Dear Z,

Yesterday you got dressed in pants with a belt through every loop and slung your purse across your body and helped your sister into the car as we headed to Target. You were ready to receive a present and, as it was the day before your birthday, you had to wait an unbearable 18.75 hours. Luckily, you'd been saving your allowance for months and had quite a stash of bills wadded up.

You were sure you wanted a new outfit for your American Girl doll and after hearing that Target sold clothes that would fit her, were cheaper than the official clothes, AND you wouldn't have to pay shipping and handling, you were dressed and ready in a flash.

We did have to get you from the car to the store, which, since you're currently scared of bees and anywhere bees might possibly reside, required cajoling and vise-grip hand holding on our walk to the store.

Once inside, you broke free, skipped to the toy aisles and then walked sideways facing away from the toys so as to minimize exposure to other tempting plastic bits.

Your sister trailed you and did her very best to skip, to walk sideways, to keep up.

You chose a doll outfit.

You got distracted by a Barbie dog walker that was on sale.

Can I afford THAT?

Read the numbers here. How much do you have again? So what do YOU think? CAN you afford it? Is that what you want?

I tried hard not to judge or sway you. Your dad and I want you to learn about money and buying and satisfaction on your own, now, when it's small bits of money. Money can't buy you happiness, we've told you, but it can be fun.

You were so excited in the toy aisle you kept having to calm yourself down. We want you to learn how to do that, too.

In the middle of the clothing/Barbie conundrum, your sister grabbed a plastic shopping cart full of food off the shelf and disappeared into the automotive supplies. Her fit upon having it wrenched from her fingers tugged your heartstrings and you started counting your money again.

E! I'll have some money left! I can buy you something too! You love dogs so how about we find a dog that costs less than five dollars?

We did. We found a stuffed dog that cost less than five dollars. I had to remind you to let her chose which one as she's going to need to learn for herself how to chose, too.

You were so proud of yourself, buying something for yourself and buying something for your sister. On the way back to the car, you forgot to hold my hand in a death grip, or really at all, but I didn't remind you, even as we entered the parking lot. You were close to us, your sister and me, and so proud of all your decisions, I knew you wouldn't go far. So I let you walk in a parking lot without holding my hand and this felt so big, as I remembered how much we battled over holding hands in parking lots several years ago.

That I can even say "several years ago" in relation to you, my very first baby, is still stunning to me.

That you grow and change and mature every day is just as miraculous to me as your birth, five years ago today.

Happy Birthday Z.


Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama


A Place at the Table

We eat every meal at this little round table. We make pizza dough and draw banana-shaped dinosaurs (Bananasaurus!) and form construction paper palaces at this table. I write blog posts here, pay bills here, drink tea and try to read the paper here. This table gets slimed and marked and wiped many times a day.

It's a tight fit around this table and we each have our spots. Z's got the best seat in the house, I think, facing the windows. CG and I are on either side of her, with me closest to the kitchen.

Sweet Dog crams herself underneath, waiting for falling crumbs.

There are always falling crumbs.

When E was born, we took everyone's advice: Pay attention to your first child and ignore the baby, she won't know the difference. We didn't totally ignore E, of course, but we did put her off to the side, continuing to shine most of our light on Z as a way to ease her transition into having a sibling.

When E was a baby, she was either asleep on a lap or in a bouncy chair during meals. Later, she was on the floor, first just lying there and then eventually scootching around. Finally, for many months, she was in her high chair, off to my right side in the open space toward the kitchen, the plastic tray clipped around her in a hopeless attempt to keep her messes confined.

She's almost two years old and has been refusing the high chair for weeks now, the tray for longer. She can no longer be put off to the side.

We haven't figured out exactly where to put her yet. She wants to sit on her own chair, until we start to eat and then she wants to run around, get on and off her chair and squeeze herself next to her sister causing dual laughter or screaming or both. The hardest part is that E's obvious place at the table, the one part of the table left available for her chair, is at the window, right over a heating vent.

Let me spell this out: messy toddler over large H/AC vent = smelly, sticky, disgusting vent that must be cleaned out daily.


