When We Left the NICU

Today is World Prematurity Day, a day aimed at bringing awareness to the global problem of premature birth.

And a day that makes me feel eternally grateful to a small group of people that helped me after my first child was born: the nurses in the NICU.

When We Left the NICU

An ultrasound at 35 weeks of pregnancy showed that my stubborn placenta hadn’t migrated north and out of the way of my cervix, and had suddenly stopped functioning. My son was measuring an entire month behind where he should have been, and the perinatologist thought my baby would survive better outside the womb than inside my body.

Then he asked when I had last eaten.

As my husband and I sprinted home to grab a few things, my mind started to swirl as I tried to wrap my head around delivering a small premature baby via c-section. As a twin, I was born eight weeks early, weighed 3lbs 8oz, and heard plenty from my mother about what it took to get a premature baby out of the hospital.  And with a NICU nurse as a mother-in-law, I was familiar with the pecking order of survival rates.

White baby boys are at the bottom of the barrel in terms of fighters.

White baby boys, like my soon-to-be-born son.

Eight hours later, my baby was delivered. All 4lbs 2oz. of him. They thought he would be closer to three pounds, so everyone was excited he was bigger and healthier than anticipated.

Still, I didn’t feel we were out of the clear. Our pediatrician had prepared us for the worst – that my son might not come home from the NICU until his expected due date.

So, there we were, in the hospital, hundreds of miles from family, alone.

Except we weren’t. Our lovely NICU nurses stepped in and became our surrogate family.

From the hour my son was born, the NICU nurses were a God send. After the initial check up of my son, once they were sure he was stable, my son was moved to an incubator. Immediately, they welcomed my husband to our son’s bedside.

This wasn’t a hands-off nursery. We were expected to parent our child as soon as possible: to take our son’s temperature, change his diaper, and try to swaddle him, all done under the patient guidance of a NICU nurse.

The nurses introduced kangaroo care (skin-to-skin contact) with me as soon they could, while my son was still tethered to machines. They had my husband do it, too; a gesture that spoke volumes about the staff’s position on parents roles in a child’s health and well-being.

I relied on those nurses probably more than I should have. They taught me how to breastfeed my son, how to burp him, change his diaper, and clean his umbilical cord. They also gave me tips to getting my, uh, digestive system back on track after surgery.

They were my stand-in mother, friend and therapist. They were my support system, helping me through the uncertainty of premature babies with grace and patience, and never once made me feel stupid for asking a question. They celebrated every ounce my son gained along with me. They filled me in on cute things he did while they held him in my absence, and knew him as well as I did, if not better.

One morning, we came in to the NICU to find a handmade sign for my son’s bed and I burst in to tears.

Made by one of the night nurses, it displayed my son’s name in bold, block letters, intricately made out of baseball bats, stackable rings, and crescent moons. That name sign made it home with us and now sits, framed, over my now-eight year-old’s full-size bed.

It was that gesture that made me realize how much these nurses care for every single baby in that unit.

Even though my experience was nothing compared to those families that spend months in the NICU, I caught a glimpse at what these nurses provide: immeasurable comfort, reassurance, care and compassion.

Case it point: I cried the day we were discharged from the NICU. If I could have paid these nurses to come home with me, I would have.

Five years later, I took my son back to the hospital to donate the box of preemie clothes we had stored in a box, grateful to return the favor after finding ourselves unprepared to clothe a baby so early.

The NICU wing had been renovated, and while the some of the staff had changed, I recognized a good number of nurses, still soldiering on, taking gentle care of preemies and performing what I can only imagine is an extremely difficult but rewarding job.

A nurse graciously took my box of onesies after chatting with us about our time in the NICU and admired how big my son had gotten, with a generosity I hadn’t expected. Even though I didn’t know her, I had to hug her and thank her for keeping my son’s stay in the NICU a healthy one.

As we walked out of the NICU, I glanced up above the beds of the current patients, all of them equipped with their own handmade signs, and prayed their parents would be able to take them home and frame them one day, too.

