Holidays – Then and Now

Christmas TreeI love the holidays.  Truly my favorite time of year.  The festivities, the crisp in the air (well SoCal crisp, anyway), the music, the food, the lights – all of it.  I look forward to it all year, and then miss it once it’s gone.

And having children has only heightened (changed?  evolved?) my joy of the season.  Never will I look at Christmas the same way again.

Then, during a typical pre-child holiday season… After a leisurely Thanksgiving feast, we would enjoy another glass of wine and begin thinking about our Christmas plans.  Should we travel?  Hawaii for the holidays?  How about Aruba?  Is Australia too far?

Now… You take the kids and I’ll do the dishes.  Hey, we don’t throw pumpkin pie in this house!  We need to start getting ready for Christmas – so much to do.  Did you get the decorations out of storage?  Do you have a list?  Add the kids’ x/y/z events to the calendar.  Don’t hit your brother!

Then… We’d take a quiet stroll around the neighborhood to enjoy the holiday lights.  Look at that house – that’s creative!  Should we put up our lights?  Eh, we’ll get to it.  Oh, I booked our flights to Hawaii.  Need some new clothes!

Now… Daddy, what are THOSE lights?  Mommy, wow, look at these lights! LOOK DADDY MOMMY LOOK LOOK THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS LIGHT!  Daddy, STOP TALKING TO MOMMY AND LOOK AT THE LIGHTS!!  Ohhhh wooowwww, purple lights!  Look MOMMY DADDY LOOK IT’S PURPLE LIGHTS SEE IT IS PURPLE SEE MOMMY DADDY STOP TALKING AND LOOK!  Daddy, when are you putting up our lights??  Can we get purple lights too?  I help you Daddy.  Can we put lights up tonight??  Let’s put lights now!  I want PURPLE!  MOMMY GO HOME WE ARE PUTTING PURPLE LIGHTS UP NOW!  OH LOOK, RUDOLPH!  Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle allll the wayyy….

Then… Okay, let’s start our Christmas shopping.  What should we get so-and-so?  Maybe we can personalize something.  I will look at a few catalogs and check out a few stores.  Oh, and maybe we can stop by that cute little specialty shop in Santa Barbara this weekend.  What would you like?  A weekend away?  How about a new TV?  Surround sound?

Now… Hurry up, we have a lot more shopping to do!  Sit down in the cart, boys!  What?  Yeah, yeah that’s fine.  It’s ripped?  Oh it’s fine, it’s the last one, they won’t even notice – throw it in the cart.  Quick – grab that sweater!  We don’t throw things out of the cart!  How many more people do we have on the list?

Then… Yay, wrapping night!  Honey, can you make me a candy-cane-tini?  Turn up the holiday music.  I can’t wait to wrap this gift in the fancy paper and with that adorable tag idea I found on Pinterest!  So pretty.  I can’t wait until she sees it!  Let me take a picture of it under the tree.

Now… Put the kids to bed.  I’m running to the Dollar Tree to stock up on a mountain of wrapping paper and gift bags.  Okay, I’m back.  Quick – help me wrap these.  Only have a few hours.  No talking – just wrap!  Cover the tear with tape; he’ll never know.  Throw them under the bed.  WTF – no more gift bags??  We need more bags!  Go get more bags!  My back hurts.

Then… [In the mall] How adorable!  Look at those sweet children sitting on Santa’s lap.  Isn’t that cute?  Imagine if we had children, and they were waiting in line to see Santa.  So darling.

Now… Where’s Santa?  Mommy Daddy where is Santa?  He is on a break?  Why?  Whyyyyy?  Why do we have to wait?  Is that Santa’s brother?  Santa went potty?  I want Santa NOW!  Mommy, is he in the North Pole?  He went on a break to the North Pole?  Where is Rudolph?  Is he outside?  MOMMY HE IS COMING BACK THERE HE IS!   LOOK LOOK THERE IS SANTA!  Is it my turn?  When is it my turn?  After that boy?  Now?  Is it my turn now?  Now?  After her it is my turn?  Now?  Can I see him now?  Yes? … Noooo!  I don’t WANT to see Santa!  NOOOO!!!  NO!  No SANTA!  I don’t want a candy cane!  I don’t WANT TO!  AAAAAHHHHH, NOOOO!!!!  I no LIKE SANTA!!!!  WAHHHHHH!!!

Then… Holiday parties!  Lunches!  Cocktails!  Dress up!  Dancing!  Music!  Bubbles and fun!  Presents!  White Elephant!  Mistletoe!

Now… Threats.  Santa is watching you ALL THE TIME.  You need to be good or Santa won’t want to bring you gifts.  Yes, Santa saw you hit your brother.  Yes, the Elf tells Santa what he sees.  Stop that right now!  If you don’t stop that right now, I am going to be making a phone call to Santa!  I talked to Santa last night and he is NOT happy.

Then… Ahh, Christmas Eve.  Let’s have a drink in front of the fire and watch the lights on the tree.  Tomorrow, Hawaii!  One more drink and then let’s call it a night.

Now… How is it already Christmas Eve!?!  Here’s the game plan: I’ll take the kids to the park and you wrap the remaining gifts; I will come back and drop the kids with you and then run to the store for the gifts I forgot to buy you this year; then when I come back we’ll put the kids down for a nap and I will wrap the new gifts and you can go buy a few gifts for me and then we can start on Christmas dinner.  OH NO – tree!  We need a Christmas tree!  Okay, go get the tree and I will find the lights.  YES BOYS, Santa saw that and he is NOT pleased right now – we do not throw toys in this house!

