Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Are good manners still of value?

“Yes ma’am”
“No sir”
“Thank you”
“Excuse me”
“May I…”
“It’s very nice to meet you”

Do you knock before you enter a room, office or family member’s home? Do you say “bless you” when someone sneezes, whether or not you know them? Do you smile courteously at others when your eyes connect? Do you hold the door open for people who have their hands full, are pushing a buggy or stroller, or just because you reached the door at the same time? Do you let people who have only a few items get in front of you in line at the grocery store if your basket is full? Do you walk in between or interrupt people who are having a conversation? What are good manners considered to be these days? Do parents consider manners an important value anymore?

I’ve thought about this topic for a long time now, but the question really hit me while sitting in the movie theater this weekend. I showed up about 30 minutes early for my show, sat in the far front (about 10 rows from the screen so I can cock back and relax) and started reading the first chapter of the book I just bought. A little while later a gaggle of teenage girls come bursting through the doors behind me, hollering and being rowdy and holding hands and skipping through the hallway. They take the stairs by two, going up towards the film booth, and each toddle down a different isle sounding off where the best place to see the 22 x 52 foot screen is. Once the final spot is agreed upon, they climb and hop over the backs of the chairs to reach the selected location. For the next 25 minutes, I am plunged into the life of these high school girls. Derek is apparently “a total a-hole” because he sex-texted Marisha last night after the house party, but he has been “talking to” Danielle for the past 3 weeks and she’s Marisha’s best friend. Titillating story as it was to listen to, I found it bizarre that a big part of their juvenile conversation was about how Derek’s parents must not have taught him any manners.    

My mind ran crazy with all kinds of silly thoughts about poor Derek and Marisha. While he shouldn’t be sexting his girlfriend’s best friend, that didn’t mean that he had bad manners in my mind. I started wondering if he opened the doors for her at school, or paid for her soda at the football game, or politely asked if Marisha was home when he called her house and her parents answered the phone. Just because the boy is testing the waters of love, doesn’t mean his parents didn’t teach him any good manners.

It got me thinking how I would teach my son manners and respect. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t condone Derek cheating on his girlfriend; however, I’m only hearing the story of the girls… and he is a boy in high school and will hopefully learn from this unfortunate event. But these 16-17 year old girls have no idea of manners, howling and climbing all over everything like 4 year old children (which I would expect, if they were 4). I began to question (giving them the benefit of the doubt) if they were only acting like this because they were void of parental supervision and were completely respectful in front of adults, and maybe just didn’t notice me… but that question was immediately answered as I turned around to see a half full theater.

I’m hoping I will teach my son respect and manners through my own actions. On the other hand, as admitted in my last post, my social filter is sometimes a little off and I come off the wrong way (either by being too honest or overly polite, which is taken as sarcastic most times). I want him to have fun and experience all the world has to offer, which includes being silly and making a fool of himself sometimes. But is it too much to ask that I want him to do it all with respect to others? Yeah, sure, climb over the seats in the movie theater, but make sure you say “excuse me” to the two old bittis that are sitting in the rows you trample over and kiss them each on the hand. *exaggeration*

I’m not saying I was the model of behavior as a child, I’ve had my fair share of dishing out disrespect in my years… and maybe some of my annoyance towards these bouncy little teenagers is because I did not experience those bubbly times in transferring to so many schools (that’s a topic for a whole other blog post). Nevertheless, I have always said “yes/no ma’am” and was on my best behavior when we visited friends and family and went out on the town. Still to this day, I say ma’am to any female figure I converse with… even my nieces and young children. It has become habit to me, through constant reinforcement as a child from my mother and father. They didn’t see eye-to-eye on most everything, but they were consistent in making sure I was respectful and courteous.  

This post sounds mostly like a rant, but I fantasize how my son will treat other people in the future. I imagine him being polite with a superlative sense of humor and always making people feel comfortable and safe, just like my husband does. *hands together praying*

 So the question is to you… Do you make a conscious effort to reinforce good manners? What do you consider good manners?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Phantom Apprentice!

I arch back in my chair at work and slip off one of my shoes to stretch out my toes. I extend both my legs and close my eyes to give them a rest from the computer. As I inhale deeply, trying to relax for a brief moment, it hits me in the face. My eyes pop open, and they begin to search my clothes for signs of contamination. My arms, fingers, legs, shirt, pants, hair… all studied carefully. I check my reflection in the face of my iPhone to make sure it’s clean. I check the desk, the walls, my purse… but by this time the stench is gone. Do I smell like this all the time and don’t know it? Could it really just be my mind playing tricks on me? There has to be a baby around somewhere, because I smell POO!!!

This phantom aroma of my son’s dirty diaper follows me everywhere. I’ve actually asked friends and co-workers to smell me or tell me if they smell something because it’s so strong sometimes. But it’s not there; it’s only in my head.

I haven’t done much research on the subject, but I find it crazy that your nostrils can just conjure up an odor like that at random. What powers do we possess that could cause this crazy phenomenon? Does the smell just linger in there? Or the stench gets trapped in the mucous and is released periodically throughout the day? Maybe it is my subconscious mind telling me that I miss my son in peculiar sort of way?

I’ve mentioned this to friends and family and other moms, and they admit to getting a little phantom whiff every once in a while, but don’t say much else about it. This is a big deal to me, especially when I am around other people. I have a self-filter issue which is almost non-existent which “allows” me to say things or ask questions or make faces that can be offensive to other people and I am none the wiser. Good example: I’m standing in the line at the grocery store and sense a hint of the stank-ass. My immediate reaction is to crinkle my face in disgust and look around me. The closest person I lock eyes with (regardless of how innocent they may be) gets the proverbial stank-eye. To me it is just a natural reaction to the nasty aroma which my mind believes is filling the air… to the harmless individual who just so happens to receive my gaze during this freak incident, it’s war! I’ve even had one occasion where I had to awkwardly explain myself, after being asked “What the hell I was looking at”, and I think I actually came out on the other end worse off than if I would have just walked away. Apparently, it’s rude to tell someone that you smelled poo and knowing it wasn’t yourself, made a face at the closest person standing by. I truly regretted every word of that conversation as the words emerged from my lips, yet couldn’t stop myself from trying to justify my situation.

