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Monday, February 10th, 2014
What with the Russian Deputy Prime minister telling gay Olympians that they’re welcome in Sochi—as long as they don’t touch any children while they’re there (seriously, that happened); reports of polluted water in Sochi hotel rooms; bizarre bathroom surveillance; and possibly unsafe sporting venues, the 2014 Sochi Olympics haven’t exactly been the feel-good, fuzzy-feeling event that the world was hoping for. So, if you’re like me, and are feeling a little grouchy about the games, I’ve got the one story will get you all turned around on the matter.
This Thursday and Friday, American athlete Noelle Pikus-Pace will be hurtling down the Olympic skeleton course in Sochi, face-first, at roughly 90 miles per hour. You heard me. Face-first. That’s pretty captivating stuff, but when you hear Noelle’s story, you’ll be ready to hand the woman a gold medal.
Back in 2010, already a world champion in skeleton, Noelle retired from her sport so she could spend more time with her husband and two small children. “It had been me saying goodbye, getting on an airplane, and taking off. There was no way we could afford to pay for everyone to travel with me, so I missed so many family milestones when I was training or on the road—I’d come home, and my daughter was already walking. I missed her first birthday. Something had to change.”
Roughly two years after calling it quits, Noelle and her family got big news: they were expecting another baby. “We were so excited to have a new little baby girl in our home. We started thinking about names and decorations, picking out cute little outfits and things. But when I was 18 weeks pregnant, that time when you think everything’s fine, I miscarried.”
“I just remember bawling and bawling. I had just gone in for an ultrasound. They’d told me the heart looked fine. The baby looked fine. I had nothing to worry about. But here I was, so utterly heartbroken,” she told me. “After my miscarriage, anytime I’d see a pregnant woman, up until my due date, I’d just think that’s supposed to be me right now. I was still counting down the weeks of pregnancy—which is strange, maybe, but I couldn’t help it. I just kept thinking about how I was supposed to be ‘this far along’ by now, or ‘I’m supposed to have a baby now.’ It was really, really difficult.”
Noelle’s husband, Janson, wanted to do anything he could to help Noelle through the grief and depression she was experiencing. For a while, they thought maybe getting pregnant again would help, that they could get back to where they’d been. But Janson had another idea in mind.
“He came to me one day and said, ‘What if you go back to skeleton?’”, she recalled. “I was like, no way. I’m done. Not unless the whole family can come. I’m not doing that again. I’m not being separated from you.”
Janson, willing to do just about anything to get his wife back on track, started crowd-sourcing donations so he and the kids could travel with Noelle during the upcoming competitive season. Before they knew it, Pampers and Babies “R” Us came onboard with sponsorships that have allowed Noelle to get back up to her crazy fast speeds without leaving her family behind.
Noelle’s six-year-old daughter, Lacee, still asks about the baby sister she’d been expecting, suggesting cute outfits she should wear when she arrives, but Noelle takes it all in stride. “Lacee’s not old enough to really understand what happened, but we’ve told her that her baby sister’s in heaven, and that she might come see us soon, or that she might wait to see us later. We definitely want more kids, so who knows, maybe she’ll get that baby sister, after all.”
In the meantime, the Pikus-Pace crew will be there (and we’ll all be watching!) as Noelle zooms past the finish line later this week—hopefully on her way to the podium and a well-earned medal.
TELL US: Have you ever experienced a miscarriage, or do you know someone who has? How did you work through the grief?
NEXT: Healing After a Miscarriage
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Friday, September 6th, 2013
Any miscarriage is devastating. From the minute that little strip turns pink or the plus sign shows up on the pregnancy test, your mind starts spinning dreams, and you begin making plans for a wonderful new addition. Miscarriage pulls all those hopes to grinding halt, and can even make a mom-to-be question whether she is at fault for the loss of pregnancy (even though most miscarriages are chromosomal or genetic and have nothing to do with the choices of the pregnant woman.)
Because of the insane amounts of grief that can come with miscarriage, many moms-to-be choose to keep their news private, or at least contained to a small group of family and very close friends. But in late term miscarriages, most people already know that you’re pregnant, meaning that a widespread miscarriage announcement is pretty unavoidable. Sadly, that’s the situation that Jack Osbourne and his wife, Lisa Stelly, have found themselves in. Already a mom to 16-month-old daughter, Pearl, Lisa announced on her blog, raddest mom, that she and Jack had suffered a miscarriage last week. “I have been dreading this announcement,” Lisa wrote, “I needed some time before being able to say it. Jack and I lost our baby boy this week. Having a late term miscarriage is by far the hardest thing either of us have ever had to go through.”
