It Runs in the Family: And It Needs to Stop!

That’s my mom with me on the left and that’s me and P on the right!

It is with such a full heart that I introduce my final Blog Babysitter to you. (I’m back from maternity leave next week, 12/16, with a new post!) It felt apropos to have my mom, Christiane Northrup, M.D., bring home the series of amazing women taking care of my online space while I’ve been taking care of my little baby peanut at home.

My mom is my original role model, not only for what it looks like to be a powerful woman in the world, but also for what it looks like to be a mother. I moved back to Maine three years ago intuitively knowing that when I became a mother I would want my own mother nearby. I couldn’t have been more spot on with that feeling.

As a new mother, having my mother 10 minutes down the road or a phone call away has been the biggest gift. I’ve sobbed in her arms just as Penelope sobs in my arms. We’ve giggled and cooed as we’ve changed Little P’s diaper together. I’ve texted her all kinds of questions and musings. And we’ve worked on updating our maternal legacy together.

Today my mom is sharing something that has run in our family for a good long time. As she tells the story of supporting me through one of the bumpier times I’ve had as a new mother, she reveals why it’s time for this particular part of our legacy to come to a close.

Since we all have parts of our lineage that we’d prefer not to pass along to the next generation, I know you’ll find her wisdom helpful to ease your own path.

And now, introducing my amazing mama!

A new baby illuminates legacies, beliefs, and behaviors that often need updating.  As the proud grandmother of little Penelope, my first grandbaby, I’m thrilled to provide the final entry in Kate’s Baby Sitter’s Blog series. Here’s what I want all of you to know: Beliefs and behaviors run in families. And they are more powerful than genes. {TWEET IT}

In fact, it is your beliefs and behaviors that actually program how your genes get expressed.

When Kate came down with a fever, chills and slight tenderness in her right breast a couple weeks ago, I knew exactly what the problem was: mastitis, an infection in the breast.  I also knew exactly what to do. Something that I hadn’t done myself years earlier when I was a new mother with mastitis. Rest and receive.    

To heal her breast infection, Kate needed to get into bed, nurse the baby as much as possible, drink lots of liquids, and take Echinacea. Kate was better within a couple days, but not before she realized — in a session with Tami Lynn Kent —that baby Penelope also wanted her to slow down.  Kate was feeling the itch to start working again—albeit from home.

Breast feeding is the perfect metaphor for breast health—it works well only when you are balancing giving and receiving in your life. Kate had been doing too much too soon, and her body, through her right side—the masculine, action-oriented side–was letting her know that she needed more down time.  But, Kate was repeating a legacy she had learned, quite literally, at my breast.

When Kate was a newborn—in fact, on the very first day of her life—I had to give her a bottle of formula! I didn’t have enough milk. With grief and shock, I realized  that the entire duct structure of my breast had been destroyed by my own bout with mastitis and development of a large breast abscess 3 years earlier that required surgery.  (I was nursing my first baby at the time, and went on to nurse her on one side only for 18 months.) I figured that everything would heal for the next baby. Boy, was I wrong!

When I developed mastitis, I had no support for working fewer hours, and even less support for breast feeding.  As a newly-minted doctor whose training involved being up all night every 3rd night and 3rd weekend for 4 years, I was trained in the art of “toughing it out.”  This was great for emergency surgery, but lousy for mothering. I felt guilty leaving my babies and going back to work. Kate used to miss me so much when I was away that it was best if I didn’t talk to her on the phone or she would dissolve in a puddle of tears.

So it’s no surprise that right in the midst of her mastitis, feverish and sore, Kate connected with the grief and panic she had felt so often when I had left her to go back to work.  She wept. I wept. Our family legacy of “toughing it out” at the expense of our health and happiness shifted for the better.

It’s little wonder that Kate’s goal in life since she was a teenager has been to become financially free so that she could stay home with her children and husband, and not pass onto her children the separation and grief she had felt when I left her so much.

Thank you little Penelope for helping your Mom and me heal our legacies with joy and celebration!


Over to You:

Now it’s your turn. What family legacies have you uncovered and changed for the better?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness, which includes the unity of mind, body, emotions, and spirit. Internationally known for her empowering approach to women’s health and wellness, Dr. Northrup teaches women how to thrive at every stage of life.  Visit her website here.


