Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Little About Vaccines

Oh yay, another one of those topics one must avoid in polite company... actually ALL company. Luckily my sisters aren't company- they are family. So here we go.

This post will be just an intro to the miserable lose-lose of the vaccine controversy. Partly because it is an overwhelmingly broad topic and partly because I don't have access to most of my saved links on the subject since my computer is currently not working.

So, as I am sure my sisters are at least vaguely aware, the sides fall approximately thus: mainstream medicine claims all legally available vaccines (FDA approved, etc) are safe, worthy, and effective; the alternative view would naturally be that that is not the case. The concerns include everything from autism to asthma to the possibility of incorrectly programming our immune systems. However, most people, I would venture to say, don't believe it is as simple as all or nothing.

Sadly, this issue is even more inflammatory than any other controversial issue I have looked into (which really is saying a lot since the internet is full of angry and hateful words directed at people who disagree with them). Perhaps this is because it is perceived to be a decision that may have a uniquely direct effect on other people's children. I can certainly understand how frightening and frustrating it would feel to think that just anybody could make decisions that might put my baby at risk. And, it turns out that both sides of this debate have that concern. The Healthy Home Economist explains how the government has set up the debate to pit parent against parent in THIS insightful post.

I don't want to make it seem like I am trying to argue on behalf of one side of this debate because I believe that there is no simple one-size-fits-all answer to this decision, and I truly do believe in parental rights and parental decisions. I really do think that only a child's parents should decide what is right for that child at that time. As is usually the case, that doesn't mean that they always make the right decision, but it is still theirs to make. Of course parents are most likely to make the right decision for their child if they get as much information as they can ahead of time, since reading one or two articles will hardly make you "well-informed.". Unfortunately educating yourself on tough decisions doesn't always make them less intimidating or more obvious- you can read every study, article, and opinion on the internet and find yourself more confused than ever, and that is why I am finding that as a parent especially, I have more need than ever to be guided by the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Much of the information I share will be about concerns for the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, but let me explain why. Your pediatrician, the prominent news outlets, and the government entities such as the CDC and FDA, will all be happy to share will you their arguments and anecdotes on behalf of vaccine safety and effectiveness. That information is easy to find. But the opposing information can be harder to find, sift though, and determine merit. I am trying to bring together some of that information that I have found intriguing.

Disclaimer: Of course I am not going to be able to find and share only websites that I agree with entirely; there will be statements and theories in most articles, videos, and websites I share that that I disagree with, or have not yet decided whether I agree or not. My main criteria for what I share is that the information was interesting, somewhat well-explained, and not mainstream.

One of the first sites I want to share is National Vaccine Information Center because it is a non profit organization that stands for informed consent, which is something I very enthusiastically support. Here is a video from the president of NVIC, Barbara Loe Fisher. They also have a page called "If you vaccinate, ask 8" with a checklist to go through before the vaccine appointment. 

Herd Immunity

Vaccine Illusion: Herd Immunity this is a much more in-depth explanation than I have read anywhere else, and parts of it are a bit different than most of the "herd immunity does not apply" arguments I have read.

The Gianelloni Family Blog also has a lot of information on herd immunity theory and practical information. There are several posts from their blog that touch on this subject, but there is a great deal of overlap information in them.
The Myth of Herd Immunity
Exposing Myths...Herd Immunity
Why All The Measles Outbreaks...

Some other videos

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Blessed with Life

THIS has to be one of the most amazing and surprising articles I have come across in a long time! I can't remember exactly where I was introduced to the story, anyway it is from and the headline reads "Unborn child just a ‘parasite’? Cutting edge science shows fetal cells heal mother for life" by Peter Baklinski.  So, as usual, I have highlighted my favorite portions, and have some additional thoughts at the end.

