About Joanna

Mom to a toddler with one more on the way, Wife and Geek. Her personal blog is Baby Gator's Den and you can learn more about her here.

Dealing with a Failure to Thrive Diagnosis

Joanna's son during the sweat test for Cystic Fibrosis, notice the binky. We still haven't been able to break the addiction.

My son has always been small. He was born weighing 6 lb, 2 oz and was 20 inches long. In the back of my head, I attributed his small weight to the fact his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck four times. After all, I was almost a 9 pounder as a newborn so I figured my child would be the same

He never “caught up” on weight and was always in the lower percentiles for weight, usually hovering around the 10th percentile but after he weaned from breastfeeding at 12 months old he dropped down to the 7th, then the 5th and eventually less than the 1st percentile where he currently resides.

My pediatrician is wonderful and not an alarmist by any means, but at his 15 month appointment I expressed concern for my son’s lack of appetite and growth. She referred me to  the local children’s hospital to meet with a Gastroenterologist to rule out any underlying health conditions.  The doctor we met with was wonderful and tested him for various diseases, such as Cystic Fibrosis and Celiac Disease. Fortunately, his blood work  for celiac and sweat test for cystic fibrosis all came back negative.

She then referred us to the “Feeding Team” to work on getting him to eat better. The Feeding Team was an amazing team comprised of over 6 doctors, therapists and residents. They observed my son eat a meal and talked with us for almost 2 hours. It was helpful for them to see his lack of interest in food and offer their suggestions on how to get him to gain weight. After our appointment with the Feeding Team we have kept up with regular appointments with the Occupational Therapist and she has helped him gain some upper body strength and learn how to chew his food better.

It’s been a journey over the past few months and I know we have made some progress, but that doesn’t make accepting a failure to thrive diagnosis any easier. It stings every time someone at the grocery store asks if he is 10 months old or whenever anyone comments on how tiny or small he is. My son is now 19 months old and only weighs 20.4 pounds and is 31 inches tall. He has hit every developmental milestone on time or early;  however,  he is a peanut. Being small doesn’t make him any less of an amazing toddler so it hurts me as a Mom when people make such a big deal about his size. To be perfectly honest, when he was first “FTT,” it felt like I was a failure as a Mom.

As a Mom (or Dad) have you had to deal with a tough diagnosis? How do you manage?

*You can follow our journey through the Failure to Thrive diagnosis here.

 

“Proper” Etiquette and the Second Baby Shower

I’m a big believer in proper etiquette. I love hand-writing thank you notes and receiving  hand-written notes even more. Although I’m a technology geek I will always take the time to write a personalized, hand-written note to someone who was thoughtful enough to spend their time and money on a gift for me or my child. One of the reasons my husband is so endearing to me is that he always writes a note to someone who did something special. I love that he was raised to always be thankful for any act of kindness.

 

Having relocated from Florida to Rhode Island, I’ve noticed some big differences in etiquette. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think guests should ever have to address their own thank you notes at any type of shower. A new bride or new mother can always take some time out of their day to express their appreciation for a gesture or gift; that includes the extra thirty seconds it takes to hand write their address. Even if it takes them a month to finish.

 

Another “thank you” short-cut I have observed since moving up here is the generic photo card of “Thanks for your thoughtful gift,” without even so much as a signature. It always makes me cringe a little inside when receiving that, especially after taking the time and effort to find the appropriate gift for that person. I know, any thank you note is better than none; however I would rather hand write 200 notes than to ever have to send out a generic, non-personalized thank you. I find those a little rude and/or impersonal. Trust me, I know I’m old-fashioned in regards to thank-you’s.

 

Since I’m talking about etiquette, let’s discuss second baby showers. Personally, I would not want one for myself. My friends and family went above and beyond for my son’s shower and literally showered us with tons of gifts. I would feel uncomfortable asking any of them to come to a party with a gift for my second baby only a short two years later. I can’t wait for them to meet my daughter, but we don’t want or need any gifts for her. Their love and support means the world to our family.

