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    Mother's Day

    With each passing year, my understanding of what it means to be a mother deepens, gets challenged and teaches me more about myself and who I would like to be more than any other of life's circumstances. This week's goop is dedicated to all the beautiful mothers in the world, especially my own.

    Love,

    gp

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    Birth Story

    BirthStory

    Our friend, the talented director Mary Wigmore Reynolds, has made a beautiful film about Ina May Gaskin, one the most important voices in midwifery today. Below, we interview Mary about her experience making this enlightening documentary and how it’s changed her perspective on childbirth. Watch a clip from the documentary and read the interview with Mary below.

    Now available to download here and on iTunes

    Interview with Mary Wigmore Reynolds, Director

    Q: How did you first hear about Ina May Gaskin?

    A: My friend and co-director Sara Lamm gave me a dog-eared copy of Ina May’s book, Spiritual Midwifery when I was pregnant with my son. It’s the sort of book a wise friend passes on with knowing eyes. My husband and I were so excited about being parents – but I really didn’t know the first thing about giving birth and it felt scary. By the second page, I actually felt less afraid. By the end of the book, we were optimistic that childbirth could even be fun. Then we wanted to know more about the ecstatic birthing hippies of the Farm, the large American intentional community in the hills of Tennessee, where Ina May and the Farm Midwives have been delivering babies with outstanding outcomes since the carnival-esque days of their founding in 1970.

    Q: What was it about her message and work that resonated with you and made you want to make the documentary?

    A: Her first lesson is that our bodies are built to have children--I love the fact that her most radical lesson is so simple. She reminds us that it’s a natural physiological process and women have been doing it for quite some time! We don’t have to be afraid, especially when we have knowledgeable, compassionate people supporting us.

    We wanted to make a film that celebrates birth and we wanted to show the midwife model of care, so people can actually see more or less first hand and be inspired by the work these great women do. Even in the most complicated births (and there are a couple in our film), they are calm, smart and supportive – truly heroic. The hope is that Birth Story can be useful to anyone caring for pregnant women - doctors, childbirth educators, doulas and families--perhaps it could inspire more collaboration with midwives among all of these important groups. Most of all I hope it is helpful to people like me – who might be anxious about giving birth and are eager to see positive stories about women’s bodies.

    Q: How has working with Ina May changed the way you look at the act of giving birth?

    A: Less afraid! And better informed about the range of choices available to expecting mothers.

    After learning more about the high c-section rate in the US (currently around 32%), and our status in maternal mortality (50th in the world), as well as the documented benefits to mother and baby that midwifery care offers, I realized that midwives need to be incorporated much more fully into our system here in the US.

    Also, there's a misconception that midwives are for hippies, or only for supermodels but the truth is that experienced midwives are THE experts in normal birth, and their incredible skill set greatly reduces the need for unnecessary interventions. Many people don't realize that there are different types of midwives—they can work in hospitals, birthing centers or at home--and working with a midwife doesn't necessarily mean forgoing pain medication. Its good for everyone to choose what works for them--but it should be an informed choice, one that takes into account the range of options available.

    Q: What was it like for you to film such intimate scenes of pregnant women's checkups and births?

    A: As one of Farm Midwives says in the film, "When you see a woman working that hard having her baby, you can’t help but fall in love with her"... That’s how I felt! We are so conditioned to seeing women’s bodies doing everything but giving birth, or seeing birth in narratives of crisis in popular culture, that it was a gift and honor to be allowed to represent it as we did.

    Q: What, to you, are the benefits of having a natural childbirth?

    A: We choose our words carefully after our immersion in this project -"natural birth" is evocative, and has a beautiful ring to it, but it gives the impression that a woman who needs a C-section has some how had an unnatural experience. All birth is important and we never want anyone to feel pressured or like they have failed because their experience didn't go as planned. Sara and I talked a lot about the term "minimal-intervention birth;" it sounds more clinical but it reflects more accurately what we think the goal should be: to have a healthy birth with as few interventions as possible, that will shift according to circumstance. It's important to be open to interventions when needed. When you work with a care provider, be it a midwife or OB, who understands that concept, you are reducing your risk of complications from major abdominal surgery, increasing your confidence in your own ability, and setting up a situation where there is much less trauma physically and psychologically to mother and baby.

    Q: The film shows scenes from a communal living situation that has dissipated somewhat since the 70's. Why do you think that is?

