By Heidi Stevens
Hillary Frank’s complicated, grueling labor gave birth to two lovely beings: her daughter, Sasha, and her delightful podcast, “The Longest Shortest Time.”
Sasha is, I’m confident, the lovelier of the two. But the podcast is pretty great.
Searching for answers and kindred spirits, Frank launched the podcast out of her New Jersey apartment in 2010 as a “3 a.m. bedside companion to new parents.” She devoted the program to stories and advice about babies ages 0 to 36 months, interviewing other new moms and dads about their struggles and triumphs.
“Because of some of the complications in childbirth and recovery I wasn’t able to walk for the first two months of my daughter’s life,” Frank told me by phone recently. “Then at four months we moved to a town where I didn’t know anybody, and I would walk around the neighborhood hoping to make friends. I’d see people with babies and everything looked so much easier to other people.”
Then she started talking to some of them, discovering along the way that most people are enduring their own challenges, some more privately than others.
With a background in radio (her work has aired on public radio’s “This American Life” and “All Things Considered,” among others), Frank began recording the conversations and sharing them online.
She talked to a woman whose child refused to wear clothes for three months. And a music teacher whose baby hated lullabies. She and her companion parents covered postpartum depression, breast-feeding, sex after childbirth, vegetarianism after childbirth … you name it, in other words.
“It was incredibly healing to be connecting to these people I didn’t even know,” she said. “The next level was seeing that I was helping other people too.”
In May, New York’s WNYC picked up her podcast for distribution.
Her enterprise, she hopes, is a nonjudgmental, safe place for parents to turn. As she writes on her blog, “And maybe, in your darkest hours (both literally and figuratively), you’ll hear a voice that reminds you that this part is only the beginning of the rest of your life with your new little person.”
“This thing started as a way to heal myself,” Frank told me. “Now I think of it as a way to heal parenting conversations at large, which I think are really hurting right now.”