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11/10/17: A Heartfelt Thank You

To all veterans who have ever served– Veterans Day is tomorrow and I always feel undeserving when someone says “Happy Veterans Day.”  To me, the holiday was always meant to honor those who have served overseas and fought on foreign land, and that I have never done. I always think of my grandpa and great uncles and the older gentleman proudly wearing his Vet hat sitting at the local VFW.  The men and women who have gone to war and my fellow soldiers who have deployed to the Middle East and experienced some crazy $!&@.  Those are the people I’m drawn to say Thank You to and never think of myself.

I have never had the chance to deploy and have always remained on US soil while in uniform.  I’ve loved my time in the military and I am proud to serve in the WI Army National Guard, but until this year I never knew Veterans Day was originally called “Armistice Day,” and that Nov 11 was chosen to commemorate the signing of the armistice with Germany that ended hostilities during World War.  The history is more extensive than this with some debate on when World War 1 “ended” for the United States, but eventually the holiday became a day to celebrate all who have or are currently serving. Unlike Memorial Day when we pay our respects to those who have lost their lives, this day is a day for true celebration…and free food.

It sounds awful in a way, but really if we didn’t take our families out to celebrate at an establishment offering a free meal to Vets, we would be denying that restaurant the ability to say Thank You. Even if you are not a Vet, if you go out Saturday night to one of these places you will likely see Vets of all types and you will be able to say a genuine Thank You and maybe hear some incredible first hand stories from the ones who may be sitting alone.

I say all of this because Veterans Day as a mom feels very different.  I have been in the military for nearly 12 years now and I thought I’d stay for 20. Before being a mom, drill was exciting, annual training couldn’t come soon enough, and the chance of deployment was what I signed up for.  I am lucky enough to be the only physical therapist in the WI Guard and I love my job.  I get to work with and treat all types of soldiers. I never like when they get hurt, but I love treating them. Soldiers are different than your average civilian, and figuring out how to treat when all you have is a tent in the middle of a field, your hands, knowledge and some ace bandages is very different too. But I like this different.

Soldiers who get hurt, usually pretend they aren’t for as long as they can. They are bred to tough it out. No one wants to go to sick call or be sent to C Med, but when they do finally get to me, they usually are ready to listen, trust what I say and what I am asking of them, and they are willing to do it because they want to rejoin their unit. I only get a glimpse of what deployment would be like when I am at annual training and it’s exciting. I love helping someone overcome an injury and not need to be sent home. The last few years I’ve even been blessed with some amazing equipment so the rate of return to the field is even higher. I get to see things I’ve never treated and order X-rays to be completed immediately. I work right beside our PA and it’s my favorite part of being in the Army.  At least it was.

Annual training now means leaving my child for 2-3 weeks during the best part of the year. Drill weekends apparently just mean driving back and forth to Racine because he won’t take a bottle. The Army now means time away from my family and it’s hard. I can’t even imagine a year long deployment now, or even a 2 month deployment. It makes me be even more grateful for all the Vets who have or are serving year after year and have kids at home.  It makes me see the sacrifice much more clearly.  Sacrificing a weekend, month or year as a single soldier never felt like a sacrifice, but now it truly is. Now being in the Army means you choose some days to be serving your country over being there with your family. It means you may be risking your life one day and leaving your family behind. This is real and our Vets have done this for centuries. Moms and dads have left their kids to serve and some have never come home.  I cannot imagine having to make that decision.

Most of us serve because we felt a calling or wanted to do something bigger than ourselves. We felt a desire to give back to our country or we just plain wanted the experience and needed the college assistance. But no matter if someone joined for the money or joined because they had no other choice, they still joined and said yes to serving their country. For this huge reason, we should all be thanking our Vets for everything we have become as a nation over of the years.  Freedom wasn’t free for many and I can’t imagine not having the choice now to stay or retire. I can’t imagine being told I have no choice but to serve. I am thankful I had the freedom to choose to join and I am incredibly thankful that now that I have a child I can also choose to retire.  I can only hope my time and service impacted at least one soldier over the years and that even though I may never deploy, I can still hold my head up and be proud to be considered a Veteran on Veterans Day. Thank you to all my fellow soldiers in the 132nd and beyond, thank you Grandpa, Dad, and all my Great Uncles who have served. Thank you to those I may not even know who’s husbands or wives or kids have served. It’s an incredible sacrifice for both the Vet and their family and you all should be recognized. See you at Starbucks, Denny’s, Applebee’s, Bar Louie, Buffalo Wild Wings, etc etc 🙂 Kathryn Kraft, MPT