January 4, 2012 ( – A standard pro-abortion argument hinges on the premise that a baby inside his mom’s womb attacks her bodily integrity. The developing baby is seen in this light as an intruder, a parasite, a threat to the woman’s autonomy. From this perspective the pregnant woman is viewed as being occupied. The only way she can continue to exercise her interest in bodily integrity, the argument goes, is to be liberated through the termination and expulsion of the invader.
But science paints a vastly different picture about the actual relationship between a baby in utero and his or her mother, showing that, far from being a parasite, the unborn child can help heal his mother for the rest of her life, as beneficial cells from the child pass into the mother’s body during pregnancy.
Science writer Jena Pinctott explores this relationship in her October 2011 book “Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies?: The Surprising Science of Pregnancy.
Science has been studying the phenomena of fetal cell microchimerism for more than 30 years, after researchers at Stanford University were shocked in 1979 to discover a pregnant mother’s blood containing cells with Y sex chromosomes. Since women only have X chromosomes, they concluded that the cells must have entered into her body from the male baby she carried within her.
Drawing on studies in biology, reproductive genetics, and epigenetics, Pincott outlined in her book what science has learned since the Stanford discovery. “During pregnancy,” she wrote, “cells sneak across the placenta in both directions. The fetus’s cells enter his mother, and the mother’s cells enter the fetus.”
Scientists have discovered, she said, that a baby’s fetal cells show up more often in a mother’s healthy breast tissue and less often in a woman who has breast cancer (43 versus 14 percent).
Pinctott pointed out that as the quantity of fetal cells in a mother’s body increase the activity of autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis decreases. She called the evidence “tantalizing” that fetal cells may offer the mother increased resistance to certain diseases.
One kind of fetal cells that enter into the mother’s body is the baby’s stem cells. Stem cells have what Pinctott calls “magical properties” in that they can “morph” into other types of cells through a process called differentiation. The baby’s fetal stem cells can actually become the mother’s own cells that make up her liver, heart, or brain.
In what any ethicist might declare to be legitimate ‘embryonic stem cell therapy,’ the baby’s fetal stem cells migrate to the mother’s injured sites and offer themselves as a healing remedy, becoming part of the mother’s very body. Pinctott writes that such cells have been found in “diseased thyroid and liver tissue and have turned themselves into thyroid and liver cells respectively.”
Pinctott calls the evidence “striking” that a baby’s fetal cells “repair and rejuvenate moms.”Genetics specialist Dr. Kirby Johnson of Tufts Medical Center, Boston, and professor Carol Artlett, a researcher at Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University, back up Pinctott’s ideas. Their research shows that when a woman becomes pregnant she acquires an army of protective cells - what might be called a gift from her child - that remains with her for decades, perhaps till the end of her life.
Johnson and Artlett spoke to NPR’s Robert Krulwich in a 2006 interview.  In their research, Johnson found that a teaspoon of blood from a pregnant mother contained “dozens, perhaps even hundreds of cells… from the baby.” Science has shown that at the end of a mother’s pregnancy, up to 6 percent of the DNA in her blood plasma comes from her baby.
“One would expect them [the fetal cells in the mother’s body] to be attacked fairly rapidly. You would expect them to be cleared within hours, if not days. What we found is that that is not the case, not anywhere near the case,” Johnson said.
Artlett pointed out that even if a woman miscarries or deliberately aborts her child, the cells of the unborn child nonetheless remain with the mother, even for decades.Both Johnson and Artlett defend the hypothesis that the baby’s fetal cells have a beneficent purpose, not to hurt the mother, but to protect, defend, and repair her for the rest of her life, especially when she becomes seriously ill.“There’s a lot of evidence now starting to come out that these cells may actually be repairing tissue,” said Artlett.
During the interview, Johnson told the story of one woman who was admitted into a Boston hospital with symptoms of hepatitis. She was an intravenous drug user with five pregnancies on record: one birth, two miscarriages, and two abortions. Johnson speculated that she would be carrying a lot of fetal cells.In the process of examining her, the medical team performed a liver biopsy. A sample of her liver was sent to a lab to see if any fetal cells had congregated in the diseased area of her liver. What they found surprised them. “We found hundreds… and hundreds of fetal cells,” said Johnson, adding that they saw “literally sheets of cells, whole areas that seemed to be normal.”
Scientists are still trying to determine what causes the baby’s cells to work with the mother’s body in such a synergetic fashion. Pinctott wonders how many people have left their DNA in a mother’s body. “Any baby we’ve ever conceived,” she concludes.
Pinctott sees something “beautiful” in this. “Long post postpartum, we mothers continue to carry our children, at least in a sense. Our babies become part of us, just as we are a part of them. The barriers have broken down; the lines are no longer fixed.”
Perhaps it is not at all poetic to say along with Pinctott that a baby lives a lifetime in a mother’s heart and mind.
It may be that further research finds that this effect is much less significant than this research suggests, or that it is possible for this effect to be unhelpful in some cases. But for right now, it is a really beautiful thought that every baby I conceive, whether or not I am able to raise them, will leave a physical legacy in my body as a testament to their beginnings. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

3 Rules for Bedtime Reading by Melanie Mayo and Marcy Axness

I wanted to share THIS article from The authors share 3 rules (which they later suggest are "more like guidelines") for bedtime reading in addition to some GREAT information about the reasoning behind them. I have quoted below the three rules and paragraphs explaining them and have, as usual, highlighted my favorite portions and added my own commentary in green.

