Baby Drama: How The Baby Project Picked Its Moms

We in the ombudsman's office don't usually post on editorial projects still in their infancy, but the comments are already pouring in on The Baby Project, a blog launched last Friday that will follow nine pregnant women who are due to give birth this summer. The early comments have mostly to do with the selection of the women. One reader wrote, "I find it interesting that NPR did not seek out a single mother to profile, especially given that more and more births in the US are to single moms (by choice and otherwise). Also, not a particularly diverse group."

We don't have a view yet, but thought it might be interesting to invite you, NPR.org readers, to follow the project with us and give us your views. We began by asking the blog hosts, Janey Adams, Coburn Dukehart and Erin Killian, just how did they select the women – including a single mom.

The response:

When we got more than 1,300 submissions in less than a week for "The Baby Project," we were overwhelmed. But we decided it was important to read through every submission to pick the women we'd like to follow in the last month leading to delivery and the few weeks after. The goal of the project is to get listeners and readers involved in a dramatic period of life for those who choose to have children — and have it run in conjunction with a two-month birthing series called "Beginnings" on All Things Considered.

The three blog hosts split up the submissions and spent hours reading them carefully and flagging the extraordinary (and ordinary) stories. We were looking for those that were well-written, because we knew the women would be writing their own posts, with our editing help. We also looked for trends. One thing that surprised us was how many people planned to do a home birth, with or without assistance.

We originally planned to pick six women, but after reading the submissions, we felt that we really needed to take on more and settled on nine — three for each of us to edit. We also wanted to touch on a range of different backgrounds and experiences, and were looking for a diverse group of women to cover various demographics. We did not ask for photos during the submission process, only name, age, race, income, city of residence, and we asked woman to tell us about themselves.

For our final selection, we selected women in their 20s and women of "advanced maternal age." We chose women from different socio-economic backgrounds, and those of different races and different sexual orientations. We also picked women who had chosen different birthing methods, because it was something our audience is clearly passionate about. We chose one woman, Andrea Pike, whose story was particularly moving on lots of different levels — she had adopted, struggled through fertility treatments, and is now expecting twins. In looking for a single mom, we found one — Emily Grace Whebbe — who does have support from the father. They are currently friends and are exploring living together as co-parents. Loriani Eckerle's story moved us because her baby was diagnosed with Mosaic Trisomy 16, and she wanted to spread the word about dealing with a scary diagnosis. We also found women who had had miscarriages and were willing to talk about them openly, because it's a topic that's not often discussed.

Because we knew we couldn't cover every birth demographic, we decided that we, as the blog hosts, would write additional blog posts — and talk to people with different experiences. We'd love to talk to fathers and partners, surrogates, women over 45 and more. We know there is so much to cover about the experience — and we hope to touch on as much as we can. But most importantly, we aren't looking at our nine moms as "categories," we are looking at them as individual people with intimate stories to share. And we hope readers will give us ideas and suggestions and also share their experiences in the comments section or send them to babyproject@npr.org. We look forward to hearing from you.

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