Our #sliceofperfect in a #messyreality

Here is a #sliceofperfect (project by Jill Krause over at Baby Rabies)

That face. I can't stand it! Behind that adorable tongue is a fevery virus waiting to be spread around.

That face. I can’t stand it! Behind the sweet baby kisses is a fevery virus waiting to be spread around.

Can you tell this kid has a fever? Probably not, but a couple hours before this was taken she was vomiting her breakfast.

So here’s the bad: she is sick. She’s had a fever between 101 and 102 since yesterday. Before I realized she was sick, we ran around all day and probably infected lots of people including a group of other mommies and babies that we met up with in the morning. We were up late, her diaper leaked at 1 am, and she woke up earlier than usual. I’m running out of ideas of how to entertain a sick 10 month old.

However, we got to see my mom yesterday, and her cardiologist friend said Miriam’s heart sounded healthy. Bodie and I acted as a team and traded off caring for Miriam without arguing with each other. Tylenol helped. Miri did sleep for 6 straight hours last night and has been napping like a champ today. She has been nursing tons and even got down a few bites of dinner last night and breakfast today. I got the taxes done, the health insurance paperwork, the bills paid, and have fed us all healthy meals.

She’ll feel better soon, but in the meantime we’ll take all the prayers and kind thoughts we can get. Here is our #messyreality



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I Am Strong

Some of you may know about the Birth Without Fear “I Am Strong” project. Here is my entry:

I am strong because I became pregnant even though I have polycystic ovarian syndrome

I am strong because I had an unplanned pregnancy

I am strong because I explained to my family why I was pro-life

I am strong because I left college to be a mother

I am strong because I moved across the country at 34 weeks pregnant

I am strong because though we are not married, we worked to be a family

I am strong because I tried hard for a natural childbirth

I am strong because I knew when I needed help and let go of my birth plan

I am strong because I endured two epidurals, antibiotics, and pitocin.

I am strong because I still delivered vaginally

I am strong because we moved 3 times in 6 months

I am strong because we chose to live near my family, and I have a beautiful, healthy, strong baby girl.

Most of all, I am strong because of God, and the amazing blessings he has bestowed on us.

Vocational discernment, in baby steps

Recently I had 6-7 inches of my hair cut off. Woohoo! Freedom! No more miserable blocks of time spent brushing out tangles, no more scraggly Michelle, no more worrying that somehow my hair will get wrapped around my baby’s neck while we sleep next to each other. Also, no more wondering whether I want to be a nun. Weird right, from a haircut? But seriously. Vocation affirmed.

In the Catholic faith we talk a lot about ones “vocation”, which is a word that means one’s “calling” in life. When I think of vocation I think of two aspects; one’s career, and whether one has chosen to pursue the life of a layperson or the life of a priest/nun/monk.

Until today, I’m not even really sure that I was aware that I had chosen not to pursue religious life. When I was pregnant with Miriam, I remember thinking, “I guess I won’t ever be a nun… nuns don’t have children.” I kept thinking of St. Rita, who did have a husband and children, and THEN became a nun afterwards. It was never really something that I seriously considered or explored as a possibility, but it was always in the back of my mind.

Letting go of the thought of being a nun means another step in embracing my life as a partner and a mother. I don’t see it as something to be regretful about, but as me stepping in a direction more in line with God’s path for me. For every weak branch that we trim, our trunk, our true calling, is affirmed and strengthened. I’m happy with this decision, and am happy to have discerned another aspect of my vocation!

Vaccines again? Here’s my take on it…

I wanted to weigh in on the vaccine issue, which I know is a controversial one that has been gaining attention lately because yet another celebrity has come out as anti-vax, and because measles (which many babies are vaccinated for) is on the rise in NYC and some blame anti-vaxers.

First of all, let me just say that making the decision whether or not to vaccinate your baby can be a highly emotional one, and there is plenty of fear mongering literature on either side of this issue to scare new mommies silly. I won’t use this post to try to sway you one way or the other, but I will share my experience.

When I was pregnant with Miriam I left the vaccine decision-making to the end. I figured I would research each one as it came up. I got the flu shot while I was pregnant, because it seemed to me more likely for my baby to suffer complications from me catching the flu than from any potential vaccine reaction. That was easy because it was a game of statistics. Which is more likely to happen, flu or vaccine complication? Which is more likely to have a serious outcome? I got the shot, and was glad that I did.

When Miriam was born, we had to decide about her in-hospital vaccinations. For some reasons that I’m still not sure of, they did glucose tests repeatedly on her little heels which was excruciating for us watch.  Miriam kept almost meeting the criteria to stop receiving the tests, but falling a point or two behind the blood sugar level she needed to pass. They had recently changed the standards too, making the requirement higher and even the nurses were unsure that she should continue to receive the foot-pricks.

I did not let them take her to the nursery except to test her hearing and to do one foot prick. The nurse told me that we were not allowed to do it outside of the nursery, and that I had no choice. I asked Bodie and both the Grandpas to follow them and watch to make sure Miriam was okay. Bodie came back seething, the nurse had treated her very roughly, “juicing” her foot to get enough blood out. “They didn’t even treat her like a person” he said to me. “I wanted to punch them”.

I was very wary of the glucose tests after that point, especially since she had almost met the criteria to “pass” the test so many times. I told the nurse (another nurse, that other one thankfully switched shifts or left) about my feelings and asked her to check with the pediatrician to see if they were truly necessary. He had us do one last test, because it was required by the state for genetic testing, and fortunately Miriam passed this time.

