Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Proper Drinking of Beverages, Toddler Style

I thought that drinking from a cup was pretty straight forward, but according to my son, there are actually quite a lot of rules involved.

  • First of all, while sippy cups are allowed, cups without lids are greatly preferred.
  • No matter what kind of cup you are drinking from, the liquid inside is not just for drinking. There are several activities that you can and should use this liquid for. These include:
    • ... dropping on the floor - Watching liquid drip out of a sippy cup is good for hours of good old-fashioned fun. Who cares if the playpen smells funny tomorrow because the milk that was generously sprinkled on today starts to go bad?
    • ...pouring on the high chair tray to further mealtime food fun - Playing with your food doesn't have to just include solids, adding liquids to the mix only increases the fun.
    • ... marking your trail - Sometimes you just need to hold your sippy cup upside down as you walk through the house so that you can remember your path.
    • ... ensuring that water is still wet - Sometimes when drinking from a cup without a lid, you need to repeatedly stick your hand in it to ensure that water is indeed still wet. If in the process of sticking your hand in the cup water spills on the table around you, that just means you have more ways to enjoy the liquidy wetness.
  • If you get bored while in the possession of a cup full of liquid, feel free to come up with more ideas to add to the above list.
  • When drinking from a big-kid glass, you are allowed to throw a fit at any offers offer assistance from adults, even if you end up spilling the entire contents of the cup on yourself and start to cry because it's cold. Toddlers can figure these things out for themselves, even if it takes a little (or a lot) longer and so adult intervention is never appreciated.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Review: Expecting Better by Emily Oster

Disclosure: I have received nothing in compensation for a review of this book, not even a review copy. I just happened to find it at my library and enjoyed it so much that I had to review it (and am planning to buy it).

The best pregnancy book I have ever read hands down. Oster started writing her book when she came to the realization that:

"Pregnancy seemed to be a world of arbitrary rules. It was as if when we were shopping for houses, our realtor announced that people without kids do not like backyards, and therefore she would not be showing us any houses with backyards. Worse, it was as if when we told her that we actually do like backyards she said, 'No, you don't, this is the rule.'"

This was very similar to my experience during my first pregnancy. I tried to engage my OB office in intelligent discussion about the pros and cons of aspects of my care and they just wanted to lay down rules. Finally I stopped sharing with them any sign that I was an intelligent person who sometimes had questions about my care.  For most of my pregnancy this was fine because it was pretty simple and complication free and I don't live a wild and crazy lifestyle that would be harmful to a developing fetus.

As I approached and passed my due date and my child still was not ready to come out though, this narrow-minded view of the "right" way to do pregnancy, labor, and delivery, started to cause problems. The rest of my story is fodder for another blog post, but for now let's leave it at the fact that I wish I had been more well-informed about the risks and benefits of induction when a child is otherwise happy and healthy in the womb.

With a doctorate in economics, Oster is not a medical professional, but is used to evaluating evidence in order to make complex decisions. In this case she evaluates the evidence surrounding common pregnancy advice given by obstetricians. As someone in an also heavily researched based profession (librarianship) I appreciated her focus on facts. A little surprisingly she finds that a lot of common pregnancy advice is not supported by the evidence.

The biggest bombshell is that the total ban on drinking during pregnancy is based mainly on an assumption that Americans in general can't be expected to drink moderately. I completely agree when she responds, "I'm not crazy about the implication that pregnant women are incapable of deciding for themselves - that you have to manipulate our beliefs so we do the right thing. That feels, again, like pregnant women are not given any more credit than children would be in making important decisions."

Looking at studies of women in countries where pregnant drinking is perfectly acceptable (most of the developed world aside from the U.S.), researchers generally discovered that as long as women weren't binge drinkers or heavy drinkers their babies were at no greater risks for birth defects or lower IQ scores. Some studies even showed slight (although statistically insignificant) improvements for women who drank moderately during their pregnancy, especially if, after the first trimester, they drank about the same as they did before getting pregnant.

Unfortunately for me, I had such terrible heartburn during my first pregnancy that even after the nausea passed, I still didn't feel like drinking, so depending on if the heartburn repeats itself, I don't know if this revelation will change my behavior much the second time around. Still, knowing that I have the option to savor the occasional rum and coke guilt free during future pregnancies does make me feel a little better.

