My battle as a mom against the war of COVID-19.

Real life advice for moms of young kids.

As a mom, this is a world I never imagined for my children, or even myself. I am an avid reader, so stories of dangerous plagues and hardship are familiar to me on a very fictional level. To be living it today, in 2020, is both unexpected and frightening. The experience bringing forth anxiety, depression and despair; shaking my faith to the very core.

I am a nurse, so my call to action is very clear. Upon returning to work in a few days I will stand with my colleagues on the front lines, with or without an N95 respirator. This fills me with both pride and fear; not for my own health, but for those who surround me. While I have taken all precautions for the last 8 days to socially distance myself, I will soon be immediately among those closest to the virus.

Possibly even bringing it home to those I love.

As I contemplate my personal situation, I feel compelled to write to my fellow mothers with words of comfort and understanding. I am sharing some practical advice for what is our new reality as parents. I hope some of you may find connection and peace during these difficult days, knowing you are not alone.

Keep your kids active and educated

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Last week was spring break, so I allowed the kids to stay up late, sleep-in and play Minecraft and Roblox with their friends online. But they knew today was coming. Monday morning…and with it a new reality.

I was fortunate enough to get an email from my son’s third grade teacher outlining suggestions for an at-home school schedule for all grade levels. She suggested using this online tool while waiting for further instruction from the school district for remote learning. I am grateful to Khan Academy for putting such a comprehensive schedule and resources together for parents who are now supposed to be the “teacher”, with absolutely no idea where to start. All completely free.

I am also fortunate to live in Colorado, a state where the weather is usually conducive to playing outdoors. My kids are playing in the sunshine, throwing the basketball around as I am writing this today. (On their recess break from school of course).

But aside from that, we also stocked up on puzzles and board games, flew kites at the park (avoiding the playground and picnic tables), and have been honing in on our bicycle skills. We created a movie theatre in our living room, complete with a ticket booth and concession stand. We now have an art corner, where the kids can paint, draw, color or use our homemade moon sand any time they wish. The older boys have also learned to play Sudoku for the very first time.

There are ways to stay entertained without coming into physical contact with other people or objects, while incorporating exercise and fun into everyone’s (new) daily routine. And, as is always a goal of mine, while limiting screen time play. As I think about it, this has really forced me to tap into my own creativity to interact and connect with my kids in new and memorable ways.

A colleague of mine, Jenny Wise, has created this helpful tool to help you entertain your child when stuck indoors. Check it out! Helping Your Child Beat the Rainy Day Blues

Do not waste your energy on anger

I know what you are thinking, because I think it too. How could there STILL be people planning playdates and allowing children on the playground knowing what is happening around the entire planet? It is a thought that has more than once created such anger inside I thought I might bust.

But then I recall where I was sitting just 8 days ago. I had reached out to some school friends, asking for a playdate. I had promised my niece and nephew I would pick them up to play at our house in the coming week. I was determined to make spring break fun for the kids, even if we couldn’t go anywhere.

I wasn’t completely unaware, but UNEDUCATED about what it meant to socially distance. As I read more, I realized it was up to every one of us to follow the guidelines, not coming in contact with anyone or anything that could possibly spread the virus. Not only for our own personal sake (which to that point sounded pretty minimal to be honest), but more importantly for the sake of those in our community. The elderly, the already immunocompromised and vulnerable. We each had to pull together to beat this thing, even if it meant spending the foreseeable weeks at home, alone.

I think about my own father, who had battled non-hodgkin’s lymphoma in his forties. I remember a co-worker who had gone through chemotherapy for breast cancer, and a friend who had a liver transplant only a few years ago. I think about my grandmother, in great health, who just turned 94.

If not for our own sakes, we absolutely have to do it for them. But the answer is not to be angry with those who seemingly dismiss the call to action. The answer is to educate those who don’t understand. Reach out on social media or invite school friends for a “virtual play date”. And for those who know but refuse to listen, do not allow the energy of anger to exist within you. Let it go, and do your part. That is all any one of us can do.

Accept your fear, but embrace your power

We are all afraid. There are millions of things to be afraid of right now. I wonder if I will bring COVID-19 home to my family, infecting my children and putting them at risk for illness or worse. Will there ever be a time when I cannot feed my family for lack of resources at the grocery store? Will my husband lose his job, leaving me to financially support my family alone?

