Gratitude

Photo credit: CHOP
Photo credit: CHOP

Thank you once again to another year of supporting Mommy Call. Every time I slow down in my writing, one of you told me how much you enjoyed reading this blog and it rejuvenated me. Thank you for this online community. I will always write for myself, but I share publicly and vulnerably to offer some hope and laughs for all of you. So thanks for reading and loving me back.

I am also grateful for your support in all of Mommy Call’s side projects. You have followed me over to sites like KevinMD, JAMA Pediatrics, and Mamalode. If you missed any of these, you can check out the Media tab above for a full list of links.

You have also followed me over to Twitter, where I broke through 1,000 followers this year, and my new Mommy Call Instagram page. I love seeing you in different places.

And this year you have heard my voice, on my new podcast called Primary Care Perspectives. You have really embraced this labor of love. I am so happy to help primary care pediatricians continue their education without sacrificing work efficiency or quality of life.

You have also helped fund Mommy Call (this site isn’t free, after all) by clicking on my Amazon affiliate links or shopping my Beautycounter site. I really appreciate this support too.

Furthermore, you have spotted me around Philadelphia! While this sometimes scares me, to be honest, I am excited when I meet strangers who have found their way to this little blog and find some comfort in knowing there is another mom out there doing her best too. So please say hi.

This Thanksgiving I add my Mommy Call readers to the list of things of which I have to be grateful. Truly, this is my happy place. Thanks for joining me here, and everywhere. Happy Thanksgiving!

Meeting Neighborhood Mom Friends

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Five years ago, intending to let our toddler burn off energy before bed, we spent our evenings at a local playground. It was there that we met a handful of other families doing the same and our similarly-aged children quickly became friends. There were pizza dinners on park benches and ice cream cones on the playground bridge. They rode bikes and fought over toys. We blew bubbles and hit tennis balls. The parents discussed everything parents discuss: discipline, school, vacations, and picky eaters. Our children are now in first grade and although they aren’t all in the same school or after-school activities, and they spend less time at the playground than before, they still fall right back into their play together at the park. The parents are friends too and now we spend time together at each other’s homes, birthday parties, and neighborhood block parties. We never knew that a trip to the playground would turn into developing a community of friends.

Parenting can be isolating if you don’t find parent friends sharing your struggles. Making friends as an adult can be challenging though. Here are some ideas that I share with parents looking for their own version of our park friends:

  1. Join a neighborhood Facebook group to share resources and get tips about upcoming local events.
  2. Attend a local children’s class, such as music, art, or movement. These age-based classes will help you meet parents in a similar stage. After class, grab some food together or head to the playground.
  3. Find an indoor play space for those rainy or snowy days, where you can attend play groups, take classes, host parties, or join meet-ups for like-minded parents.
  4. Find a festival! Block parties, town festivals, and events are happening every weekend if you look hard enough. This can be a good way to broaden your reach beyond your neighborhood.
  5. Take a class! Since all of your activities shouldn’t involve circle time and nursery rhymes, find something just for you, such as pottery, dance, or sewing. If you don’t have childcare, many yoga studios offer mommy-and-me classes too.
  6. Meet other new moms at a breastfeeding support group (check out your local LaLeche League).
  7. Look for a moms meet-up on a site like Meetup.com.
  8. School meet-ups and fundraisers can be a great way to meet local families, even before your child starts kindergarten. Check out your local public school’s Home & School Association website and look for events that need volunteers.
  9. Dive into a book club. I have met amazing local moms and found so many new restaurants with my book club. If you don’t have a club yet, go to an author reading at your local independent bookstore or library, then start your own!
  10. Work out with other parents at local parks. Look for a Fit4Mom group near you.

Bottom line is that you need to get out there. Friendships as an adult, particularly as a parent, look different from when you were younger and in school. While in some ways these acquaintances that are compartmentalized to certain areas of your life seem less intimate, these mom friends are often the ones that you can be most vulnerable with and will show up when you really need a friend.

Gift Guide: Books and more for the kids in your life

I have to admit, I love shopping for gifts. It is exciting to find things I love and share them with others. Part of the fun is knowing the recipient and picking something personalized. However, sometimes you need a more generic or universal gift and for those times, I am sharing some of my go-to gifts. One thing that everyone loves is a good book, so I look for a favorite story to go along with each gift.

Infants: Let’s be real, this is more about the parents. I like to avoid toys and stuffed animals and go for practical things that parents will appreciate. Think teething rings, pajamas, or dinnerware. I like Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats paired with a pair of booties.

Toddlers: What toddler doesn’t like building and trucks? I love Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld. You can pair this with a set of trucks and/or some kinetic sand.

