Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Whooping Cough, Family Doctor Visits


It started with a tiny little cough. We didn’t think much of it. Allergies, maybe. Perhaps a cold. Sure three of our neighbors, two of which spent time with our son, had Whooping Cough, but our entire family was vaccinated. I held my head high, looking down my nose at this “preventable” epidemic. We were too responsible to fall victim.

He wasn’t even acting sick, so we sent him to Grandma’s overnight Saturday despite the cough. She took him to the church nursery where she worked the next morning, and then the two swam and played the rest of the day. When we picked him up, she mentioned the cough. Yes, we had noticed that, we said. Maybe we should call the doctor since it’s been a couple of days.

On Tuesday, the doctor noted no fever and eating fine, brushed it off as a cold and sent him home. My husband is the paranoid type and asked about Whooping Cough. She said it was possible even for the vaccinated, but not likely. She prescribed Benadryl to help him sleep at night.

Over the subsequent days his cough worsened. He had sporadic coughing fits that sounded like choking, and would turn red gasping for breath. At night, he was upset by these spells and would fuss softly. On Friday, a week after the cough began, I emailed the doctor to say the Benadryl wasn’t working, could she recommend another treatment. By now I’m wondering too and add, “What would be the course of action if he does have Whooping Cough?”

Right away she wanted to know if he had a fever and was he eating. No and yes. But there is a “whooping” sound after the cough. I used her word to describe the gasping. I missed her email to bring him in Saturday and didn’t get him in until Monday. She diagnosed him with clinical suspicion of Whooping Cough, started him on a course of antibiotics, and performed the test for the disease. The test was awful – a swab on the end of a large wire was inserted so far up his nose I think they may have been accessing his throat through it. He cried so hard and I felt terrible for him.

Once he stopped rubbing his nose, he fell asleep in the car and continued sleeping at home for 5 hours. We gave him the first of the antibiotics in the evening and waited. When the test results came back positive, it really threw me. I expected to never know, as the result could still be negative with the presence of whooping cough. But there it was in black and white. My son had Whooping Cough. I called my mom to say she better warn the nursery. Thankfully, she said there had been no small babies. Thankfully too we had not recently visited with either of our two close friends with babies under 6 months.

The doctor’s explanation is that vaccines are not 100%. At 17 months he should be fully immune but was not. But because of the vaccine, his case was very mild. No fever, no life-threatening symptoms. He finished the antibiotics so is allowed around other kids now. But he still has an awful cough and may for weeks to months. It is less frequent but still sounds appalling. I stick by my decision to vaccinate. Whooping Cough can be very serious; it could have been much worse. Thanks to vaccinations, rather than a very sick baby I have a smiling, healthy boy with a mild cough.


How quickly plans change when they collide with reality. This time last year I learned I cannot send my son to the doctor with my husband without tagging along myself. Even though he is a stay-at-home-dad and I am scheduled to be at work during doctor’s office hours, I find as a mother I feel the need to hear the doctor’s words first hand. I tried once to send my husband alone with our 5-month-old last year.

I had attending the 4-month check up as we had been anxiously awaiting a status update since the 2-month check-up. When they found a decline in weight gain rate, we had taken steps to resolve it. I figured out I was overproducing breast milk and worked with the lactation consultant to cut back production. I was convinced this had been the whole problem and my son would start gaining fine now. Plus we had started solid foods. I just knew the appointment at 5 months would be nothing but a formality to confirm he was back on track.

While my husband waiting for the doctor, he called me at work to report the weight the nurse had registered. It was starkly short of my expectation and I panicked. I suddenly needed to hear the doctor’s feedback. I made my husband leave the phone on speaker, but sadly I could not hear her. Not wanting to make the doctor mad, I hung up and my husband and I met for lunch afterward to stew over the continuing problems.

Of course we couldn’t help but worry something was wrong with our baby. Why wasn’t he gaining weight as he should? Was he going to be OK? We also had concerns that he was behind in development. At 5 months, he could not roll over yet. He was holding his head up well, but could not sit on his own. Granted the charts didn’t require this yet, but we saw so many other babies his age doing these things.

I made my husband recite everything the doctor said. When I wasn’t satisfied with the second-hand report, I sent a message to the doctor requesting a call. She reiterated the entire visit to me, and I promised to attend the visit next time. I explained that I’m a control freak and she completely understood!

When it comes to size and development, we have learned since not to compare babies. Our son does everything in his own time. I’ve also learned doctor’s visits when your child has problems are a family affair. Photobucket
Picture: 5 months old

Friday, July 23, 2010

From baby's first solids to angelic toddler

My 16-month-old is an angel. To all the parents out there with the usual screaming and mildly destructive toddlers, I am truly sorry but I have no idea what you’re going through. I didn’t do anything to make him this way – I am just blessed with really, truly, an angel. If it has anything to do with the fact that he is not as mobile as other toddlers, then I’m sure my time will come so I’ll enjoy it while I can.
His angelic behavior includes playing contentedly on his playmate for long periods alone if he is left to it. The only way I know he’s getting tired is when I look over and his either getting frustrated with the toys and letting out soft grumbling noises or has stopped playing altogether, sitting and staring into space with circles under his eyes. Oh, must be nap time! If I’ve left him playing to the point of fatigue he bounces excitedly when I finally pick him up, and is all too happy to curl up with a binky.

Even the limits he tests, he does so angelically. He has developed a new habit of throwing his cup or food to the floor from his highchair. Last week I was spoon feeding him when he started picking up the finger food I served also and dropping it off the edge of the chair. I firmly told him “no.” The next time, I stopped his hand before he dropped it, said “no,” and moved his hand back to the tray. The third time he started to drop food but stopped before dropping it to look at me. I told him “no,” and he actually brought the food back without dropping it! But then he started dropping it in his lap. When I made it clear I didn’t like that either, he grabbed a piece of food, lifted it high it the air, grinned and dropped it on his head! At this point all I could do is laugh.