  • The Black Sheep

    Thank you for sharing this story. It’s very powerful to hear about mothers and daughters working together to shift beliefs and behaviors. My mother had a very aloof mother growing up so when she raised my sisters and I, we were adored for. As an adult however, my mother has disagreed with my life choices and has chosen to give me the silent treatment yet still adore my sisters. From this experience, I vow to be open to my child (if and when I am able to have one..) and love them without conditions. Life is not about living vicariously through children, but to promote them as unique beings. Thank you for the inspiration – I need it as the holiday season is very tough… we have the choice to love and change ourselves for the better, no matter the “genes” we wear.

    • Kate Northrup

      Thank you so much for your comment. It’s quite profound how you’re turning your adversity into love for your child in the future!

      • The Black Sheep

        Many blessings to you, your mother, and little P :) Together your warm and loving wisdom help so many people! It’s truly an inspiration.

  • I found this blog entry absolutely beautiful on so many levels. The honesty. The truth. The love. What a fantastic journey this life can be. Thank you for sharing and writing.

  • Elizabeth Steber

    Dear Kate,
    As a mom of 14 yo triplets, your post has ignited some serious emotions for me, pain and relief. You are so wise to trust your guide and move back near your mom. Not because of who she is, “Dr Northrup,” but because of who she is, YOUR mom. Moms just have a knowing, a wisdom. They are a gift!
    My mom, passed 3 years ago. She was my role model. She was a mom to 9 kids. My biggest lesson I learned from my mom was that it takes more strength in asking and receiving help than it does to do it all yourself.
    She was a strong woman. (Her story is amazing and big.)
    She was a therapist.
    She taught everyone that they mattered. She taught them to ask for and receive help. Oddly, she couldn’t do that for herself.
    It wasn’t until she was dying from complications of cancer that she was open to asking and receiving help.
    I was just like her before her experience.
    I could never ask for help, not even with 3 babies.
    I was going to be strong, like my mom. She had 9 kids! I could certainly care for 3.
    Today, because of my mom, and me, my kids know the importance of being able to ask for and receive help.
    Please hold this for yourself. You matter!
    Teach this to your “Precious P,” she matters too!
    Enjoy the blessing of motherhood and the blessing of having your mom so close to you.
    Make it a great day????

    • Kate Northrup

      Oh Elizabeth thank you for sharing your story. It is so true that it takes more strength to ask for and receive help than it does to do it all yourself. So wise and I’ve found that to be true over and over in this motherhood journey. Your 3 are lucky to have you as their mama!

      • boy is that ever true. Holding it all together is a position of CONTROL– not real power. Asking for help makes us vulnerable. And human. I am so grateful for my precious Kate and Penelope for teaching this to me!! And also to my precious Annie who also participated in this awakening by breaking trail as my first born!!

        • Kate

          Thanks for your post ladies, as always, brilliant.
          Ah control. I struggle continually with this. Even though I’ve learned resolutely through losing my firstborn that there is absolutely none to be had. Life flows better for me when I just let go and do what I can. Doing it all is such an illusion, you never will because it’s never ending anyway!

  • Your peanut is so cute! And is spitting image of you. Your mom will now relive your childhood through her new grand baby :)

  • Such a beautiful piece and so true! Penelope looks so much like her mama as a babe. Adorable!

  • This is such a beautiful story. Having followed Dr. Northrup’s work for 20+ years, and had my life changed by it, and now loving Kate’s work and also being in the midst of healing patterns in my own family, I’m very moved by this account of healing, resolution, and the creation of new patterns.

  • I faithfully read Kate’s blog’s (and now her guest blogs) and rarely comment, but this post from Christiane touches me deeply. I was a childbirth educator in the days Kate and her sister were tiny babes and, in those days, there was little support for anything to do with parenting once a baby was born. Most of us as new mothers struggled in isolation, afraid to tell someone else we were struggling or hurting for fear others would think ill of us. I remember telling a close friend of mine, a nurse-colleague who had never had children, that I couldn’t even complete a thought before my infant daughter needed something more from me, and I simply didn’t know how to do it all. The response of my friend? She suggested I would benefit from seeing a psychiatrist. All I needed al that moment was someone to say, “There, there. It’s a lot, and you don’t have to be good at everything right away. You’ll learn your baby’s rhythms, and your baby will learn yours, and with practice, you’ll both get the hang of it.” Kudos to Chris for being such a Mom, to Kate for being vulnerable in her new role as Mom, and to Little P for her forebearance with it all. It’s not easy to become a mom, to meet all the needs of a little one, and we all need all the support we can get!

