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  1. NPN Admin

    Virtual 40+ Moms Group

    Attention moms over 40 with children between 2 months and 3 years old - this is the group for you! Please join PN member and volunteer, Cathy, who leads a Zoom chat for moms 40+ to connect and talk about the unique challenges and joys you face as moms. Please sign up for this group to attend one or all of these April meetups and drop in for as long as you can! This group will meet at 12:15 - 1:00 PM on Fridays, April 9th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th. You will receive a Zoom link the day before the meeting. NPN members only. Please register once for you and your child(ren). You will receive an email confirmation after you register. Questions? Contact NPN Program Manager Meredith Marzano at mmarzano@npnparent.org. Thank you to our presenting sponsor, Erikson Institute. NPN is proud to share information about Erikson Institute's Fussy Baby Network: The Fussy Baby Network offers a range of parent support services around crying, sleeping, and feeding issues for babies and toddlers up to age 3. We provide free phone support through our warmline, staff by our warm and caring family/infant specialists. We also offer free virtual home visits to families no matter where they live. Finally, we provide support groups for parents to talk together about the challenges they face and how they cope. All of our services are available in English and Spanish.
  2. NPN Admin

    New Moms: NMG 2-5 months

    Attention new moms with babies who are between 2-5 months (or about that age): This is the group for you! NPN team member Meredith will coordinate a video chat for moms to connect and talk about the unique challenges and joys you face as new moms. This group will meet Tuesdays, April 27th, May 4th and May 11th from 12pm - 12:45pm via Zoom. Please login to RSVP. You will receive an email one day before the group begins with instructions on how to sign in to the chat. Please register once for you and your infant. Log in to your NPN account to RSVP. You will receive an email confirmation immediately. If you have questions or would like more information about attending or hosting a New Moms Group, email Program Manager, Meredith Marzano, at mmarzano@npnparents.org. Thank you to our presenting sponsor, Erikson Institute. NPN is proud to share information about Erikson Institute's Fussy Baby Network: The Fussy Baby Network offers a range of parent support services around crying, sleeping, and feeding issues for babies and toddlers up to age 3. We provide free phone support through our warmline, staffed by our warm and caring family/infat specialists. We also offer free virtual home visits to families no matter where they live. Finally, we provide support groups for parents to talk together about the challenges they face and how they cope. All of our services are available in English and Spanish.
  3. My long-term relationship that had been fizzling for quite a while had finally snuffed out when it occurred to me that I should become a single-mother-by choice. I was always able to picture myself as a mother but the image of myself as a wife was hazy. Very willing to have the baby and not the man, I started to strategize on how to make that happen. What is a single-mother-by-choice (SMC)? Sometimes called a choice mom or only parent, a single-mother-by-choice is a woman who decides to become a mother with full understanding that she will be the only parent. Or as the 2015 article, the single mother by choice myth defines it, “she’s the epitome of the modern independent woman who wants to have it all, career and family ─ taking her future into her hands, acting decisively, and doing what it takes to achieve her goal of motherhood, with no need for a man. A single-mother-by-choice will pursue motherhood with the aid of donor sperm from either a known donor, with a sperm bank, or private donation. I went with a sperm bank. How does it work? Initially, my plan was intrauterine insemination (IUI), where sperm is placed inside the uterus. Some women are brave enough to do it on their own at home. I wanted to go through a doctor. In doing so, I researched the best in the Chicagoland area and went with Chicago IVF. After sharing my medical history, I underwent a hysterosalpingogram, an X-ray of my uterus and fallopian tubes. I learned that in vitro fertilization (IVF), where the sperm and egg are fertilized outside of the body and then placed inside the uterus, was my only option. Due to the rigorous care schedule, I transferred my care to the Fertility Center of Illinois in River North because it was closer to home and work. Speaking of work, in Illinois, there is a state mandate that health insurance must cover fertility treatment, including up to four cycles of IVF. But how does it work as a parent? The African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child, rings loud and true for an only parent. If not to help in childcare or to have someone in case of emergency, you will need a sane adult to let you know that you will survive. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the help of my parents—without them, working from home during the shelter-in-place would have been impossible. Any advice for someone considering SMC-hood? Working to get pregnant is well, work. Don’t be afraid to ask all of the questions. Choose a healthcare team that you’re comfortable with, especially if you’re a woman of color as racial and ethnic disparities in pregnancy-related deaths persist. Get a full physical workup before you start. Keep a journal because pregnancy comes with a lot of feelings and your journal can be your listening ear. Focus on what you have and not on what you’re missing. It took me two years to become pregnant. Out of those 730 days, Mother’s and Father’s Days were some of the roughest. The first year, I was starting IVF and had no clue if it would work. I skipped church and their Mother’s Day parade and focused all the energy I had after a good shower cry on my mom. That Father’s Day was rough because I was working to become an SMC and I was already rife with worry of how my baby-to-be would feel about the holiday seeing that she or he wouldn’t have a conventional dad. By the next year, I was an IVF pro, but I still needed a distraction. I spent that holiday season uplifting other moms-to-be and hosted a Twitter giveaway for a self-care kit. However, the nervousness around Father’s Day persisted. My mom was the first person I told my decision to become an SMC. “A baby needs a dad,” she said, and I agreed. But when I told her that I didn’t want to miss my chance to become a mother because I didn’t have a man, she quickly gave me her blessing. Yet, that didn’t stop me from praying that my love for my child would be enough. My third embryo transfer, in which my father drove me to the doctor, was a charm. That February, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Mother’s Day of that year was going to be great. My mom and I made plans to brunch with her best friend and her daughters, all of whom are mothers. I would finally get to celebrate with the cool kids. I even bought me and the baby boy matching shirts. But the Thursday before Mother’s Day, my father had a stroke. My mother spent the holiday in the hospital with my dad, while I celebrated my first Mother’s Day worrying and taking awkward selfies of me and my son. My dad’s recovery was slow but steady. He was still in the hospital for Father’s Day. Me, mom, and the baby sat around his bed and ate salads from Portillo’s. This year, while Mother’s and Father’s Day was off-kilter for the entire country, I’ve finally hit a stride and that blanket of burden is gone. My son is growing into his own person every single day and I’m confident in my ability to parent him, for now. This first year of parenting has already taught me that he will change and change. Even this Father’s Day felt better. My dad is doing as well as we could expect, and I’ve begun to practice my spiel on how I will tell my son know that he’s donor-conceived. I’ve even had the opportunity to connect with two handfuls of his donor siblings ─ giving him a peek (when he’s ready) into his other side, albeit extremely non-conventional. And maybe now I will channel all that Mother’s and Father’s Day tension into a holiday more deserving, like National Brownie Day.
  4. For those growing a family during the Covid-19 global pandemic, there may be additional concerns, worries or fears on your mind. While we continue to learn more about Covid, pregnancy has not been proven to be a contributing factor for increased vulnerability to the virus. However, prenatal care, labor and delivery, and post-birth care will look different from the pre-Covid era. Here's a guide on what to expect when you're expecting during this pandemic. Pregnancy Each health care provider—obstetrician, family physician or midwife—will always bring their own training, past experiences and approaches to prenatal care. During the pandemic, each practice will have its own policies and procedures around medical prenatal visits during Covid. Establish a partnership with your provider—ask them your questions about what to expect for your pregnancy care. In the Chicago area, most providers and practices have substituted some of the standard in-person appointments with telehealth visits. If you are experiencing a low-risk pregnancy, this should be just fine for you and your baby. If you or your baby have any high-risk factors or complications, your provider will be working with you directly to provide the most appropriate medical prenatal care. For an in-person visit, expect to be asked screening questions upon arrival and to have your temperature checked. If you are experiencing any symptoms, call your provider’s office before going in to see them. Until testing is more widely available, don’t expect to be tested during routine prenatal visits. One of the most significant changes in prenatal care is that your partner may not be able to join you at