What is Hyperemesis Gravidarum? Yes, I Have It

pregnancy sickness

Day-in-the-life with HG.

It’s really hard to explain what I’ve been through over the last six or so months. Let’s just say, my emotions are not the only part of me that is raw.

So you ask, what am I referring to? What have I been going through? Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I literally want to vomit as I type the words.

I am not ashamed to say being pregnant has been pure hell. And while pregnancy is supposed to be a time when a mother-to-be should be glowing, instead I’ve been throwing-up and mentally and emotionally battling each and every day. HG is a condition that some pregnant women develop. Not only does HG make you feel nauseous 24/7 (think round-the-clock morning sickness from your first trimester into your third), but it has the potential of causing electrolyte imbalances and malnutrition since you cannot keep much food or liquids down. Medication and hospitalization is often necessary. Unfair judgment is almost unavoidable and many women are burdened with deep shame and loneliness as it can be completely isolating in the sense that NO ONE in your little world can relate!

If you also suffer this condition, you may be part of the minority, but let me assure you, you are not alone! HG is rare—studies show less than 2% of women experience this highly unpleasant complication. Although I try to compare HG to morning sickness, it is almost incomparable. Think of the worst hangover, a horrible case of food poisoning, and the most violent stomach bug you have ever experienced—then combine them and try to grow a human–successfully and joyfully might I add.

Pregnant life with HG means that every smell is heightened and sensitivities even to aromas that I would typically find normal or pleasant become stomach churning. For instance, I can tell by smell if someone opened the refrigerator door while I am 30 feet away in another room, with my back turned. Zero exaggeration! I have begged and pleaded with my husband and family not to cook in our home and have struggled to thoroughly brush my teeth, use body lotion, and condition my hair during most of the first two trimesters.

Not only am I ultra-aware of smells while I have HG, but the constant challenge of what to eat and when plagues me!

Meat and dairy are 100% not feasible with my appetite and haven’t been for months. I’ve forced myself to drink 30-40 ounces of water nightly since that’s the only time I can keep it down, and even managed to slowly sip freezing cold tea during the day. At about 12 weeks, all I could handle was a Coke, Doritos and a hard boiled egg. Can someone say, Random?! This does not sound like the ideal pregnancy diet, right? It wasn’t, and it sucked!

During the worst of it (weeks 6 through about 18), I was also hypersensitive to movement and temperature. An uncomfortable cold hard floor might not seem like the ideal place to be. However, staying as close to the floor as possible helped minimize smells, and was slightly cooler. Thank goodness for Fall and the cooler weather in the air! In fact, lying in a pile of snow naked actually sounds AMAZING right now!

As you might understand from my descriptions above, HG does not lend itself well to traveling. I experienced HG during my first pregnancy with Asher so I expected it might surface again with the current baby. However, my symptoms have been significantly worse this go around. Plus, when I was pregnant the first time, I did not have an active toddler, emerging clothing business and fashion shows to tend to.

working mom

Work must continue!

I’m currently in the home stretch and still experiencing symptoms. But, I am beyond grateful for the PROGRESS…the moments of relief that steadily get longer each week, reacquiring an appetite for breakfast foods and actually enjoying some nursery planning as we look forward to baby! Somehow I made it almost ¾ of the way and I know I could not have made it here alone. Let me express my sincerest and deepest gratitude for those who have been solid rocks and pillars of strength in my world…the phone calls, texts, prayers and just the thought of your momentary acts of kindness has literally been my saving grace!

To the strangers, some of whom I have literally never met but have heard my story and uplifted me in prayer, may God shine light into your life for the love you have extended me!

To my friends who have “come my way” for everything from home visits to play dates with Asher to delivering cards and gifts to much needed girl chats, despite what you had going on in your own personal lives…I owe you and I am BEYOND grateful! How blessed am I to have such amazing women in my life!

To my family who has dealt with me on some of the lowest of lows…helping me physically when I literally had no strength to move from the bathroom floor to my bed and listening to my tears of pain and deep, unrelenting frustration, I am grateful and will never forget the love you have shown me.

