Category Archives: Baby Stories

Make the most out of naptime

naptime

This post published in the Press Democrat on Friday, November 30.

Naptime was a sacred time of day when the kids were younger. This was especially true when the Taz, my now 11-year-old son, was just a toddler. That kid knew how to party! He would be up and running the moment he woke up in the morning, keeping me on my toes when he discovered that he was, in fact, faster than Mommy. He could undo the latch on the front door in the blink of an eye, climb over his child gate with the greatest of ease, and make his whole bed into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before I could say “Would you like milk with your blankets?”

So when the Taz would crash in the middle of the day for a blessed two hours, I performed my own personal happy dance before diving head first into whatever I could do on my mini-vacation from being a mom.

Most of the time this meant I took a nap.

But, as every mom of a toddler knows, taking a nap during the kids’ naptime feels like an awful waste of time. When the whole day is spent chasing after the toddler and occupying them so they stay out of the condiments, that two-hour break becomes the only time during the day to actually be productive. While it’s tempting to nap every time your toddler goes to sleep, it’s taking away from the uninterrupted time to get your priorities done much faster than if the kids are clamoring for your attention. With the help of some friends, here are a few ideas on what to do when your kid goes down for their nap.

Keep on top of the to-do list. “I catch up on paperwork for the Daycare, Pampered Chef and Girl Scouts, “ Joelynn McIntosh of Glen Ellen said, describing the duties she holds that are hard to attend to while her 1-year-old son, Ethan, is awake. After all her work is done, she catches up on her TV watching. If you have a significant amount of time to spare while your child is down for the count, consider using it for the things that need your full attention like paying bills, catching up on email, or throwing yourself into a project you’ve been meaning to start but never seem to have the time for.

Make the house sparkle. Ok, sparkle might be too strong of a word. But this is a great time to get a handle on that laundry that’s building up in the bedroom, taking care of the ring around the tub, or to start dinner. One cookbook that has become my personal kitchen bible for meal planning is “The Naptime Chef”, by Kelsey Banfield. She shares how to make gourmet meals that are both easy to make and delicious to taste, utilizing the kids’ naptime to start preparing the meal. Even though my kids are now well past naptime (sort of…I do have teenagers, after all, who love their after school snoozes so they can stay up super late), I break out this cookbook every week when planning my meals.

Do nothing. “Sometimes, I would just sit and do absolutely nothing. That was always the best choice,” said Jeney Pribyl of Santa Rosa. When the kids are running around driving you wild with their never-ending source of energy, what is it you wish you could do most? Nothing! Of course, if sitting and staring at a blank wall seems like it might get old after a few minutes, do something for you that is purely selfish and not about getting things done. Draw a bath and read a book in the tub. Garden without fear of your flowerbed getting trampled on. Throw on an exercise DVD and pump yourself up. Put on a movie and snuggle up on the couch. Or even (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) take advantage of a little alone time with your spouse.

The biggest tip to remember is to plan our your child’s naptime. Before their head hits the pillow, think of the things you hope to accomplish by the time they wake up and require your undivided attention. If your child takes only a short nap, plan for short activities – like reading a magazine or eating a complete meal. If they still take longer naps, that’s when you can do something more involved – like calling a friend , updating your blog, or taking a shower AND washing your hair.

But what if you’re really tired?

Then take a nap. When sleep is the only thing you can think of to do during this 30-minute to 2-hour time frame, then sleep is what you need.

Check out some more ways to utilize naptime at SantaRosaMom.com  What do you like to do during your child’s naptime?

Make your own baby food

Once your baby starts eating solids, things get pretty expensive. It doesn’t seem like much, but those little jars and cereals can add a hefty price to your food bill.

What if you could utilize what you already have on hand to feed your baby, skipping the prepackaged food altogether?

The Northern California Center for Well-Being will be holding a class on “Infant and Toddler Food Made Easy” November 30th from 6-7:30 pm in the Ginger Grille at the Santa Rosa G&G Market (1211 W College Avenue, Santa Rosa). Instructor and registered dietician Nora Bulloch will teach how to use fresh fruits, grains, and meats for your baby’s delicate diet, how to change up foods you feed your child as he or she grows, and the proper nutrition for your baby or toddler as you learn new menu ideas. Along with learning how to make your own baby food, an exciting raffle will be held that include prizes like $50 gift card to My Baby News.