OK, so there is ONE area that he less than angelic. He still wakes several times at night more nights than not. Perhaps this is our fault for not doing a better job sleep training. I thought it helped when we started letting him sleep with us at the first waking in the crib. For a while he slept like a baby (ha ha) from then until morning. However, his addiction to the pacifier is causing problems. We still put him to sleep in his crib then bring him to the family bed the first time he wakes up, but he is waking several more times next to us looking for that darn binky! He fusses and wakes me up to find it for him and pop it back in his mouth. We’ve got to get rid of that thing. Any suggestions for the transition are welcome.

Despite the sleeplessness, all was forgiven the little angel yesterday morning. He was awake when I left for work so I kissed him goodbye and said “I love you.” My heart melted when he replied, “I yuh yooo!”


It was July 25th last year when my son had his first bite of solid food! I remember the date because it was my sister-in-law’s 18th birthday. She was staying with us and we had some family over to celebrate. He’d just had his 4-month check up the week prior and had fallen behind in weight gain. The doctor told me to eat more calories and fat since I was breastfeeding (no problem! Please pass the cake), and ordered solid foods for baby now rather than waiting until 6 months. I think it was the right time for him anyway, because he had been showing interest in our food for a couple of weeks.

I mixed Gerber single-grain rice cereal with expressed breast milk until it was runny. I added a bit of applesauce for sweetness, which experts do not recommend due to allergy risk but I wanted him to like it. We sat the little guy in the highchair for the first time, reclining it since he couldn’t sit yet, and fitted him with a bib. I tested the temperature of the cereal mixture and lifted the spoon to his mouth. He loved it! He took several bites and had this look on his face like, “Finally, I’ve been waiting for this!”

Feeding him solids and eating more myself were lots of fun. However, we were also pretty stressed about his decline in rate of weight gain. While pouring through Le Leche League websites looking for the effect of caloric intake on milk fat, I came across an article on overproduction that fit my son’s symptoms to a tee. He’d been colicky since about 6 weeks, but I didn’t realize this was shortly after I started pumping and freezing extra breast milk. I didn’t know overproduction could be bad. I also didn’t know his lactose intolerance and green frothy stools were red flags for overproduction. I was devastated and insisted on blaming myself.

Although I still wish I would have discovered the problem sooner, at least we figured it out. The good news was I could start eating dairy again, and stop pumping so much! I donated all the extra frozen milk to the San Jose Mother’s Milk Bank. I ate extra fat (yum) and faithfully fed cereal at dinner time and we focused on trying to get the little guy back on track for weight gain.

Finding out there was a problem with our child was very stressful. I felt a lot of guilt and worried something more serious was wrong with him. I was actually afraid he would just get worse and not make it (crazy, right?). But we’re still here a year later! Although he never really “caught up” on the weight gain, he did stabilize and has kept his curve over time. It has given me new perspective on parents that face disabilities and diseases in their children. I really feel for them and am grateful my baby is generally healthy despite the issues. Every new parent makes mistakes and some are more devastating than others – it could have been a lot worse.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Working Mom


I started this blog about my precious baby when he was six months old. Since I had lots of pregnancy and newborn stories to share, I’ve been “catching up” by sharing a current story followed by one from a year ago. Since both the current and prior year stories center around working outside the home, I’m going to start with last year’s this time, when it all began.

Just about the time I started enjoying staying home, it was time to go back to work. It was mid-June last year and is hardest thing I’ve ever done. It set woman’s lib back years in my brain, renewing the concept of a woman’s place being in the home. The problem, as I see it, is that our society has painted that image negatively. My greatest desire now is to stay home with my child, a place I envision as challenging and rewarding. I’m still all for a woman’s right to work, but wish we had not somehow lost our right not to. Had society not painted a negative picture, I might not have dismissed the idea of staying home until it was too late to do so.

He was nearly 3 months old – beginning to smile and develop a personality. He was still a bit colicky, but for the most part he had settled into mild grumpiness. I got into a daily routine of going to bed getting up around the same time, going for walks and the occasional outing, and spending time away at the gym a couple of days. The baby love bug bit, and suddenly I couldn’t look at him without brimming with pride and adoration. I got about two weeks of this before I was run over by a giant freight train called employment.

My husband quite his part-time job to take over childcare.
I was set to return on a Thursday, which I recommend to avoid talking the first whole week all at once. However, my sister had the audacity to graduate out-of-town that weekend, so I pushed my return date until Monday. I decided not to take my pump with me on the trip, thinking this would get my production in line with what he ate.

It was during this trip I realized the impact of all the extra pumping I’d been doing to freeze for later – I became extremely engorged and uncomfortable all weekend. We returned late Sunday night, and when I tried to pump Monday morning, I was dismayed at the reduced supply. I called the Lactation Consultant who gave me all sorts of tips to build my supply back – take the herb Fenugreek, pump more often, keep pumping 5 minutes after the milk stops. It worked. However, I soon learned it was unnecessary because my baby was not drinking half the bottles I was pumping. I freaked. Not only did I think my production was down, but I thought he wasn’t eating normally. Turns out he just didn’t drink that much. All that wasted pumping! Supply was not going to be a problem.

Time was a problem though. Once back at work, it became painfully clear how short evenings are. My second day back I put my gym membership on hold. After using all my breaks and then some pumping 4 times at work (which I later weaned down to twice once I realized I’d been pumping too much), I’d rush home and try to fit in a few toning exercises before it was time to nurse the baby. The first week I tried cooking dinner - my husband was a little more overwhelmed being home than anticipated and wasn’t doing the cooking and cleaning yet. That weekend I cooked for the whole week on Sunday.

Adding to my exhaustion, I still got up at night to feed him too, not wanting to relinquish this feeding to hubby now that I was away so much. I missed my baby terribly. I remember sobbing on the shoulder of my coworker, saying I felt like I was failing my baby.

She reassured me that all the moms went through the same feelings. She told me I wasn’t failing him because he needs a roof over his head and a financial future, which my employment provides. The only thing that got me through was reminding myself it would get easier as time went on. Every woman is different – many enjoy working outside the home. It kills me to have to work. But I sure do cherish the time I do have with the little one and am proud I kept up the breastfeeding along with work.


It’s been a year, and though things are easier than in the beginning, they’re not easy. The hardest part of being a mom continues to be working outside the home. I know, I know all the stay-at-home moms want to work, and maybe the grass is always greener on the other side. But I KNOW I would like it. I have so many things I want to do with my child while I am stuck in an office all day. I think about play groups and homemade meals, trips to the park and fun craft projects.

