Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Fun at Open Gym?

"For children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood." Fred Rogers

But we manage to have some fun any way. :-)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Creating Our Village

My husband recently read a Newsweek article that proposed hunter-gatherer societies are good models for best practices in child-rearing. One of the strengths of these societies is the wealth of allo-parents, adults other than a child's parents who are actively involved in raising the child. A child raised by a village is likely to have better social skills and the confidence that comes from a variety of supportive relationships.

My children are not growing up in a tribal village. They don't even live in a small town where most people know each other. How can I provide them with a community like that? For us, the answer is church. At a typical Sunday, Peter is greeted by ten to fifteen adults or older kids before Mass begins. These are not formal greeters, just people who know us and like to say hello to him. They are in activities with us or just happen to sit near us. They are all a willing part of our community.

Four of our deacons during Habitat for Humanity

When Mass is over, Peter often roams the church with other children. Until we need to find him to bring him home, it's not uncommon for neither my husband nor I to know where he is. We know the older kids (3rd grade and up) will keep an eye on him and there are many adults available to intervene if needed. I love being part of this community. I'm especially grateful for Peter's hero who often sits with us during Mass. It's not a guarantee for good behavior, but I've noticed Peter is much easier to keep calm and happy when Mr. Payne is with us! (My husband is on the altar with worship team, so having another adult is very helpful, especially now with Anne. Two girls from youth group have volunteered to sit with us, too, when I need help.)

I realize the relationships with people at church are not close enough to describe them as allo-parents. I think it's a good start, though. Through this village, my children learn to socialize, to be responsible, and realize that they are valued. I am blessed to be a part of this parish community.

Friday, January 25, 2013

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 26): Epidural Again? Maybe.

(Click for Part 1 and Part 2 of Anne's birth story.) I'm glad this wasn't my first labor. From Peter, I knew contractions weren't supposed to hurt. Uncomfortable, yes, but bearable. Pain is your body saying something is wrong - in this case, that Anne was not "lined up" to come out properly. (Unfortunately, I couldn't fix it, so knowing was not particularly useful... oh well.) So when I chose to have an epidural, it was an informed decision.

I'm happy I had a midwife. It's unfair to characterize all doctors as promoting medical procedures rather than letting nature take its course, but that has been my experience. My midwives were willing to wait if that's what I chose, to not check my pain level every hour, and let me decide what pain relief I might want and when.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about the epidural I got and whether I would want one if God sends us another child. The possible advantage of the epidural (beyond pain blocking) was a faster recovery time. Since there was no feeling of urgency to push, I pushed as directed. This meant that the midwife could hold the baby just inside to allow my perineum to stretch without hurting me. The very small tear I had required no pain medication, which made breastfeeding much easier.

On the flip side, I don't know if the minimal tearing can be attributed to the epidural. It could be because I had a midwife who knew techniques to minimize tearing. (My doctor with Peter did nothing.) It could be because Anne has a much smaller head than Peter did; certainly that is a major factor.

Anne also looks much less like Batman. ;-)

If I become pregnant again, I will definitely discuss with my midwives how to best minimize tearing. The outcome of that conversation will be an important factor in whether or not I choose an epidural again.

If I do choose an epidural in the future, it won't be until labor is well underway. I want to be able to walk and change position during most of labor to help it progress. I know the difference between normal and painful contractions; if there is pain, I want to know why my body is sending me the signal that something is wrong. I don't want an epidural until I'm certain that labor isn't going to stall and require further interventions.

Of course, if I have awful back labor again, I might choose it earlier. That's another reason I'm glad this wasn't my first labor - now that I know how comfortable delivery can be with an epidural, it's harder to consider going natural again. But I know Peter's labor was much easier, so I have confidence in myself that I can do it again. Time will tell!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

It's 'A' Week!

We're starting very informal instruction with Peter, doing one letter each week. This week, being the first, is A week. Monday, we traced letters. I was amazed at how well he did. The upper left is mine, the rest he did completely independently. Yesterday, we made an angel and learned Matthew 7:7 - "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find." He was proudly reciting it today, "Ask and see if it will be given to you, seek and you will find, Matthew 7:7." We're getting there. :-)

Today's A activity was going to Wegmans on our way home from open gym to pick up a snack. We got an avocado. He has eaten avocado often in the past, but we haven't had one in awhile. And I used to always feed it to him. Here's a brief look at him feeding himself:

Oh right! The stuff in the bowl!

We're using the curriculum from Catholic Icing, "Catholic ABCs". I definitely recommend it!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Anne's Birth Story, Part 2

You may recall that after a couple days of labor-like symptoms, I was admitted with the expectation of delivery within the next 5 hours. That didn't happen.