    A: Oh boy – good question. There are so many possible reasons: personal, social, economic--all of them reflecting the times and the drift of culture. Much of "Birth Story" takes place at The Farm, which the popular imagination might refer to as a “commune,” but the folks at the Farm prefer the term “intentional community” and it makes sense because their lives were and are indeed willful efforts to live as they saw fit, from the work they did, to what they ate and where their food came from, to the way they shared resources. I think of them as pioneers of what is now becoming so popular in our culture – growing and eating fresh organic food, concern for the environment, intentional living, etc.

    Where many communes have collapsed all together, The Farm continues on as a co-op. So in their case, it’s a happy ending or happy beginning of the next phase.

    Q: In the movie, Ina May talks about a "special energy that surrounds a birth." Can you talk more about that?

    A: The intensity of childbirth is a perhaps the greatest sort of open secret of existence - it’s not something you see everyday (or ever). Yet, we all come into the world this way…

    There is a beauty and magic about birth that exceeds language. It’s not a medical condition. It’s the essence of life and it’s beautiful!

    Hatch-to-Hospital

    Hatch

    For the mother-to-be, Hatch has created a special “Hatch-to-Hospital” package with cashmere socks, a modal nightgown, a jersey robe and Cosabella undies for a better time at the hospital.

    4 AM finds for Mother’s Day

    We’re big fans of Stacey Bendet Eisner’s 4 AM Finds on her brand Alice + Olivia’s site, so we asked her for her Mother’s Day wishlist.

    Anna Karin Karlsson Glasses, ‘Alice Goes to Cannes’
    "If you can't send mom you can at least send her eyes there!"

    Alice in Wonderland, illustrated by Salvador Dalí
    “Well, if anyone asks what I want”

    Message in a Bottle
    “Write or draw a message for mom to hold close to her heart!!”

    Jean Paul Hévin Chocolate
    “Couture chocolate for a mommy with a sweet tooth…”

    Flowers in a Can
    "For the non-traditionalist! And cheaper than a florist.”

    Brooklyn Slate Cheese Plate
    “Write mom messages and give her breakfast in bed on this cool stone tablet.”

    Vintage Locket
    “Every mom wants a picture of their baby close to her heart.”

    A+O Red Leather Bag
    “No woman would say no to this.”

    Fish Tank
    “This is like counter art with good feng shui.”

    Linda McCartney’s Vegetarian Home Cooking
    “How amazing is this for the vegetarian vintage lover?”

    Tiffany & Co. Bracelet
    “Engrave with a special message to mom.”

    Shelf Bra
    “From Dad to Mom.”

    Striped Shoe
    “Stripes are sexy! Ok, maybe dad should buy these, too.”

    Thinking ahead for Father's Day!

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    Alice Waters

    An inspiring food pioneer, restaurateur, activist and mother, Alice opened her famous Chez Panisse in 1971, which popularized the organic, locally-grown food trend in restaurants and has been one of the world’s best restaurants ever since. In the meantime, Alice has also written a number of influential cookbooks, founded the Chez Panisse Foundation and The Edible Schoolyard Project and been a mother to her daughter, Fanny.

    Photo: Gilles Mingasson

    Q: We’ve heard a lot about you cooking with Fanny and instilling a love of food in her life. When did you start cooking together and how has that evolved?

    A: It started in the garden. I tried to plant things that she would like to eat when she was little – peas, strawberries, green beans –and then she’d go out foraging on her own. She’d sniff the basil and feel empowered learning the names of the edible plants and being on her own. So that started her relationship with nature and the landscape, which I think is really important for kids to develop at a young age. Then, she understood that a pea was a pea and had the confidence to shell it on her own and from there we started cooking together.

    Q: So that confidence she grew in the garden started to translate to the kitchen?

    A: Yes. She started coming with me to the restaurant, standing on a box and helping out with little tasks. She’d help out with the bread making, pizza toppings – simple things she felt she could do. Then we started enjoying these tasks at home together.

    She really loved pounding things in a mortar and a pestle. I normally use a Suribachi or something pretty inexpensive and while I was doing other things, she’d pound the garlic or the basil, smelling it all at the same time and doing these easy little jobs that kids like.

    From very early on she enjoyed being a part of the meal – being together and setting the table together - it never felt like a job to her. She loved drawing up little menus, for example, (still does!). You know, she found it a bit of a creative outlet, she always has.

    Alice Waters with her daughter Fanny (left), circa 1987.