 

Tunes To Get You Ready For Thanksgiving

Look at me, posting three times in one week!

No, it’s not the apocalypse. I’m back again this week because there’s something cool I think you need to check out.

Thanksgiving tunes

The lovely folks over at Sugar Mountain PR have put together a fantastic playlist about food to get your palette ready for Thanksgiving. It features some songs by great musicians like Lisa LoebDanny WeinkaufKira WilleyBrady RymerThe Okee Dokee Brothers and Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke, among others. That’s a pretty tasty lineup right there!

Oh, and did I mention that you can download these songs FOR FREE?

To download your free tunes, simply GO HERE.

 

Peaceful Conflict Resolution for Children

The last thing we want is for our children to experience the stress and heartache of any type of conflict. However, it is inevitable that such situations will arise.

Teaching children how to end conflict peacefully is a vital skill that may help them avoid an unnecessary result and will improve their ability to communicate effectively as they grow. It’s also a skill, I think most of us can safely say, that is difficult to hone!

conflict resolution for children

It takes practice and reinforcement but once such an ability is learned, your child could be successful in their career as well as personal relationships as they bear the torch of leader rather than bully. Teaching this sort of communicative respect can enhance a child’s ability to in turn be respected by his or her peers.

Set a Template

Explaining the basics of dealing with conflict is important but for a child to retain such an explanation may be an overreach. As most know, the attention span of children is limited.

Therefore, if a child has a tangible, direct, written protocol that they can study and refer to, it becomes an opportunity to keep such a reference as a reminder.

Here are a few steps that may help.

Stop, Breathe, Count

When a conflict arises it is often the ‘knee jerk’ emotional reaction that gets most people in hot water. For kids, this can be a fast escalation, unless certain steps are taken.

Stopping, breathing and silently counting to ten the moment conflict arises gives the mind of reason an opportunity to catch up with the mind of emotion.

This first step has the potential to allow a child to “ground” themselves before reacting.

Stand Your Ground

It is important to be able to teach a child confidence when adversely confronted. This is not to become confused with becoming violent. A fine line must be highlighted between the two in order for a child to understand that one is appropriate and the other is not.

Standing one’s ground can be done through direct diplomacy. If the offender wants to physically engage it is best to teach your child to walk away (but not turn around, always keep the perpetrator in sight). Though anyone would find it difficult to walk away while someone is instigating conflict, children can understand ending conflict peacefully whenever possible through positive reinforcement. We have to make it worth something to walk away.

This is a way to incorporate fearlessness with intellect. Not an easy combination but if it is practiced and mastered it can become a lifelong, useful skill.

Try to implement these points:

  • Speak directly
  • Make eye contact
  • Be assertive (not whiny).
  • Listen carefully (maybe you are wrong).
  • Repeat what the other person says to make sure you understand it and they feel heard.
  • Offer to work solutions such as a compromise, “You use the swing for ten minutes and then I will use the swing for ten minutes” and so forth.
  • Stand sideways (this avoids giving the other child an opportunity to directly attack if they become violent).
  • Always walk away from irrational behavior and find an adult for assistance.

Role Play

Offering your child an opportunity to act out scenarios you may think are pertinent or ones they have actually experienced can be highly valuable.

By offering role play scenes you and your child can practice the best case scenarios from many different angles to find the best result.

Some of these scenes can include playground disputes, being bullied, sports team conflicts, or having feelings hurt by unkind words.

By concentrating on keeping emotions at bay and instead using calculated responses will enable your child to learn how to remain in control of a situation to foster a peaceful resolution.

Don’t Helicopter

As parents we do everything in our power to keep our kids safe. This is commendable but when it borders on suffocation it can be more regressive than progressive.

When conflict arises do not be so quick to step in and referee. This can result in beneficial outcomes on several levels.

  • First, you get to watch your child handle the conflict.
  • Second, you get to make mental notes on how to adjust and hone their reaction.
  • Third, as you remain ‘hands-off’, you are giving a non-verbal ‘nudge out of the nest’ enabling your child to spread their independent wings.

