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Eating Healthy During Pregnancy

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Updated: Sunday, November 27, 2016

Eating healthy while pregnant may seem like a no-brainer however there are also many women who think that being pregnant is a license to eat anything they want.  During my first pregnancy I joked that my husband was the food police, but quickly believed his approach was valid when my daughter was born at 36 weeks – considered a late pre-term delivery – and was perfectly healthy – no NICU, no lung issues, no issues even today – that my diet played a big role in her outcome.  Wanting to see if this would work a second time, I followed the same nutrition regimen with my second daughter – now three weeks old – and she too was born healthy.  Admittedly I was a little less strict this time around yet remained true to the core approach.

Based on our experience, here are some tips to consider for your pregnancy diet (author’s note: this does not replace the advice of your physician):

Eat Organic
Buying organic fruits and vegetables in the Bay Area is pretty accessible via certified Farmer’s Markets however many grocery stories carry fresh organic produce and organic products including non-GMO (genetically modified organism) items.

Know Where Your Food Comes From
For all meat and fish, my husband was careful to ask whether it was farmed or wild-pole-line caught, and where the meat, poultry or fish came from.  Knowing the farm or information about how the animals are fed and treated  - including use of antibiotics and hormones - helps you understand what you are ingesting.  If eating local is an option, try to learn about the farm practices as well.

Take Your Vitamins
Prenatal vitamins are a must and your physician will concur.  Omega-3 fish oil capsules are a good second addition.  Omega-3 fish oil helps with brain development while in utero and post-delivery as well. To complement your prenatal vitamins and also provide a tasty snack, I also discovered the Belly Bar.  During my first pregnancy these were easy to find at Whole Foods or any pregnancy-related store.  The second pregnancy I had a harder time finding them.  They come in flavors that make you think you are eating dessert but you are not.  

Limit Coffee
I usually drink half-caffeinated coffee on a regular basis and didn’t give this up while pregnant.  Once a day I had my treat so I didn’t feel like I was giving up everything.  Some physicians say it’s fine, others say not to drink it.  Ultimately, you want to enjoy being pregnant and not be resentful for 10 months.  

Eat, Eat, Eat
This may sound strange and you may worry about your weight, but if you eat a lot and eat healthy options, you will gain a healthy weight for you and your baby.  Don’t skip breakfast, do eat a snack before lunch, do eat lunch and eat another snack in the afternoon.  Do eat dinner and if you have no aversions, spice up the menu.  Eat fruit, almonds, graham crackers, protein like hard-boiled eggs and cheese sticks, and more.

Plan Ahead
Working outside the home can sometimes make it more challenging to eat healthy meals and snacks so plan ahead each week.  Pre-pack your snacks on Sunday so you can grab-n-go when you are heading to work.  Think about your lunches for the week and instead of eating at the local café each day (which can also be pricey), buy pre-made organic salads or meals from your local grocery store.

I recognized that there are many factors that contribute to your baby’s health like genetics, the environment, and your mental health, to name a few.  That said, if you are vigilant with your diet while pregnant, then your health and your baby’s health have been given the best start possible.  And if you are lucky, your newborn will grow into a child with healthy and diverse eating habits for the long term.

Kelsey Combellick is a career-loving parent who us is passionate about travel, food, wine and her family. Email her at kelseylovestravel@yahoo.com.

 

Tags:  expecting  health 

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Mentally Preparing for Motherhood

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Updated: Friday, November 11, 2016
There’s so much attention given to the physical changes of a woman’s body during pregnancy, and yet the common emotional changes that many women experience often do not get discussed. The arrival of a new baby can be both exciting and challenging, and it’s normal to have a mix of emotions coupled with exhaustion. For about 80% of mothers, childbirth brings the “baby blues,” and another 15% experience postpartum depression. How can expectant mothers mentally prepare for their new role?

Expectation Setting
Postpartum depression can be linked to trying to meet or exceed societal expectations about what new motherhood is supposed to look like. There are unrealistic expectations often placed on new mothers such as being happy and functional at all times, immediately knowing how to soothe their babies and never feeling alone or isolated. In reality, new motherhood is full of highs and lows, new experiences, tears and sheer joy. There is no one correct way to feel, and each mother will adjust on her own time period.

