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Parent Chat: Pregnancy - Preschool
NPN Amy J. posted an event in Community CalendaruntilWe're excited to launch Parent Chats! Your monthly virtual opportunity to join in on a casual conversation centered around topics that matter to you. Unlike our monthly webinars that are more structured and have a presenter and topic - you get to lead the discussion, vent about current happenings, or just observe and chime in as you see fit; think of it as our forum in video format! Sitaara and Amy from the NPN staff team will join you. If you've been craving connection but not eager about getting out in the real world for it to happen - we hope you join us. Here are the topics and dates for each Parent Chat this June through August. Participating parents will be automatically entered to win raffle prizes at each chat! In this June chat, focusing on pregnancy - preschool, you could win: - A one hour consultation with infant sleep expert, Serene Swaddles - A one hour consultation with childbirth educator, Serene Swaddles - A birth options consultation with Jo Ann Lindberg of Birthlink June 9th: Chat about the early years: pregnancy - preschool July 14th: Talk about the elementary school years: Kindergarten - 6th grade August 18th: Celebrate the tween-teen years: 7th grade - 12th grade
The Power of Community: How a Resource Fair Helped My Family Thrive
NPN Sitaara posted an article in Articles DirectoryIt was an early Sunday morning in March 2012. I did not get much sleep the night before, because I was 4 months pregnant with our second child, and our first child, Luke, had just received a diagnosis of autism and epilepsy. To say that I was stressed would be an understatement. Related: Your Child Received a Diagnosis, Now What? After speaking to my nursing pediatrician, it was recommended that I join a few community groups for support and resources. It was in this search that I found out about a resource fair that was created for parents just like me - parents that were overwhelmed, stressed, and on the hunt for resources and community. I was determined to provide my children with the best options available and realized that attending this fair might help me do just that. Overwhelmed with loneliness, desperation, and fear of our new normal we went to our first NPN Developmental Differences Resource Fair (DDRF) that morning. If I close my eyes right now, I can remember the moment I walked into my first NPN Developmental Differences Resources Fair. I can remember looking around and seeing so many resources and so many families, like mine, all in one room. Instantly, my stress levels decreased and I breathed a sigh of relief as the feeling of hope, which had escaped me for several months, came flooding back. I was able to connect with so many resources at once! The biggest takeaway was the connections with the other families I met; just knowing I was not alone gave me so much encouragement. The following year, I returned for my second DDRF. This time I was more confident, I knew exactly which resources I needed, and I was prepared with questions to ask. My biggest takeaway that second year at DDRF was that there is literally a resource for everything. Education, extra-curricular activities, therapies, government benefits, financial planning, whatever it is - there is a resource for it. I just had no idea where to look to find all of the information that I needed and had been too exhausted as a new mom to seek out the resources on my own. Related: Raising a Black Autistic Boy in America Fast forward to today and my son is now 12 years old and thriving! I have to say that being an advocate for my son and utilizing the resources that I found at NPN’s DDRF have made all the difference. I am proud to report that we have been able to change the trajectory of our son’s progress for the better. One of the best decisions I ever made was to pull my exhausted, desperate, hopeless, and stressed self out of bed that morning in March 2012, and take the first steps towards building our community and support network.
Path to parenthood: When your body has other plans
NPN Lauren posted an article in Articles DirectoryThe irony of being a divorce and family law attorney who deals with the dissolution of the family unit and then writing about the creation of a family through in-vitro fertilization is not lost on me. But then again, nothing about life is predictable or often linear. My journey through IVF was similar to that of many others. I was never one to dream about babies and motherhood, but when the time was right for me, I was ready to jump. But lo and behold, my body had other plans for me. Most of us at age 35 are considered to be in the prime of our lives — professionally, socially and emotionally. I had graduated from law school a few years earlier after having made a career switch from public relations. I was primed to do anything and that included getting married and having kids. But in the world of reproduction, I was teetering on the verge of being geriatric. After six months of trying to get pregnant “naturally” and considering the ticking clock, my husband and I decided to have a consultation at the Fertility Centers of Illinois. After a series of tests, it was determined that both of us were producing what we needed to bear children. The problem was, I couldn’t get pregnant and time was not on our side. We decided to try one round of IUI (intrauterine insemination) before embarking on the IVF (in-vitro fertilization) route. Related: Path to Parenthood: From infertility to adoption] When I think back to what became of my life — of needles and daily monitoring and sitting in waiting rooms while my name of “Katy M.” was called out (no last names are used so as to avoid confidential information being shared) — it is all a giant haze. The first round produced no eggs of sufficient quality for fertilization. Drugs were changed and monitoring became more intense. I dealt with daily shots and every morning returning to the fertility center to see how my body was faring. As a result of the new protocol, I produced multiple eggs, which were harvested (keep an eye on your language when you’re coming out of being anesthetized; thank goodness for the lightheartedness of the FCI staff) and then fertilized. A few quality embryos resulted and we discussed with our doctor the pros and cons of implanting more than one at a time. After some serious consideration, we decided to implant two. And…no pregnancy. Heartbroken, we took some time off. The process had been emotionally and physically exhausting. My body just needed a break. Luckily we had three embryos that we had frozen and when it was time, we implanted two. This time, my body cooperated and I became pregnant. Nine months later, my son Luke was born. [Related: What I went through to become a single mother by choice] We waited about two years to embark on the journey again. I was now 38 and practically a senior citizen by fertility standards. My law career was bustling and I was slated to make partner. While not technically convenient to become pregnant again, it was now or never. We had one more frozen embryo in storage which was implanted. I had thought that given the “youth” of the embryo, pregnancy would be a no-brainer. Well, I was wrong. I then embarked on round three of harvesting and fertilization. To say that a few years aged my uterus was an understatement. I was the mom of a 1 ½ year old (read: exhausted), my body produced very few eggs, and when they were fertilized, there were very few viable embryos. My doctor said she would take the very “best” and keep her fingers crossed. Pregnancy number two was not likely, and my husband I discussed adoption as an alternative. I remember driving home from our lake house and googling adoption agencies. It was so overwhelming, I just had to stop. My doctor transferred the embryo and just one day later, I was on trial for a very contentious case. I was sure the stress of trial would prevent a pregnancy. But I had no other choice. After a grueling 10 days, I decided to take a pregnancy test. Positive. I could not believe it. Here I had a “questionable” embryo implanted, I was on trial, and I was nearly a senior citizen in the eyes of reproductive staff. It was a miracle. Nine months later, my feisty daughter was born. She turned out to be a fighter, which I knew would be the fact the moment she held on for dear life that day my doctor took a chance on her. While my fertility journey is far from unique, it is personal to me. It has helped shape me into the mother — and person — I am today.
