Dads, (and moms, too) learn to do your daughter’s hair with these easy steps

Oh, dads, we feel your pain. It’s time to get your daughter ready for school, her hair is a hot mess, and you’re not sure what to do with it. Even the ponytail, which seems simple, just isn’t.

Jessica Tellez pulls Ashlynn Bradley’s hair into a ponytail at Urban Betty Salon. Deborah Cannon/For American-Statesman photos

Urban Betty Salon hair stylist Jessica Tellez is teaching a daddy/daughter hair styling class. She’s starting what she calls the 101 class: that’s ponytails and buns. Pigtails and braids are more complicated, and she’ll save those for the 2.0 class. Here are the basics on creating ponytails and buns.

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Basic ponytail

1. Spray a detangler such as Bumble and Bumble Prep Primer on the hair.

2. Use a Wet Brush, which can be used on wet hair or dry hair, to brush out thehair. The Wet Brush is made to not hurt.

3. Start at the bottom of the hair and brush to the end, then go higher up the hair and brush to the end. Take it at a section at a time until everything is detangled.

4. Pull the hair into a ponytail by combing underneath, then supporting the bottom. Brush the top of the hair while holding the bottom in a ponytail to smooth out the top.

5. Hold the hair with one hand. With the other hand, use two fingers to spread the ponytail holder.

6. Hold the ponytail holder over the ponytail and grab the ponytail with that hand. With the other hand, pull the ponytail holder over the ponytail to its bottom side and pull the ponytail through. Continue to keep a tight grip on the hair with the top hand.

7. Twist the holder and pull the hair through again and again. Be sure to hold the ponytail with the other hand until the hair is secured by the holder.

8. If you mess up, remove the holder, brush the bottom of the ponytail, the sides and then the top again, and repeat steps 5-7.

ALSO IN PARENTING: Wendy Mogel wants to teach you how to talk to your kids

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Basic high ponytail on ethnic hair

1. Spray a detangler, conditioner such as Bumble and Bumble Invisible Oil Primer, on the hair.

2. Comb out the hair.

3. Use only the side of the Wet Brush to move the hair into place and move the primer through the hair. Brush underneath and the sides and then the top.

4. Move the hair into a ponytail, holding the base of the hair. The hair will naturally stay where you have placed it, but it’s still a good idea to hold onto the ponytail you are forming with one hand.

Stylist Jessica Tellez pulls Josephine Pitts’s hair into a top ponytail at Urban Betty Salon on Friday, March 23, 2018. Deborah Cannon /For AMERICAN-STATESMAN

5. With the other hand, use two fingers to spread the ponytail holder.

6. Hold the ponytail holder over the ponytail and grab the ponytail with that hand. With the other hand, pull the ponytail holder top piece over the ponytail to its bottom and pull the ponytail through. Continue to keep a tight grip on the hair.

7. Twist the holder and pull the hair through again and again. Be sure to hold the ponytail with the other hand until the hair is secured by the holder.

Josephine Pitts shows off her top ponytail at Urban Betty Salon on Friday, March 23, 2018. Deborah Cannon /For AMERICAN-STATESMAN

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Bun

1. Create a ponytail using the steps above.

2. Secure it with a holder.

3. Add more primer to the hair to give you more grip.

4. Twist the hair by holding the ponytail at the end and turning it hand over hand until it is all twisted throughout.

5. Twist the hair around itself like a coiled snake against the head.

6. Lock it into place by using bobby pins. Grab the side of a coil at the top and stick it into the hair. Grab another pin and go through the side until they lock in place.

7. Continue to alternate pins in a crisscross shape until you feel the bun is secure.

Tips:

Brush hair every night and have your daughter sing “Happy Birthday” three times while doing it to make sure you are doing it enough.

Use shampoo only at the scalp. Use conditioner at the ends. Make sure all of it gets rinsed out.

