Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Living with a Hip Spica Body Cast

I wanted to jot this stuff down before baby comes. Life with a toddler in a hip spica cast is no picnic, and we wished we had known about some of this stuff from the beginning instead of stumbling upon ideas after weeks of struggling through. In case other parents, like us, are searching online for ways to make life a little easier for those 6-8 weeks I wanted to make note of some things that helped us.

Anyone in a cast will start to smell, it's just too hard to keep perfectly clean all the time. But a two-yr-old still in diapers? That's a whole different kind of stench! We started out giving Cody sponge baths as the cast brochure suggested, but realized a complete soak in the tub every 2-3 days was a better option. He could be scrubbed down with soap while playing with toys almost weightless in the water - it's  probably the only time when he doesn't feel weighed down by the cast. The down side to full baths is that Monte has to get in there with him as he's too tricky to man-handle from outside the tub, and it takes a good 30 minutes to dry his cast between letting him drip dry to toweling him down to using a hair dryer to eliminate moisture inside the cast. Baths are a good 45-minute, 2-person process. We also discovered that while we weren't allowed to put powder or lotions on his skin under the cast, we could sprinkle some baby powder on the outside of the cast, to the parts that were particularly stinky. It didn't take away the stench completely, but it did take it down a notch or two.

At first we would take turns doing other things while one of us just watched him to make sure he wasn't going to slip out of the kid-sized camping chair we had carefully set him in. We soon realized that our poang chair from Ikea was the ideal shape and angle for Cody, stuffing towels/blankets under his legs, bum and back to accomodate him at the 45 degree angle he'd been set in. Someone built a tray with extendable legs for him, to set over the arms of the chair so he can play with toys, colour and eat finger foods without assistance. We also realized quickly that even though the angle he's at doesn't allow him to either sit or lie down, he was still very comfortable playing on his tummy. He even started scooching himself around as his leg started to heal, and you could tell he enjoyed having a little sense of freedom.

Bodily functions posed a number of problems, even though we double-diapered him as the hospital suggested (a size 3 diaper inside and a size 5 or 6 on the outside). We'd pick him up out of bed and he'd be dripping pee everywhere out the sides of his diaper. We'd set him on his tummy to play and pee would either leak up the front of the diaper or up the front inside of the cast, soaking his shirt and the floor beneath him. We learned that tucking the large diaper on the outside into the leg parts of the cast (so it sealed around his skin) kept from leaking out the bottom, and a cloth stuffed down between his tummy and cast would catch pee from leaking out up top, and always having him lie on a towel would keep me from having to scrub the carpet from constant smelly messes! It's been a lot of laundry, but much easier to throw everything into the washer than to take a rag, water and cleaner to the floor when you're 8 months pregnant!

We couldn't figure out for the longest time the best way to feed him meals... we wanted him to be part of the family at the table but there didn't seem to be an option that worked. So we usually had him sitting on our lap, on a towel (to catch pee leaks!) so he could feed himself for the most part and feel included. The down side to this, for us, was that Cody is a very slow, picky eater and so most mealtimes last a good hour for him with us constantly motivating him to eat. An hour with a 50 lb toddler on your lap will get very uncomfortable and annoying! We finally figured out that an office chair with armrests and an adjustable height would allow him to sit on his own at the table. We have to help him eat, but it's a much more freeing alternative than having him keep you a prisoner at the table on your lap for forever! And, with a big brother around to liven things up, a ride around the main floor in an office chair on wheels will keep two otherwise very bored boys occupied for a good amount of time.

