Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Judy - Early Sleep Issues #10

Some of the best advice I ever heard was from a neonatal nurse after the birth of one of my children. She said even tiny babies need to learn, and can learn that they are able to put themselves to sleep. If we always rocked the baby until she was sound asleep, then put her down, she wouldn’t learn this for herself. This nurse said to wrap the baby tightly, feed her, burp her, then just before she was completely out, put her in her bed.

This was good advice, but on the other hand, when they are tiny, you will do anything you can to get some rest yourself, including keeping them in your bed. At first, this feels good, especially with your first one. But when they get to be a year old and wiggle all night and sleep cross-wise on the bed, it’s not fun anymore.

New parents have said the biggest problem they faced was getting enough sleep. In a previous post I mentioned the wonderful book The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp. This book is most helpful for the first three months or when colic is a problem. After this time, an excellent book for later months is Sleeping Through the Night by Jodi A. Mindell, PhD. First, Dr. Mindell carefully explains normal sleep patterns and then some of the circumstances that cause problems, such as when parents and babies have to share the same room. She also explains that firstborns tend to have more problems than later children, and boys are more likely to have them than girls. She goes on to discuss ways to help children at different ages get to sleep using consistent rituals.

When one of our daughters had her first child, she nursed him several times a night and bedtimes were awful. When he was a toddler, she read Sleeping Through the Night and was able to follow the steps to get her son to finally sleep through the whole night in his own bed. With her second son, she began the steps outlined in the book when he was two months old, and the whole process went much easier and faster. By the time he was three months old, he was going to bed easily, and sleeping a good nine or ten hours a night. She says that book saved her sanity and recommends it to everyone within earshot.

As far as letting your older babies and even young children sleep with the parents all the time, there are two schools of thought. It’s called “co-sleeping” and I’ve seen many articles and even books extolling this practice, and the parents who do it are zealous in their belief. In my own opinion, I don’t think it’s a good idea because nobody sleeps very well (see chart above). Also, there is always the possibility of crushing a baby while you’re sleeping. And what about later children?

The other problem I have with this practice is illustrated by a Dr. Phil show. He was talking with a woman who was about to marry for the second time, and her future husband was concerned that she always let her 3-year-old son sleep with her. Dr. Phil asked her, “When do you plan to wean him from this and how do you plan to do it?” She answered defiantly, “Why do I have to wean him? Why can’t we keep on doing it?” Dr. Phil said, “Uh huh. I can see it now. Your hulking 17-year-old son comes home, throws the car keys on the nightstand and says, “Move over, Mom.” The woman was shocked. She’d foolishly not thought beyond the current age.

When you begin to have children, sleep becomes a precious commodity. But I promise you, after the first couple of months, there are ways to ensure both you and the child get enough rest. Neither of you have to be cranky all the time from lack of sleep.

Next: Toddlers - zany and loveable!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Judy - Surviving the First Year #9

A wise woman once said, “The thing about having a baby is that from now on, you have a baby.” If you were like many of us when we were younger and tried to hold someone else’s baby, it always cried, and we never knew what to do with it. So we’d quickly give it back to its mother. You may worry that now with your own, you still won’t know what to do. Believe me, it doesn’t work like that.

One of the best things Dr. Spock said in his landmark book, Baby and Child Care, was, “Relax. You know more than you think you do.” You’ll probably find that you know enough for your own child just because you know her so well. When you are together constantly, you are familiar with every little sound and movement. Parents often say they can differentiate between the different cries for hunger, wet, tired, hurt and even cranky. And you will know what to do for each of them.

The baby’s job during the first year is to eat, sleep, grow and learn. Your job during the first year is to teach your child that the world is a good place, that it can be trusted. You teach him this by responding to his needs immediately. When he’s hungry, you feed him. When he’s wet, you change him. When he’s fussy or tired, you soothe and calm him. You hold him, talk to him, constantly stroking, touching, and looking at him. You are the one who teaches that child about love, trust, warmth and kindness; that he is part of and connected to the whole family of man. If a child learns these momentous lessons while still very young, he won’t grow up to do terrible things to other human beings because he will feel connected to them.

When babies are small, their needs are exactly the same as their wants. You can’t  “spoil” a little one. One of the saddest things I ever heard was when Lloyd’s grandmother said to me as I was holding one of my babies, “I wish I had done more of that. We were told by the experts to stick to a strict schedule and if they cried between times for feeding, to just let them cry or we’d  spoil them.” Can you imagine? Here were mothers wanting to cuddle their babies and babies in need of comfort and they were kept apart by the “experts.”