We are all facing our own new realities right now, and with the unknown comes fear. It is a natural human reaction to be afraid of what we aren’t familiar with. To date, this is the most challenging and life-altering circumstance we have had to face together as a globe for generations. So it is normal to be afraid.

My advice to you is face your fears. Look at it with an analytical mind and stay as emotionally unattached as you can, while contemplating your situation.

And then move forward anyway. We have no choice for survival but to accept what our reality is right now and do the best we can with the tools we have right now. It does no good at all to worry about two months from now, two years from now, or even two hours from now. Face now. And then face your next now. Pretty soon you will be getting through it one moment to the next.

Don’t forget to talk to your kids

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

Now that you’ve faced your fears, don’t forget to address those of your kids. They are highly resilient and are accustomed to change. But that doesn’t mean they don’t pick up on your own anxiety and don’t hear what’s happening in the news. Be sure to encourage your kids to talk about what they are thinking and feeling, allowing time for questions and space to absorb new information.

Some will allow time for prayer, some will have a family meeting, and some will walk together to talk about important things. Be sure you allow for uninterrupted time with your kids each day (put the phone away) to reassure them you are there for them always. Stop and listen to them. Even if you don’t have the answer, it is vitally important right now that you can focus on their needs.

A helpful tool I have used to help my boys combat their fear, anxiety or anger is through simple imagery. You may follow the steps below or change them as you wish. This can be a spiritual exercise or simply a tool you can use to help your kids let go of their negative emotions. You will be surprised at the peace this can bring to your little one struggling to know what to do with their emotions.

  • Sit down face to face with your child and have them close their eyes.
  • Have them imagine whatever emotion is bothering them, filling a balloon with that emotion.
  • Have them imagine the color of the balloon and feel the string in their hand as they watch it float.
  • Have them release the string, as they watch the balloon drift into the sky.
  • They should describe all they see; clouds or birds, the sun in the sky; as they watch the balloon fade away.
  • Have them do this until it is no longer in sight and then open their eyes.
  • You tell him that (God/the universe/a higher power or whatever you want to use here) has their balloon, and will take care of the emotion for them. This allows them to truly release what they are feeling and stop struggling to control it on their own.

Take care of yourself

Above ALL else (yes your kids too), you have to take care of yourself. Give yourself some quiet time to do what you love. That can be baking cookies, reading a book, a walk, exercising, a nap, getting an hour of Outlander in…whatever. But you cannot effectively care for your family if you aren’t taking a time out for you. Especially right now when your family needs you so much.

I am both proud and scared to be a mother at this time, as much as any of you. But we can do this together, and just maybe come out the other side better for it.

Forge ahead my fellow moms. You can do this.

Choosing pregnancy over 40. And not apologizing.

In the 1970’s, the decade of my own birth, pregnancy at 40 was rare, and hardly ever a conscious choice.

Fast forward to now, the futuristic year of 2020. Pregnancy, and the creation of ‘family’, is a completely different game. With the science of fertility clinics worldwide, those who would have never been able to mother or father children outside of adoption, have available a host of opportunities.

Many women of my generation have chosen to pursue careers, second marriages, or even honored sexual orientation attractions they would have never ventured for. All with the knowledge of the many fertility options when the time came to start their own family, however that may look.

The wonders of Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), In-Vitro-Fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, and fertility drugs such as chlomid, are just a few examples of how the miracle of pregnancy has reached new heights of possibility. Many who venture on these alternative measures for pregnancy have tried the “natural way” and failed. These are the women who have weighed their options, know the risks, and forge ahead.

Photo by Carlo Navarro on Unsplash

But what if you are 40 (or more), and you just want to have more children? What if you were the one who pursued that amazing career, or traveled the world instead of conforming to a family of 2.5 children? You explored, grew up, invested and indulged. There was no one depending on you to be at their preschool concert or 5th grade graduation.

What if it was your choice to not have children, or wait to have children, and now you are ready???

There is an underline stigma surrounding women over 40 who do choose pregnancy. As a labor and delivery nurse, I feel it in the words of the twenty-something colleague who reports the woman’s history and labor progression. I know the insinuation coming from the forty something OBGYN, calling me to request their labor induction appointment.

It many be unintentional, but the judgment remains.

