MOM Art Annex: Exhibition & Education Center

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Childless By Choice?

Written by Annika Tornatore (Edited by M. Joy Rose)

According to a recent article in Psychology Today, American mothers are challenged to balance work struggles and their home lives with increasing levels of stress. At the same time, cultural messaging about parenthood often glorifies motherhood and does not reflect the inherent conflicts between the personal and professional. Some studies show that young women are questioning whether motherhood is something to aspire to. In this blog post, I question whether having children leads to more happy and successful outcomes? I do this by sharing the perspectives of young women who are intent on changing contemporary narratives about childlessness by consciously choosing not to procreate.

Motherhood presents fresh challenges for every parent. Those challenges can include but are not limited to, increased financial burdens, new time constraints, and balancing work outside the home with childrearing duties. “The biggest issue for working mothers is the idea that they must be available around the clock both at home and the office” (Ferrante, Mary Beth). Unrealistic expectations chip away at maternal confidence as new mothers can be forced to confront impossible choices- work more or spend more time with the baby.

In addition to juggling multiple responsibilities, new mothers are confronted with dominant narratives that over-glorify motherhood. In the media, in subtle conversations, and in public discourse, impossible expectations can take a toll on women’s self-esteem: “Whether it’s a pregnant character on a TV show or a photo spread heralding a celebrity’s rapid recovery of her pre-pregnancy physique, media portrayals of pregnant and postpartum women tend to be unrealistic.” (“Media Portrayals of Pregnant Women, New Moms Unrealistic.”). These cultural imperatives are rarely achievable, resulting in negative emotions including depression and anxiety. A shift on behalf of media portrayals of perfect motherhood might lead to a more balanced perspective on pregnancy and post-natal realities. Perhaps mothers might experience less stress and more confidence?

Lastly, I would like to share two perspectives from women who are childless by choice. A Time Magazine article titled “Why I have Zero Regrets About My Childless Life,” by Stephanie Zacharek, chronicles her inability to conceive children. She has come to believe that she was okay without having kids. Stephanie writes, “My job these days, as a movie critic-is immensely satisfying, but it’s that much more so because of the freedom I have.” Her decision to accept childlessness has brought her unexpected happiness. It gave her a chance to explore what she was capable of without worrying about taking care of children. Additionally, the website, Cup of Joe recently published stories about women who determined motherhood was not for them. Wudan, a first-generation American, felt intense familial pressure to start a family. She shares her revelations: “I got to a point where I realized that having kids would throw my career for a curve. I’m a journalist who travels all the time, and I truly love my job.” Wudan was motivated to keep moving her career forwards. She determined that having children would cause her to expend energy on other things, and not on her career (Miller, Kelly).

I think it takes a lot of courage and strength for women to go against the norms of becoming a mother. My mother worked two jobs to help pay the bills. I have seen the struggle my mom endured to make sure that I have thrived. Women who decide to go against the norms should know that they can have successful lives without children. This may not be something people think about, but it is an option and it may well indeed lead some to personal happiness.

About Annika:

Hi everyone! My name is Annika Tornatore. I am a Biomedical Sciences major at the University of South Florida. After attending USF, my next goal in life will be to attend medical school. I aim to be an Anesthesiologist or a Pathologist. Although medicine interested in me for a short period, my passion for science and learning will carry me to encounter new discoveries. Besides medicine, I am an avid bookworm. Some of my favorite books tend to focus on a mixture of fantasy and science fiction. Dance and music are some of my other favorite hobbies. Dance has been a consistent passion and shaped me who I am. My favorite styles of dance are hip hop and tap. Furthermore, I aspire to travel the world. I yearn to explore and experience various cultures. I desire to learn from the people around me and hope to implement what I learn in my life.

I came in contact with the Museum of Motherhood, MOM, through an honors class at the university. This class pertains to the issues that arise infertility, motherhood, and reproductive justice. One of the aspects of this class was to partake in a Service Learning Project. This ranged from assisting in research to volunteering to writing blogs. For my service-learning, I chose an internship with the Museum of Motherhood. MOM has several goals that align with what I hope to do. The Museum of Motherhood aims to spread its messages about motherhood and family through art exhibits and blogs. I hope that through this internship, I could also attain some of their goals and spread their mission.

