Friday, November 11th, 2011

In The Beginning…

In every phenomenon the beginning remains always the most notable moment.Thomas Carlyle•

One thing I’ve learned, through both painful and positive experience, is that the successful flourishing of any project, product, event… or person, is seeded right at the beginning. Imagine setting off in a boat with the intention of sailing to a distant island, but having miscalculated your route by even just a tiny degree: everything will seem fine and dandy for awhile, maybe even for days. But as those tiny degrees of misdirection exponentially add up over many miles, you will at some point realize you are ending up far from where you wanted to be.

A mantra from chaos theory goes, “Sensitive dependence on initial conditions.”

This applies whenever something new is brought into being: cookies, crops, houses, stories, songs, sweaters, people. Read the rest of this entry »

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Protect Your Child’s Mental Health with WONDER

The Protection of Wonder | Marcy Axness, PhDAugust 11 was a day of two unrelated yet poignantly simultaneous events: the passing of Robin Williams, whose white-hot brilliance has often been characterized as other-wordly; and the celestial light-show of the Perseids meteor shower. As if heaven was welcoming its newest arrival with a fireworks display of thrilling extravagance befitting Robin’s unfathomable talent and heart.

That he was suffering so deeply came as a shock to even those who thought they knew him well. Insights into his psycho-history began emerging with revelations about his depression–possibly bipolar disorder; reports of his solitary childhood in an affluent family, being raised primarily by hired help; and Robin’s own recorded descriptions of using his comic gifts to make his mother laugh.

As people who were touched by Robin’s gifts, we feel sad. As parents who are raising children in this complicated world, we feel concern. Will our child grow up to wrestle with such demons? {Please read the rest at Natural Baby Pros}

snowpeak under its Creative Commons license

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Newborns Sleeping Through the Night: A Dangerous Myth

It seems as if every decade delivers a new scheme to get even our youngest babies to sleep through the night. And yep, I figured we were just about due for a book titled The Sleepiest Baby on the Block or 50 Shades of Baby Slumber when, this past lovely Sunday afternoon, I was confronted by the newest baby training idea on the block (which, by the way, makes Ferber sound tame).

Here’s a behind-the-scenes play-by-play — a kind of diary of how it went down in real time (oh–except that Facebook seems to bend time, which I’d never really noticed until trying to build a timeline with their posts… and see that their time-stamps jump time-zones!). The identity of folks I don’t know has been obscured; for my friends, you’re in this with me!

Sunday, 2:30pm — I See a Call Was Sounded on Facebook

Newborn sleep a dangerous myth | Marcy Axness, PhD


{You can read the rest of this adventure at}

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Protecting a Woman’s Right to Choose… Breastfeeding

No breastfeeding allowedAuthor Ray Bradbury pointed out, chillingly, “You don’t need to burn books to destroy a culture — just get people to stop reading them.” Similarly, you don’t need to actually ban nursing to decrease the incidence of breastfeeding — just make it more and more difficult to do.

The ways our culture makes breastfeeding ever more difficult range from the insidiously subtle (hospitals’ goody-bag full of formula) to the outrageously overt (Bill Maher’s infamous rant equating breastfeeding — “a private thing” — with “farting or masturbating or pissing”).

Bottled Up! from The Milky Way on Vimeo. (Includes the aforementioned Maher rant)

{Read onward at}


myllissaused under its Creative Commons license


Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Adoptive Parents in the Delivery Room?

As many of you may know, my roots are in the world of adoption: I myself was adopted, and throughout the 1990s I was a leading  speaker and writer on the psycho-social issues involved in adoption. I am still one of the few experts in the world on the primal issues in adoption — relating to an adoptee’s pre-verbal, pre-cognitive experiences, including those in the womb, at birth, and in the early days postpartum.

