Compassionate (Nonviolent) Communication for Families

Compassionate (Nonviolent) Communication for Families
Sunday December 8
2-4:30 pm
43 Central Park North, Suite 1A
In conjunction with Romemu

*Are you taking out anger, exhaustion & frustration on family?
*Is there too much yelling and frazzled nerves in your household?
*Do you feel guilty for how you spoke/lonely not communicating?

Come to this workshop for Nonviolent Communication in family life. We will learn practical skills and consciousness for creating and deepening honest, compassionate and effective communication within your family. We will practice skills for communicating what is really important to us and hearing what is really important to the other person. Singles, parents and couples are welcome to join this workshop. Open to beginners as well as veterans of Nonviolent Communication (NVC).

Cost: $35 per person; $60 per couple
To Register send PAYPAL to:
For more information contact: or 917.216.1991
Roberta’s Website:
Part of Doula Julia’s Parenting Series

Patience and Trust

Sometimes you need to go backwards to move forward. Sometimes when you’re lost, you need to just stop the car before you can proceed. Sometimes in labor you may even need to get upside down to let your baby back up off your pelvis and re-enter at a slightly different angle. And sometimes you need to get really unhappy before you’re motivated to figure out what you need.
Basically, sometimes we need to STOP WALKING INTO A WALL. We need to STOP, maybe reverse just a little, and take a moment to see the paths around the blockade.
And then… sometimes…
We need to run, with force, right into the wall.
And create a sudden drop in atmospheric pressure that leads to a storm.
Bina had a 102 degree fever this morning. My dear husband has started a new career. Basically, there’s been a lot going on. There have been some major upheavals in my family, and for friends who are like family to me. I hope most of you are having an idyllic, languid summer, but it has felt like something unsettling is in the air for most everyone with whom I’ve spoken.
The air has been thick, we’ve had a HEAT wave, and now boom – 60 degrees.
So where’s my storm?
I thought I needed a drastic storm. I was sure that when it rains, our new baby will be born. And maybe it will. At some point we’ll have a rain – a hard, cathartic, healing, cleansing rain.
But the temp already dropped, and 3 dear babies in my life were already born before the storm. So maybe my personal lesson for the moment is the one I started with. No armor, bracing to run into the wall. For now, reversing, or just stopping, and practicing what I preach – patience and trust.
And some of the work of walking will dissipate. Our feet will get unstuck from slow steps. And we forget with temporary intoxication all that got stuck in the air, we feel light and playful, it will be an innocent summer day… with a giant golden sun and just a few feathery passing clouds to take the edge off.
And our hearts will grow another notch again. Like the rings along the circumference of a tree. Not innocent but just as good. Our hearts will hold and give a little bit more again. As it does each time we start the cycle of holding our challenges and moving to the next stage, marked yet healed.

“When the heart cries for something which it has lost, the soul rejoices for that which it has gained” -Rumi

Written in an admittedly pensive and poignant moment, but with a light and happy disposition,

How To Modify Your Yoga (or other) Practice for Pregnancy

People often ask me how to modify their yoga practices (or other exercise regimes) for pregnancy. Many assume that they should be able to do everything normally until they’re too big to do it! But there are factors to consider in all trimesters. In the first trimester, you want to protect implantation and modify according to mother’s wooziness. It can be helpful to keep your arms beside you rather than reaching overhead if you get dizzy, and also to move slowly between upright and folded positions. In general, your first trimester is a good time to avoid deep twists and jumping (some women return to jumping forward and back in vinyasa practice in later trimesters). You also want to avoid any breathing exercises that have you hold your breath or churn your abdomen (though again, specific abdominal strengthening can be appropriate particularly in later trimesters). There are plenty of women who do high impact exercise like running while pregnant and the pregnancy is fine, but this is to be judicious.
In later trimesters modifications are designed for the mother’s comfort and being practical (like not laying on your stomach). A few of the other perhaps less obvious ones to avoid are full wheel and other deep backbends – the two sides of the abdominal muscles (abdominal recti) can get pushed apart by the growing uterus the deeper and more often you take your backbends, even if it feels fine while you’re doing it. In general, pregnancy is a perpetual state of backbend! So it is helpful to focus on shoulder and upper back stretches and save the deep backbends for later.
As you stand or walk down the street, focus on rooting your feet without turning out the toes in a pregnant waddle. Think about lengthening your tailbone without clenching your butt muscles so you minimize swayback and keep your low back comfortable. Think of rolling gracefully from heel to toe, just being mindful with each step (call this your meditation practice for the day if this feels daunting – just practicing it a little will set the body’s rhythm and it becomes second nature before you know it). And again to error on the safe side, if you have any conditions you’re not sure are safe to practice with, you might ask your midwife what amount/type of physical exertion is appropriate, and then ask the teacher of the class how taxing the class is (I know I teach a challenging prenatal, others stick more to stretching). Make sure the teacher is pretty familiar with prenatal (everyone knows to tell you to avoid deep twists, but some teachers don’t really know much beyond that, and you’re better off finding someone who does, even if it’s in their general class and not their prenatal).
According to ACOG, In the absence of either medical or obstetric complications, 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise a day on most, if not all, days of the week is recommended for pregnant women. So move and breath and feel good.

