You Are Not Alone - Really

As we passed National Infertility Awareness Week, the fact that there's a week dedicated to infertility reminded me that we've come a long way. Resolve's theme this year was, You Are Not Alone. I believe that statement is more true than ever for the fertility challenged, and here's why:

Infertility is Being Talked About 

Infertility articles are being written every day. New books are out to share what it's like for men dealing with infertility, or guides couples can read together as they tackle infertility hand-in-hand. Even blockbuster movies are now touching on infertility. 

Celebrities who talk about their infertility are no longer being shunned for their revelations as they were in the past. They are being thanked by those inside the infertility community and supported by those outside the community. 

There is a better understanding that infertility is a disease, not a flaw - and more sympathy out there as a result. And when infertility is met with sympathy, instead of shame, more people will talk about it. The cycle is circular. The more sympathy and understanding, the more people will open up. The more people open up, the more sympathy and understanding will come. 

Encouragement from Support Groups 

Resolve and other organizations have peer-led and professionally-led support groups throughout the country to help those dealing with infertility. When you're trying to have a child, and can't get pregnant, it feels like nobody else could possibly understand the longing and the heartache you experience each month. From Resolve's website: Support groups help you feel less isolated, empower you with knowledge and validate your emotional response to the life crisis of infertility. I couldn't word it any better.

Social Media Helps

Even those who feel they can't open up to their family or friends about infertility, or don't feel comfortable attending support groups, can interact with other infertility warriors anonymously through social media. Infertility bloggers are keeping everyone in the know. When to see a specialist and what to ask. What to expect from a cost perspective. The ins and outs of fertility treatments and the choices out that are out there. 

Anyone experiencing infertility can create a Twitter account and find others who are experiencing the same roller coaster ride, with its ups and downs and shaky tracks that rattle you to the bone. There is someone out there to talk to and to listen to and to commiserate or celebrate with.

New Services are Available

Though in vitro fertilization is the treatment most often talked about when it comes to infertility, only 5% turn to IVF. There are new services like Conceivable that address the entire community of infertility patients. Conceivable is a personalized program on your iPhone that helps identify and address underlying health factors that may prevent conception or carrying a baby to term. As programs like Conceivable help more and more women successfully conceive, I envision the community of infertility warriors banding together even more.

So click your heels three times and say the words, "You are not alone. You are not alone. You are not alone." Because it is true.

Parenting Authors & Experts Interview: 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know

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Q&A WITH KARI KAMPAKIS

Author: 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know

Question: How did you first get into writing?

Answer: I’ve always enjoyed writing, but 8 years ago, while pregnant with my third child, I quit talking about writing a book and actually started to work on one. I began by writing essays on motherhood, then I spent five years writing three novels, all unpublished. It’s easy to consider all that unpublished work a waste a time, but I don’t see it that way. I needed the practice to hone my writing skills and find a voice that suits me. 

Question: How did your original blog post, 10 Truths Young Girls Should Know, turn into a book?

Answer: I published that post in July 2013 on my blog, and immediately it started getting shared all over Facebook and Pinterest. I knew from the emails I got (from moms, dads, and youth pastors) that the message struck a chord. It was two months after all the excitement calmed down, when everyone had moved on to other stories, that I heard from an editor at Thomas Nelson who expressed interest in expanding the post into a book. They wanted the book to release before Christmas, so the whole process - from me writing the book to them launching it - happened quickly and in a year’s time.

Question: If readers were to take away one key lesson from your book, what do you hope it would be?

Answer: The main thing I want my young readers to know is that God loves them, God sees them, and God has a plan for their life. I want them to know there’s more to life than junior high and high school, and by making good choices now, they set themselves up to thrive long-term. 

Question: For the moms out there like me, with young girls, what is the most surprising thing we should prepare for in the tween/teenage years?

Answer: The most surprising thing I’ve learned is how early the negative influences start.  After talking to parents, school counselors, psychologists, and others who work with adolescents, my eyes have been opened to the hard realities of teen culture today. For our kids to make good choices, we need to prepare them for difficult situations and have some uncomfortable conversations so they don’t enter this world blindly and follow the crowd simply because they’ve never been given alternative options to consider.

Question: Your #1 Lesson is Everything You Need to Find Peace and Happiness is Inside You. How did you teach your girls that truth?

Answer: I try to teach my daughters to trust their instincts. When something feels wrong, there’s a reason. When someone seems untrustworthy, there’s a reason. I’m a big believer in tuning into your conscience and what that inner voice says, because that’s God talking. Even at a young age, kids can understand that when they’re kind to others, it makes them feel good, and when they’re not kind, it creates unrest. The sooner they get a handle on their feelings, and develop some sort of emotional intelligence, the better equipped they’ll be to recognize cues that can help draw them closer to God.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kari Kampakis started her writing career with her first PR job out of college. She began writing fiction novels while pregnant, and played the chicken-and-the egg routine to getting an agent or publisher. Then the door opened when two community newspapers began carrying her column.