Towards the end of the first year you can begin to set limits for them, which will be in a future post on toddlers. Remember, you are the grown-up here and they depend on you completely. I get a little annoyed when I hear mothers of young children say, “But I have needs too.” Yes, you do, but being a parent means--for a while--that you have to put your children’s needs first. The mysterious thing is that when you do, you fulfill needs of your own you may not know you have. And the rewards are more than you can imagine.

Even I have to admit that sometimes your child’s infancy is not all fun and games. Someone once described a baby as an alimentary canal with a loud noise at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other. And there’s sleep problems, but that’s for next time.

Always know there are definite compensations along the way. I call compensations those fleeting moments of joy when your heart crinkles with foolish love for that baby. And then they grow up in the blink of an eye, and all you’re left with is the memories of those moments.

Next: Sleep Issues

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Judy: Living with a Newborn #8

After coming home from the hospital with a new baby, I found that if I did absolutely nothing except sit in a chair and breastfeed for two weeks, I could bounce back and begin to feel better. But if I started doing things, like meals, a little laundry, a little clutter control, whatever, it took me at least two months to recover.

The catch here, of course, is that with other children around, how do you do nothing for two weeks? By shamelessly asking for and accepting any and all help available! Call on your mother, sister, other relatives, in-laws, friends, neighbors, and countrymen--anybody willing to lend a hand. When well-meaning friends ask, “Is there anything I can do?” smile wistfully and say, “Actually, there is some laundry...”

Then, of course, there are usually husbands. The ideal situation is for him to get some time off work to take over at home. Encourage him to take some family leave time or paternity leave, or whatever they call it. But I have to tell you a story. Once I went to visit a new mother after she had been home from the hospital two days with her fourth child. I found her scurrying around the kitchen, looking like death warmed over as she tried to boil a million baby bottles, fill them with formula, and fix dinner for the family all at once. Her husband, who had taken some time off work “to help out at home,” was sitting in the living room with the other kids watching TV.

Did I blame him? Well, yes, at first. Afterwards, however, I realized that he probably didn’t know what to do and didn’t realize how his wife felt because she didn’t tell him. So, open your mouth and ask. Tell people exactly what you need and if necessary, how to do it.

If there’s no handy husband available, lean on the other children. The problem here is that as soon as they are big enough to be a help more than a hindrance, they go to school. Still, even little ones can fetch and carry. Bottom line is take any help you can get and be ruthless about doing nothing except sit and feed  your baby. Don’t get the guilts for all the stuff that’s not getting done.

It will all still be there when you are ready to face it, I promise. The first couple weeks of this baby’s life will not be there and neither will your health if you blow it. My kids often heard me quote the last lines of the poem, “Song for a Fifth Child” by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton:

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

I had a dear friend who was feeling pretty good after being home a few days so she decided to do some ironing (back in the days when people still did that). She thought she was being careful because she sat on a stool. But after about an hour she began hemorrhaging, had to be taken to the emergency room in an ambulance, and was seriously ill for several weeks. I’m not kidding about this one--take it easy!

Another reason you need to do as little as possible is that you’re going to be tired (I’m talking bone-weary, sleep-deprived, psychosis here) for three reasons: first, your body is recovering from the trauma of giving birth, second, your body is readjusting to it’s non-pregnant state with hormonal fluctuations, and third, you won’t sleep at night. Add to this a constantly crying child and you’ll be ready to suck your thumb and crawl back into the womb yourself.

One morning at church I looked around and saw all five couples with new babies dozing in their seats. I told people I used to faint a lot to get some rest. Once I even fell asleep at a doctor's appointment, laying on my back with my feet in the stirrups. The nurse said she’d never seen that before.

If your baby cries all the time (and some of the little stinkers do), check with the doctor about a possible physical cause. If the pediatrician says there’s nothing wrong, or “it’s just colic,” you may have to grin and bear it for two or three months. No one seems to know what causes colic, therefore there is no medication to “cure” it. The main theories include intestinal pain due to allergies or gas. Here is a good website for helpful suggestions: http://www.babycenter.com/0_colic-how-to-cope_1369745.bc

One of the best books I’ve seen about soothing a crying baby is Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Baby on the Block. He outlines the 5 S’s: swaddle, side, swing, shush, and suck. I often give this book at baby showers and it’s not an exaggeration to say I’ve seen this method do miracles.

Then there is the old stand-by of a ride in a car. I heard that some desperate father somewhere invented a device you could attach to the crib which makes it move gently, like a car in motion, and at the same time makes a noise like a car engine. You may reach a point where you’ve tried everything and nothing works. If this is the case, the best thing you can do for both of you, is to leave the baby with a sitter and take a nap, with earphones, preferably once a day. Believe me, someday the crying will no longer be so constant, and your baby will get her days and nights in balance with the rest of the world.