Path to parenthood: From infertility to adoption
NPN Lauren posted an article in Articles DirectoryI chose married life at the age of 40. I felt a bond with my future husband when we met. My first impression: I felt like I was meeting someone I already knew. Fast-forward a year and a few months when we decided to make our dreams of parenthood come true. A Thanksgiving positive pregnancy test! We shared our happy news. I attempted to schedule an appointment with my ob/gyn. Things became strange quickly. I was told that I could only see a nurse, until I was further into the first trimester. Huh? Two ultrasounds later, a feeling of dread increased. A nurse came and told us that the baby was known as a “missed abortion." This medical term refers to the situation when “the pregnancy stops developing, but the pregnancy tissue does not pass out of the uterus for at least four weeks”. The practice's administrator accompanied the doctor's delivery of the sad news by asking if we were satisfied with our experience at the practice. I greatly appreciated my husband's response: “Well, other than that, how did you like the play Mrs. Lincoln?” Our experience highlights the importance of speaking about pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and infertility very carefully and sensitively. The language used in the U.S. to discuss this experience regularly fails to encompass the complexities of pregnancy, and pregnancy loss. [Related: Three IVF myths you probably believe] So, how to have our miscarriage? The hospital was only willing to induce a miscarriage; they were uninterested in helping me have a natural miscarriage. Targeted medical research showed that surgical miscarriages could damage the cervix, making future pregnancies more difficult. A friend who had experienced a miscarriage for each of her successful births, told me that a miscarriage is comparable to a birth. The doctor's office told me to wait no longer than three weeks to miscarry. Within two-and-a half-weeks, I began experiencing lower back pain at work. We had the miscarriage at home, catching the “products of conception” in large plastic containers. At one point I felt extremely light headed and asked my husband to call the practice. By the time the doctor on call called back, the feeling had passed. I had felt lightheaded as the fetal sac passed from my body intact. I held my baby in my hands and thought about he or she. Then I spoke with the doctor, who told me under what circumstances I should come into the hospital. I never needed to, but it would have been nice for the medical professionals to have shared this information in advance. Some people have home births; I had a home miscarriage. We tried again and became pregnant. This time we had a heartbeat! My husband's expression of joy included a gift of a Beanie Baby kangaroo. My much younger sister was also pregnant, and we imagined raising our children together. Our mother was looking forward to her first grandchildren. But on a follow-up doctor's visit, we learned that the baby had died in utero. Since my pregnancy was more advanced, we opted for a surgical miscarriage. On the day my miscarriage was scheduled, I went for a final ultrasound, to insure that the baby had no heartbeat. Then I went to the hospital for the medical procedure known as a miscarriage. I visualized a miscarriage with no surgical damage. Later the doctor told me two things that I appreciate knowing: He told me that I must have been ready to miscarry, since he touched my body and the miscarriage began with minimal medical contribution to the process. I told him I had visualized my miscarriage happening this way. Next, he told me that I had asked to hold the baby. All I'd known is that I came out of the anesthetic with tears on my face. I appreciated the facts that the doctor shared with me. A final, extremely-early miscarriage, several years, and an adoption later, we have a beloved son. We chose adoption as our path to parenthood, and we enjoy our son every day. Given the fact that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, I feel it necessary to say that I support every woman's right to choose, and to make, with her doctor, the medical decisions necessary to preserve her physical and mental health. The ignorance resulting from the misinformation spread by those who fail to grasp the complexities of pregnancy, childbirth, and pregnancy loss threatens women, children, and society at large.
