Sunday, April 27, 2014

New Motherhood Summed Up In Three Photos

Before pregnancy.
1 month of being a new mother.
1 year of being a new mother.

If you've just begun this journey, don't worry. The complete and utter exhaustion will end. You will be yourself again. You just have to survive The Gauntlet. I promise you will find the strength. After that, it's a walk through the clovers.

"A new parent will lose about 1055.6 hours of sleep in the first year of their child's life – Almost 44 days."

Friday, April 25, 2014

Insuring Your Baby

Getting your baby insurance is a much harder task than it should be. Or maybe it's just my insurance in particular. For the initial months following his birth Jude received blanket coverage under me, but because he is a separate human being he isn't covered under me after that. I needed to file him on his own but also as my dependent. Which let's be clear, is backasswards to begin with. I know I'm on federal disability and this makes it somewhat of a special circumstance, but c'mon. Baby needs insurance, insure baby. It isn't that hard.

I have insurance, I have a baby, he should also have insurance. He's not moving out any time soon, guys. I promise. He can't even wipe his own ass yet.

So I requested the paperwork, and there was a lot of it, then sent it back it. It was a super long waiting process, roughly six entire months, after which they said, "Oh yeah we need proof of address, proof of income, and proof of vehicle." None of which they asked for initially. So I sent them proof of address and proof of income, but I don't have a car nor a driver's license (my photo ID is a State ID) and assumed they would realize by not sending a copy of my car registration that I simply didn't have a car. It's common enough for people not to own a car, right? No word, so I call them a few weeks later and they're like, "Oh, you didn't report for your vehicle so we closed the file."

Excuse me? Rather than call and clarify, or send another request, or anything else, you basically decided to half-ass your job dealing in the health of children and close the file? Really? REALLY? Let's not even start on the fact that they closed his file without even notifying me they had done so until I called them. So I had to start all over again. All of this the better part of an entire year to go through. Now we're looking at it taking just as long.

The brochure had said that if I did not possess an official copy of my child's birth certificate that they could obtain proof of one on my behalf. The hospital here did not give us an official certificate of live birth but a simple, like, I don't now... decorative one? Useful for framing but literally nothing else whatsoever. So this seemed great to me. Your claim is processed faster if you have one already, but you didn't have one it wasn't the end-all to your case. It was not on the list of things to send them the last time, so I figured I once again woudln't need it.

Received paperwork, filled out paperwork, sent paperwork in. Waited. Waited. Waited. They sent a new temporary card for him, but time continued to pass without word. We show up to a well-check to find out his temporary card is inactive, so he's set-up with gateway insurance -- which cover all well-checks, but essentially only well-checks (which they do not tell you until you literally show up for some other reason: like your baby has Chicken Pox and they refuse you). I call a day or so later, because making phone calls is something of a tricky situation with a toddler, and find out they closed his files, again without telling me, because a lack of information.

They had not sent anything asking for additional information (these aren't envelopes you can miss, they're huge and thick). They had not called me asking for additional information. I submitted to them the exact same things I had the first time, when it was all well and good, so I literally have no idea what happened and the person on the phone is treating me like I'm an invalid because I am asking her precisely why it was closed and she can't give me a specific response. For example, last time the 'specific' response was: no vehicle registration.

This time I'm going to just go ahead and obtain a certified copy of his birth certificate at my own expense, send them the initial paperwork, a copy of my state ID, proof of address, proof of income, his birth certificate, copy his ss#, my ss#, and a blank sheet of paper in which I am going to write: "PROOF OF VEHICLE -- I DO NOT OWN A CAR OR EVEN A BICYCLE" and I'm going to sign it as a sworn statement to that end. I'm also going to highlight the part of my photo ID that says: NON-DRIVER. I'm tempted to include my breastfeeding logs from the first 12 months, the logs detailing the frequency and consistency of his bowel movements when he lost weight, and a copy of his vaccination records. They are going to have so much fucking information they're not going to know what to do with half of it. They will be drowning in how much information they receive from me. It will be a whole new level of TMI.

