Saturday, June 27, 2015

Why I’m Tired of Hearing about the so-called 4th Trimester

I’ve heard it again and again—like’s it’s some ground-breaking discovery—that the first 3 months of a child’s life is like the 4th trimester of pregnancy. Babies really aren’t ready to be born and they are only born because the body can’t hold them any longer. So, parents need to understand that during these first 3 months, the baby should feel warm, safe, and close. This will best help them adjust to life outside of the womb.
And I am well aware that referring to the baby’s life this way is so that parents can understand how to better soothe a disgruntled infant. I’m also aware that many people have found this very helpful to them and probably don’t want to hear me knock it down. So, if you are one of those people, stop reading now. I have my own opinions and I’m using my own space to express them. I’m going off of my experience and point-of-view alone. If you don’t take issue with the 4th trimester explanation, I have no problem with that either. But I do, and I am really sick and tired of hearing it constantly as if someone is a professional on these things and needs to school me.
Okay, okay. Of course all of this makes sense. The baby would have problems adjusting to the world. For crying out loud (no pun intended), he or she has been in the womb for 9 months. And this is all the baby has ever known. Wouldn’t it make complete sense that being born and experiencing the very opposite of that for the first time would be unsettling? Isn’t that obvious? If I were to move to a foreign country for 9 months and drench myself completely in the culture, it would take time to adjust to coming back home. And if my entire life had been that for 9 months and I had known nothing else, I might have a REALLY HARD time adjusting. I might cry. I might want to go back. I’d have to figure out a whole new way of doing things. Maybe it would take at least 3 months. Maybe it would take even longer than that. After all, we are individuals one person’s ability to adapt to something will vary from another person’s. That would explain why some perfectly healthy babies are excessively fussy and others are mellow. Some don’t take long to absorb their new world and take it for what it is. Others struggle to cope with every new thing—and often take even more than 3 months. I’d argue that 3 months is just an average for how long it takes the average baby to adjust to life outside the womb. But what is an average baby anyway? Because I have yet to meet one. We love to agree that people have a wide variety of personalities, but then we try to group babies together as if they are all the same.
So, here’s my beef. Those who write books and build parenting advice based on the 4th trimester tend to hold a belief that the baby isn’t ready to be born and should really still be in the womb for another 3 months. I beg to differ. I think maybe a child born at 30 weeks gestation might still need to be in the womb. Perhaps even one born at 36 weeks would still need to be in the womb. But the same people that hold to the truths that nature works things out the way they are supposed to go are the ones who go on about the 4th trimester. So if my body naturally knows when to go into labor, if my baby is fully developed and everything is ready for the outside world, why is my baby not ready to be born? I think the baby is ready to be born by at least 38 weeks gestation. I don’t think there was some mistake there or that our bodies were designed ineffectively to carry the baby as long as the baby needed to be carried. In fact, I believe if the baby were in there another 3 months, it would probably take the baby even longer to adjust to life outside the womb because then he or she would have been in there for a whole year.  God didn’t make a mistake.
So, here’s how I see it. The first 3 months after a child is born are not the 4th trimester of pregnancy. They are the 1st trimester of the 1st year of life. I observed this in my son, I am observing this in my daughter, and I have seen it in countless other babies I have help take care of.
During the 1st trimester of the 1st year of life, a child is becoming acquainted with a new environment. New sounds, smells, lights, etc. are going to be scary. The child is going to be most settled and happy with whatever is the most familiar to life before this. We replicate the womb environment as much as possible to help the baby adjust. Many of us swaddle, wear the baby in a sling, hold the baby close, or practice other habits that help the baby feel like everything out here is just as okay as it was in there. We try to tend to every need as quickly as possible. But I also believe in not always doing this. I believe the baby is in the outside world and I’m not going to pretend she is not. She will stretch out on the floor, a quilt on a lawn, the bed, etc. from time to time to enjoy exploring things she can do like lifting up her head and rolling. We will talk to her, read to her, sing to hear, and interact with her. She can learn there are a lot of sounds to enjoy. I don’t feel the need to recreate the womb environment entirely. One huge argument I have for this is bath time. Both of my babies screamed at their first bath…”What is this? What are you doing with me? I have never had this before!” And then by the next bath, it’s suddenly wonderful. “Oh this is warm and comfortable. I can relax in here.” If I avoided the bath because the baby was not accustomed to it, I’m not doing my baby any favors. I’m not going to avoid all things that result in tears the first time just because they are new. This is the chance for me to show my child that these things are fine and aren’t horrible just because they are new. Life isn’t the womb and doesn’t need to always be like the womb.
So, for me, I have decided to ignore anything about the first 3 months being a 4th trimester. Instead, this is how I look at it. The first year has 4 trimesters.
0-3 months- Observation—The baby takes in the world by observation. What he or she sees is the foundation of what life is for him or her. Is my mom frazzled every time I cry? Or is my mom calm when I cry? The baby sees these things. The baby’s vision is developing. I can see my mom, dad, siblings, etc. Who are these people? As each of us interacts with her, she learns we are all people she can trust. We interact with her to engage her brain in language even if she can’t speak yet. She is absorbing and watching everything.  Social smiles start. The baby starts cooing. The baby stops crying when Mommy or Daddy picks her up. All of these mental and emotional interactions are being acquired. And I do believe that crying is the foundation for communication. So a baby starts learning through crying that she can get her mommy’s attention. And she starts to fine-tune her crying to communicate to her mommy exactly what she needs.
3-6 months- Interaction—The baby starts to interact with the world more. He or she beings to grab at toys, and possibly start rolling around. The baby’s first laugh is often heard now. The baby makes even more babbling noises and sounds. The baby learns to sit up (my son learned to crawl during this time). The world begins to become about interacting.  “Colic” goes away for most babies during this time because the baby has physically and mentally developed beyond it.
6-9 months- Exploration—Here’s when crawling often starts. During this time, the baby can’t help but explore. His or her mind is wired for it. They have mastered picking up toys and now put everything in their mouth to experience it. Teeth are often cut at this point and the baby starts solid food—exploring new tastes and textures. Eating becomes something completely different than what it previously was. But the baby’s body is ready for it now. Babies start pulling themselves up and cruising the furniture. My son began walking right at the end of this one.
9-12 months- Engaging—Now that the baby has observed life, learned interaction, and begun to explore, it’s time to take on the world. Babies begin engaging with the world at this time. Many utter their first words at this time. They are definitely mobile no matter what way they choose to get around. And often some babies who used to be fine going to just about anybody start wanting only Mommy or Daddy because now the baby is aware of differences in personality (or at least that’s the way it appeared to me when I saw it). Or sometimes the baby wants help taking on the world. “I’ll engage the world, but with your help, Mommy.”

