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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

cloth diapers 101 - say what?! & buying

Part 2 of our Cloth Diapers 101 series 
- a few terms to explain the sometimes confusing cloth diapering info... 


When I started researching info about cloth diapering I found the terminology to be super confusing. What the heck was AIO and what on earth is a "stash" related to diapers?! I felt like I was the only one who didn't know the terms the moms were using. So to help some moms new to cloth have an easier time at it, here are some definitions explaining a little more about cloth diapers.

P.S. I'm NO expert! These definitions are lose ones at best, just based on info I found from mom groups from real moms and tried to decipher on my own :) 



AIO - All In Ones - Cloth diapers that are all attached. The outside diaper cover, the inside diaper liner are attached, the liner does not come apart. You wash the parts together. Some moms prefer this because it's easier when washing, drying and putting back together because all pieces are attached, nothing gets lost.



De-Stash- A term moms use on the Swapping groups to trade or sell their bundle of cloth diapers after they are done using them.

Diaper Sprayer - A sprayer that is similar to the one on your kitchen sink. It's attached to your toilet to make disposing of poopy diapers easier in the toilet. I've been told it's a must-have if you do cloth, especially as babies get older and poop gets bigger with eating solid foods. 



Fitteds - Look similar to disposable diapers in how they fit but are soft and fuzzy. They typically need to be used with a diaper cover (thin cloth material that velcros to fasten). These seem to be more work to me because you have two separate pieces to put together. Many moms love them tough.


Fluff - Another term for cloth diapers. It's an affectionate term, I've seen t-shirts saying "I love fluff!"



Inserts- The cloth liner that goes inside the cloth diapers. This is the part that fits against the baby's skin and that she pees on. They sell reusable cloth ones that you wash, or disposable ones you toss in the toilet that are biodegradable.
          Inserts can be microfiber, bamboo, hemp, cotton.



One Size - Means they fit all size babies. These mainly have snaps to secure them onto baby, the snaps adjust to various sizes of baby as she grows. Other diapers may use velcro to fasten together. Some diaper brands (like gDiapers) are sold by size (small, medium, large or 3.0, 4.0 for Bum Genius), whereas other cloth diapers are sold as One Size or All Sizes, meaning they adjust to your baby as she grows (this seems to me to be more cost effective, yet they are more expensive to purchase individually).



Pockets- Diapers that have an opening at the top - a pocket - for you to stuff the liner into. Bum Genius, Charlie Banana, Alva .... make these types of diapers. The liner and diaper cover are not attached, they are separate pieces. This allows you to stuff the pocket with more than one insert for overnight when babies typically pee more amounts, to avoid leaking.



Pre-folds- These are diaper wraps/covers that have velcro typically to fasten them. Inside goes a cloth that you fold yourself into thirds it seems works best. These look like burp cloths that some use for babies with feeding. They are held together sometimes with Snappis or pins to keep the pre-fold cloth insert in place before you cover it with the outside wrap.



Prepped- Some diaper inserts need to be prepared before you can use them. This is a process of washing the inserts several times - 2 to 5 or so times - so the absorb enough water / urine when they are used.



Stash- One's bundle of cloth diapers.

Stripping- A process of eliminating laundry detergent or urine smell build up in the cloth inserts. Involves washing several times, keeping in a pool of water, sometimes boiling them on the stove, etc. 


Sunning- A term used for the process of putting your freshly washed, wet cloth diapers and inserts out on a line to dry in the sun. The sun's properties naturally cleans the stains out of diapers.


Wet bag - A bag that you place the used cloth diapers into. It zips up so it doesn't smell. These seem to be about $15-$30. You can buy these as small size for on the go (to fit about 4-6 diapers) or large, to fit inside a diaper pail.



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Here are some more great definitions:
www.cottonbabies.com/product_info.php?products_id=243


This site has pictures with its definitions, very helpful!
www.diaperjungle.com/cloth-diaper-terminology.html




There are also a number of brands of cloth diapers. 
Here are a few: (the most popular that I have come to read about are Bum Genius, gDiapers, Charlie Banana, and Alva and Bummis).

Bum Genius
Thirsties
Alva
gDiapers
Bummis
Bumkins
Charlie Banana
Rumparooz
Swaddlebees
Bitti tutto 
Sunbaby
Antsy Pants
Kissaluvs
Baby City
Grovias
Kawaiis 
Fuzzibunz 
Itti Bitti d'Lish




Where do people purchase cloth diapers?
 I've heard of some buying diapers here at these sites listed below. If you know of more, please message me at themommystories@gmail.com :)



Many moms have purchased diapers directly from the company's Web site. So going to Bum Genius' site directly is how many have purchased them.



This site below I stumbled upon had TONS of awesome info describing the differences between various types of cloth diapers. GREAT info and you can purchase things there, too.

http://www.kellyscloset.com/Cloth-Diapers-_c_591.html


http://ecobabyboutique.net/index.html - a new AWESOME baby shop in Acton, Maine - they ship all over though so check them out!


www.diapers.com

www.amazon.com

Babies-R-Us has gDiapers

Target sells Charlie Bananas

www.zulily.com

www.greenbabybargains.com


www.clothdiapertrader.com

Facebook online mama swap groups such as these ones:

Cloth Diaper Swap
Maine Moms Cloth Diapers Swap N' Sell
Southern Maine Cloth Diaper Group


http://petitebottoms.com/ - a store in Newmarket, New Hampshire (they also sell gently used diapers)
 

www.greenearthbabyworks.com/
This is a company in Exeter, New Hampshire that offers a laundry service that will pick up and drop off your cloth diapers to your home. More info on their site and I'll be featuring them on the blog soon!

diary of a first-time cloth diaper mom - week 1

I did a little project. I tried cloth diapers! 

I was curious, so I tried it out.
This is the start of another series on the blog. Cloth Diapering 101. Welcome to class, Mamas!

First, I should say, I'm not even sure "cloth diapering" is a term, but I'm making this whole project up as I go along, so why not use my own term?! :)

The first thing I learned about cloth is it's CONFUSING!

So, figuring there MUST be more moms out there just like me who were curious but perhaps a bit scared off by the overwhelming amount of info out there, I decided to do a little experiment trying out cloth diapers. So thus these blog posts. I've reached out to real moms who are cloth diapering experts (though I'm sure they don't feel like they are experts, I'm calling them such because they AMAZE me with their knowledge!). I'll be posting their pictures, how-tos and advice on cloth diapering here on the blog the next few weeks. I hope this is helpful to someone out there.

If you are a cloth diapering mama and want to share your input, please contact me at themommystories@gmail.com.


