Kids take part on the "Long-Haul Relay" at last year's Athens Water Festival. This year's event celebrates the 50th anniversary of wastewater treatment here in Athens.
A Bright Idea: Sometimes, you hear about a new business idea and think, "Why didn't I think of that?" That was my reaction a few years ago when Pat Nielsen, a longtime nurse and advocate of happy, healthy mothers-to-be, opened Full Bloom on the Eastside. I knew her from a prenatal class my husband and I took at Athens Regional Medical Center before our daughter was born, and when I walked into the converted house on Gaines School Road and found her surrounded by happy, gurgling babies, cloth diapers and a library of prenatal books, it all made sense.
We needed a place for moms-to-be and new moms to meet, get information, find support and learn we—and our kids—were not alone.
Full Bloom eventually moved to Milledge Avenue, where Nielsen expanded to include prenatal yoga (a surprisingly hard thing to find in these parts), more classes and support groups, and even a space upstairs for a kids' consignment store (another "Why didn't I think of that?" moment). The space filled a great need in our area, which was also why I was sad when Full Bloom closed over the summer. Even though my daughter was too old for the playgroups, just having it as a resource for new moms made me feel more at ease.
When word spread of its closing, it was like a disturbance in the Force. Thankfully, a couple places in town—Arrow, a membership-driven space for toddlers beside Big City Bread, and Rattles and Rhymes, known for its beautiful baby furniture—came into the picture as a result. In addition to prenatal classes offered at our local hospitals, look to Rattles and Rhymes for a range of classes (www.rattlesandrhymesus.com) and check out Arrow for playgroups and prenatal yoga (www.ourarrow.com).
If you simply don't want to lose the homey atmosphere offered at Full Bloom, you're in luck. Lucia Massey recently opened By Your Leave, which follows the same model as Full Bloom. Massey has playgroups for various ages, too, as well as resources on doulas, breast feeding and childbirth issues. Stop by at 220 N. Milledge Ave. or give her a call at 706-255-1136.
Meet a Doula: Looking back on my pregnancy, there are two things I wish I had shelled out some cash for before my daughter was born: One would be a set of cloth diapers, and the other would be a doula. Both, I'm convinced, would have saved me some headaches in those foggy postpartum weeks. I recently hung out with some members of the Athens Doula Network, who meet every two months at By Your Leave. They were immensely helpful in putting my main fear to rest about hiring a doula: They don't get offended if you don't hire them.
A doula is like your best friend and your non-judgmental mother rolled into one. They come into your life a few weeks before you're scheduled to have the baby and really go to work once you're in the hospital. They keep you calm while your husband is Facebooking during labor, and when it's all over, they teach you about breastfeeding and give you baby care tips. Because it's such an intimate experience, it's important to hire a doula who fits with your personality. "No (one) doula is right for everyone," says Emily Nolan, one of several Athens-based doulas. She likened looking for a doula to dating, "but you can't take it personally."
If you're curious about getting an extra hand in the delivery room, check out www.athensdoulanetwork.com. The group's next "Meet the Doulas" event is 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 17.
Dive In: Up until 1962, the city of Athens dumped all its wastewater directly into the local waterways. This year marks the 50th anniversary of water treatment in Athens, and that feat will be part of the celebration during the third annual Athens Water Festival, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Sept. 8 at Sandy Creek Park, 400 Bob Holman Rd. Admission to the park is $2 per person (ages 4–64).
The Public Utilities Department does a great job coming up with various ways to have fun while also learning about water (for older kids, check with your science teacher, because there's an educational-credit component to the event as well). The recycled boat Regatta returns this year, along with some big trucks that help move water on land. There will be water-themed games, swimming and Athens-Clarke County staff on hand to talk about how our water gets treated. It's a cool lesson in where our water goes once you open the bathtub drain.