new mom

Winter New Moms’ Groups!

The next round of my new moms’ series is starting in late November for downtown moms.  Join us for 6 weeks as we explore your new life with humor, information, pragmatism, and a lot of irreverence.

This is a comment I got yesterday from a mom in the series that’s coming to an end now:

I wanted to say thanks for doing such a wonderful job in facilitating the new mom group.  I got so much out if it — I find myself several times a day saying either “in my new mom group I learned…” Or “Meredith talked about…”
This group has been priceless to me! 

When you join, you can also join my listserve of new moms, to interact between sessions and continue to meet up well after your little ones are past the early months. 

Details: 6 week series, Wednesdays 11/28- 1/16, 1:45-3:45, held at 54 Warren St (downstairs classroom), through Tribeca Parenting.  $180.  (note, class skips 12/26 and 1/2).  Yes, you can bring your baby!  Register here.

More description of moms’ groups here.  And of course you can email me with any questions:  meredith (at) amotherisborn (dot) com.

How To Take Care Of A New Mom, With Chocolate

You know those moments where mom is desperately hungry, but so is the baby?  That’s when it’s time for the Mom-Food-Chain: you feed mom, mom feeds baby.  

mom food chain

Also, are they not completely adorable?!  And isn’t this the most discreetly nursing baby ever?

I particularly love that he’s feeding her chocolate and berries — all the major food groups represented.

Have you tried this?

(photo taken with permission)

What Not To Say To A New Mother: Eleven Ways To Get It Right

Recently, I wrote about undermining things I’d heard hospital staff say to new mothers, and I have been overwhelmed by the feedback. I have read over a thousand responses and comments, too many of which confirm the themes of my original post:  that moms can feel seriously undermined by even small thoughtless remarks by their caregivers, mixed messages, or misinformation, and they hold on to the pain of that for years to come.  This comment struck me particularly:

when my daughter was placed in my arms, I had an overwhelming feeling of confidence that I could take care of this child, no problem; this was slowly eroded over 4 days in hospital, getting contradictory advice and information — so confusing!


Seasoned moms know that once the adrenaline of childbirth wears off – be it 24 hours or four months - taking care of a child is rarely a “no problem” thing.  We all doubt ourselves sometimes; no one has perfect confidence.  But in those first few days, moms need encouragement.  They need to be taught what to do when they feel doubt, and confusion; they don’t need more doubt and confusion heaped upon them.  

But!  Several people wrote in positive comments about their time in the hospital, too, and those stories are so moving – not just as a reminder that there are great, great hospital staff members out there, but as a reminder for all who encounter new moms: small positive comments and acts are surprisingly helpful, just as the small negative comments were surprisingly destructive. Years later, moms still remembered: 

  • how good it felt when a nurse congratulated her on how much she’d pumped, and 
  • when a L&D nurse brought a newborn who needed immediate pediatric care to mom’s belly for a kiss and hug before being rushed away, and 
  • the doctor who said “I can see you’re going to be great,” at a moment when the mom could not see it herself, and 
  • Nurses who knocked before entering, asked, “is this a good time?” or “do you need to pee before we do this?”

And there were several comments about caregivers who slowed down, sat on the edge of the bed and simply smiled.    

I don’t mean you should tell a new mom everything is spectacular if it isn’t. But if you’re a friend or loved one visiting a new mother, or if your work requires you to care for new parents – small things make a huge difference and are remembered for years to come. 

Helpers, loved ones, and all who interact with new moms can be memorable for the good they do with these eleven basics:

  • Put yourself on a five-second delay.  Helpers often “hit the ball back” with a response as soon as they hear a new mom’s question.  Whether you are a caregiver or a friend, take a pause before answering mom’s question, and think about what you’re about to say, and check the phrasing. 
  • Make sure you are qualified to answer.  (If not, there’s no shame!  You can say, “let me think about that” or “let me ask so and so”).  Then, get help for her.
  • Think about your tone.  If you sound bossy or defensive, New Mom may hear that, more than she hears your words.
  • You are responsible for your body language – If your shoulders are relaxed and you’re smiling, it’s easier for the new mom to hear the substance of what you’re saying, and to learn.  If she sees your eyebrows scrunched together and a frowny face and your shoulders up by your ears, it can drown out whatever you’re trying to tell her!  Even if you’re worried, don’t distract with your body. The most effective way to get the baby and mom cared for is not to scare them, but to use your brain and words to get them what they need.
  • SMILE.  It makes everything you say more absorbent.  Try not to behave as though there is an emergency unless there is an emergency.  
  • Stay away from hypotheticals (“if, by tomorrow, we don’t see a change in X, we will have to do Y” or, for friends: “if your baby starts doing A now, you’re going to be in for it when she’s B months old”) unless there is a clinical need to discuss them right now.  People do this to show off their knowledge and to spread their own anxiety around, but it’s not fair to the new mom.  Unless it’s clear you need to act, try to keep the mom to the present, and stick with her so you can jump in if need be.
  • Ask whether you need to say anything at all.  Sometimes a grin is truly enough interaction. 
  • Use open ended questions to get the mom talking.  ”Tell me how breastfeeding is going” or “How are you feeling today?” or “So, what do you think of your baby?” will get you more information than, “how many minutes did he latch?” or “has he pooped yet?” or “has he been crying a lot?” 
  • Observe the mom.  Find something she is doing well.  There will be something – the way she smiles at the baby, the way she holds him more confidently each time, the way she asks good questions or shows appropriate instincts.  Tell her, specifically, that you notice these good things.
  • Observe the baby!  Find something totally adorable, and tell them mom you notice.  I remember one client I had whose baby was in the NICU.  I saw them on day 2 and pointed out how adorable it was that the baby was gripping Dad’s finger.  The mom burst into tears, saying, “That’s the first compliment she’s gotten since she was born!  Everyone is only talking about all the things she’s not doing.”  
  • Friends and loved ones:  Help the new family develop a “home team” (and be part of it), to get their needs met and their questions answered once they’re home.

What about you?  Do you remember what helped in those early days and weeks?

Register for New Moms' Group!

Hey all,

There’s still space in the New Jewish Mothers’ Group starting next week!

