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Diet matters for a Healthy Pregnancy

A recent study led by Englund-Ögge with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Institute of Clinical Sciences at the Sahlgrenska Hospital in Gottenburg, Sweden showed the diet was very important for a healthy pregnancy and for lowering the risk of a preterm birth. Dr. Linda Englund-Ögge told Reuters Health in an email.

“Diet really matters when it comes to preterm delivery and it is very important for pregnant women to choose or to increase the intake of an overall healthy diet consisting of fresh and raw vegetables, fruit, whole-grain products, certain fish and to drink water.”

In recent years there has been more interest and more research done concerning maternal diet how it affects the risk of preterm delivery. In this study 66,000 Norwegian women participated between 2002-2008 to study the effects of diet and maternal health. Those who had a “Prudent Diet” consisting of cooked vegetables, salad, onion/leek/garlic, fruit and berries, nuts, vegetables oils, water as a beverage, whole grain cereals, poultry and fiber-rich bread had the lowest instance of preterm birth. Those with a “Western Diet” which included more salty snacks, sweets and chocolates, French fries, white bread, ketchup, sugar-sweetened drinks, pasta and processed meat products had a much higher instance of preterm birth.

There were a total of 3,505 preterm deliveries. The researchers found that women who adhered most closely to the Prudent Diet were 11 percent less likely to have preterm deliveries compared to women who didn’t follow the diet as closely.

“We would like for doctors, midwives and all others who work with pregnant women to reinforce the important message that pregnant women should be encouraged to eat a balanced and healthy diet,” Englund-Ögge said.

“There are modifiable risk factors that people can address to enhance their pregnancy outcomes,” Dr. Louis Muglia told Reuters Health.

Based on this study, he said, a balanced diet with more foods rich in vitamins and other micronutrients probably facilitates a full-term pregnancy. Additionally women that followed the prudent diet were also more likely to have other beneficial lifestyle habits which would contribute to good pregnancy outcomes. These women were more likely to maintain a healthier weight, smoked less and avoided alcohol.

“So I think there are a lot of things that go along with that prudent lifestyle that increases the likelihood of having a healthy pregnancy and reduces the likelihood of a preterm birth as well,” Muglia said.

This research is helpful in relying the message that we assumed for years, that as expecting moms we can positively affect our developing baby’s health by eating healthy foods during pregnancy and following a healthy lifestyle. The research noted that even the women in the “Prudent Diet” category did indulge in Western eatting from time to time and did indulge in sweets sometimes as well, but it’s the overall diet pattern that mattered the most. This is good news for all of us as it’s impossible to be perfect in pregnancy or anytime!

6 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy

1. Eat 5-6 well-balanced meals each day. Morning sickness is actually lessoned when you don’t let yourself go too long between meals, symptoms can actually get worse on an empty stomach. Meals do not have to be big, but try and vary your food choices and stick to healthy snacks and meals.

2. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Sometimes with morning sickness it’s easier to not drink as much with a meal and drink more between meals. Aim for 8-10 glasses a day while avoiding or limiting caffeine.

3. Exercise – it’s important to stay active during pregnancy, just stay cognizant of your exertion level and  hydrate frequently. Remember your ligaments and tendons are looser, so wear supportive athletic shoes to exercise and use good judgment in choosing your exercise– no wind sprints or downhill skiing! Also, take more breaks and keep in mind that your center of gravity is also shifting. Staying fit during your pregnancy will improve your overall health and make your postpartum recovery much easier.

4. Don’t drink alcohol or smoke. Also be careful about exposing yourself to second hand smoke. The jury is still out how much alcohol is safe during pregnancy. It is better to abstain drinking alcohol altogether than risk your baby’s health. There will be plenty of times for Happy Hours when your baby is older!

5. Wear comfortable clothing that you can move around in and that does not restrict blood flow. Non restrictive shoes are particularly important as you approach your third trimester. During this period of your pregnancy it is typical for feet to accumulate fluid and swell. Remember to prop up your feet during the day whenever possible to reduce any swelling.

6. Consult your doctor before taking any medications, even seemingly benign over the counter medications such as Tylenol have been found to be risky during pregnancy. Also consult your doctor for herbal remedies as these too can be risky for your baby’s development.

