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Tuesday, December 27, 2011


My son has referred to Christmas as Chris-Chris.
When we ask him what Santa says, he says with a smile, as if adding, "duh..." "HO HO HO, Merry Chris-Chris!"
It's adorable. It makes us laugh every single time we hear it.
It makes me want to video tape my son's every word, reaction, smile and move during this Christmas time.
Yes, it's true. The holidays are so much more fun with a child around.

We had our best Christmas yet this year, and I know it's almost entirely related to the fact that our son is a vibrant and growing toddler who is interested in and excited over absolutely everything that has to do with the season. Seeing the excitement and joy in his eyes makes me feel like a kid all over again. And it's a good thing. Because in the past 4 years or so Christmas has represented nothing but stress to me, based on the sheer fact that it's just a lot to do and we have no money to do it all with. It becomes a source of frustration with both my husband and I. Yet this year... we enjoyed it! Every second!

We did a few things this year to make it a smoother Christmas season, aka less busy and more fun! Here are some of the ideas that I hope we can stick with next year:

1. WE SAID NO! (nicely, I promise!)- Christmas is always about giving... sometimes too much though, of ourselves, our time and energy. It's hard to say no at this time of year. But this year was the first time we actually stopped and learned to say that two letter word... and it paid off!

Every year on Christmas Day we have done 5 Christmas-es... starting at our own house at 6 a.m., going to my mom's by 8, then to my husband's parents by 10:30, then to my husband's uncle's and cousins' by 1, then back to our house by 5 for dinner with my dad and sister. It's crazy, stressful, busy and not relaxing. It ended last year with my son in a crying exhausted fit from not having a good nap, totally ruining his time with my family at the end of the day. This year we said we could not go to the extended family gathering at 1... which along with a couple of others who said it was also too much for them to attend, spurred the discussion to having that event changed altogether to the day after Christmas- awesome! Since that event was gone, it meant all the other events could start a little later, thus meaning more time with those people, aka less rushed and more enjoyable. Because Christmas Eve was a Saturday and my husband wasn't working and because our son is still too little to comprehend when Santa is really supposed to come, we opened our Santa and family presents Christmas Eve morning, stayed in our pj's until lunch time, and ate delicious cinnamon buns as we played with all of Owen's new toys for hours! It was so relaxing and again more fun than rushing through it at 6 a.m. to get to the next stop on our Christmas list.

We also said no to buying more gifts than we could afford. Instead of swapping gifts at the extended family like usual, we all pitched in and donated gifts to a needy family. It was cheaper and yet more meaningful, too. Instead of having the little kids buy gifts for their cousins to swap, we had them make homemade Christmas cards for one another and build gingerbread houses at the family gathering to make it more fun. Again, less waste, less stress, total fun! I have to admit it was hard to be the one to step up and say no first when everyone else seemed to be going with the flow of buying gifts like has been done in the past... but as soon as we said it it seemed like others followed suit agreeing... so we can't be the only ones who felt the need to say enough is enough here!

2. WE ENJOYED THE SEASON'S GIFTS- We had breakfast with Santa, decorated ornaments, colored pictures of Santa, hung our tree early, put lights outside the house, drove around several nights to see the lights in the neighborhood, went to the local parade, attended the children's pageant at church, etc. We did all of those typical Christmas events that kids love. It really helped to make it a FUN season for us, seeing the point of the holiday, not just getting caught up in the stress of buying gifts.

3. WE BROKE UP THE SPENDING & SHOPPING- I started Christmas shopping in July. Literally. It was sort of by accident. I had a few gift cards to use up, didn't find anything for myself, so thought to start on my niece and nephews for Christmas. Then I just decided to break it up. My goal over the summer was to have my niece and 2 nephews and son done with Christmas by the end of September. Then in October and November I shopped for my side of the family. From Thanksgiving to Christmas week I shopped for my husband's family. Voila, done! If we had all the money and time in the world I'd have loved to have all shopping done by my old deadline of December 1st, most done in October before the crowds hit the stores. But we don't have all the money, therefore breaking it down works best for the budget and my sanity. This is definitely something I intend to do again this summer. Starting early meant so much less worry and a lack of that overwhelming feeling that it's all so much at once.

4. I SEARCHED FOR DEALS TO MAKE IT FUN!- I've always been a bargain shopper, but this year topped it off! Since my goal was to shop for my son over the summer I hit up a few yard sales and a library book sale and pretty much had him covered! We don't get him a ton since he has 10 aunts and uncles who spoil him enough and 6 grandparents doing the same. Since we started early, I was always searching for great deals. I found my sister's Christmas gift in TJ Maxx when I was simply in there getting a quick birthday gift in October! I also scored big on some photo calendars (only cost me $4 shipping, instead of $30 total) and some photo Christmas cards (FREE including shipping for 20 cards... instead of like $40!). Searching for cool deals like this made the shopping fun.

5. I SHOPPED FROM MY COUCH!- Shopping online is most definitely not overrated. It's awesome! Not only was it easier and less chaotic than going to the mall, but it was fun also getting the packages in the mail to see what we'd ordered. I have a son... an almost 2-year-old... if you are a mom, you can imagine how challenging and totally insane it is to take him shopping in a store. The one store I did take him in this year to get gifts he screamed SNOWMAN all through the store, laughing hysterically, and grabbing everything off the racks, tossing them on the ground... It was miserable. That night I went online and found tons of what I needed. Much easier!

Just a few ideas that made a big difference. Hopefully next year we can remember this year's "Chris-Chris" and stay in that happy, this is so much fun stage instead of getting bogged down in what doesn't matter - the chaos!

Monday, December 26, 2011

book - Nanny 911

Nanny 911 - Expert Advice for All Your Parenting Emergencies by Deborah Carroll and Stella Reid
These two are awesome! They give great advice throughout the book on how to deal with the most challenging child situation. An interesting book. Here is a list of some of their best tips:

1. Parents work as a team.

2. Keep a happy marriage - have a weekly date night.

3. Be consistent.

4. Say what you mean and mean it.

5. Don't label your children. If a child is shy, don't always say it in front of her... otherwise she'll only identify that way.

6. Say 'I love you' every day.

7. Modify your expectations. Kids make messes and are loud. Don't expect this to never happen.

8. Don't make promises you can't keep.

9. Don't make children talk when they're still too angry to do so. Having a long drawn out conversation after a time out is not appropriate or helpful.

10. Don't say 'no' all the time.

11. Don't yell. It doesn't work.

12. Don't compare siblings.

13. If you can't accept no as an answer, then don't ask the question that way. For example, "Do you want a time out?" should not be asked.

14. Learn your child's triggers to tantrums, and try to prevent them.

15. Teach that negative behaviors have consequences, and positive behaviors positive behaviors get rewarded.

16. Keep to regular routines - bed time, meals, etc.

17. Eat dinner together.

18. Everyone does chores to help out.

19. Clean the clutter. Old toys have to go.

20. Respect goes both ways.

Friday, December 23, 2011

books about toddlers!

Just a few books I've enjoyed with good information about toddlers!

Supernanny - How to Get the Best from Your Children by Jo Frost
LOVE Supernanny the show and the book is awesome, too! I loved the pictures in this book, and the information is so easy to read and useful, covering every topic imaginable. Great book!

The Girlfriends' Guide to Toddlers by Vicki Iovine
I have read all of Iovine's Girlfriends' books. Love them all. Written as though it's from your best friend, someone you trust and can relate to, the information is helpful and fun to read about.

On page 88 Iovine wrote, "You may not agree with me now, but one of the most amusing things about toddlers is the neck-snapping speed with which they change their likes and dislikes in all things, particularly food. This can be crazy-making for those of us moms who don't have the time or inclination to prepare entire meals that were acceptable yesterday but rejected today, but it does keep things interesting."

There are chapters on all topics that pertain to toddlers. One great tip she suggested was when considering moving to the toddler bed, try putting the toddler bed in the same room as the crib for a little bit so your child gets used to seeing it around. I'd never read that before. Interesting, if you can fit both in one room together!

