Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Writer Looking For Some Dads to Interview

Has your kids’ dad done anything truly out of the ordinary to make himself a great dad? I’m looking for specific stories. For instance, one dad dug through a dumpster looking for presents that got accidentally thrown away. The stories can be sweet, heroic, or just funny. The catch is that I’m looking for stories that involve kids 6 or under. I’m trying to clear a little wiggle room with my editor so I can use stories about kids who are a little older. If you have a story you’d like to share, can you please email me at

If I’m able to use your story, the article would be a really neat surprise gift for Father’s Day!


Jody Mace
Freelance Writer

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Call for Submissions: Dads in Academia

Call for Submissions

The editors of Dads in Academia: Male Voices In and Out of the Ivory Tower invite contributions for an interdisciplinary collection of creative nonfiction essays on the rewards and challenges of being both a father and an academic. Much recent discussion about the juxtaposition of parenthood and the academy has focused on the difficulties that female professors face when they choose to become mothers. Books like Mama, PhD, edited by Caroline Grant and Elrena Evans, depict the oftentimes bleak prospects of merging the two endeavors. This collection welcomes the masculine voice into this lively and provocative dialogue. Further, Dads in Academia creates a space for male professors to describe their own experiences of balancing the demands and desires of two worlds that have changed notably throughout the past few decades: fatherhood and academia.

We encourage contributors to consider the changing cultural perceptions, representations, and expectations associated with fatherhood, and to explore the impact of such changes on their identities as teachers and scholars. Increasingly, fathers are taking on a more intense role with regard to child-rearing than ever before. How do today’s male academics view their participation in the parenting process? How is this changing the nature of the job? Has the evolving role of the father in contemporary society changed the job itself?

We also welcome essays that focus on how the evolution of fatherhood is changing the face of academia. Have we seen any concrete changes on college campuses to encourage the “professor as interactive father” schemata? What is the climate like for male professors who “want it all”? Are they able to balance fatherhood and the road to tenure? What gives?

Mary Ruth Marotte, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of English and the Director of Graduate Studies in English at the University of Central Arkansas, where she specializes in women’s studies and critical theory. Her book, Captive Bodies: American Women Writers Redefine Pregnancy and Childbirth, was released by Demeter Press in October 2008. She lives in Conway, AR with her husband and three children.

Paige Martin Reynolds, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Central Arkansas. Her specializations include Shakespeare, British Renaissance Drama, Performance Studies, and Elizabeth I. She has written articles published or forthcoming in SEL: Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, ANQ: American Notes and Queries, and 1650-1850: Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era. She lives in Little Rock, AR with her husband and daughter.

Deadline: March 1, 2009

Length: 1,500 to 4,000 words.

Format: Essays must be typed, double-spaced, and paginated. Please include your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and a short bio on the last page.

Send submissions electronically to: Mary Ruth Marrotte, mrmarotte [at]

Monday, November 17, 2008

Five Ways to Make a Baby Smile

A new article about how to make a baby smile by James di Properzio is up at In case you don't feel like clicking over there, we're taking the liberty to post it here:
Much has been made of the importance of a baby’s smile, and cross-cultural studies show that all human babies smile at about the same age, 3-5 months. As a father, this is one of the best ways to connect, because it’s gratifying to see them smile, and they will pay rapt attention, and start looking forward to your stimulating company. All it really takes are the simplest tricks, and a total lack of inhibition—at least around babies. Here are five ways for dads to make a baby smile, and probably even guffaw.

1. Pretend to sneeze: For some reason, this is like Saturday Night Live for babies. Ham it up, acting like you’re really going to have a big sneeze—the baby will stare at you, riveted, maybe even looking worried. Then fake sneeze in the most ridiculous way you can—try channeling one of the Three Stooges. Even very young babies you might have thought to be pre-humor will crack up. In fact, that look of worry suggests that the anticipation, and the catharsis at your fake sneeze, are probably what makes it so funny—that’s the basic structure of all jokes, and this is the first one they really get.

2. Toes in Beard: While the baby is on her back, pick up her feet and stick her toes right into your beard, combing them through with swooping motions like you’re trying to remove tangles. Don’t forget to look surprised and exclaim “Toes in beard!” as if the baby were doing something alarming to you. If/when you don’t have a beard, sideburns work fine; in a pinch, even you hair, if you’re not too fussy about your ‘do. Five-o’clock shadow is also good for tickling the bottoms of the toes and feet, and as a variation you can pretend to shave with the baby’s feet. Anything that involves the feet being on your face is good for them, including hiding your eyes behind the feet and then saying “Hey, where’d he go?” while trying to look around.

