Two Years Old

Newborn Penelope

Newborn Penelope

Penelope, one day old

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2015-04-29 10.44.52

Officially a two year old!

Officially a two year old!

Happy birthday to my sweet, brave, happy, determined, smiley, strong, lovely, and wonderful Penelope! She has filled my life with so much joy, she has taught me so much, and I love her more than I could ever say.

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Day One

I was prepared for the worst- truly, I was. I was prepared to receive frantic texts and phone calls, from both Mark and the nanny. I was prepared to hear that Charlotte was late for school and Mark was late for work and that Penelope cried all day and didn’t nap. But you know what? None of those things happened.

My first day back at work went about as well as possible. Mark seemed to easily cope with the morning rush. I don’t think Charlotte even noticed that I was at work.┬áPenelope was happy and playful with the nanny all day, though she did burst into tears as soon as she saw me, as if she felt like she needed to make me feel bad for leaving her all day. I didn’t feel like I was going to collapse with exhaustion the moment I got home- I was able to get lunches packed for the next day and dinner on the table and things tidied up before that happened.

And as far as work went: I felt like I had been away forever and yet nothing had changed. Well, actually, one thing had changed- me. I am a different person than I was before I went on maternity leave. I am a different nurse. Before I had Penelope, I would have said that caring for babies with feeding issues and NG tubes was one of my weaker areas- now, it is the strongest. I have a different perspective on things. I am more patient and understanding of parents who have a lot of questions and concerns about the care we are providing for their child. I know what it is like to be in their position, and I know that most of them are just trying to figure out what is best for their little one. That’s not to say I wasn’t patient and understanding before, I am just better able to truly understand where these parents are coming from.

I think about the health care providers who didn’t listen to my concerns about my baby and who dismissed my worries as those of an overtired, anxious mother, and I remember how awful it made me feel. I felt isolated, overwhelmed, and helpless. And then I think about the doctors and nurses who did listen to me and who treated me with kindness, empathy, and respect, and I remember how that helped an awful situation feel less terrible. I felt comforted, empowered, and confident that my child was being given the best care. And that is the kind of nurse I vow to be. I want the parents of my patients to feel that they are being listened to, and to believe that their child is receiving the best and most appropriate care.

I am hoping that things will continue to go smoothly, but I am also remaining prepared to face bumps in the road, both at home and at work. It does feel good, though, that my return to work has so far gone well. I think my biggest challenge will be to not compare Penelope to every baby I see at the hospital. It’s just not helpful for anyone, and I need to set that aside. Today, I am enjoying spending time with her, and looking forward working again later this week.

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Swimming

Yesterday, the weather was cold and gloomy. I even saw some snowflakes falling. So what did Penelope and I do? Why, we went swimming, of course!

There is a community centre about five minutes from our house, and it has a fantastic baby pool. I’ve been meaning to take Penelope for ages now, but with our busy schedule of late, I just haven’t found the time. Finally, on Thursday, we had a day free of appointments, so I checked the swim schedule, and there was a drop-in swim block for kids from 0900-1100- perfect!

The first step in our swimming journey was to pack. From the size of the bag I prepared, you would have thought that I had decided to fly to Mexico to go swimming there. I had towels, two changes of clothes for Penelope, diapers, cloths, flip-flops for me, the most adorable little bathrobe for Penelope, and a plastic bag to put all our wet things in afterward.

Seriously, how cute is that?!

Seriously, how cute is that?!

Up next was the task of getting Penelope ready. I decided to put her in her swim diaper and wetsuit at home to so I wouldn’t have to fuss with doing that in the pool change room. Normally, by this time of day, Penelope will have already done her first poop. Yesterday, of course, it hadn’t happened yet. I was a bit nervous about this- the thought of changing a swim diaper filled with poop did not appeal to me, but I threw caution to the wind, and we went anyway. I wrestled her into her little fleece-lined wetsuit, and then into her snowsuit, and then into her carseat, and we were off like a herd of turtles, as my grandfather would say.

