Mom Life

I’m not like a regular dog mom, I’m a cool dog mom

A long time ago in a condo not that far away, I became a mommy.

No, I don’t mean Jacob–we bought our house before we had him.  I mean Rosie.

Okay, technically, Rosie is a schnauzer, not my biological child. But she’s still my baby. And she DOES look more like my dad than my actual human baby does, so I think that counts.

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The schnauzer resemblance is strong in my family

I know there are a lot of people (including my mother–just remember mom, you’re still Rosie’s favorite person, even though you forget all about her the second you see Jacob. She loves her grandma unconditionally) who get irrationally irritated when I say my dogs are my babies, but there’s a logic behind this argument.

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My parents met in college and got married at 24.  They had me five years later.  

At 24, I was a hot mess. To be fair though, most of my generation was similarly messy, and of those people I know who got married around 24 years old, almost none of them are still together now.  And oh my god, if I had married my college boyfriend–let’s not even go there.  I’m gagging just thinking about it.

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So by the time I got to the age where my parents’ generation was having babies, I was not exactly ready to have a baby.  But I WAS ready to love a tiny creature unconditionally, and the first time I saw Rosie, I knew it was her.  

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Baby Rosie!

I think that’s the reason so many girls in their 20s get dogs.  They’re not ready to settle down and have a baby yet, but those maternal instincts are starting to kick in.

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And I have to say, in a lot of ways, having a dog is GREAT training for having a baby.

Why?

Well, I’m glad you asked that!*

*I’m aware you didn’t ask that.  But you’re here now, so let’s just pretend you did.

#1 I already have baby gates.  Yes, that’s the stage we’re at right now, and yes, I forgot that I had them until we started cleaning out our basement because we’re getting it finished to create a playroom, but that just saved me about $60. Thanks past Sara and my un-potty-trained dogs!

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#2 I am now fully prepared to clean up poop, vomit, pee, and any other bodily fluid that can come out of a baby or small animal.  In fact, dogs are grosser than babies when it comes to bodily emissions because I have yet to see Jacob eat something, throw it up, eat it again, then poop it out and try to eat it again.  So when Jacob was a newborn and turned to face me then spit up Exorcist-style down the side of my head, I wasn’t even that grossed out.  

And an added bonus? The dogs aren’t picky about whose puke they eat, so when Jacob pukes on the floor, I don’t even need to clean!

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#3 I am totally used to being woken up in the middle of the night.  My dogs, as much as I adore them, are not so good at letting me sleep.  They’re both bed hogs (Hubby argues they shouldn’t be allowed to sleep in our bed, but Rosie has been sharing my bed longer than he has, so that one is non-negotiable), and it’s truly amazing how much space two small dogs can take up in a king-sized bed.  It’s like they ate the Alice in Wonderland growth drug before they get in bed at night and turn from miniature schnauzers into sprawled out woolly mammoths.  

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But between Rosie, who jumps down in the middle of the night (when I toss and turn too much, it offends her), then barks repeatedly to announce that she would like a formal invitation to rejoin us on the bed, and Sandy, who perceives every imaginary noise outside as an imminent threat to our immediate safety that must be dealt with in the loudest possible manner (although you can literally walk into our house and get all the way upstairs before she notices you most days), I was used to waking up multiple times in the night long before Jacob was born.

bark in the middle of the night

#4 I understand non-verbal communications.  I am now fluent in schnauzer, which, at least in our house, is freakily similar to baby.  Jacob may be spending too much time around the dogs because he definitely copies their growling from when they play tug-of-war with a toy and happily yells along with them when they bark at the mailman.

But I can differentiate between a bark that means Milo, the dog from across the street, is peeing on our lawn or a bark that means the deer are in our backyard again.  I can tell when they’re barking because their water bowl is empty or because Sandy is misbehaving and Rosie is telling on her (it happens).  And I can tell when the squirrel that torments Sandy by coming right up to the window and shaking his tail at her is back at it.  

Which means that interpreting different baby cries isn’t that hard.  Especially since he seems to be speaking schnauzer instead of English.  Oops.

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#5 I can say no.  Dogs beg all the time, meaning that I’m going to be a pro when Jacob is a toddler and wants something that he can’t have.*

*I’m lying.  I never say no to the dogs.  I’m the worst.  I share all of my food with them.  I’m why they’re fat.  My vet totally judges me and the husband wants to kill me when we’re eating chicken and they start demanding their share, which they know I’ll give them.  Jacob will tell me he wants a pony next year and I’ll be like, “Okay honey, here you go!”

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#6 I know how to put someone else’s needs first.  Okay this one is true.  Whether it was learning to leap out of bed in the middle of the night when one of the dogs started puking or accidentally breaking an iPhone screen when another dog went after Rosie, becoming a dog mommy first helped me learn the kind of selfless behavior that you need to care for a tiny human.  And while I’m sure that mommy instinct kicks in just as strongly even if you’ve never felt anything like that before, I’m glad I got years to practice before Jacob came along.

