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Nurturing the Nurturers

Recently, I wrote about playgroups and how my local mothers’ club played such an important part in my transition to motherhood. What had set me to thinking about playgroups was a fantastic summit for local parent leaders that I had just attended.

The highlight of the summit for me was the keynote speaker, Kate Hoepke. She was a new mom in the mid-eighties and found solace in a small, local mothers’ group in Southern California. When her husband took a new job and they moved cross-country, she founded a new club along with a friend. She even wrote a book called Nurturing the Nurturers on how to found and run a mothers’ club. Another cross country move, this time to the San Francisco area, resulted in her helping to found over 40 Bay Area mothers’ clubs. FORTY CLUBS, including the one I belong to. It’s absolutely astonishing to think about the number of lives she’s reached through helping these clubs become a reality. How many moms got advice on pediatricians or preschools? How many babies learned to share with playgroup friends? How many moms felt less alone?

I was fortunate to get the chance to talk with Kate after her keynote. I’ll admit that I teared up when I thanked her for her work. It was obvious from her speech that she had made a lot of sacrifices to help build community for mothers, and I was grateful for the opportunity to offer my sincere thanks.

One of my oldest friends has started organizing "Babies and Brews" meet ups for new moms, dads and babies in Boston. Kate's work with mothers' clubs started casually and out of a personal desire for companionship. I can't help but wonder what kind of impact my friend may have on her larger community if she keeps these events going—and what potential lies in all of us when we set our heart to something. 

Kate Hoepke’s full keynote is above. Her introduction starts at 7:40.

This is part two in a short series on mothers’ clubs. Part one is here and part three will focus on how technology is changing mothers’ clubs and how they are working together to find efficiencies. 


Why I ate my placenta 


You may have heard the latest trend in new mothers eating their placenta (known as Placentophagy). Two years ago, after hearing about some great success stories from folks who had done this, I decided I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. And so I had my placenta encapsulated after giving birth to my second child. 

According to Bettina Roeper, founder of Live Life Acupuncture, who encapsulated my placenta, “Placenta has been used to aid postpartum recovery by many different cultures around the world. Placenta is extremely nutritious and contains many of the vitamins, minerals and hormones that a mother's body needs to adequately recover from pregnancy and birth. It is considered rich in vitamin B, iron and protein, all of which are useful for postpartum recovery, and a particular benefit to vegetarian women. Women who have taken placenta capsules report positive results such as feeling energized and less weepy. The positive effects from using placenta pills are often felt immediately after taking the first dose.

I couldn’t agree more! The placenta pills were like magic. Unlike my first delivery, I didn’t experience baby blues or postpartum depression. My milk production was great and I felt like my hormones were much more manageable. I had a lot of energy and felt happy, even if sleep deprived. Some argue that it’s the placebo effect but I don’t care. I believe my placenta worked for me and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Bettina was recommended to me through my Mother's Group. Many Doulas offer this service as well. It was a pretty simple process. After delivery Bettina picked up my placenta (which was placed in an ice cooler filled with ice). Before encapsulation my placenta was steamed, dehydrated and ground into powder. This preparation conserves the most nutrients possible. Preparing the placenta is a pretty lengthy process and takes about 24 to 36 hrs. After this process, the placenta pills were delivered back to me at the hospital. Pure gold.

Are you grossed out? Are you considering? And what was your experience if you had your placenta encapsulated? 



The “Gentle C-Section” Featured on NPR


Skin-to-Skin Immediately after C-Section = Pure Joy

I promised you a post on “family centered c-sections” two years ago when I wrote Z’s birth story. Life got in the way and it never happened—I’m so sorry. It’s a really important post and I’m sad that it’s taken me this long to share it with you.

This morning on NPR, I heard the story I’ve been meaning to write. It’s all about the small changes that some hospitals are making to allow women to have “gentle c-sections,” which are “more like a birth and less like an operation.” I was so lucky that three years ago a MommyBeta reader alerted me to this trend and that my OB and hospital were so willing to do this for me.  

What is a Gentle or Family-Centered C-Section?

First off, the idea of the gentle c-section is not to encourage elective c-sections, but to make the process more graceful and loving for those who need a c-section.  Some of the ways that this can be done are:

  • Lowering the drape or using a see-through drape so that the mother can see the baby being pulled out.
  • Placing the child directly onto the mother’s chest after being pulled out.

When I had to have a c-section with Nic after 27 hours of labor, the only thing that I was really disappointed about was not having him placed on my chest right after birth.  I knew that I didn’t want a VBAC with Z, but still ached for that experience of having immediate skin-to-skin contact with my baby.

I gave birth to baby Z at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, California. My request for this type of c-section, though a first for my OB and the hospital, was well-received and executed seamlessly. I was pleasantly surprised at how flexible and on-board the doctors and nurses were. It made for a relaxed and loving birth experience, and I would highly recommend it to anyone having a planned, not high risk c-section.

Not everyone can have the birth that they really want. Hearing the NPR story this morning made my heart happy to know that mothers and hospitals are collaborating to make births as special as possible, no matter the method of delivery. 

After more than a day of labor, I was so happy to have my first baby. I wish I could have been the one holding him in this picture though.


When Your 4-Year-Old Says: I don't look beautiful


 It happened a few months ago but it's still very fresh in my mind. Reese had finished dressing herself and was examining herself in the mirror. She blurted out, “I don’t look beautiful.” I paused. Stunned. Giving myself a moment to figure out how to respond.

I kneeled down and looked her in the eye and said, “What do you mean? You are beautiful no matter what. On the inside and on the outside.” She responded ever so nonchalantly, “But my clothes aren’t cute. They don’t match. So I’m not beautiful.”

Responding to the logic of my 4 year old daughter, I explained to her that she is beautiful no matter what she wore. I told her that if she felt comfortable in the clothes she chose to wear, if she was happy, and if she felt good, then that is all that mattered. That everyone dresses differently and that’s what makes everyone beautiful in their own way.

I’m still not certain where this all stemmed from. But I don’t want my daughter feeling that the way she dresses defines her beauty. So now, Reese chooses most of her own outfits. And I do my best not to comment even on her most crazy-mismatched-diva-inspired outfits that she’s pulled together.

About a week after this little situation on the drive to school she said, “Mommy, you are beautiful no matter what. Even if you wear your yoga pants.” Thanks sweetheart! I’m glad to know she’s listening during our conversations.



Playgroups Aren’t Just for Playing

Playgroup baby friends.

Nic was a month old when we went for our first playgroup. I was so proud that I had made it to the designated walking path, unloaded my behemoth of a stroller and met the group of new moms in time. That day, we walked and talked. It was banal, mostly sleep and poop talk I’m sure, but we were there. We were outside in the sunshine, we were connecting with someone else who was dealing with the same upheaval that we were.

Nic and I became playgroup regulars—spending mornings circled around with other moms and babies at the park, on living room floors, in libraries and in book stores. It was precious time and it was so valuable. Not only were we expected to leave the house at least once a week, but we were making friends and sharing stories. I treasure that time.   

My local mothers’ club has been a savior to me. Not only for playgroups, but also for the advice forum, fantastic classifieds, Mother’s Day pampering nights and even a holiday gift wrap party. (Seriously, who knew wrapping presents with other moms over wine could be so much fun?) The club was the start of my local village and has led me to invaluable resources in the past five years. I’m so thankful for its existence.  

This post part one in a short series on mothers’ clubs. Next, I’ll tell the story of being able to thank, in-person, the woman who helped establish my local mothers’ club and many many others across the United States.