Where Are The Professionals?!

It is 3 am and you are changing your newborn’s diaper and looking at the glob of scab that will ultimately become her belly-button and suddenly, you are possessed of a certainty that you are supposed to *do* something to it, but you can’t remember what.  Wash it?  Swab with a q-tip?  Ointment?  Rubbing alcohol?

Depending on how tired you are, this resolves one of two ways:

1.  Say to self, “well, I’ll look it up in the morning, but whatever the right thing is, there is no way this baby is dying even if I get it wrong in the middle of the night.”  


2.  New-mom-meltdown where you become more and more anxious, not just about what the right answer is, but about the fact that you don’t know it, and whether this is a sign that you are basically a shitty mother.  I so hope this isn’t where it goes, but I know that for all of us, sometimes this is exactly where it goes.

Also, if you took a good prenatal class, this thought process is generally also accompanied by:

"Crap, we talked about it in that newborn care class, but I can’t remember what she said to do???"

Look, most of these late-night (and mid-day, and morning, and afternoon) freakouts are just the ordinary course of new parent development, and if you’ve got lots of loving people around you who take good care of you, they’ll help you figure out what to do.  Even more important, they’ll help you remember that freakouts are almost always over things that are low stakes and the “answer” doesn’t matter that much.  (And if those people don’t do that stuff, you need some other people in your life to help you get that!)

Still, in a pinch, it’s so helpful to have someone who can tell you the detailed answer, right? 

You can email me, of course, but I am generally asleep at 3 am (and one day you will be, too, I promise), so you won’t get a response till morning.  

So, at those moments, your best bet is an awesome resource called  The website is a series of great, short videos by renowned educator and author Erica Lyon (author of The Big Book of Birth).  You click on a topic (like, umbilical cord care! ) and there she is, reminding you exactly what you learned in your newborn care class.

It’s more than that, though.  Great prenatal classes don’t just teach you “how”; they address the way that having a baby is a life experience that involves your body, your mind, your identity.  Having a baby isn’t just learning to change diapers and give a bath, it’s adjusting to the way that living with a newborn is weird and new.  It’s coping with uncertainty and doubt as you grow into the role.  It’s learning how to communicate with someone who can’t talk, and learning who you turn out to be now that you’re a mother.  

What helps you grow into all this is community and support, so that you are free to voice your fears and ideas and explorations in a safe environment, as you get the hang of it.  But when it’s 3 am and your Moms’ Group isn’t till tomorrow afternoon, you may also find yourself hanging on Erica’s words in some of the other birth360 videos, where she talks about maternal sanity, or doing “just one thing per day.”  

One of my favorites is this clip, called "Where are the Professionals?!"  about how many new parents feel, initially, when they’re booted from the hospital, baby in tow, feeling like imposters.  She injects a much-needed bit of humor into all this stuff, which dispels some of the horrible solemnity we can all slide into when we do something new.  

I have known Erica for many years, and her classes are some of the best out there.  She’s an awesome resource and the site is a great help for many new parents; check it out.

So, OK, but one more thing.  Erica says, at the end of that last clip, “it takes a little while for the part of you who is a mom to feel like a mom.”  I can’t overstate how true this is.  And so, when you’re freaking out in the middle of the night, as you’re clicking over to birth360, try to remember that one sentence, OK?  Because a lot of the anxiety and self doubt comes from just not being used to the role yet.  It will come, it just doesn’t come, for everyone, right away.  It comes in spurts, I think, and some people “feel the part” within the first few weeks, and others not for many months to come, or even over a year.  

It’s a big transition.  Be gentle with yourself.  

The Bug Story

This is a story about me and a big bug.  I’m warning you in case you’re the kind of person who can’t read a bug story without losing a week to nightmares. 

I hate when bug stories come without warning.  Recently, someone started telling me a story about a “weird thing that happened” to her; next thing I knew, I was hearing that a freaking cockroach crawled across her chest.  That is not a “weird thing”.  A weird thing is if a Velvet Underground song comes on your Ipod and just at that moment, you pass by Lou Reed. 

A cockroach on your chest is not “weird,” it’s horrifying.  And a story like that should come with a warning.  And possibly blinking lights in case I wasn’t listening. 

So, now you’re warned. 

I’m not bothered by all bugs. When I went to summer camp they had those skinny Daddy Long Legs spiders, which apparently aren’t technically spiders.  They ran up your leg in that tickly way.  I didn’t love it.  But I was in the freaking woods.  It’s their territory, not mine. 

But the city is for people.  Sure, there are wild turkeys in Riverside Park and Red Tailed Hawks nesting atop fancy buildings on the East Side, but I’m not for any other creature, here, besides us and cats and goldfish.

