End of Parental Leave, And Going Back To Work

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Being a working parent in the United States is hard. Culturally we don't have a network of support to learn generational knowledge and pass it down. And logistically, those needing help for childcare often have to pay enormous costs to have it.  

But let's not get derailed with that.

For working parents, going back to work after the birth of your child is heartbreaking. 

The parental leave policies in the US is one of the worst of developed nations in the world. Even though we know children have the most growth in the first years, and develop a fundamental understanding of the world around them between birth and age 3, on the whole, we still rush parents back to work in as little as 12, or even 6 weeks after birth. 

If you have gone through this shift, you know how fast those weeks go. You know how surreal it is to see your baby change before your very eyes, daily, both in size, and awareness of the world around them. And, you know the heartbreak of leaving your child in the morning, and the joy of collecting them hours later. 

Getting prepared for going back to work is a bit of a farce. Realistically, sure, you can have a pumping schedule, or bring something of your baby's to help your let-down reflex, or you can ask your caregiver to send you photos throughout the day. But there isn't a way to prepare for the first days back at work. 

Even for those people who really love their job, returning to it after parental leave is surreal. Your attention is divided, your priorities have shifted. You're both weighed down by this new responsibility, while also elated with your new role. You are someone's parent, and at the end of your hard day of work, you are going to go home and comfort a small little person who probably had a hard day away from their favorite people. 

But you'll do it. You'll figure out how to compartmentalize and prioritize. You'll find new ways to sneak a minute here or there to look through your camera roll or share a personal story. Your world has expanded, and it makes sense it would expand into one of the places you spend time. 

Getting prepared to go back to work has little to do with getting up to speed with anything you may have missed professionally, and everything to do with communicating with your closest support people what you are feeling, and how they can help you transition. 

You just did an incredible thing. In the span of a few weeks, you became a new kind of you with a bigger heart, tired body, and a foggy brain. Each day back will get a little bit easier. The weekend will feel even more fantastic, and Monday will have an extra edge in the mornings. But every time they come round, it will be a little bit easier. 

REAL Parenthood: Paperwork and Legal Planning

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Of all the things to prepare for with a new baby, some big ones get overlooked. Many of the following pieces are passed over in planning for more exciting things like car seats, swaddles, and breast pumps. However, there are some ways to plan for the long-term security of your child.  

Birth Certificate and Social Security Card

Two of the documents that prove the government that your child exists are a birth certificate and social security card. If you give birth in a hospital, both forms are provided in a packet by a hospital representative that can be filled out and collected before being discharged. To complete these forms, you have to have settled on your child's name. If you leave the hospital without completing these forms, it will mean an extra trip to the County Clerk's Office and the Social Security Office.  

Will & Testament/ Living Will 

Having a Will drawn up can be a hard moment for many, as it forces you to admit you will not be here forever. Also, doing this work is an incredible gift to those you leave behind in the event of your passing.  Sadly, more than half of Americans do not have a will!

A will can be short or long, verbose or direct. However, long or short, it is helpful to those you leave to know what you want! Beyond your belongings and finances, the Will also outlines whom you wish to act as guardians of your children.  

A Will allows you to be a part of the conversation after your death. Moreover, if there is confusion, a family judge will consider this if there are any familial conflicts.

Life Insurance Policy

Many professionals agree that for most families, getting your child a life insurance policy is not necessary, but there are some benefits, like locking in their "insurability" or an as an alternative form of savings.  

However, most agree that if you are able, both parents should carry life insurance policies to help lessen the financial burden of their passing.

There are many options for insurance plans, and working through this process with a professional is helpful.

College Savings Plans

If saving for college is one of your priorities, it will be helpful to look into a 529 savings plan for your state. Many plans work like a Roth IRA, where they grow tax-free and can be withdrawn tax-free for expenses associated with school, like textbooks, room and board, and of course, tuition.

There are also 529 prepaid plans, where you can lock in the rate of tuition by paying part of the in-state tuition. 

For the NextGen College Investment Plan for Maine, follow the link, www.nextgenforme.com.


Other ways to help your children are to have clear conversations with the people who could be responsible for them in the event of your death. While having information written down is important, it is also important to let those in your family know of your plans ahead of time for your kids. As your kids get older, it is important to also include them into discussions about death and reassure them of the support of their network, family, and know you will still be helping to care for them after you’re gone.