Experimenting
I guess it was because of Pinterest and my projects I started from there - making homemade baby wipes, my own shower cleaner and floor cleaner, some taco seasoning. It was partly as a way to try to make some better things for us and also a method of saving money. I guess that's how it got me to think about cloth diapering. I had NEVER considered cloth diapering before. I was not interested in the mess, I was too busy with other things with being a mom.

Then I just wanted to try it out, see what it was like. I'd done breastfeeding and pumping. I had made my own baby food. I'd tried all these other things with parenting and yet knew nothing about cloth. As a blogger, I wanted to be able to know more about it so that I could put something out on the blog about it or at least help in answering people's questions in the group discussions. As a mom, I wanted to try this out, to be able to say I'd tried this other big thing many mothers go through.

I knew from the beginning I didn't want to be a full-time cloth diaper person. I thought though since I work for a school and am off in the summers and during vacations, weekends, etc. that I could at least do a few cloth diapers a day to save some money on disposables. Of course the idea that it'd help the environment was a great thing also.

So I started looking on Mama Swaps and found a couple of brand new diapers for cheap. I thought they were SO cute when I got them, so soft and perfect! Yet I had NO idea how to use them.

Then I randomly was away for the weekend to see my dad on an island of less than 40 people... one of their friends is a girl who uses cloth full time. Perfect timing to meet a new friend! So she explained all she knew to me. It was exciting and overwhelming. So much to learn! But this is how I think people learn best - by going to another mom's house and looking at her stash of cloth items and having her explain it all.

I felt so confused, overwhelmed and slightly nervous starting out. I didn't know what "system" to use to even get started. 

My biggest question was how on earth do I wash these things? I didn't want to ruin them. I ended up making homemade laundry soap and just used that, then got started!


Day 1 - Tuesday 7/23/13
So I decided today was the day to try out these cloth diapers. It was not a great day. This is hard! It's time consuming!

First, scraping poop ... so gross!
My daughter smushed it, put her hands in the toilet as I was cleaning it off. It took 10 minutes to clean, had to scrape the poop off with toilet paper... took forever, so gross! I've not even dealt with that much squished up poop when I was potty training my son. I decided right there, not sure cloth diapers are for me.

(Since this day a zillion moms have told me about diaper sprayers that hook up to toilets, these are apparently a must-have if you are really using cloth.)

I went to the store the next day and bought some Charlie Banana disposable liners so I don't have to deal with the poop again.These are thin sheets of what feel like toilet paper or dryer sheet (they aren't dryer sheets, don't freak out, just remind me of them!). You put them on top of the cloth diaper, against baby's skin, and it catches the poop. I've used them so far but haven't had a poop diaper on them to see how it works. They were 100 in a box for $10 at Target.



My good guinea pig trying these cloth diaper things out. 

"Man, I look good!" she says.


The cloth inserts were stinky also the second I took them off my daughter. Just a strong odor that I wasn't used to with disposable. I put them in the sink for the timebeing, not having a wet bag (the type of bag cloth diapers go into so they don't stink up your house- learned that on some site!).

However, when I did the wash at night, the smell washed right out nice and clean. I actually had fun folding and stuffing them again, putting neatly into the basket - they looked cute!

And that is what I've determined ... cloth diapers are CUTE, so you BUY them! It's kind of addicting. 

There are Facebook mom swap groups where you can buy used diapers in great condition. I didn't go nuts though. This is a project, so I got 3 for $6 each and 1 for $8 to try them out.


OK seriously, who doesn't think that is the cutest little behind you've ever seen?!

My daughter didn't seem to notice the difference in diapers. In fact, when she fell backward (newly walking, not super stable on her feet) she landed much softer in cloth diapers! 

I have noticed though that with cloth my daughter's pants/shorts/skirts don't fit! She already has a tough time fitting into some things, and with cloth I had to take a few things off because she seriously could not move. So there is an extra cost perhaps, needing to buy the next size up pants, which could be too long. Luckily, it's summer time, so she could run around in just a diaper or with a one-piece romper on so it wasn't a huge deal.


Day 2: Going much better. I think I'm even getting the hang of this.

The thing that threw me off the first time was the stink. They do smell. The second I take the insert cloth out of the diaper I can smell the pee. It's gross, not gonna lie. So that was it, I was thinking, I cannot deal with this smell.Then I realized picking up those smelly soiled cloth diapers for 5 minutes and taking them to the washing machine is equivalent to opening the diaper pail every time I take off a dirty disposable diaper, and then taking out that diaper pail once or twice a week and it STINKS. It's the same thing.

The difference with cloth is you handle with your hands a lot more than with disposable.

Yet even as I consider that last statement, it's similar to how it has been the last year with my potty training son. If he had an accident, I would 9 times out of 10 take it off, dump in the toilet, rinse in the sink, take to the laundry. (1 time out of 10 I'd say to heck with this Mickey Mouse or Super Why pair of underwear, they're a lost cause I don't want to mess with, and in the trash they went!).

What I'm realizing with cloth is that it's all a different way of looking at something you're not used to. You think you've got it down with disposables, because that's probably all you've ever known. Cloth is like, wait what?! I don't get it! So you have to stop and think a little bit.

The more you do it, the easier it gets. That's what people told me, and I wasn't so sure. But just like breastfeeding and pumping and dealing with nighttime wakings with newborns, the more you just do it, the quicker you adjust.



A Bum Genius behind... so cute.


Day 3
The laundry today didn't work well. They stink! I put them outside to try that "sunning" thing I've heard about and they came back to me still smelling like pee. So back in the wash again.

And again. And again. I've washed them three times... still smell like pee. And it's not a sunny day so I can't put them outside to do that sunning thing again. This is a lot of work, and in the meantime since I only have 4 to use right now, my daughter isn't wearing them since it's taking me all day/night to wash and air dry the diapers.

Cloth is a process. Just like many other parenting things. You just have to be invested in the process to make it work, that's what I've learned. 



Day 4
I have researched gDiapers because I think they'd be better for our lifestyle. I already knew at the start of this project that I don't want to be a full-time cloth diaperer. I think moms who do it full time are INCREDIBLE, so dedicated. I just don't see myself able to do that with my job and other things I'm more interested in right now. But I do want to do a few at home, especially with my school schedule that affords me a lot of weeks and summer time home where we're able to just save the earth a little bit, even a few diapers a day helps the planet and our budget.

So I researched gDiapers here at their Web site: www.gdiapers.com/

I was able to find tons of how-to diagrams and videos on there. They also have a live chat person to talk with you online and answer your questions. I talked to a woman for 15 minutes on there and had all my questions answered. She was SO helpful!

