How Do I Deal With All The Other Parents?

How do I deal with Typical parents?

Let me pause right here at the beginning to say that I personally don’t find any offense in terms like “normal” or “regular” or “typical” or really anything. Like most words, they can be used in a way that is offensive – and they can be used non offensively, as well. I tend to use these words in this context to capture that feeling many of us have of being distinctly “not normal/regular/typical” – as in, “outside the norms” or “outside the average.” Our lives are not within the norms, our lives are not average. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not necessarily a good thing. It’s just a thing. If the word “normal” or “regular” offends you, you might choose to skip this post.

I see this feeling being expressed in special needs groups all the time.

“How do I handle my feelings when I read about my friends’ kids, who are all typical?”

“When I read my Facebook feed, I just feel icky about my own life – my kids will never do the things everyone else’s kids do.”

“We’re in the hospital dealing with x, what do I do about listening to my friend/sister/mom complain about a teething baby/a cold/a scraped knee?”

“I’ve been functioning on 5 hours of sleep or less nightly for a decade – I can’t handle my regular parent friends acting like they know what that’s like because their 6 year old had one rough night, but I don’t know what to do with that.”

It’s all variations on the theme of “How do I deal with all the regular parents?”

 

This Feeling is OK

You need to know that this feeling is ok. It’s perfectly acceptable to feel like this. I don’t know what percent of special needs parents feel this way at least once in their life, but I’m betting it’s a high percent, based on how often it comes up.

 

What is a Typical Parent?

A friend (herself a “typical parent” asked me once, “but what is a typical parent?” Speaking in generalities, in this context, “typical parent” is meant to encompass parents who have only typically developing children. Parents who have no special needs children, no medically complex children, no children with mental illness. I was a typical parent until my youngest was born. It’s not a bad thing.

 

What is the real problem?

Back to these vague icky feelings when bumping into typical parent concerns.

I think most of us understand that the real problem here is us, right? Obviously, on an academic level at least, we understand that the people experiencing normal parent things are distressed about those things, and those feelings of distress are perfectly normal. Teething does suck. Hitting is hard to deal with, and embarrassing on top of it, even if developmentally appropriate. Sick kids, even if sick with minor things, are hard. Losing sleep, even if just one night, is still hard.

Moving away from parenting, it’s like if a tornado destroyed your house and then you also see that a friend’s car broke down. You’ve lost EVERYTHING and your friend is whining about her car. But you can, at least academically, also understand that having to deal with a broken car is ALSO frustrating and expensive, even if it isn’t as devastating as losing everything you own.

Just because you’re experiencing something HARDER doesn’t make other people’s things NOT HARD.

But I don’t really need to say that, I don’t think. I think most people completely understand this. That’s what makes the icky feelings. We know that the other people aren’t doing anything wrong, and yet we feel…. We feel a lot of things.

 

What we’re feeling

What are we feeling? Jealousy. Loneliness. Left out. Alone. Like an outlier, a freak. Like the only one who has to deal with stuff beyond the typical.

And, in typical (see what I did there) human fashion, the thing we most often FEEL is anger. Humans are so good at anger. Anger is easy to feel, and it hides other emotions so we don’t have to acknowledge or deal with them. Anger – usually hiding something else.

So, if I’ve described you here in his post – finding it hard to cope with all the “normal” people in your life and their seemingly stupid, piddly problems, when you’re over here dealing with some really big stuff – take a bit and examine what it is you’re really feeling.

This might be a difficult exercise.

I think, for many, it’s jealousy and aloneness.

As Kermit said, it’s not easy being green. It’s not easy feeling like the ONLY ONE. And oh, how we want normalcy. Not “our” normal. Not “the new” normal. Just straight up normal. Or not even normal. Just not crisis.

When I was exclusively pumping for Tbear (who is tube fed), a post by someone trying to deal with their baby wanting to nurse all the time just shoved me right off of some invisible ledge. That was jealousy. SO MUCH Jealousy. I would have sacrificed my left breast to the gods of food if my child would just eat with his mouth. I would NEVER complain about nursing too much – how DARE she complain about something like that, when I would GLADLY sit in my chair ALL DAY and nurse my sweet baby if that’s what he wanted?  That, friends, is jealousy. Yep. I could own that. It was jealousy and it left me feeling really really icky, because this poor mama did nothing wrong and I hated her for a moment.