The perks of a pandemic baby
NPN Lauren posted an article in Articles DirectoryIn June 2021, we visited friends in the suburbs for a “pandemic baby” party. With all adults vaccinated and the older kids wearing masks, we gathered outside to hug friends we hadn’t seen in 18 months and meet the eight new babies among us who had come into the world during that time. Although COVID-19 was far from gone, the event was symbolic — something of a bookend to my pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience, all of which took place during the pandemic. My husband and I had planned to try for our second baby in late spring of 2020, but the uncertainty of the pandemic threw all that into question. However, after realizing that our lives were in many ways safer than ever with strict quarantining, and based on the encouragement of my OB, we decided to go for it. Many people over the course of the year asked me how it felt to be pregnant and have a newborn during the pandemic, often commenting, “You must be so nervous!” Admittedly, some parts were nerve-wracking. I wish my husband could have attended the 8-week and 20-week appointments with me, for example. And it was certainly stressful to worry about having my parents quarantine for long enough before coming to help after the birth. But more often than not, the experience proved to be a bright light in an otherwise dark period. Here are the four reasons I enjoyed having a pandemic baby. 1. I didn’t have to see many people in person. As most second-time moms can attest, you start showing a lot earlier with the second pregnancy, often well before you’re ready to share the news. Without in-person gatherings and in-office work, I didn’t have to take pains to hide my growing bump or morning sickness. In fact, some of my coworkers from other departments didn’t even know I was pregnant until they saw my out-of-office maternity leave message. [Related: A tale of two postpartum experiences] 2. I didn’t miss out on social events. When I was pregnant with my first, I found it difficult to adjust from having an active social life to sitting on the sidelines. Pregnancy can feel like you’re frozen in time as the rest of the world moves forward without you. Although I tried to remain as social as possible, I couldn’t help but feel left out when I had to drink water at a work happy hour or duck out early from a late dinner with friends. With a pandemic baby, most social events fell to the wayside for everyone. I didn’t feel like I was missing out because, unfortunately, everyone was missing out. 3. I got to savor the final months of having a family of three. Although the pandemic introduced an overwhelming degree of chaos for parents, particularly those of school-age kids, it also provided an opportunity to spend more quality time with the family. Without the distractions of playdates, activities and trips to visit family and friends back home, my husband and I were able to soak up time with our 3-year-old. Christmas, which usually involves a whirlwind tour of Wisconsin to see as much family as possible, last year consisted of the three of us making dinner and enjoying a quiet evening opening gifts in front of the tree. I remember moments where I just sat and marveled at my daughter’s beautiful face, grateful for her, our health, and our safety. I had time to be in the moment with her, before life changed drastically once again. [Related: Is your relationship ready for baby? 4 tips to prepare your partnership] 4. I had hope for the future when every other part of life felt hopeless. The degree of uncertainty, fear of illness, sadness over the thousands of deaths in the U.S. alone, and stress of working with a child at home were enough to feel like the world was ending. Pregnancy provided an escape, a chance to see the future through a hopeful lens when the world was crumbling around us. Bringing new life into the world felt like an act of defiance in the face of a relentless virus that took so many lives. I’ll always be grateful for the joy my pregnancy provided when little else did. As fortunate as I feel to have had a positive experience with pregnancy during the pandemic, nothing compares to the privilege of living a safe, healthy, and normal life. When I attended the pandemic baby party last summer, it was emotional and somewhat surreal. The other moms and I found ourselves reminiscing about the experience and swapping stories from the previous year. But soon enough, the pandemic talk got old. With our spouses laughing on the deck and our children playing together in the sprinkler, we decided to spend the rest of the day looking to the future — to the joys of normal, routine life we hoped were right around the corner.
A tale of two postpartum experiences
NPN Lauren posted an article in Articles DirectoryA day or so after giving birth to my first baby, a terror set in — a realization that my life had forever changed. I felt like a stranger in the world, going through the motions of being a mom on the outside while quietly panicking on the inside. As someone with lifelong anxiety and OCD tendencies, I had prepared myself for the possibility of increased anxiety after birth. I figured I’d be able to manage any slight fluctuations like I had during other periods of my life, so I was confused when, over the coming weeks, I couldn’t seem to get a grip. I was tired — and not just from lack of sleep. I felt emotionally overwhelmed and wanted nothing more than to go to bed, alone. I cried daily, sometimes without warning. I couldn’t focus on anything, including even the most lighthearted, simple TV shows. I longed for my pre-baby life with just my husband, when everything was familiar and easy. Worst of all, I felt detached from my daughter, yet unable to leave her side. Eventually, I came to realize that I wasn’t experiencing increased anxiety; I was experiencing postpartum depression (PPD). Recovery and reset Even after acknowledging that I had PPD, it took months for the feelings to subside. Only after my daughter turned one did I feel like I could breathe again. I remained incredibly scarred by those dark early months and couldn’t fathom going through it all again. Yet my husband and I had always known we wanted another child. So, eventually, I decided to reach out for professional help. [Related: Is your relationship ready for baby? 4 tips to prepare your partnership] Well in advance of trying for a second child, I contacted Flourish Wellness & Counseling, which provides therapy, advocacy and resources focused on perinatal mental health. I met with a therapist there who helped me process the lingering sadness, regret, and