Cost to attend this class is $35. There are a limited amount of seats available for this class, and past classes have filled up fast. You must pre-register by November 23 to attend.

Register online at gandgmarket.com, or register by calling Center for Well-Being at 575-6043

SantaRosaMom.com has a pair of tickets to give away to this class for a lucky mom and friend. To enter, CLICK HERE. 

(contest has ended)

Why use a Doula?

In honor of International Doula Month, I am including a guest post by Marianna Terhune CD, CMA, LS, CBE of DoulaMoon.net.  Marianna is a local DONA certified birth doula who has not only helped countless families as they welcome new life into their families, she is also a part of a group of doulas who help lead educational classes at My Baby News in Santa Rosa every month.  More information on how doulas can help make birth easier can be found in a previous article by clicking HERE.  And if you’re interested in attending the next free Speaker Series (topic: Baby Signing Class) at My Baby News on May 12th, information can be found by clicking HERE.

Why Use a Doula?
by Marianna Terhune CD, CMA, LS, CBE

Nicole Kidman did it, so did Kelly Ripa, Demi Moore, Cindy Crawford and Ricki Lake. Doulas are the latest Hollywood “pregnancy essential” and moms all over Sonoma County are following their lead, getting a head start on the stork without breaking the bank. Since May is “International Doula Month” and with Mother’s Day right around the corner, we thought this would be the perfect time to highlight this growing profession. Doulas aren’t just for the rich and famous, these days most women can get the support Kidman and Ripa receive without going into debt. DONA International is the oldest and largest organization of doulas in the world with more than 7,000 members in more than 20 countries. DONA doulas offer a variety of services that allow all women to receive the care they deserve from a doula at such a special time in their lives, if they wish to have it.

Birth doulas accompany women and their partners in labor, providing emotional support and physical comfort. They facilitate communication with caregivers to help clients feel fully informed, provide reassurance, perspective and help with relaxation, positioning and other labor support techniques.

Postpartum doulas help new mothers in the early weeks with their new baby. Parents find the additional help with breastfeeding, education on newborn care, errand running, nighttime support and assistance with anything else a new family needs invaluable. The word doula comes from the Greek word meaning *a woman who serves.* Studies have shown that a doula’s presence at births results in shorter labors with less complications, fewer requests for pain medications and/or epidurals and a reduction in labor-enhancing drugs (Pitocin), forceps, vacuum extraction and cesareans. Postpartum doulas reduce the stress involved in being a new mom. Doula care has also been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of postpartum depression. Doulas like to say that they “mother the mother.” I am available to discuss doulas and International Doula Month.

I and a local mom who has used a doula in Sonoma County can also talk about how doulas can give moms the “star treatment” and how they can be affordable to families during these difficult economic times. There is also a County Doula Program that provides Doulas for moms in need. Plus FREE Educational classes are done once an month at My Baby News in partnership with the local birth and postpartum Doulas to help educate expecting moms and their families about labor, birth, child care and all the options and choices that come with parenthood. Here are the last three months classes, Cloth Diapers, Infant Sleep Solutions and Baby Sign Language. We also do classes on car seats, Labor classes, infant care, breast feeding and much, much, more. Please contact me at the number or e-mail below to schedule an interview. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
Marianna Terhune CD, CMA, LS, CBE
Doulamoon.net
(707)486-6265

“Peace truly Begins at Birth”, because how we come into this world makes a difference!

How doulas make birth easier

Throughout history, a laboring woman was surrounded by a group of women who supported her throughout the process of labor and childbirth – ensuring optimal comfort through backrubs and emotional support. This system is still in place today, though many women aren’t even aware it exists. The term for the person filling this support role is “doula”, the ancient Greek word for “woman’s servant”. While a doula wouldn’t be classified as a servant nowadays, they are trained and experienced to provide emotional and physical support to the woman in the days to months leading up to the birth, during the birth, and during the postpartum period as they adjust to life with a new baby in the household. In essence, they serve as an advocate for the woman, and for her own family.

By the way, a doula can be either a man or a woman, but is generally a woman. From here on out, I will be referring to the doula in the feminine sense, but please know that the role of a doula is not segregated solely as a female profession.

