There’s No Place Like Om

by Holly Keich

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Om: /ōm/ (noun)  the term that I thought everyone understood when I named my business.  I get a wide range of confused calls, letters or bills from people looking for O.M. Baby, Ohm (think learning about electricity in 6th grade science class) Baby, Om (pronounced ah-m) Baby and the list goes on.  So apparently I was wrong.  How could that be?  *insert sarcasm*  Not everyone knows about Om.

For those of you that have taken a yoga class, there’s a chance that you may have more knowledge of the term, but that’s not guaranteed in our westernized yoga fitness culture.  Om as I describe it in my classes (to keep it short and to the point) means One.  It’s the sound of the universe, the sound that was created before time and can still be heard today if you listen closely enough.**  It unites us all and brings the realization that we have all come from the same place.  We are all one.

We often chant Om at the end of classes as a reminder of that connection before we traverse out into the world that seems so disconnected and fragmented.  Traditionally it is chanted 3 times.  If you break down the sound of Om itself, it is made up of 3 distinctly different sounds that when unified will rhyme with the word “home”;  A “aaah”, U “oooh”, M “mmm.”  The trinity of the sound can be represented by a variety of things, but most often in yogic terms it is translated into the alignment of mind, body, & spirit.  But, the chanting of Om is deeper than seeking the oneness within ourselves alone. It’s about connecting with the oneness in all of us, aligning in union with the universe. The trinity represents past, present and future combining all things in a world that is timeless.  The waking, dreaming and dreamless states of consciousness are united. Om represents all of consciousness.

The vibration of Om is felt in the body and is very calming to the nervous system.  This is true for those chanting as well as those listening.  You may even remember the viral video earlier this year of Daniel Eisenman chanting “om” to his newborn with astounding results. This is something I’ve seen repeated in person during the close of our baby yoga classes. I even suggest to parents that it’s a wonderful parenting tool and mantra that can be very soothing for you and baby in times of stress.

The long, low soothing sound rolls off the tongue, starting at the back of the throat and moves forward ending with the tingle of the humming of the “mmm” sound on the lips. The Om is a culmination of all sound in one tone.  After the sound comes the silence.

In fact, the silence was there before the sound, during and after.  Silence is unchanging, even while sound changes tone or vibration. Silence is ever-present and unchanging.  How many times do we crave for silence?  For the sound, the clutter jingling in our heads, around our homes, and in our world to stop, when in fact the silence is already present.  We just need to learn to tap into it, to understand the duplicity and paradox of the two existing together, as one.  All is One.  Om.

 
**Apparently, according to NASA, there is no sound in space. But through an experiment started in 2010 they took plasma wave data from the sun and translated it into sound.  You can find more info at: https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2013/01nov_ismsounds  and note that not all of the sounds in space sound like Om, but apparently some do:  http://www.hoaxorfact.com/science/nasa-recorded-om-sound-from-sun-facts.html.


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In 2007, when Holly became pregnant with her first child she began teaching prenatal yoga classes that impart not only the wisdom of poses for the childbearing year, but also knowledge of the spiritual and emotional process of becoming a parent. She continued to develop her support of mother, child & family connections through the opening of Om Baby Pregnancy & Parenting Center in 2008.

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The Misconceptions of Attachment Parenting

by Holly Keich

As the leader of a the Harrisburg Attachment Parenting Group, I’m often approached with requests to join the group followed by a list of reasons the applicant considers themselves to be an attachment parent. Often I’m left wondering how it is that each person has come to identify specific attributes to this particular parenting style. Breastfeeding, babywearing, cloth diapering, co-sleeping, home schooling stay-at-home moms who slather their babies in coconut oil, make all their own baby food, choose to leave their baby boys intact, are vaccine hesitant and buy amber necklaces in bulk…This has become the attachment parenting stereotype.

