Crash!

Right outside the Earth School, Tuesday morning October 28, just after 8:30am drop off. I was chatting with another mom and we were startled into silence.

Was it two cars that slammed into each other?

I peered into the street. Oh my god! The young woman splayed out on the intersection of Avenue B and 5th Street had been on a bike. I thought to myself “call 911.” Even if others are calling I will still call. I needed to do something.

I began to shake. The windshield of the mini van was shattered and dented.

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Thank God she was wearing a helmet. She was conscious. People gathered around. I spoke to the dispatcher. “It is on Avenue B and 5th street in Manhattan,” I told him.

“Is there an address?”

“Is there an address?” I repeated out loud so others could help.

“There is a big school. The other businesses are closed and their gates are down.”

Sirens are heard in the distance. The thirty-something Asian couple from the van is stunned. Had he sped up to make the light?

One of the dads from school said he saw the women fly through the air.

“He was SPEEDING – GOING TOO FAST,” he said in slow motion staccato.

He saw the impact where I only heard it. I could see the impact on his face. Why am I crying?

The fire department paramedics came. The police came. The ambulance came.

I searched online to see if I could find out how she is. None of us outside the school recognized her.

This morning, Wednesday October 29 as I walked my son to school I noticed a bit of a commotion outside St. Brigid’s church on Avenue B. Could it be a funeral? I saw no hearse. The boy in the green polo shirt and khaki pants, the uniform of St. Brigid’s School, sat on the church steps holding his socked foot, crying.

“What happened?” a passerby asked.

“A cab hit his foot.”

I held tight to Finn’s hand.

After I dropped Finn to his class I passed Donna.

“I am so glad you wear a helmet.” I showed her the image of the smashed minivan windshield I captured with my phone. I heard sirens heading toward St. Brigid’s.

“You need to show that to Carol, she sometimes rides her bike without her helmet.”

I marched to Carol’s class.

“Only because I love you am I showing you this. This is where her head impacted the van. Without a helmet she would be dead. Please, please always wear a helmet.”

“I will,” she promised.

I walked around all day my body tense, my muscles tightened every time I saw a bare head on a bike.

Yesterday I baked Rob a red velvet cake for his birthday – it softened my muscles, it gave me joy.

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And then seeing the Catholic boy’s foot stiffened me up again.

We need to have speed bumps. We need crossing guards at every school intersection. We need to ticket speeding drivers.

Ten years ago today my mama left this earth. I wish I could say she left in a space ship or an airplane to take a ride and come back later but, no, she left permanently.

I know she is pretty mad about not being here. She loved life.

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I learned a lot from my mom. I learned how to be a mom from my mom. I learned it was all right to make mistakes as long as you learned from them. I learned how to dress and put on make-up and to make sure my hair never looked a mess. Mama was very stylish. She had a keen eye for bargains and she also knew how to sew. One of my favorite memories is going to the fabric store. While Mama poured over the Butterick, Vogue and Simplicity pattern books I would walk the aisles with rows and rows of fabric. The colors and patterns caught my eyes and I loved stroking the silks, the textured corduroy, the soft felt. Much of it was tacky but Mama could find the right pattern and the right fabric and accessories and put together a sharp looking outfit for herself or a sweet dress for Traci and me. We were six years apart so often she would use the same fabric but make a different dress.

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I loved watching the ladies behind the counter open the bolts and the fabric would spill over the side and then came the click of the scissors scraping off a yard or a yard and a half. Then we would make our way to the accessories area and pick out buttons, zippers, snaps – I love the snap machine! It was like a hole-puncher but you punched a snap onto the fabric. One year for Easter Mama made her and me a plaid pastel pantsuit. I loved matching Mama. It was in shades of yellow and gray with a trace of pink and the jackets closed with mother-of-pearl snaps. We layered lemon tank tops under the jackets.

Mama was always terrible at good-byes. The conversations always lingered. It would drive Rob crazy every time we drove the twelve or more hours to North Carolina and the morning we were packing to leave Mama would run into the house after a week long visit and come running out with a box or shopping bag full of stuff saying “I meant to go through this with you.” It might be a bunch of photographs or letters or some trinkets from my childhood. Something sure to engage me, distract me from leaving, from the goodbye.

