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.

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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).

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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

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.

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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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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.

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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).

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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?

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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.

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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?  

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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.)

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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.  

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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!

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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!

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