This is a great opportunity to join an intimate new moms’ group and also connect with your spiritual side and think about Jewish traditions around lifecycle events.  It’s going to be awesome.  (info on my other moms’ groups starting soon here).

Things to know:

  • you don’t have to be religious. At all. 
  • you don’t have to be knowledgeable about Jewish lifecycle things, at all.
  • you don’t have to fit into Jewish Mother cultural stereotypes, at all!
  • We’re going to talk about all the regular new-moms’-group topics:  feeding, sleep, fussiness, routines, body changes, parenting with your partner … the lot.  
  • and also, the particular cultural distinctiveness and traditions in Jewish family life.
  • yes you can bring your baby
  • breastfeeding / not breastfeeding — doesn’t matter either way here.  You’re a mom; come talk.  
  • If you’re a Tamid member, it’s free!  For everyone else, it’s just like a regular new moms’ group:  $180 for six weeks and a lifetime of new friends.

DETAILS:  Thursdays, 11-1, at 299 Broadway. Featuring guest commentary by Rabbi Darren Levine on the role of Jewish spirituality in creating family life.


TO REGISTER: Click Purchase Button at left, scroll down.  If you are viewing this site on your mobile phone, you have to scroll down to the bottom and click “standard view” in order to see the purchase button.  If you are having trouble with this, email me at meredith (at) amotherisborn (dot) com

What Not To Say To A New Mother: The Hospital Edition

The other day I was visiting a family and their just-born baby in the hospital, and in the few short hours I was there, I heard a bunch of surprising comments:

  •  A nurse told a new dad (who was standing up, holding his 20 hour old baby) to put the baby down in the bassinet, warning him that his son was safer in the bassinet — otherwise Dad might drop the baby.  
  • A different nurse told a new mom (who was holding her 8 hour old baby) that her daughter would be safer in the bassinet because Mom might doze off and “co-sleeping is not allowed.”  

These comments, by two different staff members to two different families, are, to me, eye-rollingly laughable — obviously babies can be safely held by parents, both seated and standing.  Obviously babies don’t need to lie in a plastic bucket all the time for fear of being dropped.   

Probably the first nurse meant: “if you did drop him, we’d end up with a law suit,” I.e., it’s potentially dangerous to us, the hospital, not: “it’s actually likely you’ll drop him.” 

And probably the second nurse meant, “I have been trained to warn mothers not to fall asleep with their babies in bed because for non-breastfeeding babies there are certain risk factors to bed-sharing, and I see so many new moms per day that I can’t be more specific on an individual level,”  and not:  “it’s actually dangerous to for you to hold her right now, in bed, with visitors in your room.”

And, happily, both families took the comments with a grain of salt.  (The mom paused, concerned for a moment, but then looked around the room for encouragement and said, calmly, “well I’m awake right now.”  The dad made a comment under his breath about Americans’ fear of liability.) Both families have older children at home.

Here’s what I worry about, though:  first-time parents who have no other experience, and those who don’t have visitors to help them remember common sense.  Or who are just so tired and impressionable that they can believe that their urge to hold a newborn is wrong; and that he’s safer in a plastic box.  

It’s not that I think one statement, in isolation is so damaging, but, rather, the tide of small comments like this, pervading the new parents’ experience in the hospital.  Because while I was there, I also heard: 

1.  by a pediatric resident, re: a well baby:  “we’re taking the baby’s temperature to make sure she doesn’t have a fever.” (which suggests that she might have a fever, or might develop one),

instead of: 

we’re doing our well-check up of the baby’s vitals so we have a record of how healthy she is.”)  


2.  by a nurse:  “Here’s the breast pump.  If you don’t get enough to put in a bottle, we can give it by syringe.” (which suggests that mom might not make enough milk — a common fear), 

instead of: 

"one-day-old babies can only handle a tiny volume of colostrum because their stomachs are so small, and there’s no bottle small enough to appropriately feed a baby this young — so, we’ll give you a syringe you can put in her mouth, to give her the precious colostrum you get.”)  

(Or even better: "I hear you asked for a breast pump, so we’re sending one over along with an IBCLC who can teach and advise you, and help you figure out your options.”)


3.  by an OB, to parents being discharged early after a healthy birth (unprompted, without previous discussion of infant feeding):  “Definitely take home some of the formula. You can top him off after each feeding to make sure he doesn’t get dehydrated.” (which suggests that the baby will get dehydrated if “only” breastfed) 

instead of: 

"I’m not an expert on lactation, but if you have concerns about breastfeeding, let me get someone who can help you."

See how insidious this is?  Each remark alone might be a smallie (I don’t think this last one is a smallie, though), but the cumulative message, over and over is:  

Things are about to go wrong.  You can’t trust yourself, or your judgment.  That feeling of relief that the baby is healthy and in your arms?  It’s probably just wishful thinking and the rug is about to get yanked out from beneath you. 

Newborn parents, who, for the moment, are tired, sometimes overwhelmed, understandably confused and facing lots of new stuff, are more vulnerable to suggestion than the rest of us.  They need encouragement and support so that they can:

  • learn to take care of themselves and their babies, 
  • learn to distinguish “emergency, requiring medical care” from “common sense situation I can handle myself,” and
  • learn to cope with the normal new-parent anxiety.

They deserve to encounter staff who understand their concerns, worries and knowledge level. They deserve staff who don’t plant seeds of self-doubt and a culture of fear.  We patients pay huge sums of money to be cared for while we are vulnerable — it shouldn’t be “caveat emptor”: let the patient beware — any advice you get may be misguided.  

So, but here’s the thing:  I don’t think that hospital staff who say stuff like this mean any harm.  I don’t think they intend to undermine parents’ confidence or give faulty guidance.  At all.  I do think they may be influenced by the pressure to think about liability avoidance, and they may be too overworked to individualize service and attend to each new family’s particular needs.  Any of us can say the wrong thing when we’re under stress, because we’re human.

But I think it should be a priority, for all who work with pregnant folks and new parents, to try to get that tone right as often as possible.  To slow down, remember that that new dad holding his baby is, inside his head, probably worried, anxious and far more likely to be riddled with insecurity and self-doubt than he is to actually drop the baby.  It’s so unfair to saddle him with the hospital’s fear of a law suit, when what he needs is to be reassured that he is competent and has good instincts.  When we talk to him as though he already knows he’s competent, we are not reaching our audience. 