So then I tried putting myself over the vent, my back to the windows, but that means that I have to squeeze past her or the rest of the table every time I need to get up to get something in the kitchen, which is EVERY TWO SECONDS.

Our meals are confusing right now, is what I'm saying. No one knows where to sit, we keep switching up everyone's spot, trying to find a scheme that works for everyone. People are always sliding off of chairs, either on purpose or accident. Rarely are all four people sitting at the same exact moment.

E wants to talk now, too. A lot. She has never been the most verbal child, and only recently has she started stringing words together. But she's given up all signs and uses her voice, a newly strong, gutteral, imperative voice, to make her presence known. She wants to participate in all aspects of our family's life and that includes conversations and mealtimes. Sometimes, when Z is giving us a dinner-time run down of her day, E will just start making loud nonsense noise in the background.

She wants a place at the table.

We want to give her one.

We're still learning how.

We've started reading her books with titles like "Big Girls Use the Potty" and "Pacifiers Aren't Forever" alongside "Goodnight Moon" and "Runaway Bunny". I still change her diaper lying down, giving raspberry kisses on her belly's fading birthmark. It gets lighter every day, this mark a daily evidence of vanishing babyhood.

I kiss her feet too when I'm changing her diaper. The soles of her feet, which used to be as smooth and plump as risen dough, are rougher every day, and even, just the teensiest bit, stinky.

With legs extended, she is longer than the changing pad. I suppose I could stand her up for diaper changing.

I'm not ready to stand her up for diaper changing.

I am embarrassed to admit this: sometimes I wish to flee her need for constant vigilance and boundary setting and repetitive Learning Opportunities. And yet, even as I feel ready, desperate even, to emerge from seclusion, from her babyhood, I simultaneously want to grasp her close, smush her into baby clothes, keep her totally for myself.

I have never totally possessed her, of course; even in utero she was her own being, her own heart beating its own rhythm. But my insane love for her is so overwhelming, so all encompassing, that devouring her seems desirable, holding her close the only reasonable alternative.

Her place is on my lap. Right?

Her place is in my arms. Always?

She still needs a place, her own place, at the table.


Going Away/Coming Home

Dear E and Z,

Yes, we went away for a long weekend, leaving you with your grandparents. We know this was a little hard for you.

Wait. Is that a new wagon for you girls to share? And is that Grampa - you know, just-had-radiation-and-two-bouts-pneumonia-Grampa- pulling you on a walk to town?

Though you missed us, We're glad you were in good hands. Gramma and Grampa came and so did your great aunt and some friends filled in and....

Um, is that a new puzzle, E?

Okay, you got presents and vistors and lots of fun - we obviously don't need to apologize for going away. But perhaps we can explain needing the time away.

Our friends got married, you see.

And the wedding was far away, in California. The plane trip and subsequent drive were long. The days were filled with things kids aren't too fond of but adults ARE.

Okay, you'd LOVE this bridge. Don't worry, we promise to take you there one day.

We spent hours listening to nothing but the sound of the plane/car/hotel heater/each other's breath. We silently watched our friends get married with tears in our eyes and all our attention on the same thing at the same time. We danced till the wee hours and woke when it was already light out, to nothing but the sounds of distant birds.

All of this was brilliant and needed.

We stopped at random restaurants with excellent carnitas tacos. (ie. not really your kind of lunch.)

We took quiet, slow walks on lovely beaches. Cold, windy, foggy beaches (ie. NOT YOUR KIND OF BEACHES.)

We followed our whim and our pace and our interests. We had four days with barely any schedule. No whining. No wakeup calls. No conversations with each other that started with "Here's my list of things we need to talk about."

It was odd, even unsettling at times. We were together for seven years before becoming parents but it's almost like we forget what it's like, being together just the two of us for this long, talking without interruption, focusing on only each other. We needed time and space to remember what it felt like, how to talk to each other like this.

The redwoods helped, too.

Our love and devotion for you is never in doubt. Our love for each other is never in doubt either but it does get overshadowed at times, lost in the shuffle. Sometimes the needs, the attention, the relentless pace of life with little kids, even beloved little kids, too easily creates an exhaustion, a space between us.

