Obama Mamas Get Involved: A Call to Action Part 2

Last week I wrote The Time for Change is Now: A Call to Action Part 1 and promised that I would follow up with Part 2 with stories of my family and friends who have inspired me with their volunteer efforts to help Barack Obama win this election.

obamamama.jpgWe have just one week until election day. One week to rise to the challenge. One week to get involved and make a difference.

Earlier this month my friend Alison from GreenMe wrote Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for You. I have to credit her with helping me reevaluate my priorities and giving me the proverbial kick in the pants I needed to go volunteer myself. She wrote:

Okay, so you would like to volunteer, but you don’t have the time? I am sure that you — like myself — procrastinate on a daily basis. You put off the laundry or the vacuuming or dropping off the recycling — so that you can do something else. Right now there is nothing more important in your future and the future of your children and grandchildren — nieces and nephews than getting out the vote and talking to your neighbors. No single thing is more influential in your future than the future of your country. The last 8 years of President Bush have been a near disaster. The election is less than 4 weeks away — and YOU don’t have time to volunteer? Not even 2 hours? What about 4 hours?

Think about the amount of difference that you could make in 4 hours? Supposedly, every 14th person that you contact is likely to actually “hear” your words and have a change of heart and mind. Consider this: if 100 people read this blog today and, 100 people then go out and each to talk to 50 people tomorrow — statistically that would result in 357 additional people voting for your candidate. In swing states, such as Colorado, 357 people just might make the difference in who is the next President of the United States of America.

Alison, who is a third generation Coloradoan and mother to a 15 month old son, has spent several hours volunteering herself at the local Democrats office, making phone calls and canvassing. When asked why she chose to get involved, Alison said: “Life on earth is interconnected. What happens today, what happens here, affects not only you and me, but future generations and people around the world. Obama understands the interconnectedness of life and he genuinely wishes that United States of American lives up to its own motto as a ‘Government of the People, for the People, and my the People.’ With that it mind? How could I not get involved in this election?”

Another “Obama Mama” (which is on a pin I’ve been wearing for the past week) who inspired me to get involved is my good friend Brandy Lance, who’s currently living in Georgia with her husband and two young boys. Although she hasn’t been able to volunteer as much as she’d like, she still found ways to get herself and her children involved in this election.

We decided we wanted to thank those who can donate more time. My boys and I began baking goodies for our local Obama office volunteers. We’ve made them cookies, muffins, and pretzels and even though a volunteer that lives just down the road from us has volunteered to take them to the office, I have driven the boys down each time. I at least want to show them how the volunteers are dedicating their time, what the office looks like and how appreciative the people are when they receive their gift of thanks. It’s a small way to get children involved in the political process while helping to create a better sense of community and appreciation.

Brandy has also done some data entry work for her local Democrat office.

This is the first election Brandy has gotten involved in and says the reason is, “I believe that America needs major change now and needs to have some better policies in place for the sake of my children’s future. If I don’t help elect a candidate whom I believe can, and will, help our country, then it seems to me that I really don’t care all that much.”

Another mom who felt the need to get involved in an election for the first time is Erika Carlson, mom of two of Louisville, Colo., who organized the Louisville Mamas for Obama, which is comprised of a few dozen women. They held a bake sale which raised $650 for the Obama campaign and also got hundreds of bumper stickers, buttons and yard signs out to Louisville supporters, as well as managed informational tables at the Farmers Market. She’s now working on getting the Louisville Mamas for Obama to volunteer for the Get Out The Vote efforts these last few days before the election.

When asked why she choose to get involved she said, “I felt last election that Bush could not possibly win, and he did. I want to make sure that our feelings of ‘being ahead’ in the polls doesn’t lead to complacency.”

A couple other women I’ve been inspired by as of late are my sister and my mom. Both have been doing work for the Democratic party in this election. My mom, a retired school teacher in northeast Michigan, has been volunteering a LOT – canvassing, making phone calls, and working in her local Obama office, and I’ve been really proud of her for it. She plans to work the last four days before the election, doing whatever they need her to do.

Although this isn’t her first election to be involved in, the last time was many years ago when Bobby Kennedy was running for president. She decided to get involved again this year because, “Enough is enough. I cannot just sit by and let another Republican get elected. I declared myself a Democrat and started to volunteer. We have to have a president that really and sincerely cares about our country’s future and the future of my children and grandchildren, and we have to improve our image globally.”

So there you have it, four stories from four different women, all motivated to get involved to help shape the future of our country, and all of whom helped inspire me to get involved.

We have just seven days left before history will be made. Can you get involved? Do you have an hour or two to spare? Can you make some phone calls to remind people to vote and tell them their polling place? Can you drive people without transportation to the polls? Can you make a donation? Can you bring some food to volunteers on election day? Every little bit helps.