But of course they are here.  And I know, each year, that as soon as I have celebrated the Melting of Big Mountains Of Dirty Snow On Every Corner, I have to prepare for Big Bugs.  I’m not talking about generic cockroaches.  I don’t like those, but they don’t show up unexpectedly.  Some people’s apartments have them and others don’t, and if you don’t, you’re OK.  Several years ago I had two clients in a row who both had cockroaches.  It was super creepy and I will never forget their buildings, but, you know, those bugs stay put. They’re not going to jump out at me on the sidewalk while I’m walking in my strappy sandals.  They are homebodies.

The ones that really freak me are the Big Ones.  You know which ones I mean.  People call them water bugs, but they’re just as likely to be skittling down the sidewalk as creeping around a drain.

They’re huge.  They’re armored, defiant, impervious, like those young people in the East Village completely covered in tattoos and piercings, or those older, rich people uptown, hidden under Botox and Keratin treatments.  In some ways, water bugs fit right in in a city where so many people inhabit armored shells.

I can remember each one I’ve seen.  Where I was, where I was going, my footwear at the time. 

Once, my sister was apartment-hunting in my neighborhood.  When I heard the address, I thought, “last summer there was a water bug on the sidewalk right in front.”

She moved elsewhere.


A couple times, I’ve seen one in my own, (gasp, cringe, twitch) apartment.   I’ve lived in the city almost twenty years; it happens. 

Once, one ran by my feet – centimeters away, in my bedroom!!  I grabbed my children and hopped into the living room, stopping very quickly to pour myself two fingers of bourbon.  I planted the three of us on the couch, cross-legged, saying, “We are staying right here until Dad gets home.” Two drinks later, after my son had killed the thing, I still insisted we leave the city and spend the weekend at my parents’.  Even in the country, where Big Bugs aren’t, I jumped at every tickle and breeze for two days. 


It’s bad.


And yet.  When you live in New York City, you know, in the summertime, that you’ll likely see one, especially if other conditions are present.  Which is why, recently, when my building was getting a new stoop, I was in a chronic state of panic.  The front door to the building was completely blocked; there were three weeks of construction.  To get in or out, you needed to walk down to the garden level and out the back door.

New York + June + construction + walking downstairs into a garden.

It was only a matter of time.

I feel I need to digress for a moment and just say – there are lots of areas in my life where I’m confident and competent.  I think most people wouldn’t meet me and immediately think, “that is the kind of woman who completely loses her petunias over everything.”  You’ll have to take my word.




I was leaving my house to see a client.  I work with new moms, and if you are, or ever have been a new mom, you know it can be kind of freaky, at first, when they let you loose with a new baby.  Half the time you have no idea what to do and the other half you’re too exhausted to notice.  New moms need lots of things to help ease the transition, but more than anything, company helps.  Because when they’re all alone, moms can start to lose it a little.  When you’re isolated, normal worries can become epic.  Spending hours/days/weeks without talking to other adults can make anyone a total whack-noodle. 

Most moms navigate just fine through this transition, but some become overwhelmed.  And one of the things that makes it all harder is, almost no one wants to ask for help.  We kind of all act like asking for help is a sign of weakness, not a sign of strength.  We pretend that the goal is to have everything under control all the time, to never feel overwhelmed, scared or doubtful, and certainly not to admit it or depend on anyone. 

But when you have a baby, it’s not under control, and it’s not meant to be handled solo.  And so a big part of my work is helping moms recognize when they need help, and learn how to ask for it – from each other, from me, from their loved ones, from specialists when necessary.


Anyway, I was walking down the stairs thinking about my client, got to the front door and idiotically tried to open it, forgetting, for the 30th time, that it’s blocked off.  Then cursed a little and turned down the stairwell to the basement.  There’s a little half-staircase that leads downwards, and then a small vestibule.  At the far side of the vestibule, a fire door leads out towards the garden.  I rounded the corner and stood atop the stairs, facing the vestibule.  

At the foot of the stairs was a bug the size of my fucking hand.

It was on its back but very much alive.  It was trying earnestly to right itself, flitting and flopping and moving very frantically. And it was blocking my path.  A normal person would (a) walk by it or (b) step on it.  But I have this Thing. 

I considered my options.  

Option 1.  Cancel Client. 

Option 2.  Be magically beamed out of building and, ideally, off the planet. 

Meanwhile, the bug is buzzing, flitting and vibrating on the floor making a thwick, thwick, thwick sound.  But faster than that:  Thwick!thwick!thwick!thwick!thwickthwickthwick!