    Q: You say that helping you in the kitchen (at home or the restaurant) never felt like a job to Fanny – do you think it’s because you never treated your job as a chore?

    A: Oh, yes, without any question. She picked up on the pleasure aspect of what I was doing. And she understood that at the end of it we all sat down and ate together. And she always wanted to be there, at the table. And I think that when the food is good on the table everybody does want to be there, and eat, and talk and just be present.

    Q: What would you say to those looking to get their kids more involved in the kitchen and in sitting down to dinner?

    A: Mealtime can’t be a stressful thing – you have to make an uncomplicated decision about what you’re going to be making so it’s not something that’s making you crazy and by the time you sit down to eat you’re not too tired to be there.

    Q: Were there any favorite uncomplicated meals you made consistently for Fanny at home when she was growing up?

    A: She always liked when I put something on the grill because I have a fireplace in my kitchen. But she also loved peas and so that was her thing and she would have eaten them every night. I would steam the peas and put a little olive oil on them, sometimes a tiny bit of butter. But nothing complicated. And I think that’s something that’s very important in getting kids involved. They like tastes that are very clear and separate and as they grow older, they can put more complex flavors together. But at the beginning, it’s very important that they taste things in a very un-sauced way.

    Q: That’s really interesting and something we don’t always consider with children – building upon basic flavors of real foods. So, Fanny, for example, knew a pea was a pea. And later on, she could decide what she wanted to do with that pea...?

    A: Exactly.

    Q: How does being a professional chef and cooking for a restaurant affect being a home chef and cooking for your family?

    A: Well, when I first started cooking at the restaurant, I thought I could cook that food at home, and that happened for a while. But when Fanny was born, I just realized I couldn’t and that I was very dependent on other people helping me. And so I began preparing much simpler things at home and in fact probably more nutritious things at home. And now what I’m doing at home is really influencing the restaurant. Because I’m experimenting with things like farro and whole grain bread and really trying to bring those ideas to Chez Panisse and the work I do with The Edible Schoolyard. And using these whole grains and starting to make fresh mill grain pastas, which are so tasty, you realize the white version is actually not so interesting. And I never thought I’d like brown rice – ever. And I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s a beautiful grain you can do so much with.

    Q: Since 1971, Chez Panisse has been serving the best of local and organic food. Did you find it difficult remaining staunchly local and organic in the home, being so busy, raising a child, etc.?

    A: You know, I never did. I fell in love with light, seasonal food and didn’t want it any other way. And the way to make that happen is to buy locally from the people who grow it. And when you have that taste, you feel like you want to support these people taking care of the land. I think it’s all a matter of asking. I always ask wherever I go, “What’s local? What’s organic?” I go to the farmer’s market twice a week and pick out what I’m going to eat immediately versus what I’m going to save for later in the week. I’ll get some very ripe tomatoes and then some not so ripe tomatoes that I can have later on in the week. I think ahead. And then whatever I don’t get at the famer’s market I get from a little health food store nearby. I have to say, I really never eat vegetables out of season.

    Q: For those of us who live in a cooler climate that doesn’t have an abundance of year-round produce and want to stay seasonal and local…any advice?

    A: Well, a lot of people are growing organic greens in greenhouses all year round. I know someone in Maine who’s open all winter and he closes during the summer. I personally have to have a salad every night, and there are such beautiful winter greens that grow in the cold-weather areas –from kale to different kinds of mustards, collards – that lend themselves to variation. I rely on canned tomatoes a lot. And there are such beautiful stored vegetables for the winter. I’m thinking of turnips, and potatoes, and particularly squash – carrots now are coming in every shape and color – they give a lot of variation to a winter menu.

    Q: So... has Fanny ever eaten McDonald’s?

    A: (laughing) Well, never with me, but she went with her father once when they were on the road. And she came back and told me it was too salty and too sweet. She never really acquired a taste for it. We never kept soda in the house, for example, and she never really asked for it. And actually my mother never had them in our home growing up either. But once and a while I could have a coke in the afternoon with a slice of lemon in a glass…and it was very of the moment.

    Q: We are great admirers (and supporters) of the work you do with The Edible Schoolyard Project. As we understand it, one of the project’s goals is to better the way kids eat in school. What were Fanny’s school lunches like growing up? Did you pack them, if so, what was in there? Any tips for parents on getting healthy food in lunch boxes?

