Monday, February 23, 2015

Baby Comes Home giveaway

One of the jokes Andrew and I shared when bringing Parker home from the hospital was, “What the?! They’re really letting us take her? They trust that we know what we’re doing? Because we don’t!”



Bringing home a newborn is scary. You have to figure out breastfeeding and nutrition, diaper changing and dressing, bathing and hygiene, sleeping patterns and needs, all on limited amounts of sleep. Even little things, like getting a onesie over their head or clipping their itty-bitty but razor-sharp nails are fraught with uncertainty and fear.



Coincidentally, I received Baby Comes Home, a new book by pediatric specialist Dr. Paul Roumeliotis while on maternity leave. I’ve read plenty of parenting books over the past six months, but what I like about Dr. Paul’s approach is his public health background and belief in how much influence you can have on your baby’s developing brain simply by loving her and fostering a nurturing relationship. He calls it the "Science of TLC.” The book is not so much a manual but an overview of all the things you should know and be prepared for. Here, Dr. Paul responded to a few of my personal questions.



I love your approach of a loving home being the foundation for a healthy baby. Can you explain a little about the “Science of TLC”?



TLC—tender loving care—is not a new concept; we always suspected it was important, and now we have the science to prove it. Studies on the effect of brain development (the wiring or sculpting of the brain) by the lack of bonding, healthy relationships, and nurturing during the first few year of life have shown rather worrisome results. Up until now, it was very clear that lack of bonding and nurturing in babies can result in long-term psychological and mental conditions. It is now apparent that this neglect can exacerbate or even cause chronic physical illness such as diabetes and heart disease even decades later. 

In addition, the aspects of a child’s development that are interfered with, play a role in a child’s future learning and socializing skills, and ultimately their ability to reach their full potential as adults. So, investing in a child’s early support not only assures proper mental, emotional, and psychological development at the time, but is also a form of chronic disease prevention. The reason I purposefully chose to cover the first 18 months is because this is the period during which the brain growth and development is very active and, consequently, vulnerable.



What are the simplest ways of expressing love so you know your baby is benefiting from your internal feelings?



It does not cost anything to respond to, nurture, caress, and give your baby as much attention as you can. Connecting and interacting with baby and establishing a relationship are easy to do and the pleasure you will get back is priceless. At the same time, baby’s brain is feverishly developing and growing well. Soothing baby when upset is one of the most important things to do. Reading to baby, making eye contact, playing, and giving loving attention are quite easy to do, virtually anywhere, anytime, and under any circumstances. So remember: infant-parent and infant-caregiver relationships and connections do not cost anything, yet there is so much return!



In the four months I’ve been home with Parker, I’ve probably had 18,162 nightmares flash through my mind of all the terrible things that could happen. What do you think are actually the most overlooked safety issues and the ones that can be most easily avoided?



Accidents can happen in an instant and, at times, a baby's stage of development takes us by surprise. For example, although a 4-month-old baby cannot yet crawl or walk, she can roll over and fall off a changing table and even down nearby un-gated stairs. So it's important not to assume that baby cannot get into an accident, and to NEVER leave a baby unattended. It is a good idea to baby-proof your home before baby arrives and to ensure that there are no hazards. One of the other places where accidents can happen is when visiting a friend or relative's house who does not have kids and thus is not baby-safe.



I live in Brooklyn. What safety issues are different for city babies than those in the suburbs or country?



I have lived and worked in both city (including suburbs) and rural or country areas. For children under two, I think the safety issues are the same because most are indoor risks. However, we do know from epidemiologic studies that motor vehicle, pedestrian and work-related accidents tend to occur more in rural areas. So as a children get older and spend more time outdoors, parents need to be particularly attentive on the roads and around the home. Having said that, in busy city streets, there is also a real risk for car and pedestrian accidents.



I’m in the middle of trying to get Parker on both feeding and sleeping schedules, and it seems every resource I go to offers conflicting advice. What do you think the best thing I can do to get her to sleep through the night? What’s the soundest approach?



For feeding, I talk about a simple approach, which is the 4 by 4. It means that by 4 months of age, a baby should have 4 feeds per 24 hours. This is a good routine to aim for. In older children, I do believe that there should be 3 meals and 2 snacks per day and nothing in between. This is a great way to prevent picky/fussy eating habits.