Check out these videos.
www.gdiapers.com/gdiapering/watch-the-videos

The one about the diaper breaking down is my favorite. I watched it 3 times and played it for my husband when he got home from work. It's sad to me how long it takes disposable diapers to break down in the earth, and to imagine what that's doing to our planet. I am not anti-disposable diapers. I know they are a good thing and work for many, many of us mothers. However, if I could be at home and wash a few diapers or use biodegradable diaper liners, then why not do it?

They have cloth inserts you can re-wash, or you can use biodegradable, toss into the toilet or compost inserts. I think that is the route to go for me - the ones you can toss. So I'm looking for those. But they don't sell them at Target or Wal-Mart or a grocery store near me. I've been told they're at Babies-R-Us, Target.com and Amazon.com. They cost more than the disposable diapers though. A box of 32 inserts is $15 from what I can find. My husband says our Luvs diapers at BJ's Wholesale Club are about $30 for a case of more than 100.... so you do the math, it's much cheaper to purchase disposables.

So we're compromising with a happy medium. I think I can do a few cloth diapers a day at home and feel good about that, while not breaking our budget. Because again, one of the main reasons I started this project was to see if it would cost less.

The best way I see cloth diapering costing less in general is buying excellent used condition diapers. Otherwise, they are from $15 to $25 a piece from what I've seen in my quick research. That's not a lot of money when you compare it to years of buying disposables. However, it's a lot up front, which many families can't afford all at once.

Charlie Banana diapers seem to be a good idea, affordable and moms who use them love them. They are sold at Target also, so that makes it easy to buy all you need for them.

Still need to pick up my gDiaper inserts before I can try those.

More gDiaper info coming soon to the blog once I get started with those.


Score one for a successful first attempt at this cloth diapering project! 

So far I've learned this about cloth:
1. It's confusing, overwhelming, and there is WAY too much information out there, all differing, based on people's preferences and experiences. Sifting through it is a lot of work. 

2. Cloth diapers are the CUTEST things I've ever put on my child. Seriously cute.

3. Figuring out a system that works is key, or else you'll give up day 1. System for changing, taking off, tossing out, washing, drying, folding, etc. Once you figure all of that out - which takes time, not gonna lie - it's easier each diaper you change. 

4. Moms who cloth diaper are SO passionate about it and very willing to answer your questions. I've met at least 7 moms in the last few weeks during this project who were SO willing to talk about everything. Ask for help. You'll get it in no time! 

5. Cloth is a lot of work. Kudos to moms who are super dedicated to helping the earth and ensuring their babies are in clean diapers.  

6. What works for one may not work for another. All kids and moms are different, so find what works for you. 

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Next up in this Cloth Diapering 101 Series will be some REAL info from some expert moms who have GREAT advice for you to get started in cloth. Hope you follow along the next couple of weeks. Cloth is fun to learn about! 


Monday, July 29, 2013

summer reading for the littles

A few good reads!
Our local library has great summer reading programs. It starts at age 3, kids can sign up to read books. For every 2 hours they read they can go back to the library for cool prizes. The moment my son signed up he was given a goodie bag of fun things, including a free Sea Dogs baseball game ticket! They gave us a little book to track our reading, you color in a caterpillar for every 20 minutes you read. We called it our Book Club. He loved it!

Each week we go to story hour, and grab some new books to take home. Here are a few good ones we've found this summer.

Penguin and Pinecone a friendship story by Salina Yoon
This is a must! I'm definitely buying this for my son. He loves penguins and we live in Maine with tons of pinecones, definitely need it. They become friends in the book. Long after penguin takes pinecone back to the forest, he gives him a scarf to keep him warm out there. Years later he goes and finds the pinecone turned into a huge tree, with the scarf still on. It's very sweet.


If All the Animals Came Inside by Eric Pinder
Such a fun book! Lots and lots of rhyming, great pictures, and fun words. My son loved talking about the animals coming into the house and what they might do if they lived here. Very cute story. Good birthday gift idea.


Our personal favorite at story hour is "the shaky egg chicken" song. They hand out plastic Easter eggs filled with rice or something that makes them make noise when you shake. The kids go nuts, they love it!


Reading is so important. We have books everywhere in our house - downstairs at crawling kid level, upstairs on a bookshelf, upstairs in a basket for the baby to reach, next to my son's bed so when he wakes too early he can read, and of course in the car.

I commute 30 minutes to work, so to keep the kids busy they usually read to each other in the backseat, it's cute!


We visited my dad on an island in northern Maine and found these two awesome books.

Sally Goes to the Beach by Stephen Hunee
This is about some dogs who head to the beach. The graphics are just as cool as the one you see here on the cover. You barely see the people in the book, seeing a hand on a steering wheel in the car on one page, but never their faces. It's all about the dogs. I definitely want to buy this one, too.



Lighthouse Lullaby by Kelly Paul Briggs 
We have this one at home already, but it was fun reading it on an island anyway. Great pictures. Good story about living in a lighthouse.




Construction Kitties by Judy Sue Goodwin Sturges 
My son loves anything work-related, so we had to grab this one at the library. Very cute story about cats who go to work at a construction site. I'd definitely get this for a little girl's birthday gift especially because most girls love cats and this one has some girl construction workers in it. Love that!



Raising some readers!


Drive and Job Nathan Clement 
These two have awesome graphics, very new-age type pictures. You feel like you're in the trucks when you read them. Very cool. Drive is about a tractor trailer truck driver out on the road, coming home to his kids.


The Recess Queen by Alexis O'Neill 
Loved this one! It's about a bully on the playground. All the kids are afraid to play with her. Then a new girl comes in, confident and sure of herself. She asks the bully to play with her, which nobody has ever done before. They find out the bully isn't so bad, and she changes her ways to be nice to everyone so they all play together. The counselor in me loved this one! Definitely good for school-age children.


We Belong Together - A book about adoptions and families by Todd Parr
LOVE Todd Parr books! He's always the one I search for at book sales (and never find! people must keep his books!). His graphics are kid-friendly, bright and simple, but his messages are big and wonderful and moral and all things kind and inclusive. This book is about all the various types of families - two moms, two dads, single mom, single dad, mom and dad, grandparents, etc. It's my favorite of his books. Great conversation starters his books offer.

Phoebe and Digger by Tricia Springstubb
This was a cool book. It's about a girl whose mom has a new baby around. She's jealous and wants to just play with her new digger toy she was given. They go to the park - all the while you see mom struggling to get out the door and there with two kids, it's fun to see as an adult! - and a bully is there. Phoebe plays and talks to her and gets away with her digger. Love this because it's several themes in one - girls playing with trucks (LOVE that!), a darker skinned girl (always nice to have some culture instead of just all the books about white children), and being a new sibling to a baby. Great gift idea for a new big sister.