Nightmares. Nobody told us that nightmares are quite common in younger kids after going through a bad break like Cody's. He slept great the first few nights home, but then soon after that he was up screaming and crying every hour to every 10 minutes. We were getting almost no sleep which was making life during the day unbearable. We started talking to Cody about what happened, how his leg had owies caused by his brother, but it was an accident and Nate loved him very much and soon the owies would go away. We'd talk about it throughout the day, whenever Cody complained about the pain in his leg, and then again whenever he'd wake up with nightmares. It didn't occur to us at the beginning that he'd need to mentally process what had happened, but it makes sense to us now. It must've been pretty scary and traumatic for him but since he can't talk much we just didn't realize how important it was to work through it with him. Monte ended up sleeping on his floor for about a week, so he was there to catch the nightmares before they erupted into full screaming episodes, and they eventually went away after a few weeks. A fellow mom who's a public health nurse suggested looking into the infant mental health program offered, most likely through the health unit. We would've pursued that had he not gotten over the nightmares when he did. There are apparently health workers trained in "counseling" kids that are too young to talk through traumatic experiences, and it's usually done through therapeutic play. Something else we had no idea about until we were pretty much out of that stage.

We have hopefully only another week and a half left in the cast - we're excited to get out to BC Children's on the 22nd and see what they have to say (and hope that the baby doesn't decide to arrive around that time!).

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Latest Baerg Happenings

Life has not felt normal here at the Baerg household, not for months. We sold our house - the one Monte grew up in and the one we had planned to stay in until the boys grew up and moved out - and moved into a house with a suite that would accomodate Monte's parents as well. This move happened at the beginning of December, just in time to add to the chaos of Christmas! We were blessed to have Monte's sister and her family out from Quebec for two weeks for the holidays, but having just moved our home never quite felt "settled." Our dog ran away two weeks before moving and got hit by a car, so she was a nervous wreck for about a month! And I was working part-time from home for Focus again, plus making a go of my etsy shop and growing another baby boy in my belly! Nope, not normal life for us at all and it just kept going...

Between the four of us, we'd all been fighting a cold or flu of some kind since the middle of November. Antibiotics, inhalers and loads of tylenol for the littlest guy with a double ear infection - we were not in the best of state and looking back most likely our immune systems were probably extra-susceptible to sickness with all the changes/stress going on in our lives. So sleep was a rarity in our house and the lack of it was starting to catch up with all of us. I had started the morning habit of having the boys play quietly in their room while I took my time getting up and ready for the day... I'm not a morning person at the best of times, let alone pregnant, sick and sleep-deprived! One February morning as I was slowly waking up I heard Cody screaming and crying. Nothing new in our house, since he still can't communicate well and therefore resorts to outbursts that sound like murder but are much less extreme in reality. I've gotten used to tuning out some of his screams, and have been trying to let the boys work things out on their own as much as possible since in just a couple month's time I'll have another little guy to tend to. I remember saying to a friend recently "at least they're not at the age where they can physically hurt each other." Boy, was I wrong. After a few minutes of tuning out Cody's non-stop crying, I ran to the bedroom to see what was the matter. He was on the floor pointing in pain to his leg while Nate tried to help him up. Nate explained he had wanted Cody's Iron Man toy but he wouldn't give it to him, so he yanked on his leg and Cody fell. I tried to pull Cody up on his feet to see just how hurt it was, but he refused to put any weight on it and fell into my arms screaming. After changing his diaper and removing his jammy pants through pain-filled cries, I called Monte realizing I'd be making an improptu trip to emergency. Thankfully Monte ran right home and took Cody himself, and Nate & I met up with them there about a half hour later. X-rays showed a terribly long spiral fracture of his femur (thigh bone) - one of the worst breaks he could have.