Here’s one more (specific) way to get involved. Cynthia Samuels recently posted about a group called Election Protection that will work to protect people from voter suppression on election day. She urges, “If you are an attorney or law student or paralegal, please sign up to help.” My little sis, who is an attorney, will be involved in those efforts.

Lastly, today Barack Obama gave a very inspiration speech in Canton, Ohio. You can watch the last six or so minutes of it here. A few things he said that especially stood out to me were:

“We have to work this week like our future depends on it in this last week…because it does.”

“We can choose hope over fear and unity over division, the promise of change over the power of the status quo.”

“It won’t be easy, it won’t be quick, but you and I know it is time to come together and change this country.”

We only have one week left. Let’s come together. Let’s get involved. Let’s change this country!

The Time for Change is Now: A Call to Action Part 1

If not me, who? If not now, when?
— Mikhail Gorbachev

obama_sunrise.JPGAfter reading and hearing about some of my friends* doing fund-raising and volunteering for the Obama campaign, last weekend while out running errands, the family and I stopped in our local Democrat headquarters and I inquired as to what I could do to help. I happily signed up to call democrats and undeclared voters in my city to remind them to turn in their mail-in ballots. I hadn’t given a whole lot of thought as to when I would do the calls, I just knew that I feel so strongly about this election that I wanted to do something more than exercise my right and responsibility to vote.

The first day I tried to make calls while the kids were playing outside. I got through about seven calls before Ava came to the backdoor and started yelling – while I was in the middle of a call, of course. The woman on the other end chuckled and I said, “You can’t tell I’m making this call from home, can you?” ;) I decided then that I should probably reserve my calling time to when my husband Jody was home in the evening or on the weekend.

On Tuesday night with Jody home to tend to the kids, I got through about five pages of calls while sitting in my car in the driveway. Seriously. That’s not exactly what I had planned when I signed up to volunteer, but it was quiet and there was no one to disturb me. :)

Even though there are less than two weeks until the election, there is still a great need for volunteers (and donations as well). Beyond making calls to remind people to return their ballots or remind them of their polling places, etc., volunteers are needed for other reasons. Volunteers are still needed to canvass local neighborhoods, especially in key swing states like Colorado (where I live). They are needed to drive people without cars or licenses to and from the polls on election day. There is also data entry work to be done (which would be a lot more practical for this mom to do at home in her jammies). And although this is not an actual volunteer position (but something that I’m sure would be very much appreciated), one can always deliver snacks, meals, etc. to the poll workers on election day.

That quote by Gorbachev has been going through my mind a lot lately. If not me, who? If not now, when? In these last few days it’s up to all of us to do whatever we can, whether that be talking with our friends and families about our choices, blogging about it, pointing out lies that the GOP is spreading (I just got a flier in the mail today saying Barack Obama is a friend of terrorists – paid for by the Colorado GOP), volunteering on a formal level, etc. If you’ve been wanting to do something, but not knowing what you can do, I encourage you to visit or call your local Democratic office and ask. It’s that easy and I bet you you’ll feel so good about yourself once you’ve done it. The time is now.

* There will be a follow-up post to this one chronicling the volunteer efforts of my mom and a few of my friends. They’ve inspired me to get involved and it is my hope that maybe they will help inspire you too.

Still not convinced you need to do something to help Obama secure this election? Watch this video. Maybe it will change your mind. The time is now.

Fighting poverty, globally and locally, is easier than you might think

Today, Oct. 15, is Blog Action Day, the day that thousands of bloggers, regardless of their genre, unite to discuss a single issue. This year’s issue is POVERTY.

I feel very fortunate that I’ve never experienced poverty. Yes, money was always tight when I was growing up. We never took vacations that didn’t involve staying somewhere for free and bringing our own food (my great-grandma’s cottage), going out to eat was rare, hand-me-downs were a part of life, and my mom grew some of our food in a garden and sewed some of our clothes. But I never went to bed hungry, I never had to cram my feet in shoes that were too small (or go without shoes at all), and I always had a roof over my head and a warm bed to sleep in.

And now, in my adult life, I am just as fortunate. My kids have it better than I did growing up (isn’t that always the goal?), but my husband and I definitely make sacrifices as we live on one salary so that I can be a stay-at-home mom. We try very hard not to live beyond our means, but this has been a learning experience for us over the years. As an aside, we recently paid off our last credit card, so other than one Jody uses for business trips (which we are reimbursed for), we no longer have any credit card debt to worry about. That is a fantastic feeling!

The sad truth though is that millions of people around the world are not as fortunate as I have been, and I fear that as the U.S. economic crisis continues, more and more people will find themselves living on less and less as they struggle to make ends meet.

The good news is that there are some simple ways each of us can help make a difference.

I’ve found a few ways to easily help fight poverty ONLINE. The first two are the simplest, which require nothing more than pointing and clicking. The second two require investing some money, but are both pretty amazing.