She covers less controversial topics as well, from best ways to ensure quick conception (there aren't any aside from the obvious "have unprotected sex repeatedly") to how common morning sickness is (very) and the best ways to treat it (Unisom and Vitamin B6) to decisions about pain relief in labor and the safety of various kinds of labor (it turns out living in the developed world, we're pretty safe, no matter how you end up delivering your baby).

In general I love her fight against the all too common attitude in the pregnancy establishment that expectant mothers should be coddled like children and simply told what to do while they're pregnant because they've got enough to worry about. Unfortunately, needless rules cause a lot of unnecessary worry. I found out relatively late that I was pregnant the first time and had eaten some sushi shortly before finding out and had no clue what risk I had put my baby at, only to realize that the main risk was that food poisoning can be especially unpleasant while pregnant. I hadn't developed food poisoning, so I was fine and should have had no reason to worry.

Also every woman and every pregnancy is different, so throwing out blanket rules that affect all of them the same seems stupid. There are certain drugs you'd rather not take during pregnancy, but if they treat a serious medical condition that could also affect the quality of your pregnancy, then it seems like an argument could be made for taking it, or not, depending on the variety of factors involved. And opening up this kind of dialogue between pregnant women and their healthcare providers is what I love so much. In general I'm in favor of more information (again, librarian here), so conversations with experts about the risks and benefits seem like a good thing.

It's funny that I like this book so much when my previous go-to pregnancy book was The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, which Oster criticizes a couple times. While her criticisms, to the best of my knowledge, are accurate, this, sadly, was the most evidence based pregnancy book I could find during my first pregnancy. If you are planning a traditional doctor-assisted hospital delivery it also gives you a pretty accurate picture of what to expect and what most doctors will do if something goes wrong. Still, as for diving into the evidence behind their recommendations, they are a far cry from Oster's analysis not only of the evidence, but why it may or may not be good evidence.

If you are pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant, or even working on your 2nd, 3rd, or subsequent pregnancies, this is a great book to explore the advice we give pregnant women and to give you the tools to make more informed decisions as a potential mother.

Check out an excerpt of the book at the Huffington Post to see if it might be something you're interested in.

Edit 10/3/17: I'm playing around with my new Amazon Affiliate status. So if you've read this review and want to buy Expecting Better would you mind clicking on this link below so that I get a (very) small kick back. Thanks.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Toddlers Come With a Surprising Amount of Tears

I feel like this may turn into the blog of crying, because today I need to talk about how I never realized just how many tears were involved in raising a toddler. My son was a pretty happy baby. He learned how to sleep through the night quickly, he cried to let me know he was hungry, tired, or wet, but otherwise, he was pretty easy going with a smile for everybody.

Once he learned to walk, weeks before his first birthday, things slowly started to change. He's now 16 months old and I can say that he is a full-fledged toddler, mood swings and all. He is now scared of everyone except (in order of preference) Mom, his daycare provider, Dad, and possibly Grandma. He screams whenever he hears the word "no". He has very definite ideas about how things are done and is convinced that pointing and grunting is all he needs to do to communicate effectively. Food is to be played with and all of it is for him. Liquids are to be spilled and splashed as soon as they're discovered, especially milk. Liquids that are drank should come from a cup without a lid, even if he's incapable from drinking out of such cups without spilling half of said liquid down his entire front. This weekend he's started taking off his pajama pants and throwing them on the floor in protest when his father and I want to sleep in past 7AM (maybe hoping for this the weekend Daylight Saving Time ends was a little foolish on our part).

He has very definite ideas about how the world should work and when he comes across any challenge to those beliefs (like the fact that Mom won't hold him while she's loading the washing machine so that he can see every part of this magical process), the world, as he knows it, is coming to an end, and sobbing is the only way to deal with it. Well, sobbing and possibly running to the other room or flopping if someone happens to be holding him when his world falls apart.

This is why I love it when my mom comes to visit, or one of my friends offers to babysit. Living with a drama queen is draining, and sometimes Mommy needs a break.

On the other hand, when the world is working the way he thinks it should, life couldn't be better. Reading him his favorite story (currently it's Caps For Sale because I do funny voices and actions with it) almost guarantees his magical giggles. Same thing for when I let him jump off the coffee table into my arms (I know I'm a terrible mother encouraging my child to jump off the furniture, but he's always trying to launch himself from somewhere impossibly high, so at least this way I'm getting it out of his system safely), or when we go for a walk outside, or when he's taking a bath (quite possibly his favorite activity ever).

