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I have strung words together for The New York Times, Vice, and more. I write and shoot people (with a camera, you guys) from my home in upst...

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    little girlA mother of four has just stepped into a mondo controversy. Sharon Spink breastfeeds her daughter. Not seeing the controversy? Well, Sharon's daughter, Charlotte, is 5 years old.

    Still not seeing the controversy? Maybe you're a to each his own type of person? Well, it would be a lot easier to agree with you if not for this one thing: Sharon Spink breastfeeds her 5-year-old in public.

    A lot.

    She admits it's not about nourishment, and yet she says she won't wean because it would be like taking away her daughter's teddy bear, and she'll do it just about anywhere. As Spink says of her extended breastfeeding:

    I've breastfed in the hairdresser's, supermarket, and church before. I've even breastfed Charlotte in front of her school friends. Children don't judge. It tends to be adults who do that. But thankfully their parents are all very supportive.

    Children don't judge? Since when?

    We could get into a long debate about extended breastfeeding and whether or not it's necessary, but the Internet has already taken care of that for us. Spink is being flamed in comments across the interwebs at the moment, and a few experts have even joined in to comment on potential psychological harm to a 5-year-old who is being breastfed.

    But the real issue here isn't how long a mom should breastfeed necessarily so much as the decision to do so in public with your school-aged child.

    More to the point, it's realizing that what parents do in public with their children -- be it breastfeeding or general helicoptering or what have you -- could have possible detrimental effects on a child's well-being. It may not affect a baby, who has no clue what's going on and whose friends are just as clueless.

    But what you do with your school-aged kids in public, in front of their friends, sure as heck affects them and can affect them for a long, long time.

    Kids do judge. In fact, surveys have shown that parents of kids as young as 3 are dealing with bullied children. One study out of Brigham Young University found that the "mean girls" phenomena starts as young as 4.

    Five-year-old kids are certainly old enough to notice what their friends are up to, and to start seeing things as "different." They're old enough to judge one another's differences.

    Certainly we should stand up for what we believe in -- some little 5-year-old brat doesn't get to change the way you parent just because they're a bully.

    But it behooves us as parents to look at our own choices and really weigh out whether or not they're in our children's best interests.

    A mom who is breastfeeding her 5-year-old may be able to claim that the child enjoys it. But she can't legitimately say the child needs to breastfeed on demand, when they're out and about, anymore. That's where the tough choices have to be made, where a mom has to truly put her child's needs first.

    What do you make of this? When do you feel kids are too old to nurse in public?

     

    Image via jessicalsmyers/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    little girls not listeningMost kids in America begin to talk sometime after 6 months, and by 2 years old, they're forming sentences -- albeit two- to four-word demands. And if you're like most parents, you probably taught your kids to speak the same language (or languages) that you speak. But if you're like most parents, you've also probably figured out that kids never end up speaking the same language as their parents.

    At least it feels that way. You say one thing, and your kids hear another. It's like playing that old game, Telephone, only the message doesn't change when it's said a second time. It's only just out of your mouth, floating through the air, when the meaning of everything you're saying is turned upside down and inside out.

    Not sure how to get through to your kids when you're speaking English and they're speaking ... kid? We've decoded the kid version of some common Mom phrases for you ...

    Mom Says: Hang up your bookbag.
    Kid Hears:
    Throw your bookbag on the floor somewhere near the hook.

    Mom Says: For the last time, you can have a cookie after dinner.
    Kid Hears:
    Ask me again in five minutes. Maybe I'll have changed my mind.

    Moms Says: I have a headache.
    Kid Hears:
    Time to break out the toy drum set and give it a whirl!

    Mom Says: I'm on the phone.
    Kid Hears:
    Now's a good time to ask me anything, really, the sky's the limit. What burning questions have been weighing on your mind lately?

    Mom Says: It's bedtime.
    Kid Hears:
    Nothing -- you think kids actually HEAR when you tell them to go to bed?

    Mom Says: Brush your teeth before bed.
    Kid Hears:
    Get your toothbrush wet and stick it back in the holder, because I wasn't a kid once, and I totally never tried that trick myself.

    Mom Says: We're leaving the playdate in five minutes.
    Kid Hears:
    In five minutes, please lie prostrate on the ground, pound your fists, and scream, "Nooooooooooo." Loudly.

    Mom Says: You can't come into my room at 3 a.m. anymore.
    Kid Hears:
    Wait until 4 a.m., then climb between Mommy and Daddy.

    Mom Says: I'm going to the bathroom; I need some privacy.
    Kid Hears:
    Stand outside the bathroom door and stick your toes in the crack between the door and the floor. Breathe heavily.

    Mom Says: Come here, I need to brush your hair.
    Kid Hears:
    I just bought a medieval instrument of torture on eBay, and I'd like to try it out on your head.

    Mom Says: Leave your brother alone!
    Kid Hears:
    When I turn around, poke him in the ribs really hard.

    Moms Says: Clean your room.
    Kid Hears:
    Shove a couple things under your bed, then go play video games.

    Mom Says: Aww, that's so sweet! Thanks Honey!
    Kid Hears:
    You have me right where you want me. Now's the time to ask for that $150 LEGO set.

    Mom Says: Close the fridge.
    Kid Hears:
    Stand in front of the fridge with the door wide open for the next five minutes or so while the electric meter spins.

    Mom Says: I'm not going to tell you again; you need to feed the dog.
    Kid Hears:
    I'll remind you again in 5 minutes and then again in 10, so really you have a good 15 minutes or so to sit on the couch and read the next chapter of Ramona Quimby.

    Mom Says: Shh! Daddy is sleeping.
    Kid Hears:
    When the dog barks, yell at the top of your lungs, "Shh! Daddy is sleeping!"

    Mom Says: No.
    Kid Hears
    : Well, maybe, but you'll have to ask at least four more times.

    Mom Says: We're having mac and cheese for dinner.
    Kid Hears:
    Throw eight years of loving mac and cheese out the window and declare loudly that you hate it, hate it, hate it. Then stomp off to Dad to ask him if you can order pizza.

