Supporting a Friend During Infertility

Infertility is a topic that will impact nearly all women in some way. Either yourself or someone you know will likely struggle with this – it affects 1 in every 10 women. For some women, it can feel unbearable to wait 6 months to get pregnant – others will wait years and spend thousands of dollars, undergoing invasive treatments to conceive. As more women wait until they’re a bit older to start trying to conceive, more struggle with this every day. As a physician, I am very well practiced at discussing the “medical” side of this when patients come into the office…. but as a friend? I still struggle to come up with the right things to say and do.

I reached out to one of my #WCW’s, Natalie Bushman, fellow mommy-blogger at Nat your average girl, for some help and am so happy to share her wisdom here. On her blog, she has shared her journey through new motherhood, then through secondary infertility (difficulty conceiving after a successful natural pregnancy), the twin pregnancy that resulted from treatments and being a mom of 3 along with fabulous personal style and home decor posts.

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 1.15.46 PM
Total blogger crush on this cute fam!

She recently discovered they’ll be bringing baby #4 into the family (congrats!!!) and I asked her to give us some insight into being there for friends who are going through an infertility journey since she’s personally experienced this from multiple angles.

Thinking back to when you first got pregnant with Blair, did you have friends who were already dealing with infertility issues? How did you approach them with news of your pregnancy then?

I was one of the first people to get pregnant in my friend group and didn’t know anyone at the time experiencing infertility. Looking back though, I was so naive and it never even crossed my mind that I could have a hard time getting pregnant (even though my Mom struggled for years). I just assumed that since I was healthy with a regular cycle that it would be a cinch… and lucky for me it was the first time! I didn’t think twice about miscarriage or not seeing a heartbeat at the first appointment. Ignorance was bliss but oh how the tables have turned!
IMG_8066.JPG
Baby Blair, their 1st

I’m sure people had all kinds of responses when you were struggling to get pregnant the second time around. You’ve blogged about the things people should NOT say to couples. Did any friends or family members say things that were helpful and supportive?

Yes, my close friends were amazing. Honestly one of the best things to say is simply,
I’m sorry. That’s so hard. Is there anything I can do for you to help?
Totally basic but shows that you care even if you haven’t experienced infertility yourself. The other things that helped were when my friends would check in on me after they knew I had a big appointment. Or they would say, “Call me after your appointment. I want to hear what the doctor said.” Things like that. Things that you would say to anyone going through a hard time or health scare. It’s just about showing you care. Hearing that someone is praying for a specific need of mine also made me feel better. To know that I wasn’t forgotten.

How can people approach this with friends who they aren’t sure if they’re having fertility problems – do you think that’s different than how you approach friends who have told you outright they’re in fertility treatment?

Ok, so I actually had a friend who told me she was struggling but she hadn’t told anyone else. At that point, she had an adopted child but had made it clear that he wasn’t adopted because of fertility reasons. She had even previously made it known to our friend group that she didn’t have a desire to have biological kids. However, over the course of time, things changed and her desire to have bio kids grew.  In group settings, it would be wildly uncomfortable because I knew to be sensitive but others didn’t. Other moms would share their birth/breastfeeding stories and I would try to direct the conversation elsewhere.
However, if people don’t know you are struggling then you really can’t expect them to be sensitive…especially if you have previously made it clear you aren’t interested in being pregnant. I guess it’s a balance. It kind of depends on your relationship with the person. I steer clear of asking strangers any type of kid-related questions. But if you’re my good friend and you’ve decided to be tight-lipped, then that is harder to help. Overall, I guess it’s just always best to be sensitive. But if people aren’t honest with their situation then it becomes harder to be sensitive.

Did you want people who knew what you were going through to check in on you regularly? Or did you feel like you just wanted to update them and not be bothered?

I kind of referred to this a little bit in question three. For me, I liked having people check in on me. There was only one instance in which I protected myself from this and that was right after IVF. I knew that I would get the phone call on December 28th that would tell me if I was pregnant or not (it was through a blood test result) and I purposely told my friends I wouldn’t know till December 30th. I wanted to be able to process the news (if it was bad) with just Matt. I wanted to have time to wrap my mind around it and be sad for a little while. I didn’t want to have to field a bunch of texts and phone calls. When we did find out I was pregnant I told them that day…it was too good to hold in!
IMG_5221.JPG
Evie and Cal

Did you worry about announcing this recent pregnancy since you didn’t have trouble conceiving this time?