By the way, you know who *does* understand how to reach their audience?  You know who never gets so tired or busy with their other priorities that they get off message?  You know who’s really good at sending the message they mean to send? 


Advertisers think, all the time, about how their message will be received.  That’s what they’re paid to do.  And that’s why, when I see a sign like this (text at bottom)

bassinet sign

in every single baby’s bassinet in the hospital, with the Similac logo, and a completely horse-shit ambiguous message about infant feeding, I become pretty annoyed.  I have two Ivy League degrees, a pretty decent comprehension of English, and even got a full night’s sleep last night, but reading this message, I feel completely confused.  

That’s because the message is meant to confuse me.  I am meant to conclude that infant feeding decisions are very important and confusing and require far more complex micro-analysis than a normal person with normal breasts and a normal brain could possibly figure out, which is why, thank god, there are doctors, nurses, nutritionists (note absence of IBCLC in this list) and, most of all, Similac, bringing me this lovely “keepsake,” a reminder that I am completely incompetent.  

Note also that this solemn, authoritative missive about infant nutrition doesn’t mention breastfeeding.   

See how savvy this bit of marketing is?  Similac donates these advertising cards to the hospital.  The flip side of the card, which faces into the bassinet, says the baby’s name, age, and birth weight; the hospital accepts the cards so they don’t have to pay to make and print thousands of name cards.  The side with the Similac message faces out through the plastic and is positioned at eye level — it’s the first thing you see every time you look at the bassinet to check on your baby.

Unlike hospital staff who are, I think, unintentional when they undermine parents’ confidence, advertisers are cleverly exploiting parents’ fears.  This marketing message is aimed — visually — right at parents who are already a little confused, tired, worried that they don’t understand everything. The message is:  you can’t understand this stuff

It’s marketing designed to reinforce your worry and then sell you something to ease it.

Now look, we are lucky, in this time and place, to have ways to care for our babies if things do go wrong.  But we shouldn’t be starting there.  Scare tactics, and undermining messages should not be a part of routine patient care, whether by advertisers who do it on purpose, or by well-meaning, but careless, staff persons who do it because they’re not paid to prioritize anything else.

We can do better than this. 


  • New moms should not be isolated for long stretches.  Have someone who knows and loves you with you, not only during labor, but to stay with you while you’re in the hospital postnatally, to hold the baby while you nap, tell you how awesome you are, and to help you make sense of everything else that happens.
  • If you’re feeling confused by what anyone has said, ask them to explain why they’re recommending whatever they’re recommending.
  • If someone is saying or doing something that’s making you feel nervous or anxious, ask for more information.  Explanations demystify a lot.
  • If you’re told something that sounds like it doesn’t make sense, entertain the possibility that you’re right and ask for more information until it does make sense.  
  • If you have a clinical question about breastfeeding, it should be directed to an IBCLC.  If someone is giving you breastfeeding advice, ask them what training they have had. Anyone can call herself a “lactation consultant.”  Is this person an IBCLC or not?
  • Take the damn card out of the bassinet and throw it away.  Put in a new piece of paper with your baby’s age and name and weight.  Or turn the bassinet so the card faces away from you.  If you’re feeling energetic, tell someone at the hospital that you don’t like the Similac logo in your face.  (After you get home, when you have the energy (and this could be months later) write to the hospital and/or your caregiver and let them know what you liked and what you didn’t like.  You can use these form letters as a model.  Things change when people complain. 
  • If you’re feeling like everything is desperately hard, it is a good sign that you need help, not that you’re a failure already.  Ring the nurse.  Ask for help, and if it’s not something she can help with, ask who can.  Ask for help finding local resources for new parents in your neighborhood.  

I am sorry if this feels like all the burden is on you to ask.  But until our world changes so that all these things are just the routine, expected care of new parents, you do have to ask for the help you need.  When you do, you’ll find that competent, compassionate care helps.

(You can read more “What Not To Say” posts here (grandma edition), here (why comebacks are hard) and here (general dumb remarks), and you can read a followup to this post (what TO say) here).

10/9/12 update:  I’m sorry some readers can’t see the photo clearly enough to read the text.  This is what the Bassinet Card says:  

Deciding what to feed is an important decision, one that should be made by those who know your baby’s nutritional needs best.  Don’t make any changes in the feeding that has been specified for your baby without talking to your baby’s doctor, nurse or nutritionist.

Provided as a keepsake from Abbot Nutrition, Makers of Similac

In addition to the other problems with this card, deciding what to feed is a decision that should be made by parents, even if they have no nutritional expertise.

Fall New Moms' Groups!

Hi all —

Becoming a new mom can be crazy-making.  What helps, perhaps more than anything, is to break the isolation.  

In movies and online, new moms’ groups are like a frenzy of JudgyBitchy Mompetition, or some kind of Hyper-Crunchy Earthmama Fest that almost no one can relate to.  But in real life things it doesn’t have to be that way.  Come to one of my new moms’ groups and get the real deal — a comfortable environment of other cool, interesting, smart urban moms in your same life moment, with a guided topic each week and an experienced facilitator who can help keep it real and also fun.  It is friendly.  It is educational.  It is totally unprecious.  You will feel better, happier, more confident.  Sign up.

This fall, I’ve got three different mid-week options for downtown moms:  a monthly group, a weekly group, and a weekly group especially for new Jewish moms.  There is something for everyone!  More info here

(working moms:  my current working moms’ group is full, but please contact me if you are interested in joining the next session (starting November) or, if there is enough interest, I will open a second group).

Are You A Mom or a Philosopher?

There’s been much hype lately about “hyper” parenting styles — from the Time Magazine brouhaha, to that book claiming that French-style mothers do everything better, and Erica Jong’s rant that overly “attached” moms don’t party enough — parenting styles are getting a lot of scrutiny, especially parenting styles that emphasize attentive devotion to an infant’s needs.

I’m always dubious about criticisms of parenting “philosophies” — there’s good and bad in any philosophy, but it doesn’t tell you much about what goes on for real people.  I’ve worked with over a thousand mothers; none of them lives a Philosophy.  