    • Kate Northrup

      Oh Meredith – thank you for your comment! It made me tear up. I can’t imagine not being able to be honest that this shit is hard! My heart goes out to the women who feel they can’t tell the truth about that and I hope to be part of changing that so we can all feel safe to vulnerably say what we’re experiencing.

  • Wonderful, wise words. I deeply thank you three :) for being a powerful mother-daughter-grandaughter example of bringing light to and changing these imprinted beliefs that are (sadly) sometimes easier left untouched! For me, the term “family legacies” and even the saying “it runs in the family” used to make me shudder with shame. But I am changing that. And as I rewrite and craft the new story of my life, I’m letting go of my negative family legacies of pain, fear, codependency, and victimization and focusing on the positive, creative, and loving strings that are woven into my past and threaded into my future. I realized it’s all a choice, and I get to be in the driver’s seat now. Buckle up! ;) With light & love, Rachel

  • Alexandra

    Probably THE Most IMPORTANT Blog YOU Will EVEr post, I Hope YOU CONTinue THIS theme of breaking the cycle. Beautifully done and continue sharing.

  • Love this story Kate! Thank you for this wonderful series and congratulations on how you have so marvellously managed your early time with Penelope.
    My ‘ah-ha’ moment around legacy came when I participated in your first Money Love course. In writing my own money love story I realised that financial scarcity was my emotional set point through generations on both sides of my family. It was doing that work that made me realise a very big part of my purpose as a mother to our three wonderful kids (14, 12 & 10) is to reset that emotional set point. I am super proud to say we are now into month 12 of 14 months travelling & living in Europe as a family very much inspired by your freedom tour! This has been our freedom tour and has taught us so much about is really important to us. I have learnt what freedom feels like and seek that every day. I am so grateful for my growing USANA business that has allowed us to do this. Residual income rocks and I can’t wait to get home and help other women find what juices them and encourage them to do more of it. Thank you Kate – you’re an inspiration! Hoping to bump into you again in SLC sometime ;-) xx

    • Kate Northrup

      Wow Lucille! I love that you’re on this family adventure! I dream of doing something like this with my kids in the future too!

  • This was such a beautiful post. I just adore the three of you Northrup “girls”. Thank you for sharing. It was so profound to remember that beliefs and behaviors are generational. There is SO much healing to be done in my extended family… I can see the harmful belief patterns being passed on into each generation. But I can also see the good ones too. Thank you Kate, Christiane and Baby P. xo

  • My mother was an at home mom until I was 12.

    Up until then I knew nothing about the cost of shoes, food, a toy. If I wanted a a toy for my Birthday or Christmas or Easter I wrote it down and give it to her.

    My mother is an immigrant and although at that time she hardly spoke English is was and still is the most resourceful SOB on planet Earth (at least to me)
    While my father ran the record shop her family left her she raised her 6 children. My parents got a divorce when I was about 13 our whole world changed from weekly trips to Lincoln Center to no cable and a lot of stress.

    I wish my mother would have spoke to us even at a young age about money and how we should value it. I struggled all through college and even my 20’s because I was always in debt, fearing that the money would eventually leave and I would not get to enjoy it.

    I’m in my late 30’s now and have a different view on money and treat it with respect. I value the sacrifices my mother made for us.

    • Kate Northrup

      I so wish we got better money education as children too! That’s one of the things I’m hoping to give Penelope, as well.

  • Dear Kate and Christine, thank you for your blog. I am most grateful to have access to your current writings. I struggle every day with the belief that without a job I am nothing, a job I have never been able to get or attract. I’ve been stringing along living off inheiritance money which is going to run out and this morning I woke up feeling it. Since Kate began sending out her stuff about financial feng shui,I’ve had the goal to clear out the clutter from my house and use her tips for getting started on creating a life.I don’t know how long that’s been, but the inner resistance has been winning.Thank you both for your honesty and humility in sharing your stories.