In 2013, she re-launched her website and began blogging. Four months later, her first blog post went viral. Titled 10 Truths Young Girls Should Know,  it caught the attention of Thomas Nelson, a major Christian publisher, who expressed interest in creating a book. On November 4, 2014, Thomas Nelson released 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, written for teen and tween girls.

Ella, Sophie, Marie Claire, and Camille are her pride and joy.

Book: 10 ULTIMATE TRUTHS GIRLS SHOULD KNOW

Facebook: Kari Kampakis, Writer

Twitter: @karikampakis

Instagram: karikampakis

Pinterest: Kari Kampakis

BITLY LINKS to books

·      Amazon: http://amzn.to/1AOH49X

·      Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/1sltw0I

·      BooksAMillion:  http://bit.ly/1kz1izP

·      Christianbook.com: http://bit.ly/1qLPyrv

Infertility Authors & Experts Interview: Cindy Bailey, The Fertile Kitchen® Cookbook

Q&A WITH CINDY BAILEY

Co-Author of The Fertile Kitchen Cookbook®

Question: How did the idea for The Fertile Kitchen Cookbook® come about?

Answer: This book came out of our own experience. After trying to conceive for over a year, we visited a fertility specialist who gave us a 2% chance of conceiving on our own. Of course, I was devastated, but at the same time I refused to accept his grim prognosis. It was simply unacceptable to me that I don’t get to have a child, so I did a lot of research and put myself on a fertility friendly diet, among other healing regimens, such as yoga and meditation. Four months later, after I turned 40 years old, my husband and I conceived – naturally. During that time, what made the restrictive diet so much easier to follow was my husband Pierre’s cooking. He created a wide variety of dishes that were simple to make, yet full of flavor (you can’t tell these dishes contain no wheat, sugar or dairy!). Having those recipes kept us from getting bored and giving up. It made the diet easier to follow and helped us stick with it. Plus, it was a project we could do together, and we both felt empowered by the process. Naturally, we wanted to share what we learned and all the recipes with others in hopes that it might help them in the way it helped us.

Question: What is the goal or message of your cookbook?

Answer: Our goal is to spread the message that, yes, you absolutely can make a difference in your own fertility through diet and nutrition. And through our book, we aim to empower women and couples to do so.

Also, because we know first-hand how overwhelming and stressful going through fertility issues can be, we designed our book to be easy to use in every way. Dietary guidelines are painless to follow and recipes are simple, yet flavorful, to make.

Question: Are there specific foods women should avoid while trying to conceive?

Answer: Yes – any foods or drinks that overly tax or stress our bodies. These include overly processed foods, trans fat, processed sugar and artificial sweeteners. Dairy and wheat products should also be avoided or, even better, eliminated, because they are hard to digest. Also, many women have a sensitivity, intolerance or outright allergy to dairy or wheat, creating a lot of inflammation in the body and making them especially hard on digestion (as well as the body). We want to create less work for digestion so our body’s energy can be applied elsewhere, such as to our reproductive system, for healing and growth.

You also want to avoid alcohol, caffeine, sodas, coffee, iced or cold beverages (stick with foods closer to your body temperature), and fruit juices (too much concentrated sugar, although whole fruits are great).

Question: What types of recipes do you feature in your book?

Answer: We feature a variety of ethnically diverse recipes that are all simple to make. Women and couples struggling with fertility issues are often already overwhelmed. We didn’t want them to feel changing their diet would be another burden. We wanted them to enjoy flavorful dishes so they wouldn’t notice too much that they were on a diet. We feature recipes for vegetables, beans, rice and grains, meat, seafood, soups and salads, sides and sauces and breakfast dishes. We only feature a couple of desserts, as processed sugar is not allowed. Favorite dishes include: Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup, Chicken with Portobello Mushrooms, Lamb Stew, Spicy Garbanzo Beans, Crepes Salée, Chile Con Carne (healthy version) and more. All are easy to make.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As a former athlete, Cindy Bailey has a passion for good health and nutrition, and a commitment to helping others find natural, holistic ways of healing. In addition to giving workshops and talks on Eating and Fertility, she is a professional member of RESOLVE, the national infertility organization, and is on the Advisory Board for the International Academy of Baby Planner Professionals (IABPP). Her fertility story has aired nationally on NBC and CBS.

www.fertilekitchen.com  -  @fertilektichen  -  facebook.com/fertilekitchen

Child Development Authors & Experts Interview: Love & Logic Facilitator, Jessica Johnson

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Q&A WITH JESSICA JOHNSON

Love & Logic Independent Facilitator

Question: What made you decide to be a Love & Logic Instructor?

