Ask the grumpies: Any useful sex/pregnancy education books for young kids?

Julia asks:

Any useful sex/pregnancy education books for youngish kids? I have a 3 and 5 year old. They have a friend whose mother is pregnant and they are starting to ask pregnancy and “how babies are made” type questions. I want to be prepped and not super awkward about this. Any advice? The book “It’s Not the Stork” seems too advanced for 3 and 5 year olds, but maybe I’m mistaken.

I vaguely remember getting a very clinical description of where babies come from when I was five and my sister was on her way.  (I feel like it was connected to my mom’s Bradley classes?  Or maybe it was something specific for older siblings, I don’t remember… I just vaguely remember pictures of a woman’s reproductive system and one of those 3-d models of a pregnant woman’s belly).  I did not at all connect that with the naughty “sex” thing that showed up on tv all the time that my mom would say was a bit old for me and maybe I shouldn’t be watching.  (See:  Three’s company reruns, Moonlighting, etc.)

I don’t think we did anything for DC1 when DC2 was on the way.  Or maybe we checked out a bunch of stuff from the library?  I can’t actually remember!  So… not the best advice here.  Looking at some of the lists a lot of those covers look familiar, so I think we did get the Facts of Life by Miller and Pelham from the library and Baby on the Way by William and Martha Sears, though I think there was something off about it (and it’s for the situation where you are the one having a new baby, not a friend’s mom), and Being Born by Kitzinger and Nilsson.  The first and last are quite clinical.  I think we got Where do babies come from by Sheffield, but I feel like there was something off about it as well.

Here’s some lists of suggestions from Dr. Google:



kavanaugh report

In short:  Libraries are awesome– see what your library has on the topic and what works for you and your kids.

Grumpy Nation, do you have better recommendations?

Ask the Grumpies: How to handle maternity leave for a mid-semester baby?

anonymous in the midwest asks:

I am a faculty member at a small SLAC. I am newly (spontaneously!) pregnant with my second child, and likely due at the beginning of week 13 of the 16-week spring semester (it’s so early that I haven’t had my first prenatal appointment yet). My first child was an IVF baby and due the day after the end of my academic-year contract, so I didn’t take maternity leave. In that pregnancy, I developed a complication that, if it recurs (and it has a 50-90% recurrence rate) would mean I would deliver at 37 weeks. My fellow female faculty members have managed to have an astonishing number of May babies – since I’ve been here and in at least the two years previous, no female faculty member has given birth during any other month.

The college’s maternity leave policy for faculty offers 6 weeks at full pay or a full semester at half pay. How have mothers at your institutions handled babies due mid-to-most of the way through a semester? I would love to hear experiences and ideas from the grumpy nation!


My sister and were each born the first day of spring break. For me, my mother paid for her substitute out of pocket for the week after Spring break and then went back to work (she left that institution after it became clear that having a baby meant she would not get tenure).*  For my sister, the university where she was working paid for her substitute for that week. Your SLAC sounds much more humane!

I was lucky enough to have an end of winter break baby– actually this was only lucky because there was a freak snowstorm the first week of class so I got two weeks before going back to work (I had no maternity leave)– and an end of summer break baby which lead into “alternative work duties” (that is, not teaching) for the semester.  Most of my female colleagues have also had summer or sabbatical babies.  My colleague who was due in late April bought out her core course and front-loaded her elective and had a guest lecturer lined up, had them video tape their presentations for her to grade, and then cancelled her last couple of May classes.

I know a woman at a 1/1 school who team taught two courses the semester she was due (grad and undergrad versions of the same elective) and taught both the first half of that semester, then took the next semester off.  Come to think of it, that’s what one of my friends at a 0/1 medical school did as well– team taught the first half of the teaching semester, bought out the rest.

So, other than in situations in which there was no maternity leave, I don’t know how women with regular teaching loads generally handle mid-semester babies.  Men, of course, take a week or two off during the semester their wife (always a SAHM in my department) gives birth and then take the full maternity leave in the next semester.

Grumpy Nation, What have you seen academic women do when facing a mid-semester pregnancy due date? 

