Great Gifts For New Parents

2019 brought me two new grandbabies and four “new parents”.  They helped me compile a list of great, really practical, digital gift ideas for the parents (which in turn, benefits the babies). There are so many advantages to digital gifts, the obvious being that they can be purchased and sent instantly (such a relief once you’re done perseverating over what to give). What was your favorite gift you received as a new parent? Let me know in the comments!


Photo by David Cicconi via Epicurious

1. Gift Certificate to a meal service kit delivery (try Blue Apron) or one that specializes in delivering fully prepared meals (like Freshly). This is beyond helpful to take off their plates…I couldn’t resist. Check out this article from Epicurious where they compare a few of their favorite meal-kit brands!

img via FB.com/MisfitsMarket

2. Misfits Market delivers fresh, organic produce that farms and stores can’t sell for a fraction of the cost right to their door!


img via Fb.com/InsomniaCookies

3. Appropriately named Insomnia Cookies, are the perfect sweet treat for those late-night feedings. Their delicious cookies are available to ship nationwide, and in many cities, they deliver fresh-baked warm cookies on-demand as late as 3am! These are VERY VERY good for the soul.


img via FB.com/RoverDotCom

4. Arrange a Dog Walker through Rover – This app allows you to safely match up with local pet-lovers who are available to take Fluffy on a 30-minute walk or even dog sit for a whole weekend!


5. Gift them one hour of Virtual Doula Postpartum Support with me so they have an expert, day and night, to help them with every single thing that comes up! Fill out the form on my site and let me know you’re interested in giving this as a gift. They’ll receive a beautiful gift certificate from you!


img via Taskrabbit.com

6. The days are long but the weeks are short…and the chores never get done. Giving them a gift card for house cleaning, grocery delivery, even assembling baby equipment through a service like TaskRabbit is one of those ‘OMG… HEAVEN!!’ gifts for any family.


img via Unsplash @Heftibaa

7. Massages. They BOTH need one…trust me. Check out a list of spas near them to find the perfect gift of ~zen~.


Happy Gifting!

Beer and Breastfeeding | National Lager Day

December 10th is National Lager Day and because I live in Burlington, VT, one of the coolest (no pun intended given our winters) craft beer cities in the country, I thought this story about beer and breastfeeding was appropriate.

When I was nursing Indy, my firstborn, the prevailing wisdom was that beer was good for milk supply. It has to do with a polysaccharide in the barley used to make beer which seems to stimulate prolactin, the hormone involved in milk production.

I LOVE beer. Having abstained throughout pregnancy, Indy’s grandmother brought me a bottle of Heineken (it was 1985) with a bow on it to the hospital. I loved my beer with dinner, especially given that it was good for making breastmilk!

Then a study came out stating that, “Daily consumption of alcohol (1+ drinks daily) has been associated with a decrease in gross motor development (Little et al 1989).”

S**t! Indy didn’t walk until she was 14 months old. I TOTALLY f***ed her up! At this point, I was pregnant with Hallie and didn’t drink any beer while nursing. NOT A SINGLE BEER.

Hallie didn’t walk until she was 14 months old.

Moral of the story?

You can make yourself crazy (we sure do, don’t we) with all the conflicting studies and position statements out there.

Only you can determine what risk means to you.

I like how Kelly Bonyata, IBCLC of KellyMom.com, a really thorough breastfeeding site, presents the current data around breastfeeding and alcohol.

Cheers!!!

A Thanksgiving Ode | My Second Time as MotherDoula

My second born daughter has given birth to her firstborn daughter.

 

 

Once again, I was given the honor of MotherDoula to support my next daughter through birth and usher her into motherhood. (Read more about my first time serving as MotherDoula to Indy here)

That Full Moon in October, the Hunter’s Moon, was no joke.

I called Hallie outside that clear night and suggested that if she wanted her baby to come, it might be helpful to show her belly to that magnificent full moon.  She said, “Mom, you’re just weird” and went back inside.

