Now that you’ve indeed tackled the newest of newborn care techniques and are overly supplied with what seemed the most baffling in baby gear, it’s beginning to feel like you’ve got this. So let’s take a moment to look at what else you’ve got, for your other babe—your partner over the past many years. You know you have a sound thing going on; you’re both in it for the long-haul. How to focus attention so the chemistry stays fierce and fiery amidst the new family frenzy? What steps can you take to insure no fizzling out on your end?

Whether you identify as any of the myriad of parental self-signifiers such as Mama, Baba, Mapa, Pama, Papa, or DykeDaddy, down time essentials are as unique and intentional as you are. Finding the balance between raising your baby and meaningfully engaging with your wife, quife, hersband, spouse or partner requires a steadfast forging of a sustainable self-care regimen. To help keep you feeling fortified for you and your family, with your heart and health in mind, here’s a Top-10 sampling of the East Bay’s quintessentially queer offerings:

  1. Get your Butch Yoga on with Skeeter or Richelle at Namaste Yoga.
  1. Pound it out solo or lift with a skilled trainer at the nation’s first LGBTQ gym, The Perfect Sidekick.
  1. Hop on the Redwood Regional trail system with the San Francisco Bay Chapter of Gay and Lesbian Sierrans.
  1. Make a friend date with a pal and enjoy a locally made meal or a double shot of espresso at dyke-owned Hive Café: the Place to Bee.
  1. Start a queer parent MeetUp Group around a special interest (such as one for non-gestational co-parents) or join the already existing lesbian moms MeetUp group.
  1. To further build your community of queer families, check out the TransDads or the Mamas and the Papas groups and events at Our Family Coalition.
  1. Connect with other new LGBTQ parents and parents-to-be at Then Comes Baby.
  1. Join the LGBTQI/SGL community at the East Bay Meditation Center (EBMC) Alphabet Sangha for your mindfulness meditation practice.
  1. Book yourself a body-mind tune-up of acupuncture, chiropractic care, deep tissue massage or integrative counseling with your choice of the many LGBTQ Perinatal Wellness Associates.
  1. Settle in by the lake, at a gastropub, or in your backyard hammock with a good queer parenting read:
  • Who’s Your Daddy and Other Writings on Queer Parenting – By Rachel Epstein
  • Confessions of the Other Mother: Non biological Lesbian Moms Tell All – Edited by Harlyn Aisley
  • Waiting in the Wings: Portrait of a Queer Motherhood – By Cherri’e Moraga
  • Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag – By A.K. Summers
  • And Baby Makes More: Known Donors, Queer Parents, and Our Unexpected Families – By Susan Goldberg
  • The Queer Parent’s Primer: A Lesbian and Gay Families’ Guide to Navigating the Straight World – By Stephanie Brill
  • Family Pride: What LGBT Parents Should Know about Navigating Home, School, and Safety in Their Neighborhoods – By Michael Shelton

Or peruse useful web resources:

If not daily, at least a weekly partaking of some enriching activity or contemplative practice will aid tremendously in renewing your internal resources, in invigorating your parenting stamina, and in maintaining your relationship passion. In gifting yourself the opportunity to recharge, you will cultivate a self-care ritual or routine that will support, nourish, and inform you throughout the many enjoyable years of parenthood and partnership.

Dr. Meghan Lewis is the founder of Integrative Perinatal Psychotherapy as well as LGBTQ Perinatal Wellness Associates of the Bay Area with offices in Oakland and San Francisco. With over 18 years of experience in reproductive wellness Meghan brings unconditional support to her clients exploring a range of preconception, pregnancy, birth, postpartum and early parenting concerns. Please visit for more information or go to

By: Natashia Fuksman, M.A. Counseling Psychology

Everyone comes into parenthood differently. Some of us have been in the same intimate relationship for years and then have a baby. Some of us get pregnant by chance and then begin our relationship. All of us experience a completely new sense of self once we begin parenting. As parents, we become fully responsible for our new fully dependent babies. That’s huge! Inevitably, the journey of parenthood drastically changes our worldly experience, including our intimate relationships.

As a therapist, I work with individuals and couples who are navigating the new terms of their intimate connections as a result of major life transitions, such as becoming a parent. Most commonly, new parents come in wanting to know how they can “get their groove back”. Here is an imaginary, yet common, case example:

Julia and Malik were in a relationship for three years before Julia got pregnant. They lived full lives before the birth of their baby boy, Enzo. They went to the theatre, they frequented their favorite restaurants (including a gourmet fondue pop up restaurant), and they traveled. Weekends were a time to sleep in, read the paper, exercise, and socialize. Their sex life was rich. It often felt spontaneous, exciting, and easy.