I'm telling you all this because I want you to know something: We love each other, you, our whole family, so much. So much that we sometimes need to go away by ourselves.

One day, we hope you have children with a loving partner. Not only because we want grandchildren (someday, after college and at least a few years of not knowing what you're doing and muddling through to deeper understanding of who you are). Not only because it will bring you an understanding of why we are so crazy about you we are (crazy in every sense of the word). But mostly because we plan to give to you just what has been given to us. A weekend away, as often as you need, to stay connected, to remember what it's like to be just the two of you.

But no, we don't think we'd have the bravery to dye Easter eggs with your kids while you're gone. Your Gramma and Grampa are a rare breed.


Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama and Daddy


A Birth Day

She always knew she wanted more than one child and seemed to be able to get pregnant easily. Staying pregnant was another matter. And no one talked about the miscarriages. It wasn't done.

She was nervous about miscarrying again but there was nothing else to do but try, try again. They waited for the doctor to give the okay.

When she got pregnant this time, she was apprehensive, tired, sick. The nausea would set in around 4, just in time to make dinner. She never threw up but felt so sick she could barely eat or cook. Saltines were worthless but grapes - smooth and sweet - worked wonders.

Once the evening sickness passed, she was ravenous, nourishing the baby within with every meal.

They attended natural childbirth classes together, determined to have another birth without painkillers, just like her first, only, hopefully, easier since he had been sunny-side up and she had labored with him for 36 hours. For that birth, they had educated themselves with a pre-publication book about natural childbirth written by an acquaintance. This time, they would know what they were doing and they had a doctor who supported their choice.

And, hey, second births are supposed to be easy, right?

As the end of the pregnancy neared, her husband painted the nursery a neutral, easy white and she climbed a tall ladder over and over again to hang a wallpaper border around the top of the room - pastel tulips fit for either a boy or girl, whichever was nestled inside her belly.

This baby was a little overdue, but then so was their first, so they entertained friends for Easter. One, a single man, said “I’ve never seen anyone so big, you must be about to POP!”

Some things are the same across generations.

(One can imagine a caveman saying this same thing to his cave neighbor’s wife.)

In the early morning hours of April 17th, she awoke in pain. It was a little after 3 am. It was beginning.

She got up, showered, and carefully shaved her legs, knowing it might be weeks before she could attend to such things again.

She woke up her husband around 6 and he left to pick up two necessary, if conflicting, things: the babysitter, who was a 16 year old diabetic daughter of a friend, and a bag of Winchell’s doughnuts, fulfilling both the needs of and a promise to their firstborn son.

Before she could leave the house for the hospital, she had to give the babysitter an insulin shot, while in labor. Neither knew how, but it had to be done in the sitter's bare thigh, so it was her job, not her husband’s. The babysitter closed her eyes.

Jab in it in my hip, and please do it fast like my mom does.

She waited for her own pain to subside briefly before inflicting it on someone else.

They made it to the hospital and checked in by 7:30 am. The doctor showed up and stayed for the rest of her labor. He was a nice man with six children of his own, the best doctor around for natural childbirth.

Still, even without a sunny-side up baby, this was not easy. No popping the baby out like in those natural childbirth books. This was hard, painful work.

Then, a little after noon, there he was. A baby, with a head of dark brown hair. A boy.

9 lbs, 6 oz.

Oh thank God.


What should we call him?

I don’t know. I guess we have until we sign the birth certificate to decide.

What were those family names again?


By that evening, she was in surgery to control for post-birth bleeding that could have killed her.

Before she would be released, she endured several surgeries and received many units of blood.

To add insult to injury, when she left the hospital, she was plagued by a spinal headache that would last for the first few blurry weeks at home.


There is a picture of her getting out the car with her new baby boy, named for a distant relative, her three year old son poised to jump on Mommy. This is the universal arrival of second children. The universal expansion of heart and attention and motherhood. The universal exhausting blur of the first few weeks at home with a new baby.

She was weak, so weak and tired. A handful of vitamins and iron pills were her breakfast.

As the first weeks went by, the baby cried, oh how he cried. He would wail and pull his knees up close to his chest in apparent discomfort. Sleep was elusive, no rocking, patting, singing, or walking seemed to work. And yet they did it all endlessly.

