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

10/16/17-How do you make friends?

I want my son to be a good friend– This weekend while holding Bekytt on my chest, I reached over and grabbed the Parents magazine that is being sent to me for a free trial since I first shopped at Motherhood Maternity.  I have read a few and have been surprised by how much I actually enjoy reading a magazine, it’s been years.  But It’s easy to hold in one hand, the articles are easy to read and useful, and usually there are some good ads in there that draw my attention as well.  But this weekend I was very excited to see an article about relationships with typically developing children and children with special needs. It is the very topic I have been talking about wanting to “fix” since I became a pediatric physical therapist 10 years ago, but it also addresses a fear I believe all parents share, “will my child have friends?”

Bekytt is still so young, but I believe he is absorbing information at a very rapid rate and what we start to teach him now will make a difference in what he retains later in life.  One of the many things I want to teach him is how to be a good friend.  Our social relationships are so important to our health and happiness, this has been proven over and over again, but what makes a good friend? How do you teach your child to have the qualities others will look for in friends? I believe a huge component to this is the ability to listen and empathize.  Unfortunately, not all children will grow up and have the ability to understand empathy.  How to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand what they may be feeling is something you can teach most kids, but many children with Autism struggle with understanding this.  The article in Parents talks about various children with differing abilities and their struggle to make friends.  Whether it was because of a physical or intellectual ability, at some point in the child’s life, others noticed them for their differences and would often avoid interacting with them.  Thankfully, each story has a happy ending about how a friendship was created, but it reminded me that children before the age of 5 yo, typically do not have the ability to judge someone or dislike someone because of a simple, non threatening difference.  This was made clear by a video the Human Rights Campaign put out a few years ago, and I agree.  We must teach our children from a very young age how awesome it is that we are all different, but also how similar we can be as well.

As a physical therapist at Children’s Minnesota, I was rarely found treating in my assigned gym.  It was almost a running joke, “where is Kat and her patient?”  Typically I’d be found in the hallways of the hospital teaching my kids how to navigate doors, hallways, ramps, stairs, and other people in their pathway. I would make their sessions as real life as possible, outside of the walls of our amazing gym space.  I loved the integration and felt it was important for kids learning to walk with crutches, braces, or prosthetics to learn how to do that around other typically developing kids and adults who may be roaming the hallways as well.  I wanted my kids to be proud of themselves and not embarrassed.  I wanted the other kids to see how cool equipment could be and be in an environment where they could be curious and ask questions and not be told not to stare.  When a child stares at something they have never seen, they are usually just curious and not being judgemental. They have questions because maybe they have never seen a prosthetic or a child making noises for seemingly no reason.  As parents and caregivers, we should be teaching them about these things in a positive way.  Letting them know it’s ok to be curious and not shush them and quickly move along before the other child’s parents notice our child’s curiosity.  Working in the schools now, I witness this integration happening naturally on a daily basis.  I have seen some typically developing kids embrace other kids with equipment and different abilities and play together as equals, but I have also seen a number of kids stare and ask questions when I am working with a student.  I always welcome those kids to come meet my friends (if said friend is interested) and ask them the questions they may have. I only intervene and answer things if my friend wants me to or gives me permission, but once the questions are answered, there is always a mutual smile shared between the two kids and then they move on.  