  1. Visit The Hunger Site every day. One click can help feed others.
  2. Play the Free Rice game – boost your vocabulary while feeding hungry people.
  3. Kiva – Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty. Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world.
  4. MicroPlace – MicroPlace’s mission is to help alleviate global poverty by enabling everyday people to make investments in the world’s working poor. MicroPlace is currently the only website that provides everyday investors with the ability to make investments in the microfinance industry. Through MicroPlace, an investor can make investments that earn financial returns while having a positive social impact.

If we are really going to make an impact on poverty though, we need to focus our efforts locally as well as globally. Here are a few suggestions on how you can make a difference in your own COMMUNITY.

  1. Go through your closets and drawers and donate anything you no longer wear or haven’t worn in the past year. Have your kids help with this too by going through their own clothes and shoes to find those that no longer fit.
  2. In the same spirit and keeping your children involved, ask them to select a few toys to donate to those less fortunate. Let your kids deliver them to the charity of your choice.
  3. Eat meatless dinners for one week every month (or one day every week) and donate all of the money you saved on meat to a local homeless or battered women’s shelter.
  4. Skip your Starbucks coffee once a week and donate the money.
  5. Donate your time to help serve lunches in a local soup kitchen.
  6. If you have a skill to offer, check with your local charity to see if they can put it to good use. Chances are they will welcome the offer.
  7. The Salvation Army’s Annual Bell-Ringing Campaign is coming up and volunteers are always needed. This could be a fun and worthwhile project to do as a family.

I hope you’ll consider doing one or more of the ideas above and that you’ll stop by Blog Action Day to read some of the other posts today. If you’ve participated in Blog Action Day on your own blog, please leave a link to your post in the comments and I will compile a list here, adding to it throughout the day as time allows. Thank you!

Other Blog Action Day participants:
– The Buy Nothing Project: Fighting Poverty the Self-Sufficient Way
– Ima On (and Off) the Bima: The King and the Shack
– 123Pizza: Poverty and the Girl Effect
– Chasing Domestic Bliss: Poverty and Homelessness
– Crazy Adventures in Parenting: Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty

Paris Hilton: I’ll see you at the debates, bitches

I never thought the day would come when I would find myself rooting for Paris Hilton, but after seeing John McCain’s election anti-Obama “celebrity” ad where he used both Britney Spears and Paris’s likenesses (apparently without their permission) and then Hilton’s rebuttal ad, I have to say – Go Paris, go!

McCain’s ad:

Paris’s response:

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

I’ll see you at the debates, bitches. :)

And after that I’ll see you at the polls, beotches. ;P

More about the Hilton ad:
* Paris memorized entire McCain monologue
* BlogHers react to McCain, Hilton
* Paris Hilton’s mom takes offense at McCain’s humor

What do you think about all of this? If you blog it, leave me your link and I’ll add it to this post. Thanks!

Exclusive interview: Natalie of The Baby Borrowers discusses attachment parenting, teen pregnancy

A couple of weeks ago I shared my feelings regarding NBC’s reality TV show “The Baby Borrowers.” If you are unfamiliar with the premise of the show, it takes five teenage couples through a crash course in adulthood tasking them with responsibilities such as a house payment, a job, and for three days, the care of a baby (and later a toddler, pre-teen, teenager and elderly person).

As I mentioned in that post, I was surprised to find out one of the moms of the borrowed children – Natalie Nichols – practiced many aspects of attachment parenting (AP). I couldn’t stop thinking about her and wondering if my initial visceral reaction to the show was entirely warranted or if, like in any situation, there were two sides to the story.

I decided to go straight to the source to find out more about what motivated Natalie to lend her infant daughter (Etta – 6 months at the time of the show) and toddler son (Benjamin – 2 years at the time of the show) to The Baby Borrowers (to be cared for by teen “parents” Kelsey and Sean) and to find out if there was more going on behind the scenes than was depicted on the show.

While I still disagree with the show, writing my initial post and doing this interview with Natalie has been a learning experience for me. All too often in the blogosphere, we (myself included) tend to react off the cuff to news of this, that or the other thing, without delving in for more information or waiting to hear the other side of the story. I think it’s human nature, but it doesn’t make it right. I hope that I will remember this the next time I hear something “outrageous” and before I blow a gasket, I will check out the facts and try to find out the whole story.

What follows is an interview with Natalie Nichols about her participation in The Baby Borrowers, with questions from a few other AP moms as well.

Natalie Nichols and son Benjamin - July 2008First off, what are the names and ages of your children?

I have 4 children total: 3 boys, Mackenzie (13), Zackary (8), Benjamin (3), and then our daughter Etta is now 18 months.

In an earlier conversation you said, “yes, I am an AP parent.” What does that mean to you?