Hope you enjoy some good summer reading with your kids. 
I know life gets busy in the summer, but make sure you put in some reading time together. It's so important. Libraries are such great resources - free books to borrow and see which ones you may want to get for your bookshelf later on. Most libraries even make it easy for you - you don't have to search shelves, they typically have books out on top of shelves on display to catch your eye or even in a case where you can get the newest books. Have fun!


Saturday, July 27, 2013

trumping the Mama Guilt

The last few months I'd noticed so many moms posting in our Mommy Stories Facebook group about their GUILT with a capital G. Guilt about not breastfeeding. Guilt about having C-sections instead of those all natural vaginal births they planned on having. Guilt about not spending enough time with the kiddos and having to work, guilt about NOT working and contributing to the family. Guilt, guilt, guilt. I have no clue how these busy moms got anything done with all of this Guilt Mama Conscience stuff going on!

So thus started our Confessions of Mama Guilt series the past month of July. Many courageous moms posted their real stories about how guilt had come into their everyday mothering lives. I learned so much from these moms. Most of all, what these guilty stories told me, was that ALL moms CARE so deeply about their babies and about their role as mothers that they just want to get it right. They want what they do to matter, to make a difference in this life they created. They know their children deserve the best, so that's what they want to be and give.

Moms know it's a great big and sometimes scary world out there. They acknowledge their babies are curious and will begin exploring before they know it. They just want their kids to be safe, secure, and happy. When they see even the slightest bit of "failure" on their part, moms tend to slide into the world of guilt too much. It's sad to me. Because I truly think every mother has good intentions and loves her children.


So we've spent a lot of time looking at what this Mama Guilt is all about and where it comes from.

Now it's time to MOVE ON. 
Pack your bags, we're heading OUT of the Land of Mama Guilt. 

Here are a few tips for helping you to move through the guilt you may feel related to your great big job as MOTHER. This is NOT a one-size-fits-all method. This is not going to cure all of your future guilt either. Your kids are still growing. You have much more guilt to feel, I'm sure. But I do believe you CAN be a happier mother if you let go of some of this baggage that you're carrying around by way of feeling nervous, anxious, worried and guilty or disappointed with how you're doing things/doing things. It's time to let it go. No good can come of holding it in or holding on to this guilt.


*Find some proof that you're succeeding.
The next time you feel like you've failed at something mother-related, or the next time you feel like you just can't get it right I want you to check out your phone or computer or Facebook albums and stare at those pictures of your babies. I'm assuming they are smiling, playing with toys, running outside, hanging on to your neck so happy... I'm sure they are not photos of them screaming and hating life or crying. Sure, you've had those moments, too, but the ones you want to remember, the moments THEY will remember most are these moments, these happy ones you've cherished enough to take photos of. If you aren't the photo type, then just stare at your kids themselves. Look at them, really see them. Are they truly miserable? If so, then ask for some help from someone. I am sure you'll see they are happy though, content with whatever you've given to them.

*Cry it out. 
In order to move to a place of hope, happiness and forgiveness even, you need to grieve. You need to experience it again, really process and think about whatever it is that is still on your mind. Ask yourself what is it about ____ that makes you feel like such a failure? Where does this guilt come from? You need to figure this out before you can grieve it and move past it. Say a statement, then ask yourself so what? about that statement. If your statement is "I feel like I'm the worst mom ever for not breastfeeding past one day." Now ask "so what?" Then answer again, "Well, it's not so what, it's that I feel like my baby won't be smart because he didn't get breastmilk. That's what everyone says anyway, they need it to be smart. So I suck." So what? "So I don't want to suck... " Keep it going until you reach a point of no more questions, no more answers besides, it's gone, it's OK to move past it.

If it's your "failed" attempt at breastfeeding, or that you did not try hard enough or long enough to push and ended up with a C-section birth, grieve it. Grieve the past, those what ifs, what could have been. Really let it out. This might mean putting on music and typing about it on a blog, or writing a really long letter ... to your partner to apologize or to your doctor screaming mad at him/her or even a "Dear Baby," letter where you let it all out, tell the truth and say you're sorry but that you promise you'll be an awesome mother from hereon. You may crumple the letter after or send it. Or write to me. I love hearing mom's stories. Whatever you do, write, talk to a friend, but get it OUT. Stop holding it in. Cry and get angry in the same breath if you have to.

Take a long walk and don't go home until you've pounded the pavement with every single annoying guilty feeling you've ever had. Our bodies physically hold in and on to pain, disappointment and hurts. You have to find a physical way to let it out, even if that just means telling someone how you feel. Counselors are wonderful things also, you should not ever be ashamed to seek help from one.

*Say it LOUD. 
You need a new Mom Mantra. Something you say over and over, all the time, in your saddest or most frustrating moments. You need this mantra, this phrase, especially when you are sitting looking at Pinterest or when you're with that Perfecto Mom who always does everything right. Keep these in your head and say it A LOT. You'll start believing it if you are your biggest fan. Here are a few to try:

I am a good mom. 
I am doing the best I can. 
I'll get there. 
My kids are not perfect, neither am I and we're OK. 
It's going to be just fine. 
Look at my happy kids, we are all good. 
I'm good at this mom thing, I can do this. 
BREATHE, bed time is coming soon. :) 


*Find a Guilt-Free Zone Buddy.
Find friends who lift you up versus bring you down. It sounds simple, totally something we all should do anyway right? I bet you can think of at least one person you surround yourself with who does not help you feel better, who actually makes you feel worse all the time.

I want you to think about this one though before you just drop that friend. Is your friend doing something, saying something, to be mean, to put you down, being sarcastic in an attempt to annoy you? Or is that friend just doing her thing and you're internalizing it to mean you suck at this mother thing because you aren't doing those things and can't be like her? If it's the first part, that she really isn't a nice person, then get away and find some space. But if it's you internalizing things and making it into something she's NOT intending, then you need to work on building up your own self confidence. You NEED to find a way to be OK with who you are and what type of mom you are. If you aren't happy with how you are, then you need to make some changes. No more blaming others though.

On those particularly frustrating days though, find a mom who lifts you up and stay with her in the guilt-free zone.


*Read.
There are MORE moms writing about how they, too, felt like failures, how they don't always get it right, how they aren't perfect, than there are moms writing about being totally on top of everything. So find a few of those moms and follow them, learn from them.