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Let’s take a step back and look with fresh eyes to see where it all started. Attachment Parenting; a phrase coined by Dr. William Sears in and his wife Martha, a registered nurse, in 1982; was discovered by Dr. Sears when reading Jean Liedloff’s book The Continuum Concept. (1) This ground breaking book published in 1975 took a look at the Ye’kuana people of Venzuela. Through her research, Liedloff proposes that the modern Western ways of giving birth and raising children, with bottle feeding, cribs and baby carriages, does not meet the evolutionary needs of children and therefore they develop a sense of wrongness and shame about themselves and their desires. (2)

Attachment Parenting owes it’s roots to many philosophic predecessors beyond just Liedloff. The first of which is the father of attachment theory, John Bowlby and subsequently his research assistant, Mary Ainsworth who is most notably known for the “Strange Situation” which investigated how attachments might vary between children. With Attachment Theory burgeoning in the world of research after World War II, many responsive parenting styles began to become more mainstream. Most notably Dr. Spock’s best selling book “Baby and Child Care” was published in 1946 where he advised mothers to raise their infants according to common sense and plenty of physical contact. (3) In the 1990’s T. Berry Brazelton also contributed to this discussion with new research about the capacity of newborn infants to express themselves and their emotions and for parents to become sensitized to their babies needs and to follow their own judgment. (4) And there are countless others in between the two as research began to hone in on how babies attach and what that looks like in varying family situations.

The Baby BookIn 1993, the Sears’ published the first edition of “The Baby Book”, the first publication that guided parents in the tenants of “attachment parenting”. (5) This is where the 5 Baby B’s where introduced, which later became the 7 Baby B’s in 2001 with the introduction of “The Attachment Parenting Book”. (6)

  • Birth bonding
  • Breastfeeding
  • Baby wearing
  • Bedding close to baby
  • Belief in the language value of your baby’s cry
  • Beware of baby trainers
  • Balance

As we look at the 7 Baby B’s we begin to see where some of these stereotypes surrounding attachment parenting might have originated.   And even though the Sears’ discuss that attachment parenting is a responsive approach to parenting that it doesn’t have a strict set of rules, many choose to dig in and identify with the above concepts as guideposts to being the perfect parent, myself included in the early days of parenting. Have you found yourself using the guideposts as a checklist rather than a potential strategy that could be weighed in determining what works best for your family?

In 1994, with the blessing of Dr. Sears, Attachment Parenting International was founded by two educators and mothers, Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker in Nashville, Tennessee. (7) Both were teachers who noticed a growing need among their students for, greater family security and caregiver availability. (8) API has expanded on the 7 Baby B’s and Dr. Sears’ work and now promotes the 8 Principles of Attachment Parenting. (9)

  • Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting
  • Feed with Love and Respect
  • Respond with Sensitivity
  • Use Nurturing Touch
  • Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally
  • Provide Consistent and Loving Care
  • Practice Positive Discipline
  • Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life

While the intent is the same, the principles expand on the Sears’ premise by including Positive Discipline and allowing a broader definition for each category, further defining and refining the core concepts of attachment. While the Sears’ 7 Baby B’s are geared primarily for children 5 and under, the 8 principles are expansive enough to guide you through the ages and stages of parenting up until the teen years (and beyond).

Although it’s been around for nearly 35 years, with roots dating back to World War II, Attachment Parenting is viewed as a fad. Even though the tenants of parenting that are proposed are as old as time and secure attachment remains as basic and beneficial as it ever was to human development, there are critics of Attachment Parenting. Often, this criticism is muddled, confusing attachment parenting with permissive parenting, helicopter parenting, and natural parenting. But if we go back to the principles, you won’t find these attributes on the list. Positive Discipline utilizes strategies that are empathetic, loving, and respectful while strengthening the connection between parent and child. The strategies are kind yet firm. The ultimate goal of discipline is to help children develop self-control and self-discipline. (10) And even though many of the tenants are instinctual, responsive and therefore may come “naturally”, the use of coconut oil, cloth diapers, and natural remedies as espoused by natural parenting is nowhere on the list.