So this was colic.

It's his diet. Your diet. Cut out orange juice. Cut out onions. It’s just colic.

Doctor, it’s been three months. Shouldn’t "three month colic" be over by now?

Listen Mother, you be patient with him and I’ll be patient with you.

She looked for a new pediatrician.

She gave him soy milk and watched his crying subside.

It was not an easy birth and it was a difficult year. She greeted his first birthday with gratitude that they had made it through, with love.


My mother in law gave birth to my husband 37 years ago today.

His birthday belongs to him of course - but also to her.

Thank you MB, you're my hero. Thank you for birthing my wonderful husband. And for letting me tell your story.



He started out on the periphery of my life. He appeared in my dorm as a freshman, a mop of frizzy curls atop a lanky frame that always seemed to riding a bike, even in rain, even in snow. I often passed him on my way to the library, with my New York Times and my legs clad in black cotton.

I can't say I knew him then, I knew of him really; we lived in the same dorm, we attended the same parties, our best friends dated each other.

But I don't remember ever speaking to him during our years at the same college.

A few years later, he became an acquaintance, someone to invite to my flat's dance parties, or to meet up with at our college's events for recent grads in our city.

We started swing dancing together.

Then club dancing together.

Somehow we started calling each other up and chatting about our lives.

(Including our love lives.)

He asked me out, but I was seeing someone else. We stayed friends.

He started saving my beloved New York Times Sunday Magazine for me, since I couldn't get it delivered at my apartment - it was always stolen, no matter how early I woke up to retrieve it. My best friend from college, who knew him too, came to visit and raised her eyebrows knowingly at the stack of magazines he carefully handed over.

I went away on a long trip and dreamed about him. I dreamed he was my boyfriend.

I set out to make him mine.

He became mine. I became his.

Then he was my world. I thought of him all the time, every moment seemed so clearly marked: I was either With Him or Waiting To Be With Him Again.

We made a life together.

We made a home together. (Several homes, by now.)

We made a family together.

We got very, very busy.

I woke up and suddenly felt him on the periphery, again.

His lanky bod is still topped with curls. My legs are still clad in black stretch cotton. That is about all that is the same.

He puts hair goop in to tame the frizz, and rides off in his low gray car. I wave my hand goodbye and help a tiny hand next to me wave too and I don't see him for many hours.

My time now seems divided into time With Kids and Time Away.

Time Away Alone.

Watching 51 Birch st. together the other night, we started out apart, in our usual spots: him on one side of the couch, laptop on his lap, me on the floor, stretching my hips. By the end, we were intertwined, in a way we hadn't been in too long: fingers and knees and arms linked in the way you are when you are coming together, away from the periphery.

(Go. Watch 51 Birch St. and prepare to be moved. And possibly intertwined.)


Decent Mom Posture: The Roller/Pinky Ball Cult

I thought I could get through doing my posture series without doing this but I can't go any further without introducing you to two of my best friends:

I love a good massage. I used to give a couple a day, up to 6 days a week. I used to receive at least one a week. Massage was a huge part of my life and I deeply believe in its ability to alleviate pain, resolve postural issues and support a positive mood.


Damn if it isn't expensive and time consuming and darn near impossible to get a massage as often as one would like, am I right?

So, in addition to stretching and strengthening, I do a TON of self-massage and I'm going to teach you how to do some on yourself, too.

Releasing tension from muscles is a great accompaniment to stretching (and strengthening). You know those muscles that are clenched so tight they resist even your kindest, most persistent stretches? Try massaging those puppies first. They might be more likely to let go, easily, all on their own.

The first thing I always start with are my feet. Every mother I know is on her feet All. Day. Long. Whether you are in an office or "at home", you probably rarely sit down. So be kind to your feet. They are the basis for good posture and a youthful gait.

I use a Super Pinky ball. It's softer than a tennis ball but about the same size. I know other folks love tennis balls or even golf balls but they're too hard for me.

Stand barefoot, weight on both feet. Place the pinky ball under your foot, just in front of your heel and try to rest as much weight as possible onto the ball. Imagine you are standing equally on both feet, even if that's not exactly p0ssible. Hold it there for at least 30 seconds. Breathe.