What’s even crazier about my situation is that I don’t really mind Tuff’s dirty diapers. I play and smile with him and wipe his little booty until it’s squeaky clean. I then dispose of the mess, but only after looking it over for a moment for anything unusual or curious. It’s even become a habit for my family and husband to report to me the amount, color and consistency. I know, it’s gross, but if you are a mom you know you can tell a lot by a baby’s bowel movements… It’s almost a form of communication (albeit an unpleasant one to most people).

I'll let you guess what he's "communicating" in this photo - LOL!

Do you have a phantom apprentice? Some small detail that stalks you or follows you around… a shadow that is a constant subliminal or intuitive reminder of something or someone you love? This cannot be singular to me, or maybe it is.  Tell me your phantom story in my comments… It can’t be any worse than mine J

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A View from the Top – Getting you guys up to date!!!

Moving into month 4 was an exciting milestone for us as parents and it is getting more fun every day. Tuff is doing all kinds of things that completely amaze me. He is starting to communicate with us about the activities he enjoys and those he’s not so interested in. He is getting some good control over his neck and lifting that head and getting more familiar with all of his extremities. He is starting to coordinate himself and notice that he is the one controling his limbs. He absolutely hates laying on his back, knowing now that it is a much better view to sit up or stand up (with support of course). He is also starting to experiment with his vocal abilities and making new sounds. I know I’ve said it so many times before, all of these little things are so trivial to us as grown-ups, but I am completely in awe as my son becomes more confident with each tiny little accomplishment.

We have started letting him stand and sit up more, supported by either a Boppy, our hands and forearms and bodies, or in an infant seat or upright bouncy… and he LOVES it. He looks all around and is absolutely absorbed in everything we do. We put him in his seat in the kitchen while we cook and do dishes and clean up, he's with us in the bathroom when we brush our teeth and shower, and I put him in front of me when I’m folding clothes and show him each piece of clothing as I sort through, sounding off if it’s a sock or shirt or whatever. When I vacuum, his eyes lock on to the machine and follow it back and forth as I go about the room. He is just so interested in EVERYTHING we do. And it makes it more fun to do what I have to do when it’s made into a fun teaching tool for him. The more stable he gets on his own, the more “chores” become “games” that we can play and do together.

We don’t do “chores” every day, but we are starting to include him in more of our household activities as he becomes more aware of his surroundings. We play baby games a lot, too. Some of his fave things to do during playtime right now are the Superman (dad holds him horizontal ways and he flies across the room in daddy’s arms and swoops to get a kiss from mommy, or visa versa), any song or lullaby that is interactive (Itsy Bitsy Spider gets him giggling every time), and laying on a blanket with a few toys around him (he loves a couple minutes to himself to study his hands and feet and clothes). Oh, and he is starting to master the roll over! Mostly it’s only to the right, as far as a full circle is concerned, but he will roll left from his tummy to his back. Being on his tummy is definitely his favorite position if he is on the floor. A bigger play area is in the works as we speak due to him becoming more mobile by the day. His activity mat just won’t contain him anymore. In 3 minutes he goes from the left side of the mat, all the way to the right side of the mat and onto the carpet. His little feet kick and stretch on the foam skeleton bars that go above the mat, and his arms swat and wack anything within range. He’s paying much more attention to the pictures in the books I read, too. He lays on his stomach and I put the book in front of him and read slowly  (most times, this is after his bath/massage). I put my finger on the words as I read, and point out different things on the pages. At first he didn’t pay too much attention, but here in the past few weeks his eyes go from one page to the other studying every color and animation, and he looks at my hand when it’s time to turn the page.

Another new thing, he’s finally made hand-to-foot contact. During bath time, I’ve been sitting him up in his bathtub, kind of leaning over my forearm, as I pour water on his back or show him his reflection in the mirror, and he watches his feet enter and exit the water with amazement. Last week, he just decided he would grab one of his little piggy's and make it his new friend. His fingers move slowly up his leg until he’s got a firm grasp on his toes, and then that leg goes to town. I swear he’s practicing the Can-Can. That leg just kicks up and down, a million times, even when he’s not holding it. When he’s in his car seat, you can hear it swish against the canvas… swish-swish, in-out, swish-swish. LOL! He’s also started tapping it as he falls asleep, that leg just a kicking up and down until he breathes that last little sigh of surrender and gives in to his exhaustion.

It wouldn’t be a post of mine if I didn’t mention his sleep cycles. They have fluctuated slightly, but not a big enough variation to blog about at the moment. The few times that I can count where it was difficult getting him to sleep were most probably of our own doing. Either letting him take a long nap late in the afternoon, him not having enough naps throughout the day or we misread one of his cues. Otherwise, he is doing so great. I take him out well after his bedtime about once a week, and he has responded beautifully. He was very alert and interested while we were out and about, and when we got home he just nuzzled up in his bed and went to sleep (for the most part). I know as he reaches certain milestones his sleep patterns will change, and we are ready for it. We’ve already noticed that as he becomes more mobile, he wiggles and scoots across the length of the bed. Sometimes we go in and he is turned completely sideways, or all the way up against the rails J How it reminds me of those pictures you see of children sleeping in the weirdest positions… I can’t wait to see what positions he gets himself into (I mean I can, but I can’t – You know!)

