Meet a How Do You Do It? author

SaraC

Sara is a mama of four children, two of them being surprise identical twin girls. She is happily married to the love of her life, stays home with her children and is currently homeschooling her oldest child. Most of her writing is centered around raising awareness about Crouzon Syndrome and cleft palates, advocating for your child, homeschooling and raising multiples. Find her blog at confessionsofanoutnumberedmom.com.

Travelling With Multiples

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Categories Ask the Readers, Preschoolers, School-Age, Toddlers, Travel3 Comments

Who else has Spring Fever??? So many people have been slammed with snow, us included, that I’m getting slightly tired of it…and it’s only February! Colorado had a rare 70 degree day yesterday and it got me thinking about our travel plans this Spring.

My family lives here in Colorado close to us. Special K’s family lives in Kansas. Google Maps says it takes 5.5 hours door to door.

We have four kids…we know this isn’t true…for us.

All in all, it takes us under 7 hours to get from our house to my in laws in the van. And we’re actually pretty good at handling it…both the kids and the grown ups. Here are some of my road trip survival tips with multiples (or with multiple children):

  1. Start them early.We began doing this trip when each child was about a month old. It wasn’t always easy, but it was worth it because now they are used to being in the car for long periods of time. You may be thinking, “thanks jerk, my kid is four, this tip is worthless.” Sorry! Read on, I have more up my sleeve. :)
  2. Plan ahead. Before we go on any trip that is longer than an hour, we plan for potty breaks and possible leg stretching breaks. We will alter our route to ensure that there are ample opportunities to walk and pee if necessary. If no one needs the break, we just cruise on by. We also pack snacks, diapers and extra clothes. These may seem like “duh” moments, but a few weeks ago we had a trip to the aquarium, which is just over an hour from our home. I packed snacks just in case, thinking we wouldn’t need them…but there was a HUGE car accident that left us sitting on the highway for about 45 minutes. If I hadn’t packed those snacks, there would have been an uprising! 3 of my kids are in diapers, so this seems like a silly thing to add to the list, but again, I always plan for more than I could possibly need, because I am terrified of running out. If it’s a day trip, I still bring at least one change of clothes because spills happen and diaper leaks happen and no one wants to sit in wet clothes!
  3. Leave right before nap time or bed.The bedtime one might be hard on the grownups if you’re cool like me and go to bed by 10, but it is soooo nice to have a quiet trip the whole way! Typically, we leave right before or right after lunch…that way, there is some activity in the car as a distraction (food), and then the littles have their nap afterwards. This can buy us anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours of silence.
  4. Pack comfort items.This is critical, especially on our long road trips to Gramma and Papas house. H still uses a binky, but we are strict that she only gets it for nap and bed time. The one exception to this rule is long road trips. It’s her way of soothing herself and if it keeps her happy, then we all are happy! M likes her monkey and her blanky…she gets those too. Whatever it is, even if you don’t pull it out unless you are desperate, bring it. It is way better to have it and not need it then to need it and not have it (I’m talking one item per kid…don’t use this logic for the whole toy box!).
  5. Pack activities.My oldest is seven, so she can have things like a book or coloring pages. Sweet Pea also enjoys a folder of coloring pages. For this I simply print up free coloring pages that I find online, hole punch them and put them in a 3-ring binder. Each child also gets their own pencil box with crayons/washable markers. I get some of the free coloring pages from PBS Kids and others from my favorite mom bloggers. Do a little looking on Google and you can find a whole lot of free goodies! As for the Twinkies, I simply pack some toys that they haven’t seen or played with in a while.
  6. Electronics. I know, I know…they are young and electronics are so pervasive, but seriously, it is a seven. hour. car. ride. We have a Kindle Fire, kids version, that has an account for M&M and Sweet Pea, as well as a dual monitor DVD player that the Twinkies use to watch shows and movies. The kids only get such electronics in the car for our long haul trips, which keeps them special…and highly effective.

Now for the fun part. We just booked a trip to visit my Grammy in Florida this May. YAY! Here’s the kicker…we’re flying. The Twinkies are 2, so they need their own tickets now. Okay okay, even if they weren’t two, I would buy them their own seats because who wants to have a wiggly kid on their lap for 6 hours? Not me! Only M&M has been on a plane…my three littles are total newbies.