So what role does a doula play? First of all, it’s important to understand what a doula isn’t. A doula is a non-medical role. She is not there to deliver your baby, to take your blood pressure, or perform any other medical task. She will not give you medical advice. She won’t speak for you in the hospital room, or give you her personal opinion on how things should go. Rather, a doula is there to promote your comfort through physical support, offer information that you need, to help your partner best know how to comfort you, and to ensure that your entire experience is as close to your birth plan as possible. A doula is the hands of experience that helps a laboring woman feel at ease as she experiences one of life’s greatest accomplishments – bringing life into this world.

According to numerous clinical studies cited by DONA International  (formerly known under the acronym of Doulas of North America), the oldest and largest doula organization in the world, there are several notable effects to having a doula present during childbirth. A doula’s presence can result in shorter labors with fewer complications. She can lessen fear and any negative feelings a mother might have towards childbirth. Her presence reduces the need for Pitocin (a drug that induces labor), forceps, or extraction by vacuum, and also reduces a mother’s need for pain medication or epidurals, and the chance of having to resort to a c-section.

But why? The studies show that a woman enduring childbirth does better when they are emotionally and physically supported by a doula. Having someone there whose sole purpose is for her comfort allows the mother and her partner to relax. If she or her partner has any questions, a doula can help them find that information. If something doesn’t feel right, having that experienced support person in the room gives them the courage to speak up. Research done by DONA has also proven that families that have doulas adapt to the new family dynamics more easily, have less postpartum depression, have lower incidence of abuse, and have greater success breastfeeding their child.

There are two different kinds of doulas available: a labor/birth doula and a postpartum doula. A labor or birth doula is someone who is trained to physically and emotionally support a mother leading up to and during her labor and delivery. Before delivery, she helps the woman know what will happen, guides her as she forms her birth plan, assists her in knowing what she will want to pack for the hospital, and helps her to come across the information she needs, even assisting with questions she needs to ask her doctor. During labor, she is available to comfort the woman physically, offer words of encouragement, and/or guide those there to support the woman so that she is as comfortable as possible. A birth doula does not replace the mother’s partner, but can actually be a relief to the partner as she guides them in how to best help the mother. A postpartum doula is there to support a mother and her family after the baby arrives. She guides the mother and baby through breastfeeding, or is able to refer the mother to a lactation consultant. She is there to emotionally support the mother and her family as they adjust to all the changes a new baby can bring to a household, including assistance with the new baby, cooking, light housekeeping, and running errands.

The Doula Connection is a local doula association here in Sonoma County, their main purpose being to pair families with a doula through their childbirth experience. Every second Thursday of the month, The Doula Connection offers free childbirth classes at My Baby News (3011A Santa Rosa Ave, Santa Rosa), including topics like childbirth options, breastfeeding, infant care, cord blood banking, and also offer information about the newest baby products at the store.

Linda Miranda, recommended by The Doula Connection, serves as one of the excellent doulas in our county. Helping women in their journey through childbirth since she first volunteered in 2004, she has discovered a passion in guiding women and their families through the transition. Through Miranda Birth Services, she has successfully guided many women and their families through childbirth, supporting them through the process so that they are as comfortable as possible. “I try to think about how I would handle this if she were my sister, how could I make her more comfortable,” Linda told me as she described her care for a laboring woman. “My hope is that every birthing woman would be able to experience birth and the first months postpartum without overpowering fear, with lots of support and a happy family! A doula’s role is to help families gather information, shower them with encouragement and provide an experienced set of hands.”

By the way, I encourage you to check out Linda’s blog on her website. My favorite feature is the music playlists she includes for listening to with newborns, or for calming the senses of a mother when her little one is entering the world for the first time. Look for them under “Music Mondays”.

If you have questions about the role of a doula, the process of childbirth or labor, or even postpartum issues, I urge you to leave them in the comments. Linda will be answering all questions asked.

No breast? No problem.

Eats on Feets matches recipients with donors of breast milk.

It has been proven time and time again that breastfeeding is best when it comes to feeding our babies. While formula is certainly acceptable as a substitute, it is no match for the nutrients and antibodies that breast milk provides. And this is especially so with the alarm recent recalls of formula has produced.

