Friday, August 12, 2016

Having the Good Touch/Bad Touch Talk With Your Kids

Posted with permission from a healthcare provider from a mom group I belong to. She didn't want to be attributed.

"Without going into graphic details, I probably get about 1-2 kids a month in my office who have been sexually abused or molested. I will address each of the things that I mentioned above in light of the most common scenarios I've seen.

  1. The location of an incident is likely to be at a place where you are familiar. Places where I've heard of this happening: known family members and friends are far and away the most common. Perpetrators ages ranging from young teens to adults. It is almost always a male cousin, known neighbor, friend's older brother/cousin, babysitter, father/stepfather, uncle or mom's boyfriend. Occasionally it is a female, but that's rare unless she is grooming the kids to have access to someone else. Church youth group is the number two location, usually because there is less supervision. School, camp and sports are the other locations, but less likely unless there are kids allowed to be alone with teachers and coaches. Ask the schools and coaches and churches what their safety plans are to protect kids. It's never perfect, but I feel at least they know there are aware parents and it helps keep everyone accountable.
  2.  Slumber parties: I wanted to address this separately because of it being a sensitive subject. My daughter is allowed to go to a select few friends' homes (like five families) for sleepovers. Never parents that I don't know extremely well, which means she doesn't get to sleep over at school friends' homes. Never large groups of kids, where one kid being separated might not be noticed. That said, I can't tell you how many times patients tell me the first time they were touched inappropriately or the first time they saw pornography was during a sleepover. I only get one chance to raise my kids and I'd rather be a mean parent who is no fun than have the other possibility.
  3.  Please use appropriate anatomical terms for body parts. Eyes are eyes, knees are knees and penises are penises (proceed with the pearl clutching). Don't use cutesy names or vague names like booty or wee wee or cookie or treasure. It confuses the matter in case something needs to be reported. It also destigmatizes those body parts.
  4.  Safe touch" vs. "bad touch": make sure kids know which is which. Safe touches I usually teach are the ones that are in areas not covered by your bathing suit, like shoulders, head and feet. Safe touches are also those that make you feel calm and safe, like a hug from your mom. Bad touches are those in the areas that are covered up by underwear. They are also the ones that make you feel nervous, scared or worried. If a bigger person is touching you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, that is a bad touch. Always tell your parents or other adult about bad touches. And let kids know there should never be secrets between kids and adults and that they will NEVER get in trouble for telling someone.
  5.   "Stranger danger" is a fallacy. The vast majority of the time someone who molests a child is known to the family. Beware of so-called "grooming behaviors". This is usually from an adult male (or female) who ingratiates themselves to the child and family to lower their defenses. Usually they will try to establish a trusting relationship with the family and seek opportunities to be alone with kids. They do this so that any accusations from the child will seem made up. This has happened in almost every situation I have seen.
  6.  Be aware of what kids are looking at on smartphones and tablets. Especially from their friends whose parents may not monitor things so closely. I usually tell parents at every preteen and above well check that as long as they are paying for the phone and the kid is under 18, it is their responsibility to monitor their child's activities in social media, texting, etc. There are so many really clever ways for kids to hide their activity online and parents are almost always behind the 8 ball on this.
  7. Most importantly, trust your gut. If someone seems a little off or a little too nice to your kids, trust yourself and keep your kids out of any situations where they would be alone with that person. We have all been in situations where you just want to be polite, even when someone is giving you the heebie jeebies. There is a great book called "The Gift of Fear" that talks about people forgetting to trust their intuition in potentially dangerous situations and why there are times when you need to listen to that spirit of discernment.

I don't lock my kids up and throw away the key, as much as I would love to protect them forever. But these are hopefully some practical tips as a mom and pediatrician to make your kids feel safe and to highlight some potentially dangerous situations. By the way, we start this conversation around 3 or 4 years old in our house.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Work Schedule

I'm a working mommy! I'm writing this on Friday, August 5th (after my first full week at work.) 

