Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Video link lets Marine dad in Iraq meet his new daughter

BY JOSH SINGER Pioneer Press
Gunnery Sgt. Raymundo Galarza could not be with his wife for the birth of their daughter Thursday night. But the U.S. Marine was able to see his newborn almost immediately through a Baghdad-to-Hoffman Estates video conference set up on Friday.

"Say, 'Hi, Daddy!' " his wife, Monica Galarza, told their daughter, newly named Luciana Rae.
Gunnery Sergeant Raymundo Galarza, who is serving in Iraq, had a chance to meet his newly-born daughter, Luciana Galarza, after his wife, Monica, gave birth at St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates using satellite technology and a laptop computer. Freedom Calls Foundation, a public charity keeping families united during war time, made the arrangement possible.

Monica Galarza, 33, of Schaumburg, said her first child screamed loud enough for an "American Idol" audition when she was born at 8:42 p.m. Thursday at St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates. Luciana Rae weighed 8 pounds, 12 ounces.

"Everybody's calling her 'Rae,' " Monica Galarza, a school social worker at Field Elementary School in Wheeling, told her husband. "When she opens her eyes, she looks just like you."
Raymundo Galarza, 32, has been serving his second tour in Iraq since September and is expected to return in August. The new father beamed during the video conference.

"I wish I could hold her right now . . . especially when she's this small," he said. "She looks beautiful."

His wife admitted not having her husband in the hospital was difficult, but appreciated the video link.

"It's hard because he's not here, but it was great to hear him and see him," Monica said.
Orchestrating the conference call required a combination of Internet and satellite technology from St. Alexius and the Freedom Calls Foundation.

Coordinating around the Marine's schedule was another hurdle, hospital spokesman Matt Wakely said.

"I mean, he's on the front lines," Wakely said.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Which prenatal tests should my wife get?

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by Jeffrey Ecker, M.D., Harvard Medical School

Over the course of your pregnancy, many tests will be offered or recommended. Sometimes the number of tests and tubes of blood make my patients feel like we are vampires sucking them dry. Amidst this number of tests, it's still important that you understand what tests are being done and, together with your providers, choose just those that are right for you.

Many tests are designed to optimize a mother's health not only because we want all women to be as healthy as possible, but also because a healthy mother is best for a healthy pregnancy and child. Because there is little controversy about these desired outcomes, many of these tests are done routinely and patients may not know all that is being sent or checked.

Some tests check for infection (e.g. urinary tract infections). While treating infections can be important, the nature of some infections, such as HIV, are such that patients should be informed about the test and given the option to decline having it (so called "opt out" testing, which is endorsed by many professional groups, including the Centers for Disease Control).

Other tests look for anemia (low red blood cell counts) that can be treated with iron or other vitamins. A mother's blood type is also checked to see if she is RH negative or has developed antibodies that could, rarely, indicate an incompatibility with her baby's blood type. Such incompatibilities can lead to anemia in the developing fetus and may require special testing or, very uncommonly, a blood transfusion given while the baby is still unborn (intrauterine transfusion). Women who are Rh negative and having babies fathered by Rh positive men require treatment to prevent developing antibodies that can cause the problems of isoimmunization.

During pregnancy women are also offered---but may choose not to pursue---testing to evaluate their chances of having a pregnancy affected with certain genetic conditions. The tests offered may depend on a patient's background (ethnic group, country of origin), family history (diseases or other conditions in parents or siblings) or past pregnancy history (a prior child with a disease or condition). Ashkenazi women and men (individuals with an Eastern European Jewish background) are offered screening for Tay Sachs disease, for example. African Americans may be screened for sickle cell anemia. A woman whose sister had a child with hemophilia (poor clotting of blood) may be offered screening to see if, like her sister, she is a carrier and therefore at risk for having an effected son (this disease only affects males, though females can carry the gene.

All patients should also be offered a combination of blood and ultrasound tests to help evaluate their risk of carrying a fetus with genetic conditions caused by carrying an extra chromosome. Most of us have 46 chromosomes--23 inherited from our mother, 23 from our father. Rarely, individuals will have 47 chromosomes: the most common such condition is trisomy 21--an extra number 21 chromosome, also known as Down syndrome. The chances of having a child with Down syndrome usually isn't an inherited risk (meaning that whether or not you or your family have had pregnancies with this conditions doesn't change the chance that a certain pregnancy will be effected). Down syndrome risk increases with the age of the mother (well actually, the age of the egg involved in conception, which can be quite different from a mother's age if a donor egg was used in the process of in vitro fertilization).