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And Jacob gets the benefit of growing up with two older sisters who love him even when he doesn’t fling handfuls of Cheerios onto the floor for them.

Everyone wins.

Mom Life

How does a baby say ‘I love you’? By sneezing on your face

Jacob has a cold.  Which, according to the laws of mommydom, means that I also have a cold because the first indication that we had that he wasn’t feeling great was when he sneezed.  On my face.

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At ten months old (and CRAWLING!  YAY!!!!!!!), this is our second cold, and this one is milder than the first.  No fever, just stuffy with a very runny nose. No biggie and he can still go to daycare.  (Although I feel seriously guilty sending him to daycare, both because I know he doesn’t feel great and because wiping snot is disgusting when it’s my OWN kid. I can’t imagine having to do that to someone else’s kid!  Gross!)

sick child daycare

When he got his first cold, we panicked.  Jacob had a slight fever, so I sent hubby to CVS for infant Tylenol.  He returned 20 minutes later having spent $70 buying EVERYTHING in the baby care section.  He’s not allowed to go to CVS anymore.

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Actual picture of what $70 buys you at CVS

We took turns taking the day off of school to stay home with him and rushed him to the pediatrician twice, only to be told both times that it was a cold, that babies get colds, and that he’d be fine.  (They DID give us antibiotics for his ears the second time we went, although they said they weren’t infected, they just looked like they COULD get infected as the cold continued.  Insane first-time parents like us are probably why everyone is developing antibiotic immunities these days.  Honestly, they ought to just give parents pink, bubblegum-flavored sugar water to give babies and tell us it’s medicine so we can feel like we’re doing something to help.)

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So this time, in the absence of a fever, we didn’t worry.*

*Okay we worried.  But I sent frantic texts to my brother, who is a doctor, instead of rushing Jacob to the pediatrician.  Because instead of giving me antibiotics, he tells me I’m an idiot and to stop it, which actually probably does more good than the antibiotics.

And by now, we’re old pros.  We have an arsenal of infant Tylenol and Motrin (in case he develops a fever), a good baby thermometer, nasal mist, and a battery-powered aspirator (Sorry Nose Frida fans, that thing is gross.  That little blue piece of sponge that they call a filter is NOT enough to convince me that baby snot is not going into my mouth.  It’s disgusting.  Plus, when I’m sick too, I can’t generate enough suction for it to actually do anything other than freak Jacob out that I’m trying to suck his brains out of his nose.)

nose frida

The biggest problem when he’s sick (other than my hypochondriac fear that it’s actually RSV, will turn into pneumonia and require hospitalization) is how to keep him hydrated.

I’m prone to horrible post-nasal drip and know that drinking when I’m sick sucks.  But I do it, because I know I need to to feel better.  While I don’t know yet if Jacob has inherited my sinus problems (and I’m praying he doesn’t!), I do know that he doesn’t feel like taking his bottle and we have not yet mastered this sippy cup situation.  And I can tell him that he needs it to feel better until I’m blue in the face, but I might as well be telling the schnauzers to stop barking at the mail lady for all the good it does.  (She’s their worst enemy.  She attacks our house EVERY DAY and we do nothing to stop it.  They are outraged and do their very best to let her know that they’ll murder her if given half the chance.  Except for the days when she actually comes to the door, because then she gives them treats and they love her.  Seriously, all you’d need to do to rob our house is feed our dogs.)

dog mailman

He normally takes five six-ounce bottles a day and we’re working on trying to add in some water as well on days when he doesn’t finish those.  But when he’s sick, it’s a struggle to get three ounces in him.  And a quick Google search told me that a baby can dehydrate quickly when sick.  (I also found a result that said babies don’t want to eat as much when sick and are fine as long as they’re producing 3-4 wet diapers a day.  But we’ll ignore that because dehydration sounds scarier.  I also sent my brother a video of him playing and my brother told me he’s fine and that I’m an idiot.  We’ll ignore that too.)  

google dispute facts

So Jacob needs fluids.

I know the current advice is to only offer formula or breastmilk from a bottle and water should come only from a sippy cup, but despite our daily efforts, Jacob thinks the sippy cup is a teething toy.  He also enjoys grabbing it by the handles and flinging it off of his high chair onto the poor dogs, who hang out there hoping for Cheerios.  But drinking from it?  That’s a no go.

sippy cup

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  And our parents’ generation gave us water and juice in a bottle and all of us eventually learned how to drink from cups.  So Pedialyte in a bottle it is for now.  We had some success with that, and then I used an oral syringe to get a little more in him, which he actually liked.  I guess it’s pretty hard to drink from a bottle when you can’t breathe through your nose.  Poor little guy.  But on the plus side, with me pushing fluids like a psycho, at least he’s pooping well!

Am I being ridiculous?  Absolutely.  And I’m fully aware that when eventual baby #2 gets sick, I’ll probably be like, eh, suck it up, you’re fine.  But I guess there’s a reason that first-time parents have a reputation for being nuts.  

first child third child

Mom Life

Time to babyproof. Too bad MC Escher designed our house!

