Zumbini

Zumbini

Before I had a child, I knew I’d be the monitored screen time, oil using, breastfeeding, crunchy-kind of mama. When Millie was born, the television wasn’t turned on for weeks because I read in a parenting magazine that baby’s can sense when you’re multi-tasking, like folding laundry and watching Grey’s Anatomy. Multitasking can make a baby anxious so the tv remained off. My mom finally said, “You have to be able to put her down for a moment and the tv will help.” She found a channel called, Baby First and Millie was entranced!

The vibrant colors, the songs, the high-pitched voices, the close ups of baby faces; Millie loves it. There is a a flower in the corner of the screen and the petals change color based on the learning elements in that particular show. The best aspect of the channel, in my opinion, is Zumbini. I love to dance and Zumba is my favorite way to work out. Zumbini is a baby’s Zumba. It incorporates dancing, singing, instrument playing, ball rolling, etc. Millie loves to dance and sing to the short Zumbini episodes in our living room. She smiles and rocks her body – she is completely engaged! At the end of the show it instructs the viewer to, “Go online and register for a Zumbini class near you!” So, I did.

The class was being offered near my undergraduate campus so I felt comfortable with the location. The instructor was quick to answer all of my questions and she was just as helpful and kind when we met in class. I am a music teacher and a “retired”, collegiate Zumba instructor so one could assume that I would be judgmental towards another’s class however, I’m new at this parenting thing and I have nothing to gain from judging and everything to gain from creating experiences with Millie.

When registering for Zumbini, we received a book with the lyrics to all the songs in the class, music downloads, and a little doll (that has seriously won over Millie’s heart, she loves her, “TJ”). Zumbini promotes freedom for the children to do as they please as they listen the up-beat music. I dance with Millie on my hip, I dance in front of her while she sits on the floor, I play instruments while she puts hers directly into her mouth. At six months old, Millie was the youngest in the class however, everyone was willing to help her, they doted over her and her big, blue eyes, and it never felt like she didn’t belong.

The music from Zumbini, incorporates different languages, styles, tempo, and time. I like that Millie is exposed to such diversity. The class materials include rhythm sticks, scarves, miscellaneous percussion instruments, balls, and bongos. Mill has taken two, nine week sessions and we don’t plan on stopping. This girl is shaking what her momma gave her!

Millie Met Mo’ana

Millie Met Mo’ana

We are so fortunate to live close to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Because I teach and have summers off, Millie and I have been able to go on daily adventures – the zoo being one of her favorites. She loves looking at all the children and is captivated by the fish at the aquarium. During the week, especially on days with spotty weather, the zoo isn’t overly crowded and we have the opportunity to talk with the staff that works directly with the animals.

The Columbus Zoo works closely with Western Lowland Gorilla conservations and learning about their success in the gorilla population was encouraging. Stephanie, the gorilla expert, told us the names of all of the gorillas and their ages. She was knowledgeable about their relationships with one another and their personalities. She informed me that “Mac”, the silverback in the enclosure, the grandson of Colo who was the first gorilla to be born in captivity, knows he’s handsome, will pound on the glass whenever he feels like it, is a surrogate dad, and is busy raising his two year old, rambunctious son, J.J. J.J. acts like any other toddler; he prolongs nap time, copies everything his daddy does, and plays about the enclosure. The gorillas habitat was observed and approved by Diane Fossey, one of the greatest mountain gorilla conservationists of all time. Stephanie says that these gorillas have it made at the Columbus Zoo, like the animals in the movie, Madagascar.

I learned that the female gorillas take birth control pills once a day, the same way a female-human would. The female gorillas are tested each month to make sure that they haven’t gotten pregnant over the course of the month, by mistake. A “board” meets to determine which gorillas can breed according to their DNA compatibility. Because the gorillas at the zoo are promoting the conservation of their species, the board wants the bred outcome to be the best gorillas. What I found particularly interesting is that even with this board acting in the role of God, some gorillas don’t come out as they plan.