And there the nightmare began. Would he need surgery? Just a cast? Should he be transferred to BC Children's hospital? Enter social worker number one. We were questioned about the leg break and then informed that we would each be interviewed by Child Protection Services, both together and separately, and with police present, asap. Suddenly I was not allowed to be left alone with my kids - Nate particularly since Cody was admitted at the hospital so there would be enough nurses around to "protect" him from me, should I be an abusive mother. Just a little later I spent a good hour away from comforting my son (who was lying in peds in so much pain despite the constant flow of morphine to his little body) to answer to two workers from Child Protection as to what kind of mother I am and the events of that day. Monte followed in his own interview, while I went back to Cody's room to have a good sob. It was just such a slap in the face, and humiliating, not to mention that it took both of us away from being there for our frightened little 2-yr-old. A nurse caught me in the midst of my breakdown and was thankfully much more sympathetic than the social workers, as I blubbered on through sobs about how I wasn't a terrible mother and please don't let their views of us as potentially abusive parents affect how they take care of Cody. It was one of the longest days of my life, not knowing if they might suddenly decide to take one or both of our boys away from us during the investigation.

Almost nine hours after being admitted we finally saw an ortho surgeon who wanted to just slap a cast on Cody's thigh and send him home that night. Monte fought to have him transferred to Children's as we discovered they had a surgeon who specialized in recognizing bone breaks from abuse - it was our hope to immediately clear our names and move past the investigation, since we had nothing to hide. So by ambulance around 10pm Monte & Cody went to Children's in Vancouver where they quickly saw a pediatric ortho surgeon who had a very different opinion of what Cody would need to recover properly. Three to four days in traction, minimum, and a cast that would enclose half his body. Thankfully the next morning they discovered just how well the bones had lined back up and felt traction wasn't necessary. And the surgeon specializing in child abuse saw Cody and confirmed that Nathan could have in fact caused the break, the first and most important step in clearing our names.

Meanwhile, I had to have my mom come stay overnight with Nathan and I so someone could witness my every interaction with him, as per Child Protection Services. And both he and I needed to be questioned by the police before they could consider me a suitable guardian for him again. The worst part was that Nate wasn't allowed to have anyone else present in the interview and it had to be done at the police station - he was so scared, it took me 45 minutes just to convince him to talk to the detective alone. But he finally agreed and did great in the interview... he even got the detective's business card which he taped to his chest proudly. And Monte & Cody spent two nights at Children's before coming home. We were given a special car seat for Cody since his legs were set too wide to fit into a regular seat. It's been just over two weeks since he was put in a cast, and we're counting down the days before it can come off! As if a two yr old isn't stubborn and assertive enough - try taking care of one who can't do half the things he used to do only weeks ago! He's cranky and irritable, and for the first little while he wasn't getting much sleep because of the nightmares he'd have over the incident. It's been a long haul, but going back to Children's this past week for his check-up made me realize just how fortunate we are... this is something so temporary, and there are so many kids out there who are battling long-term diseases and conditions. Families who don't live anywhere near the hospital have to relocate and turn their lives upside down to take care of their child's health. While sometimes the day-to-day challenges of carting around what feels very much like a giant, opinionated, vocal baby bring me to tears feeling discouraged, there are kids who are in far worse states and I thank God he's granted us our overall health.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Babies & Business

Oh, my much-neglected blog! You know it's been too long when you can't remember your password to log in to blogger.com. As I mentioned in my last post, life has been busy lately and these last couple months are no exception. We have, I suppose, two newsworthy changes in our lives.

The first being that for the past four months or so I've been working on opening my own little shop called PuddleJump Designs on etsy.com selling baby blankets and quilts I make from home. I've been sewing for the past couple years, thanks to my mom buying me a sewing machine (thanks, mom!) and have enjoyed sewing curtains for our home and a patchwork blanket for each of the boys. I accumulated a lot of leftover fabric from these little projects and considered making extra blankets out of them to try to sell somehow, but could never really figure out how to sell them other than on craigslist or facebook and neither of those options appealed to me. Then a friend launched her own baby blanket shop on etsy and inspired me to do the same. I've really enjoyed selecting fabric and piecing together creative projects, just me and my sewing machine. And for awhile I even found it hard to sleep at night dreaming up my etsy shop; I've been so excited. It's a passion I'm so glad I realized and hope for great success!