Rule #1:  Choose Beauty, Reverence & Wonder
There is a mind-numbingly massive selection of so-called children's literature out there, and my first 2 rules will help you cut through the glut in making your choices of which books to share with your child. Although this post was inspired by last week's Flavorwire list of "50 Books Every Parent Should Read to Their Child" and there are indeed several of our family favorites in there, I cannot vouch for the fact that all 50 meet my Rule #1 criteria: the book must feature beauty (as opposed to just cleverness) in the illustrations, especially in the depiction of the human form. So many illustrations portray people in caricatured, exaggerated and even grotesque ways, which has a subtly discouraging effect upon a child’s psyche.  The so-called "children's book" that first comes to mind when she mentions grotesque depiction of the human form is No, David! which probably doesn't meet any of the criteria of a good book for any time of day. The illustrations in that book have a discouraging effect on my psyche!
Also, the story and its illustrations should draw on wonder, imagination, and reverence for its subject. (I have written much here on the importance of wonder in the life of the young child.) Countless books that purport to be for children feature overly adult perspectives and tones, such as irony or sarcasm. (Sarcasm is poison to the soul of a young child, who cleaves to goodness, kindness and wonder.) And whatever you read together before bed are impressions your child will take into his or her sleep and dreams.
Rule #2:  Choose Books You Like
When you read to your child books that you enjoy, your little one will be nurtured by the resonance you feel with the story and illustrations. Also, through the never-to-be-underestimated power of example, if you are forcing yourself to read something that doesn't appeal to you, you shouldn't be surprised if not so many years from now your child is resistant to reading!
Rule #3:  Offer Conversation, Not Interrogation
This is probably the trickiest rule of the three. It will require that you really put some mindfulness into action while reading with your child. While research overwhelmingly demonstrates the value of reading to children, there is a slight catch:
"...being read to does not by itself automatically lead to literacy. The real link seems to lie in the verbal interaction that occurs between adult and child during story reading (Snow 1996). Since children learn language by actively constructing meaning (Vgotsky 1962; Lindfors 1987), the seeds of literacy lie in the social construction of meaning around print, that is, the talk—“scaffolding,” explaining, clarifying—between the reader and child listener as they look at, point to, and label objects, and discuss print and its meaning." [Click here for more info]

The key here is to avoid the pitfall of slipping into what I call "interrogation mode" with your child--peppering him with endless questions like a running pop quiz. I remember our R.I.E. teacher explaining that it is the child's role to ask questions of the parent, not the other way around. But what do we parents so often do? We love to see and hear our child demonstrate her precocious brilliance, so we drill her: "Where's George?" "What did he put on his head?" "What color is it?"

There are a couple of issues here. First of all, this isn't the most fruitful approach to interacting with your child, and it can have the opposite effect as you'd like over time: rather than opening up and chatting with you, he may clam up. Because there's a subtle disrespect inherent in the interrogation mode, and it can erode your child's trust in you. I know at least one person who reads this may feel that that last statement is too broad- and I would agree. I don't think that there is always a "subtle disrespect" in interrogation mode, but I think the tendency is something to be cautious and aware of.  

While I'm not a fan of the treat-your-small-child-like-an-adult school of thought, in this case it has merit. Imagine sharing an interesting story with an adult you like and respect. Let's say you're reading it at the same time on a computer screen. Could you imagine quizzing them like we do our kids? Of course not! Instead, you might share an impression or insight or puzzlement you have about the story, and see what they think about it. You might engage in some open-ended dialogue about some of the meanings behind the characters' actions or what they might have been feeling. That's the same way we can more richly interact with our children about the books we read with them.

Another issue, though, is that bedtime reading is a time for DE-escalating stimulation, including mental stimulation. The time for engaging in lively discussion over the meaning of stories is sometime else during the day. This depends a lot on your child; some kids have no problem shifting from mental high-gear into readiness for sleep, but I think that's unusual. Bedtime reading (in my humble opinion) is more of a slow-paced, dreamy-time mode that serves as your child's soft gateway to sleep. Books I used for our children's bedtime reading often had the quality and pacing of a lullaby. Goodnight Moon is of course one of the best examples of this. A lesser-known one that was one of our favorites in this style is The Midnight Farm.

I hope to keep these "guidelines" in mind as I continue the rich tradition of bed-time-stories that I loved so much as a child.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Feet Feet Feet

There are some things that, as parents, we have been thinking and worrying about since before our children were even born. There are other things that we started thinking about and worrying about as soon as they were born. But sometimes, there are things that never occurred to us to worry about, until someone else says something.

So, feet.  Not something I had been worrying about. Then, when my daughter was a few weeks old we were at a mama group when one of the mothers started talking about how the only things she bought new for her daughters were shoes- because foot development was so important. Everything else could be used, but the shoes had to be $75 brand new ones. Whoa! I thought. What was so scary about foot development, and why was this the first I had heard of it?!

I only recently, finally, did some digging into what the deal is with foot development- and THIS seems to be the best website to explain the details, although I also got some good basic info HERE.

