Thursday, August 27, 2015

Our Safety Buzzwords

Today is Pinterest Day for the Babywise Friendly Blog Network and we're all sharing on the topic of safety. Follow us on Pinterest for more great tips, or check out the posts from the other ladies directly on their blogs.


Over the past year I've come up with four alternatives to being that mom constantly yelling "no!" at her child. The four safety buzzwords we use most often with our toddler are:


Using these four specific words has helped our toddler to understand exactly what we want from him. You reap in public what you sow at home, so there has been much practicing of these concepts at home. When our son was was around one, we started teaching him basic obedience. At that age, we simply wanted him to acknowledge when we said he his name by looking at us. We'd say his name and pause, he'd look at us, and then we'd continue speaking. This initial act of submission to mom's voice sets the stage for any further commands to be obeyed. Now that he's two - and we've had much practice of this concept - when out in public I can say his name and expect that he will look at me and wait to hear what I say next. When we're in a loud or crowded space, this is especially useful. I can say his name loudly to get his attention, and then when he looks at me I can mouth "come" and he will come to me. Or I can mouth "danger" and he will climb down off a tall chair. This practicing has made it possible for me to be confident taking him places knowing that he will likely obey my commands and that his obedience will keep him safe.

I will fully admit that it doesn't always go swimmingly, despite all our practice. Toddlers are curious little beings, and that can cause them to forget the protocol or ignore it all together. We had an instance of just that this past weekend. While at my husband's parents house with his sister and her kids, my toddler let himself out the front door and took a short walk down the street before a neighbor (read: angel) returned him to us - before anyone even realized he was missing! Despite all my months of training him, there he was being handed into my husbands arms by a stranger who found him while out walking her dog. You can imagine my horror at the whole situation, and we are so thankful he is okay! Needless to say, he did not ask to go outside and so we have since added "ask" to our list of safety buzzwords and are currently practicing this one at home.

Keeping a toddler safe can be exhausting, but we've found these safety buzzwords to be very useful - most of the time! What about you - any buzzwords or phrases that work really well for your little one?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Mary: 1 Month

We made it one month! And boy what a month it's been. For us, going from 1 to 2 kids has been much more difficult than going from 0 to 1. This is mainly because Mary hates sleep with the fury of a 1,000 suns. So there has been lots of baby cuddling going on at our house! With Drew I was very rigid with his schedule because I was afraid to deviate. It's also easy to read online what has worked for other moms and then get stuck in the rut of trying to make that work for your own kid; I definitely did that with Drew. With Mary we're more flexible because we have to take the entire family's needs into account. It's also easier to be flexible when you have one child already because you have more confidence that it will all sort itself out eventually. I also have an amazingly optimistic husband and wonderful support network of seasoned moms to help remind me to take things one day at a time. It takes a village!

Overall Mary is happy baby. She's only not happy when she can tell the transition to a nap or bedtime sleep is approaching. The last month has been one long, never-ending, "choose your own adventure" attempt to figure out what would make Mary most comfortable going to (and staying!) asleep. At this point I think it's safe to say we've tried every reasonable combination of advice out there and we're just taking it nap by nap and night by night. Her worst time of day is predictably in the evening; she has a fierce witching hour. It used to be from 7pm - 10pm, but now is comes on promptly at 8pm and usually subsides by 9:30pm. Then she's essentially out for the night. She is sleeping well at night once she's asleep, thankfully. She takes a late evening feeding around 10:30pm and then a middle of the night feeding around 3:30am. On a good night she basically sleeps through those feedings or falls asleep right after them, and then wakes at 7am to start the day. On a bad night Kyle will go in and sit with her until she falls back asleep after a feeding. So while I'm not getting any naps during the day, I am getting some decent hauls of sleep at night. Kinda.

At about 2 weeks old I figured out that Mary was suffering from silent reflux. To clarify, silent reflux does not mean reflux with no crying (wouldn't that be a treat!). Silent reflux is when the baby has reflux but there isn't much actual spit up because she's spitting up and then swallowing it back down. Silent reflux is extra uncomfortable for babies because the milk they tried to spit up goes back down their throat, so it's double exposure to the acidic content of their stomach going up and down. After talking with her pediatrician we decided to put her on medicine for it and she's doing much better. It's not totally cured (and wont be until she naturally grows out of it as she gets older), but there is much less crying and general fussiness after eating.

