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. 

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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.

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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”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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!!

 

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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.

 

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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 readerTrue 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 MathMoose 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

 

KodableCoding 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

 

SkyGuideIf 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 IDOur 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

 

FlowkeyThis 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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‘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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Plane Travel with Littles: Carry-On Packing List

We didn’t necessarily intend to travel a ton with our two little ones but life keeps putting trips in our path and we aren’t ones to say no just because we have young children. That being said, we have worked out a pretty solid standard packing list for our carry-on bags through trial and… *ahem* error. Some items are universal, while others of course depend a bit on age of baby/kid, so that’s how I’ll divide it here.

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Our strategy with liquids is to show up to the airport with empty bottles and obtain water or milk or juice while we are there – much easier than the TSA hassle. If you’re flying with breastmilk, it’s best to have it frozen. Hot water is readily available to thaw it.

Universal list

Of course your own wallet, phone, charger, chapstick, scarf, sunglasses, medications and earphones….

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Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com
  1. Extra outfit (including underwear x2 for potty trained kids) for child in plastic baggy
  2. Extra outfit for you in plastic baggy (can’t stress the importance of this enough – kids can be naked wrapped in a blanket if sh*t hits the fan, you? not so much)
  3. Snacks: 1 per hour of travel. If baby is still nursing, these are of course for you since you are their snack. You’ll want these to be tempting enough that you can convince kids to eat easily during take-off and landing to pop their ears.
  4. Smallish blanket and lovey/stuffie
  5. Wipes – even if you’re well out of diaper change years, these are a good idea for wiping hands/noses/alllll the other messes and spills
  6. Cash in small bills – trust me, you’ll be a much happier traveler if you can pay people to move your luggage, use valet, and buy a snacks from a cash-only stand in case of emergency.
  7. Color photocopy of your child’s birth certificate and/or their passport. This is usually all you need to show for young kids and you can keep the actual identification packed deeply and safely in a zipper pocket so it’s not lost.
  8. Empty bottle, water bottle or sippie cup that seals completely – high altitude will otherwise make a major leakage issue!!
  9. Hand sanitizer. I prefer this spray, because it’s compact, smells nice and is easy to use and won’t leak.
  10. Empty gallon baggies x2 to contain dirty clothes, random snacks, puke…. whatever!

2-12 months

First of all, this list starts at 2 months because I do not recommend you take a baby on a plane younger than that unless absolutely necessary. There are a LOT of potential germ exposures and if that tiny newborn gets a fever, it’s considered a medical emergency and they would need multiple invasive tests to make sure they are safe. That being said, if you’re forced to travel between birth and 2 months, the list would not actually be that different. This assumes you’ll have baby as a lap-rider, not in their own seat – if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford the latter, you’ll also have the carseat.

  • Diapers: 1 per hour of total travel (car to airport, time in airport, plane, waiting for bags…. the whollllllle time) plus enough to get you to a store to buy more at the destination.
  • An extra extra outfit for baby – 2 total outfits. If you know your baby is prone to lots of pukes or blow-outs, do 3.
  • Extra pacifier (if your baby takes one) on a leash
  • Baby carrier of choice
  • Extra muslin or thin flannel blanket
  • Entertainment Ideas: You want things that are small to pack, can be cleaned and are not going to get lost between or under the seats when baby plays “throw on the floor” repeatedly.
Bright Starts Clack and Slide Activity Ball
Activity Ball: can be put on a leash so you don’t lose it under the plane seats and can be wiped down if dirty
Baby Paper Crinkly Baby Toy, Triangle Print
Krinkle paper: no one knows why babies love this so much but they do.
Baby Teething Necklace for Mom, Silicone Teething Beads, 100% BPA Free (Gray, Mint, White, Gray)
Teething necklace: you’re gonna get slobbered on anyway, might as well have it be something easy to clean.

If you breastfeed exclusively, that’s it!

PRO TIP: Do whatEVER you have to do to wait to feed baby during take-off and landing. Hold out until the plane is actually accelerating down the runway or your own ears pop. IGNORE the people giving you dirty looks as baby screams while you’re on the runway or in the initial descent. This is the best way to make sure their tiny ears pop. For older kids – hold out with those fruit snacks, juice boxes, etc… for the same time period.

If you pump:

If you formula feed:

  • Empty bottles with nipples and caps x2
  • Formula servings for twice the amount your baby would normally eat in the TOTAL travel time. ie: if the time from leaving your house to arriving at the final destination is 8 hours door-to-door and baby usually takes in four 4oz bottles in 8 hours (16oz) pack enough formula for 32 oz of bottle. This ensures you’re ok in case of delays, dropped/lost bottles and baby eating extra for comfort, etc… We loved this Joovy container to keep servings straight, but you can also just pack in baggies.

1 year through potty training

    • Optional: 1 bottle of milk in a cooler bag if you’re worried there’s not a cafe or shop you can buy some milk past security.

Potty Training and Beyond

A note about screen time here…. should you plug your kid into a screen for hours on end on a regular basis?? NO. Should you let them watch 2 movies back to back on a plane so you can read a kindle book and relax? Heck to the yes! Embrace the screen time during travel, it will save you so much sanity which you’ll need when dealing with checked luggage and rental cars.

  • Tablet loaded with a couple games, movies or shows. We Real M*thers love Endless School Bundle, Daniel Tiger’s Grrriffic Feelings, Shape Builder, Magic Fingers Lite and Peg + Cat Big Gig. Post coming soon with more info on this!
  • Headphones

These are super comfy, pack down small and come in all different fun styles.

