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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

10 Things to Do While You’re Pregnant

During the 7th month of my first pregnancy, I spent most of the weekend time sitting in the house waiting for the baby to arrive. My husband, Roland, tried to get me out of the house, but towards the end of my pregnancy I felt like a “huge bus” and didn’t want to go anywhere. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed being pregnant, but the added 60 plus pounds wasn’t flattering. Frankly, it was hard to breathe!

Only during my second pregnancy did I realize, that I shouldn’t have stayed in the house (the first time around). I had to move and be moved. In searching, I discovered several things that made my second pregnancy more fun, active, and enjoyable.

1. Bargain Shop - It's fun and quite humbling to watch your belly grow. Have fun buying new clothes to flatter your new figure.

2. Swap Clothes – Exchange or borrow maternity clothes from your friends or co-workers. One of my favorite girlfriends, Teresa, and I have shared maternity clothes during both pregnancies. We love taking pictures of each other in the clothes and comparing our mommy bumps.

3. Exercise – Walking keeps you in shape and is good for the baby. I didn’t exercise during my first pregnancy and gained a great deal of weight. I exercised and didn’t gain as much weight with the second pregnancy. This allowed my post-pregnancy body to come back a lot quicker. My sister, Malaika, signed up for yoga for expectant moms and loved it!

4. Cravings – It’s best to eat in moderation, but if you’re craving something eat it! Experiment with different nutritional foods too.

5. Photos – Take pictures documenting your growing belly. I took pictures each month and created a video documenting my pregnancy.

6. Curiosity – If you feel comfortable, share your pregnancy updates with your friends and colleagues. Sharing can help people feel closer to you and excited about your bundle of joy.

7. Courtesy – Allow people to open doors for you! It’s okay to take advantage of certain perks during your pregnancy. Publix Supermarket has several parking spots designated for new and expecting moms. Does you supermarket have designated spaces? If not, ask for what you deserve.

8. Date Night – When the baby arrives, date nights will have to be put on the back burner for a while. When you are less sleep deprived, schedule several date nights with your partner. Dress up and enjoy being out of the house.

9. Baby Shower – Showers are great events for your family, friends and you to celebrate your bundle of joy. If this isn’t your first pregnancy, then ask your family and friends to “throw you” a diaper shower. We had a diaper shower, and the diapers lasted over 3 months. Also, remember to ask for several different diaper sizes.

10. Support Groups – Join or create a new mom support group. My colleague, Lara, and I started a support group at work. It’s a wonderful way for new, expectant, and seasoned moms to get together monthly to discuss motherhood. There are also a number of support groups online, if you can’t establish one at your job.

There are hundreds of reasons to enjoy being pregnant. I’m sure if you try one of these then you’ll be on your way to a sound mind and body, memorable moments, and a healthy beautiful baby.

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Published in Southwest Parenting

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Keys for Working Moms

• Raising children only comes once in a lifetime.

• Be proactive and creative. Many supervisors are open to considering creative solutions when they are presented, but will not be so conscious as to offer them unasked.

• Absolve yourself of “mommy guilt.” You are doing the best that you can.

 • A desire for a career does not make you a bad mother, nor does a desire for work/life balance make you a bad employee.

• If you have a partner, ask them for their help and unconditional support.

• Find a community of mothers who also work outside the home. So much mom support is based on the stay-at-home crowd, and while some of our issues are the same, some are very different.

• Even if support and a listening ear is all this community can offer, it can be helpful to know that other women are experiencing the very same issues that you are.

Beyond Baby Blues: Postpartum Depression and Online Support

The birth of a baby can cause mothers to have mixed emotions about the responsibilities of raising a child. Fear and anxiety can consume women and even lead to depression. Past the "baby blues" stage of crying and sadness, postpartum depression (PPD) is a clinical diagnosed depression; symptoms may include: insomnia, sadness, irritability, and excessive guilt.
Inspiring stories about women who overcome the clinical illness emerge everyday. Kate’s* story is one of them. Through the comfort of support groups and the use of technology, many women are able to heal.

Kate’s Story
The doctor ran the ultrasound in a circular motion around Kate’s pelvic area and up to her belly button. Kate, a thirty-year-old, college-educated African American woman, has long and skinny dread locks that swing past her waist. She turned toward the ultrasound monitor and watched a figure appear on the screen. This was the second time that she and her husband, Daniel waited to hear the sounds of a baby’s heartbeat.