 

So what do we do?

I have a few suggestions of things that I’ve done that seem to have helped.

First, obviously, recognize – out loud – that the problem is you. The problem is you and that is OK. You’re dealing with a lot. But you need a solid understanding that the problem is not other people. Again, I think most of us already have this. Obviously, other people experiencing every day things and talking about them – even complaining about them – is absolutely fine. Do people in general complain too much? Sure, but that’s almost beside the point.

Second, practice kindness to yourself. Accept this part of you. You’re jealous and you feel alone. Or whatever feelings you identified earlier. These feelings are ok. You’re ok. You’re fine. You’re not a bad person.

Third, let go of the idea that your feelings are wrong because others have it worse than you. Embrace, instead, the similar but slightly different idea of practicing gratitude in your daily life. Your feelings are ok, they are not WRONG. But neither are they necessarily productive. Consider, every time you have these icky feelings, thinking about the things you have to be thankful for. Read, if you like, this post about how special needs parents are more grateful than typical parents. I think it’s so true. We have SO MUCH more to be thankful for. How many typical parents experience the level of joy that I did when Tbear zipped up a jacket by himself for the first time? How many typical parents celebrate things like a few ounces in weight gain, or a regular poop? They’re missing out.

Fourth, fill your life with nontypical parents and children. I really think this is what made the difference for me. I left all my regular parent groups, so I’m not inundated on social media with regular kid problems any more. I joined a ton of special needs groups. (Having a kid with a billion diagnoses makes that easy, lol.) I made friends with other special needs parents. The parent part of my social media feeds now are about 60% special needs kids and parents and 40% typical kids and parents. The special needs part is now the norm in my world. It feels normal. I feel like less of an outlier. I don’t feel like The Only One any more.

And that feeling? That no-longer-alone-in-this. That I-belong-somewhere. That is what makes it so much easier to not get bothered by the “my poor baby (4 year old) has a cold and is just miserable and we’re all so worried, even though she’s typically very healthy, we have no reason to think her body won’t fight this off in a few days, and needing to utilize a hospital or even a doctor has literally not even crossed our minds” type of posts.

 

I feel like I need to repeat for all of my typical parent friends. The problem is NEVER you. I NEVER want you to feel like you have to censor yourself around me. Your experiences are your experiences. It’s OK to say that your child’s cold is really bothersome. It’s ok to complain about teething. Just because someone else in the world is experiencing worse things doesn’t make your thing not a thing. I have friends whose child has died – and they would give anything to have my problems with Tbear because it would mean their child is still here, with them. I know this and yet that doesn’t make the things Tbear has to deal with any less difficult. You can complain about something while at the same time being grateful you don’t have something worse. Humans are complex creatures – we can multi-task.

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14 Tips for Exclusive Pumping

This is a reprint/update of an article I wrote on Teddy’s blog several years ago. I hope it has useful tips for those of you who pump part-time, as well, though I have no personal experience with that.

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I am not an expert. I’m not a Lactation Consultant (though I have found most LC’s to be less than super helpful about the practicalities of exclusive pumping). I’m just a mom who’s been there/done that.

Let’s get something out of the way. Exclusive pumping sucks. It sucks in a unique way. But it’s also giving your child something that is absolutely irreplacable. And, you’re awesome.

Most of this information is stuff I found elsewhere, or stuff that was told to me by others, most notably Megan from All That Hath Life and Breath and Sarah C. This is a random collection of information.

1. Pump overnight. Personally, I had to pump at least once, preferably twice, overnight. Prolactin levels are evidently higher overnight, plus not having those long stretches without emptying my breasts helped keep my supply up. Women who are not constantly tottering on the edge of not having enough milk can probably drop one or even all overnight sessions.