guilt brought on by my first postpartum experience. We revisited the difficult moments and, over many months, came up with a plan for how to handle my next postpartum period, whenever that time came. This plan involved: • Increasing my anxiety medication during my third trimester, a move whole-heartedly supported by the OBs at Northwestern Medical Group • Leaning on a solid support system, including my husband, parents and friends • Signing up for couples therapy through Flourish to give my husband and me the tools to collaboratively manage another potential experience with PPD • Joining a virtual second-time moms group through The Chicago New Moms Group to stay connected during the isolation of the pandemic Round two I became pregnant with my second child — another daughter — during the pandemic and gave birth in early January 2021. I felt an immediate bond with her, which was surreal, beautiful and welcome. I didn’t feel the terror I did the first time around because I had been through it all before. I also felt much more mentally balanced, thanks to the increased medication and a focus on getting at least one solid stretch of sleep each night by sharing feeding duties with my husband. [Related: Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders - The Most Common Complication of Pregnancy and Childbirth (members-only video)] By the time I returned to work at the 3-month mark, I felt triumphant. I had made it through the first few hard months and had even enjoyed parts of it. But just as I was celebrating my lack of depression, I started to notice some other troubling behaviors. I felt jittery and unsettled. I would often lie awake after night feeds, unable to turn my brain off. I started to have intrusive thoughts about something terrible (and terribly unrealistic) happening to my girls. I became snippy and irritable with all the worry swirling inside. Talking to my therapist, I realized that, while I had been hyper-focused on PPD, postpartum anxiety (PPA) had crept in. Using the resources I had already built in, however, I felt equipped to handle this unexpected turn of events. I talked to my husband, friends and family about what I was feeling. I visited my primary care provider, who adjusted my thyroid medication, and I spent many hours talking to my therapist. She helped me sort through my anxious thoughts, telling me that each postpartum experience differs, falling somewhere new on the spectrum of anxiety and depression. She also helped normalize my feelings, saying how common and even natural PPA is, given the fluctuating hormones and massive responsibility mothers feel. With her help, I was better able to compartmentalize my ruminating thoughts and prioritize self-care to get to a healthier place. The other side As I'm writing this, seven months into my second postpartum experience, I can honestly say I feel back to my normal self. I’m happy, healthy and (mostly) relaxed. Although I wish some parts of my postpartum experiences had been different, I’m grateful that I have an understanding of both ends of the spectrum so I can be a sounding board for other mothers going through the same thing. Mostly, I’m grateful for the resources available that gave me the courage to have a second child and discover some of the joy I had missed out on before.
🍼 Estate Planning for New Parents
NPN Admin posted an event in Community CalendaruntilAs part of NPN's All About Baby programming, join Estate Planning Attorney Jennifer Guimond-Quigley for a discussion on the nuts and bolts of estate planning for new parents. After the session, attendees will walk away with: - General knowledge on estate planning concepts - What parents of young children especially should be focused on, such as the benefits a trust, will, and powers of attorney provide - What to consider when designating guardians for minor children Additionally, Jennifer will discuss common pitfalls in naming children as direct beneficiaries of estates and transfer on death accounts and the best way to provide long term financial oversight for a minor child’s inheritance. This will be a live Zoom session with time for Q & A at the end. We will send you the Zoom link the morning of Friday, June 18th. NPN members: Free. Login to register Non-members: $15 Are you attending more than one All About Baby program this month? If so, become a member of NPN for just $30 (that's $25 off!) using promo code AllAboutBaby and enjoy everything that NPN has to offer for a full year! Join here. Jennifer Guimond-Quigley, Managing Attorney Jennifer is the owner and managing attorney at the Law Office of Jennifer Guimond-Quigley, currently in its tenth year of operation. She realized early on in law school that she had a passion for both family law and estate planning. After gaining experience in these two areas both during and after law school through several small firm positions, Jennifer decided to start her own firm. With her solo practice, Jennifer loves having the freedom to collaborate with her clients to achieve the best results possible without the constraints common to practicing with larger firms. Jennifer has an extensive background in business and accounting, which has been invaluable in her legal practice. She spent years working as an accountant, and that experience has been imperative in counseling her clients about the financial and tax impact of their decisions and agreements. Jennifer’s comfort level with numbers allows her to easily explain their complexities in a relatable way to her clientele. Jennifer resides in Chicago with her husband and children. Do you have questions about this event? Email email@example.com
🍼 Baby Sleep Q&A (newborn to age 2) with Linda Szmulewitz of Sleep Tight Consultants
NPN Admin posted an event in Community CalendaruntilAs part of NPN's All About Baby programming, Linda Szmulewitz of Sleep Tight Consultants will answer your questions about sleep! After this short presentation and live Q & A with Linda, new parents will walk away with: - Understanding the basics of sleep for babies age newborn to two years old - Best practices surrounding sleep for babies age newborn to two years old - Answers to your questions This will be a live Zoom session. Linda will give a short presentation in the beginning, saving the majority of time to answer your questions. We will send you the Zoom link the morning of Friday, June 11th. NPN members: Free. Login to register Non-members: $15 Are you attending more than one All About Baby program this month? If so, become a member of NPN for just $30 (that's $25 off!) using promo code AllAboutBaby and enjoy everything that NPN has to offer for a full year! Join here. Linda Szmulewitz is a licensed clinical social worker, a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach through Kim West, LCSW-C, aka The Sleep Lady ®, a DONA trained postpartum doula and the mother of two children. Her goal is to help improve the functioning of the family through improved sleep. She believes that by empowering parents with the tools necessary to help their children become excellent sleepers, it will help them parent more consciously and happily. She has been helping families with their children’s sleep for more than 10 years, worked with more then 1500 children across the United States and from more than 10 countries, and helped more than 3000 parents get back to sleep. Do you have questions about this event? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Three IVF myths you probably believe
