Monday, December 21, 2009

Holding Your Baby

A lot of books -- and well-meaning family members and friends -- give you tips on how to put the baby down without waking him up, and there are dozens of contraptions (the bouncy chair, the crib, the cradle, the bassinet, the bucket car seat, the baby gym, the playpen, the stroller ... and more) you can buy to put a baby in.

But what if dads just hold their babies instead of putting them down?

Holding a baby close to you is good for the baby and good for you.

The time goes by so fast. Soon the baby will be wriggling off your lap. Then one day she'll be too big to carry. Hold her while you have the chance.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fathers and babies in the news

There are two new posts over at Motherlode about fatherhood.

One that suggests that more fathers are wining custody battles in divorce settlements.

And another about the NYT Magazine cover story questioning how we define paternity.

ABC News published a story yesterday featuring James di Properzio and Jennifer Margulis and their homebirth without a midwife or doctor present two weeks ago. Here's an excerpt:
Margulis' husband James Di Properzio was not convinced at first. He was worried about the few births that do not go smoothly.

"I wanted to know what the contingency was, and how we were going to know when to go to the contingency," he said. Being a short drive from the hospital and having a midwife standing by to call helped, he said.

Jennifer went into labor the night before, and in the morning told di Properzio to take the kids, Hesperus, Athena and Etani, to school. When he came back, she got into the shower, where she stayed under a stream of warm water until she felt the urge to push. Di Properzio helped her into the bedroom, where she gave birth to a healthy girl — Leone Francesca — who di Properzio caught.

"Once the baby was out she was asking if it was OK," James said. "I felt completely calm and confident. I was chuckling and laughing with joy as the baby's head was coming out and not concerned at all."

Jennifer said it was one of the hardest things she had ever done in her life.

"And I am still in awe of the fact I am here to tell you about it," she said. "Once she was born, we were both laughing. We were laughing and crying at the same time. I said, `We actually did it. we did it ourselves.'"

Monday, November 2, 2009

Another Reason Not To Feed Your Baby Out of a Jar or a Plastic Bag

Plum Organics, a company based in California, has recalled "portable pouches" of its baby food because of a fear of contamination with botulism.

If you have apple or carrot portable pouches with a best by date of May 21, 2010, they may be spoiled.

This "food" was sold through megastores like Toys-R-Us.

Get more information about the recall by calling 888-974-3555 or by e-mailing info[at]

A letter to parents (in PDF form) from the company can be found here.

While it's good to see organic food going mainstream, babies (like grown-ups) need to eat their food freshly prepared. Buying products that have been highly processed and heated and have been sitting in plastic for months on a shelf is not a good choice for your baby.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Take Your Kids to LEGOLAND for Halloween Fun

Legoland goes all out for Halloween. They have spooky Lego creations and a trick-or-treat path for kids. If you've never been there and you're looking for something fun to do with your kids, consider going.

Here's an article Jennifer Margulis wrote about LEGOLAND for the Ashland Daily Tidings:

“This is the best day of my life!” Victoria Hilden’s 7-year-old daughter Hannah told her mom while they were at Legoland in San Diego.

Hannah and her 4-year-old brother Fisher, like hundreds of other Ashland children who have been lucky enough to go there, love Legoland. “What was the best for me was that we could say ‘yes’ all day long,” says Victoria. “It was their day from ten to five and I loved that they could make all the decisions.”


If you’re just hearing of it for the first time, you may be wondering exactly what it is. An amusement park specifically geared towards children ages 2-12, Legoland is an amazing place filled with life-sized creations made from … you guessed it, Legos.

As you walk around the park, you see Lego dinosaurs, Lego moms pushing Lego children in prams, Lego sharks, Lego pirates, Lego You Name It. A feat of creativity and engineering, these Lego creations are astounding to adults and to children.The rides are fun too.

Wildfires aside, San Diego has near perfect weather and is a wonderful place to take children—with its beaches, museums, Balboa Park, world famous zoo, palm trees, seafood restaurants, and whatnot. Better yet, if you’re willing to drive from Ashland to Sacramento (which takes a little more than four hours), you can get Web deals from Southwest Airlines to San Diego for as little as $49.00 round trip.

The downside to trips to San Diego? America’s Finest City is not a well-kept secret and people from around in the world will be with you when you’re there, even in the off-season.

To beat the crowds at Legoland, try to go on a weekday and get there the minute the park opens and stay as long as you can (even once the rides are closed you’ll enjoy looking at the Lego sculptures). Eat lunch early or late, and go on rides at noon when everyone else is getting hungry. “Summertime the best days to come are Tuesdays and Wednesdays,” says Julie Estrada, Legoland spokesperson. “During the fall and winter we’re closed on Tuesdays and Wednesday so Fridays are the best day to come. Parents usually take a Monday off as opposed to a Friday so Fridays the park’s a little less crowded.”

Splash Battle—a ride where you can spray other boats with sprayers from yours—is a favorite with every age group, as is the Driving School. Sponsored by Volvo (Legos are Danish made), this ride lets children ages 6-12 take a “driving test” in real mini cars. There’s a junior driving school for toddlers, ages 3-5 as well. Children have to follow red and green lights (watch out!) and traffic signs. At the end of the “test” they get a license.The roller coasters are also popular. Estrada calls these “pink knuckle” attractions because they’re not too scary. There’s the Technic Coaster, which has a four-story drop (get there early to avoid lines), and The Dragon, a coaster which first takes you through a dark indoor scene of knights, dragons, and loot and then boom! onto a wilder outdoor coaster ride.

In the excitement of shows and rides, it’s easy to miss Miniland USA but you should spend some time checking it out. There you’ll see San Francisco cable cars, 19th century Victorian houses, the Southern California coastline, and Las Vegas casinos made out of Legos (20 million Legos to be exact).

“Another great thing was the Lego bulk bins in one of the stores,” Victoria Hilden says. “I’m frustrated with the lack of standard Legos available in toy stores today. All you can find are sets and they’re all geared towards boys. We let the kids pick and chose their own colors and sizes—the big score was the little clear window pieces!”

Know Before You Go
Located in Carlsbad, about 40 minutes from downtown San Diego.
Tel: 760-918-5346 Web Site:
Parking: $10. Tickets: $80 for adults and $68 for children. Get discounts from hotels and combo packages.
Avoid lines by buying tickets on line. Looking for other cool things to do this Halloween? Check out A Traveler's Library's spookiest place in America and her round-up of other Halloween activities.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Help Your Wife Tie Her Shoes

There are lots of ways for fathers to be involved in pregnancy. The more you bond with your wife, the closer you'll feel to your new baby once he or she is born.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Doula in Ashland, Oregon

Our friend, Jenny Johnson, has started a doula service in Ashland, Oregon, for pregnant couples looking for a kind and calm birth attendant to be with them during labor.

Here's her announcement:
I am excited to announce that I am now offering my services as a birth doula in the Rogue Valley! After learning and studying as an apprentice with homebirth midwives, giving birth to my four children, and completing the Doulas of North America training workshop, I am ready to serve my community in this capacity.

