Thanks for your interest in Mindful Healthy Life and its origins!
Jessica Claire Haney is a mother of two living in Northern Virginia.
Jessica’s personal blog is Crunchy-Chewy Mama. She’s blogged for TheDCMoms.com and on other venues, including Scary Mommy, The Huffington Post, and Mothering.com. She is working on her first novel, a chapter of which appears in the Abundant Grace anthology of DC-area women writers from Paycock Press. Her non-fiction writing has also appeared in anthologies.
Find her on Twitter @mindfulhealthy and @crunchychewy and on Instagram at @mindfulhealthy. She is also on LinkedIn. Learn about her writing, appearances and holistic business consulting services at JessicaClaireHaney.com.
Jessica is the founder of the Arlington/Alexandria chapter of Holistic Moms Network, which she co-led for many years. She has been active at her children’s school, assisting with Outdoor Classroom efforts and serving as the chair of the school Wellness Committee.
Jessica has also led wider school district initiatives, including organizing the 2015 Growing Green Schools event and the 2017 Clean Air Awareness Month event and 2018 Clean Air Community Forum. She currently serves as the co-chair of the Environmental Health & Asthma Subcommittee of the School Health Advisory Board.
Listen to Jessica’s interview with Sister Jenna on the America Meditating radio show.
Okay, I’ll switch to first person. Here is my favorite photo of me, taken by my son in our kitchen. Where else? It’s
where I spend the bulk of my time.
Lest I give the impression I’m not just like everyone else trying to figure out what is the best for her family, I’ll offer a little Q&A with myself.
Q: How old are your kids?
A: I had my first child in 2006 via c-section and my second child at home in the water in 2010. They are both redheads and hilarious.
Q: When and why did you get into holistic health?
A: As with many of us, this could fill a book. But the short version is: 2002ish. This is when mainstream medicine failed to help me with pretty substantial digestive troubles. I started getting bodywork and some energy work, but it wasn’t until I was ready to start a family that my body let me know just how compromised it was.
In late 2003, I sought advice from a nutritionist friend when lack of periods, cystic acne, digestive issues and depression plagued me. I had gone of the Pill and anti-depressants hoping to conceive, but pregnancy was the last thing my body could have handled. My friend was well versed in Traditional Diets a la Nourishing Traditionsand the Weston A. Price Foundation, something I was unfamiliar with at the time being a near-vegan who consumed lots of processed soy products and refined carbohydrates. Two weeks after I eliminated soy and added butter and eggs to my diet, I ovulated for the first time in several months. This showed me the power of nutrition.
Two days before I met with my friend that November 2003, I had gotten bloodwork that eventually led to a diagnosis of Graves’ Disease, autoimmune hyperthyroidism. I was so revved up and anxious — and unable to sleep — that I went back on anti-depressant medication, even though the discontinuation effects the first time had been horrible. This helped in the short-term, and I resisted the conventional radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment to destroy my thyroid. Instead, I took anti-thyroid medication for about 10 months under the care of an endocrinologist and another doctor who was pursuing a more naturopathic and functional endocrinology approach and who prescribed a lot of supplements to support my adrenal glands. I also started getting acupuncture, pursued more energy work and meditation, read books on healing by people like Caroline Myss and Pema Chodron, and began thinking differently about the concept of acceptance.
I eventually added animal protein to my diet, and then in summer 2004, I eliminated gluten and dairy. I also did lots of detox protocols (including removing my mercury amalgam). My mental health improved greatly, and in December 2004, I was able to go off both anti-thyroid medication and anti-depressants (this time with no discontinuation effects).
I waited for a few months to see if my thyroid would remain stable, and it did! We conceived my son in June 2005, and I have not had a recurrence of Graves’ Disease since. I’ve continued my healing journey, which has not always been smooth, but it has been free of any allopathic medication except for drugs associated with my 2006 cesarean section. Despite many efforts to turn my baby out of a breech position, he remained stuck, I know think in part because of lingering gut inflammation. So I was transferred out of the birth center where I had been receiving care to one of the few doctors in our area comfortable with vaginal breech deliveries. However, my bay was unable to drop into the birth canal after several hours of labor. I learned after I asked to see my placenta that I had had a very short (8″) umbilical cord.
After the c-section, I discovered that the digestive trouble I thought was related to pregnancy was really more about leaky gut in general and specifically an intolerance to corn. So I eliminated corn from my diet and looked a little bit into the GAPS diet and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, but not a lot. When my child was two, I pursued a cleanse that cleared up postpartum skin issues. After I weaned my toddler the following year, I did more detox to prepare for conceiving another child, but I probably needed to do some more grounding and other healing work, too.
After another physically easy pregnancy, my second child was born at home in the water (a homebirth after cesarean, or HBAC) in August 2010.
That homebirth took only 4.5 hours, but becoming a second-time mom — with the stress of night wakings, breastfeeding and feeling I couldn’t meet everyone’s needs — caused adrenal fatigue, a worsening of my digestive issues, a recurrence of skin problems and abdominal separation (diastatis recti). I spent two years on the grain-free GAPS diet and am still figuring out what foods work best for me. I continue to pursue homeopathy, a little Ayurveda and herbalism, energy work, and bodywork and am pretty sure I would benefit from more time doing nothing but breathing deeply if I could get past my worry about falling into depression. I’ve made a lot of progress and am trying to approach each healing crisis as an opportunity to go deeper and learn more.