Answer: My husband and I took one of their classes, and right from the start we were taught techniques that we could implement at home with our children. We did, and they worked! I am a preschool teacher and I kept telling my director all about it. She suggested that since it worked so well with my family, I should consider becoming a facilitator.

Question: For those who aren’t familiar with Love & Logic, what’s the basic premise?

Answer: Love and Logic teaches parents to set firm but loving limits, to allow children to make mistakes in a loving environment, and to let them learn from their mistakes - not from parents lecturing, threatening, or warning them.

Question: What’s your favorite example of how Love & Logic has worked in your home or classroom?

Answer: One of my favorite books by the Love and Logic Institute is on chores and allowance, called Millionaire Babies or Bankrupt Brats. By giving my children an allowance, I have eliminated the begging and tantrums that used to come whenever we went shopping. Now that they have their own money and can make their own purchasing decisions, running errands with them is pleasant again! And I am no longer deciding what is or isn’t important to them. For example, my son decided he wanted a $60 Halloween costume. I told him I would be happy to pay for half of it if he would pay for the other half. He had been saving his money for a video game and he told me he'd need to think about it. The next day, he let me know that the video game was more important to him and that he would just wear a costume he already had. I love that he had the ability to figure that out on his own, without my input.

Question: What’s your favorite Love & Logic tip?

Answer: My favorite tip or technique is called the Enforceable Statement. This technique teaches you how to word limits in a positive “I will” message, rather than a negative “you will” message. For example, saying, “I am happy to take children to the park who have finished putting away their toys,” instead of “I told you to put your toys away five minutes ago!”

Question: What kinds of skills can parents expect to walk away with after taking your class?

Answer: Parents will walk away with skills that will allow them to handle any situation their child can throw at them. My favorite thing about Love and Logic is that it truly gives you the language to effectively communicate with your children – to know what to say in any situation.

Question: For those parents in Austin, please tell us when your next set of classes will be. For those outside of Austin, how can they find a local class of their own?

Answer: I will be facilitating the Love and Logic Early Childhood Made Fun curriculum at Westminster Presbyterian Day School starting Sunday, October 26th and running through November 23rd. We will meet every Sunday from 4 – 6 pm for five weeks. Anyone interested can email me at jpriour@hotmail.com for more information on this or other classes. For those outside of Austin, they can call the Love and Logic Institute at 1-800-338-4065 to find a facilitator in their area. 

ABOUT JESSICA

Jessica Johnson graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with high honors and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She has been teaching toddlers at Westminster Presbyterian Day School for 10 years. She has been a facilitator for Love and Logic for two years. She lives in Austin with her husband Chris Johnson, and their son Brooks (age 9) and daughter Adelaide (age 6).

Website: loveandlogic.com    Email: jpriour@hotmail.com

Lessons Learned: Parenting after Years of Infertility

Photo by Melissa Glynn Photography

Photo by Melissa Glynn Photography

I haven't thought much about how our parenting was impacted by the years we spent trying to conceive, but looking back now, I realize there was a dramatic effect.

We ached for a child. We went through test after test, and treatment after treatment. I was finally pregnant with our first in vitro cycle, and then I wasn't. After our second in vitro, we were blessed with this beautiful baby girl in our arms. After more than four years of trying.

And so we lavished her with our affection and attention. 

And I mean lavished.

The sun revolved around Sydney Addison Miller. And so did our family.

Sydney never spent a moment by herself unless she was sleeping. If she fell asleep for a nap in the car, one of us would stay with her, no matter where we were or what we were doing. Even on Christmas Day. Chris literally ate Christmas lunch on a china plate, in the car, while Sydney snored on.

Speaking of the car, when Chris was driving, I rode in the backseat with her to keep her company. Always. I think back now at just how crazy that sounds.

As a baby, I would sing her to sleep nearly every night, slow dancing with her in the dining room where there was the least amount of light. When she climbed out of her crib at 18 months and moved to a "big girl bed," one of us would lie down with her for an hour until she fell asleep. 

We constantly entertained her, read to her, taught her and played with her.

The first time I remember Sydney actually playing on her own was at exactly two years old, three months before her little sister was due. She spent an hour lining up her collection of chapsticks. I remember being amazed just watching this feat. Not the balancing of the fruity sticks across the couch, but that she didn't require any attention for a full 60 minutes.

We had date night once a week, and I would feel so guilty as we walked out the door while Sydney screamed and cried loudly in the background to make sure we understood the depths of her disappointment and despair at our abandonment.

Now, I will caveat all of the above with the fact that Sydney was a fussy baby (at least in the opinion of this mom, who admittedly had very little experience with babies). Which is the reason we spent so much time with her. She cried often, and once she got going, it was hard to get her to stop (and still is today, at age six). She cried nearly every minute in the car unless we were singing Old McDonald Had a Farm. She cried at bedtime most of all. And cry-it-out, which I tried to brave at the four-month-mark when Sydney was still awake at 10pm, did not work for her. It just made her more, and more, and more riled up. To the point where she almost threw up. You know that hormone that gets released when children cry that makes them sleepy? That doesn't happen with Sydney for some reason.