Although it's common for this transitional period to cause raised emotions, it’s important to pay attention to extreme and unusual feelings of sadness, anger and anxiety. Crying often, feeling angry, withdrawing from loved ones or feeling numb or disconnected from your baby are all unique signs for postpartum depression.

Mindfulness
Paying attention to and acknowledging your thoughts and feelings can help you be a better partner and parent. Develop a mindfulness practice and internalize your breath to be in the moment. Be aware of your own thoughts and be prepared to step back when necessary and applaud yourself for the work you’re doing. Repeating phrases such as “This is temporary” and “I am a great mom doing my best” can be helpful for some mothers when they are experiencing a difficult period.

Consider learning to practice meditation during your pregnancy. For some, it may be as simple as quieting your mind through focused breathing. Other women may find it helpful to take a class or retreat to your own created space in your home with a yoga mat and complete silence. Benefits of meditation include improved sleep, revitalized energy, anxiety and stress relief and an opportunity to connect to your changing body and new baby.

Prenatal Yoga
If you are looking to increase your flexibility, concentrate on your breath and connect with your new baby and evolving body during pregnancy, prenatal yoga may be right for you. In a typical prenatal yoga class, you can expect stretching, mental centering and focused breathing. Yoga can be adaptable for all levels of experience. Check with your physician before beginning a new exercise regimen.

Sleep
Poor sleep has been shown to significantly worsen the symptoms of many mental health conditions. Since newborns rarely sleep more than two to three hours at a time, a mother’s sleep is constantly interrupted. This continuous sleep deprivation can lead to physical discomfort and exhaustion, which can then contribute to the symptoms of postpartum depression. Try to nap when the baby naps, as this will help prevent you from reaching exhaustion. Don’t hesitate to ask a friend or family member to watch your newborn for a short period so you can rest.

Seek out a therapist ahead of time
Locating a therapist in your area that is familiar with counseling mothers can be especially helpful for any new mom. It’s important to develop a relationship ahead of your delivery so the therapist can get to know you prior to this life-changing event, even if it’s just for one introductory visit. Finding a therapist that’s right for you can also take time, so identifying one ahead of your delivery will only ease the stress if you’re in need of one after having your baby. This is especially important if you have experienced depression in the past, since you are at a higher risk of developing postpartum depression. Talk to your primary care physician for a referral.


Shelley H.K. Howell, Ph.D., J.D. is the Outpatient Manager at El Camino Hospital Mental Health and Addiction Services. El Camino Hospital offers a full spectrum of mother-baby care and services, including a specialized support program for women experiencing prenatal or postpartum depression and anxiety. The Maternal Outreach Mood Services (MOMS) program provides education, counseling and evaluation for mothers in a supportive, nurturing environment.

Tags:  expecting  health 

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Overwhelmed as a Mom of Multiples

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

My babies were three days old when my husband offered to get take-out from one of our favorite restaurants. I said, “Yes,” just as I would have before the girls were born. But as soon as he left, I realized this was my first time alone with my twins. In the small, silent room, I whispered to them, “Okay girls. It’s just you and me. Be good for mommy.”

Everything was quiet for a while, until one started crying. I picked her up and rocked slowly side to side. Just when she calmed, the other started crying. That got the first one crying again, this time louder and more distressed. I had one baby crying in my arms and the other crying in a bassinet, and I didn’t know what to do.

Was it five minutes? Ten? It seemed like eternity. I tried putting them on the bed next to each other and leaning over to hug them both at once. They hated it. Unable to choose one over the other, I found myself choosing neither. I felt absolutely overwhelmed.

Finally, an early Beatles song came to mind, and I sang it softly to them. “Tell me why-y-y-y you cry…” When I saw how my singing quieted them, suddenly the tears started pouring out of myeyes, but I didn’t dare stop singing: “Is there anything that I can do? ‘Cause I really can’t stand it, I’m so in love with you.”