At the community centre, we made our way into the change room, where we stripped down to our swimsuits, and then headed to the baby pool. It was lovely. The water was warm, and Penelope was fascinated by these unfamiliar surroundings. I thought she would be more interested in splashing- she tends to splash a lot in the bathtub, but she was calm and still. She didn’t cry once. Every once in awhile, her face would break out in a huge smile, and she would babble happily.

Pre-swim selfie (does everyone always think they look weird in selfies? Perhaps I just haven't mastered the art of the selfie yet)

Pre-swim selfie (does everyone always think they look weird in selfies? Perhaps I just haven’t mastered the art of the selfie yet)

I have been noticing more and more tightness in her muscles lately, and I thought that the warm water would have a relaxing effect on her, but she remained pretty tight the whole time. I don’t know, maybe she just needs to get used to the pool, and then she will be more relaxed? At any rate, it was certainly an enjoyable experience, and I will definitely be taking her again.

Oh, and like the good little baby that she is, she waited til we got home to do a massive poop. Thank god- dealing with that mess in a public pool change room would likely have been enough to turn me off swimming for good.

 

Diaper Rash Help

From the time Penelope was four days old until she was about seven months old, she had a severe diaper rash. When I say severe, I mean the skin in her diaper area was red, raw, and bleeding. It was awful. I think I cried about it every day. Ultimately, I found out the cause of it was an undiagnosed cow’s milk protein allergy. The milk allergy was causing her to have frequent, runny stools, which in turn caused the diaper rash. Once I started giving her Alimentum, a hypoallergenic formula, the rash completely cleared up. Over the course of that seven months of diaper rash, though, I learned many tips and tricks for alleviating a bad rash, and I would like to share these tips with all of you.

To start with, you need to consider the cause of the rash: For example, is there anything unusual about your baby’s poop? I’m hesitant to describe what abnormal stool may look like- there is a wide range of stool that is considered “normal” and I don’t want to cause anyone any unnecessary alarm. What I will say is this: trust your instincts. If your baby’s stool is typically soft and brown and then suddenly becomes greenish and runny and you don’t think it’s normal, then talk to your doctor. Personally, I knew that Penelope’s stool was not normal, despite being told several times that I shouldn’t worry about it, and I was proven right when she was finally diagnosed with a cow’s milk protein allergy. But I digress- my point is this: if you can figure out the underlying cause for the rash, it will be easier to treat, so be sure to speak with your baby’s health care provider when dealing with a persistent rash. Discovering that underlying cause, however, can take a long time, and in the meantime, there are things you can do to alleviate your baby’s discomfort.

The first thing you must do is immediately stop using wipes. Believe me, I know it seems impossible- how else are you supposed to clean up all that disgusting poop? I had a hard time letting go of wipes, but once I did, I never looked back. Even the so-called “sensitive” wipes are too harsh for babies with a diaper rash. There are a few options for cleansing baby’s bum during diaper changes. The gentlest option, which was recommended to me by Penelope’s dermatologist, is, unfortunately, also the most difficult, and the procedure is as follows: fill a small basin with warm water. Take off your baby’s bottoms and the diaper. Dip baby’s bum into the basin and gently splash water around the soiled area. There is to be NO wiping at all. The gentle splashing of the water should be enough to remove most if not all of the stool. Do not wipe off any diaper cream that remains on the skin. Remove baby from the basin of water and gently pat dry the diaper area. Again, NO wiping. Once skin is dry, apply a thick layer of barrier cream (I will discuss barrier creams later) and apply the diaper. This procedure should be followed with every stool diaper. If it is only a urine diaper, no cleansing is necessary, just reapply barrier cream and apply the diaper.