When one woman’s baby was about a month old, her husband woke up and groaned, “I only got five hours of sleep last night.” At the same time the mother sang out happily, “I got five whole hours of sleep last night!” Everything is relative.

Next time: The First Year

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Dr. Joshua A. Fishman, the Passing of a Good Man / Lloyd & Judy

In 1969 I began a Doctoral Program in Language and Behavior at the Ferkauf Graduate School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Yeshiva University in New York City.

Dr. Joshua Aaron Fishman and his wife Gella helped Judy and me establish an enduring family fabric. In their home and at their table we observed Friday night candle lightings and religious and yiddish tutoring woven into their family life. We experienced the dynamic synergy of husband & wife, mother & father raising their sons. We participated in lively Hanukkah and Passover celebrations and in their Synagogue, Purim where groggers and stamping feet drowned out every mention of Haman. 

Gella introduced me to Yiddish education and encouraged me to enter an intensive summer study of Yiddish and Eastern European Jewry, a joint effort of the YIVO Institute, Columbia University and Yeshiva University.

All that we saw and felt in our interactions with Gella and Dr. Fishman provided an essential contribution to the spiritual and cultural architecture for our beginning family.

Judy and I have 9 children, who are all married, and this year we’ll have 40 grandchildren. The Fishman influence has been enormous and continuing as our children have established families of their own and carried our family culture forward.

We named two sons Aaron and Joshua.  And now after the deeper insight of 47 years of marriage and watching our daughters working with their husbands in bringing their own children to adulthood, Judy and I regret not having named a daughter Gella. 

Dr. Fishman died March 1, 2015.  Obituary at The Jewish Daily Forward.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Judy - Life after Birth #7

Several women having their first babies have mentioned how they were not prepared for the following three things:  1) How difficult the recovery was, 2) How much they loved that baby, and conversely, 3) How they didn’t recognize her right away.

1) How difficult the recovery was.

Even if we are prepared for a painful childbirth experience, our thoughts often don’t go beyond that. We imagine how wonderful it will be to have our own little baby, but we don’t realize what a trauma our bodies have to go through to get it. Your bottom will hurt whether you’ve have an episiotomy or not, and it will be hard to go to the bathroom. In fact, the first bowel movement after delivery is cause for celebration. Your arms, legs, and stomach may ache from straining. Your breasts and especially your nipples will hurt as they adjust to breast feeding, and then your milk comes in and suddenly you’re dealing with two bowling balls on your chest. And you’ll sweat a lot to rid yourself of all the water retention from pregnancy. Add to this mix of physical discomforts the natural hormonal fluctuations, and basically you’ll be a mess for about a week or so.

Just know that this stage does not last long and take some tylenol.

However, you should also be aware of the possibility of postpartum depression, which is a very real thing. I’ve read that as many as 10% to 20% of women suffer from it.  Here is a quote from the Mayo Clinic web page:
“The birth of a baby can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. But it can also result in something you might not expect — depression.
Many new moms experience the ‘baby blues’ after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings and crying spells that fade quickly. But some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression.”
If these feeling don’t go away after two-four weeks and are actually getting worse so that you can’t care for your baby, run don’t walk to your doctor. The sooner you get treatment, the easier it is to treat it. I have also heard this can come upon a new mother any time within the first year, but there is always help. This is one thing you don’t have to suffer through.

2) How much they loved that baby.

Many people are absolutely gobsmacked by the love they feel for their child. Like the delivery, it’s not like anything, any experience you’ve ever had before, and there is no way to describe the strength of it to someone else. Then you begin to realize that from now on, your heart will be walking around outside your body.

I knew one woman whose pregnancy was almost incidental to other dramas she was going through in her life so she didn’t think much about the baby coming. But when she held him for the first time and looked at his little round face, she said, “I didn’t know it was you!”

Or conversely, 3) How they didn’t recognize her right away.

Most people experience an immediate bonding with their infant, but not everyone does. Sometimes you look at her and see a total stranger. Cute, but not familiar. But this closeness/bonding usually comes when you care for her constantly, and the two of you spend a lot of time together. It’s a basic fact that you love the people you serve, and you’ll be doing the most serving you’ve ever done in your life. So don’t be worried if you take a few days to begin to feel like a mother to this child. It will come, and again, it will surprise you by the force of its power.