This last attribute may be the most important. Independence is the keystone to a healthy, successful path throughout their life and the younger they learn it the more skilled they will become. Always be sure to praise your child on their effort before constructively criticizing.

Ending conflict peacefully teaches your child that there is power in diplomacy rather than violence. Maybe, if more parents take this approach, society as a whole will eventually rise above ignorance and fear replacing it with intellect and progress.

 

amy williamsAmy K. Williams is a mom of three and journalist. You can follow her on Twitter and Google+. She thanks you for reading and is very excited to write for Totally Full Of It!

New Music: “How To Be a Cloud” by Kira Willey

If you know me, you know I’ve been on a journey towards mindfulness for some time now. Sure, it waxes and wanes, but I’m showing up to my weekly yoga class, signing up for those 21-day mediation challenges, and in general trying to focus on telling my mind to, in my best Cheri Oteri, “Simmer down, now!”

For instance, I challenged myself to do yoga every day for the month of September, which meant trying to squeeze yoga in on the weekends when the kids were home. One day, instead of using the iPads to babysit them while I practiced in my bedroom, I decided to find a family yoga on YouTube that the kids could do with me.

Wouldn’t you know it, they loved it. Heck, I loved it, too.

No, it wasn’t as much of a work out as I would get by myself, but it was fun having the kids by my side, letting them experience a practice that fuels my spirit, and watching them persevere through challenging poses and feel successful.

And now, I have one more ace up my sleeve if we want to do this again. Yoga instructor and acclaimed musician Kira Willey will release her new album, How To Be a Cloud: Yoga Songs for Kids Vol. 3 on November 18th.

Kira Willey

You might remember Kira’s intriguing voice from her release “Colors”, which was used in a 2008 Dell commercial, and was featured here on the blog. Her latest album combines upbeat tracks and mellow tunes with vivid imagery that would be a perfect album for a preschool classroom, a Kindergarten physical education class, or a stuck-at-home-with-cabin-fever snow day.

Kira Willey’s compositions beautifully strike a balance between effervescent and relaxing.  Her musical strength lies in the inviting and uplifting quality of her solid voice, and this is clearly evident in songs like my favorite track off the album, “When You Sleep” (a sweet prayer for a little one that’s tender and lovely). Think Suzanne Vega singing lullabies. Pretty great, right?

Another poignant track on the album is “I Will Be Here,” a tune written from a mother’s perspective reassuring her child that she’ll always be there for them through life’s ups and downs. Willey’s popular tune “Colors” appears on the album as a remixed version, backed by 75 kindergartners, and is just as vibrant as the original.

One of the things I like about this album is Kira Willey’s attention to the mindful benefits of yoga and mediation, and how she introduces these concepts to young listeners. The title track, “How To Be a Cloud,” is a great approach to meditation for little ones, with its dreamy tempo and imagery that invites young minds to take a moment to be still and aware.

The mid-tempo “Great Big Starry Sky,” “Bloom” and “When You Get Bigger” not only draw attention to the awesome beauty that is nature and our universe, but also introduce young bodies to great yoga poses like Star, Flower and Mountain poses.

“Gotta Lotta Happy” is a joyful song that expresses the importance of gratitude, something I’m trying to cultivate in my own children’s lives. The soaring “Wings On a String” reminds me of my own yoga practice in that no pose is ever completely still, but instead shifts slightly like a kite. Or, in my case, sometimes swoops down and drops like a rock.

There are some great tracks on the album that are sure to get kids up and moving around, such as the infectious first track, “My Favorite Day” (for which Willey suggests kids sizzle and flip like pancakes),  “Dancing With My Daddy” (a fun little rhumba), and “Jazzy” (the more “edgy” song of the album, about a kid who loves and lives music). With a funky groove and syncopated lyrics about cookies and treats, “Cookie Jar” appears on the album mostly because, as Willey explains, “it’s not really a yoga song, but I just really wanted you to hear it.”