We have truly been on the biggest high. It’s incredible watching Tuff grow up and adapt to every circumstance with such ease. It has helped me overcome some huge personal issues concerning my contributions as a mother. With my intended natural delivery turning into a c-section and not being able to breastfeed, it really made me feel like less of a mother in the beginning. I thought I was letting my son down by not being able to provide a smooth entrance into this world and that our bond would be diminished because I couldn’t feed him from my breast. However, through this journey I have learned that these were only concerns in my mind, not my son’s. Our bond is so deep, and every time he looks at me his face lights up with joy. No matter how gloomy my day, seeing his face in the afternoon is like the sun shining through the clouds after the rain. There is a connection between us that will never be broken. I can feel it when he nuzzles his face in my neck and breathes me in when he’s tired, or puts his wee little fingers around mine and squeezes tight, or when he looks in my eyes when I’m feeding him. He appreciates me and he trusts me, and I could not have asked for more.

(Ha ha... had to add this one, he was hungry and tired of the dang camera in his face... LOL)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Sleep Solution and Going Back to Work (Month 3)

My husband and I are sleeping soundly when I hear a wiggle and a grunt. My eyes pop open, and by the light off the plug-in on the wall I see my little Tuff-man straining to get his left hand out of the crazy jacket swaddle and to his face, he has spit out his pacifier again and he’s on his back (which he hates). I walk over to his cradle half asleep, pop back in his pacifier, resituate him kind of on his side and plop myself back in bed. I get my pillows perfectly positioned, and I hear the pacifier plop back onto the floor, so I get up and reinsert. It is 1:00 am, and I know this dance will happen again at least one more time before he eats at 4:00 am. I’m exhausted from waking up at every little squirm and inhalation and moan coming from baby, and I absolutely can’t imagine how I’ll feel if we are still doing this routine once I go back to work. It’s time shake the tree…

I praise the couples that can have their babies sleep with them in the same bed or even in the same room, and still be able to function throughout the day. I have never in my life craved sleep the way I have since I got pregnant, and having Tuff in the room with us was making it very hard to get even an hour’s rest at a time. No better time than now to introduce Tuff to his own room.

We started with Tracy Hogg’s book The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer. I never follow anything to a “T”, not even recipes, but it’s nice to have an outline to reference when you don’t know what the hell you are doing. But the chapter in Tracy’s book referencing sleep habits and techniques was short, and I wanted more information (I told you, I get obsessed). So I found another book called The Sleep Lady’s Good Night Sleep Tight by Kim West. Again, I was drawn to the book because of her middle-ground gentle approach to sleep coaching and the fact that the book took us from newborn all the way through age 5. It goes through every sleep challenge you can think of from helping baby learn how to self soothe, separation anxiety, breaking bad sleep habits, teething, milestones (like sitting up and walking) which can cause a good sleeper to wake more often, and even how to transition older children who have been sleeping in mom and dad’s bed to their own room… and she explains how to do this while teaching your child independence and confidence, and not handling in a way which the child may interpret the change as punishment or with negative feelings.

Taking into consideration a few notes and cues from Tracy and Kim along with 20+ articles and a few personal blogs, we dove into the sleep coaching pool head first. I’m not sure if it was the preparation, the simple techniques from the books, our timing, or that Tuff is just such a laid back little nugget… but the transition was a piece of cheesecake. We started with naps in the crib for a couple days and then one night we just put him down in his bed after his bedtime routine. That was it! Tuff was falling asleep on his own, unswaddled, by 10.5 weeks old and sleeping from 9:30 pm to 5:15 am.

Now, I’m not saying we didn’t have a couple rough nights in there, but it was much easier than I imagined. In the process, we had to break some bad habits of our own that could have become a crutch later on and we armed ourselves with the tools to make the shift as easy as possible. Yes, I’m fully aware that babies have been putting themselves to sleep since the beginning of time and that babies sleep in other rooms all over the globe and they can do it without books or gadgets and BLAH, BLAH, BLAH… Well today, here in America, it’s a material world. It’s not like I endorse buying millions of toys and gadgets for my kid and suppress my motherly intuition, but I do indulge in a few items that have made our lives significantly easier.

1.       Sound machine: It’s nothing too fancy and we received it as a gift. It has both lullabies and relaxation noises (white noise, heartbeat, waves and rain). We turn it on during both naps and nighttime. I bought a Gentle Giraffe by Cloud B that actually velcros to his bed and has a timer on it (bonus, it can be used later as a lovey). It has been a total lifesaver when Tuff has been overtired. If we see that he is extra fussy and restless, we turn on the giraffe and within moments he begins to settle. It also helps drown out noise from the rest of the house, so we don’t have to tippy toe around.

2.      Baby monitor with video: I heard quite a few negative stories about the video monitor and several of my books advised against the use of one. But I didn’t want to go rushing into Tuff’s room to see what was going on every time a sound came through the speaker. I admit, the first couple of weeks I did check the monitor several times throughout the night to check on him (especially if I didn’t hear any noises for a while, weird right). But I would just push the view button to make sure he was still breathing and turn it right back off, no getting out of bed. Also, if we heard him squeak or grunt, we could just turn on the screen and watch to see if he would put himself back to sleep or if he needed our help. It’s been one of my favorite tools in helping become comfortable and confident as a mother and understanding his sleep patterns (plus sometimes you just want to look at your baby’s sweet face without being all up in his face).
3.       Books and Articles: It would be stupid not to take advantage of expert advice and these days it’s easier than ever to utilize because all the leading experts write books! You read the books and take from them what recommendations you need for your situation and what works best for you and your family. The pyramids were not built in one day, many mistakes were made in perfecting their craft and the greatest engineers of today would kill to know a handful of the Egyptians secrets. I know that’s extreme, I’m just saying it doesn’t hurt to get guidance from people with overwhelming experience in the subject you’re questioning.