Nancy Verrier rocked the adoption world in 1993 when she published The Primal Wound, which proposes: “Many doctors and psychologists now understand that bonding doesn’t begin at birth, but is a continuum of physiological, psychological, and spiritual events which begin in utero and continue throughout the postnatal bonding period. When this natural evolution is interrupted by a postnatal separation from the biological mother, the resultant experience of abandonment and loss is indelibly imprinted upon the unconscious minds of these children, causing that which I call the primal wound.”

Nancy brought three important credentials to the table:  she was a psychotherapist who had worked with many adopted people wrestling with similar constellations of social and emotional difficulties; she was a scholar who had extensively studied the literature on attachment, separation and loss; and she was the mother of two daughters — one biological and one adopted. The insights she found at the intersection of those learning streams comprised her landmark book.

A Personal Journey

Bee&BabyMI have always been open about sharing that at the heart of everything I teach and the tools I use in parent coaching, beats my own raw and ragged story. Finding Nancy’s book was an important moment in my own healing journey, and it also prompted me to investigate the field of prenatal psychology. It didn’t take long to recognize that many of the issues Nancy wrote about — intimacy problems, separation anxieties, self-esteem issues — weren’t the exclusive province of adoptees, far from it!

So just about ten years into a robust speaking and writing career within the adoption field, I earned my PhD in Early Human Development, with a specialization in Prenatal Development. These were universal issues and I wanted to illuminate them more universally!

But what to do with a trove of writing on adoption topics?? And in particular, an exclusive, extensive conversation I had had with Nancy (who by then had become a close colleague) but never really published anywhere? That was about the time when magazines were on the wane and the internet was ascending… but the internet was like the Wild Wild West and one could emerge pretty bruised when engaging in one of the last remaining taboos in our culture — honest talk about adoption.

Dawn Davenport of “Creating a Family” had reached out to me a couple years ago after reading an article I’d written about the primal wound. She found my explanation / interpretation to be most helpful, and invited me to do a radio interview. So I thought of Dawn and her site as a place to entrust my 2-part conversation with Nancy, as well as a round-up of responses to Nancy’s (radical, one could say) ideas from a handful of adoptive parents, birth parents and adoption professionals I respect.

Dawn re-ordered the sequence of topics so as to come right outta the gate with the incendiary question, “Should adoptive parents be in the delivery room?” Her readers aren’t shy with their opinions — see what YOU think!

Should Adoptive Parents be in the Delivery Room?



Thursday, July 24th, 2014

The Trouble with Time-Out

The Trouble with Time-OutSo there you are one afternoon, at the end of your rope with an out-of-control three-year-old. You know you won’t spank him, and you have become mindful of avoiding shame-based measures, so what’s left? Is “Time Out” the answer? At risk of bringing on the wrath of parents everywhere, my answer is no. Time-outs were conceived as a more humane alternative to spanking, but the problem is, they land a blow to the brain and psyche rather than to the bottom.

{Find out more about problems with & alternatives to Time-Out at Natural Baby Pros…}

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

5 Out-of-the-Box Ways to Make Your Child “LISTEN!!!”


One of the most frequent questions I get is, How do I get my child to listen to me? What lingers in the roots just beneath this question is, How do I get her to respect me? The two are intimately entwined. As so often happens with Life’s sticky questions, sometimes we can unstick things a bit by turning the question around: rather than How can I get my child to listen to me, we can get far more traction with How can I make myself more “listenable”? {Find out how by reading the 5 tips at}


Images: under Creative Commons license

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Are You REALLY Independent…In Your Birth Choice?

As long as our country continues to show up so poorly in world rankings on maternal health, I continue to run this article every year on America’s birthday, hoping to illuminate issues around our perceived birth choices. Am I naive in thinking that individual independence around these issues can help pave the way to us being a safer nation for mothers and babies?

LaboringWithEFMIt is sad enough that the U.S. sits so poorly in world infant mortality rankings, but a new report published in the prestigious medical journal Lancet and reported in the Washington Post points out that our childbirth-related maternal death rate continues to rise and is at nearly its highest point* in twenty-five years. [*Aside from its sharp spike in 2009 due to the H1N1 influenza virus.] American mothers die in or around childbirth at double the rate they do in Saudi Arabia, and triple the rate of the United Kingdom — and at statistically the same rate as in Iran.