The CD for How To Be a Cloud also includes 9 bonus yoga tracks, where Willey talks through yoga poses for kids inspired by the mood and lyrics of the songs. These sequences can sometimes feel quick, so it might be a good idea to listen to these with a finger close to the pause button so that you can get in and out of them easier.  But these bonus tracks provide a wonderful opportunity to introduce your little ones to the benefits of yoga.

Kira Willey’s How To Be a Cloud is a great CD to jumpstart the chaotic holiday season and get your family practicing yoga! How To Be a Cloud:Yoga Songs for Kids Vol. 3 will be available November 18th on iTunes and Amazon.

 

I was provided a copy of this product for review purposes. All opinions are 100% completely my own. This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through my links, Amazon or iTunes will provide me with a commission.  It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but helps me keep this site running.  And I’m providing links because I think it’s music that would be awesome in your collection.  You and your kids will thank me.

 

Wrestling With Squirrels

There have been times in my life when I had to take a stand for what was right, even when sitting there and taking the unfairness would have been easier. Even when it meant getting physical.

Even when there was a chance of getting rabies.

Let me explain…

Wrestling With Squirrels

Let us harken back to my senior year in college, when I was frantically studying for a final exam at the College of Fine Arts cafeteria. That studying stuff was hard work, so I decided to treat myself to a delicious looking, albeit ridiculously expensive, chocolate chocolate-chunk cookie to go along with the lunch I brought from home.

I was an extremely poor college student, and forking out $2.50 for a cookie was something akin to a down-payment for a home. But I considered it a reward for all of my hard work and thought that the accompanying sugar high would propel me towards academic greatness as I took my exam in an hour.

Having scored a prime seat on the nearby lawn, I plopped down to eat my sandwich, and as I sat there and nibbled my turkey on wheat, I heard some rustling beside me.

I turned around just in time to catch a sneaky squirrel snatching up my gourmet goodie and dragging it away, the weight of the cookie slowing him down to a snail’s pace.

The cookie I had been lovingly anticipating eating. The cookie that meant I would be dining on ramen noodles for dinner. The cookie that was still wrapped in cellophane.

And at that moment, I snapped.

Vermin was taking off with my $2.50 cookie. That squirrel didn’t care how much that cookie cost. He was just looking at sugary goodness. Free sugary goodness. And I wasn’t about to sit there and let this rodent injustice happen to me.

So I jumped up and chased that squirrel down.

That’s right. I charged after that teeny pest in an attempt to retrieve my treat, looking like a lunatic as I zigged and zagged all over the lawn.

I finally caught up to the crook, then pried the cookie from the squirrel’s smarmy hands in a manner that would almost make me consider a career in wrestling. Seriously? Did this squirrel have pitbull lineage?

Having taken back what was rightfully mine, I proudly walked back to my spot, feeling accomplished and ready to take on the world. Take that, Squirrel! No one messes with a woman and her chocolate!

I was seated for all of three seconds when that sucker scurried over to me and tried to recoup his loss. At first, he tried begging. I tried to verbally ration with him.

It was the most insane argument I’ve ever had in my life.

When I didn’t give in, he lunged for me.  One minute he was sitting on his haunches, pleading for me to share, and the next, he was in my lap. I held the cookie high above my head, out his of reach, and before I knew it, the squirrel scrambled up my torso and lurched for the cookie.

I’m going to pause for a sec and let that image sink in.

 

He used.

 

My body.

 

As a freaking tree.

 

 

But I held strong. I wasn’t about to let this flea-ridden dirt bag make off with my cookie, and after swatting him repeatedly with my nearby blue book, the squirrel got the hint and darted away.

Feeling content, I started to unwrap my prize when I realized something.

I was left with a cookie that a squirrel had sunk its teeth in to.

There was no way in hell I could eat that tainted cookie. Unless I wanted to cap off my hard won tug-of-war with a trip to the health center.

Still, winning that battle was a defining moment in my undergraduate career.  It showed me that I could be persistent.  It showed me that I could stand up for myself. It showed me that I have some serious issues with sweets.

And just to be sure I taught that squirrel a lesson, instead of throwing it away, I took that cookie with me.