What does a fertile faith look like in the midst of infertility??? Part 1

I don’t touch on “religious” topics too often. It’s not that I’m ashamed of my faith or trying to shy away from it. On the contrary, my faith centers my life. It gives me hope. It keeps me sane. Call me weak…and I’d probably agree with you. Without my faith, I never would have found the strength to endure the road to becoming a physician, infertility, pregnancy loss, severe preeclampsia, having a premature baby, and dealing with the rest of life’s trials along the way.Woman hiker on a top of a mountain

Don’t get me wrong, many people have suffered greater losses, heartaches, and pains than I can dare imagine. Living in the United States makes most of my problems “First World” inconveniences. But, here and there my heartaches have been and still are significant. I’m often asked how I’ve found the strength to make it through 9 complicated IVF cycles with only one baby to show for it. How do I keep going?  Were does my strength come from? How do I find the endurance? What’s the key to making it through?  As I’ve opened up about my infertility journey these questions have continued to ping my inbox. What’s the secret?Closeup On Hands Of Stressed Young Woman

I’ve decided that it isn’t a secret at all. And, while some won’t like my answer, it is still my answer. Feel free to disagree. That’s the beauty of living in a country with freedom of speech and religion. If you don’t have a faith base and find this annoying, that’s fine too. I’m not offended by you, and it’s not my intention to offend you. I’m simply sharing from my own world in life view what I’ve found to be most helpful. Here goes…

Stay tuned for Part 2

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Print them…frame them…give your memorable moments a place!!

We’ve all done it…had precious pictures taken and then left them captive on a flash drive or CD. Almost three years after my daughter’s newborn session (better late than never), and I’m finally willing myself to pick frames, prints, and yes, a full-blown wall gallery!!!!!!DSC_2709

Check out this milk coma. THE BEST! And, her wardrobe…styling was a little easier back then when naked was all the rage…for her of course!!! DSC_2655
The cheese cloth swaddles come in every color. This purple is perfection…plus it’s now her favorite color. Using our kitchen hutch for some of the shots, our living room, and our master bedroom ensured that these photos would fit in with our overall decor and design sense. I highly recommend doing newborn sessions in your home instead of the studio! DSC_2631

 

DSC_2637DSC_2676DSC_2682This is just a friendly reminder to print them…enjoy them…remember those moments every day! DSC_2688 DSC_2698DSC_2727DSC_2737

 

Photography by Amy at Portraiture Studio

 

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When Pregnancy Swelling Becomes Something More…

 

After years of trying to get pregnant, our dream finally came true. God had finally answered our heart wrenching prayers for a baby. Getting pregnant had been the hard part-being pregnant was a breeze in comparison. That is, until everything went wrong.

Because we had conceived with the help of IVF, I was already a paranoid pregnant lady. Even though I followed all of the recommendations, I still feared a miscarriage, a physical deformity, or a genetic anomaly. I had thought of most potential complications, and every little ting or pain alarmed my fragile state of mind. Knowing too much as a physician didn’t help. I reminded myself that it was normal to be overly concerned considering all that we had been through. It wasn’t like getting pregnant was a walk in the park for us. All forces of nature had conspired against us for years. Now that we had finally gotten a positive pregnancy test, I was a little leery that it was too good to be true. But, as months passed and our baby continued to be a perfect patient, the hypochondriac in me started to lessen. I resolved that I was going to have a happy and healthy baby.Love and new life concept. A woman's hands forming a heart symbo

Around 26 weeks of pregnancy, I suffered the worst headache of my life. My husband and I had recently moved states, and I had just established care with a new OB/GYN. I didn’t want to be the annoying patient who called about every little complaint, but when loads of Tylenol and sleep just didn’t cut it, I began to worry. Knowing that headaches can be linked with pregnancy induced hypertension and preeclampsia, I quickly checked my blood pressure. It was normal, but the pain in my head was not. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I asked my husband to call the doctor.

The physician on call recommended that I come into the hospital for blood work, to monitor the baby, and to get me something stronger for the headache. I couldn’t have agreed more. Thankfully, my blood pressure and blood work were fine, the baby was active, and the Percocet took the edge off.

After that episode, pregnancy life returned to normal. My follow-up blood pressures were fine. I hadn’t had another headache, and my only real complaint was the swelling in my feet. By swelling, I mean absolutely NO shoes fit my feet. I questioned, joked, and complained about my elephant feet, but I just assumed that it was part of the beauty of getting pregnant.

Since we had just moved to a new state without any family nearby, I knew that I needed to establish a support system before the baby arrived. This gave me the bright idea to join a Mom’s group while still only 32 weeks pregnant-I like to think outside of the box sometimes! I loved my “Real Mom’s” group from the moment that I met them. They applauded my assertiveness in joining the group while pregnant and welcomed me wholeheartedly. They didn’t, however, welcome my swollen feet! Instead, they insisted that I prop them up and have someone take a look at them. I reassured them all that I had a doctor’s appointment later that day, and that I didn’t have preeclampsia. It was simply swelling from pregnancy. I had noticed just the night before, however, that my glasses seemed a little tighter on my face, and my rings were even tighter than usual. I voiced my concern to my husband but then brushed it off as paranoia.

