Growing a family is the ultimate form of creation. What starts as two people joining their lives together becomes a living, breathing unit complete with its own personality, rules of operation, inside jokes, and shared history. Every new child, every act of parenting, every affection between members, every struggle and dysfunction shapes the experience of everyone within the unit. I mean, it’s really an incredible phenomenon.

aug13 fam family2

I’ve been thinking a lot about this ever since Emerson was born. Before, it was just me and Alex. We had our thing—our rhythm, our dynamics, our bond. And then, there was Em. Suddenly, this new little person entered our sovereign nation and it somehow felt as if she was always there. She belonged and claimed a part of our hearts that had unknowingly been set aside just for her all along. So, if she was always meant to exist, who else is waiting for us? How many more members are out there (or down…in my ovaries)? It boggles my mind to think about. And even more so, to know that I already love them the way I did Emerson.



These thoughts were put into overdrive when I met my new niece, the third child in her family, last weekend. I’ve watched three little girls come into this world and become a family with their parents….sisters become sisters….a unit become complete. And wow. Just WOW.

Subsequently, after watching these three girls in action, I feel like it’d be awesome to birth a 5-year-old instead of a newborn, because they are so great at taking care of younger siblings….and also, Emerson is much less threatened and jealous of older children sharing her mama.

Although, I must say, I felt I reached a new level of motherhood when I instinctually pulled out my breast to nurse my upset toddler while holding a newborn. She immediately relaxed and began giving the baby “gentle touches” instead of feeling threatened. A preview of things to come…..



15 months of Emerson


Emerson is one chatty girl. She can say an astounding 40+ words (I really don’t understand how that’s even possible for her age, but it’s true). And in the face of not knowing words, she continues to tell stories, chime in on adult conversations and talk to herself. I can already envision her at 3-years-old asking me a battery of questions and commenting on life all. day. long. It’s exciting to imagine….but also, a little frightening, because I don’t talk as much as she does.

Emerson is also a whirlwind of activity. She prefers to run everywhere, rather than walk. She is extremely “busy” all the time. She laughs hysterically at herself. She’s obsessed with owls and babies. She likes to shower instead of bathe. If something is at all climbable, she will attempt to climb it.

What’s most striking to me right now, though, is how much I admire my child. Although I can’t predict her future, I already see so many qualities in her that I have been working to attain my whole life. She is at ease in the world, socially magnetic, brilliant, and confident. As cliché as it is to say, it is a complete joy to watch her grow up.




10 things that surprised me about breastfeeding

No matter how well you “prepare” for motherhood, there are always surprises. And breastfeeding is no exception to that rule. Before giving birth, I had not only read the books, but had also personally seen a friend shoot milk like a fire hydrant across a room, felt a heavy, fully soaked breast pad, heard about cracked, bleeding nipples. But, there were still plenty of surprises in store for me when it came time to do it myself.

Here are ten things that I didn’t expect when I was expecting….to breastfeed:

1. Boob over bottle. I planned to exclusively breastfeed my child, but I never expected to be the only person able to feed her. I expected to have help with nighttime feedings and to be able to leave my child in the care of my husband at times. Instead, I had a child who refused to take a bottle. In researching and talking about this issue with others, I discovered that this does in fact happen (to lots of people I know, in fact!). But, it was still an exhausting first year with a non-bottle drinker who was a very frequent “snacker.”

2. Pacifier be gone. A bottle wasn’t the only thing my child refused. She also refused a pacifier. While I wasn’t big on the idea of pacifiers, I became desperate after weeks of colicky behavior (see #3 for the answer to my colicky woes). But, I was never able to successfully get my girl to accept anything but an actual pacifier: my breast. Day and night.

3. Self-deprivation. I’m not talking about lack of sleep or time alone (which are obviously part and parcel of breastfeeding, as well). I’m talking about having to cut foods you love out of your diet on account of your little one’s digestive issues, allergies and intolerances, sleeplessness, and/or colicky behavior. I not only had to say bye-bye to foods I loved, but could not drink even a little bit of caffeine (now there’s something I didn’t know I’d have to survive motherhood without!).