When brushing, start with the bottom layer of the hair. Put the top layers in a clip on the top of the head to get them out of the way. Once you get the first layer, add another layer, brush it out, then another, until all the hair is smooth.

Daddy/Daughter Hair Class

When: 10 a.m. April 21

Where: Urban Betty Salon, 1206 W. 38th St., Suite 1107

Tickets: $75, technically sold out but contact the salon if you’re interested in a future class

Information: urbanbetty.com, 512-371-7663

 

Reading, playing with your children could reduce hyperactivity, aggression and more, study finds

Need another reason to read and play with your babies and toddlers? A study out of New York followed children from birth to age three and then assessed them at age 4 1/2, about a year and a half after they were part of a reading program. Their parents were given Reach Out and Read tools to help them read and play with their children. Then a subset were video taped and given pointers on how to better interact with their babies and toddlers.

Reading to your children could reduce hyperactivity, aggression and more. Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman 2012

Those children whose parents were video taped and given pointers had 69 percent less hyperactivity. They also had less problems with aggression and internalizing problems.

The New York group also studied giving the Reach Out and Read program and video component to children who were age three to five. Like their counterparts who had been enrolled in the program at a younger age, those children also had less aggression and internalizing problems, but they didn’t see as much hyperactivity reduction.

The study is in the April edition of “Pediatrics,” the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Parents, you don’t know how to talk to your kids, but Wendy Mogel wants to teach you how

Parents, we talk a lot to our kids. Do we talk too much? Do we talk in the right way? About the right things? Are they even listening to us?

If you’ve ever wondered those questions or found yourself yelling at your kid, Los Angeles psychologist Wendy Mogel, answers those questions in her new book “”Voice Lessons for Parents: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Listen.” ($27, Simon & Schuster).

Her answer to the first three questions, is “no.” The last one, is a definite “yes.”

Mogel is best known for her books “The Blessings of a Skinned Knee” and “The Blessing of a B Minus,” books that talked about letting your kid fail and embracing those failures as fantastic life lessons.

Dr. Wendy Mogel has written “Voice Lessons for Parents.” Amy Dickerson

This new book came out of coaching parents for the past decade and asking them to re-enact their moments of frustration with their children.

“These are adults who in their lives are articulate, calm and authoritative,” she says. “They are really good at communicating. When they talk to their kids, their voices would rise in pitch, their tone would become indignant. Their shoulders would hunch up to their ears, and they would start pointing and shaking their fingers. I watched them losing their authority.”

To Mogel, it sounded more like the way siblings talk to one another, not how parents should be talking to their children. They are giving their kids power, and it’s not a good power; it’s a scary power for their children, she says.

Today’s parents, when they are not losing their cool and yelling at their kids, are also trying to use logic and reasoning rather than just tell their kids what the boundaries are.

Parents are not going to win an argument based on logic, she says, in part because kids have changed. “Our children are more verbally sophisticated and articulate than any generation of kids have ever been,” she says.

Girls are powerful, little attorneys starting at age 4, and boys by about a year and a half later, she says.

“Parents are acting like a bad public relations firm,” she says. “They are trying to sell her on ideas, as if a child would say, ‘Gee, Mom, I hadn’t seen it this way. Thank you so much for the important context and telling me about the potential damaging consequences.'”

When Mogel coaches parents, she tells them to say a lot less. Keep the first sentence, which tells the kid what went wrong or restates what the child is asking for, and keep the last sentence, which tells the child what the consequence is for their action or your answer to their question. “Let’s cut out the whole middle part,” she says.

“Voice Lessons for Parents” by Wendy Mogel.

When we talk too much to our kids, our kids become “parent deaf,” as she calls it. They stop listening. They stop accepting the answer. They keep asking until you change your mind or they start insulting you until you bend, she says.

The way kids communicate and need to receive communication changes over time and is also different by gender. That doesn’t mean that every girl or every boy is the same way. Mogel knows she’s making generalizations, but there are some differences in gender that she’s found as she’s studied this.