Fetus 7 Month In The Womb. Visible Head And Arms

At my 32-week prenatal visit, my blood pressure checked out fine. The Ob/GYN examined my belly and listen to the baby’s heartbeat. After measuring my belly, she recommended that we get a quick ultrasound of the baby since I hadn’t grown much since the last visit.

I waddled off to ultrasound, my feet aching with each step. The ultrasound confirmed that my baby’s growth had decreased to the 10th percentile from the 40th. Something was making her very unhappy inside of me. When I returned to the exam room, my doctor asked for a urine sample (which being pregnant I was easily able to give.) She reexamined my feet and decided to confirm my “normal” blood pressure. On recheck, my pressure wasn’t just a little high; it was stroke worthy! My urine dip screamed protein. And, when my doctor asked if I had been seeing any floaters, I dumbly responded that I had been having a weird, spotty kind of dizziness for months, but it seemed to be positional. Duh! Floaters! Wow, sometimes being a physician really doesn’t prepare you to be a good patient.

Within minutes I was loaded into a wheel chair and whisked to the OB floor for overnight observation. I voiced my concern that my mom was coming from Michigan to pick me up and take me back for a wedding shower. My Ob politely but firmly replied, “Emma, you aren’t going anywhere. First we have to make sure that you and the baby are safe.” By the time I made it to the OB floor, my blood pressure was sky-high, my head was pounding, and I was starting to get very scared. The nurse poked and re-poked me to start the IVs for the blood pressure medications and the dreaded magnesium. In what seemed like minutes, I had developed sudden and severe onset preeclampsia.

I called my mom to let her know the change of events. Knowing nothing about preeclampsia, she asked, “Emma, is this serious?” That’s when I broke down sobbing. Yes, it was serious. I was getting sicker by the minute, and I knew that my baby needed to be delivered soon…TOO SOON.

For more about preeclampsia head to The Preeclampsia Foundation or March of Dimes. Both have their annual walks all across the country in May and June. Sign up to raise awareness and support women who have had pregnancy complications, and help prevent complications for others.

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Can a Pregnant Mom Trust Modern Medicine?

Pregnant Woman Belly. Pregnancy Concept

The beauty of medicine is that it can fix most things. No, it’s not perfect, but modern medicine saves countless lives. In addition to saving lives, it dramatically improves the quality of the lives we live. Without modern medicine, my 18 month-old daughter and I would not be here today. After sailing through 32 weeks of a healthy pregnancy, I developed sudden and severe onset preeclampsia. I’m a high achiever, so my body decided it needed to start setting records. My blood pressure soared to stroke high levels. The protein in my urine topped the charts at 12 grams (5 grams is considered severe preeclampsia), and I gained over thirty pounds of fluid, becoming the Michelin man overnight. A simple tap on my arm or leg would send my limbs flying into the air. My nervous system and reflexes were in overdrive. The pounding headache, spotty vision, and abdominal discomfort were icing on the cake.Pregnant woman sitting on sofa looking at her unborn baby's ultr

Overnight, I became one sick mamma to a 3 lb. 2 oz preemie. As soon as my daughter was cut from my belly, she required urgent resuscitation. A tiny tube was placed in her airway, and she was whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit. It took me two days to even make it up to the NICU to see her. Even then, I was hooked up to IVs, countless medications and could only manage to hold her for a few minutes. Although the textbook answer to treating preeclampsia is to deliver the baby, for some women this doesn’t solve the problem immediately. My blood pressure continued to top the charts, my reflexes remained in hyperactive mode, my mind was very confused, and I was pretty sure I had, or was going to have a stroke. My concerned OB/GYN consulted a cardiologist to manage my unimproved condition. She was amazing. She listened, investigated, and made the necessary changes (mega doses of several blood pressure medications), which eventually helped normalize my blood pressure. But, even she didn’t have all of the answers. It wasn’t until three weeks after I delivered that I was able to cancel home nursing and stop my blood pressure medications.Close up of doctor writing on a medical chart with patient lying

Through this experience I started asking questions about why this was happening. What was the physiology behind this crazy multisystem condition affecting my nervous system, cardiovascular system, kidneys, liver, and reproductive system? What caused preeclampsia? What could I do to prevent it in the future? What was my chance of having it happen again? Why couldn’t we prevent it or at least treat it more effectively? I didn’t like any of the answers that I was hearing or reading. They were all just theories, nothing concrete. This condition, which landed me in the hospital for eight days, forced me to have an emergency c-section at thirty-two weeks, placed my tiny baby in the NICU for nine weeks, and which put me at risk for having high blood pressure and a stroke later in life was still not understood.Care For A Sick Child In The Pediatric Icu

One out of every twelve pregnant women will develop preeclampsia according to data from the Preeclampsia Foundation. One in twelve! I don’t like those odds. How is it possible for a condition that is so common and potentially life threatening to mom and baby to continue to mystify us? We have mapped the human genome. We have eradicated small pox. We can identify breast cancer at its earliest stages, ensuring early treatment and amazing survival rates. Why haven’t we identified the true cause of preeclampsia and developed earlier and more efficient and effective screening tests for this condition? If prevention and earlier identification are not yet possible, then why haven’t we developed more effective treatments that will allow for a continued healthy pregnancy?