  • This post moved me to tears and I know they are just the tip of the iceberg. I admire you and your mother for being vulnerable and transparent so your readers can find themselves in your individual and collective story. I had an incredibly heartbreaking Thanksgiving with both my mother and sister and I am still trying to process how I feel about all of it. It is an ongoing story of betrayal so this did not come out of the blue. I have set healthy boundaries for myself but I feel immense sadness and loneliness at what will likely be a permanent shift in how I can relate to my family. No matter how much emotional pain I have suffered with my mother I still feel love for her and long for that safety that I imagine is possible. The best healing comes when both people are willing to really look at themselves and without defense come to the table with an open heart. That is not always possible so we must also shine the light for those who have to do this healing work on our own. Their are some relationships that will only be healed inside our own hearts. It is difficult and certainly not ideal but it can be done. Thank you for sharing your heart and this very tender part of your story with each other. xo

    • HI Kimberly–My mother legacy has been a life long story of healing. And there is a lot that I did NOT pass down to my daughters. Please always remember that you never have to participate in self-sacrifice at any time just to “earn” the love of your mother– or daughter for that matter. Bless you for being vulnerable enough to share what is painful.

  • Amy

    Wow!! Thank you both for having the courage to share such a raw and powerful story.

  • Lu

    This is fabulous
    What resonated first was “A new baby illuminates legacies, beliefs, and behaviors…”I realized once that marriage vows do also.
    I have a niece who had to experience 3month premature trauma drama because my sibling refused to rest when told she needed to. Tori is a rocking healthy 20 something now. :} I saw a distress pattern she had as a toddler every time being put in the rear car seat and somehow connected dots to why. I told her when she was a little older what happened and she let out a healing howl of release.
    Thank you, I act tough but Im puddle now. Hugs
    Reflexology for everyone!

  • Susan

    Ignoring abnormal behavior runs in my family.
    I don’t know the clinical term for my father’s abnormal behavior, but I now identify it and acknowledge it to my family: controlling issues, OCD, denial.
    -A backseat driver is a controller.
    -Waiting several seconds in the short driveway to make sure the garage door automatically closes is a compulsion.
    -He’s 84 and failed his cognitive driving test since falling and breaking a leg and recovering. He declared the test was flawed. Denial

    We just always said he was weird. Then I heard the word dementia. Then I thought eccentric. All of these apply.
    No wonder mom’s hair turned white early on. She’s lived with a crazy man all her life.

  • Loranna Jane McDonnell

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    Our family legacy that I’m changing for my children is the unnecessary holiday guilt! I believe who shows up is meant to be there at that moment and when the others can they will.

    As a young parent, my holidays were split between my parents and the in-laws with three little ones too tired to keep up.

    Now that my three are grown young adults, I make sure they know how much they are loved and when they can make it over to see me is perfect. No more split holidays or guilt for not being with me.

    Holidays are supposed to be about counting your blessings and being thankful. I know that by making this swift my child will be better off and enjoy the holidays that much more.

    Good luck with Baby P! She’s precious.

  • Jemima

    I love your open, honest relationship with your Mama. True Mother/Daughter Wisdom in action.

  • Melissa Smith

    What a touching post! 21 years ago, I lived in Maine. I had recently had a baby girl and developed a severe breast infection when she was 2 wks old. I spoke with my trio of midwives (she was loved into the world at home :) and they gave me wonderful suggestions so I could continue to nurse my daughter. My regular primary care dr. was out on medical leave and the doctor in his place gave me some very very bad advice to “treat” my infection. In desperation though, I followed what he said to the “T” and as a result nearly died. A friend recommended seeing your mom at her office in Yarmouth. I called the office and begged them to get me in. They very quickly did and I met your mother. She is an amazing woman! She literally saved my life as I could feel my life force draining out of me. She recommended a course of treatment and encouraged me to continue nursing my daughter without let-up. In time, I recovered and I’m forever grateful. I too was one of those mom’s trying to do way to much, way too soon. Valuable lesson learned from this amazing woman. Thank you!! And congratulations on your baby….motherhood is such a blessing!!