Women who are identified as carriers of a fetus with mutations in individual genes or as being at increased risk based on screening tests for Down syndrome or other similar conditions may elect diagnostic testing to directly examine fetal genetic material. Amniocentesis is one such diagnostic test. Some may want such testing in order to prepare for the birth of a child with medical or other needs. Others may use the information from these tests to make decisions about continuing their pregnancy.

For many, however such testing is not of interest: They don't want to know about possible conditions in their child in advance of birth. The miscarriage risk from diagnostic testing, even if it is less than 1%, seems too high. They'd never consider an abortion.

Saying that all women should be offered certain tests is not the same as saying that all women should have them. I want to emphasize that point because, almost certainly, someone will read what I've written and write an angry response that I'm recommending that all patients be screened for Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, or some other condition that they feel does not merit anyone's considering pregnancy termination. That is not what I'm saying, and not what I do. I offer appropriate screening to all my patients, help them understand what information the test might provide and how the results might be used, and happily except their decision, whatever it might be.

Yes, there are a lot of tests in pregnancy but that doesn't mean you should be in the dark. Ask what you're being testing for and why a test is offered or recommended. Understand what the results might mean. Decide if any or all tests are right for you.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Baby Branding (aka baby names)

Somewhere between cooing over ultrasound images and registering for a bottle warmer or Diaper Genie, the baby name debate begins.

Emily or Ethan? Christopher or Chloe?

Relatives lobby for old family names. Expectant parents flip through books, checking into the old Irish meaning of the name Liam.

It used to be easier than this. But many of today's parents are planners. They track their baby's expected weekly progress in the womb through books and Web sites, and are enrolled in parenting classes by the second trimester. Coupled with the weight placed on first names in modern America -- your neighbor isn't Mrs. Johnston, but Shirley; a cashier looks at your credit card and calls you Doug rather than Mr. Smith -- choosing a name can be one of the most stressful prenatal tasks.

"I felt pressure. You just think about, 'Will it fit their personality?' and stuff like that. I didn't feel like I'd ruin my kid or something, (but) I did want good names," say Amy Daley, the mother of 14-month-old triplets Emma, Madison and Michael, who along with her husband, Michael, had the daunting task of selecting six names (middle names included).

Worrying about it

Standing out as an individual means so much in today's world that parents worry more about what to name their children than ever before, says Linda Rosenkrantz, who co-authored more than a half-dozen baby name books, including "Beyond Jennifer & Jason, Madison & Montana: What to Name Your Baby Now" and "The Baby Name Bible."

"People want unique names. They want to establish a certain image for their child," she says. "They're almost branding their babies. Some are literally naming them Lexus and Armani, but we won't talk about those."

Celebrity culture also strongly influences naming trends, Rosenkrantz says. We've become obsessed with celebrity pregnancies. Tabloids out the latest starlet to sport a baby bump, and celebrity pregnancies are covered almost as thoroughly as the presidential race.

Ava, an old-fashioned name, catapulted into the top 10 most popular girl names after Academy Award-winner Reese Witherspoon chose the name for her daughter. Apple, Gwyneth Paltrow's selected name for her child, was often talked about, but never quite caught on. (There was, however, at least one Apple born in the Capital Region in 2007).

Like a river

Amy and Michael Daley started discussing baby names a month into Amy's pregnancy. Michael was insistent about Madison right from the start, not because it's made the top 10 most popular list in the past, but because the Madison River is his favorite fishing spot.

"At first, I was like, 'You're not naming our daughter after a river,' Amy Daley says. "And after a while, I was like, 'Fine, let me choose the other two.'

After all, what is wrong with naming a child after something you loved so much, she figured. Emma's name was inspired by beloved family members with E names and by some of middle school teacher Amy's all-time favorite students.

"It also goes the other way with teachers," says Amy Daley, whose husband is also an educator. "There are some names that you would never, ever dream of naming your own children."

