Monday, February 23, 2015

Judy - Finding a Name & Then There’s Twins #5

Click (here) to see Baby Names Comedy Sketch - Nick

One stressful aspect of expecting a baby is choosing a name for said baby. Think of the responsibility--you are deciding what this child will be called among friends, family, and classmates forever. You decide whether or not he will be teased, looked up to, admired, or scorned. (No pressure.) If you have other children, you might have run out of all the names you both like. And what if he doesn’t like his own name? One of my 6-year-old nephews told his parents, “Why’d you have to name me Vance? Why couldn’t you name me Blood Ax?”

There are always family names to choose from, but of course you have to be careful with old fashioned names like Gertrude or Hepsibah. Also, you can find thousands of names in books, and we used them at least once when we’d run out of ideas. To me, the most interesting name books were those with ethnic names like Irish or Italian or Japanese.

Then there’s the middle name. None of my girls have one because ever since I got married, my own middle name has been like a third arm, and I didn’t want to saddle them with it. Don’t know how they feel about that, but my sister didn’t have one either and always grieved over it. So she made up her own, calling herself Marilyn Rose. On the other hand, this is where you could really get creative. Maybe you don’t want to make the child stand out too much with her first name, but you can let ‘er rip with the second one. Like the child called Janet Pocahontas Johnson.

The best source I know for choosing a baby’s name is the Social Security Website. It lists all the names sent in for social security cards and shows the most popular names for any given year from 1880 to today. If you want to choose the most popular name in America for your baby, it’s there. If, however, you want to avoid your child having the same name as five other kids in her class, you can look down the list of the 1,000 names of each year for one you like.

For example, in 2013, the latest year for which they have data, the top five boys names were: William, Mason, Jacob, Liam, and Noah. For girls they were: Ana, Isabella, Olivia, Emma and Sophie. (I’m not even going to mention celebrity kids’ weird names.)

One of my favorite stories as a little girl was about the Apple family. Because of their last name, the father thought all the children should be named after apples. Their first son was Jonathan, then came a girl named Gala, another boy, McIntosh, a girl, Honeycrisp, and a boy--Fuji. Then came the twins, a boy, Red Delicious (called Red), and a girl, Golden Delicious (called Golden). With their 8th and last child, a little girl, Mr. Apple wanted to call her Granny Smith. "Please," said Mrs. Apple, "Could I name this one since it is our last?" Mr. Apple agreed and so the baby was named Mary.

There there’s Utah names.

When my daughter, Kristen and her husband, Nathan, already had two little boys, they found themselves expecting twin boys. Nathan said, “Now whenever we go anywhere, half the family is sitting in your seat.” They were at a complete loss for two more boy names.

Nathan’s co-workers, however, had a solution. He is a mathematician, and his colleagues suggested naming the twins, who would be their third and fourth children, after the third and fourth moments in statistics. The first moment is “mean,” the second is “random,” the third is “skew,” and the fourth is “kurtosis.” But Kristen inexplicably vetoed this practical suggestion.

Up until their birth, the boys were known among the medical staff as Baby A and Baby B. Then, since the doctors had given them at least the first letters of their names, they were eventually called Alec and Braden.

sidenote about twins

Evidently there is a baby boomlet in twins and other multiple births these days, due in large part to use of the fertility drug Clomid as well as older women having children. Many  hospitals report more and more twins being born, and school systems are enrolling more twins than ever before in school. Since the 80’s the percentage of twins jumped 52%, according the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs (NOMOTC), and Clomid is responsible for two-thirds of this hike.

One of the things that worried Kristen, besides having four boys under six, was whether she’d be able to breastfeed two babies. Her five-year-old reassured her, “You won’t have any trouble, Mom. You have two of those feeder things.” And she did manage just fine.

If you find yourself expecting multiples, all I can say is, get all the help you can get! Lean on everyone--far-flung family, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, church members, the UPS delivery man--everyone who will lend a hand. And if you can, line them up before the birth so you have as large a support group as possible in place. I know of at least one web site that is helpful: National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs. It is full of constructive advice, much of it from other parents who have been there, which is the best kind.

Soon after I returned home from helping Kristen, I got a call from Emily, another pregnant daughter, who wailed down the line, “I’m so sorry, Mom. But the doctor says it’s twins!” She had a boy and a girl. Then, a few years later, my son’s wife, Megan, a twin herself, had another set of twin boys. We had ourselves our own little baby boomlet.