I suppose I should feel lucky that he’s home with his dad and not in daycare. That saves me stress over other working moms – I don’t have to get him ready to go in the mornings and dad relieves some of the housework responsibilities. But no matter how hard dad tries, he’s not me. He will never want to get our son out of the house much because he’s a homebody himself. He will never cook wonderful homemade meals because he doesn’t love it like I do. I went back to work because I made substantially more money. Even if there was a way to trade, my husband doesn’t want to.

As good as my husband is with our son, no one can replace Mom. I thought it would get easier after breastfeeding, and it did, but there’s still so much I want to do at home. At 14 months, I feel like it is time for our son to start playing with other children regularly. But as a working mom, I can’t go to the Mommy-and-Me groups at 10m on Wednesdays. We’ve looked for Dad groups and can’t find them; maybe all the other stay-home dads are homebodies too. I’m almost to the point of sticking him in daycare one day a week just to get him socialized. I think competition with other children would help his motor skills too.

The advantage over daycare of dad being home is dad can do his motor skill therapy with him. It’s better to have a parent who attends the meetings with the therapist do them than trying to explain them to a daycare person who has other children to take care of. The therapist’s prescription is short exercise session at least 5 times throughout the day. She says to think in seconds not minutes for each activity, don’t push past 5 minutes at one time, and make it fun!

This month’s assignment is bending knees and bearing weight on shoulders. Translation to keep it fun is to get him to play with his toys on tummy time over a parent’s leg. That way he has to hold himself up with an arm. Or while he’s sitting to play, bend his knees Indian-style. She said to keep doing the exercise from the class where I put him on all fours, but to ditch the pulling up help and practice walking.

“Go ahead and do it for fun,” she said. “But it’s not going to help him walk.” She explained that he is missing some “links” for walking that date back to his lack of rolling before crawling and other factors. Skipping ahead to more complex therapy will not fill those gaps. The first goal is to build up his shoulder and core strength and get him used to bending his knees. She put him at about 8 months in the gross motor category.

She explained that the skill categories don’t always develop at the same pace. She observed his fine motor skills, labeling them advanced. When I told her how much he talks, she said “He’s probably brilliant.”

Brilliant! That’s encouraging in contrast to watching him trail in size and walking to his peers. And she thinks if we’re consistent with the therapy, we can have him caught up in six sessions. The tough part for me is trusting my husband to do it right without seeing for myself. I just wish it was me home! OK, so maybe I am just a bit of a control freak, but it’s hard not to be. Would it be wrong to nanny-cam my own husband?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lessons for Walking and Colic


When I looked at my son this week, I did a double-take. I picked him up, looked in his ears, peered in his mouth, and checked under his shirt. I asked him, “Where’s the baby? He’s got to be in here somewhere!” He giggled like a baby, but he sure looks like a little boy. In many ways, he is acting like a little boy too. He says several words – daddy, kitty, dog, mamma if he’s crying – and randomly repeats even complicated words when others say them. He can color with crayons and in play does the correct action with the correct object, like strumming his toy guitar.
In other ways, he is still more “baby” than I would like. At 14 months, he is not doing many pre-walking activities such as pulling up, crawling on his knees, or cruising. His 12 month old playmate literally runs circles around him. He is still just army-crawling or scooting on his butt. Although he has gotten pretty fast at these!
Last month we went to a group class through Kaiser called Help Me Move and they taught us some exercises for him. My husband and I sit a couple feet apart on the floor facing each other and help him walk back and forth between us. I also place him in an all-fours position on his knees and press down gently on his hips, as well as rock him slightly. This apparently sends messages to his brain that the floor is solid under his knees. We do the same thing with him sitting on a small stool – pressing on his hips to let him know the seat is solid. Then I let him use my hands to help pull him to standing from the stool.
The exercises seem to be helping. He is getting much braver! He used to hold onto my hands or whatever furniture I propped him against with a death-grip while standing. Now he is brave enough to lunge towards the other parent in the walking game. The other day, I had him propped standing against the couch, and he turned around to grab the coffee table! Now when I sit him on a stool, he pops back up on his legs (holding my hand), and I’ve seen him pulls his knees up under himself momentarily in army-crawl.

We went back to the class this month. The instructors felt he had not made enough progress though, and recommended we start physical therapy. It sounds scary, but I’m actually happy about it. I’d rather work with him now, while it is still normal for him not to be walking, than wait until he is behind to act. We haven’t had our first appointment yet, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it helps.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to enjoy his still-babyness because I know I’ll be sad when it’s gone completely. I love cuddling with him while feeding him a bottle, rocking him when he wakes up crying, and bouncing him on my lap. And baby-talk is so cute!


At this time last year, we were knee-deep in colic. Colic is a very general term for often-unexplained crying that occurs for more than 3 hours a day (it doesn’t have to be in a row). At about 2 months, my baby started crying enough to qualify, and his fussiness carried over to feeding time. He would begin nursing, only to pull away and cry after 5 minutes (down from calm 30 minute sessions). When we went to the doctor she brushed it off, saying babies get more efficient as they get older. I called into the Kaiser Advice Line a couple of times, mentioned his colic, and they brushed it off too. “Aw,” they said, “hopefully that clears up by his next appointment at 4 months.”

The colic compounded my frustrations coping with life as a new mom. I stopped being able to take him for long walks because he would start crying before we got back. The naps and feedings both got much shorter and more frequent, never seeming to satisfy. I was heartbroken that my child was unhappy.
Often the cause for colic in babies remains unexplained, but I tried my darnedest to pinpoint it. Sometimes things breastfeeding mothers consume upset baby tummies, so I went off coffee for 3 days. No change. I stopped drinking milk. No change. One day I ate a bunch of pizza and his colic was much worse that evening. Hello! Cheese is milk. So I cut out all dairy. This seemed to help. Gas-X for babies provided some relief as well.