However, breastfeeding is not always possible. Some mothers have a hard time producing enough milk to nourish their baby. Some babies are adopted, or provided via surrogate, meaning that their mother is not capable of breastfeeding them*. Some mothers are on medication that doesn’t allow for breastfeeding, or have contracted an illness that would make breastfeeding dangerous. Yet, for some of these situations the desire to feed their baby with human breast milk still exists.

A concern for many breastfeeding advocates, this especially was tugging at the heartstrings of Shell Walker, a mom to wee ones in the 90’s. She, with several of her friends, founded their own local organization that was reminiscent of Meals on Wheels, but with a breastier option.

Eats on Feets was born.

The basis behind the group was to allow willing women who had a surplus of milk to become something reminiscent of wet nurses for those who were unable to breastfeed, yet still wished for their child to receive the benefits of breast milk. The idea was so inspiring that Walker’s friend, lactating mother Emma Kwasnica from Canada, asked if she could use the name for something a bit more widespread, allowing babies far and wide a chance to receive breast milk in situations they normally would not be able to. Thus began a revolution that has been unfolding into something huge by word of mouth and networking. Through Facebook, Kwasnica began matching donors and recipients around the world, becoming responsible for making Eats on Feets the largest human milk sharing network in the world.

One such story involves a Canadian man living in Bandung, Indonesia. The school teacher and single father to a newborn son wondered if he could source human milk for his baby instead of feeding his son a powdered breast milk substitute. Aware of his situation, Kwasnica put the call out to her vast network via a simple status update on Facebook, and a breastfeeding peer counselor in a neighboring city in Indonesia responded. A string of lactating women on the ground was assembled to provide human milk locally for the infant boy. Now three months old, this baby has never tasted anything other than human milk.

Eats on Feets is networked solely through Facebook, and not on a website. Unlike milk banks (that can cost a family $100+ a day), Eats on Feets is a free service. To learn more about Eats on Feets, visit the Northern California chapter’s page at http://www.facebook.com/eatsonfeetsnorcal.

Of course, there are concerns when it comes to human milk sharing, something that the organization acknowledges. Along with the pros of sharing breast milk, they note on their pages that some diseases in a lactating woman have the possibility of being passed through breast milk. They urge that donors and recipients follow safe handling guidelines of breast milk, and encourage recipients to “know thy source”. They urge blood testing on their website among donors to ensure safety, but it appears that safety measures are in the hands of the donor and recipient, and not on the organization.

My personal opinion?  While I see the major benefits that this organization is offering, I have to admit that the idea of breast milk sharing makes me a little squeamish. However, the idea behind human milk sharing is not a new one. The practice, while not as common in present times, was a common one years ago through wet nurses and community sharing (it takes a village…).  And for a child without the option of breast feeding from his or her own mother, this program would be offering something that has the ability to benefit the rest of their lives.

What is your take on human breast milk sharing?  Would you?

*admittedly it is possible for adoptive mothers, and even fathers, to breastfeed.  However, I have never come across such a case, leading me to believe that it’s not a common practice, and could possibly lead to one of the reasons a parent might be in need of a breast milk donor.

Losing a baby

October 9th – 15th has been designated Babyloss Awareness week

He would have been 8 this year. He would have been ending his soccer season, playing with other boys in the 3rd grade, and probably leaving multiple messes for me to clean up. He would have been one more forehead to kiss goodnight, another body to cuddle on family movie nights, and another kid to remind that he needs to brush his teeth. Instead, he is remembered as a fairly easy pregnancy that ended unexpectedly in the 7th month, suddenly making me grow up to a different reality of life as I knew it.

Stillbirth. It’s not a topic that is easy to talk about for anyone. In fact, I was ashamed to mention the word for years after it happened, afraid of making others feel uncomfortable or plaguing them with the curse I bore. It caused me confusion in how to answer “How many kids do you have?” I have three kids. Just one of them is in Heaven. But I never actually knew who he was.

But that wasn’t true. I did know him. I knew him before I even felt his first kick. He was living and breathing inside of me, through me. I knew him by the little flutter of a heartbeat that was heard through the Doppler, the rhythmic beat that danced around the slightly slower beat of my own heart, working its way into the very crevices that held the love of my children. And when I did finally feel him, it was like he was saying, “Hey mom, here I am,” with every single nudge of his foot. I lost my shape in favor of a larger belly. And though he was unplanned, my growing belly brought me joy as I anticipated his arrival in November, caressing the roundness he created. The nursery was set up, the rocking chair next to the same crib his sister and brother had slept in so that I could rock him to sleep while reading him “Goodnight Moon”. The reality of another couple years of diapers was accepted as the new norm. And all I had left to do was wait until I could meet him.