I actually would say that I have some characteristics of Attachment Parenting, and many of a Natural Family Lifestyle. It is important to note though that neither of these titles defines who I am or what I do. I simply do what comes naturally to me, and what feels right as far as my family is concerned. I do not judge others for their parenting choices. Over the years of parenting my 4 kids, I have responded to their cries, and they have been worn in a sling or in my arms. I have nursed with reckless abandon, some would say. I’m “one of those moms” who doesn’t think that breastfeeding should be hidden, so where my kids were hungry is where they nursed. I’ve never seen the need to buy a “hiding” cover, sit in a special room, or God forbid nurse in a toilet stall. I think that babies should be worn or held up close and in the middle of adult conversations as a way of becoming more social and fostering great communication skills. I believe in delayed vaccinations, I co-sleep, I have almost always been a stay-at-home mother, I have homeschooled, I have unschooled, and two of my 4 births were natural by choice (and beautifully peaceful if I might add). If my babies need something, I provide it. I have never used a pacifier for any of my kids. They didn’t need them, they had me, and that worked out wonderfully. Out of the bunch the only one to suck a thumb was Benjamin.

Heather, an AP mom who blogs at A Mama’s Blog and API Speaks, would like to know, “Why did you feel the need to let teens who virtually have no child care experience, “borrow” your baby and let them be your baby’s caregiver? Doesn’t this go against the very parenting philosophy – attachment parenting – that you are trying to apply with your baby?”

I have to begin with saying that I was a very intelligent young girl, but at the same time, I didn’t know anything. I moved out on my 16th birthday to live with my teen boyfriend’s family, we got pregnant on purpose, we were married when I was 8 months pregnant and I delivered my first son 1 month before I turned 18. Although I was in the top 10 in my class, in the National Honor Society, Gifted and Talented, captain on the Drill Team, and in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, I threw it all away to drop out of school and raise my son. Sure I could have kept going to school and placed him in the on campus childcare, but they wouldn’t allow me to physically nurse him, and the few breaks I could get weren’t enough to maintain a milk supply. I tried pumping and having my mom watch him for 1 day but he didn’t eat the entire day and screamed bloody murder. I decided that he was more important than a school with rules that I didn’t agree with, so I quit. I got my diploma from a mail correspondence program but I didn’t get a prom or to walk with my class or anything else that represents being a senior in high school. Sure, I was breastfeeding, and we tried cloth diapering, but I was not patient enough with the leaks and gave up. I was a good teen mom, by society’s standards. However I was not a good mom by my own standards and I know that my son deserved better. It was never fair to ask him to grow up with me, or for me to expect him to just wait until I figured myself out so that I could give him the best he needed. He is a fabulous kid now at 13, and I do not for a second regret that he was born. What I do regret is the timing. I would love nothing more than to rewind the clock and become the woman I was supposed to be and share with him the wisdom that living my life has given me. He understands now that he is older, but he had no idea why I wasn’t mature enough not to yell and why his dad and I argued in front of him all the time when he was little.

It is important for me to reiterate here that while I consider myself an attached parent, I do not go down a check list of ideals and ensure that I’m applying what someone or some organization thinks is best for my children. My style of attachment parenting applies to not just my own children, but to my view on how we should be with society as a whole. I live my life by what I feel is the right thing to do, instinctively and as a mother. For me, the right thing to do is to turn my mistakes in the past into something positive for someone else. My older kids are proud of what our family has been able to do to try to make the world a better place.

I don’t feel that allowing the teens to care for Etta for those three days had anything to do with going against the way I parent. There are many teen girls out there who think so little of themselves, as I did, that they fall madly in love with the first boy who looks their direction. They see their self-worth only in what that boy tells them to think. And they have sex with him so that he will value her even more. These girls just “need” someone to be there for them and show them that it is not the right path to take. They need someone to tell them to look deeper inside themselves and see the beautiful girl staring back at them. They need to know that the right man will love them for the person she is and for the person that she wants to be. He will never try to make her be someone else or try to stop her from achieving her dreams. As an AP and NFL mother, I feel that it is every one of our places to fill this role. In my opinion, these are all of our children. Just because they are teens, they are still someone else’s son or daughter.

Did you hope to educate the teens (and viewers watching at home) about the benefits of breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby wearing, etc.? If so, do you feel that you accomplished this?

I did teach the teens how to simulate nursing with Etta, using her breast-shaped bottle and my expressed milk. I didn’t share with them about co-sleeping, because the teens were not allowed to sleep with the babies in their beds as one of the safety precautions. While I do believe that co-sleeping with your own child is perfectly safe, you instinctively respond to the slightest sounds or movements with a baby you have recently given birth to and that couldn’t be expected of the teens. HOWEVER, Sean did co-sleep with Etta in a sense, after I had my initial tough love discussion with him. He walked holding her, he laid back on the couch holding her, and she slept, well, like a baby. Granted he didn’t get much sleep, but he fostered that feeling of co-sleeping that she was used to, and he made it work. In addition, since unlike me, he was having to prepare her bottles for her night nursings, it worked out well for them to be on the move anyway. I did bring Etta to the show in our sling, however I didn’t leave it for them because it is fitted and they were both much taller than I am. Plus I didn’t feel that they would be totally secure holding her in it and might have a false sense of security anyway. They did have the use of front carriers, but I don’t think they used them.