Jacob is finally almost crawling!

I know that sounds like a dubious milestone to parents whose children are already crawling because everyone we talk to is like, “NO!  Savor this time before they’re mobile! Crawling ruins lives!”  And while I know that we’re going to face a whole new host of challenges once he’s actually crawling (especially because the dogs track disgusting yard debris everywhere that Jacob will be crawling), I cannot wait to start this next stage.

crawling baby

Partially because we’re on the late end of the milestone, which is normal with a big baby, and chubadub over here counts as a big baby, coming in in the 87th percentile for weight.  (He’s tall too.  I shouldn’t call him chubadub.)   But mostly I’m so excited because we’ve felt so behind in milestones with the torticollis, so finally getting there and (just barely) within the average time frame feels like a huge victory.

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Of course, it will also come with its challenges.  Namely, figuring out how to babyproof my house.

Houses tend to fall into one of three categories when it comes to stairs: ranch (no stairs), colonial (one staircase), or split-level (two half staircases).

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Obviously, a ranch-style house is ideal for babyproofing, because it requires zero baby gates, but you also run the risk of your child not knowing how to go up and down stairs when he or she starts school. (My husband grew up in a ranch-style house.  He still seems to have difficulty navigating stairs, especially when his mouth is full.  I grew up in a colonial-style house, so I can walk up and down stairs backwards, forwards, and Exorcist-style, all while eating spaghetti.)  A colonial is the next best because it requires only two baby gates, and baby will eventually learn to walk down stairs. A split level is less than ideal because you’ll need four baby gates, which does tend to get annoying and expensive.

exorcist steps

Then there’s our house.  

I get that the ’70s, when it was built, were a feel good, groovy time.  Yes, there was disco, but the ’70s gave us Born to Run and Star Wars.  What’s not to love about the ’70s?

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Our house. That’s what.  

Don’t get me wrong, I love our house.  It definitely needed updating, much of which we’ve done and are still doing.  We replaced the rickety wrought-iron banisters.  We painted over the hideous brown brick wall.  We put in recessed lighting and are even in the process of finishing our super scary basement.  (Seriously, it’s the basement from the first season of American Horror Story right now.  Don’t go down there.)  Our house is lovely.  And until we got close to Jacob crawling, we had no problems at all, other than the haunted basement.

scary basement

So what’s the problem now?

It’s a colonial.  We should be able to get two baby gates and call it a day.  But apparently I live in the house that MC Escher built and I basically need baby gates on the ceiling.

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Here’s the issue: we have a sunken living room and family room (they’re connected), each with its own staircase consisting of four steps each. Not terrible, but considering my grandma almost wiped out on them the other day after 90 years of successful stair walking, I think it’s safe to say that we need to gate those off for the baby.  So that’s four baby gates.  We have a normal staircase too, so that’s two more gates.  And then, because the first two bedrooms are over the sunken rooms and the other bedrooms are over the non-sunken kitchen and dining room, we have ANOTHER set of four steps upstairs.  Which means to babyproof our house, we’re going to need EIGHT baby gates.

didn't fall down

As daunting as that is, it gets worse. Three of those landings are opposite banisters, so we can’t use pressure mounted gates there, and one of the sets of four stairs is open and doesn’t have a wall at all, so we need to find a baby gate that wraps around to connect to other walls (because I don’t trust a freestanding baby gate.  I feel like he’s going to pull up to stand on that and it’s going to smush him like a bug.  The cutest little smushed bug in the world.  But still a smushed bug).

squishy

And then there are the dogs.  

The dogs are also my babies.  Don’t @ me. They just are.  (Have I been spending too much time with my students?  For the slang-challenged out there, or anyone who doesn’t have a teenager, that means don’t call me out about that because I stand by what I said.  I think the etymology is from the Twitter.)

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The strict dog trainers out there are cringing, but our dogs have free reign of the house.  They never liked being crated as puppies, so despite not being perfectly behaved, we let them roam free.  

But, if you needed proof that the dogs are my babies, both of them seem to have inherited my anxiety.  Rosie has pretty bad separation anxiety.  She does NOT handle being away from me well at all.  She manages for the school day and all, but shutting her in a room completely freaks her out.  We’re pretty sure she’s going to claw through our bedroom door one of these days when we’re getting work done in the house and have to shut her in there for her own safety.  

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Sandy has social anxiety (she is my spirit animal) and new people freak her out.  She’s on meds for it and is much better these days (except when she sees my brother.  She freaking hates my brother.  We have no idea why, as every other dog, cat, horse, llama, bald eagle and iguana on the planet loves him.  He’s like the male Snow White. But Sandy hates his guts.), but she feeds off of Rosie’s anxiety and gets very upset when they’re shut in a room together.

Which means the baby gates are going to be particularly traumatic if we’re shutting them in an area or out of an area.  

In other words, all of our baby gates have to have doors that can stay open for the dogs when we’re not using them for the baby because I will cry if I think my other babies are unhappy.

