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The challenge of parenthood is starting to get bigger than me…

Phoenix Rising

On September 10th, 2015, I gave birth to my incredible baby girl, Phoenix Elle Campbell. The following is her birth story. 


So, on Wednesday, September 9th, we went in for a BPP, intending to leave quickly and go get lunch. The sono tech told us that baby’s fluid was looking a bit low and went to speak to the doctor on call at the time. He came in a few minutes later and sent us straight to L&D, saying that the fluid was dramatically low and that our doctor would meet us after we’d been admitted.
They placed cervidil at about 5:30pm and we settled in for the night. At 5:30am, I had only progressed to 2cm. I requested another dose of cervidil instead of pitocin, which my doctor approved. By 9:00am, mild contractions had started. By 5:00pm, they were strong enough to require a lot of work. I asked them to come check me so they could remove the cervidil, and I was 4cm, 70% effaced, and “contracting nicely” on my own without the need for pitocin.
The trouble was, I thought I was much further along, and I was feeling awful and starting to get discouraged. I started asking my husband to request IV pain meds. He told me it wasn’t in the plan, so no. Within an hour, I was starting to show other signs of transition—shaking, vomiting, contractions that were double-peaking and continuing seemingly without end—and then my water started to leak out. I asked the doctors to come check again, and after all that, I was only 5-6cm. I started crying and asked my doctor about the IV meds. He said it would only knock me out, it wouldn’t dull the pain any, and it would reach the baby. So I declined.
After that I got into a zone. I paced the room, got on hands and knees, squatted, and hung onto my husband through all the contractions. Around 8:45, I was squatting and kept complaining that I felt intense pressure on my bowels. Damany came over, glanced between my legs, and said in a shaky, excited voice, “Babe, don’t push and get on the bed.”
Within minutes doctors and nurses had materialized from EVERYWHERE and were clearing my bedside table, turning on the exam lights, prepping the newborn area. I started to relax as I realized we were nearing the end, and that the contractions had spaced out somewhat. They got me into position on the bed and coached me through the pushes. I could see baby’s head in the mirror, and I wanted to push her out all in one go, but I kept hearing “push until the point of comfort” in the back of my head.
There was a burning feeling, and I tried to keep going through it. They told me one more would get her out. I pushed, the burning intensified beyond belief for just a second, and then the head was out. I could still feel her feet kicking. Two more pushes and they handed me my beautiful, beautiful daughter. She just looked at me as they patted her on the back, trying to get her to cry, and we just stared at each other. I had completely forgotten about everything and everyone else in the room. She cried softly, and a nurse helped bring her to my chest, where she latched right away.
We ended up needing a little bit of pitocin to help expel the clots from my uterus and help it tighten, so I talked them into half the normal “smallest dose” and it did the trick. They gave me two whole hours with my little girl before doing any of the newborn procedures, and she was bright and alert and hungry. My doctor, who was in a C-section at the time and couldn’t deliver for me, came in and looked at me with narrowed eyes. “I was supposed to be here,” he said dramatically. “The whole floor is talking about you. They’ve never seen someone go from 4cm-10cm so fast. You did it in four hours. And you did it on your own. They keep talking about how controlled your pushes were. Everyone’s telling me I missed a great delivery. One of the best we’ve ever had here.”

I wrote this in the comments on the blog, but my husband and I are committed to raising children that welcome feedback and don’t internalize it. Today’s generations have no sense of self and the criticism of others defines their self-esteem.

So, I only have time for a short post today, but I wanted to dedicate it to one of the products that has made the biggest difference in these first few weeks: Jane Carter’s Incredible Curls.

Naturally, my priority when going natural (in January!) was to find something that would keep my curls intact for more than one day. This thick, sweet smelling, vegan product is a leave-in conditioner designed to be used on “very wet hair,” and it does the trick fabulously. On wash days, which are every 5 days or so (7-10 when I wore my hair straight) I thoroughly detangle my hair with a paddle brush. After detangling, I squirt Incredible Curls liberally onto my hands and finger comb the product through my hair so it is evenly coated. The hair takes a little longer to dry, which is in my opinion what you want to prevent frizzing. But this product (and the pineappling technique) are the only reasons I can go four to five days without having to reset the curls.