If I would give any one thing the credit for making our experience so seamless, it would be consistency. Whatever changes or adjustments that I would make, my husband would mirror when it was his turn. If after a few nights something didn’t work, we would talk it out and make modifications where needed. It was collaboration between the both of us that made it work. Unless the outcome was a complete disaster, we would try to reinforce for 3 days. And these are little things… instead of patting him to sleep, just putting our hand on his back; putting him down while he is drowsy and still awake, instead of after he’s fallen asleep; we stopped forcing the pacifier, and let him soothe himself with his fingers; waking him up gently with soft voices and a soft lamp light, rather than turning on the big lights and scooping him out of bed before he’s had a chance to recognize his surroundings. Regardless of what we did or who agrees with our parenting style, it was what was comfortable and worked for both of us because we operated together as team and respected each other’s opinions. I honestly believe that whatever it is that you do, consistency is the key to making it work.

This was all in preparation for me to go back to work. And when the day finally came, it was effortless. We woke up about 5:30 am, I fed and changed the baby while my husband took his shower and then we swapped. He took the baby and went in the kitchen to make coffee while I showered and got ready for work. We decided that he would take Tuff to daycare in the mornings since it took longer for me to get ready, and I would pick him up in the afternoons. I got to work that morning, waiting for the anxiety to all-of-a-sudden slap me in the face and I would begin to cry and sob and call the daycare 100 times… but it never came. I was well rested and eager to get back to work so that I could get back on a schedule. I had taken Tuff to visit the daycare center several times in the middle of the day to see what his reaction to all the commotion would be, and he was very relaxed but curious when we visited. I knew the facility we chose was a perfect match for our entire family, so I wasn’t worried all day while at work (it probably helps a little that it is only 5 minutes from our office). I called at lunch time to check on him and was given nothing but compliments on how relaxed and laid back he was there. If he was happy, I didn’t see a reason to get worked up. His smiling face when he came home the first day from "school" the first day was just a confirmation that he was being well looked after...

What can I say, it was all starting to come together and it felt so good. I was back at work and our schedules just kind of all fell into place naturally. My mind would play games with me… It was like we were always this way, always a family, the 3 of us. Yet at the same time, it felt like yesterday that we were heading to the hospital. Not to mention, it was getting way more fun. Tuff wasn’t just eating and sleeping all day, he would smile and giggle and reach for things and make eye contact with us. He was starting to make “conversation” and try to communicate. He would hold his hands up in front of his face and study his little fingers for an hour at a time. He was paying more attention when either of us would say or do things around him. He was starting to respond to his name.

It has been so exciting, watching him grow and thrive and begin to learn things. We truly take too much for granted, and I’m so blessed I have the privilege of being Tuff’s mom! This whole blog sounds like we are helping teach our son to be confident and independent and happy, when in reality he has taught me so much more. He has taught me patience and how to breathe, he has taught me how to surrender and how to give selflessly, he has taught me appreciation and respect, and most of all how to truly and unconditionally love. Never have you loved until you see your own child’s face. I look at him slumber peacefully and I am overwhelmed from the inside out. My entire body tingles with a flash of panic and I feel tears come up from the deepest caverns within and they are filled with pride and love and devotion. I watch him discover and explore, and I wish that I could see the world through his eyes. There is not a day that goes by that I thank God for all that he has given us, including the dark and terrifying, for I would not be as prepared and ready for all the obstacles that I face each day without them. They make the good days better, the sunny days brighter. And it only gets better from here!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Communicating with a baby? Month 2

I used to think it was kinda weird when I’d be with my friends and their babies, and the baby would squeak and momma knew exactly what was needed. Huh? Did I miss something? Did she say something and I didn’t hear it? Maybe I’m holding him wrong? He’s hungry, how do you know? Diaper change, you saw her pee from way over there? Tired, he looks like he’s ready to move mountains? Ooh, maybe he wants to play with this shiny toy instead of that one? How do open the lines of communication... with a baby???

Never did I know that babies had their own language, or that I would ever be able to understand it. Tuff-man had surpassed his birth weight and we knew he was thriving and healthy, and we were getting a little more sleep at night. My brain was finally rebooting itself. I admit, the first few weeks, I could hardly leave my baby’s side. He was just so beautiful, and I didn’t want to miss a single moment even if he was sleeping. Plus, there was a little remorse still lingering from the time we were apart after his birth, and I wanted him within arms reach at all times. Come the 2nd month, I began to get more confident with myself and those negative emotions were starting to fade. We had Tuff on a 3 hour feeding schedule per the pediatrician, but I didn’t really know what else to do with him the rest of the time. Sure… I changed his diaper when it was dirty, he slept when he was sleepy, I gave him little sponge baths in the morning time… but I wanted to understand what he was trying to communicate instead of just following the schedule we set up for him.

I had been reading Dr. Sears Baby Book, and found that the attachment parenting he promoted really did not fit with our lifestyle. I agreed with several of the chapters in the book to some degree, but I started looking for some other material. After reading a few reviews on the opposite extreme of parenting techniques, Richard Ferber’s method seemed almost like torture (both for parent and baby) and I couldn’t read past the reviews. So I picked up a book one night, given to me by a family member, called Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg and started reading. I was fascinated with her gentle approach to communicating with your baby and her suggestions on how to identify and outline your own parenting style. It was a short book and easy to read, great for new moms that only have 30-45 minutes here and there to dedicate to a book. I put tabs on several pages that had useful charts and checklists and tips on calming baby so that I could easily go back and reference them. And I immediately put Tuff on her E.A.S.Y. schedule (Eat, Activity, Sleep, You). It transformed my life within 2 days.