Speaking of eating, she nurses well and I'm finding it's so easy to breastfeed her in comparison to Drew because this time my wrists and hands aren't numb; it's amazing the difference not having carpel tunnel makes! Right now she's exclusively breastfeeding, however we do a bottle of breast milk every few days to allow her to work on her bottle skills. She takes the bottle without issue, which has been great because I don't like nursing in public so I'll often pump a bottle of milk to take with me before we go out somewhere.

Her awake times are short, but I try to maximize them none the less. We do singing, baths, tummy time, "play time" with Drew, tours around the house, looking in a mirror, etc. She just started smiling at me a few days ago and that's been a wonderful development!

Drew is still adjusting to having Mary around and last week he started showing some aggression toward me at bed time. The following days I made an attempt to increase the amount of quality time I spend with him and that seems to have helped. I also am making more of an effort to stop and look him in the eyes when I'm talking to him. Baby Mary takes up a lot of my attention, but I desperately want Drew to know he's still important to me. When Kyle is home on Wednesdays he takes Mary in the mornings and I take Drew out of the house for mom + Drew time. I really look forward to those times because I find myself missing Drew throughout the week. My dad and Kyle have been so helpful in taking care of Drew, but sometimes I just want to be with my son! I've been told this is normal and eventually Mary will become easier to care for and I'll be able to better split my time evenly between my two kids.

Side note: my two kids? It feels like just yesterday I was in a puddle of tears because I was having trouble getting pregnant with Drew. And then another even bigger puddle of tears when we had even more trouble getting pregnant with Mary. And now we just have two kids. How crazy awesome is that?! God is so good and His timing is so perfect. Whenever both the kids are sleeping and I'm watching them side by side on the video monitor I can't help but just thank God profusely for giving us these two tiny humans to love (I guess it's extra easy to be thankful when they are both sleeping peacefully!).

I've been re-reading this book in the spare moments I have when Mary is  (finally) sleeping and Drew is elbow-deep in legos; I love this book because the chapters are so short I can usually finish one each time I start reading. The last chapter I read was talking about not counting the minutes of lost sleep in the middle of the night with a newborn. The idea is that as a mom you are simply there when your baby needs you. I love this concept and I'm trying to apply it to all of my mothering right now. Because there are many, many lost minutes right now. Minutes I could have been showering, minutes I wanted to be with one child but the other child needed me, minutes I couldn't spend to get dinner on the table on time, minutes lost in the middle of the night dealing with diaper changes in the dark...but the point is, I'm there when my kids need me. And as the weeks go on and we get some semblance of normalcy back, I want to extend this to my marriage as well - because my life isn't just about being there for my kids, it's about being there for my husband as well. He needs my minutes, too.

Alright - enough rambling, here are some pics from Mary's first month:

She has kept all of her hair from birth, so far!
Working on their friendship
Baby sleeps!
That little lower lip!
Tandem naps
Mom and Mary selfie!
Baby stretches 
The noodle pose never gets old for us! So cute!
Don't let her sleep smiles deceive you - she hates sleep!
Drew loves all the visitors because they usually end up reading him
books! Drew struck gold with my Aunt Shirley, because who better to read you
books then a retired librarian?!
Mary with great-grandma Pat
Mary with great-grandma Eva
Drew likes to help me wake Mary up from her naps
Full hands, full heart!
My standard view when I'm nursing. In this picture Drew is "talking" to Mimi
 (my mom) on the phone. I hardly even talk on the phone so I don't know
where he learned this pretend behavior from, but he loves to
call Mimi, Uncle Zeke, and Aunt Brooke (in that order).
Our bedtime routine has changed a little, but we still
all gather on the big bed for evening Bible stories (not pictured: Mary nursing).
Snuggles with dad
Finally got those eyes open bright!
Tummy time on mom's tummy
Wearing her cute little bow from Sew Crazy
We've been using this swing a lot!
My first walk with both the kids: Mary in the
carrier and Drew in the stroller.
Heaven: what it looks like when they are both
sleeping at the same time!
Sibling "play time"
Kyle camped out in Mary's room after a particularly rough night
 (Mary's in her crib, NOT under the blanket!)