  • What a fantastic article. I too had mastitis (left side) and it was so painful. I too was trying to do too much. I love the family legacy and healing here. Thank you for sharing.

  • Karolina

    I read your story with great interest. Quite an eye opener for me. I never really saw it that way, but you’re so right. When I had my firstborn 14 years ago I had lots of breast infections from the get go. I felt I was the queen of mastitis. The fever always came on very quickly, especially when someone visited to see the baby. I felt quite alone with this first baby, overwhelmed to say the least, my family thousands of miles from California, in Europe, my husband’s on the east coast. So I felt I just had to get through. The fever and the pain were hard on me, and with that, a sweaty baby at my breast with a heat rash from my high fever. I became an expert on warm compresses, expressing breast milk at the onset of the first symptoms, and resting. I wished so much that someone could have come and helped me out. Family, a good old friend. It was quite a desperate time for me (and my baby). On a long flight to Europe I started to get it again, I felt the fever going up very quickly. I still had 14 hours of flight ahead of me. And I did something that, looking back, empowered me. I took half a bottle of baby Tylenol, because I only thought about baby with problems, never about me with problems when packing for a trip. I expressed milk as much as I could bear. I asked the flight attendant for a hot towel. Thankfully she knew about breast infections and took care of me until I completely recovered. I will always be grateful for her and for me asking her. It was a game changer. I knew how to take care of myself and more importantly, I asked a stranger for help and I got it. That felt wonderful.

  • OH Melissa– thank you SO MUCH for this reflection from my past . WOW!!!

  • Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This all makes so much sense. I had mastitis with my babe and my mom had mastitis with me. I knew that this was no accident and it is so nice to hear your story (from a real doctor!!) confirm what my cells already knew, we carry this stuff from our babyhood, but we can heal from it and end the unhealthy lineage.

    That ‘get tough and carry on’ stuff runs deep in our culture. Without a web of support, of kind-hearted women and men, new mothers could believe that they are somehow less if they can’t do more.

    Having a baby is sacred work. It is holy. That holiness doesn’t stop once the baby is born – it is only beginning.

    I love the shift in the culture that I feel when I read this article! Thank you so much for bringing a real and honest voice to this changing world!

  • So beautifully said & love the parallel pictures! I appreciate you both for sharing your ongoing stories of healing––it reminds us of the potential in being with what is and working with the energy of new patterns. Healing stories speak to that deeper place in us. Though we are never stuck, it’s wonderful to be reminded of this & a blessing for me to support.

  • Noelle

    Dear Kate,
    Congratulations on the birth of your daughter! She is beautiful and a lucky girl to be surrounded by and raised by aware and loving women. I saw this posted in my feed and it brought back memories of the birth of my first baby and my mother’s unavailability then, and through all of the births of my children. Don’t mind if I snag some of your mom’s mothering vibes! There are days when I’ve needed and wanted a mother, and have had to turn to those I’ll never know, like your mom, through videos, podcasts, interviews, that are helping me rebuild positive and healthy legacies. I really enjoyed reading this post. It was beautiful. xx

  • Kelli Kessler May

    Thank you for writing this blogpost together at such a pinnacle time in your linage. I too am working on healing the mother daughter line in my family. I notice that with my daughter I sometimes get caught up in this push/pull quality around being who she is and I realize I do this within myself. I just did a journey exploring my experience in utero and my birth and worked with having compassion for myself for what I experienced in there and compassion for what my mom had the capacity to do and feel. I experienced how different she and I truly are which helped me to connect to how different my daughter and I truly are. As beings we come through our mother but we are not of our mother and we can build a spiritual bridge connecting us so deeply from our true nature without being codependent and entangled emotionally. We can practice self love and somehow by practice deep seated compassion for our mothers we can have deep seated compassion for our inner child as well as our own child. Peace and love!!