Labor continued to progress very slowly. For a couple hours, we walked the hallways of the maternity wing, pausing for contractions. When they finally started to increase in intensity, I opted to go back to my room and rest for a bit. I also noticed that I was having a lot of back labor, but at this point my back muscles were relaxing between contractions, so it wasn't a huge problem. I'd had back labor with Peter, too, in the early stages. He was posterior and turned around during active labor.

It soon became clear that Anne was not going to turn around. She was sideways. Her head was down, but she was resting against the right side of my uterus with her feet near my left ribs. The back labor was intense, even with Jeremy providing counter-pressure during contractions. I decided to relax in a warm bath, which felt great - but stopped labor completely. I knew things had to get worse before they got better, so I gave up on the comfort of the bath.

For an hour, I was on my hands and knees, trying to get her to turn. No dice. By this point, my back was perpetually tense and just getting worse with each contraction. The midwife suggested sterile water injections; I decided to give it a try. She warned it would "sting" as the water was injected. I don't know if my back is particularly sensitive or what, but the injections were far more painful than labor. The pain subsided quickly, but WOW that hurt.

Around 1AM, the midwife suggested I just try to sleep and see where I was in the morning. They offered medication to help me sleep, but warned it wouldn't stop the pain, just make me tired. I was already tired and knew that I wouldn't be able to sleep through these increasingly painful contractions. She also offered to rupture my membranes, but I didn't want the possibility of an induction if that didn't work, nor did I want the increased intensity in contractions I knew that would create.

My contractions now were awful. The pain from the strongest ones was so overwhelming that it made me vomit. Being in the warm bath helped a little, but not enough, since that meant Jeremy couldn't apply counter-pressure. The time had come to consider what had not even crossed my mind during Peter's labor: an epidural.

My reasons for not wanting an epidural were wanting to know when to push and the slight risks of nerve damage or the drugs getting into the baby. I said if I was in the transition phase, I could make it without the epidural. A quick cervical exam showed I wasn't there yet. I opted to take the risks, since at this point I was going to be too exhausted to push productively when that time came.

They explained the entire epidural procedure, including a warning the the initial local anesthetic injections would "sting." "Like the water did?" "Yes." I braced myself for that pain again... and this one felt like getting a shot. You know, not fun, but no big deal. After that (I would guess the epidural was around 4:30 AM), the rest of this labor was a cakewalk.

Once the pain block kicked in, they asked again if I wanted my membranes ruptured. I agreed, since now it was obvious this baby was coming. The midwife did that; another cervical exam shortly after showed I was ready to go. She coached me when to push (I was relieved I could still feel myself pushing, even though I couldn't feel contractions any more), and Anne slid out at 6:15 AM. Incidentally, she got into the right position with the first push... c'mon little girl, if you had the room, why didn't you do that hours ago?! :-)

Come back Friday for lessons learned!

She was worth it.

Friday, January 18, 2013

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 25): Do you do Santa?

After Wednesday's pictures of Peter opening some belated presents, a friend asked me if we "do Santa." The short answer is, "Not really." We didn't take Peter to visit Santa at the mall, write letters, or leave treats for him to eat on Christmas Eve. We didn't imply that our stockings were filled by Santa. We almost exclusively play religious Christmas music at home and in the car, so he wasn't familiar with Rudolph or the other Santa lore passed on through song.

He still knows about Santa. One of his Christmas books is The Night Before Christmas, narrated by his Grandma. His Grams sang secular songs to him. We weren't hermits during December, so he heard secular songs in stores and saw Santa at the mall.

Stealth picture while he listens to his book.
And yes, he prefers no pants. Just sweatshirt and diaper.

At this point, we just haven't talked about Santa. Peter didn't seem particularly interested in him, so the topic never came up in conversation. People would ask, "Are you excited about Santa coming?" Peter would just look confused and say no. Since we hadn't emphasized Santa as a gift-giver, Peter didn't see why people would get excited. I mean, there are songs and pictures of snowmen, too, but we're not enthusiastic about them. :-)

I assume he'll be more curious about Santa as he gets older. We've decided to explain (when he asks) that Santa represents the spirit of generosity. He is a legend, originating from St. Nicholas (bishop of Myra), but nothing more than a fun teaching story. That being said, many people like to believe he is magical and real, so not to criticize if others talk about him like he is real. And if Peter wants to pretend Santa is real, that's fine too, but he will know that it is all just pretend.