Mary at 1 month...
...and Drew at 1 month!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Guest Post: A Father's Role in a Baby's Life

It's BFBN Guest Post Day and I'm really excited to be sharing a post from Val at Chronicles of a Babywise Mom about the father's role when bringing home a newborn. My husband actually gave me the idea to ask Val to write on this topic; he said it seems like it's mostly the women who do all the troubleshooting when it comes to dealing with a newborn (which I agree with!). In fact, in the Babywise groups I'm in on Facebook (here and here) I've seen that it's exclusively the mom who takes on the roll of figuring out baby's feeding schedule, sleep needs, witching hour fixes, etc. So what can dad being doing to help mom? Val has some great suggestions below!

(PS - I'm guesting posting today over at Val's blog about connecting with your husband)

When we came home from the hospital with our first child, my husband stood back and let me take full lead in what to do with our new little baby. While his confidence was inspiring, I didn't really know any better than he did. Luckily I am a quick study and figured things out relatively quickly. 

When our second child came along, he still hung back on the caretaking of the baby. He was very helpful with our now toddler, but didn't do much with the baby. This as a source of frustration for me. We later talked about it all, and he said he was always so unsure of what to do. He didn't want to get in the way or mess anything up with the baby. He didn't want to step on my toes and so he took a backseat and let me drive.

Many dads find themselves in a similar situation. They are unsure of what they should do as a new dad. They wonder what their specific roles should be. Here are some essential roles for dads to take on.

You know women like to talk. Women don't just like it. Women need to talk. You need to be her informant and let her talk about all of the diapers, naps, yawns, and blinks of the day. Your wife will need to have some communication on an adult level even if it is still about baby things. Be her sounding board and confidant. Be her most trusted adviser.

You also want to be such a good informant that you know the goals she is trying to accomplish with your new little baby. Know the how, but also the why. I can't see anything wrong with you reading the same parenting books she believes in. You can at least skim the book. If reading is too extremely painful for you, let your wife give you the cliff's notes version verbally. If you want to help your wife and child, you need to be on the same page.

Why do you need to know the goals? So you can support! You can support her decisions. You can help her through the hard times and remind her why she is doing what she is doing. You can talk her down when she needs to be talked down. You can lift her up when she needs to be lifted. You can tell her to go away and take a bath, a nap, or whatever and you will be on baby duty when she is about to snap.

As a supporter, you will also be trusting of your wife and what she inherently knows is best for your child. You should absolutely talk things out with her and consult with her on decisions (see informant section above). In the end, always remember that she is the nurturer. She will know what is best and sometimes just needs to talk it out or hear you say, "I agree with you!" to feel confident in moving forward.

You know the saying, "You can't see the forest through the trees?" Having a baby is like that. You have strange hormones surging through your body and your mind is all consumed with that baby. Is the baby eating enough? Burping enough? Sleeping enough? Comfortable enough? Is the room dark enough? Is it too dark? Is she ruining the baby for life by some action right now?

You need to keep your wife grounded to reality. Let her talk about the baby stuff, but talk to her about outside world things, also. Take her out of the house, even if it is just to go grocery shopping. When she leaves the house it will remind her how big the world is and how life keeps moving forward. Help your wife stay in touch with reality.

A great way to support your wife in the early months is to do what you can to take over some household duties--or at least help with them. It can be hard to juggle getting to know a new baby and stay on top of meals and cleaning. If you aren't a cook, you could stop and get takeout on your way home every so often.

Some men work a whole lot and would find it hard to fit in any duties at home. If this is you, consider hiring a cleaning service as a "new baby gift" for your wife for a few months.

