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I don’t think I’m going to survive the teenage years. I know this is the same thought that millions of parents have had throughout the ages, but it’s going to be me. I’m going to be the case study that will be used to teach other parents about to embark on this roller coaster ride that is adolescence.


For years while my children were younger, my mother-in-law would tell me that each of her three children had left home one day to be replaced by aliens. Aliens who looked and sounded like her children, but who bore little resemblance to the children she had loved their entire lives.

I would laugh, and she would laugh, but there was always a wistful glint in her eyes, and a slight sadness and longing in her voice as she spoke of that time. Then she would give her head a little shake and warn me, “Just wait. You’ll see.”

I was naïve enough to think that it would never happen to me.

Oh, how wrong I was.

We’ve been in the teenage years for over four years now. Our oldest is 17, followed by a 15-year-old, and twin 13-year-olds. We have been relatively lucky with the eldest; he seems to have sidestepped most of the teen angst that strikes just after that 13th birthday rolls around. He just moves through the world, following his own beat, and not really caring much about what others think of him. There have been a few father/son talks about girls, school, and what the future might hold for him, but other than that, he’s been relatively easy to deal with as teenagers go.

The 15-year-old, always considered the “calm” one in the family, is starting to show signs of hormones going into overdrive. Outside of the house, she is friendly, outgoing, kind, generous, and giving. She is finding her voice, even if that voice sometimes screeches so loudly that even the dogs run for cover. However, where once my beautiful little girl couldn’t wait to share every single thing about her day with me, I now have to play detective and drag the answers from her.

Then there are the twins.

We’d been told that, because they are fraternal, our twins would be as similar as any other brother and sister. The likelihood of them sharing that “twin” bond that identical twins seem to have would be low. They would interact the way other siblings do.

When they were born, life became chaotic and messy, a blur of diaper changes and feedings, all while trying to ensure the two older children didn’t feel neglected or abandoned. But they could be put into cribs or playpens, where they could be safely contained (read: they couldn’t wreak havoc). For a few short months, the “lump” stage as my husband and I were fond of calling it, these two slept in the same crib, co-existing peacefully. This lasted until the afternoon they were taking a nap, and I went in to check on them. The youngest, our sweet baby boy, was kicking his sister in the head as they slept. I called my husband in, and we moved the babies apart, only to watch as our son moved back into position so he could begin kicking our baby girl again.

Not much has changed in the 13 years since, with one exception. Now, the sweet little girl fights back, and she’s not so sweet all the time.

These four young people used to get along so well that strangers would comment on their interactions. We would regularly be asked how we could manage four children so close in age. We would laugh lightly and reply, “Oh, it’s not so hard. They get along really well. It’s like they are their own club.”

I knew that each of them was unique, that they all had separate personalities, and that, some day, those personalities might clash.

I was not prepared for the all-out warfare that is sometimes waged between them. Nor was I ready for the rolling eyes, the sarcastic tones in their voices when they speak to us or to each other, or for the closed bedroom doors so they can have privacy. I wasn’t ready to be rebuffed when I try to hug them, or for the one word answers when I ask about their day. Nor was I prepared for the infuriatingly insolent looks my babies would point in my direction when they want to tell me off, but don’t use their words to do so.

I wasn’t ready to hear, “As long as you live under our roof, you will follow our rules,” or the infamous, “Because I said so!” and I’ve recoiled from the shock of hearing my own mother and father come rolling out of my mouth.

I’ve read that the logical part of the brain is not fully developed in humans until we reach our early twenties. This is something I need to constantly tell myself when the questions of “Where should I put this?” come at me and I want to scream, “In the garbage can!” Where else would you put the garbage? I want to ask them. I shake my head when the standard response is, “Oh. Yeah.” I mutter darkly, “You know, there is a reason why some animals destroy their young,” a statement that my children find amusing, little realizing some days how close they are to Mama completely losing her mind.

They don’t seem to know that the hormonal swings that affect them, making them sweet and kind one minute and screaming banshees the next, make me want to run into my closet and hide. Or how much strength it takes to simply stand there and tell them that I love them, even as I face the scathing retorts of “No, you don’t,” because computers and television sets are not allowed in their bedrooms. (We have explained that part of our reasoning for that rule is that we fear we would never see them again.)

When they were younger and sometimes angry with me, they would yell at me, “You’re not my friend anymore!” and I would agree with them, telling them, “No, we are not friends. I am your mother. We can be friends when you’re grown up.” They’re still too young for us to be friends, and I don’t want to be one of their peers. They still need my husband and I to be their parents. They need to feel that safety net of knowing that we will be there for them, to catch them and help them if life gets messy, even as they try to push us away while they try to grow up.

Some day, my husband and I will be mourning the loss of these days. All too soon, the house will be too quiet, rooms will be cleaned and stay that way for weeks on end, the fights over who gets to use the bathroom first in the morning will be done, and I will wander from room to room wondering where on earth the time has gone. I will stare at their pictures on the walls, desperate for another chance to hold them in my arms while they sleep. I will look back on their fighting and the chaos, and I will smile, wishing I had it to do all over again.

