Mom Feature Monday: Dara Whitaker

Please tell us a little about yourself and family.

My husband Jimmy and I live in the Minneapolis area with our 16 month old daughter, Winnie and our Australian Shepherd, River. We’re excited to welcome our second daughter in just a few weeks as I am currently 36 weeks pregnant!

Please tell us about The Sleep Sessions and what inspired you to create it?

I became a mom for the first time in May of 2019. Even though I took all of the birth & breastfeeding classes and read all of the baby books, I still found myself completely lost and unprepared in my new role. After a series of feeding issues and sleep challenges, I began to feel more isolated and alone than ever. This led me to join Facebook groups and in-person mom groups. Through my conversations, I learned that we were all going through similar experiences but all thought we were the only ones. I started The Sleep Sessions podcast & early motherhood community to give new moms a wider platform to share their experiences and support each other through all of the changes and decisions that happen in the first year postpartum.  

Can you explain what the 4th trimester is? what are common misconceptions women (and men) have on the postpartum journey? 

The fourth trimester is the 12-week period after giving birth. It can be an especially vulnerable time for moms as the focus tends to shift 100%  from prenatal care to baby care, leading many to brush their own physical and mental recoveries aside in order to tend to their newborn. A major misconception that continues to come up in my conversations with moms is that breastfeeding is easy & comes naturally for everyone. From my own firsthand experience, I’ve learned that this is not the case and that breastfeeding can take lots of hard work and patience.

What has been the most rewarding part of The Sleep Sessions?

I absolutely love the supportive and open environment that has been created through this community. I’m amazed every day by the way moms can band together and lift each other up. Before starting this platform, I was very nervous that I would be exposing myself and my episode guests to judgement and negativity but it could not be more of the opposite.

There are many challenges moms face postpartum (sleep, breastfeeding, body issues, etc.), what would you say has been your biggest struggle those first few months that you're extremely proud you've overcome?

I definitely struggled with anxiety for a long time after my daughter was born – anxiety around sleep, feeding, schedules, general safety, development, things like that. Postpartum hormones are NO JOKE! Over the last few months I’ve really learned to relax into my role as a mom and realize that it’s not worth my energy to worry about things that are outside of my control. I’m in a much better headspace now and hope that I’m able to tap into this mindset once the new baby arrives! Hopefully I’ll be able to realize that everything is a season and it eventually passes.

You are currently pregnant with your second child, how has this pregnancy been different than your first, and what have you applied from the lessons you've learned and/or done differently to prepare for this second child?

For starters, I didn’t know I was pregnant this time until I was 15 weeks along! I didn’t get my period for months after having Winnie so it never even crossed my mind that pregnancy was a possibility. It was quite a shock when I went in for my dating ultrasound and they told me I was well into my second trimester! This was a stark contrast to my previous experience as I experienced two miscarriages and had to go on a hormone regimen prior to our first daughter.

We also decided to find out gender this time which was different, as we didn’t know Winnie was a girl until she was born! In general I’ve been a lot more relaxed going into this birth and postpartum experience – partly because I don’t have the luxury of time to think about things with a toddler running around, but also because I have a general idea of what to expect. One major thing we’ve had to think about is childcare for Winnie and how we will balance having two under two.

How has pregnancy been during COVID? any pros or just cons?

Is it OK for me to say that I haven’t experienced many cons besides my husband not being able to come to doctor’s visits with me? I should also mention that not being able to socialize as much has been hard, but honestly I’ve been so tired that I don’t want to go out much anyway! I’ve been trying to take the glass half full approach to all of this. This time has really helped us to slow down and enjoy these moments with Winnie before the new baby comes. We’ve been lucky to spend a lot of time outdoors with each other this summer.

As an almost second time mama, what has been your absolute must have baby product? (sleep, play or eat)

Oh good question! I’m not a gadgety kind of gal and like to keep things pretty simple. I’d have to say the one baby product I can’t live without is a white noise machine. We have the Homedics Soundspa White Noise Sound Machine and it works wonders for Winnie’s sleep (and helps to drown out the sound of River’s bark during nap time!).

Where can we find you