Don't sit back and wait for your wife to ask you to change a diaper or clothes. You don't need to be invited to do bathtime. You can step in and read a bedtime story. Offer to do these things. "My dear amazing wife, I would love to change the baby's diaper if you wouldn't mind." Doesn't that sound nice! Hehe.

Offer to do these things even if your wife is an outspoken gal who always speaks her mind. I am one to not shy away from speaking my mind, but I am telling you that having a baby does things to you. You are a different person for a time. I can count on one hand the number of diapers my husband changed in the first six months. Did it bother me? Yes! Did I say something? No! He is naturally a very helpful person, so if he wasn't offering, I assumed he was not interested. He assumed I loved changing diapers and that I would say something if I felt otherwise. So offer your help.

Also, don't be offended if the first few times you do these things, your wife follows behind and observes what is going on. I don't know if I can impress upon you what it feels like to carry a baby inside of you for 10 months and then just hand that baby over to someone else--even if that someone else is the father. It isn't that we think you inept. It isn't that we wouldn't love for you to change every diaper you are present for. It is just that we are being protective of our little baby. Delegating can be painful! Also, we love seeing the father of our child interact with our child. Sure, we would love to sneak away and use the bathroom or brush our teeth, but we love to see the interaction between our loved ones.

One reason my husband felt hesitant in the beginning to do anything with our first born was that he was afraid he would do something wrong or somehow hurt him. A newborn is so tiny and looks so fragile. Babies are surprisingly resilient though! I still remember when my second child was born. She was in the NICU. I was burping her after a feeding and having a hard time getting results. A nurse came up and starting burping her. She just thumped and thumped on that baby's back! A NICU baby! But the baby was fine. Even I, as a mom with some experience, was afraid of hurting my baby and being overly cautious. Do not avoid holding your baby for fear of hurting the baby.

Also, just as you should trust your wife and her nurturing ways, you should trust yourself and your unique role as a father. A mother is gentle. Fathers often do things like toss their baby into the air (not newborns of course...) and are in general just rougher with their children than the mother is. Children love it! Trust who you are and be who you are as a father. Do not try to be "mother the second." Be a father to your child.

In the end, remember to be patient and loving to your wife and involved with your baby and you will get it right.

Valerie is mother to four and blogs at

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

She's Here!

We welcomed Mary Ann Hansen to our family on July 12th, 2015. Below is her birth story, and a lot of pictures.

Mary's birth story: I mentioned in my final pregnancy update that my birth plan consisted of really only one specification: attempt successful VBAC...and I'm happy to report that Mary's birth was a successful VBAC!

Mary's birth story began on July 8th when my OB called me to tell my that my blood work revealed I had pregnancy cholestasis (which explained all the itching I was having!). My OB wanted to induce me that evening, but there were no beds available at the hospital. So we scheduled the induction for the following morning at 8AM. Kyle and I went out to dinner that evening to celebrate what we thought was my last night of being pregnant.
Post-dinner pedicure from Kyle
Morning of July 9th
I arrived on July 9th and my induction was started by using a Foley balloon. I started having contractions shortly after and was encouraged to walk around and capitalize on the contractions. We were told it would be quite a while before anything else happened, so Kyle actually headed back to work and I set off to pace the hallways. My sister came by to visit for a while, which really helped pass the time. Kyle went home after work to put Drew to bed, and then rejoined me at the hospital. A friend from our church was attending my birth as a doula-in-training, so she joined us around that time to be a part of the conversations that were happening about next steps with my induction. It was so great to have Sara there as she is a wealth of knowledge and really helped us feel good about the decisions we were making. 

I started pitocin around 11pm and was told to try and get some sleep before contractions really picked up. Sleep? The pitocin wasn't so bad at first, but the blood pressure check every 20 minutes made it really hard to sleep. As in, I couldn't sleep. At around 2am I started having doubts. I hadn't slept, and there was talk of breaking my water soon. I desperately wanted to be up moving around to help my contractions along once my water was broken, but I was so, so tired from a whole day of laboring with the Foley. I knew I could get an epidural and sleep, but I wasn't very far dilated and didn't want to risk slowing labor down as I was barely in labor at all. The thought popped into my head of calling the induction off and going home. Crazy right? Or maybe just gut instinct? I woke Kyle up and told him my concerns, and we prayed about it. I talked to my nurse, and she asked my doctor (who I love) to come in and chat with me. Everyone agreed that because my water wasn't broken we were at a safe place to stop the induction, let me go home and sleep, and try again the next day. So that's what we did.