…. And at the risk of cutting this piece awkwardly short, just know that I could go on and on but, frankly, am exhausted.  And let’s face it – these gifts ain’t gonna wrap themselves so Mama’s got some work ahead of her!  I wish you and yours a happy, healthy, and joyful holiday.  And restful.  Did I say restful?  Get some rest and relaxation in there as well.  🙂

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6 Reasons Why I Love Having my Boys Share a Room

Throughout pretty much my entire second pregnancy, one thing – of the hundreds – that I worried about incessantly was having my two sons share a bedroom.  We only have a three bedroom house which means a room for Mommy and Daddy, a room for the office (a requirement of my job since I work primarily from home), and a room for the kiddos.

Moving was not on the table, and the layout of our house made a potential addition impossible.  Even alternative options such as cornering off a portion of the master bedroom for a small office were not feasible (hey – we live in a small house!)

So what to do?

I couldn’t fathom the boys sharing a room.  The horror!  Isn’t every child entitled to their own bedroom?

Beyond that, what about the logistics?  We don’t keep babies in our room for very long, so what if the toddler was trying to sleep and the baby woke up crying?  Would we have a double meltdown on our hands?  Worse still, what if the toddler taunted or woke the baby?

But the weeks went on, and at some point we were forced to face the fact that there was no other option.  So the boys would have to share, at least for a while.  I just hoped that one day they would find it in their hearts to forgive us.

We decorated as best we could, keeping the two cribs strategically separated to prevent book-throwing (our toddler forgoes a teddy bear  to instead sleep with about 40 books each night).  We divvied up the closet space in half for each.  And picked up another dresser.  It would have to do.

Fast forward 11 months and now, I have to say, room-sharing was the best thing we could have done for them!  In fact, should we move to a larger house with an extra bedroom, I would continue to have them share a room.  Why?

  • They’ve learned to tune each other out.  This, my friends, is something that will continue to benefit us for years to come.  All my worries about one waking the other up?  Completely moot.  Within a week of sleeping in the same room, my toddler had learned to sleep through crying, screaming, lights on, lights off, feedings in the rocking chair right next to his crib, smelly diapers, and general raucous while we tended to all things Baby.  In fact, during those early weeks I was a bit worried about him – and would gently tap him just to make sure he was actually okay… and he was.  The baby, similarly, adjusted quickly.  Tantrums?  Crying?  Banging on the wall?  “Reading” books?  Nothing phased him.  At worst, he would startle, take a deep breath, and fall back asleep.

 

  • They comfort each other.  Perhaps the cutest thing I hear on the baby monitor, to this day, is my toddler comforting his little brother.  If the baby begins crying, and my toddler is still awake, I will soon hear him with his little high-pitched voice of concern: Don’t cry… It’s okay… Mommy will be coming soon… Are you hungry?  The baby, for his part, comforts the toddler in a different way.  At times when the toddler is tantrum-ing in his room, I will hear the baby start to laugh (why can’t I have the same response??)  This is effective at often stopping the toddler mid-tantrum to ask what is funny and why he is laughing; and then forgetting the tantrum altogether.

 

  • Mess/smells/dirt are confined to a single room.  A wonderful silver lining indeed!  Two boys = double the mess, double the dirt, double the stinky diapers.  How nice to be able to shut the door to one room to block it all out.  And to only clean one room with eventually two boys helping.

 

  • They are bonding.  The highest quality time the boys spend together (read: when they are not fighting over toys or for attention) is when they are in their room alone together.  We do keep them both in cribs until we trust that the toddler won’t throw his heavy Tonka trucks into his brother’s crib, knocking him out.  But they both walk over to the corner of their cribs to see each other and communicate.  The toddler “reads” books to his brother, and the baby claps in appreciation.  The baby pulls down the baby monitor, and the toddler laughs with delight.  Half the time I don’t even know what they’re doing, but I hear one laugh, then the other, then some banging, then more laughter.  As long as they’re not killing each other, I am grateful for the bonding opportunity.

 

  • All supplies in one place.  This wouldn’t have occurred to me except I was recently at a friend’s home as she tended to her son in his room. She couldn’t find his hat and was looking, looking, looking until it was finally reclaimed in her daughter’s room.  I, for one, will never have that problem.  Sure, there may be an item that is misplaced within the room – but it is only one room to search vs. multiple.

 

  • They’re forced to figure it out.  Now that I’ve gotten beyond the hardship I’ve forced my poor boys to endure with sharing a room, I’ve begun to embrace it.  I can’t seem to find when the law was implemented mandating separate bedrooms for all children.  Look at the Brady Bunch boys – three to a room!  And they all turned out okay.  Maybe it’s not a bad thing to prevent the option of escape into one’s own territory (cue slamming doors).  Maybe learning how to share and negotiate while being considerate of other human beings in tight quarters isn’t such a bad thing after all.

So if you are (or will be) in a similar situation, don’t stress it!  I wish I hadn’t spent so much time worrying about what ended up being a non-issue and, in fact, a benefit.

Now off to look for bunk beds….

TV for Toddlers? (Or, why I love the Roku)

TV for toddlers?Roku3

In our case, it’s a YES.

A Yes that we are aware of the “no screens” philosophy.  A Yes that as first time parents, our toddler likely watched less than 80 hours of television during his first three years of life.  And a Yes that we have now loosened the reigns, and allow him to watch (probably way too much) more.