My dear kid siblings, Rachel and Brooke who gave up much of their summer to help care for my son and serve me, literally standing by my side at every momentary low, I know this was not an easy experience for you and you sacrificed personally to be with me…please know, you are the reason I made it through the absolute darkest days. Your love is respected and your grace was sustaining! I don’t know many people in their teens and twenties, who would give up their social calendar and the beach for countless weeks in the summer! Thank you!

To my dear husband, Jake, please note this is partly your fault, and it still makes me feel 1% better to cast some of blame your way…but, in all seriousness, I am beyond grateful for your sacrifices and advocacy during this time. Helping “explain” what I was going through when I could barely speak for myself! I know it was probably the hardest on you with almost zero breaks, the financial and personal sacrifices and constant professional juggling with a business of your own. I am convinced that our future will only carry more blessings for the resilience and growth we have shared. And while this has not been easy and the fog has not yet lifted, adding another baby boy to our world will carry more lifelong JOY than either of us can comprehend! I ask God to continue to bless you daily with patience, grace, peace and strength and pray you genuinely know without doubt, how much I love, respect and appreciate you and what you have provided our family. I know it is not always properly conveyed! Thank you!

Are you part of the minority, are you suffering from HG or severe morning (AKA all day sickness)? Please tell me how you have managed through this terrible condition. Are you happiest lying on the floor under a fan, or perhaps naked in the snow? Have you swallowed your pride and leaned on family and friends for everything from grocery shopping to personal sanity? Please share your HG-war stories so that we can shed light on this condition and help other women…even if just by relating until they can make it through. Literally knowing you are not alone can be the single most sustaining force on the darkest of days!

mom to be

#worthit

Now I am beginning to rejoice…only a few short months…make that, weeks to go! And of course, IT will all have been worth it!

Digital Parenting: Battle of the Gadgets

digital parenting

The Digital Parenting Divide

Technology helps us in many ways, but it can also hurt us. Ask a parent what they think of their toddler’s–or fast forward, their teen’s–use of cell phones or tablets and you’re sure to spark a controversial debate. Are these devices helping our children learn faster or are they limiting their social skills? Or both? As with most things in life, our home has found a balance.

Before I explain more about how we manage our toddler’s tech time, let’s acknowledge that computers will be part of every child’s schoolwork and career. Many private (and public) schools provide an iPad or computer in the first grade—or not long after. Computers and other mobile devices come with a responsibility, which is great to instill at a young age!

toddler tech

Asher’s recent 3-year-old portraits featured our iPad.

I try to take advantage of every positive opportunity our smartphones and computers have available for young minds. We have an ABC subscription and easily access phonics videos on YouTube.

Our ‘digital parenting’ style is not overly rigid, but some things must be enforced. For a bit of balance, we’ve established no-tech times while we have the parental control over our toddler’s access to devices:

  • No devices between lunchtime and naptime
  • No digital after dinner

Our son probably gets about one cumulative hour of tech time per day. With the exception of an occasional Disney movie or live surfing contest in the evening with Mom and Dad. By limiting our toddler’s screen time, we hope he gets the educational benefit and the cognitive development of ‘old school’ flash cards and other activities, like playing with stickers or a Polaroid camera. Check out our earlier post on creative non-digital gifts for toddlers. Plus, for birthdays and holidays, I encourage him to handwrite thank you and holiday cards.

Although it seems like parents will eventually surrender to the Gadget Battle, for now we try to use it as a bargaining chip. It is much easier to offer five minutes on an iPad and avoid a 30-minute meltdown. (Don’t let our little one know this!)

Curious how you answer a question that is still a few years off for us: How old will your child be when they get a mobile phone?