Kinyani, a beautiful female gorilla at the zoo, was bred and born in captivity, and she is deaf. She stays up high in the trees so that she can see the activities below and no one can sneak up on her (For his own enjoyment, Mac will sneak up behind her to smack her in the head.) Her deafness was not planned by the board however, Gods plan superseded.

Mo’ana, is a seventeen year old, female gorilla at the zoo. She was born and bred in captivity and she has a mental disability. Her body didn’t grow normally so she looks different and she has arthritis. She sits right at the glass of the gorilla enclosure and tries to feed the children hay, when they sit across the glass from her. Again, her disabilities were not planned, however her gentleness is a gift from God.

I have always loved gorillas and I felt especially close to them after learning that Colo, the beloved gorilla in Columbus – may she Rest In Peace, her parents were from Cameroon. I was not familiar with this country until earlier this year when I looked it up; 3% of my DNA is from Cameroon, according to Ancestry. I also learned that Colo’s mother’s name was Millie.

Twice, I have sat Millie by the glass to interact with Mo’ana. She seems timid as she looks at the gorilla and then turns her face into my chest. She doesn’t cry but she doesn’t smile at her either. I tell her all about the gorillas when we visit their enclosure. I hope that one day she will share the love that I have for these beautiful primates.

Getting to Know Millie

Getting to Know Millie

At four months, Millie is enjoying life differently than before; she can see further, manipulate her hands better, and vocalize her needs. The more she develops, the more human she becomes (she’s always been human) but she has flourished with independence and she’s growing her own personality. The first precious smile we received from Millie was a product of gurgling gas and now, she’s smiling at our smiles, different toys, and the sunshine. Her facial expressions, interest, and focus inform me of how she is feeling and it’s a joy learning along with her.

Millie was born premature, so during the first month of her life we weren’t concerned with playtime, we were in survival mode. Our days included making sure she had dirtied the appropriate amount of diapers, that she was feeding every three hours, and that her breathing wasn’t labored. She would last ten minutes in the stroller before crying. She had a difficult time getting her eyes to focus so she frequently went cross-eyed. Car rides were no fun; she hated them.

At two months, Millie began to take notice of dark and light contrast; we would show her different black and white patterns which kept her attention. She also was drawn to the color red and the lights on the Christmas tree. She enjoyed about thirty seconds of tummy-time; she would turn over onto her back if we kept her down for the full minute. Millie liked sitting in her bouncer seat but she did not enjoy the five-point harness in her swing. Car rides were still the worst.

At three months, Millie was enjoying walks more than she had before; on a nice, winter afternoon, we walked for almost two hours. She was fascinated by the woodland creature mobile hanging in her crib; the otter, the fox, and the owl move around to Brahm’s Lullaby above her head. When eating dinner at the table, we sat Millie up in her high chair. She would watch us eat and interject a coo or two into the conversation. Have I mentioned how much this baby hates being in the car?

My sweet love is now four months old and I know for certain that time is a thief. She is loving chomping down on anything that she can get her mouth on. She smiles anytime she catches her reflection in the mirror. She snuggles with her Cuddle + Kind dolls. Millie thinks my hair is a toy and pulls on it with all her might. With some assistance, she is enjoying sitting in her skiphop saucer. Millie loves pulling on her teething links and holding her Oball. The car seat is no longer her worst enemy. Everyday she learns something new; she amazes me. I keep thinking, if I could just freeze time, but then I’d miss out on her adorable five-month adventures.

Maternity Leave

Maternity Leave

As a full-time, public elementary school music teacher, I received six weeks of paid maternity leave by using my accumulated sick time. Preeclampsia caused me to deliver preterm and just six weeks later, I would not have been prepared to leave my premature angel for work. Any mother would agree that six weeks is a ridiculously limited amount of time to bond with a newborn. For those mothers who have to rely on outside childcare after six weeks, I am so sorry; I will pray for your continued bonding, physical and mental health, and safety. Fortunately, I was able to take additional time off using FMLA. This time off of work was unpaid however, my husband and I had monetarily saved. In total, I had fourteen weeks off of work for maternity leave and I still wished that I could have taken more time. Whether you have six weeks or six months, the time you’ll spend with your newborn is priceless. The fourth trimester is a blur but before I completely forget, due to juggling work and infancy, here’s some thoughts of my time on maternity leave.

