Could You Fight Cancer While Pregnant? Or Win a Gold Medal?

I cover pregnancy here at Parents, and I heard two amazing stories about expectant moms today that I just had to share with you.

Meet Jessica Henriquez. She’s married to actor Josh Lucas, and she gave birth to their son Noah in June–while also battling cervical cancer (that’s the couple, pictured left).

The couple met and fell in love shortly after Henriquez was diagnosed with stage 1 cervical cancer, at the age of 25, according to the Huffington Post. Six weeks after their chance encounter in a New York City dog park, they got engaged.

A few months later, after going through two courses of treatment that were unsuccessful, Henriquez’s doctor started talking to her about having a hysterectomy. And then she learned she was pregnant.

“I hadn’t thought about children,” she tells HuffPo. “It wasn’t my dream since I was a little girl to have a family. But when a doctor looks you in the eyes and takes that option off the table, it immediately sets something off in you — this motherhood gene.”

Henriquez then made an incredibly gutsy decision, in my opinion. She decided to discontinue  her cancer treatment, for fear she would miscarry, and focus on her pregnancy. Despite a rough go of it, she did it!

Unfortunately her cancer has progressed from stage 1A to 1B, but the good news is that it  hasn’t spread, according to the report. Here’s to hoping this brave mom gets through the treatment she’s starting again this fall with flying colors–and she can focus on motherhood once and for all.

Then there’s Kerri Walsh Jennings, who is inspiring me for completely different reasons. She apparently won the gold in London while she was five weeks pregnant. She told Matt Lauer this morning on the Today Show that she and her hubby Casey started trying for baby #3 just before the Olympics, but they never imagined it would happen so quickly. She figured it out shortly after arriving at the Olympics.

“I’m a pretty happy girl and I was unreasonably moody,” she explained. “At some point, you’re late and then you start feeling something. And I definitely started feeling something in London.”

Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s chief medical editor, told Today that competing at the games did not increase Walsh Jennings’ risk of pregnancy complications–so Walsh wasn’t being irresponsible.

When I was five weeks pregnant, I was puking my guts out–I can’t imagine being well enough to power walk, let alone run around in sand and dive for a volleyball. She pulled off growing a baby and winning yet another gold medal, at the same time. WOW!

Any other inspiring preggo stories to share?

Photo: Josh Lucas and Jessica Henriquez via Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com

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Working Mom Guilt: Who Needs It Anyway?

“I am the worst mom ever!” I said out loud yesterday afternoon, to no one in particular. My co-worker Jessica, who sits next to me, asked what was up. I explained that I had just asked Chris to pick Mason up from school because I was swamped and wasn’t going to be able to make it there on time. I felt a mixture of relief and misery when he said yes. I hate missing out on time with Mason.

“Today you’re a good worker and a bad mom. Some days you might be a good mom and a bad worker. Other days it’ll all go to h-ll. That’s just how it is,” she said. Truer words have never been spoken.

Jessica is a pro at this working mom thing (in my opinion, anyway). She has two kids (ages 6 and 9), a hubby with a super hectic work schedule, and a big job at American Baby (our sister mag), so she balances a lot. She was spot-on, but I still felt guilty as I shut my computer down at 7:15 and scrambled for the subway so I could at least give Mason hugs and kisses before he went to bed (luckily it all worked out).

At this point, I rarely indulge my working mom guilt. I try to acknowledge it and then move on before it starts to eat at me. In fact, I thought I was over the whole thing entirely until this afternoon when a co-worker sent me an ABC News report about a new study by Cornell University. Researchers found American moms with full-time jobs spend roughly three-and-half fewer hours a day than nonworking moms attending to their kids’ diet and exercise. The “news” hardly came as a surprising, but it definitely annoyed me.

Of course I feel guilty when an obligation takes me away from my kid. Researchers are comparing me to working moms and then reporting on my shortcomings!

What about the fact that when I’m not preparing Mason’s food, he’s eating organic meals with his friends? Or that he’s getting tons of exercise even though I’m not with him all day, by taking soccer, yoga, and dance lessons? What about the fact that I’m providing for my family?

I think my fellow blogger Jill Cordes sums it up nicely in her post on the same topic: “Whether you stay at home or work, just love your child, feed them nutritious meals, have whomever is watching them feed them nutritious meals, have them exercise—with or without you—and instill in them the importance of healthy living.”

And here’s an idea. Instead of fanning the flames of the mommy wars by comparing working moms to nonworking moms, why don’t these researchers redirect their efforts to curing cancer?

Anyone else with me on this one?