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I’m not even going to tell you how much money I just spent on gates.  You don’t want to know.  To be honest, I don’t want to know either.  But at least all three of my babies will be safe and happy.

Now I just have to get rid of my old death trap Ikea dresser and plug up nine billion electrical sockets.  Isn’t babyproofing FUN?

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Mom Life

I’m literally Googling baby poop. What happened to my life?

I know that I’m a total stereotype for being a Jewish mama who worries about everything, but I feel like the fact that I have a diagnosed anxiety disorder gives me a bit of an excuse.  

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Either way, there is a whole spectrum of issues that I never anticipated worrying about prior to beginning the parenthood journey.

Like baby poop.

poop machine

If anyone in the NSA is monitoring my internet search history (or Facebook.  I see you Facebook app, spying on everything I do!), they’re really going to think I’m obsessed with poop because now that we’re done with the baby helmet, I think poop queries make up 85 percent of my search history.  The other 15 percent are comprised of Queen Elizabeth trivia (because I’m fact checking The Crown as we watch it), baby food recipes, the weather for possible snow days, and how little sleep you can survive on before you start creating underground fight clubs and making soap.

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In the beginning, his poop was unconcerning.  Jacob was kind enough to cry when he needed to poop, so when he stopped crying and got all happy, we knew he had a squishy tush.  This typically occurred when I was in the shower. When my husband went back to work after Jacob was born (He really is the best baby.  He made his arrival at the beginning of April, ensuring that I had the maximum amount of leave time. I was able to take off all of fourth quarter at school and then got the summer too), I’d feed Jacob and then plop him in his bouncer seat in the doorway to the master bathroom so I could see him while I showered.*

*Our master bathroom is freakishly narrow.  Apparently our house was built with Slender Man in mind.  Navigating it while pregnant was… interesting.  

On good days, he’d fall asleep and I’d actually get to put on makeup and get dressed after I showered.

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Most days, however, he’d cry a little bit when I got in the shower, then get happy and chatty.  Which I dreaded.  Because it meant he’d pooped.  And not like a tiny, cute amount of baby poop.  I’m talking like elephants would stop and point and be like, “Wow, that’s a lot of poop even for us!”  Remember the scene in Jurassic Park?  It was like that but with a baby in a diaper on top.

jurassic park poop

And the happier he got, the more poop it meant there was.  My little guy somehow managed to have poop-splosions so enormous that what came out of his diaper could fill the entire bouncer seat.  And there he’d sit, happy as a pig in–you get where I’m going–wiggling all around as the poop slopped down onto the carpet.  

We may have lied a little when we had our carpets professionally cleaned a couple months ago and told the guy that the dogs had accidents in our bedroom.  While that’s true in some spots, we definitely had baby spots in other places!

baby poop

If you told me I’d miss those days, I’d have called you a liar.

But now that we’re on solid food, which my little chunky monkey loves, the poop isn’t flowing as freely.  So I find myself Googling baby constipation remedies.  Which was kind of embarrassing when I accidentally left that on my screen at school and then projected my screen for the kids to see an assignment.*

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*I’m totally lying.  Not about doing that, but about feeling embarrassed.  That’s one of the downsides and/or perks of motherhood that I’ve discovered.  I no longer have shame.  I’m too tired to feel shame.  We’re doing baby swim classes with Jacob and while I was always the one who was like, “Why do old ladies walk around the locker room naked?  Why?  Why?” Now, I’m like, eh, I’m holding a baby while trying to get dressed.  What do I care if someone sees a boob?

naked locker room

So after massive amounts of Googling about the consistency of his poop (it’s not usually the rabbit pellets, it’s more of a poopy wedge), possible culprits and possible remedies, we tried everything.  Prunes, prune juice, tummy massages, bicycling his legs, putting him back in that bouncer seat while I shower, taking him out in the backyard (hey, it works for the dogs!), coffee, etc.  No dice.  

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Which means that the most likely problem is that he needs more water in his diet.

Cool.  We’re working on sippy cups.  I bought 17 different kinds (actual number, not hyperbole).  Which my husband keeps trying to drink from, then proclaims too difficult and throws over his shoulder into a growing heap of rejected sippy cups.

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Which brings us to our next problem: teething.  Jacob’s four front bottom teeth are all in. His four front bottom teeth, however, are all poised to come in at the same time. Literally.  You can see all four just below the gums, but they’re taking their sweet time making an actual appearance.  

And those lovely sub-dermal chompers are making it hurt for him to drink be it from a bottle, a sippy cup, a straw, a stream etc.  He seemed perfectly happy to drink pool water at his baby swim class last weekend, but I draw the line at water that has a measurable urine content in it.  Literally though, he looked like one of those whales inhaling water. Not okay!

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So short of sitting on him and squirting water into his mouth (which a. makes me think of that Shel Silverstein poem where the babysitter thinks she’s supposed to sit upon the baby and b. will probably make future water drinking rather traumatic), I’m at a loss until those teeth come in.