She explained that the first and last feedings of the day should be at the exact same time until baby reaches about 3 months, and that will help him recognize when it is time to get up and when it is time to start getting ready for bed. Daily bedtime routines should be consistent and include a calm atmosphere, warm bath (with or without soap), soft music (like love Jewel’s Lullabies) and some baby massage (with some lavender scented oil or lotion).  This routine will let baby know that it is time to go to sleep for the night. In addition, all the toys and flashing sing-a-long attachments and bouncing chairs and vibrating all the time when he was awake was probably overstimulating him. Introducing one toy at a time would give him a chance to examine it, and experiencing one sensation at a time let me know if he enjoyed the feeling or not. Also, I learned the reactions we have to certain situations reinforce the baby’s overall demeanor. So if the dog barks, or a loud noise happens, or baby gets a blow out diaper and it’s running down your arm, act like it’s no big deal and comfort the baby in a positive way.  We stay calm and baby stays calm (for the most part).  Another thing I took away from the book was that activity time with baby included feeding time and changing diapers, so might as well give your baby your full attention when feeding and make changing diapers fun and enjoyable for your baby (even though it’s a little stinky at times). This will reinforce positive associations with feeding and diaper changes for the future.

She also included a small portion of a chapter to an Australian former mezzo-soprano named Priscilla Dunstan. Now this is super interesting, which is why I had to include it in this post and it may save your life if you are in the first few weeks after birth and struggling to read your baby’s cues… and she’s totally on point! So, to keep the story short, this chick has photographic memory which she put to a new use once she gave birth to her son. She noticed a pattern in his different cries within the first few days. Each distinct cry (or vocalization) is paired with a natural reflex that all babies are born with. See her video below for more details, it’s absolutely incredible!

I was amazed… Not that Tuff was particularly fussy or anything, but after stabilizing his schedule and reducing the clutter around his floor mat for only a few days, he began to give cues and I knew exactly what he  wanted. He would “Neh” because he was hungry around the same times every day, and he would “Owh” when he got sleepy and was tired of playing and I actually understood him. It didn’t have to get to the point where he was all out crying for me to finally get what he was trying to communicate to me. And he enjoyed his activity time so much more. Instead of a thousand toys dangling in his face and blinking, he lay in the middle of the living room floor with just one toy hanging over him and he would be entranced with that one toy. Looking it up and down, studying it, cooing at it and kicking his feet with excitement. When he got tired of it, he stopped looking at it. Simple as that. I didn’t change out the toy with a new one, I just let him do his thing and waited until he cued that he was ready to take a nap or get his diaper changed or wanted to snuggle. My whole outlook on parenting shifted from one of anxiety and confusion, to confidence and comfort. We were finally speaking the same language.

Now we were rolling. I trusted my intuitions as a mother, instead of being in fear that I was doing something wrong. This new point of view encouraged me to get out the house for longer than an hour with the baby. We went to lunch with friends, out on the town, grocery shopping… and as the weeks went by we would teach each other little things. He started to smile voluntarily (what a blissful moment to know that YOU made your child happy), and he started being more vocal with his toys and when I would sing and play with him. He was also starting to sleep longer stretches at night. By 8 weeks, he was in bed for 9:30pm and didn’t wake up until about 4:00am to feed and would be back down from 4:30am to 8:30am… We were actually enjoying this parenting thing (and weren’t doing too bad a job at it either). Yeah, maybe once a week he would wake up a little early or go down a little later, but big whoop-di-doo… he is just a baby after all!

Tuff was 2 months old, and in one month I went from a befuddled new mother who over analyzed every tiny situation to a more laid back and relaxed momma. Tuff’s response to me being more calm and collected was one in the same. If he started to get fussy when I would leave the room or if he got bored, I would just get his attention and once his eyes met mine, you could just see him unwind and loosen back up. And I would have to watch myself, because I noticed one time that I was holding him when I got into a heated discussion with the insurance company (that could be a whole post on its own) and he began to get very squirmy and uneasy. I put him in his bouncy and breathed it out for a couple of minutes… and when I calmed down, so did Tuff. Amazing!

It wasn’t too long, though, that my peace of mind would begin to unravel once again... I had to go back to work soon and we needed to start transitioning him from the cradle in our room to the crib in his own room! This would mean our perfect little routine was going to have to be shaken (not stirred) and my mommy-communication skills would be put to the test. Will I have separation anxiety? Will he be scared in that HUGE bed? What if he cries at night and I don’t hear him? Are we going to have to stop swaddling him? Will he like the daycare? Will he remember me after being at daycare all day? Will he like his babysitter better than me? Will she know when to change his diaper? What if they forget to feed him? What happens if the phones are down and something happens to him and they don’t have cell service and I’m out of gas and can’t get to him? AHHHHH!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Bringing Baby Home - Month 1

So we had the baby… now what do we do? A big mistake many women make is they prepare for the pregnancy and birth, and forget to plan for when the baby comes home. Sure, you’ve decorated the nursery, and you know what outfit your baby is going to come home in from the hospital, and you’ve got 300 cases of diapers and wipes… but bringing baby home requires a lot of options, an open mind, a ton of patience (mostly with yourself) and loads of help (because you can’t do everything by yourself!). We thought we were prepared for anything, but once again we were blinded by the limits in our planning.