If you need help opening up discussions, picture books can be a great way to start. Consider adding some of these titles on grief and death to your home library.

Having A Baby In Your 40's

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Birth rates have been falling in every age group in the United States except one: women in their 40's
Why? Here are a few reasons that reflect the change. 

Career focus:

Many women are not content to work only until they "settle down to start a family." This generation has been sold the "you can have it all" story and has worked to make it happen. When posed with the choice of family, or work, many are interested in pursuing work. They have earned their degrees, promotions, and salaries, and are looking to return to those responsibilities after having their baby. These are working moms, and they are sampling out what work-life-balance means now that there is a baby to consider.

Marriage ideology:

This group of women has seen a considerable spike in divorce in the generation before them, and have statistically waited to marry. Finding a partner may have been a desire, but not one to rush into a contract as serious as marriage.

Fertility Awareness:

Women's fertility starts to decline in early 30’s, but more and more women can get pregnant into their 40's and 50's with the help of fertility treatment. IUI, IVF, donor eggs and sperm, and surrogacy are all a part of a broader discussion on starting a family.  While infertility has always been a part of the human experience, now more and more people are talking about their struggles to get and stay pregnant. For women who know they would like to be a parent, they know there is help available. 

But now that 40-year-old are becoming parents, how does that experience compare?

Financial strain:

For those who have waited to have children, they may be in a more robust financial situation if they have children in their 40's. Having financial security can afford things like reliable childcare, tuition to preschools, or additional educational programs, and professional support in the early years, such as postpartum doulas, sleep experts, house cleaners, and classes. 


Sleep will always be hard for parents. But this may be one area where younger parents have a bit more "bounce back" than those in their 40's. Or at least, they can make themselves they do.  Babies, and more so, toddlers, take an enormous amount of attention and energy. Taking care of your self is even more important as you age, to cope with the long periods of stress, strain, and loss of sleep that come with a newborn.


Having a baby in your 40's means you may not have many close friends going through the same life experiences. With the majority of people having babies in their 20's and 30's, there is a larger likelihood of having support from others experiencing similar circumstances. If you are without this group of support organically, it is worthwhile to seek out classes, parks, and support groups that could allow for new friendships.

Delayed Bonding: When You Aren't Immediately In Love With Your Baby

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You've waited for months, and you have all the stuff. Now you need your baby to be born! You can't wait to coo at them. And you certainly can't wait to snuggle them! And finally, they arrive but wait. What's going on? Where are all the gushy feels?

For about 4% of laboring women, there is a chance that situations surrounding labor and birth could impact the ability to bond right away with their child. 

Evidence suggests that possible birth trauma or past trauma that is triggered during birth could hinder bonding. Postpartum PTSD is one mood disorder that is getting more attention as it has severe impacts on the care and quality of life for a family who suffer from it. 

There isn't a unifying situation that defines trauma - what one person sees as traumatic may not seem the same to another. Trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. That could be birth itself, a confrontation or action that took place with a medical provider, or a whole myriad of other relevant reasons. 

But if there are high levels of stress present in the postpartum period, there can be a disconnect in the areas that make instant bonding possible; reward centers and risk centers. These are two places of the brain that change in neurotypical birth parents.

The "New Parent Brain," when operating "normally" sees every interaction with their new baby as a source of dopamine, be it cooing, or crying. Your brain is hooked on your baby. For parents who are struggling to bond with their baby, these centers typically are not reacting the same. Meaning they have to work harder to feel the "bliss" that others describe when around their new infant.

So what can you do if you are struggling to bond with your baby? 

The number one thing that seems to make the most significant difference for new parents is adequate supportSupport means extra physical hands, adequate childcare, and self-care.  It also means having support from bosses that extend flexibility and help at home to be able to gain adequate rest. 

And, for those parents who are struggling to bond with their baby, having the resources to spend physical time with their child without other responsibilities piling up is crucial. If you are someone who has not felt the immediate rushes of love and connection to your baby, taking the time to have as much skin-to-skin and support as you need is worth the work to make it possible. 