But we still dealt with a grumpy baby every day and a fussy one most evenings. The doctor recommended a video called Happiest Baby on the Block that offered the best calming advice I received. I will try to describe the technique here, but I highly recommend the video. It’s worth every penny! The technique basically consists of swaddling the baby, then cradling him stomach down in a football hold, so that your arm supports his body, your palm supports his head by cradling the side of his face, and his feet stick out between your elbow and side. Then you can gently jiggle him and sing or “shhhh” in his ear. It calmed my baby instantly. The best part was I had a free hand, and could sit, stand, or walk while holding him like this.
Despite the methods I found for soothing, I was at a loss for resolving the colic. I tried to call the lactation consultant a couple of times, but always got a voice mail. I never left a message because I was afraid they would call back while baby was sleeping. The doctor kept telling me over the phone not to worry about bringing him in unless he looked like he was losing weight or stopped pooping and peeing. Finally, I gave up and just coped.

Boy do I wish I had left that message and talked to lactation consultant! What I didn’t realize at the time was that my baby had stopped gaining weight and there WAS a problem. It took until our 4-month check up to find out. Devastated, I finally left a message at 4 months and talked with the lactation consultant. She turned out to be an amazing resource. Between her advice and an article I read at Le Leche League’s website, I am confident the problem all along was overproduction of breast milk. From about 2 months, I had been pumping copious quantities for the freezer in preparation for my return to work, completely unaware this could cause a problem.

I sat there pumping every day, hating the pump but thinking I was doing a good thing. Only later did all the pieces fall into place for me. Kaiser advice nurses had dubbed green poop normal, but the lactation consultant later advised that frothy green is a red flag for overproduction. Additionally, overproduction can irritate the bowels and cause a secondary lactose intolerance in the child (aka he was sensitive to me drinking milk) due to consuming too much lactose in the foremilk. Because I was producing more milk than he could drink, most of what he got when he nursed was just foremilk. Foremilk is lower in calories and fat than hindmilk, hence the halt in weight gain.

Tragic! I still tear up talking about it. The hard lesson I learned and share with other moms is to listen to your instincts as a mother. If you feel there is a problem, of course there is a chance you are worrying for nothing, but don’t let the doctors brush you off so easily. Push until you feel truly comfortable. My baby is still paying the price as he trails in size and development, always just on the lowest possible curve to still be in the “normal” range but far behind most babies in the neighborhood. He’ll be OK, but could be better if I had trusted myself.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Issues You May Encounter: Newborns and 1-year-olds

There’s nothing like a screaming one-year-old to make me feel loved. No really – because he’s screaming to be close to me, his one-and-only Mom. On the other hand, I can’t get much done these days. My little guy has been suffering from separation anxiety the last couple months. Certainly no strangers can hold him without a meltdown. Come to think of it, close friends and relatives are out too, even Grandma J. For some reason Grandma D is fine. Maybe because of blood relation to Mom or that she’s watched him weekly since he was small. Even Dad is questionable in the evening when he’s tired.

His anxiety is worst when he’s tired. Some evenings I can’t even set him down without eliciting sobs. And I certainly cannot put him to bed. In an effort to get him to fall asleep in his crib, I’ve taken to reading a fun book to him after I lay him down, then staying within his line of site until he falls asleep. Better have the laptop or a book handy in case it takes a while. If I walk away and the screaming begins, it won’t stop. If left to his screaming, it will quickly escalate in intensity, resulting in vomiting. The only option at that point is to try to get him to calm in Dad’s arms while I quickly brush my teeth and take out my contacts so I can lie in my bed with him for the night. Half the time he ends up in our bed anyway because he wakes up screaming in the night. I debated just starting him out there, but decided to maintain his ritual of falling asleep in his crib at least most nights.

After 2 months of this, thing are actually starting to get better just this week. There have been nights I snuck out of the room while he was still awake and he remained calm until falling asleep. He also decided Grandma J is a-ok once again. He still gets ridiculously excited when I get home from work, and if Dad’s holding him near me he reaches for me. Not so much annoying as completely adorable!

The 13 month mark brought other changes to scream about – scream for joy that is. Last weekend, our little guy got his first haircut. We took him to my friend the hairstylist who works at a very chic salon, and she gave him a trendy Mohawk! Very punk rock when styled, and actually looks good un-styled too. He looks like such a little man now.
As if the haircut were the doorway to toddlerhood, he cut his first tooth the very next day. It wasn’t there in the morning, and was that night – a sharp, white sliver like a crescent moon on his lower gums. Not enough to start eating steak, but it’s a start.


At this time last year, I wasn’t yet convinced having a baby was a GOOD thing. But I had made it over the first month hurdle, began to adjust to less sleep and no longer felt like I was going to die! Some days I even started to think being a mom wasn’t so bad. Other days I still had to just tell myself that. Except for a couple of minor irritations, baby was healthy, and that was the important part.
The minor irritations consisted of cradle cap and a slight navel hernia. Of course, we brought him into the doctor at the drop of a hat we were such worried, inexperienced parents. The cradle cap was really nothing to worry about. It’s just a sort of acne on the baby’s face and head easily treated with baby oil. Hernias can be more serious, but his was not. His belly button had suddenly changed from an inny to very-much-outy. Hernias in any other spot are a medical emergency, but the doctor looked at his navel and said it would probably heal on its own within a year (which it did). Just looked funny.

Here's a picture that shows the hernia at 3 months, as I didn't snap one when he first got it:
Despite our paranoia, all the visits to the doctor resulted in little more than peace of mind. At the two and six week checkups baby was gaining weight well. He had started nursing excessively, to the point he ate too much and spit up regularly. So the doctor declared my breastfeeding “established” and approve the introduction of a pacifier. She also approved an occasional bottle. I started pumping once a day and letting hubby give a bottle or two so I could sleep for 4 hours in a row, or go to the gym for an hour.

At my own 6-week checkup, the doctor had released me back to working out. I was pleasantly shocked to have dropped 20 pounds by this visit. She poked me in the abs and said my muscles were healed enough to graduate from daily strolls with the baby to whatever I wanted. I still took it really slow at the gym. I only made it there twice a week anyway.