NPN Lauren posted an article in Articles DirectoryAs a fertility consultant, I get to talk with hundreds of women on their fertility journeys. Some of the advice that these women have been given by professionals is shockingly wrong. And then there’s the advice from people that have never had fertility issues, that seem to love to know the most and share their “brilliant” advice. And yes, it usually starts with you should just relax and get drunk if you want to get pregnant. (And yes, I also want to flick them in the boob.) Here are the top three myths about IVF that, once cleared up, will allow you to move forward with your fertility journey. Myth 1: A Lab is a Lab All labs are not created equally. There are three parts to a lab: the embryologist, the equipment, and the protocols for fertilization and growth. All three of these have a huge impact on if and how your embryo will be created and survive until the embryo transfer. And the more specialized your issues are, the more specialized the embryologist and lab must be — just like any other medical issue. [Related: What I went through to become a single mother by choice] Don’t be fooled by marketing tools such as, “Women come from Russia to go to our clinic.” That clinic was good 15 years ago…which is also the last time their equipment was updated. Another one: “Our statistics are so low because we take on the most difficult cases.” No, your statistics are low because your techniques are not effective. Please don’t pick clinics based on convenience or what your friend suggests. Instead, find the one that is getting you results. And yes, it probably won’t be the one that all of the international clients know about yet. Myth 2: IVF Is A Numbers Game I think I need to breathe a couple of times before I answer this. IVF is a numbers game — a great game where one person always seems to win (and that person is not you). Think about it: When a cardiologist fails, there is a dead person, a family trying to sue the doctor, and a board reviewing the choices that the doctor made. When a fertility doctor fails, the only thing that happens is that they get paid to try again. Worst game ever. This is science, and there are many things that get in the way. So when you hear that there is nothing else to do but try again since "this is a numbers game," find someone else to play with. [Related: Dealing with infertility? Toss the holiday cards.] Myth 3: There's Nothing You Can Do To Help An Egg Retrieval or Transfer There are many, many key things that you can do to help an egg retrieval or a transfer. Are you making eggs, but not many that are mature enough to fertilize? Are your eggs fertilized, but not growing into many embryos? Are the embryos going in and never coming out as a baby? For any of these issues and more, there are changes to make, such as the types and combinations of drugs, drug doses, and timing of the drugs — and then, of course, there is the lab. On top of that, there are things that you can do to naturally balance your hormones, including energy restorative practices that will allow your cells to regenerate better and more often. So Mama, I hope that this was helpful for you to move forward with some truths to your IVF journey. Please don’t let any of these myths keep you from reaching your family goals.
🍼 Ask the Expert: Pediatrician Anita Chandra-Puri, MD
NPN Admin posted an event in Community CalendaruntilIf there's anything parents of little ones have, it's questions. About sleep. About feeding. About how to cut those impossibly tiny fingernails. On Wednesday, June 30, Chicago pediatrician Dr. Anita Chandra-Puri will be on hand to give you answers. Visit NPN's Discussion Forum and post your question on this thread. Dr. Chandra-Puri will reply the same day with an answer. Feeling embarrassed about your question or want to maintain your privacy? No problem. Anonymous posts are welcome. Dr. Chandra-Puri will post all of her answers to the thread so everyone can learn and benefit. Anita Chandra-Puri, MD is a physician associated with Northwestern Medicine. Her primary specialty is pediatrics and her practice focus area is newborn care. Dr. Chandra-Puri is also on NPN's board of directors. NPN's Discussion Forum is for members only. To ask Dr. Chandra-Puri a question, join now and use code AllAboutBaby for $25 off.
🍼 Q&A with Emily Oster, PhD for New & Expecting Parents
NPN Amy J. posted an event in Community CalendaruntilYou've read her writing in the New York Times and The Atlantic, you follow her on Instagram, you subscribe to her ParentData Substack, you've highlighted passages in her books. Now join NPN for an in-depth and intimate live discussion with Emily Oster, PhD on pregnancy and babies as part of our All About Baby month programming. She will answer your questions about all things baby! Emily Oster is a Professor of Economics at Brown University. She holds a PhD in Economics from Harvard University. Emily’s academic work focuses on health economics, development economics, and statistical methods. In addition to her academic work, Emily has written two bestselling books on data-driven parenting, “Expecting Better” and “Cribsheet.” Her third book, "The Family Firm: A Data-Driven Guide to Better Decision Making in the Early School Years" is set to come out in August 2021. Emily’s work has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, CNBC, NPR, Slate and more. Currently, Emily is working on the National COVID School Response Dashboard, which she developed with Qualtrics. Send us your questions for Emily about pregnancy and infants! Email your question to email@example.com and enter "Question for Emily" in the subject line. Free for NPN members $15 for non-members Not a member of NPN? Join now using promo code AllAboutBaby for $25 off.
