Mommy Fears and Heart-stopping Moments

From the time Logan was small, one of my greatest fears was that someone would grab one of my kids in a public place and run off with them. When Logan learned to walk and could get away from me, I kept my eye on him like a hawk. I remember so clearly how hard it was for me to turn my back for even a second. I literally would have to tell myself it wasn’t awful to glance in another direction for a second.

It got harder when Lila came along and began walking and both wanted to go in different directions at once. I think if it had been possible, I would have turned into some version of Inspector Gadget with extendable arms and a 360 degree rotating head. Ha. Taking them to the park was crazy, and we only survived the mall because of the stroller where one of them would always be confined.

I’ve since learned to watch them closely but I don’t have my eyes glued to them at every second. I spend most of my time anywhere moving my eyes from one to the other to the other and back to the first one again. 🙂 Well, I can sort of trust Logan, and sometimes if the girls want to run to the small lake and Logan wants to be in the adjacent playground where I can see when he is on the top of the slide, it’s okay. Or if in the toy shop he wants to look at books over in the next aisle where I can’s see him while the girls play with the Lego display, it’s okay. I do check on him often and he’s fine. But I can’t trust the girls.

Scarlett loves to run as soon as my back is turned, and has given me more than one fright at the skating rink. Often someone will see me looking wildly for her and will point me in the direction she went. And last week at the rink, Lila decided she didn’t want to finish the exercises with the teacher so came looking for Scarlett and I. I was at a place where I could see them with the teacher, but she managed to sneak out, and then went and asked some lady to help her find me. I was proud that she remembered what color I was wearing but upset that she left, and after I spotted her and called her back,  she got strict instructions to never leave the rink if I wasn’t in sight.

What makes it harder for me is how people here in India are so attracted to them, because of their light skin color. People constantly sneak photos of them, touch them, pinch their cheeks, and want to be near them. The very few who do ask for photos first always get denied. I mean, why do they need pics of my kids? The rest can be glad I don’t go smash their phones. It’s so rude of them to just take their pics but what can I do?

Kidnapping is a very real fear here. At least once a week I read about one in the paper, often with sad results for the child. My kids being white could be targets so I do have to be careful. Even though most people are just being friendly, it’s better safe than sorry.

Just last Friday, while at the skating rink, I saw what I thought at first glance was my nightmare coming true. There is a balloon vendor there every day, and of course Scarlett spends lots of time watching the balloons. I was seated on one end of the rink, further from the balloons than normal, but I could still see her clearly so I let Scarlett walk over. I was watching her the whole time, so I jumped when I saw a man run and grab her real quick. I ran through the rink to where he was standing, but before I could exit the rink, a cow with large horns ran in front of me, with her owner at her heels.

Once realization dawned, I was grateful to this man for having gotten Scarlett out of the way in time and I thanked him, knowing that he wasn’t trying to take her but was saving her from being injured. But those few seconds when I didn’t see the cow and thought he was running off with her were heart-stopping.

What is your biggest fear regarding your child’s safety? How do you deal with it?

Surviving the Non-eating Years

There comes a time in the life of every child that they decided to quit eating. Yes, you heard me right, quit eating. This is most common during the preschool years.

Logan has been going through this non-eating stage for almost a year now. It unforturnately coinsided with the day he started preschool, so at first I thought it was just a case of nerves. Sadly it wasn’t. He started turning down food right and left, and giving up what has once been favorites, like milk.

At first, I handled it like I think most mothers would – I tried to force him to eat. I tried threats, punishment, force-feeding, denying treats, but this only led to tears, tantrums and frustration for both him and me. It took time, but I soon realized that I was fighting a losing battle and that if I wanted things to change I would have to handle them differently.

The first thing I had to do was calm down and not freak out when he didn’t want to eat. My main concern  was that Logan was underweight to begin with (he had been sick) and I wanted him to regain what he had lost, so I had to come up with things that he would eat and find ways to add extra nutrition to them that he couldn’t see. It took some experimenting to find out what he would and wouldn’t eat. Thankfully, my kids generally like healthy food, so if, for example, I was preparing chickpeas in a sauce, I would keep some aside with no sauce for him since he would eat large amounts of them plain (and now all 3 of them prefer them plain, so the sauce is for hubby and I). Also, while Logan quit drinking milk, he still loved yoghurt, so the solution in that case was simply to switch the two. (Now he drinks a little milk every so often, but it is at his request. I also had to stop saying things like “You asked for it, now finish it” when he decided he only wanted a mouthful at a time.)