  • Tracy Galloway

    Alcoholism…that is the family legacy that we have dealt with for the past few years…A little history…about six years ago…our precious daughter was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis Type 2. To say it was a blow would be an understatement. She was 16 and blossoming into a beautiful young lady. (NF2 causes tumors to grow on the nerves throughout the body and as they grow they create a lot of damage and destroy function. Lots of people with NF2 go deaf, some blind, lose swallowing function, the ability to walk, etc., etc.)…so after reading about that you can imagine how my husband and I might have reacted. Well…we cried… a lot…and we didn’t want to cry around our daughter, so I went to the doctor and asked for some help. He immediately gave me a low dose antidepressant, for both of us, and some Ativan for anxiety. Well…I didn’t take much because I knew I was going to have to feel the pain to get past it…and I dove into research, advocating, etc., etc. My husband on the other hand was really struggling…he started having trouble sleeping so he would have a glass of wine at night… turned into two, two into 3 and before you knew it, BAM…he had a problem. Which he admitted to..thank God!…so…I decided not to shelter this from the kids…I was not going to lie about it or try and cover it up. His grandmother had been an alcoholic and he had other family members who struggled with the disease. My own family has had a history (as I am sure all families have)…so I knew we could always be susceptible…it was just so shocking how quickly it occurred. So..that is one legacy I was going to bring out into the open and try and educate the family and the extended family…no more white elephant in the room!!!!! Since that time, my husband has been to two rehabs…I know it will be a daily struggle…but we are very honest and open about it with the family. I don’t feel any shame about it…it is what it is…I ate M&Ms when I stressed over my daughters surgeries, chemotherapies..he drank. My vice while not good just didn’t cognitively impair me. My family has been through family program (even the extended family- all grandparents- brothers and sisters)…I am very proud of how we have dealt with this legacy. We are not in denial. Wishing you and your daughter and granddaughter all the very best. Enjoy life and do the things you enjoy.

  • Wow! This post really hit home with me. I had mastitis with both my babes and am certain it was from feeling a lack of support or my inability at the time to receive. I absolutely love how you have healed this together and that you are now there for Kate when she needs you he most. Thank you for a beautiful message! xo

  • <3 The question "what legacy runs from your grandmother to your mum and then to you?" was given to me last winter, and has stuck to my mind ever since. One of the most profound questions. Remembering what might has been forgotten. Looking for perspectives and views that might have never been reviewed before. Seeing the path. The legacy. And from there; making choices for what i choose to change towards myself and my children. And why <3

    Love to both of you<3

  • Heidi Johnson

    You two.. That was beautiful!!
    Your words brought tears to my eyes.
    I have been living this blissful life as a Nana for the last year, She and I are best friends.
    My sweet, beautiful, nature bug Laylah has brought the magic back into my life, it’s exciting! :)
    I used this same approach with her mother and my other two daughters, the always open and available let’s be good to one another. <3
    So up until today I hadn't realized it was a conditioning I had chosen in regard to my mother's disconnectedness, wow!
    Please don't get me wrong she is a wonderful mother. She is just one who needs her alone time to recharge and so am I, I just didn't allow it to spill over into my role as mother and grandmother, wow again! So I am going to let that go. Thank you and bless you!

  • Maggie

    What a great read! My childhood was shattered by abuse and alcoholism and I protected my 2 daughters with a fierceness that was not always logical. Now a grand-mum of 2 I see my daughter NOT repeating the pattern of unhealthy emotional habits and raising my grandson and grand daughter in a way that I deeply admire. And I love it when she calls me for advice and thankful she is re routing our family legacy.

    Thanks for this post!

  • Laurie Dwyer

    Thank you for this article. It’s so important to have the support of people who have gone before you–hopefully our mothers–who can validate that it is hard. My second child had colic and I was unable to nurse him, I think because I was stressed. I found out my own mother had breast cancer six days after he was born and also that my grandmother was dying. I felt I had no support at that time. I want to be a source of support for young mothers who may be struggling.

  • I am breaking the cycle of dysfunctionality and pain caused by my Border/Narcissistic Personality Disorder mother and likely my great grandmothers by going —-FINALLY —No Contact with my own mother. She has caused more pain in my life, my husband’s life and so much dysfunctionality! She has never loved me for me alone, urged me to put ‘that kid’ in daycare when I had my first baby and wanted to stay home and has just generally followed the textbook definition of what a Narcissist Mother does. I had my 2 kids quite young, clearly following instinct that it was the best way for me to recover from my horrible childhood. Living 1000 miles away from my own mother was invaluable for me to actually be a kind, loving, empathetic mother to mine. I have a very close and loving relationship with my son and my daughter, but I have never had any love for my own mother. And now I am actively and officially breaking the decades of abuse by cutting ties . It is liberating and kind of sad all at once. But everyone is deserving of love and happiness in life and I am giving myself and my family that gift starting this year! ????