* For those not familiar, it takes about 2 weeks to stop bleeding and to be able to sit down in something other than a warm water bath after an easy natural childbirth.

Ask the grumpies: why does the patriarchy think it owns pregnant women?

Rented life asks:

Why is it every time I make a comment about how you shouldn’t comment/touch/etc pregnant women, some asshat needs to tell me that “like it or not” pregnant women are seen as public property? (I’d frankly argue ALL women are seen this way but I won’t fill up this comment with why). That these things are primal urges and I should just accept them? Hello slippery slope.

I know the short answer is patriarchy, but seriously, I am tired of having to work so hard against this.

Yeah, it’s the patriarchy.  You have our sympathy.

Sympathy and related complaints from the Grumpy peanut gallery?

Ask the grumpies: When to tell about a pregnancy?

Sunflower asks:

I am in my first year in a t-t position (although I had a two year limited term contract in the same position before convincing them to move me into a tenure-stream position). My husband (who is also t-t faculty in the same dept as me) and I are pregnant with our first child and are now at the “we can tell people” stage (13 weeks). We are not sure who to tell (or how) at work about our exciting (for us!) news. We will tell our Dean as soon as we can (we are non-departmentalized, so he’s our “immediate” report) – but are not sure how to go about telling our chair, colleagues, students, etc. We are collegial with most of our colleagues but not friends with them outside of work.

We talked about announcing it at our group meeting (not the whole faculty, but the subset that we work closest with), telling individuals and just letting word spread, not telling anyone and waiting until they figure it out… but haven’t decided which is best. Then there is the issue of telling our grad students (and the rest of the students in our area but not in our lab groups). We are both generally well-liked by the students, so we anticipate that they will all be happy for us… but it is gossip that will spread very quickly, so we have to be careful that the right people know first (e.g., the Dean) so that they don’t find out through the rumor mill.

We are both relatively private people – we keep work and private lives separate and don’t socialize with our colleagues outside of work functions (we are younger than most of them so we don’t really have much in common other than work-related things). We may be underestimating their reactions, but we are also cautious about how this will impact both of us (particularly me) – my chair is quite sexist and I’ve had to fight him on a number of things (although our Dean is a strong gay man and doesn’t put up with sexist nonsense from anyone, which is great!).

Only you can make these decisions (and perhaps you have already!)  I’m probably not the best person to ask– I told the people who mattered (my chair who is doing class scheduling and one of my friends who gave excuses when I had the miscarriage scare) and then took perverse pleasure in noticing when other people at work found out via the grapevine.  (I had a post about that in the drafts for a while but then had the baby before finishing it.)  It’s funny watching people gradually notice one’s growing belly.  You can tell they know when they start asking, “And how are you doing?” rather than the standard, “How’re you?”  There’s also a lot more door opening.  I found it greatly amusing with both pregnancies.

Of course, one of the dept secretaries just flat out asked me pretty early on this time around, and I always answered honestly if anyone asked.  And I did go to great lengths to hide it from a more sexist colleague in another department– his department didn’t know until someone’s wife saw me heavily pregnant at the grocery store when I wasn’t wearing something bulky.  Hopefully I’ve broken his stereotypes about pregnancy, babies, and women’s work ability.

And when one of my male colleagues announced his wife’s pregnancy (their child is about 2 months younger than our youngest), I mentioned to him, “me too”, but didn’t announce it to all and sundry.  Because I prefer to be sneaky like that.

My students cornered me one day before class and asked why I wasn’t signed up to teach anything the next semester.

So, if this advice is still useful, tell your dean as soon as you figure out what you want.  (Is there maternity leave?  Teaching load reductions?  What do other departments do if there isn’t an institutionalized policy?  I definitely recommend the teaching load reduction if you can get it because people will assume you got one even if you didn’t.)  As for the rest of the department, it’s up to you.

Any more advice for Sunflower?  (If applicable) How/when did you tell your colleagues other than your boss?  What have your colleagues done, and how did that work out?

A sad update on the relatives

The babies were set to be delivered at 37 weeks, to be induced if necessary.  The smaller twin had had several scares and had forced at least one extended hospital stay.