So what did I do? I read about 3715 blog posts on how to travel with toddlers on airplanes, but none of them really addressed the issue of multiples. Three of my children are under the age of four, and all of them are in diapers. I know that this will be challenging. Thankfully, some of my above tips can be modified for the airplane, but I’m still wondering how to manage this?

Here’s our current plan:

We have two flights with a nearly 2 hour layover in between (the gates are really close together and they are with the same airline, so we didn’t feel the need to factor in more time there).

We are bringing the car seats with us so no need to worry about renting them in Florida.

We will be bringing above mentioned coloring kits, Kindle Fires (we have two) and our laptops. That brings us to one coloring kit and electronic device per child.

I am planning on packing lots of little snacks that they will have to spend time opening (like presents!), and am considering giving them things like mini M&M’s that they don’t normally get.

We are also seriously considering purchasing a Trunki for each child.

10835410-1375201107-272949Have you ever seen such a thing? Have you ever heard of these? There are loads of rave reviews on them, and according to the website, they can handle all four of my children. Well, not at once. But one at a time! The kids can sit on them while we wait in various lines at the airport, and there is a “leash” attachment where we could drag them behind us…or they could drag each other.

If you’ve used these, could you please let me know what you think? We might buy just one and see what we think, before committing to three more.

Okay dear readers:

What have I missed? 

What tips do you have for travelling with multiples? With toddlers? 

Do you have any advice specific to airplane travel?

Happy travelling!

 

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Mommy Judgment and Me Time

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Categories Diversity, Guilt, Mommy Issues, Multiple Solutions, Other people, PerspectiveLeave a comment

Generally speaking, parents are supportive of one another. We share parenting tips, recommend kid-friendly restaurants, and set up playdates. However, we can also be brutally judgmental of each other.

“Me time” is an area where otherwise accepting and supportive people dive headfirst into the mommy wars.

Just the other day, Sadia found herself nodding along in disbelieving and disapproving agreement when a summer camp counselor mentioned that another parent had arrived half an hour late to pick up her child because she’d fallen asleep. “How dare she,” Sadia thought, “make use of summer camp time to take a nap!” The fact is, we don’t know this other mother’s circumstances. Perhaps she works nights. Perhaps she’s unwell. Perhaps she fell asleep at work at her desk. Perhaps she has a newborn. Perhaps she fell asleep at her desk while suffering from mastitis.

SaraBeth receives a lot of “it must be nice” comments on getting a sitter and doing so regularly. It used to annoy her, but that time together as a couple is more important to her than big vacations or fancy name brand clothes. It’s her choice, and her husband’s, to make that time a priority.

Elizabeth, a single mom, is frequently told that she shouldn’t be running errands when her girls are with their dad. Instead, she is told  she should be doing more stuff for herself, such as getting coffee with friends or setting a massage/hair/nails appointment. She has her “me time” set up just how she likes it, and it isn’t when the girls are with their dad. She stays as busy as possible during that time running errands and getting things done that are harder to do with 2 preschoolers in tow.

Sadia is also a single mom. Lots of people (most recently her dentist) tell her that she should be grateful to have several weeks child-free during the summer when her ex-husband exercises his visitation rights. She doesn’t see it that way. She only has 9 years left before her twins leave home to build their adult lives. She wants to make the most of their time together while they still enjoy her company. The teen years and parental rejection that will come with that aren’t far off. Call her boring, but she doesn’t spend her nights drinking and clubbing when the girls are away. Instead, she ends up spending more hours at work and the gym. She’d much rather be adventuring with her daughters.

As a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), SaraC finds a lot of people asking her, “What do you do with all that time?”. Three of her 4 children are still in diapers, so we MoMs know exactly what she’s doing: primarily feeding and cleaning four people, keeping them safe, and letting them know that they are loved.

MandyE received negative feedback for a blog post she wrote one time about “me time”.  The commenter challenged her that “’me time’ begets ‘me time’” and if she continued to “indulge”, she would grow to resent her children.  She admits the harsh words threw her for a loop and caused her to question herself.

Amy is her own worst critic. She criticizes herself for having help with childcare and housekeeping even though she’s a stay at home mom of four (two sets of twins). If she didn’t have help, she would never get “me time”. She deserves to go to the store by herself too!