3. Neck attack: While holding baby, turn your head and get right in there to kiss the baby’s neck repeatedly, making loud smacking and snortling noises. Works even better with a little stubble, which tickles. This is one of the few tricks that work from earliest babyhood until they’re old enough to make you knock it off, like around ten.

4. Stinky feet: While the baby is on his back, hold up one foot and say, “Let’s see if this foot is clean.” (Once the baby is talking, you can ask instead, which adds to the fun.) Smell the foot, rolling your eyes around as if considering carefully, and say, “Oh, yeah, what a nice clean foot!” Then pick up the other one, ask if this one is clean, put your nose up to it and immediately howl “Oh, stinky!” Once they can talk, they’ll ask you to do this one over and over, like 25 times. My 7-year-old, whose feet really do get stinky by now, is still trying to get me to do it again, even though I’ve been refusing for years.

5. Chicken surprise: when the baby is old enough to sit up in a bouncy seat or high chair, get directly behind them, put both hands on your sides and flap your elbows behind your back like chicken wings. Walk slowly from side to side where the baby can’t quite turn enough to see you, making quiet bock-bock noises. When you get to one end and the baby finally sees you swoop in and peck at the nape of their neck with your nose, excitedly rattling off, “Bock! Bock-bock-bock-bockawk!” Repeat, headed in the other direction.

All of these shticks will have their rapt attention, and they’ll be begging for more once they can communicate. You, of course, will get tired of it after a few minutes, but it’s always nice to feel like you left them wanting more, and with very young children, the more you do it, the funnier it gets.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Baby, You're Home--Great Article on Home Birth in the NYT

There's a long detailed article on home birth in the New York Times "Home and Garden" section. It's really inspiring. We say to all expectant couples -- consider a home birth. They are on the rise, even in New York City, and the people who are having them are onto something: birth doesn't need to be a medicalized and invasive experience.

Even if you have your baby in the hospital, try to stay home as long as you can. Don't go in until your wife literally feels that she cannot bear the pain one more second. That way, they'll be kind and attentive to you in the hospital and they won't try to hurry the labor along.

We have a friend who called her midwife and said her water broke. Her midwife said, "rent two movies, and watch them all the way through, then call me back and we'll see if you're ready to come to the hospital." They did. The laboring wife doesn't remember anything about the movies, but she was so far along when she got to the hospital that she was treated like royalty.

If you want to read more about home birth, here's an article about home birth in western Massachusetts by Jennifer Margulis, first published in Valley Kids:
Pregnant? Consider Having Your Baby at Home

Special to Valley Kids

GREENFIELD — When Florence-resident Kirsten Kowalski-Lane got pregnant with her second child, she decided she wanted to try having a home birth. Her son, William, was born in Cooley-Dickinson Hospital, which is down the street from her house. Her son’s birth went well. “The midwives were lovely,” Kowalski-Lane, who is the Director of the Parenting Center in Northampton—a drop-in center that offers support for children of parents ages 0-5—remembers, “Everything was very normal.”

But, despite the fact that she had no complaints about the hospital or her birth attendants, Kowalski-Lane knew that she wanted to do things differently the second time. “I realized how much of the birth I was in control of,” she explains, “I could have had him anywhere.” This realization, that birth was a normal, natural process that needed no drastic medical intervention, encouraged Kowalski-Lane to consider alternative s to a conventional hospital birth. In addition, she did not like the hit or miss way it was the midwife or doctor on call at the hospital who would deliver her baby. “I wanted to have a different kind of relationship with the person or people who delivered my child,” she continues, “a closer relationship.”

Convincing her husband Jon Lane and her family was not as easy. “It was a good month that Jon needed to think about it,” says Kowalski-Lane, whose baby, Grace Margaret Anne Lane, was born at home on May 17th, 2002. The couple met twice with the River Valley Midwives, a group of home birth midwives that has been delivering babies in the Valley since the late 1970s. Although they initially hid the fact that they had decided to have a home birth from Jon’s family (and from Kirsten’s older sister who is a doctor), Jon’s grandmother was thrilled when she found out her great grand child was born at home. “She told us that she was born at home, and she turned out just fine,” explains Kowalski-Lane. “Now Jon is very proud that we did this. He tells everyone!”