  • J

    Hello there,
    I am struggling with 4 legacies within my family that are causing me great emotional pain and have been the catalyst to me wanting to end my marriage/relationship of nearly 23years.

    I have always accepted that both of my parents were often unkind to me and that I then married into a family where my in laws and now my husband were emotionally unkind to me.

    The common thread is that my husband, my parents and my in laws all came from backgrounds where there was some form of emotional or physical abuse.

    Both my parents have now passed away , my mum when I was 13 and dad just this July and before he passed over the last 12 years my father and I made up and I forgave as much as I could.

    My husbands mother is very emotionally unkind to me and is also like this with all her children, her husband was the same.

    I now have a gorgeous 12 year old son, who ive poured all my love into and he’s just such a blessing and I’d warm, affectionate and courageous. For my sake and my sons I have decided at age 43 to try putting away as much money as I can with a view to building up a nest egg that will allow me to leave my emotionally abusive husband.

    For the firs time in my life I recognise what abuse is and I refuse to continue to be controlled financially, emotionally and psychologically anymore by anyone.

    It will be a tough journey but I want my son to learn what health and healthy relationships look like so that the legacy of abuse from both families won’t be passed on.

    Thank you


  • Anne

    Lots of good comments on this blog, so I’ll try to be brief. I was at a conference in San Diego in the 90’s with you (Dr. Northrup) and Andrew Weil as the main speakers. I was just out of a family practice residency. Your story, your journey, as you told it, which included your experience of mastitis and how hard you were expected to work as an OBGYN stayed with me and from that point on I knew I didn’t want to become a burned out physician. We do pass along our stress to our children, and I have not been totally successful in avoiding this. I love that you and Kate have been able to begin to heal around these experiences, and I am further inspired to continue on my path to be more available to my family, which now includes grandchildren. Congratulations to you all on the birth of Penelope and for continuing to be a beacon of light for so many.

  • This really hits home for me right now, although my daughter is now 17. This amazing human being suffers from anxiety and depression.
    I come from a family of healers and teachers…nurses, therapists, educators…my daughter has witnessed me caring always for others. She knows I love her, but I think there were/are times she has felt I put those in need ahead of her, many times, and I guess I did, always depending on my amazing husband to be there. And he has been! But he isn’t me. He isn’t mom. I am just now realizing the impact I may have had on her current state.
    She, too, has that natural sense to nurture and care. And she speaks her mind. She has taught me, and my intention now is to support her healing. The conversations are in their infancy. She may be 17, but it’s not to late to change the pattern. I’m excited to see her light shine, without this old pattern tainting that light. Much love to you all – grandma, mom and daughter! And thanks.

  • Tears spring to my eyes reading this, and I am covered in goose bumps. Thank you both for sharing such an open, honest story!

  • Mel

    I had mastitis with my (now 24 year old) son, during a time when my father in law was dying and my own father was having mental health issues. I was so busy dealing with life with small children, supporting my husband in his grief and feeling guilty that I couldn’t help my father, that it didn’t occur to me that my body was telling me to stop. In fact, I have only realised this while reading this article!
    This running-in-the-family concept is fascinating. My mother died at 37 from ovarian cancer and I was told that I had a higher than usual risk of developing the same illness. Getting past the age of 37 was a goal for me, particularly as I was aware of ways that my life was shadowing hers: like her, I had three children and had given birth to my third (also a daughter) at a similar age to her. I clearly remember the moment I decided I would not to take on my mother’s destiny, but would create my own (creativity has been a conscious part of my life since that time). I am now well past the age of 37 and am grateful for the gift of this life and the opportunity to create a new story for my daughters to reference.