Homebirth/Natural Birth Preparation beginning June 25th – Childbirth Ed ‘Shorty’ Series


Late pregnancy, birth, and new parenthood feel interrelated, manageable, and nourishing with positive childbirth preparation. In this series, we meet our current needs and use that to calmly prepare for future needs in a supportive environment surrounded by families making similar choices.

Three Tuesdays, June 25, July 2, and July 9
6:30 – 9 pm
– reductions always available for those with substantial demonstrable need
CONFIRM YOUR SPACE: 917.216.1991 or send paypal payment to To insure intimacy, space is limited.

one half hour private consult by phone or skype on any topic you’d like to explore further as well as continued postpartum support from class teacher
Holistic Newborn Care Workshop FREE add-on to this series (MAY 13TH OR SEPT 16TH)
handouts, reading list, websites

Approaches for the labor process (mindfulness/relaxation techniques, hypnobirth, yoga, anatomical/hormonal underpinnings of straightforward birth and breastfeeding, the basics of what to expect)
Comfort techniques (counterpressure, acupressure, massage, aromatherapy, hydrotherapy, use of hot and cold, positioning techniques, rebozo, and the breath. You don’t need all these techniques, and there’s no one best way to breath or move)
Tub preparation/home preparation
Back-up plans
Self-advocacy (ie – your midwife is not a mind-reader :)) and self-care
History and resources for further learning
This class will assume homebirth as the default, but may be appropriate for those who want a more holistic hospital experience – we must discuss to make sure you have other resources in place to use what you learn in this class.

Taught by Julia Mannes, CD(DONA), CLC, RYT, MOM, birth and postpartum doula, Lamaze trained, multidisciplinary childbirth educator, Lactation Counselor, yoga instructor, homebirth mama, and pragmatist who will help you on both ethereal and concrete matters.

CONFIRM YOUR SPACE: 917.216.1991 or send paypal payment to

Some New “Questions For Your Care Provider”

As you go through your prenatals, you might want to ask providers a little bit about what they do during the birth itself.  The questions below are useful whether you are meeting a new potential provider or your current one.  
You don’t always need to know what someone’s rates of “this or that” are (and you can look up NY rates on Choices In Childbirth’s site)- it may be more important to ask a few litmus test questions.  Many times this conversation is saved for closer to your estimated due date, but to make sure you’re in the right practice, you might want to learn some things sooner.  

Then your questions may want to address the basics for receiving respectful care and whether your care provider is likely to be the one attending your birth. Some questions are “how many other doctors are in your practice?” or “what days/how many days of the week are you on call?” or “when I am active enough in labor to come in to the hospital, will you be meeting me there, or will I be attended by a resident until I’m pushing?” If you’re considering a hospital-based midwife but feel like you might get locked into a natural birth, some questions are, “how do you support clients with epidurals?” “What are the epidural rates in your practice?” They can be fairly high. You might also want to ask any provider, “how do you help ensure privacy at my birth if I don’t want cleaning staff or students observing/entering my room, or if I don’t want many residents asking me distracting questions only for the sake of practice (as opposed to one person doing a valid initial intake)? If I have a cesarean, will it be you or a resident doing the actual suturing? In case nursing at the breast will be delayed, can you help facilitate a breast pump waiting for me in postpartum to stimulate milk supply?” In two systematic reviews, researchers identified the following factors associated with women’s satisfaction with their childbirth experience: personal expectations, sense of control, caregiver support, the quality of the caregiver–patient relationship, and maternal involvement in decision making (Hodnett, 2002; Hodnett, Gates, Hofmeyr, Sakala, & Weston, 2011). So notice your care provider’s vibe during these questions – is she engaging you in dialogue or does she seem uncomfortable including you in the behind the scenes?

