Lifestyle

Jen’s Birth Story: Joy Follows Loss

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About 5 days before my due date, my doctor declared that there was “not much going on down there.” So the night I went into labor, I had what I thought were some Braxton-Hicks during dinner. My husband, Evan, was exhausted from work and fell asleep right afterwards. I watched TV while he slept--everything was prepared for the baby who I didn’t expect to come any time soon.

And then the contractions started coming closer together. My cats looked at me like I was crazy as I leaned on things and breathed. By 2 am, the contractions were about 5 minutes apart. I woke my husband and said, “I don’t know, but I THINK it might be time.”

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I felt guilty but called my OB at that hour anyway. He said, “It might be it,” and told me to head over to the hospital. We weren’t feeling particularly rushed because I knew first babies could take a while. My bag had been packed for weeks, but my husband decided that he should not only shower, but then to repack the entire bag.

We drove to the hospital, which was in New Jersey. Typically the drive takes 15 minutes. Tonight there was construction, which caused traffic. I was annoyed because I was having contractions. But I still was not convinced that “this was it.”

At the hospital, they declared me four centimeters. Evan called my mom, who lives in North Carolina. She immediately headed to the airport. Then he called my sister, Chrissy, who lives in Queens. She headed to the hospital.

As I went into the bathroom to change into the hospital gown, the contractions started to hurt more. I remember saying, “I don’t think I like this at all!” They asked if I wanted an epidural and I said I did. It took them forever to get the needle in. It kept breaking! The anesthesiologist asked if I was part Asian--I’m not--because apparently Asian women sometimes have smaller spaces between their vertebrae. I was worried that maybe I wouldn’t be able to get an epidural at all. But finally, it went in.

After that, the contractions didn’t hurt much at all. My sister arrived and did a bunch of funny things including obsessively updating our Facebook statuses about how much I was dilated. By 8 am, my mother arrived from North Carolina.

The hospital said I could have two “support people” at the birth--my mom and Evan. But I wanted my sister there as long as possible. So every time we heard a nurse approach, she’d hide in the bathroom. A few times we forgot to tell her it was safe to come out.

In the afternoon, the nurses said I had stopped dialating, so the doctor broke my water. I had heard that would hurt like hell. It barely stung.

Around 7:30 pm, they told me it was time to push. In all the commotion, no one told my sister to leave. So I had my mom, sister, AND husband with me. They each played a very different role in comforting me. Although, I could have done without some of the banter between Evan and Chrissy. They kept looking “down there” and saying things like, “My God. I didn’t think there would be so much blood!” “There’s blood on the floor,” and my personal favorite, “It looks like two gigantic cheeseburgers down there!”

At the foot of the bed, there was a huge clock and a crucifix. I had to keep asking people to pull the curtain to cover those. I didn’t want to be reminded of how long I’d been pushing and I certainly didn’t want to think of the crucifiction at this moment.

I pushed for about two and a half hours. I said the F word A LOT, so it’s probably a good idea that we curtained off Jesus. I’ve heard of women who don’t feel anything but pressure when they are on an epidural. Sounded heavenly, but they turned mine off because it was taking so long. So I felt everything.

After a while, the doctor said we might have to make a decision about having a C-section. I barely had time to think because the next contraction came. I wasn’t particularly worried about the possibility. I just wanted the baby out.

Two nurses played the roles of good cop/bad cop. I cried something like, “Somebody help me.” The bad cop nurse sternly told me in Russian accent, “No one can help you. You are the only one who can push the baby out.” Perhaps my annoyance at that statement helped me push harder.

Finally, after 23 hours of labor and 2.5 of pushing, he was out. I’d watched so many videos of births and it looked like once the head was out, the rest of the baby sort of just slid out. Nope. The head comes out and you WAIT. Then it took more than one push to get the body out and the shoulder hurt. HARD.