There seems to be a lot of “be careful” advice and “don’t do’s” during pregnancy which can sometimes feel overwhelming. For the most part you can use common sense and listen to your body about what is and is not a healthy choice during this time. Now your get to eat, drink and think for two, not just yourself which is an adjustment for most of us.  It is an incredibly important time during your baby’s development so although you don’t need to guilt yourself over every slip up you also want to use your best judgment for your baby’s optimal health and development. You owe it to yourself and your baby to be the best expecting mom you can be! Motherhood starts during pregnacy, so now is a great time to adopt healthy habits.

Tylenol during Pregnancy may be linked to ADHD

It seems there are so many rules during pregnancy that it gets very confusing about what we need to take, like Folic Acid, and what we should avoid, like alcohol, caffeine and many pain medications. Now the latest research has uncovered that many seemingly benign over the counter pain relievers, including Tylenol, that are often prescribed to pregnant women, may not be as safe as we thought.

A new study from Demark published Monday in the journal of JAMA Pediatrics now suggests that over-the-counter pain relievers with acetaminophen when used during pregnancy may be associated with ADHD behavioral problems in children. Although this is new research and the study authors were careful to state that “exhibiting ADHD-like behaviors” is not necessarily the same as being diagnosed with ADHD. All the same, it is cause for concern and for caution in taking medication containing acetaminophen as the active ingredient. This news is especially alarming since Tylenol has long been considered one of the safer medications pregnant women were advised to take for a fever, headache or the many aches and pains of pregnancy.

If you have taken Tylenol during pregnancy do not panic. The study suggests that the risk is more highly associated with taking acetaminophen for long periods of time and particularly later in pregnancy. The women in the study that reported used acetaminophen pain relieving medications for 20 weeks or more had a 50% increase in requesting ADHD medication in their children later on. It is too early to assume that this is a cause and effect relationship but there is certainly enough evidence to avoid Tylenol and any medication containing acetaminophen during pregnancy if possible or at least to be very cautious in dosage and how long it is taken during pregnancy.

This study reminds us to be extra vigilant about medications during pregnancy and to be sure to consult your doctor if you have any questions about any medication. No question is a stupid question for your doctor. Also it is important to do your own research on medications in addition to consulting your doctor as studies such as this one are very new and may not have made the rounds to all the medical communities. It is also important to have these conversations with your doctor to inform them of new information that may not have been known when they were in medical school and is not yet common knowledge.

This study is also a reminder that we cannot assume that what we did prepregnancy exercise-wise, work-wise, or medication-wise is also safe during pregnancy and nursing postpartum. Also, it is a constant re-evaluation of what is best as our bodies are constantly changing during pregnancy, so nothing is static. If you are having pain issues there are many non pharmacological ways you can explore to deal with pain including massages, baths and acupuncture to name a few. While we do not want to be paranoid about everything we do, it is also better to err on the safe and conservative side during pregnancy when in doubt.

Knowledge is power. It is important to do your own research during pregnancy and make your own informed decision about everything you decide to do. The end of day do not stress over your choices, just know you did the best you could do which is really what parenting is all about. None of us is perfect and guilt gets us nowhere, but informed decisions are the best way we can be the responsible and loving parent for our child that we all want and strive to be.

Folic Acid during Pregnancy may reduce Baby’s risk of Autism

Most of us have received the news flash that we should take our prenatal vitamins and in particular we should take our folic acid when we are pregnant. Folic acid is an important vitamin for helping prevent neural tube defects in babies. However, did you know that it may help reduce autism?

Now this is even more relatable a reason for most of us as autism is almost always in the news, seemingly on the rise or at least on the rise in terms of diagnosis and is surrounded by a shroud of mystery and debate over how a child can get it or be born with it.

A new study in Norway found a very strong correlation between a reduction in autism and women who took folic acid supplements four weeks before their pregnancy and through at least the 8th week of their pregnancy. Women who took Folic Acid daily during this time period saw a 40% reduction in autism in their children (when they were tested about 8 years later) as compared to the children of the pregnant women in the group who did not take folic acid for this time period. This is a huge reduction in autism!

Apparently timing does matter. The earlier you can start supplementing with folic acid prior to conception, the better. The study found that in terms of autism risk that the folic acid supplements did not seem to have any impact beyond the 22nd week of pregnancy. The crucial time interval was from four weeks before conception to eight weeks into the pregnancy.

Of course it does not hurt to continue on with folic acid throughout your pregnancy and who knows, maybe there’s further benefits or risk reductions that are yet to be uncovered from continuing with folic acid beyond the first trimester. However, what researchers have uncovered so far is enough evidence to start any woman even thinking about having a baby to be popping a folic acid supplement right away.