Oh, totally. I was sweating over it. I know that a lot of my followers are dealing with infertility and I wanted to be SO sensitive to that. It was this weird mix of emotions because I was so thrilled/surprised by our pregnancy but so distraught over how others still struggling would react. I prayed that they would be encouraged and filled with hope that this could happen for them too, instead of feeling bitter or angry. This may sound ridiculous but when I was having a hard time getting pregnant, and I knew someone who just “looked at their husband” and got pregnant, I would be mad. But if someone who had struggled like me got pregnant, I would be so happy for them. Was that fair of me? No. But if I’m being honest I did have those feelings initially. Part of me hoped that since I had struggled in the past that I wouldn’t be that “annoying pregnant girl.”
For some reason, we seem to be happier for people who have “overcome” to get where they are. It sure makes for an incredible story. But, I regret being spiteful to those who didn’t have the same struggle as me. So what if they can get pregnant easily? You never know what else they could be dealing with behind closed doors… an abusive partner, ongoing sickness, the death of a parent, unemployment, depression… the list goes on and on. There’s so much sadness in our world.
I think if we all had a little more grace we’d all be better off!
ACS_0471.JPG
I can’t think of any better parting advice than that! Thank you Natalie! And friends, if you don’t already, go follow this awesome mama on instagram @natyouraveragegirl and check out her blog!
DSC_4458BW
Dr. Annie is a family doctor and mom in the Sacramento, CA area.

Election Day: Parent Edition

Yesterday was election day across the country. For some of us this might have been one of the first midterm elections you participated in, or even knew were happening. According to this article by Vox, the highest midterm voter turn-out for youngin’s (aka 18-29 year olds in voting talk) was 21% way back in 1986. If you’re wondering why it seems like older people make all the political decisions in this country… THIS IS WHY. According to a Harvard poll cited in that same article, expected turnout for these 2018 midterms is 41% in that age group. Nearly double. Times are finally a-changin’, booya! (I’m clearly out of this young hip age group because I can’t think of a ‘cooler’ way to say that)

close up photo of people holding usa flaglets
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

That age group also happens to contain most of our parents of young children across the country. The vast majority of women who bear children do it between ages 20-34*. If you line up those numbers, that means a WHOLE lot more young mamas and papas were planning to get-out-the-vote yesterday than in earlier years. Which got me to thinking… what’s everyone doing with their kiddos??

IMG_5086
Me, the bump and hubby pants voting it up

I saw quite a few social media posts of people offering to watch other people’s kids so they could go vote – generosity itself! My own kids were in preschool/kindergarten while the hubs and I took just the bun-in-the-oven (currently our easiest child) to the polls. Of course there are the awesome people who plan ahead and vote-by-mail too (ahem… Christiana). But then, I saw even more posts of people carting their 1, 2, 3, 4 or more kids with them into the polls and proudly showing off their little ones with “I voted” stickers.

In case you were wondering (as I was), it is legal to bring your minor children into the voting booth in ALL 50 STATES.

IMG_5091
Kristy shared voting with her little lady!

Now, I’m sure some of these civically minded parents were forced to drag their kids with them by fault of not having childcare (when are those politicians gonna get on THAT?? Hello America, we are way behind other civilized nations here! I digress…). I found myself, though, regretting not having taken our own girls in to be part of the process.

Is it more of a hassle to try to focus and remember which candidate or ballot measure you meant to mark with a 3 year old trying to climb up your leg, a newborn rooting around for a boob and/or a 6 year old wanting to mark the page with the sharpie they stole from who-knows-where? OMG yes. But it’s also an incredibly valuable opportunity to literally shape the future of America via your own offspring …which is basically why we are doing all of this parenting, amiright??!

IMG_5090
Margo displaying her voting prowess loud and proud!

Top 3 Reasons To Bring Kids To Vote:

  1. You show the kids the mechanics. One of the reasons cited frequently by millennials and younger for not voting was that they just, like, literally don’t know how you do it. If you get your kids running through the motions biannually from a young age, they’ll be ahead of the curve when they hit 18!
  2. You inspire others. You show other people that parents’ votes count. You show other parents that they can too get out the vote, whether they have childcare or not, to make it matter even more. The other people there can also see, and be reminded, that what they are voting on is going to impact the future, the actual children there in front of them.
  3. You demonstrate Democracy. We all know kids learn by seeing and doing better than being told. So seeing you vote, discussing the results and what it means in a concrete sense will teach your children what it truly means to live in a Democratic country better than the best TED talk or Daniel Tiger episode ever could.
white and grey voting day sign
Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

Next election, you better believe I’ll be showing up with all 3 of my offspring. Still not convinced it’s worth the trouble? That’s ok! Swap childcare with a friend and go get your solo vote on. Or maybe even be super organized and get vote-by-mail and just show the kids the ballot like our smart lawyer friend ;^)

What do you think? Did you take kids to vote? Was it worth it? Would you do it again?? We want to hear in the comments!

DSC_4458BW

 

Dr. Annie is a mom of 2 strong future voting women growing a third voter of the future in California.

 

 

 

 

 


Lo and behold, other people had similar thoughts! This article by Girlscouts of America has a great guide to how to get your kids (girls specifically) involved and excited about voting from an early age. Other articles on Red Tricycle, The 74 Million and Kveller also give great reasons for voting with kids in tow and advice for raising engaged citizens if you want more information.
*Paul Taylor et al, The New Demography of American Motherhood. MAY 6, 2010; http://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2010/10/754-new-demography-of-motherhood.pdf

Bringing Home Baby: How to Manage Visitors

As an enthusiast for women advocating for themselves, the time I spend talking to couples about the postpartum period in my doula practice is vital. Whether a couple is just starting their journey as a new family of three, or they are adding more siblings into their mix, this family transitional period is precious and sensitive. I strive to teach some very hard and fast boundaries for the family to consider when introducing their newest family member to the world.

