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The 5 Stages of Head Lice: From Denial to Depression

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There are few things in this world that send a shiver down a parent’s spine more than the dreaded words, “Your child has head lice.” You never think it will happen to your children since you keep a clean home and even cleaner kids. Lice only happens to people who don’t bathe regularly, right?

Wrong. No one is immune to these infectious parasites. They live on the human scalp and feed on blood to survive. The female lice lay eight-10 eggs daily, which mature in less than two weeks and have the capability of living up to 30 days on the scalp. I learned the hard way that not only do lice travel at the speed of light through an elementary school classroom, they can also invade the cleanest heads and have the agility of an Olympic pole vaulter.  

My experience with head lice can be summed up in five phases similar to Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief: Denial and anger, followed by bargaining, depression, and acceptance. 

Denial

When I noticed a tiny population of insects zip-lining down my daughter’s hair shafts, I was certain the dog had given her fleas. Although her school posted warnings about an outbreak of head lice, I never dreamed it would happen to my squeaky clean child. On closer inspection, I discovered hundreds of microscopic eggs in her hair and muffled a scream. MY DAUGHTER HAD HEAD LICE! 

I lined up all four of my children and found lice on every one of their heads. Before my husband could sneak out the door that night for a hockey game, I reminded him that he married me for better or worse, and this would definitely fall under the category of “worse.”

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First, I made a trip to the drugstore for a lice removal kit. This was more humiliating than purchasing an industrial size box of heavy duty tampons, because even the cashier leaned away from me while ringing up my nit kit.

Once home, my husband and I boiled hairbrushes, vacuumed carpets, sprayed all the upholstery and mattresses in the house with lice repellent, steam-cleaned the car, stripped the beds, and threw a mountain of linens, clothing, and 50 assorted stuffed animals into the dryer. In between this delousing nightmare, we took turns washing and rinsing our children’s hair, then plucking out their nits like monkeys examining each other’s heads in a zoo. Six-and-a-half hours, 531 nits and lice later (yes, I counted), we were parasite free.

Anger

We lived in ignorant bliss for approximately 10 days while continuing the preventative measures of washing, rinsing, and spraying, when suddenly my youngest daughter began vigorously scratching her head. It was Lice Invasion Part Deux, and I was seriously angry at whichever parent had been negligent in the delousing process and sent their child to school with a head full of nits. Maybe they didn’t stay up until 3 a.m. running a nit comb through their child’s hair, or maybe they forgot to turn their dryer on a temperature equivalent to the surface of Mercury to burn the bionic bugs out of the family bedding.

Armed with a prescription of toxic nit shampoo and an electronic lice zapper, I went to work on four heads while my husband deloused the house for a second time. Both of my daughters had waist-length hair, but I snipped off their beautiful tresses in an attempt to cut my nit picking time in half. I’m not sure who cried more – me or my daughters – but as they watched me fill a vinegar bowl with dozens of squirming insects the size of weevils, they understood my desperation.

Bargaining

I promised the kids that if they allowed me to inspect their heads daily after school and wrap their hair in a mixture of mayonnaise and vinegar each night, I wouldn’t burn down the house to rid our family of the lice once and for all. They agreed, even though it meant spending a week with sticky hair that reeked of rancid salad dressing.

Depression

For weeks we remained ostracized from society, hunkered down in our home like lepers to avoid spreading the mutant parasites to other families. After the first seven days of confinement, I’d memorized the lyrics to every Disney song on the DVDs that my children watched for hours on end. It pushed me to a breaking point in my sanity, which explains why my husband found me curled up in the fetal position on the couch with a glazed look in my eyes.

Acceptance 

By the time we experienced a fourth round of head lice in a two-month span, I was a seasoned pro with a nit comb in one hand and a bottle of lice repellent in the other. I could spot a nit a mile away and had no problem donning a shower cap and rubber gloves to inspect the heads of every child on our block. Lice were a fact of life, and we had survived the invasion.

Luckily, our children’s lice never bothered to play hide-the-egg on my scalp or my husband’s. Which is a good thing, because if they had, my house would have been burned down long ago.

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If there's one thing you learn as a new mama, it's that routine is your friend. Routine keeps your world spinning, even when you're trucking along on less than four hours of sleep. Routine fends off tantrums by making sure bellies are always full and errands aren't run when everyone's patience is wearing thin. And routine means naps are taken when they're supposed to, helping everyone get through the day with needed breaks.

The only problem? Life doesn't always go perfectly with the routine. When my daughter was born, I realized quickly that, while her naps were the key to a successful (and nearly tear-free!) day, living my life according to her nap schedule wasn't always possible. There were groceries to fetch, dry cleaning to pick up, and―if I wanted to maintain any kind of social life―lunch dates with friends to enjoy.

Which is why the Ergobaby Metro Compact City Stroller was such a life-saver. While I loved that it was just 14 pounds (perfect for hoisting up the stairs to the subway or in the park) and folds down small enough to fit in an airplane overhead compartment (you know, when I'm brave enough to travel again!), the real genius of this pint-sized powerhouse is that it doesn't skimp on comfort.