When asked, “do you support natural birth?,” I have never heard of a care provider saying “no!”  But if you want more clarity on their level of experience supporting natural birth, some litmus-test type questions are “how do you support women who want a natural birth?” and “what are some of the positions you have delivered (caught) babies in?” If you hear things like, “Oh, you’ll want to labor at home as long as possible, try staying active and mobile throughout, bring a friend familiar with natural birth or hire a doula, oh, there’s a book Natural Hospital Birth you may want to read! And also I’m really mindful of how I touch my clients without epidurals, because some doctors may not be as gentle helping baby come out when they’re used to women all having epidurals!”– well, you have an idea that they have done this before. If the first response is, “well, birth isn’t really conducive to being planned…” you might be working with someone who thinks the luck of the draw is all that determines if you can see it through.  If you hear “we do whatever you want…” or “we can deliver your baby in any position you want,” it sounds good but is somewhat simplistic – you might ask the follow-up question, “how often do you find yourself helping women who planned a natural birth?” (as opposed to those who labor so fast that you just have to catch the baby).  “Can you tell me about a time you delivered a baby in a position other than back-lying or side-lying?”
You probably already know to ask about policies regarding food and drink in labor (“how often do your patients end up completely free of intravenous fluids?”) or episiotomies (you might hope to hear “oh we rarely to never do it” as opposed to “only when it’s necessary,” which is vague).
Basically, someone who is open with you and has thoughts and suggestions can be a better sign than either yessing or doubting.

Beyond questions about insurance, transfer plan, and where prenatal meetings take place, you may want to find out, “What types of medical procedures do you do routinely? And what types of medical skills do you have in case of an emergency?”  These questions get at two different things – the first gets at routine interventions, and the second gets at skill in case of an emergency.  In my opinion you want the answers to the first question to sound modest and the second question to sound robust.  For example, some homebirth midwives will more likely automatically give the baby a shot of vitamin K after birth – others will talk to you about ordering oral Vitamin K drops for the baby.  Some will automatically hang an IV at some point during labor, others would never unless something was wrong.  Some midwives and doctors say they trust a woman’s body to labor and birth spontaneously but routinely reach inside while the baby is emerging to “help” you stretch, and others truly have a hands-off approach that focuses on following your lead or at most assisting with positioning techniques without being prescriptive about them.

You can also google for a comprehensive “list of questions for your care provider” to jog your thoughts about what’s most important to you, but of course you don’t need to hit every question on a list, and some you will know instinctively based on answers to other things. 

In short, no matter who you choose, a satisfying birth is often the result of you feeling like you’ve been treated with respect and involved in decision-making.  I’ve seen women give over their voice and power as soon as they are in the hands of a midwife, as if they don’t need to participate anymore!  Absolutely give up second-guessing when you find a care provider who jives with your birth philosophies. And still remember that if you made the decision to hire someone offering personalized care as opposed to treatment by the numbers, your voice is essential in the dialogue.  

Holistic Newborn Care May 13


In this workshop, you will learn the basics of newborn care and a few techniques to find your own voice as a parent. Topics covered include breastfeeding, bathing, sleep, diapering choices, babywearing, bonding, soothing, and some holistic practices to consider for fever or other illness. You will also receive practical handouts, a reading list, and websites to serve as a useful reference as your baby grows. Appropriate for moms, dads, grandparents, friends, birthworkers, and more!

Julia Mannes, CD(DONA), CLC, RYT, MOM is a birth and postpartum doula, Lamaze trained, multidisciplinary childbirth educator, Lactation Counselor, yoga instructor, and pragmatist who will help you on both ethereal and concrete matters.