Despite the broader definitions, Attachment Parenting is still mistakenly viewed by many as an intensive parenting style that requires you give up yourself completely to care for your child. Visions of babywearing until they are in middle school are conjured up in people’s minds and written about in articles. And this stereotype may made even more true by those adhering to what they believe are the attachment parenting principles, forgetting that one of those principles is to Strive for Balance. Taking time for yourself is one of the key elements of being an attached parent. If you run yourself ragged meeting your baby’s needs and everyone else comes before you, you’ll soon find yourself struggling to hold on without realizing that you’re the one leading the circus. You’re the one spinning more and more plates striving for perfection and applause. That is, until they come crashing down to the ground and the tent falls in.

Before you loose yourself, take a step back, take a deep breath and realign yourself with the principles that speak to you and work in your life. Use them as tools rather than steps that help you achieve the broader over-arching goal of raising a compassionate, loving and responsible human being. Look at the principles as objectives in reaching that goal. Realize that babywearing is a tool, one of many that can help you meet the objective of using Nurturing Touch, as are infant massage, bathing, hugs, and snuggles. Move through each principle and reassess. There is no one right way to be an attachment parent, but there are a million ways to attach with your child. As is embedded in the philosophy itself, listen to your intuition and let it guide you. You are the best parent for your baby. You know what is best for you and your family. If you are able to quiet your mind enough to listen, to stop the plates from spinning, you can hear that inner voice guiding you. Sit with that voice. Learn to trust that voice.

Celebrate Attachment Parenting Month with a deep connection to peace, love and trust in your own heart so that inner light can shine out brightly for others.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_parenting
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_parenting
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_parenting
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_parenting
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_parenting
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_parenting
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_parenting
  8. http://www.attachmentparenting.org/WhatIsAP.php
  9. http://www.attachmentparenting.org/principles/principles.php
  10. http://www.attachmentparenting.org/principles/discipline

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Holly Keich is the owner of Om Baby Pregnancy & Parenting Center in Camp Hill.  She is a Licensed Social Worker, Yoga Instructor, Certified Infant Massage Instructor, Parent, Wife and adamant learner in the school of life.

The Dark Side of Fatherhood

by Holly Keich

There’s a secret in our culture and it’s not about how strong women are in birth, it’s that men experience postpartum depression. Every day 1,000 new dads in the United States become depressed. 1 And some studies indicate that this is a low estimate and that it could be as high as 25% of new dads that experience paternal postpartum depression (PPPD).2 What these statistics tell us is that postpartum depression in men is common. But if it’s so common, then why haven’t we heard about it before now?

IMG_7324bwTraditionally, men have been conditioned to be the strong one, the provider for their new family. In fact, I recently came across a quote by Sigmond Freud that states, “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” Because of this societal pressure, men tend to hide their depression and withdraw from others. There can be a disconnect as well between how men feel and how they think they should be feeling after baby arrives. Depression in men may also look different. Withdrawal may mean working more and spending more hours away from home. In fact, research tells us the men often experience depression in ways that are different than women. Men sometimes cope with their symptoms in different ways too. This may be why even trained mental health professionals may misdiagnose men’s depression.

It’s helpful to first look at the classic symptoms of depression which may also be present in men postpartum. 3

  • Depressed, sad mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Trouble sleeping or over-sleeping
  • Restless feelings and inability to sit still or slow down
  • Fatigue, loss of energy, or tired all the time
  • Worthless or guilty feelings
  • Impaired concentration and difficulty making decisions
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Typically a person would need to exhibit 5 or more of these symptoms over a 2-week period to be diagnosed with a depressed mood.

But as mentioned, there’s more to paternal postpartum depression in men. One thing that researchers are finding is that men don’t often acknowledge feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or guilt.4 They tend to have additional symptoms that are unique to men.