Would a Supersize Soda Ban Change Your Family’s Drinking Habits?

Mason has never had a soda, and I’m hoping to keep it that way for a long time. It’s not that I’m worried he’ll become obese if he drinks it–he’s still a tall string bean of a kid, even though he has a huge appetite–it’s a health issue. All that sugar is linked to Diabetes and heart disease. And since he loves milk and water, I don’t see any point in hooking him on a junk-drink.

And surely it’s my right as a parent to decide what my son will drink, including exactly how much of it he will consume, right?

Well, mostly.

A new law in New York City, where we live, now bans supersize non-diet soda, sweetened teas, and other high-calorie beverages (defined as anything larger than 16 ounces) from being sold in cafeterias, restaurants, theaters, and fast-food joints.

Although I’ve supported the gross-out ads that run on TV and are plastered on subway cars to encourage people to think twice before tossing back a sugary drink–Americans do drink too much soda–this ban annoys me for several reasons:

* Mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken it upon himself to champion a law that tells New Yorkers what we can and cannot drink. (Remember, he’s also the one who decided to lock up formula in hospitals.) Why should he have that right?

* The ban isn’t very smart. People can just go to a place where free refills are offered and drink as much sugar as they wish. If there aren’t refills, they can purchase two sodas. Or, they can go to the store and buy a jumbo bottle of soda. If sugar is the real concern here, why not look at smart ways to better regulate sugar?

* If health is the key concern, why aren’t there limits on drinks with artificial sweeteners? A recent study showed that massive quantities of diet soda is linked to a higher risk of stroke and heart attack. Researchers also found that diet soda packs on the pounds, too.

Bottom line is that this law isn’t going to change what Mason drinks–or, frankly, what we drink in our household. We don’t drink mass quantities of soda, but if we wanted to, we would. I think it should be our choice what we consume, not the government’s decision.

Would a ban like this where you live influence how much soda your family drinks?

Photo: Glass of soda via uchschen/Shutterstock.com

Getting Out the Door in the Morning: Am I Sabotaging Myself?

Around 8:15 each morning, I’m running between the bathroom and the kitchen, putting on my makeup, cleaning up the breakfast mess, and urging Mason to get a move on.

Mason, come on, it’s time to go play with your friends at school! Let’s put your shoes and socks on. Meanwhile, Mason continues to zoom around the apartment on his Bat Mobile, completely ignoring me (pictured, left).

Five minutes pass.

Boo boo, time to get your shoes and socks on! Let’s go! Now he’s crawling around on the kitchen floor with his buses, making zooming noises. He pauses, looks up and gives me a huge grin. Then he turns his attention right back to his toys.

Five more minutes pass.

Mason (voice pleading) we’re running late, c’mon, let’s go!

He starts inching toward the door where he shoes are, but his eyes are still glued to his toy cars.

Mason! Would you like a time out? Shoes! Now!

He hops over to the door, helps me put his shoes on, then runs down the hall to the elevator. I trudge behind him, schlepping the stroller and my bag, frustrated that we’re behind schedule once again.

Of course lots of moms have the same experience every day. I met up with a group of friends at a local Mexican restaurant last night–a rare mom’s night out–and we talked about our crazy mornings. One of the women mentioned that her son is starting preschool next week and she’s looking for some ways to simplify her morning routine to get everyone out the door on time.

I shared with her that I still hadn’t figured out any solutions, even though Mason’s been in school now for a year. Breakfast can take up to 45 minutes. If it’s the high chair that’s stressing you out, why don’t you just get rid of it in the morning? she said. Give him something he can eat on the go!

She had a good point. If breakfast is our biggest time suck, why aren’t I making changes to remedy the problem? This morning I pulled together something Mason could take on the train with us–cut up fruit and whole-grain cereal–and gave it to him. He looked at it, looked at me and then ran over to his high chair and said Toast! Apple!  So I fed him PB&J toast (his favorite) with some fruit and  milk. Twenty minutes later than I had hoped, we finally got out the door.

Did I make a mistake by scraping my plans and catering to his demands? Or did I do the right thing? Is it just a matter of changing my mindset and accepting that having a  crazed morning is part of being a mom?

Birthday Cupcakes: Adorable Toppers That Make Decorating Easy

Not a cupcake decorator? My friend Kerry found a fabulous solution that takes the cake (sorry, couldn’t resist) on MeriMeri.com. For less than $13, you can order cupcake kits with wrappers and toppers in more than a dozen cute themes like trucks and magic fairies. Kerry baked vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, frosted them in orange and blue, and then added little truck toppers. The overall effect was polished and adorable, and the older kids got to keep the little trucks (they were affixed to toothpicks, which were too sharp for the little ones).

