Friday, March 30, 2012

Mom Advice: Prepping for Labor and Delivery

A friend of mine is having her first baby in a couple of months and has been asking for my advice. I figure I might as well put it down here and let other moms benefit from it (or be annoyed by it). So warning: this blog contains my opinions and advice. I am not a medical professional, but I've birthed 5 babies, and in my opinion that makes me more qualified than any male obstetrician, and a good deal of other health professionals to speak on the subject. Second warning: I'm talking about my experiences of giving birth here, so if you know me, and you think that might be too much information for comfort, then just stop reading, OK? I really don't care who reads this, but if you get grossed out, it is not my fault.
This friend has told me that so many others have told her there's no way to prepare for the first experience of giving birth, and, while I understand what they're saying, I disagree wholeheartedly. While you can never be 100% prepared for a new and unique experience, there is much you can do to prepare for labor and delivery. And, while a first labor is generally longer and more difficult than subsequent labors, that doesn't mean you can't have a natural one. It does mean however, that you need to be as prepared as possible.

Choosing Fewer Interventions:

First off, decide whether you want pain meds or not. If you know you want them no matter what, I'm not judging you. I chose that with my first two babies too. Just know that the epidural can and does often cause other complications including a serious drop in blood pressure which can cause serious nausea as it did with my second baby, Hannah. I found the added nausea to be far worse than just dealing with the pain and opted for natural labor after that experience. The rest of this blog is really dedicated to coping with a labor that is as natural as possible.

Second, keep in mind that labor is extremely unpredictable. It can be fast and hard, or slow and dragging, or even slow and hard as it was with my first, Naomi. There are myriad complications you can run into and myriad ways of dealing with those complications: slow labor, baby with an "unreassuring" heartbeat, fetal distress, failure to progress, etc. There are generally two ways of dealing with any complication: the "medical" intervention, and the "natural" intervention. OB's are often more quick to jump to medical interventions including drugs and C-sections. Midwifes and doulas are usually slower to reach those conclusions, opting to try more natural ways of remedying the problem first. The first thing you can do when an intervention is called for is ask the question, "Is this an emergency or do we have time to discuss our options?"

If it's a true emergency, by all means do what your doctor says, but often you will find that no one is going to die in the next 15 minutes and you have time to discuss other possible interventions before leaping into drugs or C-sections. Realize that your OB is human: he wants to go home and have dinner with his family, and sadly enough, some OB's will jump to do a C-section when it might not actually be necessary because they're home two hours later instead of waiting 15 hours for you to finish natural labor. OB's also jump to C-sections because they are less likely to get sued over doing a "just-in-case" C-section than if they wait and something goes wrong with labor. One article I read quoted a doctor whose mentor had taught him, "Just section them, they can never sue you for sectioning them." Unfortunately, there ARE risks involved with a C-section including hemorrhage and infection, and it's recovery from major surgery instead of being up and around in a couple hours after a vaginal delivery.

So arm yourself with the knowledge of what options you might have for each possible complication, there are lots of books on this subject. Or take someone with you, such as a doula, who knows these options and will help inform and support your decisions, but won't be overly pushy and obnoxious with her own opinions. Making a birth plan is a good exercise for you to think through these issues, but I've heard that most nurses and doctors don't read them, and the truth is you can't make a lot of these decisions until you know exactly what the issues are, and that won't come until you're in the thick of labor.

For example: you might experience "back labor" where the baby is trying to come out with his face up toward your tummy, instead of down toward your bottom. The back of his head pushes on the tip of your spine, creating severe pain. Doctor or nurse might recommend an epidural. Midwife or doula might help you get into a position that encourages the baby to rotate, or might show your husband how to apply counter pressure by pushing against your back during contractions. Or, if you have informed yourself, you can change positions or coach your husband on how to help you.