I have a fifty percent chance of developing preeclampsia again and at an earlier gestation in future pregnancies. I’m not a fan of my chances. I did everything right during my pregnancy. For goodness sake, I was the crazy lady who gave up all caffeine even though it probably wasn’t necessary. I didn’t drink a single soda, and I verified that every item entering my mouth was pasteurized. I was a paranoid pregnant mama! And, although following all of the recommendations probably prevented me from having other complications, it didn’t protect me from preeclampsia.

In a world where I count on modern medicine to fix most things, I have decided that modern medicine has failed to meet my expectations. Yes, it definitely saved my life and my daughter’s, but not all women are as fortunate as I was. Globally, preeclampsia is listed as one of the leading causes of mother and infant morbidity and mortality (illness and death). Worldwide, the United Nations reports that more than 500,000 women die each year due to pregnancy related causes. In the United States alone, preeclampsia causes 18% of maternal deaths. In short, preeclampsia is a killer.

As with any horrific and life threatening disease, the way to beat it is to study it. Research and clinical studies require interest, money, mental power (the scientists), and patients willing to participate. In most cases, it takes years before the results of clinical trials can be used in every day medicine. With only a short window left for my childbearing years, I’m hoping that new preventions and treatments will be available quickly. In the meantime, I’m doing my best to raise awareness and money, educate other women, and save the lives of women and their future babies (myself included). Join me by putting on your tennis shoes for the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia in your area. Or, take a look at the Preeclampsia Foundation or the March of Dimes for other ways to get involved. Push modern medicine to meet our expectations as women, mothers, and future mothers.

Both March Of Dimes and the Preeclampsia Foundation have their annual walks in May! Head to either of their websites to sign up and get involved.

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Being a Mommy Matters…Most

At times I wrestle with my newly formed identity…MOM. Don’t get me wrong. I cherish my new name. I cherish it when my daughter calls out to me in the middle of the night, or when she bumps her little knee. I cherish it when I hold her tightly and sing to her softly. There is nothing better than being a mom. But…Portrait of a mother with her newborn baby

My husband and I opened a new checking account right after we had my daughter. Since I wasn’t planning on going back to my traditional job of seeing patients in the office for a while, my title options on our application included: 1) unemployed 2) house wife 3) student. I was still working on my Masters of Public Health degree so I gladly latched onto the “student” title. Why did being called a house wife bother me so much? Was my identity really that wrapped up in my degrees and training? Well, I had spent the last 13 years of my life sacrificing everything for them…so, yes.

I didn’t want to give up what I had become as a physician just because I was making the decision to stay home with my daughter for an unforeseeable length of time. I wanted to be a full-time mom for a while. Goodness knows that motherhood has been a degree in and of itself (I still haven’t graduated)! And, while I still love being a full-time mom, I long to use my medical skills and training too. Is it possible to do it all? I’m still not sure:)

I’m finding that many moms struggle with their identity when trying to balance work, career, motherhood, marriage. There isn’t one right answer. I love being with my daughter, and I’ve been blessed with work options that allow me to “stay at home” and work part-time as a writer, public health consultant, and entrepreneur. But, even this set up leaves me feeling guilty and torn on certain days. For some moms, working outside of the house is vital to their sanity or financially necessary. For others, staying home full-time and caring for their kids is most fulfilling. The balance is difficult for all of us…enough self time…enough couple time…enough kid time…enough family time..enough work time.

Pretty, young business woman giving a presentation in a conferen

I’m finding that it all comes down to priorities. Nothing matters more than my love for God, my husband, and my daughter. My career and impact on the lives of others is also incredibly important.  I’m still a doctor, a wife, and a woman with dreams of my own. I don’t have to discard that part of myself. I want my daughter to see me doing great things. I want her doing them with me. So, the struggle continues-how to be the best mom possible while trying to save the world at the same time.

I’ve decided that the world can wait a few minutes longer than my two-year old (yes, we are working on patience). She needs me now. That doesn’t mean that I can’t work or send her to a Mom’s Day Out program one or two mornings a week. It just means that I need to filter my priorities, understanding that I have such a short window of time before she is all grown up. I am responsible for helping shape her into a woman who’s going to change the world for good. I don’t want to miss my opportunity or the calling that I have in my own home. When I’m home I want to be fully present with her. When I’m working I want to be fully focused and efficient so that I won’t be distracted when it’s HER time. I need to hang up the phone, turn off the computer, and look her little face in the eyes.Little girl giving kiss to her mom while working from home

Being a mommy matters. It matters more than most of us realize. Being an amazing mom can help shape our daughters’ character. It can impact generations to come. Being a mom matters as much as any other title. I’m still shying away from the STAY AT HOME MOM title that has made me cringe in the past. I don’t call my husband a GO TO WORK DAD. It’s just a weird title. Instead, I’m renaming my job description DEDICATED MOM and creating my own version of what it means. DEDICATED MOM has a much more inspiring and positive tone! It brings out the best version of me. It’s a role in which I can aspire. I may not have everything figured out yet…but I’m certain that however I choose to divide my time, love, and energy, I’m doing it with her in mind.