If she hadn’t passed, I don’t think I would have let them test her again. I have discussed it with her pediatrician numerous times and I am unconvinced that it was necessary. I hear that it is necessary for macrosomic babies (which she was not) for mothers with gestational diabetes (which I did not have), and so I remain unsure that there was actually a risk of her blood sugar dropping to dangerously low levels, as the lowest it dropped was within the previous range of normal.

Her tiny little feet, care of Bellababy Photography

After this experience I was less trusting, and unsure about the hepatitis shot that they give babies in the hospital. It was the day of our discharge, and I remember my mother in law encouraging me to not get it, Bodie saying she could wait, and me sitting in the hospital bed terrified of her somehow contracting this horrible disease because I did not get her vaccinated. I narrowed it down to two options: get it in the hospital, or get it at our first doctor’s visit in a day or two.

I called my Mom (who is a doctor) crying, to ask if she thought it would be very risky for me to wait. She reassured me that it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, and Miriam would have a couple days to grow bigger and stronger (and recover from all the foot pricks).

After that one delayed vaccine, I chose to get the rest on the normal vaccine schedule. To me, the pros outweighed the cons, and the risk of getting the disease seemed to me to be much higher than the benefits. I did not find any sound medical research that vaccines cause autism, or any other terrible problems. I did see that measles, mumps, rubella, flu, all had high risks of death in infants. I saw that vaccines had a very low risk of complications, and that the amount of “bad” ingredients was so tiny, it was probably akin to eating a fast food burger. Not so great for ya, but probably not going to kill you if you do it once every few months.

So that was my decision, and every once in awhile Miri will get a fever with her vaccine, and I’ll spend an hour worrying that I made the wrong call. In the end though, I feel that it was worth it, that we did the right thing, and that we didn’t let the research work us up into a panic.

Here’s to you, God!

Today we all grew up a little… Miriam spent her first evening with Grandma, and Bodie and I had our first dinner out, to celebrate his new job. I was getting myself some crackers and cheese, and a glass of wine before I sat down to write this post and I thought, wow, self, I am proud of you. Today you put on make-up, had a date, and are now about to eat wine and cheese like a grown up.

This week was crazy. It started off so rocky. Bodie didn’t have a job, and I started to look for work. I started a job as a waitress at an Italian restaurant, and two days later Bodie was hired by a company he loves, doing the work that he has been doing in his spare time for fun. He couldn’t be happier, and neither could I. My two day stint as a working mom gave me that extra nudge of confidence to be able to leave Miriam with my mom tonight and go on our celebratory date.

It seems to me, and I realized this as it was happening, that this was God’s plan being enacted, and I had to let him lead me. He steered me towards my job and gave me the strength to handle it, taught me how to leave my baby for the first time. He knew I was ready, and that I wasn’t going to make that step on my own and needed the extra little nudge. He also led Bodie to his job, not a corporate job with no purpose in sight, but a job where Bodie could work on free, open-source software using exciting new technology for developers like him.

So here’s to you, God, and thank you for these great gifts. Thank you for taking care of us and putting us exactly where we need to be, exactly when we need to be there.

Let Daddy Be Daddy

Bodie and our daughter

Bodie and our daughter

In the weeks after my first daughter was born my 18 year old never-before-had-a-child sister gave me a profound piece of advice that none of the parenting books mentioned. She said,

“Michelle, you know if she is crying, and he is holding her, you have to let him take care of it right? You can’t step in you know. You have to let him figure it out.”

This sounded insane to me. Let my daughter cry? It made me squirm inside. Wasn’t I, as Mom, supposed to step in when someone else was holding her and she started to cry? I pondered it over, but this tiny voice in my head, or maybe my heart, told me that my sister was right. And she was.

I began letting Bodie try to care for her when she was upset. It was new and difficult, and I found myself uneasily pacing around, slipping in a “maybe she is sleepy” here and there, trying not to encroach on his daddying-turf.

In doing so I learned that a) he is an extremely capable parent, b) that Dads have parenting instincts too, and c) I enjoyed my moments alone! They left me feeling refreshed and ready to be super mom when it was my turn again.

Sometimes, he even knows what she wants even better than I do. Sure, I have the invincible mama instinct that everyone speaks so highly of, but when he says to me “Michelle, she just needs you to stop fussing over her” he is usually right.

The take-away? Give Daddy a turn. Don’t push him, don’t overwhelm him, but let him have a turn when he wants. Don’t judge his methods, don’t smother his ways, just let him do what he does best: be daddy.

Borscht with Beef

Borscht with Beef and Vegetables

This recipe is adapted from The Art of Jewish Cooking and competing family recipes passed down to me by my Grandmother. The way that my Great Grandmother Ruth (who I am named for) made it, was without sugar and without beef. My Grandpa’s mother, my other Great Grandma, did use beef and lots of vegetables which made it more into a stew. My Great Great Aunt added sugar to her borscht, which my Great Grandmother hated. I chose to compromise (mostly because Bodie likes meat) and did a borscht with beef chunks but no sugar!

1 onion
1 bunch of large beets
1 lb of beef stew meat
a large handful of small red potatoes
olive oil
sour cream (optional and not Kosher)

Borscht with Beef and Potato

In a large soup pot, sweat the onions in the olive oil over medium heat. Cut stems and leaves off of beets, peel them, and chop into pieces. Add the beets to the pot with some water, enough to cover them and make it sort of look like a soup. Chop the potato and toss that in, add more water if necessary. Cook on a low boil (burble) it for a a few hours.

If you are not keeping kosher (like us) serve with a dollop of sour cream. Enjoy! Next time I do this, I think I’ll add more veges. Share your variations!