“Hello!” My husband returned with the take-out. My face was red hot, my eyes half blind from crying, my nose uselessly stuffed, my throat caught. I was a mess. And I was still singing – badly. But my babies weren’t crying anymore.

That’s when I knew – I mean really felt – that I was their mom. I could hardly believe that I had ever felt so alone and helpless before, even for a moment. Their dad took one baby, and I took the other; we fed them, we changed them, we tucked them back to sleep. And after it all, the food was still warm.

The day-to-day challenge of multiples is simply this: there are multiple of them, but there’s often only one of you. Sometimes your babies need more of you than you have to give. You love them equally and you don’t like having to choose one to take care of first while another waits and cries for you. You will envy the single moms of single babies who complain that they must hold their baby all the time. You wish you could hold your babies all the time – the best you can do  is take care of them one at a time.

Every time you get on an airplane, the flight attendants remind you that you must put on your own oxygen mask before you attempt to help another. As a general principle, this applies to everything, and parenting is no exception. You, as a parent, have an obligation to take care of yourself, not just because your well-being is important in and of itself (which it is), but also so that you can be in any shape to care for your children.

The first few months with multiples can feel like a non-stop crisis, but you’ll get through it by taking time for yourself once in a while, by being as rested and as centered as you can be. If you have friends or family members who will give you breaks, take advantage of their help. Finding a newborn support group is also a great way to connect with other parents, hear from experts, and share ideas for coping with the stress of parenting newborn multiples. But even if your friends don’t know how to change a diaper (mine don’t), your relatives live thousands of miles away (mine do), and your local support groups aren’t a good fit (mine weren’t), don’t worry: take it day by day and get as much rest as you can. Eventually things settle into a routine.

My babies are almost a year old now, and they still can’t tell me why they’re crying, but I’m better at figuring it out, better at doing something about it, and better at managing the moments when I feel overwhelmed. And their mommy’s version of “Tell Me Why” is still one of their favorite songs.

 

This is the third installment of a 3-part series on multiples. 

Amy Letter is the mom of twin girls Sagan and Tesla, and a writer, artist and professor of English at Drake University. She is a frequent blogger for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

Tags:  expecting  multiples 

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The Whys of Multiples

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Multiples attract attention, there’s no getting around it. People approach you in public, sometimes just to look at your babies and say “Aw,” sometimes to tell you about twins they know, sometimes to tell you they are a twin! Once a woman came up to me and, touching my amazing double stroller, said, “I wish they had these when I had my twins 60 years ago!”

But sometimes people stop you and ask you a million personal questions, and it’s hard to decide how much you should say. Usually the first question is, “Do twins run in your family?”

If you poke around your family tree, you’ll probably find some twins — about 97 percent of all births are singletons, but twins make up the majority of that other 3 percent. Fraternal twins — twins who are no more similar than any pair of siblings — can sometimes run on the mother’s side of a family if women in that family tend to release more than one egg per ovulation cycle. If you’re having babies later in life, you’re also more likely to release more than one egg and therefore more likely to have fraternal twins.

But identical twins — twins who share the exact same DNA — and multiples running on the father’s side are apparently the result of chance and coincidence, and can happen to anyone. The truth is that multiples run in the human family: women of African descent are more likely to have twins, and women of European descent are more likely to have triplets or more, but anyone planning on having a child should be aware that you could always get a little more than you bargained for.

And of course, if you use any “ART” — assisted reproductive technology — you’re more likely to have multiples too. That certainly affected my pregnancy: My ovaries didn’t release two eggs in a cycle; they released 20! I underwent fertility treatment, and a course of injectable drugs put my reproductive system on overdrive. Of those 20 eggs, 16 were mature enough to inject a sperm into, 8 fertilized, and 4 were still growing five days later. Two of those four were placed in my uterus, and both of them implanted. As a result of this miracle of modern science, two happy, healthy little girls are now the beautiful center of my life.