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Little Babies Matter Too!

Every woman dreams of a healthy pregnancy. Every woman also dreams of an easy one…one lacking swollen feet, excessive weight gain, countless stretch marks, and negligible energy. But if you were to ask any mother if she had to choose between healthy and easy, I guarantee you that she would choose HEALTHY any and every time.

Yes, we all have a tendency to complain when our waddles get a little to wide (a consequence of water buffalo breadth hips), our bellies block any reasonable effort at shaving, and our swollen feet refuse to fit into anything but granny shoes-all legitimate complaints in my book. But, what would we trade for a healthy baby? What would we give to deliver on-time without any complications? What would we vow if we could keep our infant out of the neonatal intensive care unit, tube and wire free?

Maybe you’ve never thought about it, but lately this has been weighing heavily on my mind. Every year about 450,000 babies are born too early. That’s 1 in 9 babies. Unfortunately, that was my baby! I admit, a premature delivery wasn’t on my “worry list,” and it’s not because my list was short! Santa Clause would have even had trouble keeping up. No, for some reason everything else landed on my irrational, OCD, hypochondriac list; then preeclampsia took me by surprise, and my body and my baby’s life by storm. If I could have done something differently I would have. 3 pounds and two ounces is too tiny for any little one to make a grand entrance into the world. Intubation tubes, heart rate monitor lines, feeding tubes, incubators…these life saving interventions brought both comfort and terror.Care For A Sick Child In The Pediatric Icu

Could my emergent c-section at 32 weeks have been prevented? No one knows. Even in today’s medically advanced world, preeclampsia is still a mystery. My risk for developing sudden and severe onset preeclampsia in future pregnancies is literally the flip of a coin. 50:50. It’s a chance I’m willing to take, but not one that I take lightly. After 9 weeks spent in the NICU with my daughter, I know the fear, exhaustion, and grief that prematurity brings. When the tiny twin next door doesn’t make it, or the micro-preemie down the hall is whispered one last loving farewell from his devastated mommy…it’s all too much to bear.

If I don’t know what to do…what can I do? Of course, there are known contributors to premature deliveries such as tobacco use, alcohol and illicit drug consumption, and a lack of prenatal care; but, none of these apply to me. I don’t drink, smoke, pop pills, or shoot up with anything other than infertility medications. And, since In Vitro Fertilization is our ticket to parenthood, my prenatal care starts at day zero. I take prenatal vitamins, exercise, try to eat healthy, and limit my stress. Yet, none of these have been shown to reduce the risk of preeclampsia.Birth

So, in an effort to protect my future pregnancies I’ve decided to look beyond myself. Now, I’m pushing researchers and the health care community for answers by partnering with The March of Dimes. I want to know what causes preeclampsia. I want to know if there is anything that I can do to prevent it; and if not, what can be done to treat it more effectively? If I am destined for another preterm delivery (one that could happen at an even earlier gestation) I want my preemie to have the best chance not just at survival, but at a healthy life free from neurological complications, breathing problems, visual and hearing disturbances, and developmental delays.

My desires may seem unrealistic, but I know them to be possible. Just 60 years ago my grandmother whispered goodbye to her preemie son only moments after he was born. 60 years ago she was told that there was nothing that they could do to save his life. 60 years later, my healthy 2-year-old daughter is living proof of the life saving advancements developed by the medical research community and largely funded by March of Dimes. All I’m asking for are more answers…quickly!Girls Kissing Mom's Belly

I can’t do it on my own. Please join me in making a difference for pregnant mothers, unborn babies (my own included), and preemies by walking with me this May 9th, 2015 in the March for Babies or by sponsoring me. Start your own team. Be a corporate sponsor, or sign up to raise awareness in your community. My dream is that 60 years down the road preeclampsia and preterm deliveries will simply be a thing of the past.

Click this link to donate/sponsor The Mom in Me, MD or to learn more about the March for Babies:

http://www.marchforbabies.org/themominmemd

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Miscarriage in the Making?

I’m not sure which is worse…having an altogether failed IVF cycle or having the false hope of a positive pregnancy test followed by a miscarriage. Three years ago I just wanted to get pregnant. I wanted to know that it could happen, but now that I have a rambunctious two year-old, I just want another baby. I know I can get pregnant. I don’t care about pregnancy success; I want “baby in my arms” success!Mother breastfeeding the little baby

Christmas Eve day when I received the glorious and shocking news that our frozen IVF cycle had actually worked, I was over the moon! A little spotting had thrown me off, convincing me that I couldn’t be pregnant, but when our b-hcg numbers were rising nicely I allowed myself the luxury of optimism. Not cautious optimism…good old-fashioned optimism. I was pregnant! We had never had a miscarriage before so why would we now? We wouldn’t have to dish out thousands of dollars for another IVF cycle! We wouldn’t have to coordinate road-trips out to our infertility specialist. We were going to have another baby! Would it be a boy or a girl? What color would I paint the nursery? We needed a name! I even started budgeting for a new crib, clothes, and bedding. I promised myself I wouldn’t go overboard like we had with my daughter.