We also are expecting a baby early April! This is our third and final "hurrah." I always imagined myself in a large family scenario, kind of like 7th Heaven. This was my idea of our family before we had any kids! Now we're hoping we can just manage with three. I know the first few months will be pure survival mode, and simply getting out of the house by myself with three kids five and under - and not in our pj's - will be my only daily goal for quite awhile. And I'm okay with that, with life becoming a little more chaotic and out-of-control than I prefer, for the purpose of the long-term big picture for our family. I can't wait for large family gatherings on holidays complete with daughters-in-law (and maybe a son-in-law??) and grandchildren at our cottage in the country - you know, when we strike it rich during our empty-nest phase! And it'll take several years of our lives turned upside down during the baby phase to reach that big picture. So... here we go! Let the chaos begin. Again.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dreaming Big

Whew!! These past few weeks have been ridiculously busy! Too busy even for blogging much this summer. We always celebrate a plethora of birthdays within our immediate families in June, July and August (eight birthdays, to be exact), as well as our wedding anniversary, then add in extra holiday-type plans to commemorate summer, a good friend's wedding (Monte was a groomsman), I've been working temporarily from home for Focus for the past five weeks, and other things happening that I won't yet divulge... these past couple months have kept us beyond busy.

Amongst all this busyness Monte has begun training with a company that we're really truly excited about. Back in November a friend of ours asked to meet with us as she had begun training with this company. We were a bit hesitant once we realized finances was the topic of our meeting - who really wants to be brutally honest about their finances to anyone, let alone a friend?! But sitting down with her and her trainer was the most educational hour we've ever spent on our finances. And it's amazing just how much power a little knowledge can give you! We put together a long-term financial plan, and several months later Monte's learning how to teach others about making, spending and saving money wisely - for free. He even got to attend their annual conference in Vegas earlier this month, along with 15,000 other people from Canada and the U.S. What we've come away with the most from these last few months of learning is actually feeling the freedom to dream. Dream BIG for our future. We've experienced many years of frustration, discouragement, and downright despair because of our financial situation that we'd given up dreaming long ago. You don't really realize it when you're in the midst of just trying to make it work month to month, but admitting what you want to see happen in your lifetime, who those dreams come from (God designed us to dream, and dreams big for us, too), and how to actually make them happen is what makes life exciting. And that excitement had been gone from our lives for far too long. Who wants to acknowledge their dreams when you feel like there's no way they'd ever happen? But we've got long lists now of what we want to accomplish in life, and plan to commit those dreams to prayer and put together very purposeful plans to pursue every one of those dreams. It's a freeing feeling to accept that there's so much more to life than trying to make it just day by day, denying any desire to do more than just get those darn bills paid each month.

Have you allowed yourself to dream big lately?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Speech Therapy

You know those children you can hear halfway across the grocery store screaming like a spoiled little brat, making you wonder what on earth their mother was thinking letting their child get away with despicable behavior like that? Yeah, that's me. And Cody's that unbelievingly shrill child. Almost every time we're out. And then all the time at home. We've been going through a frustrating year or so of trying to get him to pick up some words, just a few at the very least. But, despite our daily efforts, he's still pretty much wordless. In between his grunts and screams is mixed in some word-like sounds to attempt to say "mama," "no" and "dada." And he can roar like one crazy dinosaur. But that's it. And he'll be two next week. So this past week we paid a long-awaited visit (four months, to be exact) to the speech therapist. It was therapy for me to have someone listen to my frustrations, release me of my deep motherly guilt and observe my child for over an hour. There's not a whole lot we can do for him at this point, but she did give me some suggestions as to how to encourage his speech and, in the meantime, to teach him a little more sign language to encourage proper communication versus simply screaming to get what he wants. I love my little Codes, and it breaks my heart to see him so frustrated when he can't communicate. As a mom, I just want to see him happy and doing as well as he possibly can. So I hope these exercises work - and quickly - so we can start to hear about everything going on in that brain of his!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

All Stitched Up

I'm not a morning person; I don't function normally until close to 10am every day. So after I get everybody out of bed, dressed and fed, I like to take in my morning coffee in quiet to adjust to the idea of being awake. And so the boys watch a TV show or two along with some apple slices. It's our morning routine and I love it! TV time equals calm, quiet down-time... right? Wrong.

