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Gratitude Heals

It has been an amazing week, visiting extended family, enjoying reuniting with my nuclear family, and giving thanks for all the love and good in my life. It has also been demanding: adjusting to different time zones, changing locations and routines, and for this introvert, it is difficult to have fairly non-stop “together” time without sufficient alone, “down” time.

When we spoke in our last meet up about coping over the holidays differences with family members, we addressed how difficult it is to cope when family members say hurtful things, are judgmental, or intrusive about our choices. We spoke about the process of accepting differences from and within our families, realizing that “we can agree to disagree” and that it is possible to speak with empathy and with love, even when we disagree strongly.

Today I practiced another tool to help let go of some of the more challenging times: gratitude. I asked for some help and with my family, we shared many lovely memories and aspects of our week for which we were feeling grateful.  It was so soothing and a lovely way to end our time together. Wishing you and yours many grateful times together, and grateful remembering.

Compassion, Judgment and Partial Credit: Also, the Value of Hot Baths

Well, here I am again: one week and one day later, blogging again. As I prepared to write about the wonderful, well deserved hot epson salts bath I treated myself with yesterday, after a very busy day cleaning, packing, and planning for the holiday, I realized that I had “accepted the challenge” in last week’s blog and promised to blog once a week. And here it was, the first week, and I failed. Yesterday it was due.

I was so busy, and actually achieving my intention of being “serenely focused” while accomplishing household tasks, that I forgot (in spite of reminders set on my phone) to blog. Of course, I immediately began with old thought patterns “How embarrassing, the first week!? How can people trust you if you can’t keep your promise right away? They will laugh at your arrogance, your lack of self-discipline.” I’ve worked so hard to develop new, more compassionate ways of thinking, so these thoughts were followed by “OK, so you are a day late, that isn’t the end of the world. You had other priorities yesterday, perhaps you can write about shifting priorities. You really should work in the value of self-care. It was so good that you were able to accomplish so much yesterday AND take care of yourself: you walked, meditated, and rewarded yourself with that exquisite hot soak, yoga, and cool sparkly nail polish on your toes”.

Over and over I hear the parents I help share this kind of “all or nothing” judgmental thinking I started with: “I didn’t do it 100% and I am a failure (not even “I failed” but “I AM a failure” .  I realized I want to talk about how yes, we need goals, and we achieve them by practicing. Practicing a new habit or skill means a lot of “failures” and persisting anyway. The newest research shows that “Grit”: persisting in spite of hardships and mistakes is what is most important in success. So, I soothed by judgmental mind with compassionate thoughts and sat down to write. I hope you also can be kinder to yourself today.

Accepting the Challenge

She was smart, beautiful, and obviously has more than on the ball: she has built a thriving business in less than 5 years. I immediately liked her authenticity as we talked, and admired her applying her business savvy to a much needed compassionate service: helping families access the appropriate care for addictions and eating disorders.  When she threw down the gauntlet I had to consider that, perhaps, it was time to let go of fear and “practice what I preach”. What do I preach? “Start any new habit in such small, non-threatening bits of actions to overcome resistance and make it a routine, or just the way you do things”.  For example, if you want to start exercising, the first step might be just to walk around the block once a day.

In our conversation, I had shared that I had started the MomSource some years back as a preventative consultation service for expectant parents.  Through the process of launching the MomSource I had learned that there wasn’t enough awareness of perinatal anxiety and mood disorders and no safety net whatsoever. I explained that I had sidetracked from my original vision for the MomSource as a preventative service; volunteering much time to develop the Connecticut Alliance for Perinatal Health, soon to be PSI: CT, beginning free support groups such as Central CT New Parent Resources, and Blue Mamas, now ABC: Adjusting to Baby Challenges.