For moisture, I was told to use the complimentary spray bottle of leave in conditioner, which I don’t love as much. I’ve been spraying it on my hair between washes, and it does help a little, but it’s no where near as effective as the Incredible Curls. To be fair, my hair is VERY dry.

Any recommendations out there for a moisturizer–something that can put up with 3-day-old curls? And what do you love to use on your hair post-wash?

Your Pit Bull

I was in tears reading this.
#oneworld #peace #breed #race

Dear River,

I want to tell you a story about your dog, Zoe. We found her cowering at the pound. She wasn’t barking like the other dogs. She was simply laying there, looking up at us. The tag said, “lab mix” and she was slated to be killed in a week. We fell for it, thinking we were buying a lab.

She is not a lab. She is a pit bull.


As Zoe grew, we came to realize the pound had lied. I was scared. I felt irresponsible for letting this type of dog into my home. All of the stereotypes, preconceptions and worries filled my mind. Should I take her back? What would people think of us?

She is the definition of disenfranchised. When first time guests visit we lock her in her cage, not because she is dangerous, but because of unspoken fears. She receives wary glances from strangers as…

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A list of incredible and powerful affirmations that promote nurturing oneself, living life in the present, and letting go of guilt.


I became certified as a yoga instructor last year, and the advice that I was given when I completed my program was to take classes every day. My intentions were good, but this seemed like a big challenge for me. Money was tight, and there was really no dedicated yoga space in Staten Island for me to participate in. So I got my part-time position teaching at Dolphins, and decided that eventually, when things got better, I would get a studio membership.

I forgot the biggest truth in life—that if something is a priority, you will make the space, time and money to make it happen. What you focus on is truly what occurs in your life. In December, I decided that I could benefit from continued mentorship and being around the community of yoga practitioners, and I signed up for a free week at YogaWorks.

By the end of the first class, I signed up for a recurring, auto-pay membership at a price I knew I couldn’t really afford. The reason for that? I listened to my gut. I had a reaction to being in that class, a sense of overwhelming peace and calm, that I knew that I wasn’t getting and could scarcely hope to get anywhere else. I knew that if I wanted to be serious about my commitment to invest in myself, it was the right move to make.

As I’ve continued to take classes at YogaWorks, I have realized several important benefits, particularly for yoga teachers, of studio membership:

1. It makes you a better teacher: This sounds like yoga jargon, but it is so true. I steal classes from YogaWorks teachers ALL THE TIME. Literally. I go take a class and rip off every sequence, every explanation, and every joke that I like. As a result, my classes are always changing, being refined and improved, through my membership at my studio.

2. You maintain your own yoga practice: Let’s be real. As a teacher, you don’t actually practice asana throughout the entire class, nor should you. But you should practice at some point during the week. Having a studio membership encourages you to go, if even just to justify the expense.

3. You have a community: Networking and support are vital in any business. Through meeting teachers and practitioners at YogaWorks, I get to hear about upcoming trainings, new jobs, workshops and specials.

4. You set a good example: Do you know how many times a week my friends, family, and students hear me talk about “going to yoga class?” Like, every day. Ask them. They’re so sick of it. But my consistency shows that this is something that matters to me and something that I am committed to—and who wants to take class with someone who doesn’t practice what they preach?

These are just a few examples, but they’re huge benefits that I’ve received in my three months at YogaWorks. I see myself as a developing professional, because I invest in myself as one. No matter what business you’re in, never let yourself get away from the fire. Your job is to get better and better every day.

A New Slam Shakes Harlem


No, not the revenge of the God-awful Harlem Shake.

On February 9th, my husband and I were invited to attend a poetry slam being hosted at Lenox Coffee, in Harlem. I was a bit nervous, at first, since poetry slams conjured up images in my mind of androgynous, black-clad poets, all sporting berets and French cigarettes, muttering a few cryptic lines before spurning our finger snaps and sauntering off-stage.