You see, we are all connected at a much deeper level because of our similarities than we are divided by our difference.  As school kids, we all just want to make friends, have a great lunch with someone to sit by, enjoy recess, and make it to the end of the day with more smiles than tears.  We want to be included. We want to be part of something.  Even as adults, we want to belong.  We don’t want to be silent or ignored or stared at.  We don’t want people talking about us, we want people talking to us.  We don’t want to have our weight, our haircut, our outfit, or our wheelchair define us.  We want people to know who we are and we want to connect.  I want this for my son more than anything.  I don’t know what his physical or intellectual abilities are going to be, but I do know he is somebody already.  He has a soul and a heartbeat and there are times when he is happy and times when he is sad.  Even though his language has yet to develop, he calms when we embrace him.  I want him to always have this ability to feel comforted and I want him to know how to comfort others. No matter what his abilities turn out to be, I want to know that he will have friends and that he will be a great friend.  I want to believe that we all can and are doing whatever it takes to help answer our children’s curious questions no matter how uncomfortable it may make us.  That we are trying to teach them how to ask appropriate questions, teach them how to listen so they can understand others and learn empathy if they can.  I want to believe we are all doing this at every stage of our child’s development because no matter what job they score later in life, I want to believe every child has a chance to connect, to have friends, and to be happy because they belong to something.  Because we are all humans with a soul and a heartbeat.  I want the world to be like the Best Buddy program without there having to be a program for it (though I’m thankful there is one).  And as a parent and pediatric physical therapist of LIVEfor.., I will work to do whatever I can to create programs and summer camps where there are no barriers and kids can be kids.  But as a parent, I will start with my son and teach him as best as I can about love and positive relationships, and the importance of embracing our similarities and differences so we can all live happily ever after.  –Kathryn Kraft, MPT  

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10/13/17: Can’t Knock Me Down

I’ll Get Up Again– Why do we let people bother us so much? People who obviously are not worth our time. People who clearly do not know their job or themselves well enough to have enough confidence to focus on their day and their issues and not create issues for others.  People who have egos because of their lack of knowledge. People that do not deserve our time or effort.  People who can’t even get our first names right. These are the people I tend to let get under my skin no matter how many times I tell myself I am better than to stoop to their level.  Especially when it comes to their opinion with what I am or am not doing on my maternity leave. It’s my maternity leave. I will spend it how I want to. I chose to work some. Some. Not full time.

This last week I have been putting a lot of hours in for work. I had planned on working one day from home every week of my leave, and I was happy and thankful for this.  I would be able to stay connected, not fall so far behind, but still have my time with my son. Win win for everyone.  This past week in particular there were a lot of things going on and I was trying to cram my work days in so I could travel to OH next week to visit family for the first time since Bekytt was born.  I wanted to plan ahead and make sure my time at home could be focused on those I have been longing to see. My grandma, my brother, my dad, all of my family and friends who live there.  I want them to know Bekytt and I want him to know them.  People may have their opinions on how I do this trip, on how I do my work, and on how I parent in general, but I am here to tell you, I simply don’t care.  

It may seem I care about your (your being relative) opinion because of how angry I get when you tell me how I should be living my life, but it’s only because I am appalled and feel you need to know how wrong you are.  I’ve never been good at keeping my mouth shut, so why start now? I feel it is important to speak up and stand by choices we make as mothers and that we make for our profession. I feel we should not have to apologize for taking time off, though I feel I am doing it daily to people who don’t understand what maternity leave is (not in my organization, my organization is amazing, but in others I deal with).  I should not apologize for being an advocate for someone who needs one. Email and technology has sort of screwed with leaves and our lives in general. Everyone knows you can see your email on your phone, and we are tempted as humans in the 21st century to read these emails, and then we get sucked into responding, and then all of a sudden we are available all the time. Why do we do this to ourselves?!

I say I am getting rid of my smart phone all the time.. I want to get rid of the internet at home. Rid of TV.  In a sense, I want to be a minimalist and live in a Yurt in the woods somewhere with just the three of us.  I want to throw logs on the fire, play board games and read at night.  I want to talk to people face to face. Schedule coffee or lunch or dinner weeks in advance and write them down on an actual calendar. Have a landline, not even a flip phone. Just a landline and an answering machine.  I want my time off to be time off.  Off the grid as they say.  Actually, I want to live like this all the time.  I want to expand LIVEfor…be an advocate for kids who need one and treat kids of all abilities in all environments.  Create a summer camp that is off the grid where kids learn to be kids.  Figure out how to overcome boredom by being creative and moving and socializing. How to take care of their basic needs.  I want to use our technology for the things we need it for and leave it in the clouds otherwise.  