Next: The Delivery

Friday, February 20, 2015

Judy - The Layette: What You'll Need, And What You Won't #4

If you read the women's and baby magazines and many blogs, you get entirely the wrong idea of what is necessary. Forget all that specialized equipment like changing tables, baby bathtubs, wipes warmers, cradles, etc. In my opinion, all you really need are a car seat, crib, chest of drawers, high chair (which you won't need for a few months), stroller, diaper bag and some kind of carrier like a MOBY (see below).

Babies create enough clutter with just their clothes, toys and diapers. Most of that other stuff is used for such a short period of time that unless you are planning to have lots of children, or maybe share it with friends and relatives, it's not worth the money and storage space. Of course if people give it to you, take it and enjoy it.

There is, however, one item that I used to think was a luxury that became a necessity--a baby swing. Sometimes, especially around dinner time, it was the only thing that soothed a fussy baby. Related to the swing is the bounce chair for the very young ones. Both of these things can make a difference during a busy time of day.


You'll need a crib, of course, but I suggest you don't need it immediately. Newborns are used to being in a small, confined space and they often seem more comfortable wrapped up tight and placed in something smaller than a big crib. I understand that I, myself, slept in a dresser drawer for the first month. Today the car seat, for example, can provide an easy and portable bed at first. You place it beside your own bed and during the night you scoop up the baby to nurse almost without getting up, and neither one of you coming fully awake. This is nice while it lasts.


As for a place to change the baby, you can do it right in the crib while the mattress is still high. If you put a quilt on a waist-high bureau and keep all the changing paraphernalia in one of the top drawers, you can keep one hand on the baby and still reach whatever you need. I found it was helpful to have two changing places--one in the bedroom and one in the living area, especially if they are on different floors. If your washer and dryer are nearby, they make a good spot if you put a quilt on top and keep a duplicate set of diapers,wipes, etc. in a plastic dishpan close at hand. Also, today there are all sorts of cool portable pads you can use wherever you are.

You'll probably find that being a mother brings out your most creative side. For instance, to change a very wriggly baby, even with all the changing tables I had, sometimes it was easier to lay her down on the floor and throw my leg over her stomach to hold her in place.


I always used the kitchen sink until the baby was secure enough on his bottom to be in the big tub, then he took baths with all the other kids anyway. But for the small ones, the sink is attached to a counter which is waist-high and convenient. I realize that the idea of bathing the baby in the sink makes some people gag, so if it bothers you, use a large plastic dishpan. They function the same and are much cheaper than special bath tubs.


There are times, especially during the crawling months, when you have to confine the curious little accident-waiting-to-happen. I’d suggest using gates and furniture rather than a porta crib or equivalent. Again, during dinner prep, a high chair is helpful for older babies.

We knew one mother of six who put a gate on a bedroom doorway and used the whole carpeted bedroom as a playpen. She made sure it was babyproof and she and the baby could see each other easily. When her children were a little older, toddlers and pre-schoolers, she put the gate across the family room and enclosed herself inside. She could watch what they were doing and they could see her close by. She was right there in case of a problem, but they weren’t crawling all over her while she tried to do something. Of course there are some kids who will always scream and try to crawl out of whatever place they’re put. In these cases, you’re on your own; here’s where your creativity will come in handy.


Some kind of pack to carry the baby is invaluable, and not only when you’re away from home. At home I could carry the baby around the house while I worked; my hands were free and usually the baby was soothed from being held constantly. Along this line, have you noticed the “three foot rule?” Why do they always want to be held while you’re standing up and not while you’re sitting down? It’s one of life’s mysteries, but it is so.

There are several kinds of carriers, but I especially like the MOBY. They look a little complicated, but there are all sorts of videos on YouTube telling you how to wrap them. They are also kind of pricey so maybe you should ask for one as a gift.

I do want to warn you to start this pack-carrying immediately after birth, or at least the day you come home from the hospital. With our sixth child, MaryRuth, I made the mistake of waiting two or three weeks and she never liked it. You need to get used to it too and also you need to build up your muscles. You might have a child like one of ours that will remain nameless but whom we affectionately called,  “El Lunko,” and your back needs to be able to stand the strain.