When I found out Mama had lung cancer my heart cracked. I knew lung cancer was bad. That summer I made a few weekend trips alone and one week long trip with Phoebe and Chloe. Through it all Mama always stayed positive. She was determined to fight that cancer. She got mad if anyone spoke negatively about her survival.

disclosure for LLL Conf 2014 2

That last visit I remember looking across the living room at her and I knew she didn’t look good. It scared me. She was in Daddy’s leather recliner, asleep, with her head cocked back, the oxygen tubes forming a nearly visible mustache, which blended with her gray skin. She looked old. I fooled myself into thinking she looked this way from the chemo – which she barely had as she could not tolerate it.

That weekend Traci and I took Mama to Cato so that she could by her sister Rita something for her birthday. She chose Cato because it was close by – the mall would never have worked. We had to push Mama in a wheelchair with her oxygen tank on her lap. Traci and I were mostly quiet, listening to Mama’s frustrated directions. She chose a colorful blouse and a pretty grass green jacket. Across the crowded discount store Mama spotted a display of hats. Dragging clothes off the racks we pushed her chair to the hats. Mama considered a fuschia fedora for herself for when the chemo kicked in and she would go bald.

Earlier that summer Phoebe, Chloe and I had shopped in a vintage clothing store and bought Mama four colorful silk scarves for when her hair fell out. I remember the owner of the store being annoyed with the girls as they helped pick out the scarves. Chloe’s little hands touching the silk – that girl loved the feel of silk more than anything. At the age of one she took a silky pajama shirt of mine and cuddled it and always held onto “shirt-shirt” while she nursed. This collection of silk scarves was nearly nirvana to her and she contained herself like a true lady yet this hag gave her the eye of death. I have never given her my business again.

That last visit Mama had me pack up a sweater she had bought from the J. Jill catalog. It was her style exactly. She said she didn’t really need it, that she didn’t really like it that much. I sent it back. That same day we organized all of her insurance papers. Mama also gave me a floppy disc with a few of her short plays that I still have not had it in me to open up.

The day before I was heading back to New York, October 1, I asked Mama about Thanksgiving and Christmas. She said “you have Thanksgiving in New York, I won’t be feeling well from the chemo and then Dad and I will come to New York for Christmas.” I was so happy to have a plan for those holidays especially because I did not know what to expect. Mama died October 19, a Tuesday.

The Sunday before Mama died, Dad called to say Mama was not doing well and the doctor gave her about 10 days to two weeks. I talked to my brother, Mike. We agreed to fly to North Carolina on the same day – he from Boston, me from New York and we would drive together from the airport.

Rob arranged for his mom to come help with the girls. She came in on Tuesday. I felt raw. Tuesday, early in the day, Dad called to say Mama wasn’t doing well. I told him to tell her I love her and I didn’t want her to be in pain and if she needed to go that was fine with fine with me. That night Dad called, I answered and his words were, “ Leigh Anne, Mama’s gone.” I screamed and threw the phone. Mary picked up the phone as I lay on the floor wailing.

I traveled alone Wednesday morning. I was grumpy, agitated. The lines at the airport were long. I had checked in and asked the ticket agent about an open-ended ticket. I had to say out loud “My mom died yesterday.” It was busy and another agent was trying to board a wedding party. She went to my agent and tried to speed her up or cut the line. My lovely agent quietly pointed at the screen – the other agent looked at me and moved on, less frantic.

As I waited to remove my boots and go through security a big, blond southern Christian lady with a loud sweater, looked at me and nearly sang, “It looks like there is goin’ to be a weddin’.” There was a group of young women all carrying white dress bags. “Yes,” I replied. “Are you in a hurry? Are you from New York?” she drawled.

I looked directly at her mascaraed blue eyes and I said “My mama died last night,” as I fell into her big colorful bossom. She hugged me just right. We got through security. She was sitting in one of the chain restaurants. “Do you want some breakfast?” she sang. I thanked her and told her I was going to sit by my gate with a cup of tea.

Many things happened on that trip: planning a funeral, buying a blouse for Mama to wear in the casket, choosing a casket, choosing flowers, buying appropriate clothes for my girls to wear, writing an obituary.

Dad, Mike, Traci and I had to choose flowers for her casket. We went with red as it is elegant and because she was a Red Hat. There were these beautiful tiny red orchids – I knew Mama would have loved them. The florist sucked in her breathe – I imagine she is used to sad people – she said she did not think she would be able to get them. We were in no position to put up a fight. We accepted her statement and chose an alternative.