After we were discharged from the hospital, my body was recovering from the trauma of birth; breastfeeding was a learning curve, my blood pressure was regulating after the high levels due to pre-e, and I was profusely sweating out all the excess fluid that my body was retaining. While all of this was occurring, I was also bonding with my fragile, four pound newborn. It’s difficult for me to look back on the first month because I feel guilty – there’s so much growing that she did that I just slept through; I’d nap on the couch with Netflix on. There were so many moments that I forget due to sheer exhaustion. My advice for any new mom is to tape your eyes open – of course I’m kidding! I encourage you to take so many pictures and journal as often as you can; you never get that precious time again and so much of it can become lost in the exhausted haze of motherhood.

I was so grateful to have an overwhelming outpour of help from my family and friends during this time. Having a meal-train was extremely helpful; we had prepared meals for a week! My mom stayed with us the first two weeks after Millie was born. Everything was new; I didn’t know that I was supposed to log every diaper change by time and contents, I didn’t know what cluster feeding was or how to handle it, and I had never given a newborn a bath before. Having an additional person to help clean pump parts, make dinner, take a nighttime shift, run a load of laundry, etc., was so helpful. My mom successfully raised three children and was there whenever I asked, “Is this normal?”. My husband was allotted no paternity leave; he had to use his vacation time for my hospital stay, so he was incredibly grateful for the support from my mom as well. Thanks, mom.

It was traumatic getting Millie’s blood tested when managing her jaundice level. As I held my daughter in my arms, she was pricked in the heel of her foot and then milked of her blood, which of course made Millie cry and her tears broke my heart in two. My mom was there with me so I didn’t have to experience that alone. Pumping was difficult for me in the beginning. I truly thought that I’d have more comfortably with the pump than breastfeeding however, it felt impersonal and I had a hard time doing it. My mom would stay up with me and care for Millie while I pumped to increase my milk supply. Those late night talks of motherhood and watching my mother bond with my little one; I hope to never forget those moments.

My mother returned home and my mother-in-law came to stay with us. For the first month of Millie’s life, I was never alone with her. Some people may read this and think, wow – this woman is crazy however, I was relieved having someone else there with me. It was more eyes on my preemie, someone to watch her while I showered or napped, and it was socialization when I couldn’t leave the house (I was terrified that I would bring home germs that would put Millie back in the hospital.)

I loved taking Millie for walks when the weather was fair. I loved holding her tight, rocking her, having skin-to-skin time, and resting my cheek upon her cheek. I think my heart skipped a beat every time my husband would speak to her. I didn’t completely despise changing her diapers like I thought I would. I enjoyed online shopping while breastfeeding – maybe a little too much. I watched her grow from a thin four to a chunky twelve pounds. Listening to her sigh, smelling her head, seeing her smile – there’s nothing else like it. I feel so incredibly blessed to be Millie’s mother. Even though my maternity leave is over, I am grateful for the time that I had and I cherish my moments with her now, even more.

Laboring Love

Laboring Love

It’s very appropriately called “labor” but some things made it just 0.014x better…