Just before 35 weeks, she went into labor.  They rushed to the nearest big hospital, and then to the big city hospital two hours away.  The smaller twin had died.  They stopped the labor and recommended she try to keep the babies gestating a little longer.  A few days later she went into labor again and 18 hours later they were born.  The larger twin was 5lb 4oz and other than standard preemie stuff (not wanting to be touched, lungs not fully developed) was doing fine at birth.  They held a funeral service at the hospital and another back home for the smaller twin.

The other baby is now off the ventilator and feeding tube and is cuddly and should be coming home soon.

An emotional update on the relatives: Also, a love note to having money

So, long-time followers of the blog may remember that one of the things we’ve committed to doing is paying college costs for DH’s relatives (5 kids, though technically we’ve only committed to the two oldest) in the hopes that they’ll be able to break out of the cycle of poverty that happens when you have several generations of rural teen pregnancy.

Unfortunately, the matriarch of this family branch is about to be a great-grandmother at the age of 56.  Our connecting relative is to be a grandfather at the age of 38.  The great-grandmother is, in fact, expecting three bouncing baby grandchildren this fall and the grandfather two.  His second oldest is having twins.  (An 18 year old step-cousin is having a singleton.)

This is a real shame, because the second is smart and has a solid GPA and solid ACTs.  She could easily have started a regional state school in the fall with money and would have gotten into the flagship had she applied (though probably not much financial aid there based on her scores).  She’d decided instead to commute with her sister to the community college for a year and then transfer– at that point, with college credit from high school she’d be a junior psychology major.

Instead, she recently found out that she’s heavily pregnant with twins and due in October.  We don’t know if she suspected earlier but was in denial or if she’s been lying– she had a surgery 3 weeks ago on her face that she should not have had if pregnant.

It’s too late for even considering an abortion and she doesn’t want to give the babies up for adoption (she did not think of it as an option).

They’re high risk in many ways– she is 17, she hasn’t been getting prenatal care (wasn’t even on vitamins), lives in a house with a smoker, she and her sister were both premature, twins… twins are an expensive proposition even when the circumstances are perfect.  Chances are these kids could have special needs, though we will hope they don’t.

One thing she has going for her that her parents didn’t was that even though she’s not marrying a boyfriend (hopefully they will work out paternity, hopefully the guy will pay support), her parents aren’t kicking her out of the house.  Her biological parents had to set up shop on their own when they were 16.  Unfortunately the previous matriarch who provided free child care passed away last year, and the current matriarch is still working.

There’s a supportive environment, possibly the more-so because the situation is so common.  The relative tells us that his other three kids and the extended family (on the step-mom who raised them’s side) have baby fever in anticipation.  They’ve been hitting up garage sales for baby things.

The oldest is still doing fine.  Her first year at community college went well and she’s proud she passed (with a B) her super-difficult science class even though most of the class dropped.  She’s still working her part-time nursing home job and the proceeds from that go towards her car so she can commute to school.  At 19, she’s broken the family not-getting-pregnant record.

The grandfather-to-be has no money.  The (step-)grandmother-to-be is finally working again, but as a waitress, so no time but not a huge income either.  The bio-grandmother-to-be has no money and owes years of back child-support.  The great-grandparents-to-be are also in huge amounts of debt– the husband is on disability, they own a farm (that they bought on credit from a scam artist… long story there) that costs them tons of money each year, the kids they decided to have in their mid-30s (instead of say, not kicking their 16 year old kid and his pregnant wife out of the house) are still living at home and not contributing to the family household.  There’s really nothing.  Nothing but family with no money and perpetual hands sticking out.  It’s terrifying.

If we didn’t have our own babies to consider, we’d do more.  As it is, we reminded the grandfather-to-be that we’d still be paying those college costs, so he doesn’t have to come up with $650 in tuition for the oldest or $200 in books.  Or $1000 for the second if they can make her going to school work.  (I think he’s not used to family members keeping promises, so he’s never thought of our offers as more than one-time deals.)

