Category Archives: Blog

9/29/17: We Created You

We will not let our relationship suffer-It’s Friday, date night in my husband and my eyes. No matter what, he’s always made sure to take time for us. No matter how busy we are, what budget we are on, or how tired we are, he always makes sure to take me out on a date at least once a week. I’m incredibly lucky to have his love. Without it, there would be no Bekytt, so we are determined that no matter how tired we get now that we have a newborn or how stressed we are, we will still not let our relationship suffer.

It’s easy to start blaming each other or bickering over nothing when you have a newborn. I’ve heard of so many relationships suffering after they have kids. Sadly, divorce has happened all too many times when a little one enters the world. No judgement to anyone, but I don’t want that to happen to us. We had Bekytt because we fell in love. Yet so many parents put their child above their relationship, put them literally first, and lose sight of their primary relationship.

I was raised by a single mom. My mom was incredible. We literally called her Super Mom for years. Single moms are the most amazing creatures in the world. She was so good at making sure we were not only loved and had everything we needed, but she supported us in every dream we ever had. I never felt like I was missing out on anything. She gave us everything we needed and we had a blast with her along the way. I would not have wanted things any other way.  She was my role model. So much so that when I dreamed of having kids and pictured my future, I “wanted” to be a single mom. She was beautiful, hilarious, and so smart. She was the best mom and that’s exactly who I wanted to be. I thought for a long time that I was still unmarried in my 30’s because my destiny was to be a single mom. I would have kids on my own.  Then I met Kyle…and my worldview on parenthood changed. A mother and a father…under the same roof…raising the child together. What a crazy concept! It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with him and trust him. Trust him that no matter what he’d always be there for me, for us. It was the first time I saw my future differently.  And I liked it.

The only “baby” book I read when pregnant was Bringing Up Bebe. It made so much sense to me. The way the French raise children. Sure their kids are loved, but the kids know they are part of the family, they are not the sole focus of the family. There is still adult time at night, they don’t interrupt adults when talking, there is no “kid” food, they eat what the adults do, and the parents still have date nights and put energy into keeping their relationship alive. Moms still get ready and put makeup on. Kids know what the word “wait” means from the very beginning.  Parents are not their friends, they are their parents.  I can be French, I thought. We can raise Bekytt to eat puréed meats over rice cereal and have him eat vegetables first at dinner. And we can have date night live on!

We may have missed a week or two here and there since he’s been born, I’m not sure actually…I think your memory is the first to go with lack of sleep. We have bickered over stupid things in stressful moments, BUT we always come back to each other. We always recognize when it happens and we still take time to connect and help each other out. We remind each other of our love frequently and even if things are different for the time being, I believe we will always place our relationship first. We will always take care of us before Bekytt because if we are not a team, if we are not in it together, for better or for worse, our love for Bekytt would suffer, he’d suffer. It’s Friday, and I just wanted to say I love you, Kyle. Thank you for being such an amazing husband and the best dad. We love you and I still love date nights…especially when it’s Culver’s on our kitchen table and we share fries and Coconut Bliss ice cream for dessert!  I hope the rest of you moms out there still make time for date night this weekend! You deserve it! –Kathryn Kraft, MPT

9/28/17: Do YOU Co-sleep?

My baby will sleep in his own room, in his own bed– This was my intention.  He had done so well in the NICU sleeping on his own, and I knew as a medical professional we do not recommend co-sleeping.  So, there would be no issue, right?  We had a bassinet in our room we planned to use for the first few months and a floor bed in his that we would start transitioning to when he was 5 or 6 months. This well laid out plan barely lasted one night.

That first night we finally had Bekytt home with us was like Heaven.  I could hold him whenever I wanted, I could eat whenever I wanted, and he could finally sleep in our room without wires getting in the way of our night time feedings or diaper changes.  Our baby was wireless. Woohoo!! Or “oh crap” is how it really felt.  When I fell asleep, I would no longer be woken by an alarm if his respiration rate was too low or too high, if his heart rate was elevated, if his oxygen saturation dropped.  When he was sleeping, it would finally be silent! Yes! And oh $#%^ at the same time.  How will I know if he is ok? How will I know all of his vital signs are stable?  He is definitely sleeping as close to me as possible, without co-sleeping, just to be sure!

I don’t know how long that lasted.  Maybe a few hours? I quickly realized I was too nervous not to be near him, he was too loud for my husband to get any sleep, and he just didn’t like the bassinet.  So, we jumped ship and moved to his room.  He’d start to sleep on his floor bed right away as it turned out. When learning about Montessori style parenting, this concept made sense to my husband and I. The floor bed.  A bed where a child can get into and out of it on his own as soon as he starts crawling.  It fosters independence and following the natural sleep and wake cycle he’d have. We’d make his room be at his level and be baby proof.  A few age appropriate book and toy options within his reach.  He could wake up and play and go back to sleep somewhere else in his room if he wanted, eventually making it back to his bed over time. All without having to scream and cry to get out of bed. I liked it. Starting it a little early? That would be ok we decided.  He can’t roll anyway, and when he can, we will deal with that then.  Well that lasted with a baby monitor for maybe…a night?  Then I still got too nervous and too much broken sleep and was always in his room anyway.  Ok then, I’ll camp out!