Two days later, Hallie felt a bit “crampy”. In that tricky mixture as Mother (do not hover) and Doula (responsibly assessing where she was at), I checked in just a few times throughout the day. “The same. Crampy”.  It’s important to mention here that my Hallie is a competitive athlete. I was pretty sure she would have a fairly high pain threshold but not sure what that would look like.

We all went to bed around 11 pm.  At midnight, Hallie appeared in my bedroom doorway:

“Mom?”

“Noopie?” (My term of endearment for all three of my daughters.)

“I’m not sure how much more of this I can do.”

Wait. What? There was nothing but crampy all day.  We just went to bed an hour ago. My doula brain was trying to work this out.

I asked Hallie to come in and let us work through a few contractions together so I could get a sense of where her labor was and see if I could help her get more comfortable?  “Mom. There is nothing comfortable about this.”

We tried the birth ball. She hated it. I encouraged her to try breathing with sound. “That’s not me.” Maybe getting into the tub will help. “I hate taking a bath.” I encouraged her to try not to brace but rather let go into the contractions. “What do you mean “don’t brace”? How am I bracing?”

I suggested as the doula and gently as a mother that maybe Hallie would consider just trying the tub for a few contractions to see if the warm water might help her find that space between strength and surrender.

We were in that candlelit bathroom for an hour and a half. All was calm and quiet other than the sound of running water. Hallie said she was ready to get out of the tub and feeling like she’d like to go to the hospital.  As I helped her dry off, I casually asked if she was feeling any pressure during the contractions, just to rule out for myself that she wasn’t that far advanced in her labor.

She was feeling pressure.  “Is that ok?”

All I could think of was if Hallie ended up with an unplanned homebirth on my watch, my daughters would NEVER let me live it down.

Hallie was 8 cm dilated when we arrived at the hospital at 3:45 am. She started to push instinctively not too long afterwards. The  charge nurse came in at some point to see just what was going on in Labor Room 11.

Charge Nurse: “She can’t push until the Doctor is here to deliver her!”

Brian: “By the sound of it, that train has already left the station.”

Me: “Well, her body is clearly telling her to push. And you and I both know she’s the one who’s delivering her baby. So, if Dr. C wants to be here to catch, now would be a good time to give him a call.”

This is California. It is 2019 and this shit is still happening.

Lennon Gould Douglass made her way in at 6:42 am on October 16th, in the wake of that full moon, just shy of three hours after we arrived.

Layne Redmond writes..

“All the eggs a woman will ever carry form in her ovaries when she is a four-month-old fetus in the womb of her mother. This means our cellular life as an egg begins in the womb of our grandmother. Each of us spent five months in our grandmother’s womb, and she in turn formed within the womb of her grandmother. We vibrate to the rhythms of our mother’s blood before she herself is born.”

This is my legacy, all that I have hoped for in my lifetime; mother to daughter, new mother to new daughter and grandmother to granddaughter.

For this, I am deeply, deeply thankful…

Follow Friday | Postpartum Resources for the “Longest Shortest Time”

The “Longest Shortest Time”…the best description EVER of life with your newborn, borrowed from the brilliant podcast of that name. I like to be really real about the highs and lows of newborn parenthood. It’s important that we talk about postpartum honestly so we don’t feel alone, judged and inadequate. The voices in our own head are tough enough, but let’s support one another; like one big sleepover (without the sleep). Here are some of my favorite places online that I hope will help carry you for even a moment through the longest shortest time. Plus a hug from me. I am just a phone call or text away if you need me.


1:  Postpartum Support International: They have a 24-hour confidential helpline with over 300 trained support professionals who will listen, answer questions, offer encouragement and connect you with local resources if needed, available in English & Spanish

“You are not alone. You are not to blame. With help, you will be well.”

Call: 1.800.944.4773. Text:503.894.9453. 