Emma, Madison and Michael. Daley says choosing the names early helped her better connect with her babies while they were still in the womb. And even the ultrasound technicians, who are used to labeling multiples with just letters -- Baby A, Baby B, Baby C -- soon began calling the triplets by their names.

The couple thought the names also had a good flow together, which was important given they'd so often be said in tandem.

"They're toddlers now, so we're using first and middle names," Amy Daley says.

Name game

Like the Daleys, most expectant parents have settled the name debate by the time Susan Alberts, a registered nurse in the newborn and special care nurseries at Bellevue Woman's Care Center, greets them in the delivery room.

Occasionally, she gets brought into the selection process.

"Some people will say, 'Well, what do you think? These are my choices,' Alberts says. "A lot of times what you find is they're looking for a neutral party, because the father wants one name and the mother wants another. The bulk of the time, the husbands defer to the mother. ... They will say, 'Well, you did all the work.'

Other parents delay their decision because they want to wait until that tiny, wailing raisin is laid in their arms, hoping to match a name with a face.

Only 3 percent of parents recently surveyed by BabyCenter.com, an online resource for parents, say they regret the name they selected, primarily because it became too popular, is often mispronounced or doesn't fit their child's personality.


Most babies head from the delivery room to the hospital nursery with a first and middle name in place, Alberts says, although it is possible to leave the hospital with a blank space on the birth certificate. Those parents -- just a few, considering Bellevue's 2,000 deliveries each year -- call the hospital within a couple days with their final decision.

"People understand the significance of a name," she says. "It's something that stays with you forever, and they want to chose a name that will reflect who they are and what their baby will be."

Right now, names that start with vowels -- namely E, A and O -- are hot, Rosenkrantz says. Certain letters tend to fall in and out of fashion -- J's rating high during the Jennifer and Jason era -- and one name can spur offshoots. When Emily became all too common, she says, it inspired Emmas and Ellas. Now, E-names are on their way out, and O-names, such as Oliver, Owen, Olivia and Oscar, are rising to the top of the charts.

"That sound gets into the atmosphere," she says. "O has a lot of energy, compared to E."

Latest trends

Other trends include Irish and Italian names, particularly Irish surnames like Riley, Brady and Sullivan being used as first names; one-syllable names such as Gage and Cade; spiritual names like Nevaeh (heaven spelled backward); and nickname-style names that haven't been popular since the 1960s, such as Gracie, Charlie, Josie and Ellie.

Alternative spellings -- Abigail versus Abagail versus Abbygale -- became trendy in the last 20 years, making teachers' class rosters a lot more complicated than the days when they were filled with Marys and Annes, Johnathans and Matthews.

And because of the added pressure of naming a child today, once parents decide on a name they often keep it to themselves until their new family member emerges from the womb.

"That's because of the pressure they feel to come out with perfect names," Rosenkrantz says. "They're so likely to get some disapproving remark from grandparents, parents-in-law, that they just don't want to risk it. They're bound to get negative comments with any name."

Jennifer Gish can be reached at 454-5089 or by e-mail at jgish@timesunion.com. Born in the 1970s, she was so used to being in a classroom with a half-dozen other Jennifers that she will not turn her head when she hears her name called in a crowd. She and her husband, Jason, are avoiding trends when choosing names for the twins they're expecting in the fall.

Monday, April 14, 2008

How to stop your kids sharing your bed

It's three in the morning and my husband and I are under attack - in our own bed. While we've been asleep, three child-shaped lumps have worked themselves under the duvet with all the cunning of the SAS on a night-time manoeuvre. Now they are comfortably ensconced, spread-eagled and snoring gently, forcing us to the far edges of the bed where we can either cling, praying for sleep, or opt for a small-hours game of pass the parcel as we post them back into their own beds.

For years, bedtime has become a battleground as we counter the territorial aspirations of our offspring, now aged 7, 11 and 13, horribly aware that, unlike dust mites, we can't subdue them with a quick blast in the freezer. And, naturally, it's all my fault. Like so many working mothers battling fatigue, I succumbed to the temptation to bring my first, wakeful baby into the bed, alert to the perils of suffocation, and unaware that, a decade later, I would have a bigger struggle as I tried to winkle her out again.

