Archive for Parents

Hospice and the Love Hormone

It was her voice I first heard as a child learning my way in the world. [Photo – London Scout/Unsplash.com]

On a thousand and more Saturday mornings, I called Mom.

We talked about nothing. We talked about everything.

Saturday early morning was our weekly date. There were times—I’ll be honest—that it smacked of an obligation. I should call Mom. There were also weekends where the call was interrupted by her schedule or mine. But over the course of those years, the calls were a fixture, a way for us, living in different zip and area codes, to connect for a few moments.

The last call was in the summer of 2013, a few weeks before she died. I miss her voice.

How much do voices matter?

Not long ago, I read about research conducted in 2010 by University of Wisconsin’s Leslie Seltzer. A biological anthropologist, here’s what Seltzer and his team of researchers found when they:

. . . tested a group of seven-to-12-year-old girls with an impromptu speech and series of math problems in front of a panel of strangers, sending their hearts racing and levels of cortisol—a hormone associated with stress—soaring.

Once stressed, one-third of the girls were comforted in person by their mothers—specifically with hugs, an arm around the shoulders and the like. One-third were left to watch an emotion-neutral 75-minute video. The rest were handed a telephone. It was mom on the line, and the effect was dramatic.

“The children who got to interact with their mothers had virtually the same hormonal response, whether they interacted in person or over the phone,” Seltzer says.

The girls’ levels of oxytocin, often called the “love hormone” and strongly associated with emotional bonding, rose significantly and the stress-marking cortisol washed away.

Wow! . . . was how I felt when first running across this research. My quick glance at other like-minded studies confirmed Seltzer’s simple, powerful insights about the impact of the human voice. Read More →

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A Perinatal Story

baby and momI was uncertain of what “perinatal” meant.

Though I’ve been colleagues for several years with the Angel Babies counselors at the hospice where I work, I was, well . . . ignorant.

[Read Disclaimer here.]

In my feeble defense, I’m not directly involved with the Angel Babies program. I’m also not a medical expert, and even “easy” terminology stumps me. Additionally, my wife and I don’t have children.

There were a series of unremarkable events—a phone call, a conversation, a few words on a webpage—that led me to learn “perinatal” referred to the before and after time period around the birth of a child. Here’s the sentence from the webpage that I’m sure I’d read before and had—like humans often do—overlooked the words I didn’t understand: Read More →

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No Matter How Small

A baby's gown from the project in Fort Worth, Texas.

A baby’s gown from the project in Fort Worth, Texas.

I gazed at the newly created gowns and held my breath.

They were not the vibrant colors of rainbows and spring flowers, but shades of white: pearl, ivory, and eggshell. All were like silk to the touch and probably many were literally made from silk.

Some boasted buttons. Brocade embellished the hems. There was intricate stitching in each outfit, but all appeared as simple as they were elegant. Though ignorant about designing and sewing clothes, I have learned that every simple-looking creative effort represents hours of labor and years of experience. Read More →

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