Another example: if labor slows to a crawl or stops progressing, often termed "failure to progress" an OB might recommend a C-section, whereas a midwife might be more patient and recommend that you get up and walk to speed labor along or that you just take a rest and enjoy the break. Arm yourself with knowledge to make these decisions when you meet them. However, keep in mind that there are true emergencies, and if you end up needing medical intervention because of one just thank God that pitocin, vacuum extractors, or a C-section is available and take it. I've given birth to all 5 babies with the aid of pitocin, and I don't find it to be the horror of horrors that some natural birthing idealists would make it out to be. In my book it beats 5 days of hard labor like I had with Naomi.

Coping with Pain:

I think of giving birth a lot like any physically demanding sport: part training, part mental toughness, with the bigger part being the metal toughness. I think my years of running cross-country and track prepared me for natural labor better than anything else.

Stay focused. Have you noticed how athletes prepare mentally before a big competition? The gymnast quietly visualizes her routine, the runner paces and stretches his muscles. There is a look in their eye that says, "don't bother me, I'm concentrating on the task ahead." Indeed none of us would dream of walking up to a gymnast five minutes before her competition and asking what her favorite TV show is. It never ceases to amaze me how many nurses will do just that! Are you kidding me?!  I'm about to perform the most demanding physical task of my lifetime, this is not the time for chit-chat. Don't answer them. Coach your husband ahead of time to answer questions for you and to ask chatty nurses to leave you alone. Yes, contractions come in waves, with breaks in between. At first you might feel chatty and excited between contractions, but try to maintain a quiet, calm, focused atmosphere. I've come to realize that I have to be practically in a trance to focus all my mental energy on the challenge ahead. Chatting in between contractions breaks your focus on relaxing, and the increasing strength of the contractions may catch you off guard and mentally unprepared: that's where panic sets in and people call for pain meds. Stay calm, stay quiet, stay relaxed, stay confident, stay focused.

Inform yourself about the process of labor so that you can correctly interpret the incredibly strong signals your body is sending you. In the first stage of labor ccontractions are the uterus pulling open the cervix to a width of 10 cms so the baby can pass out of your womb and into the birth canal. Your job is to stay as relaxed and calm as possible. Be confident: you can do this, your body knows what it is doing. Fear and panic release stress hormones that can slow labor and compromise oxygen supply to the baby. Tensing your muscles creates more pain and wastes valuable energy.

Create a soothing atmosphere. As soon as you arrive at the hospital turn off the harsh florescent lights and use a dim lamp. Ask the nurse to use a quiet, calm voice. Put on scented lotion if you find it calming. Some people like massage, I never did. I listen to soothing piano or "new age" type music and breathe as slowly and deeply as possible while consciously relaxing every muscle in my body. Picture your body opening up to let a baby out, it will help you fight the impulse to tense your muscles up against the pain.

Create a rhythm. Contractions come in a rhythm, and a rhythmic way of dealing with them is soothing. It says, "I've done this before, I can do this again." Take a deep, relaxing breath as you feel a contraction come on and give a signal to your husband like a squeeze of his hand to let him know you're having a contraction. Don't say it, it breaks your focus. Matt got to where he knew if I closed my eyes and took a deep breath in he would let the nurse know I was having a contraction and tell her to be quiet. Often rocking or swaying feels good through a contraction and helps the baby's head to shift into the correct position in your pelvis. I love sitting on a birth ball with the hospital bed in front of me and Matt behind me, that way I can lean forward or backward as needed. Lying in a hospital bed during contractions was the absolute most painful position for me. A deep low moan on the out-breath will help you to relax your muscles and release tension. Screaming does the opposite.

My rhythm looked like this: deep in-breath, close my eyes and picture opening up to let a baby out; low, soft moan on the out-breath; slow sway or rock to the quiet music while continuing slow breathing and moaning, all the time focusing all of my attention on keeping every muscle in my body relaxed and fighting the urge to tense; finally opening my eyes at the end of the contraction, talking quietly with Matt if I needed to.  As things progressed I stopped opening my eyes or talking between contractions at all, just breathing and focusing and saving energy. You are a marathon runner, the contractions are the running up-hill challenges, the breaks in-between are down-hill "rests," but don't ever break your focus or your rhythm. If you try to run alongside a marathon runner and ask him what his favorite restaurant is he'll either ignore you or deck you. Keep that same attitude toward all distractions.