I want this because I am tired of people being passive aggressive over email and not understanding how to interact with other people. To work with people you have to understand people, understand how to be a leader, understand teamwork, and understand how to be creative when things don’t go as planned.  I understand email is the primary way we communicate at work these days and sometimes it’s very helpful. But when it comes to human interaction or a problem, I’d rather have someone disagree with me to my face.  Have an actual conversation with a resolution at the end rather than a never ending email thread where we say what we want without having to hear the other person’s response, or tone, or truly seek an understanding. Where we just hit send without even thinking.  

Twice this week I had to refrain from responding to emails for fear of speaking my mind a little too clearly.  I am thankful I have a great partner to vent to and talk sense into me and I am thankful for my blog and ability to write.  I am sure we have all experienced moments like these and if anyone has a solution, a yurt to sell, or recommendation on how to not let difficult people ruin your day, I’m all ears! But in the meantime watch out, because as Chumbawamba said best, when I get knocked down, I get up again. TGIF.  

Kathryn Kraft, MPT  

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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.

10/11/17 It Takes a Village

Friends are vital to positive parenting-Last week I messaged a friend in desperation, “you have to come over, I think I’m losing my mind.” I literally felt that way. I have found a way to enjoy being home. I have began to read more, I love writing, and I’m slowly working on some projects soon to be released, and Bekytt is wonderful in all of his emotional states, but I miss my adult time. I count the hours down until Kyle gets home just to have someone to talk to, but I couldn’t possibly dump a full day’s worth of thoughts on him in the few hours we have before we go to bed. I must see my friends.

I had high hopes of visiting friends all across the US while on leave. I thought I would fly Bekytt to see friends in WA, CO and of course OH. So obviously I’d be able to meet up with my friends in Milwaukee, right? Madison? Ok maybe at least Sauk City? Waunakee? Both are literally only 20 minutes away, I can make it there! Or…I can’t. I have not made it out to visit friends in any city near or far.  I’m the worst! I have all this time off and while I’m bonding with Bekytt, can’t I be bonding with my friends as well? I so need to chat and catch up with my friends! I rarely make it to CrossFit classes (except on the nights I am blessed enough to make it to drop Bekytt off at a dear friend’s house) and clearly I’m not at work while everyone else is, so my socialization with the outside world has been minimal over the last 17 weeks. Wait! Before this week, I did make it to one lunch and two coffee dates! Gosh those were amazing days. Why have I not made this more of a priority? I am, however, thankful to say my friends have not given up on me and they have come to see me. They have driven from Milwaukee, Racine, Poynette, Sauk, Waunakee and Madison to come save me from talking to my walls when I have needed it most.  My friends are amazing.

Social interaction. Friendship. Human connection. Positive relationships are so important to happiness, studies have repeatedly proven it.  The movie “I Am” makes it clear how important connection is.  So why as parents do we often isolate ourselves? The old saying “it takes a village” makes so much more sense to me now. How could we possibly think that just one or two people could raise a child in isolation? And that’s exactly what happens when you have a newborn. You stay home, usually alone unless family live nearby, and you try to do it all yourself. As Americans in general, we feel proud to be independent. To be able to do it all and never ask for help. Well, thank God for my friends who realize I need it even without me asking.

This week I was blessed to have a great friend visit me and Bekytt Monday, another met us for lunch Tuesday, a third is having us over Thursday, and I’m trying to set a time to go on a walk with another. It feels Heaven sent. Talking, laughing, eating, and drinking. Having so many people love Bekytt. Why have I not said “yes” sooner?  I want my village to know Bekytt. I want him to have many “aunts” and “uncles.” I want to set an example for him and I want him to know that his mom and dad love each other and that the right friends will last a lifetime.  I am thankful for all of you. You know who you are.  Thank you for being my friends through thick and thin, thank you for your loyalty and for always showing up when I need you most, and thank you for being my village for Bekytt. Eternally gratefully, Kathryn Kraft, MPT.