What this really makes us think about is how glad we are that we didn’t have children in our teens.  That we waited until we were out of school and had jobs that paid a good salary and a house and precautionary savings and an emergency fund.  We can handle emergencies.  We can send our kids to private school.  If, God forbid, one of our children becomes a parent in high school, we’ll be able to help without sacrificing our other child(ren).  We’d even be able to pay for daycare for twins if we needed to.  It will never be a question of who gets to go to school, or do we get to keep Netflix, etc.  Our children have a lot more second chances.

I love being upper-middle-class.  I wish everybody had the opportunities that we can give our children.  I wish it were easier to break out of cycles of poverty.  I wish we could do more, but we never know what to do, and there are things we could do that might make things worse.  And sacrifices we don’t want to make, not with us living on one salary and having a baby of our own.

Any suggestions for a 17 year old about to have twins?  Or a 38 year old dad who doesn’t understand why his kids are making the same mistakes he made, even though he’s tried his best to keep them from repeating the cycle?

Ask the grumpies: Suggestions on books for the new sibling?

Reader I asks through email:

I have a question for the one of you who recently had a second baby. I have a 4yo daughter and am soon due with a second girl. Were there any books that you found helpful in preparing DC1 for what life might be like with a new baby in the family? (that are not aimed at toddlers) What did you do to prepare hir? My daughter is super excited about getting a baby sister, but obviously she has no real clue how her life is going to change.

We talked a bit about books for parents on sibling rivalry, but came up with pretty much a blank.  However, there are a lot of books aimed at kids themselves.

We went through a bunch of books on what’s going on in mommy’s belly, though you have to scan through them because many are not age appropriate. For this we just hit the children’s nonfiction section in the library, and I read through a bunch before checking them out.  Finding out more about what was going on made the process less scary, especially after I stopped throwing up so much.

Many sibling books tell kids that they’re going to be feeling jealous but mommy and daddy still love them. We avoided these books based on research about how educational television makes kids misbehave by providing examples of misbehavior.

The book we found most helpful was Dr. Sears, What Baby Needs. It’s great because it explains generally what is going on (you’ll still want more about the baby developing and stuff, most likely– we found that “what size fruit/veggie is the unborn baby” each week helped), and what big sibling can do to help.  It’s upbeat, explanatory, and not preachy.  DC1 read it over and over, and definitely liked the suggestion to cuddle with mom while she’s nursing the baby.  (Ze also liked to mention that the baby doesn’t know how to do anything at first.)

There were some other books we had on the amazon wishlist but didn’t actually get. There’s a Mr. Rogers book that looked good, but we haven’t seen it so I can’t be sure of it.  We also had some videos on the Netflix queue, but I can’t recommend the Sesame St. one and we never did end up watching the rest.

Grumpy readership, do you have any more suggestions for books for older siblings?

Motherhood Online: A book review

We  were sent Motherhood Online by the editor, Michelle Moravec.

This book is a scholarly academic tome, but even given that, there are only two articles in it that I would call inaccessible to non-academic readers.  (And those two articles are both short and probably inaccessible to most academic readers as well.)  Non-academic readers will find the first section just as amusing and the second and third sections just as interesting as this academic reader.

The book starts out with case studies that will be familiar to anyone who has ever been on a pregnancy or mothering forum.  It does seem that if you’ve been on one of these forums, you’ve really been on all of the forums, for all the differences we perceive between the mothering.coms and the babycenters of the world, the dynamics are not that much different, even across forums from different countries.  Oddly, this section is titled “Theoretical perspectives” but is, for the most part, a-theoretical and, for the most part, focuses on each author’s own experiences with an online parenting community.

The second section… titled, “Case studies” includes articles with a broader theory base, more formal qualitative methods, and comparisons across different cases.  This second section focuses on communities that many of us have had less experience with, but are interesting in their own rights.  I especially enjoyed the studies of teenage mothers, autistic parents, port-wine stain, stay-at-home dads, and really most of the articles in this section.  I felt like I learned something reading many of these articles.

The last section focuses on blogs and community, with the stand-out piece being one on the community of people from developed countries who use (employ?) Indian women as surrogate mothers.