It has to be said though, I did not participate in this project because I am an AP or NFL parent. I participated to help show teens the realities of being a parent in hopes of deterring them from throwing their teen years away. I just happen to parent this way and was able to share some of that with them. I did tell Kelsey when I met her and saw her in the empathy belly “Congratulations, you have a beautiful baby girl and you are a breastfeeding mother now!” But that did not make the final airing. An additional neat breastfeeding moment was when Sean was caring for Etta alone and visited with his neighbor and fellow pseudo-single dad Cory. They were discussing their parenting tricks they had picked up. Sean told Cory that he needed to pick Karson up and take him to another room for a change of scenery (something I shared with him in the tough love conversation). And then Cory asked Sean if Etta had eaten and Sean said proudly, “Oh no man, I just breastfed her like 10 minutes ago.” :) I’m hoping that his breastfeeding experience will give him some insight and enable him to be very supportive of his future wife.

The Baby Borrowers has fallen under attack by groups like Zero to Three and Attachment Parenting International, among others. How do their responses affect you as an AP parent who willingly participated in the show?

I am not bothered by the negative criticism these groups have given the show or us as parents. The issue of teen pregnancy is a big one and it requires serious communication. Look how people are discussing teen sexuality out in the open now. It is amazing. As far as the research that these groups are using to say that we endangered our children emotionally, I don’t feel that it even applies. There are many situations that these same groups excuse from their criticism. Working parents, military parents, parents who go on a long weekend and hire a nanny or leave their children in the hands of a relative they don’t see on a regular basis, etc. The babies in those situations have no idea why their parents are leaving, whether it be for a weekend getaway or to participate in The Baby Borrowers, and if they are securely bonded in the first place (which is next to impossible to avoid with AP) then they are fine. I truly think it was irresponsible for these groups to speak out about the show without gathering all of the facts first. I don’t know of a single parent or child involved in this program that has been assessed by any of these groups. I have to add that I did not participate so that anyone could decide whether I am a good mother. I was not the best mother at one point in my life, but I am doing the best that I can to right that wrong now. Regardless of any of the claims that these groups, who have no actual knowledge about the filming or the participants, I would do this all over again if given the chance. Every time I get a letter from a young girl who’s life was touched in some small way by this program or by my involvement, it is further solidified in my heart that I made the right choice, and these “experts” are fanning flames when no fire exists to begin with.

Did you, your husband Chet, and/or your children get to spend some time getting acquainted with Sean and Kelsey before they “borrowed” the kids?

We sat with Sean and Kelsey for a good while before we left the children in their care. We stayed maybe 2 hours or a little less with Etta. We went through the manual that the producers asked us to prepare for Etta’s care. It contained the brand of wipes and diapers we use, what she likes to eat, any allergies the children had, the children’s likes and dislikes, etc. We had a chance to thoroughly inspect every room in the house. Everything was age appropriately baby proofed. We were able to observe the teens each holding our daughter, and explained what she liked and what she didn’t in that regard. Chet reiterated to Sean that he had to support her head. We answered any questions that they had and just got to visit with them and find out a little more about them as people. Kelsey explained that she wanted kids right away, which we already knew, and hoped to change. And Sean explained that he was hoping Kelsey would realize that they should wait. We liked Sean’s idea better. We didn’t spend quite as much time with Benjamin there because he was ready to play on the swing set. We sat and explained to Sean and Kelsey that he was like night and day from Etta. And we explained that we wanted them to see that it was not as easy as saying, “Etta was just that way because she missed her mom, my child would be different.” We told them that no two kids are exactly alike, and you really never know what their personality is until you meet them.

On the show I believe they showed you intervening with the teens twice while they had Etta. I know that you expressed milk and brought that over to the house throughout her 3-day stay, but how many times did you actually intervene? Did you spend any time with Etta during any of those interventions?

On a few occasions we sent instructions through the nanny if we noticed something minor that the nanny might not have known to pick up on. Nothing against the nanny, but there are some things only a parent can recognize in their child. That is the benefit we had of seeing and hearing everything that went on. As an example, I sent word to the nanny, via the producers, to be sure that the teens were putting my expressed milk into the fridge in an organized manner and paying attention to dates/time to be sure they didn’t let any go bad, etc. And after Sean’s visit to the grocery store, bless his heart, he came home to tell Kelsey, “Etta’s mom said she loves avocado, but I couldn’t find any jars of that anywhere.” I did zip over quickly to let Kelsey know that they would just buy an avocado and mash it up for her with breast milk. It was not a big deal, just clarification. And before going over the first night, I did send word that they made Etta’s breast bottle and left it sitting on her dresser untouched while they frantically tried to figure out why the child would not just fall asleep.