The second thing was that I had to think long-term. His eating habits have changed over this past year, often going from liking something to disliking it days later. Sometimes he picks up again, but mainly I ask him if he wants something or not, and I try to make sure there is always something he will eat. Many times he will also turn down favorites, or will be in the middle of a meal and just stop and not want to finish. Staying calm has helped me to be able to say, “Ok, leave it” instead of forcing him to keep eating. Sometimes he will return to eat it later, or Lila will finish it off for him.

Another thing I found was that he didn’t like eating right away in the morning. Up until he started school, I had never served breakfast as soon as he woke up. He would usually just have a cup of milk and we would eat maybe an hour later. So when he started school and had to get up earlier and eat sooner, it upset what he was used to and he freaked. It took time before he was able to eat soon after waking up. Some mornings
he didn’t eat at all, so instead I would pack him a larger snack and he usually ate that as he was super hungry
by then.

Now, one year later, he is still picky about what he eats. He is up and down about foods, but at least he has learned to say “I don’t want any more” instead of screaming when I ask him to finish. Lila is not quite 3 but is already getting pickier, though I don’t think I will have quite as much trouble with her. She is a taurus and they are known to be quite the food lovers. And Scarlett? At 16 months she will say no to foods – a lot. But then she also eats a lot and is still breastfeeding so I’m not worried about her.

So now I want to offer you the mother’s guide to surviving the non-eating years with food in your child’s tummy and your sanity intact.

1. Stay calm. Relax your stance on how much you think your child should be eating, and instead see how much they eat over a weeks time. Generally it will be fairly balanced.

2. Don’t force your child to eat. Avoid food battles at all cost. Continue to serve meals as usual and don’t make a scene if your child only wants to eat one or two bites. Children will eat when hungry, so don’t sweat it if they skip meals or snacks. They will make it up when they are ready.

3. Don’t give in on treats. If your child is like most, they probably love sweet treats, chocolate, etc. but don’t opt to only let them eat sweets or junk food just to get food into them because then you will be getting into a habit that is hard to break. Save treats for appropriate times and instead make heathy food readily available.

4. Do find out what your child will still eat. This will require that you keep your eyes and ears open at first, but after a while you will have it down. Be aware that likes and dislikes will change frequently at this age.

5. Make food rules. You may need to put some rules in place if you find your child won’t eat at mealtimes but always wants snacks at odd times. A child this age probably needs to eat 5 to 6 times a day (3 meals and 3 snacks), so make a simple poster with the timings and pictures to post on your fridge to use to teach your child about the concept of set times. You could put a clock with the arms on the time when you will serve food, then make a game of showing your child when it shows that time on your wall clock. Then serve your meals and snacks accordingly. Children at this age have no concept of time; it has to be taught.

Logan would come for snacks, and since he has always been on the skinny side, I let him have food when he wanted since I didn’t want him to lose more weight. Eventually though, I got him back on the meals-and-snacks-at-set-times routine. It is also not good to eat randomly as food needs time to digest. I always explained to Logan that if he ate so soon after last eating he might get an upset tummy and that was enough to get him to wait. It could have also had something to do with his fear of throwing up and wanting to avoid it.

6. Expect that your child will stop eating. Even if they were great eaters as toddlers and ate anything at all, expect that this will change. Expect them to give up something they loved a week ago. Expect anything, and you will be prepared for it.

7. Don’t make two meals at dinner. Dinner seems to be the time when it is hardest to get a child to join you and eat what you are serving, since at breakfast and lunch it is easier to just offer cereal or a sandwich. You don’t want to wear yourself out by making two separate meals. Instead, make sure that there is something you know your child will eat on your menu and still offer the other foods, even if you are sure they won’t like them. I always put some veggies on the kids plates and sometimes they do get eaten.

8. The most important rule: Relax. It is so important that I am repeating it. Relax. Keep yourself calm and you won’t feel so stressed out. After all, a mommy has to eat too and it is hard to eat if you are upset.