I started sleeping next to his floor bed so I’d be there to feed him right away and hear his moans and grunts and notice if anything was abnormal.  Well that lasted maybe a few nights to a week.  I am 35 yo, not 25 any more, and that got uncomfortable quickly. I was used to uncomfortable sleep arrangements with the Army, but when I’m there I’m not so close to a bed I can smell it! Our newborn has this amazing, brand new, chemical free, twin size mattress right next to me and I am sleeping on the floor? That just didn’t make sense.  He is bigger now, he eats better in sidelying, I think I could safely just sleep next to him?  First I started by having him at one end and me at the other…curled in a ball, horizontal to the length of the mattress to be sure not to touch him.  Then I thought, he can’t roll yet, maybe my feet can be near him so I don’t have a chance of suffocating him? But I did have a chance of kicking him! So finally I came to the conclusion, without any research at all, that I would sleep next to him.  There is plenty of room, it’s easier to feed him this way, and I absolutely am never going to sleep soundly enough that I would actually roll over him. Let’s be real, I barely get to sleep more than 30 minutes at a time.  Not even enough time to go through all the REM cycles.

And so it has stayed. I camp out in his room with him, in his bed.  Sometimes I am nervous to admit this, not willing to deal with what people will say. Not caring to get into a debate over something I have chosen to be best for me and my child. So here I am, admitting to the world, I do co-sleep. And I did advocate against it until I finally tried it. Like many other things, you can’t deny it until you try it! For us it works. He loves to be close to me and sleeps better and longer.  I can hear his early feeding signs and feed him before he loses his mind and ability to eat well, and we can all fall asleep again easier.  With a floor bed I can also change his diaper without having to pick him up and truly wake him when he doesn’t need to be, and my husband does not have to have sleepless nights just because we do. Even the monitor would wake him up.

For me, I believe one day I will be able to leave his room and return to mine. Maybe easier than the other way around, but who knows.  What I do know is that as a first time mom, I am now answering questions about things much differently.  I no longer have things I am going to do, but things I want to try. With all decisions my husband and I will do our best to read our son and our family, and I believe we will make the best decisions, in the moments we need to, with the information we have.  And that’s good enough for us…

-Kathryn Kraft, MPT

9/27/17: Car Seats are Just for the Car

I will not carry my kid in a car seat– I was 25 yo when I became a pediatric physical therapist.  I saw many different conditions I didn’t even know existed, but the most frequent one was torticollis and plagiocephaly.  The easy way to explain this is to that a baby develops a strong preference for looking one direction over the other. So strong that his neck muscles start to resist moving in the other direction, he gets weak, he starts to develop an asymmetrical head shape/flattening on one side (plagiocephaly) and typically development is delayed because of it.  Don’t get me wrong, these babies were my absolute favorite to treat.  Their families were great and the babies made my day.  I would try and come up with whatever song or silly face I could to keep them happy while I stretched and strengthened their muscles and educated families on how to continue these things at home.  But as much training and confidence I had, I did not have my own child.  I was not aware of how quickly a day could pass by without getting anything done, let alone exercises, or how important it was to never wake a sleeping baby.

The car seat topic is what I started to look at as an epidemic.  Kids are in their car seats all the time! You can barely find an infant stroller that isn’t a click’n go style.  There are coats and rain jackets for the car seat so you can keep your baby in it and avoid the inclement weather as well! Restaurants are equipped to prop it up on a high chair or stand next to the table. Day cares have a designated spot for all the car seats to line up! It is almost crazy when you think about it.  As a physical therapist, I knew this was “wrong.” It could lead to torticollis and plagiocephaly, and it could ultimately delay rolling, crawling, and walking.  Why would I risk that?

When I became pregnant, I searched online almost immediately to find an affordable bassinet stroller.  Not an easy task.  But it was important to me. I wanted to go on walks and be outside, but I knew I couldn’t always wear my baby, but in the right stroller he could lie flat on his back, or tummy, and have freedom of movement.  When I finally found the Jane Trider for <$300 on Amazon, I couldn’t resist the buy with one click feature!  Once Bekytt arrived way earlier than expected, a long time friend even bought a cadillac of a car seat for us, the convertible type with a Tiny Fit insert in case he didn’t leave the hospital over 4lbs.  I was so excited about this car seat!  She knew I did not want to have a car seat with a base and the option of even taking the car seat out.  I was determined not to keep my son in a car seat for anything except the car! Idealistic, again.

While I don’t regret my decision from a movement based standpoint, I sure do from a convenience standpoint.  AND…my son still has a mishapen head.  The opposite in fact. Not flat enough on the back and too flat on the sides. He sleeps the best in the car seat and is in the best position.  If I had the option of carrying him in the car seat, his head may actually look better and he’d sleep longer.