And, then it happened. The spotting started again and this time it didn’t stop. My b-hcg levels were continuing to rise, but they were now in the low normal range. When my spotting turned into full-blown bleeding I began to panic. The news that had made my Christmas perfect was now making my New Years a nightmare. I was standing in the parking lot at The Magic Kingdom when a phone call from my infertility specialist confirmed my worst fear that my latest blood work was not trending appropriately, and all at once the magic began to fade. Nothing definitive could be said except that I might be having a miscarriage, or I could have an ectopic pregnancy. I still don’t know that answer. I’ve been waiting…waiting to finally pull in my drive way after a two-day road trip home from Florida, waiting to get repeat blood work, waiting to have my ultrasound, and waiting to meet with my OB/GYN. I won’t know anything certain until tomorrow, but I’m pretty certain already that this pregnancy is a miscarriage in the making.Beautiful young woman in bed, with hot water bag on her tummy

It feels like such a waste! Such a let down! Such a cruel trick! Over 60 intramuscular progesterone shots (quite a few of which I have given to myself), countless subq lupron shots, surgery, and an embryo transfer all for what? It would have been so much easier to not get my hopes up only to be devastated. But, for now, I continue to stab myself with 1 1/2 inch needles twice daily just in case this baby decides to stick around. Please stay…pretty please! This mama would love you silly!

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7 Tips About Car Seat Safety That NO PARENT can RISK missing!

I picked up the phone expecting to hear my father’s cheery voice. Instead, I felt the wind being knocked out of my chest with each word he spoke. There had been a car accident. He hadn’t made it. He had suffered severe head trauma; and even with the best neurosurgeons fighting for his life, they had been unable to perform the miraculous. Who else was in the car? Who else was hurt? My mind was racing. Her tiny toddler frame had suffered several fractures, but she was going to be fine. My mind buzzed. He wasn’t even 10 years old. How could life be so fragile?

Some moms have called me crazy for my car seat paranoia. “What are the odds of getting in a severe car accident in the first place? What are the odds of something bad actually happening to your child?” Unfortunately, the odds are greater than you might think. In fact, motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death for children living in the United States according to the CDC. I know first hand what it is like to lose someone you love in a car accident. In fact, three funerals for three different children from three different families have solidified my paranoia that car accidents CAN hit close to home. Standing over countless bodies in the trauma bay, bloodied and disfigured from motor vehicle accidents has only further cemented this scary and gruesome fact in my mind.Melancholy And Sad Young  Woman  At The Window In The Rain

Car accidents DO HAPPEN. And, while preventing all of them in the first place would be ideal, the reality is that even with concerted efforts to eliminate texting, drunk driving, distracted driving, reckless driving, and poor judgement calls (all of which are paramount efforts); 100% prevention is impossible. So if we can’t prevent all motor vehicle accidents, apart from doing our best to drive safely, what can we do?

We can do our best to protect the little ones that we love by making sure that their car seats, booster seats, and seat belts are doing their jobs. Again, 100% protection is not a guarantee, but by paying attention to the safety resources and recommendations that we do have, we can significantly decrease the risk of injury and even death. According to the CDC, properly using a car seat reduces the risk of infant death by 71% and toddler death by 54%; and, the appropriate use of booster seats reduces the risk of serious injury for children aged 4-8 by 45% compared to just using a seatbelt. These numbers alone prove the importance of child passenger safety efforts.Toy Cars Crashed

Here are 7 Tips You NEED TO KNOW to make sure that your child has the maximum protection while in the car:

1. Choose a Safe Car Seat

-Make sure that your car seat has a label that says that it has been rated by the NHTSA. These all meet federal safety standards and strict crash test ratings.

-Make sure that it has the label with the Model number and the Manufacturer date

-Make sure that you register your car seat in case of recalls (which do happen!). Simply click on the highlighted link to register.

-If Choosing a USED Car Seat:

If you are choosing a used car seat you MUST know the HISTORY of that seat. Do not use a car seat that has been in a previous moderate to severe crash. If it doesn’t come with instructions, do not use it. If it lacks a safety label, model number, or manufacture date, do not use it. Contact the manufacturer and check to make sure that its specific make and model have not had any recalls issued before you use. Make sure that there is not obvious damage or missing parts-this could make it structurally unsound. Make sure that it is not more than 6 years old or expired. If you are missing even one piece of the history…move on and find another car seat.woman choosing child car seat for newborn baby in shop supermark

2. Choose Your Car Seat Based on Age, Height and Weight: 

Make sure that your child is buckled in an age and size appropriate car seat or booster. You can double-check the age, weight, and height restrictions of your seat in the owner’s manual and sometimes it is even labeled on the seat itself. You can find a more detailed chart from the CDC and from Healthy Children detailing appropriate seats based on age, height, and weight at the highlighted links here. Or, use this helpful calculator to determine the appropriate seat for your child. The general rules are as follows:

Infant to 2 years: Rear Facing Car Seat (this recommendation has recently changed. Previously parents were advised that if their child met the weight and height regulations they could be turned around after only a year of age. The recommendation now is to keep your child rear facing until at least 2 years or until they meet the maximum height and weight restrictions for their rear facing seat. This is the safest position to prevent and limit severe injury.