  • My mom drove in from out of town and brought me my favorite childhood stuffed-animal, Max Goof. I didn’t even know that she kept him! It was such a special gift that momentarily took my mind off of the labor ahead.
  • Due to preeclampsia, I was in the hospital for three days before giving birth. I was not able to eat, should an emergency cesarean become necessary. I was able to sip water and eat ice-chips. Yay. My grandmother brought me in a box of Luigi’s Italian Ice and my taste buds had a party! My nurse put my name on the box and kept it in the freezer; I was able to eat cherry and lemon Italian ice as much as I wanted.
  • My husband asked the nurse, “Can she get something to help her sleep? There’s a lot of extra noise in here.” I was given an Ambien and I slept better than I had in months! It was the best “push present” that any pregnant wife could’ve asked for.
  •  I adore my family and friends however, answering all their texts and calls while trying to focus on the task at hand, was not at the top of my priority list. I was incredibly grateful that my husband had my phone and kept everyone informed.
  • The same hospital gowns that people die in, are given to you to wear when you birth your baby. Ew. I bought a Gownies set from Baby Be Mine and I’m so glad that I did. I was happy with how they fit and felt, they smelled like home, and I liked how I looked!
  • There can be a lot of smells permeating in a hospital. When we were admitted into the labor and delivery room, we used our humidifier with drops of on-guard oil; cleaning the air. Next, we used balance to help with the atmosphere of the birthing space. So many nurses complimented us on our use of essential oils. One nurse, who wasn’t even mine, came into the room because she smelled a “spa aroma” from the hall!
  • My sister flew in from out of town for the birth. She braided my hair for me before I went into active labor. She also took videos on her phone, before and after Millie was born. At the time, it seemed pretty silly. Now that Millie is three months old, we cherish those videos. Our conversations, the doctor checks, how small she was, and the sound of her cry, won’t be forgotten.
  • Water-proof mascara and chapstick.
  • Hospital resources – use them. I used many snap-ice cold packs on the back of my neck, forehead, and in my underwear after giving birth; these are way better than a wet washcloth. The supplied water jug is still my best friend – if you are planning to breastfeed, this will become your lifeline. The large, mesh underwear – no shame, I packed ten pairs to take home and wore them for the next two weeks. The huge pads. During recovery, the hospital provided a plastic squirt bottle that could spray warm water after using the bathroom; trust me, you don’t want to be using toilet paper down there for a while. I received a bottle for every bathroom in my house. Another relief was witch-hazel pads. I made some of my own once I was home and added some lavender oil for extra soothing.
  • Because we were sent to the hospital at 34 weeks, my house had not been properly cleaned for a new baby. My family cleaned my house until it sparkled while I was in the hospital. It was such a relief knowing I was bringing the baby into a clean home.

No doubt — giving birth is laborious, but there is not a mom out there who doesn’t recognize it as a labor of love.

What made labor 0.014x better for you?

Magnesium – Miso – Motherhood

Magnesium – Miso – Motherhood

“Did you have a difficult day at work?” not what you want to hear from your nurse after taking your blood pressure. Teaching elementary music is never a breeze however, that day in particular, was fine. (Meaning my blood pressure had no business being 149/99.) She told me to relax, take a couple deep breaths, and she’d try to take it again – of course by then I was freaking out; why was my blood pressure so high?! My doctor came in and told me that they found traces of protein in my urine, I had significant swelling in my legs and ankles, and that I had gained too much weight since my last visit. Preeclampsia. I had heard of it but I never thought that it was something that I would suffer from. So many thoughts were racing around in my head; Isn’t preeclampsia super rare? Don’t you have to be obese to have it? Has anyone in my family ever had preeclampsia? What’s going to happen to my baby? What’s going to happen to me? AH! My head was pounding; yet another symptom of preeclampsia.

The nursery was completed before the end of my first trimester and our hospital bags had been packed by the end of the second. My extreme nesting and “over preparedness” made my friends laugh and annoyed my husband however, it turned out to be a blessing considering we were on our way to the hospital during week 34 of my pregnancy. 160/114 was my blood pressure reading in triage. Those numbers were too high and the doctor was concerned that I would seize. I was admitted into labor and delivery and the high-risk doctor gave the orders; the only way to stop the preeclampsia symptoms was to deliver the baby. The delivery-plan that I took so much time creating was now thrown out the window.