For example, teenage boys stop talking to parents. Teenage girls won’t stop talking.

And parents react. They fear that there is something very wrong with their sons who aren’t talking or filling out basic paperwork to go to college. They think they need to fix every problem their daughter mentions or worry that this up and down roller coaster of emotions will be the norm into adulthood.

Parents are both afraid of their teens and afraid for them, Mogel says. “Parents take a snapshot and mistake it for the epic movie of their life,” she says.

It’s as if parents believe that their children are set in amber and don’t change. But kids are always changing. Take the feminist who is raising a daughter who loves pink and purple. Wait a few years and she’ll have a daughter who only wears olive green and black and has shaved the side of her head, Mogel says.

“It’s all a phase,” Mogel says. “The good stuff is a phase; the bad stuff is a phase.”

Yet, parents fret, and they share that worry with their children. Instead, Mogel would love parents to have a hobby — something for themselves. And she would love for parents to start their children on chores from the time they are little.

“They can’t pay rent or the mortgage and they can’t drive, but there are a lot of things they can do that you are doing for them,” Mogel says. “It makes you tired, it makes you resentful and you won’t have patience.”

You also won’t have the good conversations you’re craving.

Children might evoke this feeling of disdain toward their parents, but what Mogel knows, based on interviewing many middle- and high-schoolers, is that children really love their parents, and they appreciate them, too.

They talk to her about the sweet things their parents do, but they’ll never acknowledge those things to their parents. A big part of this is what the mission of puberty is (aside from all that biological stuff). It’s to separate from parents, to become individuals, to become adults. And that’s where the tension is. “They are not going to go from Little Buddy to Junior Statesman and skip adolescence,” Mogel says.

Instead of worrying what your kids say to you and act around you, Mogel would rather parents focus on how kids act around other people. Are they respectful to their teachers, kind to their friends, good with younger kids, are they courteous to servers at restaurants? If so, your kids are good human beings.

Parents become the brunt of kids’ attitude because our kids are exhausted by their schedule of school, extra curriculars and social events, she says. All day long they are having to switch from interpreting the code of their teachers, their peers, their friends, and navigate that code. Then they get home to you, and “they don’t have much emotional fuel left,” Mogel says. They don’t want to talk. “And then we ask them about their day,” she says.

Can you imagine, Mogel says, if someone asked us about our day and expected us to go through a play-by-play of what we did all day? “The girls will be irritated and will give you the scary news report and the boys won’t say anything,” she says.

Even younger kids recognize that you, the parent, are just trolling for things to worry about. Parents constantly are comparing their children to what they think every other kid in that school has experienced that day.

Just like kids, parents play into the false sense of what’s normal through the lens of what fellow parents are posting on social media or presenting in public. Really no one is telling you that their child likes to eat glue or skipped out of school or is failing math.

Kids will talk to their parents in meaningful ways, but they will do it when their parents are least expecting it. It happens when you are going through the drive-through because they have an appreciation for you that you are procuring something they want, and they do it when you’re loading the dishwasher, because they know that all of your concentration isn’t on them, she says. Parents become less threatening.

Mogel tells parents to ask themselves to WAIT: Why Am I Talking? If it’s just to fill the conversation void, stop.

Also parents should: Show up, Suit Up and Shut up. Be present, be ready and see the paragraph above.

With boys, you can get them to talk. You just have to show interest in the things they are interested in and stop nagging. Stop telling him to pick up his clothes off the floor. Stop giving him lectures about his future. Instead, be interested in the stuff they know and provide the platform to share that with you.

“You get to go on a journey with them if you stop judging every single utterance and weighing in,” Mogel says.

Boys also need you in ways that girls don’t. With girls, usually they have friends that they can talk to about heartbreaks. With boys, that’s not something that they will share with friends. That macho etiquette is still alive and well.