Basically, what I learned sums up to this (although this certainly doesn't go into enough detail so read the real articles if you can)

  • The first five years are the most important for foot development.
  • From the very beginning (as in, from the time you bring your baby home) babies need to be able to have a wide range of motion for their feet and toes to allow them to stretch and flex for proper development. This means, no tight socks or swaddles that significantly limit their ability to do these things (or, if you must tightly swaddle legs and feet for certain sleep periods, make sure they have lots of other opportunities during the day to flex and stretch and play with feet and toes).
  • Continue to keep your child's feet as uninhibited as possible as they learn to sit and crawl. Make sure socks are not tight (when they are necessary, which often is not the case- apparently, if the floor is warm enough for baby's hands to be bare, his/her feet can be bare also) and avoid shoes as much as possible (this was natural for us since money is so tight and it didn't seem to make financial sense to invest is shoes for a child that does not walk).
  • Crawling is very important for foot development- give your baby as much opportunity to crawl as possible ( recommends putting your baby in a play pen rather than a swing when you need to keep him/her out from underfoot, but really, use common sense and moderation people; do that many people keep kids in swings for so much of the day that they don't get enough opportunities to crawl? Really?)
  • Once your child is walking and needs shoes the recommendations are for shoes that are "flexible, roomy, and simply made are best. Remember, children's toes and feet must be allowed to grow naturally without restrictions and pressures.... [it should be] flexible through the arch. Having found a flexible arch, make certain that the sole itself is not so thick that the shoe becomes hard to bend..." Also, avoid pointed toes, arch-support features, and heels (the flatter the better). As far as length and width are concerned, get shoes as wide as possible and "[t]here should be at least one adult thumb width or three-fourths of one inch of space between the end of the child's toes and the end of the shoe"
  • Go barefoot as much as possible. Period. "It is not enough that children's feet be free from deforming shoes-foot health also depends upon going barefoot in order to develop agility and strength in the feet. . . . For toddlers, shoes should be worn outdoors only during inclement weather and indoors only for infrequent dress-up occasions."

The article also suggests that after your child's first five years, you should compare his/her feet to some peer's. "If you will have your child follow the directions just outlined, until he is five, you will find that he has perfectly functioning, almost entirely unimpaired feet. (The ends of the first, fourth and fifth toes may be curled in a little, no matter how great care is taken, because there are presently no shoes on the market which are entirely non-deforming). Compare your child's feet with those of his playmates the same age - with whom this care was not taken. Your child will have straighter, stronger toes and denser muscles on the bottom of his feet. You will be amazed to discover that other children's toes will be skinny and weak, even gnarled. When you see the ease with which your child moves about on his feet you will feel rewarded for the care you have taken of his feet." I don't know how well I can follow all the guidelines given, but we will certainly do bare feet as much as possible (which I now know is more than I would have thought) and I just might look at some other children's feet when my daughter is five!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Remembering Pregnancy Loss- by Olivia Hinebaugh

So it seems last month was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month and Olivia Hinebaugh wrote a particularly touching article for entitled Remembering Pregnancy Loss.  She was able to put into words many of the feelings I remember experiencing that I struggled to define and explain. 

I do not share my experience with everyone, and I try to be selective about who I share it with and how I share it. But, I am not always careful enough, and there have been one or two times that I have regretted it. Interestingly, it has always been with women who have suffered a miscarriage themselves. Not everyone, it seems, feels a deep emotional pain of loss with early miscarriage. But I do. I didn't know how to explain it before, but Olivia's words were perfect: "But when I saw that line [confirming that she was pregnant], my heart made some extra space for that baby--a space that is still there, still empty.

Later she says, (emphasis mine)
"My friends who knew I was pregnant did their best. They said: “You’ll have another,” and “it wasn’t meant to be.” But I loved this baby. How could they say that? I wanted a sympathy card. Or flowers. Or acknowledgement that I hadn’t made this whole thing up. One of my friends heard of the miscarriage and immediately came over and fixed me dinner. This was truly a kindness. My grandmother sent me an email of condolence. I saved it. I saved the home pregnancy test. I saved the onesies and the bib. I needed to know that this baby was real and that I loved it.

When I hear that friends of mine have lost a pregnancy. I remember how I felt. I write them a card of condolence. I give a little memento for their baby. Something they can look at. Something to know that it was real. Perhaps my friends don’t need these to grieve, but in case they do, they know that I grieve with them and remember their baby."

I love these suggestions and wish I had thought of them myself when I found out a friend of mine was suffering though this experience. 

If you have experienced early pregnancy loss, or if you are close to someone who is experiencing pregnancy loss, I recommend you read this piece in its entirety.  To some, pregnancy loss is not a big deal, but it was for me and for Olivia and it may be for you- and that is a perfectly valid feeling.