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.

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?

Altered States…

I am now being invited to attend the births of my eldest daughter Indy’s friends.

Wow.

These are the same girls (now women) who sat at my kitchen table in high school eating homemade chocolate chip cookies while we discussed birth control and heartache.

Those who come to the house for Good Birth Class (instead of meeting online – I DO work with Millenials) now sit pregnant, on the very same couch they made out on. Talk about altered states…

Last month, I had the honor of helping to usher in baby Jack. Jack’s mama, Molly, has been Indy’s best friend from the time Molly was 18 months old. I helped Molly’s mother labor 27 years ago to bring in Molly’s brother.

Again, wow.

In the midst of all of this, I am keenly aware that we are currently living in an altered state…

What keeps me afloat in these unsettling times are the babies; the reminder of this continuity over millennia, of the repetitive renewal and infinite possibility that comes with each birth.

I need to say this. We need to protect our mothers and babies. We need to safeguard their health and their passage in our communities, our country, our continents and our cosmos.

Birth is sacred and it preserves our humanity. It is the key.

Peace on earth really does begin at birth. I see it there every time…

Let me know if you want to talk or have coffee. I am here.

My Youngest Leaves Home

Yesterday, I took Liberty to college.
I have seen this moment coming, slowly gaining momentum, for some time.

Much like any life cycle event, there is no preparing for it really. As in marriage, pregnancy and birth, everyone has something to say; a story to tell, an opinion to give (invited or not). And all of those events have rituals to help one get ready – bridal showers, baby showers and various religious rituals once the baby arrives.

But there is no formal ritual for empty nesting.

I am beyond elated for Liberty. She is attending the school with which she fell in love. Her roommate is wonderful. They share a corner room in a great location on campus and there are two windows. (For those of you who have not yet done the dormitory do-si-do, this qualifies as hitting the jackpot.)

A team of kids greeted us as we pulled up to the curb and welcomed Libby. One of them whisked her off to sign in, get her key and help her find her room. I was to stay with the car while the rest of the team helped me unpack and carted everything up. I was then directed to a parking lot which was so far away I figured I was in the next state. As I walked back, it occurred to me that maybe this was a contrivance created by the college as one of the first steps to help with separation…

I found Libby in her room and we set about setting up her side – moving furniture around, putting clothes away in her closet and drawers, nailing up the shoe rack and mirror, adhesing corkboard to the wall with photos of her friends and family and all our animals…weaving extension cords and surge protectors into all the right locations for her computer, printer, alarm clock and fan (which provides the white noise she still needs to fall asleep; a ritual I initiate at birth).

Then comes the most important act – the making of the bed.

This is the bed where my children sleep when they move away from their home; our home together – the home in which the last two, Liberty included, were literally born in my bed. Bed is the place where I have lain with all three of them for countless hours, make that years, of nursing; nursing to feed them, nursing them through illness, nursing them through break-ups, hours of reading and years of conversation; listening, asking, processing. I have had the honor of being in their daily lives.

And so we begin what I have come to recognize as our ritual; Libby and I make her bed together.

“Your bed”, I remind her as she climbs up to try it out, “is your anchor; the place where you feel cozy, grounded and safe.”

Over the years, in my work with young mothers, I have often shared the wisdom I once heard as a young mother myself:
If we get our job right, they eventually leave us.

As Peter and I drove away, we passed a huge banner draped over a building on the Green that read: Welcome Home.

The Whole College Thing

I read in the NY Times this past weekend that Jose Arguelles passed away. He was the guy who organized the Harmonic Convergence in 1987 where people from all over the world gathered that August to hum, handhold and meditate. I can tell you that it sure looked like some weird version of that these last few days here in our household.

Today marks the end of the week in which Liberty, my 17-year-old, heard back from all of the colleges to which she applied. There was something to be said for the fact that hundreds of thousands of high school seniors were having the same experience all over the country and, because college application has gone global, all over the world.

I can say without any equivocation, that the whole college process is crazed. It has spun itself way out of control. We have spun it way out of control. Obviously, it is different from when I applied to college in 1971. It is absolutely different from when Liberty’s eldest sister applied in 2001 and different again from when the next sister applied four years ago. All sorts of things are different, but from what I gather, it’s really our fault, we baby boomers. There were lots of us and we had a lot of children. And apparently tons of kids abroad want to go to college here too. I keep envisioning that little square plastic puzzle where you have to move the little tiles around in an attempt to get the numbers to line up.

Seems like the bar is so high, no one can see it anymore. The Race To Nowhere, a powerful and timely documentary highlights how we are putting our children at risk given the educational system right now in this country. I joked with Libby that my mistake may have been not signing her up for the Peace Corps when she was five.

Libby had her “college plan” –

1. Avoid going to school where it was cold

2. Not attend school in CT just because her sisters did and they thought it had a kind of karmic symmetry

3. Try on living in a city where she wouldn’t ordinarily see herself because when else in life would she be able to do that with as much freedom (so much wisdom for one so young, I thought)

4. Not be daunted by being a plane ride away (I was daunted by this one)

5. Not be located too close to home (Ok. I get it…)

So much for college plans, not unlike birth plans. Within the first few minutes of visiting a college she felt she “should” see, where the winters are intense and last forever, Libby fell head over heels in love. The “there is no one else” kind of love.

She applied early decision. She was deferred.

