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The Terrible Tale of the Best Gift My Husband Ever Gave Me

It’s a generally-understood rule of thumb established by florists, jewelers, and Hallmark since time immemorial, that household appliances do not make romantic gifts. We all remember the JC Penny jeweler’s “dual bag” commercial, where the hapless man gets sent to husband purgatory for buying his wife a vacuum cleaner for their anniversary, right?

Yet, no rule is without its exception.

My story begins with a dog – a dog my husband had before I came into his life. Shostakovich “Shosty” Darnall was an energetic and remarkably attractive pure-bred border collie, who was about one year old when my husband and I met. She was friendly and affectionate, accepting me with all of her doggy heart as my husband and I gradually went from friendship to dating to engagement over the course of the next few years.

Shortly before we got married, my husband got a job that took him from the wide-open desert plains of central Washington to the soggy metropolis of Portland, OR. A few months after he settled there, we were pronounced Mr. and Mrs. Darnall and moved into the brand-new, never-been-lived-in apartment that was to be our first home together.

So did Shosty.

Shosty had been an outside dog from her youth. We discovered many new and exciting things about her when she made the transition from outdoor to indoor dog. The first was that when she got nervous, she got diarrhea. The second was that she got nervous a lot.

As a stay-at-home-wife (with plans to soon be a stay-at-home mom), the diarrhea became, for the most part, my lot in life. More than once, my husband’s workday would be interrupted by a text message from his blushing bride: “Diarrhea Dog struck again.”

I have always subscribed to the philosophy, “Love him, love his dog,” but the year and-a-half that I watched the virginal white carpet in our newlywed love nest get defiled over and over again – through pregnancy, the birth of our first child, and the early, grueling months of parenthood – strained my resolve almost past endurance.

I was, or at least fancied myself, a quite fastidious housekeeper, and although I treated each new stain with a spray bottle of pet cleaner, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the carpet was never entirely clean.

There was never a day that I did not love my husband, but there were days when, deep down, I did not love his dog.

I talked to the vet, but he could find nothing wrong with her. His verdict: “Just nerves.” I took her out religiously for exercise and potty breaks every day, but “just nerves” continued to leave sporadic offerings at the most inopportune moments.

Four months after our daughter was born, we bought a house. We bid adieu to the apartment, the once-white carpet, and all its guilty stains. The modest but adequate yard and the easy-to-clean wood laminate floor in our new home held out hope of a better life.

Alas, Shosty’s propensity to bark bloody murder at the next-door neighbor’s dog and dig out under the fence put an end to my dreams of her going back to being a full-time outdoor dog.

Her “problem” did get better – as in, less frequent – but it did not disappear altogether. The wood laminate floor was indeed a breeze to clean. But unfortunately, when diarrhea struck, Shosty invariably chose to relieve her tortured bowels on the new wool area rug.

At Home Depot one day, we were picking out some things for the house, and, while buying a new vacuum cleaner, I noticed that they also stocked steam carpet cleaners. I eyed them wistfully, but it was a luxury, not a necessity, and with the expense of a new baby and a new house, we weren’t in the market for luxuries.

A year later, we were well settled into our home with baby number two on the way. It was August, and summer traveling had put us over budget – a fact that I, as a self-avowed tightwad, was acutely aware of. We were hosting an out-of-town family who had come up for an impromptu visit.

Our 18-month-old daughter, with that perversity so characteristic of toddlers and pets, decided to wake up at two in the morning and could not be convinced to go back to bed. My husband had to be up at six to go to work, so I told him to go back to sleep. I would try to rest on the couch while our daughter watched a movie.

When I had gotten her set up happily watching “Toy Story 3” with the volume down low enough not to disturb our guests, I stumbled, bleary-eyed, into the kitchen for a glass of water.

My first clue that all was not well was Shosty skulking past me like a cringing phantom. I smelled it before I saw it: a broad, oval ring of loose, runny turds and dog urine lining the entire perimeter of the rug. It was like one of those magic toadstool rings that you make a wish in when you’re a kid, except instead of toadstools, it was just…stools.

This was no job for a spray-bottle of foaming cleanser – and yet, it would have to be. Bitter were the last watches of that long night as I scraped and blotted, sprayed and scrubbed, sniffed and doubted, and began over again in a dozen different spots of our outraged wool rug. Bitter were my thoughts toward a certain black-and-white mongrel who was making herself small in a corner of the laundry room.

To have diarrhea is one thing, but to manage to spread it out over the entire area of a five-by-eight-foot wool rug began to look premeditated.

When my husband – a man not given to many words – woke up, he was sympathetic, but not quite as sympathetic as the occasion called for, I thought, as he walked out the door to go to work.

That evening, after our guests had said good-bye, Diarrhea Dog found it within her bowels to strike yet again on the newly-cleaned wool rug.

“Honey,” I groaned, “she did it again.”

My husband stood up, inspected the mess, and came back toward me. Then, in surely the most beautiful words ever spoken in the English language, he announced: “I’m going to Home Depot to buy a steam cleaner.”

Unbeknownst to me, he’d been doing research online during the day and already had one picked out.

“But…but we’re already over-budget,” I objected weakly.

“We’ll fit it in.”

An hour and-a-half later, he was pushing that glorious monster across the floor as it sprayed heavy-duty cleaner deep into the fibers of the rug, and I imagined the stubborn fecal residue of a dozen doggy “accidents” lifting, lifting, lifting out of the carpet and out of our lives forever.

You can have your diamond earrings and pearls, but I will always count that big ugly steam cleaner as one of the most romantic things I have ever received.

As it turns out, not every kiss begins with Kay.

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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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