I have found that most research points are geared towards correcting the etiquette of the visitor (my favorite being THIS ONE,) but what I outline below are the simple reminders that I wish I had known within the first few weeks of being a new mom.

1) Be Selfish, Please.

In many cultural traditions, there is a two-week to two-month period of isolated bonding between mother and infant. I recently came across an interesting article from the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecology, and Neonatal Nursing, that astoundingly stated the modern shift away from “Lying-in” with your baby postpartum was mainly due to understaffing during WWII!

During World War 2, physician-researchers challenged the long-held practice of keeping postpartum women confined to bed for 10 to 14 days after a vaginal birth. Economic realities brought about change in the length of postpartum stays. Hospitals could not maintain their personnel because of labor shortages created by the war. Maternity units became crowded with more new mothers and were understaffed. Sending women home in 3 to 5 days after birth could alleviate staffing problems.

Ideally, you’d spend that time in bed or couch with your baby learning your nursing relationship (if you choose to breastfeed) and recovering your strength. This can help with your milk production by feeding on demand and with your overall rest. That sweet little one will want to nurse or have a bottle very often, so having them near you is a wise choice. 

fd60b472e824c7ed8afabf4105433d23
Photo Cred: Baby of Mine Lifestyle Photography

2) Ask for help.

Believe it or not, you CAN ask for help. I daresay you MUST. No matter what your home life looked like before the new baby, it’s going to look different now. Delegating simple responsibilities to other members of the family/community can be a huge relief to you during this time. Laundry, dishes, other kid drop off and pick up, even vacuuming? Yeah, girl. You are allowed, especially if you have limited maternity leave, to snuggle your baby as long as you want while others take care of the other tasks. Take this chance to ask, because folks will be MORE than willing to help you, even if they don’t get to hold the baby yet.

IMG_5717
I’ll have more of this, please.

Have trouble asking for help? We see you do-it-all-myself mamas! Make yourself a list of what would be helpful ahead of time. Consider having someone else – your sister, your doula, your ballsy no-filter bestie – be the one to ask people for specific helpful tasks if you really can’t bring yourself to do it. Literally practice with someone you trust role-playing the “Can I do anything to help?”, “Yes, thank you! We could really use some more diapers and paper plates when you come by” so you don’t blurt out your usual “No, we’re doing fine, thanks!”. You know what’s amazing?? People actually WANT to help – it makes THEM feel good. So really, it’s selfish not to give out tasks!

3) You Can Say “No Thank You” to Visitors, but “Yes” to Food.

A lot of folks find it most comforting to not have to prepare meals during this time. You don’t have to rely on someone to do this for you or panic if you haven’t filled your freezer with easy to make meals. You can designate a person, or start a TakeThemAMeal.com account yourself, where people who want to help can sign up to bring you a meal.  You can personalize it to your specific dietary requirements, and even specify days/times you’ll need a meal.  If you don’t want a visitor at the time they bring the meal, you can set two coolers out on your porch for them to drop off at anytime. One cooler can be for hot items, and one for cold. I repeat, you do NOT have to visit with them at this time.

4) Doorbell Signage for the surprise”Drop In”

il_570xN.1604364198_3rj3

There can always be that ONE person in your life, whether its a nosy neighbor, a loud talking sibling, or an oblivious friend who can just “pop-by to see the baby” without calling because they were “in the neighborhood”. If you are not wanting random visitors, it is okay for you to make a sign taped over a doorbell, or a high traffic door that states “No visitors today, please. We are resting” or “Please leave any deliveries or goodies on the porch because we are bonding as a family now”. I love this Scary Mommy Article about waiting to see visitors until your family was ready. Again, it is OKAY to ask people to wait.

5) Get used to saying “Wash your hands first!”.

Everyone who enters into your home environment brings the rest of the world’s germs with them. While it is impossible to keep your little one away from 100% of the little nasty cooties that come along, being a clean-hands ninja warrior on proper hand-washing and sanitizing is important for your sanity. It can keep big-kid and adult sized germs away from your newest little one, who hasn’t had the chance to build his/her immunity against them. You also have permission to deny entry to older kids who are not part of the family. No kids, no sick adults, no touching baby. Did grandpa wash his hands and then scratch his nose? Back to the sink with him! Practice saying this. If it helps, say “My [doctor/midwife] made me promise to be really on top of this!”. Stop sign

6) Look, but Don’t Touch.

We’ve all gone through this as new moms. You’re in Target picking out cute baby onesies your first time out with little one and you feel it happen. Out of the corner of your eye, the lady across the aisle is making googley eyes at you and the new baby and she approaches, seemingly to the theme music of jaws, and reaches her hand to touch the new baby.  Before you can say, “Don’t touch my baby, please”, she’s got a little foot in her mouth pretending to gobble it up it because, duh, it’s the cutest foot anyone in the whole world has ever seen.

IMG_1310
I’m gonna eat those sweet toes!!!!