I wish I would have enjoyed my time at home more. Little did I know how badly I would want to be home with baby just two months later when I had to return to work. I should have ignored Kaiser’s orders not to take baby out of the house for 2 months and gone to all the Mommy and Me groups I could. I think it would have helped me in those early months to connect with other moms and have more fun with baby, so that’s my advice to new moms in the first two months.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

From Newborn Days to Toddler Play Dates

Once of the nice things about babies entering toddlerhood is play dates with your friends’ kids. After 10 months, babies start to take an interest in playing with other children and it’s good for their social skills. It’s also an opportunity for mom to socialize. Just make sure you pick an activity that is appropriate for your children’s age group.

The day before Easter, my friend and I quickly discovered her almost-two-year-old and my just-one-year-old are too young for dying Easter Eggs. We knew it would be messy so spread an old sheet over my hardwood floor. We lined up cups of water and vinegar mixed with food coloring in red, blue, purple, green, and yellow. I brought out my carton of a dozen pre-boiled eggs and my friend set out her Tupperware of about the same quantity. The kids looked interested!

Within 30 seconds, my child had tipped a cup of red dye all over his white-socked foot and leg. So much for red eggs. The almost-two-year-old was faring better – at least he knew the cups were for dunking eggs. Problem was he was throwing several at a time forcefully into the cups. He relished removing the cracked shells and re-dying the naked hard-boiled egg. By now, my child is crying because I keep removing his hands as he dips them deep in the cups of dye. Then he spilled the blue dye on his other leg.
Between the egg-breaking and self-dying, by the end we only had about a dozen unbroken dyed eggs that my friend and I rescued, and one to two dyed children.
We cleaned up and moved the children to the more age-appropriate activity of bathing.
Even though our kids are too young for dying eggs, they are both old enough not to be breastfeeding anymore. My friend weaned her son a few months ago and I just finished weaning 2 days ago. We celebrated by splitting a bottle of wine while the kids wound down for the evening.

The weaning process ended up going well for me. I debated about keeping the early morning and late night feedings for a while to prolong the immunity benefits, but I stopped the evening for two reasons. One, I wanted to be sure he was drinking a large portion before bed in hopes he would sleep longer (so I wanted to SEE the amount in a bottle. Silly, I know). Second, I wanted the freedom to drink more than one cup of coffee or wine, to stop wearing those ever-so-sexy nursing bras, and not to be engorged if baby didn’t feel like eating one day. It wasn’t a total commitment because I still had the early morning feeding- convenient because I didn’t have to get up to make a bottle at 4:30 in the morning. But as soon as I was down to one feeding, it suddenly seemed like there was no more milk to be had. He was still acting hungry after nursing. I started offering a bottle in the morning, and just like that we were done.

Weaning is an emotional transition. As a mother, I seem to look for ways to feel guilty. Should I have breastfed longer? Would it have been better for my child? Is my child upset with me? There’s also a feeling of loss when your child doesn’t need you in that way anymore. Not to mention the transition causes hormonal shifts that bring on emotions for no particular reason. Overall though, I’m happy to be finished with breastfeeding. Now I can go to the gym at lunch instead of pump, and relinquish more feeding responsibilities to my husband.

It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since I brought my little guy home from the hospital. I still remember holding the tiny, fragile bundle in my arms and feeling like I knew this little guy. Although we had never met, he didn’t feel like a stranger – he felt like a part of me. I was comfortable holding him in my arms like I’d been with no other baby.

Comfortable or not, I still hadn’t a clue how to properly care for him. All the classes and books in the world can’t really prepare you. I didn’t realize diaper rash cream should be used after every changing, nor did I realize every poopy needed changing even if it was “only a spot,” and my poor little guy developed a horrible rash in his first two weeks of life. It got so bad I would have to leave his diaper off for hours at a time – I had cloth diapers so I put one under him and one over him. We ended up getting it under control with doctor-recommended Aquaphor after every change and by using warm, wet baby wash cloths instead of wipes for 4 months.

Besides the proper treatment of newborn bums, the hardest parts were his sleep patterns and my phsycological response to sleep deprivation. The first week or so, I was still running on adrenaline. My husband was off work and eager to make me a tuna sandwich or scrambled eggs whenever I needed it. The baby would sleep for 3 or 4 hours at a time. Then in the second week, hubby went back to work and baby went through a few days of waking every hour and a half – around the clock. It started to get to me. I abandoned daytime napping myself; I felt better if I was up and around for the day. But once I went to bed, being roused by crying shortly after became difficult. I sat in my rocker holding him at twelve, two, and four o’clock in the morning, every bone in my body screaming for sleep. I would start to doze while nursing him then fight to be awake, feeling guilty and afraid that he could suffocate on the pillow supporting my arm because he was too weak to lift his head. I ignored the fleeting impulse that I wanted him to suffocate. I was glad someone had told me these feelings are normal; I knew I needn’t worry unless a felt a might actually hurt my child or myself – signs of postpartum depression that require medical help.

I wasn’t excited about being a mom yet at that time either – another thing I’m glad someone told me was normal in contrast to reports of mothers instantly falling in love with their babies. I focused on getting through each day and tried to enjoy my baby when I could. He was really cute! At several days old he had his first periods of wakefulness that didn’t involve crying. He would just stare for about 20 minutes before going back to sleep. My husband and I stared back in amazement. “He’s awake!” we said. Those moments were exciting.
Nights improved too, once I stopped trying to rock him in the nursery and set up camp in front of the TV for night nursing. I got streamed TV shows from Netflix so I would have something to look forward to watching and only watched it at night. I’m not normally a fan of television, but it saved my sanity back then. Who knew, Aquaphor and TV would be critical to surviving the first month.

Monday, March 29, 2010


We made it. All of us. We made it through the first year! We survived the lack of sleep and innumerable added responsibilities. Baby survived first-time parents without succumbing to SIDS, neglect, serious illness, or injury. We threw a big party. He wasn’t thrilled about all the strangers, but, let’s face it, the party was for us. To prove it we got a keg of beer.

Although the party was really for us and he won’t remember it, he was the star! Despite his newly-acquired stranger anxiety, we attempted to pass him around. He was pretty grumpy until cake time. We should have started with cake! My mom made him a whole wheat and honey (just old enough for honey now!) so there would at least be some nutritional value and let him have at it. What a mess!
I have chosen the one year milestone to wean off breastfeeding. I was most anxious to stop pumping during my work day. A week before his birthday I cut out one of the two times I pumped at work and had my husband supplement the feedings at home with whole, organic, vitamin-D fortified cow’s milk after checking with our doctor. We’re giving it in a bottle as he hasn’t quite mastered the sippy cup. The week after his birthday I cut out the other one. Now I am free to enjoy my lunch breaks again at the gym, with friends, or whatever I want!