So what is folic acid? It is the B vitamin that helps with the construction and repair of DNA molecules which is the genetic code that controls all of the body’s cells, including the brain cells. It is especially important to take it early in pregnancy during the development of the baby’s spine and nervous system to prevent neural tube defects, including spina bifida. Doctors typically recommend that all women who are planning on getting pregnant to take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily from a multivitamin and continue taking this amount throughout their early pregnancy.

Now with 1 out of 88 children diagnosed with autism we hope that this research will help us reduce the risk of childhood autism and increase awareness of our ability to potentially prevent this disability by supplementing with Folic Acid early in our pregnancy and even before. Knowledge is power so let’s empower ourselves and those we know with this scientific knowledge and preventative health measure of supplementing daily with Folic Acid if we are pregnant or hope to become pregnant. It’s an easy lifestyle adder that can reap benefits in our child’s health and well-being for a lifetime.

Our Breast Milk is Smarter than We Thought

Just when we think we know everything healthy and nutritious and miraculous there is to know about breastfeeding and our baby’s health, we find out something new. A new study just uncovered even more amazing news about the mother’s body, it’s uncanny knowledge and ability to know our baby’s gender and produce customized milk for our baby girl or baby boy. (We already know it produced milk for the exact age of our child, be it premature or full-term, or a toddler a year or more after birth if we still nurse).

Interestingly, a common theme in humans, monkeys and other mammals is that there are a variety of differences in the quantity and type of milk that is produced for our babies depending on their gender. Baby boys tend to get richer or denser milk which has more fat and protein in it, providing them with more energy while baby girls tend to get milk that is produced in greater quantities. (Didn’t we always say baby boys were pumped full of adrenaline and our baby girls calmly nursed forever?)

Last Friday this research was shared at the Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting. Although it is not clear why human mothers produce such different milk for their girl or boy babies, there is evidence that this customized milk is developed while the baby is still in utero. This does give mothers more reason to try and breastfeed our baby with our individualized formula which our body intelligently produces for our child.

“Mothers are producing different biological recipes for sons and daughters,” said Katie Hinde, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University.

“While the food aspects of milk to some extent are replicated in formula, the immuno factors and medicine of milk are not and the hormonal signals are not,” Hende said.

As new research continues to uncover more interesting facts about mother’s breast milk, it is clear that breastfeeding is the optimal food choice for our baby. As we continue to learn more about our body’s ability to produce the ideal milk formula for our infant, we are encouraged about how this new scientific knowledge can also help other infants who are in need of specialized breast milk and who cannot get it from their mothers.

“Getting a better understanding of how milk is personalized for specific infants will also help hospitals find better matches for breast milk donated to help nourish sick and premature infants in neo natal units”, added Hinde.

It’s powerful knowledge to know that you are your baby’s best nutrition source and you are your baby’s perfect biological match, not only for giving birth but for continuing to feed, nourish and nurture your unique child.

If you are having trouble nursing, do not hesitate to ask for help. You can contact a lactation consultant or even a mother’s support group like La Leche League in your area to find the support that you need to help you nurse your baby successfully.

Happy Valentines Day!

Lovely-Valentine-Day-2014-Heart-3We all know Valentine’s Day is about love – all types of love – romantic love, friendship love, family love and basically showing love to everyone who deserves it (or not!) whether they be a teacher, friend or someone you would like to know more (aka secret admirer).

It’s a fun day of chocolate and hearts, candy, cards and romance. However I’m sure there are plenty of moms of school age kids out there who may feel a little burnt out by Valentine’s Day as it can become a bit of an “event” to prepare for with countless kids’ classmate valentines cards to oversee (as your younger child may want to painstakingly write out each classmates name along with a nice message while they are still mastering their letter formation skills). You may need to buy supplies and treats for the class valentine exchange as well as gifts for teachers, coaches, music instructors, grandparents and anyone else you might know. There are children’s class parties to organize, provide for and attend and help run and all sorts of extra after school events and parties to provide and participate in. Of course you need to remember to have cleaned/located/checked for fit or bought a red and pink shirts/dress for your child to wear to school for the day as you don’t want to be scrambling in the morning for the right valentine attire. Then maybe, just maybe if you are lucky, or have any energy left to change hats you might have a date night with your partner where you can look red hot to celebrate the romantic side of this love holiday. Of course that is provided you can squeeze it into the calendar and find a chipper babysitter who is free and dateless.