In the first few postpartum outings, you may notice that the grocery store, department store, brisk walk in the park, and maybe even a public bathroom stop will be the “oh look at the new baby” show.  Strangers LOVE seeing new babies, and will reach out to touch any little squishy cute part they can manage to see. If this feels as uncomfortable to you as it did to me on my first outings, you now have my permission to tell people not to touch your baby’s face, hands, well…ANYTHING. Some options that can help deter this behavior are baby-wearing, or putting a sign such as this one on the car seat/stroller handle.

img_1061.jpg
Baby wearing for the win

Alternately, keep baby in the carseat/stroller with a cover or blanket covering it completely and pretend baby is asleep whether they are or not. Again, this would be a good thing to practice ahead of time if you’re timid…

7) Be Both Mindful and Gentle with Your State of Mind

One of the biggest things I ask new parents to do, is to become sensitive to the changes in mood that can be experienced. While mood changes are normal, I ask that partners especially become aware of any out of the normal postpartum blues. This article from PostPartum Progress describes my point wonderfully by stating,

There are mamas out there who are really, truly struggling more than we might expect them to in a healthy adjustment to motherhood but who don’t necessarily fit the criteria for a major depressive illness or an anxiety disorder. I’ve mentioned these moms before; they are the mamas who hold it all together for those around them but, behind closed doors, fall into a heap on the bathroom floor, or in bed at night, or any place where no one is looking. It’s these moms who I worry most about because they aren’t likely to reach out for the support that they need to thrive.

In the case of the mom who won’t reach out, please refer back to this post about finding your village through a doula.

Although symptoms of PostPartum Depression or Anxiety can be mild, they still can be addressed with your Primary Care Provider for monitoring and treatment. It is important to know you are NOT alone, and that you CAN talk about all you’re experiencing with someone.

In essence, use this time to empower your new family dynamic by voicing what you do/don’t need or want when you have a new baby. This will help you to not only learn your new baby as a family, but it will also help to establish those who are willing to be part of this new tribe that has your best interest at heart. It is a time of transition, and it is ok to navigate that within your own powerful boundaries. And if you ever feel alone, reach out to us here at Real As A M*ther, because we are here to bring your village to you, and we fiercely have your back, mama.

617+L91hr0L._SX425_

What is the most helpful thing someone did for you post-partum?? Comment below!
004-1-of-1

Kristy is a certified massage therapist, wife, doula, and mother to 2 kids in Virginia.

Don’t Wash That Baby!

So, I know some of my Labor and Delivery or Newborn Nursery friends are gonna hate me for this post… but too bad, it’s important and our readers deserve the best information! I keep finding myself rushing to check in with friends and family who recently had a baby and try to catch them before the baby has gotten that adorable first bath. Such a cute moment! And the freshly combed wispy hair after?? Alllll the 😍😍.

The thing is, babies aren’t supposed to have a soapy bath so soon after their skin hits fresh air. Their skin has been protected in its own natural lotion called Vernix in a pH balanced amniotic fluid bath for their whole existence up until birth. It’s the most fragile and sensitive their skin will ever be when it first comes into contact with dry, cold air outside the womb.

My dad, a family doctor with a huge amount of experience, trained at a time when as soon as babies emerged from the womb, they were scrubbed down with chlorhexidine – a powerful antiseptic we use to sterilize ourselves before surgery.

It was thought at the time that this would “protect” them from the dangerous bacteria they encountered when they passed by your rear end. That was after the doctor had of course sterilized your vag with copious amounts of iodine solution. He told me this and my eyeballs very nearly popped out of my head. *GASP* The yeast infections that must have caused!! The superbugs that would breed!! NO WONDER so many kids have crazy allergies and autoimmune disease has skyrocketed!!

You see, I have been fortunate to be trained in the time of advances in the “Hygiene Hypothesis”. The understanding we now are working with is that, lo and behold, in the days before all this anti-septic overzealousness, those autoimmune and allergic issues (which are so freaking hard to treat, btw) were lumped into the “rare diseases” category. And while it’s great we now know to wash our food so we don’t all die of dysentery Oregon-Trail-style, we have certainly skewed too far into the anti-microbial realm which is boosting many if not all of these processes*. (In case you’re wondering, my dad was WAY ahead of his time and would not let this happen to his patients’ babies.)

SO back to that brand new baby. Current practice is to wash with your typical Johnson & Johnson baby wash within a few hours of birth. This makes it so that the health care team is not functionally putting their hands on something that came out of your vag when they come to check on baby. Also, it’s cute and baby then smells like what Johnson & Johnson have decided we should all believe a baby smells like. You get that white smooshy vernix stuff off so your photos don’t look like something out of a Halloween movie and everyone is happy.

13682_663767672246_1975094974_n.jpg
Rosie, fresh outta the womb and covered in blood and goo

…..Except the baby. It NEEDS that vernix still on there to protect it. There is no lotion on earth that can really replace that and a soapy scrub washes it all away. A review in Advances in Wound Care sums it up well*:

The retention of vernix on the skin surface contributes to a higher skin hydration, a lower skin pH, and relates to a reduced heat loss after birth

So, washing this off your baby is like slathering your face in a thick layer of Creme de la Mer and then immediately washing your face again to leave your skin naked and dry. But worse. Because you can’t buy more.

