Archive for September, 2015

I’m Down with Dirt

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

I'm Down with DirtMy child eats dirt. She ate dirt today, in fact. When a baby does it, you get it; they’re exploring their world. When a 3-year-old eats dirt? You wonder if they have any taste buds at all. But, for all my lack of inclination to eat dirt myself, I’m totally ok with the fact that she has, from time to time.

Here’s why:

  1. Dirt is a rite of passage for kids. It’s fun to get dirty. It’s fun to bake mud pies, to dig for buried treasure, to drive trucks through the dirt, and to build sand castles. I also take a dirty kid as a sign that that child was fully invested in his or her play. They let their imagination take over and didn’t stop one moment to worry what mom might say about their clothes, or the fact that they may be earning a one-way ticket into the bath. They just played. They released endorphins, relaxed, and probably came in happy. (It’s a good idea to send your child out in play clothes, though. I’m about as big of a fan of getting a dirt stain out of good clothes as anyone else.)
  2. Dirt is also good for the immune system. I am 100 percent ok with contact with the public world. I’m probably the most unconcerned mother ever when using public toilets. Sure, I take the proper precautions. We wash hands, but not with antibacterial soap, just the regular stuff, but I don’t carry hand sanitizer and I pick toys up of the ground without thought. I’m trying to teach her about how germs spread and what she needs to do to stay healthy, but I also view getting dirty as one of those steps toward staying healthy. I’ve long embraced the idea that the more we come into contact with, germ-wise, the more our bodies are prepared to fight everything off. Science tends to support this deduction as well.
  3. Dirt is outside. If your child came home dirty, she was probably OUTSIDE. Outside, in nature. She was connecting with nature in some way. I personally feel that we’re losing our connection with nature and would like to inspire my daughter to appreciate what it is to connect with the earth, with the plants and trees and animals around her. So, we garden together. We go on hikes through drippy woods. We flip over rocks in search of roly poly bugs and we beachcomb for seashells. That also means I carry towels in the car to wipe off muddy shoes and often vacuum sand from the floor, but I’m ok with that.

So that’s why I’m down with dirt. What about you? Has your child tasted a mud pie or two?

Kate Cunha lives in the Pacific NW with her husband and their 3 year old daughter. She was a dirt loving, tree climbing kid who grew into a terrible gardener who loves nature. 

What I Learned During My Baby’s First Year

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

what I learned during my baby's first yearWhen you have a baby you focus on milestones throughout the first year. Your doctor, family, friends, and the Internet tell you what your baby should be learning at each phase of life. But what do we learn as mommas? Here are some things I learned during my baby’s first year.

  1. Nursing the second time around is so much easier. I have dealt with plugged ducts and a nasty infection from bite marks, but otherwise, it has been great. Latching was so much easier. Understanding what is going on is so much easier. I wish I could go back to nervous, first-time mom me and tell me to chill out about breastfeeding.
  2. Babies are all different with sleep. My son is not the greatest sleeper. He turned 1 this week, and I am still getting up two times at night to nurse. By my daughter’s first birthday, I had enjoyed many restful full nights of sleep. Levi has other plans, however. He naps so much better at home in his crib. Johanna loved to nap in her car seat or in the Boba carrier.
  3. Time is precious. Looking back on the past year, I could cry. I didn’t take advantage of the precious moments with my little boy like I should have. We moved twice during his first year, and many days were filled with tears of frustration, stress, and nerves of having two little ones alone with me. Instead of holding him close and rocking him, many times he had to cry in his crib so I could take care of his sister’s needs. I know I can’t change any of that, but I want to enjoy each moment with him now. I want to look back and remember the giggles and smiles.  It’s okay if laundry piles up or we don’t make it out of our pajamas. Babies don’t keep.
  4. Support from my spouse is a must-have. I am very blessed to be married to a helpful husband. He loves his children and takes pride in taking care of them and being involved in their lives. We moms need support. Whether it’s from your spouse, family, or friends, you need it, momma. We need breaks. It’s okay to take time away. We need our sanity so we can be better moms.
  5. Life without my kids would be so boring. I can’t imagine my life without Levi or Johanna. It’s so hard to remember what I did before them. I do know I was much more rested and fixed my hair more, but those things don’t matter. I can’t imagine a day without their snuggles and smiles.

While I know Levi learned a lot during his first year, I feel like he’s taught me more. He may have learned to crawl, sit up, pull up, and mash up food, but he has taught his momma how to be herself. He has taught me to embrace the extra 5 pounds and just relax. He has taught me to smile when he gets messy in his high chair and not stress over the floor underneath. Most of all, my baby has taught me how to love.