Like Kirsten Kowalski-Lane, many Valley women are deciding to have their babies at home. According to Terri Nash, the River Valley midwife who caught Grace, there are 6 home birth midwives in active practice and approximately 50 babies born at home here in the Valley each year. In Massachusetts 1-2% of all babies born, approximately 800 babies in total, are born at home.

“The number one reason that we get is that it feels right to women,” explains Nash who is a Certified Professional Midwife, or CPM. “It is natural. Women do not menstruate or procreate in the hospital...Why should they have their baby there?”

Home birth midwives, Nash explains, work closely with area hospitals. They exercise great caution and, if anything goes wrong during labor, they accompany their clients to the hospital and stay with them, as their advocates, during the birth. But, although they have a “cooperative relationship with...local nurse midwives and hospitals,” according to Nash, home birth midwives do things differently from obstetric nurses, midwives, and doctors. Prenatal visits are an hour long, some take place in the client’s own home, parents have access to a lending library of books and videos about birth, and the midwives come as soon as the mother starts labor or feels the need to have them there. They stay with the new mother and baby for 3-4 hours after the birth, and they follow up with postpartum visits at the client’s home 1 day and 2 days later and office check-ups 1 week , 3 weeks, and 6 weeks later.

“They lead you through the process,” reiterates Kowalski-Lane, who was impressed by how the River Valley Midwives took their time with her and treated her with interest and respect. “Even though I had already had a baby, I appreciated it. You don’t feel like part of a factory.”

The first time Kowalski-Lane met Terri Nash and Jharna Harvey-Amai, she sensed their approach was different. “I felt so good in their presence,” remembers Kowalski-Lane , “I wasn’t even under their care but I felt cared for.”

During her pre-natal visits the connection Kowalski-Lane felt with her midwives deepened, “They were really interested in who I am. They wanted to really get to know me,” says Kowalski-Lane who remembers one time when she arrived to an appointment late and stressed out. “My blood pressure was high,” she says, “I had been rushing around.” Nash invited her to sit down, made her a cup of tea, and gave her a head and neck massage. When her blood pressure was measured again it was back within normal levels.

Even some Valley health care providers are themselves choosing to have their babies at home. “Up to a third of the people who come to are practice are health care professionals,” says Nash, who remembers one birth that was progressing slowly. The father, a doctor, and the mother, a nurse practitioner, had been laboring for several hours. When Nash checked she realized that the baby’s head was asynclinic, or tilted, and that the position of the head was obstructing labor. She instructed the mother to walk up and down the stairs, which she did, with her husband by her side. The head resolved and the labor progressed quickly after that.

Nash remembers the husband’s surprise that the difficulty could be resolved so easily with so little intervention: “He said, ‘oh my god! Why didn’t I learn this in medical school?!’”

Other techniques that home birth midwives use to avoid medical intervention work just as well. If a woman is 14 days past her due date American doctors will induce labor using potentially harmful drugs or hormones, like pitocin, to get labor started. The River Valley Midwives use a different technique. “We have had 98% success with a combination of herbs and acupuncture,” says Nash, who explains that the first-time mother will go into labor, on average, ten days past her due date, a fact that means that she only has a four-day window before medical procedures are recommended. Instead of sending a client to the hospital, River Valley Midwives refers their clients to local acupuncturists to get labor started. One acupucturist, Amy Mager, has five children, four of whom were born at home. “If those [the herbs and the acupuncture] do not work, then we kick in with castor oil...and we have had a 100% success rate,” says Nash.

The cost of a home birth? Less than half of a typical hospital birth. “More and more insurance companies are covering home births,” says Nash, “because they are realizing how much cheaper it is.” River Valley Midwives charges a universal fee of $2,800 which, if paid by 36 weeks, is reduced to $2,300, and they are willing to make private arrangements with clients who have financial difficulties. A conventional hospital birth costs about $5,000, often more, depending on the interventions.

“I'm saddened by the stories of women who had hospital births and have negative feelings about their birth experience,” says Kirsten Kowalski-Lane. “My advice to women in general is to realize that birth is normal and safe. It's your experience, make it what you want it to be. Home birth is the optimal, it's how we should be treated.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Resources for Dads Dealing with Miscarriage

If you're an expectant father and your wife has a miscarriage, how do you deal with it? Miscarriage is sad for everyone and you may be so busy helping your wife get through the bleeding, D & C (if she needs to have one), and disappointment, that you conveniently stay out of touch with your own feelings of sadness. It turns out there are a lot of articles on the Web written by dads for dads who are going through that kind of hurt.

