Who Do You Love? (When Your Family Are Your Friends And Your Friends Like Family)

Yesterday my parents rescued my children from their viral 102.2 temperature mother and even though I could barely say my name or knew where I was, the way these four greeted each other was a moment instantly burned in my fevered mind.  My son dropped my hand and ran to his nana with a quiet joy and ferocious hug that is part of his silent and strong nature.  My daughter hopped up and down at the curb waiting for my dad to come around from the driver’s seat shouting, “grandpa, grandpa, I’m so excited!” with her usual over-the-top bravado.  The scene was the definition of love.  Of family.

It’s hardly a secret that I’m close with my family.  They are everything to me.  Emergency babysitters.  Voices of reason.  Whispers of contradiction.  Gut-checks, head-checks, lice-checks.  Secrets, laughs, frustrations.

When I need inspiration, everyone knows I call (ok, text) my little brother.  He’s a seeker like I am, but he leans into it whereas when I was his age I tried to plan against it.  He was in high school and I in my late 20s when he told me about this amazing book he’d read: Siddhartha.  That book changed my outlook on life even as I flipped the pages.

When I’m about to make a big move in my life, everyone knows I call my other brother.  He will raise every point as to why I shouldn’t do exactly what I’m about to do and I know if I can live with everything he’s said (because he’s always right) then it’s time to make whatever crazy jump I’ve dreamed up.  If not, it’s back to the drawing board.

When I’m trying to make sense of things in my life, everyone knows I call my dad.  My first spiritual guide, my dad sees a world washed in gray.  He knows that black and white is easier, but nothing in this life is that simple.  As a scared little girl, then as a know-it-all college chick, and even as an adult who has lost her way from time to time, my father has always given me comfort from the uncertainty of life – somehow, someway.

And then there’s my mother.  Everyone knows I call my mother every damn day.  For big reasons, for little reasons, sometimes for both, or sometimes for no reason at all.  My mother is my best friend.  She always has been, always will be.  It’s simple to say someone is your best friend, but writing about someone who is so close to you, who knows who you are at your core — not just who you are with the mask of “student” or “lawyer” or “mother” on your face — is almost an impossible task.

Nevertheless, it was a task I was willing to take on when Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger, the editors of The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship, asked me to be a part of their book.

I could have written a story about any one of my girlfriends – the ones who show up to surprise you on a random, insignificant birthday just because that’s what friends do, or the ones that make plans with you even if it’s at 7am on a Tuesday because that’s the time they have on a quick business trip to your neck of the woods, or the ones you haven’t seen in years that you still wish the best for every single day.

(Of course it must be said that I could have easily written about my husband, who has every single one of the qualities I relish except the book was about female friendships.)

I chose to write about my mother as my best friend.  Others wrote about childhood friends, changing friendships, or those rare gems we meet later in life.  These stories represent the best, the most complicated, and the most relatable parts of female friendships.  I’m so proud to be a part of this project.

And even though I buy in to all this junk, I still hate the Sprint Framily plan commercials.  

Combining friends and family should be a slam dunk, so how do they get it so wrong?   Why are all their friends so creepy?  I promise none of the stories in Herstories are like that.  Seriously.

Parenting In Black And White

Someday in the future I am going to force my kids to write a nice letter to Bank of America, thanking them for any semblance of culture they might have.  BofA hosts Museums on Us during the first weekend of every month.  Without this program I would never have brought a 3yo and a 1yo to the Bronx Zoo, the Botanical Gardens or the Met.  A trip like that is guaranteed to cost $100 when you factor in soft pretzels, dippin’ dots, and other various snacks.  Saving $50-75 on admission really eases the sting of having to leave after eight minutes because someone’s diaper exploded on my dress (yes, that happened) or running through every exhibit with a crying child.