Jen Wood gets judged for not taking “me time” at all. During the time she was a SAHM, she couldn’t justify paying someone to watch her kids unless she was making money to offset it. She had a high school girl, an assistant at the boys’ preschool, watch the boys ONCE. After paying her $30 for 2.5 hours out, Jen just could not do it again. It felt far too indulgent for a mother making zero dollars an hour. She doesn’t have family nearby, so free care is off the table. Most of Jen’s “me” time is at home with the kids, doing something in another room while they destroy the one they are in.

People ask SaraC, when she’ll go back to work, judging her for being a SAHM. Her answer is that she’ll return when it’s right for her family. She also meets working moms who feel they need to explain themselves to her! SaraC responds by letting these moms know that she worked when she just only 2 kids, so she completely understands the working mom’s lifestyle. She also fully recognizes that each family is different. She has no time or desire to judge a working mom and would appreciate them withholding judgment too!

During Sadia’s early Army wife days, she was informed by other military spouses that she was an abhorrent mother for working outside the home. She was told that a good mother would stay home with her babies. Her response then was that she was a better mother when she didn’t look to her children to fulfill her intellectually and socially. The outlet of work allowed Sadia to focus on being for the babies what they needed. Her response now is that her job provided stability, both financial and psychological. Her divorce three years ago would have been much more traumatic to the children if they weren’t already accustomed to Sadia working full time. If she didn’t have an established career to fall back on, with a salary to match, they would have noticed a rapid decline in their quality of life, one from which Sadia was able to shield them. 

Michelle finds other mothers expecting her to have far more free time now that her children are older. There is a hope (maybe a fallacy) that “me time” increases with our children’s age. That hasn’t been true at all for Michelle. The children don’t nap and they stay up later. Their demands are just as insistent. There’s as much, if not more, to stay on top of. Michelle’s husband has asked her to consider quitting her job, but with the cost of extracurricular activities, the family relies on her paycheck to help defray the cost of five kids in five different activities.

We’ve all been judged for how we spend our time. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve probably judged other mothers. We hope that our perspectives have shown how different “me time” can be and there is no single approach that works for every family.


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Inexpensive Ways to Make Time with Your Partner

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Whether you’re a two income family, or a one income family, money is a concern. As a one income family of six, creativity is the name of the game when it comes to entertainment, date nights, and me time. For me, being with my husband—alone—often translates to me time. As I mentioned in a previous Me Time post, nurturing my marriage is crucial to both myself and my husband.

Recently, we moved from the city to the country to be closer to my husband’s family. It has been quite an adjustment for everyone, but a wonderful one overall. Because of this, we have free babysitting, BUT we do not abuse them, we always plan ahead with them, and our children pay them in slobbery kisses.

I asked my husband for input on this, and his immediate response was sex. Well yes, he’s right, sex is free and you don’t have to leave the house or hire a sitter. Can I actually talk about such things on a parenting blog? I suppose so, since we became parents this way! All joking aside, finding ways to be intimate in any way with your partner is a fantastic use of Me Time and can truly enrich your marriage/partnership.

Other ways my husband and I make time for one another, AND that will not get me in trouble in the blogosphere, include:

Date night in. We have Netflix and Hulu streaming subscriptions, so our options for movies are vast. We also have a large DVD collection to choose from. I’m also a fan of the free Redbox codes that come out occasionally. If it isn’t free, it is still way cheaper than a movie ticket! Pick a movie, grab a snack, and cuddle up together.

We are also huge game night fans and really enjoy playing cards together. This is a great way to initiate conversation fairly easily and it rarely revolves around the children. ~Cough, ahem, cough~ We also enjoy playing video games, like Zelda and Final Fantasy. And this mama has been known to pull out her NES for a good game of Super Mario Bros. Just sayin’.

Take people up on their offers. If you have friends or family members that have offered to help you with meals or childcare (and you trust them), take them up on it. As one who has been on both the giving and receiving ends of this offer, they really do mean it and are truly happy to help.

Go for a walk. This requires some outside help (see above or hire someone), but aside from finding someone responsible to watch your child(ren) for a bit, a walk is free. My husband and I walk every evening together when he is not traveling for work. Typically this is after the children have gone to bed so that my in-laws only have to be there for nightmares and ensure that a fire doesn’t break out. We don’t go for more than 20-30 minutes, but it is a great way to clear our heads after a long day and reconnect as a couple.