I love you, Levi. Happy 1st birthday from your Momma. Teach on, little man.

Karyn Meyerhoff is a mom of two in Northeast Indiana who lives, writes, and loves her kiddos with all of her heart.

My Pregnancy: Week 8

Monday, September 28th, 2015

One of the more difficult parts of each pregnancy was the waiting game to see the doctor. In the case of our first two pregnancies, we found out at 5-6 weeks and waited only about two more before getting to hear that little heartbeat. This time we found out very early and had several schedule conflicts; we didn’t arrive to the doctor’s office until a day short of nine weeks after more than five weeks of waiting.

It’s a frustration many of us experience if we aren’t already collaborating with a doctor to conceive. As a baby’s heart rate is either nonexistent or hard to detect before that eight-week mark and general medical care is minimal in those early weeks, most doctors don’t see pregnant patients until that time (some even later). I remember with our first I had some bleeding and arrived to a Planned Parenthood clinic after my previous doctor told me to “wait it out and follow up with blood tests if needed.” Though they were not keen on providing extensive care either, they did provide an ultrasound and blood test to ensure baby and I were doing well. It was sweet relief.

I knew the date of my last period but also knew my cycle varied by a couple of days some months. Given I found out so early (three and a half weeks pregnant), my doctor provided a transvaginal scan to assess the due date. These days the first trimester ultrasound is quite common but not covered by all insurances as necessity. The FDA encourages prudent use of ultrasound technology given the unknown effects of extended or incorrect use of ultrasound technology. I was happy to see my babe at this time as the anatomy screening around 20 weeks will likely be our only other meeting.

I wonder sometimes if part of the symptoms that plague the first trimester for most women aren’t in and of themselves to lower the anxieties of early pregnancy. Evidence of pregnancy is very reassuring. Every day I woke up feeling sick was reassurance. The deep, otherwise inexplicable, exhaustion filled me with a sustainable hope in the visual evidence that bumps up in the later weeks of pregnancy.

After all, I think connection is really just intimacy, being known and knowing another. I didn’t need to see my baby to feel connected. That said, it was a sweet, sweet moment to see that one—only one— little blip on the screen with a strong heartbeat.

I must say it was also a sweet moment to again see my doctor since giving birth to my younger son two years prior. As I worked in the hospital I interacted a few times with the doctor professionally I actually went to a different doctor during that time. Perhaps his familiarity with me, then, was slightly different than a woman might typically experience. But his warm, genuine presence offered me another connection. He and his equally wonderful nurse were the first ones we really shared the news with about baby. They were with me for those key moments in the previous pregnancy. I felt more connected to my pregnancy at large just by being with them for that time.

But that heartbeat, oh that sweet, muffled, swooshing sound. What a sweet reassurance that the excitement I was feeling these last five weeks was real. That joy did not need to be tempered down any longer (perhaps it needn’t have been tempered down at all). This is really happening.

Annie is a mom of two toddlers finding comfort in breakfast foods and the excitement of one little baby on the way. If only she could find time for even more sleep.

Maisie’s Birth Story

Friday, September 25th, 2015

DSCN1032Editor’s Note: We are starting to include the birth stories of bloggers here as a way to show a variety of birth experiences. These stories may be graphic in description.

Thursday, 9/25

I went to work like normal the last day of my 38th week.  I came home that night and Adam and I had dinner, then went for a walk up and down the street twice. While we walked, we talked about all the things we needed to do the upcoming weekend to prepare for the baby. I was going to go to the grocery store, get the car seat installed, get the oil in the car changed, and get my license plates renewed. We also talked about how I had not even seen the plug yet–a telltale sign you are close to birth–and that she probably would not come this week. I told Adam that I had a feeling I would not see it, even though most women do.

We came inside and watched Oregon State finish pummeling number-one-ranked USC, which meant that Oklahoma would be number one now. The game ended around 10pm, and we went to bed right after. At about 11pm, I woke from a dead sleep, sat straight up and gasped. Adam jumped out of bed, thinking for some reason I had seen someone in the doorway. I told him, “I think my water just broke.”

I went to the bathroom to look at my undies to see if maybe in my late stage of pregnancy I had just had an accident, but it didn’t look or smell like urine. Adam was standing there and told me to call the doula. I called Angela and described what happened. She told me that she believed it was my water, and to go to bed and get lots of sleep. “I can’t sleep!” I told her. “I’m too excited! I’m not ready for this!” She told me again to get some sleep, eat a big breakfast, and to call her back first thing in the morning.