Obviously, given that some babies will poop upwards of eight times a day (which is what Penelope was doing), this routine can get tiresome. So I adjusted it a little, and made up some “poop rags” out of old blankets and towels. Whenever the “bum bath,” as it came to be known in our household, wasn’t feasible for whatever reason (at 3am or if we were out of the house) I would instead very gently wipe up the stool with a moistened rag and then pat dry the diaper area. Later, I discovered these:

https://www.starkmans.com/kendall-curity-cleaners.html

And I abandoned the bum bath once and for all. Curity Cleaners are dry, disposable wipes. You simply wet a few wipes when you know you are about to change a stool diaper, and it is very gentle on your baby’s bum- and since they are disposable, there’s no need for bleaching disgusting, stool-covered rags. If your baby’s rash is really severe- as in, broken, bleeding skin- then I would still use the bum bath method until it heals up a bit. Once the skin is no longer broken and bleeding, you are probably safe to try these gentle wipes.

Now, let’s discuss barrier creams. A barrier cream can be any zinc-based diaper cream. In my experience, creams like Zincofax or Sudocream, while they get bonus points for being high in zinc (which aids in healing the rash), they are simply not thick enough to provide a protective barrier. No matter how much cream I would slather on Penelope’s bum, it would always have rubbed off by the time the next diaper change rolled around. The only diaper cream I have found to be thick enough is Ihle’s Paste. And I prefer the store brand available at Shopper’s Drug Mart.

*Note: I believe it used to be sold under the Life Brand label, but I recently noticed that the logo has changed to “Atlas” brand- that is the cream to which I am referring. Here is a picture:

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This cream is very thick, but not quite as thick as the Ihle’s Paste brand, which is very difficult to spread. When you apply the cream, you will need to put on a very thick layer- think of the thickest layer of frosting on a cake you have ever seen- that is what you are aiming for. You shouldn’t be able to see any skin through the cream. It takes some getting used to- it will be very messy at first, so make sure you have something available at your diaper changing station with which to wipe your hands. Putting that much cream on will feel wrong at first, but it will help. If you want to thicken up the Ihle’s Paste even more, you can also add something to it called ostomy powder. It will help the Ihle’s Paste adhere to the skin. This is an example of ostomy powder:

https://www.starkmans.com/coloplast-1907-ostomy-powder-25gm-bottle.html

Now, some babies may have prescription ointments containing ingredients like hydrocortisone to help with the rash. Be sure to apply these ointments BEFORE applying the barrier cream. This can be extremely tricky. The ointments are greasy, and the Ihle’s paste won’t stick to the skin. The best thing to do is to get a big glob of barrier cream and start applying it outside the area where you applied the ointment, and then you kinda drag it over top of the ointment. Again, this is something that will be messy and take practice- just do your best, and then apply a good thick layer of barrier cream at the next diaper change.

Now, speaking of diaper changes, let’s talk about diapers. When I was struggling to get a handle on Penelope’s rash, I asked her dermatologist if switching to cloth diapers would be beneficial. She said that the disposable diapers made today are quite breathable, and so switching to cloth wasn’t necessary to help the rash. I’m not jumping into the whole cloth vs. disposable diaper debate here. I don’t know what effect, if any, cloth diapers would have had on her rash. I did try several different brands of disposable diapers, and I found Huggie’s Snug and Dry diapers to be the best. The worst were Pamper’s Swaddlers- that netting they have in the lining of the diaper seemed to really irritate Penelope’s skin. It may be worth trying out a few different brands of diapers to find out what works best for your baby.

If, despite your best efforts and the treatment your baby’s family physician or pediatrician provides, the rash does not improve, then do not hesitate to ask for a referral to a dermatologist. Initially, I kinda felt like, “Oh, it’s just a diaper rash, a dermatologist isn’t going to care about that,” but I was wrong. Penelope’s dermatologist was extremely helpful, and I only wish I had gone to her sooner.

A persistent diaper rash can be extremely stressful, especially for new parents. I was very upset over the state of Penelope’s bottom- I felt like it was an indication that I was a bad mom. Of course, it absolutely does not mean that. If you find yourself in tears, looking at the red skin on your baby’s bum, just remember that you are not alone and it most definitely is not a reflection of your parenting skills. Unfortunately, sometimes getting rid of a rash involves a lot of trial and error and it can take time. Just try to be patient. And feel free to contact me in the comments or on Facebook if you have any questions about any of the tips I outlined here or if you just need to vent- I’ve been there, and I know how overwhelming it can be. As well, please share this post with anyone whom you think may benefit from some diaper rash tips- chances are they will take any help they can get. And take them out for a drink at the earliest possible opportunity- I bet they will jump at the chance to blow off some steam. Good luck, and happy diapering!

