Justin, Junior

Monday, February 28, 2011

Doctor Knows Best...right?

I’m paranoid about taking my son to the doctor. Sounds funny, right, since those of you who know me know that lately we’ve been checking out Children’s Mercy like we’re looking to move in or something. But the thing is, I am paranoid about it. What if the doctor sees that bruise on my son’s butt, the one he got from pulling a large decorative plate off a shelf, flipping it over, then falling down hard on the rim of it? Or the chipped front tooth that he got in the bathtub? And lately, we’ve been having penis issues - which necessitated a trip to the Emergency Room, because this Mama does not mess around when it comes to her little boy’s penis. I was terrified that the doctor would think it was because I didn’t bathe my son or something, and that social services would be called in.

My son doesn’t make this any easier on me - whenever we have an appointment, he always seems to get a runny nose, resulting in a crusty face - or, this last time, he had a bad bout of diarrhea 2 days prior to his appointment, which resulted in a slight diaper rash. Or I notice in the waiting room that his fingernails have magically grown ½ centimeter and that he has earwax in his left ear - any of which I become certain will be grounds for the doctor to call in Child Protective Services to question me.

I don’t know if this is normal or not. My husband seems to think it’s not, but he knew I was neurotic when he married me, and, unfortunately, motherhood seems to, in many ways, magnify that neurosis. I think it boils down to this: I adore my son beyond reason. I love him with great depth and without boundaries. And sometimes I think that I will never measure up to the task of keeping him safe and raising him well. I’m certain that someone - probably medical, and certainly official - will point their accusing finger at me and cry out, “That woman has no idea what she’s doing!”

So far, though, so good. The penis issue? Pretty common in little boys, certainly not my fault, and had not been caused by lack of hygiene but had, rather, been exacerbated by the multiple bubble baths we had been taking together. Lesson learned. The earwax? That’s a good sign, it means his ears are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. The diaper rash? The doctor didn’t even see it until I had pointed it out, and then he commented that his wife always said their own children never have a diaper rash unless they’re about to go to the doctor. So, even doctor’s kids get it.

Last week, I was finally able to take my son into his one-year checkup…7 weeks late. I felt that horrible guilt again. My first excuse was that my son’s birthday falls 3 days before Christmas, and I did not want him cranky from his vaccinations on the holiday. The next week was his birthday party. And then two appointments were cancelled due to fevers he decided to run, and a third was cancelled because my mother had scheduled eye surgery on the one Monday that I told her not to, of course. I was pretty sure the new pediatrician we were seeing would want to check my son’s sippy cup for Coca-Cola or something.

Junior checked out well - I had no worries there. My husband and I briefly basked in the praise of our son - how strong he is, how dexterous (he’s already jumping, for God’s sake), how utterly perfect he is. And then the lecture began.

“You may want to think about baby proofing. Things like electrical outlets should be covered, cabinets should be locked.”

Yeah. We know. He started crawling at 6 months and walking before 10 months…we’ve pretty much got that covered, thanks. Shoot, we even keep things like knives and guns out of reach, for the most part.

“It may seem silly, but you should start reading to him now. Reading is important.”

We’ve been reading to him since he was in utero.

“You should never leave your son unattended in the bath.”

Uhhh…yeah. We know that. He’s 14 months old. He’s never unattended, period.

I glanced at my husband to see how he was taking this. Maybe I was just being too sensitive, but no - his brow was furrowed and his jaw was set.

“How does he eat?” the doctor asked.

“Often,” I replied, back on confident ground. I’m pretty proud of my son’s diet - it’s well-rounded and varied. I pay careful attention to all the food groups…but I’m not going to lie, we like Chef Boyardee and the occasional chicken McNugget. “Three meals and two snacks a day.”

“Plenty of fruits and veggies?”

“Yup, as long as we serve the veggies first,” I replied.

“What about milk?” he asked.

“Well, that depends on what he’s eaten,” I said. “If he’s had cheese or yogurt or both, then he gets less. But he loves milk, and drinks it whenever we give it to him.”

“Well, he needs more milk. It doesn’t matter what he’s eaten, he should have at least 15 to 20 ounces of milk a day.”