I LOVED the Top Ten Things We'll Miss Most About Toddlers list on page 252 that included things like, "The swish-swish sound their diapers make when they walk," and "How juicy their kisses are," and "How they can turn back into babies when they're tired," and "The way they truly believe the magic of the universe," and "The way they pretend to talk on the phone." It's so true, especially that one about how they can switch back to being babies. I will miss that when it's gone someday.

What to Expect - The Toddler Years by Heidi Murkoff
I love this series, and this book is no different than the first couple in the series. Tons of great, real-life, helpful information about this challenging toddler time. It breaks it down into each month span until 36 months old. In the back of the book are great chapters on feeding your toddler, keeping your toddler healthy, toddlers becoming siblings, etc.

The Everything Toddler Book by Linda Sonna, Ph.D.
From page 10 in this book, the author offers great advice about this tricky toddler age! "With the increased independence that comes with walking, toddlers experience a surging desire for autonomy. Combine this desire with the changes that walking introduces into their lives, and it is typical for their behavior to deteriorate a bit. Expect more crying, defiance, and trouble getting your child to go to sleep."

She covers all kinds of topics in this book and offers great facts, such as this one on page 11, "At twelve months, 50 percent of youngsters can say six or more words. When the toddler years end, speaking vocabulary has ballooned to 1,000 words; three-year-olds combine them to express thousands of ideas!" All of that learning is what makes the toddler times fun!

There are some great diagrams in this book that show the most common sign language words. The author also says that stuttering is very common in toddlers because their rate of speaking is slower than their rate of thinking up ideas to speak. Patience with helping the child slow down his speech is key here, Sonna said.

Sonna said the biggest goal in teaching toddlers is to teach them daily living skills like washing their hands, eating, putting on their clothes, picking up their toys, brushing their teeth, and using the toilet. She also suggested having your toddlers follow you in learning various other life skills like sweeping the floor or pushing around a play lawn mower outside.

The chapter on discipline was great! Instead of offering just "no!" follow that no with something the child can do. For example, one I often use with my son... "No, Owen, you cannot bang your toy hammer on Dad's nice wood floors or the walls (that you've already dented before we noticed!), but you can bang bang the hammer on this table or the couch." It's also really important to offer your child choices to avoid the fits to begin with.

A great book, tons of resources in the back, including Web sites, books, etc. Also some GREAT charts at the end of the book saying what your child should do at various stages during the toddler years.

I've also often wondered what age bracket the "toddler years" refers to. According to this book, it's age 12 months to 36 months.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

new AAP advice

Just read this in the latest Parent magazine:

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revised two statements recently.

"WATCHING TV - Back in 1999, when the AAP declared that children under 2 shouldn't be exposed to television and videos, there wasn't a whole lot of science to back up that recommendation. But after examining more than 50 studies that look at the effects of media on that age group, the AAP is standing its ground. Research shows that watching TV can cause irregular sleep habits and schedules, and can be linked to late talking. Instead of putting your child in front of the screen, give him something safe to play with - he'll figure out how to entertain himself."


"PREVENTING SIDS - In addition to the usual rules for babies up to 1 year - starting with always putting your baby to sleep on her back - there are some big changes: The AAP now recommends no bedsharing, no bumpers, and no cosleepers (which attach at the side of your bed). You should breastfeed if possible and fully immunize your baby; both have been associated with a decreased risk for SIDS. Offer a pacifier too: sucking on one may reduce the odds, perhaps because it positions the tongue in a way that helps keep the airways open."

What do YOU think?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

books - potty training!

Ya'll Ready For This?!
When my son, 21 months old, a few weeks ago randomly told me he had to poop on the potty, sat in his potty chair and pooped and peed not once but twice within a two-hour span without me even encouraging or helping him, my anxiety level went through the roof not having a clue what I was supposed to do next! I quickly packed my son - in a diaper because I was scared - and took off to Wal-Mart to buy pull-ups and big boy underwear. I raced back all prepared to help him take off the diaper if that's what he wanted to do, put on the new big boy undies, and move about our day potty training his way. We returned and he was so excited about the underwear that he put some on his arms, legs and head, while we sat at the potty chair. This lasted an hour until nap time. A few hours later after nap time and it's like the whole thing never happened. He refused to sit on the potty, told me, "mama poop, no." Um, ok. I thought we had a deal here, pal?! You initiated this, remember, I felt like saying. It was over before it had even begun.

So I panicked a little, wondering what did this mean?! He's too young, I thought! I'm not ready for this yet! I have no clue what I'm doing! So I went online and ordered as many potty training books from the library as I could find.

I've been curious and a tad bit overwhelmed and scared about this potty training adventure that I knew was just up the road from where we were at in toddler land. I've been searching for a specific how-to on the subject, real answers, checklists even of what to do and when and how often (every 15 or 30 minutes to the potty? leave diapers behind once you start the process or are they OK at night? do boys learn to go on the potty sitting or standing?). I never found it. Even asking fellow moms on the mom blog site didn't prove to help me. They all just said "wait till he's ready," advice I strongly agreed with already, but didn't really tell me "OK here is the step by step of what I did..." which is what I was looking for, I think mostly to ease my own anxieties about not having a clue how to do this part.

When in Doubt, READ!
So I read, or skimmed, lots of books about potty training. I'll share here with you what I found. Here are the books I read, in no particular order:
1. Potty Training Boys the Easy Way by Caroline Fertleman, MD and Simone Cave
2. Potty Train Your Child in Just One Day by Teri Crane **(Despite its misleading title of only doing it entirely in one day, I LOOVED this book!)**
3. The No-Cry Potty Training Solution by Elizabeth Pantley
4. Diaper-Free Before 3 by Jill M. Lekovic, M.D.
5. Potty Training for Dummies by Diane Stafford and Jennifer Shoquist, M.D.
6. The Everything Guide to Potty Training by Kim Bookout, DNP, RN, CPNP
7. Toilet Training the Brazelton Way by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. and Joshua Sparrow, M.D.
8. Stress-Free Potty Training by Sara Au and Peter L. Stavinoha, Ph. D.
9. Good Going! Successful Potty Training for Children in Child Care by Gretchen Kinnell

I learned a lot from these books.
A few key ideas the experts all agreed on in these books included:

1. Do NOT, they repeat, do NOT start the official no more diapers phase of potty training until your child is READY. Pushing it too soon or when your child is not ready will backfire and make it last longer for both of you. According to Fertleman and Cave on page 3 of their book, "On average boys demonstrate readiness to start potty training around age two and a half; for girls it's a few months earlier. An American study published in the journal Pediatrics found that training before the age of 27 months nearly always takes longer than training a child after this age."

2. What does ready actually mean or look like, you ask? Well, all the experts agreed on some key factors that make a child ready for the real deal potty training process:
a. stays dry during naps and for several hours at a time.
b. is typically between ages 2 and 3 1/2 or 4.
c. child is uncomfortable with the feeling of pee or poop in the diaper, moves around a bit, may even ask to be changed.
d. can follow commands like "come here, put that block over there, etc."
e. communicate - must understand the words you are saying relating to the potty process.
f. must be able to walk and stand, sit up straight.
g. child should be able to assist in undressing to sit on the potty.
h. children who are apt to imitate adults or others are more apt to understand following your lead on potty training, too.
i. your child is NOT ready if a major life situation is happening, such as an illness, separation or divorce, new baby in the home, a recent house move, new day care center or babysitter, etc.
j. child starts to have a routine or pattern to predictable times of bowel movements or peeing.
k. it needs to be about the child being ready, not the parents. Dr. Brazelton and Dr. Sparrow wrote in their book on page 29, "If she is to avoid being overwhelmed, she will need to know that it is up to her, and that she can proceed at her own pace."