A few posts I especially love:

www.huffingtonpost.com/beth-woolsey/20-things-every-parent-should-hear_b_3209356.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

rachelmariemartin.blogspot.com/
Finding Joy is a great blog and she has a new ebook of her best Dear Mom letters , where she writes to moms who work, moms who struggle, moms who just can't be perfect. She's AWESOME!

www.kellehampton.com/  
Kelle Hampton writes Enjoying the Small Things, a blog about her life with 3 kids. She's an amazing photographer and writer. She has one daughter with Down syndrome. She is inspiring, and although she appears to be pretty perfect if you read closely you see she's so not and she's totally real.

*Make lists.
My sister and I joke about making To Do Lists and even writing things on those lists that we already finished, just so we can have the pleasure of crossing something off! So do that now to make you realize how much you really do for your kids and as a mother. Make a list, every night for the next 3 days, of all the things you accomplished. Starting with "woke up early because the baby was crying," and "made breakfast for all of us, not just a pop-tart, but a bagel with cream cheese and some almost gone-bad strawberries because that seems healthy, I tried." Do this for 3 days. I guarantee you will see you do much more than you give yourself credit for. If you don't believe yourself, ask your partner to make a list of all the things s/he thinks you do also.

*Accept and move on.
 I have a friend who had dreams of taking beautiful 1-year-old photos, all dressed up, all perfect black and whites, all wonderful for the baby book. Then her daughter was sick at her year birthday. She had major health issues and was not able to get those photos done. She was SO sad for this. Photos were her thing. She wanted to document that time of their life, but then when her daughter was sick it was not something that could be done and sort of felt pointless. So months went by, and she still felt terribly guilty that she didn't have those photos, that her daughter would be without her 1-year photos. It was something important to her. So at closer to 17 months old, she took her daughter to get her one-year-old photos anyway. And her daughter didn't cooperate. She got hurt, fell on something, and it was a messy morning of picture taking failure. My friend cried, but then picked herself up and realized, what am I doing? I'm so focused on these pictures that I'm missing what's in front of me... a beautiful, happy, survived some bad health issues type of gal. Let's be grateful and maybe get some 18-months photos or something. PERFECT. Love this. Accept what is, and move on.

If the 12 month photos don't work, do 14 months photos. Who cares? It doesn't have to be perfect. If you can't breastfeed, then make it so at least in the beginning the only person who bottle feeds your baby is you, the mama, so you get that bonding closeness you're afraid of missing out on. Do what works for you, then move on past the guilt.


*Think like a kid, and be a Diva.
Kids think they are the coolest things to ever walk the planet, don't they? They think they can do no wrong, that they have all the answers. Divas, like my daughter in the picture above, flaunt it all the time, they make the world see how amazingly beautifully awesome they are in their every move. They believe in themselves. Kids and Divas know they will try and probably fail but they still try anyway. They do what they love and only what they want. They don't let outside influences, pressures, expectations or even rules get in their way. They think with their hearts, all the time.

Sounds lovely, doesn't it?
Well join them!

Be confident. Gain some positive self-image of yourself. See what awesome things you do. Even if you attempt making a good dinner and it just burns, be happy that you made the attempt instead of beat yourself up over burning some food. It's not a big deal, move past it, let it go.

Think of yourself as a great mother. Tell yourself you know it's OK to do the best you can. If you don't feel you are doing your best, then OK it's time to make some changes, ask for help, read some books, enlist in a support group, whatever it takes  to get yourself back to good.

I never understand when I hear moms question or even state they are bad mothers. How could you ever think of yourself as a bad mother? I've made mistakes, many of them. I have things I'm constantly working on to improve in my mothering reportoire. I have goals and things I know I'll never achieve, but I keep working at them anyway.  We've all been here and done that.

It's sad to me that some of you have felt this terrible guilt. And I think it's time you stop, somehow, whatever you have to do, figure it out so that you can move forward and be a happy mother who loves her kids and knows she's doing her best. For your sake and theirs, let go of this Mama Guilt once and for all.

Tell yourself you're a good mom. Be a kid: believe in yourself more than anything you've ever believed in before. You'll get there. Someday soon you're going to realize you actually believe this stuff, it's working, and your guilty moments are few and far between.

Take it a step at a time. You'll get there. It'll become second nature to you soon enough. You'll realize how great you are soon, I promise. Just put in some effort and you'll get there.


*Accept and acknowledge your AWESOMENESS.
When another mother compliments you on getting something right, don't shrug it off or diminish it. Don't be all modest like planning that awesome party for 10 hours was "no big deal." It IS a big deal, so let others tell you so and just accept that you're AWESOME. Don't belittle yourself by shrugging your shoulders like it's nothing. If someone thinks it's something, then it IS. Don't roll your eyes and be all like, "oh please, that's nothing." If it was nothing you would not have put your time and energy into it. So be pleased with yourself. Show some pride and gratitude. Say thank you and smile and find something to compliment them on if you must fill the silence, but don't shrug it off like it's nothing. You are not nothing, you are something, all the work you put into being a mom is SOMETHING big. So enjoy that.

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I wish you well through this journey toward moving past the guilt. Let it go. It's not worth it. You know this to be true. Not put in the effort to let it go. You'll be a happier mom for it. Your kids will thank you later.





Friday, July 26, 2013

C-Section guilt

Confessions of Mama Guilt 
We've been delving into this Mama Guilt thing in the Confessions of Mama Guilt series on the blog the last few weeks in July. So many inspiring and honest moms shared their stories of guilt, to whom I'm so grateful. It's so nice featuring other real moms on this blog. This post is a final installment of the guilty mom stories.

Over the last few months I'd seen many moms refer to the guilt they were feeling about their Cesarean section births, especially for those who went into the hospital on those birth days not expecting a surgery to deliver their babies.


I could not understand this type of guilt.

Why feel sooo guilty, sad, disappointed ... about something you had no control over, about something that ultimately left you with a brand new baby who you should be excited about? 

I had two PLANNED C-sections. I felt sadness and disappointment, maybe a slight tinge of anger for like 5 minutes after I was told I'd need to have surgeries to deliver, after having previous surgeries. I was told the news at least two years before getting pregnant, so I'd had time to accept it and move on from any longing I had about a vaginal birth. Therein lies why I did not understand these women's guilt at first.

So I messaged and got many responses. We formed a small email group and went back and forth on there for a week or so answering my questions. I wondered what it was like the moment they were told they needed a surgery instead of the pushing. I wanted to know their feelings about it - in that moment and then after the fact, even years later - did they still feel guilty? I wanted to know if they fought the decision, if they cried or tried pushing labor even harder at that point? I wanted to most of all know how they moved past the guilt and into a place of acceptance and even a smile on their faces when looking back at those births.