That’s when she did it. She said, with gentle, humorous confrontation: “Well, start volunteering for yourself: volunteer 30 minutes a day to blog!”  So she threw the gauntlet down, and today, I have picked it up and am accepting her challenge.  So my first blog in almost a year, is a small blog letting you know that there will be more: my initial goal is once a week (oh no, I’m actually putting that out there for you to see and therefore expect from me!), but I hope to be able to provide you with more valuable content over time as I get better with this new “habit”.


Who Benefits More?

2012-10-17 23.54.07 - CopyWhen I first organized a “meetup” (Central CT New Parent Resources) over three years ago for expectant and new parents, I did it because I had a passion for supporting perinatal adjustment and believed that this group would help new parents connect with support from each other and community professionals.

At the beginning, there were no membership dues even as I paid organizer fees to use’s platform.  My worship community generously donated the space to support the goal of providing support to new parents: to help create villages. After a year, I reluctantly made the decision to charge an annual fee of $6 so that the cost of the organizer fees were covered.  The membership dropped from over 160 to 79 or so, generally reflecting the true number of individuals interested in attending. We continued connecting with each other and with resources such as local doulas, nutritionists, pediatricians, lactation consultants, infant massage teachers and many others.

When I began this group I saw myself as “the giver”. I wasn’t prepared for the reality that I received as much as I gave.  The first, most delicious gift I received was a weekly “Baby fix”. Since my youngest are twin boys who were 15 when I began the group, I found that I loved having the opportunity to see, make faces at, and sometimes even hold squirmy little ones yet again.  I loved connecting to new Moms and Dads and being able to offer them support and assurance that they are good parents and that they will master this most difficult job.  It has been so invigorating to meet other professionals in the community, and to offer them the opportunity to connect with some of the loveliest parents one could find anywhere. It’s been so wonderful seeing Moms connect with each other and to support each other with empathy and caring, and to help with practical matters such as how to use this or that baby carrier and giving and loaning paraphernalia. I have learned so much from these families: persistence, openness, acceptance, and patience. While I believed before  “it takes a village” I have seen several develop before my eyes:  I am so grateful.



Home, Safe Home

Today we had a great discussion at our meetup group: Central Connecticut New Parent Resources about home safety with mobile babies. As I went to recap it for those who could not attend, I realized it was too extensive to post there and decided this might be a good place to share our ideas.

We discussed how different philosophies of parenting leads to decisions about “baby proofing”- everyone will encounter someone who doesn’t agree with any particular approach (for example an aunt or grandparent who will say “I’m not moving that-just say “No!”) While saying “No” is a necessary and important part of parenting, it is a draining (of energy) part of parenting. Research has shown that each time we have to make a decision, it depletes us. (When I read that research, it became crystal clear why the new parents I help become overwhelmed, they’ve made at least 10 decisions before breakfast!) So when we make decisions about “baby-proofing” our home, we need to balance our needs to have a some spaces that still feel like our own (adult spaces), and some spaces we can relax, knowing this is a space our babies can safely explore independently. It can and often should be a gradual process, changing as the baby grows and the needs change.

Everyone agreed the nursery should be a safe place. Other thoughts included making one living space a safe area, such as sun room, family room, or living room, and making the kitchen lower cabinets baby safe with plastic stacking bowls and pots and pans, which also make great toys!

Inside the home, there were lots of ideas. We discussed furniture with sharp edges can have foam attached or removed. Light weight furniture, which can fall if pulled upon, can be removed temporarily.  Heavy furniture, which can be pulled on top of a child if climbed upon, and some will climb,  can be bolted to the wall. Windows can be blocked with furniture, panels, or even cardboard. If there is a window that can be pushed through, it is not going to qualify for the “safe, unsupervised” area.

Moms agreed that life-threatening hazards, such as electricity,  should get immediate attention. Electrical outlets can be covered with products from the store, table lamps with cords can be removed or put in high places with cords out of reach. Electrical cords are fascinating to toddlers, as are the games of testing our limits as we try to teach them “no”.  While we may sometimes indulge them in the game of “keep away” or “I dropped it, you pick it up”, we discussed that if there is ever a time to be scary stern and even slap a hand, it is when the child tests a life-threatening limit, such as a fork into an outlet or running into the street.