I offer emotional and physical support throughout the childbearing year. My services include prenatal meetings, continuous support throughout labor and birth, and postpartum visits as well.

I share information with clients about various topics relating to pregnancy, birth and the care of new babies.

Jenny Johnson
(541) 482-6064

Friday, October 16, 2009

Musings of a Happy SAHD

This guest post is written by Robb Peck, an avid letterboxer in Vancouver, Washington, and a stay-at-home dad. Read more about his family at Out & About w/ Happy SAHD

Musings of a Happy SAHD
(as in Stay At Home Dad)

I started being home not long after our second child turned a year old and I lost my job, catapulting our family into a new place. Like millions of other Americans who have had this happen, I felt a bit betrayed and more than a little dismayed. I had spent better than half of my life training and practicing my profession, and suddenly I was no longer in charge. It was hard to shake that off and get going on looking for a new job while helping out around the house.

At first, I resisted the whole “Mr. Mom” thing. Sure, I would get the kids up and fed, do some cooking (more chances to use the grill!), and tidy up the house, but I was still in charge of the 'big' things – the cars, the yard, maintenance & repairs, etc. After all, I was still looking for a job, and my focus had to be on that. But, as life would have it, my wife and I ended up in a complete role reversal when she rather quickly found a great full-time job that paid better than mine.

We had a hard choice to make: If she kept her job and I eventually found one, we would have no one at home, and our kids raised in daycare – a choice we had long ago decided not to make. And it kind-of made sense: I had spent the better part of my life training to become a teacher, with 13 years of experience in the classroom – why not stay home and raise our kids?
So I've been a SAHD through the "terrible twos," potty training and preschool to now kindergarten and the wonders of the 5-yr-old "why" with our son, and from kindergarten and favorite 'dollies' through scouts and sleepovers with our 8-yr-old (going on 18-yr-old) daughter.

I've been the kids' social director for play-dates, birthday parties, summer camps, and sports.

I've gotten to do things many fathers miss: celebrate the first time my boy used the 'big potty'; spend an afternoon playing pirates on the playground, build massive 'forts' out of all the chairs and every blanket in the house (and then have it all put away before mommy comes home!); see my children grasp the concept of phonics and read something brand new; or hold my daughter after school the first time another girl made fun of her clothes and crushed her ego. I also get to do amazing things like chaperone field trips to the pumpkin patch, help out in my kids' classrooms, and take my kids after school to volunteer down at the homeless shelter.It's different, however, being a SAHD.

Most moms wear it as a badge of honor if they are a SAHM: they are sacrificing their 'working life' to spend the quality time it takes to raise kids right, and be there for them.

But many of these same SAHMs treat a SAHD as if there must be something wrong with you, as if it’s not okay for a man to stay at home and let his wife go earn the paycheck. I've experienced the strange, guarded looks from the mommies at the park and the children's museum. I've actually seen mommies guide their little ones to the other side of the playground when I was playing with my son on the slide or swing. And I've had play-dates turned down because only I—not my wife—would be home to supervise.

Oddly enough, even though I'm there with my kids – just like them – it takes a bit for some to realize that I'm not out 'cruising' to pick up moms, or stalking their kids. Once I got past the stares and snubs, several of the SAHMs have become good friends, with us trading off watching each other's kids now & then.

Some working fathers aren't exactly sure how to treat a SAHD either, especially when I might spend an afternoon at their house – or their wife might spend an afternoon at our house – while our kids are playing. One thing that seems to help a lot is to invite the whole family over for dinner one evening so everyone gets to know each other a bit better first. (And yes, I do the cooking. If you're passing through town some time, we'll have you over. I make a mean stir-fry and pot roast, and have become a bit of an expert with homemade breads - especially pizza crust. I even cook once a month at our church for about 100 people or so...) Then there are the friends who can't imagine that you actually like being a SAHD. Again, there's the perception that there must be something wrong with me since I've stopped looking for a job. I've had the ex-coworkers ask about when I was going back to the classroom. And I've fielded calls on my cell phone from my old buddies 'ribbing' me about being "Mr. Mom." Of course, I was playing with my kids at the zoo when they called!

Though a lot of my new ‘job’ is fantastic, it's not all fun and games. When a kid is burning up with a fever, or puking their guts out, my wife heads off to work and I get the 'pleasure' of dealing with it. I've picked up a lot more of the housework, of course, but I still take care of the cars, yard, maintenance, repairs, etc. I also do the bulk of the laundry (kids' clothes, sheets, towels, etc. - my wife prefers to wash her work clothes herself), the shopping (which is really fun with a 3-yr-old), and most of the errands.

All-in-all, it's wonderful being a SAHD - with an incredible, intense time to really bond and get to know and help shape your kids - and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

A lot of our society looks at mommies who stay home as almost 2nd-class citizens. Yet, I've learned the real secret – they have the best job in the world!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ashland, Oregon Resources for Pregnant Women Who Want to Stay Fit

A front page article in yesterday's Tidings, written by co-author Jennifer Margulis, lists the many ways pregnant women can stay fit in Ashland, Oregon.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

A new study conducted by researchers in Norway has discovered yet another benefit to exercise for pregnant women: In addition to keeping moms-to-be healthy, exercising while pregnant also helps keeps down the birth weight of the newborn.

The study, published in the October issue of "Obstetrics & Gynecology," tracked the outcomes of over 35,000 singleton births in Norway and found that regular exercise — at least three times a week — reduces the chances of giving birth to an excessively big baby by 23-28 percent.

Too-big babies (the scientific name for this is "fetal macrosomia") have been linked to increases in birth complications, including post-partum hemorrhages, C-sections, and low Apgar scores.

Although the authors of the study report that fetal macrosomia seems to be on the rise and that the numbers of pregnant women who exercise regularly are on the decline, that does not seem to be the case in Ashland. where it is common to see pregnant women bicycling, walking, swimming, and doing yoga.

"Women who get plenty of exercise during pregnancy benefit in innumerable ways," said Sheryl Grunde, owner of, who teaches prenatal and postnatal yoga classes in Ashland. Grunde, 33, also offers pay-what-you-can massage for pregnant women and works as a doula (a trained birth assistant) at Ashland Community Hospital.

"Healthy, regular metabolism, a strong heart and low blood pressure, and the ability to breathe deeply are some benefits to exercise that come to mind," Grunde said.

The list of Ashland, Oregon resources at the bottom of the article are as follows:
**Prenatal yoga classes cost $12 (less for a punch card) and take place on at the Ashland Yoga Center (at Fourth and A streets) Wednesdays from 6 to 7:15 p.m. Contact instructor Sheryl Grunde at 541-951-7474 or for more information. Grunde also teaches postpartum mom and baby yoga classes at The Studio at Fourth and B streets on Mondays at 10:45 a.m. Participants must pre-register for this six-week class. Focus is on core strength, stretching, and baby play.

**Prenatal swim classes at the Ashland YMCA, free for members or $10 (for a guest pass to the Y), are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 5 to 6 p.m. Contact the YMCA at 482-9622 for more information.