Author Pentley wrote that yes, you need to wait until a child is physically, emotionally and socially ready to do the potty training, however you can't wait forever either. On page 18 she wrote, "... if you wait until that magic day when your child approaches you with a formal request to begin toilet training, you may be waiting a long, long, long time. A child simply doesn't understand the value of moving out of diapers to toilet independence. A child doesn't have the experience, knowledge, references or wisdom to make this kind of decision on his own.
"Think about it. Do you let your child decide his own bedtime? Do you let him take the lead on when he'll dress himself? Will you allow him to decide when he's ready to begin kindergarten? Your child counts on you to make many decisions for him... One of your important roles as a parent is to make decisions for your child until she is ready to make them on her own. When it comes to toilet training, she needs you to watch for her readiness cues and then for you to introduce this novel concept to her when you feel she's ready to embrace it. And you are very qualified to make this decision, because you probably know your child better than she knows herself."

In Crane's book, she offers the Top 10 Potty-Training Myths. Love these!
"10. She can say the word 'potty.'
9. He sees big kid superhero under pants on TV and begs you to buy them.
8. You find out you're the only one on the street who has a three-year old who isn't potty trained yet.
7. She discovers the joy of flushing innocent objects - toys, money, your new lipstick - down the toilet.
6. He delights in shouting new words like 'penis' when you're in the middle of a department store.
5. You find out that 'diaper-wearing toddlers' are banned from your local pre-school.
4. She asks her Sunday school teacher, 'Sister Maria, do you have a vagina too?'
3. He pees on the fire hydrant following the example of his dog.
2. Your fantasies of chocolate, romance, and passion are suddenly overrun by wistful thoughts of a diaper-free day.
1. Your husband proudly proclaims that his mother had him toilet trained before he was two years old and suggests that you give 'Mumsy' a call."

Most of these authors and experts agreed that potty training does not only start the weekend you intend to try to get rid of the diapers, but far sooner than that. Most of the authors said it needs to begin around 12 months of age. What they suggested was simply talking about the potty, letting your child follow you into the bathroom to watch how you do it, talking about toilet paper and flushing the toilet, how to pull up pants, etc. They suggested reading books about the potty, even having a potty chair around that isn't used more than for your child to sit on fully clothed while you go to the bathroom yourself. This happens for months before the real deal potty training starts.

The experts also suggested before the real potty training weekend came to gradually increase the number of times you have your child sit on the potty, even fully clothed. You can read a book to him, sit there for one or two minutes. Author Lekovic wrote on page 195 that they gradually added sitting on the potty after each nap time, after dinner, before bath, before bed, and when he woke up in the morning. According to authors Au and Stavinoha on page 47, "Routine makes the process very predictable and normal."

I liked in one book that they suggested teaching before training... which meant before the child even gets to the potty you try showing him with a doll using the potty or you using the potty yourself first. That way he knows what he'll be doing when it's his turn to try.

THE STEPS (a checklist, finally!)

-Pick the timing (make sure your child is ready first). If it's the right timing, one book said that spring and summer are the best times for potty training because kids wear fewer clothes during that season and can easily take them on and off. I think it's just as warm inside your house in winter if you turn the heat up so kids can run around practically naked then, too, whatever works.

-Feed your child for pooping success! Some foods that help the bowel movements run smoothly are: brown rice, dried fruits, fiber breakfast bars, fresh fruits, prune juice, veggies, whole-grain breads and cereals. Avoid foods that tend to constipate: cheese, excessive milk, pasta, white bread.

Drink up!
Offer lots of fun new drinks and at least plenty of water. Fertleman and Cave wrote in their book that it takes about 20 minutes from the time a child drinks something until when he needs to pee, so offer drinks and visit the potty frequently. Suggest every 30 minutes or so that he sit on the potty. Don't push it, if he refuses say, "maybe later."

-Get a doll for your child to practice using to teach it to go potty first. Kids learn by watching not only adults but dolls. One suggestion from the Dummies book was Potty Pee Wee Dolls for $12.95 at

-Start boys sitting down. Standing up will take some time. None of the books said exactly how much time or when to introduce standing up, but they all said to have boys sit first because once they stand they won't want to do it sitting anymore.

-Don't ask, "Do you want/have to go to the potty?" Toddlers always say NO to everything when asked! Say a statement, "Let's go to the potty now" or "It's time to go to the potty."

-Use tons of praise, be overjoyed even, way too excited about the potty attempts and real goes. If your child sits there and tries, still be excited and reward her as if she'd actually gone pee.

-make sure kids wash their hands each time they use the potty


In Crane's book, she gave awesome ideas for "potty parties!" I've heard of people doing this, so here's a step-by-step checklist of what she suggested to do for the party:
-buy a doll for child and wrap it
-buy and wrap big-kid underwear
-make big-kid underpants for the doll
-place potty chair in bathroom
-decorate the bathroom and party room with chosen theme
-get party prizes
-get a grand finale big kid celebration gift from the family and wrap
-prepare a variety of snacks and drinks
-get potty videos ready by TV
-put potty books in the bathroom
-place a waterproof blanket or rug on the couch if in the party room

The morning of the potty party is all about training the doll, showing your child that the doll has to go potty every 20 minutes or so, being excited when she goes on the potty, then cleaning up any messes the doll makes with accidents. Then after lunch and nap time, it's time for your child to learn to potty train with the doll going, too. Have game ideas and coloring and other activities ready for the party, in between running to the bathroom. A few themes included a beach bash indoors or a camp out in the living room with a tent to play in.

Once your child has the hang of potty training, here are a few final tips to finish the job:
1. Teaching your child to wipe himself or herself is a job in itself. This takes lots of time. For boys, especially, it does not typically happen until about age 3 and onward. Wait until your child announces he needs to poop. You tell him to go to the bathroom himself and you'll be up in a minute to help. It leads to independence, according to authors Fertleman and Cave.

2. Nighttime dryness
takes a lot longer, some into their 5th year. So be patient! Most of the experts said to put on pull-ups at night for a while in the potty training process. Nighttime dryness can only happen when a child's biology and physiology allows, so there is no point in trying to rush it. Until the morning pull-up is consistently dry, keep the pull-ups on at night, according to Pentley.

3. Remember: It takes 3 to 12 months from the start of training to daytime toilet independence, and "the age that a child masters toileting has absolutely no correlation to future abilities or intelligence," according to author Pentley. She also wrote that 98% of children are daytime toilet independent by age 4. IT WILL HAPPEN!
In Crane's book on page 28, "According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, moms who started training their toddlers at age two had them trained by the time they turned three. Moms who started training at eighteen months did not have their children potty trained until after they turned four."

Moral of the story... BE PATIENT and FOLLOW YOUR CHILD'S LEAD!

Fertleman and Cave wrote a top 10 list of signs that show your child is toilet trained. If you can check off at least 3 of these items on the list your child is done! If not, your child is still learning and needs some more help and patience, but is on his way.
"1. The potty has become dusty and forgotten because he uses the toilet.
2. When at home, he takes himself to the bathroom without telling you.
3. It no longer occurs to you to pack some spare underwear when you go out.
4. You don't worry about car journeys and know that the car seat won't be wet when you arrive.
5. He can wipe his own bottom effectively.
6. He washes his hands without being reminded.
7. You don't think about getting him up to go to the bathroom in the night.
8. You don't pack spare pajamas when you go away for the night.
9. When you're out he doesn't suddenly ask to pee or poop at awkward moments when there's no bathroom available.
10. You never remind him to go to the bathroom."

Glad to report my son has returned to being nonchalantly interested in the potty that lives in our bathroom. He sits on it almost daily, but not without a diaper unless it's just before bath time. We read stories about potties, but not religiously. I tell him every time I have to go to the bathroom and dad lets him in to watch the standing up process. My child loves to flush the toilet.

Our plan now is to continue the above, and I intend to buy him a doll that we can teach to use the potty when it's time. After reading these books I realized one key thing that tells me my son is really only in the curious stage of potty training versus being really, really ready. He's not bothered by poop or pee in his diaper, in fact when we ask if he's pooped 9 times out of 10 he shakes his head no and runs off in search of another toy. I've vowed to myself that despite his initial appearance like he was ready to do this thing, coupled with my anxiousness about this process (especially with baby number 2 on the way), he's not really there yet. He's curious and we'll build on the curiosity for a while longer.