Go shopping. Oh yeah, now we’re getting sexy. Wait, buying groceries and clothes for the kids who insist on eating and growing isn’t sexy. But finding a way to do it with one another—without said kids—that’s special. I always enjoy those shopping trips more because we always ALWAYS end up giggling and really enjoying that time. This too, requires some outside help. Currently, we do this after the children are in bed as well. This way, we aren’t abusing grandma and grandpa.

What if I don’t have free help like you? Before we moved here, we used friends and occasional family members. I also called up our local college and found out that they have a website for their students who are looking for part time work. I went on, posted a babysitting job at the hourly rate I was willing to pay, interviewed applicants and ended up hiring a wonderful sophomore who became very close with our children for a year. Perhaps your local church would know someone reliable and reasonably priced. Or your local MOPS or multiples group might have some references (or older children of their own looking for a job).

Get creative! While it isn’t always easy, we make time for our marriage. Sometimes it’s free, sometimes it costs a little bit, but the investment into our relationship is priceless. (Did I go a little MasterCard advertisement there?) There are no limits on your creativity. If you’re out of ideas and don’t like mine, ask your partner. Just be ready for an answer like my guy’s. Yeah, I’m keeping this one!

 


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook,Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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4 Ways to Make Me Time Every Day

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Categories Making Time for Me, Parenting2 Comments

As a stay at home mother of four children, three of whom are still in diapers, “me time” is a luxury. Me time is hard to get most days—impossible on some—but I always make an effort to get some. How we make time for ourselves as mothers is as different as we are, but it is important nonetheless. I hope that in sharing what I do, it might stir up some ideas for you as well.

We’ve all seen this photo around on social media…

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… so don’t worry, I’m not about to suggest hiding here! However, I have tried it… and failed.

Kidding aside, there are four things that I do (to try) to get me time every day.

I get up before my children do. I know I know I KNOW what you’re going to say, “Every mom blogger says this! It’s too hard and I need my sleep!” Know how I know this? I’ve said it for years. I didn’t actually attempt this until I had my Twinkies, kiddos 3 and 4, and was in the most sleep deprived period of my life.

For me, it started by accident. My husband had gotten a new job that allowed him to work from home about 50-75% of the time, but traveling the rest of that time. During his first trip away, I figured out that I had to get up 15-30 minutes before the girls did so that I was ready to feed two hungry babies alone. The house was dark and quiet; there was no one crying or asking for anything. It was just me, the gigantic nursing pillow, bottles, and the coffee maker. In my first solo week, I learned that in giving up 15 minutes of sleep, I gained more peace and patience, and my children gained a happier, more put together mama.

Fast forward to nearly a year later and my husband still travels, but I typically get up 30 minutes before my kids do even when he is home. It gives me time to wake up, drink my coffee, plan my day, prep dinner, and generally be ready for whatever my four little monkeys might throw at me.

I take a walk. This happens every day that my husband isn’t travelling. When he has some downtime (or when I must have a break ASAP because I just can’t take it anymore), he will emerge from the office and take over, allowing me to get outside, get some air and most days, some clarity.

Okay, so your spouse/partner doesn’t work from home? No problem! After dinner, or bedtime, or whatever works for you, GO! Commit to 10 minutes a day. That ends up being 70 minutes a week! (See how I just snuck in exercise and self care into this?)

I rotate toys. What? Huh? How does that get you “me time”? We all know that kids can turn a beautiful living room or play room into a post apocalyptic scene in the time it takes you to pee. That being said, I only have a large tote worth of toys that are easily accessible to my children at any given time. If they want a special tote, then they have to pick up every other toy before I pull it out. Currently, the Lego tote is the special tote in our house. Lego time is one of my favorite times of the day! It is guaranteed to keep them busy for 30-90 minutes (depending on the kiddo). I usually don’t have to referee for the first 10-15 minutes. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is!

I clean as I go, and my kids help. Once the kids are in bed, I want to relax, hang out with Special K, read a book, watch TV or blog. I don’t want to be filling the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, or picking up toys.

My children are old enough to help with small tasks. Each child is expected to help clear the table after each meal (as much as they can, age appropriately), toys must be picked up before meals and bed, and everyone has to help tidy up at the end of the day. My oldest has a chore chart and is getting ready to start moving from stickers to an allowance. My three littles are still at the age where they really love to be “helpers”, so I figure, why not teach them how to really help now? Stickers, new crayons, and lots of praise are rewards that work in our house.

Ultimately, I rarely have much cleaning to do after my kids are in bed, which frees up the evening for me to unwind and relax.