As the parent, you get to share the hurt, but you can’t immediately leap into wanting to fix it. That’s true for younger kids as well. One interesting thing Mogel noticed was that kids, especially younger kids in larger families, will immediately leap to telling their parents about someone being mean to them because they know they can get attention and that their parents will immediately use the “B” word — bully — and want to fix that for their children.

Don’t take that bait unless it becomes a clear pattern, and it’s more than just a mean word or gesture.

Mogel reminds that it’s also OK not to have a conversation with your child if you’re not ready. It’s OK to say, “I need to think about this.” “I’m not ready to talk about this right now.” “I will give you an answer tomorrow.”

That’s a better scenario than snapping to a decision or losing your cool and starting the lecture.

As the kids Mogel has spoken to before she meets with their parents tell her: “Please tell my parents to chill, to chillax.”

Are your embryos safe? How fertility center in Austin keeps tissues viable after tanks at two centers fail

This month, two fertility  facilities acknowledged that their storage systems have failed. Pacific Fertility Clinic in San Francisco said that there had been a liquid nitrogen failure in one of its tanks holding thousands of eggs and embryos. In Cleveland, University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center announced that a storage tank holding 2,000 eggs and embryos had suddenly heated up, damaging its contents.

Tanks at Ovation Fertility are closely monitored to make sure they are kept at the right temperature.
American-Statesman

The news is heartbreaking. People count on these fertility banks to store what could become their future children. It made us wonder: Are people in Austin at risk for losing their eggs and embryos? We talked to Tex VerMilyea, laboratory and operations director for Ovation Fertility, the lab attached to Texas Fertility Center.

The news, he said, caused Ovation Fertility to re-evaluate its systems, and once more is known about what happened in the cases in San Francisco and Cleveland, more re-evaluation will be done.

“This is the worse nightmare of anyone in the field,” VerMilyea said. “It’s a wake up call to make sure we are being diligent.”

RELATED: New research done in Austin helping women get pregnant and stay pregnant

Right now, at the facility, each cryotank where eggs, embryos and sperm are stored records a temperature every five minutes. If there’s any fluctuation above five degrees, it triggers an alarm tree that notifies VerMilyea, the facility manager and the supervisor. Every day VerMilyea receives a report of what the temperatures have been in each tank for the last 24 hours. Ovation Fertility also inspects the tanks daily to look for condensation, which would point out that the vacuum seal around the tank is failing. The tanks are topped off with more liquid nitrogen once a week.

The tanks Ovation Fertility use submerge the tissue in liquid nitrogen, rather than using just some liquid nitrogen and allowing the vapor from the nitrogen to do the cooling. The tanks are set to be -196 Celsius, with an alarm sounding at -191 Celsius. If the tank used vapor, the temperature inside would be between -180 and -140 Celsius. -139 is when cells start to degrade.  Some facilities use the vapor method because there is a theoretical risk of contamination using liquid only and vapor is cheaper. VerMilyea said because Ovation Fertility uses the liquid method, if something did happen, they would have time to move the embryos, egg and sperm to another tank before the tank hit -139 Celsius. We don’t yet know whether the tanks in San Francisco and Cleveland used 100 percent liquid nitrogen or some liquid and some vapor.

Labs also have to plan for what happens if there is a loss of power, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires and more.

Theoretically, tissue stored at the correct temperature could last indefinitely. Recently, a 25-year-old woman gave birth using an embryo that was a year younger than herself.

RELATED: IF INFERTILITY IS NOW A DISEASE, WHY DOESN’T INSURANCE COVER IT?

RELATED: MOTHER SHEDS LIGHT ON DARK TIMES OF MISCARRIAGE

RELATED: TWO WOMEN AND THE BABY THEY MADE TOGETHER

RELATED: WHEN THE NEXT STEP IS A SURROGATE, EGG DONOR

RELATED: WANT TO GET PREGNANT? COULD YOUR WEIGHT BE HOLDING YOU BACK?