"Mommy, My Tummy Hurts"

I’m sure you have heard this one before, and if you haven’t yet, you will. There comes a point, usually during the toddler years, that a child becomes more aware of bodily pain. The problem is that, since they are too young to identify what could have caused or is causing the pain, they tend to freak out and just cry.
Here is a little tip for when your child comes crying that their tummy is hurting – ask them where the pain is. They can’t tell the difference between stomach pain and lower abdominal pain, and the different causes for each one. Even if your child can’t talk yet, they can point to where it hurts.
If they point to their stomach, it could be hunger, nausea, or pain from overeating. You should be able to figure it out depending on when they last ate, what they had, and how they have been acting since then. Often a child who is about to throw up will whine and fuss, want to lie down, or be with you. My son is scared of throwing up, and will cry about it more once it happens than before. Lots of comfort and emphasizing that it is all over is needed to calm him down.
If they point to the lower abdomen, the most likely cause is a need empty the bowel. This one happens to Logan almost daily. He will fuss and cry about how much his tummy hurts, then within minutes, he will be on the toilet and then everything is ok. Other causes could be gas, or, more rarely. appendicitis. This last one can be serious and will require medical attention. (Read this link if you want to know the symptoms.)
With Logan, each time he says his tummy hurts, I talk to him and find out where the pain is, and I explain to him what it might mean. Of course, I don’t say everything I listed above, only what applies to him at the moment. This helps him to learn the difference in hunger pangs and needing to use the toilet, or feeling sick in his stomach.

What do you do when your child says his tummy hurts? How do you handle it?

Those Little Worriesome Things …

Yesterday I was reading a post over at Literal Mom that got me thinking. It was about how as new moms we tend to make a big deal over unimportant issues regarding our babies, thus making it obvious that we are “baby” or inexperienced moms.

At the end she asked people to share their experiences, what their worries were as new moms and how they think about the same issues now. I answered, then gave it some more thought. I realised that new or soon-to-be-new moms have lots of fears and worries, and that perhaps if I share some of the ones I faced, it may help you be a little more prepared.

Before I had kids, I worked as a fulltime nanny/caregiver/teacher for two adorable rascals, one boy and one girl, 7 weeks apart in age. I spent almost 3 years with them, from the time they were babies, and thought I knew what to expect when I had my own. Well, I knew the basics, but nothing can prepare you for the worries you face with your own child. Why? Well, when you care for someone elses child, your concerns stop with your workday. Their parents have full concern and responsibility for them; you don’t.

Like every other new mom out there, I was unprepared to face fears and worries when Logan was born. So many small things can scare you if you aren’t aware of them. My goal now is to try to help you alay those fears so you can feel a little more in control with your baby.

Ok, so here goes. Some of the things I worried about when I had Logan … well, I have to admit I worried that he would even be born. I had a rather unstable pregnancy, spotting monthly from the third month on. (See the page Logan’s Story for more details.)
Once he was born, new worries surfaced.

– I used to worry that I might smother him while I was sleeping since he was so tiny.

Logan’s first time in a cart.

– I vowed that I would never turn my back on him in public, even for a second. (Once when he was 7 or 8 months old, we were shopping and he was sitting in the cart. My husband came from parking the car and took Logan out of the cart and walked a distance away where I couldn’t see them in the short 2 seconds I had my back turned. Scared the hell out of me, thinking he had been stolen.)
– I never let him play on the floor unless I had just swept and mopped it.

– I made sure he never put anything from the floor in his mouth. I kept his bottles and pacifiers sterilized and his toys off the floor.
– I made sure everything he touched was clean, and that if it wasn’t clean, he didn’t touch it.

Fast forward 3 1/2 years. I have two more babies and find said fears slipping away. I do remember that around the time Scarlett was born, I read an article about the dangers of letting a baby sleep on their tummy. It scared me so bad that for weeks I only put her on her side or back, but it wasn’t until I remembered that Logan and Lila had both slept that way as small babies that my fear subsided. Why it hit me after 3 kids I don’t know. I guess we are vulnerable to fears no matter how many kids we have.

But we also reach a point where we see that most of these worries and fears are just that – things that we don’t actually need to stress over. Now, with Scarlett, she plays on the floor all day long, even though I only sweep daily and mop (at best) twice a week. She regularly finds stuff on the floor to put in her mouth and I just keep pulling it out, but I don’t freak out. Actually, all my kids will pick up and eat food they drop on the floor, even on the balcony (but I draw the line at stuff that falls on the ground outside). They have yet to get sick from such things.