 

I know some people up here like to have “sprinkles” or diaper showers for their second baby which seems like a more reasonable idea. I just hope that they aren’t passing out envelopes at the door for guests to address their own thank you notes. I do firmly believe every child’s life should be celebrated by friends and family. I hope we can have a small housewarming/baby-greeting party after our daughter is born this fall, with a “no gifts please” note on the invitation. If someone did want to bring a gift despite what the invite said, I can guarantee you they won’t be receiving a mass-produced thank you print out.

 

What do you think of second baby showers? Etiquette faux-pas or totally fine?

 

A Geek’s Dream Baby Monitor: WiFi Baby 3G

I have been a computer/technology geek since I laid eyes on my first computer at 4 years old, an Apple IIC. Since then I have always looked for the latest and greatest technology. When I was pregnant with Jackson 2 years ago, I was greatly disappointed with the video baby monitor market. I wanted a baby monitor that I could securely see my son on my iPhone and laptop at home and while away from home. Back then, there was nothing like that available.

While debating what monitor to buy for our baby girl due in October, I found exactly what I dreamed of 2 years ago, Wifi Baby 3G. Wifi Baby 3G is a video baby monitor that streams interference-free video and audio to a Mac, PC, iPhone or iPad. One great feature of Wifi Baby 3G is that the stand-alone camera doesn’t need a physical connection to your router, it connects wirelessly with your home WiFi network.

 

It was easy to connect to our secure home WiFi network and took me about 15 minutes. The box came with easy, clear directions and additional links to their web site for more help. One thing I LOVE about this company is their quick, friendly customer service. Any email questions I had were promptly answered by the customer service rep I had been touch with, Devin. Although this monitor is a geek’s dream, I promise even those that aren’t geeks like myself can set up the WiFi Baby 3G, especially with a support team readily available.

 

WiFi Baby 3G is a family-owned company based out of Florida who invented Wifi Baby because they couldn’t find a secure, quality monitor to monitor their son at home and away from home. Exactly what I couldn’t find 2 years ago but unfortunately I’m not an inventor- thank goodness they are because WiFi Baby 3G has met all of my baby monitoring-needs!

 

One feature that is available for a small, one-time fee is external viewing, which means my husband can check in from work on my son’s nap time or my Mom in Florida can even check in on her iPhone. The set up for external viewing is slightly trickier, so the small fee covers a remote session with their awesome Tech Support team. The person who helped me was Ryan and had us up and running in 20 minutes.

 

In order to use WiFi Baby 3G on your iPhone or iPad, you need to download the WiFi Baby HD app from the iTunes store for a one-time fee of $8.99. If you have additional cameras you can view all of them with the Baby Monitor HD app which is only a dollar more. Since my husband and I are all on the same iTunes account, I downloaded the app on both iPhones and iPads for only $8.99 total. Totally worth it! Since the monitor uses my secure WiFi network to stream to our computer or iPhone/iPad, I don’t worry about anyone creeping through the neighborhood scanning traditional analog video baby monitor channels and seeing my babies.

 

Even at night time, the video is crystal clear!

 

Another great feature of the Wifi Baby 3G monitor is that when my kids are bigger and don’t need monitoring in their rooms, I plan on putting it in the kids’ play room (a.k.a. the basement) so I if I have to be upstairs for something I can quickly check in on them with my iPhone, iPad or MacBook. You can also use the monitor for home security once your babies are past the monitoring age. I know I won’t be able to do that with my older, non-WiFi Baby 3G monitor.

 

The only downside I could find with this monitor is that it might be difficult to travel with, but whenever we travel I don’t need a monitor anyway. Our son has always stayed in our room with us or close by so I wouldn’t take a monitor, but I know some people like to take their monitors with them.

 

I highly recommend WiFi Baby 3G to any parent who wants  a secure, high-tech system to watch their babies. Not only will this system serve parents well while their children are infants, but it can also be used as a nanny cam or home security for years to come.

