What Moms really want/need for Mother’s Day

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Dear Baby Daddy,

This letter applies to anyone who has fathered a child, whether they be husband, boyfriend or estranged partner. If you aren’t aware, this Sunday is Mother’s Day. You should be honoring not only the woman who gave you life but also the woman who gave life to your children. And this honor thing should not be for just one day. It should be every day.

Being in the baby business for the past 25 years, I have been present at the start of hundreds of families. This is the moment that parenting starts and some guys do it better than others. Let me give you a few clues as to what is expected of you.

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  1. Remember when this all started 9 months ago? You were there for the blessed event of conception and if you didn’t want to be a father, you should have voiced that opinion with the use of a condom. FYI – they are inexpensive, freely available and can be kept in your wallet for just such an occasion. History tells us about one immaculate conception and your partner hasn’t made history by being the second. This child is your responsibility for the remainder of your life, so stick around. And that means at the birth as well as the birthday parties. Responsibilities come in the form of monetary payments as well as emotional/physical support.
  2. Start practicing your involvement by coming to a few obstetric appointments. Hearing the heartbeat of the baby is a pretty cool trick that we doctors perform each visit. You can ask questions your partner may have forgotten. You CAN’T play video games on your phone during the entire visit – that makes you look like a child rather than a potential father.
  3. Set a good example at home with your diet and exercise habits. Eating a meal of McDonald’s on the couch while watching tv all evening doesn’t help your partner make nutritious food choices that will help her baby grow. Go for a walk and then help to cook a meal. You might even have a conversation about baby names that wouldn’t have happened in front of the tv. And if your partner is trying to give up smoking or drugs for the welfare of your child you are not allowed to offer her a cigarette, smoke in front of her or invite friends over for a night of illegal substance use.
  4. Support your partners decision to breast feed. Her breasts are not your property and will soon belong to your unborn child. Get over it!
  5. Pony up the money for a birthing class. When patients tell me they can’t afford the $80 fee, I wonder how they will afford to care for a child over the next 2 decades. I realize that you don’t need a birthing class in order to have a baby, but it makes the experience much less anxiety producing for both the mom and the doctor. Nobody would consider driving a car before taking driving lessons, but everyone thinks they are an “expert” at the birthing process because they watched someone else give birth.
  6. Your partner is in labor and you are with her at the hospital. These pointers will help you in how you are treated by the nurses and doctors. Your wife is our patient – not you. You will be required to get your own food and drink. If your partner is awake, you should be also. Sleeping on the couch in the room while your partner is trying to birth your child isn’t acceptable. Since the doctor and the nurse have been up all night helping to care for your partner, you have no excuse. And realize there will be a few sleep deprived nights ahead, so this is good practice.
  7. Labor hurts. Let me say this again; Labor hurts. Just because you and your partner decided that a natural childbirth without pain meds was a good idea last month doesn’t mean she can’t change her mind when she realizes that the horror stories she has heard are true and more. It’s her body and her decision – its your job to be supportive of her decision. Would you consider having your appendix removed without anesthesia to make it a more “natural” process? I didn’t think so.
  8. The baby has arrived and you are home. Now the hard work begins. Your partner has just pushed a volleyball out her vagina and she may be a bit sore. She is also experiencing 2 boulders sitting on her chest that leak copious amounts of milk at inopportune times. Your job is to take over the household responsibilities for at least a week. No sports on tv, no guy time, no video game marathons.
  9. For those men who are not living with the mother of their child, don’t feel that the above rules aren’t applicable to you. You are still on the hook for financial support and you should make sure that your visits aren’t disruptive but that you are helpful. Hold your child and become acquainted while mom takes a nap. Purchase a package of diapers as a gift. Offer to wash the dishes in the sink. See #1 – this is your child and your responsibility. Your parents (paternal grandparents of child) also should be holding you responsible. And if you think all this parenting work is too difficult – buy a lifelong supply of condoms.
  10.  You and your partner have made the mutual decision to stop producing more babies. She has birthed a few children as well as managed the birth control options to this point. Now it’s your turn. A vasectomy takes 10 minutes – that is the length of time for 2 contractions in a 12 hour labor – and is much less painful than one contraction. If your partner went thru childbirth without pain meds, you might want to consider a vasectomy without pain meds to make it more “natural”.  And finally, don’t forget the flowers this weekend.

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Keeping Moms and Children Together in Haiti: The best Mother’s Day Gift

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Mother’s Day brings a feeling of overwhelming gratitude for the many mothers in my life – the mother that raised me, the mother that raised my fabulous husband, the mother of my 3 children created thru egg donation  and the Korean and Chinese mothers that gave birth to my daughters and then made the difficult decision to place them for adoption. I have always imagined what their life would have been if,  instead of completing reams of paperwork and writing checks for large sums of money, we had worked to provide for their original families so that they would have been able to be raised in their country of origin. That venture is much more difficult and involves a more long-term world view than a short-term individualistic approach. But that is exactly what the founders of Second Mile Haiti are trying to achieve. We were fortunate to spend a few hours touring their expanding facility on our last day in Haiti.

The founders of Second Mile Haiti are Jenn Schenk and Amy Syres, two young women who had a vision to create a sustainable option for families who were previously relinquishing their malnourished children to care centers, where the children were  either placed for international adoption or reunified back into their impoverished families after their malnutrition was corrected. ” It didn’t seem right that the only available way to help these families was to take their kids from them. We really had to ask ourselves if there wasn’t some sort of alternative” says Amy, regarding the experiences that led the co-founders to start Second Mile Haiti.

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The alternative that they have created is flourishing. Severly malnourished children are referred to their program from nearby hospitals. Each child is admitted with a caregiver, usually their mother, and spends 4-6 weeks in the program slowly being nourished back to health. Caregivers are taught what causes malnutrition and how it can be prevented. They are part of the team that works to improve their child’s malnutrition. Second Mile also offers daily business, literacy and home gardening classes so that the caregivers can participate in sustainable small business projects. At the end of each caregivers stay, she is given instructions and goals for her child in follow-up. Providing these goals are met, which they almost always are, the caregiver is given the goods she will need to begin a small business that will continue to provide for her family, preventing the recurrence of malnutrition in addition to empowering her to become a leader in her community and share her knowledge with others.

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Currently, the facility has room for 12 moms and children. Construction of a second building to house another 12 caregivers and their children was in full swing on the day of our visit. An additional 30-40 Haitians were employed in the building project. The gardener proudly showed off the 4 acres of produce that is used to feed the caregivers, children and staff. A large mango tree in the middle of the property supplies the mango jam that flavors the newly made goat yogurt. These are the ingredients that help to break the cycle of poverty and undernutrition. The benefits extend beyond the walls of the compound – each person that Second Mile touches with their program, whether it be a caregiver or employee, amplifies the effect in the community with information and salaries.

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Mother’s Day is everyday for these fortunate women, as they are able to continue to care for their children and provide them with adequate nutrition. The cost of this program is far less than housing a “relinquished child” and then trying to reintegrate them back into Haitian society. A United Nations Grant is funding the expansion project and will hopefully replicate this program in other parts of the developing world.