 

 

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10/10/17: When Molly Smiles

Time stands stillI do not have a daughter named Molly, but Molly Smiles is the song that instantly came to mind this morning as my son Bekytt was smiling from ear to ear. In those few moments where he looked up at me and began smiling so big that I saw his little dimple come out, I was hooked.

In the first few weeks and sometimes months of a baby’s life you don’t get that reward. That smile that makes all the tough moments better.  All the sleepless nights worth it.  You start out loving the smile that means gas is coming or spit up, and you don’t care how the smile was created, you just love seeing your baby smile. A smile is a universal symbol that people are happy. It connects us to one another and as parents, we so long to be connected to our children. We give so much all day long, but in that small moment when our child smiles at us, time stands still and we get so much back.

Interactive smiling typically starts occurring around 6 weeks of age. It is not until this time that a baby can recognize faces and smile in moments that he is happy and not just randomly. For a preemie baby, this 6 weeks is his adjusted age, so for us, it took until 16 weeks to get this amazing reward. It felt like an eternity. It is still new and not very consistent, but I love it. Some parents have to wait even longer. Some kids are fussy, or colicky, or cognitively delayed and may not smile consistently their whole lives. However, of all the kids I have treated, with a range of diagnoses, I have yet to treat someone who never smiled. Some kids it took longer than others. Some started out so upset with me that they would projectile vomit every session or cry for the entire hour. But with persistence, awareness of their needs, and patience, eventually even the seemingly unhappiest child would smile.

Seeing his smile was a reminder to me that I should smile more often. Especially to those closest to me. Instead of rushing to the next task as soon as my husband gets home, I should smile and tell him without words that I am happy to see him.  In stressful moments my mom used to say “fake it until you make it.” So the next time Bekytt started crying after being fed and changed and making sure all his basic needs were met.  I just held him and smiled at him.  It was instantaneous, but eventually he calmed down and fell asleep.  He won’t always smile back at me, but I want him to always know I am here for him and I am happy to love him in every moment.  He may not yet understand my words, but he can understand my loving touch, and he can understand my smile. So I will choose to keep smiling for as long as I can and eventually he will smile again too and I will be once again lost in that amazing moment. -Kathryn Kraft, MPT

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10/9/17: I’m Free!

Going to work never felt so exciting– This Saturday was the first time I’d be over an hour away from my son Bekytt and be gone for over 8 hours and I was excited! I craved social interaction, I was excited to be with my unit again and couldn’t wait to outside firing on the range at Ft. McCoy.   Bekytt woke up happy for Papa, Grandma got there just in time, and my wonderful husband had coffee ready. I had logged two stretches of 3 hours of sleep and felt ready to go when morning came.

After sporadically gathering all of my equipment, I got in the car, cranked up Michael Jackson and took a sip of my Farmstrong Coffee with Pumpkin Spice Almond Creamer. It felt like freedom. I was only responsible for myself for the next 8 plus hours. I started singing Billie Jean at the top of my lungs, loving the gentle rainfall against the beautiful red, yellow and green leaves.  Even the smell coming in through my slightly cracked open windows was relaxing.  But somewhere in the middle of belting out Thriller (as I marveled how I still knew the words to songs I haven’t heard in over 15 years when I can’t even remember where my boots I wore last month are) it suddenly hit me. I am hours away from my son. What if he doesn’t take a bottle? What if his nose gets stuffy? I didn’t show grandma the NoseFrida!  He won’t be able to breathe! Did I tell her he has to eat at least every 4 hours? Or where the thermometer is? I only showed her how to make a bottle and change his cloth diapers!