 

 

 

 

 

Does ibuprofen cause infertility in men?

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States seems to indicate that taking ibuprofen will lower the amount of testosterone a man produces. That might be true, but then people have taken  it one step farther to say that the decrease in testosterone leads to infertility.

Dr. Lisa Hansard of Texas Fertility Center says making that assumption “is a big stretch.” What the study needed to look at to determine fertility levels is sperm count.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

What the ibuprofen did is lower the luteinizing hormone level in these men. LH sparks testosterone production, but often when one level is low, the body will compensate by raising another hormone level, Hansard says.

“It’s really reaching,” she says. “The vast majority of men who have fertility issues don’t take ibuprofen and the vast majority of men that take ibuprofen don’t have fertility issues.”

Too much testosterone can be a bad thing. Often men will come to Hansard with infertility issues thinking that if they take supplements to boost their testosterone levels, that will solve the problem. In fact, some of those supplements might be causing the problem.

Male factor infertility — that’s infertility that is related to sperm — is the most common cause of infertility in couples, making up about 20 to 25 percent of infertility problems.  Other causes can be structural issues in women, endometriosis, female hormone issues or unexplained causes.

Most studies have focused on female infertility. More needs to be done to understand male infertility, Hansard says.

When a couple comes to her, she looks at both people if the cause isn’t already known. If it is male factor infertility, then it’s about working with the sperm he does have by doing things like artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization.

This isn’t the first time that ibuprofen and reproduction has been called into question. A study in rats showed that ibuprofen use in moms may have caused their male babies to not have testicles that descended. That study, though, hasn’t been replicated in humans.

“It’s really premature to try to connect those dots,” Hansard says.

What we do know about ibuprofen and fetuses is that it can cause a part of the heart to close up early, causing damage or even death.

Tylenol has recently been called into question as well during pregnancy because of a possible link between it and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

 

 

 

Can men get postpartum depression? Possibly

We’re starting to understand that postpartum depression is real and nothing to laugh about. Even the ABC TV show “Black-ish” handled it well recently, yes with some laughter, but with a real conversation about what can happen when the hormones shift after birth.

On “Black-ish” Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross) is feeling overwhelmed after the birth of DeVante and learns she is suffering from postpartum depression. Dre (Anthony Anderson) urges her to get help and stands by her side while she works through it. ABC/Eric McCandless

Now a study published in  U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health seems to indicate that men also can become depressed after fatherhood, and it might have to do with their testosterone levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also indicates that depression after fatherhood happens in about 4 percent of men, whereas with women it’s 10 percent to 12 percent.

Dr. Stephen Strakowski is the chair of psychiatry at University of Texas Dell Medical School and a psychiatrist at Seton Healthcare Family.

Dr. Stephen Strakowski, a psychiatrist for Seton Healthcare Family and the chair of psychiatry at University of Texas Dell Medical School, says, “There’s absolutely a dramatic difference between what we mean when we say postpartum depression for men and postpartum depression for women, which has a major biological component.”

With men, there isn’t the dramatic hormonal shift that they experience after birth, yet the study that looked at men’s testosterone levels post baby and depression seemed to indicated that those fathers who were experiencing depression after the birth of their child also were more likely to have low testosterone levels.

What’s not clear is what came first? The low testosterone level which lead to the the depression when the baby came or the depression or baby lowering the testosterone level.

That study, which only surveyed 149 couples, also found a different link between testosterone and postpartum depression.  Women whose partners had high testosterone levels were more likely to have postpartum depression than those whose partners had normal levels. Could the stress of having a partner with postpartum depression raise a man’s testosterone? Or is there something about his testosterone level that makes it more likely for her to have postpartum depression?

What’s clear from this study is that it raises more questions than it answers.