2: Healing Baby Bath | This video of a newborn bath given by Sonja Rochel, a baby nurse at the Thalasso Clinic in France, captures how she helps newborns transition from the womb to the world in the most healing way. After watching this, you’ll want to know what she says about how to do this safely at home with your newborn (or somehow magically appear moments after you’ve given birth).

img via fb.com.ThalassoBainBebe

“I take the time … for such a young baby so soon after birth, the memories of being in their mommy’s belly are still very vivid … and with the bath I want her to re-live those beautiful moments, and cherish them.”

You can read more about Sonia Rochel’s ‘Thalasso Baby Bath’ technique here.

3: Dr. Angellique Millette |  She is a gift to all of us around infant, toddler and child sleep. She is a trained midwife, infant and pregnancy massage therapist, birth and postpartum doula, childbirth educator, lactation educator, parent coach, and child and family, therapist. Oh, and she has her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

The biggest plus is that Dr. Millette is one of the kindest people I know. Sign up for her newsletter and check out her archived webinars on all sleep topics for instant help. I also LOVE this Hands To Heart Sleep Swaddle that Dr. Millette created based on her work.

BONUS: Watch & Listen

The Longest Shortest Time.” You won’t feel so alone when you listen. Especially the earliest episodes. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Hillary Frank.

Reflections of Motherhood. This is your “virtual village” of mothers to mothers.

Follow Friday | About Breastfeeding

Last week I shared with you some of my favorite places online for all things birth-related – this week I’m focused on some support-full Breastfeeding Resources for all of you new and expecting parents. Breastfeeding is a duet that requires practice by you and your baby. Preferably without any “shoulds” and with all the nonjudgmental support you deserve.


1:  Waiting to Inhale; How to Unhurry the Moment of Birth by Mary Esther Malloy is a beautiful commentary on keeping birth for the parents.

Riley is born into her father’s and midwife’s hands.

“But just as we are now appreciating what occurs when we respect a baby’s ability to find its mother at birth, what I am seeing with Laura and other mothers is heightening my respect for and understanding of our own abilities as women to find our babies at birth. When we do not rush through the moment of birth, but honor the pause that marks the center of this sequence, what happens, in my experience, seems to be nothing less than a paradigm shift of equal significance.

For we are not only finding our babies, we are also finding ourselves as mothers, and finding our way into a new state of being.

2: KellyMom.com | All too often, breastfeeding sites are more dogmatic than I feel comfortable with.  I’m drawn to the lactation consultants who subscribe to the “let’s just feed the baby” non-dogmatic support camp. Kellymom is a great site for up to date, evidence-based information around all things breast and bottle feeding that just does that.  

3: Mamava | So proud of Mamava, a Vermont based company started by two women.  Download their app on your phone to locate one of these wondrous pods to breastfeed in a clean and private space.  Imagine that…

Img via FB.com/mamavaVT

BONUS: What To Watch | Here are a series of videos on Baby-Led Latching that offer an alternate perspective to the current “put the baby to breast immediately after birth”.  In these videos, you’ll see these most remarkable instincts and skills with which babies are born to find their way to your breast on their own, known as the “newborn crawl”.

Baby-led latching video by Milk Meg

Baby Led Latching video  by Breastfeeding for Parents

Scarymommy Newborn Crawl to Breastfeed video from the World Health Media Project

This video helps you see and hear how it sounds when your baby is swallowing so you can hear the “clicks”.

Follow Friday | About Birth

While there is no shortage of online resources for new parents, not all advice is created equal. That’s why I thought it’d be helpful to share with you two of my favorite and most trusted resources on all things birth related. Do you have a go-to resource, not on this list? Let me know in the comments!


1: Rebecca Dekker | I consider Evidence-Based Birth one of the MOST IMPORTANT resources for expectant parents. Rebecca Dekker, a nurse researcher with her Ph.D., did a TON of research as a result of her first birth experience (which was not good).