I went through some debate as to whether to continue the other 3 feedings for a while. Even past a year, the added immunities of breastfeeding are beneficial. We have been trying to get him to eat more solid food though, and once I started doing the “dinner” feeding after solids instead of before, it sort of merged with the nighttime feeding. So I started giving him milk in a sippy cup with dinner and we are down to two breastfeedings a day. After Saturday night at the neighbor’s house when I had to say no to a second glass of wine, I started thinking twice is too much.

Last night, I began topping off the nighttime feeding with a bottle of warm cow’s milk afterwards. With my production going down, I wanted to be sure he got enough before bed to encourage sleep. By the end of the week we should be down to just the early morning feeding. I’m not sure how long we will continue that one as for us that will be the hardest to give up. The fact is cutting out that feeding will mean I have to get out of bed and make a bottle sometime between 4 and 5:30 am. He usually wakes to nurse (already in bed with us because of nighttime crying) and goes right back to sleep at this point and I sure don’t want to get up! And any wine the night before is out of my system by morning. We’ll see – I will keep posting as we go. For now I am taking the weaning process one feeding at a time, a week at a time, without thinking too much about the ones still left.

If my baby just turned 1, you can guess what I was doing at this time last year! I delivered 5 days late, which was my plan to get some extra time off work. On my due date, a Friday, I went to the gym and took and aerobic/weight class, keeping the weights light of course. On Monday, I went to the gym again and to a meeting with a business contact for my writing. I had been bugging my husband to go to Babies R Us to spend our gift cards and complete our baby necessities collection. He promised we would go Tuesday. Then our couple-friends showed up with their kid, planning to stay the evening and overnight. My husband wanted to cancel the Babies R Us trip, but I insisted we had to go that day. They joked about me going into labor, but I was adamant about it not happening when people were staying at my house. I’d rather we were alone all week just in case, but the man is my husband’s best friend and I have trouble saying “no.”

We were late getting on the road to Babies R Us, which isn’t very close to us, and got stuck in rush-hour traffic. It took us 45 minutes to get there, only to discover I had forgotten the gift cards. I was very upset with myself, but did the shopping anyway. We had the store hold the cart, drove all the way home to get the cards, and back out to get the merchandise. It was a long, stressful afternoon.

That night I fixed us each healthy chicken salads, with special toppings for each person. I was quite distraught after the meal when I realized I had mixed up the salads and the wrong person got the wrong topping, but they didn’t say anything and ate it anyway! I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions all day, but then that had been going on for a couple of weeks. I finally made it to bed late and stressed.

About 1am I started having more regular contractions and as much as I hated to admit it I was in labor with guests in the next room. I dutifully followed the labor class instructions to continue trying to sleep. By 5am I was pretty sure they were coming every 10 minutes and toyed with getting up and around and trying to eat some breakfast. Not wanting to labor in front of friends combined with the coziness of bed kept me trying to sleep. By 7am I couldn’t sleep anymore, and got up to use the bathroom. When I sat up I felt water moisten my pajama pants, and when I went to toilet I lost the mucus plug. I didn’t see it, thank goodness for my blindness without contacts, but relied on hubby’s description. I promptly called Kaiser. When I described what I thought was the water breaking – wet with streaks of blood, the nurse said, no, your water didn’t break, it’s just the mucus plug. I told her I wasn’t sure about the contraction timing because I had been sleeping but I thought they were about 10 minutes apart for a few hours. Clock it for an hour, she said, and call back.

I never did this before, so I did what she said. The contractions immediately came 3 minutes apart from the moment I hung up with the nurse (aka after my water broke, because it did!), but I waited the hour anyway. I hid from our guests in my room, showering, attempting to eat cereal (I was really worried about them not letting me eat for days of hospital labor I’d read about), applying make-up seated at the floor length mirror because I couldn’t stand up. Even when I called back and she said come in, I wasn’t that rushed, letting my husband feed the cats and check in with the neighbors because all the classes said first babies come really slow.

By the time I got to the hospital, I was so disoriented from pain I could not walk or put on my own hospital gown. I immediately began inquiring about my planned epidural. When the nurses alluded to the possibility that I was too progressed and it might be too late, I freaked. I need it! I pleaded. One nurse was very reassuring. “We’ll work towards that,” she said. There was something profoundly calming in her soft brown eyes. She was the only one there who could get me to focus and breath through contractions. My husband asked about getting the bag and birthing ball out of the car. They laughed and told him not to worry; I was way past needing that. Oh my God.

But God bless Kaiser, they put a rush on things and got my epidural in the nick of time! Once applied, it slowed down the labor and allowed me to relax for a couple of hours. This was a good thing, because I was strep B positive and would have had to stay in the hospital longer after delivery if antibiotics were not given time to work. It was also I good thing because I don’t think I could have handled a natural delivery. I’m into nature – I use cloth diapers for goodness sake – but forget that! I read up on it, and the risks sounded extremely minimal given the benefit. The only negative side effect I had was one of my legs got a little too numb and I had to be careful of it falling off the bed.

Once it was time to push, I was able to just focus on what I needed to do without worrying about pain. They were going to break my water, but surprise surprise, no water left to break. Told you so! I tried very hard to push exactly when told because I wanted it to go well and not risk a c-section. 25 minutes later they handed me my little bundle. I think my husband was overwhelmed but I was still on auto-pilot, a place I think I stayed for the first three months.