2 Years to At Least 5 Years of age (or they outgrow the weight and height restrictions)-Forward Facing Car Seat

Age 5 Up Until a Seat Belt Fits Properly: Booster Seat

3. Use Your Manual to Install Your Seat and Get Your Install Double Checked

Make sure that you take the time to review your car seat owner’s manual and even your car owner’s manual. Car seats are not all the same, and all cars are not the same. Simply clicking and tightening doesn’t ensure a safe installation. The location, the angle, and the latches are just a few things to consider. Click HERE for some helpful install tips and then follow your owner’s manual installation instructions step by step. When you have finished installing, make sure to have someone double-check your work. You may consider yourself an expert, but studies show that 90% of car seats are not used correctly! Yes, that was 90% according to Johns Hopkins. Many hospitals have staff that will double-check your car seat before you head home with your newborn, but it is always best to get your install double checked by a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician several months before your baby is expected to be born just in case your little one decides to come early and your hospital doesn’t offer this inspection service. If you are able to get it checked in advance or if you are simply changing car seats, most fire stations or public health departments will also offer install inspections free of charge or at a minimal cost. To locate a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician in your area, click HERE.Portrait Of A Cute Toddler Boy

4. Choose the Safest Spot in the Car!

Car Seats should ALWAYS be placed in the back seat of the vehicle. If for some reason this is not possible (your car consists of only one front row of seats), and you do not have another transportation option, then you must make sure that the air bags are turned OFF in the front seat especially if you are using a rear facing car seat. If your child is in a car seat in the front and an airbag deploys, it could cause severe brain damage or even kill your child. So in general, the rule stands…PUT YOUR CHILD IN THE BACK SEAT OF THE CAR. Again, all vehicles are not set up with safety latches in the same locations, nor do all cars have the option for a middle seat (in the case of vans with bucket seats), and if you’re installing more than one car seat then the middle will not be an option either. But, if you are able to safely install your seat in the rear MIDDLE or CENTER SEAT, it is the safest spot in the car for your child according to current research. While placement of a car seat in any rear seat position does provide excellent protection if installed correctly (decreasing the risk of injury by 62% compared to front seats), the center rear position has been shown to reduce the risk of injury for children an additional 43% compared to the rear side seats, according to evidence published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

5. Rear Face Your Car Seat As Long As Safely Possible.

As I mentioned above, the safety recommendations on how long to rear face a car seat has changed. The longer that you are safely able to keep your child rear facing the better! Previously the recommendations had allowed for turning the car seat around (for convertible seats) or switching to a forward facing car seat at 1 year of age as long as the minimum weight and height requirements were met. Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to keep their child rear facing until they are AT LEAST two years of age unless they have outgrown the height and weight recommendations for their rear facing seat (some small children can stay in a rear facing seat well past the age of 2 years). We now know that the rear facing position is the safest for protecting the head, neck and spine in infants and toddlers.In Troubles - Unhappy Woman In Car

6. Secure the straps properly

Double check your car seat straps each time that you put your infant or child into the seat. Often times they will have loosened when you take your child out of the seat. The straps should be snug and leave no room for slack! If you can pinch the strap, then it is too loose. Grab the strap at shoulder level. Try to pinch the harness from top to bottom. If you can pinch a fold then the harness is too loose. It should fit snuggly like a hug. You want it snug not overly tight…you do want your child to be able to breathe! The shoulder straps and the lap belt should all be securely fastened. All 5 points of the restraint system should be used every time! The chest clip should be secured at the mid-chest level. Double check that it has not slid down lower (which often happens when previously removing your child from the seat). If your child is old enough to buckle himself in, make sure that YOU still double-check the security of the latches and the tightness. For more on safely securing boosters and seat belts check out this link.

7. Avoid Puffy Coats, Snow Suits, or Extra Padding or Positioners

Winter is a tricky time for car seats. As parents we often bundle our little ones up before we trek through the cold out to the car. The problem with this scenario is that bulky coats, snow suits and layered or bulky clothing could actually be putting our children in danger and limiting the protection of our car seats and safety restraints. Bulky clothing does not allow for safety restraints to be tightened appropriately. As parents we may have a false sense of security that they straps are tight enough, when in fact they may not be secure. In the case of a motor vehicle collision, bulky clothing often compresses leaving extra slack in the harness which could allow an infant or child to be ejected from the car seat, or it could allow for more severe neck or head injury. Instead of using bulky winter wear, simply put your child in a thin winter coat and hat, warm up the car ahead of time, or drape your child with a winter coat or a small blanket over their lap.