Preschool: Gifts that allow your preschooler’s imagination to go wild are best. That’s why I love this gift, which was actually one given to us:. Stuck by Oliver Jeffers and a kite.

Because this is one of my favorite ages, I’m going to include a bonus gift. Every time we have children at our house, they are obsessed with Floof. This is my new favorite thing to gift because it provides endless entertainment and is easy to clean up. Pair this with Frozen board books, which we use in the car because most preschoolers can’t get enough Anna and Elsa and it makes the ride quieter. Give it with some hot chocolate and marshmallows for a sweet winter gift.

Grade School: I love how this age range soaks up knowledge. What’s better than inspiring them in STEAM activities? One of my favorite series is by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts, including Rosie Revere Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect. These pair well with science kits, MagnaTiles, or GoldieBlox. As an alternative, you could also do a monthly subscription to Kiwi Crate, where you get the tools to build a project as well as other activities to spark creativity and learning.

Tween: There’s a lot going on with our pre-teens and it can be hard to predict what type of gift they want. In my experience though, these kids are very thoughtful and reflective, but also silly. Help inspire them with a book like Wonder by R.J. Palacio and a philanthropic gift, like a gift certificate to dosomething.org, or a temporary tattoo stand for charity. When they are looking to relieve stress, there is an emoji Uno game and a stress relief toys for their cell phone.

Teens: Help your teen escape reality with Caraval by Stephanie Garber and tickets to a local amusement park or outdoor gear to help them at their next concert, camping trip, or day at the boardwalk.

 

[Disclaimer: I am an Amazon Affiliate and get compensated for purchases made using the links above. Happy shopping!]

Old Enough for Eye Cream

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Almost three years ago while waiting for a flight, my friends and I wandered around a department store idly shopping to fill the time. The one with the most beautiful porcelain skin said she was shopping for a new eye cream. Eye cream? We were in our mid-thirties. If that’s how one maintains flawless skin though, I was already sold. So I started using eye cream. Then my mother, a sign post for my future self, warned that I should use moisturizer and so I started buying moisturizer. For both, I cycled through numerous brands, looking for something without the fragrances that make my sensitive skin flare up and without so much oil that I would break out. It was hard to find something that was gentle and yet effective. However, I kept searching and wasting money on products I didn’t love.

I am willing to spend extra money for organic produce and antibiotic-free, free range meats, so why wouldn’t I do the same for the products I rub on my skin each day? But is organic better when it comes to cosmetics? How do I know what is safe and does it matter? I’m not a chemist so reading cosmetics labels is challenging, but I wanted to try. The American Cancer Society says that environmental factors may have a link to breast cancer but more research is needed. So why does every water bottle I now buy proudly exclaim that it is BPA-free? Well, it turns out BPA is a well-known endocrine disruptor in animals, but more research is needed in humans. But, unlike cosmetics, most makers of children’s products and water bottles have decided not to take any chances in the meantime. The dosage of carcinogens found in cosmetics is likely so small that it doesn’t have any significant effect, but we don’t know. The American Cancer Society says:

Still, because there are no long-term studies, little is known about the health effects of long term exposure to many ingredients in cosmetics. This means that we cannot claim that these products will not cause health problems in some people.”

So a few months ago, a friend introduced me to Beautycounter, a safer beauty brand, as I was having this internal dilemma about whether or not I needed to fear my cosmetics. I figured, decreasing my daily exposure to things like parabens, phthalates, and formaldehyde couldn’t hurt! What I doubted was whether or not the performance could match other brands. I started with some travel size samples that I brought with me on a business trip to Chicago. I immediately noted that my skin seemed brighter and smoother. Perhaps it was the water in Chicago, I thought. Once home though, I continued to notice a difference on the days that I used my Beautycounter products. I also appreciated that I didn’t have to read their labels to know that they are safe because with their “never list” I knew that those questionable ingredients wouldn’t be there.

As a pediatrician, advocacy is at the core of what I do every day. Similarly, Beautycounter is a company that is committed to advocacy, interestingly to promote tighter regulations on their own industry, where the last major federal law was in 1938. Beautycounter has been a strong voice advocating for safety, transparency in labeling, and oversight by the FDA. Currently, the FDA “has neither the power to check ingredients before they go to market nor the ability to recall products that are believed to be harmful.” We deserve more than that.