Modern Working Mom

work at home mom

Parents today have more digital shortcuts and tools than ever before, but do you really need to rely on your smartphone? Modern working mothers, like myself, have our own routines and support systems. Whether you work from home or your job offers a flexible schedule out of the home, balancing professional and familial responsibilities is an art.

work life balance

How do you juggle priorities, keep little ones happy and healthy, plus take care of yourself? I’m one of those individuals who feels guilty for pleasure reading. I always feel like I should be productive and contributing to my home and work. Here are a few (mostly low-tech) ways I’ve been able to make days more fluid, less stressful, and manage to get it all done:

  1. Handwritten lists. Yes, there are plenty of apps for organizing tasks, but I prefer to rely on handwritten lists. Reminders and tasks with pen and paper are familiar to me, and they also keep me away from further distractions on digital devices. How many times have you gone to your phone for one thing and found yourself scrolling and replying to emails 20 minutes later? As a last resort, if I don’t have any hard copy note-taking supplies with me I will text myself a note. I’ll be sure to see it later in the day since I clear out all my personal texts daily!
  2. Routine for all. Although common and simple, picking out our clothes the night before helps the next day run smoothly. My toddler has an outfit for the day, one for naptime, and others dependent upon his activities. Having those lined up and ready when we need them moves the day along. Many parents are overwhelmed with keeping a clean house and get distracted by straightening up. Now that my son is three, he’s much more independent and his nap times are shrinking. As he has grown responsible enough to clean up his toys, I use that time to start dinner or basic household clean up. While he finishes his meal, we wipe down the kitchen counters and load the dishwasher. Together we do laundry and he learns color sorting and basic measuring. No big cleaning time is taken away from our day when we piecemeal it throughout our normal routine and the bonus is the learning included along the way!
  3. Autopilot. Of course, the trick is to stay with your routine! I do rely on technology in this way. Our neighborhood grocery store Harris Teeter offers online shopping. This allows me to shop from my phone or computer and set a pickup time. I can pick up the groceries after a meeting and not have to make two separate trips—plus avoid food shopping with a toddler, which could eat up a lot of time! I also love Amazon Prime Subscribe and Save and newest addition, Pantry. Their subscription service offers reduced prices and lets me set dates when our items are automatically re-ordered and dropped at our doorstep. Huge help and it is often much less expensive then me walking into any large retailer…with or without a list!

Creative Non-Digital Gifts for Toddlers

gifts for toddlers

Last-minute holiday shoppers, take note!

For our procrastinating society (about 60% of Americans admitted to waiting until the Eve to wrap up their holiday shopping), here is a bit of toddler gift information that may be helpful 36 hours or so before Christmas!

Holiday gifts for all ages seem to grow more technology-based every year. With so many digital toys and eBooks for children, how can we as parents best preserve and grow our kid’s creativity without making every day reliant on a screen or the Internet?

Several conflicting studies over the years address children’s screentime. Some researchers suggest parents limit a child’s time on digital devices, citing lower reading comprehension and poor development. While other studies argue that eBooks promote children’s interaction and help build language and word recognition. The New York Times recently addressed these issues in a science piece “Is E-Reading to Your Toddler Story Time, or Simply Screen Time?” and made me wonder about how digital parenting affects holiday gift purchases.

Digital devices are accessible any time, and particularly helpful when traveling with a toddler on a plane! If you feel like your little one has been spending too much time playing games on your iPad, missing out on a traditional book experience, or playing with their Leapfrog games too much – today we feature a few non-digital gifts that my own toddler Asher has enjoyed:

christmas books

Holiday story time!

Classic holiday books. No need to download these! Yes, The Elf on the Shelf invaded many homes in recent years, but what would Christmas be without The Night Before Christmas? Follow up a reading of The Polar Express with a viewing of the movie, and the same for Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Eric Carle’s Dream Snow is a book with the familiar block-y illustrations your kids may recognize from Carle’s classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar. There is also L’il Rabbit’s Kwanzaa and Happy Hanukkah, Corduroy. No matter your religious affiliation, reading books from each culture is not only a great reading experience, but educational for your little one.

Good Old-Fashioned Legos. Or the new ones. Legos have been around for generations and have ignited huge followings including multi-million dollar tradeshows with some of tomorrow’s brightest leaders, amusement parks including Legoland, movies and a proud cult following. Over the years, Legos have adapted to include even the youngest builder with their Mega Blocks line, perfect for little hands and the reinvented DUPLO line that includes themed sets that children under five are easily drawn to. Legos offer an outlet of fun and creativity for all ages and are the perfect representation of the ‘oldie but goodie.’

christmas gifts for toddlers

Building blocks build imagination.