Stay Confident. The marathon runner who loses focus and is suddenly confronted with an agonizing hill begins to doubt himself: can I really do this? How many more hills are ahead? If he lets himself entertain thoughts of quitting, the race is already lost. The same for the laboring woman. In high school I had a track coach who normally coached football. His name was JB. How the school assigned him to girls track I do not know. He was a huge man, and relentlessly tough on us. I clearly remember sinking into despair in the middle of a mile-long race. JB saw the change in my demeanor and yelled as loud as he could from the side-lines, "Buck...It...UP, Johnson!" (my maiden name). This angered me and I found reserves of strength I hadn't known I had before he yelled at me. He caught me up in a huge hug after the race and told me what a good job I'd done. He had yelled at me because he knew if I lost my confidence, I lost the race. Physical endurance demands mental toughness. You can do this. Millions of women have done it before you. You can too. Don't let yourself think otherwise.

Handling Transistion

Transition is the last phase of the first stage of labor. It is where your cervix dilates from about 7 to 10 cms, and is by far the most challenging part of labor for most women. It is a time of intense physical sensations including: pain (contractions are longer, stronger, and have very little break between them, if any), extreme pressure as the contractions push the baby's head against the cervix, shaking and trembling, sometimes nausea, and a strong urge to push. This is where even a strong, confident woman who's been handling labor well can lose control and panic. You know what helps in transition? Knowing that it's transition, and that it doesn't last long--often 10-30 minutes (I've read up to two hours, but I think that's less common).

When transition hit after only 40 minutes of labor with my third baby, Emma, I didn't recognize it as transition because I wasn't expecting it yet. I panicked, imagining hours more of this agony, and was completely taken aback when Emma came flying out only minutes later. I thought to myself that if I'd known I only had a matter of minutes to go, it wouldn't have seemed as bad. So when I began to shake and tremble with baby number 4 I looked at the clock and told myself this would all be over within 20 minutes. He was out in 15. Granted, it will probably not go quite that quickly with a first labor, but knowing that what you're experiencing is normal and not a problem, and that it is for a limited time will help you stay confident and calm(er).

Many women find their previous soothing ritual of deep breathing and quiet music doesn't fit the tremendous pressure and shaking of transition. This is the time to switch to light, fast breathing if you've practiced it and it seems to help. Do practice it ahead of time though--I tried it with baby number 4 and hyperventilated so badly all four of my limbs went numb. I also prepared a CD ahead of time with baby number 5 of more fast-paced, upbeat music for Matt to play. When he put in that music it renewed my energy and excitement and helped me focus on the home stretch. Pay attention to what you're feeling--instead of just "OWWW!" think "OK, that's the baby's head pressing on the cervix, it's going to slip through the hole soon and I'll be able to push, almost there."


This is the part I was most afraid of when I thought of natural labor, but I was surprised to find that it is actually a great relief to be able to work with those strong sensations after transition. Yes, it hurts, but you don't much care anymore by this point. It's when the runner, exhausted and weary, rounds a bend and sees the finish line--suddenly he bursts forth with renewed energy, he knows he's almost got the prize. As soon as the doctor or midwife declares you 10 centimeters dilated and gives you the OK to push, go for it! Don't hold back, don't fear the pain. If ever there was a time to visualize opening up and letting the baby out, this is it.

If you don't have an epidural in, you ought to be able to choose an unconventional position to push in. Some OBs will strong-arm you into lying on your back with your feet up because it's the easiest way for them to catch the baby. That's how I delivered my first four babies. But with Elijah, the midwife let me choose the position, so I went with what felt natural. They dropped the end of the bed down and I knelt on the lowered end of the bed and rested my arms on the raised portion. The midwife caught Elijah from behind. There are pluses and minuses to this, it felt much more natural and a lot easier to push him out, but didn't provide a great view for me. I think most women are most concerned with the easiest route at this point, though, and not the view. You get to see the baby soon enough.

The head's the hardest part, then one push for the shoulders and that kid comes slipping out into the world. After that you get to hold him, take lots of pictures, and learn the art of breastfeeding. I'm hoping that will be the subject of my next "Mom Advice" post.

