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.

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.

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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!

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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!

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.

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Forget FOMO, I’ve got FOLM. Thanks Obama–I mean Facebook

I am a crazy perfectionist.

Which may sound strange if you know me in person, because I’m also a mess.  My desk at school is currently a raging dumpster fire of papers, my car looks like I live in it, and let’s not even get started on my closet. But I’m an organized mess.  I know where everything is at all times and I don’t let my mess get in the way of my quest for perfection.

hot mess

I’m also insanely competitive, which, if you’ve spoken to me for even three seconds, you already know.  I’ve joked before that that’s why I like eBay–not only do you get to shop, it tells you you win when you buy something.  And I love winning.

Combining being a perfectionist with my competitive nature, however, has been a disaster in motherhood, especially once we hit the torticollis and helmet bumps in the road. Because that helmet feels like a giant neon sign saying that my baby isn’t perfect, and as he is an extension of me, it feels like it’s screaming to the whole world about one of my flaws.

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Yes, I know I’m ridiculous.  But it’s still how it feels.

And it all ties in to the latest feeling of failure, which I’m calling FOLM–Fear of Late Milestones.

Much like FOMO or Fear of Missing Out, FOLM has always existed, but is exacerbated by the social media era.  I’m sure that moms hundreds of years ago worried when they went to the park, or factory, or public execution (hey, hundreds of years ago, people had pretty sick forms of entertainment) and saw that other babies who were the same age as their babies were walking already and freaked out that there was something wrong with their baby. But it’s worse now that it’s all broadcast on social media.

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Last weekend, I saw videos from two different friends, whose babies are within a couple of weeks of Jacob’s age, and their babies were crawling all over the place.

Jacob is not crawling.  Nor does he seem anywhere close to it.

I cried. I Googled. I cried some more.

The reality is that babies are expected to start crawling between six and ten months, and Jacob is eight months old.  So it doesn’t mean he’s behind.  According to our physical therapist, part of that is disposition; Jacob is the most chill baby ever (which he certainly did not get from me, the anxiety queen), so he’s content to sit and watch the world.  He’s also huge, weighing in at over 21 pounds at eight months, and bigger babies tend to reach some of the gross motor skills milestones later, as they have more weight to lug around with them.

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He also seems to have no desire to crawl yet, which may be my fault.  He’ll reach his hand out for something (which really looks like he’s using the Force.  Mama’s inner Star Wars nerd is so proud of her little Jedi!), and one of us usually gives it to him.  Who needs to crawl when you have a mommy slave?

star wars hate jar jar

But I crawled at six months, walked at nine months, identified letters on the fridge at 18 months, and wrote my first novel at 22 months.  

Okay, that last one was more like at 25 years.  But still. I was exceptionally precocious with all developmental milestones.  

And Jacob was supposed to be even better than me with all of that.

I’m fully aware that my competitive nature has not won me any friends.  In fact, it’s cost me a lot.  Because not only do I try to be the best at everything, I succeed just enough to be insanely annoying.  My mom was only in labor with me for eight hours (which is considered supersonic speed for a first baby).  I told her I’d beat that, and I did, giving birth to Jacob six hours and one minute after my water broke.  She lost eight pounds off her pre-pregnancy weight with me.  I lost nine after Jacob was born.  Etc.

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Do you hate me yet?  I kinda hate myself reading that.  (And I bet I hate me more than you hate me!  Okay, okay, I’ll stop…)

So watching Jacob not be the first to do everything is difficult, because there’s nothing that I can do (besides continuing his physical therapy and doing as many of his exercises with him as I can) to catch him up.

And even more upsetting, our physical therapist showed us a scale of things he should be able to do, and he’s definitely behind in a few areas.  Even though the tilt from the torticollis is gone now, he still has residual shoulder strength issues.  She said it’s really the chicken or the egg here–did his weak shoulder strength cause the torticollis, or did torticollis cause shoulder weakness.  

She did assure us that there was nothing we could have done to prevent it either way, but I still feel like it’s my fault.  Torticollis CAN be caused by low amniotic fluid, which I had.  Yes, I know that wasn’t my fault on the logical level, but if it’s possible that my body did this to Jacob, I still feel like I did this.

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On the plus side, our physical therapist assured us that he’s making progress, that we’ll keep working, that we’ll get him to where he needs to be, and that the age that babies walk and crawl at has no correlation whatsoever to the age that they hit any other developmental milestones at.