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Noon Year’s Eve

Ian and I already rang in the New Year and no, we aren’t in India.  We are just wild and crazy like that.  Rather than spending our evening squished among drunk tourists from Portugal, Kansas, or worst*, New Jersey and paying double not only for a sitter but for admittance to our favorite local bar, we went the cheap, er, practical route.  We called our sitter at 8:30 this morning.

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Latch-On To Reality In NYC

Yesterday 27 of New York City’s 40 hospitals officially adopted Mayor Bloomberg’s controversial “Latch On NYC” and I’m behind them 100%.

For those of you not familiar with the program, the basic controversy centers around these guidelines for hospitals:

  • Enforce the NYS hospital regulation to not supplement breastfeeding infants with formula feeding unless medically indicated and documented on the infant’s medical chart;
  • Restrict access to infant formula by hospital staff, tracking infant formula distribution and sharing data on formula distribution with the Health Department;
  • Discontinue the distribution of promotional or free infant formula; and
  • Prohibit the display and distribution of infant formula promotional materials in any hospital location.

When the Health Department issued its press release back in May, women everywhere cried out in rage.  “How dare you?” “It’s my child, my body!”  Some of my favorite snipes revolved around the request that Bloomberg grow breasts before he tell us how to feed our children.

Some people just love to argue.

It won’t make one damn bit of difference if you ask me.  I gave birth in 2009 and 2011 in one of these fine hospitals.  I can account first hand that the policies described to “encourage breastfeeding” have been in effect long before Bloomberg and the NYC Health Department thought up their clever title.

A nurse was in my room to instruct breastfeeding, swaddling, co-sleeping and every method of attachment parenting known to Dr. Sears’s disciples as soon as the baby left the womb.  There were countless programs and support groups for breastfeeding.   The nurses admonished their patients’ pleas to “supplement” with formula far more than Bloomberg’s initiative.  Right or wrong it was the reality I saw first hand in 2009 and 2011.

Besides the reality of the situation, what are these outraged moms really complaining about?  The fact that it might be slightly more difficult to procure formula if you had already committed to breastfeeding?  Let’s point out that the Latch On initiative has NO bearing on women who came into the hospital choosing to feed their baby formula for whatever reason.  If you came to this decision prior to the bleary-eyed, vagina-exploding, breast-throbbing act of delivery it would be honored without qualification.  The guidelines are aimed at mothers who intend to nurse but are having a tough go in the first days of motherhood.  The message is this: changing your mind is a last resort position.

Further, formula isn’t being banned from hospitals.  It’s being held within the control of the staff doctors and nurses, out of plain sight.  Aspirin is kept under the same “lock and key” protection but no one expresses outrage that you might have to ask someone to get a little headache relief.  If you are having issues with nursing that surpass typical early day struggles, your baby will be given formula if that is what you and your doctor deem necessary.

The Latch On NYC initiative aims to educate and support mothers who feel that formula is necessary for their children to thrive when there is no medical reason to draw that conclusion (healthy breasts/mom, baby sustaining weight).  That instruction and reinforcement begins in the hospital as soon as the baby is delivered.

According to Department of Health statistics, 90% of NYC mothers start breastfeeding their babies.  However, by two months, only 31% of NYC mothers are exclusively breastfeeding.  Two months post-partum marked the point when things finally started to make sense to me and by that time nearly 60% of nursing mothers have surrendered.  The top two reasons given for stopping?  “I thought I was not producing enough milk” (47%) and the similar “Breast milk alone did not satisfy my baby” (44%).

I chose to nurse my children and had relative success with both of them.  I feel blessed to have had those experiences and worked hard to achieve them.   I understand not everyone can breastfeed their child and firmly believe those moms should not feel badly about giving their babies formula.  However, there is a wide spectrum from one nursing extreme (breastfeeding is easy peasy!) to the other (breastfeeding is not an option for me) and most mothers in the middle could benefit from more education and more support.  The Latch-On NYC initiative intends to do just that; it’s not an attack on mothers and our choices.  Let’s stop using it as ammunition.