So while the aliens seem to have the upper hand right now, I know that somewhere inside those familiar yet changing faces are the glorious children I have been gifted.

As long as I don’t actually eat them, we might just survive after all.

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Between the sleepless nights, endless worries, and persistent temper tantrums, parenting can feel like a fast track to gray hairs and wrinkles.

Now, researchers at Northwestern University have proven what we've suspected all along: having children does, in fact, speed up the aging process. A new study, which was published last month in Scientific Reports, found that each pregnancy can age a mother's cells by up to two years.

Each baby ages a mother’s cells

Researchers studied 821 women in the Philippines between the ages of 20 and 22, with various reproductive histories. They examined two separate markers of cellular aging—telomere length and epigenetic age—to measure the toll pregnancy takes on the body.

"Telomere length and epigenetic age are cellular markers that independently predict mortality, and both appeared 'older' in women who had more pregnancies in their reproductive histories," Calen Ryan, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in biological anthropology at Northwestern, said in a statement. "Even after accounting for other factors that affect cellular aging, the number of pregnancies still came out on top."

The researchers were surprised to find that cellular aging increased between about six months and two years for each additional pregnancy—a figure much higher than what they originally anticipated. Meanwhile, women who were currently pregnant had cells that looked significantly younger than predicted for their biological age."

It's an interesting situation in which pregnancy makes someone look temporarily 'young,' but there appears to be some lasting, cumulative relationship between the number of pregnancies and more accelerated biological age," noted Christopher Kuzawa, PhD, senior author of the study and a professor of anthropology at Northwestern University.

Our telomeres shorten and our epigenetic age increases

Telomeres, which are stretches of DNA at the end of chromosomes, protect our DNA and make it possible for our cells to divide. Longer telomeres are associated with longer lives and better health. As people age and as cells divide and replicate, those telomeres shorten.

Given that there is hyper cell production during pregnancy, it makes sense that those telomeres would shorten and, therefore, appear to age dramatically.

"During pregnancy, more cells need to be produced for carrying and nurturing the fetus, such as in red blood cells, placental cells, and more," said Dr. Kim Langdon, an Ohio-based retired OB-GYN who writes at Parenting Pod. "In addition, the cells in all organs such as the heart and uterus enlarge. This is known as hypertrophy—and when cells hypotrophy, their telomeres shorten."

Meanwhile, the epigenetic age begins to climb. This is an estimate of a person's biological age based on changes in the DNA that are caused by environmental factors, such as toxins and stress.

In other words, pregnancy puts a lot of pressure on the body. "I'm not really surprised," Langdon told Healthline about the findings. "Every OB-GYN knows the extreme stress to the system that pregnancy causes."

Throughout pregnancy, the blood volume increases by 50% as does the cardiac output, which puts strain on the heart. The kidney function increases and the lungs have reduced capacity, which causes breathlessness.

Why, then, did the pregnant women seem so much better off?

It may all come down to the immunological, hormonal, and physiological changes that take place during pregnancy to support development of the baby.

For example, pregnant women experience elevated estrogen levels, which can lower oxidative stress and prevent damage to telomere length and epigenetic age. Once the baby is born, though, those shifts are no longer necessary.

The findings may not be permanent

The study supports previous evidence that women who have had more pregnancies are more susceptible to certain illnesses and have slightly shorter life spans. Earlier this year, researchers from George Mason University found that childbirth could age a woman by as many as 11 years.

While it may be nerve-racking to learn that having children can accelerate the aging process, scientists still don't fully understand why this happens and don't want women to worry.

According to Langdon, we are far away from understanding if these findings could impact family planning or the longevity or long-term health of the mother.

"We don't know if these findings are permanent," Langdon said. "More longitudinal studies need to be done over many years, even decades, to see if this is reversible or if it really can predict when you will die."

The researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Washington have already started they working on a follow-up study that will examine the same group of women 13 years after their cellular measurements were first taken. Eventually, we'll be able to see if the women's cells continue to appear older throughout their life.

Until then, though, you can keep blaming your kids for those fine lines and dark circles.

Originally posted on Healthline.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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I always thought I'd have babies. As in, multiple babies. Maybe three or four? I knew it would be hard. I knew pregnancy was tough and childbirth was no walk in the park.

I just didn't know how tough. And I also had no idea how hard my recovery would be.

It's been nearly four months, and I'm still taking pain medicine. I'm still using the witch hazel pads and haven't touched toilet paper. I'm still struggling with issues from my labor and delivery that just won't go away.

I'm still dealing with the emotional guilt that comes from feeling like I failed my daughter because I don't remember her first moments of life due to the trauma of what my body went through.

My birth story was traumatic and terrifying—and rare.