Yes, it’s easy to go to the dark side of Valentine’s Day, and not as in dark chocolate, but let’s focus on the love, candy and flowers part. Let’s embrace this holiday for all the goodnes and sweetness it has to offer and not worry about our kids getting a sugar high for a few days. Remember everyone will not find you out if you have not done everything perfectly. It’s OK if you child has misspelled their friend’s name on their valentine card, the mother of the child will not hold a grudge against you for life and probably won’t even notice. If you have forgotten chocolate or sweets for the teacher, give her a cute IOU note with a big heart on it and bring her a little something next week. I’m sure she will have enough chocolate to OD on over the weekend!

Cut yourself some slack on this holiday, so you can express the love it is really all about. Your kids will not know if you forgot to wash their red shirts and if they are a little crumpled that morning (they will most likely get candy and chocolate stains on it later). As long as there is a splash of pink or red or a heart, peace or love sign somewhere to be found on their clothing or accessories, it will do the trick. How about a bright red headband, scarf or red socks? Or last case scenario, grab a red sharpie and draw hearts on tee shirt. There’s always a way to improvise!

So, you might wonder, where did this extra work come from? Apparently it’s been going on for a while. Americans began exchanging handmade Valentines cards in the early 1700s. Then in 1840 Ester A. Howland, a savvy Martha Stewart type entrepreneur, began selling the first mass produced valentine cards in America. Creative challenged types clamored to buy her pretty valentine cards which were elaborate with ribbons and colorful pictures on them known as “scrap.” Soon the valentine card industry soon took off and Howland was known as the “Mother of the Valentine.” Now Valentine’s Day is one of the most popular card-sending holidays of the year, second only to Christmas, with over 150 million valentines exchanged yearly. Interestingly women purchase 85% of these cards -I’m not sure if that is because we are more giving and expressive and simply enjoy the holiday more or if we are too tired to scrap together our own original creation. I’m guessing a lot of the buying our “85%” do is really done for kids and family members and all the classmates and teachers our kids give valentine cards and treats to. So, for all intent and purposes it has become the mom’s event to manage and participate in.

The good news is if we want to be true to the Valentine tradition the entire month of February has long been celebrated as a month of romance. I think spreading it out is a better approach to Valentines as it takes the pressure off “the V-Day” itself. If you and your partner choose to celebrate another day in the month other than February 14th, even the last day in the month (just make sure it isn’t a Leap Year date but actually exists on the calendar), then that is perfectly fine. You can even have a different “family day” that you celebrate valentines with your kids other than their “class day” to deflate the pressure even more. Although for some, spreading out the love may bring more pain than joy. In short, you call the shots and do what’s best for you, just know there are options. I personally think Valentine’s Day should work around the Mom of the family, even if we have to find another patron Saint to affect this shift.

So be sure to drink up the love, alcohol free preferably if you are pregnant, and find some sweetness or indulgence whether it be chocolate, a manicure or a pregnancy massage at the spa. Remember you have the entire month of February to honor this tradition!

Mom Blogger and Burn Victim Survivor, Stephanie Nielson, Shares thoughts on Motherhood

As a Stay at Home Mom I am always looking for inspirational stories about mothering to inspire and motivate me to be a better mom. The other day I noticed a story about an amazing woman, Stephanie Nielson, who survived a plane crash with her husband, Christian Nielson, in 2008. Both Stephanie and her husband were badly burned by the fire from the plane explosion, with Stephanie sustaining burns of over 80% her body.

Stephanie was put in a medically induced coma for 10 weeks to survive the burns. Today she is alive and well as a mother of 5, but not without daily physical challenges and pain and scars from the accident, including significant burn scars on her face and hands.

Stephanie has a Mommy Blog called the NieNie Dialogues which she started before accident in 2005 as a 23 year old wife and mother of four. She continued with her blog after her accident when she could use her hands again to type and even published a memior about her experience, “Heaven is Here” in April 2012, the same day her fifth child, Charlotte, was born.

Recently Stephanie was the keynote speaker at a RootsTech Conference, a family history and technology conference. She spoke about the importance of documenting your lives.

“Document your families,” she said. “Document your life. You may not have been through a plane crash, but you do have a story. Everyone has a story, and it needs to be told.”