Magnetic block toys. Tegu and similar manufacturers have developed simple magnetic wooden blocks and toys that allow kids to explore designs and create structures on their own. This is a step-up from a traditional building blocks or Lincoln Logs sets as the magnets give a different tactile sensation when building.

Understand age-appropriate toys. One piece of advice for anyone picking out a gift for kids: Don’t rely too heavily on the suggested age label. Yes, of course, if there are small hazardous pieces involved with the toy – heed all warnings! But for safer items, challenge your kid by picking out a toy for an older age group—and supervise! The Tegu set referenced above was for a different age group, but my 2-year-old son took initiative with the image-based directions and created one of the designs by himself almost perfectly. This empowers kids and helps stretch their imaginations. With gift-giving, this is a nice way to celebrate the holidays and build a strong foundation for the New Year!

Get Back-to-School-Ready

back to school

Rules don’t apply as much in the summer. The days are longer, kids stay up later, and the strict school routine you were once obliged to keep no longer applies. But while you are busy soaking in the summer sun the school year can sneak up pretty fast. If you’re not prepared, you could end up desperately searching your home the night before the first day of school to fulfill required school supplies.

Thankfully, it doesn’t take much to avoid having to crawl through dust bunnies and bypass the stress the first day of school can bring.

One of the most common problems is getting your little ones back on a normal bedtime routine. If their bedtime hasn’t been consistent over the summer, for two to three nights leading up to the first day of school, progressively make bedtime a little earlier each night, and wake them up a little earlier in the morning. That way they will already be on a better sleeping schedule and wake up rested for their first day.

first day school

To make sure kids are prepared when you can’t be with them, record their need-to-know information such as their room number, teacher’s name, bus schedule, (locker combination for older kids) in a safe location. To ensure they don’t lose the info, write the information in permanent marker on a fabric patch, then stitch the patch to the inside of their backpack.

school

Like most kids, they probably had a lot more fun playing at the beach or pool this summer than reviewing last year’s lessons. So it’s possible that they might experience a little of what most people refer to as “summer brain drain.”

“Brain drain” isn’t as prevalent in children that go to year-round schools because the break between education periods is much shorter. However, if your child has been out of school for a few months, chances are they might need a little help getting back into the learning groove.

  1. Old-fashioned flash cards. The good news is that refreshing their memory can be as easy as going through some flashcards before dinner.
  2. Video games. There’s also a bevy of educational computer and tablet games you can utilize to bring kids back up to speed in a fun way. There are even games for mainstream consoles, such as Sesame Street: Ready Set Grover, and Reader Rabbit Preschool, available on the Nintendo Wii.
  3. Digital educational series. You can also explore some of the options that Leap Frog offers. They have their own line of educational toys and products specifically designed for ages 9 and below, including tablets designed specifically for children, interactive DVDs, and plenty of games. Your kids will be having fun and you will feel better knowing they are better prepared for their first day!
  4. Tutor. You may need one throughout the school year, and less frequent visits during the summer help keep kids fresh. Alternatively, simply schedule a back-to-school refresher or ‘what to expect’ session that can really help your child feel more confident as a student.
  5. Contact teachers. Once you receive information from the school about teacher assignments, contact them directly for a better idea of the curriculum ahead.

Of course, a good breakfast after a restful night’s sleep can do wonders for preparing your child for their first day of school, or first day back at school, depending on their age. Using a few of these tips, all you will need to worry about is having enough coffee for yourself in the morning!

Baby Gadgets: High-Tech Toddlers

While raising a baby hasn’t gotten any easier, technology advancements have created a few benefits for modern parents. Take a look at some of the things that modern moms can take advantage of:

It's A High Tech World!

New moms soon learn what an involved process it can be just getting your little tyke to eat. If you’re like me and enjoy cooking, you’ve probably thought about making your own baby food before. Not only can you make it as healthy as possible with fewer preservatives, but you can whip something up that is specialized for your baby’s dietary requirements and their preferences.

However, since an infant’s immune system isn’t as strong as an adults, you have to be even more cautious about ingredients, cooking methods, and proper storing. While there are tons of great websites for recipes, how can you remember when the food was prepared? The DaysAgo Digital Refrigerator Timer is a little stick-on timer that you can put directly onto jars/food storage containers that keep track of how many storage days. They are multifunctional too. You can stick one on a fish bowl to remind yourself how many days since the last tank cleaning, or place it on plants to remember when they were last watered. (Or as my toddler says, “Fed.”)