Yet, there is something about having a new baby in the house that can lead to the family, not just mom, experiencing depression. Strakowski reminds us that babies often come with a lack of sleep and stress. All of that can feed depression, especially for a person who has had episodes of depression previously.

“In women, we absolutely need to worry about postpartum depression. It’s very common and very commonly missed,” Strakowski says.

Gynecologists often become the first line of defense at that first post-baby follow up visit. Some now are screening for depression, but more should and should talk to their patients about warning signs.

“It’s imminently treatable,” he says.

While we’re often not catching postpartum depression in women, we also need to be looking for signs of depression new fathers, too. “Having a depressed father is also not helpful to the family system,” Strakowski says.

Look for these warning signs:

  • Feeling down.
  • A loss of interest in things you normally enjoy.
  • Being tired (beyond what seems normal for having a new baby).
  • Having trouble concentrating.
  • Having trouble sleeping (and not because of the baby).
  • Low energy.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Weight changes.
  • Any suicidal thoughts.
  • Physically pain such as back pain, neck pain, headache, stomach ache.
  • Desire to harm another person.

If you or someone you know seems to have one or more of these symptoms, get help by making an appointment with your health care professional.

 

 

IBM giving its parents $50,000 per child for disability services

Today, IBM let its employees know it’s expanding the benefits to its working parents.

In a blog, it announce the plan Meeting the Needs of 21st Century Parenting. 

We’ve written about some of the benefits IBM employees who are moms, including those in Austin, receive. Specifically, its innovative program to ship breast milk home when an nursing mother who is an employee has to travel for work.

Carlie Bower sits in one of the individual rooms in a Mother’s Room at IBM. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

Now, IBM is reimbursing employees up to $50,000 to cover services for each child with mental, physical or developmental disabilities. This $50,000 is in addition to what insurance already might cover.

This is huge. Having a child with different abilities is incredibly expensive. It can financially ruin families. Even with amazing insurance, parents are still spending tens of thousands of dollars a year in out-of-pocket expenses on co-pays, services not covered by insurance, equipment, parking, medications and more.

IBM also expanded many of its other parent-friendly programs, including:

  • Increased paid parental leave to up to 20 weeks (from 14 weeks);
  • Doubled paid parental leave for IBM dads, partners and adoptive parents to 12 weeks.
  • Parents can choose to take parental leave any time during the first year after the birth or adoption;
  • Reimburse up to $20,000 for eligible adoption or surrogacy expenses including medical costs associated with surrogate birth mothers.

IBM also offers expectant mother parking spots, child care and after-school center discounts, child care centers at its locations, and flexible scheduling for parents who need to pick children up after school, go to children’s events or appointments.

How is your company helping you be a better parent?

New moms get one-on-one support with Nurse-Family Partnership program

Seraiah Johnson-Joiner is so close to walking her mother Serenah Johnson can’t stand it. In their home in Northwest Austin, Johnson watches Seraiah closely, just weeks before her first birthday.

Nurse Renee Damron also watches after measuring Seraiah’s vitals including her height and head size and listening to her heartbeat.

On this day last month, Damron is visiting Seraiah and her family as part of the Nurse-Family Partnership, a national program administered locally by Any Baby Can that helps first-time mothers through their pregnancies and the first two years of their babies’ lives.

Seraiah Johnson-Joiner, 1, gets visited every two weeks by a nurse from Any Baby Can to make sure she’s growing well. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

Any Baby Can, which started administering the program in 2008, now hopes to double the number of families it can serve in 2018 by adding a second team of eight nurses, one supervisor and an administrator. Each team handles 200 families a year. The expansion will allow Any Baby Can to serve moms outside of Travis County, with an emphasis on expanding first to Williamson County and later to Hays and Bastrop counties. Currently more than 80 mothers are on the waiting list in Travis County.

To do this expansion, Any Baby Can has received a new grant of $432,000 from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and an $80,000 grant from Impact Austin.