Sleep routines are more difficult to establish because no two babies are alike and there is no "magic” or “normal” age at which a baby sleeps through the night. I think the best way to establish a bedtime routine is to start as early as possible with a calm and uninterrupted, nightly pre-bedtime ritual, like giving baby a bath, then reading and then putting her to sleep.



Also, because baby's brain sleep stages are immature, shifting from one sleep phase to another may temporarily awaken the baby during the night. In most cases baby will fall back asleep on her own so do not pick her up right away as this may teach her that every time she fusses, she gets picked up. Of course, I do not mean to let baby cry inconsolably.



The American Academy of Pediatrics has some recommendations that I describe in my book to help baby develop good sleep habits, which include:

  • As soon as baby is tired put her to bed immediately.
  • Rocking or holding a baby until she falls asleep creates a habit. Soon the baby will need to be held and comforted back to sleep every time she wakes in the middle of the night.
  • Avoid putting baby to bed with a pacifier.
  • Do not put the baby to sleep in your bed.



A good portion of your book is devoted to common illnesses. Do you want to weigh in on the immunization debate? What do you think of the recent measles outbreak?

This is a very important issue as we are in the midst of multiple Measles outbreaks in North America largely due to unvaccinated children, so, yes, I definitely want to weigh in. 

In short, I do not think it is a debate. Clearly, vaccines save lives and represent one of the  most important advances in medicine over the last century. We are hearing a lot about vaccine resistance in the media, yet only 1-2% of parents refuse vaccines and about 10-15% are hesitant. There is a lot of misinformation on the Internet, and this a challenge.


I would recommend that parents discuss vaccination with their health care provider and to look at credible sources for information before making any decisions. Personally, when I was training as a pediatrician in the 1980s, I lived through the era when a severe bacteria (Hemophilus Influenza B) was causing illness and even death in many young  children. Since the vaccine was released in 1985, this infection has almost completely disappeared. Immunization is by far one of the most important medical advances, yet many in North America take vaccines for granted because, thanks to vaccines, infections that used to kill or maim millions have been virtually eradicated.



I also believe that if parents refuse vaccinations, they not only put their children at risk, but also can potentially expose others in the community, like young babies and people with  weak immune systems. My approach is that when baby comes home, we do the best for optimal wellness. This "wellness package" includes TLC, home/car safety, proper nutrition and, in the same preventative spirit, I include vaccination as another thing we can do to protect baby and help ensure optimal health and wellness. 



What has surprised or delighted you the most in your 25 years of pediatric research?



What really pleases me is that thanks to vaccines and new antibiotics, we have been able to significantly prevent infectious diseases that once killed and injured countless children. However, what fascinates me the most is the tremendous amount of knowledge that we are getting from our understanding of the human genome. It is not inconceivable that in the near future, we will be able to identify genes that cause lifelong debilitating diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular Dystrophy and then correct them so that the children will grow normally without these diseases. This potential is very exciting and I can't wait until we are able to stop these terrible diseases before they even begin!

For any other new parents out there, I'm delighted to offer a Baby Comes Home giveaway. For a chance to get a copy, let me know what special TLC act or routine you've instilled at home in the comments box by Wednesday, March 4.

Thank you for taking the time to share your enlightening advice, Dr. Paul!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love, love, love...

This little girl. (Who's certainly packing on the weight, four months in!)
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Hope you're surrounded by love and happiness. xo

Friday, February 6, 2015

Working out and working it


So this is it. My last few days of maternity leave. In fact, I’ve already started work. There’s a new business pitch at my agency, and I’m working remotely on it… which sort of sucks, but is also a good way to ease my head back into things.

It actually works according to my (Type A) plan of gradually moving from full-time mommy’ing to more autonomous moments. For example, the past couple of months, I was spending $20 every other week to attend a breastfeeding support group. On Sunday night, I put that money toward… Zumba. Classic. I felt like a bit of a chump, paying twenty bucks for Zumba, but it was my first workout in five months—and without even realizing it, it was a super smart one to begin, what with all the gyrating hips and lady bits—and worth every penny. I also started a mommy yoga class. Unfortunately, I only found it this past week, but it’s been brilliant having Parker in all her cuteness there at the head of my yoga mat, surrounded by other moms and babies—pretty perfect.