In addition, they each valued time on their own. Julia and Malik both enjoyed their individual sensual selves. General physical activity was important to them, including regular masturbation.

They had both wanted to have children and were incredibly excited to embark on this adventure together. During the first few months postpartum, amidst their great joy in being new parents, they also experienced unimaginable fatigue. By the time Julia got to bed at night, she was physically and emotionally exhausted. Malik would occasionally try touching Julia to reconnect, but Julia often was much too tired to engage. At the end of the day after being touched consistently by her child, Julia was desperate to rest and be left alone. Malik desired the connection of touch and sex as it helped him relax and feel an intimate bond with his partner.

Julia and Malik engaged in tons of practical team tasks for their new family. In fact, they were doing more tasks than ever before! But there was a loss that lingered within each of them—the loss of their sensual, playful, and spontaneous relationship. Amidst their exhaustion and the demands that come with a newborn, how could they manage to find time to be with one another in a sexy kind of way? What was sexy at this point? How do people have time and energy for postpartum sex?

At nine months, Enzo’s go-to meal was mac and cheese. This became a common dinner for the family. Let’s face it, mac and cheese is not sexy. It is fast and easy. Perhaps most importantly, Julia and Malik knew Enzo would enjoy it!

What Julia and Malik experienced is a common scenario for many postpartum couples. Ironically, the sex that helped make their baby, is the same sex that is off balance in their relationship at this point. As Julia and Malik transition to parenthood, they are experiencing their own growth spurts. They are learning about what it is like for them, individually and as a team to give unconditionally to their baby. This growth spurt is an unprecedented experience. Consequently, every other relationship, including their own, received a different quality of attention. Even though they were in the midst of creating their dream family, their intimate world as a couple felt like it went from gourmet fondue type dinners to mac and cheese. They are now pondering, “how can we get our groove back”?

The truth is, you won’t get that old groove back. Becoming parents inherently changed who Julia and Malik are. It will take time, work, and play to figure out their new grooves. The chapter in their lives dealing with their old grooves is completed. The very things that used to feel sexy before may do nothing for them now. It’s hard when the culture we live in tells us, we can get it back. It can feel shocking and perhaps shameful postpartum to not feel sexy or intimate. The other side of that coin is that we have entirely new grooves within our inner and outer selves to explore and relish. So, the work ahead means incorporating time on your own and together to explore who you are in this new chapter of your lives. This exploration takes time and in fact, can be a life-long journey.

As you accustom yourself to managing time in the early years of parenting, here’s some food for thought on how to spice up your relationship with yourself and your partner:

  • Engage in spontaneous moments of self-touch. You are giving more than you ever have. Remember to connect with yourself too! It’s re-energizing and will greatly assist in your ability to connect with others. Touch yourself, explore, give your body and mind some intimate attention through small moments of play (no need to make yourself feel the pressure of orgasm or sex—just give yourself a taste of attention and care during unexpected free moments).
  • Go out on dates with your partner where you spend no more than 30% of your time talking about your baby. You will benefit greatly by the regularity of couple time.
  • Reach out to one another through non-judgemental, open-heart talk. As new parents, you are on a very human journey of understanding life on new terms; creating the “new normal” all around—including how to continue to connect intimately.
  • Try couples therapy. Couples who are in their early years of parenting are building new cycles of communication. This is an ideal time to build on your strengths together and consciously create healthy cycles, as opposed to waiting years and then going to couples therapy as a last resort, having to unlearn negative interaction cycles.

This is a new chapter in your life! Get your groove on in whatever way feels most pleasurable today: play, explore, learn how to take small naps, find unexpected moments to delight in your body as it is in the moment. Just as you take time to think about your child, make time to consider yourself. As you feel more centered and intimately connected within, you will be able to connect more personally within your partnership.

For more information regarding intimacy during the postpartum time period, please join us at Birthways November 16th, 3-4:30pm for a talk led by Natashia Fuksman, MA.  Natashia a practicing therapist with 20 years of experience in working with individuals, couples, families and groups dealing with issues related to the perinatal time period, mindfulness, and intimacy with one’s self and in relationship with others. Natashia is currently a facilitator with Oakland Mom2Mom and a member of the Mount Diablo Family Resource Network?. For more information visit:


By: Julie Johnson

Two days after my son was born, his five-year old sister carefully and quietly carried his bouncy chair to a room in the back of the house that wasn’t used much. When I walked back into the living room and found him gone, she said, “Camilo has gone to the baby dungeon, and that’s where he should stay!”