We got home in the early hours of July 10th. I went directly to bed, and Kyle watched Drew for the morning. I felt well enough to watch Drew in the afternoon, so Kyle went to work. We spent the day praying furiously that I would just go into labor naturally before returning to the hospital on July 11th. Mary just wasn't ready to come out, though. That part still breaks my heart a little, but I do know that it was for her safety that we were inducing me. Although very small, pregnancy cholestasis carries a risk of still birth the longer the baby is left in the womb. That is not something we wanted to mess around with. I had a very mild case of the condition though, which is why my doctor was okay with sending me home for 24 hours to rest and regroup before trying the induction again. 

On July 11th, we wished Drew a very happy 2nd birthday and then headed back to the hospital. I was sad not to be with Drew on his birthday, but he was having a great day with my dad doing all sorts of adventures to car shows and the beach.
Happy 2nd Birthday Drew!
For the second induction attempt, we had a different game plan. Kyle and I had spent the night before doing some research and talking with Sara about how to proceed, as my doctor gave me some options and said it was up to me. She basically said all roads lead to the same destination so it was my choice of what order I wanted to try things in. I decided to have them break my water first and see if that would jump-start labor on it's own.

Birth photos credit: Verb Photography by Angie Langford

The breaking of the water was a bit painful, but not more so than the Foley balloon from the first induction. After my water was broken we (Kyle, Sara, and I) set out to keep me as active as possible. We walked the entire hospital campus doing lunges, squats, stairs, and curb walking. We went all around the outside and up and down many hallways inside. I was having contractions and determined to do my part by helping my body get Mary in position for birth. By 4pm I was contracting but not nearly frequently enough so it was time to start pitocin. I was slightly discouraged that my body hadn't gotten on board with the whole "it's time to be in labor" plan, but I was trying to remember that this was an induction and we were attempting to force my body into labor against it's will. So of course it wasn't on board!

With the help of Sara and Kyle, I labored on the pitocin for 7 hours. More hallway walking with all sorts of squats and lunges. Lots of bouncing on a birthing ball. Kyle's sister came by to visit which helped keep me distracted as the contractions got more intense. After about 5 hours of pitocin contractions I was no longer interested in walking around, eating, or talking with anyone. I just wanted to stand and hold on to Kyle as each contractions came and went. I also had my headphones and I would turn my music up as loud as it would go during each contractions. That worked the next two hours or so. It was getting close to 11pm, and I knew I wanted to sleep that night. There was no way I was doing a repeat of the first induction where I didn't get to sleep. The contractions were putting me on the verge of throwing up, so I knew it was a good time to ask for the epidural. The anesthesiologist was the same doctor who did my c-section with Drew. I remember thinking he was just great, so I was excited to see him again (plus he had the drugs!). Before I was given the epidural, the nurse checked me to see how many centimeters I was. 


After a whole day of working my tush off to help my body with the induction I was at three centimeters. I burst into tears and asked everyone to leave the room. Then I ugly-cried in Kyle's arms until I felt like I had gotten all my anger out. At that point, I realized the induction might not work and that a repeat c-section could very likely be on the horizon for me. Kyle prayed for me and reminded me that the Lord knows what's very best for us, even if we can't understand it. After some more time with Kyle I felt calmed down enough to have everyone come back in and proceed with the epidural.

I fell asleep shortly after the epidural. Around 2am I was woken up by the feeling of the can imagine my surprise! My pitocin had been continuously increased over the previous three hours, so the contractions I was feeling were much more intense than the ones I was feeling earlier. I totally panicked at the pain, and yelled for Kyle to get the nurse and to get Sara (who was sleeping in the waiting room, bless her heart!). Sara helped me breath through the contractions until the anesthesiologist could come back. He tried giving my epidural a boost, but I was adamant that I could feel everything from my hip bones down. The anesthesiologist ended up needing to completely re-do my epidural as it was not in the right spot. In between crazy intense contractions my epidural was removed and then replaced, and thankfully it worked that second time. I blissfully went back to sleep.

