Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
An important contribution to children’s health and well-being! We are honored to be able to talk to Dr. Catherine Murphy, orthodontist and surprise author of Dear Momma… a story about a woman’s journey with breastfeeding. She’s here to share with us the value of following one’s maternal intuition, and what it means to be an advocate for yourself and your child. She also says the breastfeeding discussion needs to be started prior to birth—and then mom’s choice needs to be supported. When there are hurdles, both baby and momma need support. It’s an enormously helpful and empowering book for new moms, for mothers struggling on their breastfeeding journey, and for women who need to make decisions about their baby’s oral issues.
MCA: Dr. Murphy, as both a mom and a physician, you are uniquely qualified to address many mothers’ concerns about breastfeeding issues as they relate to child health and development. But first, please tell us a bit about yourself.
The Midwest is my home. Leaving a positive impact on the world is my passion. Growing up in a cozy Indiana suburb near Chicago has played a significant role in shaping my perspective. During my high school years, I had a strong desire to find employment, which led me to work in my uncle and father’s dental practices. Witnessing their compassionate care for others in their offices was incredibly fulfilling and inspired me to believe in my own potential.
My college experience at Indiana University Bloomington (IUB) further influenced my approach to making a difference. Participating in IUB’s Study Abroad Program in Wollongong, NSW, Australia, opened my mind to new possibilities and broadened my horizons. After returning to university, I became aware of an organization associated with IUB that focused on HIV/AIDS awareness and education in Kenya, Africa. Intrigued by this cause, I decided to get involved, setting the stage for a life-changing journey.
MCA: How did that actually come about?
Embarking on a transformative trip to rural Bungoma, Kenya, in East Africa, I immersed myself in a community without electricity or running water. It was during this experience that I made a striking observation about the prevalence of naturally straight teeth among the locals. Later, I realized the connection between diet and dental health, recognizing the impact of an absence of an industrialized diet, often containing processed foods, on maintaining naturally straight teeth.
Following this transformative journey, I continued the family legacy and pursued dental education at the Indiana University School of Dentistry (IUSD). During my time there, I actively engaged in leadership roles, particularly in sealant clinics within various shelters throughout Indianapolis. These clinics aimed to provide free children’s dental education and sealants, with a special focus on women’s shelters.
After graduating from IUSD, I practiced general dentistry with great satisfaction for two years. Alongside my private practice, I also served as an adjunct faculty member at IUSD, imparting my knowledge and expertise to aspiring dental students. Additionally, I had the privilege of working on the Sealant Mobile, a mobile dental unit that offered free dental screenings and sealants to underserved children in Indiana communities. This opportunity allowed me to make a positive impact on the oral health of children who lacked access to proper dental care.
MCA: Did you pick a specialty at that point?
As my career progressed, I decided to specialize in orthodontics. However, a few years into my private practice as an orthodontist, I found that “rare” cases were becoming more common in my office. Traditional orthodontic courses didn’t provide answers that addressed the root cause of these concerns. It was through an orofacial myofunctional therapy course that everything began to connect and tie together. Shortly after taking the course, I became a mother to my son during the stormy summer of 2016. It was a challenging time as he struggled to thrive, experiencing difficulties with nursing, sleep, and noisy breathing. Despite seeking medical advice and being told to supplement with formula, I delved into research, neglecting self-care as I searched for answers to my son’s struggles.
The experience of learning to prioritize holistic health transformed not only my son’s well-being but also my own. I am immensely grateful that dentistry provided the necessary support to transform my son’s health from failing to thriving. Today, I have the opportunity to share my passion for holistic dentistry, health, and well-being through books and speaking engagements around the world. Additionally, recognizing the importance of self-care, especially during challenging times, I co-created with Bre Grzych the self-care movement, Take3ForMe™, which promotes harmony between career, family, and personal well-being. This practice combines my love for myofunctional therapy exercises, breathwork, and affirmations.
Beyond my professional endeavors, my hobbies intertwine with my passions. I find joy in spending time with my family—my husband, son, and daughter. I also enjoy reading, immersing myself in nature, attending local symphony performances, and indulging in documentaries. These pursuits nourish my mind and soul, further fueling my drive to make a positive impact on the world.
MCA: It’s fascinating that you became committing to helping “fellow mommas” through holistic dentistry. What was your path to becoming a writer like? What inspired you?
My journey to becoming a writer was surprisingly swift and unexpected. It all started with my deep-rooted love for books, which was nurtured during my childhood when my mom would read the enchanting “Little House on the Prairie” series to me. Those quiet moments left a lasting impression, and I often wondered if one day I would have a story interesting enough to share with others.
