Betsi and Tod Waldron with their daughter, Emily. This photo was taken after Betsi completed her treatment for breast cancer in 2013.
(Photo: Emily Waldron)
March 30, 2015

Couple Faces Cancer Again After Nearly Four Decades

Nearly forty years after Tod Waldron was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma as freshman at the U of I, he says the most difficult part was talking about his cancer with his girlfriend (now wife), Betsi and his parents.“I was pretty nonchalant about it at the time, because I just didn’t know enough,” said Tod, “but my parents were from a generation that didn’t discuss cancer.

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November 15, 2013

China Reforms: One-Child Policy To Be Relaxed

China is to relax its policy of restricting most couples to have only a single child, state media say.

In future, families will be allowed two children if one parent is an only child, says the Xinhua news agency.

The one-child policy already exempts rural dwellers and ethnic minorities.

The move comes after this week's meeting of a key decision-making body of the governing Communist Party. Other reforms include the abolition of "re-education through labour" camps.

The BBC's Celia Hatton, in Beijing, says most of these changes have already been tested in parts of the country.

Officials announce their plans well in advance to gain the consensus they need, she adds.

The network of camps created half a century ago holds thousands of inmates.

Police panels have the power to sentence offenders to years in camps without a trial.

China's leaders have previously said they wanted to reform the system.

The decision to do away with the camps was "part of efforts to improve human rights and judicial practices", Xinhua said.

Reforms

The Third Plenum of the Communist Party under President Xi Jinping, who took power last year, also announced plans for economic reform.

Traditionally reforms are expected from the Third Plenum, because new leaders are seen as having had time to consolidate power.

Other reforms announced on Friday include a reduction in the number of crimes subject to the death penalty.

On Tuesday, when the meeting ended, China's leaders promised the free market would play a bigger role, and farmers would have greater property rights over their land.

The one-child policy would be "adjusted and improved step by step to promote 'long-term balanced development of the population in China'", Xinhua said, quoting a Communist Party statement released on Friday.

China introduced its one-child policy at the end of the 1970s to curb rapid population growth.

It has on the whole been strictly enforced, though some exceptions already exist, including for ethnic minorities.

In some cities, both parents must be only children in order to be allowed to have a second child.

In the countryside, families are allowed to have two children if the first is a girl.

Rights groups say the law has meant some women being coerced into abortions, which Beijing denies.

The traditional preference for boys has also created a gender imbalance as some couples opt for sex-selective abortions.

By the end of the decade, demographers say China will have 24 million "leftover men" who, because of China's gender imbalance, will not be able to find a wife.

Most of the elderly in China are still cared for by relatives, and only children from single-child parents face what is known as the 4-2-1 phenomenon.

When the child reaches working age, he or she could have to care for two parents and four grandparents in retirement.

After decades of population growth, China's working-age population has recently begun to shrink. By 2050, more than a quarter of the population will be over 65.


Stay at home father Jonathan Heisey-Grove
(Kainaz Amaria/NPR)
May 15, 2013

Stay-At-Home Dads, Breadwinner Moms And Making It All Work

The next time you see a father out shopping with his kids, you might need to check your assumptions.

"I'll get the, 'Oh, look, it's a dad! That's so sweet!' "says Jonathan Heisey-Grove, a stay-at-home father of two young boys in Alexandria, Va., who is pretty sure the other person assumes he's just giving Mom a break for the day. In fact, he's part of a growing number of fathers who are minding the kids full time while their wives support the family and who say societal expectations are not keeping up with their reality.

He and his wife, Dawn, a public health analyst, didn't exactly plan for Jonathan to be a stay-at-home parent to Egan, 5, and Zane, who's 4 months old. The Heisey-Groves were both working full time when he lost his job as a graphic designer two years ago. That also ended the company day care. Dawn says Jonathan stayed home at first just to save money on child care.

"And suddenly the world just became much calmer and quieter. Egan wasn't as upset and he wasn't as tense anymore. And our relationship, even though we were stressed about not having money, we weren't rushing around when both of us got home. And so, it was just a happier place," she says.

Dawn was surprised — and happy — to discover two colleagues whose husbands are also stay-at-home fathers. But she does feel like she's missing out sometimes.