She also spoke about the preciousness of motherhood and how being a mother to her children was the driving factor in her survival and recovery from her accident. However her path to health and recovery was not easy.

“Each day, when I was in this excruciating, horrible pain, doctors and nurses would change my bandages, sometimes twice a week, and I still couldn’t move on my own,” Nielsen said. “Each day I was so discouraged. Each day I became a little more depressed, and my dream of being that mother I’ve always wanted to be my entire life was disappearing.”

When her kids first saw her after she awoke from her coma, she said they expected to see their mother the way she used to look and were shocked and frightened to find her disfigured and badly scarred. Her daughter, Jane, took one look at her and was too frightened to look at her again.

“After the visit I pretty much cried that entire day and night and weeks and days that followed,” Nielsen said. “I decided that I never wanted to be a mother again. But as the days went on, I thought a lot about our meeting. I think that meeting was both horrible as it was inspiring. I wanted my job back.”

Gradually she was able to get that job back of being a hands-on mother again. She was also able to get pregnant again and have another baby with her husband which was a dream of hers since before the crash.

Stephanie encouraged those at the conference to capture memories and document their family’s lives. It does not have to be through blogging as she does, but any tangible way – through scrapbooking, journaling, audio – and to never stop doing so. She told the people at the RootsTech conference that these documented memories will be a gift for their children and future generations.

“You are here today because you love your family, because you want a connection with your descendants,” Nielsen said. “I encourage you to find stories with your loved ones that can help you develop an attitude of gratitude for the ones who came before you. We are all survivors of something.”

This story inspired me not only to begin to scrapbook and start putting together those family albums and wall photo collages I have been promising myself to do since I first gave birth to my son 11 years ago, but also to take the time to actively appreciate my kids and the gift of motherhood more.

As Stephanie says, motherhood is “a job” and one that we are privileged to have. It’s not an easy job, but it can be a very fulfilling one and meaningful one if we take the time to appreciate the small moments of each day and to develop an attitude of gratitude. By taking the time to document and savor these experiences we help both ourselves be more joyful and grateful in our lives and provide our children with a wealth of experience, love and learnings to pass to future generations.

Like many of us, I am one of those moms who takes a lot of photos and captures a lot of images of my kids on my cellphone. We have literally thousands of photos stored on our computer of our children through every stage of their lives and then some – film is cheap, right? I am good about passing along a quick photo of my kids to grandparents and relatives or even a short video clip. However I have not been good about taking the time to put together something meaningful and accessible with all those photos for my immediate family, so we can enjoy the best of these cherished images on a daily basis and be reminded of the special moments we have had together in our lives.

There is a wealth of goodness in each day and we don’t need to be in a plane crash or to be a burn victim to begin to understand the messages that Stephanie’s inspirational story tells us. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday to do lists and the exhaustion of trying to keep up with the daily demands of parenting. Just taking a step back and altering our perspective a little to look for the light and goodness of each day and even just to be grateful for our physical abilities to be a mom, is something most of us can take to heart. I know I can.

SAHM Chronicles – What it’s REALLY like

In Annabel Monahgan hilarious article, “An open letter to my husband, don’t ask me what I’m up to today” she highlights how staying at home isn’t all “naps and brunches.”

Whether you are a professional mom on maternity leave or a seasoned Stay at Home parent of multiples, you quickly find out that staying at home with your child is often not as glamorous or as easy as it sounds. Also, the better the parent you try to be, the more work it is (and the less you productive you actually feel)!

Staying at home with your child can be the best job in the world; you get to spend more time with your baby or older kids, no business trips or early morning conference calls to deal with, you can wear anything you want, right? But sometimes it can be the most frustrating and undervalued in terms of feelings of accomplishment and value with no regular office hours and no paycheck to take home. Kids can be more unruly than coworkers and there is nowhere to hide and no one else to blame when things get rough or go wrong. You assume as a woman that mothering and homemaking come naturally so there’s no major learning needed; women have been doing this job for years so how hard can it really be? It’s not like you can get fired, right? But that whole assumption is a myth at best, you may not get fired but your family can give you a lot of grief if things start going haywire so that you wished you could get fired. Staying at home is a job and it is truly a labor of love that often goes unnoticed and underappreciated for all the work it is, mostly by the person doing the work herself.