I’m going to stick with what we have for now as I do love our stroller, car seat, wearing him, and container baby is a real thing.  I’ll just keep reminding myself I didn’t know everything as a 25 yo childless physical therapist.

-Kathryn Kraft, MPT

9/26/17: Crying Doesn’t Bother Me! Until it Does

 

Inconsolable crying-There is even a term for it? This can’t be normal?  Witching hour? What is that?  What do you mean there is nothing I can do? “I am slowly going crazy 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 switch. Crazy going slowly am I 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 switch.”  It was a funny camp song that I hadn’t even thought of in years.  Then it was the second straight hour of crying for no apparent reason that I found myself singing it to my son.

When I’d work with babies, sometimes they’d cry.  It was adorable. They were fed, diaper was changed, no little hair was wrapped around their finger, and I knew I wasn’t causing them pain, they just didn’t want to be doing stretches or have their movement restricted.  It never lasted that long. I could always calm them with a song or by looking in the mirror or pulling out my magic beads.  If it got really bad, I’d walk to the front desk and have a new face to distract them as I held and stretched them.  Crying didn’t bother me and it always stopped within a few minutes.  Having my own baby cry would be no different. I’d let him cry it out if needed…ha, I couldn’t be more wrong.

When Bekytt first starts to cry it’s ok, because he is telling us something. Hungry? I’ll feed him, crying stops. Wet diaper? I’ll change him, crying stops. Overstimulated? I’ll quiet it down, crying stops. Crying for no gosh darn reason? I’m going crazy.  The crazy starts with “something’s wrong honey, something has to be wrong. He sounds like he’s in pain. What is it though?” And then you try to feed again, check the diaper, again, and you even look for a tiny hair to be wrapped around a finger or toe and hope you find one.  You bounce, you rock, you walk, you pat, you sing, you make white noise and shhhh like crazy.  If that crazy man from the Happiest Baby on the Block can soothe a screaming infant, why can’t the 5 S’s work for your baby?

As I “calmly” paced the house last night with B man screaming in the highest octave possible in my ear, I decided another Google search couldn’t hurt. I mean when you actually start to understand the feeling and frustration associated with not being able to calm your own baby, you’d try anything.  The search brings me to the period of PURPLE crying.  It talks about a lot of things that make sense to me and has data to back it up, which I love, but more importantly it makes you feel like you aren’t crazy, a horrible parent, and that what you are experiencing in the 2 week to 3-4 month range is normal.  It makes me breathe easier thinking Beytt is now 3 months so it should end soon…but within seconds I realize he is only 4 weeks old adjusted age.

While we may have another few months of this, I know it will get better. I know what time it’s going to happen, and I should start preparing myself for it.  Maybe have a glass of wine ready!  Because on a serious note, I have also treated babies with Shaken Baby Syndrome.  It’s real, it’s heartbreaking, and it can be avoided.  There are many resources online that can help give you suggestions when a silly song can’t calm you down, but I always suggest walking away for even just a minute.  If you can place your baby down in a safe place or give them to your partner/friend for a minute so you can walk away and breathe, it’s ok to do that. My husband always says ”it’s not his fault, he doesn’t know what he wants.” We all know this is true, but it is hard at times to not get upset.  I say let’s stick together parents, help each other out, and sing old camp songs if we need to.  Our babies deserve our patience and love. –Kathryn Kraft, MPT

9/25/17: Pump and Dump?

To Drink or Not to Drink?-It’s a Monday morning and this weekend my husband and I contemplated going to downtown Lodi for the Brew-B-Que  we randomly heard so much about since Bekytt’s days in the NICU.  Ultimately, the 95 degree weather kept us inside, but this event brought up the constant debate that I always go through when I am thinking of having a glass of wine or beer now that I am nursing.​

When I was pregnant, I craved beer so badly, but knew I would not drink it.  I think that is why I craved it so much, we just want what we can’t or decide not to have.  While I believe an occasional drink while pregnant would do no harm, I personally couldn’t bring myself to do it. I craved it so much I did try a NA beer, but it definitely was not the same.  I was sure I would instantly grab a beer the second I left the hospital.  Well, the day I left the hospital, I had to leave without my baby and the thought of a beer was the furthest thing from my mind.

The social worker warned me about postpartum depression before I left the hospital.  She told me the signs to watch for, but also to realize that since I was going to be discharged before my baby, to expect sadness and a mix of emotions the first time I go home and he does not come with me.  That sadness would not be considered a sign of postpartum and was normal for moms with babies having extended stays in the NICU.  I thought I’d be fine. I thought I could go home and feel blessed that Bekytt was sleeping peacefully in his isolette being taken care of by some amazing nurses.  When I was finally ready to try a trip home, a great friend brought me my car and drove me part of the way home/back to her car that first time.  I tried to hold it back, but I was freaking out.  All of these crazy things came to mind, but the most prominent was what if I don’t make it back to the hospital? What if I get in a car crash and Bekytt loses his mom? He needs a mom,he needs me!