Slowly move it to the center of your arch, equidistant between your heel and your toes. Breathe.

Lastly, rest your heel down and let the pinky ball press into the ball of your foot. You will most likely also get a killer calf stretch.

You can finish up with a slow roll from heel to toe, pausing wherever you've got crunchy stuff. Like all massage, it should only be a good, deep pressure that you can relax into, not painful. With that said, don't be afraid to FEEL some serious crap in those feet of yours.

My favorite part? After rolling out only one foot, stand on both legs and close your eyes. Feel the difference between the two and let your mind be blown.

The pinky is awesome for so many things. Try sitting up and placing it under one butt cheek. Massage around until you find a tender spot and then pause and breathe.

You can also place it between your back and the wall and massage your lower back (on either side of your spine), and between your shoulder blades and your spine. Ahhhh.....

Okay, next up: the roller.

I love this thing. It's easy to find at medical supply places and most gyms have them these days.
Buy it for this stretch alone:

Lie on your back with the roller along the center of your spine (you can't quite see it in the photo but my head is on the roller as well.) Open your arms out like you're making snow angels until you find a spot where you feel the deepest stretch. Hang out there and breathe until you're positive your arms are going to fall off your body. To get off the roller, slowly lower yourself to the side rather than trying to sit straight up.

Use the roller for self massage of your back.

(Why yes, Z took these photos too, just like last week! And these are the same pants! I love 'em!)

Keep your bottom off the floor and your head supported by your hands. Roll forward and back, pushing with your feet. (Yep, your abs work a little in this one.)

Pause with the roller under your shoulder blades, lower your hips to the floor and let your back drape over the roller.
(And yes! That is a padded bra!)

Last but certainly not least, try rolling out your IT bands. These thick bands of connective tissue run along the length of your outer thighs.

(Hey Z. Hold the camera still and then push the shutter.)

Slowly roll from just above your knee to the very top of your hip, keeping the pressure toward the front of your leg. The top leg is bent so you can take some of the weight if it's too much on your bottom leg. Also, feel free to drop onto your elbows if this is rough on your wrists.

Unfortunately, unlike everything else I'm recommending to you, if you find this excruciatingly painful, you're doing it right. Just know that it's really good for the health of your hips, knees and back to soften and lengthen your IT bands and they just don't stretch well. Massaging them, while painful, is very helpful.


Decent Mom Posture, Step One: Stretch what's tight

So I started last Monday begging you not to hunch over your stroller (or grocery cart) and haranguing you to sit up straight at the computer.

Why yes, I HAVE turned into your mother!

Remember, mothers are always right! (I can say that now that I am one.)

Today, we're going to talk about stretching muscles that tend toward tightness in pregnancy. As noted in the previous post's comments, stretches specifically for nursing mothers that focus on neck and shoulders can be found here.

In attempting to list stretches for transitioning your posture out of the childbearing slouch, I need to generalize, so focus on what is true for your body and realize that if you try the stretch, adjust it a couple of times and it still doesn't do anything for you - hurray! It's possible you don't have a tight muscle there! Go you!

(Or it could mean that that particular stretch doesn't work for you or that I don't know what I'm talking about, which since I haven't worked as a Pilates instructor or massage therapist in years, is entirely possible.)


Stretching your shortened, tight muscles and strengthening the long, weak muscles will make good posture the best kind of habit: effortless, healthy and attractive. By stretching the tight muscles first, you create more space for your joints to align differently and allow the weak muscles to work more easily and safely.

Before any stretching, you should warm up your whole body. Imagine your muscles are taffy: just as warm taffy is more pliable than cold taffy, so too are your muscles. So start by taking a ten minute walk around the block/your house, go up and down a flight of stairs ten times, jog in place for 5 minutes, or dance around your living room to two really great songs (my current favorite warm up songs: "She's Got Me Dancing" by Tommy Sparks and "I've Been Thinking 'Bout Somethin'" by Hanson) (Yes, that Hanson.). Warming up your muscles increases the blood flow to them which allows them to stretch more safely and effectively.

