Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Humanity. Health. Happiness.

Month: November 2011

The Duggar family of 19 kids: Extreme families stir curiosity.

Fourteen years ago my husband and I had a child. I wanted her more than anything in the world and was consumed with getting pregnant. After my daughter was born my husband and I felt filled, completed by the three of us and so we didn’t have any more kids.

Early on a few of my friends after hearing my motherhood horror stories decided the reason I wanted only one child was because I had postpartum depression, because I didn’t love being a stay at home mom despite being grateful that I had the choice in the first place, because my labor and delivery was long and off the charts painful, but that next time, they said – things would be different.

But hoping for different doesn’t feel like the best reason to have a child, does it?

The Duggar Family: What size is the right size?

When I think about the controversy with the Duggar family, (“19 and Counting”) I wonder, beyond the obvious issue of overpopulation why people feel so strongly about how many kids is the right amount?

Most people agree that bringing little ones into the world if parents can’t love and care for them to the highest level isn’t in a child’s best interest — but barring that, how many kids should someone have?

Is there some exact recipe like if you don’t add enough salt to your soup it’s missing something, add too much and you’ve ruined the whole batch?

When my daughter was around three, the age when people begin to ask when number two is coming, the questions about why we weren’t growing our family were for the most part few and far between. People nowadays generally assume a singleton family stays that way because a couple can’t have more kids — not because they choose to.

Women who have one child by choice don’t readily admit it although I have many times because it’s just simply part of who I am.  I think it’s hard for some people to wrap their head around the idea that having one child can be just as motherly and nurturing and fulfilling as having two. Maybe it looks like we’ve left some unfinished business or that we’ve thumbed our noses at our biological imperative women have.

But with deeper inspection behind the argument that bringing more and more kids into a stable loving home is the mark of selflessness, I feel compelled to point out that having kids, biologically or adopting for the right reason is what gets my selfless vote, that is – having kids because you have an unquenchable desire to add the love of a child to your already stable and loving relationship.

Michelle Duggar keeps having kids, I’m happy with one.

Our extremes defy the norm for what some people think is best for kids which is seems like at least one sibling but not too many.

People assume an only child misses out on what only a sibling can give (it’s true they do) and that each subsequent Duggar is exponentially less likely to receive the same amount of parental attention (that’s true too).

But kids can get love and attention from the “village” that surrounds them whether they’re short on siblings or short on parent time.

I won’t debate why the Duggars shun birth control and insist on having so many kids, I understand it’s for religious reasons.  Despite our very, very different points of view on who should orchestrate reproduction, the Duggar’s seem remarkably happy. Either they fake it well or the show’s editor is masterful at depicting a balanced family.

Admittedly the Duggars get proceeds from the show, and exploitation is a fair argument against having reality shows with kids, but from my sense this group is no more dysfunctional than the average family, and some might say, they seem even happier. 

I prefer, which is not to say I’m right, having kids be mostly well thought-out, but I’d never suggest “surprise” kids aren’t loved as deeply as planned ones.

But what we mostly ignore when we say want want only the best for kids as a whole is that the best is first an issue of intention. 

Intention is best for kids.

It’s the purpose behind having twenty children, one or none that honors kids. Do we have kids to fill ourselves, to mend a marriage to heal an emotional void? Or do we have kids to add exponential beauty to what is already healthy in our lives?

We’re still new at sorting out what having children means in this country. Our identity as women is still largely informed by our biological ability to have kids, to have one or to have six. Making babies has been hard-wired into our human survival so I understand it might take another half century or so to evolve to the point where we won’t feel our species is threatened if a percentage of the female population opts out entirely, or has one child.

But I have to think there’s no set formula for what makes a woman maternal enough. Women who want kids get their fill with different amounts of mothering— but there is a clear and painfully obvious formula for what makes an entirely bad mother.

One child or twenty 

My husband and I started our family when I turned 31. I  knew when I was 19 I’d need some form of infertility intervention, diagnosed at the time with a benign pituitary disorder called Empty Sella Syndrome. This meant Mother Nature would need a little kick in the pants (or in my case injections in the butt) with super hormones if I wanted to have kids. Not one to hail from the school of “if kids ares meant to be they will be” I decided, my child WOULD be — no matter what.

Carl and I went to my long time endocrinologist and after hormone injections and regular monitoring I got pregnant the first month — record time by infertility standards.  In our first consultation I asked the doctor what my chances were of conceiving if I wanted one or two kids and he said it was as high or nearly as high as any woman’s on any given month.