Although it would have been fine with the producers if I had gone to comfort Etta, I didn’t choose to do that. Because she was nursing and was used to having the AP lifestyle, I just felt that would have been a mistake. It would not have been fair to her for me to show up when she had already gotten used to her surrogate parents and then leave again. My main concern was her smelling my milk and then refusing to take the bottle from Sean and Kelsey. My husband was not able to give her the bottle with me in the room because she wasn’t that easily fooled. But if I was gone, then she took it with no problem. I didn’t view this any differently.

Summer, an AP mom and blogger at Wired for Noise asked, “How sudden were the changes (for Etta) from co-sleeping and breastfeeding to not? Did she have time to gradually adjust to the new situation before the show, or was it sort of last minute? I wonder because I have heard that with many reality shows the people are selected with little to no notice.”

That is a good question. The notice is fairly short I guess when you are considering schedules that many children have, etc. Like I stated in an answer above, Etta continued breastfeeding, just through her breast-shaped bottle. We purchased the Adiri nursers because they feel like a breast more than any other bottle. As long as I was not the one giving it to her, she took it fine. We are regulars at our local gym and she went to the on-site childcare most evenings for an hour. We started taking the breast bottle with us when she went as soon as it was a possibility that she would be on the show. It wasn’t very long, but long enough that we knew if she was hungry, she would take it. Also, I really don’t feel that co-sleeping was taken away from her because of the way Sean gave her that constant touch that she was craving after I spoke to him. You all saw that she wasn’t very happy when they did try to take co-sleeping away from her, and it was not going to happen.

How did you mentally and emotionally prepare your 2-year-old son Benjamin for his 3-day stay away from you?

I guess I prepared Benjamin as much as one can with a 2 year old. When Etta was a newborn, Benjamin went to a preschool program for a few hours a few times per week to give me time to breathe. He was perfectly fine with that and wanted to go all the time. Benjamin, although he is parented the same way, has always been very independent. He has always been the “tough one” of all of them at his age. He doesn’t get phased by much, and separation is one of those things. It is funny that in one scene Sean is standing at the door where Benjamin is crying and says, “I think he misses his mom,” but they didn’t understand his words as much as I did and I had just heard him crying saying that he wanted to go outside and play. Benjamin knows we are here and that we are coming back. He’s always just been really laidback about that and doesn’t get stressed by being around others. Now if he watches us leave, he may protest for a minute or two, but as a general rule for him, when we’re out of sight, we’re out of mind. We always just distract him with something else and sneak out and he is A-OK. They took him out to show him the play equipment in the backyard while we left, so he didn’t have an issue with it.

On the show, they depicted Sean telling Ben that he had to go to his room for a timeout if he didn’t stop crying. He didn’t stop crying and was sent to his room, the door closed while he continued to cry on the floor. How did you feel about that? How do you discipline him at home? Did you intervene at all during Benjamin’s stay?

To be honest, even with 4 kids, I don’t have a lot of experience in this arena. Neither of my older two boys ever threw tantrums, so I didn’t get to experience that before Benjamin. I was the mother in the store in shock that children acted that way because MY CHILDREN would NEVER act that way. Well I believe that everything happens for a reason and I believe that Benjamin’s job was to show me once again that I didn’t know everything and that yes, even my children could act that way. At the time, we were telling him that if he did not stop the behavior, he would go to his room for a timeout. If he did not stop, he went to his room, and at home he threw fits much worse than he did for Sean and Kelsey. I actually felt like he was acting better than he did at home. This brought up an interesting point. We noticed that when Kelsey made deals with Benjamin, he held up his end of the bargain. She told him, for instance, that if he took a nap, he could go to the park. She asked him if he wanted that and he said yes, so he laid down and took a nap without protest. He was a fairly late talker, compared to my other boys so it didn’t dawn on me that he was able to negotiate his behavior like that. But what she was doing was working for him. So at home, we have started doing that. Sometimes, we will still do time out in his room, but it is his choice. He likes to hear that it is his choice. He feels empowered, I guess. We will tell him that he can either stop the behavior or he can go in his room, and then say, “you choose.” And generally very quickly he chooses to stop the undesirable behavior.