    Mom Says: Go to the bathroom before we leave.
    Kid Hears:
    There's a perfectly good bathroom at the McDonald's 20 minutes away, so really, why bother using ours?

    Mom Says: No, you cannot have a cellphone just because Jimmy's mom got him one.
    Kid Hears:
    I actually share DNA with Satan AND the Wicked Witch of the West, and we have pow wows every night where we think up ways to make your life miserable. Sometimes we invite your father.

     

    What do you keep saying to your kids that they just don't understand?!

     

    Image via Tomas Rodriguez/Corbis


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    carHere's a tough truth about parenting: kids are fast, so you have to be faster. Sometimes that means doing things that are superhuman. Like running at the speed of light to grab a kid out of the path of an oncoming car, perhaps?

    A video has gone viral this week of a dad doing just that. OK, so the car was just one of those plastic Little Tikes types that every toddler in America has, but still, you are about to behold parenthood multiplied by the power of awesome. Buckle your seatbelts, y'all:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

     

    Let's hear it for parents and their ninja-like reflexes! Because you don't necessarily have to be fast before you have a kid, but once they come along, you realize you have become somewhat like a cat, ready to spring at any moment. Last-minute saves are pretty much the name of the game when you're a mom OR a dad.

    Because the truth is you have to move fast if you want to keep your kids alive.

    So let's hear your crazy, OMG, I've never moved so fast, but I grabbed my kid and I am AWESOME moment!

     

    Image via wreck/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    baby nurseryTechnology is supposed to make parenting easier. Key words: supposed to. Because a story out of Cincinnati, Ohio, reminds us parenting in the digital age is anything but easy. Parents of a 10-month-old baby were shocked to hear a man's voice coming out of their baby monitor. The device had been hacked by a man who was screaming at the infant!

    Mom Heather Schreck was awakened by the strange noise, and when she grabbed her cellphone to check on the baby, she noticed the camera was moving around ... but she wasn't moving it. A voice was screaming, "Wake up baby, wake up," and when dad Adam ran into little Emma's room, the voice coming through the monitor switched to a stream of obscenities.

    So much for the baby monitor as a means to sleep a little easier when you're a parent, huh?

    The Schrecks' creepy ordeal isn't the first time hackers have managed to get into a child's bedroom with some digital manipulation. A similar baby monitor ordeal shocked the nation last August.

    Nor is it the first time parents have dealt with technology meant to make it easier to be a mom and dad in 2014. Every time you turn around, some newfangled gadget is being recalled because parents aren't using it correctly

    More From The Stir: Huge Baby Monitor Recall: Everything Parents Need to Know

    And more parents than ever are confessing to being befuddled by the very technologies that are now present in our everyday lives. In a recent survey, as many as two in five parents say they've turned to their KIDS to help them figure out modern technology.

    Not a situation you want to find yourself in, folks. How do you protect your kids from possible issues out there if they know more than you? It's always shocking when a parent confesses they didn't even know their child could do this, that, or the other thing on a particular gadget because the kid knows MORE than Mom and Dad! We're supposed to be in charge, not the other way around.

    So what's a parent to do? Well, for starters, playing the "I just can't keep up game" is unacceptable. If you bring technology into your home, you are responsible for knowing how to use it ... and how to keep your kids safe from it.

    If you can't do that, maybe you should stick to the old-school methods of parenting.

    It turns out the Schrecks' baby monitor, the Foscam IP Camera, had a known firmware vulnerability. The manufacturer had released an update to fix it, but the couple hadn't done said update. They may not have invited that hacker into their kids' bedroom, but they left the door open.

    And that's what you're doing when you bring technology home that you aren't prepared to handle: leaving the door open for something to go wrong ... and potentially hurt your kids.

    What sort of gadgets have made your life easier as a parent? Do you feel like you know everything there is to know about them?

     

    Image via Nana B Agyei/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    The Kind MamaOh. My. Word. You may have heard by now that Alicia Silverstone wrote a parenting book. You know, the woman who parlayed a few seconds in an Aerosmith music video into a starring role in the '90s teen flick and made "as if" the put-down of a generation? The now C-list (or is it D-list?) actress is better known for her controversial mom moves of late, so it was really only a matter of time before The Kind Mama landed on the same shelves already populated by books from Mayim Bialik, Brooke Burke, and dozens of other celebrities who have become "experts" in the field of parenting simply by spawning while famous.

    But where many of her predecessors have managed to fly under the radar with some not terrible but not terribly great "momoirs," Silverstone's book pushes some hot mom buttons, from vaccines (she doesn't believe in 'em) to co-sleeping (she's a fan).

    And suddenly we're being treated to a raft of celeb mom parenting book hate.

    Take the article from Jessica Grose of Slate titled, "Celebrity Quack Moms Are a Terrible Influence on Everyday Parents."

    Much of what Grose says in her diatribe about Silverstone, plus Bialik and Jenny McCarthy, is absolutely true. The claims put forth in Silverstone's book about vaccines are irresponsible, and her assertion that your 6-month-old can be potty-trained is a bit of knee-slapper.

    More From The Stir:20 Things Moms Say (& What Their Kids Hear)

    But Grose -- and Jezebel's Lindy West, and others -- seem hell-bent on criticizing the celebrity parenting books as farces good parents are taking seriously simply because of their author's fame.

    Granted, that is how these people got themselves book deals.

    But let's face it ... these books are hardly the first "bad" parenting manuals out there. Take, for example, To Train Up a Child, the Christian parenting book that has been linked to the case of an adopted girl left to freeze to death by her parents. From suggesting parents force their kids to fast to advising children who are slow to potty train be sprayed down with a hose, the book's techniques are controversial ... at best. Or On Becoming Baby Wise, another parenting book written not by a doctor but by a pastor, that has drawn significant criticism from parents for questionable practices.

    Celebrities don't have a corner on the bad baby advice market, folks. They're not the only ones pushing it out; nor the only ones parents are listening to.