When I had to drive back to the hospital and I was alone in the car, I clenched the steering wheel and called a fellow preemie mom/college best friend who has beautiful twins and were also NICU babies.  I immediately started crying and confessed I was terrified I might get in an accident. She calmly said “well, drive carefully then.” It instantly made me breathe easier and laugh a little. She continued to say “he is always going to need you to come back to him. For the rest of his life he is going to need you, so just be careful.” Those words have stuck with me and I hear them with every decision I make.  Even drinking.

I love red wine, Malbec is my favorite, followed by anything from Debonne Vineyards, and rarely anything from California.  Maybe it’s because of where I grew up, but I am by no means a wine connoisseur, I just like what I like.  The first time I thought about drinking a glass was when Bekytt was still in the NICU.  Doctors said one glass is fine, no need to pump and dump.  Friends said “pump and dump,”  or “if you feel it, he’ll feel it.”  The internet says a lot of things, but my favorite is to drink while nursing, it won’t get into your blood that fast and you’ll have the most time for it to clear your system before you nurse again.  A favorite nurse said “just label your post wine pumping session, freeze it and use it only if you have to or when making baby food.” No one knows the “right” answer but you, or me in this case. I have decided I will do what feels right for me and my baby, and that may change over time.

So far it has felt right, great actually, to have one drink on date nights, celebrations, or evenings when I just need to have a sensory escape from a rough day.  The smell of wine alone can be very relaxing.  One sip can feel incredibly calming.  Two Spotted Cows on a hot day at a wedding when we had a sitter was incredible but called for a pump and dump session or two.  So for me, I’m ok with the way I decide to drink and nurse. I am just careful how I do it.  I always make sure I can still safely provide for and be there for Bekytt. He will always need me, so I can’t afford to make a dumb mistake, but I think if you deprive yourself of anything you love for too long, you will just cave in a way that throws all parameters you’ve set for yourself out the window.  And I’d prefer to never experience that. Cheers!

-Kathryn Kraft, MPT

9/22/17: Slowly losing it in a PDQ parking lot

Our lives won’t change, we’ll just bring him with us wherever we go– I told my husband this numerous times when I was pregnant.  We had a 15 year old goldendoodle at the time who we loved dearly.  She required frequent care and we were more than happy to give it to her. She was an absolute sweetheart, but that meant it was very hard to go anywhere besides home after work or leave town for the weekend.  When the day came that we chose to free her from her suffering, it was one of the worst days of my life. The absolute worst.  We miss her like crazy, but I did say having a baby would be easier. I said at least he can come with us wherever we go and we can explain things to him that one day he’ll understand.  And then…we started bringing him wherever we went!

In the beginning it went pretty smoothly.  He ate from a bottle, loved being swaddled, and slept.  Rinse and repeat. He was “happy” all the time because he was either eating or sleeping.  We went on date nights on I wore him or pushed him in his stroller.  I distinctly remember Fitz’s Friday Night Fish Fry.  It was a perfect night to be on the lake.  The food was delicious, music was playing, and I even was able to have some red wine and chocolate lava cake at the time.  Mmm. So amazing after spending our summer in the hospital.  Bekytt slept peacefully in my Moby and I was in Heaven on this amazing date with my husband.  This was the life.  Bekytt was chronologically 9 weeks, but -1 week adjusted.  He wasn’t even supposed to be born yet.

I continued to bring him to CrossFit classes, the CrossFit GamesDevil’s Lake, the Taste of Madison, to meet with friends, to go out to dinner with my husband, and even to work with me to get a few days in before the school year started.  We have this wonderful bassinet stroller that he can lie in any position in and he loves it! And then we hit his due date, Sept 1.  It was like a light bulb went off and he knew he was now supposed to be out in the world and not in a cozy dark place that resembled the womb.  He was awake more, yay! But he also started to cry more.  Yet I was determined to continue as before and bring him along with wherever I went.  Our lives didn’t have to change…

It was a Thursday night, September 13 to be exact, and we had a friend’s wedding rehearsal dinner to go to. So we packed him up and headed to a restaurant in downtown Madison. The night was going all too well.  He slept, woke to eat calmly, and slept again.  We had a great time and we packed him back up in my car to head home.  We barely got a mile down the road before I called my husband and said we had to pull over.  Bekytt was screaming and crying so loudly I was sure something was truly wrong.  We pulled over in the PDQ parking lot and I tried desperately to calm him.  It was about 8 pm by now, not too late I thought, but maybe he was hungry again? I fed him in the back seat, breast in mouth.  Now if you remember, breastfeeding has not gone super smoothly for us.  That calm feeding at the restaurant was like a miracle.  This one was like hell. He’d eat, scream, burp, want to eat again, gag on my mik, scream, eat, try to burp, try to eat again, and it went on and on and on.  Literally for over an hour and a half.  I drove separate from my husband that night, so he wasn’t in the car with me.  He was there though, being as patient as ever in his car, having no clue what was happening behind closed doors of my Prius.  At some point he must have realized it had been a long time and he came to check on us.  I was holding Bekytt and tears were rushing down my face as he screamed in my ear.   My husband felt horrible.  He immediately went into help mode and took Bekytt, gave me water, and a 5 hr energy shot as I began to tell him I was over tired and didn’t know what to do to help our son.