Work Cited:

Ferrante, Mary Beth. “The Pressure Is Real For Working Mothers.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 27 Aug. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/marybethferrante/2018/08/27/the-pressure-is-real-for-working-mothers/#40090a582b8f.

“Media Portrayals of Pregnant Women, New Moms Unrealistic.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 7 Aug. 2017, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170807152604.htm.

Miller, Kelsey. “8 Women on Choosing Not to Have Kids.” A Cup of Jo, 18 Dec. 2018, cupofjo.com/2018/12/childless-by-choice/.

“Mothers Are Drowning in Stress.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 6 Mar. 2019, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shouldstorm/201903/mothers-are-drowning-in-stress?amp.

Zacharek, Stephanie. “Why I Have Zero Regrets About My Childless Life.” Time, Time, 3 Jan. 2019, time.com/5492622/stephanie-zacharek-childless-life/.

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Sleep Training For Infants Online and In the Tampa / St. Pete Area

You kiss your baby on the forehead, tuck the baby in, and wish the baby goodnight. Sounds simple right? But, getting a baby to sleep can prove to be a frustrating challenge for many parents. Some experts believe this process can be simplified through sleep training. In some cases, sleep training can help your baby sleep independently as well as acquire healthy sleep habits.

Though for most of us, sleeping comes naturally, this is not the case for babies, especially newborns, who have to adjust to the new phenomenon of life outside the womb. On top of not knowing when to sleep, babies do not have an idea of how to sleep. This is where sleep training might be beneficial. Sleep training can help a baby get the proper amount of sleep. Over time, if the training is effective, the baby will start to get used to the routine and will eventually be able to sleep independently.

Sleep training should begin when your baby is four-six months old but can change depending on individual development and needs. There are many effective sleep-training methods. One is the check-and-console method, which involves continuously checking on your baby at your own set intervals but not feeding them or rocking them if you find them awake. Instead, if the baby is awake at your interval check, reassure the baby with a phrase of choice or a reassuring gentle pat or rub on the head.

A second method involves letting the baby cry it out. After leaving your baby in the crib at night, leave the room, and do not return until the morning. This may often result in the baby crying for long intervals of time, so it is a bit controversial. It is okay to comfort your baby for a minute or two when using this method if the crying won’t stop. A third method is the chair method, which can prove to be quite difficult. After putting your baby to sleep, sit in a chair next to your baby. When your baby falls asleep, leave the room, but every time your baby wakes up, sit back down in the chair until they fall back asleep. Every couple nights, transfer the chair to a location slightly further from the original position and keep doing this until you’re out of the room. This method is only useful if the parent has the time to do this through the night.

A fourth method, called bedtime-routine fading, involves using a bedtime routine of choice, such as rocking a baby to sleep, nursing, or gentle patting, and slowly decrease the time spent doing this until you don’t do it at all. A fifth method is bedtime-hour fading, which involves slowly moving up the time you place your baby in a crib to sleep until you reach the desired time you want them to sleep.

Sleep training comes naturally to some parents. Some use pacifiers, white noise machines, specific bedtime routines, and an assortment of things. But all babies are different. Some babies can be more difficult to establish a bedtime routine with. This is where professional sleep training might be beneficial. Sleep trainers have experience with parents in need of assistance making their baby sleep at the proper time and independently. Different sleep trainers use different methods to help parents.

In the Tampa Bay Area, The Tiny Human Sleep Coach, founded by Marilyn Banse aims to educate and supports parents of babies and children under the age of 6 years on sleep, the benefits of sleep, how much sleep each child needs for their age, and how to help them get the sleep they need. Marilyn is a certified pediatric sleep specialist and currently the only certified sleep consultant in Pinellas County as of now, so quality is assured.

Another organization that offers sleep-training services is Nannies Who Care, a full-service nanny agency that provides peace of mind to families with safe, stress-free sleep-training methods. Their caregivers have noticed first-hand the effects of a missed nap or delayed bedtime. They are proud of teaching parents how to have improved sleep experience with their child.