Symptoms of Men’s Depression 5

  • Increased anger and conflict with others
  • Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Frustration or irritability
  • Violent behavior
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Being easily stressed
  • Impulsiveness and taking risks, like reckless driving and extramarital sex
  • Feeling discouraged
  • Increases in complaints about physical problems
  • Ongoing physical symptoms, like headaches, digestion problems or pain
  • Problems with concentration and motivation
  • Loss of interest in work, hobbies and sex
  • Working constantly
  • Frustration or irritability
  • Misuse of prescription medication
  • Increased concerns about productivity and functioning at school or work
  • Fatigue
  • Experiencing conflict between how you think you should be as a man and how you actually are
  • Thoughts of suicide

The number of symptoms may vary as may the severity between individuals. While the list may seem daunting, the important thing to know is that depression is treatable. You can recover.

Because research on paternal postpartum depression is in its infancy, we know little about what exactly are the risk factors. What research is beginning to show is that many of the risk factors are similar to that of women. 6,7

  • A lack of good sleep
  • Changes in hormones
  • A personal or family history of depression and/or anxiety
  • Poor relationship with spouse
  • Poor relationship with one or both parents
  • Relationship stress – with a partner or with in-laws
  • Excessive stress about becoming a parent or father
  • Nonstandard family (such as being unmarried or a stepfather)
  • Poor social functioning
  • A lack of support from others
  • Economic problems or limited resources
  • A sense of being excluded from the connection between the mother and baby
  • A personal history or alcohol or drug abuse
  • A major life event such as a loss, house move or job loss
  • Being a father of multiples or a baby with special needs

One risk factor that may have caught you by surprise was hormonal changes. We’ve all heard how fluctuations in hormones during pregnancy and after birth can affect women, but may not know that men have hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy and postpartum as well. Studies show that a man’s hormones also shift during pregnancy and after birth, for reasons that are still unknown. Testosterone levels drop; estrogen, prolactin, and cortisol go up. Some men even develop symptoms such as nausea and weight gain.8 According to Dr. Courtenay, a psychotherapist who specializes in men’s depression and host of postpartummen.com, one of the few websites devoted to the issue, “Evolutionary biologists suspect that the hormone fluctuation is nature’s way of making sure that fathers stick around and bond with their baby.”9

Another risk factor that may be surprising is that if your partner is depressed, there’s a good chance that you are too. Up to half of men whose partners have postpartum depression are depressed themselves.10 So it’s important that it’s not just the mother that gets assessed for PPD after baby, but their partner’s should too. The same tool can be used, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale – or the EPDS, for short. It is the most widely used assessment for postpartum depression and anxiety. It has been tested and found effective with men. You can find the PPPD assessment here.

*The instructions for completing the EPDS are different for women and men. If you are a woman and concerned that you have postpartum depression please use the following EPDS assessment from the postpartumstress.com.

According to the Journal of Parent & Family Health, fathers are most likely to experience the first onset of paternal postpartum depression in the first 3 – 6 months after the birth of their baby.11 This isn’t just a coincidence. It’s around this time that women in the U.S. end their maternity leave and head back to work, adding more stress to what is already a major life transition. As if figuring out how to parent isn’t complicated enough, returning to work adds one more thing to balance on an already teetering plate.

If you identify with the risk factors and are not yet pregnant, there’s time for preventative measures. Consult a mental health professional if you have a history of depression to prepare should you have a recurrence. If you have relationship issues or poor communication in your relationship, seeking help before the child is born can help you learn new skills which can lessen the stress and reduce your risk of PPPD. If there are economic concerns, it’s time to address them and set up a budget. Setting aside time to think through the logistics of postpartum can also be helpful. Postpartum Support Virginia offers an excellent, detailed plan for adjusting to life with a new baby.

If you’ve identified yourself or your partner in the symptoms for PPPD, then it’s important to get help. Depression is a very treatable condition, but if left untreated can result in damaging, long-term consequences for you, your kids, your marriage, your career, and your finances. Finding a therapist that is skilled in working with men is key in order to get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. You can ask your doctor or pediatrician for a referral. Be sure to ask when making an appointment if they have experience in treating paternal mental health. Therapy can also help you with stress management, juggling home and work responsibilities and relationship issues that can often come up when you and your partner are transitioning to parenthood.