In terms of where it is safest and healthiest to become a mother, America — land of the free and the brave — ranks 60th of 180 nations. In that context, is there any real birth choice?

Okay, now that I’ve totally bummed you out so you feel like you’ve got to reach for an early margarita with a little flag in it, let’s talk about what individual Americans may be able to do to improve the situation. (And even if it doesn’t improve the national situation, it cannot help but to improve your own birthing and parenting wellbeing!) {Grab your marg and read the rest at}

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Preparing for Baby: What Do You REALLY Need?

Since August is the month with the most babies being born, let’s talk about what you really need when preparing for baby. It’s probably not what you think!

I remember the fun of “shopping for baby.” All that pastel was sooooo appealing. But truth be told, most of what we think we need to buy in advance of baby’s arrival is an illusion conjured by our shop-happy culture, an alluring but costly response to the most natural of pre-parenting instincts—to nest.

What Not to Buy (Yet)

MamaBabyBlueSlingWhat you don’t need—at least for now—is a crib.  If you go the family bed route you may never need one; otherwise, a cradle by your bed will provide the closeness you both need for many months. While attachment parenting doesn’t mean wearing your baby 24/7, on-body carriers like snugglies and slings can be wonderful. If possible, borrow some to try; together you and baby will know which to buy.

Radical but true, there is always time later to purchase what is needed! In fact, waiting is a great way to begin developing the essential parenting tools of intuition and discernment. YOU will become the expert on your baby, discovering if she prefers sponge baths to “real baths” in the plastic contraption, or… if the sound of Velcro frightens him, or… if she is enchanted by the color purple. {Find out what you REALLY need by reading the rest of this post at Natural Baby Pros}

Image (through a Creative Commons license:
Paulo Rená

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

The Joys of Adult Children

I mean that title as a double-entendre, because this week is steeped in both meanings: I spent a long Father’s Day weekend in San Francisco being an adult child — musing nostalgically around the city and Marin, the landscape of my early childhood — and am now spending a couple of days responding to my grown daughter’s call for Mama time. Childhood is never really over for any of us!

Feeling fancy with John at the Opera House

Feeling fancy with John at the S.F. Opera House

While up north spending time with my stepfather, John, I was struck by how vividly present our child-selves can become at any time. The uncannily specific, shockingly reminiscent salt-and-flora scent that wafts through Sausalito and Tiburon… the unmistakable noise-skein of San Francisco streets (cable cars, electric buses, foghorns in the distance)… and the “this is home” sound of John’s bass-baritone voice… all conspired to snag me back to my youth.

I say it often: the trip-wires we all have back to our childhood can be one of the biggest challenges in parenting. We can easily find ourselves responding not as the adults we supposedly are, but as the teen… the tween… the toddler that is suddenly and unexpectedly awakened in us through proximity to reminders of our own past — the most powerful of which is our own children.  Read the rest of this entry »

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

A Precious, Radical (& Free!) Gift for Fathers

EllyTaylorHS2This post features a personal story illustrating what I call “counter-intuitive brilliance.” It’s the story of an interaction between a new father and a new mother. It’s about how to diaper their baby. It’s a conversation that surely takes place alongside the changing table in virtually every home where there are new parents blessed with a newborn. But this conversation went very differently.

First, by way of setting the stage: I recently had the best, juicy conversation with relationship counselor and Becoming Us author Elly Taylor. We talked about some of the common ways that new parenthood takes a toll on marriage. And more importantly, we covered some really practical ways we can ease that toll, and nurture our relationship as much as we nurture our kids!

One of my favorite wise comments from Elly:

“We disconnect in tiny little ways…
we reconnect in tiny little ways…”

Click on the orange arrow for a quick snippet:

You can read & hear more of this post at!