I tossed and turned all night, getting up frequently to go to the bathroom as my water continued to leak. I watched Conan O’Brien, the cartoon network, and chatted with some ladies on the message board. Around 4 am, I was finally able to fall asleep despite the contractions I was starting to feel. I woke up around 730am and the doula called. She told me to take a hot shower, eat a big breakfast, walk around the block for 30 minutes, and to call the birth center when they opened up. She said she thought I was indeed in labor. Adam made me blueberry muffins and got ready for work. He said he wanted to go in for at least a little bit so he wouldn’t have to take off the whole day. I was a little puzzled, but I let him go and would call him when I knew something more. Before he left, we looked up the instructions for the car seat online and Adam installed it in his car before going to work.

Friday, 9/26

It was raining that morning, so I took a shower, grabbed an umbrella and walked the block while I texted folks to update them on what was going on. At 830am, I called the birth center and they had Cece, the midwife on call, call me back and ask me about everything. I got kind of chewed out for not calling them as soon as my water broke, but they would have had me come in just to send me home, Angela told me. Cece told me she thought I was in labor based on what I had told her, and would meet me at the birth center at 10am. I called Angela and Adam and told them to meet me at the birth center at 10am. Adam left work immediately to come home and pick me up.

By the time we got to the birth center, the contractions were getting stronger, but I could still talk through them easily. Cece arrived and we went back to the big birthing room. She waited for a contraction to hit and felt my stomach. She said that they were good contractions and that I should stay. I asked if they were going to check my dilation, and she said they would wait and do it in a little bit.

When we realized we were staying, they asked if we had brought any food. We hadn’t, so Adam went to Trader Joe’s and got everything peanut butter–peanut butter cups, peanut butter pretzels, peanut butter crackers, a sandwich for me, and a ton of water. He got himself a burrito from Chipolte. I really wanted one, and he said he would go back and get one for me when we were done.

I sat on the birthing ball for a while and rocked through my contractions. They were still getting stronger but I was in good shape. They brought in Olivia, the nurse, and I met her and Fran, who would be covering for Cece while she had a meeting from 1pm to 4pm. I thought, “She is going to miss the whole thing if she’s not back until 4pm!” Adam laid on the bed and played a video game on his computer, while his iTunes played for music. I had planned to bring some CDs but totally forgot.

After a while of laboring on the ball, Fran came in to check my dilation. This was the first time I was checked. I got out of my maternity cargo pants and turquoise top I bought the weekend before when Allison was visiting. I took off my jewelry except for my watch and put it in my purse. I put on a pink and white wrap Sarah got me in Mexico when we got married, and hopped up on the bed for my first check. Fran determined that I was 2-3 cm. Angela said we needed to go outside and walk to get things moving. If they didn’t start up fast, I would have to have cervadil or pitocin to augment my labor. She said we could do cervadil without pain meds, but if I had to have pitocin that natural thing might be over.

We went outside and walked around, just me and Angela. We did two laps around the outside of the center. Then we came back inside and I sat on the ball a little more. After I labored a little while more, things began to heat up a bit. I felt nauseous during contractions and quit eating my sandwich. At this point they were getting pretty bad, so I went to the shower, then came out and got on the ball. Adam was pressing my hips together during contractions and massaging my back with Angela’s back massager. birth3

Angela told me to get out of the shower so they could check me again. I was really hurting by now and knew what Angela was talking about earlier when she said I couldn’t be too far along because “there were still smiles.” At the time I was offended, thinking that she was being pessimistic, but now I knew what she meant. We had been smiling and laughing between contractions, but that was over now. I thought for sure when they checked me this time that I would be 5 to 6 cm. Cece told me I was now 3 to 4 cm. I started crying uncontrollably. I told them I couldn’t do this and that I needed to go to the hospital. I just didn’t think I could take who knows how many more hours of this pain.  Cece told me that it was okay, and we would get through this. They ignored my pleas to go get an epidural.

We regrouped and went outside to squat with the rope. When I felt a contraction, I dropped down, holding the rope, to make it more intense and let gravity help me dilate. We walked again around outside with Adam this time, so I could drop down during contractions while walking. Adam and Angela held my arms and we were about halfway around when I started peeing with the contractions. We came back in and I was in more pain. They checked me again and I was not making much progress. That’s when they told me she was posterior. They got me on the bed and I hung my body over an egg shaped exercise ball to try and get her to turn over sunny-side up, as they call it.