There are good reasons to avoid pregnancy at Advanced Maternal Age (AMA), which is determined to be at 35 years. In fact, the term AMA is sometimes referred to as a “geriatric pregnancy”, which intones a whole new level of stigma and discomfort. (Who would ever consider themselves to be geriatric at age 35????).

With it comes the realities of increased risk of miscarriage, chromosomal abnormalities, low birth-weight or premature delivery, or conceiving more than one baby (twins). It can also effect how efficient the placenta is and how quickly it breaks down. Any labor nurse will tell you an “old placenta” is not a desirable placenta, when the mother enters labor and the stress begins to affect the baby. There is also an increased chance of c-section delivery for some of these very reasons (The Mayo Clinic, 01/20/20.

The effects are also not exclusive to the baby. Women are at a higher risk for gestational diabetes and high blood pressure over the age of 35 (The Mayo Clinic, 01/20/20). These health considerations can lead to hospitalizations, a need for medications such as insulin and antihypertensives, and more frequent evaluations for the woman as well as baby’s health. Add to the list any preexisting health conditions such as obesity or asthma, and the stakes only get higher.

Many questions surround a woman’s decision to intentionally get pregnant after age 40, especially if they have already started their family. It’s impossible to escape the scrutiny and judgment of society, and that of the healthcare providers who know the risks involved.

Photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash

So to answer the question of IF, you must first answer the question of WHY. Humbly, this is so personal a decision it is not for myself, or any of us really, to pass judgement on.

Nearly forty when my third son was born, it was almost expected I would not press on. How fortunate indeed I was to carry three beautiful, healthy, term children. Even more so, I did it without any sign of complication so often associated with pregnancy of any aged mother.

In fact, how dare I even consider pressing my luck?

Still, I had to consider it. I still wanted a daughter for one thing (see Letting Go of My Girl to Fully Embrace Boy Motherhood). But aside from that, I LOVE being a mom. At any stage. Sure, sleepless nights and dirty diapers can strain any desire to re-procreate. But in my mind, the pros definitely outweighed the cons. Even IF it was another little boy.

But age does factor in, and in the end I decided it was unfair to bring another child into this world intentionally, when its parents would be pushing 70 at their high school graduation. Nature decidedly had a point; I was accepting my body may not be up to the challenge again. I was ready to embrace where life had led me, at the stage that it had, without complaint or regret.

I decided to just be grateful and accept this next stage of my life, letting go of my youthful child bearing years. I was embracing my new body and my new life ahead with all the challenges and rewards it may bring.

I did not come to this decision easily. I did not come to this decision without some sense of loss. But I DID come to this decision on my own, without listening to the judgement others feel so freely to pass.

Photo by Kalea Jerielle on Unsplash

It’s your body, your life, your happiness. If it feels right to you, move forward with your eyes wide open, while taking the rest of it in stride.

You’re over 40 and want to get pregnant? Think through your options, risks and desires. If you decide to go for it, NEVER apologize for wanting to embark on this beautiful, life fulfilling journey no matter what circumstances led you here.

7 Ways to tell if you are in labor.

Deciphering your contractions & other signs of labor.

Most pregnant women who come to the hospital think they are in labor, but only about half of them are. Here are the top seven ways to deterimine if it’s really the big day!

The 5/1 rule.

You have a contraction every 5 minutes or less for at least one hour straight. Contractions will usually intensify and can be felt in your back and/or your lower abdomen. Most women describe the pain at first to be like a strong menstrual cramp. These pains will come and go and you will feel your skin over the baby become tighter with the contraction.

Nursing Tip: If you take your fingertip and touch the tip of your nose, that is what a “mild” contraction feels like from the outside. Your chin – “moderate” and your forehead – “strong”.

Your back HURTS.

You may not feel the “cramping” type contractions as above, you may just have a low back ache that won’t let up. Try a good hot bath or shower, have your honey rub your hips and lower back for you, or put some heat where it hurts. When none of this really helps and the feeling starts to increase in intensity, it might be time to see if you are in labor.

Nursing tip: False labor can look just like labor…except your cervix is not dilating. If you think you might be dehydrated, consider drinking 1-2 liters of water and putting your feet up first (especially if you have spent the day walking the malls or hanging out on the beach). Your body can act like it is going into labor but your symptoms will improve with a little rest and re-hydration.

Photo by Camilo Jimenez on Unsplash

Your water broke.