**Ashland Community Hospital offers an early pregnancy class ($10), a prenatal yoga class ($10), a four-week basic childbirth education series ($50, which includes a book), waterbirth and doulas class, breastfeeding, and a four-week monthly infant massage class, as well as a free one-day class for siblings-to-be and a free new parents group that meets Wednesdays from 1 to 3 p.m. For more information call the birth center at 201-4210.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Dads Experience Postpartum Depression Too

Since Brooke Shields came out of the closet about her struggle with depression in her book, Down Came the Rain, after her daughter was born, it seems like more people in America are attuned to the fact that many, many women suffer from postpartum depression (PPD).

Most studies about postpartum depression focus on the mother's experience, including this new one by researchers in Spain, but it's important to remember that dads can get depressed after a baby is born as well as moms.

Here's a description of what one man who suffered from PPD went through (from an article in US News & World Report):
The birth of John Hyman's first child didn't fill him with the joy he might have hoped for. Far from treasuring every minute with his son, the Rockville, Md., college writing instructor reacted by teaching more courses just to get himself out of the house. "I didn't know what my role was there," recalls Hyman, now 51. His wife, by contrast, bonded instantly with their son, Jake, now a teenager. "Betsy fell in love. It was primal," he says. "I didn't have that experience. I thought I was broken. I remember thinking this was a dirty little secret I would have to deal with."
As much as 10 percent of new dads are affected by PPD, which can strike any time in the first year of a child's like.

According to the recent study of postpartum women only by researchers at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, there are ways to predict women who are at risk for postpartum depression. These include:
1. Lack of social networks and support
2. History of previous depression or psychiatric difficulties in the family
3. An emotionally or physically difficult birth or complications at birth
The researchers also point out two protective factors that make it less likely for women to experience postpartum depression:
1. Age of the mom: older moms are less likely to suffer than younger moms
2. Working during pregnancy: moms who work while pregnant tend to suffer less depression than moms who do not
We wonder what all this means for dads?

If you are feeling depressed or displaced after the birth of your baby, it's important to know that that feeling is normal and temporary and that your experience is nothing to be ashamed of.

The best thing you can do to combat those negative feelings is to talk about them--probably not with your wife--and to find other dads who can understand what you are going through and offer you support. Talking to a social worker or a psychologist can also help. Joining or even starting a dads' group and visiting on-line support groups for dads will make you feel less alone. Finding ways to be involved with your baby, right from the start, can also make you feel better and more connected to your family.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Home Birth Just as Safe or Safer Than Hospital Birth

A new study by Canadian researchers published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) concludes that planned home births with a midwife in attendance have comparable or better outcomes than hospital births in Canada.

The researchers explain:

"Planned home birth attended by a registered midwife was associated with very low and comparable rates of perinatal death and reduced rates of obstetric interventions and other adverse perinatal outcomes compared with planned hospital birth attended by a midwife or physician."

Canadian families who chose to give birth at home suffered from fewer iatrogenic complications, according to the study which compared data from over 2,500 births in British Columbia. Women birthing at home were less likely to experience:

-Electronic fetal monitoring
-Augmentation of labor (this is a fancy way of saying drug-induced labor, which can be very painful and have other negative consequences)
-Assisted vaginal delivery

Better for the Mother, Better for the Baby

The researchers write: "Compared with women who planned a midwife-attended hospital birth, those who planned a home birth were less likely to have a newborn who had birth trauma, required resuscitation at birth, or required oxygen therapy beyond 24 hours."

You can read the entire study here.

So should you consider a home birth? Yes. Even the most conservative birth advisors will tell an expectant couple to labor at home for as long as possible to avoid unnecessary complications at the hospital. Ina May Gaskin, perhaps the most famous midwife in America, estimates that the first stage of labor (that is, before pushing) usually takes at least 15 hours but in a hospital women are rushed, stressed out, and on a time line. They are told their bodies are inadequate or they are having "failure to progress," even though normal, healthy labors can take three or four days and this kind of negative feedback can discourage a laboring woman and make her doubt herself and her body's ability to birth. If an animal in nature is laboring and senses a predator (comparable to a discouraging doctor in a hospital), her labor will stop. In America, the more a doctor intervenes, the more money the hospital makes. How can we trust people who have a vested monetary interest in medicalizing labor to make the right decisions?

Birth is a natural process that women have been doing successfully (out of the hospital) for thousands of years.

The safest thing you can do for your wife, yourself, and your baby is stay home.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cup of Comfort looking for couples essays

A call for submissions from writer moms and dads to write about being in a couple. You can read more about it at their Website but here it is for any readers who have a loving vibe going on and want to try their hand at getting published:

A Cup of Comfort® for Couples:
Stories that celebrate what it means to be in love

It is said that love works in mysterious ways. And this anthology will reveal the many mysteries as well as the inner workings of true love. Of course, being a "happy couple" involves more than being in love, and making a romantic relationship work takes more than romance. So this book will feature uplifting true stories with a balanced mix of tones—romantic, poignant, humorous—and on a wide range of topics: From falling in love to the secrets of lasting love. From celebrating special moments between you to overcoming bumps in your relationship. From experiences that brought you closer together to experiences that threatened to tear you apart. From endearing rituals to challenging changes. From sparkling new love to glorious golden love. Or any other topic that speaks to the joys, the challenges, and/or the nature of a romantic partnership that works for you. Narrative essays preferred. Story Length: 1000–2000 words.

Deadline: October 20, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Don't Cut Off Your Newborn's Penis

This op-ed ran in the Ashland Daily Tidings a few weeks ago. Our stance on circumcision is definitive: it's an unnecessary procedure that has no proven medical benefits and it is not something any dad should decide to do to his newborn. If a boy wants to decide to cut off his foreskin as a sexually active adult, we should leave that decision up to him.

Keep America's baby boys intact
By Jennifer Margulis
Guest opinion
August 26, 2009

On Tuesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held a meeting in Atlanta as part of a four-day conference on HIV prevention to discuss how to urge non-circumcising communities in American to circumcise. At the same time, the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has long remained neutral on the subject, is currently revising its guidelines in favor of circumcision. Growing up Jewish in America, I never questioned circumcision. But now, after having children and seeing how grown men in my life continue to suffer psychologically because of a procedure done to them as infants, I've come to believe that circumcision is not only unnecessary, it's a painful and traumatizing procedure that should not be done in infancy, if at all.

Deciding whether to circumcise is a decision that every American parent of a boy faces, though the majority simply choose to follow the doctor or hospital's recommendation.

According to an Aug. 24 article in the New York Times, approximately 79 percent of all adult American males are circumcised. According to Intact America, a nonprofit organization trying to stop routine circumcision in America, circumcision is the most common surgery performed in America and it happens to more than 1 million newborns a year, more than 3,000 times a day, or once every 26 seconds.

Before my brother Zach's wife gave birth to their third child, I started receiving frantic emails from a 28-year-old male relative whom I'll call J. "Do you know if they are planning to circumcise?" J. wrote me. "Could you find out about it? Could you tell them not to? Could you talk to them?" As the due date approached, the messages become increasingly desperate, as if J. felt that circumcision were a matter of life and death. At the same time, J. was ashamed for being so worried. He asked not to tell anyone that he was inquiring; he said he felt embarrassed and couldn't talk to my brother directly. He begged me not to mention to his mother, especially, how worried he felt about Zach's baby.