Now comes the part of the story where I say “fuck” a lot.


I can’t just cancel clients.  I’m a fucking professional.  And I had crap to fucking do that day.  I really did need to leave.  Plus, what was I going to do, go back upstairs and tell my kid and her babysitter, “oh nevermind, I think I’ll just stay home all day”?  With a mouse-sized bug thwicking around a few floors below us? 

The obvious thing to do was to walk past it, so I geared myself up for it.  I spoke sternly to myself:  ”Dude, just walk past this fucker.  Right this minute.  Get over yourself.  Don’t be a baby.  Just fucking walk.  One foot and then the next.  Just. Do. It.” 

Thwick.  Thwick. Thwickthwickthwickthwickthwick.

I couldn’t even lift my foot to take the first step.

I switched to a gentle, encouraging voice.  “Come on honey, you can do it.  You are much bigger than the bug.  Just, easy now, just take one step.  Just take one breath.  Slow your heartbeat.  Breathe down to the floor.  Good.  And now.  One step forward.”

Thwickthwickthwick went the guinea-pig sized bug.

Looking, now, at the words on the page, it’s embarrassing.  I am a grown woman.  I have endured worse shit than this and managed to keep going.  This. Was. Just. A. Bug.

But.  I couldn’t walk. 

You know how usually your thoughts come in chunks, but sometimes you get an actual sentence in words?  Well, this was one of those moments where an actual sentence went through my mind, and the words were: “I can’t get past this without help.” 

And I stood there, with the rabbit-sized, thwicking bug before me, and laughed bitterly.  Because how many times have I sympathized with a client, saying I know how hard it is to ask for help, but pushed her, encouraged her to reach out to whoever was available? 

It is easier to say than to do.


On the other hand, if I expect my clients find a way to ask for help, I need to be able to do it, too.  And so.  I walked up the  half-flight to the first floor and stood outside apartment 1A.

Karen, who lives there, is probably 60.  I know her vaguely — she has cat-sat for us sometimes and she is always nice to my kids. She has always seemed a little depressed to me. 

She opened the door, barefoot and in a house dress with no bra and unbrushed hair.  I managed to say, “Um. Karen, Hi. Uh. There’s a, um. Well, there’s a big water bug down in the vestibule, and I’m kind of finding that I … “

She pressed her eyebrows together and said, “You want me to kill a bug?!”

She got a pair of slippers (Slippers! For the armadillo-cockroach!) and the New York Post. We rounded the corner to the little half-stairway and I hung back.

“I can’t see it,” she said. 

"Well, fuck, it was on the floor."

"It’s gone now." 

My face obviously said, “It might be on its way to my bedroom right this fucking moment!”

Karen began to laugh and said, “Well, anyway the coast is clear—“   when suddenly she stopped and said, very quietly, “OHHH. Oh. There it is. On the wall. Wow. OK, it’s big.”



Karen eased into the vestibule and although I didn’t dare look in the direction she was looking, I could see her head tilted way back.  That fucker must have been way up high.  

She approached slowly, holding the newspaper back like a bat.  She braced herself to take a swing, muttering, “it’s big, it’s big, it’s big.”  She took a deep breath and did that little backwards motion batters do right before they swing. 

But then she stopped and lowered the newspaper-bat and appeared to deflate and said, to the floor, “Oh, Meredith, I’m sorry. I’m not going to be able to help you.  It’s – it’s too big.  I’m scared.” 

She turned to me, her shoulders slumped down and there was a very clear moment where I saw that I had just put all my hope in a depressive 60 year old with bed-head.  That was stupid, stupid. 

And yet – what next?  She could go home to her housedress and New York Post, but I was still stuck in the vestibule. 

Karen was walking back towards me and looked up sadly at my face. 

I tried to muster the Calm Face.  I have a lifetime’s experience telling people it’s all OK.  But I’d stretched myself a little, to ask for help this time, and I wasn’t springing back into the usual “It’s All Under Control” mask so easily. 

By now Karen was right next to me on the steps and in the pause, she looked me in the eye.  And what she saw was someone very vulnerable, and very frightened.  She took a big breath and said, “No, wait. I have an idea. How about I stand in front of it and you walk in front of me, so I’m between you and it?”

I felt a wave of relief.  Karen was obviously scared, too. But she wanted to help me.  And she was already walking back down to the rhino-sized-bug-zone and waiting for me.  She was stretching herself — pushing out of her comfort zone to try to help me, and, I thought, I had to try to do the same. 

Deep breath. 

“OK, Karen,” I said, “Thank you.  I’ll try—. 