The turning point came when I transformed my approach to orthodontics, engaging in meaningful conversations with mothers every day. As I interacted with these moms, I felt a strong desire to reach out to even more of them, providing support and encouragement. That’s when the idea of sharing the struggles breastfeeding journey my son and I experienced through a book came to my mind. Without hesitation, I started crafting and refining the initial poem of our journey week by week.
As the excitement grew, the need to find a publisher arose. Serendipitously, within just two weeks, while scrolling on my phone. I came upon a Facebook post about a dental colleague’s sister, Lindsay Bednar, who had recently become a publisher. I wasted no time and got in touch with Lindsay, and within a few weeks, we embarked on this exciting journey together. It’s amazing how life can surprise us and lead us down unexpected paths. My love for books and the meaningful connections with moms paved the way for me to become a writer and share my experiences with others, hoping to inspire and support fellow mothers along the way.
MCA: What was your inspiration for writing Dear Momma…?
After I listened to my intuition, both of my children’s books were born. The pandemic compelled me to seek creativity and connection, and it was during one peaceful moment after nursing my second baby that inspiration struck. As I lay in my warm bed, listening to her soft breathing, I couldn’t help but contrast this serene experience with the challenging time I’d had with my firstborn. His labored breathing and erratic sleep kept me on edge during the first eighteen months of his life, leading to sleep deprivation and stress. However, the tranquility I felt with my daughter opened up a whole new world of emotions.
I grabbed my phone and began writing about these feelings and my experiences as a new mother. This newfound creative outlet ignited a passion within me, and I knew I wanted to share it with more people. Yet, I wasn’t sure how to reach a wider audience until the answer suddenly appeared before me. To cope with the stress of the pandemic’s impact, such as office and school closures and the lack of regular in-person social interaction, I found solace in collaborating with a talented songwriter named Ashley Ludlow. Together, we explored the realm of pentameter, which added a unique and delightful dimension to my work.
In summary, my journey to becoming a children’s book writer has been guided by intuition and a desire for creative expression and connection during these challenging times. Through this process, I discovered the joy of collaboration and the power of following my instincts.
MCA: What a fascinating journey. Tell me, what are some of the key lessons found in the book?
In my book, I emphasize the profound connection that forms between you and your child right from the very beginning. It’s a beautiful journey of communication that goes beyond words, fostering a deep bond early on. The key lessons I share throughout the book are empowering and heartfelt: Mommas, you are more than enough, trust your intuition, and seek out healthcare providers who truly value and respect your input when it comes to your child’s health and well-being. Remember, you have a unique and essential role as your child’s advocate!
MCA: What kind of response have you received from readers?
Their responses have truly warmed my heart. It’s been incredibly encouraging to hear from moms who couldn’t breastfeed and found relief after learning that the underlying cause(s), such as a tongue tie, may have been missed. Additionally, connecting with moms who had similar journeys and are now eager to support new moms has been so uplifting. I’ll admit, at first I was a bit hesitant, unsure of how others would perceive me once my book was finalized. As a doctor, it’s not common to openly admit struggles, uncertainties, and going against physician recommendations. But the overwhelmingly positive feedback from readers has shown me that sharing my experiences authentically was the right path, and it’s a rewarding feeling to know that my book is making a difference in the lives of fellow moms.
MCA: What is next for your writing endeavors?
I’m thrilled to share my second book, titled Dear Friend…Do You Know About Tongue Ties?, is already complete! This book delves into the effects of tongue ties and mouth breathing on children’s development, connecting the dots between symptoms to uncover the root of the issue. The story is narrated from the child’s perspective, where they share their struggles, such as messy eating, difficulties chewing tough foods like carrots, enduring dental decay, experiencing snoring, and dealing with chronic dry lips.
The character in the book is an amalgamation of the patients I’ve treated over the years. Interestingly, during the process of finalizing the book, I realized that the emotional elements I asked the incredible illustrator, Ira Baykovska, to incorporate into the drawings were actually based on my own childhood experiences. It was not until I was 38 years old that my own tongue tie was diagnosed. As a child, I faced challenges such as cavities, a chronic runny nose, and picky eating. My hope for this book is that it becomes a catalyst for families to discuss tongue ties openly and recognize the collaborative approach needed to support a child’s growth, development, health, and overall well-being. I’m excited to see this book contribute to important conversations and positively impact children’s lives.
MCA: Dr. Murphy, you have such a rich background and an obvious desire to help others on their journey. We are so glad to have had an opportunity to hear from you, and we look forward to reading upcoming books!
You can learn more about Dr. Catherine Murphy and her award-winning book, Dear Momma…, by visiting her MCA Shop pages.