I spent endless hours online researching why she was crying. I took her to the doctor five times as often as there was a fixable problem, like an ear infection. I changed my diet to make sure it wasn't my breastmilk that was making her colicky. 

As Sydney's grown up, she has gotten easier. As a baby, she was upset more times than not. As a two-year-old, we'd have four outbreaks a day. At three, she was down to two outbreaks a day. At four and five, she would have one spell a day or less. And at six years old, we can make it a few days straight without a "crazy" moment.

We do still tiptoe around anything that will trigger a "Sydney Spell." For example, Sydney used to get very upset when anyone held their hands to their lips to tell her to be quiet. And once she got upset, she would stay upset, squeezing her neck and gasping for air. For an hour or more. So instead of shushing her, we created a secret phrase to ask her to be quiet. Spell avoided.

Have other parents gone through these great lengths to keep their babies and kids happy? Maybe. But had we started trying to conceive, gotten pregnant in that first year, and had our little boy or girl without any complications, I think our attitude would have been different. And our attention a little less lavish. As is evidenced by our behavior with Sydney's younger sister Sabrina (3), and brother Luke (2), who received a lot less attention (as often happens with the second and third kid).

I believe they are the better for it. They are much more laid back. They are not as strong willed. They aren't nearly as sensitive. They are comfortable playing on their own. They are capable of entertaining themselves. They are happier more often.

Here is how I describe our three children to a new babysitter: If Sydney gets a shot at the doctor's office, she will still be crying an hour later. When Sabrina gets a shot, she cries for about 45 seconds, until she can pick her lollipop. When Luke gets a shot, sometimes he doesn't even cry out, but if he does, he stops as soon as the nurse says, "All done!"

Were Sydney, Sabrina and Luke simply born with their temperaments, and different actions would not have resulted in different outcomes? I honestly don't know the answer. But in the end, our lesson learned is that while attention is great, too much attention may not be.

Lessons Learned: Going with Your Gut

There is a lot of research that says it's not always right to go with your gut instincts. For instance, my 2-year-old is suddenly into painting and coloring. He runs into my office and proudly says, "Look Mommy!" and holds up a picture of 8 squiggly circles. My gut instinct is to say, "Wow Luke, that's awesome!" because I see the smile light up his entire face with praise. Instead, I say, "Look at all those colors you used!" or "Did you do that all by yourself? It looks like you worked really hard on it!" Why? Because I've read all the research about the pitfalls of "good job praise," and try to avoid it whenever I can. I've been practicing the "specific praise" for years. It still feels unnatural. And you can tell they just want you to say, "It's Beautiful!"

So as parents, our gut instincts are not always right, even when they feel right.

But when it was time to decide where my daughter should go to Kindergarten, I had no choice but to use my gut instincts (which apparently isn't some mysterious inner source, but a form of unconscious reasoning—one that's rooted in the way our brains collect and store information).

When our oldest daughter, Sydney, was three, she started preschool at a private Montessori in our neighborhood. The school is for 3, 4 and 5-year-olds, and ideally, children stay for three years, including Kindergarten. That last year is very important for leadership development, because the five-year-olds are setting the example for the classroom and helping teachers with the younger children.

Montessori is all about independent work and learning through repetition. The teacher presents a lesson once, and the child returns to that work over and over until she's mastered it. That's all great, until you have a child who doesn't want to return to something she's already done. She only wants more and more lessons on the new things. Sydney would drive her teacher crazy over lesson requests, even when she'd already had a new lesson, or even two, that day (keep in mind there is lead teacher giving lessons to 30 children in a class!).

Sydney learned so much in her two years at Montessori, probably even more than we can see at this point, but my fear was that she'd spend another year avoiding work she was already familiar with and never learn how to master anything. I thought the competition and camaraderie of our public elementary school, which everyone in the neighborhood rants and raves over, would suit her personality much better. She'd make friends who were reading at a higher level and want to read more. She'd run harder because there were other kids who were faster. I'm sure there's research that says fostering competition is bad too, but I'll worry about that another day.

When I asked Sydney where she wanted to go for Kindergarten, and briefly explained her two choices, she chose the new school. Which I thought was interesting and a little surprising, since she didn't know much about it and would be leaving the friends she'd made over the last two years. But that was the final kicker for me. She was ready for a new adventure, and this is our I'd rather stay home than go to the park or the pool kid. The child who rarely wants to do anything new. So we decided she'd head to the public school for Kindergarten.

How'd that decision turn out? Nearly every day this past year, Sydney replied to my inquiry about her day with, "It was the best day ever." She went to the doctor with an ear infection and the first question she asked him was if she could still go to school the next day. She had never loved school this much before. The environment ended up being perfect for her. And I hope she will stay this enamored with school in the years to come.