4. Bras, bras, bras. I knew my breasts would change when I was pregnant, and that they would change again when my milk came in. What I didn’t know was that I’d end up with a drawer full of bras in SEVEN sizes! There were several size changes during pregnancy, but the majority of them happened throughout my breastfeeding journey as my child’s needs evolved. I should own stock in Victoria’s Secret.

5. Fraternal twins. Again, I knew my breasts would change, but was surprised to find that they might change independent of one another. One of my breasts was always more full of milk from the start (not to mention, had a much faster let down), but they pretty much looked the same. After I suffered a breast infection (at 7-months out), however, the affected breast was never the same as its partner again. It still produced plenty of milk, but my girls were no longer twins.

6. Woah, nipples. My areola never grew to the size of saucers during pregnancy like I expected them to. And while they did darken, that quickly subsided after giving birth. What did change, however, were my nipples. They now permanently stand at attention (even visible under a lined bra!). They are bigger. And they often point in the wrong direction. While I am completely horrified that this has happened to me (let alone that I am admitting it to the world), I take comfort in the hundreds of stories I’ve read assuring me that they will someday look normal again.

7. Sex? Sleep deprivation, lack of time, feeling “touched out” from all the breastfeeding and caregiving, and fear of sex after giving birth aren’t the only things standing in the way of a sex life. Some women (hand raised here…going on 15 months) don’t ovulate for many months or years. That means a lack of estrogen circulating in your body….and a lack of desire. Womp womp…

8. No baby, no. Speaking of sex, what about baby number two? It’s fairly common to start discussing this (or to feel your uterus begin to ache for another little one!) at some point during your first child’s infancy or toddlerhood. But, there is a wide range of “normal” when it comes to fertility after giving birth. Some women see their period return just weeks after giving birth, while others (right here!) are very sensitive to the hormones involved in lactation and remain infertile for quite a while. So, the question of when to have another isn’t always in your hands.

9. It’s not always easy. I wrote about the challenges of breastfeeding a newborn here, and a toddler here. But, quite simply, it’s not easy. There is pain, a steep learning curve, blocked ducts, breast infections, biting, milk supply issues. And on.

10. Toddlers are easier. If you choose to continue breastfeeding into toddlerhood, the good news is that it’s pretty easy. There is less to worry about when you aren’t your child’s only source of nourishment, your body has figured out how to do what it needs to do, and it’s a sweet moment of calm in an otherwise chaotic life with a child that never stops moving. (Read more about extended breastfeeding here.)

There you have it. I was surprised! How about you?


The hidden benefits of extended breastfeeding

This post was written as part of Mothering’s “Blog about breastfeeding” event in celebration of World Breastfeeding week, August 1-7. You can read more stories on, here. And stay tuned here (on this blog!) all week for more posts about breastfeeding by yours truly.


Though our country is slow to open its mind to extended breastfeeding, the proof is in the pudding (or science, really). Breastfeeding into toddlerhood (and beyond) provides an astounding amount of benefits to your child. It benefits their insides with stronger immune systems, improved vision and hearing, lower incidence of chronic illness (diabetes, heart disease, degenerative nervous system disorders) in both childhood and adulthood, and fewer stomach-related issues. It benefits their outsides with leaner bodies and healthier skin. It benefits them emotionally by fostering confidence and independence; and intellectually by adding points to their IQ for every extra month and year that you continue to breastfeed. Not to mention, it benefits your health (and sanity, as extended breastfeeders are known to be easier to discipline).

Yet, there’s no denying that breastfeeding isn’t without its challenges.

I talked about the (sometimes) steep learning curve of those early, newborn days here. But, here’s what I didn’t say: you aren’t exactly out of the woods once you get past the newborn hurdle. Yes, things were easier on a daily basis after I got the hang of breastfeeding. For sure. But then, I had to contend with things like milk supply issues (too much or too little), blocked milk ducts, mastitis (breast infection), eliminating some beloved food groups from my diet for the sake of my child’s health, and let’s not forget to mention….teething and months of biting.