She also recommended I get serious professional help because I’m actually competing with myself for what age Jacob does things at.

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Not really.

But that’s another one of those hard first-time parenting things, because what my brother and I did is my only real basis of comparison for what Jacob should be doing. And I hate worrying that he’s not exactly where a chart says that he should be.

Until then, feel free to keep reminding me that just because he’s not the first one to do something doesn’t mean he’s actually late. It does take both early and later babies to make up those average age ranges after all.

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Happy holidays, folks!  I’ll see you in the new year!

Who fat shames a pregnant woman? The same people who use the word “moist” (gross!!!!)

It’s amazing how boundaries disappear as soon as people realize there’s a tiny person growing inside of you.  Is it because they feel like the announcement that you’re pregnant is also an admission of “Hey! I had sex!” so they think you’re open to talking about ridiculously private things?

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I honestly don’t know why it happens, but I do know that as soon as the placenta forms, people lose any semblance of a filter.

Now with my students, I get it.  They’re excited and curious and want to learn.  It’s still creepy when your high school students come up and rub your belly.  Especially the boys.  I had a kid who would literally get up, and I’d think he’d be going to sharpen his pencil.  Oh no.  He would just walk up and rub my stomach.  While I was teaching.  We had to have a boundary talk.  Multiple times.  But kids are excited and curious once they find out that you’re pregnant.

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It starts immediately though, like well before you’re showing.  I did my cutesy Facebook pregnancy announcement at the start of the second trimester (I’m such a rule follower.  God, I kind of want to slap myself right now), and all of a sudden people were ridiculous.  

Our super cutesy pregnancy announcement

I ate two donut holes one day–not donuts, donut HOLES.  Munchkins, if you will–from the English department office and another teacher said, “Guess you can let yourself go now that you’re pregnant, huh?”  Another teacher called me “wide load” that week and several coworkers rubbed my COMPLETELY FLAT belly.

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Nope.

Then came the fat shaming.

Yes, I got fat shamed while pregnant.  

People started asking me how much weight I’d gained so far.  The answer I SHOULD have given?  “None… of your business!”

pregnant or fat

Instead, because I never come up with a snappy comeback on site (and I’m honestly not nearly as snarky in real life as I am in my blog.  Believe it or not, I live in genuine fear of actually offending anyone.  If I say something too mean in real life, odds are pretty high that I’ll apologize and cry), I tended to stammer out the correct amount.

Before I go further, let me explain–I’m a gym rat.  Or at least I was, pre-baby, when I had time to go to the gym.  But I’m still an exercise junkie, I just do it at home or while pushing a stroller right now.  So I worked out until three days before I gave birth (and only stopped that early because I was in the hospital for two days before Jacob was born), and gained exactly 25 pounds (my doctor recommended I gain 25-35 pounds, so the bare minimum of the healthy range).

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“Wow, that’s a lot!” was a frequent response.

“Really?” a few said.  “I only gained three pounds when I was pregnant.  You’re already higher than that!”  (These people are liars, btw.  I remember their pregnancies.  They gained more than three pounds. They looked like manatees toward the end, just like every other pregnant woman does.)

Or, my personal favorite, “Oh, that’s not so much.  It just looks like more on you.”

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If every woman is hearing this kind of thing, I’m shocked that there aren’t more murders committed by pregnant women.

But to be honest, I would take the fat shaming ANY day over the awkward questions you get after the baby is born.

Those tend to fall into two categories (other than the ones from students, who have no shame asking about ALLLLL the gory details and who all think that since Kim Kardashian ate her placenta that that’s like a thing that all mothers do.  Um. No.). The “Are you breastfeeding?” and the “Was it a vaginal delivery?” questions.

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To be fair, I don’t think there’s anyone who can appropriately ask you those questions.  Like I guess my mom can get away with it, and I wouldn’t actually care if my friends asked.  But they don’t ask those questions.  And there are zero non-doctors who can say the word “vaginal” without making me cringe.  But the people who choose to ask those questions are so grossly inappropriate that it’s horrifying.

Who asked me those questions?  Weirdly enough, everyone over the age of 55 that I encountered.  It’s like those were the popular questions to ask people in the 1970s, so they go around doing it now.

