TIME Family

This Is How You Can Put a Baby to Sleep in Less Than 60 Seconds

All you need is some tissue paper

If you’ve tried everything and nothing has worked, don’t give up just yet. Simply reach for the Kleenex.

In under a minute, YouTuber and Australian father Nathan Dailo sends his baby to sleep by gently tickling the infant’s face with tissue paper.

“The tissue trick isn’t actually anything special. Any light touching on the baby’s facial areas such as the head, forehead or the bridge of the nose also works,” Dailo tells TIME.

The video has garnered more than 4 million views and inspired innumerable other parents to deploy the technique. However, Dailo cautions that his technique isn’t the only one.

“Remember that each child is different, and what works for some parents may not work for others. And always use you’re instincts. You are the parent,” Dailo stresses.

TIME Internet

Kindergarteners Who Share iPads May Perform Better: Study

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Students perform better if they share an iPad with another student as opposed to having one all to themselves, according to a new study.

Though schools nationwide have ramped up their efforts to introduce technology in the classroom, there’s just a small body of evidence on the benefits for students. Now a new study suggests that iPads do have a role in academic performance, but the effect may be greater when students collaborate.

In the study, Northwestern University researcher and Ph.D. candidate Courtney Blackwell analyzed the iPad usage and academic performance of 352 kindergarten students in three elementary schools. In one of the schools, there were enough iPads for every student to use one. In another school, there were 23 iPads and the students shared them. In the third school, there were no iPads. Blackwell followed the students for one school year and tracked their performance on literacy tests.

Her findings, which Blackwell presented at the Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, show that students who shared iPads performed better than their peers who used an iPad on their own or did not use iPads at all in the classroom. Specifically, kids who shared iPads scored 28% better on their literacy tests at the end of the year, whereas kids who used their own devices improved by 24% and kids who did not have iPads in the classroom improved by 20%.

“While statistically significant, the percentage increase for the shared-iPad kids is not huge, but I do think it is a meaningful finding given there is no prior empirical research looking at how 1:1 tablets affect student learning compared to shared or no tablets,” said Blackwell in an email to TIME.

In her report, Blackwell concludes that schools may want to reconsider implementing tablet use for young kids, given how expensive the investment can be and the lack of evidence to support the need for individual tablets in kindergarten.

“I think it’s important to remember that iPads and technology in general are just one part of the curriculum, with many other factors playing a role in children’s achievement,” said Blackwell. “Technology has always been touted as a potential panacea for education, but historically it has never changed the U.S. education system on a large scale. That said, with so many schools integrating one-for-one tablets and other devices, we need to know how technology is affecting learning to understand the best way to make tablets and technology most effective for students and teachers.”

Read next: Teachers Actually Want Students to Use This App in Class

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TIME Family

Why Have Kids?

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Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

In the midst of rapidly changing family structures, why does childlessness still carry a stigma for women?

It used to be that the Cleavers — dad working an office job, mom raising two boys full-time — were the model American family. But the past several decades have seen dramatic changes — recent studies find that only about half of American adults are married today, compared to around 70 percent in 1960. The share of interracial marriages has doubled since 1980. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia now recognize same-sex marriage. More men than ever are becoming single fathers. More mothers are becoming family breadwinners. More children are being born outside of marriage.

A Pew Research Center study from 2010 found that 20 percent of American women now end their childbearing years without having borne a child, compared to 10 percent in the 1970s. During that time, the public has become more accepting of these women, but 38 percent of Americans surveyed for that study felt this trend was bad for society. When it comes to some other changes to the American family — such as marrying someone of a different race or women working outside the home — the public has said in greater numbers that those trends were good for or at least didn’t harm society.

In advance of the Zócalo event, “Why Have Kids?”, we asked a panel of experts: If Americans have come to accept a range of non-traditional family structures, why does a woman’s choice not to have children still elicit skepticism and judgment?

 

Bella DePaulo — We want other people to share the worldviews we care about most

“As long as women bounce around kidding themselves that life is full when alone, they are putting their hedonistic, selfish desires ahead of what’s best for children and society.” That was one reader’s response to a 2002 cover story in Time about women who were choosing to stay single and not have kids. At the time, I was just starting to research my first book on single people and I was perplexed. The reader had no relationship to the women in the story — they were strangers. If these women didn’t have qualms about their life choices, why should this guy get so angry about them?

I hadn’t yet recognized the power of people’s views of the world. Worldviews help us make sense of the world. They can boost our self-esteem, enhance our good feelings, and keep our bad ones at bay. We want other people to share the worldviews we care about the most. When it comes to marriage and family, one of the strongest worldviews is that women are supposed to get married and have kids. And if they do, they will be happier and healthier than everyone else — and morally superior, too.

The “problem,” then, with women who do not follow the culturally valued life course of marrying and having children, is that they are threatening beliefs that people hold dear.

What’s more, it is even worse if they choose not to marry or have kids. For example, research has shown that single people who want to be single are judged more harshly than those who want to find a partner. They are seen as lonelier, colder, less sociable, and more miserable. Even more tellingly, other people express more anger toward them. That irate reader of the Time story was not only irked because he thought the women were stupid, but also because they were happy. How dare they claim that life without marriage or kids is a good and happy life — a life that someone would actually choose!

Bella DePaulo, who has a doctorate in psychology from Harvard University, is the author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After and the forthcoming How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century. Visit her website at www.BellaDePaulo.com.

 

Elaine Tyler May — Women have opted out of motherhood throughout history

Womanhood equals motherhood has long been accepted as the norm for women’s lives. But in fact, throughout history, women have often opted out of motherhood. In the 19th century, for example, the average number of births per woman declined by half—from eight in 1800 to four in 1900. Many women chose not to marry, and even some of those who married chose not to have children. The rate of childlessness was at an all-time high at the dawn of the 20th century, and then dropped to an all-time low after World War II in the midst of the Baby Boom.

Today, more and more women are choosing not to have children for a wide variety of reasons. Women without children are not scorned or pitied to the extent they once were, but a stigma still attaches to women who choose not to procreate. It is way past time for that stigma to lift. American women today lead rich and varied lives, with or without partners, with or without children. It is time to celebrate all the choices women have, and protect their ability to make the choice to have children—or not. Besides, there are many ways to have children in one’s life without giving birth to them or raising them. Just ask any devoted aunt, teacher, doctor, childcare worker, or anyone with children in their lives. As one teacher said proudly, “I’m not childless! I have 400 children!”

Elaine Tyler May is Regents professor of American studies and history at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of several books on women and the American family, including Barren in the Promised Land: Childless Americans and the Pursuit of Happiness.

 

Laura S. Scott — People are ignoring studies that point to happy, regret-free seniors who didn’t have children

Behind all the media attention around baby bumps, intentional single moms, egg freezing parties, and celebrity surrogacy is a belief that the only path to a purposeful and fulfilling life is parenthood, particularly motherhood. If you value the experience of motherhood over all other experiences, you will tend to judge someone who values a different experience.

There is also the persistent belief that, if you don’t have kids, you will regret it and die alone or in a home with 30 starving cats. Everyone chooses to ignore the multitude of studies that point to happy, socially connected, regret-free childfree seniors who are living their dreams and contributing in many creative ways. The lingering stigma is puzzling unless you factor in the judgment, unspoken regrets, and dare I say, envy, from parents who say, “I didn’t think I had the choice!”

We now have the means and opportunity to remain childfree, but we have to have the intent and will to resist the prenatal messaging, peer and family pressure, and be true to ourselves. We also have to have reliable birth control and doctors who believe us when we say, “I don’t want kids, ever! And I will not change my mind and sue you if you perform this tubal!”

We also need to be able to wrap our brains around this question: “If everyone is invited to decide for themselves if they want to be a parent, how does our thinking and our world have to change to allow for that?”

Laura S. Scott is an executive and reproductive decision-making coach, author of Two is Enough: A Couples Guide to Living Childless by Choice, and director of the Childless by Choice Project.

 

Bill McKibben — There’s also prejudice towards people who chose to have just one kid

There’s another choice that yields almost as much skepticism: the decision just to have one child. Surveys show that the biggest reason for having a second kid is so the first won’t be an only child. There may be plenty of good reasons for having a big family, but it turns out that isn’t one of them: all the data show that only kids grow up to be indistinguishable from their peers with siblings. Not spoiled, not crazy. Just fine.

In fact, it’s a perfect example of how easily we’re led astray by prejudice. The “study” that convinced everyone that only children were odd was conducted in the late 1800s, and the definition of “odd” included “very pretty,” “very ugly,” and “very strong.” (It also found that immigrant children were odd; go figure.) The subjects in the study included not just actual only children, but only children in works of fiction.

Happily science has marched on, and so should the rest of us. It’s time that we learned to accept that people, and families, come in many different shapes and sizes; that they face different circumstances and want different things. It’s time, that is, to stop with the judging.

Bill McKibben is a Vermont-based writer whose books include Maybe One: An Argument for Smaller Families.

 

Melanie Notkin — Choose happiness

We have “Mom-opia” in America—the myopic view of motherhood as womanhood.,. And yet, the latest U.S. Census Report on Fertility shows that 46 percent of women of childbearing years are childless.

This all-women-as-mother view generates “black and white” assumptions for why women make their choices, ignoring nuances and shades of gray. I worked closely with DeVries Global PR on a 2014 national demographic study entitled: “Shades of Otherhood,” inspired by my book: Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness, to better understand this cohort of modern women. Of the 19 million childless American women ages 20 to 44, over one-third (36 percent) are childless by choice. Some never felt motherhood was for them. Some don’t feel financially secure enough for parenthood. Some enjoy the freedom to live life to what they envision as its potential. And 18 percent of all childless women are on the fence, having not yet made a choice on motherhood either way.

And then nearly half (46 percent) are involuntarily childless, some by biology, and more often, among the cohort I explore more widely in Otherhood, by circumstance.

The women of the Otherhood are often single, often not by choice, and they choose to wait for love before motherhood.

Still, whatever the reason for childlessness, 80 percent of women in our study said they can live a happy life without children of their own. Moreover, even among those who are childfree by choice, 80 percent are “childfull” — they play an active role the lives of other people’s children.

Whatever the choices or circumstances of childlessness, the only way to live a meaningful and happy life is to live an authentic life—making the right choice for oneself, not by the measure of what society believes is the “right” choice. And the only one who can make that authentic choice is the women who chooses. She chooses happiness.

Melanie Notkin is the founder and author of Savvy Auntie and author of Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness. Connect with her at Otherhood.co and @SavvyAuntie.

This article was written for Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Family

Mother Reunited With Daughter 49 Years After Being Told She Died

Zella Jackson Price was told that her child died several hours after she gave birth

Several hours after Zella Jackson Price gave birth, the hospital told her her daughter had died. But 49 years later, her daughter is alive and well—and reunited with her mother.

Melanie Diane Gilmore was put up for adoption for unknown reasons shortly after she was born, but she recently decided to track down her mother, with a little help from her own children, a St. Louis Fox affiliate reports.

Price, now 76, is delighted to have her daughter back in her life—but intends to investigate how the St. Louis hospital wrongly told her of her daughter’s death five decades ago.

[Fox2Now]

TIME Family

Watch This Mom of 6 Boys Freak Out During Gender Reveal of Baby Number 7

'Freak out' is an understatement

Cher Lair of Apex, North Carolina, received a sweet surprise when she cut into the gender reveal cake for her seventh child.

After giving birth to six boys, the mom figured lucky baby number seven would be a male too, reports local ABC affiliate WTVD.

“Initially, on baby three and four I’m thinking ‘They’ll be a girl at some point. They can’t all be boys.’ But after four and five and six, You’re kinda thinking, yeah they can,” said Lair.

Or can they?

Surrounded by all of her sons, Lair cut into the gender reveal cake expecting a blue stripe denoting a boy, but was shocked to discover a pink girl stripe inside instead.

In footage from the big moment, Lair immediately starts screaming when she sees the slice and falls to floor in excitement.

Lair says she is eager to welcome the baby and experience the new parks of having a little lady in her life.

“We’re a boy house for sure,” the mom told WVTD. “I want to have that mommy-daughter thing, to take her to Cinderella, for pedicures and manicures, and shop for a prom dress. I’ve wanted that.” ”

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME Family

The Biggest Reason to Be Thankful for Your Brothers and Sisters on Siblings Day

Siblings Cover
Cover Credit: PHOTO-ILLUSTRATION FOR TIME BY ARTHUR HOCHSTEIN. PHOTOGRAPH OF CHILDREN BY PENNY GENTIEU - BABYSTOCK.COM. NEST FROM GETTY IMAGES The July 10, 2006, cover of TIME

The research says they deserve a grateful hug

Our brothers and sisters are often the only people in our lives from beginning to end, and their influence is just as broad as that timeline.

That was the conclusion reached by TIME’s Jeffrey Kluger in a 2006 cover story about the effects of sibling-hood. And, as many U.S. states mark Siblings Day on April 10, there’s no better time to look at that research as another reason to be thankful for those closest of relatives. Even the ever-present sibling rivalry can pay off in the long run, it turns out, as they help kids grow up with problem-solving know-how.

Read TIME’s new special report on siblings: How Parents Can Help Their Kids Get Along

And, as Kluger reported, it’s not really surprising that those childhood companions end up affecting our adulthood:

From the time they are born, our brothers and sisters are our collaborators and co-conspirators, our role models and cautionary tales. They are our scolds, protectors, goads, tormentors, playmates, counselors, sources of envy, objects of pride. They teach us how to resolve conflicts and how not to; how to conduct friendships and when to walk away from them. Sisters teach brothers about the mysteries of girls; brothers teach sisters about the puzzle of boys. Our spouses arrive comparatively late in our lives; our parents eventually leave us. Our siblings may be the only people we’ll ever know who truly qualify as partners for life. “Siblings,” says family sociologist Katherine Conger of the University of California, Davis, “are with us for the whole journey.”

Within the scientific community, siblings have not been wholly ignored, but research has been limited mostly to discussions of birth order. Older sibs were said to be strivers; younger ones rebels; middle kids the lost souls. The stereotypes were broad, if not entirely untrue, and there the discussion mostly ended.

But all that’s changing. At research centers in the U.S., Canada, Europe and elsewhere, investigators are launching a wealth of new studies into the sibling dynamic, looking at ways brothers and sisters steer one another into–or away from–risky behavior; how they form a protective buffer against family upheaval; how they educate one another about the opposite sex; how all siblings compete for family recognition and come to terms–or blows–over such impossibly charged issues as parental favoritism.

Still, folks without siblings shouldn’t despair: All that research into siblings came along with research into only-children. The stereotype of the spoiled only child, scientists found, was mostly just a myth.

Read the full story, here in the TIME Vault: The New Science of Siblings

Read next: Facebook Reveals How Common It Is For Siblings to Have The Same First Initial

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TIME Family

Runner Wins 3 Marathons in 8 Days to Help Pay Son’s Medical Bills

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"He gives me the energy shot to pick me up and carry me through to the finish"

Bryan Morseman, a runner from Western New York, runs marathons for two reasons. A lifelong runner, he enjoys the sport, but he also uses the prize money to help pay his infant son’s medical bills. Last month he ran three marathons in eight days—two of them back back-to-back—and won them all.

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle has Morseman’s full story. His son, Leeim, has spina bifida, a congenital spine defect that poses a variety of health problems and can leave a child unable to walk if left untreated. He has physical therapy three times a week but still might not be able to walk.

“Every time I’m in a race I think of him and how my pain is nothing compared to what he has gone through,” Morseman, told the Democrat & Chronicle. “He gives me the energy shot to pick me up and carry me through to the finish.”

On March 14, Morseman went to Alabama and won the Montgomery Marathon. The next day, on the way back to New York, he stopped in Cary, N.C., and won the Tobacco Road Marathon. On March 22 he went to Virginia Beach and won the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon. He took home a total of $5,750 in prize money.

Morseman works full-time as a precious metals clerk but runs marathons on the weekends. He doesn’t train with a coach but still hopes to qualify for the Olympic trials. Family comes first, though, he said.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME Internet

Watch This Teen’s Plea to Help His Mom Pay for His 53rd Surgery

He has a rare genetic disease that causes facial deformities

Doctors thought Austin Niehus, who was born with Goldenhar syndrome, a rare genetic disease that causes facial deformities, wouldn’t live to see his first birthday.

Fourteen years and 52 surgeries later, he’s still around, and he’s put together a five-minute video sharing his story to raise money to help his mother pay for his next procedure.

Niehus, who lives in Aurora, Colorado, was born deaf and missing an ear (“God made [me] very unique and special,” he says) so he uses note cards he holds up to the camera to communicate.

“I have to have another surgery in June :-(” he says in one. “They will be repairing my [palate].”

He then points to his mouth.

He wanted to raise $4,000 because “insurance doesn’t cover everything” (it won’t cover the plate to close his palate), so his friend suggested he make a video using note cards, he writes.

“I was nervous to do this well … because I was bullied so bad and made fun of a lot!” he admits in the video.

“So to make this video I guess I am being brave!” he writes.

The response has been overwhelming, but, according to a post on his Facebook page, he and his mom haven’t been able to get the messages to thank everyone themselves.

“This is Austin’s Papa,” the post said. “Austin’s mom wanted me to tell you thank you so very much for all your support, kind words and prayers.

“She still has no internet and has to leave the house to find free wifi to view and reply back to your posts, and her data plan on her phone is way over the limit right now,” he wrote Thursday.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME Family

‘Selfish, Shallow and Neurotic’: How the Conversation on Childlessness Got Started

"NON" (National Organization for Non-parents; at Disneyland.
Ralph Crane—The LIFE Picture Collecton/Getty Images Caption from TIME. Child protesting against parenthood; A gift on Non-Father's Day.

The National Organization for Non-Parents started a dialogue that continues today

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveal that more women in America are childless — or childfree, depending on how you look at it — than at any time since recordkeeping began in the 1970s. And it can seem as if the fewer people have children, the more people want to talk about it: For example, the release of the Census statistics coincides with the recent release of a new essay collection edited by Meghan Daum, Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids.

But, though some of the nuance and context in the conversation about childlessness may be new, the conversation itself is not. Much of today’s discussion of the topic echoes the criticism levied at the National Organization for Non-Parents (NON), a group founded in 1972 to promote the childfree lifestyle.

The organization, which later changed its name to the National Alliance for Optional Parenthood, formed in response to a “pronatalist” culture that stigmatized childless couples. As TIME wrote in 1972, “the cultural bias against childless couples is so strong that husbands and wives cannot choose non-parenthood freely; they know they will be branded selfish, shallow and neurotic.”

NON’s 400 members also promoted the benefits of the childfree existence, as TIME explained:

All of the members, even the parents among them, are committed to childlessness as a way of creating ‘social space.’ That means ‘a combination of time, money and energy’ that can be used to conserve planetary resources, beat the high cost of living and free husbands and wives for political activism and the pursuit of free life-styles.

That same year, LIFE Magazine profiled the organization’s executive director, Shirley Radl, a mother of two then at work on a book titled Mother’s Day Is Over. Radl lamented the “Big Lie” she and her husband had fallen for, succumbing to friends’ judgment of their lives as “hedonistic, meaningless.” Her words have not gone stale in the intervening decades:

We don’t tell others what jobs to take, whom they should marry, where to vacation. It’s bad manners to ask how much money they make. Yet others’ breeding habits, if they’re childless, are considered fair game. The couples with children, who are miserable, don’t hesitate to urge others to follow their examples.

Read TIME’s 2013 cover story on childlessness, here in the TIME archives: The Childfree Life

TIME Family

What It’s Really Like To Be a Surrogate Mother

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“I don’t regret it for a second"

The modern American family takes many forms; our living arrangements and relationships are more diverse than ever. Still, Arin, a 31-year-old woman from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, has assumed a role that most women will never experience. She became a surrogate mother — carrying two biological children for her gay stepbrother, Phillip, and his longtime partner, Shane.

For people who want to be parents, but can’t have children of their own, surrogacy is an increasingly common — though complex — option. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine estimates that around 1,000 surrogacy births occur every year in the United States, but there is no official record-keeping for surrogacy and no legal formalities forcing people to document their involvement in the process.

The usual arrangement is gestational surrogacy, which is when an embryo created by in vitro fertilization (IVF) is implanted in and carried by a genetically unrelated female, who is typically found through a private agency. Interestingly, the United States is one of the few countries where it is legal for these surrogates to be paid for their role — other notable exceptions include India, Thailand, and Russia. (U.S. laws vary by state, but generally allow for compensation to surrogates.)

MORE I Got Dumped, Got Cancer, & Got Over It

A less common type of surrogacy is where a surrogate uses her own eggs, which would make her the genetic mother. “I would say that less than 50 births per year come from a genetic mother,” said Hilary Hanafin, PhD, chief counselor for the Center for Surrogate Parenting Inc. in Encino, California. Arin was one of these women.

Phillip and Shane, who live in Seattle, considered gestational surrogacy a few years ago. They had been together for more than a decade and desperately wanted a child. But, after investigating, they found the official procedures for surrogacy — as well as adoption — slow and cumbersome. The thought that Phillip’s stepsister, Arin, might carry their children had come up, but they decided they weren’t yet ready and moved on from the idea.

Then, one late-summer evening in 2012, Arin was visiting Phillip and Shane in Seattle when she decided the time was right. “Let’s just do it!” she remembers blurting over her glass of wine. “Why are we creating this issue? All we have to do is put your sperm in me, and we will have a baby!”

Phillip and Shane, full of excitement and nervousness, agreed. They left dinner, went to Walgreens, bought the necessary equipment to insert Shane’s sperm into Arin, and went home and did the deed. A few days later, Arin returned to Brooklyn. She didn’t get pregnant that time, but it eventually worked.

Arin, Phillip, and Shane’s case is rare by sociological standards. According to Dr. Hanafin, a woman carrying biological children (meaning the egg is hers, rather than implanted from a different woman) for a gay couple is relatively unprecedented. According to Arin, her volunteering as both the surrogate and genetic mother of the child was vehemently discouraged by psychologists she spoke to beforehand.

“They said, ‘That baby will be in your life. You will be attached. It will drive you crazy,’” Arin said. “There isn’t a situation like this out there, at least that we came across. The only other times family was part of it, they didn’t use their own eggs.”

Dr. Hanafin says that there are “rare instances of relinquishment guilt and grief” in surrogates. Women who have had children prior to surrogacy don’t typically encounter any psychological complications when entering a biological surrogacy situation — Dr. Hanafin theorizes that they may be better able to remove their emotions from the process. But, Arin hadn’t given birth to a child previously — which was another unique aspect of her situation.

“I have been counseling for 32 years and have never worked with a woman that wasn’t a mom already,” Dr. Hanafin said. “It’s that unusual. It takes a very healthy group of people to make it work.”

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For Arin, who was 28 at the time and didn’t feel quite ready to start a family of her own, the arrangement suited her. “I wanted to be pregnant and wanted to go through the experience, but not have the responsibility [of raising the child],” she said. The pregnancy was, as she put it, “a fairytale pregnancy.”

As the due-date crept closer, Phillip and Shane rented an apartment in New York City so they could prepare for the birth as a team and be there when Arin went into labor. They also consulted an attorney to finalize the adoption paperwork for Phillip. Since Shane was the biological father, Phillip would become the adoptive parent, with Arin relinquishing her rights as the mother of the child. On June 20, 2013, Dahlia was born: a healthy girl with grey-blue eyes and plump, rosy cheeks.

Medical professionals may have been concerned that Arin would become maternally attached to the child, but she took the transition from surrogate to aunt in stride. “I was not doing this for myself, and when she was born, I was fine with it. It was to the point that it was odd for me to think that I had a child.”

Dahlia, although only a toddler, has been given a full account of the process of her creation. “We want her to know her birth story, where she came from, and how everything happened,” said Phillip. “We have a picture of Arin in her room, and every night we look at it. We say, ‘B-Ma (Biological Mother) loves you,’ and ‘Say goodnight to B-Ma.’ So, for her, it becomes normal. It becomes easy for us to talk to her about it.”

Phillip and Shane were in constant contact with Arin about Dahlia’s development during infancy. (Facetime is a regular thing, and meetups are scheduled every three months, with Arin flying to Seattle or the family coming to New York.) “It’s not like she gave birth and placed her through adoption to a stranger,” Shane said.

It wasn’t more than six months after Dahlia’s birth before the couple asked Arin to carry another child for them.

MORE Two Men — In Jail For Anti-Gay Murders — Just Married Each Other

It took only two tries for Arin to get pregnant, and this time around, they used Phillip’s sperm. Although they have a brother-sister bond, they are not blood-related and wanted to make that clear to avoid any confusion. “We didn’t want people saying, ‘What’s going on here? What’s wrong with this family?” Arin said. The concept of each of them being the biological father of one of their children was very important to Phillip and Shane.

Phillip and Shane’s son, Laydon, was born in Manhattan on January 23, 2015. Arin’s labor was quick and nearly painless, lasting less than four hours.

In the months after Laydon’s birth, Arin has been inundated with photographs, videos, and Facetime sessions with the children — and unbridled appreciation from Phillip and Shane. “Without her, our life wouldn’t be the way it is, and our family wouldn’t be what it is,” Phillip said. “She has literally sacrificed so much and put her own life at risk to help us. We know we will always be in each others’ lives, and now that she is the birth mom of our children, there is even more reason for her to be involved.”

Shane added, “There’s not a word invented that describes the feeling. Sometimes we just look at Dahlia playing and Laydon sleeping, and we think, Is this real? It’s like watching it happen from afar and then it hits you: This is just incredible.”

Now, as spring makes its descent on New York, Arin can be found in her Greenpoint apartment, with her cat sprawled out in the patch of light that pours through the window. Looking back, she can’t help but smile.

“I don’t regret it for a second,” she said. “You forget the pain. You forget the morning sickness. You remember the beautiful moments. I look at these babies and [know] they are a part of my life. I helped create them. Phillip and Shane remind me every day of how I changed their lives.”

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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