  • When my baby was born I did way too much. My mother kept telling me to slow down. I actually dressed in work clothes (skirts, sweaters, tights) every morning! I think I felt guilty about not working. Looking back, I wish I had followed my mother’s advice to stay home. It is now a lost time and I have only just now taught myself to self-care and take it easy, be still and reflective. Our culture teaches us to go, produce, achieve. But it is only in the sill moments that we get our strength for living. Early motherhood is the only time in a woman’s life where she has the world’s permission to rest and slow down. I give myself permission to do it now. Wish I didn’t miss out on my only child’s early infancy. She is 30 now and my gift to her is telling her it’s ok to stop and take care of herself. She is a busy high school teacher who needs her downtime and I remind her all the time. There was a quote I read once about women taking time to care for themselves and how in our culture it is an act of revolution to do so. I revolt regularly now.

  • Emma

    Hello. I just want to tell you I’m amazed about reading a story so similar to mine. I suffered mastitis in my right breast. My parents told me it was because of my worry about money and I didn’t believe them. My husband just had a back surgery and he couldn’t work for a period of time. That gave me a double charge of responsibility and made me sick (mastitis), now I can see it. Thank you!

  • Such a beautiful post. It brought tears to my eyes. I also suffered with early stages of mastitis when I nursed, and also cleared it up with rest and echinacea. I was also itchy to get back to work when I had a little baby. And I too have had lessons in receiving that run very deep. So beautiful that a mother and daughter and granddaughter can share in this profound lineage healing! Wishing you beautiful lineage of powerful and gracious women all good things.

  • Mary O'Leary

    As I read this beautiful post I had a click moment. THIS. This was so similar to the legacy between my mother and I. She, a shift nurse, worked very hard often taking overtime hours. When she was home she was committed to housework or shopping or being exhausted. A memory that until now I presumed had healed, I see that even typing it out resurfaces the longing and the loneliness I felt in her absence.

    Fast forward to a family with 4 little monkeys under 12, I have worked very hard to be a flexible working mom to be present for my kids.

    My 3rd daughter, Fiona, at 9 years old is positive she will run a bed & breakfast and homeschool her kids so she can be home with them.

    The larger piece I’m taking from your story is the power of presence in the moments. This is where I will begin to change our legacy.

    Thank you both!

    ~ An appreciative reader from New Brunswick! <3

  • Jessica Laughlin

    Thank you so much for sharing this beautifully put message. I’m currently 38 weeks(4days) pregnant and recently learned of an infection in my body. I do not slow down at all. I am working a full time job and trying to get as much done as I possibly can before I go on leave this Friday. What my body is telling me is to SLOW down and take it one day at a time. (It is just a job) I learned this behavior from my mother whom in turned learned it from her mother. GO GO GO! Take care of everyone else and maybe get to yourself if there is time.
    After reading this, I realize that I need to nurture the most important being. That is the beautiful life that is inside of me and to take care of myself now before he makes his entrance into the already chaotic world. Change the “family legacy” and create a new one of listening, receiving and loving oneself.

    Thank you for being such a light!

    • Kate Northrup

      Yes – slow down Jessica! Your body and your baby will thank you. You need to go into labor and motherhood well rested if possible!

  • Dear Kate,
    Thank you for your inspiring posts. I have 2 boys (aged 19 and 14) and I have to say that becoming a mother has been a challenging journey for me. I was raised in a family where girls were not considered much although we were 5 girls and 2 boys. My mother unconsciously supported this mentality and moreover transmitted to us girls the belief that we were not enough, and had to prove ourselves to the world on order to be loved.
    When I got married, I did not want to have a child; I kind of knew this was not for me. Social pressure had its toll and there came my first boy. This was the beginning of my journey to hell. I described it in my blog “Postpartum depression: a long road to healing”. Of course the depression was linked to hormonal imbalance but it had its roots in the beliefs with which I was living as a girl, a woman, and a mother. I learned to become a mother but I had to learn to be a girl first, then a woman. The model I had gotten from my mother was not adequate for the life I wanted to live.
    I got a second boy 5 years later and it was a totally different experience for me and for my baby, as by then I had managed to become a happy mother, woman and wife, thanks to the help of unconventional but dedicated medical professionals.
    Thank you for your work, Kate!

Leave a Comment

Site Design Studio DBJ
Site Development Alchemy + Aim