I was not prepared for just how painful this was for me to see Libby in so much pain. I am no newcomer to the college process. This was my third and last college applicant. And, I am completely committed to the construct that wherever my children land is where they are and that affords them the opportunity to find their way in that exact place. Having been with hundreds of women in their pain, I have discovered that I am not always such a good “daughter doula”…

Libby chanted (through her tears) all those things that thousands of kids chant – I worked so hard – I am a really good student – I am a really good person…..

That was the one that jerked me out of my disappointment for Libby and launched me into some kind of ancient Talmudic call and response embedded deep inside of me by my own mother.
I chanted back…..

Life is unpredictable. You have no control over any one’s decisions or behavior but yours. The only person who can truly evaluate your worth is you. What matters most is that you feel good about you and your work. No one can take that from you, but you.

Libby was accepted in the end. I know that the discovery she made about herself this year will far outlast the process. And the joy she felt when she read the email will serve as a touchstone for the rest of her life to remind her to always hold on to her dreams. And, be ready to strategize if it doesn’t work out the way you envisioned.

Over the years, I have offered each one of my daughters the option of letting me home school them for college.

How much will this cost them in therapy in the years to come do you think?

The Worst Mother Of The Year Award

Around this time every year, my friend Amy and I commenced with the tally for our annual “Worst Mother of the Year Award”. We would review scenarios over the last year in which each of us had behaved in absolutely terrible, horrible, heinous fashion, without any redeeming anything, completely without reason, toward one or some of our collective seven daughters; four of them hers and three of them mine.

We would evaluate systematically all the catalogued transgressions and determine who would walk away with the title based on who had done the worst self esteem damage – hardest to recover from – requiring the most therapy in the future.

This review was conducted over lots of time together in any number of locations; on the phone over morning meeting (which we took pretty much every morning in order to get news, give news, assess who needed to be where, picked up when and fill in how), on our many-times-per-week walks with our dogs in the five thousand acre preserve down the hill from our homes (having lived 35 seconds apart for 23 years), in my kitchen, in Amy’s kitchen over breakfast, lunch, coffee, noshing, dinner or a glass of wine (our favorite!).

We laughed, we cried, we cried from laughing. Sometimes I would win, sometimes Amy would win and there were years we tied. In fact, lots of years we tied. We shared lightening speed tempers when pushed to our respective limits coupled with razor sharp tongues. Can a Viennese Jew and an Italian Catholic qualify as “tiger mothers”?

Amy passed way in November of 2009, nineteen months after being diagnosed with the most brutal type of brain tumor.

Amy might have argued that dying and leaving your children wins you the title of Worst Mother of the Year, no contest. Throw in that the eldest will be married next month without her mother by her side and that seals it.

I would argue back that this absolutely does not qualify.
This was not by choice.

When I consider all the choices I watched Amy make as a mother over the two decades of intertwined, crazy making, raising children years of our dear friendship, I can say, with complete conviction, that she made each and every one of them out of love…
deep, unconditional, no questions asked, tough love, love.

And that kind of love, the kind that will stay with her daughters for the rest of their lives, wins her, in my heart, the Wisest Mother Forever award.

Managing The Polarity Of Parenting

On July 13th, I put my 20 year old on a plane, which would ultimately take her to Sydney, Australia. Australia, just so you know, is geographically on the absolutely other side of the world from our house. It exists in the Pacific Rim – a term that makes me feel as though she might as well be in another dimension. Sydney is fourteen hours ahead of our time zone. What that means is that often I close our Blackberry messenger text conversations with “let’s ‘speak’ in your today, my tomorrow”, which is more for my calculations than hers and helps me wrap my head around the fact that we literally exist for portions of each day in two different dates.

As timing would have it, Hallie needed all four of her wisdom teeth removed before she would leave, another ritual of emerging adulthood. This is my child who doesn’t get ruffled by medical procedures and copes stoically through physical pain but because she ended up with a “dry socket” (where the clot doesn’t hold, leaving the bone exposed, just fyi), her post op pain went from not good to really, really bad. We spent the week of her recovery symbiotically immersed. My life was pretty much on hold as I took care of her, just like when the kids were little – shopping, preparing and inventing things she would or could drink or swallow, managing her medications, helping her get up in the morning and settling her on the couch downstairs for the day, helping her get to the bathroom, change her pajamas, bathe her. We even slept together, either in her bed or mine. I thought it was just easier for me to take care of her in the night, but she whined the first night I slept away from her.

The week before Hallie left, she was nearly impossible to live with. It isn’t rocket science. In times of transition, Hallie’s behavior is not unlike the toddler she once was –lashing out in anger rather than talking about what is going on for her. Much of the time, she needs her space. Some of the time, she needs me to set my boundaries so she can still bang up against them, not unlike finding the ropes in a boxing ring. But all of the time, she still needs to know that I love her and always will.

We arrived at Newark Airport before much of it was operating. As we made our way to her airline, I found myself casually on the lookout for other kids with their families gathered around them who looked as though they might also be heading off for junior semesters abroad in the Pacific Rim, in hopes of finding her a “buddy”. This wasn’t unfamiliar. I used to “pimp” for the kids when they were little – trying to round up someone to play with at the beach on vacations, at the playground, on the first day of nursery school.

We checked her baggage. Hallie didn’t want me to stick around. She made it clear that it would be easier for her if I just left. We hugged tight and I drew in her scent as deeply as I could, committing it to sense memory, like an animal.

Managing the polarity in parenting is code for learning both when to hold on…and when to let go.