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Note to self: Google how to make baby teeth come in faster!

Mom Life

No more baby helmet! Just residual mom guilt

And we’re done with the DOC Band!

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Bring on those hats!

It was actually a little anticlimactic, to be honest.  Officially he was supposed to wear it for another week, but we asked for our last adjustment appointment to be our “graduation” appointment so that we wouldn’t have to drive 45 minutes each way again just to get pictures taken. So they adjusted the band, gave us a little certificate, and sent us on our merry way.  We were thrilled to not have to go back and they were thrilled to never see my face again.

But then, just under a week later, Jacob started getting red spots that took about five hours to go away, which meant we’d outgrown the helmet and were done early.

Which we celebrated by…questioning our decision to remove the helmet.

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Well, that’s how I celebrated.  My husband had zero qualms about being done early because either dad guilt isn’t a thing or it’s much milder than mom guilt.

As adamantly opposed as I was to the idea of a second helmet (and yes, I still think that’s a money grab in many cases), Jacob DOES still have a flat spot.  So am I being selfish for wanting to be done?  But on the flip side, it’s a DIFFERENT flat spot than the one the helmet was correcting, so did I cause this new one by helmeting him in the first place?

The reality is that no one but me (and I suppose other moms who have dealt with flat heads and are now hyper alert to them) is ever going to notice that his head is anything but perfect.  While I now have flat-head-dar and look at the shape of everyone’s heads (it’s terrible.  I look at my students and am like, “wow, you should have had a helmet!”), there are people who I looked at every day for years without ever thinking “Wow, your head looks like the east building of the National Gallery!”  

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Pre-helmet, Jacob’s misshapen head was noticeable.  It isn’t anymore unless you’re really TRYING to find imperfections (and looking at him directly top down.  He’s got a tall daddy, so I’m thinking that won’t be the case for most people for the majority of his life).  By all accounts, the helmet was very successful in reshaping Jacob’s head.  And what it didn’t fix will most likely round out by his second birthday on its own.

So I guess what it really boils down to how to live with the mom guilt.

Pre-baby, it was just guilt.  Which I suppose comes with the territory.  I am Jewish after all, and if our people are known for anything, it’s guilt.  You’re welcome.  (See what I did there?  I learned at the knees of the masters!)

jewish guilt

I automatically assume everything is my fault no matter what.  I should have tried harder.  Been better.  Gotten more people out.  Yes, I was born decades after the Holocaust, but damnit, I should have done more!

So now that the helmet is done and his head isn’t a miraculously perfect round orb, I need to find a way to let it go.  I’m trying to tell myself that that’s the lesson I’m supposed to learn here.  A couple of people said to me, after I went public about the situation with Jacob’s head and neck, that we get the baby we NEED, not necessarily the baby we WANT. On the surface, that sounds terrible, because of course I WANT Jacob!  He’s the absolute best part of my life.  

But I get where those people were going because I think I needed to learn that I can’t control everything.  And if I can’t control everything, then not everything can be my fault.  Some things just happen and I need to learn to roll with it.

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That’s really a struggle for me and was part of why the inability to exclusively breastfeed Jacob was so devastating as well.  I had found something that I couldn’t control.  My mother called me arrogant when I expressed that to her, and she’s not wrong.  But up until motherhood, I lived a life where I was largely able to say I was going to do something and then find a way to make it happen, come hell or high water.  Failure simply wasn’t in my vocabulary.

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For example, I said I was going to dance on stage at a Bruce show. And I did.

It’s been humbling to have to change that without seeing it as failure. In my mind, Jacob was supposed to be the Galahad to my Lancelot (yes, I know only like three people got that. But I took an Arthurian legends class in college and it was cool.  And I’m a nerd. Get over it).  He was supposed to be perfect in all of the areas that I wasn’t.  He would have no flaws.  And while my mother will tell you he’s the most perfect baby ever, I’m still freaking out that he isn’t crawling yet.  And still blaming myself, because if I’d caught the torticollis earlier, wouldn’t he be?

Back to everything being my fault.

my fault

But I’m learning.  If eventual baby number two* isn’t gaining weight with breastfeeding alone, I’m not going to stress about supplementation because I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can’t control that.  And that, as much as it felt like it was the first time around, it’s neither the end of the world, nor my fault.

*I am not pregnant.  I am not planning on becoming pregnant any time soon.  I have a nine month old.  I’m tired.  I do want a second child in the future, but if you read into this to assume that that’s coming soon, I may slap you.

I definitely know more now about keeping baby number two’s head round as well.  I know the signs of torticollis, but the reality is that that may be unavoidable too.  I had low amniotic fluid the first time around, which is again out of my control.  But an earlier diagnosis, if that is an issue again, could be key in the flat head battle.  I know to reposition, I know more about tummy time, I know to wear the baby more.