J. himself is circumcised. Circumcision is part of my family's cultural heritage. All of my relatives, including my father, my uncles and my grandfathers, have been circumcised. In the Bible, God actually commands Abraham to circumcise his male descendants. Practicing Jews hold what is usually a festive ceremony, called a bris, on the eighth day of a boy's life during which his foreskin is removed either by a doctor or a mohel, a rabbi trained in circumcision. Even in countries where circumcision is not the a norm, the majority of Jews choose to circumcise.

Yet it is not for traditional reasons that health officials want to see an upswing in American circumcisions. Recent health studies in Africa suggest that circumcised heterosexual men are less likely to get an HIV infection than their non-circumcised counterparts. Circumcision proponents also argue that urinary tract infections are less likely among circumcised men, and that it is necessary for cleanliness. They discount the pain involved in the procedure and argue that it creates no lasting damage.

Those in favor of circumcision for medical reasons are wrong. First of all, the procedure is painful, even with the administration of anesthesia. Anyone who has ever witnessed a circumcision (you can watch one on the internet if you don't believe me) and heard the high-pitched scream of a newborn having the tip of his penis cut off knows that this surgery causes terrible pain. For the week that the cut is healing, a baby is peeing and defecating on a raw, open wound. Circumcision is also dangerous. Just this past March a jury in Atlanta awarded $1.8 million in damages to a boy's parents after a seriously botched circumcision.

It's also a procedure that causes lasting regret in some grown men. J. feels so badly about being circumcised that he is on a campaign to stop all of us having children from circumcising. Other men I know wish their parents gave them the option to choose instead of forcing them to undergo a painful procedure as one of their earliest life experiences. If there really is a correlation between circumcision and HIV prevention, then we should let adult men choose to have the procedure done once they are sexually active.

My brother's baby turned out to be a girl. But my own son is not circumcised and if the baby I am carrying now, due in October, is a boy he will not be either. Forced circumcision of newborns is wrong. Let's not impose trauma on newborns and instead give adult men the right to choose.

Jennifer Margulis is a professional writer and the co-author of "The Baby Bonding Book For Dads." Read more about her at

Monday, September 14, 2009

When a Newborn is in the NICU

It's daunting for anyone who is not part of a hospital staff to walk into a NICU -- the intensive care unit of the hospital for newborn babies. First there is the protocol of having your identity checked and then the ritual of hand washing (usually 1-2 minutes with warm water and antibacterial soap).

Then there's the place itself: little tiny preemies and other sick babies in incubators attached to machines that fire off statistics about their vital signs. Bells are always chiming and these horrible alarms start ringing when a baby stops breathing or shows other signs of distress. The exhausted doctors and nurses rush around looking stressed out trying to keep every little charge in their care alive.

If it's bad for friends and relatives, it's that much worse for parents. The NICU is not a place anyone wants to go.Several new studies show that for parents with premature babies the stress and trauma of having a baby whisked off to the NICU can last for years afterwards, according to an article published in the New York Times. The article cites several scientific studies indicating that a NICU experience can create lasting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Though many children who come early have few if any problems, being born premature (which is defined as pre 37-weeks gestation) can lead to a host of lifelong health problems and retardation.

In America these days we seem to do everything to keep premature babies, even micropreemies who may not have a chance at a normal life, alive. We use aggressive intervention and the latest "advances" in medical technology.

Sometimes this absolute determination to keep a baby that did not get a chance to gestate fully alive seems misguided. If a child is going to grow up to have terrible health and other problems and a poor quality of life, is it fair of us to try to defy nature in every way we can to keep that baby alive?

To read a detailed article on premature birth first published in Pregnancy Magazine, click here.

To read a first-person account of visiting a friend's baby in the NICU, click here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Guest Blog by Tara Rose Crist: Baby Bonding Begins in the Womb

This post is written by Tara Rose Crist.

The Baby Bond Begins In The Womb: Slow Down To Love And Be Loved.

“Babies are exquisitely sensitive to their surroundings in the womb… Babies do not live in a fortress but in a mother. If she is assaulted, babies will learn about violence; if she is generously loved, babies will learn about love.” David B. Chamberlain, Ph.D.

Recently I attended a neonatal resuscitation workshop held by Karen Strange, a midwife, lecturer, and educator from Colorado. While there were no male attendees -- as most were midwives, doulas, and mothers -- much of the information is valuable to ALL parents, especially dads.

In addition to teaching the fundamentals of resuscitation, Strange presents several days worth of pregnancy, birth, and parenting info in eight hours. The underlying theme of her work and teaching style is one of making contact.

So, how can we best connect to our babies, even while they are in utero?

First we have to connect with ourselves. We must learn to be present and slow down. What? Slow down? You have 20 million things to do, right?!

But it just takes a minute to BREATHE. Feel your feet on the floor. Feel your fanny in the chair. Look at your surroundings.

Do you feel a little slower? A little more aware?

When we slow down, we are more present. And when we are present, we can connect more deeply with others, including our children -- even when they are in the womb -- and our spouses.

Strange argues that a baby feels what its mother feels and experiences what its mother experiences. All that the mother senses stimulates the release of chemicals in her body, and the baby lives in this constant flux of the mother's experience and chemistry. Babies drink and bathe in their mother’s thoughts, sensations, and hormones. They also sense what is happening outside the womb. As Strange puts it, to a great degree “babies are their mothers.”

So a father's relationship with the baby begins with his relationship to the mother and the baby while the baby is still in the womb.If a father’s loving contact with the mother produces oxytocin (a love hormone) in her body, then the baby will be momentarily drinking and living in this love cocktail. The experience of being loved while in the womb helps the baby’s relationship with its parents. It knows it is in a loving, nurturing environment. It knows it is wanted. It can also feel the presence of the papa, differentiate the tone of his voice, and sense the father’s emotion through the mother.

When oxytocin is released in the mother -- whether it be from chocolate, exercise, sex, a back rub from her partner, or anything else pleasurable -- it has a natural calming effect on the fetus.* So, not only is it important for the expectant mother to slow down, love her baby, and do things that are pleasurable to her, but the baby can feel its father’s presence too. A baby can feel papa’s love, as it can feel papa’s love for the mother and mama's pleasure.

Say hello to the baby, build a relationship during gestation, be loving to your wife. Your baby will feel it too.

For more information, visit Strange's Web site: NewbornBreath.Com.

Another helpful resource is the website for The Association for Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health. APPPAH’s vision is to illuminate “the life-long impact of conception, pregnancy and birth on babies, families and society.”

* It has been reported that the more peace and pleasure an expectant mom experiences, the calmer the baby is when it arrives OUTSIDE the womb. Just as body development occurs in the womb, personality development begins there too. But, on the flip side of this, some doses of stress hormones in the mother’s body are normal and even important, as they prepare the baby for the normal challenges of living life on earth. Best for all involved, however, is if the love hormones outweigh the stress ones.

