Friday, July 5, 2013

Controversial Things We Are Grateful We Did With Our Baby (3/5 in first 4 months series)

As always, these blogs are just about me and my family and what worked for us. I'm not so naive as to believe that everything we do is right or if you do differently than us, it is wrong.  All families and children are different.  I do not judge you or anyone else negatively if and when you choose different routes with your children.

Things I am so grateful I did: (all controversial)

Unmedicated/Natural Birth: Both of my boys were born with no drugs in their system. Again, no judgment on the majority who choose or need drugs to get through labor.  It just wasn't for me or (luckily) for Tayo's Birth Mother. And I am grateful that it worked out that way.  If I were to get pregnant again, I would still choose no medication.  We are stronger than we think we are. And it is amazing to be fully present for the birth of your child. Again, no judgment on those that choose differently.  I am just happy this is how I decided to go.

Limit shots at birth: Hartly was a homebirth so he had no shots. Tayo was a hospital birth and an adoption so, while he had no (which is standard in hospital births but we opted out) triple dye for umbilical cord, no hep B vaccine and no circumcision.  He did, however, due to it being an adoption, have a vitamin K and eye ointment. Our feelings are, the less, the better.  We happen to be very fortunate in that our Pediatrician is amazing and open minded and supportive.  She lets us know when she feels very strongly, but is also a firm believer in less is more.

No circumcision: We feel very strongly on this and know we are in the minority so, to keep it brief, we feel there is no medical reason for cutting off a piece of the body at birth. If more interested because you are debating the issue internally and trying to make an informed decision before baby is born, we would be more than happy to discuss it.  You should also Google the topic, as some liken it to binding feet or other baby m... ok I will stop. (that last bit was written by Frank).  Me again - Most importantly, do the research.  This is your baby.  Please don't just do stuff because it was done to you or because it is what has become routine or standard (or profitable) in hospitals and in the public.  Just because certain things were done to us and we ended up "okay" does not, for Frank and me at least, mean that is good enough for our children.  Once you are informed, if you find you disagree, by all means, do what feels right to you.

Co-sleeping: Many nay sayers, but again, no arguments that we felt were sound enough to outweigh the benefits.  If you are obese or smoke or get drunk, do not co-sleep with your baby.  Otherwise, there is no reason not to and a million reasons to, in our opinion.  Again, this is only if you want to.  Certainly, do not do it if it does not sound appealing to you. We loved it.  But, we also only did it the first 4 months.  Then, for us, sleep outweighed the benefits of co-sleeping (but first three months you need to be up a number of times for feeding anyway, so it works). 

With Hartly, for nightime sleeping, we did use a co-sleeper bumper (not in one pictured, ours was much smaller but they do not make it anymore) for a few weeks.  We quickly realized that we were not going to roll over on baby and took that away too.  He slept right in between us and it was awesome.  For us, we were not scared of hurting him.  If you are scared, my guess is don't do it or use an attachment to make you feel better (like this co-sleeper or the earlier one).  To us, the co-sleepers got in the way of snuggling and the good parts of co-sleeping.  With Tayo, we were not worried at all and from first night home he was in our arms in bed.  Let me tell you (and I know Frank agrees), there is nothing like the feel of your sleeping baby fast asleep against you.  It is pure bliss.

And, while we moved our boys into their own room and crib at four months, now that Hartly is older, he will occasionally sleep with us and it is awesome.  I will never say no to snuggles.  He only asks every once and awhile and I think it is great bonding and wonderful.  He especially wanted to the first few months with the arrival of Tayo.  Most nights, initially, Frank would take one of the boys and I would take the other and then we would switch.  Sometimes one of us would have both.  