Monday, May 13 – 6:15 – 9:30 pm


$50 pp/$75 per couple – reductions always available for those with demonstrable need

CONFIRM YOUR SPACE: 917.216.1991 or send paypal payment to

Speak Powerfully and Get What You Want (in labor & beyond)

Doula Julia’s Key Self Advocacy Skills for Childbirth

-embody a person you know who is very skillful and pleasant about stating their needs

-use language powerfully – say “I plan to,” “I expect,” or “I’d like to” 
(NOT “can I…?” or “will they let me…?”)

-distinguish “no biggies,” things big but not important to overtly address, and things that deserve negotiation

-your caregivers are human – appeal to the human side more than the clinical

-proactively do things that will make your caregivers comfortable, so that you feel more appropriate doing things you want (ie – suggest monitors when convenient for you)

-PRACTICE asking for something specific of family members, people in stores, on a bus, etc. on the day before an important conversation with your care provider

-at meetings dress your best, stand tall, maintain eye contact, try not to fidget, giggle, or apologize, allow for silence in the air if your question hasn’t been answered or more can be said. Practice positive body language in the mirror, it is an acquired skill

-In labor, state your need for a private moment to think about your decisions

-play with the lights in the room and open the cabinets, wheel around the furniture until it feels right to you, look around, so you feel an ownership of the space

-do the things that feel right without asking permission

-say it is because of your spiritual/cultural beliefs

-bring someone with you to “the important conversation” meetings, and the birth

-assume your own basic “rightness” (you are the expert on the sensations you feel)

By Julia Mannes, CD(DONA), CLC, RYT, MOM

One further note on self-advocacy:
It’s easy to hear one compelling concern and get focused on it, but considering the rest of this context helps you get out of a frozen place of fear and into a dynamic place of thoughtfulness and trust.
Always ask yourself, when an intervention is suggested: What are the present risks? How likely are the risks to manifest and how serious or not serious would they be? How likely is the treatment to fix what we are concerned about?  What are the benefits of not doing the treatment? What are the risks of the treatment?  How likely are the treatment’s risks to manifest and how serious would they be? What are the alternatives?  Have we considered doing nothing as an alternative? How time-sensitive is this decision? 

Being 3

I am a 3 year old. I have only been soothing, healing, hosting, feeding, caring for a family, and managing the structures of time in ways entirely different than before – for 3 years now.

In this new season, new Jewish year, and new birthday for Bina, I am cultivating a gentleness in my self assessment. Both because it is a value and a skill to judge favorably, and because I trust that many of my parenting ‘shortcomings’ may be temporary and useful building blocks. If you’re the parent of a 17 year old, you have worked through many challenges and invariably have repeated some mistakes, but you’re still an adolescent in the realm of parenting, so give yourself a break. If you are a grandparent, I hope you are often feeling self-actualized, but you also may just be a 3 year old at managing the role of grandparent, retirement, etc. So you too can give yourself a break.

There have been times as a parent that I felt more out of control than I ever did in my tumultuous days, because all of a sudden, it felt that everything mattered. Right as I’m trying to build this great life, I all of a sudden have less time for it then ever before, and it feels like I’m being seen for my scrap papers more than my polished finished product. It surprised me that my professional standing, my yoga practice, my ability to maintain friendships and be a decent wife, in-law, daughter, sister, niece, cousin, etc., all took on a new urgency at the same moments as my need to parent well, because I also want to model grace in these realms to my daughter.

But we are starting over all the time. We always go from novice, to expert, back to novice again if we’re still willing to learn new things. The more we make peace with the novice phases, the more we are at ease in our own skin. We are seniors in high school only to become freshmen in college. Every time we graduate the real journey begins.

While parenthood is a very singular thing, there have been other life phases that someplace along the way, without any deliberate action, felt serene and second-nature. I have always felt welcome in my husband’s family, but there is a new sense of ease that comes when you have a shared history and that family truly feels like your own. Though I still feel more challenged mothering a child than a baby, I’m getting the hang of little things like organizing our days and weeks, and knowing a few great nature escapes, and I have hopes that this will open doors toward other loftier parenting goals.

I’m now remembering that we have entirely different skin every 7 years. After a little googling (and I hope this is accurate :)), I learned that we have a new surface layer of skin every 28-45 days. We shed about 40 lbs of skin in our lifetime! What comforts me is that it is fair to be challenged in our own skin again and again, yet we can create new habits, new surface layers, in about a month.

I have 3 years of perspective on my life as a parent. I don’t want and can’t have perfection or completion, so grace along the path is the goal.