Here’s the thing — human young are extremely needy — they can’t eat regular food, or walk, or talk, or even hold up their heads, and they take years to mature — any philosophy that ignores that is at best delusional and at worst abusive.  On the other hand, real life parents cannot, as a practical matter, terminate every other aspect of life for the care and cultivation of perfect offspring for years and years on end.  They need a life, too.   Real people make nuanced choices through the day. So big arguments about whether This Style Of Parenting is the be all end all are arguments about nonsense, not practical discussions about what actually works for real moms.  I kind of feel like, let’s just throw philosophy in the toilet and talk about real life instead.

But before we do, there are two ways that I see “philosophy” really do some harm, so let’s just get them out of the way, OK?

1.  Seeds of Doubt:  

If I told you that my eleven year old came up to me asking for a drink of water on a hot day, was panting and red-faced from being outside in the heat and said he was thirsty, and I told him, “It’s not time for your water,” and made him wait 45 minutes, you’d think I was insane for withholding it.  Would it matter to you that I’d just read a book telling me to space my child’s drinks evenly through the day and not be tricked by manipulative nagging?  What if I told you that my five year old daughter was awake at 5 am crying that she had a bad dream, but I didn’t go in and tickle her back because she hadn’t been in her room twelve hours yet and my book told me that I should be consistent about boundaries and leave her till seven a.m.?  

I really hope it would sound like nonsense to you to follow a book at those moments instead of attending to my actual children.

On the other hand, I’m sure we can all imagine other types of situations where I’d be right to say no to both kids — over a lot of protest — where it was clear that they were pushing a boundary and needed some limit setting.  

In both cases, I’d be meeting my kids’ needs — the need for unexpected water or back tickling on the one hand, or the need for a boundary on the other.

What’s hard about having a baby, especially your first, is that it’s not always easy to be confident that you can tell what your kid really needs.  Here’s where the bevy of books and experts enter, designed to tell you.  But the thing is, none of the books live with your kid, and while some of them can be helpful in general about what you may be observing, ultimately the best judge of what your kids are doing and why, is you.  But  there’s a difference between giving you a general sense of what you may be observing, vs. scaring you out of your own judgment or telling you what to do regardless of the specifics.  

What’s really hard in the hour-by-hour of parenting is that no mother always knows the right thing to do.  Parenting requires living with some anxiety about how to proceed.  The wisest support people you encounter will give you some information about infant development but also help you learn to cope with that anxious feeling of uncertainty.  When you have some tools to cope with uncertainty, you can tune in to your best instincts and come up with a good plan for your family.  It won’t be perfect every time, but nothing is; it will be good enough.

The dogmatic books and experts, on the other hand, tell you it’s all very simple — three steps or five minutes or twelve nights, but if your life doesn’t happen to fit perfectly with their regimen, that lack of nuance sadly works to increase your self-doubt the way that airbrushed and photoshopped images of women plant seeds of self-doubt even in the most body-confident woman.  

With the photo-shopped images, the best course is to minimize your exposure so they can’t infect your brain.  Increasingly, I’m thinking, lets do the same with experts and books that leave no room for the real, weird, nuanced complexity of you and your baby.  Find the people who help you learn to cope with uncertainty.  Real moms, in real life, are the best place to start.

2.  Some Philosophies Are Just Wrong. 

OK some basics:  Human infants need to be held.  They need to be fed very frequently.  They need an adult around who can make eye contact, and engage.  There is simply no way around these facts.  Any book that is essentially telling you that you can turn your human infant into a tadpole who does not need parenting, is wrong.  Any book that says that you can harm your children by loving them or by attending to their needs, is wrong.  Any book that says that you should not ever trust your instincts about what your child needs, is wrong.  

Having said all that, we’d be missing half the problem if I ended it there.  Because the flip side is:  Human mothers have feelings about meeting the needs of their infants — good feelings and bad feelings.  It is not always easy, it is not always fun, it is not always lovable to be appropriately available to the needs of a growing child.  It can be frustrating and annoying and very lonely.  And any book that says that your own feelings and needs are irrelevant, that you shouldn’t have them or that you should ignore them, or that good mothers never feel these things — is equally wrong.  And any book that tells you that you should not want anything beyond meeting the immediate needs of your infant, is wrong and misogynist.  What you feel, and what you want are not always aligned with what you are prepared to do.

So — on the one hand, infants are genuinely needy and it is appropriate to meet their needs.  On the other hand, as a mother you may not always love that.  How do we reconcile these things?  

I think the way to answer that is to look at what not to do.  It’s a mistake and so unfair to reconcile these by not meeting your baby’s needs or by deluding yourself that your baby doesn’t have them.  Your baby is just a baby; she needs parenting.  

On the other hand, you don’t want to go to the other extreme either.  I like this piece by Katherine Stone which reviews a study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies which found that an “Intense” parenting style made parents unhappy and even clinically depressed.  “Intense” parenting style puts the needs of the infant at such a premium that the parents become irrelevant, and it’s no better than the other extreme.  Katherine discusses how this is different from developmentally appropriate parenting, where parents attend to the children without ignoring themselves. 

I have to tell you, I read the list of “Intense Parenting Tenets” and felt like clawing my eyes out — yeah, you’d become depressed if you believed these things.  Below are the “Tenets” and, following, my revision, for you to modify to your own life and your own needs, day by day:

INTENSE PARENTING:  mothers, not fathers, are the most necessary and capable parent


1.  Mothers are really important to their babies, and women who’ve just become mothers sometimes underestimate how much they’re capable of and how necessary they are in their babies’ lives.  That doesn’t mean you’re the only one who can or should attend to your baby’s needs.  It also doesn’t mean that you are going to love every second of it.  

(also, p.s., how heteronormative?!)

INTENSE PARENTING: parents’ happiness is derived primarily from their children


2.  Parents of older children often describe their children as a source of happiness and enrichment — this is something new parents can look forward to.  Parents of newborns are often surprised that they don’t feel a deep relationship yet.  Many of them take great pleasure and satisfaction in many aspects of being with their babies, but many of them also feel a sense of mourning for the kind of freedom and happiness that went with being childless.  It is an adjustment.  As an ongoing matter, adults need adults in their lives for happiness and stimulation, not just children and babies.  However, the bond you share with your children can be extremely rewarding, especially as it deepens over time.

