Category Archives: Concerns

Sleeping, for us, for now

I think “for us, for now” are really good words to learn as a parent.

This week was a tempest in the sleep department, in a teacup of my own making. After two nights of trying out a major change to Del’s sleep habits, I realized that the only change I really wanted was an earlier bedtime for my little man. I wanted that partly for him, because when he’s not well-rested, he’s more irritable and less playful (like both of his parents!) and when he is well-rested, he’s a giggling little charmer, And I wanted it partly for us, because, well, we like to cook and eat dinner. That’s a neat thing to be able to do. We also like to watch TV together while we eat, and I like to keep Del’s TV exposure minimal. We might also like to have sex sometimes, and it certainly helps if you’re not worn out with three hours of cranky-baby management at the end of the day… but that’s another post…or maybe not.

Anyhow, after giving some ideas from books a few tries, and feeling horrible and seeing no good effects whatsoever (except that my child slept really heavily after three hours of crying… don’t we all?!)  and after taking with several terrific moms about their sleep decisions, I dropped the whole project.

My goal is for a well-rested baby to go to sleep most of the time around 7:30 -8. For us, for now, that means some good activity in the late afternoon to use up some of our little man’s boundless energy. Then it means a nice calming bath, and nursing to sleep in bed. It means if he’s sleeping he can stay in our bed while we eat in the next room. It means we’ve “won” if he’s asleep for a couple of hours that first time after “bed time” and then he gets to nurse again because he’ll fall back asleep. And it means when we come to bed, we move our slumbering baby to his crib till he wakes to eat again.

For us, for now, this meets the goal, and neither Del or I have to cry about it.


Breastfeeding feelings and D-MER

Many thanks to Mothering Touch for sharing this video about a condition I had not heard of till now – Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER). The video is worth watching -knowing there is a physiological reason for negative feelings that come right before milk lets down can help many moms manage the condition.

The gist is that about 10% of breastfeeding mothers experience a wash of negative emotions preceding the milk let-down reflex. (For those to whom this is Greek: milk let-down occurs in response to the baby suckling – in the first few second/minutes of a breastfeeding session, the baby is not getting milk. The suckling stimulates the milk ducts to open and release the milk stored behind them. It often causes a physical tingling sensation, and is accompanied by a release of the hormone oxytocin – the bonding hormone – to the brain.) For 10% of nursing moms, the moments preceding milk let-down are accompanied by a brief sense of doom, failure, anger, panic and/or fear. Most moms who experience this don’t know it’s a physiological condition, and don’t find help.

Personally, in my early days of breastfeeding, I experienced a rush of sleepiness when my milk let down, and sometimes a feeling best described as peaceful sadness. The sad feeling has pretty much passed,  but I still often feel very sleepy in response to that dose of oxytocin. Not surprising – it’s the same hormone that makes us cuddle and sleep with our lovers. I always figured it was my body’s way of insuring that I get some rest, and that my baby and I snuggle and bond in a way I might overlook if not physically reminded to do it.

I want all moms who are willing to also be able to breastfeed – and to get help for any challenges they experience. I hope this post helps.

“meh” for Mother’s Day

Contributing writer Letty Tomlinson on ambivalence and a well-deserved nap.

from Hallmark with love

“Happy Mother’s Day,” a friend greeted me with at church on the 13th.  “Oh, right. Yeah. Thanks,” I replied. Then I added, “I almost forgot. … I have mixed feelings about Mother’s Day.” (Full disclosure:  I have mixed feelings about many holidays.) The day to honor mom this year has already passed, but it’s still May and as this is a mother-oriented blog, I assume it might still be on some readers’ minds.

Why the mixed feelings? Or, more aptly, wariness? I can’t help but view Mother’s Day through the lenses of personal experience: life as a child of a mother, my time trying to become a biological motherhood, and life as a mother.