The first time they conceived, resulted in a miscarriage at just nine weeks. A proclaimed “control freak,” Kate had already chosen their child’s name, zapped baby gift registry items, and had written a detailed five page, single-spaced birthing plan. All of that planning was thrown out the window. The loss of their child left them forever changed.

Nearly five months after losing their first child, they were surprised to find out they were five weeks pregnant. She held her breath anticipating the doctor’s results. Kate said, “People were telling me that I was big. Then the doctor said that he heard something else thumping around. I dismissed it. It didn’t cross my mind, because I always thought my older sister would have twins. She is so motherly. No big deal. They got something wrong.”

Kate, sitting patiently, looked at her husband and tried to put him at ease. “I think I hear two heartbeats,” the doctor said. Kate laughed, “My husband became silent, because he knew that they were going to take on more than one life and have an even greater responsibility.” Kate decided to relax with the second pregnancy, because of her history of battling with depression and taking prescribed antidepressant drugs, while in college. She also tried not to be a control freak.

Second Time Around
During pregnancy, she switched medication from Paxil to Prozac, an antidepressant oftentimes prescribed to pregnant women. Definitely not planned, Kate’s water broke at her surprise baby shower. Her healthy identical twin boys were delivered by cesarean at 35 weeks. Kate’s birth plan and vision of natural births were a no-go, because the doctor’s couldn’t hear one of the children’s heartbeats. Once again Kate was crushed.

"It alarmed the doctors. I was laboring just fine and wanted them to follow my birthing plan. I wasn’t the one that earned an MD, but I was the mother and these were my children. Everything in my mind that was supposed to happen naturally did not. One hundred years ago, a woman would have been able to have these babies on her own. I felt like a failure."

At the hospital, Kate also suffered from a bad reaction to the anesthesia. Without her or her husband’s consent, she was taken off of medication. The withdrawal from her medication affected her terribly, both physically and emotionally. Clueless to what transpired, her sister said that she couldn’t stop crying and screaming, “You took my babies! You took my babies!” repeating the phrase over and over again. Because she was not mentally alert, the doctors decided to keep Kate’s newborns in the nursery, located down the hall from her room.

Frustrated from everyone’s glowing reaction to her twins, Kate became even more upset, because the babies were not roomed with her and she had only briefly seen them. Without permission, she snuck out of her room to the nursery. Drowsy and weak, Kate pressed her face and palms against the window where she could see her boys resting in their clear, plastic bassinets. Kate opened the nursery door and unexpectedly sounded an alarm. Nurses rushed to the room, and moments after with some clarification, Kate was allowed to stay and visit for a while. She was instructed shortly after to return to her room. Though heartbroken, Kate said that the doctors were “protecting her babies from her."

Kate and Daniel left the hospital without their boys. Her depression still lingered, and she felt horrible about herself and doubted her ability to be a good mother. Daniel kept telling her that she was “a wonderful mom.” Kate cried every day that her children were not with her.

Hospitalized for Depression
Kate and Daniel’s twin boys came home on November 17th. Her sister was back in town to help them with the newborns. During a regular psychiatric visit, the doctor asked Kate how she felt. She had been having horrible and frightening dreams of hurting or dropping the babies. The doctor asked Kate, “Do you think about hurting yourself? Do you think about hurting the babies?” She replied, “Yes, I think I may throw them down the steps.”

Kate’s sister was in the waiting room watching the babies. Waiting room guests continued to complement the children. The doctor proceeded to ask a question, “Would you be interested in staying at a clinic in order to receive help?” Kate agreed to get help.

The EMTs came to escort Kate from the doctor’s office. Surreal about the entire situation, Kate kissed her boys goodbye. Unfortunately, Kate didn’t know PPD existed. She was also unaware of anyone who had experienced this illness. Kate said, I remember going to the hospital and sitting in this cold waiting room. It felt like a cell. They handed me a manual pump, and I sat there trying to teach myself how to use it. I thought to myself, I should be at home. Instead, I’m in this cold room by myself, in this weird hospital. Had I gotten that bad? When Kate left the hospital a couple days later, her church group brought food to her home, while family continued to visit her. That’s when her support group began. By talking to other women, Kate realized that she wasn’t the only one who suffered for PPD. She also used the Internet to communicate with her siblings. Their emails comforted her. Kate began to slowly heal.