What can you do to prepare for labor and delivery:
--Read books on natural labor
--Collect CD's of music you want to listen to (or make a playlist on your Ipod or whatever you have) Slow, calm music for active labor, faster, more inspiring music for transition.
--Practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques
--Practice light breathing for transition
--Visualize youself going through labor the way you want to (on a birth ball, in a warm tub, whatever)
--Practice reassuring yourself that you can do this, because you can.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pocketful of Paper Presents

To celebrate my 31st birthday, Matt's family planned a little impromptu surprise party for me, complete with a gluten-free dairy-free cake and dairy free ice cream for Naomi. I was impressed, and blessed by their thoughtfulness. Last night the joy continued as I opened an enormous mound of presents created entirely with paper, tape, yarn, and love. There was a hat, scarf, and necklace for me:

Some pretty papers, a book that Hannah had made called "The Pink Door", and a pile of computer paper all wrapped up just for me to use--the girls swore they wouldn't steal this stack of paper for crafts, which is a real sacrifice for them:

Naomi made me my own baby doll gift set (in case I feel the need to care for another baby), complete with a purple outfit, bib, pacifier, and swaddling blanket:

There was a vase of flowers, a pretty polka-dot cat, and a butterfly card with candy in it:

I also received my own cardboard horse, with movable joints that pivot around bits of plastic drinking straw, designed entirely by Naomi:

The inside of Naomi's butterfly card reads, "Dear Mommy, your the best Mommy ever. I hope you have a great birthday. Love, Naomi"

I even received a medal, which I will wear with pride, "Best Mommy Ever."

I couldn't ask for more.

Photo Album: Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold

Her early leaf's a flower
But only so an hour 

Then leaf subsides to leaf

So Eden sank to grief

So dawn goes down to day

Nothing gold can stay

--Robert Frost

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Photo Album: Magnolia March

The meteorologists are baffled by the warmest March on record, and so am I. Last year my magnolia tree bloomed in early May. This year it is in full bloom on March 22nd! But who cares what date the calendar says, my yard has never been so beautiful.

 Who says violets are weeds? I'd fill my whole yard with them if I could. As it is, I can't because they keep ending up on my kitchen table.

Magnolia March after the February of Fevers, I will never forget the happiness you brought our way.

Photo Album: Summer in Winter

Grandma and Grandpa Johnson came to visit us a few weeks ago. Elijah enjoyed the extra sets of loving arms. He also enjoyed watching March Madness on Grandma's laptop--Go Iowa State!

Grandpa brought some tools to help Toby learn the manly art of carpentry. Unfortunately Toby was more interested in running away with the saw than using the scary drill. Hannah didn't mind helping though.

After they left Toby decided he needed a little rest.

When the 78 degree weather arrived in mid-March, we grabbed a picnic dinner and set out to enjoy the amazing weather before it disappeared. "Yay! It's summer!" the kids cheered. "Actually it's still winter," I corrected them, "it just happens to feel like summer." Who cares, anyway? Let's play!

And eat!

Yes, that's Matt taking a nap at the beach.

When the summer weather decided to completely fill the next week, we rediscovered our backyard.

Umm, Mommy, I spilled the bubbles.

Even Elijah liked chllin' outside.

 Summer in winter, I don't know where you came from, but you are so welcome to stay!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hannah Tells Elijah a Story About a Fussy Baby

"Hannah," I called yesterday while trying to make dinner, "will you come talk to Elijah? I just need you to keep him happy for five minutes for me."

"Awww, I'm tired of keeping him happy," Hannah grumbled as she slumped to her baby brother. She scowled at him as his cries diminished. He was clearly glad for the attention. "Elijah, I'm going to tell you a story," she said with an air of annoyance in her voice. Elijah munched on his slobber-soaked fingers and stared into her face contentedly as she bounced his bouncy seat and continued.

"This is a story about a family with a new baby. He was a lot of work. This baby would cry for no reason. He kept screaming and screaming and screaming and screaming. No one knew what to do with him. They were all very sad. It was too much screaming, just too much. He screamed for 100 years! He cried and cried until he cried his head off, and when his head was off, of course he died."