When a child is born, emotions of all kinds can surface for everyone as a new family constellation takes shape.  Although the prospect of having a new baby brother or sister can be exciting for your older one, often those feelings are mixed with resentment, jealousy, and anger.  As parents, there are a variety of things that we can do to take care of  ourselves and support older children in the transition.

Here are some things you can do to make this transition go more smoothly before and after the baby is born:

Develop a Regular Practice of Special Time with Older Children

Before the baby comes, make a date each week with your child to do whatever they want to do.  Whether your child chooses to jump on the bed, run through the rain, or explore the attic with you, follow their lead and refrain from giving them advice, instructions, or suggestions.  Set aside ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes to have this one-on-one time, trying for a total of an hour a week. This time of focused love and attention can really shore a child up.  It will show him how important he is to you, and it will build a foundation of trust and safety.  He will look forward to these special times continuing after the baby is born!

Create A Village

Find people in your life that your child enjoys spending time with, and invite them over as often as you can before the baby comes.  Set up playdates with your child’s friends and one-on-one time with other adults.  Maybe it’s a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, a babysitter, or a good friend.  Help your little one nurture those relationships that they have with friends, babysitters, or relatives.

The relationships that young people form with adults outside of the immediate family can be an anchor in a stormy sea.  One mom I worked with, Marie, grew up with a chronically ill mother and four sisters who fought constantly.  Although the sisters rarely got along, each of them had someone special in their lives who they could spend one on one time with at least once a month.  For Marie, it was an aunt who she adored, who took her on trips to the New Jersey Shore with no other sisters around.

Help your child with separation anxiety before the baby comes

Separation anxiety is common among children, and adding a brother or sister to the mix can make challenging behaviors flare up in a big way. When a parent goes to another room, answers the phone, or pays attention to someone else, a child can become irritable, whiny, aggressive, or withdrawn.

Before the new baby comes, notice where your child has difficulty.  Often bedtime evokes fears of separation.  If your son begs to read one more book (after you’ve read your usual quota), set a firm but loving limit and listen to his response.  You can tell him, “Now it’s time to sleep, we can read another book tomorrow.”  If he begins to cry, stay with him.  Repeat the limit gently and listen while he shows you his upset.

If he has a chance to cry through his desperate longing for another book, he might actually be showing you how scary it feels to sleep alone at night or how hard it was to say good-bye that morning.  And he’ll have the chance to clear through some of those sad feelings that surface around separation.

Set up a System of Support

There is never enough help after a child is born.  If only we had a band of angels that flew into our home to prepare our favorite meals, clean the house, massage our back with essential oil, hold the baby while we sleep, and pick up older children from school—at no cost—we might be able to rest and relax more in the months that follow the birth of a child.

In lieu of that, do your best to set up systems of support and nourishment to get through the early weeks and the months that follow the birth.  Enlist family members or a group of friends to cook meals for you. Sites like are good resources to help your community coordinate meals.  Hire a postpartum doula or find a relative to come by and hold the baby while you nap.  Ask someone to come over so that you can spend, even small pockets of time, with older children.

Pay Attention to How You are Doing After the Baby is Born

There are many feelings that can surface for parents when a child is born.  No matter how little our children are, they know how we are doing.  If we are feeling blue and the days ahead of us look bleak, our children know.  They may not understand it completely, but they have a sense that all is not well and that mommy or daddy needs a little extra support.

Find a friend or another parent who you can talk to on a regular basis.  Having someone that will listen to us through a big cry or simply laugh with us through the trying times and amazing moments of parenting can shore us up—so much so that when we head back to our children we might be able to figure out how to help them sleep through the night for the first time. Or we might be able to give them a big smile when they bring home another piece of cork taped to a feather and ask us to hang it on the wall.

Whether it’s with a friend, a neighbor, or someone you meet in a new parent group, set up a regular date with another person in which each parent gets to talk and each one gets to listen.  It makes us better parents and can have a direct impact on other relationships in our lives.


When the new baby arrives, expect that older children will have lots of upsets (no matter how well you prepare them), sometimes about seemingly small things.  However, developing a regular practice of special time with your children, supporting your older one through their upsets, and getting support for yourself can help you nourish and enjoy your relationships with each of your children.

When your older daughter says, “Mommy, I’ve had enough of this baby!  When can we send her back?!”  You can remind her how much you love her, tell her that her baby sister is here to stay, and that no one will ever, ever take her place.

Julie Johnson has been in the field of education for over fifteen years as a classroom teacher, facilitator, and researcher.  She is a certified Parenting by Connection instructor through Hand in Hand Parenting and a Certified Lactation Educator.  Julie currently conducts Parenting by Connection classes and consultations for parents throughout the Bay Area. See for more information.