2. Cycle a bit if you have unproductive pumping sessions. If I didn’t get a certain minimum amount during the 3 or 4 AM session, and if my breasts still felt full but nothing more was coming out, I would stop after 30 minutes, sleep for another 30 minutes, and pump again for another 30 minutes. If I needed to, I did it again again.

3. Hand express after pumping to get the rest of the milk out. This was a game changer for me. I could sometimes get as much as 30-50 ml more by hand expressing.

4. Keep records. My detailed records were my best friend. Not everyone has to keep a spreadsheet and make charts with their pumping data, but it would be useful to most people to track when they pumped, how long they pumped, and how much they got. Over the course of a week or two, you can start to notice trends.

My pumping log.

5. Massage your breasts. Massage and compress while pumping, take a break while pumping to massage, and massage before pumping.

6. Pump in the car! I mean, you’re just sitting there anyway, right? I used to hook myself up to the pump before pulling out of our driveway on our weekly drives to the hospital 2 hours away, then once we hit the long boring stretch of highway, I’d turn the pump on. If this is distracting to you, don’t do it, but as I actively tried to keep my mind occupied with anything OTHER THAN pumping, it was perfect.

7. Zone out. Or, as Sarah C says, watch your head space. Don’t look at the bottles, think about how much you’re getting, etc. Sleep if you can. Watch NetFlix, knit. I sometimes read to my kids, or we did some schoolwork. I sat on the bed and played with Teddy. ANYTHING except think about pumping. All the advice you read for Pumping At Work moms is to picture your baby, picture milk flowing, picture water fountains, think about your baby nursing, etc. But most of the EP moms I’ve talked to say that this does NOT work for them. Thinking of my baby, my milk, etc., just triggered deep emotions of sadness over the fact that I was not nursing him, and that didn’t lead to easy let-downs.

8. Try longer sessions. LCs consistently suggest that pumping sessions should only last 20 minutes. As you get accustomed to pumping, you can bump that up and get multiple let-downs. I was a one-let-down-per-session girl when I was just pumping 20 minutes at a time. If I pumped for 50-60 minutes, I usually got 3-4. And my breasts did NOT protest and move to a new state like I thought they might.

9. Get a good pump. Hospital grade. Rent one first if you want, then do the math on renting vs buying. I did not rent one, I just bought what I had used in the NICU because I already knew I liked it, and it was cheaper, over the course of a year, to buy. (With new laws since I was EPing, insurance might have to cover a breastpump, but I’m not sure they have to cover a hospital grade pump. Those Medala Pump N Styles are great for the part time pumper who also has a nursing baby to keep her supply up, but you don’t have that. Exclusive pumpers generally speaking *need* a hospital grade pump.)

This is at the hospital, but it’s my hospital grade pump.

10. Donor milk. If keeping your baby on breastmilk is important to you and you’re struggling, find some lactating friends and see if they’ll pump a bit for you.

11. Embrace the weird nipple shape. It is somewhat normal for your nipples to look swollen and misshapen after you pump. It doesn’t happen to everyone, evidently, but don’t be alarmed at how your boobs look when you take the pump off. They will go back to normal. Eventually. (And I’m talking, a few years after I stopped pumping, I stopped thinking my boobs looked all weird. It was totally worth it, though.)


Yes, I measured breastmilk with my 4 cup measuring cup.

 

Increasing Supply:

12. Power pumping or cycling. I personally had the most success with MANUAL means of increasing my supply. Pumping more often, pumping longer, power pumping (10 on/10 off for an hour), pumping 10 minutes every 30-60 minutes around the clock for a day or two, etc. When I started having low supply, I STARTED addressing the problem by pumping every hour during the day and making sure to be diligent about getting up at night. I did NOT get discouraged when those pumping sessions don’t yield much milk – they were merely putting in an order.

13. Supplement. Then I added in supplements. Teas never did much for me, even fresh herb teas, but some people do find they make a difference. Placenta pills (from my placenta) were useful. Fresh fenugreek (buy the seed and crush it and put it in capsules). Brewer’s Yeast (same thing – put it in capsules). Goat’s Rue, Milk Thistle.