We also talked about safety outside. Play-yard-ed quilts can protect against many outside hazards like unknown pesticides, bugs, and tiny choke-able stones. Sunscreen, sun-protection fabric, hats, beach umbrellas, “One-Step” tents and fitted sheets on top of  Pack and Play beds all protect sensitive skin from burns. It was suggested to include meat tenderizer and baking soda in first aid kits for bee stings, and to prevent by being aware of juice cups attracting stinging insects.

We left with the awareness that bumps, bruises, and possibly even a few ER visits are in our future, and we are and will still be good Moms. While we do our very best to keep our children safe, we also know they will grow from all the painful bumps and bruises along the way, gaining confidence in their own ability to cope.



Hope for “Blue Mamas”

LogoWe weren’t sure any one would show up: we had mailed post cards and letters, thumb-tacked flyers, told the press and every pediatrician and obstetrician we could think of; but still-it’s hard for Moms to get anywhere, especially if you are feeling “Blue” (and even harder at 7:30 am!)  Yet they did come. And began the journey of healing. In a safe place: a place where you aren’t alone, a place to share the struggles of feeling like you should “be happy” and yet frequently feel like crying, and  a place to share the challenges of sleep deprivation and interruption. With time: time to talk about how hard it is to communicate your feelings to those who don’t understand,  time to share how awful it feels to believe that you are the only one who feels this way-all of the other moms look so happy, and time to listen to others who share their “not so happy” feelings. My co-facilitator, Annie Keating-Scherer, LCSW, and I had met at a Postpartum Support International training in December, and had immediately hit it off, thrilled about our shared passion for helping new mothers. Mothers who often expected that having a baby would be the most wonderful time in their lives, yet struggled with perinatal mood disorders and/or the challenges of pregnancy and postpartum adjustment.  We commiserated about the lack of support groups in the area: only two in the state, each meeting once monthly, the “Blue Mamas” group through the Family Wellness Centers in Middletown and New Britain. Annie joined our CT Perinatal Mental Health Work-group and we began to planning a support group in the Hartford area.  We were given permission to use the “Blue Mamas” name, so we can develop a recognition of its goal and purpose throughout the state. The other two groups are offered on Saturday mornings, and child care is provided at the Family Wellness Center.  In my experience as an organizer of Central CT New Parent Resources Meetup, parents are reluctant to give up Saturdays, especially after Moms return to work. They also have a hard time getting out in the evenings-everyone is exhausted.  Women who come to me for help with perinatal anxiety and mood disorders are able to get support regularly until the end of their maternity leave, then feel torn: they want to spend all the time they can with their babies, rather than going to therapy or support groups.  So we decided to test an early morning time during the week, so that it might be possible for women to come before work, or go into work a little late on support group days. Our Blue Mamas group began at  7:30am-8:30am on Thursday on March 20th, which turned out to be the first day of spring.  And they came. And shared. And gained hope. Please let others know about Blue Mamas, so they can gain hope too.  Call me at 860 331-1750860 331-1750860 , or Annie Keating-Scherer, LCSW at 860 212-7066860 212-7066 for details.

Strong Loving Relationships Benefit Our Babies!

On January 8th, Central CT New Parent Resources Meet Up launched 2013 with the hope and promise of nourishing parent’  relationships with each other “after baby”.  My husband Andy and I had a great time speaking with these loving parents about their greatest gift to their babies: strong relationships with each other. Moms and Dads were eager to know how to keep their marital/partnership relationships strong while giving their babies the time and attention they need. It is SO important; two out of three couples report decreased satisfaction with each other after babies arrive.