Why would I sell Beautycounter though? I remember my mom selling Avon in the 1980’s and selling Beautycounter is reminiscent of that, however, I’m not selling lipstick just to supplement my income because there would be better ways to do that. Beautycounter is about “door-to-door advocacy” and sharing with others the activism of reforming an unregulated industry that we engage with each day. When I was initially searching for a new eye cream and moisturizer, my friends all told me that the products they used were either 1) the same one they chose in college over a decade ago, 2) the same one their mother used for years so they started using it too, or 3) they didn’t use anything because they didn’t know where to start. So once I found something I loved, I wanted to tell others all about it. And if I happen to make few dollars in the meantime so that I can buy more myself, then that is just a bonus. I want us all to shop for cosmetics with the same consideration we give to our children’s products and food, so that we have many healthy years ahead to earn more wrinkles together.

Shop with me here: www.beautycounter.com/katielockwood

img_1713Let me know if you want to try a sample, host a social and earn awesome rewards, or join the movement with me.

Birthing a Love Story

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Unlike all other Wednesdays, this one had me crying in the shower hoping that my water did not actually break prematurely and ended with my baby being rolled away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). So when my preschooler first asked me to tell him about the day he was born, images of the scariest day of my life flashed through my head. There were some happy moments in between the terror, like when I held him for the first time or saw that he was healthier than we expected for his age. Overall, it was a day full of uncertainty and fear, with the usual nerves of a new parent mixed with the knowledge of a pediatrician parent who knows the risks of premature birth. My first foray into parenting was wrought with drama. It was all too complicated to explain to my now five-year-old son, so I thought for a while before extracting a few positive notes that I could simplify and G-rate for the wild imagination of a preschooler.

There is much about his birth story that reflects what I would later learn was his personality and he chose to show it to me from the very beginning. Had I known him already, I could have imagined that he would storm out of my uterus screaming. I would have known that he would come whenever he was ready and with great determination. Everything about his birth terrified me, yet I remember how eager I was to meet him and knew that while he would continue to make me nervous, he would also bring me peace. Every worry that fluttered into my mind was swatted away when I nuzzled our faces together, fanned his tiny fingers over one of my own, or inhaled his sweet newborn smell.

So when I look at my son, now a healthy six-year-old, I tell him this story:

You and I could not wait to meet each other and we were in such a rush to meet that you came six weeks early so that we could spend more time together. Then we were so happy together and even though you were little, you were strong, and we were stronger together. You were so tiny they had to keep you in a special box to stay warm but you ate and ate and grew and grew and they let you come home with mommy and daddy forever. We are so lucky that we had six extra special weeks with you.

While this silver lining version of his premature delivery made me feel warm and fuzzy each time I told him, it left me wondering how I would describe his sister’s post-dates birth. If his preterm vaginal birth was the story of an organic, eager, and resilient love, what was the theme of her drawn out labor and caesarean section? It was two days beyond my due date, three days of labor, and two hours of pushing until they had to cut her from my body. I felt defeated, devastated, and debilitated. For me, her birth story was one of mixed success and failure. I felt a great accomplishment in carrying her to term after her brother’s premature birth, but incredibly disappointed that her delivery ended in a caesarean section. It seemed like the entire pregnancy led up to this moment of failure, which lasted only a few minutes but left a literal scar on me forever. How could I spin this story to be cheerful and blameless when it still stung to recant it?

Like her brother, her birthing personality would hold true for what I would later describe as her personality: independent, indecisive, and sweet. When I felt a loss of ownership over the labor, I knew that she was in control. She was the captain of the ship. Her full term pregnancy became a badge of honor and although I had to reconcile the unnatural delivery that culminated those nine months, her health was more than enough justification. And so, like her birth, her story was more difficult to extract but eventually sat comfortably in my heart:

You and I were so happy together that we did not want to part. You nuzzled yourself with your head facing up, as if looking at me, and I rubbed your back as it pressed along the right side of my belly. You wanted desperately to stay with me, which is what I had hoped for the entire time you existed. You were so smart and beautiful that you amazed us all. Although some may have seen you as being stuck at birth, I think you blazed your own route. You were nothing like what I expected and yet exactly who I dreamed of my entire life.

Much like a horoscope, I imagine that I could read what I needed to hear from these situations. I could be projecting my own hopes and biases onto a single moment in our joint medical history or glamorizing these events for the sake of passing along an oral history my children will enjoy for years to come. I want them to have these shiny versions though that tell the story of our individual and unique relationships. How deeply I love both of them, yet differently, just as our first and most intimate interactions were varied.

My children ask me to repeat their birth stories to them often and so the glamorized versions that I created to protect them from the reality of childbirth are weaved into their personal narratives. A story they will someday reflect on as they prepare for the births of their own children. It tells the story not only of their first days of life, but of us. So as I recite these personal tales as bedtime stories with them snuggled in my arms, I respect that I have avoided the usual birth story platitudes and polished a narrative that reflects the beauty of our relationships; they are the love stories of my life.

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