From there things get really fuzzy. My eyes were closed most of the time. I know I asked about pain options at some point, and they told me about these water shots they could put in my back, and also a narcotic that would not numb me but would take the edge off for a bit. I labored in the tub once I got to 6 cm. I was hot and sweating but did not want them to turn on the fan. I remember liking the heat. Adam had rolled up his jeans and was sitting behind me on the edge of the tub so I could grip his legs as a pushed. I also had my legs straight out and was pushing off the tub. Some of the time I leaned over the front of the tub and labored on hands and knees to encourage things to move along.

We really didn’t talk at all the whole time after things got hairy. I remember trying to talk in between contractions, but it was like trying to talk when you are asleep and dreaming. I would mumble things that didn’t make sense and no one could understand anyway.  Sometimes I even felt like I was having lucid dreams between contractions. At one point when I was in the tub she got the hiccups and I could feel how much lower she was then when I was pregnant.

After this, they wanted to give me IV fluids because I had stopped drinking water. At that time I got out of the tub and labored in the bed on my side. They gave me the narcotic and almost immediately my brain felt fuzzy and I nodded off until the next contraction.  It felt a little less intense but mainly the difference was that I could rest a little bit. Adam was laying on the bed with me, and I gripped him during contractions. At some point I ended up back in the tub for a while and then agreed to do the water shots.

They told me that they give the water shots during a contraction because that way you aren’t focusing on more pain. They give you four and do them all at once. I got on hands and knees on the bed and waited for a contraction. I told Anglea and Cece that it was coming and they gave me the shots. It was the most painful thing I have ever felt. The shots seemed to just keep coming and coming. I think there were really eight. You felt one blast of pain when they stuck the needles in and another as they pushed down the plungers. It felt like a swarm of bees attacking my back. It was much worse than the contraction and I howled in pain.

The whole time Cece and Angela were encouraging me to make low, guttural sounds instead of high-pitched screams, so each contraction, I yelled “oh” in a low groan the entire contraction. This was to make sure that I was breathing deep and getting oxygen to the baby. The whole time they were monitoring her from the outside, and every time her heart rate was perfect whether I was contracting or not. It dipped when it was supposed to and came back. Right then we knew she was a really strong baby.

I got back in the tub and then they had me get out and they checked me again. I dreaded being checked for dilation because each check caused another contraction. At this point I was at 8 cm and I had progressed very quickly, so they thought she had flipped for us. They told me to walk around the birth center, which was vacant by this time. Angela helped me walk around, and Adam came with us to rub my back during each contraction. Instead of massaging, he would grab each side of my hips and squeeze them together as hard as he could.  It helped a little bit but not much. I didn’t have to tell him anything to indicate I was contracting. I would start groaning and grab the wall like I was being frisked, and that was his cue to grab my hips and squeeze.

As we walked around the birth center, Angela encouraged me by telling me how close I was and I asked if I could have the narcotic again. She said probably not because I was too close to pushing. When we got back to the room I asked Cece and she said I could. I laid down in the bed and they gave me the narcotic. It didn’t feel as strong this time. I clung to Adam and labored some more. He was watching his watch and told me when I only had five minutes of the drugs left–they only lasted a half hour. After they ran out, Cece told me to get on the birthing stool, that it was time to push.

I sat on the birthing stool and Adam sat behind me with his legs on the side so I could hold on to them. We started pushing and it seemed to go slow. I could feel her in the birth canal but not exactly where she was.  I pushed and pushed, and Angela told me not to push with my face. I tried to keep my shoulders down, my face relaxed and push like they told me. I grabbed the padding from underneath me and pulled up on it like the reins of a horse and leaned back hard on Adam. It was like pooping the biggest poop you have ever pooped in your life–the pushing feels exactly the same.

I pushed for a while and it seemed like nothing was happening because she would inch forward when I pushed and suck back a little when I stopped. The urges came in waves like contractions, but weren’t as painful. However, it was painful to have her stuck there, so it made me want to push faster. I pushed like a crazy person, moaning and groaning and then Cece asked me if I wanted to feel her head. I reached down and could feel the peach fuzz of the top of her head. Angela held a mirror so Adam could see her coming. I didn’t want to look, I just wanted her out. I kept telling myself it was almost all over and I could rest soon. Cece held a warm cloth on me to keep me from tearing. A few times they told me to stop pushing so everything could stretch out.

