Monday, August 26, 2013

Another Transition: Fall Semester Starts Today, Sort Of

This morning my husband left for work; the bambino 
and I left for a walk before I settled down to do some 
work today while the babysitter watches him. 
(He's sleeping in the Ergo Carrier here.) 

In April, I blogged for Poet’s Guide to Motherhood about my plans to work, mother and write after the baby. When he was about a month and a half old, we felt like we’d settled into a routine that worked well for us. My husband and I were both working p/t from home. Today my husband goes back to working – at work.  And my p/t gigs will be back to a full-time schedule. I’m excited and a little nervous about the uptick in activities.

This summer I taught fewer online classes and paused my in-person classes and consulting appointments. As for my writing, I kept up a regular writing routine and I even gave a reading and submitted some poems (looking forward to new poems coming out this Oct.!) Even if it is stressful at times, I’m enjoying being a working mom.

This fall I’ll be back to a full schedule, including online teaching college-level classes, writing coach appointments, and in-person classes at Politics and Prose bookstore. And of course there’s the work of being a poet.

Was it smart to keep working? Is it smart to continue? Yes! Most days I can't imagine it any other way. 

Of course, the first few weeks were very, very difficult. The three of us had a lot to learn and we were all exhausted and I was recovering from a C-section. It was hard to think about work, let alone lunch and laundry. Some days I was pretty convinced that the naysayers about a possible work-life balance were right. Between the tears and fretful naps where I dreamed about my baby being lost, I made coffee and cursed everything.

After a few weeks, though, it felt really good to have parts of my “old life” still active. We all become a little more skilled at our roles (us as parents and the bambino as a bambino) and I especially appreciated the opportunity to think about non-poop oriented things. Since I teach online, I am flexible about where and when I work, which made it possible to balance so many things. Plus, my university professor husband could easily co-parent from home with me through the summer, so I wasn’t alone. We also had some babysitters throughout the summer for extra help.

Our routine changes today. My husband went to work right after breakfast this morning. While my semesters start a few weeks later, I am preparing for them and still teaching later start summer classes.

After interviewing about fifteen babysitters, we’ve settled on a few we trust to care regularly for our son while I am in the next room working. With a clear schedule of who works when, we’re ready for the transition.

And we’re ready to tweak it as things inevitably continue to change.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Italian Vocabulary: Giraffes and other zoo animals

I recently had to look up "giraffe" in Italian. Turns out it is, simply, "giraffa."

There were few giraffes in Florence, where I lived for four years, and many giraffes in the bambino's brand-new life. If I'm going to keep talking to him in Italian, I need to be able to describe his (zoo-rific) surroundings. Animals, and especially giraffes, it seems, play a large role in my son's books, clothes, decorations and toys.

I'm not sure how this vocabulary will help him as he grows up in our nation's urban capital city, but I suppose we'll plan a trip to the zoo (simply, "lo zoo") when the weather cools down. Maybe we'll look through this picture dictionary of animal words before we go.

Click through for more baby-related vocabulary (diapers, crib, etc.) 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Giveaway Winner Announced!

Congratulations to Hannah! You've won a Halo SleepSack Swaddle. You've also won some peaceful stretches of sleep with a happy infant. Please email me your mailing address, swaddle size (newborn or small) and gender preference.

Thanks to everyone who participated. Click through to read more about the product and their Safer Way to Sleep Initiative. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Giveaway: Win one Halo SleepSack Swaddle

Scroll down to learn how to enter to win 

Infant sleep is mysterious and often tricky. In the first few weeks, we had to wake our baby for feedings and now we work hard to encourage our baby to sleep. He prefers to be awake and part of the action.

Aside: I made up that last part; once he starts talking in full sentences we’ll find out what he really thinks. For now, I’ll guess and make claims in an authoritative voice. 

What I do know is that the Halo SleepSack Swaddle has been one of the tools that helps us the most. (I’m not just writing that because the company is offering a free giveaway. Proof - this recent post I wrote about infant sleep tools.) Like a lot of babies, ours is a sort of Houdini who breaks free of any swaddles with mechanical errors. And that would be every swaddle his mamma tries. With the SleepSack, I can zip him up, fold over the little wings and Velcro them in place. Voila! A swaddle that he (usually) stays in.

Swaddling keeps infants asleep and happy. This is why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swaddling:
Newborns have a number in innate reflexes, including the Moro (or startle) Reflex. If a newborn is jostled or surprised by a noise or physical movement, he will typically extend his arms outward and then rapidly flex them in front of his body. A Moro response can be triggered by an infant’s own movements or by actions coming from his surroundings. Either way, the reflex may cause the infant to wake up or start to cry. Swaddling inhibits the Moro Reflex.

Before birth, infants are in the confined space of the uterus. While it is important to be able to move their arms and legs after birth, research has shown that newborns calm down if they are held with their arms against their bodies. This can be accomplished by a reassuring hug or by swaddling them in a blanket.