Because the baby was going to be born early, I was given two steroid shots in my theigh to help her lungs develop. The incredibly nice NICU doctor had come in to verbally prepare us for the worst; I was devastated hearing that after delivery, I may have to leave the hospital without my baby. I felt so guilty and defeated; my body was failing her. To keep my blood pressure down, I was given magnesium through my wrist IV. The nurse told me that I would be extremely weak on this medicine and I may experience flu-like symptoms. I had to be catheterized (That wasn’t pleasant.) because I was not able to get out of bed while on the mag. How was I supposed to move through my contractions if I was immobile on this medication? Having the catheter in was awful – I felt like I had to pee constantly; there was no relief. Worser still, the swelling that I experienced was unfathomable. I was scalding hot; I thought my skin was going to burst open like an overcooked hot dog. I had a splitting headache that would not quit. I asked my nurse, “How am I supposed to deliver this baby, the hardest thing that my body has ever experienced, when I am so weak and can’t move?” She simply said, “You’ll do it.”

I was given two rounds of cervidil; a cervix ripening insert. During this time, I was getting checked for dilation frequently – let me tell you, that starts to feel incredibly uncomfortable too; raw, like pulling out a dry tampon. I didn’t dilate on the cervidil however, the doctor wasn’t surprised because here we were, six weeks before the baby was supposed to arrive and my body was not responding. We started miso through the night, another induction insert, which dilated me to 1cm and “a wiggle”. My husband and I prayed with such intensity; we were so conflicted – happy that our baby was coming however, we knew there was a rough road ahead. During another dilation check, my water broke all over the nurse’s arm. The water was warm and there was a lot of it. I was so relieved that it broke on its own; talks of ballooning and other induction mechanisms terrified me. After my water broke, I was given pitocin, level 10 and the real contractions began.

During my pregnancy, My husband and I took a labor course where the midwife explained the pain during active labor. She instructed that if you could power through seven centimeters of dilation, you were two hours away from seeing your baby – no pain medicine needed. I wanted to try to deliver my baby without pain medication. During my contractions I just kept thinking, when the pain gets worse, I will ask for the epidural. I focused “down”; that might not make a lot of sense but visualizing what was happening internally, helped. I reminded myself of positive affirmations; “My body is capable and strong. I’m choosing to be calm and confident during my baby’s birth.” We had a humidifier in the room, releasing essential oils (dōTERRA’s balance). I listened to my birthing playlist, which consisted of instrumental Christian music (After All These Years – Bethel Music). Ice chips. Even though my body was weak from the magnesium, I was still able to move around in the bed to position myself through the contractions; on my side, grabbing the bed frame, leaning over, etc. After two hours of active labor, I felt a burning like I had never felt before. Was I on fire? I began to shake uncontrollably. It felt like my butt cheeks were being ripped apart and I wanted to literally crawl out of my skin. I knew the Lord had not forsaken me however, I knew something was happening and I was terrified. I wanted that epidural – NOW!

The nurse said, “Let’s hope that you’re more than three centimeters dilated.” as she checked my cervix. She turned around and got on the phone; my husband was yelling, “What’s wrong, what’s going on?!” The nurse was calling the doctor as I was more than 9cm dilated and it was time to push. The bed raised up, the catheter came out, and the doctor came in with a shield and goggles on. It became clear that I was not getting any pain medicine. The contractions were so long, I couldn’t possibly push that long! How could I focus on pushing when my body was set on fire?The shaking continued and it’s possible that I blacked out on occasion. My first push wasn’t nearly long enough – I could feel the baby’s body in the birth canal. During my second push, the baby had come down and went back up; I know this not only because the doctor told me, but because when you don’t have any numbing medicine, you feel everything. I just knew that my legs had ripped from my hips. The third push happened in slow motion; baby’s head, shoulders, hips; I felt it all. The doctor placed a wide-eyed, powder-blue baby upon my chest. She started to cry, I told her, “happy birthday”, and my husband cut the umbilical cord. Everything else didn’t matter; the after-birth, the cramping and discomfort, the stitching – Amelia Jane was born and the earth stood still.