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10/17/18-The Months are Fast, but the Days are Long

You’re going to miss this- I don’t know if it is because he has been here for nearly 4 months now, or the fact that I care for him everyday, but somehow I keep forgetting that in terms of my son’s development, he is just barely 2 months old.  I keep expecting to see some big gains every morning.  I want to see him hold his head up completely on his own, reach for things, interact with toys, and try to roll and move. I guess what I really want is to know that what I am doing for him and how I am trying to do it is working.  But like a good friend pointed out, I have more time with him as a newborn than most, so I must be patient in these hard, possible unrewarding times.  People say “hold on to these moments” and “you’re going to miss this one day” all the time.  “Treasure your time with him.” I’m not saying I don’t, but I definitely realized today I am seeking some sort of verification from my son, in terms of his development, that I am doing ok as a mom.  And that is just crazy.  I clean his toosh, feed him the boob, cuddle him, and yes make him do tummy time and work on his head control daily, so what else can I do with a 2 month old?  Ok, there are more things that can be done, but he is asleep so much still.  So I end up spending a lot of days working from home or watching another episode of the Gilmore Girls because he is sleeping in my arms and I can’t put him down or stop moving or he’ll scream.  And every day I spend doing “nothing”, the closer and closer I get to feeling depressed.  The days that I do not spend time connecting with someone, anyone really, are the days I start to doubt my skills as a parent.  

This makes sense I guess.  I mean, if you have read my past blogs, I have talked about this before.  I know what helps make a good day. Shower. Go for a walk. Try to get to the gym. See friends.  Interact with people. Socialize. See beyond your walls. When in said walls, read, or do something productive.  Most of us know all of these things that can make our days better, yet some days we just feel awful anyway.  We can blame it on the rain, the weather in general and say it’s “sleeping in” weather and that we just want to be in PJs and watch movies all day.  Then we do it, and we feel awful.  We, encompassing all you Type A people out there.  To feel accomplished we need to do something.  It can be anything.  I guess as Admiral William H McRaven puts it, if I want to change the world, I should start by making my bed.  He says that if we have discipline to make our beds every day, then at least if the rest of the day is horrible, we can feel good coming home to a nicely made bed and know that we had the discipline to start our day off right.  I love his talk.  My husband says the book is wonderful.  I love books actually too.  I’ve been dying to read lots of books to my son.

We actually read to Bekytt a lot in the early days.  In the NICU, he rarely cried.  He was a model NICU baby and came home the same way. He’d wake up to eat, be changed, and fall asleep slowly in our arms never fussing.  We read to him after nearly every feeding. I loved it. Especially when my husband read the Way of the Warrior Kid to him.  But somehow over the past month or so every time I read, Bekytt starts crying.  Screaming rather.  Maybe it’s a timing issue or maybe it’s my reading (especially since when my husband pulled out that book again the other night Bekytt was incredibly silent), but I miss reading to him. Reading is something I know is good for him.  Along with talking to him, singing to him, holding and loving him.  I know what my husband and I are doing for him right now is what he needs. Most of us parents are able to do what our kids need, but why do we always feel it isn’t enough?

We are taking him to the cardiologist again tomorrow for a repeat echo and I am nervous about it.  Even though there is nothing I could have done or not done to help his physical heart, I know if things aren’t better I will still wonder if there was.  Now don’t get all worried about me or anything (ok maybe send positive vibes Bekytt’s way), but I am going to handle whatever happens just fine and trust that his medical team will do what is best for him. I just have to admit that of course I am scared. I think it’s like a right of passage as a parent to feel guilty about any and everything we do or don’t do.  I can laugh about it most days, but today I want to believe that something I am doing for him is helping him.  I want to believe that his development is going to go along perfectly. I have to believe because for the very first time I now understand the parents who told me they believed their child would walk one day, even when I thought it wasn’t medically possible.  I am now that parent. I am the parent who believes in miracles.  I believe Bekytt’s heart can heal itself without surgery even if one day his doctor tells me otherwise. I believe he can do anything. I believe he is the toughest kid in the world because he is my son, not someone else’s.  As parents, we see the capabilities of our children at a deeper level than any provider.  We believe all of this while still doubting ourselves. If only I could believe in myself as much as I believe in my son, then I may get off my ass more during the day! If I believed I was doing “enough” for my son, I bet I would do more for myself.  Ugh. You’re right mom.  I so need to do more for myself so I can do more for him. I can see clearly now the rain has gone.  Farmland, I miss you and I must return.  This is what I need to do, Bekytt can be my weights or a friend can watch him.  No matter what the day brings, I must workout in some way shape or form and not feel guilty that I am taking time away from my son.  The days feel long lately, but I know one day I’ll want them back, and I know that if I want to change the world, I must start with making my bed.