INTENSE PARENTING:  parents should always provide their children with stimulating activities that aid in their development


3.  Living with an attentive adult who makes eye contact, holds the baby and talks, and reads to her, is phenomenally stimulating for an infant.  Think of your job as a parent as to introduce your child to the world, not to create a second-by-second bonanza of stimulation.  Hanging out is often the perfect activity.  When you’re about to do something, you can start by thinking, “does this seem like it would be fun?”  Yes, for you, not just for your baby.

INTENSE PARENTING: parenting is more difficult than working


4.  Parenting is surprisingly difficult if you imagined it was going to be easy.  It is harder than some jobs and easier than others.  The pay is awful but there is a casual dress code.

INTENSE PARENTING: a parent should always sacrifice their needs for the needs of the child


5.  A parent should sometimes sacrifice her needs for the needs of the child, and sometimes the child is going to have to sacrifice or wait on the needs of the parent.  This is true in any relationship and also true in parenting.  The difference is that in other relationships, both parties decide together about give and take.  With your child, you are responsible for figuring out what fair sacrifices on both sides are, because you are the adult.  If you have loving friends in your life and you aren’t depressed, you will learn to have confidence that you can make good judgments about how to balance that, but you will not always be certain that you’ve done it right.  That is okay, and enough.

This is a saner version of parenting, but it needs some honing to your particular situation, and that takes time. I hope you contact me so we can talk about it further.  

Taking Care Of You

I can’t count the number of times I’ve told clients and students “be gentle with yourself.” 

"Take care of your own needs."

"Put your own oxygen mask on first so that you can take care of everyone else."

"Fill up your cup."

"Make time for friends and cups of tea, chocolate, sex, fresh air, pedicures.  You deserve it."

"You deserve to be happy."

So easy to say, all of these things.  

Not always so easy to do.

Not even easy when your career involves talking about this stuff.  Which is why I love this recent piece called "Self Care Means Taking Care of You!" by my friend Caitlin Fitzgordon, a postpartum doula and childbirth educator in Brooklyn.   Caitlin writes beautifully about her own struggles to balance the normal sacrifices of devoted mothering with a genuine need to prioritize herself.  She says: 

Losing yourself might be considered a normal part of motherhood. Your old self is gone and a new self develops—one hard-wired to take care of a new, delightful, confusing, needy person. Sometimes, though, it goes too far.

It’s true.  In the early weeks/months/years it’s appropriate — and can feel awesome — to totally throw yourself into motherhood, even if that means you look, from the outside, like you’ve lost yourself.  But at some point, you’re not just Becoming A New Mother anymore, you are one, and your normal, human, adult needs come rearing up and need to be fit back in.  Not in place of caring for your child, but alongside.  Finding a place for yourself can be oddly difficult — not just because it’s logistically hard, but because it can feel weird and wrong to even have needs.  Caitlin reflects honestly and candidly about her own excesses, and I admire her courage in saying, essentially, “yeah, no matter how much of this I might tell my own clients, this stuff is hard for me, too.”

Boy do I see my clients struggle with this stuff, and boy do I struggle with this stuff myself, sometimes, too.  It can take different forms — for some moms it’s literally that they don’t make time for themselves, to go out with friends, to get to the gym, to sometimes take naps.  My own kids aren’t babies anymore, so I get a lot more time than new mothers do, but no matter how many times I re-learn this, I still have phases where the balance is really hard.  For me it’s less about what my free time looks like and more about my mindset — I sometimes forget that my own happiness is not only a priority but a necessity. 

A necessity.  Like, how feeding my children is a necessity.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of considering a mother’s happiness only a luxury, something you hope “someday” to make time for, or something kid-dependent (“I should be happy as long as my kids are thriving and my work is getting done”).  Well, I think that a lot of the things we took for granted when we were childless are now luxuries (time, certain kinds of privacy, flexibility, comforts).  But not happiness.  The idea that you’re supposed to “do without” happiness as long as your kids and work are getting handled; the idea that you should be stoic enough enough to handle everything and never need much for yourself is, um, totally freaking misogynist, puritanical and basically effed up.  

And yet, weirdly easy to buy into!

And, once you’ve gotten a little mired in it, and you’ve either started yelling at everyone a lot (Caitlin) or become depressed and withdrawn (me), it’s a total pain in the butt to get out of because of Guilt (“I should be more stoic and need less and do more!”) and Hopelessness (“It’s pointless to take a fifteen minute nap when I’m this tired/ I’ll never have time to get to yoga anyway”).  

It’s so ugly.  

And what’s really tricky is that a lot of the time, the very obligations that leave us feeling trapped are things we also love: Taking care of our kids.  Nurturing our careers.  Connected time with our partners.  Tending to our home.  It’s not that we shouldn’t take these commitments seriously, it’s that we need to keep an eye on whether they’re in a balance that still makes us happy.  And if the answer is no, we need to take that seriously.

There’s not a quick cure or a permanent fix.  But I think sometimes it helps to just insist you go to that spinning class at the gym even though you feel sad and lumpy and you don’t have time.  You go anyway, and you sweat and feel better.  

Or push your sorry ass out the door and have a drink with friends even though you feel it’s all so exhausting and you are also now stinging-with-guilt-because-you-were-kind-of-a-total-martyry-beeyotch-to-your-partner-about-the-fact-that-he-was-going-to-do-what-we-don’t-call-babysitting-but-which-he-was-totally-thinking-of-as-babysitting.  You go anyway, and you get there and laugh and laugh and laugh and feel light, because friendship sloughs the stress off you.  

Or you send your husband out to dinner with your kids when you’re exhausted, even though you work full time and feel guilty that you “should” want to be with them every waking minute.  You do it anyway.  And then your apartment is quiet and you lie in bed and meditate or masturbate or read a book or browse Facebook, or I don’t know, whatever you like to do, and find that you are starting to feel a little better.  

And a little better with the next thing, and better still with the next and then suddenly you find yourself saying, “I’m starting to feel human again,” not because you’ve stopped being serious about your work or about your kids or about your other obligations, but because you’ve started being serious about taking care of yourself.  Too.  Being an adult, being a mother, being a wife, being someone with a career and a life — these things shouldn’t mean you don’t also get to feel human.  