I don’t even know if I could explain why I lost it. I was of course exhausted, feeling like a failure, and above all I just wanted my baby to be happy and I wanted to be home. Home was still 35 minutes away.  I didn’t have the heart to strap him in the car seat and just let him scream for that long.  My husband is like the baby whisperer though.  He calmly walked around outside with Bekytt and he immediately stopped crying.  We got him back in the car seat and eventually we made it home after a few near screaming episodes.

What I learned from this experience is there are times when I’m definitely thriving with our son, but times I’m just barely surviving. But it’s all going to be ok in the end. Eventually the crying will stop. Eventually I’ll sleep. Eventually we’ll have date nights again because I’m afraid being out after 7pm just isn’t going to work for awhile. Our lives have changed and we can’t take him everywhere any more, but I wouldn’t trade being home with my husband and son relaxing on the couch for anything!

-Kathryn Kraft, MPT

9/21/17: How Do Humans Survive on So Little Sleep?

Sleep when they sleepI said it, my mom said it, everyone says it, but I believed it. I couldn’t understand how the concept or practice could be challenging. Of course you have to respond to your newborn’s cues when he’s awake, but when he is sleeping, peacefully in his own bed, on his back, why couldn’t you sleep? I’ve advocated this to parents of kids I’ve treated and I told myself that my 12 glamorous weeks of maternity leave would be spent napping, taking Baby and Me yoga classes, strolling my neighborhood as the leaves change colors, and that if I had the right calm energy, so would my baby. I can’t even get through that last sentence without laughing!

Sleep on his back? Sure, I can make him do it since he can’t roll yet and it is proven to be safe, but would you ever place your drunk friend who you think may throw up in his sleep on his back? No. Everyone knows you place a person on their side if you think they will puke and gag subconsciously. And that’s what my son does. Whether 30 min or an hour later, if you put him on his back when he is sleeping, he is going to spit up and gag in his sleep and wake up. He does swallow it and he is fine, but the results are not fun and do not help anyone sleep. Sleep in his bed? Um, he does think my arms are his bed so if that counts sure! But what that means is that you are either trying desperately to stay awake while you hold him, which becomes impossible, or you learn to be the world’s best one arm caretaker.  (Side note: I am a huge fan of baby carriers/Moby wrap; however that means I have to actually have it on and prepare before I even feed him to avoid a screaming fit if I put him down to put on the wrap…plus, I am hot all the time if it’s above 60 degrees out.  So unless I am prepped and ready to sweat to death, they don’t always work. For the times they do, literally I feel like Super Woman.)

Things I have done with one arm, and am not proud of, while he sleeps in the other: gone to the bathroom, made and drank hot coffee over his head, cooked food on a hot stove, pulled things out of the oven, ate and dropped food on his head, taken out the garbage without covering his head from the sun.  Not to mention the normal things you have to do to even feel like a human being.  And don’t worry, I am safe with them all because I’ve become the world’s best one arm caretaker, but while he is sleeping peacefully, in his “bed,” clearly I am not. There are just too many things to get done.

You have a newborn, they say, who cares if your house is clean? Clean takes on a different meaning in this statement. It definitely does not mean I’ve scrubbed every floor in the house, but clean is important to my husband and I who live in it.  Clean makes you feel sane.  Leaving clutter everywhere just becomes a distraction to what you are really trying to accomplish, so I do my best to do as my husband says and clean as I go. It doesn’t work perfectly, he does it better and picks up where I leave off, but it’s better than not cleaning at all for my mental clarity.
What actually happens for those glorious moments that you can put your baby down is you run around the house frantically trying to squeeze as much as you can into that 20 min to an hour you have of freedom…if your <13 week old baby/3 week adjusted age sleeps more than that a time, I’m just damn jealous of you. This list includes taking the fastest possible shower and only hitting the important parts first leaving shaving to the end if he is still not screaming; brushing your hair, going to the bathroom alone, shoving 2 handed food in your mouth like a delicious sandwich that is just a mess to eat with one hand, putting on pants that don’t have an elastic waistband, (#mymomjeans) ,and if you’re leaving the house at all actually putting on the make-up you wanted to.  None of these things can be done if you are also napping.  And every day that goes by that you don’t shower or make yourself feel like a clean, decent looking human being, the closer you get to binge watching the Gilmore Girls and never leaving your home again.  And I’d prefer human interaction to solidarity pretty much any day. I actually started to feel like Rory was my friend.  Even if it means I get to learn how little sleep a human can actually survive on!

​-Kathryn Kraft, MPT

9/20/17: Why Did I Have a Premature Baby

Do they know why you delivered early?  Warning: this is about to get real, but I think it needs to be talked about. From the very beginning, the doctors at the hospital asked if I had a complicated pregnancy? Did I have placenta previaPreeclampsia? Did I or my baby have an infection? The answer to all of these questions turned out to be no.  When the doctors stopped asking questions and just moved forward with taking care of me and my son, I decided I would not question myself either.