And, after much indecision, a HUGE Yes to the Roku 3 and the Roku Streaming Stick.

Until 6 months ago, we enjoyed the granddaddy of cable packages with DirecTV.  Truly – more channels than we could ever watch nor even want.  Once the kids went to bed, we would flop on the couch in our zombie-like state, and flip through channel after channel, staring at (but not really watching) the screen.  Trash reality TV for me, cheesy sci-flicks for the hubby, and international home buying programs for the both of us.  Fun stuff.

Alas, our contract was coming to an end and in our new spirit of minimalism, the price increase was steep.  In fact, the price we had already been paying was steep.  Considering the fact that with two young kids, our time spent watching television had dwindled to mere minutes a day, it just didn’t make sense.

But we hemmed and hawed.  We were not the Cable Cutters type!  That seemed a bit extreme.  Hippy-ish.  Tree-Hugger-esque.  Millenial-like.

But the savings were attractive.  I’m talking over $100 a month.  Plus it might be cool to put our super high-speed ISP to the test.

So we bit the bullet and cancelled, ultimately opting for the Roku 3 as our replacement.  We looked at Apple TV, Fire TV, and Chromecast but a few things about the Roku 3 stood out.  First – it’s performance.  They’ve been doing this a while now, and have got the speed and issues mostly figured out.  Apple and Fire were still a bit buggy, and Chromecast doesn’t really achieve the same purpose (although it is definitely the best choice for screen mirroring and casting).  Secondly, I am not completely committed to the Apple eco-system, which would have made it tough to go with Apple TV – especially considering the fact that their programming was much more limited than Roku.  Where it got difficult was deciding between the Roku 3 and Fire TV.  Because – unlike with Apple – I am completely committed to the Amazon eco-system.  I am a happy (make that thrilled) Prime member, I spend a significant portion of my shopping dollars on their site, and I simply love their Kindle Fires for media consumption.  At first blush, Fire TV was the leader of the pack.

But it was still so new.  We could live with that, but there was one thing we couldn’t accept.  Amazon’s Fire TV didn’t have a clean option to display Prime titles on the device.  In other words – we couldn’t search or filter by Prime only.  WTF?  Free media content is one of the best things about our Prime membership, but to not allow filtering capability on Fire TV basically eliminated the edge that Amazon had.

Fortunately, Roku DOES provide Amazon Prime filters.  And that was the tipping point.  We purchased both a Roku 3 for the living room and a Roku Streaming Stick for the bedroom.  Difference between the two, you ask?  Really not much.  I do think the Roku 3 is marginally faster (although not enough to really notice unless you were comparing the two); and I like that it allows for an ethernet connection – an option we do take advantage of.  But if you have a strong wifi signal throughout the house, save yourself the $50 and get the stick.  An added bonus is that the stick is portable – plug it into TVs in hotel rooms, friends’ homes, etc.  Easy peasy.

Both units come with a separate remote (different than the Chromecast, which uses your phone as the remote), although you can download the Roku app for your phone/iPad to control the device that way.  The remote is nice and surprisingly easy to navigate.  I had been worried about typing out titles in the Search box, but it is quick and easy.

Set up took all of 5 minutes.  Plug it in, enter your network details, and wait for the initial load.  Boom – you’re ready to go.  Begin adding channels offered on the device and also do some Google searches for the so-called “Secret Channels” you can add as well – there are hundreds if not thousands; something for everyone.

What about the paid channels?  In our case, we already had a Netflix subscription at $7.99/month, so we kept that.  We also already had an Amazon Prime membership, so kept that.  The only paid channel we added was Hulu Plus, at a cost of $7.99/month.  Not sure if we really needed it, we took advantage of the 3 month trial and found that we did like the programming offered.  Even better, new episodes of popular shows become available the day after initial broadcast, so you can stay current with all your faves.  The downside is that there are commercials.  BUT there are only 1-2 commercials at a time (rarely 3) between segments, far fewer than regular television.  You can’t fast forward through them, but we don’t really mind.  It is not as big a deal as we had anticipated.

Between the three paid channels, the additional free channels we’ve selected, and some of the secret channels we’ve added, we don’t feel as if we’re missing much.  The only exceptions for us would be HGTV (we are admittedly a bit obsessed and Hulu Plus doesn’t yet offer the shows we’re most interested in), certain sporting events, and some local programming.  As far as the sporting events and local programming go, we have been able to mitigate much of that impact by purchasing a Mohu Leaf 50 Indoor Antenna, which picks up over 250 additional channels in our area.  Well worth the extra cost.  So overall, I would say we have replaced about 95% of what we would normally watch – at a savings of over $100/month.  Definitely a good trade-off.