    A: Well, I always packed Fanny a lunch – from the time she was in kindergarten all the way up to when she was in high school. And I really wanted her to eat her lunch and to love it, so I tried to make something special everyday. And it wasn’t time consuming if I thought about it in advance. If I waited until the last moment, that was more complicated. But if I thought about it the night before so that I could cook up an extra chicken breast, then I could make a chicken salad for her the next day. One thing I did very often was slice strawberries and squeeze orange juice over them (nothing else) and the acidity of the orange juice kept the fruit really nice until she ate it for lunch. And I would put a little ice pack in the bottom of her lunch box so that certain foods could be kept cool.

    I most often made a salad – in every different form to keep things interesting. Some days I sliced carrots, some days I cut them into matchsticks, some days I’d make them into carrot curls. I’d do the same thing with cucumbers. I always had a separate container for the vinaigrette so she could dip it or pour it on the salad herself. I’d throw garlic cloves in the little pot so that she could shake it up and decide how much garlic flavor she wanted. I made garlic toast and put that in separately and if I was making something like a bean paste I’d put that separately so she could put that on herself. There were always these little things I liked her to decide and do herself so she felt a little bit involved in her lunch. And obviously I emphasized fruits and vegetables because I knew that inevitably she’d have other stuff throughout the course of the day.

    I’d often include a little note, sometimes an herb or a flower from the garden so that she knew that I was thinking about her. And I always added a cloth napkin and some real silverware, which she’d bring back every day, and then I’d ask her what she liked and she’d say “Oh, I don’t want that tomorrow” etc. So we were kind of always talking about it.

    Q: In addition to being a mom that packs school lunches everyday, you were running this hugely successful business. How did you do it all?

    A: Well, I counted on my friends and my family. And I think you really have to do that. I mean, when I had people over for dinner, I’d get all the stuff to cook with but everyone would help to cook. So it was never my responsibility for cooking the whole meal for either family or friends. It was great because my husband loved to cook and shared that responsibility and I think that’s how we have to think about it. I had friends who had children and I thought we should all really share the responsibility for cooking the meal, and you know, maybe three times a week we could go over to someone else’s house and they would cook. And it was like a little bit of a family, a bigger family. And I think it’s important to share that responsibility – really really important. It’s really the best. And as the kids get older, they take over the meal. I’ve seen that happen with 12, 13-year-old kids! They become very good cooks this way and like cooking the meal for their family – what could be better?

    Q: How have you prepared Fanny for navigating her own life and career as she gets older?

    A: I think that we all have to be the change that we want to make and be engaged in that way and if we are, our kids will follow.

    Also, we have to find the time to sit down with our kids. And it may not be dinnertime, it may be breakfast or lunch...Fanny and I would always have Saturday lunch together, always. We’d usually go to the market, come home and have lunch together. And then it became a ritual in our relationship. Even if I had work on Saturday, I would always be there for lunch.

    Q: OK, so a bit unrelated but we’re curious – what’s the one ingredient you can’t live without?

    A: Garlic. And also I can’t live without olive oil. These ingredients are indispensible to me…and canned tomatoes!

    Man Up!

    ManUp!

    My hilarious and dear friend Ross Mathews chronicles his life thus far in the very funny Man Up!

    Airing Grievances

    We asked Dr. Jessica Zucker about the best way to approach communicating the things you’ve never said and dealing with core issues with our mothers/daughters. Below is her guide to clearing the air.

    When we air longstanding grievances, how do we communicate about things that have been bothering us for years but still haven't found the right way to express?

    “There is no one ‘right’ way to communicate about longstanding challenges or brittle resentment bogging down relationships. A more productive way to envision engaging in discussions with our mothers/daughters about difficult issues might be about cultivating realistic goals and maintaining achievable outcomes. We do best in navigating our relationships when we don’t take things personally, when we have a good handle on our audience, and we are reflective about our role in the dynamic. Blaming and shaming get us nowhere.”

    1) Take an active role in looking at your contribution to the relationship and ways you might improve the communication.

    ACT: Mindfully reflect on who you are by jotting down an inventory of behaviors you might strive to improve.

    2) Attempt not to take things personally even when it seems like there are no other ways to interpret interactions.

    ACT: When your emotional buttons are pushed, don’t react but rather pause and attempt to see the exchange from a distance. Know that her expression of disapproval may not actually be about you.

    3) Be aware of your expectations. They are often the culprit in breeding resentment and can result in crushing disappointment.