Because honestly these people are either dumb as a mud fence or purposefully shutting me down and either way I'm done. It's stupid.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

First Time Being Sick, Ever

When Jude woke from his nap I could tell something was wrong. He wasn't playing or talking in the nursery like he usually does. When I went in, rather than standing at the side of his crib, bouncing up and down with a smile, he just sat there and whined. I went over to comfort him and pick him up. I gave him a hug and could feel how hot his skin was against mine. Not ten seconds later he puked. All over me, at least a liter -- the entirety of his lunch, snack, and milk.

We cleaned him up and gave him some juice to try to rehydrate him. He was eager to drink and it stayed down. For about thirty minutes he just cuddled with me on the floor, watching Sesame Street while laying in my lap. Then he sat up and started to complain again. I offered him more juice, but he refused. Then he leaned forward and barfed up all the juice he had drank earlier. From that point on he refused all food and drink. Luckily I got him to take a dose of Tylenol.

He was exhausted by bedtime and went down quickly. Thankfully. We left Grandma Eileen to watch over him and ran to the store to pick up some Pedialyte, since it was pretty obvious we were going to need some, and more Tylenol since he'd been nursing what remained of that bottle for months on end.

The next morning he woke up three hours earlier than normal, he had thrown up a little in his sleep, and threw up a little more when I lifted him out of the crib. I cleaned him up and sat with him on the floor all morning watching Sesame Street. I got him to drink some Pedialyte and a few hours later, barf-free, I gave him 1/4th of a banana. He warily ate it. He managed to keep it down, though, so I gave him another 1/4th and he ate that too. I got him down for his nap, but he only stayed down for about ten minutes. Then he was up screaming and crying. I was worried he'd throw up again if he worked himself up too much, so I went in to try to soothe him back to sleep. He was clearly very, very tired and very, very upset about it. Regardless he would not fall back asleep. He would just begin to doze off and then abruptly whimper and cry himself awake.

I finally resigned myself to an afternoon with a sick and over-tired toddler. I got him to eat a Saltine and drink some more Pedialyte but other than that is was disinterested in food. Which is good, dehydration is the dangerous part of being sick for anyone, toddlers included. I knew the moment he became sick that it was probably viral and (too young for antivirals) the only treatment is keeping him hydrated while Nature takes its course.

There's a thing about fevers most people don't seem to know: they're actually good for you when you're sick. The fever is not the virus or bacteria, the fever is your immune system's response to the pathogen. It's one of your body's deadliest weapons for foreign invaders. Breaking a fever at the first sign of it actually slows recovery down. It is best to let a fever remain untreated so long as it's under 101 Fahrenheit. Even in young children. The only time you should administer Tylenol or Ibuprofen is when the fever exceeds that temperature or other symptoms are too uncomfortable for you or your child to get any sleep. Because sleep is also key to recovering in a timely fashion. You'll note the only time Jude got Tylenol on Day 1 was right before bed, so he could sleep well. Day 2 would be different.

As we were bravely toughing out our second hour with an over-tired, sick toddler he began to complain again. Not about how tired he was, as those complaints were very obvious, but something else. I was preparing myself to be puked on for a second day in a row when we checked his temperature and noticed how high it had climbed. It went from 99 to 103 in the hour since the last time we had checked it. He was refusing Tylenol and Pedialyte. Aaron filled the tub and we steeled ourselves into giving him a cool bath -- torture for him at the time. It worked really well though, after just a few minutes his temperature had fallen enough that the water's temperature no longer caused him such discomfort. He even played a little. He was feeling much better once out of the tub, especially after we managed to get some Tylenol into him (cold bath is just a short-term solution).

He ate a couple more Saltines and drank plenty of Pedialyte. By bed time he was so tired he didn't even want me to rock him and sing Twinkle Twinkle. He just wanted to be put in his crib so he could go to sleep. So I obliged him and he fell asleep damn near instantly.