The panic that sets in when you are not the one in control of your baby’s care is crazy. It’s irrational. Especially when he is in grandma’s arms. I knew this, so I talked myself out of it pretty well. Once I arrived at Ft.McCoy, I put on my rain gear, grabbed my weapon and headed to the range. When firing a weapon there is literally nothing else you can think about. It’s the most mindful moment you can be in because it takes your sight picture, breath control, trigger squeeze…every little movement you have to control. There is no time to think about whether your son is ok or not. You just keep your eyes on the target and forget everything else. This is not a pro gun speech, but in this moment I felt all my worries fade.

I zeroed easier than I ever had and felt sane again when I qualified, but it was this experience that left me wondering about all the other moms who have to return to work either when their child was still in the NICU or was only a few weeks old? My son is 16 weeks and I don’t go back to work for another 8 weeks. What about the moms who have to leave them with a stranger the first time and not the other parent or not a grandparent or trusted friend? There are great daycares out there, but Bekytt’s grandma is top notch and I was still worried for no reason!

Maternity and paternity leave definitely need an upgrade for some. I hear European mothers get a full year off and it’s paid! Yet another reason to be French! But here, I’ve heard horror stories about those returning to work not even being given time to pump! Really people? There are 15 minute smoke breaks still, but you can’t spare that same time to pump out the most miraculous and nutritious thing created by humans?

I feel blessed I have my summers off and a twelve week leave. Sometimes I feel like it’s taking forever and that I can’t wait to return to work full time, but other times I feel it is going too fast and I haven’t had a chance to truly connect with Bekytt yet. Like most things in parenting, it’s a day to day experiment on how I’m going to feel, but I definitely realize how lucky I am and hope other moms out there get the leave they deserve. –Kathryn Kraft, MPT

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10/6/17 As Fate Would Have It

My profession is my passion-I remember being a senior in high school and having to pick someone to job shadow for a week.  At the time, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to “be when I grew up,” but I definitely knew I didn’t want to be sitting behind a desk all day.  I was an athlete and the only profession I had experience with that was of interest to me was physical therapy.  I thought all physical therapists worked with athletes, but when my mom brought a school PT to my attention, it sounded interesting.  I think she knew her from a family friend, but the connection and experience turned out to shape more of my life than I could have imagined.

I traveled to various schools that week throughout Mentor, OH meeting some amazing kids.  Some had greater impairments than others, but they all benefited from the therapy, and from what I could tell, had a blast doing it.  Working with kids suddenly became what I wanted to do.  A pediatric physical therapist is who I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to learn how to assess what a child was able and not able to do. I wanted to figure out a way to help them do the things they struggled with and the things that would make them smile.  Teaching a kid to walk for the first time or helping an athlete recover from an ankle injury? Easy choice! I wanted to see that smile when they took their first steps or learned to navigate their power wheelchair faster than the other kids could walk.  I wanted to be that person to help them so badly.

Fast forward 17 years and it finally happened.  I took my first pediatric job at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and it was everything I dreamed it to be.  Jumping in ball pits, racing in gait trainers, running on the underwater treadmill.  I loved the kids and I loved being challenged daily on how to help them.  A change in my mom’s health took me home to OH for a short stay, and then a crazy leap of faith in a sport no one has heard of took me to Children’s Minnesota.  Not that I am comparing, but I loved it there even more. The individual treatment gyms, the incredible orthotist right next door, the people, the kids, the specialty clinics. It was like Heaven to me.   There was so much opportunity.   I met wonderful people and horses learning hippotherapy at Hold Your Horses, and I also realized some kids that need PT can’t get it because of insurance barriers. What?! That made no sense to me and didn’t seem fair.  Hence, LIVEfor..was born.