Tara Rose Crist is currently completing a degree in English at Southern Oregon University (SOU). She is also a doula in training and an avid equestrienne.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Book Signing in Jacksonville on September 12, 2009!

When: Saturday, September 12, 2009

Where: Jacksonville Books
555 N 5th St
Jacksonville, OR 97530-9704
(541) 899-3202

What: Jennifer Margulis will be signing copies of Toddler (ask her why it was BANNED in Ashland), Why Babies Do That, and The Baby Bonding Book for Dads, along with author Janis Hunt Jackson, who will be signing copies of her book about healing through prayer, Five Smooth Stones: Our Power to Heal Without Medicine Through the Science of Prayer.

Why?: On September 12th in Jacksonville over 5,000 people come to town for the city-wide DOWNTOWN SIDEWALK SALE.

Don't miss this exciting day in one of the Rogue Valley's quaintest cities. Please stop by and chat with us!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Have Fewer Children To Reduce Your Carbon Impact

A new study by scientists at Oregon State University suggests that Americans should have fewer children to reduce their carbon footprint.

This seems like a logical conclusion, given the way American children (and families) squander resources, overuse, and overconsume.

Yet as a society we do not support men and women who do not want children. Take A., a friend who tried to get a vasectomy in his 20s but could not find a doctor who would agree to perform it. A. felt he did not want to contribute to environmental degradation by producing more of the invasive species known as homo sapiens. The doctors worried he might change his mind later.

A. didn't change his mind. But he did have an accidental pregnancy with his wife that resulted in an abortion. The vasectomy could have helped avoid that.

If we are really serious about Americans having fewer children, we need to make all kinds of birth control cheaper and more readily available. We also need to promote vasectomies and other sterility options instead of discouraging people who seek them out.

If you read the fine print, the OSU study also mentions that, if you look on a more global scale, large families do not have the impact that large American families do. In Niger, for instance, very little carbon is emitted by rural families, who often have as many as 11 children. They do not use electricity, most do not drive cars, they bath in one bucket of water or less per person. Their contribution to global warming is miniscule.

Then you see American families with just one child who consume vast amounts of resources. Most people we know with SMALL FAMILIES have at least 2-3 cars. Many Americans drive gas guzzling vehicles they have no real need for. People take 20+ minute showers, wrap everything in plastic, overheat their houses, and obsessively mow their lawns with gas-powered mowers. They also generate huge amounts of unnecessary trash without being conscious that they are doing so. Our habits in this country are embarrassing. People do not think about their behavior when they put apples in plastic bags at the grocery store, buy food that is imported from New Zealand, and turn on the air conditioning when they can simply open their windows at night and close them in the morning.

The real problem in America is not the number of children we have but how we are raising them: to be selfish, dependent, and over consuming.

To read the article about the new findings, click here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pregnancy and Poison Oak

Poison oak grows shrubby and close to the ground and it's hard to imagine that a plant this innocuous looking could cause so much damage but if you have a bad immune reaction to it and you also happen to be pregnant (or your wife, more likely, is pregnant), prepare to suffer for a long time.

According to a midwives, doctors, and naturopaths, poison oak is so much worse when pregnant than in real life. In real life it's horrible (though some people only get mild cases or have no reaction at all). In pregnancy you can expect the site of the infection to swell up like someone inflated your body part, to ooze yellow pus, to itch uncontrollably, and to take WEEKS AND WEEKS AND WEEKS (did we say weeks) TO GO AWAY.

If your pregnant wife gets poison oak, try to be very very nice to her.

The best thing is prevention -- of course. But, duh, you knew that already and you wouldn't be reading this if you didn't get it.

After that, what? Really bad cases are treated with an injection of steroids or orally taken steroids (prednazone is the steroid of choice) but you can't take those if you are pregnant unless your reaction is so severe you are in a death grip because these steroids are known to be toxic to fetuses.

They are also toxic to adults.

Our friend was out hiking. He pet a dog on the trail (animals don't react to the urushiol that makes humans so sick) and then went to relieve himself in the woods. He used his hand to guide the stream, and ended up with poison oak on his johnson. Ouch. The doc gave him a shot in the butt. It helped the poison oak infection but also gave him 'roid rage, turning him from a mild mannered never-raises-his-voice peace-loving dude into a screaming angry freak who got a red card in a soccer match.

Not the kind of medicine you want your fetus absorbing.

But don't believe anything you read on the Internet about poison oak because ... IT DOESN'T WORK. None of it works. Not to be negative or anything but if your wife gets poison oak, hunker down for a lot of pain, a lot of really awful itching, and almost no relief of any kind.

Cold compresses do help, especially ice.

We tried two homeopathic remedies -- Apis and the classic poison oak one, Rhus Tox. They did nothing.

Benadryl taken orally or applied topically helped a little. But only long enough to sleep comfortably until the drug wore off and then the infection--actually it's an overactive immune response the urushiol itself isn't the problem--took over again and sleep was gone. Think hours and hours of itchy agony.

Technu only helps if you apply it when you are exposed. You can try it. The fumes will make a pregnant woman woozy and nauseous but do nothing to help the poison oak.

Also, expect it to spread, because it will. All over your poor spouse's body. From the site of the infection it will migrate systemically to other places. If you get it on your leg, expect it to show up on your index finger.

It's so awful.

And you are in for at least three weeks of agony.

After the initial wound was superating for days, we gave in and used a topical steroid cream that offered some relief and seemed to help the reaction slow down. The small print on the label information said it is KNOWN to be secreted by the liver and to be TOXIC TO RAT FETUSES but the doctor said it was worth it or we would end up in the hospital. Maybe the baby we're expecting will be born with two heads. Let's hope not.

Try other stuff. Search the internet. Get your bed filthy with baking soda goop and calamine. But the best thing is really ice cold water, plenty of rest, a non-inflammatory diet, tons of vitamin C, and a hugely generous serving of patience.

You're in for a long haul. We're right there with you.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

On Boredom and Parenting

For the record, I don't think James has ever admitted being bored while parenting but here's a column I wrote awhile ago for the Ashland Daily Tidings that I thought might resonate.

On Boredom and Raising Children

By Jennifer Margulis

I got a blithe email from a friend today saying she was having a fantastic time this holiday season with her two children at home on vacation. When I mentioned to another friend who has three kids that I, on the other hand, was going crazy with my munchkins, she looked at me as blankly as if I were speaking Chinese.

“Yeah,” she said, her voice full of faux sympathy, “I had the feeling you were having problems.”

It was clear from her condescending tone that she and her brood were in perfect harmony, that kids in general do not drive one crazy, and that she found it impossible to imagine being in a similar state of frustration and boredom.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way but why is there such a stigma attached to admitting that sometimes parenting leaves you so bored you feel like your brain is drying up? If your experience as a parent is or was all candy cane sweet and apple pie homey, read no further (why would you?) but I am hereby opening the door to my parenting closet and telling this truth: I get bored sometimes (shh, it’s a secret).