I didn’t intervene myself with Benjamin, but my husband did once I believe. At first, Sean and Kelsey were letting Benjamin do whatever he wanted, and seemed afraid to take control of the situation. So Chet went over and explained to them that they had to be the parental figures and that he could not just be able to run wild. They took his advice to heart and each developed their own approach to discipline. Sean wasn’t as creative and just used the time outs in his room that Chet suggested. Kelsey really turned things around and had a great rapport with him. In regard to Benjamin crying on the floor, I was not affected by his behavior. He was not sad or hurt, he was just mad. I had witnessed enough tantrums from him to know that he was just in a battle of wills with Sean, and I was not going to intervene and let him think that he was winning. And Benjamin didn’t actually start throwing tantrums until Chet spoke to the teens and asked them not to let him have his way. For instance he would not get up to the table for them, would immediately get down, etc. and they were just allowing it and ignoring it. We don’t accept that behavior in our home and did not want them to either. Being a parent is showing your children the correct way to behave too, and Sean and Kelsey had to learn that part as well.

Julie, an AP mom and blogger at ChezArtz and API Speaks would like to know, “What do you wish they would have shown as part of the series?”

I wish that they would have shown Sean’s sleepless nights with Etta after he finally did “get it.” It is unfortunate that he came across as this heartless little punk who called my baby girl an “it.” He was not that way at all. He developed such a bond with her and she with him that it is almost unfair to the both of them that you didn’t get to see it. Or maybe it’s better that way and it’s something special that only Sean, Etta, Chet, and I will carry with us forever. I am glad that Cory was shown stepping up to the plate when needed, but he did it reluctantly. Sean dug right in and didn’t complain. Both of those boys earned my respect, and that of my husband. They can hopefully serve to show teen boys out there that if you do get in a situation and you think the only thing you can do is run, maybe they might want to think again. Sean showed that if you relax and just hug and love your child, they will give you that in return, and it is rewarding. And Cory showed that even when it is hard, sometimes you just have to buck up and push through. They both proved that babies of teen parents (and anyone else for that matter) need more than their mothers to stick around.

On a separate note, I wish that there was more time to air the parents’ review of Sean and Kelsey with the toddlers. After having seen them care for both of my children, I did not just sit there nodding my head listening to what Chet had to say. I felt that I had come to know both of them well enough to speak candidly with them and that I owed that to them. So I told Sean and Kelsey that I did think separately they were wonderful people, and that someday they would both make great parents, but not with each other. I told them that they did not display the love and devotion that it takes to make a marriage work. When they were apart, they seemed to shine, but as a couple, they really didn’t support one another or complement each other. I also told Kelsey that I felt that she had low self-esteem, as I did when I was her age and became a teen mother. But that she couldn’t look to Sean or any other man to provide her with that. I told her that she had to love herself enough to know that she was a beautiful person with or without a man.

Do you have anything else that you feel myself or my readers would be interested to learn about your participation in The Baby Borrowers?

I will attach my response to viewers and critics of The Baby Borrowers, including 0-3 and AACAP, so that you can read more about my reasons for participating and what myself and others have gained. In addition, it is paramount to note that my family did not seek to get on television. We are not seeking fortune or fame, or even our 15 minutes as many have suggested. I was contacted by NBC because one of the casting agents found my Myspace page and they invited me to participate in the auditions. I had never heard of the show, and when they explained the potential to help reduce teen pregnancy, I was on board. There was no money or other compensation whatsoever for participation in this “social experiment.”

Thank you again, Natalie, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk candidly with me. I genuinely enjoyed getting to know more about you and appreciated your perspective on The Baby Borrowers. I wish you and your family all the best.

China’s heroic mother and the importance of breastfeeding in natural disasters

By now many of you have probably read about police officer Jiang Xiaojuan of China who became a national, and then international, hero practically over night. After the devastating Chinese earthquake on May 12, the 29 year-old mother of a 6-month-old son, was called to duty. What she encountered when she reported for duty was babies crying in hunger and that’s when her maternal instincts kicked in. Jiang breast-fed the infants separated from their mothers or orphaned from the earthquake, at one point breast-feeding nine babies.

Jiang Xiaojuan“I am breast-feeding, so I can feed babies. I didn’t think of it much,” she said. “It is a mother’s reaction and a basic duty as a police officer to help.”

Jiang doesn’t believe what she did was noteworthy. “I think what I did was normal,” she said. “In a quake zone, many people do things for others. This was a small thing, not worth mentioning.” The local media, however, named her “China’s Mother No. 1” and there are many others around the world praising her efforts as well.

On MOMformation at BabyCenter, Betsy Shaw wrote:

It’s stories like these, stories of ordinary people performing extraordinary, selfless acts in times of tragedy, that make all this bad news just a little bit easier to digest. They also make me proud to be a mom.

Would you do, could you, do the same if you were in a similar situation: lactating in the presence of many hungry babies?

Of the 73 responses there, the vast majority said they would do the same and breastfeed another woman’s baby, though interestingly enough, many also said they would not want a woman they did not know breastfeeding their own child.

