Before I decided to create a human being inside of my body, I needed a few questions answered: Where do your organs go when the baby moves in? Should you want to eat your placenta? Will I die? Is a doula something I’m supposed to be wearing? What’s the difference between colostrum and meconium? Will the baby come out without a birth playlist?
Attempting to ease my fears about becoming a parent, my mother reassured me that birth was easy — and life with a newborn? Pure bliss. I wasn’t buying it. I cast aside my secondhand copy of "What to Expect," closed the terrifying WebMD tabs, and turned to The Longest Shortest Time (LST), a parenting podcast with real stories and diverse experiences.
Executive producer and original host of the show, Hillary Frank created the podcast in 2010 after surviving a traumatic birth injury and weeks of sleepless nights with a newborn. During that dark period, a good friend had advised her: “These first few months are the longest shortest time. Remember that. They go on forever. And then they’re over.”
With episodes featuring guests discussing awkward adventures in infertility, becoming a single mother by choice, babymaking while queer, spying on your kids, judgy parenting, freezing your eggs, coming of age with Down syndrome, C-sections, how to not raise racist kids, miscarriage, becoming your parents, poop and nearly 200 other fascinating topics, the podcast resonates with a huge audience of parents and non-parents alike.
Now Frank has harnessed her devoted community of listeners to write a book of parenting advice that matches the fun, inclusive tone of the podcast. Her book, "Weird Parenting Wins," hit shelves Jan. 15. The book features heartwarming personal essays by Hillary Frank and hilarious hacks from parents all over the world, including eight local Seattle families.
Tess Milligan, a Ballard mom of a 6-year-old son and a 13-month-old daughter, submitted her parenting win on the LST Facebook page and was excited to learn it made it into the book.
“One of the things I love about the show is that it’s not just for parents. There are so many topics they cover that are relatable to everyone,” says Milligan. Her favorite series on LST was The Accidental Gay Parents, a multipart story that followed Trystan Reese, a gay trans dad and his husband, Biff Chaplow, as they navigated life with their two adopted kids and decided to conceive a biological child (a story also covered by this writer).
Growing up in the Oklahoma panhandle, Milligan was afraid of thunder and lightning. Instead of bringing her into their bed, her parents set her up in their windowless bathroom. Snuggled in the bathtub with pillows and blankets, the storm felt a lot less scary and a little more cozy. Genius!
Milligan has another win up her sleeve for stopping tantrums that she didn’t submit to the book. “Anytime my son would throw a tantrum, my mother-in-law would video tape it and play it back to him,” says Milligan. “It really works!”
Broadview mom Lindsay Turner made it into the book with a win about monsters under the bed. Anticipating that her son might develop the same fear that she had as a child, she put a giant Wampa toy from Star Wars under his crib. It remains under his big kid bed today, easing his mind and scaring off the other monsters.
She shared a bonus win with SC about using the audio feature on their baby monitor to prevent their son from trying to climb out of his crib. “We used the audio to project our clearly modified voice into his room,” says Turner. “We said, ‘stay in your bed’ in a voice that must have sounded scary — or at least unknown where the source of the voice was coming from. He never tried to climb out again.”
Central District mom Stephanie Marshall shared a hack in "Weird Parenting Wins" that she learned from her own mom. She says her and her brother used to fight over who got to give their mom a foot massage. Her mom made it seem like a fun activity and the matter would only be resolved when each kid was assigned to one foot. Brilliant!
Marshall started listening to LST during her son’s first 9 months of life. He wasn’t a great sleeper and wanted to be held during naps, so she would listen to old episodes of the podcast on her headphones while he slept in her arms. “The show was so positive and helped me feel a sense of community,” says Marshall. “I felt less alone and the podcast helped shine a light on the more important aspects of parenting and family, why we become parents, the struggles parents face, and how much it changes your life.”
Marshall recently came back to the podcast. She had to take a break from listening after suffering a painful loss. “Last year, I became pregnant with our second child, a girl, and left my part-time job about four months into the pregnancy so I could spend more time with my family,” says Marshall. “The next month my pregnancy had very serious complications that ended up requiring me to be hospitalized for several weeks. My daughter Bree was born early and passed away the next day. We were devastated and heartbroken. It's a long and difficult journey on this new path of loss.”
She wasn’t ready to hear stories about birth or newborn babies for many months, but a recent episode caught her interest and she decided to tune in. “The episode was fun to listen to and if anything, it brought me more positive feelings,” says Marshall. “So, I started listening to the podcast again. After all of these years listening, the podcast still uplifts me and makes me feel supported in the LST community.”
The lasting impact of the podcast is evident within the pages of Weird Parenting Wins. With chapters like, “The Art of Tricking Your Kid into Self-Babysitting," and “The Art of Keeping Your Kids From Strangling Each Other" and “The Art of Getting it On as a Parent,” the parents, teachers and caregivers who contributed to the book don’t hold back with their honest accounts of the often strange and creative strategies that helped them manage and support the children in their lives.
If you’ve grown weary of reading contradictory “expert” advice that never seems to work for your family, pick up a copy of "Weird Parenting Wins" for a good laugh and some fresh ideas.
Sydney Parker is the managing editor of Seattle's Child. When she's not editing the magazine, she's consulting her toddler for answers to life's big questions.