14. Beer, Oatmeal, and Ice Cream. Most people I know swear by a nightly IPA for good supply. Eating oatmeal and ice cream may or may not help, but they can’t hurt. Lactation cookies (recipes are all over the internet) are tasty and at least something fun to eat while you’re pumping…

I just couldn’t resist including this picture of that little baby foot kicking the pump horns. Which hurt, by the way.

 

And a bonus tip:

15. Make your pumping space comfortable. You’re to be spending a lot of time there. I stole a rocker recliner from another room. I kept books and knitting and a phone charger there. I bought myself a DVD player with Wifi so I could watch movies or Netflix. I kept a water bottle in the fridge. (OK, not everyone will have a mini fridge near their pumping station, but I had one in there for breastmilk storage, to store pump parts between pumping sessions (ooo, hot tip #16 – wash pump parts daily, store in fridge between sessions), and to store Teddy’s meds and other medical things.

Brilliant Ways to Use A Visual Timer with Your Child

Visual timers are a GREAT tool to use with children, whether special needs or not. We’ve actually owned a Time Timer ™ since my oldest was a toddler and it’s one of my very favorite parenting tools.

Typically developing little kids, and developmentally delayed older kids, struggle with understanding time. It’s very non-concrete and kids just aren’t developmentally ready to tackle abstract things like time. And yet time is such a big part of our lives. The visual timer helps kids to SEE time, which helps them to learn how time works, and which also helps them (and you) navigate their day a little more smoothly.

Timer options

There are several options out there for visual timers. In my experience, a 60 minute timer works best in a wide variety of situations. I love the Time Timer ™. It’s rugged, it’s easy to put back together (yes, lol), it has a clear display, and it’s easy for kids to set themselves as they gain skill. There are other options for physical timers, as well. I advise staying away from oven timers and the like – they tend to have a very unpleasant ring.

I also have a few visual timer apps on my phone, one is called OK Timer and the other is just called Visual Timer (both android, I have no idea if they’re available for Apple). And we have a one-minute timer of the colored-liquid-in-clear-plastic variety.

Using the Timer

I’m not going to pretend to know the best way to parent your child. I can tell you that with my three kids, I’ve had two who needed the rule to be that when the timer went off, it was time to do whatever they were to do when the timer went off. I’ve had one who sincerely needed another five minutes after the timer went off. We just set the timer for  5 minutes less than we really wanted, then let him set it for another 5.

I’ve had two kids who just generally cooperated with the timer. And one kid who needed rewards to cooperate with the timer.

I’ve had two who really came to rely on the timer to measure progress through the day, keep track of time on tasks or until events, etc., and one who really didn’t care for the timer and only used it for “you can do this for x minutes” or “you have to do this for x minutes” occasions.

So, do what works for you and for your kid.

Brilliant Ways to Use A Visual Timer

Transitions

Moving from a preferred activity to a nonpreferred activity, such as stopping playing with toys and taking a bath, or turning off the TV (set the timer to coincide with the end of the show) and coming to eat dinner.

Ending an Activity, like turning off the iPad, turning off the TV, getting out of the bath.

Starting an Activity, like homework, a bath, getting dressed, taking medications.

How Long Until…

The timer comes in really handy for those times your kid knows something is going to happen in the near future, but they can’t quite hang on to the idea of exactly how far in the near future. Once it gets to be less than an hour, set the timer and refer your child back to the timer. They can actually watch the minutes passing.

How long until we get in the car? How long until my friend comes over? How long until dinner? How long until bedtime?

Independent Play

I’m working on a future post about teaching independent play to children, but a visual timer can really help with this. You start out by getting your child involved in an activity he or she enjoys and can do without help. Bring in the timer, set it for a short period (2-5 minutes). Explain that you need to step away quick but you’ll be right back. He or she needs to stay in the room and play, but you’ll be back before the timer goes off. Step away, wait, come back, and praise the child for playing by him or herself before rejoining the play. Repeat, slowly increasing the minutes on the timer.