I’ve noticed that the three most common phases for moms to stop breastfeeding happen to coincide with what were the most difficult times to breastfeed (for me): the newborn period, 6-months and 12-months. Inevitably, new phases of development for your babe mean new phases in your breastfeeding relationship.

Personally, I am so grateful that I didn’t give up during any one of those challenging times. Believe me, I wanted to in so many moments. But, in making it to the other side, I discovered that breastfeeding a toddler is quite wonderful. The health benefits are great—amazing, in fact—but it’s the less talked about benefits that happen in real time (because I can’t exactly see a picture of my future adult child’s healthy heart) that make extended breastfeeding a real privilege.

Here’s what I get to enjoy now: a sweet, loving ritual minus all the pain and anxiety. Breastfeeding my toddler is so easy and fulfilling. I can see tangible results of all the hours and days and months we have logged as a breastfeeding duo in my child’s sense of security in the world…in the mutual trust and respect we’ve created. What’s more, I am now loving and nurturing a (more) mature, responsive being. In so many ways, I can feel my child thanking me and loving me back while she nurses. We have our own language of call-and-response hums and eye blinks (really) that we use while we nurse. We hold hands, we play with each other’s hair, we smile and laugh. Our relationship is magical and unique. And you see, that’s just it. It’s those benefits that you can’t find in a book or on someone else’s list that make extended breastfeeding worth the effort.


If you missed my previous post, Breastfeeding: A true story, you can read it here.

Up next: 10 things that surprised me about breastfeeding

Back in the photog game?


Making (the right) career decisions has been challenging ever since I conceived Emerson. Everything changed for me in that one moment—at the same time providing focus and a need to pause. While I had envisioned my three entrepreneurial ventures (portrait photography, selling fine art, and blogging) fitting perfectly into my life as a mother (and pregnant woman), that’s just not the way things turned out for me.

So, I had to make some tough choices. I don’t talk much about this here, but trying to start a business—let alone THREE—is not a small task. Nor an easy one. So, blogging it was…at least for the time being.

Yet, I can’t help but feel the pull of my other passion: photography. I do take a fair share of photos on a daily basis with Em, but it’s different. I still crave the rush I feel during a photo session….the excitement of pouring over hundreds of still images on my computer…the thrill of seeing people’s faces light up when they see the final product. And while I’m still not sure when I will get back to building my photography business, I have been feeling, lately, like I need to do a little something here and there in order to fulfill that part of me and keep sane. It’s like a small pledge to myself….”it’s just a break, Alexa.”

Anyway, I did a photo shoot this morning, which somehow turned into three more photo shoots in the next month. Is it a sign? I’m not sure. But, it felt AWESOME to be behind the lens (of something other than an iphone)! And it gave me a little taste of what life could be like…..Emerson running around the grass, watching her mama do what she loves. Not a bad life, if you ask me!

Stay tuned for more photos from my photo shoot….


Extended vacation


We are programmed as children to associate summertime with nothingness. Lazy, carefree, amazing nothingness. But, then we grow up.

Personally, I have yet to retrain myself as an adult. It’s just so hard to feel motivated to live on a schedule, be productive or work from about May until September. And this summer has been especially challenging in that regard since I have been living on what is basically an extended vacation. I have been virtually chore-free, devoid of any house projects or maintenance, I never have to cook. And my days consist of trips to the beach or city or aquarium or or or. I mean, I just can’t work. Who wants to work while on vacation?

The thing is, as much as I love summer fun, I am a crazy person who also craves schedules and productivity and goal seeking. Yes, while having the time of my life, part of me is always waiting for that glorious moment when the air shifts to fall, and it’s time to shop for new pencils and planners and notebooks. Metaphorically speaking.

In the meantime, just like the end of any good vacation, I am sad to see this boarding school adventure end yet excited to get home and back to my life. It will still be summer, but this time next week, I’ll be unpacked and (hopefully) newly inspired and full of ideas. I will miss this perfect little spot (seriously, Andover, Mass is amazing for life with a kid), but I look forward to getting my blog on again. See you there!


