Archive for the ‘ Must Read ’ Category

Mixed Gender Sibling Roommates

Monday, December 5th, 2011

When we decided to try for #2, we had to talk out the would-be sleeping arrangements. Roy has a pretty small room, with space enough for his crib, a changing table/dresser, a rocking chair and not much else. And there’s really not another kid room to be had without making some fairly major changes. We’re certainly in no position to move anytime soon. Nor do we want to.

We decided the best option was to move the changing table into the laundry room/hallway right outside of Roy’s room. It will actually fit perfectly in front of a little window there. In further preparation, we installed a dimmer on the overhead hallway light, and Clint built some cabinets above the window, for extra storage. Once we actually move the changing table there and cute it up a bit I’ll snap a photo for you. It feels like a pretty creative, yet logical solution.

So. There will be room enough for two beds/cribs. Maybe a slim dresser or two. As the kids get older, surely Clint will build them the coolest bunk bed ever. We will make the most of every square inch. It kind of feels good. Like composting or re-purposing leftovers. We’re being thrifty with space.

Of course, there are times when I think that the kids need their own space. Deserve it, even. That a boy and a girl, especially, need the privacy of separate rooms.

Then I think about the third-world countries I’ve been to. Multiple kids of mixed ages and genders sharing the same room—the same bed, even. Or people living in more expensive cities, where the kid’s room is a closet. Literally. And then there’s the fact that the family who lived here before us raised four children under this very roof. And we’re worried about squeezing in two?

I love when other parents share their own boy-girl room-sharing situations. Even better are the stories from grown adults about how they grew up sharing a room with their sibling—of the opposite sex, even—and how close it made them. Just this weekend, a woman I met at a party, upon learning I was pregnant with a girl and had a boy at home already, asked, “You have rooms for each?” When I dove into a defense description of our setup, she told me she happily shared a room with her younger brother until the age of 15. “It was a little strange getting our own rooms,” she said. “He spent a lot of time hanging out in mine.”

So I’m homing in on the pros, as related by those who’ve lived this situation. Things like late-night whisperfests and never feeling alone in the middle-of-the-night darkness. We will make the most of what we have and hope that sibling bonds do grow stronger with maximum together-time in small, shared spaces—regardless of gender.

Image: Love illustration via Shutterstock

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It’s Really Difficult to Write About Miscarriage

Friday, November 18th, 2011

The other night we drove by one of our favorite sushi restaurants. Clint said, “Imagine. In just a few months we’ll be in there eating sushi, and you can have your martini. It’s been so long. Almost a year, really.”

Yes, a year. Because I was pregnant last December. I miscarried in March. Then I got pregnant again in April with the girl I’m carrying now. The girl who’s due in January.

I can’t believe how hard it was to write that.

In fact, I meant to write about it last month—October—when the baby we conceived last December was due. For whatever reason, I couldn’t. But I wanted to. For me, for anyone else who’s gone through a miscarriage, and for that little would-be baby we created and couldn’t wait to meet. I wanted to. But I couldn’t.

I’m feeling like maybe I can now. But what to say? That it is common? You know that. I know that. I suppose it helps a little, knowing you’re not alone.

A little.

I didn’t expect it. Why would I? With Roy, everything happened just as it should. Actually, better than “they” say it should, given my advanced maternal age of 37. Clint and I joke that we talked about the possibility of having a kid, then held hands, and bam! I was pregnant. That pregnancy went relatively smoothly, ending in a birth that went pretty much as I’d hoped. Lucky all around.

Pregnancy #2 started out the same way. We had a conversation about trying for another, then we looked at each other, and there I was, pregnant again. We had all the usual worries about money and space and time, but really none about the health of the baby. Of course everything would move forward as before. Deep down, it felt right. Meant to be. Our wedding anniversary is in September, Clint’s birthday in November, mine in December, Roy’s in January. October was the open slot in our run of family celebrations. Now it would be filled by our second child’s birthday. And it would all happen mere months before I turned 40. A meaningless deadline, but still. It felt like the logical conclusion to my 30s. Perfect, even.

I didn’t worry when the doctor couldn’t pick up a heartbeat at eight weeks, either. It was still so early.

I didn’t worry when my morning sickness waned much earlier than it had with Roy. Why go there? I chose instead to feel thankful for being nausea-free.

It was the spotting that got me worrying. Light, but spotting nonetheless. “Common in early pregnancy,” the nurse told me over the phone. “If it gets worse, let us know.”