With Hartly, Frank, Hart, and I all shared same bed.  Now, with baby number two, we slept in separate rooms, the first few months, so that one parent could get a good, uninterupted sleep (remember with number two, harder to sleep when baby sleeps during the day so nightime sleep is very important - refer to: Things I wish I had done differently raising our babies (2/6 in first 4 months series)

Hartly pretending to sleep with Tayo 

Papi & Taye
snuggles with Bitty  (so fun!)

co-sleeping with big one
crashed out on Papi

Mommy and her biggest

Mommy and her bitty

good snuggles

A favorite memory captured on my cell - Hart & Tayo & I were all sleeping together when Tayo woke up crying (around 4AM). Hartly rolled over, put his arm around Tayo and, Literally, shushed Tayo back to sleep.  He shushed and sweetly murmered, "It's okay baby. It's okay Tayo. ssshhhh... you're okay. Sssshhhhh Go to sleep baby. Sssshh".  Tayo fell back asleep and Hartly rolled over and went back to sleep. It was unbelievably sweet.

co-sleeping with both my boys

hazards of co-sleeping 
no schedule first three months: First three months our boys slept when they needed to, ate when they needed to, were held when they needed to be... Then we, slowly, did a loose schedule to help with the functioning of the family and to help baby have some consistency in his life.

Rough Schedule after 3 months: As strongly as we felt about no schedule for fourth trimester, I'm just as happy I did create a schedule, for both boys, after first three months.  It was much easier with Hartly because, as a stay-at-home Mama, I had nowhere to be but with him most days.  I could work around him.  With Tayo, we have similar schedule that Hartly had but Tayo often has to have one of his naps while being worn, rather than in his crib in his room.  I like having a strong foundation so that then I can decide where I can change it up and switch it around.  It is easier, I find, as strange as it may sound, to be flexible and make exceptions if you have a routine to start.  CAVEAT FOR SCHEDULE:  Frank and I heard, all too often, before we had babies that people couldn't come to parties because of nap schedules or that they couldn't go out because of babies bedtime... we decided we didn't want having a baby to mean that we had to miss all of the fun.  So, when there is a birthday party or event that we want to be a part of, we go and baby's schedule gets shooken up a little.  He misses nap or it's shorter or later than normal.  He often sleeps on us and not in his crib. And we might pay for it that night with a wake up that doesn't usually happen or he wakes up a smidge earlier, but we decided that was worth it to us.  We do, however, try not to have consecutive days in a row of exceptions when possible.

Around 9pm on our pontoon boat. See Tayo rubbing eyes? He fell asleep on me minutes after this photo and then  woke up 30 minutes later, on his own, to enjoy the fireworks.

Most recent example is The 4th of July.  We live on the water.  Our house is on a lake and we have a boat and our neighborhood does awesome fireworks that you can see perfectly from the middle of the lake... the start time is 9pm (meaning they usually start at 9:30) and go for a good 40 minutes... and then with back up of all boats clustered together, we get back to our house around 10:45pm.  Is this, normally, too late for a 3 year old and 6 month old? Absolutely.  Do we skip the fireworks out on the boat? Absolutely not!  This was Hartly's 4th 4th of July.  We went out when he was just 16 days old, 1 year old, 2 years old and this year as a 3 year old.  He has always loved them.  And this was Tayo's first year, and we couldn't have been happier.  Tayo fell asleep on me (Beco Gemini) for lots of little cat naps.  When he was awake, he was happy and social.  When he got tired, he reached for me and I tucked him inside the carrier and he happily dozed.  When the fireworks started, Tayo woke up and the look of awe on his face was priceless.  He tracked them from ground to air and was completely amazed and spellbound and not frightened at all.  About 30 minutes in, he got tired and I tucked him away again and he slept through the remaining 10-15 minutes worth.  Today he woke up a half hour later (Hartly woke 2 hours later than normal) and, while a little tired, they have been happy most of the day.  I will make sure that tonight and tomorrow are fairly chill and routine.  Life.  Is. Awesome.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Things I Wish I Had Done Differently Raising Our Babies (2/5 in First 4 Months Series)

As always, these blogs are just about me and my family and what worked for us. I'm not so naive as to believe that everything we do is right or if you do differently than us, it is wrong.  All families and children are different.  I do not judge you or anyone else negatively if and when you choose different routes with your children.