I’ve only written what I have based on my experience and opinion. But I suppose I don’t like being told how I should parent. I don’t like someone assuming I’m clueless and need to be informed that my child wasn’t really ready to be born, so that’s why she’s crying. Everyone has individual beliefs on child development and parenting. And these are some of mine.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Apples Aplenty

Gordon Lee has been learning all about apples this week. There are endless ideas for things you can do with apples. Plus, my child who wouldn't touch a raw apple before this is eating them like candy now! What a bonus. :) His books have really helped him understand how apples are formed, and they also help him realize that different apples have different flavors. 

After reading his books, he decided that his favorite apple was the golden delicious based solely on the name of the apple and the way it looked to him. Conveniently, the skin of the golden delicious apple is very thin.  So, a child like him really enjoys eating that kind whole. The skin is so thin that the texture of it does not bother him at all.  As he was eating a giant one today, he kept saying, "Mommy, you have to take a bit of this! It is just so delicious!"

Since the are so many possibilities of things to do with apples.  I will just share a list of our idea (including things we have done and things we have yet to try).

1.) Apple Prints- It is so easy to cut an apple in half horizontally (and also vertically to see a different print) and make a print with the 5 seed pockets of the apple. Gordon Lee made a few prints choosing green paint.  He definitely had fun.  They don't look like the ones you might see in an article about apple prints, but this is all his doing.  And I believe in celebrating his artwork regardless of how it looks.

2.) Fun Apple Snack- I sort of just happened upon this idea.  I had recently seen a sort of caramel apple candy idea that a friend shared.  And I was planning on trying it.  Instead of dipping a whole apple in caramel, you scoop the interior of the apple into a ball shape, dip it in caramel.  And you have a caramel apple pop.  I actually did not get to that yet. The reason was that I completely didn't think about the fact that I didn't have any sticks for this! So, instead, Gordon Lee had fun just using a melon baller to scoop the apple flesh out of the apple.  He had fun.  He could basically make his own snack.  Plus, it's clean and easy. He used a honey crisp apple for this. And he loved it so much, he would just stick some pieces straight in his mouth.  
- I cut the apple in half. 
- Dug out the core
- Showed him with his hand on the melon baller how to scoop it out of the apple.
From there he had it! The melon baller did slip once and slightly cut his other hand.  But that was my fault because I walked away to throw out the apple core. During that time, he got overly eager.  If I had been watching him right then, I could have prevented that. So I would definitely recommend supervision even if his cut wasn't very big.
 (Eating the apple before it makes it to the bowl)

(Final product in the bowl)

3.) Making Apple Sauce- This one is so easy. Gordon Lee and I cut up apples, steamed them, and then put them in the blender with some cinnamon sugar. The applesauce was delicious! I couldn't get Gordon Lee to even taste it after we made it.  But I know I will certainly be eating it.