Three Really Helpful Tips for Nursing

INITIATE FEEDINGS IN BABY’S REM SLEEP: Breastfeeding is easier when you feed on cue. But by the time new moms notice the cues and get comfy, a gently lip-smacking baby may by crying. A crying baby is not one that is relaxing to latch or easy to get latched well. Many well-intentioned supporters will tell you, “please pee/shower/nap/get dressed/etc. first,” and I’m all for taking a bit of ‘you’ time, but it’s silly to always start 5 minutes late – you will feel better when your baby is calm when you get her to the breast. UNICEF’s Baby-Friendly Initiative now lists REM sleep as the first feeding cue, so when you notice baby’s sleep state change get them positioned – they sometimes will latch without even opening their eyes.

GET A GOOD LATCH: One of the best things to do is lay back, get comfortable, bring baby onto you, and let your baby initiate the latch. Laid back breastfeeding requires no major instructions. Yet sometimes it is helpful to understand some principles at work behind comfortable breastfeeding if you’re having troubles or just like more details.
It can help to start SKIN TO SKIN, baby’s whole body facing you (not only belly to belly but both knees facing you), and nipple pointed to nose (not mouth – reason being you need more space at the top of baby’s mouth for the nipple since the bottom of the mouth is taken up by the baby’s tongue – also baby will open wider from this starting point). Initiate quickly after you see the very wide open mouth, but wait for the wide open mouth patiently. If you’re seated upright, really make sure your baby is supported by your arm and not the nursing pillow so that you can pull baby up and in at the right moment. Please don’t lean breast toward your baby because you end up giving all nipple skin and not breast tissue.
If you start all this in a REM cycle you have plenty of time to get a comfortable latch.  

NURSE IN SHORT, FREQUENT INTERVALS and START RIGHT AWAY: Check it out – your levels of prolactin don’t spike based on the total number of breastfeeding hours you log – they spike when the distance between feedings is close. Each time you get a spike in prolactin you produce more milk. Some mamas get into a routine if they find breastfeeding challenging where they don’t nurse for a long time (3 hours turns accidentally into 4 by the time they get everything ready to nurse), and then they keep the baby on for an hour+ when they do nurse. This just perpetuates the challenges of breastfeeding. If you shorten each nursing session (10-30+ minutes with some snacky 5 and 7 min feeds peppered in throughout the day), and bring baby to the breast more frequently (less schedule, more on cue, but if you’re dying to hear a number: 10-16+ times day AND night over a 24 hour period), you will produce more milk, baby will transfer the milk easier so they don’t need to linger forever during each session, and the whole thing will go more easily. If you really need to pee, nurse for 5 mins, take baby off, go pee, bring baby back on and finish the session. That will mean 2 spikes in prolactin during this pee-interrupted nursing sessions.
At the hospital, I have heard staff say that some babies aren’t really ready to nurse in the first day and THIS SIMPLY IS NOT TRUE. When mothers and babies are separated there’s just less syncronicity so they may appear uninterested during some of their opportunities. If you are separated from your baby or don’t get a good latch right away, don’t despair! Just stimulate your supply yourself with a simple hand expression technique (sometime in the first hour even for just 10 minutes, and again as much as possible in the absence of a straightforwardly nursing baby), and keep baby with you (on you) as much as possible.

Remember that many of these “rules” can be broken if everything’s working well. Please spend time with other nursing mothers in general, and consult a lactation consultant or counselor (IBCLC or CLC) if you have concerns (and certainly before agreeing to supplement). Your well-meaning pediatrician may not have a good protocol to protect your breastfeeding relationship.
One more word to the wise – you have enough milk! Doubting it causes you to do all kinds of things that can actually hinder breastfeeding. You don’t need proof that your heart is beating or that your stomach is digesting – trust your body to do what it needs to do.

Please call me if you want to talk or have any questions!

Julia Mannes, CD(DONA), CLC, RYT, and mom
Labor & Postpartum Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Yoga instructor

Letter to our caregivers…

My Parenting Manifesto

Thank you for looking after my child.  As promised, I want to share with you some of the values I hold highest in my parenting approach.  I respect all of the training and intuitive goodness you are arriving with.  Please just be yourself and spontaneous as you take these ideas into consideration.  I’m already impressed with your demeanor with children, and I’d like to hear your thoughts.  