When he starts to show me he's bothered by the stuff in the diaper (which all the books and friends I know tell me he will start to do at some point) then I'll do a few days locked inside potty land... whenever that happens it happens.

Essentially, it's all good now in my mind. I definitely still dread this process when it really starts, but at least now I feel more confident that this too shall pass and my child will really let me know when he's ready, versus just curious, nothing I need to do. We will survive, he will be potty trained someday. Reading does help sometimes!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

keeping moms connected!

(image from Google)
These sound great! Anyone belong to them or know of similar groups in other areas?

Mom to Mom of Maine
Portland, Maine - for southern Maine moms

-$25 annual membership
-online discussion groups
-Mommy & Me field trips
-electronic monthly newsletter
-comprehensive monthly events calendar
-discounted group activities
-"Mom's Night Out" activities
-monthly speaker/workshop series
-annual family parties and outings
-community outreach opportunities

Seacoast Mothers Association

-exclusively volunteer-run
-450 members
-Greater Seacoast area - southern Maine and northern Massachusetts
-online community of local moms
-forum for asking advice, sharing info, socializing
-support programs
-book club, crafts club, special interest sub-groups
-social events, buddy programs
-annual family events (holiday party, summer picnic)
-friendly place to meet real moms online and in real life

Greater Nashua Mothers Club

-play groups
-outlet for passions
-new mom's support group
-kids activities and outings
-holiday parties and events
-clothing swap
-mom's night out

Newburyport Mothers Club

-800 members
-member-led organization
-support, information, friendship
-for families in Amesbury, Boxford, Georgetown, Groveland, Haverhill, Ipswich, Merrimac, Newbury, Rowley, Salisbury, West Newbury, and the Seacoast of New Hampshire

Children's Museum of NH

Just found this great piece of news out last week - the Children's Museum of New Hampshire in Dover offers a FREE family fun night the first Friday of every month from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. It was awesome! It was very busy when we went this past Friday, but not so busy that we didn't enjoy ourselves. It was also the lighting of the town Christmas tree with other Santa type events going on, so that could be why it was so busy. I encourage you to check it out.

Free family fun! Love it.

Anyone know if the Maine Children's Museum in Portland does this, too?

a birth story - Tina Nightingale

The wonderful, Tina, mom of now two children, shares her birth story. Thanks, Tina, a great story! Just goes to show that some challenges can bring something - or two things - so absolutely amazing and beautiful!
Everyone fears giving birth … the unknown is unbearable!

I truly believe that ignorance is bliss. My husband and I always knew we wanted to raise children together but we could have never predicted these two most joyful, wonderful, unexplainable, difficult, heartwrenching, and most of all beautiful journeys. We are the proud parents of two perfect babies. My son Dominic is 4 years old and my daughter Mackenzie is 9 months old. Their journey into this world has taught us many lessons … lessons that changed us for the rest of our lives.

I never imagined when we decided to get pregnant that fertility treatment was going to be part of our experience. It was September 2006 when we decided to get pregnant with our first child, and not too long into the process we realized and were informed we needed medical interventions.

With fertility treatment we were pregnant 2 months later. My pregnancy was pretty “boring” (what my doctor would say at each appointment) until my appointment at 34 weeks. My blood pressure was extremely elevated and the doctor was concerned. At 35 weeks, I was hospitalized and notified I would be induced within the next week for safety precautions. We were explained the process …“pictocine” (a medication that I now believe was invented to torture women) was the drug, which would help my little boy enter this world early but safely.

I was brought into labor and delivery at 7:30PM on august 12th 2007. I remember my husband trailing behind my wheelchair with a cart full of our luggage. I had been in the hospital for 9 days, but it felt like months. As na├»ve as I was my birth plan was very specific in the sense that I was going to use NO pain medication … all Natural I thought! I smile now!

They brought us to our room and said they would start the induction process tonight and hopefully I would have my baby sometime tomorrow … I smile again! If only it had happened that way. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to see and hold my baby.

Finally, all of my dreams would come true and as soon as my baby would take his first breath, the face he would see would be mine. I would kiss him all over and let him know how much he is loved! My thoughts were quickly interrupted by a well-meaning nurse who explained that because he was premature, my son, would probably be whisked away to avoid any complications. My heart broke knowing I was not going to be able to immediately hold him close and his first sight and touch in this world wasn’t going to be mine.

Medication to start cervical progress was introduced at 10PM, and at 8AM on august 13th pictocine was finally administered. Not even 1 hour into my contractions I was begging for pain medication. My contractions lasted for the next 20 hours. I had contractions every 2 minutes (with an epidural that partially worked). I was in so much pain. My mom and husband were present and all I could see on their face was complete despair. Both wanted to help but knew there was nothing they could do … this road to be traveled was mine and mine alone.

After 16 long hours of complete unbearable pain it was finally time to push. At this point I had a burst of hope I felt as though the end was near … however, my little miracle had a mind of his own and would take his sweet time to enter this world.
Anyone who knows my son will also say that his birth matches his personality in every way.

After 3 hours of pushing my husband felt distraught and figured our little man would never come out but I knew … I knew that he would come on his own time! Still his personality to this day … give him TIME and space to figure things out and everything else will work itself out. After 4 long hours of pushing and 36 hours after the start of induction Dominic was finally born. My beautiful baby!

I remember seeing him, his little feet, being taken away a few feet from me with the NICCU doctors … If only I could explain the hole in my heart that was formed when I first laid eyes on my precious baby but could not even touch him once! Everything mattered in this moment but all I could think and say was “why is he not crying! why is he not crying! why is he not crying!” I became hysterical and as soon as I felt as though I would lose my mind … I heard the most amazing sound … his first cry … his voice was angelic … nothing felt as good as hearing him tell me he was fine and couldn’t wait to be in my arms.

Dominic was perfectly healthy and within 10 minutes my husband was holding him. My mom and dad got to hold him and then the NICCU doctors took him again to reassess. I quietly said: “Can I hold my baby” yes I said it I had not yet held him … everyone laughed realizing their mistake and handed me my little boy … I remember thinking HE is JUST too PERFECT. I looked up above and thanked God for this great gift. Having my baby boy in my arms felt like nothing I had ever felt in my life.

Even with so much thankfulness and joy a small hole in my heart was present for months after his birth … I was not the first person he had laid eyes on, and I felt I deserved nothing less than to be the first to hold him … HE DESERVED IT TOO. Dominic ended up having a newborn infection and we had to stay in the hospital for 7 days but went home in 6 since he was doing great. I remember telling myself after Dominic’s birth that never again would I ever get induced … they would have to do a c-section!!!! I smile again!

The journey to my daughter’s birth was extremely different than my son’s.

I can tell you that my daughter’s conception, birth, and infant phase has been full of roadblocks but, oh my everything about her screams strong and determined little woman and I LOVE everything about her.

Knowing that we would have to follow the path of fertility treatment with our second child we decided to start trying to conceive earlier than originally planned. Little did I know that the process I was about to embark was going to be the hardest and most heartwrenching life experience I will have ever survived. If anyone has survived (and I do mean survived) the process of fertility, they understand, if you have not then you don’t … hearing “it will happen when it happens” is the worse well-meaning advice that anyone could speak.

After 15 long months of fertility treatment, multiple medical bills, and 5 IUI’s later we were finally pregnant. We had tried so long to get pregnant that my anxiety over miscarrying was unbearable … but this little one was coming and nothing would stop her … at our 20 week ultrasound we were told that she had a bright spot in the heart (we later found out it absolutely means nothing if found on its own with no other markers but nevertheless … stressful!).