I tell my patients that this can be an overly dramatic experience like in the movie Fools Rush In (Selma Hayek & Matthew Perry; circa 1997). Pregnant Selma shouts, “I think my water just broke!” followed by a high pitched scream and ambulance siren as a baby girl is delivered in the middle of the road (highly unlikely, especially if it is your first baby).

OR

More likely you will see a little trickle of liquid that keeps running down your legs, sometimes after experiencing a strange “pop”-like sensation (but not always). Most ladies are highly embarrassed to be seen, thinking they have simply lost all control over their bladders at this stage of pregnancy (this is sometimes the case, and nothing to be embarassed about).

If you notice any fluid leaking from your nether-parts…call your midwife/OB/nurse practitioner for advice. More than likely you will need to come to the hospital or birth center for evaluation even if you do not feel the above mentioned contractions.

Your discharge changes.

Typically in pregnancy you experience various degrees of discharge, appearing as whitish or yellowish that is nothing more than an irritant. But many times when labor begins, that discharge takes on a new consistency. It becomes more mucous-like and can take on a tinge of pink or red. Be on the look-out for changes in your vaginal discharge, it could mean your body is readying itself for the little one to come!

Nursing Tip: While there is much ado about the “mucus plug”, this usually means less about going into labor than you may think. There does in fact exist a mucus barrier that you will see when your cervix starts to dilate and it “falls out”. HOWEVER…this can happen hours, days or even weeks before labor starts. Call your provider first before heading into the hospital!

You notice some bleeding.

While you are told throughout your pregnancy bleeding is a bad thing, when labor begins slight bleeding or spotting can be a great sign! It means whatever braxton-hicks contractions you’ve been having is starting to actually change your cervix (this is the opening from your vagina to your uterus and needs to change from completely closed to about the size of a full-sized bagel)!

Bleeding can also be a normal result after intercourse, (totally normal and okay!), or after your cervix has been “checked” by your doctor or midwife. It may not mean you are in labor but could still be the beginning of things.

NOTE: Notify your provider or go to the ER right away if you are saturating a pad with blood at any time in pregnancy. This could be indicative of an emergency and the sooner you are evaluated the better.

Tummy trouble.

Many times within a day of labor starting, women will go from pretty constipated (all those vitamins!) to suddenly diarrhea-like. It’s almost like your body knows a baby will be coming out from “down below” and it is emptying itself out to make more room!

There is also a tendency to have a big change in appetite. This can swing from a sudden desire to hit all the fast-food places in town, to barely being able to keep down some crackers and ginger-ale. Whatever the case, this could be your body’s way of telling you to get ready!

Something is just different.

While not an actual sign of labor, many women have a sense that something is up. Usually you are nesting like crazy, without a really good reason why. Suddenly you can’t get the toilets clean enough, you are taking curtains down from the high ceilings to steam clean (NOT advisable…) and you have an urgent need to rearrange the family room. This burst of energy is mysteriously common among women just before labor starts.

Or you may just have a “feeling”. This is different than the desperate need to be rid of the extra weight off your bladder; that huge mound you carry which makes sleep (or breathing even) impossible. This is an intuition of sorts that is as unexplainable as the nesting phenomenon, but nonetheless very real. Somehow your psyche just knows this baby is on the way.

Photo by Hu Chen on Unsplash

The crystal ball.

While these are all very typical signs of labor, every body is different…just like every baby is different. Not a single person follows all the rules of pregnancy and delivery, making it nearly impossible to say when your labor has started or when you might deliver your sweet little one. (I like to tell my patients somebody broke the crystal ball years ago!)

Stay in-tune with your body and keep the lines of communication open with your delivering provider. They will help you decipher when it is finally time to bring that baby bag to the hospital and start your journey to delivery!

Letting Go of My Girl to Fully Embrace Boy Motherhood.

My 10 year-old boy yesterday handed me a water bottle from his backpack, leftover from several days ago. I’m sure in all the excitement of summer vacation he neglected to think about emptying his belongings. At least until he was packing for a sleepover (a bit heavy a half-full water bottle is you know). His simple, “Here mom” as he handed it to me sparked a rare moment in my heart where I melted into myself.

Usually the words would have passed right through me as I continued to think about my grocery list, check my latest e-mail, or curse out the thunderstorms that are wreaking havoc on my newly planted flowers. But I happened upon a moment in which I was fully present, and was able to accept this simple exchange from him, feeling so full and grateful in my heart.

