older moms

Mamas on Bedrest: I’m in Despair Over My Child’s Education

September 21st, 2012

Mamas, I come to you today with a very heavy heart. My darling little boy is in a class with a teacher that I don’t think gets him.

I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, “Here’s another mama thinking that her kid hung the moon and can do no wrong.”

I am well aware of the fact that my child has faults and that he can be, as I sometimes call him, “devil boy”. But I do know that my child is very intelligent and that he is at least at his 1st grade level if not above. This teacher is saying that he is below and I quite frankly don’t believe her.

My son has spent the last 4 1/2 years in Montessori school where he has received an excellent education. This is a child that has been reading since he was 4. This is a child that has been able to do some of his sister’s (3 1/2 years older) math homework last year. This is a kid that has a memory and an attention to detail that has floored many an adult coast to coast.

Yet, this teacher, who has known my son all of 4 weeks now, wants to “dumb him down”, start him at a lower level than he is competent to do and I’m not having it!

So we’re having a parent teacher conference on Monday. It’s gonna be tough because I already have a hearty distrust of her, but hubs is coming and he’s going to have to act as the buffer zone. I have also already spoken with the assistant principle, arranged for my son’s records to be sent from his Montessori School and arranged for him to be evaluated by a third party. Bases covered, but I have to admit, my hair is still aflame.

Mamas on Bedrest, making educational decisions for your child will be some of the most important work you’ll do on behalf of your child. I never anticipated having to do so much buffering and blocking when it came to school because I went to a really great public school as a kid. If kids needed extra help, they got it. Overall, the kids did really well and went on to excellent colleges and onto jobs and professions. I was spoiled and lulled into a false sense that this is how it is for everyone. Boy am I getting an education on education!

What I am learning is that education in the United States is not equal across the board, and that even within districts (as I am seeing in mine) where you live will play a hefty role in not only where your child goes to school, but also to what resources your child has access.  Unfortunately, we don’t have uniform requirements in the US.  Standards vary from state to state, city by city and even district by district. Quite frankly, education in this country can be a real crap shoot!

So what is a parent to do? Many parents in my area have taken the home schooling or “un-schooling” option. For the first time ever, I am considering this as a viable option to teach my son. I am not a teacher by trade, but I know my child and I know that I can sit with him and teach him the nuances of the word groups and vowel sounds so that he will grow to be a stronger reader. I know that we can work with a variety of tools and blocks so that I can make math and science fun. He already has a strong basis in geography from his Montessori school and whenever his dad travels, we can study the places that he goes. As a fitness professional and trainer, I can ensure that he has regular exercise-probably more than what he currently gets in school. But is it the right thing to do for him?

What about Montessori? Waldorf or other private schools? Truly, the only thing stopping me there is the tuition. Funds are tight right now in our house and adding a grand or so each month will only further strain things. But if it’s the best thing for my child, we’ll surely find the funds. I don’t have answers yet, but I do know that I won’t let my son “slip through the cracks.”

Mamas on Bedrest, start your research now. Check out the school district in your area and see how the children are faring. Is the school only addressing standardized testing? Is there room for creative thinking and expression? Can your child do advanced work if he/she so chooses? Are there sufficient resources of your child needs extra help? These are questions that many of us may have never had to consider, but may be face with as our children enter school. If you are opting out of public education for private, GET YOUR NAME ON THE WAITING LISTS NOW! My experience is that for the “really good (most desired) schools, you need to have your name on the waiting list the moment your Clear Blue Easy Pregnancy test comes back positive! Start your research now.

I’m a bit shell shocked right now, so I’m not going to address any particular method of education. But I am going to leave you with an interesting perspective on Public School Education from one of my favorite bloggers/speakers, Seth Godin. We’ll chat more on Monday. (Most definitely before that teacher conference!!)

Mamas on Bedrest: Operating Instructions, Our 1st Mamas Bookclub Read!