“Mommy, let’s play Bad Guys!” My 4-year-old son suggests while his older sisters are at school and we’re spending the day together. Bad Guys is his favorite game. He’s the Bad Guy. I’m the Good Guy. He does bad things. I die. I come back to life. He decides to turn to a life of good and then we are both good guys and we root out the bad guys and … force them to be good (or kill them). That’s the game. My son can play it for hours, in many iterations on the same general theme. My son’s 4- and 5-year-old friends can also play it for hours. I am 38 and I can play it for about five minutes. Then, as I run away from the Bad Guy at my heels, I start picking up toys off the floor, finding that tidying the house is actually a rewarding activity when compared to Bad Guys.

So then we decide to play Chutes and Ladders … for about ten hours. Since Etani’s newly four, he makes up his own rules to this game. His rules involve zooming his piece around the board like a racecar or hopping it over all the squares like a bunny, never going down a chute, and winning, usually all in the first spin. It’s so much fun to play Chutes and Ladders “My Way” and involves so much uproarious giggling—from both of us—that we have to do it over and over.

I’m so bored I find myself noticing there are only two boys on the board who aren’t white, and both of them are doing something naughty. There is one African-American girl planting tomatoes who gets to climb a ladder. Is this game contributing to racist notions in the United States? Why are so many more black women going to college than black men? What am I doing to fight global oppression?

“Mommy!” Etani cries, interrupting the first thought process I’ve had all morning: “Your turn!”

I suggest we go for a walk. He rides his bicycle and I trot beside him. We’re outside, the air is cold and clear, my son is adorable, the sky is blue, I’m grateful to be alive and be with my child. Later a friend tells me she drove by us and I looked like a glowing and proud mother helping poochie on his bicycle. She’s pregnant with her first baby and she just found out it’s a boy.

“Mommy! I know what!” Etani hollers. “Let’s play Bad Guys and I chase you on my bicycle. Okay?”

I don’t tell Abby the whole truth. She’ll find out soon enough.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Rally in Medford, Oregon this Thursday to Support Health Care Reform

Mothers Voices For Health Care Reform (Fathers' too!)

Thursday, June 25, 5 - 6 p.m.
Vogel Plaza
Main & Central
Downtown Medford

A rally to show support for health care reform that will give all parents peace of mind. We support Obama's goal of providing QUALITY AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL.

Wear red on Thursday in heartfelt support of health care reform.

Write to the public officials in your state. In Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley has become an eloquent spokesperson in favor of reform.

Senator Ron Wyden, also a democrat, has NOT signed on to the idea of a public health insurance plan. We need to tell him to get on board the Obama train and to stop being silent. Representative Greg Walden, a Republican, also has not committed to any of the principals of health care reform.

Please send personal letters about the importance of health care reform to Senator Wyden at:

Senator Ron Wyden
310 West 6th Street
Room 118
Medford, OR 97501

To fight the big business interests involved in this debate, we all need to speak up about our support for change. Polls this week by non-partisan polling groups show that 72-83% of Americans support a reform of our nation's current health care system.

For more information, call HEALTH CARE FOR AMERICA NOW at 541-772-4029.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Reason to Have a Second Child

This news story in the Oregonian really touched us.

A 14-year-old boy, Baltazar Delgado, woke up in the middle of the night to find his house on fire in Keizer, Oregon. The first thing he did was go into his sisters' room to help them. Though his 10-year-old sister was already awake, his 6-year-old sister was still sleeping in the top bunk. He woke her up and carried her through the smoke and fumes and out of the burning house.

This is what siblings are for: to protect each other, be together, and save each other's lives.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Green Baby Expo in Chico, California

This event looks like it would be great fun for moms, dads, and babies. If anyone goes, let us know. It's sort of last minute, but we're toying with the idea of being there!

Green Baby Expo

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Russia Gives Money, Awards for Big Families

The AP and other news sources around the country (we heard about it on NPR) reported a few days ago that Medvedev had invited moms and dads of large families to the Kremlin to honor them with money and kudos.

Apparently Russia is facing the "threat" of a huge population decline and Medvedev wants his people to go forth and multiply.

The award is called the "Medal of Parental Glory."

I'm not sure a massive decline in homo sapiens is really so much a problem--perhaps it's a solution--if you take a longer view of what's going on with global warming and environmental devastation caused by people but it does seem rather warm and fuzzy that large families are being honored.

Our favorite part of what Medvedev said is that the award should be given to both parents, not just the mothers.

We need more international recognition of the importance of fathers in parenting. Right on Russia.

Now, do you think that family with the 16 children could be convinced to park their cars and bicycle?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

When Fathers Kill Their Children

My brother, who's a lawyer in New York City, says that infanticide is a lot more common than parricide, especially if a man's children are living apart from him with an estranged spouse. There have certainly been some disturbing cases recently of fathers who murder their children, or are accused of murdering their children.

Fifty-nine-year-old William Parente is one of these dads. This tax and estate planning lawyer murdered his wife and his two daughters (ages 11 and 19) in a Sheraton hotel room in Maryland before taking his own life last month. Apparently he cut himself and bled to death in the bathroom. A cleaning lady found the four bodies. The New York Daily News reported that the deaths did not happen quickly.

No one is sure why he did this but an investigation has made it clear that Parente's finances were in ruins. I can only think he killed his family with the mistaken idea that he would be saving them from the shame of bankruptcy? He was obviously mentally deranged at the time but the story is so sad and so bizarre.

Still, ascribing some kind of charitable motive to this father who murdered his family makes little sense given that Parente, who was apparently a deeply religious Catholic, beat the shit out of his wife and daughters before strangling them to death.

Another absolutely mortifying story of a father turning on his family is the Chris Coleman case, which has been reported on Fox News.

Thirty-two-year-old Coleman is accused of strangling his wife and two sons, Gavin and Garret, in their home in Columbia, Illinois. He has pleaded not guilty. I can't help thinking that if he isn't guilty (what motive could he possibly have for killing his family?) the fact that he's been arrested while grieving for the loss of his family and branded as a murderer is even more devastating to an already shattered life.

When Parenting published an article about moms being mad at their spouses by Martha Brockenbrough, it was so widely read that the New York Times blogged about it. But the recent news suggests the opposite: that dads are so mad at their wives, and their families, that they are sometimes willing to commit murder.

Monday, May 18, 2009

We Heart Cloth Diapers

There's a recent AP article exploring how some frugal parents (they say moms but we say moms and dads) are turning to cloth diapers to save money in this difficult economy.

We all need ways to save money, an excellent reason to use cloth diapers.

There are lots of other reasons too, some of which are mentioned in the article but some which you won't hear about in the mainstream press.

#1 Here's one of the most interesting: some scientists theorize that the rise in male infertility among European men is partially connected with the widespread use of disposable diapers. Here's why--the male genitalia is on the outside of the body to stay cooler in temperature. Parents tend not to change disposable diapers as often as cloth diapers, because you can't tell when they are wet, thereby unnaturally raising the temperature of their child's genitalia.

Moral of the story: whatever diaper type you use, give your son as much air time (fanny exposure) as possible.