I was very excited the first time I put on the breast pump and liquid gold began to drip from my nipples. I had breast reduction surgery 4 years prior to pregnancy, and it was one of my biggest fears (besides a c-section) that I would not be able to breastfeed due to the amount of tissue and milk ducts that had to be removed in the process. I pumped about every 2-3 hours while in recovery and was very optimistic about breastfeeding. Honestly, it was the greatest feeling ever when Tuff latched on for the first time. It’s completely indescribable and something only a mother can truly appreciate. Just looking down at that sweet face suckling, and the feeling you get from knowing you are providing your baby with something that is made just for him by your body and is impossible to reproduce… it’s absolutely incredible. His little hands lightly rested around my breast and it all felt so natural and wonderful. Breastfeeding is truly a remarkable experience.

By the second day in recovery, I was sick to my stomach. I was so excited that our baby was finally in the room with us, but with the excitement came anxiety and tension. I couldn’t eat or even stand food to be around me because it would make me nauseous. All the medication and antibiotics that were pumped through my system for 2 days had me all jacked up. My stomach ached and burned from all the morphine and pain killers, my throat and shoulders were terribly sore from all the heaving caused by the Nubain and epidural, and I could smell the antibiotics seeping through my pores (yuck!). My appetite was non-existent and I was exhausted. My husband and family would try to get me to eat, but at the time, I just couldn’t stomach anything. All I wanted to do was hold my precious baby close to me, and try to make up for all the time we had missed together.

A couple of things about breastfeeding that are good to know:
1)      1800-2000 calories daily are needed in order to produce and maintain a healthy milk supply.
2)      Many medications are passed through the milk glands to baby, so double and triple check all medications with your doctor and pharmacist before taking.
3)      The food you eat may cause your baby to have an upset stomach and even reflux, so find out what foods you should stay clear from when breastfeeding. It can take up to 7 days after you cut the culprit from your diet to see results in your baby’s temperment.
4)      Request a lactation consultant be present with almost every feeding in the hospital so she can observe  and give pointers on technique, baby’s latch and comfortable positions to be in while nursing (especially after a c-section). It is also helpful to get advice from more than just one lactation consultant as each may have different ways of helping your particular situation. If they are available, take advantage – you are paying for it anyways!

All of these things I already knew, but it didn’t register in the moment. My guilt and disappointment clouded every thought for the first week. And what’s terrible is when you know exactly how to help yourself, but you can’t do it. It is the first time in my life that I had a taste of what real depression feels like. I was so caught up in trying to take care of my baby, and making sure he had the attention he needed, and trying to push those feelings of remorse to the back of my head, that I didn’t take care of myself. Although I refused to admit it to then, I see now that I mourned my birthing experience and it affected me tremendously. After we came home, I was overflowing with anxiety. I would be looking at my son sleeping and become overwhelmed with feelings. I would have to go in the back room and just cry hysterically.  

It was a bad case of the “baby blues”.  And you know what you get if you mix a non-existent appetite with a few cups of anxiety and top it off with some crème de’ depression… a skimpy milk supply! The Saturday after we got home, one of the lactation consultants called to check on us. I told her that we were having some issues with Tuff fighting the boob, and that he was still passing meconium. So we went in to get him weighed and were hit with another blow… Tuff had lost 15% of his birth weight and we had to check back into the NICU immediately. I couldn’t get any lower. This was supposed to be the happiest time of my life… what the hell was wrong with me!!! I finally broke down when packing our bags to head back to the hospital.

We got back to the hospital and met with the pediatrician on call. He said Tuff was perfectly healthy, except it looked like we put him on a strict diet and it was time to introduce a supplement.  Formula! This scared me terribly, I knew breast was best. I wanted to just pull out my boobs and tell them to pump until the cows come home. We attached the nipple to the formula feeder and inserted into baby’s wide open mouth. With his first gulp, his eyes opened big and wide and you could tell this is what he had been waiting for. By the end of his first ounce, his eyebrows had softened and you could tell he was truly content. This was bittersweet for me, but it was in this moment that I started seeing clearly. This is what my baby needed and moving forward is all we needed to focus on. It was the first time we both enjoyed feeding time since we had gone home.

We stayed in the NICU for 24 hours, and boy did he rebound. He went from 7 pounds 9 ounces, to 8 pounds 2 ounces. Yeah buddy, it was no looking back now. I pumped for the next few days and then dried up completely. By the time we got home, my head was in a completely different place. I thought I was letting my son down by not being able to breastfeed, but that guilt soon past. He was happy, content, smiling and pooping normal! Never have you been so interested in a turd as you are when you are a new parent. Eeb and I would call each other in the room and cheer for baby when he would have a poopoo diaper. And he was gaining his weight back. I threw in the white flag by the end of the 3rd month, and accepted that there could be no planning this trip. We would have to go along for the ride and see where it took us.

The first month was a huge challenge, personally for me. No one ever talks about the first month… all people have to offer in advice is how you should be ready for sleepless nights and how your days of being free are over , or how completely wonderful and easy it is. I was definitely overwhelmed with feelings of fear and anxiety, but those were things I created and put emphasis on. It was in accepting my shortcomings and talking about them honestly with my husband (and eventually other moms) that helped me realize that I was completely normal. I mean, my specific situation may have been unique, but I came to understand that all those feelings are a typical coming home present to most first time mothers. It is the experience of that stage of tremendous panic that I now recognize when I need to take a step back, breathe deeply and count to 10.

We got passed the first month and the party was just getting started! We have a totally awesome baby boy and we thank the stars every day for how healthy and beautiful he is. We all just kind of complete each other and I can’t imagine my days without him. By week 4 he is making all kinds of facial expressions, and cooing loudly at his monkey, and sleeping longer stretches at night, and discovering new things (like the ceiling fan). I wonder every day what it would be like to look through those eyes, seeing everything for the first time. We take so many things for granted, it’s refreshing to be brought back down to this level and remember where it all comes from… our passion and desire and what makes us happy!