Evidence-Based Birth provides us all with the most current, high-quality research evidence around birth practices When you want to know what the evidence REALLY is around any subject/issue in childbirth, go straight here. Print the research evidence one-pagers to bring to your OB/Midwife to start the conversation when they tell you something is “routine” or “best” practice.

 

2: Birth Monopoly | BirthMonopoly.com was started by Cristen Pascucci, former public affairs person turned into birth rights advocate, after her not good birth experience (see the pattern here?). No pressure, but It would be really good for you to have a sense of your rights and options in birth BEFORE you go into the hospital.

Here are a couple of examples (quoting Cristen here) of where care providers (maybe unaware of the legality) are violating your informed consent (which is often confused with the consent form). They present things as routine procedures and not optional:

“Okay sweetie, I’m going to give you your IV now.”

Ok. First of all, “okay sweetie” is patronizing and infantilizing. You are an adult. Next, do you want an IV? Were you told about the pros and cons of an IV as well as the alternatives? Have you consented or politely declined an IV as a result of this conversation?

“Now, if you haven’t progressed in another hour, we’ll get you started on something to help you along.”

Wait. Why do I need to progress in an hour? And what is the “something” you’d like to start me on? What are the pros and cons of holding off? What are alternatives we can try to move my labor along if we’d like to do that?

BONUS: This Brazilian OB dances with his mothers in labor to bring the baby down! Anyone danced with their OB in labor???

From “Natural Childbirth” Devotee to Doula | What I Learned As A Young Mother

I once was a “natural childbirth” devotee. I was teaching Lamaze classes before I’d even had my own children. I fit the perfect prototype; grew up in the 60’s (minus the drugs), vegetarian since sixteen, attended Hampshire College at the beginning, wore only sweaters that I knit myself and raised my black lab, River, before I became pregnant with my first.

I approached my labor as serious training. I had danced professionally for a living so I took ballet class every day, swam a mile and ran through my fifth month of pregnancy.

I labored for thirty-six hours, the last ten of which were driven by Pitocin. I made it through every contraction, fighting my way through the pain. This was familiar. Give me any physical challenge and I could and would make my way through it. But I was adamant with everyone in the room that there would be no drugs.

I never made it past three centimeters after all that work and ended up with a C Section for “failure to progress”. I’ll never know if I had tried an epidural as a last-ditch effort to avoid a C Section if I would have slept and dilated. If only someone had helped me connect the dots that I would ultimately have an epidural for a C Section so why not give it a try beforehand?

Dogma. I learned so much about my own dogma from my first birth. My dogma around no drugs left me without being open to utilizing a tool that might have prevented my C Section.

Lisa Gould Rubin and her first Child IndyFrom then on, when helping people prepare for their births, we talk a lot about staying flexible in order to make decisions that are aligned with your goals, especially when things aren’t going the way you imagined.

I refer to what I call the “leaving no stone unturned” question. Ask yourself – when you are in labor, what does leaving no stone unturned mean to you around what you are willing to try in order have the birth that’s right for you? It also means trusting yourself to know when you feel you’ve tried enough for you.

Another way to look at it is this: if you were able to have hindsight in advance of your birth and ask yourself “what would have happened if…?”, and then try to take care of your “if’s” in advance. It helps to alleviate second-guessing yourself at the other end.

What would one of your “ifs” be?

Peace on Maternity | Newborns and Dogs

From the time he was a puppy, I knew Peace had the perfect temperament to be a Therapy Dog and so many years ago, we certified as a Therapy Dog Team.

Peace, a certified therapy dog He loves his visits with the children on Pediatrics at UVM Medical Center. As soon as I take out his Therapy Dog bandana, he gets excited and heads for the door.  He knows exactly where we are going.  I have to give us at least twenty minutes or so just to get from the parking garage up to the fifth floor because so many people want to pet/hug/admire/love/take a picture of Peace as we make our way through the hospital.