Then Hannah turned and walked away without any further word, and I had to laugh. Hannah adores Elijah, she couldn't be any more in love with him, but I guess we all have days when we've just had enough of fussing babies. I don't think her story had much of an effect on her audience, but at least she felt better airing her feelings. I can relate to that.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Emma's Speech Assessment Report

I got the official report from the speech-language pathologist in the mail today. It's funny because Emma tried so hard for this assessment and I thought she spoke more clearly for this lady than she ever did at home, and still the assessment is dismal.

Here are some highlights from the four-page report:
  • Significant problems for oral movements (praxis) for simple mouth and tongue movements. Oral diadochokinesis (rapid alternating movement) was slow, labored with groping for placement noted...There was difficulty noted for motor planning for blowing a whistle and blowing bubbles from a wand.
  • Hodson Assessment of Phonological Processes3 (HAPP-3); the higher the Total Occurrence of Major Phonological Deviations (TOMPD) number (from 0 > 150) the more severe the phonological disorder. Emma's TOMPD was 155 this score indicates a profound disorder in phonological processes. Speech intelligibility is significantly affected for all processes tested with the exception of sounds in the initial position of words.
  • The Kaufman Speech praxis Test (KSPT) which determines the level of of disorder compared to typical children and children with speech praxis disorders.
    • Part 1 (oral movement) Unable to record a standard score for the raw score of 3. This is less than the 4th percentile for children with speech impairment and is less than an age equivalency of 2 years.
    • Part 2 (Simple phonemic/syllabic level): Unable to record a standard score for the raw score of 56. This is less than the 18th percentile for children with speech impairment and is less than an age equivalency of 2 years.
    • Part 3 (Complex phonemic/syllabic level): Unable to record a standard score for the raw score of 21. This is less than the 8th percentile for children with speech impairment and is less than an age equivalency of 2 years.
    • Part 4 (Spontaneous length and complexity) Unable to record a standard score for the raw score of 1. This is less than the 13th percentile for children with speech impairment and is less than an age equivalency of 2 years.
  • Assessment: Motor speech skills were severely impaired with difficulty noted for planning and executing the movements for speech and nonspeech oral tasks. Results indicate the presence of a severe verbal dyspraxia characterized by extensive replacements of sounds, omissions of sounds, disintegration in speech intelligibility with increased length and complexity of utterances, and the presence of profound phonological process disorder. Emma utilized backing for many sounds that she had difficulty producing. This was most prevalent in longer words and connected utterances. All sound classes, with the exception of lip sounds such as [m,b,p] were severely disordered, and these sounds were decreased in accuracy with greater word length and complexity.
So there it is. She still says the rehabilitation potential is "Excellent" and recommends two sessions per week for 3-4 months to start with. It is hard to see those words in writing "severe verbal dyspraxia," and "profound phonological process disorder," even though I knew them to be true all along. I hope to see much brighter reports once therapy is underway.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hannah's Take on The Baby Miracle

"Do you know what the greatest miracle that God does is?" Hannah asked her sister Naomi. "It's that you can only have a baby when you're married, and marrying is just going into a church, and giving each other rings, and promising to love each other forever. I don't know why that should make a baby, so I think that's a great miracle. Don't you?"

"Well, I'll tell you one reason why you have to be married," Naomi replied. "It's that it takes a mommy and a daddy to make a baby."

"But I think that sometimes if the mommy and daddy are just friends for a long time before they get married they get a baby," Hannah responded. "I think that happens sometimes, but I don't know why."

Naomi wrinkled up her face, "I'm not so sure about that."

I'm quite relieved to report that the conversation ended there, and did not make it's way to me for further explanation. I'm hoping it doesn't resurface for a year or two.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Light for Emma

With all of Emma's speech issues she's been tested and treated by the state Early Intervention program and by the local school system, she's had her hearing tested at least five times, she's on her second set of ear tubes, and she wears glasses. We have hoped that all of these interventions would somehow help Emma develop the ability to speak in a way that other people can understand, but she has made very little progress towards intelligible speech in the last year.