As a little girl, Mother’s Day was pretty easy. I didn’t have to remember the date. Inevitably, in school we’d make some sort of craft involving flowers to take home to Mom. Dad would take us shopping for cards and on Sunday, Mom would get a corsage to wear. As I got older and the burden of Mother’s Day fell on my shoulders, it began to feel a little bit like Mommy-Valentine’s day. Continue reading

And we’re off…

This morning I’m scouring Babble for tips on traveling with a baby. There’s not a ton…

baby in air port

image from, selected for the hand-knit outfit this adorable kid is wearing.

We have made one trip since Del was born, an overnight stay in New York City (that included a visit with our friends Amanda and Jordan, who were expecting then, and now are at home with their beautiful daughter Alison!) We took the train, which was heavenly. Del was about three months old then, and we took turns holding him in our laps or in the sling. He slept most of the way. We used our fantastic hybrid diapers with the disposable inserts. Del slept with us in the bed at the hotel. I carried him in the sling everywhere we went because NYC’s subways have no elevators. I don’t know how mamas there do it. Three cheers for DC’s metro. Continue reading

Nine tips to survive being a single-income family

I read recently that about 70 percent of moms return to work after the birth or adoption of their child – about 65 percent of them returning before their child is 5 years old. Makes sense, really – it’s hard to live on one income these days. And lots of women enjoy and miss their full time jobs, and god knows the world needs bright, capable women in decision making roles in every field. (And yep, I  know sometimes it’s a dad staying at home – I just didn’t parse the stats that deeply.)

If the 30-35 percent of parents at home with their babies are anything like me, it’s a reality check to start living on just one primary income. A few months into our adventure of living frugally, I have accumulated a few helpful ideas for making it work. They might help you too.

1) Budget for the necessities first. Necessities are the bills and the food. Get the bills out of the way, then buy the food. What’s left can be divided among other priorities and you know the lights, heat and pantry are covered.

image from

2) Become an expert menu planner. I love to watch Kitchen Nightmares (especially the British version). It’s not even funny how much my fridge used to resemble a Kitchen Nightmare restaurant fridge (ok, I think it is funny…). But bad planning results in waste (now whether you have the presence of mind to toss that waste is another thing, right Gordon Ramsay?) and when you’re living on one income waste is only funny if Gordon will come to your house and call you a donkey. Like the great chef advises all those loser chefs, I have really focused on menu planning that make ssmart use of ingredients and utilizes leftovers. Leftovers are first a lunch meal the next day, then any remaining ingredients or elements of the meal get used in meals on later days. Example, tacos one night provide meat and toppings for taco salads at lunch the next day. The following night any remaining taco meat can go into a chili along with the half tub of salsa. The cheese and sour cream get used as chili toppings. The following day, the chili and cheese can top tortilla chips for a great nacho lunch. If this is a no-brainer for you, congrats! you’ve achieved menu planning expert status and no one will call you a donkey. I’m still working on it, but it feels good to be eating well, wasting nothing, and keeping within the budget. Continue reading

Cross post from Amanda

Amanda has written for Woah Baby a few times, and remains my hero when it comes to writing a meaningful and engaging blog. She’s expecting her first baby ANY DAY NOW and just wrote this amazing post about her expectant state. With her permission I share it here, and I encourage you to follow her blog if you don’t already.

You know how pop culture tells you pregnancy is a 9-month-long affair?

Pop culture is full of shit.

Your due date is set for week 40 of your pregnancy. 40 weeks, divided by 4 weeks a month… that’s 10 months. Yep.

I’m currently in the middle of week 38. And at this point, pregnancy has turned into a waiting game. When will she make her appearance? Today? Tomorrow? In 4 weeks? (Docs usually wait til week 42 to induce labor, barring any complications.)

Here’s the thing: Patience has never been my strong suit.