What about you? How do you find me time every day? Do you trip and fall into it or do you ensure that you make time for you every day? Get creative!

Sara is a mama of four children, two of them being surprise identical twin girls. She is happily married to the love of her life, stays home with her children and is currently homeschooling her oldest child. Most of her writing is centered around raising awareness about Crouzon Syndrome and cleft palates, advocating for your child, homeschooling and raising multiples. Find her blog at Confessions of an Outnumbered Mom.


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook,Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Children Matter, But Not Above All Else

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Categories Making Time for Me, Marriage, Parenting, Perspective, Time Management53 Comments

My children are not the most important thing in my life. GASP! Okay. Deep breath. Let’s try this one again.

I have four incredible, messy, beautiful, frustrating, funny and crazy children. And they are not the most important thing in my life. There… I said it.

I realize that such a statement is not a popular one, so let’s go back to the title that children matter. My children matter so much to myself and my husband. They are the reason we wake up early (too early) every morning. They are the reason that my husband works hard at his wonderful job. They are the reason I chose to leave my job and stay home after the Twinkies (#3 and 4) were born.

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These four beauties hold my heart. So why aren’t they the most important things in my life? Three big reasons: doing so makes them the center of my world, my marriage, and taking care of their mama (me) matters a whole lot.

#1 – Making my children the most important thing makes them the center of my world.

The idea of making my world revolve around my children is a problematic one for me. Making them my sole focus puts unrealistic expectations on them and gives them the job of making me happy. They are children, they are innocent, and their only job is to be a kid, not to make their mama happy. Additionally, making them the center of my world takes energies away from my marriage and self-care.

#2 – Nurturing my marriage benefits my entire family.

Special K (my hubby) and I have built a strong foundation for our marriage, but that doesn’t mean that we can forget about it and count on it to be just as strong later on. We must put time and energy into our marriage. Whether they know it or not, our children need us to nurture our marriage so that they can grow up in a happy, healthy, two parent home.

In no way am I putting down single parents or divorced parents. As a child of divorce, I know what it feels like and I nurture my marriage in the hopes of protecting my children from such feelings.

If you’re a parent, you know that your child(ren) watch everything you do… everything. This includes how I speak to my husband, how he greets me when he returns from work, how we fight and how we make up. We know that our children watch our examples, and in putting my marriage first, I am (hopefully) teaching them how to model their relationships after ours.

Okay so how do we do that?

I’m going to delve deeper into this on a future post this week, but for a few quick ideas:

  • Date night in after the kids are in bed. Easy and free!
  • Utilize offers from family and friends of help, whether that’s bringing a meal, watching kids, or something else. If people in your life offer to help, let them!
  • Get creative! We are a single income family supporting 6, but we still make time (which sometimes costs money) for our marriage. Our last date was a trip alone to the grocery store! Sexy? No. Fun and loaded with non-kid conversation? Yes! There is no limit to how creative you can get. You just have to be willing to look at things differently and be committed to taking time to take care of your relationship.

We had children early into our marriage, but we were married first. This relationship is primary for us. Someday, if we do this whole parenting thing right, our children will leave our home as independent individuals and we will be left with just each other. After our children grow up, I want my marriage to continue and I want to know and love the man that I’m sharing an empty nest with. In order to do that, I have to put him and our relationship before our children… FOR our children.

#3 – Taking care of mama so that I can, in turn, take care of the children.

Oftentimes, I find that I take care of my family before I take care of me. I’m sure that I am not alone in this. For the last year, I’ve been dealing with a major health issue that has hopefully been resolved with recent brain surgery. I had to leave my children for three very long weeks while I left the state to receive my surgery and post-operative care. Since being home, I’ve had to let others take the lead while I ensure that I don’t overdo it. Obviously, this is extreme, but the point is still valid. If I didn’t take care of myself, I would have died. Then who would be their mother?

Okay, how about a more relatable tale? With my last (twin) pregnancy, I gained about 55 pounds. I nursed both twins so the weight came off quickly, but I knew that I needed to take care of myself to keep the weight off after weaning the girls. I found a gym with daycare options and pinched and tweaked our budget for a few months while we worked the membership into it. As soon as I got the membership, I went at least every other day. I found that when I was done at the gym, I felt stronger, healthier, and more emotionally available to my children.