 

You can buy the Wifi Baby 3G Video Monitor from their web store for $279, even less than a traditional video baby monitor that doesn’t have half the features WiFi Baby 3G has. Check them out at WiFiBaby.net or on their Facebook Page to find out more about this great monitor.

 

*The fine print: I wasn’t paid or compensated in any way to review the WiFi Baby 3G monitor or the Wifi Baby HD app. Actually, I put a {refundable} deposit down in order to review it but I will most certainly be keeping the WiFi Baby in our house because we love it! As always, my opinions are entirely my own: honest and unbiased.

 

How being a parent has made me eat my own words

Total "Binkieholic"

Before I had my son, I swore that my child wouldn’t eat McDonalds or chicken nuggets. The child would eat whatever my husband and I would eat. Picky eaters wouldn’t exist in my house.

Before I was a Mom, I would never have a “crusty” kid at the mall or in public.

Before my son was born, I would never allow a toddler to have a binky.

Now that I’m a parent of an 18 month old, I  know to never say never. ESPECIALLY about parenting.

Little did I know, I would be blessed with a wonderful, smart little boy who does not eat. I’ve written many posts before about how my son was diagnosed “failure to thrive” and we’ve been going to Hasbro Children’s Hospital to figure out ways to get him to have an appetite and just eat. If my son would eat McDonald’s, I would be at that drive thru buying a Happy Meal every meal. When you have a child who has no appetite, you’d be willing to feed him whatever it takes at every meal to get him the required nutrition to grow and thrive.

Until I had a toddler, I had no idea how hard it is to keep him “crust-free.” The crust just happens. Sometimes it is not worth the battle to get the crusted on boogies off his nose during cold season. So please don’t judge me when I run into the market with a crusty-nosed kid to grab some dinner. I have to pick my battles as a toddler Mom.

I’ve also written about our battle with the binky before. The battle is still going on in our house. It seems that every time we are ready for the 3-4 days of torture, something happens: sickness, family emergency, you name it. I know, those are just excuses. We are not ready to give up the binky in our house. It’s a crutch for us all and when I have the crusty nosed toddler on a shopping trip, it is simply much more enjoyable if he has the binky with him. Honestly, I don’t know when the time is going to be right. We will be moving twice in the next 4 months, then we have a baby coming in October. At this point it seems like my dear son will be going to college with a binky. Oh well.

In my short 18 months of parenthood, I’ve learned many things. The most important is to never say never. I’ve also learned to not judge other people’s parenting, because who knows what they are going through and why that 5 year old has a binky in his mouth at the store. After all, that could easily be my crusty kid with a binky in his mouth in no time. People do what they need to do and I believe the majority of parents try to be the best parents they can be.

 

How has being a parent changed your outlook?


Baby #2: Repeat C-section or VBAC?

One of the most common questions I’ve received so far this pregnancy is “are you going to have another c-section?” My answer: “I think so.”

Joanna & happy family after her c-section

My pregnancy with my son was a very pleasant, uneventful one. His delivery was exactly the opposite though. After laboring at home for more than 12 hours, I got to the hospital and it was a whirlwind that resulted in an emergency c-section that likely saved both my son’s and my life. Long story short, I had a placental abruption and my son had the cord wrapped around his neck four times. I lost a lot of blood and was thankful to have the excellent care of the obstetrics team at Women & Infant’s Hospital. If you’re interested, you can read the long story on my blog here.

I go back and forth on whether I should have a repeat, planned c-section or try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). Some of the advantages of a planned c-section this time around are being able to plan the exact day and having my Mom and Stepdad fly up from Florida and plan childcare for my son. My husband can also plan accordingly at work, months in advance. Another less talked about “plus” is that since I’ve never had a vaginal birth, I can keep the lady parts down there in pre-vaginal birth form, if you know what I mean. The vain side of me would also like another shot at the whole c-section scarring deal. My first one ended up a raised, keloid scar which is not pretty. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I happened to google c-section scars, and realized mine could be in the record books for ugly. The scar is really not a big deal, but my Doctor said she could cut it out this time around and it may heal better.