What I went through to become a single mother by choice
Guest posted an article in Articles DirectoryMy long-term relationship that had been fizzling for quite a while had finally snuffed out when it occurred to me that I should become a single-mother-by choice. I was always able to picture myself as a mother but the image of myself as a wife was hazy. Very willing to have the baby and not the man, I started to strategize on how to make that happen. What is a single-mother-by-choice (SMC)? Sometimes called a choice mom or only parent, a single-mother-by-choice is a woman who decides to become a mother with full understanding that she will be the only parent. Or as the 2015 article, the single mother by choice myth defines it, “she’s the epitome of the modern independent woman who wants to have it all, career and family ─ taking her future into her hands, acting decisively, and doing what it takes to achieve her goal of motherhood, with no need for a man. A single-mother-by-choice will pursue motherhood with the aid of donor sperm from either a known donor, with a sperm bank, or private donation. I went with a sperm bank. How does it work? Initially, my plan was intrauterine insemination (IUI), where sperm is placed inside the uterus. Some women are brave enough to do it on their own at home. I wanted to go through a doctor. In doing so, I researched the best in the Chicagoland area and went with Chicago IVF. After sharing my medical history, I underwent a hysterosalpingogram, an X-ray of my uterus and fallopian tubes. I learned that in vitro fertilization (IVF), where the sperm and egg are fertilized outside of the body and then placed inside the uterus, was my only option. Due to the rigorous care schedule, I transferred my care to the Fertility Center of Illinois in River North because it was closer to home and work. Speaking of work, in Illinois, there is a state mandate that health insurance must cover fertility treatment, including up to four cycles of IVF. But how does it work as a parent? The African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child, rings loud and true for an only parent. If not to help in childcare or to have someone in case of emergency, you will need a sane adult to let you know that you will survive. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the help of my parents—without them, working from home during the shelter-in-place would have been impossible. Any advice for someone considering SMC-hood? Working to get pregnant is well, work. Don’t be afraid to ask all of the questions. Choose a healthcare team that you’re comfortable with, especially if you’re a woman of color as racial and ethnic disparities in pregnancy-related deaths persist. Get a full physical workup before you start. Keep a journal because pregnancy comes with a lot of feelings and your journal can be your listening ear. Focus on what you have and not on what you’re missing. It took me two years to become pregnant. Out of those 730 days, Mother’s and Father’s Days were some of the roughest. The first year, I was starting IVF and had no clue if it would work. I skipped church and their Mother’s Day parade and focused all the energy I had after a good shower cry on my mom. That Father’s Day was rough because I was working to become an SMC and I was already rife with worry of how my baby-to-be would feel about the holiday seeing that she or he wouldn’t have a conventional dad. By the next year, I was an IVF pro, but I still needed a distraction. I spent that holiday season uplifting other moms-to-be and hosted a Twitter giveaway for a self-care kit. However, the nervousness around Father’s Day persisted. My mom was the first person I told my decision to become an SMC. “A baby needs a dad,” she said, and I agreed. But when I told her that I didn’t want to miss my chance to become a mother because I didn’t have a man, she quickly gave me her blessing. Yet, that didn’t stop me from praying that my love for my child would be enough. My third embryo transfer, in which my father drove me to the doctor, was a charm. That February, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Mother’s Day of that year was going to be great. My mom and I made plans to brunch with her best friend and her daughters, all of whom are mothers. I would finally get to celebrate with the cool kids. I even bought me and the baby boy matching shirts. But the Thursday before Mother’s Day, my father had a stroke. My mother spent the holiday in the hospital with my dad, while I celebrated my first Mother’s Day worrying and taking awkward selfies of me and my son. My dad’s recovery was slow but steady. He was still in the hospital for Father’s Day. Me, mom, and the baby sat around his bed and ate salads from Portillo’s. This year, while Mother’s and Father’s Day was off-kilter for the entire country, I’ve finally hit a stride and that blanket of burden is gone. My son is growing into his own person every single day and I’m confident in my ability to parent him, for now. This first year of parenting has already taught me that he will change and change. Even this Father’s Day felt better. My dad is doing as well as we could expect, and I’ve begun to practice my spiel on how I will tell my son know that he’s donor-conceived. I’ve even had the opportunity to connect with two handfuls of his donor siblings ─ giving him a peek (when he’s ready) into his other side, albeit extremely non-conventional. And maybe now I will channel all that Mother’s and Father’s Day tension into a holiday more deserving, like National Brownie Day.