But I gotta say, I think I’ve been pretty fucking heroic in terms of patience these past few weeks, amidst increasing physical discomfort. Really, at this point, pregnancy just starts to feel like one indignity after another. To wit: I’ve previously mentioned my middle-of-the-night crab-walks to the bathroom; well, they’re only getting worse. The pain is excruciating — truly, searing pain from the pressure on my bladder, to the point that I’m afraid I won’t be able to walk the five feet to the bathroom and will need Jordan to bring me a chamber pot or something. (Note: We do not own a chamber pot.)

Chamber pot: not on our registryAdd to that: feet and ankles that are fat and swollen (the only shoes that fit these days are flip flops); dull pain in my left hip and thigh that makes it impossible to lie on my left side (sciatica?); a belly so itchy you’d think it was covered in poison ivy; and, lately, recurring (mild) headaches. Walking around the block exhausts me, and I gave up on the subway a few weeks back because the stairs were just killing me — so now we’re slowly spending our life savings on cabs to and from Manhattan for our weekly doctor’s appointments. Oh, and I snore so loudly that Jordan needs to wear ear plugs in order to sleep.

Hooray! The miracle of life!

Now, I know I sound negative, but I’ve actually been pretty Zen about all this. I don’t constantly feel sorry for myself or complain. First, I’m grateful that she’s healthy, and I’m healthy — I’ll take discomfort over serious health issues any day. Second, my friend Katie advised me to think about this phase of pregnancy (and labor… and new-parenthood…) as a yoga practice, and that metaphor really works for me: These discomforts are like challenging yoga poses, and I need to breathe my way through them, rather than fight them, resent them, hate them. Kicking and screaming just exhausts you and makes you unhappy. Giving up — well, you can opt out of a difficult pose in yoga class, but there’s no opting out of the reality of my body these days. Acceptance, while difficult, is really the only path forward. That said, as with a difficult yoga pose — you can and should certainly make adjustments, and breathe, to find equanimity; suffering is not the goal. The goal is to be able to coexist peacefully with discomfort, and maybe to discover potential and abilities you didn’t know you had. And if I can do that now, my chances of doing it during labor, and as a new mom, are bound to increase.

Also, as much as I want the Hirschling to make her grand debut, so that (a) I can finally meet her! and hold her! and (b) I can end the discomfort of pregnancy, I also realize that as soon as she comes, I will miss this. There is a sweetness to these days, and sometimes it’s hard to see beneath all the discomfort, but — Jordan and I will never be on the verge of having our first baby, ever again. We are on the cusp of something huge, and when we look back, from the other side, it will be hard to remember what it felt like.

It feels like: Let’s go on a lot of dates, even though it means springing for a taxi or taking two buses to get to our destination, since I can’t take the subway. Let’s cook dinner and eat it with Cosmo lying on his spot on the carpet, waiting for permission to get up and sniff for any crumbs we might have dropped. Let’s watch multiple episodes of “Parks and Recreation” or “Bored to Death” or “Breaking Bad” and eat ice cream (well, Stonyfield organic frozen yogurt) on the couch. Let’s sit on the deck and listen to the rain on the roof. Let’s read in bed, with Cosmo at our feet, until we tell him it’s time for bed, at which point, he dutifully climbs down the pet stairs to his dog bed, below.

Let’s try to relax, as terrified as we are, as excited as we are, as expectant as we are.

“Expectant” is the right word; truly, it’s not just me that’s pregnant — our lives are pregnant. With anticipation. With wondering. We’re scared of the change ahead of us, no matter how many workshops we may teach on rolling with the punches. We know we’ll roll — it’s what we do, and we probably do it better than most…not that it’s a competition, but it’s a strength we have, as a couple.

But — what we’ve had for these almost-13 years of marriage, and these almost-18 years of being together, is so special, and we’re worried that she will jeopardize that. That having a child will jeopardize our freedom to pursue our creative interests, our passion for travel, our need for down time.

We embarked on this journey because — well, for a lot of reasons, that are hard to sum up in a sentence, or two, or three. And now, with my due date just over a week away… it’s like staring down a path that curves, and you can’t see around the bend, no matter how much you strain; and you can’t help straining to see, no matter how much you realize that straining is silly… that it’s just a matter of taking a step, and then another, and another.