most or any of the routine visits, though they may be able to attend an ultrasound appointment. You can minimize potential disappointment by finding out in advance whether your partner can come in with you. If not, ask if you can have them on the phone or a web call during the appointment or if they can give you a recording of baby’s heartbeat to share. [Related: What to expect if you're expecting a Chicago baby] What if you test positive during pregnancy? Your provider is going to tell you what they recommend, based on what trimester you are in and what else may be going on with your pregnancy. As always, ask your questions so you understand the recommendations and what options you may have. Final weeks of pregnancy Talk about what options will or will not be available to you at the birth location. Have this conversation by the 36th week of pregnancy, because most babies, on their own, will arrive between 37–42 weeks. Do you have a strong preference for elements of your birth experience? Knowing what is possible may help you feel more prepared when your labor begins. In addition to your provider, you can check out Birth Guide Chicago’s COVID-19 page for updates on local hospital policies and support people. Having the support of a labor support doula—in-person or virtually—can also be an invaluable resource for navigating pregnancy and birth. Labor and delivery If you are planning to give birth at a hospital, here are some things to be prepared for: Most providers are recommending that you stay home for as long as you are able to manage the sensations of labor before you come to the hospital or birth location. Even if you are planning for or decide you want an epidural, the longer you stay at home the shorter your hospital stay will be. You will be given a Covid test in triage, in addition to the standard triage/admitting procedures. If you test negative, then things will likely proceed as they would in non-Covid times. If you are having a scheduled induction or Cesarean, you will likely take a Covid test a few days prior. There will be a limit of one to two people who can be with you. Some hospitals have limited it to one, others are allowing a partner and doula. Whomever your support person is, they will not be given a Covid test at the birth location. They should expect to be masked the entire time, and they will need to stay in the room with you. (Partners, pack extra snacks and clothes!) Each location has different policies on whether the mom-to-be will be required to wear a mask, regardless of the result of Covid test. Expect all hospital staff to be masked and gloved when interacting with you. What if you test positive for Covid when in labor? Expect to have additional measures put into place to keep staff safe while ensuring your safety and baby’s safety. You can talk with your provider in advance about the specific practices of your birth location. Because this is a new virus, there is still much we don’t know. The specifics of what your care will look like during labor, delivery and postpartum, as well as baby’s care, vary by birth location. But expect to be placed in a special room, to potentially have no partner/doula allowed in with you, and for all staff to be wearing PPE. [Related: Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders - The Most Common Complication of Pregnancy and Childbirth (members-only video)] Postpartum Visitors will likely be limited to the partner and possibly the doula. Friends, family members and older children will have to wait to see you and baby once you are home. Most hospitals are discharging new moms and babies after 24 hours for a vaginal birth and three days for Cesarean birth. Discharge remains dependent upon Mom being cleared by her provider and baby being cleared by the pediatrician to go home. Breastfeeding/chest-feeding is safe and recommended! When can friends and family visit? Pediatrician recommendations on who and when non-household members come into your circle vary, but generally the baby’s 2-month vaccination appointment can be considered a time marker. You will need to assess the risks and benefits for yourself and your family to determine when you are ready for visitors. There is no one set time that it will feel right for every new family. During pregnancy and the first year of parenting, the only constant is change. How we each respond to change is personal but doesn’t need to be isolating. There are many resources that are accessible during Covid: childbirth education and preparation classes have moved online, and so have many pregnant and new parent support groups (check out NPN's New Moms Groups). Therapy and other mental health services have been made easier to access through most insurance companies and with telehealth. Labor support and postpartum doulas, as well as lactation consultants (IBCLCs), continue to offer in-person and virtual care. Pregnancy and postpartum during Covid may be different but you can still find plenty of support. I hope your new baby brings you joy during this uncertain time!