There are other coping strategies as well that can be useful in conjunction with therapy:
Medication may also be suggested as a strategy and can be used short term to help to recover.

Tackle Isolation by reaching out to others. Talk with your partner or friends about the challenges of parenthood. This isn’t just a problem that effects you, it’s a family problem and sharing your feelings is a step to reaching out to develop a support network in your journey toward healing. If talking to those you know is too difficult, utilize online resources. postpartummen.com has a forum where men can share their feelings anonymously.

Take Care of Yourself physically and emotionally. Exercise, eating well, journaling, yoga, meditation, acupuncture – anything that reduces stress should be on every new parent’s to do-list.

Get Rest. Yes, we mean sleep.  We know it’s at a premium these days, but figuring out a plan that works for both parents is imperative.  Mood disorders can happen to anyone who is sleep deprived.  Alternate nights taking care of the baby, hire a postpartum doula for a few nights or ask a family member to help so you can get some sleep.  Allow yourself a break. Many men do double duty by going to work and then taking over childcare as soon as they get home. Discuss how you can share childcare and chores so you can have some down time.

Despite the secretive nature of PPPD it’s still a very treatable condition.  Seeking help is imperative not only for your health, but also the well-being of your marriage and child(ren).  If left untreated, research shows it can cause a negative impact on the emotional and behavioral development of your children years later.12   So the best thing you can do to provide for your children’s future is to get help for yourself today.

1 http://postpartummen.com/

2 http://postpartummen.com/

3 http://drsarahallen.com/paternal-depression/

4 http://postpartummen.com/mens-depression/

5  http://postpartummen.com/postpartum-depression/

6  http://drsarahallen.com/paternal-depression/

7 http://postpartummen.com/postpartum-depression/

8  http://www.parents.com/parenting/dads/sad-dads/

9 http://www.parents.com/parenting/dads/sad-dads/

10 http://postpartummen.com/postpartum-depression/

11 http://drsarahallen.com/paternal-depression/

12 http://postpartummen.com/get-help/

 


Holly Keich, LSW supports family connections through Om Baby Pregnancy & Parenting Center in Camp Hill, PA since 2008.

Are You Worthy?

by Holly Keich

Keich Family 2011

image:  Grace Lightner Photography

When’s the last time you told yourself, I’ll be worthy when ___________________. Whatever it may be that you choose to fill in the blank, whether it’s I’ll be worthy when I lose 15 pounds, when I get the promotion, when I can keep the laundry done or the house clean, when my kids tell me they love me, when I meet the perfect partner, when I become the perfect parent. We dismiss ourselves by lining up a long laundry list of pre-requisites to worthiness. We forget that just by the value of our very existence, we are enough. We are good enough. We are worthy.

Instead, we often seek sources outside of ourselves to tell us that we are worthy. We seek to be better, more, perfect, not only in our own eyes, but through our reflection in others. Author, shame researcher and public speaker, Brené Brown feels that shame is how we see ourselves through other people’s eyes. “If I look perfect, live perfect, work perfect, I can avoid or minimize criticism, blame and ridicule.” We say to ourselves, if I’m worthy enough, I won’t feel shame.

But, lets take a closer look at what shame is and what it isn’t. Brené Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” Parenting is one of the areas in which we, women especially, feel shame.

Parenting values debates, often termed “The Mommy Wars”, are shaming in nature. When you become a parent, you don’t have to look very far to see these debates in action. I remember as a newly expectant mother being blind-sided by vigorous and harsh debates in what used to be a very friendly and supportive online group. Soon I came to discover there are a multitude of controversial and divisive topics surrounding parenting – labor, circumcision, vaccinations, co-sleeping, feeding, etc. And regardless of which side you are on, what you hear is shame. Mothers engaging in shaming behaviors that we try to protect our own children from as they grow – name-calling, put-downs and bullying.  

So it was no surprise to find out what Brené Brown found in her research. “There are 3 topics that consistently elicit painfully harsh judgments: addiction, parenting and affairs.” Alright, well, maybe a slight surprise, parenting ranks up there with addiction and affairs? Why is that?