Some of the disadvantages of a repeat c-section are that it is major abdominal surgery and it took six weeks to feel normal again. There’s also risk of infection and there are scientific studies that show vaginal births are best for babies’ health. Repeat c-sections are also not recommended after two to three c-sections, so if being a Duggar is in my future I should try for a VBAC (hint: it’s not, we will probably be “two and through”). For the record, my obstetrician said I would be an excellent candidate for a VBAC, since my c-section was unrelated to my ability to have a vaginal birth. Apparently, many doctors are not supportive of VBACs because of the risk involved, but I have not experienced that. My doctor has been extremely supportive and so would the hospital I will give birth at, Women & Infants. I am grateful that I have the choice.

On the other hand, part of me would like to experience natural childbirth and by natural, I mean vaginal. The epidural was my friend the first time around, but since I didn’t get it until 8 centimeters the first time maybe I could have a baby without one! I never even got to pushing the first time around and I’d like to have that experience. The recovery time is also less with a vaginal birth, a major plus for having two kids under two years old. The main thing about a VBAC that scares me is uterine rupture. I’ve known a few people that this has happened to, one woman’s baby even kicked OUT her c-section scar while going down the birth canal. I know this is such a low risk, but so was a placental abruption and nuchal cords times four. Another thing about the VBAC is simply fear of the unknown. I’ve experienced a c-section before and it was a pleasant experience.

Although I’ve changed my mind several times, I am currently leaning toward a planned, repeat c-section.
I would love to hear if you’ve had a VBAC or a repeat c-section and your thoughts on it!

Pregnancy the Second Time Around: Advice Needed!

I am currently 17 weeks pregnant with our second child. My son is 17 months old and while we are thrilled for the new addition to our family, this pregnancy is entirely different from my first.

My first pregnancy I worked full-time, but was able to nap when I got home from work and sleep through the night. Sleeping through the night is still a semi-rare occurrence in my home. My son, especially while teething, will wake up a few times through the night and/or is up for the day at 5am. The lack of sleep contributes to a much more tired, worn-out pregnancy.

Gone are the days I can throw my feet up and relax when feeling nauseous or tired, now I have a little buddy wanting to throw a ball or go for a walk. Now, I can barely think about this pregnancy, in contrast to my first pregnancy where I obsessed over every little twinge or symptom. This time, I have more faith in my body and trust everything is going to be ok. I don’t have time to worry about the alternative.

Despite the obvious differences in having a toddler this time around vs. having no kids, this pregnancy has been totally different. First time around, I never got sick or even nauseous. This time felt like I had the nastiest college hangover from about weeks 7 through week 13. My first pregnancy, I felt so good I was in a fantastic mood all the time. This time, not so much. These differences have my husband convinced we are having a girl. I’m not sure either way, but we will find out for sure on June 1st.

With my son’s pregnancy I took weekly pregnancy pictures throughout my entire pregnancy (You can see them here). This pregnancy, I have a total of 5 “belly pictures” at 17 weeks. I feel HORRIBLE about it! I always swore my second baby would have an equal amount of pictures, little did I know I would be WAY more sick the second time around. I hope he or she forgives me! Thankfully, I am finally feeling better and will make up for lost time.

I hope I will be able to be as good of a Mom to this new baby as I have been to my son. People always tell me that your heart expands and you never know you could love TWO little babies so much. I hope that’s true because it seems implausible to think of loving another baby as much!

Moms of two or more: I would love your advice on introducing a new baby into your family. Especially on how to introduce a baby to a very jealous toddler who will be 22 months when he takes on the new role as “Big Brother.” Thank you!

Pregnant in Heels: my feet hurt for these women!

Have you seen the new TV show on Bravo, Pregnant in Heels? I caught my first episode the other night and was reminded that there is a completely different universe than the one I’m living in. Namely, pregnant women living in New York City who have a completely different reality than my own. I don’t know about you, but I’m only 16 weeks pregnant and my feet complain after just hearing the word “heels.” These women teeter around in 4 inch heels at 39 weeks pregnant through the cobblestone streets of NYC!