Also, some free national resources to help you and your baby sleep successfully and healthfully are available online:

Sleep resource from the NCDHHS Division of Public Health [LINK] and a Sleep Safety Brochure [LINK]
Johnson & Johnson has a free infant sleep phone app [LINK]
Multiple blogs and magazine articles online [LINK]

If you want to reach organizations in the Tampa/St. Pete area for hands-on help try these local resources:

Marilyn from The Tiny Human Sleep Coach:
Phone: 727-210-5743

Nannies Who Care:
Phone/text: 727-784-8868
Email: marketing@nannieswhocare.com

Websites viewed:
https://www.nestedbean.com/pages/sleep-training-guide
https://www.todaysparent.com/baby/baby-sleep/most-popular-sleep-training-methods-explained/

This article was researched and made possible by Bhavana Madhu as part of a service-learning internship with USF. Read more below or click the image to find out more about our student authors:

https://motherhoodfoundation.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/usf_interns_2019.pdf

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Got Milk? Why Breastfeeding and Breast Milk Matters

Breastfeeding education and support for new mothers is an important ongoing issue. There are many decisions and questions regarding breastfeeding versus formula feeding. A few of those include: should you alternate between both bottle and breast, how long should you breastfeed over time, what type of latching-on techniques should you use, when is the time to start pumping, how should you store pumped milk, etc.?

As a new parent, one’s lactation questions can be endless. Why is breastfeeding important? Why should parents care?

There are many reasons why breast milk is regarded as the highest form of nutrition infants can obtain. Mothers pass important nutritional antibodies through breast milk that have been observed to benefit overall infant health. Breastfeeding potentially lessens the occurrence of long-term health conditions, such as the prevalence of obesity, type II diabetes, SIDS, gastrointestinal infections and asthma. Mothers also benefit, as breastfeeding promotes a natural way to rebalance hormones and maintain weight loss after pregnancy. Long-term health benefits also include reduced risk of female endocrine-related cancers, such as breast or ovarian cancer, high blood pressure and type II diabetes. In the US, it is recommended to breastfeed exclusively at least up to 6 months after birth. However, average statistics have shown only 1 in 4 women does so.

Student practicing with a breastfeeding doll at MOM

Despite the bonding benefits of breastfeeding and the positive health outcomes nursing may have for both mom and baby, the decision to nurse is not always an easy one. Everyone’s breastfeeding journey is personal and unique. Often, individuals require support and guidance through the post-birth journey. Sometimes problems arise. Women can experience lactating difficulties, latch issues, sometimes health concerns or pre-existing conditions prevent the possibility of breastfeeding, and women who experience mastitis are often confused about how to proceed.

In the Tampa Bay area, support can be found at many local organizations including the Tampa Bay Breastfeeding Task Force. The Tampa Bay Breastfeeding Task Force is a nonprofit organization that hosts events for breastfeeding activism, they also provide support and answers to questions via their social media and website platforms. Events such as Breastfeeding Friendly Daycare Training, promote their #TBBreastfeeds and the Breastfeeding Normalization Campaign. TBB is also known partners in advocacy efforts with the Florida Breastfeeding Coalition, which provides support for breastfeeding as well as promoting state recommended resources for those needing more information. Their mission “is to improve the health of Floridians by working collaboratively to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.”

If you are in need of professional assistance or are looking for more information, the La Leche League of Florida and the Caribbean Isles connects volunteers with lactation consultants and local nursing mothers’ groups. The Tampa Breastfeeding and Lactation Center LLC or Breastfeeding Care and Consulting, run by Jocelyn Pridemore also offers consultations for new mothers. Different services are available at a variety of prices from high to low. Additionally, if you are seeking access to breast milk, check out charitable organizations such as Mother’s Milk Bank of Florida, which is dedicated disseminating pasteurized donor milk to those in need. They also welcome donations of breast milk. Please spread the word!