And tonight, our new nanny (Hallelujah! It was no small feat finding a nanny who we loved enough for Parker, but we did it) will come over in the evening so Andrew and I can go out to a soirée. Funny how these little things—a workout, a Friday night date—are now big triumphs. I'll even do my hair and makeup.

In the meantime, little miss peanut continues to delight us with her smile and her sweetness. She’s such an awesome little human being. Such a gift.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mad love


I’m discovering how scary it is to love someone so much.

In addition to having an easy pregnancy, a good birth experience, and a relatively smooth hazing with a newborn, I was largely immune to postpartum hormone surges. I had small moments. I got verklempt. I’d look at Parker and smile through tears but they were misty-happy tears. I never felt majorly emotional and definitely not depressed. In other words, I’ve been lucky.

But last night, I couldn’t stop sobbing. Big, snotty tears for hours. I have just two weeks of maternity leave left. Suddenly, these vast months of being at home with no outside obligations, just me and my girl cuddled on the couch, lounging on the floor, dancing to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (one of my recurring emotional moments is the line from “Hysterics”: Flow sweetly, hang heavy /You suddenly complete me /You suddenly complete me” My throat aches just typing that), will, poof, be over. Never to be again. 
 Four glorious months of being with this little creature 24/7, her protector and provider. She, my reason for being. Watching her belly swell and her legs form delicious rolls. Seeing her smile and hearing her coo. Seeing her eyes light up in recognition of my or Andrew’s face. Kissing her fuzzy little head. Feeling her insanely soft cheeks. Squeezing those thighs and tickling her knees. Watching her lips pucker when she concentrates and her legs kick when she gets excited. She’s the best.

I don’t want this to be over. As cut off from the world as I’ve been, as physically and culturally stunted, as challenging as daily tasks could be, this time with Parker has been nothing short of magic. It makes me sad that it will be no more. She is just such an incredible little girl. So sweet and fun. Curious and cheeky. It seriously scares me how much I love her. But I guess it’s a good fear to have…

Friday, January 23, 2015

Paris on my mind


I’ve been thinking of Paris a lot these weeks. Along with the rest of the world, I was horrified, saddened and struck in the gut by the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks. Somehow Paris seems like the kind of place that’s immune to such ugly acts.

I’ve also been floored, on a personal note, that it’s been four years since I came home. Six years since I went over. Six years ago, I was packing and preparing to move to Paris. Incredible.

I also saw a House Hunters International episode (ah, the benefits of being at home on maternity leave! Daytime TV!) in which a woman was moving from Maryland to Paris. All the street footage made me pine for a visit, and a peek inside the apartments made me remember my own whirlwind real estate tour.

So while I’m clinging to my last days of maternity leave, and my head and heart are firmly here in Brooklyn, I can’t help but let my spirit drift across the ocean from time to time, to check in with the dream of Paris.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What a year

Let’s see—I started 2014 with few expectations. Andrew and I had moved into our Brooklyn apartment and were beginning to explore wedding venue options, having been engaged for two months. My job was going well and freelance, if lighter than in previous years, gave me the occasional jolt of creativity and excitement. Things were nice and comfortable. I was happy and conscious that my life, overall, was mellowing out.

It was a brutally cold winter. In February we journeyed up the Hudson Valley to Rhinebeck for President’s Day weekend with friends (have you ever been? Super cute town!) We came home and, my sore breasts nagging my conscience, I took a pregnancy test. It was positive. Everything changed.

Springtime became a flurry of doctor and wedding venue appointments as we decided to move the wedding up. (There was time in Miami, London, and a lovely week inParis, too!)

Being of “advanced maternal age,” I had to get frequent ultrasounds to make sure the baby was okay. We heard her heart beating. We sawher 3D photo in the womb. We passed critical tests and milestones and, after holding our breath for months, knew this was our baby.

In the meantime, we threw together our wedding weekend, a celebration filled with such love and joy. It was an ode to this great city of New York and, cliché but true, one of the happiest days of my life.

After a honeymoon in St Bart’s, we spent the summer lazing about Brooklyn and visiting Connecticut, Boston and Pennsylvania.

We cooked a bit, saw some music, and watched some baseball.

We reoutfitted our second bedroom/office into a second bedroom/nursery.

And then on October 8th, we welcomed Parker Anninto this world.

The two and a half months since have been filled with wonder. Just as the first couple weeks were tough—recovering from a c-section, not sleeping at night, not knowing what I was doing, and trying to figure out breastfeeding—and there are days that I can’t help but question my identity and if I’ll continue to write and travel and be motivated by all the things that made me happy in my thirties, I am experiencing a whole new chapter that I couldn’t be happier about. I love that little girl so much, it makes me cry. She is the sweetest, cutest, most delicious peanut in the world. We are so lucky.

Who would have thought that I’d be a bride at 41 and a new mom at 42. And on the eve of 2015, I can’t help but feel excited to think about how life will unfold, surprise and challenge.

Happy New Year, friends!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tina Fey's prayer for her daughter... (mine for Parker, too)

One of the benefits of being a housebound, breastfeeding new mom is that you're parked on the couch a lot. Ideally, this would mean marathon sessions of Sex and the City or reading all those classics you always swore you would if only you had the time. But the breastfeeding/newborn care thing means that, while I have the time, I don't have the attention span or ability to dig into complex plots or Russian names. So light reading has been in order.

One of the books I read is Tina Fey's Bossypants, which made me laugh out loud, especially toward the end, when she was delving into motherhood. I especially loved her chapter about breastfeeding and all the "Teat Nazis" who make you feel less than if you're not gleefully breastfeeding until your child is two-years-old. But this little prayer for her daughter is pretty awesome, too:


First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be beautiful but not damaged, for it’s the damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the beauty.

When the Crystal Meth is offered, may she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half and stick with beer.
 
Guide her, protect her when crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the nearby subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock N’ Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.
 
Lead her away from acting but not all the way to finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes and not have to wear high heels. What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You because if I knew, I’d be doing it, dammit.
 
May she play the drums to the fiery rhythm of her own heart with the sinewy strength of her own arms, so she need  not lie with drummers.

Grant her a rough patch from twelve to seventeen. 

Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, for childhood is short — a tiger flower blooming magenta for one day – and adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.
 
O Lord, break the Internet forever, that she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers and the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.
 
And when she one day turns on me and calls me a bitch in front of Hollister, give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, for I will not have that shit. I will not have it.
 
And should she choose to be a mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 a.m., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.“My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck.“My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a mental note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.

Amen.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Oh, hello

Yes, we’re still here in Brooklyn, living in a little cocoon of new parenthood. Sometimes it’s blissful. It’s raining outside and I’m inside, eating m&m’s and watching Footloose on AMC.



Other times it’s tough, really tough. Parker is screaming, I’m starving, my teeth feel fuzzy, my nipples are on fire, and I wonder what day it is, why I’m doing this, will it ever get easier.



And it always does. The little lessons that emerge along the way: This too shall pass. One day at a time. Be in the moment. Find something positive in what is difficult. Count your blessings. Clichés, all, but true and comforting nonetheless. The love from family and friends, near and far, is astonishing.



And one week slides into another. Parker is now nine weeks old (nine weeks old!!). She’s regained her birth weight and eats like a champ. She’s able to chill out on her own for as long as 20 or 30 minutes. We can tease smiles out of her. And she is absolutely delicious.



Oh, and speaking of delicious, I’ve gotten out to some new spots. Doughnut Plant debuted in Brooklyn pretty much down the street from us. Tres dangereux.



And last weekend I had my first extended break for a hair appointment in Soho. Andrew stayed home and gave Parker bottles and danced to entertain her. I rode the subway, pumped in a bathroom, got a fabulous blow-out and tried, Maman, this killer new French café that has introduced some of the best cookies in the city. I felt part of the human race again.



I’m about midway through my maternity leave. I’m starting to meet other new moms, look into childcare, and fall deeper in love with Parker. It’s bee an interesting exploration of self and identity. After a couple decades of being so focused on a writing career, being home without the ability or ambition to write (to say nothing of exercising, keeping up on news, engaging with the community) is weird. It’s hard. I can feel alienated and adrift, wondering what I’m going to do from here. What I want to do. Sometimes when I tell Andrew that I did nothing all day, he corrects me and points out that I kept a little human being alive. Enough said. I mean, look at her!!



So here we are. Me and my girl. In love with her and my husband. Embracing the nuttiness. Wondering about the future. Another day. Lucky me.