Now Sabrina, our three-year-old, just finished her first year at Montessori. Unlike Sydney, she loves perfecting a lesson and teaching others. It's very likely she'll stay for all three years and learn even more from a classroom and leadership perspective than she could from public Kindergarten.

At the end of next school year, I'll have to go with my gut again, and hope that I've made the right choice...

Infertility Authors & Experts Interview: Lisa Newton, Amateur Nester Blooger

 

Q&A WITH LISA NEWTON

                                                 Blogger at AmateurNester.com

Question: How did the creation of your website, AmateurNester.com, come about?

Answer: I originally intended it to be a blog about my attempts at DIY, crafting, and decorating my home. I quickly realized I wasn’t very good at any of that, and decided to blog about my infertility treatments instead. Luckily for me, the name of the blog lent itself to both DIY and infertility!

Question: What has been the toughest part of your journey?

Answer: The toughest part is how much infertility affects every other area of my life.  Obviously, it takes a huge financial and emotional toll, but it’s also affected other, more surprising areas. For example, I’ve gained some weight since our treatments started, but I’ve resisted buying new clothes because each month I hope I’ll get pregnant. I don’t want to waste good money on clothes that I’ll outgrow during a pregnancy. So, I have very few clothes that fit right now and it’s taken a surprising toll on my self-image. 

Question: You interview other couples who have gone through the infertility rollercoaster. What story has inspired you the most?

Answer: That is almost impossible to answer! Each interview inspires me in different ways depending on their circumstances and stories. However, if I had to choose one, I’d say it’s Candace and Chris from Our MisconceptionThey have been through hell and back, and I was awe-struck by their willingness to have their final IVF cycle documented for MTV. Watching their episode made me realize just how powerful openness and transparency can be, and that’s when I decided to reveal my name on my blog and eventually “come out” on my personal Facebook. 

Question: How has your faith helped you through the trials and tribulations of infertility?

Answer: My faith in God is what keeps me from losing all hope. I don’t believe that God causes bad things to happen to us, but I believe He uses them for good in our lives.  Don’t get me wrong. I question God on a daily basis about why He allows infertility for me and all the other people who struggle with it. I don’t understand. But that’s where faith comes in. Even though I don’t understand, I choose to believe that there’s purpose in what I’m going through and He will ultimately use it for good.

Question: If you had a younger sister go through infertility, what advice would you give her?

Answer: I’d tell her to seek out community. It can be in the form of an in-person support group, an online group, or blogging. I’d encourage her to connect with other people who have been through infertility in whatever way she can. I’ve received so much support and made some amazing online friends through blogging, and I’d encourage her to do something similar. It’s amazing how much it helps to know that other people understand what you’re going through. 

ABOUT THE EXPERT

Lisa blogs about her infertility journey and interviews other infertility survivors at AmateurNester.com.  When she’s not blogging, she’s eating Ruffles Reduced Fat Potato Chips, watching The Big Bang Theory reruns, or reading (often all at the same time).  She lives with her husband, Tom, and their orange cat, Hemingway, on the California central coast.

Website: www.amateurnester.com 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/amateurnester 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amateurnester

Sleep Authors & Experts Interview: Dana Obleman

Q&A WITH DANA OBLEMAN

Author of The Sleep Sense Program

Question: How did you become a Parenting/ Sleep Consultant?

Answer: It has always been my dream to work with children. To make that dream a reality, I went to college to receive a BA in psychology and an education degree in the late 1990s and then spent a few wonderful years working as a first grade teacher.

Then I got pregnant with my first child, and my life took a detour I didn’t expect! My husband and I suffered from intense sleep deprivation during the first few months of my son’s life as we struggled to deal with his sleep issues and teach him how to get a good night’s sleep. None of the parenting books available seemed to fit our family’s needs… Some were way too harsh and didn’t take the children’s needs and comfort into consideration, while others basically said, “Suck it up, mom and dad, your child’s needs are everything and it doesn’t matter if you don’t get a good night’s sleep!”

Frustrated with the lack of practical advice, I did my own research and developed my own child sleep training program which became the basis of my first book, The Sleep Sense™ Program. 

Question: What is the overall sleep philosophy with the Sleep Sense Program?

Answer: I created The Sleep Sense™ Program because I feel strongly that healthy sleep habits make for healthy children. A well-rested child is curious, energetic, happy, playful, and eager to learn. I am more interested in improving a child’s sleep than preaching a particular sleep philosophy.

While most books and programs dealing with child sleep problems take philosophical stands (based largely around the issue of “crying it out”), I believe that your child’s sleep is more important than my personal views on the subject. That’s why I’ve placed so much emphasis on accommodating different parenting styles within The Sleep Sense™ Program.