“Here mom.”

So brief and yet so profound. How many women are just aching inside to be blessed with those few simple words, and yet through every effort imaginable cannot concieve a baby of their own? How many have held their children so briefly, without opportunity to hear their voice at all? Even still, those grief stricken mothers who will never hear it from their children’s precious lips again?

How easy it is to take for granted those everyday moments.

Working as a labor nurse is an open invitation to bear witness and experience with other families great joy…and great pain…when it comes to bringing their own children into this world. It’s like looking at a photo; a snapshot moment of someone’s life. I am allowed to be in that labor room as their little miracle arrives, sometimes even when her own mother is not. I am there too as she delivers her child by c-section when things don’t go quite right, wiping some tears of dashed expectations away, helping them focus on the joy of their birth despite the unexpected route.

And I am there with them when we cannot find the heartbeat. When they hear instead their newborn baby will not breathe with the life of this world. I witness the visceral screaming of a mother’s heart torn to shreds. I hold their hands, watching as the child is placed into their arms, looking heartbreakingly perfect…except for the missing rise and fall of the little round belly.

I have three boys.

Occasionally I will be asked if I will try “one more time” for a girl. Or someone will look at me with pity, that my third was not the girl I had presumably hoped for. My middle son even asked me one day if I was ever sad that he wasn’t a girl.

I will never deny that I had visions of fairy princess parties, giggly girl sleepovers and wedding dress shopping with my unborn daughter. I learned to french braid my own hair in the seventh grade, a skill that has yet to be proven valuable. I torture my young niece to come sit next to me so I can run my hands through her long locks, satisfying a small piece of a deeply rooted craving for that mother-daughter connection.

But I have three boys. I will tell you with my entire being I was nothing but thrilled when my husband announced as such to me at their births (all three were surprises, the one really good surprise I feel is left in this life to choose).

They are energetic. They wrestle, love trains, cars, video games, and football. I can barely keep up with their energy, constantly telling them to “quiet down” or “take it outside”. I cannot keep a single pair of jeans without a tear in the knee for more than a few weeks at a time (even the good brands). There are no barbies. No quiet moments of coloring. No frilly tu-tus or ballet lessons in this house.

And I love every moment of it.

I was pregnant once between my second and third son. It took my husband and I a long time to reconcile to the idea of a third child. I was ready, he was done. We talked. We fought. I cried and he resisted. We had finally chosen, together, to try and bring one more child to this world. I was thrilled to have it finally come to fuition. It was a dream come true.

Seven days later she was gone. I know in my heart it was my daughter that had rested so briefly in my womb. As devestated as I was, I will forever be grateful for the short time we had together that summer. She taught me so much. She taught our family so much. One of the most feared but valuable lessons in life is one of great loss and grief.

Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash

The day she left me I had been helping other women become mothers. I watched my own child’s life drift out through my blood, and yet there was no choice but to contiune on through my day. I will never forget the moment I returned home, knelt to the floor and held my entire family with all the stregnth I had left. My two beautiful boys and my husband encirlced around me as we all cried helplessly together for this lost piece of us.

When I realize I have allowed the moment of being called “mom” to be taken for granted, I do not chastise myself. It is such a normal part of my day there is no reason to believe it is anything but an ordinary moment. Instead I find gratefulness for that glimpse of bliss being present afforded me. I relished in the sound of my son’s voice calling me the most beautiful word I am privledged to be known as.

When I scrub the mold off my next forgotten water bottle, or pick up the dirty gym socks off the floor, I hope a fragment of that gratitude will return to me. As fiercely as I wanted a little girl to care for, the universe gave me the boys I really needed. My baby girl was with us as long as we needed her to be. To show us the healing power of release and comfort found amongst those you love in times of great sadness and loss.

For those of us who desire to, are fortunate enough to now be, or have ever been known as “mom”, there is not a more powerful, more beautifully spoken word. It is the challenge of us as mothers to see the greatness of what we have through the the pain of what is lost, or what might have been. But the journey of becoming mom is where the love is let into your heart.

Photo by Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash

It is only in the act of releasing through our grief that we are able to see life’s greatest gifts. For me, the blessing of my boys will never be lost in the shuffle of everyday life, even if I hold that in my heart without much conscious thought.

And when my son asks me if I am ever sad I got a boy instead, I can vehnemently and honestly reply,

“Never”.