As a part of the Halo Safer Way to Sleep Initiative, you can win one Halo SleepSack Swaddle through this blog. To enter your name, leave a comment below about a baby’s sleep by Tuesday, August 20th. One winner will be randomly chosen and announced on Wed., August 21st.

About the HALO® Safer Way to Sleep Initiative:

HALO Innovation’s SleepSack® Swaddle has become the standard for hospital nurseries and parents alike. In fact, 1,000 hospital nurseries use the HALO SleepSack Swaddle instead of blankets through the HALO Safer Way to Sleep Initiative. That is 1.5 million births getting first-hand, in-hospital experience with the HALO SleepSack Swaddle and safe sleep practices! Leading health organizations agree that modeling proper baby care in the hospital is the single biggest influence on how parents care for their baby at home. HALO Innovations also offers free Safe Sleep Practices kits to childbirth educators to help further the cause of SIDS prevention.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Things I Wish I'd Bought Earlier: Infant Sleep Tools

My swaddling skills could be improved. I rely on the Halo Sleep Sack now.

What to buy before baby arrives? It can be tempting to over-prepare and stuff your home full of brightly colored, battery-sucking objects. We leaned towards the "less is more" side and have since discovered a few things we wish we'd bought earlier to help with his sleep. Infant sleep can be difficult and perplexing. Here are a few things that have helped him, and us, to sleep better:

Halo Sleep Sack: A nifty "blanket you can wear" that zips up and has (straight-jacket-like) wings that secure with velcro to keep baby's arms down. I thought it seemed cruel at first, but by keeping the baby tightly swaddled, he doesn't wake himself up when his legs or arms swing around (seemingly) on their own. Thanks to an experienced mamma-friend for giving us our first one.

Dr. Karp's Happiest Baby on the Block video: It seems goofy at first, but his "five Ss" really, really work. So many friends recommended this and they were right.

Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play Portable Bassinet: Keep the baby next to the bed - or anywhere - to reach in and sooth him. In fact, it is next to my desk right now and I'm rocking it with my foot as I type. Perfect for a tiny apartment since it easily folds up.

Philips Avent BPA Free Soothie Pacifier: Our bambino really likes pacifiers. And, happily, pacifiers have been found to help protect babies against SIDS. This one is a single piece that is easy to clean and cannot hold water (or germs) inside of the part that goes in his mouth. Yes, it does look super weird when he is sucking on it, but... at least it is clean. Our other (even the fancy "orthodontic" pacifiers all collected water and started to quickly discolor.

There are lots of lists out there with recommendations about what to buy. And, of course, there are all kinds of surprises and nifty modern items that weren't around when I babysat X years ago. I didn't realize that many infant shirts have fold over sleeves that serve as mittens (cross mittens off your list!)

Of course, every family and baby is different. What worked best for you?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Infant Milestones:Online Resources

Amazing how much he grows and changes each week

I read like mad to prepare for baby and stocked up on books about baby. Of course, it is hard to do much of anything with the actual baby, including learning about his growth and expected monthly milestones. Here are some quick online references from trusted sources that I've found helpful:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Vaccines for the human tribe: Keep us all safe

It hurts our hearts to see our bambino cry. Deciding to do something that will cause him pain, even if it is ultimately in his best interest, isn't easy. Vaccines fall in that category. Helping the nurses to hold down our infant son to vaccinate him in this thighs was difficult, but vital to his health and the health of our human tribe.

Following the recommended vaccine schedule helps to keep all babies healthy and safe. Many diseases have mostly vanished because we are vaccinated against them. Some babies have medical conditions that do not allow them to receive the vaccinations; if other babies receive the vaccinations, they keep those children safe.

There are many public conversations about possible connections between autism and some vaccines. Public health and medical organizations have not proven this connection. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a very clear page about vaccine safety, including a linked page about autism and vaccines. Here's what they say:

MMR and Autism
Q. Is there a link between measles vaccination and autism?
No, there is no scientifically proven link between measles vaccination and autism. 
Extensive reports from both the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conclude that there is no proven association between MMR vaccine and autism. 
Autism is a chronic developmental disorder, often first identified in toddlers from age 18 months to 30 months. MMR is administered just before the peak age of onset of autism symptoms. This timing leads some parents to mistakenly assume a causal relationship. There is no evidence that MMR causes autism. 
Increasing evidence indicates that autism is determined while the baby is still in the womb, early in the pregnancy.

Our bambino was quite fussy for about 48 hours after receiving his first round of vaccines. He had a low grade fever, resisted sleep and didn't want to eat without extra coaxing. A little baby Tylenol and many, many cuddles helped him through. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to help your baby after vaccinations.

Vaccines help to protect everyone. Follow your doctor's advice and keep us all safe. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Writerly Baby Gift: So My Story Begins

Thanks to a friend for this awesome writerly baby gift: A onesie with a retro typewriter that says, "So my story begins..." Very true.

Find yours at All Good Living.