After reading the satirical article by Annabel Monahgan where she details a few typical days of herself as a SAHM, I could not stop laughing at how closely it resembled many of my days at as a stay at home parent and probably the life of most of the SAHMs I knew. I promptly mass mailed it to everyone I knew who was a fulltime at home parent. Soon afterwards my inbox was flooded with exclamation points in vigorous agreement on the validity of this author’s humorous rant.

My husband did not think Annabel’s article was the least bit funny, and he seemed a bit insulted that I thought it was, that I maybe felt underappreciated in my job as a SAHM as he never minimalized my role (nor did he ask me to be a SAHM, I decided that one myself and spent a good couple of months convincing him and everyone else, namely myself, that it was a good idea).

I told my husband that the point of the article was not about blaming the husband for assuming he is quietly judging the SAHM wife for being unproductive or useless, the husband was in fact the “straight man”, even the “good guy” in this story and never showed any hint of disappointment in his wife’s chosen role, it was about the SAHM wife herself trying to justify her existence and sense of accomplishment in her daily life as it appeared she was doing absolutely nothing (as she was still in her pjs with dirty dishes and needy children at the end of the day when her husband returned home as she was at the start of the day when he left). She had in fact done plenty -racing around kids in and out of school to doctor’s offices, making meal, running necessary errands, doing the dishes, just nothing that seemed very important at the time. Everything she did and needed to do fell below the radar of even mentioning to her husband over coffee on most days of the week unless it was attending a School Board Room Meeting, where she would proudly enunciate Ex-ec-u-tive as part of her title in her appointed position as a school parent on the Board. However, the majority of her mundane and seemingly silly repetitive or stress inducing tasks were highly necessary in order to raise healthy, productive, nourished kids and to keep the house and everyone’s lives running smoothly. This in itself is a daily miraculous feat for any of us although it’s easy to not see or appreciate the effort that goes into this arduous task until you personally experience it first hand, everyday.

What really struck a chord with me (and other SAHM who responded to this article) was the lack of visibility of accomplishments in the mom-job. This is actually true for both working and stay and home moms. The difference is that the fulltime SAHM, unless they are highly secure evolved individuals, not in need of positive reinforce or monetary reward and who truly understand the meaning of life and their important place in the world, have very little tangible and visible day to day proof of their hard work.

For example, unless your house has gone from very messy to clean over the course of the day (which begs the question as to why you allowed it to get messy in the first place or why you haven’t better trained your children put away their clothes and clean up their toys), you generally don’t have a lot of “proof” of your accomplishments from that day, and you certainly don’t have a paycheck to show for it (although you might feel the need to justify the kid’s new spring wardrobe or even worse, new additions to your own wardrobe).

It seems the bar is always being raised for moms, not only are we expected to take care of the kids and their meals as a woman might have over 50 years ago who stayed home with her kids, we are also supposed to prepare meals that are properly balanced in the ever changing food group ideal and prepared according to the current guidelines of what is considered “safe” and “healthy” for your family to consume without some fatal allergic or carcinogenic ingredient. Even if ,say, you cooked a new dish for dinner that was properly organic , glutton free and vegan with the right balance of carbohydrates and protein according the food pyramid du jour, you have not really nailed it completely as a model SAHM. To be truly accomplished in this endeavor you must encourage your kids and husband to sit down at the table together politely and with good table manners (that in itself a monumental task), have everyone enjoy and eat all of the said meal while remarking nicely over its flavor and finish said meal on time before carting the kids off to their next activity or helping finish a homework assignment and or get kids showered and changed into pajamas AND get all of those dishes and counter tops cleaned up before bedtime before it could really be said to be a job well done with today’s high standards and expectations for parents, particularly moms. But you ask yourself as devil’s advocate, isn’t feeding your kids and family a nutritious meal on time just part of the job description of SAHM, not something you should get kudos for – just feeding the family dinner right? It’s not like you got a raise, promotion or invented a patent…

Of course the professional parent has the same dilemma for mealtime, but I know when I was professional parent I cut myself a lot more slack and leaned on my husband a lot more for meal preparation. It really boils down to self-assessment and expectations, which can feel insurmountable if we believe the myths of our culture.

So the measure of success is difficult for a SAHM and since no one is really interested in measuring it besides you, it usually boils down to you yourself being your own boss and oftentimes a pretty tough one when it comes to self-reviews of job performance. It’s a very ambiguous area, although it is clear when you are truly slacking and have missed the mark in certain areas…Like when the school calls to tell you that Johnny has been waiting at the school office to be picked up for the past 45 minutes and you forgot it was Tuesday when he doesn’t take the bus home. Now not only is Johnny late for soccer practice he is pretty grumpy at being forgotten and abandoned at school when you yourself told him you would arrive early to get him first thing in school carpool pickup lane that day. Instead he had to sit glumly as the minutes ticked away on the big school office clock as an unclaimed child next to the humorless office clerk who was not too thrilled with his humorless company either.