One thing we won't do is compare Santa to God. I know there are Christians who say Santa represents God's love... but given how our culture portrays Santa as rewarding the good and punishing the naughty, I think that's a lousy image of God's love (see Matthew 5:45). None of us are good enough to deserve what God gives to us.

It's been interesting to see how others react to Peter's lack of interest in Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty the Snowman. By not actively exposing him to that part of Christmas, we have made some people defensive. I've been surprised by how annoyed these folks have seemed, even though we're not anti-Santa. We're just not teaching it. Most people have been surprised/confused/curious, which makes more sense to me.

We'll see how he approaches Santa in the following years. For now, I'm happy that he can sing all three verses of Silent Night and don't mind a bit that he looks up blankly when someone asks him to sing Rudolph. What has your family done with Santa?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Belated Christmas Presents


Um, yes, Pooh is sitting on Anne while I take pictures...

Whoa... 24 colors in one box!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Anne's Birth Story - Part 1

Peter's birth story was easy to write. A clear beginning, middle, and end, only nine hours start to finish. I (along with most everyone else) expected this birth to be similar, possibly faster because "second children are always faster."

Anne does not believe in stereotypes.

Christmas Day I woke up to some light bleeding. I called the midwife; she wasn't concerned and said to let her know if it got worse. I called back in the evening because it was still going. Not heavy, no other symptoms, baby was moving fine, but it hadn't stopped. She said that was unusual, but could just be a symptom of early labor. Unconcerned, I went to bed.

I woke up at 4AM to a small gush of bleeding and two sizable clots. Called the midwife again (poor lady). She said it probably wasn't a concern, but since we had house guests (my in-laws) who could watch Peter, she thought it would be safer to come into the hospital and get checked. We got there around 5AM. Nothing was obviously wrong, but the baby had an aggravating habit. For about 40 to 50 minutes, all would be well. Then, without any explanation, fetal heart rate would plummet for a second or two. The midwives (shift change at 7AM) were reluctant to let me go while that was still happening. Also, contractions were picking up slightly in frequency and intensity, so they hoped I might progress into real labor.

An ultrasound showed normal amniotic fluid levels, which shot one theory of the irregular heart rate. I didn't seem to be particularly in labor. Around 11:30AM, after 90 minutes of consecutive good heart rate (finally!), I was discharged.

I went home, had lunch, and took a nap. In the evening, we had dinner with my in-laws; I had rice and applesauce, not confident anything else would stay in my stomach. The contractions were definitely stronger, but still very irregular. I would have a few that were 2-3 minutes apart, then 15 minutes before the next cluster started. Oh, and there was a blizzard developing. Based on the forecast, the midwife advised that I come back to the hospital. 

I checked in around 7PM. After a very brief stay in triage, they were confident I was in labor. Effacement and dilation seemed to suggest that this baby might be born before midnight. I was moved to a private room. Where I would labor until 6:15AM the next day. Stay tuned for Part 2!

Friday, January 11, 2013

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 24): Peter Says

I lost all track of time debating how to spend my Barnes & Noble gift cards from Christmas. So instead of anything thought-provoking, tonight you get seven VERY quick takes from life with a toddler. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Hm, Mommy drinking Daddy's water? That's an abomination!

"I said the donkey, shaggy and brown, I carried His mother uphill and down. I carried her safely to Bethlehem town - "
Mommy, I will carry you safely to Bethlehem town some time.

Then ONE time, when Jesus came of his mother's womb, for five minutes, he said, "John the Bapnist! Put these towels away!"

*laughing so hard he makes no noise* Mommy! That was funny and with no laughs!

You never know what a buffalo will say.

(a Peter-original parody of "Peaches")
"Move into the country, gonna eat a lot of milk... Milk comes from a, milk container!" How was that song?
That was a good song!
*disappointed* But it had milk in it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Anne's New Clothes

Thanks, Uncle Keith!

I really do like them, Courtney, I'm just sleepy

Great outfit, Len and Ginny!

Makes me feel like a model

Monday, January 7, 2013

Diaper Disappointment

This post has a limited audience: people local to Rochester, NY who would consider using a cloth diaper service (where they wash and deliver your diapers). If that's not you, I'll give you a quick Peter outtake to make this visit worth your time: He sucked on his lollipop so much that the top 1/2 inch of paper stick came off in his mouth with a bit of candy stuck to it. After I fished it out, he said in disgust, "My sucker had a tag on it."

For the past two years, I've been a big supporter of Luvaboos, our local "natural parenting boutique" (as they label themselves). Their staff is knowledgeable about cloth diapers, their prices are reasonable, and it's a local, family-owned business. I've made a point of shopping there over online retailers because I wanted them to succeed.