Mina and her husband, Herman

The episode I viewed is titled “Clueless” and there couldn’t be a more apropos title. The show is hosted by a really cool woman named Rosie Pope who is a “Maternity Concierge” and basically caters to affluent pregnant women who know more about spending money than raising babies.

The first woman on the show is named Mina Au and has never even held a baby before. She thinks that her husband and the nanny can do all the diaper changes, after all- “there are people for that.” Mina couldn’t understand why Rosie said the dog’s “pee pad” had to come up when there’s a baby crawling around the apartment floor. Diaper pail, what’s that? I need one of those?

Michelle and her husband, Gary

The second woman on the show is named Michelle Shaeffer, a Catholic woman married to a nice Jewish man named Gary. Michelle can’t understand why Gary has a problem raising their daughter Catholic, after all  it is “her” daughter. Apparently they never once brought up how they would raise children with their two different religions. Rosie brings in Lisa Oz (Dr Oz’s wife) to mediate the heated discussion and manages to bring the couple to a compromise.

The first 45 minutes of the show I kept asking myself “Are these women serious? OMG! Wait till that baby comes!” Somehow Bravo manages to humanize these princesses in the last 15 minutes so you don’t completely despise them, but it still amazes me that there are women out there so self-absorbed. I know it’s reality TV, but some things can’t be edited by Bravo producers.

Being a toddler mom and pregnant myself, I don’t know how these high-rise Mommas do it in NYC. My hat is off to them. I love being able to drive my car to the grocery store and not worry about lugging car seats into cabs every time I want to run an errand.

Pregnant in Heels gives a really unique glimpse into the lives of pregnant women who don’t live like “the rest of us.”  The host, Rosie Pope, is charming. I adore her London accent and her honesty with secondary infertility struggles on the show is endearing. She works with her clients with a unique blend of grace and straight forwardness. I can’t wait for the next episode to air!

If you’re looking for a new show to watch, I recommend giving Pregnant in Heels a chance. You can watch the show on Bravo, Tuesdays at 10 pm EST or watch full episodes on BravoTV.com.

Have you seen the show yet- what did you think? If not, what’s your favorite show at the moment?

Photos courtesy of Bravo TV

Doing Disney World with a Toddler

Strollers are a must for a young toddler at Disney.

I grew up an hour from Disney World and went to the parks far less than my husband did as a Rhode Islander.  His family made the trek to the parks every year and absolutely LOVE parks.  I am less excited about theme parks, but since it is important to my husband we decided to brave Disney World with our 16 month old son this year.

I’ve always thought 16 months was way too young for a park, but you know what? It isn’t. My son had the time of his life for the two and a half days we were in Orlando. The keys to our success were this: stay at a hotel at the Magic Kingdom, go to the park EARLY, plan which rides are suitable for a toddler before your trip and book a character breakfast.

Staying at the Magic Kingdom is more expensive, but you can save money by booking in the off season. If you only have a toddler, don’t go school vacation week: prices double at hotels during this time. The park also raises prices across the board for busy weeks. The main reason I loved staying at the Magic Kingdom (we chose Wilderness Lodge this year) was convenience and the fact if my little guy needed a nap I could get him home in minutes and the rest of our group could stay at the park.

I am not a morning person, but my son is up bright and early between 6 and 6:30 am every day. Another benefit of staying at a Disney hotel is the Extra Magic Hour you receive- you can get into all of their parks one hour before the rest of the park-goers! This is huge with a toddler because you can get to all of the popular rides for them with little to no wait. We made a bee-line to the Winnie the Pooh ride and had less than a 10 minute wait. My son’s favorite ride was the carousel, which he asked to go on “more please” repeatedly. If you’re a night owl, you can also stay later at the park with your hotel key– which could be fun if you have family to babysit or your child is old enough for Disney babysitting.