I just didn’t know I would meet him so soon, and under such circumstances.

It was September 20th when I felt a series of sharp, fluttering kicks to my abdomen. The movement alarmed me, and I stood still for a few moments. Something was wrong. A friend asked if I was ok, and I quickly brushed the fear aside, figuring it was nothing. It wasn’t until 2 days later when I realized those fluttering kicks were the last time I had felt him move. A few calls back and forth with the nurse in the ER, and I was on my way to the hospital. I still felt that it was nothing, and figured it was better to be a neurotic mom-to-be than not worried enough. But I didn’t expect for them to tell me that the baby’s heart was not beating.

His cord had twisted shut, lacking enough Wharton’s jelly to keep it full to allow enough nutrients and fluids to his body. He had starved to death inside of me. My very first thoughts were that my body had failed him – that I had failed him – even though there was nothing I could have done differently to change the circumstances. The next was my insistence that I did not want to go through another C-Section. For the first time ever, I experienced childbirth. But instead of a healthy 8 pound baby, I gave birth to a 2 pound, 12 ounce body. He was stillborn on September 23rd, 2002.

Stillbirth happens. Miscarriage happens. Infant death happens. It’s an unimaginable tragedy that can’t truly be comprehended until it is experienced firsthand. No one wants to think about a baby dying. No one can imagine the pain that follows the tragedy. And it’s hard to believe that life can go on afterwards.

But it does.

The very first week after my son was gone, a neighbor told me about her own experience with stillbirth. And she told me that eventually there comes a day when you realize you haven’t thought about your lost baby all day long. And then a week goes by. And then a month. I couldn’t believe it, and was almost offended by the mere mention that I would actually forget about my deceased baby. I spent the first year after his death remembering him in everything I did. I grew angry and depressed. My two living children grew up right in front of my eyes, and I barely saw them. I was so consumed with the son that would never be that life itself stopped existing for me.

But eventually it did happen. I started waking up from the world of darkness and death, and I started seeing the light. And over time, I moved back into the land of the living, recognizing the world that was already here and that housed my living children who needed me. Sure, I felt guilty at first, as if I was denying the son who would never grow up. But now I can think of him without feeling sad.

October 9th – 15th has been designated Babyloss Awareness week. It is a week dedicated to mothers and families who have lost babies – from miscarriage to stillbirth to losing an infant that once lived and breathed. It is a week when we remember those babies, knowing in our hearts that they will always be counted as one of our own. It is when we move through the various stages of our grief, from the very first moments of disbelief to the reality that life will always be different, but we just learn to keep moving through it. If you have lost a child, you are in my thoughts, and in the thoughts of other mothers who know your pain firsthand.

I leave you with a poem that I wrote several years later in memory of my son.

Brittle Leaves
A Poem by Crissi Dillon

It is in the golden brown of brittle leaves
that I think of you most.
My breath,
suspended momentarily
in a cloud of warmth against the crisp air,
expanding from its small containment
and reaching to the earth and sky,
          breathes for you.

You exist between each click of the second hand,
          when time momentarily stops
                   and all that can be heard
          is the deafening roar
in the silence of a stilled heart.
The mornings are darker, the days shorter,
the hours precious as time slips by….
I wonder if I had only loved you more
                    would you still be here today?
The dates set in stone
that I have traced my fingers over
          again and again
are etched in my mind
much more complete
than the memory of your face
that has faded with time.
                    Yet I know you by heart.

It was in the golden brown of brittle leaves
where you said your goodbyes
in a moment only we shared,
when the world around us
disappeared for a time,
leaving us floating in suspended reality
                    where all I felt was you
fluttering faintly from my grasp.
Yet with each setting of the summer moon
and rising of the autumn sun,
when the leaves turn from green
          to red
                    to a golden brown,
I smile at your spirit
that exists in the laughter of a child
and floats in the wind
          with the remnants of trees.
Peace has melted together
the broken figments
of my injured heart,
          revealing the beauty in leaves of golden brown,
                    gently holding them before letting them drift away,
                             watching them stay strong in the wind
                   while knowing they could shatter in an instant,
          setting you free with a delicate prayer
of love for an autumn’s child.