 

Sweet little newborn Penelope had such a terrible rash, I thought I would lose my mind

Sweet little newborn Penelope had such a terrible rash, I thought I would lose my mind

Now, thankfully, she's happy as can be, with a clear, rash-free bottom!

Now, thankfully, she’s happy as can be, with a clear, rash-free bottom!

Monsterbash

Every year, Charlotte’s school hosts a Halloween event called Monsterbash. It’s open to everyone in the community. In years past, we have noticed the signs advertising the event but have never gone. This year, however, Charlotte has been talking about Monsterbash for a couple weeks, so I knew we would be attending the party on Saturday. Part of the festivities include a bake sale, so I decided to bake up some cupcakes for the school to sell, since volunteering to help out at the event wasn’t really feasible.

So on Friday evening, after I had got the girls bathed, fed, and in bed (Mark had taken to his sickbed around 6:30pm, so the evening routine was on me. To his credit, though, that was the last I heard about how his Man Cold was making him feel so terrible) and I broke out my baking supplies. I made chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting, and accentuated them with a jack-o-lantern marshmallow Peep. I briefly flirted with the idea of making the icing green but it was 8:30pm (close to my usual bedtime) and I still had laundry to fold, so vanilla buttercream it was! I was quite happy with the way they turned out, and apparently they were a hit at the bake sale- the event started at 4pm, and we arrived around 5pm, at which point there were only 3 cupcakes left out of the 24 I had made. So either people liked them, or a bunch fell on the floor and they had to throw them out. I’m choosing to believe that people liked them.

Mmmm, cupcakes!

Mmmm, cupcakes!

Now, all week long, Charlotte had been counting down the days to Monsterbash. All day on Saturday, she kept asking when it would be time to put her costume on. She had been wearing her costume fairly often since a friend gave it to us back in September, practicing how to put it on and refining her dragon “ROAR!” Finally, the time came for her to get ready on Saturday afternoon, and she pulled that costume on- and it was like I had flipped a switch. She went from being excited and happy to quiet and morose. I asked her what was wrong, and all she would say was, in a voice that was barely loud enough to qualify as a whisper, “Oh…well, Mommy…I’m just tired.” Which was total BS, since not thirty seconds ago she had been jumping around and singing. I tried getting her to smile for some photos- no dice. Even seeing Penelope in her costume barely did anything to cheer her up. Finally, I dragged it out of her that the hood of the costume felt too tight, so I unzipped a bit. This helped with her mood, but it wasn’t a perfect solution, because she preferred to have it zipped up all the way.

Quiet dragon

Quiet dragon

This was the happiest face I could coax out of her

This was the happiest face I could coax out of her

A bit happier posing with Penelope

A bit happier posing with Penelope

Cutest flower ever!!

Cutest flower ever!!

Seriously, how adorable does she look?!

Seriously, how adorable does she look?!

Anyhow, with a slightly subdued dragon and adorable little flower, we headed out to the bash. When we got there, they were just about to perform the Monster Mash, which Charlotte has been practicing for weeks. We could not convince her to join in, though, and I couldn’t really blame her for that- the gym was packed with kids, and even some adults, in costumes; it was really hot, and a bit overwhelming. Once the Monster Mash was finished, we wandered around the gym. We had an awesome family Halloween picture taken, we had some food, and then we went over to the Haunted House. Charlotte wanted to go through, so Mark took her in. BIG mistake. She came out sobbing and clutching her dad. “I never want to see those skeletons again!” The Haunted House was definitely meant for older kids.

Traumatized after the Haunted House

Traumatized after the Haunted House

We distracted her with some candy (parents of the year, here, right?) and then we checked out some of the other exhibits, which were more age-appropriate. She made a little craft and played a game, and we decided to call it a night. It is worth noting that we had been at this party for about two hours- Penelope was in the carrier and in her costume the whole time, and didn’t cry once. This was fantastic- at events like this in the past, poor little Penelope usually ends up crying for an extended period of time, and I wind up very stressed, so I was super happy about this.