When Bina does something you think is cool, please say “thank you” or just smile, or describe why it was cool, rather than saying “good job.”  Here’s why:

Please validate her feelings and allow the hard feelings also to come to the surface:

We try to talk to Bina and not about her in front of her…

We value pleases and thank yous and apologies (, and we try to model them and very rarely bring them up directly…  I believe “whatdyousay????” is a little condescending and doesn’t really teach genuine gratitude or sympathy.  We only sparingly encourage sharing and do not force it.  I believe forcing it teaches much less about sharing and much more that the biggest person has all the power and rules by might.  So we’ll say things like [sympathizing with one who doesn’t have toy] – “it’s hard when you want something that someone else is using” or “oh, that’s so and so’s favorite toy and maybe you can pick a different toy that is just for you;” and to the one who has the toy, “Can you see so and so’s face, it seems like he’d really like to use that toy… would you consider sharing it after a few more minutes?”  We generally wouldn’t approach sharing like “you’ve had a turn, now he gets a turn.”

In our family we don’t use time-outs or punishments.  I think these focus more on short-term outcomes and desired behaviors than on long-term deep understanding and respect. I also think there are more effective approaches to improving behavior, because I don’t know about you, but when I was punished as a kid, I thought a lot more about hating my parents and revenge than I did about the errors of my ways!  If something unacceptable is going on, stay with the child while distancing from the situation.  It is helpful if you stay very calm and un-punitive.

So what should be done about discipline?  Discipline is not a major theme in our home, although I’m aware there are some children who need more help behaving in ways that people can live with.  Please talk to Bina briefly in fairly neutral language about why we don’t want to do x, y, or z, or what she can do instead, and then move on.  I try hard to state a limit only when I really feel it is important – if I’m not yet sure how to respond I’ll take a few moments of silence – because when I say no I want to really mean it and not cave after the pleading comes – then it beckons more pleading and teaches that my word isn’t serious. I don’t really like telling Bina that anything from nature is gross or that laying on the floor is gross or anything… she can run pretty much free with regard to these things as long as she’s not doing something very dangerous, I like my little jungle baby just as she is!  The major exception is I try to model putting away one toy before taking out many more toys – I need some civilization.  🙂

Bina is also a vegetarian, and we keep a kosher home.  Please don’t use food as an incentive to get her to go somewhere or do something (bribes in general we try not to do).

We try to eat healthy, please don’t offer sweets or juice or breads or granola bars or pasta, but when Bina asks for things she sees she generally should be given them.  I don’t want to create drama around food or create forbidden fruits syndrome.  The only exception is if it’s straight up mainstream candy or adult diet drinks or something really chemically.  You can explain it’s chemically or has too much refined sugar and she generally says ok.  Also she doesn’t have to finish her food or eat at a certain time, she eats to her own hunger.  I will always tell you what foods we have around that day.

We try to be eco-conscious, so we will preferentially use our reusable bottle to plastic, cloth napkin to paper, etc., even if the other option is present. We choose toys that are well-constructed and calming over those that are plastic and electronic, and we prefer to minimize consumerism in general (so we don’t buy every organic thing out there just because we prefer organic – minimalism itself is a value to us). If you want to give her a little gift, we’d prefer a hand-written note or something else from the heart to little plastic chotchkies. We don’t watch TV or play iphone games or look at little cartoons with Bina.  However Bina does ask for music and family photos on the many gadgets we have around the house, so it is helpful when she doesn’t see them too frequently.   Bina initiates all kinds of make-believe games… she sings and paints and uses playdough and cleans and does all sorts of random things that need no major planning.

Oh also we try not to call Bina princess or focus on princess-type qualities as values – nothing really needs to be said about her looks:

Thanks for taking the time to read!  Hope this is comfortable for you.  It’s ok when you forget some of these, don’t feel shy!  It may take some effort to speak in new ways but if you’re interested it quickly becomes second nature.  If you’re interested in any topic I would love it if you ask, “what do you suggest I say about x when it comes up.” or “what are your feelings about x.”

I recognize that flexibility is also an important value!
We can discuss any of this that you’d like, and I’m open to dialogue.

I also created a reading list if you’re interested in learning more:

thanks again!