Within days, the flu descended upon our home with a vengeance. After chili-dog night, no less. It was the first time all three of us had gotten knocked down in such a way, and it was rough. Between the spotting and the throwing up, I decided to see the doctor. My vague “bad feeling” grew after discovering I’d lost a few pounds. The doctor still couldn’t pick up a heartbeat. I was 11 weeks along, with a nuchal scan scheduled the following week. Did I want to wait until then, he asked, or would I rather get an ultrasound now? Just to put my mind at ease.

“Now,” I answered, without hesitation. “Definitely now.”

Clint was at home with Roy, throwing up, as I reclined in that dark room, hopefully inspecting the ultrasound screen, conspicuously lacking movement. The technician remained silent.

“Can you see anything?” I asked.

“There’s no pole,” she said.

“What’s a pole?”

“A baby.”

Development had stopped weeks earlier.

So yes, I know this is common. That These Things Happen. That most likely, there was some sort of chromosomal abnormality and that Nature took its course. Still, we mourned the loss. And the guilt came. Were my workouts too vigorous? What about that decaf tea that apparently wasn’t? Or maybe it was a matter of me taking my pregnant state for granted. Can development stop simply due to under-appreciation?

My head says no. My heart still wonders.

Then, there was waiting for the inevitable. This is an awful time, knowing what is—isn’t?—inside you. Not knowing what to expect. Not knowing when to expect it. This is not something you want to happen during a meeting, or at a restaurant, or at Target. This is not something you want to happen.

It happened the following day, as I was working at home, alone. So quick and painless it didn’t seem right. At first. Then came cramping. And blood. Both worsened considerably as the hours passed. I wanted my body to take care of things naturally. Apparently, my body wasn’t so sure it could handle this on its own.

So. I could tell you it was horrible. Maybe we should have gone to the hospital. At the point when that decision needed to be made I was teetering on the edge of consciousness and may not have been exercising the best judgement. We didn’t go. And just when both Clint and I knew things could not get any worse, they didn’t. And that was that.

Common. Horrible. But mostly, heartbreaking. An experience that I’m not better for having had. An experience I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. An experience that if you’ve gone through it, I am so sorry. I want to hug you and cry for you and tell you that I understand. Because I do. I know that doesn’t really help much.

I’ll settle for a little.


Image: Broken Heart with a Bandage via Shutterstock

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Stubborn Enough for Natural Childbirth. Again.

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

When I found out I was pregnant the first time, the one that resulted in the 20-month-old ball of energy currently zipping around our home, I figured I’d ride out labor pumped with whatever drugs they’d give me. My instinctual philosophy went something like Pain: Bad. Drugs: Good. What kind nut job wouldn’t readily accept any and all available help in making what by all accounts is an excruciating experience more tolerable?

I am a researcher. I tend to spend a lot of time reading up and polling friends to ensure I’m prepared for purchases and experiences, for example, especially those that build up slowly and uncomfortably over the course of nine months and are 100 percent guaranteed to change my life forever. I read and Googled like it was my job, then watched “The Business of Being Born” with Clint. When it ended, I looked over at him, sighed, and said, “Oh, shit. Natural childbirth it is.”

To help me reach my new goal, I employed an intricate two-step program.

Step #1: Hire a doula. The nurses would know what was going on. Clint would be 100% on my side. Seemed it could only help to have someone in the delivery room who was a combination of both. I knew there was the potential to want to strangle a highly involved near-stranger at some point during such a painful and personal process, especially if she had some sort of cheeseball Earth Mother catchphrase or broke out flute music or, say, touched me, so I interviewed three doulas. We chose the one who said the right things and instilled the greatest amount of confidence, which is to say the one that we could most easily picture hanging out with as I screamed obscenities and pooped myself. Even then, I was only halfway sure I wouldn’t abruptly ban her from the room mid-event.

Step #2: There was no step #2. Big mistake. It should have involved researching breathing techniques or meditation or some type of natural pain management. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Breathing through contractions did not come naturally to me, as I assumed it would. I fought the contractions so hard that eventually, doing so became the point. When Roy finally arrived, after 30-some hours of labor nonsense, I was all, “Ha! Contractions, gone! I won!” and then, “Wait, why is there an inconsolable bird in the room?”