Here are some of the most popular links we found:
A Father's Perspective at Pregnancy and Baby: A sad, sweet article about the sadness one dad feels when he finds out his wife has lost their baby.

Miscarriage: A Father Speaks at the Fatherhood Institute: Another first-person account of losing a baby to miscarriage.

Dealing with Miscarriage at is not our favorite site for information (and tends to be a lot less accurate than Wikipedia, for instance) but this article by Wayne Parker is pretty helpful and thorough.

Miscarriages: Men Grieve Too at ask Mr. Dad: some practical advice for dads dealing with miscarriage.
Have you dealt with miscarriage? What helped you get through it? We'd love for you to share your story with us.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

More on Elie's Story

Here's an update about Elie, the baby we blogged about back in March, who was diagnosed with VCFS after she was born. This post is written by her mom, our friend Holly Smith:
What a difference a day makes—or, in this case, a couple of months.

After grappling with Elie’s VCFS diagnosis, we were brought back down to earth: In June, she was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH), a chronic, potentially fatal condition where the pressure in the vessels leading to and from the lungs is too high. Although they’re making tremendous strides in treating PH, the reality is that most people with PH die of PH.

So, in my darker moments (of which there are many), I'm terrified that Elie will die. Horrified. Paralyzed. Literally unable to breathe from the stress of it.


In other moments, I stand back and remember that she has as good a chance of beating PH as anyone else. The advances in treatment are coming fast and furious.

Even better, we learned at Elie’s angioplasty last week that her PH seems to be confined to just her left lung (something that’s practically unheard of).

If this continues to be the case, it could truly be a game-changer. Even if Elie needs to have her left lung removed someday, she could conceivably live a full, productive life with just one lung.

Honestly, when we got that news, it felt like the governor calling at one minute ‘til midnight. That’s how huge it was.

I even cajoled our PH doc into dropping the clinical-detachment crap and giving us a “Rah, rah!” before we checked out of the ICU after the angioplasty. It was a small victory, but we’ll take anything we can get for our “win” column.

Anyway, I have to believe that she'll make it. I really, really do. Because I can barely function during those times when I ponder her death; it truly makes the floor drop out from under me.

I'm trying so hard to live in the moment, as they say, but it's tough. I was holding Elie the other day, listening to the radio, when "Happy Together" came on. One moment, I was singing, "I can't see me loving nobody but you for all my life" to her, and the next, I was sobbing.

It's an overwhelming dance to do.

However things go, I’ll continue posting updates to (search under “EliesPage”); I’m praying ferociously that it’ll be all good news from now on.

Monday, November 3, 2008

NYT: Stay-at-Home Dad Loses 30 Pounds

There is a sweet as-told-to piece in the New York Times about how Aron Ward, a dad of three in south central Pennsylvania decides to stay home during his 3rd son's first year and loses 30 pounds taking his son out for walks and activities.

The full text is here.

Here's an excerpt:
My wife would probably say that I took good care of the boys that year but that I could have done a little better with the housework. On the days I had Jackson alone, I was always on the go with him. He wasn’t much of a napper, so I’d walk the mall with him in the stroller. I dropped 30 pounds in that year. In the summer I had all three boys, which was a little difficult because of the age differences and their different interests.

By last October, I was ready to start looking for work. I thought that I had taken Jackson a long way, and I felt confident that the little guy would do O.K. in day care at that point.

Anita is now director of claims for Rite Aid, but she had worked for Nationwide at one time and suggested that I interview with the company. She thought that I might enjoy the insurance field. I scheduled an interview and hired a baby sitter for a couple of hours.

Nationwide hired me last December, and I started there in January. I analyze the risk of offering insurance on certain properties and calculate the premium to charge. This helps agents determine if it’s worth it to offer property insurance to a retailer, for example. I work with about 13 insurance agents. The job has a lot of diversity, and I like the people aspect.

Still, it was hard leaving Jackson with someone else that first day. I can relate to how mothers who return to work must feel. He and I bonded that year. But by the end of his first week in day care, Jackson didn’t want to leave when I went to pick him up.

I’m glad to be back at work, but I miss the baby. It’s hard not knowing his routine, but I know he’s being well taken care of. I also miss walking the mall with him. I’ve put on a few pounds since I’ve returned to work. I’ve also stayed friends with a couple of the guys in the stay-at-home dads group, and our families get together occasionally. I don’t know one of them who would trade for the world the experience of being at home with their kids.