I hope you can relate to these women's stories, and if not, at least understand a little more of where they are coming from. Thank you in advance to the moms who wrote in the smaller group!


Meeting my son, Owen, for the first time :) 


UNPLANNED... 
Most women who felt the guilt about the C-section were those who did not expect this to be the route they delivered their babies. This was not "how it was supposed to be." This was not how millions of women delivered babies, back in the olden days, how their own mothers delivered babies. It was not ideal, not perfect, not what the books wrote.

A woman, S wrote, "I took a natural childbirth class because I thought, of course, that I would have a natural/vaginal birth... I loved being pregnant and couldn't wait for the birthing process. I WANTED to push, to have contractions, and have my baby come out of me from down there." 

For some, the unplanned nature of the C-section also meant something most did not understand. For many moms it happened quickly, after an induction that was not progressing, or because the mom was dilating and was too early to be delivering, or because of dropped baby's heartbeat. It was scary, fast, and the unknown that contributed to these moms' feelings of disappointment and even heartache over having a surgery birth.

Mom J said, "I also had the feeling of it not being the 'right' way for the baby to come out. What if the baby was small and the C-section wasn't necessary, how would I feel?" 

For some moms, the lack of control over the situation was what sent them into a downward spiral. Not being able to start off their mothering journey on the right path they thought was best was hard to accept. Mom JE said, "If it weren't for modern surgery we'd both be dead. I don't know why I feel like I could have controlled it..." 

EMOTIONS RUN DEEP
The emotions moms reported feeling were guilt of course, a deep sense of guilt, disappointment, sadness, anger and frustration. For most mothers, their guilt was put on by themselves, not the media or family or friends. A few people had others say things that disappointed them, but overall it was guilt within that they experienced.

The feelings of guilt and sadness seem to start the very second a mother is told she cannot push any longer, it's time to quit the vaginal birth dream, and move to the Operating Room (OR).

Mom M had high blood pressure, an induction that did not progress due to stress, and then chest pains and preeclamsia. An emergency C-section was ordered. M said, "I looked at my husband and shook my head 'no' with tears in my eyes, although he already knew the answer, he knew I was asking him to change the doctor's mind. He asked if that was the only option, to which they assured him that if the C-section didn't happen now that my life was in grave danger and also a chance that the baby's was, too." 

Mom S said,
"My guilt and feeling of being cheated out of childbirth is very strong. Even now as I'm writing this I still feel the emotions flooding back. I KNOW that I did all I could to have him naturally. However I don't feel like I went through childbirth. My son was just cut out of me. There was no 'I see his head! One more push! He's coming! He's coming!' That's what I imagined it to be. It was almost like an out-of-body experience for me. I was just lying on the surgery table and all of a sudden I could hear my son crying ..."

Several moms mentioned this idea of feeling "cheated" out of what is "supposed" to happen "naturally." For some moms, that guilt extends to other things beyond just the way their children were born.

Mom J said, "I think it comes from nature. There aren't operating rooms in the woods or years ago." 

Mom K said, "I think it is simply that childbirth is natural. Women have been doing it forever. Long ago women died if there were complications during childbirth. If my ancestors could do it, why can't I?" 

Mom M said she was afraid of having a C-section because
"I thought I wouldn't get the motherly instincts or my milk wouldn't come in or I wouldn't have a bond with my baby and people would see me as a failure or weak if I didn't have that experience of labor and child birth naturally."

One mom was sick and needed a C-section. Then her daughter got allergies. She Googled and found one site that said having C-section births can contribute to kids with allergies. She was so guilty from that point on. Mom JE said, "I was devastated. My illness that sent me into a C-section did this to my daughter. I spent years blaming myself. This kills me and I'm in tears right now." 


GRATITUDE
A few moms mentioned feeling grateful for their surgeries, despite that they were not what they planned for birth. Some said it didn't matter to them when it was over, just HOW their baby arrived, just that she or he was here safe and sound.

Mom M said she was so grateful for how far modern medicine and technology had come. Several moms mentioned feeling so lucky for their surgeries, because without them they and their babies may not be here.

Mom JE said, "I think I'm over it. My kids are as healthy as can be and are living and breathing... I did that! I made them and they are here. End of story for me and that's how I leave it."

One mom, J, said having a C-section allowed here a few things her other births did not. Her husband took many more photos with the C-section than the others.

Mom J said,
"I don't look at it as a failure, but rather a safe way for my baby to be born without injury or death. After my second and third I was facing some very scary end results if I fought for vaginal {the fourth time}. I had to look at the risks and make my choice." 


MOVING ON
How do you move past this serious Mama Guilt about how your baby's birth did not unfold how you hoped it would? How do you let go of those dreams, hopes and ideals of what it was supposed to be, that picture perfect birth day?

Most moms agreed it was time. They needed time to process, reflect, even talk about the births of their babies, before they could put the guilt and disappointment to rest.

One mom, K, said it took her a while. 
"I finally had a moment of 'getting over it' when I realized I have two wonderful children. Their entrance into this world was different, but they are here, they are my children. I love them, and they love me." 

I think she sums it up perfectly. When you see a newborn baby, it's like all those feelings, disappointments and ideas of what was "supposed" to happen go away. For most moms this is how it went. Still, others took a bit longer to move past the guilt.

Mom K also added,
"C-sections are not the way nature intended children to be born, but my children were born and survived," she said. "I was angry I didn't have a vaginal birth, but I don't care now. My kids are what matter, not the way they arrived." 

She added a plus side is she never has to worry about peeing when she sneezes until she's old :) Some humor fights all types of guilt!

Mom JE said, "I'm not sure it's guilt I feel anymore. Everyone is alive and who they are because of the way things happened." She continued to say, "It has changed for me, for now. I say that because I think I'm OK, but it still lingers for me. When I think of having another baby it all comes rushing back."

Mom M said all it took to get over her Mama Guilt about having a C-section was looking at her healthy baby boy. "I'm sure labor is an amazing experience and kudos to all you women who go through it, no matter how easy or how tough, but in the end, I got my baby boy and he was healthy and I was healthy. I didn't care how it happened anymore," she said. M even said that there is hope after a first unplanned C-section because having a planned C-section with baby #2 is so much easier, less stressful. "My first comment after ohhing and ahhing over my new baby girl was, 'Why does anyone have a child any other way?'" 

A few mothers talked about having a Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC), where after having a C-section for child #1, you can try a vaginal birth for child #2. Some doctors won't approve this, and some women are unable to go this route. For those who tried it, like a few moms in this group, it was a lifechanging experience that helped them ease their guilt from the previous "failed" attempt at vaginal birth.