Or something like that.

Lenox Coffee, however, from its decor to its artists, was anything but pretentious. In fact, it was obvious when I stepped through the door that for many people, this was a home away from home. The producer of the event, Kianna, was playing barista as well, and offered to make me a hot chocolate that would blow my mind (it did). I saw people of all ages, races, and backgrounds sipping their reds and blacks, chattering happily as they waited for the show to start.

The first artist wasn’t the emaciated, black-dressed effete I had expected, but a normal person. Imagine that. Rocking the New York staple ski cap (you know we all have one), he delivered an insightful message about what it was like to be of mixed race in America.

It was not hard to fall in love with the evening’s lineup. Varying in intensity, race, age, gender and notoriety, everyone brought a story to life for a completely enthralled audience. We were exposed to the meaning and misperception of race and schooled by a “white boy” who was an extremely clever lyricist. We were taught the meaning of love by a young schoolteacher and skied the speedy slope of the alliterative and alphabetical avalanche of words worked by a cutie called Cupcake. And a young woman, who felt moved to sing a beautiful original song, confessed later to the room that she was not a singer. (We didn’t believe her).

I felt like I was witness to history in the making— one of those places that we’d say later, “Oh, every great poet got their start at Lenox.”

Perhaps my favorite thing about the evening was that it proved every stereotype—especially mine about pretentious poetry slams—completely wrong. The division between the audience, the artists and the staff were completely blurred. Several people, including the other barista on staff, were moved to write and perform spontaneous works, and the sign-up list stayed open all night. We all even got a chance to join in by singing Happy Birthday to our photographer, Damany Campbell.

Lenox Coffee hosts this unbelievable event on the first Sunday of every month, at 60 West 129th Street in Harlem. Details about slams, other events and mind-blowing hot chocolate (so not kidding about that, awesome) can be found here.

One last word of advice—get there early. It’s standing room only by the time they get started, and the mix of Harlem’s freshest talent will definitely knock you off your feet.

22 9 3 29 28


Photos courtesy of Kanji Photography.

So, About Last Week(s)

Sorry for the last two weeks— things have been crazy in the Cooks-Campbell household lately. The weekend of January 31st, I attended the Landmark Advanced Course in Manhattan, while my husband helped his father out at the annual art show at the Riverside Church. My grandmother went into the hospital— thankfully, she’s okay now.

Then the following week, my husband turned 29. We booked a suite at the Dream Hotel in Midtown and threw a pajama party. Unfortunately, by the time we came home the next day, we both had the flu. We’ve been in bed for days… And not the fun, newlywed, pre-Valentines day way either. 😦

More to come soon about the last two weeks…and my new Harlem hotspot. 🙂

Frustration Sublimation

Photo courtesy of

Today was possibly one of the more frustrating days that I’ve experienced in recent history. To make a rather long story pretty short, what I thought would be a ten-minute errand ended up being something I had to do quite a bit of running around for… and I still didn’t get it done.

But in the spirit of last week’s post, once my frustration started mounting to excessive levels, I actually stopped what I was doing, turned off my phone, and popped into a restorative yoga class. And that class really reinforced how important it is to rest the body adequately and well. We took only four poses, and I was shocked (as I always am) at how difficult it is to just relax. It’s so important to take time to consciously clear the mind and decompress the body.

One of my new goals, therefore, is to try to make at least two restorative classes a month. I got my yoga studio membership in order to stay connected to the community, keep myself active, and become a better teacher. But I’m growing to believe that part of that is staying connected to that vast sky mind that allows me to get out of the minutiae of life. Like that stupid errand today.

By the way, this week on the list of nice things I did for myself:

– Got a mani/pedi
– Went to restorative yoga
– Slept in on Friday
– Booked a massage for myself 🙂

And I actually do feel better equipped to choose–and change–my circumstances.

How do you handle frustration?