Sure I’d look up everything else online because I was looking for answers that could help me in my current situation. I actually preferred to read the books at the hospital about how to care for a premature baby and what things we’d have to do differently.  But I promised myself I would not try to figure out something that could not help me.  What if I did find the answer? What if there was something I did that made him come 10 weeks early? Could I change it? Would it help me feel better or worse that he had a tough entrance into this world? Nothing good could come of it, so I never once tried to truly figure it out.  People ask all the time and that’s ok. People are curious and that’s ok, I’m not offended, but I don’t have an answer and I’m not sure I want one.

My husband always said “he was just ready to come into this world.” My friends said “he just couldn’t wait to meet his awesome parents.”  I read books where other moms said “my child was not premature, the Universe was just ready for him.” I believe both of these things.  Whether it was something I did or didn’t do, I know I did the best I could when I was pregnant.  We all do.  There is nothing I would have changed.

I apparently began contractions on 6/19/17 when I was painting our new bedroom. We were getting ready to move into our new place that coming weekend and I thought I had a good 5 days left to prep the place.  I had watched too many episodes of Fixer Upper and I thought I was going to turn out to be a real Joanna Gaines with this place.  I started having mild cramps that morning, but no big deal.  I had things to get done, my husband’s birthday was the next day,  I had balloons to buy, so I just tried my best to take it slow and mark off my “to do” list.  When the cramps started to get more intense, take my breath away, and were consistently 3 minutes apart, I called my husband and then the doctor.  I couldn’t possibly be going into labor, what did labor even feel like? I didn’t want to be the girl who cried wolf, but my husband took me in that night at the doctor’s request and likely his intuition.

When I arrived I was only 2 cm dilated, but for a 29 weeker, that was something that likely should not have happened. The amazing team at Meriter got me on Magnesium Sulfate right away and began to try and stop/delay labor.  I was told the goal was to stop labor for at least 48 hrs so I could receive two shots of steroids to help my baby’s immature lungs.  The 21st at 11pm would mark the 48 hr window, so that became my mission, keep him in until then.

I was consulted by the NICU team when things didn’t seem to be slowing down.  Finally the cramps lessened and I seemed to be doing ok.  They tried to wean me once and when I felt cramps come back I let them know. They restarted the Magnesium.  I then felt like I was crying wolf again. Was this necessary?  I should stop complaining about some silly cramps.  The next time they weaned me I was determined I would not say anything unless I was sure they were contractions.  Plus, I was covered in paint, super dirty from not showering after a workout, and just totally embarrassed by my current appearance. I didn’t even have a hospital bag packed or my husband’s birthday present. I at least thought I could get the balloons for him.  They’d look nice in the hospital anyway.

This time it had been 4 hours since the Magnesium stopped, so I was clear right? It was the 21st and about 9 pm. I was showered, my husband got dinner, and I was only having mild cramps. I rated them as low as I could, but my wonderful husband started timing these cramps.  When they were regular and close together, he kindly suggested I called the nurse back in. By the time she got there, called the resident, and checked my cervix again, I was 7cm dilated.  It was 10:45pm, I could make it to 11pm I thought.  They began prepping me for delivery and all I remember is asking questions for guidance. You deliver at 10cm right? Will I know how to push? When to push? Can I push too hard? Can he come too fast? Is there a thing as feeling like you need to push, because I really feel like I need to push?  I’m pretty sure they all got a kick out of me, but answered all of my questions.  At 11:10pm, squeezing the hell out of my husband’s hand, and one strong push later, our son entered this world with a nice loud cry.  I was able to hold him before they took him to the NICU and I knew his cry was a very good sign.

Bekytt Paul Kraft has blessed us all in so many ways.  He has taught me what it means to be strong since the moment he arrived. He was tough the entire 35 days in the NICU and continues to be tougher than me today.  I don’t want to ask why he came so early, but I do often ask why am I so lucky. So lucky to have an amazing little boy with an incredible husband/now dad, by my side. There will be challenges, all of his health issues are not behind us, but we are more blessed than we could ever imagine.

-Kathryn Kraft, MPT

9/19/17 Of Course I’ll Breastfeed!