What I’ve learned over the past few years is that I am a better mother when I am healthy, well rested, etc. Perhaps you need 10 minutes to yourself to sneak in a walk after dinner when your spouse or friend can watch the children? Perhaps you need to skip a latte or two so you can get your hair done? Perhaps you need to go to bed 30 minutes earlier tonight so that you are better rested for your day tomorrow? Whatever it is, if you take care of their mother first, your child(ren) will have a healthier, more secure, happier life.

What things do you do to take care of your marriage/your relationship/yourself?

How do you encourage or remind yourself to take time for you?


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Cleft Awareness

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Categories Congenital Anomaly, Medical, Parenting, Special Needs38 Comments

July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month! Find more #cleftawareness photos and stories on Facebook!

Sweet Pea’s Story

On a beautiful Colorado day in June of 2012, my heart was racing with anticipation and excitement. Our long awaited second child was about to make his entry into the world! When he was born, he made no sound because his cord was wrapped around his neck…twice. They removed it and within moments, he was screaming his head off. It was like music to my ears! Moments later, the doctor informed me that our son, our Sweet Pea, was born with a cleft palate. While we knew that this was a possibility as I was born with one as well, it was still a blow. I had walked this road, and I knew of the struggles that he would face.

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He was admitted to the NICU for observation due to his difficult delivery, but ended up staying for 3 days because he needed oxygen. He went home with oxygen, and remained on it for 13 weeks. During that time, feeding became a major issue. Our son was born without any of his soft palate, and was missing some of his hard palate as well. When people hear that we had cleft palates, they often say, “wow, you look so great!” While I appreciate the compliment, I realize that there is a lack of knowledge about clefts and choose to take these occurrences as a gift…an opportunity to raise awareness about clefts. For Sweet Pea and I, we do not have complete clefts, meaning our lips were not impacted by our cleft (see the bottom left picture in the chart below). While cosmetics were not an issue, feeding, breathing, speaking and orthodontics are.

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Because his cleft eliminated his entire soft palate, he was never able to latch to breastfeed. This was a huge blow to me and contributed to my post-partum depression. At only 6 weeks old, Sweet Pea was diagnosed with failure to thrive. We tried several methods of feeding him before we found the Haberman feeder. It is now called the Medela Special Needs Feeder and just one costs about $30. Obviously, the ability to feed our son was priceless, but it was very challenging. If it weren’t for this awesome bottle, our little man would have gotten a peg tube to feed him.

haberman

Many children have their cleft palates closed around 6 months of age…unless they have a craniofacial anomaly that impacts their airway. Our son also has Crouzon Syndrome, which makes his midface small, therefore making his airway small. Because of this, we had to wait until he was 12 months old before closing his palate. It was a long, difficult road, but well worth it!

A cleft palate repair typically takes about 3 hours…P’s took 5.  It was the longest day of my life.  When the craniofacial surgeon came out, he told us it was the most difficult repair he has ever done, but he believed it was successful. Two years later, I can attest to that claim. So far, P has had three surgeries, and the only surgery on the horizon is replacing his ear tubes. Today his biggest challenge is speech, but he has an amazing speech therapist and he is a resilient guy. We will continue to have him monitored by his Cleft/Craniofacial Team on a yearly basis. While we cannot predict his future, we do have a good idea of what to expect from my own experiences.

My hope is that this post will raise awareness about clefts and craniofacial differences, and that it will encourage parents who are on this road too. As someone who was born with Crouzon Syndrome, Craniosynostosis, Chiari Malformation, and a cleft palate, I can say that I am thriving today. My son has taught me a lot about myself, how I deal with our birth defects and how I view myself and him as we walk this path.  He has taught me that I am his voice, his advocate and his cheerleader. Maybe he can teach others too?

Here are some links for further research and support:

Risk of Oral Clefts in Twins

CCA Guide to Understanding Cleft Lip and Palate

Cleft Palate Foundation

CCA Kids

Do you, or someone you love, have a cleft?

Would you like further information about cleft or craniofacial support and encouragement?

Comment below or send a message!

Sara is a mama of four children, two of them being surprise identical twin girls. She is happily married to the love of her life, stays home with her children and is currently homeschooling her oldest child. Most of her writing is centered around raising awareness about Crouzon Syndrome and cleft palates, advocating for your child, homeschooling and raising multiples. Find her blog at Confessions of an Outnumbered Mom.

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