Kathryn Kraft, MPT

10/12/17: Don’t Rock the Baby

Creating Bad Habits In my recent days I’ve began to start watching some YouTube videos on how to get a baby to sleep through the night. I haven’t worried about it much to this point as Bekytt’s adjusted age is still under 2 months (yes I know Katie T, I said he would be by now), but I’m definitely craving the days when it happens. Like any other baby topic, the advice is endless and inconsistent. There is the cry it out (CIO) side, the attachment parenting side. Most say stick to a routine. Many say don’t rock him to sleep or he’ll always have to be rocked to sleep. You can’t spoil a newborn. Habits won’t start forming until 6 months. Sleep train during the day not at night. It’s enough to make your head spin. And all of us our desperate for sleep so we just keep filling our heads with different advice hoping something will stick.

 

They say you don’t have to decide if you’re a CIO or Attachment fan until the baby is 4-6 months because no sleep training should start before then. The problem is, no working mom is off for that long. So we crave sleep way before then. I got tempted to start sleep training now so I started searching for something or someone to tell me it was ok to start now. There are times Bekytt can go three hours at night so we must be getting close, right? After all, sleeping through the night actually only means sleeping for 6 hours straight. Hmmm. Six hours? Could I go 6 hours without pumping? Do I then have to wake myself to pump anyway to risk drying up or mastitis? My search switched. And again, more information overload with no consistency. Most will say yes pump. Some say if you’re exclusively breastfeeding, follow the baby’s schedule and you’ll be fine. Other experts say breastfeeding goes both ways. If you feel you need to empty your breasts, wake the baby to eat.  Really? Interesting thought, and I’m not saying I don’t agree, but I can’t keep my awake to eat most of the time let alone think of waking him to eat.  Then again, will I ever even get to the point of having to make a decision? And is it 6 months adjusted age or 6 months chronological that I can make a decision by about the night time sleeping thing?

To date, I still don’t really know if I can let him go more than 4 hours without eating.  I don’t think I’ve gotten a clear answer on that at our last few appointments anyway.  All I know is that I am convinced I have already started forming some really bad habits. He will only calm when crying if I am walking, or swaying, or bouncing on a physioball.  He has fallen asleep nursing and despite the advice, I have not tried to keep him awake to eat more.  He is 17 weeks/7 adjusted and he is only eating 1.5-2 oz a feeding (we know that because of the amazing Adria at the Happy Bambino), but he is gaining weight and thriving so clearly it is enough.  And I actally feel lucky when he falls asleep nursing.  We do not have a routine in place for him, but we do bathe him a few times a week and I think he likes that! That is until he comes out of the water and he acts like we just stole candy from him with the saddest quivering lip cry ever. I used to be able to read to him and loved it, but now unless I read over a screaming baby there is no reading time.  Which I do hate because I swear I became a parent so I could read kids books again and watch cartoons and just be a kid again myself. Well, one day.  The only other baby book I listened to on “tape” was Brain Rules and this also talks about music so we do at least do that thanks to Alexa! I think Bekytt likes the Beatles the best personally.  Good taste.  But my whole point to this rambling is right now, whatever Bekytt likes, mom and dad like. We do what calms him down. What lets him sleep.  And if that means he needs to be rocked or bounced to sleep, I’d rather be doing that than sitting on my butt, letting it get sore for hours because he does not calm.  So rock on parents! You do what you gotta do in each and every moment, and we’ll deal with the consequences later I say.  All kids will need therapy one day anyway! Or at least we all should go to therapy as it is truly good for the soul.  –Kathryn Kraft, MPT.