Here’s an unrelated story about the baby carrier. With my first baby I walked everywhere in Brooklyn since we didn’t have a car. I had a useful but complicated harness thing that I carried her in. Once I was on my way to the bus stop when a car pulled up and the man said, “That’s really clever. I’ve never seen anything like that. How does it work?” I didn’t think anything about this because in those days very few people had one and I was always being asked about it. So I showed him how it all went together. Then he said, “How about if you get in the car and I’ll take you wherever you want to go?” I did think that was a little strange, but I politely said no, I was just heading to the bus stop. Then he said, “How old is your old man? Does he keep you satisfied?” I thought My “old man?” Does he mean my father? What’s he talking about? I started to walk on but he drove slowly alongside me, still insisting I get in the car and come with him. Fortunately as soon as I got to the bus stop, a bus came and I got on immediately. 

Later when I told Lloyd about this strange encounter, to my surprise he freaked out. “Why did you keep talking to him?” he demanded. “Couldn’t you tell he was some sort of pervert?” I hadn’t thought of that since I was from a small town in California and we didn't have any of those. "Besides," I said, "I didn’t want to be rude."

Next: Choosing a Name

Friday, February 13, 2015

Judy - Pregnancy and Physicians #3

Doctors in my day

You’ll have a lot of questions as you go through your pregnancy, and the best source of answers is your doctor. Ask questions about anything. Between visits, every time you think of a question, write it down and take the list to your next appointment.

Having said that, here’s a warning about doctors. Don’t let them bully you! I’ve heard many older women say, “If a doctor talked to me like that today, I wouldn’t stand for it.” But when we’re young and a little scared of this new experience, and not used to being involved in medical stuff, we might feel so vulnerable and dependent that we don’t question them. The fact is, however, you have not lost your intelligence just because you’re pregnant. It’s your body and your baby, so don’t let them badger you.

When I was first pregnant, the male doctor always called me “little girl.” I didn’t like it and had the feeling he said it because he didn’t know my name, but I never said anything. In contrast, when I was forty years old and expecting my ninth baby, I walked into the examination room, and the doctor, whom I had never met before and looked like a teenager, greeted me with, “Hey, Judy. How are you today?” I answered, “Just fine, Bob. How are you?” I would not be intimidated by the use of my first name.

At some appointments you’ll be made to wait for hours. The basic assumption seems to be that the doctor’s time is more valuable than yours. One woman, a professional decorator, waited two hours to see her doctor. She said there was no emergency; it was simply a case of overbooking and the doctor coming in late. The woman didn’t say anything at the time, but later sent a bill for her usual fee for two hours of her time. Hah!

I tried to make it a rule not to wait longer than 45 minutes. After that, I rescheduled and walked out. If you often have to wait a long time, call the receptionist the day of your appointment and ask when you can realistically expect to be seen. Then go at that time. You should expect to be treated with respect; don’t settle for less from the physician or the office staff. This works in private or group practice but may be different in an HMO or community health, where all bets are off.

Doctors today

You might have to be assertive with the receptionist too. I was in several practices where I liked the doctor but the office staff was grumpy, officious and demeaning. Stand up for yourself and say something like, “Are you in a big hurry or are you trying to be rude?” If there is no improvement, tell the doctor, in writing if necessary. If you still don’t get satisfaction, change doctors if possible. There are many options and many personalities out there and they can make a big difference in your whole experience. Ask other mothers for their recommendations.

While we’re on the subject of pregnancy, I should mention something about the sad fact of miscarriages. I had two of them before my first child, then two more between my last two children. The first one was a terrible shock. Although I knew what a miscarriage was, I didn’t know anyone who’d had one. Afterwards, many people I knew came up to me and quietly told me about theirs. A miscarriage is not usually physically debilitating, but emotionally I was knocked off my feet, even after I had other children.

Part of the emotional difficulty, of course, is hormonal, and this seems to be the part the medical profession stresses the most. Doctors, who call it “a spontaneous abortion,” often shrug and say, “Well, it was for the best, and as soon as your hormones settle down, you’ll feel better.” I felt like they did not understand the wrenching loss it was--with or without hormones. We need to go through a painful but necessary grieving process, even if it occurs early in the pregnancy. No matter when a misscarriage happens, most often during the first trimester, that baby was very real to us, and we have to accept the loss of this child as we would a living child. In my case, I simply cried non-stop for two weeks and then afterwards felt sad everytime I thought of it.