Or, you know you missed the mark when you get a stack of library notices in your kids’ take home folder that indicate that every one of your children have overdue books from the beginning of the school year that are not to be found in your house ANYWHERE at all. None of them. Also you owe the library double the costs of each one of these books although they would really prefer that you find and return the actual books themselves. But they are NOWHERE. You have checked in your kids’ backpack and all over your house, every room, drawer, under the kids’ beds, bookshelves, laundry bins, trash cans, outside in the backyard sandbox, nowhere. How big of a personal check do you need to write the library and how big of an apology do you need to give to the homeroom teacher and librarian to cover this mess of incompetence? Should you buy all the books on Amazon with overnight shipping to quickly assuage this debt to the struggling school library and your struggling ego as a responsible parent? Heck, this sin cancels out your week of volunteering at the School Book Fare last month!

Or how about the day when you forget to pack your child’s snack AND lunch which you only happen to find out about en route to dance class when your daughter casually mentions to you that she has not eaten ALL DAY as she did not have a lunch or snack at school (or think to buy one on credit or have the school call you) and is REALLY hungry! When you return home later you discover the untouched lunch box and pristine brown snack bag sitting innocently on the kitchen counter where it was neatly packed that morning and where it was unclaimed by your child and never placed in their backpack as they were running late to the bus that morning. It was also never noticed by you in the midst of your whirlwind morning routine. How did this slip through the cracks?

Or worse, your kid comes home sunburned from school and you later read the teacher email sent out to all the class parents cautioning that the kids should be sure to wear sunscreen to school along with their long distance running shoes with the current surprise heat wave that’s going on and with outdoor PE at noon as they are still running laps on the black asphalt on Wednesdays despite the warmer weather. You KNOW the email is targeted to you alone and that every parent on the mailing list who picked up their child at school that day MUST know it too as they have also seen your red-faced blond headed child sitting on the curb at the afternoon carpool pickup. Yes it’s easy to get a little paranoid or self critical. These are the days that you feel you have truly “failed” on the job and there are no two ways about it, because on these days even the President knows you do not deserve your title as “Mom” and the school principal himself must be calling Child Protective Services at this moment. But somehow the sun goes up the next day and you have a blank slate to start the day with and a chance to raise the bar and tally up some “Good Mommy Points”, although only you are really keeping score, right?

So it goes in the life of the Stay at Home Mom. But again, this is often a self-chosen profession, so no pity parties here and most of us are grateful for the privilege, although we do have our days in our pjs doing dishes at night when we wonder, what did we accomplish today? Just remind yourself, plenty.

Gisele Breastfeeding on the Job

elle-gisele-breastfeeding-hGisele Bundchen, as beautiful as ever, recently posted a photo on her Instagram account which takes multitasking to a new level. As seen in the photo she is getting her hair brushed by a stylist, getting her eyes done by a makeup artist and her nails painted by a manicurist (who happen to wear coordinating striped tops) all while simultaneously breastfeeding her baby.

My reactions to this scene is first, yes, how gorgeous (and calm!) she looks in the midst of this primping whirlwind craziness while she lovingly breastfeeds her child. Quelle entourage!!

Also, how good of her to prioritize her baby by unabashedly breastfeeding her child without lurking off to some hidden corner or caring what others thought of her openly breastfeeding. Life goes on and she’s back to work, but her baby isn’t going to take second place to her high end job demands.

My other reaction was, isn’t this the royal treatment we all could use as overworked moms, especially moms of babies and newborns? Heck I would still be breastfeeding my five year old if I had this sort attention and pampering!

Despite a little bit of envy (and wishing I looked half as good a few months or ever after having my babies), I have to take my hat off to Gisele for finding a way to prioritize her child and show that anytime is a good time to feed a baby and anyone who judges can simply leave the room. (I would also wager a bet that the continual primping and styling surrounding you as a supermodel can get a little wearisome after a while and may not feel like the spa indulgence that us normal moms may splurge on occasionally). However I would also wager a bet that most of us would trade our 9-5 jobs for this one if we could!