My approach to improving your child’s sleep is pretty simple. I’ll give you honest information about WHY sleep is so important for your child’s well-being. I’ll lay out an easy-to-follow, step-by-step plan that lets you make some choices about what is the right approach for your child. And I’ll show you how to measure success.

Question: Are there specific sleep props you recommend parents avoid (or give up) to improve nighttime sleep? 

Answer: A sleep prop is basically anything your child thinks she needs in order for sleep to come. So for example, if a baby is rocked to sleep, then she begins to associate sleep with rocking and will have a very difficult time getting to sleep without it because she doesn’t know how. Sleep props prevent a baby from developing internal strategies for getting themselves to sleep, therefore they tend to wake often looking for assistance. When you begin to teach a baby to sleep well, then all the props you’ve currently used need to go so your baby can begin to learn some strategies that are all her own, and become a great sleeper.

Question: Do you have any advice for those parents like us, with toddlers who were good sleepers as babies, but then suddenly started waking up crying out in the night, climbing into our bed, etc.?

Answer:  There is always a point in a toddler’s life where they begin to push the boundaries around bedtime. I’ve never met a toddler yet, who didn’t develop some sleep challenges at some point. The problem is that it usually throws the parent off, as they are wondering why their child who has slept very well, is suddenly yelling the house down at bedtime. The parent then rushes in wondering what could be wrong and often starts to negotiate. When the toddler realizes that all this fuss gets a reaction, then you can be sure he tires it again and again, and quickly a parent can lose all control over bedtime.

My best advice is that parents understand that boundary pushing is a natural part of a toddler’s development, and that if they remain consistent and firm, the testing blows over fairly quickly. It is also very important to stick to a “one warning, then consequence” rule, so that the child doesn’t endlessly push for negative attention. 

Question: For parents who want one-on-one help, what types of services do you offer?

Answer: There is always the “Do it yourself” guide with video coaching. However, some people like to have a more personal touch so I’ve certified several Sleep Sense Consultants who are on hand and personally trained by me to provide parents with the support and guidance needed to get them to success!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dana Obleman is the author of The Sleep Sense Program which has been used by more than 32,000 families to get their children sleeping through the night. You can get a free sleep assessment for your child by clicking here or visiting her website at http://www.sleepsense.net.

Twitter: @SleepBabyDana / YouTube: youtube.com/user/sleepsense

Child Development Authors & Experts Interview: Lise Eliot, Ph. D., Author of Pink Brain Blue Brain

Q&A WITH LISE ELIOT PH. D.

Author of Pink Brain Blue Brain

Question: We are big fans of your book, What’s Going On In There?, so we were very excited for your new book to be released. What inspired you to write Pink Brain Blue Brain?

Answer: Like many parents, I was fascinated by the differences between my daughter and sons.  But as a neuroscientist, I was curious how these differences are reflected in their brains. And if there are differences between boys’ and girls’ brains, what causes them—nature or nurture? I’ve also always been fascinated by the degree to which our personalities and abilities are shaped by innate factors, such as genes and hormones, versus environment—learning and experiences. Sex differences are a perfect distillation of this question, because there are obviously inborn biological differences between boys and girls, as well as deep differences in the culture boys and girls grow up in. I relished the chance to dig into the actual scientific data on the comparative roles of nature and nurture in creating sex differences in children’s brains and behavior.

Question: If readers were to take away one key lesson from your book, what do you hope it would be?

Answer: That boy-girl differences are not as “hard-wired” as many parents believe. Yes, there are innate differences, but they are more like biases, not absolute preferences or abilities.  And these small differences become magnified through all sorts of influences—marketing, parenting, and especially kid culture itself.   

There is so little we do with our brains that is actually hard-wired.   Most of our abilities, preferences, and even personality traits are shaped through neural plasticity—the brain’s fantastic ability to adapt to whatever culture, peer group, and educational system it is growing up in.  A better way to think about it is that whatever you do with your brain is what it becomes “wired” for.   So any time you see an obvious difference between men and women, or boys and girls, you have to ask yourself: How did they spend their time over the past three or thirty years to make their brains so good (or so bad) at certain skills?  And more importantly, if boys or girls are struggling in a particular area—whether it’s math, reading, or just sitting still in class—how can the right environment and forms of practice help them catch up?

Question: Did anything unexpected come out of your research writing this book?

Answer: Yes. As a biologist, I started out focused on figuring out precisely how boys’ and girls’ brains differ and the role of hormones in creating such differences. But the data just aren’t there! Scientists have identified very few reliable differences between men’s and women’s brains, much less between boys’ and girls’.  So rather than focusing on the “nature” side (for which there is very little evidence) I shifted my emphasis to the “nurture” side of the equation—toward uncovering the many ways in which parents, teachers, and especially children’s own beliefs about gender-appropriate behavior trigger the neuroplasticity that magnifies small initial differences into more troublesome boy-girl gaps.