Mothers served by this program enter it when they are 16 to 28 weeks gestation. They have to be below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. Any Baby Can has had moms from age 11 to age 43 in its program.

Any Baby Can nurse Renee Damron meets with Serenah Johnson, 18, and her daughter Seraiah Johnson-Joiner, 1, as part of the Nurse-Family Partnership. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

Each nurse stays with the same mothers until they graduate from the program when her child turns 2. She meets with the family every two weeks and sets goals for the family that can be about their baby’s health or milestones or about the mom’s life.

Since Nurse-Family Partnership began, studies have shown that it helps both mom and baby.

Some reported study findings:

  • In Elmira, N.Y., researchers found a 48 percent reduction in child abuse cases among families enrolled in NFP, and 56 percent less emergency room visits because of injuries or ingesting something.
  • In a Memphis study, mothers who were in the NFP program made $12,300 more a year than the control group by the time their child turned 12.
  • In that same study, the NFP mothers were twice as likely to be employed by the time their child turned 2.
  • These mothers also delayed a second pregnancy. In a study in Elmira, N.Y., the NFP moms had a second child 12 1/2 months later than the control group.
  • A Denver study found the children who had been in NFP were less likely to have emotional or behavioral problems or attention disorders at ages 6 and 9.

Johnson has seen it in her own life. When she became pregnant at age 17, she hid it from many people, including her high school softball team and coach, but finally confessed to her school nurse, who was able to connect her with Any Baby Can.

“At first, I was kind of skeptical about would she answer the phone,” she says of the first time she talked to Damron.

“She was really reassuring,” Johnson says.

Johnson says she learns things from Damron that she never really would have known even though she helped raise her little sister.

Damron has helped Johnson figure out how to finish high school, and find a program to start Austin Community College to become a dental hygienist. She’s also helped coach Johnson through how to make breast-feeding work for her. She’s working with Johnson on adding more solid foods into Seraiah’s diet and how to add reading books to her and playing with educational toys.

“She inspires me,” Damron says of Johnson. “She’s a really good mom.”

Any Baby Can typically hires nurses who have worked in pediatrics or neonatal care to be in the program. What Damron likes is that she gets to stay with a patient for more than two years.

“I’m your nurse, but also your mentor,” Damron tells Johnson.

Renee Damron measures the head of Seraiah Johnson-Joiner, 1, while she’s held by her mother Serenah Johnson, 18. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

Even though Damron takes measurements on Seraiah, she isn’t meant to replace well-check appointments, but if Damron saw something that raised a red flag she would tell Johnson to ask the pediatrician about that or could refer her to other early childhood programs, some of which are also administered by Any Baby Can.

Often, NFP nurses can catch something before a pediatrician might find it because they see the children every two weeks instead of ever two to three months that first year.

Nurse-Family Partnership involves the whole family, so Damron also includes Johnson’s mom and step-father, her sister, and even her grandparents in supporting Johnson. Johnson’s boyfriend and Seraiah’s father, Jaylon Joiner, is also involved in the program.

“It’s helped me learn more about what I didn’t know,” he says. He likes to bet with Damron how big Seraiah has grown. “Overall, it’s been a great program,” he says.

As Damron goes over the goals from last time and helps Johnson and Joiner set the goals for this time, she tells them, “I’m super proud of you; I’m super proud of you both.”

Nurse-Family Partnership

Find out more about this program through Any Baby Can, anybabycan.org, 512-454-3743.

Kids who lose a father to death, divorce, jail feel it in their DNA, new study finds

A new study looked at the saliva of 2,420 children enrolled in the federally funded Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Researchers wondered: Would it matter if children did not have a father actively involved in their lives because of death, prison or divorce?

Father’s matter, as new study points out.

The study “Father Loss and Child Telomere Length” will be published in the August issue of “Pediatrics” from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The 9-year-olds who were separated from their fathers had an average of 14 percent shorter telomeres — that’s the protective portion of the DNA at the ends of the chromosomes.