4.) Trying a Variety of Apples- There are so many kinds to try.  And Gordon Lee especially enjoys tasting apples of varying colors. It's easy to buy one or two of a different kind and try them (although maybe the cashier at the grocery store might not find that fun). Gordon Lee still loves golden delicious the best.  I'm trying to find some pink lady apples because those are my favorite and he loves the color pink.
(This isn't the best picture, but he really loved this apple.  And he would eat the whole thing!)

5.) Examining the Apple-
-First, one of his books told us to look at the bottom of the apple and you can see the sepals of the apple flower.
-Cutting the apple horizontally so that the seed pockets appear creates a good math activity.  You can dig out seeds and count how many there are in each seed pocket.
-A new discovery for us was what looked like an apple blossom in the center of the apple if you cut just above the seed pockets. I find this one pretty remarkable since the actual petals of the blossom fall off before the apple forms.  But it's a neat way to see that the apple actually came from a flower.
-We have also dissected an apple to name the parts of the apple.

Ideas yet to try

6.) Making an apple pie from scratch (This is on the agenda for tomorrow).
7.) Making candy and caramel apple "pops." I just need to find a way to get sticks for the "pop" part or we will just end up with candy and caramel apple balls.
8.) Possibly visiting an orchard.  There is one about 40 minutes away from here. I want to go, but I definitely need to be able to plan it out right.
9.) Doing a blind taste test and seeing if Gordon Lee can guess what kind of apple he is tasting.
10.) Attempting to make some version of an apple sweet bread.

There are even more ideas than these. But some (like making apple cider) are a bit more than I can do right now. ;)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Baby #2

So, there was a reason I didn't post much about Gordon Lee's adventures in learning last week.  I was feeling miserable. I know for a fact that I did not have this much nausea with Gordon Lee.  On the bright side, I have discovered that eating raw carrots is a great remedy for nausea! It's truly wonderful.

We found out about baby #2 at the very beginning of August. Something wasn't right.  I am not going to go into all of the details.  But I was on birth control, and I just wasn't feeling right.  I didn't think I could be pregnant. However, I was having pretty much all of the early pregnancy symptoms (minus the nausea at the time).  So, I decided to just take a test and see. It was positive. I took a test from a different brand. Also positive. Of course, this was confirmed the next Monday by a blood test. 

I was still in shock.  I think I stared at that test wondering, Seriously?? for the longest time. And part of me wasn't even sure I was really pregnant.  "Maybe this is some weird hormonal malfunction."

I told the doctor at my very first visit that I was on birth control, and I had no clue as to how far along I could be. So, they tried to do an estimate. They gave me a due date of March 30, 2015.  And they scheduled an appointment for me to have an ultrasound (which was today) to get a true date confirmed.  Today, I saw a tiny little blob of a baby with a good heartbeat. I didn't even know what I was looking at until they told me. I did see the heartbeat flickering away immediately, which brought me tons of relief. The heart rate was 136. 
I finally believe I am really pregnant for sure. :) We had some concerns due to the birth control.  I wasn't sure if the baby would be okay in there. I also hadn't taken any prenatal vitamins until after I had a positive test and I didn't really even know how far along that was. By today's ultrasound, the baby measures 7 weeks and 5 days and has a new due date of April 8th.  They told me they change the due date if the ultrasound shows an estimate that is more than a week off of the original due date.  Now, on ultrasounds, Gordon Lee actually always measured a week behind of what he was "supposed" to, and he still arrived 6 days before his original due date--that would be 2 weeks before the ultrasound due date.  So, you just never know.  I do think it is a little bit easier at this stage to estimate weeks because of the heart rate and the way the baby looks developmentally.  

This time around, I am seeing a hospital midwife.  I chose to go with a hospital midwife this time because of something that impressed me with my birth experience with Gordon Lee.  I had gone to the hospital after my water had broken.  My doctor was not immediately available.  And my labor was progressing very slowly. My doctor requested a particular hospital midwife to check on me.  After 2 other people had checked on me, she figured out the problem immediately and got my labor going. 