But I had researched this plenty when we switched him to milk. Everything I read, and all the moms I talked to, said that too much can be a bad thing. Too much calcium can make the absorption of other vitamins and nutrients necessary next to impossible - it particularly inhibits the absorption of iron. Also, milk fills my son’s tummy. If I give it to him with meals, then he won’t eat.

“And now that he’s a year old and weighs 23 pounds, switch your carseat to forward facing.”

“No, we’ll wait,” I said.

“There’s no reason to wait.”

What? There are lots of reasons to wait. I won’t go into all of them, but the prevention of decapitation is high on my list of reasons to wait. The one-year / 20-pound mark is a minimum guideline…you know, kind of like when you get a “D” on your report card you still pass, but an “A” is so much better. (You can read more here:

“We’ll wait,” my husband said.

“No, no reason to wait,” the doctor continued, and then, “I am going to assume he’s off the bottle and no more formula, right?”

“He was breastfed,” I said. And then, “He still is, once or twice a day.” Honestly, I should have known better, but usually nurses and doctors congratulate us on this. Only 22% of breastfeeding moms make it 12 months, and there’s a reason for that - it ain’t always easy. Just a few weeks prior, when, due to a horrible bout of stomach flu that necessitated an IV being placed in my son’s arm for dehydration, the pediatrician said it was awesome that I still breastfeed, that it was the best thing for him, especially while he was sick.

“Oh, there’s no need for breastfeeding anymore. At 12 months, the benefits he gets from breast milk decline sharply.”

Huh? That’s news to me. Now, I have no intention of breastfeeding my son throughout toddlerhood or (God help me) beyond, but at 14 months, I’m pretty sure that breastfeeding is still beneficial. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you breastfeed for at least the first year, and the World Health Organization states that breastfeeding through the second year is beneficial. It goes back to that minimum standard thing. Plus, I checked my boobs thoroughly and there’s no expiration date on them as far as I can see.

Anyhow, he finished with his lecture and sent the nurse in to give my son his vaccinations (and yes, I vaccinate…please don’t get me started on that) and we left.

Once in the car, with our son safely strapped into his rear-facing carseat, my husband said, “What the ____? ‘Don’t leave your baby unattended in the bath.’ Does he think we’re morons?”

“Maybe,” I said. “He is a doctor, after all. Probably we all seem like morons to him. He was thorough, at least.”

My husband looked at me in complete disbelief. I think he was expecting me to hyperventilate or something - after all, we had been questioned about our parenting abilities, something I obsess over unnecessarily. Usually I am tripping over myself to prove to any medical personnel that we’re good parents, we do our best, we read all the books.

But, strangely, I was able to shrug this off. We went home, and I breastfed my cranky son, who was noticeably less cranky afterwards. (Pretty beneficial, I think.) Because we learned that our son is only 3 inches away from reaching the height limit on his carseat, we started researching for a new one, which will allow him to remain rear facing until at least 40 pounds. (Why not? It certainly can’t hurt, and it certainly might help.) And since my son ate an entire grilled cheese sandwich for dinner (along with a serving of broccoli and half a banana), I withheld milk from him for that meal.

We go back in 3 months in order to get another round of vaccinations. Justin wondered whether we should go to another pediatrician, and I thought about it for awhile, and I’ve decided no, I like this doctor. For one thing, the office is 2 minutes from home. I know several of the women who work there, and if I need an appointment, I never have to wait. The nurses are great. And the doctor? Well, he’s obvious, obviously, but I started to think about all the people he must see, and maybe to some of them, not leaving your baby unattended in the bath is a newsflash. So maybe, rather than assuming we know the obvious, he just trots it out there in the open. And maybe next time he’ll say something that I didn’t know, and that could be helpful. I think I would rather have a pediatrician who belabors what should be done than one who just assumes we already know, because I’ll be the first to admit that there’s a lot we don’t know. We just learned last week that the difference between infant Tylenol and Infant Motrin is that the first helps with pain and fever, while the second helps with pain, fever and inflammation. We didn’t know that. That was helpful. And his time-consuming lecture took time. He wasn’t rushing on to the next patient - he wanted us to know these things. And I appreciate that.