I also know that if future baby number two needs a helmet, we’ll do it. And I’ll do my best not to beat myself up about it too much.

dont-beat-yourself-up-for-making-the-same-mistakes-instead-just-start-calling-them-traditions-2ba1b

 

Mom Life

What to expect when you’re expecting… a baby helmet

Hi, I’m Sara, and I’m a Google addict.

My baby also wears a DOC band for positional plagiocephaly (a word I learned in my frantic googling when my pediatrician first told us that our baby had a flat spot) that was the result of undiagnosed torticollis (which I caught, thanks to Google).  

when in doubt, google it

But there was a lot of stuff that Google wasn’t so helpful with when Jacob first got his helmet and I had questions, so now that we’re almost finished (THANK FREAKING GOD! We officially have two weeks left of him wearing it, but we had our “graduation” appointment already, so we’re pretty much there!), I figured a blog post (aka adding to the world of Google for other paranoid mamas) outlining all that stuff could help anyone who just got a baby helmet and was frantically trying to figure out if everything was okay or not.

learned more from google than school

Let’s start with how it all works at the very beginning.  In case you haven’t gotten your helmet yet, Cranial Technologies will go over most of this part with you.

Days one and two, you’ll leave the helmet on for three-to-four hour intervals, then check for red spots.  If the red spots go away in an hour or less, cool, put the helmet back on.  (They give you a paper to write down timing on.  Use it.  It helps.  Especially if you’re like me and spending the early days weeping about the helmet and can easily lose track of time.)  If the red spots take more than an hour to go away, call Cranial Technologies.  

Warning: probably not in those first couple days, but you WILL eventually get red spots that don’t go away immediately.  Try not to panic (I’ll get to that in a minute).

panic attacks online

IF your baby’s red spots all go away within an hour after like three of those checks, your baby can sleep in the helmet.

I figured that would be the worst part, but honestly, Jacob adjusted just fine.  He never even seemed to notice it was on.  We did freak out the first couple of nights when we heard loud thuds on the baby monitor, only to find he’d banged his helmet into the side of the crib.  Which also made me wonder how often he’d banged his unprotected head against the crib and it hadn’t made a loud enough thud for me to notice.  But at least he’s protected now when he does it, right?

no clue what we're doing

The first couple of weeks, you’ll need to take off the helmet and wipe your baby’s head down at diaper changes/any time he or she seems hot.  THIS IS A BIG ONE.  That sucker is an inferno!  It’s like wearing a Russian fur hat indoors at all times.  Your baby is going to get sweaty and gross.  So dressing him or her in ridiculously inappropriately cool clothes is important.  (Learned this the hard way.  We had our guy in a warmish car with a hoodie on and he got super fussy.  Turns out his whole back was drenched with sweat. Baby is going to be a little fireball with that helmet on.  Keep him or her cool!)

george sable hat

We did great the first week once we started dressing him cooler.  Then, Friday afternoon, Jacob got a red spot that didn’t go away in an hour.  And it was right after Cranial Technologies closed for the weekend (of course).  

So I did what any rational person would do: I panicked.  

Actually, I took the helmet off, because I Googled “DOC band red spots” and saw that red spots can lead to skin breakdown and I FREAKED that he was going to get a bloody head and we wouldn’t be able to wear the helmet until it healed and by then he would have grown out of it and then we’d have to spend another $2,500 that we don’t have out of pocket for a new helmet.

freak out and panic

But the take-the-helmet-off plan sucked too because we paid $2,500 for this hunk of junk and, damnit, it wasn’t going to fix Jacob’s head sitting on the counter!

That piece of plastic and foam was going back on his head, no matter how much I hated it.  So I slathered Aquaphor on Jacob’s head and the red spot was better by morning.  I also ordered some British “nappy rash” cream that the helmet mamas across the pond rave about for red spots off of eBay, just in case–which is currently sitting in a drawer because the Aquaphor worked beautifully. Cranial Technologies said to use a little cortisone cream, but the Aquaphor did much better for an irritation spot.  Just make sure you wipe the excess off before you put the helmet back on because it can *supposedly* damage the foam.  (I kind of think that’s like the airplane rule of shutting off electronics for takeoff and landing.  There’s a zero percent chance they’d let you have electronics on a flight at all if there was even the most remote possibility of them interfering with the plane’s equipment.  TOTAL BS.  But whatever.)

airplane mode

We got Jacob in for his appointment and they shaved down the spot that had been rubbing (by the velcro opening of the band), and the red spot there got better.  It did come back closer to adjustment number two, but the tech said that red spots tend to get worse when the band needs adjusting and that’s “good” because it means there’s been growth.

Their method of determining where to shave for red spots is… well… interesting.  They put lipstick on your baby.  Not on his mouth, but on the red spots, then put the helmet back on, wiggle it around, and shave where the lipstick rubbed off on the helmet.  Which seems legit.  I mean, nothing screams “medical professionals” like lipstick on a baby.

no-i-have-not-seen-your-lipstick_o_882524

All was well.

Then I went back two days later for another adjustment because we got red spots that wouldn’t go away again.