Things I wish we would have done differently:

With Hartly, I wish I would not have been so hard on myself.  

I had a traumatic birth with him that left my body broken and depleted.  I wish we would have known that was not normal and I would have gotten help sooner. I wish I would have taken care of myself the first few months, after his birth, resting and healing.  Hopefully this will not be an issue for most people (although, with most birth mothers, it does take a minimum of 6 weeks to heal and start feeling normal again, so go easy on yourself). 

Do not worry about fitting into your old jeans the first few months. Need I say more.  This should be obvious, but for many woman it is not.  In many ways I feel like my injury was a blessing in discuss... err... that may be going too far.  Let's just say I feel like I found the silver lining in my chronic pain.  I worked out 8 times a week (easily) before I got pregnant with Hartly.  I continued, at much more reasonable pace, much of my pregnancy.  I was a workout junky. I was fully intending and planning on being right back in the gym/running/dancing/fighting weeks after birth.  At one point I went to a chiropractor a few weeks post birth because I couldn't feel my left leg and was in constant pain.  He told me the dreaded news that it would likely be 4-6 weeks before I was healed.  I nearly had a panic attack at this!... 3 years later and I have only just began jogging again a few weeks ago.  And I still do physical therapy for my injury.  At the time 4-6 weeks seemed like a life sentence.  Little did I know.  But I got to really be with Hartly.  I couldn't go to Krav.  I couldn't go for a run.  It was, literally, impossible.  So a lot of the time I know I would have spent back in the gym, attempting to recapture my strength and physique, was spent enjoying my sweet baby. And, as everyone has heard (but wait until you experience it), it goes really, really fast.  Especially the first two years.  Every day brings a new miracle/trick/milestone.  You blink and you miss it.  I am thankful for that part of it.  That is not to say anything against a new Mama catching a break for themselves to go get their sweat on.  I just know my personality and I think, in many ways it was good for me.  Screw the jeans! Seriously. You just made a person!!

Sleep when baby sleeps is great advice with the first one (does not work quite as well with second one).  In retrospect, I wish I would have done that more with Hartly.  I felt guilty sleeping so much.  Now I know that is nuts. If you give birth, especially (but with adoptive parents too), it is exhausting (physically, emotionally and mentally) having this new tiny person enter your world.  SLEEP whenever you can! And, (which we, thankfully, did do) sleep with baby (Some say co-sleeping is dangerous, Dr. Oz Co-slept with his kids. Do not co-sleep if you are overweight or have been drinking, or are a smoker, for obvious reasons. But more about co-sleeping in future blog...) 

Nothing better

Papi and baby

Not impossible, but rare with second baby (unless you pass out from exhaustion)

A word about Breastfeeding - oh breastfeeding.  Again, someone mentioned something to me before Hart's birth that I rolled my eyes at, but later clung to like a life raft.  One of my kid's (at school when I was teaching) dad's warned me about the breastfeeding Nazis. I had done the research.  I knew breast was best and by God, come fire, come hell, I was going to breastfeed my boy.  I didn't want the fear of him getting cancer at age 35 because I hadn't breastfed him.  We were going to bond and nursing was going to be amazing.  And it can be and is for a lot of women... just as pregnancy and birth can and often is for most women, it was not to be so with me...  I believe, now, this was due to the fact that I was so injured and hurt that I had nothing, physically and nutritiously left to give Hart after he was born... but I tried, tried, tried.... 5 lactation specialists, 2 breastfeeding centers, nipple guards, ointments, special baths and compresses, boxes of teas and tonics and food changes and even light laser therapy on my breasts, Thrush the whole time (google it), 3 different breast pumps and one case of mastitis (google it) later...  I finally threw in the towel.  And I cried and cried and felt like a major failure.  If I knew then, what I know now. I would have tried for a week or two and then I would have contacted my local branches of donor moms: Eats on Feets: and Human Milk for Human Babies These groups are awesome resources. Tayo will be 6 months in two days and, except for his first two days of life when he was in the hospital and they required him to have formula, he has been 100% breastmilk fed all due to the awesomeness and generosity of amazing mother's who donate.  If I had known about this when I had Hartly, I absolutely would have stopped much sooner and gotten donated breastmilk for him.  If nursing works, that is awesome, but if it doesn't, do not feel bad and understand you can still give your baby the very best without beating yourself up.