He woke up only an hour early on Day 3 and rather than crying upon waking, I could hear him in the nursery talking to his toys. Big improvement. I went in to get him and saw that his fever had broken. He was standing at the edge of crib happy to see me. He played and laughed during his diaper change, he was almost back to normal! He did not have much of an appetite yet. I tried banana and he refused it. I waited a while and tried some dry Life cereal. No interest. He was happily drinking his Pedialyte though. We played all morning and for lunch I tried him his usual: toasties with the mosties (that is toast with peanut butter and honey or some raisins). He wanted no part of it. He again happily drank his Pedialyte though. Right before nap time I noticed a red bump on his thigh. Upon closer inspection I noticed several others, and more. On his other leg, his arms, his face.

"This looks like the beginning of Chicken Pox," I recall thinking to myself, "But that usually starts on the trunk." So I pulled his shirt up to look and sure enough he had them there too. I put him down for his nap and though he'd only stayed asleep for 30 minutes, a few of the tiny red bumps had taken on their more characteristic zit-like form. He was fussier upon waking, so we gave him a tepid baking soda bath, which he enjoyed well enough. After that he decided to eat Veggie Sticks (which are a potato chip like snack food made from veggies instead of just potatoes), but considering it had been basically three days since he had shown ANY sincere interest in food, I let him feast. He was much, much happier for it.

Grandma Eileen showed up to look after him so that Aaron and I could get a break, it was my birthday and I had basically been spending every waking moment glued to Jude's side for days at that point, so I was extremely grateful to have her so close and willing. He'd gone down to bed before we got home (after having left fairly late) but once he fell asleep, he slept great. Straight through the night and he didn't wake early.

The next morning he woke up and played again. I could hear him laughing and talking as I got his breakfast ready. I went in and saw that a couple of the more advanced blisters had popped (including the one in his nostril -- ouch!) but no new ones had risen up to take their place, which was nice. Jude drank his Pedialyte but had little interest in the rest of his breakfast. He ate a bit of cereal but not as much as he'd usually eat. Copletely boycotted his banana. He went to the table where the Veggie Sticks are and wanted those. I suggested a small amount of raisins and he agreed to that. We gave him another lukewarm baking soda bath, which he stayed in for almost a whole hour, playing joyously. After that I slathered him with Calamine lotion and got him ready for nap time. He went down with a bit of protest but managed to stay down for a little over an hour.

From there on out it was mostly business as usual, with Calamine lotion and baking soda baths. With cool heads we successfully navigated not only through Jude's very first illness ever, but Chicken Pox! We kept a close eye on him of course and avoided any hospital visits by insuring he kept hydrated. The treatment for Chicken Pox, like all viruses is by-and-large waiting it out. Antivirals are given to adults and children over the age of 12, but for babies all you can do is keep their fever under control, make them as comfortable as possible and insist they drink enough! They can dehydrate quickly, if your little one is sick (through either end) and refusing to drink, you should definitely take them to an urgent care center or the hospital. They may require IV fluids.

Many parents worry about the lack of food intake but a human can go 3 weeks without any food intake whatsoever. However, you can only last 3 days without water. Hydration is vital, especially in the sick as not only are they actively losing water through vomiting and/or diarrhea but if they're refusing the drink on top of that the problem is quickly exacerbated.

Other signs your baby may need to go to the hospital is if they shown any signs of illness and have not been vaccinated (side note: you should get them vaccinated asap). If they have yellowing of the skin or the whites of their eyes. If their fever exceeds 101 and you cannot successfully bring it down or if their fever is above 104. If they are especially lethargic. If they are puking for longer than 24 hours. If their fever lasts longer than 3 days, even if it's low grade. If they have a rash that has lasted longer than a week and doesn't seem to be improving. If they have a rash that resembles a bull's eye. If they are having difficulty breathing. If their stool is black in color. If their puke is black in color. If there is blood in the urine, stool, or vomit (even if it's just a tiny amount). If they are suddenly bruising easily. If they are crying nonstop and you cannot comfort them at all. If their cry is especially high pitched. If they have a persistent, hoarse cough. If they display a peculiar tic or have an overt seizure. If they have a fever but their hands and feet are cold; if they seem especially clumsy and/or become unresponsive for any length of time; if they do not want to be cuddled or even touched, if there is any swelling in the fontanelle area or forehead; or have pale, blotchy skin (any or all of these can be a symptoms of Meningitis, treatment is necessary within the first 24 hours).