What to expect when you’re expecting a Chicago baby
Guest posted an article in Articles DirectoryPreparing to give birth in the City of Big Shoulders? Get ready. In addition to a generally friendly Midwestern vibe from passers-by, there are a handful of little-known watch-outs and hacks that Chicago moms of yore have discovered along the way. For advice, we asked our Member Discussion Forum and social media channels to weigh in: What would you tell a first-time Chicago mom? Here’s what we learned. [Related: 12 truths about giving birth from an OB nurse] Bundle up, but don’t buy a maternity coat Given our long winter, chances are you’re going to need a coat. But don’t fall prey to buying an expensive maternity coat — especially since you may only wear it for a short time (depending on your due date, Groundhog Day, or both). Many on our Forum advised buying a used maternity coat for the months you need it, then selling it again when you’re done. One mom said she lucked out with purchasing a plus-sized coat during Black Friday sales just after Thanksgiving: “It was great, and hundreds less expensive than a ‘maternity’ winter coat.” Begin your childcare search early In a city as big as ours, there are a lot of childcare options...but there are a lot of new babies vying for those spots. Many NPN moms have said that they were forced to join waitlists for childcare, many of which can be more than six months long. One mom advised that especially in the Lakeview and Lincoln Park neighborhoods, registering “by the second trimester” is a good idea. Considering a nanny? Peruse the NPN Childcare Classifieds to see what parents are saying about the nanny they're recommending. Typically, parents start looking for a nanny about 2 months before they go back to work. Riding the CTA? Wear a button — and speak up. In fall 2019, the CTA partnered with The Mom Project to produce “Baby On Board” buttons for expectant mothers riding the El. Thing is, they’re only effective if other riders notice them and follow suit. Most moms we heard from complained that they were seldom offered seats on trains or buses, even during late-stage (read: obvious) pregnancy. Sadly, this anecdote is a common one: “One time, during a curve, my stomach smacked a rider’s face as I was trying to hold on for dear life; didn’t even phase him.” Word to the wise: Even if you’re wearing a button, don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. In Chicago, seats are prioritized for expectant mothers. Claim what’s yours! [Related: The best-kept secret about breastfeeding] Plan on traffic Whether you’re attending those final, frequent check-ups with your doula or planning your route to the hospital, know that Chicago traffic jams can strike at any time — rush hour be damned. We’ve heard of several moms who didn’t quite make it to the hospital and had to give birth on the expressway...but we also know a mom who had the shortest hospital commute ever early on Easter Sunday. No matter your destination, try to have an alternate route that doesn’t include Lake Shore Drive or the expressway. Get a car seat before discharge... Unfortunately, some Chicago parents have found out this rule the hard way: Major hospitals, including Prentice Women’s Hospital at Northwestern, require new parents to procure a car seat for use at discharge, whether it will be installed in their own vehicle, or a shared vehicle such as a cab or Uber. Tip: If you need help with the installation, you can have it done for free at any local fire station. ...even if you’re taking the El home. Some moms said they gave birth back in the days before car seats were required, and were able to walk or take public transit home from the hospital. But just in case, bring your car seat. Compared with births from even a handful of years ago, we heard from other members who said that they were required to bring a car seat to the hospital — even though they’d planned to head home by other means. It’s just policy.
Pregnancy, delivery and postpartum during Covid: What to expect and how to find support
Guest posted an article in Articles DirectoryFor those growing a family during the Covid-19 global pandemic, there may be additional concerns, worries or fears on your mind. While we continue to learn more about Covid, pregnancy has not been proven to be a contributing factor for increased vulnerability to the virus. However, prenatal care, labor and delivery, and post-birth care will look different from the pre-Covid era. Here's a guide on what to expect when you're expecting during this pandemic. Pregnancy Each health care provider—obstetrician, family physician or midwife—will always bring their own training, past experiences and approaches to prenatal care. During the pandemic, each practice will have its own policies and procedures around medical prenatal visits during Covid. Establish a partnership with your provider—ask them your questions about what to expect for your pregnancy care. In the Chicago area, most providers and practices have substituted some of the standard in-person appointments with telehealth visits. If you are experiencing a low-risk pregnancy, this should be just fine for you and your baby. If you or your baby have any high-risk factors or complications, your provider will be working with you directly to provide the most appropriate medical prenatal care. For an in-person visit, expect to be asked screening questions upon arrival and to have your temperature checked. If you are experiencing any symptoms, call your provider’s office before going in to see them. Until testing is more widely available, don’t expect to be tested during routine prenatal visits. One of the most significant changes in prenatal care is that your partner may not be able to join you at most or any of the routine visits, though they may be able to attend an ultrasound appointment. You can minimize potential disappointment by finding out in advance whether your partner can come in with you. If not, ask if you can have them on the phone or a web call during the appointment or if they can give you a recording of baby’s heartbeat to share. [Related: What to expect if you're expecting a Chicago baby] What if you test positive during pregnancy? Your provider is going to tell you what they recommend, based on what trimester you are in and what else may be going on with your pregnancy. As always, ask your questions so you understand the recommendations and what options you may have. Final weeks of pregnancy Talk about what options will or will not be available to you at the birth location. Have this conversation by the 36th week of pregnancy, because most babies, on their own, will arrive between 37–42 weeks. Do you have a strong preference for elements of your birth experience? Knowing what is possible may help you feel more prepared when your labor begins. In addition to your provider, you can check out Birth Guide Chicago’s COVID-19 page for updates on local hospital policies and support people. Having the support of a labor support doula—in-person or virtually—can also be an invaluable resource for navigating pregnancy and birth. Labor and delivery If you are planning to give birth at a hospital, here are some things to be prepared for: Most providers are recommending that you stay home for as long as you are able to manage the sensations of labor before you come to the hospital or birth location. Even if you are planning for or decide you want an epidural, the longer you