Travel

We use the timer in the car to help manage the “are we there” and “how much longer” issues. Currently, I can set the timer for an hour, and then set it for additional time and that goes OK, but that was tricky for a while, and we just would wait to set the timer until we were about an hour out from making a stop. We tend to stop every hour and a half when everyone’s awake, and having the timer REALLY helps with the repetitive questions.

Waiting

Waiting is SO HARD when you don’t have a good sense of time. The timer helps with at least two waiting-related issues.

Learning to wait. When the child asks for help with a non-urgent task, let him or her know that you can’t help right then, but you can help in 2 minutes. Set the timer. (Eventually, you can work on waiting patiently, but don’t expect that to happen right off.)

Managing anxious feelings when waiting. Waiting for a favorite TV show. Waiting for a parent to get home. Waiting for a snack to cook. Waiting is just hard, but using the timer lets the child see the time passing and makes waiting a bit more manageable, because it doesn’t seem like it’s going to last for eternity.

Completing an Activity

Kids tend to rush through nonpreferred activities. For one of mine, it’s the bath. He hates the bath, so his baths tend to consist of squatting in the water, then bouncing back out and declaring himself clean. Ummmm….no. So we use the timer. You have to sit all the way down, and you have to stay in there for 5 minutes and then I’ll come in and help you wash. (Note: he hates it in the sense that he’d just rather be doing something else. He doesn’t hate it in the sense that it really genuinely bothers him. I wouldn’t force him to stay in for five minutes if it was an actual issue.)

A timer is good for tooth brushing, too. (I prefer the liquid minute timer for this.) We also use it for hair brushing, for daily chores (your bedroom will take at least ten minutes to clean. I don’t want to see you until this goes off), etc.

Calming

When we’re headed toward a sensory overload or a meltdown, we can grab the timer and the kid, and do some calming activities until the timer beeps. I don’t know about other kids, but MY kid with tends to think that he only needs to barely take one deep breath before he’s ready to go back to whatever he was doing. Using a timer helps in several ways – first, it actually gives him something to focus on that’s relaxing (we use the liquid minute timer and flip it 5 times), and second, it helps him know there is a definite end to the “time in.” He WILL get to go back to playing. Since he knows the break won’t be forever, he’s usually more cooperative with doing a few calming activities like rocking, deep breaths, massage, etc.

Taking Turns

Taking turns can be really hard. The timer helps. Not only does it keep the turns strictly fair, but it also helps the person whose turn it is NOT to see that their waiting will not be forever.

 

I hope this gives you some ideas on how to incorporate a visual timer into your daily life. My regular kids have really liked the visual timer throughout their day when they were younger. With Teddy, who has developmental delays and special needs, we use the timer almost constantly during the day. We’ve had times we’ve had several timers going, even. Once you start using a visual timer, you’ll start seeing all the ways it can help your child’s day go just a bit smoother.

 

 

 

Rethinking Childbirth

I don’t often share Christian articles here. I am a Christian, a conservative one at that, and that is essentially the reason why Wallypop exists in the first place. While I am not ashamed of my faith and do not hide it, I know many of you are not also believers, and see no reason to drive you away from the rest of my dazzling blog content (ha ha) by posting a lot of stuff you won’t be interested in.

So please respect that this is one of the few occasions when I WILL post something that is very overtly Christian. And also note that you STILL might be interested in reading it.

I don’t often share articles about natural childbirth here. blah blah, same disclaimer as above. I believe every woman has the right to make her own educated decisions about how she will birth her children, and those decisions should be supported by her caregivers and family. Unfortunately, relatively few women in this country get to experience what that’s like – making educated decisions and being supported.

And now, the link. Rethinking Childbearing, Part I and Part II.

I do not necessarily personally agree with some of the finer points of Christianity discussed in the article. I don’t even necessarily agree that childbirth is or must be painful. (Mine have been uncomfortable, but I associate the word Pain with having a kidney stone – and I’ve passed two. The experiences are nothing alike.) And, last, I find it annoying that the author seems to believe that medical interventions in childbirth are at a mother’s request. Certainly, they are at her approval (as the OB must have consent to treat), but I think the author underestimates the pressure put on women by their care providers and that, as a man, he also lacks a good understanding of the mental status of a woman in labor.