I had expected my son to be immediately brought to my chest, but he wasn’t. He was silent and they whisked him away. I was too dazed and afraid to ask, “Why the hell aren’t you giving me my baby?” So I just laid there, while everyone rushed to the baby.

Here’s where my pretty typical birth story becomes atypical. This was my second pregnancy. My first was a difficult one, a story unto itself. The baby's heart never formed correctly and we were devastated to lose that baby at 6 months of pregnancy. When my son was born, I had a reaction that is difficult for me to admit. At that moment, I felt extreme sorrow. It was as if I was mourning the first baby. The doctor (who had been my doctor for the first pregnancy), came to hug me. I just wept. I was happy that my son was here at the same time that I kept thinking, “But I want my baby.”

Finally, I heard a cry from across the room. Everyone cheered. I felt more than relieved to hear that cry, but also incredibly ashamed of my sorrow at that moment.

Then they brought Henry to me. My family was crying. Henry had an adorable expression, like he was trying to be brave, but also said, “Where the heck am I, and was why is it so loud and bright in here?” I nursed right away and we’ve been inseparable ever since. He is physically a part of me, and someday I’ll tell him about the older brother he never knew.

Henry is now four years old. He’s the smartest, silliest, healthiest kid I know, and he’s thrilled to become a big brother this summer. I’m considerably more laid back about this pregnancy. And my birth plan includes getting an epidural, covering up any crucifixes and having my family by my side.

Learn more about Jennifer Weedon Palazzo of MomCaveTV here.

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If you had asked me a few years ago what I thought my biggest accomplishment was, I probably would have rattled off a bunch of career-related successes and financial wins. Or even something about my worldly travels. I was full of money-driven, "success" driven goals. I had it all mapped out.

I was ticking off items on my list thinking the more I did the happier I would become.

But, my sweet child, in the short three and a half years I've been a mama, 1,352 days to be exact, I have realized something. Something you need to know.

No matter what, nothing I do in life will ever be as great as being your mom.

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My accomplishments aren't measured in dollars, they are measured in hugs and kisses. And every time we say "I love you."

My accomplishments aren't measured by other people's praise, they are defined by the fact that I love you and will never stop.

My accomplishments are defined by the truth that I am with you no matter what. By the truth that I will be your biggest fan. Your protector. Your teacher. Your friend. Your confidant.

My accomplishments are defined by the truth that I will always be proud of you. That I will love you unconditionally, always and forever.

Yes, there are times when I achieve some pretty awesome things in life outside of being your mother. Moments I celebrate. Some are money-driven, some are career-driven, others are just things I've wanted to achieve and set out to do so. Am I proud of those things? Sure I am. I want to be an example to you that you can achieve anything you want to in this life. The world really is your oyster. Those moments though, never even come close to how proud I am to be your mom.

You see my child, no amount of money in the world can buy me the feeling of your little arms wrapped tight around me. The feeling of utter happiness I feel when I see you happy. No amount of money can buy the special bond we have.

My greatest accomplishment will always be you.

I won't lie, it isn't always easy. Sometimes, there are moments of exhaustion. Moments of frustration. Moments of tears. Moments where I desperately needed some 'me' time. But I will always choose you.

I know some people will not see motherhood as an accomplishment. That it is just something you do as part of life. But they don't see you like I do. Some people might wonder why I gave up a successful career to be home with you. But they don't know you like I do. They don't know that I was chosen to be your mama. That we were destined to be together. They don't know what an honor it is to be your mama.

So, my sweet child here is the truth.

You are my life's work.

You are my legacy in this world.

You, my child, are my greatest accomplishment and always will be.

[This article was previously published here.]

Life

Aside from hygienic reasons, there's something about a bath that's soothing, inviting and relaxing. Even little ones can enjoy the benefits of self-care but they often need a little bit of entertainment while they're getting cleaned. Because they are so small and constantly putting anything in their mouths, it's important to use toys that are just as safe as they are entertaining.