Here's my weekday schedule. 

  • Leave the house at 8am 
  • At work by 9am 
  • Pump 3x during the day for 30-45 minutes, which produces 20-25oz of milk. Times vary. 
  • Leave by 5pm 
  • Home by 6 pm. 
  • Feed the twins twice before 9:30pm. Listen to them cry while I eat. :( 
  • Put them in the bed, wash my pump parts, drink a cup of coffee. 
  • Get them up for the middle of the night feeding (if they haven't woken up already) - 2 a.m. 
  • Get them up for the morning feeding - 6 a.m. for the morning feeding 
  • Stop whether they are finished eating or not - 7 a.m. 
  • Shower, pack pump bag, leave by 8 a.m. 
  • Repeat.    
So far, there's no time to stop and get a mani/pedi or meet friends for coffee (I don't really drink anymore). I have been able to do things like stop and get a prescription at Walgreens before hopping on the train. 

I also don't take a lunch anymore. I can't afford to buy lunch and I can't afford to pay our nanny for another hour with the twins, so I'm brown-bagging it. (My boyfriend is a chef though, so this isn't really a concession. I'm only losing out on fresh air.)

I didn't get emotional on my first day the way so many moms do. I cried a couple of days before I went back to work, but I've been surprisingly cool. I think this is another benefit of twin mom-dom. It's HARD being at home alone with two screaming babies. Work is like a bright oasis of calm and tranquility in comparison. 

Additionally, my efficiency is top notch. If I can entertain two babies, I can juggle some accounts at work. It's cake.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Where to Put It

There are too many places to capture baby milestones:

- This blog
- My open Twitter
- Facebook statuses
- This mom group I'm in on Facebook
- My iPhone camera roll
- My iPhone video
- In texts and phone conversations with family, friends and other new mommies
- My journal
- My Mom's One Line a Day book 

I'm not stressing about it, but I wonder which if any of these things will last. And when I'm old and gray, will I be checking tea and such to see who rolled over first and when?

Or will printed pictures be obsolete?

Like, what will be my time capsule and by giving different milestones to different digital properties am I fragmenting my children's history.

I don't want to miss anything. I don't want to forget anything.

And then, in trying to capture the damn moment, am I missing the moment.

I'm not stressing over this, but it's something that crosses my mind as a new mommy and I had to get it out on paper [the blog]. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Baby Milestones - Lahna's Holding On!

Lahna has a really strong grip right now. She started hitting a bird while she's on her back on the floor mat. Then she started grasping for the bird, but her fingers and thumbs don't move separately get, so she couldn't hold on to it, even though I know she was trying. Then she finally got a hold of the feet of the bird.

Now she's moved on to the flower on that same mat. She had the most pained face trying to grab hold of that flower. Then when she got it she had the most satisfied look on her face. Mommy's little goal setter!

I believe this happened in the beginning of August. Actually, I took a photo. It was Sunday, July 31st.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Finding my voice...

I really want to work on finding my voice as a mom. If you know me, you know I can go from 0 to 100, real quick. Real quick. I'm actually lacking the skill that allows me to assess a situation and respond appropriately. Like, I want to be mad about someone or something they did, but not snap on the perpetrator.

This is increasingly important as a mother. There are some things that I don't want people to do to my kids. It's all basically around safety. For some reason, people love to touch kids' hands. I'm sure I used to do it before I had kids and understood that: 

1. They put their hands in their mouths.
2. Their immune systems are not yet advanced enough to fight off most of the germs that are on people's hands if/when those germs get into their mouths.
3. People's hands are in general, fucking gross.

So in my home, I have a list of do's and don'ts for the twins. This allows me to show people the list without saying "Don't touch my child's hands." OR without SNAPPING when someone goes for their hand.

Unfortunately, when we're out and about, I find myself paralyzed if someone reaches for their hand. I immediately wipe it off with a wet rag before they can get it into their mouth, but I wish I had both the courage to say, "no, don't do that" and the appropriate-level response.