#2 Babies in cloth potty train earlier: This makes parenting a lot easier. Babies in cloth diapers learn to associate peeing with wetness more readily than babies in disposable diapers. The new cloth diapers are so state-of-the-art and amazingly dry that maybe this isn't as true as it used to be but it still seems to be the general case.

#3 Cloth diapers are cutier: Absolutely adorable. Your kid won't only be an ecobaby, he'll have the cutest derriere on the block.

#4 Cloth diapers aren't big business: A lot of people making cloth diapers are stay-at-home parents and small business owners. We heart them and we want to support them.

#5 Cloth diapers are easy to clean: Especially if your newborn is breastfeeding, you'll be so surprised how easy the cloth diaper washing thing is. First of all, you don't need bleach or ANYTHING like it. Second of all, you can get away with washing pee pee diapers on cold (we swear -- just put a little vinegar in the rinse water) and poopy diapers on warm. Honest.

Friday, May 8, 2009

U.S. ranks 27th, Niger ranks last

This is so sad, though Save the Children's annual Mother's Day Report Card isn't telling us anything we don't already know.

Basically that it is very difficult to be a mother in the United States, which ranks 27th among the 158 countries surveyed. Niger -- where James, Jennifer, and their three children lived for a year -- ranks dead last.

The United States is among the richest countries in the world, and the most powerful. Yet we have arcane policies about motherhood, fatherhood, and early childhood.

The highest scoring countries (Ireland, Denmark, France, and Norway are among them) have child-friendly policies, good health for mothers and children, and high economic and educational status for mums.

Sweden ranks first.
In the United States, an alarming number of children are at great risk of failure in school because they are not getting the care and support they need in their early years. New Mexico, Nevada, Mississippi, Arizona and Alabama are the bottom five states where young children face the greatest obstacles to success in school. These states scored low on indicators of parental involvement, quality of home life and preschool participation. Parents in these states are clearly struggling to give their young children a good start in life – and as a result 71 to 81 percent of fourth graders in the public schools in these states are not reading at grade level. Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine are the top five states where, generally speaking, parents and communities are doing a better job of preparing children to succeed in school. (p.5)
You can access the PDF of the executive summary of the report here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Children (and Babies and Grown-ups Need to Eat Food)

Here's a novel suggestion -- feed your baby, your older kids, and yourself food.


Humans need to eat food.

But we don't.

We eat processed crap that is nutritionally devoid and then "enriched" with everything the processing of the food took out of it.

News flash: cereal (even Cheerios and Special K, despite what you see on the TV ads) is not food. Poptarts aren't food (you already knew that). Granola bars aren't food. Anything wrapped in plastic with unreadable and unpronounceable ingredients does not count as food.

Don't make your baby's food out of a box or a jar or a plastic bag.

Instead, buy a yam, steam it, and mush it up. Feed that to your baby. And have some yourself.

We see moms and dads putting Coke in baby bottles. Or orange juice. Skip the juice altogether and let your baby drink water and breast milk. Formula, folks, also isn't food. It's nasty manufactured crap that companies are making a lot of money selling, so much so that they can afford to give it away for free in the hospital. These companies even get away with brainwashing new parents that their babies aren't getting enough breast milk.

Some studies are finding that processed baby food is even worse than junk food. Click here to read an article about this.

Rant over. Go buy some apples, oranges, green beans, arugula, spinach, artichokes, chicken, grass-fed organic beef, celery, broccoli, cherries, cheese, edamame, peanuts, walnuts, beans, brown rice, grapes, pears ... and feed that to your family and yourself.

There's an epidemic of obesity among preschoolers in America. If we all start eating REAL FOOD, we could stop it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Dr Jay Gordon on How Unvaccinated Kids Do Not Put Others at Risk

Commentary by Dr. Jay Gordon, MD Associate Professor of Pediatrics, UCLA Medical School

The article in the Los Angeles Times this morning has generated a lot of discussion and I was asked to respond.

Unvaccinated children do not pose a threat to vaccinated children or their families. We all have a responsibility to keep each other's children safe. Choosing to not vaccinate or choosing an alternative vaccine schedule could be considered a rift in that contract. Medically, scientifically and statistically speaking, it is not. Honest people might disagree.

I have been a pediatrician for thirty years and have watched children receive all scheduled vaccines, some of the vaccines or receive no vaccines at all. I have seen every one of the illnesses against which we vaccinate. The last time I saw bacterial meningitis in a child was 1982 but the extreme rarity of this terrible disease means that it makes the news whenever a case occurs. Denying that childhood meningitis exists is dishonest. Equally dishonest is implying that it is a large threat to any of our children. I see kids with pertussis every year. I see children misdiagnosed with whooping cough far more often. Two years ago, the New York Times took note of this phenomenon:

New York Times article

2009 marks the thirty year anniversary of the last case of "wild polio" in the United States. Subsequent cases were caused by the oral polio vaccine which is no longer used in this country.

WHO/CDC supported site

Rubella is no longer an "American" disease.

CDC Press Conference

I recently read an article, written in 2009 which chastised non-vaccinating parents because there had been 131 cases of measles in the U.S. in the first half of 2008 alone. And how many cases were there in the whole year? 134. The usual number? 62. Disingenuous reporting. An extra 72 cases of measles among 300,000,000 Americans made the papers every day or two for months and the LA Times writers dredge up the child who caught measles on a Swiss vacation one more time.

Yes, as mentioned, measles and other viruses can cause encephalitis. It's very, very rare. Implying otherwise could scare parents.

And, no, the law does not allow us to know which children have not received vaccines any more than it allows other invasions of privacy.

I have received hundreds of emails from people all over the country and the world reaching out to me and asking me to listen to them about vaccine issues and injuries because it seems that no one else will. I have permission from a mother to forward email she sent to me-with a picture-of her four month old daughter who received four vaccines and died shortly thereafter. I have dozens and dozens of similar emails and dozens of face-to-face encounters in my office with parents coming to me after what they considered to be vaccine damage to their children. I will not forward that email. It creates a different kind of fear that also doesn't serve the dialogue well.

I think that these possibly injured children and families represent one end of the bell shaped curve and that scary stories about meningitis in Minnesota (the first there in 18 years) represent the other end. (I do feel that the former end of the curve is far fuller than the latter but no proof exists. None.)

The LA Times stories were "fear-based" just as my forwarding these emails would have been.

The University of Michigan Law Review recently invited me to write a journal article about vaccines and tort law and you can read it here.

I sum up my law review presentation to parents every winter by telling them that the only way to avoid childhood illnesses is "reverse isolation" of your illness-free child. If you go to a two-year-old' s birthday party during the winter months . . . You will probably get sick.

Peripherally, let's all remember that it took fifty years or more, thousands of court cases and a lot of money to finally prove the connection between cigarettes and cancer. The three court cases showing no connection between vaccines and autism should make no headlines and should be an impetus to honest investigative journalism.

We have increased the number of vaccines and the combinations of vaccines given to babies and children. Adequate testing has not been done. I have seen a huge rise in the number of children with autism. Neither I nor any other doctors are hundreds of percent better at diagnosing this spectrum of developmental delay than ten or twenty years ago. The dramatic rise in the number of cases of autism spectrum disorders is attributable to something other than "reclassification" or better diagnosis.