Question: Which genuine difference surprised you the most?

Answer: The writing gap is much larger than I appreciated—especially when you consider all the great male writers through history. Boys clearly need more attention in this area, and I’ve suggested several ways to do this in the book. I was also frankly surprised that the sex difference in spatial navigation is as large as it is. I love maps and always orient myself in terms of north-south-east-west, so to learn that women, on average, really are poorer at this than men was eye-opening, and makes me all the more determined to use such “direction-speak” when I’m driving my kids—daughter and sons—around town.

On the other hand, I was honestly surprised at how weak the evidence is for hormonal effects on our mood and thinking abilities. While prenatal testosterone has some influence over play behavior and perhaps later sexual orientation, the sex hormones that rise at puberty and remain elevated in adults have surprisingly modest effects on our thinking—except for sex drive, which testosterone elevates in both men and women!

Question: You have two sons and a daughter. Do you think either girls or boys are harder to raise in a gender-balanced way?

Answer: Things have changed a lot for girls; parents’ preaching “you can do anything you want” is paying off, especially in sports and academic achievement. Girls really can do anything these days, and while some still restrict themselves to certain activities (for example, because they see computer programming camp as a “guy” thing), their parents are not usually the ones feeding them such ideas.  We are definitely seeing girls moving into areas they didn’t broach before, like playing hockey, the trombone, or running for student council president.

With boys, it’s harder, because our society is still very homophobic and many people seem to believe that sending a boy to ballet class will make him gay.  So we are freer to raise our daughters along a broader expanse of the gender spectrum, but boys are being painted into an ever-tinier corner as both they and society yields ground to girls.  It takes a community-wide effort to make a difference. In my town, we happen to have a great choral teacher who gets considerable numbers of middle-school boys singing and dancing. But this is just one lucky happenstance of local culture. Most other activities are distressingly gender-segregated, which is bad for both boys and girls.

The only way around this pink-blue barrier is to require kids to engage in certain activities. When I was in middle school, everyone had to take woodworking as part of art class. Nowadays, we let kids choose woodworking versus painting, so guess who ends up in each class? As I argue in the book, we need to reign in some of kids’ choices if we want to reduce the gnawing gaps between boys and girls.

On the other hand, as a mother of a teenaged daughter, if you ask me which sex is harder to raise, regardless of gender issues… well, answering that will just get me into a lot of trouble.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lise Eliot is Associate Professor of Neuroscience at The Chicago Medical School of Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science. A Chicago native, she received an A.B. degree from Harvard University, a Ph.D. from Columbia University, and did post-doctoral research at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. In addition to teaching and writing, Dr. Eliot lectures widely on children’s brain and gender development. She lives in Lake Bluff, Illinois with her husband and three children. 

Website: http://www.liseeliot.com/  Twitter: @Lise_Eliot

Breaking Down Lahl's Arguments to Ban Surrogacy

Jennifer Lahl is fighting to outlaw surrogacy in the United States. In her new documentary, Breeders: A Sub-Class of Women, she explores the issue of third-party reproduction. However, the documentary is not about the surrogacy industry, which is how the movie is marketed. It is a movie about independent surrogacies gone wrong, without the checks and balances of professional agencies, lawyers, therapists, etc.

Surrogacy is not a worldwide fertility option. It is banned in many countries, and where it is allowed, there are often ethics committees involved in evaluating cases. Several countries will allow altruistic surrogacy, where the carrier is not compensated above and beyond the expenses of pregnancy and delivery. Countries have many reasons for banning surrogacy, one of the chief reasons being the belief that surrogacy commodifies the human body.

I haven't seen Lahl argue the legal uses of a woman's body as a reason for banning surrogacy. Let’s review her main arguments against surrogacy from her recent ABC News Interview:

 1. Surrogacy has become a baby-buying operation by wealthy women.

First, surrogacy is not always a baby-buying operation by wealthy women. Does that happen? Sure. But of the 2,000 U.S. surrogacy cases in a given year, is it 5% of the time? 10%? 25%? To my knowledge, there are no statistics available around the wealth of the couples hiring carriers. I doubt the majority seeking out surrogates are women who want to “buy” their baby to avoid stretch marks or the uncomfortable side effects of pregnancy. I believe this is a very small percentage, just like Lahl’s handful of examples of surrogacy gone wrong versus the thousands of cases where it has gone smoothly.

Most often, surrogacy is sought by couples who cannot have their own children due to infertility. Women who cannot carry a baby to term, for whatever reason, have only one choice outside of adoption, and that is to have a gestational surrogate carry the couple’s child. Surrogacy is very expensive, but you’d likely find many middle-class couples who used their savings in order to bring their biological child, their dream, into this world. Is it fair that less fortunate couples cannot afford surrogacy? Certainly not. Unfortunately, there are many unfair realities for the poor, of which there are way too many in this country. But that is for another discussion.