So when a woman comes up to me in a shopping mall and says, “Twins! How precious! Do twins run in your family?” I have to make some decisions about how much I want to tell. She might accept a simple yes or no and ask no more questions. Or she might interrogate me — Are they boys or girls? Identical or fraternal? What are their names? Were they born early? How much did they weigh at birth? What’s their birthday? — until I am forced to run away. Sometimes people will actually come up to me and say, “Twins! How precious! You must have done IVF!”

In my case, that is true, but I know women whose multiples were the result of chance who get very annoyed when people assume they used fertility treatments. Even to me (and I am writing publicly about my experience!), the question seems too personal when it’s coming from a passing stranger.

But people who ask these questions do not mean any harm. They are delighted by the cuteness-overload of multiple babies. They aren’t thinking about how their questions sound or considering that you get asked these questions all the time. And people can’t help it: they have a question, and they hope that you, the parent, can provide an explanation for why you had multiple babies instead of just one, like most people do.

Perhaps, then, the best answer to the question is to tell these curious if slightly awkward strangers the truth: multiples happen. They happen for lots of reasons and they happen for no reason at all. Once they are here they are a lot of work and a tremendous blessing. Moms of multiples may need help with the workload, but it’s actually pretty easy to find the joy in (or the love for!) all our babies.

How you deal with the attention is a personal choice. Some parents of multiples enjoy it, but some would prefer to be left alone. But if you’re having multiples, you should expect these questions and have a plan to handle them, because your babies are so amazing, they’re going to stop traffic.

Amy Letter is the mom of twin girls Sagan and Tesla, and a writer, artist and professor of English at Drake University. She is a frequent blogger for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

Tags:  expecting  multiples 

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Finding Out You’re Having Multiples

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time is as amazing as every parent says. A fetal heartbeat is quick – our baby’s was 160 beats per minute. When I heard it, I felt my own heart race to keep up. On the ultrasound screen, we saw a tiny, Teddy-bear-shaped body wiggling around in what looked like a dance of happiness.

While my husband and I were saying, “Oh wow” and “I can’t believe it” and “We’re going to have a baby!” the ultrasound technician was still at work. Finally she said, “And here is the second one.”

And we looked, quieter now. I think I said, “There’s another one?” My husband said, “Twins?” She showed us a little gray blur. This embryo was harder to see than the first one, but its heartbeat was strong and clear, 156 beats per minute. I was pregnant with two.

Hearing the second heartbeat is harder to describe. Part of me wanted to laugh: I was only trying for one and I got two – classic overachiever! On the other hand, the hope and joy I felt was… complicated. A multiples pregnancy increases the odds of gestational diabetes, anemia, premature birth and virtually every other pregnancy complication there is, including some unique to twin pregnancies, like twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTS), a possibility with some identical twins in which one baby imperils the other by absorbing its sibling’s life-supporting oxygen and food. 

These complications didn’t just mean trouble for me: my babies would be more likely to be small and to have difficulties early in life, perhaps needing some time in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). I was only 8 weeks pregnant, and I was already thinking about the NICU!

And when the ultrasound technician showed me the second heartbeat, I felt immediately anxious, wondering whether I could give two babies the attention they need and deserve.

Then she said, “Let’s see if I find a third one.” Triplets take all the complications of twins and increase them. And day-to-day life with three or more babies stretches human ingenuity to its limits.

In my case, there was no third heartbeat. But I was still looking at a challenging pregnancy and birth, and a future as a mom of twins. In that little room lighted only by a screen showing outlines of embryos that would someday be my kids, my life changed in ways I could never have imagined.

The ultrasound technician asked us if we were all right – how does it feel, knowing you’re having twins? I said, “It feels like we’ve won the lottery – a very expensive lottery!” I was joking, sort of, but what I said was true: chance brought me something unimaginably wonderful, two babies! But this great fortune would “cost” me: not just money, but time and trouble, a toll on my body, sacrifices in my lifestyle, challenges to my peace of mind. The work and wear reminds me, daily, how precious my babies are. Isn’t that true of every pregnancy, and every child?

Moms of multiples spend more time with doctors, for which I am grateful, because I never felt alone. It seemed I always had an appointment with someone: my obstetrician, the perinatologist, the hospital dietitians who helped me through my gestational diabetes and the invaluable nurses and doctors of Labor and Delivery, whom I had to visit more than once before my babies were finally born.