Throughout my pregnancy the doctor kept a close eye on my blood pressure but this pregnancy was also pretty “boring.” My blood pressure started being slightly elevated at 38 weeks. I remember walking in the doctor’s office at 38 weeks and feeling like I was going to die … now might I remind you I had Dominic at 36 weeks I had never been beyond 36 weeks pregnant. Oh my goodness I truly believe that after 37 weeks of pregnancy women should be put out for the remainder of the time … the backache, heartburn, swelling not funny! Oh and the wait! The doctor checked my cervical progress and nothing was happening … my daughter was comfortable in utero and had no intentions of coming out. At this point I need to remind you how I said I would never again be induced after Dominic’s birth well guess what at my 39 week appointment when my doctor announced there was still no progress … here were my exact words to her “It might sound crazy but can I get induced” yup I said it I ASKED to be induced … that is how bad being 39 weeks pregnant felt for me!!!

Since it was my second child the doctor agreed. My husband and I walked the labor and delivery hallway to be induced on February 14th at 7:30PM. Both of us walking quietly knowing full well what each other were thinking. Silently reliving my son’s birth … the good and the bad. At 11PM cervical medication was introduced. We went to sleep and at 3AM I woke my husband asking him to sit with me. I was having small contractions about every 10 minutes. Nothing I couldn’t handle but his company was comforting. At 10AM the doctor came, checked my cervix, and said I was dilated to 4 and 90% effaced. I thought to myself “oh my” this is nothing I could do this for days … I was a wimp with my first … oh wait! no pictocine yet! Ah that’s the difference and might I say a huge difference.

Doctor said she would be back at 12PM and would check for progress. It was encouraging she said we might not have to use pictocine my body seemed to do be responding well and was basically doing the work on its own. At 1PM the doctor checked my cervix and no progress had been made, so I was informed pictocine and “breaking my water” was the next step. The nurse explained that these two medical interventions will start labor quickly and bring and extreme amount of pain. She recommended the epidural. My thoughts were well I am not in that much pain and besides the epidural didn’t work last time … but my dear husband reminded me “why feel pain if you don’t need to” … so I agreed to it still fearing that it wouldn’t work and also that I could be paralyzed (loll I don’t now why but paralyzing has always been my biggest fear). Nevertheless it made sense to get it … well at 3PM I had a WORKING epidural, picotcine, and in full labor. I FELT NOTHING my husband and I were watching DR.PHIL. then the INSIDER. I was happy as a bee and the only reminder of labor was the monitor tracking my contractions.

At 6:59PM my husband and I were having a conversation about the new maternity department when suddenly I looked at my husband, turned white, and quiet … so sudden that my husband got our nurse … the pain I felt was sudden and oh my *&^%#@ God if only I could explain … the nurse quickly came … I was fully dilated and effaced and my daughter’s head was visible … it was time to push … and for some reason or another in her descent my daughter blocked the epidural. I went from feeling no pain to full-blown labor pains. I became delirious that is all I can say … the nurses and the doctor (in training) were telling me don’t push! don’t push! you need to wait for the doctor … I was yelling back you’re a doctor catch her …

I heard one nurse say I think the doctor went home to rest and then heard my husband say I hope not he lives in Gorham. At that point the only thing I was doing is yelling I am not %$#@!& waiting I am going to poop and this baby wants to come out … to be honest it felt as though I had to hold diarrhea in … I was in so much pain and my body just wanted to push.

The poor doctor (in training) kept saying don’t push I need to do this first and that first and the more she said don’t push the more I yelled at her saying that she was incompetent and too slow. I did apologize later. The importance of being the first one to hold my daughter was not only a dream but also a must. I needed that whole in my heart filled.

After exactly 10 minutes of pushing (4 pushes later) my baby girl was born. I held out my hands to her as she came out and brought her real close to my heart … that hole and emptiness was finally gone. My baby girl was staring straight into my eyes … her eyes wide open and we stayed connected for what felt like hours … my first words to her was “welcome to the world baby girl … we love you soooo much!” nurses kept asking if they could take her to assess her vitals, and I just kept shaking my head no … they understood (we had shared our past experience).

This little girl I had tried so hard to conceive and waited too long for was finally in my arms … again I looked up and thanked God for her … for both of my healthy children!

If there is one lesson I have learned about becoming a mom it is nothing wonderful, miraculous, and worth waiting for comes easy in this world and that all the struggles and heartaches do fade away as soon as that beautiful face stares straight into your heart.

I cherish every moment with my children and try not to fret the small things. These two children truly complete me … they are my heart and soul and they both have taught me that love has no condition, no measure, and especially no boundaries. After having them I finally understood why God gives us a passage through life … this passage is to teach us LOVE and nothing less or else. Without this kind of love no human can become celestial.

I try my very best to be the best mom I can be knowing full well that I cannot do it perfectly … but I can surely try!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dear Friend, in your final month of pregnancy...

Dear friend Heather,
You have entered (finally) the month of your first baby's due date. You have waited so long for a child, to find out what this one's gender is, to hold your newborn in your arms, and to officially feel like a mom. And now here it is! We are days away from your due date; your doctor thinks any time now as progress has begun. Your to-do list is finally crossed off to nothing but REST. You are ready... as ready as you'll ever be, right?

I remember what it felt like to be upon the eve of my baby's birth - literally, as we had a scheduled C-section. It was scary, terrifying in some respects, but then we were overjoyed with what was to come - seeing our baby for the first time, hearing that strong cry we hoped for, finishing the statement "It's a...." with boy or girl once and for all, holding him or her, and really becoming more amazed at this miracle that took place for 10 months inside my body, that started with my husband and I so in love, and ending with our family more complete than we imagined it could be. I know you feel all of this, too. And it's here! It's happening! Soon, I swear!

I wanted to write you a letter before all of this adventure begins... or comes to a close I suppose, depending on how you look at it. I started this blog for you, my friend, and it's turned into something incredible, just as I know how your pregnancy has now turned into something amazing - there is a little person coming soon!

A few things I wanted to remind you of as your labor day comes:

1. I am so proud of you!
You have accomplished something big. You have stayed pregnant, healthy for most of it (despite the flu and cold sicknesses a month ago), positive throughout, and have taken such good care of yourself to help this baby enter this world with the best start s/he could have. Be proud of this. It's a big accomplishment.

2. I hope you... rest. (well, dance would fit in there, too, liking that old song... but resting is more important now). I hope you take time now and just be. Be with your husband. Be at work knowing it's almost over for a while. Be at home - no sweat about cleaning like a crazy woman. Be knowing the thank you notes are done and the baby room is ready and diapers are fresh on the changing table. Just be. And pray and think and even write and just let yourself prepare mentally for the baby coming. Your life will surely change soon, so take advantage of this last week or so with just you and your husband.

3. Go out!
Take you and your husband out for a date. You deserve it! It'll be the last time for a while that you get to spend such quality time together. Enjoy a nice meal, despite heartburn and not being able to eat more than like 3 bites without needing a break! Talk about your excitement and fears about birth, and tell each other what great parents you think the other will be.

4. Let go of expectations.
As the big day arrives and you consider your birth plan, plans to breastfeed or not, how the day will go with visitors arriving and phone calls being made to out-of-town friends (ahem like me!), how your first days home will be, etc. just let it all go. Don't worry about those things. They'll just happen anyway. Be fully present, in the moment, enjoying every second, as you won't get this back and it's such a blur anyway. Every mom I know says that they wish they'd paid more attention or could rewind to experience it again or video tape the first few hours at least. It's such a magical time if you let yourself sink into how incredible it is. Don't get caught up in anything else but that little one you intend to stare at.

5. Do what works for your baby first, you and your husband second, others 10th! The second that baby arrives into the world people - family, doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, strangers even - are going to try to be helpful and offer you tons of advice. This advice sometimes will be helpful, like a saving grace, "Thank you, somebody has been through this before and understands and can show me the way." Some of it will be unnecessary, annoying, frustrating, and very confusing to you. Despite being overtired from labor and not sleeping with a baby up at night, which causes you to not think straight, plus hormones going haywire now that you are no longer pregnant, people coming at you all the time not giving you a chance to just be... try to stay close to your baby and husband during this chaotic time and do what works for YOU. Sometimes what works for you in the hospital is not at all what you planned the day before you gave birth. That's OK. You are a great mom simply because you became one, gave birth, and now have a child to raise. Breastfeeding or using bottles, circumcision or not on a boy, letting your baby sleep in the nursery or keeping her with you the whole time, turning away visitors so you can rest, etc. do not make you a good or bad parent, it just makes you a parent. Parenting is all about making choices, decisions that are best for your child. It starts instantly. Listen to yourself and you won't ever go wrong.