Q: Why did you decide to start this website?
A: It’s something I’ve been thinking about for over five years! I wanted it to exist for me! I wanted to know about all the events and classes and workshops that would appeal to me as a mom who wanted to know about yoga and outdoors activities and Waldorf-inspired groups.
Instead of building the site then, back when DC Baby was one of the only online resources for parents in DC, I decided instead to start an in-person community: the Arlington/Alexandria chapter of Holistic Moms Network, which launched in January 2009. The chapter has been a great success, and I’ve enjoyed that volunteer role very much. I’ve learned a ton from our speakers and our members and made lots of close friends. It’s also been fun to see many great local online resources for parents come on the scene.
Still, when people new to the area or new to parenting or new to holistic living find me through HMN, they ask questions that I wish were answered in one place. This site aims to be that place: a resource gateway for helping families lead mindful, healthy lives.
It will give exposure to local businesses in ways that will help support them at the same time that it helps readers make informed decisions about who to approach for a consult or what products to buy.
There are a lot of other great resources for parenting in general in DC, and there are also some great sources of information about natural-minded living, and I wanted to combine the two in a way that would create a greater metro-area sense of a parenting and wellness community.
Sometimes my own healing has taken so much energy that I’ve wavered on making this site happen, but as I’ve explained on my blog, I get a huge amount of enjoyment from pursuing things I’m passionate about and sharing information with others.
Q: How are you going to balance this new business with the needs of your family?
A: Um, on faith? I don’t know exactly. My kids are both in school, but there’s no nanny behind the scenes or grandparent down the street. I don’t even have a babysitter on my list anymore now that our longtime occasional helper got a nursing job!
I still lose focused work time to snow days and sick days, just like everyone else. Additionally, I cannot afford to stay up late or skip meals or eat processed food or sit all day or otherwise pursue traditionally-defined “success” in any way that will compromise my own health or well-being or that would put my family in a permanent back seat. That would be too ironic. I’ve gotten into that trap before and know it will be a challenge to do this with my health intact, but I’m going to give it the best shot I can!
That means I may have to be patient for this movement to grow and to pay myself back for my investment on building the site. And readers may have to be patient about hearing back from me. But I believe strongly in the project and have gotten such incredible support from so many friends and colleagues that I know it is needed and can work. I am going to use the power of positive thinking to will it into being with little detriment to the other aspects of my life. Wouldn’t it be great if researching all these modalities and classes and products actually helped me find that work/life balance sweet spot?
Q: What is your professional background? Do you have health training?
A: I was an English teacher at the college and high school levels for eight years, and after I became a mom, I began tutoring students at a private school. Before teaching, I worked for a non-profit women’s rights organization and obtained two M.A.s, in English and women’s studies, from the University of Cincinnati. I have done freelance, writing, editing and consulting. I’ve had some of my creative writing published in various venues.
I have not pursued training toward being a holistic health coach or healer, but I have taken lots of classes, attended many conferences and lectures, done lots of reading, and completed a whole lot of on-the-healing training! I’ve worked with a lot of people and learned a lot about different modalities. There is no substitute for going through rough patches to learn about all the ways people can find health and happiness! Sometimes I think my life’s purpose has been partly to find my way through illness so that I would be in a position to help other people.
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: I have been trying to cultivate a sense of “fun” in the past several years that I think I kind of missed as a youngest child, nearly 9 years behind her closest sibling. I always wanted to be as grown up as my siblings were. And then the ways I had “fun” in my teens and twenties were decidedly not healthy and have got me where I am now, in healing and repair mode.
Besides networking and connecting people to possibilities for greater health and happiness,
- I love to take photos of nature and of my children and to write about both, and to get inspired by beautiful things
- I feel most grounded when I’m outside (but don’t spend enough time there)
- I felt transformed when we built a deck and I started doing yoga outside under the trees every morning last summer (and I love going to yoga classes but hardly ever do)
- I love dancing to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” with my kids (but otherwise don’t bring often enough music or movement into my life)
- It thrills me when we can pick food from our garden, and I do volunteer work related to the garden, wetlands, and schoolyard at my children’s school (but I still don’t really know what I’m doing when it comes to plants and dirt)
- I adore Saturdays when I can listen to lots of NPR while my kids are out with their Dad or on another level of the house while I’m cleaning or doing laundry.
I also love to write but have been neglecting both my blog, Crunchy-Chewy Mama, and my novel recently as I’ve been attending to my health, while I was working toward the March 2014 five-year celebration of my Holistic Moms chapter, and doing all the things I needed to do in order to start this site in April 2014. Around that time, I printed and bound the rough/incomplete draft of my novel to share with my mom on my first visit home without my children, and sharing the time with my parents was one of the most important weekends of my life. It was perhaps the most important fun I’ve ever had. At 41, I felt like I was finally growing up. My journey continues and I’m striving to remain grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given.
Thanks for reading! I look forward to hearing from you!