I never asked for an epidural because I am too stubborn. I did, however, ask for “anything that would make this godawful pain stop because I can’t take even one more contraction I’m not kidding give me something now it must end.” Horse tranquilizers? Bourbon? Yes thank you and hurry it up. My doula and the nurses conferred, which resulted in an offer of Nubain, a fast-acting narcotic that I was told I could take just once. They couldn’t deliver it quickly enough. It lasted all of 30 damn minutes. It didn’t take away the pain, either, but it did allow me to sleep soundly between contractions. That rest came in handy because little did I know I was about to embark upon four solid hours of pushing.

So, technically, not natural. But pretty darn close. And despite what I vowed at the top of my lungs during those final four hours—my doctor called it “the most acrobatic birth he’d ever attended”—I’m going to again try and go natural when I deliver this January. (We’re taking hypnobirthing classes this time.) I don’t feel like outlining the whys. I’m not here to change anyone’s mind. I believe that however a mama can make it through childbirth and end up with a healthy baby is perfect, for her. My choice wasn’t The Right One. It was the right one for me. So I’m making it again.

Because apparently, I am that kind of nut job.

NOTE: For another take on birthing, check out my fellow blogger Jill Cordes’ post on why she’s scheduling a C-Section.

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Win Big: Kid-ish Contest Roundup

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

Who doesn’t like winning something? Nobody, that’s who. Since there are lots of really cool contests going on here at Parents & American Baby, I thought I’d spread the love by corralling them right here, thus making it nice and simple for you to click and win, win, win. I won’t even consider asking you to share your loot with me. You are so very welcome.

But wait! Before I do, huge congrats to Kate, who won a signed copy of Jennifer Wilson’s new book, Running Away to Home by commenting on my Q&A with the fabulous Ms. Wilson. Thanks for reading and commenting, Kate. Your book is on its way.

OK, first up we have the American Baby Cover Contest. It’s just what it sounds like, people: Your very own Cutest Kid in the World on the cover of American Baby magazine, for all to coo over. The contest runs until Saturday, November 26th, but there are weekly $250 giveaways leading up to that deadline, so the sooner you enter, the better. Click here to learn more about the cover contest, including how to enter.

Next: The American Baby Car Seat Giveaway. Two lucky readers will win the new Summer Infant Prodigy car seat (retail: $180), specially designed so you don’t need a degree in aeronautical engineering to install it. To enter to win a car seat, comment on this Goody Blog post by Friday, November 11th. 

Now, on to the Parents Kid of the Year Photo Contest, wherein you win $7,000 AND official confirmation that your kid is ridonkuliously adorable. Again with the $250 weekly giveaways, so upload ASAP, though this one runs until January 12, 2012. Click here to learn more about entering the Kid of the Year Photo Contest, y’all.

Aaaand last, but in no way even close to least, the Parents 2011 Best Toys of the Year Sweepstakes. Just in time for the holidays, right? Five winners get one of five prize packages made up of toys from Parents’ hand-selected 2011 Best Toys of the Year. Each package retails between $350 and $500-ish bucks. For this one, you can enter daily, and the contest ends next Sunday, November 13th, so get on that. Click here to learn more about entering the Best Toys of the Year Sweepstakes.

So there you go. Enter away! Good luck. And know that in my book, you are all winners. (The prize for that one? A warm, fuzzy feeling. Enjoy.)

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Q&A: One Family’s Sabbatical—Plus, Win the Book!

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Admit it. You’ve considered it. Chucking it all and taking off, kids in tow, the world your classroom? I sure have.

Travel writer Jennifer Wilson not only considered it, she saved her pennies and did it, abandoning her cushy Iowa life for the tiny Croatian mountain village her ancestors fled decades earlier.

She chronicled her family’s adventures in “Running Away to Home,” just published by St. Martin’s Press. Wilson agreed not only to a frank Q&A on her family’s sabbatical, including tips on how to take your own, she’s also promised a signed copy of her book to one lucky Love & Diapers reader. (Details below.) Her graciousness may or may not be attributed to the fact that we’re friends—she comments here at L&D under the handle anti-jen.

A story-setting excerpt from the book:

“Jim and I looked at each other across the shopping cart one Saturday afternoon, both of us holding the Starbucks that accounted for $150 of our monthly household budget, SUV idling in the parking lot, kids grousing that the Lego set they’d chosen was somehow lacking, and asked ourselves: Is this the American Dream? Because if it is, it sort of sucks.”