This is in addition to the absolutely critical happy bacteria (aka skin flora for the nerds like me) that you worked SO FREAKING HARD to put on your baby if you had a vaginal delivery or labored with your water broken. That “skin flora” has dramatic health implications. So much so that many hospitals are starting to swab mothers’ nether regions to coat the baby in them after c-sections too. A soapy wash kills up to 99% of those bugs and you may never get them back in the same way.

There are studies galore out there going on looking at the benefits those bugs go on to have on gut health, maintaining healthy body weight, absorbing nutrients, allergies, eczema, auto-immune disease and more. I won’t get over-sciency about this, but suffice it to say, we’re going to look back on this hyper-sterile era and cringe.

baby holding human finger
Photo by Wayne Evans on Pexels.com

So is it a little weird to think about your baby being coated in all that stuff from your lady parts? Sure. Is it an extra step for the docs and nurses to put on gloves? Yeah. Is it still super worth it to wait a bit for that first bath? HellToTheYes. Bottom line, just wipe the excess gore off, wait at least 24 hours, and preferably do a gentle water wash when you get home. Thank me later.

I would LOVE your questions about this, comment below!!

 

735077_663767542506_803843932_n (1).jpg

Dr. Annie is a Family Physician, mom of 2 with 1 on the way (nope, baby’s not here yet, that’s baby #1 over there, also, that’s my husband, not a creeper nurse, he’s a doc too so was working in scrubs when I went into labor) and lover of healthy bacteria in the Sacramento area.

 

 

 


*. 2015 Oct 1; 4(10): 587–595. doi:  [10.1089/wound.2015.0642] Skin Physiology of the Neonate and Infant: Clinical Implications. Teresa OrangesValentina Dini, and Marco Romanelli*

Pumpkin Patch Survival

It’s that time of year again!! Who’s heading out for the ultimate mud-filled, over-priced, over-stimulating, “quaint”, some-how-always-45-minutes-away “local” pumpkin patch outing this weekend?!

You know, we’ve all been keeping up our own family traditions of the annual pumpkin patch pilgrimage here at Real As A M*ther for years, and after 9 kids and counting we think we’ve finally (sort of) got it figured out. So in the spirit of giving, we’re going to share our pointers here on how to best succeed survive through the sweet, yet often parent-punishing task that is #pumpkinpicking2018 with all the rest of you toddler-toting gourd gatherers. Follow these pointers and you might, actually, we daresay *enjoy* the outing!

Step 1: Let it go

In the words of the almighty Elsa, you need to let some sh*t go.  The first of these things being your perfect-fall-photo goals at the pumpkin patch. Don’t act like you’re all cool as a cucumber over there… at our last pumpkin patch encounter I saw 100% of moms constantly fumbling with their iPhones and begging, bribing, basically doing WHATEVER possible to get their small adorable children to sit still in fall coordinated clothes, ON, IN, or anywhere in the vicinity of, a GD pumpkin-on-a-vine.

Listen, we bring our kids to a mud-filled patch full of gourds, in khakis and bow ties, gingham and bows, and expect them to stay clean and hold still… Now tell me, who’s crazy, US or the kids??!

I know you’re cringing. But let go. Go to the pumpkin patch after your kids’ soccer game, after the playground, after ANYTHING in which you are already dirty and don’t care. And then don’t sweat it. Take your formal, posed photos later (you can go somewhere quieter separately with a photographer, or take a cute outfit-coordinated photo of the kids with their pumpkins at home on your porch. If you can, leave your phone IN THE CAR and just enjoy being out in nature as a family. Pet the heck outta the petting zoo if there is one. Ride that messy tractor. Climb on alllll the haybales. And get muddy, if you can. 🙂

Step Two:  Plan your attack

This one seems obvious when you’re talking about planning, but I can’t tell you how many outtings we got so excited about picking the perfect pumpkin and did that first. And then…. had to carry said pumpkin in tired arms or a cart for the rest of the outting. Because, you can’t give up *the perfect one* to go do the petting zoo or get an apple hand-pie, someone might take it and then the whole afternoon is for naught!

Check out the offerings for activities FIRST. Do some activities. THEN, when you’re gonna do nothing else but shell out an obscene amount of money for a pumpkin that cost $0.01 to plant or less, go hunting. Purchase and get the heck outta dodge.

Step 3: Eat at The Patch

Yes, it probably is Dijorno pizza at 500% mark-up sliced in the back of the barn, but you know what, if your kids will eat it, let them. We are all big on healthy eating here, and providing smart choices for our kids is very important. But, we also believe there are times for rules to be bent, broken, or “accidentally” forgotten. And those times, if any, are holiday traditions. So, if it’s in your budget, let your kids eat the overpriced less-than perfect food at the patch.

My face says: It’s 90 degrees. We’re all starving, rev it up Farmer Joe! Can’t this tractor get back to the snack bar any freaking faster??