Same-sex couples also turn to surrogacy to have children that carry on their own genes. In a time where a majority of people in this country finally agree with same-sex marriages, are we now going to ban them from having children?

“Banning gestational carrier surrogacy is a way of saying that certain people shouldn’t have children,” said Barbara Collura, executive director of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association in a Good Morning America interview. “I am not sure that is what our country wants to tell people.”

2. Surrogacy exploits vulnerable women, often those of lesser means.

First, surrogacy is not always for money. Sometimes family members or friends or even neighbors agree to be surrogates. I remember the day my sister volunteered to be a surrogate for my husband and me. We had been trying to conceive for three years, had tried multiple fertility treatments, and had miscarried with our first in vitro. We had unexplained infertility, and if I had not been able to carry a baby to term after a few more tries at in vitro, we would have considered my sister’s offer. 

Not everyone has a volunteer to turn to - and surrogacy is a very big favor to ask of someone. For commercial surrogacy, guidelines published by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine state that a gestational surrogate is “generally compensated for the time and effort involved in fulfilling this role,” and recommends that the compensation be agreed upon in advance and “documented in the contract between the carrier and the intended parents.”

So who are the carriers undertaking pregnancy for money? And are they, in fact, vulnerable women being exploited? Lahl would like everyone to believe this is the case. But again, there are no statistics to back this argument, at least none that I could find. Only hand-picked examples, like those in her documentary.

Professional surrogacy agencies go to great lengths to make sure the carrier is psychologically stable and that all of the parties understand the agreement details before a legal contract is signed. Again, the examples in Breeders were not carried out by professional agencies. And that contributed to many of the surrogacy issues documented in the movie.

The documentary talks about the significant percentage of military wives who become surrogates. One reason for this is because, with their husbands abroad and children of their own at home to care for, there aren’t many other options to bring in the kind of revenue surrogacy can. If you asked the surrogate military wives if they were vulnerable, and/or being exploited, what would they say? Many of those interviewed loved the experience and were grateful for the opportunity.

3. Surrogacy and IVF are damaging to children.

In the ABC News interview, Lahl said she also worries about the “primal wound” when a child is separated from its carrier. What is the primal wound, and does it apply to surrogacy?

The primal wound theory is that those who are adopted carry a scar from being separated from their biological parents. This theory came out of clinical research that showed adopted children often have more psychological issues. But the primal wound theory appears to be just that – a theory.

In an interview with Dr. Charles Nelson, Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and one of the leading experts on how early childhood neglect, abuse, malnutrition, institutionalization, and prenatal environment affects children, Nelson claims, There is no scientific evidence to support the primal wound theory that all adopted people carry a scar from being separated from biological parents. A theory that says just because they were separated from their birthmother leaves a permanent wound is just false on the face of it.”

Even if proof existed for a primal wound, that there is some kind of irreparable broken bond between biological mother and parent, would it apply to surrogacy, where the birth mother has no biological tie to the child? Is it a biological issue or a psychological one?

As to Lahl's claim that surrogacy and IVF are damaging to children, no proof exists to substantiate this damage, other than stories here and there where children were disappointed to find out that they were surrogate children, or where surrogate babies were delivered into the hands of abusive parents. While these are certainly awful situations, they do not represent the masses. They do not substantiate banning surrogacy for all. 

Lahl also worries that children do not have a say. ”It always strikes me that the children are so absent in the discussions,” said Lahl in the interview. While this is certainly true, children NEVER have a say about what family they’re born into. I’m not sure where that argument is meant to go.

Jennifer Lahl’s documentary is just that, a one-sided opinion about the issues she sees in surrogacy. Lahl has written in the past about why surrogacy and in vitro are not Christian concepts. From what I’ve read and watched, I wonder if this all really comes down to her belief that science does not belong in the realm of baby making. That only God should be able to make those decisions. And she is certainly entitled to that opinion. But that is what makes the United States of America a wonderful democracy. Along with Lahl’s entitlement to her opinion, comes the freedom of choice for all of the other women in this country who disagree with her.

I personally do not believe it should be up to Jennifer Lahl, or lawmakers, to say who should or shouldn’t have children. As an infertility warrior, I have to side with the couples who are willing to go to great lengths to have a baby. And I see positives for carriers, even for commercial surrogates, in the right circumstances.

Lahl claims the Unites States is the "Wild West" of surrogacy. I believe consistent regulations around surrogacy throughout the country that protect carriers, the intended parents and the children involved would be ideal. So let's focus on how to improve the surrogacy contract and how to handle any arising disputes, instead of crushing the dreams of couples hoping to bring their baby into this world.

You now have my 2 cents. And that may be exactly what it's worth. But it sure does feel good to get it off my chest.