Knocked up


On this day, two years ago, I wandered through the forest in the Adirondack Mountains with my husband. I didn’t know it then, but it was the last day I would wander, anywhere, as a singular person. Yes, I would conceive my first child the next day, on a fallen tree.

And life would never be the same again.


As I was taking a walk with Emerson yesterday, I thought about the last two years of my life—never alone, always sharing my uterus, breast, arms or bed. I thought about that last day as a non-pregnant, non-mother woman in the woods, not yet able to understand how massively altered my existence would soon become. I wanted it so badly. I was ready. I had lived my youth fully—traveled, tried new things, moved cross country, loved and lost, danced until daybreak. I had more than three decades of sleeping through the night, private trips to the bathroom, lazy weekends and the use of both my hands under my belt. I was sick of my self-centered Universe…I ached to give, to think of myself less, to feel consumed and inspired.

But, as I walked with Emerson yesterday, I realized just how different the concept of being knocked up is for me now. There is surely still the rush of excitement and the impatient anticipation of what other magical creature(s) are out there waiting to be loved by me. There is still the heart-exploding joy in dreaming of a new little one being placed on my chest for the first time….of soft skin and a sweetly scented head….of coo’s and newborn cries that I have all the patience in the world to answer.

Yet, there is something else, too. The thing that I feel I’m not supposed to say out loud (or feel at all).


Because, I’ve been there before. I can conceptualize it the second time through. I know what it feels like to be pregnant and give birth and mother a newborn….infant….toddler. And though I’ve heard that every pregnancy and birth and child is different, there is still the deep and knowing understanding of the challenges that will accompany all that joy and love and amazingness.

You see, the first time around, I most definitely thought a lot about the decision. I asked myself a thousand times: “is this the right time? Am I ready?” But, it honestly felt much easier to take that leap and just go for it, not really knowing what I was about to experience.

On the flip side…ever since just a few days after giving birth to my first, I have felt like the decision to have another is so much more complicated and confusing. Of course, a lot of that (for me) is about ideal spacing, finances, career decisions, and logistics. But. A great portion of it is also about knowing that I have to take a deep breath and jump back to the starting place I’ve been slowly moving away from the last two years. Some of it is about clinging, ever so slightly, to the tiny amount of freedom and space I’ve regained….and the intimacy of a family of three.

But, I want more kids.

So, I figure my only choice is to have faith that when there are two lines staring up at me, I will, just like the first time, be overjoyed by the promise of a new, beautiful life and embrace the experience wholly. Because, the giant, scary leaps we take in life are the ones that bring the greatest rewards.


Fourteen months of Emerson


IMG_0351 IMG_0271

All I hear all day is “heyyyy, baaabbyyyyy!” It’s like there’s an Italian New Yorker living in my house or something. But, there’s not. It’s just a toddler who has picked up on the fact that mommy and daddy call her, and each other, “baby.” I mean, that is pretty confusing. (Why am I so addicted to nicknaming everyone “baby?”). Emerson has also noticed that when mommy and daddy are on separate floors of the house, one of us will inevitably call out “hey, baby….” So now, Emerson stands at the bottom or top of the stairs and just shouts “heyyyyy, baaabbyyyyy” over and over. Yes.

It’s pretty astounding, though, to watch Em learn to talk. You can see that she truly was storing everything we said to her for the first chunk of her life. Now it all comes trickling out of her tiny mouth as if it’s no big deal. And I can’t even keep up with how many words she knows, because she’s learning them every day. This may all seem like just another mother bragging, but the day your child begins to communicate with you, really communicate, is so thrilling. It’s like living with the coolest person you’ve ever met who is just too cool to ever talk to you for almost a year…..and then, one day. She is totally talking to you, OMG.