Neglecting the Baby Book

This weekend was spent moving our things from one house to another. And in that move, it became apparent that we have TOO MUCH STUFF. Seriously, we moved into this house two years ago with only our beds, a kitchen table, and a couple outfits. There was not much more than that. But apparently we thought it best to make up for lost time by collecting every single item we came across and sticking it in a random corner of the house. The result? I now have boxes and boxes of miscellaneous items in my living room that I need to go through – deciding what to keep, what to donate, and what doesn’t need to see the light of day ever again (yes, fake hairpiece that was supposed to make my ponytail look fuller but instead resembled the thing I pulled out of the drain last week – except three shades different than any color my hair has ever been, I’m talking to you). Basically, if you are missing something it is probably now in my living room. You can come by anytime and pick it up. Take a couple more things with you when you go. (Wouldn’t that be a great idea for a housewarming party? “So glad you could come, you sure you can’t stay longer? Well, here’s a goodie bag of, um, cool knick-knacks. Tag! No pass-backs!”)

At any rate, when you have a house full of things, it not only takes some effort to move everything from one house to the other, the nostalgic effect makes the process take 10 times longer. There were boxes packed with items I hadn’t seen in probably….well, three years. This is why it was a godsend when Mr. Wonderful came over and moved all the rest of my stuff over from the old house on the final day of moving, finishing the process before I could say “oh my gaw, I found the kids’ baby books! Let’s go through them page by page and marvel at what they were like when I used to think they were brilliant!” No, that discussion was saved for after the kids went to bed and I was left alone in my living room going through boxes one by one. And pausing on said baby books, I have to say

I’m an awful parent.

Full to the brim with memories...until Chapter 2 and beyond.

Apparently, my kids ceased to exist past the age of 1 ½. In their first year of life, I chronicled every single move they made. I have down when they first laughed, including when they did it by accident in their sleep and when they did it on purpose to something their hysterically funny mom did. I wrote down their first solid foods, and what they liked or disliked, and what kind of face they made when I fed it to them. I wrote down their favorite toys, their first words, the dates of their first couple of teeth, the name of their first friend – aka the same-age baby that belonged to one of my friends who was placed next to him or her and was claimed to be their new boyfriend/girlfriend/kid that will beat them up at school. I knew what they were wearing when they took their first steps, how much they weighed at 7 months and 23 days, and that my daughter’s first word was “boob”, taught to her by her daddy. The chapter on their first year of life was full of items like their first lock of hair, the bracelet they wore home from the hospital, and pictures from every single milestone they performed. Turn the page to Year Two?

EMPTY.

The thing I don’t get, the first year of life has to be the busiest time of a parent’s life. We are catering to our baby’s every need, answering their cries as if we are being summoned with a bell by Master Baby. In the first year of life I don’t think I slept more than 4 hours at a time. I was changing poopy diapers more often than I was yawning. And I was washing countless clothes that smelled of spit-up so that they smelled slightly less sour. I had never been busier or more sleep deprived. And yet, I had time to chronicle the way my daughter spat out cereal unless it was laced with sugary jarred bananas. When they get to the age of two, they are practically raising themselves. So why didn’t I have time to write down all the cool and interesting things they were doing as toddlers? I mean, aren’t toddlers supposed to be the funniest creatures on earth? The only thing I can think of is that my kids weren’t doing anything funny or brilliant. And who wants to write about a child who sits there like a lump of coal?

In all seriousness, I do regret not having taken the time to fill out the rest of the book. There are things that I will never know about my kids because the years went by so fast, and so much happened in that time. There are tiny details to their lives that wouldn’t matter to anyone but me, and those forgotten details are the things that I miss remembering the most. Their height and weight on each of their birthdays. The funny saying they used to repeat at the age of 3. How big their feet were at age 5. What made them laugh. What made them mad. Their favorite toy…

At any rate, at least I have part of the book filled out.  I’ll have it on display at my housewarming party coming down the pike.  Look for your invite in the mail.  Oh, and bring a wagon for your, um, party gifts.

How’s your baby book looking?