I like my midwife.  She is very sweet.  Unfortunately, she will probably not deliver this baby. We are scheduled to move again in January.  So, I hope I find someone good at our next location. While there is a slight chance we might be here, it really is not likely.

We are getting pretty excited about it now.  Gordon Lee is very excited.  He kisses my tummy every night and says various things like "Hi Baby, I'm your big brother" "I hope you are having fun in there" "I hope you are a boy so we can play sword fights" "I love you baby" and "My name is Gordon." We just pray for a healthy pregnancy, and I will be ecstatic when this first trimester is over.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Check Up Time

The main reason we decided to start learning about doctors this week is that I had Gordon Lee's annual check-up planned.  I was getting ready to start talking about different community helpers each week.  So, I thought the doctor would be the best start.  His appointment was this morning.  We have read every single one of his 12 books at least 3 times already.  Some have been read 6 or more times.  So, Gordon Lee was extremely excited about this check-up.

He wanted to see the doctor's instruments.  He wanted to know how they worked, and he was hoping to get a sticker at the end of the appointment.  When I called to set up our health care here, I was asked if I wanted Gordon Lee to see a pediatrician or a general practitioner.  I opted for a pediatrician.  I figured a doctor who works only with children would probably be best.  After today, I feel like I was wrong.

I am not a fan of Gordon Lee's pediatrician.  I am a fan, however, of the pediatric nurse.  She was amazing! To all of the nurses out there.  BELIEVE ME--you do NOT go unnoticed.  The nurse brought Gordon Lee back, put him on the scale, measured his height.  And when he asked her how big he was, she showed him.  She was tickled by his answers to her questions.  And she encouraged his curiosity about what they do at the doctor's office.

Now, in preparation for the visit, Gordon Lee just HAD to bring some of his doctor books with him.  He wanted to compare his books to his actual visit.  So, during the wait time for the doctor, he went through all 3 books we brought.  In the first one, he found the picture of the scale and said, "That's exactly like the one I was just measured on!"  He also loved the fact that his examination table was a lion.
 In this picture, he is looking for the otoscope (hanging on the wall behind him) and cannot find it.
 I did a bad job taking this picture because I was trying to get a picture of the otoscope and of the picture of it on the page in his book.  But apparently I only got the one on the wall.  

I cannot even express how eager he was to soak up anything and everything he could learn today.  As the doctor walked in, he was in the middle of reading ABC Doctor.
He was excitedly going through the book and explaining where each item that he could find in the book was in the room.  The pediatrician came in.  She paid no attention to any of this.  I tried to explain to her that he was very excited and was reading his doctor books to learn.  She said, "Let's put that book away.  I have another book for you." She gave it to him.  He opened it up and started making up a story just looking at the pictures.  It was called Quick as a Cricket.
I was given a survey to fill out.  In the survey, apparently the doctor was supposed to use that book to test his literacy skills.  Instead she just used it to distract him while she checked his ears and nose.  She didn't seem particularly skilled with children.  When he was nervous about letting her look in his ears, she told him that if he moved it would hurt him.  This only scared him more.  We got to take the book home.  But I have to say that I was disappointed.  She didn't go along with Gordon Lee's excitement about the instruments.  I thought maybe she would let him see some of them, but she just didn't seem to care at all.  I was then encouraged to read to my child every day.  Yes, I already do that...2-3 times a day...every single day.

Thankfully, nothing squashes Gordon Lee's enthusiasm--not even a pediatrician who appears to care less about his curiosity.  So, at the end of the visit, he asked her for a sticker (because he had been reading that he might get one).  She tried to brush it off saying, "I don't have any stickers." But thankfully, the nurse, who was listening in, chimed right in and said, "I have stickers!" She brought him two large stickers, and he was pleased.  So, yes, in our visit, the nurse was way more amazing than the doctor.  Who knows? Maybe she doesn't really want to be a pediatrician or maybe she was having a hard day.

Finally, here are Gordon Lee's stats.
He is in the 95th percentile for height at 40 inches (3 ft, 4 inches).
He is in the 43rd percentile for weight at 31 lbs.
He is on or above all of his milestones, and he is very healthy.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Few Favorite Books from our Truck Unit

As our time learning about trucks is drawing to a close, I feel I want to share some of our favorite books we've read.  I like all of these books (as does Gordon Lee) because they are not only cute with enticing illustrations, but they are also very informative and educational..also while being entertaining.  

#1 Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Dusky Rinker 
I like this book for so many reasons! First of all, it's an excellent bedtime story.  The book names each construction vehicle by its real name, and it explains what each one does.

