The 2007 Golden Paci Awards
Babytalk honors the newsmakers who look out for the little people -- babies, that is! And the 18-karat Binky goes to...
Parents Without Borders Award: Angelina Jolie
Sure, Jolie gets a lot of attention just for being a rich, gorgeous jet-setter. But we love her for being a baby-lovin' philanthropist extraordinaire. Jolie has long used her spotlight to illuminate international adoption issues. Last year, she and Brad Pitt donated $1 million each to Global Action for Children and Doctors Without Borders, and pledged the proceeds from the sale of daughter Shiloh's first photos -- an estimated $4.1 million -- to charity, too. Goals for 2007? Growing the Maddox Jolie-Pitt project to promote economic development and conservation in her son's native Cambodia; lobbying U.S. Congress to assist AIDS orphans; and creating an Ethiopia-based charity in daughter Zahara's name. At press time, Jolie had also filed to adopt a boy from Vietnam. This is one Hollywood spectacle we're happy to watch.
Hands That Rock the Cradle Award: Baby Cuddlers
Equipped with warm arms, big hearts, and a love of tiny people, "baby cuddlers" are volunteers who give their time and touch to infants in need. If your child spent early days in the NICU, a cuddler may have cradled, stroked, and cooed at him when you couldn't be there yourself. Trained by hospitals, group homes, and orphanages worldwide, these Mother Teresa types know how to pat a fragile preemie or rock a restless toddler in just the right way. Their work complements that of nurses, who can't always take time to administer affection along with other care. Know a born cuddler? Consult the American Hospital Directory (click on "Free Hospital Information"), and contact the volunteer coordinator at a hospital near you.
Chasing the Dream Award: The French Health Department
"Why not a nap at work," announced French health minister Xavier Bertrand in January, when he came out in support of putting one's head down on the job. France plans to spend $9 million this year to raise awareness about sleeping troubles and the positive impact of a midday 40 winks on job performance. New parents dreaming of a future in which catching some zzz's at your desk isn't grounds for firing: Paris calls!
Golden Kegel Award: Katherine Gilbert
The Tasmanian mom gave birth to a son, Hunter Edward Gilbert, last November. Like many women, she had an epidural and a vaginal delivery. Unlike most moms, her newborn weighed in at -- hold on to your pelvic floors, girls -- 13 pounds! (While larger babies are fairly common, delivery is usually by c-section.) Gilbert admitted that the experience "was quite hard," but dismissed point-blank the notion that her performance was anything extraordinary. "I don't think it was that amazing," she told Babytalk. "It's just what I did." Another everyday miracle, courtesy of a new mom.
Good Soldier Award: The men who saved Iraqi Baby Mariam
In June 2006, a Marine battalion was on patrol in Fallujah when a desperate Iraqi woman stopped them. Her 2-month-old girl had a life-threatening bladder defect. Could they help? The men made baby Mariam's health their unofficial mission, coming back nightly to check on her, take photographs, and record medical data. In September, one of their Humvees was hit by an explosive about a mile from the baby's home. Three men died, but their unit carried on in the names of the fallen: Navy medic Chris Walsh, Lance Corporal Eric Valdepenas, and Corporal Jared Shoemaker. Victory came a month later, when Mariam was flown to the U.S. for corrective surgery. She's now back in Iraq and doing well -- thanks to a group of heroes who thought a baby's life was worth fighting for.
Mother of Mercy Award: Brooke Shields
Since publishing Down Came the Rain, her 2005 memoir of postpartum depression, Shields has continued to stand up for increased awareness of the disorder. In March, the mom of two spoke about the possibility that Britney Spears -- who was reportedly reading Shields's book in rehab -- might be suffering from PPD. As the tabloids mocked the pop star for shaving her head and gleefully predicted she'd lose custody of her kids, Shields reminded us that what new moms need is compassion and support. "I hope [the book] is helping her," she told Access Hollywood. "If... she wants to talk to someone, I'm available." Thanks, Brooke, for bringing classy back.
Armed and Fabulous Award: Will Ferrell
Is that a lucky statuette? When the red-carpet paparazzi asked what sort of hardware the funnyman was carrying into this year's Golden Globe Awards, he replied, "My wife's breast pump." Viveca had given birth to their second son two weeks earlier. She wanted to stand by her man -- a nominee for Stranger Than Fiction -- but would need to, well, decompress during the long ceremony. Ferrell sported the heavy sucking machine as if it were the latest fashion accessory and even offered up info on Viveca's nursing schedule. Look out, breastfeeding-phobes: Will's making nipples, er, ripples.
Family Values Award: The Cheneys
Remember during pregnancy, when your body suddenly became public property? Complete strangers poked, prodded, and gave unsolicited advice. Multiply that by a bazillion, and you've got a good idea what Mary Cheney has been through. When she announced last December that she was expecting a child with her partner of 15 years, Heather Poe, she was viciously attacked by conservative pundits. Fortunately, Mary had the support of her dad, VP Dick Cheney, who chose to stand by his daughter despite the Bush Administration's stance on gay unions. In January, Mary Cheney responded to her critics: "This is a baby. This is a blessing from God. It is not a prop to be used in a debate by people on either side of an issue. It is my child." Amen to that.
Big Picture Award: Flat Daddies program
Papa's at war? He's got a stand-in at home, thanks to the Maine National Guard, which gives large-as-life photos of deployed members to the families who miss them. Known as Flat Daddies or Flat Mommies, the cutouts are often treated like real people by babies and toddlers, who kiss them, include them in games, and drag them along on family outings. No more separation anxiety or awkward reacquaintance time when a parent suddenly comes home on leave. This is wacky improvisational parenting at its best.
No Doubt, Breast Is Best Award: Gwen Stefani
The amazing bod, astounding business acumen, and adorable little lemonhead on her hip make Gwen the Sexy Mama poster babe. But this Hollaback Girl with the lacquered red lipstick won our hearts for singing the joys of breastfeeding. In interviews since Kingston, her son with rocker Gavin Rossdale, was born last May, she's made it known that her moves include nursing on the go. "My theory is that nursing gives you superhuman powers," she told The Toronto Star. "How else could I be doing all this when I'm usually a sleepaholic?"