When the birth finally came, one of my babies had some trouble and was put under observation for possible admittance to the NICU. But she thrived in the hours following the birth and they were able to bring her to me instead. Our babies came home less than a week after they were born, without any need for intensive care. But even with healthy twins, or triplets, or more, the adjustment to a new life together is the next big step – one we were excited to begin.

Amy Letter is the mom of twin girls Sagan and Tesla, and a writer, artist and professor of English at Drake University. She is a frequent blogger for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

Tags:  expecting  multiples 

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Mommy, Can We Send Baby Back Now?

Posted By Administration, Friday, March 18, 2016

I thought I had dodged a bullet when my second son was born and my first seemed to fall in love with him right ‘out of the box’, so to speak. The baby was doted on, squeezed, admired, snuggled and generally adored by my older son. I was relieved…I had done something right, clearly! Maybe following all the advice to pay lots of attention to my oldest child, to include him in caring for the baby, to try to be extra empathetic and loving had paid off?

Well, it did to a certain extent. He was prepared to be indulgently kind to this interloper for at least…oh…6 months or so. And then it was time for this fun toy to be returned. Time’s up, guarantee is about to expire — mom, can we return him now and get some Legos instead?

I don’t know if the little one went from ‘baby’ (another species) to ‘actual child’ (direct competition) at around the time the tide turned. My older child would run past where the little one was sitting and attempt a swift kick as he passed by. He got angry a lot, was defiant and generally out of sorts. He was certainly not happy about the baby anymore, and he didn’t seem too happy about anything else, either. I could see that something had changed, and that something different had to be done now.

Here are six steps I took that were the most effective: 

REALLY recognize what your older child is experiencing when you bring a new baby into their lives.
I know this is talked about a lot, but it’s not until we slow down and really let ourselves imagine it from our own adult perspective that we can help our children through this. Could we easily reconcile ourselves to the idea of our partners loving another partner as much they love us, with nothing being taken away from us? Would we welcome a new husband or wife for our partner, invite them to share our home and be impressed by their cuteness? Would we feel overjoyed by every new moment of delight they bring to our partner, relishing their joy and not feeling secretly abandoned and vengeful? When we truly recognize what we’re asking our children to handle, it is pretty sobering. Being able to get through the day with a smile on their faces starts to seem impressive. 

Understand that the hardest part for your child is that they think you don’t KNOW how they feel about the interloper.
They know you want them to love the baby, but their feelings are mixed. They have some that aren’t so rosy towards the baby, quite frankly, but because you seem to really love this strange new being they think you can’t possibly KNOW about those feelings. The sensation of keeping the darkness all hidden inside is agony for them. Allowing them to release those feelings, to show you and tell you, is a HUGE relief for them.

The best way I found to do that was to take some time while the baby was sleeping and play a game with my oldest son that encouraged him to express it. I used an old teddy bear, but you could use any doll or creature that has ‘human’ qualities. The game was ‘If I had a little brother, I would like to do THIS to him’. My son was not comfortable with ‘If this was YOUR ACTUAL little brother’ (although some kids would be) so I shifted it to be more neutral. Sometimes I would pretend the bear was my real little brother — Uncle Charlie — which also worked. And then you steel yourself for WHATEVER gets done to the bear, and go for it. That bear got drop kicked around the room, pummeled, jumped on, strangled, thrown, yelled at, squashed — and that was just by me. Uncle Charlie was clearly still a thorn in my side. But the idea is that you make it OK that these difficult feelings exist. You laugh, encourage them to show more and more things they might want to do to the bear, enjoy the game…and your child starts to feel the release of the pressure of keeping it all hidden. They will understand instinctively that you are not saying that it’s fine to do this to the baby, but rather that you’re saying ‘I see how upset you feel inside, and I love you and accept you completely’.