Now – how does this all relate to our toddler?  As far the TV-sphere goes, we have realized some amazing unanticipated benefits of making the switch:

  • No Commercials.  Let me repeat: No Commercials (exception being, of course, Hulu Plus).  This isn’t about us worrying about our toddler’s impatience as 30 second ads flicker across the screen… It is about zero marketing.  No commercials for toys, movies, sugary cereals, junk food, or annoying cartoon characters.  Nothing for him to ask for, beg for, throw a tantrum for, or to even realize is available.  It is wonderful.  We select a show, he watches the show, and all is good with the world.
  • The free channels alone have more childrens’ programming than we could ever want or need (I’m talking to you, PBS Kids).  Free TV!
  • When we want something different, Amazon Prime and Netflix both offer a plethora of shows just for kids.  Seriously – anything that anyone could ever want.  And again: No Commercials.
  • There are many shows that are less than the standard 30 minutes slotted for regular television programming, and they tell you how long the programs run upfront.  Shows for 6 minutes, 12 minutes, 8 minutes.  This is great for us as we are in the midst of potty training, and unabashedly using the TV as the mega-award for going #2 in the potty.  Since mega-award doesn’t mean I want him plopped in front of the TV for 30 minute intervals at a time, it is great that I can select a short cartoon of 7 minutes to reward him and then move on.
  • Control.  The ability to truly control what he is watching.  With traditional television, you’re pretty much stuck with whatever they’re broadcasting at the time you start watching.  But with the Roku, we consciously pick everything we and the children watch.  Which means there is no more mindless vegging in front of the TV.  And, for the toddler, means that I can at least try to select the most educational options available.
  • Wifi issues.  I know this doesn’t sound like a perk, but hear me out.  Until we connected our living room Roku via ethernet (using Powerline – which I highly recommend as long as you remember to encrypt it), we were having some intermittent wifi issues in that dead zone area of the house.  Definitely annoying.  But our son, not knowing any better, began to simply accept that sometimes “the TV is not working.”  And move on.  Yes – a toddler – accepting and moving on.  Suffice it to say that that since we have picked up on this, there may be times we use this to our advantage… “sorry Honey, the TV is not working right now….”
  • The other cool things you can do with the Roku.  We’ve downloaded our Pandora stations (including the kiddie stations, which the boys love), our YouTube channels, and other media for a more personalized experience.  It’s nice to have everything consolidated in one place on the “big TV”, leading to more than just television watching.

So for all these reasons and more, I give an enthusiastic Thumbs Up to the Roku (the 3 or the Streaming Stick).  More conscious television watching, limited to no marketing, a personalized media experience, and a significant cost savings make for one happy mama – and little guy.

Take Two

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It’s been a long time since I’ve posted.  In my defense, I’ve been a bit busy.  Earlier this month, I delivered our second beautiful baby boy.  And so it begins.  Again.

I figured we would be finished with one.  WE were good with one.  He fit well into our lives, and it was just starting to get easier.  We had it all figured out.

But then we would watch him playing alone.  Watch him watching the other kids.  Watch him begging us to “Play!  Play!”  And we knew.  We had to give him a sibling.

So we started on the journey again.  Oh, it wasn’t without doubt.  We had many many conversations about the process of pregnancy.  I had a pretty rough pregnancy with our first, and wasn’t looking forward to doing it again.  My husband wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of picking up the slack while I would be theoretically laid up on a couch for 9 months.  But, we figured, it was only temporary.  And hey – they say that every pregnancy is different!  Maybe this one would be easier!

So we persevered.  And were shocked and over the moon when that second pink line appeared, ever so faintly.  It was going to happen!

And then… Pregnancy.  To save you the suspense, they were right.  Every pregnancy IS different.  This one, unfortunately, was much worse.

Granted, I am now two years older.  And more tired, chasing around a toddler.  But when it HIT, I was not prepared.  The nausea – let me tell you about the nausea.  This was not a little bit of seasickness.  This was literally throwing up 10-15 times a day.  This was opening the fridge, and catching a whiff of something that I swear was rotting, and bending over the kitchen sink while everyone else swore they couldn’t smell anything.  This was vomiting after walking past a batch of “rancid” strawberries in the grocery store.  This was putting my work conference calls on mute (thank GOODNESS I have the flexibility to work primarily from home) to vomit into the wastebasket.  It was horrible.  Literally the worst feeling I have ever felt in my life.  And it NEVER ENDS.

Doctors wanted me to take Zofran as they were worried about dehydration.  Zofran, FYI, is an anti-nausea medication that is commonly prescribed to chemotherapy patients.  Are there risks, I asked?  Minimal, they answered.  And so of course I turned to Dr. Google.  And subsequently decided that no matter how bad it got, I wouldn’t take it.  Paranoid?  Maybe.  But I could never live with myself if something went wrong; I would forever blame the fact that I had opted to take the Zofran.

So I tried acupuncture.  Multiple times.  Didn’t work.  Tried the ginger, the Vitamin B, the teas… In short, I tried everything.  Nothing worked.  Depressed.  Isolated.  Staying out of the kitchen helped.  Avoiding strawberries helped.  Throwing away the pear-scented hand soap that I could smell on my husband or son a mile away helped.  But other than that, there was nothing to do but subsist on the couch, in my office chair, or in bed until it finally began subsiding around 5 months.

Then the relative bliss of the next few months.  I felt alive again!  Could make (and keep) plans!  Could finally think beyond the misery of the next moment to hours, days, and weeks ahead.  Pulled out of the depression.  It was wonderful.

Now the focus went beyond my own misery to the baby.  I had done a CVS again, so was assured that genetically things looked okay.  I was seeing a wonderful OB (who had delivered my first child) and a top perinatologist, so knew I was in good medical hands.  So far so good.

Then the next challenge.  The perinatologist lets me know that my HCG levels are too high in about the 25th week of pregnancy.  Since genetic issues can be ruled out, it likely means that I could later struggle with placental insufficiency.  What is placental insufficiency?  Well – it basically means that the placenta is working too hard, too early, and will likely “poop out” (doctor’s words) towards the end of my pregnancy.  He concludes that he wants to continue to see me to measure baby’s growth, placenta’s growth, and ensure we catch it if it starts to fail too early.  He also advises that he does not want to see me go beyond 39 weeks of pregnancy, even if all looks well, because at that point the risks outweigh the benefits in a woman “as young” as I am and with some of my test results.