Suffering from Postpartum
Before people knew what PPD was, Ilyene Barsky, LCSW (licensed clinical social worker), and founder of The Center for Postpartum Adjustment, had been counseling, educating, and working with women who suffered from the unnamed illness. A counselor who survived two battles of PPD, Barsky has worked and counseled thousands of women for over 20 years. Talking about her experience Barsky stated, “I had strange symptoms after the birth of my first child. I went through my psychology books, and couldn’t find anything. After suffering from insomnia, I went to a psychiatrist and he gave me antidepressants. That did the trick and quieted the noises in my head. Four years later my daughter was born in 1984, and I experienced the same symptoms.”

Barsky’s first workshop took place in a living room, and soon after, her message extended to hospitals, and social service agencies. Since 1988, Barsky has been a member and affiliated with a nonprofit organization, Postpartum Support International (PSI). The organization’s “mission is to promote awareness, prevention, and treatment of mental health issues related to childbearing in every country worldwide.” Currently, Barsky lectures at large conferences across the country. Barsky stated, “I enjoy working with this population, because it is extremely rewarding.” Her passionate vibe and genuine commitment to help others seeped through the telephone. She said, “It really wasn’t until 2001 that shined a light and woke people up all of a sudden and now there was an interest in PPD. Women started saying, ‘I have this. My mother had this, and my friend has it.’”

Celebrities also started coming out of the closet. Courtney Cox-Arquette, Amanda Peet, and Catherine Tate all reportedly suffered from PPD. Brooke Shields wrote a book, Down Came the Rain revealing her personal experience with the illness. Women were finding comfort in realizing that they were not alone.

Online Support Groups
Kate was fortunate that she had a support group. She also utilized the Internet for support. There are many new mothers that either do not have support, or who are afraid to ask for help. A study published in the Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology journal by the University of Iowa’s psychologist Lisa Segre discovered that African American women and lower-income women suffer at a higher rate from postpartum depression than any other demographic. The study found that “low-income women already coping with financial burden are at an increased risk of suffering from depression after becoming mothers.” According to Segre, "Women who are poor already have a lot of stress, ranging from poor living conditions to concerns about paying the bills. The birth of an infant can represent additional financial and emotional stress, and depression negatively impacts the woman's ability to cope with these already difficult circumstances."

If women cannot find support, then online support groups and other uses of technology (videoconferencing), voice-over-IP (Internet phone), web-based messaging and other Internet communications, can be wonderful resources for women suffering from PPD. If women are unable to find a support group in their area, they can visit an online PPD Support Group. Henry W. Potts’ article, "Online Support Groups: An Overlooked Resource for Patients" suggests, “Online support groups (OSG’s) date back to around1982 and possibly the late seventies. They involve mutual support and information provision (the two are often inseparable). Compared to the use of web sites, research on OSG's has lagged behind; despite the fact they are very numerous. Yahoo! Groups list almost 25,000 support groups, although this may represent only 7,000 active groups. There are many other sources of OSG’s. The aforementioned US survey found that 28% of Internet users had contacted an OSG, a figure that has grown since.”

Barsky agrees, “I think online support groups are very good for women who have barriers to treatment; which may include finances, transportation, child care, and no one in her area that can specialize in this (PPD).”

John M. Grohol, Psy.D. stated in his article, “What to Look for in Quality Online Support Groups” that “the best online support groups are those where the members are actively posting messages to the group on a daily basis and where forum leaders take an active role in helping the community thrive. You'll recognize such a group not only by its high daily activity and membership roster, but also by the positive participation of its leaders or moderators.”

I reached out to women that had experience using online support groups. I posted a question, "Do online support groups help moms cope with PPD?" on Yahoo Answers! and CafeMom web sites in their “Ask a Question” section.

My first email message from StarMom101* read, “They provide a type of social outlet for women. While it may not be as useful as face to face interaction, for some without the resources to travel or those that are a bit more socially reserved, this is a means of helping women cope with the demands of new motherhood.”
MomJoy1028* answered my CafeMom online question, “I joined one here on CafeMom. I think it helped to an extent, just knowing that I wasn't alone helped greatly. My main support came from my family...without my husband; I don't think I'd be here.”

Sam responded to my question in an email:
I'd imagine that it helps those women that don't have access to 'real life' support groups (maybe because they are geographically isolated or because of time constraints), those that don't feel comfortable talking in person about their problems, and it has the potential to bring together a much wider range of experiences than would be possible in small groups offline. Also it can be a lot easier to switch on the computer than get up the motivation to make a doctor's appointment, though through online support women may be encouraged to seek medical help as well.