Although the introduction focuses on the positives to these online communities, the articles themselves are even-handed with both the positives (community building, information sharing, support) and the negatives (conflict, incorrect information, rationalization, etc.)  The authors come from a number of different disciplines, including communication, sociology, public health, anthropology, history and others.  These different disciplinary paths and perspectives come across in the methodology and writing.  Obviously we feel more comfortable with the social scientist methodologies, but other disciplines provide for entertaining reading and discussion.

Is this worth reading?  Sure!  Especially if you’re into non-fiction and would like to think a bit about they dynamics of online communities.  The book includes a nice collection of articles that, should, for the most part, be as easy to read as a Malcolm Gladwell book, but with perhaps a few more citations included.

Pregnancy Exercises

The BEST thing about the Bradley Course we took when I was enciente with DC was the exercises.

I’ve been recently reminded that I need to start doing those again because they feel so good.  (And not doing them… is kind of achy.)

1.  Pelvic Tilt/Pelvic Rocking:  This is the most amazing thing ever.  You get on your hands and knees and put your back flat, then you tilt your pelvis forward and back.  It should feel amazing.

2.  Butterfly.  Sit with the flats of your feet together and try to get your knees to touch the ground.  There’s also a variant where your partner pressures your knees in the other direction.

3.  Tailor sitting.  This is sitting with your legs crossed, but they don’t overlap.

4.  Squatting.  Something one should be doing a lot whenever one needs to pick something up off the ground.

5.  Kegels.  Also helpful when you sneeze…

6.  Relaxation while cuddling.  We haven’t done this one so much, but we made it an important part every day when DC was on hir way.

Any pregnancy tips you found helpful?

Weird things I eat and don’t: Gluten free whole-grain no sugar fru fru

Things I’ve been eating:

  • Stonyfield farm plain yogurt with fruit, trail mix, and crumpled up puffed brown rice from Lundberg farms brown rice cakes.
  • Spaghetti sauce … over beans.
  • Cream cheese on brown rice cakes.
  • Boursin on tortilla chips– this is amazing.  Sadly in a few weeks I won’t be able to eat tortilla chips anymore because they’re not gylcemically balanced enough for third trimester.  (Btw, even though boursin is soft, it should be ok because it’s more like cream cheese than like brie in terms of pathogens.)
  • Breakfast burritos on corn tortillas (ditto on the soon unable to eat)
  • Cheap brown rice sushi from a place in town that is totally like the Subway Sandwiches of Sushi.
  • Annie Chun’s Mai fun brown rice noodles.  In stir-fry!  In soup!  But not with spaghetti sauce as that would be wrong.

Horrific discoveries:

  • Most (but not all) of the Mexican places in town put flour in their cheese sauces.  It will be a long time before I eat out at a Mexican place again.
  • Many places in town lightly dust fish fillets with flour before grilling.
  • Even though buckwheat flour isn’t wheat, I can only eat four bites or so of a 100% buckwheat flour pancake before my body refuses and sends the signal to my brain:  What are you doing?!?!  Are you crazy?  Then whenever I think about pancakes my body tries to decide whether or not to feel queasy, but when I don’t think about it I feel fine, until someone posts on her blog about chocolate chip pancakes and my body starts going hey, shouldn’t we be feeling queasy by now?
  • But I don’t have the same problem with buckwheat waffles.
  • Most gluten-free pizzas are DISGUSTING.  Also really expensive.  (The pesto one we tried wasn’t so bad though… but not really worth $9 for a personal size.)  Though if there were a Lou Malnati’s in town I’d totes order his gluten-free pizza (formerly his Atkin’s pizza)– sausage crust is awesome.
  • 100% buckwheat soba is also pretty gross.
  • I cannot reuse the pasta pot without cleaning it first, even if it just boiled spaghetti.
  • There’s a local cheesemaker that makes amazing raw cows and sheep milk cheeses.  Or so I’m told by the rest of my family members.
  • Ethnic Gourmet only has one brown rice entree left, everything else has been switched to white rice.
  • Grocery store just started stocking a tonne of new ben and jerry’s flavors… they ALL either have wheat or they have no fat.  *whimper*