    They are, however, an easy target for critics, who call them out not just for their bad advice, but for making the mistake of parenting while famous. What they do is in the news; therefore, they are held up as role models to us regular Janes and Joes. 

    But that's not on the celebrities, is it?

    Isn't that on us? The regular Janes and Joes dumb enough to listen to some chick from an Aerosmith video on whether or not 6-month-olds can really pee on the potty?

    When we're making decisions about real, hardcore issues -- be it vaccines or breastfeeding or myriad other issues -- we need to be aware of the background of the person doling out the advice.

    Sure, we can look to celebrities as fellow moms, read their books, and perhaps relate to some trick she used to get her picky eater to swallow some broccoli (Jessica Seinfeld, we're looking at you). Sure, we can pick up a random parenting book by Joe Blow and maybe read some much-needed advice on taking time for ourselves. There is often value in simply reading other parents' tales. We all need to have someone to relate to in what is a pretty tough journey.

    But when it comes down to the real nitty gritty, the life and death stuff, WE should know better than to just take any old advice. Our kids' lives depend on us making educated decisions, on us doing our homework (and by that I don't mean trusting some conspiracy theorist on the playground OR the girl who starred in Clueless).

    It's not celebrity moms' fault people make stupid choices after reading their books. It's the parents' ...

    Do you read celebrity moms' books? Why? Which one was your favorite?

     

    Image via Barnes & Noble


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    standardized testTomorrow my daughter will sit down with thousands of other children in New York State to take yet another standardized test. I know. I know, I could have thrown my hands up at the Common Core. I could have opted my child out of the math tests that will have no real immediate effect on her future. She will pass the third grade with them or without them.

    But I didn't opt my daughter out of the standardized math tests. I didn't opt her out of the reading or, as it's called these days, English language arts tests earlier in the month, even as a flurry of Facebook requests were sent in my direction to join in on National Opt Out Day.

    I did something else entirely. I told my daughter the tests don't matter. I don't care if she passes them or not.

    Educators, I'm sorry. That may have made you gasp. I should back up just a little bit.

    I didn't tell my daughter to fail the Common Core tests. I didn't tell her to flake off or to write down the wrong answers on purpose. If she were in high school, I could see how telling her the tests don't matter might be perceived that way. I'll cop to having flunked a certain standardized test when I was a junior or senior in high school. The administrators of our school made the mistake of telling us that they'd cooped us up in a room as guinea pigs to take a test that -- in their words -- wouldn't affect a single thing. We were obnoxious teens. We took them at their word.

    But my daughter is 8. She still takes school pretty seriously.

    Too seriously.

    In the weeks leading up to the ELA test earlier this month, she was a bundle of nerves. She wasn't sleeping. She was biting her cuticles. And nightly she would tell my husband and me that she was worried about the "big test."

    She shouldn't be. She's a smart kid who gets good grades. And despite the studies that have found standardized tests are built to favor boys' learning styles over girls', on most assessment tests up to this point (this is our first year with Common Core), she's performed at or above grade level.

    But her school has been beating the drum of "these tests matter" all year long, and the pressurehas gotten to her. She was worried, she told us, about letting her teacher and her school down.

    And here I thought carrying her bookbag was a heavy load? One 8-year-old can't carry a whole school on her shoulders.

    Telling her the tests don't matter was my way of lightening her load of allowing her to be just a care-free kid again.

    When I told her the tests are pointless, I wasn't trying to screw the school. I was just telling my kid the truth.

    If she doesn't fare well on the standardized test, it will not matter in the long run. She is one kid of many. They can't hold her back in the third grade because that's not what these tests are for. The New York State Education Department is pretty clear that it neither requires nor suggests school districts factor the Common Core assessments into kids' final grades. Nor can the state penalize her teacher or her school. She's one kid. It's one test.

    So why, you may wonder, didn't I opt her out entirely? I thought about it; I did. A number of friends opted their kids out, and I respect their decisions. But in the end my husband and I decided what the Common Core tests do is give our child a trial run. Eventually she will be taking standardized tests that do matter -- the PSAT, the ACT, the SAT.

    I wish tests weren't the way they measured our kids because study after study has shown the shortcomings of using them to measure our kids in a one-size-fits-all manner. But so long as they are, I do think my kid needs to prepare for the big ones.

    I just don't think she needs to develop an ulcer while doing so.

    Do you let your kids take standardized tests? How do you help them handle the pressure?

     

    Image via AlbertoG/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Sharon Stone Basic InstinctIf you've ever thought about signing your daughter up for a child modeling contract, this might give you pause. An ad for the children's board game Clue is drawing criticism this week for featuring a young girl perched on a chair in a seductive pose markedly similar to that of actress Sharon Stone in the movie Basic Instinct.

    The ad is actually from 2010, and it's just one in a series that appeared in Mexico, all spoofs of popular films, from Silence of the Lambs to The Godfather. Why the game's maker, Hasbro, opted to use R-rated films to advertise a children's toy is confusing -- at best. But the reason the Basic Instinct ad has come back into the spotlight -- and why it's being lambasted -- is pretty clear.

    Just look at this little girl:

    Mexican Clue Ad Basic Instinct

    See anything wrong with this picture?

    How about the fact that the sweet little face doesn't match up to the seductive posing of her body? She doesn't look like a kid at all but like a little adult!

    Who in their right mind thought it was appropriate for a little girl to dress up and sit that way? Who in their right mind said, "Ooh, yes, let's let a 7-year-old (we guess? Maybe 8 or 9?) dress up as a character best known for going commando and flashing her crotch in a short dress?"

    Certainly some people will say no harm, no foul, the little girl's legs are modestly closed, and it's not like the young model had to watch the movie before posing for a print ad.

    But kids are smarter than we give them credit for. She may not have had to watch the movie, but surely she cottoned on to what it was she was parodying, and she asked questions. Uncomfortable questions.

    The sort of questions kids ask when their parents allow them to dress up on Halloween as characters from movies they aren't allowed to watch because they're too adult.

    Telling a kid they can act out an adult role but not actually watch said adult film sends a mixed message to kids. Just like Pandora, when we try to smack that lid back down, we find that we never quite get all the bad things back into the box.

