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On March 22 I attended Inspired Family: A Mindful Parenting Conference. According to the website, “Inspired Family aims to give parents the space to dialogue with experts and each other on the topics that matter to you, from your pre-natal experiences through infancy and toddlerhood.” It was billed as, “48 workshops, 40+ vendors and resources, swag bags and giveaways.” And in full disclosure, as a blogger I received free admission.

The morning’s keynote speaker was Carla Naumburg, PhD, a clinical social worker, mother and writer. Her book, Parenting in the Present Moment: How to Stay Connected, Sane, and Focused on What Really Matters will be released this fall. Although “mindful parenting” was part of the conference title, I have to admit that until I heard the keynote, I wasn’t familiar with mindfulness as a practice. I mean, I knew mindfulness in the dictionary-definition sense: “aware of something that may be important.” I thought it was about being present in the moment and about making parenting choices with purpose. I didn’t understand that mindfulness is a meditative practice and you can take trainings and study it with experts. In fact, after further research following the conference, I learned Philadelphia has a Mindfulness Institute at Thomas Jefferson Hospital, the region’s leading provider of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs. The following is a description from their website:

Mindfulness is about paying attention. It’s about living your life in the richness of right now, not being lost in memories of the past or overwhelmed by the worries or projections of the future. It’s a simple practice that strengthens the mind’s ability to stay focused on what is happening right now and to be open to experience — meeting the present moment with kindness and nonreactivity.

Reading that was an “a-ha” moment for me. I’m actually dumbfounded that I hadn’t discovered this practice before. A mindfulness-based stress reduction program sounds like something I could really benefit from. And learning how to overcome the worries or projections of the future and not let them overwhelm me is something that could have been helpful during the last six months as I’ve grieved my miscarriages. As I’m sure is true for many people, it’s hard for me to let go of things that are out of my control. Staying focused on the present is something I’ve been trying to do, but I didn’t have a name for it.

This discovery was my big takeaway from the conference. I attended many of the workshop sessions and tried to absorb as much as I could. I left feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the information I was given. I still have my swag bag filled with papers I want to go through and notes I want to review. But, I left feeling extremely positive and thankful that my husband watched my daughter and allowed me to have an entire day dedicated to self-care and learning.

The day’s workshops were split into five categories: Prenatal, Infancy, Toddlerhood, Self-Care, and Family. I spent most of the day in the Self Care and Family rooms. I was interested in some of the Prenatal workshops, but since I’m not actually pregnant yet, I only attended one of those sessions.

“Five Legal Documents Every Parent Needs to Feel Secure” was the first session I attended. I was looking for coffee so I got there a little late. Still, it rightfully scared me and I now feel the necessity to create a will and other legal documents. The lawyer running the session didn’t mention cost. I know expense is what would be prohibitive for me setting up the documents, but his examples convinced me of their importance.

I had a tough time deciding between “Taming the Toxins: Creating Better Health through Simple Changes around Your Home” and “Pregnancy after Loss: A Creative Arts Based Model for Loss and Life.” I chose the later because it was the only session that mentioned pregnancy loss. It was lead by Heidi Lengel from Interlude Music Therapy Services. Heidi is also a Certified Birth and Bereavement Doula (I didn’t even know Bereavement Doulas were a thing!). Only a small group attended the session and it was just perfect. I have to say that I was moved to tears by the song Heidi shared. I was glad to sit in the back of the room by myself, and I felt touched by her understanding and hopeful words.

Since I missed Xandra O’Neill’s toxins workshop, I attended her second session titled, “Taming the Myth of the Super Mom for the Mom You Want to Be.” I think the toxins workshop would have been a better fit for me, but I still enjoyed her inspiring words and she was kind enough to give me the handout from her previous workshop. I was already familiar with Xandra and her Womb to World Wellness business because we are both members of Philadelphia Social Media Moms. Since the conference, I’ve participated in Xandra’s Creating Fertile Ground Virtual Conference, and I don’t know that I would have joined in without having met her in person at Inspired Family.