So we continue to see both doctors.  Everything seems to progress normally and after 32 weeks, I am “graduated” from the perinatologist.

About two weeks later is when the baby’s growth really begins to slow.  In fact, almost decrease.  I am given Non Stress Tests (NSTs) to ensure all looks okay.  And then come the scares.  This baby NEVER MOVES!  I share that with my OB.  Sure enough, she does an NST and his heart rate is flat.  She sends me to the hospital for two hours of additional monitoring and a biophysical ultrasound.  Ultimately all looks okay.

Then a couple of weeks later, a car accident.  A minor one, but I am shaken.  And baby stops moving.  Once again am sent to the hospital for monitoring and ultrasound.  And baby looks okay.

Then a third time, on Christmas Eve.  Go in for a routine OB check-up, and they notice via NST that the baby’s heart rate is once again flat.  Am sent again to the hospital for the same monitoring routine.  Four hours later, we are discharged.  Baby looks okay.

And then the final and fourth time.  Am once again in the OB’s office when they see only a flat heart rate on the NST print out.  Go to the hospital.  After several hours, am told that baby appears okay.  Am also told that I am having contractions (which I have begun feeling).  My doctor calls.  Says that if we would like, she will induce tonight because of all the scares with the baby… But that she recommends just waiting another day or so.  She feels that I will go into full blown labor on my own by the following day.

We take her advice.  Come home and I labor, albeit inconsistently, through the night.  The following day my husband goes to work.  I labor inconsistently throughout the day.  At times during my walk with the dog and toddler, I have to stop.  I finally give up and plop the toddler in front of Sesame Street so that I can sit myself.  I do end up being able to take a short nap.

Hubby gets home and we take a family walk around 7pm.  I have to stop several times, take breaths, wait for the pain to pass.  But the contractions are still inconsistent.  I get ready for bed, and lie down about 9pm, figuring I can get some sleep before I am certain I go into full blown labor the following day.

By 9:10pm, the pain is pretty bad.  Enough that I am shuddering through the contractions.  But they are still 10-15 minutes apart.  We call the hospital.  They say to wait until the contractions are 5 minutes apart.  Hubby asks if we should call the friend who will be watching our toddler during the hospital stay.  I say No – we have time – and go and lay back down.

By 9:17pm, I am almost crying through a contraction and have him place the call.  By 9:20pm, contractions are suddenly 3-4 minutes apart and I can’t take them.  I have him call the friend back to see how far out she is.  He packs the car and gets everything ready so we can just leave once she arrives.

Finally she is here.  We fly out the door and I am contracting all the way to the hospital.  We arrive and I have to stop 4 times between the car and the entrance.  The entrance is closed due to construction!  They say we have to go around the back entrance.  Hubby pleads with them, they take one look at me, and they usher us through.  We get up to Labor & Delivery.  Hubby calls the front desk: “I think we’re having a baby!”  Panicked.  They let us in and I am bent over a chair, contracting.  Nurse says “We’ve got a live one – Put her in Room 3!”

Within 2 minutes I am in a hospital gown and they have confirmed I am 5cm dilated.  I am begging for the epidural.  They have to wheel me into the delivery room.  Once there, only 10 minutes later, I am 8cm dilated.  I am BEGGING BEGGING BEGGING for the epidural.  Crying.  They are telling me to “breathe through the pain.”  Screw that.  GIVE ME THE EPIDURAL.

Turns out some paperwork wasn’t completed.  Then they didn’t put my IV in correctly.  Then they realized I don’t have a hospital band and they don’t even know who I am.  The anesthesiologist finally arrives and calls a TIME OUT.  The nurses huddle and then start over.  I am begging him for relief.  He advises me that at this point, an epidural will kick in too late.  “The head is RIGHT THERE.”  I tell him I don’t care: GIVE ME THE EPIDURAL.  The nurse says I need to go through a full bag of IV fluids first.  I shout at them to CALL MY DOCTOR.  I want the epidural!

Then finally.  The head nurse comes in and says she has to talked to my doctor, and she has advised them to give me the epidural.  They do so, reluctantly.  I wait for it to kick in.  Through another contraction.  Then two more.  The contractions are fast and furious now – no time in between.  I still feel everything: the checks, the catheter, everything.  I complain between the searing pain.  They say they told me this would happen as I am too far along.  I ask when my doctor will be here.  They say within 30 minutes and don’t push yet.  I feel the urge to push but I am not delivering this baby without her.  More tears.

Finally my doctor walks in.  “Thank God you’re here!”  She takes one look at me, and turns to the nurse “Um, doesn’t look like your epidural is working.”  She begins to suit up.  “Where are my booties?”  Nurse: “I don’t know.”  Once that is figured out, she asks the nurse why nothing has been sterilized.  The nurse tells the doctor that SHE is supposed to do that.  Hubby and I stare in disbelief as the nurse continues to argue back until the doctor, being the bigger person, simply does it herself.

Finally it’s time.  They let me know that I am going to need to push.  I wail like a baby.  I can’t!  I am too scared!  It hurts too much!!!!  I CAN’T DO IT!!!!

They prod me more aggressively and I give a feeble push.  Baby shifts.  Contraction ends.  Second contraction.  Second push.  Stronger.  Crowning.