Talking to other parents hasn't helped. Believe what they say and you'd assume that in their well-regulated homes, newborn babies are routinely frogmarched straight from the maternity ward to their own room, equipped with a giant teddy, a map of the house and a set of instructions for the microwave steriliser and left to get on with it until they've reached 18 and moved out again. Ply the parents with alcohol, though, and a different picture emerges. One family I know has bought a bed so big that it could qualify for its own council tax band, on the basis that when the children appear the parents can pretend not to see them.

Few areas of parenting arouse such strong feelings as sleeping arrangements - though breast-feeding past the age of 1 runs a close second, allowing mothers such as me who did both, often simultaneously, to experience the heady sensation of breaking two taboos at once.

Mixed messages for parents

Let your children sleep in your bed, thunder some experts, and you send the message that they can't cope on their own. On the contrary, insist others: forcing children into a separate room makes them feel pushed out and insecure. Many cultures skip the soul-searching altogether and carry on child-rearing the way they always have. Saranjit Srisarkun, who works for the Thai Embassy, says: “It's not common for us to leave the baby in a room by itself. Traditionally, children sleep in the same room as the parents, either on a mattress on the floor, or in a crib until they are 2 or 3 and old enough to be by themselves.”

Given such a laid-back approach, should I really be that worried? In a word, yes. For a start, it's unlikely to be doing our marriage any favours. “Having children in the bed can create a distance between the parents,” says Denise Knowles from Relate. “Being in bed together is a chance for the adults to unpack their day. If you lose that private time, it's easy to grow apart.” And as anyone rolling over to stroke a partner's back as the prelude to lovemaking only to encounter a snoring toddler can confirm, your offspring can, literally, come between you. Not only can this ruin your sex life but it also has the potential to cause a schism in your relationship.

The problems don't stop there. “To be able to go to bed in the sure knowledge that you're going to wake refreshed in the morning is a nice gift to be able to pass on,” says Dr Trevor Stevens, a behavioural psychologist, whose CD And So to Sleep (www.fishymusic.co.uk) is designed to help children settle at bedtime.

By the age of 4, children will wake briefly several times a night. If they can get back to sleep only by moving into their parents' bed, their poor sleeping habits could build into long-term problems in adulthood. If my husband and I want to change our children's behaviour, says Stevens, we'll have to change ours, waking up long enough to put migrating children back into their own beds and, if necessary, staying with them until they fall asleep.

It's also vital, advises the psychologist and writer Dr Dorothy Rowe, to ask the children why being in bed with us is so important. In our case, I have a sneaking suspicion that my children have an advanced case of bed envy. And it's hard to blame them for preferring our clean sheets and kingsize comfort to the chocolate-smeared pillowcases and undelicious smell of eau de Cairn terrier of their own beds.

Sometimes, however, children's worries can make uncomfortable listening. “It can be that they are frightened that one or both of the parents is going to die, or that the parents are fighting and not talking to the child about what's going on,” says Dr Rowe.

“Why are you here?” I ask the youngest, when she materialises the next night, just beating the dawn chorus to it and clutching several books, her favourite dressing-up shoes and the cat. “Because you are,” she says. And that, say the experts, can be the nub of the problem. So many parents are constantly busy that the car and the bed are often the only places where a parent's physical presence can be guaranteed.

I can't say I enjoy it, but after several weeks of ironing out any hidden night-time worries including motion sickness caused by wobbly bunk beds, I start to feel more confident about bedtime than I have for years. It's also essential, says Knowles, to teach them that from now on they must never come into our bedroom without knocking first. Her tip to get the message home? “Vaseline on the door handle,” she says, succinctly.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sexy Dads

Expectant dad Matthew McConaughey thinks becoming a father will make him even sexier to women.Matthew McConaughey thinks becoming a father will make him sexier.The 'Fool's Gold' actor - who is expecting his first child with his Brazilian model girlfriend Camila Alves - says once women see him with his baby he will regain the World's Sexiest Man title, which he was awarded by People magazine in 2005.He said: "I was voted World's Sexiest Man in 2005 and I fancy that could happen again. Now that I'm about to become a father, my sexy rating is set to go through the roof."Matthew, 38, has previously admitted he can't wait to meet his new arrival and begin his baby duties, including changing diapers.He said: "Parenthood isn't an exact science, but I've got the instincts for it. I'm looking forward to the big baby adventure. Hopefully I'll make a good daddy. My child is going to have culture and travel, that's one of the great benefits of my business."