"I showed up for the preschool graduation, and they all looked at me like, 'Who are you?' And I kind of felt like the bad mom moment. Like, he's got the Dad of the Year award, and I'm kind of sitting on the sidelines a little bit," she says.

Mostly, the Heisey-Groves and others say they are doing what works best for them to create happy lives for their children. And they hope to change long entrenched attitudes about the proper role of mothers and fathers.

The Heisey-Groves' arrangement is still an outlier. The Census Bureau finds that about 3.5 percent of stay-at-home parents are fathers, though that's doubled in a decade. But Stephanie Coontz of the Council on Contemporary Families calls the figure vastly underreported. It doesn't include the many fathers who do some work yet are their children's primary caregivers, a trend that cuts across class and income.

"Men today are now reporting higher levels of work-family conflict than women are," Coontz says. They feel "not just pressure, but the desire to be more involved in family life and child care and housework and cooking. And at the same time, all of the polls are showing that women are now just as likely as men to say that they want to have challenging careers."

This is all evident at a place where Jonathan has found camaraderie — a daddy's playgroup in Arlington, Va., part of a national support network.

"I didn't want to be the dad who was never around," says the host, Mark Bildner, who's been home with his children for five years. He chose to leave an all-consuming job in the tech industry and is proud that his decision has allowed his wife to advance.

"She took a position at her company that involved a lot of travel, last-minute work, late nights and so forth," he says. "And I have some understanding of how it feels to be in that position, so I try to be as supportive as I can."

For others, the decision over who stays home with the kids is an economic one. Coontz points out that 28 percent of women now outearn their husbands, a trend driven by the fact that more women than men now earn college degrees.

We put out a Facebook query looking for breadwinner wives and stay-at-home fathers, and many of the hundreds who replied report being happy with their "role reversal." But others say it can be tough on a relationship, and some wrote of the challenge of reshaping their personal notion of self-worth and in bucking social norms.

A few excerpts:

  •     David Patrick in Grapevine, Texas, writes that on his third date with his now wife, Monica, she asked if he'd ever considered being a stay-at-home father. He was a struggling actor who'd worked waiting tables and in sales, and his answer was, "Yes!" Today, he stays home with their two young girls, and Monica is an OB-GYN. "In her practice of six doctors (all women) only two of the husbands are currently employed outside the home," Patrick writes. "Monica's father was a doctor, and her mother was a homemaker, so my mother-in-law and I joke about how hard it is to be a doctor's wife. I love it."
  •     Chris Bublik of Orlando, Fla., has been a full-time father for six years and writes that he's grateful to be able to shape his children's lives this way. "But there are real impacts to us as men," he writes, "impacts that none of us expected as we reveled in those first few months of sweats and grubby t-shirts, and not shaving...and the 4:30 dash to clean up the house so our wives won't think we're completely useless (you stay-at-home daddies know exactly what I mean). Feelings of inferiority, loss of self-esteem, self-respect."
  •     Alison Gary of Greenbelt, Md., writes that her husband, Karl, has been home with their daughter for four years. "His friends think he has nothing to do all day and want to come over and party on federal holidays, and find him lame when he's too tired to hang out on a Friday night. I received some pushback as well. ... I even had a fellow mom tell me she couldn't believe I trusted my husband with my daughter all day."

So what of that notion — that so heats up the blogosphere — that women are somehow better equipped to tend to hearth and home? "I don't buy that at all," says sociologist Coontz.

She says for 150 years both men and women have been trained to fulfill certain, distinct roles and to explicitly not be responsible for others. Spotting dirt on the floor? Changing a diaper? "As long as a woman is going to be there doing it, and actually, often telling him how to do it better, why should he learn to do it?" Coontz says. "We really have to make an effort to let the other person succeed at something they've never done before and to give them the chance to get comfortable with it."

Coontz says for generations, children have been conditioned early for their respective gender roles — boys, for example, have been discouraged when they express interest in cooking or dolls. ("And they all do," Coontz says, "especially when dads are not looking. We've done studies on that!")