    What do you think of letting kids dress up and act like little adults? Would you allow YOUR daughter to do this?

     


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    juice box strawGot juice boxes? If you're a mom, you probably have at least half a dozen in your fridge right now, but this might make you switch to cups of the sweet stuff. A mom from Wisconsin who cut open her son's juice box found a whole lot of mold! Enough to take up half of the box!

    Suzanne Hogue's disgusting discovery has quickly gone viral, with photos of little Nathan's moldy juice box being spread across the Internet. If you've got a weak stomach, you may want to look away right about now ...

    moldy juice box

    At the risk of sounding like we're all 5 years old, we're just going to go ahead and say it ... ewwwww! That's apparently frozen mold -- Suzanne Hogue has been storing this in the freezer since she cut it open and was grossed out herself.

    We've heard of juice pouches -- those vaguely triangular packages of juice -- containing fungus, but now we have to worry about icky juice BOXES too?

    So do we need to stop giving our kids juice boxes?

    Tempting ... awfully tempting.

    But no, you don't have to give up juice boxes.

    You can always cut open the boxes -- just as Hogue did -- if you're worried. Granted that defeats the purpose of buying juice boxes for convenience, but you can also simply taste the drink yourself (or sniff it) to see if it raises any alarm bells.

    Parents should also be wary to use up drinks before the expiration date, and check for any holes or damage to the packaging that may allow air or contaminants into the drink (just as they would with any other food item).

    When The Stir contacted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they had received no official report of the Hogues' moldy juice box, but Press Officer Lauren Sucher said parents shouldn't hesitate to reach out to the FDA if they find a problem with their child's drink.

    "Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring their products are safe to eat, properly labeled, and in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations," she noted. "Consumers should report product concerns to the manufacturer and to an FDA consumer complaint coordinator."

    Got it? If you see something, say something! Kudos to this mom for bringing this one out into the light. Check out more on the Hogues' gross discovery:

    [code][/code]

    Does this change your mind about letting your kids have juice boxes? What do they normally drink?

     

    Images via Horia Varlan/Flickr; Fox 6


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    boy left in carAll right Moms and Dads, time for a little honesty. Have you ever left your kids in the car? Ever? EVER? You never hear moms admit it in public, but a new survey is out that claims 70 percent of parents say they have no problem leaving their child alone in a parked car.

    That's a pretty high number of parents 'fessing up to something that fills moms with righteous indignation. Soooooo ... ready to jump on the judgy mom bus and drive right over those awful, awful parents? The rest of the Internet is doing it, so why not you? Well, hold on, just a second, would you?

    According to the survey of 1,000 parents and caregivers conducted by Public Opinion Strategies of Washington, 7 in 10 parents said they'd heard horror stories of things going wrong when kids were left in cars, but were willing to do it anyway.

    But when asked IF they'd done it, only 23 percent of parents with kids under 3 said they had. The number dropped to 14 percent of parents when the age range changed from infants through kindergarten age.

    There is no epidemic of parents leaving their babies in the car, OK? Even with the "shocking" number of parents who say they would, moms are still uneasy about saying they HAVE.

    And let's talk about what it means to leave a child "unattended in a parked car."

    The survey did not ask parents WHERE said car was parked. There were no parents saying, sure, I left the car parked out in front of the grocery store, in the hot sun, with the doors unlocked, and the keys in the ignition. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that is a bad, bad idea.

    Is it possible some parents did that? Sure. It's just as possible that some parents buckled their toddler into the car in their driveway, then ran back into the house to grab their purse or the dry cleaning.

    Are those parents bad parents

    Not unless you're a bad parent for leaving your baby alone in their room, in their crib, to walk into the kitchen to grab their bottle that you forgot on the counter. Hey, you don't have eyes on them for those moments, something awful could happen!

    But you've done it, haven't you?

    The issue of leaving kids alone in cars -- particularly in extreme temperatures -- is an important one. We need surveys and studies to raise awareness of what can go wrong -- from carjackings to a child accidentally putting a car in gear and getting in an accident to the horror of overheating.

    BUT, and this is a big but, parenting issues are very rarely black and white. Leaving your kid in the car -- like anything -- has shades of gray. We do it when it's safe because sometimes it is, because you can't compare apples (grocery store) to oranges (your own yard).

    A mom who lives in a safe neighborhood, who buckles her 1-year-old into the carseat of the family minivan, realizes she left her purse inside, leaves the windows open, doesn't put the key in the ignition, and runs back inside for five seconds? She's not a bad mom. She's not putting her baby in mortal danger.

    Same goes for the mom who buckles her infant into the car at the grocery store only to have a friend come along -- you know, the mom who turns the AC on and stands outside said parked car for two whole minutes while baby snoozes? Technically she "left her kid unattended in the car," but is that really bad parenting?

    Do you ever leave your kid alone in any room? Ever? Do you sleep? Pee? Shower?

    It's not the mere fact of leaving your kids in the car that makes for bad parenting. Like everything else in life ... it's situational.

    So how about instead of jumping to conclusions about what it is parents are doing wrong, we take a second and find out the details.

    Yes, parents who leave their kids in a running vehicle while they go in to pay for gas are making a mistake. Yes, parents who forget the baby in the car are making a mistake. Yes, yes, yes, we all need to heed the warnings about the dangers of kids in cars.

    But we also need to use common sense as parents and not just when it comes to cars!

    Be honest ... have you EVER left your child alone in the car? EVER?

     

    Image via NHTSA


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    numbersIf you're a parent, chances are you've thought about birth order and how it affects your kids. Am I harder on my firstborn? Do my kids have a normal sibling relationship? Does the order in which the kids were born really matter in the long run?

    Turns out it does. Scientists have done extensive studies on family make-up and how it affects not only how you parent, but your kids' health and personalities. Wonder if your oldest child is like most firstborns? Here's what science has to say:

    1. They go that extra mile for an education. When researchers at the University of Essex's Institute for Social and Economic Research surveyed 3,553 individuals (1,503 groups of siblings), they found that the oldest children in families had a 16 percent greater chance of going to college as compared to their younger siblings.