Emma is very smart, she has consistently tested at or above age level cognitively. She is bright and cooperative and tries very hard. She has long, complex sentences bottled up inside of her, but she cannot make her mouth move in a way that lets them out, or when they do come out it's nearly impossible to understand. She has made some progress with therapy. She can produce all the vowels sounds and the consonants hard g, b, p, m, and w consistently in words. This is great when she wants to talk about a mob or a bag, but not so helpful when she wants to tell me about a feather or scissors or a dolphin in the ocean. Hard g becomes her "fill-in" consonant that takes the place of anything else she can't pronounce so a feather is "geh-eh," scissors is "gih-eh-eh," and dolphin in the ocean would be "gah-ih ih eh oh-eh." Most strangers don't even realize she's speaking English, and I probably only understand her about 80% of the time. Hannah often serves to translate for Emma, since her brain seems to have acquired the ability to understand Emma's language better than anyone else's.

Last June Emma's neurologist recommended private intensive speech therapy, and after spending eight months on the waiting list, I finally took Emma for her first speech evaluation with a private speech pathologist. It was an amazing experience. After years of hearing well-meaning people assure me that Emma would "outgrow" this "speech delay," that "kids develop at their own rates," and that there was "nothing to worry about." I finally got to consult with a professional who didn't have her head in the sand. After an hour of testing and rating Emma's ability (or inability) to produce sounds and words and sentences, the speech pathologist diagnosed Emma with "severe oral apraxia" meaning Emma cannot coordinate the movements of her mouth to produce the complex sequences of sounds demanded by language. This is often seen in stroke victims, but in Emma's case a period of oxygen deprivation before or during birth would possibly explain this neurological deficit. More and more signs point to that for her.

There is no "outgrowing" speech apraxia, time does not heal this wound. But with that said, the speech pathologist was anything but bleak. Because Emma was so bright and hard working she thought that Emma would respond well to intensive speech therapy. She wants us to come at least twice a week to re-teach Emma the rules of speech: each consonant separately, then with a vowel, then with all the vowels, then in words, phrases, and sentences. Emma has very ingrained patterns or "rules" of speech that she has made up to compensate for her weaknesses and these need to be systematically broken and relearned correctly. The therapist believed Emma would quickly see that people understand her better and make the switch to the new system of speaking once she is taught.

Because I was still a little skeptical I brought up to the therapist how I had worked with Emma to teach her the "T" sound for over a week and how she finally produced the correct sound, but couldn't pair it with any vowel. Instead of saying "tah" Emma would say "t-gah." The therapist explained that "g" has become Emma's "go-to" sound, the sound she uses to help her produce any difficult sound. She then turned to Emma right there and worked with Emma on "t" and "ah" and then pairing them into "tah." Within one minute Emma was saying "tah," something I couldn't get her to do in a whole week. I am now a believer in this speech pathologist, and I believe she is just as excited to work with Emma. She told me to bring all 5 kids if I have to, that she would make it work because Emma needs this and will respond to this. I will do whatever it takes to get Emma there. Out of everything I could possibly do to help this child, I feel like this is the most important.

Speech therapy will be a big part of our family's life for awhile, but yesterday felt like the sun was shining through the clouds for Emma, and I can't wait to get started. I can't wait to hear everything Emma has to say, and to see who she will become once she and the world speak the same language.

Elijah Talks with Grandma

This is little Elijah talking with his Grandma Johnson. They had a good conversation yesterday. Today they're watching basketball together, and Elijah couldn't be more excited. He's going to be bored to tears when Grandma and Grandpa go home tomorrow. I probably will be too.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Best Worst Birthday Ever

Every night when Matt is trying to pray with the kids before bed Hannah has to interrupt the routine to plead for sympathy over some malady that has recently beset her. "Oh! Ow!" she'll suddenly cry, "Oh, my finger has an ouchy, and this is a really bad one!" Matt and I usually don't even look anymore, since we rarely find any more than a hangnail without so much as a speck of blood. Usually this drives Hannah to more ridiculous antics like rubbing lotion on the sore and wrapping it in a kleenex with scotch tape in order to convince us of the wound's near-fatal nature.