I’ve since learned that as many as 20% to 30% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Each time the doctor told me that usually they are necessary because there is something wrong with the fetus. If this was supposed to be comforting, it failed. First of all, I never thought of my baby as a “fetus.” All I knew was that my beautiful baby was gone before I ever had a chance to see her. And I was devastated.

In addition, I was surprised to learn how hard it was for my husband as well. He also had to go through a period of sorrow and feelings of terrible loss. Eventually we learned how to comfort each other. Slowly, after bouts of depression and fits of crying, I began to come back to the world and look around me again. At first, I only wanted to see close friends, or my family, but eventually, I was able to face others as well. In time, I was even able to see pregnant women and babies without bursting into tears. The whole process is similar to any other form of grieving with the stages of denial, anger, sadness, and finally acceptance.

It may take a while, and you may need help -- family, friends and perhaps even professional, but this acceptance will eventually come to you too.

Next: The Layette, or Necessary Baby Stuff

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Judy - Pregnancy As Preparation #2

Babies are probably the main reason we have children at all. The experience is similar to the old saying: everyone wants kittens but no one wants cats. If we could, some of us would have hundreds of them--babies, not cats. I found, too, that brand new babies are contagious. At least two of my children were born because I was exposed to a newborn when I was vulnerable. Babies are pure sensual pleasure. Like in the song by John Denver, they “fill up our senses.” They are a pleasure to look at, touch, smell (most of the time), and hear (again, most of the time).

As much as we love our babies, however, for most of us pregnancy is a necessary evil to be endured and then forgotten as quickly as possible. My favorite pregnancy joke: little boy to little girl in the bathroom, “Let’s play pregnant. I’ll shave and you throw up.”

I don’t understand it, but some people actually claim to enjoy the whole thing and even declare they blossom or something. More power to them. Most of the women I knew just got fat and teary. Then when our babies are overdue (as most of mine were), we become “not a nice person,” as my sister said.

When you have other little ones at the same time, it gets even harder. One poor woman was newly PG with her third child. She said all she could do was lie on the couch with a loaf of bread beside her. She let her kids watch all the TV they wanted and when they got fussy, she tossed them a piece of bread. Frankly, you feel drowsy and lethargic because your body is busy elsewhere. Listen to your body and get as much rest as possible because you won’t get much rest again for about eighteen years.

Recognizing these symptoms in yourself prepares you to be a parent of a small child. You may notice that food tastes and smells different to you, probably stronger than before. Later, you understand when your child has such strong likes and dislikes. Also, you’ll probably notice that when you’re hungry, you have to eat now and can’t wait for a regular meal. Or when you’re tired, you need a nap immediately, not later when it’s more convenient. When you do get overly tired, your emotions are almost too much for you to handle.

As you get bigger and more awkward you’ll slow down, and everyone will have to wait while you get in and out of cars. When you have to go to the bathroom, you have to go right now, and it doesn’t matter if you “went before you left home.” Don’t forget these feelings. You’ll have greater empathy when your little one has a meltdown because she’s tired or hungry, or when you wait hours for a two-year-old to get into and out of a car seat, then stops suddenly and says, “Potty!”

Next time: Doctors

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Judy - A New Series of Posts about Parenting #1


Years ago, when I was in the middle of my child-raising years, I wanted to write a book about my experiences. When I started having babies, I thought I'd have two or three, like normal people. But somewhere along the way I lost all control and any sense of responsibility and ended up with nine kids. Therefore, after 30 years of newborns, toddlers and teens, not to mention being pregnant for seven and a half years, I've had lots of experience. I was going to call the book,  "Rainbows Over the Diaper Pail: A Mother of Nine Shows How to Raise Awesome Children."

I was going to explain that I'd dealt with everything from the baby's first fall to falling out of trees, from bee stings to lice to pinworms, from sibling rivalry to sibling revolt. Sometimes I experienced the whole gamut of childhood in one day—just as the current baby was sleeping through the night, 2:00 am found me in the high school parking lot waiting for the band to come home. I knew I was good at what I did because my children all turned out to be bright, happy, responsible people who never required me to post bail.

The book was never published because life happened along the way and now, somehow, I'm a grandmother of forty. But I still have my notes and this blog so I'm going to combine the two in the hope that somebody somewhere can benefit from my hard-won wisdom. In the next post we'll start at the beginning and talk about the consequences of conception—pregnancy.

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