    2. They're born to learn. Is your oldest child a bit of a know-it-all? It could be because of their birth order. Firstborns really are born to learn, according to a 2013 study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality. Researchers at Belgium's Ghent University found that birth order actually affects a child's lifelong goals. The eldest child, they found, wants to "master" or "learn," while the second child tends to want to "win." It certainly goes hand-in-hand with number one, doesn't it? Other studies have also shown firstborns (and only children) tend to pick more academic-oriented careers as compared to their younger siblings.

    More From The Stir:8 Surprising Scientific Facts About Only Children

    3. They may be at risk for diabetes. A study out of New Zealand and published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism claims children who were born first have greater difficulty absorbing sugars into the body and higher daytime blood pressure than kids who were born later in the birth order. And no, it's not because of childhood obesity because ...

    4. They're skinnier. That same study that found firstborns are at risk for diabetes also found eldest children tend to be taller and slimmer than their younger siblings. Why? Scientists think it comes down to the mother's uterus -- which changes after her first pregnancy.

    5. They get more from Mom and Dad. Think you're equally dividing your time among your kids? Scientists disagree. When Cornell researchers dove into the quality time issue, they found the eldest child receives 20 to 30 more minutes of quality time each day with a parent than a second-born child of the same age from a similar family. Another study at Brigham Young had similar findings -- they estimate firstborns get about 3,000 more hours of quality time with their parents between ages 4 and 13 than the next sibling gets when they pass through the same age range.

    6. They're more creative ... sometimes. Still debating the age gap between your kids? This might make up your mind -- when scientists at Washington University in St. Louis studied siblings, they found that firstborn kids tended to be more creative than later-born kids if they had younger siblings of the opposite sex or if their younger siblings were less than three years younger. Not surprisingly, big age differences tend to push oldest kids into parental surrogate roles, while smaller age differences allow for more playtime -- and thus more creativity.

    7. They're smarter. Well, their IQs tend to be higher anyway! A study published in the journal, Science, reveals about a two-point gap between firstborn men and men born later in the birth order, with the firstborns coming out ahead. Interestingly, the "oldest sibling" in families where the eldest child died also tended to perform better on the IQ tests.

    8. They're bossy ... if they're females.Sorry Sheryl Sandberg, but the science is in, and it turns out some girls are, indeed, bossy. Not only did researchers at the Southern California Child Study Center find bossiness to be more prevalent in firstborns, but they found it to be based on gender, with eldest girls more likely to be domineering than eldest boys.

    9. They're more prone to asthma and allergies. Does your eldest child have breathing issues? It might be because of their birth order! According to research presented at the American Thoracic Society's 2008 International Conference, genes act differently in firstborn kids, particularly the genes responsible for asthma and allergies!

    10. They have it the hardest. Tougher on your oldest child? You're not alone! When economists from Duke University and Washington University tackled the topic of parental rules and birth order, they found earlier-born siblings are more likely to be subject to strict rules and parental monitoring and more likely to face harsh consequences for wrongdoing than younger siblings. 

    11. They're less likely to suffer from PTSD. Nobody wants to think about their kids going through a traumatic situation, but have heart. Research out of England's University of Sheffield shows firstborns are less likely than their siblings to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. The scientist behind the study isn't quite sure why -- he surmises that younger siblings are more likely to take risks and put themselves in traumatic situations, but it may also be down to parenting style. Other studies have also found firstborns are significantly less susceptible to anxiety or depression.

    Do any of these hold true for your firstborn? Which ones?

     

    Image via sanickels/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    baby boy What do you think of parents who let the Internet name their baby? Think they're idiots who just want a little fame? Hold that thought. Because a couple asking the Internet to help name their soon-to-be-born son is turning the whole trend on its ear. Sure, Google employee Jason Morrison and his wife are going to let the Internet weigh in on what's usually a parental decision. But they've decided to make a real difference for kids in this world.

    That's why each name vote will be worth a $1 donation to Save the Children to fund polio vaccinations for children in need.

    The excited mom-to-be happens to be a nurse practitioner, hence the focus on child health, while dad works at Google and used a Google form before to solicit help from the Internet to name their daughter, Athena.

    The couple has even gone the smart road of providing a list of NORMAL baby names to vote on -- although they do provide an "other" category -- to limit the expected Internet insanity.

    Pretty nifty, huh?

    More From The Stir: 7 Mistakes to Avoid Making When You Name Your Baby

    Granted, not everyone has the funds to actually do something like this, especially when they're expecting a baby. Morrison is taking advantage of Google's employee matching program to come up with all the money for the charity, and they've pledged to donate up to $14,000.

    But bringing life into this world does tend to make us all think about the fates of kids the world over. And it behooves us to lend a hand when we can, where we hand, to give other kids the advantages we can give our own. After all, isn't that what we'd hope other parents would do for our kids?

    Do you have a special pet charity now that you have kids?

     

    Image via Kelly Roselle/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    pregnant womanLet's face it: pregnancy is a confusing nine months (or is it 10?). You can't sleep. You don't know what you can and can't eat. But by now, every woman in America should know that you can't use drugs while pregnant.

    Right? This should be obvious?

    So it may sound like good news that the state of Tennessee has just come out to officially criminalize drug use during pregnancy. Good moms don't use drugs, so why not send them to prison? Well, here's the problem.

    The broadly written law calls for women to be charged with assault if they have a pregnancy complication after using illegal drugs. As it's written, the law would even punish moms who suffer a complication that wasn't related to their drug use.

    Still not seeing the problem? Consider this ... not everyone plans to get pregnant. In fact, of the 6.6 million pregnancies in America every year, more than half (51 percent) are unplanned. That's 3.4 million, folks.

    So not everyone gets a chance to clean up their act -- be it using drugs, smoking cigarettes, or just enjoying a glass of wine now and again -- before they pee on a stick and say, "Uh oh!"