6. Eat, woman! and enjoy the maternity pants a while longer.
I know many women who falsely think that giving birth equals the end of pregnancy which simultaneously equals pre-baby body returning. Let me tell you, not so much. Yes, your belly will shrink a lot and you'll lose like 20 pounds in your hospital stay. BUT your body just went through trauma, a huge experience that was 10 months long and however many hours you pushed through labor for. It's not going to bounce back overnight. Somehow you need to be OK with that. Eat. Eat whatever and whenever you feel like it in the hospital and when going home. I recall a serious feeling of hunger every day in the hospital. My doctors told me it was my body trying to heal itself, needing energy and nutrients to do so, plus with new milk coming into my body the top gals needed some more nutrients and calories anyway to get things started in that department. Plus exhaustion makes you starving. So just go with it. And eat all of these great foods while in your maternity clothes. They are so comfy... what better clothes to wear when feeling sick, uncomfortable and tired? You will get out of those clothes at some point, I swear you will. No need to rush it. I wore my maternity clothes for months after birth, because they just feel so comfortable and why stress out shoving my newly formed body into old clothes that were probably a bit tight before baby anyhow?

7. Write your child a letter. I did this before my due date, my husband did it a week after our baby was born. Both letters mean the world to us. I wrote things in mine like it was so cool feeling you kick me, and it's been such a privilege to carry you around for 10 months. He wrote things like, it's so amazing to finally see you and I hope you know we're going to take care of you and are here for you no matter what. We put these letters right into the baby book.

8. Enjoy being taken care of. Let others help. They want to do something, as most know having a baby is a huge life-changing event. Let the nurses help you and doctors help you. Let them take the baby to the nursery for even a half hour so you can really rest. I was terrified to do this, thought if I sent my baby away something would happen or I was a bad mom. So I kept him the whole 5 days - minutes two hours when my husband and doctor put their foot down after seeing I was going crazy - literally - after not sleeping for 5 days and nights straight. Now I know for sure I would not have been a bad mom AT ALL for sending him to the nursery so I could recover a bit. I think we forget that after birth not only is there a baby to care for now, but WE need to be cared for, too. What we just went through is BIG, really trying on our bodies and mental health. It's like putting on the oxygen mask on yourself first on an airplane, then putting it on your kids. If you don't take care of yourself, you can't be that good mom you want to be. People brought us food at home, my mom did the dishes, people offered to change the baby's diaper so I could just stay sitting on the couch. It felt strange, especially to me, as this totally independent and busy person. But then it was nice having help. Accept the help.

9. Ask for help. Accepting help is one thing, asking for it is another. I had a few close friends who I reached out to via text messaging and phone calls while in the hospital when I was so confused about what to do with breastfeeding, pumping, supplementing, things like tongue tied that I'd never heard of before. My husband was there for me, but even he had no idea what people were talking about. Having a few friends you can text any time of day and just vent, or cry or ask questions is really helpful. Know that I'm one of those people for you. I'm here no matter what.

10. Feel how you feel. It's all good. I hear of many people who loved being in the hospital having nurses in and out helping all the time, whereas I did not like the hospital at all. I just wanted to go home because those nurses in and out made me unable to sleep. I know people who say that the hospital made spouses get so close and it was incredible. My husband and I had a really difficult time in the hospital because I was delirious from lack of sleep and he was frustrated that my son was not eating and we didn't know what to do. It was a trying time for us, yet when we got home we were in that "lovey dovey" stage people talked about. It's all different for people. You may feel great, elated, happy at this experience, or you may feel sad, disappointed, worried, nervous, and terrified about taking home the baby. Whatever it is that you are feeling, just go with it. It's all crazy and it's all normal at the same time.

Heather, I'm so happy for you. I cannot wait to meet this little one in the summer, to hear whether it's a boy or girl (my guess is totally GIRL!). I can't wait to be here for you to answer questions. This is going to be an incredible time for you. I wish you a speedy and healthy delivery, and a very healthy baby. I love you very much and can't wait to be "auntie" again soon!


holiday ideas with the kids!

A few super fun holiday ideas! I love these. Even I, not such a crafty lady myself, think I could handle these projects just fine. If you have more, let us know! Thanks to Jessie Legere and Becky Holt for these great ideas!

Snowmen Fun

Glass Ornaments with Pictures inside - MY FAVORITE! A great one for "baby's first Christmas"

Chocolate Dipped Candy Canes

GREAT ideas for cookies, treats and other decorations, including a painted Christmas tree using your baby's footprints!

Baby's 1st Ornament - Glass Ball with Hand Print! - SO CUTE!

Hand Print Christmas Tree!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

a birth story - Libby Butler

Beautiful, amazing, super funny Libby, my husband's cousin's wife (so technically MY very own cousin now, too!) wrote a lovely birth story about her daughter, Robyn, born this past September. She wrote it in a letter form to her daughter as a keepsake for the baby book. LOVE this idea! I'm totally going to re-write my birth story of my son for his baby book now! THANKS, Libby for the great idea!


"I wrote this as a story for my daughter to put in her baby book. Here is a still lengthy but modified version – can you believe I actually deleted details :)

1.What happened the day your baby was born? Did your water break, and if so, where were you, how did that feel? Who took you to the hospital? What helped you during labor (ice chips? music? etc.)? Any funny or scary stories about the labor itself or the birth? How long was your labor, start to finish?

Mom's story for Robyn

Sunday, September 11, 2011
The day started out like most of my late pregnancy days. I was feeling lazy and uncomfortable waiting for you to come. Dad probably had prompted me multiple times to get my act together so we could get out of the house for awhile. We decided to go for a drive toward Freeport. Somewhere along the way I starting having some stronger than normal braxton hicks contractions, not uncomfortable, just different than normal, and coming frequently but not regularly. We decided to stop in town so I could get out and walk and go to the bathroom in hopes of easing some of the contractions. I remember telling your dad that I was uncomfortable and wanted to head home to get some lunch. Looking back, I realize that your dad didn't know I was questioning what was going on because he continued to take the scenic routes home and I was thinking: “What is he doing? I might be in labor!”

I clued him in that I was confused as to what my body was doing and we started timing contractions. The “contractions” were not regular, coming 2-5+ mins apart. We got home and ate lunch around 2:00 p.m. and I started feeling better. The rest of the afternoon progressed with some mild contractions, pretty typical for me.

I met Leah for ice cream at Cold Stone. We talked a lot about my upcoming induction and my hope that you would still decide to come on your own. I wanted to experience the excitement of going into labor. Although, with only about 28 hours to go and already 9 days late, I did not expect it would happen. I knew it was important to get you born since the doctors were estimating you to be a big girl (9 ½ pounds) and they were worried you might have a difficult time going through the birth canal if we didn't act soon. As it was, I already bought a few extra days since the doctors encouraged us to get you born starting on Friday (9/9) and gave us until Monday (9/12) as a last possible day. I was uncomfortable with being SO pregnant, but tolerating the discomfort better since I'd stopped working on 9/2 (your due date). I'd spent much of the previous weeks reading the Twilight series and keeping myself as distracted as possible waiting impatiently for your arrival.

I got home from ice cream around 4:00 and hung out on the couch. I made mental notes that I needed to finish packing, to try to finish reading the last Twilight book, and discuss with dad where we were going to go for our last dinner on Monday night as a twosome before getting admitted to Maine Medical Center to start the induction process. Dad and I were even going to get pedicures so I'd have cute toes for the delivery :) At about 6:30 pm I was in the middle of reading the MeOTA minute (a newsletter for the state of Maine occupational therapy organization) when I felt a pop and heard a tiny popping/scratching noise. I had a heads up from co-workers that they had known their water had broken because they could HEAR it! I was pretty sure I knew my water had broken but was somewhat in shock and denial...until I felt the gush of fluid. I ran past dad to the bathroom with what must have been an odd look because he followed me questioning what was going on.