  • Water wow pads and MagnaDoodles are still great fun for bigger kids, and coloring books are also a great option at this age.

To Gate-check or Not To Gate-check

There are a lot of arguments for/against the gate-checking of strollers and car seats. On the one hand, it can be convenient to have all of that right when you arrive. You don’t have to wonder if it’s actually going to make it to your destination because gate-checking tends to be super reliable. On the other hand, schlepping that mountain of stuff through the airport, folding it up on the jetway, waiting around for it on de-planing and schlepping some more is, well…. a schlep.

My strategy has always been to travel as light as possible, so we have usually rented at the destination. You can add a carseat to a rental car with any major company and get cribs and even high chairs from most hotels. You can also arrange rentals of strollers, bouncers, pack & play cribs and more through companies like Baby’s Away. They deliver and pick up from homes or hotels and have been fantastic for us.

Dr. Annie is a married mom of 2 with another one on the way and family physician with travel to more than 20 countries under her belt.

 

Strong Women Series: Niroshika De Silva and Tutu School

About a year ago, I (Annie) had the absolute pleasure of having this amazing woman twirl into my life at a mutual friend’s wedding. She has created the dance studio of dreams – balancing the fun of dance, high quality teaching with a focus on joy, healthy body image and growing in strength as much as beauty as a dancer. With a degree in psychology, she knows what she’s talking about here – and she’s now a proud mama of her own little tutu-wearer. Talk about inspiring! 

In a quaint space where the lights of chandeliers bounce off of perfectly pink, purple, and yellow walls, little dancers giddily curl up on polka dots to whisper and then scream,

I LOVE BALLET!

With their enthusiasm radiating through the room and their excitement contagious beyond belief, it is clear that they absolutely do. This. This right here is the magic of Tutu School. To make sure that every child should know what it feels like to dance without feeling self-conscious about being “right” or “perfect.” To freely let their bodies flow to the scores of classical music, using their imaginations, to tell a story about empowerment, courage, and perseverance. And most importantly? To feel proud of the art that they create with their hearts and minds. Ballet at Tutu School is so much more than twirling. It’s a whimsical home for many children where they can learn important developmental skills and life lessons…they just happen to do so while wearing tutus or princely capes.

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As a former ballerina and current owner of Tutu School Union City, I can attest to the fact that BALLET.IS.HARD. Like REALLY hard. I stuck with it for my entire childhood and most of my adulthood because I wholeheartedly loved it but there were plenty of moments when it was also a love-hate relationship. In a somewhat strange way, I thrived in the ballet world through all of the competition because I succumbed to it and adopted the world as “my normal” since I didn’t know any better.

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Little Niro, Swan Lake, San Francisco Ballet

As horrible as that may sound, I don’t regret living in the world of ballet for one second because I don’t think I would be half the person I am today if I hadn’t. I learned to be ambitious, perseverant, and a whole host of other important skills that allowed me to become the psychologist and business woman I am now. However, I think if I had a tutu school experience as a child, I don’t know that I would have battled with myself as much during my tween years when I was confused about loving and hating ballet at the same time.

Many of us may recall the days when we explored ballet as young children. The odds are, you decided not to stick with it for a variety of reasons but a common one is that it was just strict and competitive. No one likes being told that they don’t have what it takes or only speaking when you’re spoken to (and let’s be honest, even then…just don’t open your mouth…just don’t). These classroom environments are designed to create the level of physical and emotional strength required to be a professional ballerina…except that it doesn’t leave room for continuing the appreciation of the art form when you’re young and unsure if you want to be a ballerina or not.

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Enter Tutu School. A whimsical boutique ballet school designed for young dancers to introduce children to ballet while fostering an everlasting appreciation for the art form because of the incorporation of creativity and imagination. In any given class, a child may leap like a fiery dragon, fly on the tops of their toes like a butterfly, or stretch like a rainbow in a magical garden. Children learn themes of bravery, forgiveness, and unconditional positive regard in classical stories such as the Firebird, Giselle, and Swan Lake. And just in case that’s not enough, they practice and develop skills of executive functioning, sharing, turn taking, and perseverance through learning short phrases of choreography and “performing solos” while dancing across the floor during class activities.

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Photo Credit Andrew Weeks Photography

As a mother of a daughter who already is showing interest in sparkles, headbands, and pink (guys, she’s seven months…am I in trouble?), I can absolutely say that I will expose her to classes at Tutu School. If she loves it and wants to pursue more formal training, great! If she doesn’t, that’s ok too (I’m not hyperventilating…I swear!) but she will gain invaluable skills from ballet classes at Tutu School that she can take with her no matter what she decides to do.

If you’d like your little one to experience the magic of a Tutu School class, then by all means, register for a free trial class! There are locations all across the Bay Area and in several other states as well! Classes are geared for children ranging between the ages of 18 months to 8 years old and they’ll skip, gallop, and leap their little hearts out. Be prepared for a whole bunch of cuteness!

If you’re not in the Bay Area, look for studios that mention that they base their children’s classes on creative movement until the age of 8, which is the developmentally appropriate age to start formal ballet training. If the studio offers a Trial class, that’s a good way to see if they uphold that philosophy or not!

What are your favorite dance memories? Do you still boogy in the kitchen with your kids today? Comment below!! Also, let us know about other #strongwomen we should feature here! 

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Niroshika De Silva is a mama, dance teacher extraordinaire, and owner of Tutu School Union City with a degree in psychology.

http://www.tutuschool.com