While waiting for scientific proof, we have to tolerate families' completely legal and scientific desire to have or not have their children given vaccines according to the current schedule.


Dr. Jay Gordon

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

TriangleMommies Blogs About "Toddler"

There's a review over at of "Toddler: Real-Life Stories of Those Fickle, Irrational, Urgent, Tiny People We Love." I love the review as Andrea is just the kind of person the book is designed to reach -- someone running around after toddlers who has no time to read but is eager, nonetheless, to find out how other parents are coping with their 1, 2, and 3-year-old terrors. Here's an excerpt from what Andrea has to say about the book:
Hi, everyone! Right now I am reading the absolute best book possible. My daughter turned two last week, and although I've been skimming through this book for a while, I find that it seems to be hitting home a bit more these days. BIG TIME!

I am reading Toddler: Real-life Stories of Those Fickle, Irrational, Urgent, Tiny People We Love, Edited by Jennifer Margulis. And I LOVE IT! It's a compilation of short stories written by mothers and fathers of toddlers. They share their trials and tribulations, stories of protecting their young ones, playing with them, viewing things from the eye-level of the toddler, and much more!

The stories are short and sweet, totally to the point, and easy to sneak a read in while hiding in the bathroom. Come on now, I know I'm not the only one who does that. One dad even used it as the topic of his story, reminding me that we're all in this together.
We didn't pay her to write that. Honest! We don't even know her. But it's very nice to hear that the book is making a parent feel like she is not alone, which is exactly what I hoped it would do. You can read the whole review here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Babies are bad for marriage

I just got this press release from the Council on Contemporary Families:

Old News: Having a Baby Will Save Your Marriage

New News: No, After Having a Baby, Satisfaction With Marriage Goes Down for Most Couples

New New News: Having a Baby Won't Improve a Poor Marriage, but Couples Who Plan the Conception Jointly Are Much Less Likely to Experience a Serious Marital Decline

And Really Good News: Couples Who Establish a Collaborative Parenting Relationship After the Child Is Born not Only Have Happier Marriages but Better-Adjusted Children

In the mid-20th century, marital counselors often advised couples that parenthood would increase their marital satisfaction and adjustment, and polls showed that most Americans believed that true marital happiness depended on having a child. But over the past three decades, a series of studies, including two by Philip and Carolyn Cowan and another 25 studies in 10 industrialized countries, have discovered the opposite. On average, satisfaction with marriage for men and women goes down after the birth of a first child and continues to fall over the next 15 years.

Today, conventional wisdom seems to have swung the other way -- holding that babies bring trouble to their parents' marriage. A recent New York Times article by Tara Parker-Pope (Jan 20, 2009), quoting from the most recent studies, points to the time bind facing new parents and the burden on women resulting from increased household work as factors in reducing marital bliss. She holds out hope to her readers by reporting the finding from a 50-year longitudinal study of Mills College women that couples are likely to re-connect once their children leave home.

For parents of young children, that's a very long time to wait. And it's not good news for the children either, because children are more likely to have social, emotional, and academic problems when their parents' marriage is in distress.

But many of these findings on marital distress in the early childrearing years are based on the uncritical use of averages. More in-depth examination reveals that the averages hide considerable variation. The Cowans' detailed interviews with 96 couples, followed for 6 years after their first babies were born, revealed four different pathways that couples take in deciding to become pregnant and carry the pregnancy to term. First are couples who agree about when to begin trying to become pregnant (about half of their sample). Then there are the couples who "find themselves pregnant" and decide to "accept fate" and go ahead (about 15%). Another set of couples (about 20% of the sample) are still ambivalent when they reach the 7th month of pregnancy. Finally, for some couples who are at serious loggerheads about the decision, one spouse agrees to become a parent only because the other threatens to go it alone (about 10%).

The Cowans found that the average decline in marital satisfaction was almost completely accounted for by couples who (1) slid into having a baby without planning; (2) were still ambivalent about becoming parents in late pregnancy, or (3) disagreed about having a baby but went ahead and conceived without resolving their difference. About half the planners showed increased marital satisfaction or maintenance of their initially positive level in measurements taken when their babies were about 18 months old. ALL the couples where one partner had given in (usually the man) were either separated or divorced by the time their first child entered kindergarten.

Other studies conducted by the Cowans in the 1980s, 1990s, and the first decade of the 21st century, involving 1000 families, identified another important contributor to dissatisfaction with the couple relationship after childbirth, even when both partners equally wanted the child. After the birth of a child, most couples become much more traditional in their approach to housework and childcare. No matter how much they think the tasks will be shared, most women wind up doing more housework work than they did before the birth, and more of the childcare than they expected. The discrepancy between what the couples hoped for and the reality of wives having to take on a "second shift" at home leads to feelings of tension, depression, and sometimes anger in both partners.

To alleviate this source of dissatisfaction, the Cowans have been working with couples in groups, allowing parents with children around the same stage of life (making the transition to parenthood, sending a first child off to school) to share the fact that all are struggling to balance the complex demands of being parents, partners, and workers in today's society, and to get past blaming each other for their stresses. Follow-up assessments show that the couples who meet in the professionally led groups are more likely to maintain a positive view of their relationships, to work together more effectively to resolve disagreements, and to be warm while also setting limits with their children than couples without this resource. Not surprisingly, their children are also faring better in both the preschool, elementary school, and high school years, according to their teachers.

Given these findings and the challenge of having a baby, the Cowans say, it isn't wise for an eager spouse or would-be grandparents to pressure couples to become parents before both partners are ready. In light of the long-term consequences of the transition from being partners to becoming parents on the quality of both adult and parent-child relationships, the decision to start a family should not be rushed. Partners need to start by having a discussion or a series of discussions -- not by making a decision. If both partners can express both sides of their feelings, it is less likely that one partner will carry all the ambivalence for the couple.

When both partners feel they are part of this major family decision, they are more likely to be able to meet the challenges of balancing the needs of both partners in terms of work and family. All this bodes well for their developing relationship with each other and with their child -- and ultimately for their child's sense of security and well-being.

The bottom line? When men and women work together to plan when to have children and then establish a collaborative approach to parenthood when children are young, it's a win-win situation for the couple and for the children.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Calling All Dads (who write)!

Cup of Comfort is looking for essays from fathers on parenting for a new volume called A Cup of Comfort for Fathers. Here's what they say about it:
The connection between father and child can be as deep as the ocean, as strong as a mountain, and as uplifting as fresh air. For all its rewards, though, fatherhood is not without its challenges. And for all the gifts dads bring to their kids' lives, dads sometimes falter and fumble. Yet, the father-child bond forms, holds, and grows. A Cup of Comfort for Fathers will feature inspiring and insight true stories about the life-defining and life-enriching relationships and experiences shared by fathers and their children. These personal essays will be of varying topics and tones (heartwarming, humorous, poignant, provocative, etc.); about fathers and children of all ages and varying circumstances; and written by fathers, daughters, and sons.
The deadline is April 15, 2009.

You can read more about submitting here.