Bad days with a toddler are certainly bad, and somehow worse than I expected, but good days, thankfully, are also better than I expected, almost infinitely so.

Friday, November 1, 2013


This blog actually started two years ago as my modified NaNoWriMo project the year I found I was pregnant. I was so overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings about pregnancy and impending motherhood. I thought NaNo would be a good time to write a series of short essays about it, but as is typical for me and NaNo, I lost steam rather quickly. As my son has turned from an infant into a toddler, though, I found I still have tons of thoughts and feelings that seem like they'd be best expressed through an outlet like this. 

At the same time, like so many other people I want to make fun of the whole phenomenon of "Mommy Blogs" and yet, I've really enjoyed reading some of them. Now that I'm a mom I don't seem to have time to keep up with anybody in particular, but I'll often binge on a good blog whenever I come across one. So I'm starting this blog, again on November 1 as a sort of public NaNo project (although I'm not publicizing it at all at this point).

To start I thought I'd share a piece I started two years ago, but have since reworked a little.

I’ve always been a cryer, but in the year before I found out I was pregnant, Kyle & I went through a lot of changes that were not positive and my crying became a problem, or more accurately, my crying became a symptom of a problem. I was depressed. When one little piece of bad news sent me into uncontrollable sobs for the rest of the day, I should have known something was wrong, but that’s the thing about depression. It’s so all-consuming and isolating that you don’t have the perspective to realize that what you’re feeling is not normal. Instead you’re so focused on yourself that you think that what’s wrong is that you’re weak, not that there’s a treatable chemical imbalance in your brain. You think that you've failed everyone and that maybe if you just tried harder then you’d be good enough and you’d stop feeling these overwhelmingly bad feelings that you’re just too embarrassed to tell anyone about.

Anyway, a few months before I became pregnant, I started being treated for depression. Luckily, once the medicine finally got into my system, this proved to be a very treatable problem. It didn't hurt that the changes coming at us started becoming positive.

But the thing that was weird through this recovery period was that I stopped crying completely. For the girl who was made fun of in grade school for crying all the time, this might have been a refreshing change, but at the same time it felt really unnatural. I cry about everything - good and bad - so crying about nothing had me worried that I wasn't feeling anything. When I mentioned this to my doctor, she said that meant it was time to decrease my dosage. 

Shortly after this, I found out I was pregnant. I don't know if you know this, but pregnant women tend to be quite emotional. For someone like me who has some baggage about crying too much, this could have been really embarrassing, and later on in my pregnancy it was, but after weeks of numbness, preceded by months of depression I was ecstatic the first day I started sobbing uncontrollably on my way to work because I was so excited about the baby growing in my belly.

That didn't mean that I didn't worry in the back of mind for a long time every time I had another (often hormone-fueled) cry that I wouldn't be able to stop, that what started as a sappy emotional cry over the wonderfulness of the miracle of life would take a dark turn into a pity party about my utter worthlessness as a human being. But it didn't.

I was still definitely crazy, but a roller coastery hormone fueled ride through happy and sad cries instead of a one-way descent into depression. I definitely cried for sad reasons. Pregnancy came with a lot of frustrations - frustration at being too big for my pants, but not big enough for maternity pants; frustration at not knowing what my starving but finicky stomach would actually allow me to eat; frustration at just how exhausted I felt all the time, no matter how many naps I took.

And there were the new parent freak out cries, worrying that I wouldn't be able to provide for my baby, that I wouldn't be ready, that something would go wrong, but these were vague panicky fears and everytime I tried to name them, I'd calm down and see that I was just overwhelmed by the number of changes coming my way and that when I thought about the details I'd see that I was doing what I could to prepare and that for some of it I would just have to trust that things would turn out okay.

I marveled at how panic and frustration didn't turn into personal attacks. I dealt with trials as they came, and while hormones seemed to add an extra level of panic to things, once I took a deep breath and thought things through I was always able to calm down and work things out.

Which generally led to me crying tears of thankfulness that my brain was healed and working properly again. Mood swings are typical for a pregnant woman and I reveled in them because it meant that I was me again. I could feel things, both good and bad. I hadn't realized, until I lost the ability to feel anything, how much I missed the ability to feel everything. It made me almost not mind the random bursting into tears at inopportune moments.

When I had my next follow up with the doctor who had prescribed the antidepressant, she said that I could stop taking the pills altogether if I'd continued to feel alright. I happily reported to her that I was crying again, and now they were happy tears just as often as sad ones.