At 38 weeks pregnant, I had been in what we thought was labor for almost two days—but was actually a kidney stone. I was in constant, terrible pain for nearly 48 hours straight, and morphine didn't take the pain away—it only took the edge off. I watched out the hospital window as the world went by outside, and the hours dragged on.

I didn't sleep because of the pain. My body was completely drained and had gone into survival mode because of what felt like endless torture. Eventually, I was induced because of a small leak of amniotic fluid and had to give birth in an exhausted physical state and a completely anxious mental state.

I was in no way ready to have my baby—the baby I had been so ready for just weeks earlier.

This lead to all the things I had hoped to avoid for my birth—inducement, more inducement because I wasn't progressing fast enough, having to lie flat on my back, epidural, episiotomy and forceps.

By the time my sweet daughter finally entered the world, and they placed her in my arms—all I could do was immediately fall back onto the bed and close my eyes. My body was shutting down from sheer exhaustion. I wasn't even able to look at my brand new baby, let alone admire her or watch her take her first breaths. This part of my birth story still breaks my heart.

After they moved me to my recovery room, I asked my husband what our delivery room number was—because I never wanted to go in that room again. I didn't want to see it. I didn't want to walk down the hallway past it. And I really didn't want to think about what happened in there. My mind was scarred by the fear and anxiety I experienced.

The hardest part of all of this is that now, the thought of getting pregnant again terrifies me. My heart longs to have a house full of little feet running down the halls, yet my body says "closed for business." It's a confusing tension.

I know of women who have suffered through experiences much worse than I have. I know there are stories out there that are almost unbelievable. I don't know if or when or how I will ever feel ready for another baby again.

Yet, I have been realizing a few things.

It's okay that I'm scared. It's okay that I didn't feel as strong as I hoped to be. It's okay that I didn't power through childbirth without assistance. It's okay that I wasn't like the moms who can give birth in their sleep.

And it's okay that I wasn't physically able to witness my daughter's first moments of life. It doesn't make me a bad mother. It won't ruin my daughter's life. She doesn't even know what happened—only I do. I'm the one whose heart is broken because of this—not hers. She was in mama's arms and that's all she knew.

So I'm giving myself grace. I'm letting my mind and body heal for however long it takes. I'm not going to feel the guilt of failure—because I didn't fail.

So, mama with the traumatic birth story, please give yourself grace too. You're a good mom. You're a strong and powerful woman who has done something amazing.

You brought life into this world.

Your body didn't fail—you survived, and you're a mother now. And it's absolutely, 100% okay if you change your mind about having another baby. You have permission to feel exactly how you feel, right now at this moment.

Don't feel like less of a woman because of a story that was ultimately out of your control. You did it. You really did it. That is what makes you a strong, powerful woman. You are amazing, and you are a rockstar for going through what you did.

And you know what? You're killing this whole motherhood thing, too—just so you know.

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First responders do a lot of heroic things on the job. We're used to seeing police officers on TV pulling victims to safety or chasing down the bad guys, but sometimes heroism looks a lot different. Sometimes, it looks like breastfeeding.

A Facebook photo of a police officer breastfeeding a hungry baby in an Argentinian hospital has now gone viral for a very good reason. It's a simple act, but to that hungry baby, Officer Celeste Ayala is certainly a hero.

The photo was posted to Facebook by Marcos Heredia, who says he witnessed the police officer comfort and breastfeed a hungry baby while on duty at the Sister Maria Ludovica Children's Hospital in Buenos Aires.

According to Heredia, who tagged the officer in the Facebook post, Officer Ayala was attending the busy hospital on August 14 when she noticed the baby, a patient, needing care and comfort, and took it upon herself to give it.

"I want to make public this great gesture of love that you had today with that little baby, who without knowing you didn't hesitate, and for a moment you fulfilled [as if] you were their mother," reads a loose translation of Heredia's post.

Multiple Spanish-language websites report the 6-month-old baby Ayala breastfed is the youngest of six siblings who were in the process of being placed into foster care because their mother did not have the resources to feed them. The children were at the hospital for the medical exams they needed before being moved into foster care when Ayala came into contact with the baby, who was desperately hungry while waiting, according to reports.

Metro reports Ayala spoke to local media in Buenos Aires, explaining that she noticed hospital staff were overwhelmed so she, a mother of two, asked if she could comfort and feed the baby. "I noticed that he was hungry, as he was putting his hand into his mouth, so I asked to hug him and breastfeed him. It was a sad moment, it broke my soul seeing him like this, society should be sensitive to the issues affecting children, it cannot keep happening," Ayala reportedly said.

Not only is Ayala a mother and a police officer, but she is also apparently a volunteer firefighter as well. Her fellow firefighters joined in the chorus of people supporting Ayala's simple heroism on social media.

'We want to congratulate the voluntary firefighting cadet Celeste Ayala who yesterday in her job as police officer whilst she was on guard duty at the hospital, breastfed a young child who arrived crying."

Sometimes, first responders pull people from a burning building or save people from a hostage taking. And sometimes they feed babies.


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