I didn’t think it was fair that a child that wasn’t developing as expected be denied therapy because they were above the 5%tile. The 5%tile?  They were still clearly behind, and their parents wanted nothing more than to help them.  As parents, when our kids have a delay, most will say “I just want my kid to walk.” That is the first huge milestone every parent dreams of seeing.  Even I want that for my kid and I think wheelchairs these days are awesome! Pretty much the coolest they have ever been!  In 2011 I started treating kids in their homes and my dreams kept getting bigger.  I am a dreamer by default.  My passion for kids with all abilities is huge. I want every kid to be able to experience the outdoors, recreation, walking or rolling through the woods. Attending summer camps.  Feeling empowered and creating lasting memories.  I started to think of all the ways we could break down barriers so equality was truly reached in this area. I believe in fostering trust and support in kids to give them the freedom to go confidently in the direction of their dreams. I truly feel like being a pediatric physical therapist is my calling.  So when I had Bekytt 10 weeks early, I felt this was my calling to be his parent as well.  His very specifically.

Today, Bekytt is 15 weeks chronologically and 5 weeks adjusted.  His overall health is pretty darn good.  Besides a small heart issue, so far, things inside and out look good, but he is at risk for many developmental delays.  He may have a hard time holding his head up, learning to roll, crawl, and even walk.  He may have visual or cognitive delays.  Like any child, we just don’t know. But I can promise him I am ready for whatever comes our way.  My passion to help other kids learn these things has prepared me for the exact moment I am in today.  They have taught me how to assess head shape, range of motion, strength, and movement in infants. How to help those with congenital conditions thrive.  So while I tell everyone who asks his age both his chronological and adjusted age, I do this with pride, not embarrassment. I am proud that our little man came into our world when he did and I’m so excited to help him learn whatever skills he needs as he grows.  It’s my calling.  He is my passion.  I finally get to be the mom and the therapist, and I love it.

-Kathryn Kraft, MPT

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10/5/17: Strength in Numbers

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!-Wednesday night, it was about to be a great night. My husband Kyle came home early and as I handed him our son  Bekytt, I poured a little glass of Malbec, sat down, and felt so relaxed.  Even after the return“handoff” Bekytt was content to eat and fall asleep in my arms. We were safe in our wing chair so I thought this is great, I will doze off a little too and we will both nap before the night shift begins.  Then, out of nowhere, the screaming began.

He woke up like he had just had the worst nightmare ever.  Half asleep I tried to wake up well enough to soothe him, but I was still out of it.  It was only 6:45pm, the sun had set, and it was a nice brisk night. Outside. I will wrap him in a blanket and just walk outside.  This will bring clarity.  I can stay calm, wake up, and calm him as well.  I kid not, within the next 5 minutes this was what happened.  A dad and his maybe 8 yo son rode by on their bikes.  They looked happy and I just thought I can’t wait for those bike riding nights.  But then I heard the dad say “Come on bud, we have to get home for bedtime.”  Son replies, with a loud scream “No! I don’t want to go to bed!” Kid bikes away yelling at his dad.  Mom, and maybe 5 yo son, are now walking toward me. Mom is carrying her son’s scooter, son is screaming “You’re a liar! You’re a liar!” Mom says, “Come on honey.  We have to get home it’s getting dark.” Son says, “I want to go this way! You said we can go this way! You are such a liar!

As the mom walks by and her son continues to scream I say, “It seems like it’s a great night for all the boys in the neighborhood.” Neighbor mom says “It doesn’t get any easier.”  I couldn’t help but just start to laugh. I was definitely awake now and as frustrated as all of us probably felt, somewhere in that moment I felt connected with both parents.  It was like the universe was telling me I’m not alone.  My son is not the only one to cry or scream or just complain for no reason at dinner time.  And no, maybe it won’t get better, but I can control how I see the situation. If I can just join the very large force of parents who have been there before and laugh it all off, I can get through it.  I can join the masses and we can tell our stories and we can all laugh together.  And then in the quiet moments, when everything’s going right for our kids, we can enjoy those moments for exactly what they are.  We can be more present and more engaged when the timing is right because we will still be sane. No, I may not be able to “beat” other parents out for mother of the year award, or tell stories how my son started sleeping through the night at 2 months, but I can and will gladly join you parents out there who just need to laugh off a night (or many nights) of a child who just won’t stop screaming. Because about 5 minutes after coming inside with Bekytt, now smiling at him as he screamed in my ear, our doorbell rang and there was another, but this time calm and very polite, neighborhood boy selling dark chocolate, yes! Some boys do turn out ok after all!
-Kathryn Kraft, MPT