So two days ago when Hannah screamed and came running to me holding her right thumb tightly wrapped in her left hand, I took a deep breath and prepared to give my usual "don't make mountains out of molehills speech." But Hannah's face was white and her screams were an ever-growing creshendo of terror, and the thought crossed my mind that she might actually be hurt this time. I coaxed the hysterical Hannah to open her hand for a split second. In that split second I couldn't actually identify what the wound was, but I knew it was real. Her hand was filled with blood and a huge flap of skin hung loosely from her thumb. At first I thought she'd ripped her thumb-nail off, but soon found that a dime-sized chunk of skin had been ripped loose.

We washed and bandaged the wound as Hannah screamed and sobbed. Then she wrapped a paper towel around that and put pressure on the thumb until the blood stopped oozing through the band-aid. I finally got the story from her that she had gone over to Elijah who was crying in his swing and leaned over the swing to comfort him. "I don't know what happened!" she sobbed, "I just put my hand up here and then, Ouch!" She had placed her right hand at the top of the swing to steady herself as she leaned and her thumb had been caught as the ball rotated up into the swing, ripping a chunk of skin loose.

I held her and rocked her as she continued to cry and then I tried to cheer her up. "I know it hurts, honey," I consoled her, "this one really is a bad ouchy, and you can complain about this one at bedtime tonight if you want, OK?"

She laughed a little, then sunk back into despair, "When will it stop hurting? It will never stop hurting. Never! And I won't have any happy birthday tomorrow either! I could never have a happy birthday when my thumb hurts like this. Oh, why did this have to happen? Oh, it hurts so much, Mommy. Oh, it will never stop hurting, will it?"

"It will, Hannah," I said. "Little by little it will feel better and heal. You need to let it rest and find something else to think about while it heals."

"But I write with this thumb," Hannah countered, "and I color with it, and I hold books with it, and make crafts with it. Everything I like to do needs this thumb! I can't do anything! It's going to be the worst birthday ever!" Hannah also needed to call Matt and personally tell him about her injury, then proceed to talk about absolutely nothing else for the rest of the day. When Matt came home and asked to see her thumb, Hannah denied him, "No! I don't want to take the band-aid off because you might be tempted to touch it, and I don't want anybody to touch it, ever!"

Old Oven

But even with all the dire predictions Hannah awoke yesterday to her sixth birthday and had to admit that her thumb did feel a little better. My parents are in town as well, and this gave Hannah a good distraction from her worries. I snuck out to do some grocery shopping and decided that Hannah could use some Hello Kitty Band-Aids, and this further lifted her spirits. It's hard for a thumb to hurt much with Hello Kitty smiling back at you. Our new oven arrived around noon. (The previous one in this house had been leaking natural gas so the owners had bought a new one.) We broke in our new oven by baking two birthday cakes and boiling down blueberry juice for purple dye.

New Oven

Toby hadn't had a birthday party three weeks ago when he turned three since our house was under quarentine with whooping cough, so we baked one cake for Toby with Mater on it and one cake for Hannah with a purple butterfly on it. The guests arrived, the presents piled up, and I do believe Hannah forgot completely about her injured thumb. In fact, I can't think of a better way to forget a sore thumb than with a butterfly cake and a pile of presents. I haven't heard a word about her injury today. I suspect that it's healing after all, but she's still not letting me peek under the band-aid.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mommy's Helpers

I'm blessed with so much help on a daily basis, of course there's help and then there's "help."

I'm not sure Elijah really considered this helpful, and I couldn't leave them alone for fear that Naomi would fall off the ball, but it was a nice try.

This lasted about five minutes before Elijah realized he was in the arms of an impostor, and I couldn't leave them alone at all for fear that Matt would suffocate him (though to his credit he hasn't harmed a sleeping baby yet), but they sure do look cute.

Then there's Toby's help, which is by far the most frightening.

Naomi and Hannah love to help Emma with her schoolwork, but have a little trouble getting their own done.

With all this help I may just find myself some free time...maybe.