***This is where the story becomes somewhat fuzzy for me because everything that happened in the next 19 hours was such a combination of emotions tied with intense fatigue that my memory is foggy on the details. I will try to recall the events as accurately as I can.***

I sat down on the toilet with full awareness but total shock of what was happening. I had so much wanted you to come on your own. I couldn't believe that the night before our scheduled admission for the induction that it was going to happen.

I hadn't even finished packing yet...although that was my own fault as you were already 9 days overdue at this point. My first phone call was to Grammie. My line was "this is not a false alarm, my water broke!". I had called her earlier in the day when I was having contractions and she was disappointed when it turned out I wasn't in labor. I then texted Aunt Alison, Aunt Connie, Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Kathy and Uncle Calvin, and Leah to tell them my water broke. Finally, I made the call to the doctor (all while still sitting on the toilet). You'd think I would have called the doctor first but I was so excited to tell people you were coming. Dr. Wilberg asked me about the type of gush and the color of the fluid and then told me to head to Maine Medical Center.

Dad and I scrambled around the house, picking up, shutting windows, feeding the cats, and finalizing packing. I was kicking myself because I hadn't bothered to wash my hair that day (not normally a problem but I hadn't washed it the day before either). We were a scattered mess of emotions...but mostly excited to get the process rolling and get you out so we could meet you! The car ride to the hospital was a blur. We took note of the full moon as we crossed over the Casco Bay bridge from South Portland to Portland. I sputtered about the length of labor and wondered if you'd be born on Monday, your great grandfather's birthday. I thought that would be neat.

We arrived at the MMC parking garage and as soon as I stepped out of the car my water gushed again...soaking through my pants. I was embarrassed to walk the LONG corridor to the birth unit. We checked in at security...they were expecting us and let us go straight to the 2nd floor to triage. We got set up in a room and I was hooked up to monitors to check out your heart rate and my contractions. I had been able to feel the contractions but was in no way in pain...more slight discomfort. We gave them the details of the water breaking and discussed the contractions I'd had earlier in the day, apparently it is pretty common and those contractions were a sign my labor was starting.

Your grammie showed up to join the fun and help keep dad and myself company as it was bound to be a long night. Many people had checked my fluid, and based on the color they were able to determine that you had already had your first bowel movement (called meconium), which can be a potential complication and something that needed to be monitored. It was confirmed that my water had actually broken and a typical exam would not be was pretty obvious since each time I moved more water gushed out of me. I was also checked for dilation and effacing, pretty much the same as I'd been for 4 weeks, 1 cm dilated and 75% effaced. I had an IV line put in as I would later be required to have antibiotics every 4 hours to prevent an infection as you passed through the birth canal. I hadn't eaten dinner so one of the nurses brought me a salad. When my room was ready, and it was officially confirmed I was in labor, we were transferred to the labor and delivery unit.

I was hooked up to the IV and checked periodically for progress. I took a shower, as I was concerned that my hair wasn't going to see shampoo for a number of hours. And I wanted to put on regular clothes because after working in the nursing home for 3+ years I was determined NOT to wear a johnnie (although I had been given one initially because the gushing amniotic fluid made my clothes pretty wet). Plus, I'd spent some effort considering what I would actually wear for labor.

Monday, September 12, 2011
Eventually it was determined that I wasn't making much progress; my contractions continued to be relatively insignificant. They were showing up on the monitor but were by no means painful. It was recommended to start an IV of pitocen, a drug designed to simulate the body's ocytoncin, the hormone responsible for progression of labor. I was not too upset by the IV, I figured I was going to be induced and would have required the drug anyway the next day. It was important to get my labor moving since my water had broken and they knew you had already had a bowel movement. Pitocen was added very slowly, then increased as needed depending on my progress in labor. It seemed as if labor continued to progress slowly, having barely dilated to 2 cm and 80% effaced after hours of being in labor. I questioned the medical staff multiple times if I was going to have the baby that day (Monday now) and all were convinced I would.

I decided to get in bed to try to get some rest. As the pitocen worked its *magic* I started counting and breathing. As the contractions started getting longer and longer I was getting more anxious by the counting. I decided to get up and do some laps. We joked with the nurses as we walked around and it seemed my contractions were timed perfectly with passing one particular nurses' station. The pain started amping up and I was having more difficulty with the strolling, plus I couldn't tell if I was nauseous or having heartburn. I was generally feeling uncomfortable. I went back to the room and threw up...awesome, I'd hoped after 31 weeks of nausea, with relief only at 38 weeks, I'd finally be rid of it. You'd think I'd had some major accomplishment though as the nurses were very excited. Apparently vomiting is a good sign that labor is progressing. I was given an IV of zofran to control the nausea (now on 3 IV meds, plus fluids). Our nurse suggested I try the birthing ball. I hung out on the ball while dad rubbed my shoulders and hair as I breathed through the contractions. I finally got to the point where I was having difficulty focusing and asked for nubain (a pain reliving narcotic) - the contractions were getting more and more painful, I was having consistent back pain, and pain that continued even after the contractions were over. I don't really remember the pain but it felt a lot like intense lower pelvic cramping. I changed positions frequently, from the ball to the floor, to standing up with my head resting on the bed. The first shift medical resident, Jen, came in to introduce herself and discuss my birth plan...around 6:00 am (at least it was light outside). I turned my head and looked at her in mid contraction and said "you have a cute haircut". Within minutes the nubain had kicked in and I was able to stand up, relax, and discuss my birth plan again. The medication made an obvious impact...the contractions were still painful but I was able to relax between each one. I explained to Jen that I wanted to try to avoid an epidural but was thinking that I probably wouldn't be able to. She explained that pitocen labors tend to be more painful (great!) as they bring on stronger contractions. I was checked again and was 5 cm dilated, it was nice to finally show some progress.

I decided to try the whirlpool tub which was a great plan, I was in there off and on for a couple of hours. I was so warm, and dad helped by massaging my legs during each contraction as a way to distract me. I was able to breath through each contraction for most of the time, but as the nubain wore off I was having continued difficulty with back pain and unrelenting contraction pain. I decided it was time for another nubain shot...which did nothing! Apparently it typically acts only as a placebo on the second dose...the nurse told my husband but sugested not to tell me.

I totally lost focus and could not manage my pain. I did not want to continue enduring the pain and asked for an epidural. I had read somewhere that in no other situation would a human be made to ensure that kind of pain without medical totally made sense in that moment.

I was upset about my decision and made sure your dad was okay with it too because he also wanted me to try natural labor, but he was totally supportive of my plan. My fears about getting an epidural and not being able to use my legs were gone. My OBGYN had told me that if I got to a point in my labor where I wanted an epidural I would not be's amazing how right she was.

The resident Jen came in and knelt next to the tub to calmly explain that getting the epidural would mean no more tub and a requirement to return bed, through my tears I whispered that I was totally okay with that. I was helped out of the tub by dad and the nurse, which was pretty challenging since the pain was so high. I got back into bed to get ready for the anesthesiologist. My contractions were painful and at one point I was gripping the bed rail, Jen calmly removed my hand and held it for me through the contraction. If it isn't obvious by now I really liked her, she was so nurturing and helpful through the final stages of labor.

I was very lucky, the anesthesiologist was in the building and came to my room in less than 15 minutes. I had to sit at the edge of bed very still while the needle was inserted. I could feel my legs starting to go numb, like super intense falling asleep feeling. It was weird because my left leg was more numb than the right. I was helped back to bed and finally had the ability to rest and relax. I was feeling pretty woozy, which I was told was from the last shot of nubain. I again was checked for progress and was told I was 8 cm dilated, very exciting...and I was happy to know that I made it so far into labor without the epidural.

