Tag Archives: babies

Chef Joey parked in Rose’s space! … Surprise! You’re a dad!

By Chef Joey

Picture yourself over 50 and semi-retired, you have things to do, places to go, restaurants to dine at – the usual. How about forgetting that you applied to be a foster parent, and you get the call, and willingly convert your guest room into a little girl’s room, complete with crib, stuffed animals and, of course, everything pink.

Day one – Hi, I’m Papa!

I’m 55 and you’re 16 months, Oh, and here is your new bedroom! Here is your other Papa; he’s much younger than I am, but he has parenting skills too so let’s start with getting you used to our three dogs – check. Now our kitties – check.

How about a snack?

Sure, you smile back and are excited when I reach into your bag and pull out packets of hydrogenated cookies and snacks that I’ve never seen or heard of. What do bright orange cheese puffs taste like, anyways? How about some blueberries instead? I offer them to “Gigi” and set her into the high chair. I place 3 or 4 blueberries on her tray and a series of blinks and looking at them, then me followed by me eating one and smiling and saying things like “Yummy” and “Mmmmmm.”

She takes the bait and pops one in her mouth and crunches and a pause for dramatic effect and her eyes fly open, eyebrows up and we have lift off – 80 berries or so later she is asking for more, but I have a dinner planned and it is only 4 pm.

So a walking we shall go! And we went into the stroller … and down the street we went, birds chirping squirrels snapping branches, her little head turning left to right, right to left then the abrupt stop. Her mind said: “How is this happening???” and with a muscle wrenching turn of her head she looked back, saw me and smiled.

That’s when I knew I had to make a difference in her life – and mine.

We go for walks all the time taking advantage of the beautiful fall weather. Eating is an enjoyment and the giving and receiving of hugs is more than I wished for! The first smile of the day makes you appreciate the impact one has on a child.

Every day after we wake up, I put her in her chair and we talk – she has fresh fruit while I make her porridge. Usually I add fresh jam, maple syrup or honey, then a whisked egg for protein. This is her favorite, and some mornings we even have fresh yogurt. Lunch is an amalgam of snacks, small pieces of veggies and meats and a homemade pudding for dessert.

Dinner time is now a tradition: spaghetti pie is her favorite. Meatballs, meatloaf are second contenders and salmon with sautéed leeks is right up there too. Every day I try to introduce Gigi to new foods because by the age of two they kind of resist items they are not used to.

Roll the calendar ahead 12 weeks now and we had our first door to door experience with Trick or Treating! By the third house she got the concept, we limited it to 15 houses in my sister’s Shrewsbury neighborhood filled with hundreds of like-minded candy seekers. The fact that she was carried most of the way added to her energy, but we have a routine to follow, and sleepy time is at 7 PM and we were at 6:30 PM.

After a quick and not loved taste of Halloween candy (thank goodness) we donated our candy to the communal bowl to pass along to others and headed home, only to meet with opposition about removing the costume. Who could blame her? It was so cuddly and warm!

Gigi also loves my Mikey, a Wheaton Terrier puppy. He is so great with her – she constantly gives him hugs and lays on top of him any chance she can get. Being a new dad, a new experience for us, has forced us to drive more responsibly, wake up earlier, and go walking more and refocus on what is important: teaching this little girl the bounties of nature, the joy of being loved and the happiness to come back to the same home and familiar settings every day – and shrieking with glee when it is time to eat! This alone keeps me smiling!

Thanksgiving and Christmas are around the corner! So many photo ops!

Baby love

By Rosalie Tirella

The newspaper story was four paragraphs long, but I could see it all clearly, this Worcester story, more footnote than story. You’d have called it a “metro note” in the old days when we all got our news from physical newspapers and the physical length of the story, one skinny column, would be maybe four inches long and tucked in the side of the page, like an afterthought … or like something that was either too insignificant to write about or TOO SIGNIFICANT to write about because THIS WAS LIFE and you only had some city beat news nerd on the job, when who you needed was Tolstoy!

So tiny this metro note! It read something like this: A 5 week old baby dead. She was sleeping with her parents on an air mattress, when they discovered she (we’ll call her Mary) had died. The parents in their early 20s, had another baby, just two years old, sleeping with them on their air mattress, too. The other baby was alive.