Why You Should (Selfishly) Make Your Kids Do Chores.

It’s not for the reason you think.

It’s summertime!!! Time for afternoons at the pool, lazy mornings and movie-night sleepovers. My own boys cannot stop with the countdown (only one and a half more days of school!!), while I have my own reasons for looking forward to our days together.

Photo by Raphaël Biscaldi on Unsplash

For one thing…my house is about to get a lot cleaner.

We have had our moments over the last several years of enforcing chores at home. I’ve been determined to make this work, instilling a respect for money and hard work I see lacking in so many of our youth today (Yes!!! I totally admit to my contribution to this enabling society!). I had a friend who was so good teaching her child this, she had her seven year old putting his money into three different pots in a matter of weeks. One for saving, one for spending and one for sharing.

Photo by Brina Blum on Unsplash

For me??? It’s a push-and-pull constant battle. Not to mention I can’t ever keep track of what I ask my kids to do. I bought a nifty chore chart on Amazon for my preschooler…you know with the magnet smiley faces?

He likes to line them up and knock them onto the floor.

And for my elementary aged kids I have a cool refrigerator magnet chore chart (also from Amazon), complete with 5 chalk colored markers to fill in their daily duties.

Yeah…it’s blank.

But I was putting the dishes away with my ten-year old the other night and I had an epiphany. It’s not really for the cleaner house, or for the responsibility we are teaching our kids that we need to “force” them do chores (althought that is a definite perk). It is for our own personal renewal and reinforcement of the relationship we have with our kids.

Huh???

Photo by Tracey Hocking on Unsplash

To explain… I realized, while drying the dishes with one of my three children, we had a perfect moment to talk without the distraction of siblings, TV, or the hustle and bustle of every day life to get in the way. It was just the two of us, and we were able to talk easily while also getting to know each other’s rhythm and synchonizing to it to get the job done. I was grateful for this moment of awareness that allowed me to see, in a much larger picture, exactly what I can gain from working with my kids, and not just expect from them.

We had regained a tremendous gift from the action of working together for a common purpose. While my son may argue it was a “chore” he was forced into, I can see where persuing this with each of my children on a regular basis will bear fruit to a lost art in the culture of parenting today.

When we spend so much time doing for our children, we forget to allow them the opportunity to do for themselves. Allowing them to feel a sense of accomplishment, belonging and self-worth; a rare gift we are able to arm them with to battle a very separate and ego-centric world they face every day.

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Not only that, when we engage with them, we regain a sense of belonging and cooperation that is so sorely missing in the family dynamics of American culture. Just taking a few moments to engage with your child for the greater good of the family, brings you together in ways no money could ever buy you.

So while I definitely plan to take advantage of late night movies and pancake breakfasts at 10 am, you can bet I will be getting those boys to help scrape the maple syrup off the floor.

And when they complain, I will just tell them it is for their highest good.

They don’t have to know it’s for mine too.

psst!!! Summer is here!!

Learning opportunities are in full bloom with this Summer-themed word search. Kids will have lots of fun hunting for words while they reinforce their spelling, vocabulary and word recognition skills. Even more fun learning resources are just a click away at Education.com!

How could I have ruined my baby’s teeth??? What EVERY expectant mother should know…

One of my lovely co-workers is also a mother of three beautiful children. We treated our pregnancies very similarly. Conscious of every food choice, staying active (admittedly she more than I), getting ourselves to every prenatal visit with our midwife.

In other words, we both took the very best care of ourselves and our unborn children from the moment of conception. My friend was even a little braver than I, delivering her children at a local birth center. All went smoothly, she has three beautiful, perfect, lovely kids.

Well, almost perfect.

Her first born started showing signs of tooth decay because of poor tooth enamel at a very early age. She hadn’t expected this turn of events, being that she fed her kids a very healthy diet – sugary foods and drinks not even available – and had breastfed her children as long as her body and baby would allow.

They all had healthy dental hygeine habits…singing ABC’s along with their light-up toothbrushes, ensuring they brushed long enough twice a day.

So how did this happen?

Photo by: Sarah Pflug on Burst

The culprit? A Vitamin D deficiency.

Now wait. Didn’t she eat a healthy diet? I know she did. I watched her eat salads, fruit and veggies, feeding her unborn baby organic, untainted food.