emerson 14mo

emerson 13mo3

But, she doesn’t just want to talk to me now that we’re living at a boarding school. No. She wants to talk to everyone. It feels like Emerson is running for office or something. She must greet every person (all 895 of them) in the dinning hall, stopping to charm the pants off the ones who seem skeptical of her existence and putting on shows for the ones who “aww” at her. And then anyone under the age of eight….watch out. She’s got so many (mini) adoring fans, hugging and kissing and carrying her around. She even found herself a boyfriend (a two-year-old who calls her “girlfriend”) within just a few days of being here. They kiss each other on the lips while saying “muah!” and we all die from cuteness. And when did my child become such a social butterfly??



emerson 13m04

So, clearly, living at a boarding school has had a positive effect on my girl. And on us. Living amongst a constant audience has provided so many new experiences. Sure, it’s like being followed around with a mirror….which can be unnerving when you are trying to raise a toddler, have a marriage, and acclimate to a new place without any closed doors around to hide behind. But, you also have that mirror to show you just how lucky you are—for one, how supper happy and friendly and lovable your child is (aka, validation that you are doing something right). All of the gratefulness I feel right now has been well worth sleeping on two plastic, cement-like twin mattresses pushed together for the past three weeks.



emerson 13 mo


Stay-at-home mom stigma?

While scrolling through Pinterest recently, I came across a someecards poster sarcastically teasing stay-at-home moms. The message was that working mothers do double duty—working out of the home all day, and then performing all the same duties that take stay-at-home moms all day to accomplish, in just a couple of hours at night. Pause…And while I shouldn’t care what a snarky internet poster has to say, the truth is that it sent me into a defensive rage. In an instant, I felt belittled and marginalized by the Victorian Era woman staring at me from her pink background. Yes, it was just a poster. But, it got me thinking about two issues.

Number one: Why do women like to divide themselves instead of stick together? And number two: Why does staying home to raise your babies have to carry a stigma (or does it)?


I was never great at connecting with those of my own gender growing up. In fact, not until I found myself pregnant, did I feel truly able to bond with any woman. But at that point, I felt like I was part of a sisterhood….finally. I was doing the most womanly thing possible and I suddenly found myself able (and wanting) to connect with other women. My birthing experience only furthered my love of the sisterhood, as I labored in bed with several women holding my hand, brushing my hair off my sweaty face, and massaging my feet. And then, in navigating the challenging waters of motherhood, I found my sanity in groups of mothers who allowed me to be a mess… admit my struggles….to be real, all while encouraging and supporting me. Yes, this sisterhood is pretty great, I have found.

em and mama 12 mo

So, why are there so many sisters still out there trying to knock other sisters down? Other mothers. This is a oft discussed topic, but for as many wisely written articles I have read, there are just as many moments that still leave me feeling baffled by this phenomenon.

Why can’t it be as simple as: motherhood is difficult. Period. The end. Because, it is difficult….for us all.

We all have the right to chose our own approach to motherhood, and in so doing, take on a unique set of challenges and benefits that other options might not carry. And thank god. Because, some of us would fully lose our minds staying home, and thus need a separate (non-mama) identity to visit every day. While others would fail in the workplace because we’d be so consumed and distracted by our faraway babies. Etc. Etc. Etc. There are about as many reasons for and against staying home as there are mothers out there. So, why can’t we respect each other’s choices?

Furthermore, how can we speak to the experience of other mothers who are living opposite lives? How can we be so quick to invalidate one another?

And that’s just it. My experience felt invalidated and misunderstood by a someecards poster that I only assume was written by a mother living an opposite life from mine. It felt so unnecessary. Where’s the sisterhood in that? At the end of the day (however you may have spent that day), we are all still mothers and women. Which brings me to my second issue…


Growing up, I was always the girl who needed everything to be equal. In high school, I was told I could not join the boy’s swim team, because I was a girl. But, I joined that team anyway (after much debate and insistence). I rarely saw the divide between genders. And while I often attributed my army of male friends, desire to someday become a lawyer, or belief that I could do anything I wanted to do in life to my father raising me in a very gender neutral manner, my father insists that I was born with a strong feminist edge. Either way, I saw things going a certain way when I looked to the future.