For this reason, I don't like taking them places. I would rather be couped up in my 1BR apartment, a safe space for us, than to make visits and have to face people and educate them on what's good for a baby.

AND! AND! Folks without kids or who haven't had newborns in YEARS, LOVE to tell you how much they know about babies. How all of their friends have kids and how their little cousins are young and so they know what to do. Then these same mogs reach for my child in their street clothes without a receiving blanket. Nah fam, you don't have a clue and I want you to not touch my babies.

I'm going to keep working on this with my therapist on this topic, because I think my nonresponse is potentially dangerous. Suggest something truly harming/damaging happened and I couldn't find the words to say to make it stop. And it also doesn't teach my daughters how to appropriately address people. I'm either sugary sweet or mean as shit.

I'd like to find a middle ground.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Home Alone...

When I'm home alone with the babies, it gets really real. I have to put them both down sometimes to go to the bathroom or eat or wash bottles.

Sometimes they're both crying and I have to put one down screaming and just console the other one.

Sometimes I have to pick them both up at the same time.

Some rare times, one is sleeping peacefully and the other is in my arms peacefully, these are my favorite times.

I was home alone one day and I had to go in the kitchen, so I put them both in their rock n plays and went into the kitchen to heat up my food.

They were both screaming. Lahna gets quiet. Joy is still screaming. Lahna had cried herself to sleep. I know I'm not supposed to laugh, but that was funny... and sad. Like so many things in life that are both funny... and sad.

Then the next day Joy did the same thing. You can always tell when they cry themselves to sleep. They have this discontent look on their face. The cutest little, heartbreaking pout. And it doesn't go away until you pick them up and hug them and squeeze them and/or feed them.

With the nanny starting and us having a lot of visitors on the weekends to help, I hope they don't have to cry themselves to sleep too much more. Precious, precious babies.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Safety in Harlem

Gunshots are a problem.

I live in Harlem. I think it's a good neighborhood. I'm not scared walking down the street. My mom visited from the Chicago suburbs. She wasn't scared walking down the street, but in the 15 months I've lived in my apartment, I've heard gunshots at least three times.

Fall 2015 - I was newly pregnant. I was on the phone with my cousin Shantae and I told her I was sitting on the ground in the back of the apartment because I heard gunshots earlier. I was afraid someone was going to shoot me in the stomach. She reminded me that I live on the 11th floor, so that's virtually impossible, but I was scared to death, nonetheless.

November 2015 - My mom was in town for Thanksgiving and we heard shots. I didn't even remember this, but my mom reminded me.

Spring 2016 - My mom heard shots outside and went to the window (I don't know why you would go to the window and said she saw a guy with a gun shooting behind him. I've never seen anyone actually shoot a gun outside of video footage. My mom hadn't either. Still, she wasn't like "you need to move away from this neighborhood."

July 2016 - I definitely heard some shots outside. Like a lot of them. And this was after the 4th of July. Like way after.

I'm writing this to remind myself that my neighborhood isn't exactly a bastion of safety. It really hit home for me when I was doing a nanny interview and the nanny asked: How is the neighborhood and I go "in terms of what?" and she goes "anything? I don't know this neighborhood well."

And I lied and said it was a good neighborhood with lots of parks because I wanted her to consider us. The truth is, I wouldn't want my young children playing in most of the parks near my home because they smell like piss and there are too many adults around.

The last neighborhood that I lived in that I regularly heard gunshots was Uptown in Chicago. It always baffled me because again, I lived across the street from a Jewel and a planet fitness and it "seemed" safe.

I also wonder if this is just a byproduct of living in a city. Do all cities have a higher incidence of gun violence than suburbs and if I decide to be a city dweller, I should just expect to hear shots. (Don't worry, it sounds as stupid to me typing it as it does to you reading it.)