 L&D: Did you at all feel somewhat loony, lifting your family up out of its comfy Midwestern existence and plopping them into a relatively desolate Croatian mountain town?

Jennifer Wilson: Often times, yes! I appreciate how delicately you put that, Berit. We were at a point in our lives where we had everything we supposedly wanted—good jobs, nice house, sweet kids—but things felt weird. We didn’t feel very connected to any of it. I think we spend a lot of time talking about what we want from marriage, from work, from friendship. But how often do we talk about what we want to be as a family? We wanted a time-out to recalibrate, and frankly, the fantasy of the Croatian mountain village just hit at the right place at the right time in our lives. And off we went for some family recalibrating!

How did the kids feel about that?

Weeeeeell, my son Sam, who was 6 at the time, flat-out refused to go. We had to blatantly bribe him. Zadie was almost 4 and had no idea what “going to Croatia” meant. So of course she agreed—she’d be spending all her time with her family, and so it was awesome!

What was the reality of village life like?

The village was small … and quiet … and that intimidated me a lot at first. I describe it in the book as a handful of gnome houses in the crease between mountains. The backyards all melded together into giant fields and meadows, and my kids got to run free all day every day for the first time in their lives. For them, it was heaven, from climbing trees to eating wild strawberries in the field. They were more independent than they’d ever been, and I realized just how much face time parents and kids are forced to have these days. Sam and Zadie really thrived with the freedom, knowing that we were always close by if they needed us.

Sounds as if you hit the jackpot in the simplicity department. Was it the cure-all you hoped it would be?

Having a much smaller place was great. We live in a big renovated house here in Des Moines, and it can be a bear to keep up. So having just one big dorm-like space was pretty heavenly. It was also great to have our own schedule—no playdates, no practices, no real work deadlines. The simplicity of time was so freeing in that way. Our time was all our own. It made us realize how much we sort of manufacture our own schedules, and how overscheduling separates us from connecting with each other.

On the other hand, simplicity can also be a nice way of saying “boring.” Having huge tracts of uninterrupted time was weird for me. The kids and Jim relaxed right into it. Sam and Zadie were so happy to have nowhere to be, ever. When Jim got bored he’d pick up the atlas and plan a drive, or embark on an epic cooking adventure, or just accept the boredom. One day he decided to make burgers, and it took him all day just to find all the ingredients.

But for the busy mom here, huge tracts of do-nothing time made me feel almost agoraphobic. I am the captain of our home schedule, and when nobody needed my services anymore, I didn’t really know what to do. I admit I had my fair share of panic attacks at the beginning. But the more we became enmeshed in the village, the more things I had to do: Learning old recipes with the neighbor ladies, interviewing people about history, learning how to be really good at hanging up laundry on the line, sleuthing down old family members. Still, this experience made it very clear that I’m the restless one in the family. I don’t do downtime very well. It’s just my nature.

In what ways did these revelations change your family life back here?

It’s more of a priority to stay connected, as a family. We still have activities and tend to run around, but I’m quicker to put on the brakes and make everyone get in pajamas to read “Hatchet” together on the couch. Being present with each other is a daily priority.

Being connected to our food source has remained a priority and gotten more important. We eat clean local food as much as we can. We have our own garden and chickens. We buy fresh food daily, in season. Although the kids won’t appreciate that lesson ‘til they’re older—they want junk, and can’t figure out why we have to eat things that look so close to original form. So we still take plenty mac and cheese or fast food intervals.

Any advice to a family thinking of taking their own similar type of time-out?

Get “The Family Sabbatical Handbook” by Elisa Bernick. It is essential, comprehensive, and we followed it to the letter. It was infinitely helpful.

Also, take a scouting trip first if you can. See the lay of the land, make some contacts that you can email with questions, whether it’s the tourism person or a landlord or friends you meet while visiting.

Last, prepare for a challenge. A family sabbatical isn’t for the weak of knees. As with all travel, it’s 90 percent work, 10 percent glory. And of course, buy “Running Away to Home” to get some idea. I write about the good, the bad, and the in between. I don’t sugarcoat it, yet you’ll get an idea of the unique beauty of taking this kind of leap with your family.

Win your very own SIGNED copy of “Running Away to Home” by leaving a comment below by the end of the day on this Friday, October 28th. Anonymous comments and those without a valid email address will be disqualified. The winner will be chosen at random, then contacted via email. If I don’t hear from a winner within five days, a new one will be chosen. Please enter/comment only once. Good luck!


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