A few of the people who commented at BabyCenter, as well as one at Milliner’s Dream expressed their concern about the possible transmission of HIV/AIDS through breast milk. There is conflicting information on what the risk of infection is if the woman is HIV positive, but, as another commenter at Milliner’s Dream noted, Jiang would have likely known her HIV status having just recently given birth 6 month ago.

Over on Broadsheet on Salon.com Jiang was named “Hero of the Day.” Sarah Hepola says:

As the death toll soars past 50,000, it’s nice to have a little good news to celebrate. You can remember Jiang next time someone complains about the evils of women popping out their boobs in public.

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes at The Moderate Voice found the story to be “beautiful” and said:

Most every night, I stay up late-late, long after everyone else is sleeping. I fly over the internet, looking, looking, trying to find something beautiful or restorative to share with you here at TMV, so either you go to sleep with a beautiful idea or image, or wake up with one.

Tonight, finding something beautiful in this wide and groaning world, was easy. Because there is Jiang Xiaojuan, a young provincial policewoman.

She went on to add:

As a mother who nursed til her offspring was practically old enough to go to school, and as the mother of a grown daughter who while nursing her own child also gave her nourishing milk to my ailing elderly father (expressed, not nursed), I feel certain we stand with many mothers worldwide who salute Jiang Xiaojuan profoundly.

It’s a mystery women don’t often speak of publicly, what it’s like to nourish another human being or many from one’s own blood and bones. It is, one of the greatest honors in the world.

I think, despite the restrictive and suspicious regime of China, it’s people like Jiang who really represent the true spirit of modern China, the compassionate soul.

Tonight, it was easy to find a beautiful story to tell you. I would that it were as easy on all other nights too.

It is stories like these of this selfless mother that remind us not only of the power of human kindness, but also how important breastfeeding can be in an emergency or natural disaster.

Melissa Kotlen Nagin notes on the Breastfeeding Blog on About.com:

Unfortunately, natural disasters are out of our control, but women like Officer Xiaojuan remind us about yet another important benefit of breastfeeding. We’re typically so focused on the health benefits and lose sight of the bigger picture. Here is the International Lactation Consultant Association’s position paper on Infant Feeding in Emergencies, which is a wonderful resource.

Tanya at The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog recently wrote a post dispelling some myths about breastfeeding in emergencies. She also shares:

In a disaster such as the one in Burma, breastfeeding can be a life-saving act. Why? In emergencies f*rmula is often not available. If it is available, water supplies are often compromised. F*rmula mixed with contaminated water can cause diarrhea and dehydration, which can quickly become life-threatening to infants. Power to sterilize and refrigerate f*rmula is also often not available.

Sometimes, well meaning humanitarian efforts result in such an influx of f*rmula that efforts to protect and support breastfeeding are disrupted. This is such a concern that in 1994 the World Health Organization adopted the following policy, urging member states to “exercise extreme caution when planning, implementing, or supporting emergency relief operations, by protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding for infants,” and to ensure that f*rmula is distributed only under specific conditions.

We often like to think of ourselves as untouchable here in the United States, but Hurricane Katrina was just three short years ago and was another instance where breastfeeding saved lives. From an open letter to health care providers attending to families affected by Hurricane Katrina: The Role of Human Milk and Breastfeeding:

Human milk is a valuable resource that can not only protect the vulnerable infant from disease, but can also promote psychological health and comfort during stressful times. Human milk reduces pain and promotes more rapid healing after injuries and infections. While maternal health is of great importance, it should be recognized that even the malnourished mother will produce milk of good quality for her infant.

To learn more about the important role breastfeeding plays in emergencies, please visit the links below.

I will close by adding that I think what Jiang did was amazing and I’m so glad to see breastfeeding receiving such positive attention. I hope she has already been reunited with her son (that relatives were caring for) or will be soon and that her breastfeeding relationship with him can continue to thrive.

And lastly, just a friendly reminder that BlogHers Act/Global Giving is continuing to accept donations for the Chinese earthquake victims as well as other maternal health causes.

More information:
Keep Abreast – Breastfeeding ensures survival in a disaster
Black Breastfeeding Blog – Breastfeeding Saves Babies During Natural Disasters
La Leche League International – Keep Breastfeeding: Supporting Mothers After Natural Disasters
KellyMom – Infant Feeding In Emergencies

One more important breastfeeding note – The Food and Drug Administration on Friday warned women not to use or purchase Mommy’s Bliss Nipple Cream, marketed by MOM Enterprises Inc. of San Rafael, California.

The cream, promoted to nursing mothers to help soothe dry or cracked nipples, contains ingredients that may cause respiratory distress, vomiting and diarrhea in infants, the agency said.

Mothers whose children may have suffered adverse effects because of this product should contact the FDA’s MedWatch at 800-332-1088. – CNN report