Additionally, extra positioners for the head and neck (or any extra positioners that do not come with the car seat) are not recommended. These positioners have not been safety tested with all car seats and could interfere with the safety features of your car seat.

This list is not meant to be an all-inclusive safety lesson on car seats, nor is it meant to substitute for following your owner’s manual or your pediatrician or family physician’s recommendations. For more resources check out the highlighted links throughout the article. As parents we want to protect our children. Knowing that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death from injury for young children should motivate all of us to take extra precautions each time we put our child in the car. We can never be too safe or double-check too many times!

As always, I love to hear from YOU! Please leave a comment with your questions, experiences, or concerns.

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7 Pregnant Momma Safety Tips You Need to Know

Being pregnant doesn’t mean that you have to be paranoid (well, maybe just a little), but it does mean that there are certain “DO’s” and “DON’Ts” to keep you and your unborn baby safe. A pregnant woman is more likely to pick up certain food born infections, come down with viral illnesses such as colds, lose her balance, and have trouble fastening her seat belt. While the 7 safety tips I’m sharing aren’t meant to be all-inclusive safety advice during pregnancy; they are a good place to start! And, since many of you currently have “pregnancy brain,” I’ve decided to make things easy by including some great resources in the highlighted links. Click on these for more details.

1. Wear Your Seatbelt During Your ENTIRE PregnancyPregnant woman in the car

Many pregnant women think that they will hurt their baby by wearing their seatbelt. This is not the case. Research shows that not wearing a seatbelt puts your baby and you at much greater risk for harm if you were to get into a car accident. Wearing your seatbelt CORRECTLY is also important. It should be secured low and comfortably tight around your waist underneath your baby bump/across your hip bones. Do not shove the shoulder strap behind you! The top portion of the shoulder strap should come across your collar-bone. Make sure to wear it when driving, as the passenger, and when in the backseat! Air bags should NOT be turned off. They are still considered safe for pregnant women. Check out this link from The American Academy of Family Practice for more details.

2. Eat Safe Foods and Avoid Those on “The List”

Eating a healthy diet is an important part of pregnancy. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plenty of protein will reduce your risk for diabetes, and will ensure that your baby and you are getting adequate nutrients for growth and development. But, some foods that may seem healthy are on the “DO NOT EAT” list during pregnancy. Mercury levels in certain types of healthy fish can be harmful to your developing baby. Unpasteurized products, including dairy and fruit juices, could contain harmful bacteria that could land you on the toilet or even in the hospital. Eating raw or undercooked meats or even unwashed fruits and vegetables could also lead to toxoplasmosis, a harmful infection for your unborn baby! Don’t despair! Sushi, homemade ice cream, and raw cookie dough may be off the table for now; but, you still have plenty of options for your grocery cart. Check out this link for more information and for a list of safe and unsafe foods during pregnancy.Diet in pregnancy

3. Get Your Flu Shot

Yes, I said get your flu shot (if possible before you get pregnant, but it is safe to get it during pregnancy as well)!!!! Pregnant women are at greater risk for picking up viral infections during pregnancy…especially the flu. During pregnancy, your body does not mount a typical immune response. Because of this, if you do get sick with the flu, you are more likely to have a severe case that could affect your heart and lungs and even your unborn baby. Research shows that getting the flu while pregnant seems to increase the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight babies, and preterm deliveries. By getting your flu shot you are also providing some protection for your baby for the first six months of his life after he is born (the time when he is unable to get the flu shot and left vulnerable) by passing on antibodies to him while he is still in your womb. For more on flu shot recommendations check out these links from The Mayo Clinic and the CDC.

4. Check with your doctor before taking over the counter medications, prescription medications, and herbal supplements.

Although many “safe during pregnancy” medication lists are posted on the internet, it is always best to check with your doctor before taking any over the counter, prescription, or even herbal medications or supplements. While some of these may be safe for you (and necessary), they may not be safe for your unborn baby. Check out these links from the CDC and the March of Dimes for more information. And, of course, avoiding alcohol, recreational drugs, and tobacco during pregnancy is always recommended!young pregnant woman sitting on the window

5. Avoid Cat Litter Like It’s the Plague!

Get someone else to do the dirty job of changing the cat litter! If you have a cat and are the only one able to change the litter, then make sure that you take safety precautions. Cat litter is known to harbor Toxoplasmosis, a bacteria that can be debilitating for your unborn child causing blindness and even mental disabilities. You may not even be aware that you or your unborn baby have been infected because often times you won’t have any symptoms. Make sure to wear disposable gloves and to wash your hands with soap and water each time after changing the litter. Also, make sure to change it daily. For more details check out this link from The CDC. In addition to cat litter, many women are exposed to unsafe chemicals while at work. Check with your physician if your job includes any type of chemical exposure.