So perhaps it's fitting to close with this reply to NPR's Facebook query on stay-at-home fathers. Katie Shell writes: "My son wants to be one when he grows up."

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Baby Clementine, daughter of Rebecca Butler and Tom Sheehan of Champaign.
(Kimberlie Kranich/WILL)
January 11, 2013

As US Home Births Increase, Options for Illinois Women Limited

Last January, statistics released by the National Center for Health Statistics showed home births in the United States jumped 29 percent between 2004 and 2009. In recent years, an average of 30,000 babies, or 1 percent of all babies, are born at home.  And year to year, the number of home births is increasing. In Illinois, women’s home birth options are severely limited.

When Rebecca Butler, 34, became pregnant with her third child, she was determined to have the baby at home, in Champaign, with her husband, Tom. 
"I couldn’t find a midwife," Butler said. "I somehow connected with the home birth group here in Champaign and there were like five of us and one midwife who was working this entire area and she’s no longer around here."

Rebecca and Tom’s baby girl, Clementine, was born on their living room floor.  Tom delivered her successfully.  No midwife was present.

"I don’t recommend that for everyone," Butler said.  "You know, I recommend whatever feels right to people, but an unassisted birth is not for the faint of heart, I don’t think." 

Abbey Fish, 27, gave birth to two of her three children at home on her and husband Mike’s 1,800 acre farm in Towanda. Scarlett, their youngest, was born last year. 

"The happiest moment of the birth of Scarlett was that I was able to share it with my closest friends and family," Fish said.

Amy Russell, 29, of Bloomington, had her first child by Cesarean section at her local hospital in Bloomington.  The birth was difficult and she was in counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder afterwards. Her second child was delivered vaginally with no drugs at the same hospital.  For their third child, Katie, Amy and husband Ben decided to have a home birth with the assistance of a nurse midwife team.

"And it was just so calm, even in the way I felt internally," Russell said. "I just felt at peace with what we were doing. I wasn’t scared. There was no anxiety.  You just felt like this is the right thing to do for our family.  And it’s just incredible."

All three mothers’ frightful experiences during hospital births inspired them to find alternatives. They learned about home birth, found others who had tried it, and then sought out a midwife.

At first, Amy’s husband Ben was skeptical. He thought it was irresponsible to have a baby at home.

"I think that’s a lot of people’s knee jerk reaction," Ben Russell said. "But the more I educated myself about it, did research about it, the more I started to see that some of the statistics say that it’s safer if have the properly trained medical staff at home."

Fear plays a large role in childbirth in the United States. Advocates of home birth and hospital birth use different statistics to support their notion of what’s safest for mother and child.

Midwife-supported home birth advocates often cite a large study published in the British Medical Journal in 2005 that found newborn death rates in home births were comparable to those in hospitals. Hospital-birth advocates often cite medical opinions about home birth such as the one issued in 2011 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists which states, in part, that "published medical evidence shows it [planned home births] does carry a two-to-three-fold increase in the risk of newborn death compared with planned hospital births."

These differing perspectives impact a woman’s birthing options.

Amy and Ben Russell of Towanda welcome their daughter, Katie, who was delivered at home with a certified nurse midwife.While planned home births in Illinois are lawful, the only people legally allowed to deliver babies are medical doctors and certified nurse midwives. Nurse midwives are only able to attend home births if they have a written collaborative agreement with a physician.  Only a handful of physicians in Illinois are willing to sign those agreements.

The result: certified nurse midwives, including those in Illinois, don’t deliver very many babies at home. According to the American College of Nurse Midwives, about one percent of certified nurse midwives in the U-S deliver babies at home.

Dr. Jacques Abramowicz is chair of the Illinois section of the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, or ACOG.  He says ACOG is not in favor of home birth delivery by certified nurse midwives.

"I understand that women want to have home births, and who am I to tell them you can’t have a home birth? The only issue is they need to be made very clearly aware that we don’t think it is a safe option," Abramowicz said, "because of the acuity of something bad when it happens. When the woman is pregnant, you have one patient. Once the baby is delivered, you have two patients. And if something goes wrong with the baby and the mother at the same time, which happens, the mother starts bleeding, the baby stops breathing, well, whom do you take care of? I think the main advantage of the hospital from that standpoint is you have a whole team. So I think that certified nurse midwives knowing that, I can’t speak for them, but I think their thought process is, I really don’t want to be placed in that situation."