4 week stats: 22 inches, 11 lbs 2 oz, 15.6 head CC

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Rebirth – Tuff’s Birth Story

Like I said before, I had a plan. It wasn’t anything outrageous, or dangerous, or even out of the ordinary where natural birth was concerned. My birth plan simply stated that I wanted to exhaust all natural means of pain relief and induction before being offered medical intervention. Boy, oh boy… After 30 hours of labor, “exhaust” takes on a whole new meaning.

March 1st was my due date. I woke up that morning confident I was not having a baby that day. I got up, got dressed and went for a walk followed by a 1 hour water aerobics class. That night I cooked a homemade chicken pot pie that was to die for, followed by a movie with my husband and a night of solitude in our bed. I had asked Eeb to sleep in our guest bedroom due to  the fact that I required a couple more pillows and there was just no room for him in our bed any more (and he snored a little which kept me up all night).

I woke up at about 1:15 am that morning shocked to feel a little wet in the “nethers”. Had I sneezed or laughed in my sleep and peed my pants? I rolled and wiggled myself out of bed, went to the bathroom, changed and went to step on my foot stool to get back into bed when it happened again… trickle, trickle. Well, shit! It’s finally happened… I’ve officially lost all control of my body. I remember cussing my womanly areas as I pulled yet another pair of granny panties out of the drawer (after week 36, my Queen Victoria no longer communicated with the rest of my body and was cussed out on a regular basis). I was pissed, literally! I finally laid back down in bed and started to dose off when it happened, AGAIN! Okay, maybe I’m not peeing. It could only mean 1 other thing… my water broke. I was so confused; the statistics said only about 8% of women’s water break before they go into labor. Just as the thoughts of me holding my baby in my arms started running through my mind, my first itsy bitsy contraction came over me. This was real... YAY!

I walked into the other room where my husband was peacefully sleeping spread eagle on his back (something he was not allowed, nor had room for, in our bed).
I kind of yelled at him in a nervous whisper, “Hey, baby… Hey!”
He startled and said, “What?”
I replied, “I think my water just broke, just wanted to let you know.”
His response was classic, “Do you want me to put the coffee on?”
I just laughed and told him not to worry about it. I climbed in the bed with him a couple minutes later because I started feeling some pressure and more involuntary dribbling. When a pressure wave would come over me, he would stroke my back and time them on an app he downloaded on his iPhone. My contractions were about 5-8 minutes apart and lasting about 50 seconds.

By 5:00 am the contractions were getting a little more intense, so we called our doula and gave her an update. I mostly sat on the toilet because it was easier with all the sudden gushes of fluid, but the toilet made the contractions so intense. Don’t know what “John’s” last name was, but the invention of the toilet had to have had labor in mind when in creation. When I say intense, I mean this rush of heat and pressure and muscle tension all focused on one area at the same time in kind of a wave. I could feel it come about slowly and then it would peak, which lasted only about 10-20 seconds, and then slowly fade away taking about 50-60 seconds total. About 4-7 minutes later it would happen again. It wasn’t painful, but I did feel a good bit of pressure in my bum.

We finally headed to the hospital about 7:00 am. After they confirmed the leaking was amniotic fluid, I was checked into a room. This is where the Birth Plan came in super handy. They had it set up exactly how I wanted it. Lights off, one of the shades drawn to let only natural light in, my meditation playlist was getting hooked up to the speaker system, they helped cover the clock and my doula had checked to see what nurses were there and requested the one that she knew would best fit our “style”. She even made sure the nurses at the front knew I wanted NO VISITORS. This was very important to us, as I did not want any interference or concerned faces from family while trying to concentrate on having a baby. (Doula = best experience possible).

Checking in I was only 2 cm dilated, 80% effaced, and -3 station (which means the baby was still pretty high up there but there was some progression). So when we got in the room, I tried all kinds of positions. I got on the yoga ball, I sat on the toilet, I put the breast pump on, we walked the halls, I showered... and we chatted in between contractions about what we thought the sex would be and what the baby would look like (the gender was a surprise). I even teased that baby would come out red haired and blue eyed and that my husband would have to love him like it was his own (LOL). And let me tell you something, labor is messy. Uterus juice would seep out every time a contraction would wash over me. Eeb laid out absorbent puppy pads all over the floors of the delivery room and would try to catch the fluid with the vomit bags (didn’t exactly work though).  And (TMI WARNING) if one of your biggest fears is taking a dump in front of other people, you best plan on laboring by your lonesome because your body will release pressure from all your orifices whether you’re relaxed or not, and trying to hold it back only turns the pressure into pain. So letting yourself go is the only way out, and it’s a yucky road.

The day flew by, and before I knew it the room was getting really dark. By 8:30 pm I am still only 6 cm dilated, but that meant I could get into the tub. It was difficult getting in while having contractions and fearing that you would become straight-legged with the next contraction and fling yourself into the water (I kept picturing a sumo-wrestler jumping into a kiddy-pool). But once I was submerged and safe, my body just relaxed. I tried several positions, but floating on my stomach was the most comfortable, if I only I could have breathed under water. This was where I started to get exhausted. After about an hour and a half, they refilled the tub with hot water (the water temperature needs to be at least 98 degrees if the baby is to be born in the tub). The hot water stripped what energy I had left and I was getting tired of holding my head up. The contractions were getting intense and closer together and the heat from the water was making me nauseous. I wanted ice... Ice in my mouth, ice on my neck, ice under my armpits. I told them I wanted to get out of the tub and cool off for a while, but getting out of the tub soaking wet and not really having a break between contractions was a tricky feat. As I finally put both feet on the ground, a rush of nausea took over me and projected into the waste bin. The pressure had shifted into my back and I started to feel real pain.