It doesn’t get all solved with one pedicure.   Taking care of yourself is like taking care of your kids!  You do it in tiny bits, little by little, making small incremental progress, reassessing all the time to see whether what felt good last month is still good now.  It may start, though, by insisting: I will not succumb to guilt for needing some human comforts!  And it helps to remember, as Caitlin wisely notes, it’s not something you do once, not something you master and are then done.  It’s something you practice forever. 

What helps you take care of yourself?

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.  

Apparently John Cleese Knows Everything About Parenting, Birth, Work, Marriage And Life!

Someone sent me this link to a talk by John Cleese about creativity, which I watched, at first, because I figured there’d be a few good jokes.  But I realized, watching, that although he’s supposedly talking about creativity in general, the whole piece is a fabulous essay, indirectly, about the importance of creativity in parenting and birth.  And your career.  And your marriage.  And life.  Creativity is they key to happiness in all of these things, and it isn’t a talent but a mode of operating.  Anyone can get at it.

I couldn’t agree more.

Many of you who have taken my classes/workshops/groups have heard me talk about how important it is for mothers to maintain a playful sense of curiosity, humor, and faith that although pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood are very serious, they are not meant to be solemn. Curiosity, a willingness to experiment and be silly and get stuff wrong (because a wrong choice might be a stepping stone to something brilliant), a sense of humor … these are some of the ingredients of the creative mode, and Cleese’s speech is all about how to get at that mode more easily.

Scary things happen when you embark on parenthood.  The stakes can feel really high.  Scary things make us anxious, and anxiety can squash out the open, fun, confident feeling that lets us be our most creative selves.  John Cleese says that the “closed mode” (where we’re not able to be creative), is characterized by anxious feelings, impatience, attempts to be organized, focus on small trivial tasks, and, sometimes, manic pursuit of a goal.  In short, it’s where new moms spend a lot of their time. 

One of the problems is that anxiety makes us worry that we don’t know enough.  So we consult experts — too often we don’t consult the kind of experts who guide and support us in being authors of our own lives, but, instead, the kind who confirm our fears that we don’t know anything and solemnly tell us How To Do Everything Their Way.  But if you are a non-generic person with a non-generic child, generic advice — even from famous experts — will not work.  

What will work is a customized, creative, individualized approach.

To do that, you need to get into the creative mode, which he describes as expansive, less purposeful, more inclined to humor, and filled with curiosity for its own sake.  (Doesn’t that sound more fun?) 

Being there will help you figure out how best for you to handle: the challenges of labor, parenting a baby, the transition back to work. Tricky infant feeding and sleep questions.  Tantrums.  Choosing a new midwife or OB or pediatrician.  Unloading the dishwasher and other shared domestic chores.  Finding time to get to the gym and have your nails painted and groove on your partner and sometimes do decadent things. In short, you’ll need to get creative to handle being an adult with a real, complicated life, and kids.  

(Well, actually, you can get by without being creative, but you deserve a life where you’re not just getting by.)  

There are a bunch of key points in the speech, concrete ideas about how to get into the creative mode.  (hint:  you need time, and space, and some people you can talk to, and a sense of lightness — sounds like a new moms’ group to me!).  But you should watch him explain the whole thing, so you can look at him and think of laughing your head off at that Fawlty Towers episode with the rat.

Perhaps my favorite part is towards the end when he says that being creative requires being prepared to tolerate the anxiety of sitting with something we haven’t solved yet.  

How many of us has been there, with an annoying or worrisome problem with our babies/toddlers/work/spouse, insecure because we don’t know how to deal with it, and totally irritable that the problem is Not Fixed And What If It Never Gets Fixed And Just Gets Worse And Worse!!??!  

Being creative, and successful, and happy doesn’t mean never feeling that way.  But Cleese’s ideas about how to cope with that moment, and what comes before and after that are, I think, really inspiring.  I hope you contact me to talk more about how to apply these ideas to childbirth and parenting, one-on-one or in a group.  meredith (at) amotherisborn (dot) com (or click the “Ask” button at left and leave your contact info!)

Ban The Mommy-Bomb: Why You Shouldn't Read That TIME Piece With The Photo Of A Sexy Lady Nursing Her Preschooler

Sometimes I picture online publishers sitting around a room looking worriedly at a bunch of charts with lines heading down down down — waning readership on their sites! Dismal traffic!  Not enough clicks!  

Then one of them grins and says, “You know what we need to do.”  And they all smirk and don’t even have to talk about what comes next.  It’s time for a Mommy-Bomb.

 All they have to do is print the word “breastfeeding.”  

Or “Formula.”  

Or “Stay-at-home mom.”  Or “Daycare.”  

Or “Epidural.”  Or “Natural Childbirth.”

And then a subtitle that includes the words “Good Enough” or “Mommy Wars.” 

Done.  They all laugh and do five minutes of work looking for someone to be the Sarah Palin (that’s what they call the “feminist” they’ll use to take a nonfeminist position for the article).  

They then open some beers and laugh about how they can get women readers to do their work for them.  They drive up traffic and ad revenue by fomenting insecurity and divisiveness and discord among the readers who can’t help but get sucked in.  

So, it just happened again, with tomorrow’s cover article in Time Magazine (note I am not linking to it), which shows a model-thin woman breastfeeding her preschooler.  This one’s got extra cha-ching because it’s not only a Mommy Bomb, it’s also a SexyBoobs Shot.  The title is, “Are You Mom Enough?”  SexyBoob Lady is giving us a Mona Lisa smile in her tank top and skinny jeans, showing off her gym-toned arms while her three year old suckles.  She can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and squirt that shit with home-grown organic breast milk.  Can you?

The article is apparently, about parenting styles — whether “regular” moms can measure up to Dr. William Sears’ version of Attachment Parenting; whether Attachment Parenting is keeping women down.  

Except it’s not about these things, really.  

A group of real women, gathered together with an experienced facilitator can have an amazing discussion about parenting philosophies, nursing, working vs. staying home — the works.  But online, these topics don’t lead to discussion, they lead to a shitstorm.  They’re not published to inspire discussion and thought.  They’re published to create controversy.  The hope is that you’ll click and click and click, to be scandalized or outraged, not that you’ll think, contribute, learn.

Here are a few things I think we all know, and one I think we often forget.  