Walk in Memory of one of Tayo's Milk Sister who passed and her Mom pumped for us for 3 months!
Do not underestimate how much you mean to your baby - your voice, your touch, your eye contact, your smell, your swaying, you songs and shushes... biological or not, you are what baby needs most.

Do what feels right to you!  For every decision you make on every single thing for your baby (products, breastfeeding, diapers, co-sleeping or not, circumcision or not, hospital or not, drugs or not, sleep schedule or no schedule...) there will be a group of people that feel the complete opposite... and strongly... with evidence of why what you are doing will ruin your child forever. Please, I implore you to strike a healthy balance.  It is not good to be so closed minded that you are rigid, inflexible and will never change your mind on any choice.  On the flip side, when you do make a decision, and you are happy and feel that it is working for you, family and baby, be okay with that decision and do not feel guilty or like a bad parent. I love listening to what others do and what works for them.  I read a ton. I research a bunch.  And then I take what works and feels authentic and good to me and I leave the rest. I don't always pick right the first time. And what worked for Hartly, doesn't always work for Tayo. And I have my guilt moments for sure.  But they are much fewer and further apart this second time around because I know that I love my boys and do whatever I think is best for them.

For Tayo specifically ... it is still early so I am sure hindsight will come later.  I will say this though - although I am not sure how I would handle it differently the next go around, I'm hoping I will be less on the attack.  Adoption is a very sensitive area and there is so much unknown and incorrectly presumed about it in the general public.  Once Frank and I started versing ourself on the topic and going to seminars, reading books and speaking with Birth Parents, Adoptive parents and birth children with adoptive siblings and adoptive children... our eyes were forever changed. I am, through and through a Mama.  And I was (and honestly speaking I am sure I still am and always will be to some extent) just so scared of people saying things that would hurt my children.  I am not scared of mean, bad people saying stuff that is nasty... it is sweet, kind people using an unintentional phrase or asking an unintentionally emotionally harmful question that scares me. I am not, by nature, a confrontational person and I hate upsetting or hurting people's feelings or making them feel bad or uncomfortable (especially when I know that what was said was an innocent mistake).  I just want so badly both of my boys to always know and feel 100% loved and protected.  This is just impossible.  But it doesn't change my desire to protect and shield them for as long as I can.  I discuss this more in depth in another blog post titled Tayo.  And I have edited and re-edited this post many times.  I still haven't gotten that perfect balance.  I worry about being too lackadaisical and not defensive enough of my children and speaking their truth... or being too aggressive and offensive in my explanations and worries.  Currently it is still too Mother-Bear strong.  So, I would hope next time around (and in the future with Tayo), I am able to strike a better balance.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Top Things to Prepare for When You are Expecting (1/5 in First 4 Months Series)

As always, these blogs are just about me and my family and what worked for us. I'm not so naive as to believe that everything we do is right or if you do differently than us, it is wrong.  All families and children are different.  I do not judge you or anyone else negatively if and when you choose different routes with your children.

Top things to prepare for when you are expecting:

Every pregnancy is different.  Some people thrive pregnant, others, like myself, are not good at it at all.  I was in pain the whole time.  I wish I would have been blissed-out the way my mother describes how she felt all four times she was pregnant.  I was not.  I LOVED feeling Hartly move inside of me.  Other than that, I just hurt. With Tayo, pregnancy was a lot smoother for me, lol.  But, I did miss feeling him grow inside of me.  Preparation, for obvious reasons, was different for both.