So we got home and it was time for bed. Charlotte announced that she’d had a great day. And she was right- it was a wonderful day. Though I don’t think we will return to the Haunted House portion of Monsterbash again for a few more years.

The Sweetest Sound

For reasons I am unsure of, Penelope doesn’t really laugh. She is certainly happy- she is full of big smiles, and she will coo and squeal happily, but actual laughter is not something that we typically hear from her. I was playing with her this morning, and when I kissed her belly, she actually laughed! I was so happy to hear this- it was music to my ears. I couldn’t resist recording it for posterity (and to share with all of you):

 

 

The sweetest sound coming from the sweetest baby.

I love my little peanut.

I love my little peanut.

The Soother

I have noticed several differences between my two girls. Aside from the obvious fact that Penelope has issues that Charlotte did not, there are other, smaller differences between the two. For one, Penelope tends to wake up happy in the morning or after her nap- she is full of smiles and coos contentedly. Charlotte, on the other hand, is terrible at waking up. More often than not, she wakes up crying. If she’s not in actual tears, she is usually subdued and grumpy for awhile until she is fully awake. For another, Penelope, at almost fifteen months, has remained a cuddly little girl. Charlotte rapidly grew out of the cuddly baby stage and preferred playing on her mat or in her exersaucer to being held. And then there is another major difference between these two girls, involving a device that every parent is likely familiar with- the soother.

Charlotte in the morning

Charlotte in the morning

Penelope in the morning

Penelope in the morning

Binky. Dummy. Bo-bo. Pacifier. This little piece of infant paraphernalia has many different names. In our house, it was known as “soosie” or “soo-soo” and once Charlotte started taking one, it became one of the most important pieces of baby gear that needed to be on hand at all times. If we were leaving the house, I was more concerned with bringing an adequate number of soothers with us than I was with bringing diapers.

At first, it seemed like a great solution to calm her down when she was crying and to keep her happy. But it quickly lost its appeal and became a constant source of irritation. Charlotte was completely addicted to her soosie. She wanted one at all times. Even at meal times, she would pop her soosie into her mouth between bites. As she got older, she formed an emotional attachment to it. At bedtime, we had to put a pile of soothers into the crib with her, because they would fall out of her mouth when she fell asleep and then fall out of the crib. I can’t tell you how many times I fumbled around in the dark, in the middle of the night, searching for a soother to give to her. Oh, wait, yes, I can tell you- it was every night from the time she was two months old until the Tooth Fairy came and took the soother away when she was three (I don’t know why it was the Tooth Fairy who came to claim the soother- it seemed as reasonable explanation as I could provide. Give me a break, I hadn’t slept through the night in over three years). At that point, she was old enough to understand that she couldn’t have her soosie anymore, and she adjusted to a post-soother life very well.

This is one of the starkest differences between Charlotte and Penelope. I tried to get Penelope to take a soother, but she adamantly refused. Maybe it was because her brain could not coordinate the muscles in her mouth to suck on one, or maybe she just didn’t like it. Whatever the reason, she wouldn’t take one, and it was for the best, for many reasons. Certainly, there were moments in Penelope’s infancy when I wished she would take a soother- like when she needed bloodwork or vaccinations or when she was waking up every hour to nurse- but I have to admit, it’s a relief not to be constantly dealing with soother anxiety.

Baby Charlotte with a soother

Baby Charlotte with a soother

Toddler Charlotte with a soother

Toddler Charlotte with a soother

Baby Penelope, who would never take a soother

Baby Penelope, who would never take a soother

 

So if you are one of those frustrated parents whose baby won’t take a soother, take heart- you will be spared the nightmare that comes along with soother addiction. And if you are a parent in the throes of soother troubles, know that it won’t last forever. Charlotte was as addicted as it gets to her soosie, and she is now a well-adjusted, happy girl in a soother-free home.