The bash took place at Kerry’s house last Saturday. She and her family have the kind of private outdoor space that most New Yorkers can only dream about–it’s a huge wraparound patio right off their family room with a toy shed, couches, and tables. It’s the perfect place to hang with friends and celebrate special moments.

The vibe was comfortable and low-key. In one area, the kids played in a sand box. Kerry also had lots of rideable toys out, as well as a mat with every kind of toy car and truck imaginable. And kids could get temporary tattoos (that’s Mason, looking tough, right). The kid-friendly eats were a hit with everyone–various hoagies, pasta salad, tossed salad, and chips with mango-pineapple salsaand I loved that snacks (pretzels, popcorn, and goldfish crackers) were on low tables so that the kids could just help themselves.

A fun afternoon for sure! And now I know where to look for cupcake decorations for Mason’s bash next year.

What are your favorite websites for birthday party-planning?

Breastfeeding Father Should Be Allowed to Become La Leche Leader

Trevor, a 27-year-old transgender father and stay-at-home dad in Canada, was grateful that La Leche League helped him breastfeed after he gave birth to his first child last year. Now he wants to pay that support forward, but the group won’t let him, according to a report on Today Moms.

The breast-feeding advocacy organization told him via a letter that he posted on his blog (milkjunkies.net) that only a mother who has breast-fed a baby is allowed to become to
La Leche League leader, reports Lisa Flam. In other words, thanks, but no thanks, Trevor.

Say what?

New moms are under tremendous pressure to breastfeed, so how can the largest group devoted to promoting breastfeeding deny an experienced, passionate person the opportunity to help and support moms who are trying to become successful nursers? It just doesn’t make any sense.

In fact, Trevor is probably the group’s best argument that anyone can breastfeed.

Furthermore, Trevor’s a  particularly valuable resource for moms who are struggling to nurse, because it couldn’t have been easy for him to do it either. After all, it’s annoying when you’re struggling to learn how to do something and the person who’s teaching you how to do it makes it look (or seem) effortless–or who doesn’t have a story of legitimate struggle.

And surely it hasn’t been easy for Trevor. He was born with female anatomy and although he took appearance-altering testosterone and underwent surgery to remove most of his breast tissue, he kept his female reproductive system.

After reading Trevor’s enthusiastic remarks about breastfeeding I almost wished I could nurse Mason. Then I thought of Mason’s vampire-like incisors and suddenly felt fine sticking to the sippy cup.

Not surprisingly Trevor’s story has created a firestorm and now La Leche League policymakers say they’re reviewing the case and figuring out next steps, Flam notes.

Let me make it simple for you, ladies: Allow Trevor to volunteer for your organization. Value him, and every other person, who is willing to work hard on behalf of your cause.

Photo: Dad and baby via Ana Blazic Pavlovic/Shutterstock.com

Waitress Forbidden from Pumping Breastmilk at Work, Manager Feared She’d “Spray All Over” His Office

The New York Daily News is reporting on a new kind of breastfeeding bully. The latest offender is a chain restaurant manager in Seal Beach, California, and he made a terrible mistake last week.

Kristen Joseph, a 28-year-old single mom and waitress at Hennessey Tavern, was just trying to earn a living—and pump her breastmilk during a 10-minute break from work, as she had done for the last six months—when her as-hole manager stood in her way, according to the report.

Joseph says he refused to give her keys to the office so that she could pump in private. “He said it was disgusting,” she told CBS Los Angeles. “He said he didn’t want me to spray all over his office.”

But apparently he was fine with her waiting on tables while her breasts leaked.

After crying outside, Joseph says she returned to her shift and continued to work as her milk leaked on her shirt, because she had tables to close and paperwork to finish.

How can a manager be so cruel? This poor woman is a single mother, and I imagine she returned to work (despite the humiliation) because she was afraid of being fired.

Companies with more than 50 employees are required to provide an area, separate from the bathroom, for women to pump their breast milk, according to the report. Although I don’t know how many people this particular restaurant employed, how hard is it to give someone a private space for 10 minutes?

I stopped breastfeeding before I returned to work, so I never had to worry about pumping on the job (although my company is very accommodating to nursing mothers). Have you ever had any problems pumping at work?

As an aside, I’ve never been to a Hennessy Tavern, and now I’ll be sure to never go to one.

Photo: Breastfeeding mother via Natalia Dexbakh/Shutterstock.com