When the police came to the Worcester apartment on that cold winter night they noted the young parents – children themselves some might say! – were distraught. The dead baby – just 5 weeks old! – had dried blood in her nostrils. They said she had been dead for several hours. The parents said the family was on that one air mattress because they were moving! An investigation is being conducted. Stained Baby Wipes, a sheet, a blanket were taken by the authorities to be tested and studied.



Oh, what might have happened on that cold Worcester winter night, in a flat over by Green Hill Park! What fears – what kind of fate – did a poor young family face in wintertime? There are so many of these families in Worcester, all quietly leading lives of hardship.

A family like so many in Worcester, but one who walking the tight rope between tragedy and grinding poverty fell into tragedy, death. It’s no wonder we don’t read more stories like this one! The city is filled with young poor parents and their tiny innocent babies. Why just a few weeks ago, on Ward Street, my street a young man beat his young girlfriend’s three year old babe so badly that he almost died, his intestines were smashed up so badly! I, personally fell in love with a little girl and her two year old brother and wrote about them here. They’ve left Ward Street, I think. I’ll always remember: the little boy, still wearing diapers maybe, being led by his tiny sister, in the dark, across Ward Street, the cars zooming up and down both ways. The little girl holding her brother’s hand. The little boy still smiling softly because I had given him a cute green plush toy to give to his Chihuahua mix, Beauty.


The Green Hill Park family … very poor, on the cusp of homelessness? Possibly moving out of a place they haven’t paid rent on, running to the next shitty apartment … on the run like seemingly half the families of kids in the Worcester Public Schools. The trend has been studied. I forget what our experts called it. All I know is they said very few inner city WPS kids graduate from the Worcester elementary school they started kindergarten in. The families are always moving, the kids fall behind in school work, lose friendships …

So the Green Hill Park family with a few pieces of furniture and four mouths to feed, four bodies to clothe, four minds to nourish … All that preciousness sleeping on a Wal-Mart air mattress – hard, inflated, thrown on the floor, where its especially cold and drafty on a Worcester winter night.

The parents have little but they love their babies! They, like lots of poor folks, are operating on instinct. There is much stress, too. Living so close to the bone, can make for incredible intimacy. The basics are covered primitively but often the gestures, the emotions, are TRUE! When I was a little girl growing up in Green Island, and we lived in a cold, drafty tenement on Lafayette Street, my Polish immigrant grandmother, Bapy, my mom and I ALL SLEPT TOGETHER in my Bapy’s big black squeaky metal bed, under a big goose down quilt from Poland. It was heavy and mountainous! You sweated underneath that behemoth of bedding! As a child I loved to pounce on it during the day! Jump all over it and pretend I was in the Swiss Alps playing hide and seek with reindeers in the white, glistening mountains.

My mom stuck me between her and Bapy so I wouldn’t fall off the bed! I was just a baby then, and I too was cold in my crib! I still recall the smell of my mother’s rounded back! She smelled like sweat and cabbage soup! I loved being snuggly and warm between my chubby grandmother and round-backed mother. Like a bear cub all safe and dreamy in the cozy bear den!

So the five week old was cranky at midnight, on the outskirts of Green Hill Park in Worcester, where the winter wind bends the tree branches and they creak as the wind makes them go left, then right, in ways that are unnatural to them, you feel the stiffness in society’s soul:

How can we, as a city, as a country, allow so many of our children to go hungry, go underclothed and underfed? How can we live with ourselves as they cough in $1,000 a month shit holes, with parents who don’t know enough to ask the landlords for more and landlords who are slumlords in that it’s all about making the biggest dollar on the dime, five week old babies be damned.

And they are! To lives that start out so rough they never really recover! And here we are in Worcester and America STILL DEBATING FREE UNIVERSAL PRE-K and DAYCARE!



So the 5 week old on the outskirts of Green Hill Park was cranky in its bed, so the parents took it up and brought it to sleep with them: for warmth, for soothing, for love …

And then: Death. Death comes to a baby who’s hardly been born! A five week old human baby is so small and innocent! It is hard to believe they grow up to be … us!