He is an enormous Golden Retriever; weighing in at about ninety pounds (down from one hundred given his eleven years, size and proclivity to arthritis).  We say he is a Golden channeling “Newfie”.  If I had a dollar for every time someone remarks on how huge his paws are, I’d be inordinately wealthy.  The answer I’ve come up with to the question I get more often than not – “Why is he so big?” – is to say that Peace needed an extra-large body to house a heart as big as his...

It had been a dream of mine forever to pioneer a Therapy Dog Team on Maternity.  Where else would a Doula and her Dog want to be?  So, after some research around protocol and the support of the midwives and nursing staff, Peace and I began our visits to the Mother/Baby unit.

Once we announce ourselves at the Nurses Station, the staff come from everywhere to love on Peace.  Then we begin our trip down the hallway, knocking gently, opening the door a crack and ask “Would you like a visit with a Therapy Dog?”

Almost always, the answer is a resounding YES PLEASE! For the mothers who have delivered and miss their dogs they have left behind at home, Peace brings much-needed comfort.  For the first-time mothers who have left behind their “firstborns”, the dogs they have raised before giving birth, Peace helps them allay the anxiety around going home and introducing their human babies to their dogs.  They have the chance to practice right then and there, lifting their new babies for Peace to smell and nuzzle.  We visit with the mothers who are on bed rest for preterm labor, have experienced miscarriage and loss and recovering from surgery. Mothers have sat on the floor hugging him and sobbing into his fur.

Peace is always gentle and kind and knowing.

One Doc said it right; Peace is the best medicine in the hospital.

Doesn't it just make sense to have Peace on Maternity at every hospital?

The 2nd Big Thing and a Mother’s Day Story

My last post was about two big things.  I wrote about being MotherDoula, supporting my firstborn daughter having her firstborn daughter.  The other big thing I mentioned, but did not go into detail, was moving from our home of 32 years.  Now I want to share an experience about that as a Mother’s Day story.

Many years ago, I was clearing out baby clothes once again, after my third baby and my last.  I sat on the playroom carpet sorting; visceral memories arising with pairs of leggings, tiny dresses and tee shirts.  When I got to the shoes, I wept.  It was so hard to put all of this “away”.  It was my husband Peter’s brilliant idea to create a way to see the things I loved every day. 

And so, I curated a collection of “firsts” of each daughter – Indy’s first moccasins, Hallie’s first paddock boots, Liberty’s first ballet slippers and leg warmers, first rain boots and umbrella, first Keds, party shoes, pocket book and gardening gloves.

I lovingly placed these treasures on the nineteenth century quilt rack above our fireplace in the great room where I would see them throughout my days from the kitchen, sitting in my rocker, eating at our table for years to come.

When it came time to pack up our home of decades, to strike the set where I had raised my three girls and myself, the absolutely very last thing to come down was that quilt rack with all of the firsts.  I carefully and lovingly took each thing off the rack and stored them all together for some unforeseen future time in some unforeseen future context.

Fast forward to a year later in our storage unit in Burlington, VT.  Indy and Dave are expecting their first baby and moving into a bigger apartment in Brooklyn.  They are filling a U-Haul with much of our furniture and furnishings from the house.  Indy gazes up at the tippy top of the storage unit and spots the quilt rack.  She mentions that the big wall above their bed would be a great spot for it.  Could they take it?  She is sensitive to my split-second hesitation and says she totally understands if I don’t want to send it with them. 

It takes me some moments to adjust my perspective.  This quilt rack tells the story of my life as a mother. It is a part of my soul.  And, I came to realize, I will be able to see it far more often in their home than in a storage unit.

“Of course you should take it.” 

Now Indy hesitates, “But Mom, is it okay if I don’t take the shoes?”

In an instant, the longing and the clinginess disappeared, replaced by a clarity that I can only describe as an innate, timeless, Mother Wisdom.

“Indy, you cannot have the shoes.  They are the story of my children and my life as a mother.  You have to find your own children’s shoes, their “firsts”, to tell your own story as a mother.”