We gathered a few best practices from the American Academy of Pediatrics for safe bath time with infants and kids and our favorite products to keep our littles having fun in the water:

  • Use a safe, sturdy tub. Baby bathtubs can be "bucket style" for sitting upright, slanted for support, inflatable, folding and spa-style.
  • Be aware of bumps, edges and slings. Consider avoiding tubs with slings and pay close attention to any bumps or edges that pose a risk.
  • Never leave a child alone in a bathtub. Children can drown in 1 or 2 inches of water so make sure you're not stepping away from the bathroom or leaving babies in the care of another child.
  • Check water temperature. Lower the temperature of your water heater to no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid burns.

Here are our favorite safe bath toys for infants and toddlers. And of course, always check (and double check) toy labels for age guidelines and hazard warnings:

Green Toys tide pool bath set

Green Toys tide pool bath set

This 7-piece bath set includes a starfish, scallop, abalone, snail, squid and jellyfish, as well as a seaweed-patterned storage bag that are packaged using recyclable materials and printed with environmentally responsible inks. Each piece is designed to pour water in a different way—scoop up water with the abalone and create a cascading waterfall with the holes along the edge, or fill the jellyfish and watch the water run down and out each of the legs.

$12.77

B&H baby thermometer

B&H baby thermometer

Ever wonder if your baby is too hot or too cold during bath time? This high and low temperature alarm includes an accurate thermometer that flashes and beeps when water is at a non-optimal temperature. It also doubles as a bath toy that complies with the Consumer Product Safety Commission's toys safety standards, so you don't have to worry if the thermometer will produce chemical reactions in water. Genius!

$16.99

Sophie la girafe so pure bath toy

Sophie la girafe so pure bath toy

Babies can have fun chewing away this Sophie bath toy because it's made of 100% natural rubber from the rubber tree's sap. The rubber ring is also easy to grip so little ones can have full confidence splashing and playing around. And don't worry, water can't get inside the toy so bacteria and mold won't form.

$23.93

Skip Hop bath puzzle

Skip Hop bath puzzle

A puzzle and bath book in one? Yes, we'll take it! The pages float in water and stick to bath tiles so you're child will be entertained the entire time they're in the water. We love that the handy stroller ring keeps it all together when they're done.

$8.00

Green Toys my first tugboat

Green Toys my first tugboat

This cool tugboat toy is safe for the earth as well as your child. It's made with 100% recycled plastic milk containers, which helps save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and is free from BPA, PVC and phthalates. It also features a wide spout which will help them scoop and pour water while exploring in the water.

$11.91

Boon marco light-up bath toy

Boon marco light-up bath toy

If you have older kids and are less concerned with them putting toys in their mouth, your kid might enjoy Marco. Put Marco in water and watch him float while the color-changing light activates. It's BPA-free, too.

$11.99

Skip Hop light up bath toy

Skip Hop light up bath toy

Featuring water-activated multicolor lights, this soft and squeezable bath toy is sure to make a splash with any child in your life. Choose from a dinosaur or unicorn with the phthalate-free materials.

$4.50

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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This year's flu season has been making headlines, and there's a lot of (perfectly understandable) concern among parents about flu prevention and treatment.

The flu vaccine is the single best way to prevent your child from catching the flu. Other ways to prevent the flu from taking hold in your family include washing hands frequently, avoiding close contact with those who are sick, avoiding touching your eyes, mouth and nose, and staying in good overall health—getting plenty of sleep, eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly.

But what if, despite your best efforts, your child comes down with the flu? It can be hard to watch children suffer with flu symptoms such as chills, fever, aches, cough and congestion. That's why parents need a helpful, complete, scannable-at-2-am-in-panic-mode rundown of what to do for the flu, when to call the doctor and how to help little ones feel better.