Other travelers tell you what they’ve seen, but their words don’t conjure your own journey; you know you’ll see something different, through your own eyes. That the terrain will feel different, under your feet.

And you worry: what dangers might there be? Maybe you should have stayed home, should have avoided this journey altogether.

(That is a hard thing to write. It makes me feel like a bad person. But it’s the truth.)

And then — she kicks, and our faces light up, and metaphors melt away. Fear and doubt melt away. She isn’t an abstraction — she’s… her. And I am overcome with yearning — the yearning to HOLD her, after all this time. And a feeling of peace comes over me, the peace that comes from faith… my deep and abiding faith in anything that grows from our love.

And so… we wait.

[Chamber pot photo by Flickr user Walter Aue. All other photos are by Jordan or me.]

Amanda Hirsch uses social media and snappy writing to increase the visibility, reach and impact of Good Things, from indie media projects to cultural organizations and health/wellness start-ups.

In addition, she is the co-founder (with husband, Jordan) of THINK IMPROV, a company that grew out of their workshops at SXSW (audience favorite 2010). They help people apply the concepts of improv comedy to improve their lives and work.

Follow Amanda on Twitter @Amanda_Hirsch, and her blog at

Mothers are adults

I am so grateful to be able to stay at home with Del every day.


There are days that I feel like I’ve forgotten how to be an adult.

Zach and I used to to trade links to the day’s news stories over IM from our respective offices, and I discussed office issues with my best friend. Zach and I discussed events in our world and community while we fixed dinner at night. I cooked interested and complicated meals. I discussed books, movies and relationships with co-workers. I read blogs on sustainable agriculture and environmental reforms. I discussed politics over drinks with friends.

Now there are days that the most exciting that happened to me was getting a shower long enough to shave my legs, and I make macaroni and cheese for lunch (often!), and 30 Rock is the most intellectually rigorous I get all day. On the upside, I also sing sweet silly songs and respond in complete sentences to happy baby babbles, I make nicknames out of whatever syllable comes out of my mouth first, and I take endless iPhone pictures of the cutest baby on the planet. I think about things like latch, tummy time, bowel movement frequency, how much drool is normal, and when grasping becomes voluntary…

But mothers ARE adults, dammit.

So today I turned on WAMU, our local NPR station, and let it play during my morning routine. I heard meaningful news. I listened to Diane Rhem have a very well-moderated discussion of a controversial proposed law with three passionate and articulate women. I heard a great panel discussion on the book Ethan Frome and part of a show discussing the emerging civilian use of drones and the legal implications of their proliferation. I felt as if I had interacted with adults.  I liked it!

So, add NPR streaming to the list of things that make for good days:

1) Get out for a walk/lunch/coffee/something often.

2) Listen to the news and talk shows with meaningful content. Stay engaged.



Now I’m talking to myself too.

I didn’t want to leave the impression that singing silly songs, making up nicknames, replying to baby babbles and pondering the weighty matters of infant life are *not* adult activities. In fact, they’re really, really important, which is one of the reasons Zach and I chose for me to stay at home to take care of Del. They’re so important to him and to us that we wanted to do this particular job ourselves. And I love doing it. This kid is awesome and I dig hanging out with him every day.

I just meant to share that it’s important to maintain that outward-facing part of yourself. I need that part of me to stay functional, to not fall dormant under the weight of the immediate and delightful demands of being a mom. Even Del needs it of me – there is a whole world for him to learn about and if I’ve disengaged from it, I’m not prepared to be a reliable or pleasant guide. Right now all he thinks about are snuggles and meals and why his paci doesn’t stay in his mouth when he stops sucking on it, but one day he’ll wonder about the world beyond himself, and beyond the walls of our home, and beyond the limits of his experience. I want to be part of that world when he enters it. For now, that means at least listening to the news every day while I knit baby toys. 😉