Happy first Mother’s Day to my Indy girl, who made me a mother on Mother’s Day, thirty-four years ago.

I can’t wait to see what you’ll put on the quilt rack first…

And Happy Mother’s Day to mothers everywhere;  I am so grateful for you all in this perfectly imperfect, organized chaos that is motherhood.

My firstborn daughter has given birth to her firstborn daughter

Baby Lena made her way in at 2:25 pm on January 7, 2019. I was there as MotherDoula.

Everyone gushed about how excited I must be to become a grandmother. I was really excited that I finally was going to have a “take my daughter to work day”! But I couldn’t really know what it would feel like to become a grandmother. I’d never been one. What I did know was that in my lifetime I deeply hoped for the opportunity to usher my three daughters into motherhood.

Right from the beginning of Indy’s pregnancy, I realized that there was an inherent conflict in our circumstances. Indy wanted my support, guidance and expertise as a doula and as her mother. Yet I know both professionally and personally that daughters need to separate from their mothers in order to become mothers themselves.

As a birth worker, these roles are inextricably intertwined.  Doula IS mother.  I am, essentially, a professional mother; mothering mothers.  How would I gracefully navigate this very tricky space; a nuanced combination of input and no-put and know when to do which.

I started to learn that when there was pushback, I needed to let it go; sometimes with palpable frustration and sometimes with grace.  And as a professional, responsibly follow up with articles and research, signing off with “let me know your thoughts”.

When Indy wrestled with getting an epidural in labor, she said in a moment of frustration, “Just tell me what to do, Mom!”.  As her mother and her doula, having been asked this very same question many times over the decades, minus the “Mom”, I gently, knowingly and lovingly told her, “I cannot do that, Ind.  Only you can make that decision for yourself.”

Knowing how terrified Indy was of getting an epidural, I knew from that very deep Mother place exactly what I needed to do. I went out to the nurse’s station, where they were all sitting around. I had specifically decided not to wear scrubs as I always do to show up as mother.  One nurse swiveled in her chair toward me and asked in that tone I have heard too many times throughout the years; the one that implies you are a nuisance and why are you interrupting us? (Interrupting what is debatable…). “Can I help you?”. “Yes”, I said nodding my head slowly, “Yes. You can. The patient in room four; she’s my daughter.  And I am also a doula of thirty-five years. She is waiting for her epidural and she is absolutely terrified of the procedure.  I don’t know who is on for anesthesia tonight and I am not sure what the policy here is for support people in the room, but I cannot leave my own young without either me or her husband to help her through it.  So, I am asking all of you, as a mother and as a doula, to do whatever you need to do to make that happen. Please.”
Both Dave and I were in the room to help Indy get her epidural.

After Indy gave birth and was resting, she asked me if I wanted to know the baby’s name.  She and Dave had kept it secret.  I get this because I did the same thing with Indy and her sisters. I wasn’t interested in hearing people’s opinions about their names for nine months.  In fact, the girls were given the honor of being the first to hear each sister’s name whispered into their ear just after birth and then announce it to all those gathered.  Only this time, twenty-five years since the last sister was born, the name Indy was sharing was her daughter’s.
Lena

I wept.  After keeping it all together to navigate Indy’s glitchy birth, the baby having to go to the NICU and Indy requiring medication that would keep her bedridden for twenty-four hours, I lost it.

Lena was my mother’s mother’s name.   My mother had to leave her parents in the middle of the night when she was seventeen.  With the help of the Jewish Underground, she escaped Nazi occupied Vienna, but she never saw her parents again.  My mother didn’t have her mother to help her become a mother…

Lena is amazing ?!    And, she is a joyous reminder of the extraordinary gift that Indy, Lena and I have been given; that we are all here, together.  We get to experience and hand down motherlove, learning how to balance loving and letting go, a life-long process that begins at birth, from mother to daughter, new mother to new daughter and grandmother to granddaughter.

And this was just my first “take my daughter to work day”…