Sometimes you can’t always rely strictly on the timers for food, like when you’re traveling or if the food containers outnumber the quantity of timers. As a backup there is the Food Expiration Date Alarm app available on smartphones. You can use this app to log and monitor all your food in the fridge as well, so you don’t have to be the guinea pig when trying to figure out if the milk has gone bad.

toddler apps

     Many apps today can help manage toddler-related tasks.

Besides the food alarm apps, there are some other inventions that have made traveling with a baby much less daunting than before. Looking for a modern stroller for baby travel? 4Moms Origami Stroller opens and closes automatically, has an LCD screen to monitor your baby from any angle, a power charging station for your phone, lights to guide your way at night, and a display on the back top, so you can check the weather, track your speed, and see how far you’ve traveled.

When you’re somewhere new your baby may be fussier than usual without the comfort of their toys and crib. The rockaRoo Baby Rocker is designed to go with you when you travel, so your baby has a familiar place to rest their head. This isn’t an ordinary rocker. You can connect it to your smartphone to control the motions, check your baby’s position, and change the speed.

There are also little products that may help alleviate some of the stress of everyday parenting tasks. While you’re unlikely to ever get a lot of sleep with a baby or toddler, when your child gets sick, you’ll be running on fumes. If your little one is under the weather, there’s no longer a need to wake a cranky baby with a pacifier thermometer! With a more modern thermometer such as San Sero’s you can scan your baby’s forehead while they rest. They can keep napping and you can catch some much needed Zs too.

The one task that everyone wishes modern technology would take care of is probably changing diapers. While it doesn’t get much better than a smell-stifling Diaper Genie, another saving grace for a sick or fussy baby is a diaper warmer. It may not seem as high-tech, but a warm (dry) tush can soothe the crankiest of babies and toddlers. There’s also word of a “smart diaper” in the works. Complete with a microchip, they can monitor when your baby is wet or cold, and they will even send a urine analysis report to your smart phone that can check for UTIs, tell you if your baby is dehydrated, and monitor kidney function.

I’m always interested in hearing what you’ve discovered! What other new gadgets have you found that have made motherhood a little easier?

Hide From the Heat! Indoor Toddler Time

Even if you are not local to Raleigh, you likely experience hot and steamy summer days. After a long winter of snow after snow in Raleigh, my little one was excited to get out and enjoy a few outdoor toddler activities. Yet ever so quickly, the temperatures have gone to the extremes!

My toddler is crazy about “indoor races” and coordinating a short indoor field day can tire out a toddler without worry of sunblock or heat. Try three-legged races, sac races, or a mess-free balloon toss with rice or dried lentils. (Save the water balloons for outside!)

indoor toddler activities

My toddler: The Champion of Indoor Races.

We have already had a week straight with over 90-degree temperatures and we still have the whole summer ahead. (Even when the heat is at a tolerable level, summer activities with kids mean sunblock patrol!) Also, as a Realtor I’ve noticed an influx in residential properties in downtown Raleigh. Whether you are trying to have fun in the shade at home, or are an urban dweller and find yourself inside, here are a few ways to enjoy family time inside away from the summer heat. Each of these activities come with “prize” ideas to keep your kids busy longer:

Scavenger Hunt – These never get old! Draw (or print out if you are not an artist) a picture on a small piece of paper where the next clue is hidden, and leave a trail of 10-15 clues around the house. The last spot hides the prize. Prize ideas for inquisitive toddlers: Memory matching game or puzzle.

soap crayons

Soap crayons make a mess that is easy to clean.

Soap Crayons – This may be a slightly deceiving way to trick your kids into cleaning house! Give toddlers soap crayons and let them go wild on tile floors in your kitchen and baths. Then have a contest to see who can ‘erase’ the fastest with a mop. To make it festive for the Fourth of July holiday weekend–only use red, white, and blue soap crayons. Prize ideas for active toddlers: Container gardening kit or water play table.