So if we make the decision to leave the city, I have this blog post to remind me that it's not just about cheaper rent, but also about the safety of my children. I've convinced myself that my neighborhood is safe and I "feel" like it is. But feelings are not facts. And four shootings in the last 15 months are likely too many to consider a place safe.

Does anything about your current (or former) neighborhood give you pause?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Baby Fake Coughing

My children have found out that if they cough, we will stop what we're doing and attend to them. It is the FUNNIEST thing ever. Usually, all focus in the home is on them. From time to time, a conversation that does NOT include Lahna, nor Joy comes up.

They are not having it. Not for too long anyway.

When Joy was born, her first day of life, she kept choking. The first time it was just a bit of spit up, but the doctor was called in and they got her stable. Then day 2 of life, she was choking and turned blue. They whisked her away to the baby nursery while I was crying holding Lahna and my bf went with her, out of his mind worried. She was ok both times. We probably just didn't know how to burp her properly.

THEN Lahna had the stomach flu and was coughing up green bile at the end of June. Her issue was much more serious, as you know we spent five days in the pediatric ICU with her, but am thanking God for her healing.

The point is, their father and I are FREAKED OUT anytime we think they are in a position that they can't breathe (What parent wouldn't be). But we also have had bad experiences when they couldn't breathe or digest food, so our freak outs are likely more intense. We pop up out of the bed, off of the couch, run from the kitchen or the bathroom if a baby so much as clears her throat. And our children know it.

I think I discovered this about a week ago. I told the nanny who started 4 days ago and I'm not sure if she believed me. Parents tend to embellish. I try not to, but a big part of embellishing is not ACTUALLY remembering what happened or when. So you retell the story and it's bigger or smaller than you remember.

I digress.

So I get home from work on day 2 and the nanny goes: they did the cough thing twice today. She said it like she couldn't believe it. And I'm looking like: I told you. Um hm. My little boogers. So young and they already learning how to get the attention they need. Future PR divas, perhaps?

Babies make the world happy

When I was dealing with the horrors of pregnancy and then reading the Facebook statuses of exhausted parents everywhere, I couldn't for the life of me understand why people keep choosing to have kids. Like our lives would be so much easier if we just stopped procreating.

Then I had my babies. I think I've mentioned before that me announcing my pregnancy to certain family members and friends made them so happy. And some shared with me that they were going through horrid things in their lives and my baby news made it better. Wait, what? LOL!

But now that my sweetie pies are here, I get it. The world is in complete disarray.
  •  There's a 50/50 chance that an outwardly racist white man will be our next President. As a black woman. 
  • I am literally scared of the police in every city in America. There is no place, not in a car, not in a home, not on a train, not on a plane that I am safe from the police. (I think I just wrote a Dr. Seuss book about police brutality.) 
  • I am afraid of men. Not MY man, but men are still killing women in domestic situations and for the most part, nothing is happening about it. When a woman's throat got slashed on the train because she said she didn't want to be in a relationship with her current boyfriend, the news reports that followed shared that "This was an isolated incident." "The CTA is mostly safe." It didn't share a hotline for domestic violence victims. It gave incidences of violence in the city. It didn't give incidences of women murdered at the hands of their partners. It's like that woman didn't exist in the news story. I hated it. 
  • People are killing police. 
  • Police are using robots to kill suspects. Not convicted felons, suspects. 
  • People are killing clubgoers. I could also write this as people are killing the LGBQT community. 
Death and chaos are all around us. But at 3:20 and 3:32 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12th, I gave birth to new life. I brought Peace (Lahna) and Joy into the world. When I am with them they take up every brain cell I have. I don't have time to care that the world is falling apart. Their presence consumes me. They are my world now.

And everyone who so much as sees a picture of my Peace and my Joy is INSTANTLY transformed from a citizen bogged down by the weight of this world to an admirer of beauty and innocence.

THAT'S why people have babies. To change the world. I get it now and appreciate it so much.