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One of my old high school English teachers (a man, no less!) asked me if I was breastfeeding.  A long term sub in my building asked me about the delivery (I can’t keep typing “vaginal” without retching.  It’s worse than the word “moist.”).  A friend’s mother-in-law asked about both at a two-year-old’s birthday party.  And so on.  I’d list more, but I don’t want to call people out if they’re actually reading this.

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And while I wouldn’t feel comfortable with someone asking me about such personal bodily functions under any circumstances, the fact that I struggled so much with breastfeeding made these questions painful.  I didn’t want to explain to people that I wasn’t the world’s greatest breastfeeder because everyone made me feel like I should be.  Being asked that was like being asked, “So are you succeeding as a mother?” And if I gave an honest answer, I felt like the people asking were going to think that I wasn’t.

I do know that no one asked awkward questions or made me feel bad about my weight with bad intentions.  But if you’re one of the people who asks new or expecting mothers those questions, it’s worth remembering that some people are struggling with breastfeeding and don’t want to talk about it (and the others are probably the ones whipping their boobs out constantly, so you don’t need to ask that question). Some people had emergency C-sections that completely went against their birthing plans and don’t want to talk about it.  And some people have struggled with eating disorders and body image and are having a hard time with gaining pregnancy weight.

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Also, all of that is rude.  It’s not your business what my child is eating, what part of my body he came out of, or how much weight I’m gaining.  #sorrynotsorry

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So your baby needs a helmet. Step one: cry. Step two: deal with it.

Ah, the dreaded baby helmet.  See my previous post for the lead up to realizing we’d need one.

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So basically, I wish we’d gone to Cranial Technologies for an evaluation the second my pediatrician pointed out his flat spot, because the earlier you helmet your baby, the less time you spend in one.  But my pediatrician advised waiting, (which seems to be her advice on a lot of things, which doesn’t mesh well with my personality.  I’m impatient. And a hypochondriac with anxiety issues who has a major addiction to Google.  I don’t wait well.) so we spent an agonizing two months flipping Jacob like a pancake while he slept and praying he wouldn’t need a helmet.

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https://www.twotwentyone.net/pancake-costume/

Now that he has one, however, I feel like a total moron because A) it’s not THAT bad, B) no one actually cares, and C) we could have been done already if we’d just gotten an evaluation sooner.  And the people at Cranial Technologies would have caught his torticollis and all would be well now.

But despite preaching daily to my students to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks, I’m insanely obsessed with my image and what people think of me.  On a logical level, I’m fully aware that no one actually notices 95 percent of what I do.  On an anxiety level, I think every single person I saw today noticed the chipped nail polish on my right ring finger and judged me for it.  

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When you have a baby, that feeling of everything being under a microscope is even worse.  Even though I felt like that about having to supplement with formula, and the reality was that zero people cared that I wasn’t exclusively breastfeeding, a helmet was going to be SO much worse.  EVERYONE would see it.  What would I tell older relatives? That girl I didn’t like from second grade who was my Facebook friend was going to think I was a terrible mother.  I debated getting off social media for however long Jacob needed a helmet for.  And I’m a social media junkie.  THAT’s how serious this was.

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So what actually happens when you might need a baby helmet?

We went to Cranial Technologies on a Monday.  They made us strip Jacob down to a diaper, put a stocking cap with a hole in it for his face over his head, and held up a fan with flashing lights to get his attention while they took pictures.  Then they brought us to a room to scare the crap out of us.

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Not really.  But they definitely pitch it as worse than it is when you’re there.  And like the scared sheep–I mean parent–that you are, I’m pretty sure everyone in there says “baaaaa” (or wails it like a crying banshee as I did) and then schedules an appointment to get a helmet.  

Worth noting: the place sells helmets.  They’re not doctors.  If you even THINK you’re borderline on a helmet, go to a pediatric neurosurgeon to get real measurements and a REAL diagnosis.  If real doctors tell you you don’t need a helmet, you don’t need a helmet.  Cranial Technologies wants your money and thinks you need a helmet.  They told us that our numbers were “moderate-severe” when we were there, but on the official report, the numbers were all in the moderate category.  And if you actually GOOGLE his numbers, most of them are on the milder end.  I’m not saying the helmet doesn’t work; it’s a great product and service, and some kids totally need it, but they’re still salespeople.MjAxMy03MmMyMmY0Mjk3YzdjZDM5

And the reality is that you agree to the helmet, despite some research saying they don’t do anything, because you want to know that you did everything you possibly could for your kid. End of story.  Does it actually work or do heads start rounding out on their own once you correct torticollis and they’re sitting up more?  Who knows.  