Certainly these foods would have provided her baby enough Vitamin D?

Not always.

It’s a common misconception that when eating a generally heatlhy diet, along with prenatal vitamins that have enough folic acid, you will consume exactly what you need to feed your body and baby duirng pregnancy.

Actually, it wasn’t until recently, (the first article I found was dated 2008) that scientists linked the lack of Vitamin D in utero to a child’s dental health. Click here to read more of the facts.

Basically speaking…low vitamin D levels in pregnancy may affect tooth calcification, leading to enamel defects (the coating that protects our teeth), which in turn leaves the tooth subject to cavities.

What can I do?

It’s actually pretty easy.

Prenatal vitamins will not give you enough of the good stuff to protect your baby. The bottom line is you need at least 2000 IU of Vitamin D a day in pregnancy. Most prenatal vitamins have between 400-800 IUs. (Don’t double your vitamin! Getting too much of the other stuff is not okay!).

Vitamin D is found in milk, cheese, fatty fish (such as salmon), cod liver oil (ummmm yuk???) and eggs.

Fortunately for our taste buds science has found a way to give us cod liver oil efficiently through supplements…just look for fish oil or cod liver oil supplements at your local vitamin supplier (yea for our taste buds!).

Photo by Dakota Monk from Burst

There’s also plenty of Vitamin D in sunshine…but don’t count on living in a sunny state like Colorado as being enough. It wasn’t for my friend. And of course there are risks of too much sun exposure.

So…no, you can’t get your doctor to write a prescription to spend your nine months on a tropical beach for health benefits (sigh….).

Taking the extra supplements, as well as getting higher doses of dietary Vitamin D and some of that good ‘ole sunshine, will give your baby the best chance of forming good enamel on their teeth. Plus it is also shown to aid in brain and heart health, as well as decreasing the incidence of inflammatory linked diseases. Plenty of good reasons – besides good teeth – to get plenty of it throughout your pregnancy.

Teeth start forming as early as 14 weeks of pregnancy, so don’t wait! You cannot overdose on this fat-soluable vitamin so taking it even before conception is okay.

Photo by: Tamara Chemij on Burst

The lesson.

Guilt plagues my friend, as she watches her daughter struggle with the result of something so easily avoided. She knows intellectually – as a nurse – that there was nothing she could have done differently, soley beacause she didn’t know. But as a mother – it is difficult not to blame oneself. Your job is to promote your child’s health, and in her eyes she failed at that.

The fact that my children don’t have the same issues is actually a surprise. It’s possible the glass of milk a day my mother got me in the habit of drinking is the only thing that saved my kids from the same fate.

Whatever the case, the lesson is to keep your eyes and ears open because there is always something new science uncovers. I’m simply lucky that this didn’t happen to my kiddos, and my friend is happy to share her story with others so they don’t have to go through the same trauma.

Family Over Fame: Why I’m on Ellen’s Side

Waiting in line at the grocery store, as mundane and ordinary as that is, I had an epiphany. Sometimes it’s the more ordinary moments which bring to light the most profound thoughts.

The headline was hard to miss. Ellen DeGeneres Chooses Family Over Fame.Good for her, I thought. And then…what does that even mean? Why do I care? It’s not like that was a choice I would need to make in this lifetime.

Then it hit me. I already had.

My name might as well have been in her place, screaming to the world my professinal decisions for the sake of my own family (Maybe us ordinary folk aren’t so different from those superstars as we are made to believe?).

Unlike Ellen, our every move is not documented, photographed and scrutinized for the world to see (you put it that way, why would you choose fame???). But our choices are foundationally the same. How we balance our home lives with our careers, what priority we place making money over our relationships, influences the trajectory of our lives and our happiness within it.

I had been happily going about my career as a labor nurse, taking advantage of the twelve weeks of maternity leave. It was October; the sun was shining, the leaves were changing, and I was grateful beyond belief to have all that I needed to care for my family. I had no plans to climb any professional ladders. I was going to go back to work (albeit reluctantly) to continue on.

Within days of returning, I was faced with an enormous professional decision. My director had stepped down, and I was from day one of my return been courted and elevated to a new level. I was the obvious choice to lead our unit, they said. My experience, personality, professionalism and ability to form lasting relationships was exactly what was needed to repair our broken state. It was up to me to pick up the pieces, holding together the people I had come to love and admire over the previous years.