This is only a small portion of the part on the dump truck (it's a big spread of 4 pictures over 2 pages).  But you can see it shows what he does.  Each truck does one last job before going to sleep.
I just feel this book is a real gem.  And if you have a little boy (or girl) like mine who is interested in construction, it's a fun and interesting book.

#2 I Drive a Semitruck- by, Sarah Bridges
This was one of Gordon Lee's first choices to read as he happily declared that this was like his Aunt Terrie and Uncle Tony's truck. We had another book about semitrucks, but the illustrations in this one were much more kid-friendly.  Therefore, it grabbed and held his attention better than the other one.

A driver named Tyler goes through his day as a truck driver.  He explains, in easy-to-understand terms what driving a semitruck is like.

#3 Get to Work Trucks! by Don Carter
This one 
This is another cute one that names each machine and explains what it does.  

When we are on the page where they are driving to work, Gordon Lee likes to point to each one and name what it is.
And on every page after they start working, there is a turtle trying to observe the construction. Gordon Lee finds this interesting and will say, "Mommy, I think this is a reptile book too!"

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Learning as We Go

This week, Gordon Lee and I are learning all about work vehicles of all kinds.  We just got our books yesterday, and we have read about 5 so far.  This morning, we were out running some errands when everyone's favorite orange road markers showed up.  Great, I think to myself, just what I! 

Meanwhile, a tiny voice in the backseat calls out (with all of the enthusiasm his little body can contain), "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Look! Those are the trucks in my books! Look! Look! Look! It's a dump truck! Look! It's a digger! Oh my goodness! It's all the trucks!"

Suddenly, my perspective changed--impromptu learning opportunity! So I pulled over in a nearby parking lot where there was an excavator conveniently parked and not being operated.  Gordon Lee wanted his picture with it.

(In this picture, he is trying to explain that this is a "really big excavator").

Meanwhile, across the street, we get to witness these vehicles in action.
We see on vehicle digging up dirt and putting it in the bed of (what I have recently learned is) an articulated truck.  This truck then took the soil over to where a front loader was also working.  Clearly, we took a picture.  The two construction workers probably thought we were weird for taking pictures of construction, and they in turn took a picture of us.  It was all good in the end.  Gordon Lee called out, "Hey! That's teamwork!" 

We then started seeking out construction just so he could see the trucks in action.  You never know when a "road block" will become an opportunity to learn.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Reptiles: Up Close

It all started when I took Gordon Lee to Petsmart to see some reptiles.  I figured that would be a nice way for him to see in person what these reptiles he's been reading about are like.  Then he asked me.
"Mommy, do they have alligators or crocodiles here?"
"No, Gordon Lee, Petsmart does not sell crocodiles and alligators."

Then I thought, hmmm I wonder if there is some place around here to see alligators.  Alligators do live in Georgia.

So, I googled, alligators in our own town. It directed me to the website of a place called Oxbow Meadows whose main claim was their alligators.  Perfect! I didn't see any prices on the website.  I called the next day.  The nice lady told me that their large alligators were not there right now as their habitat was being cleaned.  However, they did have baby alligators that we could see if we would like to.  She also told me that everything was free.

So we went!
While they have many reptiles, they also have numerous other educationally-rich things.  They have insect exhibits, amphibian exhibits, they have a whole section for honey bees.  They have a rain garden and information about being resourceful with water.  They have a bird sanctuary.  All viewable for free!

First, they brought us to the back to see their baby alligators.  They were adorable! They were hungry and snapping, though, so they stayed in their "pool" as Gordon Lee called it.

Next, we moved on to see a variety of snakes. 

This rat snake came right up to the glass to say "hello" to Gordon Lee.  He was excited to see the snake using its tongue to smell.  But he didn't trust the glass, and he didn't want to get too close.

We learned about the anatomy of turtles/tortoises
We saw quite a few turtles and tortoises.
This is an adorable little tortoise called a "gopher tortoise" because it likes to go under the ground.  I almost wanted one for myself...until we saw a larger one in a bigger habitat. 
Outdoor turtle pond.
We saw some large tortoises outside.  I didn't see the sign that told us what kind they were.  However, upon researching it, I believe this is called the African spurred tortoise.

We truly had an excellent time.  Gordon Lee learned a ton about the animals in his books. It was definitely a very kid friendly place.  They had these great viewing step stools for children to get a better view at the habitats.  Pictured below is Gordon Lee using one to see down into the Burmese Python's water hole.
You never know what fun things you can find until you go looking for them! We will certainly return for more learning experiences (and to see the full-sized alligators when they return)!