Overall, the labor went really well and I was happy with my decision to get the epidural, and to keep everyone but hubby and hospital staff out of the room until baby had arrived. I could have done without the small tear that needed stitches, but it healed quickly, leaving me none of the labor horror stories that had me scared the last 9 months. The hospital stay was a blur of learning to breastfeed and care for my newborn, with a flurry of nurses and paperwork and checkups. We went home the next evening to a clean house thanks to my mom, who was there to welcome us but left us to a peaceful house by nightfall.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sleeping arrangements at 11 months; Prego woes last year

We’re counting down the final month of babyhood, and I still have to keep reminding myself to listen to my baby and myself before the advice of books and friends or relatives. For the last 11 months, every time I go against my gut and try to do what I’m told I “should,” it bites me in the butt. Or my baby’s butt, as the case may be. Like last year, when I thought I “should” pump every day of my maternity leave even though I hated it, and ended up causing overproduction and a drop in my baby’s weight gain. Don’t get me wrong, listening to guidance can be crucially helpful, but it’s important to balance the influx of “advice” with your unique needs. Every baby and every parent is different. That’s why I’m trying not to stress about our current sleeping arrangements.

We have shared a room with our son since day 1. We have another bedroom that he will move into when the time is right. When is that time? I don’t know, but it’s not now. The room is on the opposite side of the house and we just aren’t comfortable with him being so far away at this point. Until recently, he always slept in his own bassinette or crib. Co-sleeping would have made my life easier in the beginning when he woke up a lot at night, but we were fearful of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – one possible cause being suffocation). Plus, I used to fall asleep if I tried to nurse him lying down. He started sleeping through the night at 5 months and there was no longer an issue. Even if he did wake up, I would pop a binky in his mouth and he’d go back out! It was bliss. Was.

Now, not so much bliss. Not only does he wake up screaming almost every night, but he won’t be consoled without cuddles. I need to sleep. He’s growing out of the riskiest SIDS stage. So in our bed with us he goes for the rest of the night. I was always opposed to letting him cry-it-out in his crib. Before now I was never tested on this opposition. Now I think that’s the only way he would stay in his bed all night, but I still don’t have the heart for it. We started to try one night and within minutes he was screaming so hard he threw up. Everyone tells me just to get through it. If we decide to try letting him cry, he would have to move into his own room first, that’s for sure. For my family, neither one of those things are happening anytime soon. (I feel obligated to note, since I brought up cry-it-out, that letting a baby cry himself to sleep is never appropriate for very young babies – under 4 or 6 months. During this stage you’re just going to have to deal with nighttime waking.)
For now, what’s working for my family is a hybrid co-sleeping arrangement. The baby will fall asleep in his own crib if he can see Mama. So he stays up, being held by Dad while Mom gets ready, until Mom goes to bed. If I leave his sight after laying him down the screaming begins and if it does, it may not stop and we may have to co-sleep all night. Then when he wakes up crying in the middle of the night, which happens at random times, he comes to bed with us so we can all keep sleeping. Makes the early morning feeding easier too, since I can stay awake during feedings lying down now. Once in a while we hit a fluke and he doesn’t wake until morning. I’m fine with the arrangement, baby’s fine, and hubby’s fine. We recognize that we may be setting our selves up for problems later, but sometimes you just have to do what works and let things work themselves out.


This time last year, I was finally on maternity leave. Being able to relax and sleep in alleviated much of the discomfort and fatigue I had been feeling for the last few months. I had already had my baby shower, which was fun though a bit stressful leading up to it as my family and friends are all hypersensitive manics and were trying to work together. I love them and am eternally grateful to all of them though! It was a great shower. I got so much great stuff, including all the money I needed for a set of cloth diapers. I had also already moved – yes, we had to move when I was 8 months pregnant. Our lease was up, and to our surprise the landlord wasn’t renewing because he was selling! Aggghhh! But it all worked out. I was watching TV in my new house and riding the light rail to the gym. It is possibly the most relaxing time in my life.

There was only one week I couldn’t relax. In my ninth month, the doctor became concerned about a lump that had developed under my arm. They had to do a biopsy, which they said had the risk of inducing labor, caused pain in my arm for a few days, and forced me not to move my arm around much and take it easy for several days. This was rather upsetting to me for several reasons. First, hello! What’s the lump? Do I have cancer? Am I going to orphan my new baby? Second, I already felt disabled by the pregnancy and being further in pain and inhibited from normal activity really got me down. I really freaked out when I couldn’t do my little workouts!

By the end of the week all was well, except for the ever-enlarging lump in my stomach.
(really, is it possible to BE that big?)

The lump under my arm turned out to be breast tissue that was enlarged due to the pregnancy. Everything was fine and I was back in the gym. I even worked out on my due date! The baby was 5 days late, and I was lifting light weights in the gym every other day until 2 days before he was born. I would have been in the gym that 5th day had I not been in the hospital delivering. But that’s a story for the next blog.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cloth Diapers and Prenatal Classes


My son turns 10 months this week! It's also our 10th month of adventures in cloth diapering. We don’t use cloth diapers 100% of the time, but I hope the times we do help offset my little one’s precious baby carbon footprint. Before he was born I purchased 6 “Bummi” wraps (must-haves) and 2 sizes of unbleached, pre-folded, cloth diapers from www.clothdiaper.com. The website was recommended to me by a Babies R Us employee in response to my shock that the only cloth diapers carried in the store were really only suitable as burp rags. The diapers from this site are comparably priced and of fantastic quality – drastically better than you can find in stores.

At 10 months, he’s finally big enough for the next size cloth diapers I’ve had packed away all his life. I pulled them out of storage a couple of weeks ago to put them through a few wash cycles, an important step to fluff them up prior to use. The way to wash cloth diapers, new or soiled, is in hot water with “clean and clear” detergent, white vinegar in the rinse cycle, with a second rinse. If possible, it’s best to line dry once you’re using them because the sun acts as a disinfectant. It also acts as a bleach – I was amazed to find the stool stains I’d been machine drying for 2 months disappeared the first time I line-dried. The small diapers that hung on the line all summer are visibly whiter than the new ones.
We started with disposable diapers his first week of life, as the doctor felt disposables would protect the circumcision better. After that, we switched to cloth during the day and disposables at night (so that if by chance he was only wet, I didn’t have to add disruption to a time I wanted him to sleep). The cloth diapers were a breeze the first 4 months – in fact, I found them easier than disposables. As a breastfed baby, he had a lot of little stools all day that were as liquid as any diaper-filler. The liquidity eliminated the need for toilet pre-rinsing, the most unpleasant part of cloth diapering. The only advantage of cloth diapers over disposables is their absorbency, requiring less wet diaper changes, and the poop frequency at this young age eliminated this advantage. Poops have to be changed to matter what!