Traci was with Mama when she died. Traci insisted that she do Mama’s hair and make-up – none of that over the top mortician makeup. She wanted me to help her. When I woke up the next day, knowing that I had to go help Traci decorate our dead mother I cried to Daddy, “ I can write a eulogy, I can give a eulogy but I cannot dress my dead mother.”

We got through the wake. The morning of the funeral came. I wore black slacks and a black kimono style blouse splashed with bright flowers. At the funeral home Daddy takes me by the arm and says “Come on, Leigh Anne, it’s time to say goodbye to Mama.” I couldn’t believe how strong he was through all of this and he knew exactly what to do and when to do it.

I nearly collapsed in his arms as he brought me for my final goodbye. Mama taught me how to do almost everything but she did not teach me how to say goodbye to your mama. Her mama, my grandmother is still alive.

I kneeled down at the casket and I touched her hand. I did not like the cold, lifeless feel of her hand so I pulled my hand back and looked at my beautiful mom with all of her hair. She never had much chemo in the end. She was wearing an emerald silk blouse under her black pants suit. Her nails were painted red to cover the ashen color they had become.

I told her she had done such a wonderful job with us kids that we would be ok, we would miss her terribly, but we would be ok. And I told her how jealous all of my friends were because she was my mom and not theirs and that she was the best mom in the world. I had to teach myself how to say good-bye.

Her casket had the lovely red, baby orchids.

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mamamilkandme:

I am so happy to read this, I squirm when people talk about a baby self soothing. I ask patents if their baby is ready to rent their own apartment.

Originally posted on Uncommon Sense:

It figures it would be the latest propaganda about baby sleep that would wake me from my blogging slumber. This time it was news reports of a study by Dr. Marsha Weinraub, a psychologist at Temple University. In an article recently published in Developmental Psychology, she reports on data (collected 20 years ago, oddly enough) from a study which tracked patterns of nighttime sleeping and wakening in babies aged 6 to 36 months. Sleep patterns were recorded at four points in time – 6 months, 15 months, 2 years and 3 years. They found that 30% of the babies were sleeping through every night at age 6 months, while another 29% were waking one or two nights a week. The researchers decided for some reason that 30% and 29% add up to 66%, and that this means that that most babies sleep through the night at six months.

I don’t…

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Originally posted on :

2

This week marks the second annual Black Breastfeeding Week (learn more here). We asked Kimberly Durdin, IBCLC, SMW, to share with us her reflections on her path to becoming an IBCLC, why we need Black Breastfeeding Week, and how we as IBCLCs can support Black women in our profession.

23 years ago, I was a brand new mom, with a weeks old baby daughter, who I was struggling to breastfeed. In spite of the support my mother (who had breastfed) and my husband, I needed more. I struggled with sore nipples, Caesarian recovery and thoughts of giving up. A new mom friend told me about our local La Leche League group and one day, I stumbled into the monthly meeting with my baby in my arms.

I received the support and help that I needed, and with the help of that leaders encouragement, I came back to more meetings…

View original 990 more words

Originally posted on mamamilkandme:

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I remember my first yoga class. I was intimidated. I was excited but I thought I was the only one who didn’t know what to do. I placed my mat on the wood floor and listened with open eyes and ears. I assumed everyone knew some secret yoga handshake.

I remember stretching my hamstrings and calves. I remember opening my hips. I learned child’s pose quickly. I felt sore, challenged, invigorated and humbled.

I remember when my first baby was born. I was definitely sore! I remember my hips opening too! When I saw other mothers I thought they had some secret handshake. They all looked so confident and sure of themselves.

There were times I know I should go to my yoga class but I just didn’t want to. When I pushed through in the end I felt good. I felt like I had invested in myself to…

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Originally posted on :

Journal of Human Lactation

Editor’s Note: Leigh Anne O’Connor, a U.S. based IBCLC in private practice who often works with mothers planning to return to work, recently interviewed Kelsey R. Mirkovic, one of the authors of the recently published study on the impact of maternity leave on breastfeeding outcomes. Read on to learn more about the outcomes, study design, and more:

Recently the Journal of Human Lactation published the study Maternity leave duration and full-time/part-time work status are associated with US mothers’ ability to meet breastfeeding intentions by Kelsey R. Mirkovic, Cria G. Perrine, Kelley S. Scanlon, and Laurence M. Grummer-Strawn.

The study showed that employment can be a barrier to breastfeeding outcomes. This reiterates the importance of public health policy and its role in supporting employed breastfeeding parents.