Nearly every surface your baby touches is padded with plush cushions to provide side and lumbar support to everything from their sweet head to their tiny tush―it has 40% more padding than other compact strollers. When nap time rolls around, I could simply switch the seat to its reclined position with an adjustable leg rest to create an instant cozy nest for my little one.

There's even a large UV 50 sun canopy to throw a little shade on those sleepy eyes. And my baby wasn't the only one benefiting from the comfortable design― the Metro is the only stroller certified "back healthy" by the AGR of Germany, meaning mamas get a much-needed break too.

I also appreciate how the Metro fits comfortably into my life. The sleek profile fits through narrow store aisles as easily as it slides up to a table when I'm able to meet a pal for brunch. Plus, the spring suspension means the tires absorb any bumps along our way―helping baby stay asleep no matter where life takes us. When it's time to take my daughter out, it folds easily with one hand and has an ergonomic carry handle to travel anywhere we want to go.

Life will probably never be as predictable as I'd like, but at least with our Metro stroller, I know my child will be cradled with care no matter what crosses our path.

This article is sponsored by Ergobaby. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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It's been more than a year since Khloé Kardashian welcomed her daughter True Thompson into the world, and like a lot of new moms, Khloé didn't just learn how to to be a mom this year, she also learned how to co-parent with someone who is no longer her partner. According to the Pew Research Center, co-parenting and the likelihood that a child will spend part of their childhood living with just one parent is on the rise.

There was a ton of media attention on Khloé's relationship with True's father Tristan Thompson in her early days of motherhood, and in a new interview on the podcast "Divorce Sucks!," Khloé explained that co-parenting with someone you have a complicated relationship with isn't always easy, but when she looks at True she knows it's worth it.

"For me, Tristan and I broke up not too long ago so it's really raw," Khloé tells divorce attorney Laura Wasser on the podcast. She explains that even though it does "suck" at times, she's committed to having a good relationship with her ex because she doesn't want True to pick up on any negative energy, even at her young age.

That's why she invited Tristan to True's recent first birthday bash, even though she knew True wouldn't remember that party. "I know she's going to want to look back at all of her childhood memories like we all do," Khloé explained. "I know her dad is a great person, and I know how much he loves her and cares about her, so I want him to be there."

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We totally get why being around Tristan is hard for Khloé, but it sounds like she's approaching co-parenting with a positive attitude that will benefit True in the long run. Studies have found that shared parenting is good for kids and that former couples who have "ongoing personal and emotional involvement with their former spouse" are more likely to rate their co-parenting relationship positively.

Khloé says her relationship with Tristan right now is "civilized," and hopefully it can get even better with time. As Suzanne Hayes noted in her six guiding principles for a co-parenting relationship, there's no magic bullet for moving past the painful feelings that come when a relationship ends and into a healthy co-parenting relationship, but treating your ex with respect and (non-romantic) love is a good place to start. Hayes describes it as "human-to-human, parent-to-parent, we-share-amazing-children-and-always-will love."

It's a great place to start, and it sounds like Khloé has already figured that out.

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Kim Kardashian West welcomed her fourth child into the world. The expectancy and arrival of this boy (her second child from surrogacy) has garnered much attention.

In a surrogacy pregnancy, a woman carries a pregnancy for another family and then after giving birth she relinquishes her rights of the child.

On her website, Kim wrote that she had medical complications with her previous pregnancy leading her to this decision. “I have always been really honest about my struggles with pregnancy. Preeclampsia and placenta accreta are high-risk conditions, so when I wanted to have a third baby, doctors said that it wasn't safe for my—or the baby's—health to carry on my own."

While the experience was challenging for her, “The connection with our baby came instantly and it's as if she was with us the whole time. Having a gestational carrier was so special for us and she made our dreams of expanding our family come true. We are so excited to finally welcome home our baby girl."

A Snapchat video hinted that Kim may have planned to breastfeed her third child. What she chooses to do is of course none of our business. But is has raised the very interesting question, “Wait, can you breastfeed when you use a surrogate?"

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The answer is yes, you sure can! (And you can when you adopt a baby, too!)

When a women is pregnant, she begins a process called lactogenesis in which her body prepares itself to start making milk. This usually starts around the twenty week mark of pregnancy (half way through). Then, when the baby is born, the second phase of lactogenesis occurs, and milk actually starts to fill the breasts.

All of this occurs in response to hormones. When women do not carry a pregnancy, but wish to breastfeed, they can induce lactation, where they replicate the same hormonal process that happens during pregnancy.

A woman who wants to induce lactation can work with a doctor or midwife, and start taking the hormones estrogen and progesterone (which grow breast tissue)—often in the form of birth control pills—along with a medication called domperidone (which increases milk production).

Several weeks before the baby will be born, the woman stops taking the birth control pill but continues to take the domperidone to simulate the hormonal changes that would happen in a pregnancy. She'll also start pumping multiple times per day, and will likely add herbal supplements, like fenugreek and blessed thistle.

Women can also try to induce lactation without the hormones, by using pumping and herbs, it may be harder but some women feel more comfortable with that route.

Inducing lactation takes a lot of dedication—but then again, so does everything related to be a mama. It's a super personal decision, and not right for everyone.

The important thing to remember is that we need to support women and mothers through their entire journey, no matter what decisions they make about themselves and their families—whether Kardashian or the rest of us.

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