Have you ever looked at a baby’s finger nails?! Like little moon crescents … like lamb’s dreams and daisy chains … and yet there they be: in a Lafayette Street cold water flat, in a Green Hill Park apartment on an air mattress on the floor in wintertime!

Years and years ago I lived in Hartford Connecticut and found myself a social worker-case manager. It was a job I’ll never forget: Hartford at the time was one of the country’s poorest cities, the families we cared for seemed out of … Appalachia. Fat from frying pans was thrown out into backyards where skittish stray dogs would run up and gobble it all up and run away. Children’s mothers nodded off to heroin, while their little child sat in the kitchen with old, toothless granny who couldn’t read or write but was caring for them because she had the apartment in the projects and she was, I was told, a good lady.

And there are so many good people in horrific life circumstances! Often the smallest ones are the princes and princesses we can never forget! Take this Hartford day, many years ago:

I and my fellow case worker were doing home visits, going into the projects to visit the parents and guardians of the little boys and girls who were in the program. This one little boy, about 4, had a beautiful mother: long, wavy jet black hair, curvy, but lithe figure, gorgeous white teeth, voluptuous lips … Naturally, there were about a million asshole guys buzzing around her door. Once we came to visit her – and she was in the middle of having sex with this gorgeous, muscular Adonis- the kind if rare guy who looks a thousand times better OUT of his clothes! I can say this because he was the one who answered the door bell – came to the door in just his briefs to tell us NOT NOW, GO AWAY, COME BACK SOME OTHER DAY.

And we did!

Now here we were, back again, to complete the home visit, my coworker in the kitchen with mom, the boyfriend out, me sitting in the living room with the little boy standing before me. There was nothing in the living room but two fold out foam chairs, just foam blocks really covered in cheap beige polyester. The walls were beige too and unadorned. But the little boy was so BEAUTIFUL, like a little emerald in a briar patch. He smiled at me and waved for me to follow him into the kitchen. I did. And watched as he went to the refrigerator open the door and took out a little box of juice and turning offered it to me.

I smiled and took his gift, most likely from our program or the neighborhood food pantry. Then I went back into the living room, took the saran wrap off the little straw that was attached to the juice box and stuck it into the little aluminum foil covered hole at the top corner of the little box and began slurping noisily, smiling at the little boy who took a seat on the foam block opposite me. Tears flowed out of my eyes as I slurped my grape juice because I had seen the inside of hos family’s refrigerator when he was reaching in to get the little juice box. There was nothing in it, except one other little juice box! That was it! On all four metal shelves! In the two big, clear plastic vegetable and fruit drawers! The yellow refrigerator 60 watt light bulb shone starkly, shone meanly on all that barrenness.

I remember saying, to the little boy, through my tears: YOU’RE SUCH A GOOD BOY! YOU’RE SUCH A GOOD BOY!

And he was such a good baby!

Just like the five week old baby who died such a premature death on the outskirts of Green Hill Park, on a cold winter night, here in Worcester.



Patrick Administration Proclaims October as Infant Safe Sleep Awareness Month

BOSTON – Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz today announced an infant safe sleep campaign focused on the importance of infant safe sleep practices and promoting ways to reduce risks associated with Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID), the leading cause of death among infants between the ages of one to 11 months and often associated with unsafe sleep practices.

 “Unsafe sleeping among newborns is a public health issue here in Massachusetts and across the country,” said Secretary Polanowicz. “The good news is that it is often preventable. By providing public education and targeting training and resources, we can give parents, guardians and caregivers the tools they need to reduce the risk and promote positive brain activity that comes with safe sleep.”

 This summer, HHS Assistant Secretary for Children, Youth and Families Kathleen Betts, convened an interagency Task Force on Infant Safe Sleep to take direct action to educate the public, parents and caregivers about infant safe sleep practices and find ways to collaborate across state agencies, and with medical associations and hospitals, to reduce the risks associated with unsafe infant safe sleeping practices. The Task Force is comprised of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Public Health, the Office of the Child Advocate, the Department of Early Education and Care and the Department of Housing and Community Development.