    Now, not all 3.4 million of those women who didn't plan to get pregnant but end up that way are on drugs. But plenty are. In Tennessee alone, there were 921 drug-dependent births in 2013, which is part of the reason this new law has come about. 

    So again, why not criminalize doing drugs while pregnant?

    Simple: when you tell someone you're going to throw them in jail for doing something, you make it darn near impossible to get help. If it's on record that she's been using drugs, and she suffers a complication -- any complication -- she's just opened herself up to charges of assault. On the other hand, if we encourage women to get some help, we help their babies too.

    It only stands to reason that the less a baby is exposed to drugs, the less chance they have of the drugs affecting development.

    If we want to really change things for babies in America, we need to make it easier for women to have a healthy pregnancy, not harder! 

    What do you make of this legislation? What would be a better way to help these moms?

     

    Image via Miki Yoshihito/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Hop on PopEvery mom wants to raise a reader. But let's be honest for a second: every mom out there is guilty of just reading the words without really paying attention during bedtime because they really want their kid to go to sleep already. Moms, if this is you, beware! There are deep, dark, disturbing messages lurking in one of the most popular children's books of all time. Have you been reading Hop on Pop to your kids?

    Sure you have. It's a Dr. Seuss book, after all, and what mom hasn't entrusted her toddler's development to the great Theodor Geisel? 

    Mom, if this is you, it's time we have a talk. Hop on Pop is not the innocent rhyming tale of little ones playing with dad that you think it is!

    More From The Stir: 15 Top Books Your Kids Should Read This Summer

    It is a violent story of over-aggressive children beating on their father! Just ask the fathers' rights advocate who is calling for the book to be banned!

    Yes. We're serious.

    A patron of the Toronto Public Library demanded the book's removal; PLUS, he wants an apology to greater Toronto area fathers AND for the library to pay damages resulting from the book's violent message. The dad reportedly told library directors that the Dr. Seuss classic is "violent and encouraged children to be violent with their fathers."

    After all, the book says:

    HOP POP We like to hop. We like to hop on top of Pop. STOP You must not hop on Pop.

    Haven't laughed like that in awhile, have you?

    Nice try, Dad. NICE try.

    Pushed to really think about it, we have to acknowledge you could probably find all sorts of subversive and terrible messages in popular children's books ... if that's exactly what you WANT to find.

    Go, Dog, Go is terribly bossy, for one. Shouldn't it just be, "well, if you want to go, then that's OK, but you really don't have to, if you don't want to"? And don't get us started on that Bread and Jam for Frances. Are they TRYING to get our kids addicted to sugar?

    As a matter of fact, we might as well just take the day off and root around in the kids' rooms for all the books that offend us and start drafting our "I demand an apology" letters now. If we find enough that are sue-worthy, we may never have to work again!

    Or, you know ... we could just use a little common sense.

    Using this dad's rubric, what's the most disturbing book on YOUR toddler's shelves?

     

    Image via Amazon


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    surrogateWhen Crystal Reagan went to the hospital for her fourth delivery, she knew she wouldn't be returning to her home with a baby in her arms. But for Reagan, that wasn't what her pregnancy was about, not this time. This time around, the baby in her stomach, the baby she'd talked to and loved, wasn't hers or her husband's. This time, Reagan was acting as a surrogate.

    After being blessed with three beautiful children of her own, the Texas mom known around the Internet for her blog, Simply Being Mommy, had decided it was time to help another woman out there become a mother.

    What makes a mother? It's not a simple question, nor are the answers simple. Not in 2014. Not 36 years after the first so-called test tube baby, Louise Brown, opened motherhood up to women who had long feared they could never become moms.

    Nearly 7.3 million American couples experience infertility, but thanks to in vitro fertilization (IVF), hundreds of thousands of those couples become parents every year. And one of the growing paths to motherhood is third party reproduction, more commonly known as surrogacy. According to the statistics, the number of babies born to gestational surrogates grew 89 percent percent between 2004 and 2008. 

    So who are the women who are "renting" their wombs out to infertile couples? Why would a woman decide to carry another couple's child? With Mother's Day fast approaching, The Stir sat down with Crystal Reagan to talk about what it means to help another woman become a mom.

    The Stir: What made you decide to become a surrogate?

    Crystal Reagan: Over eight years ago, I was sitting in church listening to a woman share her struggle with infertility. I already had two children of my own and it hit me really hard. In those moments, listening to her talk, I leaned over to my husband and told him I wanted to be a surrogate. From there we talked and waited until the timing was right, which was seven years later.

    How did you go about finding the family you were a surrogate for -- or how did they find you?

    I researched surrogacy and decided to go with the help of a local agency here in Texas. I contacted the agency and made an appointment to learn more about their procedures. Eventually I decided to stick with them and filled out what seemed like tons of paperwork. I was required to do some testing to make sure I was healthy and didn't have any STDs or anything that could harm myself or the baby. I also had to do a mental evaluation to make sure I was stable.

    From that point, my profile was put into a database and couples looking for a surrogate could view my profile. Once a couple was interested in me, I would receive a copy of their profile and I could decide if I wanted to pursue it. I met with four different couples for a two-way interview. I didn't feel a peace in my heart with the first three couples, but as soon as I met with the fourth couple, I knew they were the couple I wanted to help.

    Crystal Reagan pregnant surrogate
    What was the conversation like with your husband?

    Pretty simple actually. Like I mentioned earlier, I told him I wanted to do it, and he was fine with it. He was and is my biggest supporter. He knew what it meant to me to be able to be a surrogate, and he fully supported me and helped me along the way.

    Did you tell your kids before or after making the decision?

    We told our children after making the decision. At the time they were 4, 6, and 9.

    How did you tell them?

    We had a book about surrogacy [Surrogacy Helps Make a Family Grow] and we read it to them. After we were done, we let them know that we were going to be like the family in the story and help another couple make their own family.

    Did you have any rules in mind when you decided to go for this?