Sometimes you might suddenly be struck with the heavy burden it is to be totally responsible for another human being. I understand that when my father took his first look at me, his immediate reaction was, “That poor little s**t! All she has is me!”  Again, don’t worry about it. At this point all you have to do is feed her, keep her warm and dry, and love her. The rest will come one day at a time and so gradually that before you are even aware, it’s no burden at all, but has somehow become your whole reason for living.

Next: Living with a Newborn

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Judy - Deliveries Everywhere #6

As for the delivery itself, the best advice I can give is to take whatever childbirth classes are available and learn what to expect and what to do. Several women having their first babies have mentioned that the whole delivery was the scariest thing for them. Today, however, it doesn't have to be scary or, for many women, even painful. The obstetrical profession seems to have finally realized the important role the mother plays (well, duh) and has begun to afford her the respect and care she needs.

The main change I've seen since my babies were born is the use of the epidural. According to Wikipedia,Epidural techniques frequently involve injection of drugs through a catheter placed into the epidural space. The injection can result in a loss of sensation—including the sensation of pain—by blocking the transmission of signals through nerve fibers in or near the spinal cord.”

Unfortunately, there are a few problems with it. One occasional downside is that you might have headaches for a couple days afterwards. Also, sometimes the baby comes too fast and there's no time--you’re almost ready to push and have already gone through most of the hard part anyway .If you do time it right, though, most of your labor will be merely boring with some periods of intense concentration and a final dramatic ending, but not painful. Really. You can relax and get out of your own way and let your body take over and do what it needs to do.

The first method I used was Lamaze, which was fairly new at the time. It worked better than nothing, but you still had to try to relax through very painful contractions by a series of breathing techniques. Today there are alternatives to Lamaze. One method gaining in popularity is called Hypno Birthing. It is a kind of self-hypnosis designed to help you relax completely, enough so that you can actually disregard the pain and not let it get in the way. I've heard varying degrees of satisfaction with this method, but it is worth looking into.

Whichever method you use, make sure your doctor will agree. Some of them are more open to differing techniques than others. Also, with all methods you do need to do the preparations! And it works better if your husband can be part of it with you.

Now I have to tell you about my own delivery experiences. My first two babies were born the old-fashioned way, and when I say “old-fashioned,” I mean medieval. I was left in a room and periodically given pitocin pills to hurry things along. I didn't know what was happening--there was very little information available and my doctors had told me nothing. I was afraid and I was alone. Poor Lloyd had to wait in the fathers’ waiting room all night and was admonished to keep his feet off the coffee table. For the first baby, just before the delivery, I was given a general anesthetic and missed the whole thing. When I finally woke up hours later, I was so sick from the anesthesia I couldn't even see my baby until the next day. With my second one, I didn't have any anesthesia, but I was pushing for two hours and both the doctor and nurse kept scolding me because I was “doing it all wrong.” It’s amazing I had any more children at all.

For my next two babies, I discovered the Laying In Hospital in New York City and had a completely different experience. For the first time, my husband was encouraged to be with me and we were able to use the Lamaze we'd learned together. Soon afterwards, Lloyd went into the military, and I had three more babies in Army hospitals in Germany. On the one hand, it was great because it was so cheap. Just $15 a pop, which covered my meals. I tell people the reason we had so many children is because we couldn't pass up a bargain like that.

Of course, you get what you pay for. The military hospitals are meant for soldiers so the maternity wing is like a bare-bones afterthought. For example, after the delivery, I spent two hours in recovery, then had to walk up a flight of stairs to the maternity ward. Once there, I found a set of sheets on my bed, which I was expected to make myself. Meanwhile, an 18-year-old male corpsman explained all about how to care for myself, including how to use  the peri bottle. The next day, I heard the food cart come down the hall and the lady pushing it yelled, “Breakfast, ladies!” We all struggled out of bed and made our slow way to the cart to pick up our trays and bring them back to our beds. Then we had to bus our own dishes back to the cart. During one of my stays, I saw a woman in a hospital gown and robe mopping the floor next to her bed. Definitely no frills.

No one had individual rooms either. We were placed in large spaces with four people apiece and no TV’s. Since we all stayed three full days, we got to know each other pretty well and that was kind of fun. However, they dressed our babies in raggedy undershirts, disposable diapers, and worn, threadbare receiving blankets. One colonel’s wife kept saying she wanted to go home immediately so she could put her baby in some decent clothing. We kept our babies with us at all times; no friendly nursery took them during the night.

In spite of all this, I just kept having them.

I've heard it said, “Women forget childbirth once they have a baby in their arms.” First of all, it sounds like something a man would say, and second, it’s not true. We do not forget. To this day, I remember every painful breath. But the bottom line is the babies made it all worthwhile. Yes, it was kind of awful, but look what we have because of it!

Next: Afterwards

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