Wow. I had no idea I had so much power. How humbling it is to be told you posess the gifts that will repair old wounds.

How convincing.

So I did it. To this day I’m not sure if I so much agreed or was guided into it by those above me. The stroking of the ego and the flash of money made it difficult to refuse. That would certainly take care of my family, which really was my top priority. There was no harm in trying right? I mean, what was the worst that could happen?

ENTER STAGE RIGHT: The reality of Corporate America.

WOAH.

It was a whilwind. People trapped in a state of ego. High heels, fancy cars, bigger houses, name brand clothes. Every morning the leaders of the hospital grouped together for a “safety huddle”, reporting safety concerns for their prospective units. This gathering left me with such anxiety and distaste. Yes on the surface it was about safety, but the undercurrent of this gathering was about showing off and showing up one another.

And then there was the expectations. I had told my supervisior in the beginning, I had one very defined boundary. My time with my family was important…no it was imperitive. Conditional even. I had a newborn and two other children at home. I would be there. I would be present for my children. For choir concerts and kindergarten presentations, to put my baby to sleep at night and take the kids to school every morning. I would be there.

Sure. No problem. They said.

Except it was a problem. For months I had to explain myself. Why I wasn’t in the office at 7:00 am like everyone else, why I couldn’t stay until 8:00 pm every night. I did my best to balance. I knew it was important to be present for both shifts, which required some early mornings and late nights. What I couldn’t get accross was why I wouldn’t put in 15 hour days. And when I did, why I wanted to work a 4 hour day later in the week. You have to be here, they said.

So…I did everything I could to be there. Compromising my boundary without even knowing I was doing it. Being pulled into the hypnosis of a rat race I never really signed up for. Money being the proffered pocketwatch pendulum, swinging back and forth, ever convincing of my need to continue. To give in a little more. To make this one other sacrifice.

My body began to show signs of my suffering. I was exausted beyond any measure I had been before. My phone had been possessed by everything work related. I got multiple texts throughout the day AND night. From the staff, from my supervisor, from the automated system updating us to the hospital census. There was no break. Saturday and Sunday rolled into the work week. Even when I was home I was not home. Not present. Not emotionally or mentally there. Even with my physical boundaries I discovered it didn’t matter. The constant e-mails and demands of this job kept me away from my family for an entire year.

It took a mistake for me to see the truth. I sent a text to my friend, my angel really, for she listened to my struggle on a daily basis. Only when I pressed send did I realize the receiver of my message, my complaint about my boss’s negativity and my struggle to remain present and positive, was in fact…my boss. My heart sank to my feet as I realized my folly, sure to get me fired.

Being a Friday event, I left work almost immediately, wanting to escape persecution for what I had done. I had the weekend to think about it all before facing her Monday morning. I spent hours and many tears agonizing over what to do, realizing in the end it was a very simple decision.

Actually, it was suddenly clear the universe had played its hand in making this decision for me.

Sitting accross from her that day, watching the anger eminating from her body, I told her the truth. What I said was not wrong, and how I managed my days was the best I could do. I stood firm in my ground that I would not sacrifice my precious time with my family. She stood firm in her ground that this factor was the expectation of this job. We could not reconcile our personal beliefs with what was necessary for me to continue.

I was released. I was relieved. And best of all, I could go back to being me. I returned to where I started, taking care of patients and shoulder to shoulder with my best friends. With those like me, committed to choosing family over fame. Commited to choosing to honor themselves over what money could bring.

That time among those seeking more, those motivated to acheive in this corporate world, was a time of great struggle and great learning for me. There are those who are made for the fame of it all, who are able to balance and be who they really are in such a cutthroat environment. I applaud them. I am grateful to have leaders willing to put it all on the line and am in awe of those who are able to be themselves and be present. It is a rare bird indeed who can keep their wits about them, not losing their true Selves when their selves are striving for attention and status.

I, for one, am grateful I was able to experience and bear witness to my own ego in the midst of so much evidence of its power. It brought me back to myself, validating my true pupose in this life. My true power, despite a smaller paycheck.

I am a nurse. I am a writer. I am a mother. I am a wife. I am present.

I am.

Find out who you are and be that person. That’s what your soul is put on this Earth to be. Find that truth, live that truth, and everything else will come. -Ellen DeGeneres

Well said Ms. DeGeneres. And well done.