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, for every 1,000 live births in Illinois in 2009</a>, 69 died while being born.  2009 is the latest year in which statistics were available.  The maternal death rate for the same year is much lower, about 30 mothers for every 10,000 died while giving birth. These deaths are not broken down by hospital or home.

Though no one has data to compare the safety of hospital births to midwife-assisted home births in Illinois, advocates want more legal options for mothers-to-be to make the home birthing experience as safe as possible.

"The demand is high," says Michelle Breen of the Coalition for Illinois Midwifery, an advocacy group seeking to ensure access to licensed home birth professionals for all women in Illinois.  She says there are licensed providers in fewer than 10 of Illinois’ 102 counties.

"Most of these women are birthing under undesirable circumstances," Breen said.  "They’re birthing with an unlicensed provider, or they’re birthing unassisted without any provider at all, or they actually might be traveling. Sometimes they’re traveling while they’re in labor to a neighboring state to deliver the baby in a hotel room."

The Coalition for Illinois Midwifery would like to see the state of Illinois license certified professional midwives or CPMs, just like they do certified-nurse midwives. 

The midwife who delivered baby Scarlett at Abbey and Mike’s home in Towanda was a certified professional midwife, a specially trained practitioner in delivery outside the hospital.   She was breaking the law because Illinois doesn’t recognize her credentials. Currently, 26 states use the certified professional midwife credential set by the North American Registry of Midwives as the basis for licensing. The CPM is the only international credential that requires knowledge about and experience in out-of-hospital birth. But certified professional midwives need not be nurses. And since they’re not legally recognized in Illinois, finding one can be a challenge.

Dr. Abramowicz said the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists does not support the licensing of certified professional midwives here in Illinois because "the standards for education and licensing and scope of practice is minimal and completely insufficient."

According to Breen, "there’s not a single state that has ever rescinded licensure once it’s been established. Twenty-six states rely on this credential to ascertain whether a midwife is qualified to care for women delivering in homes."

Decades-long efforts to legalize CPM supervised home births, opposed by the Illinois State Medical Society and other medical organizations, have repeatedly stalled in Springfield.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Public Health told us they have no position on home births nor have they conducted any studies. They are, however, concerned about the percentage of Cesarean deliveries at Illinois hospitals, which jumped from less than 20 percent in 1997 to more than 30 percent a decade later, according to a report issued by the Department in 2009.  The Centers for Disease Control wants that number to be no higher than 15 percent for low risk first-time births.

Abbey and Mike Fish at home in Towanda.Dr. Abramowicz believes Illinois doctors may perform so many C-sections out of fear of litigation.

"The major reason, unfortunately," he said, "is the legal aspect of medicine. Particularly for obstetrics, there are a lot of lawsuits because a physician delayed a C-section because the baby was born with some distress or brain damage, which is attributed to not monitoring labor well enough or delaying delivery or delaying a C-section. And because of that utmost fear, the physicians tend to say, ‘Well, I don’t want to take a risk."

And it’s that risk of C-sections and other medical interventions, and the experience of not being in the driver’s seat, that lead some women to choose home births with midwife-directed care.

Amy Russell of Bloomington preferred working with her certified nurse midwife at home.

"She’s able to look for the signs that could be trouble, but she’s not waiting for there to be trouble. I just felt this peace with what we were doing," Russell said.  "I wasn’t scared. There was no anxiety in this, you just felt like this is the right thing to do for our family."

When it comes to delivering babies, Dr. Abramowicz says doctors at hospitals do one thing particularly well: handle emergencies.

"And the reason I say that is very often, if everything goes well, there is no complication, the baby is not too big for that particular pelvis, the mother can deliver by herself  in the field as it is done in some areas and everything can go well," he said.  "But, if something does not go well, if something goes sour, it goes sour very, very, very quick and very, very, very bad."

As long as the medical and midwifery models of birthing remain mostly disconnected from each other – women in Illinois wanting home births will be forced to make choices under less-than-ideal conditions.  And given a choice between a hospital or home birth, the families we spoke to said they’d opt for the home birth. 

"From our first experience at the hospital, it was so scary and unpredictable, and we just felt so out of control," said Abbey Fish, the mother from Towanda who chose to use a certified professional midwife unlicensed in Illinois. "I feel like we have done so much work just to make our own decisions and they’ve turned out to be such great experiences and they’ve changed the way we’ve parented."


Amy and Ben Russell of Towanda welcome their daughter, Katie, who was delivered at home with a certified nurse midwife.
(Kimberlie Kranich/WILL)
January 03, 2013

After C-section, Bloomington Couple Opts for Home Birth

After having a traumatic Cesarean section delivery of her first child, Parker, in 2008, 29-year-old Amy Russell of Bloomington, a farm manager at Soy Capital, was in counseling for posttraumatic stress disorder.  She rebounded and got connected with a local chapter of the International Cesarean Awareness Network when expecting baby number two, a girl named Rachel.  Rachel was a successful vaginal birth born in the hospital in 2010.

Amy’s experience of natural childbirth gave her and husband Ben, 31, who works at Country Financial, the confidence to pursue a home birth for their third child, Katie. They were able to secure the services of a certified nurse midwife to assist them at home, and a doctor was on-call ready to receive them at the hospital should anything go wrong.

Amy’s water broke at home.  She and Ben waited for the contractions to come.  Twenty-two hours later they were still waiting and now they were worried that they might have to go to the hospital.  But their midwife suggested using castor oil and other natural techniques.  Amy’s contractions finally began four hours later.  Katie was born in good health in the couple’s tub at home after five-and-a-half hours of labor.

Amy and Ben interview each other, in StoryCorps style, about their experience giving birth at home.


Abbey and Mike Fish at home in Towanda.
(Kimberlie Kranich/WILL)
January 02, 2013

Home Birth is Planned Gathering of Friends & Family for Towanda Couple

When 27-year-old Abbey Fish of Towanda had her first baby, Shane, in 2007, she didn’t know much about birth. Like most women, she went to the hospital to deliver. There she was given an epidural to ease her pain and the drug Pitocin to induce labor. All common hospital practices. After Shane was born, she did not see him for 12 hours because he was considered distressed.

Abbey thought there had to be a better way. She wanted to have a natural birth. So she and husband Mike, 32, who farms 1,800 acres of corn and soy beans, researched home birth. They hired a doula, or labor coach, and searched for a midwife. In Illinois, only certified nurse midwives (CNM) and doctors can legally deliver babies at home. The only two CNMs in the region were not available. And so they hired a certified professional midwife who is specially trained in delivery outside the hospital. Certified professional midwives can practice legally in 27 states. Illinois isn’t one of them.

Abbey says that having a home birth and working with a midwife throughout her pregnancy was a “different world” -- from the pre-natal care and education about birth to the actual delivery -- and one she and Mike prefer to hospital pre-natal care and delivery. Abbey’s second son, Carson, was born at home in 2010 as was her third child, daughter Scarlett, in 2012.

Abbey and Mike interview each other, in StoryCorps style, about their experience giving birth to Scarlett surrounded by their friends and family at home.


Baby Clementine, daughter of Rebecca Butler and Tom Sheehan of Champaign.
(Kimberlie Kranich/WILL)
January 01, 2013

Champaign Dad Delivers Daughter in Planned Home Birth with Help from Internet

Rebecca Butler, 34, and Tom Sheehan, 50, of Champaign wanted their daughter, Clementine, to be born at home. Rebecca's two other daughters, Sage and Lotus, were hospital births. Both were stressful and out-of-control experiences for Rebecca.

Rebecca and Tom connected with a local home birth group and hired a certified professional midwife who provided them with prenatal care. They knew prior to Clementine's birth that she was facing forward instead of facing backward. Clementine needed help getting into the right position in the birth canal. So Tom got on the Internet and with help from the website, spinningbabies.com, spun Clementine around and delivered her on the couple's living room floor on June 23, 2011.

Click on the link below to hear Tom and Rebecca interview each other, in StoryCorps style, about their experience giving birth at home.


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