If you are interested here is an additional link to some helpful breastfeeding techniques:

https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/breastfeeding-your-baby

Article info sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/index.htm

https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding

https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding

Web Links to Local Orgs and Lactation Specialists

Tampa Breastfeeding and Lactation Center LLC: https://www.breastfeedtampa.com/

Breastfeeding Care and Consulting with Jocelyn Pridemore: http://breastfeedingcareandconsulting.com/

The Florida Breastfeeding Coalition: http://www.flbreastfeeding.org/

The Tampa Bay Breastfeeding Task Force: http://www.tbbreastfeeding.org/

La Leche League of Florida and the Caribbean Isles: http://www.lllflorida.com/lalecheleague/

Mother’s Milk Bank of Florida: https://milkbankofflorida.org/

Breastfeeding at M.O.M.

This article was researched and made possible by Alexandra Valdes as part of a service-learning internship with USF. Read more below or click the image to find out more about our student authors:

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Diversifying Visibility to Decrease Mortality Rates

The American Medical Association says that women of color are 2- 6 times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than white woman depending on where they live. There are many factors that can contribute to this disproportionality, including quality of prenatal delivery and postpartum care. This mortality rate has significant detrimental effects on the black community as countless mothers are lost to this vicious cycle.

Chinelle Rojas, Dear Little One Birth Photography

Likewise, economically disadvantaged women are less likely to receive quality healthcare and are thus also less likely to receive prenatal care. This leaves black mothers more likely than white mothers to have hypertension, blood disorders, and other medical conditions that complicate their pregnancies. A recent article by USA Today explores the surprisingly high rates of hospitals blaming mothers’ preexisting conditions for high maternal mortality rates among women of color, especially black women. Before USA Today conducted a study and critically examined these shocking maternal mortality rates, these numbers have been overlooked because hospitals are allowed to keep this information private. By keeping this information away from the public, many hospitals have been excusing their poor outcomes by blaming the health of the mother.

Apart from the legal actions that can be taken to decrease mortality rates of women of color, there are organizations and individuals who, through means of advocacy, let this information come to the light and make a conscious effort to put a stop to it. Employing advocacy through visibility, Kimberly Seals Allers, is an international speaker, author, and the founder and organizer of Black Breastfeeding Week among other things. Kimberly is on a mission to “shift the paradigm, shift the discourse, shift the infrastructure, and shift the experience of womankind and motherhood for all”.

In the Tampa Bay area, Chinelle Rojas is working hard to shift the narrative. Chinelle is the birth photographer behind Dear Little One Birth Photography and is the founder of The Melanated Birth, in which she uses photography to represent women of color in birth. She believes that photography is a powerful tool, especially when u towards a powerful cause. Chinelle has observed the lack of diversity in the birth photography community and is taking steps towards solving this problem. She advocates that ultimately visibility can be an important step in reducing mortality rates for women. Photographing the births of women of color outside a hospital setting increases awareness of different birth options available apart from the standard hospital epidural birth. She is hoping to spread a message about the possibility of giving birth in alternative settings. She argues that many mothers-to-be, only know of other women who gave birth in a hospital. Seeing photographs of black women giving birth with the help of doulas and midwives in a comfortable setting can be the start of another woman’s successful journey into motherhood.

Chinelle Rojas, Dear Little One Birth Photography

“‘Imagine a world where our little pebble of documenting births can make waves on the mortality rate of mothers across the country or the world.’” –Chinelle Rojas

http://www.tampabirthphotographer.com/

http://themelanatedbirth.com/

Additional Resources:

http://blackbreastfeedingweek.org

http://www.kimberlysealsallers.com

Article sources:

American Medical Association. State-specific maternal mortality among black and white women: United States, 1987–1996. The Journal of the American Medical Association. 1999;282(13):1220–1222.

Young, Alison, et al. “Hospitals Blame Moms When Childbirth Goes Wrong. Secret Data Suggest It’s Not That Simple.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 9 Mar. 2019, http://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/investigations/deadly-deliveries/2019/03/07/maternal-death-rates-secret-hospital-safety-records-childbirth-deaths/2953224002/.

This article was researched and made possible by Vana Madhu as part of a service-learning internship with USF. Read more below or click the image to find out more about our student authors: