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After Having Three Miscarriages, I’m Pregnant Again

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

How do you emotionally prepare to lose a pregnancy, and at the same time prepare to keep it?

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Throughout my early twenties, when anyone (usually my mother) asked whether I wanted kids someday, my attitude fell somewhere between ambivalence and outright disinterest.

Then, one breezy October morning, that changed in an instant, like a switch had been flipped. It was a Saturday, and my would-be husband and I were taking a walk after eating breakfast at our favorite Manhattan diner. It was a handful of days before Halloween, and there were all these little kids dressed in the costumes that they couldn’t wait to wear. There was one toddler in a fireman outfit, and it just killed me with cuteness. I WANTED ONE.

My ovaries betrayed me, and from that day on I became a touch obsessed (understatement) with pregnancy and babies.

Fast-forward through a few years of neurotic baby-planning and menstrual cycle-tracking in Excel spreadsheets, getting married, and a move from New York to Chicago — I was 27 years old, right on time according to my perfectly optimized reproduction schedule, and my husband and I were finally ready.

I became pregnant in our first month of trying, which was a surprise since all of the literature tells you not to expect immediate results. We were as happy and nervous as you’d expect any couple to be during the beginning of a first pregnancy. (Technically this was my second time getting pregnant, but the first time I had an abortion, and the differences in experiencing a wanted versus an unwanted pregnancy are so huge that, for the sake of this story, I’m going to treat my first intentional pregnancy as my first pregnancy.)

Starting around six weeks, my morning sickness became intense. I woke up every day dry heaving, and if I wasn’t constantly forcing snacks into my face (so much hummus!), I’d be throwing up within the hour. It was barely manageable. I was exhausted.

At eight weeks we saw a heartbeat on our first ultrasound, and I had no doubts that my sickness was worth it — the risk of miscarriage drops significantly once you’ve seen a heartbeat. Up to this point everything seemed normal.

Around nine weeks I had a little spotting. I was assured I shouldn’t worry about it since it was light, temporary, and painless — first trimester spotting is common. Around 10 and a half weeks, at another doctor’s appointment, the heartbeat was a bit slow, though not that abnormal, so we scheduled a follow up visit for a week later. At 11 weeks and five days, we went in for another ultrasound and there was no heartbeat. The fetus had died.

This was a “missed miscarriage,” meaning I never had any bleeding or pain to signal that something was wrong. I scheduled the procedure for the following day, and after it was done I felt as awful as I’ve ever felt in my life — utterly empty and weak. I’d followed every pregnancy recommendation, taken every precaution, and we still don’t know what went wrong. We probably never will.

The healing process involved me being a hermit for a few weeks, refusing to leave the apartment unless I absolutely had to. My husband did his best to console me with all the pad thai and bacon pineapple pizza a girl can eat. I listened to a lot of Björk (she can get you through anything, I swear), and watched all of Netflix’s sappiest offerings. I cried and cried and cried.

Friends did their best to support me, and I felt loved, but it was hard to accept their help. The hospital encouraged me to join their miscarriage support group, but I didn’t. The unflattering truth is, I didn’t want to hear about anyone else’s problems, even if they were similar to my own. In a way, I think I wanted to feel special and unique in my suffering.

My best friend dragged me away to a vacation on the lake, and that helped.

Slowly, I felt better. Maybe we should have waited longer, but after a cycle had passed I felt ready to try again, and I got pregnant right away.

At six weeks, I miscarried again. Unlike the first time, I knew what was happening when it started. The blood and cramping weren’t all that severe, but this clearly wasn’t just a little light spotting.

At this point, while it obviously sucked what I was going through, it wasn’t necessarily a cause to assume something was wrong with me — repeated miscarriages aren’t medically considered worth investigating until you hit the third one in a row. My healing process this time was essentially the same as the last. Tending to my little deck garden became a particularly soothing outlet for me. We waited a cycle, and I was eager to get back on the horse.

For a third time, I got pregnant in our first month of trying. Just call me Fertile Myrtle. This one went almost identically to the second pregnancy, ending in a miscarriage in the sixth week. The difference now was that it was time to run medical tests, looking for all kinds of horrifying conditions that I shouldn’t have Googled while waiting for the results.

Every test came back negative, which was both good and bad. On the one hand, it’s good to know I don’t have any major life-changing medical problems (at least nothing they found), and on the other, we still have no answers. I lost three pregnancies, and I have no idea why.

After the third miscarriage, we waited longer to try again, but I still got pregnant on our first go — Fertile Myrtle strikes again! As I write this, I’m eight weeks and one day into yet another pregnancy. We had an ultrasound appointment yesterday, and we were able to see the heartbeat.

My doctor said that everything looks normal, and I wish I felt more reassured, but I’m still worried. Every day that passes raises the stakes. Every time I pee I’m paranoid, checking the toilet for blood. I love to think about baby names, but I tell myself I shouldn’t. I’m trying my hardest to be calmly ready for another miscarriage, but how do you emotionally prepare to lose a pregnancy, and at the same time prepare to keep it?

I’ve spent almost 32 weeks out of the last year stuck in the first trimester of pregnancy, like a messed up version of Groundhog Day — Bill Murray didn’t have to do it pregnant. Lots of women wait to announce their pregnancies until after 12 weeks for fear of miscarriage, and because of the pressure that results from friends and family who, purely out of love, have heavy emotions riding on the outcome of your pregnancy — something over which you have limited control.

Obviously, I’m not taking the secrecy route. There’s just no way I can keep this big part of my recent life to myself. It’s not like I’m telling the grocery clerk, “Guess what? I had a miscarriage! And I’m pregnant!” but it just comes up sometimes in conversation, and it feels unfair to keep this quiet for the sake of other people’s comfort.

The fact is that even though most people mean well, it’s generally pretty awkward when you tell them you’ve been pregnant and you don’t have a kid. They look at you with incredible amounts of pity, like you’re some sad, abused puppy, instead of a basically-okay adult person telling them about a recent experience.

Understanding, empathetic people who say things like, “Oh wow, I’m sorry, I bet that’s hard,” or, “What was that like?” are in the minority. The more common reply is along the lines of, “Well, I’m sure it will happen when it’s meant to be.”

I HATE THIS. You have no idea if I ever will be able to carry a pregnancy to term, so quit making diagnoses of my destiny. What are you, a fortune teller? One friend who knew about my past abortion asked me, “Well, do you think this happened to you because you had an abortion?”

NO, I DO NOT. In fairness (?) to her, the only reason I’d told her about the abortion in the first place was because I knew she’d disapprove but be too Minnesotan to say anything . . . so maybe I brought that one on myself.

From where I sit, most secrecy comes from a place of shame and fear of social rejection, and we all know how society treats women who don’t fulfill its standards for being baby factories. But women should not be blamed for miscarriages.

We aren’t shamed into hiding other struggles in our life, like illness or the death of a loved one, because we know they’re not our fault. Miscarriage should be treated the same. There are places in the world where women are in jail for having miscarriages, as well as states in the U.S. that have taken steps towards criminalizing the death of a fetus.

It’s important that we open up the dialogue about miscarriage — they’re enormously common, and hardly ever talked about. They are nothing to be ashamed of.

Sarah Bourne Zethmayr wrote this article for xoJane.

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

My Mother Died 12 Hours After Being Diagnosed With Cancer

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xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

She lost her ability to speak five hours after being diagnosed and an hour after that, any responsiveness

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There is a scar that runs the entire length of my left arm, wide and treacherous at the elbow, then narrows to a thin white line as it cuts across my palm.

I was eight and running on the way to a baseball game with my father when I fell on some rocks in the parking lot. He slung me over his shoulder and carried me to the first aid station. It wasn’t until I watched him throw his blood-soaked jacket into a trash can and looked down at my arm, the bone popping out at the elbow, that I realized how hurt I was.

In October 2013, I was 30 years old, sitting on the floor of my room in my house in Portland, folding laundry, when my mother called to tell me she had pneumonia. I absent-mindedly folded a T-shirt while I asked her if she was drinking enough liquids.

At the time, I worked with seniors and was dating a Director of Health Services so I was well versed in the logistics of dehydration.

“No, you don’t understand. I’m in the hospital.”

I didn’t understand. My mother was 69 years old and had just returned to New York from an Alaskan cruise with my father, with a short stopover to see me in Oregon. She was an adventurer who had married an Air Force man and lived all over the world, including Germany, where I was born.

She was a happy woman who explored every inch of nature, often times on her motorcycle. While my father and I were always breaking bones, falling out of trees, and electrocuting ourselves, my mother stayed healthy, our perpetual caretaker. I did not understand why a cold would land her in the hospital.

From the freshly folded piles around me, I started sliding T-shirts and underwear into my rucksack, the one I had used for my own adventures in the world, while I told my mother I would book a flight. She laughed and told me it was just a cold and I didn’t need to come.

Luckily, I’m not the type of daughter who has ever listened to my parents so I was on a flight two days later, armed with a stack of magazines and my then-boyfriend’s helpful hints about dealing with hospitals.

On the flight, I talked to the man next to me, a professor, about his students and his daughter. I was cheerful. I didn’t understand.

I have been nearly everywhere, but I grew up in Syracuse, NY, the same town my mother was born in. It’s a town that isn’t that bad, but in my mind it is still a place where mercury poisons our lake and where most of my family and friends have struggled with or succumbed to cancer. My mother lost her sister to cancer; she was just 47. Her brother survived his bout.

When my plane touched the ground and my phone clicked back on, I already had a message. It was from a doctor I had never met or spoken to telling me they had just moved my mother to the ICU.

I was panicked when I met with my father, who awkwardly hugged me as we pushed my rucksack into the trunk of my mother’s Prius. As we passed the trees and power lines that make up the familiar horizon of my home town, I talked. I asked my father what had happened. I didn’t understand, I said.

She only had a cough.

In that white room with a curtain for a door, my mother was jaundiced, her skin wrinkled like someone had taken a yellow legal pad and crumpled each sheet up and then tried to mash it into the shape of a person. I tried to take control of the situation, like I knew how, like my job had prepared me for, like how my boyfriend, with his BA in nursing, had talked me through.

I asked my mother how she was, what she needed, what I could do. She told me she didn’t know. She told me to wait for the doctor, that I could ask him. She told me that they were running tests.

Tests. The vast medical mishaps that had brought us here, an entire chain of terrible choices made by her regular doctor who dismissed my mother’s pain first as “old age” and then begrudgingly sent her for lab tests. Those tests were never done because when she showed up, the lab guy turned her away, stating, “You are allergic to iodine, I can’t perform this test. He needs to order you different lab work. How did he not notice that?”

And then her doctor, possibly annoyed with my persistent mother, over the phone prescribed her antibiotics for a urinary tract infection. After that course, still pain. So more, stronger antibiotics. Still pain. Another course of antibiotics so harsh that their names made my boyfriend wince as I recited them over the phone.

He told me he had never heard of them being given to someone not already in the hospital, being constantly monitored: They were too strong, they should have never been given. And then her body shut down. She drove herself to the emergency room, not wanting to bother my father. She didn’t understand what was happening either.

Her liver was failing and no one knew why. They suggested a transplant. They ran tests. Her lungs were filling up with fluid. They ran tests.

She pleadingly asked me if she should let the nurse give her a catheter. She wanted me to say no, to protect her from the indignity, but I knew in a short while there would be so many people in that tiny, door-less room that she would have no privacy for the bed pan. I held her hand and told her, it will only hurt for a minute and then you don’t have to worry about it anymore. She said everything hurt, that I had no idea.

The tests came back. The doctor had a sullen look on his face. He was sorry. She couldn’t have a liver transplant; she wasn’t eligible. She had cancer.

Every single organ in her body had tiny black dots of cancer, but especially her liver and kidneys. The liver and kidneys they had pumped so full of highly toxic drugs to cure a urinary tract infection that she didn’t even have.

I finally understood and I wanted to scream, but at who? Not the kind nurse who was helping me find a private room for my mother to die in. Not the ICU doctors; they had found her cancer right away.

I didn’t have time to drive to the medical center where her regular doctor was and strangle him with his stethoscope, so instead I stalked the floors, calling Hospice, trying to get my mother home. She was thrashing and crying now that she knew that her lungs were slowly filling with liquid and she was drowning, right there in front of us.

New York is a terrible place to die if you haven’t properly planned ahead. There are a finite number of hospice nurses because there are a finite number of licenses. You can only call and schedule a nurse during business hours. In New York, when the dying patient is having trouble breathing, you can’t have enough Xanax or Valium to really ease the stress or enough morphine to ease the pain, because these drugs slow the breath and might kill the patient a little faster.

In Oregon, you get a drip that you control. In New York, you have no control.

My mother’s breathing was already shallow and she was on the maximum amount of oxygen available when she got her diagnosis. Gasping, my mother begged me to drag her outside, lay her body on the grass, and let her die there. She loved being outside more than anything, to be in the water, to be in the wind. But the doctors would not let me, because off the ventilators, she would die.

I pulled my own Xanax out of my purse and I gave my mother and myself some pills. She calmed down. I calmed down.

I sat beside my mother, holding her hand. She cried and told me she had so much more to say, but soon she wouldn’t be able to. I told her it didn’t matter; that she had already done so well.

My mother was, quite frankly, a spectacular woman. So many mothers struggle to keep their children as close to them as possible, to make it a hard fight to spread their wings, assuming they know best. Not my mother.

My mother let me see the world. She pushed me to travel and to report back on what I saw. In so many places I found myself in, I knew I was walking on the streets where she had once walked, and that was an amazing feeling, to be reliving her adventures.

She lost her ability to speak five hours after being diagnosed and an hour after that, any responsiveness. Six hours later, in the middle of the night, with my father and me beside her, she passed away without a sound.

Two years later, I understand it better. Like the child I once was, in shock from the unexpected pain, it took me a while. But now I understand it was a gift for her to have suffered for such a short time and for us all to be together, pulled back from our far corners of the world to the place where we started.

Danielle Mantia wrote this article for xoJane.

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

The Dad 2.0 Summit: Making the Case for a New Kind of Manhood

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"Traditional ideas of masculinity can get in our way of being the kind of fathers we want to be”

At the fourth annual Dad 2.0 Summit, Dr. Michael Kimmel reviews the four classic rules for what it means to be a “real man”:

  • No sissy stuff.
  • Be a big wheel.
  • Be a sturdy oak.
  • And give ’em hell.

Or so they say. “Traditional ideas of masculinity,” Kimmel says, “can get in our way of being the kind of fathers we want to be.”

This summit, nearly double the size it was in 2012, has been at the forefront of an ongoing revolution in how America perceives fatherhood. The new dad, the kind Kimmel’s talking about, is one who is sexy and strong because he’s involved and nurturing — just as capable of being a parent as Mom is and happily doing half the work. The attendees that Kimmel is giving his keynote speech to in San Francisco are the kind of daddy bloggers (and mommy bloggers) who have raged against the “bumbling father” stereotypes, as well as the many, many sponsors who subsidized their tickets.

For all the progress the revolution has made, Kimmel, executive director at the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University in New York, is here to spread the message that it’s not time for back-patting yet, that men need to do more to support other men if America is really going to redefine what masculinity looks like (e.g., not just a big emotionless tree).

Young fathers today are more involved than previous generations. They are doing more housework. They are doing more of the child care. Yet, Kimmel says, the fact that a generation of men is doing more than their fathers did — which might have been financially supporting the family and never touching a diaper — can lead to “premature self-congratulation” that belies how much work there is left to do. Since 1965, according to the Pew Research Center, women have nearly tripled the amount of paid work they do each week, and while fathers are doing more to help with the house and kids, they’re still doing half what the moms are. Millennial and Gen X fathers often say they believe in having absolutely equal, 50-50, split-down-the-line relationships, but the reality is that more of the caregiving is still falling to Mom.

One of Kimmel’s core culprits when it comes to that gap is parental leave, as well as the lack of men taking it when it is available. Some companies that are dying to be on the cutting-edge of employee care, like Google and Facebook, are handing out three or more months of paid paternity leave, and some cities are working to mandate time off for moms and dads. But the U.S. is sorely lagging. Unlike almost all industrialized nations in the world, the American government does not mandate paid parental leave. Only about half of first-time moms are able to take paid leave. And according to the Society for Human Resource Management, only 12% of U.S. employers offer any paid paternity leave. So staying home in the early days, with or without pay, more often falls to the women.

The cycle of Mom staying at home in the first few weeks or months while Dad works can lead to a storyline like this: Man and woman believe they’re in a completely equal relationship. Man and woman have child. Woman takes maternity leave while Dad works. She gets more practice at child care. More child-care tasks start falling to her. Over the years, thing after thing related to the household and family falls to woman, many times unnoticed. A little cleaning here. A little appointment-scheduling there. Eventually, the relationship is decidedly unequal, even though that’s not what either of them planned. Opening his speech, Kimmel showed a picture of his son holding up a sign. It read, “I need feminism because it’s easy to ignore sexism when it works in our favor. #ItsOnUs.”

In his work with corporations, Kimmel was early on told that many men weren’t taking paternity leave when it was offered. So where’s the need the offer it?!, the corporations said. This is where the men-supporting-men thing comes in. Kimmel went and talked to men who hadn’t taken leave when their children came. What he found out was that when they told male colleagues they were considering it, they got responses like, “Oh, so you’re not really dedicated to your career.” Another man was told, “Oh, that’s great. You should go. We’ll just put you on the daddy track.” (Read: Not up for the next promotion.)

Upon finding out that one man was considering leave, a partner at his firm leaned over to him and said that he was 64 years-old with three grown kids and he didn’t know any of their birthdays; men have to make sacrifices at home. In many cases, this kind of anti-dad response was enough to keep men from taking the benefits they could. A fella doesn’t have to be a major league baseball player missing games to be with a newborn in order to be derided for putting family ahead of work.

“For the past 40 years, women have been coming out as workers,” Kimmel said toward the end of his speech. “Now men have to come out in public, in our workplaces, as dads.”

Joseph Fowler, a 38-year-old father at the summit, has gone all in and is staying at home with his two kids, a 5-year-old girl and 3-year-old boy. He’s walking around the sponsor room at the summit, where radial saws are being touted next to apple sauce, where the Lego displays are crowned with red flags and pink umbrellas. Fowler says that the lessons he learned about how to be a man from his father were precisely the rules that Kimmel laid out in his speech — to be tough, to be stoic. He looks tough, with broad shoulders and a giant ring he got after the college-football team he coached went to the Orange Bowl. And he says he’s trying to raise his son with a different idea of what it means to be a man. “You can be manly and compassionate,” he says. “And it’s O.K. to show your emotions.” He calls himself a “dad advocate” and says he’s mentoring other dads in the same vein, teaching them that it’s masculine to be a present, responsive father.

The brands at the summit, in far greater number than 2012, are clamoring to be on the right side of people like Fowler. Esquire is live-streaming dad talk at the summit. Lee is giving dads a custom-fit pair of jeans. Kia is letting them test-drive cars. Lego is throwing a party at LucasFilm studios with actual storm troopers walking around. The primary sponsor of the event continues to be Dove Men+Care, which ran a much-talked-about ad during the Super Bowl that featured loving fathers who exemplified “real strength” (which was also the wi-fi password at the summit). These ads for a new generation of dads have been pushed in part by conferences like this, and they’re going to help make it harder for men to scoff at other men who want to put home on par with, or before, the office. General Mills wants to be the official “cereal of dadhood,” which is a 180 from the 2012 Huggies commercial — which showed dads with babies in the vein of monkeys with typewriters — that prompted protest among (and got tons of attention for) the dads at the first Dad 2.0 conference.

At one point the head marketer at Unilever, Dove’s parent company, takes the stage. Behind her flash pictures of men playing with their kids and holding their kids. “This is what being a strong man looks like,” says Jennifer Bremner. “Showing emotion, helping a friend, consoling a child.” She tells the crowd that she has been in marketing a long time and her brother had never much commented on her career, until he saw their ad with the same message that played during the Super Bowl. The text she got from him had two words on it, she says: “About time.” The crowd filled the hall with claps of approval.

TIME health

My Polio, My Mother’s Choice

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

Today's parents, thanks to vaccines, have never had to learn—need never learn—about pain and grief and loss of control

It had been a good year for Lois Mace.

She and her husband, only three years beyond college, had bought their first house. A solid red-brick and clapboard Cape Cod, it sat on a leafy street named for a character out of a Longfellow poem. In its driveway glistened a new sedan, silver-gray with burgundy roof and whitewalls, a gift from her father, a Ford dealer.

And under its dormers that last day of August 1954 slept her three children: A sunny toddler with platinum blonde hair and a weak stomach sphincter, known around the house, mostly affectionately, as Miss Urp. A three-year-old bruiser with a devilish twinkle in his eye, whom the neighbor nicknamed Meatball. Then there was the eldest, a lithe towhead with quick feet and an even quicker tongue—him they called Motormouth. He was set in a week’s time to walk the two blocks down the hill and start first grade at Nakoma Elementary School.

Everything was the way she liked it, under control.

In the middle of that night, Lois was roused by sounds from the boys’ bedroom. Tucked under the shed roof at the back of the house, the bedroom was stuffy with the heat of late summer. The older boy, who shared a bed with his little brother and a ratty blue bear, lay feverish and whimpering. Her husband carried the boy to the bathroom. He was too weak to stand and use the toilet.

The next day they drove him to the hospital for a spinal tap. The spinal fluid was cloudy. “During the past three or four days almost complete paralysis of both lower extremities and left upper extremity and trunk musculature has developed,” his doctor would write in the medical record on September 4.

Lois Mace Paul, 28, had come very far, very fast from a Depression childhood in a small Iowa town—husband, house, kids so well behaved that strangers would stop by the table in restaurants to compliment her. But now she was also the mother of a boy with polio. He lay in an isolation unit, afraid and confused, unable to sit or roll over. She could only stand in the doorway, swathed in a surgical gown and mask, forbidden to hold or comfort him for fear of spreading the virus.

We can safely assume these events counted as life changing for Lois. After 10 days in isolation, the boy was put on a children’s ward, where he would remain for 130 days, “for institution of hot packs and passive stretching exercises and later institution of active exercises,” according to his medical record. Every afternoon at 2, Lois traveled the three miles to the hospital to sit with the boy. She would read to him as he ate the sandwich—always peanut butter on white bread—that she smuggled past the nurses; her boy wasn’t keen on hospital food. Her husband took the night shift, arriving at 7 to launch Pooh and Christopher Robin on their next “expotition.”

Even judged by the standard of today’s families balancing work and parenthood, the logistical challenges were daunting. Meals to make, clothes to wash and hang, diapers to change. Schedule babysitters for every afternoon. Change clothes and put on makeup—a respectable woman didn’t go downtown in jeans and without a face. Find a way to get back and forth; there was only the one car. Make dinner so her husband could get back to the hospital on time. Bathe and put the little ones to bed on her own. How much time or energy could there have been for coffee or cocktails with friends, or for nights out with her husband?

And it didn’t end there. When the boy was finally sent home, he had to be carried up and down stairs. Over the next decade there would be braces and crutches that he was always expensively outgrowing. And as he grew and his unbalanced muscles twisted his frame, Lois and her husband would sit eight times in a surgical waiting room while Dr. Wixson used chisel, hammer, wire, and staples to straighten his back and legs. Not until the boy himself waited outside an operating room as his own infant child underwent orthopedic surgery could he imagine how fear had shadowed Lois’s life.

Imagination is about all we have to tell us what those events meant to Lois emotionally. She didn’t talk much about feelings.

The boy’s only hint came one afternoon, about the time of his sixth birthday. A high school running back had injured his neck in a game and had been brought into the ward the night before, his limbs numb. As Lois and the boy looked on, a doctor and nurses, after some probing, helped the player sit, swing his legs off the bed, and, to the delight of staff and parents, stand again. Seeing what pleased adults, the boy turned to Lois. “I’m going to do that soon,” he said. She didn’t reply, but tears streamed down her face.

We know she grieved. Lois shared the bad news in a letter to her best college friend, who had joined the Iowa diaspora to Los Angeles. It read like a funeral notice. “Oh, my beautiful little boy,” she wrote in ending. Lois confided to her favorite aunt that she feared the boy would die.

Why didn’t Lois vaccinate me? Because she had not been given that choice. I had fallen ill 224 days before the announcement, on April 12, 1955, that the field trials of the Salk polio vaccine were a success.

As she lay in bed that night, digesting the news that had been shouted out across the country over radio, television, and public address systems in workplaces and schools, Lois had a choice to make. Because kicking inside her was the boy she had conceived in her grief the previous fall.

Today’s parents make those choices knowing much more than she did about the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines offered to their children. They can rely on decades of experience and scientific research.

Lois faced only scientific uncertainty. The Salk vaccine was new. It had been only 60 to 70 percent effective in the trial but had been deemed safe. Some of the world’s top polio researchers weren’t so sure. They had publicly opposed the trial, thought the vaccine the wrong approach, maybe even dangerous. Their fears materialized within weeks. Cutter Laboratories in Berkeley shipped vaccine contaminated with live virus. More than 200 children and family members were paralyzed, and 11 died. The vaccination campaign was briefly suspended.

But from her own experience, Lois Mace knew things that today’s parents, thanks to vaccines, have never had to learn—need never learn—about pain and grief and loss of control. As soon as she could, she took all her children to get the shots, and went back again after the Cutter fiasco.

She could not be certain it was the best choice for them. She knew, to her very bones, that it was the right choice for her.

Mark Paul, formerly deputy editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee and deputy treasurer of California, is co-author, with Joe Mathews, of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It. He wrote this for Thinking L.A., a partnership of UCLA and 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.

MONEY Travel

Millions of Families Will Soon Get Free Admission at National Parks

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A new initiative called Every Kid in a Park will give fourth graders and their families free admission to national parks and recreation areas for a full year.

President Obama will be in Chicago on Thursday to designate the Pullman District as a National Monument. While he’s there, Obama will also introduce a very special program called Every Kid in a Park that will provide free admission to fourth graders and their families at national parks, forests, monuments, and other federal lands for a year.

The Every Kid in a Park initiative will be available to families at the start of the 2015-2016 school year, in advance of the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service being celebrated in 2016. How it works is that next fall, all interested families with fourth graders will essentially be provided with a free annual pass (normal cost: $80) granting admission to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, including world-famous national parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Grand Canyon—which each normally charges $25 to $30 per vehicle for a seven-day pass.

The program is “a call to action to get all children to visit and enjoy America’s unparalleled outdoors,” a White House press release explains. “Today, more than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas, and many lack easy access to safe outdoor spaces. At the same time, kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens instead of outside.”

Why only families with fourth graders? Presumably, it would be too costly—and likely, too crowded at the parks—to give free admission to everyone. What’s more, the thinking is likely that fourth grade is an ideal time to expose children to the wonders of the outdoors, with the hope that doing so promotes a lifelong interest and appreciation of nature.

The initiative actually has a parallel in the ski industry. Around the country, Vermont, New Hampshire, Colorado, and several other ski-friendly states offer ski and snowboard passport programs that typically provide a season’s worth of free lift passes for fourth or fifth graders. The concept makes sense because kids don’t go to the mountains alone; their families generally come along, and they spend money at the resorts. The program also obviously helps get kids interested in winter mountain sports, potentially turning them into paying customers for years to come.

Likewise, free admission will nudge families into visiting national parks and recreation areas. And ideally, the kids who go hiking and camping and whatnot will fall in the love with the experience, and become lifelong visitors and supporters of the parks and the great outdoors.

As for those who don’t have a fourth grader in the house, you’re not entirely left out of the freebies. Every year, the National Park Service lists a handful of fee-free days, when admission is free for all visitors. Last weekend, in fact, admission was free in honor of President’s Day. The next freebie event is the weekend of April 18-19, which kicks off National Parks week.

TIME Parenting

5 Things One Mom Wishes She’d Been Told Before Adopting her Black Son

Alexander Landau, 21, was hospitalized when he was 19 years-old after he was stopped by Denver Police. Landau at his attorney's office, Tuesday May 3, 2011, was given a $795,000 settlement after beating during a traffic stop by police. RJ Sangosti, The De
RJ Sangosti—The Denver Post/Getty Images Alexander Landau

Alex Landau’s mother Patsy Hathaway believed that love was enough when it came to raising her adopted black son—until he was beaten up by Denver police in a routine traffic stop. Landau says he was attacked after asking for a warrant; police say they thought he was reaching for one of their guns.

“Had I prepared Alex properly, he would have suffered less,” says Hathaway today, five years after the 2009 incident. “I regret this. But he would not have become the leader that he is destined to be either. Alex is in a position to help reduce others’ suffering, as well as to expose injustice and racism.”

Landau, who was given a settlement by Denver Police in 2011, is now a student and an activist. His mom wants everyone to know what she learned: a list of ways adoptive parents of kids can better support their children of a different race throughout their lives.

  1. “Preschoolers experience prejudice. So teach younger children the best you can [about racism], in simple language. Lessons can become more elaborate as kids mature.”
  2. “Children should deeply understand that racism is not their fault; there’s nothing wrong with them. Try to explain that without vilifying others.”
  3. “Universalize it. Talk about white slavery in Greece, the Jewish experience, the struggle that Hispanics face. It’s not just blacks who have suffered; it’s a problem of how people treat each other. You don’t want children to feel that it’s just their race, or who they are.”
  4. “Talk about the movement, the civil rights leaders and how they made a difference. Introduce people your children can identify with and want to emulate.”
  5. “When kids are older, parents need to get practical about how to handle potentially dangerous situations like police stops. Make sure your kids know their rights and that they understand the recommended way to handle themselves with the police. We want our kids to live to become peaceful agents of change.”

Hathaway’s story is part of Time’s special report on interracial adoption, available exclusively to Time for Family subscribers here.

TIME Family

Why I Finally Combined Money With My Spouse

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Doing so may result in a cleaner vision of your financial future, and an opportunity to really get to know your significant other

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Before I got married, I was financially independent for years. Not that I was in a position to give financial advice, as occasionally I lived lavish and other times I hunkered down to save. But I loved the freedom of being able to spend half my salary on oversize international fashion magazines, or homeopathic aromatherapy facials, or a gold-plated Pac-Man necklace (impulse buy!).

I lived with my husband for years before we were engaged, and we dutifully split the bills and rent right down the middle. We would send two checks each month to our landlord, go dutch at pricey restaurants, and keep track of whose turn it was to pay the housecleaner. When we got engaged, I never dreamed that financial arrangement would change. Why would it?

Let me start by saying there is no perfect way to combine money. What works for one couple is not going to work at all for another. Each person’s financial philosophy is going to be different and affected by their childhood, income levels, and current economy. Some people believe money should be scrimped and saved and only trotted out for large purchases like a house or a yearly vacation. Others feel that money is well spent if you can bring a tiny bit of joy into your everyday life. Your husband may have champagne tastes, while you want to stay on a beer budget.

Hopefully by the time you’re married, you’ve realized that you are somewhat compatible in spending habits with your spouse and you won’t be caught off guard by their secret spending or squirrely saving habits. Regardless, money seems to be a hot-button issue and the reason behind why a majority of couples fight.

Last year, a researcher confirmed that arguing about money was a good indication of divorce. So one way of dealing with that would be to keep finances private in order to alleviate those arguments. Out of sight, out of mind. With separate bank accounts, no one is in charge of the money, and this alleviates power struggles within the relationship.

When my husband and I first got married, we chose to combine a savings account where we would pop in the monthly expenses, but kept our other checking accounts separate. I didn’t want to know how much money my husband was spending on rare Brazilian funk records, and he definitely wouldn’t agree with the cost of my shoe collection. This definitely helped keep a sense of fairness in the relationship, and I know many couples who live blissfully unaware of what their other half is spending.

Additionally, if one partner has outstanding school loans, credit card debt, or bad credit, it might not be the best idea to merge. Adjusting to life as part of a couple is hard enough, and keeping separate accounts probably helps with that partnership. We might have lived happily ever after in that scenario, but all that freedom came to a screeching halt when we had a child.

The arrival of our precious baby was priceless. Well, not exactly “priceless,” as our son came with an exorbitant cost that added a layer of complexity into our freewheeling financial schema.

All of a sudden we needed to rethink and revise our money plan, as one of us (me) cut down on our hours, and one of us (my husband) became the higher earner. As we watched my bank account drain down to a gurgle, we knew we needed a financial makeover. The birth of children, a death in the family, or a job layoff can be common circumstances where revamping your riches and covering your assets are necessary.

It was a bleak winter day when we finally bundled up our newborn and dragged our feet to the bank branch to open our new combined checking account. We couldn’t agree on the color choice of our checks; how would we manage our cash flow? I can’t say it was an easy step in our marriage, but starting the conversation about money did not necessarily spell out divorce.

Putting our money together forced us to talk to each other about what we thought were important goals for our family, what expenses were important, and where we wanted our cash to flow. We ended up putting together a monthly budget for the first time, including a savings goal. And lo and behold, we had a good idea of what we paid in bills and where we could make cutbacks if necessary.

I’m sure that many responsible people will marvel at how we lived without a firm grasp on our finances for so long, but even for those money-minded folk, a life-altering event will always give an opportunity for new levels of communication (even if you’re already obsessively tracking all your receipts).

We learned to compromise on certain things, and realized gleefully that we wholeheartedly agree on specific ways we spend (i.e., vacations are expensive and worthwhile!). We started to look at our finances as more of a team resource; for now, there were three of us under the umbrella of one bank account.

Budgeting was a success, but we also missed the spontaneity of our previous financial life. Plus, tracking every morsel of dough that was spent didn’t leave room for buying surprise presents or impulse splurges. This is when we inserted our “play money” column on our spreadsheets, where we each got a sort of allowance that can be used freely without judgment from the rest of the team. Kobe beef burger for lunch? It’s your money. Overpriced baby shoes for a human who can’t walk yet? Why not? This alleviates the anxiety about what we’re spending and gives us all a little more freedom in our daily lives while still feeling secure that our joint goals will be met.

It’s been five years with one bank account and I can’t say that we never argue about money, because that would be a lie. But I can say that I don’t think that arguing about money is actually such a bad thing anymore. Bringing finances out into the open, and being forced to communicate and come clean on our spending habits has been an opportunity for honest discussion.

Arguing about money may lead to divorce a lot of times, but really a dollar is just a piece of paper. It might give you a paper cut, but in and of itself, it can’t break up your marriage!

Instead, the topic of money is a symbol for other issues: dependence, control, dreams, and power. Sweeping up this dust with joint accounts can feel messy, and often results in fighting, but once the debris has settled, it may result in a cleaner vision of your financial future, and an opportunity to really get to know who you’re sharing that DWR or IKEA bed with.

Meredith Craig de Pietro wrote this article for xoJane.

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 Parenting

Christians and Spanking Culture: How and Why to Stop It

Given who we are and how we act, why do we have such impossibly high expectations for our children?

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The “cool pope” is speaking out in favor of physical discipline, bringing spanking back into the news.

Though I come from an evangelical background, I admire the pope, and so found his latest comments frustrating.

I don’t spank my children. (Full disclosure: my children are still quite young—but so far, so good.)

My relatives all spank their children with reckless impunity. To them I know it seems so simple: the actions of the child who has disobeyed is immediately met with the power and authority of their mighty hand, by which the child immediately learns that he or she has done wrong.

But I don’t discipline my kids that way. And people judge me for that. One relative mentioned casually to my husband, “You guys can get away with not spanking, because your kids listen—but my kid won’t do anything unless she’s spanked.”

I wanted to argue; I wanted to answer, “That’s because you’ve trained your child to be completely unresponsive to any form of discipline other than spanking. Your child knows that when you simply ask her to do something, you don’t mean it—you only mean it when you spank. (And no, my kids do not always listen.)”

The idea that not spanking is some sort of easy, overly lenient parental response is baffling to me. It would be much simpler to smack my kids every time they did something wrong (especially when I’m angry at them) than it is to consistently treat them like human beings deserving of the same respect that I believe I’m entitled to.

So many parents make discipline a battle for control, when anyone who has researched effective conflict resolution knows that compromise and empathy, not forceful demanding, is the solution to problem-solving.

Spanked throughout my own childhood, I wasn’t taught anything about non-violent parenting until, curious about what other options might be available to me, I researched the matter myself. The number of experts who tell us (with decades of peer-reviewed research studies and staggering statistics to support their findings) that spanking is at worst harmful and at best simply ineffective is enormous.

But people don’t listen to that overwhelming evidence—often for the same reasons they ignore the science behind climate change and vaccinations. They don’t want to be told what to do, and so find it easy to ignore research that doesn’t fit in with their personal philosophies.

We expect our children to act like adults. We think they should be able to sit still for hours, listen to every command, follow all the rules, never speak above a whisper, and never express any negative emotion to a situation they find upsetting. We think their problems don’t matter, and we don’t value their feelings.

The truth is that we adults can’t even meet the standards of behavior most of us set for our kids. I lash out at my spouse when I’m frustrated. I may break speeding laws on occasion. I don’t think I’ve ever spent a day at work where I haven’t deviated from my duties and goofed off online, if just for a few minutes.

Given who we are and how we act, why do we have such impossibly high expectations for our children?

Proverbs 13:24 says, “Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” Rather than take the Book of Proverbs as simple suggestions, written thousands of years ago for a specific community in a specific time period, conservative Christians think of it—and especially its passages on child-rearing—as living, breathing words written directly to them. What they hear in the words above is, “If I don’t spank my children, I hate them.” So, for them, not spanking their children brings them instant guilt for failing as parents.

The problem is that, even if you take the Bible at face value, the Hebrew translation the for word rod is shevet—a stick or staff used to guide and lead sheep, like a shepherd’s crook. The word shevet appears in one of the most beloved passages in the Bible, in Psalms 23: “Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”

The rod—the shevet—is not an object of pain. It is an object of comfort, love and protection. This is the sort of vision I have for my children when I raise them. I don’t need their absolute obedience. My goals for them are that they grow up with the fruits of the spirit. I want them to be understanding and empathetic to the effect their actions have on others around them. Violent, authoritative parenting is not the way in which it will be possible for me to meet this goal.

Most conservative Christians—especially God-fearing, red-blooded Americans who want their children to grow up respectful and reverent of authority–believe that honoring and obeying one’s parents means honoring and obeying God. Well, I do want my children to honor and obey me—but not because they are physically afraid of me. I want them to feel about me the way I feel about God, which is that I honor and obey Him because I know that he loves me, cares for me, and would never harm me.

Jennifer C. Martin is a writer in Richmond, Virginia.

This article originally appeared on Patheos.

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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.

MONEY Love and Money

10 Over-the-Top Ways to Propose—and What they Cost

Creative ways to propose
Andrew Burton—Getty Images Tom Schwab, 37, proposes to his girlfriend of 18 months, Mary Nubla, 35, in Times Square on February 14, 2014 in New York City. (She said yes.)

Want to pop the question via Jumbotron? Hire a flash mob? Put on a real fireworks display? Get ready to open your wallet

In a building with sweeping views of New York’s Hudson River, pictures of a couple hang from “cherry blossom trees” that were handmade for the occasion from branches and petals. A harpist strums softly in the background as a woman makes her way down an aisle of rose petals towards a table with an elaborate ice sculpture. Petals spell her name on the floor.

Her family and friends are there too, waiting on another floor to celebrate with a catered dinner followed by a night of dancing.

This isn’t a wedding; it is a real-life marriage proposal event. And it cost $43,000.

These days, the traditional “will you marry me?” move—that is, a groom-to-be down on one knee in a restaurant or other romantic location—simply doesn’t cut it for many couples. “Everyone is trying to make their proposal unique,” says Michele Velazquez, co-founder of The Heart Bandits, a proposal and romantic event planning service that arranged the event in New York. “You don’t want to have your girlfriend Google a proposal and see that it’s been done a bunch of times.”

While $43,000 is an extreme example (the average wedding costs $30,000), Velazquez says the typical proposal planned by her firm ranges from $3,000 and $5,000. That’s still a hefty sum, especially when you consider that the proposer also has to buy a ring—$5,600 on average, according to a 2013 survey of grooms by The Knot.

Despite those costs, The Heart Bandits have never suffered from a lack of demand. Velazquez says her business has grown 100% every year since it launched in 2010.

Looking for a really phenomenal way to pop the question? Below you’ll find costs for other over-the-top-proposals.

But keep in mind the top tip that Velazquez offers her clients: “It’s not about the money you spend, it’s about the personalization.” In other words, look for a way that reflects something about your relationship or your future spouse’s interests.

What it Costs to Propose With…

A hot-air balloon: About $200 to $400 per person for a 60-minute private ride

The jumbotron at an MLB game: $50 to $2,500, based on data compiled by Swimmingly.com

A skywriter: $1,500 to $2,000, according to nationwide aerial advertising firm FlySigns

An airplane banner: Starting around $500, according to nationwide aerial advertising firm FlySigns

Musicians:$150 to $300 per hour for a soloist hired via a website like gigmasters.com

A glass slipper at Walt Disney World: $375 on top of the cost of admission. Other Disney proposal events and locations range from $15 (“Will You Marry Me?” chocolate slipper dessert) to $500+ (Fireworks boat cruise on private yacht)

Fireworks: $2,500 to $6,000, according to pyrotech.com

A flash mob: upwards of $2,000, as reported by The New York Times

A mock movie trailer: can be around $5,000, according to Drywater Productions in Janesville, Wisc., but the price varies based on video specifics

A professional photographer or videographer: $25 to more than $1,000

 

More from Money.com:

The Rising Toll of Inequality on Social Security

The Career Mistake You Don’t Realize You’re Making

25 Ways to Get Smarter About Money Right Now

TIME Parenting

16 Clever Ways to Entertain a Child Who’s Home Sick

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Watching Frozen isn't the only way to brighten up the young one when they're feeling under the weather

Take a Stroll Down Memory Lane
Pull out your child’s baby book or family photo albums and leaf through them together. Children rarely tire of remembering vacations or hearing about the day they were born—and thinking about the good times can distract them from their sore throat or crummy tummy.

Create a Secret Hideout
Forts or special nooks are cozy places for kids to pass the time while they’re recovering. Drape blankets over chairs or create a tent in a corner. Fill the space with a sleeping bag, pillows, favorite stuffed animals, a child-safe camping lamp or flashlight, and some books or toys.

Play Hospital
Misery loves company, and so do most sick kids. Set up a doll or animal hospital and let your child play MD, tending to stuffed patients and dispensing Band-Aids with abandon. Just say “ahhhh”!

Hit the “Spa”
Run a hot shower and let your child sit in the bathroom, soaking up the steam, for 15 minutes. The warm, moist air will help alleviate coughs and soothe the nose and lungs. Plus, misty mirrors are great canvases for budding Rembrandts. Warm baths can also help, and bundling up in pajamas and fluffy robes afterwards brings extra comfort.

Close Your Eyes and Listen
If your child isn’t up for much activity, try listening to audio books. Pick a favorite story and hear it in a new way, or find the latest book everyone’s talking about at school and settle in. If stories aren’t your thing, try lullabies.

Stick With Magnets
Pull out a cookie sheet and fill it with magnets, so bedridden kids can play without running around. Younger kids can use letters to make words; older kids can use poetry sets to unleash their inner bards.

Make Ice Pops
For sore throats, nothing says “I love you” like popsicles. Try some of these recipes to soothe swollen tonsils. Or use the Zoku popsicle maker to make frozen treats in minutes.

Pull Out the Play-Doh
Make homemade Play-Doh and let your child create mosaics, mazes, and a mushy multitude of other options. You only need flour, oil, salt, cream of tartar, food coloring, and a stove. Essential oils are great additions (try peppermint, lavender or eucalyptus to help clear the nose and lungs).

Give Presents
Next time you’re at the dollar store, pick up a few toys or games your child might like. When your son or daughter is sick, you can wrap one up and give them a “Get Better” present.

Try Out Tattoos
Face paint might be too much for a sick day, but temporary tattoos (favorite superheroes, dinosaurs…even glitter hearts) are an easy way to make a dull afternoon a little more colorful. And if your kids start looking like Kat Von D, they can wear long sleeves when the fever breaks.

Get Into Graffiti
With Crayola Window Markers, your child can create designs or doodles on any glass surface—from cups and windows to picture frames. She can play graffiti artist to her heart’s content, but her masterpieces will wash off easily with soap and water.

Travel Back in Time
Travel back in time with nostalgic toys and games like Smethport magnetic boards, Shrinky Dinks, Mr. Potato Head, Cooties, Operation, and Silly Putty. They’re all readily available in stores and online, and (a blast from the past) none of them involves staring at a screen.

Tour the Globe
Use a globe or map to pick fantasy trips—from Disneyland to Denmark. Talk about why you want to travel there and what you’d do, even if you’re just making it all up. Check out National Geographic’s website for stories and stunning pictures of destinations both far-flung and domestic.

Make Astronaut Tea
Mix equal parts (roughly 20 ounces each) powdered Tang and powdered sweetened lemon ice tea in an airtight container. For an extra kick, add one teaspoon each of cinnamon and ground cloves. Shake well. Add 2-3 heaping teaspoons to hot water and enjoy. It’s full of sugar, but your little astronaut will probably be over the moon.

Create a Scavenger Hunt
If your kid is up to it, ask him find 10 things that are blue or 20 things that start with the letter S—or hide his favorite stuffed animals around the house and give him 20 minutes to find them. Reward him with Popsicles or tomato soup with goldfish crackers.

Take a Short Walk
Sure, it’s tempting to stay in bed all day, but so long as your child is comfortable and not running a fever, a short walk can do wonders to clear out a cough and get the blood flowing.

If all else fails, go ahead and pull out the movies or turn on the TV. Sometimes, mindless entertainment is truly the best medicine.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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