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Warding Off Postpartum Depression

I am very open about the fact that I do not excel in the newborn phase. I am so very type A and babies are so very unpredictable. With my first child, I was never diagnosed with postpartum depression, but reflecting back, I am certain that I had at very list some postpartum anxiety and a touch of depression. I was overwhelmed, lonely and sleep deprived. There were tears, lots of tears. And with my second, I most definitely had PPD. Not only did those same feelings simmer to the surface, but on top of it, I had a high-energy toddler who hated deviating from routine, a colicky baby who dealt with some terrifying health issues at three months old, and we were in the process of packing and moving, which is extremely stressful, particularly with two kids under age 3. I tried medication this time, prescribed by my midwife, but after three days, I just didn’t feel right.  I was dizzy, lightheaded and felt like I was in a fog. After a few months of therapy, combined by a general increase in life quality that came with time, the end of the colic and more sleep, I was able to get back to myself by the time Asher was 6-7 months old.

This time around, I knew that the addition of a third baby was likely to set my life into a tailspin. I remembered vividly the traumatic transition of going from 1 child to 2 kids, and I knew that I didn’t want to ever feel that way again. While depression isn’t something you can control, I knew that I could take steps to prepare myself for the transition from 2 to 3 that I hoped would help ward off the PPD. Here’s what we did:

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How to Help a Friend with a Medically Fragile Baby

It’s Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week, and I’m reminded of the difficult days of waiting for our little guy’s surgery, the hospital stay, and recovery. It was our family, friends, and neighbors that made this difficult time easier to bear. Sometimes, it’s hard to know how to help a friend with a medically fragile baby or child. I thought I would share what helped us, our baby and his sibling, and in hindsight what I should have asked for help with.

For Baby:

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Baby clothes –  When your baby is in the hospital, the cute onesies and jammies aren’t practical. It’s easier to have separate bottoms and tops. That way you can change their diaper, and not disturb their lines and IV. Also, shirts that have snaps allow the medical lines to feed through the holes. Zippers don’t work as well. For kiddos with heart surgery, it’s helpful to find shirts with snaps offset to the side, and then the buttons won’t rest on their incision site.

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Baby Gear:  Our hospital PICU allows families to use bouncy chairs in the hospital bed. However, the chairs can’t be the rocker kind; they need to have a flat bottom. Another soothing item was our little guy’s Music Mobile.

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Homemade juice (no juicer needed!)

The first time I saw a juice box, I was 12 years old. I grew up in Russia, in the late 1980s, where juice as it’s known in the US (and really, the rest of the world) was all but a luxury good, and when it was available, it only came in big bottles. I often cite having grown up without juice as one of the reasons I don’t really enjoy it even now, after 25 years in the US, unless it’s in very diluted form. So when Baby C was approaching water/juice age, I wasn’t really thinking about giving her more than water and milk. Until my mom reminded me about kompot.

In Russia, basic berries like raspberries, blackberries and the like, and most basic fruit like apples and plums, were fairly easy to access, even in times when not much else was available due to the USSR’s trade restrictions. And Russians weren’t big water drinkers, so the workaround was a homemade juice that’s so ridiculously easy, it’s become a staple in our house, just as it had been during my childhood.

Easy might even be an overstatement, because there isn’t even really a recipe for this juice. All you need is a pot, a bunch of fruit, a tiny bit of sugar (mostly to taste), and a total of 10 minutes – 5 to wash the fruit and cut anything that needs to be cut, and 5 to drain it from the pot into a container.

Step 1: Prep Your Fruit

The beauty of this juice is that you can make it with any fruit you want or have on hand. There is absolutely no right or wrong way to do it. My basic recipe tends to be berry based, because berries are so easily available, but I often toss in a few slices of apple if my daughter doesn’t finish one and I need to use up the slices, plums for when we’re having constipation issues – you name it, you can use it.

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Retrospective: The Best and Worst of Age 6-12 months

At age 6-12 months, babies hit a lot of milestones and their personalities start coming out a bit more. The first time around, I remember thinking that I loved this stage way more than the newborn stage. I’m just finishing this age with Panda, so I don’t have as much distance as I did when I covered my favorite (and least favorites) from the 0-6 month age.

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Speedy little guy!

Biggest Challenges:

– Mobility and safety. Our kids learned to crawl and walk at this age, which was both really fun and really terrifying. We never really babyproofed our house with either kid. Other than replacing our outlets with child-safe ones and locking one cabinet, we didn’t do much. No foam corners, no baby gates (despite having stairs in our home), no toilet locks (which I first heard about in a Tina Fey movie). As a result, we had to watch our kids a bit more closely to make sure they weren’t going to fall down the stairs.