Nate likes to swing by his arms between the two couches in our living room while he watches TV (I guess sitting on the couch is just too darn relaxing). I always caution him to be careful when he does this, but it doesn't ever look too dangerous. His feet are just a couple inches off the ground and his swinging motion is small, and I'm pretty sure I did the same kind of thing when I was younger for fun and never got hurt. But this time his arms must've slipped off the couch arms mid-swing, because his forehead hit the corner of the coffee table, and he was down on the floor crying out in pain. The gash was so deep, I could see where his flesh met his skull. I knew right away he'd need stitches and ran around the house grabbing a cloth to put pressure on the gash, snacks for all of us should we get sent to the ER, and the diaper bag since it was a weekday and I was on my own with both boys. We went to the closest walk-in clinic where the nurse paid great attention to us and bumped us up to the front of the list in a full waiting room. Thankfully the bleeding stopped by the time we got there, and while Nate was definitely in pain and seemed anxious about what would happen next in that dreaded doctor's office, he was playing a little with Cody and being his silly little self. The doctor had to give an injection into the wound to freeze it, and then proceeded to put in three stitches. I had been fine up until the needle was placed into Nate's face... But then the room started to spin and I felt very shaky and about to faint. I felt awful about abandoning Nate right in the middle of getting his very first stitches ever but I knew if I didn't sit down and eat the energy bar I had brought along, I'd be passed out on the floor completely useless. So three times during Nate's stitches I had to sit down and take a few moments to gather myself. Nate screamed through every stitch - and the nurse popped her head in every time to make sure we were okay - but not once did he squirm away or try to avoid getting the stitches. He was incredibly brave, braver than his mama. So I made sure to make up for this horrible experience for the rest of the day, with a slurpee stop, lunch in front of the TV, and building a tent in his room to play in. I hope he learned his lesson - never ever let your feet leave the ground ever again.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Officially a Preschooler

I registered Nate for preschool this past Sunday. After several months of mulling it over (and missing out on many registration opportunities at various preschools) I decided on putting him in the 2-day-a-week preschool at our local rec centre. I had actually heard great things about the program and after putting him in a Saturday morning sports program at the same place, I felt comfortable with the idea of sending him there twice a week come the fall.

Of course, registration happened to fall on the one weekend Monte was away, and I didn't feel I could ask anyone to watch the boys since most people would be planning to go to church (who registers for preschool on a Sunday, by the way?). So I was plotting away at how to keep both boys content during registration which I expected to be long and boring. Thankfully Monte's parents offered to stay home from church to watch the boys and I was able to go by myself. However, on my way to dropping off the boys across town I recognized a mom of a boy close to Nate's age from the park the previous day, driving in the opposite direction. I panicked, thinking the only place she'd be going so early on a Sunday by herself is to register at the rec centre... And if she's going early to register, so would many other moms. I had heard several stories of mothers lining up for hours - sometimes overnight - to get their kids into a certain preschool. Suddenly I wondered if this registration experience would turn out the same way and I nervously booked it to my in-laws, booted the boys out of the van and raced over to the rec centre, short of breath at the reception desk asking where the long line-up of mothers were for registration only to find out that no one had shown up yet. I sat and waited by myself for over a half hour, and even then when it officially started there were only a handful of other parents there. But in my haste I forgot my cheques, and of course my debit card expired that very day... So I held Nate's spot with my credit card and raced home to get my cheques to pre-pay for the year. It was a stressful morning! And the worst part was that it was stressful only because I made it that way. Sadly, that's the epitomy of me: always turning molehills into mountains and stressing unecessarily about it!