There's my new daughter, after C-section #2 :) 

HINDSIGHT IS 20-20
It seems that most moms do survive the guilt they felt about having an unplanned C-section. With time and some patience as a new mom, they move past it and come to a place of healing and acceptance, even happiness.

Reflecting on one's birth experience with their child should be a happy thing to think about. It should be thoughts of pride and accomplishment, strength and courage. It should not be filled with guilt, sadness or frustration. Finding some way to let go of those negative feelings is paramount to moving on and being a fully present mother... especially since the reminder of that trying birth day comes along once a year, which should be a celebration of all you accomplished - regardless of the end result of surgery birth.

If you are still feeling this Mama Guilt about your own child's birth experience, I encourage you to write about it.
Answer these questions:
Why do you still feel guilty about how the birth went?
What ideals did you have before the birth day?
How was it "supposed" to be to you?
What might have happened if you didn't have a C-section and kept trying for vaginal?
What did you miss out on by having a C-section birth?
What perhaps did you gain by having that C-section?
What really matters now that it's said and done?
Can you come to be grateful about any part of your child's birth?

Write your experience for yourself, or even share it with me in a message or even to the Mommy Stories Facebook group. We're here to help you past the guilt.



Sunday, July 21, 2013

a mommy's story - Annie Bacon - a Dash of fear and love

Another mom full of guilt for our Confessions of Mama Guilt series. Guilt about birth and labor. Guilt about her work relating to her son's sickness. Guilt about not being or doing enough ... guilt I know you moms can relate to. It's hard to imagine our children being sick, even worse when it's unexpected and unexplained. Thank you, Annie, for sharing your story. You're a talented writer, I hope to hear more from you!


(all photos from Annie Bacon)

my ridiculously large pregnant belly. this was at 36 weeks and I had Dash at 41.


Son: Henry Dashiell Mulder, born October 2011



1.      When is the first time you recall feeling this Mama Guilt of feeling like you failed, did not do something right, or like others were judging you?

My labor started at 3am on a Friday and by 4:30am I was in a 3-1-1 pattern, which continued unabated and sometimes speeded up, for 56 hours. At hour 12 when it was discovered I was only 2cm dilated, I felt guilty and embarrassed that I must have been doing something wrong. 

At hour 42 the midwife said to me “you just need to decide to have this baby” and I was deluged with guilt that it was my fault that the labor wasn’t progressing. 

I felt guilty because I had to give up the noble ambition of the Home Birth, due to this “failure to progress.” At hour 50 I felt guilty because I had regressed from 8cm to 6 while at the hospital and had to abandon the Natural Birth and get an “evil” epidural and be pumped full of Pitocin, which obviously meant my child would be born with 7 heads and no arms. 

At hour 56, the ultimate guilt … I’d failed completely to do the thing my body was made to do, and now someone else would deliver my baby. I wouldn’t get to see him being born, or give him the peaceful, natural, vaginal birth all the books said he’d need in order to be a good human.

In the intervening months I’ve fought with this guilt. I’ve fought the looks of pity I get from some mothers who say with their eyes “aw, poor you, you were a victim of the over-medicalization of birth by the dominant patriarchal culture.” 

I’ve fought the urge to wonder what else I will fail at before my time on earth is done. I’ve combed through the birth story, (documented by our Poet in Residence (my best friend Geoff) who attended the entire labor and birth), to see where I went wrong in my efforts, what I should have done differently or better.

Here’s how I found peace with it all: Motherhood isn’t about what I want. It’s about finding the balance between what I want and what has to be done. And it sure as hell isn’t about being able to do it all myself. This was a powerful and much needed lesson in accepting help when it is needed.

Also, Dashiell is already epic. So it makes sense that his birth story would be epic too.

My biggest sense of Mommy Guilt now is that I haven’t been able to protect my baby from all the ills of the world. More on that below.



                                            our first family photo, he was 8lbs 6oz at birth

2. Before you became a mom, what type of mom did you think you'd be? Give at least 5 words to describe the mom you imagined yourself being.

Fiercely loving. Strict. Playful. Engaging. Overwhelmed.

3. Look at the words you mentioned in #2... are you those words now? Would you call yourself those words now in describing how you are as a mom? Would others use those words to describe you?

I am happy to report that I am not only the kind of mother I hoped but so much more. 

About a week before I had Dash I woke in the middle of the night with this sense that a long-hibernating part of myself was waking up. My Mother-Self was waking up, and I was going to love it. And I was going to be really good at it.

While there are many things I could do better, I do think I’m a great mama. I am fiercely loving, strict on the things that require strictness, playful and engaging. I’m surprised how little Motherhood overwhelms me though. 

Many other things overwhelm me, but motherhood has become a sort of respite and regenerating (even if sometimes physically depleting) experience for me.

The words I would add: sacrificing, attentive, encouraging, easy-to-manipulate-when-he-gives-me-that-sweet-baby-look, and gushing.


5 months and 20lbs, so fat! exclusively breast (aka "Bacon milk") fed

4. What has been the scariest moment of your motherhood adventure so far? Why? What do you wish someone had done for you or said to you in that moment?

6am on Friday December 21st, 2012. The Winter Solstice. The End of the Mayan Calender and the End of the World. Aka the hour at which I handed my 13 month old baby over to strangers who intended to cut him.

He’d been sick for days and spiraling downwards as doctors at different hospitals tried to figure out what was wrong. He was basically in a coma, with a raging fever, a limp burning noodle. They finally identified that it was a very serious and very big infection in and around his right femur, which had come out of absolutely nowhere, and which needed immediate surgery. For all of the playful imagining about what the end of the Mayan Calendar might have meant, it suddenly occurred to me that it might mean The End of My World.

For that two hours I could barely function. I wasn’t crying. I wasn’t in obvious distress. 

But I was emotionally and spiritually paralyzed. The guilt was profound. It was my sole duty as his mother to protect him and I had so obviously failed. Was it my fault that this was happening? Did I not take good enough care in his hygiene? Did I not notice signs of an infection brewing earlier? Could I have prevented this?

Another thing that I am only recently realizing I’ve been carrying since then – and through the 6+ months of piggy-backing illnesses that have followed– is an even more profound guilt. 

I am a musician and I had recently (before pregnancy) composed a Folk Opera in which there are multiple characters who have lost children, including one of my main characters. The “children” lost are also based on actual people (whom many of your readers might remember: Ian Nelson, Hannah Jackson, Eric Campbell, and others). This meant that I spent a lot of time meditating on the profound pain of losing a child. During that time it was so clear to me that no matter how I try I could only ever be sympathetic to the pain and never empathetic unless I’d lost a child of my own.