Another response came in an email from Shoshana Bennett, Ph.D., author of Postpartum Depression for Dummies and co-author of Beyond the Blues: A Guide to Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression, responded to my email, “Depending upon the quality of the group (monitoring, ground rules, and such), I agree that online groups can be helpful for a variety of reasons. There are also potential disadvantages as well.” Whether women are going online to find support, technology continues to play a key role in communicating and healing by using a virtual format.

A New Day
Kate’s babies are now 18-months old and doing great. She is still taking medication, but her energy and thought processes are a lot different than they were nearly two years ago. Kate stated, "I have to tell myself every day that there is no such thing as a super woman. It’s hard for me to admit, but if I don’t admit it then my family won’t be OK and I won’t be OK. I have to accept that I am not perfect. No one tells you about, all of the things that may happen in life. Don’t feel you’re the only one in the world who had these bad thoughts. It’s OK. Just tell somebody. I’ve had every bad thought, but understanding that confessing your thoughts is not a sin. The sin is in being prideful in thinking that you don’t need help through them. That’s what was big for me. These are normal thoughts. You just need to be open and get help. No one expects you to be super mom and everything will be OK. You need help."

The Mother’s Act proposed by U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Richard Durbin (D-L) in 2006, “aims to eradicate the devastating effects of postpartum depression on American families. The legislation, introduced in the Senate proposes grants to better increase education and access to screenings for new mothers and to increase research into this difficult illness. The bill also proposes grants to health care providers, to facilitate the delivery of healthcare to those suffering from postpartum depression.”

Barsky said it best, when citing the Postpartum Support International mantra, “You are not alone, you are not to blame, and, with help, you will be well.” Women suffering from PPD should reach out to someone they can trust. If family and friends are not available for support, then online support is just a click away.

Published July 2010 in Elephant Journal 
Photo Credit

Balance Work and Motherhood

The best day of my life wasn't when my future husband, Roland asked for my phone number, or when I defended my master's thesis. I thought nothing could be better than the day I said, "I Do!" and jumped the broom. Surely, it was the faithful day that I gave birth to our son, Roland Jay.

Now, almost two years later, I think back to when I was in the hospital sending text messages just moments after giving birth. I'll admit that I was a workaholic. I worked over 10 hour days and responded to work-related emails on the weekends. My life was my job and work came first. I skipped family functions and sorority meetings to work. I sacrificed my social life.

Being on maternity leave was truly a blessing. I had time to collect my thoughts and prioritize life. I struggled with returning back to work, but enjoyed my job and wanted to fulfill my dreams. Before returning, I did the following: 1) Changed my work hours to 8am - 5pm, in order to pick up our son from daycare, 2) Found a daycare where I could view our son online, and 3) Promised myself that I would leave work on time every day.

I had fears of returning back to work. Fears of not being able to juggle my new life. Although an extremely good multitasker, having the responsibility to take care of another human being was a huge deal. Sleep deprivation and pacing up and down the same hallway ruled my whole universe. The arduous task of juggling work and motherhood probed me to ask the same question to other working mothers.

Ann Serrano, Associate Director at a nonprofit organization states, “My job has given me a flexible working schedule. I telecommute two days a week, which really helps me maintain my milk supply. It also lessens the amount of time that I'm separated from my baby. My job has also created a space for me to pump.”

There are several options that can help women balance every day life. If your job does not require regular face-to-face communication, then telecommuting may be a great option. Certain companies may allow various start and end times for salaried positions. Sometimes, employees have the option to choose to work a compressed work week, in which they work longer hours during the week and have a full or partial day off. Colleagues may also be interested in job sharing, in which they share the same job and each work part-time.

The key to balancing work and motherhood is creating boundaries and making sure that your family is first priority. Diana Hernandez, Human Resources Consultant at a west-coast university, changed positions at the university shortly after returning back from maternity leave. “I felt comfort in my community of friends/mentors at the university, who encouraged me to consider transferring jobs. They helped me find a position in Human Resources that fit my skills and goals. I transferred in January of 2008 and have been very satisfied; my work ends at the end of the day, and I can go home to my family.”

I think it’s also important to take time out of each day to get centered. Below are several tips to make your day more enjoyable.

• Personalize your space. Make your workspace a place that makes you smile.
• Take a (virtual) vacation. (I close my eyes are pretend that I’m 21 years-old again, vacationing in Jamaica).
• Try to get the annoying things off your to-do list before lunch.
• Take a walking break in the afternoon and get some fresh air or visit a friend in another department.
• During lunch, pray, exercise, take a nap (rest), play some tunes, or meditate.
• Add a fountain in your office, the sounds of running water can be soothing.
• Dress up! Wear something that makes you feel and look good!