stay at home the shorter your hospital stay will be. You will be given a Covid test in triage, in addition to the standard triage/admitting procedures. If you test negative, then things will likely proceed as they would in non-Covid times. If you are having a scheduled induction or Cesarean, you will likely take a Covid test a few days prior. There will be a limit of one to two people who can be with you. Some hospitals have limited it to one, others are allowing a partner and doula. Whomever your support person is, they will not be given a Covid test at the birth location. They should expect to be masked the entire time, and they will need to stay in the room with you. (Partners, pack extra snacks and clothes!) Each location has different policies on whether the mom-to-be will be required to wear a mask, regardless of the result of Covid test. Expect all hospital staff to be masked and gloved when interacting with you. What if you test positive for Covid when in labor? Expect to have additional measures put into place to keep staff safe while ensuring your safety and baby’s safety. You can talk with your provider in advance about the specific practices of your birth location. Because this is a new virus, there is still much we don’t know. The specifics of what your care will look like during labor, delivery and postpartum, as well as baby’s care, vary by birth location. But expect to be placed in a special room, to potentially have no partner/doula allowed in with you, and for all staff to be wearing PPE. [Related: Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders - The Most Common Complication of Pregnancy and Childbirth (members-only video)] Postpartum Visitors will likely be limited to the partner and possibly the doula. Friends, family members and older children will have to wait to see you and baby once you are home. Most hospitals are discharging new moms and babies after 24 hours for a vaginal birth and three days for Cesarean birth. Discharge remains dependent upon Mom being cleared by her provider and baby being cleared by the pediatrician to go home. Breastfeeding/chest-feeding is safe and recommended! When can friends and family visit? Pediatrician recommendations on who and when non-household members come into your circle vary, but generally the baby’s 2-month vaccination appointment can be considered a time marker. You will need to assess the risks and benefits for yourself and your family to determine when you are ready for visitors. There is no one set time that it will feel right for every new family. During pregnancy and the first year of parenting, the only constant is change. How we each respond to change is personal but doesn’t need to be isolating. There are many resources that are accessible during Covid: childbirth education and preparation classes have moved online, and so have many pregnant and new parent support groups (check out NPN's New Moms Groups). Therapy and other mental health services have been made easier to access through most insurance companies and with telehealth. Labor support and postpartum doulas, as well as lactation consultants (IBCLCs), continue to offer in-person and virtual care. Pregnancy and postpartum during Covid may be different but you can still find plenty of support. I hope your new baby brings you joy during this uncertain time!
Is your relationship ready for baby? 4 tips to prepare your partnership
Guest posted an article in Articles DirectoryBecoming a parent is a joyful, exciting time. It is also a stressful, disorienting and exhausting time. There is cultural messaging that children are a joy and we should be happy throughout their babyhood. However, as a clinical psychologist and mother, I've seen that this is just not reality, and this message creates shame for mothers and partners who struggle with this major life transition. In fact, did you know that, statistically, couples report the lowest rates of marital satisfaction after the birth of a baby? These tiny humans have a way of taking up a huge amount of emotional space, time and energy. Much of this time, energy and attention you once had to give to your partner or yourself, so of course the transition will be a little bumpy! While you can find thousands of resources about the best car seat or swaddle, it’s rare to find information about what to do to prepare and protect one of the most important things to you and your baby: your marriage or partnership. So here are a few ways to help baby-proof your relationship and prepare your partnership for the transition to parenthood. Establish good communication strategies It is vital to the long-term health of a partnership, particularly during times of stress, to learn how to ask for help and how to constructively express frustration or disappointment. No matter how close we are to someone, they can’t read our mind! It’s also important to reduce criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling (shutting your partner out), as these types of communication patterns have been identified as particularly damaging to a relationship. Discuss expectations Who will do the late-night feedings? Who is in charge of childcare? You may think you’re both on the same page, but sitting down to let your partner know your expectations, and to hear theirs, is essential. Prioritize connection Parenting a newborn is all-encompassing. Connecting with your partner may not look like weekends away or long nights out for a while, but you can still make each other coffee, reach for their hand, or turn your phones and tv off to talk for a few minutes at night. These small moments of connection can make a huge difference. Work on your mindset Don’t keep score! When you aim to win an argument or you keep track of exact numbers of times you do something, even if you win, the relationship loses. See yourself as a team, you both have the same goal to care for this baby. Also remember that this is a temporary phase of life. When we have thoughts like, My life will always be this way, it can make our negative emotions more intense. Take care of yourself You can’t be a good partner if you’re totally depleted. Stay connected to friends, go for walks and lean on your support system. Postpartum anxiety or depression can compound the difficulty of adjusting to parenthood and to your relationship and absolutely necessitates treatment. If you or someone you love is experiencing difficulty, please reach out to me or to another mental health professional.
Are you or someone you love struggling with feelings of anxiety, extreme sadness or feeling very overwhelmed following childbirth? Nancy Segall of Beyond the Baby Blues and Claire Zawa of Birthways Inc. share information and resources for expectant and new parents about the causes, symptoms and treatments for postpartum depression. Postpartum depression occurs in approximately 20 percent of all new mothers. It’s considered the number one postpartum childbirth complication. After this webinar, you will have a better understanding of how perinatal mental health extends beyond depression, impacts the entire family, and can be identified before the family is in crisis. Topics covered: Perinatal mental health diagnoses and presentations Risks factors, special populations, and situations that require referral Tips for how to engage a new or expecting parent in a dialogue about perinatal mental health and how to best offer support Cultural considerations Assessment/screening Resources