The muscles that generally get tight in pregnancy due to changes in gait and postural stresses include:

1. iliopsoas (hip flexors, deep muscles in the front of your hips)
2. quadraceps (knee extensors, muscles on the front of your thighs)
3. lower back muscles (partiucularly a lovely little guy we'll call the "hip hiker")
4. hip external rotators (deep butt muscles that turn your leg out and result from and/or cause a waddle)
5. hamstrings (backs of thighs)
6. calf muscles (back of calves)
7. pectorals (front of chest))
8. internal rotators of the shoulders (front of shoulders)
9. shoulder elevators (tops of shoulders)

Let's start with the pelvis because it sure goes through the wringer in pregnancy. It's also the center of good posture.

Imagine your pelvis is a bowl. When you're pregnant, the weight of the baby pulls your pelvis forward, spilling the bowl toward your toes. Your abs lengthen and your hip flexors shorten - both significantly. This is called an anterior pelvic tilt (the top of your hips are in front of your pubic bones), and what we hope to achieve is a return to a neutral pelvis (the top of your hips are aligned over your pubic bones).

Image snatched from this website, who swiped it from somewhere else, no doubt.

To address the front of your hips, I like a lunge stretch, and do it often when I'm helping pick up legos, or playing with my kids on the floor, or watching TV.

(What can I say? My kids, husband and friends are all used to me stretching at random intervals.)

Lunge Stretch: Do this either on a soft carpet/mat or with a pillow under your knee. (Notice my house is bit of a mess. I left that all there on purpose. Because this is how it really is: I leave the mess and I stretch on top of bits of playdough and dog hair. Priorities!)

Pictures helpfully, if not totally perfectly, taken by Z.

The most important part of this stretch is how you're aligning your back as you do it. As you sink forward and breathe deeply into the stretch, pull your navel in to support your spine and don't lean back. You should feel this stretch in the front of your hip. Do both sides, imagining that with each breath, the front of your hip gets more and more open.

Now if you want to add some intensity, and a stretch for your quads (the front of your thighs), try bending your back knee and grabbing your foot.

Make sure the pressure is above your kneecap, NOT on top of it.

Next up: Lower back muscles.

As your hip flexors shorten during an anterior pelvis tilt, so do the muscles in your lower back - it's a lovely tug of war. Plus if you have any toddlers/lazy preschoolers (*COUGH COUGH * Z * COUGH*) in your life, you're probably also used to balancing a child on one hip while you cook dinner/shop/fold laundry/talk on the phone/ETC.

Cat/cow from yoga is an easy, gentle way to get your whole spine moving. Repeat a bunch of times, and go slow so you can feel all the spinal joints moving. Remember to keep your shoulders away from your ears and use your belly to pull your navel into your spine as you move into cat.



Rest in child's pose when you're finished.

Next, a gentle twist wrings out your spine.

The most important thing to note about this stretch is to focus the stretch through the whole spine, NOT your neck. The top of your head should be reaching taller and taller as your twist, rather than cranking you around.

From this seated twist, let the top ankle stay crossed over the bottom knee and drop the top knee open (this anchors your hips, increasing the following side stretch.)

Notice that the hip on the side I am stretching is kept down by the weight of my foot that's crossed on top. If you are flexible in this direction, you'll be able to get your elbow down on the ground, otherwise, just side bend and put your hand down. Keep your body stretching just to the side, no leaning back. Pretend you are being pressed between two panes of glass.

From here, transition to a glute stretch by slowwwwwly moving your body around toward the front of the room. (If this is too tight or uncomfortable on your knees, place your "top" foot on the floor in front of the "bottom" foot.) Keep your spine reaching long and your shoulders relaxed away from your ears.

Breathe into your butt. Yes, really.

That waddling duck walk from pregnancy with your feet turned out? Yeah, that certainly tightens up the deep rotator muscles in your butt. That last stretch will address one aspect of that waddle. The next one gets different muscles from different angles.

Start here:
Feet wider than shoulder-distance.

Cross one ankle on top of the opposite knee and drop that knee into toward the center of your body, trying to keep your hips down on the floor. Once again, breathe into your butt.