There were several enormous life events that occurred during my formative years that led to some drastic changes in my way of life (i.e. leaving behind my male friendships, discovering and embracing my much softer, artistic side, etc), but for the sake of brevity, I will skip to the part where I became a mother…a stay-at-home mother.

em and mama 12mo2

I certainly wasn’t one of those girls who always dreamt of having children and staying home to raise them, but when the time came, that was the decision that felt natural. And I felt so good about that decision, because it was right for me, and my family. But, as psyched as I was about my new role, I was surprised to find that I was judged at times, misunderstood often, and invalidated by my own kind (other mothers).

So, I wonder, at what point did we hurl past a more accepting reality for women? Why must we work outside the home to assert our woman power? Why must we renounce our roles as mothers to be seen as strong, intelligent, impressive women? Why does mothering the children we carried and birthed have to be a stand against feminism? Are our only choices the 1950’s or super feminism?


Perhaps a great portion of these debates is internal. Perhaps the trivial internet poster I saw doesn’t speak to a general consensus on stay-at-home moms living easy, less important lives. But, I know I can’t be the only mother out there struggling with her identity. Becoming a mother saddles every woman with a new set of challenges to work through. We must find a way to be this while being that, make sacrifices that we sometimes second guess, and make decisions in a sea of unsolicited opinions. So, wouldn’t it be nice if we could at least have another sister’s back? I think so.

em and mama 12mo3


Sometimes I feel like I’m living a secret life, which is ironic given I write a tell-all blog. But, I don’t talk about that in my real life. I don’t explain to people that I spend most of my free moments writing, brainstorming, researching, or learning how to build a website. I don’t tell anyone how passionate I am about this blog….how alive and fulfilled I feel every time I hit publish….the big dreams I have inside me. I don’t admit that I have a plan, a path that I am already walking, a life I have envisioned that I completely believe will come to me.

I’m just a stay-at-home mom, right? There are plenty of people who may think so, but I’m not. Not in my mind. Yet, I don’t step in defensively when the subject comes up.

Because, my dreams are too important and in pursuing them, I am at times, too fragile. I guess I’ve been protecting those dreams by keeping quiet in real life and then pretending like what I’m doing is not a big deal in my online life. But, the truth is, this is a big deal (to me). This blog is my passion, my therapy, my sustenance….the beginnings of a career. I started this blog not knowing where it would take me, but believing very deeply that if I just kept writing I would be led.

But, here’s the thing. While I am very good at taking risks and walking unconventional paths, I am not very good at being an amateur. I set such high standards for myself that I become frustrated and give up too quickly. Yes, I am an expert in the field of self-defeating practices—I believe I am capable of doing something, but I expect it to happen overnight. I feel so uncomfortable and embarrassed by the growing pains phase that I try to somehow sidestep it. And even after racking up a pile of achievements, promotions, and/or compliments, I doubt myself and BOLT. Over and over, I have done this in my life.

Yet, I have continued to write this blog. This is the one thing I haven’t given up on…and that has to mean something. That simple realization hit me last night and renewed my faith in this path. Because, that is what this blog is: a testament to my faith in this path I am being led down. And by continuing to write through my many identity crisis’, periods of self-doubt, and the periodic urge to give up and forget the whole thing, I have learned not only how to overcome those obstacles, but how to overcome myself.

So, while the world may still see me as a stay-at-home mom, I know the truth. I know that I was back to writing several hours every day only four days after giving birth. I know that through all of my sleep-deprivation and the overwhelming responsibility of raising a baby with little to no help the past year, I have still managed to keep this thing going. I know that I feel more successful now, writing a blog in my sweatpants while my baby sleeps on me, than I did when I commuted on trains and ferries with a business card in the pocket of my Armani blazer. It’s like I read in the very book that inspired me to start living the life I am living now (This time I dance!): “Success is as much a singular affair as falling in love. That’s why you can’t tell by looking at how well someone’s done exactly how well he or she has done. Only the soul knows. Only the soul glows.”

I may not have reached “professional” writer status yet. But, my soul glows.