We fought this for years and usually ended up with muddy, HUNGRY kids, which in case your wondering, in fact IS much worse than muddy, fed children. Take a second to appreciate how awesome it is that your kids can get that excited about food that is served not-in-your-house. Kids are kind of awesome that way sometimes.

Just in case the food there is intolerable or lines are long, always a good idea to have some snacks in your bag for back up (I don’t really know moms who go places with snacks in their bag… but just in case you’re out there). Bring your own water, but if they have real lemonade or fresh apple cider, buy that too. Just, because.

Summary:

Do:

  1. Put your phone down and enjoy. If you *must* have a photo (guilty!), segregate a time you’re gonna be “photographer” and then once you’ve got some snaps, put that thing away!
  2. Streamline activities
  3. Enjoy the indulgences they have and also bring snacks

Don’t

  1. Expect your trip to be perfectly Pinterest-worthy AND enjoyable, you can have one but not both.
  2. Try to bring a whole picnic lunch of healthy food and deny your kids the goodies
  3. Pick out your 3 perfect 20lb pumpkins the minute you walk in

Happy Fall Y’all!

galleryWith love from the 4 of us at Real As A M*ther, Kristy, Christiana, Annie and Margo!

Fave Fridays: Smart Screen Time

Look, we all know the deal with screen time by now. Every kid is better off outside with their hands in the dirt, chasing balls and butterflies and speed racing their bikes than they are with an electronic device. Fact.  Every day of the week.

boy playing with fall leaves outdoors

But sometimes, just sometimes, my wonder-woman tiara slips a little and I need a break from ball-tag, I need to shower before midnight, or I don’t know, let’s go crazy here… I want to prep a nice meal without making 500 snacks in the process. And it is during those limited times that I have learned to give myself a break and allow my kids some limited (and legitimately educational!) screen time without guilt.

woman writing on orange paper

In case you need some help letting go of the screen-time guilt (as I did) here are the facts. AAP put out an official review you can see here. As with everything, (and regardless of the type of screen time involved) moderation is absolutely key.  But, there have been some encouraging studies showing educational benefits from a child’s “active” screen time, i.e., engaging with apps via an iPad or tablet.  For example, a recent study published in the International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science, and Technology* found that:

…children can develop emerging knowledge about print in digital contexts using an iPad, or a similar tablet, and that it offers unique ways to employ reading, writing, listening, and speaking within one context.

When it is used appropriately (read: not binge-watching baby shark do-do-do) the screen can provide children with learning opportunities. To be clear, we are in no way advocating for a tablet to substitute for your guidance or play time with your child. Screen time is NOT a filler for social skills, coordination, or emotional development. Face to face interaction and active, tangible learning time is imperative for every child’s development. However, smart screen time CAN be a wonderful educational tool to supplement your child’s day (particularly in moments of parent burn-out).

The AAP also found in research** that:

Well-designed television programs, such as Sesame Street, can improve cognitive, literacy, and social outcomes for children 3 to 5 years of age and continue to create programming that addresses evolving child health and developmental needs (eg, obesity prevention, resilience)

Caveat: if you’re momming kiddos under 2, all of the current evidence unfortunately says, no benefit***. The brain of a kid 15 months to 2 years can learn from some types of interactive apps if they do them WITH you, but not watching videos or slapping the screen of an ipad unattended. With all that being said, we’ve collected here some of the most fantastic and legitimately educational apps for littles that can be downloaded to your phone or iPad to provide some smart screen time for your kids, when they (or you) might benefit.

So, without further ado… here are the keys to your next quiet, guilt-free shower. You can thank us later.

Smart Screen Time Apps for Kids

Endless Learning Apps

Endless Reader Snip

True story: this app is responsible for teaching multiple of our collective children their letters and early sight words. Preschool teachers legitimately asked for the info on this app because our kids far exceeded grade level in early phonetics – and as much as we’d like to take all the credit for that… we just can’t.  The full repertoire of Endless apps includes Endless Reader, Wordplay, Numbers, Alphabet, and Spanish. They have all been wonderfully educational and entertaining for our whole harem of kids.

Ages: 2 and up

Cost: Apps can be purchased separately or bundled. They run about $8.99-15.99/ea. The complete school bundle is $59.99, and is worth every penny.

Moose Math

Moose Math

Moose Math actually succeeded in making math fun for our kids. And as adults who struggle to use “math” and “fun” in the same sentence…  we are big fans. Through a mathematical adventure, Moose Math teaches counting, addition, subtraction, sorting, and geometry through activities like the “Moose Juice Store” where kids add ingredients to create smoothies, Puck’s Pet Shop, and the Lost & Found. The app aligns with Common Core State Standards for Kindergarten and 1st Grade and includes a Report Card section for parents and teachers.

Ages: 3-7

Cost: Free

Kodable

Kodable

Coding for kids. That your kids will like. In other words, awesome-sauce.  This app uses cute little fuzzy guys (sort of reminiscent of Pac-man?) navigating maze-filled planets to teach concepts like sequencing, order of operations, algorithmic operations, and conditional logic statements that comprise the fundamentals of every modern programming language.