When suddenly it looked like I might lose my own, I was ravaged with the guilt that some unknown force took that to mean that I WANTED to be empathetic to that pain! Until I admitted this only a few weeks ago, I carried the fear and guilt that I had somehow manifested all of this pain into Dash’s life, that I had actually caused it to happen. 

As soon as I said it out loud I realized how silly it was. But sometimes we latch onto fear without analyzing it.


14 months, first hospital stay after the osteomyelitis and surgery. the very second the doctor let him get off the bed he limped over to this thing and started playing. his other leg is one big bandage from the surgery

5. How do you know you are a good mom? If you don't feel like you are one now, when will you know you are? What needs to happen to make you feel like a good mom?

It’s a good question that I don’t know how to answer, but I’ll try. Take this with the grain of salt that just because I think I’m a good mom to my baby (now a toddler) doesn’t mean I’ll be any good at parenting him when he’s 17 or 21 or 40.

My guess is that what makes me good at being a mom is being able to not take things personally with him. 

To realize that I am his guide (and he mine, but that’s another story), and he needs my help to figure out how to navigate the world. So when he’s kicking me, he’s asking for my guidance about whether that’s okay. When he’s melting down, he’s asking for help learning how to express himself emotionally.

When I can see his behavior objectively, I think I am able to be loving and responsive. Of course, I can’t always do this. A few weeks ago in a moment of chaos to which he added by repeatedly yelling “MAAAAAHHHHMMEEEEEEE” from the high chair, I turned to him and yelled “Dash! MELLOW!” He paused for a second, smiled and parroted back on repeat “Mellow! Mommy Mellow! Mellow!” Which made me laugh and got me back to the good state of not taking things personally.



6 weeks old, already 10lbs

6. How do you cope with having a baby with an unexplained illness? How does your relationship withstand that stress? How do you parent a sick child? What has helped you through this sickness/medical situation? 

Some days not very well. Some days I am in a constant panic. Some days I am okay. The hardest part is not knowing whether we’re through it, or whether we’ve even seen the worst of it yet. The absolute worst is not having any concrete answers about why it’s happening in the first place.

What has helped: Dash is resilient and never complains. He bounces back so fast. He responds quickly to treatment. He was walking as soon as he could. He was laughing as soon as he could. He eats as soon as he’s hungry again. He doesn’t know how to feel bad for himself. He only knows how to be in the moment he’s in and as soon as he can, to get back to the things he knows how to do. He inspires me not to linger in a state of self-pity.

Also, I have an incredible partner. We support each other and take turns alternating between Cheerleader and Needs-Cheering. He can sense when I need it more than him and can switch himself into that role in the blink of an eye and vice versa. There are of course fights. Mostly about when to seek care, what care to seek etc. But we need each other’s love so much to get through this that we take the time to work it out and try to never let things fester.

As far as how my parenting changes, I have found that when we’ve been in the hospital I physically do not leave his side. Every day of every stay I have slept right there in the hospital crib with him, hospital rules be damned. If I have to pee or shower, my sweetheart, or a grandparent takes the spot. In general I have also extended nursing way beyond when I wanted to stop. I made it a whole year without ever “comfort nursing” him, but the intensity of the last few months threw that out the window in a second.

We also try to give him anchors, help him forge relationships with his doctors and nurses, and feel a variety of emotions (not just fear) when he goes to a hospital, or doctor’s office. We explain everything to him in simple terms just before it’s about to happen. When we arrive for a blood draw, for example, while we’re waiting for the nurse, I say “There’s going to be a pinch, remember? But it will be quick, and then it will be over.”  We get him excited about his vitals getting checked, he can walk/talk you through the whole series now. And we use fill-in-the-blank singing, which is AMAZING distraction during difficult procedures. We sing “Row row row your …” and he stops crying, thinks, and says “boat.”

And more than anything we let him be sick when he’s sick, and not a moment longer. We are adamant about getting back to our schedule and routines as soon as possible.

Even so … at the slightest sign of a potential recurrence or new problem, I break into a million pieces. Trauma is crazy like that. When it gets triggered it comes back full force. I’m counting on time to help me with that one. And meditation.


20 months ... always shining, always full of love 

7. What is your advice to another mom who experiences this Mama Guilt over breastfeeding, a birth experience that did not go as planned, worrying about a sick baby, etc.? What would you have wanted someone to say to you back during that difficult time?

My advice is to be gentle to yourself. Your story is yours and will never fit anyone else’s understanding of how things should be.

Also, although no one can promise you that everything will be okay, it’s okay to let them comfort you anyway. I found I sometimes felt angry at people who tried to say “it’ll be okay.” Like, how the frack do YOU know it will be okay?? The DOCTORS don’t even know if it will be okay! But really they are just trying to help you see beyond the panic of the moment, and to give you some solid ground to stand on for a moment. Take the support where it comes. You’ll need it, because you can’t go through these things alone.

Also … don’t start Googling based on what your child is being tested for. Just don’t. Wait until you have a diagnosis. There is so much to worry about, so much to fear. You don’t need to carry the worry that maybe it’s X-linked Agammaglobulinemia until you’re sure that’s what it is (which it is not for Dash, to be clear.) 
And as for those who judge you … Chances are, when they judge you, they have no idea what they’re talking about, and they probably have their own story that brought them to their judgments. It’s their problem if they think what you’re doing is wrong. Not your problem. Do what you need to do to be the best parent you think you can be. Try your hardest, do your best, and then be gentle in your self-analysis.

8. What did you learn from all of this medical health experience, about what type of mom or person you are? Is there any part of your response to it that you'd change?

You have a right to your medical records, and those of your child. Whenever your child is seen by a different doctor, a specialist, or in an ER request a copy of the complete medical file. Keep it with you, and make copies of it for your regular pediatrician. Even if your child is suffering “only” the normal childhood ills, you are the only ones who see the whole picture of his/her health, and you will be his/her best advocate through the years. Having all the details of your child’s care will help empower you should there be a need to put that advocacy into full force.

There’s nothing I’d change about my responses to the last 7 months, because I’ve learned from my mistakes and often that’s more valuable than doing it right. But it is a constant struggle to follow my own advice and stay in the moment, only worrying about what actually needs to be worried about. Meditating helps so I try to do it every single day.

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Thank you, Annie, for such an empowering account of what this health scare has been like for you. I say "empowering," because that is what I read in every word you wrote. Serious strength in you, mama, and courage! I'd say Dash seems to have learned resiliency from you ... or maybe you learned it from him, you'd probably say the latter. Either way, I hope the road from here is a less bumpy one, with happy surprises along the way!