My husband had the trip thoroughly planned out with what rides were appropriate for our son and had a plan. You can download apps for ride wait times and other Disney tips for your smart phone to make your trip more efficient. We checked out the web site MouseSavers and learned some great Disney World tips and tricks.Micky waffle

My last suggestion for toddler Disney fans is to book a character breakfast. We booked a late morning breakfast at the Polynesian hotel and my little guy absolutely loved meeting Stitch, Mickey, Pluto & Lilo. He wasn’t scared a bit and wanted to chase the characters around the restaurant!

If you were considering taking your toddler to Disney, I say do it! This is coming from a non-park loving, “not a big Disney fan” Mom. Seeing the joy in my son’s face was priceless and he had a fantastic time! Disney might have finally won me over!

What are your tips for traveling with a toddler?

 

Heartbreak via Toddler

Grandma, Toddler & Mom

As some of you know, I am originally from Florida and now live in Rhode Island. This past week I was fortunate enough to have my Mom visit for six days. She has been a huge help to my husband and I since we are selling our townhouse. We’ve spent the past several days packing boxes, moving them to our storage unit and she has helped us out by taking over toddler-duty. I’ve enjoyed not changing as many diapers or waking up quite as early as normal, but I’m surprised by how quickly my young son has thrown me aside for another woman.

Until a few weeks ago, my son has always been a sweet pea, giving kisses and hugs on demand. Now he shakes his head and laughs when I ask for a kiss. For the first time in 16 months, I don’t feel as needed by him. I breastfed him for almost 13 months and during that time he definitely needed me, even if it was only once a day.  I was a source of nutrition and comfort for him.

He has always come to me for solace when he fell down or needed something. That is, until my Mom visited. I’ve been replaced by his Grandma. She has spent the past six days with my little boy attached to her hip. When he fell off the couch today, he went to her for comfort when I was just as close. I have to be honest, it stung! I’m not looking forward to the tears (from all of us probably) when I drop her off at the airport.

Moms of boys, I’m well aware this is just the beginning. I’m sure he will be too cool to give me a kiss when I drop him off at school. He is going to spend more time with his Dad shooting hoops than cuddling with me on the couch. Someday he’s going to fall in love with a girl in high school and I’ll be second place while he obsesses over her text messages and where they will be going on their date nights.

I knew this was going to happen but I was not prepared for it to be so soon!

Moms of toddlers, please tell me he will come back to me for a little bit…

Raising your kids in a “sports family”

 

Sports are important in our family. One can tell how important by seeing our cars with our respective schools on the plates or the basement painted in my husband’s alma mater’s colors of maroon and gold, complete with Boston College logos on the wall.Of course, the other side of the basement is “my side” with Gator orange and blue accessories.

 

I was raised in a sports family and some of my fondest memories are summers spent in the pool for swim team or at Bollettieri tennis camp in Bradenton, FL. My parents always raised me to value being part of a team, whether it was the softball team in high school or the equestrian team for the University of Florida. My husband also has a sports background, having grown up running track and playing basketball.

You can find us on any given Saturday in the fall at a college football game, in the winter it’s basketball and during the summer we are on the golf course or tennis courts.

I believe sports instilled the principles of teamwork, hard work and dedication in our foundations. We are raising our son with these same values and hope he has a love of sports like we do. I can’t wait to see what he will love as an older child and adult. One of his first words was ball (pronounce ba-all) and he can spend hours throwing and chasing down the ball for himself. I am counting down the days until he can enroll in tee ball, tennis or golf. I can’t wait to be a true soccer mom! Until then, the weekly swim lessons will have to tide me over.

I hope that being involved in sports while growing up will teach him the importance of teamwork and give him the self-confidence he needs to reach his goals in life.Some people have asked us what we would do if our son hated sports and chose   another activity completely unrelated to sports. My answer is always “completely support him!” If it made my son happy to sing in the glee club or be a Thespian instead of quarterback, good for him! I can guarantee you my husband and I would be in the audience for every performance, you’ll be able to spot us wearing the BC and UF gear.

I’d love to hear what you do to help instill your family’s core values in your children, please leave a comment letting us and the other readers know!

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