There are more than 83 million moms in the United States, and 61% are striving in the work place. Everyday mothers are successfully accomplishing this great balancing act: work and motherhood.

The women’s movement suggested that mothers can have it all. From a personal experience, I would have to agree. The topic and discussion of stay-at-work moms is profound, yet it is our living within the presence of these moments that tremendous accomplishment and self-confidence are gained.

Make Work Days… More Pleasant…

1. Personalize your space. Make your workspace a place that makes you smile.

2. Take a (virtual) vacation. (I close my eyes sometimes and picture that I'm 21 years old again in Jamaica).

3. Try to get the annoying things off your to-do list before lunch.

4.Take a walking break in the afternoon and get some fresh air or visit a friend in another department.

5. During lunch, pray, exercise, take a nap (rest), play some tunes, or meditate.

6. Add a fountain, the sounds of running water can be soothing.

7. Dress up! Wear something that makes you feel and look good! (I love to wear pearls, even if they are from Target).

Take Action: Start a No-Littering Campaign

Stuck in Midtown Atlanta traffic on West Peachtree Street and surrounded by half-built skyscrapers, I waited in my car for the traffic light to turn green. It was a Friday afternoon and traffic was super thick, like caramel topping on an ice-cream sundae. I was sandwiched between two monstrous SUV’s. The fumes from one car swept into my nostrils, which made me believe that someone needed to get an oil change.

I was at least entertained by the SUV driver in front of me, chomping down on a burger and fries. I could see him through his side view mirror “going to town” with his meal. I thought to myself, how much I needed a well-deserved vacation. I continued to wait patiently listening to my radio lose NPR’s signal.

Then all of a sudden, just before the light turned green, the driver in front of me tossed his fast food bag out of the car window. In slow motion, I watched the bag fall on the street and items dispersed like confetti. Absolutely appalled, I honked the horn and began shouting at him; “Throw your bag in the trash can!” I starting pointing my finger and yelling, “that’s a No, No.” My disbelief turned into anger.

According to Missouri’s “No More Trash Campaign,” fast food waste is the number one cause of liter in the country. Missouri, along with many other states have hefty fines for people who litter. People found guilty of littering in Georgia can be charged with a misdemeanor. Litterbugs can also be punished by a fine not less than $100 and not more than $1,000. Some court orders require violators to clean up littered areas throughout the city.

Perplexing to me why people litter, this topic made me play the devil’s advocate.

People liter for the following reasons:
• Don't Care
• People have not been taught to dispose of trash properly
• Violators assume that it’s the job of others to pick up trash
• People are unaware that they are littering

The repercussions of littering are paramount. We need to educate and encourage people to stop littering. The Clear Air Council web site states, “In the U.S., 4.39 pounds of trash per day and up to 56 tons of trash per year are created by the average person.” Furthermore, “Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.”

You can help! Let’s take back our communities from these litterbugs. Visit the Keep America Clean web site at The site lists nearly 1,000 local affiliates and participating organizations. Also visit, Clean Sweep USA to teach your children about the importance of keeping America and the entire world clean.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Car Thieves Terrorize Southwest Daycare

I was glued to the daycare surveillance video motionless, as I watched the unidentified man open my car door and snatch my purse. “He got you!” a woman yelled, while watching the video over my shoulder. My mouth fell to the floor, along with my tears. Speechless, I looked to the daycare director for help, but her words were no comfort. I sighed and my body slouched in disbelief.

How could someone steal from a daycare? The white car had been parked in the daycare parking lot for awhile, before pulling up along side my car. The criminal had been examining his prey, my son and me. Routinely, I lock my car doors. However, that morning I forgot to lock the doors.

It’s been over a month, since my purse was stolen. I do not want to instill fear or paranoia, but encourage parents to be more aware of their surroundings. Theft is on the rise with the crippling state of the economy. I wasn’t the first victim to have her purse stolen at my child’s daycare, and sadly may not be the last.

5 Daycare Drop Off Safety Tips!
1. Notice your surroundings before taking your child out of the car.
2. Lock your car doors.
3. Never leave valuables in plain view in your car.
4. Keep all valuables in your trunk.
5. Never leave your car running. Always take your keys out of the ignition.

Believe it or not, groups of criminals are stalking daycare facilities. I refer to them as “daycare terrorists.” Next time you are dropping your child off at daycare or school, please consider these safety tips.

Southwest Parenting Magazine