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Here's what to do when you think your child has the flu:

1. How do I know if my child has the flu?

Symptoms of influenza tend to come on suddenly, and include:

  • Fever (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater)
  • Headache
  • Muscle pains
  • Cough
  • Hives
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose

So how do you know whether it's a cold or the flu? Symptoms of the common cold may be similar to the flu, but generally are milder and include cough, congestion, runny nose and sore throat. RSV, or respiratory cold virus, is a separate condition that can cause cold-like symptoms in older children, but may cause a more severe lung disease in infants called bronchiolitis. Your best bet is to call your pediatrician for a diagnosis.

2. What should I do if my child has the flu?

The best treatment for most flu infections is what doctors call "supportive care:" encouraging fluid intake, giving fever-reducing medication such as children's acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and getting plenty of rest.

Children who are at higher risk of complications from the flu or whose symptoms started within the past 48 hours may also receive treatment with an antiviral medication. Talk with your primary care provider about your options.

3. What medicines are safe for my child to take for the flu?

Fever-reducing medications, including ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can generally be given to children with the flu with your pediatrician's okay. Children should not receive aspirin. Be sure to follow dosing directions for your child's age and weight.

4. What are home remedies for flu symptoms in kids?

Flu treatment is all about comfort care for symptoms—rest, fluids, fever-reducer, repeat. Keep children with the flu home from school, preschool or daycare, keep them comfortable in bed (or snuggled up on the couch), and offer fluids—and plenty of sympathy.

5. Should I try to make my child with the flu eat, or drink?

Keeping kids hydrated while they're sick with the flu is important. Encourage small, frequent sips of liquids and soup to keep up with hydration. But don't worry about forcing your child to eat a hearty meal: As your child's infection resolves, their appetite will return.

6. When should I call the doctor for my child's flu?

Parents should always call their pediatrician if they're worried, of course, and if your child has a chronic medical condition that may be worsened by the flu, call your doctor right away. Here are symptoms that warrant an immediate call to your care provider:

  • Fast breathing
  • Signs of dehydration including decreased urine output
  • Fever and cough which improved at first but have worsened
  • Fever above 103 degrees, or any fever in a child under 3 months of age

Serious signs that warrant a trip to the emergency room or a 911 call, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Labored breathing
  • Blue discoloration of the lips or face
  • Difficulty in awakening
  • Severe muscle pains
  • Seizure activity

7. How long will my child's flu last?

Most kids with the flu run a fever for 3 or 4 days with aches and chills. But the worst symptoms tend to be over within 4 days or so, with gradual improvement in respiratory symptoms after the fever resolves.

8. When is it safe for my child to go back to school or daycare after having the flu?

Most daycares and schools have specific guidelines, such as 24 hours without a fever. Children with the flu are usually contagious for 5 to 7 days after the first onset of symptoms, and are at their most contagious when their fever peaks during the first 3 days. In general, children should stay home until they're fever-free for 24 hours and respiratory symptoms have improved.

Watching your child suffer with the flu can be hard, but knowing steps you can take to help your little one feel better fast can help. Hang in there—even flu season can't last forever.

Learn + Play

If you haven't bought an Instant Pot yet, what are you waiting for, mama? It's one of those holy grail items that, once used, you're not sure how you ever lived without it. In fact, it was one of the most-purchased items from Motherly mamas last year and was life-changing for one of our editors when she finally caved and tried it out for her family.

Whether you're a chef who loves to make gourmet meals or a mama who hates cooking and needs more time in the day, it's one of those products that works for everyone.

And, the Instant Pot is on super sale today on Amazon—just $56.99.

Instant Pot 6-quart

instant pot sale

Why does it have such a cult following? Because it cuts down on cooking time and you can cook just about anything in it. It acts as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer and warmer all in one. And the smart one-touch program makes cooking ribs, soups and desserts so much easier.

The 6-quart size cooks for up to six people, making it the perfect size for your family, and is 29% off today.

$56.99

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