    I did. I wanted to help someone who had no other options. Meaning, it couldn't be a lady wanting a surrogate because she didn't want stretchmarks. It had to be a true need. I'm also pro-life, so I needed to find a couple who was also pro-life and would not ask me to terminate the pregnancy.

    When you were connected with the couple, how did things work out -- did you sign a contract?

    Yes, there was a contract. Many, many pages of stuff I really didn't understand. But thankfully I had an attorney to guide me through everything.

    So you're pro-life -- were you able to put that in a contract to protect you and the baby? I know other moms worry about that kind of thing -- and understandably so! Is that something you could make sure of, or did you have to just trust these people that they were pro-life too?

    Yes, I was able to put all my terms in the contract. They could not ask me to abort for any reason. I always had the option to abort if my life was in danger, but they couldn't make me.

    How did you actually get pregnant (it's not your egg, right!)?

    Right, it was not my egg. Because of the circumstances, she could not use her own eggs, so it was actually the egg of an egg donor. We had to do IVF to get pregnant. Once the egg donor's egg was fertilized with the sperm of the father, it was placed in a Petri dish to grow for five days. On the fifth day, they chose the strongest embryo and implanted just that one.

    How involved or uninvolved was the couple with your pregnancy?

    They were pretty involved. It was a little bit difficult since they lived in a different state, but they flew in for many of the appointments and we talked and emailed pretty regularly.

    They made it to the hospital in time for the birth, so they were both in the room when their baby was born and the father was able to cut the cord.

    What was it like carrying the baby and knowing this wasn't going to be like your own pregnancies where you'd get to take the baby home?

    During the pregnancy it was easy. I knew my family was complete. I treated this pregnancy like my own pregnancies. Although I knew I wouldn't be taking the baby home with me, I wanted him to feel loved in utero. I didn't want to be so disconnected from the pregnancy for fear of what was ahead.

    More From The Stir:Babies Don't Care How They Were Conceived

    I loved that baby, I sang to that baby, I rubbed his little limbs when he would push against my belly ... I treated him like he was my own. He needed to feel the love of a mother, so that is what I gave him until his own mother had the opportunity to do that.

    What is your relationship like with the couple now?

    We are still in contact and they send over occasional pictures and videos. I can't believe he is already a year old!

    What made it all worth it in the end?

    The feeling of accomplishment. I am the reason there is a little boy who has a mother and father that love him dearly. Without me, that mother and father would have been unable to have a son.

    The moment in the hospital, as I was giving birth to their son, I glanced at them and I'll never forget their faces in that moment. I can only imagine the pain and heartache they endured in their struggle with infertility, but they knew that in that moment, in the hospital room, that their dream had finally come true.

    Would you recommend that other moms do this?

    This is a very hard question to answer because I do not feel like everyone can or should be a surrogate. However, if you feel it in your heart, I definitely think you should do your research to see if it would be a good choice for you.

    What was your path to motherhood?

     

    For more on Crystal's surrogacy journey, and photos of the little boy she helped bring into this world, visit her website.

     

    Images via Crystal Reagan/Simply Being Mommy


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Ashley HebertWhen it comes to finding out the sex of your baby before they're born, Americans are split right down the middle. Half want to keep it a surprise while the other half are all about the immediate gratification. If you're in the latter camp, join the club! Bachelorette star Ashley Hebert and husband J.P. Rosenbaum are members!

    And the reality show couple have come up with a pretty sweet way to let the world in on their big news. Get ready for a sweet ... but simple ... gender reveal that you can DIY in a jiffy!

    Bachelorette Ashley Hebert gender reveal

    How cute is that?

    Some folks go all out for the gender reveal, but let's face it -- that takes time and planning. If you've just found out you're having a little boy (like Ashley) or little girl, the last thing you want to do is hold in the big news for weeks while you pore over Pinterest and plan something epic.

    But it is big enough that it's worth doing a little something special for, right? So why not a big fat bow in the appropriate color and of course your glorious baby bump?

    How long did you wait after finding out your baby's sex before you revealed it to friends and family?

     

    Images via Instagram


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    How to Breastfeed from Just One Side Nature has a funny way of throwing moms curveballs every time they turn around. Take breastfeeding. Most moms have two breasts, and after giving birth, they use them both to feed their babies. But what if you're not most moms? Is it possible to breastfeed from just one breast?

    Turns out, the answer is yes! Called "unilateral breastfeeding," there are a number of reasons a mom might decide to feed baby from just one side.

    Why it happens:

    There are myriad reasons a mom might decide or be forced to decide to breastfeed from just one breast, says Deedee Franke, a registered nurse and certified lactation consultant at Mercy Medical Center. Among them:

    1. A breast reduction or augmentation that has affected the milk ducts on one side.

    2. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or multiple sclerosis -- diseases which can affect milk production.

    3. Breast hypoplasia, or insufficient glandular development of the breast, that affects breast milk ducts.

    4. A history of breast injury or surgery (such as mastectomy).

    5. Radiation to the breast (common with breast cancer survivors).

    6. Baby's preference -- "Sometimes a mom will favor one breast due to more comfort," Franke explains. "Some babies will favor the faster flowing breast and then the mom will put the baby on her favorite breast more."

    How to do it:

    1. Breastfeed often. "To increase breast milk production early on, feeds should be on demand and every two to three hours (about 8 to 12 times per day)," says pediatrician Dr. Jennifer A. Gardner, CEO and founder of the Healthy Kids Company

    2. Watch to see that baby is getting enough to eat. Steady weight gain is a good sign, but Gardner says you don't need to pull out the scale to see if baby isn't getting enough while nursing:

    "Signs a baby is still hungry or not getting enough milk include: fussiness or crying when removed from the breast, baby regularly feeds for 45 minutes or longer, breast remains hard after feed, urine is dark (the color of apple juice or darker), or the baby has reduced urine output (less than 6 heavy diapers a day)," she explains.

    3. Avoid supplementingwith formula (if possible). "Breast milk is made by the supply and demand principle," Franke explains. "The more milk is removed from a breast, more the milk is made. Early supplementation can cause an inadequate milk supply if done for the wrong reason, which occurs often. It also undermines a fragile mom confidence in her own ability to make milk." If your pediatrician suggests formula supplementation, a breast pump can be used to increase your milk production while baby is drinking from the bottle.

    4. Don't give up. It may be hard, but it's not impossible to successfully breastfeed from one side. "Babies can absolutely breastfeed exclusively from one breast," Dr. Gardner says, "After all, twins (and larger sets of multiples) were fed this way before bottle feeding existed."

    Have you ever considered breastfeeding from just one side?

     

    Image via Vladimir Godnik/fstop/Corbis


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    alphabetParenting would be a whole lot easier if we knew from the get-go that we were setting our kids up for a successful life. Sure, you can love them and feed them and clothe them and play with them, but what if there was just ONE thing that made all the difference? Maybe there is. Would you believe it could come down to how you name your baby?

    Sounds pretty far-fetched? Well, you don't have to take our word for it! Psychologists Wijnand A.P. Van Tilburg of the University of Southampton and Eric R. Igou of the University of Limerick have come up with one simple baby naming rule you can't afford to ignore!

    Are you ready for this?

    Give your baby a middle name! Hey, we said it was simple, didn't we?

    According to the study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, when people use their middle initial, it makes people think more highly of you. In other words -- if you give your kid a middle name to use, it will help them get more respect.

    More From The Stir: Name This Couple's Baby & They'll Give $14,000 to Kids in Need

    Now this is some news Rodney Dangerfield coulda used!

    The best part of this study is that it doesn't matter WHAT middle name you give your child -- because it's really just about the first letter. So if you are one of those parents who give their kiddo a "normal" first name but go a little quirky for the second moniker, you're all good. You can still let your freak flag fly a little bit when you're picking the middle name because your kid can hide behind that one consonant or vowel.

    If you're the type of parents who struggled so much over the first name that you've decided it's not worth the fight to come up with a second one, however, might we suggest you get back to the drawing board? Your baby's future is depending on you!

    How are you picking a middle name?

     

    Image via Rob Larsen/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Funny Mother's Day CardEvery year when Mother's Day rolls around, the kids get busy with crayons and scissors and start making mom a Mother's Day card. The results are usually sweet. What's not to love about a little one making something nice for mom? But every mom has that one card that turned out a little ... funny?

    Kids have a way of making us laugh, even when it's unintentional. Take an awkward drawing that may or may not resemble a part of the male anatomy here and throw in some, ahem, questionable misspellings, and handmade Mother's Day cards can have moms rolling.

    More From The Stir: 8 Mother's Day Cards That Tell It Like It REALLY Is (PHOTOS)

    Don't believe us? Here are 14 unintentionally hilarious cards that moms have gotten from their kids on the big day!

    Thirteen sounds awfully familiar, doesn't it?! What is the funniest card you've ever gotten from your child?

     

    Image via Instagram


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Ricki LakeSince her documentary The Business of Being Born took the world by storm in 2008, television host Ricki Lake has become a celebrity voice for natural birth. Now she's back with Breastmilk, a documentary about the period after pregnancy that opens May 7 in theaters. Directed by Dana Ben-Ari, the film tackles the struggles and triumphs of women trying to breastfeed in America.

    And Ricki herself knows from breastfeeding struggles. In an exclusive interview with The Stir, the actress shared what it was like to feel like her body was failing her as she tried to nurse her child, and the extreme lengths she went to to ensure her child got breast milk:

     

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    (If you are having trouble viewing this video via mobile, click here.)

    It's good to hear Ricki acknowledge her own privilege, isn't it? Most moms can't afford to truck in breast milk at those prices! Or have a lactation consultant come to their house!

    More From The Stir: Tips for Breastfeeding When Only 1 Breast 'Works'

    But even more to the point, it's good to hear someone actually talking -- openly -- about their struggles to breastfeed, despite their overwhelming desire to do so. Some moms have it easy; baby latches immediately, there's a good supply, and they have all the support they need and more. But for others, the breastfeeding story is much darker. What Ricki, partner Abby Epstein, and Ben-Ari seem to be doing is shining a light where moms most need it.

    What was your biggest breastfeeding struggle? How did you mount the hurdle?

     


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Jenna HinmanSome sad news today. A military mom who gained national attention when she was diagnosed with a rare cancer that is linked to pregnancy has died. Jenna Hinman had been battling choriocarcinoma, a cancer that starts in the placenta, since mid-March when she delivered twin daughters Kinleigh and Azlyn prematurely via C-section.

    Hinman's cancer was already stage 3 by the time it was caught at the time of delivery, so even as her newborns were rushed to a NICU where doctors could care for the preemies, the new mom was placed in a medically-induced coma as doctors battled the cancer. Before dying, the 26-year-old got to see her little girls just one time.

    Just one time.

    Heartbreaking.

    Jenna leaves behind not just her little girls -- who are thriving -- but her husband, Army Sgt. Brandon Hinman. While people around the world send their support to upstate New York's Fort Drum, where Brandon is stationed, this sad story is also shining a light on just what choriocarcinoma is and how it can steal a mom away from her babies so quickly.

    Apparently this type of cancer is not always fatal -- in fact, the National Institutes of Health estimate about 70 percent of women who have a poor outlook at first go into remission -- but it is extremely fast growing. No surprise when you consider it starts in the womb, where babies grow rather rapidly, right?

    Moms are at a more heightened risk when the condition has gone on for four months or more, if the disease has spread to other organs, or if the choriocarcinoma occurs after a pregnancy that resulted in the birth of a child.

    What should moms look out for? Again, Hinman's case is extremely rare, but moms who have had what's called a hydatidiform mole, or a mass in their womb, should be carefully monitored. Other signs are more nebulous -- irregular bleeding and pain -- but there ARE signs.

    Nothing will bring Jenna Hinman back to her husband and her little girls, but as folks donate to help cover the family's medical expenses and pile onto their Facebook page with prayers, hopefully they'll also take a moment to spread the word ... to save another mother's life.

    Had you ever heard of this cancer?

     

    Image via Go Fund Me


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