Then: “The cord is around the baby’s neck and his heart rate is dropping.  We need to get him out this next push.”  And that was all it took.  Gritting teeth.  Sobbing.  Grunting.  Pushing.  And he is out.

More tears.  Of joy this time.  The doctor expertly unloops the cord from around his neck.  He begins crying.  He is red and flushed.  They lay him on my belly and we hold him.  Rocking.  Crying.  Joy.

Unlike with my first, who experienced a traumatic delivery and was immediately taken from me, we are able to luxuriate in close to two hours of skin-to-skin time with our baby.  The time flies by.  We are left alone.  It is the peak of the entire pregnancy.  Those fleeting golden moments.  Just baby, mother, and father.  Precious.

Finally they take him and weigh him.  6 pounds and 11 ounces, much smaller than my first baby.  They bathe him.  Hubby takes pictures.  I watch in awe.  He is perfect.  The moments are perfect.  He is brought back to us for more bonding.  And I notice that my heart has immediately expanded.  Is overfilled with enough love for both of our children.  Dripping.

And I know that our family is complete.

11 Things Never to Say to a Woman with Severe Morning Sickness

ToiletSo there is morning sickness and then there is MORNING SICKNESS.  AKA Hyperemesis Gravidarum.  All-consuming, debilitating, depressing illness.  Make no mistake – they are not one and the same.

Typical morning sickness comes with some nausea, vomiting, and general not-feeling-well-ness.  Hyperemesis Gravidarum results in severe vomiting, dehydration, trips to doctors, depression in many cases, and pressure to take Zofran (anti-nausea medication for chemotherapy patients).

Neither are fun.

And due to a lack of real knowledge about either of these conditions, sufferers are subject to constant tips and tricks from well-meaning bystanders who may have no idea how serious this can be, especially in the case of Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

So based on my own experience, I’ve compiled a list of things NOT to say to women suffering from severe morning sickness.

1.  Try Saltines.  Unless the mother-to-be is lucky enough to only have a very mild case of morning sickness, Saltines do not work.  They do not help.  They do nothing but ensure that your next vomiting session includes the white salty goo that these turn into.

2.  Try Ginger.  Ginger does not work.  In my case, it makes me even more sick.  After investing in cases of ginger ale, ginger candy, and raw ginger, I quickly developed an aversion that led to nothing but waste.

3.  Try Sea Bands.  I really wanted these to work.  I really gave it a go.  Day in and day out with those little balls pressing into my wrists, leaving indentations and redness.  I will save you the suspense: they don’t work either.  Again, maybe for minor nausea, but for severe sickness – they do nada except mark up your wrists.

4.  Try Acupuncture.  I had high hopes for this.  Heck, if it is good enough for Fergie then it is good enough for me.  I went 4 times, and each time left as sick as I had arrived.  Once I even vomited on the way out.  Now, I will say that the acupuncturist and staff were extremely nice and caring – that was sweet – but as far as any actual relief, well, you know the story.  Did leave a dent in my wallet though.

5.  Try Hard Candies/Prenatal Pops/[Insert Other Consumable Product].  NOTHING like this works.  Nothing.  I have tried it all.  I did succeed in creating some new aversions for myself.  And in trying some new foods.  But none of it helped with the sickness.  And I was a bit offended that well-meaning advice givers were minimizing my all-consuming and debilitating illness to the point that a simple piece of candy or food could relieve it.

6.  It Will Only Last for 3 Months.  How the frick do YOU know????  That’s what I felt like saying every time.  There are certainly stories of poor pregnant mothers who are severely sick up to and even during delivery.  Even if the woman is lucky enough to find some relief after three months, how does three months of misery sound to you???  Imagine a hangover combined with food poisoning that doesn’t let up for THREE MONTHS.  My acupuncturist shared a true story with me: one of her newly-pregnant patients was suffering from some severe morning sickness.  Her not-so-compassionate hubby told her, ah don’t worry about it, it’s only for three months.  That same hubby woke up the next morning with a bout of food poisoning and, as men do, laid in bed all day whining and begging for help.  The wife, every so sweetly, told him “don’t worry Honey, it will only last for three months.”

7.  At Least it Lets Up in the Evenings.  For those living in the dark ages, “morning sickness” is a misnomer.  It does NOT only occur in the mornings.  Unfortunately some of us suffer all day and night.  I would literally wake up in the night to vomit.  When it is severe, there is NO period of relief.  So to imply to a pregnant woman that she has some hours of relief during the day can be completely false and once again minimize the misery she is going through.

8.  At Least You Will Feel Better Once You Vomit.  NOT TRUE!  If you are hungover and vomit, yes you will feel some relief.  If you have the stomach flu and vomit, again you will feel some temporary relief.  The sick joke that is morning sickness ensures that no matter how often or how violently you vomit, there is no temporary relief afterwards.  The nausea is still there as strong as before.  So all the vomiting does is make you tear up, bring up stomach acid, burn your throat, and make a mess.  The woman does not feel one ounce of relief afterwards.

9.  I/My Mother/My Sister/My Friend Never Experienced Morning Sickness.  Well whoopty-do for you.  That’s great.  Really, it is.  But it is not what I want to hear when I am doubled over and heaving into a toilet or sink.  Especially when it’s my 12th vomit of the day.