At 6am I awoke to the feeling of pressure, so I let the nurse know. Could this mean I had actually dilated overnight? She had the doctor come in and check...I was at 10 centimeters! 100% effaced! Baby was +2 in station. I burst into tears again, but this time out of happiness. This was it - game time! Hooray!

The doctor told me a shift change was coming up at 7am so unless my body started to push baby Mary out on it's own I would not be delivering until after the shift change. I was fine with that because we had a friend from our church coming to take photos of the birth and we wanted to give her time to get there. I also needed a moment to revel in the good news we'd just received and get ready to meet our daughter!

Once the new shift nurse had come on the clock, we did quick introductions and then I got down to pushing. It was a little cumbersome because I couldn't feel my legs (per my perfectly placed second epidural), so I essentially had a team of people holding my bottom half in the correct position while I pushed. Kyle was right in my face the whole time, holding my hand and letting me know what was happening. Sara was great at counting so I knew how long to push for. Kyle told me later that I was a relentless pusher; I was regrouping and pushing again faster than the birth team was anticipating. I could feel the pressure from the contractions so I knew when to push, and I just really wanted to meet my baby girl! At one point Kyle told me the doctor and the baby nurse had come into the room (my back was to the door as I was laying on my side). I knew that meant it was almost time. Kyle told me that the doctor got the little baby catching station ready and that the baby nurse had the little baby station all set. On the next contraction I pushed for the normal three rounds of pushing, and then I heard someone tell me to push one more time. I was pushing, and then I was being hollered at to stop pushing. I was worried something was wrong and was trying to figure out what was going on over all the voices; I had my eyes closed this whole time as it's really hard to push with your eyes open. Then I heard Sara yell at me to "look down!" - there was my baby girl! She was out and being handed to me! Crying! And all covered in birth yuckies! I looked down at her and then looked up at Kyle to see that he was all teary-eyed looking at me holding his daughter. I could not stop crying! What a beautiful moment in time that the Lord had prepared for us.


I don't remember the rest of the delivery; Baby Mary and I just cuddled, breastfed, and cuddled some more. After all the commotion settled down, everyone left the room and Kyle and I just got to be alone with our new child, our daughter. After a while I knew that I needed to sleep, so I handed Mary off to Kyle for them to have some time to bond while I took a nap. My mom and sister came by with my Dad and Drew later that evening. Drew was excited to meet Mary, but he seemed confused as to why she wasn't in my tummy anymore. Someday I'll explain that to him...

That evening and the following day the rest of the aunts and uncles and grandparents came by to meet Mary. Mary passed all her requisite testing and health checks so we went home on July 13th to be reunited with Drew and start our lives as a family of four.

Drew: Drew is adapting great to having Mary around. Kyle was home for a week after Mary was born, and now he's taking every Wednesday off for a while so Drew has been having plenty of fun playing with dad. I did my homework on things mom and dad can do at home to help the toddler adjust to the baby, and so far those things have been working. For example, I set a timer on my phone that goes off 10 minutes before it's time to nurse Mary. When the timer goes off, Drew knows it's time for baby to eat and there's no fussing with mom about me leaving the room to go feed Mary because that's just what mom does when the timer goes off. I do think it helps that Drew has been with me each time I've taken a nanny job for one of my friends, so he's used to sharing my attention with other kids.

Mary: Mary was born weighing 7 pounds, 8 ounces and 21.5 inches long. She was born with a full head of dark brown hair, and the sweetest little girly cry. She is eating great and growing well. She is a mediocre sleeper, but we've got plenty of time to work on that!

Our friend from church has a budding photography business and blessed us with the photos of Mary's birth (above). She also came over to capture some photos of Mary as a newborn (below). This is the same friend that took our family photos back in May.

Real life ;-)