Their insurance team then calls you two days later and in our case, tells you that insurance won’t even think about covering the helmet.  Which I already knew, because the Google Queen combed through our policy and found that “cranial remolding helmets” are only covered for post-operative craniosynostosis and are considered cosmetic and unnecessary otherwise.  Viagra?  Totally medically necessary under our policy. Preventing a baby from looking like a conehead for the rest of his life? Cosmetic. Makes total sense.

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So we bit the bullet, said we’d pay the $2,500 for a helmet, and scheduled the next two appointments.  The first one was easy.  Another stocking cap (this one without a face hole cut out, so he looked like a baby bank robber) and more pictures and we were on our way home in under 15 minutes.  

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http://looneytunes.wikia.com/wiki/Baby_Buggy_Bunny

The next appointment was hard because it’s when they actually fitted him with the helmet.  And I’ll admit, I cried when I saw him in it.  I joked that he looked like a Spaceball, but seeing that white orthotic helmet on him was absolutely devastating to my sense of self as a mother. What were people going to think of my son, let alone me? When I’d seen those helmets before, I assumed there was something wrong with the baby, which meant other people were going to think that.  I couldn’t handle the thought of that.

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Jacob was clearly as upset as I was about his helmet.

The one small, silver lining came in the form of decorating the helmet.  I researched online (of course), decorating the helmets and discovered that some car wrapping companies will wrap the helmets.  But there were none who advertised that they did that within an hour of where we lived, so I started reaching out to local companies, then remembered that a former student’s dad owned a sign company.  I sent her a quick message asking if that was something they’d be willing/able to do, and she replied immediately that not only would they custom design Jacob’s helmet, they’d do it for free because of the difference I made when she was in high school.

Yes, I cried again.  

We settled on an aviator-style helmet (I voted for R2D2.  Hubby vetoed that. I’m still bitter.) because it would look more like a hat than a helmet, and we got it put on two days after he got the helmet.

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At which point, I came clean on Facebook and Instagram and got nothing but wonderful, positive support.  And many parents shared stories about their own children’s imperfections and struggles, which was a great reminder that it’s okay to not be perfect. I, like everyone else, try to present the best possible image of my life on social media, but NO ONE is perfect.  The helmet is temporary, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Jacob is adorable in it, and I love him more and more every day, helmet or not.  

So if you’re struggling with the decision, stop.  Take a breath.  Because the helmet has one truly awesome benefit to it: you get to worry a little less.  There’s no more repositioning, or pillows, or freaking out that he’s sitting in something that might briefly touch his flat spot and make it worse.  You’ll still worry that the helmet won’t work or that they’ll recommend a second one and you’ll have to pay $5,000 total out of pocket (they recommend a second helmet to everyone.  See above.  They’re salespeople).  But once I went public, my stress level actually went way down.

Does it suck?  Yes.  Without a doubt.  But as long as it helps, it’ll be totally worth it.  And if someone stares in the grocery store, it’s their problem, not yours.  Your baby is perfect; you’re just making him or her a little more perfect so no one nicknames them Beldar. (Only my dad got that joke, but it’s okay!)

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Hang in there, mamas!  

Uh oh, plagio: the flat head diagnosis

I know I’m jumping around a bit with this post, but it’s what’s happening now, and finding other blogs on this topic helped me.  So if I can pay some of that forward, it’s worth sharing.

Jacob’s pediatrician pointed out that he had developed a flat spot on the back right side of his head at his four-month checkup.  Hubby and I then descended into a shame spiral of shock and embarrassment that we missed it, panic that it was there in the first place, fear that we caused it, etc.  Seriously.  We turned into the seven dwarfs of parenting guilt.

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https://sweettmakesthree.com/mom-guilt-bingo/

“Just try to keep him off of it for a couple of months,” the pediatrician advised.  “You can keep a wedge under that side of his mattress so it’s easier for him to turn his head the other way, and do a lot more tummy time.  If that doesn’t fix it, you can always get a helmet.”

Sara the Hysterical Google Queen took over.  