1.  There’s no one perfect parenting philosophy that suits every baby and family just like not all babies are the same.

2.  Babies are really needy and there’s actually no way to raise them without getting pretty mutually attached.

3.  New moms, finding their way into their new identity are vulnerable to criticism and guilt, and can become insecure and defensive when they’re lonely with no company but the internet.


4. When you click on an ad-based website, you’re making money for that site.  

I think it’s shitty that publishers run stories that exploit the normal insecurities new mothers experience.  It feels predatory to me.  Please don’t add to it by reading the story or participating.  

Instead, I suggest you take a look at two really thoughtful pieces *about* the story:  Katherine Stone’s piece on Strollerderby collects comments by over a dozen bloggers (including me!) about how to support real life women, not generic philosophies of Motherhood.  

Rebecca Odes’ piece, also on Strollerderby, takes a look at the feminist issues in the photography of the cover picture.  These pieces are worth your traffic; take a look.

Strong Start Day 2011

When I’m teaching a childbirth class, and I begin to talk about postpartum mood issues, I see every pregnant woman tense up a little, as if stiffening the body will ward off the possibility of Depression Happening To Me.  It’s a normal reaction, I think — even in this day and age, Depression carries a stigma.  We’re supposed to be happy all the time.  We’re supposed to be able to cope.  Mothers, especially, are supposed to be able to cope.  And if they can’t, they’re really not supposed to admit it.

We don’t even like to use the word “depression.”  I can’t tell you how often I’ve been approached by new or expectant mothers who want to ask me about “Postpartum.”  They mean: “Postpartum Depression/Anxiety/OCD,” but don’t want to say those words.  Even the *words* are too scary.  The word “postpartum” actually just means the time period after you give birth — it has nothing to do with depression!  But it’s become so common now for women to say “Postpartum” to mean “Depression” that I can’t even say “postpartum” anymore to mean “the early weeks” without freaking out an entire roomful of women.    

Here is the thing.  For some moms, the ride into parenthood is bumpy.  Well, hang on, I think for everyone it’s bumpy.  What major life transition isn’t?  But for some moms it’s More Than Normal Bumpy.  Often this is a result of  unexpected birth/breastfeeding/whatever situation + fatigue + isolation + unrealistic expectations having never seen a new mother before.  For many, many of those moms, the thing that helps them pull out is company, especially the company of other mothers.  

But for others Bumpy Ride derails into Depression or other Mental Illness.  Company helps those moms, too, but they also need clinical help, whether in the form of counselling, or medication, or both.  Depression is an illness.  It requires treatment.

But, see, one of the classic hallmarks of Depression is: hopelessness.  By definition, if you feel hopeless, it seems, well, hopeless to seek help.  So, women who are depressed are singularly unlikely to go out and look for the help they need.  Often they imagine that it’s … hopeless.  So why bother?  Add on the exhaustion of being a new mom, the logistical problems of getting out of the house when you have a baby, and the general stigma about Depression and you have a recipe for Depression that lasts, and lasts, and lasts, untreated.  


It’s so sad!  Parenthood can be tough, challenging, scary, and sometimes flat out annoying, as well as all the good things.  It’s normal for women to have mixed feelings about any big life change, and mixed feelings include negative feelings.  But feeling despair, predominantly, is not something to Just Cope With.  

Women who are Depressed need others to take care of them, and one champion for mothers on this issue is Katherine Stone.  This week she is looking for your support, beginning, today, with Strong Start Day 2011.  You should support her.  You should tell the new moms you know about her blog, whether they are depressed or not.  You should talk about the stuff that’s hard even though there’s pressure not to.  It helps.

By the way, you should also come to a New MOMs group.  Because when you’re in the company of other new mothers, you can see, more clearly, the difference between a new mom who is feeling the normal range of “down, confused, worried and Not Loving It Right Now” and a mom who is really not coping.  This helps you sort out what’s going on with you.  You can get comfort and support if that’s what you need, and you can *give* comfort and support to the moms who need it.  And, even if everything is going splendidly, you can meet some other cool folks who’ve also just reproduced.

How To Get Out Of Funkytown

There’s a kind of general cultural vibe that says that as long as your baby is healthy and your hair isn’t on fire, you shouldn’t complain.  But we all have days/weeks where ‘lousy’ is a euphemism, and especially for new moms whose lives have just turned upside down anyway, it can be hard to take. 

So, I really like this post from Meagan Francis’ lovely blog, which lists five things moms can do when they’re in a funk. Her suggestions:

  1. Go for a walk
  2. Take a bath
  3. Clean something
  4. Consume some non-computer media
  5. Engage in a mentally stimulating activity.

It helps a lot to have a list there at those moments when you’re so funky you can’t even think straight.  I suggest you make one for yourself.

I have a list like this stored as a memo in my phone.  Then, if I’m walking around and positive that Everything Is Shit, I can click on a button and get visited by a saner version of myself who is saying, Darling, everything is not shit.  But don’t sit here stewing in your own juices.  Go for a freaking walk.

There are some things on my list that aren’t on Meagan’s.  They include:

  • Call a friend.  I actually listed a few friends’ names because sometimes when Everything Is Shit I need really specific reminders of, like, who I like. 
  • Exercise.  Underneath, I wrote:  “If even seeing the word ‘exercise’ makes you feel like throwing the phone, it is good evidence that you should go to the gym asap.”
  • Music.
  • Chocolate.  One day the medicinal value will be clearly established and I will feel validated for taking chocolate syrup in a medicine cup.
  • Sex.  I feel like this is all I’m blogging about lately, but you know it does help, people!  Go it alone if necessary ;-)
  • Emergen-C.
  • Prayer.  Meditation would work, too, if you’re not a praying type of person.
  •  Call a friend.  I have this one in twice in case I ignored it the first time.  Because reaching out to someone who loves you is probably the thing that will restore you more than anything.  

Here’s the thing.  I don’t always remember to look at the note in my phone!  Neither will you.  There’s really no avoiding the occasional funk, and there’s no magic way to get out of it instantly.  But this stuff is a good place to start. 

When in doubt, bathe

The other day, the moms in my Chelsea New MOMs series were talking about evening routines, and one mom mentioned that she likes to get into the tub with her baby.  It’s kind of a brilliant way to do some multi-tasking — you get your baby clean, you get yourself clean and you get to relax in the tub at the end of what was undoubtedly a long day.  