    ACT: Practice forgiveness, understanding, and self-care. Getting the help we need to be the best versions of ourselves can do wonders for our relationships. Honor the simple yet challenging fact that we cannot change people. We can only actively evolve ourselves. It is impossible to do the work for our mothers/daughters. Remember, it is a psychological truth that we are all doing the best we can.

    4) Advocate for yourself and your relationships.

    ACT: It takes courage to communicate about our longings gone awry. Keep in mind that the act of engaging in the process itself is valuable. Change may not happen overnight but you will feel gratified that you dared to address issues tucked within the fabric of this potent relationship. Be sure to weigh the potential risks and benefits before initiating a dialogue about fresh and old wounds. It might be fruitful to kick off this conversation by explaining that though difficult, the hope is that by talking through these tough topics, a deeper kind of closeness will be cemented.

    Dr. Jessica Zucker is a clinical psychologist specializing in women’s health. She has a Los Angeles based practice and is a prolific writer and speaker in the area of maternal mental health. Dr. Zucker traveled the world doing international public health work prior to pursuing her Ph.D. Dr. Zucker is currently writing her first book on mother-daughter relationships and issues surrounding the body. www.drjessicazucker.com & Twitter@DrZucker

    Frieze New York Preview

    Frieze opens on Randall’s Island this Friday. Here are two bodies of work we’re particularly excited about at Frame, a section of the fair dedicated to galleries established in the last six years.

    Patricia Leite at Mendes Wood

    Tsukuro Yamakazi at Take Ninagawa

    Mother’s Day Bibliotherapy

    The School of Life bibliotherapy service offers reading suggestions for all of life’s situations - “shelf help,” as they put it. We asked two of their bibliotherapists, Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin, to provide us with some reading suggestions we could share with our mothers. Here are a few ideas – choose the one that most sounds like your mother and buy two copies for reading in tandem.

    “If your mom is the sort to put on a smile and tough it out, give her Our Spoons Came from Woolworths by Barbara Comyns, a light novel set in 1930’s London. The harsh realities of motherhood are rendered in painfully funny detail: a hideous hospital birth, a husband who refuses to make any concessions to fatherhood (who, for instance, doesn’t see why the baby can’t be kept in a cupboard), and a working world in which a woman with a baby renders you more or less unemployable. Luckily, our heroine Sophia is one of life’s survivors - relentlessly optimistic and spirited, she bounces back from each new setback, somehow managing to support the entire family while keeping house and being there for everyone.”

    “For high-flying moms, we suggest I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson, a hilarious dissection of the juggling skills required by the modern woman wanting to hold down a top job, make a go of staying married while keeping a lover on the side, and be a mother. By day, Kate is a fund manager in the City; by night she has been found ‘distressing’ store-bought mince pies for the school Christmas party to make them look homemade. It’s impossible not to sympathize with her wish to at least seem like a self-sacrificing domestic goddess even when she is keeping so many balls in the air. The most dextrous of juggling mothers will feel guilty at times; and by giving her this novel you’re saying you understand how hard it is.”

    “Let’s admit it: mothers also need a life outside the home. And if you’d like to show your mom you empathise, give her Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell, a sort of Huckleberry Finn for girls. When sixteen-year-old Margo’s father dies in violent circumstances, this resourceful girl-with-a-gun decides to go looking for the mother who absconded from their small house in rural Michigan. Margo is a compelling heroine – dangerously beautiful, and fatalistic to boot – and her journey of discovery will resonate with women of all ages. As will her mother’s frustrations, once they are revealed to us. Let it open up a new space for a friendship with your mom that has nothing to do with domesticity.”

    “All mother-daughter relationships become fraught at times; and if you feel that your conflicts stem from cultural or generational differences, give her Amy Tan’s wonderful The Joy Luck Club. Revolving around the weekly mahjong gatherings of a close-knit Chinese-American community in San Francisco, we watch the adult American daughters negotiate their careers and marriages while their immigrant mothers reminisce about their very different childhoods back in China. Can the two generations ever hope to see eye to eye? As we move through different narrative strands, it becomes apparent that some of the lessons their mothers learnt from their mothers can indeed be applied to their American lives after all.”

    Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin are bibliotherapists at The School of Life. For more information and to book a one-to-one consultation, either in person or on skype/phone, please visit: www.theschooloflife.com. Their book, The Novel Cure: an A-Z of Literary Remedies will be published this September.

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