That was by far the most frustrating stretch of wear in the helmet so far.  And by then, I was pretty disillusioned with Cranial Technologies because A) they didn’t do any measurements at his official adjustment, just told us “oh, wow, it looks great,” and B) I had to take off work TWICE in the same week to get Jacob up to Columbia for adjustments.  Like, I do have a job other than shuttling him to the helmet store! (Yes, I’m calling it the helmet store.  Because they’re not doctors.  They sell helmets.)

And I got even more disillusioned when they shaved a little more foam out and then told me Jacob had heat rash.  It was 40 degrees out, which yes, was better than last week’s polar vortex-nado thing, but it was still cold.  How do you get heat rash when it’s 40 degrees out?  

things-that-are-dangerous-when-left-out-in-the-heat-RAa

In my frustration, I spent a while reading everything I could find on that 2014 study that claims the helmets don’t do anything and was thinking I’d just wasted 16.6 Springsteen tickets worth of money on this thing that was hurting my baby.  (Who am I kidding?  I don’t go to concerts right now.  I have a baby!  But that’s still my unit of measurement, soooo… maybe someday I’ll be going to shows again.)

springsteen-tickets

They told us to keep it off until everything was totally skin-colored and to put a little cortisone on the “heat rash.”  They also said that in areas where babies have “stork bite” birthmarks (which I totally didn’t think was a thing when our pediatrician said it at first… I had to Google!), heat rash is more common.  And Jacob has a tiny stork bite under his hairline, right next to the helmet-induced red spot.  So we went home and followed directions.

I will say this–Cranial Technologies deals exclusively in baby helmets, so they do know their stuff.  The spot that they shaved out stayed skin-colored and the other spot WAS heat rash.  It went away in a day, but started creeping back if we let him get too hot in the helmet.  We were out of it for about 30 hours that weekend before I realized (thanks Google) that baby powder helped.

baby powder lost freedom

Now I know baby powder is the current baby antichrist, but if your DOC Band baby has heat rash, it’s a miracle cure.  The Johnsons and Johnsons kind is cornstarch now, not talc (meaning don’t use the old bottle from the 80s that’s under your sink!), so it’s less bad. Just make sure you shake it away from the baby and just use it in his or her hair where baby gets sweaty/heat rash.  And if your mom guilt won’t let you use it for that, just remember, all of our moms used the bad talc kind of baby powder on us and liberally shook it right from the bottle onto us and none of us have powder-related breathing problems.  

good mother.jpg

Heat rash crisis averted.

Last, but DEFINITELY not least, the smell.  I Googled HARD to figure out the best way to combat the smell before we even got the helmet because my lovely pregnancy sense of smell decided to stick around postpartum and I do NOT want a baby who smells like a foot.  And not a cute little baby foot, I mean a stinky husband foot!

smelly-gif

Google didn’t disappoint.  One random mama on BabyCenter’s messageboards posted that she used wintergreen rubbing alcohol.  So I ordered some from Amazon (then later discovered that Safeway carries it for much cheaper.  Oh well).  And that stuff WORKS. Granted, he now smells like a stick of gum when he goes to bed, but his head is mercifully stink-free the rest of the day.  

face smells like peppermint

So my method is to put the wintergreen rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle (it’s like absinthe green, which definitely leaves a green tinge on the foam over time, but… well… who cares?), spray it in the helmet, scrub with a toothbrush, then wipe out with a towel. Let it dry for the full hour the helmet is off, then back on it goes.  Between the wintergreen alcohol and the baby powder, we’ve had zero smell issues, and we definitely have a sweaty baby, so I can attest to this stuff working.

Happy helmeting!

img_8856-1

Mom Life

The episode where I lose it at the helmet place

I may have had a little meltdown at Cranial Technologies a couple of weeks ago.  

And by may have, I might mean that the hubby yanked me out of there when I started turning into Ursula from the end of The Little Mermaid.  So I was only about 25 feet tall and faintly purple by the time I got out into the hallway.  I wasn’t QUITE creating a giant maelstrom with my trident yet, but I was close.

ursula
https://giphy.com/gifs/ursula-147AEdkCZVDdiU

Why?  Two reasons.

Reason number one was that they moved the goalpost on us.  At the appointment two weeks before that, they told us that they estimated that we had six weeks left in the helmet.  Which sucked at the time, because I wanted them to be like, WOW!  He’s made SUCH amazing progress that you’re going to finish WAY early, like in two weeks!  But I joked that they were the helmet groundhogs and must have seen the shadow of a helmet, meaning we had six more weeks of helmet.groundhog-saw-his-shadow-six-more-weeks-of-red-wine-0f967

Then, when we went back two weeks later, the technician (who is lovely. They all are. They all look vaguely like Barbie dolls, and are very good at providing reassurance.  Which, misogynistic as it may sound, does NOT provide me with reassurance that they know what they’re doing) said the exact same words she said the previous time: “We’re a little over halfway done, so about six more weeks left to go.”