 “This heartbreaking and sometimes preventable condition can happen in any family regardless of income, education or community,” said Assistant Secretary Betts. “Working together, through this Task Force and with public and private partners, we can give all who come into contact with infants a consistent message about simple, safe sleeping practices, and help families create a safe sleeping environment.”

To ensure safe infant sleep:

Babies should always be put to sleep on their backs, alone in their own crib or bassinet, with no bumpers, pillows, quilts, comforters or other soft surfaces in the crib.

Parents and caregivers should not bed-share with their babies

Anyone under the influence of drugs, alcohol or if they are smoking, should not rest with a baby.

SUID affects 30 – 50 newborns each year in Massachusetts.

Throughout the month of October, the interagency Task Force on Infant Safe Sleep will launch a robust campaign to educate the public about the importance of infant safe sleep practices and to help families, caregivers and all who interact with infants to create a safe sleeping environment.

 Mass.gov/SafeSleep: Health and Human Services launched a new website with information, fact sheets, training and downloadable posters on safe sleep practices for parents, caregivers, health care providers and others who are involved with infant care.

 A Book for Every Baby: Partnering with the Baystate Medical Center, Boston Medical Center, University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center, Cambridge Health Alliance and Boston Children’s Hospital, the Task Force is providing every new parent in Massachusetts during the month of October with a copy of “Sleep Baby, Safe and Snug,” which gently reminds caregivers of best practices while putting baby to sleep. Working with publishers at the Charlie’s Kids Foundation, the Task Force will distribute more than 6,000 copies of the book in both English and Spanish directly to 46 maternity hospitals and, through Reach Out and Read, close to 5,000 copies to pediatrician offices and health centers.

   Resources for Physicians: Through the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Massachusetts Hospital Association, the Task Force will share information about available resources with doctors, pediatricians and other health care professionals encouraging them to talk with parents about this issue.

 For more information or resources on infant safe sleep, please visit: Mass.gov/SafeSleep.  

PAHO calls for renewed commitment to support best-breastfeeding practices

Washington, D. C. – The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) is calling for renewed commitment from all sectors of society to improve implementation of the WHO/UNICEF Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding. This call for action comes at the start of World Breastfeeding Week 2012 (August 1-7).

 To highlight this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, PAHO/WHO has developed a policy brief summarizing the implementation of the Global Strategy in the Region of the Americas and its relationship to breastfeeding trends. PAHO has also developed a poster entitled “For You It’s Milk. For Your Baby, Life.”  These materials are available through PAHO’s headquarters, offices in each country and at www.paho.org/childnutrition.

 Although breastfeeding has been increasing in many countries in the Americas, much remains to be done to optimize breastfeeding practices. In most countries of the Americas, fewer than half of babies begin breastfeeding within the first hour of life, as recommended by PAHO/WHO. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months–also recommended–is low, ranging from 8 percent to 68 percent of babies in different countries of Latin America.

Also, the vast majority of babies and young children do not benefit from optimal complementary feeding. Nearly 20 percent do not receive solid, semi-solid or soft foods between 6 and 9 months of age, as recommended by PAHO/WHO. Only 28 percent of young children in Haiti and 81 percent in Peru receive a minimum dietary diversity. Only 46 percent of young children in Haiti and 78 percent in Peru receive a minimum meal frequency.  

 “We need to improve both breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices by creating strong and supportive public health policies and programs,” said PAHO Director Dr. Mirta Roses.

 This year’s World Breastfeeding Week, whose theme is “Understanding the Past, Planning the Future-Celebrating 10 Years of WHO/UNICEF’s Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding,” highlights progress toward the strategy’s implementation in countries around the world.

 Breastfeeding is the single most effective intervention for preventing deaths among children under 5. Research shows that about 20 percent of neonatal (under age 1 month) deaths could be prevented if all newborns began breastfeeding during the first hour of life.

In addition, children who are breastfed for seven to nine months have on average six points higher IQ than children who are breastfed for less than a month. Breastfeeding also helps mothers lose weight and reduces their risk of breast and ovarian cancer as well as type 2 diabetes.

PAHO, which celebrates its 110th anniversary this year, is the oldest public health organization in the world. It works with its member countries to improve the health and the quality of life of the people of the Americas. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of WHO.