While drinking the coffee I’m not supposed toI have craved it since the day I said I wouldn’t drink it.  First, one of the many Neonatologists my son had said it may be the reason for his high heart rate.  He had been only a few weeks old and being extremely premature they had him on a caffeine drip in the NICU to make sure he didn’t stop breathing. It was a miracle they all say that he didn’t need oxygen, but of course he must need the caffeine. “Babies born that early can forget to breathe,” they said.  “The caffeine helps remind him to breathe.” Okay then.  Let the boy be on caffeine! But after a spike in his heart rate I am asked “have you changed anything in your diet.” I think really hard and say “I don’t think so.” See, I was lucky and determined enough that even though my baby was in the NICU, he would get my colostrum, he would get my breastmilk and he would not be on formula. I’d hand expressed and pumped as often as I could. I’d suck up those first few drops in a syringe just to make sure I could provide for my son. I believed it was my mission to help him in any way I could. I believed in the power of breast milk. I also believed in my morning cup of, yes, single, cup of coffee.  So after answering this question that I had no idea where it was going, she clarified. “Have you been drinking more caffeine than usual? Coffee? Soda?” Wo wo lady, soda? I was mortified that she thought I could possibly be a soda drinker, but then said, “no, just my one cup of coffee a day that I have drank all along.”  To my surprise, I next heard “well maybe you could try and switch to decaf?” Seriously. You are literally pumping caffeine into the belly of my infant, but you want me to stop drinking my one cup of coffee that only transfers 1% of it’s caffeine into my breast milk. “Ok. I can do that no problem. But maybe you can stop giving him caffeine?”

I thought I was crazy for seeing the obvious, but again was willing to just do what I was told and do whatever I could to help my son.  They agreed to stop the caffeine and I agreed to switch to decaf. Five days later when the caffeine was cleared of his system, his heart rate came down.  But like any experiment, you never want to change two variables at the same time. So I chatted with a different neonatologist, my favorite nurse, and the milk technician and decided to do my own trial.  I’d bring coffee back into my morning routine, label my milk for that day, be told when it was given to him through his NG tube (he was still too young to take a bottle) and I’d monitor his heart rate.  Would you believe it made no difference?  All of this to give me, not only a new mom but now a NICU mom, peace of mind that my morning cup of coffee was not contaminating my baby through my breast milk.

I say all of this to lead to where I am today.  My son is currently napping on his tummy next to me on his topponcino and I am sipping a delicious cup of FarmStrong Coffee with a touch of coconut milk creamer, for the first time in 2 weeks.  After we were sure his heart rate was fine, he learned to eat by mouth, and blessed us in our home 35 days after delivery, I thought my coffeeless days were over.  He ate, he slept, he grew, and he was/is cute as ever. He loved his tummy and hated his back, and maybe had silent reflux? Then maybe he really had GERD? And maybe he just had bad gas? He was uncomfortable. That I knew. But was it normal? Abnormal? Do we treat it? Do we not? How many hours of research do I do online before making a decision? Is it dairy? No, I cut that out just in case a long time ago Soy? No, who eats soy any more? Is it eggs? I really don’t care I’m not giving up eggs too. Is it the acid in the coffee I drink and all the locally grown tomatoes I’ve been eating? Maybe…ok I gave it up once I can give it up again, right? So I cut it out for the last 2 weeks.  I also made the same mistake as I did in my previous experiment and began giving him the doctor recommended Zirtac for his “reflux” against my “better” judgement.  I wanted so badly to avoid medication of any kind unless we knew it was really needed.   My son is not colicky, I mean I don’t think so, but I’m a new mom so who knows. He cries. I hate it. I try to fix it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Is it more than 3 hours? I don’t know, I don’t have the ability to time it, nor do I want to, every single time he cries and it is not fixed by eating, changing his diaper, and making sure a hair isn’t wrapped around his tiny fingers or toes (I guess this can happen?). It feels like forever when he does, but I digress. They say the medicine is safe so I decide to try it. At the same damn time I decide to give up coffee, again. What is wrong with me anyway? I have conducted real research in the past, I know this won’t help me understand the true issue, but I am sleep deprived and do not think of it at the time.

So, twice a day here I am trying to squirt this medicine into my now breasfed only baby’s mouth as he gags and spits it out. Apparently it has to taste like mint? Why? Who decided this? We know kids don’t like mint, which is why their toothpaste is flavored with strawberries and bubble gum. Why would we make something that is supposed to help them stop spitting up, gag and spit up the second it enters their mouth? WTF. Really. In any case. I try it. And I quit drinking coffee and eating the delicious tomatoes that now I expect my husband to consume all of from our amazing CSA.

I do this for nearly 2 weeks before deciding I am really against the medicine. If it is helping, not much, and by now I’m convinced it isn’t reflux because I’ve down even more online searching. So I stop giving it to him, but do not resume my beloved coffee.  I change my research to oversupply of breastmilk/forceful let down and now I believe it is my fault for his adverse reactions.  He does every single thing on that list.  He hasn’t had a bottle in awhile so I’m not sure at this point, but then I go to drill for the WI Army National Guard. My husband bottle feeds him during the day with the milk I have left for him and I breastfeed at night.  I eagerly await how he does with the bottle, my husband says “fine, the same.” So I let it go and move on.  Then comes the first night he’ll have his soon to be nanny watch him while my husband and I go to a friend’s wedding. I come back, ask detailed questions and learn bottle feeding went very smoothly.  My husband then admits, yes bottle feeding may go better, but, God bless him, he didn’t want me to feel bad about it and believes it is still good to breastfeed.  More on my husband later, but if you don’t have a great one (or a great wife or partner), you really should invest in one because he will prove to save my son and I many times on this journey.