I also attended a session on natural oils (something I know nothing about and am now intrigued to learn more), a work-life balance session, and one on mindfulness titled, “Anchored Parents: Creating Positive, Mindful and Happy Families.”

As a first-year conference, there were a few kinks that need to be ironed out. I was hoping for coffee and maybe bagels or some kind of light breakfast in the morning. Nothing was provided. The 45-minute sessions didn’t have built-in breaks in between. There was also no break for lunch. I would have loved maybe 10 minutes between sessions to run to the bathroom and get settled, and an hour for lunch. I didn’t want to miss any of the sessions, so running out to get lunch at the nearby food trucks was a bit of a chore. I ate during my session and felt rude. Plus, a lunch break might have allowed more time for the Marketplace. The room of vendors seemed to have a lot to offer, but I didn’t want to miss the sessions. I’m glad the Marketplace was open for an hour prior to the keynote, but I could have used more time.

The conference tried to be inclusive of the entire family and although it was heavily attended by women, I did see several dads or dads-to-be. The only session I wish was broken up by gender was “Wanna do it?… Not ever?! Having Sex after Baby–Will It Ever Be the Same?” For me, it was awkward to discuss such an intimate subject in a group full of strangers. It would have been fine for a presentation, but for an interactive workshop I just felt uncomfortable and left to check out a different session after the first 15 minutes.

Overall, I had a wonderful experience. The organizers were two moms with young children, and I was really impressed by the variety of offerings and all the work that clearly went into making the day a success. I feel lucky to live in a city with so many family-focused businesses. The conference was a great way for me to get a lot of information up front. Now I just have to take the seeds that were planted and follow-up with research of my own.

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Something nobody talks about  |  nextlifechapter.comThe American Pregnancy Association reports, “Women who are 35-45 yrs old have a 20-35% chance of miscarriage.” That means that for a woman my age, up to one in three pregnancies end in miscarriage. Yet, for something that affects so many women, it seems like nobody talks about it.

Have you heard about this “new” podcast “The Longest Shortest Time”?

I think I first heard about it on This American Life. Those who know me well know I love This American Life. I try to see Ira Glass (the show’s host) in person any chance I get–I even saw him read stories during an experimental dance performance last year. And, for several semesters I’ve taught a memoir class where we use stories from the This American Life podcast to guide our discussions on truth telling, dialogue, interview, answering a question etc… (It’s part of the University of the Arts Continuing Education program and if anyone is interesting in taking this course or a future writing course with me, comment here or email me and I’ll add you to my special writing class email list.)

Anyway, I love This American Life. The TAL website used to include an essay by Hillary Frank about how to pitch them with a radio story. At least one semester I printed it and shared it with my class. A few years ago I learned that Hillary Frank had moved to Philadelphia, the city I was then (and still am) calling home. I even emailed Ms. Frank to see if she would be interested in being a guest speaker during my class. I didn’t figure she would say yes, but I didn’t think it would hurt to ask. (She politely declined.)

So, when I heard about Hillary Frank’s new podcast and when I heard it was about that short time that seems to go on forever when your baby is an infant, I thought it would be right up my alley.

Listening to recent episodes in the car on our Christmas road trip, I learned that Hillary had just finished a Kickstarter campaign (oops–totally missed it) and was turning the podcast into her job. As of January 2014, the LST podcast would have a new episode every two weeks.

A couple weekends ago, I finally got around to downloading the new 2014 episodes. For some reason, I started with the February 5 podcast titled “The Longest Longest Time.” In that episode, Hillary interviews Lisa, a woman who struggled with pregnancy for over a decade. I was washing dishes (as I tend to do when I listen to podcasts) when about half-way through the podcast Lisa said, “I have to say, until I had a miscarriage I don’t think I appreciated what miscarriage meant.”