In her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, Brene clarifies so beautifully why parenting breeds judgment. “Our need for certainty in an endeavor as uncertain as raising children makes explicit “how-to-parent strategies both seductive and dangerous. I say dangerous because certainty often breeds absolutes, intolerance, and judgment. That’s why parents are so critical of one another – we latch on to a method or approach and very quickly our way becomes the way. When we obsess over our parenting choices to the extent that most of us do, and then see someone else making different choices, we often perceive that difference as direct criticism of how we are parenting.”

The uncertainty and doubt that comes with parenting is often frightening, frustrating and terrifying, and sometimes all three of those at the same time. Even though we’re all just doing the best we can with what we have and know in this moment, that self-doubt that lurks beneath the choices we make can spring our self-righteous critic into action. And when that happens, we react from a place of fear and hurt, fear of not being good enough, not being the perfect parent. A difference in opinion becomes judgment in our ears (or maybe was even slung with that intention) and our inner critical voice says, I’m not worthy. From this place of hurt, we may even judge others as a way of making ourselves feel better.

Brené Brown makes another excellent point in her book I Thought It Was Just Me: (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”, “We are also more willing to use shame, fear and judgment with people who threaten our pursuit of perfection. We can feel threatened when people challenge or criticize us, or we can feel threatened simply because someone is making different choices then we would make.”

“When we give ourselves permission to be imperfect, when we find self-worth despite our imperfections, when we build connection networks that affirm and value us as imperfect beings, we are much more capable of change.”

Change begins in us. You can not shame or belittle people (including yourself) into change. Change begins with realizing that we all have different paths in our parenting journey. There is no one right path. There are a million ways to be an engaged parent. So the parent who chooses a different path than yours isn’t wrong. They’ve chosen that path based on their values and life experiences and just because their path diverges from yours doesn’t make it any less correct or worthy.

It’s not about who is right or wrong. According to Brené Brown, “the question of parenting values is about engagement. Are we paying attention? Thinking through our choices? Open to learning and being wrong? Curious and willing to ask questions?”

“Our job is to make choices that are aligned with our values and support other parents who are doing the same. Our job is also to tend to our own worthiness. When we feel good about the choices we’re making and when we’re engaging with the world from a place of worthiness rather than scarcity, we feel no need to judge and attack.” (Brené Brown, Daring Greatly)

In order to move away from judgment we must be mindful of our own thoughts, feelings and words. To show empathy for ourselves as well as others we must be aware. We must know and understand ourselves before we can know and understand someone else. The more grounded we become, the less we feel compelled to defend our decisions and protect ourselves. The more grounded we are the less likely we are to perpetuate the cycle of judgment to make ourselves feel better, to make ourselves feel worthy.

In the end what we really want to know and to feel is that it’s okay. That we’re okay. Although the path may be unlit, we can approach this journey with a spirit of adventure, and openness to learning along with our children and other parents. Knowing that we will stumble and struggle, because we all do. It’s inherent in the process. And it’s not only okay, it’s to be expected. It will happen. It might be you today, or your neighbor or your friend or the parent across town who’s the perfect appearing PTO mom. We’re all in this parenting journey together and we need support; we need to give support.

Ultimately it’s not about who is the perfect parent, it’s about raising healthy, loving, wholehearted children. When we shame other parents for their choices, we are inadvertently passing that shame to the next generation, to their children and our own as well. When we are providing support and understanding, even if it’s just that ‘I’ve been there’ look to the parent whose child is melting down in aisle 4 at the grocery store, we are supporting and understanding that child also. We’re teaching our child what compassion looks like so when they grow up they can teach their children.

We all become better parents, better people, when we have a base of support, of understanding and belonging. We can reach and achieve and yes, even make mistakes, within a family or community that supports and believes in our inherent worthiness.


Holly Keich is a Licensed Social Worker, Owner of Om Baby Pregnancy & Parenting Center in Camp Hill, PA and has a recent obsession with and grand appreciation for the work of Brené Brown.