10.  Just Try Not to Think About It.  My usually-considerate husband had the audacity to mutter this to me one morning.  Lord help him.  You might as well just say “it’s all in your head.”  I promise you, it is not in my head.  I swear to you, if there was any way possible that I could focus on anything OTHER than being so ill, I would be the first one to do so.  Well-meaning advice givers, I can guarantee you, it is not in the mother’s head.  It is not a matter of simply not thinking about it.  It is a real and serious illness which has no cure and only questionable treatments.  Telling her not to think about it is simply ignorant and, frankly, not possible for her.  Do yourself a favor and keep this little tidbit to yourself.

11. [While in Mid-Vomit] Quick, Get Out of the Kitchen/Bathroom/[Fill in Location].  Newsflash: Once the vomiting has begun, it cannot be stopped.  You cannot simply move the woman to another room or away from the smell and expect the vomiting to stop.  That ship has sailed.  Instead, hold her hair, rub her back, comfort her, and help her clean up.  From experience, I can tell you that all you will accomplish by telling a vomiting pregnant woman to “quick – get out” is a pissed-off and exasperated monster who, if you’re not lucky, may decide to aim your way.

So what CAN you say to a woman who is going through the throes of morning sickness or, worse, Hyperemesis Gravidarum?  Nothing.  The key is not to talk.  Not to offer advice.  Just to listen.  Let her vent, let her cry, give her a hug, offer to lend her a helping hand, and check up on her often to see how she is doing.

No advice needed.

Trust and Child Care

BabysitterI have trust issues.  I admit it.  Especially with anyone who is going to be left alone with my child.

In fact, my son is now 18 months old, and only three people have ever been left alone with him in all that time: myself, my hubby, and the nanny.  And those who know me make fun of the extensive (okay, semi-paranoid) background screening process that I subjected the nanny to prior to hiring.

But it only takes one story like this to justify my fears.  Granted, this isn’t the worst story out there, but it happened to someone close to me.  And therefore hits home.

This friend of mine went back to work about 8 weeks after her daughter was born.  She had searched and asked around for a good daycare provider, and found one that she liked.  This woman ran an in-home daycare, was very kind, and seemed wonderful with the kids.  She was also accredited.  My friend interviewed her and decided she was the right fit for their family.

All went wonderfully.  Her daughter adapted well, and the daycare provider was in constant touch with my friend via phone and text.  There was no doubt that her daughter was cared for and happy.  Everyone settled into a routine.

Fast forward 2 years.  The daycare provider is now like family.  She and my friend share confidences, laughs, and are even Facebook friends.  The daycare provider shares her marital troubles.  She and her husband are divorcing.  It is a rough time and my friend is a shoulder to cry on.

As the sadness turns to defiance, my friend begins noticing that the daycare provider has begun spending many late nights out with friends, clubbing and drinking.  She reads Facebook snippets posted at 4am from greasy diners after nights of partying… Two hours before she is due to drop off her daughter.  She blows it off.  The woman is going through a divorce, after all.  She is in a rough place.  She is blowing off steam.

The daycare provider begins looking increasingly disheveled as my friend drops off her 2-year-old daughter.  Hungover and unshowered, with dark circles under her eyes.  My friend talks to her.  The daycare provider knows – she needs to get it together.  She is just having a tough time.  It will work out.

One morning upon my friend’s arrival, the daycare provider instructs her to drop her daughter off with the neighbor instead.  My friend, stunned, asks what’s going on.  The daycare provider says she is hungover and not feeling well, and that it is fine because she has already talked to the neighbor who has agreed to watch her daughter.  My friend says, firmly, that she will not drop her daughter off with anybody else – especially someone she doesn’t know.  She tells the daycare provider that she pays her and her alone to watch her daughter.  The daycare provider concedes.  But it doesn’t leave my friend with a great sense of confidence that her daughter is being well taken care of while she is at work for the day.  First Red Flag.

My friend shares her concerns with me.  I agree that she has legitimate reasons to be concerned.  We talk about her finding a new daycare provider.  She will, once she gets a chance.

The daycare provider’s drunken nights continue.  She continues to confide in my friend about her relationship woes.  Lines are blurring.  My friend lets her know that she has to pull it together – and the daycare provider agrees.

About a month later, my friend is let off work early.  She calls the daycare provider to let her know that she is on her way to pick up her daughter.  The daycare provider, surprised, advises that they are actually in the car and on their way to K-Mart.  My friend is shocked and angered that the daycare provider has driven her child without letting her know first, as was a term of their agreement.   Second Red Flag.

Since K-Mart is closer to where my friend is, they agree to meet in the parking lot.  My friend pulls in and waits.  A moment later, the daycare provider drives up.  My friend is appalled when she sees her daughter hop off of a simple booster in the backseat and run outside.  Her daughter is still at the age when a convertible carseat is necessary (preferably rear-facing).  She asks the daycare provider why her daughter was placed into a booster (not even sure that she was fully buckled in).  The daycare provider, sheepishly, says that she knows it is wrong and it won’t happen again.  They were in a bit of a rush.  Third Red Flag.

This time, my friend and I talk a lot further about the situation.  I implore her to find a new daycare provider immediately; there are too many red flags.  She agrees completely, and is looking into it.  She also shows up to the daycare provider’s home the following day to have a heart-to-heart.  They discuss the issues and my friend’s concerns, and the daycare provider takes full responsibility.  She is adamant that nothing like this will ever happen again.  She is just having such a tough time with the divorce – and she appreciates my friend’s support more than she will ever know.  She assures her that her daughter and her other charges remain her top priority.