Click here for books on only children

Because I was adopted and never met my biological parents my craving to have a child of my own flesh was primal and ferocious. Whatever it took, for however long, for whatever amount of money in whatever country, I would do anything legal to have my own, and given my mindset at the time I probably would have skated on the legal fringes if it came down to it.

Failing wasn’t an option — while I totally supported adoption for other people, there was no plan B. There’s a kind of blind madness behind maternal drive, and yet women who don’t have this in my opinion, aren’t mad. Our conviction to opt out of having kids, to have one or twenty is equally irrepressible, equally non-negotiable.

Click here for books on only children

Michelle Duggar and I: Two different moms, same love

The first time I watched the Duggars on their reality show “17 and Counting” (at the time) I remember wondering beyond the obvious head-scratcher why a woman would ever want to go through childbirth seventeen times and raise that many kids. I self-righteously assumed such an enormous group of kids from parents who clearly bred offspring like puppies had to be really messed up.

But to assume a family as big as the Duggars is seething with emotionally neglected kids and middle-child syndromes is as prejudicial as believing a family with one child is missing something.

Extreme family sizes make us want to re-calibrate to the middle, to adjust the dimensions of another parent’s life to come closer to ours, and so reinforce what we think to be right.

Years back a friend of mine was grocery shopping and saw a frantic mother trying to get her three kids who were running between the aisles to settle down.  My friend remarked that she totally understood because she had three of her own at home, the woman said, “Yeah, it’s like those moms with one child aren’t really parents.”

Is it because of the discomfort of our mixed emotions, that squirrely motherhood ambivalence — that we adore our kids but hate the grind, that we sling arrows at a family that doesn’t match ours?

The number of children Michelle Duggar and I have are driven by the same intention — because of what defines us, because of what we feel kids deserve, both of us immune to the parameters society sets.

I’d guess Michelle and I both feel kids spring from a powerful power — mine from a spiritual place within that’s been quenched by my daughter, hers from a force above that perhaps wants more.

At first I was drawn to the Duggar family because I was fascinated with their bizarre world, and then because I liked watching them.  What goes on in their lives when the camera’s aren’t watching, what level of function or dysfunction sits in their family compared to mine is impossible to say, but small family or enormous — the intention is the love that fills the household.

Click here for books about only children

 

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Depression and Dopamine: Natural Ways to Increase Key Neurotransmitter

Natural ways to increase dopamine to improve depressionWhile the number of drugs to treat dopamine-dependent depression is growing, people interested in avoiding medication can try natural alternatives to increase dopamine. Dopamine is involved in arousal and motor function and is a precursor to adrenaline and a closely related molecule, noradrenaline. This key brain chemical is made from the amino acid tyrosine and can convert into norepinephrine and epinephrine.

This key brain chemical is produced in several areas of the brain, including the nucleus accumbens, the region that acts as the “reward center.” In addition, dopamine is a neurohormone released by the hypothalamus where its main function is to inhibit the release of prolactin from the anterior lobe of the pituitary.

Dopamine is central to the creation of reward systems such as food, sex, positive social interactions, even humor. Nearly all drug abuse and forms of addiction, including heroine and other opiates, alcohol, cocaine and amphetamines involve dopamine neuronal systems. As a result, elevating dopamine levels can improve mood, alertness, libido, yet too much or an imbalance can lead to a tendency towards addictive behaviors.

(Click here for supplements to naturally increase dopamine and improve depression)

A dopamine imbalance is associated with schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia and mood disorders, including certain types of depression.

Depression and dopamine levels

To date, depression medications have largely been developed based on a deficiency or imbalance of the brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine. Yet a 2005 review of the serotonin-depression studies revealed little scientific evidence to support the hypothesis that too little serotonin “causes” depression.

“This new study highlights the importance of the dopamine system, a less appreciated target in the current antidepression therapies,” says researcher Li-Huei Tsai, a professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, for a news release on the dopamine animal study findings.

(Click here for supplements to naturally increase dopamine and improve depression)

While a growing number of antidepressants that mediate dopamine activity are becoming available, people interested in avoiding the dangers and side effects of medications can increase their dopamine with natural methods.

People with major depression disorder (MDD) may have difficulty sufficiently boosting their dopamine levels with only nutrition, exercise, and supplementation. They may however be able to improve symptoms, gradually lower their antidepressant dose to eventually come off medication altogether.