And at that exact moment, the thing FLEW AT HER HEAD! She screamed, and batted at it frantically, and it fell to the floor and she jumped on it about five times and then pounded at it with the Post.

Actually all that is just how I imagine it, because the moment she shrieked I ran, screaming, up the stairs. 

Finally Karen called out, panting, “OK, it is totally and definitely dead now.”

I tiptoed back down, shaking. I felt horrible that I’d done this to her, but when Karen looked at me, her face looked, sure, totally grossed out, but also kind of alive in a way sometimes women look after giving birth, like, “WTF, I did it!”

And she grinned at me. 

So, I thanked her profusely, but the funniest part was that afterwards, as I walked through the garden and then to the train to meet my client, I felt a little bit high. I asked for help, and the help helped.  I got out of the house. I didn’t lose the whole day. And my life, now, included Karen in some way.  Karen the unlikely hero.

And I had the distinct feeling that Karen felt awesome about it, too, afterwards, having been able to do something for me.  Happy to be considered for the task.  She got to be included in my life, to make the world better for someone.  It feels good. 

Later, I bought flowers, and as I brought them to Karen’s door, I felt the embarrassed, exposed feeling.  She was, after all, basically a stranger.  Here we were, living in the same building, possibly for decades to come, and she now knew the depth of my craziness.  She would know it every single time she saw me.  She would give my kids Halloween candy and think, “Their mother lost her shit once over a water bug.”  Perhaps she would tell others. 

It’s easier to imagine that if I keep everything to myself, they might all be walking around thinking I’m perfect, right?

On the other hand, so what?  So Karen, and now everyone else knows I’m a little whackado on this issue.  It means, also, that they can help me, in whatever way they turn out to be able.  And help helps. 

And here, finally, is why I’m blogging this story:

Keeping the hard stuff secret keeps us all apart from each other, but sharing it—asking for help, stretching out of your comfort zone to give help, having courage to accept help you’re offered– weaves a net under us all.  And that net is the community that holds us together.  It’s the net, safely beneath you, that helps you remember, even when you’re at your worst, that overwhelmed isn’t the same as “helpless.”  New moms can feel low, weary, out of their depth.  What helps is reaching out, asking for help. 

I know it’s hard!  You’ve got to weave that net yourself and the thread is made of your own courage.  But when it’s there, it makes our passage through this messy and surprising life a little more manageable.


This month they’re replacing our roof.  I hope Karen hasn’t gone on vacation, oy.

Frank Talk

I do love candor.  And so I kind of love this post on Jezebel, where the writer declaims about “boobernecking,” body smells and other truly unglamorous realities of living in a post-baby body.


I truly find the whole gnarly reality of having a baby — taffy boobs, hot vag, and all — inspiring.  But it’s far from the plucked, smooth, odorless tautness of the celebs in the Us Weekly you read during a pedicure.  And that can be a shock.

It’s temporary, it’s a learning experience and if you can talk about it candidly, it’s kind of hilarious.  

But a couple points.  

1.  Ms. Moore says:

You will practically be in diapers.

Google the size of the pad you will wear after vaginal birth. It’s bigger than a catcher’s chest armor. Friends, nurse-friends and anyone who’s ever been pregnant: Why didn’t you tell me?!?!? Why doesn’t anyone tell anyone?!?

Well, if you’d taken my childbirth class, I’d have told you!  About all these things, actually.  I describe those pads as “saddle sized” and then act out the way getting into one is like mounting a horse.  Childbirth education classes, properly done, do have many practical benefits.   

(By the way, if you’re still pregnant, you should also know that you just can’t buy the huge pads in stores.  If you’re giving birth in a hospital, though, you can take the entire stock of saddle-pads in your hospital room.  Take the disposable underwear, too.  That’s what your health insurance premiums pay for.  Plus, there’s really nothing that says photo op like you saddled up on a giant maxi pad held in place by mesh disposable underwear, with cabbage leaves on your engorged boobies. A cowboy hat completes the look.  Try not to accidentally tweet the pic, though; some things are to share with your partner only. 

2.  There is a book that talks about all this stuff, candidly and with humor, and it’s called From The Hips, by Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris, and it’s awesome.  There is absolutely no reason anyone ever needs to buy the loathsome and fear-mongering book whose cover is parodied above.

Full article here.

What Not To Say To A New Mother, part 2

A couple of months ago, I blogged about “What Not To Say To A New Mother” and I’ve gotten interesting responses since then, overwhelmingly consistent in theme.New moms, it seems, feel criticized easily, and (surprise) hate the feeling.