It is now about one month later.  My friend receives a call at her job from the police department.

“We have your daughter,” they say, “We need you to come down here.”  Panicked, my friend asks what is going on??  “Your daughter is fine,” they reply, “Please just meet us here as soon as possible.”

My friend, shaking, runs off the job and speeds to the requested meeting location – a very busy intersection in a rundown commercial neighborhood.  She is flooded with relief when she pulls into the strip mall and sees her 2-year-old daughter safe with a police officer.

After showering her precious daughter with hugs and kisses, she finally hears what happened.

Shortly after my friend’s daughter was dropped off at the daycare, the daycare provider drove with her to a hair salon located in an unsavory part of town.  My friend recalls that before this time, the daycare provider had texted her to ask when she expected to be off work.  My friend replied, and the daycare provider said that was perfect.  No mention of a hair appointment.  No request to leave the home with her child.

Apparently while getting her hair done, the daycare provider lost track of my friend’s daughter.  The 2-year-old daughter wandered outside of the salon and began walking the extremely busy streets.  She continued to wander the streets, alone, for over 30 minutes.  During this entire time, the daycare provider never once noticed that she had gone missing.

A merchant at a store in a neighboring strip mall, however, did notice.  She saw the young girl walk by with no adult.  Several minutes later, she saw her pass by again.  Finally, when she saw her pass by a third time a half hour later still without an adult, she became concerned.  This girl was just a toddler!  No adult!  On a very busy street!  And not in the best part of town.

The merchant left the store and called to the child.  The child looked over and allowed the merchant to walk over to her.  The merchant asked where her parents were?  Was she lost?  The child didn’t respond.  The merchant picked up the child and began calling for a parent, a caregiver, anyone who was missing a child.  Thank goodness the merchant had only good intentions.

After several minutes went by with no response and no adult in sight, the merchant brought the child into her store and called the police.  The officer showed up a few minutes later.  Then and only then, prompted by the sound of police sirens, did the daycare provider in the salon finally notice that the child was missing.

And this was the Final Red Flag. 

My friend immediately removed her daughter from the daycare, and refused to listen to any more excuses from the daycare provider.  A few days after the incident, the daycare provider emailed my friend to express her sincerest apologies.  My friend responded that she could not accept her apology at this time.

My friend furthermore rearranged her work schedule so that she could send her daughter to an actual preschool instead of an in-home daycare.  To my knowledge, she has not taken any legal action nor filed any complaints against the daycare provider.

So what did I learn from this?  That the paranoid background check probably isn’t such a bad idea.  But that it also isn’t a guarantee of anything.  That as a parent, I need to continuously monitor what is going on with my child and his caregiver.  And listen to my intuition.  And take immediate action when I see a red flag (or even a yellow flag).  And that, even with all of that, there is never any way to know completely what is happening when I am not around.

Scary, but true, and I would rather live with constant monitoring and due diligence than merely trusting that everything is going along just fine.  I think I would rather live with my trust issues and being over-protective… Than not being protective enough.

And even then, I have to trust and pray that my caregiver takes her job as seriously as I hope she does.

Non-Invasive Prenatal Genetic Testing

Blood TestGotta love prenatal testing.  The timing, the blood draws, the more invasive tests, the waiting, and – finally – the sometimes vague results.

At the time that I was pregnant, I had three fetal testing options available to me: Quad Testing, Amniocentesis, and Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS).  I go into the details of each in my Prenatal Testing post, and the reasons why I selected CVS.  Basically, it was more diagnostic than quad testing, and could be conducted sooner than an Amnio (between 10 and 13 weeks of pregnancy vs. between 14 and 20 weeks of pregnancy).  The one aspect of the CVS test that gave me pause was the fact that it did and does carry a small risk of miscarriage.  Ultimately we decided to move forward with it, but spent an anxiety-ridden few days in bed post-test, hoping and praying that no miscarriage would result.

So I am delighted to hear about the new non-invasive prenatal genetic tests now available to pregnant women.  Finally expectant mothers can be empowered with knowledge – without any risk of complication.  Ease of administration, decreased costs, and available timing make them even more attractive.

Tests like Sequenom Center’s MaterniT21 PLUS (T21) and Integrated Genetics’ Harmony are up to 99% effective at detecting Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome), 18 (Edwards Syndrome), and 13 (Patau Syndrome).  Performed around 10 weeks gestational age or later, these tests require a simple blood draw to analyze cell-free DNA in maternal blood for extra chromosomes.  While not technically considered diagnostic tests, they come pretty darn close; and any positive results could subsequently be confirmed with a true diagnostic such as CVS or Amnio.

Test results are typically returned within about 2 weeks, and costs of the tests appear to range from about $0 – $400 out of pocket after insurance (still significantly cheaper than either CVS or Amino – I am hearing $235 as a common copay).  An added bonus?  The test will also provide gender confirmation.

So what are the limitations?  Well, both CVS and Amnio test for a much larger array of potential disorders – these new blood tests just focus on some of the more common.  Also, these tests do not screen for open neural tube defects (only an Amnio will do that).  Some doctors remain skeptical about these new tests, and I’m told that not all offices will offer them.

But for parents without known genetic issues, I think they offer a very viable alternative to more invasive methods.  Much more accurate than traditional quad testing, these tests finally provide women a safe and relatively inexpensive option to better understand potential fetal risks.  I am all for these tests and only wish they had been available when I was pregnant.