See, oddly enough, rather than making me question my parenting decisions, I left that office feeling more confident. Motherhood is no longer a huge, scary territory to me all of the time (I mean sometimes it still is, and I imagine it will be when my son’s 14 years old instead of 14 months old). I know enough now to question what the pediatrician tells me, to take his advice with a grain of salt, or modify it with my own concerns and beliefs, or ask my sister and sister-in-law or my mom-friends what they think, because hell, they’re in the trenches with me. I am certain enough of the decisions I make to say, “I don’t agree with that,” on some points, and confident enough to say, “I think you’re right, let’s do that,” which is why I elected to have my son get the flu shot along with his immunizations. And I was confident enough in the parenting choices my husband and I make to not argue with the doctor when he spouted off about weight limits and breastfeeding. Six months ago, I would have been spouting off statistics and studies in a superhuman effort to appear informed and competent. But the truth is, I am informed and competent, and I don’t need a stamp of approval from a pediatrician to know that.

The doctor may know a lot, but as far as I’m concerned, Mama knows best.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho...It's Off to Work We Go (And yeah, I mean "We.")

Ready for "school"
So, it’s official. I am now a working mom.

I was lucky enough to find a job at a wonderful daycare, which allows me to take my son with me. I was so excited to start - after all, I love babies. I really do. I love the squishy sweetness of them, their acceptance, their curiosity, their inability to sass me. I was also excited for my son. I figured it would be like an all-day playdate for him. He would love it.

He hated it at first, which is why I waited awhile to write this post, because honestly, those first 2 weeks were rough, and I really wasn’t sure I (or my son) were going to be able to handle it.

The babies in my room were just as sweet and squishy as I knew they would be…but, like all babies, the poop a lot. I can handle that. I’m an expert diaper-changer. My son, however, freaked out every time. I would lay one baby down in order to change him, and my son would cling to my back like a spider monkey, bawling with displeasure. I would take him upstairs to the toddler room, where he would scream until I couldn’t take it anymore. And then he got sick - really sick - like ended up in the emergency room getting an IV sick. Even when he got better, he was a complete bear for awhile. It seemed like I was calling someone to come and get him every day, because I couldn’t handle 4 babies when my baby was acting like, well, a big baby.

I freaked out on a nightly basis, when my husband came to pick me up from work. “I’m going to have to put him in daycare so I can work at a daycare,” I cried. “That’ll leave me with - what? $15 leftover after I pay for it?”

He assured me that we didn’t need me to work - but I think we did. Plus, I was finding that, despite my son’s daily hysterics, I liked working. I liked getting out of the house, having a schedule, seeing other adults, and contributing to my family financially. Plus, although I am able to shrug off most “You’re going to spoil him” type comments, even I knew that if I quit a job (and not only a job, but a nice job, a job where I get to hang out with cute babies all day, and the only shit I deal with is literal shit, which is, on the whole, a lot nicer to deal with than the shit I used to deal with in an office setting) because Junior didn’t like it, I was going to be setting us both up for a long line of failures.

My boss and co-workers assured me that it would get better, because frankly, I was embarrassed. My son was seriously the worst-behaved child in the whole place. “I swear he’s such a good boy, normally!” I would almost plead as once again my son began to wail at the top of his lungs. If another baby took his toy, he collapsed. If a baby made a loud noise, he started to cry. My son, who refused to take a pacifier or the bottle at age 4.5 months and wouldn’t have eaten formula even if I had laced it with Hershey’s syrup and offered it to him with a fifty-dollar bill, became a bottle-swiper and a binkie-thief. On top of it all, the pediatrician who had seen him while he was ill encouraged me to breastfeed on demand for awhile, since it would help hydrate him and would be gentle on his tummy, and so we had gone from being a little boy who was perfectly content with getting his breastfed in the morning (and even then we were starting to skip feedings in an effort to wean him once and for all) to a little monster who yanked at my shirt and screamed when I firmly told him no. (It was much harder to wean him the second go ’round than it was the first…go figure. Probably because this time he knew what was coming - little nerd.)