Your connection to your child can grow. Through activities like feeding your baby, engaging in skin-to-skin, and spending quality time without additional stressors, your brain will respond to the outpouring of oxytocin and bonding can happen. For some, the relationship may not start seamlessly at the beginning, but it can improve, and you can fall in love with your baby. Your brain needs a little extra help.

Real Parenthood: When Will It Get Easier?

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Parenting is hard. Full stop. No exceptions. And it is hard that is worthwhile and worthwhile for most and has the potential to be an immense source of joy.

But when parents are in the throws of all the various hard parts, there is absolutely a lingering thought, When does this get easier?!

Honestly, there is no destination of Easy. There is no place you arrive at, and all is well, everyone can use their words, an coexist with patience and generosity.

But there are definitely points in parenting where you are going to notice some significant changes. And with those changes come a sigh. A pause. A chance to reflect and see how far you have come and how much strength and courage you have. AND how you have fostered that same resilience in the small human you have been shepherding along.

Yep, you can keep them alive!

This first sigh comes with the realization that it was not a mistake when the hospital let you leave with an infant, and yes, you can change diapers, feed, and comfort your babe. You can do it!

The year of firsts

It is an incredible waterfall of new skills and feelings, and abilities seem to roll through one after another. This will be a period of rapid growth and rapid adjustments to your world. There will be lots of tiny sighs here: Sleeping longer stretches, rolling over, showing interest in something for many minutes in a row, eating solid foods - all allow for a little bit more space.

The constant terror of falling is over!

When your child learns to navigate stairs consistently and safely, they have usually also gained enough self-awareness and experience with their center of gravity that the rush of panic of them falling off things they inevitably climb up (maybe when you are watching) starts to lessen. It is such a lovely moment to watch your child do a hard thing, like climb up and down stairs, and be apart from them as their cheerleader, and not their stunt team.

There are words, and they are understood!

We are helping our children all the time with language acquisition and development, but when you see your child put together that milk is milk, or chair is chair, or outside is outside. It is glorious. And not just because you want them to know what those things mean. But because it leads to the moment where you can say, Please get your shoes and coat so we can go outside!" AND THEN THEY DO IT.

Getting themselves a snack

When your child learns how to get a snack, this is a magical day. Enjoy this day. This is a huge day. You deserve all the glory on this day.

Unsupervised use of craft supplies

Anyone who has spend time with littles knows their glee of crafting is infectious. However, their ability to control things like, the dispersement of glitter, the ooze of glue, or understand the danger of scissors takes time and much supervision before they become mastered. But oh, when this day comes, you know you have reached a new plateau in your parenting, and that plateau deserves cake!

"Where's my...?"

I don't know if this ever really goes away, but there is a point where this becomes less frequent, and you have done the work to help your small person learn personal responsibility, troubleshooting, and the value of going and looking. This too is a season to celebrate, you have gone from personal assistant to life coach!

The end being a chauffeur

If you are a fan of public transportation or getting a driver's license, when your (not so small) person can start getting to and from their various life activities, it too is a day to take a sign and say, we made it! The work to take and collect your child from academics, friends, activities, and every other thing consumes a lot of time! It is time you are now able to choose how to spend, to keep up with the status quo, or to let them take the wheel - and having that choice is a banner day!

As you move through parenthood, you will find there are many, many more times when you realized some things have gotten a little bit easier. Please take a minute when that happens and recognize the work it took to get there, and relish the joy of another immeasurable success.

Birth With A View: A Partner's Birth Story

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I have been to two births in my life, and both were of my children. When it was time to watch the scenes of birth in the childbirth class we attended, I looked away, it seeming so voyeristic. I had no interest in seeing my child be born, and I don't know why. It didn't seem gross, or dirty, and it certainly didn't seem sexual. But thinking about it now, I've always shied away from the insides of things - cuts, sores, even half chewed food on display makes my stomach turn. I did not want my time meeting my child to be muffled by feeling light headed or naseaous. That seemed irresponsible. I was becoming someone's father, passing out seemed like the worst possible way to start that adventure.