The rest of the morning into early afternoon was a waiting game, waiting for more dilation and waiting for you to come down into the birth canal. I was able to get some rest with the pain gone...and grammie and dad were able to rest too. It was somewhat uncomfortable lying down even with the epidural, I could still feel some cramping in the upper part of my uterus and felt the muscles pressing up into my chest. I also felt like my butt was falling asleep...even though it technically already was. I kept trying to roll myself over from side to side which was NOT easy to do when the muscles in my lower part of my body were not available...and my trunk muscles had long disappeared. It was also weird because I could tell my body to move, see my body move, but could not feel it move.

After a couple of hours the doctors checked me and I was finally 10 centimeters, I remember looking at your dad and giving him 2 thumbs up :)

You still had to get down further into the birth canal so we waited about another hour for you to get into position. At 1:00 pm I was checked again and we could see your long dark hair! The birthing staff got a real kick out of seeing that, your dad took a picture for me so I could see it too. I was very excited because I had hoped you would have hair and we knew you were going to have plenty since it arrived way before you did. And the old wives' tale was true for me regarding heartburn during pregnancy.

You still weren't all the way down in the birth canal but since you were so close it was suggested that I get ready to start pushing. I was concerned about how I would possibly push when I couldn't feel what I was doing (and I was thankful for that!). There was some conversation about the possibility of trying to push with the epidural, turning down the epidural, or turning it off all together. In my mind I was thinking, oh goodness, do NOT turn off the epidural! We waited about 20 minutes for Dr. Wilburg to arrive (we had met him previously during labor when he explained about meconium and the process that might happen if you needed to be taken to have your lungs cleared out). Dr. Wilberg agreed that even though you weren't totally in place, we were ready to push. I was told that when I had a contraction to take a deep breath then push 3 times each to the count of 10. It sounds pretty easy but I had no idea how exhausting pushing would be and how hard it would be to count. I ended up losing count around 5 then winging it. I wanted to do a good job since I didn't want them to turn off the epidural. According to the people around me I did a great job, your head would appear then go away (typical for delivery). The doctor had to snip a little bit of tissue but he assured me it was barely anything...I wouldn't need stitches and wouldn't even notice it after the birth...I mention this because after what actually happened during the birth this little snip was insignificant and somewhat comical.

I was told that the doctor might shout to stop pushing because he was worried if you were really big your shoulders might get stuck and he would need to slow down the arrival to deliver your shoulders gently. During the delivery the doctor noticed "thick meconium", so the nurse called the NICU to have staff on hand when you came out. It was very odd to be in the middle of delivery and have all kinds of people pile in the room, but since I had time to rest between pushing, sometimes up to 5 mins between contractions, I was filled in on why they were there and their role to assist you when you were born.

Finally your head crowned. After only 10 minutes of pushing it took 10 seconds from when your head crowned to your entrance into the world according to the timestamp on our camera. You dad was firmly told to put the camera down and cut the cord...we weren't sure at the time why the doctor was so firm but we found out later it was a combination of making sure you were healthy but mostly because I had some complications inside the birth canal (I'll get to that).

As soon as you were born I got a quick glimpse of you, everything happened so fast I barely remember seeing you before you were whisked away. You were taken to a warming cart where the NICU staff cleaned you up, assessed you, and put a tube into your lungs to clear out the meconium (you didn't like it). Your dad was with you taking pictures and he got to trim the cord again since the first time was so rushed. I could hear you crying from the delivery table. Your dad was talking to you and trying to calm you down. I was REALLY anxious to hear about your stats (height and weight) were 21.5 inches long and 8 pounds 4 ounces...not the giant they estimated you to be.

At one point your dad tried to come over to see me because he had no idea what was going on at the delivery table, I told him to get back to you and keep you company. I had to deliver the placenta. I was really curious about the placenta and asked to see what it looked like. It was much smaller than I had imagined, probably the size of an eggplant. The doctors also commented on how beautifully coiled your umbilical cord was...I had no idea that people even took note of those things :) I remember thinking that I'd heard the delivery of the placenta can be painful and I was thankful it wasn' was only later I realized I'd had an epidural, so of course it wasn't painful! I pretty much felt nothing during both the delivery and the afterbirth.

Here is the part that is NOT included in the story to my daughter. I've included it here because it was a reality for me during labor and definitely something I will never forget. And I figure if I had to endure this, dammit I get to tell people about it! :)

During the delivery the doctor was very concerned because apparently there was a lot of bright red blood. He thought that I might have ruptured an artery. It turned out that as my daughter's head barreled down through my vagina like a tractor trailer truck at top speed it pushed into the bony notches in my pelvic causing tearing inside. She ripped her way through on both sides then down the back...both through the tissue and the muscle. I laugh at the little snip the doctor had done initially because it was NOTHING compared to this.

I had to have multiple lengthy repairs done to each of the layers. Her head, which I'd assumed would be cone-shaped was perfectly had made NO accomodations to mold to fit through. The doctor told me I could have easily delivered a 9 1/2 pound baby because my body would have just ripped open to allow it through. I spent about an hour on the table getting was odd to be naked and spread eagle on the delivery table with 3 people working intently in my vagina while 5 NICU nurses were in the room working on my daughter. The doctor told me I had the convinience of a vaginal delivery with the recovery of a C-section...hmmm. From what I've been told, of those people who tear, only about 4% tear like I for those of you who are pregnant don't be too worried, this is pretty uncommon. Plus, it is more common in a fast delivery...a little extra time pushing is a good thing!

Back to the story for my daughter: I was allowed to hold you after about 15 minutes. I couldn't believe how cute you were! I just stared at you and stroked your arms, back, and had SO MUCH hair! Really beautiful long dark hair on your head, and fuzzy dark hair on your ears, shoulders, arm, back, and was so cute. Everyone commented on your beautiful hair and long eyelashes. I kept thinking to myself, wow, we made this beautiful girl. I think I was in somewhat of a state of shock, I couldn't believe you were FINALLY here and that I was holding you in my arms. You made the most adorable little noises, they melted my heart. If I could have paused that moment in time I would have, it was such a special time for me.

2. What did you pack in your hospital bag? What did you forget to pack that you recommend pregnant moms to be pack in theirs?
I packed pretty much everything I needed for a weekend vacation. Only in hindsight I realize I could have used a couple different things. It took me FOREVER to get breast cream from the pharmacy...if you are breast feeding, bring it! I also would have brought black pants or shorts (the aftermath of labor is messy). I also found that nursing cami's are great for both nursing and for "skin to skin" because you can just peal the top down. I found myself topless a lot...and it's weird when housekeeping, the pediatrician, sister's boyfriend, etc walk in :) For the baby, I brought items that I might have wanted to use in her photo shoot (handmade blankets, hat, outift).

3. What was the best part about your hospital stay (besides meeting your little one of course)?
The staff at Maine Medical Center was awesome. I felt very well cared for in both the labor and delivery floor and the mother care floor. I would never have known there was anyone else in the building it was so quiet.

4. What was the worst part about your hospital stay (besides the labor of course)?
I think the hardest part about the hospital stay was waking up in the middle of the night to my baby choking on mucous. She was born so quickly and the mucous wasn't fully squeezed out of her system. I had to grab her and turn her over on my arm and bang on her back until the mucous came out. I was thankful for taking pediatric CPR a few weeks before and felt I could act on instinct. Of course the nurses were there too but it didn't dawn on me to push the call button until she was breathing again. We decided after that to keep her in the nursery because I was a panicked wreck and couldn't sleep for fear she would choke again.

5. What is your advice for new parents for surviving the hospital stay and making it more comfortable?
If you are planning on breastfeeding ask for a lactation consultant. They have the best, most accurate advice.

6. How soon after you got home after the hospital stay did you feel back to *slightly normal*?
My daughter is 10 weeks old...I am still healing from my tears and on modified not quite yet back to normal. The good thing about recovery is that I have plenty of time to enjoy my daughter without the stress of exercising. Amazingly, even though I make jokes about my body, I really don't care that I'm still carrying extra weight and my belly is kinda jiggly. It did something pretty amazing.