Basically, the great minds at Kodable figured out how to utilize the fact that “long before your children can pronounce the word ‘algorithm’ they have an astounding ability to learn how to use them.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.  Kodable is Common Core aligned and  is the only complete K-5 curriculum taking students from “learning to think like a programmer in Kindergarten to writing REAL JavaScript by 5th grade”… and our kids ask to play it. So, yea. Smart screen time, touchdown.

Ages: Grades K-5 (ages 4-11)

Cost: App is free, in-app purchased Parent Pack is $29.99.

Sky Guide

SkyGuide

If you have any space-loving guys or girls in your family, this is the app for you! Just hold your iPhone or iPad up to the night sky and Sky Guide automatically aligns itself to the stars above you—no setup required. Our kids love identifying the planets and seeing the constellations’ illuminated illustrations. (Um, ok, really I use this alone too. It’s just straight nerd-mom cool.) You can search for meteor showers, track satellites, or show your child what the night sky looked like the moment they were born! You can also receive notifications whenever the International Space Station flies over your location, which our family loves to track together! Sky Guide works anywhere— with or without Wi-Fi, cellular service or GPS. This app is packed full of information and is sure to please curious stargazers of any age!

Ages: All

Cost: $2.99

Merlin Bird ID

Bird ID

Our kids love using this app to identify birds they see at our feeder or on walks around the neighborhood. They enjoy browsing through the photos and hearing different bird calls or even playing the calls to “talk” to different birds they identify in our backyard. Powered by Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this app is full of vibrant photos and encourages outdoor enrichment to locate and identify different species. Grab your binoculars!

Ages: All

Cost: Free

Flowkey

Flowkey

This piano-lesson app is best for older kiddos 4 and up. It has a HUGE library of contemporary and classic songs for piano and uses visual demonstration of which keys along with teaching music reading. It will “listen” for you play the right key before moving forward in the music in Flow Mode, freeing you up from sitting there watching if they’ve played correctly.

Ages: 4+

Cost: $19.99/month – less if you sign up for multiple months. Sounds expensive, but is way cheaper than actual piano lessons!

In conclusion, all screen time is not created equal. But smart screen time for our kids is one aspect of technology that we are all hallelujah-dancing-in-the-aisles kind of thankful for over here in the parenting corner. When a parent or caregiver reaches burn out, or heck, when our children’s talents reach beyond our means for that matter (we personally cannot teach expert level pop-piano tunes on a whim), we are happy that they have an educational, enriching alternative to well… us.  So when ball-tag injuries require quiet time or the fall leaf-pile-diving allergies have brought your active braniacs inside, we hope that these fantastic apps provide your whole family with some entertainment and growth.

Rock on mommas! We’ve got this.

b8fd0f48-abdd-41a9-9b27-0b537b307a55Real As A M*ther is made up of 4 best friends from high school. We are now a doctor, lawyer, doula, and financial advisor; and collectively we are moms to 9 beautiful kids and counting, We write to keep it #real with advice on parenthood, health, home, money, and more.

 

 


References

*Beschorner, B. & Hutchison, A. (2013). iPads as a literacy teaching tool in early childhood. International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology, 1(1), 16-24.
**Anderson DRHuston ACSchmitt KLLinebarger DLWright JCEarly childhood television viewing and adolescent behavior: the recontact study. Monogr Soc Res Child Dev2001;66(1):IVIII, 1–147pmid:11326591
Christakis DAGarrison MMHerrenkohl Tet alModifying media content for preschool children: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics2013;131(3):431438pmid:23420911
***Anderson DRPempek TATelevision and very young children. Am Behav Sci2005;48(5):505522

The Silver Lining To My PUPPS Nightmare

Everything happens for a reason

….or so people say.

I had always longed to be a mother. I dreamed of pregnancy, a little baby bump, and a group of like-minded women to with whom to hang out and help raise our little ones in friendship, unicorns, and rainbows.

grayscale photo of two woman showing tummies

What a wonderful portrait of “what to expect when you are expecting”… am I right? In fact, we even joked amongst the four of us here at Real As A M*ther that I would be the one with half a dozen kids and a goofy husband that made me endlessly laugh until I cried and doted on me daily. Perfection.

DSC01327So when my wonderfully hilarious, awesome, doting husband and I got married, it was natural for me to not want to wait to start this family I’d been craving. By the blessed powers that be, within 6 months I had the exciting news to tell my friends and family…..

I experienced the normal first pregnancy woes in the beginning. Morning sickness, nausea, food aversions, being super tired, and reallllllly missing wine. But overall, things were looking great. We relocated to a town outside of the city, and my husband hand-made the baby’s crib and dresser.

DSC01689
I mean, the man is hilarious, awesome, and talented. What can I say?

When I was about four months along, we went to visit Christiana, who was living in Japan! It was an amazing, globe-trotting, babymoon trip where my tiny baby belly began to show while posing for picturesque photos overlooking Japanese pagodas. Pregnancy dreams, on. track.

When we got home, however, life threw my dream a giant curveball. I was on a walk around town, when my calves began to itch. I sat down at our quaint town hall fountain and saw that it looked as though I had been bitten by 30 mosquitos simultaneously. I just chalked it up to summer, and maybe… heat rash?  But the itching persisted.