All that said, I liked the article because I’ve not read such a thorough examination of current childbirth practices from a Christian/Bible perspective.

“Many mothers-to-be today buy into modern medicine’s disdain for God’s natural, physiological processes, and in essence agree that God’s design is inherently defective.”

“The so-called “experts” in the field of obstetrical practice desire that families do minimal thinking on their own and submit to the superior wisdom of modern medical science.”

“Because today there is an unrealistic expectation on the part of parents and medical personnel as to how long labor should take, especially a first labor, the many ‘helps’ that are available from the hospital ‘pain reduction’ menu often are the very factors that lead to eventual C-sections.”

And particularly these questions, which I think hit that nail squarely on the head:

“Had adopting the hospital model caused women to lose their innate instincts of how to give birth? Had the shift
in thinking produced a generation of women who wanted ‘natural childbirth’  but found it difficult to proceed because their own perspective (as well as the hospital’s perspective) of ‘natural childbirth’  lacked a full understanding of the process?”

Vacation with cloth, without laundry facilities

Yes, it’s doable.

Here was our situation: Family trip (as in, us with DH’s parents and sibs). Cruise ship. No laundry facilities. (Obviously I did not choose the ship.) Genna is pretty much 100% potty trained at home, but she does not always tell us if she needs to pee when we’re not home. Additionally, she will often say “no” in response to “do you need to pee” when what she means is “yes, but I’m busy right now.” And she has a tendency to wait to tell us she needs to pee when she’s got approx. 8 seconds to get to the toilet. She’s dry overnight if she’s sleeping well, but has a tendency to pee in her sleep on nights when she’s restless. So – I had no idea what to expect on this trip from her.

We decided to take flat diapers, since they would wash the easiest and dry the fastest,  not to mention that they pack so compactly. I also took several pairs of training pants because those would be easier on the travel days than trying to deal with a diaper and cover in the airplane bathroom. We also decided that we would throw away any poopy diapers, rather than trying to get them clean by hand washing in water of unknown temperature. (I wasn’t sure how hot the water on the boat would get.) I packed enough diapers for two days of full-time diapering, in addition to wipes and a few covers.

I hand-washed wet diapers and training pants in the sink in our bathroom – one at a time – every time we had one in need of washing. I rinsed them out under running cold water, then let them soak in hot soapy water for a few minutes before agitating with my hands for several minutes. I rinsed in hot water, then cold water, until I didn’t see any more bubbles. We hung them to dry using clothes pins and skirt hangers. The bathroom was too humid, so I actually hung them out on our cabin’s deck. Our cabin mates (my MIL, FIL, MIL’s aunt, and MIL’s friend) were not super impressed by this, but *shrug.* There were a few days when we had oily soot from the ship’s smokestacks covering everything on the deck, and on those days, I hung diapers in the closet or in front of the window from the curtain rod. I brought clothesline, but was reluctant to just string it up somewhere.

Dipes drying on the deck

We didn’t have too many diapers to deal with, fortunately, but I think our system would have still worked out just fine even if she was in dipes full-time. Flats are not hard to wash by hand, they rinse clean fairly easily, and they dry fast.

I used flats that I made from birdseye fabric, in addition to some that I bought on clearance a little while back. We used some liquid laundry soap that I had sitting around the laundry room from our last trip last summer. It was probably Costco brand.

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yes, we could have just switched to disposables. but I didn’t want to. (And Genna got a horrible rash the one time she wore a disposable.) Had we been using disposables, I would have had to devote a lot more suitcase room to diapers, since I would have needed to pack enough to last the whole 12 days we were gone. And I would have had to worry about running out! And I’m honestly not sure what I would have done with them on the ship. They don’t have plastic liner bags in the garbage cans, and I wouldn’t have wanted to smell dirty disposable diapers all day, either.

As it turns out, using cloth was not a big deal. It didn’t take up much time. It was no more effort than using cloth at home. It was not a big deal.

Dipes drying on the deck