18 hours oldThen Cece told me her head was out. Adam stood up and leaned over me to look, and told me she was almost out. I pushed and pushed and then all of a sudden she said “Here’s your baby!” and they put this little blue coneheaded thing on my chest. Her cord was still connected and the placenta hadn’t come out yet. I just gasped because everything was so worn out I hadn’t even felt her come out. It still felt like she was stuck down there. I stared at her with my mouth open and said “Isn’t she beautiful?” Adam just leaned over me staring at her. We were both in shock. I couldn’t believe it was over after all that time. After a second or two in my arms she cried out, a good sign. She filled her little lungs with air and then immediately quieted down and stared right back and Adam and me. Her little brow was furrowed like she was suspicious of the whole thing. We sat there for a bit, and then right as they were about to give me pitocin to encourage the placenta to come, I gave one big push and it came out on it’s own.

Once the cord quit pulsing, Adam cut it and they clamped it off. They wrapped the outside of her in a blanket and put a little hat on her to keep her warm, but left her skin up against mine. Right before they moved me to the bed, Adam left to go get that burrito I had been promised.

When they moved me to the bed, they pumped my abdomen from the outside to get all the blood out and force the uterus back. Then they gave me a few shots to numb me and began sewing up the tear that resulted from the birth. Cece apologized and said it might hurt as she gave me the shots, but I couldn’t feel a thing I told her she could probably take a limb off right now and I wouldn’t notice. I was just laying on the bed sideways holding my baby and I could look at her and literally not be able to hear or feel anything outside of her. It was like we were in a bubble of just us. I kept saying “I can’t believe it’s over!” and the nurse kept laughing and said, “Honey, it’s just beginning!”

Cece finished sewing me up and they helped me get into bed. Adam came back with my burrito and I gave him to her to hold. She had been awake and alert the whole time. The nurses even commented on how alert she was. The first time Adam held her she smiled for us. All we could do was just stare at her. She was just fascinating.

After about an hour, we were asked what her name was for the paperwork and that’s when we decided on Maisie. She was born at 9:20pm, which meant we could leave at 2am, but we were so tired we stayed the night. The next morning she got looked over by everyone at the birth center–Cece, the nurse and a pediatrician–and we got to dress her in her brand new OU outfit and take her home at 8am.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls. She lives and writes in Oklahoma City. 

Do Baby Helmets Really Work?

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

baby helmetsMy son Levi was born with, well, let’s just say it. He has a big head. It’s always been big. I mean, off-the-charts big head. He is still precious as can be, however. When he was a few months old, his head started to get a flat spot. My pediatrician assured me that this would correct itself as he began to crawl.

Fast forward to the months of crawling. His head got worse. He slept on his back in his crib or rock-n-play sleeper, so I wasn’t sure why this was happening. Many times it can be treated early on with simply adding in more tummy time or repositioning baby as he or she sleeps. It became noticeable that maybe his head wasn’t going to correct itself.

Plagiocephaly is also called flat-head syndrome. After getting two referrals, we took my son to an orthopedic office where I was told he had this. I had only known one child who had to wear a baby helmet, and I didn’t want my little boy to wear one. Part of me was embarrassed. Why did he have to wear this giant thing and what did I do to cause it?

Positional plagiocephaly is most common in babies. Extra pressure in a certain spot can cause a flat spot. For Levi, this was the back. Babies can also develop plagiocephaly if there is restricted movement in the uterus, but this is much more rare. Babies born prematurely, who sleep well, or who have larger heads are more prone to develop plagiocephaly. Plagiocephaly is not just a cosmetic concern, either. The skull needs to be reshaped to give it room to develop properly.

So, we got a baby helmet. Let me say first, this thing was not cheap. They cost around $4,000 and insurance doesn’t cover the total cost. They aren’t pretty either. Luckily, they do come in cute prints. I let my daughter Johanna choose Levi’s. It is blue with green martians. He is cute, so he can pull it off. The helmet has a Velcro strap that we have to pull tight, and Levi is not a fan of me putting it on him. It has to be cleaned daily with rubbing alcohol and water. Most babies have to wear their helmet 23 hours a day for 2 to 6 months. It sounds crazy, but my son doesn’t even notice it is there.IMG_1507

The good news is that these helmets really work. Levi’s measurements have improved greatly. He is starting to have a beautiful head. It has been worth it–worth all of the stares and comments directed toward my baby boy. He makes it look cute. I will almost miss his sweet little face in the helmet when it’s gone soon.

Karyn Meyerhoff is a mom of two in Northeast Indiana. She loves her baby boy, big head and all. He’s super cute.