In those early days, the cloth diapers came in handy when his diaper rash got out of control. There were a few days he had to go without a diaper to allow air to dry the rash, so having the cloths to lay open underneath and over him saved us allot of mess. Now he wears the “Bummi” wrap over the diaper, keeping the wetness inside and keeping the diaper on without pins, but for the first couple months, he wore the diaper by itself because he was too small for the “Bummi.”
It wasn’t bad though – there are stretchy-plastic-ace-bandage-clip-style alternatives to pins and the diaper only soaked through occasionally. It was best to wrap him in a blanket if holding him for extended periods. Ah, the newborn days. How times have changed!

There was a short period the cloth diapers were a bit of a bear – I refer to this as the “pudding poop” stage. Luckily it only lasted a month or two, or I’m not sure we’d still be so eco-friendly. It started when he began solid foods. The stools became less frequent, but much, much, much larger with a consistency of, well, pudding. Eewww! This required the dreaded toilet pre-rinse before the washer could handle the mess. I hated this part, holding the diaper over the toilet at arms-reach between 2 fingers and swirling, just hoping the stools would break free without having to dip low enough to feel moisture on my fingertips.

Thank goodness that did not last! Very soon his stool became a harder mass that plops right off the diaper into the toilet, leaving nothing behind that the washer can’t handle. It’s easy to save the planet again! He does require more frequent changing at this stage than he would in disposables because, as I mentioned, disposables are more absorbent so wet cloth diapers require more attention. So he is still in disposables all night, or for long car rides, but I’m committed to cloth during the day. Day in and day out, my motivation stems from my desire to live green. When we go out or to friends’ houses, I must admit I do it to impress. But perhaps the best reason to cloth diaper is they’re so cute on baby!


I was doing research on cloth diapers at this time last year. What else was I going to do all day at work? I sure couldn’t think about work with baby-planning on my mind. But it wasn’t just baby on the brain that was making work difficult. I was getting pretty uncomfortable and feeling more tired than I ever. I was ready to be home on leave, and was just counting the days while I got everything prepared at work and at home. One preparation I wish I’d given more attention to was signing up for classes at the hospital. Kaiser offers many free classes, some of which we took and some I wish we would have.

My husband and I took several classes together. We took Preparing for Childbirth, the only one that cost money. Although I was a little disappointed with our instructor, it was a worthwhile class. I loved the Newborn Care class. It was extremely informative with an awesome instructor who was into cloth diapers! She showed me how to make pre-folds easy to put on baby. We also took a hospital tour, which made me much more comfortable on delivery day.

I wish I would have signed up for the breastfeeding class and the baby safety/CPR class. We ended up having to move unexpectedly in my 8th month, so I was busy and thought I could take these two classes after the baby was born. How little did I know about being busy! Baby care leaves time for nothing, let me repeat, NOTHING else, during the first 2 months at least. We didn’t end up taking CPR until he was 4 months old. We never took the breastfeeding class and I think it would have saved me some heartache. I advise every pregnant woman to be completely prepared for baby’s arrival long before the due date.

The one bright spot of this month last year was a pregnancy photo shoot. My little sister is a professional photographer, so I got this wonderful gift at no cost! She does fine work and can be found at www.zoedesignandphoto.com.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010



The ninth month is all about toys for my baby, especially since he turned nine months in December. His first Christmas was stuffed to the brim with toys that sing, flash, or stack, and books, which he thinks are toys too. Mom’s favorite new toys are the functional ones – the foam puzzle mat and the plastic book.

We have hardwood floors, so we cheated a little and opened his first Christmas gift early in December. It was a foam A-B-C floor puzzle mat. Now he has a place to play with all the other toys without getting hurt. He likes sitting up, but still topples after a while. Even on a throw rug with mom sitting nearby, the second I turned my head was the one he would fall and “bump” – his head would hit the floor with a thud and he would start crying. With the puzzle mat the tumbles are harmless. Playtime is a lot more fun without tears!
The plastic book prevents pain as well. He has a bit of eczema behind his knees, and every time I change his diaper he grabs the back of his legs and digs in until blood flows. He got a cute Curious George plastic book for Christmas that we keep at the changing table for him to play with. Not only can he turn the plastic pages himself or chew on the without ruining them, it gives him something to do that takes both hands so none are free to scratch with. His legs are looking much better, not to mention his pants now that there’s no blood on them!
We went all out for baby’s first Christmas – got a live Douglas Fir, decked the house out, and invited all the family to our house. I thought we would be more excited about Christmas than him at this age, but he was actually really into opening all the presents. There were three rounds of gift-opening between all the families, and he got excited for each and every box and bow.
The books were the biggest hits with him – both Grandmas came through with these. My mom got him his first baby Bible and some others with cardboard pages. My husband’s mom got him another Curious George book, which we video-taped her reading to him so he can see her more often (on TV at least) since she lives out of town.


Maybe it was because I knew we’d have to go all out this year, but last year during my pregnancy I just wasn’t into Christmas. Before baby, we didn’t usually get a live tree or host Christmas at our house, but last year I didn’t even bother with the fake tree. Gifts were almost entirely out, with the few purchased going only to the nieces and nephews. Adults were out. Could have been the weight of recession bearing down on everyone that lent to this mood, or maybe it was just the weight of my belly getting me down. I felt huge at this point, and on top of letting go of my pre-pregnancy weight without being sure of returning to it, I had to finally remove my naval ring without knowing whether it would go back in afterwards.
I had talked to the doctor about it early on. She OK’d me leaving the ring in as long as it had room to move, but made me promise to remove it once the skin was stretched taught. It would have to come out for delivery no matter what so as not to be in the way of monitoring or an emergency C-Section if needed. It was time for it to go. I put it away and hoped the hole would not close.

The good new is it didn’t! After the baby was born I was able to slip it right back in, and the hole didn’t stay all stretched out as it had become. It looks exactly like before. The weight didn’t stick around either – I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight by the time the baby was 4 months. Of course, some of that is back on now because I had to start eating more fat to enrich my milk when the baby started having trouble gaining weight, but that’s for another blog entry. I may not have the abs of my youth right now, but at least I’ve got the piercing!