And apparently there’s even more to it:  a new study has found that soaking in a hot bath is helpful when you feel lonely or isolated:

Warm physical experiences were found to significantly reduce the distress of social exclusion, said the study published in the psychology journal Emotion.

"Findings suggest that physical and social warmth are to some extent substitutable in daily life," the study concluded.

"The lonelier we get, the more we substitute the missing social warmth with physical warmth."

Isolation can be a problem throughout the course of parenting, but especially strong for new mothers in those early weeks.  The best investment you can make in your own sanity is to reach out to others by making real, deep, personal connections with likeminded folks.  That’s what mothers’ groups and parenting classes are for.  Ideally, the moms you meet at a new moms’ group become lifelong friends who share each others’ lives through the ups and downs.  

But I know it takes a while for those relationships to deepen, so in the meantime, how about a nice bath and a cup of tea?  Warming yourself helps, and when you’re helped, you’ll be able to do more, get out, and begin to feel even better.   

Note — if you’re taking a bath with your baby for the first time, do it with someone else at home.  The tricky part is getting used to transferring a wet baby out of the tub while you’re still in it.  It’s easiest, at first, to hand the baby off to your partner, and then get out by yourself.

Full article here.

New Moms’ Groups

Mothers' Group

New Moms’ Groups

This is the place where you can be real: messy, and unshowered some days, energetic and fresh-from-the-gym other times, deeply inspired one week and filled with doubt the next.  Moms’ Groups are the place to sort it out and to find like-minded women in the same life-moment. Some of the people you meet here will be friends for life.   


Four Thursdays (11-1) in Columbus Circle: (new series starts each month) at City Births, 370 W 58 St.

Four Wednesdays (2-4:00) in Tribeca: (new series starts each month) at Pregnancy & Parenting, 54 Warren St. 

Six Fridays (11:30-1:20) in SoHo: (this group is for Bowery Babes members; please contact me directly at meredith (at) amotherisborn (dot) com.

No matter the location, our focus is on the way that being a mother — not just having a baby — shapes your day and your life.


Can I bring my baby?  Yes! 

Can I ask questions about breastfeeding?   Yes, although this is not only a breastfeeding group, the topic of breastfeeding often comes up!  I am an IBCLC and can give perspectives on the nursing relationship.  There is also a digital scale in Columbus Circle and in TriBeCa if you wish to weigh your baby.  However, this group is not a place to get one-on-one clinical support, and if it seems that’s what you need, I’ll suggest we chat afterwards about working together.

What if I’m not nursing?  Will I feel left out?  No! — the group is for moms, regardless of feeding method.  One of the benefits of a moms’ group is learning that in real life, if not online, people get along and support each other even if they are not all doing the same thing.

What do we do in a moms’ group, anyway?  Here are some topics:

  • dealing with crying and fussy behavior
  • establishing routines
  • getting your body back
  • co-parenting with your partner
  • "myths" of motherhood
  • sex and intimacy and parenting
  • feeding, and sleep issues
  • dealing with parents and in-laws
  • coping with normal new mom anxiety and doubt

If I’m going back to work, is it worth it to come? Yes!  A new moms’ group is an introduction to a wonderful peer community. Being around other mothers will help you get your bearings in the transition to parenthood.  Some stay-at-home moms will continue month after month, and some of the moms who return to work will continue with the working moms’ group, but at the outset, you’re all starting in the same place. 

Can I come to more than one location? Yes, you can join more than one! Many moms do! But you have to register for each group separately with the host organization.  

What if I really can’t get out of the house but have lots of questions? Joining a group is best, but for moms who can’t, I do private parenting consults on these issues as well.


moms group

 Look at all these happy moms and babies!

Working Moms’ Workshop and Support Group

For 2014 Ongoing Working Moms’ Groups, scroll down.

Breastfeed in Park

In the Working Moms’ Workshop: we cover all the essentials of going back to work after a first child, including:

  • Finding and maintaining excellent childcare
  • Breastfeeding and pumping issues
  • Sleep issues for working moms
  • Finding “me-time”
  • Negotiating boundaries at work
  • Getting “everything else” done
  • Co-parenting with your partner when you’re both employed
  • Your relationship with your baby

This is run as a 3 part series meeting once a month for three months.  Contact me for dates and to register.

Participants are invited to join the ongoing working moms’ group to share sharing resources and continue the discussion.

The Working Moms’ Ongoing Group helps new moms prepare for and manage work/motherhood concerns. Members are a diverse group of moms who come together to share information, problem-solve, vent and find a place for their dual identities.  This is a great group, and a sorely needed resource for working moms who want to talk and connect. 


CHELSEA:  129A W 20 Street between 6th and 7th. On hiatus in March 2014; contact me for the April-May series at meredith (at) amotherisborn (dot) com.

UPPER WEST SIDE:  370 W 58 St 2C. 3/13, 3/27, 4/10, 4/17 (four dates) 8-10pm $140

Register by clicking button at left.  More details here and here.

A note about these groups — please read this before you consider joining:   Scheduling a working moms’ group is never fun because everyone’s life is busy.  It’s easy to cut out the things you do “only” for yourself. Over the years, I’ve observed, though, that when a group feels mutually committed, great things happen.  Members who sense an obligation to the group go out of their way to attend and find that dragging themselves out even when they’re tired, or the weather is bad, or a babysitter is hard to come by — pays back in huge dividends for them. Even more importantly, when the group comes to rely on each other, it’s magical.  Everyone feels safer talking candidly about her own life when she knows that the other women there are in it with her — not just dropping in or “trying it out.”  No one wants to talk about the tough stuff with someone she might never see again! For this reason, attendance is a priority for this group.  Think of signing up as a commitment to everyone else in the room, and know that they are committing to you, too. 

(Obviously, sometimes you can’t make it, and that’s fine — life happens.  Calling in and participating by phone is an option many folks take when a business trip or family situation forces them to miss a session).  

Finally, since I encourage you to think of joining as a commitment to the group, I don’t offer “trial” classes or pro-rated fees if you know you’ll have to miss a sesssion, and the series fee is non-refundable.  I hope you’ll join, and come to be part of a supportive community that is, truly, priceless.

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.