My recent experience with their cloth diaper delivery service came as a huge disappointment.

When Peter was born, my parents bought me one month of diaper service from the only cloth diaper service that exists in this county, Sweet Pea. It was fantastic. The diapers were delivered two weeks before his due date, along with some starter supplies (pail, covers, Snappis) that were included in the one month package. They accidentally had us in the system for two months and just gave us a free week while they sorted things out on their end. I recommended them to a few of my friends.

Actually, they don't bring it to you... keep reading...

Within the last year, Sweet Pea was bought by Luvaboos. On 12/21 (16 days before my due date), my parents went into Luvaboos to set up a month of diaper service for me. They paid for one month (no supplies, that package doesn't exist any more) and tried to give my information to get me in the system. No, they were told, I had to call and give my address and due date. (Really?!) On 12/22, I called. I gave my name and address; she didn't ask for my due date and blithely assured me the owner would call me in the next week.

Anne was born on 12/27. On Friday, 12/28, we called Luvaboos (who had never called me back) and said we were bringing the baby home that evening.
"I have to put your information in the system first."
"I already gave all my information when I called last Saturday."
"Well, we need your credit card on file. We're not going to charge it, but we need it on file."
"I'm not the one paying. You have my parents' card on file."
"Yes, they paid, but we need your card, just in case." (In case of what? Diaper theft?)
*give card information* "So when will the diapers be there?"
"It looks like your pick-up day will be Wednesday. But it usually takes a week to get you in the system."
"I already gave my information last week."
"Well, someone will call you to confirm your pick-up day and get you in the system."

No one called. Let me throw in here that I am very glad I had bought a few newborn inserts and still had the covers from Peter. I felt a little silly buying the inserts, since this baby would likely outgrow newborn diapers before my first month expired, but it's a good thing I bought them anyway. Otherwise Anne would have just gone commando for her first few days. ;-)

On New Year's Day, my Dad, my husband and I descended on Luvaboos to get some answers. Yes, yes, I was in the system, everything was all set. My pick-up day would be Wednesday. I pointed out that I still didn't have any diapers to be picked up. "Oh, well that's because you didn't come in to get your first set. Most people come in to pick up their diapers a couple weeks before the due date, you know, because they need to buy other stuff too." A quick look at my Dad confirmed he hadn't been told this, either.

Luvaboos, you're a diaper delivery service. That's the whole point. Not only did you fail to call both times you assured me you would, you left out a crucial bit of information.

I asked the employee to pass along the information to the owner that we were very disappointed in how the entire order was handled. I don't know if that happened, but I still haven't heard anything from them. Frankly, I'm glad I just redeemed my reward points. Once this is over, I don't intend on giving them more business.

We'll see how the service actually goes. As far as I know, Wednesday is my pick-up day. I hope they know where we live...

Friday, January 4, 2013

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 23): Beginning Breastfeeding, Round 2

Peter and I had a rough start to breastfeeding. Within the first few days, I had cracked and bleeding nipples. It was well over a month before the tenderness subsided. He gulped as he drank, swallowing a lot of air and creating significant gas problems. His latch wasn't great; we frequently had to make multiple adjustments per feeding to get things right.

(He still gulps everything. And has a lot of gas. This boy is never going to be able to subtly take a drink.)

Despite a rough start, plugged ducts, and mastitis twice, I'm glad we persevered. I loved nursing him. Being able to provide excellent nutrition and comfort to my little boy was such a blessing. And it was SO convenient! We nursed for 26 months. (The hospital lactation consultant was very impressed.)

I knew I would breastfeed this baby, too. I expected similar struggles, but knew it would be worth it. I have been pleasantly shocked at how much easier it has been this time around!

I think this is partially due to me having more experience. I know what a good latch should feel like and was able to get support from day 1 when it wasn't working. According to the lactation consultant, girls tend to figure out how to nurse more quickly than boys, so perhaps that is playing a role as well.

With Peter's birth, I had a tear that required multiple stitches and lots of painkillers in the aftermath. This had a significant impact on nursing, because I was numb enough that I couldn't feel when his latch was wrong. With Anne, I had almost no tearing and minimal post-partum pain relief. This had made it SO much easier to know what works and what doesn't!

Finally, the minor tearing (especially as compared to last time) has meant that my mobility hasn't been impacted very much. It's pretty easy for me to shift my position to accommodate Anne. I wouldn't have thought there would be a connection between injury and breastfeeding success, but there definitely is! Anne is only eight days old and already a pro!