They can feel a sting even when they know that they’re not being criticized (e.g., “wow, your baby is big/small/hairy/bald/loud/quiet”) (mom mentally inserts the word “too” after “is”), or that the person criticizing them is ignorant (“is your one-month-old sleeping through the night?”), or a dumbass (“you shouldn’t be carrying your 3 month old around because he’ll never learn to walk”) or creepy (“you should cover your child’s legs because otherwise someone will come over and bite them like a chicken drumstick”).

When you’re not the mom on the receiving end, it seems obvious that the response to these is, “Mmm.”No one has to live with your baby but you, so who cares what their random “advice” or questions are?

But it’s not so simple when the remark is made to you.Moms – especially first time moms, not only want to do right by their kids, they also want to know that their judgment is good, that they’re Good At Being Moms.Until they feel self-assurance, they look for assurance, and approval, from others.This is why it’s so important for new moms to have real community, not just books and Expert Advice.

Once, while I was nursing my first baby at a family event, a relative of my husband’s said breastfeeding was “nasty” and “barbaric.” I was astonished that I cared at all about his judgment and yet the sting of it silenced and shamed me.It didn’t matter that he was the one who was acting nasty and barbaric.It couldn’t roll off me then.

                      Check me out being all nasty and barbaric

Here’s the weird thing:that desire for approval of the early decisions can last long after you grow confident in the mothering role.Which is why some small part of me, even ten years later, is not content to know that my husband’s step-mother’s cousin’s remark was nasty and barbaric, but, still, hopes that you are offended on my behalf.

This is also why you might hear defensive remarks from your own mother or mother-in-law (e.g., she sees you lie your baby down on his back and reacts as though you did it to accuse her of being an idiot for putting you down on your belly).

How can your mother feel even a tiny bit defensive about decisions she made 30+ years ago?It’s because when she made them she was a vulnerable new mom like you, wanting to strike the right balance between the “expert” advice and the idiosyncratic experiences of her own life.

Just the other day, I blogged in response to a mom who is considering travel that will separate her from her baby for four days.I mentioned that my mom had done this when I was a baby and that I thought it had been a big deal to her.My mom responded,

“It was a big deal.Big decisions involve hard choices.Glad we went and don’t think it impacted you much.I’m the one who missed those 9 days, so there r regrets.But it also made the time after my return that much more precious.Hope you know that.”

I read it and though it’s not written in a really defensive or insecure way, I immediately wanted to reassure her, “Of course I know that! I am not judging you!I am not upset that you weaned me, or went away!It’s OK!”

It was funny to hear even the smallest note of New-Mom concern in my own mother’s voice.To me, of course, she’s Mom.But she was once just like my students and clients, and like I was in those early days, a Beginner, finding her way, hoping her decisions were good enough, hoping it would turn out that she was good enough, not knowing, yet, that of course her children would find her more than good enough.Not even realizing, yet, that her tiny baby would one day be a woman and a mother along with her, sharing life and experiences.

Go give your mom a hug and remember that she was, once, a new mom, too, and that part of her always will be.

Parenting and Breastfeeding Consults

HandsYou’re taking care of the baby; who’s taking care of you?

You’re probably an expert at lots of things, but as a brand new Mom, or Mom-To-Be, you’re a new beginner. And unlike things that ease in gradually, this is something you do 24/7, without a guidebook.  (Well, there are hundreds of guidebooks but they all say different things, and none of them was written just for you). 

You know there’s not one “right way” to do everything, but … you want to get it right.

And you’re tired.

It can get intense.

As you figure out breastfeeding and infant care and logistics — and later on, as you sort out naps and playtime and your parenting style — you deserve pragmatic, non-generic assistance, and reassuring company. I’ll have my eye on you to make sure you’re not falling through the cracks – that you’re being taken care of as you learn to mother your baby.


  • FOR EXPECTANT PARENTS:  one or more pre-natal home visits (fee depends on number of visits).
  • FOR NEW PARENTS:  series of one-hour Parenting Consults — at any time during the first year — in your home or workplace, to discuss feeding, sleep, transitions, coping with colic, acclimating to motherhood, self-care, weaning, spousal issues, guilt, coping with relatives, introducing solid foods … what have you!  (fee depends on number of visits)
  • FOR NEW PARENTS OUTSIDE NYC: one-hour Skype consults are available for all parenting issues above except those that require a clinical breastfeeding assessment.  (I can help you locate an IBCLC to see locally.)

My goal is to help you find your sea legs. As you figure out who you are as a Mom, I will support your choices with guidance, advice and mentoring, so that you gain confidence to move through the postpartum period.