And of course, if you aren't sure how to treat their symptoms or just need peace of mind, take them to their primary pediatrician -- most have walk-in hours available for this exact reason. Never worry you're over-reacting.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mind Over Matter

"Mind over matter," is just a saying until you become a parent. Seriously. I always thought I had that mind over matter thing down pat. I could bear unreasonable amounts of pain before giving in and taking an Advil. I could stomach uncomfortable hot or cold longer than most other people around me before caving and turning on the air conditioner/heat. I could sit and do nothing, if nothing was available without complaining of boredom. I thought I had it down. If I had an itch, I would do my best not to scratch it unless it was really driving me nuts.

I was living life on Easy mode though. Having a baby skips Medium difficulty and sets the game of life straight to Hard mode. If you're a single parent expect to skip Medium and Hard mode and wake up in Nightmare mode -- a mode typically only unlocked once the game realizes you can handle Hard mode. Being a parent immediately puts life into perspective for you, whether you wanted it to or not. You realize, suddenly, that you had absolutely no idea what "mind over matter" even meant before. Before: when you hilariously thought you had it down pat.

You don't conquer mind over matter until you are sitting with an over-tired infant, rocking ceaselessly in the dark, in absolute silence trying to convince it to finally fall asleep. Then, when it finally begins to nod off you feel that tickle in your nose alerting your body that you are imminently going to sneeze. You have to, your nose tells your brain. There's no way to go about that without completely rousing the infant you've worked so diligently with to get to sleep. Even if you manage to sneeze quietly it's still a full body jolt. You realize, if you allow this bodily function to carry itself out -- you will wake the baby, and getting it back to sleep may take hours. Cutting into the miniscule time you get to yourself, to eat, sleep, and bathe.

You recognize in that instant that sneezing is NOT and option. You cannot sneeze. Both of your hands are full. The baby, so peacefully nestled in them. You don't have time to set the infant in its cradle to run out of the room to sneeze. The only thing you can do if you want to come out of this successfully is not sneeze. It takes every ounce of willpower you possess. But you do so.

Congratulations, you've just successfully fought against Nature and won.

You wake up at 3am, after having only been asleep for 45 minutes. You realize upon waking that you have a fever and need to go throw-up. The flu. The baby wakes and it's time to start your day. You pop a Tylenol, grab a cup of ginger tea and act as though it's business as usual. You haven't the time to be sick. Your baby needs you.

Congratulations, another victory for you.

You face challenges such as this daily. Sometimes multiple times a day! It's nap time, a particularly difficult time for many parents as babies (once they've adjusted to a proper day/night schedule) have a difficult time falling asleep when the sun is still shining -- if there is light in the room. It's a distraction. They can see things: they can see you! Their tiny eyes will wander, their little hands will grope at things. If only they would just close their eyes! Finally they do, after endlessly rocking or swaying. In a few minutes you'll be able to put them in their crib and tend to your own needs. You've probably had to pee for at least twenty minutes now. You glance down...

There is a spider on your pant leg, strolling around like it's gd Central Park. Your first instinct is to squeal and swat at it. You must suppress this instinct. Even were your hands free, swatting and shouting in fright would most certainly wake that baby you just now managed to get to sleep. You swallow your terror and continue to gently rock, watching Satan's spawn skitter around on your leg, undoubtedly plotting how best to kill you while you're helpless.

Congratulations, you've won again!

You're sitting and playing with a happy baby, someone delivers terrible news. You want desperately to break down into tears or shouting or whatever the case may be. If you break down though, baby will break down too. They are freakishly perceptive of emotions. Most people would react right then, but you have to keep your cool for now. Set aside whatever emotion you're feeling and continue stacking colored blocks until a more appropriate time, such as when a spouse, friend, or family members arrives to relieve you of duty. You didn't think you'd be able to, but you did.

Congratulations, yet another victory for you!

Welcome to life as a parent. In a few short months you'll practically be a master of mind over matter. You've got serious bragging rights. Especially with your childless friends. As they relay to you what a long hard day they've had, you nod sympathetically while inwardly laughing hysterically -- because you know how to. It's just mind over matter.