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Wednesday, February 11th, 2015
Pre-motherhood I didn’t want to hear the details of anyone’s birth; I definitely preferred to cut to the “everyone’s doing fine” ending—which is the birth-story equivalent of “happily ever after.” Details about length of labor and strength of pushing were TMI and, I thought, greatly exaggerated to scare people away from parenthood.
Of course, now that I’ve birthed two babies I simply can’t get over the fact that women do this every minute of every day. And I’ve become one of those people who will not only listen to a birth story, but press for details. Wait, what time did you feel the first twinge? How dilated were you when the doctor showed up? My own births were fairly standard, but I still wrote the full story of my daughter’s birth and would talk about it or my son’s subsequent (and very similar) birth for hours if you let me.
If you feel the same, and you’ve already streamed all the episodes of “A Baby Story” that you can, there’s a documentary movie being released called 40 Weeks that I recommend. It follows more than a dozen women on the path from pregnancy test to pushing and manages to capture so much joy and angst, it really is a wonder to see. And there’s lots of payoff with the real births at the end! You can check for a screening in your area, or, starting March 1, download it from iTunes for $14 or buy the DVD for $17. Here’s the trailer!
The movie is sponsored: Cord Blood Registry, Mederma skincare, and others helped fund it—so expect some product plugs. But I really loved how candid and honest all of the parents are in the film, and how they don’t shy away from describing the craziness of pregnancy and unpredictability of birth. There are a lot of good stories in it; some of them are sure to remind you of yours—or prepare you for what’s to come!
Jessica Hartshorn is the Entertainment Editor at Parents and the Senior Lifestyle Editor at American Baby, where she is literally paid to talk about pregnancy, birth, and babies all day.
Image: 40 Weeks
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Tuesday, July 15th, 2014
When I think back on lunchtime during my public school days, I recall a lot of fried chicken, pizza, and hamburgers—not exactly the nutrition-packed fuel food parents want for their children. And while there have been several school food improvement programs since my elementary school years, there is still much to be done.
This issue is the focus of Cafeteria Man, a new public television documentary that follows school food chef Tony Geraci on his journey to provide affordable, healthy, and local food choices to school districts in Baltimore and Memphis. In the film, which premieres July 17, Geraci replaces mystery meat with fresh, healthy meals; creates themes like “Try Something New Tuesdays” to raise excitement; and starts a 33-acre student-run farm to teach kids about the source of food and to give them a hand in growing it.
Although I’m not being served mystery meat anymore, I don’t have to look far to see the concern about school food. My mother, a first grade teacher in suburban New Jersey, frequently calls me with horror stories of the lunch room. During her summer school program — which is just three hours long — she says her students are served pancakes with syrup, sausages, and chocolate milk for breakfast; Doritos as a snack; and choices like pizza, bagels, tacos, and chicken nuggets for lunch!
“They do have fruit there, but these are the kids that are making the choices,” she says. “If they’re given the choice between chocolate milk and regular milk, what do you think they’re going to choose?”
She adds that school food has a three-pronged problem: the lack of healthy meals offered, the fact that the students are drawn to the less-healthy options, and some parents’ lack of nutrition knowledge. (She has needed to inform parents that no, Fruit Roll-Ups are not healthy.)
“A parent’s responsibility doesn’t end by giving their child $1.50 for lunch and assuming their job is done. They need to think about what their kids are really eating.”
Do you know what your child eats at school? What do you think needs to be done to improve school lunches? Tell us in the comments!
Image: Girl eats school lunch. (Shutterstock)
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Thursday, October 17th, 2013
Like any parent you’ve probably felt that way now and then—I know those twinges come more and more often as my kids get older. But I can’t imagine anyone who has yearned more desperately to stop the clock than Leslie Gordon and Scott Berns and their teenage son Sam, who are the focus of the wrenching but wonderful new documentary “Life According to Sam,” which premiers Monday, October 21 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO (check local listings). Sam has progeria, an incurable genetic disease that speeds the body’s natural aging processes. By the time kids with progeria are 9, they resemble elderly people, with hair loss, muscle loss, brittle bones and the least visible but most dangerous symptom: the blood vessels of an 80-year-old. Virtually all of these children suffer heart attacks and strokes; on average they do not live past age 14.
Progeria is one of the rarest diseases; only 250 children worldwide have it. So drug manufacturers aren’t exactly racing to find a cure. That’s why soon after Sam’s diagnosis in 1998, Leslie and Scott, both doctors, founded the Progeria Research Foundation along with Leslie’s sister Audrey Gordon. (I first met Scott through the March of Dimes, where he is a senior vice president and I am a board member.) PRF quickly raised over $1 million and 4 years later had found the gene for progeria. The film chronicles the family’s race to study a drug therapy for the condition in a trial at Boston Children’s Hospital, even as they also slow down to savor the time they have together.
“I didn’t put myself in front of you to have you feel bad for me,” Sam says early on in the film. “I put myself in front of you to let you know that you don’t need to feel bad for me. This is my life. Progeria is part of it. It’s not a major part of it. It’s a part of it.” The family’s ability to keep up with everyday life in the face of this disease is remarkable. Sam goes on a ride at an amusement park and cracks two ribs, but he also goes to school, plays sports and enjoys rock concerts. He is fragile but extraordinarily strong.
People “take time for granted,” says Leslie midway through “Life According to Sam.” Anyone, but especially other parents, will be awed by the family’s courage and amazed that they could spare one single moment of their time together to share their experience. “Everyday what I’m thinking of is how to save the kids and how to save Sam’s life,” says Leslie.
You will find yourself rooting passionately for Sam and his family and all the other kids in the trial, who come from around the world because the PRF is their best hope. (Parents who loved “Miss You Can Do It,” from the same executive producer, Sheila Nevins, can expect to be similarly wowed by “Life According to Sam.”)
Sam allows himself to be documented in excruciating detail in his quest for a cure. His deed is a gift to the children with progeria who will continue to come after him and whose families already line up outside Leslie’s door, looking for a cure. But by putting themselves in front of the camera, Sam and his parents give a gift to all of us, a reminder of how fast the days pass. Watch it as a reminder of how very much we should value our fleeting moments together. But most of all, watch it to meet Sam, and to celebrate each passing birthday with him.
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