After laboring on the toilet again for a while, we started weighing our options. It was almost midnight and my cervix was swollen and I was still only 6-7 cm dilated. Through much discussion and a bit of disappointment, I decided to let them give me some Nubain. The option was this or Pitocin; and in my mind I thought if I could just get an hour of rest, I would get the energy to move forward. Unfortunately, this was the beginning of a very bumpy road. The Nubain did nothing but make me more nauseous and my back throbbed in pain. At 2:00 am I am still only 6-7 cm and swollen, nauseous and completely exhausted. I had lost all focus and could not get back to where I needed to be mentally. It’s at this point all the negative comments from the last few months run through my head. Disappointed and frustrated, I gave in.

At 2:35 am they came in to administer the epidural. Again, in my mind are other people’s thoughts about when they got their epidural. How they "didn’t feel a thing," "the epidural was wonderful," and how they "loved being able to rest because of the epidural"... Those people are dog-faced liars. The anesthetist instructed me to sit on the side of the bed and curl into a ball around my stomach. This was not at all comfortable considering I was still having contractions and wanted to stretch out. He inserted the foot long needle into my back while I was hunched over and asked me to tell him what leg I felt it in. I wanted to scream as I felt involuntary twitches in mainly my left leg which made them jump and twitch. Inside, I was crushed and just wanted to push the baby out right there, but I was not in my right mind. Even though I didn’t want to, I just did what he told me to and held on to Eeb who was standing in front of me the same way as when I miscarried, and I cried.

At 4:30 am I was catheterized and still at 7 cm and swollen. For the past hour I had the shakes and the chills so bad that I felt like I was going to explode from trying to control them. Eeb and the doula took a little nap. I tried to rest, but I had a terrible reaction and was convulsing so hard from the narcotic and epidural that I heard the bed vibrating under me and I was freezing cold. They started Pitocin since my labor seemed to have stalled completely, and to add on to the rest of my symptoms my temperature was increasing. So I consented to the Pitocin. By 6:00 am my cervix still had no progression and I had a temperature of 101 degrees and throwing up again. Eeb and I made the final decision to have a cesarean section, which is also the advice from the midwife and OBGYN on call. I am trembling and freezing cold and I’m ready for this to be over.

At 6:30 am I was transported to the operating room. This is the scariest 15 minutes of my life. No one was allowed in the operating room until the staff was finished prepping for surgery. I was terrified. They moved me from the hospital bed to the operating table and spread my arms out wide. This is how they left me for 15 minutes by myself. I was still shaking and convulsing severely from the reactions I was having to the narcotics and epidural and I was trying to keep my arms and the rest of my body still. I just lie there in the bright room and listened to everything I could possibly hear that the nurses were saying and I cried. I never felt so alone. There was no one talking to me, or explaining to me what they were doing, or holding my hand and it’s the first time in months that I could not feel my baby inside me. I knew I was finally about to meet my angel, but I was so disappointed that it had come to this. I finally heard Eeb enter the room and the doula was there holding my hand. I was so relieved to hear their voices and feel their touch, I sort of just past out. I remember hearing them say, “Are you guys ready?” My eyes popped open just as they were dropping the curtain so Eeb could see if we had a boy or a girl. He squeezed my hand very tightly and yelped, “WE HAVE A KEEGAN!” I looked at his beautiful face and I was speechless. The next thing I knew, they had rushed him over to the examination table. My brain processed this way faster than I expected being under all of the drugs I was on. After about 1 minute, I still didn’t hear him cry and I was asking if he was okay. I saw the nurses rubbing vigorously and shaking their heads back and forth which scared me terribly. A million thoughts crossed my mind as to what was wrong with him… I knew it was one or a combination of the decisions I had made during labor that had resulted in this and I felt numb. The nurses said he was having some trouble breathing. I told Eeb to go stand by him and talk to him, that maybe he would hear his voice and it would help. Apparently, that’s what he needed. He opened his eyes and looked at his daddy. Eeb took a couple of pictures and brought them to me so I could see his eyes open. A couple minutes later, I heard a squeak from across the room and my heart melted. At that very same second the room cheered and everyone’s faces relaxed.

I looked at the clock for the first time which was right behind where the doula was sitting, still holding my hand, and it was 7:25 am (a little over 24 hours after we arrived at the hospital). They brought him over to me and I got to look at his sweet face. I told them not to let him go because I was still shaking from the epidural. I finally got to tell him, “Hello, I’m your mommy.” He looked right into my eyes. That was the last time I saw him for 14 hours. They took him to the NICU for observation and treatment. He was 8 lbs, 12 oz. and 21.25 inches long. His APGAR scores were 2/9 at 1 minute, 5/9 at 5 minutes, and 8/9 at 10 minutes.

After an entire day of hearing how beautiful my son was (torture was what it felt like), they took my catheter out and told me I could go see him. I was so excited that I insisted on walking all the way to the NICU. I had been lying in that bed being pumped full of fluids and morphine for long enough. The nurse followed me with the wheel chair, but I just held on to my husband’s arm and walked as fast as I could without busting my stitches. We walked into the NICU and there he was, lying on the bed with the heat lamp on him, hooked to several machines. Before the nurse could close the curtain I had dropped my gown, scooped him up and held him skin to skin. I didn’t cry, it was too much of a happy moment for me. We were okay, we were together and we were a family.

I walked to NICU every 1-2 hours after that to breastfeed and see my little nugget and hold him close to me. I let my husband sleep after the first NICU visit, for he had a long couple of days and needed the rest. I would not have been able to make it through without my husband and my doula. My husband supported me through every little twitch, and moan, and groan, and he motivated me even though I know he was as exhausted as I was. His motto has always been, “I don’t always know where I’m going or take the easy road, but it always works out in the end!” And it is a saying that is reapplied to our lives over and over again.