As part of pregnancy gait, our stride often shortens, which can significantly shorten your hamstrings and calves.

I like to lie down when I stretch my hamstrings (E likes to help me with this one!) You can grab your foot or use a belt. Use your other hand to help keep your waist long and your hip down. After a few breaths where you're pulling your foot toward the same side shoulder, angle your leg across your body, aiming for the opposite shoulder, for a few breaths.

Last up, a slow calf stretch at the wall.

As for the upper body stretches- check out that post I did about Reversing your Baby Holding Hunchback. That's the stuff right there.

Happy Stretching!

(Next up! Strengthening!)


How to stop walking/sitting/standing like a pregnant lady

So you had a baby. Maybe it was a few months ago, maybe it was a few years ago. Either way, your body is yours again.

So how about we make sure you're not still walking/sitting/standing like a pregnant lady?

First off, I need to inform you that I am NOT a doctor of any kind. My training is as a Pilates instructor and massage therapist, so please understand that I can neither diagnose any medical conditions nor give actual medical advice. If you are in pain of any kind, I beg you to see a doctor before listening to me (or any other wacko on the internet). Pain should not be ignored and doctors/chiropractors/physical therapists are qualified to help you.

With that said, can we all agree that doctors are awfully fond of medication and surgeries and not so good at subtlety and health improvement? And what I'm interested in (and vaguely qualified to talk about) is taking careful stock of your body post-baby and improving your muscular balance so that good posture is easy. So if you've already seen a doctor, or you aren't in any pain, let's proceed.

Actually, one last caveat: I am just as in need of this advice as anyone else, so please don't assume I have perfect posture. I have had to adjust my posture 8 billion times in the writing of this post alone!

If you've ever been pregnant, I don't have to tell you that your body undergoes tremendous change during pregnancy - and after. Your posture changes, some muscles tighten, others weaken, your stance and gait are altered both by the weight of your baby/babies and the hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy. Your entire body - just like your life - gets turned inside out by childbearing. Unfortunately, many of the less desirable bodily changes remain after your babe vacates the womb, when you are the least inclined and able to focus on yourself.

In my next post I will be helping you identify which of your muscles are tight and how to stretch them, because when one set of muscles is tight (such as your lower back), the muscles immediately opposite (like, oh say, your abdominals) have a much harder time working properly and progressively weaken. So we'll start with the tight muscles and then a follow up post will help you identify which muscles are weak and some of the best ways to strengthen them.

In the meantime, the first rule of good posture is this: your function becomes your form. That is, how you use your body directly shapes how it looks and feels. When we are children, a slouch can be fleeting, leaving not a single mark behind. The older we get, the stiffer and more restricted our joints get, the more those momentary slouches form your body into that shape until it's uncomfortable - or, even, virtually impossible - to sit up straight.

How you use your body when you are pregnant, or any other time of postural stress, can stick with you. A waddling walk, a poochy stomach, a hunched I've-just-been-nursing-a-bowling-ball posture, can stick around for years, or your whole life, if you don't do something to stop it. Simply sitting up straighter - pelvis underneath your ribcage, head in line with the rest of your spine - is a start. Consider adding a reminder alarm on your computer to remind you to check your posture at regular intervals.

Before I sign off for today, can we talk about walking with a stroller for a second? Ladies, listen up, this is important: your stroller is NOT A WALKER. (And NEITHER IS YOUR GROCERY CART.) You are not an infirm, elderly lady who needs to lean on top of your stroller for dear life. Function becomes form, remember? So hunching over your stroller, for however many minutes/hours/years you do it, molds your upper back into a less than pretty, not to mention potentially damaging, position.

Drop those shoulders, put your elbows in by your waist and let the forward momentum of your whole body propel the stroller rather than the top of your shoulders. Your arms should be relaxed, elbows bent by your sides, as the muscles of your arms and shoulders are not the prime movers of the stroller. Rather, imagine your arms are a passive extension of the motor that is your lower body.

Your assignment: If you push a stroller or a grocery cart in the next few days, drop those shoulders, let your legs and the forward momentum of your pelvis - your whole lower body - propel you both forward.

Lord knows we'll all be pushing walkers soon enough.

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