So I learned ALLLLLLL about plagiocephaly (flat head on one side), brachycephaly (flat back of the head, which I didn’t think was a concern, based on the pictures I found online and then compared frantically to Jacob’s head), and every other kind of cephaly there is (I was already a microcephaly expert from the single, non-Zika-infected mosquito bite I got while pregnant.  Have I mentioned that I’m a hypochondriac?).

What did I learn?  That repositioning could help and that this probably happened because he was such a great sleeper–which he did NOT inherit from me, the worst insomniac in the world.  So because my perfect baby started sleeping through the night at two months old (don’t hate me), his little head grew crooked.  

sleeping through the night

And a lot of nasty people on the internet said it only happens to parents who didn’t hold their babies enough. Guess what?  I hold my baby all the freaking time.  And this still happened.

But I’m Super Mom!  I could fix this!  I can fix anything if I try hard enough!

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I repositioned like it was my job.  For two months I barely slept, but not because Jacob, the most perfect baby in the world, was waking me up.  No.  I barely slept because I woke up every three minutes to make sure he wasn’t sleeping on his flat spot.  I became an expert at flipping him over without waking him up.  I joked I was going to patent a baby spatula for perfectly turned babies.  

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http://quoteaddicts.com/author/kelly-ripa

I bought seven, count them, SEVEN different types of flat head pillows, ranging from $15 to $110 each (I only bought one of the expensive ones).  I sent him to daycare with one.  I put one in his stroller.  I put one on his changing table.  I put one on his floor gym.  But I only let him sleep on them for supervised naps while I stared at him the entire time to make sure he wouldn’t magically flip onto his belly (which he wasn’t doing yet) and suffocate.

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I studied that head from every angle, trying to convince myself that I was seeing improvement.  I wasn’t, but it also wasn’t getting worse.  I will say that.  The pillows do prevent it from getting worse.

And I kept Googling.  But as we got closer to his six-month checkup and his flat spot hadn’t improved, I started worrying more.  My baby was going to need a helmet.  I could feel it.  

One day, I took him for a long walk when his dad went out of town, and I took some pictures because he was so cute.  And when I looked at the pictures, one eye looked bigger than the other.  Cue the panic.  I had read, in my frantic Googling, that plagiocephaly could cause facial asymmetry. (Note: we later learned he has no facial asymmetry.  Literally, they measured digitally and there’s none at all.  I am a crazy person.  But in this case, the craziness was a good thing.)

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Once I Googled the facial asymmetry with plagiocephaly though, I started finding another word a lot, which I had mostly ignored because I didn’t think it was an issue: torticollis.

Symptoms: head tilted in one direction with chin pointed toward another.  Often causes difficulty breastfeeding on one side and difficulty looking in the direction of the head tilt. Rolling to one side only.  A flat spot.

It was like one of those scenes in a movie where the protagonist figures out who the killer is.  He hated breastfeeding on the right side, where he’d have to turn his head to the left.  He only rolled to one side.  And as I began scrolling through pictures in my phone, he was facing the same way in every one.  Jacob had torticollis.

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We took him to the pediatrician immediately, who wasn’t nearly as convinced as I was, but she did say it was time to visit the helmet place for an evaluation.

She wanted us to wait to see what the helmet people said about starting physical therapy, which I wasn’t comfortable with. Knowing that I’m my baby’s best advocate, I reached out to my network of moms and got a recommendation from a family friend to a WONDERFUL physical therapist who deals in infant torticollis.

Long story short, I think our pediatrician should have caught the torticollis (or at least mentioned it to us when she noticed the flat spot, because had I looked for that in pictures sooner, I would have spotted it. And I think dealing with the torticollis at four months would have helped the flat spot enough to potentially avoid the helmet), but it’s too late for that now.life is tough

I’ll do another post about the helmet situation (we’re in it now.  It sucks, but we’ll deal), but trust your gut, mamas!  If you think something is wrong, say something to your pediatrician.  And if they won’t hear you out, go to a specialist.  Jacob is doing AMAZING in physical therapy.  The torticollis is now gone, we’re just working on some residual muscle strength issues in his shoulder, and in another few weeks, all of that should be absolutely perfect.

And if you want to learn from my experience, make sure you’re changing the direction that your baby sleeps in frequently starting at birth and doing lots of tummy time even if your baby hates it (and they ALL hate it!).  And if you have to get a helmet, I promise, it’s not the end of the world.

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