I found at first that my child wanted to play this game several times a day, then fewer and fewer times as the feelings all got released. He became happier and calmer pretty quickly, and his need to express his anguish on the actual baby diminished rapidly. The key was not so much the DOING of the violent actions, but the SHOWING them to me and having me love him anyway. His heart was relieved, and so was mine. A relieved heart is a much happier one, and a happier heart is a lot nicer to a baby interloper than a burdened and guilty one.

To that end, if at other times your older child expresses negative feelings towards the baby, try your hardest not to contradict them, or persuade them against it. Saying ‘oh, but you LOVE the baby don’t you?’ is just another moment where they might feel like you can’t possibly know how they really feel. Try to remain neutral and mild in your response…’yeah, it can be hard to share your stuff’, or ‘yeah, I didn’t much like it when my younger brother cried either’, or ‘yeah, it’s funny how we can really like someone sometimes, and then other times not so much’.

Minimize opportunities for problems.
Of course, if your older child still wants to express their feelings physically on the baby once in a while, you keep the baby safe before anything else. Don’t leave them alone together, don’t give your older child any opportunity to experience themselves in that painful way. Watch their interactions carefully, and be ready to step in at a moment’s notice to diffuse a situation. If you miss the moment and something happens, step in unequivocally and remove the baby from harm — but yelling at your older child, lecturing them or admonishing them is counter-productive. It is YOUR job to keep the baby safe, not theirs. Make it clear the action was unacceptable, but be calm and clear, not emotional and angry. Give them many, many opportunities to experience themselves as successful around the baby and cherished by you.

Let them know the things you enjoy about them at the age they are right now.
My son really loved to hear about the ways in which being a big kid was cool. I made a point of saying ‘I’m so glad that you’re old enough to come and do (whatever it was) with me now,’ or ‘I’m really happy you’re not a baby anymore and we can chat about things and understand each other!’ All little reminders that he had value to me just as he was, and in ways the baby couldn’t even begin to compete with.

Do not require your older child to share their stuff or their space.
Obviously everybody has a different living environment, but even in a tiny one-bedroom house I was able to make sure my older son had an area that was just HIS. He didn’t ask to have this other person in his life, so I never required him to act like he did. If he had toys he didn’t want the baby to touch, we put them in his special zone. In fact, we had one of those baby containment gate things, and we used it to make a play area for my older son. He would sit inside with his things, and the baby was free to roam around outside! Because we were kind with him about this, he became much kinder to the baby, and much more willing to share because he didn’t feel powerless over his things. 

My younger son turned out to be very respectful and thoughtful of other people’s possessions as a result, and wouldn’t dream of using something that belonged to someone else without their permission. He wasn’t intimidated into it, he just saw every day that we cared to make sure that everyone got to be in charge of what was theirs, including him. He’s happy to share most of the time because sharing was modeled to him as something that you get to choose when you feel good about it, not because you’re forced to.

Express UNCONDITIONAL love.
Showing and telling your child how much you love them WHEN THEY’RE NOT DOING ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR goes an amazingly far way with them. Letting them know that they’re lovable to you just because they exist is a healing balm. They understand from that that they don’t have to do or be anything other than they are in order to be loved by you, and that, conversely, your love is there no matter what they do. So, take a moment when you’re just hanging out and nothing much is happening to say ‘I am SO glad that I have you in my life!’ or something that feels authentic and true to you. They’ll feel the resonance and it will make both of your hearts sing.

So there we have it. I discovered that by allowing all of my son’s negative feelings towards the baby (in a safe way), he was freed up to have more positive ones. And not forcing him to share made him more willing to. And being unconditionally loving did more than any praise of how ‘nice’ he could be to the baby. 

I am happy to report that my sons are now some of the closest siblings I know. People comment on their connection and the fun they have together, and although they occasionally drive each other crazy, they are bonded and happy.

Like any human being, children do best when their hearts are happy – their natural instincts are GOOD, and they desperately want to succeed at this thing called life. Given trust, love and support, we all do a whole lot better.

 

Terri Landey is co-founder of Bun and Bundle, offering prenatal and postpartum support for the whole family, including baby planning and postpartum doula services.

Tags:  expecting  parenting 

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