Make Your Own Book – Help your toddler tell a story about a recent experience. Take a beach trip? Visit grandma? Start with what was for breakfast, then how they got to where they were going. What did they do? Who did they see? What did they learn? What was their favorite part of the day? Least favorite? Create the book the old-fashioned way with paper, crayons or colored pencils, magazine cut-outs—you can even make “pop-ups” or lift-the-flap features. Alternatively, let your little one start navigating storytelling with digital formats. Scribblit is an online platform that connects kids with illustrations, story ideas, and publishing tools to tell their story and get it printed so that you can have it for years to come. Create a ‘book award’ to congratulate your young author. Prize ideas for literary toddlers: Winner gets to choose a book or eBook on Amazon or a visit to your local library.

toddler art project

Art projects can be more than just crayons…

Art – As a sensory activity, let your toddler mix glitter, beads, and other craft pieces into a zip-top bag. Add a bit of hair gel, seal the bag, and they can squish the pieces around mess-free. Make different ‘themed’ art pieces and reward them for the best one. Prize ideas for budding artists: Bath tub crayons or Button Art Kit.

Dino Cookies!

Dino Cookies!

Dinosaur cookies – Or pick any other theme your little one is interested in! These cookies can follow your go-to basic sugar cookie or peanut butter cookie recipe, but before baking, stamp a toy dinosaur’s foot into the dough. Prize ideas for junior chef toddlers: Kid-friendly cooking knives (these are made out of nylon) or Curious Chef Pizza Kit.

Before you know it summer will be over and we will be complaining about snow again. For now, stay cool in the shade of your homes and keep your little ones busy and learning!

Sometimes The Best Sundays are Simply Unplanned

Despite the yellow tinged skyline, outdoor furniture, sidewalks, streets and cars, we decided to brave the elements this weekend and venture out into the wild world of Pine Pollen!

After enjoying our Sunday (almost) routine egg and avocado breakfast, of all things we could have done inside or under cover, we decided to take the top off of our 1997 Jeep Wrangler and just drive…baby in tow. Thank goodness none of us suffer from allergies, but even so, we couldn’t help but sniffle a bit through the thick of it.  One word about sums it up: Dense! I swear this stuff gets worse, year after year. I think (actually, I’m 110% positive), I’m looking forward to rain this week!  In fact, if it rains for 48 hours straight, I will be grateful and probably save a couple hundred bucks in delaying pressure washing my patios, porches, walk ways and everything in between.

Ride in the Jeep

So off to the ‘country’ we went with no agenda.  A diaper bag, handy wipes, sunglasses, camera, water and a snack for A.  I even left my phone at home…while not intentional, it probably added to my overall enjoyment.  The extended break from checking Email, Twitter, FB, Texts and Instagram was both disturbingly odd and immensely gratifying.  I was able to sit back and just live in the moment, windblown and all.  The best part…the silence!  No distractions except passing traffic and the occasional dog barking or cow mooing in the distance.  A, who doesn’t typically enjoy extended car rides without an intended purpose, was mostly content.  Taking in the effortless white noise and constant breeze was probably therapeutic for him.

Jeep Fun

After a bit, we landed at a county park and campground.  We enjoyed some time exploring the trails and eventually, found the waters edge.  Jake mentioned it reminded him of his time growing up in rural Wisconsin…deep in nature, bugs chirping, birds flying and the faint smell of campfires in the distance.  It brought me back to my early years…summers by the lake, bonfires, fireflies and life much simpler.  I can’t tell you how many years its been since I’ve had such a simple, yet perfect moment.  At Peace.

Woods Baby

On the way home, we couldn’t help but stop by the side of the road so A could see “Tec.”  A farmer was selling a tractor that looked just like A’s favorite TV character…actually, the only TV character he recognizes.  But, don’t all two year old boys love tractors anyways? A couldn’t believe Daddy was willing to stop and let him say “Hi.”  Daddy scored big brownie points and probably made A’s whole month!  Thanks honey, for always taking the extra little step that make things memorable!

Daddy and A

There you have it…Simple and Sweet.  To my two favorite guys on the planet, thanks for a great day and completely unplanned weekend. Here’s to more like those!

xoxo, Mommy