Everyone “knows” that a strong couple’s relationship benefits babies, but many are surprised to learn that babies of unhappy parents can suffer developmentally and have a harder time learning to soothe themselves.  Babies who are cared for by parents who are content with each other have parents who are more attentive to them; who more easily respond to baby’s cues and are able to tolerate babies’ crying with more patience.  It is essential to give your relationship the time and attention that it deserves: it is the foundation of your growing family.

The core of our discussion included Dr.s John and Julia Gottman’s “3 As” of affection, appreciation, and admiration, along with our two additional “A’s” of  acceptance and attention. These are some of the essential ingredients for our “recipe” for a strong, loving relationship.  We will explore these principles and more in our spring workshop at Blue Back Square “From We to Three”: registration is limited, click here to register today.



Free Support Group off to a Heartwarming Start!

My heart warmed as they trickled in, one expectant Mom, here for the first time, then a familiar face with her 4 month old, then yet another Mom new to the group with her new son, one after another until we had almost filled our cozy space with three expectant Moms, 6 Moms with babies in hand (one with Grandma holding her twin baby:).  They all braved the forecast of a Nor’easter to hear Dr. Christine Greene advise how to get started with healthy eating habits with their young families, and to see connect and provide support to each other during this time of transformation.

It is the last scheduled meet-up for Central CT New Parent Resources; the last 6 weeks have flown by as we met each week, learning about infant massage, recognizing babies’ cues and needs, breastfeeding, taking care of ourselves, and healthy food choices.  I explain that we will be meeting this year one more time with husbands to talk about “Nurturing Your Relationship After Baby” and then would take a break from speakers until mid-January, when we will start another cycle of 6 sessions, the content determined by results of polls on our Meet-up site.

As we see flurrying snowflakes through the window, courageous, loving Moms hurry out with babies and gear bundled. Their chatter and warm support contrasts with the cold air as we hurry home to avoid the storm. Join us.

Baby Whispering!


                     What do we do now??!

I remember when I brought my daughter Rachel home; I was both overjoyed and terrified. I wanted to be the best parent I could possibly be, and felt overwhelmed by the awesome responsibility of my new role.  Back then, I really could have used some time with a supportive group of other parents which included an experienced parent or two, just to talk.

We’re so grateful that Jennifer Vendetti, MSW, has agreed to meet with our Central CT New Parent Resource group this Wednesday, 10:45am and lead the discussion on “Baby Whispering”: how to figure out what babies need and want and how to provide it.  We will talk about such things as “how much crying is typical?”, “what if the crying doesn’t stop?” and “what can I do to help calm my baby (and myself) down?”

New babies and Expectant/Moms &/or Dads of new babies are welcome to come to share, laugh, and even cry in the comfy family educational room of the Emanuel Synagogue (open to the entire community, no religious affiliation required).  Please pass on the word about this wonderful opportunity for support, absolutely free.

Free Support and Resources for New Parents!

Central CT New Parent Resources Group

Supporting You Support your Baby!

Through the MomSource, LLC,  many new parents have found support through private consultations and  “From We to Three” workshops  on nourishing the couple’s relationship as you become a family. In addition, many  have sought assistance in my clinical practice.

Yet so many more need support and access to resources! We hope that the FREE Central CT New Parent Resources Meetup Group ( will fill this need.  Please go to the link and join! We have some sessions planned but need YOUR input to make it the group that “Meets the Need”.   The Emanuel Synagogue has generously agreed to host the first six meetings on Wednesday mornings from 10:45am-12:00pm, beginning October 3, 2012.  We have amazing speakers and topics:

October 3rd:  Sharon Thomason, PhD:  My Baby, My Self

October 10th: Jennifer Vendetti, MSW:  Baby Whispering


October 17th: Sarah Thayer, LMT, CD: The Power of Touch

October 24th:  Susan Forrester, MA, IBCLC:  Feeding Our Baby

October 31st:  Jennifer Magnano, Mamoga Wellness:  Baby Fit

November 7th:  Christine Greene, PhD: Eating for Us