These telomeres naturally shorten with age. At some point, cell division stops when the telomeres are shortened enough. The concern is that having shorter telomeres might mean that your health or lifespan might be affected.

The biggest effect researchers saw was in the kids who had experienced a father’s death. Those kids had 16 percent shorter telomeres. Incarceration led to 10 percent shorter telomers and separation or divorce, 6 percent shorter.  How short the telomeres were in the kids who had experience divorce or separation depended on the extent of income loss. The children whose fathers had died or been incarcerated didn’t vary by income loss.

What does all this mean? Children are affected by the loss of their fathers. They need you, Dad.

If infertility is now a disease, why doesn’t insurance cover it?

In June, the American Medical Association recognized the World Health Organization’s policy that classifies infertility as a disease.

The statement that its delegates voted on: “Resolve that our American Medical Association support the World Health Organization’s designation of infertility as a disease state with multiple etiologies requiring a range of interventions to advance fertility treatment and prevention.”

Would more women be able to conceive if infertility treatments were covered by insurance? Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

What does that mean to couples dealing with infertility?

The hope is that this will be the first step in pushing insurance companies to expand coverage of  infertility treatments, but it’s going to require patients to advocate for the need, says Dr. Kaylen Silverberg of Austin-based Texas Fertility Center. “We don’t anticipate any rapid change,” he says. “This is such a great opportunity to motivate and mobilize the infertility community.”

Dr. Kaylen Silverberg of the Texas Fertility Center. Credit: Ovation Fertility

He encourages patients to call, email and write letters to their insurance companies, their human resources departments, their legislators and the Texas Department of Insurance to require insurance companies to cover infertility treatment.

Silverberg says that about 65 percent of his patients have some kind of insurance coverage for infertility, but often that only covers diagnosis, not treatment. He likens it to a woman with a lump in a breast getting a mammogram covered by insurance but then not getting any treatment for the breast cancer. “That would never happen,” Silverberg says.

Most insurance companies do cover surgical procedures when there is something structurally wrong such as endometriosis or a fibroid or scar tissue that is causing the infertility. What they don’t often cover are pills or shots to regulate hormones or procedures such as in vitro fertilization.

What infertility treatments have going against them is the public’s perceived cost of them and the belief that infertility treatments automatically means in vitro, he says. Silverberg offers these thoughts:

  • About 70 percent of his patients conceive without needing in vitro. Often it’s something as simple as using ovulation kits or a pill or injectible drug to track, regulate or encourage ovulation.
  • Patients that do need in vitro, can expect to pay $13,000 to $14,000 for one round. That might seem expensive because it’s being paid out of pocket, but it’s not as expensive as many medical procedures such as an appendectomy or gall bladder surgery, which are covered by insurance.

In Texas, insurance companies are required to provide an infertility rider that companies can purchase, but often those feel cost-preventative to employers. States like Illinois, Massachusetts and Hawaii have a mandate to cover infertility, not just offer a rider.

“Let’s make it more affordable for more employers. . . ” Silverberg says. “Let’s have insurance companies do the right thing.” Patients, he says, should be able to use their health care dollars on their disease (infertility) and not just on other people’s diseases that are covered.

What he suspects will happen is that once one insurance company in Texas makes infertility treatment part of the typical plan, others will follow. He saw it happen with employers choosing to pay for the rider to attract employees. First Dell did it then AMD, National Instruments and IBM followed. He saw the same thing happen with Southwest Airlines, which added a benefit to keep employees from going to American Airlines or United Airlines.

“If United (Healthcare) and Aetna started to cover infertility, others would have to,” he says.

In the meantime, he tries to make it as affordable as he can by offering discounts to military, police officers and teachers, by negotiating rates and getting free samples from pharmaceutical companies, and by working with the Fertility Foundation of Texas, of which is wife is president, to secure funding for clients.

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