Now I “know” without a doubt I need help with breastfeeding technique as I have tried all the suggestions to no avail. I now have a crazy amount of lack of sleep, I’m becoming crabby without my coffee, and I am getting mad at my son while still feeling bad he is so uncomfortable when he eats.  So…what now? I drink the damn coffee and write about it.  It smells amazing, it tastes amazing, and really, I don’t even know if it ever affected him.  I truly don’t “know” anything about his reactions, but over analyze everything.  So when they ask a pregnant woman, “Are you going to breastfeed?” what they really should be asking is “Are you ready to feel guilty for everything you eat, risk having an undersupply, an oversupply? Are you ready to face one of the most challenging things you have done yet? Read too much online? Seek help wherever you can, but then decide to make your own decision on what works for you and your baby and your life?”  If you are ready for all of that, that’s great! Because honestly, I am still committed to providing for my son, and giving him all the benefits that come along with breastmilk, there are many…I just am not ready to give up coffee for it or say I love breastfeeding.

Kathryn Kraft, MPT

Welcome to my Blog…

daily confessions of a pediatric physical therapist turned into a first time mom.

Disclaimer: The inclusion of information and links from this site does not imply endorsement or support of any of the linked information, services, products, or providers.

 

9/18/17, Monday morning, my child is 12 weeks-Hi. My name is Kathryn and I am a first time mom. I know I know, so many things can be attached to that label alone, but I also have many other labels I feel worth sharing. Pediatric Physical Therapist. CrossFit Athlete. Lover of coffee and wine. Optimist.  Motherless. Ohio native. Outdoor enthusiast.  WI Army National Guard Captain.  I tell you this list not to boast, brag or complain, but rather to spark some thought as to what my expectations as a new mom would be.

Like most, I had high hopes that it would be the best title I would ever add to my list of qualifications. Mom. I could now celebrate Mother’s Day in a different way than ever before. I could become a hockey mom (which believe me is hotter than a soccer mom), and I would now be looked at as an adult. I waited 35 long years to arrive at the moment when I finally could hold my child, not someone else’s.

I believed I became an “expert” in babies because I worked with them for so long.  At the ripe age of 25 I began working at a Children’s Hospital and quickly learned how to tell if a baby was developing on time or not. I could adjust for prematurity and was happy to report to parents that while their child was behind their peers, look at all the wonderful things they can do and will be able to do by the end of therapy. Every time I assessed and scored a child who was born premature, I was nothing but happy for them. Truly happy that despite their rough entry into this world, they were overall healthy.  I saw babies born with Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, babies who had a stroke at birth, babies who failed to thrive, and mostly babies with torticollis.  All of them were beautiful and wonderful and perfect in my eyes and their parents.  Most conditions were no one’s fault.  Birth abnormalities just happened sometimes and it doesn’t make sense and isn’t fair, but these are the babies that tend to be the happiest. To just love being alive.  Their smiles and love for just being wherever they were taught me so much as a young therapist. But it was the babies with torticollis that I believed could have been prevented. I believed if your baby had a flat head and a tight neck, could only look one direction and didn’t tolerate tummy time, it was because you did something wrong as a parent. I’d never tell you that or make you believe that, but I secretly thought it. So when I became a parent, you’d never see me with a car seat in my hands, a swing or bouncer in my home, never, never a baby exersaucer or Johny jumper.  These things caused delays in babies.  I knew it. And I’d definitely never sleep with my baby that could kill him!

Then, on June 21, 2017 my baby boy surprised us all by arriving 10 weeks early.  It came as a surprise, but not a shock.  It was early for him as a 29 week 5 day old by his gestational age, but I just knew he’d be ok.  In those moments leading up to his delivery, in the consult from the NICU team and the birthday “celebration” we had for my husband on the 20th, I never once felt scared or worried that something would go wrong.  I honestly don’t know what I felt, maybe unprepared for delivery as we had not attended any birthing classes.  Maybe I didn’t believe he was actually coming.  Whatever it was, when I heard him cry and held him closeby for a brief moment before he was taken to the NICU, I just was…there. I was as in the moment as I could be. I was doing what I was told and I trusted in the medical team to take care of me and my baby. I had my husband by my side the entire time and I was just doing whatever needed to be done.  And I think that is the reality of being a mom, you just do what needs to be done. It may not be what others tell you to do, it may not be what is recommended by the latest and greatest from the American Academy of Pediatrics, but you do what you have to do in each and every moment to survive and thrive as a parent.

In the blogs that follow that is all I will be doing. Sharing what I am doing in the moment to survive and thrive as a new mom. I’ll share my experiences, previous expectations as an “expert” on babies, realities that happen as a new mom and just as a person in general, and how my baby is doing along the way.  Unedited.  You may like it you may not, but I’m writing it just to write and see where it takes me. Writing, I’ve realized, is my way of thriving in the midst of all this craziness. So I hope it helps some of you out there to realize even your pediatric therapist lets her child sleep on his tummy, by her side.
~Kathryn Kraft, MPT