I’ve never suffered a miscarriage myself and will not say I can imagine what it feels like (because I can’t), but a few years ago, a friend of mine went through the horror of losing a pregnancy. She had just announced that she and her husband were expecting, and we were all psyched for another cutie in her brood. I popped a fun little present in the mail to her—only to find out the next day that she’d miscarried. I felt horrible, not only for her immeasurable loss, but also because my cheerful “hooray baby!” package likely arrived in the days after her pregnancy ended, pouring unintentional salt in her very fresh wounds. We never spoke of the gift, in fact, I like to think it’s something her husband deftly intercepted from the postman and never told her about—but I’m sure mine weren’t the only well-wishes with terrible timing.
Neither Lisa Stelly nor my friend had the option of privately dealing with their pain—but many other women do, especially since most miscarriages occur during the first eight weeks after conception, before the big baby news has typically been spread. But even some of those women who could keep the whole things under wraps choose to talk openly about their losses either to gain support of their friends and family when they need it most, or to help erase the stigma of miscarriage and show others that they are not alone. Earlier this year, Beyoncé revealed that she had previously suffered a miscarriage, and explained why she kept it a secret until after having Blue Ivy.
If you miscarried, would you (or did you) tell anyone besides your partner and your closest family members? Was it helpful to have all the support possible? For Jack Osbourne and Lisa Stelly, I’m hoping that’s the case.
Image of Jack Osbourne and Lisa Stelly via s_bukley / Shutterstock.com
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Monday, August 12th, 2013
Last weekend, an article by economist Emily Oster called “Take Back Your Pregnancy” appeared in the Wall Street Journal. In this piece (as well as in her upcoming book, Expecting Better: How to Fight the Pregnancy Establishment with Facts), Oster makes some pretty bold—and in my view, completely irresponsible—claims about what’s safe and what’s not during pregnancy. For instance, she says, based on her analysis of existing data, that it’s fine to drink way more caffeine than recommended throughout your pregnancy, and that light drinking throughout those 40-some weeks (including the first trimester) is just fine.
“When I looked at the data from hundreds of studies,” she writes, “I found, basically, no credible evidence that low levels of drinking (a glass of wine or so a day) have any impact on your baby’s cognitive development.” And, in fact, in her book’s “Bottom Line” guidelines on alcohol, she tells women that they “should be comfortable with” one to two drinks a week in the first trimester.
First off, it seems inappropriate to tell presumably grown women what they “should be” comfortable with—especially when the jury’s still out, and we don’t know what’s really safe and what’s not when it comes to alcohol and pregnancy. All we have are conflicting studies. But bigger than that is the problem of Oster’s tendency to highlight studies that support her pot-stirring claims, and to bury or dismiss those that don’t. Case in point: Oster claims she found “basically no credible evidence” that a few drinks would do any damage to baby’s cognitive development, yet in her book, she includes a quick paragraph about a 2012 study of nearly 100,000 women that showed even light drinking (two or more drinks a week) was associated with an increased risk of miscarriage in the first trimester. Sure, miscarriage and cognitive development are two different things, but the blunt truth is that a fetus’s cognitive development actually ends at the moment of miscarriage. I’d think that might be the more serious issue to take into consideration. In light of that, I really don’t understand how she can, in good conscience, advise women to drink up to two drinks a week in those first crucial months, unless she’s doing so simply to feel better about her own choices.
Moving onto caffeine in pregnancy, Oster once again seems to skew the data to suit her preferences (spoiler: this woman loves coffee). Even in the expanded chapter on caffeine in her book, Oster mentions only three human-based studies about on this subject: One that only involved 66 women, which makes the results inconclusive; another that showed no conclusive difference in miscarriage risk between women who drank caffeine and women who did not; and finally a study from 2008 (this one even employed a lot of technical controls to limit the chance of false results) that showed women who drink more than 200 mg of caffeine a day (about two small cups of coffee) have twice the risk of miscarriage. What I walk away with from all of that is that nobody really knows how much is safe, but there are signs that show that having more than 200 mg/daily could lead to fetal death. Not really something most moms want to risk, I’m sure, yet Oster continues with her “it worked for me” approach, advising readers in her “Bottom Line” on caffeine that “much of the evidence supports having three to four cups” daily.
There are definitely still questions about what’s safe and what’s not, but our stance on both caffeine and alcohol here at Parents is pretty simple: Why take the risk? We suggest that moms should limit their caffeine (of any kind!) to 200 mg a day, and that alcohol in any amount could put your pregnancy in danger.
At best, Oster’s claims are incomplete, somewhat-biased journalism—and at worst, they are a flat-out danger to pregnant women and their families. I’m all for going to the source, reading up on studies, and advocating for your own health outcomes (not all doctors are up on the latest reports!), but you can’t trust everything you read. And in this case, I’m hoping moms-to-be are taking Oster’s advice with a massive grain of salt.
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