So, I stuck with it. And magically, last week, he proved my co-workers right. It did get better. The first day, I thought it was a fluke. The second day, I was tentatively hopeful. By the third, I was confident that we had done it. We had hit a rhythm. Did another baby take his toy? “If you want it so bad, take it back,” I would tell him cheerfully, and sure enough, soon he was engaging in tug-of-war with the best of them. (We’ll work on sharing later.) Did a baby make a loud noise? Awesome. We can make loud noises, too. It’s not the end of the world when Mama needs to change diapers…and trust me, Mama needs to change diapers a lot. Today, he even spent time upstairs with the “big” kids (18 months and up) with a minimum amount of tears.

He has a little buddy in our room - he’s the son of a friend of mine, and it’s awesome to watch them play. Junior always thinks E. (I’ll abbreviate his name in case his mama wouldn’t want it on here) is chasing him, and they giggle together quite a bit. Once I get E. and Junior involved in something (today it was Junior stacking blocks while E. knocked them down as quick as he could get them up - awesome game), I can focus on the smaller ones, which is fun. I’m not as overwhelmed anymore - there are times when all of them are needing something, but I just take it in order of need and / or age…or holler upstairs for some help. I’ve learned the schedule, so I’m not caught unaware or dismally behind, and by 12:30 it’s daycare-wide naptime until 2:30 or 3:00. I get a break. We do some quick cleaning-up, but after that, I get a break for at least 2 hours. I don’t do laundry. I don’t pay bills. I don’t “take advantage” of the time to clean my toilet (although I do clean the toilet in my room) or put fresh sheets on the bed. I’ve actually had time to read some trashy magazines this week, too…which is good, because since we turned the cable off a year ago, I had no idea what Kate Gosselin has been up to.

Working outside the home is not as overwhelming as I thought it would be, either. As a SAHM, I did 100% of everything household and baby-maintenance-related. When Justin got home from work, I wanted the time we spent together to be quality, so I always made sure everything was done. But he’s pitched in A LOT - a lot more than I even expected, considering he also goes to school, now. Evenings are hectic, because my husband works the night shift and by the time Junior and I get home from work, the kid is ready for dinner RIGHT THEN, and I have to hustle. And then it’s bath time and play time and story time and bed time…which I do have to do by myself because Justin is working.

I loved staying at home with my son for his first year. And I can say with experience that staying at home is a career in itself, with its own unique challenges and joys and heartache and job-related exhaustion, just like any career. You may not be punching a literal time clock, but you still have a schedule that needs to be followed and a boss who can scream and throw a tantrum when you fall behind. And personally, because I did stay at home, I felt an overwhelming pressure to always have a perfectly clean home and caught-up laundry and a home cooked meal prepared every night.

Working also has its own challenges. Organization is key - I can’t put off getting myself (or my son) dressed until 9:30 anymore, and serving a nutritious dinner on a nightly basis still throws me for a loop some days. (Hence the McNugget feast we dined upon tonight.) But I no longer mop on a daily basis, and if a load of clothes from Wednesday remains in the dryer until Thursday night, I don’t obsess about it…too much. And I no longer shy away from asking my husband for help, or a break. I never did before because he worked so hard so I could stay at home, and I think that’s common for a lot of SAHMs. But lately, on Sundays, although I still get up early with the baby, I’ve been going back to bed when Daddy wakes up, and sometimes I stay there until 11. It’s nice. I deserve it. I deserved it before, but I feel more entitled to it now.

So, yeah. It’s official now. I have a job, and I like it, and Junior likes it, too. I only work 3 days a week right now, but it looks like I’ll be going to 5 days a week this spring, and I think we can handle it. I get Junior excited when we go to work…he calls it “cool” (instead of “school”). I’m not sure if he knows what he’s saying, but when we’re strapping him in his carseat and I say, “Are you so happy to go to school?” he says it “cool” with some enthusiasm, so that’s good. And I know he loves Fridays, which is cinnamon roll day. That kid can eat his weight in cinnamon rolls. And, apparently, chicken McNuggets.

Have a great weekend, everyone! (That’s the other awesome part about working…the weekend is actually an event for me.)