  5. Pelvic floor strengthening is a great way for new moms to improve symptoms of urinary leaking or low back/pelvic pain. Plus, they can be done anywhere! Before you jump right into exercises, let’s learn a little about the pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles that span your pelvis and act to support your organs, maintain normal bowel and bladder function (going when you want to—not leaking when you don’t want to!), and sexual function. First, it is important to perform a pelvic floor contraction correctly. When contracting your pelvic floor, you should feel the muscles close in and up, like an elevator rising towards your ribcage. In order to feel if you are doing the exercise correctly, you can feel just inside your sits bone and gently feel the muscles pull in and away from your fingers as you contract, you should not feel muscles bulging out. [Related: Breastfeeding inequality: It's time to end the mommy wars] Kegels (pelvic floor isometric contraction) Kegels should be performed with “quick flicks” and long holds. The quick flicks should be a complete contraction and complete relaxation of the muscles quickly 10 times. The long holds should be about 3-5 seconds long with an equal duration of rest in between for 10 repetitions. Both “quick flicks” and long holds should be performed 2-3 sets per day. You can do this sitting, standing, or laying down. Abdominal bracing We are adding the contraction of your transverse abdominis, an abdominal muscle that acts like a corset to the contraction of your pelvic floor. Start with a pelvic floor contraction (kegel) and then engage your abdomen by bringing your belly button straight into your spine. You should feel the contraction of the correct abdominal muscle (your transverse abdominis) by placing your fingers gently halfway between your belly button and the bony part of your pelvis. Hold the contraction for 3-5 seconds with equal rest in between repetitions for 10 repetitions. Most important is to make sure you maintain normal breathing and do not hold your breath. You can do this sitting, standing, or laying down, 2-3 sets per day. [Related: Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression] Hip bridge with adduction For this exercise, you will need a pillow, ball, or rolled-up towel. Start laying on your back with your knees bent and the object squeezed between your knees. Maintaining pressure on the object, lift your hips up squeezing your butt at the top. Pause for 5 seconds with your hips lifted, then slowly lower down and repeat. Performed 10 times, 2-3 sets per day. Squats Start standing and engage your pelvic floor engaged, up and in Maintain the pelvic floor contraction as you squat, pause at the bottom, and return to standing To squat with correct form, it should feel like you are sitting your butt back on a chair and maintaining your knees directly over your toes. Performed 10 times, 2-3 sets per day.
  6. Becoming a parent is a joyful, exciting time. It is also a stressful, disorienting and exhausting time. There is cultural messaging that children are a joy and we should be happy throughout their babyhood. However, as a clinical psychologist and mother, I've seen that this is just not reality, and this message creates shame for mothers and partners who struggle with this major life transition. In fact, did you know that, statistically, couples report the lowest rates of marital satisfaction after the birth of a baby? These tiny humans have a way of taking up a huge amount of emotional space, time and energy. Much of this time, energy and attention you once had to give to your partner or yourself, so of course the transition will be a little bumpy! While you can find thousands of resources about the best car seat or swaddle, it’s rare to find information about what to do to prepare and protect one of the most important things to you and your baby: your marriage or partnership. So here are a few ways to help baby-proof your relationship and prepare your partnership for the transition to parenthood. Establish good communication strategies It is vital to the long-term health of a partnership, particularly during times of stress, to learn how to ask for help and how to constructively express frustration or disappointment. No matter how close we are to someone, they can’t read our mind! It’s also important to reduce criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling (shutting your partner out), as these types of communication patterns have been identified as particularly damaging to a relationship. Discuss expectations Who will do the late-night feedings? Who is in charge of childcare? You may think you’re both on the same page, but sitting down to let your partner know your expectations, and to hear theirs, is essential. Prioritize connection Parenting a newborn is all-encompassing. Connecting with your partner may not look like weekends away or long nights out for a while, but you can still make each other coffee, reach for their hand, or turn your phones and tv off to talk for a few minutes at night. These small moments of connection can make a huge difference. Work on your mindset Don’t keep score! When you aim to win an argument or you keep track of exact numbers of times you do something, even if you win, the relationship loses. See yourself as a team, you both have the same goal to care for this baby. Also remember that this is a temporary phase of life. When we have thoughts like, My life will always be this way, it can make our negative emotions more intense. Take care of yourself You can’t be a good partner if you’re totally depleted. Stay connected to friends, go for walks and lean on your support system. Postpartum anxiety or depression can compound the difficulty of adjusting to parenthood and to your relationship and absolutely necessitates treatment. If you or someone you love is experiencing difficulty, please reach out to me or to another mental health professional.

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