Regardless of whether you love being pregnant or not, there are certain things you can do for you and baby while pregnant. Things that felt right to me when I was pregnant may be viewed as extreme by others.  As always, do what feels right to you.  

Sleep: You are growing a baby - sleep, sleep, sleep.  Not because of what (I find annoying) people say about, 'sleep now because you won't for the next 5 years (totally untrue, after first 3 months, by the way - more on that in another post), but sleep because you are growing a whole person... from scratch.  You need your rest.  Do not feel bad about it.  In fact, feel bad if you don't rest/sleep when you are tired.  The best thing for you and baby is sleep and rest.
Miracle in progress - Both my boys in utero
Food: For me, I cut out all caffeine, alcohol and non-natural sugars.  I tried to eat well, but was not super restrictive beyond cutting out the above.  I was also vegetarian (now vegan) at the time.  I was seeing a nutritionist to make sure that all my levels were good and baby was getting what he needed. Moderation is key.  Do not restrict but do not overindulge.  It is not good for the baby and certainly will be something you regret later, after baby is born.  True you are eating for two but one of the two is, for most of the pregnancy, under 4 lbs.  You do not need that much extra food.  I found I just ate more often, but not too much more total. 

Extracurricular:  I worked out the whole time I was pregnant.  I would caution against starting anything new (unless it is just walking, which, honestly, is the healthiest thing one can do for anyway) but keep doing a modified version of what you were already doing when you got pregnant.  For me I was in an intense martial arts Krav Maga program at the time.  This is usually a partner sport with lots of physical impact and bruising is the norm.  I chose to continue but I just did the same stuff with a punching bag, instead of a partner.

Krav Maga at 5 months pregnant

chemicals:  Again, this was what made Frank and me comfortable but everyone is different.  I did not step foot into a nail salon or get my hair colored while pregnant.  I avoided people who were smoking and I went out of my way to not use chemicals or cleaning products. I also took no medications (even when I got sick a couple of times - I was a school teacher when pregnant with Hartly and exposed to little kids' germs daily) but chose home remedies instead.  I avoided people who were sick and I washed my hands a lot.

Talking to baby:  Frank and I constantly touched and spoke to my belly.  We told him we loved him and we couldn't wait until he was in our arms. And we continue to talk to our children.  Please, I implore you, look in your babies' eyes and talk to them - from day one.  They understand WAY more than people think and they learn the value of eye contact.

Products:  We knew that we wanted to co-sleep for the first few months.  We really didn't buy too many products ahead of time.  We had the nursery painted (when I wasn't home) and I had a glider, a crib, and a dresser... I will get into products a little later in more detail but I would remind you, at the start, baby really does not need much the first 3-4 months, except you. 

Remember: A baby will rock and shake and turn your world upside down.  It is the most indescribable and incredible miracle and life changer ever.  Will it be hard, absolutely.  Will it be mind blowing awesome, even more so.  Keep in mind that it is also what you make of it.  Frank and I did not stop traveling, we just modified our travels.  We did not stop going out.  We did not stop sleeping.  We did not stop being intimate.  We did not stop seeing our friends.  Find what is important to you and you can keep all of those things, albeit it a little modified.

Fears: I was (I don't think Frank was) a little scared that Frank's and my relationship would slip through the cracks.  We know people's relationships who did after baby.  I believe, we fell more in love after Hartly was born (and again now with Tayo). 

3 loves of my life
With adoption:  Although Tayo didn't grow in my body, once we found out about him (probably long before as an idea, but specifically when we knew about him), he definitely grew in our hearts.  We told Hartly about him and kept a sticker chart count down sheet. We talked about Tayo...  We talked about Hartly and Tayo and what having a little baby would be like and discussed hypotheticals (what do you think a baby does? Can you play soccer with a baby? Can you pick him up? Who is going to take care of the baby? naseaum).  We named Tayo and we bought little things for him.  I kept a journal, just like with Hartly.  

Every person and pregnancy will be different.  This was just a snapshot of ours...