This part of my meltdown was not rational.  I will, of course, keep him in that horrible hunk of plastic for as long as necessary to get the optimal correction. However, her reasoning when I asked why she had added two more weeks did not instill a sense of confidence that the technicians there have any business claiming to be medical professionals in any sense.  Why did we have more time left when she had not measured his head?  Because that’s how much more room he *could* have in *THIS* helmet.

not a real medical professional

Aka, she was priming the pump for the second helmet discussion, which, with no help from insurance and a marked improvement in his head shape already, I was not interested in having.

And I’m sorry, back up a minute.  Are you telling me that the end of treatment depends on how much foam you shave out of the helmet, not how much progress he’d made?

Cranial Technologies does not provide you with measurements until after treatment is done.  And we had to request mid-wear photos to see progress, because they don’t typically do that either. They usually just put a stocking cap on the baby’s head and then look at it, look at the original image on their computer screen, look at the baby’s head again, and say, “Wow, he’s making GREAT progress.”

See why I don’t have a lot of faith in this process despite the progress we’ve seen?

BS attention span

But that wasn’t when I really melted down.  It was when we looked at the pictures of Jacob’s head and the technician told us, “His ears are really coming into alignment beautifully.”

Admittedly, I am not in a profession where I stare at pictures of baby’s heads from underneath (which are super creepy.  They make them look like hollow doll heads) all day, but I am super awesome at those find-the-difference-between-these-two-pictures games.  And while there were notable differences between the two pictures, the ears were not one of them.

img_8773
Actual creepy underside picture of my son’s head. Note the lack of perfect ear alignment.

I pointed that out to the tech, who said, “No, they look great!”

Which is where we entered the type of situation that I handle less well than any other situation on the planet.  The situation where the “expert” is telling me blatantly wrong information.  For example, I got kicked out of a college astronomy class when the professor told us you couldn’t take the square root of something without a calculator.  (“How do the calculators know how to take square roots then?” I argued.  “They didn’t program themselves!”)  And I drive my husband nuts because I will argue to the death when someone tells me something wrong.  No, I will not just let it go in the face of incontrovertible proof.

I will probably someday be responsible for arguing a climate change denier to death.

climate change denier

But I digress.

So I took a picture of the screen and drew a line through his ears on my phone to prove the lack of improvement.

At which point the technician said she’d just go get her computer so we could figure out what was going on, and then decamped for 20 minutes until I started to turn into a giant purple octopus and we decided to just leave.  She looked visibly relieved when my husband dragged me out of there. Which I suppose is understandable, as by then I WAS swirling King Triton’s trident in the ocean and hissing, “The waves obey my every whim.”

ursula waves
https://ohmy.disney.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/25/2014/05/Waves.gif

I went home and fumed and stamped my feet a lot and vowed we’d take the helmet off at four more weeks regardless (which everyone who listened to my rantings and ravings knew wasn’t true.  I am, if nothing else, a rule follower).  And I photoshopped the two pictures over each other to further prove my point about the ears.  Then I had my dad calculate the change in his head shape based on the numbers from the initial report.  (He’s a physicist.  He was able to recreate their numbers and then calculate what the change was using math and science, neither of which I’ve had to use since high school.  Don’t let your teachers lie to you, kids.  If you go into the humanities, you don’t need math anymore as long as your dad is a physicist!)

i-do-my-best-math-in-the-morning-when-im-trying-to-figure-out-how-much-longer-i-can-sleep-8de7b

 

Then I called Cranial Technologies and spoke to the manager, who was even more skilled at providing reassurance (I suppose that’s how she became the manager), and who agreed with me that his ears had not changed.  She also agreed to provide numbers to show the change in his head shape, even though they won’t normally do that.  And she did say that based on the improvement they’ve seen, they would not recommend a second helmet for Jacob.

Of course, my mother said they’re ONLY not recommending a second helmet because they want to be rid of me (understandably so).

The bottom line is, he’s improved from 11mm of asymmetry to 6mm of asymmetry, which is TECHNICALLY considered a normal head shape.  (Cranial Technologies considers it borderline between a mild and a moderate deformity.)  Which also means my dad’s numbers were accurate.  Yay science and math!

science magic

And as much as I want to be done with the helmet forever, and as much as it may be true that his head would round out by two years old like the Scandinavian study says, it’s pretty incontrovertible that the helmet is helping his head to more rapidly improve.

That still doesn’t mean that Mama Bear totally trusts these non doctors, especially when it feels like they’re on a script.  I think there’s a lot of guesswork involved with these helmets, which makes sense when they’re not doctors.  But I do appreciate that the manager spoke to me and worked with me to make it right.  And as hubby pointed out, we ARE planning to eventually have a second baby, and if (please God, don’t let us need a helmet for baby number two.  I’ll start being nice–er, nicer–to people and stuff!) baby number two needs a helmet, I don’t want them to hate me.  So if they say six more weeks the next time we go back, I’ll do my best to smile and nod and not destroy the ocean.  

smile nod agree
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