September 17th, 2012

Welcome to our inaugural Mamas Bookclub! Our first read is Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott.

I really enjoyed this book. It is a journalistic account of Lamott’s first year with her infant son Sam. Lamott becomes unexpectedly pregnant with Sam at age 35. By her own admission, a self absorbed, recovering addict is not at all mother material, but despite all of her shortcomings, Lamott is a woman of deep faith and the thought of extinguishing her child is untenable, so she goes through with the pregnancy. We get a glimpse of Lamott’s pregnancy, labor and delivery, but the bulk of the book recounts Anne’s struggles as a single mother of a baby boy.

This book could have easily been a trite, smarmy account of first  time motherhood, complete with the adoring “oohs” and “aaah’s” and “my baby is perfect and completes my existence”. Instead, Lamott gives us the true grit. For sure we see her deep love and adoration for her son. But Sam was a colicky baby and we witness firsthand Anne’s moment’s of utter frustration, desperation and being at her wits end as she recounts the hours each night that Sam would wail with debilitating gas and her inability to console him as a newborn. I particularly liked that Lamott was real, there were times when she didn’t want to be Sam’s mother, she didn’t want Sam and she didn’t want to be in the situation in which she found herself. She is brutally honest about wanting to walk away  at times, and the time she thoroughly came to understand child abuse. It’s not that Anne would have ever harmed her child. But as a mom of a baby who howled, I completely “felt” what she was saying-and I had a husband to help!

A recurrent theme throughout the story is Anne’s guilt that Sam would grow up without a father, and Anne’s struggles as a single mother. When she told Sam’s father that she was pregnant, he immediately pulled away and even denied that he was Sam’s father. Ultimately Lamott takes him to court to be able to name him as father on Sam’s birth certificate, while not requesting support or for him to have a relationship with Sam. Anne takes solace in the face that Sam is loved and adored by a tribe of friends and family, and that he does in fact have wonderful male role models. Still, her paings of guilt and longing for a partner for herself and a father for Sam are palpable throughout her story.

The strength of Operating Instructions lies in Anne’s candor and transparency. Many mothers, myself included, can recall a day (or two or three) going by and not showering or brushing her teeth. Many is the mama that has wished that she hadn’t had her child. (A controversial point to be sure, but as a mama who had trouble carrying, I felt extreme guilt the first time I prayed for God to send someone, anyone, to come and take this yowling little creature I had prayed so diligently for!) At the same time we witness Anne giving thanks for her son in church, feeling wholeheartedly blessed at his presence, all while Sam farts a tune as she speaks.

Operating Instructions shows the complexity of motherhood. The ups, the downs, the good, the bad and the ugly. In essence, Lamott normalizes the experience of motherhood. She exhibits the indescrible love that a mama has for her child; the sheer amazement and bewilderment that this beautifully complete little person came through her. She is able to laugh at his “odd stages” when her baby isn’t the darling “gerber baby” but a rather ugly with acne and losing his hair. We experience her vulnerability; how she learns the utter necessity of help from others and learns to accept help graciously and also learns to say “no” with as much grace in an effort to safeguard her sanity.

Mamas on Bedrest, I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It’s a quick read full of humor and candor. I think that the best thing about this book is that it will help mothers realize that motherhood, in the earliest stages especially, is difficult at best. Even the best moms sometimes falter and sometimes despite your best efforts, your baby will cry and wail. Yet, at each stage there are blessings and moments of wonderment that make the journey truly worthwhile.

Mamas on Bedrest: How Embarrassing-The US Infant Mortality Rate

September 12th, 2012

September is National Infant Mortality Awareness Month and there are numerous events, campaigns and activities taking place all designed to raise awareness about infant mortality. The United States has an embarrassingly high infant mortality rate in contrast to many other countries. But what is even more disturbing is the fact that according to an article published in The Lancet, May 2010, the country isn’t keeping up with global gains in reducing child mortality, despite significant health care spending.