Increasing dopamine levels through nutrition

Dr. Eric Braverman, author of the book, “The Edge Effect,” offers specific nutritional and supplementation plans to increase the levels of key neurotransmitters in the brain depending on a person’s deficiency. “The goal of a dopamine diet is to ensure that the body has enough raw materials for a steady supply of tyrosine and phenylalanine, two amino acids that are precursors to dopamine. These amino acids are found in many protein-rich foods.” Many protein foods such as meats and dairy products have tyrosine that converts to dopamine including:

  • apples, bananas, and watermelon
  • beets
  • beans and legumes
  • black or green tea
  • cottage cheese, cheeses including ricotta
  • chicken, pork
  • cucumbers
  • dark chocolate
  • duck, wild game
  • egg
  • granola/oats
  • honey
  • milk
  • ricotta
  • soybeans
  • turkey
  • walnuts
  • wheat germ

Supplements to increase dopamine

There are a number of supplements that increase dopamine levels in the brain. Dr. Braverman recommends the following:

  • Phenylalnine: An essential amino acid found in the brain and blood plasma that can convert in the body to tyrosine, which in turn is used to synthesize dopamine.
  • Tyrosine: Another amino acid and precursor to dopamine. Tyrosine is converted from phenylalnine
  • Methione: An essential amino acid protein that is provided to the body only through diet.L-Methionine is the precursor to SAMe, l-cysteine, taurine, and sulfate. SAM-e supplements can increase dopamine.
  • Rhodiola: a native plant of Russia. Rhodiola balances the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis, or HPA, the body’s stress regulation center. Rhodiola balances the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
  • Pyridoxine: A form of vitamin B6 that has a beneficial effect on red blood cell production, cardiovascular health, the immune system and hormone balance. It is necessary for the production of epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin in the body.
  • Mucuna pruriens: one of the popular Ayurvedic herbs, is also known as velvet bean or cowhage. This herb contains L-Dopa, a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine.
  • Phosphatidylserine: A specialized lipid (fat) that occurs naturally in the body. It is a necessary component to regulate the function of all cells and is found in the highest concentration in the brain.
  • B Complex: Cofactors in the synthesis and proper function of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine
  • Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo extract, from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree is the most commonly used herbal medicine in Europe, can increase dopamine. Ginko enhances the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain and promoting healthy transmission of nerve impulses.
  • NADH an activated form of the B vitamin niacin, the amino acid L-theanine, and Omega-3 fatty acids can also elevate dopamine levels.

Dopamine levels rise after exercise

Michael Lardon, a doctor and researcher on the neuroelectric assessment of athletic peak performance explains in an online article for the Modesto Bee that everyone who exercises reaps the benefits from the “dopamine buzz.”

(Click here for supplements to naturally increase dopamine and improve depression)

“Dopamine is released within just 20 minutes of moderate exercise, says Lardon, “and triggers within your brain positive feelings about yourself even after your first session of exercise, before your body has had a chance to firmly establish an association between the exercise and the great feelings. The dopamine response system is powerfully motivating.

While dopamine-dependent depression may respond well to medications, people interested in natural alternatives to antidepressants may want to consider exercise, dopamine-boosting foods and targeted supplementation.

(Click here for supplements to naturally increase dopamine and improve depression)

Photo credit: Vlado

Sources

Podea, Delia et al, “The Role of Dopamine in Depression,” The Romanian Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2008.

Lacasse JR, Leo J, “Serotonin and depression: a disconnect between the advertisements and the scientific literature,” Florida State University College of Social Work, Tallahassee, Fl., 2005 Dec;2(12):e392.

“The under-recognized role of dopamine in the treatment of major depressive disorder,” International Clinical Psychopharmacology, Imperial College School of Medicine, London, UK. stuart@samontgomery.co.uk, March 2008.

Carolyn Perrini, CLS, CNC,”L-Theanine: How a Unique Anxiety Reducer and Mood Enhancer Increases Alpha Waves and Alertness.”Accessed March 28, 2010.

Chalon, S.,”Omega-3 fatty acids and monoamine neurotransmission,”Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2006 Oct-Nov;75(4-5):259-69. Epub 2006 Sep 11.

Bove AA, Dewey JD, Tyce GM, “Increased conjugated dopamine in plasma after exercise training,”Journal of Laboratory Clinical Medicine, 1984 Jul;104(1):77-85.

Heiden, Eric,”How to get your own gold-medal high with dopamine,” Modbee.com,Tribune Media Services, Feb. 23, 2010.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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