6. Add a Little Stability to your WobblePregnant woman doing yoga exercise

The pregnant woman wobble gets a little more wobbly as your belly grows. Make sure that you are taking precautions to prevent slipping, falling, and tripping. Wearing a supportive pair of shoes is the first step. Making sure that you are paying attention when walking to avoid uneven pavement or toddler toys, using the hand-rail when climbing stairs, keeping a bath mat outside of the tub and shower, and letting someone else stand on the step stool and ladder are some simple ways to keep your balance. Joining a prenatal yoga class may also be helpful to promote flexibility, stability, and body awareness.

7. Make Sure that Your Home is a Safe Place! 

Although the though of abuse during pregnancy may sound shocking and unlikely, almost 1 in 6 pregnant women have been abused by their partners. Financial stress, unwanted pregnancies, and jealousy are just a few reasons that abuse may increase during pregnancy. Making sure that you and your unborn baby are free from physical and emotional abuse is vital for a healthy pregnancy. Check out this link from The March of Dimes for more information and for resources.

A healthy pregnancy depends upon taking care of yourself. Making a prenatal appointment early in pregnancy, getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, taking prenatal vitamins, and surrounding yourself with those who will love and support you are all critical steps. Some things are out of your control (says the mom with severe preeclampsia and a 32 week preemie), but by doing your best to follow the above safety recommendations you will limit your risk for many preventable pregnancy complications and regrets.

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When You Lose What’s Most Precious…the baby that should be in your arms

It is all more painful than words can express. And, yet, I write. I write in REMEMBERANCE of pregnancy loss, infant loss, and infertility-the lost hope of ever becoming a mother for the first time, or the shattering disappointment of losing what would have been a precious and treasured addition to your family.Concept Of Love And Family. Hands Of Mother And Baby

I first felt the twinge of longing for a baby when I was still just a baby myself. For many women, the desire for motherhood starts as early as our toddler years. Even now I am reminded of this innate longing as I watch my two-year old daughter feed, change, and rock her baby dolls. It is all so natural, and yet for many of us, getting pregnant, staying pregnant, or carrying a baby to full term delivery are far from natural.  Even many of the seemingly “fertile” moms among us have been touched by the devastation of miscarriage and stillbirth-countless times over. In my own neighborhood moms have been touched by stillbirths, miscarriages, infertility, and premature delivery. According to statistics from the CDC, the history of your street is probably similar to mine with 1,003,000 pregnancies ending in either stillbirth or miscarriage and 27,500 infants not making it to their first birthday each year in the United States.Melancholy And Sad Young  Woman  At The Window In The Rain

And, while the WHYS and WHAT TO DO’s are incredibly important, taking the time to reflect, remember, and grieve is also important. As I head back into infertility treatments, I am blessed to say that my diagnosis has changed from primary infertility to secondary! After years of trying to conceive naturally, and 5 cycles of complicated IVF with numerous failed embryo transfers, I am blessed to be called “mama” by the sweetest little girl in the world. And, while already being a mother has changed my infertility outlook, secondary infertility is still painful and challenging. My frozen embryo transfer is only several weeks away, but instead of excitement, I am reminded of the grief that comes with each failed cycle. The catch phrase in the infertility and pregnancy complication world is always “cautious optimism.” Oh, how I would love to replace that phrase with ECSTATIC ENTHUSIASM for something that is guaranteed to work!Love and new life concept. A woman's hands forming a heart symbo

Even though my previous embryos were tiny clusters of 8 cells, they were still my “babies.” With each transfer I saw a glimmer of hope. I had new life inside of me. That life would grow into an amazing person! But, when nausea turned into spotting and cramping time and time again, the devastation and disappointment was almost too much to bear. I’m not sure how to prepare myself this time for the possibility of a failed transfer, the cruel tease of a miscarriage (where hope is given and then snatched), or my overwhelming fear of once again delivering a preterm baby who this time may not survive.Divided couple are separated by white wall but holding hands

I should be a pro at coping with infertility and preterm delivery grief and loss, but this time around I’ve decided to FEEL rather than just cope. Life is made to be felt. The beautiful things are made to be seen, the horrific to be despised, and the devastating to be endured with strength. I refuse to become cold to my pain. Instead, I will remember my losses with a heavy heart but look to my blessings with overwhelming gratitude. I have found an inner strength, stronger than anything I could muster alone, fostered by friends, strangers, my faith, and a desire to inspire others enduring similar journeys.

Join me by raising awareness, giving a voice to loss, and sharing your story. Encourage others to donate to cutting edge research that could establish healthy pregnancies, prevent miscarriages and preterm deliveries, and save the lives of preemies. I recently decided to partner with March of Dimes as a local Ambassador. Check out their website for more details, for resources on dealing with grief, and for ways that you can get involved. For additional resources on pregnancy loss, miscarriage, still birth, and infertility, take a look at these amazing sites. If your grief has turned into lasting depression it may be time to seek professional help.

The American Pregnancy Association

Resolve: The National Infertility Association

The Mayo Clinic on Pregnancy Loss

In the spirit of remembrance, click HERE to enter to win a memorial bracelet or necklace of your choosing from Fertile Gems. Crystal, the designer and Etsy shop owner has graciously offered to give away a piece of her Always & Forever jewelry line to a mom who has suffered loss. This small token may take you one step closer to healing along your journey.

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