– Everything in the mouth. I can’t count the number of times Panda wanted to put something completely inedible into his mouth. He was always grabbing at something and wanting to explore it with his mouth, which was puzzling to us (even though it is a normal baby reaction) because Lion never did this. I worried about choking hazards and germs and also got tired of wiping down everything in sight.

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Feeding a Newborn – going easy on myself this time around

When I was pregnant with my first child, I read everything. I wanted to be as prepared as possible, and regarding feeding, I decided, of course, that I would exclusively breastfeed. Because of course breast is best. And when my nipples were cracked and bleeding and my son was barely gaining weight, nursing constantly, was regularly cranky and fussed at the breast, I convinced myself that if I pumped more between feedings, nursed more, plowed forward with this mission to “EBF” – emphasis on the “E” – that it would be fine. By the time I offered Colin his first bottle of formula at 5.5 months, he inhaled it and was just so happy. I was crushed. My supply was awful, and clearly the poor kid was famished. That was the beginning of the end of our nursing relationship, and by his half birthday, we had completely weaned.

The second time around, nursing went much smoother for me in regards to both my comfort and supply, but I had a majorly fussy, colicky baby. By week seven, I was overthinking everything I consumed, from caffeine to beans and broccoli and all things dairy and soy. I was sleep deprived and hormonal and nursing a legit case of postpartum depression. The thought of an elimination diet had me totally freaked out, and in a fit of “how can I fix this?” I decided to transition Asher to formula cold turkey. It was painful and awful on my end, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

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Gearing up for our first nursing session, moments after her birth

This time, I wasn’t even sure I would breastfeed at all. Selfishly, I knew that breastfeeding helped me lose the baby weight, plus of course, I knew that giving birth in prime flu season, giving this baby all the benefits of my immunity that I would only help her, especially with two germy older brothers. What I knew this time though was that I would not allow myself to stress about breastfeeding. Period. If I couldn’t be home for a feeding, this baby would get a bottle. Of formula. I would only pump for my own comfort, and wouldn’t make myself crazy about my supply. Whether we nursed four days, four months or four years (ha – not likely, for me – no judgment for those who go this route), I would be happy to have tried and okay with the results.

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Surprising Things about Gestational Diabetes and Glucose Testing

So far this third pregnancy has been going along just swimmingly. I’m 21 weeks today and I’ve had no morning sickness, no real complications, nothing too terrible at all. (Don’t hate me.)

Unfortunately, there has been one major problem: I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes at 14 weeks pregnant. I didn’t have gestational diabetes with either of my other pregnancies and it really wasn’t even on my radar this time. But my doctor chose to have me tested early in my pregnancy because I had a few risk factors. (I’m 35 and considered overweight). And it turns out early testing was a good call in my case!

Over the past few weeks I have quickly learned a lot about gestational diabetes as well as the testing process. And I’ve realized that the little I thought I already knew was mostly wrong! These are the things that have been the biggest surprises along the way:

1. A lower score on the one hour glucose test doesn’t guarantee you will pass the three hour test.

I know that different doctors do testing differently, but most doctors in the United States have women do a one hour glucose tolerance test. If they don’t pass that test, they go on to take a three hour test.

In the one hour test, you drink a glucose drink and then the doctor checks your blood sugar an hour later. At my OB-GYN, the cut off for the one hour test is 135. I got a 136; I missed it by one lousy point. Some doctors consider anything under 140 passing, so if I had been in a different practice, I might not have failed at all. Because of all this, I was pretty convinced I would pass the 3 hour test with no problem.

I didn’t.

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favorite books for toddlers

Baby Pizza is 20-months-old and is growing more and more in love with books every day. Every morning when she wakes up, she will say “book!” and choose a book she wants me to read to her on the couch. Here is a list of Baby Pizza’s current favorite books!

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Time to Say “Please”! – Whenever I come across an unfamiliar book by Mo Willems, I have to get my hands on it. Both girls love this playful book about manners. It provides examples of when to say please, thank you, excuse me, and I’m sorry.  It’s never too early to teach a child good manners.

Good Night, Sleep Tight –  The book is written in a repetitive, yet playful manner and incorporates a handful of popular nursery rhymes into the story.

My Friends – I enjoy Taro Gomi’s simple, yet thoughtful approach in many of his books. In this lovely book, the girl identifies all the different “friends” who have taught her important skills.

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