I stopped sterilizing stuff for her after about 3 months, she plays with the older kids toys that haven’t been washed in forever. She has even chewed bugs and, worst of all, poop. But I think all babies try that at least once. I’m sure Logan and Lila did too, I just can’t remember it.

As for the other worries, well, I have never smothered my babies and all of them have slept in my bed. I found that letting them sleep on their tummies allowed them to sleep longer, since when on their backs they would jerk their arms and legs and wake themselves up.

I still don’t let them out of my sight for long in public, but I don’t freak out about it like I used to. You can never be too careful with your child in public. Here in India, kidnappings for ransom or sale is all too common, especially with children who have such fair skin like mine do. I read about such things in the papers all the time. I do still worry if I can’t see where they have hidden themselves while at the park right away, or if they run around the corner, will they still be there when I get there. It happens. I shouldn’t be too hard on myself and think that now I should never worry about them at all.

As mommies, we will probably worry about our kids for the rest of our lives. But we can make sure that if we have to worry, it is about important things and not little things best left alone. So if you find yourself worrying, stop and think, is this something I really need to worry about or not? It will save you a lot of stress and your sanity in the long run.
What worries do you have (or did have) and how are you facing them?

Two Years Ago

I’m sitting here thinking about two years ago. It doesn’t matter that it is still a few days away, the event I have in mind. Maybe it’s because we are celebrating Logan’s birthday tomorrow that I am thinking about it. What is it? Well, his birthday, of course. I mean the actual day he was born.

He wasn’t even due yet. I was only 7 months pregnant, yet I was lying in the clinic bed, the doctor telling me that they’d have to perform an emergency C-section. My water bag had been leaking all day and showed no sign of stopping. Logan had a strong heartbeat but he wasn’t moving. The doctor was worried. I was scared. I remember looking at my tummy and thinking it looked like a deflated balloon. A tiny lump on the right side of my tummy showed where the baby was lying. There was no water left by the time he was delivered.

Yet he made it.

He was taken to a larger hospital a few hours later as the small clinic didn’t have the needed facilities for a premature newborn. Glad went with him. I didn’t even know all that had happened or that was happening for the first few days. Glad would visit Logan twice a day, and then come back and be with me. He deliberately didn’t give me all the details of Logan’s condition because he wanted me to rest and not worry about the baby. He stopped breathing the day after he was born and had to be put on a ventilator for 5 days.

Yet he made it.

I left the clinic on the fourth day after he was born. I desperately wanted to see my baby, to hold him. So Glad took me there. I wish he had prepared me. I walked in to see my baby covered with tubes and needles. I just stood there, wanting to touch him, wanting to cry. He was so tiny, so thin you could see all his bones and every joint. I would have cried but the nurse saw and told me firmly, “Not in front of the babies”. That hurt. But I braved it and forced myself to touch my baby and feel how soft he was. Then it was time to go home. I had to rest, but I didn’t want to leave my baby.

When I got out in the hall, I broke down. I don’t know how long I cried for. It hurt so much to see my baby like that. I didn’t know if he was going to make it. I was sure he was going to die. All the way home I couldn’t stop crying. I got into bed and tried to stop but I couldn’t. It hurt too much.

Yet he made it.

Over the next few days before he came home, I had a constant fear that he was going to die; that the next call from the hospital would be to inform us of that. I started to dread calls from the hospital. My heart would pound at the mention of it, until I heard whatever the news was. It was always good, but until I knew, it was hard.

On the tenth day after he was born, he came home. He made it! He never had a single health problem relating to being premature from the day he came home.

I think God has a special plan for his life. If Logan hadn’t been born that day, he would have died. So God had the water bag break so I would go to the hospital. The cord was wrapped around his neck so tightly that the doctors had to cut it before they could deliver him. Had he moved around it would have tightened and choked him. So God made sure that he didn’t move, not even a toe, until after he was born. That lack of movement saved his life.

He made it!

Now as he turns two, I think about how special he is. When I ask him for a kiss, he opens his mouth wide to get one. When I tell him I love him and ask him to say, “I love you, Mommy,” he will blow a kiss.

Tonight as I was putting him to bed, I told him the story of his birthday (the toddler version of course). He lay quietly, listening carefully, something he doesn’t do very often. Then when I told him it was time to get into bed, he didn’t make a fuss. He lay down and didn’t wiggle around like he usually does. He must have been thinking about the story.

My baby is growing up.

Here he is at 8 days old.

And here he is at two.

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