In a 2010 interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK edition Gisele raised eyebrows with her strong pro-breastfeeding stance stating that a worldwide law should require all mothers to breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life. She went on the say, “Are you going to give chemical food to your child when they are so little?”

Although I wholeheartedly support breastfeeding and agree that it is without a doubt the best thing you can do for your baby nutrition wise, particularly for the first six months of life, I also appreciate that it is sometimes extremely difficult for every mom to breastfeed fulltime given work and other demands. Certainly breastfeeding on the job may be easier in certain professions than others, but I do like the fact (as so glamorously demonstrated in Gisele’s photo documented example) we can all get creative and try to figure out a way to pull it off sometimes.

For example, pumping milk for a caregiver to feed your baby is a good option when nursing is not possible with your job or life demands. Many a professional mom has found that pumping (often while on a conference call) is the key to continuing breastfeeding when you need to be away from your baby by day. Even nighttime nursing alone is highly beneficial to your child and helps in your mother-baby bond if you are limited in the time you can spend with your child. Additionally, nighttime nursing also helps stimulate your milk supply more than pumping alone. In tandem, nighttime nursing and pumping for daytime feedings can often meet all of your baby’s feeding needs when you need to be at work or away from your baby during the day.

Gisele’s more tactful follow up comments in her personal blog are far more helpful and supportive of moms in general than her initial comments:
“I understand that everyone has their own experience and opinions and I am not here to judge,” she wrote. “I believe that bringing a life into this world is the single most important thing a person can undertake and it can also be the most challenging. I think as mothers we are all just trying our best.”

My thoughts exactly. We are all trying to do our best as moms day by day and as part of this parenting community we should support one another wholeheartedly in this endeavor.

Surprise Babies are Surprisingly Common

Although most pregnancy test news is welcome/expected/ long hoped far, not all are. In fact according to recent statistics it is estimated that almost half, 49%, of all pregnancies are unplanned in the United States.

Most American families want two children. The average American woman spends five years pregnant, nursing and postpartum or trying to become pregnant. The next three decades she tries to avoid unintentional pregnancy. By age 45 half of all American women will have experienced an unintended pregnancy and 30% will have had an abortion.

Personally I find these statistics very surprising. We all hear about unplanned teenage pregnancy, the “bonus baby” in the family with two kids or the “miracle baby” for the mom who suddenly gets pregnant in her 40’s after adopting two babies thinking she was not biologically capable of having a child with her husband. But who knew that what seemed like the exceptional unplanned pregnancy, is actually a normal and common occurrence, even if everyone is not admitting their child, or the timing/spacing of their child, was unplanned.

Being a mom of three children I often get the question, “was your third baby planned?” It’s usually posed by people I don’t know well or virtual strangers who believe it’s a perfectly OK benign question to ask. I suppose anytime you go over the average two kids per family, you are assumed to have a surprise baby. I am also continually amazed by how many people readily admit that their third baby was not planned and came as “on its own” or “out of nowhere.” I have yet to encounter a parent who says that they regret that surprise child or that it has not impacted their life in some positive and unexpected way although many will admit they “have their hands full” or “it took an adjustment period” to regulate their lives.

Although we welcomed every child in our family, we did not “plan” their exact birth timing (although all were born in November somehow) and were pleasantly surprised each time the test came back with a positive blue line. There are ways to be pretty bulletproof when you are really done having children and many couples over 40 who are “sure” they want to be done, have utilized multiple methods to insure they don’t have any more additions to their brood. Sometimes I think the ones that don’t use multiple foolproof methods may not be convinced they are truly done and are leaving a small window to fate or chance to decide if another child is part of their family’s destiny.

My advice to women everywhere who get pregnant unexpectedly and who choose to keep their baby, is to feel better knowing you are not alone in having an unplanned pregnancy and that having another child in your family can be a truly positive experience. Yes all babies are hard work and expensive, but hard work isn’t always a bad thing and you learn as you go, even when life throws you a curve ball. Half of American moms have experienced an unexpected pregnancy, although you may not hear about it. Also I would venture to guess that the majority of those moms are happy to have the surprise child (even if it was a shock initially and took a little warming up to) and grew to love them every bit as much as any “planned” children they might have had.

Life does not always go according to plan, but wouldn’t it be boring if “The Plan” never changed and was so predictable. There is always something good than can come out of a surprise or a challenge. A miracle baby may be just what you need in your life and future.