When my first child was born, I was amazed by my wife. Sitting at the head of her hospital bed, holding her hand, and watching her battle with every pain and movement my daughter made, swelled the feelings of pride I had for this woman who seemed to think me a worthy partner. I always believed I had "married up," but this moment only solidified how much gratitude I needed to express to this woman, this incredible woman who chose to do give birth as a warrior.

I was anxious. I knew so little. There seemed to be so many ways everything could go wrong. Every time the nurse came into move a monitor, or adjust a tube, or take a blood pressure reading, I would hold my breath thinking she was coming into say it was time to take her back to surgery.

My wife was so angry. Every interruption caused her to erupt. She was in a totally different world, and being forced out of it, even though it was full of pain, made her rage against the people in her room. The nurse's lips would purse over and over, and she kept telling my wife she needed to get off the floor, or she needed to get in a different position, or she needed to breath differently.

My wife ignored her every time.

We had a doula for the birth of our first child. And my mother-in-law was with us as well. I was not sure how to navigate the authority of the nurse with the unmistakable authority of my wife. Every time there was a standoff, without fear the doula would glide over, rest a comforting hand on the small of my wife's back, and talk low and gently. I don't know what was said, but the soon my wife would be moving from the floor to the bed, or from one position to another, with much less fire in her eyes.

I was much less anxious at the birth of our second child, and my wife was even more powerful. She had what is called a precipitous birth, where everything happens very fast, and somehow my wife knew it would be this way. We purposefully went to the hospital before labor began, but she was already a week past her due date. When the midwife came in to discuss induction options, my wife held the midwife's hands and looked her in the eyes and I'll never forget she said, "You may not believe me, but I want you to break my bag of waters and stay with me in the room. This is going to be very fast.”

I do not believe in spiritual or religious institutions.
I am a man of science.
I appreciate facts and spirited arguments.
But I learned something very important that day about my wife - My wife is magic.

The midwife said she would need to evaluate how high the baby was, and that Pitocin is typically the way they would like to get contractions started.

After about an hour of discussion, the midwife was not excited about it, but she admitted that there was no reason she could find not to break the bag if that was what my wife wanted.

I don't really remember exactly what happened, but her bag was broke, my wife turned over so her back was facing me, and the most guttural sound came from the person I love. I didn't look. I just closed my eyes thinking my wife was being ripped apart, and in the next moment, my child was born.

It was the fastest 17 minutes of my life.

I know it is not like this for everyone. I know that we are lucky to have a medical team who stopped to hear my wife and believe her. I know that in any instant the entire world can tilt and tragedy can strike. And I also know that the way my children came into this world is seared in my brain as an unmistakable example of how fierce and reckless our existence really is.

Postpartum Doulas: Magical Baby Mavens

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"What does a postpartum doula do, anyway?"

It's a bit of a magical unicorn position, really. The postpartum healing period has some commonalities that get talked about pretty openly: the lack of sleep, the tender breasts, the feelings.

But the common parts of postpartum healing that don't get talked about are some of the areas where a postpartum doula can help an entire family feel on firmer footing with an infant in the house.

1) Postpartum doulas know things.

Having information is one of the most comforting parts of having an expert in your home. What bottle will your baby like? When could you transition from feeding on demand to a more predictable schedule? How can you help your baby pass gas? These are all right on the tip of your doula's tongue. But the knowledge is even more helpful when you don't know what to ask.

While your doula is dutifully doing the caretaking of you and your baby and task mastering, she is also observing. There are so many worries that come with new parenthood, and your gut instinct is still being calibrated. Your doula will help to identify when, yes, you're right, calling the pediatrician would be a good idea. Let's get that checked out!

2) "Tell me a more about that."

Your postpartum doula may have seemingly boundless information, but that doesn't mean she will overwhelm you with it. Some of the doulas who make lasting impressions on their clients are those who have learned the compassionate art of asking questions. You are the one healing, and your experience is what should be validated. Your doula won't compare or belittle your pain, worry, or emotions. Your doula will want you to feel so safe that you can be vulnerable, leaving all your energy to be used to bond, heal, and experience the fleeting reality of newborn life.

3) A different kind of "friends with benefits."

Some of us have friends that feel like family, and having them around is no work at all. Couple that ease with the utility and charm of Mary Poppins, and you've got yourself a postpartum doula. Simply, a postpartum doula makes your life with a baby easier.