Hillary followed-up by asking what, exactly, miscarriage means to her. I stopped mid-dish and listened to their conversation, which I’ve tried to transcribe below:

“…it feels like much more of a life-affecting moment or event than I had been able to perceive,” Lisa said with pause. “Do you relate to that at all?”

“Totally. And it’s something you can’t, or we don’t, talk about publicly so it’s not like mourning a death of a person that’s outside of you. You know, that we talk about and it’s understood that people are going to be distracted from work and all of that, but to have this big momentous loss from your body, that’s not something we talk about.”

“Right,” Lisa said. “And especially when it’s early like that, you know, 9 weeks. Nobody even knew you were pregnant.”

“And that’s why we don’t tell people, right? Cause just in case.”

“Exactly. Right. And then the flip side of that is nobody knows you went through it and not talking about it makes you think–you really shouldn’t be that upset by it.”

 

I stood there, greasy dish in hand with adrenaline pumping. “Exactly,” I said out loud. “We don’t talk about it.”

So, I’m here to start a conversation–to say, I had a miscarriage. In fact, I’ve had two miscarriages in the last seven months. It’s been tough. I’ve been distracted at work. I haven’t felt like myself emotionally or physically. I’ve been grieving.

As a memoir writer, I consider myself a truth teller. I want to share my story in hope that someone reading this can relate. The next few weeks I plan to post a series of miscarriage-related posts. This may seem depressing to some, and I understand that reading about such things is not everyone’s cup of tea. However, miscarriage is so very common. Maybe you’ve experienced it yourself. Maybe you will in the future. I imagine many women you know have experienced it, whether you were aware of it or not. We don’t live in a bubble. It’s okay to talk about it. It’s okay to share our stories.

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My friend Helen posted a link to this article yesterday: “Six Words You Should Say Today” by Rachel Macy Stafford.

Read it. Then, come back here.

 

Did you read it? Seriously, what I’m about to say will make so much more sense if you read the article.

Well if not, you should, but she basically writes about how a sentence at the beginning of another article (“What Makes a Nightmare Sports Parent and What Makes a Great One“) was life changing for her. The words were: “I love to watch you play.”

She wrote:

“The next time you feel the need to guide, instruct, or criticize after a ball game, performance, or extracurricular activity, instead consider six simple words: ‘I love to watch you play.’

Furthermore, if you become emotional simply by watching someone you love in action, consider these six words, ‘I love to watch you _______.'”

 

So, on this Father’s Day weekend, I’m away from and missing my husband, but I’m celebrating in person with my father and grandfather, and after reading this article I’m reflecting on all the ways I’ve witnessed love in action.

As Adelaide gets older and involved in extra curricular activities, “I love to watch you…” sounds like a good mantra to adopt. But I agree that it can apply to others and other situations as well.

I love to watch my dad play with Adelaide, to see him dance with her.

I love to watch Tim read her a story, give her a bath, hold her hand.

I love to watch my family experience the joy she brings when she enters a room.

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Happy Father’s Day!

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Parenting

At Christmas Tim and I watched “Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas.” It’s a Jim Henson tv special Tim remembered from childhood, and he wanted me to see it.  It doesn’t take much to make me cry these days, and this show totally made me cry. It was so sweet to see people”(otters in this case) who have so little and still are so willing to give and make sacrifices for each other.

I was touched by the story in part because it made me think about how completely innocent and pure Adelaide is right now. She has never sinned; she’s never lied or intentionally hurt anyone.  She is a blank slate. I know I am going to be responsible (with Tim’s help of course) for teaching Adelaide right from wrong. I want her to be a considerate, giving person.

So far, I have done very little parenting. The work I’ve done the last nine months could be described as nurturing or mothering, but for me, I see parenting more about raising the child, teaching, disciplining etc… We haven’t had to do much of that yet.

On this Father’s Day, I’m so grateful for the parenting I’ve received, for the parenting my husband has received. I still have a lot to learn, but I guess I’ll continue to take it one step at a time.

Happy first Father’s Day to my Tim and a big thank you to my dad, my father-in-law and all the other dads out there.

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