I interviewed Kelsey R. Mirkovic, PhD to learn more about this study.

Here is what she had to say:

What were the key findings of your…

View original 846 more words

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I remember my first yoga class. I was intimidated. I was excited but I thought I was the only one who didn’t know what to do. I placed my mat on the wood floor and listened with open eyes and ears. I assumed everyone knew some secret yoga handshake.

I remember stretching my hamstrings and calves. I remember opening my hips. I learned child’s pose quickly. I felt sore, challenged, invigorated and humbled.

I remember when my first baby was born. I was definitely sore! I remember my hips opening too! When I saw other mothers I thought they had some secret handshake. They all looked so confident and sure of themselves.

There were times I know I should go to my yoga class but I just didn’t want to. When I pushed through in the end I felt good. I felt like I had invested in myself to get to a new level of peace and strength.

There have been times in my mothering when I wanted to quit. When Phoebe was about 13 months old Rob came home. She was asleep across my body on the sofa. She looked peaceful but when Rob saw my face he said: “You want to quit don’t you?” I started crying. She had been so challenging that day. It was hard. I didn’t quit. I invested in my children. I always will.

I learn something new from each yoga teacher. Sometimes I learn something as simple as pressing into the index finger knuckle for more balance or using a strap around my arms to get up into bridge pose. Sometimes it is a philosophical way to look at the world, to give in to the heat outside or the bitter cold. Sometimes I learn to let go of anger. Sometimes I learn not to worry if my poses aren’t perfect or if I cannot go up on my head. I learned that it is ok if I do not do a headstand.

I learn different things from my children as well. They tell me the truth and sometimes it hurts but I usually learn something. From watching my children I have learned to be compassionate. I have learned to advocate for them and through this experience I have learned to advocate for myself and for others. I have learned that I am not a perfect mother. And I learned I do not have to be.

Once on the playground when Phoebe was swinging and I was across the park nursing Chloe she came running and told me I needed to talk to that other mom. I am not fond of confrontations with other moms but this woman had insisted that Phoebe play with her daughter. I approached the mom. I need to advocate for my six year old who wanted to swing alone and not have the responsibility of caring for another child. I understood this but how could I communicate it.

I walked over to this mom and told her I was the mom of the little girl who did not want to play with her daughter. She told me that a girl her age shouldn’t be mean to five year olds. When I explained that Phoebe was only six and she has a new baby sister the woman softened. My children are big and are often mistaken for being older. It wasn’t painful. Phoebe will not put up with disrespectful behavior and has the language to communicate it.

Chloe is not happy to sit idle. She needs to be challenged nearly constantly. When she was a toddler I had a small baking business. She wanted to bake too. And toy bake ware and play food would not cut it for her. I had to let her help. I learned to set up some baking supplies and equipment that she could handle. I had small metal cake pans, measuring spoons, sprinkles, a bit of sugar and a bit of flour. No wet ingredients!

When I let her help me for real she sat on the counter. I let her crack eggs into a bowl in case there were shells. I let her pour vanilla into a teaspoon. She loves to bake now and is great at it.

One morning when Finn was a bout two and half I was trying to get out the door. I was rushed. I started to yell “HURRY, WE ARE GOING TO BE LATE!!!!”  Instead of moving toward the door he stopped, crossed his arms across his sweet body and with a tear dripping onto his cheek he proclaimed, ”You have to be patient.” He is patient with other children and with me.

In yoga I learned to listen to my body. In mothering I learned to listen to my children.

They are both hard work but the investment is so worth it. I feel good. I have a strong body.

My children are growing into courageous, confident and generally happy human beings.

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Today in class as we opened our hips in pigeon pose after countless down dogs and chaturanga, sweat dripping down my cheeks, my hair soaked and my body starting to shake a bit the teacher had us move into child’s pose and she said “The work is hard but the moments in between are precious.”

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Yes! Phoebe, who is now 19, called me today and just talked. Cuddles, heart to heart talks, giggles, mom-dates. These are the precious in betweens of mothering. They are the reason we say “No” 278 times to the ridiculous requests. They are the reasons we wake in the middle of the night to a fever. They are the reason we carry a big kid with a skinned knee ten backbreaking blocks. They are the reasons we pace the floor when they are teenagers who do not answer their phones after midnight. They are the reason we go to the other parents and tell them you do not appreciate the insulting way you spoke to your child.

As in my yoga practice, as a mom I am challenged, humbled and invigorated.

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