Citing an article published on DOTmed.com summarizing The Lancet publication,

According to the World Bank, the U.S. has the highest infant mortality rate among 33 countries that the International Monetary Fund defines as having “advanced economies.”

At the time of the DOTmed summary, The U.S. ranked 42nd in the world in child mortality.

“What is surprising is that the U.S. continues to fall even farther behind, while other developed countries such as Australia and New Zealand have shown much better improvements in child mortality. If we look at progress over time, we see the U.S. was ranked 29th in the world in 1990 and has dropped to 42nd now (2010). What that tells us is that we’re not making as much progress as other high income countries.”

~Julie Rajaratnam, assistant professor with IHME and one of the study’s authors.

While our infant mortality rate is dismal and not readily improving in comparison to many other nations, researchers have found that there are some identifiable reasons for our high infant mortality rate. The leading causes of infant death in America are congenital defects, preterm birth and low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome. They believe that if the US  addresses those issues, the infant mortality rate will surely improve.

Birth Before Due Date

The US has an unusually high preterm birth rate in comparison to many other countries. According to a 2009 report by the National Center for Health Statistics, compared to Europe, America has a higher percentage of preterm births, likely the main cause of its higher IMR. (Preterm is defined as birth before 37 completed weeks of gestation.) Not only do we see many babies born before the recommended 37 weeks gestation, there are also thousands of babies born before 39 weeks gestation, the acceptable length of “term birth”. The March of Dimes has repeatedly advocated for education and policy changes within hospital and birthing centers encouraging physicians and families to do their best to allow babies 39 weeks without any sort of intervention (induction or cesarean section) unless absolutely necessary (i.e. mama or baby at risk).

Dr. Scott Berns, a pediatrician and a senior vice president with the March of Dimes Foundation reiterates that there is important development that occurs between 37 and 39 weeks gestation. Because we have gotten so accustomed to seeing “good” outcomes at 37 weeks, we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security. Dr. Berns notes that if we were to look at the overall numbers, we’d see the dip in positive outcomes in babies born before 39 weeks gestation.

The US also has a higher percentage of older mamas and mamas who have used assisted reproductive technologies. Mamas who become pregnant using ART are at increased risk of having a multiple pregnancy which carries with it an increased risk of preterm birth.

Socioeconomic Disparities

Many experts also draw links between America’s vast socioeconomic disparities and infant death. According to Dr. Gregory, half of U.S. births are to mamas on Medicaid. While both preterm birth and SIDS can happen to any family, these conditions are more prevalent among poorer families. Additionally, a 2008 NCHS report found that the infant mortality rate for black women was 2.4 times the rate for white women in 2005 (and this disparity exists today!!).

According to IHME’s Rajaratnam, looking at the U.S. child mortality rates by counties would likely identify areas that are performing just as well as Europe, and others on par with the world’s poorest countries.

“We are starting to do some of that local level research now and those results will help us get closer to putting our finger on what needs to change in order to save more lives.”

Both Dr. Gregory and Dr Rajaratnam admit that socioeconomic factors and access to care can’t account for the entire higher infant mortality amongst lower income ethnic minorities. However, they play a major role and must be addressed if infant mortality rates are to be lowered nationwide.

More Research

Both Drs. Gregory and Rajaratnam agree that there needs to be more research into the possible causes of infant mortality and both advocate that the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and other research and policy organizations allocate funds and research efforts into infant mortality.

It must also be noted that advances in treatments, such as the use of progesterone injections for preterm birth, Magnesium Sulfate’s impact on protection of preterm infant brains, improvements in neonatal intensive care and improving access to perinatal health care will all improve infant outcomes.

References

DOTmed.com

Neonatal, postneonatal, childhood, and under 5 mortality for 187 countries, 1970-2010; a systematic analysis of progress towards Millennium Development Goal 4. Julie Knoll Rajaratnam PhD et al. The Lancet, Volume 375, Issue 9730, Pages 1988 – 2008, 5 June 2010.  doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60703-9