Within two weeks, it had spread. My inner thighs, underarms, and belly had broken out in a rash. It felt as though I had just slept in a den of mosquitos and chiggers. After calling my midwife, I started taking some liver cleansing teas/supplements. I got some special soaps to help calm it down, and tried oatmeal baths. Nothing helped. Not. A. Thing.

DSC01659
Post Biopsy

I was about 20 weeks along when I saw a specialist that, along with my midwife, decided after bloodwork and a biopsy and although it rarely occurs this early, that I had PUPPPS.

Like many of you right now, I had this reaction.

139615-140075
‘da heck d’you just say?

According to Healthline.com, “Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) rash is an itchy rash that appears in stretch marks of the stomach during late pregnancy.”

Stretch marks, you say? I was 18 weeks! I hadn’t barely even begun to show, much less stretch. And this was systemic, not on my belly! But, at least I had some sort of explanation that calmed me down. Thinking, ok now let’s get rid of this mess, I said,

“Ok, doc, what can I do?”

“Well, the only cure, is delivery” <heart sinks>

So basically, what I was being told was this: I was going to itch like this for 20 more weeks. 

DSC01660
20 Weeks: just the beginning

4 more weeks went by, which felt like an eternity. The rash got so bad that I could not sleep, eat, or even wear clothes. I had to take cool/cold showers because the heat would spread the rash to a new area, which I kept finding out the hard way as it spread all over my body. It was on the soles of my feet, palms of my hands, even in my nail beds and on my eyelids. The longest I went without solid sleep was 7 whole days. I don’t even remember if I was hungry.

I, did, however, hold tightly onto the fact that I needed to drink water. I remember having thoughts of “I don’t want the amniotic fluid to get low, and that be the reason I have to get a C-Section,” which was a huge fear for me. That was the only coherent thought I remember having during this time.

DSC01661

It was when my mom found me naked on my kitchen floor at 24 weeks (I was lying there because it was cool and clothes made the itching turn to burning pain) that she scooped me up and into the car. I have no recollection of this event, but she took me to the doctor and demanded an appointment right then and there. I had lost 20 pounds, the baby wasn’t gaining any weight, and I was put under the care of a neonatal specialist. I was delusional, depressed, suicidal, and covered in what looked like oozing poison ivy.

At this point, desperation kicked in, (mostly from my husband and parents because I had checked out) and a steroid regimen was put into place. I was on Prednisone until my 30th week and experienced so much relief. The rash was kept at bay and the baby was monitored regularly to make sure the medicine didn’t cause any problems.

Thinking I was in the clear, I weaned off my medication because I was so worried about steroids affecting the baby. Around Thanksgiving, however, it came back with a vengeance. At it’s worst, I could literally peel the layers of my skin off with a tissue. I immediately started the steroids again, and the rash was mostly cleared up in about two weeks.

DSC01804
Belly scarring at 37 weeks

When I went into labor at 37 weeks and 6 days, I had such relief. Where most women are fearful of the unknown, I was prepared and ready for the natural pain and hormone release I had learned about through my teacher of The Bradley Method.

Most of me has forgotten about just how incredibly difficult that pregnancy was. In fact, I am only reminded when I have bad cycles now, because the rash creeps back up under my upper arms and on my legs, raised and irritated ghost shadows of such a dark time in my life.

We still don’t know what causes it. But, some risk factors for developing PUPPPS are:

  1. Carrying a boy: we didn’t know at the time but…check
  2. Being Caucasian: check
  3. First pregnancy: check
  4. Maternal hypertension: undiagnosed but with no sleep…check
  5. Multiples
  6. Rapid or higher than usual weight gain

While I did not fit into the category of the last two risk factors, my mind got to thinking about why my personal case was so different. The only reason I came up with, ties back to the beginning of this post. Because… everything happens for a reason.

It was through this tough and terrible time that I learned about prenatal herbal supplements, and how and why they work. I learned a valuable lesson in the blend of a cooperative maternal care team, and their strategies for helping. I learned the importance of relying on medical intervention, because it saved my life, my son’s life, and my sanity. But the most important gift this experience gave me was the fact that I knew I wanted to help support other women through pregnancy and birth.

I tell this story because it is important to look back and find gratitude in the lessons we are given in this lifetime. Even though I did not know this going through it, I am certain that this time of suffering gave birth to the compassion for women in their childbearing years that I had never known was inside of me. It gave me the tools for empathy that one can only develop while in the depths of great personal struggle.

DSC01829.jpgNow, I feel healing each time I help a woman accept and trust in her body through the pregnancy process. I am energized by watching her awaken to the power within her, and I am both blissfully honored and overwhelmed each time I watch her hold her baby. Because no matter what type of pregnancy, what kind of prenatal education we choose, how or where we labor and birth, or what the birth outcome is, I am reminded in that moment, women are bound together as one. And that is my most ultimate, and ever-present, silver lining.

004 (1 of 1).jpg

Kristy is a certified massage therapist, doula, homesteader and mother to 2 kids in Virginia.