10/4/17: Mom Bod and Proud of It

I wear these scars with pride– I try to tell myself this daily when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror or lift my shirt to feed Bekytt.  Those stretch marks, that dark line down my abdomen, the extra roll that remains on my belly…I’m proud to have all these because they gave me the greatest gift of all, my son.  We want this to be true every day, we want to say it’s ok that our once athletic and strong body is a thing of the past, but that simply isn’t true.

I only carried Bekytt for 6.5 months and I gained nearly 60 pounds.  At 5’3 I almost hit 200 lbs.  Sure I didn’t eat perfectly that first trimester when nothing sounded good but nachos, but I trained consistently, I could still do pull ups, and overall I ate healthy.  But I had a very hard time accepting what I looked like pregnant.  For the first time in my life I hated looking in the mirror.  I’d been an athlete my whole life, so while I didn’t always have a six pack, I was at least always comfortable with my body.  When I got pregnant I was ecstatic and knew my body would change, but I pictured my belly and boobs getting bigger and everyone would know it was because I was pregnant. I did not imagine the fat that I’d see in my legs and arms. I never thought I’d be the girl mourning my pre-pregnant body, but I definitely did.  I apparently was so eager to get my body back that Bekytt tried to help by coming 10 weeks early! Little did I know I’d hate my post pregnant body even more.

I was warned by a good friend of the “moosh” that would follow.  The once large, but firm belly, would now just be large.  I still looked pregnant, but wasn’t, and I’d had him so early I was convinced someone at our neighborhood Kwik Trip would ask how much longer I had to go and I’d have to say I was no longer pregnant.  I was embarrassed to be in public for the first time in my life and I knew it was ridiculous.  I should not have been so consumed by my appearance, but I was. It made me empathetic to so many other people’s reasons why they are embarrassed to go out that I never understood before.  I think crutches are cool, wheelchairs even cooler, and I always thought it would be amazing to have a prosthetic leg.  I loved working with patients with all kinds of equipment and I never saw size as a barrier to beauty.  So when I finally felt what I did, I realized when you are used to seeing yourself one way for so long, and then something changes that, it doesn’t matter what others see because it’s what you see everyday that matters.  It’s what my patients struggled with and it’s what I struggled with, my identity.  I had to find a way to identify and feel like an athlete again so I could learn to love the new me and not worry about my looks.

I returned to CrossFit as soon as I could.  It was tough, but I loved it.  I could and will write an entire blog on why CrossFit is so important to me, but for now I just want to say it made me feel like me again.  I am not able to go everyday like before Bekytt, but I go when I can and have an amazing community willing to help out with him when I do.  I am not able to run or perform like I did before, but I can still make this mom bod work pretty hard.  I am starting to see a slow return of  the body I once knew, but most importantly I’m starting to feel like the athlete I was before, and I think that is the difference.  If there is something you hate about your current looks, I’m realizing it’s not changing the look that will actually make the difference.   It’s about embracing the new you externally, but getting the old you back mentally that really has lasting change.  We are in control of our minds.  We can fill our heads with whatever we want to tell ourselves.  And I learned to remind myself that my pre-pregnant body prepared me for the toughest and best WOD of my life, and my post-pregnant body is preparing me for a lifetime of leading by example.  If I want to show our son what it means to be physically and mentally strong, I need to do the hard work and make time to improve my mind even more than I do my body.  I’m just lucky that what I love and becoming an athlete in my mind again also helps my physical being.

-Kathryn Kraft, MPT

Empowering Abilities for All